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.
From the deeds of other properties in the street it would appear that either James Withers or John Withers Bevan built the house as they were both associated with the building of the adjoining houses. This would put the date of the construction of the house around the early 1800’s.
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 Smart – 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.
Hester Cullimore – 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
William Jenkins – 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.
William Wall – 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).