81 High Street

We are grateful to Jane Willson for allowing us to see her large collection of deeds that relate to the five adjoining houses in the High Street in Thornbury.  They indicate that for most of the time since being built the row of five houses (73 to 81) were owned by Cossham family and were probably built by them.

We can’t say for sure when each house was built.  All five were listed in the 1840 Tithe Survey.  The deeds of the property show that the five houses were erected on a large piece of property fronting the High Street and extending from Chapel Street to the area where the Railway Station was later built.  Click here to read about the early history of this plot

This plot comprising a messuage, barn, stable, slaughterhouse, garden, orchard and paddock known as the Town Orchard was bought by George Cossham on 1st/2nd October 1782.  It seems unlikely that George Cossham developed this property in his life time as his will of 1785 shows that he left it to be divided into two parts and shared by his sons Richard and Jesse.

We believe that the part George gave to Jesse was used by him, (or his son, George Cossham who inherited the property from Jesse in 1797), to build the houses now known as 73 – 81 High Street.  We don’t know if the original house was used in this development or whether it was demolished.  Click here to read about the Cosshams associated with the house

From George Cossham the houses were passed to his nephew, Edward Wise (alias Wisse) in 1876 and then to Edward’s daughters, Charlotte and Ann Wise (alias Wisse).  Thus the house was owned by the Cosshams or their descendents up to 1938.  Click here to read more about Edward Wise and his daughters

In 1938 the house, together with number 79 High Street, were sold to Clifford Allen Wall and Ronald Francis Wall.  Click here to read more

It is interesting to see that on the external side of the property (visible from the High Street) there is a brick fireplace and flue.  We were puzzled by this as we could find no trace of there ever being a house built on this site.  It has been suggested to us that this may have been a bit of forward planning and when number 81 was built it was envisaged that another house would be attached.  This never happened and when the railway bought the adjoining land for the railway station, the idea was no longer possible.  

For most of this time the house was rented out to tenants.  We are fortunate that the rate books, census records and electoral registers give us a good idea of who lived in the house.

Our earliest knowledge of who lived in the house comes from the 1840 Tithe Survey.  This shows the house was occupied by Elizabeth Jane Ward

Elizabeth Jane Ward

The 1840 Tithe Survey shows the house was Plot 95 owned by George Cossham and occupied by Elizabeth Jane Ward.

We know from the Bristol Mercury that Elizabeth died aged 64 on 11th May 1843 after a short illness.  It adds that she was the daughter of Francis Ward, formerly of Bristol, solicitor.  Francis had married Mary Brickdale in Bristol on 25th April 1775.  We suspect Elizabeth Jane was born in West Monkton Somerset as there is correspondence referred to on the National Archives website in which Francis discusses legal means of preventing the game of fives being played against West Monkton church tower.

The land tax records show that Elizabeth was renting a house at 50 High Street from about 1819.  In 1827 she acquired Vine Cottage, a property in Kington Lane.  As far as we know she never lived there.  The 1840 Tithe Survey shows she let it out Vine Cottage to John Cook.

In 1834 Elizabeth Jane Ward bought part of the garden of George and Alice Knott and erected a schoolroom on this which was known as the British School.  She later converted the schoolroom into two cottages which later became 7 and 9 Bath Road.

At the time of the 1841 Census Elizabeth was living with George Hoare, a schoolmaster in Bull’s Lane (now known as 7 and 9 Bath Road).  She was described as being of independent means aged 61 and born outside of Gloucestershire.  There must be some connection between George Hoare and Elizabeth as she was a witness at his wedding in 1834.

When Miss Ward died a codicil to her will left the property in Bath Road to Francis Rideout Ward but the codicil was not duly executed so it devolved on to her eldest brother Richard Brickdale Ward, Francis’s father.  In 1850 at the time of an indenture explaining this issue both were described as gentlemen of Bristol.  She directed that Vine Cottage  be sold.  Elizabeth Jane was a wealthy woman.  Apart from the property she made bequests of £1000 to her brother Richard Brickdale Ward and £2000 to be shared between her nephews and nieces.  She also referred to other investments and shares.

James and Mary Alsop

The 1851 Census shows that Mary Alsop, aged 27, was living in the house with her two sons, James aged 4 and Henry aged 1.  James, like his mother, was born in Birmingham but Henry was born in Thornbury on December 30th 1850.  The Minutes of the Meetings of the United Reformed Church show that the family moved to Thornbury in 1849.

Mary was the wife of James Alsop, an Independent Dissenting Minister who had become Pastor of the Independent Chapel in Thornbury in 1849.  We know from the records held by the United Reformed Church that James had a difficult time in Thornbury as he left after two years, giving only one week’s notice.  He was away from home at the time of the census lodging at Hungerford.  The records of the Hungerford Congregation Chapel show that James was minister there in 1851.  He was described as a man of extraordinary preaching talent who resigned his charge December 27th 1852.

We know that Mary’s maiden name was ‘Willcox’ as there is a marriage of Mary Willcox to James Alsop in Birmingham in 1843 and they used her maiden name as the middle name of all three sons, including their third son, Alfred Willcox Allsop born in Liverpool in 1860.  A family tree on the Ancestry website says she was born on 2nd August 1823 in Warwickshire to William Willcox and his wife Ann (nee Smith).

The 1851 census shows James was aged 37, born in Bristol.  We also know from this census and the 1871 census that James was blind.

Based upon his age shown in census records James would have been born about 1814.  There is a good chance he may have been the James Alsop who was apprenticed to a printer John Wright in Bristol in  1828.  We understand that that James was the son of Uriah Alsop, a potter of Lawrence Hill.  

Although James was born in Bristol we know that he moved to Birmingham about September 1837.  The Bristol Mercury of December 29th 1838 says that ‘the Rev James Alsop late of this town and who has for the last fifteen months been supplying the pulpit of Livery St Chapel Birmingham has received an unanimous call from the members of the church to the pastoral office.’

The Bristol Mercury of November 2nd 1839 shows that ‘ the Rev James Alsop was solemnly set apart to the work of the Christian Ministry and the Pastorate of the Independent Church in Livery Street Chapel Birmingham’.

In the 1841 census James was listed as a Dissenting Minister living in Caroline Street in Birmingham.

The 1861 census shows them living in Brownlow Hill, Liverpool.  At this time he is described as a bookseller and there is no indication that he was blind.  The 1871 census shows them still living in Liverpool.  James is described as a ‘Retired Unitarian Minister’.

It is hard to assess how ‘retired’ James was.  The Bristol Mercury of November 20th 1880 suggests that James was still preaching as he preached at the Lewins Mead Meeting House in Bristol where he was described as ‘Rev James Alsop of Moseley, Birmingham’.

In 1881 and still described as a ‘retired Dissenting Minister’ he and his wife Mary together with their son James lived in Kings Norton in Worcestershire.

We believe that James’s death was registered in Kings Norton in 1884.  The British Medical Journal of 23rd May 1885 says that he left £250 each to Bristol Dispensary for the Cure of Diseases of the Eye, the Birmingham and Midland Free Hospital and the Birmingham and Midland Hospital for Women.

When his son James married in 1886 he was described as the ‘son of the late Rev James Alsop formerly of Moseley Birmingham.’

Of their sons,

James Willcox Alsop married Constance the second daughter of Charles Grey Mott of Harrow Weald Lodge, Stanmore Middlesex on 25th August 1886.  James was an attorney who went on to achieve great things in Liverpool.  He became President of the Liverpool Law Society, Chairman of Liverpool Education committee and had a school, the Alsop High School named after him and he played a major role in the establishment of Liverpool University.

Henry Willcox Alsop.  Henry was born in Thornbury in 1850.  In  the census of 1871 he was a merchant’s clerk.  Sadly in 1875 he committed suicide in Mrs Parini’s refreshment house in Dale St Liverpool.  According to a detailed account in the Cheshire Mercury he had been living with his aunt in Tabley St Liverpool and fallen in love with a Miss Dempsey whom he hoped to marry.  He poisoned himself after a misunderstanding with her.

Alfred Willcox Alsop was born in 1860.  He died on 12th June 1861 aged fifteen months and was buried in Birmingham.


Joseph Lugg

In 1861 the house appears to be occupied by Joseph Lugg, a 30 year old school master from the National School and his 28 year old wife Sarah Powell Lugg from Thornbury and their daughter, Eleanor Sophia aged 1 month born in Thornbury.  He is listed as living there in the 1862 rate book.was

Joseph was born in Bisley out 1830.  He was the son of George Lugg and his wife, Sarah.  In 1841 George Lugg was a publican in Bisley, but later when Joseph was married, he was described as a farmer.  The 1851 census shows Joseph was attending the York and Ripon Diocesan Training College in York.  After leaving the training college he must have come to Thornbury where he became schoolmaster at the National School.  On 30th August 1855, Joseph married Sarah Powell Hughes in Thornbury.  Sarah was baptised in Thornbury on 12th February 1833.  She was the daughter of Griffiths Hughes and his wife, Mary (nee Powell).

Edmund Cullimore’s biographical writings say that he went to Thornbury National School where the master was Mr. Joseph Lugg.  The fee was 2d per week paid in advance.  This school stood in what is now the Castle Garden adjoining Gas House Lane (Park Road).  Edmund considered Joseph to be ‘the best teacher I was ever under, and during my School days I was under one mistress and five Masters’.  Other extracts from Edmund’s notes explained that ‘Mr. Lugg taught reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, history, poetry and gave lectures in anatomy.  He took a great interest in the scholars’ games, taught cricket, football and hockey in proper season, also marbles and buttons’.  ‘Our master, Mr Lugg, encouraged us in this saving scheme by allowing every boy who wished to bank his pennies to leave school at 3pm.  I very often availed myself of this privilege.’  ‘Another very sensible thing Mr Lugg encouraged was swimming, and boys were encouraged to use the baths, for learning.  A Mr Griffith Hughes (Mr Lugg’s father-in-law) undertook to teach any boy and when the boy could swim the length of the bath (about 20 yards) Mr Hughes presented him with 6d’.

Joseph and Sarah had several children in Thornbury:  John Owen baptised on 20th August 1856 but he only survived one day and was buried on 21st August 1856, Francis Henry baptised on 26th October 1857, Alice Mary baptised on 16th November 1859, Sophia Eleanor baptised on 13th March 1861 and Arthur Joseph baptised on 19th July 1862.

From 1857 to 1863 he was advertising that he was the agent in Thornbury for an insurance company, The Life Association of Scotland.

By about 1865 Joseph had moved to Hutton Henry, near Monk Hesledon in County Durham.  The 1871 census shows he was the School Master at Rodbridge School which at the time of the census had 31 boarding scholars.  Joseph and Sarah had had two further sons since leaving Thornbury – Cuthbert Armstrong born in 1865 and Edgar Llewellyn born in 1869.

A newspaper “The Newcastle Courant” advertised the home of Joseph Lugg on October 4th 1872 as a “dwelling house, garden and pleasure grounds called Rodbridge House containing 2A 3R 31P in the occupation of Mr Joseph Lugg.”

By the 1881 census Joseph had moved to another private boarding school nearby at Trimdon House, Fishburn.  Two of their children were now working in the school – Alice as a wardrobe keeper and Eleanor as a music teacher.  Arthur was working as an apprentice tailor.  On 4th November 1884 their daughter, Alice, of Trimdon House married John Hodgson Tinniswood the son of Dr George Tinniswood.  The marriage took place in Rangoon.

The 1891 census shows Joseph and Sarah had moved again – this time to Penarth in Wales.  The Western Mail of August 4th 1887 announced the opening of a Preparatory School for Boys at Hasland House 18 Westbourne Road Penarth by Joseph Lugg.  The census shows Joseph as the master at a Preparatory School living at 7 Victoria Road.  We are not sure if the school was in his house or still at Westbourne Road as there are several children boarding with Joseph in his house in Victoria Road.

Of their children, Alice now married with two children was living with them as was Edgar who was working a mariner, first mate.  Joseph died in Penarth in 1893 aged 62.  The 1901 census shows Sarah carried on living in Penarth and she was now at 34 Stanwell Road.  She is described as ‘living on her own means’.  She died there in 1909 aged 76.  

The Jordans

The 1867 and 1869 rate books and 1871 census show Robert Jordan living in 81 High Street.  Robert and his wife, Sarah, had moved to Thornbury to become the first master and mistress at the new Council School which was opened in 1862.  By 1876 the Jordans had moved to 11 Pullins Green.  Click here to read more

Joseph Pitman

The 1880 rate book and the 1881 census show that the next occupant of the house was Joseph Pitman.  The census shows Joseph was a farmer of 17 acres, aged 55.  He was living with his wife, Caroline aged 52 from Evercreech and children: Annie Green Pitman aged 24, born in West Bradley, Somerset, Alberta Letitia aged 22 born in Evercreech and Herbert J aged 17 born in Doulting, Somerset.  They also had one visitor, Rowland Little, an inland revenue officer aged 22 from Portishead.

Joseph was born about 1826, the son of George Pitman, a cordwainer and his wife, Ann.  The 1841 census shows the family living in North Cadbury, Somerset and young Joseph had started work with his father as a cordwainer.  By the 1851 census he had become a schoolmaster and was lodging at Ditchet, Somerset.  In 1855 Joseph married Caroline Green.  She was born about 1829 in Evercreech, the daughter of John Green, a farmer and his wife, Ann (nee Cary).

The 1861 census shows Joseph and Caroline living in Chesterblade near Evercreech.  Joseph had become a farmer of 63 acres, but it was also noted that he was a Wesleyan Local Preacher.  By this time they had two children: Annie Green Pitman aged 4 and Alberta Letitia aged 2.  In 1867 an account of the Gloucestershire Agricultural Show gives Joseph Pitman’s address as Pound House Farm Berkeley.  The 1871 census shows the Pitmans had moved to Falfield near Thornbury.  Joseph now had a farm of 203 acres employing 3 men and 2 women.  They had two children living with them, Alberta and a son, Herbert J who was aged 7.  In 1878 Joseph chaired a meeting in the British School to consider the question of supporting some schools by voluntary subscription.  In 1880 he was described in a newspaper article as the circuit steward of the Wesleyan School.  We believe this refers to the Sunday School.

So by 1880 the Pitmans had moved into the town of Thornbury.  Before living in 81 High Street they may have lived in 45 High Street as the 1880 rate book shows Joseph’s name as a tenant there.  However in this entry the name is crossed through which normally indicates a person has moved elsewhere.  They didn’t stay in 81 High Street long.  There is no sign of them in the 1885 rate book.  On 8th May 1886 an auction was announced of property in and around Charfield and Joseph Pitman “of Charfield” was the person who would show people grazing land near Charfield station.

Their daughter, Annie, married in the Clifton area of Bristol in 1884.  Alberta Letticia, Joseph’s second daughter married George Boulton of Iron Acton at Victoria Chapel Clifton on November 30th 1888.  Joseph Pitman was said to be “of Charfield.”  On October 20th 1890 at the Police Court in Wotton under Edge Joseph Pitman of Charfield appeared on an adjourned summons for non payment of a poor rate, the case having been adjourned to allow Mr Pitman to appeal to the Assessment Committee of Thornbury Union.  The assessment had been higher than the rent paid.  Future assessments would be lowered but the committee declined to make this decrease retrospective.  Joseph Pitman was made to pay the charge with costs and declined his right to appeal.

The 1891 census shows Joseph as a retired farmer aged 65 living with Caroline at Park House Farm, Charfield.  The 1901 census shows the Pitmans had returned to Somerset, but Joseph was in the Shepton Mallett Workhouse where he was described as ‘Feeble Minded’.  It is interesting to note that his occupation was still being referred to as ‘School Master’.  Caroline at this time was living in Holton, near Wincanton, Somerset.  She was described as ‘living on her own means’ aged 72 and living with her sister, Mary L Green aged 71.

Joseph died in 1901 aged 74.  Caroline died on 13th October 1913 aged 84.  Her address was Prospect Place, North Cheriton which is where her daughter, Alberta, had settled with her husband, George Boulton, a corn merchant.


John Evomy Phelps

The 1885 rate book shows that the house was then occupied by John Phelps.  He didn’t stay here long, by 1887 he had moved further down the High Street.  John was a medical assistant to Dr E. M. Grace and became well known in Thornbury for his ‘doctoring’ and involvement in the town sports.  Click here to read more


Henry James Abbott

The 1887 and 1890 Rate Books show that Henry James Abbott was the tenant of the house. In the 1891 census Henry was living with his family at 77 High Street.  Click here to read more


Mark Savery

The 1891 census shows the house occupied by Mark Savery aged 60 and his wife Louisa aged 54.  Mark was a retired ironmonger having established the ironmongery business which is still situated on The Plain.   They didn’t live here long and by 1894 they had moved by to 13 The Plain.  Click here to read more


The Alpasses

The 1899 rate book shows that Maria Alpass was renting the house.  By the 1901 census Maria had moved to 18 Gloucester Road and her sister-in-law, Emma Alpass, was living in the house.  It is possible that Emma was sharing the house with Maria in 1899 as the rate books normally only show the name of one of the occupants.  Click here to read about Maria

The 1901 census shows that Emma Alpass was a widow aged 75 who was ‘living on her own means’.  She was living with her daughters, Amy Elizabeth aged 40 born in Thornbury and grand-daughter, Amy Mabel aged 5 who was born in Islington.

Emma was baptised in Berkeley on 31st October 1824, the daughter of James Clark, a butcher, and his wife, Elizabeth.  In 1841 James was running a grocers’ shop in the High Street of Berkeley.  He had died by the 1851 census which shows Elizabeth was running the grocers and bakers.  On 1st June 1853 Emma married Thomas Alpass in Berkeley.  Thomas was a farmer at Shepperdine.  He was born about 1813 in Berkeley and he was the son of John Alpass, a farmer.

In the 1861 census Thomas and Emma were farming 56 acres in Oldbury, possibly in Shepperdine.  They had one child, Amy Elizabeth who was born about 1859.  The Bristol Mercury has a little advert in 1865 showing ‘Mr Alpass of Shepperdine’ was selling ‘1000 gallons of Oldbury cider of first rate quality’.  The 1881 census shows that they were farming 50 acres at Shepperdine.  Amy Elizabeth was not at home, but their other child, Seymour was.  He was baptised at Thornbury on 12th November 1862.  By the 1891 census they had moved to Park Farm, Peddington, near Ham, Berkeley.  Both Amy and Seymour with living with their parents and so was Martha, Seymour’s wife, who was the daughter of Henry Ayris, a huntsman.

Thomas Alpass died on 4th February 1892.  By the time of the 1901 census Emma had moved to Thornbury to live at 81 High Street.  She was still living there in the 1905 according to the rate book of that year, but we believe she moved to Shen in Gloucester Road when her daughter, Amy Elizabeth married Edmund Cullimore.

She died aged 83 on 4th March 1909.  Her address in the probate record was Shen.  There is a memorial in the Methodist Church in the High Street in Thornbury “To the Glory of God and in Cherished Memory of Emma Alpass and her daughter Amy Elizabeth Cullimore.  Both of whom were rich toward God and lived their lives unto the Praise of His Glory.”  


Francis Grace

The 1907 rate book shows the name of Francis Grace as tenant.  Frances was the son of Dr Edward Mills Grace, physician and surgeon, and his wife, Annie.  We suspect that he was living here just before his marriage to Helen Garfield Culimore in 1907 and that after the wedding the settled in their new home at West Shen, Gloucester Road.  Click here to read more  

Martha Saniger

The 1910 rate book and 1911 census show that Martha Saniger lived here.  The census shows that she was a single lady aged 53 living off private means and born in Shepperdine.  Martha later moved to 20 Gloucester Road – click here to read more


Agnes Ann

Agnes Ann was living in 81 High Street from 1915 to 1931.

Agnes Alexandra Ann was born in 1863, the daughter of Joseph Ann and his wife, Charlotte (nee Pearce).   The 1871 Census shows Joseph was a plasterer and painter employing 7 men and 4 boys.   The family were living in Rudgeway.  The 1881 census shows Agnes was attending a Ladies School at St Mathews Lodge, St Mathews Road, Cotham in Bristol.

The 1901 census shows Agnes was running a private school in 1 Silver Street.  She was described as a governess and teacher of music.  We are not sure where Ann was during the early 1900’s.  The 1905 and 1910 rate books do not show she was living in Silver Street.  The log books of the Thornbury Council School show Miss Ann as a teacher there in the early 1900’s.  On June 2nd 1908 ‘Miss Ann having given notice terminated her employment as assistant after 6 years work she leaves on account of ill health’.

The 1911 census shows Agnes was a visitor staying with Sidney Webb, a painter and house decorator in Alveston.  Agnes was described as being a schoolmistress and music teacher aged 43.  As Sidney’s wife, Emma Ann Webb was a schoolmistress and music teacher aged 60, it is possible that Agnes was helping in her school.  The 1912 Prewetts Directory lists Agnes as running the preparatory school in Silver Street.

The 1916 Prewett’s Street Directory shows that Agnes was running a Preparatory School at her home in 81 High Street.  The electoral registers show she remained here until at least 1931.  Her death was registered in Bristol in 1935 aged 73.


Frank Alfred & Rosina Blanche Pennington

The 1931 electoral register shows Frank and Rosina Pennington in the High Street.  We know from a legal document relating to the houses dated 1938 that they were then living in this house.

Frank was born in Clifton on 16th November 1876.  He was the son of Benjamin Pennington and his wife, Louisa (nee Attwell).  In 1891 and 1901 they were living at The Pilgrim Tavern, 88 Pennywell Road.  Benjamin was a beer and wine retailer.  By 1901 Frank was working as a clerk in a clothing establishment.  In 1911 Frank was a wine and spirit merchant living with his parents at 104 Kennington Avenue, Stapleton, Bristol.

In 1916 Frank married Rosina Blanche Wescombe.  Rosina was born on 16th January 1887, the daughter of James Henry Wescombe and his wife, Sarah (nee Hurley) from Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset.  In 1891 James was a gardener living at 27 Stanley Road, Westbury.  In 1901 they were living at 27 Stanley Road but James was now using the name of ‘Henry’ and he was working as a carpenter.  In 1911 the family were living at 22 Ashley Down Road, Bristol and Rosina was described as a dressmaker.

The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows that Frank was then employed as a traveller for a printing business.  The Penningtons were sharing the house (referred to as 1 High Street) with George Millard (see below).

Frank died in 1953 aged 76.  Rosina carried on living at 81 High Street, occasionally sharing the house with other people.  She died in 1975 aged 88.


George Reginald Millard

George ‘Reg’ Millard

The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows that the Penningtons were sharing the house (referred to as 1 High Street) with George Millard.  A letter dated 1946 also gives his address as ‘1 High Street’.  (Note – at this time the houses at the top of the High Street used numbers starting from the far end and thus 1 High Street was the house we now know as 81 High Street.)  We know from the 1946 electoral register that the Penningtons (see above) were listed under that same address so assume that George may sharied their property during this period.

George was born Cheddar on 11th April 1903, the son of George Augustus and Alice Millard.  His father was a highway surveyor in Axminster in 1911.  George jnr came to Thornbury in 1929 to take up the post of highway surveyor for the Rural District Council.  He had previously been a surveyor in Newent RDC.  He carried on as highway surveyor for Thornbury until the responsibility was taken over by the County Council.  At the outbreak of War George became the local Fuel Overseer and Executive Officer of Thornbury Food Control Committee.  He had been involved with the Thornbury Fire Brigade since 1933 and had been Fire Commandant responsible for organising the fire service in the Thornbury Rural Area.  He resigned in 1942 shortly after the formation of the National Fire Service but remained head of the Fire Guards and became Deputy ARP Sub-Controller.  He was engineer to the South Gloucestershire Internal Drainage Board and vice-chairman of the Thornbury and District National Savings Committee and a member of Thornbury Parish Council.  In recognition of his efforts he was awarded an M.B.E. in the New Year’s Honours.

George was Chairman of the Parish Council from 1948 to 1952.  He died in 1952 aged 49.  He was cremated and his ashes scattered in Thornbury Cemetery on 24th July 1952.

In more recent times the house has been occupied by several families including, Anthea and David Sturgess and Valerie Hall.