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© David Hallam - 2007-2008


Beeston Brewery & Samuel Theodore Bunning (1846-1928)



Although Samuel Theodore Bunning (known as "Theodore" or "Theo") did not found the Beeston Brewery, he joined it at a very stage, built it to be a player in the licensed trade in the East Midlands, managed it through difficult times and saw it absorbed into one of Nottingham's big name breweries - James Shipstone & Son. Its story is therefore told here in the context of Bunnings life. By any standards, he was a remarkable man. His rise from lowly beginnings to great wealth, made by his own efforts and by backing his own judgement, clearly establishes his reputation as the classic self-made Victorian entrepreneur.

See a full genealogy of the Bunning family.

Samuel Theodore Bunning Early Years: Born in Cosby, Leicestershire - nowadays glimpsed from the M1 motorway, just south of Junction 21 - towards the end of 1846, Samuel Theodore (whom we will call "Theodore") was the second surviving son of Samuel Bunning and his wife Caroline (née Gee). Both parents had been born and raised in the village, had married there in 1836 and had raised four children to adulthood - but, as was not untypical at the time, at least five others - including a pair of twins - had died as infants. Within earlier Bunning generations there had been several who had held livings as Clerics1, in various Parishes, particularly in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire - and had received the high level of education that that required. More recent generations had farmed and owned property in the village but the continuity had been broken when Edward Bunning - Samuel's father - had died in 1839, leaving a will requiring his property to be sold to provide an income for life from the proceeds, to his fourth wife, the step-mother to Samuel and his brothers. Although the will provided for Samuel and his brothers to inherit following their step-mothers death2, this was clearly a set-back for them, requiring them to find work labouring on the land where they could. William, the middle of the three brothers, and still single, left for America after about eight years and found work on the land - and, as we shall see, made money over his lifetime - but, Thomas, the oldest brother who had a wife and family to support, first moved to nearby Whetstone to settle and find work, before they also moved to America in 1854. Samuel stayed in Cosby with his young family, labouring on the land at first before finding wider horizons, and probably much more security, working as a labourer on the railways. In the tradition of his ancestors and having himself had a decent education for a working man in those days, he also recognised the need for education. When a school operated in the village - and that was not always the case - Samuel ensured that his children attended, providing lessons himself, at home, when not. His job on the railways progressed too, firstly by his promotion to foreman platelayer and later to timekeeper over the platelayers from Wigston to Wellingborough - necessitating his lodging at Kibworth during the working week, returning home each Saturday.3 So, by the time Theodore was ready to find employment, there seems to have been no hesitation in his choice of employer - a career with the Midland Railway.

His application for work, in January 1860, for a vacant position as a clerk at Kibworth Station, was successful and he reported for work there, aged just over 13, on January 16th. The salary of £15 per annum provided a start towards financial independence - but the cotton cord suit he was mistakenly issued with from the beginning, set him apart and implied an authority beyond his years which was to have a beneficial effect on his career. As he was to do with everything throughout his life, he approached his job with characteristic enthusiasm and energy, putting all his efforts - and his spare time - into gaining advancement Many moves within the regional network followed - in December 1860 he was posted to Broughton Astley as a machine clerk and, by 1861, he was earning 10 shillings a week as a porter at Wellingborough - from which time he remained financially independent of his parents. By 1864 he was moved to Desborough at 14 shillings a week, working 14 hours a day with only one day off each fortnight. In the following year he was moved to Leeds and soon after that, to Shipley where his income rose to 17 shillings a week. With some help from his distinctive cotton cord suit, his energy and abilities had been noticed. A summons to see the Superintendent at Derby saw him posted to Wisbech where he was in charge of the booking office and working the trains on a section of the single line from Peterborough to Lynn. Next came a posting to Derby and appointment to the staff used to relieve station masters, moving about the network as circumstances required.3 It was in this role, during a three month temporary posting to Collingham, near Newark, Nottinghamshire, that he met a young woman, Sarah Brown, then working locally as a domestic servant but originally from Wilne in Derbyshire, the daughter of Joseph Brown, a cotton spinner, later in a supervisory position in the Mills at nearly Draycott. Although, it seems that the couple were soon thinking of marriage, there would be one more move before they could be together. Summoned once more to see the Superintendent of the line, he was appointed as the first Station Master of a new station at Mosley, Birmingham, which was to be opened on 1st November 1867 - but not before the manager expressed astonishment that Theodore was not yet 21, saying that he should not have been put in charge of signals or appointed to the relief staff. However, seeing also that he would be 21 in four days time, he appointed him anyway - telling him to be particularly careful in the first four days! In the following April, the station master at Collingham died and Theodore applied for and was given the appointment. This position paid 22 shillings a week and included a house which meant that marriage was now possible - as Theodore later put it, "to one of the best of women" - and they were wed on 27th June 1868 at Collingham Baptist Chapel. Then, in the December of 1869, he was appointed Stationmaster at Beeston at a salary of 24 shillings a week and the couple settled into the adjacent stationmaster’s house on Station Road. They were to stay there for thirteen years.3

Stationmaster at Beeston: The Midland Counties Railway between Nottingham and Derby, passing through Beeston, had opened in 1839, about 30 years before Theodore’s arrival. In that time it had soon developed a line to Leicester and Rugby and had seen itself amalgamated into the Midland Railway in 1844. This had given Beeston excellent communication links with the whole country and was to help significantly its on-going development. It had had a local effect too; Nottingham, where Enclosure had come relatively late (1845) had earlier suffered badly from the shortage of development land, overcrowding was the early result and then, when the land was released, it was quickly overtaken by sprawls of back-to-back housing. For those that could afford it, the railway opened up the possibility of a residence in a relatively rural setting with an easy commute to Nottingham for business. By the time of Theodore’s arrival, that phenomenon was already well established at Beeston and was to continue during his time at Beeston and beyond - with villa developments around the Station, at Station Villas, around Lilac Grove, Dovecote Road (then Rylands Road), Station Road and parts of Queens Road. These developments provided relatively superior housing for those who could afford it. They also helped make Beeston Station a busy place - by 1882, there were as many as 35 trains daily to Nottingham carrying 450 quarterly ticket-holders. In addition, in that year, there were 170,000 ordinary passengers from Beeston.4

All this activity would have kept Theodore busy - but it appears that there was another effect. The presence of this local concentration of business-minded individuals - with some of whom, it seems, he was able to develop a mutually friendly and advantageous relationship - may well have inspired him to his next level of ambition in his career. He had proved himself in his key role at Beeston Station - and his salary had reflected this, advancing to £120 per year - and his energy would have been noticed by others and certainly, his ambition and drive appeared to have no bounds. From the time he arrived at Beeston he tried to improve his position by buying and selling property and shares and his wife let apartments in the village. By early in 1883, after about 13 years in the role, having accumulated £2500 by his and his wife's investment activities5 but unable to increase his salary further, he resigned to join the Beeston Brewery Company6. His new position, as manager of the brewery, providing a salary of £160 per annum with a house, coal and gas, was a move away from his secure future with the railway but offered the challenges - and opportunities - that he sought.

Beeston Brewery Beeston Brewery: This brewery operation at Beeston had started, probably in 1879 (although it appears that it was not incorporated as a limited company until 18th November 1882), in an impressive building, that had been built a few years earlier, on the north side of the tracks, just west of Beeston Station, at the foot of Rylands Road. In 1881, it had been under the management of a Scotsman, Alexander Anderson7 and it would be he who Theodore replaced, bringing all of his energy, innovation and enthusiasm to the role - qualities which, as we will see, were to take him even further. His effect was immediate; days after taking up his new position, on 16 January 1883, he took on his old employer - the Midland Railway Company - for a reduction in the rates for the carriage of goods to and from the Brewery. Although face-to-face negotiations came to nothing, he persisted, commencing an action before the Railway Commissioners and, after 15 months, got a decision which gave the Company a 20% reduction. His salary was increased immediately to £200 per annum - with a bonus of 10 shillings for every £100 he increased the trade over the first year. His career was beginning to take off spectacularly.3

When Theodore arrived at the brewery, the Company owned only three licensed houses - the Malt Shovel at Beeston and two pubs in Leicester, the Shakespeare's Head and the Royal Oak. Beyond that, it relied on travellers to promote its products. Seeing that there were opportunities and advantages in acquiring further houses, Theodore began assembling a portfolio of licensed premises - first off-licenses and eventually pubs - within 30 miles of Beeston. These initiatives were almost entirely his - indeed, as Directors where reluctant to invest in this way and, as they lived in Birmingham and decisions were difficult to obtain in time, they soon allowed Theodore to purchase for his own account and agreed to a good discount for the supply of beer - provided he guaranteed payment. This arrangement was to be decisive in deciding Theodore's ultimately spectacular financial success.3

Over the next decade, things progressed well. Theodore was able to increase his personal holdings of both off-licences and pubs as well as a few acquired for the brewery, mostly in Leicestershire, some in Nottinghamshire and a few in Derbyshire. In Beeston, this included The Three Horse Shoes and The Queens Hotel - the latter acquisition arose out of a friendship with its founder, Edward Mason (see the story of The Queens), a friendship which was to continue until Mason’s death in 1910. In 1888, after Mason’s first wife died, he married Mary Brown, the sister of Theodore’s wife. There were some setbacks with Theodore's acquisitions - an early investment in a Nottingham shop with an off-licence ran into difficulty when the shopkeeper filed for bankruptcy after only three months - but Theodore turned it around in his characteristic style by taking over the business and putting his sister-in-law in to manage it. Despite the odd setback, the overall result was very positive - both personally and for the brewery - and the directors were able to reward him by increasing his salary from £160 to £1000 over this period.3

Then, in 1895, this amicable relationship between Theodore and his directors changed dramatically when a problem arose over alleged disrespectful remarks that had been made by Mr Forster, the brewer - one of Theodore's friends. The Chairman wanted Forster dismissed, a decision that Theodore resisted strongly but was in the end, powerless to stop. This decision had a serious impact on the previous excellent working relationships at the top of the Company and things remained unpleasant for some months - to the extent that the directors decided to sell the business and Theodore and Forster considered buying a small brewery in Burton. Then, when a group of interested purchasers were found for the brewery, they pulled out at the last minute when they learned that Theodore, through his houses, was responsible for two thirds of its business and that he was about to depart. Then, towards the end of 1897, an approach was made to Theodore, by solicitors acting for the same buyers offering to continue with their offer - which was to amount to £23 for each £10 share - but only if Theodore would remain for seven years, offering a salary of £1500 per annum This was agreed and, more significantly, they also agreed to purchase Theodore's own licensed trade interests for £190,000. Theodore had certainly won the day.3

By October 1897 therefore, the takeover was completed by the formation of a new company "The New Beeston Brewery Company Limited" to "take over the business of brewery, maltsters and publicans of The Beeston Brewery Company, incorporated 18 November 1882, and the business of licensed victuallers, beerhouse keeper and publicans carried out by Samuel Theodore Bunning in the Counties of Leicester, Nottingham and Derby".8 It had a capitalisation of £280,000 consisting of:
28,000 Preferred Shares of £5 (With a fixed dividend of 5½%)
28,000 Ordinary Shares of £5
In addition, the Company also issued Debentures to raise further capital.

Although, this new company appears to have been formed to take over both the original company’s business and that of Bunning personally, as we shall see, there were later indications that Bunning did not relinquish personal control of all the licensed houses he owned. On the contrary, a report prepared by a group of shareholders, in 1912 - more of this later - complained that the company had "from the outset (unwisely as we think) entered into agreement with Bunning to supply beer to his houses and allow certain discounts". There are other indications that this certainly included The Queens Hotel in Beeston as ownership of the freehold of this pub is known not to have passed to Shipstones (who as we will see, had already taken over Beeston Brewery) from Bunning’s estate after his death.

A list of licensed premises known to have been owned by Beeston Brewery can be seen by clicking here.

In November 1897, soon after its formation, the new company changed its name to "The Beeston Brewery Company Limited". In the previous month, Bunning’s friend and brother-in-law, Edward Mason, was appointed as a Director and, at around that time, being otherwise retired, moved into the Company house at the brewery which had been vacated by the Bunnings’ move to 164 London Rd, Leicester. By December 1901, even if not before, it was clear that, despite his move away from Beeston, Bunning still remained indispensable to the Company’s operations as it was then that his position as Managing Director was confirmed by the Board (which he chaired) with the then massive salary of £1500 a year (and for 3-4 days a week only - no doubt, convenient to his need to commute)8

The Hollies In 1904 there were signs that the workload was beginning to have a detrimental effect on Bunning’s health, missing Board Meetings - and, later that year, resigning as Chairman - on medical advice. Then, in 1905, Samuel and his wife purchased an impressive house at Borrowash, Derbyshire - The Hollies, on Derby Road. The house, which was bought for £2600, was described as "13 reception rooms and offices, kitchen, scullery, laundry, WC on the ground floor, 10 bedrooms, bath room and WC on the first and second floors. An old house in excellent repair with new wing built about 1900."9 No doubt, both saw it as a comfortable place to retire to - and, for Sarah, it meant a return to a place close to her birthplace in adjacent Wilne. Notwithstanding this move, when Edward Mason retired from the Board of the Brewery at the end of 1905, Bunning took his place and rejoined the Board.

During their time in Leicester the Samuel and Sarah were regular worshippers at St John the Divine and were generous benefactors there - as we shall see, part of a pattern of philanthropy that was a feature of their later lives in particular. In 1902 they donated a peal of eight bells to the church to commemorate, as the casting of the tenor bell shows, "the long and glorious reign of Queen Victoria 1837-1901". Known as The Queen Victoria Memorial Bells, they are considered to be a masterpiece of the art of bell casting and tuning by Taylors of Loughborough. Other gifts by the couple included a wrought iron chancel screen, carved oak choir stalls, alabaster work and a reredos. At the time of their leaving, at Easter 1906, they were presented by the congregation with a magnificent illuminated address to mark these contributions to the church.10

The decade that followed was a particularly difficult time for the licensed trade. The authorities, driven partly by the anti-drink lobby, often refused to renew licences, particularly in urban areas where it was claimed that there were too many licensed premises, using the compensation terms allowed for in the Licensing Acts of 1902 and 1904 to cushion the effect. Houses owned by Beeston Brewery were amongst those affected and the Board regularly involved itself with considering appeals and considering alternative uses where refusal was final. From time to time, it also considered and ruled on authorising the "long-pull" where competition required it, reducing rents on a temporary or long term basis and changes to beer strength.8

By 1911, a group of shareholders from Sheffield, concerned by deteriorating financial results, demanded an explanation and, as a result, the Annual General Meeting (held at the Queens Hotel, Beeston as was the case for many years) appointed an Investigation Committee to look at the company’s finances. By May of the following year, this committee had completed its report. It noted a general decline in sales, some of which was inevitable given the generally depressed trading conditions and fairly hostile licensing legislation and increased costs. It noted that no fresh licences had been acquired and the Company had no free-house business. There was the belief that the Company had been "over-capitalised originally" - a factor that was now even more pronounced. The "unwise" agreement (mentioned above) with Bunning requiring the Company to supply his houses at a discount was highlighted; This discounted trade amounted to 20% of output and produced very little margin. The report went on to say that Bunning disagreed with the criticism of his discount terms but had agreed not to enforce his rights under the agreement and had consented to release the Company from the agreement. Nevertheless, it was the Committee’s view that Bunning’s position as Chairman was in conflict with his ownership of houses.8

At the AGM in the following December, having seen the report, the meeting refused, on a show of hands, to accept the management’s report on the past year - effectively a vote of no-confidence in Bunning. However, Bunning was able to survive by insisting on a poll of votes where his majority prevailed.8

In fact, things went on to got worse before they got better. Beer sales, reported in detail at each meeting of the Directors, showed a relentless decline. By the AGM in 1915, Bunning’s salary had been reduced to £300 per annum and in 1917, no dividend was paid. By 1918, beer sales were half what they were 10 years earlier - but then things began to pick up again, Bunning’s salary was back up to £750, the dividend was restored and the brewery workmen were given another 5 shillings a week.8

Bunning’s personal life was changing too. In February 1918, Sarah, Bunning’s beloved wife died and was buried on the lawn at their home at Borrowash. There were no children and Samuel Bunning was now alone except, perhaps, for the support of some of Sarah’s remaining family, including her sister Mary, Edward Mason’s widow who probably ended her days at Borrowash.11 For Bunning, now 72 and probably beginning to tire of the pressures of the business, it was a time to think of retirement - but first there was a need to clarify and to unravel his business affairs so that he could decide how best to spend his remaining years.

The Shipstone Takeover: Interest in Beeston Brewery from the more prominent brewing houses began to appear. In July 1919, Mitchells & Butlers had made an approach and were told to make an offer. Although this does not seem to resulted in an offer, the Directors do not appear to have been too concerned, probably because they were already aware of an approach from a leading local brewery - James Shipstone & Sons. The first signs of this possibility appeared in May 1919, as part of agreement with Bunning to purchase from him £70,000 in Company debentures by transfer to him of holdings in War Loan and Japanese Stock. This exchange necessitated agreement of valuations - £70 per £100 was agreed for his debenture holding, with the Directors clearly influenced by other factors, likely to include a take-over approach. Certainly, by February 1920, negotiations with Shipstones were in progress with surviving correspondence showing detailed interest by them in the licensed houses in particular. The letters also show the "hands-on" management style of the Chairman, James Shipstone who viewed the houses personally - but only after his assurance that the tenants would not be approached.8

On February 21 1922, the Directors agreed to the terms of a sale to Shipstones. The offer to the shareholders and debenture holders was as follows:
Debenture Holders - exchange for Shipstone 2nd Preferred Shares plus £10 per £100
Preference Shareholders - exchange for 2nd Preferred Shares on a 1 for 1 basis
Ordinary Shareholders - exchange each 5 shares for 3 Shipstone shares
The Secretary, James Davenport Robinson, was to receive £1000 for loss of office. Robinson, the son of a Lancashire cotton manufacturer appears to have chosen to move to Beeston in his early 20s, just before 1881. He appears never to have married but served as a clerk, apparently to several Beeston businesses - latterly, in all likelihood by 1891, to Beeston Brewery where he had become Secretary before 1901 and probably Bunning's personal business confident. It is ironic that the passing of control of Beeston Brewery mirrored his own life - he died in October of the same year, 1922, and is buried in Beeston Cemetery where a memorial survives.12

Although the offer by Shipstones was subject to the approval of 90% of shareholders, before the end of June, the Directors agreed to act, otherwise, under powers available under the Company’s Articles of Association and on the same terms. In the event, this alternative option was exercised as, by 30th June, only 66% of debenture holders, 85% of Preferred Shareholders and 89% of Ordinary Shareholders had agreed.8

Although now under the control of Shipstones, the company continued to be operated - at least for a few years - as a separate entity. Bunning was, of course replaced as Chairman by members of the Shipstone family - although he did continue as a Director. Brewing was discontinued at Beeston and the new management spent considerable money converting the building to a maltings - a role that continued until its closure in 2000. Within two years, the new management does seem to have achieved improved results; for the year ended 30 September 1924, profits after tax, interest and preferred dividends were £6,586, including rentals of £15,450 and with the valuation of the property holdings standing at £363,742.8 The licensed houses, of course, had moved over to supply Shipstone products and were eventually merged into the Shipstones pub chain and, with Shipstones livery, became indistinguishable - and the Beeston Brewery brand eventually and inevitably forgotten.

The Final Years: Now a widower and essentially retired, Bunning withdrew for a time to think through how he would best spend his remaining years - and his considerable fortune. At Christmas 1923 he adopted a novel - but practical - way of distributing some of his wealth. With £5,670 in notes in his pocket, he set off from his home, calling first at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary where he left £1000 with the somewhat astonished Secretary, with the request that it be used to endow a bed in memory of his wife. Next, £670 was left at the Derby Railway Servants’ Orphanage before he travelled on to Leicester where £1,000 was donated to the Institution for the Blind to use the funds as they wished. Finally, the balance of £3000 was handed to the house governor of the Royal Infirmary in Leicester with the request that the funds be used to re-build and re-equip the X-Ray department. These astonishing acts of pure benevolence, carried out in such a dramatic way, preceded a period of charitable giving. The village where he had been born and raised was not forgotten - in Cosby he provided the amenity that still survives as Bunning Hall - and, it is believed, there were generous awards to friends and family as he took care to ensure that the wider family - both his and his wife's - were cared for. Effectively, a network of nephews and nieces in particular, became a substitute for the children the couple never had themselves, receiving well targeted financial help where it was needed - for instance, when Sydney Storer Boot, the husband of his wife's sister, was killed in the Great War in 1918, Samuel ensured that her children were provided for financially. And, the family network, with Bunning at the centre, was active in other ways too - particularly by opening doors to career advancement, His younger sister Emma and William Thomson - the husband of his wife's niece Helen Brown - both operated off-licences and a nephew, George James Brown, who started as a teacher, is to be later to be found living in a fashionable part of Beeston, employed as a brewer's traveller. In general, it is clear that the fortunes of most members of the wider family advanced significantly - even in some cases, after a shaky start - presumably with Samuel's help and support. He also made one particular significant move to mend a past family difference - and, as we shall see, what may have been a past injustice. His nephew, George Harold Stuart - known as Harold, a name we will use - was about 40 and already approaching the peak of his career and well able to look after himself when, more or less by chance, the two met up again. As we shall see, Harold had risen to prominence despite an extremely difficult early life, and without the significant financial support that some other family members had received. There had been reasons at the time, no doubt, but now that this new contact was made, Theodore and Harold were able to put aside the earlier estrangement and to remain close - so much so, that Harold, responding to his uncle's wish and adopted the Bunning name - in 1915 he became George Harold Stuart-Bunning.13

Bunning Memorial Theodore's death came on Easter Sunday 1928, at the age of 81. After a funeral service held in the billiard room at his home in Borrowash, conducted by the vicar of Ockbrook, he was laid to rest beside his wife in the grounds of his home, according to his wishes. Being childless himself, the family mourners were mainly nephews - children of his own brothers and sisters - but also included his surviving sister, Emma Bunning; 14

Despite the scale of his benevolence, Theodore, still left the then huge sum of £179,034. Probate15 was granted to his nephew George Harold Stuart Bunning, Caroline Rebecca Witts, his niece and Lilian Beatrice Theodora Davies, also a niece and the process of redistribution began. In his will he left the then sizable legacy of £2000 to each of the Boot and Thomson nieces and nephews whom, as we have seen, he had helped in his lifetime , payable upon reaching their majority; his Westminster Bank shares were left to his sister-in-law, Mary Mason; each of his servants and gardeners received an amount according to their length of service; the house at Borrowash and all of its contents passed to his nephew, George Harold Stuart Bunning; those named as executors were to receive an equal share each of the balance.

According to the terms of the will, Harold took possession of The Hollies which was set in a very attractive garden - seven acres of lawns, shrubberies and fruit with the family grave and memorial in a separate circular lawn surrounded by a high yew edge. However, after a year or so, perhaps finding the location inconvenient for Harold's career, the decision was made to sell and move away. Understandably, the continued presence of the grave would have been inappropriate so it was arranged for the bodies of Samuel and Sarah exhumed and re-interred in the churchyard at Church Wilne where their fine memorial (which was re-positioned from the garden at the same time) can still be found (and is shown left - mouseover to see a picture - from the Leicester Mail - of it in its original position), though somewhat overgrown, positioned between the memorials of Joseph and Ellen Brown, Sarah’s parents. An inscription in memory of Sarah’s sister Mary is to be found at the side of the main memorial.

Stuart-Bunning Postscript: When researching the background of Theodore's nephew Harold, it came as some surprise to find that George Harold Stuart-Bunning (shown left) was a prominent trades union leader who achieved national and international status in the field of labour relations. When looking further, it became apparent that this success was achieved despite of rather than because of any initial advantages in life.

Harold was born on Christmas Day 1870 in Lancashire, as George Harold Stuart - reflecting the name that was being used at that time by Edward, his father (Theodore's eldest brother) who had changed his name from "Bunning" to "Stuart" around 1868.

Edward, had a tragic life and seems to have been considered to be a "black sheep" who was, apparently, never within the scope of Theodore's benevolence. He worked as a joiner and would have served an apprenticeship, during which time there is every indication that he met Lydia Piggin (sometimes "Piggins"), the daughter of a shepherd from Skeffington, Leicestershire.16 Seemingly, determined to marry her he left for Nottingham where they were wed in September 1856; he was 19, Lydia was 23. The birth of a daughter in Nottingham in 1860 was followed very shortly by Lydia's death. The child, Bertha, was taken in by Edward's parents and brought up in Cosby while Edward entered a phase of his life which is not entirely understood. A move to Lancashire can be reasonably explained as it is likely that his trade skills would have been in demand in the then booming industrial towns. Similarly, his early marriage, in 1862, to Mary Nelson, the daughter of a Cheshire shoemaker, who was working as a domestic servant in the Liverpool area, was also understandable. What is less explainable is his adoption, by 1869, of the surname "Stuart" - a name that seems to have no connection with either his or his wife's family. Coupled with a tendency for frequent changes of address, one can only guess at the reasons. The couple had four children, three of which died as infants - two of them from scarlet fever. Then, in 1874, Mary died from tuberculosis - the scourge of the urban life in particular in that age.

Harold, the only child of that marriage that survived, was just four when his father's world collapsed once more. Perhaps with no other option, Edward arranged for his son to move back to his parents' home - which was now in Kettering - where there was a chance that he could have a more stable environment and an education. While, it seems Edward himself may also have moved there for a while, in general it seems that the welfare of Bertha - and now Harold - were left mainly to their father's parents and sisters. There are a few indications that the new environment helped - later in life, Harold is said to recall reading aloud to his grandfather and singing in a choir and even, for a short while, attending a school where Latin was taught10. But, what stability this offered was further threatened when, in 1880, Edward's mother died which left Edward's two surviving children in the care of their aunts - 20 year old Bertha with Emma and Harold - still only 10 - with Lucy and her husband. However caring these arrangements were, his relationship with his father was again tested when Edward left for London, apparently with Harold, the fragile relationship was finally severed when, in 1887, in one final foolhardy act of desperation, he married again, to a woman - Elizabeth Wallace - 22 years younger than Edward. Harold was 16, essentially alone in the world; his had been an unhappy and insecure childhood, which had offered little in the way of assistance to develop his natural abilities. As we have seen, this was the time when his uncle Theodore had already established himself as a successful businessman with substantial personal investments; with no children of his own it is perhaps strange that he did not step in to assist the promising young man. Perhaps he was not then aware of his plight or perhaps he felt that he could not assist while his brother was alive - we will probably never know. What is remarkable is that, despite everything, Harold was able, nevertheless, to develop a distinguished career - as we will see - was remarkable and was a tribute to his tenacity.

Edward's end was one more tragedy in the series of disasters that comprised his life. A son was born to the couple in Chelsea Workhouse, six months after their marriage and a daughter was born just over two years later. Edward died in October 1891, followed very shortly by both of the children of his last marriage.

Stuart Bunning Now effectively on his own in the world, Harold had, by the age of 20, established himself in work as a postman. In 1891 he can be found in lodgings in Fulham in West London, significantly close to Kensington where his wife-to-be, Susannah Terry, was employed as a domestic servant. Harold and Susannah - who was born in Canada - married early in 1892. A son, Edward Harold - interestingly, using his father's name despite everything - and a daughter, Caroline Lillian Mary, were born over the next six years while the family lived in London. Soon after that, they moved to Bristol, where Harold had taken up the position of town postman, By now, it seems, Harold (shown right when a young man) was active in the Postmen's Federation - becoming, variously, its Parliamentary Secretary, Secretary and General Secretary17 - and he, and therefore his name, had begun to be prominent in the Trades Union movement nationally - such that he felt unable to simply change his name from Stuart to Bunning when Theodore suggested it but compromised on "Stuart-Bunning". In 1919 he was President of the Trades Union Conference and, in October of that year, attended the inaugural International Labour Conference held in Washington, DC. Founded as part of the negotiations of the Treaty of Versailles after World War 1, this organisation was first an agency of the League of Nations and concerned itself with improving labour conditions and living standards throughout the world. It became an affiliated agency of the United Nations at its founding in 1946. He also played a key role in, and wrote the final report of, the Whitley Committee which established The Civil Service National Whitley Council which continues to this day to provide the framework for pay and conditions within the Civil Service. All this amounted to mould-breaking reform for which he received the Order of the British Empire.

In 1911, Harold married his second wife, Emily Agnes Lucas and together they had three daughters, Joan, Margaret and Cicely in the years up to 1918. The loss of his son Edward Harold, unmarried, during World War 1 meant that all his surviving children were daughters - with the result that the Bunning name was not continued into further generations in this line. A successful career and the substantial legacy from his Uncle Theodore did, however, mean that he could ensure that all had the education and early advantages that he did not have. Caroline Lilian trained as a nurse during World War 1 and ran a small evacuated hospital during the 2nd World War. Being, of course, considerable older that the others and unmarried18, she eventually settled down as a devoted and popular aunt to her half-sisters' children. Although Harold had been nearly 50 by the time is youngest daughter was born, he was able to see all his daughters succeed in their careers before his death in 1949; Joan became a gifted musician - particularly as a violist, Margaret joined the Home Office after graduating from Oxford and Cicely became a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon. Theodore would have been pleased too.


1I am indebted to L W (Bill) Bunning of California who has provided a table of Bunning Clerics based on joint research with Patricia, his late wife. These include David Bunning (1662 - 1723) of Bruntingthorpe, Leics (3rd Gt-Grandfather of Theodore); John Bunning (1702 - 1737) of Uppingham, Rutland (David's son); Thomas Bunning (1609 - 1676) of Stoney Stanton, Leics (brother of David) (father of David and 4th Gt-Grandfather of Theodore) and Thomas Bunnynge (c1580 - 1636) of Lamport, Northants ( Thomas' father, Theodore's 5th Gt-Grandfather)
2The will required the sale of all Edward's real estate at Cosby and the net proceeds to be held to produce an income for life for his fourth wife Elizabeth. After her death, these proceeds were to be distributed to the three sons of his third marriage - 50% to Theodore's father (Samuel) and 25% each to Theodore's uncles, Thomas and William. Two surviving sons from Edward's first marriage were not mentioned. It is not known when Elizabeth Bunning died and the sons inherited.
3Details of Theodore's early home life, railway career, investment ventures and employment at the brewery up to the takeover in 1897 are taken largely from autobiographical notes found amongst his papers after his death. These notes detail particularly the background to his personal aquisition of licensed premises and to the reason for his special terms for beer supply - circumstances which can be seen as somewhat extraordinary and certainly led to his holding all the cards when the brewery and his premises were taken over in 1897.
4Statistics for train and ticket numbers are based on information at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beeston_railway_station
5This amount is mentioned in Theodore's biographical notes and would be worth about £173,000 in today's (2007) values; however, it may have included approximately £380 possibly received from the estate of his uncle, William Bunning, who died in New Jersey, USA in 1873 leaving a will. His estate was valued at $4,394 with Theodore named as the residual legatee after distribution of about $2,270 in specific bequests and after the death of William's half-brother John in 1876. At the then exchange rate of approx $5.50/£ the residue of about $2,125 would amount to about £380 - which would be worth about £24,500 in today's (2007) values. However, since most of the residual assets appear to have been tied up in loans to individuals, it may have been sometime before the estate became liquefied.
6Not to be confused with the Beeston Brewery which now operates in Beeston, Norfolk
7By 1891, Alexander Anderson and his wife Marie were keeping the Cemetery Hotel, Ribbleston, Preston Lancs; by 1901 he was the Brewery Manager in Darwen, Lancashire.
8Minute Book of Meetings of the Directors of The Beeston Brewery Company Limited (Nottinghamshire Archives - DD SH 11/2/1/2) - as to details of the takeover in 1897, report of the Investigation Committee, trading conditions and the takeover by Shipstones. Letters discussing the proposed terms, found loose in the Minute Book, are at Nottinghamshire Archives - DD SH 11/2/1/2
9From "Walking round Borrowash" by Marion Johnson. This description is quoted at http://www.photo-ark.co.uk/html/km.03.08.04.dby.1081.php from which the following notes are derived. The house was known in Bunning's time as The Hollies, which caused some confusion, as another house in Borrowash had the same name. It was renamed Borrowash House after 1935. It was also known as number 67 Nottingham Road, which caused further confusion, but was logical because it was then in Spondon parish and obviously this stretch of road goes from Spondon to Nottingham. When the boundary was moved to the west the house was no longer in Spondon but in Ockbrook parish on the road from Borrowash to Derby; so it is now on Derby Road. From 1932 to 1935 the house was owned by Albert Ball, a Nottingham lace manufacturer who specialised in buying and selling landed estates and country houses. He never lived there and the house became "a bit derelict". From 1935 to 1946 it was occupied by Mr B Bates, a retired farmer who converted it into a guest house. During the war, the house was partly requisitioned for the rehabilitation of officers. Subsequently, the house became a home for mothers and babies run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nottingham before opening as opening as a refuge by the Derby Queens Hall Methodist Mission. The gatehouse is believed to have been demolished in the 1970’s. I am indebted to Helen Wilson of photo-ark and to Kevin Murphy the owner of the photograph of Bunning and The Hollies for permission to use them here.
10The magnificent illuminated address is now held at Leicestershire Archives (DE3488). St John the Divine Church was declared redundant at Easter 1974 and has now been redeveloped, The peal of bells to which a pair of trebles were added in memory of Samuel Bunning in 1928 by William & Ada Wilson, were moved to Peterborough Cathedral. Details of the ten bells and their history is given in "Old & New Bells of Peterborough Cathedral" by M Lee.
11Samuel Theodore Bunning had acted as Executor under the terms of the will of Edward Mason. This estate, proved in November 1910 at Nottingham, was valued at £4,597.
12John Davenport Robinson (despite the similar name of Samuel's brother-in-law, Lucy's husband) does not appear to have been related to Bunning. He appears never to have married and gives every appearance of being totally dedicated to his work - apparently choosing to live in lodgings or to board, presumably as a convenient way of living. In 1881 he is to be found in lodgings on High Road, Beeston and described as a Clerk, By 1891 he was boarding at 21 Mona Street, again described as a Clerk and by 1901 he had moved to Rylands Road when he was described as Secretary to the Beeston Brewery Company.
13Based on family memories related to Bill & Patricia Bunning in 1989-90.
14Details of Bunning's benevolence, funeral, etc are based on an obituary printed in the Beeston Gazette & Echo dated 14 April 1928. Obituaries also appeared in the Leicester Chronicle (14 April 1928), the Leicester Mercury (9 & 10 April 1928) and the Leicester Mail (9 April 1928)
15Probate was granted at Leicester Probate Registry on 24 May 1928. The estate was valued initially at £177,859 7s but was later resworn at £179,034 17s 1d. This latter amount equates to almost £7.5 million in today's (2007) values.
16There are signs that Edward, probably having met Lydia as a very young man, developed an infatuation with her. His Sunday school book, given to him as a child in 1845, which survived within the family, has the names "Lydia", "Miss Lydia Piggins" and "Edward Bunning" written many times inside the front cover. Lydia's address in Woodborough is also recorded there. It seems likely that the marriage took place without the benefit of parental acceptance as the witnesses were not, apparently, from either family. Edward avoided the need for parental consent by declaring himself as aged 21.
17A collection of his papers, dated 1902-1919, relating to his activities on behalf of the Federation are including (at MSS.148/PF/1/7) in an archive of Federation material held at University of Warwick, Modern Records Centre. The Federation was founded in 1891 following the collapse of the earlier Postmen's Union.In 1919 it was amalgamated into the Union of Post Office Workers. The archive includes documents from the whole of that period and are listed at http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/catalogues/unions/148pf.pdf. None of this material has been seen by the writer.
18Although generally believed to be a spinster, there is evidence that this may not be correct. It appears likely that she married Meridith D Roberts at the beginning of 1918. Tragically, Meridith was killed in France within weeks - if not days - on 25 March 1918. He is remembered on Arras Memorial - Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Caroline reverted to the Stuart-Bunning name.

Other narrative is derived from standard genealogy sources; detailed source references may be found in the associated genealogy The author's own research has been assisted considerable by earlier research by Bill Bunning and his late wife Patricia. This latter meticulous research is the more remarkable as it was conducted at a considerable distance (from Southern California) and two decades before the base records are as accessible as they are today.


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