Local History: Galmington Lodge

With Priscilla

August 2020 – (Part 2) – Galmington Lodge

However, back to Galmington Lodge. Looking at the various occupants over the census years it seems it was tenanted by the more well off and the professional. The first mention of the house comes in the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser in the birth announcements. Mrs Octavius Gardner Walter gave birth to a daughter: Prudence Elizabeth, in the January of 1859. Her second child.

Prudence Ardagh, as she was before she married Octavius in 1856, was the daughter of John Russell Ardagh, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Madras Native Army. Prudence was born in India as were her siblings. On her father’s retirement from military life in 1832 the family returned home to England, and by 1851 were living in Devon. Octavius’s family were landowners, living in Bishop’s Hull.

Looking for a moment at Prudence’s father and the time that he spent in India the documents show that he was an officer in the Madras Native Infantry for the East India Company. The army was formed to provide internal security and support for the civil administration; and to protect the Company’s commercial interests. It was a multi-ethnic army in which the British officers were encouraged to learn and speak Asian languages. Looking through pages from the register of employment of the East Company and the India Office*, John Russell Ardagh can be found progressing from lieutenant, to Captain and then finally to Lieutenant Colonel. He was attached to at least three different regiments, the 14th, the 24th and the 47th. While he was attached to the 47th he served as a deputy judge advocates general. Carrying out that role meant that he was concerned with military justice and military law. He retired on September 1st 1832 and returned to England with his wife and children.

*The East India Company was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, initially with the Moghuls of India and the East Indies, and later with Qing China. The company ended up seizing control of large parts of the Indian subcontinent (and briefly Afghanistan), colonised parts of Southeast Asia, and colonised Hong Kong after the First Opium War.Originally  chartered as the “Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East-Indies”, the company rose to account for half of the world’s trade, particularly in basic commodities including   cottonsilkindigo dyesaltspicessaltpetretea, and  opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the  British Empire in India.

By 1851 Octavius Gardner Walter had qualified as an attorney and solicitor, and was living at Oldbury Lodge in Bishops Hull, his parents’ home. By the time of the next census in 1861 he and Prudence had three children, Matilda aged 3, Prudence Elizabeth aged 2 and William eight months old. They also employed three female servants. All were residing at Galmington Lodge on the night of the census.

There are various mentions of both Octavius and Prudence in the newspapers of the period: birth announcements, charity fund raising and so on. One advert in the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser on 29 October 1856 states: ‘Shares in the Taunton Gas Company for sale. Apply to O G Walter, Solicitor, Taunton.’

Another advertisement in the Sherborne Mercury of the 23 September: ‘£3000 to lend on freehold security. Mr O G Walter, Taunton’. Astonishingly, that turns out to be a quarter of a million in today’s money. Octavius was involved with meetings of the Taunton Water works Company and the Taunton Gas and Light Company. Such meetings were reported in the papers, and Octavius’s contributions to the meetings recorded.

Octavius Walter’s father, William was a landed proprietor (1851 census). When he died in 1863, he left £25, 000. In today’s money that is £2,220,786. Perhaps unsurprisingly in the 1871 census Octavius’s occupation was solicitor (retired) but also landowner. He was now living in Ford House, Wellington. The 1871 census shows how the family had grown to include not just the couple’s children but also other extended family members. Living at Ford House were Octavius, aged 45, Prudence, recorded (rather grandly) as mater familias, ( the mother of the family); five Walter children, aged from 5 to 13; Prudence Ardagh 81 annuitant, (Prudence’s mother) and John Russell Ardagh 45, (Prudence’s brother) who was recorded as having no occupation. Also residing there were a governess, a nurse, a housemaid and a cook, and two young Ardagh nieces, the children of one of Prudence’s brothers. This snapshot of the family seems to show that they were living a comfortable life , well able to support a large household with differing needs; fortunately, Ford House was substantially larger than Galmington Lodge with its twelve rooms; seven of which were upstairs and five downstairs the census notes.

Octavius lived at Ford House for forty years. The family decreased in size over the years as children left home and by 1911, he was a widower with his daughter Prudence as a companion. Staying with them was William Guy Ardagh Walter, grandson, and an engineering student He was the son of William Ardagh Gardner Walter, Octavius’s and Prudence’s eldest son.

All three of Octavius’s and Prudence’s sons did well in life, two of them living and working in Australia. Of their daughters, Prudence remained as a companion to her father until his death. Matilda lived in the family home until she died in her twenties.

Guy Ardagh Walter was born in Western Australia. He was sent to England to be educated. Aged 12 he was at the Connaught Prep School in Weymouth at the time of the 1901 census. He then went on to Sherborne School and Leeds University. For a while he worked for the New South Wales railway in Sydney. Guy enlisted at Kalgoorie, 18 May1915. He served in Egypt and the Western Front as a second lieutenant with the48th Infantry Battalion, Australian Field Force.        Guy Walter died on the Somme on the 5 August 2016 aged 28. He has no known grave.

Next month continues with another family at Galmington Lodge.

Written by Priscilla Ryan

July 2020 – Part 1 – ‘Every house has a story to tell’

This is the story of a house in Galmington. The story is about the people who lived in that house during the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth; who they were and what they were. The house was called Galmington Lodge and according to the 1911 census had eight rooms which excluded, according to census instructions, any bathroom but did include the kitchen although not the scullery. However, a more detailed picture of Galmington Lodge emerges from an advertisement in the Somerset County Gazette of 16 April, 1864:


LOT 1 – A substantially built dwelling house called Galmington Lodge situate at Galmington in the parish of Wilton, together with the lawn and garden in the occupation of O. G. Walter esq. The house comprises a dining room, a drawing room, kitchen, back kitchen, five bedrooms, two dressing rooms, water closet. Wash house. Underground cellar. Two stalled stable, coach house and every other convenient out building. The interior of the dwelling house is fitted with china and other closets and cupboards and has lately undergone complete restoration.

LOT 2 – All that long strip of land, lying behind LOT 1 extending from the railings dividing the garden in possession of O. G. Walter esq to the public road together with the stables and outbuildings now erected upon the same.

Of course, a house up for sale, sounds attractive. But it is easy to imagine the house with its well furnished rooms, the china in the cupboards specially for the best dinner service; the best tea set. The wash house where one of the maids or perhaps a local Galmington woman came in to the laundry. Several women in the hamlet were laundresses. Monday would be wash day, all done by hand of course. Followed by drying and ironing days. The stable with two stalls, room to accommodate two horses. One for the master of the house to get around and one to pull the trap that would allow the lady of the house and her children to get out and about. It’s interesting to speculate.

But where is Galmington Lodge? Well, sadly it disappeared in the 1960s when the council purchased the house from its then owners and demolished it for a road widening scheme. Having looked at the nineteenth century maps and news items in old editions of the Somerset County Gazette and the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser there appears to be good evidence that the house and its gardens were sited where the present-day Trident Community Hall and allotments are in Galmington.

 From 6 May 1961 edition of the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser:

“The Taunton and District Youth Club want to build club premises. The town council say the only suitable site is at Galmington Lodge, and Taunton Allotments Association Ltd, are being asked if they will give up a strip of Galmington allotments to make the site big enough for the youth club.”

From 10 March 1962 edition of the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: “Taunton Town Council will be recommended on Tuesday to lease land at Galmington Road (including part of the former Galmington Lodge gardens and a small area of the allotments to the committee of Galmington Youth Club.”

From the 15 June 1963 edition of the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser: Taunton Town Council has offered a site in Galmington Road opposite the entrance to Deane Drive.”

Nineteenth century maps of Galmington show that dwellings in the hamlet were to be found principally in the area where the post office, shops and Shepherds’ Rest Inn are today. The maps show that there was a dwelling in an area that would be opposite the present-day Deane Drive and to the South of Belmont Road. Based on the news articles and maps this is the site of Galmington Lodge. (If anyone knows otherwise, or can remember Galmington in the 1960s, or indeed remembers the Lodge then I would be pleased to hear from them.)

Before focusing on Galmington Lodge a brief look at what the hamlet was like in the mid nineteenth century, as this is the period when references to Galmington Lodge begin to appear in the censuses and newspapers. In the 1861 census, for instance, the population was around 120 people living in 24 dwellings. This includes all the houses listed under the heading of Galmington and includes Galmington Lodge. Occupations for the Galmington folk include solicitor, cordwainer, dressmaker, laundress, gardener, thatcher, shoe binder, brickmaker, school mistress, Greenwich pensioner, carter, shepherd, dairywoman, domestic servant, and agricultural labourer.

One Galmington man William Hawker, 59, was recorded in this census as a Greenwich pensioner which means he was in receipt of a Naval pension due to reasons connected with health or poverty. A Greenwich pensioner was the Naval equivalent of a Chelsea pensioner. There were in-pensioners as well as out-pensioners. At its peak, the Royal Hospital housed over 2,700 naval veterans mostly invalided out of the Navy after sustaining debilitating injuries. All the men admitted to the Hospital had fallen on hard times and the majority came from poor backgrounds without the means to save for their old age.) Curiously, but puzzlingly, in the 1851 census William Hawker is recorded as a Beer- House Keeper and a Chelsea pensioner. Make of that what you will.

Next time: following the first family that I can find as having lived in Galmington Lodge— the family of Octavius Gardner Walter.

Written by Priscilla