Gene Surfing

Adventures in Family History

Appleford of Bristol

Farmer BullshotThe Appleford family originated in the village of the same name in Berkshire, near to Abingdon. They migrated through Wiltshire and ended up in Bristol.


George Sidney married Hannah Milson in 1839.

Hannah was the widow of Elijah Milson, who was a potter, and she also came from another family of potters – the Applefords.

The first Appleford in Bristol seems to be Thomas, who died in 1715.

He was the father of another Thomas born in 1680 in Mangotsfield, Bristol who married Charity Price in 1705 and was a distiller.

Some attempts have been made to take the family back further and have associated the first Thomas with the Appleford family of Ramsbury in Wiltshire.

I have not been able to confirm this link (or find a record matching the approximate date of birth for this Thomas) and the best I can do is Thomas born in Corsham, Wiltshire in 1646, which is also closer to Bristol.

Thomas of Corsham does not take the family back much further unless he is descended from the Ramsbury family.

As far as I can tell there is no death or marriage record for him in Corsham and he could possibly the first Thomas Appleford in Bristol.

The later family were mostly potters of various types and surprisingly the potters of Bristol are well documented.

They were skilled craftsmen and many were Burgesses (freemen) of the City of Bristol.

John of Corsham= Ann
  Thomas of Corsham (1646-1715) = Elizabeth
    Thomas (1680-1734) = Charity Price
      Thomas (b.1710-1767) = Elizabeth Barnes
        Thomas (1736-1800) = Elizabeth "Betty" Morgan
          Edward (1767-1843) = Sarah Moon
            James (1791-1853) = Charlotte James
              Hannah Appleford (1814-1883) = Elijah Milsom (d.1835) = George Sidney (1813-1891)

The Sidney family and the Applefords lived in the Dings, an area of worker’s houses in Bristol.

Thomas Appleford – Distiller

Bristol Distillery (founded in the 17th century) — produced grain whisky which was “sent to Scotland and Ireland to make a Blended Scotch and Irish whisky, for whisky purpose it is specially adapted, and stands in high favour“.

In 1761, when the Duke of York visited Bristol to receive the freedom of the city, the old malt spirit made in Cheese Lane is said to have been freely distributed among the populace.

Bristol was once a centre for apple brandy which sold well while Britain was fighting the French. Once French brandy became available again, apple brandy declined and it is only in recent years that it has been revived again in Somerset and Herefordshire. Until the seventeenth century anyone could set up a still and many did. In 1684, excise-men were given the job of monitoring production but they were mainly concerned with the tax due, not the quantity.
Nearly two million gallons of spirits were distilled in England in 1694 and the vast majority was poisonous rot-gut, sold to the poor to drown the sorrows of life. Bristol whisky distillery was set up in around 1761 in Cheese Lane, St Philips. It was owned by Thomas Castle and Co. in 1821, Thomas Harris and Co. in 1830, and by the Board family who named it the Bristol Distilling Company in 1863.

Thomas Appleford – Hoop Maker

In 1746 John Wollstanton, a young artist from London,  painted a portrait of Thomas Appleford in Bristol.

Brown eyes and florid complexion; a gray wig and brown velvet coat and waistcoat. Thomas Appleford was a resident of the parish of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. He was a hoop maker by trade.

The Bristol “Apprentice Book” under the date of May 6, 1724 that “Thomas Appleford, son of Thomas Appleford of Bristol, distiller, was apprenticed to Caleb Moore of Bristol, hooper.” He became a burgess [freeman] of that city, May 1, 1732 and was listed in the Bristol Poll Book.

It is possible for this Thomas (aged about 14) to have become an apprentice at about this time and the other dates seem to fit with the tree above.

He would have been a burgess on completion of his apprenticeship (at the age of 21) and sat for the portrait at the age of 36.

Wollstanton moved to America and produced a large number of portraits, many of which (except this one) are available online at the New York Historical Society website.

[More here]

A number of Wollaston’s male sitters in Philadelphia wore the same type of brown velvet seen in the Willing portrait; the artist had begun using it in England, early in his career, in such portraits as Sir Thomas Hales (1744) and Thomas Appleford (1746).

The original is held the New York Historical Society, having been donated by the art collector Waldron Phoenix Belknap jr. in 1948

Thomas Appleford (ca.1700-ca.1767)

Date: 1746
Related People:
Artist/Maker: John Wollaston

Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: Overall: 30 x 25 in. ( 76.2 x 63.5 cm )
Credit Line: Gift of Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Jr.Object Number: 1948.484

In Thomas Appleford (1746, New-York Historical Society, New York), a thirty-by-twenty-five-inch bust view with dark-painted spandrels in the corners, the sitter also wears a brown velvet coat and waistcoat, with the same boldly rendered highlights in the folds of the fabric. Elements in these two portraits, including the brown velvet coat and waistcoat, oval format, marble table, and the treatment of the buttons and highlights in the drapery, reappear in some of Wollaston’s American work

Chris Sidney 2014


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