M*CH*MORE One Name Study

The MITCHELMOREs of Modbury and Bristol

by William John Mitchelmore, January 2008

The beginning: from Slapton to Modbury

Peter MITCHELMORE [Tree 09] was born in Slapton right at the end of the 18th century. Like most of the MITCHELMOREs of his time, he became an agricultural labourer—although he did try his hand as a sailor in his youth. Peter was one of the first of his line to move away from Slapton. He married a woman from the neighbouring parish of Stoke Fleming, lived there for a while and then moved even farther away to Harberton.

Peter's eldest son Thomas moved to Modbury as soon as he was old enough to work. For at least 10 years, he was a manservant to solicitor John Thomas SAVERY. In 1851, Thomas left Modbury to marry Elizabeth CROCKER in Plymouth. Thomas and Elizabeth had their first child in Plymouth, but by March 1854 had returned to Modbury. There, Thomas worked as a gardener and had a further seven children. Thomas died in Modbury in 1888 aged 66 years.

Broad Street, Modbury

Broad Street, Modbury, with the bus about to leave for Ivybridge and Plymouth

Modbury is an ancient market town. A turnpike trust had been set up in Modbury in 1759, and by 1823 they had constructed a good road connecting the town to Plymouth and maintained from the tolls collected.  In 1898, a train line was planned to connect Plymouth to Kingsbridge passing near to Modbury; but it had only got as far as Yealmpton when the funds ran out and it never did reach Modbury. To catch a train, the people of Modbury had to go to Kingsbridge or Ivybridge.


Thomas’s second son, John Crocker, was the first of Thomas's children to be born in Modbury. He married Virtue PADY, also of Modbury, at Kingsbridge Baptist Chapel in 1877. John and Virtue had two daughters, Ethel and Ada, and five sons, Charles, Horace, William, John Fredrick and Sydney Frank.

John Crocker started a shop at 5 Broad Street, Modbury, a general clothing store also selling boots and shoes. The sons and daughters of John Crocker would all have been worked for him in the shop. As was the custom then, many of the items sold were hand made on the premises. John was also a cobbler and made shoes to order using wooden lasts or formers. The lasts were made to match the individual’s feet and were kept in store waiting for new boots to be ordered. Hats were made by the daughters and a milliner finished them to create the most fashionable hats of the day, decorated with flowers and feathers. Dresses were made on models of the customers and much was hand stitched.

J. C. Mitchelmore & Son

J. C. Mitchelmore & Son, drapers, outfitters, milliners
and dressmakers, 5 Broad Street, Modbury. The
tricycle was used for delivering goods.

5 Broad Street, Modbury

Broad Street, Modbury (John's is the first shop on the right)

Another view of 5 Broad Street

View of John's shop from the opposite direction

In 1887, some enterprising Modbury traders formed a company called the Modbury and Ivybridge Omnibus Company with their office at 5 Broad Street and John Crocker as their secretary. The 'omnibus', which was driven by William STEVENS, was a long, four wheel coach drawn by two horses. It ran two return services a day to Ivybridge railway station so that passengers could travel to Plymouth or to Exeter and on to London. The Modbury and Ivybridge Omnibus Company remained in business even after a motor bus company, the South Hams Carriers, was formed in 1904.

John Crocker died in 1907 at the age of 52 years, having suffered migraines for many years.

Ada, John's eldest daughter, married Fredrick Kent and ran a shop in Bittaford (near Ivybridge). Later they moved to Torpoint, Cornwall (near Plymouth). His other daughter Ethel kept her mother company and nursed her when she was in failing health, later moving to Paignton to live at 15 St. Pauls Road.

Charles, the eldest son, managed the shop after John Crocker died in 1907. Like all his brothers, he joined the army during the Great War and was posted to the front line in France. He was in the Royal Army Service Corps, at times taking horses right up to the front line where they were used to pull artillery and supplies across rough ground. It was here that he suffered loss of hearing due to the noise of exploding shells, not to mention the effects of being exposed to terrible conditions and experiencing truly horrendous events.

After the war, Charles at first helped his brother Fred set up a business in Manchester. But as eldest unmarried son, he soon returned to Devon to attend to his ailing mother and his sister Ethel who were having a difficult time. In the 1920s, he moved to Torquay and found employment in various shops. In 1931, Charles married Florence GEACHES; they ran a guest house in Paignton and had a daughter Constance.

Horace John, the second son, married Lily CRUSE in 1913. They has a son Horace Charles Vernon in 1915. Horace volunteered for the army and joined the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment which had been posted to France at the end of 1914. Sadly, he was seriously injured during the battle of Festubert and died shortly afterwards. His grave is in the St Vaast Post Military Cemetery at Pas de Calais, France.

John Fredrick, the fourth son (known as Fred), left Modbury after his military service, married Elsie BEARD and moved to Canada as a school teacher. After a while he returned to England and set up a dairy in Manchester. He had three sons, Eric Charles, Fred and John Kenneth.




Sydney Frank

Sydney Frank, the youngest son, worked in the family shop in Broad Street until the early 1920s—apart from an interruption when he volunteered for the army during World War I. He was sent to France, where he worked as a driver in an ammunition column. One day, when he was racing back from the front having delivered ammunition under shell fire, he noticed a badly injured soldier on the roadside. He managed to get the man on to his vehicle, but then discovered that the petrol pipe had been hit and that there were thirty bullet holes in the lorry. Despite all this, Private Mitchelmore managed to coax the vehicle back to safety and was subsequently awarded the Military Medal for his bravery.

Sydney moved to Bristol and married Millicent Grace FISH. He established a clothing and haberdashery shop in Victoria Road, Redfield, and had two children, Joan Mavis and Harold George.

William Mitchelmore

William was the third son of John Crocker. He went to the Grammar School in Kingsbridge and later worked in the family business. One of his tasks was to catch the pony each morning, harness it to the trap and load up before travelling about the local farms and villages to deliver goods and take new orders for dresses, shoes and other items.

However, William had disagreements with his father and decided to make his living elsewhere. He moved to Taunton and later to London, working as a shop assistant 'in worker' living in the company lodgings. He moved to Bristol about 1905, where he met his future wife, dressmaker Evelyn Mary Elizabeth BROWN, while attending the Baptist chapel in Broadmead.

Until her marriage, Evelyn lived at 5 Marlborough Hill Place, Bristol, with her father Tom John BROWN, his wife, a sister Millicent and an older brother who later became a barrister in London. Tom was a mason and later a foreman at William Cowlin & Son (Builders), while his wife had been a companion housekeeper to a wealthy family, often travelling with them on their continental holidays.





William and Evelyn were married on 5th August 1912. At first, they lived above the drapers shop at 181 Newfoundland Road, St. Pauls, Bristol, which William had opened in 1911. A daughter, Beryl, was born in 1916. In the same year, William joined the army as a transport driver and served in France until his demobilisation in 1918. During his absence, Evelyn managed the baby and also the shop with the assistance of two girls. The shop sold haberdashery, dresses, bedding, underwear and similar goods.

181 Newfoundland Road

The drapers shop at 181 Newfoundland Road, St Pauls, Bristol

The business prospered and the family moved to live at 32 Seymour Avenue, Bishopston, where in turn Mary Doreen, Sybil and William John were born. The shop was open for long hours: 9.00 am till 6.00 pm Monday to Friday and on Saturday till 8.00 pm. There were no credit cards then and most transactions were in cash. There were also no calculators or computers, so Evelyn recorded the transactions and accounts in a large ledger using a pen with a steel nib and black or red ink.  After he locked up at night, William would put the takings in a bag (which he placed in his sock for safe keeping) and ride his bicycle up Ashley Hill to home.

The family were in the forefront of family travel. William had earlier bought a motorcycle on which to travel about, and after Beryl was born he added a sidecar. When Mary, Sybil and William John arrived he bought a 1923 Bean car which had a 'dickey seat', where three of the children sat exposed to the elements. Later he bought a Morris Cowley with five seats, but it had a canvas hood and it was still draughty. We all cuddled up under a travelling rug when it was cold, but in summer it was a joy to travel in the car with the top down. This was a basic car without a self-starter; to start the engine you had to crank it up with a long handle sticking out the front of the engine. Nevertheless we travelled to the south coast, Seaton or Lyme Regis, on Sundays in the summer. In the winter we had to go to Sunday school in the afternoons or go for walks, as there were no entertainments. Sunday was a day of rest and few people worked; the shops were all shut and cinemas and theatres were not allowed to open. And of course there was no TV.

Summer holidays were planned well ahead. One year we went in the car to Paignton to stay with Aunt Ethel and grandmother Virtue for a fortnight. The car was loaded up with us on the inside and the luggage strapped on the rack at the back. Off we went at seven o’clock in the morning. It was a challenge getting up Haldon Hill, just after Exeter, and usually several cars overheated. There they stood with their bonnets up, steam all over the place and a brown uniformed AA man in attendance.

All was well till September 1939, when World War II started. There was a big depression and rationing started. William enrolled in the Local Defence Volunteers, later called the Home Guard, and Sybil joined the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force). Later William John joined the Army Cadets and the Home Guard and in 1947 the Royal Air Force.

Bristol was badly bombed in World War II and the heart of the city was destroyed. Many shop windows were blown in and had to be boarded up because no glass was available. Once the family house was hit by an incendiary bomb which came through the roof and ceiling and landed on the floor of the bedroom. They smothered it with sandbags (water would have caused it to burn very fiercely) and it went out without too much damage.

William carried on in the shop and acquired another one nearby. He retired in 1955 to take up bowling in the summer and skittles in the winter. The shop was knocked down soon afterwards to made way for road widening. He died on 10 February 1959. Evelyn remained in her home until 1972, and then lived with her offspring in Torquay until her death in 1976.

The sons and daughters, their children, and their children's children are still carrying on the family traditions.


Thanks are due to my cousin Joan WALLIS n�e MITCHELMORE of Bristol, who gave invaluable assistance with names and dates as well as other information, and to my cousin John MITCHELMORE, whose researches assembled the mass of detail that formed the basis of this branch of the family history.