The Elms

The Elms, 26 Gloucester Road

The house was one of a pair built in Thornbury for Edmund Cullimore on land adjacent to his own house, Shen, which is thought to have been built about 1891.  The two houses now known as The Elms (or 26 Gloucester Road) and West Shen (or 28 Gloucester Road) were built in 1895/6.

Edmund had acquired a large plot of land on the edge of the Thornbury in 1886 to enable him to build a saw mill and his own house sited a short distance away from the sawmill.  He also sold to Walter William Pitcher a plot of land containing one rood and 25 perches on 5th July 1888.  We suspect it was Walter and his firm of builders who had constructed the Shen and the two adjoining houses for Edmund.  Walter built his own house on this plot which became 24 Gloucester Road.  Click here to read about Edmund Cullimore

1896 29th feb sale of two props next to Shen by EC

1896 February 29th sale of two houses next to Shen

In Gloucester Records Office an Abstract of Title has a memorandum referring to the fact that Edmund Cullimore was arranging a transfer of an existing mortgage to two freehold villas and gardens in Gloucester Road, Thornbury.  In this memorandum, dated November 1896, the two houses were referred to as ‘Cefyn House’ and ‘The Tarn.’  We believe these must have been the original names given to the two properties we now know as West Shen and The Elms.  In the case of The Elms we have been told by Henry Smith who used to live nearby that there used to be three tall elm trees in the garden.  The photo below left shows two of these trees before they had to chopped down, at great expense, at the time of the Dutch Elm Disease about 1970.

The elm treesThe newspaper advert shown above on the right which was published in the Bristol Mercury on 29th February 1896 shows that Edmund attempted to sell or let the two houses.  However the houses were not sold and Edmund continued to own them until his death in 1941.

After his death his property was managed by his Trustees.  It was advertised for sale in 1953 when it was described as having three floors.  The ground floor comprised hall and conservatory, lounge, dining room, morning room, kitchen, larder, scullery and lobby.  The first floor had four bedrooms and a bathroom with gas geyser.  The 3rd floor was a flat (let to Miss Storey at £1 per week).  It comprised a lounge, bedroom and kitchenette with bath and sink and W.C.   The building had a cellar and an outside W.C.

In the case of The Elms, the Trustees, Edmund Cullimore’s daughter and grandson, Helen Garfield Grace and Edmund Cullimore Grace conveyed the property to Edmund Cullimore Grace on 29th October 1954 and Edmund sold it on to Harry Johnson on 9th November 1957.  Harry Johnson and his wife were both schoolteachers at the nearby Grammar School.  See below.

In the 1990s the house was acquired by the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Trust and used by the Severnvale Community Mental Health Team for assessment and treatment of people living in the community with mental health problems.

During the period when the property was used for residential purposes it was occupied by various families:

William Cornock – the 1899 Rate Book and the 1901 Census shows the house was occupied by William Cornock.  In the census William was described as a retired farmer aged 78 from Aust.  He was living there with his wife, Annie aged 69 from Henbury and daughter, Margaret M who was aged 25 and born in Aust.  They had two servants, a housekeeper, Ellen Morgan aged 28 from Oldbury on Severn and general domestic servant, Annie Dowdswell aged 18 from Haresfield in Gloucestershire.

William was the son of Nicholas Cornock and his wife, Elizabeth (nee Hewett).  He married Anne Bennett the daughter of George Bennett a yeoman on 1st November 1853 at Stone.  In the 1861 census William Cornock and Ann were living on their farm in Aust.  William was then aged 38 and farming 180 acres.  The couple had three children, Nicholas aged 6, Ellen Elizabeth aged 5 and William aged 3.  There was a governess Julia Hope aged 19 for the children and two maids.  The family remained in Aust until at least 1881 because they appear in the Census of that year.

We think William then lived in the house which is now known as The Georgian House on The Plain.  The 1894 rate book shows William as a tenant of Mark Crossman Meredith.  We know from a newspaper article that The Georgian House was put up for sale in 1895 which may have led William to move to The Elms.  Annie died in 1903 aged 71.  William died in 1904 aged 82.

The Tills – the 1905 rate book shows the house was occupied by Mary Till.  The 1910 rate book shows Ellen Till as the tenant.

Mary Till.  Mary was the daughter of William and Mary Wetmore of Hill and she was baptised 1 Nov 1840 at Hill.  When she was 23 she married Thomas Day Till on 9th June 1862 at Hill.  His father was a farmer at Moreton.  By the 1871 census Mary Till was aged 30 and she and Thomas had a young daughter Ellen aged five years.  Thomas was farming 280 acres in Lower Moreton and employed seven men.  We are not sure if they actually moved but in the 1881 Census their address in Lower Moreton was Maypole Farm.  The acreage was said to be 270 but perhaps the answers did not need to be exact.  They continued to farm at Maypole Farm up until the 1891 census at least.  Thomas died on 16th December 1894 aged 58 years and he was buried in the cemetery at Thornbury.

The inscription shown on the gravestone shows he was a J.P and we know from other records that he was a churchwarden at the Parish Church.

The 1899 Rate Book shows Mary had moved into Thornbury and was living at Wigmore House, 10 Castle Street as a tenant of John Crowther Gwynn.  She was still living there at the time of the 1901 Census in which she was described in the census as a widowed woman of independent means aged 60 living there with two servants.  By 1905 she had moved to The Elms, 26 Gloucester Road which is where she died on 4th August 1909 aged 68.

Ellen Till.  The 1910 Rate Book lists Ellen Till as the occupant of the house.  The 1911 Census describes her as a landowner and she was living in The Elms with two servants, a cook Florence Annie Rugman aged 20 and a gardener Herbert Ernest Pearce aged 20, both born in Thornbury.

Ellen was the daughter of Thomas Day Till and his wife, Mary.  She may have been living with Mary when she was listed as the tenant of the house.  Ellen was born on 22nd April 1865 and baptised on 24th May 1865.  In 1881 Ellen was attending a Ladies’ School at St Mathew’s Lodge, St Mathews Road, Cotham, Bristol.  On 28th April 1892 she married her cousin, James Barton Till, the son of James Till of Parks Farm, Thornbury and a sidesman at the Parish Church.  James and Ellen were farming in Lower Morton at the time of the 1901 census.  James died on 13th April 1903 aged 42 so it may have been that Ellen then moved into live with her mother in Thornbury.

Ellen carried on living at The Elms until about 1931 when she moved to 4 Church Road.  The Special Register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows Ellen at 4 Church Road and describes as a retired farmer.  Ellen died aged 76 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 10th February 1942.  She was still living in Church Road at the time of her death.

We think that the property was divided into two flats around the time that the Tills lived there and it continued being divided in this manner until sold to the NHS in 1980’s.  We have listed below some of the people who lived there.

The Wilcoxes – the 1929 electoral register shows that Harvey and Gladys Winnie Wilcox were living at The Elms at the same time as Ellen Till.  We don’t know anything about the Wilcoxes, although that we note that there was a Harvey Wilcox whose birth was registered in Chipping Sodbury in 1902.

Harold and Frances Whitcombe – the electoral registers of 1931 to 1938 show The Elms was occupied by Harold Arthur Whitcombe and Francis Myra Whitcombe.  Henry Arthur was born in the Aston area of Birmingham in 1883, the son of William Philip, a medical practitioner and his wife, Caroline Lydia.  In 1901 Harold was a medical student living with his parents in Victoria Road, Aston Manor.

Harold became a registered medical practitioner in 1910 and in 1911 he married Frances Myra Howard in the Dudley area.  Harold and Frances had two children whilst they were still in the Dudley area; Judith Howard Mavesyn born in 1912 and Elizabeth Norcop Mavesyn born in 1915.  A third daughter was born in the Ormskirk area of Lancashire in 1918.  From medical registers available on the Internet we know that Harold was living and working in Middleton, Lancashire in 1923 and by 1931 he had come to Thornbury.  In November 1934 their daughter Judith Howard married Charles Wilfred Groves Taylor, the son of C. P. Taylor of The Chantry in Thornbury.  On 3rd April 1936 Harold and Francis daughter, Elizabeth married Cecil Aubrey Parker, a solicitor from Sneyd Park in Bristol.

The Whitcombes left Thornbury in 1938 and by 1943 Harold was shown as working in Weybridge in Surrey.

The Bruces – the 1939 electoral register shows that Wilfrid Montague Bruce and Wilfred’s sister, Rosamond Hilary Bruce were living at The Elms.  Wilfred continued living there until 1948 and Rosamond carried on until 1953.

Captain Wilfred Bruce was very well known.  In 1912 he joined his brother-in-law, Captain Scott, on his last Antarctic expedition and shortly after his return in 1913 he married Dorothy Florence Boot, the daughter of Sir Jesse Boot, 1st Baron Trent and millionaire founder of the ‘Boots’ firm of chemists.  Read more about Wilfrid and Rosamond

The Hawkins – the 1946 Electoral Register shows that Lyndon and Kathleen Hawkins were living at The Elms.  Click here to read more about the Hawkins family

The Parkers – we know from the church records that Walter Frederick Parker and his wife, Margaret Anne were living at The Elms in 1948.  Their son, Barrington John, was baptised on 6th June 1948 (having been born on 15th December 1947).  We suspect that Walter may have married Margaret Anne Satterthwaite in the Wigton area in 1946.  We know from the baptism record that he was a ‘mitre (or meter?) collector’.  When their daughter, Patricia May, was baptised on 25th September 1949 Walter was described as a projectionist.  The Parkers were listed in the electoral registers of 1948 to 1951.  The School records show that Barrington John started at St Mary’s School in April 1952 and in 1959 he transferred to the County Secondary School.  Although the records show the Parkers’ address was initially ‘The Elms’, it indicates that they moved to the Council Houses at Rudgeway.

The Storeys – the 1951 to 1954 Electoral Registers show the house was occupied by Edith J and Hilda Storey.  A sales notice dated 1953 shows she was living in the flat on the top floor.

Hilda was a teacher at Thornbury Grammar School.  The school magazine mentions that Miss Storey was a needlework teacher and she left in 1953.  However the magazine in 1955 mentions that Miss Storey was leaving the school after 22 years so we assume that she was persuaded to stay on for longer in 1953.  Earlier copies of the magazine show she was a domestic science teacher and she was mentioned as early as 1934.  Others show that Miss Storey encouraged the pupils to participate in country dancing and ran a club for interested children.  We are not sure who Edith was.  

Edmund Cullimore Grace – on 29th October 1954 Edmund acquired The Elms from the Trustees of Edmund Cullimore.  The 1957 Electoral Register shows that he was living there with his wife, Dorothy.  Edmund was the son of Francis Henry Grace and the grandson of Edmund Cullmore.   Click here to read more about Edmund.  On 9th November 1957 Edmund conveyed the property to Harry Johnson.

Mair and Johnnie

The Johnsons – in 1957 the property was conveyed to Harry Johnson.  Harry and his wife, Mair, were schoolteachers at the Thornbury Grammar School.  Harry was born in 1916 in Saskatchewan.  His father, Harry Johnson (Snr) had moved to Canada in 1910.  His wife, Jane, (nee Turner) joined him in 1912.  In 1916 the Johnsons were living in Swift Current, Saskatchewan where Harry was a farmer and they now had two children: Leonard aged 3 and Robey aged 2.

When Harry (Jnr) was aged about 5 his parents moved to Onchon on the Isle of Man.  Even at an early age, Harry was known as ‘Johnnie’.  It must have been confusing as three of his brothers were also known by the same nickname.

During the War, Harry and two of his brothers joined the RAF.  Harry was not the RAF fighter ace known as ‘Johnnie Johnson’ who was also associated with a Canadian Squadron although he was born in England.  Our ‘Johnnie’ was a night fighter pilot and because he could speak French fluently, he worked as an interpreter/instructor for free French airman.  We have been told that later Johnnie was sent out to Italy and flew in a fighter plane in support of Allied troops.

After the War Johnnie became a teacher, joining the staff at Thornbury Grammar School about 1947 where he taught French and P.E.  He had gained a London BA from Exeter University.  In the Grammar School staff room he met Mair E. W. Jones, a music and P. E. teacher, born in Ynyshir in the Rhondda Valley in 1926.  Mair later told us that ‘Johnnie’ was seen as quite a ‘capture’ and she fought off competition from other female teachers at the school.  Johnnie and Mair married in Wales in November 1950.


In the 1950 Electoral Register Johnnie is shown as living at 5 Eastland Road but this probably relates to the time before he was married.  The 1951 school magazine shows that in 1951 Johnnie was recalled by the RAF to serve in Korea.  He returned to the school in 1953.  It appears that Johnnie served this time in Nottinghamshire as the birth of their eldest son, Antony Robert, was registered in Retford in 1952.  Their other three sons were born after they returned to Thornbury: Timothy Michael in 1954, Nicholas William in 1956 and Gareth Richard in 1964.

Mair and Johnnie with their family

The Johnsons lived at 21 Gloucester Road opposite the Grammar School.  From 1957 they settled to live in The Elms, occupying the ground floor and first floor and letting out the top floor flat, often to fellow teachers requiring accommodation.  Mair’s parents were John O. and Sarah A. Jones who came to live at The Elms for a short time and they both died there.  John had been a dairyman in Ynyshir before he retired.

Mair gave up teaching on her marriage but she later resumed her career at The Leaze Primary School, Gillingstool.  She is remembered being there in the late 1960s and late 1970s.

Music played a major part in both their lives.  In addition to Mair’s work in Thornbury’s schools, she was for many years conductor of The Thornbury Male Voice Choir.   She also conducted the singing for the BBC programme “Songs of Praise” when it was broadcast from St Mary’s Church.   Johnnie was in the choir, where he sang bass for thirty years, and in his youth he won a singing competition prize as a treble soloist at The Cruiniach in the Isle of Man.

Both were involved with sports for many years.  Johnnie was a keen sportsman and was heavily involved with football, cricket, tennis and boxing and this interest continued at University and during the time he was in the RAF.  He played football, as ‘inside forward’, and he represented the Isle of Man. Mair said she had to transfer his badge every time he wore out a tracksuit.  He later played football for Thornbury Football Club and particularly enjoyed being a cricket umpire.  Mair was involved with athletics and at one period was trained by an Olympic hurdles coach.

Johnnie and Mair were extremely popular members of the Thornbury community.  They were both enthusiastic members of the Welsh Society and the Thornbury Amateur Dramatic Society and Johnnie was Secretary of the Parochial Church Council.  In his later years Johnnie became collation manager for the Parish Magazine and we remember Johnnie fondly, hobbling up our path still Johnnie delivering the magazine always cheerful.

When The Elms became too big for the family (and all the young French ‘assistentes’ they seemed to have visiting on a regular basis) Johnnie and Mair moved to a smaller and more modern house in Stafford Crescent.  The Elms was sold to Avon and Wiltshire NHS Mental Health Partnership.  The Severnvale Community Mental Health Team is now based there providing assessment and treatment for people living in the community suffering mental health problems.

When Johnnie died his ashes were spread over the cricket wicket at the Grammar School where he loved to spend his time.  Mair continued living in Stafford Crescent and we remember visiting her there and receiving her hospitality.  She was the only person we knew who offered us a morning glass of whisky.  We were then asking her what she could recall about people who had lived in Gloucester Road which was then the full extent of our interest for this website.  It’s such a pity we didn’t ask her more!  Mair died in December 2005.