This photograph shows the building in 1907. Another photograph taken in 2010 is shown at the bottom of this page.
We don’t know when the house was built or anything about its early history. Our earliest source is the 1840 Tithe Survey which shows that the house was Plot 262, a house and garden owned by John Birt and occupied by Henry Allen.
John Birt – John Birt was born about 1769. On 7th April 1799 John married Elizabeth Shill. Elizabeth was born on 20th January 1776, the daughter of Isaac and Martha Shill. John and Elizabeth had three daughters: Anne (whose baptism we have not found but it was likely to have been in 1800 as she was referred to as his eldest daughter when she got married), Eliza born on 20th October 1801 and Anna born on 4th March 1805.
The Mayors Accounts show that John Birt was paying the rent charge on the property in the High Street known as The Crown from 1800 to 1812. It appears from the accounts, and the 1800 land tax record, that John was a tenant of Mr King in 1800 and 1801, but that by 1802 John had become the owner. The accounts call the property the Crown from 1802 to 1812. By 1814 he had moved to another unidentified property.
The 1840 Tithe Survey shows John owned two plots (262 and 263) which were adjoining houses and garden just off The Plain at the top of Castle Street. These properties became known as 14 and 15 The Plain. The same survey shows John Birt was living in one of the houses later known as 2 – 12 Pullins Green. After the death of his wife John’s two houses were then to be given to his two daughters, Eliza and Anna (who had married George Powell on 19th January 1828). He made bequests of £200 each to his brothers, James and William and to his brother-in-law George Powell. John also left money to his eldest daughter, Anne, the wife of John Lane Cherry, the son of Rev John Cherry of Wellington whom she had married at St Pauls Church, Clifton on 26th January 1819.
Elizabeth his wife died on 12th January 1837 aged 61 and his daughter, Eliza, died on 14th June 1838 aged 36. John had written his will on 3rd July 1834 2hen he described himself as a shopkeeper. He left his two messuages in the High Street (an old name for Castle Street) for the use of his wife during her lifetime. As a result of the death of his wife and daughter, John wrote a codicil to his will dated 31st January 1840 in which he referred to the deaths and directed that his brother William should sell off his property following his death. John died on 3rd February 1840 aged 71. There is an entry in the Manor Court records showing that William Birt, of Milbury Heath was to pay a fine of years value on his admittance to two messuages and gardens in Thornbury on the death of his brother, John Birt.
George and Anna Powell – the 1851 census shows George and Anna were living in 14 The Plain – George was a tailor employing 7 men, aged 57, Anna was aged 46 and Emma was ‘At home’ aged 16. The 1859 rate book shows that George owned 14 The Plain and the adjoining property, 15 The Plain. George continued to own these properties until at least the 1867 rate book. They acquired these properties following the death of Anna’s father, John Birt, in 1840. The 1841 census shows that they had previously been living at 23 High Street – click here to read to more
Ebenezer Vaughan Jenkins – the rate books from 1876 through to 1894 show the house was owned by ‘E.V. Jenkins’. We believe this to be Ebenezer Vaughan Jenkins. Ebenezer was born in Newport, Monmouthshire about 1820. He was the son of Richard Jenkins, a merchant.
The trade directories for Monmouthshire for 1840-42 show Ebenezer Vaughan Jenkins was a chemist in Commercial Street in Newport. On 27th March 1855 Ebenezer Vaughan Jenkins married Emma Birt Powell in Thornbury St Marys Church. Emma was the daughter of George Powell, a draper and his wife, Anna (nee Birt). The marriage record shows Ebenezer as a ‘Gentleman’ living at Christchurch, Monmouthshire. We can’t trace Ebenezer in early censuses and it is possible that he was abroad. An Ebenezer Jenkins of the right age sailed from Bristol to New York in 1848 aboard the ship ‘Cosmo’.
We don’t think that Ebenezer and Emma lived on The Plain. In 1861 Ebenezer and Emma were living in Isca Villa at Christchurch in Monmouthshire. Ebenezer was described as a proprietor of houses and land aged 41. Living with them was their daughter Emily Vaughan aged 5. By 1871 they had moved and they were now living at Down House, Alveston. This census describes Ebenezer a retired chemist. The 1881 census shows they had moved again – this time they were living at Landour, Shrubbery Gardens, Weston-Super-Mare. By 1891 they had moved yet again to 38 St Margaret’s Road, Oxford and they were still there in the 1901 census. Ebenezer died in 1903 aged 83. Emma died in 1905 aged 72.
John Allen – the 1899 rate book shows John Allen was the owner and occupier of the house. The 1901 census shows John was a bootmaker’s foreman aged 59 born in Tortworth. He was living with his wife, Elizabeth was aged 55 born in Thornbury and their children: Edith M a Board School Teacher aged 27, William J, a solicitor’s clerk aged 24, Amy, a mother’s helper aged 20 and Arthur a tailor aged 20 and widowed mother-in-law, Mary Liddiatt who was living on her own means aged 78 and born in Thornbury. John Allen died on June 14th 1911 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery. His wife Elizabeth who died the following year was buried there with him.
We note that William John Allen continued to be listed as living in Castle Street in the electoral registers up to and including 1921 so we assume that he took over his parents’ house. Click here to read about the Allens
Alfred George and Edith Gladys Excell – we believe that Alfred and Edith were the next owners. They moved to Thornbury in 1923. We are fortunate to have notes taken of an interview with their son, George, given to the Thornbury Oral History Society. We have based our history of the family on these notes, supplemented by information taken from other sources. In 1925 the Street Directory shows that Alfred’s property was ‘Leicester House’ in Castle Street. Click here to read more
The next occupants who we know anything about was Alfred’s son, George Excell.
George Excell – moved into the shop in the early 1940’s. He had been invalided out of the Forces in 1942 and was in hospital for a long time. He fancied the idea of his own electrical business and as the shop was empty, he took the opportunity to have a go. He was just building the business up when his health packed up as a result of his injuries sustained in the War. He sold the business to Cranbrook Radio who went on to have a thriving radio and television business at 7 High Street for many years. In 1947 George and his wife, Joan moved to 18 Gloucester Road. Click here to read more about George
We are not sure who owned the property after the Excells. We understand that Ted Bryer, the butcher operated and lived for a short time before moving further down Castle Street. During the period in the late 1950’s when part of the property was rented by Lionel Dearing, the owner was Sidney Gayner. In the 1960’s it was owned by S. M. Turrell who traded as ‘The Pet Shop’ for many years and the Turrell family continue to own to the property.