An abstract of title for the two houses mentions two previous occupants of the houses whom we have been unable to find out when they lived there and who they were – they were William Gough and Maria Russell. The only clue is that they lived in the two houses at some time before William Withers and Mrs Walker.
James Parnell – in the 1840 Tithe Survey number 14 was part of Plot 164 occupied by James Parnell.Click here to read more
Henry Martin – the 1851 Census shows the house was occupied by Henry Martin, an ostler aged 23 from Wotton Under Edge and his wife, Ann a dressmaker aged 26 from Thornbury and daughter, Fanny baptised on 29th December 1850. In 1859 the family moved to 17 St Mary Street. Click here to read more
William Walker – the 1861 census shows William Walker was living in the house. William was a thatcher aged 63 living with his wife Sarah, a semptress aged 56 from St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol. William died aged 69 and was buried on 1st July 1866. The 1871 census and the 1876 rate book show that Sarah continued living in the same house. She was described as a widowed tailoress and living on her own.
Trull – the 1880 rate book shows the name of ‘Trull’ as the occupant of the house. We know nothing more to identify this person.
James Smith – the 1881 census shows James was a shoemaker aged 50 from Chippenham living with his wife, Harriet a seamstress aged 31 from Thornbury and children: Bertha Parsons aged 10, Dorcas Smith aged 2, and Elias Smith aged 1. Bertha Parsons was Harriett’s daughter. Two doors away, another son of Harriett’s, John Fisher aged 5 (who was the son of Harriett’s first marriage) was living with Harriett’s mother, Amelia Parsons.
In 1885 James was charged with aggravated assault against Harriett and the case heard at the Petty Sessional Court on 16th April. On 9th October he appeared in court charged with attempted murder. He had gone out on the Tuesday morning and did not return until the Friday night. Jayne Payne wife of William Payne of Crossways gave evidence that she had seen him by her house and he had told her that he was going home to kill his wife and she seems to have advised him against it.
When he got home James had a slight injury to his head and Harriet asked him how he had got it. James’s response seems to have been to attack his wife with his shoemaker’s knife plunging it at her abdomen, but when she stepped back the knife passed through her dress and stays and so only made a slight wound. When he withdrew the knife he slashed her arm. Their son then aged only ten ran to the door and cried “murder”. Harriett then escaped to the Horseshoe beer house opposite.
James Smith was found the next morning exhausted in a shed near the railway station. He seemed to have fallen while climbing over the wall near the shed and had struck his head and bled copiously. James was convicted and fined £6 with 4/6 costs or two months imprisonment with hard labour. On 17th April 1884 the newspaper reported that James Smith was fined £6 and costs and the court awarded a judicial separation. James was made to pay 10s a week towards the maintenance of his three children. It is not clear how long the “judicial separation” lasted in practice. The 1885 rate book show that John Smith was occupying the house.
On 19th March 1888 there was a report that James Smith, a shoemaker, had assaulted his wife and caused three wounds to her head. Harriet was too ill to appear in court as the attack had only taken place the day before the court appearance. On 7th July of that year there was a more detailed report of the attack. James Smith then said to be 67 (which surely should be 57) was charged with wounding Harriet “with intent to do grievous bodily harm” on March 17th. James had been drinking heavily the night before and threatened Harriet. The next morning she was lighting the fire and he struck her on the head with a stick, inflicting three wounds, one of which was said to be serious. Harriet said the argument was due to the fact that she had refused to give him some tea and added that “he had always been a good husband.” James was sentenced to six years penal servitude and as he left the dock he shouted “goodbye” to his wife and told her to take care of the children.
By 1891 James was listed as a convict in Gillingham prison in Kent. Harriett was then living in her three room house at what later became part of 7 Silver Street with her children: Dorcas now aged 11, John Fisher an errand boy aged 15, Elias aged 10, George aged 9, Alfred Merrett aged 4 (who was described as ‘dumb’), a boarder. Ellen Baker who was a widowed charwoman aged 48 and a nurse child, Ellenor Curtin aged 5 months. The census record suggests Alfred Merrett is Harriett’s son, but the baptism record shows Alfred was the son of Ann Merrett who was residing at the Workhouse. We believe that Harriett may have provided a home for children in need of short term care.
By 1901 James had been released from prison, but he does not seem to have returned to the family home. Harriet was still living in Silver Street. She is described as a charwoman living with her children: George a builder’s labourer and Nellie aged 7, and a boarder, John Harris, another general labourer. In 1911 census she was living at 4 St Mary Street and her son, George, now married, had taken over the house in Silver Street. The census describes Harriett as married aged 50 and she was living there with her daughter, Eleanor Smith, a domestic aged 30 born in Thornbury and a lodger, John Harris, a coal haulier aged 46 who was born in Thornbury and two ‘nurse children’: Frederick Powell aged 2 and Ellinor Webb aged 1, both born in Thornbury. There is an amusing newspaper report of an incident in 1915 which occurred when Harriett was walking up St Mary Street with George and his wife. On his way into his house, a group of neighbours were standing opposite, including Rachel Hill and her husband, George. Rachel accused Harriett Smith of using bad language towards her as he entered his house and the police were called when a family quarrel was heard inside the house. In court, it was suggested that Harriett was ‘the worse for drink’ and witnesses, including Emily Poulton, another neighbour, detailed what insults Harriett had made. The judge upheld the complaint, but took into account the ill will felt between the two ladies and thought that Harriet ‘forgot herself on this occasion’. He fined her five shillings.
The 1916 Prewett’s Street Directory also shows Mrs Smith as living in St Mary Street. The Gazette of September 24th 1932 announced the death of Harriett Smith at the age of 80 “after an illness extending upwards of two months.” Mrs Smith was described as one of St Mary Street’s oldest residents. Click here to read more about George Smith
Luke Higgs – the 1890 rate book and the 1891 census shows Luke as occupying the house. Luke had been born about 1836 in Tytherington, the son of Thomas Higgs, an agricultural labourer and his wife, Sarah. In 1841 Luke was living with his parents in Grovesend Slade. In 1875, we think, Luke married Hannah Higgs. Hannah was Hannah Cotterell from Alveston who had been married to Robert Higgs, whom we assume to be Luke’s brother. Robert died in 1874 aged 52.
Hannah died in 1879 aged 44. In the 1881 census Luke was a widower aged 45 living in what we believe to be the house which became 6 Rock Street. On 27th March 1882, Luke married again, this time to Ellen Bendall, the daughter of Richard Bendall. The 1887 Rate Book suggests Luke is now renting out 4 Rock Street. The 1891 census shows them living in 14 St Mary Street, with their 5 sons: Alfred a labourer aged 19, William a labourer aged 17 both born in Berkeley, Luke aged 8, Robert aged 6 and George aged 4 all born in Thornbury. Alfred and William were Ellen’s children – in 1881 she had been living in the Thornbury Workhouse with the two boys and a daughter, Emily.
Luke was still at 14 St Mary Street when the house, together with number 12, was put up for sale by Jane Ellis in 1892. It appears from the 1894 rate book that Luke moved to 49 St Mary Street on the opposite side of the street for a short time, but by 1899 the family were back in number 14. The 1901 census shows that Luke was a general labourer aged 65 from Tytherington living with his wife, Ellen a charwoman aged 51 from Newport in Gloucestershire and their children: Luke a baker’s assistant aged 18, Robert a general labourer aged 16, and George a general labourer aged 14. The 1905 rate book shows Luke was still living at 14 St Mary Street, but by the 1910 rate book he was occupying 7 Upper Bath Road at that time, unless of course this was Luke’s son. The 1911 census shows that Luke (snr) and Ellen were living at 11 Rock Street.
A Gazette newspaper report of September 6th 1913 shows that Ellen was involved in a serious domestic incident with one of her neighbours, Sarah Ann Screen. As a result Ellen broke her leg and had to spend nine weeks in the Workhouse Infirmary. There was a court case which Ellen had to attend in a bathchair and it was said that she ‘could not move out the chair for anything and that she was likely to be a cripple for the rest of her life’. Sarah Ann was found guilty of common assault and fined 10 shillings with 11 shillings costs.
Luke died in Thornbury Hospital on 25th September 1914 aged 82. Ellen died in Thornbury Hospital on 28th August 1915 aged 70.
Their son George Higgs was a labourer living in Rock Street when he enlisted in 1914. He was sent home for 45 days from 8th September to 22nd October, possibly in the light of his parents’ health. His military service was calculated from July 1915 and he served in the Gloucesters and the East Kent regiments. He was discharged in 1917 as “no longer fit for military service.”
John Rugman – the 1894 rate book shows that house was occupied by John Rugman. We are unable to identify which John Rugman was living here.
Maurice and Emily Poulton – we know from locals that the house was occupied by the Poulton family for a many years during the first half of the twentieth century. The 1910 voters list shows Maurice Poulton as living in St Mary Street and we assume that he was living in this house. The 1911 census confirms that he was living in this house. Maurice continued to live here up to his death in 1951. Maurice’s daughter, Doris, then carried on living there until the early 60’s. Click here to read about the Poulton family