Friday, 25 May 2012

Robert Thomas Ivall (1812-65), coachmaker of High Wycombe

Robert Thomas Ivall was the elder brother of David Ivall (1816-67), my great great grandfather. This article contains information provided by Dennis Ivall and Christopher Low. It was published in the June 2012 edition of Origins, the magazine of the Buckinghamshire Family History Society.

Robert was born on 4 December 1812 in East Sheen, Surrey and baptised nearby at St Mary the Virgin, Mortlake on 27 Dec 1812. His parents were Thomas (1781-1835) and Jane Ivall nee Smith (1780-1866). Thomas and Jane had three other children : Georgiana Jane (1810-21), Louisa (1814-48) and David (1816-67).

Soon after Robert was born, the family moved to Bray in Berkshire. At the time of the baptism of his son David in 1816, Thomas was described as “gardener of Down Place, Bray. This was a landed estate about 2 miles SE of the village of Bray. Down Place house was built in about 1750 and is next to the Thames. The estate was the property of Henry Harford in 1816. Thomass wife Jane, when widowed described herself as formerly a gentlemans stewards wife. Thomas’s will, made in 1835, describes him as a yeoman (meaning someone owning land) of Down Place. The house, which is on the banks of the Thames, still exists. It is part of the Bray Film Studios, which were used by Hammer Film Productions to make horror films between 1951 and 1966. Since then the films Alien and The Rocky Horror Picture Show were made there.


Down Place, Bray (2007)

Robert was educated at Mr Pridmore’s Academy in Camberwell. His father Thomas died in 1835, when Robert was 22 leaving him, his sister Louisa and brother David each £550 (equivalent to about £400,000 now, estimated in relation to average earnings). Thomas’s will instructed that the rest of his estate (about £1,800) be invested to provide an income for his widow, Jane, and be divided equally between his children after her death or re-marriage. Robert was an executor of the will. The death duty record gives his address as Castle Street, Bloomsbury and his occupation as coachmaker.


On May 1st 1836, Robert married Harriet Owen at St James’s Piccadilly (his parents had been married in the same church). He was aged 23 and she was 31. They went on to have eight children: Thomas (1837-1908), George (1839-56), Robert (1840-97), Jane (1841-71), Marian (1844-1914), Owen (b1846), Louisa (1848-88) and Harriet (1850-1931). I have a copy of pages from the family’s bible giving their places and dates of birth.

The Buckinghamshire County Archive has a Deed of Covenant and Indemnity dated 5th January 1838 in which Robert’s mother Jane (who lived in Maidenhead) agrees to give Robert £300 (half of his entitlement on her death). He agreed to pay her interest of 3.5% pa on this sum.

Robert established a coach making business in High Wycombe, Bucks where he lived from 1837 until about 1849. Directories of Buckinghamshire dated 1839, 1842 and 1847 give the address of Robert Thos Ivall, Coach Maker as High St, High Wycombe. An item in the Bucks Herald dated 28 Sep 1839 advertises the sale by auction of the lease of a house and premises, part of which was occupied by Robert. His section is described as “comprising dwelling house, yard, workshops, stable, coach-house and garden, now in the occupation of Mr Ivall, coachbuilder……This property is very eligibly situate in the High-street: has a frontage of 54 feet, and is about 417 feet in depth. The part in the occupation of Mr Ivall, produces £25 per annum.” Research shows that the location of the property was actually in Easton Street (which is a continuation of High Street heading east), on its south side. The building still exists, now occupied by Bruce, Lance & Co, Solicitors.

The first seven of Robert’s children were baptized at All Saints Church (which is at the western end of the High Street), the first (Thomas) in 1837 and the seventh (Louisa) in 1848. The 1841 census shows Robert and Harriet living in High Wycombe with their children Thomas (aged 3), George (2) and Robert (11 months).

The Windsor and Eton Express dated 17 September 1842 contains an item describing the opening of a Druid’s Lodge in High Wycombe. It says “Brother Ivall of the grand lodge and the Supreme Royal Arch Chapter was then installed as Noble Arch to the new lodge, and very highly complimented as being the first to introduce Druidism in the county of Buckingham. The brothers then entered with great glee into the amusements of the evening in that peculiar way for which Druids are so justly celebrated. The Noble Arch Ivall’s health having been drank, he replied in a very admirable speech, in which he congratulated them and himself on the final establishment of the new lodge.” It seems very likely that “Brother Ivall” was Robert. The Druids seem to have been a Friendly Society / social group having little or nothing to do with the Welsh religion.
 Robert Ivall’s Trade Card

The Buckinghamshire County Archive has a Deed of Assignment dated 12th April 1845 stating that Robert owes his mother Jane Ivall £90 2s. He promises to pay her this sum with interest on 29th September 1845 and in the meantime his goods and chattels (itemised in the deed) are assigned to her. This document may indicate that Robert’s mother didn’t trust him to repay the loan. Another possible explanation is that Robert knew that he faced bankruptcy and this was a way of keeping his possessions out of reach of his creditors.

The London Gazette published notice of an insolvency hearing for “Robert Thomas Ivall, formerly of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Coach Maker” to be held at Aylesbury Court House on 19 April 1847. The 19 June 1849 London Gazette announced that his creditors were to be paid one shilling and eight pence in the pound.

The Slough, Eton and Windsor Observer dated 26th October 1895 published a report on the Annual Meeting of the Ancient Order of Foresters (Bucks and Middlesex district). This was a Friendly Society that began in 1834. Its members paid a few pence a week into a common fund from which sick pay and funeral grants could be drawn. The speaker at the meeting detailed the history of the organization, saying that Robert Thomas Ivall was elected District Secretary in 1848 and held the post for the next 17 years. He kept the minute book “in as perfect a manner as anyone could possibly keep it.”

In 1849 Robert and his wife were recommended by some 50 residents of High Wycombe for the posts of Master and Matron of the Cookham Union Workhouse. Cookham is a village on the Thames near High Wycombe. It seems that he was not appointed, as I can find no records of him living in Cookham. In 1850 his youngest child (Harriett) was baptized in Burnham, a village between Maidenhead and Slough. In 1851 he was living in Chalvey, a village which is now a district of Slough. The census that year shows Robert (aged 38, his occupation given as coach maker) with Harriet his wife (46) and their children Robert (10), Jane (9), Marian (6), Owen (5), Louisa (3) and Harriet (7 months).

The family was still living in Chalvey in 1861. The census lists Robert aged 48, a coach maker woodman with Harriet (56), Owen (15), Louisa (13), and Harriet (10). Also at the same address was Jane Ivall (80), Robert’s widowed mother who died in 1866.

The Aldershot Military Gazette dated September 3rd 1864 contains a report of dinner held to celebrate the anniversary of Court 4151 Ancient Order of Foresters. Robert, as the district secretary, gave a speech. It included the words “There is no doubt that the system we are pursuing is doing much, not only for ourselves but also for the community at large, in the reduction of poor rates, and the prevention, when sickness or death comes upon us, of having recourse to those stern forbidding places we call union workhouses.”

Robert died on 13 August 1865 in Chalvey and was buried there. The following obituary appeared in the Foresters’ Miscellany magazine of October 1865.
“August 13th, at Chalvey, near Slough, aged 53 years, Br. Robert Thomas Ivall, for upwards of 20 years the intelligent and respected secretary of the Bucks and Middlesex District. At the London High Court Meeting, 1861, Br. Ivall performed the duties of High Court Auditor.”

The job of High Court Auditor was in a small team of three or four chosen members, to go through the Ancient Order of Forester’s Accounts for the preceding year and make comments as appropriate. It was a post held for just that year, but brought with it a certain standing.

There is no record of probate being granted on Robert’s estate. Harriet, Robert’s wife, died in 1881 aged 77.

Robert was known as talented but rather eccentric and he made a reputation as a poet. Some of his poems and examples of his excellent penmanship were in the possession of his great-grandson Thomas Edward Ivall (1926-97), who was himself a writer.

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