James Prewett was christened in Thornbury on 18th August 1783, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Prewett (recorded in the register as Pruett).  Hester was christened at Hill on 23rd June 1782.  She was the daughter of William and Sarah Shepherd (note the spelling of surname is sometimes recorded as Sheppard).

James and Hester married in the church of St Augustine the Less in Bristol on 23rd October 1804.  They had several children.  We know that they had a daughter, Hester, born about 1805 and a son, James, born about 1808, but we have been unable to trace their baptism records.  The others were Elizabeth born on 22nd June 1809, William Sheppard born on 25th August 1811, Henry baptised on 20th February 1814, Mark baptised on 27th June 1815, Charles baptised on 17th November 1817, Ann baptised on 25th February 1820 and Emily baptised on 17th August 1824.

The baptism records show James had a variety of occupations.  He was a shopkeeper in 1809 and 1811, a coachman in 1814, a carrier in 1815, a coachman again in 1817, an innkeeper in 1820 and a coach proprietor in 1824.  We know from the Mayors Accounts records that in 1819 James was paying the Hylpe rent charge on The Crown (later known as 25 High Street) so that would have been his pub at the time of the 1820 baptism.  James was only at The Crown for one year.

James Prewett is mentioned in Edwin Ford’s book ‘The Great Berkeley Poaching Affray 1816’.  A group of poachers from the Thornbury area, led by John Allen, planned a mass poaching expedition as a protest against a recent death of a local man whilst poaching.  During the expedition a gamekeeper was shot dead.  Earlier in the day John Allen travelled into Bristol using James Prewett’s coach and whilst having a drink with James in the Full Moon, John mentioned that he intended embarking on the raid that evening and he listed some of the names of the poachers going with him.  James attempted to dissuade John by telling him he wasn’t fit for poaching that night.  James seemed to pass on information about the raid to his nephew, George Hancock, a tailor from Hill who was a member of the gamekeepers of Hill Court.  James advised George against ‘going out after poachers’, and when George said he would ”have one of the poachers if I come across them’, James added ‘Don’t thee be too bold for perhaps thee may’st get shot – for murder could be in the wind’.  Following the affray James was apprehended by the Bow Street officer tracking down the men involved.  He was later released with no evidence against him.  It is also noted that John Allen bought ‘shot’ from James Prewett’s shop in Thornbury on the day of the raid.  We assume that this information was mentioned in the trial.

The 1830 Pigot Directory shows James was running a ‘Caravan’ to Bristol from Thornbury on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday morning.  The 1839 Robsons Directory lists James Prewett as a retailer of beer, lets horses, van proprietor etc in the High Street.  The 1842 Pigots Directory shows that James was operating a daily van service for passengers and luggage to Bristol.

The 1840 Tithe Survey shows James was the tenant of Plot 54, a house, stable and garden owned by Thomas Osborne Wetmore.  This was the property which later became known as The White Lion.  In 1841 census James was a publican aged 54 living in the same place with his wife, Hester aged 54 and children: Mark aged 23, Charles a tailor aged 21, and Emily a dressmaker aged 18.  Henry Walker aged 13, the son of James and Hester’s daughter, Hester, and Thomas Pearce aged 73 of independent means were also living with them.  It is possible that James was occupying the same place when he was noted as being an innkeeper in 1820, or even earlier.

On 24th July 1848 Hester bought a property at 4 St John Street.  The 1851 census shows that her widowed daughter in law, Harriett, was living there.

In the 1851 census, James is still living in the same place in the High Street although he is now listed as a coach proprietor, and this is is occupation given in the trade directories of that time.  We believe that he was both coach proprietor and owner of a public house which was known as ‘The Rover Hotel’.  ‘The Rover’ also seems to have been the name of the coach service.  The 1856 trade directory refers to the carrier service as ‘the Red Rover’.  The change of name of Rover Hotel to White Lion was one of the subjects of a poem written in 1857 which includes the following references to James and his property:

Th’ premmusiz where Prewett lived (Th’ Rover)
Have bin inlarged and nicely painted over
Th’ pleece lucks better than a did afore
And there’s a monstrous lion o’er the door
Wen a wur vust put up th’ landlord vow’d
He’d caaze th’ hanimal to roar zo loud
That wother beasts and birds shood veel dismay
Espeshully the Zwan across th’ way
Howe’er the long neck’t burd was nat alarm’d
And still rests on her bed of flags unharm’d

The 1851 census also lists four other people living with James and Hester: their widowed daughter, Hester Walker a needlewoman aged 46 and her son, Henry a general labourer aged 22, their son, Charles Prewett, still a tailor now aged 32 and grandson, Mark Prewett aged 11 who was the son of another son of James and Hester, Henry.

James died aged 72 on 27th April 1855 and he was buried in Oldbury Church.  In 1861 Hester was living in 4 Beaumont Place (The Post Office Tavern) in St Phillip & St Jacob ward of Bristol.  She was described as a ‘publican widow’ living with her daughter, Emily now married to William B Clark a carpenter, builder and publican aged 34 from Bristol.  They had three children: Emily aged 8, James P aged 5 and Laura aged 9 months.  Hester died on 17th June 1864 aged 83 and she was buried in Oldbury Church.

Of James and Hester’s children:

  • James – died aged 29 on 15th March 1829 and was buried in Oldbury.
  • Hester – married Joseph Walker, a butcher.  Read more about Hester
  • William Sheppard  – William was born on 25th August 1811 and baptised 27th October 1811.  According to the inscription on his memorial at Oldbury Church he died of cholera in Upper Canada on 2nd August 1834.  He was aged 23.  We would love to know more about what led him to go Canada.
  • Henry – became a cordwainer (shoemaker).  According to a family tree on Ancestry website, on 18th May 1835 Henry married Harriett Bevan in St Pauls  Church, Bristol.  Harriett was born on 31st January 1809, the daughter of James Bevan and his wife, Ann Lippiatt Thomas.  In 1841 census Henry was living in Kington with his wife, Harriett and children: James aged 5, Mark aged 3, Elizabeth aged 2 and William aged 11 months.  Henry died in 1846 aged 33.  He was buried in Oldbury.  In the 1851 census Harriett was a shoe binder living at 4 St John Street (a house owned by her mother-in-law, Hester Prewett).  Harriett was living with James a plumber and glazier’s apprentice aged 15, Elizabeth aged 12, William L aged 10, Ann aged 9 and a lodger, William O Prewett a schoolmaster aged 58.  The 1859 Rate Book shows Harriett is living at 61 High Street and in the 1861 census, Harriett has moved away and the house was then occupied by her two daughters, Elizabeth, a staymaker and Ann a dressmaker.  We suspect that Harriett married again in Clifton in 1864 when Harriett Prewett married William Clark.  In 1871 census William and Harriett were living at 53 High Street, a property owned by William.   Harriett died in 1875 aged 66.
  • Charles – we know a lot more about Charles .  Read more