The History of Clevedon

Part 5: The Builders of Clevedon

The village of Clevedon up to the 19th Century consisted of a scattering of farmhouses through the area, a cluster of cottages at East Clevedon and along the line of Old Street, Old Church Road, Stroud Road, and Ken Road; where the buildings of the farms, and their farm workers lay.

One of the early guide books states quite plainly; that in 1800 it was "a comparatively unimportant though pretty little village, principally occupied by respectable Farmers and their labourers. The Inn bearing a very unpretentious exterior, and appropriately called 'The Old Inn' was almost the only place in the village where entertainment could be obtained for man and horse"

Forget the old wives tales about the fishing village cottages, on the seafront. Until the late 1820's there were no houses or cottages there. The fishery cottage was in fact 'Vine Cottage' in Old Church Road. My Great-Great Uncle Thomas Lilly, and his son Charles having taken over the Saltwater Fishery and cottage renting it from the Court Estate instead of Hewitt who had retired from fishing.

Early development started at East Clevedon when William Hollyman converted Ilex Cottage to a small Georgian house from two small cottages the Court Estate Bailiff. The hillside above the present Hill Rd. was rocky and treeless, as shows on photographs of the area in 1869. It was obviously no good for farming, but equally obvious it was a place on which to build houses, which would have fantastic views

A very short time after, Hollyman & Newton took on some of the agriculturally useless land to the west, on the line of the present Wellington Terrace. These leases they either built on, or parcelled up and sold as building plots to other people. Within two years other builders bought land down near the beach, purchasing what were probably salt laden plots, which would have been poor grazing land. These ran back as far as the present line of Copse Road; whilst at the top end of the development, the aptly named field 'The Ripple' was not as suitable for agricultural use as it was for houses. Some of the plots at the south end, had houses built on both ends at once, but some plots were not to have houses built at the Copse Rd. end, until the 1850's.

In 1840 two distinct areas showed, the 'Old Village', with a rather thicker concentration at the triangle road junctions at East Clevedon and the present shopping centre; and a separate 'New or Upper Village' along the line of Highdale Rd., Hill Rd., Wellington Terrace and the Beach where some 80 recently erected houses and hotels enjoyed superb views across unspoiled country fields.

By 1853 a Local Board of Health [Referred to as BoH hereafter] was brought into being. One of their first acts, after trying to start off an efficient drainage system was to open a new road on the line of Bellvue and Elton Roads. This made available for building, an area across the Tyning Fields, which was quickly brought into use by the erection of houses.

The 1853 rates show 'Elton' Linden Lodge? 'Andrews' Elton Villa and 'Henry Howard' Norfolk House? Owning newly erected houses with gardens, and George Somerton having Osborne and the 'new house adjoining' in Elton Road. As the stately Mid-Victorian villas were erected; some of the Italianate Architecture was as grand as the earlier 'Georgian' in it's way.

Willcox and Randle started building houses in Bellvue Rd. and were taken to task by the newly elected Local Board for allowing their rubbish to encroach upon to the highway. Copse Rd. was also infilled by detached houses at the top end; and a terrace by Thomas Hartree, Stanley Lodge to Olive Lodge 1853+, at the end nearest Elton Rd. Whilst the insertion of Brunswick House was made into Abraham Snell's plot on the beach, in front of a cottage and livery stables which had been there in 1840.

In 1854 Adanac House in Ken Road was built as a lodging house for young men, in 1859 it was changed to an Orphan School for Girls, to train for domestic service orphan girls up to the age of 18, rescued from their perilous future in the larger big cities. In 1855 Houses were built on Chapel Hill by Mr Farmer and Mr Griffin [BoH Minutes.]

By this time the rail link was well established and Clevedon was readily accessible, both as a dwelling place and a seaside resort. The name Railway Triangle came into being as distinct from East Clevedon Triangle, and it was called so until late into the 1890's on the rates documents.

By the 1860's most of the newly available land had been used but fresh building plots came onto the market. When the leases expired from farming, plots and parcels were sold for development. Albert Rd., the early houses most likely built by Henry Howard; Atlantic Terrace now Leagrove Rd. by Poole; Herbert Terrace by/for Godwin; Linden Rd., which had started off as a spur from Bellvue, had for several years Tyningfield Lodge and Cotswold House, down as being in Bellvue Rd. in the Mercury Directory. Linden Rd. was built principally by Middle, Princes Rd. [originally marked on the town map as Princess Rd.] again mostly Middle, but Southview by Palmer & Green.

In Victoria Rd., Henry Howard built a house Charleville with the magnificent front, which was originally named Marlborough House. Whilst Palmer & Green got themselves into trouble with the BoH for obstructing the footpath and the road when building some of the other houses there. Later, James Palmer, Shopland, and W A Green carried the road to a finish.

It is in Victoria Rd. that we have a report from the 1863 BoH Mins. of Miss Woodfin of Penarth House being in distress. Although the land had been passed to build on, the roadwork was only roughly done and there was no main sewer provided. When her architects Hamers & Gill approached the Local Board of Health, they were told that as there were not yet enough houses to rate for a sewer; the Board did not propose to have one made until the numbers of houses had grown large enough.

Miss Woodfin who was moving her Girls School from Beaufort House in Copse Rd., with 3 assistant teachers and 29 pupils, plus servants, was not content with this and took up the battle. Eventually she forced the Board into providing a sewer; after they had first told her that she should dig, or have dug, a cesspit or pool. If she could manage 29 schoolgirls and their teachers, obviously the members of the Board stood no chance against her.

A little later we find that her neighbour Col Gibbs of Brecon House is complaining to the Board. He and his near neighbour Mr. Hancock at the Grange are suffering the effects of Mr. Hemmens in Grosvenor House keeping pigs in his back garden between their two houses. It appeared that although the Board had been prepared to tell Miss Woodfin to put up with a cesspool they soon told Mr. Hemmens that he must get rid of his pigs. On the other hand, did they perhaps fear a visit from this doughty lady with the same complaint?

At the same time terraces were building in Ken Rd. By Thomas Hartree, Southbourne, Belmont Place, and Kensington Terrace 9 to 27, and Hutchinson, Alfred Place no's 29 to 33. Soon to be followed by the building in Copse Rd. of the Brighton Place shops, and some houses, on the rear of his beach plot by Abraham Snell.

By the late 1860's pedlars and door-to-door hawkers were becoming a nuisance to the householders and it was decided that a produce market for the sale of vegetables, fish and meat was needed. Mr. Hans Price the local architect was asked to draw up plans for approval and Sir A. Elton set aside a plot of land for it. this was on a track way which in the following year became Alexandra Rd.

In the 1870's Alexandra Rd. started slowly, the first builder being Hartree with: - Birklands, Ashley Villa, Derby Villa plus 3 stables now Seavale Mews; 1876 E.F.P.A Lee T. plans for villa. [Edgcumbe]; Caple's Houses & Shop Pacific House & Roma House; 1860's were built before Alexandra Rd. and reckoned as Bellvue for a while; 1878 E.F.P.A 37 Alexandra Rd. Vickery plans for Bickley House; 1879 E.F.P.A Caple House/shops plan Guttenberg house; 1881 E.F.P.A House/shop James Bros., Reading House was started.

The Mercury for Feb. 21st 1874 under Local and General news states
'Alexandra Road Workmen are busily engaged in cutting this road thorough to the beach. This will be a splendid improvement to Clevedon - The Road extending in a direct line from the Bellvue Road to the Pier.'

By the following week they had changed their mind however when they said of the work in progress, on Feb. 28th 1874

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