Thomas John Golding Fill was appointed head master of the National School in Thornbury in 1866. The 1867 Rate Book shows that the Fill family lived in the School House which was then said to be owned by the Managers of the National School. Click here to read more about the National School
We are very grateful to Karen Fill who provided most of the photographs shown here and a great deal of the information we have about her husband’s family, especially about the children of the Fill family.
Thomas Fill was born in Great Yarmouth in Norfolk on 1st April 1840. The 1841 and 1851 Censuses show that he was the son of a warehouseman (and later a ships’ chandler), James Fill and his wife Mary Eleanor, and that they lived in Great Yarmouth. The 1861 Census shows that Thomas had become a National School master and that he was lodging in Herne.
He married Fanny Yoell in St Leonard’s Church, Streatham on August 7th 1865. Fanny had been baptised at this church in Streatham on 24th June 1846. She was the daughter of George Yoell and his wife and Ann (nee Fletcher). The 1851 census shows George was a painter’s labourer and the family had been living at Leigham Lane, Streatham. The 1861 census shows George was a plumber’s labourer living at 2 Smith’s Cottages, Leigham Lane and that Annie was working as a laundress. In that census Fanny was away from home. She was listed as a pupil in Herne. She was boarding there with her elder sister, Charlotte, who was a teacher. It has been suggested to us by a descendant of the family that Fanny may have been a pupil teacher rather than a pupil but we have no further information on this point.
We note that at the time of his marriage in 1865 Thomas’s residence was given as Alveston Gloucestershire. It seems that both Thomas and Fanny Fill taught at the National School in Alveston. He seems to have taught there for just one year before being appointed to the National School in Thornbury.
The newsletter of the Society of Thornbury Folk tells us that the mangers of the school agreed to pay him £35 a year plus extra money in government grants based on performance and scholars’ fees. The children each paid 2d per week but of course the expenses of fuel, supplies and the payment of monitors had to be met. The newsletter tells us that Mr Fill was to “teach the usual subjects of elementary education for not more than twenty-five hours per week.” He was also to ensure that his wife taught the girls needlework and assisted him in the general management of the school, although we understand that she was paid separately.
We believe that they came to live in the School House in Thornbury in July 1866. This appears to be supported by the evidence of the 1867 Rate Book and the fact that their first child Lilian Fanny Fill was baptised in Thornbury on 8th August 1866. The book “150 years of St Mary’s School” tells us that “Mr Thomas J G Fill was to be paid £35.00 a year, also – to receive the weekly ‘pence’ money. School was not free. At that time it cost 2d (less than 1p) for the first child.”
Nine more children followed at regular intervals and they were all baptised in Thornbury. The 1871 Census shows Thomas John Golding Fill aged 31 from Norfolk and his wife Fanny from Surrey aged 24 lived in School House. Fanny was described in the Census as a school mistress, despite having three young children: Lilian aged four, Eleanor aged three and Mabel Charlotte aged seven months. By 1881 Thomas and Fanny had additional help in the school as Lilian then aged only 14 was a pupil teacher. The family had grown to include Jessie (aged seven), Elsie (aged four), Fanny (aged two) and Amy (aged nine months). The family had a servant Annie Allen aged 14 to help cope with all these children.
We understand from “150 Years of St Mary’s School ” that “Mr and Mrs FILL and the Managers started ‘Penny Dinners’ for the children during the winter months, to provide them with a substantial hot dinner. The Managers provided the plates, basins and spoons, and Mr HOWARD provided the kitchen and boiler (he owned the house next to the School House). The sort of fare they received depended on what could be bought according to weather. They had Irish Stew, Pea soup with bread, and puddings of raisin pudding and rice pudding. If part of the dinner was left and could not be sold to local families, it was given to the poor.”
The 1891 Census shows that the family no longer had a servant living in the house but had two more children, sons Walter and Archibald.
During his time at the school Mr Fill started a Drum and Fife Band. This band was very popular, and even played on annual choir outings to Weston-Super-Mare.
The school Log Book makes it clear that Mr Fill was teaching his Pupil Teachers at 7 o’clock in the morning before School during the summer, and at 4.30 after School during the winter months. In 1897 on the 22nd January, the Vicar, in the name of the clergy and Sunday School Teachers, presented Thomas Fill with a very handsome silver tea service, “as a token of the good and kindly feeling towards him for the voluntary work as teacher and superintendent which he had carried on for over thirty years in the Parish Church Sunday School.”
Some of the Inspectors’ reports are very outspoken to say the least. In 1899 the summary of the report said “Mixed School. The condition of this school is in many respects inferior to that of other schools with which it may be fairly compared. The order is weak, there being a want of smartness and attention among the scholars and at times an inclination to copy, which must seriously retard satisfactory progress. Very little has been attempted in the way of physical exercises, the teaching especially that of arithmetic is too individual; the exercise books are not well corrected and the record books are most unsatisfactory. The reading of the upper standards is indistinct and but fairly intelligent, the written work generally is poor in style and the quality of the class work is uneven the higher grant for geography being recommended with much hesitation. Much improvement will be looked for if this recommendation is to be continued. The needlework is fairly good. Many of the children are old for their respective standards. Infants’ Class: the infants behave well and are making fair progress. Some better desks should be provided without delay and the utensils for cleaning the premises should not be stored in this room.”
The school was also inspected on behalf of the Gloucester diocese, mainly to ensure that the children were receiving a good Christian education. We have copies of some of these reports and they tended to be much more favourable.
On 31st March 1905 Mr and Mrs Fill were presented with an illuminated address and handsome marble timepiece on leaving after almost 39 years service. They were presented with a marble clock and an illuminated address. The illuminated address is a printed poster with a photograph of the whole School, a list of all the scholars and teachers, followed by a photograph of the School house. Please click on the image on the left hand side to see a photograph of this certificate.
The 1918 Electoral Register shows that the Fills continued living at the School House long after they had retired. They do not appear in the 1921 electoral register. This might be explained by the fact that when Fanny Fill died on 20th January 1922 aged 75 the burial register for Thornbury Cemetery shows that she was living at Ashley Grange, Bristol at the time of her death. Ashley Grange appears to have been a nursing home.
The report of her funeral appeared in a local newspaper on 25th January said that “the funeral of Mrs Fill (75) who passed away on the 20th Inst. took place on Tuesday at Thornbury. For many years the deceased lady occupied the post of head-mistress of Thornbury National School, of which her husband Mr T. G. Fill was headmaster. The first portion of the service was conducted at Thornbury Church, whither the coffin was conveyed from Bristol, the officiating minister being the Rev. Reece.”
Thomas Fill then went to live with his married daughter Eleanor and her husband Frank Adams at the White Hart Inn in Chipstead. Thomas Fill died there aged 83 on 4th April 1923. He was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 9th April 1923 and the burial register confirms that he died at Chipstead.
The children of Thomas and Fanny Fill
The photograph above shows Fanny and Thomas Fill in the front row. They are surrounded by their nine surviving children; the two boys, Walter and Archie and their seven sisters.
- Lilian Fanny Fill was baptised on 8th August 1866. By the Census of 1881 Lilian was a pupil teacher. By 1891 Lilian had left Thornbury and aged 24 she was an assistant teacher at Chipstead Elementary School at Reigate in Surrey. The 1901 Census shows that she was still an assistant schoolmistress at Chipstead and that she had been joined by her sister Eleanor who was also teaching there. The 1911 Census shows that the two sisters had continued to live together at The Ruffett at Chipstead and that Eleanor had become a dressmaker. The probate record shows that Lilian was residing at Yarleton, May Hill, Longhope in East Dean Gloucestershire when she died on 18th January 1945 although her address was given as The White Hart Chipstead in Surrey. Probate was granted at Llandudno. Her ashes were scattered at St Margaret’s Church, Chipstead following cremation at Cheltenham.
- Eleanor Annie Fill was baptised on 1st January 1868. The 1891 Census shows that she became a nursery governess and was living in the household of the Hussey family in Grove Park West, Westbury in Bristol. The 1901 Census shows that she went to live with her sister Lilian at The Ruffett at Chipstead where she remained until her marriage. By 1911 the Census shows that she had become a dressmaker. Eleanor married on March 30th 1913 at Chipstead in a double wedding with her brother Walter. Eleanor’s husband was called Frank Adams. Eleanor Adams died in Chipstead on 23rd December 1944.
- Mabel Charlotte Fill was baptised on 23rd October 1870. The school Log Books give a great many details about the progress of her career as a pupil teacher. It seems that she had to undergo a four year training as the inspectors’ report notes that “Miss M C Fill has not done well enough to be admitted for less than the full term of four years“. She appears to have done rather better in the area of Religious Knowledge as in September 1887 the Log Book notes that she came third in the second class of the pupil teachers exam in Scripture at St Mary Redcliffe School. The inspectors however continued to be very critical and in 1889 “ M.C Fill (in respect of) handwriting, grammar, arithmetic and history has passed a very moderate examination. Improvement next year is looked for.” In 1891 Mabel was still struggling to qualify and a decision had to be made whether she should continue as a pupil teacher or provisionally be considered an assistant teacher. It seems that she eventually was allowed to become an assistant teacher as finally on 11th December 1891 the vicar presented Mabel C Fill (ex pupil teacher) with a silver watch “as a token of their love and esteem during the time she has been a pupil teacher at the school.” In February 1892 the inspection report showed M C Fill was recognised under article 68 and on 31st March 1892 Mabel C Fill ended her engagement with the school, although she occasionally reappeared as a temporary teacher during staff absences. Mabel married Robert James a gardener in Thornbury in the June quarter of 1902. We are not sure that her parents would have been happy with her choice. We have a newspaper report of 21st April 1904 that says a man called Robert James was fined for being drunk on the highway on 19th March 1904. The item referred to a similar offence ten days before that. The 1911 Census shows that they lived in Almondsbury and had a son called Thomas. Mabel died in 1938 aged 63
- Jessie Golding Fill was baptised 13th July 1 873. The 1881 and 1891 Censuses show that she was living with her family until she married a railway engine driver Ernest Osborne Parsons on 1st June 1899 at Barton Hill. The 1911 Census shows that she and her husband lived at Bloomfield Road in Brislington, Bristol. Her death was registered in the Forest of Dean in 1941.
- Florence Yoell Fill was baptised 11th October 1874. The 1881 Census shows she was staying with her aunt Charlotte Browning nee Yoell who was a schoolmistress in Croyden. Florence was described as a pupil, presumably of Charlotte’s school. In 1887 the National School Log Book for Thornbury shows that Florence was being taught in Thornbury because she was recommended for a scholarship for the following year. The 1891 Census shows that Florence was still a pupil and living with her parents. Her death was registered in Hertfordshire in 1900.
- Elsie Margaret Fill baptised 31 December 1876. On December 31st 1888 it was noted that Elsie Fill was in delicate health and “faints occasionally when excited.” She never married and remained living at home with her parents. She died on 24th September 1920 aged 43. She was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 28th September 1920.
- Fanny Maude Fill baptised 27th October 1878. In 1892 the inspection report of the National School showed that Fanny had failed as pupil teacher. Perhaps needlework was more her forte because in 1893 she got first prize for best made child’s frock. On the 6th March 1894 the National School log book has the school inspection report in which Fanny M Fill passed only a moderate examination and the comment was “general improvement expected next year.” On 18th December 1896 Fanny Maude Fill attended Fishponds Training College for Queen’s scholarship exam. On March 11th 1898 the Inspection report lists the school staff and says that Fanny M Fill is an “ex-pupil teacher”. However in May 1898 Miss Coombs, another teacher in the school resigned from her post and Fanny Fill was re-engaged. By 1899 she was recognised as a teacher under article 68, subject to her furnishing a satisfactory medical certificate. Fanny’s parents retired from teaching in Thornbury in 1905. By November of the following year she began to attend interviews for other posts. On December 21st 1906 she accepted a teaching post at Kempley. The 1911 Census confirmed that Fanny was an elementary head teacher aged 32 living at Kempley Dymock, Glos. She married Edgar Powell in the December quarter of 1913. Fanny Powell died in Gloucestershire in 1956 aged 77.
- Amy Browning Fill was baptised on 1 August 1880. Amy’s death aged only five years was registered in Thornbury during the December quarter of 1885.
- Beatrice Mary Fill was baptised on 27th April 1882. Her death was registered in Thornbury in the June quarter of 1882.
- Walter Yoell Fill was baptised on 16th February 1884. He was indentured as an apprentice to Henry William Williams, grocer and provision merchant of the Golden Key in the High Street in Thornbury on 10th August 1899. This was a three year apprenticeship and he remained living at home with his parents as shown in the 1901 Census. Under the terms of the apprenticeship Henry William Williams was to receive £15 for teaching his apprentice and Walter was to receive one shilling a week for the first year, two shillings in the second year and three shillings in the third year. On August 30th 1902 Henry Williams released him from his indenture, writing on the back