Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 05, 2016
Webpage updated: January 31, 2021

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The Royal Clarence Baths, the property of Mr R O Backwell, ironmonger, of Fore Street, were situated in Richmond Walk.

According to Mr Robert Brindley, writing on 1830, they offered hot, cold, shower, vapour, and swimming baths and bathing machines on a neat, clean beach.

Attached to the baths were six furnished lodging-houses, complete with all conveniences, and Victoria Cottages, at the rear of the premises.

In 1841 the owner was Mr Frederick Applin, a merchant.  In addition to his family of wife, daughter and six sons, there were a carpenter, 20-years-old John Snowden, a nurse, 45-years-old Honor Darley, and three female and one male general servants living there.  Mr Applin died in 1853 and was buried at Stoke Damerel Parish Church on April 30th that year.

The latest known advert for the Baths was published in the Western Morning News on May 23rd 1861, when a hot bath cost one shilling; a bathing machine cost 6d per person; and admission to the swimming baths cost two pence per person.  It is not known who owned or operated the Baths at that time.

A trade directory of 1866, however, tells us that Mrs J C Graves was the proprietress in that year.  This would have been Mrs Emma Mary Graves, formerly Miss Howland, wife of Mr John Coupland Graves (1821-1899), a linen and woolen draper whose business was at numbers 15, 16 and 17 Fore Street, Devonport.  They were recorded in the 1861 census as living at number 19 Stoke Terrace but in 1871 were residing at the Royal Clarence Baths.  It would appear that he ceased to operate the Baths as a public amenity as there are no further advertisements for it.  However, the Western Morning News of June 22nd 1871 carried an advert: 'To Let, a pleasant situated HOUSE at the Royal Clarence Baths, Devonport, containing seven rooms, has a fine view of Mount Edgcumbe, river, etc.  Apply to Mr J C Graves, Fore Street, or at the Baths.'

Mr Graves went on to become an Alderman of the Borough of Devonport and Mayor of the Borough in 1879.  The family were still in occupation of Number 1 The Baths at the time of the census in 1891.  Mr John Coupland Graves died on Sunday April 23rd 1899 and was buried at the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Cemetery, Plymouth, on Wednesday April 26th 1899.  Both the business and the Royal Clarence Baths passed to his son-in-law, Mr Richard Graves Smith, who continued to live there.