From New Forest gardeners to London florists
I still have memories of the dull car rides we used to take across London in the 1970s to visit my Mum’s sister, Auntie Gwen Snelgrove, and their mother Eleanor, my grandma, in Ealing. I can remember we’d sometimes pass the spectacular old factories on the Great West Road and stop somewhere to buy some sweets and a packet of cigarettes for grandma – ‘Guards’ if I remember rightly.
I remember the house in Woodfield Road, W5, as being dark and old-fashioned. It had a garden that had a back gate out onto the road behind but not a lot to keep me and my sister entertained while the ‘grown-ups’ talked. One of the things we’d be given to play with would be a jar of old buttons – but that was apparently entertaining enough for a small child!
Grandma would be in a wheelchair and her skin could look uncomfortable. I later found out she suffered badly from psoriasis. We sometimes bought her coal tar soap for Christmas. In turn, we’d be given a Xmas gift of a box of Harrods chocolates – including exotic tasting violet and rose creams – as a gift from the rarely seen lodger, Doctor Bruce, a grateful Ghanaian who lived for many years upstairs in Gwen’s house.
|Grandma in Woodfield Road|
When I was older, Gwen told me how some of their neighbours wouldn't talk to them because they rented rooms to lodgers from Africa and the Caribbean. The old albums are full of pictures of the Snelgroves and some of their Black visitors, lodgers and friends, firstly servicemen in the 1940s, and then others after the war.
But I also knew that Gwen, and her brother, our Uncle Bert, were also florists by trade. I have an indistinct memory of visiting Gwen in their shop – and perhaps the smell of the florists too? Gwen once told me a story about having to drive across London to Covent Garden during the war to try and find stock for the shop – presumably Bert was in North Africa or Italy by then. (I only met Bert when I was older, when he was again a jovial Londoner. He had suffered a breakdown after the war, and a failed marriage, and I can’t remember ever meeting him when I was a boy.)
But Bert and Gwen weren’t the only Snelgroves who sold flowers – it was the trade that had brought the family to London in the first place. That early part of my family history is described below.
The Snelgroves – gardeners of the Eaglehurst estate
An internet search of “Eaglehurst” in Fawley, will bring up information about a beautifully sited house and gardens at the edges of the New Forest, overlooking the Solent. It was visited by Victoria, before she was queen, in 1833, and again in 1844 when she and Albert were looking for a country home.
The house was known then, and now, for the beauty of its gardens. Here's part of the upmarket estate agents Strutt & Parker’s brochure on the estate when it was on the market in 2014, apparently for £6.5 million:
Historic England includes the Grade II listing for the walled garden that dates from the late eighteenth century – plus a ‘temple’ added in the 1930s. The Hampshire Gardens Trust describes how the wealthy banker “Andrew Berkeley Drummond purchased most of the estate, and leased it to General Berkeley Drummond, his cousin. It was probably the General and his wife who laid out the formal gardens between the house and folly. His wife remained at Eaglehurst after his death in 1860”. Only, of course, that’s not quite the case. It’s highly unlikely that the General and his wife picked up their spades and hoes! No, much of the actual gardening work was probably done by … the Snelgroves, of course!
The 1851 census
The 1851 census confirms that Army Colonel Berkeley Drummond (64) was indeed resident at Eaglehurst House, with his wife, Maria (61). But, on the previous page of the census, living at Eaglehurst Lodge, the trade of ‘gardener’ is listed by the name of William Snelgrove. This gardener is my great-great-grandfather.
William (31) is recorded as being born locally in Fawley. His family records show that his father and grandfather were also from there. His father, John, is listed in the 1851 census as living in the nearby village of Dibden - and his trade is also listed as a gardener.
The three census records 1851-1871 all show William continuing to live in Eaglehurst Lodge as a gardener, alongside his wife Jane, who was born in Nunton, Wiltshire, near Salisbury. Over that time the couple had twelve children altogether.
Their first three daughters, Sarah Jane, Anna Eliza and Jane Rose were all born in Bramshaw, a village on the other side of the New Forest. The next child, Fanny Matilda was born in 1850 in Southampton, the city where William and Jane had married in 1843. She died in Ealing in 1944 at the age of 93.
One of her descendants has recorded in her memoirs that Fanny Matilda had told her that when her father, William, was about 25, he was told to raise the British flag when someone very important arrived at Eaglehurst House. If so, this could have been Prince Albert and Queen Victoria on their 1844 visit!
The other eight children were all born at Eaglehurst, seven of them girls. In contrast to Fanny Matilda, three of her sisters only lived for a few years, and two others died as young women. Their solitary brother, Albert Edward Snelgrove, born in 1852, became the next in the line of gardeners - and my great grandfather.
Moving to London to build new lives
I have described elsewhere on this blog how, in the latter half of the nineteenth century, other families in my ancestry were moving from the countryside to the cities - the Coxs and Whites from Huntingdonshire and the Swifts from Kent. It seems that many of the Snelgroves similarly moved away from the New Forest to try and build new lives in the rapidly growing capital city. In their case, they hoped to make good use of their skills as gardeners.
That's shown in the 1881 census - the next time William and Albert Edward appear together – because they are no longer living in the New Forest but in rooms in 167 Clarendon Road, Notting Hill, London W11. At the same address, the census lists William’s wife, Jane, and their daughter Margaret (and also a granddaughter, Margaret Anderson).
Further down, at the same address, Fanny Matilda is living with her husband, Charles Tubb, and their three children.
|167 Clarendon Road W11 in the 1881 census|
In the 1871 census, Charles Tubb had been living with his parents in another New Forest village, Cadnam, but described as “servant, unemployed”. So, it looks like Charles and Fanny Matilda – presumably together – moved from the New Forest to find work in London. They married, both aged 24, in Holloway, in 1875 and the marriage certificate shows that the fathers of both bride and groom were, of course … gardeners:
But the marriage record shows that they weren’t the first to make the move. One of the witnesses at the marriage is Clara Georgina Snelgrove, Fanny’s younger sister, then only twenty.
The other witness, Benjamin Edmund Boswell, is the husband of Fanny’s older sister, Sarah Jane. Her marriage to Benjamin, a Londoner born in St. Pancras, held at St. Saviour’s Church in Camden in March 1869, suggests she may have been the first daughter to move to London. The 1871 census confirms them living in Carlton Street, Kentish Town. Benjamin is recorded as a Cabinet Maker, the same trade as his father.
But there’s also another Snelgrove at the address – Anna Eliza, a Boarder, aged 23. The following year, she marries Johann Andersson, a migrant from Sweden, who the later census records show also works in London as ... another gardener! (It is their daughter, Margaret, who is listed at Clarendon Road in the 1881 census above).
Sadly, by 1878 two of the first Snelgroves to move to London, Sarah Jane and Clara Georgina, were dead. They are both buried in Willesden Old Cemetery. Their mother, Jane, is buried in the same plot when she dies in 1891.
As the 1881 census shown above confirms, despite the deaths of Sarah and Clara, the news that came back to William and Jane from the first of their children to head for London, persuaded them to also move to the city. I believe William, Jane, Margaret and Albert Edward moved up from the New Forest around 1877.
A look back at the 1881 census above shows that William has become a ‘greengrocer’, while Charles Tubb is, at that point, a ‘cab proprietor’. Albert Edward Snelgrove’s marriage record from the same year also add ‘fruiterer’ to ‘greengrocer’ for his father’s profession, and this is also listed as his profession too:
I don’t know much about his wife, Elizabeth Barbara Ashdon, my Mum’s ‘Grandma Snelgrove’. My Mum’s notes say “I remember her only as a bed-ridden rather frightening old lady” in contrast to Albert Edward, ‘Grandpa Snelgrove’ who was “full of jokes and with twinkling eyes”.
|'Grandma Snelgrove' with daughter and daughter-in-law|
The 1881 census records show that ‘Grandma Snelgrove’ was from Ireland (perhaps the source of the small trace of 'Irish' DNA in my record). The Roehampton address above is where she is serving as a housemaid as one of the many servants of a Mr James Robertson of Lower Grove House, a man listed as having “no profession, trade or calling. Income levied from Dividends, interest of money, and Coffee estates in Ceylon” ...
129 High Street Whitechapel is also listed as the address of another daughter, Elizabeth Ann, when she marries in 1887. She must have been one of the last to come to London, as she is listed as a servant to a Captain in the Royal Artillery Portsmouth in the 1881 census. Her husband, William Lauriston, also has links to the Royal Artillery as well.
|The 1891 census - caretaker and deputy caretaker|
Where were the Snelgroves living?
Average house prices in Clarendon Road, Notting Hill, where the Snelgroves and Tubbs were living in 1881, are apparently, 140 years later, around £3million! However, the website of the Ladbroke Conservation Area points out that, while the southern end of the road has always been wealthy, at the northern end, where No.167 would have been found, “many of the houses were already being turned into lodgings and an increasing number of those living in Clarendon Road were small tradesmen and, particularly at the northern end, working people. Also at the northern end, shopfronts began to be built on the forecourts of the houses and a strong commercial element was formed”.
It adds that “The northern end was developed only in the 1850s and very few of the houses remain. They were terrace houses, probably a lot more cheaply and jerry-built than the earlier villas”. “Almost all have now disappeared, replaced by two huge blocks of social housing, Nottingwood House and Allom House”. So, sadly, nothing remains of 167 Clarendon Road to visit today.
3, Maiden Terrace, where Charles and Fanny Matilda are living when they are married in 1875, became 10 Dartmouth Park Hill. It still stands in Holloway, now part of a terrace of shops. In 1877, when their second child Gertrude is born, the couple are living at Meyrick Road, Willesden – before moving to Clarendon Road.
Carlton Street, Kentish Town, where Sarah Jane was living in 1871, no longer exists although the site of the Carlton Tavern, which was on next door Carlton Road, can still be seen, now on Grafton Road, NW5. 129 High Street, Whitechapel, does still stand as part of a row of shops. At the time William and Alexander were caretakers, it seems to have been owned by tea merchants, Brooke Bond.
|Where Carlton Street once stood|
|Albert Edward's Hanwell Nursery|
|1911 - 'Mr. William''s shop at 194 Uxbridge Road|
|194 Uxbridge Road when it was "AE Snelgrove & Son"|
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