Charlotte’s Town House at no. 21 Charlotte Street is nearly 150 years old and has a fascinating history which I hope to uncover on the following pages. It was built in 1871 at the height of the Victorian Era in Bath. It was one of the last houses to be constructed along the Street. The first were those on the opposite side which have a distinctive Georgian appearance to them from 1839. These were designed by the famous Bath Architect, George Manners. It would seem that he intended to repeat them on the other side and three of these were built at either end. Time or money must have run out as it wasn’t to be finished until thirty years later when local builder, Thomas Shackell filled the gap with distinctively Victorian style bow fronted dwellings.
The earlier history of the site on which the Street was to be built is worth considering. The field on which it was to rise formed part of the large Barton Farm which stretched to its farmhouse where the rear of Jolly’s department store is today. John Wood had leased the first of the fields that constituted in 1729 from Robert Gay to begin his Queens Square development. With his son, John, they went on to create Gay Street, the Circus and The Royal Crescent and surrounding streets. This western expansion of the city continued after them and by the beginning of the 19th century there was a need to connect the north west corner of Queens Square with the Upper Bristol Road which had become the main commercial route. After the death of Robert Gay in 1738 the estate went to the Rivers family and passed through the generations until its final sale of ground rents in 1920. It was from Lady Charlotte Rivers, the wife of Sir Henry Rivers that the Street was to named. Work began in 1839 from the western end on a terrace of eleven houses to culminate in two fine buildings. The first of these was Bath Savings Bank by George Alexander in 1841 in neo-Italian high renaissance style. and the second the Moravian Chapel designed by James Wilson in 1844 in Roman revival style. It wasn’t until 1854 that the Percy Chapel designed by Goodridge and Son was to rise on the opposite side.
At the rear of Charlotte Street were a large group of workshops and storage that fronted Monmouth Place. Among these was that of the builder Thomas Shackell at no.19. He had moved there in 1853, when he was 25. He paid £20 to Sir James Francis Rivers for a house with workshops on a 21 year lease. In a later advert in the Bath Chronicle, he describes himself as a Builder, Carpenter, Undertaker and General Contractor. He also was able to supply plans for “buildings in all its various branches”. He had earlier been in partnership with a Mr. Care and this was dissolved in 1853.
In 1856 he married Jane Stone and they went on to have seven children. The 1861 Census shows him as a master carpenter and builder at the same address. He continued to prosper and in the next census was shown as employing 10 men and 2 boys. In March of that year, he leased the adjoining plot to his house in Monmouth Place from John Inman, the Executor for the Rivers family for £22 a year. On this he buildt himself a workshop and houses, the designs of which are still to be seen in Bath Record Office. He later goes on to lease the remaining land that fronts Charlotte Street from the Rivers Estate and designed and built eight houses(15 - 21) on it during the same year.
It is sad to read that after all the time and effort in building the houses he lost financially and was declared bankrupt in 1873. In August of that year there is an auction of everything that he owned including his home and workshops. He was shown as living at Charlotte House (22) on the corner. He had let all the other houses on Charlotte Street from £17 to £37 a year rent. There was also another property, no. 32 Belvedere that was included in the Auction.
Thomas next move was away from Bath to Weston Super Mare, where at the age of 46 he took on the lease of the Bath Arms Inn with his wife, Jane. That is not the end of the story as he later returned back to his roots to his father's home : Crundale House, Prior Park Road, which is where he was living at the time of his death in 1904, aged 76.
The 1873 Rates for 21 Charlotte Street has Francis Edmund Potts briefly renting from Thomas Shackell who was living at 22 until the lease was sold in the Auction. He was a Chemist based at 18-19 Northumberland Place, off the High Street in Bath. He first appeared there in 1858, when he was living at Sydenham Villa, Lower Bristol Road. Francis was a regular advertiser in the Bath Chronicle and promoted ranges of Patent Medicines and Horniman's Pure Tea. He also sold his own brand of Corn Plasters with a number of endorsements of their benefits.
He only appeared to stay at 21 briefly until selling it to the Rev. Francis Edmund Cheshire in 1876. This gentleman was the incumbent at St. Marks’s Church, Wyke in Surrey from 1850 until 1877. He then retired to Bath with his wife and lived at 21 Charlotte Street where he prepared students for Public Schools and University Exams. He regularly advertised in the Bath Chronicle until his death in 1885. His wife continued to live at the address until she died in 1885. Both were buried at his former church at Wyke.
In 1890 Fraulein Emmy Meyhofer advertised for students to teach them German. She was staying as a lodger with William Britton Salisbury who the following year appeared in the census as a Clerk of Works, aged 56. His wife Mary was aged 39 and they had four young children living with them. They originated from Newbury where he was a Master Builder. In 1890 Edwin Wise was also shown at the address. He was a Wardrobe Dealer running his business at the rear of the house. The 1901 Census reveals that the house was occupied by a wealthy spinster, Mary Agnes Murgatroyd, who was aged 71 in that year. She was the former landlady of the Queens Square Tavern until 1882 when she retired. Directories show that Edwin Wise was still running his business from the address until 1910. The following year Miss Rosa Tice, aged 60 described as a Dressmaker and Lodging House Keeper lived there with her friend, Miss C. Skuse . Rosa was to reside there for nearly thirty years and was 92 when she died in 1939.
During the Second World War the house was taken over by the government and there were up to 15 men shown living there at that time. Afterwards Guy Phelps appears in the Rate Books as occupying it with five other people. In 1955 Harry and Nellie Creasey moved from Battle in Sussex to Bath and are shown living at 21 Charlotte Street. When he dies in 1961, aged 66, his wife remains at the property until it was sold in 1967 to Phyllis Cernajeves. She was born Phyllis Vera Hodge in 1925 and it was in 1957 that she married in Chippenham, Janis Cernajevs who originated from Latvia. They had a son, Alexander Nickoli who was born in 1964. The family were to occupy the house for nearly 50 years. After Janis died in 1996, his wife continued to live there until her own death in 2016, aged 91. Her son Alexander inherited the house and was to die tragically in 2018, aged just 54.
The following year the property was sold to Paul & Daria Mattingly who renovated the house and renamed it Charlotte’s Town House. Neil Mattingly