Lion House

On the 25th of March 1818 James Bevan bought the “Lion House” in Castle Street Thornbury from the Rolph family for £145.

The house was described as having a garden adjoining and was bound on the east by the High Street or Fore Street and on the south side by a house that had once belonged to George Rolph but was later bought by James Bevan, a tenant of the “Lion House”.  On the north side of the property was a stable that had been recently erected by James Bevan with a garden and yard adjoining and to the north of that was a garden and premises formerly belonging to Nathaniel Crowther (probably the Nathaniel Crowther who died in 1797 aged 65).  The garden must have been the plot of land on which the Catholic Church now stands.  One of the formulaic descriptions of the property in these deeds gives some idea of what one might have expected to find on the site of a Thornbury townhouse at that time – “ together with all houses, outhouses, edifices, buildings, cellars, sollars (this is a medieval term describing an upper or private room in a house), cisterns, privies, sewers, gutters, drains, backsides, ways, paths, passages, lights, easements, waters, watercourses, liberties, privileges etc. belonging.”  A later deed adds “courts, yards, pumps, stables, mounds and fences.”

We have not seen the relevant parish record but a family tree on the “Ancestry” website says that James Bevan was born in 1756 in Thornbury.  The record quoted on this family tree suggests that his father was also called James Bevan.  The same source tells us that James married Joan Neal at St St James Church in Bedminster on 17th April 1781.  Joan was the daughter of William Neal and Jane (nee Cook) and she was born in Berkeley in August 1758.  We have been told that William Neal of Berkeley was an innholder of the White Hart.

Their first son, James Bevan junior, was baptised in St Mary’s Church on 27th June 1782.  Read more about James Bevan junior

We know that the 1783 and 1784 Land Tax records show James occupied the ‘Swan’, presumably the Swan Hotel in Thornbury High Street.  The Swan was then owned by the Lord of the Manor.

Their second son, William Bevan was born 7th January 1784.  William was baptised at Thornbury on 8th April 1784 and the baptism records confirm that James’s wife was called Joan.  We know little more about William, except that we have learned from the “Ancestry” website that he was a tailor and that he married a girl named Ann (surname unknown).

We have been told that James became a tenant of George Rolph in 9 Castle Street.  This is possibly confirmed by the 1800 Land Tax record which shows James Bevan as a tenant of Thomas Rolph, George’s son.

Around 1792 or shortly afterwards, James Bevan purchased the house next door to the south (which is now number 7 Castle Street), which had also belonged to George Rolph.

Shortly after he had purchased the Lion House, James mortgaged the property on April 6th 1818 to Thomas Pearce, gentleman, of Ham, Berkeley for £350.

We do not know how long James Bevan, yeoman, lived in the “Lion House” as a tenant of George Rolph’s before he bought it in 1818.  The tenant before him was Rebecca Horton, a widow.  The Land Tax Records of 1780 to 1784 indicate that the house was owned by George Rolph and inhabited by “Madam Horton.”

A table of the Charities of Thornbury which raised money for the poor out of bequests related to certain properties says that in “1673 John Jones gave an annuity of 5/- per annum to the poor of the Borough of Thornbury, out of a messuage now a stable belonging to James Bevan.”  From this we have further confirmation that James Bevan owned the Lion house and its stable.  It also

appears that the stable that John Bevan bought was owned by John Jones before 1673.  The stable appears to have been a messuage at one time and we have a record that suggests its long history.

Received of John Allen a year’s annuity due Michaelmas 1790 given by the will of John Jones of the Parsonage long since deceased and issuable out of a messuage now a stable formerly Wear’s and since Lowe’s and the garden thereto belonging in the High Street and now in the occupation of the said John Allen 5/-.

Chepstow pound with George Buckle’s name beneath the word pound

James did not keep the “Lion House” for long.  Two years later, on the 23rd of December 1820 he sold it to George Buckle of Chepstow for £435, of which the sum of £397.11s.6d was paid to Thomas Pearce in repayment of the mortgage with interest.  We believe that George Buckle was a banker and merchant in Chepstow who died in 1824 aged about 66.  George’s bank, like many at the time produced its own money and so it it is interesting to speculate whether George Buckle paid for the property using any of his own notes (See the note illustrated on the right).

Amongst the deeds of 9 Castle Street is a short inventory and valuation of the fixtures and of the other effects of James Bevan.  This inventory is not dated but presumably relates to the sale of 1820.  The inventory includes a “cider horse” and a copper furnace and irons and the total value of the items is fifteen pounds and sixpence.

James Bevan’s wife Joan died 17th August 1827 and James himself was buried in the the churchyard of St Mary’s Church in Thornbury on 2nd March 1828 aged 72 years.

In 1820 at the time of the sale, the house was said to be tenanted by Mrs Russell the widow of Richard Russell, a wine merchant who also rented the stable on the north side of the house together with its yard and garden.  It is interesting that Richard was a wine merchant but at this stage we have no details of how he used the “Lion House” or whether there was a public house on the premises at this time.   It seems unlikely that it was continuously used as a pub at this time as in 1841 the house appears to be unoccupied and in 1851 the occupant was a veterinary surgeon.
At this point we know very little about George Buckle who bought the house in 1820 and sold it in 1822 to Thomas Fewster.