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Ridge Families

Kelly's Directory and the census returns yield valuable information regarding the inhabitants of Ridge House throughout the years.

In 1837, it was occupied by James Bradshaw. The estate was described as comprising of 50 acres, 2 rods and 6 perches.

In 1851, the occupant was Robert Neale, who dwelt there with his large family and a number of servants. He is described as both solicitor and farmer. The Neale family have occupied this area for a long, long time. There were Neales resident at Yate Court during the 16th century - Thomas Neale (born 1519) became the first English scholar to master Latin, Greek and Hebrew. It is possible that Robert Neale was descended from this line. A John Corbett Neale is shown in the 1837/41 tithe listings for the area.

In 1856, the house was occupied by William Sturge, who was a farmer. Incidentally, a Toby W Sturge lived at Lawn (close to St Mary's Church in Yate) and it is possible that he may have been a relation. The Sturge family in Bristol had strong Quaker connections and became very influential members of society. Joseph Sturge IV (born 1724) was a farmer and land surveyor who formed the Bristol firm of J P Sturge & Sons. Another Joseph Sturge was renowned as a philanthropist who campaigned against slavery.

During the 17th Century, a William Sturge married Mary Walker and formed the Yate branch of this family - their home was described as a 'fine old house in Yate'. It is likely that the William Sturge of 1856 was a descendant of this first William.

In 1859, we find documents relating to an alteration of a right of way across the fields immediately to the west of The Ridge which eventually cross the latter. The alteration seems to have been made in order to benefit Messrs J H and W W Marsh as it gave them easier access to their land. It does not appear that the Marsh family were resident at The Ridge as in 1861, William Sturge is still given as the occupant. It is possible that Sturge was a tenant of the Marsh family. He is described as being in possession of 68 acres and 2 servants, so it would seem that the estate has somewhat increased in size since 1837.

The Ridge is also known as Barn Hill and this name continues in the name of the quarry now occupying much of this area. It is reminiscent of the agricultural past of this land, for it was named after a large barn erected on the hill in order to house cattle.

The Burges Family

In 1868, Edward Burges came to live at The Ridge. He may have been a descendant of a Dennis Burges who is referred to in ?Foxe's Book of Martyrs? as being burnt to death for his faith on 22 June 1557.

However, perhaps the earliest of our Burges family to be identified with any certainty is William Burges who married Alice Blisset in 1604. He died in 1641 and was buried at Marlborough.

Several generations pass before we encounter Daniel Burges who was born in 1747. He was a solicitor and Clerk of Arraigns in Bristol and solicitor to the City Corporation. But he also had a great social conscience. He became legal adviser to Clarkson, helping him to work towards the abolition of the slave trade. This was obviously a controversial role and Burges showed considerable courage in his actions.

The family continued to have strong links with the city of Bristol. On the corner of Corn Street in the old part of the city, stands Christ Church, famous for its quarterjacks that still strike the time of day. Within this building can be found a memorial to the Burges family. The earliest inscription refers to:

?Daniel Burges, City Solicitor and Clerk of the Arraigns, who died April 10 1791,
aged 44 years and is interred in the crypt of this Church?.

This, of course, is the Daniel described above.

His wife, Catherine outlived him, dying on August 3 1822 at the age of 72.

Their children seem to have enjoyed illustrious - but tragically short - careers. John Burges was a Fellow of St John's College, Oxford. He died at the age of 46. Charles Burges was a Midshipman HEICS who died on board the Ship Asia on April 29 1800 at the age of 22. Richard Parker Burges was the Lieutenant of the HM 45th Regiment - he died at Talavera on August 23 1809 at the age of only 29. George Burges was a Captain in the 5th Bengal Light Cavalry. He died on June 19 1827 at the age of 38. Two daughters, Christiana - who lived until she was 64 - and Catherine - who lived to the age of 77 - are also remembered.

There was also a son by the name of Daniel, who followed in his father's footsteps not only by inheriting his Christian name but also by becoming the town clerk of Bristol. His son - Daniel Travers - succeeded in turn, to this post.

The three generations of the Burges family served as town clerks between 1836 and 1900. There was only one break in their service, between 1874 and 1880 when, following the death of Daniel II, William Brice held the office. But he too, was connected with the Burges family, as he was a lifelong friend and a professional partner.

The last two Burgeses died in office. When Daniel II died, Alderman Proctor (who himself, has a remarkable history), described him as 'the perfect town clerk'. He listed the qualities required for the post - the necessity for a thorough knowledge of the law - especially that relating to municipal and sanitary legislation - and professional experience. The Burges family, firmly rooted in the legal profession, were ideally suited for this work.

During the second half of the 19th century, the area covered by Bristol Corporation expanded considerably and the population it served increased accordingly. This added to the clerk's workload and responsibilities. Thus, the family served the city at a crucial time, and were instrumental in the smooth progression of all the changes that took place during that period.

The Burges Family at The Ridge


Edward Burges moved in to The Ridge in 1868 and became the first of the family to live there.

Born around 1816, he was the son of Daniel Burges II and brother to Daniel Burges III. He followed the family tradition by choosing a career in law. He worked in partnership with William Edward Lawrence, running a large law practice that concentrated on conveyancing. He also served for many years as clerk to the Improvement Committee.

He was certainly a well-known and well-respected character within the City of Bristol, for a profile of his life and career is given in the 1909 edition of ?Bristol Worthies?. This publication provides a detailed description of him which helps us to better visualise him:-

?He was of an eccentric turn of mind, and threw himself heart and soul into local and other political matters in his early life and was always fond of horses, riding and driving, and did a great deal of hunting at one time...................in appearance, he was rather above middle height, wearing hair and whiskers etc; closely cut, had a smart, alert manner, and a peculiar swinging gait in walking, so that his many friends and acquaintances would easily recognise him, and with whom he was generally popular as an amusing, lively companion.?

Before residing at The Ridge, Edward and his family dwelt at Cleeve Wood in Downend. The latter shared similarities with the Yate residence - it was described as a large, attractive house with beautifully-planted woodland gardens that sloped from the brow of a hill towards the Frome. It was here that his family was raised.

Edward Burges died suddenly on 23 November 1890. His friend, Edwin Light Wyatt, recorded the event in his journal, commenting that he had suffered a stroke in his late 40s which had taken away his power of speech and confined him to a wheelchair. Wyatt goes on to record that a large gathering assembled to pay their last respects at his funeral.

In 1898, a memorial window to Mr and Mrs Burges was installed in St Mary's Church. It can be found behind the reredos of the Lady Chapel.

William Edward Parry Burges (Peter)

Their son, William Edward Parry, was born at Cleeve Wood in 1856. He represented the next generation of the Burges family to occupy The Ridge.

Like his father, he was a well-known local figure. A profile of his life is given in the 1934 edition of ?Who's Who in Gloucestershire?. He is also featured in ?Bristol Personalities? (Feb 5 1930), a series run by the Bristol Times and Mirror. In the latter he is described as Peter Burges, a name by which he was often referred.

He was educated at Eton. He then read engineering at King's College and also studied at Trinity College, Cambridge.

The Gloucesters

Like many of his family, he pursued a military career. He served in The Gloucesters for 35 years, eventually becoming a colonel. He commanded the 3rd Battalion for the five years preceding the outbreak of World War One and then became a recruiting officer for the latter. His role was to help in the raising and command of the 12th Battalion, which became known as ?Bristol's Own?.

His battalion was ready for action in France by 1917 - but by that time, Colonel Burges was 53 and considered too old to lead the men he had so painstakingly gathered. However, he was awarded the OBE in recognition of his contributions to the war effort.

This was not the only sphere of his activities. He served as Justice of the Peace for the County of Gloucester. He rowed for Third Trinity and was also First Whip to their Beagles. And he spent two years in India in the pursuit of big game, an activity that was regarded as entirely respectable in those days.

Marriage and Parish

On January 9 1883, William married Millicent Pettingal Miller of Westbury-on-Trym. The wedding took place in London. They made their home at The Ridge and there they raised their family.

Colonel Burges was very interested in education. During the early 20th century, he acted as one of the managers of the Yate National and British Schools, probably serving in much the same way as a school governor would nowadays. In 1903, he became treasurer to the school's finance committee. He became directly involved in the activities of the school - there are records of him addressing the children and other members of the parish as they commemorated Armistice Day in 1927.

He also used his administrative talents to serve St Mary's Parish Church. Amongst his duties, he served as a trustee for the charities managed by the church.

Members of the family worked hard to raise funds for the renovation of the church building which took place towards the end of the 19th century.

World War I Hero

Before we consider his descendants, we will take a sideways glance at another illustrious Burges This was Daniel Burges, the son of Daniel Travers Burges - the latter of course, was the last of the family to serve as clerk to the City of Bristol. Daniel junior was Edward's nephew.

Like W E P (Peter) Burges, he served in The Gloucestershire Regiment. In September1918, he was commanding the 7th South Wales Borderers in Jumeux, which is situated in the Balkans. He took determined leadership of his battalion and even though enemy attack had begun, he succeeded in bringing his men to their pre-arranged meeting place with other troops.

Later, his battalion were subjected to heavy machine-gun fire which resulted in a large number of casualties, particularly amongst the leaders. Colonel Burges was one of the wounded but he refused to retire. Instead, he continued to move in the midst of his soldiers, encouraging them to advance upon the enemy whilst disregarding his own safety. The battalion drew closer and closer to the enemy line, passing through a relentless rain of bullets as they did so. He received two additional wounds and eventually fell unconscious to the ground. He survived, but his leg had to be amputated.

His was the first Victoria Cross to be received by a member of the Regiment during the Great War - and the courage he demonstrated must have been considerable, for this medal is usually bestowed posthumously. It is now proudly displayed at Regimental Museum at Gloucester.

Scouting Pioneers

Colonel and Mrs Burges had two daughters - Millicent Olivia and Mary Joyce (they were usually known by their middle names). They were acquainted with the Baden-Powells, and in April 1914, Olivia founded a Scout troop at Chipping Sodbury.

The troop initially met at The Ridge, which must have provided a wonderfully adventurous setting for the boys who attended . On the very first meeting, Colonel Burges shared his skills by teaching the boys how to map-read. Subsequent meetings were held at The Ridge until, a little later, the Scouts were able to use a cottage in Horseshoe Lane for their activities.

Joyce was also involved in this work, and the Scout troop went from strength to strength, learning all kinds of skills and competing successfully against other troops. They did not only get involved in outdoor pursuits - during January 1915, they performed in a pantomime written by Joyce.

In August 1914, war was declared. It was then that the activities of the scouts took on a more serious nature. Under the guidance of the Misses Burges, the boys became messengers for a regiment quartered in Sodbury. Throughout the war, the scouts continued to contribute in this way. Records from 1917, describe the ?Air-Craft Defence Scheme?, under which a list of Scouts' names and addresses were held at Chipping Sodbury Police Station. Any Scout who was ?sufficiently accessible?, in possession of a bike and able and willing to undertake the necessary duties, was included. This involved taking messages at night, should an emergency arise that made this necessary.

This work was strongly encouraged by Baden-Powell who sent a letter to all the Scout troops in the country, urging them to be prepared to ?do an extra bit? towards the war effort in the hope of accelerating the end of hostilities.

Olive and Joyce were pioneers in the scouting world and by leading their troop at the time that they did, made their own contribution to the military activities that the family were so renowned for.

Family Life

In 1917, Joyce Burges married Captain Marcus J H Bruce. The scout troop provided a guard of honour for the couple as they emerged from their wedding ceremony. Sadly, their happiness was not to last. They had a son, who contracted meningitis which left him with severe after-effects. Later, the marriage ended and their son died at the age of 11.

Joyce was an accomplished artist and frequently produced beautiful illustrations of the hunts that met in their area. She also painted portraits. In later years, she became acquainted with children's writer, Violet Needham and became an illustrator for her books. Her nephew, Christopher Rawlins, recalls how on Sundays, the authoress would travel from her home at Whiddon Hill to visit Joyce who was by then, living at Little Sodbury House. They would spend the afternoon choosing which illustrations were required and greatly enjoyed each other's company.

Olivia married Stuart Blundell Rawlins in 1925. Her husband's family came from Siston Court. One of his ancestors was very artistic and decorated much of the interior of Siston Church. The faces of the angels are said to bear the likenesses of her children.

The couple bore two sons - Christopher and Philip. But then tragedy struck. Olivia died in childbirth - her baby daughter perished with her. Her sons were sent to live with their Aunt Joyce.

Later, Joyce married Stuart Rawlins and this proved to be a long and happy union which also provided security for Christopher and Philip.

Thanks to Sharon Eubank

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