Rosamond Davenport HillCemetery Company trustee, businessman. Grade 2* listed memorial1802 to 1860January 3, 2023
Florence Davenport HillCemetery Company trustee, businessman. Grade 2* listed memorial1802 to 1860January 4, 2023
Thomas was born in 1802 to parents John Matthews and Mary Hyatt, Thomas was brought up in the hamlet of Gatcombe on the banks of the River Severn where his father, a carpenter, ran the Sloop Inn.
John’s sister (Thomas's aunt), was also called Mary. Mary married twice and her second husband was Thomas Gadd, whom Thomas Gadd Matthews is named.
The marriage was childless and when Thomas Gadd died in 1830, Mary (Thomas's aunt) inherited his business. She died fifteen months later, leaving most of it to her nephew.
The inherited business
The business he inherted became known as Matthews & Leonard in 1835 when Thomas went into partnership with local merchant Robert Maynard Leonard. In 1840, they were granted a patent for devising improvements to machinery that could be used for sawing, rasping, or reducing wood and tanner’s bark to a fine powder suitable for use by dyers and tanners. During the same year, the company moved from Castle Green to much larger premises in Lewins Mead.
A close connection to Brislington
In August, Thomas married Robert’s daughter, Mary, at Brislington Church. For a short time afterwards, both families lived in Kensington Place, opposite Arnos Vale.
Important local businessman
Thomas's business continued to improve as an oil merchant and drysalter in Bristol. This work involved mixing and trading in chemicals and led to him becoming a very wealthy man. Most of his fortune came from the import of indigo from the West Indies and to a lesser extent rum, sugar molasses and linseed oil. The indigo dyes which he produced were supplied to clothing manufacturers, especially those who made naval uniforms.
T G Matthews & Co.
After the firm of Mathews & Leonard was dissolved in 1850, Thomas continued to trade as T G Matthews & Co. Four years later, he formed a partnership with his brother-in-law, George Hare Leonard who had a soap and grease works in Tower Street but within two years, the name of that company had changed to T G Matthews. Thomas was well-respected as a reliable and honest businessman not only in Bristol but throughout the manufacturing districts of the Midlands, Liverpool and London. He was also kind to his employees and mindful of their welfare.
Shareholder of the Bristol General Cemetery Company
As one of the original shareholders of the Bristol General Cemetery Company, Thomas Gadd Matthews holds a special place in the history of Arnos Vale because the company went on to obtain an 1837 Act of Parliament authorizing it to set up the cemetery. It opened for burials in 1839.
During the 1850’s, the Matthews family resided in Kingsdown Parade, just a street away from where his benefactors, Thomas and Mary Gadd had lived during their later years. By the end of the decade, his own health was failing, and he passed away suddenly on 23rd June 1860 at Como Villa, his summer residence in Portishead.
A listed memorial grave
A week later, Thomas Gadd Matthews was buried at Arnos Vale and the magnificent marble monument that was erected over his grave is one of the finest in the cemetery.
The Grade 2* listed memorial, is a magnificent piece of sculpture, carved by the Tyley family. They were major stonemasons of Victorian Bristol. Thomas was an Anglican, so when died, he was buried in consecrated ground with the full rights of the Church of England read at his burial. When it came to her turn, Mary would wish to be buried with her husband, but Mary was a Congregationalist and would want to be buried with the rights of the Congregationalists and in Un-consecrated ground. To solve this problem the family bought this huge plot which straddles the line between Consecrated ground and un-consecrated ground, so Mary and members of her family are on this side while Thomas and his family are on the other.