The general history of Bath is well documented and available to all. At Madison Oakley, we like to dig a little deeper about property in Bath and find out more specific facts about the homes we sell (or the specific locations). Here are a few examples of our research ;
The current Wells Road replaced the old pilgrimage route (the “hollow way” or Holloway) to Wells. The old pilgrim chapel of St Mary Magdalen still stands on the old Holloway road and is the only pre-16th century building left in Bath. By Ralph Allen’s time, the Wells Road was a fast stagecoach route to Wells, Exeter and Falmouth (although normal practice was for passengers to walk up Beechen Cliff to save the horses!). Ralph Allen also owned the Bear pub at the top of the Wells Rd, giving passengers a chance to quench their thirst after the walk up the hill. Wells Rd is also the site of a Roman Villa, described by Michael Forsyth as “within sight of the Baths and Temple, aligned directly with the hot springs”. Sadly much of the original buildings on Wells Rd were removed during the Sack of Bath in 1964.
Widcombe Parade dates from 1780-90, predating both Widcombe Crescent and Widcombe Terrace (1805). At the time of building, the parishes of Lyncombe and Widcombe were small villages with a population of around 3000. By 1830, the population had trebled and included almost 600 weavers. Tthe textile trade, together with shipping from John Rennie’s Kennet & Avon canal (completed in 1810) and Ralph Allen’s stone mine traffic, formed the backbone of the local industry for most of the early 19th century. Lyncombe and Widcombe were not incorporated into the city of Bath until 1835 (under the Municipal Corporations Reform Act). The footbridge (originally wooden) to the city centre was built by Hickes and Isaac and opened in 1863 (with a halfpenny toll). During the Bath and West of England Agricultural Centenary Show celebrations (1877), crowds crossing caused the bridge to collapse into the Avon and it was replaced in the same year by the iron bridge (designed by T.Marsh) still in place today.
Weston is the birthplace of St Alphege (or Aelphege), born in the parish in 953 and remembered to this day by the well ( reputed to cure eye troubles) named after him at the top of Lansdown Lane. After serving as the Prior of Glastonbury and Abbot of Bath, Alphege was nominated to Winchester where he served as counselor to King Ethelred and then appointed Archbishop of Canterbury in 1006. Seven years later he was one of the victims of the Danish invasion of the city.
Originally a separate village, Weston has become part of Bath as the city has grown, first through the development of Lower Weston in Victorian times and then by the incorporation of the village itself. Weston was divided into “Upper ” and “Lower” in 1879 and was completely taken into the city boundary after the Second World War.The village parish church is All Saints, originally founded in 1156 and partially rebuilt by John Pinch in 1832. The church has a window commemorating St Alphege (mentioned above). Dr William Oliver (of biscuit fame), whose family owned Weston Manor, is buried in the churchyard.
In medieval times Weston Manor was mainly important for wool production from the sheep who grazed on the sleights (slopes) of Lansdown. Some of the wool would have been spun and woven in the village and a will of 1524 refers to two “stocks” or fulling mills but most of the fleeces went to Bath as the manor was owned by the Bath monastery up to the Dissolution in 1539 – Haddon (Portrait of Bath). 19th century industries in the village included two breweries in Trafalgar Road, a paper mill and a flour mill. The 1865 Bath Directory lists no fewer than 65 laundresses in Weston, whilst the 1876 Church Rambler records that “the Village was simply the wash house of Bath”.
The Victorian population boom between 1841and 1901 doubled the number of residents in towns and cities and fuelled huge building programmes. Suburbs grew as a result of the railway development. Housing estates, like Oldfield Park in Bath, grew up around the local railway stations, where land values were lower than in existing urban areas. Speculative builders bought small plots of land from farmers and built rows of identical housing. The interior layout tended to stay the same with a hall leading to two or three rooms on each floor. The fashionable decorative details, such as cornicing and ceiling roses, would have been ordered from building merchants and catalogues.
The exterior was built with local bricks (there were three local brickworks in the Oldfield Park area), although in Oldfield Park most of the builders used the local Bath stone for the front of their terraces. Oldfield Park houses had roofs made of slate mainly coming from quarries in Wales. Sash and large bay windows became common as large panes of glass now became available from rolling presses in 1832. The ground floor bay window often had its own slate roof, or might continue into a first-floor bay, again topped with an individual roof. Quite a few of the Victorian builders in Bath topped the bays with balustrades in Bath stone. Doorways received their own small roofs sometimes in stone or metal edged with fretwork. Stained glass was popular for small windows and glazed front doors.
The builders would have sold the houses to landlords or become landlords themselves renting to tenants. Very few people owned their homes.
Victorian Brickworks in Oldfield Park
During the rapid expansion of the city in the 18th Century there was a demand for bricks, roof tiles and other constructional material made from local clay. Brick kilns were set up at building sites and clay pits were sunk in the area now known as Oldfield Park. Charles Harding’s Moorfield Brick and Tile Works was situated on what is now Shaftesbury Road. The works was in existence by 1888, but by 1907 had been built over. By 1900, Harding was operating from the Moorland Brick and Tile works in Oldfield Lane. By the time it closed its doors in 1913 it was producing over a million bricks each year.