Oriel House

Oriel House, number 8 Castle Street in Thornbury, is an interesting house.  A close examination of the photograph on the left shows that the front door of Oriel House (the large red brick building that is number 8 Castle Street) is actually on part of Oriel Cottage, the smaller white house next door.

The history of the two houses is obviously closely interlinked and at various times both houses were owned by the same person.

The positioning of the door seems to have arisen from the problem of access to the stable in the garden behind the house and “the garden house or privy situate in the northernmost corner of the said garden.”

When Oriel House was advertised for sale on 7th March 1860 it was specifically noted that that “the stable adjoining and the passage leading to the same now rented with the house are not included in the sale”.

It was stated in an abstract of 1888 that Sarah Beard bought what is now Oriel Cottage AND the “offices garden and outbuildings thereto adjoining and the garden house or privy.” It seems that the stable behind the house had been used as offices by Joseph Young Sturge and he had had an access way to them from street.  Sarah Beard then had to pay to block up the doorway at the end of the passage into the garden so that she had sole use of the stable/office and the privy.  This abstract which was part of the deeds of Oriel Cottage mentions the passage in some detail.  The south-westward wall of the passage way was to be a party wall from the floor to the ceiling of the passage and the north-westward wall was to belong to Oriel House (number 8 Castle Street) which at that time had been bought by Samuel Petvin.  This means that the passageway now belonged to number 8 Castle Street, Oriel House, the main entrance to Oriel House being a door on the left from the passageway.

The problem of the door might have been a legacy from the fact that the Fewster family owned both houses at one time.  The Fewster family owned a great deal of property in Castle Street and the Thornbury area.  Read about the Fewster family and its properties

English Heritage describes this building as mid to late nineteenth century.

Oriel House had the number of 267 in the 1840 Tithe Apportionment Survey and the record shows that it was owned by Thomas Fewster but was void at that time.  We have no evidence at this stage to indicate how or when this property became owned by Thomas Fewster.

On 6th November 1841 this property and some of the rest of the estate of Thomas Fewster was put up for auction at the White Hart Inn in Thornbury.  The house was described as “a comfortable dwellinghouse comprising two good sitting-rooms, kitchen under ground cellar and other offices on the ground floor, four best bedrooms and dressing room and two attics with a stable and good walled garden for many years in the occupation of the late Thomas Fewster Esquire surgeon but now of the Misses Hodson.” 

We cannot explain this reference to the fact that Thomas Fewster lived in this house as the 1841 census appears to show that Elizabeth Fewster was living next door at Wigmore House and her sister next door to that at Epworth House.  We would very much like to see the deeds of this house and its neighbours to explain the anomalies.

Elizabeth Hodson.  The 1841 census shows that Oriel House was used as a school by the daughters of Elizabeth Hodson who was then aged about 60 and of independent means.  Elizabeth shared her house with her daughters Ann aged about 25 and Catharine aged about 20 both school mistresses.  Also in the the household are what appear to be the pupils of the boarding school Elizabeth Carpenter aged 15 Mary Ann Schill? aged 11 Elizabeth Seule? aged 10 Elizabeth Green aged 10 Harriett Wilcox aged 8 and Isabella Wallis aged 7.  Also part of the household was Harriet Stafford aged 20 who was a servant.

We are indebted to a website called Cornwall Online Parish Clerks for the information that Elizabeth was probably Elizabeth Treloar who married Henry Hodson or Hodgson in August 1800.  We believe that Elizabeth was born in a village called Wendron near Camborne in 1778 and was the daughter of Thomas and Mary Treloar.

The 1842 trade directory for Thornbury shows that there was a Ladies’ Day School run by Miss Ann Hodgson, presumably Elizabeth’s daughter.  The spelling is different but we are assuming at this stage that the directory entry relates to this family.  An advertisement appeared in a newspaper of 1847 describing the school as a seminary.

In the 1851 census Elizabeth Hodson was living in Ashley Road in Bristol St Barnabus.  She was 73 and born in Cornwall.  Her daughter Catharine was living with her aged 32.  She was said to be a teacher who was born in Camborne Cornwall.  Elizabeth’s daughter in law Sylvia Hodson aged 26 from Nempnett in Somerset lived with them.  Also in the household were Mary Ann Sharp aged 10, Ann Davis aged 12, Margaret Fleetwood aged 10 and a servant called Mary Ann Scheild aged 23.

William Councell.  The 1851 census shows that Oriel House was occupied by William H Councell aged 26 a grocer and draper.  He lived with his sister Mary Ann aged 29 who also worked as grocer and draper.  Read more about the Councell family 

Joseph Young Sturge occupied the house from 1856.  Read about Joseph Young Sturge.

By 1867 Joseph Young Sturge had moved to Wigmore House.

The house was occupied from about 1867 by Charles Augustus Porter.  The owner of the house seems to have been his father in law Samuel Petvin.  The rate books of 1876 1877, 1878 and 1879 show Charles Augustus Porter as the occupier and Samuel Petwin (or Petvin) as the owner.

Samuel Petvin was a carpenter who lived in street in Somerset.  We have no indication that he lived in the house that he owned in Thornbury.  The 1851 census shows that he and his wife Mary lived in the High Street of Street.  Their daughter Mary Ann was 14 years old.

The Bristol Mercury of March 8th 1856 describes Samuel Petvin as a builder and says that he lived in Street in Somerset.  His name appears in connection with the story of the discovery of an ichthysaurus embedded in the stone quarry owned by a Mr Cree.  Mr Petvin was said to have become the owner of this interesting find.  Mr Petvin it appears bought the fossil in situ and supervised its removal from the surrounding marl.

Samuel’s only daughter Annie (AKA Mary Ann) married Charles Augustus Porter, late clerk of the Liverpool Workhouse at Street Parish church on December 27th 1859.

Charles Porter was a bookseller and the Bristol Mercury of January 6th 1861 shows that the two men worked together.  The newspaper carries an advertisement for a recently published volume entitled “A Trophy of Grace; or a Memoir of William P Petvin” by C A Porter.  The book was for sale in Street by Samuel Petvin and in Thornbury by C A Porter.

On September 4th 1869 there was further indication of Mr Petvins many interests.  The article explained that in 1865 when there was a sale of Mr Wetmore’s effects Samuel had bought two of the 80 paintings that were for sale.  They were very dirty and could not even be catalogued and so were sold as one lot for seven shillings and sixpence.  One turned out to be quite a nice painting and the other was left in a lumber room.  When Samuel eventually cleaned it and examined it it proved to be the Immaculate Conception and was identified as of the Florentine School of the 16th Century.  It was valued between £15 and £25 and was now for sale at Mr Porter’s book repository in Castle Street.

In 1871 the census shows that Samuel continued to live in Street and that he and his wife shared a household with what must be his widowed sister in law Elizabeth Petvin aged 70.  Elizabeth was said to be “formerly the wife of the parish clerk.”

Samuel Petvin died in Street aged 70 on April 10th 1881.  His estate was said to be valued at under £400 when he died and probate was granted to his widow Mary Ann and Alfred Deverell Porter an accountant, both of Street in Somerset.

Charles Augustus Porter.  The 1867 and 1869 rate books show that the occupant of the house was Mr C A Porter.  On 20th April 1867 there was an advertisement for ” Thornbury Books; stationery and fancy goods in great variety Bibles and Church Services, Tracts, Hymn Books, Maps, Pictures and School Materials, periodicals supplied to order printing and bookbinding neatly executed a London book parcel weekly; lending library Porter’s Book Depository Castle Street Thornbury.”

It seems that Charles Porter did more than just sell books.  He also appears to have printed them.  In Thornbury Museum there is a copy of the March 1869 issue of the Thornbury Monthly Illustrated Journal.  This small magazine was published at Porter’s Book Repository in Castle Street and priced at 2d.  It featured general articles of interest but also some local news and advertisements.  This issue included a lot of local history.  The museum also has a bound copy of 12 issues of the Journal in 1892.

The 1871 census shows the house is listed as Oriel House and the occupant was Charles Augustus John Porter aged 34 an accountant and bookseller from Bath in Somerset.  He was living with his wife Mary Ann Porter also aged 34 and from Street in Somerset.  They had a 10 year old daughter Ellen, and sons William Petvin Porter aged 6 and Edwin Howard Porter aged 5, all born in Thornbury.  They had a servant Ann Wheeler and two visitors Mary Mack 41 from Reading and her 5 year old daughter Anne from Bristol.

Charles Porter was born in 1836 in Bath and he married Mary Ann Petvin in Wells in Somerset in 1859.

The 1861 census shows Charles and Mary Ann had moved to Thornbury and were living in 9 The Plain.  The house was occupied by Charles Augustus Porter, an accountant and clerk, his wife, Mary Ann, a schoolmistress aged 24 and their daughter, Ellen, aged 2 months.  Charles was born in Bath, Mary Ann was born in Street.  The 1862 rate book indicates that Charles had recently left 9 The Plain and moved to a property in St John Street owned by the late William Knapp.

Charles and Mary Ann had four children; Ellen Porter registered in Thornbury in the March quarter of 1861, William Petvin Porter born 27th July 1864 and baptised at Thornbury’s Congregational Church, Edwin Howard Porter born 6th October 1865. Ernest Samuel Porter was baptised on 28th October 1874.

We know that as early as 1863, soon after coming to Thornbury, Charles became a trustee of the British School (or Council School).  The records of the school show that at that time Charles was an accountant.  In a newspaper article of 21st September 1865 Charles Porter gave evidence in court about a forged note and he says that he was cashier at the bank.  The gas rate books of 1871 shows only the occupier and Charles Porter is listed in 8 Castle Street.  The rate books of 1876 1877, 1878 and 1879 show Charles Augustus Porter as the occupier and Samuel Petwin (or Petvin) as the owner.


Charles Augustus Porter 1872

On the left we have a receipt that Thornbury Museum tells us was dated 1872.  It shows that that Charles had another occupation.  The shop as well as selling books and stationery includes more feminine items such as perfume and jewellery and so it is possible that Mrs Porter assisted in the business.

The rate book of 1880 shows Charles Augustus Porter as the occupier of what is now Oriel House but the owner was listed as Samul Petvin which is crossed through, suggesting a recent change of ownership.

The 1881 census shows that the occupant was Charles A J Porter then aged 44 an accountant and bookseller from Bath.  In the house is Ellen Porter his daughter aged 20 who is a stationer’s assistant born in Thornbury and two sons; William aged 16 a grocer’s apprentice and Ernest Porter aged 6 both were born in Thornbury.  They have a maid aged 18 called Elizabeth Eyles.  Mrs Porter is not at home for the census but Charles is described as “married”.  In fact Mary Ann Porter aged 43 and described as the “wife of a bookseller etc” was staying with her parents Samuel and Mary Petvin aged 70 and 72 respectively who had remained in Street in Somerset.  Mary Ann Porter may have been with her parents because her father was in ill health.  Samuel Petvin who owned Oriel House died in Street in April 1881.

It seems that Charles and his wife inherited the house in Thornbury.  The rate books of 1885 and 1890 show that the property was owned and occupied by Charles Augustus Porter.

In 1889 Charles Porter was also an agent for Lancashire Fire and Life Insurance and Railway Passenger Insurance.

The 1891 census shows that Mary Porter was living in the house.  Unusually the household does not have anyone designated as “head.”  Mary A Porter was described as a “wife” which implies that her husband was normally resident.  Her widowed mother in law also Mary A Porter aged 80 was also living in the house.  The 1891 census shows that Charles Augustus Porter, now described as a bank cashier, was staying with his son Edwin, a colporteur, in Malvern in Worcestershire.  In 1892 the death of Mary Ann Petvin the widow of the late Samuel Petvin of Street in Somerset aged 83 years was reported in The Family Friend.  The article says she was interred at Street Church in Somerset.

We know from the minutes of the meetings of what is now the United Reformed Church that Charles Porter was an active member of the church and that until 1882 when he resigned from the post he was church organist.  We do not know how he came to return to his post as organist or even if he actually left it.  However we do know that he did as he resigned again in October 1894.  This time his resignation was accepted, albeit with great reluctance.  The records of the church contain a copy of the letter sent to Charles at this time.  It shows something of the esteem in which he was held;

The church is deeply sensible of the true interest shown and the noble service rendered by you to the “Songs of Praise” in our sanctuary.

All the more is the appreciation because- not withstanding the many other calls and demands made upon your much occupied time and energy – your zeal in the post you have so honourably filled for so many years has retained to the last all the freshness and vigour of its youth.

But in addition to your actual work and zeal what has made your service doubly blessed is the kindly feeling and the general spirit with which you have graced your office.

The rate books show that by 1894 Charles had moved to The Thornbury Bank on The Plain and on December 18th 1894 a newspaper article refers to Charles Porter as the Bank Manager.  In 1896 the Bristol Mercury Charles Porter made a donation of £1.11s to the Bristol Children’s’ Hospital on behalf of the Thornbury Union of Free Churches.  By the 1897 trade directory he was listed as being Secretary and Manager of the Cossham Hall in Thornbury as well as Bank Manager.

On the 1st August 1897 Charles Porter bought Prospect House on The Plain from a surgeon called Thomas Henry Taylor.  It does not appear that Charles lived in the house and he sold it in 1898 to Edwin Savery the blacksmith.  In 1899 Charles was elected a Councillor of Thornbury.

In 1900 Charles Porter was elected to the Thornbury School Board.  The 1901 census shows that Charles Augustus Porter and his wife Mary both then aged 64 were living in Thornbury Bank on The Plain.  Charles was the bank manager.  Their 36 year old son William an accountant was living with them.  They had a 19 year old servant living with them.

On October 19th 1905 Charles died aged 68 years.  His probate record shows that his estate was valued at £4152 13s and probate was granted to his solicitor W D Canning and his sons William Petvin Porter and Edwin Howard Porter.

The 1905 trade directory shows that his widow was living at Bank Cottage in Castle Street.  Mary Ann died on March 9th 1909 aged 72 years.  Charles and Mary Ann were buried in Thornbury Cemetery and their son William Petvin Porter was buried with them on 30th April 1908.  He had died in the County Asylum at Gloucester aged 43.

Doctor Lionel Williams  The rate book of 1894 shows that Lionel Williams owned and occupied Oriel House and was letting the next house (which may have been number 10) to George Henry Bernard Buckley.  Dr Williams is always said to have had the first motor car in Thornbury- a Wolseley – in 1903.  Click here to read about Lionel Williams

The property was conveyed to the Rural District Council of Thornbury on 23rd June 1939.  It was used as the Council’s office until the move to Stokefield House in 1959, although even then Oriel House continued to be used as the office of the Council’s Housing Department.

It does appear that Oriel House was also used by other private companies and so we have assumed that the building was divided for some time.

We have a letter dated 21st November 1966 from a company called H.E.F. Morris and Company of Oriel House that was trading as an auctioneers, valuers and estate agents .

The house has now been extensively restored to a private house and is occupied by Mr and Mrs O’Sullivan.