Architects, Residents & Public Servants
Spanning a period of nearly 80 years, the footprint the Davies family left on the development of Hoole in the late 19th Century was significant. They were architects and the developers of six major houses in Hoole, closely involved with the development of the township over the 19th century, as well as respected businessmen, with one family member becoming one of the most charismatic political leaders of Hoole Urban Council and later of Chester City Council.
Richard Davies (1778 – 1862)
The Davies family’s origins lay in Ellesmere, Shropshire. Richard Davies grew up there and trained as an architect but in 1800 he moved to Chester to work with Thomas Harrison, for whom he oversaw the construction of the Grosvenor Bridge and the Chester Law Courts. Richard settled permanently in Chester in 1823 and established an architectural practice in the city, primarily focusing on Chester and the Northwest, including Wales. He counted amongst his clients several wealthy private individuals, breweries and various local authorities including Chester City Corporation.
One of Richard’s wealthy clients was Thomas Faulkner, for whom he acted in 1850 as surveyor and agent in the disposal and subsequent development of “The Bishop’s Field”, on which were built the first six streets of Hoole, namely Faulkner, Charles, Bishop, Peploe and Law Street, plus Griffiths Terrace. It is of interest to note that Richard’s son, John Henry, was one of the first residents of Peploe Street after its construction, living at number 27.
Some three years later, in 1853, Richard was the architect appointed to draw up plans for Moor Park, then open fields on the south side of Hoole Road, and which were divided up into separate lots for sale to purchasers who then commissioned their own individual property to be built on them. The large terraces of houses appeared on Hoole Road, and Derby and Stone Place were constructed. These were to be gated properties and the gateposts remain today. (see 'The Shell Garage site – Moor House and Moor Park' in Hoole Road)
John Henry Davies (1831 – 1906)
Architect and House Builder
It was Richard’s youngest son, John Henry Davies who set up his family home in Hoole in 1857, when he married Catherine Jones, a local barmaid. In 1861 they are recorded as living at 27 Peploe Street, with the first two of the ten children they went on to have. At the time John Henry was working as an Architect with his father at the firm’s offices in Newgate Street, Chester.
On the death of his father, Richard, in 1862, John Henry took over the Architect practice and renamed it John Henry Davies Architects. Later in 1883 he added the words “& Sons”, as three of his sons joined him. Also, on his father’s death he moved out of Hoole, where he was renting, into his father’s house in Seller Street, Chester.
The family’s involvement with Hoole continued, as in March 1892, John H Davies & Sons were responsible for designing the proposed housing street including that for Ermine Road and the adjacent West Street for the Great Western Railway “Land Company”. John, and his family, returned to live in Hoole in 1895, having designed and built three houses there numbered 3, 5, and 7 Hamilton Street. The houses are still standing today. John Henry and his wife, together with five of their children, and their respective families, were to live in 3 Hamilton Street over the next 40 years.
The Davies family were to remain in residence until 1935, with various members of the family living there, after the passing of John Henry and his wife in 1906. Initially his fourth son Charles Harold Davies (1867 – 1952), together with John Henry’s daughters Martha Emily (1871 – 1963) and Edith Clarissa (1875 – 1950) resided in the house. In 1925 all three of them then moved to their new home further down Hoole Road, to the east, named Oaklands – now a hotel & restaurant.
Alfred Cornenius, John Henry’s eldest son and Charles’ brother, moved into 3 Hamilton Street, with his spouse Mary and youngest son John Henry Davies. Whilst Alfred died in 1930, his widow did not leave Hamilton Street until 1935. Charles and Edith continued to live at Oaklands until Charles eventual death in 1952.
John Henry’s sons built other properties in the neighbourhood. Directly north of Hamilton Street across Hoole Road in Newton Lane is where his third son, the Architect, Arthur Frederick Davies (1865 – 1928) was to build his home in 1900. He named it ‘Harlestone’. It still stands today, but the tennis courts have gone, and other houses have been built in the garden, which once stretched almost to Hoole Road. Parallel to Hamilton Street, to the east, was Vicarage Road. Here, John Henry’s second son Richard Cecil Davies (1861-1917), built his own home and named it after the family’s historical property in Shropshire – ‘Yorton Lodge’.
Alfred Cornelius Davies (1859 – 1930)
Corn Merchant and Hoole Resident
Alfred was born at 27 Peploe Street, Hoole, the eldest child of John Henry. He was expected to follow his father into architecture when he left the College School, Chester but his father wanted him to obtain a general knowledge of the building trade first. This led to him finding a position as clerk at the Old Dee Mills, Bridgegate and. eventually becoming Secretary to Mr Johnson, the owner. When the Old Dee Mill burnt down in 1903, Alfred moved to work with Griffiths Bros, Corn Merchant, Canal Side, Chester. Here he was promoted to Corn Merchant Manager in 1910 and then became a Corn Merchant travelling salesman through to his death, aged 71 in 1930, holding various positions. He married Mary Bratton, and together raised a family of nine children.
He had two great interests. First was the Chester Volunteer Rifles, where he served as a colour sergeant and gained his Long Service Medal for 20 years’ service. The other was Free Masonry. He was made a Freeman of the City of Chester in 1880, aged 21, whilst working as a Clerk at Old Dee Mills. He moved out of Hoole to Seller Street with his father in 1862, but later returned with his family to Hoole, to live at 3 Hamilton Street in 1925, when his brother Charles moved to Oaklands. His funeral service was held at All Saints Church, Hoole.
Richard Cecil Davies (1861 – 1917)
Architect, Politician, Fire Chief and Hoole Resident
Richard Cecil Davies was born at 30 Peploe Street on 25th February 1861, the second child of John Henry. He was to follow his father’s profession and on the 1881 census Richard is listed as an architect’s assistant living with the family in Seller Street, Chester. In 1882, aged 21, he was made a Freeman of Chester, and his occupation is shown as Architect. He divided his time between his professional activities as a local politician and an architect and the military as well as the Hoole & Chester Fire Service. He was to be one of the founders of the Hoole Volunteer Fire Brigade and its Captain for 18 years.
On the death of his father in 1906 he became Senior Partner of the family architectural firm, working with his two brothers, Arthur and Horace. Here he focused more on the commercial and surveying side of the firm rather than in preparation of designs. He was personally involved in 1900 on the extension of the Bromfield Arms, which doubled the size of the public house, built 40 years earlier and here he was to host many civic and fire brigade dinners. His further work included the design of a proposed cinema off Walker Street in 1906, which was never built.
Politically, Richard Cecil was a conservative, winning in 1893 a seat on Chester City Council and going on to be elected Sheriff in 1901. By 1906 he was an Alderman and he became Mayor of Chester in 1908. He had served on Hoole Local Board from 1886, and then on Hoole Urban Council, becoming its chairman in 1899. He was a great committee man.
He married Amy Templemore Lockwood in 1887, raising four daughters in Hoole. In 1898, he acquired a plot of land in Vicarage Road, Hoole and had a residence designed and built, which he named after his family’s historical home in Shropshire – ‘Yorton Lodge’. Here the family lived until his death in 1917. The house remains to this day and is currently under the management of Chester City Council.
Of significance to Hoole was Richard Cecil’s central role in establishing the Hoole Volunteer Fire Brigade with his good friend from Hoole Urban Council, Dr Francis Butt. Davies was to be the Chief Officer of Hoole Volunteer Fire Brigade for 20 years, during which time he brought the Brigade up to a high state of professionalism and gained respect for the brigade on a regional as well as national basis.
He served in the Volunteers, reaching the rank of Major, being the last commanding officer of the 1st Flintshire Volunteer Engineers, and in the Great War was given a temporary regular army commission serving in the North West Army region. He died at home in Hoole in May 1917 and was given a full military funeral through the streets of Hoole, from All Saints Church to the new Cemetery, with shuttered shop fronts and rows of mourners lining the route.
Arthur Frederick Davies (1865 – 1926)
Architect and Hoole Resident
Arthur Frederick Davies, was the third child of John Henry Davies, born when the family had moved to Seller Street. He followed his father and elder brother into the family’s architectural practice, as seen in the 1881 census, where he is described as an “architect’s assistant”. On the death of his brother Richard Cecil in 1917, Arthur became the sole remaining partner of the family’s architectural practice. He retained this position until his death in 1926, only bringing his own son into the practice and restricting other family members from joining.
He married Sarah Ann Tilston in 1896, whilst living in Cheyney Road, Chester. In 1898 he acquired a site in Newton Lane, where he built his own house. This was completed in 1900 and named ‘Harlestone’. Arthur had three children, with the youngest Frederic Henry Mansell being born in 1900 in the new family home. He was to marry a second time, after the death of Sarah, in 1919 to Mary Katherine Heaps
Arthur passed away aged 62 in 1926, leaving his brothers, Alfred and Charles as the family representatives in Hoole.
Charles Harold Davies (1867 – 1952)
Retailor, Hoole Resident and national figure in Apiculture
Similar to his brother Arthur, Charles was born in Seller Street, Chester, but he lived 46 years of his life in Hoole, initially at 3 Hamilton Street from 1906 to 1924, thereafter moving to Oaklands, Hoole Road where he ended his days in 1952.
He chose not to join the family architectural firm but went to work instead in a business in Brook Street, which started life as a Pawnbrokers. Purchased by William Bradley in 1878, the business was quickly expanded by the addition of a clothing department. William’s brother Anthony Bradley took on the business in 1881. Sidney Clark had joined the business aged 16, and by 1880 was managing the clothing department. It was not long before the business needed additional space and in 1882 new premises were acquired in Foregate Street, in which a clothing and outfitting shop was opened. Here Sidney Clark, with Joseph Banks as his junior, managed the store and in 1883, Charles Davies, aged 14, joined them at Brook Street and served his time sleeping under the counter and working seventy hours a week.
In 1885 Joseph Banks took on the management of the clothing business in Brook Street. His commercial acumen resulted in the store outgrowing its premises and the need to redevelop Foregate Street into Bradleys Corner to deal with demand. In 1893 Charles replaced Joseph Banks as the manager of the Foregate Street Shop and in 1907 Charles developed the wholesale outfitting warehouse, which was later described as “a most valuable asset of the business”. Whilst still only a Draper’s assistant in 1889, Charles had been made a Freeman of the City of Chester, such was the standing of the Davies family in Chester.
Branch shops were established in other towns, and when Sidney Clark retired in 1907, there were eighty-nine. On the death of Anthony Bradley in 1908, Joseph Banks acquired the whole enterprise. Joseph brought Charles in as a Partner, and together they created the Chester based men’s wear chain “Bradleys”. Charles was made Vice Chairman when it became a limited company in 1922, and he was responsible for the wholesale business. After the death of Charles in 1952, Bradleys was acquired by Fosters Menswear and ultimately it ended up with Sears when they took over Fosters.
Charles retired due to ill health in 1933, in the meantime in 1925, he had purchased a large house on Hoole Road, known as Oaklands, which he extensively refurbished with assistance from his brother Arthur’s architectural practice and building connections. He, and two of his sisters, moved from Hamilton Street later in 1925 to Oaklands, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Charles’s retirement saw him develop an interest in Apiculture (“bee keeping”), and he was to become an active committee member of the British Bee Keeping Association, as well as the Welsh Bee Keeping Association. The Cheshire Beekeepers Association held their summer conventions in the garden at Oaklands in 1942 and again in 1948. In parallel he extended and developed the gardens at Oaklands to make them more attractive for bees.
He also was one of the first active genealogists, having a strong family history interest, as well as time and money, which he used to understand the history of the Davies family. In 1939 he privately published an account, as he saw it, of the Davies family history. Charles never married. Instead, his sister Martha Emily, served as his constant companion, up to his death in 1952. His funeral service was held in All Saint’s Church Hoole, conducted by his nephew the Reverend Harry Roberts.
Albert Oscar Davies
Albert was the sixth son of John and Catherine Charles was born at 13 Seller Street, Chester, moving with the family, aged 25, back to Hamilton Street, Hoole. He was to follow his elder brother Charles into the clothing trade at a young age, with his profession in the 1891 census detailed as clothier assistant. Some 10 years later, aged 30, he was still detailing his professional role as a clothier. Albert in 1902 decided to change direction and became a steward on a passenger liner – Majestic, based out of Liverpool. He is seen as a steward on several ships over the following years, prior to his arrival in South Africa. Whether he met the proprietor of the Royal Hotel, where he subsequently was to become the manager, or indeed the Saaiman family on one of the cruises is unknown. His presence in the Davies family from this time diminished and little became known as to his life in South Africa until recently.
Albert’s first position on arrival in South Africa was as manager of the Royal Hotel, Krugersdorp, he subsequently went on to qualify as a chartered accountant establishing his own practice. He married Christina Johanna Saaiman in March 1914, with whom he had two sons, Albert Audrey, and Kenneth Saaiman. In the late 1920s his health deteriorated, and his condition worsened so that he had to retire, supported by his family until his passing in 1938. The family-owned property in Fontainebleau, part of which subsequently became grounds for a new school. His family were to venture far, Albert remained in Africa, whilst members of Kenneth’s family emigrated to New Zealand. The latter also being also the home country of Richard Cecil Davies daughter Bessie Templemore Shannon’s family from the 1920s.
Martha Emily Davies (1871 – 1963)
Hoole Resident and Companion
Martha was the first daughter born to John Henry and Catherine, arriving on 13th January 1871, whilst the family were living in Seller Street. In the family, and to close friends, her nickname was “Beam”. Martha never married, despite being proposed to by her first cousin, Arthur Davies, who she turned down without hesitation. As she would later say, “I was too particular”.
Martha lived a full life, growing up with her brothers and sisters in Seller Street and moving with her mother and father and other members of the family, including her brother Charles, to Hamilton Street, Hoole, in 1895. Some thirty years later she and her sister Edith Leet (1875 – 1950) moved to Charles’s house at Oaklands where Martha lived until Charles died in 1952. She was her brother’s companion and housekeeper, managing all the domestic affairs as well as engaging in the Hoole community. She was left Oaklands, and all of Charles’s effects when he died and could have chosen to live almost anywhere. She took the decision to leave Hoole in 1953 and move to Alsager, where her younger sister Georgie (Annie Georgina) lived with family. She passed away in 1963, aged ninety-two, in Buxton.
Edith Clarissa Davies (1875 – 1950)
Hoole Resident and Teacher
Edith Clarissa Davies was born in May 1875, the youngest of three sisters and the one that saw the early death of her husband at a point where she had had three children by him.
Edith initially became a Hoole resident when the family moved back to live in Hamilton Street in 1895. She went onto marry Henry Gordon Leete, a Chartered Accountant, at All Saints Church, Hoole in June 1903. They left to set up home in South Africa, where two of her children were born, and then moved on to New York in 1908, where their third child was born. With the outbreak of The Great War Edith moved with her children back to Hoole, to live with Charles and Martha in Hamilton Street, whilst Henry Leete remained in New York. It was there he tragically died after an accident involving a tram on December 20, 1918.
With her husband’s death, Edith was left needing to provide for her family and so went to work as a teacher in 1918, taking a position at the British School, Victoria Road, Chester. She was to become the headmistress before she retired in 1930, Charles and Martha stepped in to support the upbringing of her children during this difficult period. Her children moved to Oaklands, with Charles and Martha, and Edith was still living there in 1935/6. It seems she only left there in 1947, when she and her daughter, Muriel, and granddaughter Jennifer, went to live in Ashbourne, in Derbyshire and it was there that Edith died in February 1950, aged seventy-four.
Horace Francis Davies (1878 – 1940)
Architect, Public Official and Hoole Resident
The youngest child of John Henry and Catherine Davies’ ten children, Horace Francis Davies was born in January 1878, whilst the family were living in Seller Street.
Horace was articled to the family firm of J H Davies & Sons in 1894 and attended the Chester School of Art from 1894 – 1900 under W. G. Schroeder, whilst living at 3 Hamilton Street, Hoole.
After being made a Freeman of the City of Chester in March 1899 and having passed his exams in architecture, design, building construction and modelling etc. he was taken into partnership in 1900 with his father John Henry and his two brothers Richard and Arthur. He was appointed Consulting Surveyor to the Hoole Urban District Council in 1904 and worked closely with Dr Butt, Hoole’s Medical Officer, in ensuring the quality of new residential houses in Hoole met the highest standards. He was to spend most of his professional life working in government bodies in various valuation departments, ultimately becoming Valuer for Chester. He was made an Honorary Secretary of the Chester Guild of Arts and Crafts in 1906. At the time of his death in 1940 he was engaged in valuations arising out of war damage compensation.
He married Helena Roberts in 1906, with their first child born in 1907, when the family had moved out of Hoole to live at Roadside, Christleton. He became an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1909, and later a Fellow. He was seen as a scholarly man with hundreds of books on local history and those relating to his Welsh background, and like his brother Charles was interested in the family’s history. He died at Chester Royal Infirmary on 29th September 1940, aged 62.
This article is the copyright of Douglas Edwards