William Henry Yarnold

Clock and Watch-maker of Thornbury

William Henry Yarnold 2017-11-07T09:01:25+00:00
Yarnold family group, pre-1946

A Yarnold family group with William Henry Yarnold and his wife Ella in the front row either side of the little boy

The photograph below on the left is of Yarnold’s clock and watch-making business in the High Street in Thornbury owned by William Henry Yarnold.   Click here to read about the other clockmakers in Thornbury.  The building is the tall light coloured one with “The Noted House” sign at its roofline.

Despite the fact that it was a jeweller and watchmaker, there appear to be a great many other wares outside the shop front.  The High Street is recognisable today and the shop is now known as 16 High Street.   The building on the extreme right was the Market Hall and is today called a shop called Wildings.  The building with the distinctive pitched roof and bay windows is now a charity shop and once was a tea shop called Nell Gwynne’s.

“Gloucestershire Clock and Watch Makers” by Graham Dowler says that William was born in 1859 and that he was the first child of James Henry Yarnold a carpenter, joiner andYarnolds cabinetmaker and his wife Frances Brown of Cheltenham.  FreeBMD website confirms that William Henry Yarnold was born in the Cardiff district in the June quarter of 1859.  He was born on 25th March 1859 and baptised in St Mary’s Church in Cardiff on 26th June 1859.

The 1861 Census shows “Henry” Yarnold aged about 30 was lodging in Gloucester with his wife Frances and their two year old son William.  Although William’s father, James, was a carpenter, the head of the household, interestingly was Robert Brown a watchmaker.  The marriage certificate of James Henry Yarnold and Frances Brown dated June 26th 1856 confirms that Robert Brown the father of Frances was a watchmaker.  It seems that William was following his grandfather’s trade.

According to Dowler, William was apprenticed to William Mann of Gloucester.  We have a photograph below on the right of William Henry Yarnold as a young man.

By the 1881 Census William then aged 22 had moved to Thornbury and the Census shows him lodging with Esther Morgan “an eating house keeper” living at 18 High Street.   The 1881 census shows that William was a watchmaker and his obituary in 1947 says that he actually founded his watch-making business in 1880.  He married Ella Jane Riddiford  at a registry office in the Barton Regis area of Bristol on 3rd November 1881.  Ella was born in Caerwent on 3rd September 1861, the daughter of Charles Riddiford and his wife, Jane (nee Wise).

On August 14th 1885 The Bristol Mercury had an article which said that William Yarnold bought a premises in the High Street which was occupied by the Rev. T. Kirby at £19.00 a year for £375.  This property was at 16 High Street.

William Yarnold was a prosperous businessman and owned other properties which added to his income.   We know from other documents that he acquired 6 St Mary Street on 21st January 1885 for £117.

W Yarnold

William Henry Yarnold as a young man

The 1887 Rate Book shows that the property he bought in the High Street (later 16 High Street) was occupied by William Vowles and his St Mary Street property was occupied by William Cole.

By 1890 the Special Rate Book shows that he owned and occupied the shop in the High Street which is shown above.

The 1891 Census shows that William Yarnold then aged 32 and described as watchmaker and jeweller was living with his wife Ella in the High Street.   At that time their children were; Percy aged four, Frederick aged two and Victor Gerald aged less than one month.

The 1901 Census shows that Frederick aged 18 and Percy aged 14 had already become apprentices in the watch-making business.  Victor was only aged 10 at this point but he too was destined to become a watchmaker.  Their children now included Reginald aged five, Mabel three and Albert one month.  A 1907  Poor Rate shows that William owned two houses in Gillingstool

Yarnold Thornbury Gleemen Berkeley Castle Keep 1890's

Thornbury Gleemen in 1890s. Yarnold is second from the right in the front row.

William Yarnold was a member of the Gleemen.  This was a well known group of singers in Thornbury.  We have a photograph of them below on the left taken in the 1890s at Berkeley Castle.   Please click on it for a larger image.  Yarnold is in the front row and has a very distinctive hairstyle with a central parting and curls.  He was an active participant in many other aspects of Thornbury life. The Bristol Mercury of 1899 for example shows that he was an officer for the Court Leet (a Searcher and Sealer of Leather) who helped to ensure the quality of craftsmanship in the area and he was also a juryman for the Borough of Thornbury.  He also stood for election as councillor.  This latter attempt was unsuccessful and he polled only nine votes and came last out of the 19 people standing for the election.

The business was obviously thriving as despite the extensive household they had two servants living in the house Sarah Rugman aged 17 and a nurse Mary Long aged 64.  An advertisement for his business appears below on the right.  Another advertisement found in a South Gloucestershire Gazette of 1911 advertised “Yarnold’s Railway Timekeeper 25/-“. This is an interesting sign of the times. “Railroad watches” were introduced in America and became very popular after a fatal crash in 1891 caused by the railroad engineer’s watch which was four minutes out because it had stopped and been restarted.  These “railroad watches” were high quality (at least 19 jewels and sometimes 23 or 30).  They were inspected and approved for use on railroads.  “Railway Timekeepers” were cheaper versions of this using a similar name and appealing to the mass market.  They have been likened to buying fake Rollex watches!

A reminiscence by Betty Longman nee Sage recalled Yarnolds always had a sign in the shop ‘NO REPAIRS THIS WEEK.’  She said that ‘Yarnold was well off and didn’t want the work. ”

Charley Davis said that ‘Yarnold’ was the first in Thornbury to own a car, but we have heard that other people including Dr Lionel Williams had the first car.   Yarnold used to drive to Eastwood Park weekly to wind the clock for Sir George Jenkinson according to Charley.  He said the car could be heard coming for miles on account of the smoke and noise!  The spark plug needed to be cleaned each trip.

We know from an application to exempt his son Percy from military service in 1917 that William had bought a tailor’s business in George Street, Nailsworth.  This shop was being managed by Percy and we assume it was bought by William for Percy.  It traded under the name of ‘Yarnold and Sons, clothiers and boot factors’ and later ‘Yarnolds Menswear.   We understand that Percy ran the shop for many years.

We have a photograph of the whole Yarnold clan taken before 1946 at the top of the page.

William had retired by 1926.  When his son Victor was married in 1926 the newspaper said that William and Ella lived in Caerwent in Alveston.  Victor took over the family business and the High Street premises.  By 1938 the Electoral Roll shows that William and Ella returned both to Thornbury and to the High Street.  They were living at a house called Westbourne which we understand to be 55 High Street.  They are shown as living there in the special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war.

In his will dated 18th September 1940 William appointed his sons Frederick William Yarnold of Malmesbury, Percy Yarnold of Nailsworth and Victor Gerald Yarnold of Thornbury to be his executors.  On 19th April 1945 in a codicil to his will he appointed Reginald Harry Yarnold of Gloucester to replace Frederick William Yarnold who had pre-deceased him.  Ella Jane Yarnold died on February 12th 1945 aged 83.  The Electoral Roll the following year suggests that William continued to live at Westbourne.  William Yarnold died on January 6th 1947 aged 87.  He was buried with his wife in Thornbury Cemetery. On 21st June 1947 William Yarnold’s executors sold 6 St Mary Street to Leslie James and Lyndon Augustus Hawkins for £450.
Of the children

  • Frederick William Yarnold was baptised on 5th July 1882.  We have been told that he became a watchmaker in Malmesbury. Frederick died in 1945.
  • Charles James Yarnold was baptised 9th October 1884.  He died January 2nd 1891 aged six.  His death was recorded in the Council School Log Book.  Sadly he had died of complications after he contracted measles in the epidemic in Thornbury that year.
  • Percy Yarnold was born 29th July 1886 and baptised on 25th August 1886.  In 1912 Percy married Florence Marion Webb in the Stroud area.  On 1st September 1913 they had a daughter Florence Mary Yarnold in the Stroud District.  He appears to have run a business in Nailsworth there for many years.  The Gazette of May 19th 1917 reported that “At the Nailsworth Military Tribunal the military authorities applied for a review of the certificate of conditional exemption granted to Percy Yarnold 29, bespoke tailor and outfitter married and passed C1. The certificate was granted at Thornbury where Yarnold’s father is also in business and it was confirmed on 20th March 1917.”  At the review Mr William Yarnold, Percy’s father, was quoted as saying that “it was most difficult to get anyone to undertake the business and quite impossible to entrust a woman with it.  He might say that his son was doing his bit as a member of the Volunteer Force at Munitions Works and was also cultivating a large garden.  It was also stated that the respondent had two brothers in the army.”  The Tribunal allowed the military appeal but directed that the man should not be called up before June 30th.  Kew Records Office has a record of him which gives his navy number as F33295 and quotes a file reference ADM 188/625.  His naval record shows that he was called up and says that he was “engaged in hostilities” from 11th July 1917.  His service record shows that Percy was 5ft 9 inches with 36 inch chest, light hair, blue eyes and fair complexion.  The record says that he served in President II as an aircraftsman second class.  This means he was in the Royal Naval Air Service which in World War II became the Fleet Air Arm.  President II is what the navy refers to as a “stone frigate, in London.”  This is actually the Admiralty in London and it is an accounting base because sailors have to be assigned somewhere when between ships.  The record also shows that he was posted to Daedalus 1st February 1918.  This was another land base for the seaplanes.  Percy left the Navy in 1918. Percy Yarnold died in 1981 and his death was registered in Bristol.
  • Herbert Henry Yarnold was born on February 18th 1889 and was baptised on 13th March 1889.  He died on 18th January 18th 1891.
  • Victor Gerald Yarnold was born on 26th March 1891 and baptised on 15th April 1891.  The 1915 newspapers show that Victor was involved in WWI but we know nothing about his army career.  In September 1926 he married Kate Isidora Woodcock the head mistress of the Infants’ Department of the Council School whom Pam Lewis remembered as being “a nice kind lady.” Kate was born 20th February 1895.   The couple were married in Hyde, where Kate’s mother, a widow, was living.  They returned to live in Thornbury after their marriage.  Victor took over the family watchmaking business after his father’s death, although it seems to have traded as William Yarnold until about 1935.  After this period the Trade Directories show only Victor Yarnold.  The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows that Kate’s mother, Emma J Woodcock was still living with them.  She was born on 23rd January 1864.  The register notes that Kate worked as a clerk and during the war was involved with Food Control.  Victor worked as a special constable.
  • In 1946 and 1950 Electoral Rolls Victor and Kate were living at a house they called Caerwent in the High Street.  By 1954 their address was 7 High Street and in 1958 it was 16 High Street.  They did not appear in the Electoral Rolls of 1961.  In 1981 Victor died in the Okehampton area. Kate died in the Barnstaple area in 1983.
  • Florence Ella Yarnold was born March 15th 1893 and baptised on May 3rd 1893.  She died on 17th March 1898.
  • Reginald Harry Yarnold was baptised on 13th September 1895.  He was an apprentice outfitter at Weatherheads in Thornbury when he enlisted as a driver in the Royal Army Service Corps in September 1914.  He was described as being 5ft 10 and a half inches.  A newspaper report of 6th April 1918 says “congratulations are due to Reginald Yarnold the son of Mr. and Mrs. Yarnold of Thornbury on having been chosen to receive the Military medal for distinguished service overseas.  He was one of the first to volunteer from Thornbury. ”  The service records show Reginald was discharged from the Army in July 1919.  It was noted that he had an injury in his left knee joint for which he was granted a pension.  He died in 1967.
  • Mabel Annie Yarnold was born 8th October 1897 and baptised 29th October 1897.  In 1910 she went to Thornbury Grammar School.  She married Daniel Savery in Thornbury in 1929.  She died in 1972.
  • Albert Edward was born on 12th March 1901.  He left school in 1915 aged 14.  He died in 1939.
  • The youngest child, Dorothy was born 1904.  She married Norman Wood in Thornbury in 1930.
Read about the other clock-makers of Thornbury

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