The Town Hall building was previously the Thornbury Police Station and the size of their property covered the present Town Hall and included the land now incorporated into the service yard for the shops now lining St Mary Centre. The police station had previously been a house owned by the Rolphs, one of Thornbury’s richer families. At that time the property extended back to St Mary Street and the coach-house, stables, yard and part of the garden of the house were later sold off and converted into what we now know as the Barrel Inn. The full extent of the Rolph property was created in the early 1800’s out of three separate properties, each with its own history.
Most of our knowledge relates to the part of the property fronting the High Street (the present Town Hall) and we only know a little of the history of the other two plots. Click here to read about the Town Hall
The other two properties were purchased by George Rolph. Click here to read more about George. We know from George’s will dated 20th May 1815 that he had acquired the two properties at the rear of his house fronting the High Street.
The rear plot
This property was described in George Rolph’s will dated as 1815 as:
‘all that messuage or dwelling house wherein Benjamin Walker lately inhabited and Joseph Walker doth now dwell with the court outlet coach house and appurtenances thereto adjoining and belonging situate in the said borough of Thornbury fronting a street there called the Chipping or Silver Street and Soapers Lane on the north and South sides and abutting on the Back Street there on the east side together with the garden and new erected necessary house thereon and thereto belonging on the south side of the said lane called Soapers Lane all which said last mentioned messuage and premises I purchased of Anthony Wise deceased.’
Anthony Wise (or Wisse) – the land tax records show that this plot (valued at 3/0d) was owned and occupied by Anthony Wisse from 1775 or earlier. In 1781 this was owned by Anthony Wise and occupied by Thomas Bayley, but the 1782 to 1784 records show Anthony was occupying his own property.
We suspect that Anthony was baptised on 21st July 1716, the son of William Wisse. Anthony and his wife, Elizabeth or Betty (nee Pullen) had at least two children: Edward baptised on 29th May 1751 and Betty baptised on 1st April 1759. Elizabeth died aged 57 and was buried on 9th December 1775. The last will of John Rudge dated 1777 indicates that Anthony was living in one of John’s houses assumed to be 47, 49 and 51 St Mary Street. This will also indicates that Anthony’s son, Edward, was a pig driver and he was living in another of John’s houses situated in Chapel Street adjoining to the large area of ground previously called The Paddock and later The Orchard. We believe this property later became known as 16 Chapel Street.
Anthony died aged 75 and was buried on 15th December 1786.
The 1796 land tax record shows the property had already been acquired by George Rolph, but he continued to let this property to Anthony’s daughter, Betty Wise. She was still living there in 1800 but had moved away by 1809. The last will of George Rolph suggest that in 1815 Betty was living in the other house George had purchased from Thomas Neale (see below). Betty died aged 68 and was buried on 4th June 1823.
The Walkers – we know from George Rolph’s will dated 1815 that Benjamin Walker had lived there before Joseph Walker.
Benjamin Walker was baptised on 17th December 1779, the son of Thomas and Hannah Walker (nee Knott) and the brother of Thomas Walker who was living at 7 Chapel Street. On 30th April 1800 Benjamin married Frances Hicks, a widow, in Thornbury. Tragically Benjamin died within a year of the marriage. He was only 23 years old and was buried on 15 Dec 1801.
We suspect that the Joseph Walker who lived in the property after Benjamin may have been a cousin. The land tax records for 1809 indicate that George Rolph was letting the property to ‘Joseph Walker Jnr’. In 1814 the land tax record shows it was ‘Joseph Walker’ who was the tenant. We suspect therefore that Joseph was the son of Joseph Walker who died in 1812. This might explain the ‘Jnr’ reference. Joseph Walker was still living there in the 1822 land tax listing, but not later. We note that the most likely Joseph died aged 58 and was buried on 2nd march 1834.
The middle plot
This property was described in George Rolph’s will dated as 1815 as:
‘and also all that messuage or dwelling house wherein John Barnett and Betty Wise lately dwelt and wherein the said Betty Wise and George Scarlett do now dwell with the appurtenances which I lately purchased of Thomas Neale and his wife situated in the said borough of Thornbury in the said street called the Chipping or Silver Street lying between the last mentioned messuage and the messuage and premises in which I now dwell‘.
Thomas Neale – we suspect that Thomas Neale was baptised on 17th March 1736, the son of Thomas and Mary Neale. He married Hannah Coventry on 15th July 1759. They had at least one child, William baptised on 24th February 1760.
We note that in 1775 Thomas Neale sold the property where the Plough now stands to William Greenwood. It appears that Thomas married again on 18th November 1778. His second wife was the widow Lucy Sparks (nee Meredith). Thomas was described as an innholder at the time of the marriage. On 22nd December 1780 Thomas and Lucy Neale sold their property at 13 St Mary Street to Thomas Hendy for £60. The land tax records show that Thomas Neale owned property (then referred to as being in Silver Street) for several years from 1780. He appears to have rented the property to tenants: in 1780 to James Woodbind, in 1781 to James Bevan, in 1783 and 1784 to Elizabeth Webb, in 1796 and 1797 to John Pitcher and in 1800 to John Barnett.
Thomas Neale died aged 67 and was buried on 24th March 1803. George Rolph had acquired the property by the time of the 1809 land tax record.
James Woodbind – James married Mary Watkins in Thornbury on 17th March 1774. He is listed as living in the property in Silver Street in 1780.
James Bevan – James was listed as being a tenant of Thomas Neale in the 1781 land tax record. We can’t be sure but James might the same person who was occupying The Swan in 1783 and 1784. Click here for more details
Elizabeth Webb – Elizabeth was listed as being a tenant of Thomas Neale in the 1783 and 1784 land tax records. We don’t know any more about Elizabeth.
John Pitcher – John was listed as a tenant of Thomas Neale in the 1796 and 1797 land tax records. We suspect that John was the son of William Pitcher who lived in 5 Castle Street. Click here for more details
John Barnett – John listed as a tenant of Thomas Neale in the 1800 land tax record. We suspect that John was the same person as the one living in 49 High Street in 1809 onwards. Click here to read more
George Scarlett – George was listed as a tenant of George Rolph from the 1809 to 1814 land tax records and he continued as a tenant of William Rolph up to the 1822 land tax record. We suspect George may have been the father of Richard Scarlett who became well known in Thornbury as a solicitor.
By the mid 1820’s these two plots had been incorporated into the mansion house and gardens of William Rolph. He used the buildings at the rear of the property as a stable and coach-house and we understand that a brewhouse was also situated in that part of the property which was later acquired by Thomas Arnolds in 1859. Click here to read about the Rolph mansion house