I’ve spent quite a while recently writing short, historical descriptions of the houses covered by the Pittville History Works project. Each of the 200 or so houses needs a little snatch of mouseover text talking about its history, or the lives of some of the people who lived there. So here’s an example:
They aren’t comprehensive summaries, but give a quick impression of what life was like in this part of Cheltenham in the mid 19th century. We had a problem with some of those blue circles today – they wouldn’t appear. After a while Jeffery and I worked out that the search software was picking up old data, and wouldn’t display any of the new material I had been adding. It’s annoying when it happens, but it’s great when it’s fixed.
The Pittville History Works group only started two years ago, but we went national yesterday when we were featured in a Sunday Times article on researching the history of your house. I dashed to the website stats, to find that the number of visitors to the site had increased by about 20%. Not too much, but perhaps it’s a long way from the newspaper to your tablet, or maybe people don’t get to the Home section till around Wednesday.
The Pittville History Works group has a number of projects in train at the moment. As well as our big, ongoing census project, we have opened up several other fronts which are likely to produce fascinating results for the website.
Firstly, early in December members of the group visited Holy Trinity Church, Portland Street, to investigate and photograph the memorials to former Pittville residents. The photographs were taken by Terry Langhorn and are reproduced by kind permission of Trinity Cheltenham.
We were working from a list produced by Julian Rawes in the 1980s, and – with the generous assistance of the vicar and his colleagues – we were allowed into the crypt, which contains rows of beautifully inscribed stone coffins.
We plan to write an illustrated article for the website linking the memorials with residents who appear on the Pittville History Works website, and also to add similar links if possible from other burial grounds and graveyards in the area which were used by Pittville residents.
Sue Dodson’s project to investigate the history of the Wellington door-knocker, of which many examples may be seen around Pittville, is starting to take shape. Sue is keen to obtain as much help as she can with this project, so please read her note at the foot of this message!
Recently James Hodsdon wrote a short article for the History Works on John Forbes, the architect of the Pittville Pump Room. We’re delighted that we’ve now been able to add to this article the only surviving image of the architect, from The Wilson’s collection.
On 18 February, Steven Blake is giving a talk entitled Who Built Pittville? This event is jointly hosted by the Friends of Pittville and the Holst Birthplace Museum – see here for more details. Steven is also busy investigating the architects, builders, and buyers of Pittville houses built between 1860 and 1890. Please help if you receive a request from him to view your house deeds, as these contain vital information.
The Pittville History Works database project is reaching the end of its work on Clarence Square (fifty houses, whose inhabitants we are recording using the ten-yearly censuses and annual street directories from the 1830s to the early twentieth century). At present all of the details from the street directories for the Square are available online, and almost all of the census data. As an example, see this page for No 11 Clarence Square. At present we are busy tying this all together by giving all of the 19th-century residents unique identifying numbers, so that we can plot their movements from year to year. Once this is all done, we’ll be adding more locations and links to the Old Town Survey map on the site. At the same time, work is also progressing on Wellington Square.
When we have finished Clarence Square, we plan to notify its present-day residents and request photos, reminiscences, documents, etc. So please do help if you live in the square or know someone who does.
Some members of the group have also been involved in another significant Cheltenham history venture. The only known surviving portrait of one of the founders of Cheltenham’s first spa, Captain Henry Skillicorne, was recently put up for auction in Cheltenham. It has now been acquired for The Wilson, and should be on show there in the New Year.
One last thing: you don’t have to be a member of the Friends of Pittville to receive these updates, but even an online project like ours has hidden costs and we have no other sources of funding apart from a small budget from the Friends. If you aren’t a member, and would like to support the Friends of Pittville and the History Works group, please consider joining. You can download a membership form from the Friends of Pittville website here.
Wellington Door Knockers – Sue Dodson
A number of houses in Pittville have one of these distinctive Wellington door knockers.
I decided to commence my (low-key) research by seeking out ironmongers and manufacturers of door furniture who have been in business since the late 18th century.
For example W. Boulton and Co. (later, and more familiarly, known as Boulton & Paul) commenced trading in Norwich in 1797, while Archibald Kenrick started to trade in the 1760s. Manufacturers of cast-iron products since 1791, Kenrick continue to trade from their original site in West Bromwich.
Fortunately Kenrick’s archives have been preserved: the ‘Kenrick Collection’ is now held in Dudley by the Black Country Living Museum. Their Senior Curator confirms that while the ‘trend’ did not start with Kenrick it is also thought possible that Wellington door knockers (which were not uncommon throughout Europe) “may” have first emerged on the Continent rather than in Britain.
I continue investigations into manufacturers in England, Ireland – and abroad, mindful that the ‘trend’ for possessing a Wellington door knocker may initially have had a ‘novelty’ market appeal alongside a wish to celebrate the achievements of a man many regarded as a national hero.
Please get in touch if you have one of these door knockers or can help with this research.
The Cheltenham Old Town Survey (1855-7) is a detailed large-scale map of Cheltenham, and we’ve now integrated the Pittville section into the History Works data. This means that you can find the location on the map of any house included in the database and, in addition, you have the option of seeing plotted on the map the results of any database search you run. This is exciting new functionality for the site, and we would like to thank Cheltenham Local History Society, Gloucestershire Archives, and Cheltenham Borough Council for allowing us to use these maps.
Read more about the Pittville map and to try your own searches under the Advanced Search tab (not optimised for tablets). Here are the results of searching for clergy families at the time of the 1861 census …
New icons to look out for on the web site
We’ve introduced three new icons on the web site. When you click on them you’ll be taken through to further relevant information.
The house icon leads you through to more information about the Pittville house it relates to.
The map icon shows you the location of your house etc on the large-scale Cheltenham Old Town Survey of 1855-7.
The manuscript icon shows you census returns without the standardised data sometimes used in searches.
There are several of these new icons on the Pittville Lives page.
Transcribing Clarence Square
We’ve almost finished transcribing the census booklets for Clarence Square (1841-1901). Numbers 1-25 are already on the web site, and we have about six more houses on the north side to complete. No 19 was home in 1851 to the family of Charles Gardener, a banker’s cashier (a senior post in the bank), born in Cainscross near Stroud.
Links to the Pittville entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
The ODNB has kindly permitted us to link through to their entries for Pittville people. So you can read the biographies of, for example, Sir James Agg-Gardner (brewer and politician), George Cameron (East India Company army), Sybil ‘Queenie’ Newall (champion archer and Olympic medallist), and about ten other people. The links can be found on our Pittville Lives page.