The house was a very distinctive one, very different from the others in the street. We are disappointed not to have found any good photos of this building, apart from a couple of photos showing the street. In the photo on the left number 14 Rock Street is the taller building in the middle of the row which has two gable ends fronting the street. In the photo on the right below number 14 is the double gabled house nearer the middle of the photo.
The Longden family who lived there for many years believed that the property was connected in some way to the Congregational Chapel (now known as the United Reformed Church). There were several reasons for this: some of the windows were round and it had arched internal doorways. In the attached building used as a garage, there was a balcony around the walls which was thought to be similar to the balconies found in chapels. There was also a very large front door step estimated to be about 4 ft long and 2 ft wide, larger than usually found outside a house.
We are grateful to South Gloucestershire Council for allowing us to copy the deeds of several properties in this area. The earliest records confirm that the original Presbyterian Meeting House was indeed located on the site of 14 Rock Street and the chapel buildings were still being used as part of the house.
Amongst the documents in the possession of the Thornbury Congregationalists are two old deeds, each being a conveyance of a ‘ruinated Barns, toft, or tenement in a street called Nelme Street’. One of the deeds is dated 15th May 1718 and the other 30th August 1718. The purchasers were a group of dissenting ministers from around the area. A deed in South Gloucestershire’s records dated 30th May 1719 relates to the sale of the house to which the barn had belonged (later two houses known as 43 and 45 St Mary Street). This shows that the ground acquired for the purpose of erecting a Meeting House for an Assembly of Protestant Dissenters, commonly called Presbyterians, to hear God’s Word. The document shows the Meeting House had been built by 1719.
In 1825 a new site was acquired nearby for a new chapel building (now known as the United Reformed Church). The land was acquired from one of the Church’s Deacons, Daniel Pitcher, a Thornbury saddler. An abstract of title dated 1853 shows the old meeting house had been exchanged at an unspecified date as part payment for the new site and the Trustees of the Independent Chapel paid Daniel Pitcher a further £100. Thus the property became owned by the Pitchers.
The 1840 Tithe Survey refers to the property as Plot 140, a house and brewery owned by Daniel Pitcher and occupied by James Sly.
Daniel Pitcher – the 1840 Tithe Survey shows that Daniel owned the property. Daniel was a saddler living in the High Street and he had been Mayor of Thornbury in 1831. We know that Daniel was a saddler born about 1775, the son of Daniel Pitcher, another saddler, and his wife, Elizabeth. Daniel had first married Mary Forest from Olveston on 14th November 1811. Mary appears to have died aged 32 and was buried on 11th August 1821. Daniel then married Bethia Taylor on 1st December 1822.
Daniel died aged 77 years on 19th July 1852. In a simple will written on 14th September 1849 he appointed his wife, Bethia, sole executrix and left all his real and personal estate to her. An indenture of Mortgage dated 18th June 1847 shows that Daniel Pitcher arranged a loan of £200 from William Parker and placed the Brewery and another property in St Mary Street (later known as 43 and 45 St Mary Street) as security. Daniel died on 19th July 1852 and it appears his widow, Bethia could not repay the debt which stood at £15 15s. On 13th July 1854 Bethia sold the properties to William Parker and this gave her £7 over and above the sum needed to pay the debt. Click here to read more about Daniel Pitcher
James Sly – James is shown as the occupant of the property in the 1840 Tithe Survey. In the 1841 census he is described as a brewer aged 42. The record showed he was living on his own. An indenture relating to the neighbouring property indicates that James Sly had moved by 1844. The 1851 census shows he was living with his brother, Richard, and his family at 46 High Street. At that time James was a retired brewer, unmarried and aged 52 and born in Horsington, Somerset. We suspect that Richard and James worked together in the brewery located at 14 Rock Street. Click here to read more
THE HOUSE (although presumably the tenants made appropriate use of the building according to their various trades)
William Parker – on 13th July 1854 William bought the properties from Bethia Pitcher, the widow of Daniel Pitcher. William Parker was described as a gentleman from Frampton Cotterell. Click here to read more
The Honeybornes – on 25th March 1862 William Parker sold the Brewery to John Honeyborne at the same time as he sold his other property to him. The Honeybornes let the property out to tenants. Click here to read about the Honeybornes
Francis Stinchcome and Mark Williams – the 1861 and 1871 censuses shows that Francis and Mark were sharing the use of the property. Mark was a tailor and Francis was a hurdle maker. Click here to read more about Mark Williams Click here to read more about Francis Stinchcombe
James Barge – the 1876 rate book shows that the house was occupied by James Barge. We do not know anything about James.
Caleb Adams – the 1880 rate book show that the house was occupied by George Adams. In the 1881 census, and the 1885 rate book Caleb Adams was living in the house with his family. Caleb was a journeyman baker aged 41 living with his wife, Elizabeth aged 46 from Thornbury and their children: Mary Ann aged 16, Frederick William aged 13, Lucy aged 12, Arthur James aged 10 and Eleanor Blanche aged 8.
Caleb was born in Potterne in Wiltshire about 1840. In 1851 Caleb was living with his parents, William Adams, a farm labourer and his Fanny, in Cuckols Green, Potterne. By 1861 Caleb had moved to Thornbury where he was working as a baker and living with his employer, James Screen and his family in the High Street. In 1864 Caleb married Elizabeth Thorne in the Bedminster area of Bristol. By 1871 he and Elizabeth were living in one of the two houses owned by The Corporation which are now known as 34 High Street. They were living there with their children: Mary Ann aged 6, Fred ‘Will’ aged 3, Lucy aged 2 and Arthur James aged 4 months.
Caleb and Elizabeth had one more child, Elizabeth Mabel born in 1876 but she died aged 1 year 4 months and was buried on 6th August 1877. By 1891 Caleb and Elizabeth had moved to Devizes. Elizabeth had become a milliner and they were living with Mary Ann and Blanche. The 1901 census shows that Elizabeth was now a widow, although we can find no record of Caleb’s death. She was living at 106 New Park Street, Devizes with her daughter, Lucy.
Hezekiah Brown and George Horseman – the rate books from 1887 to 1899 show that the house was occupied by Hezekiah Brown. (Note a document in the deeds of the Honeyborne family shows that the occupant of the house was Isaac Brown in 1885). The 1891 shows that Hezekiah was a gardener aged 63 from Warwick living with his wife, Elizabeth aged 63. Hezekiah had married Elizabeth in 1850. The census shows that the Browns are sharing the house with another family, that of George Horseman, The Browns had 2 rooms and the Horseman family had 3 rooms. In the 1891 census George Horseman (or Horsman) was a carter for a wine and spirit merchant aged 31 from Hill living with his wife, Lucy aged 34 from Alveston and their children: Elsie Maud aged one and Percy George aged three months.
Lucy Horseman was Hezekiah and Elizabeth Brown’s daughter born on 12th February 1856. In 1871 she was living with them in Alveston an unemployed domestic servant aged 15. In 1888 she had married George Horsman, the son of John and Ann Horseman from Hill.
On 1st May 1892 their son Rodney Brown Horseman was baptised at St Mary’s church.
In the 1901 census the Browns and Horsemans are still sharing the house. Hezekiah Brown was a general labourer aged 74 and noted to be ‘feeble minded’ with place of birth not known. Elizabeth Brown was a laundress. George Horseman was a general labourer aged 42 and he and Lucy now had five children – the new ones being Rodney B aged nine, Lucy M aged seven and Frank Victor aged five.
Hezekiah Brown was buried on 3rd November 1903 aged 75 and Elizabeth died in 1907 aged 79. The 1905 rate book shows John Horseman as the occupier so perhaps George’s father came to live with him before he died in 1907 aged 75. The 1910 rate book shows George Horseman as living there. The 1911 census describes George as a roadman from Hill. He and Lucy were living in the house with their sons, Rodney a railway porter aged 19 and Frank Victor a carpenter’s apprentice aged 15 and their daughter, Lucy May, a draper’s assistant aged 17.
George and Lucy’s son, Frank Victor was killed in action in the Battle of the Flers-Courcelette in France on 15th September 1916 aged 21 years. He was a rifleman with the 9th Battalion Rifle Brigade. He was buried in Guards’ Cemetery, Lesboeufs. Before the War he had worked as a carpenter for W.W. Pitcher and Sons.
The 1926 rate book shows George Horseman as the occupant of the house. The electoral registers show that George and Lucy continued to live there until George died on 11th April 1929 aged 69. His burial record shows that he was a roadman. The 1931 electoral register shows Lucy and Elsie Maud. Lucy died on 14th April 1932 aged 76. The newspaper report refers to her address as Bath Road which is probably another description of 14 Rock Street. The family mourners at the funeral included her sons Percy and Rodney Horsman.
Samuel & Violet Longden – from about 1938 until the house was demolished in the early 60’s, the house was occupied by Samuel and Violet May Longden. Violet’s mother, Minnie Purnell also lived with them until the mid 50’s.
Samuel was born in Thornbury on 17th May 1906, the son of Samuel Charles Longden, a stone mason, and his wife, Emily Clara (nee Hendy). In the 1901 census, Charles, as he seems to be known, was aged 35 and Emily aged 31. They were living at Eastland Hill Lane with their children: Henry Charles born in 1894, Evelyn Maud born on 27th December 1896, Austin James in 1898 and Emily born on 30th March 1900. We understand that they had another daughter, Dorothy and a son, William George.
Shortly after Samuel’s birth the family moved to Wales. Samuel himself is not shown in the records of the Thornbury Council School, but his sister, Emily, did start there in 1904 when the family were living in Oldbury Lane and Emily had to leave to go to Wales in 1907. The 1911 census shows the family living in Llanhilleth in Monmouthshire. Samuel’s father was working as a bricklayer and he and Emily then had 9 children. In addition to those listed above there were now William George born in 1903, Elsie Elizabeth born in 1904, Samuel born in 1906, Dorothy Ellen born in 1909 and Oliver John born in 1911.
The military records of Samuel’s brother, Henry Charles, shows that the family were still living in Llanhilleth, Monmouthshire at the time he enlisted on 9th August 1914. He was in India from February to April 1915 and then he was sent to France. He was in action at Loos on 24th September 1915. He was discharged medically unfit on 6th September 1916 at the age of 22. His trade at that time was said to be a collier but his address was given as Old Town Tockington Gloucestershire. His injury was caused on 1st November 1915 when he was practising jumping trenches in drill order. He landed on hard ground and was said to have to have sprained his ankle. This was later described as a fracture and when he was sent back to France he could not march. He served in South Africa in June 1916 and in Egypt in August 1916. The situation with his ankle seems to have become steadily worse and eventually it was said he suffered from a “deformity of right foot compelling him to walk on heel and outer side of foot. Stiffening of the ankle joint.” Henry died in India on 3rd December 1920 serving in the 2nd Battalion Gloucester Regiment and his parents were shown as living in Old Down, near Thornbury.
When Samuel’s father died in 1923 he was buried in Thornbury and in the same year Samuel’s sister, Elsie Elizabeth married George J. Collins in Thornbury.
Samuel was a quarryman. The 1931 electoral register shows Samuel living in Upper Bath Road. We are not sure which house he lived in at the time. On 26th January 1935, Samuel married Violet Purnell. She was born on 9th July 1912, the daughter of Edward Purnell and his wife, Minnie (nee Rugman). Click here to read about the Purnell family
The marriage certificate describes Sam as a clayworker aged 28 and Violet as aged 24. Sam’s father is described as a bricklayer and Violet’s as a painter. The photo on the right shows Sam and Violet’s wedding. Behind Violet’s right shoulder is her mother, Minnie Purnell and on the extreme right is Minnie’s mother, Sarah Ann Rugman (nee Moss). We think that the lady on the left is Sam’s mother, Emily (nee Hendy).
The 1935 electoral register shows Samuel and Violet living in 19 Horseshoe Lane with Violet’s widowed mother, Minnie. By 1938 all three of them had moved to the house which later known as 14 Rock Street which they rented from the Honeybornes.
The register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows Samuel, Violet and Minnie Purnell were living in the house. There was one other person listed as living there but the details are blacked out. The register describes Samuel as a miller operator.
Samuel and Violet had a daughter, Beryl Madge, who was born on 6th October 1937 and a son, Samuel Roger born in 1940. Minnie died in December quarter 1955 aged 71 years. The family were still living in 14 Rock Street in the 1961 electoral register, but by 1965 the house was earmarked for demolition and Samuel and Violet had moved to 20 Streamleaze, one of the new Council flats built opposite the Market gates. The photo on the left shows Violet in 1978.
On 26th January 1956, Beryl married Raymond Henry Pearce, a market gardener and son of Herbert Henry Pearce, another market gardener of The Baths. In 1964 Samuel Roger married Jackie Hughes who came from outside the area.
At some stage in the early 1960’s the property was demolished. Finally on 6th September 1963 the site of the building was sold to Thornbury Rural District Council, together with the land on which 14 Rock Street stood, for £425. They incorporated it into the car park which is still used.