Priest's House Museum Timeline (with notes on architectural features of rooms)

Priest's House Museum Timeline (with notes on architectural features of rooms)

Scene from WCT’s production of What They Left Behind, 2016, set in the Coles’ Ironmongers’ shop during the First World War

LOCATION:  Archaeology Gallery
–  Artefacts from Roman villa at Tarrant Hinton; including rare water pump and wall plaster
–  North wing: 18c fireplace
–  Narrow passage and cupboard: mummified cat

House records go back to 17th century – show mercers, traders and one “impoverished gent” but no priests or clerics ever known to have lived there.

Tudor period

1500s           L shaped single-storey building with stone gable on left, facing street.
1600s           Upper storey added.  Original L shape turned into U shape with additional right-hand gable (now the Tourist Information Centre).

Stuart period 1603

LOCATION:  17th Century Hall
– Stone and flint hall, originally oak-panelled
– Building was possibly owned by the Hanhams Estate and leased to various occupants

1687                John Bowdidge.  May have been in residence from this date (mentioned in rate for relief of French Protestants). Father was Stephen Bowdidge (steward to the Hanham Estate, held the social status of “gentleman” and probably worked in the legal profession).
1695/6             John Bowdidge, “a gentleman”, inherited his father’s considerable debts, including a mortgage of £1,660. Forced to sell land to pay off debts and probably moved out of the parish.
Occupant with wife Bridget.  Bridal settlement of £1,200 failed to make him solvent.
1701                Occupancy of John Bowdidge, gent, continued.  Bridget died childless.
1704                Occupants John Bowdidge.
1709                Thomas Barnes, cheesemonger, paid 10 shillings to Bowdidge.  Mr. Lloyd paid five shillings for other part of building (Poor Law rates) – a lot.

Georgian Period 1714

1723                Property split between Widow Barnes, five shillings, and John Barnes, two shillings.
1728               John Barnes took over Widow Barnes’ part.
1738               John Barnes’ part split between his widow, one shilling and sixpence, and Mr. King, seven pence (presumably Christopher King).
1741              Thomas Barnes’ part, now split, taken over by William Barnes.
1742                Thomas Barnes’ part now split between four people:
William Barnes
Widow Barnes
Christopher King, silk and wool merchant
John Chamberlin

– Mid 18th Century:  King Family reunited the house after it was divided into four units

1746                Christopher King took over widow of William Barnes’ part.
1748                Occupants as before.  In this year records of poor rates ceased.

The property continued to be owned, in all probability, by the Hanham family during this period.

1756                Major building work.  Courtyard roofed over.
(Priest House Museum evidence:  CK on rainwater head, date 1756).
1762                Death of Christopher King, Mercer
1766                Widow Elizabeth King built kitchen extension, employing John Mitchell, plumber. (Priest House Museum evidence:  lead pump with her initials and date 1766).
1777                Widow Elizabeth King now has three parts of the property.   John Chamberlin in occupancy of fourth part.
1785                More plumbing work.  WK on rainwater head, initials of William King, son of Christopher and Elizabeth.
(Reconstruction work listed in the Land Tax Return 1780- 1832)
1792                  Death of William King, silk and wool mercer
1793                William Butt, draper and grocer, took over lease.

LOCATION:  Elizabeth King’s Parlour
– Widow, continued her husband’s business as a mercer, dealing in fine imported silks & local woollen cloth.

–  Discussing building plans with John Mitchell, a master plumber, who worked on site
–  17C ceiling and frieze, ‘all people refrain from sin’;
–  Panelling 1700; revealed stone fireplace
–  Domestic items in a buffet (from house in King Street)

Victorian period 1837

1837                William Low (great-great-grandfather of Hilda Coles), stationer, bookseller, tobacconist and printer, took over lease of numbers 23 – 25 High Street, from the Hanham family (Trade Directory).  The main premises used as a grocer’s shop. One room used as a stationer’s and tobacconist.  Also worked as a printer and sold medicines.
1851                Occupants (from 1851 census):
William Low, 64, bookseller and grocer
William Low, 34, son, printer
John Low, 29, son, grocer
Edmond Low, 20, son, bookseller
Jane Woodford, 9, niece, scholar
Hannah Bartlett, 49, servant

1871                William Low senior died.  John Low took over business. He frequently shut the shop if a customer offended him.  John was active in the town and had good social standing – founder of the town’s first penny bank.
1872                John Low closed stationery shop but retained lease with instructions that it was not to be opened until his death (32 years later).

LOCATION:  Stationer’s Shop
–  Panelling discovered behind fitted showcases.
–  Room used by William Low (HC’s great-great-grandfather) as stationers and tobacconists.
–  Portrait of him and wife in room.
–  Son, John, closed the shop in 1872 and ordered it should remain boarded up until after his death.
–  Coles family entered the room in 1904 and found much original stock, including Valentine cards.

1872                Thomas Good Coles took over main premises, opened ironmongery business. (Priests House Museum evidence:  early photograph showing Coles’ shop with stationer’s sign on the left).
1881                Occupants (from 1881 census):
In the main part:
Thomas G Coles, 34, Ironmonger
Jane Coles, 31, wife, (nee Woodford)
Thomas Frank Coles, six, son
Edith Susan Coles, four, daughter
William Spencer Coles, three, son
Annie Barrett, 17, domestic servant

In separate shop (now Tourist Information Centre):
Edward Gossling,48, Shoemaker
Christina, 32, wife
Willie, 5, son
Agnes Adams, 59, mother-in-law

1883                Sale of properties by Hanham family, included Priest’s House Premises comprising of two houses and shops bought by the Coles family.
1885                First documentary evidence of name ‘The Priest’s House’ (now owned by the Coles family) Ordnance Survey map 1885.
1891                Occupants (from 1891 census):
In the main part:
Thomas G Coles, 44, ironmonger,
Jane Coles, 49, wife,
Tom F Coles 16, son, Ironmongers’ assistant
Edith S Coles 15, daughter, scholar,
William S Coles, 13, son, scholar
Stanley G Coles, 9, son, scholar
Emily J Coles, 7, daughter, scholar
Emma A Hiscock, 16, general servant

In separate shop (now Tourist Information Centre):
Edward H Garrett, 33, Merchant Taylor
Ellen A C Garrett, 30, wife
Bertha E Garrett, 6, daughter
Cecil E Garrett, 4, son
Ivan P Keen, 20, boarder, apprentice
George Coombs, 43, visitor, Miller

1899                Thomas Good Coles died. Thomas Frank Coles (aged 25) took over the Ironmongers’ business during the Boer War.

Edwardian period 1901-1914

1901                Occupants (from 1901 census):
In main part:
Jane Coles 58, living on their own means
Tom F Coles, 26, son, ironmonger/shopkeeper
Edith S Coles, 24, daughter
William S Coles 22, son, ironmonger/shopkeeper
Stanley G Coles, 18, son
Emily J Coles, 17, daughter
Fanny Coles 49, visitor, living on own means

In separate shop (now Tourist Information Centre):
Edward H Garrett, 43, merchant tailor
Ellen Garrett, 39, wife
Bertha A Garrett, 16, daughter
Cecil E Garrett, 14, son, scholar

LOCATION:  Ironmongers’ Shop
–  1872 – First owned by Hilda Cole’s grandfather 
–  Closed 1960
–  Brick wall is original front wall of 16th century house
–  Supplied needs of residents for hardware, garden tools and ironmongery, guns
–  Original counter and drawers

1904                Thomas Frank Coles married Blanche Cox, the butcher’s daughter.
“Mrs. Coles was not the sort of person to be seen out with a shopping basket”.
John Low died and Tom Coles took over the stationer’s premises to expand his Ironmongers’ business. Found the original stock, including Victorian Valentine cards, boxes of matches, stationery, books, boxes from Shropshire and Belgium and clay pipes (all intact) – stored at the Dorchester County Museum until Hilda opened her museum.
3rd April 1907               Hilda May born.
1911                Occupants (from 1911 census):
In main part:
Tom F Coles, 36, head, ironmonger,
Blanche Coles, 32, wife
Hilda Mary Coles, 4, daughter
Bessie Kimber, 17, general servant, domestic

In separate shop (now Tourist Information Centre)
Edward H Garrett, 53, merchant tailor
Ellen A Garrett, 50, wife
Bertha E Garrett, 26, daughter
Cecil E Garrett, 24, son, merchant tailor
Abraham R Mutter, 26, Visitor, head schoolmaster and professional musician. 

LOCATION:  Victorian Kitchen
– Single storey building began in 1776 for Elizabeth King, incorporating forge, warehouse and kitchen.
– Elizabeth King and John Mitchell’s initials on pump in garden.

LOCATION:  Childhood Gallery                    
–  original stone mullion window
LOCATION:  Forge    
–  19-20c, tinsmith workshop, repairs and re-tinned items for Ironmongers’

Modern period 1, 1914 – 1945

WW1 1914- 1918
1915                Tom S Stone, Hilda’s father’s assistant in the shop, enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery.  Less than two years later his death was announced in the Wimborne Parish Magazine   “September 17th, killed by machine gun fire whilst laying telephone lines”.
1917                Dr. Ernest K Le Fleming, one of Hilda’s father’s closest friends, was commissioned in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Between the wars:

1920s             Ralf Lowle came to work at shop as Tom Coles’ assistant.
1923                Canford School was founded.
1933 – 1935    Hilda ran her own little business from the shop breeding and selling budgerigars and also expanded the stock of sports equipment.
1937                Dr. Ernest K Le Fleming was knighted for services to medicine and for recommendations for PE in schools.
Mr Abley – opened a Gentlemen’s Outfitter’s in the 1930s in part of the premises let from the Coles. (now the TIC). Daughter, Mary Abley, close friend of Hilda Coles.

WW2 1939 -1945 (in Europe)

Hilda was posted to Invergordon in Scotland – Wren No. 65824. She was discharged from the Wrens on the 1st of April 1946 with commendations and a ‘mention in dispatches’ for her services.  She returned to the shop.
Ralph Lowle, spent the war years in the North African Desert, serving with General Alexander in a wireless patrol unit.

Modern Period 2, 1945 – 2000

1953                Thomas Frank Coles died aged 79.  Hilda Coles, his daughter, took over the business.
1958                Grant for repair of house from the Ministry of Works.
1960                The Ironmongers’ business closed. September 1960 – ground floor offered to Wimborne Historical Society.  Donations given by local people and Le Fleming’s collection moved from Dorset County Museum.
LOCATION:  Miss Coles’ Flat & Sitting Room
– Miss Coles invited volunteers and friends up for a sherry.
– Invited curators to make displays in the museum and in the evening would creep down to change things about.

August 1961    First room opened.

LOCATION:   Museum
– Hilda Coles’ own museum from 1962 1987

1962                July 31st – Museum opened three rooms on ground floor for limited hours.  Expansion of the museum started.
1972                Blanche Coles died aged 93.
1987                January 5th – Hilda Coles (Mick) died.  The Priest’s House and the collections bequeathed to the town under the auspices of the Minster Governors, to be used as a museum for local people.
1990                The Priest’s House Museum Trust, in partnership with the of the Minster Governors and East Dorset District Council restored the historic building and extended the museum display area to 10 rooms.

New Millennium period 2000

2012                A Heritage Lottery Fund grant and a massive fundraising effort enabled the museum to expand its educational facilities and storage space in a new building, named in honour of the museum’s founder the Hilda Coles Open Learning Centre.
2014                The Priest House Museum Trust took over the operation of the Tourist Information Centre.
2019                Revival project
2020                Revival project to be completed








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