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Brentford Families - Ricks

Sue wrote in August 2011, an exchange of emails follows. Five years later Angela wrote with information about a previous generation of the same family; her notes are at the end.

Original enquiry from Sue, 2011

I was wondering whether you had any local knowledge regarding Boars Head Yard, New Brentford - this address taken from the 1911 census. My father's family lived here at this time but I am not sure for how long or what their situation was like. Their surname was Ricks ... I wondered if you knew anything about the living conditions and social history of this time and type of dwelling.

The 1911 census for 15 Boars Head Yard shows:

  • James Ricks, head, 40, waterman employed by Emanuel Smith, Tug & Barge Owners, born St Giles Oxfordshire
  • Mary Ricks, wife, 42, Wilton near Northampton
  • Emma Ricks, dau, 19, market gardener employed by Mr Moore, market garden merchant, Brentford
  • Ruth Ricks, dau, 15, packer at jam factory, Brentford
  • Vincent Ricks, son, 11, Southall
  • Fanny Ricks, dau, 9, Anfield
  • Ethel Ricks, dau, 6, Southall
  • Lily Ricks, dau, 2, Brentford
  • James Ricks, son, 3 weeks, Brentford

The census shows James and Mary had been married 20 years in 1911 and had 7 children, all surviving. Their home had 4 rooms.

My father's family worked on the canals and I struggling to find whether they were a canal family in origin.

I am just exploring every avenue at the moment and any snippet of information is brilliant as it is helping me piece together the bigger picture.



15 Boars Head Yard was on the west side of the Yard and near the river, I have a plan from the 1909/10 valuation showing a block of 5 properties, no 15 was next to the property nearest the river and looks L-shaped. Very handy for a waterman. If you look at the occupations page you will find some notes about watermen.

I think the 4 room description from 1911 census suggests it would be a 2 up 2 down property with a washhouse at the back.

I suspect the person who worked in the jam factory would be at Beach's, see Beach's Jam.


Sue's reply

Yes, the family address was 15 Boars Head Yard which I think they probably lived in with other families?

I do have to research the exact origins of my family trying to find out if they settled in Brentford after a working life on the canals. It's so interesting but hard to track them as in every census record they sometimes list a different county as place of birth from the previous census.

I asked at the Chiswick Local History Society about the jam factory. The librarian did say there was another jam factory right on the canal itself apart from Beach's jam factory. I do not recall her saying the name. I wonder whether you could confirm or deny this at all?



A 1914 trade directory includes a reference to the Middlesex Jam Factory of Walter Robertson & Son Ltd (not the same company as offered golly brooches!). Walter Robertson's factory had a site at Bridge Wharf from around 1912 into the 1950s and also made Chelsea Caramel Toffee (source:Isleworth & Brentford Area Committee - 15 January 2004 Naming New Development - Brentford Lock, West Bank Site, High Street, Brentford). This is marked as 'Toffee Factory' on the 1935 OS Map (London Sheet 83 'Brentford' published by Alan Godfrey) and is just to the north of and near Brentford Bridge, near the Grand Junction Canal.

Janet McNamara advised about marrying outside the bargee community:

'Canal people were know as water gypsies and not popular in the settled communities like the travellers who went around the roads in colourful caravans.

It was probably prejudice but these things go through generations. They just were not trusted as being honest but were very loyal to their own communities. The 20th century had the No Blacks/No Irish/No Asian periods. People often fear what they don't know or understand so shut it out.

From the wife's side it must have been quite a culture shock. She might not have been accepted by the land community, she possibly found it hard living in the same place all the time and her own family might have made things difficult for her too.'

Current day Ricks

Finally Sue asked if there are any Ricks still living in the Brentford area: if you can help, please get in touch, I will forward to Sue.

Angela, 2016

Thanks to Angela who wrote in July 2016 with information about the previous generation of this family:
James Ricks, whose daughter Emma Mary was baptised in Brentford in 1894, was the son of Nathaniel Ricks and Fanny Humphries. In 1891, Nathaniel and Fanny were "parked up" in Odd Rode, Cheshire. Fanny was a widow when she married Nathaniel and James was their only child.

The 1881 census shows the family on the Mary Ann at Kingswinford (historically in Staffordshire), Stourbridge, Worcestershire

  • Nathaniel Ricks, married, 41, boatman
  • Fanny Ricks, married 42
  • John Seamore, 16
  • Henry Seamore, 13
  • James Ricks, 9
all were born in Oxford and Nathaniel Ricks signed the census form.

In 1871, she and her first husband, John Seymour are parked up at Napton, Warwickshire with many other members of the Humphries clan. John Seymour transported coal from the Moira Colliery in Leicestershire.

Angela's Spellweaver website has many documents about canal boat people that give insights into their lives.


Page published October 2011; updated August 2016