Robert Hawtin was born about 1798.  On 13 January 1820 Robert married Sarah Nelmes in Thornbury. Sarah was baptised on 13 July 1795 at Berkeley.  She was the daughter of Thomas Nelmes, a yeoman and his wife, Mary, who were living at Clapton near Berkeley.

Robert and Sarah had several children: Sarah baptised on 8th July 1821, Robert baptised on 13th October 1822, John Nelmes baptised on 21st March 1824, Julia baptised on 21st December 1825, Marianne baptised on 6th April 1827, William Henry baptised on 18th March 1829, Elizabeth baptised on 12th June 1831 and Catherine baptised on 3rd August 1834.  The baptismal records of his children show that Robert was a shopkeeper in 1821 and 1822 when they were living at Moreton.  From 1824 Robert was described as a schoolmaster, and from 1827 their abode was given as Borough (i.e. living in central Thornbury).

Robert was described in the 1830 Trade Directory as running a Gentleman’s Day School and he was also a Fire Office Agent.  We are not sure where the Gentleman’s School was as there were several in the Thornbury area at that time.  The 1841 census shows the family living at the school in the ‘Back Street’ of Thornbury.  Robert was a schoolmaster aged 42 living with Sarah aged 44 and their children: Robert aged 18, John 17, Julia 15, Mary Ann 14, William 12, Elizabeth 10 and Catherine 10.

We now know this school as the Attwells Free School and the property is now known as 11 St Mary Street.  Click here to see a photo and read more about the history of this property

Robert appears in a 1842 directory in which he is described as a Master of Free School and Fire Office Agent.  A Fire Office Agent is an early form of fire insurance salesman.  There were agents for half a dozen of these fire insurance companies at this period in Thornbury.  Some of the older buildings in the area still have fire insurance badges attached outside.  This dates from the period when fire brigades were employed by fire insurance companies and would only attend a fire in a building insured by that company.

We don’t know when Robert left or what happened to him.  By 1849 trade directories are showing Henry Carter had taken over as schoolmaster.  In the 1851 Census Sarah is living at 77 High Street.  She is described as a school mistress and married, but there is no sign of Robert Hawtin.  Only Julia, now a dressmaker aged 25 and Catherine aged 17 are living with Sarah.

The 1861 census shows Sarah has moved to 7 St John Street.  She was described as a schoolmaster’s widow aged 64.  We have found no sign of Robert’s death.  Living with Sarah was Julia Hawtin, unmarried daughter aged 32 working as a dressmaker, and Elizabeth Woodland, a widowed daughter aged 29, described as a schoolmaster’s widow, and granddaughters, Olivia Julia Woodland aged five and Olympia Maria aged four both born in Clifton and Ada aged 2 born in Australia.

The 1871 census shows Sarah was living in 7 St John Street on her own.  She appears in the 1876 Rate Book but she actually died aged 79 years and was buried on 24 January 1876.

Of Robert and Sarah’s children:

Elizabeth – was baptised on 12th June 1931.  In September quarter 1848 Elizabeth married William Woodland a widower who was born in Exeter but was working in Hay on Wye as a clerk at the time of their marriage.  In the 1851 Census the Woodlands were living at number 13 St Mary Street.  William was a schoolmaster at the Attwells School which was next door.  Apart from Olivia Julia and Olympia Maria mentioned above, they had one other daughter, Ophelia Elizabeth Woodland was living with her aunt and uncle, Alfred and Sarah Collings in the High Street.  Click here to read more about the Woodlands

Sarah – baptised on 8th July 1821.  On 28th April 1840, she married Alfred Jenner Collings at the Temple Church in Bristol.  Alfred was a clock and watch maker and the son of another Thornbury clockmaker Samuel Collings and his wife Elizabeth.  In the 1871 census Alfred and Sarah were living in the High Street.  The 1876 and 1877 Rate Books show that Alfred Jenner Collings now lived in 3 Castle Street, but by 1881 Census they had moved back to the High Street near the Police Station.   Read more about them