3 Clarence Square
In 1832 the plot on which the house stands was sold to Joseph Middlemore Thomas, a bank clerk, on condition that he build a house on it within twelve months.
Joseph Thomas owned the house until his death in 1861. As the advertisement above from 1834 suggests, in its early years the house appears to have been occupied by a succession of short-term rentals. The first recorded occupants are Mrs Kennedy (1837-39) and Miss Wade (1840).
At the time of the first census in 1841, the house was in multiple occupancy, which was unusual for a Cheltenham house of this size at the time. Two of the households consisted of ladies of independent means – Mary Slade and Amelia Hamilton – and their families. However the building was also home to a plumber, William Mitchell, with his wife Jane; and a dyer, Henry Owen.
The Cheltenham Chronicle for 14 April 1842 advertised the property for rent fully furnished:
In 1843-44 the house was occupied by Mrs Margaret Kennedy and Mrs Crawford, and then in 1845 by Dr Morgan. In 1846 it was occupied briefly by the Hon. Craven Berkeley, MP for Cheltenham from 1832-1855, and in 1849 by Mrs Pennycuik.
1851-8: Miss Marian Lock
From 1851 to 1858 the occupant was Miss Marian Lock, a fifty year-old lady of independent means. Living with her in the house at the time of the 1851 census were a female visitor, Miss Sarah Barker, and three unmarried female servants.
1861-72: the Fluck family
Cheltenham was a popular destination for retirees and from 1861 to 1872 the occupant of 3 Clarence Square was William Fluck, a recently retired mill owner from Painswick.
Mr Fluck had owned Vatch Mill, a woollen mill at Slad, near Stroud, and the Gloucester Journal for 31 March 1860 announced that the business was being put up for sale by auction on Mr Fluck’s instructions, as he was retiring.
Vatch Mill, Slad. It was demolished in 1900.When he moved into 3 Clarence Square in 1861 he was a widower with two unmarried daughters, Jane and Elizabeth. There were also two live-in servants in the household.
By the time of the 1871 census William had acquired a new wife, Henrietta, and only one of the daughters was still living at home.
It appears that William Fluck first occupied the house as a tenant, but in 1871 he bought the property for £500.
1878-89: the Nicholls family
From 1878 to 1889 the house was occupied by Albert and Fanny Nicholls and their young family. Albert Nicholls (1849-1894) was the manager of the furniture department at Cavendish House and was in his late twenties when he moved in. In the 1881 census he and his wife were living in the house with their three young children Agnes (4), Elsie (3) and Reginald (4 months), plus two live-in servants.
Both the Gloucester Journal and the Cheltenham Mercury for 26 March 1881 reported in detail on a burglary at the house under the heading “The Robbery from Clarence Square”. Theophilus Costolo, a harness maker lodging at Gloucester Place (off Albion Street), was charged with stealing a silver sugar sifter, three egg spoons, a plated knife rest, four dessert forks, one pickle fork, a box of pens, sardine tongs, and dinner napkins, valued at £7. The reports give a fascinating insight into the layout and domestic routine of the house at the time. Here are some extracts.
The accused had apparently stolen the silver in order to pay for his lodgings at the Bunch of Grapes in Gloucester Place, and said he would not have committed the crime “had he not been the worse for drink on Saturday night.”
In 1883 Albert Nicholls provided a testimonial in the Cheltenham Examiner for a patent medical appliance known as the Magneticon.
The reference to public speakers and singers is interesting as Albert’s daughter Agnes Nicholls (1876-1959) studied at the Royal College of Music and became a well-known opera singer. After performing in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at the Lyceum Theatre in 1895 at the age of nineteen, she was invited to sing privately for Queen Victoria. She made her Covent Garden debut in 1901 and performed there until 1924. In 1904 she married the conductor Hamilton Harty. She was a principal of the British National Opera Company and later became one of its directors.
1891-99: the White Family
During the last decade of the nineteenth century the house was occupied by Mrs Mary White and her family. When she moved in in 1891, she was a 44 year-old widow with five children – Stanley (16), Florence (10), Violet (4), Leslie (2) and Arthur (10 months). She had three live-in servants, including a nursemaid for her young children.
1901-4: the Giller family
During this period the house was occupied by Francis Giller, who was involved in running the family grocery business on Prestbury Road (now the site of a hairdresser and a beauty salon). Living with him were his wife Anne and their three young daughters, Marjorie, Muriel and Phyllis. They had two live-in servants, including a mother’s help.
1911-29: the Sims family
From 1911 to 1929 the occupants were the Sims family. Richard Sims, a stockbroker and a widower in his late sixties, took up residence in 1911 with his two unmarried daughters. On her father’s death his elder daughter Anne, a dressmaker in her forties, became head of the household.
By the 1930s, many of Pittville’s larger houses were in multiple occupation again. In the 1939 Register, taken at the outbreak of the Second World War, there were two married couples living at 3 Clarence Square: John Young, a lorry driver, with his wife Florence; and John Cadenhead, a circular sawyer, with his wife Esther.