Tuesday, 9 October 2012

David Herbert Cornwell (1829-87), tailor

David Herbert Cornwell was a son of James Cornwell (1791-1870), who was a brother of Job Cornwell (1780-1869), my great, great, great grandfather on my father’s side.

David was born during 1829 in the Essex town of Kelvedon and baptised on 7 June 1829 in St Mary’s Church. He was the fourth of six children born to James Cornwell, an agricultural labourer who had married Mary Martin in 1823. James is thought to be one of the gang of men who destroyed the village cage (prison) in 1809 and he later spent time in prison for fraud and theft.1

The 1841 census of Kelvedon records James Cornwell (aged 50, an agricultural labourer) in the same household as his wife Mary (45) and their children David (11), Jonah (9) and Charles Cornwell (7).

David was apprenticed as a tailor. The 1851 census shows James (aged 60), his wife Mary (50) and their son David (21, a tailor) living in Kelvedon. The address is not given but was probably Church Hill (from comparison with information in the 1861 census).

On 22nd June 1854 David married Ann Braybrook (who was born in Great Braxted, near Kelvedon) at St Mary Stratford by Bow, Poplar. He was aged 25 and she was 36, the daughter of a gardener. They had three children namely Charles (b1855), Eliza (b1856) and Alfred (b1858).

The 1861 census shows David H Cornwell (aged 31, a tailor employing 1 man and 1 boy) with his wife Ann (42) and their children Charles (6), Eliza (5) and Alfred (3), living in High St, Kelvedon.

John Nichols (1820-89, a land steward) and his brother Henry Nichols (1829-1902, a builder and carpenter) lived in Kelvedon and took many photos of Kelvedon and its inhabitants between 1858 and 1871. The Essex Record Office has 198 of their glass plate negatives. Photographs from these are printed in a book “Victorian Kelvedon”.2 One is a street scene (shown below) which includes David Cornwell standing next to a horse and cart. His right hand is touching the wide-brimmed hat (known as a “wide-awake”) he is wearing.

 In 1871 David (aged 41) was listed as a tailor (employing one man) and a seedgrower of 13 acres (employing one man and 2 boys). Also at his address in High St, Kelvedon were his wife Ann (51) and children Charles (16, a carpenter’s apprentice) and Eliza (14). The soil and climate of Kelvedon were particularly favourable to growing seeds for flowers, which were becoming increasingly popular in the suburbs of large towns. A number of farmers and smallholders chose to produce seeds and often ran another business at the same time.3

David Herbert Cornwell, tailor is recorded in the Kelvedon section of Kelly’s Directories for Essex issued in 1871, 74, 78, 82 and 86. The 1886 edition also lists David Cornwell, seed grower.

Apparently David also used his skills to sew up flesh wounds and his most regular client for this service was Mr James Gerard, who ran a butcher’s shop nearby ! This story was told by his grand daughter to Graham Wheldon, a local historian.1

In 1881, David Cornwell (aged 51, a tailor) is listed as living in Church Street, Kelvedon. In the same household were his wife Ann (63) and son Alfred (23, a seed grower). Also listed were Clara Braybrook (6), a visitor (who was presumably related to Ann) and two boarders.

David’s address is given as High Street in 1861 and 71, Church Street in 1881. Examination of the names of nearby properties in the census shows that the address referred to is the same one in each case, being in what is called St Mary’s Square at the western end of the High Street. David’s house was approximately opposite the Angel Inn and was between London Road and Church Street, roads that lead off St Mary’s Square. The censuses do not say whether where he lived was also where he ran his tailoring business, but it seems likely that it was.

David died at Kelvedon in 6 April 1887 aged 58. He had made a will in 1874 in which he left everything to his wife Ann and appointed her as the sole executrix of his estate. However, the probate records describe David as a widower and say that Ann died in his lifetime. Administration was therefore granted to his son Alfred Cornwell of Witham, a tailor. The gross value of David’s personal estate was £578 15s which is equivalent to about £250,000 now (estimated in relation to average earnings then and now).                                                             

Information Sources
1. G H Wheldon (1999) Church Street Chronicles
2. G H Wheldon and R V Carter (2005) Victorian Kelvedon : The Photography of the Nichols Brothers
3. J Colquhoun (2001) A Short History of Kelvedon and Feering

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