George Henry Exell was born about 1830. In 1851 he was an unmarried police constable at Cheltenham. We believe that he married Eliza Parsons in Cheltenham in the June quarter of 1853. By 1854, he and Eliza had moved to live in Thornbury. Their son, Thomas, was born there and was baptised two years later on 5th October 1856.
George appears to have given up policing to become a shoemaker. Their daughter, Mary Ann was baptised at the same time. Other children followed including: Henry born in Thornbury in 1858 (but not baptised until 1st December 1872), Frederick born in 1860, Edwin born in 1864 and baptised on 6th November 1864, Elizabeth baptised on 2nd December 1866 and William baptised on 1st December 1872.
The 1861 Census shows that George and his family were sharing a household at The Baths in Thornbury. George was a shoemaker, but presumably he and Eliza were also running the bathing and wash-house facilities. 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.
The 1871 census shows the family living near Vilner Farm (we feel this still means he was at The Baths). George is described as a ‘cordwainer’ (shoemaker). The 1877 Trade Directory shows George has given up shoemaking and is now listed as a High Bailiff of the County Court. His address is shown as The Baths. We understand from his obituary that George was initially appointed as ‘Bailiff’ in the mid 1860’s, and that he was appointed ‘High Bailiff’ on 11th March 1872. He held that post until the late 80’s when he voluntarily vacated that post and again became ‘Bailiff’ and carried on in that position until two or three years before his death. All together he worked as an officer of the County Court for about 40 years.
We have seen a couple of newspaper articles which show two sides of George’s job. We noted that in the annual Court Leet in 1880, George and William Chambers were appointed ‘constables and ale tasters’. However in 1892 Alfred Stinchcombe of Thornbury was charged with assaulting George in the execution of his duties as bailiff. Alfred had run into financial difficulty whilst innkeeper at the Wheafsheaf public house and had other problems following the sickness of a daughter and himself and the death of his wife. Whilst George was levying the defendant’s goods and seizing a gun and some saws, Alfred grabbed the gun and stuck George in the stomach with the muzzle and spat in his face and threatened ‘to do for him’. Alfred was fined 14 shillings including costs, but at least George had the occasional free beer to look forward to!.
The 1881 census also shows George as a High Bailiff living at The Baths. His son, Henry had become a carpenter and daughter Elizabeth had become a dressmaker. Elizabeth died on 28th August 1884 aged only 17 and was buried at the Congregational Church in Thornbury.
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”. It would seem that he was successful in letting the house. George moved to Horseshoe Lane. In 1891 number 2 Horseshoe Lane was occupied by George Henry Exell and his wife, Eliza. George was a County Court Bailiff and House Agent aged 60. Eliza was aged 66 born in Cheddar. Their son, William was an unmarried butler aged 29.
In 1891 there is another advertisement in the Bristol Mercury advertising “26 acres of good land and cowhouse” to let in Crossways. We cannot be sure if this land was owned by George himself and is the land referred to as pasture land in the earlier advertisement or if he is acting in his capacity as agent.
George’s wife, Eliza, died on 29th January 1895 aged 70 years. His son, William, died on 17th June 1896 aged 34 years. The inscription on his grave shows that he ‘suffered patiently and long’.
In 1896, George married Jane Elizabeth Marsh in the Southampton area. The 1901 Census shows George was still living in Horseshoe Lane with Jane, who was aged 46 years and born in Redlynch in Wiltshire.
George died on 5th May 1908 aged 77 years. The inscription on his grave shows he was ‘High Bailiff of Thornbury for nearly 40 years’. In George’s will dated March 1905 he left his house in Horseshoe Lane and its contents to his wife Jane only for six months, after which time she was allowed to select items of furniture up to £12 in value and the house then became the property of his son Thomas. Jane seems to have moved from Thornbury as we can not find any more records of her in this area. George also left a property (later to become number 1 Castle Street but then occupied by Thomas Latter) to his son Frederick. He left two properties at Crossways to his son Henry. Further properties in Crossways and Siblands and the house and shop occupied by William Clutterbuck at 13 St Mary Street were left in trust to his trustees to pay his debts and funeral expenses and to leave legacies to Mary Ann Strong, his daughter, Emma Exell, the widow of his son William, and to Francis Williams, his executor. The residue was to be shared amongst his grandchildren.
Of his children:
Mary Ann – married William Henry Strong, bootmaker from Bath and son of Charles Strong, farmer on 3rd October 1882. The family lived at Lower Weston near Bath. One of their sons, George H. Strong joined the Nigerian Regiment and was killed whilst serving as a Lieutenant in East Africa. He had been headmaster of St Saviours School, Bath. Another son, Arthur William, was in the R.F. A. and he was killed by a sniper in France after having survived the fighting in the Dardanelles Campaign and previously been wounded in France. Their third son, Edgar served with the RAMC.
Henry – was a carpenter married to Evelina Screen, the daughter of Arthur Screen, deceased farmer, on 16th February 1884. Evelina was born on 23rd April 1862. They lived at Woodbine Cottage, Crossways. They had several children: Elizabeth baptised on 16th January 1885, Charles Edwin baptised on 10th September 1886, Henry Hubert baptised on 20th May 1892, Evelina baptised on 21st March 1888, Ann Eliza born on 27th December 1890 and baptised on 15th July 1892, Edgar baptised on 17th March 1897 and Emma Jane and William Thomas both baptised on 9th September 1898. Mary Adelaide was baptised on 2nd June 1899 and died aged 8 months and buried on 27th January 1900. Another son, Albert Edward, was born on 31st December 1900 and baptised on 27th March 1901.
Henry died in 1929 still living at Crossways. He was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 22nd March 1929. The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows Evelina living in the Hackett area of Thornbury with her daughter, Ann Eliza. Evelina died in 1940 aged 78.
Note six of Henry’s children served the country during the First World War. Albert and William survived, but two of his other sons were killed in action. Two daughters who served as nurses in France. Click here to read more
Thomas – became a grocer and corn dealer and he married Maria Vickerstaff in London in 1883. Thomas and Maria settled in Thornbury where he had a shop on the High Street and he acquired ownership of several other properties in the Town. He died on 14th January 1930. Read more about Thomas Exell
Frederick – lived at Reddings in Cheltenham in 1930 when he was left a legacy in the will of his brother Thomas Exell.