The Poisoner’s House

Yesterday I was offered the loan of Robin Gilbank’s book on the Life of Dr. E W Pritchard, The Prettiest Liar, and learned that the infamous quack opened a branch to his practice in Filey in 1853, on North Street. He bought a “summer residence” a short walk away from the surgery, No.8 Rutland Terrace, now 38 Rutland Street. This afternoon I photographed the house from Belle Vue Street (the old North Street), with Cliff House on the corner, bearing Charlotte Brontë’s Blue Plaque. (The Pritchard House has a Blue One Way traffic sign.)


Called Prospect House in the 1850s, it is now Savona and, I think, a holiday let. I was asked this morning if it was once a hospital (or maybe a nursing home). Any information about this will be gratefully received and shared.


Today’s “Old” Image of my dear pal Jude brought back a particular memory of that day eight years ago. It isn’t very clear in the photo but there was a lot of moisture in the air – Bempton and Speeton cliffs were obscured by a sea fret (of sorts) and the sea near the shore was carrying a lot of clay in suspension, usually a sign of recent heavy rain. I checked my weather records and there was very little rainfall on the 5th or the 6th – in Whitby! We may well have had a storm pass over us here in Filey to muddy the waters. There is a particular word to describe run off from clay cliffs but for most of the day I couldn’t recall it. This was most annoying – and looking online at a number of geology oriented sites didn’t help. At tea time a word beginning with ‘neph’ suddenly came to mind. The nearest dictionary to hand was my dad’s, a 14th birthday present, published in 1932. It offered ‘nepheloid’. A bell rang – the meaning ‘clouded, turbid’ in the ball park. My Concise English Dictionary, an 11th birthday present from my cousin Terry, had ‘nephology’ – the study of clouds. My dad’s dictionary wins! I searched online for ‘nepheloid flow’ and this source brought clarity (ha) – it even mentions the North Sea.

High Windows

20170803RutlandStreet1_1mThe early morning sun illuminated the bow windows of Rutland Terrace and I imagined the doomed Pritchards looking down into the street from the upper floors. But which house did they occupy for a short time in the 1850s? Opinion seems to vary now. Perhaps the properties were renumbered by the Post Office when the present Rutland Street was built up from end to end and this has caused some confusion. The 1851 map below shows what little building there had been in “New Filey” by this date – just the first block of The Crescent had been completed. Residents of the Terrace had a clear prospect from their front rooms to Cliff House where Charlotte Brontë stayed with the SMITHS several times.


On 6th June 1852, Charlotte wrote to Ellen Nussey:-

I walk on the sands a good deal, and try not to feel desolate and melancholy. How sorely my heart longs for you, I need not say. I have bathed once; it seemed to do me good. I may, perhaps, stay here a fortnight. There are as yet scarcely any visitors. A Lady Wenlock is staying at the large house of which you used so vigilantly to observe the inmates. One day I set out with intent to trudge to Filey Bridge, but was frightened back by two cows. I mean to try again some morning.