In the genes?

Although nobody in my immediate family is involved in printing or publishing directly, I discovered early on in my research that three of my direct ancestors, two on the maternal side and one on the paternal side and all called George, were printers and/or publishers.

George Albert Lewcock

George Albert Lewcock was born in 1841 in Farnham in Surrey, the son of James who was a baker and confectioner, continuing the family business started by his father Samuel. James died in 1848, leaving a young family and his wife, Jessamine remarried the following year and continued the business. Her second husband, who was 18 years her junior, died in 1853. Jessamine was still a confectioner in Farnham in 1861 but by 1871 had retired and moved to Kingston Upon Thames with her three younger children. None of her children seemed to have followed her into the business, indeed the two oldest boys vanish altogether by 1861.

In 1861, George is living in the house of Richard Taylor, a printer, in Chatham, Kent and is one of two apprentice compositors living in the household. He married Lucy Usher in 1864 in Islington and gives his profession as a compositor. I had no idea who he might have worked for following his apprenticeship until I came across a newspaper report earlier this year:

THE SPOTTISWOODE INSTITUTE. – A conversazione at the Holborn Town-hall last evening under the auspices of the Spottiswoode Institute brought into more extended notice than the fact has hitherto received the existence of a pleasant literary and social institution among the employés [sic] of the Queen’s printers (Eyre and Spottiswoode) and the allied firm of Spottiswoode and Co. The Messrs. Spottiswoode are patrons of the institution; and last evening contributed materials for the scientific and artistic demonstrations of the evening. Mr. Austin Leigh showed old needlework which had been done by Jane Austen, the novelist; Mr. Crouch and Mr. Browning lent microscopes and spetroscopes, and Mr. Lewcock and Mr. H. Cripps displayed an interesting collection of British insects…… ….

Daily News (London, England), Thursday, November 24, 1881; Issue 11110

Although no initials are given I was fairly sure that this had to be George. 'Googling' his surname throws up many many references to George and his interest in insects and beetles in particular (this interest may well form the basis of an article later on as my brother has been doing extensive research into this area of his life). I came across another reference in my newspaper searches to George playing Draughts for the Spottiswoode Institute where his initials were given.  

 A more important find, on Google Books, were a partial listing in the "Entomologist's Annual For 1855" and another in the "Entomologist's Weekly Intelligencer for 1856", both of which gave his address:

“Page 23
... which I should be glad to exchange for C. Davus, T. Pruni, T. W-album or L.
Sibylla.— G. LEWCOCK, 69, High Street, Chatham” 

(NOTE: these appear to be species of butterflies)

The address is the same as in the census for 1861 and when he would have been aged 14 years old. It looks as though he will have served his seven year apprenticeship in Chatham and then moved to London. Why he didn’t go into the baking business and why he went to Chatham to serve his apprenticeship, we will probably never know. I need to visit the Archives and Library at Stationer’s Hall to see if there are any records of his apprenticeship held there.

Thus far I haven’t been able to follow George’s career as a working printer but I have recently discovered that the papers for Spottiswoode Ballantyne, are now held in the Essex Record Office, so following this up may well give me more information or at least leads to follow.

It was a casual comment during our weekly Skype call with my parents that led me to the Stationer’s School in Hornsey and from that, finding out about the importance of the Stationer’s Company to the world of printing. My grandfather, his two eldest sons and his father and uncles all attended the school and on the schools’ website I can see that PF Lewcock of 1.(Alpha) received a Special prize at the School Prizegiving in December 1935 at Stationer’s Hall, Ludgate Hill, when the prizes were presented by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Master of the Company.

Only one of George's direct descendants followed him into printing although his grandson Francis was involved in publishing. His eldest great grandson was a compositor for many years with The Evening Standard. He had begun his apprenticeship just before WWII and following his enlistment immediately war was declared, he served throughout the war, but still had to complete his seven years, so strict were the rules.

I still have a great deal to find out about my printing and publishing ancestors but as I am putting together the FTF Online Magazine each month, I wonder if maybe my interest stems from having the publishing gene on both sides of my ancestry?


© Caroline 2008