go to the history of the house

The house that became 6 St John Street in Thornbury was built in the late 1860s as one of a pair of houses.

James Powell – the 1871 Census shows that the house was then occupied by James Powell, a tailor aged 50 from Kington in Wiltshire.  He was living there with his wife, Eliza aged 48 from Thornbury and their children: Flora aged 15, Ethel aged 10, Henry aged 8 and Susanna aged 5.  Click here to read more

Thomas Donaldson – Reverend Donaldson lived in this house according to the 1876 Rate Book and rented it from Mr Bryant Jenkins Burchell.  Read more about the Rev Donaldson

Charles Bevis –  The 1880 Rate Book shows that Charles Bevis lived here.  The 1881 Census shows that he had already moved to 10 The Plain by the time of the Census.  He was a 26 year old Inland Revenue Officer born in Suffolk.  In the 1881 Census he was living with his father, George, a mathematical teacher from Ramsgate aged 54, and mother, Elizabeth aged 60 who was born Folkstone.  By 1884 an advertisement shows that Charles Bevis’s house on The Plain was up for sale but 1885 Rate Book shows he continued to rent the house.  Elizabeth Bevis died September 23rd 1913.

The 1885 Rate Book shows that one of these houses may have been empty.  It would appear to have been this one as the other was occupied by Henry Eddington and we have later evidence to show he lived in number 8.

David Cogswell Ovens – according to the Rate Books of 1887 and the 1891 Census this house was occupied by David Cogswell Ovens, described as a sergeant major pensioner aged 47 years from Cirencester.  We later found that he had been a soldier in the “13th Regiment”.  We believe that this might be the 13th Brigade of Royal Artillery “The Gunners.”

David had a very colourful life and researching it was difficult because the records show he used various names including Ovens, Owen and Owens.

David Cogswell Ovens was born in the Cirencester area in the March quarter of 1844.  David was the son of Joseph Owen Ovens a furniture broker and his wife, Jane (nee Cogswell) who were married in Trowbridge on 22nd April 1835.  In the census of 1851 David was living with his family in Cirencester and his father was a furniture broker.

We have not found David in the 1861 Census but he appears to have spent time in Ireland.  He married ‘Sarah Jane Peirce otherwise Brown’ in Fermoy in 1863.  The birth of their daughter Frances Jane Cogswell Ovens was registered in Fermoy in 1864.

The records of St Mary’s Church in Thornbury also show that on 9th January 1887  David married Sarah Jane Brown who was described as a widow and the daughter of Christopher Pierce, a civil servant.  At that time David was described as a widower.  We do not know why there was a need for the couple to have this second marriage.

We know that  Sarah Jane had married Samuel Brown in Fermoy in Cork, Ireland on 18th March 1862.  We do not know when Samuel died.  ‘Sarah Jane Pierse’ appears to have given birth to a child called Francis Jonathan Owens on 28th July 1874 in Dublin.  The record on the Ancestry website shows the name of the father was ‘David C. Owens’.  We do not know what happened to this child.

The 1871 Census shows the couple living in the Defensible Barracks, Pembroke in Wales.  David was a Corporal in the 13th Regiment aged 27.   His wife was Sarah Jane aged 28 who was said to be from Broadstairs in Kent.  They had two daughters, Frances Jane aged 8 who was born in Ireland and Ann aged 3 born in Portland in Dorset.  Ann Eliza Owen was baptised on 15th December 1867 in Weymouth in Dorset.

By 1878 he appears to have been in South Africa as their daughter Sarah Natalia Ovens was born there.

In the 1881 Census their surname is shown as ‘Owens.’  They were living at the Full Moon in Taunton.  David C was an Orderly Room clerk 36 BD.  He was aged 37.  Sarah Jane was a ladies nurse aged 37 born in Deal, Kent.  They now had four children: Frances Jane was a school teacher aged 16, Annie E was aged 13, and they also had David J aged 9 born in Pembroke and Sarah N aged 3 born in Natal (British subject).

On 9th March 1886 he was discharged from the army with the rank of Sergeant Major.

In that year David moved to Thornbury.  On 24th August 1886 there was a newspaper report of “Volunteer Evolutions.”  This was part of the training of the First Gloucestershire Rifle Volunteers who were training under Leiut. H. P. Thurston.  The troops were divided into two groups to practise manoeuvres around Tytherington Hill.  Leading the main group was Sergeant David Cogswell Owens or Ovens.

A year after their marriage in Thornbury the Bristol Mercury for Saturday, May 19th 1888 reported a court case which gave an interesting insight into the personality of David Cogswell Ovens (or Owens as he was called in the article).  The court case was against Austin Edgar Hodges for assault on Cogswell Owens.  It seems that on several occasions when Cogswell Owens was walking down John Street he had buckets of “filth” thrown over him.  There were also instances of a bucket of tar being aimed at him and an egg shell containing red paint.  These came from more than one house.  The home of George Hodges seemed to be the main source of these mysterious missiles.  Eventually when an egg shell of blue paint was flung at him David lost his temper and forced his way into the house and found Austin Edgar Hodges hiding behind a door.

The reason for all these assaults became clear in the cross questioning of Mr Cogswell Ovens.  The first revelation was that on an earlier occasion they had been fighting over a young girl called Miss Nelmes.  It also mentioned that he had been in court before; once in Taunton for assaulting a little boy who had hit his son and once before a court martial for embezzling 2s 4d.  Mr Cogswell Ovens’ private life also appears to have been complicated.  He was asked if he had been married in South Africa (“never”), in Ireland (“I refuse to answer”) and in Thornbury (“yes”).  He refused to answer whether his present wife was the mother of all four of his children.  He admitted that he had lived in Taunton but appeared to have left after the inhabitants burned an effigy of him.  When asked if once he came to Thornbury he seduced Emma Hodges whilst she was under the influence of a drug, he gave the interesting answer that “she was not unconscious at the time.”  The defence lawyer also mentioned a seduction in Malmesbury and a Miss Fitzpatrick whom Cogswell Ovens had sent to school in Stroud.

The questioning about David’s marriages seem to stem from the fact that he was to have married Emma Hodges and that he had first told her that he was married and then that he was a widower.  The case against Austin Edgar Hodges was not proven because a Mr Cornock was in the house at the time and he said he had not seen Hodges throw the egg.  However the defendant, Cogswell Ovens was imprisoned for 21 days with hard labour and the payment of £1 10s 6d costs and other sums for the damage caused to the property of George Hodges and other costs.

A year later David was in trouble again.  This time he was fined £2 8s 6d with £2 11s 6d costs for the assault of John Evomy Phelps on 17th October 1889.  He seemed to have a grudge against John as he was up for assaulting him again on two other occasions, on 3rd May 1891 (for which he was fined £2 3s including costs) and on 21st July 1891 (for which he had to pay a further £2 12s including costs).

The 1891 census shows David living in St John Street with his wife, Sarah Jane, aged 47 years who was from from Broadstairs in Kent. They had two daughters living with them, Sarah Natalie aged 13 who was born in Natal, South Africa and Jane Margaret aged 7 years born in Taunton.

The marriage did not last much longer as Sarah Jane died on October 12th 1897 aged 54 years.  On the other hand David Cogswell Ovens seemed to prosper.  Mr Cogswell Ovens appears as the tenant of 6 St John Street in the Rate Book of 1894 but he had left by 1899.

David bought what became Epworth House in Castle Street on 31st October 1900.  At the time of the sale he was living at Oak Villa in Morton.

The 1901 Census shows David had was living in Oak Villa with his daughter Jane.  Initially he continued to rent Epworth House to tenants and when he made his will in 1903 his address was said to be Morton House.  By 1910 the Trade Directories show that he had moved to Epworth House, Castle Street.  The 1911 Census showed David Cogswell Owens (or Ovens) a widower aged 68.  The Census said that he had had seven children, two of whom had died.  He had his 22 year old daughter Sarah living with him and David Theobald Owens aged 12.  It is a sign of David’s career that his daughter was born in Natal South Africa and his grandson was born in the Punjab.

David died on June 11th 1913 aged 69 years.  By his will of 12th December 1903 the executors who were also the mortgagees were to sell Epworth House.  The mortgage outstanding at the time of his death was £200 and the house was sold for £450.

The Gazette of 14th June 1913 reported his death which apparently took place after three week’s illness, the cause of death being “heart trouble”.  The following week’s edition described his funeral;

On Saturday afternoon the funeral of Sergeant- Major David Cogswell Ovens late 13th (Prince Albert’s) Light Infantry, took place in the Thornbury Cemetery. The deceased who died at his home in Epworth House, Thornbury, on Wednesday (as recorded in last week’s Gazette) at the age of 69 years, had resided in Thornbury for a number of years past.  He was at one time instructor to the now extinct local detachment of the Bristol Rifle Volunteers.
Of late years Sergt. Major Ovens had also taken an active part in organising a local contingent of the Veteran Reserves.  He was also a director of the Thornbury Gas Light and Coke company.
The coffin was covered with the Union Jack, and the deceased’s helmet and sword, and was borne to the Church and Cemetery on the hand hearse by four of the Veteran Reserve.”

  • Of David’s children:
    David John – joined the Somerset Light Infantry and was a Lieutenant and Quartermaster in the First Battalion in 1907 when his son was admitted to Thornbury Grammar School in 1907.   David served in Rawal Pindi, Bengal where he lived with his wife Mabel Annie.  His son, David Theodore Cogswell Ovens (or Owens as it was shown on the school admissions register) was born on 27th March 1899 and attended Regimental School in Cawnpore in India.  The register shows he left the school on 10th April 1911 and was to attend Taunton School, although there is note to say he spent the Autumn term 1911 in Malta.  We do not know whether David John returned to England with his son or whether the boy had been sent back to England to attend school.  David Theodore’s address on admission to school was Castle Street which could have been his grandfather’s address.  We were kindly sent a postcard addressed to ‘Master B. Owens’ at Epworth House dated 24th December 1907.  The card was sent by ‘C.M.L’  whom we believe to be David Theodore’s cousin, Clarice Mary Lashford’.  She seemed to know David by the name of ‘Bootles‘.  David Theodore went on to join the army like his father and grandfather.  He was a Lieutenant in the Gurkhas in 1923 when he was  awarded the Military Cross for his gallantry in helping to rescue three wounded men.
  • Annie Eliza Cogswell – married Edward John Hutchings Lashford at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury on 15th April 1895.  Edward was a farmer from Morton and the son of Edgar Lashford, a grocer.  They had a daughter, Clarice Mary baptised on 26th July 1896.  The 1911 Census shows that the family lived in Morton.  Annie died aged 43 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 20th January 1912.
  • Jane Margaret – was born 30th July 1883 in Taunton.  She married George Till Young, a highway surveyor from Morton, on 9th November 1910.  George died on 5th December 1918 aged 36.  The 1926 Rate Book shows Jane living in 5 St John Street.  She must after re-married at some after this because although she is buried with George, her name is shown as Jane Margaret Wills.
  • Frances Jane – was born in Ireland.  She married William Walton on 9th November 1899 in Cirencester.  The 1901 Census shows that she and her husband lived in Shincliffe in Durham, where William was a bank inspector.  They had an eight month daughter called Eleanor.

Sarah Johnson – a document relating to the bakery next door shows ‘Miss Johnson’ was the tenant of 6 St John Street on 28th October 1898.  The 1899 Rate Book shows that Sarah Johnson is living in the house that became 6 St John Street and the 1901 census gives more details.  Sarah was a single lady aged 67 years who was born in Winchcombe and described as ‘living on her own means.’  Living with her was her niece, Mabel A Clark, who was single, aged 20 and born in Painswick.  The 1861 and 1871 censuses show that Sarah was the servant of Sophia Evans of “Greenfields” in Leckhampton.  She died 6th October 1903 aged 70 years.

The Clarks – the 1905 Rate Book shows that Mabel Clark continued to rent the house after Sarah Johnson’s death (see above).  She was renting the house in 1905 from Emily Weatherhead.  The 1910 Rate Book shows that the next tenant was Robert Clark. Robert Clark was Mabel’s father.

The 1891 census shows the family living together in the Police Station in the High Street.  In 1899 Robert rented number 5 St John Street from George Hodges, but the 1901 census shows Robert had retired and he and the family were living at The Knapp.  The 1911 census shows that the house at 6 St John Street was occupied by Robert Clark, a police pensioner aged 63 born in Fairford, his wife, Mary Ann Clark aged 65 born in Winchcombe, their daughter, Mable Annie, a sanatorium nurse aged 37 born in Painswick and son, Robert Clark a bank clerk with the Union of London and Smiths Bank aged 26, also born in Winchcombe .

Mabel’s mother, Mary Ann died aged 57 and she was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 15th April 1911.  It is possible that Mabel continued living with her father to look after him.

The names of Mabel and Robert Clark appear in the electoral rolls up to 1926 and they were listed as being the tenants of this house in the 1925 Valuation list and 1926 Rate Book.  Robert Clark died in May 1926 aged 78.  Robert and Mary Ann were buried in Thornbury with their son Charles Albert Clark.  Charles had initially left home to go to America, but moved on from there to Australia.  When the War started he joined the Australian forces and was sent to fight in Turkey.  In 1915 there is a newspaper report which shows he was sent home to Thornbury on sick leave after fighting in the Dardanelles.  He went back to join the fighting and he was killed in Ismailia in Egypt on June 6th 1916 aged 34 years.

The Newports – the house was occupied by Leonard Charles Newport and his wife, Lilian Mary from about 1930 until just the early 1950’s.  Leonard was the manager of P. G. Hawkins builder’s merchants business.

Leonard was born in Salisbury on 10th July 1897.  He was the son of Charles Newport and his wife, Emily.  In 1901 he family were living at 85 Park Street, Salisbury and Charles was working as a coachman.  By 1911 they had moved to 43 Clarendon Street.  Charles had become a chauffeur and Leonard had become a junior clerk.

The 1927 electoral register shows Leonard had moved to Thornbury and was lodging with Miss Wilson at Sibland.

In 1929 Leonard married Lilian Mary Lambert in Thornbury.  Lilian was born on 25th March 1906, the daughter of Thomas Lambert and his wife, Jane.  In 1911 census they were living at Crossways and Thomas worked as a carter for the flour mill.

They had at least 2 children, Gerald Leslie born on 25th April 1932 and baptised in St Mary’s church Thornbury 3rd July of that year and Stella Vivienne born in 26th June 1946.  The Council School records show that they also seemed to look after, at least for a short time, Emily Violet and Nancy Agnes Newport.  These girls came from Dornock and attended the school for a couple of years whilst living with the Newports in St John Street.

During the War Leonard was an ARP Warden.

We understand Leonard and Lilian moved to Bristol in the early 1950’s.

The accounts of the building firm of W.W. Pitcher & Sons show that when they carried out some building work on ‘Newport’s house’ in 1935, it was owned by a Mrs Prickett who lived in Blackpool.

Wilkinson – from 1954 until at least 1965 the house was occupied by Cyril and Kate Wilkinson who were operating the bakery business next door.  On 12th November 1969 Cyril and Kate arranged a lease of 6 St John Street and the bakery for their son, David.  On 12th February 1973 they sold both properties to David who paid £5000 for the house and £4300 for the bakery.  Click here to read more

On 6th March 1974 the house and the bakery next door were sold by David John Wilkinson to Thornbury Rural District Council for £27,500.  Both properties were demolished as part of the town’s re-development.  They were replaced by a new section of road linking St John Street to Rock Street and an elderly persons residential home called Quaker Court.

go to the history of the house