Friday, 19 April 2013

Samuel Wilton Rix : Part Two

Part two is dedicated to Samuel Wilton Rix's own description of his arrival to Beccles in 1831. Part of this detailed account was published in the East Suffolk Gazette on the 22 March 1881 to commemorate his fiftieth year in Beccles. The following is edited extracts from that publication:

I travelled outside the "Star" Coach, travelling the whole of that 23rd of March 1831 through blinding dust and cold rain. A ninepenny letter was my precursor; penny postage and electric telegrams being then unknown. The "Yarmouth Star" passed through Beccles, on its upward journey, every morning at a quarter past six, giving notice of its approach by a clanging horn and the thunder of heavy wheels upon the pavement. There was also the "Telegraph" night mail, through Wangford to London; the "Accommodation" with its unicorn team, kept up a sort of intercourse with West Suffolk.
The principal streets of the town were then almost all paved with flints, every cart that passed denying the slanderous charge of undue quietness. In the dark evenings a few oil lamps, fixed to the houses, spread such dim light as emanated from the Corporation of those times. Eastward from the New Market was "Blower’s Lane" now Market Street, but not half its present width; and on its left side the gloomy looking house in which the poet [George] Crabbe had visited, and in which some of his wife’s relatives still lived. Further on, past the Assembly Room, the view of what is now the approach to the Railway Station, was blocked by the line of Newgate Street. On the site of the Council-room [now the Glennie School of Dancing] was the ancient timbered "Feoffment Chamber" where Justices justice was long administered. This chamber was used at one time for the Fauconberge School ...

There was no direct access in that direction to the Common; its approaches being by the dirty lane through Ravensmere, or by the equally circuitous Common Lane on the south. The site of the Railway Station was a meadow ... More pastures, with patches of osier ground, and parted by peaty ditches or crooked fences ...
The south side of Peddar’s Lane was then a meadow; and Frederick’s Place and St George’s-terrace were undistinguished among broad acres. The old wooden Pound of the Manor was standing in that direction.

The interior of the Parish Church, as I saw it on my first Sunday in Beccles, was in a transition state between rush-stren floors and the restoration of 1859.
The organ at the west end, on a gallery shutting out the finest window in the church, with a standing place underneath for the parish fire engines; high unsightly pews; a vast brass chandelier; the pulpit in the centre of the nave; the vestry at the east end, crested by wooden urns, with gilded imitation of flames, in commemoration, it was said, of the great fire of 1586. A gallery built by a former Rector with a worthy desire to provide more sittings, but with sad disregard of architectural taste. I think there was no evening service ... A bell in the steeple was tolled every morning at five o’clock to call up the artisans to their work, and again at eight in the evening, the latter probably a vestige of the Norman curfew.
The Independent Church rebuilt in 1812, retained its old front, was somewhat smaller than at present. It was plain and respectable, with sanded aisles and painted pews. There were three services on Sunday, of which the afternoon was the most important. The Baptist Meeting House was a still humbler building. The Methodist Chapel was hidden behind houses on the east side of Northgate.
Primitive Methodism ... had no local habitation. The Friends though nearly extinct held occasionally ... a meeting for speaking, of which notice was usually given by handbills. ...
It was not until 1835 that the present Public Library was established [this was a different library - not the County Library].
Little was heard in those days of choirs and choral societies and concerts. The stirring drum and fife had died away with the fresh memories of Waterloo ... Instead of cheerful military bands, the drowsy burgesses had to be content with a stray hand organ on the rare visit of a band of French-horn.

Beccles Church by Henry Davy (1793-1865)

Some public amusements periodically relieved the monotony; but in now vanished forms. The Fair at Whitsuntide, the Races in the autumn and the temporary opening of Fisher’s Theatre. They have been succeeded by athletic sports, reading rooms, penny readings and musical entertainments. The general habits of society, among all classes, leaned far less towards abstemiousness than at present. ...and the free outpourings of the bottle.
A few days after I came to Beccles a great inauguration dinner was given by the newly chosen Portreeve for 200 or more of the inhabitants and others. Many were the speeches and mighty the feasting. But I think it was a year or two later that a few choice spirits actually spun out a Portreeve’s feast from Thursday evening to Saturday morning.

East Suffolk Gazette 1 January 1895:

OBITUARY: S.W Rix, who practised for many years as a solicitor in Beccles, and took an active part in the government of the borough until increasing year led to his retirement. He died on 8th of August 1894, aged 89. A man of literary and antiquarian  tastes, he collected an exceedingly valuable library, including many choice archaeological and topographical works, and a local collection of 26 volumes containing the materials for a fuller history of the town than has previously appeared. The collection was purchased by Dr Aldis Wright, and generously handed over to the safe custody of the Corporation for the general use of the inhabitants.


  1. Thank you for posting these two helpful articles. I have been researching another branch of the Rix family, an Independent (Congregationalist) Minister - Wilton Edwin Rix. His father Wilton Parker Rix was Art Director of the Doulton Pottery and worked with Hannah & Arthur Barlow. His father was also Wilton Parker Rix with similar dates to Samuel W. As you can see, many family names reoccur and I would like to discover the link in the genealogy. Was SWR a brother of WPR Sr perhaps?

    Yours, Mandi Abrahams, North Wales

  2. I have checked my records again and I see that my Wilton Parker Rix Sr was born 1802 of the same parentage, John Rix (1768 - 1807) and Mary Parker (1776 - 1857) so he and Samuel were brothers. John's parents were Simon Rix and Prudence nee Bolton. I wonder if you can find out anything about John Rix and what he died of so young, leaving Mary with at least two if not more, tiny children. They were both in their late 20s when they are building this family. Interesting.

    Yours, Mandi

  3. Hi - my cousin is a direct descendent of Samuel and I am researching the family history. It may be that early deaths were due to TB