Thomas James Pryor 1811 - 1879
Thomas James Pryor was born in Fenchurch Street, London, on 2nd August 1811. His father, Joseph Pryor, son of John Pryor, of Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, died two years later at the age of twenty-eight. Nothing is known of Thomas James's childhood, and little of his mother, who probably also died very young, but on May 16th, when not quite fifteen, he was apprenticed to John Purdoe, grocer, of Cheap Street, Newbury. His maternal grandmother brought him up and paid £84 for the apprenticeship. Although the terms of his indentures forbade him to "contract matrimony", he no doubt had been courting Ann Trumplett Woodley, one of the twelve children of Hannah and John Woodley, of Hampstead Norris. Thomas James came to Harwell in 1833, to start a grocery business, and Thomas and Ann were married at Hampstead Norris church on 6th January 1834, when she was twenty and he two years older.
The house and shop where they began married life in Harwell must have been destroyed in the disastrous fire of 1852; the house and shop, now (1985) premises for Napper's newsagent, into which they moved, were built in 1852. Thomas James also had a bake house and a stable in his new premises. The business prospered, and there were three sons of the marriage: John Thomas, b.1834, Edward Joseph, b.1835, and George William, b.1842. In 1861, Thomas James started another shop in Didcot, near the station; the railway had come to Didcot in 1842. John Thomas, the eldest son, stayed in the family business, and was the enumerator for the 1871 Census return for Harwell village.
Thomas James, the founder of the Harwell family business, which was bought by a member of the family in 1925, had a loving, sensitive nature, according to family tradition; the following letter illustrates his concern for the poor of Harwell village: