The Gayner family was a very well known and respected Quaker family, in Thornbury and in the surrounding villages, such as Olveston.  Because of this we have been lucky enough to have access to a number of sources for our information about them.  We are very grateful to Margaret Gayner for her book “From Smithy to Computer” from which we have quoted extensively.  We have also found the wills of three John Gayners (one of 1720, one of 1726 and one of 1774) in Gloucester Records Office.  This information has been supplemented by deeds and other documents, such as Rent Rolls for the Manor of Thornbury.  We are still always very keen to hear from members of the Gayner family who may be able to correct or to add to the information we have here.

William Gayner the Blacksmith

We do not know whether William Gayner like some of his children became a Quaker, but his wife Ann (nee Jones) appears to have become one.  We understand from the website of the Olveston Historical Society that Quakerism came to the locality following a visit to Olveston by John Audland and John Camm who spoke to a large gathering of farmers on Elberton Green in mid-September 1654.

We know from an indenture dated 10th October 1660 that William was a blacksmith, who took over the tenancy of a smithy’s shop on the corner of St Mary Street and Soapers Lane (part of the property which later became 8 St Mary Street).  This property was owned by the Corporation and it had been given to them with other properties by Thomas Slimbridge.  The Mayors Accounts Books show that William’s rent was 14s 0d per annum and he continued paying this until 1681 when his son, John, took over as tenant until 1685.

The 1670 Rent Roll says that William Gayner had a shop on the west side of St Mary’s Street.  Presumably this was his blacksmith’s shop.  The entry for 1670 also says “& Russells house the poores land.”  He also had a half burgage plot in Chipping Street (later Silver Street) which believe was a property on the site of what later became known as 7 Silver Street.

William ‘Gainer’ died aged 66 in 1681.  His will was proved in May 1681.  He left his son John his shop and his tools.  His house that “I now live in” together with barne, backside and appurtenances was to be sold after the death of his wife Ann so that various sums of money could be left to his children and to Robert Robertson, the husband of his daughter Mary.

Ann died three years later and was buried in the Quaker burial ground at Lower Hazel on 12th January 1684.
We are aware of eight of their children:

  • John Gayner – the eldest son born in 1642.   (see John Gayner the Elder below)
  • Richard Gayner – born 1644.  Margaret Gayner’s book says that Richard married Martha Winston in Slimbridge on 18th April 1681.  There is another possible marriage for Richard as a widowed Richard Gayner married Mary Legge in Tytherington in 1691.  We also note that the records of St Mary’s Church show that in 1696 on August 21st Richard Gayner of Thornbury aged 39 a widower married Mary Jobbins of ‘Barkley’ aged 35.  If this is the same Richard, it is interesting that this marriage took place in St Mary’s Church which is the parish church as Richard had been sentenced to prison in 1685 for refusing to take communion. (see John Gayner below).  A property in Thornbury High Street associated with John Carwardine also has a reference to its occupation by Richard Gayner who was a soap boiler and chandler.  At this time we are unable to be sure whether this is the same person.  It seems that Richard moved away from Thornbury and his name does not appear in the later records of Thornbury.  It is possible that he did not go very far as Margaret Gayner believes that his line became farmers in the Filton area.  In his last will dated 1725, Richard’s brother John left him a “suit of wearing apparel to be delivered to him within one month next after my decease” and five pounds to be paid to him at one shilling per week.  This suggests that Richard was still alive and presumably somewhere easily accessible from Thornbury.
  • Mary Gayner – born 1646, married Robert Robertson.  Margaret Gayner says that the marriage took place on August 6th 1672 and that Robert Robertson came from Killmore in County Armagh.
  • Elizabeth Gayner – born in 1648 married Thomas Butler in Slimbridge in 1674.  The will of Thomas Butler of 1718/19 describes him as a carpenter and a yeoman who at the time of his death was living at Millborow Heath (now Milbury Heath).  Their children, mentioned in the will, were Arthur, Thomas Elizabeth and Joan.
  • Hannah Gayner – born in 1652 married Richard Baynham.  Richard and Hannah were both buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s Church in Thornbury.  Richard died on 16th September 1691 aged 35 years.  We are unable to decipher the death date of Hannah but Scribes Alcove website has the burial of a Hannah Baynham a widow on 18th December 1729 in Thornbury.  It is possible that this same Hannah lived in a property opposite to the Chantry in Thornbury that was left to Christian Hawksworth in 1678 by Joan Bussher.  At this time the property was said to be in the occupation of Hannah “Bainham”, a widow.  Thornbury’s Tithe Terrier of 1696 says that Hannah Baynham owned “Storks (or Storrs) Leasow.”  Hannah received one guinea in the will of her brother John in 1726.
  • Joane Gayner–  was born in 1654 was mentioned in her mother’s will of 1684 in which she was left £5.  She was said to be the wife of John Langley
  • James Gayner – was born in 1656, according to various family trees on Ancestry website but at this time we know nothing more about him. 
  • Ann Gayner – was born in 1663.  Ann married a blacksmith George Pierce or Pearce at Olveston on January 4th 1679/80.  They emigrated to America and Margaret Gayner says that William and Ann bought 490 acres of property that had once belonged to William Penn.  There is still an area called Thornbury township in Pennsylvania today in honour of Ann’s home town.  Click here to read about George and Ann Pearce

John Gayner the Elder

John Gayner was the eldest son of William Gayner (see above) and a blacksmith like his father.  He was born in 1642.  Thornbury Museum has a copy of the marriage declaration of John Gayner and Alice Williams in 1678.  We have quoted this in full below because it explains some of the aspects of the Quaker marriage ceremony.

Whereas by the Records of the people of the Lord called Quakers, it doth appear that John Gayner (Gainer) of Thornbury within the Countie of Glouc. and Alice Williams of Thornbury aforesaid did on the twentie sixth day of the third month called May in the year 1678 manifest at a meeting of the People of the Lord called Quakers held at Olvestone in the Countie aforesaid their intentions of marriage; and whereas their intentions were published in the publike meeting of the aforesaid people held at Olvestone in the county aforesaid on the twentie sixth day of the month and year aforesaid and whereas to this very day enquiry being made there appears no reasonable cause wherefore their marriage should be obstructed now therefore are witnesses that on the day of the date of these presents the said John Gainer did in the presents of the Lord and of us his people take the said Alice Williams to be his wife and they did mutually promise each to other to live together in love and faithfulness according to God’s ordinance; until by death they should be separated ; and as a further testimony of such their taking each other and of such their promise each to other have hereunto with us put their hands the eighth day of the seventh month called September 1678.
Signed John Gayner signed Alice Gayner
Signed William Gayner (the mark) Richard Gayner Hanna Gayner Ann Gainer Joane Gayner John Cooksey Joan Page Thomas Butler David (his mark) Bevan William Potter (Pitcher?) William Cooksey Elizabeth (her mark) Cooksey Thomas Bennett? John White Thomas Thurston Thomas Russell Edward Biddings (?) Christian Hawkesworth“.

We understand that the William Gayner who put his mark to this document in witness of the wedding was probably John’s father. William was a blacksmith and this is why his mark was in the shape of a horseshoe.  At this time we know nothing about Alice’s family.

This was a period of active persecution of Quakers and other Dissenters and in 1685 it seems that John and Alice, John’s brother Richard and Richard’s wife all refused to take Communion at Easter.  Records held at Gloucester show that John was fined £5. 10s and that his wife was amongst those confined to prison. The following year John Gainer was also fined and imprisoned for a year, of which he served eight months.

When John’s father died in 1681, John took over the tenancy of his blacksmith’s shop in St Mary Street until 1685.
We understand from Margaret Gayner’s book that Alice died in Thornbury in 1698.  Brenda Frazer’s family tree on the Rootsweb website shows that eleven years later on 18th August 1709 John married the widow Elizabeth Fowler at Ratcliffe Meeting House at Spitalfields in London.  Elizabeth had lived with her first husband Moses Fowler in Bow until his death in December 1704.

Elizabeth’s will dated 17th December 1711 shows that her maiden name was ‘Bigg’ or something similar (the initial letter is hard to read).  She made bequests to her brother James and his son, Thomas.  Elizabeth was a Quaker like John.  She left ten pounds to the ‘poor friends called Quakers belonging to the meeting house at Schoolhouse Lane, Rackcliffe’ (please note that this is a reference to the above mentioned Ratcliffe Meeting House).  Elizabeth died and was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground at Hazel on 19th August 1716.

It appears that John went to prison on several occasions.  Margaret Gayner’s book tells us that there are records that John was in Gloucester Gaol.

There was only one child known to have been born of John and Alice and he was called John born on 12th February 1682.  John died in 1719, more than six years before his father.  There is a copy of the will of John Gayner senior in Gloucester Records Office.  Naturally as his son had died, John left his property and money to his four grandchildren.  The will indicates the extent of the property that John had acquired and retained, despite the fines and persecutions he had endured.

“I give and devise all that my house situate in Thornbury in a street there called St Mary Street als the Back Street and which I lately purchased of one Nicholas Chitts with all and singular the appurtenances to the same house belonging unto my grandson Francis Gayner and my grand daughter Elizabeth Gayner.” (Click here to read about this property which later became 43/45 St Mary Street)

“I give and devise unto my grand daughter Elizabeth Gayner all that my house situate lying and being in Thornbury wherein one Christian Pearce now dwelleth with all gardens orchards and appurtenances to the same house belonging. ”

“I give and devise unto my grandson William Gayner and to his heirs and assigns for ever all that the house lying and being in Thornbury aforesaid in a street there called Chipping Street wherein I now dwell and all gardens backsides and appurtenances to the same house belonging.”  This property was on the site of what later became known as 7 Silver Street and not, as we had previously assumed, the property which later became the Police Station and Town Hall.

“I give and devise unto my grandson William Gayner all those my two grounds called Hudlan (or Hudland) meadow situate lying and being in the parish of Thornbury.  This property later seems to have come into the ownership of  William Osborne (see below).  William was also left an orchard and a messuage and orchard in Rockhampton “lately assigned to me by one Betty Hollister”.

“I give and devise unto my grandson William Gayner all those my messuages or tenements situate and being in Thornbury in a street there called St Mary Street which I lately purchased of and from John Hobbs?????………and all houses outhouses gardens orchards.” (this is the property which became known later as 13 St Mary Street)

“I give and devise unto my grandson Francis Gayner all that my house situate in Thornbury in a street there called the High Street wherein one Joane Scott now dwelleth with all and singular the appurtenances and also one barn thereto adjoining which I and my late son John Gayner deceased lately purchased of one William Williams also deceased, and also all those 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” and ground or either of them belonging.”  We have not identified the house in the High Street where Joane Scott lived but the burnt houses and the orchard later became 2 Crispin Lane and were part of a property lived in by George Pearce, the blacksmith who married Ann Gayner.  Click here to read about George and Ann Pearce.

Some of the bequests give us an idea of the character of this man and of his family.  Education and religion seem to be high on his priorities.  The four grandchildren are left specific books.  Elizabeth was given his Great Bible.  Francis was given Spirit of the Martyrs and a book by Thomas Ellwood.  William was given Samuel Fishers Great Book, a book entitled “No Cross no Crown” and Baker’s Arithmetic.  John was given Great Book of Martyrs, The Epistles of John Audland and Markham’s Masterpiece. “Markham’s Masterpiece” was said to contain “all Knowledge belonging to Smith, Farrier or Horse-Leech Touching on Curing All Diseases in Horses” and so would have been an invaluable work for a farrier to own.

John died 17th February 1725 aged 83.  He was buried at the Quaker Burial Ground at Thornbury on 23rd February 1725.

John Gayner the Younger

The only known child of John Gayner and his wife Alice appears to be a son also called John Gayner.  John was born on 7th December 1682 and the only references we have to his occupation describe him as a yeoman.  He married Hannah Boy the daughter of Francis Boy of Tytherington on 17th August 1709.  The surname of this family sometimes appears in records as Boye (and may even appear as Boyt or Boyce).

We know from his will that John bought a property in Chipping Street from John Barton where he lived, presumably with his family.  This property was located on the site of what later became part of 7 Silver Street on the north side of the street.  John and Hannah Gayner had four children; John born on 14th July 1710, Elizabeth born on 8th October 1712, William born on 26th January 1715 and Francis born on 7th January 1718.

John Gayner died in 1719.  In his will that was proved in 1720 he left to his wife Hannah the house in which he lived in Chipping Street, which he had bought from John Barton.  After her death it was to go their son William.  We note that his father left another house on the site of what later became known as 7 Silver Street to John’s son, William (see below).

John Gayner also had a “messuage or tenement situate in Thornbury in the upper end of the High Street wherein one Joane Scott now dwelleth bounded by the land of John Jayne on the northward part thereof and the land late of John Bedggood on the southward part thereof lately purchased in fee simple by my father and I of and from William Williams deceased together with the barn thereunto adjoining” which he left to his son Francis.  At present we cannot identify this building but it was also mentioned in John Gayner the elder’s will (see above).

John’s will also left to his daughter Elizabeth “all that my messuage or tenement situate in Thornbury near the common Town well of Thornbury wherein one Christian Pearce now dwelleth lately purchased in fee simple of one …(blank) Boyce or Boy?) by my late mother.”  We have not yet identified this property but from as early as 1617 the Court Rolls mention ‘the common well in the High Streete of the same borrowe neare unto Bells Crosse’.  This property must therefore have been near The Plain.  We do not know what property this was.   This property was also referred to in the will of John Gayner the elder.

John died on 29th August 1719 and was the second person to be buried at the Quaker’s new burial ground at Thornbury.  His widow, Hannah, died on 29th May 1738 and was buried in the Thornbury Burial Ground.

Of their children;

  • John born in 1710 (see John Gayner the Apothecary below)
  • Francis died aged 11. His brothers William and John later sold the burnt houses and the orchard that Francis was to have inherited and which his grandfather had bought from George Pearce.  Click here to read about the property and George and Ann Pearce.
  • Elizabeth died aged 24 years. Her brother John later sold the property at 43 and 45 St Mary Street that she and Francis were to inherit from their grandfather. (Click here to read about this property which later became 43/45 St Mary Street).
  • William  married Mabel Mace Fry, the daughter of William Fry on 3rd July 1740 in Bristol.  They had four daughters; Mary born on 10th January 1749, Hannah born 25th January 1752, Ann born 2nd May 1754 and Elizabeth 13th April 1756.  They also had two sons; William on 2nd July 1759 and Edward on 26th February 1764.  All the children were born in Bristol.  Under the terms of his grandfather’s will William inherited a substantial property.
     It was he who got the house in Chipping Street (7 Silver Street), the two grounds called Hudlan (or Hudland) meadow (later owned by William Salmon – see below), an orchard, a messuage and orchard in Rockhampton, and the messuages in St Mary Street.  In 1737, following his mother’s death and his inheritance of the property, William sold the property in Chipping Street to George Gibbs.  William was described in a deed of 1743 relating to the burnt houses as a grocer of Bristol.  He sold cargoes of rice, sugar and indigo from the dockside.  According to Margaret Gayner’s book 1743 was also the year he went bankrupt.  In 1754 the Manor Rent roll shows that William Gayner was liable to pay rent on properties called “Weeks’s” and “Pig’s Croft”.  William’s wife Mabel ‘Gainer’ died in 1779 and he then married a widow Mary Ogborne (nee Baker).  His will was made in 1798.  By this time only two daughters had survived; Mary who moved to Ireland with her husband William Robinson and Hannah who seems to have remained unmarried.  Of William’s sons; William junior was a dealer in Bristol and may later have moved to America.  Edward Gayner became a wine merchant living initially in southern France before moving on to Rosas in Spain.  In addition to trading with England he also supplied the Royal Navy with wine and food.  It is reported that he dealt directly with Nelson and became his trusted intermediary passing letters between him and Emma Hamilton.  He also passed on to Nelson confidential information about the enemy.  Edward was arrested for espionage and imprisoned.  When set free he moved to Menorca where he continued trading and passing information to the British Government.  He died in Port Mahon aged 81 and was buried in the cemetery there. Click here for a full account of Edward’s life by Justin Reay

John Gayner the Apothecary

John was the son of John Gayner and his wife, Hannah (see above).  He was born on 14th July 1710.  In his father’s will John was left a silver tankard which was to go to him after the death of his mother and six cane chairs.  The will said “I give the sum of £20 of lawful money of Great Britain unto my son John Gayner to bind him apprentice but in case he shall not be willing to be bound apprentice then my will is that the said sum of £20 shall be paid unto my son John at his age of 21 years.”  This seems to be considerably less than his brother William inherited.  We do not know what trade if any John was apprenticed to but he was described in later records as an ‘apothecary’.

John’s first wife was Ann Levett a Quaker of Witney.  According to the IGI website they married on 3rd July 1739 in Witney in Oxford.  John Gayner and Ann returned to Thornbury to begin their married life where the couple had six children, namely Mary born on 19th March 1742, Hannah born on 27th April 1743, John who was born on 22nd September 1744 and buried on 8th May 1745, another John born on 9th March 1746 and buried on 6th March 1748 and William Levett Gayner who was born on 13 May 1750 and buried on 25th June 1750.  John’s wife, Ann, died on 10th April 1750 and was buried in Alveston four weeks after the birth of her fifth child who also died.

The Mayors Accounts books show that in 1737 John took over the property which had previously been known as The Tavern on the High Street.  This is the property that later became the police station and finally the Town Hall.  We do know he got into trouble whilst living there.  Between 1757 and 1759 John made at least four appearances at the Court Leet charged with ‘throwing suds and other offensive things into Soapers Lane’ and ‘to remove and make clean the dirt and dung which he has thrown up or put in a certain street called Soapers Lane’.

The Ancestry website shows that on 7th Oct 1741, payment was made to John Gayner, surgeon, who took on an apprentice called Henry Clarke at Thornbury.  The 1750 Manor Rent Roll for Thornbury shows that John Gayner had to pay rent for “Perry’s” and for a properties in Kington that may have been called “Weeker’s” and “Pigges Croft”.  The 1754 Rent Roll says the rent is payable by John Gayner for “Giles Perry’s” “Reeves” “Quintons” and “Joanes’s”.  It is difficult to get a clear picture of what or where these properties might be.

John Gayner’s second wife was Hannah Bishop.  According to the IGI they married on 5th April 1753 at Frenchay.  They had five children.  Two of these died very young.  Robert was born on 5th December 1755 and was buried at the Quaker burial ground in Thornbury on 21st December 1755.  Another son, also called Robert, was born on 19th December 1758 and he was buried at the same place on 30th September 1759.  The remaining children were John who was born 4th February 1754, William born 26th December 1756 and Hannah born 1st September 1760.

The Mayors Accounts show that John continued in the old tavern until about 1769 when it was taken over by Thomas Child.  John moved away after 1769 and his burial record in the Quaker register shows he had moved to live in Alveston.  John died 21st August 1774.  In his will he mentions that he was then a widower.  He left the orchard, land, copyhold messuages, closes, tenements etc in Thornbury to his son William.  Hannah was left property in Olveston and Downend with the sum of £200 to be paid to her providing she married with approval and consent of his kinsman John Gayner of Filton.  He appointed trustees until the children reached the age of 21.  His son John received one guinea.

Of John and Hannah’s children:

  • John Gayner was born in February 1754.  In an indenture of 1780 John was said to be “late of Mangotsfield yeoman, now a mariner on a private ship of war called Greyhound out of the port of Bristol.”  We are grateful to Alison Day for telling us that there is a record of a John Gayner marrying Coelia Olliffe when he was only 18 on 18th September 1772 in Abbots Leigh.  We have also been told that in 1773 “John Gayner the younger of Alveston” was disowned by the Quakers because he had married someone who was not a Quaker.  Perhaps this wife died soon after their marriage as there is a record of John Gayner marrying Sarah Hunsdon in St James in Jamaica on 5th October 1774.   It seems possible that this John Gayner is the founder of the family line that is known to have continued in Jamaica into the twentieth Century.  The Bristol Record Office has a bond dated 17th July 1775 signed by John Gayner of Thornbury brandy dealer who may have been this same John Gayner.  The bond was a sum of £40 which was paid to the Overseers of the Poor in Olveston in recognition of the fact that he was “held and firmly bound” to the Overseers to support a “singlewoman” Hannah Landsdown who was going to have a child by him.  The bond was intended to commit John and his heirs and assigns to indemnify “any Cost, Taxes, Rates, Assessments, Charges, Damages and Expenses” that Hannah and her child might cause to the Overseers in Olveston in the way of “birth, education, maintenance and Breeding up of the said child.”  It also protected the Overseers from any “action, suit troubles and other charges” ensuing from the birth of the child in their parish.  It is difficult to reconcile the possibility that John Gayner was signing a document about a yet to be born child in Olveston in July 1775 having married a woman in Jamaica in October 1774 and we would welcome any further information about or corrections to our account of this very interesting man.
  • William Gayner was born 26th November 1756.  In the indenture of 1780 he was said to be “late of St James tanner now or late mariner on board HMS Tenko now patient in Hasler hospital Gosport”.
  • Hannah Gayner was born 1st September 1760.  The condition in her father’s will must have been put into effect.  She was disowned by the Quakers in 1781 because she was married by a priest.  She married a lieutenant in the Somerset militia.  Hannah lived in Olveston.  Her father’s will had given “the said premises at Olveston” to her providing she married with approval and consent of his kinsman John Gayner of Filton .