More Combe Down cousins

Audrey Gurney Richardson (Shelford) (1886 - 1979 a daughter of Rev Alfred Richardson (1853 - 1925), Vicar of Combe Down
Audrey Gurney Richardson (Shelford) (1886 – 1979 a daughter of Rev Alfred Richardson (1853 – 1925), Vicar of Combe Down

Following last month’s movers and shakers post I have discovered more Combe Down cousins for that link them to other families who lived in the ‘big houses’. Those are the AllenAtherton, BennettBryanCruttwellDaubeneyDisneyFalknerForttGabrielGoreHopeHowardMaudeMorleyRichardsonVivian and Wingrove families who are mentioned on this site in numerous places

This post is probably best read with last month’s post open in another tab for easy reference as it’s all pretty complicated!

So, in no particular order let’s take a look at some more Combe Down cousins.

One of the mortgagees for 109 Church Road was Edward Langford (1777 – 1843). His grand daughter Caroline Charlotte Jane Langford (1840 – 1909) married the Ven Albert Basil Orme Wilberforce (1841 – 1916). Their son, Brig Gen Sir Herbert William Wilberforce KBE CB CMG (1866 – 1952) married Eleanor Catherine Micklem (1871 – 1956) and her great aunt Mary Micklem (1786 – 1849) had married Thomas Macaulay Cruttwell (1777 – 1848), whilst their son Thomas Cruttwell (1808 – 1881) had Glenburnie built for him. The Crutwells were linked to Richard Falkner (1796 – 1863), who had been a mortgagee for 115 & 177 Church Road via his brother Francis Henry Falkner (1786 – 1866) who’s son Robert Falkner (1811 – 1851) married  Susanna Eykyn (1811 – 1883) in 1841. Susanna’s brother William Eykyn (1821 – 1884) married Fanny Mary Cruttwell(1839 – 1902) in 1865. It was her second marriage. Fanny was the daughter of Robert Cruttwell (1812 – 1858) whose older brother was Thomas Cruttwell (1808 – 1881) who had had Glenburnie built for him.

Charles Howard (1853 – 1928) and Helen Gertrude Bryan (1860 – 1917) lived at Combe Lodge
Charles Howard (1853 – 1928) and Helen Gertrude Bryan (1860 – 1917) lived at Combe Lodge

In 1831 Anne Falkner (1813 – 1886), the sister of  Robert Falkner (1811 – 1851), married Charles Thomas Moule (1800 – 1865). His brother was Frederick Moule (1789 – 1843) who married Mary Gore (1795 – 1845). Her brother was Rev John Gurney Gore (1799 – 1871) who married Mary Eliza Hole (1812 – 1891) and their daughter Caroline Letitia Gore (1843 – 1920) was the third wife of Rev Reginald Guy Bryan (1819 – 1912), the Principal at Monkton Combe College.

Rev Alfred Richardson (1853 – 1925), who was vicar of Combe Down from 1902 – 1914, married Emma Leatham (1853 – 1925). Her great aunt Mary Leatham (1738 – 1820) was married to Thomas Howard (1736 – 1834) whose grandson was Rev Thomas Henry Howard (1804 – 1885) and whose great grandson Rev Richard Nelson Howard (1852 – 1932) was vicar of Combe Down from 1892 – 1897. In addition Rev Thomas Henry Howard (1804 – 1885) had another son Rev Charles Howard (1853 – 1928) who was married to Helen Gertrude Bryan (1860 – 1917) who was a daughter of Rev Reginald Guy Bryan (1819 – 1912), the Principal at Monkton Combe School. Charles and Gertrude started Monkton Combe Junior School at Combe Lodge in May 1888.

Rev John Clark Knott (1818 – 1907) lived at Combe Hill House. His brother William Henry Smith Knott (1804 – 1851) was married to Sabina Judith Bernard (1812 – 1861). Her cousin Sabina Pool Atherton (1828 – 1913) married Charles Henry Gabriel (1821 – 1900). Thus the knotts were related to the Atherton / Gabriel family and all the others.

Someone else who lived at Combe Hill House, as well as at Prior Park, was Edward Candler Brown (1732 – 1807).  His mother was Mary Ryves (1703 – 1768) and her great uncle was Rev Jerome Ryves (d 1705) who was married to Ann Maude (b 1679), the sister of Sir Robert Maude (1677 – 1750) 1st Baronet Maude, the father of Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden. He, of course was the husband of Mary Allen, Lady Maude (1732  – 1775), the daughter of Ralph Allen’s brother Philip Allen (1695 – 1765). It seems likely that this family connection was how Edward Candler Brown came to reside at Prior Park.

Combe Grove farmhouse about 1905
Combe Grove farmhouse about 1905

James Ledger Hill (1839 – 1912) lived at Combe Grove Farm. His wife wife Mary Tucker (1849 – 1931) was the daughter of William Henry Tucker (1814 – 1877) and his wife Emily Hannah Hendy (1815 – 1885) who lived at West Brow in the 1870s. James Ledger Hill’s daughter, Grace Hill (1881 – 1959) was married to Dermot Gun O’Mahony (1881 – 1960). His grandfather was Robert Gun Cuninghame (1792 – 1877) and one of his sons was Col Robert George Archibald Hamilton Gun Cuninghame (1818 – 1880) who married Isabella Tottenham (1817 – 1880), the daughter of Rt Rev Lord Robert Ponsonby Tottenham (1773 – 1850) and The Hon Alicia Maude (1782 – 1866), a daughter of Cornwallis Maude 1st Viscount Hawarden and his third wife Anne Isabella Monck Viscountess Hawarden (1759 – 1851) after whom Isabella Place is named.

So now to the the Allen, Atherton, Bennett, Bryan, Cruttwell, Daubeney, Disney, Falkner, Fortt, Gabriel, Gore, Hope, Howard, Maude, Morley, Richardson, Vivian and Wingrove families we can add the Candler, Hill, Knott, Langford, Tucker families who have been involved in the development of Combe Down or lived here for a reasonable period and show that all are inter-related.

Even more evidence of property, power, position and patronage being the cornerstone of the class system, at least in the 17th 18th and 19th centuries, because it’s “not what you know, but who you know”.

Movers and shakers

Ralph Allen
Ralph Allen

I have been convinced for a while that the “movers and shakers” who built and lived on Combe Down from the time of Ralph Allen to the early 1900s were probably related – albeit distantly. By movers and shakers I mean the Allen, Atherton, Bennett, Bryan, Cruttwell, Daubeney, Disney, Falkner, Fortt, Gabriel, Gore, Hope, Howard, Maude, Morley, Richardson, Vivian and Wingrove families who are mentioned on this site in numerous places.

I have now proven it to my own satisfaction, though I am still working on the complete, single family tree. As it’s not finalised with all citations etc it may be a while before I publish on the site, so I have uploaded a zipped GEDCOM for anyone who may be interested.

Let me try to explain. You’ll also find some conclusions at the end.

It’s well known that Ralph Allen was the first of the movers and shakers, responsible for building the first community on Combe Down but that he left no surviving children. His will stipulated that his estates were for the use of his wife during her lifetime. After she died the Bathampton Manor & estates were to go to his brother Philip Allen (1695 – 1765) and Prior Park in trust to:

  • Gertrude Tucker (abt 1727 – 1796 ), his niece (daughter of his sister Elizabeth Allen (1702 – 1731)) and her issue, sons and oldest first but daughters equally, but if none then
  • Capt. William Tucker RN (abt 1728 – 1770) his nephew (son of his sister Elizabeth Allen (1702 – 1731)) and his issue, sons and oldest first but daughters equally, but if none then
  • Mary Allen, Lady Maude (1732  – 1775) (daughter of his brother Philip Allen (1695 – 1765)) and her issue, sons and oldest first but daughters equally, but if none then
  • To whomever was his lawful heir

Mary Allen, Lady Maude became the beneficiary but she died before inheriting and so her husband Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden had possession of them for their son Thomas Maude, 2nd Viscount Hawarden. Mary Allen was the daughter of Ralph Allen’s brother Philip Allen (1695 – 1765) who had married Jane Bennett (1703 – 1767). Her family owned Widcombe Manor and thus the Bennett and Allen families were connected as were, obviously, the Allen and Maude families. 

Move on some time and the Bennetts have left Widcombe Manor and acquired Rougham Hall in Suffolk. Maj Philip Bennett (1837 – 1875) married Barbara Sophia Harriet Disney (1838 – 1929) who was the great, great, great grand daughter of Rev John Disney (1677 – 1729). He was also the grandfather of Henry Woolhouse Disney Roebuck (1733 – 1796) who built Midford Castle. After the death of Maj Philip Bennett, Barbara Sophia Harriet Disney married The Hon Harbord Harbord (1836 – 1894), a son of Sir Edward Harbord, 3rd Baron Suffield (1781 – 1835). Though they had no children this marriage tied the Bennett, Disney and Harbord families together.

In 1861 Charles Henry Gabriel (1821 – 1900) the son of John Gabriel (1787-1825) married Sabina Pool Atherton (1828 – 1913) the daughter of Nathan Atherton (1798 – 1885). In 1909 Charles Harry Atherton Brown (1888 – 1961), the great grandson of Nathan Atherton married Ida Harbord (1878 – 1956). She was a grand daughter of Sir Edward Harbord, 3rd Baron Suffield (1781 – 1835), who is mentioned in the previous paragraph. This linked the Bennett, Disney, Harbord, Atherton and Gabriel families.

Alice Mary Disney Roebuck (1843 – 1869) the great grand daughter of Henry Woolhouse Disney Roebuck married John Brabazon Vivian (1836 – 1874) who was the great grand son of Rev Thomas Vivian (1718 – 1792) whose son Rev Henry William Vivian (1756 – 1840) had married Frances Wingrove (1777 – 1830) who was the cousin of Benjamin Wingrove (1773 – 1840), lawyer, land speculator and road builder who did work for for Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden (1729 – 1803), Thomas Maude, 2nd Viscount Hawarden (1767 – 1807), Cornwallis Maude, 3rd Viscount Hawarden (1780 – 1856) and John Thomas (abt 1752 – 1827). This links the Disney, Vivian and Wingrove families and also the Allen, Maude, Bennett, Harbord, Atherton and Gabriel families.

In 1911 Mary Morley (1855 – 1917), the daughter of Samuel Morley MP (1809 – 1866) lived at St Christopher, also residing there was her niece Rebekah Wilbraham Phibbs (née Taylor) (1877 – 1952) the daughter of Herbert Wilbraham Taylor (1847 – 1899) and her sister Rebekah Hope Morley (1842 – 1877). Mary Morley was the niece of Rhoda Mary Hope (1828 – 1910) and a cousin of Dr Charles Middleton Coates (1857 – 1933) who both owned HopecoteHerbert Wilbraham Taylor was a grandson of Sir William Gosset CB KCH (abt 1783 – 1848) and Gertrude Martha Daniell (1789 – 1849). Gertrude Martha Daniell was the daughter of Ralph Allen Daniell MP (1762 – 1823) whose grandmother was Gertrude Allen (1697 – 1789) – Ralph Allen‘s sister. This links the Hope and Morley families to the Allen, Maude, Bennett, Disney, Vivian, Wingrove, Harbord, Atherton and Gabriel families.

Richard Falkner (1796 – 1863) was a banker and a partner in Tufnell, Collett, Falkner & Co. and part owned 115 Church Road & 117 Church Road. Richard had a brother, Francis Henry Falkner (1786 – 1866). His grand son Archibald John Campbell (1867 – 1944) married Clementina Henrietta Brooke (1876 – 1952) who was the daughter of Kathleen Maude (1854 – 1939) who was the daughter of Sir Cornwallis Maude (1817 – 1905) 1st Earl de Montalt, 4th Viscount Hawarden, 4th Baron de Montalt, 6th Baronet Maude who was the grandson of Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden who was married to Mary Allen, Lady Maude. Thus the Falkner family links to the Allen, Maude, Bennett, Disney, Vivian, Wingrove, Harbord, Hope, Morley, Atherton and Gabriel families.

Robert Falkner (1811 – 1851) the son of Francis Henry Falkner married  Susanna Eykyn (1811 – 1883) in 1841. Susanna’s brother William Eykyn (1821 – 1884) married Fanny Mary Cruttwell (1839 – 1902) in 1865. It was her second marriage. Fanny was the daughter of Robert Cruttwell (1812 – 1858) whose older brother was Thomas Cruttwell (1808 – 1881) built Glenburnie on Church Road. They were both sons of Thomas Macaulay Cruttwell (1777 – 1848) and Mary Micklem (1786 – 1849). The Cruttwell family owned the Bath Chronicle for many years. This means the Cruttwell family links to the Allen, Maude, Bennett, Disney, Vivian, Wingrove, Harbord, Hope, Morley, Falkner, Atherton and Gabriel families.

Evelyn Pierrepont (1665 – 1726) 1st Duke of Kingston upon Hull, 1st Marquess of Dorchester KG PC
Evelyn Pierrepont (1665 – 1726) 1st Duke of Kingston upon Hull, 1st Marquess of Dorchester KG PC

Capt. William Tucker RN (abt 1728 – 1770), the nephew of Ralph Allen was married to Diana Marriott (1740 – 1816). Her father was Rev Dr Randolph Marriott DD (1699 – 1782) and her mother Lady Diana Feilding (1706 – 1756) the daughter of Basil Feilding (1668 – 1716) 4th Earl of Denbigh and 3rd Earl of Desmond and Hester Firebrace (1670 – 1726) Countess of Denbigh and Countess of Desmond. One of her father’s siblings was Lady Mary Feilding (1670 – 1697) Countess of Kingston-upon-Hull who was married to Evelyn Pierrepont (1665 – 1726) 1st Duke of Kingston upon Hull, 1st Marquess of Dorchester KG PC. One of Evelyn Pierrepont’s sons was William Pierrepont (1692 – 1713) Earl of Kingston-upon-Hull who married Rachel Baynton (1695 – 1722), which brought Great Chalfield Manor and much of the old Bath Priory property in central Bath to the Pierrepoints. In the 1730s Gen Evelyn Pierrepont (1712 – 1773), 2nd Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull, sold the old Bath Abbey Orchards land in Bath to John Wood the Elder (1704 – 1754) and his business partner James Leake who went on to design and construct housing and named the streets Pierrepont Place and Pierrepont Street in homage. The rest of the lands passed to Charles (Medows) Pierrepont (1737 – 1816) 1st Earl Manvers, grand son of Evelyn Pierrepont (1665 – 1726) 1st Duke of Kingston upon Hull when the 2nd duke died without issue.

Capt Lord William Stuart RN (1778 – 1814) was married to The Hon Georgiana Maude (1781 – 1807), a daughter of Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden and Anne Isabella Monck (1759 – 1851) Viscountess Hawarden. Lord Stuart was a grandson of John Stuart (1713 – 1792) 3rd Earl of Bute, KG, PC who was married to Mary Wortley Montagu (1717 1794) Countess of Bute, 1st Baroness Mount Stuart. She was the only daughter of Sir Edward Wortley Montagu (1678 – 1761) and Lady Mary Pierrepont (1689 – 1762) the eldest daughter of the Evelyn Pierrepont (1665 – 1726) 1st Duke of Kingston upon Hull, 1st Marquess of Dorchester KG PC.

Rev Reginald Guy Bryan
Rev Reginald Guy Bryan

Rev Reginald Guy Bryan M. A. (1819 – 1912), who had been the vice-principal at Protestant College, Malta; Perpetual Curate at Fosbury, Wiltshire and the Principal at Monkton Combe College first married Salome Blomefield (1827 – 1894) the daughter of Sir Thomas William Blomefield (1791 – 1858) and Salome Kekewich (1795 – 1862). Sir Thomas William Blomefield‘s great, great, great, great, great grandmother was Isabella Pierrepont (1549 – 1620). She was also the great, great, great aunt of Evelyn Pierrepont (1665 – 1726) 1st Duke of Kingston upon Hull, 1st Marquess of Dorchester KG PC.

Caroline Letitia Gore (1843 – 1920) was the third wife of Rev Reginald Guy Bryan. She was the daughter of Mary Eliza Hole (1813 – 1891). The Bryan family were related to many others on Combe Down. Helen Gertrude Bryan (1860 – 1917) married Rev Charles Howard (1853 – 1928) and Edith Mary Marow Bryan (1866 – 1951) married Rev Alfred Howard (1857 – 1945).  Both were sons of Rev Thomas Henry Howard (1804 – 1885) whose other son Rev Richard Nelson Howard (1852 – 1932) was vicar of Combe Down from 1892 – 1897. The Howard family were also related to Rev Alfred Richardson (1853 – 1925) was vicar of Combe Down from 1902 – 1914. The Bryan family were related to the Gore family who, in turn, were related to the Daubeny / Daubeney family via Edith Henrietta Gore (1852 – 1931) Caroline’s sister and wife to Capt Charles William Daubeney (1860 – 1937). The Daubeney’s lived at The Brow.

Henry Grahame Montagu (1829 – 1916) lived at 109 Church Road. He was married at least four times and had 22 children. He had 8 children with his first wife Louisa Maria Jenkins (1845 – 1890). Their daughter Ethel Montagu (1871 – 1919) was the second wife of John Cunningham (1846 – 1930) who had been married to Maria Howard (1848 – 1896) the daughter of Rev Thomas Henry Howard (1804 – 1885)  who was vicar of Warmley from 1860 – 1885 and two of whose brothers were married to daughters of Rev Reginald Guy Bryan. His second wife Gertrude Kate Fortt (1872 – 1900). Gertrude Fortt’s great uncle was William Fortt (1796 – 1880) who lived at Hopecote or 1 Claremont Buildings as it was then.

Everything noted in the last five paragraphs links the Bryan, Daubeney, Gore, Howard, Fortt and Richardson families to the Allen, Maude, Bennett, Disney, Vivian, Wingrove, Harbord, Hope, Morley, Falkner, Cruttwell, Atherton and Gabriel families as well as the Pierreponts.

So what, you may reasonably say. It’s just a whole load of old families you may add. I find it more fascinating than that.

Property, power, position and patronage were the cornerstone of the class system (and still are?) in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Their lands and estates were often made up of tenanted farms, in which case the gentleman could live entirely off rent income so that they did not have to to actively work. They could even pass off most of the administrative work to a steward. This allowed them to pursue other careers at court, in the military or politics from which they could gain even more property, power, position and patronage. The nobility and gentry had good reason to make sure that they married other people of a similar ilk who understood the ‘rules of the game’ and only to ‘let in’ those who had made it to a similar status whom they then absorbed in the ‘rules of the game’. It still goes on today, think of quangos.

Benjamin Wingrove

In another tenuous coincidence I have discovered that Benjamin Wingrove (1773 – 1840), who has his own page on this site, and was an attorney, land speculator, agriculturalist and road builder is the 1st cousin 1x removed of the wife of the husband of the 7th great-aunt of our son-in-law. I said it was tenuous!

The Wingroves were a family based in North Bradley until Benjamin Wingrove (1693-1768) moved to Bath He married Ann Pitman (1703 – 1796) in 1730. They had nine children in 16 years.

His children also prospered. Francis (1733 – 1795) became a well known baker.

His daughter Mary (1742 – 1803) married John Hensley (1737 – 1802) a coachmaker based in Broad Street.

Another son William (1745 – 1786) was a brewer and died quite young but married Martha Whittaker (1737 – 1795) a daughter of Thomas Whittaker (1702 – 1760) of Bratton, Wiltshire. The Whittakers were clothiers, fullers, corn and sheep farmers. After her husband died Martha became a pump mistress at the baths. The pump mistresses were widows of good repute. They needed to have reasonable means as the annual rent was £840 but the potential was that they could make a good profit and set themselves up for retirement. The covenant was with Mayor, aldermen and citizens and the duties included opening and shutting the pump rooms, keeping the rooms tidy and fit for the reception of Nobility, Gentry, Inhabitants and others and paying all taxes. It related to baths and vaults at the Kings & Queens Baths, Hot Baths and Cross Bath.

Martha Wingrove, Pumper - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 9 July 1795
Martha Wingrove, Pumper – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 9 July 1795

Anthony Wingrove (1748 – 1798) became a Captain in the 34th Regiment of Foot seeing action in Canada and the West Indies and dying in Dominica.

Anthony Wingrove becomes Captain - Kentish Gazette - Tuesday 1 April 1794
Anthony Wingrove becomes Captain – Kentish Gazette – Tuesday 1 April 1794

Another daughter, Elizabeth (1749 – 1822) married Robert Forman (1741 – 1792) an attorney.

His son John Wingrove (1739 – 1790) ran the Marlborough Tavern, 35 Marlborough Buildings, Walcot, Bath and the Fox & Hounds, Walcot Street. He married Anne Blatchly (1740 1822) on 14 February 1764. They had six children in 11 years, but 4 died in infancy or childhood. His eldest son John (b 1765) became a ribbon weaver in Bristol.

Wingrove, Marlborough Tavern coach horses - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 2 May 1793
Wingrove, Marlborough Tavern coach horses – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 2 May 1793
John Wingrove, Fox and Hounds - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 6 December 1787
John Wingrove, Fox and Hounds – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 6 December 1787

His other surviving son was Benjamin Wingrove (1773 – 1840)  who appears in this site and whose page I have ‘upgraded’.

More pages and infills about Combe Down

Glasshouse cafe - Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Saturday 26 October 1929
Glasshouse cafe – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 26 October 1929

I have added more pages and infills about Combe Down by filling in some obvious gaps.

There’s some old adverts mentioning Combe Down or Monkton Combe – none very exciting it has to be said, but hopefully further research will find some that are. Having said that, even if the adverts themselves don’t excite they can lead to little known gems. Gems such as the 1912 Bath and West Show being held on Glasshouse Fields. I was unaware of this until I saw the ad and it also created a good opportunity to infill a bit about the background of the Glasshouse name.

I have added some more Combe Down maps and map links and moved it in the navigation too.

More old photos of Combe Down, Prior Park and Monkton Combe have been added.

A short section on the Monkton Combe lock up, an obvious omission, has been added. Another obvious omission, the Combe Down Jewish cemetery has be added too. Other additions cover Allotments on Combe Down, the old Wesleyan Reform chapel behind Glenburnie and some information about The Firs or Firs Field on Combe Down. This is now a Centenary Field protected in perpetuity through a legal Deed of Dedication between the Council and Fields in Trust, meaning that ownership and management of the site remain in local hands.

I have also added a section on Claremont Buildings or Hopecote Lodge as it is now known. It, along with Isabella Place and 109 – 117 Church Road, was part of the second wave of building on Combe Down from 1800. Some interesting people lived there including William Fortt who founded Fortt’s Refreshment Rooms in Milsom Street. Forrt’s later merged with tow other Bath firms to form Cater, Stoffell & Fortt that made the famous Bath Oliver biscuits.

There was also Rhoda Mary Hope (1828 – 1910) whose sister Sarah Clegg Hope (1832 – 1863) is the 2nd great-grandmother of Camilla Rosemary Shand (b. 1947), now Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall. It was Rhoda’s nephew Dr Charles Middleton Coates (1857 – 1933), the son of Sarah Clegg Hope, who turned 1 – 3 Claremont Buildings, three Georgian buildings similar to 113 – 117 Church Road into one building with the French mansard it has now. One of his sons Donald Bateman Hope Coates (1904 – 1994) seems to have been a spy for the Cairo Gang inter-alia.

1 - 3 Claremont Buildings, later Hopecote, later Hope Cote Lodge, Combe Down
1 – 3 Claremont Buildings, later Hopecote, later Hope Cote Lodge, Combe Down

Combe Down, Monkton Combe and Prior Park photos

I have long wanted to add galleries of Combe Down, Monkton Combe and Prior Park photos but never really felt I had enough to warrant it. Now I do, though I’d dearly love more photos to add to the galleries, so, if you have any that you’d be willing to let me publish then please do let me have a copy.

Meanwhile follow this link to take a look at the galleries of Combe Down, Monkton Combe and Prior Park photos.

John Thomas – the forgotten man of Prior Park

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

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

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

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

So, from where did he get his wealth?

John Thomas, Kennet and Avon Canal
John Thomas, Kennet and Avon Canal

There were, apparently, rumours that he might have obtained the money from his work as Superintendent of Works for the Kennet and Avon canal, working with John Rennie (1761 – 1821) who was the engineer. This may have arisen, like many rumours seem to because the cost of the canal spiralled by 450%. It was originally budgeted to cost £213,940 (about £1.8 billion in 2014 pounds) in 1790 but this increased to £377,364 by 1792 when John Rennie made changes to the canal’s route and rose even further after the French Revolution’s ‘Reign of Terror’ in 1793, so that when on 17 April 1794, the Kennet & Avon Canal Act received Royal Assent, the company was authorised to raise £420,000 (by 3,500 shares of £120 each). When it was actually completed in 1810, having met many delays having to buy land, build the Bruce Tunnel, deal with water supply using pumping stations and build aqueducts the canal had cost £979,314 7s 9d (about £3.7 billion in 2014 pounds). His work on the canal is commemorated with a plaque on the Dundas aqueduct.

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

Family wealth

In fact, John Thomas had made his money as a grocer starting John Thomas, Sons & Co., which was trading as late as 1938 at 17 and 18 Redcliffe Street, Bristol,  and his family had been inventive and hard working, his grandfather, also called John Thomas, had worked with Abraham Darby (1678 – 1717), the ironmaster and was responsible for helping him to perfect sand casting iron pots using re-usable patterns.

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

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

His family history is given below:

John Thomas’ family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The illustration gives an extremely graphic idea of the effects of the Water upon the afflicted Queen. It is called "A Peep into the Pump Room, or the Zomersetshire folk in A Maze".
A Peep into the Pump Room, or the Zomersetshire folk in A Maze
A Peep into the Pump Room, or the Zomersetshire folk in A Maze
The following anecdote of her sojourn is dated "Bath, October 28th". The Queen wishing to ride through Prior Park, the property of John Thomas, a very rich Quaker, a footman was sent forward to the house to ask leave for the gates to be opened. Mr. Thomas received the Queen very respectfully at the park gate, and addressed her as follows: " Charlotte, I hope thee is very well: I am glad to see thee in my park; thou art very welcome at any time, and I shall feel proud in opening my gates for thy pleasure. I hope thou receives benefit from the Bath waters. I wish thee well."

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

From The juvenile tourist ; or, Excursions into the west of England: into the Midland counties, with part of South Wales ; and into the whole county of Kent ; concluding with an account of Maidstone and its vicinity - John Evans 1 January 1818, Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy
From The juvenile tourist ; or, Excursions into the west of England: into the Midland counties, with part of South Wales ; and into the whole county of Kent ; concluding with an account of Maidstone and its vicinity – John Evans 1 January 1818, Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy
Carlisle Patriot - Saturday 06 December 1817
Carlisle Patriot – Saturday 06 December 1817

John Thomas also helped to develop  Prior Park Place, on two and a half acres taken from adjacent parcels of land – Forefield and Forefield Orchard – purchased from Philip Bennet VI (1771 – 1853), owner of Widcombe Manor. Bennet put the estate up for auction in 1813 and the freehold was bought by John Thomas. Matthias Harris, a silversmith and jeweller proposed a property development scheme. In 1818, for a ‘consideration’, John Thomas offered a 999 year lease of part of the two plots of land at an annual rent of £62 l0s to Matthias Harris. In 1820 this was changed to £85 for 1,000 years (the Harris descendants redeemed the charge in 1896 for £2,090). A deed of the following year reiterates this obligation, but proposes the selling of plots with houses upon them and Prior Park Place was built in 1821 – 1822.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sale of Prior Park 1828
Sale of Prior Park 1828

Particulars of Prior Park sale in 1808

I just love old handbills and maps. Bath Record Office has a small treasure trove of them. Here are some prepared for the Prior Park sale in 1808 before John Thomas bought in in 1809. 

The language is wonderful. “A capital mansion, seated on an eminence, erected, in the most substantial manner, about the Year 1738, by RALPH ALLEN, Esq. Planned for the accommodation of A NOBLEMAN, OR FAY OF DISTINCTION”. If one had the wherewithal it would be difficult to resist. It’s a world away from the ‘estate agent speak’ we are so used to; but then, so is the property.

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

Front of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808
Front of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808
More details of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808
More details of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808
Map details of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808
Map details of sale particulars for Prior Park in 1808

Prior Park sale

Prior Park sale notice Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 04 September 1800
Prior Park sale notice Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 04 September 1800

When Gertrude Stafford Smith (née Tucker, previously Warburton), Ralph Allen’s niece and heir died in 1796, the estate passed to Cornwallis Maude, 1st Viscount Hawarden by reason of his marriage to Mary Allen, another niece of Ralph Allen, even though she had died in 1775, as they had a son Thomas Ralph Maude.

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

A bit of further research has indicated that he put Prior Park up for sale in 1800 as an advert in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette on Thursday 4th  September 1800 shows. The advert directed interested parties to Benjamin Wingrove. The reference at the foot of the advert shows that the sale of timber, referenced when John Thomas became the next owner in 1809, was actually happening years before and perhaps he just increased the sales to pay for his purchase?

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

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

Prior Park still to be sold Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Thursday 05 May 1803
Prior Park still to be sold Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 05 May 1803

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

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

See Glossary of Terms.