2. Early History of the Site

The following account is based in part on material already presented by other researchers, but also on some additional work undertaken specifically for this project, on primary documentary records, chiefly in the Bristol Record Office. This research has been able to clarify some of the rather more obscure points of chronology, and correct some points of detail regarding the Wade Street development, and the nature of the community that came to occupy it; as a result, we probably now have a rather better appreciation of the site's historical and social context than has been possible in the past.

In terms of creating a clear chronology for the development of the site, there are contradictions and ambiguities that need to be addressed, and probably the best place to start is, therefore, with the person who is suspected to have been the site's main developer, Nathaniel Wade.2 We can never be certain about exactly when Wade's involvement in the Bristol property market began, although as a trained lawyer, and Town Clerk of the City of Bristol in his latter years, he was well placed to indulge in speculation, and can be seen to be doing so.

Wade first appears in this capacity in the Bristol Record Office (BRO) archive in 1692, in a transaction involving the manor of Filton (BRO 12148/29). Six years later, however, in 1698, we gain the first glimpse of his involvement in the area of land that was eventually to give rise to the street that still carries his name. In that year, Wade and others sold an acre of pasture called Great Wells (alias the Lamb Ground) in the parish of St Philip and Jacob, to found a poorhouse (BRO SF/D/9/1).3 Very unusually, the sale document contains a scaled, outline plan of the site, and from this, and from a brief description of the site itself, it is possible to show that this was the location of the poorhouse, shown on later maps as lying at the north-western end of New Street. This building survives, is Grade II Listed, and is now New Street Flats. The description of the site as Great Wells or the Lamb Ground is key here to defining the extent of Wade's interest in this area. The land on which Wade's poorhouse was constructed was, then, clearly part of Great Wells/Lamb Grounds, and we can show that from this site, that land extended to the north-east for a distance of at least 400m, just to the east of modern Eugene Street, and almost certainly would have encompassed all the land from what is now Lamb Street, north-westwards as far as the River Frome. This block represents an area c.6.4ha (just under 16 acres), and part of its name, the Lamb Grounds, may arise from an association with the Lamb Inn, which would have stood close to its southern side (a site now occupied by 13-15 West Street, and onto which street the inn fronted). This part of the city, immediately outside Lawford's Gate, had already been built up by the late medieval period, so that although the Lamb Inn itself is usually assigned a date in the mid-17th century, it was probably constructed on an earlier site. The Lamb was sadly demolished in the early years of the 20th century, but photographs taken just prior to its removal (such as BRO 40197/3) depict an extremely striking, triple-gabled, double-jettied timber structure, noble even in decay. Had it survived, it would undoubtedly be a listed building. However, surprisingly little is known about it, or its history, and it may be for this reason that it does not figure at all in Leech's recent major survey of Bristol's medieval and post-medieval housing (Leech 2014).4 The earliest documentary reference that could be found for The Lamb dates to between 1673 and 1694, and is among a series of leases for St Philips at the Gloucestershire Record Office (GRO D674a/T113 and T114). The lease in question actually relates to

waste ground called Poyntz Poole adjoining [the] Lamb Inn.

Poyntz Pool is depicted on some of the early maps of the vicinity around The Lamb, and refers to a large, open area immediately to the west of the site of St Jude's church, which was constructed in 1849. The origin of this name appears to be obscure. It was recorded as Pints Pool in the mid-18th century by John Rocque, on his map of Bristol. The name, or variants thereof, remained in currency until at least the late 19th century and it surfaces again, apparently for the last time in any record held at the Bristol Record Office, in a deed of 1881 issued by the Church Commissioners, who were appropriating land nearby for the construction of a Mission Room (BRO P. St Ju/Soc/1/a).5

Interestingly, while this document is virtually contemporary with the First Edition OS map of the area around St Jude's, the latter makes no mention whatsoever of Poyntz Pool, and it is not commemorated in any of the local street names. Its last appearance on a city map seems to have been on the second edition of Ashmead's Bristol survey of 1855. If this name is to be taken literally – as a memory of a body of water formerly lying in this area, perhaps subsequently backfilled – then we might also be able to suggest this as an alternative to the 'Great Wells'-type names that appear in the documents most closely associated with Nathaniel Wade's activities in this area.

While the south-western extent of Great Wells/Lamb Grounds may be marked by Wade's granting of a long lease for the construction of a poorhouse at the very end of the 17th century, the north-eastern extent appears to be given by another poorhouse, or at least the land on which it was constructed. A sale document of 1803 at the BRO involved a 'close of land, parcel of Crotwells or the Lamb Ground, in the out-parish of St. Philip and Jacob, with a workhouse' (BRO P.St P & J/OP/2). This was not, however, the poorhouse that we have already noted, at the north-western end of New Street, but an entirely separate structure, albeit serving the same purpose. It has now gone, but its site, on the western side of Pennywell Lane, and now occupied by the Vestry Hall, is recorded by the Bristol HER as 1007M. Remaining parts of this building were demolished in the mid-1920s. 6 In any event, the 1803 document, in explicitly mentioning that the site of the Pennywell poorhouse was also part of 'Crotwells or the Lamb Ground', allows us to infer the approximate extent of that estate, and it seems to have encompassed, as we have already noted, a substantial tract of land between the two poorhouses, and extending to the north-west as far as the south-eastern bank of the River Frome.

It is not possible to discern with any certainty the exact extent of Nathaniel Wade's interest in this block of Bristol real estate, in terms of whether he alone owned the entire area outright, or in partnership with others, or indeed how he came into the land, in whatever capacity, in the first place. A search of the catalogues of both the Bristol Record Office and the General Records Office failed to turn up any record that might have represented a straightforward conveyance or sale of the entirety of this little estate to Wade. All we can say is that Wade had come into at least part of the land by 1698, because as we have already seen, he, with others, is found disposing of some of it for a new poorhouse at that date; and that by 1707, if not considerably before, his interest had extended north-eastwards, because the line of the none-too-modestly named Wade Street, the subject of this report, had certainly been laid out by then, and Wade was in the process of dispensing with further blocks in the same area, specifically for the purpose of house-building. Information about the date by which Wade Street was in existence comes from two documents, both dated to that year; one in March, the other in August. It will be useful to quote here directly from these two records, in the latter of which, a lease, Wade is seen alienating an undeveloped building plot to one Edward Brown:

All that piece or parcel of void ground containing in breadth sixteen feet and in length eighty feet of the same breadth throughout, lying and being without Lawford's Gate … in a certain piece of pasture ground of the said Nathaniel Wade called Grotwells, alias the Lamb Ground, adjoining to a certain street lately laid out by the said Nathaniel Wade and called Wade Street … bounded on the west by the said street called Wade Street, on the south by a piece of ground lately let to William Slade, feltmaker, to build upon, and on the east by the said ground of the said Nathaniel Wade's called Grotwells alias the Lamb Ground, and on the north by a certain street intended to be laid out by the said Nathaniel Wade and added to a street lately laid out and called Anne Street (spellings modernised; BRO 3862/9a).

It is notable here, firstly, that the document does not describe Grotwells as a close, but as merely a 'piece' of pasture ground. We learn also that Anne Street had, by this time, been 'lately' laid out, and we can therefore infer that the 'certain street intended to be laid out' eventually became Little Anne Street. Also, from the abutments given, there is only one location in which a property can lie to be bounded on the west by Wade Street itself and on the north by Little Anne Street, and it is today occupied by a single large building of flats, encompassing the modern nos. 1-12 Little Anne Street, on the southern corner of Little Anne Street and Wade Street.7 It is regrettable that the conveyance does not actually specify the orientation of what was clearly a long, narrow building plot – i.e. whether its narrower (gable?) end fronted on to Little Anne Street or onto Wade Street. Later maps clearly show the plot boundaries running north-eastwards off Wade Street, suggesting that the building fronted onto it, but it seems as though the original plot width of 16 feet, which is extremely close to one statute perch, may have gone by the time of the first detailed map of the area, that of Plumley and Ashmead, in 1828. The first building that we can see on that site certainly seems wider than 16ft on that map, but this may be more apparent than real, and an idiosyncrasy of the survey. It is worth noting that the plot on which 17 Wade Street stands, the sole surviving building from Wade's own time that is actually in Wade Street itself, is almost exactly 16ft in width (Leech 2014, 182, figure 8.2e). Indeed, Leech explicitly states that no. 17 was:

Typical of many smaller houses in Nathaniel Wade's extensive development of c 1700-1710 … The original plan provided one room on each floor, three rooms in all, with the stairs between the stack and the rear wall (Leech 2014, 181).

It is also worth pointing out in this context that if the 80ft plot length is regarded as the 'standard' unit at least for the initial phases of the development, a tenement of that length running back from the Wade Street frontage, between Little George Street and Little Anne Street, would terminate at pretty much exactly the main 'spine' wall running north-west/south-east across the excavation area. This wall (context 1043) was identified as probably the earliest, or one of the earliest built structures on the site, and its position may have implications for where Pratten's Court fits into the overall sequence of events on the site (see further below).

The idea of a standard plot 'cell' is reinforced by the earlier of the two 1707 documents, which is actually not a lease but a mortgage:

This indenture made … [dating clause] … between Charles Slade of Barton Regis in the parish of Philip and Jacob in the county of Gloucester, feltmaker, of the one part, and Mary Fry, of the city of Bristol, widow, of the other part WITNESSETH that the said Charles Slade, for and in consideration of the sum of one hundred pounds … to him in hand well and truly paid by the said Mary Fry, before the ensealing and delivery hereof, the receipt thereof, to the said Charles Slade, doth hereby acknowledge and thereof and therefrom clearly doth acquit and discharge the said Mary Fry … hath demised, granted, bargained, sold and by these presents doth demise, grant, bargain and sell to the said Mary Fry, all that piece or parcel of ground containing in breadth 32 feet or thereabouts and in length eighty feet lying and being in the Hundred of Barton Regis in the parish of Philip and Jacob, in the county of Gloucester aforesaid, in a certain piece of pasture ground of Nathaniel Wade of the said city, esquire, called Grottwells, alias the Lamb Ground, adjoining to a certain street there lately laid out by Nathaniel Wade and called Wade Street, and is bounded by the said street on the west, by land let to William Barrett, carpenter, to build upon, on the south, by other part of the said field called Grottwell's … and on the east, and by other land let to William Slade, feltmaker, to build upon, on the north … (spellings modernised; BRO 12779/2).

Here we have, then, an example of a plot of double the 'standard' size basic cell of 16ft width that we have already seen being used in the later lease already quoted, but of the same standard length, i.e. 80ft. The abutments here are rather less helpful than in the later lease, but fortunately, from the fact that William Slade's plot is noted in both documents, and the spatial relationships that arise from that, we can at least say that Mary Fry's site encompassed as a minimum 42 Wade Street, and being a double width plot, perhaps no. 44 as well. These premises were on the north-eastern side of Wade Street, and towards its south-eastern end.

In any event, all we can say with confidence is that this plot must have fronted onto the north-eastern side of Wade Street. We also get some sense of the kind of people who intended to take a part in developing this area, in this case a carpenter and a feltmaker. These were clearly not men of the first social rank – indeed, far from it – and we have no way of knowing whether the houses they intended to build upon their own plots, adjoining that of Mary Fry, were for themselves or for renting out. But again, this reinforces the point that this might almost be considered a type of 'self-build' community – it is probable that Wade's part in it was merely as a straightforward facilitator and land agent, selling off plots of standard size or multiples thereof, and that it was men of rather lowly social status, such as William Barrett, William Slade, and Edward Brown, who really built the community, in the literal sense. From this we may also infer that Wade's development was not in fact planned as a coherent totality, laid out, and with construction taking place, over a relatively very short period of time; but appeared piecemeal, as and when building plots were sold off, in dribs and drabs. Wade's only part in the actual establishment of the development was, as we have seen, the laying out of the street grid. We have no evidence that Wade laid down any rules about the nature of the houses that he would accept in the development, in terms of plan, number of rooms, facilities etc. And this may, therefore, also mean that, from the outset, there was actually quite a wide variety of house types, as builders expressed their own individual priorities and aspirations in the physical form of the houses that they built. There may also be a hint of family relationships and interests in the new development; for it seems almost certain that the Charles Slade who released that plot of land to Mary Fry for building, is related in some way to the William Slade who already had a plot fronting onto Wade Street – it surely cannot be coincidence that both are described as feltmakers. This perhaps gives a strong indication of the kind of close family networks, 'the ties that bound' (Hanawalt 1986), which underpinned much of the social structure of this little community, and which we see with far more clarity from the 19th-century census records (Appendix 1).

The St Jude's development, however, from the outset clearly consisted of more than merely one very simple and basic type of house plan. Leech notes the development in the city of a rather more elaborate kind of house, with two ground-floor rooms:

From the early 18th century onwards, the two-room deep town house with the stairs alongside the rear room was a symbol of aspirations to bourgeois sociability. These aspirations did not always extend as far as removing cooking smells from the ground floor of the house. In the less prosperous streets of the city, builders continued to construct houses of this plan with the rear ground-floor room used as a kitchen (Leech 2014, 307).

On Little Anne Street, The Swan With Two Necks pub, like 17 Wade Street, is also a rare early survival, and seems to have been a building of this latter type. Leech assigns to it a date of c. 1715, although without giving any explicit source for that assertion. He describes the building as:

One of the larger houses in Nathaniel Wade's development … with a rear stairs plan. The ground and first floors have been much altered, but on the second the original arrangements survive. They show that the rear stack was larger than that at the front, originally serving the kitchen on the ground floor below. Houses of this plan may also have been built in more prosperous neighbourhoods (Leech 2014, 307-8, figure 10.52a).

We might usefully add to this that the ground floor frontage of The Swan conforms pretty closely to the 16ft 'standard' plot width (just ½ foot less than the statute perch) that, as we have already seen, appears in at least some of the early leases for Wade's development. 8 The analysis of 19th-century census material carried out by Rachel Heaton (Appendix 1) shows that all the houses in Pratten's Court, and those including 28-34 Wade Street, consisted of three rooms, and the archaeological evidence does not appear to show anything that would contradict a suggestion that these houses at least were of the same plan as the surviving structure at 17 Wade Street, i.e. three single rooms stacked one above the other. The same source shows that in Swan Court, running north-west/south-east behind the Swan With Two Necks, nos 1-7, on the north-eastern side of it, were only of two rooms; disposed, we must suppose, in a simple one up, one down arrangement. Clearly, archaeology can say very little about anything above the ground floor, but it is useful enough to know that here at least, at the very outset of the development, there may have been a standard, single-room plan in operation, which acted as the fundamental building 'cell', and from which all other developments and extensions would have sprung.

Contrary to some earlier views, we can also now suggest that the Frome Bridge, at the north-western end of Wade Street, must have been in place by 1707, since it seems to have been established specifically to serve Wade's new development in this area. A date of 1711 for the bridge construction has previously been favoured (e.g. Harris 1971, under Wade Street). 9 Wade Street itself can now clearly be seen as the main and earliest element of the development, the primary spine to which all the other roads were subservient, and from which they ran off. 10 Anne Street had been laid out by 1707, and Little Anne Street was about to be. Queen Anne was then the reigning monarch, but she died in 1714. The chronology of George Street might be thought to be related in the same way to George I, who acceded to the throne in the same year that Anne died – by that reasoning, George Street could not be any earlier than 1714. Leech notes that in bestowing these names, Wade was merely following the standard local practice of the day:

One individual developer followed the Corporation in allocating names that reflected loyalty to the Crown and Court; the civic naming of King Street, Queen Square and Prince Street was emulated by Nathaniel Wade in his naming of Great Anne Street, and Great George Street … (Leech 2014, 56).

There is, however, the question of exactly to which 'George' the name refers. If we accept Leech's view that the termination date for Wade's new development was 1710 (see quotation above), then it is unlikely that a reference to King George I was intended. 11 It seems clear that the sale of plots for development here was proceeding apace, and it is hardly plausible that George Street had not been laid out before, and perhaps considerably before, the accession of George I in 1714. In seeking an alternative context for the name, we need look no further than Queen Anne's own husband, Prince George of Denmark. George predeceased Anne by some six years, dying in 1708; this gives a rather more likely chronology for George Street. As one of the three major arteries of Wade's development, this cannot have been established much after Wade Street itself. Its name may, therefore, have been bestowed either in commemoration of Queen Anne's consort at the time of his death, or indeed earlier, as a conscious tribute to the royal husband and wife, reigning side by side, in the form of two new and adjacent streets in one of Bristol's newest, planned suburbs.

We cannot know whether or not the prefix 'Great' was of Wade's own coining for these two major elements of his new development. When John Rocque mapped Bristol in 1740, he depicted both as simply 'George's Street' and 'Ann's Street'. The name 'Great Georges [sic] Street' first seems to appear on a map in Benjamin Donne's survey of the city of Bristol of 1773, and it was also Donne who first identified Little George Street by name. Little Anne Street did not appear until the time of Ashmead's first survey in 1828, although, conversely, in that survey Ashmead did not trouble to apply the prefix 'Great' to either street, even though it was obviously current by that time. In any event, it seems clear that the need to distinguish between the respective parts of these two streets in their own right, rather than continuing as originally laid out, as mere extensions of already existing street lines, had arisen first in George Street. These extensions were clearly an early part of the plan since what later became Little Anne Street had already been described as 'intended' in 1707, suggesting that its formal laying out was then imminent.

Crucially, what we also take from this is that it shows that Wade himself was not a builder – on the contrary: his part in the development seems merely to have been to sell off plots on his Lamb Ground estate, later to become the Bristol district known as St Jude's, perhaps, as the document quoted above suggests, using a standard unit of sixteen feet by eighty as a basis, which could then be bought by speculative builders, presumably in multiples thereof if desired (cf. Leech 2014, 56-58).

2. Wade was a Bristolian who, as a high-ranking officer for the Duke of Monmouth, had fought against the forces of James II at Sedgemoor in 1685, but lived to tell the tale, in part by the simple expedient of changing sides after his capture (MacDonald-Wigfield 1985, 178-79; Wade 1989, 29-30).

3. Although in fact a lease, since it was for a term of 900 years, this was to all intents and purposes a sale. The document contains the extremely interesting information that the site for the new poorhouse, which was to be enclosed by a stone wall of specified dimensions, was bounded on its western side by 'a certain strip of ground formerly part of the citty ditch of Bristoll'. This therefore gives us a very good idea of the line of the city bounds right beside (i.e. to the west of) the surviving poorhouse building, running pretty much north-westwards from Lawford's Gate. The line of the city liberty boundary is shown on maps from the first edition of the Ashmead survey, 1828, onwards.

4. The name Great Wells is also rendered as Grott Wells, Crotwells, Crotwell or some variation thereof, in documents at the Bristol Record Office, but the main point here is that it is also almost invariably directly associated with 'the Lamb Ground', and the two names were clearly synonymous. Leech (2014, 41), describes Crotwell(s) as 'a large close', but no contemporary record could be found that explicitly describes this land in these terms. See for example BRO 3862/9a of 1707, and P.St Ju/D/1/a of 1716. Other sources specifically describe Grotwell/Lamb Ground as pasture, and with a single exception, the only closes in this area depicted on Millerd's map of 1673 are gardens attached to houses, or orchards. To the north and west of what Millerd calls the Gloucester Road, the land is entirely unenclosed, and one wonders if the inn name 'Lamb' may have originated in some connection with the grazing of stock in this area, and in particular sheep.

5. This is almost certainly the building that was constructed on the north-western corner of St Jude's parish church, fronting on to the south-eastern side of Lamb Street. It survives to this day and is now known as The Vestry

6. The HER quotes Reece Winstone in asserting that this structure was erected at roughly the same time as the poorhouse at the north-western end of New Street, to which we have already alluded, and in the establishment of which, Nathanial Wade had a direct and clearly guiding hand, so far as supplying the land for the site was concerned. However, it is more likely that the Pennywell Lane poorhouse was actually a rather later building, probably of the early 1730s, according to a late 18th-century lease, which in turn recites a conveyance of 1732 involving land for building the poorhouse (BRO 13815/1). The Pennywell building was in fact the parish poorhouse for St Philip and St Jacob.

7. From these abutments, as well, it seems as though the plot belonging to William Slade the feltmaker must have lain on what later became the site of 40 Wade Street.

8. We cannot be entirely certain whether or not the Swan With Two Necks was constructed from the very outset as a public house/inn – although even if it were, it is highly likely that its landlord/lady, would have lived there as well. The Swan is not, unfortunately, listed in the 1979 handbook of Bristol inns known to have been in existence between 1752 and 1764 – although as the editors of that work point out, the list, while comprehensive, is not exhaustive, owing to the difficulties of the entirely unindexed (at that date) source material in the Bristol Record Office; the Swan's absence from the listings is therefore by no means indicative of its use, or not, as a pub by the middle 18th century (McGrath and Williams 1979).

9. (Harris 1971) also seems to be the ultimate source of the oft-repeated assertion that Wade did not act alone in constructing the Frome Bridge at the north-western end of Wade Street, but had a partner in the scheme in the form of one Abraham Hook. However, we can find no sound basis whatsoever for this suggestion. Hook is mentioned in a small handful of documents in both the Bristol and Gloucestershire Record Offices, where he is usually described as a 'merchant' of Bristol. These five records range in date between 1717 and 1728, but while this is pretty much right for some kind of earlier connection with Wade, there was no evidence for it, or for any connection at all with Wade's St Jude's development, within these documents. In 1865, the 'old bank' of the Frome at this point was excavated to provide new, stone revetments for the bridge, which had been rebuilt in 1798. In the course of that work, two pigs of Roman lead from the Mendip mines were discovered, and it has been suggested that the depth at which they were found can only be explained if they had been dropped from a considerable height, from a bridge across the river. It has been further suggested that this was, therefore, an early crossing point of the Frome, which carried the known Roman road from Sea Mills to Bath (Margary 1973, 138, no. 54) across the river, and that Wade Street pretty much follows the line of this road. Whether consciously or not, Wade seems therefore to have been using an already well-established crossing point for his own bridge; it is even possible that elements of the putative Roman bridge actually survived in the early 18th century, perhaps to be re-used by Wade (Higgins 2002). Against this, however, Smith and Erskine suggest that any associated Roman remains associated with the discovery of the lead pigs (e.g. of a river crossing/road) may be buried by up to 1.2m of estuarine alluvium. Borehole evidence up to 8m in depth from the centre of Bristol (Bond Street) revealed plant and mollusc evidence of freshwater conditions, and also revealed pollen evidence for tree and plant species bordering the River Frome (Smith and Erskine 2000, 7). However, it still seems worth asking the question whether Wade Street itself deliberately and consciously re-used an earlier, Roman, road the position and course of which, although perhaps not its nature or date, might have been known to Wade.

10. In this respect therefore it seems at least possible that, contra Dr Leech, Wade's development was actually not 'centred on Great George Street' (Leech 2014, 41). This also raises the question of the date of James Millerd's second edition of his famous map of Bristol, first issued in 1673. The second edition is usually dated from internal evidence to 'c 1710', chiefly through the appearance of Queen Square, which was laid out in 1699, with building work at its most energetic in the years 1710-1715 (Foyle 2004, 161-62). It is therefore very odd that Millerd, although he clearly depicts the Frome Bridge at the north-western end of Wade Street, fails to show any part whatsoever of the new St Jude's development – if the second edition of his map is indeed to be dated to 1710, it seems a significant oversight on his part that he did not, for whatever reason, include it, as it must even by that date have represented an extensive new suburb in the eastern part of the city, albeit as yet incomplete.

11. However, it appears that there is also some contradiction on this point in Leech's account because elsewhere he also states that 'building leases for plots in these new streets were being granted in the first three decades of the 18th century, first by Nathaniel Wade, and then by his widow and daughter. This development added some 560 new houses to the city' (Leech 2014, 41). Later on, however, Dr Leech remarks that Wade's estate here was developed 'in the first two decades of the 18th century. (our emphasis; Leech 2014, 344). This cannot be satisfactorily resolved because no explicit reference is given to the source of 1710 as the notional date of termination of development at St Jude's, unless it be to Daniel Defoe's retrospective account of the area, as part of his travels throughout Great Britain. These were not actually published until the early 1720s, but Leech reports observations by Defoe of this area outside the city liberty, written apparently in 1710; Defoe's account, however, makes it quite clear that energetic building activity in this area, and the laying out of new streets, was in progress at the time of his visit (Leech 2014, 41).


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