The property known as 33 High Street in Thornbury is the two story building on the junction of the High Street and Silver Street. It was used, together with 31 High Street, by the Britannia Building Society until it closed in 2015. The photograph on the right above shows the two buildings when they were used by the Westminster Bank. The photo on the left shows 33 High Street was once a 3 story building at the time it was Ashfords newsagents. Note that when this photograph was taken in the 1950’s the Westminster Bank operated from 31 High Street.
We haven’t seen the deeds of this property, but we are fortunate that the 1840 Tithe Survey shows that it was owned by George Cossham. This has enabled us to trace back, using other sources such as the 1809 Borough Rent Roll and Land Tax records and establish that the property was one left by George’s grandfather, another George Cossham, in his last will and testament dated 21st November 1785. In this will George left to his daughter, Ann Davis widow ‘a messuage and shop now in her occupation in High Street’. The 1784 Land Tax record shows that George was indeed the owner of a property with a land tax value of 2s 8d and in this record it is referred to as ‘Ann Davis’s shop’.
The Cosshams – the 1782 and 1783 land tax records shows that George owned and occupied the property with a land tax of 2s 8d. George Cossham was a carpenter who had nine or ten children. He died on 3rd May 1789 aged 75. Click here to read about George
His will indicates that he left this property to his daughter, Ann Davis. Ann Cossham was baptised 25th January 1745. She married James Davis on 16th May 1771. It doesn’t seem that they had any children. James died aged 34 and was buried on 4th April 1775. James’s address at the time of his death was in Moreton. Ann carried on as a shopkeeper living in 33 High Street. She is shown as owning two properties in the 1797 land tax record, one let out to Mrs Cowper, the other a shop which she seemed to be occupying. Ann died aged 53 and was buried on 10th February 1797.
The 1797 and 1800 land tax records show the property was then owned and occupied by Benjamin Cossham, whom we assume to be Ann’s brother. Benjamin was baptised 6th July 1750. According to a record on the Ancestry website, in August 1761 he was apprenticed as a cordwainer to William Clark in Thornbury.
He married Hester Cowley on 22nd June 1792. Hester was born on 4th April 1765 and baptised on 22nd April 1765. She was the daughter of Will Cowley, a wheelwright and his wife, Mary. Benjamin and Hester had three daughters: Elizabeth born on 20th February 1794 and baptised on 24th June 1795, Martha born on 14th August 1797 and Mary born on 13th March 1799, the last named baptised on 4th September 1803 after their father had died. Benjamin died aged 53 and was buried on 16th July 1803. The land tax records of 1809 to 1821 show Hester continuing to own and occupy 33 High Street. Hester died aged 68 and was buried on 25th August 1832.
The land tax records from 1822 onwards show George Cossham took over the ownership of the property. This is confirmed in the 1809 Rent Roll which shows Hester as owner in 1809, but her name is crossed out and replaced by George Cossham indicating that he had replaced her at a later date. George was the son of Jesse Cossham and the nephew of Benjamin Cossham, the previous owner of the property. George became a carpenter like so many other members of his family. He also acquired several other properties in Thornbury. Click here to read moreWe know from the land tax records that he let out 33 High Street to other people at various times. Elizabeth Cossham is shown as the occupant in 1828 and 1829. We are not sure who Elizabeth was, perhaps she was the daughter of John and Ann Cossham who was born in 1798. In 1831 and 1832 Richard Bailey was shown as the tenant.
George continued as owner of the property until his death in 1871. His widow, Mary Cossham, is shown as the owner in 1876 Rate Book, but she died in 1876. By 1880 the property had been acquired by John Williams.
John Williams – the 1880 Rate Book shows the property was owned by John Williams. John was a tailor who acquired several properties in the High Street for his businesses and several properties elsewhere in Thornbury. When John died in 1897, his property including 33 High Street were inherited by his son, John Hodges Williams. We suspect that John ran the shop selling house furnishers as a 1902 directory lists a shop of that sort known as The Stores and we can’t identify this with any of John’s other shops. Click here to read more
Len Smith – Leonard was born in Thornbury on 3rd February 1887, the son of Henry Smith and his wife, Emma (nee Clutterbuck) who were living at Crossways. In the 1901 census Henry was a labourer on the highways aged 54. He was living at The Knapp with Emma aged 53 and their children, Fanny a dressmaker aged 26, Joseph a labourer in gardens aged 22 and Leonard aged 14, an agricultural labourer, and a grand-daughter, Hilda aged 5 born in Sparkbrook, Birmingham
Len emigrated to the USA sailing from Southampton on 6th April 1910. The 1910 census shows Len living in Chicago and working as a landscape gardener. He settled in Waukegan, Illinois, just north of Chicago. He lived there for 11 years although we know he returned to Thornbury in 1913 sailing from Montreal to Bristol aboard the SS Royal George of the Canadian Northern Steamship line. Whilst here, indeed it may have been the purpose of his visit, Leonard, married Jane Elizabeth Garland in 1914. Jane was born on 3rd February 1884, the daughter of Jacob and Emily Garland and the sister of Leonard’s friend, William Jacob Garland who had joined Leonard in the USA in 1912.
Len and Jane returned to the USA by sailing from Bristol on the SS Royal George and the three of them lived together in Waukegan. Len became a naturalised US citizen on 21st December 1920. His address at that time was 318 Grand Avenue, Waukegan and he was working as a janitor in a Bank Building. On 7th April 1921 Len, Jane and William sailed from New York on the Mauretania with the purpose of visiting a relative and then returning to the USA within one year. On 18th January 1921, Jacob Garland, the father of Jane and William Garland had died aged 69 so they must have wanted to visit their mother and pay their respects.
Leonard’s passport application shows Len was aged 34, had a ‘straight’ mouth, was 5ft 10 inches tall, slightly pointed chin, medium forehead, brown eyes and hair and fair complexion, long nose and face and no distinguishing marks.
Leonard never returned to the USA. He stayed in Thornbury and took over the newsagents shop at 33 High Street. The 1925 Valuation List and 1926 Rate Book show that Len was initially renting the property from John Hodges Williams, but by 1932 (at the time John sold the adjoining property to the Westminster Bank) Len had bought the property. A newspaper article printed in the Gazette in 1927 shows Len drove a motor cycle and side car. He had an accident on the first bend of Alveston Hill. He misjudged the bend, hit the kerb and was thrown off the vehicle. His passenger, Horace Legge, a boy employed by Len, was also hurt. Both were conveyed to Dr Grace’s surgery where they were treated.
We don’t think Len and Jane had any children. During the War Leonard acted as a special constable.
Len died 26th May 1954 aged 66. They were living at Ferndale in Gillingstool at the time of his death. Jane died on 18th February 1960 aged 76. We are very grateful to Ray Garland for allowing us to copy his collection of photos of the Garland and Smith families. These include several photos of the shop. Click here to view these photos
The Barrons – we have a photo showing the property was run by a person called Barron in the late 1940 or early 1950s. We would like to hear from anyone who can tell us more.
The Ashfords – we know from photographs that the newsagents became ‘Ashfords’. It was advertised under the name of C. D. Ashford in the 1951 programme for the Thornbury Flower Show. The 1954 and 1958 electoral registers show the property was occupied by Cyril D and Gwendoline Ashford. We are not sure if they owned the property or occupied it as tenants.
Cyril had married Gwendoline Downes in the Birmingham area in 1940. They appear to have had two children in Birmingham: Patricia A born in 1943 and Derek M in 1944.
The Thornbury Flower Show programme for 1955 shows that they continued to sell stationery, newspapers and sweets. We don’t know any more about the Ashfords and by 1961 they had left Thornbury. The shop was bought by the Westminster Bank.
Westminster Bank – the Bank had been operating from the premises next door at 31 High Street since 1932. The closure of the newsagents shop enabled them to acquire the property and expand. They demolished the old newsagent’s building and erected the two story building. In 1969 the Westminster Bank merged with the National Provincial Bank and on 1st January 1970 the Natwest Bank opened for business. We assumed that at that time the new bank chose to consolidate its branches in Thornbury, closing the branch at 31/33 High Street in favour of the old National Provincial Bank on The Plain. Click here to read more
The two buildings were subsequently used as a branch of the Britannia Building Society until its closure in 2015. In 2017 Costa Coffee opened a branch here and they made use of part of the paved area between the building and the Town Hall as an outdoor sitting area.