John Hodges was baptised on 4th June 1854 and he was the son of George Hodges and his wife Tracey (nee Staley).
John’s father was a builder who, amongst other properties was responsible for building the row of terraced houses in Gloucester Road which was known as Laburnum Terrace. We are not sure where John was living when he was first born but by 1861 the family were living in number 12 Gloucester Road which is part of that terrace. George Hodges built the larger property at 6 Gloucester Road by 1871 and the family moved there. By this time John was 15 and soon destined to become a carpenter and builder like his father. The 1881 census shows that 28 year old John was still living with his parents in the terrace in 6 Gloucester Road.
John married Elizabeth Matthews Rugman (who was born in 1853 in Tidenham) in the Chipping Sodbury District in the June quarter of 1884. Elizabeth was the daughter of William and Esther Rugman who had a farm of 338 acres called ‘Says Farm’ which was in Westerleigh to the south of Yate in Gloucestershire.
The newly married couple seem to have moved into another of George Hodge’s houses at 8 Gloucester Road where they appear in the Rate Book of 1885.
Their first child Herbert Raymond Hodges was born on 8th of January 1885 in Thornbury and Hector Francis followed on 4th January 1889.
The couple and their young family seem to have left the little house in Gloucester Road about this time and moved to Castle Street. The 1890 rate book shows Henry Craven St John was the owner of Clematis Cottage (now also known as 15 Castle Street) but that it was occupied by John Hodges.
The deeds held by the present owners of Clematis Cottage show that around 31st October 1891 John Hodges borrowed £500 from Amelia Harcombe and that he used this money to buy Clematis Cottage and another property which is now known as 13 Castle Street.
John and Elizabeth’s youngest son John Hodges was born on 5th June 1892. Long before this last child was born Elizabeth must have had serious concerns about her husband’s health.
John Hodges made his will dated the 12th day of December 1891 and appointed his wife the said Elizabeth Matthews Hodges, his father George Hodges, his brother in law William Matthews Rugman and Robert Staley to be the executors and trustees. He left the bulk of his property in trust for his wife Elizabeth Matthews Hodges during her life if she should so long remain his widow and after her death or remarriage for those of his children who survived until the age of 25 years to be divided equally amongst them when the youngest child became 25.
We do not know what caused John’s death but the newspaper report at that time described it as a “long and painful illness.”
John died on the 10th of February 1892 aged 37 years. The funeral took place on Monday, February 15th.
His will was proved in the Gloucester District Registry on 25th of December 1892.
The records of St Mary’s School in Thornbury show that Elizabeth’s youngest child John started school in 1896 and left in 1905 to go to Thornbury Grammar School. In the booklet 150 years of St Mary’s School we found that 1905 John Hodges gained a £8 Atwell’s Scholarship for three years to Thornbury Grammar School. Hector Hodges was also admitted to Thornbury Grammar School. He started there in 1901 and left at the end of 1903.
The 1901 census shows that Elizabeth was adding to her income by being a boarding housekeeper. She had Augusta Weekes, a single lady of 53 years, and Mr R A K Henderson, a 31 bank cashier, boarding there. Herbert then aged 16, had joined the family trade and become an apprentice carpenter. Hector aged 12 and John aged 8 were still at school. Elizabeth had a 17 year old servant girl called Elizabeth Baker to help with the housework.
We know a little about the young John Hodges at this stage in his life because Gloucester Records Office has a copy of his father’s account book. Long after his death it seems to have been appropriated by his schoolboy son in which he made a collection of jokes and riddles. John seems to have been a systematic little chap because one page in the note book is described as the Index and page numbers were allotted to the following categories “Riddles,” “La Marseillaise” “Batting Averages” “Latin Prepositions with meanings” “Greek Prepositions and Meanings” and “Floral Emblems.” It may say something about the lad’s interests that we have not been able to find any entries other than the riddles, the cricket averages and another entry which lists the results of the Grammar School football club in 1907/08 season.
We know that Herbert Raymond Hodges emigrated to Canada. We don’t know when he did this, but he was listed as crossing from Canada to Port Huron, Michigan, USA in August 1907. He was described as a carpenter from Thornbury, the son of Elizabeth Hodges of Castle Street, Thornbury and he had been living in Port Arthur, Canada. There is one record showing Herbert was drafted into the Canadian Army in 1917. Herbert was described as a carpenter, single, living at 89 City Hall Avenue, Montreal. The next of kin was shown as his mother, Elizabeth Hodges, Castle Street, Thornbury. At that time he was 5ft 7 inches with 36 chest and 3 inch range, medium complexion with blue eyes and auburn hair. Documents in the deeds of Clematis Cottage in Thornbury show that in 1923 Herbert was later living at 59 City Councillors Street, Montreal.
The 1911 census shows that Elizabeth Matthews Hodges was a widow with three children still living. She described her occupation as a boarding house keeper and she had one boarder, Angela Weeks aged 64, a spinster from Thornbury. Elizabeth’s sister in law Fanny Hodges also lived in the family. She was 52 and also single. Elizabeth’s son John was 18 and apprenticed to be a carpenter. They had a servant called Daisy Lambert.
In the 1911 census Hector Francis was in Barnwood Hospital in Gloucester. He was described as a lunatic previously working as a grocer’s shop assistant aged 22. We do not know what this means as the term covers a wide range of medical and psychiatric conditions. He died in Barnwood on 18th September 1912 aged 23 years.
This seems to have left John (or Jack as he was more often known) Hodges at home to care for his mother. During the First World War when he was working for Walter Pitcher, another well known builder, Jack applied for exemption from military service because of his mother’s poor health. According to his statement, she was a “confirmed invalid” and he had to lift her into and out of bed and because she couldn’t speak he had to “transact her normal business.”
On the 4th April 1923 the ownership of Clematis Cottage and 13 Castle Street was formally transferred from Elizabeth Hodges to her son John. Presumably because Herbert was also entitled to a share in the estate, John paid £500 for the properties.
We have been told that Jack was a popular person in Thornbury and we know he was involved in the cricket club as can be seen in the photograph on the right above.
We are grateful to Les Summerfield, Thornbury Cricket Club and Mike Grace for allowing us to see the documents written by Edgar Mervyn Grace on the history of the Cricket Club. These included the following thumbnail sketch of Jack:
Jack first played for the Castle Club as a boy, showing great promise, and on his release from the Forces made his debut for Thornbury in 1920, becoming Vice Captain four years later, a position he was to hold for the next twenty years.
He was tall and well built, though his movements appeared slow and deceiving. Liking to go in first wicket down, fielders often crowded on his bat when he came in, but after a few overs he would open up, hitting sixes in a leisurely way, and they soon scattered! As a bowler he was extremely useful as first change, with an easy action and on the slow side of medium, apparently faster off the ground than through the air. With a short run he made good use of his height and was very difficult to play on certain wickets. In the field at first slip he rarely missed a catch. His best season was undoubtedly 1930 when he smashed the chimney pot on the Garage for a record six, and he was nearly always near the top of both batting and bowling averages. Although making many scores between 80 and 99 it was not until 1935 that he succeeded in reaching as century, a brilliant innings of 113 v Stroud, in the course of which he felled a boy, who was watching from an elm tree behind the sight screen; he made his hundred in 58 minutes in partnership with Edgar Grace (41). On our return to Thornbury Jack was overheard to say in his peculiar Gloucestershire accent ‘Well, I suppose there is nothing else to live for now’.
When he finally retired in 1944 he had scored no fewer than 9,487 runs for Thornbury for an average of 15.9 as well as taking 767 wickets for just under 13 runs each, and in 1948 was elected Vice President of the Club, a position he held until his death in 1961. Being highly skilled at his trade as a carpenter in Castle Street it was very amusing to see him repair his bat by using nails instead of pegs before binding or strapping it. Jack was an amazing character, who absolutely lived for cricket and was extremely knowledgeable concerning the game, avidly studying cricket literature with an astonishing memory right up to the end. He loved watching County Cricket and was terribly thrilled on hearing of the famous Australian-West Indian Tie.
The documents also mention that Jack made the flag staff used in 1931 for the Club flag presented by J. G. Wicks.
On 12th July 1926 Jack Hodges married Edith Eliza Meech in Thornbury. Edith had been born in Devon in 1883. She was the daughter of Albert and Catherine Meech. The 1891 census shows that they were living in Clifton and Edith’s father was a cab proprietor. We have been unable to trace Edith in the 1901 census but her parents remained in Clifton. Although we do not know when or why Edith came to Thornbury the electoral rolls show that by 1925 Edith was living in Bank Cottage in Castle Street almost opposite Jack.
Jack Hodges moved into Bank Cottage after their marriage but we have been told that he retained Clematis Cottage for use connected with his building business and that during his mother’s lifetime he sometimes returned there during “domestic disputes.”
Elizabeth Hodges died in the March quarter of 1937 aged 83. She was buried in her husband’s grave in St Mary’s Churchyard. Their son, Hector was also buried in this grave. The will of Elizabeth Matthew Hodges is held in the Gloucester Records Office and reads;
“This is the last will and testament of me Elizabeth Matthews Hodges of Castle Street Thornbury in the County of Gloucester widow. I appoint my son, John Hodges (hereinafter called my trustee) to be the executor and trustee of this my will. I bequeath to my son, Herbert Raymond Hodges my silver cup, two silver tablespoons, six silver teaspoons, silver sugar tongs, silver butter knife, biscuit barrel, gold watch and chain, carved oak table, carved framed mirror, two carved paper racks and also the sum of £200. I give devise and bequeath all the residue of my property whatsoever and wheresoever situate to my trustee upon trust to sell, call in and convert into money the same or such part thereof as shall not consist of money and to hold the balance of such proceeds of sale and money (after payment of funeral and testamentary expenses and debts) upon trust for my said sons Herbert Raymond Hodges and John Hodges in equal shares absolutely.”
On 11th June 1937 Probate of this will was granted in Gloucester.
Edith Hodges, Jack’s wife, died on 2nd June 1959 aged 75 in Thornbury Hospital and was cremated at Canford in Bristol.
Jack died on 11th February 1961 at Thornbury Hospital and on 22nd November of that year the family home at Clematis Cottage was sold to Rachel Mary Lloyd.