This is one of many skilled craftspeople who, over the centuries, have found employment opportunities in the market town of Thornbury.

He’s Frank Symes, he was a saddler and harness maker and he was born in Thornbury in 1863. He had a saddler’s shop at 18 High Street (now the location of Troupers Beauty Studio) and he’s pictured here outside his shop, possibly in 1916. During the First World War, Frank’s young assistant, Herbert Allen, applied for exemption from fighting; Herbert was needed in the shop, as they were maintaining 100 farmers and 300 horses. The application was granted and Herbert’s call-up was delayed until December 1917.

When Frank Symes retired in 1926, his assistant and former apprentice Lawrence Roach took over the business. We have on display a very fine bridle made by him. Lawrence was also a volunteer fireman in Thornbury and we show a photograph of him in his fireman’s uniform, alongside his proud elderly parents.

The shop would have smelt very different a hundred years ago. The workshop itself, in the backyard, is remembered for a blend of smells, which included leather, straw, horse sweat (from collars and harness sent in for repair), horse liniment, other oils, creams, saddle soaps and polish. We can’t recreate the smells but you can come in and read all about the saddlers and harness makers of Thornbury, of which we have the names of fourteen who worked in the town at different times.

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