Since 2001, 21 St John Street has been combined with number 19 to form one house and this is called ‘Willow Cottage’. The black and white photograph on the left above shows how it looked in 1971. In this photograph the house on the left edge of the photograph is number 21. The photograph on the right below show its appearance in modern times with two new doors each with a porch and new windows.
We are fortunate to have found a bundle of deeds relating to this property in Thornbury Museum. These provide a very good history of the ownership of the property and refer to various tenants of the property which help us tie in with census and other records.
Interestingly they make it clear that the histories of 19 and 21 St John Street had been closely linked from the very beginning. The documents shows that James Wither bought land from Thomas Rolph in 1796. The Rolph family had owned a large area of land between what is now Gloucester Road and Sawmill Lane. Thomas Rolph had inherited this and had sectioned off a portion of it to sell to James Wither. Click here to read about the Rolphs
The indenture, dated 25th March 1812 tells the story of what happened to this property which was one of the ones built on this piece of land. It was described in 1812 as:
“All that messuage or dwelling house wherein Mark Williams lately inhabited and Isaac Pullen doth now dwell lately erected and built by the said James Wither on part of a piece or parcel of land or garden ground containing about 21 perches situate in the Borough of Thornbury aforesaid which said James Withers purchased of the said Thomas Rolph.
And also the garden attached and belonging to and used with said messuage or dwellinghouse all which said messuage or dwellinghouse and garden above mentioned and described and hereby granted and released or intended so to be are situate and being in the said Borough of Thornbury and adjoined to a certain street called Saint John Street on the southward part to another messuage or dwelling house there lately erected and built by the said James Wither on other part of the said parcel of land or garden ground and wherein the said James Wither doth now dwell on the westward part to a small piece of enclosed copy hold garden ground late of William Taylor deceased on the eastward part and to land of the said Thomas Rolph on the northward thereof and are now in the occupation of the said Isaac Pullin as tenant thereof to the said James Wither “.
This document seems to indicate that the builder of the property James Wither was living at what became 19 St John Street. On the other side of number 21 at this point there was a garden lately used by William Taylor. This was later the site of number 1 Sawmill Lane and the Gas and Electric showrooms at 23 St John Street.
It is interesting to note that only two of the eleven owners of the house up until modern times ever actually lived in it. It was mainly used as an investment for rental income. Thus we have two distinct histories of the house; the OWNERS and the OCCUPIERS.