Monday, April 6, 2009
My Great-Great-Great Grandfather, John Oakley 1802-1861.
The above photograph is taken from a beautiful daguerreotype of John Oakley which is in a case with an image of his wife, Jane Meabry Oakley.
My great-great-great grandfather, John Oakley, was born at Shrewsbury, Shropshire, in c. 1802, the fourth child and first son born to his parents John Oakley, a grocer, and his wife Catherine Hewitt.
Like all of his siblings, John was baptised at the Oakley family place of worship, St. Julians Church, Shrewsbury, Shropshire. The baptism took place on June 7, 1802.
John Oakley’s father, John Oakley the grocer, died in 1819 at Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury, at the age of 47. He was buried on April 23, 1819. At this time, his son John was a young man of 17, and as the eldest male child would have been responsible in assisting his mother with both the family business and his siblings. Elder sisters Catherine and Elizabeth were aged 21 and 20 - in fact, Catherine wed eight months after her father’s death. Brothers William, Richard, Thomas and James were aged about 15, 13, 12 and 11 respectively, and little sisters Margaret and Anna Maria were 16 and 8.
John Oakley the Younger was left several bequests by Oakley uncles, and with the addition of the inheritance left to him by his father, he would have been a moderately wealthy man whilst only in his twenties. It is not surprising then that he journeyed south to London to see if he could further his business as a grocer and merchandise dealer.
John first settled in Henrietta Street, Covent Gardens, London, where he had a grocers shop. The first record of him being at this address was a notice of his marriage in a London newspaper. At the age of twenty seven, John had decided to marry Jane Meabry. She was the daughter of a fellow grocer, John Meabry, who was also from Shrewsbury in Shropshire. It is quite possible-and in fact probable- that the Oakleys and Meabrys were well acquainted both socially and through the grocery business before John moved to London. Thomas Meabry, brother of John, remained in Shrewsbury after his brother John left, and lived in the parish of Holy Cross and Saint Giles in Shrewsbury, carrying out his living as a victualler. John Oakley and Jane Meabry were much the same age, and he may have been introduced into their Broad Street home upon his arrival to a new and strange city.
Whatever the case, on the 29th of May, 1827, John Oakley, of the parish of St. Paul, Covent Garden, appeared personally to apply for a licence to marry Jane Meabry, of the parish of Saint George, Bloomsbury. The usual practice at the time was to be married by banns, which involved the practice of calling ‘banns’, or making an announcement of the intention to marry, at both the bride’s and groom’s place of worship for three Sundays leading up to the actual event. The application for a licence cut out the necessity to carry out this practice, and was favoured by the more wealthy members of society.
Four days after the application was filed at the Faculty Office, the actual wedding took place. The following marriage notice was placed in the ‘London Times’ on Monday, June 4, 1827:-
“ MARRIAGES: On Saturday, the 2nd inst., at St. Georges, Bloomsbury, by the Rev. Mr. Wynne, Mr. Oakley, of Henrietta Street, Covent Gardens, to Jane, fourth daughter of Mr. John Meabry of Broad Street, Bloomsbury.”
The 1828 London Business Directory had a listing for ‘John Oakley, grocer, of 4 Henrietta Street’.
The first of John and Jane Oakley’s six children was born after thirteen months of marriage. John Jeffryes Oakley made his appearance on July 6, 1828, and was baptised three months later on October 1, 1828, at St. Pauls, Covent Garden.
Their second child was also a son. He was christened William Alfred Oakley, and he also was baptised at St Pauls, in about 1829-30.
At some time before August of 1830, the young Oakley family relocated to a prime location in Westminster. Their grocery shop and residence was on the corner of Bridge Street and Parliament Street, very close to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge. The actual address was 34 Parliament Street (although on occasion the Oakleys’ address was given as Bridge Street ) and the family remained there until at least 1838. John Oakley insured this premises, described as "34 Parliament Street,corner of Bridge Street, Westminster" with the Sun Fire Office on August 27, 1830.
Three more children were born at this address…. Jane Elizabeth in c. 1832, Edwin Thomas in c. 1834, and Frederick on February 22, 1838. These children were all baptised at St. Margarets Church, Westminster, as it was much closer to their home than St. Pauls Covent Garden.
The main London newspaper of the day was the ‘London Times’, and we are lucky that the Oakley family featured a number of times over the years. The first reference to the family came in 1831:
“CORONATION- to be let a limited number of SEATS or superior PRIVATE APARTMENTS, commanding a full view of the splendid procession from Whitehall to the principal western entrance of the abbey. For particulars apply at Mr. Oakley’s, 3 Parliament Street, corner of Bridge Street.”
- Monday, September 5, 1831.
One wonderful window into the life of John Oakley as an nineteenth century London grocer was opened through a London Times article of Tuesday, November 11, 1839…
QUEEN SQUARE- Yesterday a lad named Robert Hansom, apparently about 15 or 16 years of age, was brought up in custody before Mr. Burrell, charged with furiously driving the cabriolet No. 654, of which he is the driver, endangering the lives of His Majesty’s subjects, and smashing in the front window of the shop belonging to Mr. Oakley, tea dealer, at the corner of Bridge Street and Parliament Street, on Saturday night last.
Mr. Burrell inquired what was the amount of damage done to Mr. Oakley’s shop?
Mr. Oakley said that, from what he could ascertain, it would cost about 12__ to repair it.
Mr. Burrell said that he was not empowered to give more than 5 __ damage.
Mr. Oakley said that he merely charged the lad with furiously driving; the amount of damage done to his shop he could recover from his master in another court, if necessary.
Police-Constable Jenkins, of the A division, No. 46, stated that on Saturday night, about 11 o’clock, he was on duty in Parliament Street, when he saw the defendant driving cabriolet No. 654 at a
furious rate, nearly as fast as the horse could gallop. He drove on to the pavement at the corner of Bridge Street, ran the cab against the corner of the shop, smashed in several squares of plate-glass, and broke the mahogany front in. Witness ran up in order to secure him, but before he got up the defendant had extricated the horse, and set off at a full gallop across Westminster Bridge. He ran after him and saw him turn down York Road, where he was stopped by two constables of the L division.
When witness got up, several cabs came up and did their utmost to confuse him by calling “That’s not the cab.” The horse’s shoulder was very much cut, and he was nearly blinded of one eye.
Mr. Burrell:- Are you quite sure that the defendant is the person who was driving?
Witness:- I am quite positive he was the lad.
Mr. Burrell:- Was the defendant sober?
Witness:- He was quite sober when I took him into custody.
Mr. Oakley said that he never witnessed a lad conduct himself in such an insolent manner in his life as he did at the station house.
The defendant, in reply, said that he was going gently along Parliament street, behind a truck, when his horse’s shoulder touched the truck, and he took fright and ran away with him.
Two witnesses were called for the defence, but they did not alter the case, and Mr. Burrell fined him 40 shillings for furiously driving, or to be imprisoned for three weeks.
Mr. Oakley holds possession of the cabriolet and harness until some arrangement can be come to with the proprietor about repairing the damage.”
By the 1841 census, the Oakleys had moved another notch up the social scale, and this time the step was quite a substantial one. The family moved to 183 Piccadilly, which were private apartments above the very famous ‘Fortnum & Mason’ shop. At that time, though, the business was known as ‘Fortnum, Mason and Co’, and John Oakley had the good fortune to have been made one of several men who made up the ‘Co’ portion of the company.
The Fortnum & Mason building was the home to various Oakley family members from c. 1840 to c. 1871. They inhabited the upper floors, most of which were private apartments, along with other families, including the Fortnums.
The Fortnum family of the nineteenth century consisted of the children of Charles Fortnum and Mary Monday, who had married at St. James , Westminster, on December 26, 1767. Their children included Richard (who was in partnership with John Oakley), Anne, Charles, Fanny and Harriott (sic) The Fortnum interest in the company passed from Charles to his son Richard, and because Richard did not marry and have children it passed to his nephew Frederick Keats, who was the son of his sister Fanny Fortnum.
The last will and testament of Richard Fortnum, written in 1845, details the history of the partnership that made up ‘Fortnum, Mason & Co’ at that time. The partnership between Richard Fortnum, his nephew Frederick Keats, George Scorer and John Oakley came into existence on September 23, 1839. A year later, in September 1840, John Francis Selot joined the business.
Initially, the partnership was for a period of ten years, from August 5 1839 until August 5, 1849. Richard retained 9/16ths of the company shares, while Keats, Scorer and Oakley all held two sixteenths each. John Selot, when he was admitted to the partnership, was given one sixteenth share.
Richard Fortnum’s will had specific instructions regarding his wishes for the structure of ‘Fortnum, Mason & Co’ after his death. He stated that within six months of his death, but not after, George Scorer and John Oakley were permitted to purchase two (and John Selot one) of his said 9/16th parts or shares from Frederick Keats on the express condition that the three of them agree to continue the co-partnership ‘Fortnum Masons and Company’ with Frederick Keats for ten years computed from August 5, 1849 when the other co-partnership expired.
As well as leaving John Oakley the option to buy more shares in the company, Richard also left him a money legacy and instructions about his residential abode. The relevant sections of the will referring to John Oakley are as follows:
“ Whereas I am entitled for a long term of years yet unexpired to a messuage and premises situate and being Numbers 182 and 183 in Piccadilly and a part of which is occupied by myself and my sister Anne Fortnum as our private residences and whereas I carry on the business of a tea dealer and Italian Warehouseman and of a wine merchant in partnership with my nephew Frederick Keats and George Scorer, John Oakley and John Francis Selot at my said leasehold messuage and premises aforesaid Under certain Articles of Co-partnership dated the 23rd day of September 1839 and made between me, Richard Fortnum, of the first part, the said Frederick Keats of the second part, the said George Scorer of the third part and the said John Oakley of the fourth part. And a Deed of Admission dated 18th day of September 1840 and made between me of the first part and the said Frederick Keats, John Oakley and George Scorer of the second part and the said John Francis Selot therein called John Selot of the third part whereby the said John Francis Selot was admitted a partner and the said partnership is carried out under the firm and style of “ Fortnum Mason and Company”
And whereas under and according to the said Articles of Co-partnership and Deed of Admission the said partnership is for a term of ten years computed from the fifth day of August 1839 and which term will therefore expire on the fifth day of August 1849. And I am entitled to four eighth parts and the moiety of another eighth part being equal to nine sixteenth parts of the gains and profits of the said respective businesses and each of them, the said Frederick Keats, George Scorer and John Oakley, to one eighth part being equal to two sixteenth parts each of the same gains and profits, and the said John Francis Selot to one sixteenth part, being a moiety of one eighth part of the same gains and profits.
And by the said Articles of Co-partnership it is amongst other things stipulated that that the firm and style of the said Co-partnership shall be charged with the yearly sum of four hundred pounds by way of rent for that part of the said messuage and premises in Piccadilly occupied by the said respective businesses so long as the same shall be carried on there to be payable and paid to me by two equal half yearly payments on the fifth day of February and the fifth day of August in each year during the continuation of the said Co-partnership and that the premises where the said respective businesses are carried on shall exclusively belong to me and that the capital of the co-partnership shall belong to the partners in the proportion in which they should from time to time be entitled thereto by the virtue of the said articles of co-partnership and that on the 5th day of August in every year a general account and rest should be taken and made for the purpose of ascertaining the gains and profits of the respective businesses of the said co-partnership.”
“And whereas the said John Oakley occupies and holds for his private residence several apartments in my said leasehold messuage and premises in Piccadilly as tenant to me at the yearly rent of seventy five pounds but without being liable to pay or contribute anything towards taxes and rates and subject to the power of either party to determine the tenancy on giving six months notice to end at any time of the year”
“ And I further direct and declare that if the said John Oakley shall at my decease hold or occupy any part of my said messuage and premises as tenant to me he shall and may hold or occupy the same after my decease as tenant to the said Frederick Keats upon the same terms precisely as he held the same of me.”
Having completed the business portion of the will, Richard Fortnum then went on to distribute his extensive estate. Having no wife or children, his nephew Frederick Keats became Richard’s heir, inheriting his premises at 182-183 Piccadilly, his shares in the business and all of his ‘household furniture, goods, property and effects of every description except money.’
Richard ensured that his sister was looked after following his death, leaving the instructions “I direct and declare that the said Frederick Keats shall permit my said sister Anne Fortnum to occupy, use and enjoy all such parts of my said messuage and premises in Piccadilly as at my decease shall be occupied used or appropriated by me or her for or as the private residences of myself and my said sister and also all the household furniture goods and effects in and about the same parts for such time or period during her life as she shall think proper to live and reside there without payment of and free from and effectually indemnified by the said Frederick Keats against all rent, taxes and rates.”
It is interesting to look at the monetary legacies left by Richard Fortnum, just to get an idea of the scale of wealth that we are dealing with in the mid-1800’s. A few of the legacies are as follows:
My dear sister Anne Fortnum ten thousand pounds
My niece Mary Fortnum ten thousand pounds
My niece Fanny Matilda Keats twenty thousand pounds
Eliza, the wife of Frederick Keats, five thousand pounds, in case she shall happen to survive him but not otherwise.
John Francis Selot and his wife Julia five thousand pounds
Miss Emily Maynard now residing at Mrs Lowton’s, Woolwich, two thousand pounds.
Mrs Susannah Green, wife of Mr William Green of New Street Tower Square one thousand pounds.
Mrs Marion Nicholson, the wife of Rev. Henry Nicholson of Grafton, Kettering, one thousand pounds.
Mrs. Eliza Fletcher, the wife of Mr. Fletcher of Barkham Terrace, Lambeth, two thousand pounds.
Mrs. Caroline Glenton, the wife of Thomas Glenton of Charlton Terrace near Woolwich, two thousand pounds.
George Scorer, two thousand pounds.
John Oakley, one thousand five hundred pounds.
Charles Williams, brother of the said Caroline Glenton, five hundred pounds.
Mr. John Douglas Finney of Furnivals Inn, my solicitor, five hundred pounds.
Robert Browne, now in the employment of the co-partnership,five hundred pounds.
Thomas Oxlade, now also in the co-partnership employment, three hundred pounds.
J.B. Richards, now also in the employment of the co-partnership, three hundred pounds.
Four hundred pounds for all the clerks, assistants, porters and other servants who at the time of my decease shall have been in the service or employment of the co-partnership for twelve months preceding my decease (excepting the said Robert Browne, Thomas Oxlade and J.B. Richards)
Lastly to my servant Susan Green one hundred pounds.
This accounted for about sixty four thousand pounds, and the remainder of Richard Fortnum’s estate was left to Frederick Keats. Using a complicated formula that takes into account average earnings of different years, a comparison can be made between English pounds of the 1800s and their approximate value now in 2004. This formula gave the following startling information…. the sixty four thousand pounds that Richard Fortnum left in legacies in 1845 would equate to about THIRTY NINE MILLION POUNDS relative value in modern times! ( £39,302,010.89 to be precise). John Oakley’s £1,500 in 1845 would be approximately the same as being left £921,140.88 in 2004.
Because 13 year old John Jeffryes and 11 year old William were missing from the family home in the 1841 census, and 16 year old Edwin Thomas from the 1851 census, it was probable that they were schooled away from home at a public school. Sure enough, in 1841 I located John Jeffrys and his brother William Alfred at Bedford House School in North Brixton, Lambeth, Surrey. John’s age was given as 12, and William’s as 11.
The English censuses are an invaluable source of information if you are searching for London ancestors in the nineteenth century. They were held every ten years, with the first one of any genealogical value being in 1841, and the others following in 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901.
In the 1841 census, we find our Oakley family residing above the ‘Fortnum, Mason & Co’ shop, at 183 Piccadilly. The information given in the census was not nearly as extensive as in other years, but read as follows:
“ Piccadilly, St. James Parish, Westminster.
John Oakley, 35, grocer, not born in the county.
Jane Oakley, 35, born in the county.
Jane Oakley, 9, born in the county.
Edwin Oakley, 7, born in the county.
Frederick Oakley, 3, born in the county.”
These ages are approximations only, as adult ages were rounded down to the nearest 5. For example, I know that John Oakley was 38 or 39 at the time of the 1841 census, but the enumerator who knocked on his door that day was required to round his age down to 35. Children aged fifteen and under were supposed to have their exact ages recorded.
Also living in some of the upper apartments were grocery assistants and female servants...in 1841 there were seven male grocers assistants and three female servants. Only one of them was born in London, the youngest was 15 and the eldest 30year old servant Ann Jones.
In 1841, there was no sign of the Fortnums living at 181-183 Piccadilly, but it was likely that they were at their other home in rural Hampton Wick to which they retired at various times of the year. This was very common amongst the wealthy classes in London, and it was a scenario that John Oakley and his family eventually adopted themselves.
In the context of the Oakley family of the 1830s, it is important to understand the history and structure of the business known as ‘Fortnum, Mason and Company’. William Fortnum arrived in the city of London in 1705. He became a footman in the Royal household of Queen Anne, and lodged with Hugh Mason who had a small shop in St. James Market. One of William’s duties in the Palace was to replace the candles every night, and he was allowed to keep the candle stubs. William soon went into the used candle business, reselling the candles from the palace to fellow servants and others.
William Fortnum asked his landlord Hugh Mason to join him as a partner in setting up a grocery business, so in 1707 ‘Fortnum & Mason’ was formed. Still a palace footman, William made the most of his work connections, and business thrived. Hugh Mason also established ‘Mason’s Stables’ in Mason’s Yard while William attended to the grocery side of things.
The business did well, but it took two more generations before the store really came to the forefront of London’s luxury trade. In 1761 Charles Fortnum, the grandson of William, entered the service of Queen Charlotte , shortly after the succession of George 3rd. In 1788 he requested leave of the Queen to retire, planning to concentrate on his family’s expanding grocery business. The Queen allowed this request, and until 1807 Charles Fortnum ruled the roost at the Piccadilly shop. He then decided to sell the business to his son, Richard Fortnum, and John Mason, the shares being in the proportion of 72:25 in favour of his son. There was no leisurely retirement for Charles Fortnum, however, as he was recalled to the Palace by Queen Charlotte to act as an Enquerry. He was promoted to Groom of the Chamber and was still in Royal service when he died.
In November 2004 I acquired the will of John Mason, the last of the Mason family to be actively involved in the partnership of ‘Fortnum & Mason & Co’. He made his rather hodge-podge will in 1837, beginning with short and sweet instructions written on a piece of paper and witnessed by two neighbours when he approached them in the home of one of them. This occurred on June 15, 1837. Four months later, John Mason had given things a bit more consideration, and came to his friend, Charles Fortnum, for assistance. He had wanted to see his partner, Richard Fortnum, brother of Charles, who was away from London that day. John left the will with Charles, who showed it to his brother upon his return the following day. The Fortnum brothers then visited John Mason, who delivered his instructions regards a codicil to his will, adding several more bequests and making mention of a debt from someone that he wished to forego. Having arranged everything to his liking, John hopefully died with a peaceful state of mind – the very next day, on October 25, 1837! It seems strange that he didn’t use the services of a solicitor, and was visiting people to finalize his will only two days before his actual death…one would think that he would have been bedridden if he was that close to death’s door!
Our John Oakley again featured in this will- tacked on to the bottom of the first section of the will – the lines written on June 15- was the following:
“ To Mr. John Oakley of Bridge Street, Westminster, one hundred pounds as a token of my regard for himself and family.”
John Mason also left money to Charles Fortnum and George Scorer (see full transcription of John Mason’s will elsewhere in this compilation).
He died without naming an executor, so Richard Fortnum was granted administration on November 17, 1837.
I obtained John Mason’s death certificate on January 12, 2005, and his cause of death was ‘Enlargement of the heart’. It further stated that he had died on October 25, 1837, at ‘20m past 12 o’clock a.m., Piccadilly’. Other information was as follows: ‘ John Mason of the firm of Fortnum and Mason, male, about 65 years, tea dealer and importer of foreign fruits and wines. Informant: Charles Fortnum, late paymaster of H.M. Royal Scots 1st Regiment of 67 Dean St, Soho, with deceased at his demise.’
With the death of John Mason in 1837, the Mason family ended their direct association in the ‘Fortnum & Mason’ partnership. Richard Fortnum’s death in 1845 resulted in the Fortnum name passing temporarily from the partnership. Unmarried and childless, Richard left his share of the business to his nephew Frederick Keats rather than any Fortnum nephews or cousins. Frederick Keats and his wife, Eliza Daniels, were married on September 29, 1838, at Hampton Wick.
I have the last will and testament of Miss Anne Fortnum, the spinster sister of Richard, who died in 1847. She wrote a very detailed will on September 10, 1839, and added a codicil on May 15, 1845. Her death notice in The Times was as follows:
“Deaths: On Sunday, the 23rd inst., aged 74, Miss Fortnum, of 183 Piccadilly, sincerely beloved and deplored.
-Tuesday, May 25, 1847.”
John Oakley, Anne Fortnum’s neighbour, was one of three executors named in the will, the other two being Joseph Brown Rigby and George (or Richard) Pearson). All three executors were bequeathed ‘ten pounds apiece for mourning’!
Charles Fortnum, brother of Richard and Anne, died in 1846, and left a will leaving everything to his wife and daughter, who were both named Mary.
Frederick Keats became a very prominent and successful London businessman. The ‘Times’ newspaper of June 25, 1856, carried an article about the election of Sheriffs, and Frederick Keats was one of two men elected:-
“ Mr. Bucknell ( a liveryman) then came forward, and said he felt high gratification in putting in nomination for the office of Sheriff Mr. Frederick Keats, a gentleman known to the citizens of London as a man of highest respectability (cheers). By the exercise of great talents, perseverance, and enterprise, Mr. Keats has attained to an eminent commercial position, and was a partner in one of the first houses in the metropolis. It was very often the case that when a merchantile man made his fortune he turned his thoughts to the enjoyment of his property at a distance from the bustle of commercial life. Such was not the case with Mr. Keats. After having realized a large fortune, instead of seeking the ease and quiet so much desired by the generality, he came forward to solicit the suffrages of his fellow citizens to place him in a situation in which his active exertions might be employed for the benefit of the community (cheers).”
Another article appeared on October 1st, 1856, describing the presenting of the new Sheriffs to the Chief Baron of the Exchequer at Westminster. It was a very long article, but the section concerning Frederick Keats was a follows:
“ Mr. Frederick Keats, citizen and lorimer, was eminently fitted for the duties he would have to perform. Mr. Keats was of an ancient and honorable family in the west of England, and boasted the ancestry of one of the most distinguished admirals of the navy. Mr. Keats succeeded to an eminent business founded by his grandfather at the west end of the metropolis, and which was known to the public as the firm of Fortnum and Mason. That was a firm that had contributed greatly to the comforts and convenience of the people of this country, for by their skill they had afforded the means of carrying provisions for any length of time and for any distance, which had greatly added to the comforts of the traveller, and through which their name had become known in every portion of the globe, and was as much respected as well known.”
These, then, were the type of people that our Oakley family would have been living, working and socializing with in the mid-1800s.
One would imagine that the arrival of youngest child Fanny Fortnum Oakley in 1846 would have been quite a surprise addition to the family, arriving some eight years after youngest son, Frederick, to parents who were both in their mid-forties. She was given her middle name in honour of the Fortnum family, just as, I suspect, her brother Frederick Oakley was named for the heir of Richard Fortnum, his nephew Frederick Keats.
Being born at 183 Piccadilly, Fanny was the only Oakley child to be baptised at St. James Church, Piccadilly, which was very close to their home.
In May of the following year, Queen Victoria celebrated her twenty eighth birthday, and many businesses which catered to the upper classes put on a grand display in honour of the occasion. The ‘Times’ reported the event….
“ Her Majesty’s Birthday.
Piccadilly presented numerous illuminations, some of which was very splendid. Messrs Fortnum and Mason, Italian warehousemen and liqueur importers, displayed a large imperial crown over a radiated star, with’V.R.’ on either side in gas to celebrate the 28th natal day of Her Most Gracious Majesty.
Friday, May 28, 1847.”
At some time in the 1840’s, the Oakley family obtained a country residence at Golders Green, not a great distance from their city residence but definitely considered to be a rural retreat. The first time I found reference to this home was a newspaper article published on February 23, 1851. The newspaper in question was the ‘World Daily Press’, and the headline read “Impudent Robbery”. It concerned the theft by two teenage boys of items belonging to “John Jeffries Oakley and Jane Elizabeth Oakley of Grass Farm, Finchley”. The article can be found in full in the chapter concerning John Jeffryes Oakley’s life.
The word ‘Golder’ was derived from the local family ‘Godyere’ and ‘Green’ referred to the fields, which lay on either side of the road leading to Hampstead. Golders Green was part of the old parish and Manor of Hendon, and was cleared of forests by the mid-eighteenth century. Main inhabitants were farmers, labourers and occupants of large country homes. From the middle ages onwards, successful city people wanted to reside in pleasant countryside, within a reasonable range of London. Golders Green was one such area suited to the gentry and successful businessmen. It was mainly a cattle and hay producing area during the period of the Oakley family’s residency. Most of the fields became devoted to hay production for London’s ever-expanding horse population, and each year’s hay harvest saw huge influxes of itinerant harvesters flood the district.
Despite being resident at Grass Farm in February 1851, the family were sleeping at 183 Piccadilly on the night of March 30 when the 1851 census was being taken. The census information given that night was as follows:
182 & 183 Piccadilly
John Oakley/ head/ married/ 48/ tea and wine merchant/ born Salop Shrewsbury
Jane Oakley/wife/49/ wife/ born Middlesex St. George
Jane E. Oakley/ daughter/ 19/ born St. Margarets, Westminster
John J. Oakley/ son/22/ born St. Pauls, Westminster
William Oakley/son/21/born St. Pauls Westminster
Frederick Oakley/son/12/ scholar at home/ born St. Margarets, Westminster
Fanny Oakley/daughter/4/born St. James Westminster.
As stated earlier, Edwin Oakley was missing from the household on the night of the 1851 census. He would have been 16 or 17 years old at the time, and almost certainly being educated in a public boarding school. Younger son Frederick was stated as being ‘a scholar at home’, as opposed to missing son Edwin who would have been ‘a scholar away from home’.
The name ‘Grass Farm’ was mentioned only in the newspaper article concerning the robbery there. All other references to the Oakleys’ country residence simply stated ‘Golders Green’ or ‘Hendon’ A famous painting entitled ‘Carrying Corn’ is believed to have been painted at Grass Farm, during the time in which the Oakleys were in residence.
The Times published a very long Games List in September of 1852, and John Oakley’s name appeared on it:
“Games List- London, Middlesex and Westminster. First publication for 1852. List of persons who have taken out GENERAL GAME CERTIFICATES at $ pounds 10d each, including the additional duty of 10% under the Act of ______.( there followed a very big list, one of whom mentioned was John Oakley, Piccadilly.
-Thursday, September 28, 1852.”
The 1850s were a wonderful decade for the Oakley family. Fortnum, Mason and Co went from strength to strength as the wealthy classes patronized their business. Their hampers were popular with Army officers serving overseas, and were found in locations as far afield as India and the Crimea.
On the home front, John and Jane and their children also thrived. Elder daughter, 20 year old Jane Elizabeth, married surgeon George Hulme Beaman in 1852, and by 1859 a daughter, Emily Jane, and a son, George Hulme Robins Beaman had arrived. In 1854, eldest son John Jeffryes at the age of twenty five had married Harriet Eliza Moginie, and two grandchildren had already been born before the close of the decade- Alfred John and Edith.
William Alfred Oakley, the second son, was busy establishing himself as a successful auctioneer in the 1850s, and when he married Jane Harriet Sharshaw in 1862, their marriage was happy but childless.
Edwin Thomas Oakley married his second cousin, Jane Elizabeth Oakley, in 1858, and their first son, John Griffith, was born the year after.
So, in all, the Oakley family had expanded by five grandchildren during the 1850s, and lost no family members to sickness or accident, which in those times was no mean feat!
Unfortunately, circumstances were about to change. For the three years prior to 1861, John Oakley had suffered problems with his heart. He probably remained more and more at his country residence at Golders Green, relying on son John Jeffryes to carry out his business concerns at Fortnum and Mason. He made his will on March 22, 1858, most likely after his heart condition made itself known. The will was very detailed, covering five sheets of paper.
On Friday, January 18th, 1861, John Oakley died at his Golders Green home. The cause of his death was stated as ‘morbus cordis’ and the length of the condition three years.He was buried on January 25, 1861, at the Highgate Cemetery of St. James,Swain's Lane, St. Pancras, London.The burial register notes that John Oakley's usual abode was Golders Green, Hendon, and he was 58 years old at the time of his death.
In addition to John Oakley’s will, I was ecstatic to find several articles in The Times referring to John’s executors wishing to sell some of the Oakley land. The first article appeared on Tuesday, July 23, 1861, and was reprinted on August 6 of the same year. It appears in its entirety as follows:
“ IN CHANCERY- In the matter of an Act made and passed in the _____ holden in the 19th and 20th years of Her present Majesty, intitled “An Act to faciliate Leases and Sales of settled estates” and in the matter of a FREEHOLD MESSUAGE, buildings, land and hereditaments devised by the will of JOHN OAKLEY, deceased, situate at Golders Green, in the parish of Hendon, in the County of Middlesex.
Notice is hereby given that a petition in the above-mentioned matter was on the second day of July 1861, presented to the Right Hon. The Master of the Rolls by Jane Oakley. of Golders Green, Hendon, in the county of Middlesex, widow, and relict of the said testator John Oakley; John Jeffryes Oakley, of number 182 Piccadilly in the county of Middlesex, gentleman; William Alfred Oakley, of number 8 Carlton Chambers, Regent Street, Middlesex, auctioneer; Edwin Thomas Oakley,of The Grove, Middle, Wem, near Shrewsbury in the county of Salop, gentleman; George Hulme Beaman, of number 3 Henrietta Street, Covent-garden, Middlesex, surgeon and apothecary; and Jane Elizabeth, his wife, by the said Jane Oakley, her mother and next friend; Emily Jane Beaman, George Hulme Robins Beaman and Kate Julia Beaman, all of number 3 Henrietta Street aforesaid, and respectively infants; by George Castell Scorer, of 27 Park Road, St. Johns Wood, Middlesex, gentleman, their guardian; Fanny Fortnum Oakley, of Golders Green aforesaid, an infant by the said Castell Scorer, her guardian; George Scorer of number 182 Piccadilly aforesaid, Italian warehouseman, and Thomas Oakley, of number 31 St. Martins Lane Middlesex, currier, praying that a certain contract bearing the date the 31st day of May, 1861, made between the petitioners Jane Oakley, George Scorer, Thomas Oakley and John Jeffryes of the one part, and Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan of Wallington, in the county of Northumberland, and of Nettlecombe in the Co. of Somerset, and Ernest Augustus Perceval of Chapel Cleeve within the parish of Old Cleeve, Somerset, Esq, of the other part, for the sale of a certain messuage or tenement, outbuildings, land and hereditaments containing altogether 6a 1r or thereabouts situate at Golders Green in the parish of Hendon in the county of Middlesex , late in the occupation of the said John Oakley, might be ordered to be carried into effect, or that the same premises might be sold under the order of the High Court of Chancery in such manner as the said court might direct, and that any sale the said petitioners Jane Oakley, George Scorer, Thomas Oakley and John Jeffryes Oakley, might convey the settled shares in the said hereditaments and premises
And that the monies which should be received from the sale of the entirety of the said hereditaments and premises might be paid into the Bank to the account of the Accountant-General of the said Court.
“Exparte(sic) the Petitioners in the matter of the said Act” and be dealt with as in the said petition is mentioned . And notice is hereby also given that the petitioners may be served with any order of the court or notice relating to the subject of the said petition, at the office of their solicitor, Mr. John Douglas Finney, situate at 6 Furnivals Inn Holborn, Middlesex. Dated this 18th day of July, 1861.
- JOHN DOUGLAS FINNEY, solicitor for the petitioners.”
More than two years later, on Tuesday November 24, 1863, another similar notice appeared, dealing with the sale of an additional two properties. I won’t go into the same depth of detail as I did with the preceding article, but summarized it is as follows:
“ IN CHANCERY- ….. in the matter of a piece or parcel of meadow land known as Barn-field in the parish of Finchley, Middlesex, and a piece or parcel of land, fruit plantation and garden ground in the parish of West Drayton, Middlesex, respectively devised by the will of JOHN OAKLEY, deceased.
…a petition was on the 30th day of October, 1863, presented to the Right Hon. The Master of the Rolls by Jane Oakley of 25 Cavendish Rd West, St. Johns Wood, Middlesex; John Jeffryes Oakley of 182 Piccadilly, Middlesex, gentleman; William Alfred Oakley, of 8 Carlton Chambers, Regent Street, Middlesex, auctioneer; Edwin Thomas Oakley, of Shooters Hill, near Wem, Salop, gentleman; Frederick Oakley, of 25 Cavendish Rd West, aforesaid, gentleman; George Hulme Beaman of 6 Bridge avenue, Hammersmith, Middlesex, surgeon and apothecary; and Jane Elizabeth, his wife, by the said Jane Oakley, her mother and next friend; Emily Jane Beaman, George Hulme Robins Beaman, Kate Julia Beaman and Arthur Henry Beaman, all of 6 Bridge Avenue aforesaid, and respectively infants, by George Castell Scorer of 27 Park Rd, St. Johns Wood, Middlesex, gentleman, their guardian; Fanny Fortnum Oakley of 25 Cavendish Road West aforesaid, an infant, by the said george Castell Scorer, her guardian; George Scorer of 182 Piccadilly aforesaid, Italian warehouseman; and Thomas Oakley of number 31 St. Martins Lane, Middlesex, currier, praying that certain contracts bearing the date respectively 31st day of August 1863 and 1st October 1863 being made between the petitioners Jane Oakley, George Scorer, thomas Oakley and John Jeffryes Oakley of the one part and John Harris Heal of 195 Tottenham Court Rd, Middlesex, gentleman, of the other part for the sale of a parcel of meadow land known as Barn Field and containing7 a and 17p or thereabouts, situate on the west side of the road leading from Finchley Church to Hendon Church, in the parish of Finchley, in the occupation of William Roe as the tenant thereof, all timber and other trees to be included in the purchases, and the second of the contracts being made between the petitioners and John Mortlock of 250 Oxford Street. Middlesex, china man, of the other part for the sale of a piece of land, fruit plantation and garden ground, walled round with brick, situate in West Drayton, Middlesex, containing 2a and 12p or thereabouts, as the same were then in the occupation of George Bagley, all the timber, fruit and other trees, buildings and property of every description in and upon the last-mentioned kind.”
While researching the people to whom Oakley property was sold, I once again came across a fascinating cross-section of English history. Dealing firstly with Sir Walter Calverly Trevelyen and Ernest Augustus Perceval, I discovered that they were brothers-in-law, united by the marriage of Ernest to Walter’s sister, Beatrice Trevelyan in 1830. Sir Walter was the 64 year old son of Sir John Trevelyan and Maria Wilson.He married Paulina Jermyn in 1835, and remained childless, dying in 1879.
Ernest Perceval was the son of Spencer Percival and Jane Wilson. Spencer Percival had the distinction of being the only English Prime Minister to have been assassinated whilst still in office! Ernest’s marriage to Beatrice Trevelyan produced three sons and three daughters.
John Heal Harris of 196 Tottenham Court Road, London, was a member of a quite famous bed making family, ‘Heal and Son’. At the time of the business transaction with the Oakley estate, John was in his late forties, and head of the mattress and featherbed manufacturing company that his father, also John Harris Heal, had founded in 1810. Although the business was centred in London, the Heals had a residence in Finchley. John Heal Jnr’s mother, Francis Brewer Heal, was buried at St. Pancras, Finchley, in 1859. John’s son ( yes…another John Harris Heal!!!) and his family were also centred at Finchley, and for many years were at Hertford Lodge, Finchley.
The final purchaser of Oakley property was John Mortlock of 250 Oxford Street, whose occupation was given as ‘chinaman’. The Mortlock family were in fact famous china dealers, establishing in London in the late 1700s. They were a merchandising rather than manufacturing company, and were one of, if not the, most important china retailers in London in the early 1800s.