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  • Heather Tweed

Wentworth House, Clevedon

Friends had moved to Clevedon many moons ago and every now and again upped sticks to climb the property ladder and mover ever nearer to their desired Victorian property. A number of years ago they achieved their goal and settled in to continue raising their family at the imposing Wentworth House.

When they opened their Christmas present under the sparkling tree lights on December 25th 2020 they were surprised and delighted to find a little booklet about the house history up until 1901 researched and written by me. They have moved to pastures new and I have pleasure in sharing the story with you today.

CLEVEDON, SOMERSET.-BOARD and LODGING offered in a good house close to church. Evangelical ministry. Terms moderate.-Apply to Mrs.Lewis, Wentworth House, Clevedon, Somerset.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 19th January 1882

Clevedon, 1882

Elizabeth Lewis needed a new lodger. Wentworth house, sitting on Princes Road a stones throw from the bells of Christ Church in Clevedon, had been her home and means of income for more than ten years since her husband John had died. She needed the money, it kept the house ticking over and perhaps, as a widow in her seventies, she enjoyed the company of the genteel folk she catered to.

Elizabeth and her two sisters Mary Ann and Catherine were born in the ancient market town of Banbury in Oxfordshire. Their father John Bromley was a plumber and glazier, a skilled job installing and maintaining the lead pipes and gutters on the local houses and fitting and mending windows and glassware which also often involved handling lead. John and his wife Ann had aspirations a cut above their workaday roots and by 1859 he listed his profession on Elizabeth’s marriage certificate as ‘contractor’ suggesting that the business had grown and that he employed other workers on his projects.

In 1851 Mary Ann and Catherine were living at 6 Regent Street, Leamington Spa in the company of a Glass and China dealer and his family.

By July 1859 Elizabeth had met and married an accountant. Born in Lambeth widower John Lewis was twenty years older than Elizabeth, perhaps he offered financial security although by 1861 at 66 he listed his occupation as ‘Retired Wine Merchant’. Elizabeths sister Catherine was witness at their wedding and she appears to have been close to the couple as they visited 76 year old widower Lucy Lon in Chepstow.

Thirteen years later a now widowed Elizabeth Lewis lived at Wentworth House. In May 1873 she placed an advert in the Western Daily press calling for ‘a good PLAIN COOK; also a, a HOUSE and PARLOUR MAID’. By February 1877 she needed ‘a respectable Young Person as HOUSE-MAID’. There may be a hidden story behind the wording here. Female live-in servants were usually unmarried and would often have to leave service once they tied the knot. They had little free time for leisure and visits by any potential beaux would be frowned upon by all but the most liberal of householders.

1881

Elizabeth’s unmarried sister Mary Ann was staying at Wentworth House along with several lodgers and visitors.

These were desirable guests with social connections and links and few things were deemed to be more respectable than links to the clergy. 91 year old widow from Bath, Emma Forbes, had rooms at the house and her brother the Reverend James Spry, Vicar of West Bromwich, had lived at Arundel House on Elton Road before he died in Clevedon in 1865.

Emma’s unmarried daughter Charlotte Maitland was joined by 6 year old Arthur Forbes. Charlotte is listed as Emma’s nice but was actually one of four children born during her first marriage to Gilbert Gregory Maitland a surgeon in the Madras Army who died in India in October 1820.

Emma’s social standing can be immediately gauged by the fact that she and

The Spry family held money and a certain social cachet on the Bath scene.

Emma’s father Joseph Spry was an apothecary and surgeon based at 2 Pierrepont Street who sat on the council and played a part in treating Lord Nelson for his malaria during 1780–81.[1]

After her first husbands death Emma lost little time in finding a second husband, and married the previously single Charles Forbes a little over a year later. She would need security and a decent income if she was to keep up her lifestyle and support her children. Perhaps Emma and Charles became acquainted in the social whirl of Bath high-society whilst Gilbert was away in India.

Mary B Dampier born in Bruton, Somerset had money to be invested by the time she was 28.[2]

She spent most of her life living as a single, independent woman in Bruton with a sojourn of indeterminate length lodging in Clevedon alongside Emma Forbes and her ladies maid Mary Ann Solomon who was also born in Bruton. By 1911 Mary Dampier was living at 41 High Street Bruton, she died on 24th December 1913 leaving the grand sum of £9,133 16s 2d to spinster Mary Elizabeth Dampier who may have been a sister or nice.

1891

Back in 1881 Elizabeth Lewis had found a perfect, respectable lady lodger in the form of Emma Forbes. She may have been hoping for a god fearing evangelical churchgoer as she suggested she required in her advertisement of 1882. In the intervening years she may have had her wish fulfilled. For now she had a lodger of exceedingly good pedigree with links to the Elton family and Sir Robert Peel.

Elizabeth’s new guest Harriet Emma Brandling had been lodging at 3 Richmond Terrace in the most desirable Clifton area of Bristol. At 50 she was still single with an annuity that ensured a certain income, a safety net that meant she didn’t have to rely on marriage, a husband to keep her in house and home.

The Brandling family roots stretch back to Gosforth House in Northumberland[3]Harriet’s paternal Great-grandfather, Charles was a mine owner and banker who was High Sheriff of Northumberland and an M.P for Newcastle four times.

The family links to Clevedon were long and deep as her maternal Great-grandfather Oldfield Bowles married Mary Elton, daughter of Lord Abraham Elton, in 1770.

And Elizabeth must have been pleased that Harrietts brother Charles was married to Julia Peel Countess of Jersey, daughter of Sir Robert Peel.

Hariett’s cousin Laura Eleanor had been living at ‘Elmhurst’ when she died in 1897 and in 1897 Mary, widow of Henry Charles Brandling was living at ‘Eglinton’, having moved from Cheltenham, with her family including Vincent a 15 year old Art Student.

By 1901 Harriet had moved to nearby ‘Ropley’ and ten years later had returned to Clifton lodging with Thomas Mogg at 8 West Mall.

Mrs Lewis may have been a good employee as help-maid Emily Luscombe who had been working at the house since at least 1881 was now joined by her sister Annie. They were a local family based around Yatton and Clevedon, their father had worked his way up from shoe-mender to a master (baker or butcher?) and their now deceased mother had been a dressmaker.

Less than two years later the age of 73 Elizabeth was dead.

Footnotes & Sources:

For each family I built a family tree using ancestry.co.uk, Free BMD, family search.org and used online newspaper archives to discover more about the families and the house itself.

By 1901 the house was in the hands of Hester Winter another widow living on her own means. And here the next 100 years of the history of Wentworth House begins.

[2] William Dampier, explorer, navigator and pirate was born in the area in 1651 and it’s possible Mary may have had links with the family

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