The house that is now 26 Castle Street in Thornbury seems to have a shared history with its neighbour, 24 Castle Street.
From the time of the Tithe Survey in 1840 until 1954 the two properties were owned by the same people.
The houses seem to have been even more closely linked in the eighteenth Century. An examination of the earlier Land Tax Records up to at least 1784 indicate that only one property was on this site. However we have a Land Tax Record dated 1796 that appears to show that there were two properties here with different owners and occupants. This could be an indication that the then owners, the Mills family, had built another property next to their own either by dividing the building the original house or possibly building a new one. Certainly we have been told by a previous owner that the older of the two houses is number 26. As we have not seen all the deeds that relate to these houses we cannot confirm this.
The theory that what became 26 Castle Street is the older of the two seems to be supported by the will of the owner of that house. James Allen’s will dated 1817 refers to the fact that he bought his property from Henry Mills. In 1796 the Land Tax record indicates that James Allen owned and occupied the property next door to what became number 28 and so must have been number 26. Henry Mill’s son James on the other hand lived next door to the Putleys (who lived at number 22) and so must have lived in the newer property at 24 Castle Street.
The will of James Allen describes the property that became 26 Castle Street by referring to some of the earlier owners and occupants of the house. These were;
Richard Wilkins. One of the earliest references we have is in an indenture of 22nd August 1754 in which Richard Wilkins enters into a bond with James Harwood of Grovesend. This indenture appears to be a bond concerning a loan with this property given as security.
Charles Kingston. The earliest occupant of the property to be mentioned in the documents we have seen so far was a baker called Charles Kingston. Charles appears to have bought part of the larger property from Richard Wilkins as he became liable for a portion of the tax payable.
We know that in 1769 Charles Kingston was liable to pay tax for a property known as ‘Mabbotts’. It is difficult to say at this point what property is mean by “Mabbotts”. However we do know that a larger property was bought by Richard Wilkins senior from John Mabbott. In 1751 the Poor Law Assessment shows that Richard Wilkins was liable to pay seven and a half pence on this. The Assessment for the Relief of the Poor for 1769 might be an indication that the Wilkins property has been sold off in three parts as it shows “John Johnson or tenant for late Wilkins – five and a half pence, John Putley for part – one halfpence and Charles Kingston for Mabbotts – one and half pence.” We believe that John Putley was associated with what became 22 Castle Street and John Johnson with 10 Castle Street and so we are assuming at this point that the houses that became 24 and 26 Castle Street may have been called Mabbotts. It also appears to indicate that Charles Kingston had acquired the ownership of the property from Richard Wilkins.
It is interesting that Charles Kingston was a baker. When the house next door was advertised for sale many years later in 1852 it was said to have a bakehouse. As we believe that Charles Kingston lived on what later became the two separate properties it is tempting to speculate that the bake house was a survival of his time in the property but obviously we have no evidence whatsoever for that.
The parish records indicate that Charles Kingston was buried in Thornbury on 21st June 1772 aged about 62 years. The Land Tax Records from at least 1775 show that Anne Kingston (described initially as “the widow Kingston”) was liable to pay four shillings tax for the property next to Hannah Putley and so we assume that Anne remained in the property.
The widowed Anne Kingston was buried on 6th December 1786. We have not yet found any records in Thornbury Parish Church relating to any other births, deaths or marriages of members of the Kingston family.
We know some more of the occupants and owners of this property from the will of James Allen made in 1817 that described this property as;
“all that messuage or dwelling house wherein Charles Kingston formerly inhabited and my eldest son James Allen deceased lately dwelt and Thomas Evans, baker since dwelt and Thomas Lane doth now dwell with the outhouse outlet garden and appurtenances thereto belonging situate in the said Borough of Thornbury in the said County and which I purchased of Henry Mills”
Henry Mills. Henry Mills from whom James Allen bought this house died in Thornbury aged about 45 and was buried on 5th October 1791. There was an inquest on his death and the coroner found that he “died by the visitation of God.” It is about this time that the adjoining property now known as number 24 Castle Street was probably built. The occupant of this adjoining house in 1812 was James Mills. At this point we do not know the relationship between Henry and James Mills. Henry was probably baptised on 24th August 1744, the son of John Mills. James Mills was born in 1720 and was the son of William Mills.
Henry married Mary Witchell on 24th April 1775 at Berkeley. Mary lived in Berkeley at the time of her marriage although the family appeared to settle in Thornbury. Henry and Mary had a daughter, Jane, baptised in Thornbury on 28th April 1777. Jane Mills was described as the daughter of “Harry” and Mary Mills. We know from the will of Henry’s sister, Mary, in 1800, that she appointed as her executor ‘my niece Jane Mills the daughter of my late brother Harry, otherwise Henry Mills deceased’.
Henry Mills was described as a mason in the record of the death of his wife Mary who was buried on 24th August 1778 aged 45.
James Allen. A Land Tax Record dated 1796 shows that James Mills owned and occupied what became number 24 Castle Street and James Allen owned what became 26 Castle Street. This suggests that the Mills family had divided the property before 1791 and may even have completely rebuilt half as we have been told that number 24 is noticeably less old than 26. The older section (number 26) was sold to James Allen. Read about 24 Castle Street.
The will of James Allen of 1817 says that he bought this property from Henry Mills. Obviously this would be some time before 1791.
James Allen a farmer married Mary Wherrett on 9th May 1771. Their first son James was born on 22nd October 1771 and baptised on 5th January 1772.
The will of James Allen written in 1817 left the property at Castle Street to his wife Mary for her lifetime and then to his daughter Sarah Leonard the wife of John Leonard (see below).
The property that became 26 Castle Street was then described as
“ all that messuage or dwelling house wherein Charles Kingston formerly inhabited and my eldest son James Allen deceased lately dwelt and Thomas Evans, baker since dwelt and Thomas Lane doth now dwell with the outhouse outlet garden and appurtenances thereto belonging situate in the said Borough of Thornbury in the said County and which I purchased of Henry Mills”
James had extensive properties apart from the one in Castle Street. His will referred to other properties. These included a house and two closes of land in Pucklechurch that he left to his wife for her lifetime and then it was to be shared between Mary Allen and Ann Allen.
The properties in Thornbury were;
“All those several messuages or dwelling houses collectively called the Pest House wherein Sarah Croome and Joseph Gough do now dwell with the garden orchard and appurtenances as thereto adjoining and belonging by me purchased of George Allen situate in the Town and Borough of Thornbury in the said County and now in the tenure or occupation of the said Sarah Croome and her undertenants.”
We do not know exactly where this property was but we believe it was likely to be near the junction of what is now Rock Street and Chapel Street and was once part of the close called the paddock. Read more about this area.
“And also all that messuage or dwelling house wherein Richard Collins deceased heretofore inhabited and Benjamin Baylis afterwards dwelt and Betty Holland? since dwelt James Screen lately inhabited and Thomas Screen doth now dwell with the outlet garden and appurtenances thereto adjoining and belonging situate in the Borough of Thornbury aforesaid and now in the occupation of the said Thomas Screen as my tenant thereof and which I purchased of Susannah Nelmes.”
We believe that this was the property later to be called 11 to 19 Rock Street (Please click here to read more about these properties). This property was also left first to James’s wife Mary for her lifetime and then to their daughter Mary.
James Allen of Morton, a yeoman died on 4th March 1817 aged 76.
The Land Tax Records for 1822 show that Mary Allen now owned this property in Castle Street and the tenant was said to be “late Thomas Ryall”. Mary was listed in the later Land Tax records up to 1832 (the last year we have seen) as owning this property which she continued to let out to tenants. Mary Allen died 4th March 1835 aged 91.
Of their children;
Mary Allen was born 3rd March 1774 and baptised 6th January 1775. Mary never married. She died in Thornbury on the 12th February 1841 aged 66.
Sarah Allen was born on the 3rd July 1778 and baptised 27th September 1778. Sarah married John Leonard of Hill on 15th April 1802. (See below)
Anne Allen was born 2nd October 1782 and baptised 5th January 1783.
Esther Allen was born on 6th July 1785 and baptised on 24th August 1785.
John Allen was born on 20th February 1787 and baptised on 23rd May 1787.
John and Sarah Leonard. The 1840 Tithe Map shows that John Leonard owned both the two properties, which were given the plot numbers 274, 275 and 276. These are the houses that later became known as 24 and 26 Castle Street. At least one of the properties, 26 Castle Street had been bequeathed to John’s wife Sarah by her father James Allen in his will of 1817. We do not know how or when he acquired 24 Castle Street.
John Leonard was baptised in Rockhampton on 27th October 1779 and was the son of John and Mary Leonard.
John Leonard of Hill married Sarah Allen on 15th April 1802. We have traced the baptisms of two of their children Charles Thomas on 22nd September 1805 and Samuel on 1st October 1815.
John Leonard died 17th July 1841 aged 62 years. Sarah Leonard appears to have gone to live with her son Samuel. She was living with him and his wife in the 1851 Census in Monmouthshire. Her death was registered in Monmouthshire in 1858.
Samuel Leonard. The property known as 24 Castle Street was advertised for sale in 1852. It was described as plot 274 in the occupation of William Hopkins and said to have a bake-house stable and outbuildings. This doesn’t seem to have been sold as the 1859 Rate Book shows that Samuel Leonard owned both of the houses. William Hopkins occupied 24 Castle Street and George Martin number 26.
The son of John and Sarah Leonard, Samuel was baptised on 1st October 1815 at Berkeley. The address of the family at that time was Prior’s Wood. This might be at Halmore which is near Berkeley.
Samuel Leonard married Mary Nelmes in the Thornbury area in 1842. We believe that Mary was the daughter of William Nelmes a yeoman in Moreton and his wife Mary.
The 1851 Census shows that Samuel Leonard aged 35 was a farmer of 232 acres at Cross Ash Farm in Skenfrith in Monmouthshire. His wife Mary aged 33 was born in Thornbury. His mother Sarah aged 73 was living with the family. Sarah was also born in Thornbury. Samuel and Mary had a young daughter Mary Watts Leonard aged two and born in Monmouthshire. In the 1861 Census Samuel and Mary were continuing to farm in Monmouthshire. Mary Watts Leonard was now aged 12 and there was a visitor in the household called Sarah Alice Nelmes aged 10 from Herefordshire.
Henry Withers. By 1862 Henry Withers junior had acquired both properties. The census of 1861 shows that he was living at number 24. He continued to own both houses in the 1867 Rate Book. Read more about Henry Withers
Francis and Jane Driscoll. The occupiers of number 26 Castle Street in the 1871 Census were Francis and Jane Driscoll, who may well have owned both properties by this time. Certainly by 1876 the Rate Book shows that Francis Driscoll owned both houses. Francis was from Kilrush in County Clare and had joined the army, the Fifth Fusiliers.
We believe that Francis married Jane “Trayherne” in Athlone in 1866. She may have been baptised Jane “Trayhurn” on 13th August 1820 in Thornbury and the daughter of Thomas Trayhurn the tailor and his wife Ann.
Jane and Francis Driscoll seemed to be in financial difficulties. An Abstract of Title of 1881 refers to an indenture of 1879 which secured the repayment of a loan of £100 from Francis Gayner to Jane Driscoll. There was a further indenture to secure a loan of £120. The property appears to have belonged to Jane, possibly inherited from her family. Jane Driscoll made her will on 24th November 1880 leaving her property to Francis Sturge of Bristol “in trust to pay the rents and incomes to her husband, Francis Driscoll, during his life and from after his decease in trust for Mary Thatcher. Mary was the daughter of John and Hester Thatcher but we are not sure of the connection between Mary and Jane. The 1881 Census shows that Mary Thatcher lived in St John Street.
Jane Driscoll died 13th February 1881. The records of St Mary’s Church in Thornbury show that she was buried on February the 19th and her age at that time was 62.
In 1881 when the two houses were advertised for sale, they were described as : “the larger messuage being for many years in the occupation of the late Mr William Hurd, deceased, but now void; and the other now in the occupation of Mr Francis Driscoll; together with the gardens and outbuildings……….The gardens are most productive and there is a well of good water.”
Francis Driscoll and Mary Thatcher then agreed to sell the house to Francis Gayner for £305 from which the agreed sums of £100 and £120 plus interest (amounting to £255 12s 6d) which were owed to Francis Gayner would be deducted.
The Census of 1881 shows that number 24 was unoccupied and that the widowed Francis Driscoll was living on his own in the house next door which became number 26. He was described as a 49 year old pensioner and gardener from County Clare. The records of St Mary’s Church show that on 27th May 1882 the widower Francis Driscoll married the widowed Elizabeth Harris. Francis Driscoll was “late private 5th fusiliers” the son of James Driscoll a labourer and his bride was the daughter of William Rose a labourer. The couple went to live in 7 St John Street. Click here to read more about them
Francis Gayner. Francis bought the two properties for £305 on 9th November 1881. The Rate Book of 1885 shows that 24 and 26 Castle Street in Thornbury were owned by Francis Gayner. Francis was a draper. He was the son of Henry Penduck Gayner and his wife Sarah and was born 16th February 1851. Click here to read more about Francis Gayner.
Francis Gayner continued to own 24 & 26 Castle Street until his death on October 23rd 1923. After the death of their mother, Lucy Gayner, on February 5th 1955, the Gayner sons Ronald Court Gayner and Sidney Harriss Gayner put the houses up for sale. Sidney was a shopkeeper in the High Street and Ronald Gayner was a bank manager. Ronald was baptised on 22nd June 1892. He enlisted in the First World War and served in France where he eventually became a staff sergeant.
Dennis and Annie Matthews. Ronald Gayner and his brother Sidney sold 26 Castle Street in October 1954 to Dennis and Annie Matthews for £900. The Mathews had already been living there for some time – we believe from 1946.
Dennis Joseph Matthews was born in the registration district of Chipping Sodbury in 1903. The 1911 Census shows that he was the son of Joseph Matthews and his wife Amy. The family lived in Wickwar at that time. In the December quarter of 1925 Dennis married Annie Tucker.
At the time he bought 26 Castle Street his address was Gate Farm in Itchington.
A later owner of the house says that Annie Matthews was a nurse at Thornbury Hospital. Dennis Matthews was a farmer but he gave up because of a heart condition. The Electoral Roll shows that there was another person living in the house, James Doyle. We have been told that he was a lodger known as Jimmie who worked in several local pubs.
Dennis died in Thornbury in 1964.
Dennis and Annie had a daughter Margaret Vera known as Vera born in 1931. Vera died in May 2008.
Mr and Mrs Black bought the neighbouring house, number 24 in 1986. They also bought 26 Castle Street, which they later sold to the Roman Catholic Church.