The two photographs shown here indicate how this house and shop have changed. Click on each thumbnail to see a larger image. The first photo was taken in the late 1800’s. We have been informed by Henry T. Ford (a descendant of Frances Gayner ) who sent us a copy of the photo that it was taken in the 1860’s. The sign over the shop shows the name of ‘Vaughan’ and we know that John Vaughan was trading there from about 1851 onwards. Another shop in the High Street shows the name of ‘Barretts’. This family had moved away from Thornbury by 1871.
The style of building is similar to that still to be seen on the adjoining shop at 2 The Plain, still commonly referred to by the name of Dorothy Gubbins who ran a sweet shop there in the 1960’s. It been suggested to us that this design indicates that the buildings originated from the 17th century.
The second photo, shown below, was taken some time after 1902 when John Hodges Williams took over and it became known as ‘Bon Marche‘.
We don’t know when the house and shop were first built. Our earliest source is the last will of Henry Marsh dated 1670. Henry was a tanner. He left the house called ‘the Corner House’ in the High Street to his wife, Joane Marsh. Henry was the son of Henry Marsh snr, another tanner, and his wife Elizabeth (nee Phillips). Henry senior had died in 1655.
We had suspected that this house was the one on the corner of the High Street and The Plain as it is mentioned in the 1670 Rent Roll as belonging to Henry Marsh. The will now supports that suspicion because it describes the property as being ‘over against the house of one John Stones’. We know from other sources that the Stones family were associated with the property on the opposite side of The Plain (later known as Porch House or 10/11 The Plain). Henry mentions in the will that the house was formerly purchased by his father (Henry Marsh snr) from Mr. Hilpe. Henry jnr’s wife, Joane, was the daughter of John Bird, a mercer and we understand from family trees on Ancestry and other websites that they had married in Stone in 1645. Joane was buried in Thornbury St Marys Church on 12th January 1700.
We don’t know any more about the property until about 1800. We do know however that for 200 years or so since that date, the property has only been in the ownership of two families: the Eleys and the Williams.
The Eleys – the land tax records show that James Eley was occupying the house in 1800, although he may have been living here from the date of his marriage in 1787. James operated as a staymaker and linen draper from his shop in the house. He died in 1831 and the property was left to his daughter, Martha Eley. Martha was a bookseller, stationer and fire and life insurance agent. She shared the house with her sister, Elizabeth who was a milliner and straw hat maker. Both Martha and Elizabeth died in 1850 and the property was left to their brother, James Eley. The 1859 rate book shows James as the owner of the two properties which later became 1 & 2 the Plain. James (Junior) had become a saddler and settled in Berkeley with his large family. He continued to rent out the property of The Plain and on his death in 1861, his wife, Ann Eley, continued to live off the income from the rents until about 1876. Click here to read about the Eley family
John Williams – the 1876, 1880 and 1885 rate books all show the property was owned by John Williams. John was a tailor living at Gloucester House in Gloucester Road. By 1890 the property appears to have passed to John’s son, John Hodges Williams. Click here to read about John
John Hodges Williams – the 1887 and 1890 rate books show the house was owned by John Hodges Williams and occupied by James Vaughan. John continued to own the property and to rent it out to tenants. In 1902 the tenant, James Spencer Palmer, moved to another of John’s properties, a larger newly built premises further up the High Street called Coronation House (later to be known as 13 High Street). John took the opportunity to open another shop at 1 The Plain. This one he called ‘Bon Marche’ and it became an outfitters run by John himself. He was to remain here for the next 30 years. Click here to read about John
Henry William Williams – Henry was the second son of John Hodges Williams and it was Henry who inherited 1 The Plain and the rest of the William’s estate in Thornbury. Henry started as a grocer in the Golden Key but by 1936 he had moved to London. After his death in 1960 the property was managed by his trustees. Click here to read more