Thomas Wren was born in Skelton, North Yorkshire, to John and Elizabeth Wren. He moved to Stockton to work for his brother William, who was a miller. In 1812 Thomas married Mary Hansell at St. Thomas Church, in Stockton.
She was the daughter of William Hansell, a farmer of Easby, near Stokesley in Yorkshire. Thomas and Mary moved back to Yorkshire, their first two sons were born in Loftus, namely Joseph, born in 1813, and John, born in 1815. By 1817 they were living back in Stockton as the third son Joseph was born here in this year. He was followed by William in 1819, Benjamin in 1821, Mary in 1824 and George 1830. In 1828 we find them living at 28 High Street, the 1827 trade directory show that he is a Millet/Flour dealer.
In 1831 Thomas purchased “The Old Mill”, as it was locally known. It was situated on land off Bishopton Road, now known as Wrensfield. The property consisted of Wind Cornmill, House, Stables, and out buildings, within nine and a half acres of land. He paid a deposit of £500, with the rest to be paid in one year. To do this Thomas took out a mortgage on the property. The mill burnt down in 1853, but was rebuilt and it was probably around this time that it was converted to be steam driven. By 1849 he had a mill near the quay side at the corner of Silver Street. It was put up for auction in 1882, four years after his death. Wren also built a mill in Eaglescliffe, just off the outskirts of Yarm, under the railway arches and close to the river. This mill also burnt down and was rebuilt. In 1860 Wren moved to Atlas Mill in Yarm. This was also sold in 1882. There is a street off Yarm High Street called Atlas Wynd. Could this possibly be where Wren’s Mill stood?
By the 1840s all of his sons had been set up in business. Joseph went to Boston in Lincolnshire, where he was a Miller/Corn Merchant. John Hansell and Thomas Jr. shared a house at Thistle Green and worked with their father. William was married at the age of seventeen to Elizabeth Mills, daughter of Thomas Mills, a grocer. As she was also under the legal marriage age of twenty-one a special licence had to be applied for with the written permission of both parents. They went on to have a large family and lived above the shop at 25 High Street, where William ran a grocery business. He retired in 1861 and moved to live in Bishopton Lane. Benjamin trained as a Millwright. He also married young and had a large family. He moved to Boston to work with his brother Joseph but later returned to run the mill at Yarm. Thomas never married. John Hansell married a widow with three children, when he was 43 years. They had a daughter and a son. On the 1871 census they were living at 13 The Square, his occupation was given as J.P., Alderman, Corn Merchant and Landowner. Thomas Wren’s daughter, Mary, married Edward Henderson at St.Thomas Church, in 1856. He was in business as a draper. Their address on the 1861 census was 7 Paradise Row.
In 1860 Thomas Wren was Mayor of Stockton, and his son John Hansell was Mayor in 1865.
Stories from the High Street participant: Pauline Heath.
The ‘Stories…’ project is part of the Council’s wider “Grants for Heritage Buildings’ programme, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Council, to help promote awareness and understanding of the town’s heritage.
Visit www.stockton.gov.uk/grantsforheritagebuildings for further information on the project.