By Wayne Kett
In the past I have written blogs about iconic Norwich companies and famous people from our fine city, but this blog is about an ordinary Norwich man called W.H Everitt.
The images below show an upholsterers tool box and assorted tools, they are from the Museum of Norwich‘s reserve collection. The label on the box indicated it was owned by W.H Everitt and that he worked for a company called Boswells. I so often wonder who used the objects in our collections and what their lives were like. With this thought in mind I set out to discover all that I could about W.H Everitt.
W. H. Everitt’s toolkit (above) and his tools (below)
W.H. Everitt certainly valued his tools as he had marked his initials onto every last one of them. That or he had some light fingered colleagues.
The first thing to say is the W stands for William. I need only look as far as Modes (our object database) for this information.
It was fairly easy to start compiling information about Boswell’s, the first mention I found was in 1869 (although their story may go back further). W.M Boswell was listed as a carver and gilder with businesses on Exchange Street and Magdalen Street. Using various directories (such as Kellys Directory of Norfolk 1904) I was able to follow the business from 1869 – 1912 with premises in various locations across Norwich. The functions of the business were listed variously as carver and gilder, cabinet maker, print seller, artists colourman, furniture van proprietor, antique dealer, paper hanging warehouse, print-sellers, picture frame makers, looking glass manufacturers and yes upholsterers.
I discovered that for a time they occupied St Ethelbert House near the Cathedral.
Norwich, Tombland, St Ethelbert House, early 20th c.
Nothing I discovered about Boswell’s told my anything new about William Everitt, so I changed course. I had another line of enquiry. I had noticed alongside his tools we had a box containing some paperwork belonging to William. The Modes record mentioned wallets, business cards and intriguingly details of travel to Paris. This required a visit to the Museum of Norwich where the documents were stored.
There were three separate wallets each containing various paper ephemera and then a mostly blank diary. I would go through these in detail later, but first something else had caught my eye, a photograph……
William Henry Everitt
This is a photograph of William Henry Everitt. I never expected to see what he looked like, this was definitely an added bonus!
I worked my way through the paper documents contained in the wallets and I scanned the pages of his diary, I also used the information I had gathered to search ancestry websites. Here is as much of William Henry Everitt’s life as I am able to piece together…..
William Henry Everitt was born in Norwich in 1864, his father was also called William Henry Everitt. That is as much as I can tell you about his family, his mothers name eluded me. In 1878 at the age of just 14 years old William was apprenticed to Lucy Boswell to train as an upholsterer.
William’s apprenticeship indenture papers.
The terms of the apprenticeship includes the following commitment:
‘Fornication he will not commit, nor matrimony contract; Taverns, Inns and Alehouses he will not haunt; at Cards, Dice and Tables, or any other unlawful Games he will not play.’
This seems an unduly harsh set of limitations to place on a young person. I wonder whether he stuck to it or not?
William was to be paid 3 shillings a week for the first year of his apprenticeship, rising 1 shilling per year until the seventh year when he would receive 9 shillings per week.
It is clear William came from an impoverished background. His apprenticeship papers make reference to the Boys Hospital, this was a charity ‘for the keeping and bringing up and teaching of very poor children’. The charity was established following the death in 1617, of former mayor of Norwich Thomas Anguish. Presumably William was a beneficiary of this charity.
At age 20 William was living at 103 Stafford Street, Heigham, Norwich. I cannot say for sure whether he was still working for Boswell’s. However he was certainly available for odd jobs on the side – as this letter dated July 2nd 1885 attests.
Letter addressed to William
The handwriting is difficult to read, as far as I can translate here is a transcription of the letter….
‘Dear Willie, I want to have my bedroom papered and should like you to do it, if you can manage it. Aggie? Thinks it would be ready by diner time on Friday………… but you could get the old paper off the coving before. Please let me know tomorrow whether you can do it and if you can let me have some paper for choice. I hope your mother is better, please remember me to you mother, yours sincerely Elizabeth S Stone’
All pretty mundane, which makes me curious why it survived? I suspect, Elizabeth Stone was a person of some significance to William, though I have been unable to discover the nature of their relationship. The tone of the letter is very familiar and friendly, and the very fact he kept a letter he received at the age of 20 seems to support this suspicion.
This newspaper cutting found in one of his wallets contains details of the funeral of Agatha Stone (a local philanthropist). A search thorough the Norfolk Record Office online archive confirmed that Agatha and Elizabeth Stone were sisters.
Why a tradesman had such a close link with two seemingly wealthy sisters remains unclear.
In his mid-twenties William set out on a journey to Paris. His destination was the Exposition Universelle, a worlds fair held in Paris between May and October 1889. The fair left a indelible mark on the Paris skyline in the form of the Eiffel Tower, which was constructed as the entrance to the fair.
Program for the Exposition Universelle – William kept various other souvenirs relating to his trip
I cannot be sure of his reasons for attending the Exposition Universalle, but he kept a diary so I can relay some of what he got up to during his trip.
His handwriting as you can see is very difficult to decipher.
Sunday 22nd September
‘Visited exhibition. At 1pm ascended Eiffel Tower. 2:30pm sent postcards from top of tower to England. Visited some of the sights of Paris at night.’
Monday 23rd September
‘Drive round Paris. Visited La Madeleine, Paris, the tomb of Napoleon palace royal…….. ascended the Arc de Triomphe, visited the cemetery 3,000,000 bodies, 109 acres of land’
Tuesday 24th September
‘Drive to Versailles via Parc de St Cloud Park and mansion, 22,400 acres of land. Had photograph taken in the park palace de……. Visit palace of Versailles, visited porcelain manufacturers.’
A business card for the Hotel Longchamp, presumably one of the places William stayed during his trip.
Wednesday 25th September
‘Visited Notre Dame and the morgue? Visited the Pantheon ….. took train in the evening.’
Thursday 26th September
‘Took boat to zoo gardens, back by boat to St Cloud. Took bus to exhibition, heard Edisons phonograph*. Left Paris for Dieppe at 9 o’clock, left Dieppe for Newhaven by boat at 1 o’clock – rough passage and waves washed the deck all the way.’
* Thomas Edison attended the Esposition Universelle to showcase his phonograph. The very first device that enabled the recording and reproduction of sound.
Friday 27th September
‘Left Newhaven for London at half past, arrived in London at 10 o’clock, rode about London by bus all we could. Visited the Niagra Fall grand site similar to battle of varraville in Paris.’
Foreign travel was uncommon in the 19th century especially for a humble tradesman. To have climbed the Eiffel tower in its first year of existence and to have been one of the first people to hear recorded sound certainly makes for an eventful trip!
At some point in the years following his Paris trip William married a woman called Edith (unsure of her maiden name). In 1894 he celebrated the birth of his first son (William), another son followed (Walter) and then in 1897 a daughter (Lydia). At this time he still resided in the fine city of Norwich, however he was soon to depart.
By the time of the 1901 census William and his family had moved to Humber Road South in Beeston, Nottingham. His job title was listed as Time Keeper at a foundry. He worked for the Beeston Boiler Company which was known locally as ‘The Foundry’.
The 1911 Census has him living at 53 City Road, Beeston, Nottingham and his occupation as Iron Foundry Store Keeper. Another son Frank George Everrit was born in 1905.
He later moved to Bramcote Road judging from this amended business card.
Although William and family left Norwich for Nottingham around the turn of the century, it is clear he had reason to return to Norfolk, perhaps to visit family? It seems he stayed in the Black Horse in Scarning near East Dereham.
William had a couple of these business cards among his papers. William Binden was landlord of the Black Horse between 1924 and 1939 which indicates that William Everitt was still returning to Norfolk some two decades after he first left.
Sadly from here the trail goes a little cold, I am unsure what form William’s life took in the following decades. However I can tell you a little about his politics, he appears to have been a lifelong Conservative.
Among William’s papers were these election notices promoting the conservative candidates in the 1885 parliamentary elections. William would have been 21 at the time of this election. Harry Bullard won a seat in parliament, but Samual Hoare was not so fortunate losing out to Liberal candidate Jeremiah James Colman.
Between the years 1912-1926 William was the chairman of the Rushcliffe Conservative party association. This is a Nottinghamshire branch of the conservative party.
The final certainty I can share with you is that William Henry Everitt died in 1932 at the age of 67. His death was reported in the Nottingham Guardian on the 20th January 1932.
From humble beginnings, it seems that William was able to make a good life for himself, I hope it was a happy one.
Please take the time to visit the fantastic Museum of Norwich