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14 The PlainWe have been able to identify the following people who have occupied the house in Thornbury that is now known as 14 The Plain.

Henry Allen – Henry is the earliest person we know who lived in the house.  He is listed as the occupant in the 1840 Tithe Apportionment Survey.  Unfortunately we don’t know any more about this to identify him.

Matilda and Priscilla Sperrin – the 1841 census shows the house was occupied by Matilda and Priscilla Sperrin, both described as milliners, Matilda aged 25 and Priscilla aged 20.  They had a servant Mary Ann England aged 15.  We assume that Matilda and Priscilla were sisters.

Matilda was baptised in Thornbury on 31st December 1815.  She was the daughter of Thomas Sperrin, a chandler and his wife, Mary.  We know more from a newspaper notice printed 27th March 1820, which notes that Thomas was bankrupt.  It describes him as a ‘tallow chandler, dealer and chapman of Thornbury’.  A ‘chapman’ is usually defined as a dealer or merchant.  As part of the bankruptcy process, Thomas’s grazing farm was sold.  This consisted of a dwelling house and 23 acres of land which he was letting to William Thomas.  Also put up for sale was Thomas’s lease on the ‘dwelling house and manufactory at Thornbury where he had for several years resided and carried on his business as a tallow chandler.  Thomas had taken out a 14 year lease on this property from 25th March 1813.  This property was in the vicinity of The Plain, but we are not able yet to identify exactly where it was.

It appears that Thomas Sperrin died about 1822 as in 1823 Mary is listed as the occupant of the same property previously occupied by Thomas.  From 1823 to 1830 Mary was is listed in the land tax records as living at 34 High Street.  On 13th March 1834 Mary re-married.  Her second husband was George Cossham.  At the time of the 1840 Tithe Survey Matilda and Priscilla Sperrin were living in a house (later known as 77 High Street) which was owned by George Cossham.  Unfortunately Priscilla died in Thornbury on September 29th 1847 aged 27 “after a long illness”.   Matilda died in September quarter 1849.  In Matilda’s will dated 9th July 1849 she indicated her desire to be given a ‘Christian burial as inexpensively as possible at the Parish Church of Backwell in Somerset where my late father and sister are interred’.  Matilda made a couple of bequests, £50 to her cousin, James Sperrin, and £10 to her step-father, George Cossham.  The rest of her estate was left in trust for the sole use of her mother independent of her husband or his creditors.

George and Anna Powell – the 1851 census shows the house was occupied by George and Anna Powell and their daughter, Emma.  They seem to have inherited the house from Anna’s father who died in 1840.  Click here to read more

Henry Newman – the 1859 rate book shows Henry Newman had been occupying the house, but his name was crossed out to show he had recently vacated the premises.  Note – it is possible that the house was divided into two households at the time of the 1859 rate book as the records show that John Thurston had also been occupying a house owned by George Powell.

George Harper – the 1859 rate book and the 1861 census shows George was living there.  He was described as a tailor and draper aged 38 born in Coleford living with his step-daughter Agnes Clifford formerly a dressmaker aged 19 born in Shirehampton and William Harper brother, unmarried, a tailor aged 42 also from Coleford.  George was listed as being married, but his wife was not at home.  Eliza was a tailor’s wife aged 44 living in Cumberland Street, Bristol with their daughter, Sarah aged 16.  Eliza was born in Tewkesbury.

The 1851 census shows George and Eliza living in Bristol with Sarah then aged 6, and two children of Eliza’s, Henry and Agnes Clifford aged 11 and 9 respectively.  By 1871 George and Eliza (now using the name Elizabeth) were now living in New Passage Road, Redwick and George was still being listed as a tailor and draper.  By 1881 their address is shown as ‘Redwick House’ and George was described as a farmer of 33 acres employing one man.

The 1862 rate book shows that John Gibbs lived in one part of the premises and the other part had been recently vacated by someone called ‘Clifford‘ and occupied by John Williams.  The reference to ‘Clifford’ might indicate that Agnes Clifford had been living there (see above).

John Spicer Binder – the 1869 rate book and the 1871 census shows the house was occupied by John Spicer Binder.  In the census John was described as an independent minister of Thornbury Independent Chapel aged 44 from Lambeth living with his wife, Mary aged 43 from Ludlow in Salop.  The records of the Thornbury United Reformed Church show that John became pastor in April 1866 and he lasted until 1873.  ‘He felt bound to resign because of ill-health.  Good progress was made during his ministry, the membership increased and finances improved to such an extent that the County Union Aid was dispensed with, and the wages of the Crossways Chapel caretaker were increased from 3/- to 3/6 a quarter, she being ‘dissatisfied with the former amount’.  Click here to see a photo of John and to read more about him

John was the son of John Binder, a painter and his wife, Mary who were living at Frances Square.  John was baptised 25th March 1827 at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth.  In September quarter 1847 John married Mary Small at St Mark’s, Myddleton Square in Clerkenwell.  In 1851 census they were listed as living at 14 Owen Row, Clerkenwell.  John was described then as a ‘Clerk’ and they had one daughter, Mary Ann aged 3 born in Islington.  We don’t know where the family were in the 1861 and 1881 censuses.  John died in Marylebone in 1887 aged 60.

William Court Smith – the 1876 rate book and the 1881 census shows William was living here.  He was a tailor and draper aged 67 living with his wife, Emma, aged 60 and a servant, Alice Hurn aged 14 from Rudgeway.  William and Emma were still in the house in the 1891 census, being looked after by a servant, Emma Powell aged 13 from Tytherington.  Click here to read more

Attkins – the 1894 rate book has the name ‘Attkins’ pencilled in against the house, but we don’t know anything about this person.

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 John, 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.  The 1911 census shows them at the same place, although Edith had moved away.

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 – the next occupants were Alfred and Edith who 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.  Click here to read more

It seems that Alfred kept the house and shop at 14 The Plain, although he eventually moved all his business to the 37 High Street premises.  It appears that Alfred and Edith continued to live at The Plain until at least 1938.  He let the shop at The Plain to a variety of businesses, including a wool shop run by Mrs Baron. The 1939 register compiled in preparation for the War shows Ena M. James was the only occupant of the house.  Ena Maude James was born in the Long Ashton area on 9th November 1905 and was described as ‘wool shop owner’.  She married John G. Barron in the Weston-Super-Mare area in 1940.

The chemist, James William Austin Brookes, also traded there in the 1930’s.  The advertisement here appeared in 1931.  J W A Brookes appears to have lived at The Hatch according to the trade directory for 1935.  By 1939 Mr Brookes had moved to Westminster House (56 High Street)

We are not sure when Alfred and Edith moved away.  They are not shown as living in Thornbury in the 1946 electoral register which shows their son George and his wife were now living at The Plain house.  Both Alfred and Edith died in 1960.  Alfred was aged 75 and Edith aged 66.  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.  In 1947 George and his wife, Joan moved to 18 Gloucester Road.  Click here to read more about George

Dearings outside 14 The PlainIn the late 1950’s these premises were used by Lionel Dearing as a chiropodist surgery and shoe shop.  We have a thumbnail image of the Dearings outside this building about this time.  Please click on it for a larger image.

In more recent times the property has been divided into two retail units with residential accommodation above.  There have been a variety of businesses in the property of these years.  For a long time it was known as ‘The Dogs’ Shop’ and later ‘The Pet Shop’ run by S. M. Turrell.  It was advertised in the programme for the Thornbury Flower Show in 1962 when it was one of at least two shops selling fishing tackle in the High Street.  We understand that Mr Turrell owned the property and the Turrell family continue to own it today.  It is now occupied by ‘Bonds of Thornbury’ estates agents and Elite Beauty Therapies.

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