Sunday, September 4, 2011

Brick maker extraordinaire


When brick and tile manufacturer Thomas Turner wanted to advertise his wares he certainly thought of an eye-catching method, In 1889 he built two properties known as the 'catalogue houses.' The two cottages along with Jessamine Cottage, were 19th century show homes, built to display every brick and tile, every finial and moulding, made in Turner's works.

The properties were constructed at the front of his manufacturing site in Drove Road, one of around nine brick works operating in boomtown Swindon in the late 19th century. Topped off with terracotta acorns, crests and rosettes and even a pottery portrait, said to be that of Daniel Lynch, master potter at the Stratton works, they are unique examples of Turner's expertise.

Turner's own home, Grove House, a substantial Victorian villa stood slightly removed from his worker's houses. Recently refurbished by the Harvester chain, The Grove reopened in April 2007.

Thomas was the son of another potter and brick maker also named Thomas. The Turner family moved around the country, presumably in the search for work, from Thomas senior's home in Allesley near Coventry, to Cheltenham where Thomas junior was born, eventually settling in Ashton Keynes.

The younger Thomas set up business in Stratton St. Margaret in the early 1860s and married Mary Gosling, a farmer's daughter from Coate, at St. Mary Magdalene's church in South Marston on 27th December 1866. The couple began married life at the brick works at Cross Roads, Stratton St. Margaret where they had their two children Emma and William baptised at the parish church. A second son, Jonathan was born in 1875.

Among the first of Turner's properties built in Drove Road were the Pottery Cottages, homes built for his workers in 1871. Records held at the Wiltshire and Swindon Heritage Centre reveal just a fraction of Turner's work in Swindon during the 1880s and 90s - numerous houses and cottages built in Westcott Place, properties in Drove Road and Belle Vue Road and in 1892 houses in the street which took his name, Turner Street.

Thomas Turner took an active part in Swindon society and his business interests were extensive. He was a director of the Wilts & Berks Canal Company and a shareholder in Swindon Town Football Club.

His elder son, William, died in 1880 aged nine years old and at the time of the 1891 census Thomas and his wife Mary with their unmarried daughter Emma are the only family members living in the imposing Grove House. Mary died later that year - Thomas outlived her by a further twenty years.

The couple are buried in the churchyard at Christ Church in Old Town, their elaborate memorial stands just inside the Cricklade Street gates.

The Turner memorial at Christ Church, Swindon

Turner Street, built in 1892.

Jessamine Cottage

Pottery Cottages

Brickwork details

The Grove

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