The reluctant butcher

Samuel Combridge was not the first in his family to run a shop, by any means.  It turns out that his father, Daniel Thomas Combridge, was a butcher, as was his father before him.

He was, it seems, a reluctant butcher.  How do we know that?  Well, from an unusual source:  a book found at The Keep last week entitled ‘Further History of The Gospel Standard Baptists’, by S F Paul.  It was already known that Daniel Thomas had been a key member of the Galeed Chapel in Gloucester Road, Brighton.  This book has a large section on his contribution to the church and some invaluable biographical information.

The family moved to Brighton from Southborough, near Tunbridge Wells, in 1842, as the sea air was beneficial to Daniel’s mother’s health.  They took a shop in Western Road, Hove, for Daniel’s father Thomas to continue his butcher’s trade but, we are told, “ [Daniel] had an aversion to the butcher’s trade in which his father was engaged; but after trying other occupations for some months, he was sent for to assist in the office of another butcher in the town, and continued there nearly five years”.  He eventually became a partner in his father’s business, at which time we are told that “his mind was rather set upon youthful pleasures”.  However, he came to develop a strong Christian faith, which saw him through his father’s death, business difficulties and his first wife dying at the age of 30.  In 1862 Daniel Thomas married for a second time, to Sarah Pattison, who would be the mother of Samuel.

Around the time of Samuel’s birth Daniel Thomas became one of the founding members of the new Galeed Chapel.  The book tells of further family bereavements, including the death of his eldest daughter at the age of 15.  However, in 1875 Daniel Thomas was in a position to buy a house in Leopold Road, Brighton, quite near to the chapel and soon after he was able to sell his business and devote himself to church matters full time.

Daniel Thomas’ second wife died in 1895.  The book describes a visit to “his eldest son in Edgbaston”, who we know to be Cornelius Combridge, son of his first wife Miriam Funnel.  The following year he married his third wife, Rhoda Gardiner.  Following two heart attacks, Daniel Thomas died in September 1915.  Rhoda, who was 30 years younger than him,  lived until 1938.

In my trawl through the Brighton trade directories at The Keep the earliest entry I found for Thomas Combridge was in 1846 at 26 Western Road, Hove.  Eventually in 1861 the entry is for ‘Combridge and Son, butchers’, which bears out what is mentioned in the book, and then just ‘D.T. Combridge’ from 1867.

By 1884 the Western Road butcher’s has been taken on by John Martin Combridge.  I’m not exactly sure of the relationship, but in the 1871 census a John Martin was described as a nephew of Esther Combridge, the sister of Daniel Thomas, so it looks as though this was a relation who was somehow adopted as a Combridge.  Business seems to have gone very well for John Martin, as by 1892 he had expanded into 27 Western Road as well as opening another store at 79 and 80 North Road.  The 1906 Towner’s Directory was the last reference I could find to him.

The Combridge empire was further enhanced by Daniel Thomas’ older brother Caleb also having a butcher’s business, continued by his son Frederick at Terminus Road.

We feel another trip to Brighton coming on, to visit all these various locations!

Galeed Chapel Brighton
Galeed Chapel is still there in Gloucester Road, Brighton

Combridge’s Library

In my blog of 19 December, entitled Picturesque Sussex , I talked about the book by that name that I had bought in a secondhand bookshop and discovered was published by S Combridge of Hove, probably just before 1912.

Well, since then we have been looking into who S Combridge was, and how he might be related to my husband’s family of that name.

Going initially to Ancestry and the 1911 census for Combridges in Hove, I quickly found Eric Combridge, my husband’s great-uncle, living with a widowed Emily Combridge.  He is described as a nephew and, aged 15, is an apprentice bookseller.  This looked promising, but who was he apprenticed to?

The only other Combridge I could find with a Hove connection was a Cornelius Combridge, born in Hove, but on census night staying with his wife at the Berners Hotel in London.  He described himself as a ‘bookseller and stationer’, so perhaps he was the Hove publisher?  But ten years earlier he was living in Edgbaston, Birmingham and, intriguingly, Ancestry had another surprise to offer:  in July 1917 it seems that Cornelius received the Freedom of the City of London; his place of residence Birmingham.  That’s a digression for another time, but indicates that his permanent home in 1911 was likely to have been Birmingham too.

However, my temporary subscription to Findmypast then came up trumps, which just goes to show that if you don’t find what you’re looking for on one site it’s definintely worth checking another.  At 23 Bigwood Avenue, Hove, I found Samuel Combridge, Bookseller and Stationer, with his wife Miriam and daughter Muriel.  Bingo!  Ten years earlier, in 1901, he was living at home, aged 34, single, but already a Bookseller and Stationer, and the much younger brother of Cornelius.  I think we have our man.

As our daughters keep reminding us “these parents know how to have a good time” – and so we do!  Our recent mini break in Brighton incorporated a day at The Keep, the Record Office for East Sussex.

There, I worked my way through the Brighton trade directories.  There isn’t one for every year by any means, but in the 1902 Towner’s Directory of Brighton there is Samuel:  bookseller, librarian and stationer, at 56 Church Road, Hove.  He’s still there in 1906 and 1908 and by 1914 has been joined by C F Cook, 56 Church Road now being called ‘Combridge’s Library’.  By 1917 Combridge and Cook have opened up an additional shop at 70 Church Road – ‘Combridge’s Antiquarian Bookshop’.  The last entry I found was in the 1920 Kelly’s Directory for Brighton.  In the next year’s edition an entry for ‘Mrs Samuel Combridge’ at 15 Wilbury Villas, Hove, points to the demise of her husband.  Sure enough, the Probate Calendar for 1921 on Findmypast reveals that he died at home on 24 May that year, leaving £15,393.

Samuel Combridge
Probate for Samuel Combridge 1921, accessed via Findmypast

Although nowhere is Samuel described as a Publisher, that was obviously one side of the business.  Opening the second book that I bought at the secondhand bookshop in Lewes (which I had already read), I was astonished to see that it, too, was published by Combridges of 56 Church Road!

Combridge; Hove
Published by Combridges

So on a cold February day, we made pilgrimage to Church Road, Hove.  Settling ourselves in the window of a coffee shop, we were able to gaze across at the premises which was once ‘Combridge’s Library’ and ponder how Hove must have changed in the ensuing hundred years.

56 Church Road, Hove. Once Combridge’s Library.

That Eureka moment!

Last Friday I had a rare Eureka moment!  Fortunately I was in my own living room and not working in the quiet of a record office, so my fairly audible “yes!!” did not disrupt the concentration of anyone else.

I should explain that I have been searching for some evidence of Allen Mitchell for a good thirty plus years.  My Granny had 3 uncles who crossed the pond – James, Henry and Allen.  James (born 1839 West Grinstead, Sussex) ended up in Canada, in Hamilton Ontario, and with occasional trips to the library to use Ancestry Worldwide I have pieced together a fair amount about him.  Henry (born 1842 West Grinstead) went to New York state, settling in Palmyra, as did his much younger brother Allen (born 1851 West Grinstead).  I had got as far as discovering Allen living with his brother Henry and family at the time of the 1880 US census.

Granny believed that Allen was killed in a railroad accident – but when?  I had failed to find Allen in a census after 1880, no sign of a death, and I had also searched for a newspaper report without success.

The free weekend on Findmypast had led to an email offering me a month’s subscription to the site for £1.  That sounded a pretty good deal to me, so I signed up.  I noticed that this included access to worldwide records.

Now I wasn’t really thinking about my overseas Mitchells particularly, but an enquiry from someone about the Canadian connection meant I turned to that section of my notes.  In doing so, I discovered that I had made a note to myself to check, at some point in the future, the Syracuse Herald for 23 March 1914 on Findmypast, as it appeared to have a reference to an Allen Mitchell.  So I duly discovered how to find this publication, narrowed it down to the relevant date and searched for Allen Mitchell.  Yes!!!!


Syracuse Herald 23 March 1914
Syracuse Herald 23 March 1914

At long last, there he was!  And what a goldmine of information!  “Allen Mitchell killed by a car.  Veteran Central employee struck at Buffalo”.  63 year old Allen had just returned to work following a previous accident.  Walking along the track at about 8.00 am to where he was doing some reconstruction work, he was hit by a runaway coal car and was killed instantly.  The report says that he had been working for the railroad company for about 35 years.  Having started as a carpenter, he had risen to the position of constructing engineer and foreman and was “well known to railroad men throughout this section of the State”.  The report also tells us that “Mrs Mitchell is on the verge of collapse from shock”.  Well I didn’t know he even had a wife, and poor woman receiving this news!  It also gives an address for the Mitchells in Lodi Street, Syracuse.  It seems his current place of work at Buffalo was around 160 miles away from home.

Having recovered from this excitement, I proceeded to see if I could find Allen and his wife on the 1900 census – a name for Mrs Mitchell would be nice.  And there they were:  Allen Mitchell had been married to Louisa for 12 years at that point, and she had been born around 1857 in New York.  They had no children and the census gave Allen’s year of immigration as 1871.  Well, moving on to the Passenger Lists on Findmypast, I found a possible entry for Allen:  leaving Liverpool on the City of Brooklyn, 19 year old Allen arrived in New York on 26 March 1870.

The blank space under Allen’s name on the family tree can be filled in at long last.  £1 well spent!

City of Brooklyn
The City of Brooklyn


2 months’ prison sentence for shop breaking

Perhaps it is just as well that it was not until Sunday that I discovered that FindMyPast were having a free weekend!  I might have got far too distracted otherwise…

As it was, with limited time, I decided to search some specific record collections, including Crime and Punishment.  Searching for the surname Buckingham in Oxfordshire, I came across William Buckingham, plasterer of Chipping Norton, who, in 1925, was sentenced to two months in prison for “shop breaking”.

I was particulary interested in the amount of physical description given:  I learnt that William was 5’ 9” with dark hair and brown eyes.  He had distinguising marks of a ‘heart, hand and sword’ on his right forearm (presumably a tatoo) and ‘clasped hands’ on his right wrist.  The description also noted “right foot deformed”.

I felt that, unfortunately, William was very likely to be one of ‘mine’, since I have Buckinghams who moved from the parish of Eynsham to Chipping Norton.  However, I couldn’t track him down on my tree, so I decided to do a bit of family reconstruction.

Working backwards I quickly discovered that he was the son of James and Mary Buckingham.  In 1911 and 1901 James is shown as a Brewery Maltster’s labourer in Chipping Norton.  The 1911 census was particularly revealing:  not only did it show that James and Mary had 15 children (!), but someone had also added in the ‘disability’ column for William “club foot from birth”.  Very helpful for verifying that I had the right person.  James had been born in Eynsham.  I went on to discover, working my way backwards, that James’ parents were William and Eliza Buckingham, with William having been born around 1810 in Combe, just north of Eynsham.  That was about as far as I was able to go with online records, but infuriatingly I cannot link these Buckinghams to mine, although they lived in the same places.  At some point, with more time, I must look carefully at the parish records.

Going back to the detailed 1911 census, however, I was intrigued to see that William’s brother and sister were both involved in tweed manufacturing, one as a ‘wool feeder’ and the other as a ‘wool steamer’.  Suddenly I realised that I had probably found the answer to a question raised in my mind every time we drive through Chipping Norton on our way to the Cotswolds.  A quick Google search confirmed it:  as you drive out of Chipping Norton on the A44 heading towards Moreton-in-Marsh, you cannot fail to see a large building which almost looks like a stately home, except for the extremely tall chimney.  It seems that this was the Bliss Tweed Mill, built in 1872 to process locally produced wool.  The chimney was for the furnace which powered the steam machinery used in the mill.  According to Wikipedia the mill did not close until 1980 and has now been converted into apartments.

Well, William it would seem chose not to follow his siblings into work at the mill but to learn the trade of a plasterer – a trade that he declared the intention of continuing in Oxford on his release from prison at the end of November 1925.  I hope you then went straight, William!

Chipping Norton
Bliss Tweed Mill Chipping Norton