The cottage in Park Street, Dunster, where Robert and Sarah Thomas lived with their family
Ancestors in my direct line of descent are shown in italics. Many thanks to Rob Clarke for his help!
John Thomas was born c1770. On 2.4.1796 he married Mary Winter in Minehead. They had the following children:
Mary Ann (bap.9.6.1797), William (bap. May 1798). William married Mary Moggridge (b.c1797) in Minehead on 1.10.1820. William died in Minehead on 28.2.1852 from injuries of the spine caused when he fell from a cart. He was buried on 6.3.1852. Mary of a haemorrhage on 13.2.1870 and was buried on 20.2.1870. William and Mary had the following children:
John (bap.4.3.1821), William (bap.29.2.1824), Mary (bap.1.1.1826), James (bap.13.1.1828), and Richard (bap.13.12.1835).
William married Sarah Moggridge (bap 13.1.1825 in Porlock, daughter of John, a carpenter, and Joan Moggridge) on 29.1.1853 in Minehead. The couple moved with their 3 daughters to the nearby village of Dunster sometime between 1855 and 1858. The 1861 census shows William aged 36, living in Dunster and working as an agricultural labourer. In 1871, William and Sarah were living at St George's Street, Withycombe Buildings, Dunster. William was still an agricultural labourer and Sarah a house cook.
William died on 17.5.1876 aged 52. The cause of death given on his death certificate is "stricture of the oesophagus."
The Luttrell Arms Hotel, High Street, Dunster. Sarah worked as a cook/domestic servant at The Luttrell Arms Hotel in Dunster High Street, the census records show she was a resident servant there for the 1881 and 1891 censuses. At the time of the 1901 census, she was living with her daughter and son-in-law at Higher Marsh, Dunster.
Sarah died on 30.10.1907, aged 82, of senile decay. The informant given on her death certificate is her daughter Emily Poole, who was present at Sarah's death at Marsh Cottage, Dunster.
William and Sarah had the following children:
Mary Moggridge (bap.26.3.1853), Elizabeth Ann (bap.23.7.1854), Emily (bap.9.12.1855), John (bap. 3.10.1858), Robert James (b.13.5.1860), Ellen (bap.5.7.1863), Rosa (bap.21.7.1867), Willy (bap.21.7.1867), and Lucy Amelia (bap.31.10.1869).
Robert James is listed in the censuses as living with his parents until the 1881 census when he is described as head of household at Park Road, Dunster. Living with him are his sisters Ellen and Lucy. Robert's occupation is given as agricultural labourer.
On 2.6.1882 Robert's first child Mary Thomas Bridges was born in the nearby village of Bilbrook, Old Cleeve, where her mother Sarah Bridges (b.18.10.1859 in Woodside, Dudley, Staffordshire to Hannah and Stephen Bridges, a labourer at an ironworks) was living with her mother Hannah (aged 63, widowed, occupation stocking knitter) and her uncle(?) Samuel Bolton (aged 51, a blind basket maker).
Robert and Sarah married on 10.12.1883 in the Parish Church, Portskewett, Monmouth, Wales, where they were living at the time. Robert's occupation is given as miner and he signed the register with a 'X,' Sarah signed her name. Click here to see a photo of the church. Robert helped dig the Severn Tunnel which comes out in Portskewett, so it is likely that this was the reason for their move to Wales.
In 1889 parish records show the family living in Withycombe, near Dunster, but they were back in Dunster by 1891, living at Rockfoot. The 1891 census confirms this. He and Sarah were living with their children Mary, William, Robert, John and Sarah. Robert was working as a labourer. Subsequent parish records show that Robert and Sarah remained in Dunster. In 1899 their address was given as Water Street, and from 1902 onwards as Park Street, where they lived in a cottage just yards from Gallox Bridge. Given the proximity of the River Avill to Park Street, it may be that these 2 streets are one and the same.
In 1901, Robert's occupation is given on the census as labourer. Parish records in 1902 and 1903 give his occupation as mason's labourer and 1905 his occupation is listed as mason. His grandson told how Robert contracted TB after working in waist-high water digging the Severn Bridge Tunnel, and how he was no stranger to poaching or alcohol!
The family were very poor indeed. The Harriet Fownes Luttrell Charity and The Luttrell and Elds Charity were established during the 19th Century to help provide groceries, coal and clothing to poor parishioners in Dunster and Alcombe. The Luttrell and Elds Charity also helped people find employment and gave out annual grants to domestic servants. The Harriet Fownes Luttrell Charity gave out blankets and coal and The Luttrell and Elds Charity gave money to "necessitous cases" - about 100 or so villagers got coal, but only 15-20 were deemed necessitous cases and Sarah features in the list of recipients for every year that names are recorded bar one. She also received donations from the Dunster Clothing and Shoe Club., and had one of the highest allocations of coal in the village, probably because of the size of their family.
Robert died on 9.3.1909 aged 48 at home, of pulmonary tuberculosis of 5 years' standing.
Their granddaughter remembers that after Robert's death, Sarah applied for municipal assistance but was refused it. Twice a week the family went to Dunster Castle, where the Luttrells (benevolent landowners) provided a soup kitchen. They also provided Sarah with unwanted clothing. Sarah would go to the baker's for stale bread which she would use to make bread and butter pudding for the family.
Sarah died on 3.1.1923 aged 63 of vascular heart disease.
Robert and Sarah had the following children:
Mary (b.2.6.1882), William Henry (b.2.12.1886), Robert James (b.2.2.1888), John (b.19.3.1889), Sarah Margaret (b.11.4.1890), Emily (b.15.10.1891), Richard (bap.15.4.1893), Ambrose (bap.12.10.1895), Alice (bap.12.10.1895), Samuel (bap.23.1.1897), Edwin (bap.4.6.1898), Herbert (bap.7.10.1899), Ethel Maud (bap.15.1.1902) and Alma Lucy (b.19.7.1903).
Mary Thomas c1900. For details of Mary Thomas, see under Charles Henry Denman on the Denman page.
Mary died aged 87 of a cerebral vascular accident on 30.6.1969.
Useful Dunster links:
Old Photos of Dunster: http://www.somerset.gov.uk/archives/
Dunster Castle: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/scripts/nthandbook.dll?ACTION=PROPERTY&PropertyId=304
Dunster Water Mill: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/scripts/nthandbook.dll?ACTION=PROPERTY&PROPERTYID=305
Dunster Candlelight Festival: http://www.dunsterbycandlelight.co.uk/
Exmoor National Park: http://www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/traditional.htm
Dunster Amenities: http://www.any-village.co.uk/main.asp?SiteID=AVUK&SpecID=dunster#categories