The History of Thornbury Hamlets and its People

These pages are intended to be a permanent record of the history of the Hamlets, reflecting the changes to its landscape, buildings and people over the years.  There are many paper copies of old pictures and documents of historical interest, which lie forgotten in drawers and cupboards.  If you would like to see them preserved digitally, and shared with others, please contact the Editor at the Thornbury Tatler.

To this end, we have started to create a set of Photo Archives, to show what can be done.


The history of each of the Hamlets can be traced in the individual pages of this web site dedicated to each of them, including their Domesday Book and other record entries where they exist. Click below to see:

Thornbury          Woodacott         Lashbrook         South Wonford          Brendon

You can read about the history of the Church and the Chapel and the Village School at Thornbury.

Thornbury At War

Thornbury suffered the loss of two of its sons in the Great War of 1914-18 :  Walter William Jollow, who died on 27 February 1922, as a direct result of his treatment in a prisoner of war camp, and Sgt. Thomas Skinner,  who was killed in action on 4th September 1916. Read about the life and family of Thomas Jeffery Skinner.   Read about the construction of the War Memorial and those men who served and gave their lives or returned.   In 2018, Thornbury commemorated the centenary of the Armistice in 1918 – read about “Thornbury Remembers: 1918 -2018”.

The 1939 Register for Thornbury gives a fascinating snapshot of life on the brink of the Second World War.  Likewise, the faces of the Thornbury Home Guard show the men who were tasked with protecting the country on the “Home Front”.  Read the memories of an evacuee, who spent the war at Gidcott Cross.

Timber was extracted from the woodland of Thornbury during the Second World War, often by “lumberjills” who led a hard life.   Read about their lives in this article: Lumberjills in Thornbury

Recent History

To give an insight into the changes faced by rural communities everywhere in England in the decades after the Second War, you can read a fascinating article from New Society magazine, from 20 January 1972, entitled “Dying Village”which used Thornbury as a case study.  It would be fair to say that Thornbury is still very much alive and kicking, and reports of its demise are much exaggerated!

In 1974, Mill Leat in Thornbury became the home of the Devon Museum of Mechanical Music, which drew visitors from all over the country, as well as from abroad. Although the collection was dispersed around 1986, memories of its impact on the community (especially the younger ones!) live on.

Cider was an important local product in the past. here is an article about apple crushing at The Barton: Apple Crushing in Thornbury

Gravestones Project

A recent major initiative has been the Gravestones Project, which has recorded the inscriptions throughout the graveyards at the Church and Chapel, and the War Memorial. Many of these inscriptions were badly weathered, and at risk of being lost forever. Now, they are all photographed and transcribed for future generations, as well as for current researchers from elsewhere who have ancestors from the Hamlets.
Some interesting stories have also been unearthed by the Gravestones Project:

The story of Henry Luard, involving financial malpractice and a mysterious death in Thornbury.
On a sadder note, the story of the six Hearn children reminds us that a high rate of child mortality was once commonplace.
Read about the destruction caused to Thornbury (and much of the West Country) by the Great Storm of 1703.

The Elizabeth Johns Tomb Restoration

In 2018, in response to comments in the Quinquennial Report, a project was started to save the box tomb of Elizabeth Johns and her three children from the ravages of weather and being overgrown. Dated 1702, this is the oldest extant memorial in Thornbury churchyard, as well as being a Grade II listed monument in its own right, and thus of great historical significance.  Grants were obtained from ChurchCare and the Leche Trust, which together with a crowdfunding appeal in the local community, raised the £6000 needed for the work. The task was completed in late 2019, and the transformation can be seen below:

You can read the full report from the conservator, Torquil McNeilage, here:  Johns Tomb conservation report

Other Historical Records

We now have a copy of the Thornbury Parish Tithe Map and Apportionment document, which show the ownership of all land in the area in 1839, and the tithes that were assessed as being payable.

A legal document from 1412, called a Foot of Finegives much detail about the Hamlets and the surrounding area.

We are connected to the One Place Studies web site, for those with a special focus on the Hamlets.

See also the GENUKI information, for more background.

Please contact the Tatler Editor to request copies of any of this material, or to contribute to this growing archive of village life.


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