Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Knights of Beccles

The June 1992 edition of "The Waveney Life Magazine" includes a quaint little story written by local Beccles man Bob Aldous about the first car he bought in 1929. "It cost just £25," Aldous writes. "We called it 'the covered wagon' although in fact it was a 1925 Jowett 7 h.p. [horse power] car. The purchase was made from the late Mark Knights of Beccles in 1929."

1925 Jowett, owned by John Denton of Yorkshire

"I handed him [Knights] the money and asked him how to drive it! That was no problem, he said, pointing out the gears, the clutch and the brake. He bade me jump in and drive off! Well, after all, there were no such things as driving tests in those days..."
"After the first week I reckoned I was a pretty good driver. So, on the Saturday morning I drove along London Road in Beccles at a smart lick. It hadn't at that stage occurred to me that you should slow down before taking a forty-five degree turn.
My visit to the garage that morning was, to say the least, a little unorthodox. 'The covered wagon' entered through the showroom window! Neither I nor the Jowett sustained any damage, but it didn't do the window much good nor some bicycles which were on display..."

Mark Benedict Knights was born in 1895 in Beccles and was the son of Alfred James Knights and Henrietta (nee Spendlove). The Knights family lived at 16 Alexandra Road in Beccles and Alfred was a Tailor by trade. During the First World War, three of Alfred and Henrietta's sons served:
Alfred John Spencer Knights - R.F.A 2nd Air Mechanic
Ernest Knights - R.F.A Signaller
Mark Benedict Knights - R.F.C Corporal

On the 1911 census returns Mark Benedict Knights was listed as an Engineer's Apprentice. Some time after the First World War I believe he took up a business partnership with Laurence Durrant. Mark married late in life to Olive Gertrude Rayner, in 1932. They had at least four known children, three daughters and one son.

I found the following in the London Gazette, dated 2 January 1951:

NOTICE is hereby given- that the Partnership
(heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned
Laurence Arthur Durrant and Mark Benedict Knights
carrying on business as Motor and Agricultural
Engineers at Beccles under the style or firm of
DURRANT-AND KNIGHTS has been dissolved by
mutual consent as from the 1st day of January, 1951,
so far as concerns the said Laurence Arthur Durrant
who retires from the firm. All debts due to and
owing by the said late firm will be received and
paid by the said Mark Benedict Knights who will
continue to carry on the said business under the same
style or firm.—Dated this 28th day of December 1950.

It was after the dissolution of the business in 1950 that Mark Benedict Knights applied to the Beccles Town Council for development of the existing business:
(20 March 1953) Beccles & Bungay Times newspaper: SALTGATE FILLING STATION: An application by Mr M Knights of Old Market Garage for development of the Saltgate frontage with petrol pumps came before the Town Council. He agreed: 1.) To stop using the two pumps in Old Market. 2.) No adverts on Saltgate. 3.) The wings should be planted with suitable trees instead of flowers. 4.) The main wall on the west side of the building be constructed of good quality red facing bricks and carried 3 feet above the eaves of the building.

Mark Benedict Knights died at Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth in 1964, aged 68.

Mark Knights business advertisement in
Beccles Official Guide, late 1950s

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Will Judge : Beccles Comedian

I'm sorry to my readers for leaving this blog for three months without typing a single word. My not-so-lame excuse is that I've been preoccupied with finishing the final edit on my first novella (which, incidentally, is set in Beccles).

Recently I acquired some 'Waveney Life' and 'The Waveney' magazines from the 1990s and amongst them are some fabulous local stories and poems to tell about Beccles and its rich variety of colourful characters of the past. One such person was comedian Will Judge.

'Waveney Life' magazine, February 1992

In the February 1992 edition of 'Waveney Life' magazine there is an article entitled "Beccles man who topped the Bill" compiled by Bob Aldous. Here follows a short extract:

"At fourteen he [Judge] was organising his own repertory company in Beccles. His stage was set up in a stable where the old Cinema building now stands in Saltgate. Will charged a penny and local folk flocked in to enjoy his shows..."

After reading this two-page article I was intrigued to know more about him, so in true genealogist style I started researching his past. Immediately I discovered that he was born Joseph James Judge, born 4 November 1883, in Beccles, son of Edgar James Judge and Jessie Elizabeth (nee Lockwood). Joseph, or Will as he later became known, had two younger brothers: Thomas Elmar Judge and Edgar Robert Gibbs Judge (who both became Tailors/Drapers, although Thomas later became a Printers Clerk).

Edgar James Judge, born in Bungay, was a Printer & Compositor by trade, quite possibly employed at Clowes Printing Works (and may have worked alongside my 2xg/grandfather who was also a Printer). In 1891 he and his wife and family were residing at Newgate Street but by the 1901 census returns they were residing at 42 Denmark Road, which remained the family home long after Edgar James Judge died in 1923.

The 1901 census states that Joseph James Judge was a Carpenter by trade which is interesting when you cross reference his career in the newspapers and find he was treading the boards across London's music halls in 1898/1899 as Will Judge, Comedian (Bob Aldous does state in his 'Waveney Life' article that "the stage was in his blood...and that he had tried to keep the family peace by training as a cabinet-maker".) By 1900 he was advertised in newspaper articles as working the Pavilion's and Palace's in Portsmouth.

The newspapers certainly paint a positive picture of Judge across time, with reviews such as:
"...whole performances arouse unrestrained laughter...'
"...Judge, comedian in humerous numbers and character studies, causing ripples of laughter..."
"...Mr Judge's forte is in character studies, and as a dame and yokel he has few superiors..."

The 1911 census return shows Judge lodging in Leiston and this was quite possibly where he met his future bride, professional singer Gertrude Hannah Orchard, as she was also lodging in Leiston in 1911. Gertrude (or Gertie as she was known in theatre circles) was a Soprano, and in 1911 was in Leiston with her younger sister Florence Orchard. The sisters were travelling from their native hometown of Blackpool to Suffolk in the hopes of finding work as singers. On 3 June 1912 Will Judge and Gertrude Orchard were married in South Shore, Blackpool.

The marriage transcript of Joseph (Will) Judge & Gertie Orchard
Will and Gertie had quite a career as a double-act, spanning the 1910s and 1920s travelling across the UK, back and forth from their home in native Beccles, entertaining in Derby, Kent, Sussex, Plymouth and Portsmouth. During the first world war Will helped entertain the forces. Will was also a keen saxophonist, liked to paint watercolours of Beccles scenes, and make scale models of sailing ships, including a local wherry.

On 8 August 1920 a son was born, Edgar Nicholas Judge and he later went on to become a Reverend in Beoley, county Worcestershire.

Gertie died in 1947 at 42 Denmark Road, in Beccles. Joseph James Judge died in 1960 "finally called to that great music hall in the sky after a life of giving joy to others" at the home of his son Edgar Nicholas Judge in Worcestershire. Edgar himself died in 1979.

'Waveney Life' magazine, February 1992