We were confused in tracing the life of Isaac John Phillips. One of the reasons for this is that he seems to be called John in some records and Isaac in others. The other reason is that he appears to have been born about 1861 although not baptised until 1872.
We have traced some of the difficult circumstances around the birth and childhood of Isaac John. The baptism of an Isaac John Phillips took place in Thornbury St Mary’s Church on 1st December 1872. The record gives only his mother’s name which was Matilda. In the 1851 census Isaac’s mother Matilda was living with her family in Stinchcombe. Her father Isaac Phillips was aged 68 and a pauper also described as a farm labourer. Her 18 year old sister Mary was looking after the family. Her 14 year old brother another Isaac was a plough boy and Matilda herself was only 10 years old.
By 1861 Matilda was living with her uncle and aged 20 she was employed as an agricultural labourer. By 1871 Matilda had moved to Thornbury with her son ‘John’ although at the time of the census they were not living together. She was a domestic servant for Thomas Wilson at the Horse Shoe Inn on St Mary Street. ‘John’ was living in Lower Bath Road as a boarder with William and Ann Walker – he was still only 10 years old! Matilda died the following year in 1872 aged 38 years.
We have been unable to find John or Isaac Phillips in the 1881 census. We know that ‘John’ Phillips married in Thornbury in December quarter 1883. His wife was Sarah Stephens. Sarah was born on 4th May 1861 in Alveston. She was the daughter of Thomas Stephens, a mason, and his wife, Elizabeth.
We know the baptisms of their three children, Stanley Phillips on 6 December 1885 at Thornbury, Maud on 5th December 1886 and Daisy on 3rd March 1895. In the baptism records of all of these their father was described as John or Isaac John and he was said to be a painter.
We think that they might have lived at 41 St Mary Street where a ‘John Phillips’ is listed in the 1885 and 1890 rate books.
In the 1891 census John and Sarah were living at the ‘Wheatsheaf’ in Chapel Street. John was described as innkeeper and painter. They had a son, Stanley, aged 5. This census records shows John as being born in Crossways, but other censuses clearly show him born in either Stinchcombe or Dursley.
John is listed in the trade directories up to 1893 as a beer retailer in Chapel Street, then he seems to have moved to Rock Street as by 1894 he is listed there as a tiler and plasterer. The 1894 rate book shows John Isaac Phillips as the occupant of 9 Horseshoe Lane which was situated on the corner with Rock Street. The 1899 rate book shows that Isaac John Phillips was the tenant of the house that became known as 2 Pullins Green in Thornbury.
The 1901 census shows John, now using the name of ‘Isaac’ is living at 2 Pullins Green. Isaac Phillips was a house painter born in Stinchcombe about 1860 living at 2 Pullins Green with his wife, Sarah born in Alveston about 1861, and their two children: Stanley aged 15 years (also a house painter) and Daisey aged 6.
The 1904 directory has two entries, one for John as a mason in John Street and another as a tiler and plasterer in Pullins Green. There is also an 1899 trade directory entry for ‘Stanley Phillips’, a mason in Pullins Green. This is surprising bearing in mind that Stanley (and he is the only Stanley Phillips in Thornbury at that time) would only have been 13 or 14.
The burial records of Thornbury St Mary’s show ‘Isaac John Phillips’ died in 1910 aged 49 and he was buried on 26th August 1910. The Western Daily Press of August 27th 1910 said that Isaac had been a bell ringer at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury for many years.
Sarah carried on living at 2 Pullins Green. The 1911 census shows Sarah living at 2 Pullins Green with her daughter, Daisy aged 16. The record notes that she had had five children, three of whom had died.
A local resident Joan Higgins remembered Sarah living there and told us Sarah used to be a cleaner at the Grammar School. She also mentioned Sarah’s daughter, Daisy, who married William Withers in 1926. In fact the 1930 electoral register shows Daisy as living with her mother. William and Daisy later moved to Rudgeway.
Sarah was still there in the 1946 electoral register. In 1947 the Gazette has a sale notice for the household effects ‘of Mrs S. Phillips who is leaving’. On 17th July 1948, the Gazette has a report of the death of Sarah Phillips aged 87 and of her funeral at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury. The report explains that for the last few months of her life Mrs Phillips had been living with her daughter, Mrs Withers, at Rose Cottage in Rudgeway. The chief mourners included Mrs Withers, Mr John Withers (grandson), Miss Jean Withers (grand-daughter), Mrs Ernest Stephens, Mrs Neate, Mrs Burgess, Mrs Biddle and Mrs Collins (nieces).