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Brentford Families - Walter PearceIf you have an old Brentford postcard you may find it was published by Walter Pearce & Co., St George's Press, The Butts, Brentford. Or ypu may have looked inside Fred Turner's History and Antiquities of Brentford published in 1922 and found the front plate inscribed: Printed by the successors of the Norbury Press Walter Pearce & Co St Georges Press The Butts. So who was Walter Pearce and was he related to the other local Pearce families already researched?
The 1939 Register shows Walter Pearce living at 17 The Butts, master printer, date of birth 2 March 1881 and he was widowed. Living at the same address was Lilian E Flatt, unmarried 'domestic help', born 3 January 1898. The 1951 electoral register shows Walter and Lilian at the same address. Working backwards...
1911 census, 49 Church Road, Hanwell:
FreeBMD shows Walter Pearce married May Beatrice Stallabrass in the April-June quarter of 1909 (Brentford Registration District). Ancestry includes the original register entry which provides more detail:
Thomas Stallabrass crops up several times on this site, being involved in local politics; search on the home page to find out more.
The 1911 census describes Walter as an employer and this is borne out by adverts placed around this time: he first advertised for a 'Smart improver for platens' in February 1911, a 'good opportunity for first class work' at 'Walter Pearce & Co., St George's Press, Brentford'. This advert may not have drawn anyone as the following month he advertised again for a 'good platen hand wanted at once'.
From the information uncovered so far there is no evidence to link Walter to the Brentford Pearce families, although his father's work as a Wesleyan clergyman appears to have resulted in the family moving around. Also the presence of a Sarah Perace as witness to Walter's marriage suggests he had at least one relative who lived locally. A search of the 1881 census for James Pearce, including 'Wesleyan' found a promising family living at 38 Russell Street, Keighley, Yorkshire:
James Pearce, head, mar, 37, Wesleyan Minister, bn Sleaford Lincs
If Walter's birthdate was 2 March 1881 he should feature in the 1881 census which took place four weeks later, April 3 1881. There is no birth registration of Walter Pearce that matches the 1881 birth date but there are two in the Huddersfield Registration District in 1882: in April-June and July-September. Assuming Walter was correct about the day and month of his birth, the April-June 1882 registration seems most likely.
The 1891 census confirms the family found in 1881 is the correct one, including Walter aged 9. The family had moved again and were living at Rose Farm, Sway, Hampshire:
Diana Hester Pearce, wife, mar, 46, Living on own means, bn Hay Breconshire
The census does not include James Pearce; Diana described herself as' Wife' not 'widow' suggesting he was alive but not at home on the census night.
Ten years on and the 1901 census explains how Walter came to be in Brentford: his family had moved to 13, The Butts.
Ella M Pearce, head, unm, 28, bn Hay Breconshire
I guessed that Sarah Gresty might become Sarah Pearce, the 1909 marriage witness, and a marriage in Nantwich April-June 1902 shows this was the case: Harold Pearce to Sarah Anne Gresty. It seems the couple married in Sarah's home parish as the 1911 census shows they had moved back to Middlesex: Harold was living at 4 Park Crescent, Church End, Finchley. Living with him was his daughter Margaret Sarah Beavan Pearce, age 2, born Brentford. His wife was not present - perhaps a second child was imminent or recently born - but the household included Ethel Gresty, a visitor age 28 and a servant. The house had seven rooms, suggesting Harold's work as a physicist for a scientfic instruments manufacturer was paying well.
Returning to Walter Pearce the printer, did he produce an heir? The 1911 census shows the couple had lost a child and this may be Walter T J Pearce, whose birth and death were registered in the July-September quarter 1910 in Brentford. But did Walter and May have any children later? FreeBMD shows two Pearce baby births were registered 1911-1930 in Brentford where the mother was formerly Stallabrass or similar: Philip W Pearce, final quarter 1911 and Brian T, second quarter 1914. Encouragingly no matching deaths were registered in the period to 1930 - it appears Philip and Brian survived.
The 1939 Register shows the Brentford printing business was operating from The Butts but neither son was living with their father - had they moved away? The 1939 register shows Philip was based at The Fire Station, Chiltern Street, St Marylebone. His date of birth, 23 Oct 1911, fits the birth registration in Brentford; also his occupation in 1939, jobbing printer, is in line with the family business. He was unmarried and the final column, which records war-related occupations, note he was a despatch rider. (No sign has been found of Brian, the younger son).
Electoral registers for 1949 and 1950 suggest Philip may have worked for the family business: he was living at 17A The Butts, with Lucy H Pearce and Patrick Higgins: his father and Lilian E Flatt occupying 17 The Butts; it sounds like a flat had been created. Philip and Lucy (his wife?) had moved away by 1951 and later electoral registers show other occupants of 17 The Butts: no sign of Walter Pearce or Lilian E Flatt.
Loose ends and snippetsLilian E Flatt disappears from view at the same time as Walter, but her birth date from the 1939 Register helps pin down her death registration: Lilian Ellen Flatt in Hounslow registration district, age 97, in November 1995; the registration includes her birth date, 3 January 1898. Lilian Ellen was baptised at Holy Trinity, Marylebone Road on March 6th 1898 and the entry includes her birth date of 3rd January that year. She was the daughter of George Porter Flatt, a coachman and his wife Jane and they lived at 26 Upper Charlton Street.
Philip Pearce disappeared at the same time, but the Pirie-Pearce family tree on ancestry explains why: he married Lucy Helen Crocker on January 11, 1942, in Cork, Ireland. Further checks show their engagement was announced in the Western Mail, 17 November 1941, he being described as the elder son of Mr Walter Pearce and late Mrs Pearce of B....t House, Brentford and Lucy as the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs Alfred Crocker of Rosewarne, Whitchurch, Glamorgan. The family tree records they had three children during their marriage and Philip died in Ireland in 1993 at the age of 82. The tree also notes 'Philip and Lucy established Shanagarry Pottery, on the shores of Ballycotton Bay. The black and white Shanagarry design was first produced here and soon became an internationally recognised Irish design classic.'
Did Walter Pearce also move to Ireland? It would explain his disappearance.
Walter Pearce's wife May Beatrice, is probably the May B Pearce whose death was registered at Brentford in the last quarter 1938 - she was 54.
The Pirie-Pearce family tree shows Brian Pearce, Walter's younger son, died in 1999, his death was registered in Tunbridge Wells. There is no indication he married.
The Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser, 14 September 1923, includes a piece about the wedding of Harold Young Band of Ealing to Miss Ivy Muriel Underwood of Otford, Kent; Arthur Stallabrass, a friend of the groom, was best man. The lengthy list of presents includes: Mr & Mrs T Stallabrass - water colour; Mr & Mrs T F Stallabrass - cake stand; Mr & Mrs W Pearce - fern pot. The Underwood family was formerly from Brentford - Janet McNamara has researched both the Underwood and Band families. The Pirie-Pearce family tree notes that Walter Pearce worked in partnership with Arthur Stallabrass.
SourcesAncestry: family tree, marriage register entry, censuses, BMD registration
Findmypast: 1911 census, 1939 Register, newspapers, BMD registration
FreeBMD: BMD registration
Page published November 2016