John Weatherhead and his wife Emily came to Thornbury in 1871 after living in London for several years. Initially John was a shoemaker but he and Emily went on to start the draper’s business in the High Street which was later expanded to incorporate the old Town Hall and Toll House and it became an integral part of the Thornbury scene for many years.
John was born about 1838 in Hemel Hemstead. He was the son of Thomas Weatherhead, a shoemaker and his wife, Sophia who were living in the High Street, Hemel Hemstead in the 1841 census. The 1851 census shows John was still a scholar; his father was a cordwainer employing six men.
In 1863 John married Emily Halford in Ross and in 1871 census John and Emily were living at Broad Street, Ross. John was described as a shoe manufacturer aged 32 and Emily was aged 30 born in Ross. They had two children: Emily aged 4 and Ernest Percy aged 10 months, both born in London. They had one other child, Walter William Weatherhead who was born on 5th November 1864 and baptised in St Luke’s Church, Old Street, Finsbury Park, London on 4th December 1864. We don’t know where little Walter was living at the time of the census and he appeared to have stayed in London – he was a draper’s apprentice there in 1881 and a draper’s assistant in 1891.
John and Emily must have moved to Thornbury almost immediately after the census. Their daughter, Edith Mary Ann, was born in Thornbury in December quarter 1871. Apart from Walter mentioned above, all their other children were baptised in Thornbury: Emily Sophia was born in Bow, London in 1867 and baptised in Thornbury on 30th May 1875, Ernest Percy was born in Southwark, London on 6th May 1870 and baptised in Thornbury on 30th May 1875, Edith Mary was baptised on 9th November 1872, John Edward was baptised on 30th May 1875, Fanny Eleanor baptised on 9th April 1876, Wallace Howard baptised on 17th March 1878 and Ethel Rosaline baptised on 5th September 1880. All the baptism records show John as a shoemaker or boot and shoe maker.
We spent a lot of time trying to find out about John’s earlier life in Thornbury. There was no sign of John Weatherhead in the 1881 census or under any similar names and he was completely missing from the rate books before 1885 and that only showed he owned 36 High Street, but was not living there. Our problem was compounded by one source which showed that John Weatherhead had bought two properties in the High Street in 1883, yet a newspaper sale notice and a report which showed that it was John Marshall who had been living in one of the properties and bought them both and John Marshall is shown as the owner of these two properties in the 1885 Rate Book. The 1890 Rate Book however shows that John Weatherhead was the owner of one property that was occupied by John Marshall and William Yarnold was owner and occupier of the other house.
When we eventually tracked down the 1881 census record it went some way to explaining the situation, although it highlighted another mystery. The 1881 census shows that the property we now know as 14 High Street was occupied by John Marshall, a general draper aged 44 from Hemel Hempstead, Emily Marshall aged 42 born in Ross and their children: Emily S Marshall aged 14 born in Bow, Surrey, Ernest P. Marshall aged 10 born in Southwark, Surrey, Edith M. A. Marshall aged 9 born in Thornbury and John E Marshall aged 7 born in Thornbury. So John Marshall and John Weatherhead were the same person! But why did the two names appear in so many sources, and one (the 1890 Rate Book) shows both names associated with the same property.
As John and Emily’s business thrived they went on to buy other property in addition to 14 and 16 High Street and 36 High Street. By 1890 they had sold 16 High Street to the Yarnolds, but they had acquired 6 and 8 St John Street which they let out to tenants and they continued to let 36 High Street.
The 1891 census shows John and Emily Weatherhead ensconced at 14 High Street. Interestingly it is Emily who is shown as a draper and an employer. John is shown with no occupation which may be a mistake or may indicate that he was in poor health. John died on 12th August 1891 aged 54. At the time of the 1891 census they were living there with Fanny E aged 15, Wallace H aged 13 and Ethel R aged 10, all born in Thornbury and three draper’s assistants and one domestic servant.
In 1895 Emily retired as a draper and moved away from Thornbury leaving the business to Ernest Percy. In the 1901 census she was living in 21 Chester Road, Kidderminster with her two daughters, Edith and Fanny. Edith had a business as a general draper, but Fanny had ‘no occupation’.
Emily wrote her last will on 7th October 1909. She died in Kidderminster on 13th December 1916 aged 78. She was buried in the same grave as her husband near the entrance to Thornbury St Marys Church. In her will she appointed her two sons, Walter William and Ernest Percy and her son-in-law, George Reuben Prickett, to be her executors and trustees. After making some pecuniary bequests she arranged for the income from her property in the High Street and the two houses at 6 and 8 St John Street to benefit her daughter, Fanny Eleanor Weatherhead. After Fanny’s death, the property was to be sold and the profits shared.
We have written about Ernest Percy Weatherhead below. John and Emily’s other children appear to have little further connection with Thornbury:
- Walter William Weatherhead – had been in London in the 1881 and 1891 censuses as a draper’s apprentice and then a draper’s assistant. In 1898 he married Laura Church in the Bedminster area of Bristol and settled to live in Kidderminster where he ran a draper’s business at 6 Worcester Street, Kidderminster. Walter was High Constable of Kidderminster. He died on 10th May 1932.
- Emily Sophia Weatherhead – married George Reuben Prickett in Kidderminster in 1896. They lived in Bedford at the time Emily’s mother’s death.
- Edith Mary Weatherhead – married William Robert Bonham in Kidderminster in 1902. They lived at St Neots at the time of her mother’s death.
- Ethel Rosaline Weatherhead – married Hugh Flowerdew Freeman in Kidderminster in 1902. They were in London at the time of Ethel’s mother’s death.
- Fanny Eleanor Weatherhead – does not seem to have married and she was living in Kidderminster with her mother. Fanny benefitted from the income from her parent’s property in the High Street and the two houses at 6 and 8 St John Street following her mother’s death in 1916. Fanny died aged 64 on 30th December 1940 at which time she was living at Dean House, Carlton, Bedfordshire.
- John Weatherhead junior – at the time of his mother’s death he was living in San Francisco.
- Wallace Weatherhead – at the time of his mother’s death he was living in Vancouver, Canada.
Ernest Percy Weatherhead – Ernest took over the business after his father had died and his mother moved away to live in Kidderminster in 1895. Under his leadership the business really expanded. In 1900 he was also renting one part of the shop previously occupied by Charles Fry, the saddler (now known as 22 High Street). In 1909 Ernest undertook a major extension of the existing shop. By 1910 he had bought the Market Hall and the old Toll House from Sir Edward Stafford Howard and incorporated these into his premises which appeared to be given the name of ‘Commerce House’. Ernest had also purchased The Castle Temperance Hotel and the stables in the rear of the hotel and the house and shop at 2 The Plain. The 1925 Valuation list and 1926 Rate Books show Ernest was renting the shop at 31 High Street.
During the First World War Ernest was a member of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment. The Gazette of September 1916 listed him as a deputy commander of Section 4. The image on the right is taken from a photo of the volunteers and the name of ‘Weatherhead’ is marked against this image.
Ernest was born in Southwark in London on 6th May 1870. He was admitted to the Thornbury Grammar School on 25th July 1881. Ernest married Georgina Maria Bonham in St Neots in 1895. The 1901 census shows them in the High Street. Ernest was a draper aged 30 living with his wife, Georgina aged 29 from Shenley, Bucks and their son, Stanley who was aged 3 born in Thornbury. A daughter, Gladys Mary was born in 1903. Ernest died on 28th February 1933 aged 62. By 1935 the draper’s business at Commerce House was being run by Francis Beavan.
Georgina appears to have moved to be close to her son, Claude, as she died in the Ludlow area on 6th October 1939 aged 71. She was buried with her husband in Thornbury Cemetery on 9th October 1939.
Of Ernest and Georgina’s children:
- Stanley Ernest William Weatherhead – was born on 16th August 1897 and baptised on 12th September 1897. He was admitted to the Grammar School on 14th January 1906 after attending a private preparatory school. He left school on 31st July 1913 after obtaining the Cambridge Local Junior and Senior Exams to become an apprentice to a draper. At the time of the First World War Stanley was working for Messrs Pope and Sons of The Bon Marche in Gloucester. He enlisted in August 1914 serving with the 4th Battalion Worcester Regiment of the Royal Army Medical Corps. For the first seven months he was in the front lines in France and spent much of his time as a stretcher bearer in the trenches. In February 1916 he was appointed to the rank of Second Lieutenant. He was killed on 23rd April 1917. A letter was printed in the Gazette mentioning that although fatally wounded he managed to write a situation report and draw a map.
- Claude Douglas Weatherhead – was born on 20th June 1901. He was admitted to the Grammar School on 19th September 1910 after attending a private preparatory school. He left on 27th July 1915 to go to the Merchants Venturers Technical College. He is not listed as living in Thornbury in the electoral registers, but he must have been in the area as he was the Honourable Treasurer of Thornbury Shopping Week in 1923. In 1938 Claude married Betty Blakely in Ludlow the 1939 register taken in preparation for the War shows he was the proprietor of a garage and electrical contractor in Ludlow. Claude died in 1982 in Banbury.
- Gladys Marjorie – the only daughter born in 1903. Gladys married Alan Hartnell Mortimer in Thornbury in April 1926.