Yorkshire Chess History
Edmund Thorold’s Residences in Bath
Bath predates the occupation of Britain by the Romans, who called it “Aquae Sulis”.
The properties in Bath which were occupied by Edmund Thorold were in Great Stanhope Street and New King Street, the former being merely differently named continuation westward of the latter, the two being parts of a straight section of a road which once continued eastwards into the centre of Bath (according to a local resident).
From New King Street you go westward into Great Stanhope Street, from where the road continues further westward, first as Nelson Place West, on the left of which is a grassed open space, and then as Nelson Villas, the west end of which reaches the north bank of the River Avon.
The bulk of the older properties in Great Stanhope Street and New King Street date from the 1700s, and like most in the older parts of central Bath are terraced properties constructed of stone. The facing stone lacks the noticeable mortar jointing of brick buildings, so creating an impression of almost solid stone, which, if lacking in ornamental features, can look quite austere and almost prison-like.
One recurrent feature of these stone-built properties is an effectively continuous, slightly projecting band of stone between the ground floor and the first floor. This band normally bears the name of the street, which was frequently carved into the stone, but was sometimes merely painted on. Affixed street name-boards or name-plates are rare in the older parts of central Bath. Occasionally the renaming of a street resulted in the new name appearing painted rather confusingly next to the former name which was carved into the stone.
Some “posher” terraced property in Bath takes the form of crescents, i. e. curved terraces, which somehow look grander than straight terraces. Great Stanhope Street and New King Street are very straight and largely lacking in significant ornamental features. They have no front gardens, and the front doors open directly onto the street. They thus have a lot in common with what in the North of England would be called a back-street slum! Great Stanhope Street is about 200 yards long, and New King Street is about 400 yards long, the two thus stretching about a third of a mile.
Many terraced properties in Bath have a basement accessible from the pavement, so that between the building line and the pavement is a stairway to a basement door, and a little bridge from the pavement to the ground-level front door. On Great Stanhope Street and New King Street there was no such off-pavement access to basements, and the front doors open directly onto the pavement.
In Bath, residences on a street were normally numbered sequentially, one-two-three etc, along one side, with the numbering sequence crossing the road, so to speak, at the far end and returning back down the other side, so that the highest number is roughly opposite number one. Where one road is a straight continuation from another, the second one starts numbering with number one on the opposite side from number one of the previous road. Thus 1 New King Street is on the south side, while 1 Great Stanhope Street is on the north side.
The end properties of terraces often have their entrances on the side. Though the entrances are thus in a different street from those of the rest of the terrace, they nevertheless are included in the numbering sequence of the main part of the terrace. Numbers at the start and finish of streets are thus often not part of that street’s numbering system, but belong to that of that of the street round the corner.
On the other side of the road from 5 New King Street, and a little further along, roughly opposite 9 New King Street, was a Wesleyan Chapel, the foundation stone of which was laid by John Wesley in 1777, and which opened in 1779. A subsequent structure replaced the original one, and a plaque relating to the foundation stone and opening of the first one was affixed to the second one. Which chapel was present in Edmund Thorold’s day is unclear.
Number 19 New King Street, on the same side as 5 New King Street, was the residence of the astronomer William Herschel in 1781. It is now the William Herschel Museum.
Thomas Sheridan (1719-1788), actor and orthoepist, and Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), dramatist, lived on Great Stanhope Street around 1770 to 1772. Frances (“Fanny”) Burney (1752-1840), novelist, playwright and diarist, lived with her husband at 23 Great Stanhope Street from 1815 to 1818 (according to a plaque in St. Swithin’s churchyard).
Destruction in Second World War
Bath lay on the Luftwaffe’s route to bomb Bristol, ten miles away. Bath sustained damaged from bombing, whether intentionally aimed at Bath itself, or due to jettisoning of bombs by planes originally intended to bomb Bristol.
Following the RAF bombardment of Lübeck and Rostock, retaliatory “Baedeker” raids were launched against Exeter and Bath. Thus on the two nights of Saturday 25th to Monday 27th of April 1942 the Lufwaffe targeted Bath.
A Wesleyan chapel on New King Street was damaged by this bombing in April 1942. This chapel had replaced an earlier Wesleyan chapel, the foundation stone of which had been laid by John Wesley in 1777 (according to a plaque). The bomb-damaged second chapel had to be demolished and a new religious institution was eventually built on the site. There was at the same time damage on the other side of the road, so that numbers 6 to 9 New King Street were demolished and replaced by two wider-fronted properties numbered 7 and 8, resulting in the non-existence today of numbers 6 and 9. Edmund Thorold’s former residence and place of death thus narrowly escaped destruction.
A booklet entitled The Bombardment of Bath, April 25, 26, 27, 1942 (Mendip Press, 1942) includes a photograph, taken on the morning of Sunday 26/04/1942, of a hole in the road roughly in front of 7 and 8 New King Street, and a gap caused by the blast in the frontage of the houses. Another photograph shows the damage to the Wesleyan chapel on the other side of the road.
The western end of Great Stanhope Street suffered also from bombing (according to a local resident), but this damage isn’t specifically mentioned or pictured in the 1942 booklet, though it’s detailed on a website devoted to the bombing of Bath. The numbers on the north side, from east to west, now run from 1 to 7, while the numbers on the south side, from west to east, run from 17 to 32. Next to 17 Great Stanhope Street, at the very end of the street, is a property numbered 1, but that belongs to Cumberland House, which is part of Norfolk Crescent, round the corner from Great Stanhope Street. (See description of numbering, above.) This discontinuity of numbering, from 7 to 17, results from the demolition of 5 to 16 on the north side, and replacement with larger properties built intentionally as consisting of flats. Thus Edmund Thorold’s first residence in Bath was damaged by bombing during the war. It was the penultimate property on the north side of Great Stanhope Street going from east to west, and will have occupied roughly the middle part of the site of the present 7 Great Stanhope Street, which consists of flats numbered 42 to 54.
If you pace out the distance between front doors of numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4, and similarly measure the remainder of the road beyond number 4, then it is apparent that there were 12 or 13 numbers on that side beyond number 4. That ties in with 5 to 16 having been demolished.
On the opposite corner, the north end of the curved terrace of Norfolk Crescent was demolished due to bomb damage, and that was purpose built as flats, whilst retaining the outside appearance of the north end of the original crescent. That new part is called Cumberland House, and 1 Cumberland House has its door on Great Stanhope Street, next to 17 Great Stanhope Street, as earlier described.
15 Great Stanhope Street
Edmund Thorold’s first residence in Bath was near the west end of the north side of Great Stanhope Street. (Click here for a general view as it is today.) The modern building maintains the general appearance of the facade of the bombed properties, though the front doors are much more widely spaced, being fewer in number.
The area diagonally opposite is now an open grassed space, which according to a current resident of Cumberland House who explained to me about the bombing, would have been a similar open space back in Thorold’s day. It would be the open frontage to Norfolk Terrace, and hence not available for building. On a corner of this open space, on the corner of Norfolk Terrace and Nelson Place West, was a watchman’s sentry box, now a Grade II listed building, dating from c.1810, restored in 2012 (according to the plaque thereon). This will have been a day-to-day site to Edmund as he left home and returned again. (Click here for an image of the box.)
Edmund would be able to go for a walk along the River Avon (probably cleaner then than it is now), about 300 yards away after turning right out of his front door. If he turned right out of his front door, then right again along Nile Street and across Upper Bristol Road, then he’d soon be able to get through to Bath’s Royal Victoria Park, or walk up to 18 or 19 Park Street to visit his chess-playing fellow schoolmaster/tutor friend the Rev. Edward Pelham Pierpoint.
This is where Edmund was resident when his wife, Louisa, died, so presumably it is where Louisa died.
28 New King Street
If the Post Office Directory of Bath 1895 is to be believed, then Edmund Thorold resided here briefly, probably in the first half of 1894, before moving down to number 5 New King Street. This house was not touched by the bombing, and therefore the present building is the one of Thorold’s day. (Click here for an image of it as it is today.)
5 New King Street
This property was much the same as 15 Great Stanhope Street would have been, but is a little nearer the town centre. His landlord and landlady were Mr. Edwin Webber, who by occupation was a carpenter, and his wife Mrs. Ellen Webber, who between them had a daughter, Miss Ethel Webber. It was handy for the Wesleyan Chapel, a very short way to the left, on the opposite side of the road, though Edmund’s religious persuasions seem not to be clearly evident. (The grave inscription suggests belief in God.) It was also handy for number 56 New King Street, built around 1880, which is now a Christadelphian Hall, but which earlier had been the Marvell Cycle Company’s shop, judging from the painted adverts on the side of the building, though whether it was a cycle shop in Thorold’s day is unclear. (Click here for an image of 5 New King Street as it is today.)
Copyright © 2013 Stephen John Mann
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