Sunday 25 January 2015

(155) Apperly of Rodborough Court

Apperly of Rodborough
The Apperly family rose to prominence in the 19th century as woollen cloth manufacturers in the Stroud area of Gloucestershire. The firm is thought to have been founded as early as 1794, but in 1832 John Apperly said that most of his buildings at Dudbridge Mill, Cainscross, near Stroud (Glos) had been built within the last three years. John's son, David Apperly (1812-87) managed and grew the business from the 1850s to 1872, when he retired to Cheltenham, apparently to pursue an interest in homeopathy. His eldest son, Alfred Apperly (1839-1913), took over the management of the business and rapidly expanded it to the point where it produced large profits. Although his personal wealth at death was modest, at some £43,000, the firm was by then a limited company (Apperly Curtis & Co.) which was valued at around £250,000 in the 1890s.  Sir Alfred (as he became in 1907) was also active in local politics and public affairs. He chaired the Mid Gloucestershire Liberal Association and was a County and District Councillor, a Guardian of the Poor, and a Justice of the Peace. From about 1870 he assembled a compact landed estate at Rodborough near Stroud, on which in 1888 he built Rodborough Court, probably to the designs of Alfred Bucknall, an architect and builder from a Rodborough family. The house was expanded further in 1899 to designs of the young Percy Morley Horder, who was married to one of Sir Alfred's nieces.

When Sir Alfred died in 1913, he had recently changed his will to leave Rodborough Court to his widow absolutely rather than leaving her a life interest with remainder to his eldest son, Charles Alfred Apperly (1872-1939), probably because Charles had just built a new house on Rodborough Common, called Cotsmoor. Charles did inherit his father's shares in the family business, of which he duly became Chairman, but health problems meant he was obliged to live abroad during the winter, leaving the firm in the control of a manager who proved untrustworthy. He was ultimately unable to capture new markets to replace the collapse in the demand for British military serge at the end of the First World War, and the business finally closed down in 1933. One local source describes Charles as 'a wastrel son', which seems a bit harsh given his health problems, and that he became Chairman at a difficult period for the local cloth industry, when many other businesses also closed.

Lady Apperly sold Rodborough Court in 1923, although she retained a tenancy for life on a flat in the house, which she occupied until her death in 1931. Charles sold Cotsmoor in the 1920s and rented a house at Southbourne (Hants); he also owned a villa on Tenereife in the Canary Islands.  After Apperly Curtis & Co. closed, he left England altogether and lived for the rest of his life in the south of France, where he died a few days after the outbreak of the Second World War.

Rodborough Court, Gloucestershire
About 1870, Sir Alfred Apperly, a mill owner based at Dudbridge near Stroud, began to assemble a small estate in Rodborough which included Stringer’s Farm. It was based around a house called The Hawthornes, which had been bought by David Apperly in 1850, and which was sold to Alfred in 1872.  

Rodborough Court: exterior. The house was built in 1888 and extended in 1899.
Image: Michael Hill.

In 1888, a new house, replacing The Hawthornes, was built and probably designed for Alfred Apperly by Alfred Bucknall of Clifton, a brother of the architect of Woodchester Park, Benjamin Bucknall.  (The Bucknalls were a Rodborough family, and Benjamin’s younger brothers, Robert and Alfred, were builders as well as architects). The new house was tall and built on elevated ground beside the road which offered splendid views westwards toward the River Severn.  A robust Renaissance style was used, curiously combined with elements of Cotswold vernacular, and the house was built in fine Bath stone ashlar with a clay-tiled roof. The south-west front was the most imposing, dominated by a tall hipped-roof tower with a decorative frieze around the top.  At the south-east entrance was a porch tower with a similar frieze, crowned by a pedimented gable containing a carved tympanum, which gave the house a somewhat sober air.

Internally, the house was richly furnished, with many of the reception rooms having oak panelling.  A curiosity was the fully panelled inglenook in the dining room, entered through a three-centred timber archway.  This room was a curious mix of Arts and Crafts and of Beaux Arts influences. The drawing room was in a less eccentric neo-Georgian style, with a carefully co-ordinated plasterwork ceiling, frieze, dado and chimneypiece typical of many nouveaux riches homes.

Rodborough Court: drawing room c.1923. Image: Gloucestershire Archives SL46

The house was extended to the north-east in 1899, and apparently increased in height.  The designer for these alterations was Percy Morley-Horder, who was London-based but related by marriage to the Apperlys. After Sir Alfred’s death in 1913, the house continued to be occupied by his widow, although part of it was later let out.  In 1923 it was sold, together with the gardener’s cottage (called by then Briarton), and Stringer’s Farm, although Lady Apperly continued in occupation of part of the house. Eventually the house was sub-divided into flats, but in 1964 it was put up for sale.  Fearing that the house would be demolished, Alan Payne, a local accountant, bought it for use as offices by his firm, Randall & Payne, a purpose it fulfilled until recently. In 2014 the house was on the market.

Rodborough Court was the largest house in the village, and the extensive well-planted gardens that Apperly created around it ran down to the Stroud to Nailsworth road at the Golden Cross.  Because of the relatively cramped site, the stables, kitchen gardens and orchards and an extensive set of greenhouses were sited on the opposite side of the road known as Walkley Hill.  The further part of the garden was reached by a bridge which crossed the sunken lane leading to the centre of Rodborough.  The grounds were well admired locally, being used for various village events, hosted by Sir Alfred, particularly in connection with the Rodborough Tabernacle, of which he was a member.  The garden area furthest west was sold off after the Second World War, and a detached house was built there in the 1950s, as part of the expansion of Rodborough into a large residential suburb of Stroud.  During this time, all of the land on the south side of Walkley Hill was built over, and all trace of the kitchen gardens was lost.  The house is now somewhat hemmed in by housing, although it retains a good deal of its garden.

Apperly family of Rodborough Court

Apperly, David (1812-87). Son of John Apperly (d. 1858) of Cainscross, cloth manufacturer, and his wife Ann Cooper (d. 1843), born 2 July and baptised at Rodborough Tabernacle, 11 October 1812. Nonconformist cloth manufacturer; retired 1872 and became a homeopathist. He married, 28 March 1838 at St Mary Magdalene, Taunton (Somerset), Ellen (1817-1900), daughter of Thomas Jacobs of Taunton, and had issue:
(1) Sir Alfred Apperly (1839-1913) (q.v.);
(2) Ellen Apperly (1840-99), born Apr-Jun 1840; lived at 2 Oxford Buildings, Cheltenham (Glos) with a companion; died unmarried, 10 April 1899; administration granted to her mother, 30 June 1899 (effects £313);
(3) Edward Apperly (c.1843-1931); farmer at Alma Villa, Hatherley Road, Cheltenham; married, 1871, Elizabeth Sarah Warlock and had issue two daughters; died in 1931 aged 88;
(4) Ebenezer Apperly (c.1845-1930); dental surgeon; married 1st, 1871, Jessie Nelson Coombes (c.1853-1906) and had issue two sons and one daughter (Rosa Catherine Apperly (1872-1961), who married the architect Percy Morley Horder); married 2nd, Oct-Dec 1910, Jane Ellis (c.1862-1943); died 7 February 1930, aged 85; will proved 16 April 1930 (estate £3,927);
(5) David Cooper Apperly (1846-1933), born 17 February 1846; woollen merchant; lived in Hackney (Middx) and later in Ealing (Middx) and at Glebelands, Bidborough (Kent); married 1st, 12 April 1870 at Milton, Glasgow, Louisa Margaret McKenzie (1846-1907) and had issue one son and four daughters; married 2nd, 1910 in San Remo (Italy), Beatrice Teresa Eccles (1877-1949) and had further issue one son and one daughter; died 19 December 1933 aged 87 and was buried at Rusthall (Kent); will proved 27 March 1934 (estate £114,583);
(6) Rosa Elizabeth Apperly (b. 1849), born Jul-Sep 1849; unmarried and living with her parents in 1881 but disappears from the records without trace thereafter;
(7) Frances Apperly (b. 1852), born Oct-Dec 1852; married, 1876, Walter (b. c.1852), son of Philip Charles Evans of Brimscombe Court (Glos) and had issue four sons and four daughters; emigrated to South Africa and lived at Brimscombe Farm, Hanover, Cape Province; living in 1895;
(8) John Theodore Apperly (1854-1948), born Oct-Dec 1854; commission agent in London; married, 4 June 1887 at St Jude, Grays Inn Road, London, Constance Emma (b. c.1862), daughter of George Cove and had issue two sons; living in Islington in 1921 but disappears from the records thereafter; died in Huntingdonshire, Jan-Mar 1948;
(9) Emily Georgiana Apperly (1857-1922), born Apr-Jun 1857; died unmarried, 2 May 1922; will proved 10 June 1922 (effects £1,210);
(10) Herbert Apperly (1860-1932), born Oct-Dec 1860; dental surgeon in Cavendish Square, London; married, 1887, Florence Edmunds (1856-1952) and had issue two sons and three daughters; died 24 February and was buried at Chipstead (Surrey), 27 February 1932; will proved 12 April 1932 (estate £23,306);
(11) Mary Apperly (c.1863-76); died young, Jan-Mar 1876.
He lived in Stroud and later at Rodborough and Cheltenham (all Glos).
He died 28 April 1887; his will was proved 24 August 1887 (effects £165). His widow died 22 March 1900; her will was proved 19 December 1900 (effects £241).

Apperly, Sir Alfred (1839-1913), kt., of Rodborough Court.  Eldest son of David Apperly (1812-87) and his wife Ellen, daughter of Thomas Jacobs, born 2 January 1839. Cloth mill owner; chairman of Apperly, Curtis & Co., of Dudbridge Mill 1895-1913. A leading light of the Rodborough Tabernacle Methodist church. President, Mid Gloucestershire Liberal Association. Knighted 1907. JP and County Councillor for Gloucestershire; Chairman of Rodborough School Board; a member of Stroud Rural District Council and Stroud Board of Guardians. He married, 19 January 1865 at Egham (Surrey), Maria (1846-1931), daughter of Henry Charles Paice of Aubrey Haw, Egham and had issue:
(1) Ethel Marianne Apperly (1867-1959), born 23 May 1867; married, 9 January 1889, James David Hunter Hedderwick (1845-1926) of Glasgow and had issue one son and four daughters; died 5 August 1959, aged 92;
(2) Jessie Maria Apperly (1869-1953), born Apr-Jun 1869; married, 8 September 1897, Albert Edward Tilley (1871-1940) of Hampstead (Middx), chartered accountant, and had issue one son and one daughter; died 10 July 1953; will proved 11 September 1953 (estate £5,127);
(3) Rose Ellen Apperly (1871-1946), born Apr-Jun 1871; married, 31 October 1901, George Daniel Gooch (1879-1969) of Furze Hill Lodge, Kingswood (Surrey) and had issue two sons and one daughter; died 22 June 1946; will proved 29 October 1946 (estate £3,162);
(4) Charles Alfred Apperly (1872-1939) (q.v.);
(5) Capt. Ernest Paice Apperly (1874-1952), born 2 December 1874; cloth manufacturer with Apperly Curtis & Co. and later at Huddersfield (Yorks); served in Royal Engineers in WW1 (Capt.); lived at Spring Vale House, Huddersfield (Yorks) c.1911-29; married, 29 June 1899 at Banstead (Surrey), Edith (b. 1872), daughter of James Byres Watt of Castleton, Banstead and had issue a daughter; died 1 June 1952; will proved 31 July 1952 (estate £1,665);
(6) Arthur Lancelot Apperly (1877-1916), born 29 May 1877; educated at Cheltenham College; served in 5th Battn., Gloucestershire Regiment in WW1; killed in action on the Somme, 27 August 1916 and is commemorated on the memorial to the missing at Thiepval; administration granted to his mother (estate £1,638).
He built up the Rodborough Court estate from 1870 and built a new house in 1888 which was enlarged in 1899. At his death the estate passed to his widow, who sold the freehold in 1923.
He died 7 September 1913 aged 74; his will was proved 14 October 1913 (estate £43,384). His widow died 23 February 1931; her will was proved 8 May 1931 (estate £3,005).

Apperly, Charles Alfred (1872-1939), of Rodborough Court. Eldest son of Sir Alfred Apperly (1839-1913) and his wife Maria, daughter of Henry Charles Paice of Aubrey Haw, Egham (Surrey), born 21 November 1872. Educated at Cheltenham College. Served in Gloucestershire Volunteer Engineers (Lt., 1893; Capt., 1900). JP for Gloucestershire, 1906. Succeeded his father as Chairman of Apperly, Curtis & Co., but suffered from a bronchial condition which obliged him to live abroad in winter, leaving the management of the firm to an employee, who proved untrustworthy. The business ceased trading in 1933, after which he moved abroad permanently. He married, 21 November 1912, Florence Mary (d. 1967), daughter of Joseph Lees of Minnickfold, Holmwood (Surrey) and had issue:
(1) Alfreda Josephine Apperly (1913-2002), born 7 September 1913; married, 1936, Frank Matheson McBain (d. 1991), only son of James A.D. McBain of Hill House, Kenley; died 4 May 2002; will proved 14 October 2002;
(2) Marjorie Florence Apperly (1916-2010), born 11 April 1916; married, 8 August 1950 at East Molesey (Surrey), Harold Small (1911-96) of Montreal (Canada) and had issue; died 14 February 2010 aged 93.
He lived at Rodborough Court until 1913 when he moved to a newly-built house called Cotsmoor on Rodborough Common. By 1929 he was living at Southbourne (Hants) and had a villa in Tenerife; after the family firm closed in 1933 he settled in France at Villa Sphinx, Valescure, St. Raphael, Var (France).
He died 18 September 1939; his will was proved 7 March 1940 (estate £4,975 in England). His widow died 22 January 1967; her will was proved 19 April 1967 (estate £8,779).

Burke's Landed Gentry, 1952, p. 48; VCH Glos, xi, p. 221; J. Tann, Gloucestershire Woollen Mills, 1967, p. 156; D. Verey & A. Brooks, The buildings of England: Gloucestershire - The Cotswolds, 1999, pp. 579-80; N.W. Kingsley & M.J. Hill, The country houses of Gloucestershire, 1830-2000, 2001, pp. 212-13;

Location of archives
No significant archive is known to survive.

Coat of arms
Argent, a bend between six pine-cones vert.

Revision and acknowledgements
This post was first published on 25 January 2015 and was updated 6 July and 11 November 2015 and 22 May 2018.


  1. I am very interested to read this account of the Apperly family and Rodborough Court. Sir Alfred was my great uncle. I am the granddaughter of his brother David. I have pictures of Lady Apperly and details of both their funerals and obituaries and other details about the business if you are interested. I am afraid that he pictures are not very good quality as they are copies from newspapers. Please get in touch via this page if I can send you any thing.

  2. Thank you for getting in touch. The obituaries and a photograph of Sir Alfred would certainly be of interest. If you send me a reply (which I will not publish) to this message giving me your email address, I will email you my contact details so you can send them through. Many thanks again!

  3. I am also very interested to read this account of the Apperly family as my grand father was Theodore Apperly and whilst I have a picture of Sir Alfred Apperly as a JP I have little else and would appreciate copies of any material you might have.I look forward to hearing from you let me know how I can get in touch to give you my contact details.

    Thanks you

    1. If you send me your email address (which I will not publish) I will forward your details to my correspondent of 6th February and send you the material which she sent me in response to my reply. Am I right in thinking that your grandfather was John Theodore Apperly (b. 1854)? If so, are you able to give me any further information about him as I was not able to track him down after the 1901 census.

      Best wishes,


  4. Sir, in re: John Theodore Apperly, I have found the following:

    John Theodore Apperly appears in London Electoral Registers through the first decade of the 1900s. His two children were Theodore Ebenezer J. C. Apperly, b. 1889 and Stower David L. C. Apperly, b. 1895. There is a death record for a John T. Apperly, born 1853, who died 1948 at Huntingdon; presumably this is the same individual (his birth record gives 1854, but some census records list 1855), as there was only one John T. Apperly born between 1850 and 1860, that being this John Theodore Apperly.

  5. Thank you for this and your other recent comments, which are extremely helpful. I will incorporate the details you provide into my account.

  6. Hi there, my grandmother was the daughter of Ebenezer Apperly, who was the brother of Sir Alfred. Here is your excerpt above:
    (4) Ebenezer Apperly (c.1845-1930); dental surgeon; married 1st, 1871, Jessie Nelson Coombes (c.1853-1906) and had issue two sons and one daughter (Rosa Catherine Apperly (1872-1961), who married the architect Percy Morley Horder)
    Percy Morley was my grandfather (1870-1944). Rosa and Percy had 2 children, Barbara Morley Horder (1898-1986) and Joanna Morley Horder (1917-2012). Joanna was my Mother. There was a huge gap in age between the sisters of 19 years! My Mother and my aunt were actresses (see Theatricalia website for bio). There is growing interest in my grandfather Percy Morley Horder who was a famous architect.

    1. rememberingrodborough@gmail.com12 July 2021 at 14:43

      Do you know if Percy Morley Horder was the designer of the Apperly mausoleum in Rodborough Churchyard?

    2. rememberingrodborough@gmail.com12 July 2021 at 14:45

      Do you know any more about the history of Briarton prior to its use as the gardener's cottage>

  7. Dear Nick, My mother was Charles Apperly's second daughter. My mother travelled extensively with Charles and closed down the house at Villa Sphinx just before the Germans arrived in the South of France, escaping from Marseille on one of the last ships to leave the port before it fell. My understanding of the failure of the Mills was that the firm was almost entirely committed to making woollen military serge for uniforms and at the end of the war demand ceased almost overnight from which recovery was impossible. My grandfather's absences from the UK arose because of a bronchial condition that made it extremely dangerous for him to stay in the UK during the winter hence the properties in Tenerife and then the South of France. These absences mean't that he had to leave the running of the Mills to a manager and, as I understand it, the collapse of the Mills was at least partly caused by the appointed manager being dishonest and stealing from the business. I am happy to provide more information if I can. I have a lot of photos.

    1. Dear Mr. Small,
      Thank you for these comments, which are very helpful in explaining the circumstances of Charles Apperly's life. My only response would be to note that the collapse of the market for military serge in 1918 may have contributed to the difficulties facing the firm but cannot be the main reason for its ultimate collapse in 1933, which I suspect had more to do with competition and the shortcomings of the manager. Many of the surviving Stroudwater cloth businesses closed between the wars. I will amend my text above to reflect the information you have provided.
      Nick Kingsley

  8. I should also add that Sir Alfred won an award at the Great Exhibition for producing the finest woollen cloth in England. I can't recall if this is what led to his knighthood.

  9. I'm researching the history of Park Lodge which is just to the north west of Rodborough Court across Bath Road. I have established (Gloucestershire Archives) that Apperly bought the land when the Frome Hall estate was sold off in 1893, and Park Lodge was thus constructed sometime between then and 1901 when it appears on the Ordnance map surveyed that year.

  10. Does anyone have any more details on the Architect Alfred Bucknall?



Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.