We don’t have any good photos of these houses. We only have the one shown above in which we believe the two houses on the right show numbers 11 and 13 Rock Street. We would like someone to confirm this!
Use the links on the sidebar on the left to read about the OCCUPANTS of individual houses.
The plan on the right dated 1880 shows the area around the junction of Outer Back Street (now known as Rock Street) and Chapel Street. We have added the houses later given to the houses in the early 1950’s when house numbering was introduced.
The earliest record we have seen relating to these houses is an indenture dated 1822 which also refers to the Cock Inn on the High Street. This refers to the property situated on what was then called Nelme Street adjoining the Severn Stars. It was described as ‘formerly a barn and stable afterwards used as a workshop’ which had been converted ‘lately’ by the owner, William Cowley, into ‘four messuages or tenements and necessary house adjoining and now occupied therewith in the several tenures of Daniel Underhill, Jane Walker, Hester Cossham and Henry Liddiatt’. The description implies that there was one toilet (or necessary house) shared by the four houses. The dimensions of the 4 properties were in length about sixty one feet and in depth next to the Seven Stars about eighteen feet and a half and in depth next to the adjoining property on the north about sixteen feet. We believe that these 4 properties may refer to the ones which became known as 13 to 19 Rock Street.
The indenture shows the property was formerly part of the messuage and garden on the north and eastwards side, which were the estate and inheritance of Ralph Grove on whose death the property descended to Kingsmill Grove the younger, his nephew and heir-at-law, who sold and conveyed the property to William Cowley. The property referred to as being on the north and east sides was ‘late of Richard Collins and Ann his wife, but now of a person called Allen (whose forename was omitted from the indenture), late in the occupation of James Saunders, but now of Charles Cossham’. We don’t know much about Richard and Ann Collins apart from them being listed as living in Thornbury in the 1780 – 1784 land tax records. We believe this property is possibly the one which became known as 11 Rock Street.
James and Mary Allen – we have seen land tax records show that James Allen owned the property from 1800 up to 1814. In James’s will dated 1817 he referred to this property as ‘all that messuage or dwelling house wherein Richard Collins deceased heretofore inhabited and Benjamin Baylis afterwards dwelt and Betty Holland? since dwelt James Screen lately inhabited and Thomas Screen doth now dwell with the outlet garden and appurtenances thereto adjoining and belonging situate in the Borough of Thornbury aforesaid and now in the occupation of the said Thomas Screen as my tenant thereof and which I purchased of Susannah Nelmes unto my said wife Mary Allen for and during the term of her natural life and from and immediately after her decease then I give and devise the same unto my said daughter Mary Allen and her heirs for ever’.
The 1819 land tax record shows that Mary Allen was the owner of the property and she continues to be listed up to the last record we have seen in 1832. From this information we suspect that James was the yeoman farmer who lived in Morton who died on 4th March 1817 aged 76. Mary died on 4th March 1835 aged 91. We suspect that this was the James Allen who married Mary Wherrett on 9th May 1771. They had a son, James, born on 22nd October 1771, Mary born on 3rd March 1774, Sarah born on 3rd July 1778, Anne born on 2nd October 1782, Ester born on 6th July 1785 and John born on 20 February 1787.
There are two other indentures relating to the property. The first in 1833 lists the occupants of the four houses as Richard O’Canty, Charity Stagg, John Cullimore and Hester Pritchard. The other dated 18th October 1839 appears to show the houses (along with the Cock which had been demolished and rebuilt as The New Inn) were then owned by James Martin Baxter and three of the houses were occupied by John Lester, Abraham Gale and Joseph Lippiatt.
In the 1840 Tithe Survey, this section of road was covered by Plot 119 on which there seems to be three houses, but the description refers only to two: a cottage and garden owned by Edward Doward and occupied by John Lester and cottage owned by Edward Doward and occupied by Abraham Gill (whom we think to be Abraham Gale). The buildings shown on the 1840 plan appear to have had the same outline as the five buildings that were there in the 1880 plan. It is likely that some of these buildings were sub-divided.
The Butlers and Gales – the last will and testament of John Reed of Horton dated 25th October 1854 shows John had bought the five messuages in Thornbury from Edward Doward. John was a surveyor and he left these to his nephew, Thomas Butler. We know from the 1859 Rate Book that the 5 properties were then owned by Thomas Butler and from 1876 they were owned by Sarah and Ann Butler. Thomas and his mother, Mary, were living in one of the houses, thought to be number 17, at the time of the 1851 census. Thomas’s parents, Mary and her husband, Thomas Butler had owned and occupied the Seven Stars at 21 Rock Street in the 1840 Tithe Survey. Click here to read more about Thomas and Mary
Mary died in 1854 and when Thomas died in the early 1860’s he had no siblings, wife or children of his own who could inherit the house. It seems likely that the Thomas’s properties (including those in Rock Street) would have passed to his uncle, James Butler. James himself died on 28th March 1866 and in his will he directed that his estate be sold off and shared between his children, Obadiah, Sarah, Mary (by then married and known as Mary Gale) and Ann. It appears that they decided to divide the property among themselves rather than sell it.
Sarah and Ann Butler don’t appear to have ever lived in Thornbury. They were both born in Horton, Gloucestershire, Sarah about 1813 and Ann at Horseshoe Farm, Horton in 1822. They were daughters of James Butler, a carpenter and his wife, Ann (nee Reed). Ann got into trouble with the police in 1842 when she was accused of stealing a sovereign. At the trial on 28th June 1842 it was declared ‘not a true bill’ and she was released on 2nd July. We are fortunate that the court records give us a good description of Ann. She was described as a semptress aged 21, height 5ft 0 inches with brown hair, grey eyes, round visage and a much freckled face. Her reading and writing were said to be ‘imperfect’.
The 1851 census shows Sarah and Ann had moved from Horton to live in 106 New Bond Street, Hanover Square, London. They were described as being milliners and dressmakers. Their brother James, an architect, born in Horton on 25th January 1816, was also living with them. He died on 24th February 1854 tragically burnt to death. In 1869 Ann married William Welshman. It is interesting to note that the 1876 Rate Book shows her name as ‘Ann Butler’, but the 1880 Rate Book shows the properties are now owned by ‘Ann Welshman’. The 1881 census shows that Ann and her husband William were living in Hammersmith, London.
The rate books from 1885 to 1905 show the properties were owned by John Reed Gale. John was the nephew of the previous owner, Ann Welshman (nee Butler). John was born in Tormarton in 1845. He was the son of James Gale, a master carpenter and his wife, Mary (nee Butler and the sister of Sarah and Ann who had owned the Rock Street property previously) who had married in 1844. The 1871 census shows John had left home and moved to Paddington, London where he was working as a warehouseman and boarding in Fulham Place. John married Annie Kemp in Kensington in 1875. The 1891 census shows John was a merchant living in 2 Clifton Villas, Brentford Road, Acton. He and Annie had a son and three daughters. John died aged 59 in Brentford area in 1904. The 1910 Rate Book for Thornbury shows that ‘Mrs John Reed Gale’ had become the owner of the properties in Rock Street. The 1926 Rate Book shows the houses were all owned by ‘Mrs Gale’.
We do not know anything about the later ownership of the houses, although we understand that for number 11 at least the rents were collected in the 1960’s by Charlie Riddiford on behalf of Henry Williams or his trustees. The houses were demolished in the early 1960’s as part of the town’s re-development and replaced by the Police Station and adjoining landscaped garden area.
Click on the links to each house on the sidebar on the left to read about the occupants of each house