This building, commonly known as The Malthouse, is still a familiar sight in Thornbury. At the present time it is unused, awaiting re-development. It has had lots of interesting other uses throughout its life.
The Malthouse – the earliest record we have referring to this building as a malthouse is an indenture dated 1st November 1765 in which the owner of the property, Matthew Meredith and his wife, Lucy Maria were seeking a loan of £400 from a Thomas Bancroft of Bristol to enable them to repay an earlier loan from a Thomas Sweet. Matthew had owned the property since 1744 but the 1765 indenture refers to ‘a Malthouse which hath been lately erected and built on some part of the said premises’. A later indenture relating to the same property dated 1st November 1769 refers to ‘the barn or outhouse thereunto formerly belonging and which is now converted into a Malthouse’. At this time the property including the malthouse was sold by Matthew Meredith (who was was then running the Swan Hotel) to Thomas Clark, tallow chandler. However another indenture dated 19th December 1769 shows that Thomas Clark had used the money of George Rolph to buy the property from Matthew Meredith, and although he allowed his name to be used, it was intended for the benefit of George Rolph. This indenture sees the property transferred to George Rolph.
We know from a reference in the Mayors Accounts Book in the late 1700’s which refers to ‘a house and garden in the lower part of the Back Street at the end of malthouse of George Rolph’.
Looking even further back in the records the 1670 Rent Roll lists the following properties on the west side of St Mary Street: ‘The Almsehouse half a burgage and a sixth, Henry Marsh for the bruerne one quarter burgage, William Osborne for the stable half a burgage, John Holbrooke for the barne the like and Sir John Stafford’s Almeshouse the like’. We know that there was an almshouse at the bottom of St Mary Street on the west side near the junction with The Plain, and that the Sir John Stafford’s almshouse was a little further up so we assume that Henry Marsh’s bruerne was the malthouse or another building on the same site. In this case, we can go even further back to an Indenture made 1 June 2 James (1604) ‘another house in the borough being a corner house at the lower end of St Mary Streete having a barne or brewhouse late in the tenure of Katherine Rippe deceased’. In her last will written in 1594 Katherine left the bruerne to Elizabeth Moore. Katherine had owned a lot of property in Thornbury and was a major benefactor to the poor in Thornbury. Click here to read more about Katherine Rippe
Coming back to more recent time and to facts – the will of George Rolph dated 1792 shows that George owned the malthouse together with the two adjoining messuage or tenements which fronted onto the High Street. He acquired these properties from Matthew Meredith. At the time of the will the malthouse was being rented by Mary Greenwood. George gave these properties to his daughters, Susanna and Hester.
We know from an indenture dated 20th December 1837 when the property next door was being sold, the owner of the malthouse was William Greenwood. The 1840 Tithe Survey shows that the building was then owned by Samuel Leonard and was being used by Abraham Cole who was a maltster. Abraham Cole lived in St John Street and he owned several properties around the area of the junction of St Mary Street and St John Street. These included the Plough Inn and an adjoining building which was also used as a malthouse. He also owned the Seven Stars, another beerhouse in Rock Street.
The 1859, 1862 and 1867 rate books show the Malthouse was owned and occupied by Thomas Jenkins and following Thomas’s death in 1870 the 1876, 1880 and 1885 rate books show it was then owned by his widow, Hannah. This raises some doubt about the accuracy of the Tithe Survey transcription. William Greenwood who owned the property in 1837 died in 1839 leaving his property to his daughter, Hannah, the wife of Thomas Jenkins. It seems likely that Thomas Jenkins would have owned it at the time of the 1840 Tithe Survey rather than Samuel Leonard.
From 1876 to 1890 the Malthouse was used by John Ford as a tenant. John was the grandson of Hannah Jenkins. We know from the census records around that time that John was a maltster. In 1871 when he was still only 19, he was a farmer and maltster living with his grandmother, Hannah Jenkins, in the Hackett. When he married Annie Elizabeth Boulton in 1880 he moved to live at 9 The Plain, and continued to use the Malthouse in St Mary Street as well as another one on the opposite side of the street just up from the Plough.
Thomas and Hannah Jenkins had two daughters, Mary Greenwood Jenkins and Ann Jenkins, who married two brothers, Matthew Ford and Joseph Ford respectively. Following the death of Hannah Jenkins in 1886, the malthouse became the property of Ann and Joseph Ford. Ann is listed as the owner in the 1887, 1890 and 1894 rate books. When the ownership transferred to Ann, her nephew, John Ford , continues to occupy the property. Click here to read more about John Ford
On 6th July 1885 an advert appeared in the Bristol Mercury advertising to let a ’10 Quart Malthouse with convenient offices and appliances’ – apply John C Millard, Olveston and John Ford, The Plain. It appears that John may have giving up being a maltster and concentrated on being a corn dealer.
The Malting process involves grain, usually barley (but we don’t know what it would have been in Thornbury’s case) being artificially germinated. Between October and May, quantities of grain were dried and cleaned and then ‘steeped’ in a cistern or tank for about 3 days to encourage the grain to germinate. The grain was then spread out on the floor for as long as 14 days to allow the grain grow. When the rootlets were long enough the grain was ready to go to the kiln where the grain was heated to arrest any further growth and prevent breakdown of starch. After this the grain was stored until required for brewing. We understand there were several malthouses in Thornbury supplying the small beerhouses in the town and the surrounding area with malt.
Blacksmith’s shop – the 1894 rate book shows that the property was occupied by blacksmith, Gilbert Symes who rented it from Ann Ford. By 1899 Gilbert had transferred his business to the property on The Plain (next to the Royal George) where he and his son, Maurice, continued to trade for many years. Click here to read more about Gilbert Symes
Ann Ford died at Crossways House aged 75 and she was buried on 1st May 1897. Following her death, her property was put up for sale at auction on 7th July 1897. There were three lots, a shop at 13 High Street occupied by Charles Symes, the house and shop which later became 2 St Mary Street and the adjoining Malthouse which was described: “A freehold plot of land with store house, formerly used as a Malthouse having a long frontage to St Mary Street in the occupation of Mr Gilbert Symes at the low yearly rent of £15“. The property was bought by John Hodges Williams.
Printers Office – the rate books of 1899, 1905 and 1910 show the building was used as a Printing Office by Edward Brown. Edward Henry Mahony Brown was baptised on 12 March 1874, the son of Jane Frances Brown and the grandson of Jane Brown with whom he was living at the time of the 1901 census in the house which later became 32 High Street. Click here to read about Edward Brown
Fire Station – we know that the fire station was located in the Malthouse in the late 1920’s when Jack Pridham was a small lad living next door. The thumbnail photograph on the left shows number 2 St Mary Street where Jack Pridham lived and a close examination of the neighbouring building (the Malthouse) shows part of the Fire Station sign on the door of the building. Click on the thumbnail to see the full image.
We know from a photograph taken in 1906 that the fire station was at that time located in the Market Hall in the High Street (in what is now Wildings Shop). The fire service were given notice to quit this location when Mr Weatherhead purchased the building in 1910. We understand from an account written about the history of the Thornbury Fire Service that the Brigade then moved to a new station costing £8 per annum and we assume that the new fire station was located in the Malthouse. The fire station at the Malthouse eventually closed in 1930 when a purpose-built new station was built in the High Street.
After the Fire Brigade moved away, we understand the building was used for storage of a grocer’s van. It later got used by Thornbury Motor Company – the business was owned by Mike Manning who operated from several buildings in this area on both sides of the street. They used the Malthouse as a panel beating & spray shop. It was closed when Thornbury Motor Company moved to Gillingstool and the spray body shop moved to the Trading Estate. On the right we have a thumbnail photograph of the company trading under this name. Please click on it for a larger image.
Green and Burton – from about 1974 the building was taken over by Green and Burton, a business selling and servicing electrical appliances. It was set up by Mervyn Green who moved from Leicester to settle in Thornbury in Thornbury. In about 2004/5 they were forced to vacate the building and moved to new premises in Short Way on the Industrial Estate. It was nice to see that in 2013 they opened a shop ‘downtown’ at 8 The Plain. The small photograph on the left is a thumbnail image of Mervyn Green closing Green and Burtons for the last time.
The Malthouse is now empty and rather neglected, showing signs of deterioration.