Constitution House, Constitution Walk, Gloucester
A brief history
The Early Years
The house was built by Richard Chandler 1750, a wool stapler. The house originally had extensive grounds that stretched out over the old city moat and down to where St Michael’s square now is. The building has 3 extensive cellars and they were properly used as warehousing.
The house passed to his son also called Richard Chandler and was occupied by a William Brown an Attorney in 1830.
The Chandler family remain in ownership till the death of William Powell Chandler and the building was purchased with by William Judd a printer in the city for £500 in 1876. The purchase included the gardens, a bonded warehouse and out buildings. The property was at that time occupied by a Miss Penn. There were printing offices in the building also.
The building than became a young ladies school for a period before being bought by the Gloucester Conservative Club in 1883.
This club was separate from the Conservative Party that had offices in Queen Street in Gloucester. Queen Street no longer exists but ran from Eastgate Street to Constitution Walk along where Boots is currently situated now renamed Queens Walk.
There was a proposed new extension to the building in 1899 but this was never built.
The house had many famous visitors as the extract from the book Historic Gloucester by Phillip Moss demonstrates……
The imposing three storey house was built in 1750 by Richard Chandler, a Gloucester wool stapler. In order to supplement the extensive gardens to the south of the property, Chandler leased an area of waste ground immediately in front of the building where the City Museum now stands. The new sunken garden was set within the remnants of the city moat and access to the formal walkways and summerhouse was gained by way of a flight of stone steps leading down from Constitution Walk. In 1791 the grounds of Constitution House, by then occupied by Richard Chandler junior, were to witness an interesting event involving the eminent scientist and theologian, Dr Joseph Priestly.
Priestley had become well known not only for his experiments in the field of electricity and water-soluble gases but also for his radical political and religious views. In 1791 he gave great offence to many people throughout Britain by his out spoken support for the French Revolution. On 1st July of that year he was a guest of honour at the dinner given by the Birmingham Constitutional Society to commemorate the storming of the Bastille. The many inflammatory handbills that had been circulated in the city prior to the event caused a storm of protest that quickly degenerated into open riot. \the rampaging mop burned down the houses of Priestly and several of his supporters, causing the scientist to flee to Gloucester where he sought refuge at the home of Richard Chandler.
Word of Priestley’s arrival soon spread across the city and by nine o’clock in the evening a large crowd had arrived at the locked entrance to Constitution House. The excited and noisy mob repeatedly demanded that Priestly be turned out and were quieted only by the appearance of Richard Chandler at the front door. He quickly rebuked the many familiar faces before him and firmly assured them that Dr Priestley was not in his home and invited them to walk in and see for themselves. On hearing these words from such a respected and worthy man the crowd became subdued and immediately dispersed in a quiet and orderly manner. Richard Chandler had not lied to his fellow citizens, for Joseph Priestley was hiding in the summer house.
The property remained in the hands of the Chandler family until 1876 and subsequent to its use as a school for young ladies it was sold to the Gloucester Conservative Club in 1883.
The Conservative Club
The Benefit Society that bought the building ran it as a social club and it has stayed as such till today.
One of the early stewards was Daniel Roberts pictured with his wife and 8 children seated outside the door to what is now the Patio but were than extensive gardens. The wrought iron frame work around the door seen in the picture is still there.
This is an extract from the notes of Martha Roberts made by her granddaughter held at the County Archive…..
In 1866 they moved to Wellsprings Farm Badgeworth, on the strength of the owners promise never to sell Daniel sank all his capital in it, the owner did however sell it in 1874, and in the absence in those days of any legal provisions for Tenant’s Compensation, Daniel lost virtually all his money. For a while he carried in the New Inn a Longford (now the Longford Inn); it had a bit of land, and he laid out excellent gardens – he was wonderful at “carpet bedding” – and the place became a favourite centre for the farming community; he also built up a small menagerie, including a fox, a badger and sundry monkeys, one of which went with him on his next move, which was to take over the stewardship of the Conservative Conservative Club at Constitution House in Gloucester. My father, George Herbert Roberts, by then married and having, I think then, four children, used to come up there from Southsea for holidays, and I have heard my sister speak of the fun they had there , having the run of the whole of this Georgian House as long as they keep out of the way of the members.
During the following years the club has hosted events with some of the big names of the day attending. The fortunes of the club were always closely linked to that of the political party and enjoyed perhaps its greatest days during the era of Sally Oppenheim when the party was also enjoying good membership.
The building while being listed has little of the orginal internal features other than the staircase. It is mantained through club membership and voluntary contributions and if you would like to continue this work please do come into the club to discuss how you could help.