George Albert and Gertrude Isobel Beard moved into the house that became 20 Gloucester Road in Thornbury about 1928/29. In 1926 when their son started at the Council Infants School and in the 1927 electoral register they had been listed as living at Lower Lodge, Bristol Road. We know that they had a son Kenneth by this time as the Council School register shows that Kenneth Beard, the son of George A Beard was accepted on the roll.
George Albert Beard was born in Gloucester on 16th March 1897. He was the son of George Beard and his wife, Mary Ann (nee Partridge). In the 1901 census the family were living at 11 New Inn Lane, Gloucester. George’s father was a captain of a lighter. In the 1911 census the family were living at 32 Moore Street, Tredworth, Gloucester, in a house which had six rooms. It is interesting to see that the name of George’s father was crossed out and ‘Away’ was noted in ‘Whether working at Home’ column. We assume that this means that he was elsewhere on census night not that he was dead.
We don’t know much about George and Gertrude’s early life. We know that George Albert fought in World War One. Mrs Beard told us that her husband was gassed and was “never the same.” When she died, we acquired a German rifle and helmet from her cellar that appeared to date from this period. After several years, we discarded the helmet that had lost all its straps etc and was rusty and battered. We kept the rifle, although it was rusted solid and had some woodworm until the police destroyed it in 2005 when we asked them if it would be acceptable for us to give the rifle to Thornbury Museum.
We are grateful to Alf Beard for sending us George’s service records during the War. There is some confusion as to when George enlisted as one document says it was on 29th March 1913, and two more documents say it was on 29th March 1914. We think it more likely that it was in 1914 based on his length of service (4 years 298 days) when calculating his service pension in April 1919. Either way George had exaggerated his age to gain acceptance to serve as he claimed he was 17 years 10 months. In the 1901 Census he had recorded as aged 2, in the 1911 census he was aged 13, and the FreeBMD website shows he was born in 1898.
The records show that his father was George Hulbert Beard, that his home address was 32 Moor Street, Tredworth, Gloucestershire and he had been employed as a labourer in a flour mill.
George enlisted in the Gloucester Regiment as a Private 43663. On the 13th August 1916 he was in the Machine Gun Corps when he embarked Folkstone and disembarked at Boulogne the same day. He was posted to his unit on the 14th August at Camiers and joined 164 Company on the 25th August 1916. On 13th July 1917 the Germans attacked their lines with gas shells from which he suffered poisoning and superficial shrapnel wounds both thighs, right shoulder and his back. He was firstly treated at the 2/1st Wessex Field Ambulance, then transferred to No 46. Casualty Clearing Station all on the same day. On 27th July 1917 he was at No 24, General Hospital at Etaples. He remained at the hospital until he was transferred on Hospital Ship, St Andrew. on the 5th August 1917. The next day he was admitted to 2nd Northern General Hospital, Leeds, then Leeds General Infirmary and Leeds War Hospital. He was discharged fit for service on the 9th November 1917 to Machine Gun Corps 4500; Northern Command 500, Alnwick.
On 7th April 1918 he was again posted the France on the 7th April 1918 from Folkestone and disembarked at Boulogne the same day and posted to Base Depot, at Camiers. He rejoined his unit in the field on the 12th April 1918. On the 9th May 1918 he was promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal and during a battle was taken prisoner on the 27th May 1918. He was reported as missing, later his unit found that he was a prisoner of war. After the war finished he was repatriated to England on the 11th December 1918. He was later posted to the 5th Reserve Battalion at Rugley, Staffordshire and on the 4th March 1919 taken off strength at the Dispersal Station, Chiseldon, Swindon and was demobilized on the 2nd April 1919 at 91 York Street, London to his home at 32, Moor Street, Tredworth.
George and Gertrude got married in Gloucester in 1921. Gertrude’s married name was Keyse. She was born in Gloucester in 1895, the daughter of Thomas John Keyse, a coachman from Aberdare and his wife, Isabella who came from Gloucester. In the 1901 census the family were living at 58 Southgate Street, Gloucester. The 1911 census shows the family living at 108 Southgate Street, a 9 roomed property. Thomas is now described as a motorman working for the City Council on the tramway. George and Gertrude’s son, Kenneth George Thomas, was born in Gloucester. The records of the Thornbury Council School show Kenneth was born on 18th December 1921 but his birth was registered in March quarter 1922. Kenneth started at the Council Infants School in 1926 when the family were living at Lower Lodge and in 1929 he was admitted to the Council Upper School when the family address was Gloucester Road.
We have heard slightly different versions of George’s employment but it seems certain that he drove a steam driven lorry. We have a photograph of this kind of vehicle in Thornbury at the time, given to us by Ken Worsley whose father worked for the Council and who appeared in the photograph. Ken says that he remembers that Mr Beard also worked for the Council and he may be in the photograph.
A report in the Western Daily Press dated 18th December 1946 shows that George was charged with driving a lorry without due care and attention on the main Bristol – Gloucester Road at Grovesend. It was stated that he drove across the main road to enter a turning on his right and caused a collision with a car coming from behind his lorry. George claimed he gave a clear signal of his intention. It was his conviction of any kind in 33 years of driving. He was fined £1 and £4 9s 8d costs.
Henry Smith who lived as a young lad at number 20 remembers that when George worked for the Council, he had an accident resulting from a slip on ice which caused an injury which prevented him from returning to work with the Council.
George Beard seems to have had a great interest in motors. Joan Excell and others remembered that George and his son used the garage on land opposite the Pitchers, which was later incorporated into Dick Shipp’s garage and sale room. Apparently George repaired car engines there.
The family seems to have shared a love of engines. We knew Mrs Beard when she was an old lady and was surprised to hear her talk of riding a powerful motor bike in her younger days. Their son Kenneth was also a motor engineer, as we found from the parish record of the baptism of his daughter, Susan.
We have tracked many of the electoral rolls of the 1930’s and 1940’s, which show that Kenneth’s name appeared in 1949 and confirms that he was still living with his parents. The 1939 register compiled in preparation for the War shows Kenneth’s job as ‘labourer/winch operator’. ‘Kenneth’s name was still there in 1951, despite the fact that he married. This is confirmed by Mrs Excell who remembers that Ken’s wife, Irene, lived there with her husband and parents in law for a while. Ken and Irene were still living in Thornbury in July 1952 when their daughter, Susan, was baptised.
George Beard died on 14 November 1952. He was an engineer aged 54 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 18th November 1952.
The photograph here on the right shows a lady who we believe to be Mrs Beard (the second lady from the front of the float) on the W. I. float in a carnival of 1935. It was taken outside number 24 and shows a much more rural Gloucester Road than we know today.
I remember Mrs Beard from the early 1980’s. During one of our earliest conversations I was taken aback to have a lecture about my knickers. She said I didn’t need to wash them every day and could wash the gussets “as necessary”. This would make them last longer. I looked at my (at that time) tiny pants on the line and wondered how one did this and what one saved, but of course Mrs Beard was used to dealing with very sturdy knickers that came just above the knee so there was quite a bit of material involved! She later advised me to get a proper girdle, as my stomach muscles were not all they might be!
She was fascinated by our babies and fussed over them. She was alarmed at how soon they moved about. When she was bringing up her own child she was told that babies should lie flat on their backs for the first year to strengthen their spines. I wasn’t sure how to keep mine still so decided against that plan!
The house at this stage was not in a good condition. Mrs Beard could not get upstairs and I think I recall being told that there was no electricity upstairs. A window was slightly open in the bedroom and we soon realised that neighbourhood cats were getting in. We did our best to help Mrs Beard in her old age, although our efforts were not always appreciated. Chris was asked to change a light bulb in her front room and whilst doing it, the covering around the electric wires crumbled away leaving exposed wires. Chris did his best to make things safe but was blamed for breaking the wiring.
Mrs Beard had no hot water in the house and only a cold tap in the scullery. She used the outside toilet and insisted on having a privet bush kept to a reasonable height so we could not see her going in there. She died in Southmead Hospital in April 1983 aged 87.