104 Duchy Road

Chris Dicken.jpg

104 Duchy Road

The history of my home at 104 Duchy Road includes one resident who in ten years slept in 530 different beds. But before we get to that ……

Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg

Image © reproduced by permission of the Chancellor and Council of the Duchy of Lancaster

104 is one of four houses built in a terrace on a plot of land just west of Hereford Road. An 1894 plan in the Duchy of Lancaster’s archives shows the footprint for these homes, much as they remain today. On 5 April 1898 David Simpson was granted by the Duchy a lease on this land for 96¾ years.

The original deeds for 104 are lost. But Robertson’s Harrogate Directory for 1899 identifies the first occupants, the Reverend Edward Davidson and his wife, Mary. At this time only the house-name, Dulce Domum (“sweetly at home”), is given. “104” is not shown until 1906. Numbers are not listed in this directory for any house in Duchy Road until 1904, and electoral records show there were only 40 registered voters in the road in 1901.

Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg

Edward Davidson

Edward Davidson was born in 1860 in Normanby, North Yorkshire. In his teens he was a cashier in an iron foundry in Middlesbrough, and at 19 he began his missionary work for the church around Bradford and Halifax. He entered Didsbury Theological College four years later. For 46 years from 1886, without a break, he was a Wesleyan Methodist minister, a “Connexional Evangelist” who preached throughout the United Kingdom and far beyond - though not, it seems, in Harrogate. 104 was his home until his death in 1933.

Edward married Mary Trattles in 1890 at the Wesley Chapel in Eston, Middlesbrough. The couple’s first home was in York, and in the following years Edward’s preaching took him all over the world, including to America, Australia, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Jamaica and Switzerland. I’ve found nothing to indicate that Mary ever accompanied him.

It appears that Edward spent little time at home. Indeed in 1896, when speaking in Sheffield on “the joys and trials of the evangelist”, he informed his audience (according to The Methodist newspaper) that “in the course of his ministry he had never spent fourteen consecutive days at home, and during the last ten years he had slept in 530 different beds”. He and Mary had no children.

A minister was often able to employ a resident maid who would provide, amongst her other duties, company for his wife in his absence. And indeed on the night of the 1911 census we find Mary alone at 104 with Alice Reed, her 32-years-old “general domestic servant”. Edward is not far away, at Temple Newsam near Leeds, a house-guest of the Rippon family.

Ten years’ later, again there is no mention of Edward in 104’s census return. In April 1921 Mary and Alice are still at home, now joined by Mary Ann, Edward’s sister, who at the time was a secretarial clerk in a magazines office in Cheltenham Crescent. She died in the house in 1924, aged 65, a spinster.

I have found no record of Edward preaching in Harrogate, despite him living - or at least having a home - at 104 for over three decades. In contrast, outside Harrogate local newspapers refer extensively to his preaching in places as far afield as Penrith (1890), Wrexham (1891), Blairgowrie and Dublin (1894), Otley (1896), Brentford and Sevenoaks (1899), Aberdeen, Lerwick, and Walworth (1900), Liverpool (1901), Eastbourne (1910), Tynemouth (1912), Hull (1915), Middlesbrough (1917), and Leek (1919). His evangelistic travels to Australia and Ceylon spanned two years after 1892.

Edward was one of the most senior officials of the Methodist church, including being a member of the Legal Hundred, at the time the church’s supreme legislative body. It is therefore maybe not surprising that he comes across as being a persuasive, if serious and perhaps austere, individual. Admire his image here, with slightly imposing moustache, taken from his 1907 book Devotional Notes On The Psalms.

Write-ups tell us that in the West Indies in 1890 he “delivered exceedingly helpful addresses to those who were desirous of attaining a higher Christian life”, and that he “charmed many audiences” in America. We can read that at a 10-day mission he led in 1900 in Walworth, south-east London, “his sunny ‘asides’ relieved the tension before and after his appeals to the conscience”; yet we are also told, somewhat ominously, that those appeals were “at times overwhelming in their force”. Nine years’ later, a newspaper informs us in an equally stark tone that the Rev Davidson is “a powerful speaker, dealing with his subjects in a very forceful way”.

Reports say that “his hobbies were essentially his preaching and his books” although he also enjoyed cricket “with the zest of an expert” and could often be seen at Harrogate’s and other Yorkshire cricket grounds.

Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg
Chris Dicken.jpg

Image 1: Obituary Extract
Image 2: Burial Plot

On 8 January 1933 Edward died suddenly at 104 from a heart attack. He was 72. He had retired less than two years’ earlier. He suffered from “pernicious anaemia” and had been unable to travel in his last year. Mary was present at his passing, and she continued to live at 104 until 1946, a total period of 47 years.

Newspapers across the country offered tributes, describing Edward variously as “a most lovable man and a very sane and attractive evangelist”, one whose "radiant personality won for him many friends”, “a man of great personal charm and a saint without sanctimoniousness” and “a writer of considerable ability and gift”. And if all that wasn’t enough praise, the Methodist Conference minutes of 1933 reflect on Edward as a man who was “upright, pure in heart, cheerful, winsome, with a rich gift of sympathy and sincere affection”.

The Wesley Chapel in Oxford Street hosted a substantial funeral service for him, and an obituary in the Harrogate Advertiser extends across five columns. Yet apart from this prominence in the town at his death, Edward seems to have been invisible in the civic and religious life of Harrogate during his lifetime. He is buried, along with Mary and Mary Ann, at Harlow Hill Cemetery.

Edward left to Mary an estate of £9,125 - about £700,000 in today’s money. Mary died in Harrogate in 1951, aged 92.

Coincidentally or not, the next occupant of 104, from 1948, was another Methodist minister, the Reverend Jonathan Henry Bodgener. He had been the minister at the Wesley Chapel from 1932 to 1936, and had officiated at Edward’s funeral. In 1954 “Bodge”, as he was known, moved away to Worthing in West Sussex, where he died in 1971.

Since the mid-1950s the owners or occupants of 104 have changed on average every six years. There is some evidence that the house was informally sub-divided for a time - in 1958 a resident, Mary Evangeline Thomas, is listed as living at “Flat 2”.

On 12 July 1962 the “Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty, Duchy of Lancaster” surrendered to Alice Pickering the freehold interest in the “702 square yards or thereabouts” of 104. 59 years after that, I became the latest custodian of 104’s history, present, and future.

Kevin Hales June 2022
kevinhales@me.com