The Reed and Butler families were both closely associated with the property called The Seven Stars. Click here to read about that property
The Reeds – we know from Indentures dated 1821 and 1839 that the house was a ‘messuage late of William Reed deceased but now of Daniel Reed formerly called the Seven Stars’. We know from earlier land tax records dating from 1780 that both William Reed and his son Daniel Reed lived in this area of the town, presumably in this house.
Several generations of Reeds had lived in Horton, a village about 8 miles from Thornbury. We are grateful to Stephen Gadd for giving us a lot of information about the Reeds (and the associated family of the Butlers) and we would be happy to put anyone interested in knowing more in touch with Stephen as it is not possible here to map out the complex and interconnected relationships of the Reed and Butler families on this website
This Thornbury connection to the Reed family starts with William Reed, the son of Daniel Reed and his wife, Mary (nee Butler). William was baptised in Horton on 4th February 1738. He moved to Thornbury where he worked as a journeyman shoemaker. We don’t know when William moved or why. His uncle and aunt, Edward and Susannah Reed were already living in Thornbury and their son, Edward, was baptised here on 24th July 1737.
On 22nd May 1762 William married Ann Price (or Rice) at Thornbury. Ann was the daughter of Samuel and Sarah Price (or Rice) and she had been baptised in Thornbury on 22nd July 1741. Samuel had been a native of Carew Castle in Pembrokeshire. He left home when young and came to Bristol and then after a short time moved to Thornbury where he married. He died after only three or four years.
It is interesting to read in an essay written by his grandson, William Reed, that before his death, Samuel had told his wife about his ‘expectations’ in inheriting his parents’ estate in Wales. Following his death, his widow had no further contact with the Welsh family although the story about the inheritance was passed down through the family. William was asked by his father to go off to Pembroke in ‘quest of his Welsh Estate’. It had been 70 years since his grandfather had left Wales. He had a fascinating journey which was the subject of his essay. When he reached Carew Castle none of the villagers could help. He did meet one old gentleman who had lived in the village for almost 100 years, but he found him to be excessively deaf and could not make him understand what he wanted to know.
William’s wife, Ann, possessed some property at the time of the marriage in 1762 and William was able to establish himself as a master shoemaker and became well established in Thornbury. In 1778/9 William became Mayor of Thornbury and he served in this capacity for a second time in 1793/94. William and Ann Reed had three children, all born in Thornbury: Daniel born on 2nd January 1764 and baptised on 27th January 1764, William born on 12th September 1770 and baptised on 14th October 1770 and Ann born on 2nd June 1773 and baptised on 30th June 1773.
By the time William wrote his last will and testament on 15th July 1797, he described himself as a shoemaker and shopkeeper. As well as several bequests of money, the will mentioned a fair amount of property including:
1: His messuage, lands, and premises situated in the parish of Rockhampton which he purchased from Nathaniel Watts. These were given to his son, Daniel.
2: The messuage wherein he now dwelt with the Garden, Orchard and premises thereto belonging. We assume that this refers to the Seven Stars property. These were also given to Daniel after his wife’s death
3: My several closes of land, hereditaments and premises situate and being in the said Parish of Rockhampton which he purchased from Robert Daniel, Gentleman. These were given to his son, William.
4: All that messuage or tenement with the garden and appurtenances thereto belonging situate in the High Street of the said Town of Thornbury which he purchased from George Motley deceased. This was given to his wife, Ann during her lifetime and then given to his son, William.
5: All that my one undivided third part or share of and in all those several Closes pieces and parcels of land situate and being in the Parish of Rockhampton which he purchased from Messrs Kingsmill Grove and William Cowley. This was given to his daughter, Ann.
6: And a copyhold messuage or tenement with the gardens and appurtenances thereunto belonging situate within the Manor of Thornbury which he purchased from Mathew Denham and which he was desirous to devise after the decease of his Wife to his daughter Ann, but the same had not been surrendered to the uses of his last will to enable him to do so. He declared that when his son Daniel became entitled to the copyhold premises after the decease of his Wife he should surrender this to his sister, Ann. If Daniel failed to do this then William directed that he should pay Ann a further sum of £120.
Furthermore William left his stock of wrought and unwrought leatherworking tools and book debts due to him on account of his trade as a Cordwainer to his son, William. He left his stock in trade as a Shopkeeper and all his book debts in that business to his wife, Ann and daughter, Ann in equal shares. William died at the end of 1799. Ann died about 1800 or 1801.
Of William and Ann’s children:
Daniel Reed – married Ann Allen on 13th September 1816. Ann was born in Thornbury on 13th April 1786 and baptised there on 23rd April 1786. She was the daughter of William Allen and his wife, Mary (nee Penduck). They appear to have had two children: Martha born on 19th October 1819 and Mary born about 1824.
Thornbury Museum has a transcription of a letter dated 1816 written by Sarah Greenwood to Mary Greenwood. It mentions that ‘old Dinah Riddiford and her son, Luke, broke open Daniel Reed’s house and stole several articles thereat they were taken up and the articles discovered on them, committed to Gloucester tried and both found guilty and received sentence of Death. Luke was reprieved but the poor old woman was executed and her body brought to Thornbury. Since then Daniel Reed has married Ann Allen and is become more sober’.
We don’t know when Daniel died. He is listed as being the owner/occupier of the property in the Land Tax records up to 1830. In the 1831 and 1832 records Ann is listed. Ann Reed made her mark to sign the memorial or petition for clemency for Charity Hogg in 1833 and her occupation was given a publican.
Martha was belatedly baptised at the Congregational Chapel in Thornbury on 29th November 1839. Shortly after this the family must have moved to Bristol. The 1841 census shows Ann Reed living in Cathay in Bristol. She is shown as an ‘Independent’ aged 54 living with her two daughters, Martha a staymaker aged 21 and Mary a dressmaker aged 17. By 1851 Martha had married and moved away. Ann was now described as an annuitant aged 65 and Mary as a dressmaker aged 25. We don’t know when Ann died.
On 18th October 1845 Martha married Obadiah Butler at St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. Obadiah was born in Horton on 16th August 1818. He was the son of James Butler and his wife, Ann (nee Reed). At different times of his life he worked as a carpenter, shopkeeper and farmer. By 1851 they had moved to Horton.
William Reed – we are fortunate to be told by Stephen Gadd about a book containing a memoir of William’s life, essays which William wrote about his travels and samples of his poetry. This book called ‘The Remains of William Reed’ is available for reading on the Internet at the Google Book website – click here to view the whole book.
William was an unusual boy. When he was 16, his father expected him to take up the shoemaking trade, but William resisted such mundane work. He had a passion for music and saved his pennies until he bought himself a fife which he later exchanged for a flute. He acquired a knowledge of drawing from painting letters on boards to be placed on carts and he expressed a desire to further this interest to obtain a living. His father forbade this venture and forced him to learn ‘the art and mystery’ of a shoemaker.
Bored at work, William sought amusement elsewhere and he excelled at fives-playing. In 1790 he found religion and became a devout Baptist. He refused to play any tune on his flute except sacred music. He also took to writing poetry. In 1791 having accepted that fate had determined him to be shoemaker in spite of his personal feelings, he set out to be a perfect master in every aspect of the business. He went on a tour visiting Gloucester, Worcester and Birmingham. At the end of six months he returned to Thornbury with his mission accomplished – his brother thought him to be the neatest workman he had ever seen. However soon after a problem with his eye-sight made him give up his work and he never seriously continued with it.
William spent his time reading and drawing when his eye-sight permitted and wandering around the neighbouring countryside which he enjoyed so much. In 1797 or 1798 he was invited to escort Dr Salmon to Edinburgh and spent a year touring the Highlands and he began to write about his observations.
Back in Thornbury William continued to be a regular attendant at the Baptist meetings. At one such meeting he met the daughter of a local gentleman who turned out to share his interest in books and a strong relationship developed. Her father refused to give his blessing and sanction a union and the lady’s sense of duty made her break off the relationship. In a letter sent to William she confessed that the sacrifice she was making had ‘preyed upon her spirits, injured her health and would perhaps cost her life itself’. This melancholy foreboding proved too true – in a very short time she died, thought to be the victim of disappointed affection.
When his father died in 1799, William was left a small property, but it was inadequate to support him and because he had given up his trade and was without any other profession, he had to live with his mother. The following year he was asked to escort a group of young people to Aberdeen for education. On his return he spent two months in London before being recalled to Thornbury because of his mother’s illness. She died two days after he returned. By her decease William became possessed of some more property, just enough to cover his moderate wants. He continued to live in Thornbury with his brother, Daniel. Then William also received a surprising bequest of a sum of money and an annual annuity from the father of the lady he had wanted to marry earlier. He was now free to indulge himself in books, poetry, drawing and music and in wandering around the country seeing the places he had always wanted to visit.
In 1809 he had the idea of going to Canada where his friend, Mr Rolph, was living. He had long dreamed of seeing Niagara Falls, but he also wanted to be useful there and planned to spend time practising vaccination amongst the inhabitants. He been spending a lot of time with Dr Edward Jenner in Berkeley and had been practising vaccinations amongst the poor in and around Thornbury. He wrote several papers on the subject wishing to remove the prejudice against vaccination by the lower classes, but these were never published.
William’s plans to go to Canada were cancelled when he had a severe bout if illness. He had moved to live in Bristol about 1810 and he busied himself writing essays which were widely acclaimed and he also wrote songs. He realised that his health would never recover fully unless he could get away to warmer climates for the winter. He planned a trip to Madeira or the West Indies. Sadly lack of funds made him give up this idea and he survived the winter at home. He did manage a long trip round Ireland in 1810 and in June 1813 he went to Guernsey and the neighbouring Channel Islands. The book ‘The Remains of William Reed’ contains a full essay about his Irish trip and an interesting letter reporting on his adventures in the Channel Islands. The letter shows that he was enjoying good health in Guernsey, but this changed and he died there on 30th September 1813. His remains were buried in the Friends Burial Ground at Guernsey.
In Gloucester Records Office we found an extract of William’s will dated 13th June 1813. William instructed that following the death of his brother and sister, his trustee (James Eley) should transfer two thirds of his capital stock to the Treasurers or Trustees of the Bristol and Gloucester Infirmaries. It was William’s wish that the Mayor of Thornbury would have the right to send two patients annually to each of the infirmaries. A memorial board in St Marys Church in Thornbury listing the charitable bequests and donations mentions William’s bequest. It says that in his will dated ‘3rd June 1813’ William Reed gave the two infirmaries stock worth £226 13s 4d.
Ann Reed – we don’t know what happened to Ann. We can find no reference to a marriage or a death. There is a mention of Ann Reed living in a house owned by Abraham Riddiford in Castle Street, but we think she is the widow of George Reed who lived there earlier.
Thomas and Mary Butler
The 1840 Tithe Survey shows that Plot 118 was a house and garden owned and occupied by Thomas Rutler. We can’t find Thomas ‘Rutler’ in the 1841 census so suspect that his name may have been Thomas ‘Butler’ who was listed in this part of the street – he was a carpenter aged 67 living with his wife, Mary aged 74 and his son, Thomas another carpenter aged 30 and a servant Ellen Pullen aged 18.
Thomas was baptised in Horton on 29th January 1775. He was the son of James Butler and his wife, Elizabeth Thompson. On 6th April 1801 Thomas married Mary Reed in Horton. Mary was born on 23rd December 1766, the daughter of Thomas Reed and Sarah Butler. This made her the cousin of Daniel Reed the previous owner of the Seven Stars. Thomas and Mary had 5 children: George baptised on 26th August 1802 and buried on 19th April 1824, Elizabeth baptised on 7th November 1802, James baptised on 14th September 1804, buried in November 1811, John baptised on 26th October 1806 and buried on 7th May 1829 and Thomas baptised on 2nd August 1807.
Thomas (senior) died in 1844. In 1851 Mary is living two doors away at the house which was later to be known as 17 Rock Street. She was described as a ‘proprietor of houses’ aged 84 born in Horton. Living with her was her unmarried son, Thomas, aged 43 who was a proprietor of houses and carpenter. Mary died in 1854.
Thomas Butler continued to own property in Thornbury because he appears in the 1865 Voters’ List as the owner of a freehold house and garden within the Borough. The 1861 census shows him living in the High Street and described as unmarried aged 53 born in Horton and a ‘proprietor of houses and photographer’. Thomas died in 1866. The image on the right shows his effects were being auctioned in November 1866. These include ‘a moveable photographic room’ and lots of other interesting goodies. Thomas’s property in Rock Street ended up being owned with Thomas’s cousins, Sarah and Ann Butler who were owners of the 5 houses (11 – 19 Rock Street) in 1876.