Gas Engineer's daughter: Lilian RICKARD (1875 - 1952)

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

Lilian's father: Richard Thomas RICKARD (1828 - 1915)

Richard Thomas RICKARD was born in 1828 at St Columb Minor in Cornwall, the son of Richard RICKARD and Mary née COOK. He signed his name 'R Thomas RICKARD' some time in his life, was recorded as Thomas in the 1851 Census but as Richard in the 1901 census. Perhaps family called him Thomas in order to distinguish him from his father.

Father Richard was a farmer at Quinterl Downs; farming about 25 acres in 1871. Thomas had nine brothers and sisters, of whom Phillippa (18), Elizabeth Ann (9), Susan (7), Felix (4) and Israel (2) were still living at home in 1851.

By 1881 most of the family were engaged in farming. Israel was on 400 acres at Denzle with his sister Elizabeth Anne keeping house. Felix was on 100 acres at Colan Up-on-the-Hill with widowed sister Susan keeping house, her son George Herbert Rickard VIVIAN (17) working on the farm, and living with them a niece, Susan BLACKMORE (13) born in London, who was still at school.

Brother Jonathan had been to London to work as an Engineer but by 1881 he was widowed, farming 60 acres at Treviddick Hall, St Columb Major, and living with his sons William Jonathan (16) born in London, and Felix Jay (12) born at St Columb Minor. His housekeeper was niece Mary Anna, Thomas' daughter by his first marriage. His widowed mother Mary was also living with him, father Richard having died in 1877.

Father's first marriage

Thomas was living at 27 Oval Cottages, Hackney Road, Bethnal Green in London in 1859 when he married Mary Jane NORTHCOTT, a farmer's daughter from St Mewan in Cornwall. Their son, Richard Thomas, was born at this same address just over 9 months later. Daughter Mary Anna was born in 1861 and son William Joseph in 1863. Thomas' son William died in 1866 and a year later wife Mary Jane died; both were buried in Victoria Park Cemetery, Hackney.

Thomas married for a second time in 1870 and by 1871 both children by his first marriage were back in Cornwall living with their grandparents Richard and Mary RICKARD at St Columb Minor.

Thomas' surviving son was known as Richard later in life. By 1881 he was an engine driver married to Maria and living at 128 Empson Street Bromley Middlesex. Empson Street is very close to Three Mill Lane where Thomas was living at the time and it is possible that Richard worked for the same gas company. By 1891 he was a boiler rivetter, living at 129 Pownall Road and had a daughter Mabel A, aged 6. The address is the same as that at which Thomas had lived ten years earlier, close by the Shoreditch gas works. The relevance of the occupation and the proximity to the works suggest that he did work for the same gas company as his father.

Gas holder engineer

We were always told that great grandpa RICKARD built gas holders. Certainly in the 1860's and 1870's he recorded his occupation as a gas engineer. He styled himself a "Gas Holder Builder" on the birth certificate for his youngest daughter Elizabeth Ann in 1881. By the time of Lilian's marriage in 1899 he was describing himself simply as engineer although he recorded himself as "Foreman Gasholder Builder" in the 1901 census.

Sylvia and Marjorie CHYNOWETH, Lilian's nieces, recall that he "travelled around", "inspected gas holders" and "once went to Sheringham", although they must have heard this from their mother Bessie or grandmother Margaret since Thomas died about a week after Sylvia was born. They also have a photograph of a gas holder which is probably a memento from Thomas' career.

Thomas' London addresses are, without exception, close to works of the Imperial Gas Company so it is most likely that this is the company for which he worked. The company remained independent until 1876 and then merged with the Gas Light & Coke Co. - the first and largest in the world at that time!

The Ordnance Survey map of Shoreditch 1872 shows three gas sites in the vicinity, all served by the Regents Canal. The one operated by the Independent had retort house and gas holders. The other two were operated by the Imperial: retort houses and some gas holders at the site by Great Cambridge Street which has Haggerston Basin alongside; the other had gas holders only and was closer to Hackney Road. There were three gas holders shown in 1872 ; today there are four, with the fourth having been built over the dock which was presumably no longer required when Haggerston Basin was built alongside the site with the retort houses. As seen from the following table, it seems most likely that he worked for the Imperial.

Year Event Address Nearby gasworks
Marriage to Mary Jane NORTHCOTT
Birth of Richard Thomas
27 Oval Cottages, Hackney Road, Bethnal Green Shoreditch - Imperial
Haggerston - Independent
1861 Census 38 Pownall Road, Shoreditch Shoreditch - Imperial
Haggerston - Independent
1870 Marriage to Margaret LOVICK 22 Edmund Street, Pancras Pancras - Imperial
1870 Birth of first Lilian 127 Pownall Road, Haggerstone Shoreditch - Imperial
Haggerston - Independent
1871 Census Harwood Terrace, Fulham Fulham - Imperial
Birth of James George
Birth of Susan Margaret
Birth of Lilian
13 Three Mill Lane, Bromley Bow Bromley - Imperial
1881 Census
Birth of Elizabeth Ann
129 Pownall Road, Shoreditch Shoreditch - Imperial
Haggerston - Independent
1899 Lilian marries John Cornish RODLIFFE 10 Manor Place, Dalston -

So how did Richard Thomas RICKARD, a twenty three year old Farmer's Son at St Columb in 1851, become a Gas Holder Engineer at Pancras in London by 1858? And was he a fully qualified Engineer? He is not listed in available records of the Imperial Gas Co. (Appointments & Emoluments of Officers of IGL&CC ); nor in the membership lists recorded in The Gas Institute Transactions between 1883 and 1890; nor the lists of members in The Incorporated Institution of Gas Engineers between 1893 and 1900; nor in any record of patents in The Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply & Sanitary Improvement from 1860 to 1890. However, many Gas Engineers before 1863 belonged to the Institution of Civil Engineers; since we have not yet undertaken a search of their records, it is not impossible that he was a qualified Engineer.

Some idea of the scale of gasholders on which Richard Thomas would have worked can be gained from The Illustrated London News, 27 November 1858 which published an article about the large gasholder nearing completion at the Imperial Gas Company's works at Bethnal Green. About 200 ft in diameter and around 80 ft high the structure had a capacity of 2,500,000 cubic ft.

If Thomas had returned to Pownall Road as early as 1878, he might have been involved in a sad story which was reported in The Borough of Hackney Express and Shoreditch Observer March 9 1878 and later in The Journal of Gas Lighting, Water Supply & Sanitary Improvement Vol 31 Mar 12 1878 page 392 :

"Fatal Accident at the Shoreditch Gas-Works. - A sad accident occurred on Monday morning, Mar 4, at the Shoreditch Station of The Gaslight and Coke Company. Messrs. C. and W. Walker are erecting a large gasholder at this station, and one of their workmen, named Hawkes, who, with his father, was rivetting at the time, fell from the top girder of the guide frame to the bottom of the tank, a distance of nearly 120 feet, and was killed. In the fall the poor man came in contact with the edge of the side sheets, cutting one arm completely off. Mr. Clark, the Engineer, the Company's Surgeon, and also the Contractor's Manager, were promptly at the scene of the accident, but, of course, were of no avail; death must have been instantaneous. At the inquest on Wednesday last, the Jury returned a verdict of 'Accidental death'."

Father's second marriage, to Margaret LOVICK

Margaret Lovick

Margaret was born in 1843 at Trowse Newton, Norwich in Norfolk, the daughter of John LOVICK and Mary nee ASKER. John was a farmer's labourer when Margaret was born but recorded as a farmer on her marriage certificate. In 1851 Margaret aged 7 was living at 20 Church Row St Pancras with her aunt Margaret SMITH (48) née LOVICK and her uncle James SMITH (48) who was a valveman at the Imperial Gas works. Ten years later Margaret was living at 22 Edmund street, Pancras with her aunt and uncle. James SMITH is now a labourer at the gas works, Margaret LOVICK and her aunt are both laundresses. It seems that Richard Thomas RICKARD must have begun lodging with the SMITHs in the 1860s because the address he gave when he married Margaret LOVICK was 22 Edmund Street.

Lilian's brother and sisters

Margaret's first child, a daughter, Lilian, was lost soon after birth in 1870. However, James George arrived in 1872 and Susan Margaret in 1874; then our Lilian in 1875; and finally Elizabeth Ann in 1881.

Susan Margaret (Aunty Sue) and Elizabeth Ann (Aunty Bessie) married brothers John and Harry (Samuel Henry) CHYNOWETH who farmed in Essex. Harry and Bessie had daughters Sylvia and Marjorie; John and Sue had a son Jack (John) who died aged 17 months. James George (Uncle Jim) never married but was much loved by his many nephews and nieces.

Parents' last years at Abbess Roding

Thomas and Margaret spent their last years living at Abbess Hall Farm, Abbess Roding with daughter Sue and her husband John CHYNOWETH. Their daughter Bessie lived nearby at Roding Hall, High Roding, with husband Harry and daughters Sylvia and Marjorie.

Thomas died in 1915 within a week or so of Sylvia CHYNOWETH's birth on 19th May - "he held on to hear of Sylvia's birth". Margaret died in 1926. Thomas, Margaret, Sue and "baby Jack" are all buried at Abbess Roding in the churchyard. The headstones are still standing: a Celtic cross on a stone pillar about seven feet high; and a separate small stone and cross for "Baby Jack".