Neal relations at Cuckoos Cup, The Wrekin

Going to see Uncle An everyday tale of pawnbroker folk

A bonus, month, subscription to FindMyPast has enabled another trawl of the British Newspaper Archive records. There are more digitised journals than the last time round, but a new target seemed a good idea. Who in the family tree might be most likely to appear in a regional or local rag?

The answer was pretty obvious, given that the latest issue of Who Do You Think You Are magazine {1} turned the gaze of its regular occupation pages onto pawnbrokers. Alfred Thackeray Quayle married first cousin (3 times removed) Jane Smith in 1878 {2}, by which time he was already a Pawnbroker’s Assistant.

Mr Kent desires it to be known

Here’s what came up in the first sweep for ‘Quayle, pawnbroker’:


Looks like another pawnbroker is worried about competition! This advert appeared in numerous editions of the Gloucestershire Echo in 1887, from May onwards.

Note. – Mr. Kent desires it to be known that Mr A T Quayle, who has recently commenced business as a Pawnbroker, has NO CONNECTION whatever with the Old and well-known Establishment of the late Mr Joseph Pike …

And in Gloucester Citizen, 26th April 1887, a news item

A CORRECTION. – Mr. Kent , of 207, 208, and 209, High-street, desires us to state that Mr. Quayle, who applied yesterday for a pawnbroker’s license has no connection with those premises. We learn that Mr. Quayle has taken the shop 215, High-street, for which he obtained the license, and not for Nos. 207-9 as erroneously stated.

But …

But what do we find on further investigation?

QuayleAT_assttoPike1882A reference in an article from The Citizen in 1882 to “Alfred Quayle, assistant to Mr Pike, pawnbroker”. Sounds like some connection to the well-known establishment to me!

On checking 215 High Street, Cheltenham, via a standard Google search, up pops Virgin Money as the current occupant of that site. There’s surely a joke in the comparison of the two trades somewhere. It seemed amusing to this author anyway.

Keeping it in the family

So what happened in this rivalry between pawnbrokers? I’d love to say that my relative’s business did well in Cheltenham but, by the 1891 census, they had relocated to Birmingham, a pawnbrokers shop at 240 Hospital Road. Worse, Alfred appears in the admission register for the lunatic asylum in April 1892 and dies there 9 months later, leaving Jane to carry on the business for many years.

Alfred and Jane’s only son (they also had 4 daughters) did more than inherit his father’s name and stayed in the trade too.

A missing partner

One mystery though, which I had hoped the newspaper archives might throw some light on. Jane remarried to a William Gladstone Sutherland on 24th December 1893. The Birmingham parish records are on Ancestry and there is no doubt of this. But Jane continues to appear as Mrs Jane Quayle (widow) in trade directory and census, with no sign of said husband, a piano forte tuner. Neither does he appear in any other records after the marriage, other than a possible death in Lincolnshire in 1940.


  1. Issue 112, May 2016 (in shops from 12th April). The article includes info on the Pawnbroker Licence Act 1872, which made annual licences a requirement, amongst other matters.
  2. Jane Emily Jones Smith grew up in Great Yarmouth, not with her parents in Liverpool (at census time at least). A.T. Quayle was a Liverpudlian, with the Quayle clan originating from Isle of Man. However the couple married in London. More on the Harper Smith line.
  3. ‘Going to see uncle’ was a phrase used to mask the need to hock some goods. Apparently ‘up the spout’ also derives from the pawning business – see WDYTYA article for more.
  4. Fuller references for the 3 newspaper cuttings:
    1. Gloucestershire Echo, Thursday 12th May 1887
    2. The Citizen, Tuesday 26th April 1887
    3. The Citizen, Saturday 10th June 1882



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