Shoemaker or veteran

The photo on this page was given to me by my relative Keith Shortland. The man and woman make a striking couple but neither of us know who they are, the only clue is the name and address of the photographer which appears in the bottom right of the photo – B G Brock, 23 Wellingboro Road, Northampton.

The sheriff of Northampton

Northampton is known for shoe making and I know some of my ancestors were shoe makers in Northamptonshire (one is recorded as being a journeyman shoemaker meaning he traveled around the country to work).

A search of the National Archives has found two entries which reference the photographer.

In February 2018, Paul Boniface who was researching Victorian and Edwardian photographers in Northamptonshire got in touch and advised:

Benjamin George Brock ran a studio at 237 Wellingborough Road, Northampton between 1903 and 1907. In 1901 the census shows him as a lodger at 235 Wellingborough Road – occupation photographer and on 1 March 1903 he married Ida Blanche Allen. The 1911 census shows him living at 25 Beaconsfield Terrace, Northampton – occupation Foreign Correspondent.

The photo is a studio photo and the style of dress is in keeping with early Edwardian attire. Paul thought the emblem on the gentleman’s jacket was a flower (maybe a dahlia) and advised that a journeyman is the stage after an apprenticeship –  there was five to seven years worked as an apprentice and then three years as a journeyman.

If you check the size of the photo it will also give you an indication of the date. 2.5″ x 4″ (CdV) would point to the early years of Benjamin and 4″ x 6.5″ would be the latter say 1905-7.

Shoemaker or veteran, I don’t have the answers right now – whether I can learn more about the people on the photograph remains to be seen but I intend to try.

On the buses

On leaving the army, my great grandfather Joseph Charles Abram built two houses on the Mears Ashby Road in Earls Barton, Northamptonhire. Choosing to live in one of these, the second property he sold. Newspaper articles from local newspapers in 1939 advertised a semi detached house with six rooms (three being bedrooms),  central heating, bath, electricity, gas and main water. The houses still stand today.  He also ran Earls Barton Motors (known locally as Abram’s garage), from which he sold vehicles and ran a bus service.

Newspaper articles from the time (see photos below) show that as an Omnibus Proprietor of a small bus company he took on the United Counties bus company on the road, in the press and in the courtroom. In a letter to the editor of the Northampton Mercury, he wrote ‘I have been running my two buses (trying merely to get a living) for some few years now between Earls Barton and Wellingborough and was the first to commence early morning journeys for workmen between those places. ‘ United Counties responded saying that ‘the authorities concerned should think seriously about granting a ‘small man’ a licence’.

Joseph Abram and bus

And the document below, produced by The Omnibus Society, records Joseph’s life in detail from September 1924 when Joseph purchased his first bus, to May 1932 when he sold his business to United Counties.

During the war the garage (which is pictured in the document above) was used for repairing aircraft parts for Sywell aerodrome. A document from the Harrington Museum states:

‘The number or aircraft needing repair increased rapidly during 1940 and the
accommodation at the main centre at Sywell was found to be inadequate. This
together with the policy of dispersal and the benefit of taking work to the people
instead of the reverse with consequent saving in travelling, led to premises
being requisitioned including Abram’s Garage, Earls Barton – used for
undercarriage and bomb beams .’

The full document can be viewed below.

On 31 March 1943 the garage was recorded as sustaining a broken window when, during a practice air raid, two B17 flying fortresses, Ooold Soljer and Two Beauts, collided, shedding bombs and spreading wreckage in Mears Ashby and Earls Barton – an information board now stands in Mears Ashby which advises visitors about the crash.

Joseph went on to sell the garage to Aubrey Leighton, one of the pioneers of F1 stock car racing. Aubrey began racing in 1955 when the sport was about a year old. He went on to win 48 Finals, plus the National Points Championship in 1963. In only his third season of racing, Aubrey won the 1957 World Championship, staged at Belle Vue.