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Saturday, 23 February 2013


I broke my clavicle at the beginning of the month – muddy hillside, lost footing, briefly airborne, the stuff of You’ve Been Framed. I’m on the mend, but typing is still a one-handed, wrong-handed inconvenience; so forgive a short and self-indulgent article this week.

I’m reminded of the fall of an ancestor, and it makes me count my blessings. I’ve written here many times of my 3x great uncle Charles Castle. The contents of his writing case handed down to me have been the source of many good Tall Tales. Amongst his many roles in life was that of a Gloucestershire magistrate, and he lived in later life at Frome Lodge in Stapleton, just north of Bristol.

Charles Castle (1813-1886)

On June 29th 1882, two days after his 69th birthday, he had some business in the city centre which took him to Broadmead. Originally the site of a Dominican priory, the area became part of the expanding city in the eighteenth century. John Wesley founded a Methodist chapel there in 1739 and a Quaker meeting house also opened ten years later.

It became a thriving commercial district, boasting two handsome arcades, but suffered greatly with much of Bristol from heavy bombing during World War Two. The area was hastily rebuilt in the 1950s, and has been redeveloped since the 1980s in a series of shopping malls, the modern equivalent of those old arcades.

Broadmead Upper and Lower Arcades after the Bristol blitz of 1940-41; the Lower Arcade was rebuilt and survives today 
(photos from the wonderful Flikr stream of brizzlebornandbred)

Back in 1882 Uncle Charles was riding through Broadmead in his trap when his horse stumbled and fell. With the shafts of the trap fixed either side of the horse, the vehicle tipped violently sideways and threw Charles out onto the street.

Luckily a policeman was on patrol at the scene. PC Ravenhill sprang into action. Perhaps he had given testimony at one of the injured magistrate’s court sessions and now recognised him. Certainly he now bundled my battered old uncle into a cab and dispatched it to Bristol Infirmary.

There they patched him up. Although no bones were broken Charles had landed heavily, with severe bruising to his knees and the back of his head. He must have had a very sore time of it back at Frome Lodge.

Frome Lodge, Stapleton, now divided into apartments

But we know from the census taken the previous year that the sixty-nine-year-old will have been thoroughly looked after. As well as his wife Ada and two teenage daughters Mary (18) and Frances (15), he had four female servants. Somehow from his photograph I don’t imagine him to have been an easy patient, so my sympathies are with his cook Sarah Manley, parlour maid Elizabeth Rowsell, house maid Alice Davies and the daughters’ “school room maid” Emily March – at 20 years old barely older than her pupils. With seven women at his beck and call I dare say the recuperation of Uncle Charles, a retired major of the Gloucestershire Militia, was as comfortable as it could be.

I of course have been a model patient. And I give thanks to the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for patching me up.


  1. Hello

    I have been living at Frome Lodge since August the 8th 2013 and my Girlfriend and I are very interested in the history of the place after wandering around the grounds behind the trees and discovering other parts of the building (presumably other parts of the house such as basements, kithcens?)

    If you could provide any pictures of the place during Charles Castle and/or some general information we would greatly appreciate it, thank you :)

  2. Hi Craig, I'm so jealous! Having inherited the Captain's letters, I feel like I know him and would love to visit his old home. Unfortunately I don't have any old photos of the place, or much information about. I don't even know if it was built for him. But there are references in the letters, and from them and the census returns one can build up the sort of picture of life there which I've described in this article. I hope you enjoy your time there, and if you do learn any more about the place I'd love to know. (You can contact me privately via the links to my website above.)

  3. Update on Frome Lodge - I'll be posting an article about the architcture of the place in January 2014.


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