This house, now Gloucester House in Thornbury, was the home of John Williams and his wife, Emma (nee Hodges) since it was built in 1852. Following their deaths, both in 1897, it was occupied by their grandson, John Henry Williams. Click here to read more about the house
John Henry Williams – John was the eldest son of John Hodges Williams and his wife, Julia (nee Barrett). He was born on 13th July 1871. The 1881 Census shows that he was in Weston super Mare spending time with his his grandparents, Henry and Harriett Barrett. Henry Barrett was a haberdasher, another reason presumably why the young John Henry became a tailor.
John was admitted to Thornbury Grammar School on 1st July 1883. We are not sure where he was in the 1891 Census. He was not living at home. There was a John Williams who was a tailor staying with a family in Oxford. This John Williams was born in Thornbury but seems to be a little older than John Henry as he is said to be 24.
In 1895 and 1896 John Henry Williams claimed the right to vote because he had ‘a joint tenement’ in the house in Gloucester Road. In 1896 he specifically claimed that he owned a “shop and sitting room on the first floor and three shops and bedroom on first floor. Bedroom furnished, rest unfurnished.” He also said the rent that he paid for his property was £10 per year.
Interestingly, his claim was initially refused but there was a note on the form about the rent that the business was “worth considerably more – one of the best businesses in town; good situation many hands employed.”
In September quarter 1899 John married Emily Lilian Waites in the Bristol area. The 1901 census shows that John Henry and his wife Lilian (who was born in Clifton and was aged 30) were the sole occupants of Gloucester House, apart from a maid, the 18 year old Kate Cook.
John Henry worked in the family tailoring business. The 1911 census shows that, then aged 39, John Henry had been married to Emily Lilian for 12 years. He was a Master Tailor and employed three men. The business was at that time said to be conducted from his house. Their son John Athur Merrick Williams was nine years old. Their daughter Lenora Margaret was five years old. They had one domestic servant Ellen Gingell aged 18.
Emily Lilian Williams died aged 56 and she was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 25th August 1925. John continued living in Gloucester House until his death on May 11th 1934.
Of their Children.
- John Arthur Merrick Williams who was baptised on 11th April 1902 attended a private preparatory school. He commenced Thornbury Grammar School on 1st May 1911 and the school record shows that he was born on 10th March 1902. There are no qualifications shown on his record and he left school on 20th July 1917 to become a junior clerk in an insurance office.
- Leonora Margaret was baptised on 26th July 1905. She became famous and when she died in Norwich in 2002 aged 97 her obituary appeared in “The Times”. It explained that after attending Thornbury Grammar she became a teacher at Byron House School in London. During the Second World War, as Vice Principal of the school, she was responsible for evacuating a large number of children to Cambridge, and then taking thirty of these children on to Ottawa in Canada. With two other teachers, Leonora, who became known as ‘Willie’ by the children had to struggle to house, feed and educate the children as well as regularly sending letters to their parents at home in England. When in 1944 the children returned home, Leonora stayed in Canada with her husband, Rowley Hooper, whom she met and married in Canada in 1941. Following her husband’s death, Leonora returned to Bristol in 1952 with her daughter. She later moved to Bromley where she had a successful career in the education of children with special needs.
Having been occupied by the Williams family for almost 90 years, the house seems to have changed hands many times in later years. Although we haven’t seen the deeds of the house, we have extracted from the electoral registers the details of some of the people known to have lived in the house after the Williams family. This information has been supplemented by the memories of local people. Without seeing the deeds, we do not know whether these people occupied the house as owners or tenants.
Adrian Morgan Squire and his wife Marion – we are grateful to Jonathan Wood, a former features editor of Classic Car magazine and author of 35 books on old car matters. He informed us that Adrian was famous for designing and building ‘The Squire’ considered by many to be the best looking two-seater sports car made in the 1930s.
There are several websites on the Internet describing Adrian and his cars. They show that Adrian was born in Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire on 11th October 1909. He was the son of George Frederick Squire an engineer for a gravel excavation company and his wife, Clare Mary Katherine Fortescue. George and Clare married in the Westminster district in 1902.
The 1911 census shows that Adrian was the youngest of the three surviving children of George Squire and his wife Clare. At that time the family lived at Link Croft Milton Hill in Berkshire.
Whilst still a schoolboy at Downside, a Roman Catholic public school near Bath, Adrian set his sights on building his dream car. He went on to study electrical engineering at Faraday House and in 1928 he became an apprentice at Bentley Motors. In 1929 he moved to work for the MG Car Company. MG’s managing director Cecil Kimber and Hubert Charles their chief draughtsman spotted Adrian’s amazing potential. At the age of 21 Adrian received an inheritance of £20,000. This windfall and the financial backing of a wealthy friend from school, Gerard Manby-Colgrave enabled him to fulfil a childhood dream and set up his own company. The Squire Car Manufacturing Company was set up near Henley on Thames about 1931 in a workshop behind a petrol station.
In 1933 The Times announced the engagement of Adrian Morgan Squire the younger son of Mr and Mrs G F Squire and Marion Lee the only daughter of Sir Richard Runciman Terry and the late Lady Terry. She was born on 3rd July 1910.
Adrian married Marion Lee Terry at St James’s, Spanish Place on 21st August 1933. The marriage was registered in the Marylebone area of London . They appear to have had two children: Anthony H whose birth was registered in the Wycombe area in 1935 and Caroline M whose birth was registered in Lambeth in 1936.
The cars Adrian built were acclaimed for their beautiful design and excellent road-holding. They were however expensive compared with other cars being built by competitors like Aston Martin. There were also doubts about the reliability of the engine which Adrian had chosen for the car. In all only seven vehicles were built between 1934 and 1936. The company went into liquidation in July 1936 and Adrian was forced to give up his dream. It is interesting to note that although Adrian couldn’t sell his cars during his life time, the seven remaining cars are now a sought-after collectors’ item. We understand that in 2012 one car was bought for $750,000. Please see the photograph below on the right of one of these cars. The Henley Standard of June 18th 2013 reported that the cars are now scattered round the world. Three cars are apparently in America. One of them can be seen at the Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia USA. Of the remaining four cars, there is one each in Britain, Austria and New Zealand. The seventh car is said to be in pieces in Holland.
Adrian worked for W O Bentley, the technical director of Lagonda until October 1936 when he began to work for Bristol Aeroplane Company. Initially the Squire family lived in Filton. The Trade directory for 1938 shows their address was Filton Lodge Broncksea Road. However the 1939 Electoral Registers show that by that time Adrian and Marion had moved to live in Thornbury. The register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the War shows Adrian in the house with his wife Marion L. Adrian is described as an Experimental Technician (Aero Engines).
Tragically Adrian was one of many killed in the blitz on the Company works at Filton on 25th September 1940. It was a daylight raid and Adrian was in a shelter which received a direct hit.
A website ‘Bristol & District Blitz War Memorial’ indicates that Adrian was a Private in the 13th Gloucestershire (City of Bristol) Battalion Home Guard.
Probate was granted at Llandudno to Marion Lee Squire and his estate was valued at £1,278 7s 3d. It appears that Marion left Thornbury and returned to London. We note that there is a record of the marriage of Marion L. Squire to Henry V. Bamford in the Kensington area of London in 1948. We have been told that she married an old school friend of Adrian Squire.
John Rocke and Sarah Rocke – the electoral registers of 1946 and 1947 show the house was occupied by John and Sarah Rocke. We don’t know a great deal about them. John Seymour Evan Rocke was born on May 22nd 1915 in the Paddington area of London. He was the son of Evan Meredith Rocke. It appears from the Old Radleian magazine that John like his father was a student at Radley College in Oxfordshire.
He married Sarah Joan Burnet James in Uley on 22nd October 1938. At the time of his marriage his address was Clungunford House, Craven Arms Shropshire and he was an engineer. Sarah was born in the Bristol area in 1918 and was the daughter of Walter Burnet James a retired tobacco merchant.
In 1939 the register of the population that was undertaken because of the advent of war shows that John and Sarah lived at Rockstowes in Knole Lane in Bristol. At this time John was an aeronautical engineer.
According to the Radleian magazine John became a pilot officer in World War II and was a technical adviser to the Ministry of Aircraft Production. According to the London Gazette he formally resigned his commission in the RAF in 1947.
They had a son, John C. B. Rocke born in Bristol area in 1939 and a daughter Susannah in 1943.
We understand from the Radleian magazine that John came to this area because he was employed first at R.A Lister and then at the Bristol Aeroplane Co.
We know that they still lived in the house in June 1947 because they advertised for domestic help in the Western Daily Press at that time. We understand that he may have been High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1971. Sarah died in 1978. John died in Shrewsbury in 1985. Both are buried at Clungunford. We would love to hear more about the Rockes.
Gabriel and Alice Pippet – the Electoral Registers show that between 1948 and 1954 Gabriel and Alice Pippet lived in the house. Gabriel Joseph Pippet (shown here in 1920) was born in Solihull in 1880, the son of Joseph Aloysius Pippet and his wife, Juliet Elizabeth Mary (nee Canning). Joseph was the chief designer for the firm of Hardman, Powell and Company of Birmingham who were church furnishers.
The 1881 census shows Gabriel at home with his parents, seven siblings and three servants. At the time of the 1891 census he was at school at a Catholic boarding school, the Academy of St Paulinus in Catterick. The 1901 census shows Gabriel had begun to follow his father’s artistic interests. The census shows he was living with his parents at Lode Lane, Solihull. This census makes it clear that his father was an artist specialising in ecclesiastical work. Two of Gabriel’s brothers (Oswald and Raphael) had become artists, Gabriel and a younger brother (Michael) had both become art students.
The 1911 census shows Gabriel was living with his widowed mother in Lode Lane. He was described as a self-employed book illustrator. In 1912 he married Alice Magdalen M. Nicot in Solihull. We don’t know anything about Alice, except that she was born about 1891 according to her age shown when she was a passenger sailing to Africa (see below). They do not appear to have had any children.
Gabriel was a talented artist, sculptor, illustrator and woodcarver. He spent time in Ravenna and in Rome and the experience he gained there greatly influenced his work, which showed both Medieval and Pre Raphaelite influences and was mainly of a religious nature, including paintings at St Mary’s Church in Douai Abbey in Berkshire in 1913. He also designed the mosaic over the door of the Catholic church of St Thomas More in Ilford. His most famous work was at the church of the Sacred Heart in Droitwich Worcestershire where he carried out all of the stone sculpture on the outside of the church and the fourteen Stations of the Cross inside. He also designed the mosaics that cover almost all of the inside of the church which were carried out by Maurice Josey and Fred Oates.
Gabriel was living in Villemain, Felstead in Essex according to the 1914 Kelly’s Directory. In the early 1920s Gabriel was living at 24 Museum Road, Oxford according to the post office telephone books and in the late 1920s he was in Ladbroke Grove, Kensington. We know that in the 1930s Gabriel travelled to Africa. In 1932 he returned on SS Apapa to Liverpool. His address at that time was at Hampton Lovett, Droitwich. In 1935 he and Alice were listed as passenger on another ship sailing for Gold Coast. Their address then was ‘Hounsdown Cottage, Aursley, Surrey’. The 1939 census taken in preparation for the War shows Gabriel and Alice living in Maidenhead.
Immediately after the war in 1947 and 1948 Gabriel and Alice were listed as living in Chelsea but they must have moved to Thornbury about 1948 as they are shown there in the Electoral Register of that year. They were still in Gloucester House in the 1954 electoral register, but had moved elsewhere by 1958.
One of his sculptures can still be seen in the statue of Madonna and Child over the doorway of St Mary’s Church in Thornbury, which is shown here above left. It was commissioned by the family of Frederick William Davies in memory of his work there as churchwarden. Gabriel also lived at Hare Street House, Buntingford Hertfordshire. Hare Street House was owned by Robert Hugh Benson an Anglican monk and the brother of E F Benson the writer of the Mapp and Lucia novels.
He died in Solihull on 28th November 1962 aged 82 years. He is buried in Droitwich with his wife, Alice, who died just two days before him, next to the church of the Sacred Heart whose mosaics he designed. Probate was granted to Bernard Victor Powell a company director. His estate was valued at £1971 11s 6d.
The electoral registers show the following other occupants of the property:
- Mary and Terence Henderson – 1957 and 1959
- Dorothy and Joseph Burge – 1960
- Glyn and Marjorie Williams – 1962 and 1965
- Maurice, Angela and Eileen Holland – 1970
We understand that the property was owned by Mrs Till as Ken and Kate Wilkins bought the property was a widow of that name. Ken Wilkins tells us that the Tills had bought the house but never lived there as Mr Till died suddenly. The house may have been let to tenants.
The Wilkins – in November 1970 the property was bought by Ken and Kate Wilkins who took a great interest in the property. They wrote down what they were told about the building by a local surveyor and agent, Mr Fudge and gave a copy of their notes to Thornbury Museum. They spent a lot of time and money on restoring the building to its former glory. They finally sold the property and moved to Chatsworth Park in June 2000. Read Ken’s notes on the history of Gloucester House
The photograph at the top of the page was taken by Ken Wilkins in the 1970s before the house was renovated.
Our friend, Arthur Neal, mentioned that in the 50s the house was occupied by “Russ Conway’s” brother. Mair Johnson told us that she had met the lady of the house in the early 50s and she recalled that she was the cousin of ‘the famous pianist’. We have been unable to link any of the names of occupants traced so far with that of Russ Conway, whose real name was Trevor Stanford. We would love to hear from anyone who could confirm and explain this claim.