We are fortunate to have a copy of an abstract of title for the property written in 1887 which gives us a summary of the early history of this property.  It tells us that in the 1700s and early 1800s it was used as an inn known as ‘The Widows Mantle’ and later ‘The George’, then a school and then by a plumber and glazier.  Since then it has been used mainly as a butchers, but in more recent years it has been an off licence and is now a charity shop.

It can be seen from several photographs in our collection that on the ground floor level there is an alleyway dividing the property into two.  In the various photographs we have seen the left hand section was used for the business and the right hand section and upstairs used for residential purposes.  The alleyway leads through to several outbuildings at the rear.  These were used as the schoolroom and slaughterhouses etc at various times.  Since about the 1960’s the right hand section of the ground floor has been used as a separate trading unit, initially as a fruit shop by T&J Owen and more recently by The Frying Machine fish and chip shop.

On this page we have written about the earlier history when the property was an inn and school.  Read about the later history.  


The abstract referred to above says the property was an inn called ‘The Widows Mantle’ and this later changed its name to ‘The George’.  The original inn is likely to be very old.  In his book on Thornbury Pubs (which is available in the Thornbury Museum bookshop), local pub researcher, George Ford, suggests that the name of Widows Mantle implies that the inn was trading around 1520 which was during the Duke of Buckingham’s time at Thornbury;  the name being derived from one of the Duke’s heraldic emblems, the mantle of Brecknock.  He presumes that the name was changed to The George to honour King George II.

The earliest reference to the Widows Mantle is the account book of the Overseers of the Poor.  In 1661 it notes that Thomas Peasely (sometimes spelt Peasley) was paying the poor rate for the Widows Mantle.

The pub is also mentioned in the will of Thomas Peasley, gentleman of the Parish of Thornbury, written on 15th November 1683.  Amongst the property Thomas owned he mentioned ‘all that messuage or tenement with appurtenances wherein Andrew Whitfield now inhabiteth commonly called the Widows Mantle situate lying and being with the Burrough of Thornbury in the street there called the High Street together with all outhouses’ etc.  He also mentioned the messuage and tenement adjoining the Widows Mantle wherein Thomas Jago now inhabiteth.  He left all his property to Robert Thurston the elder of Thornbury, mercer and John Barton of the Parish of Thornbury butcher in trust that they would dispose of the property and divided the proceeds between his son and daughters: Margaret, Alice, Christian and Thomas.  He also had another son John who was left twenty pounds.  Thomas Peasley was the Mayor of Thornbury in 1674/5.  His will also mentioned another property he owned in John Street which was a messuage or cottage occupied by Margaret Scott widow.  This property was specifically left to Thomas’s daughter, Alice.  We know from an indenture relating to that property (11 St John Street) that Alice sold this house in 1688.  She was described as a single woman of the city of London.  Alice was born in and baptised in Thornbury on 13th October 1663.  Thomas married Christiana Walker of Thornbury in Gloucester on 18th September 1665.  We suspect this would have been his second marriage.  Research from Meg Wise of Thornbury Museum suggest that Alice and her sister Christiana may have settled in London in the area around St Clements Danes.  When Christiana married Thomas Steggal in 1700 she was described as a milliner.  When Thomas died in 1729 he left an annuity to his sister-in-law Alice Peasley.

The Overseers Accounts show that Andrew Whitfield was liable for ‘the Mantle’ paying the poor rate of 4d per month from 1684 to 1686, after which Thomas Trayhurn was there in 1687 and 1688.  In 1689 and 1690 Mrs Macklin was paying for ‘the Mantle’.

An indenture dated 23rd September 1730 shows that Thomas Peasley’s trustees had previously sold the property to Edward Webb of Thornbury yeoman and that Edward Webb was leasing the property on that date to Sarah Bell, a widow.  The property was described as ‘All that messuage or tenement with appurts situate lying and being within the Burrough of Thornbury in a street there called the High Street over against the Shambles there wherein Thomas Peaseley deceased (in his lifetime heretofore dwelt) and the said Edward Webb now inhabiteth adjoining to a messuage or tenement late of one Robert the Elder late of Thornbury mercer deceased and now of John Thurston his grandson and wherein one Robert Whitfield now dwelleth on the …ward side thereof and to a messuage or tenement late in the possession of one Hezekiah Hewett deceased and now of one Thomas Cox on the …. side thereof and was by the said Thomas Peasley deceased in and by his last will and testament in writing given and devised (amongst other …..) to the said Robert Thurston and one John Barton also deceased upon trust to be sold for the payment of his debts and legacies for that purpose .. and conveyed by the said Robert Thurston (who survived the said John Barton) and others unto the said Edward Webb and his heirs together with one outhouse and the back kitchen one brewhouse one backside and one garden to the said messuage hereby granted adjoining and belonging’.

Mordecai Hignell – the 1887 abstract of title which confirms that this property was the Widow’s Mantle, The George and the School shows that the property was owned by Martha Cullimore in the late 1700s and then by Martha Johnson in the early 1800s.   The earliest owner of the property mentioned in this abstract was Martha Cullimore, but we know from her last will that she had bought the property from Mordecai Hignell.  Note – we don’t know whether Mordecai ever lived in the property, only that he owned it.

Now with a name such as that you think it would be easy to find out more about him.  A problem arises that there were two Mordecai Hignells in Thornbury at the same time.

  • One was the Mordecai Hignell a butcher who married Eleanor Hignell in Elberton on 12th May 1785. They had four children, Joseph, Benjamin, Stephen and Eleanor.  According to the family they lived in several places around Thornbury including The Hackett, Pound House (Eastwood), Talbots End (Cromhall) and finally Crossways.  Mordecai was listed as living in Crossways in the Voters’ Lists for the 1830s.  We have written about Mordecai’s son, Stephen, and his family elsewhere on this website.  Mordecai and Eleanor were buried in Thornbury Congregational Church in the same grave as Stephen and his family.  Click here to read more
  • The other Mordecai was born about 1758, the son of John and Esther Hignell of Elberton. He was living in Elberton on 28th May 1782 when he married Hannah Cullimore in Thornbury St Mary’s Church.  They had three children who survived: Sarah, Mary and John.  Mordecai was a churchwarden at St Mary’s Church in 1788 when the 5th bell was installed.  Following their marriage Mordecai and Hannah lived at Marlwood, which they were rented from John Knight Esq and they continued living there.  In 1798 Mordecai was granted a commission as Lieutenant of the Tockington Volunteer Association.  Mordecai died in December 1800 aged 42 whilst he was living at Marlwood.  He was buried in Elberton.  In his will written on 24th October 1800 he left three closes of land in Olveston to his wife for her lifetime and then these were left to his son John.  He left £1600 (reduced to £1400 by codicil) to be shared between Mary and Sarah and £300 left for Hannah.  John was to be sole executor, but being only 14 he relinquished that task and it was taken up by Mordecai’s trustees, Hannah Hignell, William Cullimore of The Parks and Robert Carter, maltster of Thornbury.  In the will Mordecai was described as a ‘Gentleman’ but the details shows he was farming there.

We don’t know which one of these two Mordecai’s was associated with the property at 26 High Street.

Martha Cullimore – Martha was baptised on 24th June 1740, the daughter of William Osborne and his wife, Martha (nee Manning) who lived at Kyneton House.  On 3rd April 1766 Martha married William Cullimore.  William was baptised on 12th February 1735, the son of James Cullimore, yeoman of Thornbury and his wife, Hannah.

William and Martha had a son, William Cullimore born on 3rd December 1766 and a daughter, Martha, born on 31st January 1770.  William snr then died aged only 39 and he was buried on 18th December 1773.  The cause of William’s death was smallpox.

In his last will dated 10th December 1773, William left Martha the use of a property in Alveston which was occupied by George Smith and it included a large amount of land and after her death this was to be left to her son, William.  He left his daughter, Martha £1500 in trust, the rest in trust for her son, William.  If they both should die before they reached 21, then the estate would be shared by William’s brothers, John and James Cullimore or their heirs.

We know from an agreement dated 15th July 1776 relating to a barn belonging to Martha’s brother, William Osborne, situated on the opposite side of the footpath adjoining The Close House, that Martha was living at The Close House at the time.

The last will of Martha Cullimore dated 1st September 1807 and proved on 17th March 1808 shows she left the property in the High Street to her daughter, Martha Johnson, the wife of Thomas Johnson since deceased, late of Elberton gentlemen.  She described the property as ‘the messuage or dwelling house wherein I now dwell with the building rooms stables court outlet garden and all appurts situate in the Parish of Thornbury which I purchased in fee of Mordecai Hignell’.  This she left to her daughter, Martha, the wife of Thomas Johnson, for her personal use and not controlled by her husband.  Martha Cullimore was buried on 10th September 1807 aged 67.

Martha Johnson – Martha was born on 9th January 1770 and baptised at Thornbury on 31st January 1770.  She was the daughter of William Cullimore, a yeoman, and his wife, Martha (see above).  She married Thomas Johnson, gentleman of Elberton on 9th August 1804.  Thomas owned a considerable amount of property in the areas around Thornbury.  He died about 1829 or 1830.  As far as we know Martha never lived here and she let the property out to tenants.  In this period it was mainly used a school run by John Frank.

Martha died on 2nd January 1847.  In her last will dated 28th August 1841 (proved on 9th March 1847) she left the property ‘called the George in the occupation of Mr John Frank as my tenant’ to her grandson, Thomas Johnson Ward, the son of Alfred Ward and Martha’s daughter, Martha, who were living at New Leaze House in Olveston.  Thomas didn’t keep the property long.  In September 1849 it was sold to Charles White for £325.  The abstract includes this wonderfully detailed description of the property:

all that messuage or tenement formerly called or known by the name of the Widows Mantle but afterwards and since by the name or sign of the George Inn with the building called the Long Room, stables, garden and appurts, thereto belonging situate and being in the Parish of Thornbury in the County of Gloucester near the Borough of Thornbury between the lands and tenements formerly of one William Swanley afterwards of Thomas Swanley and late of John Swanley his brother since of Elizabeth Lippiatt widow and formerly in the occupation of Thomas Ford, horse breaker but afterwards belonging to and in the occupation of Frederic Parfitt and since in the occupation of Henry Robbins as tenant thereof on or near the southward part and a messuage or tenement formerly of one John Powell and subsequently of Daniel Pitcher saddler late of (blank) Ford on or near the northward part and adjoining to a street called the High Street in the Borough of Thornbury aforesaid on or near the eastward part and abutting on the customary land late of Martha Osborne, widow deceased since of William Osborne, gentleman her son and then of W. O. Maclaine Esq on or near the westward part thereof.  And also all that small piece or parcel of ground containing 4 yards in breadth and 4 yards in length (be the same more or less) lying and being in the Tithing of Kington and within the Parish of Thornbury aforesaid and now or late lying open to the garden of the said messuage or tenement wherein the said John Powell formerly inhabited and subsequently the said Daniel Pitcher did then dwell on the westward side to the messuage or tenement called the George on the southward side thereof and all buildings erected on the said piece or parcel of garden ground.

All which said messuage or tenement garden piece or parcel of ground hereditaments and premises above mentioned and described were formerly in the occupation of William Taylor, innkeeper since of James Taylor innkeeper afterwards of Mrs Underwood governess of a boarding school since of Mrs Martha Cullimore late of John Frank schoolmaster since of Mrs Leaker schoolmistress and then void‘.

We know something of the occupants of the house during the time it was owned by Martha Cullimore and then by her daughter Martha Johnson –

A list of licensed victuallers in the area in 1755 held by Gloucester Records Office includes a reference to The George at Thornbury when the licensee was William Pountney and a Robert Pountney put himself forward as surety for William.

We are grateful to Roger Howell who wrote an article on the Thornbury Pountneys and their connections to the Bristol Pottery firm known as ‘Pounteys’.  According to Roger: ‘The Pountney name first appears in Thornbury with the marriage on September 4th 1719 of William Pountney and Hester Thurston.  Hester was the daughter of Robert Thurston Junior of Thornbury, mercer, and his second wife, Anna Smith of Alveston’.  We haven’t discovered where William was born but it may have been in the Bristol area as there is a record of a Marjorie Pountney being married at St Werburgh’s as early as 1587.  However the family may have originated in Worcestershire or Staffordshire where the name was more common.

William Pountney – William and Hester had two daughters, Hester and Sarah, whose baptisms are recorded in Thornbury Parish register; Hester’s on 20th May 1730 and Sarah’s on 27th December 1734.  We also suspect that they had a son, Robert, whose age at death would indicate that he was born about 1720/21 – a year or so after the marriage of William and Hester and is likely to have been their first born child.  Anna or Anne Pountney was another daughter of William and Hester born some time between 1720 and 1730.  She married William Taylor, widower, in Thornbury on 18th January 1759.  Presumably there could have been other children born in that period who for some reason are not recorded in the register.

In 1755 William was listed as licensee of The George.  On 30th January 1760 William’s daughter, Hester, married Francis Bellingham of Berrow, Worcs, in Thornbury.  He was buried on 12th February 1761 at Thornbury and Hester died a few years later on 20th November 1766 aged 73.

Robert Pountney – we believe that it was William’s son, Robert, who also had connections with The George.  The 1769 Assessment of Relief for the Poor shows Robert Pountney was liable to pay the tax for The George.  Robert was also responsible for The Horseshoe, another inn located in St Mary Street.  The same list in 1770 shows Robert Pountney as the owner of The George but adds that William Taylor is the tenant.

From the Rockhampton Parish Register we learn that Robert Pountney married Sarah, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Wetmore, on 26th February 1745.  Their daughter, Hester, was baptized on 8th July 1746 and her two brothers William and John on 5th April 1749 and 8th May 1752.

We know from the Thornbury Court Rolls of 1760 that Robert Pountney was chosen to serve as Mayor of the Borough, but he failed to turn up at the meeting in which he had to be ‘sworn in’.  He was fined ten pounds for such default and was ordered to appear at the next Court to be held at the Booth Hall in Thornbury under the penalty of ten pounds.  We assume that Robert did make it to the next meeting as his name does appear in the list of mayors.

On 12th October 1766 Robert’s daughter, Hester, married Kingsmill Grove in Thornbury.  Hester was Kingsmill Grove’s first wife; she died of consumption in Henbury and was buried in Thornbury 3rd August 1774 aged 28.

Robert Pountey died aged 51 and was buried on 14th June 1772.  Confirmation of these relationships is provided by the recent discovery in Gloucester Record Office of the grant of administration of the effects of Robert Pountney, perukemaker of Thornbury, who died intestate, to William Taylor of Thornbury, innholder.  The grant is dated 14th July 1772 and states that Hester Grove, wife of Kingsmill Grove of the City of Bristol, papermaker, William Pountney of Thornbury, apothecary, and John Pountney of the City of Bristol, linen draper, were the lawful and natural sons and daughter of Robert, and that they renounced their right to administration in favour of William Taylor who was probably Robert’s brother-in-law.  Interestingly Kingsmill Grove’s sister Martha was married to John Hodges, a stationer in Bristol; his will of 1780 mentions all his stock in trade was held in partnership with Kingsmill Grove and John Pountney.  After John Hodges’ early death in 1780, Martha married Obed Thurston.

Roger Howell believes that John Decimus Pountney who was one of the founders of the Bristol Pottery was probably the son of William Pountney, the apothecary and grandson of Robert Pountney.

George Ford in his book ‘Thornbury Pubs’ mentions that in 1776 a flying coach called the ‘Diligence’ operated a service between the George in Thornbury and the Greyhound Inn in Broadmead, Bristol.  This was a twice weekly service on Mondays and Thursdays and only carried three passengers, each paying three shillings for a return trip the same day or two shillings for a single journey.  Each passenger was allowed seven pounds of luggage and small children, if carried on the passengers lap, went for half price.  The entry in the Bristol Journal advertising this service stated that the George had ‘Post-chaises and Saddle Horses to let at reasonable prices; Dinners provided and rest in the neatest and most reasonable manner on the shortest notice.  The George Inn has been lately new fitted up and furnished proper for the Reception of Company‘.

The Taylors – the abstract of title mentions that inn was ‘formerly in the occupation of William Taylor innkeeper, since of James Taylor innkeeper’.

We suspect that William Taylor was the husband of Ann Pountney (mentioned above) and he would be the son-in-law of William Pountney who was licensee in 1755.  William married Ann on 18th January 1759.  He was a widower at the time.  It is possible that his first wife was Elizabeth Salcom who married a William Taylor on 21st August 1754.  She had died in August 1758 aged 39.  However we can’t be sure because there was another William Taylor in Thornbury at the same time whose wife was also ‘Elizabeth’.

William is also mentioned as an innkeeper and is included in the list of occupants in the abstract of title. We know that in 1755 William was at The Cock Inn and in 1775 Land Tax record he was responsible for paying the taxes at The Swan.  When he died in 1782 aged 68 he was shown as living at The Swan.  William was buried on 17th February 1782.  Hannah continued living there until her death in 1783 aged 57.  She was buried on 12th January 1783. 

The abstract of title mentions that William Taylor was followed by James Taylor.  We’re not sure what was the relationship, if any, between the two of them.  We note that on 13th June 1779 a James Taylor married Hannah Lippiatt, the daughter of John and Ann Lippiatt who lived nearby at Pye Corner.


The abstract of title lists the occupants of the property being ‘Mrs Underwood governess of a boarding school since of Mrs Martha Cullimore late of John Frank schoolmaster since of Mrs Leaker schoolmistress and then void’.  It is thought the school occupied the outbuildings at the rear of the property shown in the photo on the right.  We don’t know if the Martha Cullimore ran a school on the property or just used the property as her private home.

Mrs Underwood – she was mentioned in the abstract of title as being the governess of a boarding school here.  She is also listed in 1791 Universal British Directory for Thornbury, but we don’t know any more about her. 

James Moxham – the 1840 Tithe Survey shows that James was occupying the property, then described as a ‘Plot 68 House, playground etc’.  The 1830 Thornbury Trade Directory shows James ran a Gents Boarding School.  We can’t identify this James Moxham in any of the census or other records.  He may be the same person who is noted in the records of the Guardians of Thornbury Union.  In 1855 there is a record of James Moxham received seven loaves as outdoor relief for himself, his wife and five children.

John Frank – the 1841 Census shows John Frank with his wife Anne running a school for 17 boarders, all boys aged from 9 to 15 years old.  We assume that the Schoolroom was in the Long Room at the rear.  The children recorded in the school in Thornbury in 1841 are all likely to be from Quaker families and include Robert Sturge, Frederick and Robert Gayner, Joseph and George Young and Strode Smith who went on to run the National Provincial Bank on the Plain.

We are grateful to Meg Wise of Thornbury Museum who wrote an article about John in the Museum’s Research Newsletter in April 2006 which we have used as a basis for what we know about John.

John Frank was born about 1809 in St George or Upper Easton in Bristol.  He was the grandson of Bristol china manufacturer, Thomas Frank and son of Bristol pin maker, Arnee Frank and his second wife, Hannah Benwell.  We understand that John Frank started off as a chemist and druggist.  The Bristol Times and Mercury reported the marriage at the Friends Meeting House in the Friars at Bristol of John Frank, chemist of Corn Street, Bristol.  The marriage took place on 9th August 1838 and his wife was Anne Capper, second daughter of Sam Capper tea dealer of Bristol.  Anne had been born in Bishops Canning near Devizes.

It appears that John soon gave up being a chemist.  His maternal grandfather John Benwell was headmaster at Sidcot School and the families were all Quakers.  John Frank decided to become a teacher, first working at a school in Tottenham, before running the school in Thornbury.

The Research Newsletter says that John moved from Thornbury to Sidcot School in 1847 and that he left there five years later because of his wife’s ill health.  We don’t know where the date of ‘1847’ comes from.  It may be true, but we note however that the abstract of title for the property shows that Mrs Leaker took over the school after John Frank and we know from a newspaper advert shown below that she had moved to new premises in 1844.  It is possible that the ‘new premises’ were at 26 High Street and that John Frank left earlier than 1847.

The 1861 Census shows John and Ann had returned to live in Redland in Bristol.  John was described as an ‘editor of a periodical and proprietor of house shareholder etc’.  The publication he was responsible for editing was the Quaker publication “The Friend” which was published weekly in London.  He became editor for The Friend in 1859 and continued until 1871.  The 1871 Census shows John and Ann living in Spring Villa, Nugent Hill, St Andrews in Bristol.  John was described as ‘Retired Editor (accountant)’.

In 1864 John was a signatory of a Quaker public appeal for funding ‘to alleviate the distress and destitution amongst the coloured refugees and freed slaves in North America’.  John’s father-in-law, Sam Capper was another signatory.

In 1872 John edited the 40 volumes of journals of 18th century Bristol Quaker Sarah Champion Fox who knew members of the most well known Quaker families in the country as well as John Wesley and the Bristol writer and philanthropist Hannah Moore.  Her diaries seem to have been lost in about 1908 so all that remains of them is the 500 page manuscript of extracts recorded by John Frank which are now in the Bevan-Naish collection at Woodbroke College near Birmingham.  There is apparently a listing for John Frank in the Dictionary of Quaker Biography. 

Ann died aged 63 in March quarter 1874.  In 1876 John married Jane Gregory and the 1881 Census shows John and Jane moved to Clevedon and were living at ‘Cowper Villa’ in Hallam Road.  They were still there in 1891, although a nurse was now living in with John and Jane.  Presumably she was there to look after John who was now 81, whilst Jane was only 60.  John died in 1900 aged 90.

Mrs Leaker – the abstract of title for the property shows that ‘Mrs Leaker’ took over following John Frank’s departure.  Mrs Leaker was Mary Ann Leaker, the widow of George Francis Leaker.  Mary Ann Mowatt was born in Louth, Lincolnshire in 1803, the daughter of George and Mary Ann Mowat.  George and Mary Ann married in St Phillips and St Jacobs Church in Bristol on 1st November 1824.  They had four children: Ann Pellett Leaker born on 2nd August 1825, Frances Sophia born on 3rd December 1826, Lucina Encell born on 11th February 1829 and finally George Mowatt born on 17th January 1831.  They were christened at the Wesleyan Methodist Downend Circuit at Mangotsfield.  Ann was baptised on 6th April 1832 and the other three on 23rd June 1833.

George Francis appeared to have started life as an earthenware dealer and chapman, although he ran into financial difficulties and was declared bankrupt in 1826.  In 1834 George was running a school at Morton near Thornbury when he was involved in a tragic accident at Oldbury.  The Bristol Mercury of 30th August reported that he had gone to the river Severn with a group of his pupils to bathe in the river.  The current of tide being very strong he was carried away and drowned.  A verdict of accidental death was reached at the inquest although the Coroner severely rebuked a local fisherman John Trotman who had been in his boat only 800 yards away and refused to render assistance in spite of the calls for help from the pupils.  The coroner added that had the assistance requested been afforded the life of an affectionate husband, a tender father, and a valuable member of society may have been saved, for of him it may have been said truly “that he went about doing good”.  John was aged 30 at his death and the newspaper report mentioned he was ‘late of Castle Street, Bristol’.

1844 14th Jan Mrs Leakers schoolMary Ann carried on running the school but we don’t know when she left Morton.  In the 1841 census she was listed at the Morton Academy with children Frances and George.  Her two other children, Ann and Lucinda were listed in Salmon Lane, Bridgwater with Ann Leaker who was aged 65.  We assume that she was the children’s grandmother.

In August 1843 there is a newspaper report showing she was declared bankrupt.  The advert on the left dated January 1844 shows that she had resumed business a few months later, although she had moved premises.  Another advert for the Academy was published in July 1846 and an 1849 trade directory lists Mary Ann Leaker as running a boarding school in Thornbury.   This is the last mention of the school we have found and by 1851 Census there was no sign of Mary Ann or her children in Thornbury.

We are not sure of the location of Mrs Leaker’s school.  She is listed as an occupant of 57 High Street where she seems to have taken over the running of a school some time after it was run by Maria Wegener who had left there by 1841.  It seems likely that the advert above relates to her re-location to 57 High Street.

An abstract of title for the property at 26 High Street also lists Mrs Leaker as being one of the occupants there.  It seems likely that as John Frank, the previous school teacher occupying that property moved away in 1847 this was the time that she moved across the street.

The 1871 Census shows Mary Ann living in Oystermouth in Mumbles near Swansea.  She is living there with her daughter, Frances Sophia who was now married to John Colston, a schoolmaster of a boarding school there.  Mary Ann’s son, George Mowatt had been a teacher living with John and Frances Colston in 1851 Census.  The 1881 Census shows Mary Ann living with her son, George and his wife in Oystermouth.  Their house was Rotherslade House.  We don’t know when Mary Ann died.

go to later history of the property