The Pleasure Grounds Sub-Committee
After the Mayor read out Frederick Farwell’s letter offering Henrietta Park to the City, the Council took his advice and delegated its prosecution to the Pleasure Ground Committee. On the 23rd March 1896 they reported back to a hostile reception, their proposals being thought over ambitious and too expensive. The Council meeting concluded with the Pleasure Grounds Committee being ‘instructed to bring up a less expensive scheme for laying out the park’.
On the 31March 1896 they met again and decided to form a sub-committee to re-examine the design. It was to comprise of four members: the Chairman, Colonel Thomas Arnoll-Davis, Frederick Farwell, Captain Forester’s agent, Joseph Morris, a botanist and Thomas Vincent, a retired plumber.
Colonel Thomas Arnoll Davis
Thomas Arnoll Davis was born on the 28th August 1842 at Kilgariff House, Clonakilty, County Cork. He was named after his grandfather who had been an agent for the East India Company. He had an English father, Captain Alfred Davis and an Irish mother, Henrietta Roche. Captain Davis was at the time attached to the 15th Regiment of Foot on half-pay. Extremely wealthy in his own right, he owned an extensive estate in Clonakilty and was a Justice of the Peace.
Arnoll Davis was the youngest child in a family that now encompassed four daughters and two sons. By 1855 the family had moved to Jersey. Details of his military career are equally sparse. He first entered the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in December 1857 whilst a Lieutenant T. A Davis embarked for Calcutta on the 20th March 1860. It is believed he spent most of his working life in India as a member of the Royal (Bengal) Artillery.
Arnoll Davis married Clara Miriam Du Vernet in 1879 at Knightsbridge when he was thirty seven years old. Their only son, Thomas, was born in 1882 at Columbo, Sri Lanka. His military career was unremarkable, progressing through the officers ranks until he retired on a full Colonel’s pension in March 1893.
On his return to England he stayed at the Lansdown Grove Hotel before moving to 4 Marlborough Buildings the following year. In May 1893 he was nominated as an independent candidate for the vacant Lansdown Ward. Appealing to the Burgesses, he wrote:
‘Many subjects of great importance are at present before the City Council and others will soon claim their attention. My judgement and votes upon these and all questions, whilst avoiding a false economy on one hand, and reckless and uncalled for expenditure on the other, and untrammelled by party considerations, will be guided by a desire to promote the welfare and prosperity of the City’.
On being elected he threw himself into municipal affairs and volunteered for a number of Council committees. He was also elected a Governor of the Royal Mineral Water Hospital and a Magistrate on the Bath City Police Court.
In September 1895 the retiring Chairman of the Pleasure Parks Committee proposed Arnoll Davis as his successor; he was appointed unopposed, remarking that “ he would endeavour to carry out the duties as well as he could”. The Chronicle approved:
‘Colonel Arnoll Davis has not been long in the Council but he has always shown considerable business aptitude, he is a man who knows his own mind and on occasion has the courage of his convictions. Such men are to be desired in public bodies.’
As the century drew to a close he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. In October 1903 he moved to Weston Park House whilst in 1904 he became an Alderman. He announced his retirement from the Pleasure Grounds Committee in November 1909 for reasons that remained confidential. The Mayor commented:
‘that everyone in the City regretted Alderman Colonel Arnoll Davis had felt obliged to resign the Chairmanship of the Committee. They all knew the way that he had fulfilled his duties. He had thrown himself whole-heartedly into it, and was one of those men who inspired others and they had always found him taking the greatest interest in the work he had to perform. He felt that, as Mayor, he must recognise the important work that had been done by such an admirable man as Colonel Arnoll Davis.’
He maintained an interest in Council affairs up to the end of 1911 when he resigned following a change in the Ward boundaries. He then concentrated on his Justice of the Peace duties and sat on the Weston (County) Police Court. After the War these dwindled, the Chronicle noting in 1925 that ‘in late years he has not been seen on the bench’.
Thomas Arnoll Davis died suddenly at his home, Weston Park House, on the 20th November 1925 aged 84. The funeral service was on the 26th November at All Saints Church, Weston, followed by the burial at the Weston section of Locksbrook Cemetery. He left a widow and a son, Major T. Arnoll Davis of the Indian Army. His wife died on the 7th December 1929 at Weston Park House aged 81.