The Lion is a beautiful 18th-century house which sits on the riverside of West Quay in Bridgwater.
The building was built around 1730 by Benjamin Holloway, architect and builder.
At the same time, Holloway undertook work from the Duke of Chandos to rebuild Castle Street. The Duke wanted beautiful stately buildings for successful merchants to live and work near the river in what was then a bustling port in Bridgwater.
Over the Victorian Era, the house was the home of influential men, Mayors and business owners.
Its central location and grand design matched the upstanding men who served the town both as Mayors and magistrates.
Here is a guide to the families that lived at the Lions over the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
Our first recorded resident of The Lions was John Evered Esq, Justice of the Peace for Somerset. John was born in the early 1700s in Stockland Bristol, in his career he was responsible for convictions, removals and Bastardy charges.
John and his family owned land in Dunwear, Haygrove and Bridgwater.
John Evered passed away in 1785 at home at the Lions.
‘Saturday night died at Bridgwater aged 82, John Evered Esq, one of his majesty’s justices of the peace for this county’
After his death, his son Robert took ownership of the Lions.
Robert had at least three children, it is unclear what position Robert Evered held in Bridgwater but there is clear evidence that he owned land in Bridgwater, Woolavington and Broomfield. In his will, he is listed as having acres of land named Hilcombe Croft which he left to his son Robert.
Robert Evered passed away in 1840 in Bridgwater.
After his death, the Lions was no longer the property of the Evered’s
William & Mary Browne
1840 – 1850
William Browne was a prominent businessman and Alderman of Bridgwater. William married Mary Ostler in 1820 and had at least two daughters -Mary and Fanny.
William was a successful merchant who owned the business Browne & Co. – a tile company
Not much can be found about the lives of William and Mary other than that he was a much-loved member of Bridgwater which was clear from a newspaper article reporting his death 1859 in the Taunton Courier.
‘The Late Mr William Browne – We have this week to record the death of an old and respected inhabitant Alderman William Browne whose decease occurred on Friday week. Mr William Bownes health had for some time been delicate, compelling him to withdraw some years from the firm Browne & Co in which he for a long period was an active and most important member- his business habits, regularity and assiduity, rendering his services most valuable. As a public man Mr Browne’s death will be acutely felt. Carrying the same business habits with him he, for a number of years, gave unwaried attention to the affairs of our Corporation, and those who had the pleasure of associating with him at the council table will bear hearty testimony to the value of his service, to his exceeding kindness and courtesy, and to his great liberality. During the time of our local exhibition of Works of Art and Manufacture for the benefit of the parish Church Restoration Fund, the deceased gentleman filled the office of Chief Magistrate of the borough and his energy, public spirit, and munificent liberality contributed greatly to his success.
Mr William Browne was also the first promoter of Building Societies in Bridgwater. Anxious that his workmen should find a means of possessing of homes if they wished it , he devoted much of his attention to the subject and Provident Place, on the Wembdon Road where now many of his workmen are owners of their cottages, sprang into existence through his exertions and instrumentality. To the public charities of the town Mr W Browne was a most liberal supporter, and the Bridgwater Infirmary, of which he was a governor, has lost in him a valuable friend.
But the worth of the deceased is not to be measured by his public acts or in his munificence to our public charities. In his private relations, amongst his domestic circle, for his unobtrusive and constant acts of private charity towards those in distress, and for his zeal for every work calculated to benefit his fellow creatures, his memory will be endeared amongst us and his loss severely felt. The deceased gentleman was in his 69th year, and his death creates a vacancy amongst the Aldermen. Mr Browne formerly carried on business in Clare Street, Bristol as a bookseller and stationer in partnership with Mr Parsons. The funeral took place on Friday at the cemetery. The procession consisted of mayor, Alderman and Town councillors in seven carriages headed by the Bellman, mace-bearers etc. The body was drawn in a hearse followed by four mourning coaches containing relatives of the deceased, 200 of the tradesmen and friends of the deceased and about 300 labourers of the brick fields of his brothers. The vessels in the harbour had their colours hoisted half-mast high and the shops were closed. Few men have died in Bridgwater more respected and regretted.
‘He could call no one his enemy’
After the death of her husband, Mary went to live at Hamp Street with her brother-in-law John, she later moved to South Petherton to live with her daughter Fanny.
Mary Browne passed away in June 1877 aged 92.
‘On Saturday afternoon the mortal remains of the late Mr William Browne, formerly of the Lions at Bridgwater, were interred in the family vault in the Bridgwater cemetery. The deceased lady was the relict of the late William Browne, of the firm Browne and Co who died at his residence the Lions, on the Western Quay Bridgwater on the 4th May 1859. She thus survived her husband, who was well known in Bridgwater for his acts of benevolence, eighteen years and until she reached the advanced age of 92 years. She died at Bridge House, South Petherton and her remains brought to Bridgwater for interment’. –Somerset County Gazette 07th July 1877
Joel & Emily Spiller
1853 – 1860
Joel Spiller was born in Bideford, Devon in 1790. As a young man, Joel moved to Battersea where he worked as a civil engineer. He worked on inventions to simplify the generation of steam with pump and had two patents in 1824 and 1835.
Joel was married but had no listed children. In 1850 Joel patented a machine for separating and cleaning wheat, which would be prosperous to his family as his cousin, also named Joel Spiller, owned a flour mill in Bridgwater named Spillers and Browne.
In 1853 his cousin Joel passed away and so Joel left Battersea and moved to Bridgwater to run the business. In 1857 his first wife Sarah Elizabeth passed away in Bridgwater. The following year Joel married Emily Browne, niece of William Browne, the previous occupier of the Lions. There was a thirty-year age gap in this marriage and the couple had no children. Records show that although Joel was in his seventies he was still working both in Bridgwater and Cardiff where the family business was expanded to make biscuits. His company still remains as Spillers pet food.
At his retirement, Joel and Emily Spiller left Bridgwater and moved to Salcombe in Devon where they remained until Joel’s death in April 1873 aged 82. Emily Spiller passed away in Devon in December 1903 aged 80.
William & Florence Holland
1870 – 1899
William Thomas Holland was born in Loughborough, Leicestershire in 1834. William was the second child of Thomas Crompton Holland, Unitarian minister. William arrived in Bridgwater around 1860 where he was listed as a bachelor boarding in George Street and working as a commercial clerk. It is unclear whether William worked at Browne & Co brick manufacturers where he was soon to become an integral part of the company’s success.
In 1861 William married Florence Duval in Manchester. The couple moved to Bridgwater and had four children.
This is where we find the family living at the Lions.
William continued as a brick manufacturer and Browne & Co was one of 10 Bridgwater companies making the well-known ‘Bath Brick’
The Bath brick was patented by William Champion and John Browne in 1823.
Fine clay was dredged from the banks of the River Parrett, and was mixed, treated and placed into moulds. The brick produced a gritty residue which could be used as an abrasive cleaner and sandpaper.
At its peak, over 24 hundred thousand bricks were being made yearly the ten companies. The Bath Brick was used and can still be found, all over the country.
By 1881 William, at the age of 47, had become a magistrate and Alderman, as well as continuing to work in the brick trade as a manufacturer and merchant. The eldest son Charles and daughter Mina had been sent to boarding school in London, while his youngest two remained at home.
In time William’s eldest son Charles was married and listed as a physician and surgeon living in Toxteth Park, Lancashire. Daughter Mina had married a professor of Chemistry and also moved to Lancashire. The couples second daughter Lillian had also married, her husband was a chemistry teacher and she had moved to Kensington in London. Only youngest daughter Kathleen remained at home.
William Thomas Holland passed away in December 1899 aged 65.
‘Death of Alderman Holland –
The death occurred on Monday of one of Bridgwaters prominent townsmen in the person of Alderman William Thomas Holland JP of The Lions. Deceased had been in failing health for some time past, but was able to attend a recent meeting of the town council, of which he had been an alderman for some years, having on some occasions occupied the Mayoralty of the borough. Alderman Holland was previously head of the firm of Browne and Co, brick and tile makers but retired into private life when the firm merged into the Somerset Trading Company. He took a deep interest in the Bridgwater Infirmary and subscribed liberally to its funds. In politics he was a liberal unionist, but for some years took very little part in politics. He leaves a widow and grown up children to mourn his loss.’
After her husband’s death, Florence moved to Nottingham to live with her daughter, she remained there until her death in 1924 aged 81. She was returned to Bridgwater to be laid to rest with her husband.
Robert and Sarah Yarde Foley
Robert Yarde Foley was an Irish businessman who previously lived at Elmwood in the Hamp area of Bridgwater. His first wife bore him two children before her death in 1885. In 1888 Robert married for a second time to Sarah Septimus Barham, the couple had six children
Robert was a brick tile manufacturer with the Somerset Trading company, he was also involved in Bridgwater’s chamber of commerce, a borough councillor and a Justice of the Peace
When Robert moved into The Lions around 1902 only his three youngest children remained at home. The 1911 census records indicate that the Lions was a busy family home.
|Robert Yarde||Foley||Head||Married||Male||54||1857||Brick and Tile Manufacturer||Cork City, Ireland|
|Sarah Septimus||Foley||Wife||Married||Female||45||1866||Bridgwater, Somerset|
|Francis Yarde||Foley||Son||Single||Male||20||1891||Assistant Brick and tile trade||Bridgwater, Somerset|
|Geoffrey Robert||Foley||Son||Single||Male||17||1894||School||Bridgwater, Somerset|
|Hugh Valentine||Foley||Son||Single||Male||7||1904||Bridgwater, Somerset|
|Hilda May||Maddock||Servant||Single||Female||18||1893||Housemaid||Stogumber, Somerset|
The family remained at The Lions until about 1918, this is around the same time their sons Francis and Geoffrey died whilst fighting in World War I. The family moved onto Spaxton before settling in Burnham On Sea.
Robert Yarde Foley passed away in 1927 aged 70.
His wife Sarah went on to live in Weston Super Mare, she passed away in 1942 aged 76.
After 1918 its occupiers become more obscure and photographs taken in the 1980s demonstrate the level of renovations required to preserve the beautiful old property.
The Lions Club moved into a wing of the Lions around 1955 and still remain as a men’s social club. The site is also home to a dentist practice. The main building is thought to be empty and is held by a local property company