I first saw the light on Dec 3rd 1850 (today I am 74) at Great Leaze Farm, Lower Morton, Thornbury. My father was Ambrose Cullimore who was the eldest son of 17 children born at Court Farm, Tortworth. I am told we are of Scotch descent, I think this must be correct, as my favourite poet is the Immortal ‘Burns’. From what I have gathered during my life the family has been in this Parish about 400 years.
My first recollection of Thornbury Town was about 1853, when my mother brought me to Dr Long’s in Castle Street, to be vaccinated. The Doctor was a very tall man, with his head held on one side, and jocularly told people he was born with two heads, but one dropped off, hence the position of the one left. He was very affable and clever, fond of a joke, also good horses and dogs, and is a keen politician on the Liberal side. He offered me two half-pennies to keep quiet while he operated on my arm. I accepted the offer and kept to my bargain, and he promptly paid up like a man. I have never been vaccinated since neither have I had smallpox; but I don’t wish to imply that vaccination prevents smallpox.
My next recollection of the town was about 1858. I was sent to the National School. The fee was 2d per week paid in advance. This School stood in what is now the Castle Garden, adjoining the Gas House Lane; it was pulled down and the present one built about 1860. The Master Mr Joseph Lugg was the best teacher I was ever under, and during my School days I was under one mistress and five Masters, viz: Mrs H. Hawker, Oldbury Naite; Mr Watters, Oldbury National School; Mr Champion, Private School; Mr Lugg, Thornbury National School; Mr Lebert, Alveston Private School; and Dr Roberts, Thornbury Grammar School.
My Experiences of School Masters
First Dame School; Mrs Hawker. She taught me my alphabet and arithmetic; she was very kind and gentle, I liked her very much, and because of these traits in her character we children did what she wished us to do.
Second Mr Waters; I did not like this man; he was very severe.
Third Mr Champion: Private School, John Street, Thornbury; the fee was 10d per week. The Master was noted for driving knowledge into boys by severity the means used were a cane and his hat (a soft one). This was used instead of the cane when the offence was not serious. Home lessons consisted of learning to spell twelve words correctly, a sum, and writing. Woe betide the boy that had not learnt his spelling correctly – he was allowed two or three tries, if he then failed, down came that old hat on the head with the order to stay in during dinner hour and learn it. I got on very well with Mr Champion and don’t recollect ever being punished. He had a very clever son who made his mark in the world – he went to London and became clerk to the Magistrates of Mary-le-bone at a salary that enabled him to keep a carriage and pair of horses, with which he visited his native Town of Thornbury.
Fourth. Mr Joseph Lugg, Thornbury National School. This was a man who took a real personal interest in his scholars. He taught us reading, writing, arithmetic, grammar, geography, history, poetry, and gave us lectures in anatomy which latter subject I have found to be of great service all through my life. He took great interest in our games, taught cricket, football and hockey in proper season, also marbles and buttons.
I fully enjoyed all these games and was fairly efficient in them all, but more especially the game of buttons as this gave me my first impressions of business. I was an expert player and won and held a reserve of 1200 besides having sufficient to speculate and play with. From this reserve I sold and was able to control the button market at School, putting up price when it was a good day for button playing, and reducing when there were not many buyers. From this source and the sale of hockey sticks, which I collected from my father’s and other farms on the Saturday, and sold to the hockey players on the following Monday, I began my first banking account with the Penny Bank which was started at this time at the savings bank in Castle Street.
Our master, Mr Lugg, encouraged us in this saving scheme by allowing every boy who wished to bank his pennies to leave school at 3pm. I very often availed myself of this privilege.
Another very sensible thing Mr Lugg encouraged was swimming, and boys were encouraged to use the baths, for learning. A Mr Griffith Hughes (Mr Lugg’s father-in-law) undertook to teach any boy and when the boy could swim the length of the bath (about 20 yards) Mr Hughes presented him with 6d.
While attending this school, I also attended the Sunday School in connection with it. Mr J. Y. Sturge was the Superintendent – a man of kindly disposition and much beloved by his scholars. He took a lot of pains with us in our Sunday lessons, giving us prizes for regular attendance, learning the collect for the day, and two verses of a hymn; he gave us many treats which we very much appreciated. One of these consisted in a journey (in Mr Baylis’s two wagons) to Sharpness docks and Pleasure Garden. On our return journey through Berkeley, stones etc were thrown at us, but no one was seriously hurt. On enquiring why they did this we were told there was great animosity existing between Thornbury and Berkeley over the poaching affray in 1815 (more than 50 years before) and not forgotten at this date about 1860.
Another incident which excited my feelings and aroused all my indignation against apparent injustice occurred in Thornbury Church one Sunday morning just before the commencement of the service. A Miss sly was forcibly ejected from her pew (where she had sat for a long time) by a policeman. I enquired why this was done, and was told it was because she had become poor, and the gentleman who wanted the pew, had become rich. The reason given for her poverty was she was apprenticed to straw bonnet making; these went out of fashion, and her occupation went with it. I can remember the notice in the Misses Sly’s window reading ‘The Misses Sly, Straw Bonnet Makers’. This ended the first act of this drama.
The next act took place on the following 5th November. The people who took exception to ejectment of Miss Sly, made an effigy as near as possible to represent the gentleman who got the pew, pout it on a wheel trucks and paraded the town in the dinner hour, we boys following by shouting ‘Black the Boot Jimmy’ everyone living in the town at that time knew who it referred to. In the evening gunpowder was placed inside and the effigy blown. Thus ended second and final set in this incident.
A never-to-be-forgotten incident took place while I was at the National School – the festivities on the occasion of the marriage of the then Prince of Wales, afterwards King Edward VII, on March 10th 1863. The scholars of all schools were given a holiday, and those of the public elementary schools a medal with white ribbon (I have retained mine to the present) which we wore on this day. We marched around the town, preceded by a brass band, visiting the principal residences and singing ‘God Save the Queen’ and ‘Bless the Prince of Wales’. Afterwards we were admitted to the sports in Mr Young’s field (now Mr Parsons’), and given a tea. The old people and many others were given a dinner. This year, 1863, I ended my connection with the Thornbury National School, Mr J. Lugg, to the regret of many of his scholars, having left the town.
My next school was at Alveston, a private school (now the residence of Mr L. Jolly), kept by Mr W. Lebirt, a Frenchman. He wore a wig, which did not fit very well, and often came off, to the amusement of us boys. He was good at teaching, especially writing. These were his instructions: ‘Size, slope and distance, my boy’. He used to lose his temper very quickly, especially over English History. When we boys wanted to to get him out of the schoolroom, and it was a lesson in reading, we began reading of the defeat of the French by the English, just before the record of the Battle of Waterloo. When we came to this passage, he would thump the table with his fist, and exclaim, ‘By God, boys, was this done out of design?’ We always answered ‘No, sir; came to it in our lesson’. Then he would say, ‘Blucher was a traitor’, and rush out of the room, leaving us to our selves, which was just what we wanted to enable us to have some fun.
Here is an escapade of mine at this school which I have never forgotten. I took a Tom-tit to school one morning and put it in the drawer of my desk, thinking it would be safe until the dinner hour, when I expected to sell it to some boys from Bristol; but when the school was settled down to work and all was quiet, out came my Tommy flying about the room, crying ‘Cheep, cheep’. At once there was an uproar, boys trying to catch the bird and the master shouting, ‘By God, boys, keep your seats’. His words were of no avail, and the noise continued until I had captured the bird and placed it in my satchel.
I left Alveston School in 1864 and went to the Thornbury Grammar School the same year. The head master was Dr Roberts, a kind, genial man; all the boys liked him. The second master was Mr Meade, a very studious, reserved man, great on astronomy. The school house at this time was situated in the lower end of Castle Street, now the property of the Hon. Mrs Gillett. The school consisted of two masters and about 25 scholars. What a contrast to the present one, with its four masters and three lady teachers and about 140 pupils.
At the old Grammar School, besides other subjects, I learned Latin and Greek, which has been of some service to me during my life. Dr Roberts used to tell us tales about Sir Isaac Newton and other celebrities. I remember one or two of these. Sir Isaac had a favourite cat; when he was in his study the cat used to scratch at the door, asking to be admitted. This disturbed the learned gentleman, so he sent for his carpenter and gave orders for a hole to be cut in the door, large enough to allow the cat to enter without disturbing him. This was done and some little time afterwards the cat had kittens, and when this event was reported to Sir Isaac he sent again for his carpenter, and explaining what had happened told him to cut some small holes for the kittens to pass through. The carpenter looked astonished, and scratching his head, reminded him that the kittens could go through the hole the mother cat used. Exclaimed Sir Isaac, ‘Of course they can; I never thought of that’.
Another incident in the life of this philosopher which he told us was as follows; He had risen early, and sitting before the fire, which had just been lit, placed his feet on the hob and began studying. The fire burnt up, and finding it too hot, shouted to his servant Gip, ‘Gip, remove the fire at once, or I shall be burnt’. The servant suggested that he should move his chair back a little. ‘Ah’ said Sir Isaac. ‘Of course, of course, I never gave that a thought’. These incidents were told us to show how very deeply Sir Isaac Newton studied to discover what he did.
Mr Meade gave us lectures on astrology on Monday afternoons. During his lectures two other boys and myself played buttons. We kept one inkpot clean and dry for this purpose. We placed three buttons each on the bottom edge of the desk, and then with our finger nails shot them into the inkpot. Of course, we had to keep our eye on Mr Meade and listen to his lecture, and only shoot when he was not looking. Sometimes a sharp shot sent a button into the inkpot with a loud rattle. Then the master would look round with a scowl and put a question and I am pleased to say I could generally answer correctly. I liked these lectures, they aroused my curiosity and interest in the starry heavens. They also taught me to do two things at once; listen to the lecture and play buttons. On the whole I got on very well at this school which was my last. I did not learn very much more than I knew when I went there. I reckoned up the cost and told my father it was costing him about 1/- per hour and he agreed with me that it was not worth it. I was not very fond of learning grammar and geography, but I liked history and arithmetic, and could do any sum or problem in Colenso’s book. So my father gave notice, and I left school in 1865 being 15 years old.
I often wonder where all the boys are who went to school with me, probably 200 to 300 – how many there are living? In Thornbury there can only be about nine or ten left. Many of the boys left the town and parish and sought their fortune away; some went abroad, but up to the present I have never heard of any who did better than those who remained in the parish, and who lived up to the teaching we received at school, namely, Truth, Sobriety, Industry Perserverance.