I thought it might be a good idea to start the new year off with a positive family story …
Edward Gratorex Jn…a man who made good from a lowly beginning.
Born in 1822 in a small Midlands village. Edward’s mother died when he was a baby so he was brought up solely by his father until 1829 when his father married for the second time. …. During the first eight years of this second marriage Edward was given five half brothers and sisters and the family were now living in the town of Walsall in the heart of the Midlands in an insalubrious environment due to the cramped design of the back to back housing and poor sanitation. Life in the towns at that time was quite harsh, when often work was only of a temporary nature, and children grew up with only the basic amenities in life
In 1847 when Edward had reached the age of twenty five he met and married Ann – a young lady from a tiny Shropshire hamlet who was two years his senior, and three years into their marriage Ann gave birth to a daughter, to be followed in 1853 by a son – yet another Edward!
Edward was an enterprising and ambitious young man who wasn’t afraid of working long hours to provide for his young family. He resolved to get them out of the poorer part of Walsall and earn enough money to give his children a decent start in life.
……After a couple of years of working very long hours and taking on whatever work he could, he and Ann had saved enough money to leave their tiny one bedroom house and could afford to pay the rent on an empty three bedroom house in a village a few miles north of the town. This house had the advantage of having two downstairs living rooms which was exactly what they needed, as Edward had the idea of turning the front living room into a shop….
He and Ann decided the type of shop that would make them the best living was a General Provision Store. They set to and cleaned the house thoroughly from top to bottom, and once this was done they were ready to start stocking the room to overflowing with a variety of foods and other household items. Edward even had someone paint a sign which they could affix to the door proclaiming that this was now a *General Store*
Thankfully this venture proved to be a welcome success in the village and it wasn’t long before they had built up a good business and developed a congenial rapport with the village people. Within a few years they had made enough profit to actually purchase their house-cum-shop…... What a thrill that must have been for the family – to actually own their own store, something which they could hardly have ever dared hope for.!
By this time Edward was getting to be a well known and respected figure in the area. and he expanded his business by starting up a delivery service. He employed a local man to take the pony and cart filled up with provisions around the outlying district to cater for those who found difficulty in travelling into the village.
… This turned out to be a wonderful idea, which brought him many new customers.
Edward worked behind the counter of his store right up until his death in 1893 aged sixty nine, and by this time Ann was longing to be able to take life a little easier. So, after Edward’s death she left the store in the capable hands of her nephew, so that she could enjoy a restful retirement until she herself died in 1913.
Edward had found his niche in the community and the store had become a well known and thriving business….It seems a shame that this type of work held no appeal for either of his two children, but every cloud has a silver lining, as he employed both a nephew and niece to work for him, so it remained in family hands long after Edward and Ann were gone.
It’s heart warming to think that Edward achieved by hard work and perseverance - and maybe a little good fortune, to realise his ambition. of becoming a man of substance.
*The little shop Edward and Ann had begun all those years ago remained at the heart of village life for many years after their deaths.