By Julie Smith
Robert Moon Brand was our great, great, great grandfather and out of all our ancestors I have researched he is the one person I would love to have met. I don’t know what he looked like although I can picture him in my mind. I would love to know his story, why did he do the things he did that caused him to be “unpopular” with his family?
All I can do is relate his life as best I can, this is Robert’s story.
Robert Moon Brand was born on 8 January 1823 to William Jermyn Brand a woollen draper and his wife Prudence Moon. He was baptised just 5 days later on 13th in the parish church of St Nicholas.
In 1841 Robert is living with his parents and ten siblings in Broad Row. Both Robert and his father William are listed as tailors and drapers.
The following announcement reported in the Norfolk News 18 October 1845 is rather perplexing, the same day being “Thursday last” so I would assume that was 16th.
I have not been able to find anything else alluding to this marriage and indeed when Lydia married in 1847 she stated she was a spinster and Robert confirmed he was a bachelor when he married Jane in 1851.
Lydia was about 12 years older than Robert so perhaps she was his “cougar” of the day and they just wanted a dirty weekend away although I find it hard to believe that this was printed in a local paper and no member of either family disputed it!
It would appear that at some stage Robert started out on his own and in 1846 he was a victim of theft along with his brother in law William Algar Burton who was married to Robert’s eldest sister Elizabeth Prudence.
Bury & Norwich Post
11 March 1846
The most important cases in the calendar were those of five of the Norwich gang of thieves, who were indicted for stealing goods from Messrs W.A. Burton, R.M. Brand and F Dendy, three drapers in the town. Henry Reed, James Galer and Benjamin Howes were found guilty and sentenced to 7 years transportation. Wm Davis and Charles Ostler were acquitted.
In 1851 Robert was running his own business as a tailor and draper in Broad Row employing 8 men. His shop was just a few doors down from his parents and siblings. William and his younger son are now running the business as woollen drapers.
In the parish church of Great Yarmouth on 1 April 1851 just 2 days after the census was taken, Robert married 27 year old Jane Elizabeth Simpson the eldest daughter of William Marfrey Simpson a watch and clockmaker in the town.
At the time of their marriage Jane was already pregnant and gave birth to their first son – Robert William on 25th August 1851. Sadly he died only 6 days later on 31st and cause of death was given as diarrhoea which was certified. The death was registered by a lady by the name of Elizabeth Shingles of row 36 who said she was present when he died. According to the census of that year she was a midwife so had probably been called in to help Jane.
Within seven years, Jane would give birth to at least another 6 children starting with Alice Elizabeth on 17 July 1852, swiftly followed by Robert William on 10 October 1853, Arthur Simpson on 16 December 1854, Florence Mary came along on 15 October 1856, George Joseph on 7 April 1858 and finally, for the time being at least, our great, great grandfather William George entered the world on 29 July 1859. George Joseph would only live for five months and died on 26 September whilst the family were living at Bowling Green Walk.
Theft was not uncommon and the warren of rows enabled thieves to make a quick get a way but not all succeeded!
On the 7th June 1851 the Norfolk News reported that at the Police Court on Saturday 31st May Robert Brown was committed for trial for stealing a pair of trowsers (sic) from the shop of Mr Robert Brand, a draper of the Broad Row.
It would appear that Robert had an interest in husbandry and won prizes for his domestic chickens. Judging by newspaper reports this would continue for many years.
In 1852 he entered two competitions, both of which took place in Vauxhall Gardens.
In August he won prizes at the Vauxhall Floricultural and Horticultural Show with his Cochin China, Boulton Greys and Polish. This appears to be a competition for locals, however, later in the year in September he entered the “Yarmouth and Eastern Counties Association for Promoting the Improvement of Domestic Poultry”. He won £1 which today would be in the region of £100, for his “Polands”.
These were not every day chickens, the Poland which was also known as the Polish in some parts, is one of the oldest breeds of poultry, whereas the Cochin China had only been introduced to the UK in 1843. I cannot find anything about the Boulton Greys so it may have been called something else and this was a local name.
At the time Robert would have been living in Broad Row so I do not know where he would have kept his birds.
In 1852 Robert was witness to a robbery that took place near his shop in Broad row and the following article was reported in –
23 October 1852
Walter Self Layton was brought up charged with having stolen three pairs of worsted stockings from the shop of Mr Robins of the Broad row on Saturday night.
Mr Robins said that on Saturday night he had three pairs of worsted stockings hanging from his door, between seven and eight o’clock. He was told about eight o’clock they were gone, and soon afterwards they were brought to his shop by some young man. The stockings produced by the police were those stolen.
Mr R M Brand was standing by his shop on Saturday night when he heard a string snap, and witness saw prisoner put something under his slop and run away. Witness followed and stopped him by Johnson’s row, where something was dropped which turned out to be the stockings in question. The prisoner struggled and got away from witness.
Corba Sunman deposed to have seen the prisoner and Mr Brand run into Johnson’s row. Mr Brand asked witness to go into the row and pick something up which proved to be three pairs of worsted stockings. The prisoner said he would walk to the shop quietly, when Mr Brand left hold of him, but he immediately ran away. Witness took the stockings to Mr Robins shop and afterwards gave them to the police.
The prisoner said he was innocent of the charge but the magistrates committed him for trial at the next sessions.
On 19th April 1853 Robert’s father William Jermyn died at the age of 71. It would appear that from his will everything was left to his wife to dispose of accordingly. Whether Robert received any financial gain from his later father we do not know however, according to the Morning Chronicle published on 24 September 1853 Robert Moore (sic) Brand – Tailor and Draper had shares in the Unity Fire Insurance Assoc. It is also possible that Robert came into funds when the following was reported –
30 April 1853
Capital Business Premises to Let – Situate in Broad Row now in the occupation of R.M. Brand: a very compact shop with plate grass front.
House in good condition: The present occupier removing to larger premises, very suitable for a light fancy trader.
Particulars can be had on application to Mr R.M. Brand.
In 1855 Robert was once again a victim of theft and the following report appeared in the Norfolk News on 17th February –
“On Thursday evening, the 8th inst, a pair of trousers and a waistcoat were stolen from the shop of Mr Robert Brand, a draper, situate in the Broad Row”. This time there is no mention of the culprit so I assume they managed to get away.
In October 1855, 179 Merchants, Traders and Inhabitants of Great Yarmouth and its vicinity called for a public meeting to take place to discuss the possibility of the railway line (Yarmouth to Norwich had opened in 1844) from Yarmouth to join the East Suffolk Railway at Haddiscoe, and considered a matter of great importance and financial gain to the town.. Amongst those who put their names to the petition were Robert M Brand and his brother Henry.
The mayor, Charles John Palmer convened a public meeting of the inhabitants to take place on Friday 2nd of November at 12 0’clock noon at the Town Hall to discuss the possibility of the extension.
Eventually authority was obtained for an extension of the line which was constructed by the newly formed Yarmouth and Haddiscoe Railway and opened on 1st June 1859. By this time Robert had changed career from draper to fish merchant and must have benefited from the new line.
The following article appeared in the Norfolk News on 12th April 1856 and it would appear that Robert was throwing in the towel!
We have no way of telling why Robert took this action but can only assume that it was because he was in financial difficulties and this seems to allow him to pass over his debts without the need to be declared bankrupt. Certainly by 1858 he has changed occupations and is now running a business as a fish merchant.
A good source of tracking where your (male) ancestors may have lived is the Electoral Registers which have been taken annually since 1832 apart from 1916 & 17 and 1940-44.
In the case of Borough voters, men were eligible to vote if they were owners of property worth £10 a year. In the case of County voters, men were eligible if they either owned freehold property worth 40 shillings a year, were £10 copyholders (holding land from a manor), £10 leaseholders (as long as the lease was for 60 years or more) or were £50 tenants. Not all years are available, however, we can get a rough idea with the years we have as well as the census’s to find where Robert had lived.
Between 1846 and 1852 he is listed as having a house and shop in Broad Row and by 1853 until at least 1855 he is shown as having a house in Charlotte Street.
By 1858 we know he is now working as a fish merchant and the sheet below shows where he was living that year. (Third from bottom)
The next time I can find him is in 1885 where he is listed as having a dwelling House in Bridge Road. This would remain the same for the next few years. The last time I can find him in the register is possibly 1890 when there is a Robert Brand listed as having a dwelling house in Cemetery Road, however, this address has never appeared before or after that date for him.
The census taken on 7 April 1861 confirms that Robert is now employed as a fish merchant and he, his wife and four of their children are living in Bowling Green Walk, Yarmouth. Their eldest daughter, 8 year old Alice is visiting her aunt, Roberts sister Mary Ann and her husband George Giles and their 7 children in South Quay.
At the time of the census Jane was pregnant and would give birth to their last child as far as we are aware, on 17 October 1861 – Marian Alleyne. Sadly, Marian, who had been named after her maternal grandmother, would not reach her second birthday and died on 17 October 1863. Cause of death was given as convulsions – 3 days.
Sadly, Jane died on 1 October 1869, cause of death is given as “debility, 1 month – congestion of lungs – 48 hours”.
Robert was left to look after 5 children, Alice 17, Robert 16, Arthur 14, Florence now 11 and William just 10. I should imagine the burden of bringing up the younger children fell onto the shoulders of Alice, barely an adult herself.
By 1871, Robert and his children are living 1 Prospect Place, Caister Road and he has gone back to his original occupation and is listed as a tailor and cutter whilst Alice is employed as a milliner. Arthur and William are both at school whereas young Robert is living with his widowed aunt, Elizabeth Burton a Woollen Draper, in 96 High Street, Lowestoft where he is employed as her apprentice and 15 year old Florence is living with another aunt and uncle, Ann and William Jermyn Brand in Stokesley where she is attending school.
Robert was involved as a witness to a nasty accident which occurred near his house. Although he is only mentioned briefly I have covered the article in depth as it gives us an idea of where he lived and how close to the river his home was.
The Norwich Mercury
April 26th 1873
Loss of Two Lives
An accident at Runham on Tuesday which involved the loss of two lives.
Mr Parmenter salt and manure merchant residing on the Runham side of the river Bure, about a quarter of a mile from the Suspension Bridge and just opposite what are known as the Muck-holes, had arranged to take a day’s holiday and with his wife, child and servant attend the Great Yarmouth Spring Race Meeting.
To get better understanding of the accident a description of the spot where the casualty occurred will be necessary.
The house occupied by Mr Parmenter is situated in close proximity to the river Bure and is only separated from the river bank by a narrow roadway leading to the marshes. This road is some seven or eight feet above the level of the river at high water, and is banked up next the stream by earth faced with large flints.
Just before 2 0’clock when the tide was about to flood, Mr Parmenter had arranged to drive onto the course and his wife, child and servant were in the dog cart. Mr Parmenter having seen to the security of the child by fastening it to the rail of the cart, and was in the act of going round to take his seat in the vehicle when the horse suddenly became restive turned quite round and commenced backing towards the river only a few feet distant. Mr Parmenter seeing the danger caught the reins and endeavoured to get the horse forward but it continued backing and forced the cart and its occupants over the edge of the bank into the river. Immediately the animal found itself in the water it turned and made towards the other side of the river, where there is a sloping bank.
At the inquest Mr R M Brand deposed to having seen the horse and cart standing against Mr Parmenter’s house, the wife was seated in front and Mr Parmenter was in the act of assisting the servant up at the back of the vehicle. Witness then entered his own house which was situated not far from Mr Parmenter’s and in a minute or so he heard an alarm and on running out to ascertain the cause, he saw the horse and cart in the river and Mr and Mrs Parmenter being assisted out. The servant was picked up by a wherry man who was sailing his craft not far from the spot. Witness went on board the wherry and found the servant dead. He did his best to restore animation but life seemed extinct. He was present when the body of the child was recovered. Both bodies were landed on the Runham side of the stream.
The river was very much unprotected at that spot and witness had known an instance previously where a horse and cart belonging to Mr Bellamy had backed into the stream. Other accidents of a similar nature had also happened.
The inquest took place on Wednesday afternoon at the Suspension Bridge beer-house and the coroner made a few observations to the jury. He asked whether something could not be done to protect the river where the accident happened, which in its present state was certainly very dangerous.
Mr Royal, one of the jury said the road was vested in him and other owners of property there. He should be ready to contribute his quota with others but he was afraid the money could not be raised to put posts and palings along the bank of the river for the whole distance – three quarters of a mile. It would cost a great deal of money and there were only five or six owners who could contribute anything.
Besides, he did not think the Port and Haven Commissioners would allow anything to be put up because the road was used as a towing path. The road was eighteen feet wide where the accident happened and twenty foot in some places.
The jury returned a verdict of accidental death on 4 year old Lilian Maude Parmenter and 16 year old Jane Barnard.
Later that same year in October the Norwich Mercury reported the case of attempted suicide by a young lady called Ann Michell. At that time suicide was seen as a crime so Ann was placed in the dock and charged for this offence.
Once again one of the witnesses was Robert. The article goes on to say that “Mr RM Brand who resides in the Runham side of the river Bure said on Saturday afternoon he saw defendant walking on the other side of the river and soon after his attention was attracted by hearing a shout and looking round he saw the defendant in the river about four yards from the bank. Witness immediately ran to a boat and with assistance managed to get the woman out.
When rescued she was in a very exhausted state and quite unconscious. Medical assistance was sent for and defendant was removed to the Workhouse. The magistrates thought the defendant could not be sane and ordered her to be remanded for a week that she could be visited by a medical man and the state of her mind ascertained”.
On 21st August 1873, Robert’s father in law William Marfrey Simpson died. In his will which had been written in 1870, he left the sum of £200 (c£15k) which was to be placed in the names of his trustees for the benefit of the children of Robert Moon and Jane Elizabeth Brand. The principal sum to remain out of interest until the youngest child attained the age of 21 years. This would have been William George Brand, our great, great grandfather who was born in 1859. Robert would receive the interest as long as he remained a widower. Should he remarry the interest would be added to the principal sum with the executors and trustees and to use discretion if Robert is entitled to one half of the trust money and William gave instructions that the £50 (c£3800) for which he had acted as surety was not repaid by the time of his demise should be paid out of Roberts share (which I take to be the interest he will receive on the invested sum) and not from William’s real or personal estate.
William appears to have added a codicil in which he makes mention of having two daughters, one being Jane Elizabeth Simpson who had married Robert Moon Brand and that on 1st October 1869 she had died leaving 2 boys and 3 girls. He reiterates that £50 surety he had put up on behalf of Robert was to be paid by him and not from the estate. The sum left in trust for the children was increased to £300 (c.£22,800) and again was to be held in trust until the youngest child turned 21 years at which time the aforesaid amount was to be equally divided share and share alike. The other difference was that the interest shall be entirely at their discretion and makes no mention that Robert would be in receipt of this.
William also stressed that Robert Moon Brand should have nothing to do with my business and that when the legacy is divided amongst the survivors (i.e. the children) they alone should be in receipt.
It would appear that Robert could not be trusted with money and had borrowed quite a large sum for which his father in law acted as guarantor.
I have not yet been able to find out why he needed the money and from whom he borrowed it!
At some stage Florence returned from Stokesley and when she was 20 years old she gave birth to her first illegitimate child, Lilian Collinson born on 13 May 1876 in Runham Vauxhall. Shortly after she was pregnant again and gave birth to Frank William on 22 August 1878. Just a few weeks later on 7th October Lilian died and cause of death was recorded as “probable cause of death – Bronchitis” certified by Dr Thomas Lettis. Just over a year later Frank died of Tabes Mesenteric a form of TB, on the 30 December 1879. Both deaths were registered by Florence’s sister Alice.
By 1881 Robert is living in 11 Bure Place, Runham Vauxhall with Arthur who is a Postman, William a tailor like his father and Florence is working as a seamstress.
Robert is still showing his poultry and in the Lowestoft Journal 12 Feb 1887 there is an article reporting the Lowestoft and District Poultry Society completion that had been held on Monday 31st January 1887. The meeting was well patronized especially in the evening. By now apart from showing his birds, Robert is also on the committee.
Robert was among the principal exhibitors for poultry and won many prizes at that particular competition –
1st Prize for a beautiful black bantam cock
2nd Prize for a black and red bantam hen
Highly commended for his red hen
In the tumblers (from what I can find out, Tumblers are a variety of domestic pigeons) he got a 2nd and 3rd with a cock and a hen.
In the Antwerps (a breed of chicken) he obtained 1st with a red chequered cock.
The champion bird of the show was a bantam cock exhibited by Robert.
In 1891 it is just Robert and his daughter Florence living at 55 Maygrove Place as Arthur is already married and William was getting married on the day the census was taken on 6th April 1891.
Robert appears to have started life so well and as we know at one stage his business was substantial enough to employ 8 men. When and why it went wrong I do not know but by all accounts he seems to have been the black sheep of the family and even his own brother did not trust him with money!.
Perhaps he was a womaniser as we have the unexplained “marriage” in 1846. Having said that it was unusual for the time that as widower with a young family he didn’t marry again after Jane died, although this in part may be to do with his father in laws will which I have already covered.
Was he a gambler or drinker? After all it looked like his business was going to the wall in 1856 so perhaps he had huge debts outstanding and sold the business before it was taken from him.
In any event he certainly wasn’t “son of the month”! When Prudence died in 1870 she left her estate between seven of her eleven children. Mary Ann had pre deceased her mother and Louisa and her family were in Canada, however, both Elizabeth and Robert were omitted from the will. Elizabeth was running the family business in Lowestoft so perhaps her mother thought that was sufficient for her eldest daughter. Robert is now a widower but obviously not thought of as being responsible enough to benefit financially.
When his brother Henry died in August 1898 he was left a legacy but not without restrictions! Most of his siblings received large one off payment, however, Henry must have thought that Robert could not be trusted with this amount of money and he was left a weekly allowance instead. Furthermore, it could be withdrawn at any time! In his will Henry wrote “A sum of twelve shillings a week to my brother Robert Moon Brand for his life or until he shall attempt to change or anticipate payment and thereof in which case it is to fall into the residue of my estate”.
I assume that Robert was back on the straight and narrow although we have no way of knowing if the weekly payment was ever withdrawn.
On 27th January 1900 Robert died at 28 Maygrove Road of Bronchitis and senile decay. Florence was present at the time of death. His funeral took place on 1st February and was buried alongside his wife in Yarmouth cemetery, Section Q, Grave 159.