THOMAS TRESIZE - fish and poultry supplier


Thomas Henry Tresize
Thomas Henry Tresize
Image courtesy of Ruth Shields © 2012

It transpired that the Tresizes were merely passing through Epsom, although they could not have known it at the time.

Thomas Henry Tresize was born in St Agnes, on the North Cornish Coast, in 1865. He was the son of Richard Tresize, a fund-holder, and Thirza Woolcock, who came from a farming family. The Tresizes had been in the St Agnes area for generations. Richard and Thirza were born there and both died in Truro in 1885. St Agnes was Poldark country, home to tin and copper mines.

Churchtown, St Agnes, Cornwall 1904.
Churchtown, St Agnes, Cornwall 1904.
Image copyright of Chris Bond at http://cornish-postcards.wikidot.com/start and reproduced by permission

By all accounts, Thomas was an enterprising and adventurous young man. It seems that he and one of his brothers went to South Africa, but found only sufficient gold to make a pocket watch. It is not known how Thomas happened to go to Epsom, but there was one other person from St Agnes in the town at the time and it may well be that the families knew each other back in Cornwall. In any event he was there by 1889 when he married Agnes MacNaught from Dumfries (born about 1868).

Agnes Tresize
Agnes Tresize
Image courtesy of Ruth Shields © 2012

When Richard and Thirza Tresize died at almost the same time in 1885, one imagines that the estate of £4239 (over £400,000 today) was shared among their three children (Thomas's spinster sisters, Lydia and Mary, were the executors) and this was probably how Thomas was able to set himself up in business at 95 High Street, Epsom1 as a fish and poultry supplier. The fish no doubt travelled up fresh from Cornwall.

An advertisement for Thomas's shop from Andrews' Directory of 1895
An advertisement for Thomas's shop from Andrews' Directory of 1895

(If, like me, you are not familiar with the Cambridge sausage, this was a spicy, coiled pork sausage, looking rather like a traditional Cumberland specimen but tasting hotter. An Oxford sausage, on the other hand, was originally a less spicy mixture of beef, veal, pork and suet.

Wenham Ice was quite exotic and clocked up many 'ice miles', considering that it was merely frozen water: it was hacked out of the frozen Wenham Lake in Massachusetts and exported all over the world via Boston.)

A business guide to Epsom and District (provided by Bourne Hall Museum) said the following:-
'This establishment, which was founded in 1852, is situated in High Street, is spacious, well ventilated, and in every way suitable for the high-class trade carried on by Mr Tresize. The shop has a pleasant appearance, and the contents are arranged for inspection with considerable skill. Every kind of game - pheasants, partridges, grouse, wild duck, snipe, woodcock, plover and quail - may be obtained in their proper seasons, whilst the supply of fresh, wholesome fish is never-failing, coming, as it does, from the principal ports and markets of the kingdom. The taste displayed by the salesmen is worthy of note, their efforts resulting in more pleasing effect than is generally observed in country fishmongers' and poultry establishments, and one sees with relief at Mr Tresize's shop that wet and dried fish and trussed fowls are not hopelessly mixed together with heaps of shell fish. Here the fish repose on slabs which are kept scrupulously clean, and poultry and game have a department to themselves. Lovers of Whitstable and other delicious natives may here make their own choice, and rely upon having nothing supplied which is not fresh and good. Mr Tresize enjoys a large and influential local and country connection, his invariable promptitude and careful execution of orders entrusted to him bringing him a large share of public patronage. More might be said about this establishment, but we deem it unnecessary to say more than that the proprietor is determined to work upon old lines, and to spare no effort which will enable him to place the very best fish, game, poultry, &c, within reach of the inhabitants. To deal at this establishment is to deal with the premier of its kind in the town and district of Epsom.'
Fresh Whitstable oysters.
Fresh Whitstable oysters.
Image courtesy of Linda Jackson © 2011

Praise indeed! Life must have seemed very good to Thomas and Agnes in the 1890s, with a new business and five young children. Then tragedy struck. On 08 November 1898, in Epsom Cottage Hospital, Thomas died, aged only 33. Apparently he had been on a cycling trip and contracted pneumonia. He was buried in Epsom Cemetery. Agnes was pregnant at the time and on 19 May 1899 she gave birth to twins, Dorothy and John. She was still in Epsom in 1901, living on her own means at Number 8, Tenant's Co-operative Cottages (later Neale Terrace), Hook Road, with seven children aged between one and nine.

Agnes Tresize and her children, soon after Thomas's death.  For reasons unknown Agnes cut herself out of the photo.
Agnes Tresize and her children, soon after Thomas's death.
For reasons unknown Agnes cut herself out of the photo.
Image courtesy of Ruth Shields © 2012

By 1911 Agnes had moved to Whitstable in Kent. Five of the children were still with her, but eldest son, Thomas Robert (born 1892), was 'missing' in census terms. The third son, Oliver Cromwell (born 1895), was a 15 year old sea apprentice on a ship called 'Warspite', based at Dartford. This enterprise was run by an old-established body, called The Marine Society, for the purpose of training boys in seamanship in preparation for either the Royal Navy or the Merchant Service.

Agnes's four sons all served in the First World War, but only three returned. The eldest, Thomas Robert, was in the Royal Sussex Regiment and the next, Walter Gladstone, served in the Royal East Kent Regiment ('The Buffs'). Walter's service record states that he had a 'Buffs' badge tattooed on each arm. The youngest, John, served on a Royal Navy minesweeper for the latter part of the War. Thirza, the eldest daughter, went to France to build huts for prisoners of war.

The badge of The Buffs
The badge of 'The Buffs'.
Photographer Nxn 0405 chl Source: Wikipedia Commons

Oliver became a seaman in the Merchant Service and went to Sydney, Australia. On 11 December 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Infantry and embarked for the Western Front on 9 April 1916. He died of wounds at Passchendaele, Belgium on 5 November 1917, aged 22, and was buried at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. He is commemorated on his father's grave in Epsom Cemetery.

Oliver's headstone in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium
Oliver's headstone in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2011

Grave of Thomas Tresize, with memorial to Oliver, Epsom Cemetery
Grave of Thomas Tresize, with memorial to Oliver, Epsom Cemetery
Image courtesy of Clive Gilbert © 2011

Oliver Cromwell Tresize
Oliver Cromwell Tresize
Image: www.awm.gov.au/collection/P05403.001 (in public domain)

Mrs Agnes Tresize died in 1944 in Bridge district2, Kent. Thirza Tresize (born 1891) died in 1970 in St Marylebone district, London. Thomas Robert Tresize (born 1892) died in 1963 in Canterbury district. Walter Gladstone Tresize (born 24 December 1893) was a carpenter and he died in 1984 in Bromley district, Kent. Agnes Margaret Tresize (born 1897 and known as Daisy) died in 1934 in Blean district,3 Kent. The twins, Dorothy and John, died in Canterbury district in 1987 and 1990 respectively.

Linda Jackson © January 2012
With thanks to Ruth Shields (Thomas's grand-daughter) for additional
information and photos of Thomas, Agnes and the children


Footnotes

1. Later owned by the Longley family, together with 93 High Street
2. This district incorporated Whitstable at that time.
3. Blean used to be the civil registration district for the Canterbury/Whitstable area.




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