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.

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