In grainy photographs taken more than a century ago, members of the Carr family gaze back at me. Who were the Carrs? And what is their significance to Twerton?
The Carr family came originally from Castle Sowerby in Cumberland. They had become substantial landowners by the 18th century and went on to be involved with the woollen trade. In the late 1840s the brothers Thomas, William and Isaac, bought Charles Wilkins’ riverside cloth mills at Twerton.
The Carrs also acquired from Wilkins the coal mine at Pennyquick, and Wood House which once stood where the bungalows at Woodhouse Road are situated today. Wood House had been damaged by fire but was rebuilt by the Carrs in the style of an Italian villa (1).
Some of the Carr family at Wood House
Top row: Dora Mary, Jonathan Malcolm, Christopher Ralph and Emily Edith Carr
Middle: Ina Carr. Bottom row: Mrs Emily Marian Carr and Mr Jonathan Carr
Thomas and William Carr together with their sister Mary Ann, moved to Twerton from Penrith in Cumbria to manage the mills and supervise the rebuilding of Wood House (2). The Carrs soon became very influential in Twerton. Thomas Carr became the head of the Parish Council (3) while William Carr handsomely installed a new organ in the west gallery of the church. The Carr family also purchased a large field called Poolemead and had Poolemead House built there (4).
View of the river looking toward the mill buildings on Weston island
When Thomas Carr died in 1854 his brother Isaac took charge of the mills and established Isaac Carr & Co. The company gained an international reputation as a producer of high quality woollen materials and in 1860, a new mill was built on Weston Island to handle the middle stages of the wool processing (5).
The Pennyquick coal mine is recorded as having been owned by Isaac Carr in 1869 but managed by Henry and Daniel Brown who were Quakers. The mine closed in 1888 due to ongoing losses (6). When Isaac Carr died in 1875 the management of the firm passed to his sons Thomas, William and Jonathan (7). Jonathan is the bearded gentleman in the top photograph who resided with his wife and children at Wood House.
Wood House decorated with flags
Up until the demolition of Wood House in 1965, the building had seen little in the way of alterations since the mid 19th century. It provided a striking illustration of how the upper-class in Victorian society had lived. The author Ruth Coard has written a description of the old house:
To enter the front door of Wood House in 1965 was like stepping back a century, and to pass through to the service rooms which survived the fire was a further step back to the early years of the nineteenth century or before. Such conveniences as warm-air heating, gas lighting and plumbing were for the use of the family only, not for the servants.
A cistern of rain-water lay beneath a trap in the housekeeper’s room, and near the wine stores, larders, kitchen and fuel stores was a deep brick-lined ice-house, a luxury more often situated out in the grounds of a large house.
Cooking was done by means of the great range and spits turned by a smoke-jack in the chimney. All of these, as well as the richly decorated reception rooms, the magnificent hall and stone staircase, and the carved display cabinets in the gallery, suffered by vandalism and were finally demolished by the corporation in 1965 (8).
The grounds of Wood House featured extensive lawns and tennis courts, as well as a considerable walled kitchen garden. The glasshouses contained tropical plants, some of which were probably acquired by Jonathan Carr during his travels to the Far East (9). Much later it was discovered that the old cellars of Wood House had not been properly filled in, when some modern gardens at Woodhouse Road suddenly fell into a large hole (10).
Photographs of Ina Carr at Wood House and Jonathan Malcolm Carr
Another of the Carr family homes: Poolemead House
It is no exaggeration to say that by the early 1900s the Carr family owned most of the property around the Twerton Village. In 1909 the Carrs donated land adjacent to Innox Road to be used as the recreational area called Innox Park. A year later, Jonathan Carr laid the foundation stone of Twerton Elementary School, to which the Carrs had donated the sum of £1500.
Laying the foundation stone of Twerton Elementary School in 1910
During the First World War the Carr Mills were commissioned to produced military fabrics, but the economic depression of the 1920s marked the beginning of the end of the Carr textiles industry at Twerton. The firm’s specialisation in quality materials made it easy for cheaper manufacturers to compete with them. Family involvement with the company ceased in 1930 with the retirement of Malcolm and Isaac.
The firm itself went into receivership in 1954, having been crippled by damage to the mills during the Blitz of Bath in 1942 (11). Over the decades, the life situations of many hundreds of Twerton people would have been linked to their employment at the Upper and Lower Mills.
An early aerial shot of Twerton showing the Carr Mills
After the Second World War there was pressure to find land for new housing. A compulsory purchase order was placed on the Carr family estate at Twerton. This consisted of most of the Village of Twerton and land stretching from the Newton Brook to The Hollow, including Whiteway. Jonathan Malcolm Carr and Ina Carr, the last members of the Carr family at Twerton, were given just £15,000 and were allowed to stay at Wood House for the rest of their lives.
Jonathan Malcolm vigorously tried to fight the order but without success. Ina died in 1963 having requested that she be laid to rest in a walled grave – perhaps reminiscient of the walled garden at Wood House that she knew as a youth (12).
Johnathan Malcolm was a very recognisable figure at Twerton, as he used to walk about wearing a black top hat and carrying a shepherd’s crook. The old men of Twerton would touch their cap or forelock when they saw him, while the women would curtsey (13). He died at Poolemead House in 1970 (14).
There are no known surviving Carr family members – i.e. people descended from the Carr family at Twerton and bearing the surname of Carr. There are however, several known blood relatives of the Carr family alive today.
The legacy of the Carr family
A number of local amenities that are in use today can be traced back to the Carr family. Twerton Elementary School to which the Carrs had donated, continued as various schools for many years before becoming an elderly person’s home. Now called the Culverhayes Care Centre, the home is located at Lymore Avenue overlooking the former Brickfields.
Innox Park, given to the people of Twerton by the Carrs, still functions as a playing area for children and a place where people walk their dogs. It is located at the far end of Freeview Road. Twerton Village Hall was donated by the Carrs in 1920 and continues to operate as a venue for community events and weekly activities.
Aerial views of the Culverhayes Care Centre and Innox Park
Poolemead House is now used as a base for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf, and a housing block for semi-independent deaf people called Pennard Court has been built in the grounds. A home for deaf people who are more profoundly disabled has also been built next to the old Poolemead House building. Behind this complex, land donated by the Carrs to be used as premises for the care of the disabled, has been turned into the Bath Community Resource Centre for adults with learning disabilities.
Left: Poolemead House with the Bath Community Resource Centre under construction.
Right: flats and bungalows of Woodhouse Road where Wood House once stood.
Place names around Twerton recall the influence of the Carr family. Woodhouse Road gets its name from Wood House, and one of the blocks of flats there is named Carr House. The nearby wood later became known as Carrs Wood. Isaac Carr was born at How Hill, Castle Sowerby, in Cumberland. A terrace at the top end of Twerton High Street is also called How Hill, but it appears that the name is not traceable to the Carr family, as Twerton already had dwellings called Howe Hill Cottages by the late 1820s (15).
On the Lower Bristol Road, the former entrance to the Carr Mills is marked by two great stone gateposts that many of the working people of Twerton would have passed through most days. And between the rustling trees near Woodhouse Road, a ghostly flight of stone steps that belonged to Wood House can still be seen among the piles of fallen leaves.
Stone steps that once belonged to Wood House
A large collection of English glass over the centuries was removed from Wood House and is now proudly displayed at the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath. In addition, the alabaster sculpture paid for by a Reverend A. R. Carr and depicting the Last Supper, remains an attractive focal point within the parish church of St Michael and All Angels (16).
The early photographs that the Carr family took are an important historical resource, vividly bringing to life aspects of Twerton’s past. More of these photographs can be viewed in the section below. Some of the Carr family graves are to be found at the parish church, while others can be seen at the Bellotts Road cemetery about a mile away.
The other side of the coin
Despite the Carr family’s contribution to Twerton and their acts of generosity, it is clear that the Carrs ran a classic woollen mill – with many of the grim conditions and tragedies that these types of factory were notorious for:
* The use of child labour
* Appalling working conditions
* Accidents and fatalities on the machines
* Low pay
* Breaches of the Factory Act
This history is brought alive in the teenage fiction: A Dark Past which is set in modern day Twerton and Whiteway, but steps back into the past to revisit the old factory.
To find out more about the Carrs, consider buying the paperback from Amazon for just £5. Click here.
For photographs and information about the Carr family in this article, I am especially grateful to Mr Patrick Whitaker whose wife is a descendant of the Carrs. Also, to Mr Peter Little who kindly allowed me to scan the photographs sent to him by Mr Whitaker.
1) Whitaker, P. (2007) The History of Wood House From the Early 19th Century to 1965, notes.
3) Building of Bath Museum (2000) Oldfield Park and Twerton, pamphlet.
4) Thanks to Patrick Laycock for this information.
5) Building of Bath Museum (2000) Oldfield Park and Twerton, pamphlet.
6) Little, P. R. (1995) History of Twerton, pp. 32-4.
7) Building of Bath Museum (2000) Oldfield Park and Twerton, pamphlet.
8) Coard, R. E. (1973) Vanishing Bath, quoted by Building of Bath Museum (2000) Oldfield Park and Twerton, pamphlet.
9) Whitaker, P. (2007) The History of Wood House From the Early 19th Century to 1965, notes.
10) Carrs Woodland Forum (undated) Carr Woodland, leaflet
11) Building of Bath Museum (2000) Oldfield Park and Twerton, pamphlet.
12) Whitaker, P. (2007) The History of Wood House From the Early 19th Century to 1965, notes.
13) Little, P. R. (1995) History of Twerton, p. 19.
14) Building of Bath Museum (2000) Oldfield Park and Twerton, pamphlet.
15) Cf. Chapman, M. (2003) The High Street Twerton: An Historical Survey, p. 19.
16) Little, P. R. (1995) History of Twerton, p. 18.