Kemp family in the 19th century
From Agricultural Labourer to Market Gardener and Boot and Shoemaker to Tea and Coffee Merchant
The Post Office Street Directory of 1857 was the first directory to list businesses in Hoole. There were just six entries for the newly built Faulkner Street, including the Faulkner Arms, and one of these was a boot and shoemaker, William Kemp. In the 1851 Census William Kemp, born in Plemstall and aged 22, was listed as living at Hoole Bank with his wife Mary aged 20 who came from Ellesmere in Shropshire, his occupation being a boot and shoemaker.
Ten years earlier William then aged 12 was living in Hoole Village with his parents John and Margaret, their ages given respectively as 25 and 40. Investigations into Plemstall Church records show that John was born on 6 February 1803, so his actual age was 38, and he married Margaret Hughes from Hope in Flintshire on 18 October 1827. There were two other sons from the marriage, John aged 6, Edward aged 3, and a daughter Jane who was 10.
John Senior was an agricultural labourer working for the Grindley family at the original Hoole Hall. This had been acquired by the Hamilton family from the Rev John Baldwin, Rector of Plemstall, who changed his name to Rigby as required by a legacy, before leaving the area. The Hamiltons rented the Hall, which following severe damage in the Civil War had become a farm, to John Grindley, a druggist whose business was in Northgate Street, Chester.
The 1841 Census shows John and Katherine Grindley with their 5 children and 12 servants living there. It appears that Mrs. Grindley ran the farm and was a frequent exhibitor of livestock at local agricultural shows. In 1861 John Kemp Snr. was awarded 10s. as a prize at the Dunham Hill Agricultural Show for 40½ years long service with Mrs. Grindley and her predecessors, meaning that he started there at the age of 16.
Although John Kemp worked at Hoole Hall he did not live there and the Tithe Records of c1839 shows that he was a tenant of a cottage belonging to the Earl of Shrewsbury on the north side of Warrington Road close to the smithy and the Royal Oak.
By the 1861 Census he had moved to Air (sic) Lane and in 1868 the sale was advertised of “a cottage and premises in Hare Lane, Hoole with the croft adjoining now held by John Kemp”. Hare Lane ran from Hoole Road through Pipers Ash to Vicars Cross and in the 1881 Census John, then aged 78 was listed as a market gardener at Pipers Ash Cottage. His wife Margaret had died there in March 1873 aged 75 and John died in 1884 aged 81.
Returning to William Kemp. Although the son of an agricultural labourer it is likely that Mrs. Grindley encouraged William’s father to ensure that he and his siblings received some education, and a plaque in Plemstall Church shows an active school was held there “Charles Hurleston of Newton Esq. left a sum of £50 the interest to the Schoole 1828”. No information as to where William learnt his trade as a boot and shoemaker has been found. His brother, John Junior who continued to live with his parents was also a shoemaker and is likely to have worked in the business.
It is possible to pinpoint exactly the property which he occupied in Faulkner Street. No.4 was the last in a block of four newly built on Thomas Faulkner’s land called Bishopsfield or the Flookersbrook Field. An auction sale of these in March 1854 with some adjacent properties show that William Kemp, shoemaker occupied one of them, the block being the first built there actually bearing the name Faulkner Street which can be seen today.
In 1856 a row of eight properties was erected to the north of there on land purchased from Maria Moor, the boundary being at that precise point. These were numbered 1 to 8, so in the 1861 Census William Kemp’s house appears as No.12. In the 1860s the properties in Faulkner Street were renumbered again, odds on the eastern and evens on the western side. No.12 became No.29 and the 1871 Census shows William and Mary still living there but he had become a tea and coffee merchant, perhaps because of the increasing competition.
The demand for footwear was consistently high as people had to walk to work, be it on the railways, at the leadworks or other heavy industries, at Dicksons’ Nurseries or in the retail and service trades of Chester. The growing population resulted in many feet needing shoes and the changing sizes of children’s feet increased the demand. To own more than one pair of shoes was unusual so the demand for shoe repairs was also high. In the second half of the 19th century there were as many as six cobblers operating in Hoole.
All did not go well for William. His wife died, his new business did not succeed, and he moved to live at 56 Faulkner Street where in 1881 his occupation was given as a gardener’s labourer. He had remarried and at the time had a son aged 1. He died in 1893 and was buried in Overleigh Cemetery.
Although there was no continuity older Hooligans will remember that Jack Smith’s shoe shop was also located in the block of four original shops, the business being set up by his father William in 1901. Mr. Fruity was the latest occupant.
The frequent re-numbering of houses gave cause in April 1867 for Mr. Owen, postmaster at Chester, to complain to the Hoole Local Board of the difficulty the postmen experienced in delivering letters owing to the doors of houses not being numbered. The tender of Mr. Southcote for numbering the house doors in Bishopsfied, at 3d a door, was accepted.