Freedom of the city comes with a Price (or two)


I wasn’t expecting to come across any family members in the ‘Freedom of the City of London admission papers’ which appeared on Ancestry recently {1}, but I hadn’t counted on the Price family on the sister-in-laws side.

It has to be said that there isn’t complete certainty that this is the right line of the family, however  – see The Price is right? section below.

The first of the bunch to receive his Freedom of the City is Thomas Price, a Commission Agent at 51 Knightrider Street, on 13th March 1890. He is a brother of Henry Bretton Price (subject to the notes below), born about 1855 in Lee Brockhurst, Shropshire. A few years later, elder brother Joseph Henry’s (b 1848 Wem) application is before the City of London’s  Court of Common Council, on 24th July 1894, as a Mantle Manufacturer at 34 Knight Rider Street. Although the record only has the application, it is clear it was granted, as he is one of the supporters for his three sons’ Freedom requests.

Albert Henry Price, born 20 Jun 1880, Kennington (London) gets his City Freedom granted 21st October 1915. Hubert John Price, born 27 Feb 1882 Kennington, follows on 18th November, while the youngest Reginald Stanley Price born 3 Jan 1887 Streatham was first in the queue, on 1st October 1915. (I guess that only one person could be sponsored by an existing Freedom holder, per session.) All three brothers have their City address as 14 Old Change, from where Joseph certifies their application; Albert and Reginald are Mantle Manufacturers while Hubert is “Secretary and Director of a Limited Company”.

It would be interesting to discover what the firm of mantle manufacturers was called. {4}

Further freedoms?

The wife of Thomas Price, Harriet Ann, died 8th February 1893. Oddly the probate calendar (which again is available via Ancestry) names not Thomas, as might be expected, but a Robert Woodger Bowers as executor of her substantial estate – worth around £200k in today’s terms. Woodger Bowers was a master printer living at 25 Canterbury Road, while Harriet and Thomas were at number 30 in the 1891 census. Linking this to a further oddity gives ample room for speculation as to what might have been going on. Thomas Price quickly married Annie Louisa Park after Harriet’s death (in the same January/March registration quarter so less than 2 months later). She shows as a visitor at 30 Canterbury Road in 1891. Victorian tastes tended to rather a  long mourning period.

The Price is right?

As Price is a common surname, particularly on Welsh border areas, making sure you are following the correct individuals along the tree isn’t always easy.

The starting point in this case is census records for Henry Betton Price, great grandfather to my sister-in-law. These consistently give his birth as Preston Brockhurst {3}, Shropshire 1865/67. The probable birth record is registered Jan/Mar quarter 1867, Shrewsbury. His mother Mary is a widow by 1871 (and living at Moreton Corbet {3}) but earlier census have her husband as Henry A/Albert Price. Henry Albert Price dies 7th March 1866 Preston Brockhurst (probate calendar, death registered Wem district {3}) – as his son’s birth could easily be in December with a January registration, no cause for alarm yet.

The marriage record for Henry B is where things get interesting. The parish register image shows him marrying a slightly older Frances Amelia Brett, on 3rd November 1889, parish church of St Peter, Regent Square, Camden. He gives his father as Henry Albert Price, profession “Priest – Vicar of Clive”. The village of Clive is a mile or so from Preston Brockhurst. Unfortunately a) this occupation doesn’t tally with the census records and b) the parish records for Clive which appear on the Melocki website includes a list of vicars, from which Henry Albert Price is notable by his absence. However, looking further through the incumbents list, a Francis Price does appear, who was followed by a Samuel Betton – over a hundred years before Henry Betton Price was born. This begins to look rather suspicious.

I begin to wonder whether Henry B wasn’t a full brother to Joseph, Thomas and the other offspring of  Mary Price. Or did he just not know anything about his father (Henry A died before he was born after all), and so made it up?

The plot thickens a little looking at Henry A’s occupation further. At 1851, the census says he is a Master Tailor, at 1861 a Grocer and Postmaster, 1866 probate shopkeeper, the Freedom of the City applications (1890s) say Mineral Merchant deceased. On the latter, Joseph gives Henry A’s residence as Shrewsbury, while Thomas says Preston Brockhurst.

But then Henry B also seems to have had a varied career – 1889 photographer, 1891 Foreman Express Dairy, 1901 insurance agent. Hurry up with that 1911 census transcription, Ancestry! {Update in Note 5}

If this lot were my direct line, I’d be sending off for Henry B’s birth certificate and perhaps Henry A’s death certificate to see what light they might shed. As it is, given that I’ve now done a fair bit of work on this branch, I do hope I’ve got the right Price, right place.

Notes

1. The Ancestry collection is based on records from the London Metropolitan Archives, London Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925. Note that there may be more than one image per application – all the 1915 ones studied had three: assent, certification and application.

2. City of London web page on Freedom of the City. Guild of Freemen of the City of London. Freedom of the City wasn’t anywhere near as exclusive an honour as it seems nowadays.

3. Wem district in Shropshire includes Lee Brockhurst and Moreton Corbet. The probate record for Henry A says that Preston Brockhurst is in the parish of Moreton Corbet. The general area is a few miles north east of Shrewsbury.

4. For those not up on gas lighting, mantles are the key part, on which the flame burns to produce light. They needed replacing fairly often, although materials and designs gradually improved. Great Malvern in Worcestershire, where I live, has retained over a 100 street gas lamps which are currently being modified for much higher efficiency and lower maintenance.

5. The 1911 census for Henry B and family at Frontin Road, Stratford, Essex, has him still in insurance – district superintendent for Life Assurance company. Eldest son Henry Gladstone is an Assurance agent.

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