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Nurser Family

The England census of 1851 notes Thomas Nurser (c.1774 - 1852) who at the time was living with his daughter Ann and son in law Thomas Verity at Braunston.  Thomas, who was born at Wardington in Oxfordshire is described as a ‘canal labourer’ whilst his son in law is a ‘road labourer’.

His son Thomas was born about 1811.  He is described as an ‘agricultural labourer’ in the census of 1851.  He appears to have lived at Welton.  However at some point the family  moved to Kingsbury, Warwickshire, near to Birmingham.

William Nurser (1837- 1899) probably worked for James Hughes at the Wharf and also for Thomas Bradshaw who succeeded him.  From the evidence of his business notepaper, William owned the dockyard and set up his own company, trading under the name of William Nurser and Sons in 1875.  He described his company as 'boat builders and tarpaulers, brick, tile and builders' merchants.  In addition he is noted in the Post Office Directory of 1877 as proprietor of 'The Champion', thus following an earlier tradition in the village.  The position of the Wharf adjacent to the London Road must have been profitable in all respects.

William was a respected painter as well as builder.  In tracing the history of the Braunston 'Rose & Castle' decorative tradition, it is worth noting that William's second wife, Clara Deakin White, was the daughter of Charles White who was tailor and shop keeper at Braunston Stop and neighbour to Arthur Atkins, the painter whose work had caught the eye of Charles Dickens.  (See The Boatyard page.)  It is unlikely William would have been unaware of Atkins' work.

Dickens visit to Braunston around 1852 may not have been entirely coincidental.   There was a branch of the Dickens family living at Braunston.  An account of the meeting of the cousins, Charles and George Adams Dickens at the Admiral Nelson may be found here.  It includes some interesting canal anecdotes.   Later, in 1904, one of William’s sons, Walter Bernard, married Frances Ellen Steanes, whose sister Emily had married William Dickens, son of George Adams Dickens, in Braunston Church on 5th November 1863.  Perhaps inspired by his own canal journey, Dickens instructed John Hollingshead, one of his journalists for Household Words (published 1850 - 1859) to write a series of articles about a canal journey from London - Birmingham .  The result was three articles, the first of which was the first feature in the edition in which it appeared.  As editor, Dickens read and corrected everything and clearly approved of Hollingshead’s work.  All three articles are published by the Waterways Museum at Stoke Bruerne in  a booklet entitled ‘On The Canal’.  The paragraphs relating to Braunston may be found here.  Earlier on the journey, Hollingshead writes feelingly of the dislike for boat people displayed by most local villagers.  It is only at Braunston that they are made welcome: an indication perhaps of the way it was firmly established as a canal village.

Five of William's nine sons worked for him: William Thomas (1863-1939), Harry Sidney (1867 - 1909),  Hedley Deakin (1870 - 1956) Charles Wesley (1874 - 1967) and Frank (1885 - 1952).  On William's death, the company passed to William Thomas and Harry Sidney.    By 1900, Hedley was proprietor of the now demolished Old Ship Inn, under the railway bridge close to the dockyard though the censuses for 1901 and 1911 (by which time he had moved to Middlesex to run another public house, both list him as a boatbuilder.  William Thomas outlived his younger brother but ill health forced early retirement in 1927.  Although William, the father, had died in 1899, the company still traded under his name.  

In the census of 1901 Frank, aged 15, is already described as a 'boat painter' and Charles, aged 24, as a boat builder and shipwright.  In 1911, when Frank is still living at home with his widowed mother, he is described as both painter and boat builder.  They are, however, both employees of their elder brothers.

It was not until 1928, when Charles and Frank bought the company from their elder brother, that the Company changed its name to Nurser Brothers.  Charles was a younger brother to William Thomas and Harry Sidney by William’s  second wife, Clara Deakin White.  In all there were twelve children.   Frank was a younger brother, one of two children born to William's third wife, Mary Anne Wykes.

Charles was the boat builder whilst Frank was the painter and looked after the books and administration.

Various members of the family lived on the London Road adjacent to The Wharf though Charles moved to The Villa, High Street (now number 24) in order to look after the widowed aunt of his wife, Marian.

     © Graham Nurser 2012