Henry Gayner from Helen Parry

Henry Gayner

From the 1840s onwards, the Thornbury branch of the Gayner family became drapers and they continued trading in the town for over 100 years.

Henry Penduck Gayner – Henry was baptised in Thornbury on 25th February 1821.  He was the son of Charles Gayner and Ann (nee Penduck.  We believe Henry married in the Bristol area in March quarter 1842 and that his wife may have been Sarah Smith, the daughter of Thomas Smith, a tailor, and his wife, Sarah.  They had three children: Charles baptised on 27th April 1845, Henry baptised on 9th January 1848 and Francis baptised on 16th March 1851.

Henry and Sarah appear to have settled in the shop next door to the Swan which later became known as 19 High Street.  Henry started off being a saddler and harness maker in the shop whilst Sarah traded as a staymaker.  The 1851 census shows them there with their three sons and a house servant, Ann Stagg, aged 14.  By the 1856 trade directory Henry had become a linen draper.

The 1861 census just describes Henry as a shopkeeper, but the 1871 census shows Henry, Sarah and their son, Charles all working as ‘Draper’.  We found the following article in the Bristol journal in 1869.  ‘Fire – on Sunday morning, the 20th ultimo, a beam took fire in a bedroom of Mr. Henry Gayner’s.  A new register grate had been placed in the room, and as the heat from it was much more intense than given out by the old grate, it was thought this was the cause of the fire.  Mr Gayner’s son was in bed at the time, and observing smoke issuing through the paper over the fireplace, he got out of bed and tore it off.  Assistance was called, and the fire soon extinguished, and the beam taken out of the wall, before much damage was done.  Had the fire not been fortunately discovered a large amount property would probably have been destroyed.  It is a common saying in Thornbury, that if one house took fire on that side of the street, nothing could save the whole of the houses being destroyed.  The buildings are all old, most of them having a large quantity of wood employed in their construction; and if a fire did take place, we have neither water nor the engine to extinguish it’.


Gayner & Son 1870

The above photograph was sent to us by a descendent of the Gayner family and it is thought to be a photograph of Henry.  On 14th March 1869 Henry and Sarah lost their son, Henry aged 21.  In March quarter 1872, another of their sons, Charles, married Ellen Ann Spencer in the Bristol area.  Charles and Ellen had four children: Frances Sarah baptised on 15th December 1872, Leah Ellen baptised on 15th March 1874, Henry Charles baptised on 14th November 1875 who died aged eight months and was buried on 29th June 1876 and Charles baptised on 24th February 1877, just a couple of months after his father’s death.  Charles (Senior) died on 28th December 1876 aged 31.

The family appear in the 1877 trade directory as ‘Gayner and Sons’ described as ‘Family Drapers, Hosiers, Boot and Shoe Dealers and Agents for Singer Sewing Machines.  This small shop and the one next door were owned by the Governors of Thornbury Grammar School.  They were put up for sale on 10th July 1880 for £700.  It was described as a messuage or tenement comprising a dwelling house and two shops situate in the High Street and now in the occupation of Henry Gayner at an annual rent of £17 per annum.  The property was bought by Henry Gayner in October 1880.  Henry now also rented two pieces of land from the Grammar School; one at Crossways and one on Alveston Hill.

Henry died on 26th August 1881 aged 60.  A report in the Bristol Mercury shows that Henry had driven to Patchway on Wednesday evening and on his return ‘was seized with paralysis.  He was conveyed to his residence where he died early on Thursday morning’.  Sarah died on 30th March 1885 aged 68.  It was left to their son, Francis to carry on the family business.

Francis Gayner – Francis was baptised on 16th March 1851.  He was the son of Henry Penduck Gaynor and his wife, Sarah (see above).  As a young man Francis played cricket for the Thornbury Cricket.  He is mentioned in a biography about Dr. Edward Mills Grace written by his son, Dr. Edgar Mervyn Grace.  In it he wrote: ‘It was in 1870 in September that E.M. brought an eleven to play against Thornbury who had run some sort of Club as early as 1852.  The game was played against 22 of Thornbury on the field at the back of what is now Browning’s Antique shop to the north of Park House.  It is recorded that 23 of the Grace family watched the game.  E.M. made 211 not out and G.F. hit a ball right through a lady’s parasol like a bullet.  Frank Gayner, Sidney’s father, played in this game, and though very short in stature bowled a very fast round arm‘.

In 1861 Francis was living with his parents in their shop at 19 High Street, next door to the Swan.  The 1871 census shows him living with his grandmother in the Swan, next door to his parent’s shop.  By this time Francis had become a draper like his father, mother and brother, Charles, so he was presumably helping them in their shop.

Francis married Jane Goodson in the Bridgewater area in 1880.  The 1881 census shows they had settled to live at 15 The Plain where Francis was a draper and milliner.  Two of his staff were living with the family: Lucy Sainsbury a milliner aged 20 and John Sainsbury, an apprentice draper aged 14, both born in Thornbury.  Henry’s wife, Jane, was born in Borough Bridge, Somerset about 1848.  They had a son, Francis Harry, baptised in Thornbury on 30th July 1881 before Jane died aged 33 and she was buried on 11th October 1881.

On 9th November 1881, Francis bought two properties in Castle Street, later known as 24 & 26 Castle Street.  These were bought from Francis Driscoll to whom Francis Gayner had provided a mortgage to enable him to buy the property.  The total cost of the two properties was £305 out of which Francis was able to deduct £255 12s 6d being the amount owed to him, plus interest.  As far as we know Francis never lived in the two houses.

Francis married for a second time in 1885.  This time he married in the Chippenham area and his wife was Lucy Harriss.  Lucy was born on 1st January 1858.  The 1885 rate book shows Francis owning and occupying a house on the junction of Castle Street and The Plain, and records sometimes show the address in either of these streets.  We believe it was the building which later became known as 15 The Plain, which is where Francis and his family were living at the time of the 1881 census.

Francis and Lucy had 4 children: Sidney Harriss baptised on 27th March 1886, Margery Annie baptised on 31st March 1888, Doris Lucy baptised on 30th October 1889 and Ronald Court baptised on 22nd June 1892.

The records of the Thornbury Cricket Club show that Francis was interested in cricket.  The following thumbnail sketch was written about him by Edgar Mervyn Grace:

Frank Gayner – played for Thornbury C. C. from its formation and was a very useful and untiring round arm fast bowler.  Owner of a high class draper’s shop in the High Street, and was descended from an ancient Thornbury family, whose crest was a ‘Hedgehog’.

GaynersBy the census of 1891, Francis Gayner had moved from 15 The Plain and opened City House, the large premises at 25 High Street which is shown on the left.  At this time Francis was 40 and Lucy was 33 and born in Chippenham.  Their children were Sidney Harriss Gayner aged five, Marjorie aged three and Doris aged one.  Also in the household were Gertrude Hughes aged 27 and Celia Howell aged 24 both draper’s assistants, with Emily Spill, a servant, aged 17 and Rosina Martin aged 17, a nurse.  The 1901 census shows them there.  It is interesting to see from the 1905 and 1910 Rate Books that Francis has acquired a considerable a mount of property in Thornbury.  In addition to 24 and 26 Castle Street and 15 The Plain, he now owns three properties in the High Street including City House and number 69 High Street.

On 11th October 1909 Francis acquired 23 High Street from Charles King for £650.  This property became known as Warrington House.

The two houses at 24 and 26 Castle Street continued to be owned by the family until following the death of Lucy Gayner on February 5th 1955, the Gayner sons, Ronald Court Gayner and Sidney Harriss Gayner, put the houses up for sale.  They sold 26 Castle Street to Dennis and Annie Matthews in October 1954 for £900.  Later Sidney and Ronald conveyed 24 Castle Street to their sister, Doris Lucy Anstey.  Doris had married Thomas F. Anstey in Thornbury in 1913.  The deeds of 24 Castle Street show that Doris Lucy Anstey of Falmouth bought the hairdresser’s shop “in the occupation of Eric Hubert Iles situated on The Plain” (known as 15 The Plain) and 24 Castle Street on 29th September 1956.

Gayners the drapersFrancis died on 24th October 1923 aged 72.  He had been a guest at the Homage Court Dinner at the Swan Hotel when he was taken ill.  He was immediately taken home, but never recovered.  Lucy moved to live in 10 The Plain and she carried on living there until here death on 5th February 1955 when she was aged 97.  Her son, Sidney took over the draper’s shop at 25 High Street and the premises at 23 High Street was let out to tenants including William Blizzard and later Charles Baldwin.  On 29th August 1954 Lucy sold 23 and 25 High Street to the Bristol Co-operative Society for £10,000.

Of Francis’ children:

  • Francis Harry – born in 1881, the son of Francis and his wife, Jane.  In both the succeeding censuses ‘Harry’ is living apart from his father and step-mother.  In 1891 when only 9, he was boarding with a farmer in Rockhampton and in 1901 he was a grocer’s apprentice living in College Street, Burnham.  When his father died in 1923 ‘Harry’ was left the income from £800 and from an orchard in Borough Bridge, presumably property left to Francis by his wife.  He did not appear to be left a share of his father’s other property.
  • Sidney Harriss Gayner – born in 1886. He carried on the draper’s business at City House, High Street.  Click here to read more
  • Marjorie Annie – born on 13th December 1887.  Marjorie married William Gayner Smith of Durban Light Infantry (South Africa) in Thornbury in December quarter 1916.  William was the son of T. C. Smith, the tailor, of Porch House, Castle Street.  He had only just recovered from injuries sustained in action in France.  Marjorie’s father and William’s father were cousins, hence the use of Gayner as William’s middle name.   William and Marjorie had a daughter, Vivienne Gayner Smith, born in September quarter 1917.  William was killed in action in France on 18th October 1917.  Marjorie returned to live in Thornbury with her mother at 10 The Plain.  Vivienne died on 25th July 1935 aged 17.  The Gazette of August 3rd 1935 explained that Vivienne had been bathing with friends at Purton and had cut her foot.  Blood poisoning developed and she died within a few weeks.  The article said “her charming ways and bright disposition gave her a wide circle of friends.  She was a member of the recently revived Thornbury Branch of the Junior Imperial League, and a good athlete.  She had played hockey for the Thornbury Ladies’ Club on several occasions last year and tennis for the
Tytherington Tennis club.  She was in her last year at St Margaret’s School in Henleaze Bristol, where she was popular with her fellow scholars and the staff alike.”  Marjorie later moved to Falmouth in Cornwall to live with her sister, Doris.  Marjorie died there on 14th December 1965.  We think she was buried back in Thornbury as there is an entry in Pitcher’s accounts book for her funeral, although there is no mention of transporting the coffin back to Thornbury.
  • Doris Lucy – born in 1889.  Doris married Thomas Ford Anstey in Thornbury in 1913.  He was the son of Thomas and Emily Anstey and known by his middle name ‘Ford’.  Their first child, Barbara F Anstey was born in Thornbury in 1917.  Their second child, Michael G Anstey was born in 1921 after the family moved to Falmouth.
  • Ronald Court – born in 1892.  Ronald became a bank clerk and then at the start of the First World War he joined the R. A. S. C. attached to the 3rd Field Ambulance.  He enlisted on 25th September 1914 and became a Corporal on 6th February 1915 and was later promoted to Staff Sergeant.  Ronald served in France and was demobbed on 12th June 1919.  After the War Ronald became a bank manager.  He was married to Mabel A Mallett in the Romford area in 1923 and they were living in Exeter later that year when his father died and were still there in 1924 when he and Mabel had twins, Audrey M and John F. C. Gayner.