Time is right to tell tale of John Cossins of Redland Court

December 19 2017
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A fascinating book about John Cossins, the original builder and owner of Redland Court, has been researched and written by Caroline Bateson, former headmistress of Redland High School for Girls.

The school vacated the elegant mansion after 133 years of occupancy in September 2017 when it merged with Red Maids’ School. The building has now been sold to property developers who plan to convert the site into apartments and houses. 

Caroline said: “I thought it was an important time to remember and highlight the history of the house and of John Cossins.

“I was headmistress of Redland High School for Girls for nine years and in the entrance hall, right outside my office there were two original portraits of John Cossins and his wife Martha. The original estate of Redland Court was built by them between 1732-1735 and he became the Sheriff of Gloucester. For all the years that I worked as Headmistress of the school I would look at these pictures everyday and think that I’d like to know more about them.

“I decided that one day, when I had the time, I would try to find out more about him because I felt that there had to be more to a man, who was able to build a fabulous building like Redland Court.”

Following her retirement in 2015, Caroline embarked on her research. John Cossins  was described as a ‘grocer’ so she searched through all the various livery companies in London looking for his name but found nothing. Eventually she found him in the Bowyer’s company. 

Caroline explained: “Like today with these Worshipful companies, they exist for charitable purposes. I found John Cossins name amongst the papers and then set off on a trail in the Guildhall in London, going through all their minute books, maps and documents to find out more about him. It was a real bit of detective work and very exciting.”

She discovered that John Cossins and his father, Roger Cossins, were merchants selling to individuals and big organisations, importing and exporting goods. John Cossins accumulated enough wealth during his working life to retire from London at the age of 50 and build Redland Court.

He bought the land and a Tudor manor house on site from a distant family relation of his wife. John Cossins bought out the debt and employed architect, John Strahan to build his house and later, Redland Green Chapel. 

At the time, London had a great growth of Palladian buildings, including St Paul’s Cathedral, and John Cossins wanted to bring that style to Bristol. He built a very splendid house, complete with a beautiful country estate planted with trees on Lovers Lane.  

Caroline spent many years enjoying the privileged position of having an office in the building with three windows: “I would get into school early in the morning and in the winter the sunrise comes exactly into that room, which was John and Martha’s sitting room, and above it, their bedroom. In the evening the light that came onto the terrace was magnificent. The building must have been very carefully planned to capture that,” she said.

“On the left-hand side of the front of Redland Court, there is a Cupula (a round dome) with a weathervane which has a comet with a trailing tail on it. The legend has always been that it is Halley’s Comet.

“I’ve pieced this together and suggested in my book that the significance is related to ‘Child’s Coffee House’ where scientists met in London, including Edmund Halley. Cossins was going there at exactly the same time as these scientists so it’s perfectly possible that they knew each other. 

“I like to think of John and Martha standing on the terrace of Redland Court, watching Halley’s Comet together and maybe Martha installed this in his memory.”

John Cossins of Redland Court is published by the Redland and Cotham Amenities Society. 

Copies of the 32 page booklet are available at £6.50 including packing and postage. Email carolinepbateson@gmail.com for an order form.