SUTERS THE EARLY YEARS - Part One
HATTERS IN RETFORD AND DRAPERS IN LEDBURY - The Suter Family from c1745 to c1890 Extracts from Suter Family History by Richard Ensor
Please note that if click on some of the images on this page they will enlarge
The First Retford Generation (the first George Suter and Mary Tomlinson)
Towards the end of the second quarter of the Eighteenth Century a hat manufactory was established in a house fronting onto the Bridgegate of East Retford being the part of Retford east of the River Idle. The house was fairly new and had been built on land adjoining the river which runs through the town on its wandering course to join the Trent. Retford was a market town lying in the Lincolnshire plain roughly equidistant from both Gainsborough and Worksop. There had, formerly, been a tannery on the site and several old cottages which were later described in one of a series of 'Historical Papers' published in a local newspaper towards the end of the nineteenth century as.
"the most wretched that almost can be imagined. Principal erected of timber and covered with ling, one story high, and having doors and windows constructed so wretchedly small as nearly to prevent ingress or egress either to man or to the light of heaven. Situate in a low swamp, and subject to the then frequent floods of the river, it is scarcely to be wondered at that ague should then be so prevalent, or that the plague should so frequently visit…"- Retford and Gainsborough News in August 1878
'Ling' is heather often used as a roofing material together with other materials such as rushes.
The site was redeveloped and the new house taken by a man called George Suter (or Shooter). According to the 'Historical Paper' published in 'the News', George's family came from the small village of Tideswell in the Peak District of Derbyshire. The Suter name can be traced back in parts of Derbyshire to 1475. By 1729 George was in Retford and there married Mary Tomlinson ("the daughter of Joshua") who came from the village of Clarborough, three miles outside the town. There may or may not have been another 'Suter' named John in partnership with George as the 1878 'Historical Paper' credits him with the foundation of the business. It also, confusingly, credits him with George's children and states that he married:
"Miss Wheat, then of a respectable family in Retford".
Tom Suter has researched the facts reported, or misreported, in the 1878 'historical paper' and found a number of persons with the surname 'Wheat' in the 1851 Census all in the Clarborough area. It was his conclusion that George Suter married Mary Tomlinson and he could find no evidence for a brother named 'John' though he may have had four brothers brother named Robert (born 1705), William, Tomas and Henry and a sister named Margaret. This information is drawn from the Will of Robert Suter of Warsop, Nottinghamshire who died on the 3rd November 1763. .
George and Mary Suter had two sons (and six daughters) of whom the elder son , John, joined his father in the firm and enjoyed a long life living at the family home until his death in 1823 at the age of 91. George's second son, also named George (born in 1743), joined his father and elder brother in the business.
The Second Retford Generation (the second George Suter and Ann Parker)
Following the death of George Suter senior in 1777 the business was carried on by his sons John (then aged 45) and George (aged 34) and by 1789 the second George (described as 'proprietor' in the 1878 'historical paper') was ready to expand on to the other side of Bridgegate.
According to the 'News':.
"The hat business was carried on upon the site of the present post-office until the year 1789, when Mr Geo Suter, the proprietor, purchased the house in the opposite side of the street now in the occupation of Dr. Housley. Here he erected commodious shops, and gave employment to a moderately large number of hands." .
George Suter junior married Ann Parker on 29th June 1774 at St. Mary and St Benedict, Huntingdon. They had four daughters, a son who did not survive infancy, and a second son born in 1780 named George Parker (the third George) who joined his father in the 'manufactory' presumably after the completion of an apprenticeship in about 1800:
The "News" continued: .
He (the second George) conducted the manufactory for a few years; then retired to his daughter's residence in Winterton near Brigg where he died on Oct 20th 1829, aged 87 years.
George's wife, Ann, had died in 1813 and it is likely that his retirement was to the home of his daughter Mary (born in 1786) who became the second wife of Joseph Naylor of Winterton, North Lincolnshire. Mary did not have any children and it is known that Joseph had children by his first wife. He may have been a few years older than Mary but was still in business as a draper when his nephew George Allison was apprenticed to him for a term of six years in 1843. If he was in his early 60s in 1843 he must have been born in the early 1780s so the age difference need not have been very great. In any event it appears that Joseph and Mary provided George with a retirement home in their small village just south of the Humber Estuary.
The Third Retford Generation (the third George Suter and Elizabeth Allison and their family).
'The third George' - George Parker Suter succeeded his father in the business in the first decade of the nineteenth century and diversified. According to the 'News':
"Mr Geo Suter was followed by Mr George Parker Suter, his son …… This gentleman is well remembered by many of the inhabitants now living, who have repeatedly pointed out to us the site of his old workshops by the side of the river Idle, where they remember the men at work, and being taken as children to Suters' to rejoice in the possession of a "brand new hat." The Mr Suter of whom we are writing added the trades of sacking manufacturer and tanner; but the business of a hatter being superseded in the country by the London and Paris manufacturers, Mr Suter retired from the business. On the resignation of Miss Elizabeth Barker, in 1837, he succeeded as postmaster of Retford. Soon after the death of Mr William Pearson, apparitor, Mr Suter was appointed his successor, and continued to hold both these situations until his death on the 1st August 1843."
The competition from 'London and Paris manufacturers' must have been brought to Retford by coaches and wagons negotiating the turnpike road as the Great Northern Railway did not arrive at the town until after the passing of the Railway Acts in 1846. Retford, thereafter, became a local distribution centre and also a junction between the Great Northern and Great Central Railways.
'The third George' married Elizabeth Allison one of the three daughters of Mr Joseph Allison of Bilby, by whom he had three sons - Henry Allison, George Allison, and William Allison (sic - should have read 'Parker') - and one daughter - Emily
As noted in the 'News', Elizabeth was born in 1788 the third of the nine children of 'Joseph of Bilby' and his wife Mary. Bilby is a small hamlet west of Barnby Moor and about four miles north west of Retford. Joseph of Bilby, born in 1752, was the son of a John Allison born in 1697 and whose father was another John Allison 'of Sutton cum Lounds'. Lounds is a village two miles from Sutton which is three miles north west of Retford on the A638 road. There are 'Allison' tombs in the Lounds churchyard.
There were numerous inter marriages between the Allison, Hodgkinson and Suter families in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
George and Elizabeth's first child was a boy, sadly still born in 1824, and was followed by the four children referred to in the extract from the 'Historical Paper' quoted above - namely Emily in 1826, Henry Allison in 1828, George Allison (the fourth 'George') in 1829 and William Parker (not William 'Allison') in 1831.
The business was sold some time before 1837 when the third George was appointed postmaster of Retford. This was a time of expansion for the postal service. Rowland Hill came up with his revolutionary suggestion for the use of pre-paid printed adhesive labels in February 1837 and the first postage stamps were introduced in May 1840. The change resulted in a new kind of postal service which was inexpensive and accessible to all. The volume of letters increased rapidly and the expanding business is likely to have been administered by the third George from his home. It is, probably, no coincidence that the former Suter family home had become the town Post Office by 1878.
The third George was also appointed "apparitor" "….soon after the death of Mr William Pearson". An "apparitor" was an officer of a civil or ecclesiastical court. Their job was to enforce court orders and while the post had 'dignity' apparitors were not always popular! Thus in one of his "Imaginary Conversations" in 1824 Walter Savage Landor has a character comment:
"The judges will hear reason, when the wand of the Apparitor is tipped with gold."
George was able to enjoy his new situations for only a very few years. He died in 1843 at the age of 63 by which time his sons were aged 15 (Henry Allison), 14 (George Allison) and 11 (William Parker).
We do not know a great deal about the family in the years immediately after the death of the third George. Someone else was appointed Postmaster and the house was sold and the whole family moved to Grove Street. George's widow, Elizabeth, (aged 55 at the time of his death) is described, eight years later, in the 1851 Census, as a schoolteacher living in Grove Street. She may, perhaps, have started taking in pupils but if so they must have come on a daily basis as none are recorded by the Census.
Other members of her household included her sons Henry Allison (then aged 23) and William Parker (then aged 20) together with Martha Young, described as a general servant aged 18 born in Gainsborough. All three boys had started apprenticeships. Henry Allison was apprenticed on the 10th July 1844 for five years to Mr William Baker who was a chemist, George Allison, who was not living at home in 1851, had been apprenticed on the 13th October 1843 for six years to his uncle Joseph Naylor and William Parker was apprenticed on the 2nd April 1847 for five and a half years to Mr John C. Payne who was an Ironmonger.
We also do not know how long the family remained in Retford but none of the boys made their future in the area.. George Allison Suter would have completed his apprenticeship in 1849 and, by the time of the 1851 Census, may already have moved to London or perhaps even further afield as a journeyman draper. He was married in Pimlico in 1864 and one suggestion is that he spent time in Canada between leaving home and his marriage.
Elizabeth moved to Ledbury before she died in 1877 but this leaves a 26 year 'gap' between the 1851 Census and her death. It is unlikely that she would have moved to Ledbury before the Suter family shop was acquired sometime between 1864 and 1866. In the meantime she may have remained in Retford though it is also possible that there was an intermediate move perhaps to the London area. There is, however, no evidence for the save for the later interest of her family in south London.
If a new home was acquired somewhere in or near London south London is a possibility as the elder son Henry Allison Suter was married in Sydenham in 1860 and when the second son George Allison Suter retired 20 or 30 years later from his business in Ledbury he chose to share a house with his daughter and son in law in South Norwood. The London and Croydon steam railway line terminated at Croydon in 1839 and the London and Brighton Railway opened an East Croydon station two years later in 1841.
However, as George's widow, Elizabeth, died in Ledbury in 1877 there does not seem to have been a family home which was continuously occupied throughout the period. Also, as the rapid development of South Norwood and Thornton Heath did not take place until the 1870's any earlier home, if it was in the area at all, is likely to have been further north perhaps in or around Forest Hill which began its development as a suburb soon after the railway came in 1839 (and which is, incidentally, also close to Sydenham).
Leaving Retford - the fourth Suter generation
Henry Allison Suter and Julia Hooker
Henry Allison was apprenticed to a chemist. His apprenticeship to Mr Baker would have been completed in 1849. In 1851 he was still living at home, aged 23, but in 1860 by the time he was 32 he married Julia Hooker who came from Brenchley in Kent five miles east of Tunbridge Wells. Julia's father had married a 'Gorringe' and this name later reappears as the second name of one of Julia's grandchildren.
Before marrying Julia, Henry Allison Suter had spent time in Ampthill in Bedfordshire and probably also in South London - (Dulwich has been suggested). The marriage took place in Sydenham and the following year they had a stillborn child. The couple moved to Sherborne near Yeovil where two more children were born - Henry John Allison in 1864 and Mary Clara Julia, three years later, in 1867. Henry Allison was later recorded in Sheffield in November 1879 and in Nottingham in 1880. Prior to 24th December 1885 he was running the practise of Mr Ure at East Dulwich Green.
There is a photograph of Henry Allison in which he looks to be somewhere in his 60's and a prosperous member of the Victorian middle classes. His suit and waistcoat are made of good heavy cloth. The jacket has generous cuffs and the buttons are covered By that time he was described as an 'Assistant Surgeon'.
There is also a photograph of Henry Allison's son, Henry John Allison. He, originally, trained as an architect with an uncle in Oakham but later decided to become a Baptist Minister and attended Spurgeons College in London. The photograph was taken when Henry John Suter was aged about 30 in the studio of A.L. Knighton in Oakham. Henry John Allison married Mary Almond in 1899 when he was 35 and she was 20. Mary came from Oakham and all three of their children were born in Oakham between 1900 and 1907.
Henry John Allison had a posting to Wraysbury in Buckinghamshire and later seems to have moved to Highgate in north London as he died there in 1933 and his widow Mary was living in Highgate at the time of her death in 1947. Two of their children were also living in London at the time of their deaths in 1964 and 1990.
Henry Allison's daughter Mary Clara Julia married George William Baldwin Linton. They were living in Smallheath, Birmingham at the time of the birth of their first child, Mary Melissa in 1895, but had moved to Cornwall by the time their second child, another daughter, was born in 1899. There is a photo of Mary Clara taken about this time . She looks very bright and intelligent and capable of taking on the world. She probably had to as the family later moved to Canada and both the girls were married over there and founded families in Canada and the United States.
While William Parker Suter was living in the family home in Retford in 1851, he did not stay there long. He was married in Banbury, five years later, in 1856 to Jane Mousir who came from Grantham. William Parker had been apprenticed to an Ironmonger and would have been free of the apprenticeship in 1852 or 1853. At the time of his marriage he was said to be "of Dudley" though he may have been working as a journeyman ironmonger in Banbury when he met Jane. Jane's brother, Henry, was a coal merchant in the town and her eldest brother John who was a commercial traveller died in Banbury on the 2nd January 1898.
William Parker and Jane had three daughters, Emily who was born in England in 1857 and died a spinster in 1938, Agnes Bertha who, in 1897, became the second wife of Francis Chaillon and with him had three children two of whom adopted the names 'Allison' and 'Suter' as second names., and Elizabeth Annie who married Charles George Preston with whom she had two children. A letter from Emily to George Arthur Suter survives in the possession of George Myrry Suter.
Left: William Parker Suter emmigration with Jane Suter and Agnes Suter - Sailed on Scottish Prince from London on 16 July 1884 and arrived at Moreton Bay 27 October 1884 - Click on image to open as PDF - Image Source - Queensland Government
William Parker was subsequently listed in the 1881 Census as an ironmonger in Warkworth, Northumberland. The family lived for a time on Ann Street in Brisbane, Australia and William finally died there in 1886 and was buried in an unmarked grave. It is thought he fell on hard times.
December 2014 - Philip Suter was contacted by Chris Mott from Sydney, Australia who informed Philip that William Parker Suter and Jane Mousir who moved to Queensland, Australia during the 1880's, were his Great Great grandparents.
Chris has sent the following family tree spreadsheets below (click on each image to enlarge) These extracts only cover "historical" persons, all living persons have been deleted.
"I tend to think that the three daughters of William Parker Suter and Jane Mousir where rather well educated. My mother says that Emily was one of the top music teachers in Queensland in the early 1900's whilst Annie Eliza was qualified as a lawyer and was active in the suffragette movement in Australia during the 1890s.
Most descendents of my Great grandmother Agnes Bertha Suter would probably be living in Townsville which is located in north Queensland but there are also a sprinkling in Brisbane, Sydney and the Hunter Valley to the north of Sydney. Wilfred Arthur Suter (Bob) Chaillon on the first sheet was my grandfather."
Philip Suter in an email to Chris said "My grandfather would have been George William Suter (Ledbury draper person who moved to Slough) and my late father was John Dack, So I note you have deleted those alive, but your Grandfather was Wilfred Arthur Suter (Bob) Chaillon so was that a double barrel name or was Suter just included in it? So somewhere along the line I presume the Mott surname appeared?"
Chris Mott replied back " "Suter" was my grandfather's third given name. (I was told he didn't like either the Wilfred or the Suter.) He was my mother's father. So Mott comes from the other side of the family."
George Allison Suter and Maria Dack
George Allison, was apprenticed to a draper, and appears to have worked for at least 15 years after completing his apprenticeship before he was married in 1860, at the age of 35, and in Pimlico, to Maria Dack.
George Allison may have been working in London at the time. Indeed they may both have been working in London as Maria is described as being of Tydd St. Marys which is in South Lincolnshire. George Allison would thus have had plenty of time to have become experienced in his trade and it is likely that had already started to look round for a business by the time he was married.
We do not know when or why he settled on Ledbury in Herefordshire. It is likely to have been after 1863 as there are no Suters in Ledbury listed in Kellys Directory in 1863. There is a theory that news of an opportunity in Ledbury may have come to George Allison Suter through relatives of his grandmother Ann Parker. She had married 'the second George' in 1774 and it happens that a family named Parker had been living in Ledbury from 1680 and in 1873 a member of that family - Richard Parker -also owned 19 acres of land in Nottinghamshire. It maybe, therefore, that the two 'Parker' families were connected and that news travelled through a family 'grapevine'. Whatever the reason, George Allison decided that Ledbury was the place for him and he bought a shop at No 5 High Street Ledbury.
'Drapery Suter' - George Allison Suter at Ledbury - c1865 to c1890
Ledbury is an ancient market town roughly equidistant from Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester and consists of one very long, straight central street, which is part of the old road from Hereford to Gloucester and called The Homend where it enters the town from the north west and changes into the High Street at the Market House. At this point the road widens out and becomes a street of shops leading up to a crossroads known as Top Cross. Here the old road from Tewkesbury to Ross crosses at right angles and the street becomes The Southend. At the Market House two smaller streets branch off, Bye Street to the west and Back Lane to the east.
Just like when the shop passed onto George William Suter (in next section of the history here) there were reports of thefts in the local papers, like this one below in 1866.
In the 1860's the town was still served by the Hereford and Gloucester canal and very recently by the new railway line linking Worcester and Hereford. The reputation of the railway suffered somewhat during the early years because of problems with the Colwall tunnel just outside the town from which rocks from time to time fell onto passing trains However, coaches still ran along the turnpike roads to Hereford, Worcester, Gloucester and Tewkesbury and provided an alternative and, at first, more comfortable way of reaching the town. The coaches only ceased to run between Ledbury and Gloucester in 1885 when a second railway from Gloucester was opened following the route of the old canal.
Whether the Suter family arrived in Ledbury by the coach or train they would have walked to George Allison's new shop close to the market House over pavements formed of large cobble-stones, or 'petrified kidneys' as the more tender footed visitors to Ledbury called them. No shop at that time possessed a plate glass window and goods were displayed behind windows made up of many small panes.
Ledbury was a busy town and crowded, particularly on market days. When the Suter family first arrived the livestock market was still held in the High Street which would also be crowded with stalls busy selling to towns people and visiting farmers alike. The High Street was always crowded on market days and the shop was well placed close to the Market House. The livestock market was lost to the High Street in 1887 when it was removed to a former orchard between New Street and Bye Street. However, the crowds remained and more stalls moved in to fill up the available space. A photo taken on market day at the turn of the century shows carts pushing their way through the crowds and in a later photo of the market place there are cars and buses joining the horse drawn carts which make up the traffic.(Plate 1, figs 00.04 and 00.05)
A photograph of the High Street looking towards Top Cross taken before the advent of motor vehicles is contained in 'A Glimpse of Old Ledbury' by David Postle. This book provides a showcase for photographs from the author's own collection and other sources and gives a picture of Ledbury during the 20 or so years before and after the end of the nineteenth century. It is a window into the world of the Suter family while they were living in Ledbury.
In the view towards Top Cross (fig 00.06) the Suter Drapers shop is hidden just behind the Market House. The sun blind can be seen through the first arch of the Market House.
A second photograph in the same book (fig 00.07) shows the shop on a busy day just beyond the street market.
A further clear but drab view taken from the other side of the High Street (fig 00.08) shows a narrow double fronted shop with a single window on each of the two upper floors. The wording on name board reads "Drapery Suter and for some reason more faintly Millinery". The family lived over the shop and at least two of George Allison and Maria's three children were born there in 1867 and 1872.
The building was described as "the freehold house and shop" in George Allison Suter's Will of 1897 and the house probably extended behind as well as over the shop. George Allison's son, George William Suter, also lived over the shop after his marriage in 1894 and his first child was born there in 1895. By 1919 the building had ceased to be regarded as a house and the Sale Particulars described 'No. 5, High Street' as "a double fronted shop…..with a large show room over, 5 store rooms and extensive cellaring".
According to an article "Peeps into the Past" in The Ledbury Reporter and Guardian of 11th May 1951 preserved by Arthur Suter, nearby shops included John Davis, ironmonger at No 8, Mr Gabb at No 7, and Mr. E Freeman, Chemist at No 6. On the other side of what the 1951 paper described as "a very old draper's business carried on by Mr. Suter who was succeeded by his son" was a grocers business at No 4 owned first by John Stanyer Webb and later by C. Podlingham**.
Image source here These premises had become the Midland Bank by 1951. No. 3 was a china shop carried on by Mr. J Parr and next door to this was a bakers and confectioners run by the Roberts family. The last business on the Suter side of the High Street was occupied by Mr Edy and later by Mr J.E. Ballard both as grocers. More about 5 High Street Ledbury Here
**[Note December 2014 Lynne a relative has pointed out that the spelling of "Pedlingham" should be with an "E" and not "O". According to other documents Suter is spelt Sutor] (See Feedback and Memories page here regarding the name Charles Pedlingham)
Within a few years of their marriage George Allison and Maria had three children, Elizabeth Dack born on 23rd February 1865, George William born on the 18th April 1867 and Frank Allison born on 3rd April 1872. They may also have been joined in the family home by George's mother Elizabeth who was living in Ledbury when she died in 1877.
The two Suter boys were very different. It is said that George William was sent away to board at the Ark School in Banbury though by Christmas 1878 (at age 11) he was attending the 'Oakland House Science School' and was awarded a prize for "Punctuality and Good Attendance. The prize survives in the possession of Su Suter. (fig 00.09 and10 below)
Su also has George William's 'Book of Common Prayer' - pocket sized and from an impression printed in 1871. (fig 00.11 and 12 below)
George William left school at the age of 15 in 1882 and was apprenticed to George Court, who was a draper of 19b, Summer Lane, Birmingham. The apprenticeship ran for two years from the 27th May 1882 and it was agreed that George William would stay on for a final third year at the conclusion of the apprenticeship. A salary of £10 was agreed for the second year of apprenticeship and this increased to £25 in the third year. George William returned to Ledbury in 1885, aged 18, and joined his father in the High Street shop. George Allison Suter was by then aged 55 and there is a cabinet print made by Norman May of Malvern which shows him the following year looking very much the man of business.(Plate 2 figs 00.13 and 14 Below)
The younger brother, Frank Allison, was always in trouble. He was five years younger than George William so any scrapes at School should not have caused his brother too much embarrassment. For some reason a pocket edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern inscribed with his name and the date 'May 1885' seems to have been given either to his older brother or his nephew Arthur as it is now also in the possession of Arthur's daughter 'Su'. (figs 00.15 and 16 below)
Frank did not join the family business and by the time he was 28 the 1901 Census recorded him as a 'Dairyman' and an 'Employer'. He was involved in a number of businesses which failed and finally owned a garage business.
George and Frank's elder sister Elizabeth Dack may have left home to work in London. She was married in 1890 to Frank Denning who came from Somerset and had been gradually working his way up from milk boy to the owner of a dairy in the Westminster area.
By 1890 George William had been working for his father for five years and while it is unlikely that he would have received a particularly generous salary he was, nevertheless, the son chosen to succeed to the business. He continued working for nine years behind the counter in Ledbury gradually learning the trade and saving for the future. His life brightened significantly when George Allison decided to start selling ladies hats and engaged a milliner to assist in the shop. Her name was Elizabeth Fisher and she came from a large family living in Bromsgrove.
George William courted and married Elizabeth. We do not know how long they had to wait but the wedding took place in 1894 nine years after George William completed his apprenticeship by which time Elizabeth was 22 and George William's father must either have retired or been contemplating retirement. Indeed, the marriage may have coincided with the sale and/or gift of the business by George Allison Suter to his elder son.
Below Results of Ledbury Parish Council Elections 1894, George Allison Suter receiving 158 votes
Image Source - Roger Baker of Old Ledbury Facebook Group
A few years later, George Allison Suter's will mentions lifetime gifts made to both his sons. In the case of George William any gift will have been linked the take-over of the High Street shop and flat. George Allison provided himself with a retirement income by investing in houses, let either on short tenancies at full rents or on long leases yielding a small but steady 'ground rent'. By the time George Allison died, in 1898, he owned eleven freehold houses in South Norwood and Thornton Heath.
These were all located within a mile of each other and near to where his daughter and her husband Frank Denning were living at the Elms in Cargreen Road. The geographical location of the houses making up his 'pension fund' was no coincidence as George Allison and Maria had accepted an invitation from their daughter and son in law to spend their retirement at 'The Elms'.
George William Suter, Frank Denning and the two Elizabeths
The family of Elizabeth Fisher
Before describing the time spent by George William and Elizabeth at Ledbury it is worth outlining what is known of Elizabeth's own family.
Elizabeth was the eighth of nine children of Daniel and Winfred Fisher. Daniel Fisher was born the son of a Worcestershire milk seller in 1831 and became a master butcher. He was married in Ripple which is a small village about 10 miles east of Ledbury in 1861 to Winifred Smith, the, daughter of James Smith (a farmer). The witnesses at Daniel and Winifred's marriage were Daniel's father William Fisher and 'Emma Smith' who it is suggested was her elder sister and not her mother. This seems likely as Emma gave birth to an illegitimate son in 1848. Elizabeth and her elder sisters Sarah Ellen, Martha and Catherine (and probably the other children) were all born in Bromsgrove.
Daniel died in 1874 or 1875 and was followed by Winifred in 1885. Following Daniel's death his widow and the children probably stayed on in the family home in Bromsgrove. By the time Winifred died ten years later in 1885 all the nine children were at least aged 13 and thus old enough to have left school and be earning a living. Their names in order of seniority were Frances Emma (born 1862), Blanche Ann (1863), Sarah Ellen (1864), William James (1867), Olive Martha (1868), Martha 'Pattie' (1870), Catherine (1871), Elizabeth (1872) and Daniel (1874). Elizabeth learned millinery and some time in the late 1880's or early 90's applied for the milliner's job offered in Ledbury.
Many of the Fisher children stayed close to one another. Thus, by 1901, Catherine Fisher had married a grocer's assistant named George Westbury. They were living at 8 Stoney Hill, Bromsgrove. George and Catherine had given a home to Catherine's elder sister Martha who, at the time, was working for a book binder. Similarly, Elizabeth's elder sister (the third Fisher daughter), Sarah Ellen (Auntie Sally) was, living with her sister and brother in law in Southend, Ledbury at the time of the Census on 31st March 1901. Earlier in the same year she had married Ernest Edward Bill who had joined the Third Company (the Glosters) of the First Battalion Imperial Yeomanry at the time of the Boer War.(1899-1902). The Census records Auntie Sally's married name and Tom Suter's researches revealed that the marriage took place during the first quarter of 1901. She may, therefore, have married Ernest before he left for service with the Yeomanry and moved in with her sister's family at Southend.
There is a studio portrait of Auntie Sally with Uncle Ernest which could have been taken at the time of the wedding. He is dressed in his uniform and the initials "IY" can be seen on the hat badge. (fig 01.01 above) Auntie Sally was later on hand to look after her sister Elizabeth's children when their mother was at work. Uncle Ernest and Auntie Sally's subsequent home was at Shears Bank (sometimes called 'The Walnuts') close to Ledbury. Elizabeth's Grand-daughter Wendy-Ann Ensor remembers Uncle Ernest Bill as an old man "He would lie in bed a and take 'pot shots' at birds in the garden and then hang up the bodies as an 'awful warning' to others!" - Wendy-Ann Ensor 2003
Ernest Bill seems to have had two sisters who benefited indirectly from an investment made by George Allison Suter. When George Allison died he bequeathed a mortgage on a property known as 'Elms Cottage', New Street, Ledbury to his son George William. George Allison was, by then, retired and living in South Norwood. Elms Cottage may possibly have been acquired as additional accommodation, perhaps for people employed by the family or at the shop. It is not thought that it was occupied by the family and it may simply, have been security for a private loan to a third party. According to Beth Wickens (Winifred Suter's daughter) by the 1930s Elms Cottage was occupied by the Misses Bill who she thinks were Uncle Ernest Bill's sisters.
Martha Fisher must have left the Westbury home to visit her sister in Ledbury from time to time as she eventually married George Edward Ketley who worked in the High Street shop. Thus Elizabeth had two of her sisters living close at hand in Ledbury plus the Westbury family 25 miles away in Bromsgrove. They kept in touch and the contacts were continued after George William and Elizabeth had moved away from Ledbury.
Frank Denning and Elizabeth Dack Suter
Frank Denning was born at Radstock, Somerset in 1864 and in 1877, at the age 13, started to work for his uncle who was a cow keeper in Chelsea. After ten years - described as 'arduous years' in a later newspaper article - in the dairy business he was able to purchase the Westminster and Pimlico Dairies in Moreton Street, Westminster. This must have been in 1887 and his business activities extended through both Westminster and Marylebone.
While working in Chelsea Frank started attending the local Wesleyan Methodist chapel and is said to have worked for that body with the same thoroughness as he later devoted to his business. He may have met Elizabeth Dack Suter through chapel while she was also working in the area.
On 16th January 1890 Frank Denning married Elizabeth and the couple appear to have spent the first year of their marriage in London. Frank was, then, aged 25 and Elizabeth 24.
In 1891 the couple moved to South Norwood, a suburb which had developed rapidly around the Norwood Junction railway station during the previous two decades. The shopping terraces in the High Street date from the 1870's.
He came in a quiet manner, but with that shrewd business capacity generally associated with Scotland rather than Somerset, with only a little capital, but just enough to buy up two or three local dairy businesses. Progress, the unerring outcome of efficiency and a true economy, came rapidly, and in 1896 was floated that business which is now a household word not only in Croydon, but throughout the county of Surrey and in the surrounding shires - Welford's Surrey Dairies Ltd. ………… Mr Frank Denning, of course, became managing director.- Alderman Denning's Early Life - The Croydon Times, Wednesday, February 9, 1916
Thus five years proved sufficient for Frank to acquire, and reorganise a dairy business in the Croydon area and bring this in a state in which it could be introduced to the stock market.
By the time of the 1901 Census Frank and Elizabeth were living at 'The Elms', 14 Cargreen Road, South Norwood.
The company continued to prosper and the Frank's reputation for combining a talent for hard work with ability and attention to detail reached an ever widening audience.
The record of that company is one of uninterrupted success, the present share capital being £100,000. Councillor Denning is now connected with practically all the leading London dairy companies, and of many of them is a director. No one can teach him anything regarding the milk supply to the metropolis. He has enjoyed some of the highest honours the trade can bestow, and, in his own special business, stands as a front rank expert. New Mayor Chosen - Proof for a newspaper report, November 1913
A capital of £100,000 in 1913 was equivalent to almost £5,000,000 at the end of the twentieth century: a considerable achievement for a man who had built up and floated his business at the age of 32 after he had been in business for nine years and had thereafter continued to devote himself to its development. The dairy was not Frank's only business interest:
[He] did not lose interest in the county of his birth, and among other positions he held was that of a director of the famous Wells Collieries Ltd. He was also Chairman of the Board of the Dunkerton Collieries Co., Ltd. And a member of the Penford and Bromley Collieries. Alderman Denning's Early Life - The Croydon Times, Wednesday, February 9, 1916
Frank's appetite for work was notorious and became much admired in the Croydon area. It eventually led to his early death. Elizabeth Dack was devoted to Frank and they hoped for a family. Their daughter, May, was born in November 1891 soon after the move to South Norwood. Sadly, she did not survive infancy and died in 1893. Elizabeth was unable to have any more children. She busied herself with other activities and from 1895 started to take a close and affectionate interest in her brother George William's expanding family. Elizabeth and Frank also provided a retirement home for both Elizabeth's parents until George Alison died in 1898 and then for her mother alone until Maria's death in 1903.
©Richard Ensor - January 2005 and additional information Chris Mott and Lynne Robinson - December 2014
©Philip Suter - December 2013
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives