James Leighton Giles

Author: FNRC
Date published: 24/06/2013

James Leighton Giles
[1849- 1922]

James Leighton Giles was born in 1849 in Bearwood, nearHurst,Berkshire. He spent his childhood in Arborfield, living in Beech House alongside the family grocery shop and Bakery. He lived with his father John, mother Eliza and younger sisters Elizabeth, Emily and Ellen. He left home in his latter teenage years to serve with various units of the army and was stationed in bothEnglandandWales. He was said to have had a “rather adventurous disposition” when young. After leaving the army, he became a Journeyman Baker, completing his apprenticeship by working in Leamington Spa,Henley, Abingdon,IpswichandBoulogne, finally settling in Newbury to join his father’s grocery and bakery business. This was at 3 St. Mary’s Hill, Newbury and these premises, on the corner ofStation RoadandCheap Streetare now a Fancy Dress Hire shop. He took over the running of the business on his father’s retirement in 1880.

He was married to Ellen Beeson at St. Nicholas Parish Church, Newbury on 20th March 1880. Soon afterwards, he and his wife were received into the Roman Catholic Church by the late Canon Riley of St. Joseph’s, Newbury. They lived in the flat above the Bakery at the beginning of their marriage, where James would get up very early in the morning and bake the bread and cakes himself freshly every day with the help of his small staff. James Leighton Giles was described by his wife as an unambitious, though very capable, businessman who was “indulgent” to those who were unable to pay for their daily bread. They had eight children altogether and after about ten years living above the shop, the family moved to a larger home. This was “Silver Birch”,45 Greenham Road. James Leighton built stables at the end of the large garden for his pony and trap and grocery delivery carts. He would spend the early part of the day after baking, delivering bread to his regular customers.

He retired from Giles’s Bakery the first time in 1913, leaving the management to his two sons, Leo and Alban. He returned to the shop again in 1914, running it with the help of his wife, two younger daughters and a friend. The reason for his return to work was to manage the shop, as his two sons were in the army for the duration of the First World War. About this time he was a member of the “Old Volunteers”, and was said to be rather “a high spirited patriot”. He finally left the shop aged 70 on his sons’ return. Although suffering from heart disease, he still took a great interest in the business. He was said to be always busy.

James Leighton and Ellen Giles had a happy marriage lasting 42 years. He died just before dawn on Wednesday, August 23rd 1922. His body was taken to St. Joseph’s Church and a Requiem Mass was said by Rev. Father Green on Monday 28th August at10 o’clock, followed by interment at theNewtown Road cemetery near the grave of his father John Giles. As he and his family were devout Roman Catholics, he was laid to rest in the south side of the cemetery {the Dissenting side} with the words of the Catholic burial service, conducted by Father Green.


Website designed and maintained by Paul Thompson on behalf of the Friends of Newtown Road Cemetery.

Administrator Login