Sir John Reynold Roberts
John Reynold Roberts was born on the 6th July 1834 and his brother Thomas Reynold Roberts was born in December 1838 John and Thomas came from relatively humble beginnings but you can see from his lineage that there was a drive to succeed in his family. His mother Elizabeth was the daughter of Thomas Pring and Ann Kingswell who were married in Devon on the 17th February 1806. They obviously received an education even if it was basic because both Thomas and Elizabeth could write as is evident from their marriage certificate.
Elizabeth was born on the 20th May 1811 at Pendennis Farm in Bradninch in Devon. Her father was a soap-boiler (soap maker). Soap at this time was considered to be a luxury item which was heavily taxed. In 1853 when William Gladstone, the Prime Minister of the day repealed the tax laws on soap, the industry became a very lucrative one to be involved in. Elizabeth must have been quite a bold young woman because she left Bradninch in Devon and moved to Surrey to possibly go into service. In any event she met Thomas Roberts a shoemaker and married him on the 23rd June 1833.
Thomas and Elizabeth lived in Newington Green. Thomas Roberts sent his son John R Roberts to Dulwich College. Upon John finishing his education at the age of 17 he left Newington Green with his younger brother Thomas and headed for London. They both managed to find employment as errand boys in a Drapers and after a few years managed to save enough money to open their own small drapers business. Eventually through hard work and making the decision to only ever deal in cash and not credit John Reynold Roberts eventually opened a store at 96 Broadway, Stratford called J R Roberts Limited in 1870. Initially a Drapers and Furniture shop within a short period John R Roberts expanded the store until it became a full line department store covering 78-102 Broadway. From the UK City and County Directories we know that from 1874 he lived at 29-30 the Broadway in Stratford and by 1881 the Census of the day informs us that he had moved to 88 Broadway at Stratford.
The Store became the equivalent of Harrods in East London and at its height employed 500 members of staff. There are numerous reports in the papers of the day of the fashion shows at J R Roberts Stores Limited and it is believed that the store was the first to introduce Christmas Grottos into department stores. Various newspaper articles inform us of the wonderful Christmas displays that J R Roberts Ltd was famous for.
It is clear from newspaper articles that the store was also involved in supporting community projects to include assisting in raising money for West Ham Hospital and arranging Painting competitions for the local children. There is a wonderful article in the Temperance Section of the Otago Daily Times (in New Zealand) on the 26th August 1899 which informs us that J R Roberts Ltd had decided to withdraw their sale of alcohol as a result of complaints from customers of the store.
In 1882 John Reynold Roberts purchased Salway House. At the time of its purchase it was very run down and little more than an old farm house.
Thousands of pounds were spent on refurbishing the property to include bars and verandahs. Cesspools were removed and a north wing was added which accommodated a large library fitted throughout with mahogany. Records inform us that these works were finalised in 1885. He lived there with his mother and four servants, Mary J Lucas, Emily Hopton, Elizabeth Blunden, and Walter Mead.n 1984 John Reynold Roberts sold his interest in J R Roberts Limited, which later was taken over by the Hide Group who were in turn taken over by the House of Fraser Limited .
He quickly became involved in the community, and became the President of Woodford Golf Club. The Roberts cup which he donated to the Club is still presented to the winners of the Roberts’ Challenge Cup every year.
In 1902 he donated Woodford Memorial Hall to South Woodford in memory of his brother Thomas who had died at the age of 63 in 1901. Unfortunately he was unable to attend the opening ceremony as his mother Elizabeth had died 23rd October 1902 just two weeks prior to the opening of the hall of senior decay and cardia failure.
He was involved in much of the planning of the hall itself and was instrumental in pressing for the extension to be built in 1904 and donated the first £100 to the building funds for the extension. He frequently opened up Salway House to host fund raising fetes and bazaars. In a wonderful article in the Chelmsford Chronicle written in 1905 we are informed that “On Saturday afternoon a very successful fete was held in the grounds of Salway House, Woodford Green with the object of aiding the fund for the extension buildings in Woodford Parish Church Memorial Hall. There was a large attendance. The programme included clever cycle trick riding by the Brothers Welch…….Selections were also rendered by the band of the 2nd Tower Hamlets Rifle Volunteer Corps under Mr W J Price . These attractions were supplemented by a Punch and July show , donkey riding, coconut shies etc. At dusk the grounds were illuminated and there was a brilliant display of fireworks, kindly provided by Mr J R Roberts” The architect of the Hall, Mr J Kingwell Cole was John Reynold Roberts second cousin and also had a Draper’s business!!.
Conveyances held at Essex Records inform us that John Reynold Roberts purchased a substantial amount number of plots of land that were being sold at the Glebe Estate in Woodford Green. In 1987 he purchased Plots 4, 5 , 6, 7 and 8 Glebe Avenue from a Mr Francis Mead Corner, a gentleman, and over the next few years we can see from the Conveyances and Indentures that he purchased well in excess of half of the Plots on the Glebe Estate .
He also purchased property in Forest Lane, Maryland in Stratford together with the Coach yard, stablehouses and gardens, this must have been a substantial property as it is only referred to as the “all that messuage, tenement or dwelling house at Forest Lane etc. He didn’t stop there and continued to buy property in Woodford namely a further two plots of land in Ingatestone Road. He even brought a property in Hampshire at 34 Brunswich Gardens. The records inform us that when needed he would use the land he had purchased as security for further land he was buying.
In 1904 John Reynolds Roberts donated The Jubilee Hospital to Woodford which served the community for over 80 years but unfortunately this since been demolished.
During the same year he further purchased the old Union Church in the High Road in Woodford which he converted into a Mens’ Club (now the Snooker Club).
His generosity extended to his purchasing the Marine Hotel, in Bexhill on Sea which was converted into a convalescent home for assistants of both sexes in the textile trade.
He was also involved in raising funds for West Ham Hospital and one of the wards was named after him after he donated £1,000 for the purpose of purchasing equipment for one of the wards. The Cancer Hospital at Brompton appointed him as a Life Governor. He was a member of the Worshipful Company of Framework Knitters,Commissioner of Essex Sewers and a Freeman of the City of London
On the 23rd February 1911 he was knighted by King George V at St James’s Palace. Unfortunately it seems he became ill in 1912 and appears to have never quite recovered from that illness. From the Minutes of the Trustees it is clear that he did not attend any further Trustees meetings at the hall. He died in 1917 at the age of 84. His estate was worth £152,465 12s 6d which today would have been valued at £7,395020.00. He left £4,000 (£194,012.27) to the hall for its upkeep in his Will. For further information about John R Roberts please read the report of the opening ceremony of Woodford Memorial Hall below .
THOMAS R ROBERTS, the brother of John R Roberts was born in December 1838. He was also a draper and for a short period he and his brother John were in partnership. However, he eventually opened up a Drapers business in Islington on his own called T R Roberts Limited. The census informs us that he was married to Julianna Burston on 3 Dec 1860 and they had one child Kate who was born in the sub district of Saint Mary in the Castle in Sussex on the 14th December 1865. A significant amount of research has been undertaken and it would seem that Julianna Burston who was originally married to William Burston, a saddler, may in fact have been the much younger sister of Elizabeth Pring. Records researched to date have been unable to find any other person of that name, born in that period with the name Julianna other than Elizabeth’s much younger sister Julianna. Julianna was approximately 13 years older than Thomas when they married
In 1862 Thomas Reynolds opened his own drapers business called T R Roberts Limited at 222 Upper Street in Islington. He initially had one shop but gradually purchased neighbouring shops and it is sad to note that he due to his death in 1901 he did not see the Directors of T R Roberts Limited go on to own the complete stretch of the road from 208 to 225 and thereafter merge with Rackstraws another large drapers that traded in Upper Street in Islington.
Matthew Henry Rackstraw like Thomas Roberts had opened a draper’s shop three doors down from the Hope & Anchor in 1876 and by 1892 this had expanded into eight shops. In 1918 T R Roberts Limited purchased Rackstraws, increasing the ground space held by T R Roberts Limited from 2 to 3.25 acres. T R Roberts Limited was included in the ranks of London’s largest department stores. Employing 360 people, 89 who served in WW1 and 2 who died in that conflict.
Thomas Reynold’s great great great great grandaughter who kindly provided access to her records for the above information has also provided the most wonderful written account from a worker at T R Roberts Limited. Though the account is not dated, as Thomas Roberts died in 1901 I am guessing that the account would have been written in the 1880s.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SHOP ASSISTANT
My name is Emily Evans. I am 19 and work as a shop assistant at T Roberts Drapery shop in Upper Street. I live above the shop, as do most of the other assistants.
The Housekeeper wakes us up at 6.30 every morning, except Sundays. Breakfast is at 6.45 you must be washed and dressed by then. All we have to eat is a slice of toast and a mug of tea. Afterwards we make our beds and tidy our sleeping area. The rules say that we cannot even hang pictures on the walls.
At 7.10 Miss Milton, the senior supervisor, gives us special instructions for the day. We all have our own counters. My department is haberdashery.
The shop door is open at 7.30. This morning I had to sort out some ribbons and put them in their trays. I whispered to my friend about the Fair on Sunday when Miss Milton was not looking. If you are caught gossiping you are usually fined.
At 1.30 I went upstairs for lunch. Today we had dumplings. At 2.15 I returned to my counter. Business was slack. Mr Roberts inspects our counters every afternoon. He was very angry with me when he saw a woman leave my counter without buying anything.
The shop closes at 7.30. Counters have to be polished, windows washed and stock tidied away. The apprentices sweep and wash the floor every night.
Dinner is at 8.00. After dinner we usually play cards. At 10.15 we go to bed. Lights are switched off at 10.30. I can’t wait until Sunday when I can go to the Fair”
There is a very poignant newspaper report discussing the closure of the store on the 24th July 1953 headed “T R Roberts going after 90 years” which says the following
“When the sight of high stepping greys drawing fine carriages through Highbury Park was an everyday occurrence Mr R Greenbank was a young apprentice of 15 in the French polishing department of T R Reynolds Ltd in Upper Street in Islington. Often young Greenbank would stand at the entrance of the then 35 year old general drapery and furnishing store and watch the large carriages roll up; the gold braided commissionaire open the door and a button booted, long-skirted lady with frilly parasol and dangling beads step daintly down.
He would see the lady disappear into the store which was then the fashionable shopping centre in the rich neighbourhood of 1898 North London. Hours later she would leave having fingered rich materials, peered at well carved and polished furniture, discussed new imports and taken tea at the fashionable ground floor restaurant. Often her bill for mountains of articles was small – by present day standards. At the turn of the century suites were made to measure for about 12 shillings (60p) , children’s clothes were a few shillings and repairs to the valuable antique furniture was only a slight sum.
Young Greenbank started with about six shillings a week (30p) and as his money grew so did the firm. In 1989 there was a new recruit to the firm 20 year old Albert Roberts and the two men became inseparable. Known as “Bob and Bert” or “Rollicky and Cecil” they served the firm when it was at its peak. When the First World War came the men went to war – served in the same unit and then returned to Roberts’ benches “Rollicky” as a full fledged French polisher and “Cecil” as a carpenter.
But with the departure of the rich families and the splendid homes the shopping centre of Highbury declined….” due in part to the bombing of the shop in the 1940s which put it completely out of action for some time.
T R Roberts Limited in Islington and T R Roberts in Golders Green were eventually taken over by the Hide Group who were in turn taken over by the House of Fraser Limited
Juliana died in April 1898 due to failure of a dilated heart and though it is clear that Thomas Reynolds still took an interest in matters to do with the business, he moved from London to Hove where Julianna was buried and died in 1901.
His daughter Kate Roberts married Frederick Isitt on the 13th February 1892, one rather unusual thing is that from the census we can see that Kate was already living under Frederick’s roof at the time of her marriage, and this was likely to have been because she was assisting Frederick to look after his two children by his previous marriage to Alice Harvey on the 13th April 1887 namely Frederick Harvey Isitt born on 29th November 1887 and Harold Goodwyn Isitt born on 9th May 1889. Alice had died on 4th May 1891 leavingFrederick a widower.
Frederick’s profession was a gentleman, he was educated at the City of London school and joined the firm of Josolyne Miles and Blow a firm of chartered accountants with whom he served his articles. Subsequently he founded his own firm of accountants namely Maurice Jenks and Company but retired in 1901 to study for the bar. He acted as secretary to the Holborn Viaduct Land Company from 1886 to 1896 and was admitted to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple on 20th January 1902. He was called to the bar on the 17th November 1904. He apparently had a very engaging personality that won him an ever increasing circle of friends and briefs came to him at once promising a successful career. He became a Mason and was initiated into the Empire Lodge passing through the various offices and reaching the chair in time to initiate the Japanese ambassador. At the Raising the lodge was honoured with the presence of the Duke of Connaught; an event unique in Masonry, the Grand Master never attending private lodges. Towards the end of his life he contested the North Devon Parliamentary constituency for the Liberals but was compelled to withdraw at the last moment due to an account of heart trouble and died at the age of 44 on the 11th December 1905 due to aortic disease. He was heavily involved in the life of both John and Thomas Roberts and spoke on John Roberts behalf at the opening of Woodford Memorial Hall. He and Kate had only been married for 13 years when he died. He did not leave a will but Letters of Administration were granted to Kate in the sum of £479 2s and 6d.
Kate had three children from her marriage namely Sidney Clivebrook Isitt born on the 22nd November 1893. Sidney joined the Irish Guards during WW1 and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. He married Christianne M A Wachter born on 16th June 1896 in the Royal Bavarian Chapel, in London on the 3rd April . At the time of his marriage he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Irish Guards. He and Christianne moved to Paris and in 1978 he was living a 1 Rue Marietta Martin, 75016, Paris.
Christianne his wife’s full name was Christianne Marie Louise Henriette Francois-Wachter but she was known to her family and friends by the name “Persian” , Sidney and Christianne had two children namely Phillipe C Isitt born on the 26 December 1918 and Bernard C Isitt born on the 23rd May 1923 who in 1978 was working with Tyler & Company, Assessors in Paris.
Kate also had two daughters Violet Reynolds Roberts who married Frederick Nicholls from Buckhurst Hill on the 11th February in Christ Church, Paddington, Middlesex and the marriage certificate informs us that he was a Surveyor. They lived in Bexley but were divorced and Violet then married for a second time on the 27th July 1927. Her new husband was William Gilbert, Desmond Harold Urwick whose was a doctor.
Violet had four children two from her first marriage namely. Olive Violet Nicholls who was born on 15th Jan 1916 and Joyce Mary Nicholls who was born on the 20th April 1918.
Her further two children were April Gillian Urwick born in March/June 1931 and Adrienne Joy Urwick who was born in Sept/Dec 1934 in Westminster, London W1 who married Victor Mature who she eventually divorced prior to moving to California
Kate’s second daughter was Kittie Ivy Roberts, she married Edward Murray Brand on the 10th July 1919. Edward was a civil servant. For many years they lived in Blackheath where she became lady captain of Blackheath Golf Club and then to Cooden were she was elected captain of Cooden Beach Golf Club, she was also a keen bridge player and at the time of her death she was living with her brother Jack Isitt. She and her husband travelled widely not only in Europe but as far afield as Japan. Edward died in May 1959 and left Kittie £12,455.13s 11d. She did not have any children.
Kate’s last child Jack was born on the 4th July 1899 in Beckenham in Kent. He is referred to in the report of the opening ceremony of the hall and would have been just 3 years old when he handed the bunch of flowers to the Lady Mayoress who was in attendance at the hall. Upon growing up he became a Mechanical Engineer and married three times. His first wife was Evelyn Elaine Postlethwaite and they were married in St Mary Magdalen’s Church in Hastings on the 26th June 1924 but were later divorced. He married his second wife Doris Elizabeth West on the 12th August 1931 in the Registry Officer at St Marylebone. Doris died in 1959 and on the 22nd August in 1970 he married Winifred Mary Eddie at the Registry Office in Battle in East Sussex.
He loved cars and worked with them all his life at one point becoming a Driving Instructor working for the Ministry of Transport. He had 7 children in total three by his first wife Evelyn namely:-
- Kathleen Daphne Roberts Isitt born 14/7/1925
- Gillian Eve Isitt born 24/10/1926
- David Henry Hugh Isitt born 28/5/1929
The four children from his second marriage to Doris were:-
- Patrick Jack Isitt born 12/9/1929
- Michael Roberts Isitt born 4/4/1932
- Sally G Isitt born 25/4/1940 in Leeds but who died before her 1st birthday
- Jacqueline June Isitt born on 30/3/1941
As can be seen from the above dates Jack was a bit of naughty boy as Evelyn and Doris appear to have both been pregnant at the same time!!!!!
7th November 1902 Woodford Parish Church Memorial Hall
The Opening Ceremony Mr. Roberts’ Munificent Gift
The Woodford Parish Church Memorial Hall, which has been erected by Mr. J. R. Roberts, J.P., C.C., in memory of his brother, the late Mr. T. R. Roberts, was formally opened on Friday afternoon by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Joseph Cockfield Dimsdale, Bart., M.P., K.C.V.O. On arrival at the Rectory presentations were made to the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. A procession was then formed to the Hall, on the steps of which the architect, Mr. J. Kingwell Cole, handed a silver key to the Lord Mayor, who unlocked the door and entered the building. After the party had taken their places on the tastefully-decorated stage the Lady Mayoress was presented with a bouquet of choice chrysanthemums by Master Jack Isitt, grandson of the late Mr. T. R. Roberts. The Rector presided, and was supported by the Lord Mayor, the Lady Mayoress, Alderman and Sheriff Truscott, Mrs. Truscott, Sheriff Brooke Hitchin, Mrs. Brooke Hitchin, Mrs. Dent, the Bishop of Barking, Mr. D. J. Morgan, M.P., Mr. Andrew Johnston, J.P., C.C., Mr. W. Pearce, Dr. Sayers, Mr. R. Billings, Mr. W. R. Fox, Mr. G. Hunt, Mr. W. F. Savage, Mr. E. W. C. Abbott and Mr. A. J. Brown. There was a large attendance, amongst those present being Colonel Palmer, Mr. E. N. Buxton, J.P., and Mrs. Buxton, Mr. A. Lister Harrison, J.P., Mr. J. C. Compton, J.P., the Mayor of West Ham. Dr. Turtle, Canon Proctor, Rev. A. Smythe Palmer, D.D., Rev. C. E. Waller, Rev. W. E. and Mrs. Anderton, Rev. T. and Mrs. Hammond, Rev. W. W. Ward, Rev. J. Hocking, Mr. Walter Barwell, Mr. W. Burnett Carter, Mr. A. J. Chalmers, Mr. H. E. Chamberlain, Mr. Harvey Cook, Councillor W. Cornish, Mr. S. Cutforth, Councillor J. C. Darby, Mr. J. M. Dent, Mr. G. Fraser, Councillor J. Knight, Mr. J. Lasham, Mr. T. Mason, Miss Mason, Mr. John Mead, Mr. Meyer, Mr. W. G. Nelson (Wanstead), Mr. J. Schwartz, Mr. D. W. Stable (Wanstead), Mr. J. W. Thomas, Miss Waller, Councillor C. W. Wood, and Messrs. A. J. and T. Osborn.
Mr. J. R. Roberts was unable to be present in consequence of the recent death of his mother.
The proceedings were opened with the singing of “The Old Hundredth” and prayer by the Bishop of Barking.
Mr. W. Pearce, Chairman of the Committee, then briefly stated how the hall came to be erected. He said he need not tell anyone in that room how much a hall of that description had been needed by that parish, especially that part of the parish. The church had been without a room to hold the Sunday School in, and had been indebted to the School Board, who had kindly placed the Board Schools at the disposal of the church on most liberal terms – in fact, the Rector told him he might say on no terms at all. He thought they would agree with him that the place in which children had been engaged in the pursuit of mundane knowledge all through the week was not the best place in which to teach them on Sunday. At any rate the Rector felt that there would be a great advantage if the old arrangement were altered. Then the Rector had had no place where he could hold the numerous meetings required by any church, and he had kindly placed the rectory at the disposal of people for those meetings. As they would see, the church was going to receive a very great benefit from that beautiful hall. (Cheers.) Then as to the parish itself. They in that parish had often felt the want of a hall like that for concerts, meetings, and various purposes, and so it was the intention of the Committee to try and carry out the intentions of the donor, which were that the hall should be of use to the church and to the parish. Some time ago, the land adjoining was offered for sale, and the Rector and Churchwardens then felt it was time to put up that hall, and so they secured a 60 feet frontage and paid a deposit. The Bishop of St. Alban’s Fund contributed £200 to complete the purchase. Mr. Gurney Fowler eventually increased the 60 feet frontage by giving an extra 10 feet. The parish being in possession of the land the next question was how they were to raise the money to erect the hall. They could see that it would have required long and persistent begging to provide the £4,000 or £5,000 necessary to erect that building. Well, they were fortunate in having a friend and neighbour, Mr. Roberts – (cheers) – who had very kindly taken the whole of that burden upon his shoulders.
The hall they saw that day was Mr. Roberts’ gift, and his entirely. In the deed of gift Mr. Roberts provided for a Committee of Management consisting of nine members. Of course, the Rector and Churchwardens were ex-officio members, but the remaining 6 were elected by the subscribers to the hall. Part of his duty that day was to appeal for a larger electorate. Anyone who gave 10s. a year towards the hall would have a vote in the election of the management. At present the Committee were elected by 15 to 20 people, but they would be very glad if they could number every lady and gentleman in that room among the electors to whom they appealed. It was estimated that the total expenses of the hall would be about £150 a year, but he dare say they would get a considerable amount of that back in letting. They wished to extend the scope of the hall and provide for the comfort and entertainment of everybody in the parish. If they desired that enterprise to be carried out in a proper way, the Committee would be pleased to receive anything they might choose to send them. In sitting down he heartily joined in the general consensus of applause and gratitude to Mr. Roberts for his kind gift.
The Lord Mayor said it was his privilege, as it was his pleasure, to declare that Woodford Parish Church Memorial Hall open for ever, and in so doing might he say how sincerely and truly the Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs, and himself, hoped that God’s blessing might rest upon it and upon those who had the advantage of using it.
The Rector said it had fallen to his lot to propose a vote of thanks to the Lord Mayor for his great kindness in coming among them that day. The feeling that must be uppermost in their minds that day must be one of regret that Mr. Roberts could not be there, and that feeling would be intensified when they remembered the cause of this absence. They were glad that the Lord Mayor had come amongst them, and they recognised it as a peculiar kindness that his Lordship should have spent a whole afternoon in that country parish of Woodford. (Cheers.) It might be that the Lord Mayor recognised that they had a kind of claim upon him. They who lived in Woodford were not unmindful of the fact that it was to the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London that they owed the infinite blessing of Epping Forest. (Cheers.) Sometimes some of them had hardly recognised the benefit that had been conferred upon them by the rescue of those many acres from being covered by bricks and mortar. The rescue of these acres helped to keep down their rates, which was a matter of great satisfaction. The rescue of Epping Forest also conferred a benefit on the teeming population around. The Lord Mayor had shown himself in great sympathy with movements to promote the social welfare of the people. He (the Rector) believed that if the church was to hold her place as the church of the people in these days, she must show she was in sympathy with them, and enter into the many phases of their social and religious life. It would be a sad day for England when the social side was neglected. The days had gone by and, he thanked God, gone by never to return – when it could be said of the parson “He won’t be wanted till next Sunday.” The laity nowadays expected the parson to enter into their social work and social enjoyment. The parsons had that brought prominently before their notice. Never was a club started but the parson was asked for his co-operation and support. He spoke of that with thankfulness, because it gave the parson his opportunity, and by God’s grace he thought it was an opportunity he would use, and use with success, to impress upon the life of the people those virtues of temperance, control, and righteousness, which were the backbone of any people. Hitherto they had had no place in that parish where they could hold meetings for the furtherance of those high purposes, not, indeed, for any purposes, and thus the work of the church had been seriously set back in that place. Then Mr. Roberts came to the rescue, and their presence there that day served to emphasise their appreciation, and to testify to the munificence of the kind and generous donor. He had one other matter to speak upon, and Mr. Roberts had authorised him to do so. Most of them were aware that they had a large space of vacant ground at the back, and beautiful and commodious as that hall was, it could not satisfy all the needs for social purposes for which a church hall might be used. Mr. Roberts recognised that. The previous day he was talking about this matter to Mr. Roberts, who said, “Now you want more room. You want a place for a gymnasium and room for social clubs, and I will give you £100 to start you with for erecting an extra building.” (Cheers.) Before he came into that room it was his pleasure to receive from several gentlemen – Mr. Pearce, Mr. Isitt, Mr. Glanfield, Mr. Savage, Mr. Johnston, and Mr. Buxton – promises of support to that fund, and he hoped before many days were over he should be able to tell Mr. Roberts that they were able to start that building. He could not be too thankful that God had blessed him with such a parishioner as Mr. Roberts. (Cheers.) The rev. gentleman concluded by proposing a vote of thanks to the Lord Mayor for coming that day, adding that he thought they ought not to forget the Lady Mayoress, who had graced the occasion, and the Sheriffs of London.
Mr. D. J. Morgan, M.P., who had a very cordial reception, said he was particularly pleased to have the opportunity of seconding the motion. Having had the privilege of being Verderer of Epping Forest, he knew the good the munificence of the great municipality of London had done in preserving the Forest as an open space for the benefit of the neighbourhood. Supposing the Forest had not been preserved, the life of that part of the country would have been almost impossible, and the class of people living in it would have been entirely different to what it was at the present time. They were glad to see the Lord Mayor, especially because they had had an Essex man as Lord Mayor, and that Essex man had done his work better than any of his predecessors. (Cheers.) They felt he had upheld the honour of the City of London, and he had also upheld the honour of the County of Essex. (Hear, hear.) One word about that room. They all knew the work of the parson now was very different from what it was forty years ago. The Church, however, was rising to its duties in a most marvellous manner, but the pressing needs were almost impossible to cope with, and if they did not find gentlemen who, like Mr. Roberts, so nobly came to help, it would be almost impossible to meet those needs. They must remember the work of the parson now was not, as it was a few years ago, simply to pray and preach on Sunday. Now it was his work to try and bring everybody in the parish into harmony to work together, to try and cope with the tremendous tide of people who came into that neighbourhood, and to whom it was necessary to give spiritual food and sustenance. He hoped Mr. Roberts’ example would be copied. The work Mr. Roberts had done was not only for the church, but for the whole neighbourhood. Mr. Pearce had shown them the desire of the Committee to enlist the sympathy of everybody in the parish, and he hoped the words he had uttered might bear fruit, and that the Committee might find their constituents largely augmented. He did not approve of the way in which Mr. Pearce offered to sell votes, but he was sure that those who helped would be amply rewarded. The motion was carried unanimously.
The Lord Mayor, in reply, said that the Lady Mayoress, the Sheriffs, their ladies, and he himself wished to thank the inhabitants of Woodford very warmly for their reception. It had been his privilege to be present at many functions during the present memorable year, but seldom had he attended a ceremony with greater pleasure than he experienced that day. He enjoyed the occasion because the object was the welfare of the community generally, which was practically an embodiment of the policy of the Corporation and the Livery companies. He was glad to attend because, although Woodford was just beyond the confines of London, thousands of its inhabitants were employed in the City. Then he was pleased to show his appreciation of the great kindness of Mr. J. R. Roberts, whose generosity had been the means of erecting that hall, and it would ever redound to his credit and the honour of his name. (Cheers.) The reason which seemed to have actuated Mr. Roberts in making that special gift were very pathetic. Having lost a dear and loved brother, he cast about how to perpetuate the memory of that brother, and at the same time to do good to his fellow men. Now that hall was established, as he understood, for three primary reasons: First, as a Sunday School, to hold classes in, and meetings and Lectures connected with the tenets of the Church of England; secondly, for public meetings and entertainments, whether connected with the Church of England or not. (Cheers); and thirdly, for private entertainments and social purposes. Thus they saw that while the work was under the guidance of the Church of England, there was due recognition of the feelings and religious tenets of others. (Hear, hear.) He spoke as a strong member of the Church of England, and said that was his idea of the real Catholic Church. (Cheers.) He felt confident that with that expansive idea that hall and its surroundings would be instrumental in doing much good, in bringing and holding together different sections of the church militant here on earth, which he might tell them from his point of view consisted of many army corps. (Hear, hear.) Before he sat down he must thank them for that beautiful key they had presented to him on that occasion. He had many souvenirs of his term of office, but he assured them that that would be highly treasured by his wife, his family, and himself. (Cheers.)
Mr. Andrew Johnston, J.P., proposed a vote of thanks to Mr. J. R. Roberts for his generous gift of the hall. He said he thought it would take a quicker-witted person that he was to say anything new about Mr. Roberts, who showered his gifts upon them so fast that they could hardly turn round between them. It seemed only the other that they had met on the Green, under the patronage and presence of His Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, to witness the opening of that beautiful hospital in which they had rejoiced so much since, and which had done so much good. Well, what happened next? Within one year of the opening of that hospital the man who perhaps next to Mr. W. H. Brown had the most to do with starting it – Mr. J. W. Kemsley – to their deep and lasting regret, was taken from them. That caused a vacancy on his Council, and he had to thank them for unanimously sending up Mr. Roberts to represent them on the County Council. The members welcomed his good-humoured demeanour, which shed light upon all their meetings. They bitterly regretted his inability to be present that day. He (Mr. Johnston) backed up most heartily what had been said by the Chairman and Mr. Pearce about completing the work by filling up the ground behind with an additional useful building. He thanked Mr. Roberts for having given them additional work to do. Mr. Roberts had give them a good shove off with the new building, and he hoped the response to that would be quick, and that the structure would be complete before very long.
The Bishop of Barking said he considered it a very real honour to second that vote of thanks, because it was doing honour to whom honour was due. It had been his privilege to know Mr. Roberts, not only in his private life, but in his business life, for 12 years. He was privileged to be Chaplain to the great business firm of which Mr. Roberts was the head, and he had reason over and over again to recognise his generosity, kindness, and consideration to all those by whom he was surrounded. They had heard from different speakers of different gifts for which they had to thank Mr. Roberts, but he doubted whether anyone in that room knew more about those gifts than he did. His generosity to the West Ham Hospital was known to a good many, but he doubted whether it was known to the full extent. The point he wished rather to dwell upon was this: they had not only to thank him for his money, but they had to thank him for the thoughtfulness with which his money had been given. He had given it after full consideration. He had taken a deep interest in the details of that building. Then they had heard of this thoughtfulness in trying to secure the interest of the people of Woodford in it by having a representative committee. One was glad to find a man of wealth who did not wait till the last hours of his life to do good. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Roberts did not make it his ambition to die a millionaire, but was content to be a half-millionaire, or whatever it might be, and to spend while he lived what God had given him for the good of others; to watch how that was being applied, and to help forward good works. Such a man was a good example, and he had the satisfaction also of knowing that those who were enjoying the benefit of his gifts were blessing him for them while he lived, and were sympathising with him – as they did that afternoon – in his hour of sorrow. The motion was cordially carried.
Mr. Sidney F. Isitt said he was desired by Mr. Roberts to express his very great regret at not being able to be present at that opening ceremony, and to express his hope for the success of the Hall. The reason he was not there they had already learned. His mother had lived under his roof for the last 25 years of her life, and she shared with him every joy and every sorrow. She had been keenly alive to the efforts he had put forward in the interest both of individuals and communities, and although at her advanced age the separation was to be expected, yet when death took her away, the blow to him was very great. Apart from that Mr. Roberts was disappointed at not being present, owing to the very deep interest he had taken in building that hall. He had watched it grow step by step. He had superintended every detail, both as regards comfort and ornament. He had been as keenly alive to the necessity of perfect sanitation and warmth as to external ornament and convenience. He had been very much on the track of both architect and builder from the very commencement of the work. If he had seen anything at any time not quite as much in order as he could wish, his (the speaker’s) experience of Mr. Roberts told him that he lost no opportunity of expressing his disapprobation, and in adequately forcible language. (Laughter.) Now that the hall was built, Mr. Roberts trusted it would be acceptable to the people of Woodford, and that it would answer all the purposes for which it was intended. Although the building was complete, he was authorised to state that there would be another tablet fixed, to commemorate the kindly visit of the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. He thought he might say what Mr. Roberts would not, that he well deserved all the kind things they had said about him. Before sitting down he was desired by Mr. Roberts to move a vote of thanks to the Committee and to all who had assisted him in his work. The hon. secretary, Mr. A. J. Brown, had personally done an enormous amount of work to bring about that success. Indeed, the work Mr. Brown had done was beyond the imagination of anyone present. He was desired also to tender thanks to the ladies who assisted in raising money for the land. Then there were two others Mr. Roberts wished them to thank, and these were the architect, Mr. Kingwell Cole, and the builders, Messrs. Osborn and Sons. They had done their work extremely well, and the best testimony he could offer was to say that they had satisfied Mr. Roberts, and, he believed, all of them. (Cheers.)
Mr. E. N. Buxton, J.P., in seconding, said he had had the privilege of watching from day to day the progress of that beautiful building and he must say he admired not only the skill and energy of the committee who had conducted it, headed by his old friend, Mr. Pearce, but also the extraordinary promptitude with which Mr. Roberts’ excellent idea had been carried out. He felt they had received a most beautiful gift at Mr. Roberts’ hands, and that they owed their hearty thanks not only to him but to the energetic men who helped him to carry it out. He trusted that hall would be a source of light in the parish for many generations to come. The motion was adopted.
Mr. A. J. Brown, in responding, said the terms in which Mr. Isitt had spoken of those who had helped in the work, and especially of himself, were greatly appreciated. Personally he had to thank all the workers because it was no use one man trying to promote an ideal unless others would come around him and support the movement by their exertions. (Cheers.)
The Lord Mayor proposed a vote of thanks to the Chairman. For 28 years had Mr. Hughes been in that parish, and no greater testimony of esteem and regard could possibly be desired by the Rector than to feel that at the end of that long period he still retained the esteem and, he might say, affection of those among whom he lived. The life of a clergyman at the present day was not simply to read prayers or preach theology, but to live in the hearts of the people who came under his care. For 28 years the Rector had received the affection of the people of that parish, and he hoped the rev. gentleman might be spared still many years to continue the great work he was doing at the present time. He asked them to pass the vote to the chairman with a prayerful feeling for those near and dear to him, and for the great work he had in hand.
The Chairman briefly replied.
Subsequently the large company adjourned to the Rectory gardens, where refreshments had been provided by Mr. J. R. Roberts. The band of the 3rd V.B. Essex Regiment was in attendance, and played selections in capital style.