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 01] 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 Harberton.
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.
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. The lasts 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.
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.