The group of almshouses at 15/17 St Mary Street was built at some time between 1724 and 1735.
Initially it comprised four houses which were converted into two houses in 1859. We have listed here the occupants identified as being associated with the building which became 15 St Mary Street. Our earliest tenants were listed in 1751 as being William White and Ann Smith.
The Whites – the Mayors Accounts books show William White as tenant of the property in 1751 to 1753. William White was buried on 8th July 1753. In 1754 Julian White was listed as the tenant. We don’t know the connection between William and Julian who was baptised on 11th September 1716, the daughter of Richard White. On 9th April 1755 Julian married John Taylor in Thornbury.
Ann Smith – the Accounts Books show Ann was a tenant of one of the properties in 1751 and 1753.
There is a long period when the Account Books don’t identify individual tenants.
Thomas Coventry – the Mayor’s Accounts Book shows that Thomas Coventry was living there from at least 1787. He was initially paying £1 5s 0d per annum in rent until 1801 when the rent was increased to £1 10s 0d. In 1803 Thomas was replaced by William Coventry who we assume to be his son.
Thomas married Betty Bell in Thornbury on 18th May 1767. They had several children: Thomas born on 10th August 1768 and baptised on 28th September 1768. He died as an infant and was buried on 6th May 1772. Elizabeth was born on 10th May 1770 and baptised on 10th June 1770. William born on 25th January 1772 and baptised on 7th January 1774. Hannah born on 2nd August 1774 and baptised on 28th December 1774. She died aged 6 and was buried on 11th June 1780. Another Thomas born on 10th November 1777 and baptised on 28th December 1785. The baptism records show that Thomas was a labourer.
Betty died aged 64 and was buried on 30th January 1799. Thomas died aged 85 and was buried in Oldbury on 22nd May 1822.
Benjamin Paine – we have a copy of the document summarising the ‘Charities vested in and under the Management of the Corporation’. This shows that in 1815 the house was then occupied by Benjamin Paine at a rent of £2 per annum. The Mayor’s Accounts Book shows that Benjamin Pain was living there from at least 1787. He was initially paying £1 5s 0d per annum in rent until 1801 when the rent was increased to £1 10s 0d. In 1804 the rent was increased again to £2 per annum. He continued living there until his death. Benjamin died aged 75 and was buried on 15th October 1826.
William Coventry – he is shown in the Accounts Book from 1804 through to 1825. We assume that William took over from his father Thomas Coventry (see above). William paid £2 per annum in rent.
We know that a William Coventry was a ‘house steward’ in Thornbury Castle in the 1841 census and he was still there as a servant in the 1851 census and then died aged 81 and was buried on 6th January 1853. We suspect that it was this William Coventry who married Mary Reeves on 11th December 1797. Mary died in 1835 aged 70 whilst living at the Castle.
William Woodward – listed in the Mayors Accounts Book in 1826. He continued as tenant until 1830.
Luke and Alice Trayhurn – Luke seems to have moved into the house vacated by William Coventry in 1827. Luke was the son of William Trayhurn, a tailor and his wife, Hester (nee Burrows). Luke carried on living in the house until his death in 1837 aged 58 and was buried on 2nd March. Click here to read more about Luke
Following Luke’s death, his widow, Alice, carried on living in the house. She was renting the cottage for 10d per week. However, in 1841 she applied to the Corporation to live in the house rent free on account of her being blind, aged, infirm, poor and a widow of an old servant of the corporation. We are not sure if the petition was approved as Alice appears to continue paying rent of £1 per year. Then in 1845 the Corporation resolved that Alice should pay 10d per week as she had a son living her who was capable of paying.
The 1841 census shows she was living in the cottage then aged 60 and Alice whom we assume to be her daughter aged 20. Alice carried on living in the house until 1849. The 1851 census shows that Alice (snr) is living at Raglan Castle, the house which later became known as 11 Upper Bath Road. She is living there with her daughter, Alice who had married John Smith in 1843. Alice (snr) appears to have died in June quarter 1853.
Benjamin Baylis – the Mayors’ Accounts Book shows that Benjamin started living in the house around 1834. Benjamin was a tailor who had been born in Clifford in Herefordshire about 1775. There was a large branch of the Baylis family living in Clifford. Benjamin moved to Thornbury and had a large family, many of them associated with the carrier business. Benjamin died in 1858. Click here to read more
Betty Davis – in 1849 Betty Davis appears to have taken over from Alice Trayhurn who has moved away. The 1851 census shows that Betty was an annuitant aged 78 living with her grandson, Henry, aged 7. Betty died aged 86 and was buried on 17th November 1858.
The Corporation now took the decision to convert the two houses into one and to increase the rent to £5 per year.
Alfred Connett – butler to Henry Howard moved into the newly converted house in 1859. The rent was £5 per year. The 1861 shows Alfred was working as a butler at Thornbury Castle – he was aged 37 from Honiton in Devon. Alfred’s wife, Eleanor aged 36 from Woolwich in Kent was living in St Mary Street with their children: Georgina Eleanor aged 6 and Emily Moore aged 5. We are slightly puzzled by this record which seems to suggest they may be sharing with Charles Thompson and his family who were certainly there in later Rate Books and censuses. We know that Alfred Connett was listed as the tenant in the Mayors Accounts Book until 1864 when it was taken over by Charles Thompson. The 1871 census shows Alfred had moved to London to work for another employer.
Charles Thompson – the 1861 census shows that the house was occupied by Charles Thompson, who at that time may have been sharing it with Eleanor Connett and her children. Charles took over as the recognised tenant in the Mayors Accounts book in 1865.
Charles was a plaster and tiler. He was born in Frampton Cotterell, the son of Daniel Thompson, a saddler. On 12th October 1844 Charles married Lydia Pullin, the daughter of James Pullin, a collier. They lived in Alveston where they had 3 children: Edward, Charles and Daniel. Then in the late 1850’s, the family moved to Thornbury and settled in 15 St Mary Street where they had 3 more children: Fanny Lydia, Lydia and Minnie. The Mayors Accounts Book and Town Trust records show that Charles and Lydia continued to live at 15 St Mary Street until 1896. By 1901 they had moved to live with their daughter, Lydia, now married to John English, a baker who was living at 17 St John Street. Charles died on February 5th 1902 aged 81 years and Lydia died on May 5th 1909 aged 87 years.
William Harris – the Town Trust records shows the house was taken over in 1897 by William. The 1901 census shows the house was occupied by William Harris, a general labourer aged 67 from Thornbury and his wife, Hester, aged 59 from Tytherington. The Town Trust records show that they moved away in 1901 when the house was taken over by George Harris. By 1905 William Harris had moved to 33 St Mary Street, and by 1910 William appears to have died and Hester is living in one of the Stafford’s Almshouses on the west side of the street.
George Harris – from about 1903 onwards the house was occupied by the family of George Harris, surprisingly not connected to the William Harris who had lived there earlier. George’s family continued to live there until the house was required for the re-development of the Town Centre in the 1960’s. Click here to read more
When understand that when Ellen died on 26th February 1942 aged 80 their son, Victor moved into the house to care for his father. When George died in 1949 aged 90, Victor carried on living in the house with is family. Victor Albert Harris married Emily Longden in 1927 and they had three children: Doreen, Joan & Patricia. They lived in 8 Upper Bath Road and then took over his parents home at 15 St Mary Street. Click here to read about Victor and Emily
In the late 1960’s the property was acquired by Thornbury Rural District Council under a compulsory purchase order and it was re-developed as part of the new town centre. Although the two houses (15 & 17) have now combined and made into a shop the developers managed in this case to retain much of the character of the original building. Since re-development is has been used by Mark 2 selling women’s clothes and Scope, a charity shop collecting for people with cerebral palsy.