Thornbury and District Museum: The history of Gloucester Road

October 30 2019
Thornbury and District Museum: The history of Gloucester Road

AS its name suggests, Gloucester Road is the historic main road from Thornbury to Gloucester.

Until well into the 19th century it was classified as the main turnpike road for the use of horse drawn coaches between Bristol and Gloucester. It was, however, a mere lane and until the 1830s there were only a handful of houses built alongside the road between The Plain in Thornbury and Morton.

For a long time there was no official name for the street. Early Thornbury records show the name of Collestreete, or Colestreet Lane in the 17th century. In the census records of the 1800s, the road had was known as either Colwell Street Lane, Colewell Street Road or Collesters Lane.

The original line of the road may have passed between the Boars Head (or Royal George) and the property now known as 8 The Plain. There is no clear evidence, but in George Rolph‘s will, dated 1793, there is a reference to a plot of ground having been taken from his property at the top of Gloucester Road "into the highway".

The Thornbury Roots website was created initially to summarise the history of the row of houses previously known as Laburnum Terrace, now known as 6 to 22 Gloucester Road. These were built by members of the Hodges family, on land which was previously an orchard and garden. Tracing the history of the individual houses on the road has been complicated by the fact that there was no formal house numbering until around 1953. Sometimes houses within a terrace would have numbers and in some records we are lucky to find references to numbers 1-8 Laburnum Terrace.

Some of the houses had names. Selwood (now No. 22 Gloucester Road) first appears in the mid 1920s, and that name has been in use ever since. At various times, other houses had names, including Durley and Amberley, but these were sometimes rather short-lived.

The decorative archway, pictured, is a floral arch of the sort that were popular in Thornbury and other small towns until the advent of motor vehicles made them an “obstruction of the highway”. A description of the arches appeared in an article in the Bristol Mercury and Daily Post of August 1884, which says Thornbury was decorated with floral arches for the flower show of that year. They appear to have used for other occasions until about 1902. They seem to have been composed of evergreens and decorated with flowers and Chinese lanterns, and often had banners with a wide variety of mottoes, including “Health and Happiness” and “God Bless Our Queen.”