On 26 May 1884, in the market town of Tavistock in Devon, Thomas John Oats was born. Son of William Henry and Elizabeth Jane (nee Petherick) Oats, Thomas had an older sister, Ellen Elizabeth, and two younger siblings, Bessie Maria and William Henry. In 1891, the Oats family – and Elizabeth’s father, brother and family – were residents of 45 Bannawell Street. But Thomas was not there….. for some unknown reason, he was living in Princetown with his Oats grandparents, Thomas and Ellen, and his aunt, Emma.
Thomas was an apprentice coach builder in 1901 and was back with his family at 45 Bannawell Street – a very large number of people living at the property once again, with Elizabeth’s sister-in-law (now widowed), her three daughters and two sons, her mother and father-in-law as well as the Oats family.
Bannawell Street was mainly terraced housing and the Tavistock Union workhouse was built in 1837 at a site on the street. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott and his partner William Bonython Moffatt who were also the architects for other Devon workhouses at Bideford, Newton Abbot and Tiverton.
Thomas John married Florence Ellen Bird in 1907 in the Bible Christian Chapel in Bannawell Street and three children followed. But sadly, Thomas died aged just 32 years old of ‘acute bronchitis – chronic bronchitis and asthma‘, leaving Florence to bring up three young children, including my grandmother who, amongst other things, was the Lady Mayoress of Tavistock.