We have extracted information about the Cossham family from a booklet written by Susan Dean and supplemented this with information taken from other documents found in Thornbury Museum, Gloucester Records Office and elsewhere.
The Cosshams played an important part in Thornbury and our knowledge starts with George Cossham who together with many of sons and grandsons (and the spouses of his daughters and grand-daughters) were responsible for building many of the houses seen today in the older parts of Thornbury. Several of the family were known to be staunch Liberals and radicals and leading members in the Non-Conformist churches. The one most remembered is Handel Cossham who after growing up in Thornbury went on to develop a major coal mining business and spend five years as a Member of Parliament. In addition to many generous gifts elsewhere, he did give the town the funds for the building of the new British School in 1862 and in 1888 he presented the Town the old Wesleyan Chapel in Chapel Street to be used as a public hall and this still bears the name of ‘Cossham Hall’.
George Cossham was baptised on 3rd October 1714, the eldest son of Charles Cossham and Ann (nee Parker). George was a carpenter.
George and Elizabeth had a large family of nine, possibly ten children:
First born was named John Goodenough, baptised 11th November 1742. On 6th November 1768, John married Mary Pope at Thornbury. Mary was the daughter of John Pope of Oldbury. They had four children: William said to be born in 1769, John Goodenough born on 30th May 1771, and twins, Thomas and Betty, born on 11th June 1775. John worked as a carpenter. He was buried 25th February 1776.
The second child was Ann baptised 25th January 1745. She married James Davis on 15th May 1771. James died aged 34 and was buried on 4th April 1775. James’s address at the time of his death was in Moreton. Ann carried on as a shopkeeper living in 33 High Street. She is shown as owning two properties in the 1797 land tax record, one let out to Mrs Cowper, the other a shop which she seemed to be occupying. Ann died aged 53 and was buried on 10th February 1797.
The third child was Charles baptised 1747. He married Hester Hale at St Philip and Jacob Church in Bristol. They settled in Olveston and he died in 1813.
Next came Richard baptised in 1748. The land tax records from 1780 and 1784 and various indentures show that Richard was living at the house which later became known as 32 High Street. He is described as being a carpenter. We don’t know who or when Richard married, but he had two children: Ursula and Jesse. Richard died on 11th March 1829. Click here to read about Richard, his son Jesse and grandson, Handel
Then came Benjamin baptised 6th July 1750. He married Hester Cowley on 22nd June 1792 and they had three daughters: Elizabeth born on 20th February 1794 and baptised on 24th June 1795, Martha born on 14th August 1797 and Mary born on 13th March 1799, both baptised on 4th September 1803 after their father had died. Benjamin died aged 53 and was buried on 16th July 1803. Hester died aged 68 and was buried on 25th August 1852.
Their sixth child was Elizabeth baptised 1st May 1752. She married Abraham Gough, a Bristol carpenter at Thornbury in 1771.
Seventh was James baptised 14th April 1754. He married Rachel Kitson on 27th July 1771 at St Philip and Jacob Church in Bristol. He was a smith living in Unity Street just off Old Market, Bristol. On 18th December 1803 James married again, his second wife was Hannah Clutterbuck whom he married at Thornbury.
Eighth was Sarah baptised 1755. She married Joseph Gough in 1777 at Thornbury.
The ninth child was Jesse baptised on 27th February 1756 at Thornbury. He married Ann Child on 6th March 1791 and they had three children baptised at the Broadmead Baptist Chapel; Ann Child baptised on 22nd August 1793, George baptised on 29th June 1795 and Charlotte baptised on 12th February 1799. Click here to read about Jesse
Lastly it is noted that there was another child, George born in 1758, but nothing more is known about him.
George’s wife, Elizabeth, died on 30th October 1768 aged 58 and was buried in the Thornbury Baptist Churchyard. George died over 20 years later on 3rd May 1789 aged 75. In his lifetime George had acquired several properties around Thornbury.
George’s will dated 21st November 1785 shows the full extent of these properties and to whom they were left, along with other monetary and personal bequests:
1: daughter Ann Davis widow a messuage and shop now in her occupation in High Street adjoining on the north side to a messuage late in the occupation of John Longman perukemaker and now of Isaac Pullen currier. (We assume that this property was 33 High Street).
2: son Richard Cossham a messuage wherein Robert Facey doth now dwell with garden and orchard in the High Street which I purchased (with other premises hereinafter devised to my son Jesse) of James Tyler. (We think this property became the house often referred to as ‘Miss Saise’s cottage located between 67 and 69 High Street).
3: son Benjamin a messuage wherein Henry Burnell and Sarah Motley do now dwell in Back Street purchased from …….. Whitehead. Benjamin also to get all my wearing apparel except my silver watch
4: son James a messuage in which Betty Niblett widow doth now dwell in High Street purchased of Daniel Fowler. (This property became 54 High Street)
5: son Jesse a messuage that I now dwell in with garden orchard and appurts which I purchased of ……. Bennett and also all that close or paddock called the Town Orchard 1 acre with barn stable slaughterhouse and buildings thereto adjoining – the residue of premises by me lately purchased of James Tyler – yearly sum of £10 to his (Jesse’s) brother Richard for 5 years. (This property became 73 – 81 High Street).
6: Jesse was also given property in trust to provide for the children of his son, John Goodenough Cossham who had died in 1776. The property was described as the messuage wherein Thomas Hurley lately inhabited but since divided into two tenements – William Motley and Thomas Cole do now dwell with gardens and orchards and appurts on or near a lane called Mutton Lane in the borough of Thornbury. Jesse must take rents to apprentice my grandson Thomas Cossham youngest son of my late son John Cossham deceased for 7 years and after apprenticeship and providing him with suitable wearing apparel and the payment of ten pounds to my grand-daughter, Betty, sister of Thomas, then Thomas Cossham to get cottage where Thomas Cole lives, but if he dies before then to other grandson, John Cossham, son of my late son John. The tenement in the tenure of William Motley is left to grandson John after satisfaction of the above bequests. (This property became 4 and 6 Crispin Lane) Click here to read more about Jesse and his family
7: sons Benjamin & James £70 each and daughter Elizabeth wife of Abraham Gough £60. Abraham Gough £50 which he owes me.
8: my brother and sister James Cossham and Betty Prosser 2 guineas each
9: three sons Richard, James and Jesse all my timber board and quarter which is saleable or such and fit to cut and work equally between them
10: daughter Ann Davis half my casks and brewing utensils except the furnace and half my cider which shall be in my cellar at the time of my decease. Also the use of the room (part of my dwelling house) in which she now lives as such other part of my dwelling house for her goods lumber etc for as long as she needs up to 3 years
11: grandson John Cossham one broad axe, one hand saw and a pit saw.