What I did on my holidays…..



Castle Street at junction with Peter Street c1900

Last week I spent several days in Bristol with my son and our time largely revolved around sporting events (football, rugby and golf); I did however, manage to squeeze in two days at Bristol Record Office, hoping to fill in gaps in my family history and several interesting facts were discovered. Here is a summary of what I found.

Drew and Horwood families of Bristol

The relationship between the early Drews was something I had conjectured, but much of it is now firmed up. I had seen the entry for the marriage of John Drew and Joan Gillson in 1603 before, but on a rather underpowered microfiche reader where much wasn’t clear. This time I used the BRO’s finest and largest reader and saw the entry (below) in better detail. Interestingly it shows Joan’s occupation, that of servant to Thomas Clement the elder. Several of the brides in this section of the register of St Phillip and St Jacob are identified by their fathers or employers, which is something I had not encountered before.



I had assumed from other parish register entries that Robert Drew (1607-81) the housecarpenter was the son of this marriage, and in the Apprenticeship Book of Bristol I found confirmation. The entry (below) is in latin but states that on February 27 1626 (old style 1625) Robert Drew son of John Drew husbandman, deceased, of Barton Regis bound himself apprentice to John Friend, carpenter and his wife Thomasine for a term of seven years. This corresponds to the information given when Robert was enrolled in the Book of Burgesses of Bristol in 1635.

I was aware of a lease granted to Robert’s eldest son, John of a piece of land named Gaunts Hammes which lay in Barton Regis in the eastern part of St Phillips and St Jacobs parish (now called Barton Hill) and I wondered if it was connected to the land that John’s grandfather farmed in the early part of the century. This plot was passed down in turn to John’s sons. On viewing the lease dated March 25, 1666, it appears that the land was previously leased on the lives of John’s wife Dorcas (nee Fussell) and her sister, Mary, so my theory was incorrect. There is still a public park in Barton Hill called Gaunts Ham Park.


I have found further leases granted to the Drews and their related families – Pages, Tylers and Shorts which help plot the fortunes of the various branches of the descendants of Robert Drew, one which is intriguing. A lease of 1723 grants a group of properties in Redcliffe Pit, which is close to the Quaker burial ground near St Mary Redcliffe, to Walton Short on condition that he repair them as they had fallen into ruin under the previous lesee. Now Walton was a cordwainer (shoemaker) by profession, so it may be that his brother-in-law, John Horwood the housecarpenter carried out the work. Also it could be possible that John began to reside in the the renovated properties after Walton died in 1728. He certainly appears to have left St James parish around this time and he doesn’t appear as a householder in any record after that date that I can find. Moreover at his death in 1744 he was living “at his house on Redcliffe Hill”.



John Horwood had been  granted a lease on a plot of land in Queen Square in 1709 on the condition that he build a “mansion house” there. The lease was to run until 1756, but is not mentioned in John’s will, so I assumed he assigned it elsewhere. In 1732 the leaseholders in the Square petitioned the Corporation of Bristol for new leases, which were granted over the next couple of years. John’s property (most likely no.19 or 20 in the current numbering) was, by this time, in the possession of John Brickdale Esq and no clue is given as to when the transaction took place. The new lease does record, however that John had built, in addition to the mansion house, “Warehouse, lofts, Coachhouse, stable and other necessary outbuildings” at the rear of the house and a yard or pavement between them. These outbuildings would have faced onto today’s Welsh Back.



John York of Chewton Mendip
John York of Chewton lived from 1732 to 1818 and farmed the York holding in the East End tything of the parish. Later in life he was the Lead Reeve for the Waldegrave manor of Chewton. I have often thought he might be the John York who acted as a clerk for the parish vestry and whose fine hand can be seen in many parish documents. There was another John York in Chewton, but his dates don’t fit the timescale of the vestry records. There is a mention that the John who was the clerk was also a schoolmaster and in the BRO I found an indenture dated 1780 relating to the estate of a Robert Bath of Compton Martin deceased, in which John York, schoolmaster of Chewton Mendip was named as the administrator of the said estate, Robert having died intestate. What clinches the identification of the schoolmaster with John York of East End is the fact that the indenture names him as the nephew of Robert Bath. John’s mother was Dorothy Bath and he may have been Robert’s heir although there were other relatives mentioned in the document. Finally, the fine signature on the indenture, although having a few minor differences, is otherwise identical to John’s signature on his marriage to Ann Board in 1759. The indenture records the selling of the lands mentioned to a Joseph Vowles for £119.


Signature of John York on his marriage 1759


Signature of John York on the 1780 Indenture


Documents by permission of the Bristol Record Office


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Stephen Bumstead

I'm retired and live in Devon, England. I have been researching my family for forty years and am also the OPC (online Parish Clerk) for Chewton Mendip in Somerset. I have helped transcribe registers for FreeReg and wills for Oxfordshire FHS.

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