Charles Gilder – and hydropathy

The gravestone of Charles Gilder and his wife Hannah Gilder, née Maud, has a bird on the top. Presumably a dove, its wings are outstretched and its head high. The symbolism may not have been intentional, but then again, perhaps it does deliberately reflect that the Gilders weren’t really ‘at home.’

For everyone buried at Beacon Edge Cemetery, above Penrith, has strong ties to the town. Some were little more than passing through. Which was the case for Charles and Hannah Gilder.

Charles Gilder, on the move

Charles Gilder was born in Burley, Wharfedale, Yorkshire, in or about 1833. Hannah Maud(e) was two years older and also born in Yorkshire. They’d married in Bradford, in 1852. Hannah was then a weaver, while Charles Gilder was a grocer. She already had a child, Frederick, born in 1851. He used the names ‘Maude’ and ‘Gilder’ down the years, but has no Cumbrian connection.

Charles was a butter merchant in Bradford in 1861. In 1871, Charles Gilder was a flour dealer, in Middlesborough. And in 1881, he was a yeast importer, in Hulme, Manchester.

Hannah Gilder (Hannah Maud)

As the gravestone (partially) tells us, Hannah was of 11 North Parade, Burley, when she died. (probate to Nathan Todd, a Penrith accountant; effects £768 4s 6d).

So, why and when Penrith?

Charles H Gilder died, in 1890, in Angel Lane, Penrith. How long they had been there, I don’t know, but they were there for business reasons.

Gilder’s Pure Yeast Stores

1890 Cumberland & Westmorland Herald. August 2. 

ENCOURAGE HOME INDUSTRIES USING BALLOON YEAST. Highest Testimonials from Mawson, Swan & Co., Newcastle, and many others. If you wish to have GOOD, WHITE, SWEET, and LIGHT BREAD and get your Baking done quickly, USE BALLOON YEAST. None Genuine unless Branded with a Balloon. BEWARE OF IMITATIONS. To be had WHOLESALE and RETAIL from the Local Agent– MRS. HANNAH GILDER, ANGEL LANE, PENRITH.

In 1892, Hannah Gilder was advertising, from 8 Angel Lane: ‘the famous DCL Yeast – original Balloon’. 

Manufactured by The Distillers’ Company, Limited, Edinburgh, this produced bread that acquired ‘all the assimilating properties that make Muscle, Bone and Brain’.

A year later, she was cautioning her customers to beware of mixed yeasts being sold as the genuine DCL. 

Hannah Gilder died in November 1894. But the adverts for 8 Angel Lane continued:

June 25, 1895, H Gilder, sole agent for Penrith and District for the pure D.C.L yeast’. Her son Frederick had died in 1880, but someone continued the business under the Gilder name. There are adverts for Gilder’s Yeast Stores running regularly until November 1902.


Looking into the lives of Charles and Hannah Gilder, I found that on the 1891 census, Hannah was away from the business in Penrith. She is listed as one of a lot of boarders at Malvern House, Langham Road, Bowdon, Cheshire.

The head of the house was John Cotterill, ‘hydropathist’. (His son Arther was an assistant hydropathist). And one of the four servants is a ‘bath maid’. 

According to a medical dictionary, hydropathy was

The obsolete use of water to treat and cure disease.

Hannah Gilder is listed as ‘yeast merchant, brew’. Others staying at the premises include a cotton mill manufacturer, an insurance broker, and a varnish merchant, so it seems to have been ‘high-end’ treatment. 

But then, a quick search shows that in 2021, the average price of houses in Langham Road is £1.27million.

so John Cotterill had a high-end address in 1891 for his health spa-like treatments.

An article in the Alderley & Wilmslow Advertiser of May 1887 goes into very great detail about hydropathy. And includes the following information about John Cotterill and the Malvern House Hydropathic Establishment,

‘situate one of those sunny slopes which have brought fame to Bowdon by their salubrity.’

The latest addition was the Turkish baths, alongside the Russian vapour bath (especially adapted for bronchitis, asthma, neuralgia and similar ills’). There was a steam-powered laundry, lavatories ‘and other conveniences,’ and a dining room seating 50-60 people, with a glorious view. The furniture and fittings were ‘of a high-class character’ and there were en-suite bedrooms for invalids.

Beacon Edge Cemetery

This post is one of a series on people buried at Beacon Edge, above Penrith.

Others include publican Thomas Dixon and the local bonesetters, the Dennison family.


One thought on “Charles Gilder – and hydropathy

Comments are closed.