Understanding the past with an wonderful local gift

Yesterday, Margaret told me that Andy Russell had been trying to reach me but couldn’t. We did, happily, make contact shortly after and Andy, on behalf Gérard, on behalf of Rob, made an awesome local gift – a small shedload of photos of the Combe Down area.

The message said:

“Hi Margaret, sorry to contact you like this but  I am unable to send a message to Richard. Gérard Coles, son of the late Robert Coles has given me about 30 pictures of Combe Down and some of its characters. We both agreed that it would be good to get these to someone who can document them and possibly store them in the archive. They are mostly identified on the back. I would like to copy a few and then pass them on to you if that’s ok. Any thoughts?”

Response to the awesome welcome gift:

All I can say is that Andy well underestimated the number of photos (there are actually 83) and, in my opinion, the importance of some of the images. However I’m really glad he persevered, it was worth it.

I’m not going to try describing all, or indeed any, of them – they need to be catalogued, described and listed by someone much more expert than me.

Having said that I shall show a few and look to finding out more about them and all the others.

I’d love to know what you think – even from the few examples.

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Bus leaving rainbow woods
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Wilcox bakers
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Wilcox bakery
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Rev Jeremy Wordsworth
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The Firs
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Combe Down infants school 1970s
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Combe Down junior school Mrs Warrens class
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Fales Gladstone Road garage
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Water tower 1970s

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Saving Our Hospital – the life-changing power of a movement

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Hospital Box Scheme

The article is: ‘Saving our hospital’: the remarkable Bath Royal United Hospital Box Scheme.

If you would like to tell more people about your unique family history, then please contact us via this page: I want to donate our family’s unique history.

John Daniels never knew his grandfather, Frank Pine, during his lifetime. He was a man who harnessed the life changing power of a movement – the Bath Hospital Box Scheme to help change people’s lives for the better.

Through his research into Frank’s life, John discovered that Frank’s accomplishments were overshadowed by his death just before the Bath Blitz and its publicity ensuring Frank Pine remained relatively unknown.

He has a fascinating tale to tell though, a tale of social security in two ways: establishing a role in society from humble beginnings and promoting the welfare of a community before the introduction of the Welfare State through friendly societies and local government.

Frank Pine played a significant role in the Bath Hospital Box Scheme, which saved the Bath Royal United Hospital from financial ruin.

Frank Pine relied on his connections to the Beckingsale family and had a close relationship with the Daniels family of Combe Down as he played a crucial role in these endeavours.

Alongside many other local residents, Frank and his family, as well as the Daniels family, actively participated in the political and social scenes of Bath, particularly Combe Down, during the 1920s and 1930s.

We’re so used to the Welfare State, including the NHS that we forget that before the second world war life was distinctly different especially when it came to health care.

The main availability of health care was the health insurance element of National Insurance, introduced in 1911 by Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George and expanded throughout the 1920s and 1930s.

This was a compulsory insurance scheme for workers in certain industries, though it generally did not cover family members.

The insurance granted access to a doctor from the local panel when needed, but usually didn’t stretch as far as hospital treatment.

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The other scheme was membership of one of the various community-owned mutual aid funds and medical clubs, into which working people could pay while times were good.

They would receive access to a doctor, medicines and sometimes hospital treatment without having to see the almoner, by means of paying in advance.

Organisations followed a similar ‘hospital Saturday’ approach in fundraising for their local hospital. 

These were named Saturday funds, as this was traditionally payday for workers, when they could make their contributions to the hospital.

The Hospital Saving Association (HSA) was founded in London on 11 July 1922, focused on providing cover for working people, with both member and their employer contributing. 

The association was formed as limited liability, but non-profit.

Those taking part in the scheme were exempted from charges at the London Hospital (now the Royal London Hospital) and other voluntary hospitals taking part in the scheme.

In Bath and the surrounding areas there was the Bath Hospital Box Scheme that was vital to the survival of the Royal United and other hospitals – Frank Pine played an important role in its success.

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Hubert Beckingsale – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 13 April 1940
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Death of Mr Beckingsale
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Late Mrs Beckingsale

He and his family lived at The Firs and, as well as his role in the Bath Hospital Box Scheme he found time to serve non Combe Down Council.

Combe Down Council Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette Saturday 22 March 1930
Combe Down Council – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 22 March 1930

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Help to kick-start Prior To Now Trust

The time has come to unveil some more information about the future direction of Prior to Now Trust.

As you know it’s mainly the website (combedown.org) and Facebook group.

They will, of course, continue and the Trustees are very keen to make sure that TrustMembers continue to be involved.

Mentioning Trustees they are:


Margaret and I have been married for over 40 years and it was a ‘no brainer’ to ask her to be a Trustee.

She has many years of detailed administration experience and as chair of the Parents and Friends for Prior Park raised c. £75, 000. Her fetes and Xmas market were always over subscribed.





All these good folk have committed to progressing the development of the Prior to Now Trust towards the vision of “a virtual village”.

What this means is shown in the diagram and, in creating it we want to make sure that the software is freely available to other groups like ours.

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Imagine being able to enter the name of an ancestor and being able immediately to find out where and when he lived, what family he had, what he did, how he was related to others in the village, where he’s buried etc. etc

That’s the ‘virtual village’.

All of this, of course, supplemented by a growing body of family history, photos, documents, anecdotes and other historical information.

It’s clear to me that this is a substantial undertaking and, whilst there is some money in the kitty, it will need funding.

We’re looking at a number of options for that.

It’s also clear that having some volunteers will be helpful.

There are 3 main areas where you can help.

  • People
  • Places
  • Production

The first two are about researching and writing about the people or places. Production is about crucial support to publish research results, man the social media etc.


That’s it for now.

I hope that I’ve made it all clearer than mud and hope you all think it’s a good way to continue.

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Wonderful, genuine tributes to remarkable people

We all have loved ones and want to remember them with wonderful but genuine tributes.

The passing of Frank Sumsion, whose Memories of Combe Down are a well-loved and well-read part of the site made me think.

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Frank and Jane Sumsion

What might Prior to Now offer the Combe Down area to not only honour their memory but also “cement” them into our history? An obituary page seemed the obvious solution and would also allow us to search out historical obituaries of people who came before and provide another small insight.

I approached the Sumsion family who, very kindly, gave their permission and provided the material.

I also wanted to remember Glenys Green (née Wynne) who we met very soon after we came to Combe Down in 1984. She became a Godmother to our daughter Victoria and she was just the nicest, most genuine person you could meet. She also did a great deal of voluntary charity work.

So I asked Etta, Glenys’ grand-daughter, whether she would provide an obituary for Glenys. She said yes.

So came about the obituaries page.

We’d love to learn about your suggestions as to whom we might seek out historically, and it’s not easy, obituaries were quite unusual. Brief announcements of death were published in America as early as the 16th century. But not until the 19th century, and following a lead from us British, did obituaries become more detailed accounts, appearing with regularity in the press.

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Richard and Glenys Green

The first obituaries were published in ancient Rome around 59 B.C.E. on papyrus newspapers called Acta Diurna.

Ancestry, has enhanced its online obituary archives by using AI algorithms to extract biographical information from over 262 million obituaries dating back to the 1750s – which sounds like a lot of obituaries until you calculate it as a percentage of people who have lived.

As newspapers began automating typesetting in the 20th century, more space became available for death notices and obituaries.

Newspapers realized the financial potential in publishing obituaries, leading to the modern obituary template taking shape in the 1930s and 1940s. This template typically consists of a death announcement, a short biography, a “survived by” section, and funeral details.

Naturally, we would be happy to receive requests to add an obituary for genuine Combe Down area people – but you have to provide it, and allow us to edit it. There are some suggestions about how to write a tremendous obituary here.

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What you need to know about Prior to Now Trust – Act 1

This note is to let you know what you need to know about some of the changes that are happening at Prior to Now.

Prior to Now has become a charity as a unit of  Combe Down Heritage Societycharity number: 1116550.

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Ralph Allen

It is now Prior to Now Trust

I’ll let you know more details about the Trustees etc. in due course. Most will be known to some of you.

All have an abiding interest in Combe Down, its heritage, history and people.

No one wants Prior to Now’s values to change, but some change is inevitable as I won’t be around.

I’ve run it as a hobby (it’s less expensive than golf, football, tennis, shooting etc!) and that, obviously, will change. There are items that Prior to Now can’t run without. Examples are website hosting, subscriptions for research and genealogy etc.

I have promised an endowment – once the wonderful world of banking concede we’re not money launderers or some such.

More about that soon too as well as more about the volunteers we will need.

Meanwhile Prior to Now Trust has affiliated to:

The Society for One Place Studies

Community Archive and Heritage Group

British Association of Local History

That describes the first step into the future and, as I mentioned, I’ll put out more updates as and when the final details fall into place.

I do hope you’ll all continue to support PtN and enjoy the group, website etc to reminisce about Combe Down, Monkton Combe and Midford.

That’s all for now.

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Two stone pillars and beautiful iron gate to Combe Down allotments

In March 1895, in response to demand from villagers, Monkton Combe Parish Council rented several acres of land at the eastern end of Church Road, Combe Down for use as allotments.

In August 1895 the Parish Council paid Mr George Fisher the sum of £2 8s for building two stone pillars and fixing an iron gate at the entrance.

If you walk along the public footpath that runs past the allotments from Church Road towards Mount Pleasant today, you will notice these lovely, traditional stone pillars.

The original gate is still in position, in what is believed to be the earliest remaining dry stone wall in Combe Down on the ancient route from Bath Abbey to Hinton Priory.

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Two stone pillars and an iron gate
george fisher bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 22 august 1895
George Fisher, Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 22 August 1895

In 1895, a George Fisher (carpenter and builder) was living just along the road at 1 Oxford Place in Combe Down, while another George Fisher (slate mason) was living nearby at 9 Tyning Place, Combe Down.

Did one of these gentlemen build the beautiful entrance to our allotments?

Jacqueline Burrows

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Combe Down family maze grows even larger

In April I published the Combe Down family maze.

It covered some 8,600 individuals. About 320 of those are gentry that lived on Combe Down and about 2,900 are ‘ordinary’ people that that lived on Combe Down or in Monkton Combe.

The other 5,000 or so are ‘linkers’, i.e. the people who link families across the generations (most of these are in the gentry, where the ‘marriage market’ – pragmatic marriages made for the preservation or transfer of wealth was general) and ‘partners’ as not everyone born on Combe Down stayed and many moved away when they married.

I’ve added another 600 people of which about 400 are ‘ordinary’ people that that lived on Combe Down or in Monkton Combe and the rest their spouses who did not.

The Combe Down family maze is still a work in progress.

Over the coming months I plan to continue to make improvements.

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The Combe Down family maze

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The Miner family on Combe Down

Michael Miner has recently given me the story of the Miner family on Combe Down. You can see it here.

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Michael George, Gladys Ivy, Arthur James Miner with Peggy the dog taken outside Bramley Cottages, Claverton Down

The Miner family are a long established Combe Down family and have lived at many addresses, including:

  • 1 Green Cottages, Combe Down
  • 1 Miner’s Cottages, Monkton Combe
  • 2 Quarry Rise, Combe Down
  • 2 Upper House, Combe Down
  • 3 and 4 North Cottages, Combe Down
  • 3 Park Avenue, Monkton Combe
  • 4 Isabella Place, Combe Down
  • 5 Tyning Place, Monkton Combe
  • 8 DeMontalt Place, Combe Down
  • Brunswick Place, Combe Down
  • Byfields Place, Combe Down.
  • Edward Cottage, 5 Tyning, Combe Down
  • Edward Cottage, Belle Vue, Monkton Combe
  • Farrs Lane, Combe Down
  • Pearl Cottage, Monkton Combe
  • Tinsmith Shed, Avenue Road, Monkton Combe
  • Upper House, Laura Place, North Road, Combe Down
  • West Upper House, Monkton Combe

Michael’s research includes information about those members of the family that went to Australia and Canada as well as those that stayed on Combe Down.

He has also included a number of interesting photos.

It’s a good read and I thank Michael for contributing the article.

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Combe Down family maze keeps growing

I hadn’t realised but it’s a year since I last wrote anything about the site which was Update to ‘Our Block’. Before that it was October 2018 with More Combe Down cousins. That is actually what has stopped me from publishing anything, as I have been working on a Combe Down family tree or, more accurately, a Combe Down family maze.

If you recall that far back you may remember that there were a number of posts about how the families in the ‘big houses’ were related. I’ve taken that further. I’ve also added and linked a many ‘ordinary’ families who live on Combe Down and in Monkton Combe as I can.

The grand result of that is that the tree or maze now covers some 8,600 individuals. About 320 of those are gentry that lived on Combe Down. About 2,900 are ‘ordinary’ people that that lived on Combe Down or in Monkton Combe. The other 5,000 or so are ‘linkers’, i.e. the people who link families across the generations (most of these are in the gentry, where the ‘marriage market’ – pragmatic marriages made for the preservation or transfer of wealth was general) or the ‘partners’ as not everyone born on Combe Down stayed and many moved away when they married.

The Combe Down family maze is still a work in progress but is published here.

Over the coming months I plan to make improvements.

the combe down family maze
Summary of the Combe Down family maze

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Discover more about ‘Our Block’

ralph allen bequests bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 23 august 1764
Ralph Allen bequests, Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 23 August 1764

I have just updated the ‘Our Block‘ page. Ian & Susan Parsons, at 121 Church Road, kindly lent me the deeds that they have in their possession.

Interestingly, most of them were for Claremont House, 109 Church Road. They also encompass Claremont Cottage, 107 Church Road, Claremont Lodge, 119 Church Road as well as Ian & Susan’s property, 121 Church Road, which has been called Rosemere.

Solicitors’ filing systems are a never ending wonder, but I guess that as Claremont House was broken up into flats 121 became the ‘logical’ place to put all it’s history. I’m glad about that as old deeds can be a small mine of information. All the properties aforementioned were traded as one entity for a long time.

As stated, solicitors’ filing systems are a never ending wonder and another interesting inclusion was a deed from 1768.

It seems to be a ‘cuckoo’ as it relates to London Road properties and transactions by Lewis Clutterbuck, who was a lawyer, member of Bath City Council 1753 – 57 and town clerk, 1757 – 76. He was also mentioned in Ralph Allen’s will receiving a £100 bequest. His family owned Newark Park, at Ozleworth near Wotton-under-Edge. Why it’s with the deeds for Claremont….

Delving through the documents shows that Claremont was constructed c 1805 – 1806 along with 113 – 117 and Hopecote (which was, originally 3 properties).

We know that 119 was originally 2 properties. It became clear that at some time between 1878 and 1893, 121 was built as a block of stables.

The current structure is due to substantial alterations. The documents show that permission for ‘provision of a mansard roof’ was granted 4 Dec 1973, the ‘erection of a single storey extension to the rear,’ on 17 Aug 1978, the ‘erection at first and second floor level over existing garage’ on 16 Aug 1979 and the ‘erection of a garage’ on 17 Dec 1981.

extract from deed of 13 july 1893
Extract from deed of 13 July 1893

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