HAMPSON, Watford, late 19th Century

June, 2004

John Markham (john.markham @t of Whitchurch, Hampshire, writes: I have just discovered that an ancestor of mine was a Grocer in Watford. Jonah Hampson and family lived at 260 High Street, Watford (1881 & 1901 census). I wondered if you could suggest any trade directories or where I might find old photos that might show their shop and or staff.

If one is to find any photographs that show the shop the first thing to do is to locate the shop in the High Street, and I turned to the 1881 census (and I reproduce the entry for 260 High Street for other readers).

 Name  Relation Age Birthplace Occupation
 Jonah HAMPSON   Head   39   Wednesbury, Staffs   Grocer 
 Emma HAMPSON   Wife   41   Hitchen   
 Fredrick HAMPSON   Son   14   Birmingham    
 Rosie HAMPSON   Daur   10   Shepherds Bush, Middx   Scholar 
 Amy HAMPSON   Daur   6   Watford   Scholar 
 Harold HAMPSON   Son   2   Watford    
 Jane SHARMAN   Serv   15   Whitwell   Domestic Servant 

A check of the neighbours indicates that its near neighbours included people living in Grove Place and the Old Tan Yard, neither of which are mentioned in Street and Place Names in Watford. However they are marked on the map circa 1850 in The Book of Watford (2nd edition). 

This shows that the Hampson grocer's shop was in the Lower High Street, close to the Watford Mill and the River Colne. This area is well away from the Market Place and the central part of the High Street - so is less likely to appear in early 19th century postcards. However the closeness to the river suggest that it must be in the part of the High Street susceptible to flooding - and I knew that there are photographs of the floods. I turned to a supplement Watford at the turn of the century and found the following photograph:

Horse-drawn bus in Lower High Street, Watford

The public house on the left is the Angel (255 High Street) and the Hampson shop would have been somewhere on the other side of the road - although I cannot identify individual properties. Henry Williams' 1884 History of Watford and Trade Directory includes a description of the flood of 1878 which is particularly relevant to your question:

... The greatest sufferer by this flood was Mr. King, corn merchant; the water entered his granaries and spoilt a large quantity of corn, and washed down the brick wall at the bottom of his garden. He estimated his loss at about 300. Mr. Hampson, grocer, was also a considerable sufferer, the goods in his cellar being spoiled by the water. At Sedgwick's brewery, it filled the underground stores and submerged many barrels of beer ...

OK - so Mr Hampson's shop was at the lower, wetter and poorer end of the High Street. Kelly's Hertfordshire directory lists him in 1882 and 1890 but not 1912 (I have not looked at other years). He is not listed in the 1884 History of Watford and Trade Directory or the Illustrated Descriptive Commercial Watford Directory of 1891- but both these would only appear to include those who paid for adverts, and one would not expect a grocer from the poorer part of town to advertise in such publications.

Using the above as a starting point your next step should be to visit the Watford Central Library. It has an excellent local studies library with a comprehensive collection of Watford directories, many old photographs, microfilms of the local newspaper, etc.

February, 2007

Sandra Smith (sansilk at reports that Jonah was born 1841 at St. Bartholmew, Wednesbury and is listed in the 1841 census.  He was the son of Edward Hampson and Mary Spooner. He was baptised in 1849 with his sisters Mary-Ann and Sidona.  Distant cousins in Wednesbury and Australia have been searching for information.

August, 2007

Floods in the Lower High Street

watford-event-flood-1903 watford-event-flood-high-st-1903 watford-event-storm-high-st-1907

There is a web page for Watford

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


Page updated August 2007