The West family – a Cobham dynasty

West's Stores, River Hill in the 1920's. By kind permission of Dr David Taylor.

Title: West's Stores, River Hill in the 1920's. By kind permission of Dr David Taylor.
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Cobham Remembers

When studying the life of Cobham at the beginning of the 20th century it is impossible not to encounter the West family. For the first quarter of that century with their businesses and marriages they were part of the fabric of the village.

William Henry West was born in Storrington, West Sussex in 1857, and in 1879 he married Martha Brigden at St Andrew’s Parish Church, Cobham. William’s “rank or profession” entered on the marriage certificate was “Corn & coal merchant”, as was his father, by then deceased.

Martha was a daughter of James Brigden, master grocer of Church Cobham, who was himself born in Storrington in about 1817.

The West family lived in Storrington until some time in the 1890’s when they moved to Cobham and the 1901 census shows them living in Church Cobham, with six of their children, close to the Brigdens, where one of their daughters Mabel was living. William is by then listed as a grocer with three of his sons working in the business. Clearly he was a successful businessman although maybe not so good as a family man as by 1911 he was boarding in a Worthing hotel, listed as a “Gentleman, private means”. (He died in 1922 in slightly mysterious circumstances. His probate record shows that he died in Hove where he was last seen alive on 26 June but his body was only found on 19 July!)

But in 1911 his family were well established in the community.

His wife Martha was proprietor of West’s Stores in the High Street, roughly where Knight Frank now stands. Two of her sisters, Elizabeth and Marianne Brigden had a milliners/drapers in the High Street.

The eldest son, Allen, born 1881, was listed on the census as a Grocer. He was a prominent citizen being the Parish Clerk, Verger & Sacristan at St Andrew’s Church and a member of the Church Council 1913 -19. In January 1919 the Cobham Parish Magazine reported that “Mr Allen West was obliged last October to resign as Verger and Vestry Clerk owing to pressure of other work. The duties have been divided between Mr Evans, Mr Millikin and Mrs Matthews. Mr Millikin is appointed Verger for Sunday duty. The week-day duty and Vestry Clerk’s work is being done by Mr W J Evans, 6 Leigh Villas to whom Notices of Banns of Marriages and Funerals should be sent”. Evidently a hard man to replace. He died in 1940 and is buried in Cobham Cemetery.

Allens wife, Edith, was the sub-post mistress in the grocery store on The Tilt, the building now domestic but can still be recognised by the wall Victorian post box.

Ernest, born 1882 was a Master Grocer. He served in the East Surrey Regiment and played in their band. He lived for a time at 13 Freelands Road, which had been developed by his father in 1907/08. He was one of the millions who died in the influenza epidemic that followed the war and his name is recorded on the Cobham War Memorial and Roll of Honour.

Hugh, born 1885, was a photographer with a house and studio in Anyards Road where Majestic Wines now stands. Hugh was married to Kathleen, daughter of Henry Hale who ran the post office and bakery in Downside (That building also still stands – a private house at the corner of The Island.) Many of his photos of local scenes and Cobham people survive.

Mabel (b. 1886). In 1901 she was living with her two aunts, Marianne and Elizabeth Brigden in Church Street, where she was employed as assistant in a confectionery shop. By 1911 she had moved to Clapham High Street and her employment was recorded as “manageress – pastrycooks”.

Ethel (b. 1887), a shop assistant in the1911 census, in 1919 she married Frederick Cornell, watchmaker and jeweller in Church Street, later in the High Street. Frederick served in the war and was a prominent member of the Downside & Cobham Rifle Club.

Colin (1889) was a boot & shoe dealer. Kelly’s Directory for 1913 lists his shop on River Hill as a partnership, Dear & West, but he disappears from that listing by 1918. He survived the war during which he served in the Army Ordnance Corps and is recorded on the Roll of Honour.

Ada (1890) married in 1916 Alfred Ludlow, an estate agent’s clerk. He was a sergeant in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps during the war.

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