Sir Adrian Boult CH and the War Years (1936-1946)
Barbara and her husband Stuart (a solicitor on Broad Street), lived at the house until 1946 with a break during some of the war years (1939-41).
A central heating plan from 1937 shows that some of the upstairs rooms were still being used as maid’s bedrooms and bathroom and a separate flight of stairs connected these rooms with the living areas below. What is now the kitchen and previously the “morning room” was used as a nursery.
This period saw the arrival of best-known occupant of the house to date. Sir Adrian Boult CH (1889-1983) was one of the most influential people in British classical music during the last century. Amongst his many achievements, he is known for having been the founder of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the first person to conduct a live performance of Holst’s The Planets and conducting the music at the 1937 and 1952 coronations.
It was the BBC orchestra which brought him to the house, as the group was moved to Bristol during the first part of WWII to ensure “continuity of service”. He never owned the house but lived in it for a short while (1939-41) as Stuart Evans served in the Army during the war and the family moved temporarily to Weybridge, and later to Bath.
“My wife and I were lucky to find a furnished house, and the owners were kind enough to turn out immediately,” Boult wrote in his 1973 autobiography, My Own Trumpet.
Boult would have crossed the Clifton Suspension Bridge on most working days as his offices were on Pembroke Road in Clifton. According to his principal biographer, Michael Kennedy, Boult have away his own protective hats used for air raids to the staff at the bridge, to the alarm and puzzlement of his own staff. Boult also served as a lieutenant in the Home Guard during his stay at the house, resigning his post when the orchestra was later moved. We know that the pianist Dame Myra Hess stayed a night in the longest of the three bedrooms overlooking the front garden.
Sir Adrian, the orchestra and Bristol suffered a great deal during the first year of the war. He was conducting at Colston Hall when he found out his own flat in London had been destroyed during a raid, erasing his own personal recordings and causing him to remark: “I shall have to conduct from memory in the future”.
Most tragically, a BBC orchestra bass player and his wife died during a raid in Bristol. On another occasion, the windows of their Pembroke Road office were blown out in the same raid which destroyed much of All Saints Church. The orchestra’s entire set of instruments were saved when their driver loaded them into a van and parked them in the middle of the Downs.
We can only assume that Sir Adrian and his wife Ann would have used the cellar as an air raid shelter during the night-time attacks on Bristol. Leigh Woods was used as a ‘QL’ decoy for Filton’s aircraft factory – the largest in Europe at the start of the war. One company of the 7th Home Guard Battalion was stationed on the edge of the woods, though not near this property.
One object the house has retained is a letter to Lady Boult, found behind the fireplace in the former breakfast room (now study), during a major renovation in the early 2000s. It appears to be a letter from her son, asking her view on remaining in the Officer Training Corp. This is almost certainly a letter from Jonathan Wilson, who later died in active service in 1944. The Boults did not have children of their own, Jonathan was from Lady Boult’s first marriage.
The extent of the Bristol Blitz resulted in the orchestra being moved to Bedford in early 1941, where it would remain for the rest of the war. Boult’s biographer, Michael Kennedy, says he protested this move but was overruled. It is worth noting that Boult had left the city by the time the Clifton Rocks Railway had adopted its role as a bomb-proof relay station and emergency studio. As such, Boult notes “it was decided we should record our concerts in the afternoon and then disperse to our homes, leaving the brave engineers to play it.”
“We were very sad to leave Bristol,” Boult wrote in his autobiography, “We had all made many good friends; it was in every way a delightful city, and we had splendid audiences there. It was deplorable that the fine Colston Hall should have been burnt down one night from unknown causes when it had escaped the raids.”
A few public buildings now bear his name, including a concert hall in Birmingham and a council block in London. His flat in West Hampstead has a blue plaque and he has a memorial stone at Westminster Abbey, but the house has no marker of his time here that we are aware of, apart from perhaps the rust stains on the hallway floortiles, (the result of a leak which happened while the Boults lived in the house).
The Lucas period (1946-1953)
The Lucas family acquired the property from the Evans’s in August 1946. Hastings (later Herbert) Pollard Lucas had taken on responsibility for the family firm, T P Lucas, a major supplier of cooking ingredients which is still in business as Lucas Ingredients in Bristol today. The company website tell us:
“The company was founded by Thomas Edward Lucas in Bristol in 1926 and was the first to manufacture yeastless rusk – a purpose designed cereal binder for butchers who had previously used returned stale bread for their sausages.
From there, the company achieved other “firsts” such as offering “own recipe” and standard blended seasonings to the trade in the 1930s, going on to introduce the first fully blended cure mix, making curing more practical for everyone. Lucas was also the first to introduce coloured seasonings, coloured crumb for hams and the first to manufacture textured soy proteins.”
H P Lucas is said to have been particularly pleased that the house came with a cellar and remained at there until 1953 when the family moved to Wraxall Court. In common with other Lucas’s, H P was a member of the Clifton Club and the first winner of the annual 100 Club draw. Curiously, H P Lucas’s daughter, Elizabeth S Lucas, appears to have left her blue trunk in the attic, it remains in the house to this day.
E S Lucas’s trunk. Left behind in the house. Image: Ashley Coates Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)