Hope you enjoyed my bonus square of the super moon earlier today. I couldn’t resist it including it. However it has meant I had to delay today’s scheduled post until now. No super moons here but there is a rather super tower!

Room at the Top

I’ve got no idea what this top room was used for, but I can shared a few facts about where you will find this splendid house, and even a little something about the man who commissioned it.

The house can be found in Castle Cary, and was the home of a mill owner. In the 18th and 19th centuries Castle Cary was one of the principal cloth making towns in Somerset, first in wool and then in linen and still in horsehair to this day. The success of these industries is, unsurprisingly, reflected in some of the buildings around the town. None more so then this splendid 19th century home known as ‘Florida’. It was designed by Charles Bell FIBA for mill owner, John Stephens Donne. John was 25 years of age when he bought the 25 acre site from another cloth manufacturer and commissioned ‘Florida’ with a tower.

The name Florida had been around since at least 1808, and it is believed the original house – Florida Place – which John Donne had demolished to make way for his own was named after Strata Florida in Wales. The Donnes were successful manufacturers, when John’s father died in 1890 his estate was worth £39,000. Room at the Top 2John was, and I am sure his father was too, an active member of the local community. In 1884 the Western Gazette records that John sang at a fundraiser in aid of the Church of England’s Temperance Society ‘Band of Hope’, unfortunately they didn’t say which song! On the 1901 census he chose to record himself as JP for the County of Somerset rather than his profession as a manufacturer. Sadly he died only a few years later in 1908 at the young age of 55years, his estate was worth nearly £60,000. That’s over £7million in today’s money!

His widow, Selina and one surviving child Ethel Florence, remained at Florida following his death. Ethel married in 1909,and I presume Selina lived here until shortly before her death in Burnham-on-Sea in 1924. The house was sold in 1925 but I don’t know to whom. During  World War Two an American Brigade and Nurses were based here, and immediately following the war, in 1946, much of the land surrounding the house was compulsory purchased by the local council for housing. Room at The Top 3In 1950 the Convent of Visitation established themselves here but not for long. In 1959 an order of disabled nuns from France moved in, and the house became known as St John’s Priory and still is to this day. The nuns stayed here until 1997, and since then the house has been unoccupied. However, as you can see from my squares, work is in progress to restore it. Albeit when Mum and visited in early March it looked like the work had already ground to a halt. Hopefully though after the crisis the house will be restored to its former glory, it the meanwhile you can take a peek at the plans.

Room at the Top header
I know this photo is not square, but I thought you might like to see the header properly!

56 thoughts

    1. Thanks 🙂 I am very fortunate to have access to one of the genealogy website so often lose hours researching!


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