Ravensworth House stood in its own grounds on the site bounded to the south by what is now College Street (at that time an eastward curving extension of Victoria Street); to the East by Oxford Street; to the North by ‘Church Path’ (Oxford St to Victoria St) and to the West by Victoria Street). The site is now occupied by Ravensworth Terrace and the properties on the North of the East end of College Street.
The original part of the house, 3 storeys and Georgian in style, is marked on the 1843 Tithe Map. The registry number on this map identifies the land as belonging to William Clements. According to this map the access to the property was to the East side along the line of Church Path. Two extensions, one of two storeys and one of a single storey were later added to the Eastern side of the house. These are visible on the photograph and on the Ordnance Survey map of 1884 which also show that the main entrance driveway was now to the front, from College Street, which had by then been cut right through to the Esplanade.
Cuthbert Ritson is shown as resident in records of 1872 & 1875 but not on the previous record of 1866. Ritson owned timber yards at Highbridge and Bridgwater. A surviving handwritten letter by him (1875) also identifies him as Secretary of the Bridgwater and Burnham branch of the Royal National Lifeboat Society.
By 1880 the House had been converted into a small private school, of a kind which was common in the nineteenth century (there may indeed have been others in Burnham). We know this from a copy of an advertisement for pupils marked with that date. The school was run by William Clark. The Advertisement uses the photograph above.
The advertisement states that there is accommodation for 30 boarders. However, the 1881 census shows that in addition to Clark and his wife there were two other teaching staff in residence (Clark’s son & daughter it appears), two general servants and 12 scholars. By 1888, it seems, the school may have been accommodating 30 boarders and also educating a number of local boys as day pupils.
Copies of 3 pieces of work by pupils and an award certificate are known to survive. Two drawings appear to be signed C. G. Puddy and are dated 1885 & 1886. George A. Puddy (11) appears as one of the scholars on the 1881 census. It is possible that this is the same boy or a relative who later came to the school. The certificate was awarded to Henry Robert Haines who is also responsible for a decorated handwriting exercise about Christmas. Both of these dated 1883. We would be grateful for contact from anyone who knows of other surviving work or records from the school, or records from the earlier life of the house.
Records of 1889 show a William Clark occupying No.1 Catherine Terrace, Sea View Road, so there is a possibility that either the school or Clark had moved by that time, though the reason for that is not evident as Ravensworth House was not demolished until the late 1890’s. However it seems there is also in existence a record of another Clark as a music teacher at Catherine Terrace. This could be William’s daughter Bertha, who is listed as an 18 year old music teacher on the 1881 census.
The last of the new properties built on the site was No. 38 on the corner of CollegeStreet and Oxford Street, in 1903. The 1884 map and the photograph give the impression that this corner of the site may have been a vegetable garden for the house.