April 2012
Edition 85
Jerrems Family Newsletter
Our Family of Tailors in 19th century London
Dear Donald,
We continue the recently discovered link to our Scottish heritage in London during the age of Charles Dickens.

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Looking Back to a Family of Tailors
Ray Jerrems, Our Genealogist, Historian   Introduction 
In my first article about Nicoll the Tailor in the February 2012 Journal we left his father in Monymusk, near Aberdeen in Scotland. This article continues the family narrative and describes other prominent members of the family. It would be tempting for me to describe this article as a gripping story of mystery, murder and intrigue but this would be seriously overstating the situation. Instead I would describe it as my familiar unravelling of genealogical facts about some of our readers' prominent ancestors.

There are well over a hundred Nicoll the Tailors descendants, second only to the number of "Jerrems" descendants, emphasising the importance of my articles about this lineage. Incidentally, the Nicolls are a division of the McLeod clan. [Scottish heritage pictured: McLeod tartan and golf clubs]

Education, financial position
Although Nicoll the Tailor's father was a noggin maker, Adam Marshall's records contain the important information that the father and his siblings (two boys and two girls) were educated at Monymusk Grammar School. Although this sounds slightly grandiose (it was apparently the local parish school), what is certain is that the educational standard must have been very good because one of Nicoll's uncles became an advocate (a type of lawyer) in Aberdeen, and the other uncle won a scholarship and became an eminent professor (more about the professor later in this article). Nicoll's grandparents were obviously very enlightened as regards education because Alexander (the future professor) went to a private school at the age of four because he was too young to attend the public school.

The fact that the children (particularly the girls) were educated at the school also indicates that the family was financially quite well off, because they avoided the stereotype of the girls being put into service and the boys being forced to help at home or on the farm. As shown in my Willingham research only a small proportion of children attended school in this era.

The Nicol/Nicoll families were Episcopalians, demonstrated by the fact that Nicoll's's uncle trained to be a minister and Canon of that Church. The main church in the village is St Mary's Church, which has a famous relic, a bone reputed to be from St Columba, a Celtic Saint. The Church's website tells us that in 1967 the congregation of Monymusk Parish Church celebrated its 800th birthday since the founding of the important Priory of St Mary at Monymusk. In these many years the church was part of the Priory, and was one of the last Episcopal Parish Churches in Scotland. For the last 450 years it has served as Monymusk Parish Church.

By coincidence, as children our editor and his siblings attended the Episcopal Church in Bradenton, Florida. [EDITOR'S NOTE: I have no idea how Ray found this obscure factoid out because I never mentioned it. But it does speak to his powers of research.]

Exodus from Monymusk

Nicoll and his siblings were born in London between 1813 and 1821 (Nicoll being born in 1821), showing that the family had left Monymusk. Many of their cousins were born in London also in the same period. In fact it appears that all members of the Nicoll clan left Monymusk possibly at much the same time. Logically they would have travelled by ship to London.

The only earlier specific reference we have of the family's actual arrival in London is an item about Nicoll's uncle Benjamin Nicoll in an October 1849 Lloyd's Weekly which said that "Benjamin had come to London from Aberdeenshire only fifty years ago and established the woollen business now carried on by Donald and his brothers." This of course places the time of his arrival at about 1800.

The numerous Nicoll Tailors
[Refer street map in header]
Another interesting aspect of Uncle Benjamin is that he could have been the first "Nicoll" tailor in London because in 1820 he opened a tailors' shop at 47 Conduit Street (off Regent Street) in central London, having previously been a tailor in Chelsea. He died in 1822 at 47 Conduit Street, indicating that the family lived on the premises. The next tailoring record relates to Nicoll's father ("of Conduit Street, Tailor") who was gazetted as having been made bankrupt in 1828 and released from bankruptcy in 1833. He lived in 12 Conduit Street, London in 1825. The fact that he was previously a noggin maker in Monymusk indicates that he must have learned tailoring skills as well somewhere along the line.

Comparing the addresses (12 and 47 Conduit Street) it appears that Nicoll's father and Benjamin had separate tailoring businesses. It would also be logical that Nicoll started work in his father's business, and would have done so in about 1835 when he turned fourteen (the normal age for taking up apprenticeships.

It would also be logical that Nicoll took over the business well before 1851 when his father died at the age of 70. Continuing my theme of the Nicoll family's interest in tailoring, in 1843 Nicoll's cousin Donald and Donald's brother Henry John Nicoll opened their own establishment, "H.J. and D. Nicoll, Army and Navy Clothiers", at nearby (about 300 metres) 114-120 Regent Street, London.

Conduit Street Today
Above: Conduit street view
47 Conduit today
Conduit Street
Another cousin (a different Benjamin, born in 1816) was a hosier and shirtmaker in nearby 42 Regent Street, but later moved to Devon. However there is more! Nicoll's sister Hellen married a tailor, John Shepherd Sandilands (b1801) who worked for the Nicoll family (presumably Hellen's father Alexander) at 12 Conduit Street, however it is not clear whether this started before or after he married Hellen. He died at that address in 1860, indicating that the business was still operating at that date even though Nicoll had gone to Australia.

One of Hellen and John's sons, Alfred Sandilands, followed his father's example. Adam Marshall, the great grandson of Alfred, told me in an email that:
"You might like to know, in connection with Nicoll the Tailor, that there is another tailor in the family on this side of the pond who also did very well for himself though not on the same scale as Nicoll. My great grandfather Alfred Sandilands, the younger or youngest son of Helen Nicoll and John Shepherd Sandilands was a very successful military tailor who had premises in Conduit Street in the centre of London. He would have been the nephew of Nicoll so perhaps Nicoll influenced him in his choice of profession."

Alfred Sandiland's choice of military tailoring, adopted earlier by Donald and Henry Nicolls, was probably a good choice from a commercial viewpoint because the British Navy was a huge establishment upon which up to a quarter of the Government's annual expenditure was lavished. The army was a far more modest concern. All military officers wore tailored clothes. Conduit Street and Regent Street (both of which still exist) seem to have been popular places for the Nicoll family tailors!

Donald Nicoll
Donald had a varied and intriguing career, as demonstrated by the following account supplied to me by Dick Weindling.

Born in 1820, he was Nicoll's cousin. He married Melina Jones in 1855 at St George's Hanover Square. They apparently later adopted two daughters. However prior to his marriage Donald had already experienced an interesting career and (like his cousin Nicoll) showed entrepreneurial skills.

Examples of his interesting career are that in 1848 he took out a general game certificate (for shooting game) at the address of Acton Vale, now a suburb of London. Between 1849 and 1850 he was made a Sheriff of London and Middlesex (an honorary position), and in 1864 he became Captain of the 29th North Middlesex Volunteers.

Donald's wife Melina was the youngest daughter of Lewis Jones, a tailor who had joined "the Nicoll tailoring company" (presumably Benjamin's original company) as a partner in 1826, and in the 1851 census he was at 47 Conduit Street, the address of Benjamin Nicoll's original shop.

In 1856, not long after his marriage, Donald showed his entrepreneurial ambitions by branched out from tailoring on a huge project, buying land in the intriguingly named "Vale of Health" (now part of London's suburb of Hampstead) and building "The Villas on the Heath" By 1863 the Suburban Hotel Company, in which Donald held a majority shareholding, had completed the huge Vale of Health Hotel. Robert Booth was the architect, and he was to remain in Donald's employ for the next forty odd years, also acting as secretary and surveyor, indicating that Donald continued his building career for a long time.

Readers who think that I have mixed up "Health" and "Heath" are mistaken. It seems that Donald had in mind that the project would become a health resort. Although this intention ultimately failed the villas later had some interesting owners, including Rudyard Kipling. The area is still shown on maps as "The Vale of Health".

From at least 1856 to 1860 Donald lived at 14 Park Lane. In 1860 he moved to York Villa, Kilburn, which he enlarged and called Oaklands. His interest in tailoring probably evaporated when the partnership with his brother was dissolved in 1869.

Professor Alexander Nicoll
This Alexander had a comparatively short but spectacular academic career, described to me by Dick Weindling and Adam Marshall.

Born in 1793 in Monymusk, Alexander was a brother of Nicoll the Tailor's father. Previously I referred to him being tutored (for two years) because he was too young to go to to the public school. He was then educated between 1799 and 1804 in Monymusk Parish School. Winning scholarships, he then spent a year in Aberdeen Grammar School and between 1806 and 1807 in Marischal College, Aberdeen (pictured above). The precocious Alexander was then educated between 1807 (when he was only 14) and 1811 in Oxford University's Balliol College (pictured below).

By 1813 he had turned his attention to oriental languages, chiefly Hebrew, Arabic and Persian. He was ordained as a deacon in 1817, was made a priest in 1818 and was a Canon in Christ Church, Oxford (pictured above). He was Regious Professor of Hebrew between 1822 and 1828 in Christ Church, Oxford, one of the largest constituent colleges of Oxford University.

Alexander's main work was the cataloguing of the Oriental manuscripts in the Bodleian Library of which he was sub-librarian. He compiled the prodigious number of 30,000 manuscripts which covered a dozen languages These compilations gained for him a European reputation and such was his linguistic fame that it was commonly said of him that he might travel to the Great Wall of China without the services of an interpreter.

He was married twice, first to a Danish lady (Johanna Felborg) who sadly died eight days after the marriage and secondly to Sophia, daughter of the Rev. James Parsons, his biographer, by whom he left three daughters. Alexander was elected to be a Fellow of the prestigious Royal Society in 1826. More fully named "The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge", it was founded in November 1660 under a Royal Charter. and acts as the UK's Academy of Sciences. Its members read like a "Who's Who" in the scientific world and include Charles Darwin.

Alexander died of a "disorder of the trachea" in 1828 in Christ Church, Oxford, at the early age of 35. He is commemorated at Oxford by a conspicuous mural tablet (rather fittingly written in Latin) at the foot of the Hall staircase at Christ Church. One can only surmise as to what he would have achieved if he had lived a normal lifetime!

It seems probable that he was the most prominent academic in the extended Jerrems family tree, although Alexander Stapler ("Stapler") Jerrems gained considerable scientific recognition in the 1940s and 1950s. Also, Alexander was not the only professor in the family, Stapler's nephew Chick (one of our readers and contributors) is also a professor.

The Saga will Continue
  Balliol College (Pictured) 
Nicoll the Tailor's family
Briefly, Nicoll married Elizabeth Powell in 1841 in Norwich (north east of London) and they had a grand total of ten children.

I had intended to write about the ten children in this article but it soon became obvious that this would make my current article too long, so I will save it up for a later article, where I will also tell you about Nicoll's escapades (previously undetected) in Melbourne.

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