Prior Park after Ralph Allen

Prior Park after Ralph Allen

Ralph Allen (1693 – 1764) left his estate to his wife Elizabeth Holder but she died in 1766.

By his will the estate then passed to his niece Gertrude Tucker (abt 1727 – 1796 ), who lived there for some years. However, after Ralph Allen’s death his postal contracts had been called in and thus the family income substantially diminished. Looking after Prior Park must have been a time consuming and costly undertaking and, as Ralph Allen had also left substantial cash bequests of well over £50,000 in his will, cash flow must have been very tight.

Gertrude Tucker (abt 1727 – 1796 ) decided to move out and let the estate, possibly for as much as £4,000 p.a. Having removed some items there was a sale of the remaining contents of Prior Park[1] in 1769. The sale went on over 9 days (10 elapsed) from August 17th to August 26th. It covered everything from an: “iron fender, tongs, poker, shovel and coal tub” to “two pair of china figures”, “six needle-work calico curtains”, “a mahogany writing table” to “an Alderney cow”.

Description of Prior Park, Bath Guide 1792, with reference to Rev. Stafford Smith

Description of Prior Park, Bath Guide 1792, with reference to Rev. Stafford Smith

Rt Rev Dr William Warburton Bishop of Gloucester (1698 – 1779) died in 1779 and it would seem that Gertrude Tucker (abt 1727 – 1796 ) moved back in after his death. She is listed as occupant in the Bath Guide for the 1780s[2], though by 1781 she had remarried to Rev. Martin Stafford Smith. Prior Park was then let, apparently to Lord Kerry as the extract from Thomas Parson diary tells us and it is confirmed by a letter from William Warburton, dated September 4th, to Richard Hurd, Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry and Worcester[3].

Well before the 1780s it had become clear that Ralph Allen’s will was not going to work out simply. In 1772 one of the prospective heirs, Gertrude Tucker’s brother Capt. William Tucker RN (abt 1728 – 1770) had died. Two other heirs, her son Ralph Allen Warburton (who died when he was 19, before his majority) and Mary Allen Lady Maude (1732  – 1775) had died in 1775. But in 1765 Mary Allen had married Hon. Cornwallis Maude (about whom little is known except his lineage, his wives and that he represented Roscommon in the Irish House of Commons) and, in 1767, they had a son: Thomas Ralph Maude. As Gertrude Tucker had no other children and was well past child bearing age, and as Ralph Allen Warburton had died before his majority the Hon. Cornwallis Maude as her husband became her heir in 1775 and Thomas Ralph Maude, their son (and, at that time, Hon. Cornwallis Maude’s only son), became the heir presumptive when he was just 8 and under the guardianship of his father.

By 1796, when Gertrude Tucker died, Cornwallis Maude had become 1st Baron de Montalt and 1st Viscount Hawarden. The New Bath Guide for 1799 indicates that Prior Park is now owned by him and he is listed by the guides until 1804, when the name of Edward Candler-Brown appears.

Prior Park, Bath Guide 1799, with reference to Lord Hawarden

Prior Park, Bath Guide 1799, with reference to Lord Hawarden

Prior Park for sale in 1797 - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 24 August 1797

Prior Park for sale in 1797 – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 24 August 1797

Prior Park for sale 1803 - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 5 May 1803

Prior Park for sale 1803 – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 5 May 1803

However, the Viscount Hawarden was a major landowner in County Tipperary, Ireland with over 15,000 acres which the family had owned since the 1660s. It seems that this was regarded as their main estate[4] and seat and Dundrum House is a lovely Palladian mansion that was built in 1730.

Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden (1729 – 1803) may have had some attachment to Prior Park because of his second wife Mary Allen, though they had never lived there together, but there is scant evidence that he spent much time there after 1796 when he came into possession.

Indeed, in 1797, within a year of Gertrude Tucker’s death, he put Prior Park up for sale. He did have money problems and had mortgaged the land he had obtained from the estate in 1788, in fact he had mortgaged the same land twice to different people and owed over £18,000 on it. He continued to advertise Prior Park for sale in the  Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on Thursday 7 September 1797, Thursday 14 September 1797, Thursday 4 September 1800, Thursday 5 May 1803 & Thursday 12 May 1803.

Thomas Maude, 2nd Viscount Hawarden (1767 – 1807) may have felt some more familial attachment. However, his obituary in The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 100 in 1807 indicates that “he resided chiefly in London” and, as he let Prior Park to Edward Candler-Brown, may have had little attachment to it either.

However, as we shall see, he seems to have inherited substantial financial problems from his father and letting Prior Park would certainly have been one way to alleviate those. As it happens he was to die before this was achieved and it was his half brother Cornwallis Maude, 3rd Viscount Hawarden who was to sell it to John Thomas in 1808.

Death of 2nd Viscount Hawarden, The Gentleman's Magazine 1807

Death of 2nd Viscount Hawarden, The Gentleman’s Magazine 1807

William Warburton

William Warburton

William Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester

William Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester

William Warburton (1698 – 1779) was married to Ralph Allen’s niece and second heir, Gertrude Tucker (abt 1727 – 1796 ).

He was born at Newark on Trent. His father was a lawyer and educated him for the law, which he probably practiced 1719-23.

But he had always had a passionate liking for theology and was ordained deacon 1723 and priest 1727. He became rector at Greasley, Notts 1726, rector at Brant Broughton, 1728 and Frisby, 1730. He became chaplain to the Prince of Wales, 1735. He was a friend of Alexander Pope who left him the copyright of his works and contributed to his advancement, introducing him to William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield PC SL (1705 – 1793) who obtained for him the role of preacher to Lincoln’s Inn in 1746. Then he became Chaplain to the King in 1754, prebendary of Durham in 1755, dean of Bristol in 1757 and Bishop of Gloucester in 1760.

Warburton had a reputation for being excessively sarcastic and abusive though he could be charming and gracious personally.

During his 18 years at Brant Broughton, Warburton wrote The Alliance Between Church and State (1736) and The Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated Vol 1 & The Divine Legation of Moses Demonstrated Vol 2 (1737–41). In The Alliance he advocated tolerance by the established Anglican church for those whose beliefs and worship were at variance. In The Divine Legation, he sought to demonstrate, on deist principles, the divine authority of the Mosaic writings, which deists denied. When Bishop of Gloucester he aroused opposition from Methodists for his attack on them in 1762 in The Doctrine of Grace.

Edward Candler Brown

Edward Candler Brown

Edward Candler, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain,1834

Edward Candler, A Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain,1834

As stated above, in the period 1805 to 1807 Edward Candler Brown (1732 – 1807) was residing at Prior Park. Apparently through his mother, Mary Ryves Candler, Edward Candler inherited substantial properties from Margaret Cecil Brown, widow of Sir Robert Brown and daughter of Robert Cecil, second son of James Cecil, 3rd Earl of Salisbury.

Under Royal license, Edward Candler took the name Candler Brown in 1803.

A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, Volume 1 by Sir Bernard Burke has him living at Prior Park and Bath directories for 1805 and 1806 list him as there too. He also lived at Combe Hill House, before living at Prior Park, and owned Tucking Mill, which he sold to William ‘Strata’ Smith.

John Thomas

John Thomas

As the Maudes had never really lived at Prior Park, and he had no real family attachment to it, it seems reasonable to assume that there may have been little real attachment to it from Cornwallis Maude, 3rd Viscount Hawarden. In 1808, when he became 3rd Viscount, Prior Park was sold to John Thomas (1752 – 1827), a Quaker, whose, according to a Thomas family website about him:

“chief interest …… was the promotion of waterways for the facilitation of trade, especially the Somerset Coal Canal, and the proposed Kennet and Avon Canal to connect Bath with London. John Thomas the second retired in 1812 and purchased Prior Park, near Bath, where he died 3rd March 1827, aged seventy-five".[5]

The price appears to have been £28,000 payable in 2 instalments of £10,000 and £18,000 within 2 years.

Letter from 1809 offering John Thomas Prior Park for £28,000 (Bath Record Office Acc446)

Letter from 1809 offering John Thomas Prior Park for £28,000 (Bath Record Office Acc446)

It is said that John Thomas (abt 1752 – 1827) recouped the sale price by cutting down for timber many of the nearly 60,000 trees that Ralph Allen had planted, and it is certain that there was a sale of over 1,300 trees in 1810. To recoup the cost of Prior Park he would have had to have got an average of about £23 per tree. The person to apply to for more particulars about the sale was one Benjamin Wingrove.

The front of the 1769 Prior Park sale catalogue

The front of the 1769 Prior Park sale catalogue

It does not seem unreasonable then that he may, effectively, have bought the estate for nothing! Oak, elm, beech, ash and fir were all used in the building of warships at the time as well as in house building. The country was at war, Napoleon was trying to blockade the Baltic, imported timber was difficult to come by and the price of timber had risen. A tax had been placed on Baltic timber in 1808, and had been doubled in 1810 to allow Canadian timber to compete and to ensure the country was not reliant on the Baltic countries. Since 1802 the price of fir had risen 300%[6].

Page 1 of Prior Park timber sale catalogue, 1810

Page 1 of Prior Park timber sale catalogue, 1810

John Thomas’ grandfather was another John Thomas (1690 – 1760) of Welshpool and Bristol, who was an inventor and ironmaster. He was co-inventor with Abram Darby of casting cooking pots in iron. His father Samuel Thomas (d.1801) had been a wire drawer in Keynsham.

John Thomas (abt 1752 – 1827) himself established a wholesale grocery business in Redcliff Street, John Thomas & Sons, but was also a self-taught engineer. He became superintendent of works for the building of the Kennet & Avon canal for the building of which £881,368 16s 3d[7] had been raised in 1794. The canal is 57 miles long with 79 locks; 31 locks rising to a summit level 474’ above sea level at Savernake and 48 locks falling to Bath. The Bruce Tunnel under Savernake is 502 yards long. It was completed and opened on 28th December 1810 and flourished for the next 60 years until the railways took over almost completely in the 1870s though commercial navigation went on until about 1920.

There is a plaque to John Thomas on the North face of the Dundas Aqueduct:

TO THE MEMORY OF JOHN THOMAS, BY WHOSE SKILL, PERSEVERANCE AND INTEGRITY, THE KENNET AND AVON CANAL WAS BROUGHT TO A PROSPEROUS COMPLETION, A.D. M.DCCC.X. THE PROPRIETORS GRATEFULLY INSCRIBE THIS TABLET. A.D. M.DCCC.XXVIII

John Thomas died in 1827 and his executors sold much of the Prior Park estate on 10 July 1828. The rest was sold by the executors of his son, John Ovens Thomas (1778 – 1836), in 1846.

Sale of Prior Park, 10 July 1828

Sale of Prior Park, 10 July 1828

Map of Prior Park for sale on 10 July 1828

Map of Prior Park for sale on 10 July 1828

His obituary, published in The Gentleman Magazine[8] said:

Mr. John Thomas. March 8. At Prior Park, near Bath, which he purchased about fifteen years since, aged 74, Mr. John Thomas, one of the Society of Friends. He commenced business as a grocer in Bristol, and afterwards established a wholesale house in the same line in partnership with his sons. Being endowed with eminent talents for Mechanics and Engineering, which were called into action in 1793 when the public mind was excited to speculation in Canals, be took a great interest in that projected to unite the cities of London and Bristol by connecting the rivers Kennet and Avon, and was one of the earliest members of the Committee of Management. The expenditure having, as might be expected from a concern of such magnitude, exceeded the original estimate, this great work languished in its execution. At the express desire of the Managing Committee, Mr. Thomas undertook the superintendence of it at a salary of £750 for all his time, labour, and expences. The amount of the salary is here mentioned, because it has been idly believed that part of his large for tune was accumulated in the management of that concern. His unimpeachable integrity obtained and secured the confidence of the various interests with which be bad to contend, and his strong practical sense and unwearied attention directed the execution, and effected the completion, of this perhaps the best constructed Canal in Europe. After be had resigned the superintendence, he gave his disinterested attention to the conduct and management of the affairs of the Company to almost the last moment of his life. But in the midst of active pursuits of this and other kinds, the preparation for another state of existence was not for gotten. So long as the Great Bestower of health was graciously pleased to grant to him the possession of it, so long were his useful talents exerted in the promotion of public charities, and a large portion of his ample means employed in acts of private benevolence. His opinions and advice were generally sought for; and his attendance on public business, at a period of life when other men retire from it, was useful in a religious and moral view; for it is pleasing and instructive to see strong abilities preserved by temperence and exercise to advanced age, and employed with disinterestedness. His morals were pure and exemplary, and his religion practical, regular, and unobtrusive. He mixed in general society more than is common for those of his persuasion, and brought into it the most urbane and simple manners, never abstaining from the participation of cheerful and enlivening conversation. He was patient in hearing, and slow in reply: and although this might be partly owing to the early discipline of his society, yet the clearness of expression and soundness of argument which marked his observations were peculiarly his own. He was indulgent to the religious opinions of others, and without relinquishing the general views and habits of Friends, he felt far from a bigoted attachment to them. He possessed the adventitious ornaments of a fine expressive countenance, a well-proportioned and rather athletic form, and a general appearance which almost always made a favourable impression. This excellent man was the father of a numerous family, all of whom stood around his death bed, attentive to his latest comforts, and partaking his dying advice and benediction. To them it must afford a melancholy pleasure to be assured that their sorrows are shared in various degrees by many friends and acquaintances, and that feelings of regret for his loss extend to every one to whom their departed friend's name was known, and by whom his character could be properly estimated.

Bishop Baines

Bishop Baines

In 1829, Prior Park was bought by Bishop Baines for £22,000. He built two colleges at either end of the mansion house. He heightened and enlarged the East wing as a lay college which he dedicated to St. Peter. He turned the West wing into a seminary dedicated to St. Paul.  He employed a number of designers, including John Peniston & Son of Salisbury (East wing, 1831), H.E. Goodridge (West wing, 1834) and J.J. Scoles (church of St. Paul, 1844 – 1882).[9] He commissioned the architect H.E. Goodridge to add the Baroque flight of steps to the North front of the mansion in 1836. The house was gutted by a serious fire in the same year which is described in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on Thursday 2nd June 1836 which says the damage was £12,000 to £15,000 but that the insurance with Norwich Union was only £6,000.

Bishop Baines really believed that a Roman Catholic theological college was needed. He believed that as the Catholic Church emerged from years of persecution it needed educated priests and an educated laity. It was an ambitious scheme, including a school, a seminary and university:

 “While still a coadjutor he sought to make the District a Benedictine see, with Downside its diocesan seminary. Distrust of the Bishop and disinclination to identify the community with a particular diocese made the monks unanimously reject his proposal…He purchased Prior Park, a Georgian mansion and a fine specimen of Palladian architecture…The foundation would combine a boys’ school, college, and seminary. He intended it to grow into a University.”[10]

Unfortunately the scheme was never a success. It seems the buildings were too vast for the number of students and the clergy feared it would absorb all their resources. Baines died in 1843. The college continued but had few students and was deep in debt.

In January 1850 Prior Park was bought by Alexander Raphael M.P. for £30,000 and he rented in back to the college on a 200 year lease at 3% interest p.a. 

Alexander Raphael (1775-1850) was born in Madras, his father was said to be an Armenian Jew, his mother a Roman Catholic and he became a Roman Catholic. He was a wealthy stockbroker, served on Kingston on Thames Corporation and as High Sheriff of London in 1834 where he lost the tip of his left index finger in a fight with a criminal. He was responsible for the development of Surbiton as a new town. He was returned as a Liberal MP from the Irish constituency of County Carlow, at a by-election in June 1835. However the election was challenged on petition and he was unseated on 19 August 1835. Raphael succeeded in entering the House of Commons as a Catholic Tory from St Albans in 1847 and retained the seat until his death in November 1850.

Alexander Raphael was a philanthropist and is said to have given the Roman Catholic Church £100,000 in the years before his death. It seems that he intended to give Prior Park to the church too but as the Cardinal was loathe for his name to be in the will things slowed down and he died before a solution was reached. 

Thus Prior Park passed to his nephew Edward Raphael (1814-1888) a Q.C and brother in law of the Earl of Mexborough, though it was still occupied by the college. However by 1856 the debts had become too much, the interest could not be paid and Edward Raphael took possession of the Prior Park Estate.

The college was closed in 1856 and a sale of its contents ensued. Edward Raphael also tried to sell the estate, but failed. The estate was re-purchased by Bishop William Hugh Joseph Clifford (24 Dec 1823 – 14 Aug 1893), Bishop of Clifton for £23,000 in 1867 and the staff and pupils from The Bristol Catholic Grammar School came to Bath.

Summary since 1895

Summary of developments at Prior Park from 1895

Prior Park fire, 16 August 1991

Prior Park fire, 16 August 1991

1895 The College was taken over by the Christian Brothers on a 7 year lease
1902 Christian Brothers left Prior Park College, school was run by the Clifton Diocese
1904 Prior Park College closed at the end of the Lent term
WW1 The College buildings were requisitioned by the War Office
1919 The Home Office established the Cannington Industrial Reform School
1921 The Christian Brothers returned purchasing Prior Park from the Diocesan authorities
1924 Boarding pupils and staff transferred from St Brendan’s College, Bristol
1940 The new school block was completed and requisitioned by the Admiralty
1942 St Paul’s was badly damaged by bombs
1959 Science School built, grant from Ind. Fund for Advancement of Science Teaching
1965 New 6th form block linking Science School and School Block was completed
1965 The Priory was purchased for eventual school use
1966 Restoration of Mansion steps and balustrade was completed
1973 All weather hockey pitch completed
1974 Burke Memorial Pavilion completed
1981 Christian brothers left the College and lay administration took over the administration
1983 Girls joined the College
1991 16th August, fire gutted interior of the mansion
1993 Julian Slade Theatre opens
1995 Mansion reopens after major rebuild completed
2007 Mackintosh Dance Studio opens
2009 The addition of Baines House (11-13yr olds)
2014 The Creative Design Centre opens in St Peter’s
2015 Bury Sports Centre opens

In summary it may help if the owners and occupiers of Prior Park are listed, remembering that, until Ralph Allen, there was no mansion:

Owners of Prior Park since 1100

St Paul's damaged by bombs 1942

St Paul’s damaged by bombs 1942

1100 Bath Priory – Created
1539 The King’s Commissioners – Expropriation
1543 Humphrey Colles – Purchase
1543 Matthew Colthurst – Purchase
1561 Fulk Morley – Purchase
1612 John Hall – Purchase
1631 Thomas Hall – Inheritance
1650 John Hall II – Inheritance
1711 Rachel Bayntun (later Countess of Kingston) – Inheritance
1726 Ralph Allen – Purchase
1741 Ralph Allen moves in to mansion
1764 Elizabeth Holder – Inheritance
1766 Gertrude Tucker – Inheritance
1770 Lord Kerry – Tenant
1780 Gertrude Tucker – Inheritance
1796 Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden – Inheritance
1803 Thomas Maude, 2nd Viscount Hawarden – Inheritance
1805 Edward Candler-Brown – Tenant
1807 Cornwallis Maude, 3rd Viscount Hawarden – Inheritance
1809 John Thomas – Purchase
1828 Western Apostolic District Theology College – Purchase
1850 Alexander Raphael M.P. – Purchase
1851 Edward Raphael Q.C – Inheritance
1856 Theology College leaves
1867 Clifton Diocese, Prior Park College – Purchase
1895 The Christian Brothers – Tenant
1902 The Christian Brothers leave
1904 Prior Park College shuts down
1914 The War Office – Tenant
1919 Cannington Industrial Reform School – Tenant
1921 The Christian Brothers, Prior Park College – Purchase
1940 Prior Park College & The Admiralty
1945 Prior Park College
1981 The Prior Foundation, Christian Brothers leave, Prior Park College stays

Bathampton and Claverton Manors

What happened to Bathampton Manor and Claverton Manor?

Ralph Allen had also owned Bathampton Manor and Claverton Manor. He left Bathampton and Claverton Manor to his brother Philip Allen:

“…..all that my Manor, with all lands and hereditaments thereto belonging, situate and being in the parish of Bathampton aforesaid, with all Courts, Royalties, Jurisdictions, and Rights whatsoever thereto appertaining (except the Warren), and also all that my Estate and interest of and in the Lands and Estate I purchased of His Grace the Duke of Kingston, and now out upon the lives of William Skrine, Esq. and his sister, To the use of my brother Philip and his heirs for ever in lieu of the £200 per annum I am obliged to pay him by his said Marriage articles.”
Claverton Manor from The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction, Volume 25 by Reuben Percy, John Timbs (1835) page 425-1

Claverton Manor from The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction, Volume 25 by Reuben Percy, John Timbs (1835) page 425-1

Bathampton Manor for sale, Bath Chronicle, 24 December 1920

Bathampton Manor for sale, Bath Chronicle, 24 December 1920

After his death Claverton Manor passed to his son George who sold it to Isaac Carr in 1869 who, in turn, sold it to Henry Duncan Skrine, reputedly John Vivian’s great grandson[11] and William Skrine’s grandson[12]. I have not attempted to prove either of these statements. The Skrine family papers at the Somerset Archive and Record Service may help[13]. Ralph Allen’s will made it clear that his nephew Capt. William Tucker R.N. was to be a major heir and, without checking all the wills[14] in the Somerset Archive, I assume that the family agreed that Allen Tucker should have possession. After his death it passed out of Allen family possession as his executors sold Claverton to John Vivian, who built the new house that we see now as The American Museum, the previous one was built c.1625.

Bathampton Manor remained in the Allen family for many years. Ralph Allen’s brother Philip also had a son called Philip and he passed it to his heir Henry Edmund Allen, who died in Geneva in 1829, being succeeded by his son Ralph Shuttleworth Allen who married firstly into the Cunard family, Anne Elizabeth Cunard, and then another Allen – Augusta Etheldreda.

Ralph Shuttleworth Allen was succeeded by his eldest son, Major General Ralph Edward Allen C.B. J.P. When he died it passed to his brother Henry Allen who sold it as the Allen family had not lived at Bathampton Manor for some time.

It became the residence of Charles Price Davis J.P. and his wife. Charles Price Davis died in 1927 and Mrs. Price Davis in 1938.

It was then owned by Colonel Sir Claude Dansey, a spy with MI6 with a somewhat controversial reputation, who died in the Lansdown Grove Hospital, Bath, on 11th June 1947.

Lady Frances Gurney Dansey, his widow, sold it later in 1947 for £6,075 to be a ‘home for genteel ladies in need’. It is still run as a care home for the elderly by BCVS which evolved from the 1947 purchase.


References