Monday 1 February 2010

The Origins of Darlington Cottage

Darlington Cottage

Notes from the oldest title deeds held by Edward Horesh’s solicitors Stone King, seen by CJM on 8th December 2009 by arrangement with their Mr. Ashton with the permission of Mr. Horesh.

The oldest document is a Deed of Gift dated 18th October 1819 between Walter Harris, builder, and his only son Joseph Harris, who was living on the land at the time. The gift was "in consideration of ...natural love and affection". It involved a plot of land 30ft. wide where it fronted on the road, 115 ft. long on its south side and 113ft. long on its north side.

Next, in February 1823, was a Lease of the plot and a dwelling house to Mr. Edward Wilson of Barnard’s Green in the parish of Great Malvern. Later in the same year Joseph Harris sold the property to Mr. Wilson, price not stated.

There is nothing in these deeds that confirms or refutes the contention that Darlington Cottage has an old part that was built well before any of the other houses at the northern end of Sydney Buildings. A really old building of some sort could have escaped mention and mapping, but it seems more likely from the involvement of the two Harrises that Darlington Cottage was one of the original houses built during the first wave of development following the release of land for that purpose by William Harry Earl of Darlington in June 1812. In other words it is likely to have been built around 1815. Note that the Harrises are listed in the Bath Directory for 1819 as living at No.1 (Walter) and No.2 (Joseph) Sydney Buildings.

Monday 18 January 2010


Shortly after William and Diana Cook and their two small sons moved into No 13 Sydney Buildings in 1972 they were called upon by an elderly lady who opened the conversation with “Are you At Home?” (to the amazement of the little boys!) The lady in question, probably in her late eighties, was a Mrs Norah Cleveland Holmden who lived at No 16 and was making a social call on her new neighbours. Very much of her time in mode of manners, dress and speech, her visit culminated in an invitation to dine in order that they might become better acquainted. A written note soon followed with the request “Please tell your husband that there will be no need for black tie.”

The young Norah Cleveland Smith was presented at Court on May 13th 1904. Married late in life and widowed not long afterwards she moved into No 16 Sydney
Buildings sometime around 1950 aged sixty or so, and remained there until her death in the early 1980s.

In Diana’s words: “It was as if she didn’t really know how to proceed in the modern world.” She did, nevertheless, own a little Austin 7 car, which, having a passion for the works of Jane Austen, she called……um, “Jane”.

She and Diana became good friends over the years. Norah left the accompanying photograph and documents to Diana in her will.

Many thanks to Jackie Morrissey for this contribution.
Click on the images to enlarge if you can't read them.

Monday 21 December 2009

Some childhood memories of life at Sydney House, number 29, Sydney Buildings by Val Milward (nee Richardson)

In the 1940s, Sydney House was acquired by the GWR (Great Western Railway) who used it as a staff house for its employees. My Father, who had been working for the LNER division, was promoted to new headquarters at Bristol, and as the house was being used less and less, and he thought Bath would be a pleasant place to live, it was agreed that he should bring his family down from London. So it was ,that towards the end of 1951 Len and Ruth Richardson and 7 year old daughter Valerie decamped from suburbia and set off on a dark November evening for Bath.

Travelling with us on the train in wooden boxes topped with chicken-wire were Ruth’s canaries which she bred as a hobby. There must have been about a dozen of them then. I was very worried that the smoke and noise would frighten them, but they were tougher than I thought! From Bath Spa they were taxied straight up to the house for the night. It was all in darkness and we were too tired to do any more than settle them inside, and take our taxi back down to Pratts Hotel for the night. The next morning was wet but it brightened up after breakfast and it was decided to walk up to Sydney Buildings as there was still time before the removal van should arrive with our furniture. I was feeling a little apprehensive as the hotel and the buildings around looked very grand, a different world from the one I had known, but I was also excited and curious to see this new place. Having negotiated “the slope”, (no tarmac or handrails and uneven,broken steps then) a row of palatial looking houses appeared, with an enchanting waterway at their feet. The canal was pretty much a nature reserve then, full of fish, water rats, frogs, toads swans moorhens,etc etc and a variety of white, yellow and pink waterlillies,all of which was a source of delight to me and many other children who came dipping for tadpoles and other marvels every spring. As we approached the iron bridge Dad pointed out our new house, which looked beautiful, being partly covered in red-leaved creeper and had the old, wooden shutters still in place. I could hardly believe my eyes. Mum immediately fell in love with it and vowed there and then never to leave it. At that time there was a small wooden gate at the foot of the front steps and I have a vague memory of an ironwork arch between the two pillars and possibly a lantern hanging from it, but I have no evidence to confirm that particular detail. If there was an arch, its removal can be explained by the fact that some years later, a lorry backed into one of the pillars, rendering it unsafe and it was rebuilt, slightly off its old position, Some of the iron railing atop the wall alongside the pavement was still in place when we arrived, much of it possibly given up for the war effort, I suppose. Other evidence of the war , when a bomb fell in the canal nearby, consisted of the loss of a small piece of masonry and the replacement of glazing bars in a slightly different style, where the glass was blown out at the back of the house. Inside, the bedrooms had gas fires fitted, but we only lit them for visitors in winter, or in case of illness. The other rooms still had coal fires, with a ‘stove’ in the kitchen, which had a flagstone floor. When the chestnuts came in we used to roast them on the grate in the evening, which I loved doing. Coal was shot directly into a cellar which had an exterior access point at the top of the cut-through. Part of this can still be seen just below the parking zone sign at the top of the cut-through. I was nervous about going into the coal cellar which was damp and smelly, but when I did, I saw my first stalactites, which were amazing, if rather weak and crumbly. Owing to the use of so much coal on fires and to power the steam engines running through Bath, ours and everyone else’s house was black in those days. Our cinders had been disposed of in the traditional way, on a cinder path running all along the back of the house.

On garden level, the basement room seemed to have been used as a food store, because there were large (meat?) hooks in the ceiling and partitions with cupboards above ventilated with mesh doors to keep mice and flies out. Another interesting place entered from the garden was a large room in which Dad stored all his tools and lawnmower. We thought it must have been a stable and tack room, as it had hooks and iron rings set into the walls which were insulated with wood with straw behind it. There used to be a ladder to a trapdoor in the ceiling; this opened into the floor of the present garage, so perhaps someone had a coach in there once?Having explored, the rest of my first day was filled with helping to unpack, at the end of which Mum managed to produce a spartan meal of ham and boiled potatoes, eaten at the kitchen table by the light of a naked bulb; nevertheless, to me, this was the start of a great new adventure. Dad’s first job was to build the aviary for Mum’s canaries against the wall next to no.28. The birds soon established a reputation for their trilling song, which could be heard from the canal bank opposite, but during that winter, a strong wind during the night shifted the aviary off its base, allowing a few of the canaries to escape. I think one or two were somehow retrieved, but we were very upset and Dad prevented a recurrence by bolting the frame to the wall. The second task was to put up Dad’s greenhouse as he was a keen gardener and had developped an interest in Exhibition crysanthemums. Over the next several years he became a regular exhibitor at local shows and twice won ‘best bloom in show’, with a newspaper headline ‘Bath bloom as big as football’.(The plants were called Henry Truman – white, and Shirley Primrose – pale yellow.) Mum and I travelled with him,to the venues, guarding the tissue-wrapped blooms in wooden boxes, and we were very proud of his success. Dad was also a keen vegetable grower and eventually rented enough canal-side land to keep us in fruit and veg; I think his first allotment was one of those on the right a short distance down ‘the slope’; a nearby plot was cultivated by Mr.Reg White, and the two became friends. Another unusual job for Dad was to make our well safe. It is located under the house with access from the garden and was a boon in dry weather as the water level was constant; in fact, some ‘workmen’ once tried to pump it out, but after their lunch-break, it had filled right up again! The edges were rough, natural rock, and my parents were afraid I might fall into it, so Dad concreted over it and installed a hand-pump; I didn’t mind at all supplying the elbow-grease when he wanted a can of water!
Soon after our arrival the exterior wooden shutters had to be taken down as they were in bad condition. What a pity, but no-one considered the value of such features in the 1950s. We also had shutters on the inside which we made good use of to keep out winter draughts, but an unpleasant side-effect of these and the sashes was the hundreds of hibernating flies which appeared at the windows on the first sunny spring morning, to Mum’s horror.

Almost every Saturday afternoon we would put on our best clothes and walk down to town together to make whatever purchases were needed. My favourite was Woollies, especially downstairs where fancy goods and dolls house furniture was for sale.I clearly remember seeing the shell of St.James’ Church (it was roughly where M&S recently stood). It was badly bomb damaged and struck me as a very sad sight.I thought it would look much better if someone cleared away the rubble, but, of course, the whole thing was cleared away later on.

Our food shopping was done in Widcombe. The Co-op had a store there, with separate butcher and greengrocer next door. (In the place where the supermarket stands) There was also a fishmonger, a hardware store , selling paraffin for Dad’s greenhouse heater, and a chemist. I can still recall my excitement shortly before that first Christmas as Mum picked out a tree, and holly and mistletoe at the greengrocer’s and we staggered back home with it along the canal bank (no car then!) looking forward to the fun of putting up the Christmas decorations. In those days, children’s presents were always kept secret, and I never knew what what I would get. Either that year or the next, I received a box of magic tricks. As we had family to stay, I put on a little show with Dad, who did the hard ones; one of his tricks didn’t quite come off, thereby revealing the magic, much to my disappointment, but causing great hilarity amongst the adults!

Views of the city were more detailed then than now, as the trees, hedgerows and shrubs were kept well in check.It was no problem for my young eyes to see passengers on Bath Spa platform boarding the London train which was in plain sight until the last carriage disappeared into the tunnel; If Dad was on board he would wave his handkerchief out of the window as the train steamed past.

Sydney Buildings was, of course, much quieter in those days. My memory is sketchy here, but there may have been the odd horse and cart, possibly with a connection to the old coal-yard or the Maltsters. The one feature of the latter I shall never forget was the all-pervading (and to me very unpleasant) smell of the drying hops when the malthouse was in use; Dad, who appreciated the end result,says he found it ‘delightful’.With so few cars about Mum didn’t have to worry too much when I wanted to practise riding my new bicycle up and down the road along Sydney Parade. A few neighbours did have cars and as we had an empty garage, a Mrs.Ruck used to keep hers in there. Our immediate neighbours at no.28, the Jennings family also had one. Other neighbours whom I remember from our arrival were the Shore family (no.26or 27), Mr.Dafnis in Sydney Parade (what wonderful photos!) and possibly Lucy Breedon, who had a small dog, a corgi I think, called Fairy. Another nearby resident was a tall, distinguished-looking gentleman, whose name I knew, but cannot now recall. He was a Salvation Army officer and I never saw him wearing anything other than his uniform. For some years, at Christmas time,members of the band would come to play carols underneath the street lamp at the top of the ‘cut-through’. As the post box is directly opposite our house, I can testify to its more frequent use in those days by all these neighbours. In the same direction, up the steps and on the right lived a delightful old couple, the Holbrooks, in what used to be the old Dairy. I went inside once with Mum and I recall flagstones and a rather open-plan effect, quite unlike any other home I had seen. Mr.Holbrook was a great walker and told us he walked to Brassknocker Hill, I think to visit a relative. Going down the cut-through towards the iron bridge, the small building behind the large wooden gates and the land there was used by a Mr.Philips, if I remember correctly. He used to rear poultry and kept the eggs and chicks in the heated shed. One night, the roof caught fire and all the poor birds perished,to my great sorrow, and his too, no doubt. The most significant neighbours then for me were the Kyte family who lived in the cottage on the towpath opposite nos 28/29. Mr.Kyte was lock keeper and general guardian of the canal in our section. He frequently had to deal with beligerent or injured swans (no easy task as they could be very dangerous) over enthusiastic dogs, or little boys out to have some fun climbing on the lock gates, all of which he did with great gusto and dedication. He and his wife, had three children, Angela, Christine and Freddie, around my age and all very keen to make friends. In the school holidays they would be up very early, sitting waiting for me on the buttress wall at the bottom of the cut-through. In the summer Mr.Kyte sometimes took us for a walk to Sham Castle and once as a great treat he took us along the canal in his punt to Sydney Gardens and back. I shall always remember them with affection.

I had to go to school, of course, and after some research, it was decided I should attend the La Sainte Union Convent at the foot of the slope (now converted to courts). Within my first few months there, and before the juniors moved up to Lyncombe Vale, the King died. I remember hearing the news bulletin on the radio at lunchtime and catching the sombre mood. As the time grew near for his daughter Elizabeth’s coronation, spirits lifted, especially amongst our family in London, amd Mum took me up there to see the decorations. We bought the usual souvenirs from street vendors. (some had wares sold from a suitcase, and were constantly on the lookout for the ‘bobbies’) I still have these treasures somewhere. Dad decided we should treat ourselves to a television set as the ceremony was to be televised and it was installed with great anticipation just in time..Mum invited some of our neighbours in to watch with us and although those old sets had very small screens and black and white pictures, we sat glued for the entire programme, punctuated by the odd tray of tea and cake, and thoroughly enjoyed every moment.
I have virtually a lifetime of memories in Sydney House, and now that I am discovering something of its history and its former occupants, I understand that the experiences of the Richardsons there is just a detail in the larger picture as the years roll by in Sydney Buildings. Although a small part of me will always belong to London, I feel privileged to have had such a long and still on-going association with our beautiful city.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Tony Heaton reminisces;


Even in the International Departure Lounge at Orly Airport Paris you can be reminded of home. I was waiting for a connecting flight on my onward journey to Sana'a, North Yemen to see one of my interior design clients; and I noticed in the airport shop the magazine "Maison Jardin" displaying a photo - in reverse - of the inside of my house.

I moved to Bath in the early eighties with my English Springer Spaniel "Belle" and left Bath in 1999 with my two English Springer Spaniels "Daisy" and "Dotty". Attracted by the industrial building and the visual palette Bath has to offer, we enjoyed many happy years living and working here and have fond memories of neighbours and friends in Sydney Buildings and along the Kennet and Avon Canal.

In 1992 Daisy spent a night sleeping in pristine virgin Habitat sheets on one of their beds when they were being using the house for a photo-shoot for the autumn catalogue.

I recall one sunny afternoon a keen walker on the towpath when he dropped his rucksack and fell to the ground in prayer at the sight in the Bishop's garden [no. 15] of 50 vicars drinking sherry.

On another occasion I was taking my weekly bin bag to the street when I noticed detectives and Princess Margaret accompanied by her Lady-in-Waiting who was ringing the Bishop's bell.

It was from the "Top Lock" that my card career started and it's thanks to Bath that my cards are now viewed in 65 countries. I'm currently working on cards to celebrate the sailing in Weymouth and Portland for London 2012.

I now live in Bridport, with "Dotty" in an old rope factory and walking down the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal has now been replaced by walking along the river Brit to the sea and cliffs.

Sunday 26 April 2009

12 Sydney Buildings: a history

An Abstract of Title prepared in 1884 throws light on the history of the plot of land on which the house was built. The first document it refers to was dated May 1844 and seems to reflect a tidying-up exercise necessitated by the death, two years earlier, of William Harry 3rd Earl of Darlington and 1st Duke of Cleveland.

May 1844 Henry Lord Brougham and Vaux (lawyer, former Lord Chancellor, probably acting for William Harry’s estate), William John Frederick Powlett (later, very briefly in 1864, 3rd Duke of Cleveland), and two lawyers (?trustees for the 1st Duke’s estate) conveyed to John Pinch the Younger and his brother William the plot of land on which No. 10 already stood and Nos. 12 to 16 were to be built. The houses were to be built at John Pinch’s expense, were subject to various restrictions and to a dead rent of £1 12s 6d p.a.

(A smaller version of today’s No. 10 appears on the 1840 Tithe Map. John Pinch’s title to the land clearly goes back some years before that date. The plot concerned was probably first released for development in June 1812 or shortly after that. The title deeds of No.10 might clarify this – if they survive).

May 1845 John Pinch borrowed £800 at 4.5% p.a. from Harry Hayman, gent., and William Urban Buée of Slough, surgeon, against the security of any and all buildings on the plot.

May 1847 John Pinch borrowed a further £300 from the same two on the same security, the money apparently coming from trust funds of William Buée’s late wife Elizabeth.

March 1849 Harry Hayman died. His right to repayment by John Pinch seems to have died with him or been left to his co-creditor.

January 1851 John Pinch had died in December 1849 without repaying either loan and while still owing “a considerable amount of interest”. His house at 21 Henrietta Street and the premises known as Bathwick Tavern were put up for sale by public auction. The former was sold to Thomas Parry for £455 while the latter was “bought in”.

“After the sale the said William Buée entered into the receipt of the rent and profits of the said Bathwick Tavern, which have not been sufficient to pay the interest from time to time becoming due on the balance of the mortgage money”.

In 1853 William Buée made all income from the Tavern and the plot generally over to his three daughters Amelia, Margaret and Catherine. The first two died in 1879 and 1880 respectively, and their interests in the plot and its buildings seem to have passed to the remaining daughter Catherine. Meanwhile, in 1877, Bathwick Tavern lost its licence and seems to have become tenantless for a while.

June 1881 Catherine Buée sold the land on which today’s Nos. 12-16 were built to Richard Martin of Abbey View Villa, fishmonger, for £530. Martin also had to pay an annual dead rent of £1 12s 6d required by the 1844 indenture.

Martin sub-divided the land, built a terrace of five houses on it, and by the end of 1884 had sold them all off. Ownership of today’s No. 12, originally Guindy Lodge, has passed as follows:
Date: To: Price paid, £:
December 1884 Emily Louise Trotter 570
October 1923 Reginald Pearson 650
January 1930 Emilie Constance Clarke 850
May 1943 Major General Percy Commings Bequest
April 1948 William Winsor 2,425
May 1951 Hugh Bridgeman 3,250
September 1953 Marjorie Hix 2,790
December 1959 Geoffrey Tucker 3,150
March 1967 Jeremy & Phyllida Hemming 4,500
April 1970 Mark Rutherford 7,500
January 1998 Christopher & Jacqueline Morrissey 292,000

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Were there TWO taverns?

Was today's No. 9 ever called Bathwick Tavern ? The case for saying that it was looks fairly strong. To quote the present owner's daughter in a recent article in the Bath Chronicle: "It's easy to see why this was the perfect location for a canal-side pub many years ago. As the story goes, the barge workers would take advantage of the garden steps that lead right down to the canal and would often drop in for a refreshing drink". So the location is right, the layout of the house also, and in the 1841 census the head of the household at No.9 was John Mott, a beer seller.

Mr.Mott may have pioneered the sale of beer on this part of the canal but several lines of evidence indicate that from a few years into the 1840s the trade moved to the house next door. One is that from 1848 onwards census returns and directories describe the occupant of that house, today's No. 10, as a beerhouse keeper. In the 1871 census No. 10 is specifically referred to as Bathwick Tavern.

In the deeds of today's No. 12 there are references to Bathwick Tavern that put it on the same plot of land as today's Nos. 12 to 16. John Pinch the Younger owed £1,100 on the plot when he died in 1849, so his creditors put the only building on it at that stage, named as Bathwick Tavern, up for public auction. In the event the tavern was "bought in" by the main creditor, entitling him to the rent paid by the beerhouse keeper and a share in his profits.

A recurring name in the history of this part of the road is that of John Lockyer Huntly (sometimes spelt Huntley). Mr.Huntly was an engraver and copper plate printer, also a Freeman of Bath, who had a shop at 2 Pulteney Bridge. That is given as his address in 1822, but
the Bath Directory for 1828 records that his residence was 5 Sydney Buildings. (Today's No. 1 had not yet been built, so 5 Sydney Buildings in 1828 was probably today's No. 6).

It seems that Mr. Huntly's engraving business did so well that he was able to buy a plot of land in Sydney Buildings and put up three houses known originally as 1, 2 and 3 Ivy Cottages. Now Nos. 7, 8 and 9 Sydney Buildings, the three houses make their first appearance in the 1841 national census returns. In that year and till 1851 at least Mr. Huntly lived at what became No.7, but in 1856, aged 80 and long retired, he was at No. 9. This house of the three continued to be called Ivy Cottage till 1876 or later.

[ There are several uncertainties in those paragraphs - corrections would be welcome, and also more information about the tavern(s), Mr. Huntly/Huntley, etc. C.J.M. 29/10/08]

Monday 3 March 2008

Where was Bathwick Tavern?

Prolific local historians Andrew Swift and Kirsten Elliott say in their book The Lost Pubs of Bath that Bathwick Tavern used to be at 10 Sydney Buildings “(now No. 13!)”. They say also that the lost pub surrendered its licence in 1877 – which is about five years before No. 13 was built!
The misunderstanding came about because number 10 in Sydney Buildings has moved around over the years. From the early 1850s until 1880 ( i.e. three years after the pub itself had closed) that was the house number of Bathwick Tavern. For the first few years of its long life the Tavern was referred to as No. 9 Sydney Buildings, a number with its own complicated little history.
It seems that for six year or so after the pub closed nobody lived there: indeed the orginal building may have been refurbished or replaced during those years, to reappear around 1884 with the name Sydney Lawn (still on the gate-posts) and no number. That remained the situation till 1902, when the number 10 returned from its travels and came to rest where it is now – on the building that may or may not have been Bathwick Tavern but is certainly in the same place.
During most of those years, from 1888 to 1902, the number 10 was attached to today’s No. 13. This house is one of a terrace of five that first appeared in the Bath Directory of 1884/5 and was built a year or two earlier. Its name until 1888 was Cattete Villa, its companions being Grindley, later Guindy, Lodge (today’s No. 12), St. Ronans (No. 14), Brighton Villa (No. 15) and Eton Villa ( No.16).