As its name suggests, Gloucester Road is the main road leading out of Thornbury to Gloucester. In the photograph above Gloucester Road runs from the top right hand corner of the photograph (by the Royal George on The Plain) to the left hand edge. The photograph could have been taken in the 1950s because the terrace of houses on the West side of Gloucester Road (in the centre of the photograph facing away from the camera were demolished in the early 1960s. Other interesting features to look for in this photograph include, the structure in front of The Georgian House on The Plain which was then a shop but has since been demolished and a very large building towards the top end of Gloucester Road which was the Old Mill but which rather spectacularly burned down. This latter building had a large yard behind it which was part of Thornbury Transport Company in the 1950s. Next to the yard in the top left hand corner of the photograph is The Saw Mill.
Until well into the nineteenth century, Gloucester Road was classified as the main turnpike road for the use of horse drawn coaches between Bristol and Gloucester. It was however a mere lane and until the 1830s there were only a handful of houses built alongside the road between The Plain in Thornbury and Morton.
For a long time there was no official name for the street. Early Thornbury records show the name of ‘Collestreete’, or ‘Colestreet Lane’ in the 17th Century. We don’t know the origin of the name, but we note that an indenture dated 3rd November 1688 refers to a property on St Mary Street as ‘ extending from the said messuage forwards to the one backstreet there leading from Collins Street Lane towards a place there called Gillingstool backwards‘. This might suggest that the name was associated with the Collins family.
In the census records of the 1800s, the road had assumed the name of Colwell Street Lane, sometimes called Colewell Street Road, although reference is made that it was also known as ‘Collesters Lane’. We assume that the name of Colwell Street Lane derived from the fact that it was lane leading off Colwell Street which was the old name of The Plain. The junction between The Plain and St John Street was known as ‘Bells Cross’ and the 1841 census shows ‘The Royal George’ was then known as ‘The Boars Head’ and this name continued in use until 1875.
It is worth noting that the original line of the road may have passed between the Boars Head (or Royal George) and the property now known as 8 The Plain. We have no evidence to support this theory, although we note that in George Rolph‘s will dated 1793 there is a reference to a plot of ground having been taken from his property at the top of Gloucester Road ‘into the highway‘.
The Thornbury Roots website was created initially to summarise the history of the row of houses previously known as Laburnum Terrace and now known as 6 to 22 Gloucester Road. These were built by members of the Hodges family on land which was previously an orchard and garden. It is probable that a property already existed on the site of ‘Selwood’ in the late 1830s when the building of the terrace was started. The next building down Gloucester Road was the Workhouse which was deliberately built right outside the town in 1837.
Other properties in Gloucester Road have subsequently been added to the website. These include the row of six old cottages which once stood opposite Laburnum Terrace and were numbered 1 – 11 Gloucester Road.
Tracing the history of the individual houses has been complicated by the fact that there was no formal house numbering until about 1953/4. Sometimes houses within a terrace would have numbers and in some records we are lucky to find references to numbers 1-8 Laburnum Terrace. The earliest reference to ‘Laburnum Terrace’ we have found is in the Accounts Book of John Hodges when he records building work done on ‘1 Laburnum Terrace’ in 1885.
Some of the houses had names. ‘Selwood’ (now No. 22 Gloucester Road) first appears in the mid 1920s and that name has been in use ever since. At various times, other houses had names – ‘Durley’, ‘Amberley’ etc but these were sometimes rather short lived.
The spelling of the names also seems to vary a little. Even within the same document, the terrace is spelled “Laburnum” and “Laburnam”. Win Jenkins, who used to live at 10 Gloucester Road, says that the terrace was called Laburnum Terrace because there was a laburnum tree in each garden when they were first built. Are those laburnum trees in the early photograph below?
This photograph (above) shows the top part of Gloucester Road about the end of the nineteenth century. On the left is Laburnum Terrace. The cottages opposite were demolished in the 1960s and were replaced in turn by Shipp’s garage and then by flats now known as Gloucester Terrace. The decorative archway is a floral arch of the sort that were popular in Thornbury and other small towns until the advent of the motor car made them an “obstruction of the highway”. A description of the arches appeared in an article in The Bristol Mercury and Daily Post of August 1884 which explains that Thornbury was decorated with floral arches for the flower show of that year and they appear to have used for other occasions until about 1902. They seem to have been composed of evergreens and decorated with flowers and Chinese lanterns and they often had banners with a wide variety of mottoes, including “Health and Happiness” and “God Bless Our Queen.”