James GULLIVER of Avon Street & Milk Street | Bath, Somerset

A new bit of detective work caught my eye during October with a request from Maureen Humphries for help identifying James GULLIVER who died in Bath, Somerset in 1915, and his daughter Mary (Maureen’s great grandmother) who was born in Bristol in 1879. Could I track them down in census records?

“Hoping somebody on here can help me, I have spent hours searching but always come up a blank. I’m searching for Mary Ann Gulliver and her father James. Mary Ann born 1879 in Bristol, Glos. I know she married in 1899 in Bath but nothing before that date, no birth certificate or census entries for 1881 & 1891. Fathers name is James Gulliver and he died in 1915 in Bath, age about 65 years. Again no birth registration and he doesn’t seem to appear on any census. Thank you for reading and any help.”


The first thing to do was check over the information given to gather as much detail as possible from the facts stated above.

  • Mary Ann GULLIVER married William BOOK on 6th Feb 1899 in St Paul’s Church in Bath, Somerset
  • Mary was age 18 and a spinster (born c.1881)
  • James was age 21 (born c.1878), a bachelor and working as a Costermonger
  • Mary’s father was stated to be James GULLIVER an Umbrella Maker
  • James’s father was stated to be George BOOK a Haulier
  • Both William and Mary signed their own names
  • Both Mary and William were living at 54 Avon Street, Bath at the time of marrying
  • The witnesses were James SNOOK and Louisa HATHERILL (nee Rossiter)

Now to find them in census records.

  • In 1901, Mary was recorded as age 22 (c.1879) and born in Bristol, whilst William was age 24 (c.1877) and born in Bath. He was working as a General Labourer and they were living at 54 Avon Street with two children (age 1 and 3 months). Also living in the same building was William’s widowed mother, Elizabeth BOOK.
  • In 1911, Mary was recorded as age 30 (born c.1881), and William age 32 (born c.1879). He was working as a Hawker of Fish and they now had six children. The census also recorded that she had given birth to eight children in total, two of which had died. The family were living in a cottage at the rear of 20 Milk Street in Bath (parallel to Avon Street).
  • In 1939 Mary was now widowed. She was recorded as being born on 20th Mar 1879, and living at 2 Lower Drover Street in Bath with two of her sons. Her husband William died in Bath during the summer of 1928 aged 51.

Death records:

  • James GULLIVER died 23rd Feb 1915 in Bath age 65 (born c.1850) and was buried in Locksbrook Cemetery in Bath
  • Mary Ann BOOK died 11th May 1961 in Bath aged 83 (born c.1878) and was also buried in Locksbrook Cemetery

A further comment on the original post added that James registered the death of one of Mary’s children in 1905 in Bristol (Elizabeth BOOK age 6), and it was Mary who registered her father’s death in 1915.

There is only one birth record for Mary GULLIVER (with loose spelling search) born 1875-1885 in Gloucestershire:

  • Mary Ann GULEVER – 2q 1880 – Barton Regis – mother’s maiden name COURT

I also found a matching marriage for James GOLEVER to Elizabeth COURT registered in 2q 1879 also in Barton Regis. The registration district of Barton Regis covered several areas close to Bristol as well as parts of Bristol itself. I tried to find this family in the 1881/1891 census but came up empty, so moved on to Mary’s father, James GULLIVER.

A simple search for any James GULLIVER within the specific location of Bath turns up only four records on Ancestry: James’s death in 1915, two marriages, and a directory entry. The first marriage was a century too early and the second marriage was for a different man who died in 1887 (James Richard GULLIVER, who shows up in Bath in the 1871 census). The directory entry, however, was a perfect match.

  • 1895 – James GULLIVER – Umbrella Maker – 3 Moorfield Cottages

Searching on Find My Past came up with a few more clues in the Electoral Register for Bath. Jame doesn’t appear after 1901, so could have moved out of the area, moved from house to house too quickly to be eligible to vote, or any other number of other reasons.

  • 1894 – James Gulliver – 3 Moorfield Cottages
  • 1895-1899 – James Gulliver – 38 Avon Street
  • 1899-1900 – James Gulliver – 3 Dead Mill Lane
  • 1900-1901 – James Gulliver – 20 Claremont Buildings

I then went onto the British Newspaper Archive to see what I could find, and was not left disappointed! It seems that no sooner had James arrived in Bath than he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

Bath Chronicle – Thursday 10 November 1892

James Gulliver, of 38, Avon-street, was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Pulteney-street on the 7th inst. P.C. Andrews deposed to seeing prisoner challenging the crowd to fight and causing an obstruction. He was very drunk. P.C. Hellard corroborated. Prisoner was fined 5s., or seven days’ imprisonment.”

Bath Chronicle – Thursday 24 August 1893

James Gulliver, of 3, Moorfields-cottages, Dolemeads, Bath, umbrella maker, was charged with being drunk and disorderly at Twerton on the 19th inst.:also with assaulting P.C. Frederick Foot whilst in the execution of his duty at the same time and place. – P.C. Foot and Supt. Rutherford gave evidence. – Seven days for being drunk and disorderly.”

Bath Chronicle – Thursday 21 March 1895

James Gulliver, of Avon-street, was fined 10s. on the evidence of P.C. Gardner for being drunk in Weston-lane on Monday evening.”


Somerset Guardian – Saturday 06 May 1899

James was assaulted by George TUGNALL on 22nd Jun 1899, and was living at 3 Back Lane, Dead Mill at the time. James was also charged with assaulting George at the same hearing. Both were worse for drink.


Bath Chronicle – Thursday 27 December 1900

James was assaulted yet again the following year.

CHRISTMAS EVE IN MILK STREET
“Frederick Carpenter (22), 23, Milk-street, labourer, was charged with maliciously wounding James Gulliver by hitting him with a brush on the 24th inst. He was also charged with assaulting the same man. The prisoner pleaded guilty. P.C. Wyatt said he went 31, Milk-street, and saw Gulliver lying on the floor and bleeding freely from a wound in the face, being at the time unconscious. At 32, Milk-street, he saw the prisoner, and asked him what was the meaning of a broken window, and the prisoner replied, “Gulliver did it. I struck at him with a brush, intending to hit him the arm, but hit him on the head, which I did not intend to do.” He then arrested the prisoner, and sent him off to the police station in charge of another constable, and, getting the ambulance, took Gulliver to the hospital. The house, 31, Milk-street, belonged to prisoner’s father. Prisoner was sober at the time. James Gulliver, of 31, Milk-street, said someone started banging at the door and shouting “Come out, and I’ll settle you.” He (witness) then smashed the window to attract attention. He looked out to see if there was a policeman, and as he did so someone felled him to the ground, but he could not say who did it. He did not see the prisoner there. George Newman, of 30, Milk-street, said he saw Gulliver smash the window, and then saw the prisoner hit him with brush. Gulliver did not appear to be sober. Mr. J. Grant, house surgeon at the Royal United Hospital, said the man Gulliver was brought to him with deep cut outside his eye. It was not a dangerous wound. The prisoner said he heard a row going on, and he when went, out found Gulliver breaking the windows in his father’s house. He tried stop him with the brush, but missed his hand and hit him in the face. The prisoner’s father said the man Gulliver had done damage to the amount of 16s. to the window. The house was not his, but his brother’s, but he looked after it for his brother. The Bench then dismissed the case.”

Bath Chronicle – Thursday 27 May 1909

James was charged with assaulting Frederick Lomax in 1909, and also charged with being drunk and disorderly at the same hearing. He was sentenced to three weeks hard labour. The article also mentioned that he had not been in court since 1907 but I haven’t found any reference to that case.

A DOUBLE CHARGE
James Gulliver, aged 60, living at the rear of 20, Milk Street, was charged with being drunk and disorderly in Milk Street, on May 20th. He was also charged with assaulting Frederick Lomax in “King’s Way” on the same date. Prisoner pleaded guilty to the first charge and not guilty to the second.  PC. Perrett stated that Thursday evening, about 10.30, he saw the prisoner in Milk Street throwing stones at Lomax’s windows; using bad language, and challenging him to come out and fight. Witness took the prisoner into custody; and on the way to the Central Police Station the prisoner struck Lomax, who was accompanying witness, in the face with his right hand. When charged at the Station, prisoner said he would kill Lomax if he got six months for it. Frederick Lomax a carpenter and joiner, living at 20, Milk Street, said that the prisoner’s daughter occupied a cottage at the rear of his house. He had nothing to do with this cottage; but access to it could only be obtained through his house. In consequence, the prisoner created a disturbance, throwing stones at witness’s windows, one of which dented the woodwork. and used language which witness did not care to repeat. The Magistrates’ Clerk (Mr. L. Newton Fuller) : Oh, we’re used to it here. Witness accordingly described the prisoner’s language. He added that the Constable afterwards took the prisoner into custody, and witness went up to the Police Station with him in case his help was required. When in the new thoroughfare styled ” King’s Way.” the prisoner struck witness in the face. Witness added that the prisoner began to make this disturbance soon after 8 o’clock that evening. His wife and daughter were disgusted at prisoner’s language. Cross-examined by the prisoner. witness denied having struck him in the face. Prisoner had got the injury while fighting earlier the day. Previous convictions were proved against the prisoner, and Chief-Inspector said that, like many other people, he was well-behaved when he could keep away from the drink. He had not been before that Court for two years. The Chairman said that there was a good deal against the prisoner, although he had not been before that Court recently. He would receive a fortnight’s hard labour for being drunk, and another week for assault, the sentences run consecutively, making three weeks in all. “

Bath Chronicle – Saturday 07 March 1914

This time James was in the papers because of someone else’s misdemeanours!

UMBRELLAS – TWO FOR 8d
BATH HAWKER SENTENCED FOB THEFT.
“John Madden, aged 52, a hawker, of 81, Avon Street, was charged at the Bath City Police Court, on Saturday (on remand from the previous Saturday) with stealing a plant and pot, value together 4s. 6d., the property of Georgiana Kate Harford, from the entrance hall of 2, South Parade, on Feb. 20th. On the previous Saturday Madden had been remanded for enquiries regarding the ownership of two umbrellas found in his possession. He was now further charged with stealing two ladies’ umbrellas from No. 6, Duke Street, on Feb. one valued at 10s., the property of Kathleen Teresa Murphy, and the other valued at 5s., the property of Beatrice Graves.  The magistrates present were Messrs. T. F. Plowman (in the chair), S. W. Bush, and A. W. Thomas. P.C. Young repeated his evidence given at the previous hearing. He added that when charged with the theft of the two umbrellas, the prisoner made no reply. Witness had received the umbrellas from Detective Marshfield. Maddon pleaded guilty to all offences.”
CHEAP UMBRELLAS.
James Gulliver, of 81, Avon Street, a wire worker, deposed to buying the two umbrellas from the prisoner for 8d. The prisoner brought the two umbrellas into the “Crown”, New Orchard Street. Prisoner was  also carrying the pot plant, but did not offer this for sale. Witness bought a good many old umbrellas in the course of the year, and used them in his trade. Maddon now pleaded that as the result of illness he often did not know what he was doing. Many previous convictions in various parts of the country were recorded against Madden, the first in 1900. There were previous sentences for theft. The Chairman told Madden he had the largest catalogue of crime that the Bench had seen for a long period. He would receive two months’ hard labour on each charge, the sentences to run consecutively, making four months all.”


I opened up the newspaper search to the keyword “Gulliver” found in the Bath Chronicle, and after dismissing articles about “Gulliver’s Travels” found a newspaper report from 1896 regarding Charles ADAMS of 37 Avon Street who was charged with “maliciously wounding” Elizabeth GULLIVER with a flower pot at 38 Avon Street. The name Elizabeth struck a chord because of the possible marriage record I found earlier on (Elizabeth COURT), and the address of 38 Avon Street was James’s address at this time. Could Elizabeth be James’s wife? The report also mentioned a George GULLIVER, but no relationship was given and now suspect that the name “George” was an error and was actually meant to be “James”.

I also found several articles relating to Worthy GULLIVER, who was the publican of “The Fountain” at 4 Avon Street. Worthy was born 1856 in Semington, Wiltshire and a naval pensioner. He did have a brother named James, but he was a few years younger that the James I was searching for (proven to be a different man), so the matching surnames are most likely just a coincidence.

The last article of note I found was also from 1896, when the body of Mary ELSON of 32 Milk Street was found in the River Avon. A witness named Polly GULLIVER described how she had seen the deceased earlier that day during the inquest. Polly is a nickname for Mary, so could she be James’s daughter?


Searching for James and Mary in census records with the small bits of information I had came up empty (using different surname spellings, birth year, birth place, occupation, various addresses). Perhaps looking for Elizabeth GULLIVER or Polly GULLIVER would shed some more light? Searching specifically in Bath didn’t show up anything, but eventually all my various searches proved fruitful and I came upon a census record from 1891 which looked very much like the right family at last.

Living at 2 Red Lion Court, Wellington, Somerset in 1891 were James GULLIVER age 40 (c.1850) born in Bristol and working as a General Dealer, wife Bessie GULLIVER age 37 (c.1854) born in Dunster, Somerset, and their daughter Polly GULLIVER age 11 (c.1879) born in Bristol. So, Bessie rather than Elizabeth and Polly rather than Mary. This would explain why I couldn’t find this family when I searched for them previously!

From this I then found a few earlier charges of being drunk and disorderly in Wellington, along with assault. It would seem that James went by the assumed name of “James GOLLER“. He was in his mid-30’s at this time.

Somerset County Gazette – Saturday 21 April 1888

James Goller, of Wellington, a licensed hawker, was brought up in custody charged with being drunk and riotous at Oak on the 11th April. Robert Dudderidge, the landlord of the Anchor Inn, Hillfarrance, stated that on the previous evening prisoner came to his house. he was drunk, and witness refused to draw him and drink. He had been there in the morning and had two pints of cider. Witness requested him to leave, but he would not, and asked some of the customers there to give him drink. He used bad language, and had to be put out. He then began throwing stones at the window, and broke the window, some cups, and a glass whiskey jar. This formed the subject of a second charge, the damages being stated as 10s. Prisoner stated that he had very little to drink, but it took effect upon him, and he did not know that he had thrown stones at the windows. Fined 1s. and 4s 6d. costs for drunkenness, and also convicted of wilful damage. Fined 1s., and to pay the damage, 10s. This last amount was paid into Court, and a week was allowed for the remainder.”

Western Advertiser – Wednesday 10 July 1889

A WELLINGTON HAWKER IN TROUBLE
“Before the Taunton magistrates on Monday, a hawker from Wellington, named James Goller, alias Gulliver, was charged with an assault on Robert Godfrey on Saturday. Prosecutor, a labourer living on the New-road, Bishop’s Hull, said that on Saturday evening he was leading his donkey along the road to a field when he met prisoner, another man and a woman. Prisoner hustled him about and attempted to ride the donkey. Witness advised him to desist, and as he was unlocking the field gate prisoner pinched him about the face and head, rendering him almost senseless. Having recovered he put the donkey in the field, and on his way home told prisoner he should give him charge, whereupon prisoner kicked him violently in the ribs. He felt the effect of the blow at the present time, and intended  to see a doctor. Prisoner went towards Wellington, and witness went to Taunton for the police. They obtained a trap and followed the prisoner, overtaking him at Three Bridges. Prisoner was worse for drink. Ellen Gallop, wife of George Gallop, No. 6, New-road, said she witnessed the assault from her bedroom window. Prisoner “pitched” on Mr Godfrey while the latter was unlocking the gate, and punched him several times. It did not appear as if the prisoner was acting “in fun.” She also saw prisoner kick the prosecutor. P.C. Salmon stated that he went in pursuit of the defendant on the Wellington rad, in consequence of the prosecutor’s complaints. When arrested prisoner said, “It will make things worse; I will do for him when I am let go again.” In defence prisoner said he did not kick the man wilfully. Several previous convictions for riotous conduct were recorded against him; he was committed to prison for 21 days.”

Western Advertiser – Wednesday 03 December 1890

James Culliver, alias Goller, hawker, Wellington, admitted he was drunk and disorderly in Scott’s-lane on November 14th. He said he had since that date signed the pledge. He was ordered to pay 6s.”

The “pledge” didn’t last too long!

Western Advertiser – Wednesday 30 September 1891

DRUNK
“James Gulliver, Red Lion-court, Wellington, hawker, was summoned for being drunk and disorderly in High-street, on September 12. Previous convictions were proved against his, and Gulliver was sentenced in his absence to a month’s hard labour.”


I found the family again ten years prior in 1881 by searching for anyone named Elizabeth born in Dunster as nothing came up when the surname was included. This was because in 1881 their surname was recorded as “CULIFORD“.

Living at 12 Tucker Street, Bristol, Gloucestershire in 1881 was James CULIFORD age 27 (c.1854) born in London and working as a Collier, wife Elizabeth CULIFORD age 26 (c.1855) born in Dunster and working as a Laundress, and their 12 month old (1880) daughter Polly CULIFORD who was born in St Pauls, Bristol. St Pauls was covered by the Barton Regis registration district at this time, but no Polly was registered there only the Mary Ann GULEVER who I found earlier. The census was taken 3rd April 1881, so Polly/Mary would most likely have been born during March 1880 if she was twelve months old. The 1939 Register recorded Mary’s birth date as 20th Mar 1879, but I have quite often found birth years wrongly recorded in this record set, so her actual date of birth is most likely to be 20th Mar 1880. This was clarified by her birth certificate, which Maureen ordered whilst I was researching. She was born at 14 Morton Street, Bristol.


I tried to track down James and Elizabeth in the 1901 census in the same manor, but nothing showed up for them again. It wasn’t until I set to tracking down Mary’s oldest daughter Rosetta BOOK (who was born Rosetta GULLIVER due to being born before her parents married) that I found them (Rosetta wasn’t living with her parents in 1891 so I wondered where she was).

Boarding at 70 Southover, Wells, Somerset in 1901 was James GULLIFORD age 46 (c.1855) born in London and working as a Hawker, his wife Elizabeth GULLIFORD age 46 (c.1855) born in Dunster, and their “daughter” Rose GULLIFORD age 3 (c.1898) born in Bath. Finding Rosetta with her grandparents, even though she was wrongly recorded as their daughter, confirmed that James, Bessie and Polly were indeed the family I had been looking for.

James and Elizabeth moved to Bristol after the 1901 census was taken, and Elizabeth died there 13th Feb 1908 aged 55 of bronchitis and heart failure at 20 Lamb Street. Try as I might, I have not found James in the 1911 census, who moved back to Bath after his wife died.

Going back in time again, after much searching I finally found Elizabeth in the 1871 census. She was recorded as “Bessie COURT“, age 18 and working as a General Domestic Servant in the George Inn, Dunster. She gave her birth place as “Timberscombe, Somerset“, which is about 2 miles away. I haven’t been able to identify James in the 1871 census due to his changeable place and year of birth and surname spelling.

During my research, Maureen sent off for Elizabeth and James’s marriage certificate. They married on 13th Jun 1879 in the Register Office of Barton Regis, Bristol. Both gave their age as 24 (b.1855) and unmarried. James was working as a collier and living on Brick Street, Bristol, whilst Elizabeth was working as a domestic servant and living close by on Gloucester Lane. James stated his father to be James GOLEVER, a brickmaker and deceased. Elizabeth stated her father to be William COURT, a millwright and also deceased.


Unfortunately, although not holy unexpected, I was still unable to trace James or his father in any census records from 1871 back. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was easy to find now I knew who her father was as there were only two possible matches to go with. The reason I wasn’t sure before was then they were both a few years older than the Elizabeth I was searching for. It would seem that in the 1871 census she took two years of her actual age of 20, stating she was 18, took four years off when marrying (24 rather than 28), and so. She was actually age 57 when she died, not 55. Elizabeth was 4 months old when the 1851 census was taken, living with her parents William COURT and Harriet nee GRIFFITH in Dunster, Somerset. She had two older siblings and another seven to follow. Her father died in 1871 aged 51, and her mother in 1906 aged 82 just two year before Elizabeth herself died.

As well as searching for the GULLIVER’s I also took a look for the Mary’s husband’s relations the BOOK’s in newspaper reports and found a very troubled family. Mary’s husband William BOOK was arrested many times from childhood onwards for fighting, steeling, drunkenness, etc., as was one of his brothers who was even accused of manslaughter. William’s father died in 1887 when he was just 10 years old after being run over by a steam roller, and the previous year his paternal grandmother committed suicide by cutting her own throat.

I discovered that Mary was also arrested for drunkenness and assault a few times. The report on the inquest into their baby son’s death in 1907 was also published. In 1912 William was sentenced to 6 months hard labour for neglect of his family, and it wasn’t the first time he had spent that long in prison. On his release, he was straight back in court for being drunk and disorderly, an occurrence which continued up until at least 1920 when no more newspaper reports are found. He died eight years later aged 51.


Newspaper articles throughout reproduced with the permission of the British Newspaper Archive and The British Library Board


Family Tree

Below is the family tree for both the GULLIVER and BOOK families, plus Mary and William’s children.

Through my research I was able to identify James & Elizabeth GULLIVER as a couple in three census records (1881, 1891 and 1901), as well as the maiden name of Elizabeth (COURT). I found their daughter Mary‘s birth registration and her parent’s marriage registration, then an unmarried Elizabeth (Bessie) in the 1871 census. Plus all the newspaper reports, which gives colour to their lives that census records alone cannot. Via confirmation of James and Elizabeth’s marriage certificate I was able to trace Elizabeth’s parents and grandparents, but sadly not James’s.



Avon Street District

This map is from 1904, when the Gulliver and Book families were living there.


Maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

There seem to be very few photographs of Avon Street taken at the time the Gulliver family were living there. The photo on the left below was taken around 1880, about ten years before they moved to Bath. The photograph of Milk Street on the right was taken around 1900, the same time James and Elizabeth were briefly living there at number 81 and shortly before Mary and family moved to the rear of number 20. James and Elizabeth moved around a great deal in their time in and out of Bath, never settling in one place too long.

Lots more photos can be found on Bath In Time, although the images are all quite small and the search engine not so good.


The Avon Street area of Bath became a rather notorious district in the later 19th century, and there is a wealth of newspaper reports involving prostitution, drunkenness, obscene language, violence and theft.

Nothing remains of the original buildings today as the area was targeted for clearance and rebuilding in an early 1930’s slum clearance project, although the second world war and subsequent financial constraints put paid to much of the redevelopment at that time. Bath College began construction on their Avon Street campus in 1955, taking over a large section of land towards the top of the street, and a coach park and large multi storey car park were built on the bottom section next to the river in the 1970’s after another large clearance project got underway in Bath. In 2018 the particularly ugly car park was approved for demolition and in 2020 the quay area at the bottom of Avon Street became the focus of an archaeological dig before the area is once again altered. And so begins a new chapter in Avon Street’s ever changing status.

Current Archaeology have a really interesting article all about the history of the Avon Street district and the archaeological discoveries made in 2020.

Industry Commerce and the Urban Poor