The town of Thornbury was largely built on the famous “Thornbury Rock” (a dolomitic conglomerate). It was built on a natural ridge so there are comparatively few natural water sources, except the four streams that originally formed the bounds of the borough of Thornbury.
Coppins Well. Probably the most important natural source near the town centre is one which many Thornburians will have seen without realising what it is and how important it was. Coppins Well is what appears to be a small pond at the bottom of a field just behind the High St. It is actually a natural spring. It can be seen on the map on the above which is taken from the 1902 map of Thornbury. There is still a right of way from The Plain in Thornbury along Latteridge Lane next to the NatWest Bank and across the field to the pool. Coppins Well was an important source of water for the town up to the twentieth century. The name of Coppins Well comes from the family of Richard Coppins of Oldbury on Severn in the early seventeenth century (source “The Place – names of Gloucestershire “by A H Smith).
The Gazette of 16th June 1923 reports on complaints that had been made about the quality of water from this well which was still being used. T he Parish Council discussed this matter at a Council meeting. Mr Davis reported to the Council that from his observations the problem appeared to be caused by a ditch that was near to the well. He suggested the ditch be cleaned. Mr Cullimore said the inspector should be allowed to clean the ditch and then the water would be usable again. This motion was accepted.
In 1926 the Gazette was still reporting problems with Coppins Well. On the 4th of September it was reported that cattle had been using the water and were fouling it. Three members of the Council were instructed “to look into it” to see whether it was a a public well as it was being used by the public for drinking water. By October the Council was able to confirm that it had been a public drinking well “from time immemorial.” It was not reported whether any action had been taken to stop cattle from fouling the water.
Poulterbrook. One of the streams that made up the boundary of the old Borough of Thornbury was known by a variety of names such as Polterbrook or Poultrybook. This stream is virtually unchanged from that shown on early maps of the town like the 1841 Tithe Map. It comes out from a spring near the bottom of Thornbury Hill near the Lodge. It formed pools on either side of the road near the Lodge, which have disappeared in recent years. It then makes its way through the fields along a watercourse which seems to follow a straight man made channel before taking a more natural looking course through the Mundy playing fields and down to Coppins Well.
The map of 1881 (above) shows that there was an area, a little way down from the lodge, that is described as a watering place, which appears to be part of the brook. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger image. Presumably a “watering place” on a farm was for animals.
Streamside. Another source of water which formed one of the boundaries of the old Borough was the stream that ran down from Alveston to the Bathings and along the route of what is now Streamside Walk. We have yet to find on any map a name given to this stream. It has been partly culverted but is believed to have run across what is now the Gillingstool Road. It has not been possible to get any supporting evidence at this stage but the stream may have given rise to the name of Gillingstool. The description of the route for the census taker in 1841 refers to “Duckingstool, commonly called Gillingstool” and it was assumed that people were ducked there as a punishment. However this may have been a rather speculative explanation for the name “Gillingstool”. ‘The Place names of Gloucestershire’ by A N Smith says that the name Ellyngstole was used in 1533 and that it may be from a personal name Gilmin or Guillemin. We have heard no evidence that the stream was used for drinking water but it may have been used for washing wagons in the nineteenth century.
Because this stream is one of the original boundaries of the old Borough of Thornbury when it was created in 1252, there is now a boundary stone in the area to commemorate this.