Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Front Doors on Bath Road

If an Englishman's home is his castle, what message is conveyed by these front doors on Bath Road? Pull up the drawbridge or welcome - step inside and stay awhile, let me take your coat and sit by the fire, I'll put the kettle on.

Building on Bath Road took off in around 1830 when property such as the elegant Apsley House was built for Charles Axford  Fox.  The development rapidly became an area for wealthy inhabitants of the genteel Old Town in contrast to the industrial clamour for housing at the bottom of the hill.

Perhaps a candle lit chandelier once hung behind the fanlight at Fairview where James Fearnley Carlyle, a civil engineer, lived with his wife and three young children in 1881.  Whose task would it have been to sweep away that carpet of golden autumn leaves I wonder?  Not Miss Adkins the governess, nor Emma Augore the cook; another job for housemaid Florence Tonkin maybe.

At number 33 Alice Deacon and her daughter Mary had their needs attended to by overworked general servant Louisa Lee.  Alice had moved to Bath Road following the death of her husband George in 1884.  Their last address had been Foxhill Farm, Wanborough.  Alice died in 1903 and left effects to the value of £189 12s to her daughter.  Sadly not enough to maintain the establishment at 33 Bath Road it would appear.  The 1911 census reveals Mary and her brother had taken lodgings at 12 Meridian Place in Clifton, Bristol.

In 1881 45 Bath Road was better known as 1 Brunswick Terrace, home of Charles W.V. Kenrick, curate at St Marks, in New Swindon's railway village.  The 21st century dentist waiting room once the subject of much dusting and sweeping by parlourmaid Martha Shilhim while 13 year old Theresa Holder toiled in the kitchen under the watchful eye of housekeeper Sarah Atkins.

And for those callers not permitted to take the stone steps to the castle keep, there was the back entrance where tradesman delivered their wares and maids secretly slipped out on secret romantic assignations.

Today the Old Vicarage knits old build with new, a complex of twenty flats for older residents.  In 1898 the reprehensible Rev Newton Ebenezer Howe, Vicar of Swindon was in residence, but he wouldn't remain there for much longer.  In 1901 the Rev Howe appeared before Wiltshire Assizes charged with obtaining money by false pretences with intent to defraud. 'Several witnesses gave evidence as to cheques from Mr Howe being dishonoured, and also as to extensive county court and bankruptcy proceedings,' the press reported.

Rev Howe had previously received a three year suspension having pleaded guilty to improper behaviour towards one of his Sunday school scholars, an offence to which Justice Day referred when sentencing the vicar to 12 months imprisonment with hard labour in Devizes Prison.

Who knows upon what other Victorian dramas these doors have slammed shut?

Once home to the curate of St Mark’s today the former 1 Brunswick Terrace is a dental practice

Shiny blue door and polished brass

Chemist Samuel Smith’s very own 19th century castle keep

A glimpse inside the elegant Yucca Villa

The back entrance where tradesman delivered their wares and maids slipped out to keep secret romantic assignations.

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