The above photo shows the bar staff of The Black Horse in the early 1960s.  The licensee was then Cecil Palmer (see below).   His wife Lily is on the left and barmaids Molly Salter and Rose Bond on the right.

This page summarises the history of the various licensees known to have run the Black Horse.  Click here to read about the history of the pub and see some photos of the building.

Samuel Allen

Samuel Allen was shown as the occupant of the house and garden in the 1840 Tithe Survey.  The 1841 census described him as a gardener aged 40 living with Martha also aged 40.  The 1851 census shows Samuel and Martha still living at the same place and now Samuel is described as a beerhouse keeper aged 54.

Samuel was born in Thornbury on 5th December 1796 and baptised on 4tth January 1797.  He was the son of William Allen and his wife, Mary.  On 17th May 1837 Samuel married Martha Pearce in Thornbury.  She was born in Ilfracombe about 1793.

Martha died on 3rd May 1860 aged 67 and was buried in St Marys Church on 27th May 1860.  The 1861 census shows Samuel still a beerhouse keeper at the same place.  His sister, Mary Hatherell was living with him as housekeeper.  She was aged 71.

Samuel died on 10th March 1869 aged 73 and was buried in same grave as Martha on 15th March 1869.  It appears that Samuel gave up running the pub before his death.  His probate record says he was “formerly of Gillingstool but late of Crossways both in the parish of Thornbury” and that he was labourer who died at Crossways.  Probate was granted to George Ball of Sibland a farmer and George King of Sibland a baker.


William Cullimore

 The 1871 census shows William had taken over running the Black Horse from Samuel Allen.  William was described as a carpenter.  However he was living at ‘the public house’ so we assume he worked as beerhouse keeper alongside his carpentry or that it was actually his wife, Eliza, who ran the beerhouse.

William was the son of James and Hester Cullimore who ran The Crispin, another beerhouse in what is now called Crispin Lane.   William and his wife Eliza were living in Gillingstool with three children.  By 1881 they had moved back to live in The Crispin.  Click here to read more


Mary Arkwell

The 1881 census shows that Mary was innkeeper at the Black Horse.  She was a widow aged 51 from Wotton Under Edge.  She was being assisted by two unmarried nieces, Sophia Simmons age 21 and Jane Simmons aged 20, both from Old Sodbury.

Mary Abbott James married John Arkwell in Little Sodbury on 4th May 1863.  She was the daughter of Joseph Abbott James, a farmer and John was the son of William Arkwell, a labourer.

We are not sure when John and Mary moved to Thornbury.  There is a John and Mary “Harkwell” living in Easton Hill Lane in the 1871 census.  John was a labourer born in ‘Holendrge’.  Their ages are slightly different (both 45) and Mary was born in Sodbury.  Living with the Harkwells was a niece Sophia ‘Dockny’ who was aged 12.  We think this could be Sophia Simmons who was not living with her widowed mother, Hannah (nee Arkwell) at that time.

John died aged 57 and was buried in Thornbury on 31st May 1879.  Mary died aged 55 and was buried on 24th January 1884.  Following her death the licence of the Black Horse was transferred from Mary to Sophia Simmons on 5th March 1884.  The licence was transferred from Sophia to John Harvey on 4th November 1885.  Sophia went on to marry Frederick Charles Derrick in Bedminster area in 1887.


John Harvey

 John was listed as licensee of The Black Horse from 1885 to 1893.

John Harvey was born in Alveston in 1858.  He was baptised in Alveston on 16th February 1859, the son of Eliza Harvey.  She had three illegitimate children, John and his sisters Mary Ann and Emily before she married George Watkins in 1860.

John married Ella Selina Saunders in Falfield on 23rd April 1883.  She was the daughter of George Saunders, a gardener.  At the time of their marriage John was living in Alveston and Ella was living in Falfield.  They had several children: Arthur George Vernon was baptised in Falfield on 7th June 1885 when John was a quarryman living in Alveston.  Annie was born in Thornbury in 1887.  John was baptised in Thornbury on 27th April 1889 and Hilda baptised there on 3rd October 1890.

The 1891 census shows John was a licensed victualler aged 32 born in Thornbury.  He was living there with his wife, Ella aged 27 from Thornbury and their children Arthur George J aged 6, Annie Victoria aged 3, John aged 2, and Hilda Elizabeth aged 8 months.

Baptism records of their other children show that Nelly was baptised on 5th February 1893 whilst John was still a beerhouse keeper in Gillingstool.  Nelly died aged only 9 months and was buried on 3rd August 1893.  By the time Margaret May was baptised on 7th July 1895 John was a labourer living at Buckover.

The 1901 census shows the family living in Whitewall Lane, Buckover.  John was a stone quarryman and their children, John, Hilda and Margaret were living with them.   The 1911 census describes John as a general labourer.  He was still living in Buckover with Ella who was a laundress and their daughter, Margaret. 

John died aged 53 in Thornbury Workhouse Infirmary and was buried on 24th December 1912.  His son, Arthur George Vernon, a market gardener died aged 27 and was a buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 18th January 1913.

Ella died aged 81 whilst living in The Hackett.  She was buried in Thornbury on 5th April 1945.  In Ella’s obituary printed in the Gazette it mistakenly reported that Ella’s husband John, had been the licensee at The Plough some 50 years previous.  Ella’s son, John Harvey of The Hackett, died aged 59 and was buried on 29th April 1948.


Stephen Purnell

The licence of The Black Horse was transferred temporarily from John Harvey to Stephen Purnell on 17th May 1893.  On 5th July 1893 it was transferred permanently.

Stephen was born in Thornbury on 29th March 1866 and baptised on 1st July 1866.  He was the son of Alfred Purnell, a carpenter and his wife, Sarah (nee Osborne) who lived at Crossways.

Stephen moved to Blackpool as a lad to learn the baking trade from his uncle, Daniel Prince. Daniel had married Stephen’s aunt, Jane Purnell.  Stephen is listed as a baker’s assistant there in the 1881 Census when he was aged 15.  He returned to the Bristol area where he married Anne Powell on 29th March 1887.  Stephen and Anne were living at Crossways when she died aged 22 and was buried on 9th April 1888.

Stephen re-married on 12th April 1890 –  his second wife was Mary Jane Strong who was aged 22 and the daughter of Richard Strong, a labourer.  Stephen was aged 24, working as a market gardener and living at Milbury Heath at this time.  In the 1891 census Stephen and Mary Jane were living in Crossways with their daughter Emma aged 2 months.  The baptism record of another daughter, Lily Eliza, on 28th September 1894 shows that Stephen had moved to become licensee at the Black Horse Inn in Gillingstool.  His brother was Edward Purnell who became licensee at The Plough about the same time.

The Voters Lists show Stephen had moved away from the Black Horse by 1896.  By the 1901 Census the family had moved into Bristol – they were now living in four rooms at 19 Frogmore Street.  Stephen had become a mason’s labourer and Mary was working as a shopkeeper.  Living with them were children, Emma aged 10, William aged 9, Lily aged 6 and Elise aged 3.  Elise was born in Bristol indicating that they had moved there by 1898.

By the 1911 census the family had moved to 3 Nelson Street, Bedminster Down. William had left home.  Emma was now working as a cigar worker and Lily was a cigarette maker.  They had two young children, Jessie aged 9 and Grace aged 4.

Of these children, William moved to live in Abertridwr in Glamorgan where he worked as a miner.  On 3rd September 1915 William John enlisted as Private in the 8th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment at Abertridwr, Glamorgan.  He was described as a miner aged 22 and 5ft 6.25 inches, 127 lbs, 37 inch chest when expanded, blue eyes and brown hair.  William was killed in action on 2nd August 1917.  His name appears on the memorial at the Menin Gate, Ypres.

Stephen died on 10th November 1950.


The Howes

The Voters Lists show Mark Howes had taken over The Black Horse by 1896.  Note that his surname was sometimes written as Howse or even House in several sources.

Mark Howes was born in Thornbury area in 1839.  He was the son of John Howes, an agricultural labourer and his wife, Emma.  In the 1841 census they were living in Crossways with their six children, including Mark aged 2.  In 1851 Mark was staying with his uncle Joseph Howse at Vilner Farm.  By 1861 he was back living with his parents, then living in Gloucester Road, Upper Morton. Mark was working as a labourer.

On 17th April 1865 Mark married Jane Walker at St James Church in Bristol.   By 1871 Mark and Jane were living in Whitewall Lane.  Mark was an agricultural labourer aged 31 and Jane was aged 30.  Their son Daniel J was there aged 4 and two boarders.  On 4th February 1872 their daughter, Emily Jane was baptised.  By 1881 the family had moved again to Gloucester Road, Upper Morton.  Mark was a general labourer.

In the 1891 census Mark was a farm labourer living in Crossways with Jane and Daniel who was working as a market gardener.

In 1897 the trade directory shows him as a beerhouse keeper at Gillingstool.  In 1899 he is listed as a beerhouse keeper in Crossways.

Mark died in 1899 aged 60 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 2nd December 1899.  He was still running the Black Horse at the time of his death.

The trade directories and the 1901 census shows Jane took over the pub.  In 1901 she was living there with her daughter ‘Emily J. Howes’, a widow aged 29.  Emily had married Harry James Purchase on 8th January 1901, but tragically he appears to have died within a few months.  The burial record shows he was a fireman and he was buried in Thornbury on 7th March 1901.  His address at the time was the Black Horse Inn.

Jane was still listed as a publican at the Black Horse Gillingstool in a 1910 trade directory.  The 1911 census shows she was still living at the Black Horse as a boarder but Sidney Grant (who had married Jane’s daughter, had become innkeeper.  Jane died in 1912 aged 72 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 28th July 1912.


Sidney Charles Grant

Sidney had taken over as innkeeper by 1911.

Sidney was baptised on 6th May 1883, the son of George Grant farmer and Elizabeth his wife.  In the 1891 and 1901 censuses the family were in Sibland.  On 29th April 1905 Sidney married Emily Jane Purchase (nee Howes) in Thornbury.  Sidney was aged 22 and Emily aged 33.  Their son, Horace Sidney was born on 14th August 1905.  He joined the Council Upper School in 1912 and left to go to the Grammar School on a scholarship in 1916. Horace left on 27th July 1923 to go to Bristol University to take a 4 years course in science.

Sidney Charles appears as innkeeper of The Black Horse in 1911 census.

Sidney’s name appears in the Roll of Honour, a list of Thornbury men and women serving in the Forces which was printed in the Gazette in 1915.  He was listed as serving in France in the lists of Thornbury men sent gifts at Christmas 1916 and 1917.

When Sidney came back from the War he rejoined Emily living at The Black Horse.  The trade directories indicate that Emily Jane Grant may have taken over as the beer retailer there and that Sidney became a smallholder.  Perhaps this suggests there wasn’t enough income from the pub for the family to survive.  They may have moved away from the pub to live in another house in Gillingstool as by 1927 the Underdowns were living in The Black Horse.  The last entry we have in the trade directories is 1931 when the Grants were still living in Gillingstool.

Sidney died aged 64 in Bristol in 1947.  Emily Jane died in the Thornbury area in 1954.  She was aged 84.


Herbert John and Tilly Underdown

Herbert was born on 10th July 1878, the son of John Saltdown Underdown and his wife Sarah (nee Taylor).  The 1881 census shows the family living at Church Road, Westbury on Trym.  His father was a mason’s labourer and his mother a laundress.

The 1891 census shows John living with his grandmother, Martha Nicholls, in 5 College Road, Westbury on Trym.  Herbert was working as an errand boy aged 12.

On 10th July 1894 at the age of 16 Herbert went to sea.  He joined the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class.  He signed on for 12 years starting on the training ship HMS Impregnable based in Devonport and then the HMS Ganges.  His first ‘real’ ship was the HMS Devastation which he joined on 5th December 1895.   The records show he was 5ft 3 inches with brown hair, brown eyes and fresh complexion when he joined. By the time he was 18 he had grown to 5ft 6 inches with dark brown hair, hazel eyes and dark complexion.  It was also noted he had a ‘spot tattooed on left forearm’.

Although initially signing on for 12 years, Herbert served for 25 years rising to Chief Petty Officer.  His naval records show he was working as a ‘Stoker’ and detail each ship on which he served.  His character was always noted to be ‘Very Good’.  He was serving on the HMS Valiant at the Battle of Jutland.  He was demobilised on 27th July 1919.

We are not sure how Herbert met his future bride.  On 17th April 1915 he married Matilda Alice Sansum in Thornbury St Marys Church.  He was aged 35 and serving as a First Class Petty Officer on H.M. Torpedo Boat No. 14 attached to HMS Leander.   Matilda was aged 26 and living at Crossways at the time.  Herbert’s brother, George, was the best man and his niece, Francis Davis, was one of the bridesmaids, the other being Matilda’s sister, Esther

Matilda, or ‘Tilly’ as she was known in Thornbury had been born in Littleton near Thornbury on 10th December 1888.  In 1891 she was living with her parents, James, a bricklayer’s labourer, and Alice S Sansum at Littleton.   In 1901 she was only age 13 and working as a general domestic servant at the Post Office shop in Littleton where she was ‘living in’ with Daniel and Eliza Simmonds.

The 1918 and 1921 electoral registers show that Herbert and Tilly were living at Crossways.  They don’t appear to have had any children.  By 1927 they had taken over the running of The Black Horse.  Herbert continued as landlord until his death on 17th October 1944 aged 66.  He was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 21st October 1944.  His coffin was covered in a Union Jack in recognition of his service to the Country.

Tilly took over the running of the pub and she remained there until at east 1954.  By 1957 she had moved to live in 3 Gloucester Road.  She died aged 74 on 5th January 1962 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery.


The Parsons

The 1958 electoral register show that three members of the Parsons family, Lily, her son Grantley and his wife, Eileen, were all living at The Black Horse.  We are not sure which of them was the licensee of the pub.

Lily had previously run The White Lion with her husband, Herbert Henry Parsons , but they appear to have separated.  Click here to read more


Cecil Palmer

black-horse-bar-staffCecil ran the pub for a few years around 1961.  Cecil was listed in the 1961 electoral register along with his wife, Lily Edith and son Norman J.  They had moved elsewhere by 1963.  The photo on the left shows Cecil and his wife behind the bar.

Cecil Ernest John Palmer was born in Mangotsfeld on 18th May 1910.  He was the son of Ernest Palmer a miner and his wife Maud Mary.  The 1911 census shows the family living at St James Street, Mangotsfield.

On 5th November 1938 Cecil married Lily Edith Woodward at St Stephens Church, Gloucester.  Cecil was an engineer aged 29 living at 18 St James Street, Mangotsfield.  Lily was a tailoress aged 24 living at 24 Bowley Road, Gloucester and the daughter of William George Woodward deceased.  The 1939 register made in preparation for the war shows Cecil and Lily were living at 106 Grittleton Road, Monks Park, Bristol.  Cecil was an aero-engine combination lathe hand – heavy worker.  Lily was born on 9th September 1914.

Their son Norman J. was born in Bristol in 1940 and daughter Mary J. was born there in 1946.   Norman married Ann Legge in Thornbury in 1963.  Mary married David Buck in 1969.  Cecil died on 26th December 1978 at Frenchay.


Later licensees

 The next publican at The Black Horse was Edward Victor Gall.  We understand that he had taken over by 1963 and the 1965 electoral register shows Edward and his wife Hazel living there.  They had moved to Thornbury from Hereford where they had married in 1954 and their two children, Jane and Glenn were born there.  Victor had been a P.T. instructor with the Army.  After leaving the Black Horse they returned to Hereford and Victor worked as a driver with Bulmers Cider.

The Gloucestershire pubs website shows John Bulger as licensee from 1966 to 1970 and Peter Worley from 1971 to 1977.

Click here to read about the history of the pub and see some photos of the building