According to the deeds of this High Street property, John Bedggood re-developed the property about 1800. John erected one house in place of the two houses which were described in a document dated 1806 as being ‘ancient and decayed‘. It is not possible to deduce from the information available whether the two older buildings were converted into the new house or whether the two buildings were pulled down before the new one erected.
We are grateful to Barrie and Ann Marie Dagless for showing us around their house and for drawing to our attention to several very interesting features of the house which they found when they began modernising the property which they bought in 2006. Some of these may provide clues as to the earlier history of the house.
The Bones – the photo on the right shows a collection of bones and other items were found under the floorboards in the corner of the room at the front of the house. When they were shown to the experts at Thornbury Museum it was felt that the bones were animal bones, probably belonging to cats or dogs. There was no explanation of why they were found in a pile in that location.
Amongst the other items found with the bones, there was one interesting item. We are told it was thought to be a decorated bone handle of a knife, possibly made of ivory, and dating from the 16th or 17th Century.
The Cistern – like a lot of houses in the old part of Thornbury the house had a cistern which provided a supply of soft water. Fortunately the cistern in this house is still visible and the Daglesses have drained it and been inside it.
The cistern was a large underground water tank lined with brickwork. It is approximately 6 ft deep, 7 feet long and 5 ft wide. Water was collected from the roof and directed to the cistern via a downpipe. The houses further up the street also had cisterns but we have had unconfirmed reports that these have been filled in. When they were all being used, it is likely that the excess water from the top cistern overflowed down to the lower cisterns. There appears to be an overflow system from the cistern at number 69, although it is not clear where the excess water went.
Wall Tablet – the sandstone tablet shown in the photo on the left has the faded, but it is just possible to read the inscription which says ‘William Shield built this Wall 1811’. Click on the photo to see a larger image.
The Bee Bole – there is an unusual cavity built into the wall of the garden on the northward side. It is very similar to photos we have seen of bee boles. A bee bole is a cavity in a wall into which a receptacle (called a skep) was placed to encourage bees to make a hive. The bee bole helped to keep the wind and rain away from the skep and the bees living inside.
We know from the deeds that the garden was adjacent to the site of the old ‘Town Orchard’ and that the sale notice for the house dated 1883 shows that the garden was planted with fruit trees.
The Cellar – the sales notice of 1883 describes the house in some detail. It is clear from the previous occupant being the late Sarah Shield and the description of the features that the notice is referring to the building now known as 69 High Street. However the notice indicates that the house had a cellar. There is no cellar in house in 2010 and no evidence that a cellar that may have been filled in.
In other houses in the Town the cellar is normally positioned at the front of the house to allow for coal to be delivered directly into the house from the street or front garden. In the case of number 69, there are two front rooms, one with the floor timbers laid directly on to ground, the other has only a small space between the ground and the timber floor. There is a concrete floor in the room at the rear of the house.
The ‘Flying Freehold‘ – the white door on the right in the photo shown alongside belongs to the owners of number 69 (which is the green coloured house on the extreme right of the photo). The door provides access to a corridor leading to the rear of the house. The rest of the white coloured house, apart from the door and corridor, is a separate building owned by the Town Council which is known as ‘Miss Saise’s Cottage.
This is a very unusual arrangement and there is evidence on old maps to show that it has been established for a long time and it is mentioned on the sales notice dated 1883. We are surprised however to see that there is no mention of side entrance in the deeds of number 69.
In Thornbury we know of at least two other places with this sort of arrangement. In one case, it was to allow people living in a row of houses to access a common source of water in the rear. This doesn’t seem to be the reason in the case of number 69. In the other case it was built when the two houses were owned by the same person to provide a more convenient access to one house. There was a time in the early 1700’s when both the High Street properties were owned by John Hughes. Another possible explanation is given below under ‘The Remains of a Stone Wall’.
The Remains of a Stone Wall – when clearing away a large section of top soil from their back garden in order to order a level patio area, the owners uncovered the remains of a stone wall crossing almost from one side of the garden to the other.
We are not experts at dating structures, but it seemed a very old construction. It is tempting to speculate that these were part of the two ancient and decayed houses referred to in the document of 1806. Taking this thought further, it is possible that the two houses were arranged one behind the other and that the side entrance (referred to above) was to allow access to a small court between the two houses. We know that courts with multiple tenements existed in several parts of the town including Castle Street and St Mary Street.