This well known building stands in the High Street of Thornbury on the west side at the southern end of the old Market Place. It is seen in many old photographs like the one shown above showing that it had been used as a shop for various saddlers for a very long time. For locals of a more recent generation it has long been known as the ‘Bristol and West,’ the building society who occupied the premises for a long period.
The English Heritage website shows it was of 16th century origins, and altered and extended in the late 18th century and early 19th century.
Unfortunately we haven’t seen the deeds of the property but documents relating to the neighbouring properties show that in the 1600’s this property formed part of a larger group of properties covering the premises now known as 30 to 34 High Street in Thornbury as well as the buildings, yard and garden to the rear accessed through the little alleyway sometimes known as The Shambles or more recently as ‘The Medieval Lane’. We know from later indentures and abstracts of title that the property was owned by Robert Thurston and descended through to his grandson, John Thurston, then to John’s daughter, Grace Thurston who married John King, and to their son, John King jnr. On 2nd and 3rd April 1771 John King (jnr) and his wife, Rebecca, sold the property to Benjamin Parnell. Click here to read about the early history
Benjamin Parnell – Benjamin was a maltster of Tytherington. He purchased the property for £130 from John King and his wife, Rebecca by an indenture of lease and release dated 2nd and 3rd April 1771. The property was described as:
‘All that messuage or tenement or dwelling house wherein Thomas Pearce blacksmith, Samuel Musgrave glazier and William Russell shoemaker did formerly dwell situate and being in the High Street of the Town of Thornbury all which said premises are now in the several tenures or occupations of Joseph Latch nailer, Andrew Whitfield glazier and Arnold Smith cooper as tenants thereof
All which said messuages or tenements dwelling house and premises were formerly the estate and inheritance of one Robert Thurston heretofore of Thornbury gentleman deceased since that of John Thurston (grandson of the said Robert Thurston) also deceased afterwards of Grace King widow (daughter of the said John Thurston) upon whose death the same descended and came to the said John King her eldest son and heir at law‘.
Benjamin appears to have arranged a mortgage with Andrew Whitfield of Thornbury glazier. At some stage, Benjamin appears to have broken up the property and sold it off as separate lots, but we don’t have a complete set of indentures showing these sales. We do not know when Benjamin sold the property now known as 30 High Street to Arnold Smith.
Arnold Smith – Arnold was named as tenant of the property in an indenture dated 1771. He is also listed there in the 1770 Assessment for the Relief of the Poor although the 1775 land tax record shows Richard Wither living here. We don’t know any more about Arnold apart from he was noted as a cooper.
Richard Wither – the land tax records from 1780 to 1800 show that Richard Wither was the owner and occupant of the house. A plan attached to an indenture dated 1775 relating to 36 High Street shows that Richard’s garden adjoined that of Ann Caddy who lived at 36 High Street.
On 24th May 1772 Richard married Sarah Caddy, the daughter of Ann Caddy his neighbour. It is interesting to note that the marriage record on the Scribes Alcove website shows that Richard was a widower at the time of his marriage, yet his burial record shows that he was aged 48 when he died in 1800. If the details shown are accurate then Richard would have been aged 20 when he married Sarah Caddy and he must have married his first wife at a young age and she must have died within a year or so of the marriage. Sarah Caddy was born about 1746 and baptised on 28th December 1750 aged 4.
In her last will dated 1782, Ann Caddy left £20 in trust for her daughter Sarah, the wife of Richard Wither of Thornbury yeoman. From the plan attached to the 1775 indenture referred to above it appears that Richard Wither lived in one of the houses further down the road whose garden adjoined Ann’s garden. We think that this was the house now known as 30 High Street. Ann also left Sarah Wither ‘the bed on which I usually lye with the bedstead curtains vallins sheet blanket and quilt thereto belonging, chest of drawers, oak round table and all the chairs in the kitchen’. Ann left £10 in trust for granddaughter Betty, otherwise Elizabeth Wither, when 21 or at her marriage. If she dies then the money to her granddaughter, Hester Wither, at age 21 or at marriage or then to grandson, William Wither, at age 21. Ann also left Betty Wither her ‘bed bedstead curtains bed cloths and all the household furniture which shall be in my chamber called the far room at the time of my decease and also a silver table spoon and a pair of silver shoe buckles and my round mahogany table with my new Tea Kettle and stand’.
The baptism records of Richard and Sarah’s first two children show that they were living at Morton before they moved to the High Street. Betty was born on 20th September 1772 and Esther was baptised with Betty on 30th September 1774.
Another daughter, Anne was born about 1776, but she was ill and only baptised on 22nd August 1779 aged 3 a few days before she died. Another son, William, was born on 20th September 1779 and baptised on 8th November 1780.
Richard died aged 48 and was buried on 9th July 1800. The land tax records of 1809 to 1812 show Sarah Wither continued to live in the same house as owner and occupant of 30 High Street. The records from 1814 to 1824 show Sarah was still living at the property, but that it was now owned by Thomas Savery. The 1826 and 1827 land tax record show Sarah was then renting it from David Baxter.
Thomas Savery – the land tax records from 1814 to 1824 show Thomas was the owner of the property but he was renting the property to Sarah Wither. At that time Thomas was living at 28 High Street, which he also owned. Click here to read more
John Isles (or John Iles) – the 1828 land tax record shows John Isles was renting the property from J. M. Baxter. We suspect that this could be the John Isles who was born in Thornbury on 26th September 1772. He was the son of Joseph Isles, a butcher and his wife, Betty. In 1839 the trade directory shows John Iles was a butcher in Silver Street.
An article appeared in The Times reporting on a court case at Gloucester on 11th April 1827. John had been involved in an incident at the New Inn on 28th September 1826. He had been accosted by a farmer Joseph House and his two sons and accused of stealing a sheep. John claimed he had bought the sheep from Farmer House. The court found in favour of John and Joseph House was fined £20. The article mentions that John had been a butcher at Grovesend for 20 years.
The 1841 Census shows John also became a butcher like his father. He was living at Grovesend with his wife, Elizabeth and his son, John, and his family. The 1851 Census confirms that John’s son, John, had also become a butcher. John died aged 88 and was buried on 25th May 1859.
The Baxters – the 1826 and 1827 Land Tax records show David Baxter as the owner. From about 1828 onwards J. M. Baxter was listed in the land tax records as the owner of the property. The 1840 Tithe Survey shows that this was Plot 71 a garden and Plot 72 a house, both owned by J. M. Baxter and occupied by William Embley. We are not sure about ‘J. M.’ names as different sources list a ‘John Martin Baxter’ and ‘James Martin Baxter’. Click here to read more
The Embleys – William was baptised in Bristol on 25th December 1803, the son of William Embley and his wife, Susannah (nee Pritchard). On 8th September 1824, William married Eliza Smith at St Augustines Church, Bristol. They must have moved to Thornbury shortly after their marriage. The business he set up in Thornbury High Street was later using the slogan ‘Established in 1824’. William is shown as renting 53 High Street in the 1826 Land Tax record. On 22nd February 1826 they baptised their son, William Kear (or Keir). This record confirms that William was already working as a saddler.
By 1829 he had moved to 30 High Street, the property where he and his son traded for the early 1900s. The 1841 Census shows William Embley was a saddler aged 35 living with his wife, Eliza and son, William aged 15. Also living them were Robert Jameson, an officer of the excise aged 26 from Scotland and William Tyler an apprentice saddler aged 15 and Joseph Smith an apprentice saddler aged 13.
The 1851 Census shows that William was aged 49 born in Bristol, Eliza was aged 47 born in Thornbury, William aged 25 also a saddler born in Thornbury, and they had a lodger Thomas Harney, a general clerk aged 30 from Bristol, an apprentice, Enoch Woodward aged 18 from Elberton and house servant, Elizabeth Mills aged 15 from Thornbury.
On 13th October 1855 their son, William (jnr) married Mary Ann Willshen, the daughter of James Willshen. The Bristol Mercury reported that when the bell ringers were engaged in celebrating the nuptials and before the happy couple had reached the home of her father where the reception was to be held the clapper or tongue of the 7th bell fell out and the ringing had to be paused to enable the bell to be repaired.
The 1859 Rate Book shows that William (snr) occupier of the property in the High Street.
William (snr) died on 21st October 1859 aged 58. The 1861 Census shows that Eliza is living there on her own. She is working as a saddler employing 3 men and one boy. Her son, William (jnr) had moved to live in Olveston Street, Olveston. He was trading here as a saddler and harness maker and Mary Ann was running a fancy wool repository. Living with them was a Thomas Simmons, an apprentice saddler from Rangeworthy and a visitor, Frances Stevenson who was aged 12 and born in London. A house sale notice dated 1866 shows that William was a tenant at the house which adjoined the wall of the Pound in Olveston.
The 1871 Census shows that Eliza is still in the High Street and carrying on her business as a saddler. She now has a lodger, William H Stow, a teacher of English, Latin and French ??? who was aged 33 from Newfoundland. William (jnr) was still a saddler in Olveston. Frances Stephenson is still living with them now described as an adopted daughter. A niece, Gertrude Hughes was also visiting them. She was aged 7 born in Thornbury.
A report of the wedding between Elizabeth Marie Maclaine in 1872 shows that William Embley and ‘Mr Williams’ had erected a very tasteful floral archway over the doorway of her home at Kyneton House with inscription made using artificial flowers.
The 1881 Census shows Eliza’s son, William had returned and taken over the business. He was described as a saddler and harness maker aged 54 employing one man and four apprentices. He was living there with his wife, Mary Ann aged 48 and his mother, Eliza an annuitant aged 77. They were all still there in 1891 Census.
Eliza died on 31st August 1892 aged 88. Mary Ann died aged 61 and was buried on 24th January 1894. The 1901 Census shows William was still running the business aged 75. He was living there with his adopted daughter, Frances E Williams a widowed housekeeper aged 51 from St George Hanover Square, London and her sons, William E an apprentice saddler aged 19 and Charles a grocer’s assistant aged 17 and a visitor Llewellyn Hughes a commercial shipping clerk aged 28 from Thornbury.
Frances Eleanor Stevenson had married Edward Williams, another saddler, in 1879. In 1891 they were living in Olveston with their two sons, Williams E aged 9 and Charles aged 7, both born in Olveston. Edward died in 1895.
William died on 26th November 1903 aged 77. Although we haven’t seen the details of William’s will, we note that the Rate Books show the property passed to ‘Mrs Williams’ who we assume to be his adopted daughter in the absence of any children of his own. She seems to have moved out to live elsewhere as in the rate books of 1905, 1910 and 1926 she has tenants living in the property. She died in 1930 aged 80.
Edward Burchell – the 1905 Rate Book shows that Edward Burchell had taken over the property as tenant. Edward was born on 5th May 1875. He was the son of Frederick Burchell, a carpenter and joiner and his wife, Edith. By the time of the 1901 Census Edward had become a saddler living at home with his parents in St Mary Street. In March 1904 there was advert placed in the South Gloucestershire Chronicle informing inhabitants that Edward had taken over the business of William Embley and claiming that he had considerable practical experience in the trade and that he had been in the employ of Mr Embley for several years. We know very little about him apart from the fact that he was renting 30 High Street in both the 1905 and 1910 Rate Book. The 1911 Census shows Edward as living alone in Silver Street.
Joseph Pavey – Joe came to Thornbury in 1912. The 1914, 1915 and 1916 Prewett’s Directories list Joseph as trading as a saddler in the High Street. He continued at 30 High Street for the next 50 years or so. In the War Joseph applied for exemption from military service on the grounds that he had two saddle and harness making businesses in Thornbury and Iron Acton and he also had to care for his widowed invalid mother. He was granted conditional exemption on 30th March 1917.
The 1925 Valuation List and 1926 Rate Book show that he was renting the property from Mrs Williams. He also rented out the coachhouse owned by the Town Trust in St Mary Street from 1924 until 1966.
Joseph was born in Bishops Hull near Taunton on 3rd October 1886. He was the son of Joseph Pavey, a builder’s labourer and his wife, Sarah. The 1901 Census shows young Joseph had become an apprentice saddler aged 14 and he was living with his widowed mother in Bishops Hull.
We assume he moved to Thornbury to take over from Edward Burchell in about 1915. Joseph was a bachelor until he reached his early 60’s. Then in 1949 he married Hilda May Williams. Hilda had been listed as living in the High Street since the 1931 electoral registers. The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war shows Hilda and her mother, Eliza Williams were living with Joseph. The register shows that Eliza was born on 13th December 1880 and Hilda was born on 2nd May 1904. The 1946 electoral register shows Hilda’s address as ‘c/o Pavey’ so it is possible that she was his housekeeper or friend before they married. Hilda was the daughter of a harness maker William John Williams of 1 Castle Street.
We have a copied an article printed in the Outlook Magazine produced by the Thornbury and District Community Association about 1969 in which Joe recalls his early memories of Thornbury. Click here to read a transcription of this article.
We’re not sure when Joe ceased trading. He was listed in the 1965 electoral register and the 1967 programme for the Thornbury Flower Show, but not in the 1970 register. A photo of the High Street taken in 1970 shows the Bristol and West Building Society had taken over the premises.
Joseph’s death was registered in Taunton in 1980 so we assume that he returned there at some stage.
The Bristol and West Building Society occupied the premises for many years. We’re not quite sure when they closed. In 2005 the Bristol and West sold its savings and investment business to the Britannia Building Society which already had an office on the other side of the High Street. We suspect that this is the time that they closed down.
Since 2005 we think the building was used by various financial organisations,including Santander. It then lay vacant and unloved for several years. During the period of the election campaign in 2015 the building was used as a UKIP campaign office, and then following the election it became an advice centre for the successful Conservative M.P., Luke Hall. In August a new business opened here under the name of Hot Nails.