The Dampier and Bide Families

 

Many Yeovilians regret the loss of Bide's Garden through the building of Reckleford dual carriageway in the early 1960's.  In 1916 Thomas William Dampier-Bide bequeathed to the town a large part of the grounds of Kingston Manor, lying between Court Ash and Red Lion Lane. The house itself, a Georgian Mansion, which soon after his death became a Nursing Home attached to the new Hospital, was finally demolished to make way for the large District Hospital of the present day.

 

Dampier-Bide's father was Thomas Dampier, born at Kingsdon in 1801 and becoming a well-to-do glover in Yeovil with a factory in Reckleford.  Dampier Street probably indicates its position. He married Elizabeth Bide, sister of another glover, in 1822 and was living as a retired gentleman of independent means at Kingsdon Manor according to the 1851 census.

 

He played little part in public life and though nominated as a Town Commissioner in 1837, he attended few meetings. Indeed, he was one of the early objectors in 1831 to the rates levied by the commission. Yet he lent St. John's churchwardens £500 at 5% interest to meet the cost of extending the burial ground to North Lane. He was elected to the town council in 1854 but played little part in its proceedings; he died in 1876. Portraits in oils of himself and his wife Elizabeth are in the Heritage Access Centre

His brother -in-law, William Bide, was born in1809 and entered his father's leather dressing and gloving business in Lower Reckleford. The 1851 census returns show that his was the largest factory in Yeovil, employing 260 male and female workers as well as 2000 outworkers. The latter, usually women, undertook sewing in their own homes, collecting and returning their bundles each week. Bide built a three-storey leather-dressing warehouse in 1850 at the foot of Eastland Road, still in use for the same purpose.

His business papers survive in Dorset Record Office.  They indicate the scale of his enterprise: in 1851 his stock included 33,000 skins and finished gloves worth £15,500. He imported leather from Italy, and his sales extended into the Midlands and the North of England. He had an interest in a brewery at Shepton Mallet, and owned a good deal of property in Yeovil. He built stone cottages for his employees at the foot of Reckleford, providing pumps for a water supply. His cashbook shows that he was interested in music and hunting, and records a monthly allowance of £1 to Mrs.Bide "for pities".

 

Like his father, William Bide held office, as churchwarden at St. John's and in 1846 became an Improvement Commissioner and a Special Commissioner. He topped the poll in the first election for Town Councillors in 1854,and was chosen Mayor four times. He had a brother Louis who carried on a gloving business in Brunswick Street.

 

The choir-vestry and heating apparatus in St. John's Church were added in 1915 by public subscription, and the debt remaining was paid by Thomas William Dampier-Bide of Kingsdon Manor in memory of his sister Elizabeth, a life-long worshipper in the church.

 

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