The Wetmore family had connections with several properties in Thornbury in South Gloucestershire. The information we have collected about them so far begins with Sarah and Thomas Wetmore. Thomas was the owner of several properties, including one in the High Street known as The Mermaid which then became known as The Exchange or Royal Exchange before in more recent years becoming The Knot of Rope.
Thomas Wetmore – we know from a document dated 1743 that Thomas Wetmore had earlier bought a property in the High Street from Revd Stephen Jenner of Slimbridge. It was described as being an inn which had previously been two houses. A full description of the property is given below.
It is possible that Thomas Wetmore came from Frocester. We have a memorial inscription in the churchyard of St Mary’s church about the death of Ann Wetmore in 1711. She was described as the daughter of “Thomas Wettmore of Frocester.”
Thomas married Sarah Jenner, Stephen Jenner’s daughter, in March 1710 at Slimbridge. Sarah was baptised in Slimbridge on February 12th 1678.
We were given an old unverifiable transcription of a memorial inscription at St Mary’s Church which shows that Thomas died on 25th October 1730 aged 41. We are not sure that the age written is correct as this would make him about 11 years younger than his wife and, at the age of 16, a very young man to have married and acquired property. The inscriptions on their grave at St Mary’s Church show that Thomas and Sarah had at least five children: Sarah who was born in 1706 and died aged only 7 months on 4th August 1706 (note we suspect that this should be 1718 rather than 1706), Thomas baptised on 31st January 1711 and who died aged 11 on 16th January 1723, Ann born about 1713, married Samuel Rouse on 16th May 1736 and died aged 39 on 25th March 1737, John who was born about 1715 and we have written more about below, and Sarah born about 1721, married Robert Pountney on 26th February 1745 and died on 2nd June 1760 aged 39.
Thomas was the Mayor of Thornbury in 1724/5.
On 12th February 1729 Thomas bought a messuage in St John Street from Charles Cossham, a sawyer. We are fairly sure that this was the property which later became known as 4 St John Street.
Thomas Wetmore died October 25th 1730 aged 41 years (according to the transcription). Although for reasons explained above, we suspect Thomas’s age to be incorrect, the date is more likely to be correct. Thomas’s will is dated 23rd July 1730. In the will he left his property for the use of his wife during her lifetime or widowhood. After her death or second marriage the property where he was living (which we assume to have been the Mermaid) was left to his son, John. Another property which he had bought from John Walker was left to his daughter, Sarah. All three children, John, Sarah and Ann, also received financial bequests.
An indenture dated 30th April 1739 refers to a messuage or inn in the High Street ‘late in the tenure of Cicely Horsley widow and now of Sarah Wetmore widow’. Sarah died on 16th November 1768 aged 90. The burial record shown on Scribes Alcove website shows her as Sarah Wetmore (Jenner).
John Wetmore – the IGI and Scribes Alcove have a note of the baptism of John ‘Whitmore’ in Thornbury on 30th October 1715, whose father was Thomas.
John became a maltster. On 24th November 1743 John married Sarah Adams in Thornbury. Sarah was born about 1716, the daughter of Samuel Adams, a yeoman from Olveston. A marriage agreement dated on 18th November 1743 shows that John was living in a property on the west side of the High Street. It was described in the agreement as being:
“ALL that messuage and tenement wherein the said John Wetmore now inhabits and dwells heretofore being two messuages and sometime since used as an inn and known by the sign of the Meremaid situate in the Borough of Thornbury in the street there called the High Street formerly in the tenure of James Horsley and afterwards of Cicily Horsley relict of the said James and since that of Anthony Powell deceased and lately of Thomas Wetmore deceased father of the said John Wetmore and was by him the said Thomas Wetmore deceased some time since bought and purchased to him and his heirs from Stephen Jenner late of Cambridge within the Parish of Slimbridge Clerk deceased and Mary Jenner widow mother of the said Stephen Jenner with all the houses, outhouses stables gardens …”
Under the agreement, if John died before Sarah, then she would have the use of the property for the rest of her natural life, then it would go to the heirs of her body by John Wetmore and if there were none then the property would revert to John Wetmore’s heirs or assigns.
What is most interesting is that on the outside of the marriage agreement document there is a note written in a different hand, in blue pencil, “Re Exchange, formerly Mermaid”. This was probably added by a solicitor at some point, presumably when he had access to other deeds and perhaps when he was checking the documents when the property was being sold. This implies that the site of the Mermaid Inn, or part of it, later became part of the Exchange (now Knot of Rope). As can be seen in the photo in the right, the Exchange was made up of three buildings and the site had outbuildings, stable and cottages. Further documents (referred to below) have confirmed this link.
John and Sarah had at least five children: Ann baptised on 13th February 1745, Thomas born about 1747, Mary baptised on 18th May 1750, Sarah baptised on 25th October 1751 and Hester baptised on 17th October 1755.
Of the daughters, Ann married Thomas Grove, a butcher, on 29th November 1767. Hester married William Scott Bird, an apothecary and surgeon (sometimes known as William Scott), on 23rd June 1788. Sarah died unmarried aged 36 and was buried on 25th March 1789. In her will she left to her sister, Mary, her half share of the property in Thornbury in which they had both been living. Mary married William Millett, a gentleman, on 7th January 1790. Thomas we have written out below.
John was the Mayor of Thornbury in 1753/4. John died aged 39 on 12th June 1755. In his will dated 5th April 1755 he made no mention of his property presumably because this was already covered by the marriage settlement. He made monetary bequests to each of his children and made provision for ‘that if my wife shall be enceinte with a child or children then I give such child or children the sum of £20 to be deducted or taken out each of the said legacies given to my daughters Ann, Mary, and Sarah which will make the sum of £60.’
It turned out that Sarah was pregnant at the time and her daughter, Hester, was born after John’s death. John appointed Samuel Adams and Robert Pountney as trustees and guardians of his children. Sarah died aged 70 and was buried in St Mary’s Churchyard on 17th February 1786. Her gravestone is still there and the inscription is just readable in 2014.
An indenture dated 1813 relating to the property next door refers to the property had been occupied by Sarah Wetmore widow and then Thomas Wetmore her son.
Thomas Wetmore – born about 1747, Thomas became a maltster like his father. He appears to have moved away from Thornbury. In the records held by South Gloucestershire Council (in the packet relating to 3 Bath Road) we discovered a handwritten note written by Stephen Hignell in 1869. Stephen wrote that he ‘was well acquainted with Thomas Wetmore who was a maltster living where Mr Michael, the spirit merchant now lives in Thornbury and that he married a Miss Osborne of Marshfield and was probably married at Marshfield Church. He had only one child, Thomas Osborne Wetmore’.
Other documents held by the Council show that Thomas married Mary Osborne. Her father Thomas Osborne was, we believe, a maltster of Marshfield. He died intestate in 1806 and letters of administration dated last day of July 1806 are in the deeds of the property that became 1 Bath Road. They refer to Mary Wetmore as wife of Thomas Wetmore and the daughter and only child of Thomas Osborne of Marshfield. However we know that Mary was actually the only surviving child rather than the only child. George Bennett Osborne, Mary’s elder brother, havig predeceased his father. The Wetmore family appears to have believed there was a link between this Thomas Osborne and Sir Thomas Osborne who became Viscount Osborne, then Earl Danby and then the 1st Duke of Leeds. In 1847 Thomas Osborne Wetmore (see below) held an auction of paintings, ‘a great portion of which were said to have been in the family upwards of a century and were formerly the property of Thomas Osborne, Duke of Leeds and have descended by heirship to the present possessor’. Interestingly we have been contacted by a family history researcher who has been unable to find such a connection. We have not investigated this matter ourselves. We would be interested to hear more.
On 24th June 1807 Thomas Wetmore purchased a property (later to be known as 1 Bath Road) from William Scott, the husband of Thomas’s sister, Hester.
An indenture dated 29th May 1813 (found in the collection of deeds relating to 3 Bath Road) refers to a messuage on the east side of the High Street ‘formerly an inn late of Sarah Wetmore widow, since of Thomas Wetmore deceased and now of Thomas Wetmore his son’. Thus we know that Thomas took over the Mermaid inn from his mother, Sarah and when Thomas died suddenly on 27th January 1809 aged 62, his place in the High Street was taken over his son who was Thomas Osborne Wetmore.
The 1841 census shows Mary was then living with her son, at his property, at Park House, Thornbury. Mary Wetmore died 4th October 1843 aged 87.
Thomas Osborne Wetmore – according to his age at his death, Thomas Osborne Wetmore was born about 1784. He took over his parent’s property on the High Street following his father’s death in 1809. An indenture dated 16th March 1827 appears to show that Thomas sold the property described as ‘messuage, garden, stable and malt house on the east side of the High Street to Thomas Morgan’ and ‘all that messuage wherein the said Thomas Wetmore for many years before and at the time of his death inhabited and the Thomas Osborne Wetmore and Mary Wetmore afterwards dwelt and James Ford lately dwelt, but now void’. They had made an agreement on 28th December 1826 for the sale at the price of £600.
Thomas was the Mayor of Thornbury in 1825. He was a major property owner in Thornbury. His property portfolio included two public houses and Park House which is a large property in the central area of the High Street.
An indenture of lease and release dated 27th and 28th September 1819 shows that William Rolph acting as executor for the late Hester Bagnell sold a property to Thomas Osborne Wetmore.
Thomas took down and removed the old messuage and erected a capital messuage in its place which became known as The Park and later Park House. He also converted part of the close of land into a walled garden and set about expanding his property. An indenture of lease and release dated 24th and 25th March 1820 shows that he acquired an adjoining property which appears to have been located between the Lion and the Toll House. Thomas took down and removed the messuage, barn, carpenter’s shop and other buildings which were formerly in the occupation of Joseph Ford and erected a stable and coach-house on some parts and laid open the other part containing about one perch and incorporated it into the garden of The Lion which was also owned by Thomas. We believe that this property is the one shown in the 1840 Tithe Survey as being Plot 55, a house and court owned by Thomas Osborne Wetmore and then void. This property enabled Thomas to create a second access to Park House which is referred to as the ‘Back Lane’ in the deeds.
Thomas also acquired the two properties, now parts of Wilding shop at 14 High Street. The 1840 Tithe Survey shows he owned and occupied the adjoining Plots 59, 60, 61 and 62 in the High Street (which include Park House, 12, 14 and 16 High Street), Plots 54 and 55 (The White Lion and adjoining house), Plots 121 and 122 (1 Bath Road and the adjoining garden land) and Plot 213 (4 St John Street).
The 1841 census shows Thomas was of independent means aged 51 living with his mother, Mary, an independent aged 84 and Thomas’s wife, Margaret, aged 30 who was born in Ireland. We haven’t traced Thomas’s marriage. We have been told that she was Margaret Maria Ryan.
On 29th June 1847 Thomas bought a property on The Plain (now known as 10/11 the Plain). He also bought The Chantry and its land by February 1847. At this time he attempted to sell off Park House, but failed. On 24th July 1848 Thomas sold 4 St John Street to Hester Prewett for £140.
The 1851 census shows Thomas and Margaret still living in Park House. Thomas was a land proprietor aged 66 and Margaret M was aged 39 from Limerick in County Clare. They had four children: Mary Frances aged 8, George Osborne aged 7, Thomas Philip aged 4 and John aged 2, all born in Thornbury.
Margaret Maria was a Roman Catholic and that the children were apparently brought up in the same faith. We have a letter written to Margaret by Father O’Farrell who had visited the children’s school in Bristol and found that the eldest boy was absent. Father O’Farrell also expressed concern about the fact that Margaret was no longer receiving Holy Communion. The consequences to her and to her children of not receiving the Sacraments were made clear in a letter that is very evocative of its period. Click here to read the letter from Father Patrick O Farrell
Margaret died on 5th June 1855 aged 46. Following Margaret’s death, Thomas attempted to sell off several of his properties in 1855. These included his home at Park House, The Chantry and the property at 1 Bath Road. It appears that only the sale of The Chantry was successful. The 1861 Census shows Thomas aged 75 living in Park House with his daughter, Mary Frances aged 19.
A newspaper report of 21st October 1865 shows that Thomas ‘is leaving the neighbourhood’ and he tried again to sell off some of his property, including his home Park House and two other properties in the High Street. An indenture dated 20th December 1865 shows that Thomas Osborne Wetmore, late of Thornbury but then of Bath, gentleman and widower, conveyed the properties to William Henry Councell grocer of Thornbury for £2200.
Thomas Osborne Wetmore died on September 2nd 1868. He was buried at Thornbury St Mary’s on 7th September 1868 although he was living at 61 Kingsdown Parade, Cotham in Bristol at the time of his death. In his will he left his estate in trust for ‘the breeding of my children’, his money was left as annual income for his wife, Margaret Maria (nee Ryan) and then to his children.
The auction of Thomas’s property arranged after his death includes Porch House (10 and 11 The Plain), The White Lion and three other properties in the High Street, 1 Bath Road and several lots outside of the town including a house with quarry and lime kiln at Alveston, two farms in Falfield and one in Sibland.
The Bristol Mercury of 23rd January 1869 describes the ball at the Beaufort Arms to celebrate the success of the auction and the profit it had made both for Mr Luce the landlord of the hotel who had been the auctioneer and the two sons of Thomas Osborne Wetmore who gave the party. The ball seems a fairly lavish one and the dancing went on until dawn.
Thomas Osborne Wetmore’s son, George Osborne Wetmore and Thomas Philip Wetmore were wine merchants of Bristol. They gave notice of bankruptcy in the Morning Post of May 25th 1870. George Osborne Wetmore then an architect of Church Road Brixton married Emily Harriet Gibbs of Burton Road Brixton on 14th April 1874.