Steinberg House, (The Caledon), Mill Hill Road, Cowes - a little history


This magnificent building is The Calendon in Cowes, now a guest house (the-caledon.co.uk), was once the home of Mr Alfred Fennings, a chemist with a patent for medicines.


Alfred Fennings (sometime written as Fenning) was born in 1815 in Stepney, London to parents William and Eliza (Tyler) Fennings. It is unclear when he moved to the Isle of Wight, but the Alfred Fenning medicines business dated back to 1834 in Hammersmith. Having moved to Cowes on the Isle of Wight, Alfred married Angelina Steinberg in 1851. The census records show that Alfred and Angelina lived at 4 Victoria Road in 1861, and he was listed as a ‘Patent medicine proprietor’. When the next census was taken in 1871, Angelina lived at Steinberg House, Mill Hill Road. The house was possibly newly built, bought or rented by the Fennings and named after Angelina’s family name. This is the building we now know as The Caledon. At times throughout the years, Steinberg House was split into two residential houses, but it is unclear back in 1871 whether they lived in part or the whole house. On the day that the census was taken, Alfred was in Peckham with his mother Eliza, brother William and possibly sister Maria.


Alfred’s firm produced products that were claimed to cure ‘sore throats, or bowel complaints with one dose, typhus fever with two doses, diphtheria with three doses, scarlet fever with four doses, cholera with five and influenza with six doses’! A newspaper article from 1979 suggests that the medicine was simply a weak solution of nitric acid with peppermint flavour! As well as medicine, the published the Fennings’ Every Mother’s Book which contains everything you needed to know about children’s health and the Fenning’s Everybody’s Doctor which told you how to cure quickly, safely and surely almost every type of killer disease!


Angelina died in 1875, and Alfred’s mother Eliza died in 1877. Alfred continued to live at Steinberg House and on the 1881 census, the house was split into two dwellings with James E Fennings, wife Rebecca and 4 children living on the other side. James Edward Fenning, born 1844, was the son of Alfred’s sister Sarah Fenning and James Tyler. He moved from London to the Island and worked as an ‘almoner’, distributing Alfred’s money to charities. Newspapers at the time reported that James, ‘searched out cases of real want, and they were at once relived…he gave entertainments to the Sunday schools of every denomination, when not only the scholars, but the adults, were much gratified. He was one who would do good to anyone, and was beloved by all who knew him’. James died in 1884 whilst living at Steinberg House, aged just 39 years.


In 1891, Alfred lived at Steinberg House with Rebecca and her children. He died in 1900 aged 84 years. Newspaper articles at the time reported that he had, ‘dispensed his benefactions with a most generous hand’ and during his life, some of his anonymous contributions to societies had amounted to more than £85,000. His will made provision for ongoing funds to continue.


After his death, the business continued to deal with patent medicines and ran under the name Alfred Fennings from Veness Villa, Victoria Road until at least 1946. Mrs Fennings (probably James’ widow Rebecca) lived at Sydney House, Mill Hill Road until around 1920, she died in 1930 whilst living with her son in Gurnard. Their son, Alfred Edward Fennings lived in Gurnard with his family, and was a commercial clerk for patent medicines, presumably for the family business.


By 1904, Steinberg House was occupied by Clara Jane Southin, her mother in law and two sons. Her husband John Stride Southin whom she had married in 1897 was listed as working on the Steam Yacht Fauvette as second engineer. In 1901, Clara had lived at Dimona in Mill Hill Road, and in 1891 she had lived and worked at Redferns, the outfitters in the High Street. John Stride Southin was listed as living at Caledon, Mill Hill Road (the same house) in 1920, and he died in 1939. In 1939 Clara lived in Scarrotts Lane, Newport, and died in 1945 whilst in Buckinghamshire.


Please read more about the history of Cowes buildings with more illustrations on our page Cowes History.

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