View Full Version : A tailor who made his fortune

15-03-2012, 2:01 PM
He was my gg granduncle, born 1818, a tailor who lived with his parents. I think perhaps his wife died after bearing a couple of children. They all lived together in the village of Battle near Hastings. [Had to smile when I found Battle was only 6 miles from Hastings.] Father was a gardener.

He lived till the age of 80 and by that time had amassed a considerable fortune - well 5700 pounds seems like a fortune to me, considering it was the 19th century. LOL I had no idea the occupation of tailor was such a lucrative one. On the probate record he was described as a 'gentleman' of High Street, Hastings and his son who was one of two who inherited this small fortune was to amass an even larger fortune - nearly 4 times as much. The son's occupation at the time of his death was auctioneer and I presume had been given a leg up along the way as sons often are.

So how does a journeyman tailor, from a family of no obvious means, become a rich gentleman living in the High Street? Was it possible for tailors to make that sort of money? I had no idea!

Peter Goodey
15-03-2012, 3:09 PM
He certainly wouldn't make that amount as a journeyman!

15-03-2012, 9:30 PM
I had a wonderful read on a Sussex site that told me the story of how the villages of Battle and Hastings came into being. Of course I knew of the famous battle - had learnt the date by rote in primary school . One of the benefits of an education is you can put two and two together LOL

Yes I do think he must have built up a business and I thought perhaps I should now start looking for that business. Not sure how to go about it. I have looked up some of the directories available online eg Kelly's but haven't gone through with a toothcomb yet.
Is there any other way of finding this business. It was certainly set up in Hastings and that was his address. I expect I should go straight to google and look up all I can on Hastings but would be interested to know if there are any particular genealogy resources I should look at.


15-03-2012, 10:38 PM
The Hastings Chronicle mentions many local names and the amounts paid for various plots and buildings.
It may help, he may even be mentioned.

15-03-2012, 11:20 PM
The above suggestions are all good. I can think of a few "invisible" means of gaining a fortune in those days.

Legacy - he may have befriended a well-to-do person or even had a romance with one.

Lottery win. Yes, they existed.

Crime. Never to be ruled out!

Let's hope it was good fortune in business...

16-03-2012, 12:02 AM
Thank you Mutley!

I don't have a copy of the will only the probate record on Ancestry which is from the Index of Will and Administrations. How would I obtain a copy of his will? He died in August 1898 at the age of 80 so was long retired I would expect. It's a summary with his address at the time of death and the names of the two beneficiaries and the amount he left.

It's an odd thing but he was residing as a lodger 8 years before his death. Perhaps he'd been an overly prudent man who stashed every penny away. Unless those he was lodging with were family. He was in his seventies of course by then. I shall have to look up the other occupants.

I know I have the right man because of the addresses, occupations and family names which can be followed right through from 1841. He also has the uncommon name of Lewis.

There is more to find out about this Lewis as I suspect he might have had a relationship with a servant girl down the street when he was a very young man but that's all surmise at this point. I have to delve deeper.

And if he was a figure of crime I hope I shall find him out LOL

16-03-2012, 12:59 AM
It says probate :smile5:

In 1881 his name has been transcribed as Louis though the original clearly says Lewis.

16-03-2012, 1:12 AM
His name was Lewis Weston.

Thanks for correcting re the beneficiaries/executors. I did wonder why the manager of a building society was a beneficiary - DUH!

Just wasn't thinking. Have been through this whole will/administrator thing with other family too so should have known. Was thinking that of course he would leave his money to his son. I only found the record yesterday so I'm jumping the gun really.

If you look up his son Stanley's will in 1922 - I think from memory - you will see he died a rich man also - a millionaire in today's terms I would imagine.

Not the sort of family I would imagine were involved in nefarious activities but the son was an auctioneer. I suppose there is room for some wheeling and dealing in an occupation like that LOL

16-03-2012, 4:00 AM
It says probate :smile5:

In 1881 his name has been transcribed as Louis though the original clearly says Lewis.

Mutley, I missed noticing that record because of the spelling. I just corrected it.

Many thanks!

16-03-2012, 5:02 AM
I couldn't find Lewis on the 71 census. Did find his parents though and they were living right next to the rectory at 106 High Street. Their address was 106 as well - looks like 106 1/2 perhaps. I wonder if the rectory had an attached 'flat' for parishioners.

It does seem as though there wasn't much money in evidence at that time at least or you would have thought Lewis would have set them all up somewhere.

17-03-2012, 3:09 AM
I have established that my tailor's father was a market gardener. I found in the 1840 Pigot's Directory at the same address as that given on the census 1851/61. It now makes a little more sense. I had always been told that my ggrandfather had parents or grandparents that were farmers and I suppose vegetable growing carried on as a business could be classified as farming.

I have trouble imagining a market garden in the High Street though. Can anyone tell me more about them? Should I start a new thread about market gardeners?

I have tried to find photos of the High Street but there don't seem to be that many. I'd like to find the rectory as well.

So that's where I'm at. Have been reading as much as I can of the history and geography and find it very interesting.

17-03-2012, 11:22 PM
I think, not sure, that the High Street was once called Market Street.
Maybe before the shops were built, Market Street was a large garden owned by Lewis's father?

18-03-2012, 12:12 AM
Mutley, that's a brilliant thought!!

I did see mention of once being called Market St too but the dots didn't connect.

I have been going through events in the chronicle and my goodness it takes you back to the days when they had stocks on the street to punish people and soldiers were shooting smugglers... fascinating but what grim lives the working classes led. At the time of the Swing Riots, nearly 500 people from roundabout were transported to Australia - 500 !! Unbelievable.

Anyway, thanks again Mutley. You always come with the goods! I'll see what I can turn up about Market Street. I think the old part of Hastings is now referred to as Old Town Hastings. It's really interesting.

18-03-2012, 1:28 AM
The Chronicle is indeed fascinating, even if you do not have ancestors from Hastings. It is all the little details, year by year.

"1785 Sept 7 - There was a severe storm, and fishing boats were hauled up the High Street as far as the Swan Hotel."

I wonder if it is worth you sending an email to the Old Town Museum in the High Street. It seems that many detailed maps were produced.

18-03-2012, 2:08 AM
You wouldn't believe it but I had the same thought and have already sent off an email to them. Am on a site that shows an image of the Museum as it was in 1823. It's actually a painting.

Same site has an image of a shop with the address 45 High St and I'm debating whether the shop owner might take a photo of next door for me. My ancestor lived at 46. Bit forward of me but might not be able to resist contacting them LOL It's not every day you find a street from those days looking much as it always did.

So on with my search.

18-03-2012, 8:34 PM
I have market gardeners in my Kentish lot who walked three miles to work each day - so the garden need not have been in Market Street. You took accommodation where you could find it!
And they rented their land and did not own it.

18-03-2012, 9:27 PM
Yes I realize he would be renting the land - which begs the question - who from? I have read a little about the Swing Riots but already knew that to make a living off land owned by a landlord was hard labour.

One of his sons was described as a groom/gardener on one of the records and I presume he would have been employed in the family business for a time at least. This son moved away.

I think I will have to make a time line of the family records. And I really would like to know more about market gardens.

Is there a way of finding out who the landlord was?