The Rolph family was an important family in Thornbury and the menfolk tended to become attorneys or bankers and to acquire desirable properties in the Town. Click here to read about the family
The two members of the Rolph family were associated with the building which is now The Town Hall were George Rolph and his son, William Rolph.
George Rolph – the 1784 Land Tax record shows George Rolph as the owner and occupant of the property at 35 High Street. An indenture dated 27th December 1785 shows that George had recently bought the property from Mrs Martha Cullimore and he was borrowing money from William Salmon of St Elizabeth, Jamaica and Martha’s brother, William Osborne of Kington. The property was described as being ‘all that messuage or tenement newly erected and built by George Rolph on the spot of ground whereon a messuage or tenement formerly in the occupation of John Gayner apothecary stood heretofore called The Tavern together with the stable, garden and appurtenances thereto belonging situate lying and being in the Fore Street of the Town and Borough of Thornbury‘.
George was born in 1757 the son of George Rolph and his first wife Susannah. He became an attorney like his father.
It appears that initially George’s house only covered the land previously occupied by the Tavern, fronting the High Street. It was valued at 8/0d in the land tax records. The other plots were added some time later. 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. However George continued to let these properties to tenants. They were described in the will 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
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’.
George was buried on 30th October 1815 and the property descended to his son, William Rolph.
William Rolph – took over the property which was left to him and his sister, Annis in 1815. Annis renounced her claim on the property on 24th November 1815.
It was William who set about extending the property, although the 1822 land tax record shows he was still letting the two rear properties at that time to George Scarlett and Joseph Walker. The 1823 Land Tax record shows William was using all the plots for himself so presumably he had extended his garden and developed the St Mary Street end to form the coach house and stables.
William was born on 20th August 1791 and baptised on 3rd October 1791. He was the second child of George Rolph and his wife, Sarah (nee Delaroche). William was articled to George Rolph (presumably his father) the attorney and in turn became a solicitor. In 1820 he became Mayor of Thornbury. He was also involved with the running of the private bank at the bottom of the High Street where No 1 Coffee Shop is now located. This bank had been set up by his father in 1808 in the name of ‘Rolph & Co’. The bank was to evolve quickly, and took many names. In 1825 it was printing its own currency as Parslow, Rolph & Co. In April 1857 he dissolved his involvement in the banking company.
On 30th June 1817 William married Frances Mair at Iron Acton. They had five children: William Mair baptised on 16 March 1818, Julia Fanny born in 1819 and baptised on 12th December 1820, John Mair baptised on 12th December 1820, William baptised on 23rd July 1821 and Emily Howard baptised on 2nd October 1823. Frances died on 24th January 1833 at Clifton aged 38. She was buried in Almondsbury Churchyard. Of these children, William Mair died aged only 3 months and was buried at Almondsbury on 17th June 1818 and William Jnr died aged 5 months and was buried at Almondsbury on 22nd Noivember 1821.
The 1830 Pigots Directory shows that William Rolph was a Steward of the Courts.
On 12th May 1834 William married Caroline Manningford at St Andrews Church, Clifton. Caroline was the daughter of John Manningford, a banker. The 1841 census shows them living in Melcombe Regis in Dorset. William aged about 45 is an attorney and his wife Caroline is about 30. They have William’s 17 year old daughter Emily living with them. They appear to have four servants including John Files.
We note however that William won a prize for his cherries at the Thornbury Horticultural Exhibition in 1836. The Bristol Mercury also has a report of the birth of a still born baby daughter to the lady of William Rolph Esq of Thornbury on 12th December 1837. In 1843 William was elected as Vice Chairman of the Board of Guardians of Thornbury.
The 1840 Tithe Survey shows William owned Plot 173, the house, garden and stable stretching from High Street to St Mary Street between Silver Street and Soapers Lane, several properties on the north side of Soapers Lane including Plot 172 a void house and a house and court occupied by H. Prewett, Plot 171 a house and court occupied by Charles White and Plot 167 a void coach-house and garden. The transcription of the survey which we have been given also implies that he owned plot 168 and 169 a house and garden occupied by William R Wilcox, but the deeds of the property throw some doubt on William Rolph being the owner. William was also part owner of the banking house and yard, plot 194 and a house and yard plot 198 occupied by Edwin John Quarrington, both towards the lower end of the High Street on the east side. The ownership of these two properties were shared with Joseph Parslow. Interestingly William also owned plot 470 which was the public bathing place known as The Baths, then occupied by Thomas Morgan.
The 1851 Census shows William and Caroline living at Champions House, Clevedon. William was an attorney at law. Caroline was born in Bristol.
William died on 15th October 1858 aged 67 and was buried at Almonsdbury Churchyard. He left his property to Caroline. It seems that Caroline was living in Clifton as immediately after William’s death, on 29th November 1858, an auction was held to sell of William’s household furniture and other effects. The sale included: silver plate, books, engravings pianoforte, Indian cabinet, rare old china, eight day musical clock, plated articles, breakfast-room dining-room and drawing room rosewood and mahogany chairs and tables sideboards, bagatelle board, chiffonniere, bookcases, sofas, couches, chimney glasses, telescopes, window draperies. glass, china, tea and coffee services. Turkey, Brussels, Kidderminster, felt, and other carpets. The furniture in 13 bedrooms and dressing-rooms including fourpost, French, half tester, tent, and stump beds, hair and wool mattresses, feather beds, millpuff ditto, excellent bedding winged and other wardrobes mahogany and painted chests of drawers, dressing tables, drinking glasses and stair carpets and rods, floor cloth, hall tables chairs etc; kitchen clock, chairs, deal tables, and the usual kitchen requisites. A strong and useful Carriage horse, about 15 hands high; a Light Carriage, in excellent condition, with pole etc for one or two horses, Pony Phaeton, Four wheel hand Carriage, Double and Single harness bridle and Saddle, Chaff machine, Brewing utensils, casks, Stone roller, garden seats and numerous other articles.
On 19th February 1859 an auction was held to sell the property. It was described as:
‘a spacious detached freehold dwelling house and premises (the late residence of William Rolph Esq deceased) situate in the High Street of the town of Thornbury, having a commodious frontage with a depth of 238 feet to St Mary Street comprising nine bedchambers and three dressing rooms on the upper floor, a suite of lofty drawing rooms 54ft x 18ft 6inches communicating by folding doors, two staircases, entrance hall, breakfast and dining rooms, two offices and lobby, servant’s hall, china pantry, kitchen, scullery, larder and spacious cellarage: contiguous and walled garden, stable yard, cisterns and pumps, stabling for 5 horses, double coach house with lofts and rooms over‘.
Caroline died in Clifton on 4th September 1870 aged 62 – her address at the time was 6 Seymour Place, Clifton, previously of 2 Leicester Villas, Clifton.
Of his children: Julia married John White in Thornbury on 14th March 1841 – he was a lieutenant in the 20th Madras Native Infantry. Emily also married a military man, he was Captain Coleridge who was in the India Army. In 1861 Emily was living in Exeter with her children, Julia born in Aden, Josephine born in Palgatcherry, India and Amy and Frances born in East Budleigh, Devon. Emily’s brother, John was also living with her. He was described as a married gentleman, but there was no sign of his wife. John had matriculated to Oriel College, Oxford in 1838 when aged 17. We know nothing more about him except he died in East Brighton in 1898.