John Bailey, draper


In some ways this is a tale of decline. John Bailey was a personage in Epsom and his fancy drapery emporium in Waterloo House, near the junction of High Street and South Street, was upmarket. John was apparently known as 'the Epsom Banker" and was one of the promoters of the Epsom and Ewell Gas Company. The shop was so unique in Epsom for its quality and variety of merchandise that ladies would come from far and wide to make a purchase and there were often large queues. In his book, 'Reminiscences of Epsom', James Andrews said, 'I can remember once being sent to buy something at Bailey's, but had to wait for so long for my turn to be served, that when at last it came I had totally forgotten what I had been sent for'.

John Bailey Senior, who died in 1815, started the business in 1770 and Bourne Hall Museum has a record of him with a house and shop on the south side of the High Street as early as 1814. John Bailey Junior was certainly running it by 1827/8 and quite probably long before that. He probably thought that the Bailey name over the door would live on for decades, through at least one of the two sons who assisted him, but this did not prove to be the case.

Bailey's shop and the Watch House c1840 from Dugdale's England & Wales
Bailey's shop and the Watch House c1840 from Dugdale's England & Wales
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre

John Bailey was born in Epsom in about 1797. He married a young Epsom girl, Rebecca (born in about 1811), and they had five children, one of whom (Rebecca) died in infancy in 1826. The others were Ann Baker (1827-91), John Dickson (born 1829/30), James (1831) and Edwin Ward (1835). John died on 6 December 1861.

Ann Baker Bailey remained at home until her parents died and then lived alone at Rose Bank, South Street on the income from property rents. The only real fact that has emerged about her is that she obviously discovered the secret of eternal youth, since, according to the censuses, she just became younger and younger. Despite being born in 1827, by 1891 she had advanced only to the age of 47, although she was about 63. She died on 12 September 1891 and was buried with her parents in St Martin's; she was unmarried.

John Dickson Bailey had probably been a trouble to his father and there is no evidence that his father helped him out. Indeed, there was very likely an estrangement, since John Dickson seems to have kept well clear of Epsom for many years. He had begun as a draper's assistant, presumably in the family business, but moved away in around 1852. In March 1859 he was summoned to appear for a bankruptcy examination, his recent history being given as 'John Dickson Bailey, formerly of High-street, Epsom, linen draper's assistant, then lodging at the Red Lion, Epsom, then of No. 1, Hampton-street, Walworth, then of No. 1, in the Oval, Hackney Road, Middlesex, then of Chingford, Essex, then of No. 3, Elm-terrace, Cambridge Heath, Hackney, Middlesex, then of No. 8, Park Place, Commercial Road, Peckham, Surrey, and now of No. 3, May Place, Nunhead, Peckham Rye, Surrey, out of employment'.

On John Bailey's death in 1861 he left, among other things, a dwelling-house, garden and paddock on the south side of Epsom High Street, a building/function establishment called the Long Room, with rooms above and a paddock (also on the south side of the High Street), and a parcel of land; his heirs appear to have sold much of this in due course. It was undoubtedly fortunate for John Dickson Bailey in the financial sense that his father died in 1861, as he then inherited property and never had to find work again. On 8 February 1853, at St John of Jerusalem, South Hackney, he had married Louisa Magdalene Girault, born on 15 April 1835 in Hackney, daughter of a silk manufacturer. Their eldest son, John Girault Bailey, was born in Chingford in 1853 and died in 1875 in Epsom; the next two children, Peter Girault and Richard, were born in Peckham in 1858 and 1860 respectively and died in Epsom in 1895 and 1877. Edwin Saunders was born in Reigate in 1863 and it was not until about 1865, after the death of his mother on 9 September 1864, that John Dickson returned to Epsom. There followed three more surviving children, being Leopold James (c.1866-1933), William (1868-72) and Sarah Marion (1870-1909).

John Dickson Bailey and family set up home at White Cottage, Epsom Common, where they largely remained until Louisa died in February 1891, followed by John on 3 December 1894; his effects amounted to £606. It does not seem that John Dickson possessed substantial wealth - rather, I think that he inherited just enough property to give him a reasonable income. His surviving sons all worked, Peter Girault being a cow-keeper and dealer, and the others carpenters.

Grave of John Dickson and Louisa Magdalene Bailey, Epsom Cemetery.
Grave of John Dickson and Louisa Magdalene Bailey, Epsom Cemetery.
Image courtesy of Linda Jackson © 2011

Grave of Edwin Saunders and Agnes Bailey and their son Robert
Grave of Edwin Saunders and Agnes Bailey and their son Robert ('Bobbie') Epsom cemetery.
Image courtesy of Linda Jackson © 2011

James Bailey married Clara Montgomery Dendy (born c. 1830 in Afghanistan) in 1865. He was also a 'landowner' (by inheritance one presumes) and lived in Fetcham. Clara died in 1905, but I cannot find a death record for James. However, in the 1891 census he apparently gave his birthplace as 'cannot swear', so perhaps his faculties were in decline by then.

The drapery business seems to have been left in the hands of Edwin Ward Bailey, but by 1871 he had moved away and opened a lodging house in South Terrace, Littlehampton, Sussex. In 1863 he had married Eliza Bond at St Thomas the Apostle, London and they had one daughter, Bessie, born in 1865 in Epsom. Edwin died in 1877 in the Hayward's Heath Lunatic Asylum, near Brighton.

The hospital chapel of the Hayward's Heath Asylum
The hospital chapel of the Hayward's Heath Asylum
Image Copyright Simon Carey © and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The Bailey drapery business eventually ended up in the hands of William Weston and then John Major Oldridge.

The shop when owned by John Oldridge
The shop when owned by John Oldridge
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.

Linda Jackson - November 2011

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