12 The PlainWe don’t know when the house was built or anything about its early history.  Our earliest source is the 1809 rent roll which indicates that the property is owned by Margaret Martin.  The name of the occupant is left blank, but the name of ‘Crossman & Lloyd’ has been added later to show that they had moved in at sometime after 1809.

The 1830 rent roll indicates that the property was owned by a person called Martin (the forename is not legible) and occupied by Crossman & Lloyd.

The Martins – the church records available on Scribes Alcove show that Margaret Martin was the wife of Hugh Thurston Martin, the son of Richard Martin and his wife, Susanna (nee Thurston).  Hugh was baptised in Ledbury, Herefordshire on 3rd May 1768 and we think the family moved to Thornbury about 1780.  We don’t know when or where Hugh married Margaret or Margaret’s maiden name.  It is possible that they settled in Bristol initially as his last will written in 1795 describes him as a ‘linen draper of the City of Bristol, but now residing at Thornbury’.  They had a son, Richard, baptised in Christ Church, Bristol on 7th May 1794.  They also had a daughter, Susannah, who was baptised in Thornbury on 6th May 1795.  Susannah must have been born some time before March as she is mentioned in her father’s will which was written on 27th February 1795.  Tragically Hugh died shortly after and he was buried on 12th March 1795 aged 27.

It is interesting to note that the Gloucester Journal of May 18th 1795 shows that from 5th May 1795 Mr Martin, mercer of Thornbury was one of the people licensed and authorised to receive the duty and issue certificates for the use of hair powder.  We can only assume that this is because he applied for this position shortly before his death.  The licence must have been renewed as the Gloucester Journal continued to show that Mr Martin was authorised to issue these certificates until at least 1797.  We can only assume that his wife must have continued to run the business after her husband’s death and was able to issue the certificates on her late husband’s behalf.  We are indebted to Wikipedia for an explanation of these certificates which were introduced in 1795 as a means of levying tax on hair powder.  Apparently everyone wishing to use hair powder had to pay one guinea for a certificate.  There were a number of exemptions to this tax which included certain members of the Royal family, the armed forces and clergymen.

The 1800 land tax record shows that ‘Mrs Martin’ who was presumably Hugh’s widow, Margaret, was living in a house owned by John Salmon in the High Street.  We know that her daughter, Susannah Martin, was the owner of 12 The Plain in 1840, but we don’t know where she was living or what happened to her, her mother or brother.

The 1840 Tithe Survey which is supported by its own map showing individual houses shows that the property we now know as 12 The Plain was then Plot 260, a house, office and garden owned by Susannah Martin and occupied by Thomas Crossman and Edmund Lloyd.

Martin William Hooper – almost all rate books of 1859 to 1890 the owner of Crossman’s property is ‘Martin William Hooper’.  We have also found no other mention of anyone called ‘Hooper’ in connection with Thornbury during that period.  In the 1887 rate book the owner of the property is shown as ‘M. W. Weeks’.  We can’t explain this anomaly.

Crossman’s – it is amazing to see that the property has been a solicitors office ever since that time and the name of business, still includes the name of the Crossman family, although no member of that family have been involved in the business since 1890.   Click here to read more

During the 1800’s we believe that the property was shared between the offices of the solicitors on the ground floor and residential accommodation on the upper floor.  We have seen that in Gloucester Records Office plans drawn up by Tuckers Brothers in 1897 for the conversion of the property to offices, increasing the height of the roof and the installation of dormer windows in the roof to provide a third floor of accommodation.  This can seen clearly by comparing the photo above and the modern photo on the ‘Crossmans’ webpage accessed by clicking on the link above.

We only know of a few people who shared the property with ‘Crossmans’:

Guy & Sarah Barge – the 1841 census shows that the Barges were living there.  Guy Barge was an agricultural labourer aged 60 and his wife, Sarah, was aged 60.  Click here to read more  

John Powell – the 1861 census seems to show that John was living in the property with his family.  John was a master stone mason employing 2 men aged 37 living with his wife, Jane aged 36 who was born in Uphill and a niece, Ann Elizabeth Fry a house servant aged 13.  Ann was the daughter of George Fry, a tailor and his wife, Elizabeth (nee Powell) who was John Powell’s sister.

The 1881 and 1891 censuses show John living with his sister, Elizabeth and her husband, George Fry in the High Street.  John died aged 69 and was buried on 30th December 1893.  Click here to read about the Powell family

John and Elizabeth Gastrell – the 1871 and 1881 censuses show that John and Elizabeth Gastrell were living in the property.  John Chitts Gastrell was baptised on 29th November 1835.  He was the son of George Gastrell, a cooper and his wife, Flora (nee Chitts).  In 1841 census the family had been living with George’s father, John Gastrell, also a cooper, who had been living in one of the row of cottages opposite The Chantry at the bottom of Castle Street that we have described as Stokefield Cottages.  They were still there in the 1851 census when young John had become an assistant to his father and grandfather.  By 1861 John’s grandfather and father had died (in 1856 and 1859 respectively) and Flora was living in the cottage with her son, James.  She was letting out horses for hire.  John had become a groom and was residing at The Vicarage.  On 15th May 1862 John married Elizabeth Smith, the daughter of Thomas Smith, a labourer.

In the 1871 census John was employed as a stable proprietor.  A notice was published in the Bristol Mercury dated 9th July 1871 saying that John was giving up his posting business in Castle Street.  He was selling his ‘spring traps (all in good condition), spring cart, set of good harness, carriage whips, horse clothing, double rein bridles, saddle, exercising bridles, surcingles, leather-head stalls, corn bins and other effects’.  The 1881 census shows John was now working as a gardener.  John died on 16th February 1888 aged 53 years.  The newspaper report of 20th February 1888 tells the sad story behind these two facts.  There was an inquest on the death of John Gastrell who committed suicide by hanging himself from a beam in an outhouse belonging to Thomas English.  John had been very depressed about the condition of his wife who was very ill with pleurisy.  The jury concluded that John had committed suicide whilst of unsound mind.  Click here to read more about Elizabeth