At least three members of the English family moved to the area around Thornbury from Malmesbury in Wiltshire. They were all sons of Simon Croombe English, a dairyman and his wife, Elizabeth whose photo is shown on the left. Simon never moved to Thornbury. He died in Malmesbury in 1894 aged 72.
Thomas Eldridge English was born in Malmesbury in 1855. We know that Thomas moved to St John Street around 1882/3 because his son, Frank, was born in Thornbury in 1883. Thomas was a baker. He had married Caroline Eliza Reeves in Bath in 1880. They had a daughter, also Caroline Eliza, born in Malmesbury on 30th December 1881 before the move. Caroline Eliza started at the Council School in 1884 and Frank started there in 1887.
After his first wife, Caroline died in Thornbury in 1885 aged 33 years, Thomas married again on May 1st 1886 at what is now the United Reformed Church in Thornbury. His second wife was Hannah Putley born about 1855 in Alveston. We don’t know a great deal about Hannah – except that when Thomas died his obituary showed that Hannah must have been the sister of Laura Putley, the wife of Bernard Symes. Several of their offspring, or their spouses, are referred to as nephews and nieces of Thomas English.
By 1885, Thomas had opened his bakery at what became known as number 4 St John Street. Thomas and and his second wife, Hannah had had one child, Winifred, born in 1889. Thomas bought the property on 28th December 1898 together with some garden land in the rear, formerly part of the Church Institute land. In 1899 he applied for planning permission for two bay windows in the front of the house and a new bakery at the rear. Thomas English is also shown as the owner from the rate books of 1899 onwards, although the family were tenants of the bakery before that time.
They were still there in the 1901 census which shows that Frank was by that time helping his father in the bakery. The 1911 census shows Thomas and ‘Anna’ (who was ‘helping with the business’) with Frank and Winifred, both ‘working at home’. They had one visitor, Hester Hooper, a married lady aged 65 from Alveston. We think that Hester was Hannah’s sister who had married Thomas Hooper in 1877.
In 1914 Frank married Cordelia Lydia Rose Riddiford in Alveston and they settled in Weston- super-Mare.
The photograph on the right is known to be the baker’s van of T E English, although we have been told by a family member that the man in the photograph is more likely to have been Ernest Pearce, who took over the bakery from the English family.
Thomas continued trading as a baker and confectioner until his death. Hannah (or Anna as she became known) died on January 10th 1931 aged 75 years.
Thomas died on August 9th 1934 aged 79 years and he was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 14th August. A few days earlier on the 4th August, he had been picking pears in his orchard at the rear of the bakery. It is thought that the ladder on which he was standing must have slipped and Thomas fell to the ground. He was found there muttering ‘Oh, my back’. He was taken to the Bristol Royal Infirmary where he died. A post mortem revealed a fracture of the right ribs, internal injuries and hypostatic pneumonia which caused his death.
His obituary in the Gazette mentions that Thomas had been a long time treasurer of the Thornbury Master Baker’s Association, President of the Thornbury Liberal Party and a Vice President of the Thornbury Gleemen’s Society. It added ‘Although 79 years of age, Mr English had been very active and every day he could be seen delivering bread round the town in his hand cart. His was a simple but noble character: he had a smile and a cheery remark for everyone and Thornbury is the poorer for his passing‘.