Recollections of Ryeford

The Early 1900's

By Pat Harper

Marie Adelina Brunsdon

My mother, Marie Adelina Brunsdon, was born in 1906 at The Anchor Inn, Ryeford (now a private house called Tankard House).  Her family, through various changes of surname, kept The Anchor Inn from the 1850s through to the early 1940s.

Some of what I set out below is dependent on my memory of what my mother told me – so may not be as accurate is it would be if it came direct from her – but she died in 1996, so I can’t ask her.

The Anchor Inn, Ryeford, faced onto the canal, which was a working canal when my mother was young.   She told me that she and her brothers and sisters learnt to swim in the canal

Kimmins Mill

My mother’s mother, Annie Lewis, married twice.  She married her first husband, Thomas Mastin, in the tin chapel at Ryeford, on what is now Wycliffe College playing fields, near the foot of the pedestrian bridge over the Stonehouse/Stroud Road at Ryeford.  I believe it was a Wesleyan chapel.  It was later taken down and re-erected in Regent Street, Stonehouse.  I have no idea what happened to it after that. 

I think it possible that Anne married her first husband in the Wesleyan chapel because she and her family lived across the Ryeford road from the Kimmins Family, a very well known and influential family in the Stroud district.  They built and ran Kimmins Mill at Dudbridge and owned several houses and quite a bit of land in the area.  It is possible that they were an influence on her family.

The Anchor Inn and The Bell Inn

Thomas died from consumption, when he was only about 28, after which my grandmother was a single parent for several years before she married again, this time to Arthur William Brunsdon who came from a timber haulage family.  She married Arthur in the Baptist Chapel in John Street, Stroud.  

I have no idea why she married her second husband in the Baptist chapel in Stroud and I find it quite strange that she was married in two non-conformist chapels, when she sent all her children to St Cyr's, a Church of England establishment.

Pub keeping was very much in the family.  Besides the fact that Annie had been born in The Anchor, her second husband’s father had kept The Cross Hands in Painswick before moving to Ebley, where he kept The Bell Inn.  They also had a haulage business and the coal wharf at Ebley.   

The Anchor Inn, Ryeford

Extract  from the internet site­_insobriety.htm

“…we pass under Oil Mill Bridge and Captain Chandler shuts of steam and we slow down to a halt at Ebley Wharf .    The Bell Inn is a basic beer house at Ebley Wharf .  We have stopped here to sample the Nailsworth brewery ales and stouts served by the landlord William Brunsdon.  The bitter ale is described as being “simply delicious, full of life, well flavoured with hops and for brightness and condition quite up to the standard of the London and Burton ales”. 

Arthur became the licensee of The Anchor Inn soon after he married Annie and it states in his obituary that “When there was a considerable amount of traffic along the Stroudwater Canal the Anchor Inn was often crowded with canal workers, and the inn has witnessed many exciting times.” 

The following is an extract taken from the internet site­_insobriety.htm “Captain Chandler shuts off steam at Ryeford Bridge and moors “Nellie” at Ryeford Wharf . The Anchor Inn adjacent to the bridge is a comfortable pub leased by the Stroud brewers, Godsell & Sons.   Arthur William Brunsdon at the Anchor Inn usually stocks a good selection of Godsell's cask ales including A1 Strong Ale and AB Pale Ale.” Godsell & Sons sold out to Whitbreads and The Anchor became a Whitbread Pub.

Haywardsfield Inn

Annie’s sister, Fanny and her husband, Gilbert Hathway, kept The Haywardsfield Inn at Nowhere– apparently men used to say they were going nowhere when they were going to drink at this pub.  If you are wondering where on earth ‘Nowhere’ was, it was actually at Haywardsfield,  a small area between Ryeford and Oakfield on the main Stonehouse to Stroud road.  The Haywardsfield Inn, Nowhere, is now a private house immediately opposite Gordon’s garage and next to The Ryeford Hotel, which in my grandmother’s time,  was a private house called Springfield lived in by an artist, Henry Butt and his family.

Haulage and the LMS Railway

Gilbert also had a coal business and owned at least two railway wagons, used for carrying coal on the LMS (London Midland Scottish) railway line from Nailsworth to Stonehouse and Bristol .  (I know he had at least two wagons because I have a photo of No. 1 wagon and, apparently you only painted No. 1 on your wagon if you also had at least a No. 2!


By her first husband, who died of TB, my grandmother had 3 girls, one of whom died very young.  By her second husband she had five sons and three girls, the youngest of whom – a girl – died when she was nine months old.    My grandmother died at the age of 51, in 1916, when my mother was 10 years old.  All are buried in the graveyard at St Cyr’s.

After my grandmother died, my mother’s two half sisters, who were several years older than my mother, brought up the rest of the family and looked after their step-father, Arthur.

Besides keeping The Anchor Inn, my mother’s father was a haulier and owned the haulage yard almost opposite the electricity sub-station off the bypass on the road to Kings Stanley – except that, in those days, there was no electricity sub-station, no bypass and the road to King’s Stanley came straight off the Stonehouse-Stroud road, going over the canal via a humped back bridge.  (When I was young we loved my uncle driving us fast over the humped back bridge – your stomach went up to your mouth and your head hit the car ceiling.) The yard was very well placed for business, being next door to the LMS railway station at Ryeford, close to Stanley Mill, even closer to the Workman’s Ryeford Sawmills and almost next door to the canal.    He operated one of the coal wharves at Ryeford.  Arthur Brunsdon & Sons, later Co. hauled massive timber boles for Ryeford Sawmills, coal from the Forest of Dean to the mills, and large machinery for firms such as Daniels at Lightpill.

From horses to steam to diesel

At the beginning Arthur was in business with his brother, Francis, and they used horses for hauling the goods.  However, the brothers fell out and split up because Francis thought that the future was in horses, whereas Arthur thought the future was in steam.  He became a good customer of Edwin Foden Sons & Co Ltd, a company producing industrial engines, small stationary steam engines and agricultural traction engines.  He used steam for haulage as well as for agricultural work.  As Fodens moved to diesel engines, so did he; all his lorries after that were diesel.  

My mother told me she remembered going with one of her half sisters in the horse and trap to pick up their Uncle Captain (that’s what she called him) at Elmore or Elmore Back (she can’t remember which).  He was a master mariner who lived with his family in Bristol , so I can only guess he came to Elmore or Elmore Back by some sort of water transport.

Mrs Sibley - a tragic death

My mother also told me about a burial in unconsecrated ground on the footpath which runs up to Doverow.  To get to this footpath you go to the end of Pearcroft road and then turn left up the hill.  This path then turns to the right and, just past the farm, turns left and steeply up to Doverow via a very old footpath.  There used to be a small area of field bounded by iron railings a little under half-way up this track on the left-hand side.  Apparently Mrs Sibley (or Sibly – I don’t know the correct spelling – the family started Wycliffe College ) was very depressed after the birth of a child.  I think this was in the 1920/1930s.  She went out for a walk one day and drowned herself in the canal.  Because she had committed suicide she couldn’t be buried in the Church graveyard so had to be buried in unconsecrated ground.  I don’t know if her body or the railings are still there. 

Years later I was speaking to a lady who was my uncle’s brother’s wife (so we called her Aunt, although really she was no relation).  She had come from Wales and I asked her why she had come to this area. She explained that she had been a nanny and had been employed to look after Mrs Sibley and her child.  Mr Sibley did ask her to stay on after Mrs Sibley committed suicide, but she couldn’t bear the idea and married my uncle’s brother instead!

The Price Family, Ryeford

Some people may remember the Garden Centre at Ryeford , only recently closed and bought by Wycliffe College .  When my mother was young (and indeed when I was very young) this was a nursery owned by the Price Family, who also owned a nursery in King’s Stanley and, in my mother’s time, a shop in London Road , Stroud.  There was a large old Tudor looking house on the site, and lots of greenhouses.  My mother used to send me along to Price’s to get fruit and vegetables, particularly tomatoes, and I used to hate going there because Mr Ted Price was always so difficult to find and I had to wander around looking for him. 

There was what I thought was a right of way down a road to be right of the garden centre and down the side of the College.  The scrubby looking tree which delineated the left side of this road is still there.  We used to go to King’s Stanley by walking down this road, over the bridge over the canal at the bottom by the little hamlet, then on the tow path to come out by the humped back bridge on the Ryeford road.  I know that my mother and her family used this route when she was young and, in my day, everybody along our road going to King’s Stanley on foot used this route because the main Stroud Stonehouse road became so busy and was such a pain to cross.

School memories - Stonehouse C of E Primary School

I went to Stonehouse Church of England County Primary School.  The secondary modern school had just moved to its new premises at Maidenhill, and we took over many of their terrapin huts.    

In one of the terrapins there must have been a radio, and we used to listen to the BBC programme called, I think, “Singing Together” from which I learnt lots of English folk songs.  It’s really strange that you don’t remember them at all now until they come on to the radio or TV and, then, suddenly, you can sing nearly all the words. 

We had several playgrounds – the one nearest the Quietways End was for the boys.  It’s the one with the beautiful old trees – horse chestnuts from memory.  The girls’ playground was the other side of the Victorian building, on the terrapins’ side.  The girls’ toilets were outside in this playground.  It was a block of many little toilets –  no heating and very cold in winter.  I think the boys had a similar block in their playground, but I could be wrong.  A third playground was taken over from the secondary modern school – I can’t remember who used that – perhaps it was the older children? 

When I was in the final class our classroom was next door to the Hall in the main part of the old Victorian bit of the school.  Every morning a record was played on a gramophone as we walked into the hall and sat down – cross-legged I think – on the floor.  My two favourites were Sheep May Safely Graze and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  I don’t think that either is the real name, they are both bits from longer works.

When we were in the top class, our teacher read us a story on Friday afternoons and, in summer, when the weather was good, she read the story to us as we sat outside in the sun on the field which is now the site of a newly-built (to me!) bit of the school.

At special Christian festivals, such as Easter, all the students walked in long crocodiles (two by two, hand in hand) to St Cyr’s for the service.

At other times we walked in long crocodiles to the Community Centre where we had to bare our arms for vaccinations or stick out our tongues for the polio sugar cube.

"The wreck"

Next door to the Community Centre was “the wreck”.  I couldn’t work out why it was called “the wreck” because there wasn’t a wreck in sight and, anyway, we lived miles from the sea.   It was years later that I found out it was called “The Rec” short for “The Recreation Ground”! 

It was a much better Rec then than now-a-days.  We had a really long and fast slide (well that’s how I remember it).  There was something we called the horse.  Three or four of you could sit on its saddles and move it sort of backwards and forwards/up and down.  We had a large climbing frame and another thing we climbed on that was conical in shape, like a witch’s hat, with a seat rim all the way round it at sitting height that you sat or stood on.   Someone would run round pulling it faster and faster before jumping onto the seat.  Or, you could just sit on it on your own and move it up and down/backwards and forwards.  And you could climb up it.  I’ve got absolutely no idea what it was called.  And all of these things we played on were on hard or soft muddy soil (dependent upon the time of year) or concrete – so lots of grazed and bloodied knees!  Thinking back, I’m amazed that no one was badly injured or killed. 

When I was six, the family moved from Stonehouse to Ryeford.  In those days there wasn’t much traffic on the roads so it was perfectly safe for me on occasions to catch the bus (the 421 Stonehouse to Chalford) or to walk to and from school.  A friend and I used to play in the Rec on our way home from school and, one day, we were having such fun, that I didn’t get home until 6 o’clock .  Gosh, didn’t my mother tell me off.

Haunted house

The house we moved to was one of a pair of semis that my mother’s uncle, Gilbert Hathway, had had built for his two daughters.  One of the daughters (my mother’s cousin) and her husband and son had lived in the house that my mother and father bought in 1953.  An uncle told me that the son had worked in the colonies and had become very strange over there:  when he moved back to this country he was affected by the moon and, every month, at full-moon, he went down to the stable at the bottom of the garden and on the side of the canal, and howled at the moon. 


Years later I discovered that this son had not lived and worked in the colonies, he had worked in the collieries (!) as a time keeper.  As his father, Gilbert Hathway, had originally come from Westerleigh, just outside Bristol, where there were massive coal workings and was himself a coal merchant, it seems likely to me that the son probably worked somewhere down there, but it certainly wasn’t in the colonies.

Anyway, eventually the son shot and killed himself, as the death certificate puts it: “whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed”.   I’m not sure whether this was in the stable on the side of the canal at the bottom of the garden or in the house, but I am convinced that the house was haunted.    We had two dogs that would not go up into the attic and always stopped at the bottom of the attic stairs.  I left that house many years ago, but I’ve learnt that I’m not the only one who thought the house was haunted as later owners have had it exorcised.

The LMS and GWR Railways

We had good public transport when I was young.  There were ‘halts’ along the main Paddington railway line at places like Ebley, Cainscross, through to at least Chalford.  The 421 Stonehouse to Chalford bus ran every 20 minutes in the week and every 10 minutes on a Saturday.  You could get to Gloucester from the old GWR Stonehouse Railway Station (where it is today) or get on the LMS train at Ryeford Station (demolished for the east west bypass) or the old LMS Stonehouse Railway Station (now closed but still there) and go to Bristol .


In Gloucester the LMS Bristol line ran into Eastgate Station (where Asda is now) and the GWR line into Central Station with a very very very long bridge connecting the two.   The LMS line ran into Gloucester parallel with the main road and at Barton Gates the railway gates used to come down to stop the road traffic whenever a train came into the station from that direction.  Can you imagine the traffic hold up there would be today if the Gates were still in operation!


At some time all the railway companies were taken over and became British Rail.  I don’t know when this happened, but, when I was young, people still called them the GWR (Great Western Railway) and LMS ( London , Midland , Scottish Railway).

The Dudbridge Donkey and Ryeford train station

The Dudbridge Donkey was an LMS line.  For the Dudbridge Donkey (as it was called locally) part of the line ran from Nailsworth to Stonehouse, with a branch line from Stroud LMS station (not far from the present Stroud & Swindon Building Society) where it joined the Nailsworth Stonehouse section at the station at Dudbridge.  I believe (though not certain) that this line was called the Dursley Donkey further on in its route.


At the LMS railway station at Ryeford there was a great big warehouse/shed covered in ivy.  I remember that, towards evening, a massive flock of starlings used to move into the safety of the ivy.   When I was young the station was looked after by Mr and Mrs Morse – for years I thought they were husband and wife, but, apparently Mr Morse was Mrs Morse’s stepson.  Either she looked younger than her age and he older, or, because I was young, everybody over the age of 20 looked equally ancient.


Standing on the platform outside the railway station you could look to your left and see that the Ryeford to King’s Stanley road passed over the railway line by means of a bridge supported by massive timber posts.


The cycle path is on the line of the Dudbridge Donkey and the bypass is just to the side of the line.  People are amazed when the bypass floods, but the railway line regularly flooded in bad weather.

Travelling around Stonehouse and Ryeford

When my family moved from Storrington Place in Stonehouse to Ryeford, when I was six, we continued to walk to St Cyr’s Church for services every Sunday.  We walked down the main road, going straight past Ryeford Pitch (which went down to The Anchor, Ryeford Sawmills and then on to King’s Stanley ).  Remember we were on the main Stonehouse/Stroud road and there was no roundabout at the Horse Trough Junction.  At the junction you either went on the bottom or the top Stonehouse road – the bypass hadn’t been built in those days.  We carried on down the bottom Stonehouse road and then past The Ship (now demolished but on the other side of the road almost opposite the bottom of Regent Street), past the little turning to Stanley Downton and, soon after that, through an opening on the left hand side onto a footpath that took us across the fields to St Cyr’s.  The fields have gone now, replaced by a housing estate.  We reversed the journey to come back. 


We walked or bussed everywhere.  My father had come up from Plymouth during the war, working for the Admiralty, billeted (if that’s how you spell it!) at a house at Stanley Mill.  He was a heavy smoker and, when I was six, was diagnosed with a heart complaint which, in those days, meant he was not allowed to drive.  As my mother who, in her youth had driven a horse and trap, a motor cycle and a car, had long given up driving, we had no option but to walk or use buses.  Going to Gloucester we used the train, getting on at Stonehouse; going the other way, we walked to Ebley and got on the train at Ebley

Photo:St Cyr's Church

St Cyr's Church

by Iris Capps

Ryeford, near Stonehouse, Gloucestershire

This page was added by Gill Redford on 08/06/2010.
Comments about this page

Hi Gill. I am interested in your family information regarding the Ryeford Wesleyan Tin Chapel. This was presented by my Gr Grandfather John Ford and his brothers George Aaron Charles and Samuel to the people of Stroud in 1871 at a cost of £250 providing the Stewards paid for the furnishings. The Chapel was lined with green baize, and was constructed with 'Glittering Nails'.  I have a photo of the Chapel if you would like a copy. My Gr Grandfather John was living at Haywardsfield Hall and sold it to Mr Sibley which is now Wycliffe College. Hope this is of interest to you. Peter Ford

By Peter John Ford
On 31/08/2010

I enjoyed reading your memories of Ryford area. My dad Harry Wall used to work in the saw mills before 1939 when he left to go to war.He settled in Grimsby in 1943. He was born in Kings Stanley and we have come to see his family many times and we all remember driving over the humped bridge!

By Martyn Wall
On 21/01/2014

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