London silk merchant: John Cornish Rodliffe Sr (1868 - 1938)

  Eight Late Victorian Families ©2010-2017 Rosemary & Stan Rodliffe

Parents William RODLIFFE & Betsey

William RODLIFF (1836 - 1921), was the fifth son of Joseph RODLIFF and Jennifer PARKIN. He was baptised in the Bethel Chapel at Talskiddy, rather than in St Columb Church like all his brothers and sisters. He took over his father's beer shop, known in Cornwall as the kiddleywink, in Talskiddy some time in the 1850s and fell foul of the law at least once when he was "fined £2 and costs for having his house open for the sale of beer after the hour of three o'clock on the afternoon of May 22nd" [Weekly Newspaper 3rd June, 1859 & West Briton News 3rd June, 1859]. William was a wrestler and did well at St Mawgan in 1859: "The play throughout was exceedingly good, and was generally acknowledged to be the best seen here for twenty years. The prizes were eventually won as follows - First prize, Thomas H. OWL, St. Ervan; second, William RODLIFF, St. Columb; third, Francis OWL, St. Ervan; Thomas CUNDY, of St. Stephens, played (though thrown by Rodliff) in such a style as gained him much applause and a good subscription" [Weekly Newspaper 6th August, 1858 News].

William took on his father's farm in the late 1850s and went on to farm 100 acres at Rosedinnick, a small hamlet nearby Talskiddy about two miles north of St Columb Major, until the early 1900s.

He made a will in 1913 which included the following provision: "I give to my grandson William George Rodliff the marble timepiece presented to me on my retirement from the volunteers" . Presumably he must have served in the St Columb Volunteers, 'G' Company of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, which was formed about 1850. Gerald Rodliffe recalled that he was a Colour Sergeant.

William married Betsey CORNISH (1840 - 1911) in 1866. Betsey lived her early years at the Village of Gluvian St Columb Major, the elder daughter of John CORNISH and Harriet née TREBILCOCK. John was a Carpenter in 1851 and Wheelwright by 1871.

Rosedinnick family

John Cornish RODLIFFE was the second son of William RODLIFF and Betsey née CORNISH. He had five brothers and a sister Kate, who died as a child. Three of his brothers were farmers: William (1867 - 1950) at St Mawgan, Frank (1872 - 1954) at Trenoweth and George (1878 - 1954) at Rosedinnick. Harry (1874 - 1914) was a warehouseman at the time of his marriage in 1900 and went on to have a short but action-packed life.

Thomas (1875 - 1955) was a Major in the Army.

"Uncle Tom in his teens ran away from the farm without telling anyone where he was going. A few weeks later the family received a letter from him at the barracks at Bodmin where he had joined the Army. He won seven medals, including the OBE for getting munitions and supplies to the front line under fire at Galipoli, and was mentioned in despatches. In about 1923, he was in charge of a shell filling factory at Bradbury Lines Hereford (now the HQ of the SAS); there were a over a million shells at the site. He was a pipe smoker."
[Gerald Rodliffe reminiscences] {The OBE is awarded for support roles not for combat.}

Manchester warehouseman

John Cornish started work in Gatley's Draper's shop at St Columb Major being indentured to both father and son GATLEY. Family legend has it that while he was working there an "e" was added to the end of his surname because one of the Gatleys thought that his signature looked unfinished without! We don't know whether or not he finished his apprenticeship but he went to work in the silk trade in London at 22 St Paul's Churchyard. [This story is probably apocryphal because there are numerous records of the family name being spelt with an 'e' before this time.]

By 1891 he was a warehouseman employed by Messrs Cook Son & Co Ltd, wholesale Manchester warehousemen and textile dealers in the City of London. He lived with over two hundred of his fellow employees from all parts of the country in lodgings owned by the company at 16, 18 & 20 Stamford Street, Christchurch Southwark. The company was one of the largest English wholesale clothing traders and drapers of the late 19th century and early 20th century. The firm was created by William COOK in 1819 and moved to St Paul's Church Yard in 1843. After William died in 1869 his son, Francis COOK, was head of the firm until his death in 1901. The company concentrated on warehousing and distribution rather than manufacturing. It employed commercial travellers who exploited the recently built railway network to make sales by visiting retailers with samples of the products. This was the business model which was to inspire John Cornish when he left St Paul's Churchyard in January 1902 to set up in business on his own as John C. Rodliffe in offices at 33 Old Change. A few friends at 22 St Paul's Churchyard presented him with a fine clock as a parting gift. His business prospered and by the 1920's he was employing his three sons.

33-34 Old Change 1891

Illustration of 33-34 Old Change in 1891, a few years before John C set up business here as John C Rodliffe in 1902.

Family man

William, Betsey, John Cornish and Lilian RODLIFFE

John Cornish RODLIFFE, known as Uncle Jack to his nephews and probably to the rest of the family, shown here in about 1900 with parents William RODLIFF and Betsey née CORNISH and wife Lilian née RICKARD.

John Cornish Rodliffe family around 1914

Flo here is a very young baby so the photo was probably taken very near outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Just 4 years later John C Jr back left would join the army aged 18. John C Sr holding Bet, Lilian with Aunty Flo on her lap, Stan far right, Dick in the middle, May at the back and Doris far left.

"Uncle Jack and Aunt Lily regularly came to Cornwall for their summer holidays. Hiring a wagonette, drawn by was it two horses, Uncle and Aunty seated up front with the younger members inside along the sides. They would come to afternoon tea and in turn would visit Rosedinnick and Trenoweth."
[Geoff Rodliffe reminiscences]

While waiting on Par station (the junction for the Newquay branch line which runs through St Columb Road) during a visit to his parents at Rosedinnick John C met Lilian RICKARD, presumably while she was on a visit to her grandparents at St Columb. He was still working as a warehouseman for Cook Son & Co when they married in 1899 and went to live at 'Rosedinnick', 27 Victoria Terrace, Mount Pleasant Road, Tottenham, less grandly known as 1 Bruce Villas, where John Cornish Jr was born in 1900.

Mount Pleasant Road was rapidly extending northwards in the late 1890s and in 1901, before he left Cooks, John C invested in property letting several eight room properties on the nearby Bruce Castle Estate at annual rents from £30. It seems unlikely that he had saved sufficient money for their purchase while working as a warehouseman so perhaps the funds came from his father or as a dowry from Lilian's father.

Bruce Castle Estate 1901

Four more children were born at 1 Bruce Villas: (Lilian) May in 1904, (William) Stan(ley) in 1906, (Margaret) Doris in 1908 and (Richard Leslie) Dick in 1910. Around 1911 the family moved to 70 Filey Avenue, Stamford Hill where (Sylvia Bessie) Bet was born in 1912 and Flo(rence) Muriel in 1913. The family moved around 1915, presumably to accommodate the needs of a growing family, to 27 Fountayne Road, Stoke Newington where they lived until 1929. In 1930 they moved yet again to Trenance, Broad Walk, Winchmore Hill.

John C Jr had married in 1924 but the rest of the family were still living at Trenance in 1936. John C, Lilian and the four girls probably moved to Clacton-on-Sea soon after.

"John bought the girls, Aunties May, Flo and Doris, a hotel to run - Lyncroft, Southcliff Park, Clacton. [William Stanley had suffered from peritonitis in 1935. Aunty Bet suffered similar symptoms but doctors diagnosed a sympathetic response. She collapsed from peritonitis on a visit to Covent Garden Opera House and never fully recovered.] Frank and Eric HUGHES both worked at Barclays Bank in Clacton and boarded at Lyncroft. Their parents lived at Shenfield, Essex. Both couples married in 1939 - elder boy marrying younger girl and vice versa."
[Hilda Rodliffe reminiscences - one minor inconsistency in marriage date for Flo - late 1938 not 1939]

Lyncroft number 2 Southcliff Park, was a detached property; it was probably more like a boarding house than a hotel. John C died in 1938 and was buried in Clacton Cemetery. There is a nice report of Flo's wedding in The Chelmsford Chronicle of 14 October 1938, which notes that the honeymoon would be spent touring in France and Switzerland (perhaps overshadowed by the gathering storm clouds of World War 2?) The 1939 Register has the newlyweds living at Lyncroft, 2 Southcliff Park while widowed Lilian, with daughters Doris and Bet, was at 27 Southcliff Park where she lived until her death in 1952.