Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Samuel Wilton Rix : Part One

Beccles historians might be familiar with the Rix Collection which is held at the Lowestoft Record Office. I would love to be able to see it for myself one day but in the mean time I have to content myself with my local history books for information about his life and utilise the vast amount of newspaper transcriptions on Beccles history by David Lindley.

So what is the Rix Collection? First, allow me to introduce the man behind the name. Samuel Wilton Rix was born 15 February 1806 in Diss, county Norfolk and baptised 27 May 1808 at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Diss. He was the son of John Rix and Mary Parker. Samuel married Eliza Charlotte Shelly 9 July 1833 at St Nicholas Church in Great Yarmouth (her birthplace).
By this time Samuel had already established himself in Beccles, having moved from Diss in 1831, and living for the most part in Saltgate Street. He quickly made a name for himself as Attorney & Solicitor, going into partnership with Richard Bohun. What makes Samuel Wilton Rix so remarkable to historians was that he was a classical scholar and an antiquarian. He took a keen interest in the history of Beccles and would go on to publish many books and collect material on Beccles history - from newspaper clippings to legal documents and catalogues. He scrupulously kept local history accounts covering the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, and all of this was written in his own handwriting. He was elected to the Town Council in 1836, became alderman and filled the office of Mayor from 1863-65.
Samuel gave many lectures during his life time as well. For example, the Norwich Mercury newspaper of 15 February 1859 reported: LECTURE IN DISS: by S.W. Rix (who was a native of Diss) to the Mutual Improvement Society: "Funeral Customs of All Ages".
Beccles Weekly News of 3 December 1861: LECTURE by S.W. Rix "Beccles Men Of Other Days" Charge 6d in Aid of the British Schools.
Beccles Weekly News of 20 December 1862: LECTURE given by S. Wilton Rix on Funeral Customs in the Bible for British Schools Funds.
In his role as Mayor he also got things done for the benefit of Beccles and its townsfolk:
Beccles Weekly News of 23 August 1864: COUNCIL: Mayor S.W. Rix said Great Eastern Railway had agreed to make a Bridge across the Line within six months. About 70 trains passed through Beccles daily.

Smallgate, 1950. The houses, seen on the right, was
where the Rix family lived during the 1800s
Saltgate, 2013. Still largely unchanged and still very
appealing to passersby.

Most importantly for this blog post, is the family man that Samuel Rix was. He and his wife had nine children, two of whom died in infancy:
Edith Shelly Rix : John Shelly Rix* (died 1836) : Frederic Shelly Rix : Mary Wilton Rix (died 1838) : Edward Wilton Rix : Richard Avery Rix : Grace Wilton Rix : Francis Meadows Rix : Mary Elizabeth Rix
*John Shelly Rix's death was reported in the Ipswich Journal on 6 February 1836 thus: DIED: Infant son of S.W. Rix.

In 'A Suffolk Town in Mid-Victorian England: Beccles in the 1860's' E.A. Goodwyn writes: "Rix was a man of very strong family feeling". This was made evident when his son Francis Meadows Rix died, after an illness of many months in 1869, at the tender age of 18. Samuel Rix wrote an account of his son's life - his childhood, his school years, and the agony of watching as his son lay bed-ridden in his final months. Goodwyn's book goes on to record Samuel's reponse: "Seeing me give way to the weakness which I wished to repress in him, [Francis] said, 'No--dear papa, do not cry: do not grieve about me...".
Then, the following year his first-born Edith Shelly Rix, died aged 36. Two years following, his wife Eliza died (aged 63) and Rix retired from public life, giving over many of his duties and positions to his son Frederick Shelly Rix. In 1879 he retired from his profession as a Solicitor and dedicated his time to compiling the massive record of local history which now bears his name.

Francis Meadows Rix, 1867

Next time: A personal account of Samuel Wilton Rix's arrival in Beccles and his newspaer obituary.

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