Richard Ellis traded in a shop on the High Street. He had various interests, mainly as a chemist and druggist, but he is also listed in the trade directories as a grocer, tea dealer, stationer, book-binder and stamp distributor.
Richard was born in London about 1810. He moved west and married Jane House in Thornbury on 31st October 1835. Jane was the daughter of George Salisbury of Crossways. Richard and Jane had two sons: Walter baptised on 18th December 1842 and Charles Edward baptised on 3rd December 1848.
The 1841 and 1851 censuses show Richard and Jane living further down the High Street, at the property later known as 31 High Street. An indenture dated 3rd May 1845 shows Richard bought the property previously owned by Thomas Mowatt for £500 but it included 43 High Street which became his shop and home. It is not clear what other properties were included in this transaction.
Richard Ellis is noted as the distributor of stamps in trade directories from 1849 to 1856, combined with his main occupation as chemist and druggist. The official post office records of 1867 show Richard Ellis as distributor when it was noted that he collected £806 3s 8d in revenue during the year. Click here to read more about the Post Office
The 1859 Rate Book shows Richard living at 43 High Street. The 1861 census shows Richard was a shopkeeper and distributor of stamps aged 51. He was living with Jane aged 48 and their sons, Walter an apprentice aged 17 and Charles E aged 12. The 1871 census shows Richard and Jane were still there, with their son, Charles Edward. They were sharing the house with a servant, Caroline Munday aged 12 from Berkeley and Robert Gilbert Elwood a curate of Thornbury aged 23 from a place near Chester.
A Society of Thornbury Folk Bulletin dated 1954 includes transcriptions of three adverts published in 1869. One is for ‘The Thornbury Perfume’ which was described as ‘the exquisite delicate perfume not contains only the richness of choicest flowers, but is pre-eminent for its lasting qualities even remaining on the handkerchief after it has been washed. Prepared by Richard Ellis, M.P.S. Pharmaceutical Chemist, Thornbury‘.
A second advert appears to refer Richard’s son as ‘Edward C. Ellis, operating dentist and chemist. Teeth stopped, scaled and extracted. E.C.E. has added to his surgery the principal improvements in every branch of operating dentistry‘.
There is a third advert for ‘Establishment for Young Ladies, High Street, Thornbury conducted by Mrs W. Ellis‘. Her terms were (all per annum) Board and instruction 16 guineas, Weekly boarders 13 guineas, Daily pupils three guineas, Daily pupils under 7 years of age two guineas, music and french each four guineas and Drawing, Singing and Dancing three guineas each. Mrs W. Ellis was the wife of Richard’s son, Walter – click here to read more.
Richard died on 10th March 1873 aged 66. His last will and testament dated 30th January 1873 shows that Richard owned the house and shop in which they lived in the High Street, a house in Soapers Lane and the two houses in the Back Street (12 and 14 St Mary Street). The documents associated with the will are a bit confusing. It appears that after allowing his wife, Jane, to use the properties during her lifetime, he left his business and property on the High Street and the cottage in Soapers Lane to his son, Charles Edward, and the two houses in the Back Street to his son, Walter.
Charles Edward Ellis was also a chemist and druggist, but in December 1874 he became bankrupt and the business was liquidated. Various transactions took place during 1874 and 1879 which seem to result in Walter regaining ownership of the various properties, although we are not sure about the exact details. Jane Ellis is shown as the owner of the property in the Rate Books up to and including 1890. In 1881 Jane is living in the house on the High Street – she is shown as being an agent for ‘Gibbey & Co’. Walter is also living there and he seems to be running the chemist shop. He is also a widower now and he has his own son, Walter living with them. In 1881 Charles had moved to Bristol with his wife and family. He is working there as a ‘dispenser’. The Bristol Mercury 22nd August 1884 reports that ‘the shop beer, wine and spirit license, lately held by Mrs Jane Ellis of the High Street, Thornbury was ordered to be removed to the premises of the applicant, Mr Thomas Anstey in High Street, Thornbury‘.
By 1891 Charles Edward was running the business in the High Street, Thornbury as a chemist and dentist and he was living with his wife, Janet Sarah, a schoolmistress from Cullompton in Devon, and their children. The obituary of her death in 1920 explained that Janet was the headmistress of the Infants Department of the Council School which at the time she was headmistress was using the old Quaker meeting hall in St John Street.
Charles’s mother Jane was also still living in the High Street house. Walter had moved to lodgings at 3 Hannah Street, Cardiff where he was working as a chemist. He died at Blakeney in the Forest of Dean on May 12th 1898 aged 54.
We know that the Ellis’s shop and dwelling house at 43 High Street and the two houses on St Mary Street were put up for sale on 26th October 1892. The High Street property was described as:
‘The valuable double fronted lofty shop with large dwelling house comprising ten rooms, offices, two extensive dry cellars, stable and good coach house, garden and yard with back entrance from Soapers Lane for many years occupied by Mr Ellis, chemist and druggist‘.
On 22nd December 1892 Jane Ellis agreed to sell the property at 43 High Street to William Harris Ponting for £600. This included the coachhouse and stables with access from Soapers Lane. The two houses on St Mary Street were sold to William, Joseph and Matilda Ogborn for £109.
The 1894 Rate Book lists Edward Charles Ellis as the occupant of 48 High Street. By 1901 Jane had moved with Charles and his family to Roath, near Cardiff where Charles is a dental surgeon. Jane died there on 8th December 1901 aged 88. Her obituary in the Gazette said that she was a very fine vocalist and had originated a series of very successful concerts. Her funeral although in Cardiff not Thornbury was attended by many of her former pupils and other members of the “scholastic profession”. Flowers gathered in Thornbury were also presented at the funeral.