#52Ancestors52Weeks: DNA – Tailoring must be in my family DNA, we come from a long line of tailors. Here’s the story of my 3 times great-grandfather Adrian Newth, a master tailor from Southwark, London, told in his own words as his memoir, reflecting on his life across the decades.
The Newth residence at 4 Bermondsey Square is a hub of activity, filled with the laughter and cries of children. Adrian, nearing the end of his life, is content watching his family thrive. However, when he learns about his deteriorating health, he decides to document his life and his legacy.
Chapter 1: “A Stitch in Time: The Early Years in Dursley”
As I pen down the journey of my life, I am transported back to my birthplace, Dursley, Gloucestershire. I was born on the 5th of April, 1790, to loving parents who instilled in me the values of hard work and integrity. My baptism in the local church marked the beginning of a journey that led me to the bustling city of London. I am the middle child in a family of eight children born to Adrian and Sarah Newth (Watkins).
On Christmas Day in 1815, I married my first love, Mary Mansfield, in Newington, St. Mary. Those were the years of youthful dreams and ambitions when life seemed like an endless horizon waiting to be explored. However, fate had its plans, and my journey with Mary was cut short, leaving behind a void that was hard to fill. I am but grateful for our daughter Mary Ann, born in 1819, who is just like her mother and my pride and joy. Also for my daughter Sarah. The death of our young Adrian was a massive shock to us all – he passed away at the age of 12 months.
Chapter 2: “A Second Stitch: New Love and New Beginnings”
The year 1831 brought with it a new chapter in my life. I found love again in Mary Ann Balls, and we were married in the early days of January. Her strength and resilience became my guiding light, helping me navigate the ebbs and flows of life.
The birth of our son John Adrian, in 1835, brought immeasurable joy and purpose to my life. His birth was a testament to our love and a promise of a legacy that would carry our name forwards.
In 1839 I remember how it felt giving evidence in a trial at the Old Bailey against Thomas Jones, a former lodger, who feloniously forced an acceptance of a bill of exchange. I remember the day like it was yesterday. I learned a hard lesson that year – my trust in people was sadly shaken. However, I did petition the court for leniency for this poor one-legged man. I thought he would not be useful to the colony if he was transported as a convict. Sadly, this was to no avail as Thomas Jones was sentenced to seven years of transportation.
(Further revelations from the County Court https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C16950032 )
Chapter 3: “The Fabric of Life: A Master Tailor in Southwark”
The year 1851 marked a significant milestone in my career. I was a Master Tailor in Saint Saviour, Southwark, leading a team of assistant tailors. Each one of them – James Newton, William Bayles, Robert Farlar, John Trotman, and Henry Stevens – brought their unique skills and personalities to the table, creating a symphony of craftsmanship that was a joy to lead.
- John Newth: At 16, John has taken up an active role in the family business as an Assistant Tailor. He’s matured into a responsible and ambitious young man, eager to prove his worth and step out of his father’s shadow. He’s the bridge between the older and younger generation in the shop, respected by all.
- Sarah Brothers: Adrian’s 20-year-old niece from Dewsbury, Gloucestershire, Sarah is the house servant. Kind-hearted and hardworking, she is a source of comfort and support for the family. She shares a close bond with John, acting as his confidant and guiding light.
- James Newton: A 27-year-old Assistant Tailor from Exeter, Devon. James is a dedicated and talented tailor, though he often dreams of a life beyond tailoring. He has a cheerful personality and a quick wit, adding a light-hearted touch to the otherwise serious workspace.
- William Bayles: At just 9 years old, William is the youngest Assistant Tailor in the shop. He’s a quick learner and shows potential. He idolizes Adrian and sees him as a father figure. However, being the youngest, he often feels the pressure to prove himself.
- Robert Farlar: A 44-year-old Assistant Tailor from Dewsbury, Gloucestershire. Robert is a seasoned tailor and a loyal employee. He’s seen the business grow from a small shop to a prosperous one. He’s reliable, serious, and dedicated to his craft.
- John Trotman: Also from Dewsbury, Gloucestershire, John Trotman, at 40, is another experienced Assistant Tailor. John is quiet and introverted, with a mysterious past that he seldom talks about. He’s immensely skilled and takes pride in his work.
- Henry Stevens: A 50-year-old Draper’s Porter from London, Middlesex. Henry is the backbone of the shop, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. He’s seen the highs and lows of the business and remains a steady constant amidst the change. He’s loyal, and dependable, and provides comic relief with his humorous anecdotes.
Chapter 4: “Seams and Dreams: The Tapestry of Family Life”
As the years passed, our home in Southwark evolved into a vibrant tapestry of family life. I watched my children grow, their personalities blossoming under the love and guidance of their mother, Mary Ann. The sounds of laughter, dreams, and the occasional argument painted a picture of a loving, close-knit family in our home.
In 1851, the tailoring shop is a hub of activity. With the Industrial Revolution in full swing, competition is fierce. I had found it challenging; especially in juggling the responsibilities of running a business, training young John, and managing this skilled yet diverse team of tailors.
When a high-profile client offers a lucrative contract to the shop, it brings a wave of excitement, but also a new set of challenges. The tailors must put aside their differences and work together to fulfill the order. In the process, they uncover secrets about each other and themselves, testing their bonds of friendship, loyalty, and family.
In the heart of the bustling city of London during the 1850s, the life of a tailor was both demanding and rewarding. Amid the clatter of carriage wheels on cobblestones and the lively cacophony of market cries, tailors painstakingly crafted garments that were as much a work of art as they were a necessity. Tailoring was a respected profession, requiring a keen eye for detail, dexterous hands, and an understanding of the prevailing fashions.
Meanwhile, John must step up and prove his skills as a tailor. His journey is one of self-discovery, growth, and coming-of-age. Amidst the trials and tribulations, the Newth household and our dedicated employees discover that their real strength lies not in their craft, but in their shared values and unshakeable unity.
My tale is one of resilience, ambition, and the enduring power of community. It’s a testament to the strength of the human spirit, stitched together with the threads of love, friendship, and shared dreams.
The tailor’s workshop, often referred to as a ‘sweatshop’, was a hive of activity. Here, tailors, apprentices, and seamstresses worked in close quarters, amidst piles of fabric, skeins of thread, and the constant hum of conversation and instruction. Despite the long hours and sometimes challenging working conditions, the sense of satisfaction in creating a well-fitted, beautifully crafted garment was a reward in itself. The tailor’s skill was a vital thread in the rich tapestry of life in 1850s London.
Chapter 5: “The Business of Threads: Trials and Triumphs”
By 1861, my days as a tailor had come to an end. Peace and reflection characterized the final years of my life. My wife, Mary Ann, and I found solace and companionship in each other and in our boarder, Martha Lloyd. Life was quieter but equally rich, filled with shared memories and experiences.
I am now retired at the age of 70, living a quiet life in St Olave, Southwark, with Mary Ann, and our boarder, Martha Lloyd. My life has been a tapestry of numerous experiences and as I reach the winter of my life, I indulge in reflections of the past, unraveling mysteries, and passing on my legacy.
Once a bustling tailor and business owner, I now spend my days reminiscing about my past. I do continue to be the pillar of this family and my wisdom, has been shaped by my experiences. Retirement doesn’t suit me well, and I still yearn for the hustle and bustle of his tailoring days.
Mary Ann, now 71, stands as a pillar of support for me. She has been my confidant and partner, sharing my joys and sorrows. Her strength and resilience have not waned with age. Instead, she’s become the heart of our home, keeping me grounded and our life together running smoothly.
Martha Lloyd, 72 years old, a woman with a past shrouded in mystery. She’s a boarder in the Newth residence, but over time, she’s become part of their family. Despite her age, Martha has a youthful spirit and a sharp wit that livens up the household.
While Adrian is engrossed in his writing, Martha falls ill. Mary Ann, ever the caregiver, steps up to nurse her back to health. As she cares for Martha, she learns about Martha’s past and the secrets she’s held onto for years.
Martha, once a successful businesswoman, had lost everything due to a series of unfortunate events. Her story resonates with Adrian, reminding him of his humble beginnings and the struggles he faced. Adrian decides to honor Martha’s fortitude and strength by including her story in his memoir.
While Adrian begins his memoir, John struggles with managing the tailoring business at 187 Grange Road, Bermondsey. He faces modernisation challenges, and he must adapt to survive.
As he navigates this challenge, he leans on his father’s wisdom and guidance. Adrian’s vast knowledge of tailoring is young John’s biggest asset and he values his advice based on his experience. For men’s tailoring, the cut was of utmost importance. The 1850s saw the popularity of fitted coats, typically designed with notched lapels, a single-breasted front, and a distinct waist seam. Trousers were tailored to fit snugly around the waist and hips, gradually loosening towards the ankles. The craft required a tailor to take precise measurements, meticulously cut the fabric, and then assemble the pieces with a series of complex stitches and seams.
Chapter 6: “The Fruits of Our Love: The Newth Grandchildren”
The year is 1871. Adrian Newth, now 80 years old, lives in his house at 4 Bermondsey Square with his wife, Mary A. Newth, his son John A. Newth, his daughter Mary A. Newth, and a bustling group of grandchildren. His niece, Elizabeth Penchin, also resides with them.
Meanwhile, the children, especially the older ones, start to understand the gravity of their grandfather’s health. They begin to appreciate his stories more, realizing that they are not just tales of the past, but lessons for the future.
- Adrian Newth: The patriarch of the family, Adrian’s age has not diminished his spirit. He’s the glue that holds the family together, a repository of stories and wisdom. He’s still very much involved in the lives of his family members, guiding them with his experiences and wisdom.
- Mary A. Newth: Now 80, Mary A. Newth is the matriarch of the family. She is a beacon of strength and love for her children and grandchildren. She is well-respected and loved by all, and her wisdom and care keep the household running smoothly.
- John A. Newth: John, now 36, is a mirror image of his father in his younger days. He has taken over his father’s tailoring business and built it into a thriving modern service by keeping up-to-date with tailoring trends.
- Mary A. Newth (Daughter): Mary A. Newth, also 36, is the embodiment of her mother’s strength and resilience. She is a source of support for her brother and helps look after her nieces and nephews. (She is the link to my Allery Tribe of Tailors as she married William Allery in
- Mary A. Newth (Granddaughter): At 12, she’s the oldest of the grandchildren. Named after her grandmother, she exhibits leadership qualities and takes care of her younger siblings and cousins.
- Adrian Newth (Grandson): At 10, Adrian is adventurous and curious, much like his grandfather was at his age. He’s close to his grandfather, often listening to his stories and learning from his wisdom. He was named after his grandfather and his uncle who died as a small infant.
- John A. Newth (Grandson): The 8-year-old John is the quieter one, observant and thoughtful. He’s particularly close to his uncle, John, and shows an interest in tailoring.
- Susannah J. Newth: Susannah, 5, is the free spirit in the family, always finding joy and bringing laughter into their lives.
- Lucy E. Newth: Lucy, 3, is the quiet and shy one in the family. She’s particularly close to her grandmother, often seen by her side.
- Alice A. Newth: The youngest in the family, 1-year-old Alice, brings joy and hope to the family. She’s the apple of everyone’s eye.
- Elizabeth Penchin: Elizabeth, at 56, is Mary’s niece. She’s a constant presence in the house, assisting Mary and looking after the children.
Chapter 7: “Twilight Threads: The Golden Years”
The story is a poignant look at the cyclical nature of life, the inevitability of change, and the enduring power of family. It’s about passing on wisdom and learning from the past, while also adapting to the changes that time brings.
The grandchildren, especially Mary and young Adrian, become more involved in their grandfather’s project, helping him compile his memoir. They become the link between the past and the future, taking the responsibility of carrying forward their grandfather’s legacy.
Mary A. Newth, Adrian’s grand-daughter, grapples with her own challenges. With her grandfather’s health declining and her father struggling with the business, she steps up to help keep their family stable. She begins to understand the weight of her mother’s role in the family and appreciates her more.
Elizabeth Penchin, witnessing the struggles and growth of the family, decides to write letters to her own distant children, mending strained relationships, and reminding them of the value of family. Elizabeth becomes a mentor for young Mary Ann.
Chapter 8: “The Penultimate Stitch: Adrian’s 81st Birthday”
As the story reaches its climax, the family comes together to celebrate Adrian’s 81st birthday, not knowing it would be his last. The celebration on April 5 is bittersweet, filled with laughter, tears, stories, and most importantly, love.
Adrian Newth died on 28 April 1874. His probate record is displayed below. (Surprisingly little wealth at the end of his life after being a prosperous master tailor.)
Chapter 9: “The Final Knot: Reflections on Life and Legacy”
After Adrian’s passing, the family is devastated but they find strength in each other and in the tailoring legacy Adrian left behind. His memoir serves as a guiding light for them, providing comfort and wisdom in their times of need. His stories live on in his family, and his values are reflected in their actions.
The house at 4 Bermondsey Square, once bustling with the sounds of a thriving tailoring business, transforms into a sanctuary of memories, a testament to a life well-lived. It remains a place of gathering for the Newth family, a symbol of their unity, strength, and enduring love.
Adrian’s eldest daughter, Mary Newth married my 2 times great-grandfather William Allery, another tailor, on 27 Oct 1842 at St Mary`s, Newington, London, Surrey.
“The Threads That Bind: Newth’s Legacy” is a story of love, resilience, and legacy. It showcases the power of family bonds and the importance of remembering and honoring our past while embracing the future.
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