The photo above shows the row of four houses, numbered 2 to 8 Rock Street. Number 4 was the house whose door is the second from the right in the photo.
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 unless we have some other supporting sources. The history of occupants is therefore based on what people have been able to tell us, backed up by census and rate books, church records, electoral registers, school records etc.
Robert Dixon – we know that Robert Dixon, a travelling hawker, was in the house in the 1881 census. Click here to read more
Luke Higgs – the 1887 rate book lists Luke as the tenant of the house. Click here to read more
Albert Rugman – the 1891 census shows that Albert Rugman lived in the house. Albert was a gas stoker aged 20 living with his wife, Fanny aged 21 from Coleford and son William Albert aged 6 months.Albert was baptised on 6th October 1872, the son of William Rugman, a labourer and his wife, Jane. On 8th November 1890, Albert married Fanny Greatley, a servant and daughter of Henry Greatley, a collier. In the 1899 rate book and the 1901 census they were living in 29 St Mary Street. The census shows them with their children: William Albert aged 10, Howard Leonard aged 8, Harold Charles aged 5 and Jane Augusta aged 4. The 1905 and 1910 rate books show that they continued to live there. The 1911 census shows that Albert was then working as a labourer in the Gas Works. They then had seven children living with them: William a labourer at the saw mills, Leonard, Harold, Jane, Hector aged 9, Florence aged 6 and Violet aged 1
John Rugman – the 1899 rate book and the 1901 census show that the house is occupied by John Rugman, a general labourer aged 40 and his wife, Ellen aged 36 from Hawkesbury Upton and their children: James, a coal merchant’s assistant aged 15, William aged 8 and Henry aged 5.
John was baptised on 5th June 1859, the son of Maurice Rugman, a labourer and his wife, Sarah. Maurice and Sarah were living in Duckhole when John was born. On 25th February 1886 John married Ellen Hunt, the daughter of Meshack Hunt from Duckhole. Ellen was born in Hawkesbury Upton about 1864, the daughter of Meshak Hunt, a labourer. In 1891 John and Ellen were living in a small two-roomed house in Chapel Street with their son, John aged 5 and Walter Hunt, aged 7 described as a stepson. They went on to have other children: Charles baptised on 7th April 1889, Herbert Henry born on 14th January 1896, William and Albert Henry both baptised on 7 February 1897, and Walter baptised on 28 March 1897.
We are not sure what happened to John. A newspaper report shows of 1918 shows that their son, Herbert Henry, was killed in France on 27th September 1918. He was serving as a driver for the Royal Field Artillery. The report mentions that his mother, Ellen, was residing at Gillingstool Hill and this is confirmed in the 1918 and 1921 electoral registers.
Herbert Henry had worked for several years for Edmund Cullimore at his Saw Mills before joining the Royal Field Artillery in January 1918. After training in Devonport, he was sent to France on the 6th March and killed on 27th September 1918. Ellen died aged 56 years and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 8th December 1923. We believe John died in 1927 aged 67 years, but we can’t account for his whereabouts before then.
William Thorn – we think that William Thorn may have been living here according to the 1911 census. William was described as a widowed labourer aged 47 and born in Crossways. He was living with his daughter, Emily a housekeeper aged 22 and son, Isaac aged 17, a lodger Henry Longman a labourer aged 49 and a son, Charley Thorn aged 15 months. Click here to read more
Maurice Dixon – Prewetts 1916 Street Directory shows Maurice was living in Rock Street at that time and the electoral register show that Maurice Dixon occupied the house from 1921 through to 1938, qlthoughthe 1939 register compiled in preparation for the war shows him and his wife in 2 Rock Street. Notes in the Wilmott documents also indicate that Maurice lived at this house. Click here to read more
The Smiths – from about 1939 throughout the Second World War the house was occupied by the family of Robert and Winnie Smith. Robert came from West Hartlepool. He married Winifred M. Legge, the daughter of William George Legge, a market gardener and his wife, Matilda. Winnie was born on 22nd April 1912.
After their marriage, Robert and Winnie lived in West Hartlepool and it was here that their first three children were born: Margaret Joyce (born on 4th April 1934), Robert Sidney (born on 10th May 1936) and Stanley (whose date of birth we do not know). The family moved to Thornbury about 1939. When the register was compiled in 1939 in preparation for the War the Smiths were living with Winifred’s parents in their house which became known as The Dingle, Gillngstool. They later moved to live in 4 Rock Street. Two further children were born here: Gordon and Leonard. We understand that Sydney moved to live in Patchway. Robert and Winnie are listed as living in Rock Street in the 1946 electoral register, but shortly after this they moved to a new house at 18 Eastland Avenue. Margaret married David J Paxford in 1956 and they settled in Raglan Place.
The Willcox family – the last occupants of the house were Francis Frank Willcox and his wife, Gladys. They were listed as living there in the 1950, 1954 and 1958 electoral registers. By 1961 they had moved to 4 Stafford Crescent and the house demolished as part of the town’s re-development.
Frank was born on 24th October 1919, the son of William and Ellen Willcox. William had married Ellen Matilda Collins (nee Smith) in 1907 after her first husband, Sylvester Collins died in 1906 aged 51. They lived in Rock Street when their children started the Council Upper School between 1913 and 1920, although there was one record showing they were in Horseshoe Lane in 1915. Note there is a record of a William Willcox applying for exemption from military service in 1918. He was a coal haulier and carter aged 46. His date of birth was 16th January 1872 and his address was given as Bulls Eyes Lane. We are not sure if this is the same William. William and Ellen had several children including William born on 3rd June 1908, Ada E born on 24th November 1910, Lottie born on 3rd May 1913 and Francis Frank in 1919. We believe that Lottie may have been called Dorothy C Willcox unless she was another child of William and Ellen’s born in 1913. William died in 1923 aged 50 and his mother re-married in 1924, this time to Ernest John Gardiner, and they settled in 7 Bath Road.
We understand Frank served in the Chindits Expedition to Burma in the Second World War. Back in Thornbury he worked in the quarry at Tytherington – specialising in the operation of the tar plant.