born October 28th 1804
died January 8th 1876
Also JEMIMA, wife of the above,
born May 7th 1819
died November 12th 1878
Also of ELIZABETH, the
beloved wife of
and eldest daughter of the above,
who died October 5th 1901
aged 64 years.
"Thy will be done"
Also JAMES MYERS their son,
born December 1st 1845,
died November 4th 1908.
who died July 27th 1935
Robert Myers Pawnbroker of 320 Deansgate, Manchester,1804- 1876 and Jemima Baxter 1819 -1878.
Robert Myers, my great-great-great-grandfather, was a Pawnbroker in Deansgate, Manchester. He was born 28 October 1804 in Manchester. He had several children with Jemima Baxter before marrying her in 1853. Jemima was probably his housekeeper, she first appears on the 1841 census, aged 20 (changed from 22) living with Robert on Liverpool Road, Manchester along with two children, Elizabeth and Robert, listed as son and daughter of Robert Myers aged 35.
The 1841 census rounded ages to the nearest five years and the ages of Robert and Jemima and their children on subsequent census forms are not at all accurate.
When Robert died in 1876 he left a will conveniently explaining that Elizabeth was his natural daughter with a Mary Davis or David (deceased) and he listed the children born before and after his marriage to Jemima. There were 11 children in total, Elizabeth, Robert, Sarah, James, Mary, Henry, William and Fanny were born before marriage and Thomas Edward, Frederick Lawton and Annie were born after their marriage. Sarah Myers Baxter was my great-great grandmother, she married James Charles Armstrong who died young and she later married Henry Hind Beanland.
The 1841 census was the first real census, it shows very little information; it was only four years into Victoria’s reign. There was no running water, not much gas light and cooking was done over an open fire in the kitchen.
Engels, in his book ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’ describes Deansgate, Manchester as ‘lined first with mills and warehouses, then with second-rate shops and alehouses; further south, when it leaves the commercial district, with less inviting shops, which grow dirtier and more interrupted by beer houses and gin palaces the farther one goes, until at the southern end the appearance of the shops leaves no doubt that workers and workers only are their customers.’
The business was run as Worthington and Myers, there was an Isaac Worthington trading at 258 Deansgate in 1834. Pawnbrokers were common on the streets of working class districts in the industrial cities. Manchester at this time was one of the richest and fastest growing cities in the country. People were moving in from the countryside and from Ireland to work in the mills and factories. They were in regular but poorly paid employment and were living from hand to mouth in overcrowded housing. It seems the main function of the pawnbroker was to provide a way of making ends meet. The pawnbroker was commonly known as ‘Uncle’. Pawning was a regular practise; people often used their Sunday best clothing as capital on which to obtain cash. Items pawned were known as pledges, and clothing was pledged on a Monday and redeemed on a Saturday after being paid. They wore their best clothing to church on Sunday and pawned it again the next day.
My great-aunt Bertha wrote a short piece for a parish magazine describing how her father had told her his memories of playing hopflag on Deansgate outside his grandfather’s shop in the 1870s with gold watches when he was ‘aged only six’. Bertha thought the shop was a lock-up shop as her father had told her that his grandfather used to sleep under the counter, having only had an apple for dinner, as he was afraid of burglars. Bertha had a lot of things wrong though. She was under the impression that Jemima was a daughter of the Worthingtons of Worthington’s Brewery. It seems the name Baxter had been quietly dropped in the family tree. Bertha cites her mother Sarah as the eldest daughter and we now know that his eldest daughter was Elizabeth, this on the family grave in Brooklands cemetery.
Bertha describes the tale of the painting left by an old seaman who didn’t reclaim it at the end of the year and so became the property of the pawnbroker. They thought it was a portrait of the poet Shelley and Bertha says it was given to her mother, Sarah, his eldest daughter, on her marriage. I remember the tale of a valuable painting that Bertha had inherited and its fate when she died was much discussed, I don’t remember the details but it inevitably turned out to be worthless.
On the 1851 census they are living at 12, Collier Street, Manchester, just around the corner from the Pawnshop which was on the corner of Deansgate and Todman Street, so at the insalubrious end of Deansgate if we listen to Engels.
On 23rd December 1853 Robert married Jemima Baxter at St.Mary’s Church in Manchester : age 49, bachelor, Pawnbroker, 394 Deansgate, father, James Myers, shoemaker. Jemima Baxter is 35, spinster, 6 Egerton Street, father Joshua Preston, packer.
In1861 they lived at 15 Egerton St, Hulme.
In1871 they lived at 15 Egerton St, Hulme, Robert aged 66,
Robert died on 8th January 1876. Jemima died on 12th November 1878.
Robert Myers left a will with a legacy to his sister's living children of £50 - her name looks to be Eliza Atkinson and a legacy to his eldest daughter Elizabeth who was his daughter to a Mary David
Then he left Jemima a regular income of £60.00 per year to be paid quarterly until her death and he confirms his children Robert, Sarah, James, Mary, Henry, William and Fanny were his and Jemima's children out of wedlock. But Thomas Edward, Frederick Lawton and Annie were his and Jemima's children during their marriage!
The rest of the will is how his estate should be divided up after Jemima’s death with guidance to his son, William Myers, and the 2 other trustees on how the estate should be administered to make sure that any grandchildren should be looked after if their parents die before they reach 21 years old.
That is where the facts end and the speculation begins. I wonder if the Myers were originally from Germany as it is a German name and if so, were they originally Jewish? Robert Myers was trading with Isaac Worthington and this name appears on Jewish registers in Manchester. There is a Jacob Myers trading as a pawnbroker in 1852 at 114 London Road.
Jemima is even more of an enigma. On the marriage certificate she gives her father’s name as Joshua Preston. Why was Jemima Baxter’s father called Preston? Or was his name Joshua Preston Baxter?
There is a family legend about somebody being an illegitimate daughter of Lord Ribblesdale of the Lister family of Gisburn, Lancashire. The same legend has a daughter of the Lister family running off with a gamekeeper and so being disinherited.