This house was in a row of four very small houses in Rock Street known locally as ‘The Oxhouses’. The plan on the left dated 1880 shows the area around the junction of Outer Back Street (now known as Rock Street) and Bath Road. There was a row of four houses on Rock Street, just to the south of the junction with Bath Road. When house numbering was introduced in the 1950’s, they became known as numbers 3 – 9 Rock Street and we have marked the numbers on the plan.
Unfortunately we have not found any photos of these houses. We understand they were very small with one room downstairs and one bedroom upstairs. There were no doors fronting Rock Street. Access was via the shared court at the rear, between the back of the houses and the gardens. The toilets were at the bottom of the garden (you can actually see the block of toilets in the plan above).
We have had great difficulty in identifying the occupants of each house in the 19th century census records and even with the rate books we found the sequence of occupants is inconsistent. We have therefore provided our best guess as to who was living in each of the Oxhouses.
Charles Exell – the 1876 rate book shows that the house was occupied by Charles Exell. Charles was born about 1798. In the 1851 census Charles was an agricultural labourer living in St Mary Street with his wife, Emma aged 42 and their children: Charles an agricultural labourer aged 17, Mary aged 14, Emily aged 5 and John aged 7 months. In the 1861 census Charles was an agricultural labourer aged 63 living with his wife, Emma aged 52 and their children: Emily aged 14 and John aged 11. Emma died in 1871 aged 62 and Charles died aged 79 and was buried on 14th February 1879.
William Lippiatt – the 1880 rate book and the 1881 census show the house was occupied by William Lippiatt. The census shows that William was an agricultural labourer aged 64 living with his wife Jane a charwoman aged 62 and a grandson, Eli aged 8 (who was the son of William and Jane’s daughter, Hester).
William was baptised on 9th August 1818, the son of William Lippiatt, a tiler and plasterer and his wife, Elizabeth. In June quarter 1838, William married Jane Williams. In 1851 the family were living in Gillingstool where William was an agricultural labourer aged 33 and Jane was a charwoman aged 32. Living with them were their children: James aged 12, Alfred aged 10, Ann aged 8, Elizabeth aged 8, Alathea aged 6, George aged 4 and Hester aged 2 months.
On 25th March 1852 William was charged with feloniously stealing at Rockhampton 20lb of pig meat the property of John Collins. He was discharged as the Court found the case was ‘not a true Bill’. However the police record does provide a useful description of William at that time. It describes him as a Thornbury labourer aged 33, height 5ft 7.5 inches, light sandy hair, grey eyes, long visage, and fresh complexion with scar on small of back and enlargement of 3rd left finger from injury. It adds he was married with 7 children and his religion was Baptist.
In 1861 the family were living in Crossways with George aged 12, Hester aged 10, Henry aged 8, Robert aged 6, Charles aged 3 and Sarah Ann aged 1. We know from the 1871 census that the family had moved into Thornbury. They are shown in the census as living in Upper Bath Road, but the 1876 rate book shows them living in a house owned by Thomas Wilson in Bullseys Lane (later known as 3 Bath Road). The 1880 rate book and 1881 census show them settled in the Oxhouses in Rock Street. William died aged 73 years and was buried on 4th February 1891. In the 1891 and 1901 censuses Jane is living there alone.
We don’t know much about who was occupying the houses in the 1900’s. In this case, we know of only three families:
Charles Jefferies – an indenture made at the time the cottages were sold to Frederick Bishop in 1913 shows that Charles Jefferies lived in this house. He is also listed as living in Rock Street in the 1914, 1915 and 1916 Prewett’s Directories. We suspect that Charles was the son of Sarah Jefferies who lived across the road at 16 Rock Street. We believe that Charles Jefferies died in Thornbury Hospital aged 64 and unmarried. He was buried on 8th October 1932.
Frederick Maurice Rugman – an indenture dated 1931 when Frederick Bishop bought the four cottages shows that Frederick was the tenant of this cottage. Frederick was born in Thornbury in 1903. In 1924 Frederick married Elsie May Robins in the Bedwellty area. They had one daughter, Doreen, born in the Bedwellty area on 20th October 1926. By 1930 the Rugmans had moved to Thornbury as Doreen was first admitted to the council Infants School. She was absent for 14 weeks through ill health and she left in 1931 ‘until she was older’. She returned to school later that year. In 1933 when Doreen transferred to the Upper School the family’s address was in Gillingstool and they were still there in the 1938 electoral register.
Francis James Phillip and Nellie Norah Williams – the register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows them living at 9 Rock Street. That register describes Frank as a road labourer born on 8th August 1907. Nellie was born on 26th December 1911. They later lived at 7 Upper Bath Road. Click here to read more
The Bunces – several locals have referred to ‘Jimmy’ Bunce and his parents living in the house. We know very little about the Bunce family. The 1946 census shows that Selina M Bunce was living at ‘4 Rock Street’ and lists Harry V and Thomas J. in Rock Street. We believe that ‘4 Rock Street’ was the house which later became known as 9 Rock Street when the whole street was numbered in the early 1950’s.
We would be grateful for any information about the Bunces. Our research shows that Thomas John Bunce married Selina Martha Hancock in the area of Faringdon near Oxford in 1903. It seems likely that Thomas John was the same person whose birth was registered in Henley in 1879. Thomas and Selina had at least one child whilst living at Faringdon, a Thomas John Bunce was born there in 1904. The family are next found to be living at Bromsgrove where two other sons were born: Edwin C. born in 1913 and Harry Victor in 1921.
We don’t know when or why the family moved to Thornbury. There was another family of Bunce living in the area in the period of 1915 to 1921 when the birth of two Bunce girls was registered here, but the maiden name of their mother was Cox. So from 1946 onwards, the Bunces were living at 9 Rock Street. Although lots of people have referred to ‘Jimmy’ Bunce, Jimmy was really called Harry Victor. Harry was living with his parents in Rock Street in the 1946, 1950 and 1954 electoral registers. We have been told that Jimmy may have been a painter and decorator and that he was ‘a smart little man always whistling and singing’.
In the September quarter 1956, Harry married Catherine O’Sullivan in the Sodbury district. Catherine was the sister of Daniel O’Sullivan who was living at West Lodge, Thornbury Castle. Her name varies according to different records as she was listed as Cathleen in the 1958 electoral register when she and Harry were living at Thornbury Castle and shown as Katherine (Kitty) on her gravestone in the Roman Catholic section of Thornbury Cemetery.
Thomas John seems to have died between 1954 and 1958 as only Selina is living in Rock Street in the 1958 electoral register. By 1961, the house at 9 Rock Street was demolished and Selina is living with ‘Jimmy’ and Katherine in 2 Buckingham Parade. Selina died at Newton House, Cadbury Heath in February 1976 aged 98. Harry died on 4th September 1985 and Katherine died on 28th February 1995 aged 78 years.