Porch House in Castle Street, Thornbury, is one of the most distinctive and well known buildings in the area. The photograph above was taken in the 1930s and shows the pump outside the house, which is the large property to the right of the photograph.
The 1871 census shows that the house was occupied by Arabella Nutt Thurston aged 38, a widow and landowner from Hampshire. She was living there with her three children; Henry Robert Bullen Thurston aged 9 and born in Ireland, John Neville Oldfield Thurston aged 8 born in Tenby South Wales and Edward Hugh Cotton Thurston aged 6 born in Romsey in Hampshire. They had three servants; Ann Snowden a cook, Harriet Trelet a nurse and Sarah Hodder a parlour maid.
We have been told by Nick Case a descendent of the family that Arabella was born in Port Louis Mauritius on 28th March 1833. We understand that her parents were Robert Bullen and his wife Mary nee Nutt. Robert Bullen was the owner of a sugar plantation at Gros Cailloux, Petit Riviere, Mauritius. We think that Robert Bullen came from the Weymouth area. Robert died in Romsey in 1869.
Arabella Bullen married Henry Neville Cotton Thurston the son of John and Hannah Thurston of Kington on 21st February 1860 in Mauritius. On the left we have a photograph of H N C Thurston which was very generously sent to us by Nick Case. Henry was a nephew of Margaret Gwyn nee Thurston. Margaret Gwynn was the wife of Thomas Gwynn who owned the house, and they had lived in Porch House up to the time of their deaths in 1869, which probably explains why Arabella came to live in Porch House about that time.
Henry Thurston was baptised in Thornbury on 11 April 1830. He was the son of John and Hannah Thurston of Kington. Bristol Archives Office has a mathematics book dated 1845 which was owned by Henry Neville Cotton Thurston. Henry was involved in a court case which was reported in the Bristol Mercury on 2nd October of that year. Henry was accused by a labourer called Mr Greenwood of jumping out of a hedge and attacking him and knocking him to the ground. Mr Greenwood’s statement included the information that he had drunk five pints of cider before the incident. Henry’s statement included the information that Mr Greenwood had called him and his brother “D…d rogues.” The verdict went in favour of the plaintiff who was awarded £8 damages as he had required medical attention and had not been able to do a day’s work since.
Henry was Gazetted as an ensign in the Third West York Infantry on 24th March 1853 and later became a Lieutenant.
Their first son Henry Robert Bullen Thurston was born in Fermoy in Ireland about 1862.
Henry Neville Thurston died in Romsey aged only 38 on the 17th. October 1867, at Awebridge, near Romsey, Hampshire. In his obituary in the Yorkshire Post he was described as ‘ late Captain 7th. Royal Fusiliers and 13th Regiment Light Infantry, younger son of John Thurston Esq., of Thornbury, Gloucestershire’.
We do not when Arabella moved away from Thornbury. By 1881 her youngest son, Edward was a boarder in Cliftonville College in Brighton. The rest of the family lived in Camberwell in Dulwich. Arabella then aged 48 was a landed proprietor. Her eldest son Harry was a Lieutenant in the Royal Glamorgan Militia and John aged 18 was a merchant clerk. By the 1891 census Arabella aged 58 and born in Mauritius had returned to Awbridge, Romsey, with her son Edward then aged 26 and single and their three servants.
The 1901 census shows that John Neville Oldfield Thurston had joined the Indian Civil Service. He and his wife Evelyn and son John were staying with his mother Arabella and his unmarried brother, Edward Hugh Cotton Thurston in Hampshire. We have been told that the photograph on the left is of Edward Thurston and his brother John. The India Office list shows that John Neville Oldfield Thurston joined the Service in March 1886. He served in Burma as Assistant Commissioner and was made Deputy Commissioner in April 1900.
Arabella Nutt Thurston died in Romsey in 1909. Her youngest son Edward had married Helen Josephine Boulton in 1902. We understand that Helen died in 1905 and Edward then married a first cousin Louisa Bullen in London in 1912.
On the right we have another image of Edward Thurston. Please click on it for a larger photograph.