The Bathford Society

Picture: Shockerwick House

Shockerwick House

The house as seen to-day is impressive and a credit to the several architects who, in turn, built and enlarged it. It is the only Grade 1 building in the parish.

Whilst no record has been found in John Wood the Elder’s effects, all other documentary evidence dating from 1755 confirms that the architect for the house was John Wood the Elder and it was built c. 1750. Some additions were made in the 1790s, possibly by John Palmer. Further additions were made in the 1890s by Ernest George to produce the house we see today.

Click on Shockerwick House date and architect notes for references.

Captain John Chapman inherited land in the parish in 1809 and was certainly acquainted with members of the family for whom the house was built.

The late eighteenth century mansion consisted of the rooms immediately behind the facade of the central part and of the ground floor of the wings, together with much of the older manor house adjoining its western wing.

The Shockerwick estate was acquired by the Wiltshire family in about 1745 from the executors of Anthony Carew, esquire, whose family had owned the earlier house. The first of the Wiltshires to have bought property in the parish seems to have been Walter who purchased from Robert Fisher in 1746 the Well tenement which was on the site of the present Sycamore House in Church Street.

This Walter Wiltshire controlled one of Bath's two lucrative gaming establishments. It was known as Wiltshire's Rooms, in which Beau Nash had an interest though this was kept secret. Finding his income from this source declining, Nash became convinced that he had been defrauded of his rightful interest from the gaming that took place in these Rooms, and unwisely took Wiltshire to court. The Court ruled that the profits of gaming were immoral, and so Nash not only lost his case but also his good reputation. Wiltshire lost, too, in different way, because noting the evidence given in court the Vestry of St. Peter and St. Paul fined him £500 for keeping a gaming house within the Abbey's parish. Despite their public quarrel Wiltshire was one of the chief mourners at Nash's funeral at the Abbey.

John, the elder of Walter Wiltshire's sons, was the founder of the successful carrier's business in which the younger son, Walter, was a partner. John died comparatively young and Walter inherited the estate at Shockerwick and the lease of Wiltshire's Rooms. He was a prominent citizen of Bath, being successively, common councilman, alderman and three times mayor of the City.

It is well known that he enjoyed a friendship with Thomas Gainsborough, the painter who lived at Bath from 1760 until 1774. Wiltshire conveyed Gainsborough's paintings to their destinations safely and without charge and, for his part, Gainsborough made Wiltshire gifts of some of his paintings. These were dispersed at a sale at Shockerwick about a century later and one, 'Orpin, the Parish Clerk' is in the Tate Gallery.

Walter Wiltshire died in 1799 at the age of 81 and Shockerwick passed to his son, John. It was in his time that William Pitt, the younger, having come to Bath to take the waters, visited Shockerwick in December, 1805 to view the paintings by Gainsborough and other distinguished artists. Whilst there a courier rode up with a despatch giving the news to the Prime Minister of the defeat at Austerlitz. According to John Wiltshire's son then aged 17, Pitt exclaimed 'Heavy news indeed, do get me some brandy.' Pitt was so agitated that John Wiltshire, junior, feared that the Prime Minister was about to collapse. For Pitt, who had been in failing health for several years, this was a fatal blow and he died in London a few weeks later.

Princess Victoria, later Queen Victoria, visited Shockerwick with her mother when, in 1830, she came to Bath to open the Royal Victoria Park. John Walter Wiltshire, son of John Wiltshire junior, died in 1889 and was the last member of the family to own Shockerwick. Subsequent owners included Charles Morley, M.P., and the Duke of Newcastle, who was the last private owner. The Imperial Group owned it until it became Shockerwick House Nursing home in 1983.

Source: Bathford Past and Present
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