No 3 Cold Elm Cottages (Norton Court Estate Cottage No 3)

The property in question was originally a single cottage, at one time a cottage and blacksmiths shop, later a pair of cottages that stood end on to the old lane, for many years Nos 2 and 3 Cold Elm Cottages, and more recently a single property again.  A lot of the history of this site will also apply to No 2 Cold Elm Cottage and will be repeated there.

No 3 Cold Elm Cottage is the one nearest to the road.

The earliest reference I have found to this property is dated 25 March 1804 and is a feoffment of two lands at Norton from William Vick to Richard Lea.  At the time of the Inclosure Act, 1806, there appears to have been just a single building on this plot of land.  It was then Plot No 166, a house and garden, 0-0-18 in area, and this confirms that it was owned by Richard Lea.  This would have been what is now No 2 Cold Elm Cottage and No 3 didn’t exist at this time.


On 9 June 1902 George Norton Walker bought two properties on this site causing an inventory of related documents to be added to the Norton Court Estate records.  These documents hold a lot of details.

The ‘Terrier and valuation of the messuages, lands, and other hereditaments liable to poor rate in the parish of Norton’ dating from 1838 tells us that there were then two properties on this site and one of them was a blacksmiths shop.  No 2 Cold Elm Cottages was then Plot No 166, a house, buildings and land, owned by John Baylis and let to William James Snr.  Plot No 167, 0-3-6 in area, had become a house and blacksmiths shop, also owned by John Baylis and let to John Newman.

Plot No 167 is what became No 3 Cold Elm Cottage and the history of this property starts here.

The 1st Edition 25” Ordnance Survey map, 1844-1888, gives an idea of the footprint of these buildings that is little different from that of today.

1st Edition OS 25” map, 1844-1888

On 10 May 1902 Bruton, Knowles & Co were instructed by the executors of the late Mrs Creese to sell by auction at the Bell Hotel, Gloucester; “a freehold dwelling house and orchard, situated on the main road from Gloucester to Tewkesbury, and let to Mr Curtis at £19 a year”. 

The electoral registers for Norton from this time indicate that a John Creese of Bushley, Worcs, qualified to vote at Norton by nature of owning a freehold house and land here.  During the same period an Alfred Curtis qualified to vote on account of land at Cold Elm.  This is most likely the property in question.  In 1901 John and Louisa Creese were farmers at Church Street, Rose Hill, Bushley.  Louisa died in 1902 but John survived her by several years dying in 1905.  Although John was qualified to vote due to the cottage at Cold Elm it would suggest that the property was in his wife’s name.  Indeed, Louisa Creese provides the connection to most of the families involved at this time.  Louisa was the daughter of Edwin and Mary Ann Hayward and the granddaughter of George Baylis, she married Thomas Bainbridge and on his death remarried John Creese who had previously been married to Thomas Bainbridge’s sister Harriet.

As a result of this sale, on 9 June 1902 the two properties here were sold to George Norton Walker for £310 and became a part of the Norton Court Estate.  There is a conveyance by Henry Richard Payne and Francis Horne Cooper (mortgages) and John Creese and Edward Hayward (trustees) of the Will of Louisa Creese to George Norton Walker of two messuages (formerly one messuage with the stabling formerly used as a blacksmiths shop) and other outbuildings and the gardens and also of a close of arable land planted with fruit trees adjoining containing together 3 rods 9 perches situate at Norton.

Alfred Curtis, wife Clara, and two young daughters were at what became Estate cottage No 3 in 1901.  Alfred Edward Curtis was born at Norton in 1865, son of Nathaniel Curtis and Caroline nee Fisher.  Living originally near the church they were farming at Springhill Villa, Cold Elm, by 1881.  Alfred married Clara Anne Randall at Down Hatherley in 1896 and they appear to have taken on the Cold Elm property after marriage but were not here after 1905.

In 1908 Thomas Rogers paid the Norton Court Estate the Ladyday rent for Estate cottage No 3 of £11.  In 1901 Thomas Rogers, a widowed 44 year old baker and corn dealer from Whitminster was living with the Duck family at Church Farm.  In 1911 Thomas was living alone at No 3, then described as having 4 rooms and he was still living here in 1931 but had left by 1932.

In 1931 Charles Toombs, a pruner, grafter and later a special constable, was at No 3 with his wife Gwendoline, born 1911, and their son Michael.  Born in 1899 at Redmarley, Charles William Toombs was a twin son of John Toombs and Alice Mary nee Toomey.  Charles had married Edith Nellie Willis in 1923 at Preston, near Cirencester, but Edith had died in 1927.  Charles remarried Gwendoline nee Symonds, born 1911, at Newent in 1930 and they had the one child, Michael Charles in 1933.  The Toombs family were well remembered in the village.

In the late 1990s Harry Wilks wrote a brief account of some of his memories of growing up in Norton and The Leigh and he remembered Charlie Toombs; “Trees that were dead or dying would be dug up and Charlie Toombs would replace these with trees that had been grown on the Estate nursery”.

Alf Bradshaw and Charlie Tombs spraying the apple trees with tar oil  in the winter of 1937.  Gwendoline Toombs, centre, in a WI production of Uncle Tom Cobley’ from 1950.

In June 1952 the Norton Court Estate was sold at auction and the cottage was described as follows; "A brick and tiled semi-detached cottage.  It contains two sitting rooms each with a double cupboard, pantry, galvanised lean-to scullery with sink, timber and slate wash house with furnace, landing bedroom and bedroom.  Lean-to garage or workshop, garden, pasture orchard and EC, and well of water in common with No 2.  In the occupation of Mrs Tombs at a rent of £14 per annum".  It was also noted that "This Lot is sold subject to the joint use of the entrance and well of water with the owner or occupier of Lot 10 (No 2) the costs of the maintenance of the gate and the well are to be borne equally by the respective owners".

In 1956 Sidney Taffs was also in residence.

In approximately 2000, Denis Williams who, with his wife Lily, had lived in several houses at Cold Elm from the early 1950s wrote the following; “To the south, endways to the road were a pair of cottages, brick built under a tiled roof.  The one nearest the road occupied by Mrs Toombs and her son who is still in residence.  Mr Toombs was a war reserve policeman.  Mrs Toombs was connected with the village school and saw many generations of Norton children pass through during her time there.  To the front of the cottages there was an orchard which extended to Wainlode Lane and also fronted the Old Road (now ‘Mandalay Drive’).  In its day this was reputed to be the finest apple orchard in the west of England”.

Gwen Toombs school connections included her being a ‘supervisory assistant’ at the time of the centenary in 1976.  In the parish magazine of [August 1977] Rev Evans Prosser also spoke of her connections with the school; “Mrs Toombs has retired from her post of Supervisor after 30 years of ungrudging service to the school.  We should all have liked her to stay on but this could not be done as the LEA have a rigid limit attached to these posts.  She passed this some little time ago but was anxious to complete thirty years service.  The LEA considered this irrelevant but the School Managers did a bit of stalling in the matter and I think the LEA must have turned a blind eye on it so Mrs Toombs was able to achieve her ambition.  It is only right that we should here acknowledge the debt the school owes to her during all these years.  In that time she has served in several capacities and served very well.  Much liked and respected by the pupils she will no doubt be remembered by them for many years to come.  She has also been held in high esteem by the heads and other staff of the school together with the managers who sent her a letter of thanks for all she has done in that long period of service.  Eventually the LEA clamped down upon us and made it clear that they would have to stick to their rules.  It must be a great wrench for her to bring her close connection with the school to an end and no doubt she will miss the daily attendance of her job.  Managers, Head, Staff and children all wish her many years of happiness in her retirement.  A small presentation was made to her and those who are readers of the Citizen will have seen the excellent photograph of her holding the clock we gave her surrounded by a crowd of admiring children”.

Charles died in 1944 and Gwen in 1990 but the Toombs family were to remain here into the 21st century in the person of son Michael who also lived here till his death.  In 1985 No 3 Cold Elm Cottages and was the residence of Gwendoline Toombs and her son Michael C and in 2002 No 3 was still the home of Michael C Toombs.


A crude overlapping of 2 photos taken by Bryan Welch in 2002.

With the death of Michael Toombs the two cottages are now one again.