Read about Thornbury House
Thornbury House 1942

Thornbury House 1942

The will of Kingsmill Grove written in 1811 and proved in 1814 described Thornbury House in Castle Street, Thornbury, as a property he had built on the site of a house that he bought from John Salmon and which had been known as The Lamb.  The new property included a garden and land previously farm land owned by William Turton.  The house is shown here on the left as it looked in 1942.

Kingsmill Grove was baptised in Thornbury on 15th March 1743.  He was the son of William Grove the apothecary and his wife Margaret, nee Margaret Thurston.  William and Margaret  had 12 children, all of whom were baptised in Thornbury; Mary Grove (who died in 1737), Ursula Grove (born 1732) William Grove (born 1732) Ralph Grove (1733) Joseph Grove (1736) John Grove (1737), Mary Grove (1739), Joseph Grove (1740), Margaret Grove (1741), Decimus Grove (1745) and Martha (1750).

Two sisters of Kingsmill’s sisters were mentioned in his will.  One of these, Mary Grove born 9th May 1739 married William Cowley in 1763.   Another sister, Martha, married Obed Thurston.

On 12th October 1766 Kingsmill Grove married Hester Pountney a spinster, the daughter of Robert and Sarah Pountney.   She was baptised in July 1746.   At the time of their marriage Kingsmill was a stationer in St Peter’s in the City of Bristol.

On 12th June 1768 the couple buried their daughter Sarah, who had died aged only nine months.   The burial took place in St Mary’s Church, Thornbury although the family’s address was given as St Thomas, Bristol.  On 14th July 1769 another infant daughter Hester Grove was buried in Thornbury, and again the residence of the family was said to be in Bristol.  In May 1770 and September 1771 they had two more still born babies who were not named and who were buried in Thornbury.

Kingsmill’s first wife Esther or Hester (nee Pountney) died of consumption in Henbury and was buried in Thornbury on 3rd August 1774.  She was only 28 years old and at least four of her children had died.

In July 1774 their infant son Kingsmill Grove was buried in Thornbury.  At that time the record once more showed that the family lived in Bristol.  The Poll Book of 1776 shows that although Kingsmill owned a house and land in Thornbury and so qualified to vote in Thornbury, his place of abode at that time was St Thomas’s in Bristol.  Kingsmill’s second wife was called Susannah.  It seems that Kingsmill had retained his connection with Thornbury as we assume Susannah was the Miss Jones referred to in the announcement in the Bath Chronicle dated 16th January 1777 that Mr Kingsmill Grove papermaker of Bristol had married a Miss Jones of Thornbury.  In 1790 we know from apprenticeship records in Bristol Records Office that Kingsmill was a stationer and bookbinder in Bristol.  We believe that it is most likely that during this period the property he owned in Thornbury was let to tenants and known as The Lamb Inn.

Kingsmill Grove’s will refers to his three mills, the Middle Mill, a white paper mill and a brown paper mill, at Llandogo.  This is a very interesting area.  Llandogo is in the Wye Valley in Monmouthshire and very close to the border between Wales and England.  It is a beautiful and very rural area with some quite expensive housing but its past was very different.  The Whitebrook valley which includes Llandogo was a centre of intensive water powered industry from the 17th Century up to about 1880.  The paper making trade took over about 1760 and this might be how Kingsmill acquired his wealth.  Some of the paper made in this valley was made from esparto grass imported from Africa.  It came into Bristol and was brought to Llandogo on the famous Landogo Trow (the boat that gave Bristol one of its most famous pub names the “Llandogger Trow”).  The paper was very high quality and some of the paper made in the Llandodgo area was used in bank notes.  The industry also took advantage of the demand for wallpaper which spiralled in the early nineteenth century.  In addition to his mills in Llandogo, Kingsmill had his premises in Bath Street, Bristol which was described as a warehouse in his will.  We do not know whether the book binding part of his business was carried on in Bath Street or whether Kingsmill had more premises.

Kingsmill Grove was a very rich man and a great benefactor to Thornbury.  He helped to rebuild part of the Free School in Castle Street, the school that later became Thornbury Grammar School.  The records of Thornbury Town Trust have an entry dated October 11th 1797 to the effect that “the dwelling house part of the said free school building being at that time in a ruinous state and requiring to be taken down and rebuilt.”  Mr Kingsmill Grove had offered to lend a sum of money not exceeding £250 to take down the house and rebuild it.  The income from the properties bequeathed for benefit of the Free School would then be used to maintain the refurbished buildings and to repay Kingsmill Grove.  After William Llewellin, the schoolmaster at that time, moved into his new house, it was specified that he would not receive his £15 a year salary until Mr Grove was repaid.

In December 1802 we believe that Kingsmill’s second daughter named Hester Grove died aged only 28 years.

Kingsmill Grove’s will of 1811 referred to his business premises as a “loft or warehouse situate in the parish of Saint Thomas and City of Bristol in a certain street there now called Bath Street but heretofore called Tucker Street and which I bought and purchased of and from the Trustees of Henry Cotton deceased and which is now in the possession of Thomas Vining and sons.”  The Bristol Directory of 1775 shows that the premises in this street (which lies in the area of what later became Courage’s Brewery and is next to Bristol Bridge) included Kingsmill Grove, a papermaker, a grocer Thomas Vining and Burgum and Cattcott the pewterers.

We know little about Kingsmill Grove but the Ancestry website shows that he was a subscriber to various publications which seemed to indicate a serious interest in religion and history.

Kingsmill Grove was the president of “The Grateful Society” in Bristol in 1774.  This society still gives financial assistance to elderly ladies by means of annuities and supports three residential homes in the area.  It was set up in 1758 in honour of Edward Colston to apprentice poor boys and relieve distress.  Another of Kingsmill’s “neighbours” in Tucker Street, Henry Burgum, was a president of The Grateful Society in 1767, having himself received help from a Colston charity to be apprenticed as a pewterer when he moved to Bristol from Gloucester.  The Grateful Society has strong links with the Robinson packaging company.

From as early as 1780 we have records showing that Kingsmill Grove was paying 8/- Land Tax for a property in Thornbury that may have been Thornbury House.  He probably lived in Thornbury around this time as he was Mayor of Thornbury twice; in 1790—1 and in 1799—1800.  Whether or not Thornbury House was Kingsmill’s main home, he seems to have continued his connection with Thornbury and by 1809 he was paying 8/- for his own property and 4s 6d for Attwells School.

Kingsmill Grove was buried in Thornbury on 15th February 1814 aged 70.  In his will he left Thornbury House to his then wife Susannah for her lifetime.  It was then to become the property of Mary Ann Key, the wife of John Key, and after the death of Ann and John Key to their eldest son, also called John Key and to his heirs.

Being childless, Kingsmill divided his other properties, businesses and money between several nephews and other family members.  William Cowley received the loft or warehouse in Bath Street.  He also received the house that Kingsmill himself built but was occupied by his nephew also called Kingsmill Grove with the Middle Mill and other properties in Llandogo in the County of Monmouth.

The remaining property, including that which Kingsmill had bought from William Osborne was initially all left to John Thurston the son of Kingsmill’s sister Martha.  This included three houses, one of which was occupied by Martha and was to go to John after her death.

The codicil to Kingsmill Grove’s will revoked this arrangement.  The house and premises occupied by Martha Thurston were now to be given to Susannah Grove.  In the codicil the property was described as “all that copyhold or customary messuage or dwelling house late in the occupation of William Taylor labourer since of Christian Clark widow and now of my sister Martha Thurston widow with the barn garden orchard curtilage and all appurtenances thereunto belonging and one close of pasture ground called the Home Close containing by estimation three acres.”

A second house described as “the messuage late in the occupation of Mrs Sarah Jefferies and now of Charles Harrison by me lately erected and built at the lower end of the said Home Close ” and its garden were to be given to Martha Thurston.

It is noticeable that the first two properties were in the Tything of Kington.  The third and last property specifically referred to may be completely separate.

It was said to be “all that other copyhold or customary messuage or tenement in the occupation of Stephen Hopkins with the garden orchard closes lands and hereditaments thereto belonging situate and being in the Tything of Moorton ” and it was left to John Thurston.

Kingsmill also left £8,000 (equivalent to £271, 680.00 in 2011 according to the National Archives Calculator) to be invested to provide an income for his wife Susannah during her life time.  After Susannah’s death, amongst other annuities and bequests; £1,500 was left for the benefit of his niece Mary Ann Salmon, the wife of Edward Salmon, £4,500 to John Thurston and his sisters Martha and Ursula, £800 to the four children of his nephew Kingsmill Grove, £50 to Jane Hopkins a servant and the residue of the estate was left to William Cowley and Martha Thurston.

By 1814 Mrs Grove was paying 8/- for the property and Attwells School was said to be owned by “late Kingsmill Grove.”

By 1823 Mrs Grove appeared in the Land Tax as “Susan Grove” who was still paying 8/-.

Susannah’s will, written in 1827 shows that she left to her great nephew John Key (eldest son of her late niece Mary Ann Key) “all my copyhold or customary messuage or dwelling house formerly in the occupation of Mr William Cowley but now of Mrs Slade with the barn garden orchards ……and all that close of meadow or pasture ground called Home Close adjoining and containing about three acres all situate in or near the Tything of Kington and within the Manor and Parish of Thornbury.

Susanna Grove was buried in Thornbury on 12th October 1830 aged 77.  The Bath Chronicle says that she died at Wellington Place in Bristol while she was on a visit.  In 1830 the Gentleman’s Magazine has an entry in the obituaries “at Bristol Susannah relict of Kingsmill Grove esq. of Thornbury and aunt to Mr Alderman Key Lord Mayor Elect of London.” 

Sir John Key

Susannah Grove’s great nephew was John Key, the son of John Key and his wife Mary Ann (nee Jones) of Iron Acton.  He was born 16th August 1793 in Denmark Hill in London.  He married Charlotte Green, the daughter of Francis Green, on 16th August 1814 in Clapham.  Their children were; Kingsmill Grove Key born 7th May 1815, Thomas Kelly Key born 10th June 1819, Elizabeth Susan Key born 13th March 1821, Lucy Wilson Key born on 18th November 1822 and Charlotte Maria Key born 17th May 1826.

He joined his father’s business as a wholesale stationer about 1818.  The company traded as Key Brothers and Son at 30 Abchurch Lane in London and later at 97 and 108 Newgate Street.

He first entered the Corporation of London in 1823 and quickly became an influential presence there.  In 1824 he became the Sheriff of London and Middlesex.  The 1829 London Trade Directory says his address was Langbourne in London.  John Key was Lord Mayor of London from 1830 to 1832.  His second year as Mayor was the result of a hard fought and contentious election campaign which he won by using his casting vote for himself.

He was Master of the Stationer’s Company from 1830 and became Sir John Key, the First Baronet of Thornbury and Denmark Hill in 1831.

He was elected as a member of parliament for the City of London at the 1832 General Election.  He resigned his seat on 12th August 1833 by taking the Chiltern Hundreds.

“The Times” of Monday August 26th 1833 has an article which might well explain this resignation.  The report explains a scandal concerning corruption allegations.  The first charge was that the Stationery Office had entered into a contract with Jonathan Muckleston Key for the supply of paper.  The contract was worth about £60,000.  It was alleged that Jonathan Muckleston Key was only a nominal contractor.  Jonathan was the elder brother of Sir John Key and was said to be living in Thornbury.  It was alleged that although Jonathan signed the contracts he took no part in the supply of paper to the Stationery Office, having long since retired from the business.  The paper supplied came from Sir John Key’s stores and was delivered by his carts and servants.  Sir John Key as an elected MP was not eligible to enter into any such contract.  A second charge relate to the fact that Sir John Key’s son Kingsmill Grove Key was appointed store-keeper of the stationery office, despite being a “youth of 18 or 19 years of age” and totally unsuitable for a post that required experience.

It is interesting that the report said that Jonathan Muckleston Key lived in Thornbury.  When he married on 31st May 1828 Jonathan gave his address as in the parish of St Mary Lambeth in Surrey.  His wife, Susanne Birch, lived in Norwood also in Surrey.  In 1829 when his son Charles Jonathan Key was baptised, their address was Hernehill.  In 1831 when their daughter Mary Sophia was baptised their address was again Hernehill.  It would seem unlikely that Thornbury was the main address of Jonathan Muckleston Key and his wife Susanne during this period.  Perhaps Jonathan made Thornbury his home in the early 1830s.  Jonathan Muckleston Key was buried in Norwood Cemetery in 1888 aged 81.

From about 1832 John Key appears in the Land Tax Records of Thornbury for the property formerly owned by Kingsmill Grove and which was rated at 8/-.

A newspaper article of 10th March 1838 says that Thornbury House then described as the residence of Jonathan Muckland Key with six acres of land gardens stables and coach house was to be let.


Extract from 1840 tithe map with additional labels

The owner of Thornbury House in the 1840 Tithe Apportionment was Sir John Key, Baronet but the house was said to be empty at that time.  The fields behind the house were called Paddocks and Turton and Weares both of which match the information in Kingsmill Grove’s will.  In the 1840 Tithe Apportionment these paddocks were owned by Sir John Key but used by Edmund Lloyd.  On the left is a thumbnail image of the property owned by Sir John Key in the Tithe Map.  Click on it to see a clearer photograph. Sir John’s properties are marked 10, 11 and 13 and include Thornbury House and Thornbury Cottage.  In the centre of the plot was Thornbury Free School owned by the charity administered by the Trustees of the Grammar School.

In 1841 census Thornbury House may only have had staff looking after it while the occupant was absent at the time of the census.  This is certainly the case in the 1851 census where the occupant is shown as Elizabeth Stevens “housekeeper to Sir J. Key.”  However we do know that John Key lived in the house at this time.  On 22nd March 1849 Sir John Key’s second daughter, Lucy Wilson Key, married George Parbury of Brighton at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury.  Another article, on January 26th 1850 said that “The Sappho” would be giving a concert in Thornbury under the patronage of Sir John Key Bart who “is residing in the area.”

He was MP for the ward of Bridge Without from 1851 to 1858.

Sir John Key was also named in an indenture of 24th December 1853 by which he bought land and properties in Thornbury for a total of £2,200 from the heirs of Adrian Stokes which included Stokefield House.  On the same date by another indenture he acquired what is now The Priory and the land associated with it.

On the 9th June 1854 Sir John Key raised a mortgage of £1,000 on The Priory and the rather more important land attached to it, from James Brandwood of Lancashire, Kingsmill Grove Key and George Marten, both of London.  On 30th February 1854 Sir John Key and those holding the mortgage sold to Thomas Powell the house that is now called the Priory for £215.

He was not owner of Stokefield House for very long.  It was advertised for sale on 21st October 1854 with two closes of land.  It was then said to be in the occupation of Major Hume.  This was John Gwennap Hume.

On 31st January 1855 John Key sold Stokefield House to Eleanor Rodney nee Hume, the sister of Major John Gwennap Hume.

Sir John Key was City Chamberlain in London from 1855 to 1858.  He died on 15th July 1858 aged 63.  His death was announced in the “Morning Post” the following day.  The report said that the City Chamberlain Sir John Key Bart had died at 2 o’clock at his home in Streatham from an attack of gout.  It finished not by praising Sir John Key as would be common in obituaries but with the remark that the vacant post of City Chamberlain would be much sought after as it amounted to £2,500 a year!  Sir John Key was succeeded in his title by his only surviving son Sir Kingsmill Grove Key.

Sir John Key left his residence Manor House Streatham and his interest in the Stationers” Company to his wife for her life time and the residue to his children, Sir Kingsmill Key and three daughters.

Sir Kingsmill Grove Key

Kingmill Grove Key was the eldest son of Sir John Key and his wife, Charlotte (see above).  Kingsmill married in the June quarter of 1842 in Wandsworth.  This first wife was Mary Sophia Hahn.

He joined William Burgess in partnership in 1849 and they formed the company of Burgess and Key, producing agricultural machinery and implements.  When McCormick’s reaping machine was shown at the Great Exhibition of 1851 the company secured the British agency for the machine and later set up their new Victoria Works at Brentwood in Essex to manufacture it and by 1863 employed 180 workers.  They introduced improvements to other machines, notably their Archimedean Screw to replace manual corn delivery.  For 10 to 15 years they were the leading manufacturer of corn harvesting implements.  Burgess’s sons joined the business and took full control in 1880.

The 1851 census showed that he was living at the home of his mother in law a wealthy widow called Mary Hahn from Camberwell and her six daughters, one of whom was Kingsmill’s wife Mary Key aged 31.

Kingsmill Key’s first wife Mary died in Wandsworth in the first quarter of 1855.  He then married Louisa Armstrong in Salford in 1859.

The Rate Books of 1859 and 1862 show that the property in “Church Street” (now called Castle Street) in Thornbury and the land known as Turton and Wears was owned by Kingsmill Grove Key but was occupied by Major Charlewood.

Kingsmill Grove Key owned other properties in Thornbury including the home of Joseph Pym (described as “in the field”) and that of John Watson Dalby in Kington Lane, which we believe to be what is now Thornbury Cottage.

In 1861 Sir Kingsmill Grove Key was a widower aged 46 with four children, the youngest of whom was only seven years.  He was described as a baronet and an agricultural engineer.

On 23rd September 1862 at Emanuel Church Streatham Common, Kingsmill Grove Key married Mary Ann Kershaw the widow of the late Rev Arthur Tidman of Woodstock and daughter of James Kershaw of the Manor House Streatham.  In that year Kingsmill also attended a meeting to discuss the plight of the poor in Lancashire and how to relieve their distress.

On 24th November 1864 Kingsmill and Mary Ann Key had a son Kingsmill James Key.  He was baptised at Emmanuel Church Streatham Common.

In October 1865 Kingsmill was listed as one of the directors of the Metropolitan Railway Warehousing Company.

On 23rd June 1867 Mary Ann the wife of Sir Kingsmill Grove Key died aged 42 having prematurely given birth to a son.

By 1867 Thornbury House was owned by Kingsmill Grove Key but it and the neighbouring land were rented to “F J Walker.”  Sadly we know nothing of this tenant.WDP 1900 14th June sale of Thornbury House

In 1874 Kingsmill Grove Key’s son Kingsmill James Key matriculated to Oriel College Oxford.  His family address was in Streatham.  In 1874 Thornbury House was owned by Sir Kingsmill Grove Key and his address was given as 95 Newgate Street Bristol.  The London Gazette of the same year described Kingsmill Grove Key as “of Holborn Viaduct.”

By 1876 the name that appears as tenant of Thornbury house was merely “Ford.”  Thomas Ashcroft rented the house in the field and Maria Laver the house in Kington Lane.

On November 6th 1877 at Weybridge Sir Kingsmill Grove Key then of Spencer House Streatham Common married Jane Adams Hill the widow of James Hill of The Rookery Streatham Common.  Jane was the daughter of Thomas Addy.

By 1877 Major Mundy rented Thornbury House.

In the 1881 Census Sir Kingsmill and Lady Jane Grove were staying in a hotel at Freshwater Isle of Whyte.

In April 1889 The Times reported an appeal in a case in which shareholders of the city of Genoa Waterworks Company were claiming that they had been mis-sold shares by the promoter and by the directors of the company.  Sir Kingsmill Grove Key was listed as one of the directors.  The appeal was dismissed.

In 1889 Sir Kingsmill Grove was also listed as a director of The East Nourse Gold Mining Company.  In the 1891 Census Sir Kingsmill and Lady Jane Grove were living at the Rookeries at Streatham Common with a retinue of domestic staff.

Kingsmill Grove Key died on 28th December 1899.  An advertisement in the Western Daily Press of 14th June 1900 shows that Thornbury House was now occupied by Mrs Pierrepoint Mundy but it appeared to owned by the late Kingsmill Grove’s son Sir John Kingsmill Gove Key.  It was being advertised for sale and it was indeed a very substantial property with ten bedrooms, a housekeeper’s room and a nursery.  Please see the advertisement on the right for the detailed description of the house at this time.

The Times of April 5th 1901 had an obituary of Jane Lady Key who died on 2nd April at her residence The Rookery Streatham Common.  She was the daughter of Mr Thomas Addy of Writtle Essex and married first Mr James Hill of the Rookery Streatham Common and secondly in 1877 as his fourth wife, Sir Kingsmill Grove Key, second baronet.

Read about Thornbury House