Thomas Morgan became a major property owner in Thornbury in the early 1800s.
From the census information we believe that Thomas Morgan who lived in Thornbury was actually born in Berkeley but we have not yet confirmed a record of his birth. The IGI has a record of Thomas Morgan baptised the son of Thomas Morgan in Berkeley on 23rd September 1792. Thomas Morgan is not an uncommon name and the name is of long standing in Berkeley, the records at Gloucester show brothers Thomas and John Morgan as early as 1709. Also from the censuses we learn that Thomas’s wife Sarah came from Stinchcombe. We do not know when they married and we have found no records of the baptisms of their children. We would be grateful to anyone who could help us on this.
There is a Thomas Morgan, a tiler and plasterer, mentioned in an indenture dated 1812 in the deeds of 40 Castle Street in connection with a house built on the site of a former malt house in Castle Street. The Thomas Morgan born in Berkeley in 1792 would have been only 20 at this time. It may been his father, Thomas Morgan senior.
We don’t know when Thomas and Sarah were married. Their first daughter Eliza was born about 1818, Edwin was born about 1820, Ann about 1826 and Charlotte about 1828.
During the mid and late 1820s Thomas Morgan appears to have acquired several properties in the area of what is now The Knot of Rope in Thornbury High Street and in Chapel Street. To buy this property he had to borrow extensively. We have seen indentures which show some of these transactions. On 28th December 1826 there was an agreement by Thomas Osborne Wetmore to sell to Thomas Morgan for £600 “all that messuage wherein Thomas Osborne Wetmore did lately dwell” situate in the High Street. This property appears to be what is now known as The Knot of Rope.
In 1839 Robson’s Directory lists Thomas as a ‘Baths Proprietor of The Baths, Thornbury’. The 1841 Census shows that Thomas was living at The Baths, a property owned by William Rolph. Here he was said to be a farmer aged 48 and his wife Sarah was said to be 50 years old. Their children were Edwin aged 21 a bailiff and Ann aged 15 and Charlotte then 13.
We know that Thomas and Sarah Morgan had at least one son and three daughters, one of whom, Eliza, married James Tanner in Clifton in 1844.
It is possible that in the late 1830s and early 1840s Thomas Morgan had some financial difficulties connected with the loans he had taken on to buy property. His unmarried daughter, Charlotte, appears to have gone to work as a maid.
In the 1851 Census the house in St Mary Street seems to have been occupied by Thomas Morgan then described as a plasterer and painter aged 58 from Berkeley, his wife, Sarah aged 66 from Stinchcombe and their unmarried daughter Charlotte aged 22 born in Thornbury and their grandson, Edwin M Tanner aged 6 born in London. The 1851 census seems to show that Edwin Tanner has lost his father. His mother, Eliza Tanner, appears to be a 32 year old widow working as a milliner and dressmaker in Marylebone in London.
Thomas and the family may have moved soon afterwards. The Trade Directory of 1856 shows that Thomas Morgan was trading from the High Street. In the 1861 Census Charlotte was a grocer in the High Street and she was living with her widowed father Thomas Morgan who was a land and house agent. They were living in the tall gable ended building which is now the left hand section of the pub known as The Knot of Rope.
We do not know when Sarah Morgan died. The FreeBMD website shows that two Sarah Morgans died in Thornbury between 1851 and 1861 Censuses and is is not possible for us to determine which was the wife of Thomas Morgan.
Thomas Morgan still had a fairly large mortgage to pay. In an indenture dated 28th July 1850 Thomas had borrowed £400 from John Carwardine gentleman of Clarence Place, Kingsdown, Bristol.
On 17th September 1869 Thomas Morgan made a will leaving his daughter, Eliza Tanner, a property in the High Street then occupied by Hugh Smart (which was The Queens Head tavern) and three freehold cottages in Rotten Row (Chapel Street) occupied by William Harvey Daniel Gough and John Williams. These cottages were the buildings since converted and now known as 7 Chapel Street and used by an optician’s business.
To his daughter Charlotte Morgan he left two freehold messuages and garden etc in the High Street one in his own occupation “and the other is now and has for many years past been in the occupation of James Michael as tenant.” Also three cottages etc “adjoining the two freehold messuages above situate in or near St Mary’s Street now occupied by Mary Woodward, Ann Gale and Eliza Cornock as tenants and all the stable and yard situate in Rotten Row (Chapel Street) now in occupation of James Michael as tenant.” And also two freehold messuages in High Street adjoining together and now in the several occupations of Frederick Jones Tailor and John Hawkins– “which I many years ago purchased of Mary Wetmore. ” Thomas Morgan died 20th December 1869.
Thus at the time of his death, he owned the whole block stretching from what is now the Knot of Rope up to the corner of Chapel Street, the properties in Chapel Street between the High Street and St Mary Street and the properties in St Mary Street backing on to those mentioned as being in the High Street.
Of his children
We believe that Eliza Morgan was born in 1818. She was baptised at Stinchcombe in Gloucestershire on 12th May 1818. Eliza married James Tanner in Clifton in 1844.
As Eliza Tanner she was the owner of the Queens Head and cottages in Chapel Street until her death on 7th June 1884. She appears to have left Thornbury for a long period of years and we can’t trace her in the 1861 and 1871 Censuses. She returned in 1880 when she moved into 50 High Street and she was there at the time of the 1881 Census. Read more about Eliza Tanner
Edwin was born about 1820. He was baptised at Eastington on 27th June 1824. By 18 November 1842 according to the Gazette Thomas’s son was in prison. The item reads “Edwin Morgan, late of Thornbury, Gloucestershire, Bailiff to the Court of Pleas to the honour of Gloucester and Labourer – in the gaol at Gloucester. “ Edwin was an undischarged debtor. The Gloucester Chronicle of September 2nd 1843 reported a case concerning Edwin Morgan was charged with stealing cigars at Cheltenham which were the property of James Islip. However the court record shows that this Edwin Morgan, who was sentenced for one month, was aged 19 which means that we are unable to be certain that it was Edwin Morgan of Thornbury who committed this crime.
Ann was born about 1826. She was baptised at Eastington on 8th July 1827. She married Alfred Burchell on 31st May 1846 in Bristol. Read more about Ann and Alfred Burchell
Charlotte was born about 1828. As a result of her father’s financial difficulties Charlotte, Thomas’s only unmarried daughter, appears to have gone to work as a maid. In 1849 on 1st April there was a newspaper report of the trial of a servant girl Sarah Thomas for the murder of her employer, Miss Elizabeth Jefferies, at her home in Bristol which sheds a little light on the story of Charlotte Morgan who was also employed there. Sarah Thomas, the accused, gave as her defence a story to the effect that she did not commit the murder but it was committed by another servant who had been dismissed. The “other servant” turned out to have been Charlotte Morgan. The allegation was that Charlotte was in the street outside the house and had spoken to the accused while she (the accused) was opening the shutters. Sarah Thomas said that Charlotte Morgan had been dismissed “without a character” (a reference) and was finding it impossible to find work and so was said to have gone upstairs with a stone in her hand on the pretext of giving the old lady her breakfast and then killed the old lady, robbed the house and shared the proceeds with Sarah. The police were unable at first to trace this other servant as they did not seem to know Charlotte’s name and the inquest gave its verdict without Charlotte’s evidence. Luckily when Charlotte was traced she had an alibi. She had been lodging at the house of a “respectable tradesman” called Hancock and sharing a room with the sister of her landlady the night before the murder and her alibi meant that she could not have killed the old lady early the next morning.
Charlotte’s testimony is also of interest because of what it says about her character and situation. The report says: “she is a daughter of a plasterer and painter carrying on business at Thornbury, Gloucester, but having been (as stated by the witness Miller) unsuccessful in business, she sought service and was engaged by Miss Jefferies. She states, however, that she only lived with the deceased lady from Thursday night till the following Saturday morning as Miss Jefferies (who was very eccentric and strange in her manner) told her, as soon as she entered the house, that she was too fine and too tight-laced for the place; and before breakfast on the Saturday morning she insisted on her quitting the house forthwith.”
It is noticeable that Charlotte does not have any occupation at the time of the 1851 Census when the family were living in what later became 2 St Mary Street. She may have been helping to look after a sick mother.
By 1863 Charlotte may have been acting as some sort of untrained nurse or companion. On 13th June 1863 the Bristol Mercury reported on the suspicious death of Lucy Curtis. In that year Dr Long had been called to the house of John and Lucy Curtis. Apparently Lucy was said to have been suffering from sort of billious attack but Dr Long thought it necessary to treat her for inflammation of the brain. After Lucy’s death evidence came to light that Lucy’s death had been caused by a blow struck by her husband during a drunken brawl. Charlotte Morgan was the name of the lady who had been attending on Mrs Curtis and felt that the truth should now come out. Seemingly in light of the fact that the coroner felt that Charlotte and another witness Mrs Gough had been less than straightforward in giving evidence, the verdict was given that Lucy died of her injury but “there was no evidence to show how she came by such injury.”
In the 1871 Census Charlotte was still living in the High Street and was trading as a grocer in the gabled house which is now part of the Knot of Rope. Thomas Morgan’s debts seem to have become his daughter’s problem. On 30th October 1871 Charlotte Morgan paid John Crowther Gwynn and James Freeman the executors of John Carwardine’s will the sum of £200 in part satisfaction of the £400 borrowed. On 2 July 1877 Charlotte Morgan borrowed £100 from George Westhorp.
On 28th March 1878 Charlotte Morgan sold property to William Harris Ponting, accountant, for £1300. The debtors – the trustees of Carwardine, and George Westhop were then paid off. The property was then described as “all that messuage wherein James Ford formerly dwelt and James Michael lately dwelt and James Merrett Michael doth now dwell and also that messuage late in the occupation of James Screen and now of Charlotte Morgan which said messuages are situate on the East side of the High Street and also all that late stable sometime long since converted by Thomas Morgan deceased into three cottages late in the several occupations of Mary Woodward, James Collier and Elizabeth Robertson and now in the respective occupations of Mark Williams, John Smith and – Bendall as tenants adjoining to St Mary Street otherwise the Back Street.”
Charlotte seems to have died in the June quarter of 1880 aged 52. Her death was registered on 20th May 1880 when she was buried in the Baptist Churchyard in Thornbury.