M*CH*MORE One Name Study
The MITCHELMOREs of Modbury and Bristol
by William John Mitchelmore, January 2008
The beginning: from Slapton to Modbury
Peter MITCHELMORE (Tree
03) was born in Slapton right at the end of the 18th century. Like most of the
MITCHELMOREs of his time, he became an agricultural labourer—although he did
try his hand as a sailor in his youth. Peter was one of the first of his line
to move away from Slapton. He married a woman from the neighbouring parish of
Stoke Fleming, lived there for a while and then moved even farther away to
Peter's eldest son Thomas
moved to Modbury as soon as he was old enough to work. For at least 10 years,
he was a manservant to solicitor John Thomas SAVERY. In 1851, Thomas left
Modbury to marry Elizabeth CROCKER in Plymouth.
Thomas and Elizabeth had their first child in Plymouth, but by March 1854 had returned to
Modbury. There, Thomas worked as a gardener and had a further seven children.
Thomas died in Modbury in 1888 aged 66 years.
Broad Street, Modbury, with the bus about to leave for
Ivybridge and Plymouth
Modbury is an ancient market town. A turnpike trust had been set up in
Modbury in 1759, and by 1823 they had constructed a good road connecting the
town to Plymouth
and maintained from the tolls collected. In 1898, a train line was
planned to connect Plymouth
to Kingsbridge passing near to Modbury; but it had only got as far as Yealmpton
when the funds ran out and it never did reach Modbury. To catch a train, the
people of Modbury had to go to Kingsbridge or Ivybridge.
John Crocker MITCHELMORE
Thomas’s second son, John
Crocker, was the first of Thomas's children to be born in Modbury. He
married Virtue PADY, also of Modbury, at Kingsbridge Baptist Chapel in 1877.
John and Virtue had two daughters, Ethel and Ada, and five sons, Charles, Horace, William,
John Fredrick and Sydney Frank.
John Crocker started a shop at 5
Broad Street, Modbury, a general clothing store
also selling boots and shoes. The sons and daughters of John Crocker would all
have been worked for him in the shop. As was the custom then, many of the items
sold were hand made on the premises. John was also a cobbler and made shoes to
order using wooden lasts or formers. These were made to match the individual’s
feet and were kept in store waiting for new boots to be ordered. Hats were made
by the daughters and a milliner finished them to create the most fashionable
hats of the day, decorated with flowers and feathers. Dresses were made on
models of the customers and much was hand stitched.
5 Broad Street,
Modbury (first shop on the right)
J. C. Mitchelmore & Son, drapers, outfitters, milliners
The tricycle was used for delivering goods.
View of 5 Broad Street
from the opposite direction.
In 1887, some enterprising Modbury traders formed a company called the Modbury
and Ivybridge Omnibus Company with their office at 5 Broad Street and John Crocker as
their secretary. The "omnibus", which was driven by William
STEVENS, was a long, four wheel coach drawn by two horses. It ran two return
services a day to Ivybridge railway station so that passengers could travel
to Plymouth or to Exeter
and on to London.
The Modbury and Ivybridge Omnibus Company remained in business even
after a motor bus company, the South Hams Carriers, was formed in
John Crocker died in 1907 at the age of 52 years, having suffered
migraines for many years.
Ada, John's eldest
daughter, married Fredrick Kent and ran a shop in Bittaford (near Ivybridge).
Later they moved to Torpoint, Cornwall (near Plymouth). His other
daughter Ethel kept
her mother company and nursed her when she was in failing health, later
moving to Paignton to live at 15
St. Pauls Road.
Charles, the eldest
son, managed the shop after John Crocker died in 1907. Like all his brothers, he joined the army during the Great War and was posted to the
front line in France. He was in the Royal Army Service Corps, at times
taking horses right up to the front line where they were used to pull
artillery and supplies across rough ground. It was here that he suffered
loss of hearing due to the noise of exploding shells, not to mention the
effects of being exposed to terrible conditions and experiencing truly
After the war, Charles at first helped his brother Fred set up a
business in Manchester. But as eldest unmarried son, he soon returned to Devon to
attend to his ailing mother and his sister Ethel who were having a
difficult time. In the 1920s, he moved
to Torquay and found employment in various shops. In 1931, Charles married Florence GEACHES; they ran a guest house in Paignton and had a daughter
Horace John, the
second son, married Lily CRUSE in 1913. They has a son Horace Charles Vernon
in 1915. Horace volunteered for the army and
joined the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment which was posted to France
at the end of 1914. Sadly, he was seriously
injured during the battle of Festubert,
and died shortly afterwards. His grave is in the St Vaast Post Military
Cemetery at Pas de Calais,
John Fredrick, the
fourth son (known as Fred), left Modbury after his military service, married Elsie BEARD and moved to Canada as a
school teacher. After a while he returned to England
and set up a dairy in Manchester.
He had three sons, Eric Charles, Fred and John Kenneth.
Sydney Frank, the
youngest son, worked in the family shop in Broad Street until the early
1920s—apart from an interruption when he volunteered for the army during
World War I. He was sent to France, where he worked as a driver in an
ammunition column. One day, when he was racing back from the front having delivered
ammunition under shell fire, he noticed a badly injured soldier on the
roadside. He managed to get the man on to his vehicle, but then discovered
that the petrol pipe had been hit and that there were thirty bullet holes in
the lorry. Despite all this, Private Mitchelmore managed to coax the vehicle
back to safety and was subsequently awarded the Military Medal for his
Sydney moved to Bristol
and married Millicent Grace FISH. He established a clothing and haberdashery
shop in Victoria Road, Redfield, and had two children, Joan Mavis and Harold
William was the third son of John
Crocker. He went to the Grammar School in Kingsbridge and later worked in the
family business. One of his tasks was to catch the pony each morning, harness
it to the trap and load up before travelling about the local farms and
villages to deliver goods and take new orders for dresses, shoes and other
William had disagreements with his father and decided to make his living
elsewhere. He moved to Taunton and later to London, working as a shop
assistant "in worker" living in the company lodgings. He moved to
Bristol about 1905, where he met his future wife, dressmaker Evelyn Mary
Elizabeth BROWN, while attending the Baptist chapel in Broadmead.
Until her marriage, Evelyn lived at 5 Marlborough Hill Place, Bristol,
with her father Tom John BROWN, his wife, a sister Millicent and an older
brother who later became a barrister in London. Tom was a mason and later a
foreman at William Cowlin & Son (Builders), while his wife had been a
companion housekeeper to a wealthy family, often travelling with them on their
and Evelyn were married on 5th August 1912. At first, they lived above the
drapers shop at 181 Newfoundland Road, St. Pauls, Bristol, which William had
opened in 1911. A daughter, Beryl, was born in 1916. In the same year,
William joined the army as a transport driver and served in France until his
demobilisation in 1918. During his absence, Evelyn managed the baby and also
the shop with the assistance of two girls. The shop sold haberdashery,
dresses, bedding, underwear and similar goods.
The drapers shop at 181 Newfoundland Road, St Pauls, Bristol
The business prospered and the family moved to live at 32 Seymour Avenue,
Bishopston, where in turn Mary Doreen, Sybil and William John were born. The
shop was open for long hours: 9.00 am till 6.00 pm Monday to Friday and on
Saturday till 8.00 pm. There were no credit cards then and most transactions
were in cash. There were also no calculators or computers, so Evelyn recorded
the transactions and accounts in a large ledger using a pen with a steel nib and
black or red ink. After he locked up at night, William would put the
takings in a bag (which he placed in his sock for safe keeping) and ride his
bicycle up Ashley Hill to home.
The family were in the forefront of family travel. William had earlier bought
a motorcycle on which to travel about, and after Beryl was born he added a
sidecar. When Mary, Sybil and William John arrived he bought a 1923 Bean car
which had a "dickey seat", where three of the children sat exposed to the
elements. Later he bought a Morris Cowley with five seats, but it had a canvas
hood and it was still draughty. We all cuddled up under a travelling rug when it
was cold, but in summer it was a joy to travel in the car with the top down.
This was a basic car without a self-starter; to start the engine you had to
crank it up with a long handle sticking out the front of the engine.
Nevertheless we travelled to the south coast, Seaton or Lyme Regis, on
Sundays in the summer. In the winter we had to go to Sunday school in the
afternoons or go for walks, as there were no entertainments. Sunday was a day
of rest and few people worked; the shops were all shut and cinemas and theatres
were not allowed to open. And of course there was no TV.
Summer holidays were planned well ahead. One year we went in the car to Paignton
to stay with Aunt Ethel and grandmother Virtue for a fortnight. The car was
loaded up with us on the inside and the luggage strapped on the rack at the
back. Off we went at seven o’clock in the morning. It was a challenge getting
up Haldon Hill, just after Exeter, and usually several cars overheated. There
they stood with their bonnets up, steam all over the place and a brown
uniformed AA man in attendance.
All was well till September 1939, when World War II started. There was a big
depression and rationing started. William enrolled in the Local Defence
Volunteers, later called the Home Guard, and Sybil joined the WAAF (Women’s
Auxiliary Air Force). Later William John joined the Army Cadets and the Home
Guard and in 1947 the Royal Air Force.
Bristol was badly bombed in World War II and the heart of the city was destroyed. Many shop
windows were blown in and had to be boarded up because no glass was available.
Once the family house was hit by an incendiary bomb which came through the roof
and ceiling and landed on the floor of the bedroom. They smothered it with
sandbags (water would have caused it to burn very fiercely) and it went out
without too much damage.
William carried on in the shop and acquired another one nearby. He retired
in 1955 to take up bowling in the summer and skittles in the winter. The shop
was knocked down soon afterwards to made way for road widening. He died on 10
February 1959. Evelyn remained in her home until 1972, and then lived with her
offspring in Torquay until her death in 1976.
The sons and daughters, their children, and their children's children are
still carrying on the family traditions.
Thanks are due to my cousin Joan WALLIS née MITCHELMORE of Bristol, who gave
invaluable assistance with names and dates as well as other information, and to
my cousin John MITCHELMORE, whose researches assembled the mass of detail that
formed the basis of this branch of the family history.