We have been able to establish that the house was in the ownership of the Osborne and Maclaine families from about 1730 up to about 1938.
From about 1802, when Elizabeth Osborne died, we believe that the Osbornes and then the Maclaines let the property out to tenants.
William Millett – the last will of William Osborne, the owner of the property, written in 1807, shows that William Millett was then occupying the Close House. There were two William Milletts around in the Kington area at this time, a father and son. We are not sure which William lived at the Close House. Presumably it was William senior who was was listed as the owner and occupant of 23 High Street in the Land Tax records from 1796 to 1812 and then in 1814 he was renting that property to James Ford.
William Snr came from Elberton and he married Mary Wetmore of Thornbury in St Mary’s Church on 7th January 1790. They must have had a son, William Jnr, soon after their marriage as William Millett jnr married Mary Hignell in Thornbury on 28th June 1808. Mary died aged 58 and was buried on 5th August 1808. The baptism record of Sarah Hignell Millett born on 27th January 1810 and baptised on 24th April 1810 shows that William Jnr was a Yeoman living at Kington .
Ann Hardwicke – she was noted as living at Close House at some time between 1807 and 1822. We don’t know anything about Ann.
Mapson Taylor – we know that the 1828 Manor Rent Roll shows that Mapson is the occupant of The Close House. Mapson was born on 6th January 1793, the son of Joseph and Mary Taylor who lived at ‘Stock’. On 25th January 1817 Mapson married Jane Saniger at Thornbury. Mapson became a farmer and he and Jane had at least twelve children: Joseph baptised on 12th July 1818, Hannah baptised on 26th January 1820, Robert Bartlett baptised on 27th October 1822, Charles baptised on 16th February 1825, Mapson baptised on 14th February 1827, Jane baptised on 28th September 1828, Annis baptised on 2nd May 1830, George baptised on 18th March 1832, Henry baptised on 8th September 1833, Mary baptised on 21st January 1835, Eunice baptised on 21st September 1836 when the family were living at Parks Farm and Edwin Thomas baptised on 2nd May 1838.
The 1841 census shows Mapson and Jane living at Park Farm, Kington with nine of their children. Little Mary and Eunice were attending private school with Charlotte Cossham in the High Street. Shortly after this census the Taylors moved to Herefordshire. Mapson died there in 1848. The 1861 census shows Jane running Court Farm, Credenhill, Herefordshire, a farm of 300 acres employing 5 men and 3 boys. She was being helped by her sons, Charles, Mapson and Edwin. George had become an auctioneer and Mary was listed as a farmer’s daughter.
Temperance Jane Willis – Temperance was living at Close House in 1822 when Hector Maclaine and his wife Martha claimed the property following her mother’s death. We don’t know how long Temperance lived there as the house was void in the 1840 Tithe Survey. In the 1841 census Temperance was living next to the Lavers at 9 High Street – she was aged 74 of independent means, not born in Gloucestershire. She died on 26th February 1843 aged 76 and is buried in the same grave at St Mary’s Church as Joseph Laver, the banker and his wife, Louisa. Louisa was the sister of Temperance Jane Willis.
We are lucky to have stumbled across some research done by Eric Lubbock (now Lord Avebury). He discovered that Temperance was baptised in North Walsham on 28th August 1767, the first child of Henry Willis and his wife, Jane (nee Lubbock). Eric has built up a highly detailed account of Temperance’s father who spent some of his younger years living at Windsor Castle and prior to his marriage spent several years sailing the seven seas and having some exciting experiences on naval gunships. After having six children by his first wife, Henry took to the Church and after he was ordained in 1777 he moved to Gloucestershire after a brief spell in Lincolnshire. He became Curate at Rangeworthy and then Vicar at Wapley.
Eric discovered that Temperance and another sister, Ann Packer Willis, had emigrated to Augusta in Georgia, perhaps at the same time, or a little later than, their brother, Richard Lubbock Willis who had gone there about 1790. Richard disgraced himself in some way and was disinherited by his father. Henry’s will said that he had cut Richard off because of ‘his infamous conduct’.
Ann Packer Willis died in Beaufort, South Carolina on 28th October 1806. In her will Ann was described as ‘formerly of Grovesend, Alveston in Gloucestershire’. We have been told that Temperance’s brother, Henry Hannes Willis, owned Grovesend House in 1792. In 1795 he inherited Chavenage House and changed his name to Henry Stephens. We assume that it was this contact with the Thornbury area that led Temperance to move back here, particularly as her sister, Louisa, had married Joseph Laver and was living here.
Mrs Atkinson – we don’t know anything about Mrs Atkinson to identify her.
The Players – the 1841 census shows that John Player was living in the house. This is confirmed by several indentures which list him as a previous occupant. The census shows that John was a manufacturing chemist aged 60 living with Mary Ann aged 25 and two female servants, Ann Vinnicombe aged 25 and Harriett Osborne aged 15 and a male servant, George Hunt aged 15. In January 1836 the Bristol Mercury has a report that John Player junior died on December 25th in Manchester where he was a surgeon. He was said to be the youngest son of John Player of Olveston. This indicates that John Player senior came to live in the Close House from Olveston after 1836.
John Player senior had been married to Elizabeth Fewster, the daughter of John and Betty Fewster. When they had married on 5th June 1804, John Player was described as a gentleman from Elberton Court.
On 26th May 1845 their daughter Mary Ann born married Richard Whalley, a teacher at the Free School (which later became Thornbury Grammar School). Richard was the son of Reverend Richard Thomas Whalley. Following their marriage Richard and Mary Ann lived at The Close. Tragically Richard died in the following February aged 36. Their daughter, Caroline Elizabeth was born later in 1846.
In May 1849 The Close House was advertised as available for lease or to be let with immediate possession which suggests the occupants had moved elsewhere. The house was described ‘as recently undergone a substantial repair comprising on the ground floor dining and drawing rooms with entrance hall, kitchen and other convenient offices, and good underground cellarage; on the second floor four principal bedrooms and dressing room with good attics; a lawn and pleasure garden, well stocked with choice fruit trees; also a stable, coach house and other outbuildings. These premises are pleasantly situated, adjoining to the town of Thornbury and command beautiful and picturesque views of the River Severn and adjacent country.’
The 1851 census shows that Mary Ann and Caroline had moved to Olveston Green where they continued to live for many years. Her father, John Player, had died in early 1851.
Mary Macdonnell – the 1859 Rate book shows the house was now occupied by Mary MacDonnell. The 1861 census shows Mary living there. She was described as a spinster aged 68, a fundholder born in Gloucester. She had a visitor, Miss Alice G Lyons, a clergyman’s daughter aged 26 from Gloucester and a house servant, Mary Ann Lester aged 14 from Olveston. At that time she appears to be sharing the house with James Virgo, an auctioneer. Mary had been lodging with James and his wife in the 1851 census when they were living in Thornbury Cottage. By 1861 James was a widower and he was living in The Close with his daughter, Frances.
We don’t know much about Mary. In the 1841 census she was living in Grey Friars area of Gloucester with Mary Macdonnell whom we assume to be her mother. The 1851 census shows Mary jnr had moved to live in Thornbury and she was described as an annuitant aged 56 when lodging with James Virgo.
The rate books indicate that she continued to live in The Close House until 1869. She died on 16th September 1870 at Clevedon. The probate record shows she was ‘late of The Close House’. The will of Miss Mary Macdonnell was proved on 24th November 1870. She left £108 4s 4d to support the ‘poor widows living in six almshouses in Thornbury.
On 14th March 1871 there was a sale of Miss Macdonnell’s effects at The Close House. They included an “excellent bed”, a pianoforte and a few bottles of wine, paintings in oil and water colour, an old engraving “The Surrender of Calais to King Edward III anno 1847’ and a three wheel close carriage.
Joseph Young Sturge – the 1876 Rate Book shows Joseph was living in the house. He was an architect and surveyor who had previously lived at 10 Castle Street. He didn’t stay here long. By 1880 Joseph and his family had moved to 4 Castle Street. Click here to read about the Sturges
In the 1880 Rate Book the house was void.
The Robertsons – the 1885 Rate Book shows that ‘Mrs Joseph Robertson’ listed as the tenant of the house. The 1891 census shows the house occupied by Ann W Robertson, a widow aged 76 from Horsham in Sussex. She was living on her own means with her daughter, Hannah E who was unmarried aged 36 and born in Scotland and a grandson, Alan St John Robertson who was aged 15 and born in Scotland. We have discovered an article printed in the Nottinghamshire Guardian on 24th November 1882 in which it was reported that ‘A. St John Robertson aged 7 of The Close, Thornbury’ had won a prize in the leaf tracing competition. This shows that the Robertsons had moved to occupy the house as early as 1882. I’m sure little Alan would have been surprised to know that his leaf tracing was still being remembered 130 years later!
Ann was the widow of Joseph Robinson as the 1885 and 1890 Rate Books say that ‘Mrs Joseph Robertson’ was living in The Close House. Joseph married Anne Warne Lanham in Lambeth in 1843. The 1861 census shows them living at 23 Buccleuch Place, Edinburgh. They had five children living them, including Hannah Elizabeth. Joseph was born in Aberdeen about 1811 and employed as ‘Superintendent of The Litmary And Arhgrange Department Of H M General Register House Edinburgh’, whatever that was!
Joseph had died by the time of the 1881 census which shows Ann living at 1 Kingsley Villas in Ilfracombe in Devon. She was described as living on ‘Income from interest and pension’ and living there with Hannah aged 25 and a grandson, Alan St John Robertson who was aged 5. We assume that Alan was Hannah’s child. He was admitted to Thornbury Grammar School on 2nd April 1890.
Ann died in Thornbury in 1894 aged 79 and Hannah is shown as the occupant of the house in the 1899 Rate Book.
On 30th December 1899 Hannah Elizabeth Robertson was living at Craig House, Morningside Drive, Edinburgh. She agreed to sublet The Close to Ernest Coles previously of Mitcham in Surrey but now of Worcester College, Oxford, gentleman and Reverend James Ernest Harris Williams of Thornbury clerk in Holy Orders. The lease was for one year at a quarterly rent of £16 5s. The agreements comes with detailed inventory showing everything in each room. Please contact us directly if anyone is interested in seeing this inventory.
The 1899 agreement mentions that Hannah had previously let the house to Mrs Major Montgomery Swan. We don’t know enough to be able to identify this person.
The 1901 census shows the house was being shared by Ernest Coles, aged 25 from Eltham in Kent (who was living on his own means) and J. E. S. Williams, a C of E priest aged 26 from Osgathorpe, Leicestershire. They had two servants to look after them: Bessie J. Ball a cook aged 25 from West Hatch, Somerset and Agnes H Garland a housemaid aged 22 from Lovington, Somerset. The 1905 Rate Book lists Rev. J. E. H. Williams as the occupant.
Mary Greenfield – Mary was a spinster who owned The Close and lived there from about 1906 to 1938.
Mary Hume Greenfield was born in Scotland about 1862, the daughter of Hume Greenfield and his wife, Margaret (nee Gregorson). Hume died in 1864. Margaret moved to London with her daughter, Mary. The 1881 census shows that Margaret was an annuitant aged 50 living at 23 Alexandra Road, Lambeth. She was living there with her sister, Elizabeth Gregorson another annuitant aged 51 and Margaret’s children: Mary aged 19, Caroline aged 17 and Hume aged 16. The 1891 census shows they were still living there, although Caroline had now married Manley Ogden Hopkins (who was a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and who was born in Canada) and their daughter, Ann, who was born in Mauritius.
By the time of the 1901 census Margaret and Mary had moved to Thornbury to stay at Kyneton House with their cousin, William Osborne Maclaine. William died on 8th September 1906. It seems that following his death Mary was given a life tenancy of The Close House. Margaret died in Thornbury in 1908 aged 82. Mary is listed as ‘the owner’ and occupant of the property in 1910 and 1926 Rate Book.
Mary was associated with a famous set of earrings which ended up being presented in 1968 to the National Library of Australia by Edward Manley Hopkins. The oral tradition within the Gregorson/Greenfield and Hopkins families consistently maintained that the earrings were made from the first gold discovered in New South Wales. A note that accompanied the earrings to the National Library of Australia stated: “Earrings made of the first gold mined in New South Wales, Mrs Macquarie sent the gold home to her niece Mrs. Gregorson of Ardtornish, who had the earrings made.”
The gold for the earrings was allegedly given by Elizabeth Macquarie (1778-1835) to her niece Mary Gregorson née Maclaine (1798-1880) of Lochbuy. It is unknown at what date the gift was made, or when or where the earrings were actually made. The earliest date would be c.1820, to coincide with Mary’s marriage to John Gregorson (1775-1846) of Ardtornish in September 1820. Alternatively it may have been after Elizabeth’s return from Australia to Scotland in 1823/1824. After the death of Mary in 1880 the earrings passed to her daughter Margaret, wife of Hume Greenfield, then to her eldest daughter, Mary Greenfield.
In a letter to the Oban Times on 2 December 1917 Mary Hume Greenfield stated that: “I have in my possession several relics of Mrs. MacQuarrie, among them a pair of long gold ear-rings; set with transparent green stones. The tradition is that they are made of Australian gold, and were presented to her in Sydney. This must have been many years before the great rush to the gold fields; but doubtless gold may have been found in small quantities in very early days…”
The earrings passed to Mary’s nephew, Edward Manley Hopkins who presented them to the National Library of Australia and have since been exhibited in several locations around that country.
Mary Greenfield continued to live at The Close. The Ancestry website shows she travelled to America in 1938 – she is listed as a passenger on the SS Aquitaine returning to Southampton from New York. She was aged 77 at the time. In 1937 and 1938 The Close House was the subject of great interest in the town. Mrs Mundy had arranged to purchase the two fields (Coldstones and The Close fields) and to give these to the town for use as a playing field. However it was discovered that there was a restrictive covenant on the fields preventing their use as a playing field and the covenant was associated with the ownership of The Close House. It was agreed with Mr Jenner Fust (a trustee of the late William Osborne Maclaine) that Mrs Mundy would also buy The Close House for £2000 to enable the restrictive covenant to be removed. The problem was that Mary Greenfield was still living there and had been given a tenancy for her life. In March 1937 the Gazette reported some criticism of the Parish Council in putting pressure on Mary Greenfield and that ‘her health had been affected and she had called in her medical advisor’. The Council responded by reassuring Mary that they did not intend to pursue the acquisition of the house whilst she was still alive and they hoped that she would have a long life. She died on 3rd August 1938 aged 79.
The Parish Council finally got their hands on The Close House on 21st January 1939 when Violet Mundy bought it from the members of the Jenner-Fust family from Hill who were trustees of William Osborne Maclaine. The Council weren’t quite sure what to do with it. They removed the restrictive covenant and started the development of the fields as a playing field. They had several ideas for the house itself including using it as a pavilion and a recreation centre. A public library was also suggested in one newspaper article. However its location far away from the centre of the park reduced its value for some of the uses and no doubt the Council were also concerned about the cost of developing and maintaining the large building for other uses. In the end they decided to sell it.
The Meyers – we understand that in 1938 the house was rented to Guy Meyer. Guy was an officer in the military serving at Falfield.
The Meyers appear to have moved to The Close before 1939 as they appeared there in the special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war. The 1946 electoral registers confirms that the house was occupied by Guy A. K. Meyer and Pamela Meyer. Correspondence regarding the use of the playing fields shows that Brigadier Guy Meyer was occupying The Close House in June 1945. In 1961 Guy bought the property from the Council and he and his family continued to live here.
Guy Albert K Meyer was born in India on 22nd November 1899. He was baptised in Bombay. He was the son of Charles Harwicke Louw Meyer (born in Grahamstown, South Africa) and Mary Scott Cotgrave (born in India). It was a distinguished military family. Charles’s father had been a captain in the old Prussian Army and then came to England and entered service in the British Army. Charles qualified as M.R.C.S in 1883 and after time spent as a surgeon at Guys Hospital he joined the Army became Lieutenant Colonel, serving mostly in Bombay in India.
Guy was educated at Marlborough College in England.
The 1901 census shows Guy was in London with his mother and his grandmother, Rosina Meyer, who was a widow aged 70 born in Cape Colony. We assume that Guy was only visiting and that he returned to India where he also joined the Army.
He married Pamela MacMullen in 1931 in New Dehli when he was 31 and she was 22. Pamela was born 8th January 1909 in Simla.
They appear to have had at least two children whose births were reported in The Times. Wendy was born at Braemar Wrecclesham, Farnham on 18th September 1938. At this time Guy was a Major in the Royal Horse Artillery. Richard Vivian was born 8th July 1941 at The Hanteads, Brickett Wood, Herts. At this time Guy was a Lieutenant Colonel.
We understand that he reached the rank of Brigadier General. During World War II he was Chief of Staff to the 3rd Anti-Aircraft Corps for the A a defences of South West England and Wales.
In 1945 the Western Daily Press announced that from September 1st he was to become Secretary and House Governor of St Monica’s Home of Rest in Bristol.
In 1960 Wendy Meyer married Jonathan Brammall Morley Cooper of Bitton. Jonathan later became a company director of the SS Great Britain project in Bristol.
In 1966 Richard married Julia Jane Streeton from Harpendon. They had two children whose births were registered in Thornbury: Katherine Louise in 1971 and Jacqueline Victoria in 1974.
Guy Meyer died on 2nd January 1989 in Stroud. His widow, Pamela died on 2nd June 1993 aged 83. Both of them were buried in Thornbury Cemetery.
In 1993 the house was bought by Anthony and Joan Petch. Anthony was a director of the agricultural firm, Dalgety, on his way to a business trip in London in September 1997 when he was one of the seven people tragically killed in the Southall rail crash. We understand that the house was sold to Mr & Mrs Evans in 1999 who sold the house in 2004 to the current owners, Fergal and Rosanne Monsell.