We are very grateful to Chris and Helen Milne for allowing us to see their wonderful set of deeds which cover the little group of properties in the area around the building now known as 40 High Street, Thornbury which is on the corner of the High Street and the Close that now goes into Mundy Playing Field. Meg Wise of Thornbury Museum was also very helpful in sharing with us her summary of notes taken from the documents.
The earliest record in the deeds bears the date of 12th October 1576 between Thomas Martyn, butcher and Thomas Holbroke, shoemaker but we are not sure which property it relates to and how it connects to the other documents. However we have an almost complete set of deeds from the late seventeenth century which provides a clear image of how the three properties now known as 36, 38 and 40 High Street have developed.
Note – for the purposes of this website we have treated the property now known as 40A High Street (or 4 The Close) as being part of 40 High Street, whilst acknowledging it has been a separate property since the 1980s and that two further properties, the Old Coach House and Mallow House have been created from the old outbuildings in the rear garden.
We will start this history with:
Anthony Horsley – Anthony’s will dated 27th March 1690 (and proved 17th June 1690) refers to his ‘two properties within the Borough wherein John Clarke and John Cooke do now inhabit’. We assume, from the descriptions and family connections given below, that these two properties later became known as 38 and 40 High Street).
In Anthony’s will, his goods and chattels etc were to be shared by his wife, Sarah and daughter, Elizabeth, but he left the two properties to his daughter, Elizabeth. At the time of Anthony’s death, Elizabeth was still ‘in her minority’ and her uncle, Robert Thurston, was appointed as her guardian together with John Wilkins of Rockhampton. The will was witnessed by Anthony’s brother-in-law, John Thurston who died himself on 1st February 1691. John Thurston left Anthony a rapier and a belt and made him an overseer of the will.
Anthony was an innholder of Thornbury. He married Sarah Thurston, the daughter of Robert Thurston, mercer of Thornbury in 1684. Sarah’s father, Robert Thurston, owned other properties in the area which later became known as 30 to 36 High Street. Robert left these properties in his will dated 20th March 1703 to his grandson, John Thurston, the son of his own son, Robert Jnr. It is possible that the two properties acquired by Anthony Horsley had been given by Robert Snr to Sarah and Anthony at or around their marriage, but we have seen no documentary evidence of this. By the time that Robert Thurston senior wrote his will in 1703 Anthony and Sarah had died, but he left their daughter, Elizabeth Horsley a bequest of £10 and ‘a feather bed and bolster in my little chamber over the warehouse’.
Anthony and Elizabeth had a daughter, Elizabeth baptised in St Mary’s Church on 10th May 1685, and a son, James baptised on 20th March 1686, although James died on 24th
March 1686. Another son, John, was born in 1688 but he did not survive. In 1686 Anthony Horsley was Mayor of Thornbury.
Anthony Horsley was buried on 9th April 1690 aged about 36 and Sarah Horsley was buried 7th May 1694 aged about 34. On 14th August 1704 Elizabeth Horsley married Phillip Mansell at St Mary’s Church and presumably Phillip then became the owner of the two properties.
Phillip Mansell Jnr – Phillip was a victualler of Thornbury. He is referred to in several indentures as owning the two properties later known as 38 and 40 High Street. The earliest reference appears in the will of William Green dated 3rd November 1713 which states “Also I give and devise unto (my friend) the said Thomas Alway and Rebecca his wife all that my messuage or tenement situate in Thornbury wherein the said Thomas Alway does now dwell which I purchased from Phillip Mansell the younger and Elizabeth his wife”. Read more about the Mansells
In the case of 38 High Street, Phillip sells the property to John Hewett the Younger in a deed of lease and release dated 18th/19th February 1706. In the case of 40 High Street, Phillip sold it to William Green before July 1706 when Phillip’s wife, Elizabeth, died.
William Green – William was a yeoman who owned and lived at The Chantry in Castle Street. When he wrote his will on 3rd November 1713 he described himself as being of ‘indifferent health’. He left to Thomas Allway and Rebecca his wife the ‘messuage or tenement situate in Thornbury wherein the said Thomas Allway does now dwell which I purchased from Philip Mansell the younger and Elizabeth his wife’. He also gave ‘my friend Thomas Allway of Thornbury mercer and Rebecca his wife all of the said four grounds called Filnors Grounds for the said yearly charge of £5’, plus the sum of £150 to be paid within one year of my death and ‘one black case of drawers, six black chairs, a side board, a looking glass which is in the chamber over the parlour in the said messuage called the Chantry’.
William had directed in his will that the property was only left to the Allways during their lifetime and that after their decease it should pass to William’s great nephew, Henry Jayne (the son of John Jayne of Henbury and grandson of John Jayne of Henbury and his wife, Mary (nee Green). However, by an indenture dated 31st July 1736 Henry Jayne conveyed the property to Thomas Allway.
Thomas Allway – Thomas inherited the property in 1713. Thomas was a merchant and a Quaker. Thomas had married Rebecca Thurston in Thornbury on 19th October 1698. An IGI record shows that Rebecca was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah Thurston and that she was born in Thornbury on January 1st 1673.
His will written on 28th May 1746 and proved on 9th September 1748 shows Thomas owned several properties in Thornbury. He was still living in 40 High Street at the time of his death. He left his property to his wife during her life. After her death, 40 High Street and the land and outbuildings behind were left to Robert Wallington, the son of Thomas’s sister, Rebecca Wallington. Number 38 High Street he left to Susannah Smith and Ann Bick, the daughters of his sister, Rebecca Wallington, for them to dispose of as they wished. He also gave them the furnace and great water butt standing in that property. He gave Rebecca Wallington the sum of £100 to be at her disposing by will or otherwise without consent or hindrance of her husband. He gave the sums of £10 each to Susannah and Ann on the same basis. He also made several other bequests to kinsmen and servants.
The area now occupied by The Old Coach House and Mallow House has at various times been attached to 40 High Street. Click here to read more
The Rolphs – we don’t know exactly when George Rolph acquired the property. Rebecca Allway was still living there in 1755 as her name appears in the deed relating to 38 High Street. The Overseers Accounts of 1760 show George Rolph was paying for a property described as ‘late Always’. A deed of gift written in 1772 relating to the property next door (number 38) shows that George Rolph had taken over 40 High Street following the death of Rebecca Allway. We are not sure when Rebecca died but it must have been at some time between 1755 and 1760.
There were several generations of George Rolphs who all played important roles in Thornbury and their family were connected with this property up to 1862.
George Rolph (1727 – 1792) – we know from his will dated 1792 that it was George Rolph the Attorney at Law born about 1727 who first owned the property.
We are not sure when he acquired the main property, but on 12th September 1775 and 9th July 1776 he bought two pieces of land to extend his land and enable him to erect a new summerhouse. The first of these purchases was part of the garden of 36 High Street, the second to take in part of Mrs Osborne’s Barton. Click on the two thumbnails on the left and below to see the wonderful plans showing what George bought..
George died on 30th August 1792 and was buried in Almondsbury. His will dated 30th July 1792 shows that George had become a major property owner in Thornbury and the surrounding area. He gave to his son, George Rolph, ‘all that messuage or tenement wherein I now dwell with the summer house stable outlet and garden thereto adjoining and belonging (which we know to be 40 High Street) and also the messuage or tenement by me occupied with that last mentioned with the outlet thereto belonging by my said son George purchased of Rachel Symmonds widow and by him since conveyed to me in fee simple (which is 38 High Street). Click here to read about the Rolphs
George Rolph (1757 – 1815) – George was born in 1757, the son of George Rolph and his first wife, Susanna Cox. George became an attorney like his father and also went on to open a private bank in Thornbury. Click here to read about the Rolphs
We know from the deeds of 40 High Street and the adjoining house that on 28th and 29th September 1774 George Jnr bought the house now known as 38 High Street from Solomon Smith. The 1780 Land Tax record shows that George was renting it out to Thomas Lewis and in 1781 it was Elizabeth Prim who was the tenant. By 1782 George Jnr is the owner and occupier of the property. On 16th and 17th December 1785 George Junior sold it to his father who was living next door at 40 High Street, a property he already owned.
In 1792 when his father died, George Junior inherited both properties, but on 29th September 1792 George “sold” 38 High Street to his brother, Thomas, for £147. George Jnr was then living in a house on the other side of the High Street where the Town Hall now stands. He appeared to let 40 High Street out to tenants, James Pick was there in 1797, Miss Hester Hollister was there in the 1800 land tax record and the Reverend Jones is mentioned as being a tenant after Hester. From 1814 onwards George’s sister, Amelia Rolph, is living at 40 High Street. George died in 1815. In his last will and testament written on 20th May 1815 he left everything to two of his children, William and Annis, (although Annis renounced any claim shortly after his death). The will notes that George’s three unmarried sisters, Betty, Sarah and Amelia, were living in 40 High Street. He directed that all his property should be sold, but specified that Amelia should be given the opportunity to buy 40 High Street and the adjoining property for £550, which she did.
Amelia Rolph (1762 – 1822) – we know from her will dated 13th February 1822 that Amelia owned the two messuages (38 and 40 High Street) and the two messuages now known as 44 High Street. Amelia had been living in 40 High Street from 1809 or earlier. She died on 5th December 1822 and was buried in Almondsbury. In the will she left the houses to her nephew, George Rolph, but in a codicil dated 23rd October 1822 she arranged for her sister, Betty Rolph, to be allowed to reside in house during her life at a fair and reasonable rent. The land tax records of 1823 to 1825 show ‘Elizabeth Rolph’ as tenant whom we assume to be Betty. From 1826 George Rolph had taken over the property. We are not sure why this was so as the announcement of Elizabeth’s death in the Bath Chronicle was June 17th 1839. However Elizabeth died aged 87 after “a protracted illness” and it might have been that her brother looked after her affairs until his own death.
George Rolph (1800 – 1841) – George was born or baptised on 8th October 1800, the youngest son of George Rolph and Sarah Delaroche. He never married. He was left 40 High Street by his aunt Amelia when she died in 1822.
The 1840 Tithe Survey shows that he owned and occupied 40 High Street (then described as Plot 78, a house and garden) and 44 High Street (plot 80 then two houses and courts let out to tenants). George died on 23rd April 1841. It is worth noting that the inscription on his tombstone at Almondsbury clearly shows he died on ’20 April 1840′. However the Bristol Mercury newspaper reported his death in 1841 and this is confirmed by the registration of his death on the FreeBMD website and by the fact he didn’t write his last will and testament until 10th July 1840. In the will he described himself as a Gentleman and appointed his sister, Susannah as sole executrix. He left to his sister Susannah the dwelling house, coach house, stable and summer house in which he was living and the property next door occupied by John Smith, tiler and plasterer (now known as 38 High Street) and messuage occupied by James Burton and the adjoining cottage occupied by Mary Facey (both properties now known as 44 High Street) and other land in Alveston. He required Susannah to pay an annuity of £500 to his sister, Annis, wife of Adrian Stokes. He also gave to Annis all his copyhold messuage occupied by John Virgo in the Tything of Kington. He gave to his brother William Rolph several pieces of land and orchards etc scattered around Awkley and Marsh Common. He gave to the Trustees of the Thornbury Baptist Chapel £50.
Susannah Rolph – born on 20th December 1796, the daughter of George Rolph and Sarah Delaroche. When her brother, George, died in 1841 Susannah was left his properties in the High Street (listed above). The 1841 census shows Susanna living in 40 High Street. She is described as ‘Independent’ aged 40 and she was living with Amy Law (or Lane) another ‘Independent’ aged 60 and a female servant, Mary Hollester aged 59. Susannah liked to move about. In the 1851 census Susannah was listed as a visitor staying with Charles White and his family further down the High Street. She was described as being a Landed Proprietor. In the 1861 census she was lodging at 6 Vineyard, Walcot in Bath, the home of Richard Gully, a butcher. She was described as being an owner of houses. Susannah died on 26th May 1866. The probate record indicates that she had lived at 20 Hemus Terrace, Chelsea and at the time of her death at 9 Victoria Place South, Clifton.
The Thurstons – we know from the 1859 Rate Book that Obed Edward Thurston started out by renting the property from Susan Rolph. Obed was a solicitor and a member of the influential Thurston family. Obed went on to buy the property in 1862, together with the adjoining property for £650.
When Obed died in 1899, his wife, Louisa lived there until her death in 1902 and her son, Henry Privett Thurston took over the house and the business. When Henry died in 1919, his brother, Lawrence Thurston Thurston inherited the estate. As Lawrence was living with his wife in Kington House he sold off 40 High Street and the garden and outbuildings in the rear in 1920. Read more about Obed Edward and his family
William Richardson Watson – bought the property and outbuildings on 27th March 1920 for £1200. He also reached an agreement with Algar Howard and bought out the copyhold land and buildings at the rear and converted them to freehold property. The directories of 1923, 1931 and 1935 show that the property was named ‘Nirvana‘.
William was a veterinary surgeon who came from Edinburgh and qualified as a vet in that city. He worked for a time at Aberchirder, Banffshire. There he met and married Ann Barclay, a school teacher and they immediately moved down to Thornbury where he had found a practice. The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows William was born on 15th March 1883 and Ann was born on 16th March 1882.
The photo on the left was taken of Ann in 1932. According to Prewetts 1916 Almanac they first lived in Castle Street. In 1918 William wrote a letter applying for exemption from service in World War I. At that time his letter head said “Lion House” in Castle Street. This may have been a business address or the family may have been living with the veterinary surgeon John Clark James who owned the house. In 1920 he bought the property on the corner of the High Street and The Close which provided a home and place for his business.
Their son William John Barclay was born in Thornbury on 26th May 1914. He was known throughout his life as ‘Barclay’ initially to distinguish him from his father. A daughter, Elizabeth Ann was born on 30th January 1916.
A report printed in the Western Daily Press on 2nd January 1934 shows William was a regular member of the Berkeley Hunt. On Boxing Day 1933 he had an accident when he fell heavily on his head. He was unconscious for a couple of days but recovered.
The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows that William and Ann were living there with William junior who had also become a veterinary surgeon and Elizabeth who had become a chartered masseuse.
According to the electoral registers, William and Ann continued living at 40 High Street until at least 1950. By 1954 they were living at Lower Marlwood Farm. Ann died on 15th November 1957 aged 75. He died aged 75 on 1st October 1959 at Lower Marlwood Farm. In his will dated 20th April 1954 he named as his executors, his son, William John Barclay Watson and his daughter, Elizabeth Ann who had married Roland Jeffrey Hignell in 1944 and had been living at Bay Cottage, 53 High Street. It appears that both children shared in their father’s estate but ‘Barclay’ took over ownership of the business and the house at 40 High Street after his sister who was then living at The Green, Alveston, sold her half share of the property to him for £1700 on 22nd September 1961.
William John Barclay Watson – the photo on the right was taken of Barclay in 1932. After attending the Thornbury Grammar School and persuading his father that he did not want to become a doctor, Barclay went to Veterinary School at Edinburgh and then was persuaded to transfer to the London Veterinary School for his final year where he graduated in 1936.
We understand that for some years Barclay lived in the rear part of the premises above the rooms used for the family’s veterinary practice whilst his parents lived in the part of the building fronting the High Street. We have also been told that he lived for some years in The Ship at Alveston and this is confirmed by the 1961 electoral register. During this period Geoffrey Patrick Doran, one of the vets in the practice lived in the house with his wife, Edith J. They were listed as living there in the 1958 electoral register and by 1965 they had moved to The Coppins on the other side of the Mundy Playing Field which is where they later continued their practice. Geoffrey served with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in Malaya and the Far East before qualifying from Liverpool in 1956. We understand from his obituary written in 2005 that ‘in order to further his equine anatomical knowledge, he took home the head of a horse – but unfortunately it fell off his motorbike and the Principal was not amused’.
In 1982 the Council granted Barclay permission to change the front part of the property fronting High Street from residential to office use.
On 27th May 1983 Barclay divided the property, previously all known as 40 High Street. He created two (what he called) maisonnettes. He retained the rear part of the premises which had previously been used as the vet’s practice and the accommodation over. This became Barclay’s home. He sold to Brosley Estates Ltd, the front part of the property for £50,000. It was a rather complicated split. The upper two floors of the rear part (now known as 4 The Close) overhang the ground floor of the front part (still known as 40 High Street).
On 16th December 1986 Barclay sold the land at the rear of 4 The Close together with the outbuildings to Dalebourne Investment Ltd for £50,000. They converted the outbuildings there into two new residential units, now called The Old Coach House and Mallow House (which was created from the old stables). Click here to read the history of the garden area of 40 High Street
Barclay died on 10th May 2006 aged 91. The house was subsequently sold to the present owners, Chris and Helen Milne who moved here from 9 St John Street.