Family trees on Prior to Now

I have introduced a Family Trees Centre to Prior to Now to help to sort out who was who and their relationships one to another. 

Some of the more important families and people in the story of Combe Down from 1700 – 1900 have been added so far and a list of the trees and some of the individuals is shown below.

I have used a different link colour and rollover for Family Tree links and introduced some Family Tree links into the text within the pages too.

Something else that comes out of it, if you are interested in history and genealogy as I am, is the ‘shape’ of families – it’s strange how similar patterns seem to repeat in each family, with some branches thriving and others dying out.

What’s also interesting is the way some families have stayed prosperous over many centuries.

Other things also emerge such as the builder of Midford Castle, Henry Woolhouse Disney Roebuck (1733 – 1796) having ancestors that include: Edward I, King of England (1239 – 1307) 13th and 14th great grandfather, Edward II, King of England (1284 – 1327) 13th great grandfather, Edward III, King of England (1312 – 1377) 12th great grandfather.

ZeeThe fact that the Bennet family, of Widcombe Manor, and the D’Isney (Disney) family of Midford Castle came together when Maj Philip Bennet (1837 – 1875 ) married Barbara Sophia Harriet Disney (1838 – 1929) the cousin 3 times removed of Henry Woolhouse Disney Roebuck (1733 – 1796).

Combe Grove Manor

Battell family tree. Owner of Combe Grove Manor, Rev William Batell (abt 1692 – 1750).

Vaughan Jenkins family tree. Owners of Combe Grove Manor and other land, William Davies (abt 1725 – abt 1798), William Vaughan Jenkins (abt 1752 – 1818), William Vaughan Jenkins (1813 – 1876), Frederick Vaughan Jenkins (1817 – 1892).

Prior Park

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Prior Park

Allen, Bennet, Maude family tree. Owners and occupiers of Prior ParkRalph Allen (1693 – 1764), Gertrude Tucker (abt 1727 – 1796 ), Rt Rev Dr William Warburton Bishop of Gloucester (1698 – 1779), Ralph Allen Warburton (1756 – 1775), Capt. William Tucker RN (abt 1728 – 1770), Philip Allen (1695 – 1765), Jane Bennet (1704 – 1767), Mary Allen Lady Maude (1732  – 1775), Cornwallis Maude 1st Viscount Hawarden (1729 – 1803), Thomas Ralph Maude 2nd Viscount Hawarden (1767 – 1807), Anne Isabella Monck Viscountess Hawarden (1759 – 1851), Cornwallis Maude 3rd Viscount Hawarden (1780 – 1856), Cornwallis Maude 1st Earl de Montalt (1817 – 1905).

Thomas family tree. Purchasers (and subsequently sellers) of Prior Park and other land from Thomas Maude 2nd Viscount Hawarden (1767 – 1807) and Cornwallis Maude 3rd Viscount Hawarden (1780 – 1856). John Thomas (abt 1752 – 1827), John Ovens Thomas (1778 – 1836).

Midford Castle

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Midford Castle

Disney Roebuck family tree. Builder of Midford Castle, Henry Woolhouse Disney Roebuck (1733 – 1796). [Ancestors include: Edward I, King of England (1239 – 1307) 13th and 14th great grandfather, Edward II, King of England (1284 – 1327) 13th great grandfather, Edward III, King of England (1312 – 1377) 12th great grandfather].

Conolly family tree. Owners of Midford Castle, Charles Conolly (abt 1759 – 1828), Charles Thomas Conolly (1791 – 1850), Charles John Thomas Conolly (1818 – 1871), Louisa Lucy Margaret Catherine Brancaccio Marchesa di Sant’Agata (abt 1823 – 1899).

Combe Down Village

Layton, Hadley family tree. Purchasers of land and buildings from Thomas Maude 2nd Viscount Hawarden (1767 – 1807) and Cornwallis Maude 3rd Viscount Hawarden (1780 – 1856) and owners of the Hadley Estate. Edward Layton (abt 1730 – 1805), Nathaniel Hadley (abt 1760 – 1849), Nathaniel Hadley (1786 – 1864), Nathaniel Layton Hadley (abt 1819 – 1870), Clara Emma Hadley (abt 1813 – 1890), Eliza Stapylton Hadley (abt 1815 – 1899).

Wingrove, Vivian family tree. Attorney to and purchaser of land from Thomas Maude 2nd Viscount Hawarden (1767 – 1807), Cornwallis Maude 3rd Viscount Hawarden (1780 – 1856) and John Thomas (abt 1752 – 1827). Benjamin Belmont Wingrove (1773 – 1840).

Related Images:

A quick look at Combe Down around 1846 – 1848

I was just looking at the Hunt & Co. and Silverthorne directories for Bath and Bristol for 1848 and 1846 respectively and thought it would be interesting to see what went on in the village around then – what was it like on Combe Down around 1846 – 1848? Who is mentioned? What trades and professions?

The problem is that, unlike later Kelly’s directories that locate a place and then show the people living there plus their occupations etc. these earlier directories are alphabetical and by class, so it’s not so simple to get an idea of what was going on.

Luckily, in this age of the internet you can find ‘electronic’ copies of most things, which makes it easier to do a search and then……

So that’s what I did, using Google books for Hunt & Co. 1848 and a PDF for Silverthorne 1846.

The results are below and provide an interesting snapshot of some of the people who lived and worked here.

I find a number of  things interesting, compared to today. 

For example the use of ‘nobility and gentry’ and people describing themselves as ‘gent’.

The boarding and day schools situated in private houses.

The fact that there were actually shops in the village (!) – no cars or supermarkets then.

Additionally, given the total population of 1,600 – 1,750 there are, unlike say the old telephone directories, actually very few people listed.

One other thing is the blacksmith. In Silverthorne’s of 1846 it is George Humphries but by Hunt & Co of 1848 it is Harriett Humphries – presumably his wife or daughter. But, was she the owner or did she actually smith? It would be interesting to know.

The census’ for 1841 and 1851 also give a picture and are shown below the directory findings.

Some interesting things were going on with property on Combe Down around this time.

John Ovens Thomas (1778 – 1836), the eldest son of John Thomas, the owner of Prior Park had died 10 years earlier but in 1846 his trustees decided to sell much of the land he had inherited from his father as well as some of his ground rents. The land, as can be seen from the estate sale notice below included the farm next door to St. Michael and All Angels Church at Monkton Combe, a number of fields near the Dundas Acqueduct and Midford Brook as well as ground rents for the Tyning Road area, The Brow, and Tyning Place.

the john ovens thomas estate sale bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 16 april 1846 1the john ovens thomas estate sale bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 16 april 1846 3the john ovens thomas estate sale bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 16 april 1846 4

John Ovens Thomas estate sale – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 16 April 1846

It also included the land from North Road to Church Road as the map below shows, The map also gives a really good idea of what this area of Combe Down was like in 1846.

map of combe down plots for sale from estate of john oven thomas in 1846 751x1024
Map of Combe Down plots for sale from estate of John Oven Thomas in 1846

Hunts & Co 1848

Nobility, Gentry, &c.

  • Baskett Mrs. Sarah, 6, De Montalt place, Combe down
  • Crawley Rev. Edm. Jones, Combe grove villa, Monckton Combe
  • Freestun Capt. Humphrey, Mayfield, Combe down
  • Jenkins Vaughan, Combe grove, Combe down – also Magistrate, For The Bath Division Of The County Of Somersetshire.
  • Newnham Rev. George William, Parsonage house, Combe down
  • Palethorpe Edward, De Montalt cottage, Combe down
  • Price William, 1, Claremont bldgs Combe down
  • Richmond Rev. Henry, Combe down
  • Sheen Miss Emma, 2, Isabella pl. Combe down
  • Steart Augustus Wm. 5, De Montalt place, Combe down
  • Steart Mrs. Maria, 5, De Montalt place, Combe down
  • Tanner Miss Fanny, 1, South parade, Combe down
  • Tanner Mrs. Sarah, 1, South parade, Combe down
  • Walters Miss Mary, 5, Isabella pl. Combe down


  • Aslat Mary, lodging house keeper, Claremont house, Combe down
  • Bending Thomas tailor, Combe down
  • Brooks William, beer retailer and smith, Combe down
  • Bull Margaretta, boarding & day school, Prospect pL Combe down
  • Clarke Robert, painter, plumber, &c. and grocery dealer, Combe Down
  • Cook William, grocery dealer and butcher, 3, Prospect place, Combe Down
  • Davidge George, quarry master, Combe down
  • Edwards Samuel, beer retailer and grocery dealer, 1, Prospect pl Combe down
  • Ewens Frances, lodging house keeper, Combe down
  • Forward George, grocery, &c. dealer, 4, Prospect pl. Combe down
  • Franckling Wm. travelling stationer, Combe down
  • Garrett Samuel, haulier, Combe down
  • Giles Thomas, grocery dealer, and butcher 3, Park place, Combe down
  • Harding William, surgeon, 3, Claremont buildings, Combe down
  • Hewlett Anne Batchelor, boarding and day school, 11, De Montalt place, Combe down
  • Humphries Harriett, blacksmith, Combe down
  • Hunt James, grocery dealer, Brunswick place, Combe down
  • Lacey Robert, haulier, Combe down
  • Margerum Robert, grocery dealer, and beer retailer, Combe down
  • Massy Hugh Nelson, surgeon, Combe down
  • Payne John, overseer of the parish of Monkton Combe, Park villa, Combe down
  • Radburn George, quarry master, Combe down
  • Rawlings William, Carriage Inn, Combe down
  • Ricketts Charles, carpenter & joiner, Combe down
  • Salter Job, 1, Priory cottages, Combe down
  • Spence Samuel, Hadley Arms, and quarry master, Combe down
  • Stinnard & Ford, quarry masters, Combe down
  • Stodart John, 2, Claremout buildings, Combe down
  • Sumsion Isaac, quarry master, 1, Park place, Combe down
  • Vincent William, boot & shoe maker, 9, Cheap street — p. r. Combe down
  • Whitaker William, boot and shoe maker, Combe down
  • Wren Thomas Jay, short hand writer, and stationer, Combe down


Trinity, Combe down. — Sunday, 11 morn. and 6 even. Sacrament administered the first Sunday in the month. Rector, Rev. George Newnham. Curate, -Rev. D. Topham.


  • Independent, Combe down. Sunday 3 aft. and 6 even. Ministers various.
  • Wesleyan, Combe down. Sunday 6 even. Ministers various.


National (boys and girls) Combe down. Master, Samuel Hellier.

Silverthorne 1846

  • Alien Thomas Nelson, messenger at Guildhall; residence, Combe down
  • Barnes George, greengrocer, Combe down
  • Batchelor Arthur, grocer and provision warehouse, Combe down
  • Bending John, tailor and publican, Combe down
  • Burgess John, quarry master, Combe down
  • Burgess Mrs. Mary, Woodbine place, Combe down
  • Byfield J., quarry-master, Crossway place, Combe down
  • Clarke Robert, plumber, glazier, &c., I, Park place, Combe down
  • Cooke William, grocer, Combe down
  • Corbould John, mourning establishment, 32, Milsom street; residence, 4, lsabella place, Combe down
  • Davidge Sarah, publican, Combe down
  • Dayer Mrs. Hannah, Three Crowns, Combe down
  • Dill John Michael, lodgings, Green-Down house, Combe Down
  • Downey John, Brass-Knocker inn, Combe
  • Edwards Samuel, baker and grocer, Combe down
  • Heal George, Carriage inn and tavern, Combe down
  • Hewlett Miss Ann Batchelor, ladies’ seminary, 11, Demontalt place, Combe down
  • Hine Thomas, brewer, and wine and spirit vaults, Combe down brewery
  • Humphries George, blacksmith, Combe down
  • Hunt James, grocer and tea-dealer, Combe down
  • Lewis James, surgeon Combe down
  • Loscomb Mrs. Mary Anne, lodgings, Woodbine place, Combe down
  • Luff John, boot and shoe maker, Combe down
  • Newnham Rev. George William, Combe down parsonage, Combe down
  • Osburne Mrs. Col., 2, lsabella place, Combe down
  • Palethorpe Edward, gent., Demontalt cot., Combe down
  • Price William, gent., 1, Claremont bdgs., Combe down
  • Prince Mrs. Henry, 1, Isabella place, Combe down
  • Russell Henry, gardener, Combe down
  • Sheppard William, quarryman, Crossway house, Combe down
  • Steart Mrs. Maria, 5, De Montalt place, Combe down
  • Stroud Thomas, gent., Combe down
  • Sumsion Samuel, quarry-master, Combe down
  • Tanner Thomas, gent., l, South parade, Combe down
  • Vincent William, boot and shoe maker, 9, Cheap street; residence, 2, Priory cottages, Combe down
  • Weaver William, butcher, Combe down
  • White Benjamin, gent., 2, Park place, Combe down
  • Wren Thomas Jay, Greendown cottage, Combe down


  • Quarrell Rev. R., Brow-hill house, Combe down


Monkton Combe, District 8: 149 properties, 362 males and 435 females giving a total population of 797

Monkton Combe, District 9: 50 properties, 164 males and 169 females giving a total population of 313

Lyncombe & Widcombe, District 9: 95 properties, 232 males and 258 females giving a total population of 490

Combe Down: 294 properties, 758 males and 862 females giving a total population of 1,600


Monkton Combe, District 1a: 25 properties, 196 males and 200 females giving a total population of 396

Monkton Combe, District 1b: 205 properties, 412 males and 461 females giving a total population of 873

Lyncombe & Widcombe, District 1i: 109 properties, 221 males and 248 females giving a total population of 469

Combe Down: 339 properties, 829 males and 909 females giving a total population of 1,738

Related Images:

Unknown perhaps extraordinary Combe Down cousin coincidence

It was the sort of strange coincidence that seems to call for an alliterative mass market magazine headline, something like “Mattingley makes Maria match” or “Strange Scammell story sensation” but ‘Combe Down cousin coincidence’ got the vote.

You may be wondering what I’m on about, or, even, what I’m on?

Actually, it’s quite simple but a bit strange. I discovered, quite by chance after we have lived here for 31 years, that my (half) brother Phil Scammell’s 1st cousin 4 times removed, used to live next door, at 117 Church Road Combe Down, in 1870/71.

Not only that but her son, Robert Henry Mattingly, was born there in 1870 and her husband, Robert George Mattingly, died there in 1871.

Strangely, I wrote about them, Robert and Maria Mattingly, in my book and on this site, saying “Robert (b.1841) and Maria Mattingly (1841 – 1921) lived at 117 in 1871. Robert had been a joiner but no more has been discovered about them.”

That was because I didn’t know then that Maria was Maria Scammell (1840 – 1901).

That I discovered when David Gardner, an expert on the Scammell family tree, contacted me to gently point out some errors in the family tree I publish and update from time to time.

He also commented ‘Maria c 1841 who died 1901 Barnet her spouse was Robert G Mattingley’. At the time a very soft chime went off in my head, but I did not, then, make the connection.

Then about a week later, considering what to post about for Prior to Now this month, I was paging through the site and saw Robert and Maria Mattingly. The surprise and the connection were instant and, after doing some more digging into the family tree on Ancestry I was able to confirm that they are, indeed, the same people. It’s a bit weird somehow.

Maria was the daughter of Joseph Scammell (1801 – 1875) and Maria Slade (1805 – 1895), who were both born in Edington, Wilts.

Joseph had been a farmer in Ringwood according to the 1841 census, a rail timekeeper at Eling St Mary in the 1851 census but who, by the 1861 census gave his occupation as a “farm bailiff of 160 acres employing 4 men and 2 boys” and was living at 26 Bearfield, Bradford on Avon. Maria had been born whilst he was at Ringwood and in 1864 married Robert George Mattingley (1841 – 1871) in West Derby on Merseyside.

Robert had been born in Chippenham, was a joiner and had, presumably, found work up there. He died aged only 30 at 117 Church Road, Combe Down.

Robert and Maria had 3 sons, Henry Nelson Slade Mattingley (1865 – 1946), George Elliot Mattingly (1867 – 1887) and Robert Henry Mattingly (1870 – 1895).

george elliott mattingley bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 13 august 1885
George Elliott Mattingley – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 13 August 1885

We know that George Elliot Mattingly was born in Liverpool and attended the Bath Government School of Art and Science from an entry in the Chronicle for 1885.

The school was then at 33 Paragon, opposite The Star Inn and later came under the umbrella of the Bath Technical Schools and is now Bath School of Art and Design part of Bath Spa University. Unfortunately he died just 2 years later at the age of 20.

Robert Henry Mattingly was born at 117 Church Road, Combe Down and died when he was only 25. He was an auctioneer’s assistant and lived at 23 Milsom Street, the ground floor of which was Lloyds Bank. He left £127 6s according to probate, a considerable sum for such a young man.

Henry Nelson Slade Mattingley was also born in Liverpool but was baptised in Chippenham. In the 1881 census his occupation is Apprentice Bookseller. He married Edith Mary Butterfant (1866 – 1946) in 1890 and in the 1891 census when he was living in Lakenham his occupation was given as ‘Manager, Fancy Goods Dept.’.

He moved to Barnet by 1901 and became a Commercial Traveller. When he died at Middleton on Sea in 1946 he left £9,919 14s 6d worth between £367,500.00 (commodity value) and £1,846,000.00 (income or wealth value) today, depending on how it’s calculated.

He and his wife had 2 children Nelson Robert Eric Mattingley (1899 – 1986) and Geraldine Mattingley (1900 – 1976). Nelson Robert Eric Mattingley is shown as a schoolboy boarder at Monkton Combe Junior School, Combe Down, Bath in the 1911 census.

Maria died in 1901, leaving £747 8s 8d. She had home in Bath, at 3 George Street, and in Barnet, presumably to be near her remaining son Henry Nelson Slade Mattingley.

So, there you go, nothing earth shattering just a coincidence but one I, at least, found quite interesting.

Related Images:

John Thomas, the forgotten man of Prior Park

One of the owners of Prior Park has been almost forgotten.

Ralph Allen, Gertrude Tucker, Viscount Hawarden and Bishop Baines are all reasonably well known, but John Thomas (1752 – 1827) is not. He was a Quaker who owned Prior Park for over 15 years between 1809 and 1827 and certainly deserves to be better known.

He did not own Prior Park ‘by accident’: he paid £10,000 in 1809, which at today’s values is:

  • historic standard of living value: £648,000.00
  • economic status value: £11,550,000.00
  • economic power value: £41,450,000.00

Even though the Viscounts Hawarden had not been able to sell it for some years and he probably got something of a discount so that they didn’t have to concern themselves with Prior Park anymore it’s still a lot of money.

So, from where did he get his wealth?

john thomas kennet and avon canal 300x196
John Thomas, Kennet and Avon Canal

There were, apparently, rumours that he might have obtained the money from his work as Superintendent of Works for the Kennet and Avon canal, working with John Rennie (1761 – 1821) who was the engineer.

This may have arisen, like many rumours seem to because the cost of the canal spiralled by 450%. It was originally budgeted to cost £213,940 (about £1.8 billion in 2014 pounds) in 1790 but this increased to £377,364 by 1792 when John Rennie made changes to the canal’s route and rose even further after the French Revolution’s ‘Reign of Terror’ in 1793, so that when on 17 April 1794, the Kennet & Avon Canal Act received Royal Assent, the company was authorised to raise £420,000 (by 3,500 shares of £120 each).

When it was actually completed in 1810, having met many delays having to buy land, build the Bruce Tunnel, deal with water supply using pumping stations and build aqueducts the canal had cost £979,314 7s 9d (about £3.7 billion in 2014 pounds). His work on the canal is commemorated with a plaque on the Dundas aqueduct.

His obituary in Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review 1827 firmly rejects the view that he made anything other than his salary from his work on the canal. 

Family wealth

In fact, John Thomas had made his money as a grocer starting John Thomas, Sons & Co., which was trading as late as 1938 at 17 and 18 Redcliffe Street, Bristol,  and his family had been inventive and hard working.

His grandfather, also called John Thomas, had worked with Abraham Darby (1678 – 1717), the ironmaster and was responsible for helping him to perfect sand casting iron pots using re-usable patterns.

His grocery business certainly seems to have mad the family wealthy, when his son George Thomas (1791 – 1869) died he left £200,000 which at today’s values:

  • historic standard of living value: £16,500,000.00
  • economic status value: £173,900,000.00
  • economic power value: £360,900,000.00

His family history is given below:

John Thomas’ family

“John Thomas, the ironmaster and co-inventor with Abraham Darby of casting cooking pots in iron, was born near Welshpool in 1690. He was the second of the five sons of Robert Thomas, "who was not a Friend but a sober man," and his wife Priscella Evans. The wife was "a fair Latin scholar and for a while in the service of the Countess Conway."

Her parents were Edward and Katherine Evans, said to be natives of Radnorshire, but residing in Welshpool. They were imprisoned in November, 1662, for declining to take the Oath of Allegiance, where Edward Evans "being an infirm man and unable to bear the Filth and Dampness of the Place, laid down his Life, the unwholesome Confinement there having hastened his death." He was buried in St. Mary's Churchyard, Welshpool. His wife was imprisoned for five years.

John Thomas was first employed by Thomas Oliver, Coedcowrid, Dolobran, Meifod, "a Minister among Friends." Later he was shepherd to Charles Lloyd, the ironmaster of Dolobran. Here he succeeded in rescuing a flock of his master's sheep from a snowdrift, and late in the spring of the same year, during heavy rain and melting snow, he swam the Vyrnwy to fetch home a herd of mountain cattle. These he collected and drove to the river, but the ford had now become a boiling torrent. He nevertheless crossed it on the back of an ox, and brought home the whole herd in safety. As a reward for his courage his master presented him with four sheep for himself. He sold their wool in order to buy better clothing and afterwards disposed of the sheep so that he might obtain money wherewith to travel to Bristol to seek his fortune.

This was in 1704. Afraid of being taken for a soldier if found in Bristol out of work, it being the time of the Duke of Marlborough's wars, he requested his master to recommend him as an apprentice to a relative, Edward Lloyd, a wine merchant, who was one of the partners of the Baptist Mills. The boy was accordingly sent into the brassworks until he should procure employment.

As he was looking on during the trials of the Dutch workmen to cast iron, he told Abraham Darby that he thought he saw how they had missed it. He begged to be allowed to try, and he and Abraham Darby remained alone in the workshop the same night for the purpose. Before morning they had cast an iron pot. The boy Thomas entered into an agreement to serve Abraham Darby and keep the secret. He was enticed by the offer of double wages to leave his master; but he continued nobly faithful, and afterwards showed his fidelity to his master's widow and children following the untimely death of Abraham Darby. From 1709 to 1838 the Thomas family were confidential and much valued agents to the descendants of Abraham Darby.

For more than one hundred years after the night in which Thomas and his master made their successful experiment of producing an iron casting in a mould of fine sand, with its two wooden frames and its air-holes, the same process was practiced and kept secret at Coalbrookdale, with plugged keyholes and barred doors.

John Thomas married Grace Zeane in Bristol in 1714, and died in 1760. Their son Samuel settled at Keynsham as a wire drawer, and married Esther Derrick in 1746.

They had a son John, born in 1752, who commenced business as a grocer on the Somerset side of Bristol Bridge, the business being still carried on under the name of John Thomas, Sons and Company. In 1776 John Thomas (the second) married Elizabeth Ovens, of Bristol and they had ten children. The chief interest of this John Thomas's life was the promotion of waterways for the facilitating of trade, especially the Somersetshire Coal Canal, and the proposed Kennet and Avon Canal to connect Bath with London. John Thomas retired in 1812 and purchased Prior Park near Bath, where he died 3 3mo. 1827, aged seventy-five.

The fifth son of John and Elizabeth Thomas was George Thomas, the noted Bristol Quaker Philanthropist. He was born 1791 and died s. p. 1869.”

From: Gibson, Charles R.: The Romance of Coal. London, Seeley Service Co., 1923. Journal Friends Historical Society, Vol. 17, 1920, pp. 19-32. Pamphlet by J. F. Nicholls, Bristol City Librarian, c. 1870.

John Thomas is said to have met Queen Charlotte (Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz 1744 – 1818) the wife of King George III on her visit to Bath in 1817.

The health of that tough old lady, Queen Charlotte, was beginning to fail, and her physicians recommended her to go to Bath, for the waters, and, in November, thither repaired, accompanied by the Duke of Clarence.

The illustration gives an extremely graphic idea of the effects of the Water upon the afflicted Queen. It is called "A Peep into the Pump Room, or the Zomersetshire folk in A Maze".
a peep into the pump room or the zomersetshire folk in a maze

A Peep into the Pump Room, or the Zomersetshire folk in A Maze

The following anecdote of her sojourn is dated "Bath, October 28th". The Queen wishing to ride through Prior Park, the property of John Thomas, a very rich Quaker, a footman was sent forward to the house to ask leave for the gates to be opened. Mr. Thomas received the Queen very respectfully at the park gate, and addressed her as follows: " Charlotte, I hope thee is very well: I am glad to see thee in my park; thou art very welcome at any time, and I shall feel proud in opening my gates for thy pleasure. I hope thou receives benefit from the Bath waters. I wish thee well."

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Social England under the Regency, Vol. 2 (of 2), by John Ashton

from the juvenile tourist or excursions into the west of england into the midland counties with part of south wales and into the whole county of kent concluding with an account of maidstone and
From The juvenile tourist ; or, Excursions into the west of England: into the Midland counties, with part of South Wales ; and into the whole county of Kent ; concluding with an account of Maidstone and its vicinity – John Evans 1 January 1818, Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy
carlisle patriot saturday 06 december 1817
Carlisle Patriot – Saturday 06 December 1817

John Thomas also helped to develop  Prior Park Place, on two and a half acres taken from adjacent parcels of land – Forefield and Forefield Orchard – purchased from Philip Bennet VI (1771 – 1853), owner of Widcombe Manor.

Bennet put the estate up for auction in 1813 and the freehold was bought by John Thomas. Matthias Harris, a silversmith and jeweller proposed a property development scheme.

In 1818, for a ‘consideration’, John Thomas offered a 999 year lease of part of the two plots of land at an annual rent of £62 l0s to Matthias Harris. In 1820 this was changed to £85 for 1,000 years (the Harris descendants redeemed the charge in 1896 for £2,090). A deed of the following year reiterates this obligation, but proposes the selling of plots with houses upon them and Prior Park Place was built in 1821 – 1822.

The Survey of Bath and District. The Magazine of the Survey of Old Bath and Its Associates. No.16, November 2001. Editors: Mike Chapman Elizabeth Holland

 John Thomas’ life at Prior Park was, it seems, not flamboyant:

"It was afterwards purchased by Mr. John Thomas. a member of the Society of Friends, whose death we have recorded in 1827. Ostentation certainly formed no part of this purchaser's object here; for it will scarcely be believed that, on taking possession of that splendid mansion, Mr. Thomas divided it, by stone partitions, into three parts — one he occasionally let, a second he shut up. and only inhabited the third, to avoid the heavy charge of Government taxes! and he also hewed down a magnificent row of elm trees leading to the mansion, to assist in completing the purchase of the estate!

It is said, that the spirit of Ralph Allen was disturbed by that piteous outrage on the exquisite skill and taste of Wood, and " doom'd, for a certain time, to walk the night" in the unfrequented portions of the building. If, however, the frugality of John Thomas amounted, in some instances, to parsimony, he was, nevertheless, a worthy man, kind-hearted, and truly charitable."

Annals of Bath, from…1800 to the passing of the new municipal act By Rowland Mainwaring

After John Thomas’ death Prior Park was sold. It was put up for sale at £25,000 but did not reach it’s reserve and was withdrawn. In December 1829 it was sold to Bishop Baines for £22,000.

sale of prior park 1828
Sale of Prior Park 1828

Related Images:

Sublime world heritage city of Bath 1700 – 1764

In looking at the history of Combe Down one, inevitably, has to look at the history of Bath 1700 – 1764.

Bath today is very well known, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its natural hot springs and 18th century Georgian architecture.

TripAdvisor describes it thus:

“Known for its restorative wonders, Bath was once the home of Jane Austen. Sure, you could attempt to conjure up this elegant city by reading Pride and Prejudice in your tub, but as Bath has a lot more history than your bathroom (we assume, anyway) you’d be missing out. A stroll through Bath is like visiting an open-air museum, with roughly 5,000 buildings in the city drawing notice for their architectural merit. After your stroll, soak in the natural hot waters of the Thermae Bath Spa, once a favourite of the Celts and Romans.”

However, it was not always like this. Before the ambitions of John Wood, the Elder (1704-1754) and Ralph Allen (1693-1764) to change the medieval city of Bath into one of the world’s most beautiful cities combining Palladian architecture and landscape harmoniously William Stukeley (1687 – 1765) described Bath, in Itinerarium curiosum; or, An account of the antiquities, and remarkable curiosities in nature or art, observed in travels through Great Britain: Volume 1, so: “The small compass of the city has made the inhabitants crowd up the streets to an unseemly and inconvenient narrowness: it is handsomely built, mostly of new stone, which is very white and good; a disgrace to the architects they have there”.

He also includes a map which is shown below.

map of bath from page 339 of itinerarium curiosum
Map of Bath from page 339 of Itinerarium Curiosum

Of course, Bath had first been a Roman city and after they left was probably both in the hands of the Romano British and the Anglo Saxons until the town became Saxon controlled after the Battle of Deorham in 577.

Bath became a religious centre in 675 when a convent was established and later a monastery, the church of which grew to become Bath Abbey.

After the Norman conquest Bath remained a religious centre with the Abbey becoming the seat of the Bishop in 1157 which was confirmed by a Charter in 1256 from Henry II.

During this period Bath also became a centre of the wool trade and became famous for broadcloth.

Bath Abbey still dominated the town and its development until the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII with Bath being dissolved in 1539.

In 1552 a Charter granted the Mayor and citizens of Bath all property previously owned by the Priory in the city. 

Elizabeth I authorized a nationwide collection over seven years to pay for reroofing and reglazing Bath Abbey in 1573 and also decreed that the Abbey should become the Parish Church of the City, causing the closure of all the other churches within the city boundary and thus Bath has no medieval churches.

Elizabeth I also granted the Charter of Incorporation in 1590 so that Bath became a city.

letter from bath from the derby mercury friday 15 february 1754
Letter from Bath – from the Derby Mercury, Friday 15 February 1754

The loss of the monastery and the decline of the wool trade meant that Bath had to find another way to earn its living and tourism seemed to be something the city could do by using its Roman Baths’ heritage and the thermal springs.

The King’s Bath was improved in 1578 and 1624.

The New Bath was built in 1576 to provide better facilities and then renamed Queen’s Bath after Queen Anne of Denmark (wife of James I) visited in 1613 and 1615.

Though times were not always good, especially during the Civil War when the city was looted royal patronage continued to increase the reputation of the city. Charles II brought his wife, Catherine of Braganza in the hoping that this would produce his first legitimate heir.

Mary of Modena, wife of James II, visited Bath in 1687 needing an heir to the throne, and following her visit gave birth to a son – The Old Pretender.

During all this time, Bath never had a population greater than 3,000 and was surrounded by it’s medieval city walls. (There’s a walk that allows you to see them). The population of Bath was to rise to 28,000 by 1801 and 57,000 by 1831.

Ralph Allen became postmaster in Bath in 1712.

By 1726 his contract with the Post Office to run the cross and bye posts for the country had given him the contacts, confidence and cash to acquire the quarries on Combe Down, probably having seen John Wood, the Elder’s plans of 1725 for Bath which developed the town outside the existing city walls and their constrictions and restrictions.

Over the next 40 years the stone from Ralph Allen’s quarries on Combe Down and Wood’s developments such as St John’s Hospital (1727–28), Queen Square (1728–36), Prior Park (1734–41), The Royal Mineral Water Hospital (1738–42), North Parade (1740), South Parade (1743–48) and The Circus (1754–68) transformed Bath from the medieval to a modern and beautiful city.

map of bath 1780
Map of Bath, 1780

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Fascinating and artistic old deeds and indentures

old deed lease and release a911873 1516 jan 1805
Old deed. Lease and Release. A911873 1516 Jan. 1805

I love old deeds.

They are works of art.

They were written by quill pen and iron gall ink in court hand, chancery hand or secretary hand on large squares of parchment.

The heading and capital letter of old deeds are often ornamented with scroll work.

So much work went into them as they represented peoples’ wealth and legal title – something that, not so long ago, could only be shown “on paper”.

So, what goes into an old deed?


Parchment is most commonly made of calfskin, sheepskin, or goatskin.

It was historically used for writing documents, notes, or the pages of a book.

Parchment making is a slow process and requires the selection of good skins from healthy animals, which are then washed, dried, soaked in lime, scraped, stretched and scraped and stretched again and again and dried under tension until the finished product is ready for use as a writing surface.

Parchment is not tanned like leather, this makes it more suitable for writing, but leaves it reactive to changes in humidity and allows it revert to raw hide if too wet.

Vellum denotes a finer quality material referring to a parchment made from calf skin and comes from the Latin word vitulinum (meaning made from calf) and Old French vélin.

Indentures are a form of deed or legal contract. The Indenture on old deeds was so called from the fact that its upper edge was indented – a method of testing authenticity as each party had a copy.

These duplicates were written on a single strip of parchment cut irregularly afterwards, so that when required to be produced as evidence the two divided portions would fit each other exactly as indisputable evidence of their originality.

By convention in common use after about 1675, the old deeds documents open with the title ‘This Indenture’ in large capital letters.

Hand writing

Court hand was a style of handwriting used in medieval law courts from there into use by professionals such as lawyers and clerks.

Chancery hand could produce beautiful calligraphic writing; in England it became known as the Italian hand to distinguish it from the angular, cramped, black letter or gothic derived English chancery hand which had been developed earlier.

Secretary hand arose out of the need for a hand more legible and universally recognizable and was widely used by scriveners and others whose daily employment comprised hours of writing.


Another important part of an old deed deed is the iron gall ink.

The main ingredients are oak galls, iron sulphate and gum Arabic and it was permanent and water resistant.

A 1770 recipe suggests two ounces of crushed oak galls soaked overnight in one pint of water to produce tannin, then strained into one ounce of ferrous sulphate. A half ounce of gum Arabic (the hardened sap of the Acacia Senegal tree) is added and the mixture stirred until it is dissolved which might take a week or two.

Iron gall ink is purple black or brown black and coloured inks were seldom employed for legal documents.

It was the standard writing and drawing ink in Europe, from about the 5th to 19th century and remained in use into the 20th.

Quill pen

The writing was done by a quill pen made from a moulted flight feather (preferably a primary wing feather) of a large bird such as a goose or swan.

A quill is hand cut to six or seven inches after being soaked and tempered in hot sand for longer life so that the slit does not widen through wetting and drying with ink and will retain its shape, require infrequent sharpening and be used many times.

The hollow shaft of the feather (the calamus) acts as an ink reservoir and ink flows to the tip by capillary action.

old deeds lease and release a911874 1516 feb 1805
Old deeds. Lease and Release. A911874 1516 Feb. 1805

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1817 Ordnance Survey map including Combe Down

Old maps are fascinating.  

Just seeing what an area looked like 100 or more years ago on and Ordnance Survey map can give real insights into the place.

Of course very old maps tend to be either somewhat inaccurate or have little detailed data because of their scale.

Even so they can be interesting and the history of the maps themselves is almost as fascinating.

As most people know the mapping of the British Isles has been led by the Ordnance Survey, which was, effectively, started after the Jacobite rising of 1745.

The Duke of Cumberland (1721 -1765) realised the army did not have good maps of the Scottish Highlands.

In 1747, Lieutenant Colonel David Watson proposed a map of the Highlands to subjugate the clans.

King George II charged Watson with making a military survey of the Highlands under the command of the Duke of Cumberland.

This eventually led to the Principal Triangulation of Great Britain (1783–1853), a project carried out between 1784 and about 1853 at the instigation of senior surveyor General William Roy (1726–1790) and to the creation of the Ordnance Survey.

anglo french survey of 1784 1790 proposed mesh
Anglo French survey of 1784-1790 proposed mesh by William Roy – Scanned from Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London vol77: 188–226 1787

In 1801, the first one-inch-to-the-mile (1:63,360 scale) map of Kent was published.

During the next twenty years, roughly a third of England and Wales was mapped at the same scale under the direction of William Mudge (1762 – 1820).

Somerset was mapped by 1817. It was tough work, Major Thomas Colby (1784 – 1852) walked 586 miles in 22 days in 1819.

The map of that covers Combe Down, that was published in 1817, shows surprisingly little change has occurred . Development of housing , yes, but the shape and the main features are very recognizable.

combe down ordnance survey first series 1817
Combe Down Ordnance Survey first series 1817

This work is based on data provided through and uses historical material which is copyright of the Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth.

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Particulars of Prior Park sale in 1808

I just love old handbills and maps. Bath Record Office has a small treasure trove of them.

Here are some prepared for the Prior Park sale in 1808 before John Thomas bought in in 1809. 

The language is wonderful. “A capital mansion, seated on an eminence, erected, in the most substantial manner, about the Year 1738, by RALPH ALLEN, Esq. Planned for the accommodation of A NOBLEMAN, OR FAY OF DISTINCTION”.

If one had the wherewithal it would be difficult to resist. It’s a world away from the ‘estate agent speak’ we are so used to; but then, so is the property.

Anyone wondering what A, R, and P are was obviously born more recently! It’s acres, roods and perches.

front of sale particulars for prior park in 1808
Front of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808
more details of sale particulars for prior park in 1808
More details of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808
map details of sale particulars for prior park in 1808
Map details of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808

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Revealing details about the Prior Park sales

prior park sale notice bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 04 september 1800
Prior Park sale notice Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 04 September 1800

When Gertrude Stafford Smith (née Tucker, previously Warburton), Ralph Allen’s niece and heir died in 1796, the estate passed to Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden.

He had married Mary Allen, another niece of Ralph Allen. Even though she had died in 1775, as they had a son Thomas Ralph Maude the 1st Viscount inherited.

I indicated previously that Cornwallis Maude may have had little love for Prior Park and that he had some pretty severe money troubles.

A bit of further research has indicated that he put Prior Park up for sale in 1800 as an advert in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on Thursday 4th  September 1800 shows.

The advert directed interested parties to Benjamin Wingrove. The reference at the foot of the advert shows that the sale of timber, referenced when John Thomas became the next owner in 1809, was actually happening years before and perhaps he just increased the sales to pay for his purchase?

Cornwallis Maude died on 23rd August 1803 in Teignmouth, Devon, but he was still trying to sell Prior Park just a few months before he died as the advert from the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on Thursday 5th May 1803 makes clear.

We know the estate was actually sold to John Thomas in 1809 for £28,000. 

prior park still to be sold bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 05 may 1803
Prior Park still to be sold Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 05 May 1803

According to in 2011, the relative worth of £28,000 0s 0d from 1809 would be:

£1,670,000.00 using the retail price index
£1,880,000.00 using the GDP deflator
£21,800,000.00 using average earnings
£29,800,000.00 using the per capita GDP
£105,000,000.00 using the share of GDP

See Glossary of Terms.

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A little bit about Bathampton manor

When I was writing the book there were items that I collected that I didn’t use.

So, I’ve started to go back through the rather poorly indexed images and see what I could add via this blog.

The first images I found were not about Combe Down at all, but about Bathampton Manor and they’re rather evocative.

Bathampton Manor, was owned by Bath Abbey until the Dissolution when it passed to the Crown and was then purchased by William Crouch.

Subsequent owners were Thomas Popham, Edward Hungerford, the Bassett family and the Holders of Claverton. Ralph Allen married Elizabeth Holder in 1736.

By 1743 Elizabeth’s brother, Charles, had become “financially embarrassed” and Ralph paid off his debts and purchased the Manor from him – see History of Bath Research Group.

thomas robins view of bathampton showing the manor centre right with a prominent cupola and projecting bay windows image victoria albert museum
Thomas Robins view of Bathampton, showing the manor centre right, with a prominent cupola and projecting bay windows. Image Victoria & Albert Museum.
bathampton manor
Bathampton Manor
bathampton manor plan
Bathampton Manor plan, 1794

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