The NatWest Bank stands in a prominent position on The Plain, right in the very centre of Thornbury.  It has been a bank since 1858, before that it was The White Hart, an inn.  Click here to read about the history of The Bank

We don’t know when the White Hart was built or what it looked like.  In 1850’s it was already being described as ‘an ancient and once famous hostelry’.  In his book ‘Thornbury Pubs’, George Ford, the local pub historian, says the White Hart was previously called The Antelope.  We have found no documentary evidence tying the Antelope to the building on The Plain.  The 1696 Tithe Terrier refers to ‘the Customary Lands of Sarah Tayer widdow belonging to the Antilope House consisting of part of the close Welfield and Trotters have paid yeerely to the Viccar in Liew of meadow time out of mind Nine pence‘.  The Manorial Court records associated with the Tayer family make no mention of the family being associated with the Antelope by name.  However several documents associate the field called Wellfield with their property the Vine House (which was the old name for the property now known as 8 High Street).  It is possible therefore that the Antelope was not the old name of the White Hart but that the Antelope may instead have been another name for the Vine House.

The earliest reference we have found to the White Hart is in the accounts of the Lord of the Manor when repairs were undertaken there in 1738.  This confirms that the Lord of the Manor owned the White Hart as well as The Swan.  Earlier records listing the Manor Rent Roll in 1722 mention that the Lord of the Manor owned a place called the ‘Stafford Knot als Turrett House‘.  We believe that it is sounds like it might have been a pub, and if so it could have been the earlier name for the White Hart.  We have found no records yet where the White Hart and Stafford Knot or Turrett House are mentioned as co-existing.  The Manorial records for 1658 list ‘the Terrett House’ as part of William Stafford’s estate.  The tenant of the Stafford Knot was Thomas Lewis in 1722 when he was paying £6 per annum and Robert Whitfield in 1735 when he was paying £7 per annum.

Note there is an inscription of a ‘Stafford Knot’ on upper floor of the white building attached to the northern end of The Bank and the date of 1706 is inscribed below the Knot.  It is thought that this may have come from the original building which was the White Hart.

The Gloucester Records Office has a document dated 1755 listing the licensed premises in Thornbury.  This includes the Thornbury pub called the White Hart and shows the licensee was Daniel Fowler.  In the Gloucester Archives there are records (ref D108/D5) for the period 1786 to 1799 which relate to payments made by James Vaughan on behalf of the Lord of the Manor, Henry Howard, for the repair and maintenance of property which included the Swan and the White Hart.

The earliest innkeeper we have found in more recent times is John Olive:

John Olive – John is mentioned as running the White Hart in Thornbury in the trial following the Poaching Affray in 1816.  We should stress that John was not himself involved with the poaching.  His son, Robert, was called as a character witness at the trial and he said that he had seen all the men being charged ‘in his father’s house, the White Hart’.

John was born about 1764 based on his given age at death.  We know from the monumental inscription that John became an innkeeper and was married to Elizabeth.  John married Elizabeth Hathway in Tytherington on 3rd April 1792.  They had several children.  Sarah Hathway Olive was born on 9th May 1803 and baptised on 10th July 1803.  John and Elizabeth’s other children were Jeremiah Olive born on 29th June 1805 and baptised on 28th July 1805.  William Olive born on 10th March 1808 and baptised on 20th April 1808, Ann Olive born on 28th May 1810 and baptised on 24th June 1810 and Hester Olive born on 28th July 1812 and baptised on 2nd September 1812.

John was described as a victualler when his son William was baptised and a farmer when daughters, Ann and Hester were baptised.  The monumental inscription shows that their son, William died aged 12 on 26th October 1818.  Shortly after, on 9th December 1818, John’s wife, Elizabeth, died aged 43.  John died on 18th April 1846 aged 82.  It seems that John had moved from Thornbury to be an innkeeper in Tortworth in 1818 when his son Robert married.  The Scribes Alcove record shows John died in Sodbury, but he was buried in Thornbury.  Click here to read  about Robert Olive

William Woolridge – there is an indenture in Gloucester Records Office dated 24th September 1823.  It shows William was the innkeeper at the White Hart at Thornbury and that he owned the property at the time.  The property was then described as the ‘White Hart with the outhouses stables gardens paddock of ground and summer house’.

 Together with Ann Scriven of Almondsbury, William had previously arranged a mortgage for £182 11s 9d with John Wigan of Bristol and had run into some difficulty.  The indenture showed that they were now putting up for security the White Hart and two other cottages which William owned in Almondsbury.  The document mentions that William was married to Hester Webb.  We don’t know any more about William, but note that there is a burial of William Woolridge in Almondsbury on 26th June 1843 who was aged 66.

Charles Jones – Charles was born in Littleton on 26th January 1794.  He married Elizabeth Rymer on 24th March 1817 at Olveston.  They had several children: William Rymer baptised on 1st January 1819, Ann baptised on 4th June 1820, Elizabeth baptised on 9th January 1822, Susannah baptised on 14th January 1824, Robert baptised on 6th March 1825, Charles baptised on 17th January 1827, Sarah baptised on 21st September 1828, Henry baptised on 13th September 1829, Edward baptised on 12th March 1834, and Thomas Rymer baptised on 20th December 1837.

In the earlier baptism records up to 1824 Charles is shown as a baker, thereafter he seems to have been both an innkeeper and a baker.  We are not sure but assume that he would have been running the White Hart from 1824.  He is listed in the 1830 Pigots directory as being at The White Hart Inn.  In 1835 Charles was in trouble for having three defective weights in his bar on two occasions in 1835 and he was fined the sum of 8s and 6d costs for each of the occasions and his measures were forfeited.

The 1840 Tithe Survey shows that Charles owned and occupied Plots 44 and 45 described as the White Hart Inn and premises.  The 1841 census shows Charles Jones at the White Hart.  He was the innholder aged 45 living with Elizabeth aged 4 (we think this is a mistake and that it refers to his wife, Elizabeth), William a baker aged 23, Ann aged 20, Elizabeth aged 19, Susanna aged 18, Robert aged 14, Charles aged 15, Henry aged 12, Edward aged 8 and Thomas aged 4 and two servants.

On 8th October 1841 the Bristol Mercury had the following report under the heading ‘Shocking Accident’.  ‘On Saturday night last, as Mr Richard Jones and Mr William Plaister were returning home from Wotton Under Edge fair, in their gig, accompanied by Mr Knowles and Mr Lane, of the same place, in another gig, when about half a mile from the latter place the one party attempted to pass the other; in doing so, it is supposed the step of one gig caught the wheel of the other, and upset it, throwing out Mr Jones and Mr Plaister; the former, pitching upon his head, fractured his skull in so dreadful a manner that he died instantly; Mr Plaister was hurt, but not seriously.  The body was immediately conveyed back to the White Lion at Wotton Under Edge and an inquest was held on Monday, but we have not heard the verdict.  Mr Jones was the son of Mr Charles Jones of the White Hart Inn, Thornbury and was much respected; he had very recently commenced business at Wickwar, as a maltster and baker.  He was about 23 years of age and unmarried‘.  We can find no reference to Richard in the baptism records or the 1841 census.  It is possible that the newspaper made a mistake with the names, although we note that the FreeBMD website include the death of a Richard Jones in the September quarter 1841, it also has the death of a William Jones with the same reference in the same quarter.

The Bristol Mercury gives us some examples of the way the inn was used at this time.  We know that in September of 1842 Charles Jones was the innkeeper when there was an auction of oil paintings and furniture and in December of 1843 when Miss Reid the dancing teacher from Bristol gave a Christmas Ball for her students.  Naturally one had to buy a ticket to attend.  In short the White Hart seemed part of the social life of respectable people in the town.

The 1849 Hunts Directory shows Charles was still being listed as the occupant of The White Hart.  We know that Charles Jones was still in Thornbury in 1850 because Aaron Gough was charged with “feloniously stealing at Thornbury on 15th April 1850 three casks which were the property of Charles Jones.”  By 1851 Charles had moved to live at Broad Weir in Bristol where he was a baker aged 57 born in Littleton living with his wife, Elizabeth aged 52 born in Oldbury and their children: Ann aged 27, Henry a journeyman baker aged 21, Edward aged 17 and Thomas aged 13.

George and Mary Ann Gunter – the 1851 census shows the White Hart was occupied by Mary A Gunter, an unmarried innkeeper aged 32 born in Latteridge with her brother George Gunter, also an innkeeper aged 24 born in Alveston and two servants.  George and Mary Ann were the children of William and Hester Gunter of The Street, Alveston.  William had a farm there of 150 acres.

The trade directory of 1849 shows that George Gunter was in the Beaufort Arms in that year.  It seems likely that George and Mary Ann moved from the Beaufort into the White Hart some time after April 1850.  This is contradicted by a Slater’s Trade directory of 1852 which shows the Gunters at the Beaufort and Charles Jones at the White Hart but we suspect the information is just out of date as we know from the 1851 census that Charles Jones had already moved to Bristol.  We also know from a court case reported in the Bristol Mercury on 30th November 1850 that George and his sister, Mary Ann were at the White Hart when there was an incident at the pub which led to the death of Anthony Craddock.  Gunter’s brother, Mark Gunter, was a witness at the trial of John Peglar, a baker from Thornbury.

On 27th August 1853 a notice was printed in the Bristol Mercury which indicates that George wanted to give up the pub.  Under the heading ‘Innkeepers and Bakers’ it said ‘To be let with possession the 29th September, the old established and well-accustomed inn called the White Hart situated in the centre of the Town of Thornbury with extensive stabling, excellent garden and bakehouse attached.  Apply to Mr George Gunter on the Premises’.

We know that Mary Ann, the daughter of William Gunter of Alveston married George Godwin, the veterinary surgeon on 5th April 1854.

We are not sure when George Gunter left the White Hart, but we believe he may have gone to Bristol.  The ‘Bristol Lost Pubs’ website reports that in 1856 there was a George Gunter in the White Horse on the corner of Horsefair and Barr’s Street, site of the present Debenhams.  We cannot be sure that this is the same George Gunter but the name is unusual and it seems a co-incidence that Richard Cowle a publican from the Royal George in Thornbury took over the White Horse pub in 1858.

An advertisement in the Bristol Mercury of 5th December 1857 may also provide a clue, although its actual wording is slightly confusing.  It says: “Notice – all persons having any claim against Mr George Gunter late of the White Hart Inn, Barr’s Street are requested to send him there all particulars on or before Monday December 4th.”

The problem is that there was not a White Hart in Barr’s Street at that time but there was a White Horse which we know from the source referred to above was where George Gunter was in 1856.  It is possible that the notice might be suggesting that George Gunter was prepared to pay monies outstanding from his business in the White Hart (in Thornbury) but his address was the White Horse in Barr’s Street.

The 1861 census shows George Gunter was back on his father’s farm in The Street, Alveston.  He died aged 40 and was buried in Alveston on 24th January 1865.

John Powell – the 1856 Post Office Directory shows John Powell occupied the White Hart.  John’s last will and testament which he wrote on 19th September 1855 shows that he had moved from Wotton Under Edge and was at the time the innkeeper of the White Hart.  The 1851 census shows John had moved to Thornbury to become a porter at the Thornbury Union.  He was noted to be a Chelsea Pensioner aged 57 and Ann was aged 60.  They were living in the Porter’s Lodge.  We have an advert for a porter at The Union printed in the Bristol Mercury on 22nd February 1845.  It wanted an ‘able-bodied man who can read and write.  He would be required to reside at the Entrance Lodge and to perform such duties as the Commissioners and Guardians directed’.  Salary was £26 per annum.  Interestingly it says that ‘A married man, without family, will not be considered ineligible’.  We are not sure what this means.  Does its imply that a single person or a married man without family would be preferable or that a married man with family would be ineligible?

The documents attached to John’s last will and testament indicate that he died 1st September 1857.

The Bristol Mercury of 27th February 1858 reported under the heading ‘Thornbury’:  ‘That ancient and once famous hostelry, the White Hart, in this town, and some adjoining premises are now being pulled down, to give place to a handsome bank with manager’s residence etc about to be erected by Messrs Harwood, Hatcher and Co.  The extended business of the firm requiring a more commodious building than the present bank, the new edifice is to be erected as speedily as possible.  The following, after strong competition, have been selected as the contractors for the work, viz: Mr George Hopkins of Alveston, for carpenter’s work, Messrs T & R Ann of Thornbury mason’s ditto, Mr Charles White of Thornbury, plumbing, glazing gas-fitting etc and Mr Mark Ann of Alveston plastering and painting‘.

There is a fine two storey summerhouse with Gothic casement windows still in the garden of the NatWest Bank which we are told was built in mid/late 18th century.  It has two plank doors with pointed arch heads, upper one reached by flight of stone steps.  This feature would have been part of buildings of the White Hart.

Click here to read about the history of The Bank