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Thornbury, South Gloucestershire
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Thornbury, South Gloucestershire

Thornbury is a market town in South Gloucestershire, England, approximately 12 miles (19 km) north of the city of Bristol, with a population of 12,342 at the 2001 UK census. The town hosts South Gloucestershire Council headquarters and is twinned with Bockenem in Germany. Thornbury is a Britain in Bloom award-winning town and has its own competition, Thornbury in Bloom. Its suburbs include the Morton and Thornbury Park districts.



There is evidence of human activity in the Thornbury area in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, but Roman presence is limited to the Thornbury hoard, of 11,460 Roman coins dating from 260 to 348 AD, which were found in 2004 while a resident was digging out for a fishpond.[1] The earliest documented evidence of a village at "Thornbyrig" comes at the end of the ninth century.[2] The Domesday Book noted a manor of "Turneberie" belonging to the Conqueror's consort, Matilda of Flanders, with 103 residents.

St. Mary's church, begun in the twelfth century with later additions, is the oldest surviving building in the town. The town charter was granted in 1252 by Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Lord of the Manor of Thornbury.[3] The charter's 750th anniversary in 2002 was celebrated with a "750" flower bed planted on Grovesend Road. The town grew around the site of its cattle market. In 1974 a town council was elected. Thornbury used to be a borough but became a parish in 1984.

Thornbury Township, Pennsylvania, USA was established in 1687 and named by George Pearce after Thornbury, Gloucestershire. the native town of his wife Ann.[4]

In 1765 a Dr Fewster (possibly John Fewster) of Thornbury presented a paper to the Medical Society of London entitled "Cow pox and its ability to prevent smallpox".[5]

Thornbury was once served by a railway line; it was the terminus of a branch line of the Midland Railway (later part of the LMS), from Yate on the Bristol to Gloucester main line, with intermediate stations at Iron Acton and Tytherington. The branch lost its passenger services in June 1944 but lived on as a freight route, and also to serve quarries at Tytherington. The Thornbury railway station and line have been redeveloped into a supermarket, a housing estate, a bypass road and a long footpath. More remains of the line can be found at Tytherington quarry to the east of the town. There are plans to reopen the line to Yate via Tytherington and Iron Acton, and possibly run services to Gloucester and Bristol.

Thornbury had a market, held on the High Street and in the Market Hall. It moved to Rock Street in 1911 but closed down in the late 1990s and was partly replaced with a smaller market in a car park near the United Reformed Church. The older site has been redeveloped as a new community centre, called "Turnberrie's", while the Market Hall is now a clothes shop.

Thornbury's coat of arms combines the arms of four families important in the town's history: Attwells, Howard', Clare and Stafford. John Attwells left 500 in his will for the establishment of the Free School which merged with the grammar school in 1879. The Attwells coat of arms was later adopted as the badge for the grammar school, now Marlwood School. The other three families held the manor at Thornbury over several centuries. It has the motto Decus Sabrinae Vallis (Latin for "Jewel of the Severn Vale").[6]


Thornbury High Street. On the left is the old market hall (now a clothes shop), the White Lion pub and a Tudor style house.
Thornbury High Street. On the left is the old market hall (now a clothes shop), the White Lion pub and a Tudor style house.

Thornbury features a high street, a shopping centre (St Mary's Centre), two supermarkets and many smaller shops. The town has seven churches: St Mary's Church, Christ the King[7] Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, St Paul's Church, The Hackett, and Thornbury Baptist Church. On the outskirts of Thornbury, at Lower Morton, is an independent reformed evangelical church, Morton Baptist Church[8].

The town has a large number of public houses. The White Lion, Thornbury, is a public house on the High Street. In 2003 it won the Thornbury in Bloom award, and in 1999 the Britain in Bloom award for Best Pub Display.

The shop front of the Wildings (formerly Worthingtons) clothing shop was used in the Two Ronnies serial sketch, "The Worm That Turned." In urban legend it is proposed that Ronnie Barker got the idea for Open All Hours when he visited the local Riddifords grocer's - however, Open All Hours ran from 1976, following a pilot in 1973, long before the filming and broadcast of "The Worm That Turned" in 1980. The nearby nuclear power station at Oldbury-on-Severn, Tytherington quarry and Stokefield Close were used as locations for the 1976 four-part Doctor Who serial The Hand of Fear. The Castle School, Thornbury was used to film an episode of Casualty (TV series) in 2009 which was broadcast on the 2nd May 2009.

Musical and drama groups

There are a number of musical and drama groups performing in Thornbury. The largest venue is the Armstrong Hall near the town centre capable of seating 350 and adjacent to this is the Cossham Hall with a seating for 140. Performances also take place in church halls and occasionally in the leisure centre. Some of the local amateur groups are listed below.

Thornbury Musical Theatre Group (TMTG) perform shows at the Armstrong Hall. They normally perform a main musical in October, a Pantomime in the February school half term and a concert style production in June. Rehearsals take place in Tytherington village hall. TMTG Web Page

Thornbury Amateur Dramatic Society (TADS) perform several plays each year, often in the Armstrong Hall or the adjacent Cossham Hall. TADS Web Page

North Avon Youth Theatre (NYTC) are a youth group who perform an annual show at the Armstrong Hall in Thornbury in April.[9]


An industrial estate is located to the south of the town. One of the biggest industries there is Essilor, who manufacture lenses for glasses. The construction of the Midland Way road has provided a boost for industry by allowing traffic to avoid the steep and narrow B4061 road.

Major roads and streets

  • The B4061 loops off the A38 at Alveston, passes through the centre of the town, and rejoins the A38 at Whitfield, thus forming the main routes into the town from the north and south.
  • Gillingstool and Grovesend Road form an easterly link from the centre to the A38.
  • The High Street is on the very edge of the town to the west.
  • The Plain is at the north end of the High Street, notable for the pump in the middle of the road.
  • Castle Street heads north from The Plain to Thornbury Castle and St Mary's Church; it passes several older buildings including 'the Chantry' which is now used by the community association (TDCA).[10]
  • Midland Way and Morton Way are modern additions forming a roughly semi-circular eastern boundary to the town, and allow HGVs headed for the industrial estate to avoid the centre.

Tourist attractions

The west front of Thornbury Castle
The west front of Thornbury Castle
St. Mary's Church
St. Mary's Church
Thornbury town pump (no longer functional)
Thornbury town pump (no longer functional)

Thornbury castle

One of Thornbury's most notable features is its castle, a Tudor structure begun in 1511 as a home for Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham. The two intricate redbrick chimneys were built in 1514, and are similar to those found at Hampton Court Palace. Cardinal Wolsey beheaded the Duke for treason in 1521. Following the Duke's demise the castle was confiscated by King Henry VIII who stayed at the castle for ten days in 1535 with Anne Boleyn.

Following the English Civil War Thornbury castle fell into disrepair but was renovated in 1824 by the Howard Family. The castle is now a 27 room luxury hotel and restaurant.

Parish church

The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is Thornbury's parish church. Building started in 1340, with major additions in 1500, 1848 and 1988. The church is used for worship, baptism, confirmation, marriages, funerals and remembrance services.

Town pump

The town pump is on a small island at the bottom of the High Street. It has a sign saying "To Gloucester" with a pointing hand. The original water pump was removed in 1924 after its declaration as a road hazard by the council. In 1984 a new one was built. In 2002 it was temporarily painted gold to celebrate the Golden Jubilee. The pump is usually decorated with flowers, and there are often "Birthday Greetings" notices placed on the pump.

Walks and scenery

Streamside Walk

A footpath called Streamside Walk starts at Gillingstool Primary School, passes over several roads and bridges, past Thornbury Hospital and Manorbrook Primary School and on to the north of Thornbury where the stream leaves the town. Another stream runs through the north east of Thornbury and merges at an old mill.

Old railway line

Although the station is no more, the old railway line is now a footpath. The footpath was constructed in the 1990s to support new housing and industrial developments, previously it was grassed over and neglected. Starting from the industrial estates it follows the route of the streets of Streamleaze and Avon Way ending near a roundabout at the top of Avon Way.

Heritage trail

Created by the Thornbury and District Heritage Trust as a Millennium project, the heritage trail is a walk encompassing the town's historic buildings. There are forty waymarkers indicating the route, which starts outside the town hall.

Sport and leisure

Mundy playing fields were donated to Thornbury by Mrs Violet Mundy in 1937. The fields feature a children's play area and sports ground. Nearby is Thornbury Golf Club, Thornbury Leisure Centre, Thornbury Lawn Tennis Club and a skate park. In south Thornbury there is a small children's play area. There are green spaces around the town. A Thornbury Community Garden was set up near Gillingstool School but has closed because of housing development. A replacement Community Garden is to be built next to the new Community Centre.

Thornbury RFC play in the South west 1 League, and despite being a Thornbury club, their ground is located in Rockhampton, on the outskirts of Thornbury.

Thornbury Town FC play in the Gloucestershire County League which is tier 11 in the English football (soccer) league. They won their first league title in the 2009-2010 season.

Other attractions

Attractions include Filnore Woods, Armstrong and Cossham Halls, and Thornbury Museum. A heritage trail offers information signs about places of interest, starting from the Town Hall (which used to be the police station and magistrates court in Thornbury). The MacLaine Memorial fountain is dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Hector Maclaine, who was a local man who helped protect the British in India from the Russians and Afghans in 1880. Thornbury has an antiquarian mathematics bookshop. The town is host to a community radio station, GLOSS FM which broadcasts 365 days a year on its webcasts and twice a year on 87.7 MHz FM.


The Castle School is Thornbury's secondary school. The former Thornbury Grammar School buildings on Gloucester Road are now its sixth form centre. (Thornbury Grammar School was relocated to new buildings in neighbouring Alveston in 1972 when it received its first comprehensive school intake and was renamed Marlwood School.)

Gillingstool Primary School dates back to 1862, and is known for its school bell. The school was rebuilt in a project that began in spring 2009. The Victorian era buildings are being retained and will continue in their present use as a Sure Start Children's Centre.[11]

Other schools include St Mary's Church of England Primary School (founded in 1839), Crossways Infant and Junior schools, Christ The King Roman Catholic Primary School, Manorbrook Primary School, New Siblands Special School, and The Sheiling School (an independent special school part of the Camphill Movement). John Attwells's Free School existed in the 19th century, a plaque about this school can be seen on a shop in St Mary's Shopping centre.


Gallery|The castle from the top of St Mary s Church tower Image:thornbury.twochimneys.arp.750pix.jpg|The castle roof. The two brick chimneys were built in 1514 Image:thornbury.chimney.detail.arp.750pix.jpg|Brick sculpturing on the two chimneys|The interior of St Mary s Church (the parish church) Image:thornbury.tower.detail.arp.750pix.jpg|Intricate stonework at the top of St Mary s church tower Image:thornbury.southglos.offices.arp.750pix.jpg|South Gloucestershire Council offices Image:thornbury.high.street.pumparea.arp.750pix.jpg|Castle Street and the pump Image:thornbury.pump.closeup.arp.750pix.jpg|The pump|The Barrel public house in St Mary's Shopping Centre Image:thornbury.stmarys.shops.arp.750pix.jpg|St Mary s Shopping Centre


External links

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