The Pearce family who lived at The Baths from about 1918 to 1970

This page summarises the history of the occupants of The Baths, Thornbury.  Click here to read about the history of the property which includes the public swimming pool.

We are not sure how much involvement the occupants had in the running of the baths, apart from occupying the adjoining house.  We have only found three sources mentioning their involvement: Thomas Morgan referred to as ‘Baths Proprietor’ in a directory listing in 1839, George Exell listed in 1869 as running the beerhouse ‘The Bathin Place’ which allowed customers to have refreshments whilst bathing and Thomas Pearce who is mentioned in the early twentieth century as allowing some children in free if they helped him pick up stones in his fields.

It should be pointed out the running of the baths was hardly likely to require much work.  The Baths had no life guards and cleaning was probably minimal.  On the other hand there was not likely to be much income and the owners would have needed another occupation.

 John Shepherd

Handel Cossham,  when addressing the people of the Town at the opening the Cossham Hall in 1888, mentioned his maternal grandfather, John Shepherd, as a friend of Dr Jenner.  Handel referred to his grandfather as ‘John Shepherd of The Baths near Thornbury‘.  We can’t be sure whether this was the name of the property when John Shepherd lived there or a contemporary name used by Handel to ensure his audience knew where he was taking about.

The Shepherd family was very active in the Baptist movement.  The application for registration of the new Thornbury Baptist Chapel dated 28th July 1789 was signed by John Shepherd and Thomas Shepherd.

John Shepherd was born on 13th September 1770 at Eastwood to John Shepherd senior, a yeoman, and his wife Jane.  His birth was registered in St Mary’s Church in Thornbury.  John Shepherd senior died aged 58 in 1788 at Eastwood and was buried at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury.  As John Shepherd senior had died, it seems possible that the John Shepherd who signed the application in 1789 was his son who was only 18 years of age.  Jane Shepherd moved to Upper Morton at some point and we know that her son John became the heir of his uncle Thomas Shepherd of Morton (who was presumably the other signatory in 1789).

John Shepherd married Mary Greenwood at Thornbury Parish Church on 24th July 1797.  Mary was the daughter of William Greenwood and his wife Mary (nee Taylor).  Click here to read more about her family

John and Mary Shepherd had four children registered at Wotton-under-Edge Baptist Church:

  • Jane Shepherd was born on 29th January 1798 and registered on 24th March 1798
  • Hannah Shepherd was born on 27th March 1800 and registered on 20th February 1801.
  • Sarah Shepherd was born on 9th March 1802 and registered on 18th June 1802.
  • Mary Shepherd was born on 23rd February 1804 and registered on 7th December 1804

 The Manor Court Rolls reveal that on 6th April 1809 John Shepherd, Maltster, succeeded to the lands of his uncle Thomas Shepherd, late of Morton, yeoman, and on 4th March 1813 John succeeded to the property of Jane Shepherd, ‘late of Eastwood and then of Upper Morton, widow and relict of John Shepherd, late of Eastwood and then Upper Morton, yeoman’.  John Shepherd was their only son and heir.

We know from the speech of Handel Cossham when he opened the Cossham Hall for the benefit of the people of Thornbury that John’s daughter, Sarah Shepherd became the wife of Jesse Cossham.  We are not sure when this marriage took place as we have been able to trace two different sources.  The IGI shows they may have married on 8th September 1823 at St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol.  Another source, “Wishful Thinking”, says Jesse Cossham and Sarah Shepherd may have married in Thornbury on 18 July 1819.  We are unable to confirm either source.   Please click here to read more about the Cossham connection

We do not know what connection John Shepherd had to the Baths, only that he either lived there or owned the property.  Handel Cossham described John Shepherd as a friend of Dr Edward Jenner and it is interesting to speculate that The Baths may have been an early attempt to encourage hygiene in the local population, especially those who lacked easy access to supplies of clean water

In later years John and Mary Shepherd passed through difficult times.  The proceedings of the Manor Court for 13th June 1816 refer to the ‘assigns appointed under and by virtue of a Commission of Bankrupt lately awarded and issued against John Shepherd of Morton in the Parish of Thornbury, Maltster Dealer and Chapman, a Bankrupt’.  John’s wife Mary died in 1834 and John Shepherd himself died in 1839.

The Thornbury Baptist Church burial ground had the following four inscriptions:

Thomas Shepherd late of Morton, died 27th October 1808, aged 73 years

Jane Shepherd late of Morton, died 5th October 1812, aged 64 years

John Shepherd, late of Morton in this Parish, a maltster, died 4th November 1839, aged 70 years

Mary Shepherd, his wife, died 14th May 1834, aged 57 years

Thomas Morgan

The 1839 Robsons Trade Directory lists Thomas Morgan and describes him as ‘Bath Proprietor, The Baths’.  In the 1840 Tithe Survey the property consisting of the farm house, garden and baths were owned by William Rolph and occupied by Thomas Morgan.

The 1841 Census shows that Thomas Morgan was living at The Baths.  Here he was said to be a farmer aged 48 and his wife Sarah was said to be 50 years old.  Their children were Edwin aged 21 a bailiff and Ann aged 15 and Charlotte then 13.  Click here to read more

 James Thompson

James was shown as living at The Baths in ‘Perry’s Bankrupt and Insolvent Gazette’ in 1849.  It was noted that he had been a victualler.  We can’t find any other information about James.

 Charles Owen Pearce

The 1851 census lists Charles and his family living at The Baths.  Charles was a cordwainer employing two boys.  He was aged 42 and born in Kingswood.  His wife, Elizabeth, was a bootbinder aged 37 from Wotton Under Edge.  They had five children and a lodger Robert Tilley Pearce an errand boy aged 11 born in Tortworth.

Charles had married Elizabeth Gardener in Bristol on 17th February 1831.  The Tithe Map of 1840 and its accompanying Tithe Apportion show that Charles Owen Pearce was one of the occupants of what became 2- 12 Pullins Green, although we are not sure in which house. The Thornbury trade directories show Charles was a boot and shoemaker in Thornbury from 1842 to 1852.

In 1860 Charles Owen Pearce was examined concerning his bankruptcy and gave evidence that he had been a boot and shoe maker in Tredegar for six years.  The Cardiff Times of 24th Match 1860 confirmed that Charles was granted his certificate of insolvency.

It seems likely that Elizabeth died in Bedwelty in 1866 aged about 50 years.  By 1871 George was living in Bedwellty near Tredegar in Wales with his son George, working also as a cordwainer, and daughter Eleanor.

Charles Owen Pearce a widower and cordwainer died on 4th July 1874 at Tredegar Iron Works.  Probate was granted to his son William Owen Pearce of 24 Bridge Street Tredegar Iron Works who was also a cordwainer.

Of their children

  • William Owen an apprentice cordwainer was born in Kingswood about 1833, although he may have been baptized in Cirencester on February 1st.  William Owen Pearce the son of Charles Owen Pearce married Mary Howse on November 14th 1853 in St Mary’s Church Thornbury.  By 1874 William Owen Pearce lived at 24 Bridge Street Tedegar Iron Works.   He was also a cordwainer.
  •  Elizabeth Phillips a bootbinder aged 13 was also born in Kingswood, although Elizabeth was baptized in Thornbury on 5th July 1846.
  • Mary Ann.  At the time of the 1851 census Mary Ann was aged 11.  She was baptized in Thornbury on 24th November 1839.
  • Eleanor was aged 8 in the 1851.  She was baptized on 12th June 1842.
  • Frederick George aged 4 was baptized in Thornbury on 5th July 1846.

George Henry Exell

George Henry Exell was living at The Baths with his family in the 1861 census.  He appears to have been sharing the property with two other households:

One of these was John Morley, a cooper aged 54 and his wife, Mary E. Morley aged 60, both from Chipping Sodbury with boarder George Jones, a basketmaker aged 66 from Chepstow.  The other was Ann Savery, a widow aged 78 from Thornbury and her housekeeper Mary Ann Vizard aged 10 from Morton.

George Exell was a shoemaker by trade.  The 1868 Directory of Gloucestershire shows George had diversified his business activities.  He was listed as beer retailer at the the ‘Bathin’ Place’.  It is thought by George Ford, the local pub historian, that the public washhouse facilities available at The Baths would have been in great demand from the navvies and engineers working on the building of the railway to Thornbury.  The addition of a drinking licence would have been a sensible extension of the bath business.  It did not however last long and the Bathin Place ceased trading in 1874, two years after the opening of the railway and the navies had moved away.

The Exells were still at The Baths in 1871 and 1881 census.  The 1881 census shows George had become a High Bailiff of the County Court.

The 1885 Poor Rate Book shows George had purchased and moved to 2 Horseshoe Lane.  Click here to read more about George

In 1899 there is an advertisement in the Bristol Mercury which says:

“The Baths, Thornbury. – To LET, 25th March 1899.  Good House: Walled Garden, stable, coach House, Piggeries, and Swimming Bath; suitable for Market Gardener; in all One Acre.  Pasture Land if required.  Apply George Exell, Thornbury”.  

John Burrows

John was a military man.  The 1891 census shows them living at Horfield Barracks in Bristol.  By 1897 the Burrows had moved to Thornbury.  A trade directory for 1899 shows John as a Retired Army Sergeant living at The Baths.  The 1901 census shows John and Mary Ann living at Gillingstool.  Click here to read more 

William Watkins

The 1901 census shows The Baths was occupied by William Watkins and his family.  William was a market gardener aged 57 from Grosmont in Monmouthshire.  He was living there with his wife, Sara aged 50 from Llandrindod in Wales and his sister, Matilda Watkins aged 53, also from Grosmont.  In 1891 they had been living in Greenbank Cottages in Bedminster in Bristol.  William was a gardener at that time.  His sons Harry aged 16 born in Grosmont and Frank aged 17 and born in Long Ashton Somerset had not yet found employment.  They also had a son Hugh aged 10 years.

 William and Lois Symes

The 1909 Prewetts Almanac and 1910 Voters List show that William was living at ‘The Baths’.  The 1911 Census shows William and Lois at 21 Pullins GreenClick here to read more

 James Thorn

The Prewetts Directory in 1914, 1915 and 1916 list ‘J. Thorn’ as the occupant of The Baths. We are not sure who ‘J. Thorn’ was, but we note that there was a James Thorn living in The Hackett at the time of the 1911 census.  He was a labourer aged 53 living with his wife, Charlotte, aged 53 and their son, James who was a printer aged 21.

 Thomas and Sarah Pearce

Thomas and Sarah Pearce moved to The Baths about 1918.  They had a large family of seven children, many of whom lived with Thomas and Sarah at various times.  When Thomas and Sarah moved to live in 46 Castle Street in 1938 the tenancy of The Baths and the farm land was taken over by his son, Herbert Henry, and his wife, Kathleen.  In 1949 ‘Bert’ bought the farm (without the swimming pool which was bought by the Council).  Click here to read more about the Pearce family


On 3rd February 1971 Herbert Henry Pearce sold the farmhouse and land to Thornbury Rural District Council for £14,500.  The council were developing this area of the town and building the housing estate known as Streamleaze. They demolished all the buildings.

Click here to read about The Baths