Tag Archives: Devonshire Association

The Hunt for Keats House Part 6 – Loose Ends

There are a few loose ends to tie up on the local records.  They don’t necessarily contribute directly to the decision on where Keats lodged but they are peripheral pieces of pertinent information which help to complete the picture.  So here are some observations on the address, the Deeds ….. and a young visitor.

The Address

Although I have been focussing on just two houses in Northumberland Place, No 20 and No 35, as the two potential candidates for Keats House there was mention in earlier posts about Nos 19,20,21,21 and 35,36,37,38.

One of the things that has caused confusion amongst various correspondents is the change in addressing that took place in Teignmouth during the 19th century, reflecting the growth of the town, the influence of local personalities and historic events.

So I have done a little research which doesn’t contribute much to the Keats House debate but does explain the confusion and rounds off that part of the debate.  It is included here for completeness.

Notes on the Origin of the Streets of Teignmouth

There is an excellent article by Dr W C Lake (already featured in previous posts and more of him in next post) entitled “Notes on the Origin of the Streets of Teignmouth, and on their Nomenclature” which appeared in Vol 22 of the Reports and Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, July 1890. Here are a few points from that article:

  1. At the turn of the 18th/19th century Northumberland Place did not exist.  Referring back to the 1805 map the area south of the river Tame (AA) following the route of Fore Street was known as the Strand – “the first new house erected called in consequence ‘Strand House’ being that now occupied by Mr Hoare, the cooper, Number 31 Northumberland Place.”  (Note: Looking at the 1805 map this would seem to correspond with the building to the left of the block marked ‘1a’)
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  2. “the names of the larger number (of streets), where any were attached to them, doubtless varied from time to time according to local circumstances, their present names being only for the most part their latest designations ……”

    ”In 1880, therefore, the Local Board appointed a committee for naming the streets and numbering the houses ….. “This committee determined to make no alteration, not absolutely called for, in the customary names of the streets, but felt they might give themselves a free hand in the numbering …..”

    ”Some of the streets, besides their general names, had had their line of houses, even when quite continuous, cut up into groups separately named or not named, and numbered, or not numbered, such names or numbers having been in some cases attached to them, in some not.  The committee determined, therefore, to ignore the whole of these, and to number each street continuously throughout. They also sought to provide, as far as they could, for the perpetuity of the work, and arranged that where an unoccupied space occurred in a street sufficient numbers should be omitted for the supply of houses that might subsequently be built there; that where two houses were now used as one but might again be separated, each house should be numbered; that where a single house at the corner of two streets had an entrance into each, it should yet be only numbered in one; and that in the point of commencement and course of the numbering of each street, regard should be had to the readiness with which they could be found by strangers or any unaccustomed to the locality ……”
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  3. “In fixing the name of the street below Somerset Place (i.e. below left-hand ‘A’ on 1805 map heading south) the Committee felt some difficulty.  It had been known for many years generally as the Strand, but a large part of its eastern side had been also long known as Northumberland Place, while some groups of houses recently built on its western side had been variously designated as well.  After some consideration they therefore determined to call the whole of the street Northumberland Place, numbering it as such throughout, reserving the term Strand for a group of houses on the Den lower down.  Northumberland Place received its name on a visit of the then Duke of Northumberland to Teignmouth at the time it was being built, and his residence there.  Numbers 26 to 30, the houses nearest the Den on the western side of the street, were, when built a few years ago, named Devon Terrace, from the Earl of Devon, the lord of the manor of East Teignmouth; the house adjoining is Strand House, before referred to.  The three adjoining houses to this, Numbers 32 to 34, were, when recently built, named Strand Terrace …..”
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  4. At the end of his article Dr Lake apologises !! ….. “This sketch of the origin and nomenclature of the streets of Teignmouth must, I fear, in much be tedious, if not be even wearisome, yet I trust it may not be altogether without its points of interest.”

We know from Pigot’s Directory that by 1822 the name Northumberland Place was well-established with 18 addresses from which various people were running businesses.  Not all of these were numbered in the directory but those which were comprised:  2,6,8,11,16 (which were possibly those referred to the Courtenay estate rental records as being “near Tame Brook”) and 30,36,37,38,39.  The first set seems feasible when compared to the 1828 map but that map wouldn’t appear to have enough buildings on the west side of Northumberland Place to correspond to the second set of numbers unless, as Lake, suggests there were gaps in the numbering for some reason.

Finally, in a biography of the naval hero Admiral Edward Pellew (Cecil Northcote Parkinson, 1934)  there is reference to the Duke of Northumberland.  This appears to be Hugh Percy the 2nd Duke of Northumberland who used to regularly winter at Teignmouth for the sake of his daughter’s health.  He was a friend of Edward Pellew, who settled in Bitton House in Teignmouth in 1812, and there are other references to them both involved in property purchases in Teignmouth between 1810 and 1816.  So I would guess that Northumberland Place gained its name some time between those dates.

The Deeds

There is one last official record to present, the Deeds of No 20 Northumberland Place.

In the latter part of the 19th century the Courtenay Estate appeared to be going through financial difficulties and there are records from then onwards of the gradual sale of the land and properties of East Teignmouth, I assume to raise capital to offset the debt of the Estate. Essentially the leasehold of each parcel of land/property was converted to freehold and sold.

One of the last properties to be sold was No 20 Northumberland Place.  The sale was referred to as a ‘freehold reversion’; the Vendor was The Right Hon Earl of Devon, the Purchaser William Powell Esq.  There is a reference to an earlier indenture of lease of 14th March 1871 between the Right Honourable William Reginald Earl of Devon and John Hook which indicates that the house was formerly known as 19 Northumberland Street – which corroborates Dr Lake’s assertion about the re-numbering of properties.

Much more interestingly, though, this house is officially recorded in the legal document as “Keats House, No 20 Northumberland Place, Teignmouth”. Of course this only supports the fact that the house was named Keats House (as we saw in the 1912 photograph in the blog post on biographers), not that it represented historical fact.

A Young Visitor

Finally, although not strictly a local record, I have included here the anecdote about another giant of English poetry – Wilfred Owen.  This is taken from the 2013 biography by Jon Stalworthy:

“In April 1911, Wilfred again stayed with the Taylors in Torquay ….. One Friday in April Wilfred took the train from Torquay to Newton Abbot and along the widening estuary to Teignmouth. There, head down and collar up against ‘soft buffeting sheets and misty drifts of Devonshire rain’, he went in search of the house where Keats had lived from March to May 1818.  He found it, 20 Northumberland Place (formerly 20 The Strand), and gaped at its bow windows regardless of the people inside, ‘who finally became quite alarmed’ …..”

The internal quotations are from the Collected Letters of Wilfred Owen.

When Wilfred Owen visited, none of the collections of Keats’ Letters nor the biographies to that time had mentioned the location of Keats’ House in Teignmouth.  So how did Wilfred know which house to gape at?  My guess would be that the name “Keats House” had already been placed on the front door of No 20 Northumberland Place by that time.

(Note:  Wilfred Owen wrote a sonnet to Keats after his visit which was posted earlier elsewhere on this site; he also wrote a fragment of verse inspired by the visit which I’ll post later).

In Summary ….

So what can we conclude from the local records?  A lot of ifs and buts:

  1. If we believe that Keats was unable to see the sea from his room, because he didn’t include it in his description of the view, then by looking at the local maps of the time we would conclude that, of the two houses being considered, Keats would either have lodged in a front-bedroom of No 20 Northumberland Place or a back bedroom of No 35 Northumberland Place.
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  2. If we believe that Keats lived opposite a bonnet shop and could see the girls there then he must have lodged in No 20 and the bonnet shop would have been No 35, because there would have been no other house opposite him from No 35.
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  3. The commercial records show no evidence of a bonnet-shop at either No 20 or No 35 Northumberland Place.  But there is evidence of the more likely existence of milliners in Old Market Street, Wellington’s Row and Regent Place, streets along which Keats would have probably regularly walked.  If this were the case then it would imply that Keats’ lodgings could still be either No 20 or No 35.
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  4. Records about the Jeffery family indicate that they most likely lived in Old Market Street, with no record at all of their being in Northumberland Place.  If this were the case then Mrs Jeffery could not have been Keats landlady there, nor would the family have lodged with Keats or lived across the road.  Again this would imply that Keats’ lodgings could still be No 20 or No 35.
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  5. The deeds of No 20 Northumberland place show that the house was referred to as Keats House in the legal documents in 1925.
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  6. The pilgrimage of Wilfred Owen to Keats House in 1911 would suggest that the name “Keats House” was attached to No 20 Northumberland Place before then.

 

COMING NEXT:  THE FINAL EPISODE – ONE OLD MAN