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Thomas Darvell Stacey

The picture is of Thomas Darvell Stacey, who lived in Hyde Heath, Chesham in Buckinghamshire. Thomas was a baker, who delivered his produce locally in the early 1870’s. However according to family legend Thomas liked his drink and would often be somewhat inebriated while making deliveries. In fact you might ask, as I did how did any baking take place at all? As alcohol and ovens are not a good combination. One possible explanation is Thomas’s wife Julia aged 23, who is listed on the 1871 census for Chesham in Hyde Heath as help baker. Interestingly Julia could write as she signed her name on their marriage certificate on 25th December 1867 at the parish Church in Little Missenden. Fortunately for Thomas and his customers the horse knew exactly where to go and when to stop .

What’s in a Name? 

On discovering one of my ancestors was called John Melsher Clarke, it left me with a lot of questions as to why he was called Melsher and where the name came from. Looking at my other ancestors the name does not appear anywhere

John was born on 30th December 1841 in Mersham, Kent to Edward Clarke and Mary Clarke (formerly Post). Edward was a labourer and could not write, as he signs his name with a cross. I could not find a connection to the name Melsher on any record I had searched. However, sometime the answer is not found in a record and although I don’t always trust family legend, as proving things to be true is not always possible. My Grandmother explained the reason why John’s middle name was Melsher.

Edward and Mary knew someone called Melsher, who had influence and money. They had hoped by calling their son after him they would receive some money. Unsurprisingly this didn’t happen. When John married Elzia Brunger in1871 the marriage certificate gives his occupation as a labourer and at his death in 1900 as a farmer. I often wonder what John thought about his name and the reasons his parents had for choosing it.

Frank Melsher  Clarke

Dorothy Clarke 

I would like to tell you about some of the women in my family tree. My grandfather Frank Clarke owned Fairmead Dairy in Willesborough, Kent. Both his daughters, Marjorie, my mother and Dorothy my aunt used to help deliver milk and eggs. Originally the delivery system was by horse and cart, later by motor transport. The milk was carried in special churns and customers would bring out their jugs and the milk would be dispensed from copper measuring jugs, no bottles then! (Taken from an interview with my mother).

Disastrous Fire at Beechwoods 

My great grandfather George William Muskett was Managing Director of Beechwood Ltd, a brush manufacturer which was on the Higham Road in Chesham, Buckinghamshire. The factory employed more than 200 people. In April 1930 a terrible fire broke out and rapidly spread across the factory. Thankfully the building was promptly evacuated and the factories own fire brigade was called. However the fire was so serious that Chesham, Berkhamsted and Amersham fire brigades also came. According to the Buck Examiner there were ‘Three dozen fireman, a mile of hose and fifteen nozzles in use.’ The paper mentions that many local people came to help, with the Chesham fire brigade working through the weekend. The fire started in an upper room between the wood store and where the brush boards were dried. The factory was destroyed, the damage was estimated to be between£20 000 and £25 000, which is 1.6 million to over 2 million in today’s money.

As you can see from the picture in the Bucks Examiner the fire was a disaster for the local work force causing many to lose their jobs. Beechwoods did help their workforce, giving married men £2 to help until they could receive unemployment pay. Female employees also received a grant and special consideration was given to juniors who could not sign on. George Muskett wrote a letter of thanks to all who came to help and explained the company’s intensions. ‘The Board are taking every possible step to minimise the loss suffered by our works people and are endeavouring to restart production at the earliest possible moment.’

The factory was rebuilt and continued to produce brushes until1948 when it became Spa Brushes Ltd.

George Muskett

Beechwoods Brush Factory (Photograph from the Bucks Examiner 1930)