William Hurd was the son of James Hurd a carpenter from Slimbridge and his wife Susannah, a seamstress. He was born on 9th September 1810 in North Nibley. We do not know anything of his early life at this stage. On 3rd November 1832 William married Hester Trayhurn in Thornbury. Hester was born on 7th June 1793 and baptised on 21st July 1793, the daughter of Thomas Trayhurn and his wife, Susannah (nee Pitt). Hester’s married sister, Ann Britt, was one of the witnesses at the wedding. William and Hester’s first child Jane was baptised on the same day that the couple married. Their address then was Grovesend, near Thornbury.
At various times the tailor William Hurd lived in many different houses in Thornbury both in Castle Street and in the High Street. The Tithe Apportionment Map which was drawn up between 1837 and 1840 for properties in Thornbury shows that William Hurd lived at what is now number 38 Castle Street.
The 1841 Census shows that the tailor William and his wife Hester were living in what later became 42 Castle Street. This Census shows ages as rounded to the nearest five years so William was said to be about 30 and Hester about 30. Their daughter Jane was aged 8 years.
By 1851 they had moved to 47 High Street. The 1851 Census shows William Hurd was occupying the property with his wife and daughter. William was a tailor aged 40 born in Slimbridge. Hester was aged 50 and their daughter Jane was aged 18. Mary Trayhurn was listed as a visitor aged 35 and described as being a servant ‘out of place’. On July 5th 1854 their daughter Jane died and was buried at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury. The 1861 Census shows that William and Hester were still living at 47 High Street. In this Census he was said to be 48 and she was 67. He was a tailor and draper employing two men. By the time of the 1862 Rate Book William had moved to 55 High Street.
The Bristol Mercury of January 30th 1864 had an advertisement for the sale by auction of the “valuable stock in trade of broad and narrow cloths, vestings etc of Mr William Hurd tailor and woollen draper of Thornbury.” Bankruptcies were a common and very sad aspect of life around this period and we did not expect to find more about why William was in financial difficulties.
However it seems that the story was even more distressing than usual and we may have found a reason for his money problems. The records of the Board of Guardians of the Thornbury Union (the public body then responsible for much of the health and welfare issues now taken on by local government) show a letter from Mr Long a surgeon of Thornbury and the Medical Officer at that time. Mr Long applied for a payment of 10/6 for a certificate of lunacy in the case of Hester Hurd, Thornbury. The Chairman of the Board referred Mr Long to the husband of the lunatic (presumably Wiliam Hurd) for this payment as he had “undertaken to defray all expenses connected with her removal to the asylum.” It appears that Hester’s health must have been a financial as well as an emotional drain on William’s resources. Please note that the term “lunacy” at this period could cover a wide rage of conditions from mental health issues to strokes or epilepsy so it is impossible for us at this stage to say what was wrong with Hester.
The 1867 Rate Book shows that William had moved yet again. This time he was living at 11 High Street.
Hester died May 5th 1866 aged 72. On the 6th August 1867 William remarried. His second wife was Elizabeth Daniels Champion. Elizabeth was baptised on 11th May 1836 in Thornbury and she was the daughter of John and Ann Champion who ran a school near Pullins Green in Thornbury. Read more about John Champion.
The 1869 Rate Book shows that William Hurd occupied what was to be number 24 Castle Street. This house was acquired by Hester’s sister, Jane, who had married Francis Driscoll. The 1871 Census shows that William Hurd aged 58 a tailor from North Nibley was living in 24 Castle Street with his wife Elizabeth, who was also 58 and from Thornbury. The Rate Books of 1876, 1877, 1878 and 1879 show William Hurd continued to occupy 24 Castle Street.
William died on 25th September 1880 in Thornbury. His will was proved on 1st December that year by his widow Elizabeth. His personal estate was under £600.
After William’s death, Elizabeth Hurd moved and the 1881 Census shows she was a lodger in the High Street next to the Beaufort Arms.
The memorial inscription from the grave stone of William Hurd in St Mary’s churchyard confirms that Elizabeth was William’s second wife;
“Here resteth the Body of JANE daughter of William and Hester Hurd of this Town who died July 5th 1854 aged 21 years. Also of HESTER wife of the aforesaid William Hurd who died May 5th 1866 aged 72 years. Also SUSANNAH wife of James Hurd of North Nibley in this County who died March 18th 1859 aged 72 years. Also the aforesaid WILLIAM HURD who died September 25th 1880 aged 70 years. Also of ELIZABETH DANIELS the second wife of the aforesaid William Hurd who died November 7th 1899 aged 63 years.”
Although the memorial inscription does not refer to it, Elizabeth Daniels Hurd had remarried after the death of William Hurd. On 29th December 1881 she had married William Clark a retired shoemaker.
On October 8th 1881 a newspaper report advertised the coming sale of the houses on October 16th
“All those two highly desirable Freehold Dwelling-houses and premises situate in Castle Street in the town of Thornbury, the larger messuage being for many years in the occupation of the late Mr William Hurd deceased but now void; and the other now in the occupation of Mr Francis Driscoll; together with the gardens and outbuildings thereto adjoining and belonging, the whole containing by admeasurement one rood and nine perches. The property has been recently put in the thorough repair is most eligibly situated and is well adapted for business premises. The gardens are most productive and there is a good well of water.“