In ‘Rambles about Bath’, Tunstall says about Monkton Combe:
“In 1780, it paid £103 poor rates, its population being 280; in 1841, from the great increase of the village of Combe Down, its population was 1,107. This is steadily increasing.”
In 1831 Samuel Lewis put the population of “Combe (Moncton)” at 855.
Looking at the census allows us to chart the population growth.
Properties & Population on Combe Down 1841 to 1901 from census reports (see Census summaries)
It’s clear that the rate of growth was fastest before 1840 and then steady. Unfortunately, the census boundaries for each enumeration district change census by census and so whilst it is theoretically possible to look at Monkton Combe village, Combe Down Village and the areas on Greendown separately, to do it with any real accuracy would be a major task.
By 1850, the stone quarries, the reason for Ralph Allen to establish Combe Down village in the first place, were in decline with the quarries having been fairly well worked. Meanwhile vast quantities of good quality Bath stone had been discovered at Box when Brunel built the Great Western Railway. This stone was also, of course, right beside the new railway, making transport simple. In these new quarries the total quarried area is approximately 2 miles long and a mile wide and has some 15 miles or more of tunnels.
1852 saw the discovery of Roman remains on Combe Down. In 1822 Henry Mingden Scarth wrote:
“Two Stone Coffins were found near Burnt House Turnpike Gate (in the line of the Foss Road), and previously to this two others near Claremont Place, Combe Down. ……It was discovered while making a garden to a new villa, and served as the covering stone for the lower part of a Stone Coffin, in which was a perfect skeleton. This spot has since proved to have been the site of a Roman villa, and many objects of interest which have been discovered there, are carefully preserved by the owner. Five Stone Coffins have been found on the spot, besides urns containing burnt bones, and a stone box containing the head of a Horse. The Inscription, which is not deeply cut, is difficult to read, owing to the decomposition of the stone. It is as follows: ‘For the safety of the Emp. Cms. Marcus Aurelius, Antoninus, the pious, fortunate, invincible Augustus, Naevius Freedman of the Emperor, and assistant of the procurators, restored the chief military quarters which had fallen to ruin’."
The words “while making a garden to a new villa” indicate Belmont House as the likely site as it was being constructed at this time, which is reinforced by the article in the Chronicle.
In 1867 it was felt that the villa may have been a ‘Sanatorium’:
Allotments on Combe Down were introduced by Rev G W Newnham in 1852.
The allotments were in the area bounded by North Road and Combe Road as shown on the map. This is the area to the South of Westerleigh Road, above Combe Road Close and to the West of Rock Lane.
There were some 40 – 50 allotments of about 1/8 of an acre and the rules from 1884 were published in Around Combe Down by Peter Addison.
There were allotments in the Westerleigh Road area until 1938 when there was a story in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, Saturday 8 October 1938 stating that tenants had been given notice to quit. This left some allotments in the area the junior school’s log cabin now stands that were there from the early 20th century. The current allotments between Hancock’s quarry and Monkton Combe school were probably started during WWII.
History of allotments
Allotments have been in existence for hundreds of years. Under the feudal system the open field system, a furlong was split into strips, of about half an acre. Each peasant had several strips allocated at a public meeting at the start of the year. They were scattered to prevent one person getting all the good land. Peasants also had common land for grazing, fuel etc.
As the population grew, the lack of land made it difficult to maintain the system and, from the 16th century, enclosure started to occur, as landowners saw they could make more money by having larger farms where they would decide the arable or livestock farming and the farming practices. In addition there was a growing population which lead to pressure on the open field and common land system.
When enclosing some landowners were unscrupulous and just evicted tenants, but if they could prove documentary evidence of their open field and common land rights some received an allotment of land in compensation.
Enclosure lead to the agricultural revolution and a prosperous group of landed gentry but a many more landless and hungry poor. Over 3,500 Acts of Parliament were passed between 1700 and 1860 to enclose over 5 million acres of common fields and land and less than 12% of people who worked on the land owned any.
As enclosure increased, and the industrial revolution grew, more people moved into towns. It soon became clear that both rural and city poor needed something to help alleviate their poverty. Allotments were one answer but were strongly resisted by many farmers and landowners.
The food shortages experienced during the Napoleonic Wars led to some changes in thinking and the Select Vestries Act 1819, gave churchwardens and Poor Law Overseers authority to purchase or lease up to 20 acres of land and let it to the poor and unemployed of the parish as allotments. The Swing Riots of 1830 and 1831 and fear of further unrest and Labourer’s Friend Society promoted extension to 50 acres, achieved by three acts passed in 1831 and 1832. The General Inclosure Act 1845 required that the landless poor be provided with ‘field gardens’ as the rural land was enclosed. This helped in the countryside but city folk had no access to land. They began to push for allotments and urban allotment development began.
More progressive landowners, employers and clergy recognised that allotments could improve living standards and with the Allotment Extension Act 1882 that required trustees holding charity land for the use of the poor to set aside part of that land for use as allotments; the Allotment Extension Act 1885 allowing allotments to be let at the same rate as surrounding farmland and Allotment Extension Act 1887, that enabled Sanitary Districts to provide allotments by the compulsory purchase of land. By 1890 County Councils were required to have an Allotment Committee responsible for holding inquiries if a Sanitary District failed to provide allotments.
At the beginning of the 19th century there were roughly 250,000 allotments. In 1908 the Small Holdings and Allotments Act came into force and local authorities had to provide all the allotments demanded. During WWI the number rose to 1.5 million. After the war to help returning service men the Land Settlement Facilities Act 1919 was passed. Allotment holders rights were strengthened through the Allotments Act 1922 and the Allotments Act 1925. The latter established statutory allotments which local authorities could not sell or convert without ministerial consent. Under the Local Government Act 1929 agricultural and allotment land became non-rateable. There were 819,000 plots in 1939, 80% of which were urban plots, which increased 1.4 million during WWII with the Dig for Victory campaign, but the number fell to 300,000 by 2009.
Behind Glenburnie and adjacent to Gladstone Road is the Wesleyan Chapel which. according to Around Combe Down by Peter Addison was started in August 1854 and is confirmed by a cutting on the Bath in Time website.
It seems it was not a chapel for long becoming the coach house for Alma Villa (now Glenburnie).
From 1922 when Edward Dudley (1847 – 1922), who had owned Glenburnie, died Glenburnie was owned by Monkton Combe Junior School and the chapel became a dining hall. In WWII it was used as a food store then, after the war, as a playroom.
In March 1952 when Bryan Morris became Headmaster he felt that Monkton Combe Junior School ought to have its own chapel and in March 1952 the old Wesleyan chapel became a church once again and was dedicated by Bishop Bradfield of Bath and Wells.
In 1851 the Hulonce family, who were quarry masters, sold the remainder of their 99 year lease, which included the Lyncombe & Widcombe side of Ralph Allen Yard, to Henry Morrish (1807 – 1892), a Bath wine and spirit merchant, who paid off the £413 15s. 2d mortgage the Hulonces owed.
Some time later he formed a partnership with Thomas Hine (1819 – 1868), landlord of the King William IV. Together they developed the Combe Down Brewery, with a large brewery above the pub and a maltings on the upper part of Ralph Allan Yard.
In January 1889 Cumberland & Green, a brewery in Limpley Stoke, bought Combe Down Brewery. As noted in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of Thursday 18 July 1889 they sold themselves to the Bath Brewery Company which was expanding and taking over smaller brewers. Combe Down Brewery was a casualty and closed, though, of course, the King William IV continued as did the malting yard.
By 1910 James D Taylor & Sons maltsters had taken over the maltings. They remained in operation until 1923 when they and the Bath Brewery Company were acquired by the Bristol Brewery (Georges & Co Ltd.). The company had begun acquiring its smaller rivals in and around Bristol from 1889 up until the 1950s, its last great acquisition Bristol United Breweries Ltd., in 1956.
In 1961 they, in turn, were acquired by Courage, Barclay & Simmonds Ltd. Its name was simplified to Courage Ltd. in October 1970 and the company was taken over by the Imperial Tobacco Group Ltd. two years later. The maltings and yard were taken over by the local authority after the brewery was sold in 1923 and seems to have been used as stores until the outbreak of WW2 when it became a base for the ARP. In 1968 it was still being used as a Council Depot.
In about 1970 the yard became known as Gammon’s Yard as Gammon Plant Hire took over ownership using the maltings for storage and the yard for heavy plant machinery.
It has now become Ralph Allen CornerStone and housing.
De Montalt Mill
There were also a number of changes of use at De Montalt Mills. The Mill seems to have been unused in an industrial capacity since 1841 but on Thursday 13th July 1854 the Bath Chronicle announced it would reopen.
It was to be a ‘manufactory of patent interlocked and dovetailed felted cloths’!
It was started by Charles Middleton Kernot (1807 – 1876) who seems to have been something of a character, and a polymath albeit a flawed one.
He also appears to have been quite the inventor:
- in 1852 he had a patent for “improvements in the application of electricity and magnetism to the working of machinery and, and to telegraphic and manufacturing purposes”
- in 1858 he had another patent for “improvements in distilling shale, boghead and other mineral matters” in 1859 he had another for ‘paraffine’
- in 1865 he published:
“Construction of railway plant to ensure the safety of passengers lives in the event of accident or collision. Being British Patent Number: 2463 published: 26 September 1865 Kernot, Charles Middleton & Simons, Nathaniel”.
As well as bankruptcy he also ended up in debtors prison for a while due to an action by his attorney in the Chancery case, Mr. Caitlin, for £547 18s 1d. Mr. Caitlin got his debt law wrong and the case was non suited at which he brought an action against John Sturgess, a baker of Winchester, who was his assignee in bankruptcy. He was discharged in 1850.
In July 1852 he was summoned by a Charlotte Reeves to obtain an order of affiliation. This is where a man judged to be the father of an illegitimate child has to contribute a specified periodic sum towards the child’s maintenance.
In 1852 his son Henry was arrested after he eloped with the servant girl having stolen £600 from his mother. Quite what happened thereafter I have been unable to establish.
In 1856 he was involved in an altercation with his landlord at De Montalt Mills, Edmund White, and was bound over to keep the peace. The property was leased to Edmund White in 1849. White is listed as a linen and damask manufacturer and merchant in Bath, between 1836 and 1848 and additionally an undertaker from 1849. He was also noted as one of those from whom information regarding the services of the Bath Washing Company (see below) could be obtained.
In 1861 he was involved in another court case, which he also lost, about royalties for his paraffin invention. Under the General Pier and Harbour Act 1861, he and his son Charles Noyce Kernot received authorisation to build a pier and started the West Cowes Pier Company. The pier was 250 feet long with a 60-foot landing stage, a pagoda, a refreshment bar and a stage from which the Cowes Regatta could be watched. The pier was extremely popular, but on 28 September 1876 a tornado struck, destroying boats, houses, two seafront hotels and the pier.
In 1862 he was in court again:
Charles Middleton Kernot, Esq., of West Cowes was charged by the Inspector of Nuisances under the Local Board, with having had in his possession a quantity of gunpowder above 50 lbs. in weight, he not being a dealer or manufacturer of the said gunpowder, under the provisions of the statute in that case made and provided, whereby he had made himself liable to a penalty of 2s. for every pound so found on his premises over 50lbs., and the forfeiture of the said gunpowder.
In this case he was discharged as he proved that the gunpowder was not his but that he was holding it for a Mr. Robert Pinhorn. The gunpowder was returned and he received costs for the action.
Charles Kernot’s (long suffering?) first wife Anne had died in 1859 and in 1864 he married Eliza Clark. This was to lead to him appearing in court yet again and to be imprisoned for 1 month in Lancaster for “maliciously publishing false and defamatory libel knowing the same to be false”.
His wife had let some rooms in Everton from a Mr. Birchenough. Charles Kernot suspected something and printed up some bills (I have been unable to find out exactly what was in them, but they mentioned Mrs. Kernot, Mr. Birchenough and allegations similar to the one in the letter produced for the trial and printed in the Liverpool Mercury).
In essence Kernot accused his wife of living with Birchenough and said that Birchenough was a bully.
He was found to have libelled Birchenough and sent to prison. Unsurprisingly his wife petitioned for divorce.
Charles Middleton Kernot was quite a character and although he never lived on Combe Down his association with it is really quite interesting.
In 1859, after Charles Kernot’s venture had foundered, De Montalt Mill became a laundry run by the Bath Washing Company Ltd. There is a lovely description of what they do and how they do it in Bath Chronicle of Thursday 3rd November 1859. The Bath Washing Company also advertised quite heavily in the Bath Chronicle but by 1864 it had moved to new premises at Twerton.
In 1861 a part of the premises were occupied by John Cooksley, gardener.
Cotterell’s map of 1852 shows the area north of the mill pond as market gardening. By 1864 the mill is listed as being occupied by Edward Ashley, market gardener who remained at the premises until 1869.
In 1869 the property is once again advertised for sale as being ‘suitable for a variety of manufactures: Brewery, corn mill, cloth factory, or any other trade requiring water-power’. This suggests that the wheel was still present and functioning at this time. The Bath Board of Guardians, who were responsible for administering Poor Law from 1835 to 1930, considered buying De Montalt Mills for use as a separate school but it was felt to be too expensive a scheme.
In about 1875 John Hector Whitaker (1821 – 1899), a cabinet maker, moved his business to De Montalt mills and was by 1881 employing “45 men, 18 boys and 3 girls”. He retired in 1894/1895 and the business continued with a William Clapp listed as secretary and manager between 1900 and 1907 when the firm went bankrupt.
They were succeeded by Spencer & Morris as the insurance report and layout below from 1907 shows, but I have been unable to establish how long they lasted.
In 1921 after standing empty for some time the mill and land were purchased by a Mr Mann for use as a farm. It remained in this use until 1987 but had become derelict. In 2006 it was redeveloped as housing.
In 1818, an Act of Parliament was obtained for lighting Bath with gas. The gasometer was located near the Upper Bristol road and over eighteen miles of pipe were laid; general lighting of the city started on 29th September 1819. By Thursday 2nd September 1830 the Bath Gas Company was extending the work and laying pipes in Lyncombe and Widcombe according to the Bath Chronicle.
Over the years attempts were made to get the gas mains extended to Combe Down but the cost seemed to be prohibitive. It would take an Act of Parliament in 1865 to allow the Bath Gas Company to expand its capital, use rail transport instead of the Kennet & Avon canal and thus expand to include Bathampton, Bathford, Monkton Combe, Claverton, Englishcombe, Newton St. Loe, Corston, Saltford, Kelston, Weston, Box and Ditteridge. By 26th October 1865 the mains had been extended to Combe Down and public lighting was switched on.
Perrymead Catholic cemetery at Pope’s Walk, off Perrymead, is adjacent to Bath Abbey cemetery.
It was consecrated in 1858. It has a mortuary chapel and the foundation stone for the chapel was laid on Thursday 2nd September 1858.
It has a separate chapel for the Eyre family, members of which are buried in its crypt. The architect for this was Charles Francis Hansom and the chapel was built following the death of John Eyre (d.1861) who was a Count of the Holy Roman Empire. The chapel was consecrated, on 13th October 1863, by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clifton. The Count’s two sons, Monsignor Vincent Eyre, Rector of Hampstead, and Father William Eyre SJ, assisted the Bishop at the ceremony. The vault under the chapel is still used for family burials.
An omnibus is a public transport vehicle carrying many passengers generally quite short distances. John Greenwood ran the first English omnibus service in 1824 on the Manchester to Liverpool turnpike. He had a horse and a cart with several seats and offered a service that was different from a stagecoach as no booking was necessary and the driver picked up or set down passengers anywhere on request. In 1829 George Shillibeer started operating a horse drawn omnibus service from Paddington to the City of London.
Omnibus services had started in Bath by 1840:
“Mr. Lane of the White Lion coach office, Mr. Reilly, of the York House, Mr. Pickwick, of the White Hart, and Mr. Clarke, of the Greyhound have started omnibuses, &c, to convey passengers to and from the Railway Station at 6d. each this judiciously making the best of circumstances, and getting all they can out of their gigantic rival.”
The ‘gigantic rival’ was the railway.
A service was operating to Combe Down by 1866. The horse drawn service continued until the advent of the electric trams in 1904. But the service was not without its problems. Horses could only work limited hours, had to be housed, groomed, fed and cared for and produced large amounts of manure, which the omnibus company had to dispose of. Probably ten or more horses were needed to work each bus in a day. Ill treatment of the horses was a problem.
“George Head of 3 Isabella Cottages, Combe Down, a driver in the employ of the Bath Road Car and Tramways Company was summoned for ill treating a horse, by working it in an unfit state and was fined £2 2s and costs.”
There was much sympathy for the horses as letters to the Bath Chronicle show.
In 1892 it seems that the fare was 9d. down and 1s. up though Mr. T. Gould, who had, it seems, sold his business to the Bath Road Car Company says that when he ran it, it was only:
“……one shilling to and from Bath, with much cleaner and better accommodation than at the present time.”
Monkton Combe School
Monkton Combe School was founded in 1868 by the vicar of Monkton Combe at the time, the Rev Francis Pearce Pocock (1829 – 1919). There were six pupils for the Lent term who were taught in his home.
Henry Wright (d.1880) was Honorary Clerical Secretary of the Church Missionary Society and well off – he left £120,000 in his will after he drowned in Coniston Lake having leapt from a boat but, becoming exhausted, failed to reach the shore.
He appointed Rev Reginald Guy Bryan (1819 – 1912) as headmaster. He was the Perpetual Curate at Fosbury, Wiltshire, where he had been for some 20 years and brought some of his pupils to the school. He was soon advertising for more pupils. By the prize day reported in the Bath Chronicle in 1878 the school had 65 pupils.
Over the years the school has grown to over 350 pupils. The Junior School was established with four pupils in 1888 in a private house in Church Road, Combe Down by Mrs. Howard (the daughter of the senior school principal Rev Reginald Guy Bryan) and moved into its current premises in June 1907. The school chapel was opened in 1927. The pre-prep was added in 1929 and moved into new premises in 2016.
The Somerset and Dorset Railway (S&D) was formed in 1862 by the amalgamation of Somerset and Dorset Central Railways. In 1870, plans were made to build an extension to create a direct link between Bath and the Midlands with the South coast. Work started in 1872.
It cost £400,000 to build 26 miles and although it was successful the Company, which was not strong anyway, went into receivership and in 1875 it became jointly owned by the Midland Railway and the London & South West Railway.
On 20th July 1874 the Combe Down tunnel for the S&D opened to regular traffic. The tunnel is 1,829 yards (1,672 metres) long and was the UK’s longest without intermediate ventilation.
Combe Down tunnel was closed in 1967 but was reopened in 2013 as the two tunnels greenway walking and cycling scheme.
The Combe Down Convalescent Home was founded in 1870 but soon proved inadequate in size. Many bazaars and concerts were held over a number of years to raise the money to build a larger home.
By 1880 enough money for a 12 person home had been raised, though fundraising continued. An acre of land was donated by Mr. Vaughan Jenkins of Combe Grove. The foundation stone was laid on Thursday May 27th 1880 by the Mayor of Bath and was open for business in 1881.
Convalescents had come to Combe Down since the late 18th century, but the changing nature of medicine in Victorian times – more medical training and doctors, nurses and hospitals to go along with the scientific advances based on Louis Pasteur’s work on germ theory and Joseph Lister’s introduction of antiseptic processes – meant that more and more people actually survived illness and surgery and needed to convalesce. Those with enough money wanted to do so in pleasant surroundings with trained staff. Over the years the convalescent home expanded to treat over 400 patients a year.
According to Dr David Carr the home was taken over by the RAF during WW2. After the war it reopened as a private home for women patients but with the founding of the NHS on 5 July 1948 it began to take in post operative convalescent cases, mainly from uterine surgery, from the Birmingham area NHS. As the NHS and medical practices progressed convalescence became less of an issue and numbers began to fall.
In the 1960s Bath Association for Disabled People were looking for somewhere to buy so that they could offer respite to carers and holidays for the disabled. They bought Combe Down Convalescent Home from the RAF and set up Combe Down Holiday Home for the Disabled.
It was not a great place to bring the disabled being a 3 storey Victorian building with doors that were too narrow for wheelchair access. The building burnt down in 1971.
Luckily it was insured and Dr Sandy Neill and like minded colleagues ensured that a modern building with all the necessary facilities for disabled access atc was built. It has about 20 rooms and provided excellent holiday/respite care.
The home operated with success for 20 years, but changes in Local Government funding and increasing costs forced the Trustees to review the management of the home.
By the 1990s they decided to sell the home and invest the proceeds and seek a different role based on the holiday/respite care principle.
In 1993 the Trust was reconstituted as Combe Down Holiday Trust with the sole aim of providing holidays, short breaks and respite care for disabled people and/or their carers who live within the Bath & North East Somerset area.
Most people used shared wells with the well shafts passing through quarries below. The water from wells was often boiled first for use as drinking water. People also collected rainwater from their gutters, collecting it into a tank for domestic use, though not as drinking water. Harry Patch says that:
“Apart from the wells, there were two iron water butts in Combe Down fed from the mains. When a handle was turned on the side of the butt a chain ran down over a pulley and opened a stopcock at the base, bringing water out of an ornamental lion’s mouth. One butt was just outside the church, the other opposite the pub, the Wheelwright Arms. If you didn’t have access to a well in the garden, you could draw water from there. Behind both butts was a wooden trough into which water was poured for horses to drink from.”
The mains supply was from the Combe Down (Bath) and General Waterworks Company. It had a forerunner, the Bath and District High Level Waterworks Company which had been set up in 1887 after the death of the Right Reverend Monsignor Dr. Charles Parfitt (1816 – 1886) of Midford Castle who had set up the original waterworks at Midford Springs.
Dr. Parfitt had inherited Midford Castle from Mrs. Jane Conolly (1798 – 1871), the widow of Mr. Charles Thomas Conolly (1791 – 1850) who was the son of Charles Conolly (d.1828) who had bought Midford and funded William Smith’s quarry.
Soon after taking over Dr. Parfitt started the Combe Down and District Waterworks to take water from the Midford Springs. The water was pumped by a water wheel using the water from the Whittaker springs to carry water from the Midford sands. He was soon supplying the Workhouse and Bath Town Council considered buying the waterworks. By 1883 the Rural District Council were informed that:
“Combe Down is also more largely supplied from Dr. Parfitt’s private source and many of the wells in the neighbourhood have been closed.”
By February 1886 Bath Town Council had agreed to buy Combe Down and District Waterworks. A new main from Tucking mill to Entry Hill was laid, and the water supply turned on. Storage was by the Combe Down elevated tank standing opposite what is, now, the Forester & Flower. It was a cast iron tank on 8 cast iron legs with a capacity of 40,000 gallons with a roof of iron sheets. However, Dr. Parfitt became unwell and died in June before the agreement to purchase the waterworks could be completed.
When Dr. Parfitt died his trustees did not want to continue managing the waterworks and a new joint stock company, the Bath and District High Level Waterworks Company Ltd., was incorporated with a capital of £20,000 in shares of £10 each. In 1890 the Hampton Down reservoir was constructed on land leased for 99 years. It was a stone structure approximately 61’ by 20’ 6” with a capacity of 100,000 gallons. The Bath and District High Level Waterworks Company Ltd. ran until 1901 but was then put into receivership. Once again the council considered buying the waterworks but decided not to do so. However in 1902 they reconsidered and took powers to purchase the concern.
It was not to be. The receiver put the business up for sale as a going concern. It was bought for £7,000 along with the Somerset Coal Canal, which had fallen into disuse and disrepair and had complaints of being in an “insanitary state”. By 1902 a liquidator for the Somerset Coal Canal Company had been appointed. The canal, as well as being an asset in its own right was to be used to supply more water to the Combe Down Waterworks Company. He sold the coal canal soon after though to the GWR for their Camerton and Limpley Stoke line.
Both businesses were bought by Edward Herbert Bayldon D.L., J.P. (1854 – 1912), who was High Sherriff of Devon in 1905. He had interests in South African gold mines before turning his attention to Dartmoor tin mines in the late 1890s.
He soon gained agreements with Bath Corporation to supply water to areas the council could not as the council was in short supply of water.
In 1906 a 6” main was laid from Tucking Mill to Hampton Down. From about 1905 there was a move to close wells due to poor water quality and by 1928 the Combe Down (Bath) and General Waterworks Company Ltd. supplied 337 of the 440 houses in the parish of Monkton Combe with 53 being supplied by the Rural District Council. Presumably the other 50 were still relying on wells etc.
The Hayeswood Reservoir was constructed in 1927. It was a reinforced concrete covered tank with 8’ thick walls and a 37’ diameter and held 100,000 gallons. By the 1950s the staff included a chief inspector and 3 shift workers and was pumping 268,000 gallons per day.
In 1954 the Bath Corporation Water Order, under the Water Act 1945, transferred Combe Down Waterworks to Bath Corporation. Under the Water Act 1973, the Wessex Water Authority was created in 1974. In 1989 the water boards were privatised and in May 2002 YTL Power International of Kuala Lumpur acquired Wessex Water and hence the waterworks at Tucking Mill etc.
Many towns had some form of isolation hospital from the eighteenth century, usually a ‘pest house’, where infectious people were treated. It was not, however, until the late nineteenth century that the formal treatment of infectious diseases, such as scarlet fever, typhoid, diphtheria, measles, tuberculosis and smallpox, was considered. The Poor Law Amendment Act 1868 dealt briefly with the subject, since most patients with infectious diseases found their way into the workhouse infirmaries because voluntary hospitals could and did refuse to admit them. The Public Health Act 1875 enabled any local authority to provide hospital accommodation for the treatment of patients with infectious diseases paid for by the rates.
In 1877 the Bath Statutory Hospital was established at the corner of Brassknocker Hill. By 1880 it was being used, along with the Workhouse Union Hospital, to cover a smallpox outbreak and taking 21 cases.It had three large wooden blocks for patients, an administration block, a small discharging block, a laundry and a cottage.
In 1930 work started on a new hospital in two phases. In 1931 the new hospital was first used and in 1932 the new purpose built hospital was officially opened on the site as the old hospital had:
“woodwork that was seen to be perishing and...lighting…of a very inferior order…Fifty years ago they were expected as a temporary expedient by Mr. Charles Wibley. They were erected in a panic, and in a piecemeal and temporary fashion, and the amazing thing is that the hospital has done such good work over such a long period.”
The second stage was opened in 1934. The development of antibiotics – sulphonamides became available in 1935, penicillin in 1944 and streptomycin in 1947 – led to the closure of many isolation hospitals soon after the Second World War. Bath Statutory Hospital became associated more with polio, chest infections and convalescence and closed in 1986.
Holy Trinity Church
On 7th August 1883 Mrs. Gore Langton of Newton Park laid the foundation stone for an extension to Holy Trinity of North and South aisles, a chancel, vestry and organ chamber. £1,600 of an estimated £2,300 cost had been raised.
Monkton Combe Mill
From at least 1884[67a] it was owned by the Freeman family, who also had mills at Freshford and Avoncliff. It was run by Thomas Richard Freeman (1860 – 1920) and later his sons Charles Henry (1889 – 1947) and Thomas Leonard (1892 – 1947).
The Freshford and Avoncliff mills were run by his brother William Osbourne Freeman (1855 – 1913), who seems to have been a poor business man as he was bankrupted in 1897, owing his brother and his brother’s wife – Sarah Ann Mountstevens (1860 – 1947) – £700 between them as well as loans from a money lender at 40%[67b].
The mill at Monkton Combe was by the station and used the railways to to import the raw material of old clothes from the rag and bone trade.This was turned into flock, from the Latin floccus meaning lock or tuft of wool, for use in the upholstery trade stuffing mattresses, sofas, pillows, bolsters and other furniture items. Water power drove the turbine operating the “devils” which broke up the rags.
Reports to The Local Government Board Reports on Rag-Flock, HMSO, 1910 describes the process:
"Rags may be imported in bales from abroad or collected in this country. In this country rags are bought by rag and bone men from private houses. They may also be collected by rag-pickers from the roads and streets, from city refuse heaps, or wherever they can be found. Generally, they are sold by the rag-pickers or rag and bone man to the small marine store dealer, and by him to the wholesale rag merchant, by whom they are sorted into grades, particular grades being sold to the flock manufacturer...Disinfection of rags before sorting appears never to be done...Linen and cotton rags are sold for the manufacture of paper; woollen and mixed rags for that of shoddy, and of flock...Rags of mixed wool and cotton...are subjected to a process called ‘carbonizing’ for the purpose of extracting the wool...In the wet way the rags are steeped in sulphuric acid somewhat diluted, at a temperature of 160 - 190° F., then rinsed in water and dried in a stove. In the dry way the rags, spread out on racks, are heated for some hours in a stove in an atmosphere of hydrochloric acid gas, evolved by pouring sulphuric acid on common salt in an iron retort, or by heating the crude hydrochloric acid...By one or other of these processes the cotton fibre is destroyed, being converted into a powdery matter, probably glucose, which flies off as dust when the rags are beaten, but the wool, being unaffected by the acid, remains, and undergoes further processes for conversion into shoddy...the parts of garments which are used for flock by the shoddy-maker are just those parts which are most liable to harbour excremental and other filth, vermin, and parasites...is only exceptionally washed or cleansed...the lowest and cheapest grade of rags, sometimes known technically as “lanns” because it used to be cast on the land as manure...difficult to exaggerate in describing the filthy nature of the above material...Old trousers, often badly stained with urine and faeces, are among the commonest of the articles which I have seen passed unwashed into the tearing-machine in many flock factories...Several foremen and workpeople who have been many years in the trade have assured me that they have not infrequently seen surgical bandages and dressings and even sometimes stained ‘‘towels” torn up unwashed for flock...The tearing-machine used in the manufacture of flock is known in the trade as a "devil”. In this machine the rags are passed on an endless band into the grip of fluted steel rollers which hold them under the teeth of a rapidly revolving wooden cylinder studded with steel nails. The torn flock falls out at the other end of the machine, and the dust is sucked out by a fan. The number of teeth on the cylinder varies in different specimens; I have seen from 9,000 to 16,000. The cylinder revolves at a rate of about 700 revolutions a minute...into which the torn fiock is drawn by suction and willowed to remove the dust...To reduce the loss by dust...manufacturers employ oil, which is allowed to trickle from a can over the feed of the machine, while some even work up the rags with the oily waste from tanyards for the same purpose..."
It was not a pleasant process and there were frequently fires[67c].
After Charles Henry and Thomas Leonard Freeman died, in 1947, within a month of each other and only a month or so after their mother, and, with more modern bedding becoming preferred, the mill was put up for sale in 1951. Eventually it was turned into retail premises.
Combe Down School
Combe Down School
Combe Down School was founded by William Franklin (1852 – 1921) in 1886. Based on the 1891 census the school was in 2 properties (Combe Villa, which is now Scott House, and Southfield Villa) and had 40 pupils, 4 assistants, a butcher, school matron, 2 domestic servants and a pantry boy as well as William and Emily Franklin and her daughter and grand daughter.
Combe Down School moved to Weston super Mare in 1896, having grown too large for Combe Down, and was renamed Clarence School. The purpose built buildings were in Clarence Park South.
In 1923 Clarence School with its headmaster and 100 boys moved away from Weston to Wimborne, becoming Canford School.
There is a good description of the development of the school in an article written for Old Canfordian by Richard Knott in 2012:
William was a member of the Plymouth Brethren by the time he arrived at Monkton. There is some evidence that Emily’s family were as well, so William may have converted after he met her, but the Brethren had been based in Bath since at least 1837. Willie Ball-Acton, sadly to die of meningitis after only one term as a pupil at Monkton Combe, gives us a glimpse of William Franklin in his letters home. One of only five or six masters at the school, Franklin was described as ‘a very good master and teaches excellently’. Willie had been promoted from the third form where discipline was lax and ‘you could hardly learn anything there as the master is not very good; he talks about punishing but never does hardly. Franklin is very strict, but it is a good thing’. Although William was fully part of the school when, in 1886, he took the decision to leave the security of Monkton and set up his own school, many at Monkton were pleased that the school had lost its non-conformist element. William named his new establishment Combe Down School, despite there being a primary school of the same name in the village. Within five years, it had over forty pupils from across the globe. At least four other teachers lived in the school, including the obligatory French master, and there were others who did not live in. In around 1893 Emily’s younger sister, Isabel, sent three of her sons to Combe Down School, a significant decision for Canford as it turned out. Isabel had married George Macnutt, an Irish-Canadian whose family were important members of the Prince Edward Island community. George was a polymath who had arrived in England as a Baptist minister but immediately set about training as a doctor. He had two children in different parts of Canada, then eight more as he moved from Islington to Brighton, the Isle of Wight, Wimbledon and then Barnet, where John Stewart Macnutt, destined to be Canford’s first headmaster, was born in 1880. William Franklin decided that the school had outgrown its present site and needed to move. Weston-Super-Mare had grown from a tiny village at the start of the century to a thriving seaside resort. Several private schools were being set up there as it became fashionable to send= children to seaside boarding schools. In 1895, Combe Down School moved into large buildings overlooking Clarence Park, which had opened only yards from the sea in 1888, and was renamed Clarence School. Like all other schools on the coast, Franklin’s prospectus made much of the healthy air and its benefits for delicate children. The school was, he said, ‘open to the invigorating breezes of the Atlantic. The air, impregnated with iodine and ozone is pure and bracing and less humid than that of most seaside places’. Franklin’s public ambitions for the school seemed modest: even twenty years later the school prospectus said that with ‘... Protestant and Evangelical principles there is every prospect that the school will continue to grow till, in time, it takes rank among the smaller public schools of the country’, and preparing pupils for entrance to other, more prestigious schools was included in their advertising. Clarence School was genuinely comprehensive: a number of bright pupils left for more academic schools, but many others remained. Although religious teaching was advertised as ‘strictly scriptural and evangelical’, it was also stated that ‘Pupils attend Church of England or Non-conformist services as desired by parents.’ The result was that on Sundays, two crocodiles of boys made their way to church, one moving towards the Plymouth Brethren assembly and one to Holy Trinity church. As the First World War started, there were just over eighty boys in the senior school and twenty more in the prep department. The Clarencian records the names of 62 former pupils who volunteered to fight as war broke out, many of whom were amongst the 56 on the memorial stone that was later unveiled for the OCs who had lost their lives. As the war ended, Franklin’s ‘lifelong bodily weakness and suffering’ was becoming more of a problem. The school had been made into a company in 1913, with a small board of directors overseeing operations, and Macnutt was now the joint principal and presumably doing the lion’s share of the work. Franklin died on 14th June 1921 and eighteen months later, his wife, Emily, followed him. His obituary said that, although there had been a ‘touch of the austere’ about him, he had mellowed in old age. His legacy is, of course, Canford School. The links between Combe Down School and Clarence School were clear, with the latter including the former’s name in its prospectus, and pupils from both considering themselves as part of a common past. The same was essentially true when the school moved to Canford: the pupils, staff and motto were much the same, and the first Canfordian suggested that it was a relocation rather than a new birth. In smaller ways, too, continuity was assumed: the sports calendar listed some who had been awarded rugby colours from 1921 to 1923, including therefore their time at Clarence and Canford. Why, then, did we not celebrate the 125th anniversary of the school in 2011? Michael Rathbone asks and answers this question in his history: Canford was intended to be a different type of school. Clarence was a private, proprietary school, but Canford was to join the ranks of the public schools. It has certainly done that but, when the centenary is celebrated in 2023, let us not forget the two men who had spent nearly forty years preparing the way for its birth."
Magdalen Hospital School
Around 1100 a deed of gift was made by Walter Hosat, who gave his house and the Chapel of the Blessed Mary Magdalene at ‘Holeweye’ to the Abbey Church of St Peter, Bath. Its isolation, 500 yards from the city walls and across the River Avon, was an ideal location. It is said that in 1212 Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln, made a bequest to the lepers outside Bath and a small hospital for lepers was founded close to the Chapel to be cared for by the Abbey’s monks.
An undated deed in the Bath Cartulary records a grant of land by John Wyssy to the master, brethren and sisters on condition that their chaplains should celebrate in his private chapel at Bath. Bishop Ralph in 1332 granted an indulgence to those who supported the hospital of Holy Cross and St. Mary Magdalen at Bath, and it occurs from time to time as the recipient of legacies.
Bath waters were still attracting lepers in the 16th century. Although leprosy was no longer prevalent, those who contracted it came to Bath in search of a cure by the waters. John Cantlow, Prior of Bath, petitioned the Pope in 1486 to unite the hospital of St Mary Magdalen to Bath Priory. The hospital was ruinous, impoverished and in debt. No brothers were living there and only two or three poor people. Prior Cantlow promised that he would repair its buildings and did so.
Bath Priory was dissolved in 1539 and the hospital hospital survived the Reformation. However the Master, Simon Sheppard, took the revenues and provided no support. An investigation into these abuses in occurred in 1559 and by 1560 there was a bequest to the poor lazar people of St Mary Madgalen.
But leprosy was dying out and the hospital building was demolished in the 18th century, by which time St Mary Madgalen itself had become a home for the mentally handicapped and its endowments were being diverted from their original purpose.
In 1856 ‘A Bill Intituled an Act for Confirming a Scheme of the Charity Commissioners for Saint Mary Magdalen Hospital Near Bath’ was passed and the Bath Municipal Charity Trustees took over.
In 1846 Harriette Helen White (1820 – 1889), the third wife of the Rev George William Newnham (1806 – 1893) who was perpetual curate of Combe Down from 1842 – 1877, had set up a school for mentally deficient children with her sister Charlotte, inspired by the work of Johann Jakob Guggenbühl. It opened in April 1846 in two rooms with a resident matron and three pupils. It was unique amongst the Idiot Asylums in being managed by women.
In 1849 this became the Institution for Idiot Children and those of Weak Intellect, which later moved from 5 Walcot Parade to 35 Belvedere and then, in March 1887 to Rockhall House which had been built by quarry master Philip Nowell (1780 – 1853).
By 1891 it was renamed as Magdalen Hospital School for Idiot and Imbecile Children having been merged with St. Mary Magdalen Hospital under the Bath Municipal Charity Trustees. It was later known as Rockhall House School which then became part of the NHS and closed in 1980 and Rockhall House became sheltered housing.
There is evidence of Fuller’s earth mining in the Bath area from Roman times. Fuller’s earth resembles clay but is actually an absorbent silicate, mostly composed of silica, magnesium, iron, and aluminium. It has been used (and still is with many other modern uses as well) for thousands of years to absorb dirt and oil. The name comes from its use in cleaning wool, when a fuller or tucker would pound the woollen cloth to remove dirt and oils before the cloth was finished. The words tucker and tucking come from the old English tūcian ‘to punish or ill-treat’.
So Tucking Mill shows that the presence of Fuller’s earth was well known in the area.
By the 1880s Tucking Mill was leased by George Dames and his brother Charles Richard Dames from the Midford Castle estate and had opened a mine and processing works for Fuller’s earth. The mines extended nearly 20 acres (8.1 ha) through four adits.
In 1884 an explosion burst a tank, but in 1885 at the International Inventions Exhibition held in South Kensington they won a bronze award for improvements in the preparation of Fullers’’ earth. However it seems that the explosion had probably cost them more than they admitted and by December 1885 the company was in liquidation and up for auction.
It was purchased by Henry Newson Garrett. He was the son of Richard Garrett IV (1829 – 1884) proprietor of Leiston Works in Suffolk, which was established in the year 1778 as an iron foundry, sickle and general agricultural implement manufactory. He was left his father’s firm in 1878.
Henry Newson Garrett (1841 – 1912) also became a director of the City of Bath Electrical Lighting and Engineering Company set up in 1891 to run the public lighting under a contract with the corporation.
He was married twice and had ten children. His first wife died in 1900 and he remarried in 1907. In the meantime he had taken as his mistress Miss Alice Mary Sauvarin, who was a nurse; they had met in September 1904 and had an affair until September 1905. He had introduced his son Alec to her as a patient in September 1906.
On Friday 1st April 1907 Alec Garrett and Mary Sauvarin married. They went to Weston super Mare for 2 days honeymoon. On 5th April he disappeared. His body was found at on 2nd May in the river Avon at Kensington Meadows.
At the coroners inquest there was conflicting evidence about whether his father wanted him to marry or did not. A verdict of suicide was returned.
Some months after Alec Garrett’s death his father was in court asking for £200 from a £500 life policy that he had paid for on his son, the proceeds of which had been paid to his estate, which was administered by his wife, after he died. He lost and the judge was really quite vicious:
In 1896 there was a proposal to form the Combe Down Institute. Church and other institutes were popular as they brought wholesome entertainment and sport to an area.
The Institute at Combe Down was formed and a (rugby) football section started.
It seems likely that Combe Down RFC evolved from Combe Down Institute. By 1902 it appears in the letters of the Bath Chronicle.
At the AGM at the Church Rooms (at that time in Tyning Road) for 1904 it was stated that they were to play in green and white hoops, income was £31 15s 9d, expenditure £19 13s 5½d thus leaving a surplus of £12 12s 3½d. There were new players including H. Shore, a Welsh half back, and the club had “rosy prospects”.
The colours of black and amber for the club were adopted in 1907.
All seems to have gone well for some years, but something went wrong as a new club, was formed to replace the old club, which had “never been properly dissolved”, in 1912. Quite what the issue was I have not established though it sounds like finance was part of the problem. The First World War interrupted things and after the war the club was revived.
Combe Down RFC still, of course, exists in 2014. In 1957 a long-held ambition was realized and the club was able to buy the ground at Holly’s Corner which it had tenanted since 1922. In 1966, The Combe Down RFC Club house was officially opened.
Avenue Hall was the original name for what are now the Church Rooms, built and donated by Captain Oswald Borland R.N. (1820 – 1915).
Captain Borland was also unfortunately involved in the Maikop oil boom of 1910. Companies were set up in the UK to operate Maikop oil fields in the Southern Kuban province of the Russian empire.
In 1910, as many as 20 companies with an aggregate capital of 54,580 roubles were registered in Great Britain for crude production in Maikop. The stocks of most of these companies were quoted on the London Stock Exchange. In the same year, the stocks of 13 Maikop-based Russian oil companies were listed on the LSE. In the next two years, another 14 companies were established. By 1916 only 5 companies were still in existence.
It seems Captain Borland had invested but that the company was a ‘bubble’, created solely for the benefit of the promoters and he lost money. He applied for a compulsory winding up even though it was winding up voluntarily as doing that was the only way to get an investigation. He did not succeed.
Avenue Hall was at the centre of village life for many years. In 1925 the trustees agreed to sell to the church which had wanted to replace the old Church Rooms with something that was not a “disgrace to the parish”. Avenue Hall became the parochial headquarters when they were dedicated in 1926.