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Thomas Carte Toddington Shopkeeper

Gunpowder, Needles & Clogs: The inventory of Thomas Carte's Shop in 1850s Toddington

Recently discovered in the huge Swaffield archive  - which is currently being listed by our volunteer Sue Fowler - is a detailed inventory of the shop belonging to Thomas Carte of Toddington.
Thomas was born on the 16 October 1821, the eldest son of Humphrey Carte innholder of the King’s Head in Ampthill. Unfortunately his father died when Thomas was only eight and his sister Hannah, nine. Their younger brother Humphrey may not have even been born as he is christened on the 26th April 1829, his father having been buried on the 18th February the same year.

Thomas’s mother Martha remarried in 1832. Her second husband, William Bright, was also an innkeeper and in 1841 they still lived at the King’s Head, Ampthill with Hannah aged 20, John aged 8 and William aged 3. By this time the two boys from Martha’s first marriage were living elsewhere; twelve year old Humphrey was at Mr Wright’s school in Lidlington but the exact whereabouts of Thomas are, as yet, a mystery. 

In 1847 Thomas married Elizabeth Shaw, a farmer’s daughter from Toddington, where, as we know, he was in business as a grocer. Thomas and Elizabeth had at least three children: Mary, born about 1848, Thomas, who was baptised and buried in March 1853 and Martha Sarah (named after both her grandmothers, Martha Bright and Sarah Shaw, we presume) who was baptised in 1855.

By the mid-nineteenth Century Thomas Carte was a linen & woollen draper, grocer, tallow chandler and dealer in British wines. He is listed in the 1847 Post Office Directory so was a successful businessman at the age of 26. The 1851 census records him living in Church Road, aged 29, with his wife Elizabeth 23, and their 3 year old daughter Mary. John Patch was the grocery assistant, and Edward Wheeler was draper's apprentice. Alice Ginger was the house servant.

In February 1856 Thomas decided to sell his business and move away. He employed the Ampthill auctioneers, Messrs Thomas & George Greene to deal with the sale of his stock and premises in Church Road. The list they compiled shows how diverse his business was. The handwritten booklet [Ref.SF69/1/1]  lists a  range of products from silks and satins, stockings and braces to bottled anchovies and milk of magnesia. There was a range of ammunition, household goods, and clothing and footwear. He catered for both rich and poor, selling doe skin gloves and velveteen coats, worsted shirts and pattens and clogs. As well as the shop goods the inventory lists the 'Utensils of Trade' and the fixtures and fittings such as the mahogany topped counter. The total value of the goods listed in the inventory was £1546.18.3.

T & G Greene used posters [Ref.SF69/1/6] to advertise the sale which was held at the premises at midday on 5th April 1856. As well as the vast array of stock there were also several vehicles going under the hammer, including a gig and dog cart. The comprehensive sale also listed timber, firewood and garden tools, and  a large quantity of household furniture.

In 1858 he is a licensed victualler in St Albans. On the 6th June 1858 he writes his will, naming his brother and mother as executors and leaving effects worth less than £800 in trust for the support of his children. On the 10th July 1858 he died. He was 36. His body was brought back to Ampthill for burial in the family plot. Elizabeth remarried in 1860. Her daughters married in 1871 and 1877 respectively. 

 Thomas’s brother Humphrey was also a draper. Living in Clifton in January 1853 he married Marianne Green, a young lady from Newport Pagnell and in later years this is where he lives. However, he dies in Bury, Hunts in 1877, aged 48. He was also buried in Ampthill.

 Meanwhile Thomas’s sister Hannah married John Cook in 1845. In the 1881 census Hannah is a widow, running Towns End farm, Steppingley with her son Thomas and her mother Martha who is now aged 87. Martha died in 1882 and Thomas Cook in 1885 so by 1891 the 70 year old Hannah, still farming at Steppingley, now only shares her house with her servant. In 1901 Hannah is still at Steppingley living on her own means, she died in 1904. 

How did we discover all this? As with many family histories the census and the international genealogical index (IGI) provided a start. From the 1851 census we knew that Thomas was born in Ampthill. A search of the IGI revealed his baptism and revealed his parents to be Humphrey and Martha. On the morbid side, burial registers, monumental inscriptions and wills came into play. Fortunately we have the wills of Thomas’s father Humphrey (ABP/W1829/30), grandmother Mary Carte (ABP/W1836/8), grandfather (another Humphrey ABP/W1823/14), and great-uncle John (ABP/W1818/20) and a copy of the will of his great-grandfather (WE1282). Together these reveal relationships between the family including Martha’s second marriage as well as showing the way that land in Ampthill, Lidlington and elsewhere was distributed. Finally we were lucky that deeds relating to the Kings Head property are to be found in the WE collection (WE1282-1289). In 1863 the King’s Head was sold under the terms of the will of Humphrey the younger. As part of this process a release was required from Humphrey’s children to his executor’s and this deed of release recites the death of Thomas and allows us to be sure that the Thomas Carte who died in St Albans really was our Thomas. For a pedigree of the Carte family see CRT190/63.