It was from the Wise family that Elizabeth Surcombe the elder purchased the leasehold plot in Bath Street. They owned much of the land south of the river in Leamington Priors, including part of Bath Street, as well as land around Whitnash, Lillington and Warwick.
Matthew Wise Snr was one of the principal landowners who by their reluctance to sell any land for building impeded the further development of Leamington Priors after the building of his baths in 1790. They were averse to any possible intrusion upon their privacy, and indeed they were right to fear this as T S Vernon wrote in his diary in c1807 of the . . .
motley crowds of people who had begun to flock to Leamington, much to the regret of certain residents, Mr Wise and Mr Willes to name but two. They complained of the invasion of their property with shrubs, etc being trampled or uprooted and some people being so bold as to approach right up to the house and look through the windows
The Wises were settled in Leamington Priors (and Warwick) by 1714, and in 1740 built a manor house by the river Leam, accessed by a driveway from Bath Lane. Their land was mostly farms and orchards. In 1790 a third spring was discovered and the baths known initially as Wise’s Baths were built on the corner of the Warwick to Southam turnpike road and Bath Lane. Development virtually ceased for the next 20 years and in 1800 Matthew Wise snr still owned 473 acres of land at Leamington Priors.
The Wises of Warwick and Leamington were descended from Henry Wise of Brompton Park, Middlesex. He was baptised on the 4th of August 1653 at St Brides in London. In 1695 he married Patience Bancks who was twenty years his junior. Henry became Master Gardener of all His Majesty King George the First’s gardens. He was awarded a Grant of Arms dated the 4th of April 1720, and purchased the Priory estate in Warwick, retiring there in 1727.
Henry and Patience had twelve children, the eleventh of whom, John (born 1711), was Matthew snr’s great grandfather. This Matthew was born in 1767. It was only after the death of Matthew Wise snr in 1825 that the Wise estates became available, and this is when Elizabeth Surcombe took out the lease in Bath Street and later purchased the plot leasehold. The family had already built a new manor house in 1822, Shrubland Hall off the Tachbrook Road. (Was this in order to distance themselves from the ‘motley crowds’?).
Elizabeth Surcombe bought her leasehold plot from Harriet Wise, Matthew snr’s widow, and her son, also Matthew. After his father’s death Matthew and his mother started to dispose of their land for building. Perhaps they saw how much money some of their fellow landowners were making and Matthew jnr may have been more amenable to change.
Although the family were by then settled in Warwick and Leamington, Matthew jnr was born in Ipswich, Suffolk. Matthew’s sister, Harriet, was baptised in 1804 at St Mary’s Warwick. Matthew jnr married Elizabeth Staunton at St Mary’s Warwick on 13 May 1834. It seems that after their marriage they embarked on a tour of Europe , since their first child, another Matthew, was born in Florence the following year. Their six other children were born at Shrubland Hall, Leamington.
The censuses show that the Wises were wealthy landowners whose property and lifestyle demanded a large number of servants. As the family increased so did the number of retainers until by 1861 there were twelve. When the children were babies and toddlers these included a nurse, monthly nurse and under nurse and there were also a tutor, a governess, school room maid, lady’s maid, butler, coachman, footman and various other maids. The children appear to have been educated at home, although the boys may have gone to school when older.
In 1851 Matthew Wise jnr was a magistrate. He died in the summer of 1864 aged 62 and was buried at Whitnash. His widow Elizabeth continued to live at Shrubland Hall until at least 1881. Her son Matthew had died before his 25th birthday in 1860 so his brother, Charles John Wise, inherited the hall, living there until his death in 1886. After this the Hall became a girls’ academy. This closed in 1939 and the Hall was subsequently demolished when the whole area was redeveloped. Their old manor house had been extended and converted into the Manor House Hotel long before, in 1847, possibly by the Wises. This coincided with the coming of the railway and plans for a new station which would occupy some of the land, so it would have made sense financially to have a hotel near the station. One arm of the avenue of trees in front of the manor would disappear. We know Matthew
Wise jnr still owned the property for in 1855 he conveyed land near the station to the London and North West Railway Company.
Records dating from the time of Henry Wise can be found in the parish registers of Warwick, Leamington Priors and Whitnash. Other members of the Wise family lived at Lillington, Tachbrook and Offchurch.