This page is about The Mermaid, an old inn discovered to be on the site of The Knot of Rope, 59 High Street. Click here to read about the rest of the history of that property.
There was an old pub in Thornbury known as the Mermaid mentioned in an old document dated 1687 found in Gloucester Records Office (GRO D9400/4/3/2). This referred to a Court of Session held at the Mermaid in Thornbury to determine who amongst the local landowners was responsible for repairing and maintaining the sea walls, grouts, and waterways adjoining the river Severn. We didn’t know where the Mermaid was in Thornbury.
In late Summer 2011, a copy of indenture was sent to Meg Wise of Thornbury Museum by a contact in Canada. The indenture was John Wetmore’s settlement on his marriage to Sarah Adams and was dated 18th November 1743. The content referred to a property
‘heretofore being two messuages and sometime since used as an inn and known by the sign of the Meremaid situate in the Borough of Thornbury in the street there called the High Street formerly in the tenure of James Horsley and afterwards of Cicily Horsley relict of the said James and since that of Anthony Powell deceased and lately of Thomas Wetmore deceased father of the said John Wetmore and was by him the said Thomas Wetmore deceased some time since bought and purchased to him and his heirs from Stephen Jenner late of Cambridge within the Parish of Slimbridge Clerk deceased and Mary Jenner widow mother of the said Stephen Jenner‘.
As can be seen in the above image of the rear of the document someone had written at a later date ‘the Exchange formerly the Mermaid‘. Click on the photo to see a larger image. This gave us our first clue as to the pub’s location suggesting that it was the pub now known as The Knot of Rope.
Since then we have traced other documents which confirm its location in the buildings used by the Knot of Rope. These include several references in the deeds of the adjoining property on the north (57 High Street). These refer to the neighbouring property on the south as being an inn or formerly an inn owned by the Wetmores. A declaration made in 1869 by Stephen Hignell (who ran a shop a little further down the High Street) says that he was ‘well acquainted with Thomas Wetmore who was a maltster living where Mr Michael the spirit merchant now lives in Thornbury, that he married a Miss Osborne of Marshfield and was probably married at Marshfield Church. He had only one child, Thomas Osborne Wetmore’. There is no doubt at all that James Michael, the spirit merchant operated from the building at 59 High Street. These references led us to assume that the Mermaid was located in the two buildings on the right of the gabled building. However, deeds relating to the adjoining property (number 57 High Street) indicate that the property to the SOUTH of number 57 was formerly the inn and owned by various generations of the Wetmore family. This suggests that it was the gabled building which was possibly the Mermaid.
There is one possible solution which fits all the known facts – that the Mermaid was located in the gabled building and the adjoining building (the one in the middle of the three currently used by The Knot of Rope – but this is pure speculation and we hope to find further sources to help pinpoint its exact location.
Thus we know of the following people associated with the Mermaid:
James and Cecily Horsley – we only know that the IGI shows a record of James Horsley marrying ‘Sisselee’ Holbrook in Thornbury on 9th August 1636. We assume that this must give us a rough idea of when they ran the Mermaid. A family tree on the Ancestry website shows that James was the son of John Horsley and that he was born in 1614 and died in Thornbury in 1668 aged 54. It also suggests he and Sislee had at least two sons John in 1636 and George in 1645. We know from James’s will dated dated 16th September 1667 that he was a surgeon. James ensured that Cecily should have the use of his property (including his woodpile particularly referred to) during her lifetime or widowhood. After her death James left the property in which he was then dwelling to his son, George Horsley. We assume that this was the Mermaid and the will shows that he had bought it from Thomas Lewis the younger (the son of Thomas Lewis). We don’t know much about George Horsley except he died in 1678 leaving his goods to an unnamed daughter who was under the age of 21 when the will was written in 1675. There was no mention of his wife nor any property in the will.
James Horsley left to two properties to his son, Anthony: a messuage or tenement and lands situated in the Burrough of Thornbury and which he had bought from ‘Thomas Smith (late Thomas Legge)’ and the lease of a messuage or tenement with orchard, and garden situated in the Borough which he had bought from William Stafford Esq and his son, John Stafford Esq and other Feoffees ‘known and called by the name of ‘Crockers’. Click here to read more about Anthony
The will also suggests that James and Cecily had a third son, James, who was left £10 in James’s will.
The 1670 Rent Roll shows that ‘Cisley’ Horsley, is listed as having a dwelling house on this part of the High Street so it seems to confirm that James and Cecily had owned the Mermaid. Cecily died intestate in 1690.
Anthony Powell – the indenture dated 18th November 1743 (referred to at the top of this page) mentions that Anthony Powell had formerly been a tenant of the Mermaid. The IGI shows a record of Anthony Powell marrying Alice Lang in Thornbury on 19th June 1682. This may give us a clue of the period that they were likely to be associated with Mermaid. Anthony was shown in the account books of the Overseers of the Poor as being the licensee of the Tavern from 1683 to 1685.
We also have an indenture of 16th December 1702 that appears to relate to what became 4 Chapel Street. This property was first occupied by Mary Powell but when it was mentioned in Anthony’s will in 1717 it was said to have since been made into a malt house.
We know from Poor Law Accounts for 1717 that Anthony Powell was also liable to pay 1s 10 1/2d for the Parsonage (the house opposite the church and now known as Glebe Cottage). The Parsonage at this point was described as very decayed and in poor condition. We believe that Anthony Powell and his family probably did not live there but farmed the land attached to it. It would appear that Powell became tenant about 1686 as a Letter of Attorney from the then vicar Guy Lawrence to Dr Hammond who represented the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church College who owned the property specifically referred to him. This letter was dated 4th June 1686 and it said that Guy Lawrence had received the necessary authority to collect the tithes from Thornbury together with the bond for Anthony Powell’s performance of the trust reposed in him by the College. This was necessary because the tenancy of the Parsonage included not only the property and some land but also the right (and duty) to collect certain tithes. The necessity for a bond seems to imply that Anthony Powell was just taking over this tenancy. The initial correspondence from Anthony Powell to the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church appears very efficient with a full statement of accounts. However the next tenant of the Parsonage John Morse wrote in 1728 to complain that as the late Anthony Powell and his family kept public houses they had been very remiss about collecting tithes for fear of upsetting their customers!
We suspect that Anthony is the same person referred to on a grave in St Mary’s church. This shows that Anthony’s daughter Sarah died May 1683, another daughter, Alice died 19 September 1690 and his wife, Alice, died 12th September 1714. There is a will of Anthony Powell of Kington dated 1720. This shows that he was leaving his property in Falfield and Thornbury to his sons, Nicholas and Richard Powell. In the details of the will it mentions that Anthony’s daughter Catherine had married Joseph Viner and they had a daughter, Sarah Viner, and other Powells listed as living (or having lived) in the properties were Thomas, Christopher and Mary deceased.
Andrew Whitfield – the Overseers’ Accounts of 1706 to 1710 listed Andrew Whitfield paying rates 4d each month for The Mermaid. We assume that this was the same person who was connected with the Widows Mantle in 1683 and the Tavern in 1698. Andrew died and was buried on 16th October 1711. Andrew died intestate but his administration shows his widow’s name was Mary and she was buried on 22nd July 1724. Andrew and Mary had at least one son. Andrew Whitfield was baptised on 1st August 1688.
We admit to being confused by the number of Andrew Whitfields in Thornbury around this time, all of whom has associations with the licensed trade. Records show Andrew Whitfield at the Widows Mantle in 1683, at the Tavern in 1698 and at the Swan from 1687 to 1726.
We don’t know how, or when, the property came to be in the hands of Stephen Jenner.
Stephen Jenner – the 1743 marriage settlement refers to the fact that the property had been bought by Thomas Wetmore (see below) from Stephen Jenner the Clerk of Cambridge within the parish of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire and his mother, Mary Jenner. We assume by his mother’s involvement in the transaction that the property may have been owned by both Stephen’s parents. We have seen nothing to suggest that Stephen ever occupied the inn, only that he sold it to Thomas Wetmore at some stage.
Thomas Wetmore – the 1743 marriage settlement referred to above says that Thomas purchased the inn from his father-in-law, Stephen Jenner (see above). It is possible that Thomas acquired the property at the time of his marriage to Ann Jenner which is likely to have been around 1705 (based on the age of his first child). The overseers accounts books shows Thomas was paying the poor rate for the Mermaid from 1711 onwards.
The transcription of old memorial inscriptions at St Mary’s Church shows that Thomas died on 25th October 1730 aged 41. We are not sure that the age written is correct as this would make him about 11 years younger than his wife and, at the age of 16, a very young man to have married and acquired property by 1705. Click here to read more
We know from the 1743 marriage settlement that Thomas Wetmore had run the inn before his death. Thus on the 5th May 1739 when an indenture was written about the property next door between Roger Jacob of Wortley and William Grove of Thornbury the occupant of the Inn was Sarah Wetmore. Sarah died on 16th November 1768 aged 90. The burial record shown on Scribes Alcove website shows her as Sarah Wetmore (Jenner).
John Wetmore – born about 1716, the son of Thomas and Sarah Wetmore. On 24th November 1743 John married Sarah Adams at St Mary’s Church, Thornbury. Sarah was the daughter of Samuel Adams, a yeoman of Olveston. A few days prior to the marriage, on 18th November 1743, a settlement was reached that following John Wetmore’s death if Sarah is still alive then she would have the property for the rest of her natural life, then it would go to the heirs of her body by John Wetmore and if there were none then the property would revert to John Wetmore’s heirs or assigns.
John was a maltster. The marriage settlement shows that John was living in the property at the time having presumably inherited from his father following his death. It seems to have finished being used as an inn by 1743 as it is described as a ‘messuage formerly used as an inn‘. John died aged 39 on 12th June 1755. An indenture dated 1813 relating to the property next door refers to the property had been occupied by Sarah Wetmore widow and then Thomas Wetmore her son. Click here to read more
Thomas Wetmore – born about 1747, the son of John and Ann Wetmore. Thomas took over the property from his mother. He is described in the probate record following his death as being ‘Thomas Wetmore the elder maltster late of the Parish of Thornbury but late of Thornbury gentleman’. This suggests that at some stage Thomas had lived outside of the Town before moving back into the town and that he worked as a maltster.
Thomas had married Mary Osborne, the only child of Thomas Osborne, a maltster of Marshfield. Thomas Wetmore was living in the property at the time of his death on 27th January 1809. Click here to read more
Thomas Osborne Wetmore – Thomas was born about 1784. He took over the property from his mother. We don’t know what Thomas did for a living. He certainly acquired a lot of property in and around Thornbury. It appears from the various deeds that Thomas sold this property to Thomas Morgan in the late 1820’s. There was an agreement to sell it for £600 on 28th December 1826, but on 16th March 1827 there is another indenture for a lease for one year. We suspect that this indenture set off the actual sale. The 1828 land tax record shows Thomas Morgan as the owner.
In the indenture the property is described as ‘All that messuage wherein the said Thomas Wetmore for many years before and at the time of his death inhabited and the Thomas Osborne Wetmore and Mary Wetmore afterwards dwelt and James Ford lately dwelt but now void‘. It included the stables at the rear of the property fronting St Mary Street. Click here to read more