Thomas Baldwin (1859 – 1949)

Greengrocer in Charles Street for over 70 years

The descendants of Thomas Baldwin have provided Hoole History & Heritage Society with some family photographs, which have prompted some local research. The author remembers his mother being served with vegetables by Thomas, who would have been in his 80’s, and the photograph of him and his wife confirm the memory. The author also delivered milk to his son, John Miles Baldwin, a painter and decorator at his shop at 21 Charles Street and remembers being paid by him.

The Ancestry website show some research into the Baldwin family which unfortunately contains one or two errors.

Thomas Baldwin was born in 1859 in Burton, Westmoreland, his parents being Henry, who was a molecatcher and Margaret. He had an elder sister, Mary who married a Chester man, Edward J. Felstead. The 1881 Census shows Thomas staying with them at 18 Charlotte Street. He was 22 years old and his occupation was a tailor. It was here that he met Elizabeth Riley who would become his wife.

Later Census returns show her as being born in Hoole, but she was actually born in Holt, Denbighshire, the 1861 Census shows her as the daughter of Leonard Reilly, an agricultural labourer who came from Ireland; he was married to Mary, a girl from Holt. The 1871 and 1881 censuses show that Leonard Riley (spelling of surname changed) had moved to No.66, now No.74 Faulkner Street, which was then the last house in the street where he was a cowkeeper, using the yard and outbuildings located there (see Faulkner Street). At that time the population of Hoole was expanding rapidly bringing with it a demand for fresh milk; a number of residents kept cows which they raised on the field of Cow Pastures, which was behind the early houses of Faulkner and Law Street. Leonard Riley’s wife no longer appears but Elizabeth aged 24 is listed as a dressmaker. One researcher suggests that Elizabeth went to work as a servant in Salford but they had in fact found a different ‘Elizabeth Riley’.

Thomas Baldwin and his wife, Elizabeth

Thomas and Elizabeth were married in 1882 and they set up a greengrocery business at No.8 Charles Street. This was a wise move because it appears that there wasn’t another one in Hoole. Previously the shop in 1871 had been run by a butcher and in 1881 it was occupied by a printer and smallware dealer.

Thomas Baldwin continued to sell greengroceries for the next 65 years,the only blemish on his shop-keeping record being reported in the Cheshire Observer 3rd November 1888:

They had 8 children and the 1911 Census shows Thomas Edward, aged 21, as a shopworker in clothing; Ernest William, 19, as a clerk at a seed merchant; and John Miles, 17, as an apprentice painter and decorator, probably to Mr. Charles Hutchings at 60 Westminster Road. A ‘Jno Baldwin’ (presumably John Miles) appears in the admissions register of All Saints School in 1903, unfortunately available copies of the register do not include the other children.

When World War 1 started in 1914 the sons were enlisted and the following information has been found:

John Miles Baldwin in uniform

John Miles’s service record appears not to have survived but it has been established that he served overseas and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal. This was initially as Private 37391 with the South Wales Borderers, going overseas at some point after 1 January 1916. The Battalion that he was with cannot be identified, but in the photograph he is wearing the cap badge of the South Wales Borderers. At some point between October 1917 and January 1918 he transferred to the Labour Corps as Private 417569, meaning he was likely medically downgraded either through illness, accident or wounds received. For some if not all his time with the Labour Corps he was with 911 Area Employment Company, and would have been involved in a variety of non-combat duties. They were part of the 2nd Army, which was re-designated from March 1918. From then until November 1918 they were involved in 19 separate battles.

His elder brother Thomas Edward also served, but again his papers also seem not to have survived. It seems likely though that he was a pre-war Territorial. Certainly The Chester Chronicle of 5 Sept 1914 in an article “Hoole Men Obey Duty's Call” includes "BALDWIN 8 Charles Street RAMC". He was later identified as Pte 362087 No.231 Field Ambulance Royal Army Medical Corps. They were part of 74 Division. They fought in the Middle East campaign throughout 1917 before returning to the Western Front in May 1918 until the end of the War. At least three other Hoole men served in this same unit (out of an approximate establishment of 240 men).

After the War the greengrocery business continued in Charles Street; Elizabeth died in 1924 but Thomas (for some reason known as ‘Skinner’ Baldwin) continued to run the shop until his death in 1949. His daughter Miss Elizabeth Baldwin continued the business before she died in 1960. The premises then became a paint shop run for several years by W. Caldwell.

John Miles Baldwin after World War I

After serving during the War, John Miles resumed his career as a painter and decorator. A 1933 Directory showing that he was living at No.21 Charles Street, perhaps over the shop run by Mr. C. Hutchings, described as a paper hanger and decorator; as it would appear that John Miles eventually took over the business. After he retired in 1980, the shop became a laundromat. It is now a carpet shop. 

John Miles's son, John Edward Baldwin became an architect and he designed the Pepper Street Car Park, being responsible for the column on which the Coade Stone Lion (once the symbol of the Lion Brewery which had previously occupied the site) was placed.

Thomas Baldwin delivering fruit & vegetables in Vicarage Road

The final photograph supplied by the family shows Thomas Baldwin delivering fruit & veg from his horse and cart in Vicarage Road. One caption says that it is of him and his son, Charlie which caused great confusion because there is no trace of a son called Charlie. Further investigation revealed that the boy was actually John Miles and it was the horse that was called ‘Charlie’.

Information on World War I service records provided by Dave Rees, Hoole History & Heritage Society

[Article researched and written by Ralph Earlam, September 2017, Hoole History & Heritage Society]