We have been able to trace some of the occupants of 7 Castle Street in Thornbury which presumably was sold by George Pritchard to Henry Knapp in 1854. Henry does not seem to have lived here but rented it out to a series of tenants.
By 1855 the occupant was John Hopkins and in 1860 Mary Olive occupied the house. Click here to read more about Mary Olive
Noah Freeman. By the 1861 census the occupant of number 7 was Noah Freeman. Noah was aged 28 and an Excise Officer from Sheepshead in Leicester. He was the son of John and Hannah Freeman. At 18 he was an assistant teacher in Christchurch Doncaster. Noah’s wife, Anne was from Kirkwall. Noah Freeman and Ann Guthrie married in the March quarter of 1859 in Brentford. They left Thornbury in 1866/67. The 1871 census shows that Noah and Annie had moved up to Thurso in Scotland where Noah had become a supervisor for the Inland Revenue. The 1881 census shows that they eventually moved to London. In 1881 Noah was still working for the Inland Revenue. The census of this period shows that two of their children were born while they were in Thornbury. These were; Annie Guthrie Freeman aged 19 and Arthur aged 17. As Arthur’s birth was registered in the Thornbury district in 1864 it seems likely that the family continued in the house at least until this time.
Samuel Collings. The 1867 rate book shows that the next occupant was Samuel Collings. Samuel was a clock and watch maker and father of Harris Collings who was living in the Lion House next door. In the 1871 census Samuel Collings was described as a widower aged 79 and with him were living his daughter Elizabeth aged 43 and his grandson Alfred aged 15 described as an assistant to his grandfather. Click here to read about the Collings family
George Edwards. The 1876 rate book shows that George Edwards was the next person to occupy 7 Castle Street which was then owned by Henry Knapp.
Charlotte Jones. The 1877 rate book shows that the house was still owned by Henry Knapp but was now occupied by “Jones.” We believe that this refers to Charlotte Jones, the widow of James Jones who had died in September 1870 aged 55.
Charlotte was baptised 12th August 1818 and was the daughter of a linen draper, Joseph Laver, and his wife Louisa. She married James Jones in the Bedminster area in 1847. James appears to have been a widower when he married Charlotte. The 1840 tithe survey and the 1841 census shows that he was a surgeon living at 47 High Street aged about 25 and living with Amelia Jones of the same age.
The records of the Thornbury Union are being examined by Alan Thoburn and Tony Cherry who are researching Thornbury’s workhouse and they have uncovered a very sad tale that is not evident from the other records we have found. A letter of November 21st 1853 from the Union to the Poor Law Board informs the Poor Law Board that Dr James Jones who appears to have been a very capable medical officer at the workhouse was now “incapable from mental derangement” of fulfilling his duties. The letter says they want to terminate his employment. However this was soon followed by a letter dated 28th November 1853 from James’s father in law Joseph Laver and his brother William Jones. The letter points out that James has never shown any sign of insanity in the past and although he had not been able to perform his duties his brother in law Henry Willis Laver had been standing in for him. In the circumstances the writers feel it is harsh to sack him until the outcome of his illness is known. The authorities seem to want to comply with this reasonable request but another letter soon makes the situation clearer. A letter of 1st of December shows that poor Dr Jones had been admitted into a lunatic asylum on October 1st and had since had two attacks of hemiplegia which had left him paralysed and “in a pitiful state.” In modern terms it would seem that James Jones was not insane at all but suffering from a series of strokes.
We do not know to what extent James Jones recovered from these strokes but he does seem to have been discharged from the asylum.
The 1861 census merely shows that Charlotte and James Jones were living in Prospect House on The Plain. The census stated that he was a member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries and GP from Bristol rather than saying he was a doctor so this could be taken as an indication that he was not practising. He was only 45 and she was 37. In 1868 the Directory says “James Jones surgeon The Plane.” A newspaper of 25th June 1868 carried the announcement of the sale of a “modern and substantially built messuage” with six bedrooms in the occupation of the proprietor James Jones. The announcement said “possession will be given on 29th September”. In September 1868 Charlotte and James sold 13 The Plain to Nicholas Grove and they moved into 11 The Plain.
By 1871 Charlotte was a widow aged 53 who was living with her cousin Jane Brooks at 11 The Plain. James Jones had died in the September quarter of 1870. In the 1881 census the occupant of 7 Castle Street was listed as Charlotte Jones, a widow aged 62 of independent means, and she was still there in the 1891 census. In the December quarter of 1882 soon after the death of his wife the owner of the house, Henry Knapp died.
The Bristol Mercury has the advert of the property for auction on Saturday 27th Jan 1883 with Henry Knapp’s own house on the east side of Castle Street with a bay window, stabling and “both sorts of water”. The description of Charlotte’s cottage sounds more modest.
“A small dwelling house also situate in Castle Street in the town of Thornbury adjoining lot 2 containing two sitting rooms, passage, court yard, kitchen and two bedrooms. This lot is in the occupation of Mrs Charlotte Jones a yearly tenant at £9 a year.”
The house was purchased by W G Salmon for £120 but the Rate Books show that Charlotte Jones became the owner occupier by 1885. The Census of 1891 says she is still living in the house now aged 68, an example of the inexactitude regarding age that women are often alleged to have. The records of St Mary’s Church in Thornbury show that Charlotte died 8th January 1900 aged 82 and her abode was given as Castle Street.
The newspaper report of Mrs Jones’s death said:
“Funeral of an Old Inhabitant – On Monday the funeral of Mrs Charlotte Jones, widow of the late Dr. Jones and a much respected inhabitant of the town took place in the parish churchyard” and went on to say “a melancholy coincidence is that an unmarried sister, Miss Laver also a much respected inhabitant of the town is also lying dead, in addition to which an old family servant Mrs Fowler met an untimely end by being burnt to death.”
On 27th February 1900 the house was auctioned at the Swan Hotel in Thornbury. It was advertised as:
“A very convenient small dwelling house known as ‘Dot Cottage’ formerly in the occupation of the late Charlotte Jones but now void and described as follows- ‘tithe Map 39 House and court’ . The house which is well built contains front and back sitting rooms, kitchen and back kitchen and two bedrooms with yard and small newly erected greenhouse at the rear.”
It would appear that it was some time during the occupation of Mrs Jones that the house became known as Dot Cottage. Mrs Jones’s personal effects were also auctioned at a sale on March 23rd.
Sarah Smith. A newspaper report of March 3rd recorded that the house was bought by Sarah Smith for £120.
Sarah Smith. By the 1901 census Charlotte Jones’s place had been taken by another widow Sarah Smith aged 76 also living on her own means. This is interesting because Sarah Smith was the daughter of Robert and Mary Olive, baptised on 29th June 1825. Sarah’s mother, Mary Olive, had come to live in this house in 1860 when she too was an elderly widow.
Sarah had married Joseph Smith in 1847 in Bristol. The 1861 census shows her living on The Plain, a milliner aged 34 with her son Leonard then aged 11. In 1871 Joseph was a saddler aged 44, Sarah, also 44 was still a milliner and Sarah’s mother Mary Olive was living with them. Click here to read more
The thumbnail photograph here on the right appeared in a booklet published after 1904 but before 1910. Click on it to see a bigger image of the top of Castle Street. Dot Cottage appears to be getting new window frames put in.
The 1905 and 1910 rate books show that Sarah Smith actually owned the house so it would appear that Sarah bought it when it was auctioned in 1900.
The Trade Directories show that Mrs Smith lived at this house at least up to 1914. In the 1911 census Sarah was aged 85 and living in the house in Castle Street with her sister Celia Letts, another widow who was 92. The two ladies had a servant called Ellen Lambert aged 49 living with them.
The South Gloucestershire Chronicle of Friday June 16th 1916 carried a report of the death of Mrs Joseph Smith, the widow of the late Mr Joseph Smith of Castle Street. The article said that Mrs Smith was in her 92nd year and had lived in Thornbury all her life. The mourners at the funeral included her brother Mr Olive and her grandson Leonard Smith. Messrs T C Smith and F Gayner also attended the funeral.
Charles and Gladys Davis. Probably the next occupants were PC Charles Davis and his wife Gladys Fanny, nee Finch. Charles was the son of a labourer James Davis and he as born in Eldersfield in Worcestershire. Gladys was born in Forthampton in Gloucestershire in 1885. She was the daughter of a gardener called George Finch. Charles was living in Gloucester at the time of the marriage on 21st August 1907 which took place in Forthampton in the Tewkesbury area.
Please click on the photograph on the left to see a larger image of PC Charles Davis aged 19. H
Gladys’s son, Malcolm was enrolled in the Council Upper School in 1918. In the school record his address says The Plain, which could well have been Dot Cottage. The record also shows that Malcolm was born on 5th April 1911. His birth was registered in the Thornbury District. Their daughter, Frances Gladys, was born 8th January 1912 and her birth was also registered in Thornbury.
PC Davis’s death at the young age of 34 was reported in the Gazette of 23rd November 1918. It says that he was another victim of the flu which swept the country after the First World War. The report says that he had only been ill for a short time. His daughter, Frances Gladys, told her own daughter that many people were ill in Thornbury at that time and the streets were covered in straw to deaden the noise of the traffic so sick people would not be disturbed. Charles was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 22nd November 1918.
The newspaper report of Charles’s death also says that that he had only been stationed in Thornbury a short time, having been transferred from Sharpness only eighteen months before. This is hard to explain in light of the fact that his name appears in Thornbury records as early as 1910 but perhaps he was transferred from Thornbury to Sharpness and back again. The report went on to express sympathy for the widow and her young children and said a letter of condolence was to be sent from the Council.
The letter of sympathy was not enough to help the poor widow who was left in difficult circumstances. The young family had to move to a cheaper house in St Mary Street.
When Frances Davis was enrolled at the Council Infants School in 1919 the family’s address was St Mary Street. The school record says that Frances left the school that year to move to Cheltenham.
We understand that Gladys Fanny married again, this time to Thomas Sansum of Littleton. Their marriage was registered in Thornbury in 1921.
The rate book of 1926 shows that the house was owned by a Mrs L Smith and occupied by Frank Biddle. Frank later lived at 21 Pullins Green.
Brewer family. We are not sure when the next residents acquired Dot Cottage but it is clear that the Brewer family lived there for a considerable time. However the first record we have of them at this property is in the electoral register of 1935.
William Thomas Brewer Bill” was born in the West Ham area of London on 7th April 1892. The 1901 census shows that his father had died and his mother remarried. The surname of his mother and stepfather are not clear in this census. However by 1911 their surnames are clearly Macknelly. The census also shows that Bill was working in an ironworks. The register compiled in 1939 before the outbreak of war shows that Bill worked as a fitter and millwright when he lived in Thornbury.
We understand that Bill was a semi professional boxer in East London. Apparently when he came to the Thornbury area, although he worked in a local quarry he also sparred with the trainee policemen as part of their training.
He married May Victoria Newton in the Rugby district in the December quarter of 1919. May was born in the Birmingham area on 24th May 1898. The couple did not seem to have any children of their own.
The records of the Council School in Thornbury show that when Phyllis Joyce Brewer started the school in 1931 her address was Castle Street and she was described as the daughter of William Thomas Brewer. We understand however that Phyllis’s story is a little more complicated. Phyllis was born Phyllis Joyce Adams the daughter of Herbert William Adams who lived in Eastland Road for a time. She was born on 20th March 1926. The family had several other children who also went to the Council School. She left the Council Upper School in 1940 and went into employment. Phyllis married Terence P Gamble in 1949.
William Thomas Brewer died aged 72 in 1965 at Manor Park Hospital. He was cremated at Canford, Westbury on Trym.
May Brewer continued to appear in Electoral Rolls until at least 1980.
The electoral records from the 1930s give the residents as Mary (or May) Victoria Brewer and William Thomas Brewer. The entries for William Brewer continue up to the mid 1960s and for M V Brewer until at least 1980.