The Rippe family played an important role in the history of Thornbury in the 16th century. They owned a considerable amount of property, some of which they left for the benefit of the poor of the town. They also happen to have the two oldest gravestones still visible in St Mary’s Church in modern times. The photos on the right show the inscriptions on the stones relating to William Rippe buried in 1578 and his son, Nicholas, in 1579.
The main benefactor to the poor of Thornbury was Katherine Rippe, whose name is sometimes written as Catherine in some of the old records. Katherine Morgan married William Rippe in Thornbury on 17th May 1562 and they had at least one son, Nicholas, who was baptised on 20th May 1563.
William Rippe was a tanner. He died and was buried on 2nd May 1578. He wrote his last will and testament on 29th April 1578. He left various properties: he left three properties to Dorothy Veale, the daughter of William Veale, on the condition that she married William’s son, Nicholas ‘if the holy church will permit the same’. This condition might mean that Nicholas and Dorothy were cousins and thus needed the Church’s permission or it might because they were so very young. The property left to Dorothy was a house and land in Rockhampton (then called Rockington), a house with land in Thornbury (which was described as being late in the tenure of Thomas Search and another tenement in Thornbury occupied by ‘one Lewes the tinker’.
William left for the use of his wife, Katherine, during her lifetime a piece of customary pasture land called ‘Shouley’ (some times spelt Shewley) which was about 3 acres in the parish of Thornbury which William was using himself. The property was left to their son, Nicholas if Katherine should remarry unless Katherine chose to pay Nicholas £20 before she married. If she didn’t marry the property was left to Nicholas after her death. Nicholas wasn’t left any real estate in the will, but he was to be given a lot of William’s furniture described in some detail in the will. He was also to share with his mother, the ‘goods, chattels and plate, jewels money and household stuff’. William left each of his godchildren 12 pence, and the same amount to the children of Thomas More and John Godfrey and to each of his household servants. William also left 40 shillings to be distributed amongst the poor people of Thornbury by his executors.
Nicholas Rippe, William and Katherine’s son, pre-deceased Katherine. His last will was written on 6th January 1578 (remember that the old Julian calendar year started in March, so Nicholas’s will written in January 1578 would have been after the will written in April 1578 by his father). The will shows that Nicholas was able to marry Dorothy Veale, but that he was sick at the time of writing the will. Nicholas was buried on 20th January 1580. The will was proved on 17th May 1581 leaving a surprisingly large number of properties for someone only 15 or 16. It is not yet clear to us how he had acquired so much property as his father had not left him any in his will. We assume Nicholas may have inherited it from other family members or he may have been given to him by his father before his death.
Nicholas left Dorothy £200. He also left to her and her heirs one house situate in ‘High Street between a tenement of one John Hilpe in the north side and a tenement of one Slymbridge on the south side’ and another house which ‘lieth at St John’s Cross and abutteth on the highway on the north side unto the house of one Thomas Jones on the south side’. If Dorothy died without issue then these properties were left to his uncle Thomas Baker and his heirs. Nicholas also left Dorothy a half share of some copyhold land in Rockhampton and in Hill (his mother was left the other half share).
Nicholas also left his mother, Katherine, the house in Thornbury where she was living and another house in St Mary Street which ‘abbutteth upon the alms house on the one part and the street on the other part’.
Nicholas made several financial bequests. He left the Parish Church of Thornbury 20/-, and a moiety of 40/- per year to the poor of the Parish to be paid out of the lands at Rockington (now Rockhampton). To his uncles, Thomas Baker John Baker and John Lynke, he left 20/- each, to his ‘sisters’ Catherine Mary and Margaret 5/6 each, to each of his servants he left 12 pence each and to each of his three godchildren he left an elve pence (we believe this was an old form of the word eleven). He left his gun to his ‘brother’, George Webbe and his rapier to Nicholas Veale.
We don’t think that the above reference to sisters and brother means that they were blood relatives as they were not referred to in the wills of William nor Katherine. Nicholas made his mother his sole executrix and made his father in law Mr William Veale, gentleman and Thomas Baker his uncle his overseers of the will and for their pains to be taken he gave both of them an angel in gold.
Katherine Rippe wrote her last will and testament on 2nd August 1594. She was buried on 15th November 1594. We are grateful to Tina Kelly for transcribing the original will and to Roger Howell for interpreting the more confusing parts of the document and for sending us some details of early Rippe parish records. The will shows Katherine had become a major property owner in the Town. It makes no mention of Katherine having any surviving children. Katherine is remembered most for her efforts to help the poor people of Thornbury, particularly for two particular bequests :
She arranged to for one property, her Tan House in the Back Street (St Mary Street) with the backside adjoining to her nephew, Nicholas Baker, subject to him and subsequent owners paying yearly 3 shillings and four pence each year to the Mayor of Thornbury towards the maintenance of the Almes House. We have been able to identify the rough location of the Tan House from a description of the property written by George Rolph, the then Mayor of Thornbury in 1790. In the accounts book he recorded that the 3/4 was still be paid and that in 1790 it was received from the Overseers of the Poor out of a house in the Back Street (later known as St Mary Street) then the Parish Workhouse. We know from the 1840 Tithe Map that the old workhouse was located in the area adjoining the Plough (now used as The Mumtaz restaurant). We suspect that the tan house was the building later known as a malthouse which was used as a part of Thornbury Motors in the 1960s before it was demolished.
She left a property to her kinsman Maurice Baker and John Segar of Hassell (now Lower Hazel) and to their heirs and to the poor people of Thornbury. This property was ‘the Corner House’ and backside thereto belonging adjoining to her Bruerne. The building was to be used as an almshouse. Katherine directed that the Mayor and the masters of the town would not put out the poor that were then there during their lives and they would permit a person named Margaret Thomas to dwell in the almshouse during her life in consideration that Katherine had built the almshouse. This property appears to have been located on the corner of St Mary Street and The Plain on the west side. When George Rolph entered the receipt of rental income in the Mayors Accounts of 1790 there were two entries: ‘Received of John Search a years chief rent due Michaelmas last for the house and garden (formerly two messuages) in his occupation near Bells Cross 6d’ and ‘Received of Ann Williams for a year’s chief rent due for a house and garden in the lower part of the back street at the end the malt house of George Rolph 6d. He added ‘These last above mentioned premises were the gift and donation of Katherine Rippe and were heretofore four small messuages and called the upper almshouse’.
Katherine made several other bequests of property to members of her family. The parish records show that Katherine also had an awful lot of godchildren, some of them being her nephews and nieces. There were 43 in total! Some of these were mentioned in the will:
To her nephew Nicholas Baker and his heirs she left the house in which she was then living with the garden, orchard and barn near the house and a stable near ‘Raphe Curryers’. She also left Nicholas the house in which Nicholas was then living adjoining the Tanne House. Both the Tanne House and the house adjoining were left Nicholas on condition that he gave an assurance within 3 months of Katherine’s death that he would allow his brother, William Baker to use the properties and for their brother, Maurice to enjoy the houses for 3 months following her death. There is reference in the will to William’s guardian so we assume he was still a young person. If Nicholas failed to comply, the houses were left to William Baker.
To her nephew, William Baker and his heirs she left the house occupied by Henry Grainger with the backside and garden and the Little Leasowe adjoining to Sherman’s ground on ‘Colly Streete Lane’ (now Gloucester Road). She also left William her lease of ‘the Pittye Hayes’.
To her ‘kinsman’ William Lynke and his heirs she left the Porch House with the backside and garden adjoining which she had lately purchased. If William failed to have any children then the property was left to Katherine’s kinswoman, Alice Eddys and her heirs. We believe this property was the one which used to known by the name of Porch House on The Plain (see 10 & 11 The Plain), rather than the one presently known as Porch House in Castle Street (see 11 Castle Street).
To her nephew Maurice Baker and his heirs she left the house occupied by Thomas Russell in Thornbury with the outhouses, stable, backside and garden.
To her ‘kinsman’ George Baker and his heirs she left the house and garden in Thornbury occupied by Robert Jones, taylor.
To her nephew John Baker and his heirs she left the house, garden, orchard and barn in Thornbury occupied by Thomas Holbrooke.
Katherine left to her ‘goddaughter Katherine Eddis (or Eddys) her ‘house and grounds that she had bought of Wigmore’. It was directed that, because Katherine (the god-daughter) was still young, her father James Eddis should have the property in her minority and pay Katherine’s executor 40/- each year for the use of Katherine Eddis to be paid to her on her marriage or at the age 18. If the god-daughter was to die before receiving the money, it was be shared equally by her mother and sister, Elizabeth Eddis. We believe that this property was the one which became known as Wigmore House, 10 Castle Street.
She left Elizabeth Eddis (daughter of James Eddis and sister to the Katherine mentioned above) and to her heirs her house near the place where St John’s Crosse did stand adjoining to Thomas Jones’ Barne.
She also left another property referred to as her ‘Bruerne with the appurtenances and all the stuffe thereto belonging’. This was left to Elizabeth Moore and her heirs. We don’t yet know of the relationship between Katherine and Elizabeth.
Katherine also made a number of bequests of money and her belongings, mainly to members of her family and her servants. Nicholas Baker, William Lyncke, William Baker, Maurice Baker, George Baker, John Baker, Alice Eddis, Agnes Segar, Elizabeth Baker, Elizabeth Moore and Bridgett Stote were specifically listed as being children of Katherine’s five brothers and her sister’s son. However she also left money to James Eddis, Alice Segar and Elizabeth Eddis.
Katherine’s will was proved in London on 16th November 1594. It appears that following Katherine’s death there were no other Rippes in the Thornbury area and the name died out.