The photo on the left shows 43 High Street in Thornbury as it was in the late 1970’s just after it was vacated by Julian Flooks the supermarket chain.  It is now occupied by Boots the Chemists.

Our earliest knowledge of the history of the property is an indenture dated 5th April 1760.  This shows refers to the sale of the property by Jonathan Blanch, a yeoman from Alveston to William Taylor for £100.  The property was described as:

all that messuage or tenement wherein William Grove shoemaker now dwells within the Borough of Thornbury in a certain street there called High Street between a messuage or tenement wherein one Jonathan Barton now inhabiteth on or near the northward part thereof and a piece or parcel of ground whereon a messuage or tenement formerly stood (but now fallen down) on or near the southward part thereof which said messuage or tenement hereby or intended to be hereby granted and released were some time since bought and purchased by the said Jonathan Blanch to him and his heirs in fee simple of and from Robert Frampton deceased late father of Mary the now wife of the said Jonathan Blanch‘. 

We know that Robert Frampton was Mayor of Thornbury in 1728-30 and Jonathan Blanche was a leading Quaker who lived at Alveston.

William Taylor – William had acquired the High Street property for £100 on 5th April 1760.  He was described as William Taylor the Younger, a pig killer.  For some years he lived in the High Street property before letting it out to tenants.  In 1775 and 1780 land tax records he had been letting the property to John Whitfield and by 1798 when he wrote his will to Jacob Young.  By 1798 William had the more respectable title of yeoman and he was living at Sibland.

According to his last will and testament dated 16th September 1798 William had built two houses at the rear of 43 High Street at east end of his orchard facing St Mary Street.  The houses had been occupied by John Cossham and John Tilly, but at the time of the will in 1798 they were let to John Tilly and a person called Seager?.  The two houses became known as 12 and 14 St Mary Street.

Based on his age at his death, William was born about 1733.  He appears to have been married three times.  According to the inscription on his gravestone which we were given, his first wife was called Elizabeth who died on 29th October 1762 aged 57.  We cannot check the details on the grave because they are now illegible.  The details do appear suspect as Elizabeth would have been 28 years older than William.  His second wife seems to be Jane Farmer whom he married on 13th March 1763.  William and Jane had at least two children: Jane born 11th January 1764, William born 16th March 1766 (who was noted in William’s will to be deaf and dumb) when William was working as a carrier.  Jane died aged 25 and was buried on 17th March 1768.

On 15th May 1769 William married Hester Taylor and they had Esther born on 11th March 1770, James born on 21st August 1773, Mary born on 14th February 1774, George born on 5th August 1776 and Thomas born on 11th September 1778.  William was noted as being a pig killer in these baptism records.  William died aged 66 and was buried on 19th November 1799.  In the will he left 43 High Street and the two properties he had built in the rear to his son, James Taylor.  James is shown as the owner in the 1809 Rent Roll when the property was still being let out to Jacob Young.  He appears to have died around this time.  In his will he left the three houses to trustees with instructions to sell the properties and share the profits between his sisters, Hester the wife of Edward Munday, Mary the wife of John Alpass and Betty (alias Elizabeth) the wife of Richard Putley.  At that time Jacob Young was still occupying 43 High Street and George Isles and James Saunders were occupying the two houses in St Mary Street.

James Tanner – James is mentioned as being an occupant of the property, and by an indenture dated 26th March 1819 he sold the property to Thomas Mowatt.  We don’t know much about James and have no further references to him living there in the land tax records.  We suspect that he is the James Tanner who died aged 63 and was buried at the Congregational Chapel on 27th October 1830.  His will describes James as a pig butcher.  He left his wife, Elizabeth otherwise Betty, the house and shop in which he was then living which he had bought from Edward Young.

Thomas Mowatt – appears to have acquired the property from James Tanner by an indenture dated 26th March 1819.  The land tax records from 1821 to 1829 show that Thomas was living there as well as owning the property.

On 20th October 1817 Thomas married Elizabeth Boulton at Alveston.  He was described as a grocer on the marriage record.  Elizabeth was the daughter of John and Mary Boulton.  Their daughter, Elizabeth, was born on 14th January 1819 and baptised on 14th February 1819 when Thomas was described as a confectioner.  They had two further daughters, Sarah born on 26th July 1830 and Ann born on 17th July 1833.  We are not sure which church all three were baptised in, but they were recorded by the Downend Methodist Circuit.

The abstracts of title tell us that the property ‘took down and entirely rebuilt by Thomas Mowatt’.  We know that Thomas ran into financial difficulty.  He was declared bankrupt in 1826 when he was trading as a grocer.  A 1830 trade directory lists Thomas as a confectioner.  From 1830 onwards he appears to have let the property to tenants.  Thomas appears to be renting a house from James Martin Baxter.  An abstract of title shows that Thomas had problems repaying loans taken out using the property as security.  On 3rd May 1845 Thomas and his wife, Elizabeth, were forced to sell the property to Richard Ellis for £500.  At the time of the sale Thomas was living in Stroudwater.  Their daughter, Elizabeth, remained in Thornbury and lived with Henry Davis, the confectioner, initially at 20 High Street and then in another shop on the east side of the High Street near the bottom where Elizabeth assisted her cousin, Catherine Davis run a bakery there.

(Note – the transcription of the 1840 Tithe Survey held by Thornbury Museum appears to show that William Rolph is the owner of the property at that time.  An abstract of title shows that Thomas Mowatt was still the owner until 1845 although he was in some financial difficulty).

Richard Ellis – Richard bought the property previously owned by Thomas Mowatt for £500.  It is not clear what other properties were included in this transaction.

Richard Ellis was a chemist and druggist and he traded at 43 St Mary Street for a long time. When Richard died in 1873 his wife and sons carried on with the business.   Click here to read more

We know that the Ellis’s shop and dwelling house at 43 High Street was put up for sale on 26th October 1892.  It was described as ‘The valuable double fronted lofty shop with large dwelling house comprising ten rooms, offices, two extensive dry cellars, stable and good coach house, garden and yard with back entrance from Soapers Lane for many years occupied by Mr Ellis, chemist and druggist‘.

On 22nd December 1892 Jane Ellis agreed to sell the property at 43 High Street to William Harris Ponting for £600. This included the coachhouse and stables with access from Soapers Lane.

High Street towards Embleys with bus c 1906William Harris Ponting – on 22nd December 1892 the property was bought by William Harris Ponting for £600.

William was described as a coal merchant at the time of the purchase, but he seemed to want to use the new premises as a a draper’s shop and lived above.  The photo on the left was taken in 1906 when Pontings were trading as drapers at the shop.  Note the wonderful lamps hanging over the shop window.

By 1910 he had let the shop to Basil William Bryant.  We believe from about 1916 the lease of the shop was taken over by Harry Talbot.  On 21st March 1923 William Harris Ponting of Elmhurst retired draper sold the property to Harry Talbot draper of Thornbury for £1350.  Click here to read more

Harry Talbot – Harry was born in Norton Bridge, Staffordshire about 1883, the son of William Talbot a wheelwright and blacksmith and his wife, Sarah A.  In 1910 Harry married Victoria Gwilliam in the Bristol area.  They must have settled to live in Thornbury immediately.  The 1910 Rate Book shows Harry as renting a shop from John Hodges Williams at the bottom of the High Street (which later became known as Victoria House at 5 High Street).  The 1911 census shows Harry was a draper aged 28 and Victoria was a dressmaker also aged 28 and born in Gloucester. 

The 1914 trade directory shows Harry was a general draper, silk mercer, selling fancy goods and a costumier.  He also offered a mourning warehouse, dressmaking and millinery a speciality.  He was also Secretary of Thornbury Cricket Club.

In the War, Harry applied for exemption from military service.  We are not sure of the grounds he used, but he was granted temporary exemption until 1917.  The list of people sent gifts by local people in 1917 shows Harry was based at Blandford Camp on home service.

The deeds of 43 High Street suggest that on 24th August 1916 Harry and his wife wife, Victoria, and her sister, Elizabeth Gwilliam leased that property from William Harris Ponting. We cannot explain why a trade directory of 1923 shows Harry at Victoria House,  Harry went on to buy 43 High Street for £1300 on 1st March 1923 by which time the property had become known as ‘Norwich House.

Harry and Victoria had one son, Harold Gwilliam Talbot born in Thornbury on 11th October 1915.  He went to a private preparatory school and then on to Thornbury Grammar School.  The records of that school show that the family moved away from the area in December 1924 when Harold transferred to St Ives Secondary School.

Stanley Maynard Williams – on 28th January 1925 Stanley bought the property from Harry Talbot for £2000.  Stanley was living at 821 Christchurch Road, Boscombe at the time of the purchase.  Stanley took over the drapers shop from Harry Talbot and he continued trading there until 1957.

Stanley was born in Tavistock on 30th November 1876, the son of John D Williams, a draper and his wife, Jane (nee Maynard).  Stanley married Florence Kate Humphreys in the Christchurch area in 1909.  Florence was born on 16th June 1883.

Stanley and Florence may have had several children: Betty Kathleen Williams born on 26th August 1910, John Maynard Williams born in 1911 and Margaret D Williams born in 1914, all born in the Christchurch area.  We know that Eric Humphrey Williams also born there on 10th November 1920 and that he went to Thornbury Council School in 1926 and went on to the Grammar School in 1932.  John attended Thornbury Grammar School from 1925 – 1929.  He was prominent there in the School football and cricket elevens.  He won a Gloucestershire scholarship to the Merchants Venturers Technical College in Bristol where he continued his education for 12 months.

The 1938 electoral register shows Stanley and Florence at Norwich House with their children, John and Betty.  The special register compiled in 1939 in preparation for the war describes Stanley as a ‘Draper Traveller’.  His daughter Betty was the ‘Drapery Manageress’.

During the War Stanley and Betty were to lose two of their sons.  Eric Williams joined the RAF Voluntary Reserve.  In early July 1942 Eric gave a talk at Thornbury Grammar School.  He was then a Sergeant, working as a wireless operator-gunner in one of the new four-engined Halifax bombers.  At that time he had taken part in 13 operational flights over Germany including bombing raids over Essen, Cologne and Bremen.  Whilst in Thornbury at that time he gave another talk to the Air Training Corps.  Tragically with a few weeks Eric was killed.  He died on 30th July 1942 and was buried at Corbais Communal Cemetery in Belgium.

Their other son, John Maynard Williams joined the Union Assurance Company in London on leaving college, returning to Bristol in 1936 as an inspector in the Pearl Insurance Company.  He was married in Bristol in 1940.  We believe that his wife was Frances Pockson.  He joined the Royal Signals Corps in August 1940 and volunteered for the Maritime Regiment R.A. as a Gunner in 1943.  He was killed whilst on convoy work in the near East in 1945.

The 1946 electoral register shows Stanley, Florence and Betty still living there.  By the 1950 register they had moved, presumably to Corner Close, 10 Oakenhill Road, Brislington.  This was their address on 5th May 1950 when Stanley transferred the Norwich House and the business by deed of gift to his unmarried daughter, Betty Kathleen Williams in consideration of his natural love and affection.  Betty appears to have continued to trade as S. M. Williams.

Stanley died in Bristol in 1954.  He was aged 77.  On 24th October 1957 Betty Kathleen Williams sold the property to Bailey Brothers for £5,500.  Florence died in Bristol in 1960 aged 77.  We think Betty died there in 1999.

Bailey Brothers – they bought the business from Betty Kathleen Williams for £5500 on 24th October 1957.  They were a group of shops based in Cirencester but with outlets in several covering small Gloucestershire towns.  It sold home bedding, carpets, furniture and kitchen equipment, clothes, knitwear, nylons, foundation garments and accessories.  The Thornbury branch was run by Eric Vernon Witchell and his wife, Hilda L.  They had moved to Thornbury from Fairford and they lived over the shop.  On 6th May 1969 Bailey Brothers were wound up and put into the hands of the liquidator.  The Witchells continued to live in Thornbury.  The 1970 electoral register shows them still living in the flat above 43 High Street.  We understand Eric died in 1986 aged 72. He had been born in the Cirencester area in 1913.  Hilda had been born in Essex.

On 11th November 1969 Ringrove Properties bought the property from the liquidator for £22,000.  They immediately leased the property to ACE Value Stores on a 28 year lease at £3000 pa.  We are not sure if ACE traded as a separate supermarket or whether they became known as Julian Flook.  We’d love to here from anyone who can clarify what happened to the property around this time.  We know from photographs and our own memory that a branch of the Julian Flook supermarket chain traded here in the 1970’s.  We are not sure when they closed and who took over the property after them.  For many years now the property has been used by Boots the Chemists.  We don’t know when they moved there and would love to hear from anyone who knows.