The Thornbury and District Community Association that is now based in The Chantry in Thornbury was born in Toad Hall. This was the name of the house at 11 St David’s Road in Thornbury owned by Lionel and Mildred “Mim” Elton whose idea it was. They were helped in this project by Joe Scarrott (Gloucestershire County Council Community Officer) who helped set up other Community Associations in the area, including that in Winterbourne.
In 1964 Mr Bowns, the then owner of The Chantry, was a member of Thornbury Town Council.
On 7th May 1964 Mim Elton was also elected to the Council. She was a member of the Playing Fields Committee as well as being governor of County Secondary and Primary Schools.
The purpose of the proposed Community Association was to provide meeting places for all sorts of community activities and groups for the rapidly growing town.
The first group to set up was the Chess Club which met in the Elton’s home in 1963. The second was the Playgroup that met in the old Picture House in early 1964 and which was run by Sylvia Welch. This was funded by an initial float from Gloucestershire Council of £25. The old cinema was lent to the Community Association on a temporary basis with the help of Hugh Wells. The official opening ceremony of the Association took place on 10th June 1964 and was reported in the Gazette. The Gazette article mentioned other groups that were already meeting at the old cinema. These were the pensioners who met two or three afternoons a week, the judo club, table tennis and the disc club. The photograph above on the left taken at the opening ceremony shows Hugh Wells and his wife (on the left) with Mim and Lionel Elton.
Other groups also met in the old cinema – including the Model Railway Group and the Bridge Club. Colin Neathey was the Treasurer at this time and Margaret Latham the Secretary.
On 29th September 1964 the Gazette reported that Lionel Elton the chairman of the Community Association officially launched an appeal for £6,600. This was said to be a third of the cost of establishing a permanent community association at The Chantry which was now “suddenly available” and was on the market for £12,000.
The minutes of the Council show that on 19th January 1965 the Community Association wanted a penny rate towards the purchase of The Chantry. The cost was estimated to be £12,000 with 50% coming from the Ministry of Education and Science, £2,000 from Gloucestershire Council and £4,000 to be raised locally.
On 25th February 1965 a public meeting was held at the White Lion that decided to purchase The Chantry. This resulted in much fund raising that included a hot dog stall on the A38 to sell to holiday makers stopping to buy petrol. This was in the days before the M5 was built.
In the April budget of 1965 the Town Council agreed to make a one off payment of £200 to the Community Association.
The Gazette reported that the Community Association was able to make a deposit of £3,000 but at the last minute the expected government grant was refused and only an appeal (and it seems from Mim’s recollections) a visit to London produced the necessary £8,250 that had been promised.
On 12th May 1966, The Chantry was purchased by the Community Association from Desmond Bowns as the community centre for Thornbury. About 1,300 people attended the official opening of The Chantry.
The first warden of the community association was Anthony Charles Goodfield who had previously worked for the Yeovil Rural District Council as a mobile youth leader.
On 11th May 1967 Mim Elton was re-elected to the Parish Council. She resigned on 10th October 1967.
After the Chantry became the home of the Community Association the Art Group started by Renee Geriac used the original “stable block” on the left hand side of the car park for pottery.
The Amateur Operatic Society was started in 1968. The Arts Festival committee was set up and just before the Christmas of 1974 the first Mumping Night was held. Mumping Night was a procession and entertainment under the notional supervision of a Lord of Misrule. The origins seem very confused and may have had something to do with the other seasonal activity of mumming (dressing up to perform a mime or simple play) or of mumping in the sense of collecting money or begging for alms. Whatever the original reason for this celebration it was a great success in Thornbury with a candlelight procession and a range of activities and performances much appreciated by all age groups.
The fourth annual general meeting of the Thornbury and District Community Association elected Lionel Elton as Chairman and Mim Elton as secretary. Derek Cole was the Treasurer. Other officials included Mr T Arnold, Mrs A Gibbs, Mr Phillip Holland, Mrs H Raggatt, Mr K Gale and Mrs P Rickards.
In commemoration of what Mr and Mrs Elton had done for the Community Association one of the rooms is still called the Elton Room.