WILLIAM GEORGE NUNN (1831-1892)


The very extensive stained glass in Christ Church Epsom Common was installed in the 30 years after the building's consecration in 1876 - predominantly to remember recently deceased parishioners. Almost all these stained glass memorials were for those in the upper classes of Victorian society.

As a coachman (but read on!), William Nunn - remembered in three of the south aisle's windows - is one of only two exceptions. (The other exception is the domestic servant, Ann Cottle.)

William George Nunn's memorial windows.
William George Nunn's memorial windows
Photograph © Nishi Sharma of Light & Shade Photography, 2015

William's windows - shown above - were installed in 1892, the year of his death. Manufactured by James Powell & Sons (listed in the records as being "after Poynter" - being Edward John Poynter who was a noted artist of the time) they show, as a single scene, the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-46). However, the text "For as in Adam all die even so in Christ shall all be made alive" that runs across the three windows, comes from 1 Corinthians 15:22. The panel at the foot of the central window reads, "To the glory of God and in loving memory of / William George Nunn / who fell asleep January 2nd 1892."

William George Nunn was born in Paddington, London in 1831, the second of three sons born to coachmaker George and Harriet Nunn. He was baptised on 16 January 1831 at St Giles in the Fields, Holborn. On 27 June 1853, he - then aged 22 - married Juliet (née Jackson, born in Armagh in 1823, so 8 years his senior) at All Souls Church, St Marylebone. The record of their marriage describes William as a coachman, and notes that both his father and Juliet's (William Jackson) were deceased. There is no record of the couple's having had children.

The couple moved south of the river, being found in the 1861 census living in Hobs' cottages, Merton, with William working as a "carrier" (and Juliet recorded as "Carrier's wife"). By the time of the 1871 census, William and Juliet were living in Epsom, in the then newly-built Albion Cottages (on the left of the picture below as, but for the modern cars, they would have recognised) on West Hill's Clayhill Green. William is shown as a "Coachman domestic servant" - the obvious assumption being that William worked in one of the nearby large houses and that Albion Cottages was "tied" accommodation.

Albion Cottages & Rose Cottage, West Hill
Albion Cottages & Rose Cottage, West Hill
Photograph © Roger Morgan 2017

By the time of the 1881 census, the couple had moved next door to the newly-built Rose Cottage (on the right of the picture) and, although aged only 50, William was recorded as a "retired coachman". Recent research has established that, far from living in tied accommodation, William actually owned not only Rose Cottage but also the four Albion Cottages which they rented out. It remains to be discovered how the working class William amassed sufficient funds to acquire these properties.

In any event, William clearly felt he had arrived: he was listed in the Epsom section of the 1887 and 1890 Kelly Guides for Surrey as a "Private Resident" - generally seen as someone of means with a significant standing in the community. For example, the entry immediately above his was for the Revd Edward William Northey MA JP of the much grander Woodcote House. (After William's death in 1892, his widow was listed in the 1895, 1899 and 1903 Guides.)

William died on 2 January 1892, just short of his 61st birthday. Five days later, he was buried in Epsom Cemetery where, notwithstanding his Kelly Guide listing, the records describe him simply as a "coachman". As noted above, the Christ Church stained glass windows in his memory were installed later that year.

William's Will confirms that he held the freehold of Albion Cottages and Rose Cottage. He left Albion Cottages to his widow to "do whatever she pleases with them as they are for her own benefit" - and she continued to rent them out. As to Rose Cottage, William left this and its contents to Juliet in her lifetime, and then to his sister Matilda Ann and her husband Joseph Wiseman in their lifetimes, and then to the Consumption Hospital Brompton (now London's Royal Brompton Hospital) - this last perhaps a clue to his early retirement.

Juliet was 69 when her husband died. She stayed on in Rose Cottage, living alone, but became increasingly frail and dependent on help from Thomas Knowles and his wife Fanny. Thomas was a coachman at the Hookfield stables (now Hookfield Mews at the crest of West Hill) so, a part from being near neighbours, they had a common background - not only in coaching but also Christ Church, where Thomas and Fanny also worshipped and where their three children (Thomas Edward, Ethel & Basil) were baptised in 1889, 1890 and 1899 respectively.

In Juliet's 1908 Will, she appointed Thomas and Fanny as her executors and said that "in consideration of their attention to me in the full confidence that they will continue to look after me and help me as long as I live I give and bequeath to them in equal shares all my property moneys investments and effects of every kind and description." Thomas and Fanny did, indeed, continue to care for Juliet: Thomas filled in her 1911 census return adding the note "Mrs Nunn too old to write".

Aged 89, Juliet died on 3 February 1913 - and, on 6 February, was buried alongside William in Epsom Cemetery.

Roger Morgan © April, 2017



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