Read the later history of The Chantry

The Chantry in Castle Street is one of the most distinctive and well known buildings in Thornbury.  It is now the home of Thornbury and District Community Association but the building still shows many signs of its long and interesting history.  Read more about the building itself

Wikipedia defines a Chantry as “a fund established to pay for a priest to celebrate sung Masses for a specified purpose, generally for the soul of the deceased donor.  Chantries were endowed with lands given by donors, the income from which maintained the chantry priest.  A chantry chapel is a building on private land or a dedicated area within a greater church, set aside or built especially for and dedicated to the performance of the chantry duties by the priest.”

We know that there were priests in Thornbury who were paid to pray for the souls of the deceased.  In 1366 for example Simon Pengrisek obtained a licence on payment of 25 marks to the King on behalf of him, John de Veel and others for a messuage each in Thornbury for a chaplain to celebrate divine service daily in the church of St Mary in Thornbury for the good estate of their souls when they depart this life and for the souls of their fathers and mothers.

This practice seems to have continued and over a hundred years later John Greyve chaplain of St Mary’s Chantry had 6/8 and Thomas Hulpe chaplain had 3/4 by the will of John Adams 25th Sep 1473.

We know that there was more than one Chantry in Thornbury.  One was called St Mary’s or Our Lady’s Chantry.  In 1387 Robert Silvestre chaplain was presented to the Chantry of St Mary in the church of Thornbury in the King’s gift by reason of his custody of the lands and heir of Hugh Earl of Stafford tenant in chief.

Another Chantry in Thornbury was called Slimbridge’s Chantry and this was founded in 1497.  We know from William Caffall’s notes made in preparation for his book on the history of Thornbury in the 14th and 15th centuries that on receipt of the fee of £10 to the clerk of the Hanaper (an office in the department of Chancery) a licence was issued on 2nd May 1497 to Robert Slymbrigge clerk to found a perpetual chantry in the chapel ‘newly built by him of St Mary in the church of Thornbury.’  This Chantry was for two chaplains to ‘pray for the good estate of the King, Queen Elizabeth and Robert Slymbrigge and for their souls after death.’  Its purpose was also to pray for the soul of the King’s uncle Jasper, Duke of Bedford whose entrails were buried in the chapel.  Jasper Tudor had died at Thornbury Castle but asked that his body be buried at Keynsham .  His entrails would have been removed at Thornbury so that his body could be preserved before being conveyed to Keynsham.  Finally the chaplains of the Chantry were intended to pray for the souls  of Robert’s parents, William and Agnes.   It was to be known as the Chantry of Robert Slymbrigge and the chaplains were ‘to acquire in mortmain land to the clear value of 18 marks a year.’

Robert Slimbridge (there are many other spellings including Slymbridge, Slumbrigge, Slymbrige and Slymbrigge).

Robert Slimbridge’s will was dated 1505.  It was written in Latin in accordance with the custom of the times and we are greatly indebted to Roger Howell for his translation and indeed for all the help he has given to Thornbury Roots.  Robert was rector of Bredon in Worcestershire and his will leaves various sums of money to the parish church of Bredon, the parish church of Severn Stoke and the mother church of Worcester.  It goes on to say:

‘The residue of my goods not bequeathed, my debts and legacies having been paid and my funeral expenses etcetera completed, I give and bequeath to my chantry at Thornbury, I desire the chantry at Thornbury to hold and be furnished with whatsoever of these goods after my debts, legacies and funerals have been completed but to remain in the hands of or custody of my executors until the lands, tenements, pastures or meadows be acquired or sold and my chantry at Thornbury aforesaid to be furnished according to the true value of these my goods not bequeathed.’

Thanks to the the internet and the researches of local historian Meg Wise, we know a little about Robert’s life.  Carol Southworth of Birmingham University has a thesis available on line that tells us that Robert was a graduate of Oxford University and of Bologna (Emden, A. B.,  ‘A Biographical Register of the University of Cambridge to 1500’ (Cambridge 1963) pp 1712 -1713).  In the latter university he was apparently awarded a Doctorate in Canon Law.  The Cartulary of St Mark’s Hospital Bristol says that Robert Slimbridge was a prebend in the collegiate of Tamworth from 4th June 1463 to 14th January 1465.  From 24th March 1473 he had a licence to sue in Rome for the Deanery of Westbury on Trym.  We also understand that he was a precentor of Litchfield Cathedral probably from 1479 until 1504.  Robert’s links to Thornbury before the founding of the Chantry, if any, are not clear.  However there are records dated from 1434 to 1453 of a bailiff in Thornbury called William Slymbrigge.   This may indicate that there was a family connection to the town.

The 1547 Chantries Act shut down Chantries throughout the kingdom and commissioners were sent out to confiscate their lands and to collect any gold and silver plate they had.  William Caffall’s book tells us that St Mary’s church itself at this time was in need of repairs and it was reported to the bishop in 1547 that the chancel of Thornbury “was sore in decaye and there can be no masse saied in the same when it raineth”.  The next sentence in Caffall’s book is interesting in that it mentions a name that occurs in the history of the present Chantry.  According to Caffall  ‘it was stated that one “Richard Hamden hath embesyled and perloyned away certen newelles out of Thornbury church”‘

Richard Hampden  We know that Richard Hampden, a landowner, was associated with at least one of the two Chantry buildings that make up the present Chantry.  Perhaps the ‘newelles’ found their way there.  His will written on 7th January 1550 (proved 22 January 1552) left “To Ciceleye my wife all that my Chauntrey lyeing in Thornbury called Our Lady Chauntrey and after her decease to remain to mine heir Edmund Hampden.  Also my leases called Collyns and Mortons.

A grant by John Daggs dated 1546 held in the Town Trust documents show that Richard Hampden’s land also included a burgage next to Daggs (the allotments on the South West of the town).

Richard Hampden had married a widow, Cicely Hylpe, the daughter of Thomas Hickes.  Cicely’s first husband was Thomas Hylpe (or Hilpe).   They appear to have had at least two children; John and Thomas both of whom were mentioned in Richard Hampden’s will.  We believe that Thomas Hylpe, the husband of Cicely, died about January 7th in the year 1549/1550.

We understand that there is a record of Chancery proceedings (Ref PRO C1/528/2 21531 by corr James Butler-Schloss, London 1996) brought by Richard Hampden and his wife Cicely alleging that they had been deprived of their rightful legacy by Ellen Hickes, the widow of Cicely’s father Thomas Hickes.

William Caffall’s notes on the History of the Manor of Thornbury indicate that in 1534 Richard Hampden was appointed Yeoman and Overseer of the King’s Horses and Keeper of the Stable in the Manor of Thornbury.  In addition to a salary he was allowed 100 shillings a year for the carriage of fodder from the park at Thornbury.  Richard Hampden had a son and heir Edmund Hampden.

According to William Caffall, Richard died and was buried in Thornbury on 25th January 1551 having made a will earlier that month.  Richard Hampden left The Chantry to his wife Cicely for her lifetime and after her death to his son and heir Edmund Hampden who was also to receive the Lordship of Littleton upon Severn and land at Woodstock.

Peter Hawksworth.  We don’t know how or when Peter Hawksworth came to own the property.  However we do have an indenture of 18th April 1667 concerning Peter Hawksworth a clothier John Bayley a yeoman Robert Harris a yeoman and Anne Bayley all of whom came from Wiltshire.  In this the property was clearly described as

“Those two messuages or tenements heretofore and for many yeares last past used and occupied as one dwelling house the one whereof was heretofore called Our Lady Chauntrey House and the other was called Doctor Slymbrydge His Chauntrey House and which are called the Chauntrey House and one garden orchard and curtillage to the said messuage on the South part adjoining and all those barnes stables and outhouses near unto the said messuage garden orchard and curtillage adjoining and all that close of pasture or arable land next to the said messuages adjoyning backward conteyning by estimacion eight acres all which premises are situate and lying and being betweene the common fields there called Tylt Field on or nigh the North And East sides and the High Streete of Thornbury aforesaid on or nigh the South and West sides and one garden conteyning by estimacion one rood lying and being within the Towne or Burrough of Thornbury aforesaid“.

This indenture was a marriage settlement and the property was to be put into a trust for Anne Bayley to provide an income for her should she survive her future husband.  According to the IGI the marriage of Peter Hawksworth and Ann Bayley took place in Great Chalfield in Wiltshire in 1667 on 23rd April.

It is possible that Peter Hawksworth was not the first person in his family to be connected to The Chantry.  We know that land called the Chantry Leasow was occupied by an earlier Peter Hawksworth as tenant of Sir John Poyntz on 27th March 1617 when he approached the Manor Court with a request that six free men of the Borough should check the boundary between the Chantry Leasow and the neighbouring land of Eleanor Alpas a widow and tenant of Sir John Stafford.  Three men were appointed to check the disputed boundaries (William Rider, Richard Attwell and John Parker).  This Peter Hawksworth was probably the grandfather of the Peter Hawksworth who married Ann Bayley.

We do not know why The Chantry came to be sold by 1670.  Another property included in the marriage settlement, later known as 51 High Street was sold in 1699 by Peter Hawksworth with the agreement of Ann his wife and we assume Ann also agreed to the earlier sale of The Chantry.  Click here to read about the Hawksworths

Our knowledge of the present day Chantry in Castle Street Thornbury largely comes from an indenture of 1699.  This seems to suggest that the two Chantries described above had separate but adjoining buildings as by this indenture William Green bought “those two messuages theretofore used and enjoyed as one dwelling house but now as two dwelling houses in one of which Samuel Thurner bachelor of physics dwelt in his lifetime and one which John Wygate now inhabiteth and in the other of the said tenements Joseph Barrow now inhabiteth the one whereof was heretofore called Lady Chauntrey House and the other was called Doctor Slymbridge his Chauntry House and now are altogether called the Chantry House.”

Samuel and Judith Thurner.  By at least 1670 and up to 1699 The Chantry was owned and partly occupied by Samuel Thurner who was described as a Bachelor of Physics, then by his wife Judith Thurner nee Culliford.

From the Alumni Oxoniensis we know that Samuel Thurnor matriculated to Magdalen Hall Oxford on 10th November 1651.  He graduated as Bachelor of Arts on 13th February 1654(5) and Master of Arts on 12th June 1657.  He was a licentiate of the College of Physicians in 1658 and became Bachelor of Medicine on 12th September 1661.

The rent roll of 1670 shows that Samuel Thurner was paying tax on two houses one of which was described as “Wakles” and the other called “Chantry House” and for one and a quarter burgage with a barn and stable.

Lambeth Palace Library has a testimonial letter regarding James Stansfield of Rodborough signed by “Sa(muel) Thurner Bachelor of Medicine, licentiate, Oxford University” and dated 11th June 1681.

The Tithe Terrier of 1696 confirms that Samuel still owned property at The Chantry and describes it as

“one ground called the Chantry Close belonging to Samuel Thurner gent by estimacon about eight acres bounded on the North and North East by Tiltfield on the South by Mr Hawkesworth’s aforesaid Inclosure and the gardens of the Burrough and on the West by Mr Thurners garden and backsides Mr Staffords, and Mr Hickes paddocks and the parsonage close.”

According to “English Book Owners in the Seventeenth Century” by David Pearson, in 1691 Samuel gave about 200 books largely medical to Magdalen Hall (now Hertford College) Oxford.  We believe that these are the books referred to in the will of Samuel Thurner for which probate was granted in 1696.  Also in 1696 the will of Samuel Thurner endowed a free school in Berkeley.  The history of the school shows that

By will (5th October 1696) Samuel Thurner MD of Magdalen Hall Oxon gave lands the income of which was to be employed in keeping as many poor children at school as that the schoolmaster should have 10s a year for each child. He desired that the master should be chosen from Magdalen Hall. ”

Samuel’s will also expressed the desire to be buried in Oldbury churchyard in the grave where his father and mother and other relations were buried.  He also had some very specific requests regarding his grave, saying

my desire is that hee that shall bee clarke att the same time shall digg the grave six foot deep – and in digging to pick upp and preserve every bone and piece of bone in some vessell untill my corpse shall bee putt in the grave then to throw in all the bones and to fill up the grave.

He left to his wife Judith

all my right title and interest that I have in the house I now dwell in knowne by the name of the Lady Mary Chantry and also another house thereunto adjoining called Doctor Slimbridge’s Chantry with all the yard and orchards backsides stables barnes outhouses thereunto belonging and also one close called the Chantry Close containing by estimation eight acres.”

Probate of Samuel’s will was granted in 1697.

Judith Thurner, Samuel’s widow, appears to have died in the same year as her husband (1697).  Her will also asked that she should be buried at Oldbury near the grave where her father and mother were buried.  She gave to her kinsman William Culliford of Horsington in Somerset, the son of John Culliford gentleman, her father’s youngest brother, the house she lived in namely the “Lady Chantry situate in Thornbury” and one other house called Doctor Slimbridge’s Chantry together with the Chantry Close containing eight acres.  Judith left wearing apparel to her kinswomen Margaret Culliford, Elizabeth Culliford and Anne Culliford, the daughters of her uncle John Culliford and sisters of her cousin William Culliford.  She also left a watch and a ring to another kinswoman Margaret Wisse the wife of John Wisse in the parish of Corfe on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset and money to the poor of the parish of Corfe.  William Baker was appointed overseer of the will.  William and Jane Culliford sold the Chantry in 1699.  The records of the parish of Corfe Castle show the death of William Culliford in March 1723.

When The Chantry was sold by William Culliford in indentures of lease and release of 31st January and 1st February 1699 the occupants mentioned were John Wygate and Joseph Barrow.

Joseph Barrow.  Joseph was shown in the 1699 record referred to above as a tenant living in the Lady Chauntry House.  Joseph married Mary Thurston on 24th June 1677.  We have no further record of Joseph and Mary Barrow.

John Wygate. John was shown in the 1699 record referred to above as been a tenant living in the house after Samuel Thurner died.  The records of St Mary’s church in Thornbury show that on May 26th 1697 John Wygate of Thornbury aged 25 married Ann Godwyn of Thornbury aged 22.  However the Ancestry website shows that the extracted parish records for Gloucestershire has an entry for April 11th 1700 when John Wygate a gentleman of Thornbury married Elizabeth Tipton.  The officiating clerk was Samuel Godwyn.  If both these entries are correct and if they both refer to the same John Wygate it would appear that Ann Wygate died and that John remarried.

His second wife may have been a member of the Godwyn family, not only was the clerk called Samuel Godwyn but when their child was born the parish records for Thornbury show that he was called Godwyn Wygate and baptised in Thornbury on 30th June 1704.  Sadly the child was buried on 13th July 1704.  In both records the child is described as the son of John Wygate who lived in the Borough of Thornbury – presumably at the Chantry.  A second son called John was born to John Wygate and his wife and baptised on 15th March 1706.  Sadly we have found no further records of this family.

William Green a yeoman purchased the house by an indenture of 31st January 1699 from William Culliford.  It was then described as

“those two messuages theretofore used and enjoyed as one dwelling house but now as two dwelling houses in one of which Samuel Thurner bachelor of physics dwelt in his lifetime and one which John Wygate now inhabiteth and in the other of the said tenements Joseph Barrow now inhabiteth the one whereof was heretofore called Lady Chauntrey House and the other was called Doctor Slymbridge his Chauntry House and now are altogether called the Chantry House.

In his will of 1714 William left to

Thomas Harvest of Thornbury aforesaid yeoman and unto Mary his wife all that my messuage or tenement called the Chantery with the appurtenances situate in Thornbury aforesaid and about eight acres of land thereunto adjoining and also one other messuage or tenement orchard and garden and appurtenances situate near the Chantery aforesaid which I lately purchased of one William Culliford

William Green had also bought what later became 40 High Street from Phillip Mansell.  A deed of 17th April 1756 shows that Vilners Estate in the Parish of Thornbury was purchased for the sum of £250, subject to the payment of an annuity of “£5, for poor friends, charged there on by William Green by will in 1713.”  William Green left these properties to a kinsman Henry Jane.

Thomas Harvest.  In 1713 the will made by William Green left

“unto Thomas Harvest yeoman and unto Mary his wife all that my messuage or tenement called The Chantry and about 8 acres of land thereunto adjoining and also one other messuage or tenement with orchard and garden with appurtenances situated near the Chantry which I lately purchased off one William Culliford in trust for John Harvest and from and after John Harvest’s death I give the same messuage unto John Thurston the elder and John Thurston the younger merchants in trust for the heirs of the body of John Harvest. ”

We know from the Mayors Accounts Book that from 1705 to 1712 Thomas was running the Tavern, an inn on the High Street on the site of the present Town Hall.  From 1713, Thomas’s son, George took over that property.  Click here to read about the Harvests

The Assessment for Poor Relief of 1717 shows that Thomas Harvest now owned “ye chantry” and was paying 9d tax on it.  Thomas was mayor in 1720.

We have not yet found the connection between William Green and the Harvest family.  We believe that Thomas Harvest had married Mary Rutter in Thornbury on 2nd August 1686.  Thomas and his heir John Harvest raised a mortgage on The Chantry of £300 on 2nd January 1719 from Michael Callahan a mariner in Bristol.

Mary Harvest wife of Thomas Harvest died 11th December 1719.  Thomas Harvest died 2 Jan 1723/4.

John Harvest who inherited The Chantry in 1723/4 married Anna Thurstan (sic) on 15th October 1716.  Their son Thomas Harvest was baptised on 14th August 1717.  Baby Thomas Harvest must have died almost immediately as he was buried on 16th August 1717.  Having with his father borrowed £300 from Michael Callahan in 1719, on 30th January 1723/4 he borrowed a further £100.

On the 13th and 14th February 1724, seemingly unable to repay the mortgage, he finally surrendered ownership of The Chantry to Michael Callahan.  We are not sure when John Harvest died but Anna Harvest nee Thurston the widow of John Harvest died aged 80 and was buried on 26th May 1771.

Michael Callahan who bought the property in 1724 was a mariner and a merchant of Bristol.  He probably never lived in the Chantry and came to own it as the result of taking over a mortgage on The Chantry for £300 on 2nd January 1719 held by Robert Kirk.  The then owners, Thomas and John Harvest were obviously in need of funds as they took the opportunity to increase the mortgage by a further £100.  Michael Callahan acquired the property in 1724 when repayment of the £400 became due.

Michael Callahan and his wife Elizabeth obviously had need of funds themselves as further mortgages were raised on the property.  The deeds relating to The Chantry held in Gloucester Record Office contain an extract from the will of Michael Callahan dated 5th May 1727 which leaves to his wife

“Elizabeth all that my Messuage or Tenement and Dwelling House together with the land Orchards and gardens …now in possession of William Crosby”.

The extract shows that probate was granted to the creditors of Michael Callahan on the 14th October 1729 after the sale of the Chantry by Elizabeth Callahan to Mrs Sarah Harris on 1729 31st January.  This is presumably because Michael Callahan appears to have died insolvent.  The London Gazette of 1730 announced that “the administrator of Captain Michael Callahan late of the City of Bristol mariner deceased doth hereby give notice that having paid all the deceased’s debts by Bond and Security he intends to divide the residue of the said Deceased’s Estate amongst his ..Contract creditors share and share alike in proportion to their several debts”.

William Crosby was a tenant of Michael Callahan from at least 1727 to 1729 and the church of St Mary in Thornbury has a memorial to the memory of Constance the wife of William Crosby Esq who died February 20th 1726.  Sadly we have no further information about William Crosby.

Sarah Harris and Webb Davis. The Chantry was sold for £400 to Sarah Harris by Elizabeth Callahan on 31st January 1729.  At that time it was described as

all that messuage called the Chantry wherein (blank) Crosby esq did lately dwell and now in the tenure of Mrs Hollister together with eight acres of land and also one other messuage or tenement standing and being in Thornbury in the holding of (blank) and by him used as a tenement but for some time past used as an outhouse all the messuages sometime since have been bought by Michael Callahan since deceased late husband of Elizabeth Callahan.”

Sadly we know nothing about the tenant Mrs Hollister.

Sarah Harris was the widow of John Harris described in his will as being ‘late of Hayes in Parish of Almondsbury yeoman’.  On 24th November 1729 she sold what later became 3 Silver Street to Thomas Stokes.  The house in Silver Street had been left to her by her husband in his will.

An indenture dated 7th May 1743 between Sarah Harris of Thornbury widow, Webb Davis gentleman and Thomas Alley yeoman both of Thornbury and Edward Gyles of Bristol gentleman appears to be a mortgage for £300 raised on the Chantry by Sarah.  At this time The Chantry was described as being in the tenure of Webb Davis.  The Assessment of the Poor Law Rate in the early 1750’s still shows that Sarah Harris was paying six pence tax on a property that we assume to be The Chantry and its land and that although it was mortgaged to Edward Gyles and possibly occupied by Webb Davis it was still owned by Sarah Harris.  In 1753 the tax of eight pence was to be paid by either Sarah Harris or Webb Davis.

We believe that the occupant of The Chantry, Webb Davis, was the son in law of Sarah Harris.  The IGI indicates that Webb Davis had married Rachel Harris on 6th January 1720 at Frenchay.  We believe they had at least three children.  There is an entry in the IGI that shows that Webb Davis, the son of Webb Davis was born on 1st March 1729.  A Sarah Davis and Webb Davis were both baptised in St James Church, Bristol on 17th March 1731.  A third child Hester or Esther Davis was baptised at St James Bristol on 4th March 1737 the daughter of Webb Davis.  The will of Webb Davis which was not proved until 21st November 1755 makes clear that at the time the will was written Webb and Rachel had three children under the age of 21.  The children were named as Webb Davis, Sarah Davis and Esther Davis.  They were each to receive £100 on attaining the age of 21.  Rachel, Webb’s wife was named as his heir but she appears to have predeceased him which is why his Sarah Harris was given letters of administration in 1755.  When Sarah Harris sold the Chantry in September 1764 Esther Davis, Sarah’s “kinswoman” was referred to as her heir.  We believe that Esther Davis was likely to have been the granddaughter of Sarah Harris and the daughter of Webb and Rachel Davis.

We know very little about Webb Davis who was described in the indentures as a grazier.  The name is unusual and there are few references to a Webb Davis connected with Thornbury and what there are appear to be contradictory.  According to the Ancestry website the name appears in the Poll Books and Electoral Registers held in the London Metropolitan Archives and Guildhall Library of 1734.  He was described as a “mariner of Thornbury” and a “country voter” in the County of Gloucestershire.  It is very possible that the “mariner of Bristol” had become a grazier in Thornbury.  There is however another indenture in Gloucester Record Office dated 24th August 1743 concerning land in Tockington and involving Samuel Grace, Webb Davis and Edward Baily.

This record refers to Webb Davis as “formerly of Wrington (Somerset), school-master, now of Thornbury.”  Other records in Gloucester Record Offices relating to Webb Davis of Thornbury include a deputation for him to act as gamekeeper for Cowhill made 24th August 1730 and a defamation suit, Anne Bedggood v Webb Davis dated 1732/3 (GDR/B4/1/2588).

We know that Webb Davis predeceased his mother in law Sarah Harris and that she became an executor of his estate when letters of administration were granted to her in 1756.  When Sarah Harris died her executor was another Webb Davis.  We know this from the records of the Close House (38 High Street) dated 1st June 1772 when a mortgage was transferred to Hester Hollester and the £46 originally borrowed from Sarah Harris was paid to her executor Webb Davis, a wine cooper from Bristol.  We believe this Webb Davis was her grandson and the son of Webb Davis senior and his wife Rachel.  The Ancestry website has poll books from 1754 to 1774 that show Webb Davis was a hooper in the parish of St Philip and St James in Bristol.

Edward Mathew purchased the property in 1764 from Sarah Harris and William Gyles (the latter appears to be the holder of a mortgage on the property).

By this time Edward Mathew had considerable holdings in the Borough of Thornbury.  The Assessments for the Relief of the Poor around 1770 show that Edward paid tax on five properties; “late Pontins” at one and a half pence, “late Daggs” with the tenant of John Wither at one and half pence, The Chantry at eight pence, “late Gayners” at one penny and “late Brutons” at a halfpenny.

Edward Mathew died on 4th December 1788 aged 72.  Edward left his property which included what is now The Chantry to his sister Sarah Townsend for her lifetime and then his nephew William Bell the son of his sister Mary.  He left another property now called Fairfield House to Susannah Pearce, the daughter of his niece Elizabeth Bell and her husband John Morse Pearce.  Read more about Edward Mathew

Sarah Townsend.  In 1787 Sarah inherited The Chantry for her lifetime from her brother Edward Mathew.  The will of the widowed Sarah Townsend left all her money and securities to her niece Elizabeth Pearce.  She gave her three oldest washing gowns to the servant maid living with her at the time of her death.  The will was proved 25th August 1789.  The inscription in Thornbury Church reads “Under this stone lyeth the Body of Sarah Townsend, sister to the above Edward Mathew, who died 7 June 1789. Aged 58 years.

William Bell inherited The Chantry by 1793 according to the terms of the will of Edward Mathew.

William was the son of John and Mary Bell of Tortworth and the nephew of Edward Mathew.  William was buried in Thornbury 19th March 1796.  We know very little about Edward Mathew and his nephew William Bell.

The will of William Bell written on 4th April 1795 and proved in April 1796 asks for his coffin to be carried to the church by six poor men of the parish who would be given coats and waistcoats of “good strong cloth” as well as being paid five shillings to carry out this service.  He left his “messuage or tenement brewhouse barn stable courts gardens belonging now in my occupation ” to his son William Bell of Hull.  The will shows that William Bell senior owned not only The Chantry and the close of land called Chantry paddock but also two closes containing about eight acres of land in Clapton in the parish Berkeley, which were also left to his son William.  The property was left to William Bell of Hull for his life time and after that to his son another William Bell.  William left ten pounds to his sister Elizabeth Pearce.  Other bequests included: to Arthur Taylor (£10), Robert Cole (£10) Henry Jenner (£10), Edward Pearce (£10), Mary Spires (£5), Ann Pearce (£5), John Bell the elder (£20) and bequests of money and clothing to his servants.  

It seems unlikely that either William Bell of Hull ever occupied the Chantry.  The Land Tax for 1797 shows that the considerable property owned by William Bell in the borough of Thornbury was tenanted by “Mr Lackington”.

Lackington.  We believe that this was a reference to either James or George Lackington.

The register of St Mary’s Church in Thornbury shows that Charlotte Lackington born on 19th July 1809 was baptised on 20th September 1809 in Thornbury, although the abode of her parents, George and Eliza Lackington was given as “Finsbury Place” in London.  We believe that George Lackington married Eliza Bullock on the 18th March 1805.  Eliza was a minor and the natural daughter of James Bullock.  The couple were married at St James in Piccadilly.  George Lackington had family ties to Thornbury as it seems that his sister Elizabeth married Thomas Fewster the son of the surgeon and apothecary in Thornbury John Fewster.  George’s mother Elizabeth Lackington may have gone to live with her daughter and son in law as she was buried in Thornbury on 27th January 1819.

George Lackington was the third cousin and successor to James Lackington who set up a very successful booksellers and then retired to Gloucestershire around 1797 (presumably to Thornbury) until 1800 when he moved to Devon.  James died in 1815 in Budleigh Salterton.  The company was taken over in 1798 by George Lackington of Finsbury Square.

James Lackington was born in Wellington in Somerset in August 1746.  He became a Methodist and married for the first time in 1768 when he married Anne Smith, whom he always called Nancy.  Although his career began as an apprentice to a shoemaker he read widely.  He appears to have had another talent as the Western Daily Press of 26th August 1946 reported that when he was a journey man shoemaker in Bristol he composed ballads in his spare time and these were sung in the streets.

James Lackington

James Lackington

He seems to have come to London with his wife in 1773 with the intention of setting up a book-selling company.  They had little money and struggled to build up the business.  He is quoted as having said he came to London with 2/6 in his pocket (10 1/2 new pence) and often found themselves “dining on potatoes and quenching our thirst with water.”  Their first enterprise was a joint bookstall-shoemaker’s shop in Featherstone Street, St Luke’s which he opened in 1774.  He only there for six months before moving to better premises at 46 Chiswell Street.  He then went on to become a book publisher.

His first wife died in 1775.  James had become ill with a fever and by the time he had recovered his wife had died.  On his recovery he found that Miss Dorcas Turton from whom he rented his shop and home had been looking after his wife.  Dorcas also became ill with the fever but fortunately she recovered.  Dorcas was the daughter of Samuel Turton of Staffordshire who had married Jemima Turton of Oxfordshire.  James married Dorcas on 31st January 1776 at St Luke’s in Old Street in London.

In 1779 John Denis joined the company as a partner.  Apprenticeship records in 1787 and 1792 show that he traded in St Luke’s in Middlesex .  His bookshop was something quite extraordinary and was described as the Temple of the Muses.  In 1792 the profits of the company were said to be £5,000.

Dorcas died on 29th January 1795 aged 45 whilst the couple were still living in  Finsbury Square.  Dorcas was buried on 3rd February 1795 at St Mary’s in Merton, London.  He then married his wife’s cousin Mary Turton in the parish of Olveston on 11th June 1795.  James Lackington was an admirer of Wesley and for much of his life was a staunch Methodist.  He built chapels at Alveston Down and Thornbury.  Rosemary King has written more about his contribution to Alveston on her page for the Bristol and Avon Family History Society

In 1804 he published a book called “The Confessions of J Lackington.” This was featured in Bristol Reference library in August 1946 which led to the article in the Western Daily Press that provided so much information about him.

After his retirement he seems to have become a Methodist preacher.  In 1815 aged 70 he died in Budleigh Salterton and was buried in the parish churchyard on 25th November 1815.  His will named his nephew James Lackington Rice as his heir.

The vast premises of their company in Finsbury Square was destroyed by fire in 1841.

Joseph Parslow.  By 1800 The Chantry was tenanted by Joseph Parslow.  The Rent Roll of 1809 shows that William Bell was assessed to pay tax on property occupied by Joseph Parslow.  This included “the garden” for which he paid sixpence, “late Brutons” one shilling and sixpence and “late Withers” for which he also paid one shilling and sixpence.  Read more about Joseph Parslow

William Bell of Hull.  The Chantry and its property were left to William Bell’s son William Bell Bell of Hull and then to William’s son a third William Bell.  In later documents William was described as an auctioneer in Hull.  In fact William Bell was a major landowner in the area of Hull.  His properties included the Grapes Hotel in Ferry Lane which was advertised in the Hull Advertiser 27th March 1819 “To let, all that good accustomed inn, with ferry attached and a garden and orchard containing about an acre of ground well stocked with fruit trees, pleasantly situated at Stone Ferry, near Hull, and in the occupation of William Bell”.

Amongst his other properties he leased and then sold some land to the Jewish community there for a burial ground.  This religious tolerance may have been an indication of his Liberal tendencies. William was in favour of reform of the parliament.  The History of Parliament Online in describing the period of 1790 to 1820 and dealing with the problems in Hull says that William Bell was persuaded to stand for parliament with a petition against “treating and bribery” but only received three votes.  William may have been rather too outspoken, a contemporary report says “Bell has continued hearty in the cause and at the expense of much odium here and loss of business in consequence of it“.

Apparently William undertook to promote the petition “on the grounds that he should be indemnified” and in 1808 he withdrew it having asked for a situation for his son “on the basis of a promise of service made on the withdrawal of the petition.”

We know that William had a daughter Elizabeth who in 1805 married a merchant John Leake who emigrated with his family to Van Diemen’s land.  William Bell left property in trust for the education of the Leake children.  According to a book about this family this property included a street called “Land of Green Ginger.”  This intriguing name was given to a narrow street at the bottom of Whitefriargate in the old town of Kingston upon Hull.  The street was formerly called Old Beverley Street.

We understand that in a conveyance of 25th March 1815 Mr William Bell released the messuage called the Chantry House to Joseph Parslow.  We also believe that the indentures between William Bell and Joseph Parslow included a document by which the third William Bell waived his inheritance of The Chantry and other lands.

The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1825 reported the death of William Bell an auctioneer on December 9th in Belvedere Place in London in his 65th year.  It said that “he had lately retired from business and his health had been declining for the last four years.  He was possessed of singular originality of character – of an independent and upright mind – and the town of Hull is indebted to him as the founder and prompter of several of its useful institutions.”

Joseph Parslow.  In 1815 this property was purchased by Joseph Parslow Senior who died on December 20th 1839.  Read about Joseph Parslow

Joseph Parslow junior appears as the owner of the Chantry and its property in the tithe apportionment of 1840 in which it was given the Plot numbers 24 and 25.  Joseph Parslow died on May 30th 1846 aged 51.  Click here to read about Joseph Parslow junior

On 29th August 1846 it was advertised to be sold by auction and described as “a large and commodious dwelling house called The Chantry late the residence of Joseph Parslow esquire deceased, pleasantly situate in the town of Thornbury with stable coach house and other buildings large walled gardens yards four paddocks of excellent land, part of which are excellent orchards.  The property was also said be numbers 21, 24, 25, 289, 299 and 294 on the Tithe Map . Other closes of land in Thornbury and Tytherington were included in the sale of Joseph Parslow’s estate.
Thomas Osborne Wetmore.  On the 4th February 1847 (according to the schedules in the deeds of The Chantry) Thomas Osborne Wetmore appeared before the Manor Court of Thornbury and was recognised as owner of The Chantry, and more importantly the large property attached to it.

Thomas Osborne Wetmore was a major landowner. He was born about 1784 and was the son of Thomas Wetmore and Mary Osborne.  The holdings of this family were so extensive we have created a page about the family.  Read about the family of Thomas Osborne Wetmore

The Chantry appeared to be unoccupied in the Census of 1851.

Click here to read more about the building itself.

Read the later history of The Chantry