DARTMOUTH HOUSE, OLNEY
- SOME HISTORICAL NOTES AND DISCOVERIES
This article provides comments on the Second Earl of Dartmouth (mid 18th century) and his estates, from where the house presumably obtained its name, and on the possible origins and development of the house. Scans are included as examples of the well preserved receipts, discovered under the floorboards by former owners Mr and Mrs Hargreaves, which provide snapshots of Olney society at the turn of the nineteenth century. Finally, a few words are added on Edgar Mobbs, the legendary soldier sportsman, who resided in Dartmouth House at the turn of the 20th century. (More on Edgar Mobbs can be found on a separate web page.)
The article should be considered only as an introduction to Dartmouth House, since there are doubtless many other interesting facets and stories to be unearthed and recounted.
To the left of the front door is the lounge, and to the right, the dining room. The lounge has a deep window overlooking the street. The chimney breast forms the wall to the north and a former doorway to the right of the fireplace led down into the barrel vaulted cellar underneath the adjoining annex. The original steps down from the doorway in the lounge can still be seen. Behind the lounge is the kitchen which extends into the garden. The dog-leg
Well preserved receipts were found under the floorboards by former owners, Mr and Mrs Hargreaves, during a restoration of Dartmouth House. These receipts throw light on aspects of Olney society during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In particular, they record outgoings by the first tenant Thomas Whitmee.
They also show that Joseph Todd had a close association with the property and it is possible that he lived there as the house may have been sub-divided at that time.
Thomas Whitmee was an Overseer of the Poor. His acquisition of wool, ‘papers of pins’, thread and ‘gymp’ for lace making, was known to be a Workhouse activity. In his dealings with the upkeep of the poor in the parish he recorded the names of some contemporary tradesmen and craftsmen. In 1814 examples are: local barber William Wilson; butchers R Chater, T Berrill and George Knight, master mason Robert Clifton and glazier Michael Hind. Two medical men, T Biggs and George Grindon who attended the inmates of the workhouse are also recorded. Finedon and Cobb were carpenters who provided shrouds and coffins for the poor.
The cost of contemporary education is recorded in bills originating in Mr Haddon's school (held in what is now The Old Manse in the High Street), which was attended by John Todd, Joseph’s eldest son. Here the cost was £1. 0. 2d a quarter, and E H Lambert’s school attended by James Todd cost his father 8s. 0d for 24 weeks. A daughter went to Catherine Sample’s school, and later to Mesdames Gleadah and Mabley on the south side of the Market Place where the cost was one guinea for half a year's tuition with one shilling for ‘firing’. Another bill shows Thomas Whitmee’s purchase of a shirt from Hannah Smith, a draper. Hannah was a Quaker and it is interesting to note that the bill is dated ‘3 month’ the Quaker way of writing March. Hannah is the mother of Ann Hopkins Smith, the Quaker who sponsored the building of the Almshouses in Weston Road in 1819. (A charitable trust to maintain the upkeep of these Almshouses still survives.)
A particularly interesting find was the Constables Account (shown below) with a description of people needing lodging from 25th October to 13th March (no year given). These people are probably mostly travellers passing through the town who were lodged at the various inns.
Dartmouth House has seen several owners over the last two hundred years. These include the Mobbs, the Grindons, the Arnolds, the Hargreaves and currently, Stewart and Shirley Elsmore. Edgar Roberts Mobbs was a particularly noted resident of Dartmouth House during the early twentieth century.
Edgar, born 1882, was a gifted rugby union footballer who played for and captained Northampton RFC (the Saints) and later the England team in 1910. Dartmouth House was the family home of Edgar’s parents during the early 1900s. Subsequently Edgar was equally renowned for his memorable military career in the Northamptonshire Regiment during the First World War. Soon after being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel he was killed in action in 1917 whilst leading a charge at Passchendaele. Later he was acknowledged as a distinguished hero of the First World War; the monument to his memory in Abington Square, Northampton being a testimonial of his heroic exploits.
More on Edgar Mobbs can be found on a separate web page.