Thornbury, Gloucestershire

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Gloucestershire UK location map.svg
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Location within Gloucestershire
Population12,342 (2001 UK census)
OS grid reference ST636902
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town Bristol
Postcode district BS35
Dialling code 01454
Police Avon and Somerset
Fire Avon
Ambulance South Western
UK Parliament
List of places
51°36′34″N2°31′30″W / 51.6094°N 2.5249°W / 51.6094; -2.5249 Coordinates: 51°36′34″N2°31′30″W / 51.6094°N 2.5249°W / 51.6094; -2.5249

Thornbury is a market town and civil parish in the South Gloucestershire unitary authority area within the ceremonial county of Gloucestershire, England, about 12 miles (19 km) north of Bristol. It had a population of 12,063 at the 2011 Census. Thornbury is a Britain in Bloom award-winning town, with its own competition: Thornbury in Bloom. [1] Nearby villages include Morton and Thornbury Park. The civil parish includes the hamlet of Milbury Heath.



There is evidence of human activity in the Thornbury area in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, but evidence of the Roman presence is limited to the Thornbury hoard, of 11,460 Roman coins dating from AD 260–348, found in 2004 during the digging for a fishpond. [2] The earliest documentary evidence of a village at "Thornbyrig" dates from the end of the 9th century. [3] Domesday Book noted a manor of "Turneberie" belonging to William the Conqueror's consort, Matilda of Flanders, with 104 residents.

St Mary's Church, begun in the 12th century with later additions, is the oldest surviving building. The town charter was granted in 1252 by Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and lord of the manor of Thornbury. [4] (The charter's 750th anniversary in 2002 was celebrated with a "750" flowerbed planted in Grovesend Road.) The town grew around the site of its cattle market. Thornbury lost its status as a borough in 19th-century local-government reforms, but in 1974 the parish council exercised its new right to designate itself a town council.

The ancient parish covered an area extending to the River Severn, including the detached area of Rangeworthy until 1866, when this became a separate civil parish. In 1894 the western part of Thornbury was detached to form the civil parish of Oldbury-on-Severn and the eastern part to create that of Falfield. [5]

Thornbury Township, Pennsylvania, founded in 1687, was named after Thornbury, Gloucestershire, by George Pearce, whose wife Ann came from there. [6] In 1765 Dr John Fewster of Thornbury presented a paper to the Medical Society of London entitled "Cow Pox and its Ability to Prevent Smallpox". Fewster influenced his friend and colleague Edward Jenner, pioneer of vaccination. [7]

Thornbury was once the terminus of a Midland Railway (later LMS) branch line from Yate on the Bristol to Gloucester main line, with intermediate stations at Iron Acton and Tytherington. It lost its passenger services in June 1944 but continued as a goods route, also serving quarries at Tytherington. The site of Thornbury railway station and the line have been redeveloped into a supermarket, a housing estate, a bypass road and a long footpath. Further relics can be seen 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 restore services to Gloucester and Bristol.

Thornbury held a market in the high street and the market hall. This closed in the late 1990s and was partly replaced by a smaller one in a car park near the United Reformed Church. The older site has been redeveloped as a community centre called "Turnberrie's"; the older community centre, at the Chantry in Castle Street, remains in active use. The old market hall is now a restaurant.

Thornbury's coat of arms combines the arms of four families important to its history: the Attwells – Howard, Clare and Stafford. John Attwells bequeathed £499.99 for the establishment of a free school that merged with the grammar school in 1879. Their arms were later adopted as the badge for the grammar school. The other three families held the manor at Thornbury over several centuries, with the Latin motto Decus Sabrinae Vallis (Jewel of the Severn Vale). [8]


Thornbury lies in the Severn Valley in South Gloucestershire. It includes Morton, which is split into Upper and Lower Morton, as areas of farmland to the north-east of Thornbury. [9] There is a large farm shop in Upper Morton, while Lower Morton has many cattle farms. [10]


Thornbury has belonged successively to the parliamentary constituencies of Thornbury (1885–1950), Stroud and Thornbury (1950–1955), Gloucestershire South (1955–1983), Northavon (1983–2010) and Thornbury and Yate (since 2010). The current member is Luke Hall of the Conservative Party.


Thornbury High Street. On the left is the old market hall (now commercial premises), the White Lion pub and a Tudor-style house. Thornbury.high.street.arp.750pix.jpg
Thornbury High Street. On the left is the old market hall (now commercial premises), the White Lion pub and a Tudor-style house.

Thornbury has a high street, a shopping centre (St Mary's Centre), two supermarkets and many smaller shops. The town has seven places of worship: St Mary's Church, Christ the King [11] the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church, St Paul's Church, and the Hackett and Thornbury Baptist churches. On the outskirts at Lower Morton stands an independent evangelical church: Morton Baptist Church. [12]

The many pubs in the town include the White Lion in the High Street, which won the Thornbury in Bloom award in 2003 and the Britain in Bloom award for Best Pub Display in 1999. Restaurants include one at Thornbury Castle and also Ronnie's of Thornbury itself.

The shop front of Wildings (formerly Worthington's) clothing shop was used in the Two Ronnies serial sketch, "The Worm That Turned". The nearby nuclear power station at Oldbury-on-Severn, Tytherington quarry and Stokefield Close were all used as locations for the 1976 four-part Doctor Who serial The Hand of Fear . The Castle School, Thornbury was used for an episode of Casualty broadcast on 2 May 2009. [13]

Thornbury has its own radio station, which returned in July 2017 after a five-year break. [14]

Thornbury is one of a handful of British towns to have a social group for adults with autism or Asperger syndrome. South Glos Aspies formed in 2017 and meets weekly. [15] [16]

Musical and drama groups

There are a number of musical and drama groups performing. The largest venues are the Armstrong Hall near the town centre, seating 350, and the adjacent Cossham Hall, seating 140. Performances also take place in church halls and occasionally in the leisure centre. Some local amateur groups are:


One of the biggest firms on the industrial estate in the south of the town is Essilor, which produces spectacle lenses.

Major roads and streets

Tourist sights

The west front of Thornbury Castle Thornbury.castle.west.front.arp.750pix.jpg
The west front of Thornbury Castle

A tourist information centre operates on weekdays from the Town Hall in the High Street.

Thornbury castle

One of town's 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, built in 1514, resemble those found at Hampton Court Palace. [21] Cardinal Wolsey had the Duke beheaded for treason in 1521, after which the castle was confiscated by King Henry VIII, who himself stayed there for ten days in 1535 with Anne Boleyn.

Thornbury Castle fell into disrepair after the English Civil War, but was renovated in 1824 by the Howard Family. It now serves as a 27-room hotel and restaurant. [22]

Parish church

St Mary's Church
St Mary's Church

Construction of the Anglican Church of Saint Mary the Virgin started in 1340, with major additions in 1500, 1848 and 1988. [23] It remains in use for regular worship, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, funerals and remembrance services. It also hosts the local primary school (St Mary's CEVA Primary) for their seasonal celebrations, such as Harvest, Christmas and Easter.

The church is the resting place, according to his will, of the entrails of Jasper Tudor, uncle and mentor to the young Henry Tudor, later Henry VII of England. The rest of his remains were buried in Keynsham Abbey, Somerset, which did not survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Jasper's great-nephew Henry VIII of England. [24]

Town pump

Thornbury town pump (no longer functioning) Thornbury.pump.arp.750pix.jpg
Thornbury town pump (no longer functioning)

The town pump on a small island at the bottom of the High Street shows a hand pointing "To Gloucester". The original pump was removed in 1924 as a road hazard by the council. The new one built in 1984 was temporarily painted gold to celebrate the Golden Jubilee in 2002. It is usually adorned with flowers and birthday greetings. [25]

Walks and scenery

A footpath called Streamside Walk starts at Gillingstool Primary School, passes over several roads and bridges, continues 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 emerges at an old mill.

Although the station building has been demolished, the old railway line serves as a footpath. It was laid out in the 1990s to support new housing and industrial developments, previously having been 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.

Created by the Thornbury and District Heritage Trust as a Millennium project, the 'heritage trail' encompasses the town's historic buildings. There are forty way-markers indicating the route, which starts outside the town hall.

Sports and leisure

Mundy Playing Fields, donated by Mrs Violet Mundy in 1937, include a children's play area and sports ground. [26] Nearby are Thornbury Golf Club, Thornbury Leisure Centre, Thornbury Lawn Tennis Club and a skate park. South Thornbury has a children's play area. [27] There are green spaces around the town. Thornbury community garden was set up near Gillingstool School, but it has closed due to housing development. A replacement community garden is envisaged next to the new Community Centre.

Thornbury RFC play in the South West 1 League. Though a Thornbury club, their ground is located in Rockhampton, on the outskirts of the town. [28]

Thornbury Town FC is Thornbury's main football club, providing for children from six years old up to open age, with its First Team and Reserves. The exact formation date is uncertain, but football was being played in the town in 1896 and that there was a Thornbury Town Club in 1898. The youth section was formed in 1990 as a separate club (Thornbury Falcons). In 2010 the two clubs merged as a new Thornbury Town FC. The First Team plays in the Gloucestershire County League, which is tier 11 in the English football league. It won its first league title in the 2009–2010 season and a second in 2017–2018. The First Team play at the Mundy Playing Fields, with their youth teams playing in various locations around Thornbury. [29] In 2016, an area of land adjacent to the Mundy Playing Fields known as Poulterbrook was converted into two purpose-built youth football pitches, as well as allotments for the local community. [30]

Real Thornbury FC plays in the Bristol Premier Combination Premier One, i.e. tier 13 in the English football league. It was established in 2007 and became an FA-affiliated team in 2009 in the Bristol and District League. [31] It has gained promotion each season, with back-to-back league titles from 2010–2011 to 2013–2014. In the 2013–2014 Bristol and District Division 2 season the team won all 26 games with a goal difference of 143, and was granted promotion to the Bristol and District Senior Division, skipping Division 1. It went on to beat Hambrook on the final day of the 2014–2015 season to secure promotion to the Bristol Premier Combination League as runners up. Real Thornbury FC play at Oaklands Park in Almondsbury, which has been home to several clubs, including Winterbourne United and Almondsbury Town, both of which have since dissolved.

Other attractions

These include Filnore Woods, Armstrong and Cossham Halls and Thornbury Museum. [32] A heritage trail offers information signs about places of interest, starting from the town hall (once the police station and magistrates' court) and now home to the Town Council. [33] The MacLaine Memorial Fountain recalls Lieutenant Hector MacLaine, a local man who helped protect the British in India from the Russians and Afghans in 1880. Thornbury has an antiquarian mathematics bookshop.


Thornbury is twinned with Bockenem in Germany. [34]


The Castle School is Thornbury's secondary school. The former Thornbury Grammar School buildings in Gloucester Road are now its sixth-form centre. (Thornbury Grammar School moved to new buildings in neighbouring Alveston in 1972, when it received its first comprehensive school intake and was renamed Marlwood School.) [35]

Gillingstool Primary School dates from 1862 and is known for its school bell. The school was rebuilt in a project that began in spring 2009. [36] Its Victorian buildings are being retained, as is its mission as a special school. [37]

St Mary's Church of England Primary School, founded in 1839, recently marked its 175th anniversary with a series of events, including a Victorian Week, where children dressed up in period dress and planted daffodils to mark the anniversary. Other schools include 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 it can be seen on a shop in St Mary's Shopping Centre.

Notable people

Related Research Articles

Gloucestershire County of England

Gloucestershire (, ; abbreviated Glos. is a county in South West England. The county comprises part of the Cotswold Hills, part of the flat fertile valley of the River Severn, and the entire Forest of Dean.

Gloucester City and Non-metropolitan district in England

Gloucester is a cathedral city and district in Gloucestershire, of which it is the county town, in the South West of England. Gloucester lies on the River Severn, between the Cotswolds to the east and the Forest of Dean to the west, 19 miles (31 km) east of Monmouth, and 17 miles (27 km) east of the border with Wales. Including suburban areas, Gloucester has a population of around 150,000. It is a port, linked via the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal to the Severn Estuary.

South Gloucestershire Unitary authority area in England

South Gloucestershire is a unitary authority area in South West England. It comprises multiple suburban areas to the north and east of Bristol as well as a large rural hinterland. South Gloucestershire was created in 1996 from the northern section of the county of Avon, which was abolished at that time.

Dursley Market town in England

Dursley is a market town and civil parish in southern Gloucestershire, England, situated almost equidistantly between the cities of Bristol and Gloucester. It is under the northeast flank of Stinchcombe Hill, and about 3 34 miles (6.0 km) southeast of the River Severn. The town is adjacent to Cam which, though a village, is a slightly larger community in its own right.

Chepstow Human settlement in Wales

Chepstow is a town and community in Monmouthshire, Wales, adjoining the border with Gloucestershire, England. It is located on the tidal River Wye, about 2 miles (3.2 km) above its confluence with the River Severn, and adjoining the western end of the Severn Bridge. It is 16 miles (26 km) east of Newport, 28 miles (45 km) east-northeast of Cardiff, 18 miles (29 km) northwest of Bristol and 110 miles (180 km) west of London.

Tewkesbury Human settlement in England

Tewkesbury is a market town and civil parish in Gloucestershire, England. It stands at the confluence of the River Severn and the River Avon, and also minor tributaries the Swilgate and Carrant Brook. It gives its name to the Borough of Tewkesbury, of which the town is the second largest settlement. It lies in the far north of the county, forming part of the border with Worcestershire.

Berkeley, Gloucestershire Human settlement in England

Berkeley is a small town and parish in Gloucestershire, England. It lies in the Vale of Berkeley between the east bank of the River Severn and the M5 motorway, within the Stroud administrative district. The town is noted for Berkeley Castle, where the imprisoned Edward II was murdered, as well as the birthplace of the physician Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccine, the world's first vaccine.

Falfield Human settlement in England

Falfield is a village, located near the northern border of the South Gloucestershire district of Gloucestershire, England on the southern edge of the Berkeley Vale, to the east of the River Severn and just falling into the boundary of the Cotswolds. It is the last parish on the northern boundary of South Gloucestershire. The area has a Wotton-under-Edge (GL12) post code and so is often incorrectly listed as being in the Stroud district of Gloucestershire. Falfield is one of the longest villages in England, alongside local village Cromhall.

Coleford, Gloucestershire Human settlement in England

Coleford is a market town in the west of the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, England, 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the Welsh border and close to the Wye Valley. It is the administrative centre of the Forest of Dean district. The combined population of the town's two electoral wards at the 2011 census was 8,359. It was estimated to be 9,130 in 2019. The parish includes the village of Baker's Hill.

Rockhampton, Gloucestershire Human settlement in England

Rockhampton is a village and civil parish in the English county of Gloucestershire, situated in the unitary district of South Gloucestershire. It is located 2.8 miles (4.5 km) northeast of Thornbury, 18.6 miles (30 km) north of Bristol and is approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) east of the River Severn. It had a population of 166 people according to the 2011 census.

Churchdown Human settlement in England

Churchdown is a village in Gloucestershire, England, situated between Gloucester and Cheltenham in the south of the Tewkesbury Borough.

The Castle School Academy in Thornbury, Gloucestershire, England

The Castle School is a coeducational secondary school and sixth form with academy status, located in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire, England, which serves the town and the surrounding villages. Pupils from Bristol also attend the school. There are around 1,189,pupils, including 360 in the sixth form.

Tockington Human settlement in England

Tockington is a village in South Gloucestershire, England. Historically the village developed around farming based mainly on the rearing of cattle on the fertile flood plains. In more recent times Tockington has become an attractive location for commuters, being situated within the Green Belt and well connected with Bristol. It is south of Olveston and is located in a steep valley. The village also has the Swan Inn, a popular pub. The centre of the village, where the pub is located is a triangular junction.

Henbury Human settlement in England

Henbury is a suburb of Bristol, England, approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) north west of the city centre. It was formerly a village in Gloucestershire and is now bordered by Westbury-on-Trym to the south; Brentry to the east and the Blaise Castle Estate, Blaise Hamlet and Lawrence Weston to the west. To the north lie the South Gloucestershire village of Hallen and the entertainment/retail park Cribbs Causeway.

Tytherington, Gloucestershire

Tytherington is a village in South Gloucestershire, England, situated 2 miles (3.2 km) south east of Thornbury. The parish population taken at the 2011 census was 666.

History of Gloucestershire

The region now known as Gloucestershire was originally inhabited by Brythonic peoples in the Iron Age and Roman periods. After the Romans left Britain in the early 5th century, the Brythons re-established control but the territorial divisions for the post-Roman period are uncertain. The city of Caerloyw was one centre and Cirencester may have continued as a tribal centre as well. The only reliably attested kingdom is the minor south-east Wales kingdom of Ergyng, which may have included a portion of the area. In the final quarter of the 6th century, the Saxons of Wessex began to establish control over the area.

Quedgeley Human settlement in England

Quedgeley is a suburban town or modern village suburb 3.5 miles (5.6 km) southwest of the city of Gloucester, England. A thin strip of land between the Severn and the Gloucester Ship Canal occupies the west, and the south-eastern part of the town is Kingsway Village, directly to the north of which is Tuffley.

Thornbury branch line

The Thornbury branch line is a railway line from Yate to Thornbury in the West of England. From 1963 until mid 2013, it remained as a freight route, serving the quarry at Tytherington. It was designated 'Out of Use (temporary)' by Network Rail from 2013 until 2017, when it reopened to serve Tytherington quarry again. The 7.5-mile (12 km) branch of the Midland Railway line between Bristol and Gloucester opened on 2 September 1872, and started at Yate and finished at Thornbury, with stops at Iron Acton and Tytherington.

Westgate, Gloucester

The Westgate area of Gloucester is centred on Westgate Street, one of the four main streets of Gloucester and one of the oldest parts of the city. The population of the Westgate ward in Gloucester was 6,687 at the time of the 2011 Census.


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