AYRIS | Pumping Station House, Thundersley, Essex | Southend Waterworks Company

There were three residential properties built in the early 1900’s by Southend Waterworks Company in Thundersley, Essex, which were associated with its reservoir and two pumping stations.

Pumping Station Cottage was the property associated with Thundersley Pumping Station (aka No.7), which was first pumped in 1899. The house is now known as 17 Chancel Close, and the pumping station was closed and demolished in the 1940s or early 1950s and the land built on for housing.

AYRES ~ 1920-1931

Henry Hawksley AYRIS Civil Engineer for Southend Waterworks and wife Violet Vashti FOX were most likely the second residents of Pumping Station Cottage, following on from the previous occupants Alfred Charles NOAKES and family in c.1918.

This took a bit of researching to find, as the along with new tenets, the property also changed names. From 1920-1930, the address was listed as “Great Tarpots”, Pumping Station, London Road, Thundersley in Electoral Records. London Road was (and still is) the main road which ran along the bottom of Thundersley, with Great Tarpots and Little Tarpots directly underneath on the map where the pumping station sat. In 1918-1919, Henry and his Violet were listed at “Great Tarpots”, London Road, Thundersley, then the address included Pumping Station from 1920 up to 1930 when the online records finish. This was a hugely enjoyable family to research!

Henry Hawksley AYRIS married Violet Vashti FOX on 13th Nov 1909 in Paddington, London when they were both age 26. Henry studied to become a Civil Engineer in London, following in both his father and grandfather’s footsteps (specifically water related), and was listed as a student attached to the Institution of Civil Engineers between 1901-1909. His grandfather John AYRIS was the first Managing Director of Southend Waterworks, and his father Henry Crowquill AYRIS had been Deputy Manager (more on these two below). Henry moved to Southend On Sea and began working for the Southend Waterworks Company in 1906. Presumably this is how he met Violet, and they had two children together. The middle name of “Billham” was a nod to one of the managing directors of Southend Waterworks.

  1. John Bilham Ayris (1910-1932, age 22)
  2. Betty Joan Ayris (1914-2015, age 100)

In 1911 Henry, Violet and son were living with Violet’s mother in Southend, and moved around the city a few times before turning up in Thundersley in 1918 where they moved into Pumping Station Cottage. They remained there until 1931, then moved to Clement’s Hall in Hockley were they established a children’s home. Tragedy struck shortly after this as in 1932 their son John was killed in a motor cycle accident at age 22. He was discovered lying unconscious early Sunday morning on 10th July next to his damaged motorcycle, having previously attended a dance at Tarpot Hall in New Thundersley. He died before arriving at Southend Hospital.


Newspaper articles reproduced with the permission of the British Newspaper Archive and The British Library Board

In the 1939 Register, Henry is described as a “Civil Engineer Unemployed”, whist Violet was the Matron of the Children’s Nursery Home they ran. Also living with them was Violet’s unmarried sister and their widowed mother. Henry and Violet’s newly married daughter Betty was listed as working a Matron for a Children’s Home, most likely at Clement’s Hall also.

Henry died not long after in 1945 age 61, and Violet in 1964 age 81 (both still living at Clements Hall). Their daughter Betty lived to the ripe old age of 100.


Henry’s Parents

Henry Hawksley AYRIS was the first of four children born to Henry Crowquill AYRIS, a Waterworks Civil Engineer, and Fanny HOTBLACK, daughter of successful Norwich shoe manufacturer John HOTBLACK (more on him lower down). Henry and Fanny married 5th July 1882 in Stockwell, Surrey when they were age 21 and 22.  Their first child was born in  Surrey, whilst the other three were born in Norfolk (where they were both also born). Middle names “Turner” and “Hotblack” were Fanny’s family names, whilst “Hawksley” was a nod to contemporaries of Henry’s father in the Waterworks industry.

  1. Henry Hawksley Ayris (1883-1845) Civil Engineer Waterworks
  2. Mary Turner Ayris (1885-1854) Solicitor’s Wife
  3. Alfred Hotblack Ayris (1888-1910, age 22)
  4. Norman Ayris (1891-1915, age 24) Civil Engineer Student

Henry’s membership application to the Institution of Civil Engineers details some of his career up to 30th March 1886:

“He was educated at Marlborough College, was attached to his father John Ayris who is a member of this institution (for 4 years from March 1878), was engaged on the erection of a new pumping station for the City of Norwich Water Works Company from January 1879 to September 1881 – was 3yrs & 9mos (from Sept 1881 to June 1885) in the employ of Messrs. N C Hawksley Civil Engineers of Great George Street Westminster the early part of the time in the Drawing Office and the latter part of the time attending to the construction of a new pumping station for the Great Yarmouth Water Works Company. In June 1885 was appointed to and still holds the following appointments:

    • Deputy Manager to the City of Norwich Water Works Company
    • Deputy Manager to the Great Yarmouth Water Works Company
    • Deputy Manager to the Lowestoft Water & Gas Company
    • Deputy Manager to the Southend Water Works Company

and assists his father generally in the conduct of his Engineering practice.”

His application was successful and became an associate member on 18th May 1886.

The family lived briefly in Willesden, Middlesex around 1891 then in Jan-Feb 1892 Henry’s address is recorded at his brother-in-law Henry Thorne (husband of his sister Ellen) in the Institution of Civil Engineers list of members, then in Durban, South Africa briefly from 9th Feb until he departed from Southampton on 30th March for Barbados. The Institution of Civil Engineers lists Henry as residing at Bridgetown Waterworks during 1894 and 1895, but was crossed out and replaced with “W.2. 20-2-95” in the April 1896 amendments, and finally crossed out entirely with an “E” written next to his name (meaning “erased”) and no address at all in the Jan 1897 amendments. The “W2” address added in 1895 was most probably his sister’s residence once more. He is never listed again, and appears to have given up his career and family, because on 11th March 1896 he left London for New York to never return. He described himself as an Engineer on the travel records, but by 1900 was recorded as “Henry C AYRES” and working as a Cook whilst boarding Newark, New Jersey. The records confirmed he was English, arrived in 1896, “alien” father than “naturalised” and more interestingly, that he was unmarried. At the same time Henry was in Barbados in 1895, Fanny’s father died bequeathing her a trust of £3500, plus equal shares between her siblings of any residue. The trust alone would be worth around £470k today.

In 1901 Fanny and daughter Mary (age 15) were living at St Johns Terrace in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk with one servant. Fanny described herself as “wife” to the head of the household, even though Henry was no longer present. Eldest son Henry (age 17) was living with his Aunt and Uncle and about to go to university in London, whilst the youngest two sons (age 12 and 9) were at Cloford House boarding school for boys in Kirkley, Suffolk. A few months after her eldest son Henry married in Nov 1909, Fanny received the tragic news that her middle son Alfred (age 22) had been accidentally killed whilst shooting game at Kimania in British North Borneo (now Malaysia) in March 1910.


The 1910 US census was taken in the April just a few weeks after John’s death, and recorded “Henry AYRES” now lodging in Orange, New Jersey (just a short distance from where he was living in 1900). He was still working as a cook (for a hotel) and now stated himself to be widowed. In 1911 Fanny and daughter Mary (age 24) were still living at St Johns Terrace in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk with one servant, and Fanny again described herself as “wife” to the head of the household with occupation “Private Means”. Son Henry had moved to Southend on Sea with his wife and son, where Norman (age 19) was also living (boarding with Charles BILHAM and family, Secretary & Manager of Southend Waterworks). He was now a Civil Engineer student, articled to Southend Waterworks. When war broke out in 1914, Norman was commission into the Royal Engineer, 98th Field Coy as a Second Lieutenant (1st Sep) and promoted to First Lieutenant the following June. He was sent to France on 11th Sep 1915, and killed in action just over three months later at Armentieres on 31st Dec 1915 (although some reports state it was New Year’s Day). He had been based at Halefield Camp, Wendover in Buckinghamshire. It is interesting to note that the executor for Norman’s will was his aunt Mary Forrester AYRIS, who was listed as executor on several relative’s wills.


Norman has been a pupil at Gresham’s School in Holt, Norfolk between 1905-1908, and their website included a Roll of Honour for fallen students. The description hinted at some of the family trouble regarding his father “a comment by a fellow OG following his death hints at the ’insurmountable family difficulties’ Norman was faced with in childhood”. It goes on to say:

Norman Ayris

” He had success at athletics, steeplechase and swimming, and played both hockey and rugby for the School, being praised as “a much-improved forward, especially conspicuous at the touchline” in the latter. He returned to play in an OG rugby match in 1912, and in the following year was playing for the Eastern Counties. Norman also did well in the OTC, being in the first twelve in a musketry course in 1906, and soon representing the School in national competitions. In 1908 the magazine reports proudly that, “the straight shooting of N. Ayris at Bisley is emblematic of his upright and loyal character and conduct”. He made an acting debut as Audrey in the 1906 production of As You Like it, won a prize for English in the following year, and ended his Gresham’s career as a School Prefect. Leaving Gresham’s in the Summer of 1908, Norman goes on to study engineering at London University, and attends a London OG Club dinner in 1909. By 1912 he is an Associate of the Institute of Civil Engineers and articled to the Southend Water Works. He receives his commission in the Royal Engineers in 1914 and is promoted to Lieutenant in June of 1915. A fellow officer, Captain Dewing, gave an account of Norman’s final hours with 98th Company, spent doing dangerous, but necessary, work in which he took great interest, recalling that he asked to go out on the night of 31 December to finish a job and was struck by one of the first bullets in the ensuing fire. He described Norman’s death as ‘almost instantaneous’, but remembered him as always being full of life and energy, earning the devotion of his men. An OG wrote of Norman’s optimism and determination, and claimed, “He was without a trace of selfishness, and by his cheery manner did much to encourage others. He was a man of unimpeachable record and was beloved by all who knew him.” Norman Ayris is buried in the New Military Cemetery at Chapelle-d’Armentiéres.”

Fanny’s daughter Mary married Ivor Fanshawe WARD in 1919, and witnesses to their wedding were Fanny and her brother Frederick Mills HOTBLACK. Ivor was a solicitor and farmer, and they moved into his ancestral home of Salhouse Hall, in Salhouse, Norfolk (the Ward family were landed proprietors). The following year, Fanny’s husband Henry (age 58) was recorded in the 1920 US census lodging in Brooklyn, New York working as a household janitor. He again described himself as widowed, and had not applied for citizenship in all the time he was there. Henry is recorded as dying in 1927 on several online trees, although no source evidence is given, or even a place. There is also no probate listed for him in the UK.

Fanny continued to live at St Johns Terrace in Great Yarmouth until at least 1930, but 1939 was living at Salhouse Hall with her daughter (now noted to be a widow). She died shortly after the register was taken, on 10th Apr 1941 aged 81. Son Henry died in 1945 aged 61, and daughter Mary and her husband remained at Salhouse Hall until they both died in 1954 aged 67 and 68.


Henry’s Paternal Grandparents

Henry Hawksley ARYIS‘s paternal grandparents were John AYRIS and Hannah Neal BEALS. They were married 22nd Oct 1853 in Lakenham, Norfolk and had seven children. Middle name “Lynde” was a nod to his boss James Lynde, and “Forrester” and “Crowquill” to his uncle by marriage Alfred FORRESTER (see lower). I haven’t identified the origins of “Sultzer” yet.

  1. Alfred Lynde Ayris (1854-1915, USA) Labourer at Lumber Mill
  2. Ellen Forrester Ayris (1856-1908) Gunmaker’s Wife
  3. Hannah Beals Ayris (1857-1952) Leather & Shoe Merchant’s Wife
  4. Henry Crowquill Ayris (1861-1927, USA) Civil Engineer Waterworks
  5. Mary Forrester Ayris (1862-1950, unmarried)
  6. Frank Sultzer Ayris (1866-?, possibly Canada) Mercantile Clerk
  7. Rose Edith Ayris (1869-1919) Motor Engineer & Coach Builder’s Wife

John was born in 1830 in Wheatley, Oxfordshire (just east of Oxford) and was the youngest of four children. Many online family trees have John’s father Joseph AYRIS dying in 1834 when John was just 4 years old, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. The last date I have found his father Joseph living in Wheatley was the Poll of the Freemen and Electors of the City of Oxford taken in 25th July 1837, listed along with his own father Richard AYRIS and two of his four brothers. They were all working as Blackmiths/Smiths, and the only AYRIS family living in that town as Richard originally come from Marcham in Berkshire just west of Oxford. It seems their family life had its up and downs, as in 1817 Richard was to be found in King’s Bench Prison in Surrey, a prisoner for debt. Presumably he managed to pay off his debts, as he moved back to Wheatley and continued his trade.


In 1825 (just after John’s father Joseph married the underage Elizabeth SAUNDERS), one of the brothers died aged 21 (I’ve not been able to trace the eldest brother in any records after his baptism). Richard died in 1840 age 71, and rather tellingly, left everything to his nephew Thomas AYRES, a farmer and brickmaker from Marcham. It seems that Richard re-wrote his will in 1838, as Thomas appeared personally during the process. The will wasn’t proved until 1845 so perhaps it was contested.

Joseph and his wife Elizabeth were living in Westminster, London by 1841 where he was working as a Labourer, having left his Blacksmith career behind in Wheatley. I wonder if there was a rift in the family around 1838, causing Joseph to leave and his father to re-write his will? It must have been significant, as he doesn’t mention any of his sons at all in his will. Joseph’s two remaining brothers (John & William) stayed in Wheatley working as Blacksmiths, but in 1843 John was listed as an Insolvent Debtor, and shortly after William was arrested for smashing and damaging the shutters of John’s shop, as well as threatening to burn it down. The argument stemmed from each brother claiming right over the shop. The case went to court and William was ordered to pay damages. William disappears from records after this point, whilst John remained in Wheatley working as a Blacksmith.


Joseph and Elisabeth’s relocation from Oxfordshire to London may have also come about from Elizabeth’s sister Mary marrying a Public Notary names Alfred Henry FORRESTER in 1838, who was also known as Alfred CROWQUILL and a well known author and artist of the time. The story I found placed Joseph’s son John with his aunt and uncle after his father died in 1834, but Joseph didn’t die until 1857 and his aunt didn’t marry until 1838, so perhaps another family event happened in 1834? John would have been 11 in 1841, but I haven’t as yet traced him in that census. He was not at home in Westminster nor with his aunt and uncle in Lambeth. His 15 year old sister Rosetta was working as a servant in St Marylebone, but his two brothers are nowhere to be found then or at any time (could they have died?). Rosetta married in 1844 age 17 to a Shoemaker, with her father and aunt Mary FORRESTER as witnesses, and just over two months later gave birth to a daughter named Jane. However, tragedy struck just one year later when little Jane overturned a bowl of hot milk fatally scalding herself. She died seven days later with her grandfather Joseph present. Sadly, this was a trend which followed Rosetta throughout her childbearing years, as she lost six of her fourteen children under the age of three.

At some point after his niece’s death, John became a pupil of a Civil Engineer named James Gascoigne LYNDE, who had an extensive private practice in Westminster at the time. Looking at a map, the address of John’s parents was only a couple of streets away from where Mr Lynde and family were living in 1841, and only another few streets away from where the Institution of Civil Engineers was based on Great George Street (and still is). In 1849, now qualified as a Civil Engineer, John was sent by Mr Lynde to Norwich, Norfolk to collect material and prepare plans for promoting a Bill in Parliament to increase the supply of water to the city, which at the time was insufficiently supplied. Mr Lynde must have thought much of John’s talent as he was only age 19 at the time. The Norwich Waterworks Company was set up in 1850 and John was employed as the Resident Engineer for three years during it’s construction. At the same time John’s career was taking off, his sister Rosetta lost her third born child at 21 months old, just after giving birth to her forth.

John’s parents had moved a mile or two south to St Marylebone by 1851, where his father was now working as a Dairyman, and living two doors down was his sister Rosetta and her family. John himself was lodging with the BEALS family, that of his future wife. Hannah’s father Thomas BEALS was a Landed Proprietor, and despite her parents not getting married until they were 59 and 69, had five children together and lived as though they were. Hannah’s mother Margaret (nee NEAL) died two years before John arrived in Norwich, and only a year after marrying Thomas. It seems Margaret was greatly loved and dearly missed by her husband and children. Thomas died in 1854 age 77.


John and Hannah married 22nd Oct 1853 in Lakenham, Norfolk and was around this time he spent a year working for the Yarmouth and Lowestoft Water Works. Tragedy struck John’s sister once again in Jan 1854, when she lost her fifth born child at 23 months old whilst two months into the pregnancy of her sixth child. Rosetta had lost three young children by the time she was 25, which may go some way to explain why on 19th April of that year was admitted into the Lunacy Ward of the Marylebone Workhouse classed as “insane”. She received the harsh treatment acceptable at the time for 4 weeks, was discharged as “cured” on 16th May and gave birth to her sixth child in the August. Meanwhile John and Hannah had moved back London, most likely in the employ of James LYNDE once again. Their first child was born in Lambeth in the December, and baptised the following year in Stockwell although the record shows family were living at 1 Portland Terrace in Clapham. A month before John and Hannah had their second child in 1856 (now living in Wansworth), his sister lost her sixth born child at 20 months old (she was also three months pregnant with her seventh).

Whether Rosetta’s mental health or the tragic loss of so many children were contributing factor or not, John and Rosetta’s father Joseph took his own life by hanging on 24th September 1857 at 52 years of age. Just a few days later on 6th October, John (“of Westminster”) was elected Town Surveyor and Resident Engineer for the Corporation of South Shields and the family moved up north where their third child was born on that New Years Eve. John had only been in their employ for just over two months when he was offered an excellent opportunity back in Norwich with salary and shares to take over the management of the City of Norwich Water Works. It was too good to turn down and regrettably handed in his resignation, ending his work there on 12th March of the following year. John had made quite an impression in the short time working there even before handing in his notice, as this newspaper report from Christmas Eve shows:


John and family moved back to Hannah’s home county in March 1858, to live in the Lakenham hamlet of Norwich where they remained until 1872. On 5th April 1860 he was voted a Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, as proposed by his old boss and teacher James LYNDE:

“[…] became after receiving a regular period of pupillage under Mr Lynde M Inst CE, he was for 3 years Resident Engineer during the construction of the Norwich Water Works, then for 1 year in his own capacity at the Yarmouth and Lowestoft Water Works, then for 3 years was principle assistant at works under Mr Lynde, then for 1 year was Resident Engineer & Boro Surveyor at South Shields which appointment he resigned to return to his former position of Resident Engineer at the Norwich Water Works which he has now held for 2 years.”

Three weeks before the 1861 census was taken, Hannah gave birth to their forth child, Henry Croquill AYRIS. The use of “Crowquill” as Henry’s middle name was after his uncle Alfred Henry FORRESTER’s artistic pseudonym of Alfred CROQUILL. They’d already used “Forrester” in their second child’s name. John mother Elizabeth died age 54 on 5th Aug 1862, and had been living with daughter Rosetta and family in Paddington working as a Needle Woman. Rosetta lost her eighth born child the following year at age 3, shortly after giving birth to her tenth child. She’d now lost five children in infancy.

In 1865, John took on the roll of Engineer and Manager of the Great Yarmouth Waterworks Company, along with his current roll, and then in 1869 also took on the roll of Engineer and Manager of the Lowestoft Water and Gas Company and of the Southend Water Company. He was now managing four water works in the east of England and father to seven children. Two years later in July 1871, his sister Rosetta lost her fourteenth (and final) child at 8 months old. The following year John and Hannah’s oldest son, Alfred Lynde AYRIS, emigrated to US aged 18 and settled in Shasta, California to work as a labourer in a Lumber Mill.

John and family moved to Heigham Grove House in the Norwich hamlet of Heigham in 1873, where the family lived for over twenty years. The property itself no longer exists, being bombed during enemy action in 1942. Some of the land was redeveloped into flats, and the rest has become part of an informal public space. Sadly Hannah died age 54 towards the end on 1878, (although she is stated to be 49 on her death certificate). John remarried 2nd Oct 1880 to Emily FORRESTER, Alfred’s niece. John was 50 and Emily 46. Four months before this, John’s eldest daughter Ellen Mary Forrester AYRIS married a Gunmaker named Henry Alfred Alexander THORN and moved to London. A month later on 1st July, John’s sister Rosetta was found dead from “heart failure, debility and internal disease”. She was 53. The following year (1881) John’s daughter Hannah married a Leather and Shoe Merchant named Henry HOTBLACK, followed by son Henry marrying Henry HOTBLACK’s sister Fanny HOTBLACK in 1882. After a gap of seven years, John’s son Frank married Mary Ann DALEY in 1889 and in 1893 Frank and family moved to Canada. He’d previously been working as a Mercantile Clerk, but in the 1901 Canadian census he was noted as “retired” age 34. There is no record found of him after this date. John’s son Henry left his wife, children and career as a Civil Engineer in 1895, moving to the US. John’s youngest daughter married in 1895 to a Motor Engineer & Coach Builder named Clifford Soloman THORN (no relation to Ellen’s husband).

John, second wife Emily, and his daughter Mary (his only child to never marry) moved to Great Yarmouth around 1895 and retired from three of his positions due to ill health in 1900, giving his last position in Norwich up the following year. John died at 5:20am on the morning of 8th Nov 1902 at his home age 72. His second wife Emily died 17th June 1911.

John was a well liked and respected man, and received much praise in the following obituaries. His funeral was a big affair, with 23 carriages of people leaving after the service, and a wonderful description was written for the Norfolk Chronicle:

“The funeral of the late Mr John Ayris, late manager of the Norwich Waterworks Company, took place at the Norwich Cemetery on Thursday afternoon, and was of an imposing character. The body, enclosed in a panelled polished oak coffin, was brought to Norwich from Yarmouth by rail on Wednesday evening, and conveyed on a hearse to the office of the Waterworks Company in Surrey Street. In compliance with a wish expressed by the deceased, it was placed in the room which he used to occupy. The apartment was draped in purple cloth, looped with white silk, and there was a plentiful display of flowers and palms, while later a large number of floral tributes sent by friends were arranged in the available space around the coffin, which was placed upon a bier. It bore the inscription:

“JOHN AYRIS,
M. Inst. C.E.
Born May 15th 1830
Died November 8th 1902″

“It was visited during the Thursday by many sympathising friends, including the directors of the company. The mourners assembled at the office soon after one o’clock, and on leaving occupied twenty-three carriages.”

The article then goes on the name all the mourners by carriage (among which was John SHRIMPLIN, who’s son George SHRIMPLIN later lived at Reservoir Cottage). It also listed many of the notes left with floral tributes. John’s three son-in-laws were present, as was his daughter-in-law Fanny and her four children, but all three of his sons had left the country by this time and none appear to have left a note either (the list recorded was quite lengthy). John’s Will makes no mention what so ever of his sons, only his wife, daughters, sons-in-law, and daughter-in-law Fanny. I believe the final will was an amended one, so perhaps he wrote his sons out of it at that time? Probate value was £43855 4s 11d, which was resworn 14th Nov to £42579 and again on 15th Mar to £43859. This would be worth over £5.5 million today.

John obituary in the Minutes of the Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers from Jan 1903 detailed much of his career.


There were many newspaper notices of John’s death and that of his funeral.



THE HOTBLACK’S
Henry’s Maternal Grandparents & Great Grandparents

Henry Hawksley AYRIS‘s maternal great grandfather John HOTBLACK Snr was born 1780 in Norwich, Norfolk and Virtue TURNER born 1799 also in Norwich. It is interesting to note that HOTBLACK was and still is a very rare surname. John Snr worked as an Iron Monger, Oil & Colourman alongside Thomas COLE and Joshua BULLEN up to 1814 when Cole left, continuing to work in partnership with Bullen until 1819 when their partnership also dissolved by mutual consent. John’s father had died the previous year (another John, a Carpenter), so perhaps he inherited some money and decided to go it alone. He was now nearly 40 and still a bachelor, marrying Virtue TURNER the following year. Virtue was the daughter of a Proprietor of House and 19 years his junior. Henry’s grandfather John Jrn was the first to be born nine months later, followed by five more. However, they lost their next two sons in 1830 age 5 and 2, and their youngest son in 1841 age 8. Their oldest daughter died in 1844 age 22 followed by their youngest daughter in 1846 age 19.

In 1821, the premises from which John worked in Dove Street (aka Dove Lane) in Norwich city centre was put up for sale with tenants in situ, describing John’s leased lot as s “dwelling house, shop, workshops, warehouses and premises”. He continued to run his business from Dove Lane/Street until 1834 when he moved just a short distance to Orford Hill. His old premises was taken over by John PAGE, a Currier and Leather Cutter for the shoe trade.


When the 1841 census was taken, John was age 60 (although recorded as 50) and described as “Independent” (his wife was now 43), leaving the day to day running of the shop to staff. John and Virtue had already lost two of their six children, and in the following six years lost three more. A year after the death of their youngest daughter in 1846, their only remaining child, John the Younger (Henry’s grandfather), married Mary TURNER (no relation to Virtue’s Turner family). John the Elder sold his Iron Mongers, Oil & Colour business in 1848 to G & W Stevens. The sale adverts ages the business at over 100 years old, and the Mr S. D. Page mentioned in John’s advert was Simon Deynes PAGE, a Brush Maker & Stationer.


The 1851 census finds him visiting at George Inn, Block Street, Swaffham, Norfolk whist Virtue remained at their home in Victoria Street, Lakenham (hamlet of Norwich). John died aged 75 on 3rd April 1855 in Bawdaswell, Norfolk (according to his burial record). I’m not sure why he was in Bawdaswell as he didn’t live there and have found no link to the place. He left his estate to his wife, son John and grandchildren, and sister Harriet (now TUBBY) and her children. His friend Anthony ATTHILL was one of the executors along with son John the Younger (Anthony was also John the Younger’s wife’s brother-in-law, being married to one of her older half sisters). John the Elder’s effects were valued at under £1500, which would be about £165k today. He’d already sold his business by the time he died, but still owned a least three properties which he rented out.

Henry Hawksley AYRIS‘s maternal grandparents were John HOTBLACK (the Younger) and Mary TURNER. John and Mary married on 13th May 1847 in Mulbarton, Norfolk and had ten children together. The middle name “Atthill” was Mary’s paternal grandmothers maiden name. I don’t know where “Snelling” and “Mills” originate. Mary had a child almost every year until she was 41.

  1. John Turner Hotblack (1848 – 1 Nov 1915) Shoe Maker & Leather Merchant
  2. George Snelling Holblack (25 Apr 1849 – 17 Nov 1920) Leather Merchant
  3. Marian Hotblack (13 Sep 1850)
  4. Lombe Atthill Hotblack (8 Jan 1852)
  5. Henry Hotblack (30 Sep 1853 – Jun 1920) Leather & Shoe Merchant
  6. Frederick Mills Hotblack (6 Jun 1855 – 29 Jan 1938) Wholesale Clothier
  7. Katherine Hotblack (6 Dec 1856)
  8. Herbert Arthur Hotblack (3 Mar 1858 – 16 Sep 1899) Brewer
  9. Fanny Hotblack (3 May 1859 – 10 Apr 1941) Civil Engineer’s Wife
  10. Alice Maud Hotblack (27 Jul 1861)

When John married in 1847 age 26 he was already a successful Wholesale Shoe Manufacturer and Leather Merchant, working from Orford Hill where his father’s Ironmongers business was also situated. The wholesale shoe manufacturing industry was a rapidly expanding business in Norwich in the 1850s. By 1853 there were 25 wholesale boot and shoe makers employing about 5000 people, and at its peak there were 30 factories employing 12,000 people. The industry was a much needed boon after the decline of the handloom in favour of the powerloom left so many workers unemployed during the 1840s.

By the time John was 50 in 1871 he had 450 people employed at his St Faith’s Lane factory (where he moved to in the 1860s), plus several properties and farming land to let. John’s shoe manufacturing business became “Hotblack & Sons” around 1874, and by 1881 he had expanded into farming, with a mere 800 acres of land. Whilst John was recorded living at St Faith’s Lane in the 1881 census, his wife Mary was living at their property in Rockland St Mary, Norfolk. She stated to be the head of the household with occupation “Farmer Of 350 Acres Employing 12 Men & 9 Boys”. Son Lombe was living with her, and they had a housekeeper and domestic servant. John and Mary’s daughter Fanny married Henry Crowquill AYRIS in 1882 (the parents of Henry Hawksley AYRIS), then tragedy struck the following year on 13th April 1883 when Mary died age 62.

On 11th Nov 1884 John was elected Mayor of Norwich for a period of one year. He was also a Conservative MP and Justice for the Peace for Norwich and Norfolk. John added another property to his portfolio in 1890, that of Hoe Lodge in Hoe, Norfolk for £7250, which today would be about £953k. It included the residence, agricultural premises, gardens, three cottages and 333 acres of land, but I don’t think he ever lived there. John died 4th March 1895 age 74 at his home St Faith’s House on Mountergate Street (just next to business premises on St Faith’s Lane), leaving an estate worth over £4.5 million in today’s money. To his daughter Fanny he left what would be £470k today, which couldn’t have come at a better time as her husband Henry Croquill AYRIS had just seemingly deserted her to America.

John’s death notices give a little bit more information about him. According to one of the newspaper articles below, “John succeeded his father in the management of the shoe manufacturing business, established in St. Faith’s Lane somewhere about 100 years ago“.  I have found no evidence to support this statement as John the Elder was only ever recorded as an Iron Monger. It’s more likely that the premises on St. Faith’s Lane were used to manufacture shoes before John the Younger took over, and because both his and his father’s business were situated on Orford Hill at one time the reporter simply made an error. It also mentions that John “became the principle directing mind in the new clothiery factory in Clavert Street”. I’ve not found John’s name linked to Calvert Street, which was the address of “Hotblack Brothers, wholesale clothiers” from at least 1879 into the early 1900s (most likely Frederick and Lombe). It is interesting to note that John’s son Frederick was the father of war hero Major General Frederick Elliott ‘Boots’ Hotblack D.S.O. M.C..

John left St Faith’s House to his sons John, George and Henry. His Calvert Street premises, clothing and weaving business were left to sons Lombe and Frederick. Son Herbert had followed into the shoe or leather trade, opting to become a Brewer instead. To him John left money, as he did for his four daughters. I’ve not discovered how long the shoe factory carried on trading after John’s death under the Hotblack name.


At some point before 1905 a newly build roadway was named in John’s honor as “Hotblack Road“, which is situated rather aptly for my research very close to the Norwich Water Works and just off Waterworks Lane. By 1926 as the area became more developed, “Turner Road” and “Atthill Road” were formed right next to it.


Maps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.


AYRIS/HOTBLACK Family Tree



Violet’s Parents

Henry Hawksley AYRIS‘s wife Violet Vashti FOX‘s family originated from Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

Violet Vashti FOX was born 20th March 1883 in Reading, Berkshire. She was the first of five children born to Thomas Lovegrove FOX and Sarah Eliza Aldridge TAME. Violet’s great grandfather James FOX (1776-1850) was a Blacksmith, which his son William (Violet’s grandfather) followed into.

  1. Violet Vashti Fox (1883-1964) Matron at Children’s Nursery Home
  2. Nellie Fox (1884) Costume Saleswoman
  3. Dorothy Ina Fox (1888-1964)
  4. Thomas Leslie Fox (1894-1960)
  5. Vera Mary Fox (1900)

William FOX married Eliza LOVEGROVE in 1853 and had ten children between 1854-1872 (and Violet’s father Thomas was their first born). In 1871, William (now age 46) was recorded as “Smith & Coach Builder Master (employing 6 men 3 boys)” and ten years later in 1881 “Coach Builder (employing 12 men)”. In 1883, William, Eliza and a selection of their children emigrated to Australia where William died in 1902 (age 76) and Eliza in 1904 (age 74).

Thomas Lovegrove FOX married Violet’s mother Sarah Eliza Aldridge TAME in 1882, just before his parents emigrated. At the time, Thomas was working as a Clerk for a Biscuit Factory and by 1891 he was the Foreman. This was most likely at Huntley & Palmers. However, by 1901 Thomas had had a change of career and was now working as a Saw Mill Manager, still living in Reading. In 1909 when Violet married Henry Hawksley AYRIS (in Paddington), she described her father as a Timber Merchant. By 1911 they had all moved to Southend On Sea, Essex and were living within the same household (Violet, Henry and first baby, plus mother Sarah and all her siblings). Sarah was listed as “wife” with occupation “Boarding House Keeper” but her husband was not present. Thomas was to be found boarding alone in one room in Chiswick, London, and his occupation was “Coach Building and Motor Body Constructor (Worker)”. However, just a few weeks later he died age 57 (still in Chiswick). I wonder what happened? Violet’s mother Sarah died in 1940 age 82, and had been living with Violet and son-in-law Henry at Clements Hall, Hockley, Essex.


FOX Family Tree