THE COLLINGWOODS

Victorian Studio Photos
Victorian Studio Photos


Advert 1
Advertisment for J.N. Collingwood, Bookseller

There is a potted biography of the Collingwood family in our article on Epsom Businesses 1861, but the presence of two relevant photos in our Cuthbert Hopkins collection demands something more detailed, so here we go.

John Nelson Collingwood was a bookbinder, bookseller and stationer in Epsom. He was born on 17 February 1810, the son of John, a boot maker, and Hannah. He seems to have been living in Hampton at the time of his first marriage, at St Mary, Hampton, on 27 August 1838. The bride was Lucy Lipscombe of Hampton Court, daughter of Edward Lipscombe, a grocer. (This was the same man as Edward Lipscombe, the Epsom beadle and former local insolvent shopkeeper, so I'll throw in an 1837 newspaper snippet - 'As Edward Lipscombe, the beadle of Epsom, was attending the funeral of Mr Edward Knipe, who had been brought from Bath for interment in the church on Friday week, he was taken in a fit and expired'.) Lucy's mother was Margaret, née Fraser, who had died in 1821.

John and Lucy had just the one child, who was also John Nelson, born in 1840. Lucy died in June 1849, aged 41, and was buried in St Martin's churchyard.

On 10 April 1852 at St George, Hanover Square John Senior married Martha Holder, who had been working in London as a lady's maid. Martha came from the village (probably a hamlet back then) of Kinnersley in Herefordshire, where her father, John, was a farmer; her mother was Mary, née Prosser.

Mrs Martha Collingwood
Mrs Martha Collingwood
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

There were three children born to John and Martha, but the middle one, Susannah Jane Upton, died in 1856, aged just one. She was buried with the late Mrs Lucy Collingwood. The other two were William Holder (1853) and Mary Elizabeth (1859).

Before continuing, I will show you Mrs Holmes and I'm fairly satisfied that is what the wrapper says. She is Mrs Collingwood's sister but I have been unable to identify her properly. It looks as if Martha had three older sisters, who were Ann, Mary Ann and Jane, but I can't find any of them who married a Mr Holmes. It may be that the lady was married before so that looking for a Holder/Holmes marriage would not produce her. Here she is anyway and if you can sort out this little mystery for us, please contact the webmaster.

Mrs Holmes, Mrs Collingwood's sister
Mrs Holmes, Mrs Collingwood's sister
Photograph by Cuthbert John Hopkins, courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

John Senior had a finger in many paper-related pies and here's another advert.

Advert 2
Another Advertisment for J.N. Collingwood, Bookseller

And while we're at it, the Museum has a photo of a book from his lending library.

A book from John Nelson Collingwood's circulating library
A book from John Nelson Collingwood's circulating library
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

I have said elsewhere that all sorts of people who were not grocers sold tea back in those days - for instance, one of these was Mrs Lucy Andrews at the Post Office, so you could get your stamps and tea at the same time - and Mr Collingwood was an agent for Horniman's; at one time the firm was the largest tea trading company in the world. The novelty of selling it in pre-sealed packets was that provenance could be guaranteed: previously, vendors of loose tea might mix it up with things like hedge clippings or even dust (I venture to suggest that with all the blends of tea that were around, and the fact that it wasn't highly affordable, people were unlikely to detect a bit of privet and filth in their cuppa, but there we are).

Advert 3
Advertisment for Horniman's Pure Tea sold by J.N. Collingwood, Book (and Tea) Seller

Pricey, wasn't it, which is why the Victorians often locked it away, safe from the thieving mitts of humble servants. The Collingwood shop, by the way, was on the south side of Epsom High Street, between James Murrell the draper and William Adds the butcher, which doesn't help us greatly, as there was no numbering at the time. However, Mr Adds was next door to Ye Olde House (later Riddington's), so we know roughly where the Collingwood establishment was.

John was still going strong in his business after 23 years or more but by 1871 he and Martha had retired to Villa France, Egham, although they later moved to Hursley House in the same town. John died at home on 10 March 1886 and Martha moved to Mount Ararat Road, Richmond with her daughter. Mary married a clergyman in 1891 (he was a curate in Egham at the time) and Martha then moved around, finishing up at Station Road, Harborne, Birmingham; she died on 27 September 1910, having passed her 90th birthday. More of the curate will come later.

John Nelson Collingwood Junior


If you recall, this was the only child of John Senior's first marriage, born in 1840. He had left home by 1861 and was boarding in Islington, his occupation being warehouseman for a wholesale glover. But he still had ties with Epsom for on 25 July 1871 at St Martin's he married Isabel Ford Hunt, daughter of Cornelius Spurdens Hunt, then landlord of the Spread Eagle. John's maternal grandfather, Edward Lipscombe, had once been a waiter there, in the days when William Lumley was the landlord, and was hauled before the Assizes with many others for assaulting a clergyman. I shall just digress to this, as it sounds like a scene from a farce, but there was something more sinister about this particular cleric. According to various newspapers, for example the Kendal Mercury of 11 April 1835, the Bishop of Winchester was chairing a meeting of the Society for Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, held at the Spread Eagle in the previous October. The clerical 'victim' was one Rev. Cornelius Griffin, who insisted he had not done anything untoward, but he had done enough to be evicted. Another paper said that he had forced himself into the meeting for the purpose of disrupting it. Not only were Lumley and Lipscombe among the accused but also the Bishop of Winchester himself and Henry Gosse of Church Street, a magistrate, plus several other clergymen and magistrates. All defendants were acquitted. In 1853 Griffin, then the Vicar of Haselor in Warwickshire, was indicted for indecent assault on a lad of about 18 in the vicarage. Details of the assault were not published, but it was deemed to be unnatural. Up until 1861 the penalty for sodomy was death, so Griffin could have been hanged. He was acquitted, quite possibly because nobody could stomach the thought of hanging a vicar, and you have to wonder what the verdict would have been if the lad had been the accused instead. Apparently Griffin spent all his money, including some he didn't actually have, on unsuccessful litigation and repairs/embellishments to the church, slept in a coffin in the church to avoid arrest and spent more than two years in debtors' prison (more information about this worrying clergyman is at www.walcotefarm.co.uk).

Back to John Junior! There isn't a great deal to tell, as he remained a glove warehouseman; he and Isabel had two children, Harry Nelson (c.1872-1946) and Lucy Isabel (1876-1932). Harry too was in the wholesale glove business. John Junior died on 4 January 1899 and Isabel in 1933. Curiously perhaps, considering that John Junior lived in Beckenham, he was buried in Epsom Cemetery (Grave A147). I believe I am right in saying that John Junior owned two houses and shops in Epsom High Street, one of which was the premises of Francis Daniell, the newsagent and confectioner, (Number 27) because the Epsom Rate Book 1900 shows the owner of these two properties as Mrs J F Collingwood, which I think is a mis-transcription of Mrs I F Collingwood, who had presumably just inherited them from her late husband.

William Holder Collingwood


As I said at the start, I have done some research on the family previously for a potted biography and I already knew that William had a complicated love life but it turned out to be even more tangled than I realised. In terms of career he was an advertising agent and he moved around a lot - whether that was to do with his job or his women I have no idea.

The first Mrs W H Collingwood was Ellen Standing, whom he married at Camberwell Register Office on 7 August 1875. At that point he was a commercial traveller. In 1885 Ellen petitioned for a divorce, which was granted, and her tale made sorry reading. They had moved abode several times since their marriage and then, between 1882 and 1885, William had committed adultery with one Louise Turner, otherwise known as Matthews, and was co-habiting with her; he had frequently hit Ellen, spat at her, threatened her and used filthy and abusive language and he deserted her in 1882, which must have been a relief to the poor woman. He didn't put in any rebuttal of these accusations and the divorce was made final.

I don't know who Louise Turner/Matthews was or what happened to her, but in 1888 William married an Annie Holmes. She was still with him in the 1891 census, which reveals that she was born in Donegal c.1863, and they were living at 22 East Street, Epsom (he owned this house, called The Limes, but it was let out by 1900). I'm afraid I don't know what happened to the second Mrs W H Collingwood either, but I doubt that she had died.

22 East Street formerly The Limes
22 East Street, formerly The Limes (Jun 1968)
Photo by LR James, image courtesy of Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre

In the 1901 census he was in Hastings with another wife - Annette Maria - and three step-children. I don't think he was ever married to her (she was Annette Maria Fisher, née Ennis, a widow) and by 1911 he had yet another 'wife', called Kate. It was easy to track her down as she had a niece on the premises (which were now in Kensington), so she was Kate Martin, born c.1866 Newick, Sussex. Her father was an agricultural labourer and she had been a servant. On the 1911 census form William claimed they had been married for 10 years, which implies that Annette had disappeared off the scene directly after the 1901 census. He definitely wasn't married to Kate because she died at Worthing on 21 September 1917 and the probate record describes her as Kate Martin, otherwise Collingwood, spinster. Whether or not she was still with him at the time is impossible to say (her abode was in Hove). It's hard to keep up with his love life, isn't it, but we haven't finished yet.

He didn't spend much time grieving over Kate, if he did at all, and in 1918 at Bath he married a Nadia Melinkoff, occasionally recorded as Melnikoff. I know nothing much about political relations between Russia and China in the late 1890s/very early 1900s, but a quick flip through the newspapers of the period suggests that there was volatility in and around China all the time and, as ever, all the major powers were posturing, plotting and sending gunboats. There had been a war between Japan and China in 1894/5 (China lost) and everything was boiling up. The Boxer Rebellion took place from 1899 to 1901, culminating in the famous '55 Days at Peking', when troops of eight nations (including Britain, the USA and Russia) relieved the siege, and in 1911 a revolution led to the overthrow of the Emperor of China. Missionaries were being murdered and the bottom line was that many Chinese did not like Christians, colonisation and/or foreigners The Melinkoffs were Russian and Mr Dimitri Melinkoff was a tea merchant in Foochow (Fuzhou - a city on the Min river, which flows into the East China Sea, once a major export centre for tea transported by clipper ships). In 1903 Nadia and two of her siblings arrived by sea from Hong Kong, accompanied by two English ladies. Mrs Rosa Melinkoff, born c.1868 Odessa, had evidently remained in Foochow with her husband, but in 1910 she too arrived at Southampton with three more children (there were nine in total but I've mislaid the others in shipping terms). In the 1911 census most of them were in Somerset.

If you recall, W H Collingwood was born in 1853 and Nadia Melinkoff saw the light of day on 29 April 1896, so perhaps she saw him as a father figure, since Dimitri was presumably not around, although I think he was still alive. It looks as if WHC died in Barnstaple district in 1933, aged 80. In the 1939 Register the widowed Nadia was back in Somerset (she and WHC had popped up in some 1920s electoral registers in Hendon, so he was still on the move), where she died in 1949, aged 53.

Mary Elizabeth Collingwood


We're back to unusual clergymen again - Charles Tucker Eland, the curate at Egham, whom Mary Elizabeth married in 1891. Eland was born in 1855 in Gloucester, where his father was a Wesleyan Minister. His career wasn't exactly stellar and culminated in virtual war between him and many of his parishioners in the village of Burston, near Diss, Norfolk. This came about, essentially, because he was autocratic and authoritarian and acted like the local squire; in particular he was chairman of the school management body. But times were changing and there came to the village school as teachers a married couple called Tom and Annie Higdon: they were from fairly humble beginnings and had been in trouble at their previous placement for complaining about the poor condition of the school and the habitual removal of children from it by local farmers, who used them as cheap labour (which was illegal, but it happened anyway). Pressure on the Norfolk Education Committee led to them being moved on to Burston, where they discovered exactly the same situation. However, this time the ordinary locals hit back.

As we know, there was an enormous social divide in Victorian and Edwardian times, and beyond, and the lot of the rural working-classes was miserable in many cases. Burston was no different. Eland regarded himself as the leading light in the community (he had only just arrived) and the final indignity was when, in 1913, the upstart Tom Higdon beat him into last place in an election for the parish council. There followed a concerted effort by Eland and other local 'worthies' to get rid of the Higdons - they were subjected to trumped-up allegations and dismissed. On 1 April 1914, the day the authorities took back control of the school from the Higdons, a strange thing happened. Young Violet Potter led a march of pupils out of the school and the Burston School Strike, which lasted for over 25 years, had begun. The local 'worthies' exacted revenge - labourers were sacked and thus evicted from their tied farm cottages, parents were hauled before the courts and fined for failing to send their children to school and Eland himself evicted people who tended allotments on church-owned land - but the strike held firm and the Higdons set up a rival school in a marquee on the village green. Eventually, courtesy of fund-raising by unions and the labour movement, they got a new building and it was formally opened in 1917 by Violet Potter herself. The school closed when Tom died in 1939 and the building is now the Burston Strike School Museum. An annual rally is held to commemorate the original march-out by Violet and her fellow pupils. (Incidentally, there is now a Higdon Close in Burston but I doubt that any thoroughfare was named after Eland.)

Burston Strike School Museum
Burston Strike School Museum
Photo © Adrian Cable and licensed for reuse (CC BY-SA 2.0)

So what of the Elands? They moved on, to Sawtry in Huntingdonshire, where the Rev. Eland died in 1922. Mary Elizabeth ended up in Merton Park, South London and died on 9 June 1948. There were four children, being Grace Mary (1892-1974), Ruth Adelaide (1893-1973), Arthur John Charles (1895-1954) and Richard James D (born and died 1897). Arthur decided not to follow his father's calling and became a doctor instead. Grace was at one time Principal of a Teacher Training College in Devon and Ruth lived at home with her mother; neither of the girls married.

Linda Jackson 2018