Laburnum House

Laburnum House, 6 Gloucester Road in Thornbury was built by George Hodges and occupied by him and his family until 1905.  After that time the house was owned by the estate of George Hodges. We have not seen the deeds to this property and so we cannot say which family bought the property from the estate and which families were tenants of the Hodges family. 

However, we have extracted from the electoral registers the details of some of the people known to have lived in the house since the Hodges family.  This information has been supplemented by the memories of local people.

John Allen – the 1911 census shows John Allen was living in the house with his family.  John was a hay dealer aged 48 born in Hallen.  He was living with his wife, Emma who was aged 52 and came from Pilning.  They had had three children, but only one, Anne aged 17 born in Pilning was still living with them.  John was listed as still living in the house in the Prewetts directories from 1913 to 1915.  By 1916 they appear to have moved elsewhere.

John married Emma Thirza Atwell in the Barton Regis area of Bristol in 1884.  The 1891 census shows that they lived with Emma’s parents, Henry Atwell, a hay dealer and farmer and his wife, Keziah.  They were living at Meadow View, Pilning Street, Olveston.  John was a mason aged 28 born in Henbury.  Emma was aged 32 born in Almondsbury.  They had two children: Amy aged 4 and Millicent aged 3.  The 1901 census shows they were still living in Pilning Street.  Henry was now a widowed farmer; John seems to have taken over as hay dealer.  They now had an extra daughter, Annie aged 7.

In 1909 Amy Allen married Herbert Grant and they lived in Olveston by 1911.  Her sister Millicent Allen was living with the couple in the 1911 census.  Emma died in Thornbury in 1919 aged 60 years.  

In 1928 Annie Allen married Albert Alexander Wood Prewett whose family had the stationers’ and printers’ shop in the High Street.  Read more about them

The Pitmans – George and Minnie Pitman appear to have lived in the house between 1923 and 1925.  Click here to read about them

Francis Edgar Russett – the 1925 Valuation List shows that ‘Russett’ occupied the house and premises and the garden owned by the representatives of George Hodges.  We know from Trade Directories that Francis Edgar ran ‘Thornbury Garage’ which appears to have been situated in the warehouse next door.  He was mentioned in various documents in connection with this business from 1923 to 1936.  He may have  used part of the same premises as Chard Bros  who used the building immediately next to Laburnum House as this newspaper report of 1927 suggests they used the same yard,

Advertisements in the Gazette show that F E Russett was an agent for Overland, Citroen and Austin.  As well as repairing cars, Thornbury Garage offered buses, coaches and cars for hire, garage accommodation and a parcel carrying service via the buses.

Francis was born in the Bristol area in 1902, the son of Charles Frederick Russett a haulier and his wife Rose May. Francis married Mary E. Brown-Cavill in Bristol in 1922.  In the 1927 Electoral Register Francis is listed under ‘Thornbury Garage’ as is Arthur Ernest Russett who we believe to be Francis’s brother.  Arthur was born in 1898.

Their father, Charles had been a farmer in Brislington but started to collect sawdust from Bristol mills in a horse and cart.  He separated the sawdust into two grades, the coarse quality he sold to slaughterhouses, the fine quality was sold to butchers.  He went on to set up the largest public transport and road haulage company in Bristol.  It was called Pioneer Transport initially using horse and carts or breaks and then moving on to motorised lorries and charabancs.  At the end of the 1920s Charles had to sell his public transport vehicles because of the fierce competition from Bristol Omnibus and Greyhound.  He concentrated on road haulage and the company became the biggest privately owned company in the South West.

Judging from the records of the Council School Mrs Russett was listed as the responsible guardian for several children who attended the school.  Only one of these mentions her name as ‘Esther Russett’ and in that case the child was ‘Enid Russett’ born on 22nd May 1919.  She had moved to Thornbury from St Anne’s Bristol and she left the school in 1926 to go to Cardiff.   Mrs Russett’s address was given as ‘Gloucester Road’ in the 1925 and 1926 records and in 1928 one record shows her address as ‘The Garage’, the other as ‘Gloucester Road’.  We assume that Mary E Russett (wife of Francis Russett) was know by her second name of Esther.

Francis died in 1969 aged 66 and is buried in Frenchay Churchyard.

Percy Hand the referee

Percy William Hand

The Hands – the Electoral Registers of 1935 and 1937 show that Percy William and Minnie Jane Hand were living in Gloucester Road.  They probably moved here from Highbridge in Somerset in 1934 as the registers of the Council School show that at that time, they admitted Vera Evelyn Hand, the daughter of Percy William Hand of Gloucester Road.  Although his name was William Percy, he was always known as Percy Hand.

We know from the 1939 register compiled in preparation for the war that Percy Hand was born on 27th  February 1896.  He was born in Stapleton, Bristol and baptised on 13th October 1897 at St Mary’s Church, Fishponds, the son of Gilbert and Alice Hand.  In 1901 the family was living at 13 Balaclava Road, Fishponds.  Gilbert Hand was a brick setter in a brick works.

The 1911 census shows the Hands had moved to Highbridge and were living at 7 East Terrace, Huntsfield Road.  Gilbert was now working as a salesman for a bacon factory and Percy was working as an errand boy for a chemists.

Percy served in France in the First World War with the Somerset Light Infantry from July 1915 to May 1919.  The photo on the left shows Percy at this time.

Percy and Minnie had four children.  Their son, Leslie Maxwell was born in the Axbridge area on 1st March 1920.  They had three daughters, Vera Evelyn and Phyllis May were born in the Axbridge area on 4th September 1922 and on 21st May 1930 respectively and Margaret Shirley was born in Thornbury on 3rd April 1936.  We are not sure when or where Percy married Minnie.  The baptism records of the children show Minnie’s maiden name was Emerson.  We know from the 1939 register that Minnie was born on 9th August 1894 although the registration of her death suggests she was born on 9th August 1895.  The 1939 register shows that her proper name was ‘Mary J.’ as this is wriiten above the name of ‘Minnie’.   Later electoral registers confirm that Mary Jane was her name.

The Hands moved to Thornbury in 1934 when Vera was transferred from a school in Highbridge to the Council Infants School.  Phyllis joined her at the same school in 1937.

Percy & Minnie Hand & baby Margaret

Percy & Minnie Hand & baby Margaret

We have been told by their daughter, Margaret that Percy was a tile maker in the brickworks.  Originally he had worked in a brick works in Highbridge but when he lost his job there he had to travel further afield for work.  They moved to Thornbury and Percy cycled to Littleton brickworks every day.  Eventually, he got a more convenient job in Thornbury Brickworks on Gillingstool Hill.

The stories we heard about Percy Hand never quite tied up and it eventually became clear that there were two Percy Hands living next door to each other.  We have been told that they were second cousins but we do not know how they came to be living so close to each other.  It must have caused some confusion, not least for the postman!

The Percy Hand who lived at number 6 was well known throughout the District as a football referee.  

The Hands had moved to 11 Eastland Road by 1937 when Phyllis was transferred to the Council Upper School.  The 1954 electoral register shows that Percy and Minnie had moved to 19 Eastland Road.  Percy died in November 1978 aged 81.  Mary Jane died aged 89 in March 1985.  Her death was registered in the Bristol area.

Vera & Margaret Hand

Vera & Margaret Hand

Of their children:

  • Leslie Maxwell (was a builder’s estimation clerk in 1939 when he was living with his parents at 11 Eastland Road.  In 1949 he married Nora Wheeler who came from Crediton.  Leslie died in Crediton on 16th September 1982.
  • Vera married Wilf Rugman lin Thornbury in 1941.  They lived at 8 Pullins Green and the Brickyard Cottages.
  • Phyllis who married Leslie Trott in Thornbury in 1954.  In 1958 they were living in 11 Hawthorne Crescent.
  • Margaret who married Roy Hill in Thornbury in 1956.  In 1961 they were living at 1 St Mary Street and by 1965 they had moved to 9 Frome Court.  The photo on the right shows Percy and Minnie with baby Margaret.   The photograph on the left shows Vera and Phyllis outside their house.


The Kings – the next family to occupy number 6 was that of Walter Alfred and Eliza King.  They first appear in the Electoral Registers of 1939 in Gloucester Road.

Walter Alfred Edwin King was born on 3rd July 1887.  He married Eliza Fletcher in the Bristol area in 1915.  Eliza was born on 28th January 1893.  They had four sons, Mervyn Edward born on 28th April 1923, Douglas Kenneth born on 22nd February 1927, Harold Samuel born on 1st January 1929 and Anthony Dennis born on 13th August 1933.  They also had two daughters, Patricia M born in 1925 who died the same year and Eileen Frances born on 5th November 1931.  The family were living at 12 Grove Park Terrace, Fishponds when Mervyn was born.  The children attended Dr Bell’s School in Fishponds whilst they were living in Fishponds.

In 1936 the family moved to Thornbury where the children were enrolled in the Council School.  At that time the school records show that the Kings were living at the Court House in St John St in 1936.  They had moved to Laburnum House in Gloucester Road by 1938 when more of their children were enrolled in the school.

We understand from Arthur Neale that Walter King worked as an aircraft worker in the BAC in Filton.  This appears to be confirmed by the fact that when Mervyn King married in 1946 his father, Walter, was described as an aircraft worker.  Walter was also a scoutmaster in the scout hut located ‘in the field where Trayhurn had his pigs, just down from Dick Shipp’s garage’ (in the area where Stafford Crescent and Buckingham Parade were built).

During the war years they may have taken in evacuees, like many of the other houses in the area.  The parish records show the baptism in October 1940 of Diana Joy, the daughter of Reginald Edward, a corporation official, and Iris Doreen May Williams of Laburnum House.  The godparents were William Nicholas Williams, Margaret Emma West and Eliza King.

Eliza died aged 59 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 11th December 1952.  Walter died in Frenchay Hospital in 1955.  He was an engineer aged 74 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 20th August 1955.  Walter may have moved away from the house before he died as there is no entry in the electoral register of 1954 for him.

Of Walter and Eliza’s children:

  • Mervyn became an engine fitter after an apprenticeship at BAC.  He married Mabel Joyce Hill in Thornbury on 5th February 1944.  Mabel was the daughter of James Biddle Hill, a linesman and she had been living at 7 Eastland Avenue at the time of the marriage.  We understand from Ron Holpin’s book on the Thornbury and District Skittles League that Mervyn had to work in Ireland for three years and Mabel used to visit him there.  He subsequently returned to Thornbury and lived with Mabel and her parents in Eastland Avenue.  Mervyn KingThey had one son, Colin, born in 1947 and another, Gary, born in 1958 by which time the family were living at 23 Eastland Avenue.  In 1955 Mervyn became involved in the formation of the Thornbury and District Skittles League and he continued playing an important role in the running of the league for the next 19 years.  In 1975 he was made the first Honorary Member of the League.  Mervyn died in 1984 aged 60.
  • Douglas and Harold married two sisters, Dorothy and Margaret Reeves in 1948 and 1950 respectively.  They were the daughters of Percy Reeves from Coombe Cottage, further down Gloucester Road.  Douglas and Dorothy were living at 13 Eastland Avenue in 1954, 1958 and 1965 Electoral Registers.  Harold and Margaret were living at 1 St Mary Street in 1954 and 1958 and 30 Eastland Road in 1965.
  • Anthony married Sheila Ann Alway in 1954.  Sheila was a nurse living at 17 Severn View Road.  She was the daughter of Alfred Kitchener Alway, a quarryman.  In 1965 Anthony and Sheila lived in Fairlyn, Sibland.
  • Eileen married Grantley Charles Parsons in 1951.  Grantley was the son of Herbert Henry and Lilian Emma Parsons who ran the White Lion.  Click here to read more about Grantley & Eileen

The Miles – the family of Edward William and Beatrice H. Miles lived in Laburnum House in the late 50s.  Edward was a lorry driver working for Tills Transport whose deport was next door.

Edward may have been the foreman there.  Edward’s son, Rodney moved into the house in 1959 following his marriage to Beatrice Ann Poole.  Rodney was also a lorry driver, presumably for Tills.  We understand from Joan Hall that Ray Till may have owned Laburnum House as well as the Transport Depot, so he may have used the house for his employees.

We are told that Rodney and Beatrice had three or four sons.  We understand that there was a son called John Miles and at least one daughter, Julia Ann Miles was baptised on 28th March 1961 whilst the family were living at Gloucester Road.  The family moved elsewhere at some time between 1962 and 1965.

The Freemans – from 1965 until 1968 the house was occupied by John Freeman, his wife, Janet Forrest Freeman and their five children: Doreen Agnes, Robert Arthur, William Donald, Edward Stuart and Jeanette Yvonne. John was the manager of the Humber Warehousing Depot which was next door.  The family had moved from Grimsby when Humber Warehousing took over Thornbury Transport.  In 1969 the family moved to Ribblesdale.

We understand that the house was left vacant for several years in the 70s and it was allowed to fall into a state of disrepair.

The Denneys – in the late 70s the house was occupied by Alan H. Denney & Patricia M. Denney.  They were listed in 1978 Electoral Register, but had left by 1980.

The Guests – the Electoral Register 1980 shows Louise Ann Guest living there with Helena M Cummings.  The Electoral Register of 1981/2 shows Isobel A Guest and Louise Ann Guest living there.  Ann Guest continued living there until the early 90s.  She was there in September 1992 when the fire in the tyre warehouse next door caused the evacuation of many of the houses in the area, and the flood water from the fire hoses caused severe damage to Laburnum House.  Mrs Guest was forced to vacate the property for several months whilst remedial work was done on the house.  She returned on its completion and moved away a few years later.

Rod Denyer – Roderick Denyer QC, bought the house in 2004.  He was a Judge at Cardiff Crown Court.  He sold the house in 2005 after living there only one year.

see the early history of this house