More Combridge Butchers in Brighton

Following our discovery back in February that there were even more Combridges in Brighton and Hove than we had realised, we journeyed back there last month to photograph more of the places where they all lived and worked.

Thomas Combridge had moved his family to Brighton from Southborough, near Tunbridge Wells, in 1842, in the hope that the sea air would improve the health of his wife.  We know that he set up his butcher’s shop at 26 Western Road, which today is one of the main roads linking Brighton and Hove.  Daniel Thomas, his son, who was already following in his footsteps as a butcher, albeit somewhat reluctantly (see blog of 27 February), appears on the 1851 census at that address along with his two younger brothers, James and William, but also with his older sister Esther, who is described as a ‘schoolmistress’.

Western Road Hove
26 and 27 Western Road Hove

Daniel’s eldest brother Caleb, born in 1823, had also relocated to Brighton, but had married  Priscilla in Edmonton before his appearance in the 1851 census working as a butcher and living at 77 Trafalgar Road. Confusingly, the business was at 72 Trafalgar Street. The couple had  a daughter Clarissa.  Seven years later, however, Priscilla died in Southwark.  Caleb went on to marry Charlotte Boon in Brighton in 1862.

Trafalgar Street, Brighton
72 Trafalgar Street, Brighton

Following father Thomas’ death in 1853, Daniel Thomas took over the business at 26 Western Road, and by 1861 the business had expanded into the adjacent property – number 27 – where his sister Esther and their widowed mother Philadelphia were now living, together with their brother William, also now a butcher.  At this point Esther was working as a governess.  Unfortunately I can’t find either Caleb or younger brother James in 1861, but by the 1871 census both of them had died – James in 1868 aged only 37 and Caleb in 1870 aged 47.

The pull of a career as a butcher was obviously a strong one with the Combridges:  Caleb’s son Frederick, born in 1853, also took up the trade, and can be found in Page’s Brighton Directory of 1884 at 5 Terminus Road, where he continued until his death in 1905.

Terminus Road, Brighton
5 Terminus Road, Brighton 

Esther, meanwhile, continued her career in education and can be found in the 1871 and 1881 censuses, still at 27 Western Road, working as a school mistress.  Esther died in 1895 in Brighton.

Tracing the movements of the Combridge butchers in Brighton, has thrown up a number of questions:  what was Caleb doing in London?  Where was James in 1861?  Why can’t I find Frederick in the censuses?  And where was Esther in 1891?  And as for Daniel’s other sister, Mary, we haven’t even begun to look for her…..




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.