Samuel Nevill Toomer

Date published: 22/01/2014

The Toomer Family Ran An Ironmongery Business In Newbury From The 17th Century. The Family's Most Prominent Members Were Samuel (D.1817), Mayor of Newbury In 1767-8 And 1783-4, And His Son, Joseph (1760-1853), Mayor In 1791-2, 1801-2 And 1814-15.

Samuel Nevil Toomer is buried in the Toomer family vault on the upper western side of the Newtown Road Cemetery. A number of his immediate family are also interred in this vault, though not all of them.

Samuel was born on 14th September 1796 in Newbury. He was the 5th child of Joseph Toomer, (1760 – 1853) and Jane, nee Maskelyne.

(Of interest is the fact that his eldest sibling, Margaret was named after her mothers cousin Margaret maskelyne a great beauty who achieved some fame by going out to India to find her husband and capturing one of the most eligible bachelors in the empire Robert Clive first Baron Clive the immensely wealthy military hero best known as Clive of India)

His father was himself an ironmonger, in Newbury Market Place. Samuel inherited this business, though both his brother and father took a lot of the money out of the business, in Joseph’s case to set himself up. Samuel set up his business at number4 Northbrook Street in 1827.

Samuel was originally christened Nevil after his mothers other cousin Neville Maskelyne, astronomer royal and the man who persuaded the Royal Navy to send a ship to the Pacific in order to observe a rare astronomical event known as the transition of Venus The man chosen to command the ship was Captain Cook and it was this voyage that made him famous.  Shortly after his christening his elder brother, Samuel, died tragically young, aged three and he took on the name of Samuel , though he was still referred to as Nevil for the rest of his life.

Samuel’s father, Joseph, is well known for creating his own census of Newbury for 1815. This detailed all the people in the borough of Newbury, including ages, occupations for some and of course where they lived.

Samuel married Elizabeth Hynson in 1821, in St Mary’s Church Lewisham. Elizabeth’s father was a mariner, possibly a ship’s captain. They had 12 children, not all of whom survived. Amongst them were Neville Maskelyne 1823; possibly a twin called Joseph also, who died in 1825; Samuel Joseph in 1825, who also died early in 1828. Edward was also born in 1825, possibly as a twin to Samuel Joseph. Then, Jane in 1827, Elizabeth in 1828, followed by Sophia in 1832, Sarah A and Emma in 1834, again presumably twins. The final two were Melbourne in 1838 and Septimus in 1840.

Samuel’s eldest child, Neville Maskelyne, set up in Reading as an ironmonger, married Fanny Hunt in 1851, and their only child a daughter Fanny Ella was born in 1852. The family is recorded as living in Reading in 1861. In 1871 no trace can be found of them. Apparently in 1866 Neville was charged with rape, found guilty and sentenced to 15 years hard labour. The case rested on the testimony of the wronged woman, governess to Fanny Ella. Medical opinion and testimony of other servants held that the sex was consensual and there had been an attempt to extort money, Neville was eventually released due to the public outcry. This case changed the law regarding evidence in rape cases and blighted the career of Horace Walpole the then Home Secretary.

Edward became a “tinman” in Stepney, having married Clara Gillam in 1847, though their daughter Clara Toomer Gillam was born somewhat earlier in 1845. The Gillam family lived in Northbrook Street. They eventually had 5 children: Clara Toomer Gillam, 1845, Rhoda E Toomer , 1849, Edward G, 1852, Elisabeth, 1855, and Samuel I, 1863. Edward appears to have died in 1864 on the Isle of Wight though there is no convincing proof of this.

Samuel Nevil continued at 4, and sometimes 4 and 5 Northbrook Street (where Boots is now) with the ironmongery business. Amongst other things, he was responsible for the standard weights and measures for Newbury Borough. During this time various of his children were with him but gradually all left until only Sophia remained. She was constant between 1841 and 1881.

By 1871, Samuel’s wife Elizabeth was dead, aged 70 and interred in the family vault, which itself is unusual being surrounded in wrought iron, perhaps testimony to Samuel’s calling. Melbourne was untraceable in many censuses but led an erratic life often in the workhouse. Elizabeth, Samuels’s daughter, had returned to be his accountant, and Septimus was back as ironmonger’s assistant. Sadly, Septimus was to take his own life by shooting himself in 1877, he is also buried in the vault.

By 1881, Neville Maskelyne was on the scene assisting his father, with Elizabeth and Sophia also residing there. Samuel himself died in 1888 and was also buried in the vault. By 1891 Elizabeth and Sophia had left the business and are both described as “living on her own means”, so presumably they also got something out of the business. They both died within four days of each other in January 1892. Both are buried in the family vault.

Neville Maskelyne’s daughter reappeared, living in Kensington in 1881, described as a widow with the name Greet, occupation: lodging housekeeper. There appears to be no record of a marriage, but there is a 6-year-old son, Frederick Arthur Greet whose birth is under the name of Toomer. By 1891 Ella Greet as she called herself was living in Greenham, at Woodbine Villas, living on her own means, with Frederick aged 16.

Neville Maskelyne died in 1907, preceded by his brother Melbourne who died in 1904 in the Union Workhouse and is buried in Newtown Road Cemetery. The whereabouts of Neville Maskelyne’s burial, if any, have not so far been discovered.

By 1901 both Fanny and Frederick were living in Lewisham, separately, she with Elizabeth Toomer ,67, described as her mother; he lodged elsewhere and was a manager of a cycle depot. By 1911 they had both moved back to Newbury, she to Nos 3 & 4 Crown Place. Frederick was newly married, and lived on the Andover Road, Ashton Villa, Andover Road. He is described as “Ironmonger and Shopkeeper”. He is recorded as having taken over the Toomer’s ironmongery business when Neville died. Frederick served as mayor of Newbury 1930 – 31. He also changed the name of the business to the “House of Toomer” in 1926.

The shop at 4 Northbrook Street, Newbury, was rebuilt in 1935. It was destroyed by fire in 1961 and rebuilt again. The firm left the old premises in 1984 and moved to 54-56 Bartholomew Street. It was forced to close in 1995 due to a redevelopment of the new site. The remnants of the business are retained by Barry Forkin in Bartholomew Street.


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

Administrator Login