Entry Hill – a Roman road, the ancient gateway to beautiful Bath

Entry Hill

detail of thorpe map of 1742 showing road layouts to the south of bath 1024x576
Detail of Thorpe’s map of 1742 showing road layouts to the South of Bath
strange tree slip bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 19 april 1787
Strange tree slip – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 19 April 1787

Entry Hill’s most important role, as its name implies, was for much of its life to be a part of the route to and from Bath to the South West.

It was built by the Romans on older tracks and continued to be used, but not maintained after Rome left c 410 A.D.

Below Entry Hill the road continued down to Holloway and thence to the Old Bridge.

bath turnpike roads bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 21 july 1796
Bath Turnpike roads – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 21 July 1796

Above Entry Hill it had routes leading to Combe Down, Claverton, Brassknocker Hill and thence to Bradford on Avon and Trowbridge.

Also to Southstoke, Midford, Hinton Charterhouse, Wellow, Combe Hay, Englishcombe and Radstock and thence to Wells and Exeter.

It was probably a part of the Fosse Way,[1] that ran diagonally across England from the Roman cities of Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) to Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) in the South West after passing through Bath (Aquae Sulis).

In his visit to Bath around 1540 Leland[2] said:

"And about a mile farther I cam to a village, 6 and passid over a ston bridge where ranne a litle broke there they caullid Mitford-water. This brooke risith in the rootes of Mendip-hilles a 7 miles or more by West South West from this bridge, and goith about a mile lower into Avon. From this bridge to Bath 2 good miles al by mountayne ground and quarre, and litle wood in syte. About a mile from Bath I left the way that ledith to Bristow for them that use from Saresbyri to Bristow."

The route he took “al by mountayne ground and quarre, and litle wood in syte” was possibly Entry Hill.

All the early Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette references to Entry Hill (Thursday 6 June 1765, Thursday 6 October 1768, Thursday 6 June 1776, Thursday 7 March 1782) relate to quarry accidents.

extract from excursions from bath by rev richard warner 1801 300x292
Extract from Excursions from Bath by Rev Richard Warner, 1801
journals of the house of commons volume 33 page 126 1804
Journals of the House of Commons, Volume 33 page 126 – 1804

By 1804 a decision had been made to upgrade the roads as they were too steep and narrow.

In “An Act for amending and otherwise improving several Roads leading into and from the City of Bath, and for making new Branches of Roads to and from the same” [3] of 1829 we find:

"Second District, which shall comprise the Road leading from the South End of Bath Old Bridge, up the new Road on the North Side of`Holloway, and from thence by a Place called Devonshire Buildings, up the new Road through Barracks Farm, to the White Post in the Parish of Midsomer Norton, where the Bath, Wells, and Shepton Mallett Roads unite, all lying in the several Parishes of Lyncomb and Widcomb, Combhay, Englishcombe, Dunkerton, Wellow, Camerton, Radstoke, Midsomer Norton, Kilmersdon, and Stratton-on-the-Foss, in the said County of Somerset, and the Road leading from the South End of the said Bath Old Bridge, up Holloway, to the Junction with the said last-mentioned Road near the Bear Inn, which shall ,be called the Upper Wells and Holloway Road; the Road leading from the Turnpike called the Holloway or Upper Wells Gate, by Cottage Crescent, to a Lane leading to the Red Lion on Odd Down, which shall be deemed Part of the said Upper Wells Road; the Road leading from Devonshire Buildings aforesaid, up Entry Hill, to the Warminster and Frome Roads, being in the said Parish of Lyncomb and Widcomb, which shall be called the Warminster and Frome Road; the new Road leading from and out of the said Upper Wells Road to the Junction with the Warminster and Frome Road, all lying in the several Parishes of Lyncomb and Widcomb and South Stoke in the said County of Somerset, which shall be deemed Part of the said Warminster and Frome Road; the Road leading from the Stone Quarries at the top of Entry Hill, over Comb Down, to the Road leading from Bath to Bradford, lying in the several Parishes of Lyncomb and Widcombe, Claverton and Monckton Combe, in the said County of Somerset, and the Road leading from a Public House called the White Hart, at the Eastward End of Claverton Street in the said Parish of Lyncomb and Widcombe, up Claverton Hill and over Claverton Down, to the Bridge over Comb Brook at the Bottom of Coomb Hill, where the Bath and Bradford Roads unite, all lying in the several Parishes Lyncomb and Widcomb, Claverton and Monckton Combe, in the said County of Somerset, which shall be called the Comb Doom and Claverton and Coomb Hill Roads;"
combe down area from cotterell 1852 plan of the city and borough of bath and its surrounds 1024x430
Combe Down area from Cotterell’s 1852 Plan of the city and borough of Bath and its surrounds
entry hill area from wiltshire xxxise xxxviiiane revised 1899 published 1904 1024x552
Entry Hill area from Wiltshire XXXI.SE & XXXVIIIA.NE, Revised 1899, Published 1904

As can be seen from the maps, the Entry Hill area was very lightly populated until the 20th century. The census records are also particularly unhelpful with house entries being ‘Entry Hill’ or similar with few names and numbers to help identify them.


bladud 54 entry hill 1024x576
Bladud, 54 Entry Hill
miss e j tipper in lunacy bladud entry hill bath chronicle and weekly gazette saturday 7 april 1923
Miss E J Tipper (in Lunacy), Bladud, Entry Hill – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 7 April 1923

In 1881 and 1891 Bladud was occupied by James Williams (b.1818) described as an “X/1 Engineer &C” in the 1881 census and as a “Retired Engineer Inspector of ??” in 1891.

In 1901 it was occupied by Frank Walter Martin (1864 – 1942) and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Williams (1867 – 1955). In 1909 they emigrated to Australia.

Ellen Jane Tipper RMRNBA (1857 – 1952) was a registered member of the the Royal British Nurses’ Association and lived at Bladud from at least 1908 until c 1922 when she was committed to Bailbrook Lodge asylum where she resided until her death.

For most of the past, the state has only become involved in assessing people’s mental health when they owned a certain amount of property.

The Crown took charge of the property of idiots and lunatics, as well as deciding on their care. They were the responsibility of the Lord Chancellor and were sometimes known as the ‘Chancery lunatics’.

The lands or possessions were not generally retained in Crown hands, but granted out for the term of the lunacy or idiocy to ‘committees’ i.e those to whose care the lunatic was committed. It was the job of the Lunacy Commissioners to ensure that the money of an asylum inmate was not being misappropriated.

Lunatics and idiots were brought to the Chancellor’s attention by people with a particular interest. These could include relatives and creditors as they could claim payment from the Master in Lunacy once their debtor had been declared of unsound mind.

courtney bennett announcement bath chronicle and weekly gazette saturday 12 april 1930
Courtney Bennett announcement – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 12 April 1930

Dr and Mrs C Courtney Bennet were living at Bladud in 1930. I have not been able to find out any more about them.

Prebendary Francis Edward Murphy (1863 – 1951), rector of Walcot, Rural Dean of Bath and his wife Florence Helen Graham (1869 – 1953) lived at Bladud from 1935 until at least 1942. They are buried at Lansdown cemetery as is her father.

prebendary and mrs murphy bladud entry hill bath chronicle and weekly gazette saturday 10 august 1935
Prebendary and Mrs Murphy, Bladud, Entry Hill – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 10 August 1935

Rev Murphy became a director of Monkton Combe school [4] when it became a company limited by guarantee in 1935.

The Murphy’s youngest son Francis Money Graham Murphy (1903 – 1940) died when when the SS City of Benares was torpedoed. the ship was carrying 90 child evacuee passengers who were being evacuated from wartime Britain to Canada. 260 of the 407 people on board were lost.

Wildacre & 58 Entry Hill and 64 - 72 Entry Hill

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Wildacre (on the left) & 58 Entry Hill (on the right)
part of 64 72 entry hill 1024x576
Part of 64 – 72 Entry Hill

In 1911 Tom Helps (b. 1869), a widowed domestic coachman was living at 58 Entry Hill with his son and two daughters.

However most of the census data for Entry Hill just says that: “Entry Hill” and, so, certainty about which abode is being described is really quite difficult without more specific information for Wildacre & 58 Entry Hill and 64 – 72 Entry Hill.

A wide range of occupations is noted, including:

  • Agricultural Labourer
  • Boilermaker
  • Brewer
  • Carpenter
  • Cellarman
  • Dairyman
  • Driver laundry van
  • Engineer
  • Farm labourer
  • Gardener domestic
  • General labourer
  • Laundress
  • Market gardener
  • Printer’s machine minder
  • Quarryman
  • Retired merchant and farmer
  • Stone Mason
  • Wholesale provision merchant

The problem with saying anymore about the occupants is similar to the one for Quarry Vale / Bottom and Greendown Place and Greendown Terrace as The Bath Chronicle, at the time, is sparing in the coverage of those below a certain class. However a George Harper is noted as a farm labourer in 1861 and the man in the cutting might be him.

george harper bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 10 march 1881
George Harper – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 10 March 1881

112 Entry Hill

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110a & 112 Entry Hill
entry hill quarry sale bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 16 april 1835
Entry Hill Quarry sale – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 16 April 1835
trustees of james sheppard bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 29 january 1863
Trustees of Sheppard – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 29 January 1863

Crossways House was built by quarrymaster James Sheppard around 1833.

In the 1841 census it is occupied by William (b. 1766) and Elizabeth (b.1761) Sheppard who were, presumably the parents of James.

In 1851 it is occupied by William Sheppard (b. 1805) and his wife Sarah (b. 1808) and their family. His occupation is quarryman and that of his wife laundress.

In 1861 it is occupied by cordwainers William Boulter (b. 1831) and his wife Mary (b. 1822) and their family. Also by Louisa Winkworth (b. 1836) and her son and daughter.

In 1871 it was occupied by Robert Bush (b.1809), a retired innkeeper, and his wife Matilda (b.1818).

In the 1881 census it is unoccupied.

In 1891 it is occupied by an accountant Albert William Henry Reeves (b. 1842) his second wife Lydia (b. 1859), a school governess and their family. Albert was, in fact, clerk to the master of the Frome Road Workhouse.

In 1901 and 1911 it is occupied by a commercial traveller, Frederick G Powell (b. 1851) and his wife Alice (b.1866) and family.

In the early 1950s, due to the rising number of Roman Catholics in Combe Down, Fr John McReynolds, the chaplain of Prior Park, initiated the building of a new parish church. In 1954 the presbytery was moved to 112 Entry Hill (the Eastern part of the former quarry master’s house), which had been donated by a convert, Miss Dorothy Spear.

The new Church of St Peter and St Paul was built in the grounds to the South. It opened in 1965 and was consecrated by Mervyn Alexander, Bishop of Clifton on 1 June 1976.

The West wing, 110 Entry Hill (now 110a), became a separate dwelling with a garage attached to its South.[5]

albert w h reeves crossways house bath chronicle and weekly gazette saturday 21 december 1912
Albert W H Reeves, Crossways House – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 21 December 1912
winckworth retires bath chronicle and weekly gazette saturday 2 june 1928
Winckworth retires – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 2 June 1928

Valley Spring

valley spring the house
Valley Spring
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[media-credit name=”Wikimedia commons” link=”https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page” align=”alignright” width=”400″][/media-credit] Bath Cabinet Makers factory
My thanks to our friend and neighbour Vivien Womersley for additions and corrections to this article. Vivien married John in 1970, she was, at the time, Beauty Editor of The Observer.
arkana industries winding up the london gazette 7 july 1968
Arkana Industries winding up – The London Gazette, 7 July 1968

Valley Spring is located in Horsecombe Vale. The house was built, between 1968 and 1969, for John Basil Womersley (1927 – 1979).

John Womersley was managing director of Bath Cabinet Makers and Arkana, which specialised in contemporary and curvilinear tulip furniture.

In 1959 Bath Cabinet Makers was taken over by Yatton Furniture and later Christie-Tyler took over Yatton.

In 1968 Yatton, which also owned Yatton Furniture, Avalon Furniture and Wake & Dean, bought Arkana Industries from the receiver. Bath Cabinet Makers changed its name to Arkana Furniture in 1986 and the company still exists as G Plan Upholstery to which Arkana changed its name in 1993.

Arkana was originally based in Glasgow Road, Camelon, Falkirk, Stirlingshire, a family business with representation as far as Denmark. The chairman of Arkana was Maurice P. Burke who was the designer for many Arkana pieces and heavily influenced by Eero Saarinen (1910 – 1961).

arkana factory prior to demolition
Arkana factory prior to demolition
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John Womersley and Lord Snowdon

Valley Spring was designed by his brother Charles Peter Womersley (1923–1993) about whom Sir Basil Spence (1907 – 1976), when asked to name the best modern house in Britain replied “anything designed by Peter Womersley”.

Peter Womersley had trained at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. His major influence was Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959).

Peter Womersley had already designed two other houses for his brother including Farnley Hey in Yorkshire, which is also Grade II listed.

Valley Spring is the only post war modernist house within the City of Bath that is Grade II listed, and makes no concessions to the historic local style.

In 1965 John Womersley bought Horsecombe House with a six acre plot of land which offered exceptional views of Horsecombe Vale. He and his family lived here whilst Valley Spring was designed and constructed.

Since the late 19th century, this part of Horsecombe Vale had been occupied by watercress beds and orchards and, by the early 20th century, it had become a nursery garden with a large group of greenhouses situated on a terrace created by a stone retaining wall.

The greenhouses were cleared, but the terrace with the retaining wall, the driveway from Southstoke Road and part of the orchards, were retained.

The house was designed for a family of five, with separate quarters for three teenage children, a large living room to accommodate the family and their guests, and for John to listen to classical music through a large built-in speaker system.

Peter Womersley’s proposal drawings for Valley Spring show a house set into the South facing hillside, with a central stair tower. To its East and West it shows a two storey block containing the principal rooms, with a single storey annexe, a self-contained flat for Womersley’s mother, attached to its West.

The first planning application for Valley Spring, submitted in June 1966, was controversial and refused by Bath City Council on the basis that the design and materials would be unsuitable – the Council instead stipulated the use of local stone instead of brick.

Following a successful appeal to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, in December 1967 the need to use local stone was withdrawn and permission granted. The working drawings were completed by Peter Womersley’s colleague Joseph Blackburn, who later wrote a monograph on the architect covering his most acclaimed buildings, particularly those in the Scottish Borders, the Bernat Klein studio, the medical consulting rooms at Kelso and Fairydean Football Stand. Works on building Valley Spring started in 1968 by Dudley Coles.

The house is laid out on a grid and features three flat roofed interconnecting pavilions with tall u-shaped red brick towers in Flemish bond, butted glass cornered windows offering unobstructed views and painted wooden eaves.

october 1972 ideal home cover for valley spring
October 1972 Ideal Home cover for Valley Spring

The house was completed in the autumn of 1969. Womersley’s proposal drawings include a carport, but this element was not built until the mid-to late 1970s.

In the grounds below, to the South of the house, a large pond was created with a stone rubble edge. In the later 20th century, under new ownership, a plain, timber clad rectangular stable block was built to the North East of the house, along the drive behind the stone retaining wall.

The site also had a fish pond with very pure water from the spring (which when tested by Wessex Water was said to be exceptionally pure) in which trout were raised and a vineyard

Valley Spring was often used to stage Arkana furniture for promotional photos.

In 1971 Valley Spring was published in June Park’s book ‘Houses for Today’.

In October 1972 it featured in Ideal Home magazine.

In January 1973 an article appeared in ‘Brick Bulletin’ published by the Brick Development Agency.

[huge_it_gallery id=”7″]
john and vivien womersley at valley spring in 1972 1024x672
John and Vivien Womersley at Valley Spring in 1972
valley spring detail from plan submitted by peter womersley 1024x638
Valley Spring – detail from plan submitted by Peter Womersley
valley spring detail of plan section submitted by peter womersley 1024x422
Valley Spring – detail of plan (section) submitted by Peter Womersley
valley spring file sleeve 396x1024
Valley Spring file sleeve
valley spring letter to planning 15 may 1967 686x1024
Valley Spring – letter to planning 15 May 1967
valley spring work commenced notification 12 june 1967 647x1024
Valley Spring work commenced notification 12 June 1967
valley spring work completed notification 2 dec 1968 662x1024
Valley Spring work completed notification 2 Dec 1968

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