The earliest document of the deeds of Crispin House in Thornbury refers to the fact that the property was owned by John Dymory and sold to Henry Yeeds on a date unspecified. At Henry Yeed’s death, the property was divided between his daughters and co-heiresses, Alice and Anne. Alice French married a “barber and chyurgeon” called John French. Their children were John, Thomas Mary and Alice. There is a record of Alice, now known as Alice French, paying rent of 6d for half a burgage in 1670. This portion was eventually transferred to John French a shoemaker, Alice’s son, and he subsequently bought out the half belonging to Anne and her husband, Thomas Aldridge.
In 1683 the property was sold by John French, shoemaker, to George Pearce, turner, for the sum of £38. George was born in Olveston in 1659 and he married Ann Gayner of Thornbury in “Alvestone”. Ann Gayner was the son of a blacksmith called William Gayner. Click here to read about William Gayner and his family
There is a copy of their marriage certificate in Thornbury Museum which gives the date of their marriage as “the first day of the twelfth month comonly called February in the yeare according to computation now used in England One Thousand six hundred seventy and nine.” George Pearce was said to be “of Winscom in the County of Sumersett” when he married.
By the time George and Ann Pearce bought the property they had two children, Betty and George, and another child, Joshua, was born in 1683. They did not live in the house long because they sold it in 1684 to Ann’s brother, John Gayner, blacksmith of Thornbury, for £55 in a conveyance dated 28th July in the 36th year of the reign of Charles ll (1684).
George had sold the property because he was emigrating to America. He settled in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The fact that his wife came from Thornbury seems to be the reason why the township where he settled became known as Thornbury, Pennsylvania. George Pearce was a Quaker. Quakers were persecuted in England and even during the reign of Charles II (1660-1685) some sources say that as many as 13,562 Quakers were imprisoned in England and 338 died in prison or were killed in the assaults on their meetings.
We don’t know what particular event triggered his departure. He bought a house only a year before so it may have been a fairly sudden decision. We don’t know if it was a factor but William Penn returned to England in 1684 to negotiate with the English governor about the boundaries of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Another factor would be the continued persecution of the Quakers in England at this time. Ann’s two brothers had both been in prison for refusing to attend Communion. George Pearce himself had had goods confiscated as punishment for “being absent from National Worship.”
George sent letters back to his brother in law John Gayner from their new home in Thornbury Pennsylvania and the Thornbury Museum has copies of two of these, one dated 1712 and the other 1719. A transcription of one letter tells of his concern about some missing gold.
“Loving brother after my kind,
Love to thee and thy wife and children. These may let you know that I received thy letter bearing date the 23rd of the 11th month, 1712, wherein I understand that thee hast not received the piece of gold that I sent to thee by our friend John Solkel, a public friend that came over to visit some part of the Nation of England.
I have been with him since he came home, and told him that I understood that thee hadst received the letter but not the piece of gold, which he marvelled at, and bid me write to thee about it and ask thee whether or not thee hast seen or heard of such a man, and if thee hast, how it happened that thee did not ask him for the token that he brought with the letter, for the letter mentioneth the friend that I sended, by the value of it, and the reason of my sending it to thee, so I desire thee to send me word the first opportunity whether thee hast received further letter or not.”
Please note that more of the story of George and Ann Pearce can be found in Margaret Gayner’s book “From Smithy to Computer.” As previously stated we do not know why George Pearce left Thornbury. However it is possible that one of the reasons for his departure was a catastrophe to his livelihood. There seems to have been a very serious fire. We do not know when a fire happened but subsequent documents make reference to the “burnt houses.”
John Gayner in his will left “my three burnt houses in Thornbury adjoining together and which I lately purchased of one George Pearce and also one ground called the New Tynings lying in the Tilt Field in the parish of Thornbury and all outhouses backsides gardens orchards and appurtenances to the four last mentioned houses” to his grandson Francis (Francis’s father having already died). Francis died aged 11. In 1743 the brothers of Francis, John and William Gayner, sold the property.