Joe Pavey was a saddler who traded at 30 High Street for many years.  Click here to read more about Joe

In 1967 he spoke about his memories of his life in Thornbury.  The Outlook magazine produced by the Thornbury Community Association included an article about Joe’s memories.

“I came to Thornbury and bought my shop in 1912.  The High Street was cobbled in those days and the market was held in the street.  You could get a lamb joint for sixpence and I can remember being offered a sackful of cauliflowers and spring greens for the same price.  In those days a tradesman kept a family on twenty-five to thirty shillings a week and he kept them fairly well too.  Of course in those days people rented their houses, they didn’t usually own them.  They probably paid about five shillings a week.

Every morning carriers would call at the shop, open the door and call out, “Bristol, sir?”  You chose the one you wanted and then asked him to take something into Bristol or fetch you something back.  He would have a four-wheeled cart pulled by one or some two horses.  It took about an hour or so to get into Bristol and sometimes they took passengers for about a shilling.  They all raced each other for your trade and you always had what you ordered back the same day.  Thornbury, of course was at the end of the railway line and you could get to Temple Meads through Yate.  There was the open motor bus which started running from here to Bristol a couple of years before I came.  The milk from the farms used to go by train though.  About eight in the morning the train would be waiting and the guard would be looking at his watch.  “I’ll give’em a couple of minutes more, that’s all,” he would say and then the carts would come rattling up the High Street with the horses galloping at full speed to get to the station with the churns in time.

The motor bus ran from here to Filton and from there you could catch the tram into Bristol.  They were open on top and if it rained you were likely to get wet unless you turned your seat up.  But, although Bristol was the big city Thornbury had the talking pictures first.  In fact people used to come from Bristol to see them when few places round about had them, except London and Cardiff.  Mr. Francis Grace owned the cinema.  He was the first man to bring electricity to Thornbury and he also made gas at Morton.  To work with and to see by we had a double-flamed gas light all through the house.  In those days the old timber-yard was run by steam and he changed it over to electricity.  He wanted to bring electricity into Thornbury itself and he had to get the permission of the Council who said that he must put it under ground in the High Street but that out of the town he could have it carried on poles.  Eventually he got it right through to Rudgeway.

Of course many of the shops were owned by different people and different occupations were practiced in them.  There was a tinsmith’s just opposite which became a tailor’s before it became a dry cleaner’s.  The market was held where Worthington’s shop is and then the windows were open.  Behind there was a debtor’s prison and underneath the clock there used to be a pair of stocks.  There are still there somewhere; someone was going to get them out recently.  I don’t remember seeing them used.  Where Hawkins is now there used to be a kindergarten school run by a Miss Trayhurn.  She’s retired now and lives in Somerset, I think.

Down at the bottom of the High Street there was a pump.  You were only supposed to wash cars and carts down there and nowhere else.  Thornbury was on the main Bristol to Gloucester road in those days and the A38 road up at the top of Milbury Heath was only a lane.  So Thornbury was on the main road to the North.  During the First War we saw many troops march and ride through here on their way to Avonmouth to embark.  Quite a few went from Thornbury.  In fact we sent our own contingent.  They were part of the Gloucestershire Hussars, a mounted regiment.

When the surveyor came to prepare for laying the drainage in the High Street, I discovered that the land slopes so much from my shop down to the river that our bedroom window is on a level with the church tower.

In those days we made our own entertainment.  You could go to the pictures up the road at the cinema or you could go to the Cossham Hall to a concert.  Now and again there would be plays performed by travelling players coming round.  There was even more public houses in those days than there are today.  The doctor’s surgery at the top of the town and the place where the betting shop is, those were both public houses at one time.  It was almost as if every house had a place to drink.  Most of them sold cider.  You could get drunk for a very small sum as cider was only three halfpence a pint.

The mailman used to leave Thornbury to go back to Bristol at about eight in the evening.  The Post Office was just below our shop in those days.  He had a skinny old horse that knew its journey very well.  He used to ask impatiently if there was any more parcels and then finally he would set off. Sometimes when he had had a drink or two he might have been better strapped to his seat but he had to empty all the boxes on the road to Bristol.  Anyway his horse knew where to stop and he never missed a box.

Things moved much more slowly in those days but we still managed to get things done.  There seemed to be lots more time to do things in and none of the rush there is today.  It was certainly a different kind of world”.

(As told to Stuart McFarlane)
Published in the ‘Outlook’, a magazine produced by the Thornbury Community
Association in 1967.