John Sheath And Family, Bakers
John Sheath's shop in Epsom High Street, 1890s.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.
It seems that for a large part of the 19th century and much of the 20th you could not go very far in Surrey without encountering a 'Mr Sheath the Baker' (and occasionally a 'Mrs Sheath the Baker', since some of the widows carried on the business, and in due time there were many 'Master Sheaths' and even some 'Miss Sheaths' working in the shops). Our main concern here is John Sheath, who baked in Epsom for around half a century, and his immediate family.
The Sheaths were a long established family in Stoke D'Abernon and all of the lads who became bakers (or in some cases followed other careers in the provisions trade) were the sons of farmer Isaac Sheath (c.1796-1856) and his wife Mary (c.1796 -1864). They were as follows.
||Main place of business
||Butcher, grocer and corn merchant
||Kingston and Surbiton
||Publican and general shopkeeper
||Baker and grocer
John was in Epsom as a journeyman baker by 1851, meaning that he had completed his apprenticeship but had not yet been admitted to his guild as a master. By 1861 he was a master baker and had set up shop in the High Street. Most censuses do not give any house numbers for the High Street, but in 1891 his premises were numbered 33 and were near the Clock Tower, roughly opposite 'The King's Head'.
In 1852 John had married Ann Ellis from Richmond (born c. 1821, daughter of gardener John Ellis and his wife Harriett); they had four sons and a daughter between 1853 and 1863, all of whom became involved in the baking business. However, the youngest son, Frank (born 1863), died in November 1892. John himself died on 6 July 1898 and the rest of the family carried on. Ann was in charge until she died in 1905, whereupon the eldest son, Leonard (born 1855), took over. He was single and was assisted by his unmarried sister, Mary Ann (born 1853, died unmarried in 1943), a cousin named John Ellis Luxton (step-son of Mrs Sheath's sister, Caroline) and a shop lady called Emily Jane Hann from Dorset, who was allegedly aged 35 when Leonard wrote her details on the 1911 census form, but he may have been too polite to ask her age: she was in fact born in 1858. And, in 1920 he married her; latterly they lived in Chase Road, Epsom. Leonard died on 20 February 1924 and Emily in 1944.
Another view of the Sheath shop in the 1890s.
This photo can probably be dated after 1892, since there is only one '& Son' on the awning, which would have been Leonard.
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum.
So, if Leonard took over the High Street bakery, what were the other sons, John Harvey (1856) and Arthur (1858) doing? The answer is, of course, that they were baking elsewhere.
John Harvey Sheath eventually traded as a baker and confectioner at 20 Bridge Street, Leatherhead, although he was in London up until the early 1900s. He was married twice. Firstly, in 1883, he married his cousin, Elizabeth Leah Sheath (born 1857, daughter of his Uncle Henry, the Kingston and Surbiton baker), who died on 3 February 1887; then, in 1898 he married Maria Nash from Clapham. John and Maria had one son, John Ellis (born 28 September 1900 in Camberwell), who seems to have been involved in a family marital scandal. In 1931 he was cited as co-respondent in the divorce of David George Sheath (grandson of our original John's brother, David, the Sutton baker) and his wife Lily. John and Lily married in 1933 and ended their days in Huntingdon, where they died in 1986 and 1999 respectively, the latter having just passed her 100th birthday. John Harvey Sheath died on 3 March 1925 and Maria on 16 December 1930.
Arthur Sheath moved around to Lewisham and Sutton but by 1901 he was in Ashtead and ran 'The Old Bakery', which he did until his death on 16 February 1939. It is still there to this day, albeit not a working bakery and much extended and altered, and is Grade II listed. In 1893 Arthur married Harriett Jane Haseman, whose father, William, had been a gardener for the Tritton family at Ewell House, Epsom Road, Ewell. I am going to confuse you now, because in the 1901 census Harriett and their eldest child, Florence (1884), were living in Bridge Street, Leatherhead and Arthur was with son Arthur Leonard (1885) in Ashtead. This does not look like a marital separation, since the Leatherhead premises were a bakery and probably the same place that John Harvey was soon to occupy. It seems likely that the family had already purchased the Leatherhead property and were 'keeping it warm' for John Harvey. Anyway, Arthur and family were together again in 1911 - well, almost. According to them, son Arthur Leonard (known as Leonard) was at home in Ashtead, but actually he was an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy, serving in an armoured cruiser, 'HMS Minotaur', on the China Station (Hong Kong). Harriett died in 1898.
I do not currently know what happened to Florence, but Leonard married Harriet Samme (1892-1977) in 1917. After the Navy he became a baker. He and Harriet had one daughter, Iris, born in 1927.
Linda Jackson © March 2012