|Ames family of Bristol|
In the 17th century the Ames family were yeomen farmers in Somerset. Roger Ames (1635-1700) began their advancement when he bought and rebuilt Charlton House in the parish of Shepton Mallet in about 1668. His eldest son, Levi Ames (d. 1727) established connections with Bristol, and sent his younger sons into trade there. His youngest son, Jeremiah (or Jeremy) Ames (c.1706-76), was apprenticed to his elder brother as a grocer, but later moved into the manufacture of gunpowder at Littleton Mill in Somerset and became involved in the triangular Atlantic trade, sending guns and gunpowder to Africa on boats that sold their cargoes in the west African ports, took consignments of slaves to the West Indies and American colonies, and then brought sugar and tobacco back to England. He became one of the leading citizens of Bristol and was mayor of the city in 1759. His children married into other Bristol commercial families, and his eldest surviving son, Levi Ames (1739-1820) moved into shipowning and banking, as one of the founding partners in Cave, Ames & Cave (later the Bristol Bank). Like his father, he was a Unitarian and played an active part in the civic life of Bristol, serving as mayor in 1789 and becoming the longest-serving member of the corporation. At some point in the 18th century, he bought Clifton Wood House in the growing suburbs of Bristol, and there brought up his large family of ten children; he sold Charlton House in 1804.
|Clifton Wood House.|
The third son of Levi Ames, his namesake Levi Ames junior (1778-1846), continued the family traditions of banking, shipowning, the West Indies trade, Unitarianism and civic leadership, but also began to shift his focus from Bristol to London. He maintained a town house in London and his children made socially advantageous metropolitan marriages. When he retired in the late 1820s, he leased Lamer Park in Hertfordshire as a country seat and in 1835 he bought an estate called The Hyde near Luton in Bedfordshire for his eldest son, Lionel Ames (1809-73). With Lionel the transition to the full-time landed gentry was complete; he seems never to have worked in business but had a commission in the 17th Lancers and was later Colonel of the Hertfordshire Militia. Levi junior's younger son, William Metcalfe Ames (1820-74), married a lady from the Northumberland county gentry and bought Linden Hall in 1861. His son, Louis Eric Ames (1855-1933) found the restrained classicism of Linden Hall less to his taste and built a new neo-Jacobean house nearby, which he called Ghyllheugh, and sold Linden Hall in 1904. Ghyllheugh remained the property of his descendants until the late 1950s.
Lionel Ames (1809-73) was succeeded in The Hyde by his son Lionel Neville Frederick Ames-Lyde (1850-83), who also inherited Ayot House from his great-uncle, George Henry Ames (1786-1873), the youngest of Levi Ames' children. George had inherited Ayot House in 1851 but it was something of a white elephant for a man whose interests were centred around Bristol, and it no doubt made sense to bequeath it away from his own children to a great-nephew who had other property in the area.
The next of Levi Ames' sons to require notice is John Ames (1784-1867), who seems to have been the most financially astute of his generation and in 1838 retired from business in Bristol to a house near Lyme Regis which he rebuilt and called Clevelands, although it has since reverted to its former name of Pinhay House. He left a vast fortune of around £500,000 which was divided among his nieces and nephews, as he was unmarried and childless. His nephew, Edward Levi Ames (1832-92) also inherited Clevelands, but although he left children it was sold after his death to the Allhusen family.
The youngest of Levi Ames' sons was George Henry Ames (1786-1873), who bought the very pretty Gothick Cote House near Bristol in about 1825. He had a large family. His eldest son married the daughter of a German count and predeceased him; his second son made money in the Indian civil service and built a country house at Remenham in Berkshire; his third son inherited Clevelands from his uncle in 1867, and so it was his fourth son, Henry St. Vincent Ames (1833-1901), who inherited Cote House. Henry, who had spent an adventurous youth working as a photographer in Canada, was married but died childless, so Cote House passed to his widow (d. 1917) and was later sold and tragically demolished.
Thus a family whose wealth was astronomical in the 19th century have left no permanent legacy of country house ownership. Charlton House was bought in 1668 and sold in 1804; Ayot House was inherited in 1806 and sold in 1912; Cote House was bought in 1825 and sold in 1922; The Hyde was bought in 1835 and sold in 1920; Clevelands was bought in 1838 and sold in 1892; Linden Hall was bought in 1861 and sold in 1904 and Ghyllheugh was built in 1900-03 and sold in the late 1950s.
Charlton House, Shepton Mallet, Somerset
|Charlton House: rear elevation showing some evidence of the original 17th century building. Image: Trip Advisor|
|Charlton House, Shepton Mallet. Image: Sarah Smith.|
A 17th century house, said to have been built for the Ames family after they bought the estate in 1668, which was given a smart new six-bay front in about 1810-11. The debased Italianate porch is of c.1850, and the glazing bars of the windows were no doubt removed at the same time. The house was converted into a hotel and restaurant after 1965.
Descent: Roger Ames (d. 1700); to son, Levi Ames (d. 1727); to son, Jeremiah Ames of Bristol (d. 1776); to son, Levi Ames of Clifton Wood (d. 1820); sold 1804 to Rev. Provis Wickham, who remodelled the house; sold 1847 to Col. Leckonby Phipps; sold 1882 to Col. Clerk; sold 1919 to Charles Brunell (d. 1959); sold after his death to Mr. Hughes; sold 1960 to Mr. Dix of All Hallows School; sold 1965 to Mr & Mrs Seaton who converted it to a hotel-restaurant; sold 1996 to Roger & Monty Saul.
Ayot House, Ayot St. Lawrence, Hertfordshire
|Ayot House: entrance front c.1800, from a watercolour by Samuel Davis. Image: Yale Center for British Art.|
|Ayot House: the entrance and garden fronts in about 1850. Image: Government Art Collection. Licenced under the Open Government Licence.|
|Ayot House in 2013.|
|Ayot St Lawrence: the eyecatcher church, built in 1778-79 for Sir Lionel Lyde. Image: Diamond Geezer. Some rights reserved.|
Cote House, Westbury-on-Trym, Gloucestershire
When the heights
of Durdham Down became a fashionable suburban retreat for
Bristol merchants in the 18th century, a
number of handsome villas sprang up along the road to Westbury‑on‑Trym. The
largest and most interesting of these
was Cote House, which incorporated an existing Jacobean building. In
1825, indeed, it was described as 'a fine, spacious and well‑preserved mansion
built in the 17th century', but by 1779, when Rudder called the house “turreted
and embattled” it had probably been given a delightful Gothick exterior. The earliest views of the house in its
Gothicised form are by S.H. Grimm, who was sketching in the Bristol area in
1788-90, and the young J.M.W. Turner, who it is thought visited Bristol in the
summer of 1791 and filled a sketchbook with drawings of local views and
houses. His view of Cote House was later
worked up into a more finished watercolour.
|J.M.W. Turner, Cote House. Image: Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford|
|Cote House, from an engraving of 1825.|
|Cote House in about 1913: unchanged, except for the growth of ivy. Image courtesy of Matthew Beckett.|
having survived the 19th century largely unaltered, Cote House was demolished
in 1925 to make way for a hospital known as St Monica's Home.
Descent: William Phelps (fl. 1745); to widow; sold after 1760 to John Thomas; sold c.1775 to Capt. John Webb MP... Capt. Fowler (fl. 1790); sold 1797 to John Wedgwood; sold 1803... sold c.1825 to George Henry Ames (1786-1873); to son, Henry St. Vincent Ames (1833-1901); to widow, Charlotte Henrietta Ames (d. 1917); sold 1923 and demolished 1925.
The Hyde, Luton, Bedfordshire
A five by three bay, two-storey early 18th century house, believed to have been built for Philadelphia, Lady Cotton, after the death of her husband in 1715. The house is of red brick, with segmental-headed windows throughout, except for a Venetian window on the east front lighting the staircase. The house was considerably extended and given an attic storey in the 19th century but these accretions were removed and the house was restored in 1952-53. At the same time, the entrance was moved from the south to the north front, and the house was given a flat roof behind a parapet with balustraded sections over each window. There is a thatched lodge by Richardson & Gill, of 1930.
The Hyde, Luton, Bedfordshire
|The Hyde: south front in 1967, after removal of 19th century additions.|
Pinhay House (alias Pinney House or Clevelands), Uplyme, Devon
|Pinhay House: the south front facing the sea views.|
Linden Hall, Longhorsley, Northumberland
|Linden Hall, Longhorsley. Image: Xooo.co.uk|
Ghyllheugh, Longhorsley, Northumberland
|Ghyllheugh in 2013.|
|Ghyllheugh: entrance front in 2013|
Ames family of Linden Hall and Ghyllheugh
|Levi Ames in 1789|
|H. St. V. Ames (1833-1901)|