Cirencester Building Studies
A House and its owners:
No. 33 Dyer Street, Cirencester
By Marjorie Klitz
Editor’s Note: Revised April 2017
Marjorie Klitz was an active member of the Society and its Hon. Secretary from 1973-1981. This article was originally published in the Society’s Annual Report and Newsletter No. 12, May 1969-May 1970, pp.11-13, and reprinted with additions in Newsletter No. 54, Autumn 2011, pp.08-12 as ‘Two old Cirencester houses’.
The town’s many fine houses have little written history of ownership. Although architecturally dateable, further information is seldom obtainable. Title deeds studied systematically could help bring ownership to light, and the story of the Old House, Gloucester Street, written up in the 1967-8 Newsletter shows links with Gloucester House and with the Slatter family. The story of No. 33 Dyer Street also links with Gloucester House, across the road, and with the Slatter family, and also with the Quaker family names of Smith, Cripps, and Pitt mentioned in ‘A Quaker Squire of the Cotswolds’ (Newsletter 9 May 1966-May 1967, 7-10).
On 22nd March 1805, Sara Smith, widow of John Smith, and her son Thomas sold Gloucester House to Thomas Jenkins, together with the site on the north side of Dyer Street consisting of a plot of land, orchard and dwelling house, then occupied by Sarah Dubber. This house and two acres of ‘greensward’ had previously been owned by Francis Freeman who sold to John Cripps who later sold to John Smith.
Thomas Jenkins was a cheese factor and he built on the site a counting house, warehouse, stabling, cottages and other buildings partly incorporated in the present property. Two years later he died and left a widow, Margaret, with a family to bring up and this situation caused the property to be broken up. The late owner’s mother in law, Elizabeth Chapman, and his brother, Henry Jenkins, acting as trustees, sold the north side property to Margaret for £700, so that she could erect a dwelling for herself and her children, which however she does not seem to have done until at least 1820. Gloucester House was sold by the trustees to Maurice Bennett Edwards, corndealer, and from this date, 1808, the two properties were again in different ownership.
Margaret appears to have carried on her husband’s business of cheesefactor, apparently with some financial success, for in 1819 she made the business over to her son Thomas in exchange for an annuity of £200 quarterly and a penal sum of £3,000.
In 1820, in digging cellars, a fine ‘Orpheus’ Roman pavement was found but although a description and drawings are extant, a recent excavation found no traces in situ, neither is the whereabouts of any of the pavement known. These were presumably the cellars of the present house, built at last by Margaret Jenkins, thirteen years after mention of it in the deeds
In 1826 Thomas Jenkins became bankrupt, dying shortly afterwards. Margaret fades out of the story, having lost husband, son and no doubt her annuity, but it is hoped her younger children were able to protect her. The property was put up for auction at the Ram Inn and was bought by a member of the Cripps family for £1,860. Was this the same family buying back their property of 1778? Part of it was sold off to Mildred Sanger, Mildred being a man’s name. He was a timber merchant but ran into financial difficulties, and the property reverted to the Cripps family, while Mildred Sanger became an old and colour man.
In 1837, Edmund Slater, wine merchant, purchased the property for £1,600, but Cripps continued to lease it. However, in 1846 Slatter sold to Nehemiah Malpuss for £1,400 – a decrease in value perhaps due to the ‘hungry forties’ when the economy was unstable. Maybe it was the fall in the cheese trade that caused some part of the premises to be let as printing works and offices of the Wilts & Glos Standard, connected with names Daniel Bretherton and John Humphries Lane.
Ten years later, Malpuss sold to Isaac Pitt, a well known Quaker, also in the cheese trade. The indication is that throughout this period the buildings were used primarily for the cheese trade and incidentally as a printing establishment. Isaac Pitt, making a will in the year before he died, left his estate to his wife and children with his son-in-law, Richard Gopshill Brown, and Stanley Pumphrey, ironmonger of Cirencester, as trustees.
His son, Daniel Pitt, was in possession until 1900 when it was bought by Dr Charles MacKinnon who lived and practised here until 1929. It was he who named it ‘Davaar’, the name of a lighthouse island in the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland. A succession of doctors lived in the house, which in the general re-numbering of the town’s houses became No. 33, replacing its original No. 93.
In 1948, together with Gloucester House opposite, No. 33 was added to the national schedule of buildings of architectural and historic interest and there is no doubt that these two fine houses facing each other are an important contribution to the Dyer Street scene. Since 1950 it has been in its present ownership [the author, Ed.], who for some years carried on the profession of a teacher of dancing.
The old warehouse has now been converted into rooms and incorporated in the main residence but its entrance and loft doorway can still be traced. The stabling is a garage and one cottage adjoining the warehouse still stands, though unoccupied.
Traces of lettering on the front of the house make an interesting study. The upper line reads fairly plainly ‘Wilts and Gloucestershire’ but the lower line shows earlier lettering with other lettering similar to the upper line superimposed. ‘Warehouse’ and ‘manufactory’ can be made out but the portico obliterates some letters.
Some of the apple trees in the drive and garden must have been part of the orchard and in the north boundary wall can be seen the old gateway which gave access to the cottages, formerly part of the property, and still occupied. A modern touch is the recent addition in the house of a fine Cotswold fireplace built by a member of the Guild of Gloucestershire Craftsmen and bearing his mason’s mark.
These notes on the known history of the past two hundred years of this site are but the conclusion of a story starting in Roman times.
Interestingly an Afterword to this article was published in the Society’s 2nd volume of its Cirencester Miscellany, published in 1991 (pp.20-1) which moved the story forward. It reported that ‘the house, no 33 Dyer Street with a variety of owners, occupiers and names has been referred to as no 93 Dyer Street, ‘Davaar’, or at present The Mews House. Built in the early nineteenth century by Thomas Jenkins, a cheese factor, the property has enjoyed a number of uses: cheese warehouse, printing works, doctor’s surgery, bookshop, private residence.’
During the 1939/45 war the basement, which runs under the whole length of the house, was used as a public air raid shelter, the entrance being down steps in front of the building.
Linda Viner as Editor of Cirencester Miscellany picked up a cross-reference to such an air raid shelter in Dyer Street (assuming that this was the same one) in the Wilts & Glos Standard for 01 March 1941. Under the headline Ancient Pavement Found, ‘The Surveyor reported that during digging operations for a public shelter in Dyer Street a tessellated pavement in good preservation had been found. Full particulars were being tabulated, and the place where the pavement was discovered would be marked on a map of the town’.
But as we well know, the several Romano-British mosaics of Dyer Street are definitely another story altogether!Please Note: This remains private property and there is no public right of access.