Formosa House (formerly Glenville Cottage), Northfield Terrace

This listing gives information on owners and occupants until 1945: ownership information is shown in green.

The earliest reference to the property is its conveyance to Richard Billings of Cheltenham, surveyor, in 1835; this is cited in a deed of 1858, but unfortunately it does not say who conveyed it.

1841 Glenville Cottage was occupied by Richard Billings’s daughter Charlotte Edmonds, aged 35, a school mistress, and her daughter Arabella, aged 15.

1847 The Pump Room subscription book gives Glenville Cottage as the address of Mr E. Billings, presumably Edward Billings, Charlotte’s brother (see above).

1850 The Pump Room subscription book gives Glenville Cottage as the address of a Mr Jones.

1851 The occupants were Hempster Bucknell (30), described as a porter and cabinet maker, and his wife Lucy (31), who ran a children’s dressmaking business employing ten people. They were sufficiently well-off to have a live-in house servant.

Glenville Cottage with its distinctive bow window Cheltenham Old Town Survey (1855-7)
1858 The owner Richard Billings died in 1856 and left the property (which was mortgaged) to his daughter Charlotte Edmonds, along with other properties.

1858-9 Slater’s Commercial Directory gives Glenville Cottage as the address of a lawyer called Thomas Jones.

1861 The house was occupied by Susannah Winstone (66), a widow, described as a proprietor of houses; her daughter Elizabeth (33), a dressmaker; her daughter Martha (29), a milliner; and her son Samuel (40), for whom no occupation is given.

1871 Glenville Cottage was occupied by Edwin White (35), a Beer Agent and his wife Emily (30). Also living with them were Edwin’s widowed sister-in-law Harriet (36), a milliner, and her two-year old daughter Mary.

1880 The owner Charlotte Edmonds died, leaving the house to her daughter Arabella Edmonds.

1881 The house was unoccupied in 1881. However by 1882 a Mr J. Thorne had set up business there as a tea dealer and renamed it Formosa House.

Cheltenham Mercury, 29 April 1882
1891 Formosa House was occupied by a large and remarkable family headed by Joseph Coles (44), who was described as an organist and was blind. One website claims that he was the organist at All Saints Church, but this is unsubstantiated, and Adolph von Holst is known to have been the organist at this time. In addition to the other members of his family – his wife Annie (43), his stepson George (14), a baker’s apprentice, his three sons William (11), Christopher (10) and Sydney (8), who were all at school and his daughter Annie (3) – Joseph also had two blind men living at Formosa House as boarders. They were Samuel Pearce (28), a basket maker, and William Clare (15), a basket maker’s apprentice. This makes a total of nine people living in the house, three of them blind.

In June 1889 Joseph appeared before the Police Court as a witness in the case of Thomas Curtis, a blind man who lodged with him and who was being summoned to pay for a child he had fathered. Joseph is described in the newspaper report as the Superintendent of the Blind Institute.

The Institute for the Blind referred to in the article is presumably the Cheltenham Workshops for the Blind at Clareville House, 47 Winchcombe Street. They continued in existence until the 1950s.

The Frances Owen Home referred to in the article was at 28 Cambray Place. It provided accommodation for up to three months for girls who had “fallen into moral danger”.

In August 1889 Joseph was back in court to speak in defence of the same man, who was now charged with “arrears of bastardy” (ie failing to pay child support).

1901 The Coles family were still at Formosa House, but considerably reduced in number. The three sons appear to have left home and Joseph (now 54 and described as a teacher of basket work and music and an organist) was living there with his wife and daughter and a lodger, Thomas Smith, another blind basket maker.

1901 The owner Arabella Edmonds died, leaving the house to Sarah Gregory. Her relationship or connection to Arabella is unknown. There was still a mortgage debt of £500 on the house, although the interest had been paid.

1911 Formosa House was occupied by Ethel Groves (23), a shopkeeper/grocer, and her lodger, Helen Elsy, an assistant in a jewellery shop.  In 1912 Ethel Groves married Albert Trigg.

1922 The owner Sarah Gregory sold the house to Ethel Trigg, her tenant, for £300. This is probably the first time that the house was “owner-occupied”.

1944 “On March 9th, suddenly, at Formosa House, Northfield Terrace, late of 115 Promenade, Jane Atkins, aged 87. Funeral service St. Paul’s Church, 2.15 Monday.” (Cheltenham Chronicle, 18 March 1944).