House History: An in depth look at the 1764 Conveyance for 14 The Circus, Bath
17th July, 2018

One unsuspecting box in our archive turned out to be quite a gem! A collection of deeds and documents relating to the Circus in Bath, dating back to the mid eighteenth century when the houses were first built.

Bath has some of the finest Georgian architecture around and the Royal Crescent and the Circus have to be two of the most notable residences in the City, so you can imagine our excitement when we stumbled across these deeds!

In this blog we take an in-depth look at the Conveyance dated 19 June 1764 for a property in the Circus.

The first people to appear in the Conveyance are those who made up the parties. The first party included John Wood, a Gentleman of Queensquare in the Parish of Walcot, and also Charles Rotton, a Gentleman of Bath. The second party comprised of Andrew Sproule, an Esquire of Bathford, and Richard Roberts, also a Gentleman of Bath. Straight away we are told Richard Roberts was a ‘person nominated in trust for the said Andrew Sproule’.

The document goes on to say that the sum of five shillings has been paid by Sproule to Wood and Rotton and that the deed will transfer the said land. The land is defined as being ‘all that plot piece or parcel of ground containing in front or southward next to a certain open area called the kings circus…bounded on the east with ground and buildings granted or intended to be granted unto or in trust for Mr Charles Rotton…with other ground and buildings…intended to be conveyed unto or in trust for the said Andrew Sproule to built stables…and all that messuage or tenement and dwelling house thereon or on some part or parts thereof erected and built or now erecting and building by the said Andrew Sproule being from Brook Street the fifth house in the northward flank or pile of building in the said kings circus which said piece of ground thereby granted and released is part and parcel of nine acres…commonly called Barton Grounds situate lying and being within the parish of Walcot aforesaid’. Today this area is home to No. 14 The Circus.

The Conveyance then describes how John Wood acquired the land in the first place. Wood had purchased the land off ‘Thomas Garrard late of the Inner Temple London Esquire/since deceased/and Margaret his wife’ along with Samuel Purlewent, also a Gentleman of Bath, who had died by the time of the Conveyance. The parties had signed a deed dated 1 November 1754 for nine acres of land at a yearly rent of £163 (approximately £20,000 in today’s money).

There is mention of another deed dated the 6 November 1759 which granted the sole use of the vaults underneath the pavements of the Circus ‘and also the free use of a certain street called Gay Street and of all ways leading to or from a certain square called Queensquare and the said street called Gay Street and of all other ways made designed or included in the said nine acres of ground. This secures access to the three roads leading into the Circus.

Andrew Sproule had to pay a ground rent of twelve pounds every year to John Wood, with payments due ‘at the four most usual feast days of payment in the year’. These were the feast days of the Virgin Mary, St John the Baptist, St Michael and Christmas Day. The rent was to be paid ‘at or in the guildhall of the said city of Bath by even and equal portions’ with the first payment due on 24 June 1768, the Nativity of St John the Baptist. If Sproule did not pay within forty days of the feast day, then Wood had the right to enter the premises and take goods equivalent to the sum due. If Sproule did not pay within three calendar months, then Wood could enter the premises and make use of them until the rent had been satisfied.

The Conveyance then goes on to ensure the outside of all premises on the Circus is uniform. No chimneys could be altered without the consent of John Wood and stonework was to be cleansed and tombed so no cracks appeared. The deed also contains a clause about the colour of the woodwork; ‘the whole building may be of one colour and also shall and will paint all of the woodwork in the outside of the said messuage and also the outside street door with a quite white colour’.

Party walls were not to ‘extend above sixty feet from front to rear’ and Sproule would be responsible for the maintainance. Any disputes about the party walls were to be referred to John Wood ‘whose determination shall be final and conclusive’.

Sproule was also responsible for the repairing, maintaining, cleansing scouring, glazing and paving of the messuage, as well as the ‘ways posts rails glass windows pavements sinks sewers drains gutters [and] vaults’.

The Conveyance then goes on to detail the maintenance of the paths, pavements and coachways. Stone plinths of one foot four inches were to be installed as bases for the ‘neat light iron rail and palasadoes’. Pavements were to be made ten feet wide and made with ‘the best sort of stone of the pursuant kind and shall and will raise the same one foot above the plinthing of the coachway and boarder it with a good deep strong course of pitching stone’. The pavements and coachways were to be well maintained and repaired when required. Another clause stated that there ‘shall not nor will at any time or times hereafter lay or putt or permit or suffer to be laid or put any soil or rubbish before the said messuage’.

Another clause in the Conveyance relates to the surrounding area; roads in the nearby area must be kept in good repair including Gay Street, Miles’s Court and George Street. Today we see that the area is still well maintained including the Bath Assembly Rooms, Jane Austin’s home as well as the modern shops, bars and restaurants.

Those living in the Circus cannot ‘follow the trade of a butcher slaughter man poulterer tallow chandler melter of tallow soap boiler distiller victor victualler alehouse keeper farrier blacksmith brazier coppersmith pewterer baker currier leather…founderer plumber printer stone cutter cooper or bookbinder or any of these or any other nuisance trade’. If this breach is made John Wood can enter and repossess the messuage until the trade is removed.

The end of the Conveyance states that the building works need to be finished by the 12 November, and the messuage must be of the stated height and ‘have the same ornaments in front as the other messuages already built in and fronting the said circus’. If the messuage were to be destroyed by fire, it must be rebuilt in the original manner.

This Conveyance has fantastic detail and allows us to see that John Wood’s vision was made a reality. The clauses in this Conveyance have been adhered to right through to today, including the colour of the front doors. Detailed descriptions like this also appear in many other deeds, which can be very useful when researching the history of demolished or ruined houses.

Other deeds and documents in this collection include other Conveyances, Mortgages and an 1873 Auction Catalogue for 11-30 The Circus, 7, 8 & 12 Bennett Street, 2-30 Gay Street and 1-11 Miles Buildings, Bath. Not all of the deeds from this collection have been indexed yet, but we’re hoping to add more to our website soon.

To search this collection for yourself, simply enter ‘Circus’ in the street field of our property search.