The marriage settlement between William Butler and Jane Davis.
A marriage settlement was very necessary in those days for a wealthy lady like Jane Davis – her assets in the settlement were £808 16s 11d which is now worth about £976,900.00. Once again things were very different from today. At the time an unmarried woman had the right to own property and make contracts in her own name but, upon marriage, a woman’s legal rights and obligations were subsumed by those of her husband. Married women did not have any rights due to the legal fiction, called coverture, that a husband and wife are one person. Once a woman married she had no claim to her property as her husband had full control and could do with it whatever suited him!
What is not clear is whether there was anything there before. If one looks at the rear of the houses in Isabella Place it is fairly clear that the present buildings are not the original buildings. The original buildings appear to be a terrace of five 2 up, 2 down cottages that were extended and re-fronted.
Peter Addison says in Around Combe Down (ISBN: 9780948975486) that “it is quite likely that they were originally built in the 1770s…” but is clear there is no evidence of this. Indeed there is the opposite, possible evidence that they did not exist then.
Collinson’s History of Somerset, published in 1791 says:
"On the summit of Combe Down....is a neat range of buildings belonging to this parish. It consists of 11 houses built of wrought stone raised on the spot, each of which has a small garden in front. They were originally built for the workmen employed in the quarries but are now chiefly let to invalids from Bath, who retire hither for the sake of a very fine air (probably rendered more salubrious by the plantation of firs), from which many have secured essential benefit."
We can also read an interview with ‘Old John’ Greenway, a stonemason, published in Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on Thursday 19 March 1896. ‘Old John’ was 94 at the time and had lived on Combe Down since he was an infant and in the same house (in Rock Cottages on Rock Lane) on Combe Down for 67 years since 1829.
He states clearly that that by the early 1800s there were “only 13 cottages besides the houses in the Old Rank” (De Montalt Place).
We also know that he had real money troubles. It’s just possible that the original design was for a terrace of five 2 up, 2 down cottages but that, after he died and his heirs had to deal with his debts and sold Isabella Place to William Harrold and William Butler, the design was changed to appeal more to the middle classes. Perhaps we will never know.
Two things stand out. The relatively large houses in Isabella Place were used as schools and boarding or lodging houses for much of the 19th century.
Obtaining all the information there is about those 3 houses (and Claremont House) has taken me around 3 years and I had many of the deeds to them.
With Isabella Place having five houses, De Montalt Place having eleven and well over 150 listed houses on Combe Down, none of which I have the deeds for, though I hope to get access to those for some of them, trying to replicate the work for ‘our block’ would take …. who knows!
So what I’m doing and will do is more of a helicopter view. I still use a range of sources – directories, censuses, newspaper archives, family trees, Google, Wikipedia etc. etc. – to try to give some useful and interesting background to each particular place and the people who lived there.
Hopefully it will be found interesting and I will add to each section as more information becomes available. That’s the nature of this type of historical research – one day you are facing a blank wall and the next you discover something.
This is the last present set of family trees and take us upto c.1985. As the people who have occupied the houses since then are, mostly, still in residence or live in the area, I am not publishing their Family Trees just yet, though our own can be found at Our Blood.
(These are, now, incorporated into the “Family Maze” and all of the individual trees have been deleted from the site. They are all still available on Ancestry for anyone interested. NOTE BY RICHARD HILL ON 31 JANUARY 2024).
Perhaps the most interesting of the people this time is Cuthbert Bates who helped to pioneer the revival of interest in sixteenth and seventeenth century music in the UK.
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