The Tuppers of The Mayor’s Parlour (16 High Street)
This profile of the Tupper family was written about 1965 by Mary Neathey and printed in the Outlook Magazine produced by the Thornbury and District Community Association.
In the two previous Profiles printed in “Outlook”, I have tried to draw brief sketches of one of the older generations of Thornburians and one of the generation that links the small market town with the modern dormitory that Thornbury is rapidly becoming. In this issue we are glad to say hail and, alas, farewell to a well-known contemporary figure.
If Fred Pearce personifies the strong backbone of our community, then John Tupper represents the adrenalin that a handful of newcomers have given to the body of Thornbury. Both are necessary if the growth of that body is to be healthy and coordinated.
The monogramme of the “Mayor’s Parlour” has been familiar to us for the last five years since the Tuppers opened their coffee shop in 1959, but this was not their first enterprise here. When John Tupper bent his back transplanting wallflowers at Fairfield Gardens, one cold October morning in 1956, it was the beginning of his brief career as a market gardener – a career that ended involuntarily when he had to spend some time in Southmead Hospital and was incapacitated for heavy manual work. By this time his wife, Suzanne, and small son had joined him in Thornbury and the family re-formed in a flat at Kyneton House and the problem of the Tuppers’ bread and butter was solved when John became the representative for Timber Treatments.
In the autumn of 1958 the premises of the firm of Yarnold, who had been jewellers in Thornbury since 1881, came on the market and John and Suzanne Tupper bought it to create the shop that they, and other people, considered would be a financial success as well as a social asset to Thornbury.
The “Mayor’s Parlour” was at first, solely a cafe, serving luncheons and teas as well as coffee, and the Tuppers employed two part-time cooks, one of whom remained with them until the shop closed three months ago.
For the first six months of its existence, Suzanne ran the cafe by herself while John continued to work for Timber Treatments, but unfortunately, the ill-health that has dogged the family since coming to Thornbury forced Suzanne to give up, and John to take over the management.
The development of the shop is one reflection of John Tupper’s initiative: from the interest shown in the home-made cakes served in the cafe, he began selling them in the front room of the shop, along with the hand-made chocolate figures which he himself created. From this it was a logical, but bold, step to introduce a wider range of delicatessen, which were not, and are not, sold anywhere else in Thornbury. In the autumn of 1962 he re-planned the premises moving the coffee bar to the first floor and introducing a gift room behind the cake shop. It was at this time, also, that he housed the first of three successful exhibitions which have shown the work of local artists.
The suggestion for the name “Mayor’s Parlour” came from Sir Algar Howard, who was the previous owner of Thornbury Castle and an antiquarian. It was discovered from records of Thornbury that one of the last duties performed by the mayor before the title became defunct, was to serve coffee in his parlour to his fellow councillors and the incumbent of the parish on Christmas morning. As Sir Algar pointed out the Tuppers’ shop was in the proximity of that mayor’s parlour, and with this coincidence in mind John Tupper decided to adopt the suggestion and also to carry on this duty of the mayor as far as he was able.
A second, and perhaps less well-known contribution that John Tupper has made to the community, is his work for the Thornbury Chamber of Trade. With the publication of the proposed Town Plan, the shopkeepers revived a moribund Traders’ Association to safeguard their interests, and John Tupper was asked to become the Chairman. On his instigation the name was changed to the Chamber of Trade, as is common practise in many parts of the country, and through this organisation the voice of the small trader has been heard.
The Film Society remembers John Tupper as a staunch supporter, and, as an Old Harrovian, he was the first to speak to the private discussion group, which meets at “The Swan” at Tytherington on the advantages and disadvantages of public school life.
The present home of this courteous man and his united family is a sturdy 17th century cottage in which there are nautical touches to perpetuate John and Suzanne’s happy memories of their service with the Fleet Air Arm. They are leaving shortly to open “The Sapling” a gift shop in Blandford Forum, so we wish Thornbury’s latest “Mayor” good health, happy memories and success in the future.