Hood, Charles (1805-1889)

Charles Hood was born 10 April 1805 in Blackheath, Kent.  He was the second son of William and Ann Hood, nee Comber. William was an ironmaster manufacturing and selling iron. Charles was baptised 4 July 1810 at St Ann, Blackfriars, London.  When their father retired Charles and his elder brother ran the business until the premises were taken over to form the new St Paul’s station.

By the time of the 1841 census he was living in Warwick Place, since demolished, near Grove Lane, Camberwell with two sisters Matilda and Emma Audley. He is recorded as a merchant but his relationship to the sisters is not stated. They were both local to the area.

Charles married Catherine Ann Bothamley 8 May 1849 at the parish Church of St Giles Camberwell. Catherine was from Bexley, Kent and her father Joseph was a merchant.

Charles and Catherine had moved by 1851 to 5 Grove Park, Camberwell. The house was a large Victorian mansion in an expanding leafy middle class area south of Peckham Road. At the time of the census that year they had three servants and two visitors, the Payne sisters who had independent means to support themselves.

They remained at Grove Park for at least the next ten years. Charles was recorded in the 1861 census as an Iron Merchant. They continued to employ three servants but there is no record of them having any children.

Hood commissioned the building of Grangewood House in 1861, where they moved the following year. This Grand detached Italianate style Victorian villa stood in a large area of woodland (45 acres) to the west of Grange Road, in what was then Upper Norwood.  This part of Norwood had become very fashionable and was occupied by a number of wealthy merchants in large houses some of which, such as nearby Grangehyrst and Grangewood stood in extensive grounds.   Grangewood was built on the southern end of the Norwood spur with commanding views southwards from its large bay windows and veranda.  The house had a lodge, extensive stabling, with living rooms and laundry and a walled kitchen garden with greenhouses to supply vegetables to the house.  Hood had the trees in front of the house cleared and the area landscaped to open up the view.  A large ornamental lake was also created to the south, bordering on Grange Road.

Catherine is absent from Grangewood in the 1871 census as she was staying with her sister, Eliza Cruikshank, in Bexley at 43 The High Street. She died following a stroke in 1876.

Charles is recorded in the 1871 census as living there with two domestic servants and a gardener.  After his wife, Catherine died in 1876, he moved to Leinster Gardens, Bayswater.

Charles Hood was far more than just a Victorian entrepreneur working as an iron merchant.  He was an active fellow of the Royal Society and The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, inventor, Chairman and founding member of the London Home and Hospital for Incurables as well as an active member of his local community.

His membership of the Royal Society and Royal Society of Arts involved him in attending and giving lectures at their meetings and publishing numerous papers and books.  Many were treatise on the nature of burning coal; railway signalling and he took a great interest in the warming of buildings by hot water, steam and hot air.  His book on this topic, for which he was awarded the Telford Medal by the Institution of Civil Engineers, was first published in 1837 was later much revised and running to more than six editions.

Hood does not claim to have invented ‘central heating’ pointing out that its origins seemed to be hidden in obscurity.  He acknowledges that it was used in France in 1777 by Mr Bonnemain for hatching chickens by artificial heat.  In 1817 the Morning Post reported the Marquis de Chabannes’ method of ventilating buildings. His method was to heat air using hot water which rose and left via apertures.  In principle then, this was ‘central heating’ but really intended for ventilating buildings by the removal of stale air.   It should be remembered that at this time, in spite of the work done by Dr John Snow, it was thought that diseases such as cholera were spread by miasma or bad air.  The removal of so-called bad air from homes by good ventilation was thought to be a key factor in stopping the spread of such diseases.

Of course the Romans knew how to heat baths by passing heated water in pipes through them but this had never been followed up by using hot water in pipes to heat buildings.  In his book Hood explained the scientific principles of ‘central heating’ in great detail, including the many possible applications of heating using hot water.

In 1845 the Sussex Advertiser published an account of improvements to railway signalling. It mentions Hood’s patented compressed air whistle of about 1842.

British Home and Hospital for Incurables.

He was on the board of the London Home and Hospital for Incurables from its establishment in 1861. It was reported in the Kentish Gazette in 1866 that he donated £300 a year, about £30,000 at today’s values!  The Home originally on Clapham Rise moved to its present location just after Hood’s death.   It was established by a group of philanthropists who had broken away from the Board of Management of the Hospital for Incurables Richmond Road.  It was one of the earliest establishments of its kind, intended to be a home for disabled middle-class people who found themselves in necessitous circumstances and incapacitated by incurable disease.  Hood served as chairman up until his death and it seems to have been typical of him to be part of a group that broke away when it did not approve of the established methods of organisations.  He took an active interest in the management of King’s College and Westminster hospitals. (Hood Charles. Obit, 1889).

The petition for an independant Norwood.

Some years after his move to Norwood he championed another ‘break away’ proposing that the part of Upper Norwood in which he lived, then an integral part of Croydon, should be a stand-alone self-governing district. In 1868 he raised a petition of similarly minded local rate payers demanding ‘succession’ from Croydon, which was at that time governed by the Croydon Board of Health, a forerunner to today’s council.

In 1887 Charles placed the whole of his Grangewood Estate at the disposal of his Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Germany, who was staying nearby in the Queens Hotel on Church Road.  The offer was accepted by the Crown Prince but it is not known whether he actually visited the estate. (Crown Prince of Germany, 1887).

Charles Hood died at Leinster Gardens, Bayswater 10 December 1889 from a bout of laryngitis syncope, a violent coughing fit followed by unconsciousness.  He was buried a week later, 17 December along with his wife Catherine, in a grey, granite topped tomb on Ship Path in West Norwood Cemetery (Grave 16, 136, square 88).  He left an estate of £13,294, over £1 1/4 millions at today’s value.

The tomb of Charles and Catherine Hood, Ship Path, West Norwood cemetery.