CANNON and PEARCE, St Albans, early 20th century

August, 2003

Ruth Lowden (ruthlowden @t of Penrith, Cumbria, writes: Rose was daughter of Joshua Pearce who owned the Sugar Loaf George St - very wealthy. Edward and Rose were 1st cousins, he was poor.   Am trying to find out why, in St Albans in about 1920-25 they had to make an overnight move from a very large house with servants to a small two up two down in a poor part of town.   Their daughter born 1905 could not accept the change and went off the rails.   The whole affair was never talked about.  Your help would be very much appreciated.

You don't say much about the people, so I quickly looked for Joshua Pearce/Pierce,  and Edward Cannon on the 1881 and 1901 censuses. As the data is available online I will not repeat it here. I also checked a number of Kelly's Directories for Hertfordshire.

As your question probably relates to financial status it is appropriate to summarise what I found. Looking first at Joshua, he lived and worked at 22 George Street, and is variously described as a publican, beer retailer, furniture and marine stores dealer. The property is seldom explicitly described as the Sugar Loaf, which suggests it was well down the scale compared with the other inns and public houses in St Albans. The 1881 census shows 7 lodgers (mostly clearly working class) and no resident servants - suggesting that the family personally provided for the lodgers. It was probably operating as a common lodging house. (see ALDRIDGE, Fishpool Street, St Albans, 19th century.) Definitely this was not the household of someone who was "very wealthy" by the standards on late 19th century St Albans although Joshua may well have been comfortably off (in terms of cash flow) at a time when many people had to struggle to make ends meet.

Edward Cannon, in the 1901 census, is described as a house painter, I have not found any reference to him in the Kelly's Hertfordshire Directories for 1912 and 1922, and if he was still a house painter I would not expect him to be listed. (He may well be listed in the St Albans Street Directories of the period - but this would mean someone visiting the St Albans Central Library.) Because you haven't supplied the addresses I cannot comment on their status.

As to the cause of the move to a smaller house it is unlikely that there will  be any clear evidence. If Edward had been sent to prison, or gone bankrupt, or been involved in a spectacular accident there might be something in a newspaper. However, if you consider a wider date range than you give there are a number of possibilities which might be relevant - and in most cases may not be documented.

I have a similar but earlier problem related to St Albans. George Washington Gibbs set up a printing, etc., business in a shop at the base of the Clock Tower in 1824. By 1829 he had left the area and ended up working in Liverpool docks as a landing waiter. Oh the shame of it - the only member of the family who was not self-employed. But what happened? We almost certainly will never know because if there were financial difficulties the family would have covered it up (with no publicity) and dispatched him out of the area, to avoid embarrassment.

There is a web page for St Albans and another listing the 19th century pubs

If you can add to the information given above tell me.