When I started this, the idea was just to find out when our house was built.
We had some deeds that had been sent some years before, when the Land Registry rather than deeds became the prime register of property ownership, but had never really done anything with them.
Anyway, once I started I thought that finding out more about the people who lived in the house seemed a good idea too and, as our house is so intertwined with others in the block, looking at those houses and people came in and then that brought in other buildings built around the same time… and so on… until it expanded as a project to look at Combe Down – though not every house, that really would be insanity!
I also decided, early on, that I wanted the people and times to speak, insofar as that’s possible, by letting the images, words, newspaper reports etc. tell the story as much as possible. Sometimes the quality of those ‘cuttings’ is not very good, but seeing them and reading a story in the language and with the attitude of the time coming through gives so much more atmosphere than I ever could.
Another approach I have taken is to look at what’s happening in, roughly, 50 year tranches:
- on Combe Down, its people, buildings, institutions etc.
- in the world at large to give some basic historical context
- in the lives of the owners, occupiers and others for the block of houses to which I have, or have seen some of, the deeds
However, within those 50 year tranches I encompass the whole history in most cases, as it’s pointless to cover say Prior Park or Combe Grove or Midford Castle in a number of different chapters spread throughout. Having said that, some things just seem to fit in different places, so that’s where they are.
For each of the people I have tried to give a ‘thumbnail’ portrait of their life, but it’s easier for some than for others and sometimes they just seem to be ‘ghosts’ about whom nothing is known – at least in the places that I have looked. It may just be that I haven’t looked hard enough of course.
You’ll notice that I don’t say a great deal about the Combe Down quarries. These have been covered, far more expertly than I ever could, by others.
The area I have taken as Combe Down is shown on the map and, essentially, is the hill itself. Almost all the area I’ve covered has, at one time or another or by one authority or another, been regarded as a part of Combe Down.
I have received nothing but help from almost everyone with whom I’ve come into contact. I’d like to mention, especially, Colin Johnston and Stephanie Adams at the Bath Record Office (who are fantastic), Jane de Gruchy at Somerset Record Office, and Sabrina Rowlatt at Lewisham Record Office. I can’t thank them enough. I’d also like to thank our son Benjamin for the book cover and The British Newspaper Archive (All newspaper images Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED) for use of the excerpts along with all the others who have donated images – hopefully they are all correctly credited.
Clearly in a project like this there will be errors and omissions. Those are completely my fault, and I can only apologise for them and hope to correct them at some time.
I hope you enjoy reading or referring to this as much as I have enjoyed researching and writing it.Richard Hill Prior to Now – Over 250 Years on Combe Down