My name is Maggie and I am the proprietor of Hart Magical Gifts, Therapies and Training, which is based at no. 9 Eastgate Street, on the right-hand side of the Colonnade.
Number 8, 9, and the Colonnade itself are part of a beautiful building with origins dating back to the 1500’s. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.
The Tudor House Holistic Centre is located in the rooms above the shop. When these rooms were vacated by Seven Casting a few years ago I popped in to have a look inside, and a similar process of falling in love took place! The rooms were beautiful with 16th and 17th century panelling and lots of character, but severely neglected, damp and dirty. It was clear they needed a bit of TLC.
Now, more than 2 years later, I am now the Centre Manager and my job is to take care of these rooms. After some structural repairs by the owner, and with a team of fabulous assistants, we have worked really hard, painting, cleaning, and decorating, making these rooms into a homely, welcoming space.
When it was decided to let these rooms out to people on a casual basis, of course it became necessary to have a way of identifying each room. Numbers seemed really impersonal, so the rooms are named after the previous inhabitants of the house. After a bit of research into a fascinating book called ‘Into Eastgate Street,’ by Roy Lewis (from a selection of guides available at the High House), I discovered some details about the people who have lived and worked in this house since Stafford records began in the 1600’s. The rooms are named after just four of them: Mary, William, Prudence and Edward.
William Barker (or his son of the same name) was the person who is recorded as having bought the house in the 1690s. The elder William was a leading townsman in the latter half of the 17th century. He had moved into the town, or been apprenticed here, after the Civil War and was made a burgess in 1656. He was a trader in cloth, in Stafford and over a wide area, even being twice selected as Mayor. However, his finances collapsed in 1691, and he was even confined in prison (probably for debt) so had to resign from his civic duties. Buying Tudor House brought him good fortune, and by the time of William’s death in 1705 he was described as a ‘gentleman’.
Sometime in the late 1690’s, Tudor House was rented out to the widow Prudence Compton and her sister. Prudence’s husband had left an annuity of 40 shillings for the widows and orphans in the parish, which was given to the Mayor and Stafford Corporation to administer in trust. The Corporation then stole the money as they were desperately short of cash at that time. As Prudence’s father-in-law had been a high court judge, her lawyers took the Corporation to court and were successful in recovering the cash.
Mary’s Bower is named after William Barker’s daughter-in-law. In the early 1700’s, she moved into Tudor House. In the 1700’s the brick building to the left of the Colonnade (now number 8) was timber-framed and connected to number 9, being part of the same property. Mary is the person who decided to divide this building into two. After he husband’s death, she moved into number 8 and let number 9 out to provide an income. I feel that Mary deserves recognition for her role in making good use of the space!
Edward was the son of a thread maker, who inherited number 9 (the right hand side of the Colonnade) and the business from his father, Thomas, in 1797. The ground behind the house had been built on and became known as Clarke’s buildings. Edward retired in 1810 and let the house, which he described as having a rear warehouse ‘well adapted for any manufacture and built for that purpose (probably by his father), with a yard and stables. The premises were taken by a hat maker called James Nixon, who let out some of the best rooms as gentlemen’s apartments with stables. I have visions of gentlemen staggering up the stairs after having had too much alcohol, as there were a lot more pubs open in Stafford then than nowadays!