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“Huonville” and the Hopkins Family

by Bob Applin

About a year ago I happened to call into the Museum when John Hollands was helping two ladies from Tasmania; they were looking for a house called Huonville in Chequers Rd, and for information on a family called Hopkins who lived there at one time. The family had a confectionery business at 8 London St. Having a bit of spare time, I offered to take them to Chequers Rd and we walked the length of the road looking, without success, for Huonville. Unfortunately, Mrs Bigham, the lady making the enquiry, did not have a photo of the house with her.

Left: Huonville, circa 1900 © Barbara Bigham; right: Huonville in 2017

Subsequently, by consulting the 1851 to 1911 census returns, the local directories of the time and correspondence with Mrs Bigham we have firmly established that Hounville was the name used by the Hopkins for No 8 Chequers Rd. Mrs Bigham’s photo of the house (sent after our visit) and my recent photo show that externally it has changed very little and is one half of a pair of houses called Olive Villas built in 1887 by G.G. (George Goodall?). Just about visible on the left-hand ashlar quoin to the left above the parlour window is the name Broughton – again this name is not in the records that I have consulted. Various members of the Hopkins family occupied the house from after 1901 to at least 1958. They are not there in the 1960 edition of Kelly’s.

Mrs Bigham does not have an explanation for the use of the name Huonville.

The rise of this Hopkins family in Basingstoke is an example of the Victorian entrepreneurship that is evident in the censuses – not in the same league as Burberry or Milward, but of someone from outside the town recognising and exploiting the opportunities that the arrival of the railways and the resulting increase in population provided. I wish to thank Mrs Bigham for permission to reproduce her photographs and family information.

London Street circa 1890: the pub is “The Bell” where Inigo Jones was briefly incarcerated after the fall of Basing House.

Edward Alfred Hopkins – Mrs Bigham’s Great Grandfather – Census information

1851: Living in Windsor where he was born, the son of Thomas Hopkins a greengrocer. Aged 21, with the trade of currier.

1861: He is living in London St. Basingstoke at the second property from the Market Square, unmarried and a currier. A late 19th century photo shows a small shop on the west side of the Bell Inn in London St. See below.

According to the Shorter OED a currier is a dyer of leather, but I think the word was also more generally used as the term for a leather worker/dealer. He probably sold leather and leather goods. Until the 1960s, in Basingstoke, there was a shop in Potters Lane (Botting’s) where one could buy leather for home resoling of boots and shoes – as my father did for my family.

1871: He has married and moved to the second property east of the Bell Inn and is a Draper with 6 children. He had 8 children in all. His wife Mary’s 1911 census return states that she had 8 children all of whom were living.

1881: He is now one property east of The Bell Inn and is a Teacher of Music well enough off to have a servant. He and his wife Mary have 3 children at home, and they also have a boarder.

1891: At the same property, now calling himself Professor of Music. Family includes Harry H, aged 23, and Percy J, aged 16, both confectioner’s assistants. No servant but two lodgers. Presumably his wife was running the confectioner’s shop with her sons while Edward taught his pupils, which may have not been a full-time occupation.

Left: Edward Alfred Hopkins, died 1899; right: Family group, 1899. Back row: Harry Hopkins, Louise Taylor (Hopkins), Edward Hopkins, Percy Hopkins. Front Row: Kate Hopkins, Mary Louise Hopkins, nee Clark, Annie Fielder (Hopkins). (Sons Thomas and Frederick had already emigrated to Tasmania.) Photos © Barbara Bigham

At that period ‘Professor of Music’ had no academic meaning. The wife of the manager of what is now Nat West Bank in London St. and the landlord of the Black Boy inn in Church St are also recorded as ‘Professor of Music’ i.e. a professional music teacher, in the censuses.

1901: Edward’s wife Mary is head of household at 8 London St. with sons Harry H, a coachbuilder, and Percy J confectioner, a visitor Eva L Lee (24), music teacher, and a boarder.

1911: Mary is at 8 Chequers Rd with unmarried daughter Kate (38). Percy is still at 8 London St, a Confectioner, with wife Eva Louise and daughter Constance (6), i.e. Percy had married the music teacher. The business is doing sufficiently well for Percy to employ a live-in girl assistant.

London St, circa 1900 © Barbara Bigham

The 1891 census records Percy and Harry Hopkins as Confectioner’s Assistants. They were working in the family business, and by 1911 Percy is recorded as Confectioner, i.e. he has taken over running the business and his mother had retired to Chequers Rd. Harry had moved on to other things beyond the scope of this article. ‘Confectioner’ in this context is someone selling sweets etc and this is evidenced by the 1900 advertisements for Rowntree’s chocolate and the1910 photo showing the Hopkins shop as an ice cream parlour. It is likely that they also sold fancy goods and, as his wife Eva was a music teacher, sheet music etc.

The 1915 Kelly’s directory has Mrs Hopkins at 8 Chequers Rd and Percy is still a confectioner at 8 London St. where his wife Eva is a Teacher of Mandolin. Mary Louise Hopkins died, aged 79, in 1917.

Percy and his wife are no longer at 8 London St. in 1920 and do not appear in the business sections of later Kelly’s. Did the business fail because of the food restrictions imposed during the later stages of WW1?

The 1939 Registration record has Percy still at 8 Chequers Rd., aged 65, as a Leather Factory Worker with a wife Elizabeth L, aged 51. Sometime between 1915 and 1939 Eva disappears, she would have been aged 62 in 1939. I have been unable to find a record of her death. Percy died in 1944 and his wife Elizabeth continued to live at 8 Chequers Rd. until 1958. An Elizabeth L Hopkins, aged 90, died in Basingstoke in 1964. Is it a coincidence that Percy finished up in the same trade as his father stared out in?

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