This page is about ‘The Exchange’ which was located at what we now know as The Knot of Rope, 59 High Street. Click here to read about the rest of the history of that property.
‘The name of this public house which was originally called ‘The Royal Exchange‘ when it opened in 1892. Its name had already been shortened to the ‘Exchange’ by the time of the 1901 census, although it did become ‘The Exchange Hotel‘ as a result of Richard Hobbs Smith’s development of the business.
Richard Hobbs Smith bought the pub known as ‘Michaels‘ at the auction held on 27th April 1892. He paid £1900 for the property which then only comprised the two smaller buildings on the right in the above photo and the yard and stable to the rear with outlet to Chapel Street. Click here to read about the earlier history of ‘Michaels’
Richard was born in 1843, the son of John Smith and his wife, Ann (nee Hobbs of Charfield). In the 1851 census John was a farmer of 100 acre farm in Tytherington. In 1865 Richard married Emily Drew whom we understand was a distant cousin. Emily was born in 1843 and was the daughter of Richard and Martha Drew of Hawkins Farm Tytherington. The 1871 census shows Richard and Emily on a 75 acre in Alveston. They had one daughter, Annie aged 5. By 1881 they had moved to Tockington Parks Farm, a farm of 281 acres. By 1891 Richard had retired from farming and they were living on The Green in Olveston. Richard was described in the census as living on his own means aged 47. In 1889 Richard and Emily’s daughter, Annie married Frederick William Pearce.
Having bought the pub in 1892, Richard set about expanding his little empire. On 8th November 1894 he bought the three cottages adjoining his stable and outlet onto Chapel Street for £100.
In 1896 he bought more property from William Harris Ponting for £630. This was the property the High Street adjoining on the north side to the property he had bought in 1892. It included a former stable on St Mary Street which had been converted in cottages and then made into a coachhouse and was then being used as a coal depot. Richard incorporated this property into The Exchange. The shop fronting the High Street was used as an off licence.
The Gazette of February 15th 1908 had a story which showed that beer was sold from the Off Licence in bottles that were then returned, washed and re-used. Dr Michael Gilbert Dobbys of Redland Road in Bristol had bought one or two dozen bottles of beer from the Off Licence owned by Richard Hobbs Smith the previous July and took them to his cottage in Littleton on Severn where he went fishing. He took the remaining five of these bottles home to Redland and he opened the last of them at lunch on September 10th. He only drank a little as the beer tasted so bad but he was taken very seriously ill. The beer was analysed and a large amount of strychnine was found in it. The case being reported here was that the doctor was suing Richard Hobbs Smith for damages. It seems that the bottle contained more strychnine than would have been dissolved in it. John Savoury the bottle washer there gave evidence about his method of bottle washing and said that he had a man called Sainsbury to help him. The bottle could not have contained so much strychnine if it was washed. It seems that the judge believed that that Dr Hobbys had mixed up his beer bottles with a bottle of strychnine that was used by fishermen for the poisoning of carrion crows. Certainly the court case was decided in favour of Richard Hobbs Smith.
It appears from plans showing the property when Richard tried to sell his premises in 1918 that he used a room in the middle of the new property as a dining room and the coal yard was made into a garden with three large greenhouses. Click here to read about the earlier history of the gabled house
In the 1911 census the Hobbs are at the Exchange – with two servants, one of them Harold Ernest Gallop aged 17 from Curry Rival in Somerset, the other Emily Summers aged 15 from Grovesend. (Note Harold and Emily married in 1915, but he was killed in the War in 1917.
On 27th February 1918 the hotel was put up for sale at auction held on the premises. It was described as a freehold, much frequented and old established fully licensed hotel known as ‘The Exchange’. The full description shows how much development had been made by Richard. It said
‘The house contains on the ground floor: Bar, Commercial Room leading to Conservatory, Smoke Room, two Private Sitting Rooms, Breakfast Room, Kitchens, Scullery with soft water pump, Pantry, Larder etc.
There is also a Bottle and Jug Department, upstairs Skittle Alley, three Greenhouses heated with excellent Apparatus, Sales Room 21ft x 42ft with raised Platform 26ft x 26ft now used as a Billiard Room, excellent Underground Cellage and capital walled-in Garden.
Upstairs there are seven Bedrooms, two Attics, Bed Sitting Room, Bathroom, Lavatories fitted with h. and c. water.
The outside accommodation comprises: Large Covered Yard with two entrances, Coach-house, Harness Room, two Bottling Rooms, Office, seven Stalls and one Loose Box in No. 1 Stable, Large open Stable for 30 horses with Store or Harness Room adjoining.
Large Room known as the Assembly Room to accommodate 200 people, well lighted with two entrances, ante-room and Lavatory. Underneath the Assembly Room are two excellent Rooms now used as Store Rooms.
The property is in the occupation of the Owner, Mr. Richard Hobbs Smith and comprises one of the most popular Country hotels in the West of England.
The Owner has during the past few years spared no expense to bring the Hotel and Premises up to the highest state of convenience and all necessary facilities are incorporated in the establishment to cater and accommodate all classes of the community. In addition to the large Hotel and Bar Trade there has been a very considerable amount of wholesale and outside business established over 50 years, and extending over a large area of the neighbourhood“.
The auction in 1918 failed to find a buyer. Later that year, on 9th November 1918, Emily died aged 73. On 3rd September 1920 another auction was held to try and sell the property, again on the premises. This time they were successful. It was sold to Ashton Gate Brewery of Bristol.
It appears that Richard moved to live at Campbell Farm, Kingsweston, the home of his daughter Annie and her husband, Frederick William Pearce. He died there on 6th March 1921 aged 77.
Ashton Gate Brewery – when it was bought by the brewery the Exchange lost its ‘Free House’ and thus its ability to sell beer from any source. This continued until 1931 when the Ashton Gate Brewery was taken over by George’s Brewery of Bristol. Throughout most of the time it was owned by Ashton Gate there was only one licensee – William Morton. Unfortunately we know very little about William except the electoral registers show that his wife was called Lillian. The Western Daily Press of 28th April 1928 reported that William Morton the then licensee of the Exchange had been declared bankrupt. The reason given for the bankruptcy was that trade had suffered because of the early closing order which kept farmers away from his pub. He also mentioned bad weather and unemployment in the area being factors.
The article is interesting because it explains that before he became a publican at the Exchange, William had first been a piano tuner at 75 North Street in Bedminster, then an ironmonger in at 65 North Street Bedminster before entering into partnership with his wife’s cousin Miss Bennett in a grocery business in Hove. Miss Bennett became his partner in the Exchange. At first he was successful at the Exchange but later appeared to be losing money, although since 1921 he had not kept any books
In May 1928 the licence was transferred from William Morton to Sydney Walter Hall who had moved from the Bath Arms at Cheddar.
Arthur William Whiteman – the Western Daily Press of December 19th 1929 reported that the licence of the Exchange had been transferred from Sydney Walter Hall to Arthur William Whiteman of Bristol. This is interesting in view of the obvious overlap of Mr Whiteman with the fact that the Smyths were running the pub in the early 30s (see below). We can only assume that Arthur was managing the pub for them for at least part of the time. There is no record of the Whitemans in the electoral registers for the period so it appears they lived elsewhere.
Arthur was born in Mountain Ash, Glamorgan in 1877. By 1891 he had moved with his parents to Bristol. His father worked on the railways as a signalman and in 1892 Arthur started working for the GWR as a lad porter and then a lamp lad. In 1901 he married Maud Annie Beaker in Moorfields in Bristol. The 1911 census shows he was working as a dairyman and they were living in Bedminster.
An article in the Western Daily Press of August 1924 may indicate that Arthur William Whiteman was a restaurant proprietor of 1A Bath Parade, Temple in Bristol.
Arthur’s wife Maud Annie died on July 19th 1934. The Western Daily Press of 21st July 1934 shows that she died at her home in 38, Stokes Croft Bristol aged 58. Her death was registered in Bristol. We do not know when Arthur left Thornbury. He is listed as licensee at The City Arms Hotel, Narrow Wine Street, Bristol in 1937-1938. He appears to have ‘married’ Amy Doreen Mahagan around 1937 although we can’t find any record of the marriage. Amy was born in 1908, the daughter of Henry and Sarah Ann Mahagan of Thornbury. Arthur and Amy had a son, Arthur William, who birth was registered in the Bristol area in 1937 under the names of Whiteman and Mahagan. The 1939 register created in preparation for the War shows the family at 39 Cotham Hill, Bristol where Arthur was a licensee. Later in that year they moved to The George in Shirehampton. Amy died in Bristol Homeopathic Hospital on 19th July 1941.
Arthur continued as licensee of The George. He died at Clifton Court, Clifton Hill in Bristol on 9th November 1943 aged 66.
Georges Brewery – became the owners of the Exchange from 1931 until in 1961 when the Company was taken over by Courages, Barclay and Co. (better known as ‘Courages’).
The Smyths, Gores, Langcasters and more Smyths – in the early 1930s the pub was run by Edward Adderley St George Smyth and May Ellen Smyth.
Edward was born in St Leonards on Sea near Hastings on 9th February 1863, the son of Ralph St George Smyth and his wife Harriett nee Cameron. In the 1871 census Ralph was living in St Leonards Lane, Winchester. He was retired Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Artillery. He was listed as married, but his wife was not at home at the time of the census, although Edward and his four siblings were. The 1881 census shows Edward at Sherborne School in Dorset aged 18.
We don’t where Edward was in the 1891 census. He married Catherine Winifred Besley in Christ Church, London on 17th June 1899. Catherine was the daughter of Henry Thomas Besley. The rest of their life is a bit of a mystery – he appears to have become a clergyman although we note that his name as shown in Crockfords is Edward Augustus St George Smyth. We know from a family tree posted on the Ancestry website that Edward and Catherine had several children including a Ralph Brudenell St George Smyth who was born in Trail in British Columbia, Canada in 1912. Crockfords shows that the clergyman was the Vicar of Trail from 1906 to 1916 and then moved to Greenwood and Rockwood in 1917 to 1929. Ralph was killed in Belgium in 1944 and the entry on the Commonwealth War Graves website shows that Ralph was indeed the son of the Revd Edward Adderley St George Smyth.
The passenger list websites show Edward returning to Canada on his own on the SS Pretoria in 1911. He is described as a clergyman aged 48 heading for Trail in British Columbia. In 1929 he returned to England sailing from Quebec to Liverpool on the SS Montroyal. He was described as a retired clergyman aged 65. The address of his destination was c/o The Bank of Montreal in Threadneedle Street so Edward doesn’t appear to have had a particular personal address to which he was heading. The family tree on Ancestry implies that Catherine stayed in Canada, that she died in Vancouver in 1956 aged 82 and that Edward at some stage re-married and had had further children. It is interesting to note that Edward’s obituary printed in the Western Daily Press on 30th December 1939 does not mention him being a clergyman. It does however say he had spent some time working in the Royal Mounted Police in Canada and had a number of medals for marksmanship.
We don’t know what made Edward come to Thornbury. He appears to have taken over The Exchange Hotel in 1931 and stayed there until his death in 1939. The 1931 electoral register shows that May Ellen Smyth was also listed as living at The Exchange with Edward.
We have been unable to find any marriage record of Edward and May Ellen, but we know they had two children: Keith St George Smyth in 1932 and Ann St George Smyth in 1934. This is quite remarkable bearing in mind that Edward was about 70 at the time. The birth records show that the mother’s maiden name was ‘Ockwell’. The passenger list for the sailing made by Edward when he returned to England in 1929 also includes May Ellen Ockwell and shows her age as being 30. Her address was 10 Eddystone Road, Crofton near London. A further examination of the passenger lists shows May travelled out to Canada in 1928 as a nurse companion to the two children of Major Swanton of Kettle Valley, British Columbia. Her next of kin was shown as Mrs Gore, 7 Well Street, Swindon, aunt.
We suspect that Edward had some help in running the pub side of the business. Edward was still there in February 1934 when he applied for an extension on drinking hours to 11 o’clock on the occasion of the British Legion annual dinner. May Ellen died aged 34 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 14th April 1934. The 1935 trade directory lists Arthur William Whiteman as the publican at The Exchange Hotel.
The electoral registers of 1935 and 1938 show that Florence Louisa Gore was living in the Exchange at the same time as Edward Adderley St George Smyth. We note that Edward’s wife, May E Smyth, died in Bristol area in June qtr 1934, the same time that their daughter, Ann, was born, so we suspect that May died giving birth to Ann. The death record shows that May was aged 34 so born about 1900. Thus we suspect that May’s aunt, Florence Louisa Gore (who had just lost her husband) moved to Thornbury to look after May’s two young children and to help run the pub. This is confirmed in Edward’s obituary printed in the Western Daily Press which calls Florence Edwards’s sister in law.
Florence Louisa Ockwell was the widow of Fred Elijah Gore whom she married in the Swindon area in 1909. They had a daughter, Florence Kathleen Gore born in the Swindon area in 1910. The 1901 census shows Fred was the son of a blacksmith working at the GWR works in Swindon. The family were living in Swindon at the time of the 1911 census. Fred died in Swindon on 22nd April 1934 aged 49. His address at that time was 7 Wells Street, Swindon and Florence was made his executor in his will.
Edward died aged 76 on 25th December 1939 at Almondsbury Hospital. The probate record shows he had made Florence Louisa Gore a widow his executor. Edward was buried in Thornbury Cemetery and his headstone was erected by his grandchildren in 1992. Edward’s obituary referred to above mentions that he was a Freemason, a member of the Grantley Fryer Lodge of the R.A.O.B., a member of the Thornbury Branch of the British Legion and Tennis and Bridge clubs.
The Exchange continued to be run by Florence and she was joined by her daughter, then Florence Kathleen and her husband, Harry Langcaster (who had married in the Swindon area in 1931) who helped run the pub and bring up the children. When we were given the photo on the right we were told that it was ‘Mr Gore, the landlord of the Exchange’, however we think the photo was taken in the early 1950’s and we now believe it to be Harry Langcaster and this has since been confirmed.
The Gores and Langcasters continued to run the Exchange. All three of them were listed in the registers up to 1961, but not listed there (or anywhere else in Thornbury) in the 1965 register. We told that in the 1950’s Keith St George Smyth and Ann St George Smyth were also associated with the running of the pub and the electoral registers show that they were there, at the same time as Florence Louisa Gore and the Langcasters.
We have been told that Keith Smyth went to work as a senior nurse at Hortham Hospital and then later at Brentry Hospital. Ann also moved away and was married twice. She paid a quick visit to the neighbourhood in the 1990’s when she and her second husband, Roy Varndell stayed at Shepperdine. She died on 9th May 2009.
John Kenneth Richards – we understand he bought the property in 1973 from Courages and the pub was once again converted into a free house. In 1948 Kenneth married Margaret Casley in the Neath area in 1948. They had a daughter, Margaret L born the Taunton area in 1953. Their son, John Stuart Casley Richards was born in Bridgewater area in 1957. In 1982 Kenneth sold the pub to the Wolverhampton and Dudley Brewery and the pub was re-named The Knot of Rope.