Thomas Chant

Thomas Chant

New Town grocer and builder


Thomas Chant was born in Odcombe, a few miles west of Yeovil, in 1833 and baptised there on 4 August.. He was the son of sail cloth weaver Robert Chant (b 1808) and glover Harriett née Pitman (b 1805). In the 1841 census, as well as the 1851 census, Robert and Harriett were listed living in Higher Odcombe with their children, which by 1851 included 17-year old Thomas, Eli (b 1836), Elizabeth (b 1839), Emily (b 1842) and Edwin (b 1847). By 1851 Thomas was working as a labourer.

In the summer of 1854 Thomas married Emma Russell (1814-1882), twenty years his senior, at Yeovil and in the 1861 census they were listed living in Lower Odcombe with a 14-year old servant girl and a lodger, the Curate of Odcombe John W Valentine. By this time Thomas was employed as a schoolmaster. Thomas and Emma had one daughter, Anna (1850-1896).

By the time of the 1881 census 47-year old Thomas and 69-year old Emma were listed in New Town and Thomas gave his occupation as a grocer. In the winter of 1882 Emma died, aged 70. Within months Thomas married Emma Cozens, originally from Knighton, Dorset, at Wincanton.

However apart from being a grocer, Thomas was also a speculative builder and in 1888 built his own home cum grocery shop  (photographed below) on a field known as Lower Ryalls that would become the corner of Kiddles Lane (today's Eastland Road) and Gordon Road. He also built Agra Place immediately next door in Kiddles Lane which bears a datestone 'TC over 1888'. In 1890 he built the first of two terraces in Grass Royal, notable for their swastika decoration - an ancient Indian symbol of good fortune. The Ham stone datestone 'Grass Royal over 1890 over T Chant' is over the door of Alan's hairdressers and partly obscured by his barber's pole sign.

In the 1891 census Thomas and Emma were listed at 1 Gordon Row and Thomas again gave his occupation as grocer.

The following year he built the second 'swastika' terrace, to the east of the first. An elaborate datestone surmounts the impressive end-of-terrace corner house, now the vet's. Thomas died on 30 October 1894, aged 61. His will was proven the following February and his effects amounted to £450 (a little under £300,000 at today's value). Following his death, Emma and her sister lived in the corner house until her death at the age of 77 in 1915. 




Map based on the 1901 Ordnance Survey showing the different speculative housing projects built in the early days of Newtown. As well as his own house cum shop on the corner of Gordon Road and Kiddles Lane, photographed below, Thomas Chant was also responsible for building the adjoining Agra Place as well as the two terraces in Grass Royal at top right.




Thomas Chant's home and grocery shop built in 1888 on the corner of Gordon Road and Eastland Road. Agra Place, also built by Thomas, adjoins his home at far left. Photographed in 2014.


Agra Place, Eastland Road. The datestone referred to above and illustrated below is seen between the two first floor windows of the closest two properties. Thomas Chant's house cum shop is on the corner by the red stop sign, Photographed in 2014.


Thomas Chant's 1888 datestone referred to above. Photographed in 2014.


The first of the two swastika-decorated terraces in Grass Royal built by Thomas in 1890. The datestone photographed below is just glimpsed in this photograph by Alan's barber-shop sign above and right of his awning. Photographed in 2014.


The 1890 datestone referred to above. Photographed in 2014.


The second 'swastika' terrace built in 1892. The large corner house with the impressive 1892 datestone, photographed below, became home to his widow and her sister after Thomas' death in 1894. Photographed in 2014.


The large 1892 datestone referred to above. Photographed in 2014.


The decorated flank wall of the above terrace. Photographed in 2013.