What you need to know about Prior to Now Trust – Act 1

This note is to let you know what you need to know about some of the changes that are happening at Prior to Now.

Prior to Now has become a charity as a unit of  Combe Down Heritage Societycharity number: 1116550.

ralph allen
Ralph Allen

It is now Prior to Now Trust

I’ll let you know more details about the Trustees etc. in due course. Most will be known to some of you.

All have an abiding interest in Combe Down, its heritage, history and people.

No one wants Prior to Now’s values to change, but some change is inevitable as I won’t be around.

I’ve run it as a hobby (it’s less expensive than golf, football, tennis, shooting etc!) and that, obviously, will change. There are items that Prior to Now can’t run without. Examples are website hosting, subscriptions for research and genealogy etc.

I have promised an endowment – once the wonderful world of banking concede we’re not money launderers or some such.

More about that soon too as well as more about the volunteers we will need.

Meanwhile Prior to Now Trust has affiliated to:

The Society for One Place Studies

Community Archive and Heritage Group

British Association of Local History

That describes the first step into the future and, as I mentioned, I’ll put out more updates as and when the final details fall into place.

I do hope you’ll all continue to support PtN and enjoy the group, website etc to reminisce about Combe Down, Monkton Combe and Midford.

That’s all for now.

Related Images:

No longer a secret – 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 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”.

Related Images:

A complete shaggy dog story

shaggy dog brunswick place combe down bath chronicle and weekly gazette thursday 11 september 1873
Shaggy dog, Brunswick Place, Combe Down – Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Thursday 11 September 1873

Things that are new on the site recently are a small section on Combe Road – something of a shaggy dog story given that it, unfortunately, has so little of consequence in it. But one can’t just make things up for a site like this.

There’s also a brief article on Mulberry Park the the 48 acre (19 hectare) Ministry of Defence site started by the Admiralty and purchased by Curo for £50 million in 2013.

It’s probably the third largest project on Combe Down since the Admiralty set up site at Foxhill for World War 2 and since Ralph Allen set up his stone quarrying operations in the 1720s and built Prior Park in the 1730s.

There’s also a great YouTube video on the Combe Down quarries page that is an animation of a quarry crane produced by Mark and Ben Jenkinson to illustrate the Corsham Institute’s Bath Stone exhibition in autumn 2016 at Cranes at Work

Cranes were an essential part of the quarrying process. They were used to lift the blocks of stone cut from the working face onto carts, which were then pulled to the surface by horse or donkey; or later, by small locomotives.

The main structure of the cranes was wooden, with metal gearing and fixings. They could lift blocks of around 5 tonnes.

A crane would be erected in a new working area until all the stone within its reach had been quarried. Then it would be dismantled, moved along to a new area, and re-erected to continue working.

quarry crane
[media-credit name=”Copyright © Mark Jenkinson” link=”http://www.boxpeopleandplaces.co.uk/underground-quarries.html” nofollow=”true” align=”aligncenter” width=”1000″][/media-credit] Quarry crane

Related Images:

Tucking great! I’m a genius but I’m broke!

william smith 1769 1839 portrait by french painter hugues fourau 1803 1873 painted 1837 242x300
William Smith (1769-1839), portrait by French painter Hugues Fourau (1803-1873). Painted 1837.

Things added recently include:

An ‘upgrade’ to the history of Prior Park. This explains how it was, originally, the deer park for the Priors of Bath Abbey monastery. It was broken up after Henry VIII‘s Dissolution of the Monasteries and brought back together over a 30 year period by Ralph Allen.

A section on the Tucking Mill area, especially Tucking Mill House. This was the home of William ‘Strata’ Smith the father of English geology from 1798 – 1819. Tucking Mill Cottage next door, is still wrongly identified as his home.

Interestingly, William Smith bought Tucking Mill House and its small estate from Edward Candler (later Candler Brown), who also lived at Prior Park and  at Combe Hill Villa on Brassknocker Hill.

Smith was also involved with Charles Conolly who owned Midford Castle in a plan to quarry stone. This was to lead to Smith becoming heavily indebted and eventually led to  being imprisoned for debt and losing his house and estate. Midford Castle was also briefly owned (2007 – 2009) by the actor Nicholas Cage

Other than William Smith, the Tucking Mill area seems to have had no notable inhabitants.

From being a medieval tucking mill that cleaned and thickened cloth then in the 17th and 18th centuries a flour mill, it became a Fuller’s earth works in the 19th century.

The area around became somewhat more ‘industrialised‘ when the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&D) was built, including Tucking Mill Viaduct and the Combe Down Tunnel.

The area also became important to Bath’s water supply as the Combe Down and District Waterworks, to take water from the Midford Springs was set up by Right Reverend Monsignor Dr. Charles Parfitt (1816 – 1886) who had inherited Midford Castle from Mrs. Jane Conolly (1798 – 1871).

In the last 60 years or so the area has been somewhat returned to nature. The S&D line, the viaduct and Combe Down tunnel closed in 1967.

The old mill and Fuller’s earth works were knocked down in 1979 to make room for a larger reservoir. This now provides free coarse fishing to disabled anglers in a lake stocked with roach, rudd, bream, perch, carp, tench and gudgeon.

The railway track, viaduct and combe Down tunnel were also reopened in 2013 as the Two Tunnels walking and cycling route.

Related Images:

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. 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 300x196
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
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

Related Images:

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

Related Images:

Revealing details about the Prior Park sales

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.

He had married Mary Allen, another niece of Ralph Allen. Even though she had died in 1775, as they had a son Thomas Ralph Maude the 1st Viscount inherited.

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.

Related Images: