(Originally published in Journal 66, August 2016)
by Peter Bloomfield with a lot of help from David A’Bear and David Hanson
The A’Bear name can be traced back to Norman times but what is not certain is was it a Saxon name which became normanised or a Norman name which became saxonised.
John A’Bear was born in 1833 either in Wargrave or possibly Buckinghamshire – census information differs. The Buckinghamshire connection may be explained by the fact that his family still had strong links with this county, as John’s great grandmother Mary A’Bear (nee Beckett) was still living at the time of his birth and came from this county. John’s father is named as John Piggott on his birth certificate. Given the similarity of his half sisters’ birth details, and the facts that his surname was A’Bear and not Piggott and that there is no record of his mother ever marrying, it seems certain John’s birth was illegitimate. Later, when John married, his father was named as John Abear, farmer, but this John is thought to be his grandfather who perhaps helped to raise him.
In 1841 the census report records John (8 years old) and his half sister Eliza (8 months) lodging in the Queen Victoria Beer House at The Holt in Harehatch, Wargrave. His three half sisters were all born in the district of Wokingham, the last in 1847, so John must have grown up in or near Wargrave. In the 1851 census he is shown aged 20, working as a servant footman at 32, Oxford Square, Paddington, Marylebone. His place of birth is given as Wargrave.
On the 1st March 1855 he started with the NLR as Station Clerk at Chalk Farm. His personal details as given in the Staff Register are: previously employed as a merchant clerk; his referee was Richard Creed, Esq, (a director of the LNWR and NLR); age twenty-four; and height six feet one and a half inches. In the autumn of 1856 he became a collector on a salary £84 10s (£1 12s 6d per week). From the 1st January 1857 he was required to provide £300 surety, as a result he received an increase in salary of £15 10s. This brought his salary to £100. His duties were collecting the daily receipts on the railway from the various station clerks twice each day and pay the sums in to the bankers, and also paying the wages of the Traffic Department (station staff, signalmen and passenger guards).
In 1866 he was promoted to Cashier, with his salary being increased to £200 “as soon as the entire cash had been transferred to his charge;” and the Cashier’s office was moved from Chalk Farm to Camden Road, not that it remained there for very long as at the end of 1868 a small sum of money was lost from the Accountant’s Office. During the investigation it was revealed that large sums of money, such as cash receipts and cash drawn out for wages and salaries were at times deposited in the Cashier’s Office. Alterations necessary to ensure safer custody of cash could not be carried out at Camden Road as office accommodation was limited. It was therefore decided that the Cashier should move to Broad Street, the cost of the office alterations there costing about £175. Presumably, the actual move taking place in early 1869.
On the 1st January 1872 John received his first salary increase as Cashier, his pay going from £200 to £225. In 1877 a special committee was set up to investigate some lax accounting practices on the part of the Accountant. One recommendation was that John A’Bear’s salary was increased from £250 to £300. He remained as the Cashier for the remainder of his service with regular pay increases, the last one being to £450 on 1st July 1892. On the 31st January 1893 he resigned on account of ill-health. Having been with the Company for nearly 38 years and wishing to recognise the services that he had rendered, his superannuation of about £127 was supplemented by the Company to give him a retiring allowance of £250 a year, effective from the day following his retirement.
In June 1865 he married Anne Austin, a brewer’s daughter who came from Bognor, Sussex, in the parish church, Marylebone. They had two children: Magdalene Ann Mary (1866); and John Adolphus (1869) who died an infant in 1870. A domestic servant made up the household.
After his premature retirement the family moved to the south coast, St Helen’s Road, Hastings. Presumably this was on health grounds, getting away from the smoke and grime of late 19th century London to the fresh air of the seaside. In 1894 his daughter, Magdelena, married Ernest Millar, a solicitor, and moved to Sutton in Surrey after a spell in Willesden.
John died on 11th July 1902 in Bexhill leaving effects of £2645 11s. After he died his wife Ann moved to live with their daughter in Sutton, where she died on 31st October 1908.
Station clerk. Chalk Farm. Appt 1 Mar 1855. Station clerk to collector. Oct 1856. Height 6’ 1½” [RAIL 529/132/61 Folio 13.]
Collector of monies. Required to provide £300 security on appt. Increase in salary of £15 10s to £100 1 Jan 1857. [RAIL 529/13, 9 Dec 1856, Board Mtg Min 1013.]
Collector. Duties were to collect the daily receipts on the railway from the various station clerks twice each day and pay the sums into the bankers, also pay the wages of the Traffic Dept. Appt to this duty in December 1856. Salary increased from £100 to £120. [RAIL 529/15, 28 Feb 1860, Board Mtg Min 1832.]
Collector of money. Salary increased from £120 to £140. [RAIL 529/17, 25 Mar 1862, Board Mtg Min 2334.]
Cashier. Requested review of salary. Salary increased from £140 to £150. 1 Apr 1864. [RAIL 529/19, 22 Mar 1864, Board Mtg Min 582.]
Salary to £200 as soon as the entire cash had been transferred to his charge. [RAIL 529/77 10 Jan 1866, FGP Com Min 90.]
Cashier. Transferred to Camden Road. 1 May 1866. [RAIL 529/132/61 Folio 13.]
Travelling audit clerk to cashier. [“Change of staff in the Audit Department, Mr C T Clay, Chief Clerk in the Ticket Office at a salary of £91 per annum, to be Travelling Audit Clerk @ £110 per annum, vice Mr A’Bear promoted to be Cashier.”][RAIL 529/21 18 Oct 1866, Board Min 524.]
Cashier moved from Camden Road to Broad Street station. 1869. [RAIL 529/23 19 Nov 1868, Board Min 976, RAIL 529/65, 2 Dec 1868 PW, etc, Com Min 458.]
Cashier. Pay £200 to £225. 1 Jan 1872. [RAIL 529/25, Board Mtg 14 Mar 1872, min 1627.]
Cashier. Pay £225 to £250. 1 Jan 1874. [RAIL 529/78 3 Dec 1873, FGW Com Min 950.]
Cashier. Pay £250 to £300. [RAIL 529/27, Board Mtg 15 Nov 1877, min 2732.]
Cashier. Pay £300 to £325. 1 Jan 1881. [RAIL 529/27, Board Mtg 16 Dec 1880, min 3197.]
Cashier. Pay £325 to £375. 1 Jan 1884. [RAIL 529/28 13 Dec 1883, Board Min 3643.]
Cashier. Pay £375 to £425. 1 Jul 1888. [RAIL 529/80 4 Jul 1888, FGW Com Min 2127.]
Cashier. Pay £425 to £450. 1 Jul 1892. [RAIL 529/80 29 Jun 1892, FGW Com Min 2364.]
Cashier. Resigned on account of ill-health. Service with NLR nearly 38 years. Desiring to recognise his services to the company, his superannuation about £127 to be supplemented by NLR to give him a retiring allowance of £250 a year. Effective 1 Feb 1893. [RAIL 529/80 1 Feb 1893 FGP Com Min 2393.]