Occupants of 19 Rock Street

19 Rock Street 2017-12-01T10:41:43+00:00
1881 OS plan with house numbers

1881 OS plan with house numbers

We are disappointed not to have any photos of this house.  It was one of five houses located between the Seven Stars and the Oxhouses.  Number 19 was immediately adjoining the Seven Stars on the north side.  The house was one of a row of 5 houses owned by the same owners.  Click here to read about the OWNERS

We have had great difficulty in identifying the occupants of each house in the 19th century census records so we have not attempted to do so until we get some other supporting sources.  The history of occupants is therefore largely based on what people have been able to tell us, backed up by church records, electoral registers, school records etc.  In this case, because the house was next door to the Seven Stars which was always identifiable in census records we are pretty sure of the earlier occupants of this house.

John Goodman – in the 1851 census the house seems to be occupied by John Goodman, an agricultural labourer aged 25 from Luckington in Wiltshire and his wife, Ann a seamstress aged 30.  John, who was the son of Samuel Goodman a labourer, had married Ann Grimbell on 29th April 1849.  Ann was baptised on 2nd September 1818, the daughter of George Isles, a butcher and his wife, Ann who lived at Crossways.  Ann had married George Grimbell from Old Sodbury on 10th February 1839 and he had died.

John and Ann appear to have moved around a lot!  In the 1861 census John and Ann Goodman were living in Bulls Lane.  We think that it was the house which later became known as 1 Bath Road.  John was a potato dealer.  In 1871 they had moved to the Hackett where John was a farmer.  In 1876 Rate Book they were shown as living in 49 St Mary Street, having just left 3 Upper Bath Road.  In 1881 they had moved to The Comb in Gloucester Road, thought to be the cottage now known as Coombe Cottage.  John was working as a general labourer.  In 1891 they were still there and Ann was recorded as being blind.  The 1894 Rate Book shows that they moved again, this time they were living at 7 Upper Bath Road.

It appears that John and Ann moved to Gloucester.  John died there in 1900 aged 74.  The 1901 census shows that Ann was in the Gloucester County Lunatic Asylum.  She died in 1904 aged 85.

Frederick Williams – in the 1859 rate book and the 1861 census the house appears occupied by Frederick Williams, a Chelsea Pensioner aged 32 and his wife, Maria Williams, a washerwoman aged 32 and a visitor Hannah Woodward, a married sempstress aged 38.

Frederick was baptised on 20th August 1826, the son of George Williams, an innkeeper and his wife, Elizabeth.  On 23rd January 1850, he married Maria Hopton, the daughter of Charles Hopton, a labourer and his wife, Hannah.  In the 1851 census they were living in St Mary Street where Frederick was described as a Chelsea Pensioner aged 23.  We understand from a newspaper report following his death, that he only had one arm.

Frederick died aged 35 years and was buried on 17th February 1864.  There was an inquest into his death.  The newspaper reported that there were certain rumours circulating the town and a post mortem examination was carried out and several witnesses were called to the inquest.  Dr Long stated that he found appearances in the stomach such as would have been produced by an irritant poison, although he acknowledged that raw gin would also have the same effect.  It emerged that Frederick was in the habit of drinking large quantities of gin regularly.  He did not think that drinking gin would have brought about death so quickly as Frederick was an apparently healthy man.  One of the witnesses, a neighbour, Charles Prewett, said he had attended Frederick almost daily for about three weeks before his death and he administered the medicine ordered by the doctor every four hours, invariably followed by a drink of gin and water.  He estimated that Frederick was drinking about three quarters of a pint of gin each day.  Frederick’s stomach and intestines were sent to the County Analyst who reported that no poison was found.  Dr Long concluded that in these circumstances death was caused by tubercles on the lungs, followed by congestion and he thought the inflamed appearance which had excited some suspicion was caused by consumption of ‘large quantities of some spirituous liquid’.  The coroner characterised the way in which the spirits had been administered was an error of judgement, quite contrary to the directions of the medical man.  The jury found that the cause of death was consumption.  

The newspaper had reported that Maria Williams and Charles Prewett, a widower, had been in the habit of drinking together in the Wheatsheaf pub.  Shortly after Frederick’s death Maria married Charles Prewett.  Click here to read about Charles and Maria Prewett

George Blake – in the 1871 census George was a draper’s porter aged 49 from Wiltshire living with his wife, Hannah aged 43 from Thornbury, and their children: William an apprentice baker aged 16 born in Warmley, Alfred aged 14 born in Olveston, Emily aged 11 and Mary Ann aged 9 both born in Thornbury.  They also had one lodger, George Bendall a labourer aged 18 from Bristol.  Click here to read more about the Blakes

Jeremiah Mahagan – Jeremiah was born in Rathcormack in County Cork, Ireland about 1834.  By 1851 he had moved to Swansea in Wales where he is listed as a cordwainer aged 20 lodging in the High Street.

By 1858 he had moved to Thornbury where he married Ruth Walker on 5th October at the Parish Church.  Ruth had been baptised on 20th September 1835, the daughter of John Walker, a labourer, and his wife, Sophia.  Jeremiah was an agricultural labourer.  He and Ruth settled in a house which later became known as 15 Rock Street but it was listed in the 1861 census as Back Street.  By that time they had two children: Ellen aged 2 and Henry aged 3 months.

They were still living in the same house in the 1871 census by which time they had two more children: John now aged 8 and Dennis aged 5.  It is interesting to note that Jeremiah’s name is shown in the 1876 Rate Book as ‘O’Mahagan”.
The 1881 census shows the family had moved to 19 Rock Street.  Jeremiah was described as a hawker aged 47 living with his wife, Ruth who was aged 45 and their son, Dennis.

In 1891 Jeremiah and Ruth were living alone.  Jeremiah was a general labourer aged 63 and Ruth was aged 55.  Jeremiah died on 27th August 1894 aged 66 years.  On the left we show the funeral card of Jeremiah Mahagan, whose name has yet another spelling “Mehagan”.  The 1901 census shows Ruth was living on her own at 19 Rock Street.  She died and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 20th August 1902 aged 69 years.

Of their children: we understand that Ellen married Henry Neale in Thornbury in 1881 and both Dennis and John may have emigrated to Canada.  Henry – moved to Bristol but returned to marry Sarah Ann Ball and they settled first at Crossways and then Marlwood Lower Lodge and then Horseshoe Lane – click here to read about Henry and his family 

Henry Webb – the 1906 and 1910 rate books and the 1911 census show that the house was occupied by Henry Webb who had been living in number 15 Rock Street.  He was also listed as living in Rock Street in the 1916 Prewetts Street Directory.  Henry is shown as living in the house in the 1925 valuation list.  He died in 1925 aged 64.  Click here to read more

We do not know who lived in number 19 between the Webbs and the Messengers.

Frederick George and Sarah Jane Messenger – Frederick George Messenger was baptised on 16th October 1898.  He was the son of Charles Messenger, a labourer and his wife Mary Ann who lived in Grovesend.  In 1923 Frederick married Sarah Jane Davies, the daughter of Edward Henry Davies, a master saddler.  They had four children: Henry George born in Thornbury in 1924 whom we have have told went to live with his mother’s family in Birmingham, Clifford Arthur Messenger born on 7th May 1925, Douglas John Messenger born on 26th May 1927 and Agnes May Messenger born on 16th February 1930.

The 1926 rate book shows Frederick living in the house which later became 19 Rock Street.  Frederick had been badly affected by a gas attack during the First World War.  We traced a little article in the Gazette dated 21st September 1918 which reported that Fred had been granted three weeks leave because he had given a pint and a half of his blood to help a badly wounded comrade in France.

The family must have found it difficult to survive as Fred’s poor health obviously affected their income.  The Gazette of January 19th 1929 says that Goliath Cole and Frederick Messenger were charged with the theft of two chickens from William Jenkins who lived in The Hackett.  William’s three children gave evidence and two of those were deaf and some evidence had to be accepted in writing as communication was so difficult.  The trial seems to have been rather unsatisfactory and charges were dismissed against Goliath and Frederick through lack of evidence.

On January 21st 1929 the newspaper was again reporting on the Messenger family.  This time young Clifford was injured by a lorry whilst he was playing in Bath Road.  Luckily it was only one foot and the newspaper (the Gazette) expressed the opinion that he would soon be better.

Things could only get worse worse for the family.  Fred died aged only 31.  He was buried in the Cemetery on 30th July 1930.  The Western Daily Press of 31st July 1930 reported on the funeral of Fred Messenger.  Rev C. R. Cotter who performed the funeral service explained that his death was the result of his war time privations.  Fred had joined the 4th Gloucestershires when he was only 17.  He had been wounded twice and gassed.  He later contracted tuberculosis.  The funeral was attended by a large number of ex-servicemen.

Sarah Jane carried on living in the house and married her next-door neighbour, Albert Ernest Caise (see below)  

Albert Ernest and Sarah Jane Caise – on 2nd February 1932 Sarah Jane Messenger married Albert Ernest Caise, the son of Theophilus and Sarah Elizabeth Caise who lived next door at number 17 Rock Street.  Click here to read more about the Caise family

Albert and Sarah Jane continued to live at 19 Rock Street where they had one child, Shirley Elizabeth, born on 8th August 1935.  The register compiled in 1939 in preparation  for the war shows Albert Edward and Sarah Jane were living at 19 Rock Street.  There were four other people living with them.  Of these entries, only Clifford Messenger is  visible, the other entries are ‘blacked out’.

By 1950 the family had moved to 46 Eastland Avenue.  Sarah Jane died in 1986 aged 87 and was buried in the same grave as her first husband, Frederick Messenger.

Austin Dixon in uniform

Austin Dixon

Austin Dixon – the Dixon family lived in the house from about 1950 until it was demolished in the early 60’s.  Austin Dixon was born in 1894, the son of Mark and Florence Dixon.  Click here to read about the Dixon family

Click here to see the link to some photographs of the Dixon family
Austin attended the Council School where he was highly regarded.  In May 1909 he was given the honour of raising the flag on Empire Day.  He was also asked to stand in front of the whole school to thank the guest of honour on behalf of the school pupils.  The school log also notes that Austin presented the headmaster with a personal present of an umbrella on his birthday, in addition to another gift presented on behalf the school.

During the First World War, Austin joined the Gloucestershire Regiment serving in Egypt as a motor driver.  He returned to live with his mother in 5 Gloucester Road.

Lily Dixon (nee Harris)

Lily Dixon (nee Harris)

On 28th July 1926 Austin married Lily Harris, the daughter of William George Harris.  Her photo is shown the right below.  Austin was then aged 31.  Austin and Lily moved to live in Gaynor Road, Filton.  He was a transport driver for B.A.C. for many years and we are told that he worked as chauffeur for Sir George Stanley White, the head of the Bristol Aeroplane Company.  He also worked as a driver for the Evening World newspaper company in Bristol.  They had one son, George born on 24th May 1929.

George Austin Dixon

George Austin Dixon

Unfortunately Austin and Lily’s house was bombed in one of the air-raids in 1942.  They moved back to Thornbury, living at first with Lily’s sister, Emily Ellen Skuse in St Mary Street, and then in their own house at 19 Rock Street.

Austin was a member of the Special Constabulary and his tall upright figure was said to be a familiar sight on Thornbury High Street as he did his tours of duty on Saturday mornings.

Both Austin and his son were bandsmen with the Gloucester Regiment. His obituary says that Austin had joined the Tytherington Brass Band at the age of 14 and was a members of the old Thornbury Baptist Brass Band.

Austin died April 27th 1955 aged 61 years.  George (shown in the photo on the left) had moved away from home and was working on the railways.  He returned to Thornbury to look after his mother and got work at Berkeley Power Station and later in the quarry at Tytherington.  He married Eileen Naomi Coleman in 1962 and they lived at 3 Thornbury Road, Alveston.

In 1965 Lily was living in Streamleaze and she died in 1980 aged 88.

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