John Hodges was born in Thornbury in 1786, the first of the seven children born to James Hodges and Hester nee Shill. He was baptised in St Mary’s Church on April 6th 1786. James had been a gardener, but appears to have become a builder because he was said to have built a property on the Burnt House Orchard. It is interesting to note that the John was not mentioned in his father’s will in which he left his property to be shared by his other children. In a document dated 7th October 1826, John ‘quitclaimed’ his right in the property. We suspect he had already been given a share of James’s estate because John became a major builder in Thornbury and his family built many of the houses in Gloucester Road and Pullins Green.
We are not sure when and where John married Sarah because we have been unable to find a record of the marriage. Later census records suggest that John and Sarah spent some years living away from Thornbury. Their first son, James was born in Olveston about 1811, and their second, George, was born in Tockington about 1820. They had moved back to Thornbury by 23rd August 1824 when their daughter, Emma was born.
The Thornbury Land Tax records for 1825 and 1826 show that John Hodges was renting a house in Thornbury from James Ford. We also know that there was indenture dated 1832 relating to a property bought by John Hodges from James Ford, although we haven’t yet been able to trace a copy of this indenture. We suspect that this document relates to the purchase of the house now known as number 22 Gloucester Road and that John acquired this and the land adjoining this property to build a terrace of houses.
The tithe survey published in 1840 shows that several houses had been built in the terrace, covering what we now know as numbers 16 – 22 Gloucester Road. It shows that John Hodges was living in the terrace either in number 16 Gloucester Road or 18 Gloucester Road and that he already owned virtually all the land which was to become Laburnum Terrace and he rented the final part from James Ford. Two of the other properties were occupied by Charles Ford and Thomas Longstreet.
The census records taken every 10 years from 1841 show that many of the houses in the terrace became homes for John Hodges’s family as they were built.
In the 1841 Census, John was a carpenter living in the terrace with his wife, Sarah, and two children, George, a carpenter journeyman, and Emma, and another carpenter journeyman, Richard Cowle. Another son, James Hodges, a wheelwright, lived in one of the other houses in the terrace with his wife, Charlotte. There is a third house which is shown as uninhabited. Unfortunately we can’t be sure in which house each of the families lived. There were no house numbers at that time, but we believe that John was living in number 20/22 which was being used as a single property. There is no sign in the census of Thomas Longstreet or Charles Ford the two people listed in the 1840 Tithe Survey as living in the terrace.
In 1850, John’s wife, Sarah, died. On 1st March 1851 John’s daughter, Emma married John Williams, a tailor. John Hodges had bought some more land further up the road from James Ford, perhaps to build a house for the married couple. There is a reference to an indenture of 1842 which we believe relates to the transfer of land from James Ford to John Hodges. The house which John built was called Gloucester House, now also known as ‘2 Gloucester Road’.
The 1851 Census is again confusing. There are very few houses listed and no vacant houses indicated. It is impossible to say with any certainty who is living in which house. An Indenture dated August 1852 shows that the house at what is now 2 Gloucester Road had been built by that time and it was being shared by John Hodges and John and Emma Williams.
Our ‘best guess’ is that at the time of the 1851 Census John and Emma Williams were living at Gloucester House with John Hodges living in the household next door. Although John Hodges was 65 at the time of the 1851 Census, he was still active as a builder and he is shown in the census as employing 6 men. His son, George Hodges had also married by 1851 and he and his first wife were living at what we now know to be number 22. George was a carpenter employing two men. James Hodges, the wheelwright, had moved with his family to St John Street.
In 1853, John married for a second time, this time to Hannah Ball, a widow. Hannah was probably Hannah Allen who married William Ball in April 1805. William Ball died in 1841.
The 1861 Census provides a clearer picture of who is living where in the terrace. Numbers 12 and 14 had been added and George was living at number 12 with four children, two visitors, and one servant. James, now widowed, was living at number 16. John was back in Laburnum Terrace living in what is now number 18 Gloucester Road. He seems to have given up acting as a builder, but is still using this knowledge operating as a ‘licenced appraiser’.
It seems that John and his wife went to live for as short time in St John Street as John is listed as living there in the 1868 Directory. His occupation is described as an appraiser.
By 1871, the terrace seems complete as numbers 8 and 10 had been added together with the distinctive house which subsequently became known as Laburnum House, later known as 6 Gloucester Road. The Census shows John has moved from number 18 to 16 Gloucester Road. This is confirmed by the 1865 conveyance which transferred the ownership of these houses from John to George Hodges. George himself had moved with his wife and eight children to Laburnum House.
A new family with connections to the Hodges had moved into number 12 Gloucester Road – Walter Pitcher and his wife, Anna Maria. She was the sister of John Williams, the tailor who lived at Gloucester House with his wife, Emma, nee Hodges. The Pitchers lived at number 12 Gloucester Road until they moved into a new property built on land which they bought in 1888 from Edmund Cullimore. Their descendants were to remain here until 2000.
John Hodges died on 8th June 1877 aged 91. He was buried in the churchyard at Thornbury St Mary’s in the same grave as his father, his son, James and his wife, Charlotte, and his brother, Job.
John had already taken steps before he died to divide his property between his two surviving children, George and Emma. His other son, James, had died in 1866. Thus, George Hodges became the owner of numbers 1, 2, 5 and 6 Laburnum Terrace (later 8, 10, 16 and 18 Gloucester Road). John and Emma Williams became owners of numbers 3, 4, 7, and 8 Laburnum Terrace (later 12, 14, 20 and 22 Gloucester Road). We assume George also owned Laburnum House as he continued to live there until his death in 1905.