We know very little about this house as we haven’t yet seen any deeds which relate specifically to the house. We would like to hear from anyone who can add to (or correct) the information shown on the website.
We suspect that the house at number 17 St John Street was one of three houses built by John Withers Bevan in 1824. It was erected on part of a piece of land which had previously been a garden and orchard known as Brayes or Brays.
Brayes or Brays
‘Brayes’ was first mentioned in 1674 in documents relating to the property acquired for the building of a Quaker Meeting Hall on the opposite side of St John Street. At that time it was owned by ‘late of one Henry Marsh’. ‘Brays’ was listed in the 1696 Tithe Terrier when it was described as being a paddock owned by Henry Marsh of about three quarters of an acre fronting St John Street.
On 10th October 1788 Hester Bagnell sold ‘Brayes’ to James Hodges gardener of Thornbury. It was described as ‘one close of arable or pasture ground planted with fruit trees and then used as a garden containing one acre’. At some stage the garden must have been conveyed from James Hodges to William Rolph. On 3rd May 1817 William Rolph sold the garden to John Croome. John died in 1821 and the garden passed to his daughter Eliza and her husband John Lane. They sold the garden to Anne Gibbons, a widow on 2nd April 1824. At that time it was already in the occupation of John Bevan. Anne must have bought it for her daughter Grace and her husband, John Bevan as it was conveyed to them only a week after Anne bought it. Grace only lived for another month. She was only 23 when she was died and she was buried on 23rd May 1824.
Indentures dated 1827 and 1833 indicate that John Bevan had built three houses on the garden. We assume that these houses became numbers 13, 15 and 17 St John Street.
John Withers Bevan
We found three indentures written in 1824, 1827 and 1833 referring to the houses built by John Bevan on the garden land to the north of St John Street. The first two indentures refer to James Withers carpenter of Thornbury as one of several other parties involved with the transactions. The 1827 indenture appears to show that John Bevan and James Withers were borrowing money from Thomas Smith yeoman of Henbury using the property as security. The 1833 indenture appears to show that Thomas Smith of Henbury is now the owner of the property which is being conveyed to Joseph Hignell of Charlton near Henbury.
We know that John got into financial difficulties. In 1831 he appears to have served time as a debtor in Kings Bench Prison in London. When charged at Gloucester Courthouse on 16th July 1831 he was described as a cooper and dealer in coals and also licensed to let post horses, currently out of business.
We don’t understand what happened to the ownership of the property but we do know that by 1840 the property was owned by William Thomas.
At the time of the 1840 Tithe Survey, the house was owned by William Thomas. The 1841 census shows William was living in the house – he was a mason living with his wife, Diana, and their then unmarried daughters, Kezia and Jemima. William was born in Alveston about 1788 and Diana born about 1784.
We know from the deeds of William’s other property (now called Prospect House in Crossways) that William and Diana also had a son George Thomas who was living in the house in Crossways in 1833. By 1851 William and Diana had moved to 65 High Street. They appear to be living with their daughter, Jemima, and her husband, Hugh Smart, a grocer. Their other daughter, Kezia, was also living with the Smarts.
The 1859 Rate Book shows William Thomas still owned the house at 17 St John Street, but he was now renting it to John Powell. Diana died in 1860 aged 79. In 1861 census, William and the family were still living with Hugh Smart, now a beer house keeper and Jemima.
William died in 1870 aged 84 and was buried in Thornbury on 7th July 1870. At the time he made his will on 25th June 1870 he was living at a house in Crossways. He left the property he was living in with John Bartlett to his son George for his life and then to the use of his daughters during their life times and then to his grandchild Priscilla the daughter of George. He left two other cottages in Crossways occupied by George Riddiford and William Stephens to be shared by his two daughters. He left his property at 17 St John Street then occupied by Thomas Tucker to his son in law Hugh Smart, the husband of Jemima.
Hugh inherited the property from William Thomas when he died in 1870. The Rate book of 1876 shows that Hugh Smart was the owner of this property at that time. Hugh was born in Oldbury and baptised on 18th May 1823, the son of James Thomas, a farmer and his wife, Mary.
Hugh married William Thomas’s daughter, Jemima, in 1848 and they settled in the High Street on the corner of Chapel Street. Hugh initially traded as a grocer, but in 1858, he obtained a licence to sell beer in addition to groceries. His beer trade must have grown in importance as the place was given the name of the Queen’s Head Inn which continued under that name until it was finally closed in 1958.
Jemima died on 10th March 1879 aged 59 years and Hugh continued at the Queens Head until his death on 7th August 1888 aged 65.
The 1887 Rate Book indicates that Hugh’s sister, Hester Cullimore had acquired this property. She already owned three other houses in the street and ran the beer house called The Crispin in what is now Crispin Lane. Click here to read more
The 1890 and 1905 Rate Books shows that Edwin Salmon and then John English rented the property from William Jenkins. We do not know who William Jenkins is at this time but the 1891 census has a William Jenkins who was a farmer in Oldbury. He was married to Ann. Both were from Rockhampton.
By 1910 the Rate Book shows John English was renting the same property from William Wall. The 1926 Rate Book shows that ‘B. English’ was the occupant and William Wall was still shown as the owner. Click here to read about William Wall
Unfortunately, we know nothing about any other owners of number 17 until the mid 1970’s. At that time the deeds of number 15 St John Street show that there was a lengthy correspondence between the representatives of the owner of number 15 St John Street (Miss Joan Higgins) and those of number 17, Cyril Mark Williams. The correspondence concerned guttering work and the problems cause by an extension built on number 15 St John Street. The matter was resolved when Miss Higgins agreed to pay a “peppercorn rent” on part of this property so that her builders could put a guttering partly on the roof of this house (number 17).