A stroll down Abbey Road Great Malvern
This stroll takes you on a circular walk past houses mostly built in Victorian times of very varied and unique architectural styles. Some notes of historical interest with particular reference to Malvern's Water Cure establishments have been included; you will also find notes on past schools and residents.
Choose a dry day, and start at Great Malvern Post Office at the top of Church Street, returning to the Post Office via the Worcester Road.
Proceed south through the Abbey Gateway (see photo above) which houses the Malvern Museum of Local History.
The museum is usually open from Easter until the end of October, seven days a week
The doorway can be found on the right as you pass under the archway.
Immediately on your left you will see Abbeyfold which fills the gap between the Abbey Gateway and the Abbey Hotel, see photo opposite.
We don't know when it was built, but a shop next to the Bluebird Tea Rooms at the top of church which has a similar but less elaborate facade bears the date 1877.
In 1901, members of the Archer family who founded the Abbey Hotel were in residence.
Nowadays Abbeyfold forms part of the Abbey Hotel complex.
Next on your left you will pass the main structure of the Abbey Hotel by S W Daukes, about 1848, with later additions.
Nowadays the stonework of this is largely hidden by Virginia Creeper.
Adjoining, what appears to be a later extension to the hotel is in fact Knotsford Lodge which was once a separate boarding house (ref 15). In 1851 Catherine Dickens, wife of the author Charles Dickens, was staying at Knotsford Lodge with her sister Georgina Hogarth, and Dickens himself wrote a letter from there dated 20th March 1851. In 1881 we believe Henrietta Baden Powell was in residence at Knotsford Lodge with her daughter Agnes Baden Powell, the mother and sister of Robert Baden Powell who founded the Scouting movement. Agnes was instrumental in the formation of the Girl Guides.
Built on is a modern and rather plain extension to the Abbey Hotel with access to a large car park at the rear, probably sited on the ornamental gardens of Knotsford Lodge.
The Abbey Hotel with Knotsford Lodge just beyond
A blue plaque on the right of the entrance reads:
His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie 1, Emperor of Ethiopia often stayed here during his exile in Britain 1936 - 1941 when visiting his grand-daughters who were educated at Clarendon School.
Clarendon was a private boarding school for girls in Cowleigh Road, North Malvern.
A small gate on your right leads up steps to the Abbey Hotel (private) gardens, sometimes used for wedding receptions.
Steps to Abbey Hotel gardens
The Gate House
Beyond is a large white stuccoed Grade II listed building now named 'The Gate House' facing the Abbey Gateway.
The Gate House
Description: early 19th century, three storeys, stucco on stone, slate roof with wide eaves. Four windows, those to the first floor are French, with marginal glazing bars and wrought-iron balconettes. Three hung sash windows with glazing bars to the ground floor. Two moulded wooden door cases with open pediments, carved pilasters and radiating fanlights.
Here was Abbey Terrace with properties numbered 1, 2 and 3, described as lodging houses in the 1891 and 1901 census. We have found no trace of that name now and from street directories it can be inferred that one by one the properties came under common ownership and were renamed 'The Gate House' between 1911 and 1919 (ref 16).
Geoff Lewis relates (ref 14):
The garages below The Gate House mentioned above occupied the site of Warwick Livery Stables; in 1911 the proprietors were the Woodyatt family. A large block of modern apartments named Warwick Court stands there now.
A little further on, where Abbey Road meets Grange Road, you will see number six, a large white house on your right named Salisbury House which is being renovated.
It was probably built as a hotel for those who wished to partake of the water cures and there was a private elevated walkway which communicated between the hotel and the water source.
In its later life it was a lodging house where actors stayed while playing at the local theatre and known for the parties which were hosted there. It has also been an antiques centre (ref 13).
The house was previously named Fonthill which, together with Chatsworth and Tintern, obtained its water supply from the Mason Tank above. This was a water supply put in place by the Mason family to serve the first houses built in Abbey Road.
In the 1870s Fonthill had been a lodging house, but the 1881 census records that the building became Fonthill College, a small boarding school for ladies, principal Ellen M Aldis. You can read more about Fonthill College on our page about Malvern schools then and now.
Next door, up a steep slope, largely hidden by trees, is the Baptist Church, by respected Birmingham architect George Ingall, (1826-1900), who was a Congregational Lay minister and designed many chapels.
Malvern Baptist Church glimpsed from the corner of Grange Road
The Baptist Church was built about 1893 on the site of the Hay Well Baths, one of Dr Gully's Hydropathic Establishments. The Baptist minister at the time was Rev William James Povey MA who acquired the land in 1889 and retired from the church in 1919; you will find his grave in Great Malvern cemetery.
Malvern Baptist Church seating 200 is well attended and the U3A Welsh Group meets in the cosy church hall - you will find the door to the hall on the lower east side of the church (click to see photo of the interior of the church).
Across the road is number 33, an imposing block of apartments overlooking Priory Park, now known as 'Park View'. The building was completed about 1848. Park View was originally built as a Hydropathic Water Cure Establishment (see plaque opposite) for Dr James Wilson (born 1807 Holywell, Flintshire, died 1867 Ilkley, Yorkshire). When the 'Water Cure' waned the Hydro became the County Hotel, and later it was used as a hostel for Royal Radar Establishment apprentices. The photo below was taken from Priory Park and shows the fine bowed facade.
Dr Wilson lived at Grattan House, which once stood on the site of the Priory Park Bowling Green.
The 1861 census recorded the head of household at the Hydro as Dr Walter Johnson who may at that time have been learning his trade as Dr Wilson's assistant. His father Dr Edward Johnson had a smaller hydropathic practice further down Abbey Road at Ellerslie. Read more. In the 1871 census the head of the Establishment was Dr Thomas Rayner, MD Edinburgh, Practising Physician, born Nuneaton Warwickshire about 1826, who had been practising in Malvern since 1851. He was still at the Hydropathic Establishment in 1891 when he died. It appears that Dr Rayner had taken over the lease when Dr Wilson died in 1867. Dr John Campbell Fergusson leased the property when Dr Rayner died, and he and his son were still at the Hydro in 1911. More about the history of 'Park View' can be found in an excellent booklet published by Roger Hall-Jones (ref 4); a copy is held in Malvern Library.
There is a second plaque alongside the entrance to Park View. This reads,
During the 1930s Evelyn Waugh often stayed here at the former County Hotel. He would visit the nearby Picture House, Captain Hance's riding academy in Church St, and the Lygon family at Madresfield Court.
In addition to the County Hotel, Lady Honywood's hotel group owned about eight other hotels including the Balmer Lawn at Brockenhurst in the New Forest, where you can still stay.
Across the road from Park View is a tall 'plain' residence named Chatsworth House(see photo opposite).
South of Chatsworth is Crown House, probably modern in-fill currently owned by Worcestershire Social Services (see photo below).
South of Crown House is Tintern House or Lodge (see photo left) probably dating from about 1850 and similar in style to Salisbury and Chatsworth.
Tintern House was once the home of the Woodyatt family who ran a carriage hire and haulage business and transported materials for the Great Malvern railway tunnel.
At the time of the 1911 census the house was named Tintern Lodge and occupied by Sarah Woodyatt, a widow, and her daughter, a carriage motor instructress.
A coach hire business was later run from Portland Road, and there may have once been a garage on Belle Vue Terrace.
The 1884 map of Malvern shows a building named Tintern House at this location.
Next to Tintern House is a large house named Abbotsfield at 14 Abbey Road. During WWII this may have been requisitioned, as in the 1950s it was in government hands, and being considered as a possible site for an automatic telephone exchange.
In 1956 the Malvern Electoral and Ratepayers Association had complained to the GPO Head Office in Birmingham about the slow Manual Exchange - concern was expressed about the long time taken to set up calls and customers sometimes being charged for this.
The GPO's response was that they thought the service was adequate and there was no prospect of a new exchange for a considerable time ahead.
In the event, the new telephone exchange was built in Albert Road South on the site of Southlea School.
In 1861 (North) Abbotsfield was the home of Dublin born 'water cure' doctor James Loftus Marsden and his family. Dr Marsden then ran a water cure practice at Hardwicke House and Elmsdale further along Abbey Road (see below).
In 1871 the Marsden family visited Germany and did not appear in the census. North Abbotsfield was sub-let to John Doherty, born Dublin, Ireland about 1826, Barrister at Law, and his wife Lucy.
Circa 1875, after briefly lodging at Tintern House next door, the Marsden family left Great Malvern and retired to London (ref 11).
There must have been some development on the site of Abbotsfield as nameplates at the entrance to the drive also now list,
These in-fill properties are not distinguishable from the road.
Further up the road, hidden behind trees on the right, is Croftdown Court, now residential apartments but once the home of Croftdown Girls' School which moved to the site about 1940.
The 1884 map of Great Malvern shows a house named South Abbotsfield once occupied this site. In 1851 South Abbotsfield was occupied by Mary Palmer of the Mason family which had sold much of the land on which Great Malvern's water cure establishments were built.
The Mason family inherited the Grange Estate, which comprised the former monastic land south of the Priory gatehouse (Weaver and Osborne).
Just past Croftdown Court, the road forks, with Abbey Road bearing to the right, whilst Priory Road forks left, looping back to the Southlea car park (opposite The Splash).
Looking back down Abbey Road from above the fork, a good view can be had of number 35, a large three storey red brick 'Jacobean' building with tall chimneys, which was built about 1859 as another water cure establishment for Dr James Wilson. It stands next door to Park View and the establishment was named Malvern House (see photo below).
A plaque on the front of the building records:
Malvern House was built by Dr James Wilson in 1859 and continued in use for water cure patients after his death in 1867
The census records that, after Dr Wilson's death in 1867, between about 1871 and 1911 the building became a lodging house run by Sarah Elizabeth Matthews (maiden surname Fleetwood, born Ledbury 1838) and her husband Joseph (born Colwall 1836).
The photo below shows the side of Malvern House and its magnificent chimneys in more detail.
Sadly Sarah Matthew's grandson, Captain Frank Bailey Fleetwood Perkins, Royal Field Artillery, was killed in action, Arras, France in 1917 aged 27. He was the only son of her daughter Harriett Louisa. In the 1911 census Frank was recorded as an Assistant Master, College for the Higher Education of the Blind, London Road, Whittington, Worcester.
The 1927 Ordnance Survey map of Great Malvern recorded the building as the Malvern Hotel from where an elderly resident remembers collecting laundry.
The Wilson Memorial
A memorial fountain to James Wilson had been erected in Abbey Road in 1877 which later fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1948. In 2015 a new memorial was erected at the junction of Abbey Road with Priory Road by Malvern Civic Society.
The Wilson Memorial
Malvern House, which was built for Dr James Wilson to accommodate his water cure patients, can be seen in the background.
The plaque on the north side of the memorial reads:
This fountain is erected by the friends and patients of the late James Wilson MD, in commemoration of his having introduced into England and for many years successfully practised in this town the system of medical treatment called 'Hydrotherapy' thereby greatly promoting the development and prosperity of Malvern Anno Domini 1877.
This dedication, composed by fellow Malvern Water Cure practitioner James Manby Gully is from the marble tablet that was on the original Wilson Memorial that previously stood on this spot.
Malvern Civic Society - Malvern Spa Association - Malvern Town Council - Worcestershire County Council.
Shown below are more photos of old houses on the east side of Abbey Road overlooking the Severn Valley. Some are examples of mock Gothic style contrasting with the simple brick built structures of today.
In her book 'The Silhouette of Malvern' Catherine Moody wrote in 1953 that:
Number 43 is a rather plain looking house with three gables but many interesting tall chimneys.
The 1871 and 1881 census record that Wellington House was used for a time as a school for young ladies run by Elizabeth Jay and her business partner Joyce Chapman who was born Croydon in 1823. Prior to this, in 1861, they were running Oakfields Academy for girls at Droitwich Road, Claines.
Number 45 is a magnificent gentleman's residence built about 1851.
In 2016 the house was being modernised.
Number 47 is a remarkable mock Gothic house, now divided to make two homes; the other half is now named Glendaruel numbered 47a.
The 1901 and 1911 census record that South Bank was then occupied by Robert Arthur Hollins who gave his occupation as a retired merino spinner.
More about Robert Arthur Hollins
Robert Arthur Hollins was born in Stockport in Cheshire1838 into a family of Cotton Spinners. His grandfather Henry Hollins with four partners had leased land at Pleasley on the border between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and founded a cotton spinning business which was continued by his son William under the name William Hollins and Co.
Robert was the son of William Hollins' brother Edward and we think Robert was employed by his uncle at the firm's Pleasley Vale Works.
The London Gazette recorded on 4th December 1883:
This event probably marked Robert's retirement to Great Malvern and in 1885 he married Edith Blanche Anderson, the daughter of a farmer. The couple had one son, William Arthur Hollins, born at Malvern in 1893, who became a market gardener.
Merino Spinner Robert Arthur Hollins died at South Bank, Great Malvern in 1919 and was buried in Great Malvern cemetery. His widow Edith continue to live at South Bank until her death in 1951. The London Gazette recorded on 1st April 1920 that she had been awarded the OBE:
Mrs Edith Blanche Hollins, Superintendant, Work Depot for Soldiers' Comforts, Malvern.
You can find our more about Edith Hollins OBE at Malvern Museum.
Robert's brother Henry Ernest Hollins continued as a manager of William Hollins and Co until 1890 when the company was dissolved. That or an associated Hollins company developed a new fabric named Viyella, a mix of Merino Wool and Cotton.
The family seems to have had a finger in a number of pies. Robert's younger brother Francis Hollins (1843 - 1924), later created Sir Frank Hollins Baronet, was a partner in Hollins Brothers and Co which merged with Horrocks in 1885, and Crewdson in 1887. Francis became the manager of the joint company Horrockses, Crewdson and Co, Cotton Spinners and Manufacturers.
The Walmer Lodge, 49 Abbey Road, has, in the past, been run as a lodging house, hotel and restaurant. Current status unknown. Staying there in 1911 was clergyman Thomas Fletcher Royds, a curate to the vicar of Great Malvern. Thomas was the first cousin twice removed of Freemason Alfred Hudson Royds who is mentioned below. In 1912 Thomas married Bertha Grace Milward at Great Malvern Priory. She was the daughter of Robert Milward, solicitor, Notary Public, JP and Alderman of the county of Worcestershire.
Number 51, Sutherland (no photo) is similar in style to the Walmer Lodge but has a colonnaded porch.
Number 53, Elmsdale, and Hardwicke House, which stood next door, were built as water cure establishments for Dr James Loftus Marsden (read more about below).
Elmsdale was built about 1853 possibly to a design by architect Samuel Sanders Teulon. It has stepped gables with a two storey balustraded porch, and a north tower sporting a broached spire.
The 1871 census and Littlebury's Directory and Gazeteer of 1873 record that Elmsdale then became a school for young ladies known as 'The Ladies College' run by Mrs Rachel Rose Gilbert. This was listed in the publication 'Schools for Girls and Colleges for Women' published by Charles Eyre Pascoe in 1879.
Rose the daughter of a teacher and methodist minister had married schoolmaster George Mowbray Gilbert who was born Gosport. In 1851 he was running the Goodenough School at Ealing, in 1861 they were in Worcester, and in 1871 at Elmsdale in Great Malvern, when she is described as a schoolmistress and he as a fund holder. George died at Elmsdale in 1877, and Rose died there on 5th April 1879. At the time of the 1881 census Elmsdale was uninhabited and presumably advertised to let.
Rose's son Walter Raleigh Gilbert was a gifted cricketer and cousin of WG Grace, who emigrated to Canada. Sadly Walter's son 2nd Lt Archibald Holmes Gilbert, 22 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps died in Belgium on 21st September 1917. He had previously served with the Canadian Infantry.
Later Emsdale house became a preparatory boarding school for boys, run by Fanny Elizabeth Ridley; that school was in existence until at least 1908.
The original Hardwicke House, was built about 1851 as a water cure establishment for Doctor James Loftus Marsden (1815-1891) who about 1861 lived at North Abbotsfield across the road.
Dr Marsden retired to London about 1875, but Hardwicke and Elmsdale remained in Marsden family hands until about 1905.
The 1871 census recorded Hardwicke House as a boarding house kept by Elijah Finn and his wife Mary, who either were employed by Dr Marsden or leased the property.
Earlier, in 1861, Elijah, born Kent about 1827, had been recorded as a servant at Great Malvern Vicarage. The vicar of Great Malvern Priory was then the Revd George Fisk who had led the funeral service of Dr James Wilson of the Hydropathic Establishment on 16th January 1867.
Dr Marsden's first wife Lucy Rashdall died in childbirth in 1847 and is buried in the Priory churchyard. She was the aunt of Oxford theologian Hastings Rashdall and sister of Revd John Rashdall who was vicar at the Priory between about 1850 and 1856.
(Two of the Marsden daughters died in suspicious circumstances in 1853 - the children's deaths are explored in a new book 'The Water Doctor's Daughters' by Australian author Pauline Conolly who gave a talk to the Malvern Family History Society. The book was published by Robert Hale in 2013 and is available from The Malvern Book Co-op in St Ann's Road and Malvern library. It provides an excellent overview of the development of the water cure in Great Malvern and the life of James Loftus Marsden.)
Sadly in the 1960s, Hardwicke House fell into disrepair and was demolished about 1965. It was replaced by a modern block of flat roofed apartments. These have good views but are in stark contrast to the Victorian houses in Abbey Road.
The photo below, taken from College Road, shows the east side of the c1965 Hardwicke House.
Number 59, Chesfield, lies below Abbey Road between Hardwick House and Malvernbury. Two storey plus lower ground floor, detached house. Coursed stone elevations, dressed stone detailing, brick chimneys, tiled roof, three gables at rear. Chesfield was probably built about 1886 as it is not marked on an 1884 map of Abbey Road.
You can't see much of Chesfield from Abbey Road. This long distance shot of the east face of Chesfield was taken from Guarlford.
Kelly's 1892 trade directory lists Thomas Gatward in residence. Later, in 1911, he was a hotel proprietor at the Montrose Hotel in Graham Road, so possibly he used the house as a small private hotel.
Kelly's listed Charles Langford Oliver (born at Brighton in 1835) in residence at Chesfield in 1900. He was a retired Indian army officer, who died at the seaside town of Christchurch in Hampshire on 21st June 1908 leaving a widow, his second wife, Louisa Elinor Harriet nee Moysey.
The 1911 census recorded retired schoolmaster Francis Alfred Hooper aged 74 years in residence at Chesfield with his wife Emily, a cook, parlour maid and house maid. The census form records the house having 13 rooms (excluding scullery, landing, lobby, closet and bathroom). Despite having such a large house, they had no children.
Between 1932 and 1940 Kelly's records Claude Kingsley Knowles in residence. Claude was the son of an architect, and recorded as a 'student in insurance' in the 1911 census; during WWI he had served as a 2nd Lt in the Tank Corps. His father William Henry Knowles, FRA, FRIBA, architect and archeologist, born 1857, died at Chesfield on 18th January 1943, and the house was offered for sale by Lear and Sons in 1949.
Architect, William Henry Knowles came to Malvern late in life; he practised mostly in Newcastle upon Tyne and surrounds being responsible, for example, for the main building and gateway of the School of Art and other departments of King's College Newcastle. In later life he was in charge of excavations of the Roman baths at Bath and researched the Saxon church at Deerhurst. He was architect for the stonework of the Miners Memorial which was erected in memory of the men who died in the Woodhorn Colliery accident of 1916.
Number 61. The present Malvernbury, by A Hill Voysey, 1907, is set below Abbey Road halfway between Hardwicke House and the junction with College Road. The photo below was taken in 2015 when the building was being modernised - all that could be seen when we took this photo was the roof and scaffolding.
Littlebury's Directory of 1873 records that there was a school for girls at Malvernbury run by a Miss Cooper. The house then became a water cure establishment.
Dr Edward Johnson (1801 - 1867), who had moved from London, where his children were born, ran his water cure establishment first at Ellerslie (see below) and later at Malvernbury, and his son Walter took over on his father's death.
An 1887 edition of the BMJ, listing doctors registered in Worcestershire, confirms a Dr W Johnson was at Malvernbury in Great Malvern.
Dr Walter Johnson married in 1867, South Tidworth Hampshire, Mary Ann Sophia Young the daughter of the Rector of Risley in Bedfordshire by whom he had four children.
The 1881 census records the couple living at 'Bury' House in Abbey Road which was almost certainly Malvernbury.
When Mary died in 1888, Walter Johnson retired to Kensington in London to live near his younger brother Horace Edward Johnson MD.
Malvernbury was then acquired by Malvern College and used as a boarding house for public school boys, from 1891 to 1906. Cambridge educated Harry Wakelyn Smith was the first housemaster succeeded in 1892 by sports master Charles Toppin. In 1899 Edward Clifford Bullock (see below) was the housemaster. In 1903 Mr Bullock moved to Roslin House in College Road and Charles Theodore Salisbury became the housemaster. Mr Salisbury moved to the larger Radnor House in 1906 which had been acquired following the death of banker Christopher Dove Barker.
In 1907, Malvernbury, which was originally a tall five storey property, was demolshed and rebuilt, probably for solicitor, William Dyson Perrins, grandson of the founder of the Worcestershire Sauce business - in 1911 his wife Kate Perrins and son Meredith Dyson Perrins were living there.
In recent times Malvernbury became a nursing home but fell into neglect and was purchased by a developer. The house has now been modernised and converted into rented apartments (see photo below) and other dwellings may be built in the grounds.
A plaque placed by Malvern Civic Society recorded that Florence Nightingale had been a visitor to the house between 1857 and 1860, but it was not visible at the time of our visit so may have been removed during the renovation work.
Malvernbury in 2017
Next to Malvernbury on the corner of the junction of Abbey Road and College Road stands a splendid mansion named Ashfield which is now owned by Malvern College (see photo below).
In 1901 this was the home of Sir Augustus, Frederick Godson, Barrister at Law, Freemason and one time MP for Kidderminster. His daughter Ruth married a relation of the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.
Kelly's Trade Directory lists a J C Smyth MD residing at Ashfield in 1924.
Physician and Surgeon John Cecil Smyth, the son of a solicitor, was born at Oldham in Lancashire in 1880 and died at Malvern in 1972.
J C Smyth was educated at Manchester Grammar School and Owens College, where he was vice-chairman of the Union and later junior demonstrator; he was house surgeon at Manchester Royal Infirmary and medical superintendant to the Deptford Medical Mission, founded 1889, before settling in Worcestershire.
He first married Robina Linklater Forsyth daughter of wine merchant William Forsyth at Oldham in 1906 by whom he had three children; sadly she died at Ashfield on 8th June 1923 aged only 40 years.
Dr Smyth married second, in 1925, Dorothy Von Zabern, daughter of a German shipping merchant, and the couple had a daughter Daphne who married John Bamber the son of Rev John Reginald Bamber vicar of Crowle 1927 and later Holy Trinity church at Link Top. We were told after their marriage Daphne and John went abroad to live in Uganda and later Kenya.
(J C Smyth's chauffeur, Arthur Edgecoombe Gillam had enlisted in the Army Service Corps in 1915, at Worcester, and was a driver in the 181st MT Company; sadly he died in France of double pneumonia on 4th November 1918, days before the end of the war.)
Ashfield was aquired by Malvern College circa 1931 and converted into flats for masters in 1953.
From Abbey Road can be seen the clock tower of Ashfield Stables by Douglas and Fordham of Chester, 1891, situated on the west side of Ashfield House (see photo below).
On top of the clock tower is a stylish 'arts and crafts' weather vane (see photo opposite).
A lovely area in which to live, but beware of icy roads and slippery pavements on sloping ground in the winter.
Just below Ashfield, on the other side of College Road, can be glimpsed Hampton House in the triangle of woodland between Abbey Road, College road and the Wells Road; it stands in extensive grounds partly obscured by shrubbery and trees and was possibly designed by architect Edward Elmslie.
The house was originally approached by a long drive from the junction of Abbey Road with College Road.
Empty and boarded up in 2015, it has double bowed windows overlooking the Severn plain (see photo below taken from College Road).
Hampton House in 2015
The 1891 census recorded retired manufacturer James Atkins living at Hampton House with his second wife Mary Ann Topham and four domestic servants. Living at Hampton House Stables was their coachman with his wife and daughter.
The 1881 census had recorded James Atkins living in College Road, just possibly at the same house, but by 1901 he had moved across the road to Ellerslie, which was still his home when he died in 1904.
(James Atkins pictured left, courtesy of Ann Henderson)
More about James Atkins
James Atkins was born in Birmingham about 1819 the son of brass founder Joseph Atkins. In 1842 he married Louisa Mason Williams the daughter of tailor William Williams. They had two daughters Clara Louisa and Anne Elizabeth and, in 1851 and 1861, the family lived in the Ladywood district of Birmingham; the census then describes him as a commercial clerk. By 1871 there appears to have been an upturn in his circumstances when the census decribed him as a merchant and manufacturer living in Hagley Road, Edgbaston. A clue to his occupation appears in Whites 1873 directory of Birmingham. To quote:
RW Winfield and Co of the Cambridge Street Works in Birmingham employed several hundred men and boys and was founded in 1829; it manufactured metal bedsteads and the like. It seems James Atkins was in charge of a new division which became one of the largest manufacturers of gas fittings of its time. As far as we can gather James Atkins became one of the partners running the company and rescued it from difficult times. The London Gazette records that he resigned as a partner in 1879. The other partners were Rev Charles Busbridge Snepp, Philip Browne, Charles Walker Torr and Henry Charles Taylor. Rev Busbridge Snepp died the next year; he had married Julia Anne Winfield who was the daughter of RW Winfield who had founded the company.
James Atkins may also have run a business named the Richmond Gas Stove Company (ref 11).
Sadly this improvement in his business fortunes was marred by the death of first wife; Louisa Mason Atkins does not appear in the 'Index of Deaths' but her burial is recorded at St Bartholomew's Church, Edgbaston on 27th November 1873 aged 56 years.
Three years later, in 1876, James Atkins married, second, schoolmistress Mary Ann Topham. See photo left, courtesy of Ann Henderson.
Perhaps strangely, for residents of Birmingham, they were married at the large church of St Martin in the Fields in London.
Mary was the daughter of a grocer who held a position on the Birmingham City Council and it is possible she was introduced to James Atkins by her brother William Topham who was a manufacturer of tin plate and galvanized metal.
In 1872, at Liverpool, Mary Ann Topham's sister Elizabeth had married Nehemiah Vinall who was an upholsterer and manufacturer of furnishings. Their eldest son Joseph William Topham Vinall (1873 - 1953) became a well known British Artist who had studied at the Royal College of Art. He is listed in the Dictionary of British Artists (1880 - 1940) as are his brother Nehemia Row Reeves and his daughter Ella Doreen.
The photograph below, dated 1930, shows JWT Vinall and his French born wife Kate Chocqueel visiting Hampton House, which by this time had been acquired by Ellerslie Girls' School. The reason for the visit is not known; possibly they were just visiting an old family haunt, but they could have come to deliver an art lecture to pupils of the school, or to photograph the house prior to painting a picture.
Hampton House in 1930, courtesy of Ann Henderson
Artist JWT Vinall and his wife (centre rear row), courtesy Ann Henderson
When James Atkins moved across the road to Ellerslie, Hampton House was taken by Frederick Hookham. Kelly's Trade Directory records Frederick Hookham still living at Hampton House in 1924. He was born Oxford about 1846, and married in 1876 Catherine Ann Hyde, daughter of wealthy Wholesale-Clother Thomas Hyde of Caddecot House, Abingdon. (In 1945 Caddecot House became a Dr Barnardo's home.)
In 1881 Frederick Hookham had been headmaster of Kidderminster Grammer School; in 1901 he was a retired schoolmaster, probably living on inherited wealth, at Hampton House where he died on 6th November 1925. It was probably after his death that Hampton House was acquired by Ellerslie, a boarding school for girls, on the other side of Abbey Road.
The photo below, kindly provided by a former Ellerslie pupil, shows the front of Hampton House as it was in 1965, when it was owned by Ellerslie school.
Hampton House in 1965
In recent times Ellerslie School was acquired by Malvern College and subsequently Hampton House, and its grounds, extending to more than two acres, became surplus to requirements and was sold to a developer. 'Margaret Prior Hall' by Goodwin and Cowper, which had been built as a sports hall in the grounds of Hampton House for Malvern College, when the house was being used as a reception department of Hillstone School, was demolished circa 2014. After clearance of the site, the land was again offered for sale in 2015.
In 2017 we revisited the corner of Abbey Road and College Road to view the progress of building work on the site.
Hampton House is now approached by a new drive off College Road. The house has been renovated and divided into apartments and the roof extended to incorporate penthouse flats, whilst other redbrick homes are being built in the grounds.
Hampton House in 2017
In phase 2 of the development more homes will be built in the woods to the north of the house.
On the opposite side of Abbey Road about 100 yards past the junction with College Road stands another large house named Ellerslie, built circa 1855. We took the photo below in 2012 when the site was empty, and protected by security fencing, awaiting development.
In the 20th century Ellerslie became a girls' school and classrooms were added on the south side, and a hall which doubled as a chapel on the north side. You can read more about Ellerslie Girls' School on our page about Malvern schools then and now.
The Water Cure
In earlier times Ellerslie had been a water cure establishment.
A plaque emplaced by Malvern Civic Society on the wall of the lodge beside the gate at Ellerslie reads:
150th Anniversary of the Water Cure
Ellerslie was the water cure establishment of Doctors Edward & Walter Johnson.
Here Thomas Attwood the Birmingham political reformer died in 1856.
The Malvern Civic Society 1992
Dr Walter Johnson was Edward's son.
Thomas Attwood 1783 - 1856 was the first Member of Parliament for Birmingham. Although he was an old and infirm man, his death was probably not a good advertisement for the water cure!
By 1862 Dr Johnson and his son had moved their water cure practice across the road to Bury House later known as Malvernbury.
William Eastwood, a lodging house keeper, was recorded at Ellerslie in Slaters Directories of 1861 and 1862.
By 1871 Ellerslie had become the home of Albert Hudson Royds, Magistrate, Landowner and Freemason, born Rochdale 1811 son of woollen merchant Clement Royds, High Sheriff of Lancashire.
In 1901 Ellerslie was occupied by James Atkins aged 81 years, a retired manufacturer, who had moved across the road from Hampton House.
Ellerslie circa 1909, courtesy of Ann Henderson
James Atkins died in 1904 and his two spinster daughters, then living in Leamington, were appointed his executors. When they died in 1922, they appear to have left the family fortune to an elderly friend, the Glasgow born artist Alexander Lawson (1861 - 1927) who had visited them at Fairfield, Goring on Thames, in 1911. Perhaps he had come to paint Goring Lock which adjoins the picturesque river crossing at Streatley. Click for photo of Goring Lock
The Artist Alexander Lawson is not well known but has a short entry in the Dictionary of Victorian Painters. To quote:
The son of a picture framer, he married in 1889 pianist Florence Amelia Thistlewood, the daughter of a Birmingham based musician, by whom he had two sons. At the time of his death Alexander and his wife were living at Chandos, Burdon Lane, Cheam in Surrey.
James' widow Mary Ann Atkins left Malvern and retired to Sunny Mount in Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, where she died in 1911. One of her executor's was her niece Ada Louisa Sutton, the daughter of her half sister Ann Topham, who had married innkeeper William Sutton. Bexhill appears to have been a favourite place for residents of Great Malvern to retire to.
In 1911 Ellerslie was occupied by widow Julia Caroline Colt nee Hutton.
Her coachman Adam Anderson lived at Ellerslie Cottage, and gardener Robert Scott lived at Ellerslie Lodge.
Julia Colt's wealthy husband Captain George Frederick Russell Colt died at Great Malvern in 1909. In 1881 his occupation had been recorded as proprietor of the Gartsherrie Estate, Roxburgh, Scotland.
We found this biography about him:
We wondered what had brought the couple to Great Malvern?
Widow Julia Caroline Colt formerly of Ellerslie, Malvern, died on 10th May 1920 at Edinburgh.
During WWI Ellerslie was occupied by 'North Forelands School' which had been evacuated from Kent. When that school returned to Kent, Miss Gladys Mabel Pearson Sayle started Ellerslie School circa 1924.
On the other side of the road from Ellerslie, just below the junction of Abbey Road with the Wells Road is a pair of large linked residences named North Grove and South Grove. In the photo below North Grove, now numbered 67, is to the left of the picture.
The houses, now divided into apartments, overlook Hampton House below and the Severn plain.
We don't know exactly when North Grove was built, but Slaters Directory records a William Holden in residence in 1862. In 1870 William Matthews, a magistrate and ironmaster, born Hagley about 1797 was in residence. In 1873 a Richard Watson was the occupier; we don't know anything about him, but possibly he was a retired Worsted Spinner.
In 1901 North Grove was occupied by Scottish born widow Sophia Kate Smith, (1854 - 1938) aged 46 years, her mother Christiana Mackie (1829 - 1913), and her daughter Alexandra Sophia Isabella Smith (1884 - 1941); plus servants. Sophia's first husband Alexander Smith was described as a master mariner on their daughters marriage certificate. In the 1891 Scotland census he is described as living on private means in Forres Morayshire, while she is visiting her sister Christiana Ferguson in Govan. Later in 1901, Sophia married, second, Ellis William Davies a civil servant, senior clerk of the exchequer and audit department in London.
The 1911 census records Ada Mary Gillott Weiss aged 49 years as head of house, the daughter of wealthy Swiss general merchant Henry Weiss, living with her two sisters, a parlour maid, housemaid, cook, and under-housemaid.
Next door at number 69, South Grove, in 1901 and 1911 was living widower Donald MacDonald a retired Colonel of the Indian Army who was born in Calcutta, living with a sister and three servants.
Earlier, in 1862, Mrs Martha Storry had been in residence at South Grove, where she died in 1872. In 1861 Martha had been at The Elms. She was the widow of clergyman John Bridges Storry who was born Colchester about 1790 and had been Vicar of Great Tey in Essex. Martha was the daughter of Rev Dr Romaine of Castle Hill Lodge, Reading.
Next a Miss Glover was in residence at South Grove, and in 1892 Rev Henry Lea Guillebaud, a retired clergyman. He was born Nailsea Somerset about 1815, the son of Peter Guillebaud, Rector of Nailsea. Henry had been Vicar of Thurgarton in Nottingham but later, in 1881, he was living at 27 Warrior Street, Hastings. Henry had several children by his wife, Jemima Allnutt.
Very sadly Henry's grandson Lt Geoffrey Pierre Guillebaud, D Company, 6th (service) Battalion, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was killed at the Battle of Chunuk Bair on 10th August 1915 fighting the Turks. He was aged only 20 years. The 6th Battalion had landed at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli only a few days previously. The CWGC records Geoffrey was the son of the Rev J A Guillebaud, and of Sarah Helena Guillebaud (formerly Peters) of Yatesbury, Calne, Wiltshire. Educated at Marlborough College. Scholar of Queen's College, Oxford; his name appears on the Roll of the Fallen at All Saints, Yatesbury.
We wondered if Henry's family was related to the Peter Guillebaud who had been a Huguenot Silk Manufacturer of Stewart Street, Spitalfields.
North Grove and South Grove are recorded in the 1911 census as having 15 and 14 rooms respectively - including the kitchen, but not counting scullery landing, lobby, closet or bathroom. Nowadays that might be considered excessive for the relatively small households mentioned above!
North Grove and South Grove can be glimpsed through the trees from College Road (see illustration of eastern side above). They are a pair of linked residences of four floors, with bow windows at each side, which must provide magnificent views.
On reaching the southern end of Abbey Road we turned right into the Wells (Worcester) Road to return to Great Malvern Post Office - take care on the corner and consider hanging onto the railings as the turn of the footpath is steep.
In 1992 Ellerslie Girls' School was acquired by Malvern College and about 2008 the pupils moved down the hill to College Road. The valuable parcel of land which included Ellerslie, Cherbourg House and Southlands, on the Wells Road, was sold for development. When the photograph of Ellerslie was taken in 2012 the buildings were empty, and protected by a security fence, awaiting planning permission. After some delay, including work to preserve the bat population, 'Audley' commenced work on a vast Retirement Village on the Ellerslie site in January 2015, marking the beginning of a new era for Victorian Abbey Road.
There have been some other changes in Abbey Road, since this page was first published. A new memorial to water cure Doctor James Wilson has been erected at the junction with Priory Road; Hampton House across the road from Ellerslie has been modernised and new homes are being built in the grounds; finally Malvernbury, opposite Ellerslie, has been renovated and is now visible after removal of hedges.
Please email suggestions for corrections or additions to this page to the webmaster
Last updated 16th February 2018