St Mary's Church Thornbury 

The Vicars 1899 - 2002

 

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Please click here to read about the earlier vicars to 1899   Click here to read about the Vicarage itself

Alan Whitmore Cornwall was Vicar of Thornbury 1899 - 1924.  The photograph below shows part of a portrait in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.  It was taken in 1929 and given apparently given to the Gallery by Pinewood Studios via the Victoria and Albert Museum.  We can't explain how Pinewood Studios had a portrait of the Rev Cornwall.

Alan Cornwall was born in Uley on 4th October 1858 and was the son of the Rev Alan Kingscote Cornwall of Ashcroft Wotton under Edge.  He went to Eton in 1872.  After studying modern history at Christ Church Oxford, he was ordained in 1884.

We understand that he was Curate of Cirencester from 1884-90,and Curate of St Catherine in Gloucester until 1891.

He was the Vicar of Coleford until 1899, when he was then appointed to the parish of Thornbury.  Presumably it was while he was in Coleford that he married Alice Louisa Cripps in the Cirencester district in 1893.  The Bristol Mercury of March 17th 1894 had the announcement of the birth of their daughter Isabel Mary in Coleford.  Alice Eleanor was born there in 1895 and Frances Sophia the following year.  Alan Edward was the last of their children to be born in Coleford.  His birth was registered in Monmouth in the September quarter of 1898.

Their second son John Whitmore Cornwall was born on April 24th 1900 at the vicarage and baptised in Thornbury on 27th May.  The Census of 1901 confirms that Alan and Alice Louisa were living in Thornbury Vicarage with their five children.  Richard Frank's birth was registered in Thornbury the following year in the June quarter of 1902.  Nigel Edmund their youngest child was born in the December quarter of 1903.  Thornbury and District Museum has a photograph of all seven of the children taking tea with their parents on the lawn of the Vicarage.  We have a thumbnail image of the photograph here.  Please click on it for a larger version.

The 1911 Census shows that aged 52 the Rev Cornwall was still living at the Vicarage in Thornbury with his wife Alice Louisa aged 48.  At that time they had been married 17 years and had had seven children, of whom five were living in the household at the time of the Census.  They were; Isabel Mary aged 17, Frances Sophia aged 14, John Whitmore aged 10, Richard Frank aged nine and Nigel Edmund aged seven.  They had a governess Marianne Badinski and three servants, Jessie Cullimore aged 25, Annie Savage aged 22 and Edith Gibbs aged 21.  Their son Alan was away at boarding school in Berkshire at the time of the Census.  Nigel was educated at Marlborough and then Oriel College Oxford.  We have been unable to find Alice Eleanor Cornwall in this Census.

The records of the Thornbury Cricket Club show that Alan and his sons were very active in the cricket club and much appreciated by them.  The following thumbnail sketch was written about them by Edgar Mervyn Grace and we are grateful to Les Summerfield, the Cricket Club and Mike Grace for allowing us to use these notes:

Rev. Canon A. W. Cornwall – Vicar of Thornbury, 1889 to 1924 and life member of the Cricket Club 1909 to 1932.  Played for Thornbury on the Castle ground, being a steady bat.  He had a sporting family of 4 sons and 3 daughters, also a son-in-law who was a Cambridge Hockey ‘Blue’ and with Miss R. Lloyd and Norman and Edgar Grace played mixed hockey on the road side of the ‘Ship Field’ with great success.  He became Archdeacon in 1924 and left Thornbury and his tragic death soon after his retirement after being bitten while separating a dog fight was a terrible blow to his many friends in Thornbury.

A.E.C. Cornwall – the eldest of the Canon’s four sons, Alan Cornwall made his mark in cricket during the First World War by scoring three consecutive centuries for Marlborough, and was a very good sound batsman, well remembered by all who batted at the other end, for he used to drive the ball like a bullet straight back on the side of the wicket, where the other batsman had to jump very quickly to avoid being killed.  He became a Master at Marlborough and played several times for Gloucestershire C. C. C., though he enjoyed playing for Thornbury much more.

Frank, Norman and Nigel Cornwall – all brothers of Alan, although nothing like such good players, turned out occasionally for Thornbury until they left to distinguish themselves in other fields – Frank in the Marines, and the other two in the Church.

Alan was made the Hon. Canon of Gloucester in 1911.  On leaving Thornbury in 1924 he became  Vicar of Nether Swell and Upper Swell from 1924 to 1927.

He was Archdeacon of Cheltenham when he died on 9th June 1932.  He died of septicaemia after being bitten while trying to separate two dogs that were fighting.  Probate was granted to two of his sons, Alan Edward Cripps Cornwall a schoolmaster and Rev John Whitmore Cornwall a clerk.  John became Rector of Minchinhampton and there is a memorial there saying that he died on February 12th 2001.  A later occupant of Thornbury Vicarage and also a Rector of Minchinhampton at one time, Canon  Michael Vooght met John Whitmore Cornwall and showed him around the vicarage where John had spent his childhood.  He was able to tell many stories about growing up there with so many servants and a governess. 

Alan and Alice's youngest son, Nigel Edmund Cornwall was called to work abroad and was Bishop of Colombo in 1938, Missionary Priest in Masasi Tanganyika from 1939 to 1949 and then  Bishop of Borneo from 1949 to 1962.

Claud Rutledge Cotter was Vicar of Thornbury 1924 - 1930.   He was born in 1876 in Blakenwell Heath in Staffordshire, the son of William Lawrence Cotter who was also a vicar.  He studied at Christ Church Oxford and Cuddesdon Theological College before joining the Christ Church's East London Mission of St Frideswide. 

He married his cousin, Beatrice Eleanor Cotter, the daughter of another vicar, Edmund Cotter, in Sherborne Abbey in Dorset on January 6th 1909.  The 1911 Census shows that then aged 34 he lived in Poplar in London with his wife Beatrice aged 24 and their two servants. 

They had five children.  Patrick their eldest son was born 27th November 1909.  The other children were Biddy, Diana Edith Beatrice, born 27th November 1913, Mary Rutledge Cotter (known as Mollie, she is now in 2013 aged 97 and living in Canada) and Martin.  According to his daughter Mollie, Claud was a very gifted musician and was excellent at maths.

We note that Claud Cotter felt strongly about the plight of the poor in his London parish of Poplar.  In 1921 he wrote to The Times expressing his concerns about the plight of the unemployed in his area.  In 1924 it was felt necessary for Claud to leave his parish in London for health reasons.  He may just have been exhausted by the work load but his daughter Mollie said that he also suffered from rheumatism and sciatica. 

For whatever reason, the Rev Cotter and his family moved to Thornbury in 1924.  On 1st August 1930 he obtained a mortgage of £44 from the charity Queen Anne's Bounty to improve the parsonage house and offices in Thornbury.  Whilst in Thornbury he acquired a motor car, a Morris convertible.  Although his wife soon learned to master the new vehicle, Claud was rather slower to learn and hit a cow at an early stage in his driving career.  The other form of transport used by the Rev Cotter and his family was of course the train line via Yate.  There were few passengers for this as the service was slow and infrequent.  Click here to read more about the Thornbury to Yate line.  Claud was always reluctant to board the train until it was actually ready to leave.  Mollie Cotter can recall him walking up and down the platform with his wife, only to have Mr Gill, the train's driver  approach them and say "if you are ready, Mr Cotter, we'll start."

Diana and Mollie Cotter attended Thornbury Grammar School from March 1925 and found it a great culture shock.  The Grammar School was generally where the children of the trades-people were educated whilst the children of professional people would normally be educated privately.  We are not sure if this was a deliberate policy to educate the girls locally or the results of the economic crash at this time.  The school was co-educational but the girls were reminded that any contact with boys could only take place on the tennis court or cricket pitch and even then only with with parental or at least adult supervision.  Mollie particularly seemed to find the school intimidating with its emphasis on corporal punishment, especially for boys.  They were also shocked by the jokes and stories of their fellow pupils.

During the War, Claud and Beatrice's son Patrick Claud Cotter joined the RAF.  He became a Pilot Officer and was reported missing after his first air operation in April 1943.  It was subsequently confirmed that he had been killed in action, leaving a widow Mary.  He was aged 33.  His death was commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial Panel 131and on the Runcton Holmes Memorial.

Claud died aged 77 in Devon on October 2nd 1953.  His widow Beatrice died on 18th April 1963, also in Devon.

Their grand-daughter Helen Stell has kindly allowed us to use the two photographs we have here of Claud Cotter.  The one below on the right shows the wedding of Claud and Beatrice.  Please click on them both for larger images.  Mrs Stell has also provided some more information about Claud for us to use on the site.  These included a tribute from later parishioners: "He had a very personal and human touch and a sympathetic understanding of ordinary men and women.  He inspired a number of young men to offer themselves for ordination.  When enemy bombing brought nightly terror to every household (in Lewisham) the vicar and his wife worked selflessly in housing and comforting the victims of enemy action."

Apparently a friend of his described him in these words: "He was a most loveable character with childlike faith and simplicity.  He bore personal bereavement without a word of self pity or complaint.  In churchmanship he was very close to the Oxford Movement, but he was not extreme.  A born teacher his sermons were simple and direct, full of good matter and humour.  He brought to his work spiritual gifts of a very high order."

He continued to work as a parish priest until the age of 75.   Mrs Stell says that he took a keen interest in cricket.  Apparently while out driving he would stop if he spotted a village cricket match he would slow down and even stop in the hopes of watching someone "hit a six".  His last words to his daughter when he was dying was "what's the cricket score, Biddy?" '

The records of the Thornbury Cricket Club show that Claud was very active in the cricket club and much appreciated by them.  The following thumbnail sketch was written about him by Edgar Mervyn Grace and we are grateful to Les Summerfield, the Cricket Club and Mike Grace for allowing us to use these notes:

Rev. C. R. Cotter – life member 1930 after playing for the club from 1924, after which he went to Mansfield, Nottinghamshire where his first duty was to take the funeral of a popular Notts and England batsman, W. W. (‘Dodge’) Whysall at which ten thousand were present.  A very jovial sporting Vicar of Thornbury he enjoyed his cricket very much, and it was always a pleasure to play with him.  His sermons were short and to the point, often illustrated by stories of local events, which pointed out the moral.  A curious feature was the fact that he could not preach from the high pulpit and addressed the congregation from a low wooden platform on the floor.

Frederick Bernard Gunnery was Vicar of Thornbury 1930  - 1936.  He was born in Islington in 1867.  His parents were Catherine and Reginald Gunnery.  He graduated from Christ Church Oxford in 1890 and became Curate of St John Baptist in Bournemouth in 1891.  He married Helen Young in 1895 in Christchurch in Hampshire. 

Their daughter Monica's birth was registered in the Wycombe area in 1896, followed by Lois in 1897, Ruth in 1898 and Aletha in 1900.

The 1901 Census shows that Frederick then aged 34 lived in High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire with his wife Helen then aged 28.  At that time they had four children: Monica aged four, Lois aged three, Ruth aged two and Aletha aged one year.  

The birth of Bernard Gunnery was registered in Newport Pagnell in 1905, which may be some indication of when they moved.  Ursula's birth was also registered there in 1908.  The 1911 Census shows the family in Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire.  Oswald Gunnery's birth was registered there in 1912. 

In 1914 The Slough Eton and Winsor Observer reported that the Rev F B Gunnery who was then still the Vicar of Newport Pagnell had resigned the presidency of the Newport Musical Society of which he was one of the founders because applause had been allowed to sacred words and music at the society's concerts.

Frederick Gunnery was Vicar of All Saints Wath upon Dearne from 1921 to 1930. 

We have a photograph here of Helen Gunnery taken while the couple lived in Thornbury.

Frederick died on 4th July 1936 at 4 Ralton Road Eastbourne.  Probate was granted to his widow Helen and to Bernard Gunnery a schoolmaster. 

Henry Erskine McLeod was Vicar of Thornbury 1937 - 1943.  Henry Erskine McLeod was born in Ellon Aberdeenshire about 1883.  He was the son of the Rev Nicolas McLeod and his wife Constance.  The 1911 Census shows that aged 28 he was living with his widowed mother in London and working at the Bank of England.

From 1922 to 1927 we understand that he was at St John's in Bognor.  The 1928 - 1936 Electoral Registers show that Henry lived at the Rectory in Spelthorne in Surrey with Dorothy, Mildred and Rachel before coming to Thornbury.  It would appear from what Elizabeth Cochrane told us below that these ladies were his sisters.

The Western Daily Press of January 4th 1937 reported that Rev Henry McLeod had been appointed Vicar of Thornbury to replace the late Mr Gunnery.  At that time he was said to be Rector of Shepperton in Middlesex where he had been since 1927.   Shepperton is in the borough of Spelthorne, Surrey which was in the former historic county of Middlesex

Elizabeth Cochrane who has contributed to this website a considerable amount of information about her former home at Fairfield House was a very young parishioner at that time.  She recalls that Mr Mcleod was unmarried and had seven sisters, some of whom lived with him.  She said that the children found his "probably very erudite sermons" rather boring.  She used to attend the children's service in mid morning where she was given stickers for her album, which was her incentive to be good.

In 1943 The Western Daily Press announced that the Rev McLeod had been appointed to the parish of Friern Barnet in London.

Robert Gwillym Rawstorne was Vicar of Thornbury 1943-1976.   He was born on 15th November 1907, the youngest of six children and baptised on Christmas day at St Michael and All Angels in Croston Lancashire.  His father Atherton Gwillym Rawstorne was the vicar of St Michael and All Angels in Croston in the early 1900s and was the first and only Bishop of Whalley from 1909 to 1936.  Robert Rawstorne's mother was formerly Anne Frances Horton.  His middle name Gwillym comes from the maiden name of his grandmother, Mary Gwillym who married Robert Atherton Rawstorne in Clifton in 1823.

The 1911 Census shows the family lived at Croston.  In December 1932 Robert sailed from Southampton to New York on SS Berengaria.  In January 1933 he sailed from New York to Southampton on SS Aquitania described as a student aged 25 whose address was Croston Rectory.

Robert Rawstorne married Joan Margaret Glas Sandeman in Lancaster in 1936.   Their daughter Alicia was born in 1938 and her birth was registered in the Cheltenham District.  In 1937 Robert Rawstorne was living at St Petroc, Cowleigh Bank in Malvern Worcestershire with his wife.  The family must have moved to Norton St Philip by March 1940 as the birth of their son Martin was registered there.  By 1941 the phone book confirms hat they lived at The Cottage, Norton St Phillip near Bath.

Their son Julian was born in 1943 and his birth was registered in Frome.  Andrew Francis was born in the District of Bath in 1947.  The Western Daily Press of June 14th 1943 said that Rev Rawstorne was still curate of Norton St Philip in Somerset when he was appointed Vicar of Thornbury.

The photograph on the right shows Robert Rawstorne and his wife Joan with their children Julian, Andrew, Martin and Alicia.   Please click on the image for a larger photograph.  Martin and Julian both became solicitors.  Andrew become a local government officer.

According to Frank Biddle's account of the Maritime Regiment World War II "was a very busy time for the Rev. R. G. Rawstorne, Vicar of Thornbury who had become the Regimental Chaplain.  The usual practice was to hold a Church Parade and Service at the Church on Saturday mornings.  At different times during the week meetings were held attended by about twenty men each time where there were free discussions led by the Vicar.  These were very popular and the Rev. (now Canon) Rawstorne was held in great esteem by both officers and men of the regiment."

Robert Rawstorne died in the Yeovil area on 14th August 1990 aged 82.  There is a memorial to him in the chancel of St Mary's Church.

Edward Arthur Nobes was Vicar of Thornbury 1976 - 1984.  He was born 14th October 1936 in Portsmouth, Hampshire.  His parents were Arthur Nobes and Hilda Mary nee Rumfitt.  Edward Nobes married Janice Ridley on 1st December 1960 in Mansfield Nottinghamshire.  Their son Jeremy was born in Cambridgeshire in 1964.  The photograph on the left hand side is a thumbnail image of Edward Nobes taken in 1978.  The photograph has some interest in its own right as he is standing by the entrance to the Glebe by a tree that has now disappeared.  Please click on it for a larger image.  The photograph appeared in a local newspaper with an article interviewing Mr Nobes who explained that by that time he was married with three children.  He had been vicar at St Mary's for two years.   He explained in the interview that he had plans to make a new church magazine with a wider appeal and distribution; '" I like the image of the church as the salt of the earth," he said. "It's no good in the salt cellar.  It's got to be spread around.  The church should be infusing the entire community with Christian values.  It is not just a club for nice people."'

The article went on to explain that the Rev Nobes' wife Janice had undergone extensive surgery for cancer and had recently set up a Cancer Research Fund Committee in the town.  Janice Nobes died 6th September 1983. 

Their son Jeremy married Margaret Ann Booth of Norfolk in 1989.  Edward Nobes was Rector of Gamlingay Church when he died on 5th February 1993 aged 56 in Cambridge.

Michael George Peter Vooght was Vicar of Thornbury 1985 -2002.  Michael and his wife Elizabeth came to Thornbury from Minchinhampton where Michael had been rector.  The rectory there was where the novelist Joanna Trollope had spent some of her childhood visiting her grandfather Rev Rex Hodson.  Rev Hodson was rector there in the 1940s and 50s.  Michael was the first of Thornbury's vicars to apply for an advertised vacancy.  Previously the vicars had all been suggested and approved by the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church.  Apart from that innovation Michael was officially appointed by Christ Church, having been interviewed there and was formally presented to St Mary's church by a senior member of Christ Church in the tradition maintained for so long. 

It is interesting to note that when asked for a photograph as himself as Vicar at St Mary's, Michael gave us a picture of the Parochial Church Council of St Mary's as it had been in his time, saying that church was run as by a team these days.  It seems unlikely that some of the earlier vicars would have been quite so modest.  We have a thumbnail image here on  the right of Rev Vooght and the Parochial Church Council.  Please click on it for a larger photograph.

There seem to have been some other changes during the time that Michael Vooght was the vicar in Thornbury.  In 1987 there was another milestone in the life of St Mary's Church when Pat Lyes-Wilsden became the first woman curate in that church.  In 1997 there was yet another dramatic change when a new vicarage was built in the grounds of the old vicarage, which was no longer practical as a vicarage.  The new building was designed to be smaller and so less expensive to run but also more accessible to all.  We have a thumbnail photograph above left of Michael and Elizabeth Vooght moving into the new vicarage in November 1997.  Please click on it to see a larger version.