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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Fleeing Debtors and Man Midwives


I have been cross referencing wills, photos, property surveys, censuses, sale adverts and more in order to identify Victorian occupiers for many a property in West Street. In some cases occupancy further back in time can be ascertained too. It is an ongoing project of mine. I'll be uploading more as and when I have time. There are other posts already on the blog in this line. Search "West Street". 

This building was the home of Surgeon William Hickman from at least 1832 to his death in 1850 aged 93. William was originally from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire but was in Marlow by 1782 when he married Ann Wethered. It is possible he was already in these premises back then but I cannot yet be certain. 

In 1791 William is listed as a surgeon apothecary and "man midwife". In most later references he is styled simply "surgeon".

Either he or his son of the same name was appointed Assistant Surgeon of the Royal Military College further down West Street in 1810. This is now the house Remnantz. At least four of William and Ann's sons became surgeons! This may not 

William's wife Ann died in 1809 so that was a very long time as a widower for him. 

In his will written 1848, he asked to be buried beside Ann and other members of his family in Marlow churchyard. He made an "earnest request" to be buried in the same [quiet] manner as his son Francis who had died in his parent's house in 1831. Both Francis and one of William's other sons died when only in their 30s, their mother was only 50 at her own death. 

William's will left a silver quart tankard to his son George and to Owen Wethered a pint silver drinking vessel that had belonged to an Ann Wethered.

This Owen also received a History Of England in 2 volumes. William certainly liked a good read. When his household effects were sold off at auction in 1851 the sales listing mentions 500 volumes including "valuable works on medicine, surgery, physiology, chemistry and miscellaneous literature". He also had mahogany furniture, "fine old china", mahogany four post beds, engravings and paintings. It was a plush life for him in West Street! But he deserved it as he was definitely still actively working as a surgeon in 1845 at the age of 88. He may well actually have worked until his death. No wonder an obituary called him "universally respected". The same obituary in the Medical Directory of Scotland called him a pupil of " the immortal Hunter". I must confess to ignorance as to who that was. The obituary is interesting as it suggest the possibility of classic Scottish training for William.

I am not sure who was in these exact premises immediately after William died. From 1877 ( at latest ) until his bankruptcy and disappearance in 1888 Richard Coster, grocer and land agent was based here however.

 Richard ran away from his financial troubles, being seen once in Chester in a distressed state then apparently no more. His concerned near neighbour in West Street James Roberts the draper was one of those who tried unsuccessfully to find him again.

From at least 1891 to at least early 1910s Albert Fleet the grocer operated here.

Researched and written by Charlotte Day. Photographed 2020.


1833 Parochial Assessment Great Marlow. Original handwritten copy held by my family and transcribed by me.

1791 Universal British Directory.

Will of William Hickman. Copy obtained from the National Archives and transcribed by me.

London Gazette Part One, 1810. Digitized by Google. Accessed March 2021.

The Medical Directory of Scotland, 1852 by John Churchill. As above.

1841, 81 and 91 censuses transcribed from microfilm by Jane Pullinger.

Great Marlow church registers.

Bucks Herald 18th January 1851 and 28th April 1888. Copies held in the British Library Archives and accessed by me via the BNA March 2021.

©Marlow Ancestors. You are very welcome to reuse this content for family or local history purposes if you credit this blog and link here so that my sources do not lose credit for the information they provided. Thanks.

South Place, Great Marlow

South Place seems to have been first developed in the 1850s. It is one of those Marlow Streets that if you lived there your address was likely to be described in a bewildering variety of ways in its early days. If you believe your ancestor lived in South Place watch for them being stated as being in Mill Road (which is the road that South Place leads off), Strong Beer Acre (a vanished area of Marlow previously adjoining the location of South Place), Mill Lane, Platts Road (alternative early name for Mill Road), Marlow Fields or Cannon's Row (a string of cottages within South Place owned by George Cannon, bookseller and chemist of Marlow High Street). Census records usually give South Place correctly but other records are very wayward. By the 1890s you should be alright with little variance of address to confuse things.
The earliest residents of South Place lived on the edge of the then built up area of town. Once the nearby railway station arrived in the early 1870s development of the surrounding area picked up pace. The people of South Place however remained easily able to walk out onto open fields and down to the River Thames. 
Being close to the river could have disadvantages of course - the little street was badly flooded in 1894, 1896 and again in the 1940s.
The Prince Of Wales pub on the corner of South Place and Mill Road was often used by bargemen for lodgings. The pub started as a beer house. It was there by 1861, getting a full licence in 1864. For a list of the historic landlords of the Prince Of Wales see this post.

As well as the pub lodgers other residents worked on the Thames. One such example was George Picton who lived in South Place with his wife Ann by 1881. In 1893 George was labouring for the Thames Conservancy when the punt he was using overturned near Oxford, drowning him. It was some time before his body was recovered. Ann's first husband James Rockell also drowned in the river. To help manage financially after the death of her husband she took in lodgers at her South Place home but emotional recovery from her double widowhood proved impossible for Ann. Six years after George's death she slit her throat with a razor that had belonged to him. Her married daughter Jane Cox who also lived in South Place and the local surgeon Robert Culhane tried unsuccessfully to save her life after Jane discovered her dying mother. 
For another sad case of a South Place resident drowning in the Thames see Kathryn's post here.
Ann was not the only suicide in South Place history- twenty two years earlier resident John Ford, a gardener, hung himself in his bedroom. His wife had left him taking his 4 young children and many of their possessions with her. He had gone to Coventry for a while in an unsuccessful attempt to find them. He was described as very depressed upon his return. He had also been physically ill and was living off money raised by selling what remained of his furniture. His body was discovered by his sister Sarah who had been keeping an eye on him and trying to lift his spirits.
The cottages in the street were generally very small- two rooms up and two down was the standard. In 1897 two such cottages with each their own wash house, outside toilet and garden were rented out to two different families at a collective rent of 17 shillings a year. Bargain!
Small houses didn't deter larger families from settling there. Francis and Prudence Corby present on the 1861 census had six children aged from one year old Harriet up to 18 year old journeyman plasterer Henry at home. Francis was a journeyman bricklayer. Journeymen were skilled labourers who had finished training in their trade but worked for others rather than on their own account. The family still lived in South Place a decade later.
Thomas and Annie Croxon meanwhile squeezed 8 children into their home at the time of the 1881 census. Thomas then was a servant. Later he is censused as a general labourer and an army pensioner.
The couple were still in South Place in the 1910s.
A new and better well and pump were provided for the residents to share in 1866. Other mod cons like street lighting and a proper paved street took longer to arrive in South Place. The road was labelled unsanitary in 1896 so more improvements were still needed then.

Additional notes:
Francis Corby was the born 1817 son of Ambrose and Sarah Corby. He and Prudence Martin married in West Wycombe in 1838. Before they lived at South Place the couple lived at Dean Street [under its original name Well End, not to be confused with Well End Little Marlow] with Prudence's parents.
Thomas Croxon and Anne "Annie" Edwards married in 1866. Their daughter Alice had an illegitimate baby girl who died soon after her birth in South Place.

©Marlow Ancestors. 

Photo snapped September 2020 by Kathryn Day. Researched and written by Charlotte Day.

See the"Specific Shops, Streets Etc" option on the menu to look for other Marlow addresses and the Person Index to look for all mentions of any individual.
Hundreds of people are listed!

Censuses, my transcription from microfilm. Census content always remains Crown Copyright.
Property records (private
Pub and beer house research of Kathryn Day.
Maidenhead Advertiser 8th Feb 1893 and South Bucks Standard 6th January 1899, British Library Archives.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Will Of George Phelps Of Great Marlow

 Victualler. Will written and proved 1811. 

Says indisposed of body but of perfect mind, memory and understanding.

To Thomas East of St Clement's Lane, Lombard Street, London and to John Dell of Great Marlow in trust all money held in government funds or stocks in my name at the Bank of England and all my dividends and interest after funeral expenses paid.  They to suffer my daughter Sarah Dell wife of John Dell to have the dividends, profits and interest during her lifetime.

After her life the principal to be equally divided between her children.

Also to my grandson George Phelps Dell £50 at age 21.

Daughter Sarah Dell all household goods and furniture for her life then they to be sold and the money split equally between her children.

All residual property to daughter Sarah Dell for her own disposal without the say of any husband of hers.

Executors Thomas East and John Dell.

George made a mark rather than sign.

Witnessed John Allnutt of Great Marlow, William Plater (made mark), Elizabeth Thorn.

Will held at the National Archives, Kew.

Transcribed by me and then summarized and paraphrased here.

©Marlow Ancestors. You are welcome to use my summary with credit to this blog.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Gardener Grave, parish church Great Marlow

Grave of Catherine Gardener, wife of Thomas, of this town, d Oct 9th 1851 age 79.

Catherine and Thomas lived St Peter's Street Marlow. On the 1851 census Thomas was described as a Chelsea Pensioner.

Photo and stone transcription by Kathryn, research by Charlotte.

For more graves see Graves on the menu. All mentions of  someone on the blog can be found under Person Index.

©Marlow Ancestors. Reproduction of content welcome for family or local history purposes with credit to this blog and a link back here. 

Cox Grave, Marlow



Memorial stone to Percy Cox 1891- 1918

Ellen Cox 1860 - 1919

Frederick Cox 1861 - 1935

This is located in Marlow Cemetery. 


Friday, September 24, 2021

What you could buy in John Howe's shop, 1780's

 John Howe (How) was a bookseller and stationer  located in Marlow High Str in the late 1700's. But like many booksellers, he also sold patent medicines and acted as an insurance broker. He was also a printer with his own "large" printing press. All this means he had an interesting shop to browse. Would you like to know what you could buy from him? Then read on! 

All of the below are products specifically known to be sold at his premises in Marlow. 

The London Magazine - The November 1783 Edition features an account of the Bedlam Hospital, a description of meteors recently spotted, and some topical poetry. 

The Ladies Memorandum Book or Daily Pocket Journal, price 1s. For recording your spending and making notes. Includes a list of birthdays for members of the Royal family, enigmas and paradoxes for amusement, original songs and poetical pieces to entertain family with, plus such useful things as a table for calculating your Window Tax liabilities and a list of roads "from London to Edinburgh"

"Almanacks" 1784 prices range from 8d -10d

Ladies Magazine price 6d, gardening special issue November 1783.

Town and Country Magazine, price 6d. A great number of original, inspiring and instructive articles. 

 Walker's Genuine and Original Jesuits Drops - a sovereign remedy for "weakness and instruction in the urinary passage" plus all disorders of the stomach.  

Adams Solvent - for dissolving "stones", price 2 shillings a bottle. 

Dr. Burrow's Original Vegetable Syrup, an antidote to scurvy and a cure for veneral disease "without mercury." 

Kings Ague patent tasteless ague and fever drops. 

Mr Spilsbury's Scurvy Drops (Scurvy cures were offered in huge variety by John!)

Blakes sugar cakes for treating intestinal worms

Blakes vegetable lotion for chilblains. 1s6d a bottle. 

Beaum de vie - A family cure- all medicine. 3s a bottle. 


The following contemporary newspaper reports and advertisements from copies held at the British Library Archive and accessed via the BNA:

Reading Mercury: March 27 1786. 

Oxford Journal: March 8, June 14, October 18, November 29, 1783, February 28 1784, January 22 1785

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Picnics And Punts - Victorian Summer time in Marlow


This post is about summer in late Victorian and pre First World War Marlow. The season obviously meant different things to different people. For some it was a period of hot intense labour in the fields. For others it was time to leave Marlow altogether and holiday elsewhere. A surprising large number of Marlow houses were let out for the "river season", and then there were the houseboats that arrived, some staying for weeks. In good weather, the hotels and lodging houses were full, and  visitors could find themselves staying in more unconventional places such as above shops (Or more pleasantly perhaps, they could cadge a room at Hambledon Lock). The arrival of tourists affected even those not in position to enjoy much leisure time themselves. It meant busier streets at the very least. And there may be an annual Sunday School treat or Slate Club or works outing to look forward to. 

Enthralling Beauty

The beauty of Quarry Woods was known far and wide.

It was a popular spot for campers, if sometimes a crowded one. The fact that some set up camp wherever they decided to stop for the night caused tension with riverside home owners who complained of opening their shutters to find campers on their lawns! Most kept to more secluded spots - though some were still technically tresspassing on the larger estates when they did so. The stretch of river between Marlow and Henley was also celebrated, and there was a standing joke that you could always find at least a couple of artists set up opposite Bisham church trying to capture the scene. This part of the river was described by John Greville Fennell in his 1867 Thames guide as one that brought a "constant succession of scenes of sylvan beauty" that struck the gazer and left him or her marvelling with "enthralled imagination" at the loveliness of the scene. And that was not the most fulsome of descriptions by any means! 

Official picnic parties apply here

Day trippers from London at least didn't need to find somewhere to stay. These '"Harrys" as they were often dismissively known, were usually the ones blamed for any sort of misbehaviour. Cheap day excursion tickets were available to Marlow from London stations  - valid for travel on certain trains only from 1st May - 31st October. In 1880, one of these excursion tickets, third class, from Paddington to Marlow would cost you 3s 6d.  If you could demonstrate you were a "genuine" picnic or other pleasure party, of at least 10 persons, (6 if all travelling first class) you could also get lower train fares. Perhaps you had to let the station master examine your picnic hamper! These lower fares were no good for a spontaneous large family outing as you needed to apply for them in advance and in writing. 

For most the river was the focus of their trip so luckily Great Western Railways would transport your boat for you should you be fortunate enough to own one. This was at an added cost of course. If your craft was small enough to fit in the guards van or if it could be strapped to the top of an ordinary passenger carriage, it would cost you 2d a mile with a minimum charge of 5s and reductions were possible if at least 4 crew were traveling on the same train. Larger boats had to travel in expensive coaches of their own. For most, hiring a boat was much more practical. The boat houses such as Haynes, Shaws, and Meakes and Redknapp offered all kinds of river craft from punts and canoes to steam launches. Alternatively many inns and hotels could provide you with the smaller vessels (sometimes by partnering with one of the same boathouses).

 Advertising the fact that you could provide facilities for boating parties and fisherman was a way for hotels and inns to cash in on these tourists who may have just wanted somewhere to eat or someone to provide them with a picnic. If you were on a big group outing or a "beanfeast" , perhaps organised by a workplace, then some establishments turned their nose up at serving you. They did not want the reputation of somewhere where guests looking for a little genteel rest would be disturbed by a large noisy group. So at times the Fishermen's Retreat and the Crown Hotel advertised they did not accept "beanfeasts" but on the other hand, the Railway Hotel (later the Marlow Donkey) welcomed them. For longer stays, Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames (1889 edition) said the numerous hotels and accomodation providers in town catered for "tourists of all classes". 

Some of our visitors came some way to enjoy the riverside. In 1899 Great Western formed an alliance with Great Central Train company to bring visitors in from the Midlands area. The first train was an excursion one from Leicester which arrived in early July, bringing a large party for a day on the river. Or whatever part of the day was left after the time taken to travel here.

The boating parties were described as frequently "noisy and half drunken" and their habit of landing at the parish churchyard and "tramping over the graves" lead to many complaints. 

Fishing with Mr Shaw
Marlow was known as a paradise for anglers, and the premier place to stay was the Compleat Angler, more commonly known as "The Anglers" or Anglers Inn. It started life as a couple of cottages knocked together and then rebuilt, and gradually extended and improved. But even in it's more humble looking state it was far from an obscure little inn. It recieved visitors from London, including well off ones, and it was consistently mentioned and recommended in national guidebooks. The 1832 fire there made the London papers because it was already a celebrated destination - "the great resort of fishing parties". When the Angler was improved, some visitors felt nostalgic for the old days but even they admitted it was now easier to actually get to stay there in the first place as there were more beds on offer. Guidebooks of 1877 and 1889 still warned would be visitors that they would need to give "considerable notice" if they entertained any hope of securing a bed at The Anglers. Members of recognised angling clubs could also get reduced price third class train fairs from Paddington, if they had a member's card to flash.

A number of Marlow men made their living as fisherman, that is fishing guides who would supply bait and take you in a punt to the best spots to catch whatever your quarry was. The Rockell and Shaw families were two that performed this role over a long period. Robert Shaw should get special mention as he features in very many books about the Thames written for contemporary visitors. He was clearly someone that many people felt a lot of affection and respect for. In his role as Water Bailiff for the local Anglers Preservation society, he had a role to play in seeing off illegal fisherman and poachers and so no doubt he had his enemies. But to others he was the good looking Bob Shaw, always polite, "intelligent and reliable" and a highly skilled boatsmen. 

Tumbling for tourists
Marlow Lock naturally saw many visitors, not all of them passing through in a boat or watching those that were. The boaters waiting to pass in or put of the Lock were something of a captive audience for the Victorian equivalent of the "chugger" and chancer. Some of the activity sounds mostly charming in our eyes. Children sometimes performed tricks and tumbles on the towpath, hoping to get a few coins for entertaining the passers by. The authorities regarded this as begging, and children caught in the act could find themselves up before the magistrates. In June 1906  four "small boys" were charged with begging on the tow path around Marlow Mills and Lock. The boys had stood on their heads to amuse the passers by. They were Amos Moody, Henry Turner, Leonard Carter and Henry Allen. Those travelling on steam launches and larger vessels were nevertheless in the habit of responding to the children's gambols by throwing coins onto the bank. This lead to tragedy in 1914 when a little girl aged about 4 is believed to have drowned trying to retrieve coins tossed from a passing launch ("The child of  Carter", of South Place).

Marlow Lock as it is now  - the Lock keepers house is not the Victorian one. 

Charity collections at the Lock were also a regular feature. But when the more persistent adult beggars and sellers of knick knacks began to congregate there in greater numbers, some causes such as the Marlow Cottage Hospital decided not to collect funds at the Lock in case they became associated with a common nuisance. Touts are also mentioned as a regular annoyance, offering to help with boats, or with finding accomodation or punts for hire.

The more widespread issue of begging from visitors to the town, whether they arrived by boat or train, was discussed several times at Marlow council meetings in the early Edwardian period in paticular. They requested the police keep a close eye on things, with varying degrees of success it seems!

As those passing through the Lock had to pay a fee, unless they had a sort of season ticket or annual pass, the numbers using it were recorded. The fee depended on the size of the boat, with steam launches up to 35ft long paying 9d for example, or  house boat's 2s6d. Over the August Bank Holiday of 1893, which was regarded as a little less busy than usual, 1,200 small boats passed through over Saturday to Monday and 120 steam launches. This won't be the absolute number of boats about Marlow as it was possible to bypass the Lock. Some of those using the small boats pulled their craft out of the water just before the Marlow Mills and either enjoyed Gossmore or carried their canoes etc past the Lock on land. They could also land at the Compleat Angler by approaching via the backwater behind the weir and using steps to get up on land, according to contemporary guidebooks. For comparison, over the same 3 day period in 1893, 1,500 visitors arrived by train, mostly from London, with 1,300 returning home on the evening of the Monday. 

The pound lock itself was regarded as both attractive and dangerous by some. George Dunlop Leslie -  mentioned above - definitely thought it was the latter as it was an "old" lock with "many jagged piles and broken woodwork about it's sides". 

Marlow Toast rack sir?
Visitors could return home laden with souvenirs, thanks to the likes of energetic advertiser Rowes the jewellers. They made all kinds of Marlow keepsakes such as brooches and swan shaped toast racks. There were no shortage of places offering postcards but perhaps stationer and book seller William Aviss in the High Street with his "photographic depot of neighbourhood views" offered the most. Those wanting to take their own photographs could get tailored local advice from photographic journals on where and how to take the most attractive and becoming pictures, as so many had made the Marlow journey before. Those at the Lock should wait for a steam launch to arrive in the foreground of their shot, for example. This "greatly improves the composition" providing it was not too near, advised a 1901 photographers guide. 

Regatta time
Those visiting during the annual regatta could also buy a memento from the "card men" or roving postcard sellers, although they actually offered views of previous events of course. Some of these sellers had the reputation for being "sharps" or not entirely honest in their dealings. Better check your change!

Marlow has had more than one Regatta and they've gone by various names  - the Marlow and Maidenhead Regatta, Town Regatta, Rag Regatta, Marlow Rowing Club Regatta, Amateur Regatta etc. The event most relevant to those who worked professionally on the water was the Waterman and Fishermens Regatta which attracted fewer crowds but plenty of entries. For the other events, even those not watching or competing in the rowing, found the town transformed. The bridge was crowded with spectators, sitting or leaning on every available surface including the chains and railings. Complaints were sometimes made that the parked carriages completely blocked the way across the bridge. Those who got through to Marlow then had to dodge the rides, stalls and visitors of the fair that set up on the Causeway. Many of these were the same proprietors who visited Marlow during Marlow Fair although there was fewer of them. They did manage to spread down Station Rd and Institute Rd at times though, and others set up in Crown Meadow. 

The evening of the regatta usually saw a procession of boats decorated with lanterns, or a "Venetian fete" or "Water carnival". The best decorated boat won a prize. They must have made a beautiful sight to behold, especially as many riverside properties were also decorated with lights for the occasion. 

Sunday School fun
Sunday school outings were part of the summer for many youngsters. Burnham Beeches seems to have been the number one destination, but sometimes the little ones just enjoyed a high day closer to home. In 1877 for example, "legions" of them enjoy a tea in Remnantz meadow as part of a summer festival. 

Watercress gathering
Watercress was a summer harvest that would have occupied a fair number of locals at times. The majority of the beds were at Little Marlow as tended by Timotheus Brown early on. George Dunlop Leslie, describing a trip to the "charming village" around 1881, said the watercress beds were "very picturesque with their islands, footbridges and summer houses". He added that the beds were fed from a spring with slightly warm water which meant they never froze in the winter. This made them especially productive. Watercress was also grown in the meadows around Red Pits hill running towards the river and near to Medmenham. 

End of the summer
Swimming in the river (clothes optional) and the harvest home and harvest festivals that marked the transition to autumn feature in posts of their own. 

Marlow must have seemed a little quieter when all the visitors had departed, although some better off Marlow residents also found their way home after enjoying the season elsewhere. Some people might be pleased the "Harry's" had left but as the South Bucks Standard said in 1901 "the trade and prosperity of our town of our town depend for the most part on visitors who came for pleasure and recreation". 

The train service was reduced outside of the summer period, but Marlow was not quite ready to hibernate. There was Marlow Fair to stir the town up in October, and winter was the season of lectures and entertainments at the Town Hall, Music Room and the Institute. 


Meakes and Redknapp Boathouse, Berkshire side. 


Fennell, John Grenville - The Rail and The Road or Tourist Anglers Guide to Waters and Quarters - (H. Cox 1867)

Hall, Samuel and Mrs - The Book Of The Thames From It's Rise To It's Fall (Virtue, 1877 2nd Edition)

Leslie, George Dunlop - Our River (Bradbury, Agnew & Co 1881)

Taunt, Henry - A New Map of the River Thames From Oxford to London, (Taunt, 1872).

Parliamentary Papers vol 16, Great Britain House of Commons, (1884 HMSO) 

Dickens Dictionary of The Thames from Oxford to the Nore 1880 Issue 2 (Dickens, 1880) and 1889 edition issue 1. 
A yearbook of Photography and Amateurs Guide - 1901. Author unknown. 

The Royal River - The Thames from Source to Sea (Cassell, 1885)

The Art Journal Vol 45 (Virtue and Company 1883)

The Marlow Guide, 1905. 

Diss Examiner, 28 August 1899. Copy from British Library, accessed via the BNA, August 2020. 

Bucks Herald, September 27 

1873, July 18 1914 as above

South Bucks Standard - 25th September 1891, 14 October 1892, 11th August 1893, 13 April 1894, 14th July 1899, 22 June 1900, 5 July 1901, 10 June 1904, 6 July 1906 as above

Bucks Gazette - 3 November 1832, as above

 London Courier and Evening Gazette 8 November 1832, as above

©Marlow Ancestors

Fleeing Debtors and Man Midwives

  I have been cross referencing wills, photos, property surveys, censuses, sale adverts and more in order to identify Victorian occupiers fo...