Margaret BLAKE & Briarholm Nursery, London Road, Hadleigh, Essex

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In July 2022 I helped the owner of a newly acquired black and white photograph to pinpoint exactly where it was taken on London Road, Hadleigh, Essex. The photo captured Miss Margaret Blake standing outside her gardening business “Briarholm Nursery” in the late 1920s or 1930s. Always eager to learn more, I went on to research Margaret’s family tree and discovered her mother’s side had a fascinating history including quack doctors, printers, artists and house builders.


The above photograph was bought by Peter Lewsey from justgoodcards and the original discussion can be found on AGES Archaeological & Historical Association‘s Facebook here.

By researching census records and old maps it was possible to pinpoint Briarholm Nursery to 317 London Road, which stood next to a large house called “Alverstoke” at 319 (demolished 1962-64) on the corner of Oak Road North.

The picture on the left below was taken prior to 1931 when Essex County Council submitted a Compulsory Purchase Order for the strips of land along either side of London Road for widening and improvement purposes. “Alverstoke” is the large house on the far right with Briarholm Nursery set back in the plot to its left (hidden from view by the tree). The photo on the right shows the same scene today, much changed.


Margaret BLAKE’s land abutted London Road on its south and reached back to the garden of her family home called “Briarholm” on Church Road (now number 42), opposite Hadleigh Junior School.


Briarholm Nursery was still running in 1955 when it was officially given the address of “317 London Road” by the GPO. The business was bought by brothers Harry Arthur CHASE and Edward Leonard CHASE (aka Len) who traded as “Chase Bros.“. In 1939 Harry and Len (plus their wives) were living at “Perseverance Villa”, The Crescent, Hadleigh. Harry worked as a shopkeeper (corn dealer) and Len a decorator. Perseverance Villa was the home of Harry’s wife Hetty Louise WOODFORD’s family from about 1902 until her parents died in 1924 and 1926. Hetty’s brother Alfred William WOODFORD died in Gallipoli during WWI and is commemorated on the Hadleigh War Memorial.

In Nov 1962 P. N. Wall Esq. (c/o Lloyd, Ager & Co.) applied to the Benfleet Urban District Council to demolish “Alverstoke” and replace it with “two shops and offices or two flats on first floor“. The planning was refused on the grounds that the property was “within an area which it is proposed shall be allocated primarily for residential purposes“. A year later in Oct 1963, another application was filed on behalf of Messrs. Chase Bros. for “shops with flats over“, outlining both the nursery grounds and the house plot next door. Permission was granted with various conditions, mostly regarding the flow of traffic in and out of Oak Road North.

In May 1964 a third planning application was submitted by Messrs. Henry Developments Ltd and Messrs. North Estuary Properties (Hadleigh) Ltd., (c/o Lloyd, Agar & Co.) for both plots for the “provision of three shops, two floors offices, eight flats plus car parking etc.“, with permission granted for “three shops and one office on ground floor, one office and three flats on first floor and five flats on second floor with provision for car parking.”, which was subsequently built and bringing to an end Briarholm Nursery.


MARGARET BLAKE ~ FAMILY TREE

Margaret BLAKE was born on 4th Jun 1879 in Islington, London, the first of two daughters born to Arthur John BLAKE and his wife Kate HODSON. Arthur began his career as a commercial clerk when he was 18, having been born in Islington in 1853. By the time he and Kate (b.1858 and also from Islington) married in the summer of 1878, he was working as a commercial traveller. Arthur was 25 and Kate was 20. Their daughter Margaret was born the following year, and Dorothy two years after that.

  1. Margaret Blake b.04 Jun 1879 in Islington, unmarried, death unknown
  2. Dorothy Blake b.13 Nov 1881 in Islington, m.1918 to Jean F Delmer, d.1950 in the district of Thurrock, Essex

The family had moved to Tottenham, London by 1891 where Arthur was working as a shipping clerk, and were back in Islington by 1901 with Arthur working once again as a commercial traveller in paints. The family of four then moved from Islington to Hadleigh, Essex and were living in a seven-roomed property called “The Woods” on Scrub Lane when the 1911 census was taken. Arthur (58) was still working as a commercial traveller in enamels and paints, and Kate was 53. Margaret (age 31) and Dorothy (age 29), were still living at home, both unmarried and with “no occupation“.

There are very few newspaper articles or adverts mentioning the Blake family in Hadleigh, but there is a little to be gleaned from what is found. Dorothy was part of the Operatic Society which in Apr 1912 performed “A Nautical Knot” with Dorothy cast in the lead. The annual flower show and gala in connection with the Hadleigh and District Horticultural and Poultry Association was held in the Meadow, Scrub Land on Monday 4th Aug 1913 for which Margaret won first place for two marrows and third place for a collection of six different vegetables. In Oct 1914 “Miss Blake” of Briarholm (most likely Dorothy rather than Margaret) placed an advert for “Anglais parlant francais desire echanger lecons anglais pour lecons fiamands“, which translates to “English speaking French wants to exchange English lessons for French lessons“. And lastly, in Oct 1915The Misses Blake and Mongredian” advertised for sale cabbages, wallflowers, pansies, antirrhinums and Sweet Williams from Briarholm.

The newspaper advert from 1914 confirms the family had moved a couple of streets to “Briarholm” by October and electoral records from 1918 give their address as “Briarholm”, Church Road. However, this was not the property at what is now 42 Church Road with the nursery attached, as this was still a large vacant plot up to 1923. Nor did the family name the property themselves. The “Briarholm” in which the Blake family first lived in is what is now 90 Church Road opposite the top of Seymour Road which was already named “Briarholm” in the 1911 census. In 1924 66-year-old Kate employed local carpenter and builder Lewis Sidney UPSON to build the family a new bungalow on Church Road and a lockup shop on London Road for Margaret’s nursery. When the Blake family moved into their new home they took the name “Brairholm” with them, and their old home became “The Bungalow”. It is interesting to note that Lewis’s nephew Harry John WIFFEN died in France during WWI and is commemorated on the Hadleigh War Memorial.

Prior to the construction work, Dorothy had married a Belgium man named Jean F DELMER in the spring of 1918 somewhere in the Rochford district (not at St James The Less in Hadleigh) and their first and only child was born on 20th Sep 1920 in Belgium (John Emile DELMER). However, when the 1921 census was taken Dorothy and her son were living with her parents and her husband Jean was nowhere to be found. Also living with Arthur and Kate was a French boarder called Rene CASTANET (age 21 and with no occupation) and a second boarder called Cecil Edward BRICK (age 28) who was a local schoolmaster. The night the census was taken Margaret was visiting Mrs Lilian Anne WARD (age 44) close by at “The Croft” on Beech Road. Margaret had just turned 42 and working as a nursery gardener with her own account from her home “Briarholm”, Church Road. Arthur (age 68) was still working as a commercial traveller, employed by Aspinalls Enamel Ltd. of New Cross, London. Kate (age 63) had no occupation listed, and Dorothy (age 39) stated to be “married to a Belgium“. Arthur died a few years later in early 1928 aged 74.

On the 6th Jan 1931 Essex County Council made a Compulsory Purchase Order for the strips of land on either side of London Road, Hadleigh in order to widen and improve the old road into Leigh and Southend. Dorothy was forced to sell 17 sq yards of her garden in front of her nursery and 13 sq yards in front of her shop. She was described as the “owner-occupier”.

Margaret, Dorothy and their mother Kate were still living at “Briarholm” when the 1939 Register was taken. Kate was now 81, Margaret was 60 (unmarried) and Dorothy was 58 (marital condition not recorded, her husband still a mystery). The occupations of all three women were recorded as “unpaid domestic duties”, implying Margaret was no longer running her nursery (although it was still a running business). Dorothy’s son John was working as a cowman and farm assistant at “Crasoways” in Washford, Williton, Somerset age 19.

Kate died at “Briarholm” on 1st Dec 1942 aged 84 leaving effects to the value of £718 4s 4d (nearly 28k as of Sep 2023). There are no further confirmed records for Margaret so how long she remained in Hadleigh or the place and date of her death are currently unknown. Dorothy died in the district of Thurrock, Essex in spring 1950 aged 68 and her son John died on 28th Nov 1996 in Cheshire aged 76.

 

BLAKE FAMILY – PATERNAL HISTORY

Margaret’s paternal family originated in Hampshire and Derbyshire. Her father Arthur John BLAKE was the last of six children born to William BLAKE and his wife Sarah EGLINGTON.

William BLAKE was born in 1818 in West Tytherley, Hampshire and was the tenth of eleven children born to William BLAKE Snr and his wife Jenny/Jane DAWKINS. William Snr was a labourer and local parish clerk in West Tytherley.

Sarah EGLINGTON was born on 10 Jun 1816 in Ashbourne, Derbyshire and was the fourth of ten children born to John EGLINGTON and his wife Elizabeth WHITE. John worked as a grocer and his father Samuel EGLINGTON (wife Elizabeth BAGNALL) was a stone mason. Elizabeth’s father William WHITE (wife Mary THACKER) worked as a whitesmith and one of her brothers was a bell hanger.

William and Sarah married on 1st Jun 1843 at Saint John The Evangelist, Waterloo Road, Lambeth, Surrey and had six children. William was working as a grocer when the couple married but moved onto the railway shortly after working as a clerk and guard. The family moved around quite a bit as it grew, settling in Islington, London by 1853.

  1. William Blake ~ b.12 Sep 1844 in Derby, Derbyshire, m.1872 to Elizabeth Smith (Sergeant Royal Artillery / Printer Compositor / Clerk for Electrical Engineer)
  2. Harry Blake ~ b.01 May 1846 in Great Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, m.1868 to Emma Maria Trounce (Printer’s Compositor)
  3. Francis Blake ~ b.30 Oct 1847 in Great Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire (Machine Minder Engineer)
  4. Caroline Blake ~ b.1849 in Wolverton, Buckinghamshire, m.1871 to Guthrie James Adamson (Carpenter), d. 1929 in Broadmayne, Dorset
  5. Alfred Blake ~ b.03 Dec 1850 in Fenny Stratford, Buckinghamshire, m.1873 to Mary Jane Snell, d. 1927 in Edmonton, London (Metropolitan Police Inspector / Estate Agent)
  6. Arthur John Blake ~ b.1853 in Islington, London, m.1878 to Kate Hudson, d. 1928 in Hadleigh, Essex (Commercial Traveller in Enamels & Paints)

William and Sarah were living with their son Arthur and family in Tottenham in 1891 (Margaret’s parents and sister Dorothy) Eleven-year-old Margaret was not at home and has not been identified in the census (possibly at a boarding school). Sarah died in Edmonton in mid-1896 aged 80 most likely at the home of their daughter Caroline with whom William was living in 1901. William’s death has not been identified but does not show up in the 1911 census.

 

HODSON FAMILY – MATERNAL HISTORY

Margaret’s maternal family originally came from Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and Essex before moving to London. Her mother Kate HODSON was the second of six children born to William HODSON and his wife Eliza Sarah PARKINSON. William was from a family of successful printers and artists working all around the country and Eliza’s father and brother ran a very large building firm in London.

The HODSON line can be traced back to Margaret’s 3rd great-grandfather Nathaniel HODSON and his first wife Mary SHIRLEY who married in 1737 in Longford, Derbyshire. Their first two sons were baptised in Duffield (about 10 miles away) and then they moved to Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire where they baptised a further six sons, burying one at age 3.

  1. William Hodson ~ b.Aug 1738 in Duffield, Derbyshire, married Fanny, d.08 Sep 1816 in Islington, London (merchant in Lothbury, London)
  2. Francis Hodson (baptism recorded as “Charles Hodson”) ~ b.Jul 1740 in Duffield, m.1767 to Anne Smith, d.17 Oct 1812 in Cambridge, Cambridgeshire (printer in Cambridge)
  3. Nathaniel Hodson ~ b.May 1743 in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, m.1766 to Jane Partridge, death unknown (schoolmaster and bookseller in Burton)
  4. Joseph Hodson ~ b.Nov 1745 in Burton, d.21 May 1748 aged 3
  5. Charles Hodson ~ b.May 1748 in Burton, m.1771 to Rebecca Allen, d.Jul 1814 in Burton (schoolmaster in Burton)
  6. Joseph Hodson ~ b.Oct 1750 in Burton, marriage and death unknown (printer and bookseller in Salisbury, Wiltshire)
  7. James Hodson (Margaret’s 2nd great-grandfather) ~ b.May 1753 in Burton, m.1788 to Harriet Clarkson, d.16 Apr 1812 in Holborn, London (printer, stationer, quack doctor and Minister of the New Jerusalem Church)

Mary died at some point before 1769 as Nathaniel remarried Hannah SPENCER on 12th Apr when they were aged 50 and 26. Nathaniel was noted to be widowed and working as a victualler. The couple had two children (including his only daughter) before Nathaniel died in Mar 1786 in Burton aged about 67. No further information on these two children or his widow Hannah has been found.

  1. Edward Hodson ~ b.1772 in Burton (no records found after baptism)
  2. Ann Hodson ~ b.1775 in Burton (no records found after baptism)

Francis HODSON (Margaret’s 3rd great-uncle) co-founded the Cambridge Chronicle in 1762 with Thomas FLETCHER, a London printer and stationer to whom his younger brother James HODSON later became indentured for a term of seven years (the minimum term at the time). There is a record for the collection of tax on the money received for this in 1770 when James would have been 17, but the dates recorded were not related to when an apprentice started or finished just when the tax was collected. James’s elder brother William was well-established in London by this time so was not without family after moving down the country. By 1776 23-year-old James had moved to Southampton and was working as a bookseller, stationer and printseller from his premises on the High Street next to the Mitre Inn. He also sold a variety of quack medicines such as “Dr Robert Walker’s Jesuits Drops” and the following year became an appointed State Lottery seller. James was an authorised vendor of Dr John BURROW’s improved recipe for “Velnos’ Vegetable Syrup“, as were his brothers Francis in Cambridge and Joseph in Salisbury. His brother William also sold similar items in London. “Velnos’ Vegetable Syrup” claimed to be able to cure everything from smallpox and leprosy to syphilis and cancer.


Business seems to have been going well, and in Nov 1776 James became the new partner of The Hampshire Chronicle with James LINDEN (1727-1806), founded by Linden in 1772. The partnership did not last long, as Linden, a former schoolmaster, became sole proprietor in Jan 1778 and bankrupt in Feb 1778. A month later James HODSON sold by auction all his household contents and entire business stock from his house at 145 High Street. He had moved from Southampton by Sep leaving at least one of his medicinal orders unpaid for (a batch of “Lecoeur’s Imperial Oil” made by local perfumer Thomas MACKLIN).


Five years passed with no further sign of James until 2nd Dec 1783 when he took on apprentice Edward HODSON (age 16), the nephew of his brother Francis for a period of seven years (completed in 1790). James was now age 30 and a “citizen and stationer of London“. The following year, James reappeared in the newspapers as “Dr James Hodson M.D.” in Dec 1784, working from 14 Northumberland Street, Charing Cross, London. He was once again preparing and selling Dr John BURROW’s M.D. improved recipe for “Velnos’ Vegetable Syrup” and now offering consultations on the “virtues” of his medicine from his home, although his main source of income remained that of printing. It is interesting to note that John BURROWS also lived in Charring Cross at this time at Craigs Court just around the corner from James, and the two men were clearly now well acquainted. The making of Velno’s Vegetable Syrup and the authenticity of its recipe were contested between certain makers at this time. James had acquired his recipe directly from John Burrows who had then “improved” upon the original which he had sold since at least 1760 in its original form, and placed a newspaper advert with this declaration backed by the signatures of both John Burrows and his wife confirming this. However, in 1790 another seller of Velno’s recipe Isaac Swainson declared all others to be “vehicles for poisonous metals“. He had repeatedly called upon Burrows to produce proof he had ever seen the original recipe or been employed in any other capacity than a vendor, from which he was according to Swainson, “discharged with dishonour“. He also went on to say “A person calling himself Dr. Hodson, is the worthy disciple of Burrows, and renews the same pretensions, with the same truth and honour“. Swainson went so far as to offer £1000 “to any man in England who will produce a deed, conveyance or any circumstance that will prove the recipe of De Velnos has been made known to any person in Great Britain or Ireland, except Dr. Mercier and Dr. Swainson“.


James published a lengthy quack medical book in Aug 1785 entitled “Nature’s Assistant to the Restoration of Health“. In it, he described the uses of several of his remedies such as “Aromatic Nervine Tea” (half-a-crown a packet) and “Persian Restorative Drops” (half-a-guinea a bottle) along with his improved version of “Velnos’ Vegetable Syrup” renamed “Parisian Vegetable Syrup“. It also included several pages of letters and cases from cured customers. The book was printed by his apprentice and nephew Edward at Bell Yard, Temple Bar and ran into several editions. The eleventh edition of 1791 included a dedication to Charles COLLIGNON, M.D., professor of anatomy at Cambridge University (who had died Oct 1785) “by his late pupil and obedient servant“. James was clearly implying he had a medical degree, but there is no evidence at all to support this claim. It is possible that after he moved from Southampton in 1778 he went to Cambridge (where his brother Francis lived) and attended lectures on anatomy held by Professor Charles COLLIGNON. A little bit of research into James’s acquaintance Dr John BURROWS confirms that he was also not a qualified doctor, but rather the son of an apotheary. Mr Swainson was likely spot on when stated the “person calling himself Dr. Hodson” was a “worthy disciple of Burrows”.


In 1786 James wrote “Jesus Christ the True God, and the Proper Object of Supreme Adoration“, printed by subscription the following year by his nephew and apprentice Edward. A long list of subscribers was included within the book which listed several family members, soon-to-be in-laws and members of the New Church with which he was about to get heavily involved.

Between 1786 and 1787 James lived at 31 Great Marlborough Road, Soho and married Harriet CLARKSON on 19th May 1788 at St Andrews, Holborn. James was now 35 and Harriet 23 and the couple moved to 29 Hatton Garden then number 24 in 1794. It is interesting to note that Harriet had been baptised as an adult at St Andrews just 11 days prior to her marriage, her father having been born a Quacker before joining the New Chuch.

The couple had two children (the first being Margaret’s 2nd great-grandfather), both of whom were baptised at St Andrews. James was working as a printer from 22 Bell Yard, Temple Bar with his nephew Edward who had completed his apprenticeship in 1790.

  1. James Shirley Hodson ~ b.08 Oct 1792, m.1816 to Mary Anne Wilson, d.1869 in Clerkenwell, London (master printer and publisher)
  2. Harriett Clarkson Hodson ~ b.20 Oct 1796, m.1818 to Harry Hodson (stationer) and 1838 to Alfred Essex, d.1839 in Clerkenwell, London

As James became more and more involved with the New Church (aka Swedenborg Society), along with his father-in-law John CLARKSON, he re-baptised his children in 1799 at New Jerusalemite Church on Cross Street (now St Cross Street) just off Hatton Garden. The family had moved to 15 Cross Street by this time. From 1800 James traded as “J. Hodson and Co.“, printing pamphlets for the Swedenborgians among other paid jobs. After a division occurred within the church, James started his own Swedenborgian ministry at Dudley Court (formally above Denmark Street off Charring Cross Road but now no longer there) where he was ordained on 3rd Mar 1805.

James continued to publish his own religious works and quack medical pamphlets until his death on 16th Apr 1812 aged 58. In his will he names himself as “James Hodson of 15 Cross Street, Hatton Garden … printer” tellingly making no mention of his medical title. He left his “library table bookcase and books therein” to his son James Shirley HODSON (age 19), “eighty pounds capital stock of the Stationers Company” to his wife Harriet for her life, which was then to go to his daughter Harriet Clarkson HODSON (age 15). Everything else he left to his wife.

James Shirley HODSON (Margaret’s great-grandfather) married Mary Anne WILSON of Kingston, Surrey on 17th Sep 1816 at St Andrews, Holborn and they had nine children, all of whom were baptised at New Jerusalemite Church on Cross Street. Margaret’s grandfather was the seventh child to be born.

  1. Sophia Hodson ~ b.27 Nov 1817 in Kingston, Surrey, m.1847 to Samuel Parsons (died 1849), d.1900 in St Marylebone, London (teacher of music)
  2. James Shirley Hodson ~ b.27 Dec 1819 in Holborn, m.1848 to Caroline Mallett and  1871 to Louisa Ashby Shury, d. 1899 in New Barnet, Hertfordshire (vocalist, journalist, secretary to Printers Pension Almshouse and Orphan-Asylum-Corporation)
  3. Harriett Eliza Hodson ~ b.10 Sep 1822 in Holborn, m.1858 to William Hoe (stationer), d.1908 in Tufnell Park, London
  4. George Clarkson Hodson ~ b.12 Mar 1826 in Holborn (no records found after baptism)
  5. Mary Anne Wilson Hodson ~ b.12 Mar 1826 in Holbornn m.1850 to Benjamin Page Searle (insurance inspector), d. 1905 in Tufnell Park, London
  6. Laura Hodson ~ b.19 Mar 1828 in Holborn, m.1860 to George Rose (mat manufacturer), d.1907 in West Ham, London (wood engraver, needlewoman & ladies nurse)
  7. William Hodson (Margaret’s grandfather) ~ b.28 Oct 1829 in Holborn, m.1855 to Eliza Sarah Parkinson, d.1918 in Edmonton, London (clerk, lithographic artist & printer)
  8. Francis Hodson ~ b.30 Jul 1833 in Holborn (no records found after baptism)
  9. Samuel John Hodson ~ b.14 Oct 1835 in Holborn, m.1871 to Alicia Deane and 1893 to Edith Mosley, d. 1908 in Holloway, London (watercolour artist)

James’s sister Harriet married their 1st cousin 1x removed Harry HODSON (a stationer) in 1818, but he sadly died three years later in 1821 aged 27. Their mother Harriet died on 21st May 1825 aged 60 and left her daughter the family house at 15 Cross Street.

James was admitted to the Company of Stationers on 5th Feb 1828 when he was 36. The document stated that he was born after the date his father had been admitted into the Company of Stationers, but the exact information was not included only “Copy 1783” which was the date his father took on an apprentice of his own.

James’s sister Harriet remarried Alfred ESSEX in 1838 but died the following year aged 44 leaving 15 Cross Street to James who was living there with his family by lease. The family were still at 15 Cross Street when the 1841 census was taken but by 1851 had moved to 22 Portugal Street, Westminster where they remained until James retired in the 1860s.

James died at his home at 37 Myddelton Square, Clerkenwell on 5th Apr 1869 after suffering for ten days with Bronchitus (age 76). Mary died towards the end of 1871 aged 78.

James and Mary’s children had some quite creative occupations. Sophia was a teacher of music, as was her own daughter (piano). James Jnr was a master printer, journalist, vocalist and chorister, and later the secretary to the Printers Pension Almshouse and Orphan-Asylum-Corporation. Harriet worked as a shopwoman before marrying a stationer. There is no record of George after his baptism. Mary married an insurance inspector and Laura married a mat manufacturer (prior to which she was a wood engraver and after being widowed a needlewoman and ladies’ nurse). William, Margaret’s grandfather, was a chancery, court & auctioneer’s clerk as well as working as a lithographic artist and printer. Like George, there is no record of Francis after his baptism. Their last child Samuel became a well-respected watercolour painter.

Margaret’s maternal grandfather William HODSON was born on 28th Oct 1829 in Holborn, most likely at 15 Cross Street. He was working as a court clerk in 1851 and married Eliza Sarah PARKINSON in St Pancras during the summer of 1855. They had seven children between 1856 and 1872 and moved around quite a bit.

  1. Percival Hodson ~ b.1856 in St Pancras, London, m.1879 to Jane Scrivener, d.1936 in Barnet, London (auctioneer and surveyor)
  2. Kate Hodson (Margaret’s mother) ~ b.31 Mar 1858 in Islington, London, m.1878 to Arthur John Blake (commercial traveller in enamels and paints), d.1942 in Hadleigh, Essex
  3. Emily Hodson ~ b.1859 in Islington, London, m.1893 to Francis Taylor (Sergeant Major 17th Lancs.), d.? (vaudeville author)
  4. Florance Hodson ~ b.1861 in Islington, London (milliner)
  5. Lewis Hodson ~ b.1865 in Islington, London, m.1887 to Emma Ann Clayton, d.1898 in Islington (clerk)
  6. Gilbert Hodson ~ b.06 Oct 1868 in Clerkenwell, London, m.1891 to Sarah Alice Snook, d.1946 in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire (secretary of Public Company & Limited Liability Company)
  7. Mabel Hodson ~ b.07 Mar 1872 in Finsbury Park, London, m.1892 to Edwin Arthur Dover (mercantile clerk), d. 1968 in Eastbourne, Sussex

In 1861 the family were living in Islington where William was working as a court clerk but by 1871 (age 41) he had changed careers and was working as an “artist in wood”. By 1881 William had progressed to a lithographic artist and printer employing three men and two boys, and the family were living in St Pancras then Clerkenwell. James continued in the printing business until the 1890s when he changed back to working as a clerk for an auctioneer, now living in Hornsey. He was retired by 1911 and back in Islington. Throughout the census records his wife Eliza never has an occupation noted.

William died in early 1918 aged 88 and his widow Eliza moved to Hadleigh, Essex to live with her daughter Kate and family but was there only very briefly as she died in the spring of 1918 aged 84 a few weeks after William.

– – –

Margaret’s maternal grandmother Eliza Sarah PARKINSON also came from a successful family. Her father, Thomas PARKINSON began life as a plumber slowly building up a firm of plumbers, glaziers, house decorators, carpenters & joiners and by 1861 was employing fifty-two men to build and repair houses. It has not been possible to confirm Thomas’s parents who likely came from Lancashire where he was born c.1798 in either Bury or Chorley.

Thomas PARKINSON married Mary TRAYLER (daughter of a miller from Roydon, Essex) on 8th Jan 1824 at St Botolph without Aldersgate, London and had eleven children between 1824 and 1843, losing three at a young age. Of their three surviving sons two joined the family business, but one died shortly after marrying leaving just William to carry on the company who eventually became a senior partner. Two of Mary’s brothers were also carpenters and builders working in London.

  1. William Parkinson ~ b.18 Oct 1824 in St Botolph Aldersgate, London, m.Emma, d. 1889 in Bloomsbury, London (builder)
  2. Mary Alice Parkinson ~ b.03 Jan 1826 in Aldersgate, m.1848 to Henry William Brown (fish merchant), d. 1917 in Camberwell, London
  3. Thomas Parkinson ~ b.03 Jan 1827 in St Georges, Bloomsbury, London, no record after baptism (died)
  4. John Parkinson ~ b.24 May 1829 in Bloomsbury, no record after baptism (died)
  5. Emma Ellen Parkinson ~ b.20 Apr 1831 in Bloomsbury, m.1861 to Daniel Alexander Williamson (landscape artist), d. 1916 in Broughton in Furness, Lancashire
  6. Jane Trayler Parkinson ~ b.01 Aug 1832 in Bloomsbury, no record after baptism (died)
  7. Eliza Sarah Parkinson (Margaret’s grandmother) ~ b.16 Jul 1834 in Bloomsbury, m.1855 to William Hodson (clerk, artist & printer), d.1918 in Hadleigh, Essex
  8. Harriet Ann Parkinson ~ b.17 Oct 1835 in Bloomsbury, m.1856 to John Hall (silk merchant), d. 1933 in Lodsworth, Sussex
  9. Thomas John Parkinson ~ b.30 Jul 1837 in Bloomsbury, m.1860 in Mary Elizabeth Cattel, d.bef1871 age 26 to 34 (house builder carpenter)
  10. Jane Emily Parkinson ~ b.03 Nov 1839 in Bloomsbury, m.1868 to William Salmon (builder), d.1878 in Southwark, Surrey age 39
  11. Frederick George Parkinson ~ b.Mar 1843 in Bloomsbury, unmarried, d.1868 age 25 (insurance seller)

Original photographs thanks to Ancestry member Nicola Chakraverty.

Thomas ran his business from 26 King Street, Bloomsbury up to at least 1865, then from 27 Southampton Row, Bloomsbury trading as “Parkinson & Son“, the son being William. Thomas was still working up until his death on 5th Apr 1871 aged 73. His widow Mary died the following year on 19th Feb 1872 aged 72.

William took over the running of the company after his father’s death, moving to 27 Southampton Row where he died on 18th Jan 1889 aged 64. It is likely the business was then run by Williams’s son Herbert William PARKINSON, Margaret’s mother’s 1st cousin.

In 1894, a publication entitled “Illustrated London and Its Representatives of Commerce” detailed the business of Parkinson & Son. It was described as being nearly a century old, having begun in 1793 by the current senior partner’s grandfather Thomas PARKINSON. However, as Thomas wasn’t born until 1798 he couldn’t possibly have begun trading in 1793. This suggests that it may have been Thomas’s unknown father who had begun the business, or at least worked in the same trade.

“MESSRS PARKINSON & SON BUILDERS DECORATORS etc. 27 SOUTHAMPTON Row WC AND 11 GLOUCESTER ROAD SW.
For nearly a century the business has maintained its high-class connection in the West End and the favourite residential suburbs of the metropolis. It was established in 1793 by Mr Thomas Parkinson the grandfather of the present senior partner and at an early age in its history, the founder through his complete technical knowledge and his exceptional energy had laid the foundations of the valuable connection which has since been built up by his successors. The headquarters of the firm in Southampton Row WC are spacious and have been admirably adapted to the requirements of the several departments of their many-sided business. Here are the headquarters of their operations as builders and decorators. But such is the comprehensive character of many of the important contracts which they make for the erection and repair of private mansions and business premises that their vocations include those of plumbers and sanitary engineers It is natural also that out of their extensive connection among families of the highest social distinction and mercantile firms of the greatest eminence, there should have grown up the excellent business which they conduct as estate and house agents. The premises have a spacious plate glass display front. At the rear is a series of workshops devoted respectively to the various industrial operations. These are fitted up throughout with appliances of the most approved modern type for the production of the high-class work for which the firm are celebrated. They have also workshops at 18 Gate Street. The number of hands employed in the works varies of course with the extent of the contracts on which they are engaged but it averages from one hundred to one hundred and fifty many of whom are experts of rare skill and trained artistic taste. Messrs Parkinson have an excellently equipped branch of their business at 11 Gloucester Road South Kensington. The careful personal supervision bestowed by the principals upon every department of their business has thoroughly consolidated the reputation which the firm has enjoyed throughout so long a course of years. Those desiring either to let or to hire house property or who have occasion to require building decorating or repairing of existing houses cannot do better than place themselves in the hands of Messrs Parkinson & Son. Their experience as sanitary engineers is very extensive and they are constantly called upon to make reports upon the sanitary condition of dwelling houses as well as practically to carry out needed sanitary reforms which they have done in many well-known private houses to the entire satisfaction of the owner.”


Perhaps having a housebuilder for a great-grandfather is what inspired Margaret BLAKE’s mother Kate to build her own house in 1924. Better that than becoming a quack doctor!


Resources & References

I use many different resources during my research, a majority of which I do online. 

Newspaper articles reproduced with the permission of the British Newspaper Archive and The British Library Board. Maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Specific sites used for this research:

The photograph of Briarholm Nursery was bought by Peter Lewsey from justgoodcards and the original discussion pinpointing its location can be found on AGES Archaeological & Historical Association’s Facebook here.

If you have any questions regarding my research or would like anything added or amended, please contact me. I’m also available to hire to trace family trees and delve into the history of your house.

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