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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 17 St Mary Street.  Our earliest tenants were listed in 1751 as being John Facey and Joanna Phillips:

The Faceys – an indenture dated 1758 relating the adjoining property (19 St Mary Street) mentions that John Facey was living in this property and another document for the same property dated 1784 mentions that Susannah Facey was living there.

John Facey married Ruth Bedggood at Rockhampton on 27th March 1744.  Their daughter, Susannah was baptised on 13th September 1747.  We know that Ruth Facey died aged 66 and she was described as the relict of John Facey.  Ruth was buried on 4th February 1778.  There were two John Faceys buried, one on 6th November 1763 and the other was a breeches maker who died aged 76 and was buried on 9th October 1772.

The Mayors Accounts first list John Facey as a tenant of the property in 1751.  He is listed as living there up to 1762 when there is a long gap when the Accounts Book don’t show the names of the individual tenants for this property.  In 1787 when Susannah Facey is shown as the tenant.  In the next two years it is possible that Susannah was sub-letting the property as the records show her name and that of Mary Wiltshire.  From 1790 to 1794 just Susannah’s name is given, then from 1795 to 1809 Thomas Facey is shown as the tenant.  We are not sure about the relationship of Thomas and Susannah.  We note that there was a Thomas Facey baptised at Thornbury on 11th December 1767 who was the illegitimate son of Susannah Facey so it looks likely that this was the same Thomas.

On 3rd July 1796 Thomas Facey married Martha Rymore at Thornbury and they had a son, Thomas Facey born on 9th April 1797 and baptised on 14th February 1798.  We note that Thomas was a breeches maker when he died aged 47 and was buried on 26th December 1810.  From 1810 to 1816 Susannah Facey was again listed as the tenant of the property.  She died aged 71 years and was buried on 15th September 1816.

Joanna Phillips – the Account books lists Joanna Phillips as a tenant of one of the properties in 1751 and 1752. Joanna, as Joanna Smith, married Ralph Phillips in Thornbury on 25th April 1745.  They had a son, Thomas, baptised on 20th April 1746.  We don’t know when Ralph died, but in 1758 Joanna had a ‘base’ child who died before being baptised.  It was buried on 22nd July 1758.  Joanna died a few months later and was buried on 7th September 1758.

There is a long period when the Account Books don’t identify individual tenants so we are unable to say who lived in the house following Joanna Phillips.

Thomas Gough – Thomas Gough was listed as the tenant of one of the houses from 1787.  He was paying £1 5s 0d per annum until 1801 when the rent was increased to £1 10s 0d per annum.  In 1803 Thomas was replaced by William Gough, whom we assume to be his son.

William and Jane Gough – the Mayors Accounts Book shows that William occupied by the house from 1803 to 1840.  The 1840 Tithe Survey shows that William Gough was living here.  William however died on 7th July 1839 aged 70 and the 1841 census shows that his widow, Jane was living there.  The census shows Jane was a charwoman aged 68 with two sons: Samuel aged 36 and Daniel aged 25 (baptised on 5th May 1817) and Daniel’s wife, Elizabeth from Bristol and their daughter Elizabeth aged 1.  Daniel’s baptism record shows that his father, William, was a cordwainer and the census records shows that both sons also became cordwainers.

The Mayors’ Accounts Book shows Jane as being the tenant from 1842 to 1855.  The 1851 census is puzzling however as it appears to show that Samuel had taken over the house living there on his own.  His brother, Daniel, had moved to Gloucester where he and his wife now had 7 children.  We are not sure, but we think Jane may be listed as a servant for the schoolmaster William Woodland at 13 St Mary Street – it looks like her age is recorded as ’15’, but it could be ’75’.  This is even more likely when you consider that it was Henry Carter, the schoolmaster, who acted as surety for Jane when her rental agreement was reviewed in 1850.  The other surety for Jane in 1850 was Alexander Thorne, a tailor.

Jane died aged 81 and was buried on 3rd July 1855.  From that time Samuel Gough is shown as the tenant of the house until 1857 when he moved out.  The 1861 census shows him as a lodger in the Horseshoe beerhouse just up the road.  He died later that year aged 55 and was buried on 5th September 1861.

John Edmonds – listed in the Mayors Accounts Book from 1817 to 1826 taking over the part of the property previously occupied by Susannah Facey.  We are not certain of any more information about John.  John was have been living in one of the units within 17 St Mary Street as in an indenture dated 1817 referring to the property at 19 St Mary Street, John Edmunds is mentioned as the occupant of the adjoining property.

Anselm Thurston – we know that Anselm and his family were in the cottage from as early as 1828 up to about 1858.  Anselm was baptised on 12th February 1792, the son of Josiah and Sarah Thurston.  Anselm appears to have been married twice.  The mother of his son, Anselm who was baptised 17th November 1827 was named ‘Martha’ yet on 15th May 1831 Anselm married Maria Jefferies who was born in Olveston.  Anselm and Maria had several other children: Sarah born about 1832, Hannah baptised on 27th February 1833, Elizabeth baptised on 23rd August 1835 and Anne baptised on 17th January 1841.  The 1841 census shows Anselm and the family living in the house.  Anselm was an agricultural labourer aged 47.  Strangely his wife was listed as being ‘Sarah’ although the 1851 census reverts to calling her ‘Maria’.  In 1850 when Anselm renewed his lease of the cottage John Thurston of Gillingstool labourer and Josiah Thurston of Kington Lane tailor acted as his sureties for his rent of 10d per week. 

In 1851 Anselm was aged 60 married to Maria a charwoman aged 57 from Olveston living with their children Hannah Elizabeth and Ann.  Maria died on 6th December 1857 aged 61.  In the 1861 census Anselm was lodging with Charles Hopton in Ragland Road, the house which later became known as 14 Upper Bath Road.  Anselm died aged 73 and was buried on 6th August 1865 at the Thornbury Workhouse.

We know from indentures that at some time shortly before 1859, the Corporation now took the decision to convert the two houses into one and to increase the rent to £5 per year.

Henry Martin – we have a copy of the tenancy agreement which shows that Henry Martin, a labourer, became tenant of the recently converted property in 1859.  Henry married Ann Davis, the daughter of George Davis, a shoemaker from Thornbury in December quarter 1849.  We think that the 1851 census shows they were living at 14 St Mary Street with their daughter, Fanny who baptised on 29th December 1850.  In 1854 Henry occupied another Corporation house later known as 8 St Mary Street, but he only stayed here less than one year.  In 1856 he was mentioned in an indenture as being an occupant of 13 St Mary Street, sharing that property with George Gazzard.

The 1861 census shows that Henry in 17 St Mary Street.  He was an ostler aged 32 from Wotton Under Edge living with his wife, Ann aged 37 from Thornbury and their children Fanny aged 10, Sarah Ann aged 8, Edwin aged 3 and Alfred aged 6 months.  Within a few months of that census, Henry died aged only 33 and was buried on 9th August 1861.  Ann carried on living in the house until she married again on 23rd December 1869 – this time her husband was Henry Cooper, a labourer and the son of John Cooper of Thornbury.

Joseph and Hester Underhill – the 1876 rate books show the house occupied by Joseph Underhill.   Joseph died on 5th July 1877 aged 67 years and the 1881 census shows Hester continued to live there alone, although the Mayors Accounts Book shows she left about 1881.  She died on March 23rd 1885 aged 76 years.  Click here to read more

Francis Driscoll – on June 30th 1882 Francis Driscoll signed a tenancy agreement to rent the house off the Corporation of Thornbury for £6 a year.  At that time Francis was described as a labourer.  In 1881 Francis married a widow, Elizabeth Harris and they lived in the house until about 1886 when they moved to Mutton Lane.  Click here to read more

Mrs Andrews – the Mayors Accounts Book shows that ‘Mrs Andrews’ took over the tenancy from Francis Driscoll in 1887.  We assume that she was Elizabeth Andrews who died aged 60 and was buried on 9th August 1888.  In which case in the 1881 census Elizabeth was a widow working as a cook at the home of Henry Hume Lloyd although this census shows her age as ’45’.

John Savery – the Mayors Accounts Book shows the house was occupied by John Savery in 1889 and this is confirmed in the 1887 and 1890 electoral registers.  Click here to read more

Thomas and Emily Alsop – the 1891 census shows that the house was now occupied by Thomas and Emily Alsop and their rather large family.  They stayed here until 1901 when they moved to Streamleaze Cottage which later became known as 3 Upper Bath Road.  Click here to read more

William Hollister – the Mayors Accounts Book shows that from 1902 to 1914 the house was occupied by William Hollister (Junior).  There two William Hollisters living in Thornbury at that time, but the 1911 census shows that it was William Hollister, a coachman aged 29 who was born in Upper Bath Road.  He was living with his wife, Margaret May aged 29 from Alveston and their two children.

On 3rd March 1902 William had married Margaret May Boulton aged 21, and daughter of William George Boulton, a carpenter from Alveston.  William and Margaret had at least 2 children, Dorothy born on 7th June 1903 and Mildred Lucy born on 26th March 1905.  The records show that William was a grocer when Mildred was baptised on the 7th May 1905 and their address was in St Mary Street.  William is listed as living in st Mary Street in the 1915 Prewett’s Directory but the Council School records show that they left the area to move to Littleton in 1915.

Sarah Pearce – the Town Trust records show that Sarah Pearce took over from William Hollister and she was living in the house from 1915 to 1927. 

Sarah was the widow of Joseph Pearce who had died on 5th June 1913 aged 54.  Joseph had married Sarah Baker in 1884.  In 1901 they were living at Duckhole with their children: George H aged 15, Albert aged 12, Ada aged 10 and Frederick aged 4.  We know that they had one other son, Arthur Thomas, born in 1905.  He was listed as living with his mother in the 1927 electoral register.  By 1931 Sarah had moved to Grovesend and she died on 17th February 1938 aged 74.

Harriet Smith – The Town Trust records show that Harriet lived in the house as a tenant from 1928 to 1932. At this stage we don’t know any more about Harriett to identify her.

Albert Edward Cook – we know from the Town Trust account books that Albert Edward Cook is living in the house from 1933 onwards.

Albert was born on 17th August 1904, the son of William Cook, a sawyer and his wife, Rose Jane.  When Albert was baptised on 29th September 1904, William was working as a labourer and the family were living in Upper Bath Road and they were still there when Albert started at the Council Upper School in 1912.  In 1928 Albert married Phyllis Rose Mary Pearce in Thornbury.  Phyllis was born on 26th January 1910, the daughter of Thomas Pearce.

Albert and Phyllis had three children: Cyril E born in 1929, Barbara Mary, was born in 1931 and Audrey J born in 1934.  The family seemed to be beset with problems and their lives seemed very difficult.  One of the first indications that all was not well was a report in the Western Daily Press of 4th April 1931 to the effect that Thomas Pearce had found his son in law in the garden with severe facial injuries inflicted by a gun.  Albert had been very unwell and depressed and had been living with his wife’s parents at the Baths.  Albert was in hospital at the Infirmary and although making progress at that time he was not yet out of danger.  Tragically his wife Phyllis died in February 1934 aged only 23 with three young children, only a few weeks after the birth of Audrey.  She was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 17th February 1934.  Young Cyril also died a few months later aged only 5.  He was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 24th May 1934.

Albert re-married in 1935.  His second wife was Florence Edith M Wheeler whom he married in the Monmouth area. Florence was born on 9th February 1904.  Their son, Kenneth John Albert, was baptised on 1st December 1935.  Kenneth’s baptism record appears to show that Albert was a postman but this may be a mistake as the writing was difficult to read!  Two other sons were born in Thornbury, William David born on 31st January 1936 and Douglas Edward born in 1939.  The 1938 electoral register lists shows Albert and Florence were in St Mary Street.  The register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war lists Albert, Florence and David as living in the house.  There was one other person whose name was blacked out.

Douglas Edward died after just 8 months and he was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 30th March 1940.  The family’s address was still in St Mary Street at that time.

This was a bad period for the Cook family.  William David died aged 3 and he was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 6th April 1940.  Two weeks later Albert Edward died in Bristol Royal Infirmary aged 36 and he was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 18th April 1940.  We don’t know what could have caused the three deaths in such a short time.  Albert’s burial record describes him as a postman when he died.  We understand that Florence married again and became Mrs Nash but we cant find the marriage.  Albert’s daughter, Audrey, was adopted by Nelson and Ella Higgins and she married a Polish man, Edward Blaszczyk (Blasycjyk) in 1950 and they settled to live in 46 Castle Street.  Audrey’s sister, Barbara married Roy Wood in 1954 and for a time in the 1960s they lived in The Hollow, Kington.

The Staffords – the Town Trust records of May 1940 show that Robert Stafford was offered the tenancy of the house previously let to Albert Cook.  The 1946 and 1950 electoral registers also show the house was occupied by Robert Stafford.  Note there is a Ronald H Stafford also living in the street at that time but we think he was unconnected with Robert.  Click here to read about the Staffords

Clifford John and Eleanor Rose Smith – the electoral registers in 1954, 1958 and 1965 show Clifford and Rose Smith living in the house, although in 1954 Robert Stafford is also listed as living there.  The Town Trust records show there was a big dispute over Clifford’s tenancy.  He had apparently moved into the house following Robert Stafford without the approval of the Town Trust.  The members thought that the occupancy of the house by a young couple was in contravention of the rules which suggested that the houses should be for elderly people.  After long debate the proposal to eject the Smiths was rejected and this caused the Chairman, Dr E. M. Grace, and another member, Mr Pitcher to resign.

Clifford was born on 3rd November 1921, the son of George Smith and his wife Beatrice Alice (nee Perkins).  George and Beatrice are listed in the electoral registers as living in St Mary Street from 1918 onwards and we know that from at least 1929 they lived in 8 St Mary Street.  From 1938 Beatrice moves to one of the new council houses at 13 Market Site.

We know from newspaper reports from November 1945 that Clifford served in the Forces, along with his brothers, Donald and Rowland who served as drivers and Kenneth who served as a stoker in the Royal Navy.  The report mentions that Clifford was seriously ill in hospital in Italy with a fractured skull.  Obviously he was lucky to survive and return to Thornbury.  Another interesting fact mentioned in the newspaper report was that all four boys in turn, along with another brother, Norman, had had their first job with Len Smith, the newsagents on the High Street.

When Clifford came home from the War he lived with his mother at 13 Market Site.  By 1954 he is married to Eleanor Rose Cross (known as Rose) who is thought to have come from the Oxfordshire area.  They settled in 17 St Mary Street until at least 1965.

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 the Shaw Trust charity shop which collect money aimed at helping people with disabilities find employment.

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