© David Hallam - 2004
A History of the Thornhill Family in Beeston - continued
The William Junior Years - After his father's death in 1876,
with the tailors' business firmly established, William junior (Seen Left) began to use his enterprise, his drive and his business talents
in wider fields. He was a popular figure locally and highly respected with a friendly demeanor and memorable for his
well-turned-out checked tweed coat and suit and soft peaked cap - all characteristics that helped greatly in
achieving much that was to last for future generations. In particular, his iniatives in the development of housing
in Beeston were particularly significant and provided coherance and a degree of quality at a critical time in the
development of the community which survives today. The late Victorian era was a time when the "respectable middle-classes"
- based on a skilled craft, small scale entrepreneural initiatives or professional service - emerged as a force,
flourished and needed a decent home to match. Self-help was the order of the day and William was amongst those who
harnessed these energies and transferred them into reality.
First came the Imperial Park Land Society and its sister organisation Beeston Building Society. Together, they aimed
to assist the development and financing of relatively superior housing, suitable for the aspirational target market,
centred on what is now Imperial Road, north of Newton Street, its western side being the Chilwell boundary defined
by Park Road, the eastern boundary by Elm Avenue, part of the pre-existing St John's Grove development and on the
north defined by North Street. The early model was that used by similar self-help groups at that time - saving by a
group of subscribers and the allocation of funds as they accumulated by the drawing of lots, in turn for each of
them to build a house.
This initial success was repeated when, in 1881, a syndicate headed by Thornhill acquired land from George
Fellows, of the banking family that had its home at Belle Vue, now Beeston Fields Golf Club. The Belle Vue Land
Society was formed to develop this land using similar methods to those that had been succesful at Imperial Park.
The development lay to to the north and formed a continuation to Imperial Park; again, Chilwell was its western
boundary, Denison Street formed its northern extreme and Montague Street defined its eastern limit. Through its
centre, running south to north was formed Bramcote Road, its unusual angular path contrasting with the other roads
in the development which ran at right-angles. This followed the path of the ancient track to Bramcote that started
where Foster Avenue now meets Chilwell Road, is now diverted round the Roundhill School site and still has traces
along the Chilwell boundary of Beeston Fields Golf Club.
The houses that were built, particularly the early ones in Imperial Park tended to be substantial villa type
homes typical of the style we can all recognise as dating from the late Victorian era. It is tempting to imagine
that William had been inspired by the developments he had seen in the then newly developed and fashionable parts of
All 145 plots that made up the Belle Vue development were allocated to subscribers in three trenches in 1881
and 1882 and it is noticable that amongst those who received an allocation were several that were clearly speculators
who probably intended to build for resale or for investment. This applied to Thornhill himself who was allocated a
number of plots as well a share in the whole of the east side of Montague Street for his personal use. Here, and on
plots allocated to him in Imperial Park, Thornhill built a number of houses in a distinctive style which is
recognisable today. Many of these he retained as investments to eventually form part of his estate which he handed
on to family members in his will. This distinctive style and the evidence of his will allow us to identify properties
in other parts of Beeston - notable Mona Street and possibly Waverley Avenue - where he built for investment.
Although he never took public office, as a staunch Churchman and a Conservative of the old school, he took a
keen interest in the welfare of the area and was a generous subscriber to local charities - but he had his own way
of doing it. He never sat down to dinner on Sunday without first placing a silver coin in a box he kept for
subscriptions to either the General Hospital or the Children's Hospital. For many years he was secretary to the
Philanthropic Lodge of Oddfellows.
Rosa Boot (nee Markham) was a striking figure of a woman who ran the Commercial Inn on what is now Wollaton Road
next to Markham's Field which is now incorporated into the Roundhill School playing field. This field, rather more
than two acres, was the site of gravel workings but, in about 1860 suddenly found a new use. Beeston Wakes, a period
of local rejoicing and merrymaking held annually in June, had always taken place in the main streets of the village
but, following the unfortunately death of a child due to the congestion, William Markham, Rosa's father, had opened
the field for the occasion; the fair was continued on the site until it was incorporated into the school field in the
early 1950s. Rosa had been left to run the Commercial after her father had died in 1871 followed three years later by
her mother Mary Markham (nee Ball). Under the terms of her mother's will, Rosa now owned the Commercial in a way which
protected her interests against claims by any husband she may have and, in 1875, she had married Maurice Boot from
Lenton, himself a bleacher but part of a family of small farmers - described as "cowkeepers" - and publicans. Born and
brought up in Lenton herself and having indirect family connections through her mother's side, Rosa probably knew
Maurice and his family well. His father had kept the "Red Cow" in Lenton which was continued by his widow after his
death sometime before 1861. His brother Cyrus had operated as a beerseller in Lenton - and his widow was later to
marry George Cheetham who ran the Wheatsheaf Inn on the Derby Road - and an older brother William was, by 1871,
keeping the Boat Inn, also at Lenton.
The marriage of Maurice and Rose Boot was a short one - Maurice died in May 1881, aged 44 - and one that must
have been dominated by sadness, particulary towards the end. In the six years of their marriage they had four children;
only Markham and Edward, the two eldest, born in 1876 and 1877 respectively, survived to eventually marry, their
third son, Charles Francis was born in 1878 but died six months later, their last child, Norman Cyrus died in February
1881, only two months old and only about three months before his father. For the next six years, Rosa continued to
run the Commercial Inn which would have brought her into contact with William Thornhill as it was there that some of
the philanthropic groups, in which he played a principal part, met. They married on 1st September 1887 at Beeston
William, with his new wife Rosa (seen left outside the High Road shop - click image for details),
continued, for the time being, to live on the High Road - the Commercial Inn was leased to Thomas Walker, who also had
the rights to extract gravel from Markham's Field - but sometime after 1891, decided to build a new home on North Street,
nearly opposite the end of Imperial Road. When allocating plots in Belle Vue, he had retained the plot to its rear fronting
onto Park Street and that now became part of his garden. His grandson, Cyril Edward Tracey, described it in a story of his
life written late in his life :
" ... every year for years he planted fruit trees - apples, pears, cherries, etc, leaving a large open space in
the centre for a house. So that by the time the house was built it was surrounded by a beautiful garden, and by the
time the house was completed you couldn't see it for trees.
"Grandfather decided to name it Middleton House because Lord Middleton was a good customer and lifelong owner of
Wollaton Hall where Grandfather had done his courting. My great grandfather, Isaac Wibberley**********
All his life, William had had his eye on the next generation and was keen to ensure that the family business
was continued; now, in his new home, he could not only further is property development interested and charitable
work but could also develop his role as the centre of his family universe. As a further break from the past, Rosa
finally sold the old Commercial Inn to Robert G Hanson in November 1896. It was rebuilt in the following year,
eventually to become part of Hardy & Hanson brewery business.
Click to read about the Next Generation - William Jnr's Children
Click here to go back to the beginning of this page
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