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Baker of Farnham

Baker of Farnham

Castle Street, Farnham

Samuel Lewcock, son of Richard Lewcock ( -1783) and Sarah  Harmsworth (c1745-1786) was baptised on the 1st of April 1772 in Odiham. He married Sarah (Sally) Taphouse on 28 November 1793 in Farnham, Surrey and  was buried on 27th December 1836 in Farnham.

Sarah (Sally) Taphouse, daughter of William Taphouse (1745- ) and Ann Coombs ( -1778), was born in December 1773. Sarah appeared in the census of the night of 6 June 1841 in The Borough, Farnham when she was recorded as a baker. She died of an enlarged spleen on 13 June 1844.

Transcription of Samuel Lewcock’s Will.

Sarah and Samuel had the following children:


 James Lewcock (1809-1848)

James was baptised on 18 June 1809 in Farnham.

He married Jessamine Hart on 21 April 1836 in Farnham.

He appeared in the census on 6 June 1841 in Castle Street, Farnham. He was a Confectioner.

He died of Scarlatina, 4 days certified, on 6 July 1848 in Borough, Farnham, Surrey. The death was reported by Ann Briant of Downing Street Farnham. James was buried in Farnham. He had his estate probated in Surrey in 1848.


Their other children

Elizabeth Lewcock (1796-1802) Elizabeth was born in 1796 in Farnham and was baptised on 15 August 1802 in Farnham. She was buried on 22 January 1802 in Farnham.

Charlotte Lewcock (1797-1835) Charlotte was born in 1797 in Farnham. She was buried on 27 March 1835 in Farnham.

Sarah Lewcock (1797-1823) Sarah was born in 1797 in Farnham. She was buried on 16 June 1823 in Farnham.

William Lewcock (1799-1818) William baptised on 18 August 1799 in Farnham. He was a Gardener. He died on 15 April 1818 and was buried on 16 April 1832 in Farnham.

Elizabeth Lewcock (1802-1834) Elizabeth was born in 1802 in Farnham. She died in 1834 in Farnham. She was buried in Farnham.

George Lewcock (1803-1830) A George was born in 1803 in Farnham. Another George was baptised 05 JAN 1812. A George was buried on 17 September 1830 in Farnham.

John Lewcock (1804- ) John was baptised on 14 November 1804 in Farnham. He married Martha Lunn on 27 DEC 1828 in St Clement Danes, Strand, Middlesex.

Thomas Lewcock (1806-1807) Thomas was born in 1806 in Farnham. He died in 1807 in Farnham.

Ann Lewcock (1811-1899) Ann was born in 1811 in Farnham. She appeared in the census on 6 June 1841 in The Borough, Farnham with her mother and her sister, Jane. She married John Nash in 1843 in Farnham. In 1881, they were living at 49 Downing Street. She died in 1899 in Farnham.

Jane Lewcock (1814-1879) Jane was baptised on 18 December 1814 in Farnham. She appeared in the census on 6 June 1841 in Farnham with her mother Sarah and her sister, Ann. She died in 1879 in Farnham.

Caroline Lewcock (1817-1818) Caroline was born in 1817. She was buried on 6 May 1818 in Farnham.

Ellen Lewcock (1820-1821) Ellen was baptised on 21 May 1820 in Farnham. She was buried on 27 April 1821 in Farnham.

Skeleton by marriage?

Skeleton by marriage?

When I registered for the 1911 census, I was really only expecting to confirm what I already knew, to see if some of my ancestors were still alive to narrow down dates for searching for their deaths and perhaps bring some of the distant twigs up to date. What I didn’t...

read more
Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

A cause of curiosity to all and horror to some, I have a battered glass case in my living room containing a stuffed sparrow hawk with her bullfinch prey.  This is a macabre memorial to the collecting activities of the Lewcocks.

read more
Chess Player of Hastings

Chess Player of Hastings

The following is from the website of the Hastings and St Leonard's Chess Club Author: Brian Denman Ernest Arthur Lewcock was a native of London who came to Hastings at about the beginning of the twentieth century. He opened a small cafe in Pelham Street and by means...

read more

Expedition to NE Hampshire

Expedition to NE Hampshire

Expedition to NE Hampshire

UPDATE: Since this trip, the research has moved on apace as more and more information has become available to us.

Katie and I met up with Peter in Farnham on a cold, wet day in September 2009. We had a quick look around in Farnham and then set off across the Hampshire border to explore some of the villages with Lewcock connections.

We looked at  the Lewcock gravestones In St Andrew’s churchyard in Farnham. They are virtually all illegible, but at least somebody had recorded the inscriptions back in the 1930s. They must have been difficult to decipher even then though, as some of the transcribed dates don’t match what we know are dates of burials.

Had a look at Hart’s Yard, just off West Street – we don’t know yet if the yard had any connection with Joseph Hart, Jessamine Lewcock’s father, a coachman, but it would have been right next door to a coaching inn which stood on the site of what is now the Lion and Lamb Courtyard.

We need to have a look at the tithe map of 1838 to see if we can work out where exactly the Lewcock and Hart families might have been located. They were in the centre – Borough and Castle Street in 1841 and 1851.

Hart’s Yard, West Street, Farnham

Our route took us to Blubeckers Mill House (now a restaurant) in North Warnborough. This may originally have been the mill of Samuel Lewcock, miller, whose estate was probated in 1810 or Thomas Lewcock of North Warnborough whose estate was probated in 1834, although there were several mills in the area.

We also passed Dipley Mill on the River Whitewater, which is near Heckfield and Mattingley, home of Lewcocks from at least 1782 when George, son of John and Mary Lewcock was baptised there.(1) Mattingley, which formed part of Heckfield, was constituted a separate parish in 1894.(2)

Mill House, North Warnborough

Dipley Mill

Our tour included visits to Rotherwick and Hartley Wintney, both places with Lewcocks recorded over the years, although as yet, we don’t know if there is any connection between them and Samuel Lewcock, baker of Farnham. It is likely that they originated in Odiham as we think he may have done, but this is all to be confirmed.  A side trip to Silchester to see the Roman settlement, was very interesting, though as yet we have not come across any Lewcocks recorded there!

Rotherwick Parish Church

St Mary, Hartley Wintney


1. Hackman’s Series of Hampshire Bishop’s Transcripts published by P.R.T. Society

2. Victoria County History: A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 4

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Wives of Odiham

Wives of Odiham

Wives of Odiham

Samuel Lewcock was baptised on the 1st April 1772 in Odiham, Hampshire, the son of Richard and Sarah Lewcock.

Odiham parish church

Richard Lewcock had married Sarah Harmsworth in Up Nately on 15th September 1762. His parents were George and Barbara. George Leeucock had married Barbara Hare in Odiham on 28th January 1727 and Richard was baptised there on 9th September 1728.

A Richard Lucock married Rachell Lane in South Warnborough on the 28th February 1688. I have found a baptism for a son, Richard, in South Warnborough in 1689 and a burial for a son, James, in Odiham in 1707. I have not found baptisms for other children as yet.

UPDATE: A trip to Winchester to look at their fiches (which are a little more legible than my copies) has given us the baptism of George in Odiham on the 14th July 1700.

I do have the relevant microfiches for Odiham at this time, but they are illegible in parts and very difficult to read in others, so I have to keep going back to them to see if they appear!! There are no others in the fiches for either South Warnborough or Up Nately.

Descendants of Unknown Lucock/Lewcock

“Extra Lewcocks”

There are three Lewcock men in this area whose baptisms have not been tracked down and we are therefore unsure where they fit.

Rather then lose sight of them and their descendants while the research continues, they have been temporarily attached as follows:

John who died in Sherfield Upon Lodden c1700-1773 who has been attached as a son of Richard and Rachell.

William (no dates), whose son James was baptised in Odiham in 1779, and John c1736-1813, who settled in Rotherwick, have been attached as sons of George and Barbara. Samuel Hare did not mention them in his will unlike Barbara’s other children, though this may not be relevant.

A Bararath Lewcock had an illegitmate son, Richard, baptised in Rotherwick in 1695. She has been attached as a possible sibling of Richard Lucock.

Richard Lewcock, son of Barbara and George Leeucock, married Sarah Harmsworth in Up Nately.

There is a family of Harmsworths recorded in Odiham, who appear to have orginated in Tadley, Hampshire where it is possble that Sarah was baptised. If this is so, she is the daughter of a Richard Harmsworth.

A Richard Harmsworth who died in Odiham in 1742, the son of Ralph Harmsworth of Baughurst, is reputed to be the direct ancestor of Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st and last Viscount Northcliffe. More research into this family is in progress!!

Barbara Hare

Barbara Hare married George Leeucock in Odiham, Hampshire. She was the daughter of Richard Hare, a tanner, whose family were tanners in Odiham, Hampshire for six generations, and Anne.

The Descendants of William Hare

If it were not for the discovery of her unmarried brother Samuel’s will, the Lewcock tree would have remained firmly stuck in Farnham!

The Missing Link

Rachell Lane

The marriage of Rachell Lane and Richard Lewcock, possible parents of George Leeucock, is recorded in the parish register of South Warnborough on 28th February 1688.

They both appear to be of the parish at the time, but so far no trace of a baptism for either of them in this parish, or anywhere else, has been found.

Skeleton by marriage?

Skeleton by marriage?

When I registered for the 1911 census, I was really only expecting to confirm what I already knew, to see if some of my ancestors were still alive to narrow down dates for searching for their deaths and perhaps bring some of the distant twigs up to date. What I didn’t...

read more
Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

A cause of curiosity to all and horror to some, I have a battered glass case in my living room containing a stuffed sparrow hawk with her bullfinch prey.  This is a macabre memorial to the collecting activities of the Lewcocks.

read more
Chess Player of Hastings

Chess Player of Hastings

The following is from the website of the Hastings and St Leonard's Chess Club Author: Brian Denman Ernest Arthur Lewcock was a native of London who came to Hastings at about the beginning of the twentieth century. He opened a small cafe in Pelham Street and by means...

read more

Printer and entomologist

Printer and entomologist

Printer and entomologist

George Albert Lewcock was born in 1841 in Farnham in Surrey, the son of James who was a baker and confectioner, continuing the family business started by his father Samuel.

James died in 1848, leaving a young family and his wife, Jessamine remarried the following year and continued the business. Her second husband, who was 18 years her junior, died in 1853. Jessamine was still a confectioner in Farnham in 1861 but by 1871 had retired and moved to Kingston Upon Thames with her three younger children. None of her children seemed to have followed her into the business, indeed the two oldest boys vanish altogether by 1861. In 1861, George is living in the house of Richard Taylor, a printer, in Chatham, Kent and is one of two apprentice compositors living in the household. He married Lucy Usher in 1864 in Islington and gives his profession as a compositor. I had no idea who he might have worked for following his apprenticeship until I came across a newspaper report earlier this year:

THE SPOTTISWOODE INSTITUTE. – A conversazione at the Holborn Town-hall last evening under the auspices of the Spottiswoode Institute brought into more extended notice than the fact has hitherto received the existence of a pleasant literary and social institution among the employés [sic] of the Queen’s printers (Eyre and Spottiswoode) and the allied firm of Spottiswoode and Co. The Messrs. Spottiswoode are patrons of the institution; and last evening contributed materials for the scientific and artistic demonstrations of the evening. Mr. Austin Leigh showed old needlework which had been done by Jane Austen, the novelist; Mr. Crouch and Mr. Browning lent microscopes and spetroscopes, and Mr. Lewcock and Mr. H. Cripps displayed an interesting collection of British insects…… ….

Daily News (London, England), Thursday, November 24, 1881; Issue 11110

Although no initials are given I was fairly sure that this had to be George. ‘Googling’ his surname throws up many many references to George and his interest in insects and beetles in particular (this interest may well form the basis of an article later on as my brother has been doing extensive research into this area of his life). I came across another reference in my newspaper searches to George playing Draughts for the Spottiswoode Institute where his initials were given.

A more important find, on Google Books, were a partial listing in the “Entomologist’s Annual For 1855” and another in the “Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer for 1856”, both of which gave his address:

“Page 23
 which I should be glad to exchange for C. Davus, T. Pruni, T. W-album or L.
Sibylla.— G. LEWCOCK, 69, High Street, Chatham”

(NOTE: these appear to be species of butterflies)

The address is the same as in the census for 1861 and when he would have been aged 14 years old. It looks as though he will have served his seven year apprenticeship in Chatham and then moved to London. Why he didn’t go into the baking business and why he went to Chatham to serve his apprenticeship, we will probably never know. I need to visit the Archives and Library at Stationer’s Hall to see if there are any records of his apprenticeship held there.

Thus far I haven’t been able to follow George’s career as a working printer but I have recently discovered that the papers for Spottiswoode Ballantyne, are now held in the Essex Record Office, so following this up may well give me more information or at least leads to follow.

It was a casual comment during our weekly Skype call with my parents that led me to the Stationer’s School in Hornsey and from that, finding out about the importance of the Stationer’s Company to the world of printing. My grandfather, his two eldest sons and his father and uncles all attended the school and on the schools’ website I can see that PF Lewcock of 1.(Alpha) received a Special prize at the School Prizegiving in December 1935 at Stationer’s Hall, Ludgate Hill, when the prizes were presented by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Master of the Company.

Only one of George’s direct descendants followed him into printing although his grandson Francis was involved in publishing. His eldest great grandson was a compositor for many years with The Evening Standard. He had begun his apprenticeship just before WWII and following his enlistment immediately war was declared, he served throughout the war, but still had to complete his seven years, so strict were the rules.

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Skeleton by marriage?

Skeleton by marriage?

Skeleton by marriage?

When I registered for the 1911 census, I was really only expecting to confirm what I already knew, to see if some of my ancestors were still alive to narrow down dates for searching for their deaths and perhaps bring some of the distant twigs up to date. What I didn’t expect was an intriguing puzzle.

As my great great grandmother Lucy Lewcock née Usher had died in 1905, I expected to find her husband George Lewcock in 1911 living alone, or perhaps staying with one of his children, but imagine my surprise when I found that he had acquired a second wife and a twelve year old stepson.

George Albert Lewcock, born in Farnham, Surrey in 1842, occupation printer and compositor, was living at 54 Solon Road, Brixton.  Location of Solon Road.  His new wife was Annie Norrish Lewcock aged 51, born in Kennington Park Road. (Newington).  Her son was named Albert Edward Withyman aged 12 and had been born in Weiner, Texas, U.S.A.

A quick search of UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 brought up their arrival in the U.K. George Withyman, a labourer, aged 52, together with his wife Annie aged 40, and son Albert aged 3, travelled from New York on the ‘Carthaginian’ arriving in Glasgow on the 29th April 1902.

So far I thought that this was just interesting and decided that I would send for the marriage certificate and leave it at that. Luckily Lewcock is a fairly unusual name so I found the reference on FreeBMD easily but then found another surprise – she was married as Annie Norrish Stone and not as Withyman.

Feeling 99% certain that this was going to be the correct marriage, while I waited for the marriage certificate to arrive I decided to see if I could find a death for George Withyman and/or Unknown Stone – I found nothing for either of them in England so had a look around to see whether George Withyman had gone back to the U.S.A. and died there.

I came across a Geo Withyman of the same age travelling back to the U.S.A. in January 1903 on New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. All looked normal until I scrolled right across the page. In the right hand column was stated:  In charge of Detective McCarthy.

Geo Withyman was listed as a married labourer aged 55 on the passenger manifest for the ‘Lucania’. Able to read and write, he was British and his last residence was Texas. His final destination was to be Chicago. His passage was paid by ‘U.S. Detective’ and he had no money. He had previously been in Chicago from 1893 to 1902.

This was intriguing so off I went to Google to search for George Withyman and had yet another surprise!

From The New York Times of January 18 1903:

Alleged Murderer Brought Back

George Stone, alias George Withyman, after having been a fugitive from justice for nine years, will land at New York this morning from the Cunarder, Lucania and be taken to face a charge of murder committed in 1893. He is alleged to have killed a negro [sic].  He was located in England a few months ago. His extradition was granted in the Bow Street Police Court Dec 20 last. He is in charge of Police Sergeant McCarthy of Chicago

The following day, The New York Times carried a report of the ship’s arrival in New York:

The liner brought over George Stone, who was on the second cabin passenger list as George Withyman. He is under indictment for the murder of a negro in Chicago nine years ago. Detective Sergeant Arthur McCarthy of Chicago went to London with extradition papers and returned with him. He took his prisoner to Police Headquarters and will start for Chicago today.
Other happenings listed in the article for what must have been an eventful crossing included that a steward was washed overboard, an Armenian had stowed away and among the passengers was the explorer, Henry de Windt, who advocated a Paris-New York railroad via a bridge.

In the 20th February 1903, The New York Times reported briefly on the court case:

George Stone, Being Tried for Murder in Chicago, asks for Divine Aid.

CHICAGO, Feb 19. – “I am relying for justice on the One above,” said George Stone to-day, who is on trial for murder in Judge Horton’s court, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he dropped on his knees, bowed his head, and prayed for five minutes. When he had ended his prayer he resumed his seat with his head in his hands, and cried.

Stone is on trial for the murder of Robert Nelson who was a colored chef at the Turner Hotel, and who, it is charged was shot and killed by Stone about ten years ago. Stone escaped, and was but recently arrested in London. He is a British subject, and the Royal Society of St. George is interested in his defense.

Exploring a little more, I found the case recorded in the Chicago Police Department Homicide Record Index, 1870–1930:

PAGE:   116A 
EVENT DATE:  7/6/1893      
The online database Homicide In Chicago 1870-1930 gives more detail about the case. On the 6th July 1893, Robert Nelson, aged 30 years old, was shot dead at Turner House located on the junction of 33rd Street and Wabash Avenue.  Death occurred at the crime scene. The type of death was homicide and the type of homicide was intentional murder. George Stone, alias Withyman was arrested in London, England and brought to Chicago on January 21st 1903, and turned over to the Sheriff under indictment. He was sentenced by Judge Horton on the 20th February 1903 to thirty five years in Joliet Penitentiary.  The database also records that the crime was related to Prohibition and that there were no allegations of police corruption.

To see if I can find out more detail about his arrest and extradition, I really should take a look at the Extradition Records of the Bow Street Magistrates Court, which are held at the London Metropolitan Archives. The Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group are in the process of transcribing the Convict Registers for Joliet Penitentiary which hold a lot of data about the prisoners and I shall be keeping an eye on their progress to find out when George died and from that to hopefully find out more about his family.

While double checking my research for this article, I came across another newspaper report from the Chicago Tribune, on which gives a little more detail. It reads as follows:-


Negro Arrested in London Accused of Killing Man in this City During 1893.


London: Nov. 22 – George Stone was arrested this afternoon on the nominal charge of murdering a negro in Chicago in 1893. It is believed Stone’s real name is George Withyman and it is understood that he is suspected of having been connected with several murders in Texas.

Stone was arrested in a low cook shop in Blackwall called the “Tunnel coffee house”, where he has been employed. He has been in London since last March. The police believe that there will be sensational developments through Stone’s arrest, as it is thought he has been connected with several murders in the United States, especially in Galveston, Tex., where he worked on the railroad.

When Stone was arrested by inspector Froest of Scotland yard on the charge of murder he asked: “Is it for a nigger or a white man?”
When the inspector told him it was for the murder of a negro he appeared to be relieved. He said the negro referred to had reviled him. Then the negro drew a knife and Stone ran upstairs for his “gun.” The negro followed, and then, Stone says, he shot him.

Stone is a middle aged man, muscular and well developed. He has fair hair and a mustache. He wears a medal of the Perax [sic] expedition [see sources] which shows he has been in the British Navy.

The TNA does not have him listed as George Withyman in the Registers of Seamen’s Services, but of course it may not have been his own medal or he had enlisted under a different name (there are several George Stones from Kent listed).

The Ancestry database of U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 not only enabled me to discover more about Albert and what he knew, or had been told, about his parents and their background, it also gave me details of his marriage to a French woman. This reminded me that about five years ago, I was contacted by somebody on Genes Connected, as it was then, who was looking for an Albert Lewcock who had connections with France. At the time, I couldn’t help her but she was still in my contacts list and it looked as though I may finally have found a connection after so long!!

I have been in touch with this contact and since our original correspondence, she had been successful in finding more about Albert and his descendants. She now knows that she is the daughter of Albert’s second wife’s second husband so it is a very distant connection but it is satisfying that we have managed to join the dots after so long. There is far more to this part of the story than I can retell here as other descendants of Albert, who seems to be just as mysterious as his father, are still alive.

There is a great deal more to follow up in this puzzle of name changes and aliases. Annie married George Lewcock as Annie Norrish Stone in 1906.The marriage certificate for George and Annie gives her father’s name as George Nix, baker. I think I have found her in 1861 and 1881 at home in England with her parents.  I think I have her with son Albert in 1900 in Texas as Annie Withyman, listed as married for 20 years, but no sign of George. The article in the Chicago Tribune says he had been working in Galveston on the railways. This fits with her location in 1900, and Albert’s birthplace in 1899.

She stated in 1900 that she was born in Ireland but if this is her, this is not borne out in 1911. An Ann Nix married a George Stone in London in the last quarter of 1881 – was this them or a first marriage for her? Did she actually marry George Withyman? Did he take the identity of her first husband? She states in 1900 that she arrived in the USA in 1884 so where were they in 1890? In his passport applications, Albert states that his father was born in Sydenham, Kent and a George Withyman was indeed born there at about the right time to fit the age as given on their arrival at Glasgow in 1902. A George Stone of about the right age appears in the 1910 US Federal Census in Joliet Penitentiary – did she commit bigamy?

I have been able to track down many references as I currently have full subscriptions to Ancestry and findmypast, but this is a case of buying certificates, letter writing and visiting archives to get any sort of definitive proof as to whether my great great grandfather married the wife of a murderer.   

It may well be that in fact George Withyman aka Stone is actually nothing to do with my great grandfather’s second wife, but even if he isn’t, I had fun following the trail, and will carry on my detective work to find out one way or the other not only for my own satisfaction but also for Albert’s descendants.






The Ghosts of Joliet

The Joliet Prison Post 1914

Library Catalogue of Illinois State Penitentiary 1902

Limestone Quarry near Joliet Penitentiary

Joliet State Prison: Joliet, Illinois


Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group: Convict Registers

Genealogical Prison Records & Jail Records

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Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

The unusual display

A cause of curiosity to all and horror to some, I have a battered glass case in my living room containing a stuffed sparrow hawk with her bullfinch prey.  Their theatrical heathland backdrop has been torn apart to reveal layers of Victorian small ads for, for instance, “two useful cart mares” and a Woking bakery flour bag.  Despite these indignities the hawk’s bright glass eyes retain their fierceness.  This is a macabre memorial to the collecting activities of the Lewcocks.

In an Edwardian nature memoir, Mrs Caldwell Crofton(1)refers rather bluntly to Mr J Lewcock as “a bird stuffer at Farnham” and his observations of crossbills in the nearby Alice Holt Forest in the late 1830s. Dr Jeffrey Wheatley, the Bird Recorder for Surrey, published in 2007 a definitive (and beautifully produced) volume on Surrey birding records and history (2). In this he describes the early collectors or observers of birds in the county.

James Lewcock was one of a circle of local naturalists including Edward Newman, Thomas Mansell, Waring Kidd, J D Salmon and William Stafford.  Newman started a periodical The Zoologist  in 1843 and this has numerous reports from James on his observations of birdlife around Farnham.  Newman was also author of “The Letters of Rusticius on the Natural History of Godalming” – which brought together much of the work of this group.  Wheatley calls it “…the earliest avifauna to be devoted to Surrey or any part of it.”  James is described in The Letters in 1849 as “the late James Lewcock” and, indeed, my great great great grandfather died in 1848 aged only 37.

In an email exchange Dr Wheatley draws attention to Bucknill’s 1901 Survey of Surrey Birds (3) where he writes.  “Mr James Lewcock was an energetic naturalist living at Farnham; he carried on the business of a tradesman at that place and was a very skilled taxidermist.  Mr Thomas Whitburn, the President of the Guildford Natural History and Microscopic Society, to whom I am indebted for the particulars of his life, tells me that he was about forty years of age when he died unexpectedly, in 1850 [sic]

Unfortunately he left no records or papers relating to his many naturalistic rambles, in some of which Mr Whitburn was his comrade, but he contributed several notes to the Zoologist on the Brambling, Crossbill, Ring-Ousel, Peregrine, Great Grey Shrike and other species; and apparently compiled for Rusticius and his coadjutors a list of Farnham birds which was freely quoted in their subsequent work …”

James shows up in a Mirror Magazine nationwide list of independent scientific societies of 1848 as the “active” Honorary Secretary of the Farnham Mechanics Institute (4).  “This well-regulated and well-constituted institution … boasts able lecturers and as zealous patrons.” Doubtless the active Hon. Sec. was the one who submitted this well-spun information!  Unfortunately the Mechanic’s Institute disappears after James’s death – perhaps evolving into the Working Men’s Institute which was created later?  However, the Reverend William Moss, a migrant from Farnham, used it as his inspiration in founding a Mechanics Institute in Prahran, Melbourne in 1854 (5). This continues today.

Coccinella septempunctata

Family history research of the Lewcocks had already placed James in our family tree. He was a baker who died in 1848 of scarlatina leaving his wife Jessamine with seven children, including George Albert aged 8 and Henry aged 6. James’s mother-in-law was a Mansell and it looks as if Thomas Mansell from Tilford (just outside Farnham) was his cousin. Thomas was also a baker – up the road in Guildford. Bucknill remarks that Mr T Mansell was “a taxidermist and naturalist of more than local reputation”.

Neville Lewcock draws attention to a lecture by William Stroud (1857-1942), a former master at Farnham Grammar, where he advises that “when Lewcock had found a rare bird he took it to his friend Mansell to be stuffed.” Easy then to imagine James, having completed the early morning shift baking his neighbours’ daily bread, collecting his dogs and setting off for a day’s bird observation and shooting to Frensham Pond. One of James’s reports to Newman reads: “On 24th October an uncommon looking bird was noticed by the person who rents the pond, wading in the shallow water. He succeeded in shooting it … and it proved to be a common spoonbill, a young bird … the crest being wanting. It is now in the possession of Mr Mansell, and in beautiful preservation.” Thomas survived James by many years. Stroud claims that he took a first prize for taxidermy at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and Thomas is recorded in the Farnham Herald in July 1868 as winning a prize of £1.11s.6d in the natural history section at the Farnham Working Men’s Institute 3rd Exhibition of Art and Industry for a display including “stuffed birds etc”.

Rather than birding, James’s younger sons George Albert and Henry got into bugs and beetles.  I recently asked Alan Price, an entomologist and the former natural history curator at Oldham Museum, how he had got the bug-collecting bug.  It seems Alan’s father had been an artisan baker (!) and they had a vegetable garden and orchard.  Alan and his brother had had to pick the weevils out of the flour and the bugs off the plants.  Perhaps that was also how George Albert and Henry, having to help their mother carry on the bakery after their father’s early death, but still too young to go off birding and shooting, got started?

Henry may not have been a very active bug-hunter.  Nevertheless he wrote to the Entomologist Weekly Intelligencer (another of Newman’s publishing ventures) in 1858 aged 16 to report the capture of a specimen of sphinx convuvuli (a hawkmoth) “It was taken in a grocer’s shop, perhaps attracted there by the light.”

Great great grandfather, George Albert, on the other hand looks to have been obsessed with bugs as only a serious Victorian collector could be.  He left Farnham at quite an early age.  In 1851 he is found as a 19 year old apprentice compositor in Rochester, Kent, from where he moved to Islington to marry and raise a family.  He made a series of contributions to the debates of the City of London Entomological Society in the late 1800s.  He was also on the committee of the Society.  In his discourses (they haven’t all been found or studied in any depth) he draws on collecting experience over 50 years, mostly in the home counties.  He perhaps took advantage of the new and rapidly growing suburban rail network around London.  He did, however, travel more widely and may, for instance, have been in Ireland in 1861 before his marriage in 1863.

Alan Price, Curator of Oldham Museum

In a talk given on the Donacia (water beetles) in December 1890 he refers to specimens he had taken in Walthamstow, Sunbury, Shepperton, Farnham, Wanstead, Hackney Marshes and Black Pond Esher.  He advises of D Dentata  “… some are brilliant grassy green and others of indigo-blue … The specimens [were]taken by me at Basingstoke canal in June 1887 … and by getting into the large patch [of pondweed]floating on the water I captured some fifty or sixty during the afternoon.”   Must have made an entertaining sight.  Middle-aged gent (46 at the time) up to his waist in the canal, picking jewel-like beetles off the reeds. No worries about Viles disease in those days!  Another – “well received” – paper was a thorough survey of the Coccinellidae – nice to find you have an ancestor who was an expert in both water beetles and ladybirds!

So, two (or three) ancestors diligently collecting and recording birds or bugs.  Victorian collectors could be astonishingly meticulous and it seemed reasonable to think that somewhere there might be catalogues and even specimens from the Lewcock collections of bugs, beetles and birds.  Nothing has been kept in the family.  Where to start?

The core national collections of bird and insect specimens were based on those of Lord Rothschild’s and are now held by the Natural History Museum (NHM) at his former home in Tring.  Unfortunately his lordship’s wallabies, ostriches and other exotic creatures no longer roam Tring Park.  However, the public galleries still have atmospheric tableaux of stuffed creatures from whales to tiny mites in glazed and beeswax polished wood cabinets.  Well worth the visit.  NHM also has all necessary modern research and educational facilities.  Although they don’t have any Lewcock records themselves, their archivist, Lisa di Tommaso, kindly passed on my request for information to their ornithological and entomological experts (for example Dr Wheatley) and suggested other directions to look.

Progress was fastest in hunting the bug-hunting.  In the course of half a century collecting, George Albert would have exchanged many specimens with fellow enthusiasts.  The NHM entomologist was able to flag up an 1896 auction of George Albert’s insect collections.  It was usual at that time for a purchased collection to be broken up, any complementary specimens being kept by the purchaser and others sold on.  Googling had already discovered scattered Lewcock bug or beetle specimens in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (6) which were acquired from the collection of W Chaney and The Tullie House Museum in Carlisle (7).  The latter has a longhorn beetle taken by GA in Walthamstow in 1892.  Frank Balfour-Browne writing in the Irish Naturalist (8) in 1912 suggests that when George Albert’s collections were sold the water beetles were “purchased by a collector on the Continent.”

Display of beetles in Oldham

In 1924 Oldham Museum bought the collection of C G Hall of Deal which included some of George Albert’s specimens.  Email exchanges with Curator Alan Price confirmed that they did have the Hall Collection and that the catalogue did indeed list some of George Lewcock’s specimens.  An inspection visit was agreed!  Oldham Museum has recently had a new extension and the older parts of the building are waiting refurbishment and refitting (and further funding!) for, amongst other things, the natural history collections.  Alan escorted me to the basement where the natural history collection is stored temporarily.  Amongst a wonderful organised “jumble” of stuffed creatures – including parrots and a magnificent golden eagle – mousetraps, silverfish traps and the smell of camphor and other preservatives he showed me two glossy redwood twelve drawer cabinets with brass fittings.  These were the Hall collection, including 5000 or so bugs and beetles ranging from great stag beetles to almost invisible mites, all equally carefully pinned and preserved.  Alan set me up with a table, a mug of coffee and the catalogue.  There were in all about twenty Lewcock specimens, very clearly listed and including several ladybirds!  From his hand-written notes it looks as if Hall had obtained some specimens directly from George Albert.  So, some tangible contact with an ancestor!

The birds were more difficult, doubtless because that collection would have been fifty years older.  Email contact was made with the several museums around Farnham including Haslemere, Farnham itself, Godalming and Guildford, with the County Archivist in Hampshire and the Surrey History Centre. Also Charterhouse School, Godalming which has a large collection of bird specimens.  All made a rapid response and if they couldn’t do other they made helpful suggestions.  Some possible contacts, like the large private collections now held in some National Trust houses, I still have to follow up.

One of James’s circle, J D Salmon, had joined the Botanical Society – later combined in the Linnaean Society – after he left Farnham for London in 1851.  Ann Laver, Research Coordinator at Godalming Museum drew attention to a note in the Zoologist of 1901 about Salmon’s egg collection having been auctioned in 1860 – “some went to Norwich”. Norwich Museums Service and the Linnaean Society were, however, unable to help.

The Sparrowhawk

The Hampshire Senior Keeper of Natural Sciences, Christine Taylor, happened to have carried out some research on early taxidermists in Hampshire – based mainly on trade directories – but hadn’t come across James.  However “Will keep a look out – am intrigued as [he] would be one of the earliest known taxidermists in Hampshire.”  An interest echoed by Martin Dunne of the British Historical Taxidermy Society.

Duncan Myrilees, a Heritage Team Leader at the Surrey History Centre advised: “Many years ago, possibly about 25, I was assisting in clearing (or, more properly searching) the attic at Godalming Library in search of historical material.  Amongst the collected junk were a number of stuffed animals and birds.  In fact, on opening the loft lid a stuffed squirrel threw itself at my colleague, who acquired a nasty rash as a result.  The collection was later cleared from the attic by Godalming Museum staff…”

Back then to Ann Laver who found a record of the incident and confirmed that they had had a sparrow hawk, song thrush and two red squirrels.  They had no information where the specimens had come from. Not being a natural history museum, they had sent the specimens on to Dr Pat Morris, an expert in historical taxidermy in case he could make use of them.  Contacting Dr Morris, he had inspected the sparrow hawk but it wasn’t a valuable specimen and wasn’t in great condition.  He had passed the bird to a colleague for possible use in demonstrations of smaller birds mobbing a bird of prey.  He had however taken a photo of some of the display stuffing including a flour bag from a Woking bakery!  He had also kept the display case. The Woking bakery sounded like a very hopeful sign!!  Dr Morris agreed to retrieve the bird so that I could come and see if it was worth keeping.

Visiting Dr Morris to inspect the sparrow hawk I was also able to see some of his finely restored displays of stuffed birds.  They were extraordinarily vivid and colourful and you could see how they must have brightened up a Victorian or Edwardian parlour.

We discussed how sad it is that so many museums have ditched or put into store their collections of stuffed creatures which – whilst we should regret the mass slaughter of which they are the result – still provide an educational resource and important reservoir of scientific information about changes in animal populations – not least through the DNA they contain.

We agreed that as a (possible) family relic it would probably be better for the sparrow hawk and its prey to be held by myself rather than being torn apart by sparrows!  Home in triumph with a sparrow hawk (and bullfinch).  However …!

The birds had originally been placed against a painted scene and on a raised ground formed of crumpled paper (including the flour bag) and gummed moss and lichen to simulate a heathland setting.  The other packing was newspaper.  Spreading this out I discovered reports of events in 1887!!  Some forty years after James Lewcock had died!  So these are most unlikely to be his birds!

The trail hasn’t run cold yet.  I still have to follow up the other collectors James was associated with and, as more and more information – from past auctions, private catalogues etc. comes online, it is likely that something new will turn up.  In the meantime (history cannot be wiped like a tape-recording) the sparrow hawk and bullfinch have now become a small part of my own story.

Future Lewcocks may wish to shake their heads over this tangible evidence of another form of obsessive eccentricity – genealogy research!

 C P Lewcock

© C P Lewcock 2010



1. Milman H 1900 Outside the Garden The Bodley Head. London

2. Wheatley J J 2007 Birds of Surrey Surrey Bird Club

3. Bucknill J 1901 The Birds of Surrey

4. The Mirror Monthly Magazine Vol. IV July-to December 1948 Kent and Richards, London

5. Victorian History Library: Prahran Mechanics Institute

6. Kirk-Spriggs A H and Mendel H 1994 A Catalogue of British Elateroidea (Coleoptera) in the National Museum of Wales: Entomology Series Number 3

7. Tullie House Museum Virtual Fauna Website: Collections

8. The Irish Naturalist Volume XXI 1912 pp1,2

The British Library

Google Books: The Letters of Rusticius on the Natural History of Godalming

Natural History Museum at Tring

National Museum of Wales

Gallery Oldham

Haslemere Educational Museum

Museum of Farnham

Godalming Museum

Guildford Museum

Hampshire Museums Service

Surrey History Centre


Norfolk Museums and Archeology Service

Hantsweb: Taxidermy Collections

The British Historical Taxidermy Society

Personal communication (emails) September 2009

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