The Plain in 1951

The pair of properties on The Plain shown in the photograph above were also known as Porch House and were at one time a single residential building.

Note – there is another house at 11 Castle Street still called ‘Porch House’ now used by the Roman Catholic Church.

This history of this distinguished pair of houses goes back a long way.  There is a mention in the September 1960 bulletin of the Society of Thornbury Folk that ‘the earliest deed of Mr S. Gayner’s house on The Plain is dated 1591.  It was then owned by John Stone and known as Porch House‘.

We haven’t seen the original deed but it is likely to have been between when Katherine Rippe acquired the house.  Katherine was a major property owner and when she died she left two properties to benefit the poor of town.  In 1594 when Katherine Rippe wrote her will she left to her kinsman William Lynke ‘the Porch House with the backside and garden adjoining’ which she had lately purchased.  Click here to read more about Katherine Rippe

We know that it was originally one house with single porch, hence how it presumably got its name.  The large single porch is shown clearly on the 1840 Tithe Map.  We also know from a newspaper article printed in 1962 that Sidney said his house had once been an inn.  It seems likely that Sidney must have seen his deeds to know that the earliest reference was dated 1591 and that he must have seen a reference to it being an inn.  We have also heard from another member of the Knight family that the family believed that the front door frame had been chiselled away so that the doorway was now barrel shaped to make it easier for the delivery of beer.  We were given another fascinating piece of information from this source to the effect that the newel post up the spiral staircase may have been a mast from a boat that was decommissioned about this time.

Staircase with newel post that may have come from a ship.

So far we have only scratched the surface with regard to researching the history of the building and the families who have lived in it.  We will be adding more information as we find it.  For now, what we know is:

The Stone family – an indenture dated 17th April 1759 shows that John Stone, a maltster, and his widowed mother, Joanna Stone, arranged a mortgage of their property with Samuel Horne, saddler of Bristol.  Their property included a messuage ‘commonly known as Porch House situate in Thornbury with garden orchard and adjoining near unto a place commonly known by the name of Bells Croft (sic)’.  It informs us that the property was ‘formerly purchased by William Stone deceased (grandfather of said John Stone) from William’s father, also called John Stone.  Thus the property had been in the hands of the Stone family for at least four generations which makes the property at least 300 years old.

In addition to Porch House, John and Joanna also used as a security their other properties, namely ‘all that toft or ruinous tenement with garden orchard backside adjoining and 2 parrocks of arable or pasture each containing about 2 acres lying near unto a common called Crossways and also 2 closes of meadow or pasture called the paddocks containing 4 acres which said toft or ruinous tenement and closes of ground are situate in the Tithing of Kington and William Stone the father sometime since had purchased of John Stafford Esq deceased now in the tenure of Joanna Stone or her undertenants with all outbuildings stables etc’.

John’s mother, Joanna, died in 1760 and was buried in the graveyard of St Mary’s church in Thornbury on 14th April 1760.  Shortly after this time, John appears to have got into severe financial difficulties.  A conveyance dated 8th January 1766 shows John had to convey property to his creditors to prevent him being declared bankrupt.  The creditors named in the agreement were William Turton of Tockington, gentleman, John Marsh of Thornbury, gentleman and Samuel Thomas of Bristol, skinner.  The property conveyed included ‘all that messuage where Joanna Stone formerly dwelt and where John Marsh now dwelt situate standing and being in Thornbury commonly called or known by the name of Porch House with the garden and orchard thereunto adjoining and belonging near with a place commonly called or known by the name of Bells Cross and was formerly purchased by William Stone deceased grandfather of the said John Stone (party hereto)‘.

John Stone was a major property owner in the Castle Street area of the town – click here to read more about his family and their property interests

John Marsh – the 1766 conveyance referred to above shows John Marsh was already occupying Porch House at the time it was conveyed to him and the other of John Stone’s creditors.  The list of property owners made for the ‘Assessment for Relief of the Poor’ in 1770 shows John Marsh as being ‘for late Stones’ which indicates he was still in the property previously associated with the Stone family.  We understand that John was an attorney at law in Thornbury.

In 1763 John married Elizabeth Hollister at Almondsbury.  Elizabeth was the daughter of Luke Hollister of Almondsbury.  Elizabeth died in 1775.  The Bath Chronicle of 12th February 1788 shows that John Marsh attorney of Thornbury then married Mary Blake the daughter of Mr Blake a merchant of Bristol.  The Bath Chronicle of 20th October 1825 says that John Marsh died that day at Biddestone House in Wiltshire in his 90th year.  The notice of his death adds that he resided many years near Taunton and formerly at Thornbury.

Luke and Mary Hollister – various later documents refer to the fact that Luke Hollister and then Mary Hollister followed John Marsh in occupying Porch House.  We know from Luke Hollister’s will dated 1796 that he was the son of Luke and Hester Hollister and he had been living in Almondsbury.  He owned a considerable amount of property.  The Will is extremely difficult to read, but we have deciphered one important section which tells us that he left ‘to Mary, my present wife, all that messuage or tenement wherein I now dwell with the outhouses, buildings, garden, orchard and all appurtenances belonging situate in Thornbury aforesaid which I lately purchased in fee simple of Mr John Marsh‘.  We know that Luke Hollister and John Marsh were related in some way. John’s wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1775, was the daughter of a Luke Hollister – this would make Luke either John’s nephew or brother in law.  

The Gloucester Journal of April 29 1799 show that ‘Mrs Hollester’ owned the house and that it was to be auctioned on 4th May 1799 at the Swan Inn in Thornbury.  At that time the house was described as ‘a good stone-built dwelling house, the late residence of Luke Hollester esq deceased, situate near the centre and in the most convenient part of the town of Thornbury with a coach house, stable, two gardens a small greenhouse and an orchard adjoining.’

Richard and Sarah Hayward – Richard Hayward was born about 1742.  Richard was a tanner in Thornbury.  On 8th September 1776 Richard married Sarah Burrows from Alveston.  Sarah died on 16th April 1779 aged 30 and there is a brass plaque in her memory attached to the floor of the middle aisle of St Mary’s Church.  Richard re-married on 25th January 1796.  His second wife was Sarah Mills who was baptised on 4th April 1759, the daughter of James Mills, a mason and his wife, Martha.

Presumably Richard became the owner of this property on The Plain at the auction on 4th May 1799.  The 1800 land tax record shows that Richard owned the house then occupied by John Salmon.  In the 1809 and 1820 land tax records he was still the owner whilst it was occupied by ‘Delaroche’  presumably this was John Delaroche who was living in Thornbury about this time.  By 1812 Richard had moved into the house on The Plain from another house he owned at Crossways.  He was to remain on The Plain until he died aged 80.  He was buried on 30th October 1822.   In his will written on 16th February 1815 he left his property on The Plain and that at Crossways to Sarah.  Sarah continued living on The Plain.  The 1840 Tithe survey shows that Sarah Hayward owned and occupied Plot 257, the house on The Plain, Plot 257 the large garden which ran behind the six little cottages on Gloucester Road and Plot 250 the stable fronting Gloucester Road.  In the 1841 census Sarah was described as being ‘Independent’ and living there with Mathew Mills aged 45 and Ellen Mills who was also 45 born in Lancashire.  Sarah died aged 93 and was buried on 13th May 1844.  In her will proved on 23rd December 1844 Sarah left her property to her nephew Mathew Mills.  She also left a legacy of £10 to another nephew, Thomas Mills.  Both Matthew and Thomas were the sons of Sarah’s brother, Mathew Mills and his wife Ann (nee Trayherne).

Mathew Mills – Mathew was born on 9th July 1795, the son of Matthew and Ann Mills.  He was the nephew of Sarah Hayward, the previous owner of the property, and he was a mason, living with Sarah and a person called Ellen Mills the time of the 1841 census.  We think that Mathew and Ellen were married – it is possible that their marriage took place on 24th June 1821 when Mathew Mills married Elinor Barge, a widow.  (Although most records show Mathew as married to Ellen, a draft indenture for the property in 1856 shows her name as ‘Eleanor’).

When Sarah Hayward died in 1844 she left Mathew the property and he continued to live there.  Mathew didn’t keep the property long.  On 27th April 1847 he put the property up for auction.  It was described as: ‘Lot 1: All that capital messuage or dwelling house called the Porch House with the lawn and garden behind the same now in the occupation of Mr Matthew Mills, the proprietor, desirably situated in the very centre of the town of Thornbury and containing two excellent front parlours, a good back parlour with pantry, china pantry, extensive kitchens and back kitchen and good underground cellars, six bedrooms and four attics.  Lot 1 constitutes one of the best residences in the town for a private family of respectability, and the rates and taxes are very low’.  Lot 2 of the above auction referred to ‘the stable coach-house, outbuildings, garden and orchard containing about three-quarters of an acre having a separate entrance from the Turnpike-road, and not having in any manner interfering with the dwelling house‘.

We understand that Mathew sold the house to Thomas Osborne Wetmore in 1847.  Mathew must have moved to Crossways at this time as he died there shortly after.  Mathew died aged 54 and was buried on 17th October 1848.  Ellen went into service following Mathew’s death.  We think she was a widowed housekeeper aged 63 in Earthcott in the 1851 census.  This shows Ellen was born in Lancashire.  In 1861 census this Ellen was living back in Crossways where she was boarding with Thomas Mills Walker.  At this time her age is given as only 65, but it shows that she was also born in Lancashire.  On this census it notes Ellen was a ‘lunatic’.  Ellen’s burial record on Scribes Alcove shows Ellen was 94 when she died at Crossways and she was buried on 12th November 1873.

Thomas Osborne Wetmore – we understand that Thomas bought the property on 29th June 1847.  He may have tried to sell it straight away as another auction sale was held on 3rd July 1847 where the property was described: ‘All that commodious and well-built dwelling house comprising two parlours, kitchen, six bedrooms, and underground cellar, with a stable and other convenient outbuildings, yard, rain-water cistern and good walled garden all adjoining, situate near the Plain, in the town of Thornbury aforesaid, fronting the Turnpike-road leading to Gloucester.  Also a conveniently built cottage adjoining the dwelling house.  These premises are well adapted either for trade or private residence‘.  We are however not sure that this is the same property as Porch House as we don’t understand the reference to the adjoining cottage, and in any case the sale failed.  He tried again to auction it in 1849 and in 1851 when it was still being described on both occasions as being ‘void’ and having ‘lately been put in a state of complete repair and is well adapted for a residence of a large respectable family‘.  These attempts to sell the property also failed.

By 1854 Thomas had divided the house into two tenements which were decorated inside and out to a high standard.  The outside work was done by John Eyles and included giving the walls two coats of plaster followed by a third of stucco with lines drawn to represent blocks of freestone.  The porches to the front were also stuccoed in the same way.  The iron railings outside were painted green.  

It appears that Thomas made more than one attempt to sell the property.  There is a draft indenture dated 1856 involving Thomas Hewett – it may however refer to a mortgage for the property as we know that Thomas continued to own it.

Following Thomas’s death, Porch House was sold to Nicholas Cornock Grove in 1869.  The auction of Thomas’s property arranged after his death shows that in addition to Porch House, he also owned 3 farms in Alveston, two farms in Falfield, 4 properties in Thornbury High Street including the White Lion Inn.  Click here to read more about Thomas Osborne Wetmore

Nicholas Cornock Grove – Nicholas purchased the two properties and the orchard area stretching down to the stables and outbuildings fronting Gloucester Road in 1869.  In 1870 he also purchased ‘Prospect House’ and its garden at 13 The Plain from James Jones.  We note that the 1881 OS map shows that the large orchard area which had belonged to the owners of 10 and 11 The Plain had been merged with the garden belonging to Prospect House.  We expect this happened as a result of Nicholas Grove acquiring all three properties.  It followed that the large orchard and the stable fronting Gloucester Road became part of the Prospect House property from this time on.

Nicholas was a farmer and he never lived in the houses on The Plain.  He was born on 22nd July 1800 and baptised on 6 August 1800, the son of Thomas and Mary Grove.  On 17th September 1842 Nicholas married Julia Carwardine in Westbury on Trym.  Julia was baptised on 13th October 1819, the daughter of John Carwardine, a chandler and his wife, Rebecca.  They had two children, both baptised in Thornbury: Statira Elizabeth Grove baptised on 13th August 1856 and Austin Carwardine Freeman Grove baptised on 19th January 1859.  They lived in Thornbury Farm.  When he died on 19th December 1877, Nicholas left the two properties to Julia.  On her death on 27th January 1879 the two properties on The Plain were left to her daughter Statira Elizabeth.  Their main property, Thornbury Farm and three properties in St Mary Street were left in trust for their son, Austin.

On 28th February 1879 the property on The Plain was put up for auction.  The tenants of the properties were Maria Thurston (number 11) and Maria Paynter (number 10).  The notice of sale advert described the properties as ‘Lot 1 all that most substantially-built dwelling house with productive garden at the rear, situate fronting the Plain, in the centre of the Town of Thornbury, and in the occupation of Miss Paynter, as yearly, tenant, at a rent of £24 10s per annum.  The house contains – on basement, underground cellars; on ground floor, entrance hall, parlour, two kitchens, and scullery; on first floor four bedrooms and two attics over.  Lot 2 – all that substantially-built dwelling house with garden situate adjoining the last Lot, and in the occupation of Miss Thurston, at a rent of £18 per annum.  The house contains – on basement, underground cellar; on ground floor, parlour, kitchen, back-kitchen and scullery; on first floor two bedrooms and large attic over’.

The 1876 rate books show that Nicholas also owned three houses located at the top of St Mary Street.  Following Nicholas and Julia’s death, these properties were left to their son, Austin and by 1885 had been acquired by another owner who replaced the three houses with two houses.  These houses later became known as 59 and 61 St Mary Street.

Maria Thurston – Maria was baptised on 5th June 1822, the daughter of John Thurston, a gentleman and farmer and his wife, Hannah.  She was brought up living with her parents in Kington.

Gloucester Archives (GRO D866/F4) has a letter written to her by her brother Hugh Kingsmill Thurston in July 1843.

Dear Maria
I received your letter on Thursday and was glad to hear Elizabeth was better.  Obed, John and myself went to Bristol on Wednesday to see the launch of the Great Britain and Prince Albert; we had the pleasure to see His Royal Highness twice first in Park Street and at the terminus when he left in the afternoon.  Never was such a number of persons collected together in the memory of man.  Afterwards we dined at Mr James Hall’s and arrived home at a few minutes past nine.  Obed went to Gloucester to attend the Sessions yesterday morning; he was at Thornbury at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Maria’s brother may have been feeling a bit guilty at having so much fun because he added

I am sure you must be very gay at Weston.  Please remember us kindly to Aunt and Cousins.”

Following her father’s death in 1870 her brother John Horatio Thurston took over the family home and although Maria was shown to be living with him in the 1871 census we know that she became a tenant of Nicholas Cornock Grove at 11 The Plain by the time of the 1876 rate book.

When Nicholas Cornock Grove’s two properties were put up for sale at auction on 28th February 1879, Lot 1 was purchased by Maria for £350 and Lot 2 was bought for £255.  The 1880 rate book shows she had also acquired the other house.  The 1881 census shows Maria was living in the High Street with her brother, Obed E Thurston, the solicitor.  Maria died aged 62 and was buried on 6th August 1884.  The two houses were again put up for auction on 10th September 1884.  This time there was one Lot which was described:

A substantially-built dwelling house with productive garden in the rear, situate fronting The Plain in the centre of the Town of Thornbury, and in the occupation of Mr Bevis as yearly tenant.  The house contains: on basement – underground cellars, on ground floor – entrance hall, two parlours, kitchen, scullery, and other necessary offices, and on first floor – four bedrooms and two attics.

A substantially-built dwelling house situate adjoining the above, and lately occupied by Miss Thurston deceased.  The house contains: on basement – underground cellar, small entrance hall, large parlour, kitchen, back kitchen, scullery and out offices; on first floor – two bedrooms, dressing-room, with large attic.  The property is in good repair, and situate in the best part of the town of Thornbury.  Immediate possession can be given on the second house‘.

The Knights – the Lot must have been split as the 1885 rate book shows different owners for each of the two properties.  Henry Knight became the owner of 11 The Plain and his family continued living there for over 90 years.  Click here to read more about the Knights

The Kings – the 1887 rate book shows that 10 The Plain was owned by James King and later books up to 1910 show it was owned by Miss Agnes Minnie King.  Agnes was baptised in Olveston on 28th August 1864.  She was the daughter of James and Eliza King who were farming at The Lodge, Rockhampton in the 1891 census.  Agnes is living with them at the time although she was already owner of the house at 10 The Plain.  Agnes married George Alexander Gifford at Charfield on 3rd May 1897.  In the 1901 census George and Agnes were living at Trimmel Farm, Colerne with their three children and Agnes’s widowed mother, Eliza.  The 1910 rate book shows that Agnes still owned 10 The Plain.  She died in Chippenham on 6th February 1932.

The Gayners – the 1926 rate book shows that 10 The Plain had been acquired by Lucy Gayner.  Click here to read about the Gayners

occupants of 10 the plain
occupants of 11 The Plain