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James Anderson

(30 October 1828-30 January 1913)




Elizabeth and James Anderson

Lowestoft ca 1910

Named after his paternal grandfather, James (CR) initially was a bank clerk in his father’s bank, rising to be THE teller at the 105 Murraygate branch which, the Royal Bank of Scotland archivist tells me, is not as senior as cashier but more senior than clerk. James and Elizabeth Ann Downes (1837-1915)(CR) married in Durham in 1859. Elizabeth was a Yorkshire lass, the daughter of Christopher Downes (1798-1875)(CR), proprietor of a prosperous saddle maker business, and Charlotte Greensmith (1815-52)(CR). There is a newspaper report of Christopher bringing a recalcitrant apprentice before a Magistrate for skiving off although, in the apprentice’s defence, it was associated with exuberant celebrations for the Queen’s birthday. Christopher also presided in the pulpit on the occasion of a Sunday school’s 13th anniversary. The York Herald said his “abilities are too well know to require any comment” so he clearly was a man of some substance.

In 1861, James and Elizabeth were living in Dundee’s Bank House, Murraygate,

with their two young children. James was a bank teller but the following year he’d become a tea merchant. He was listed in the Dundee Courier as a contributor (2/6) to a fund to commission a statue “from the chisel of an eminent sculptor” of David Baxter who had given 30 acres to Dundee for a park. Tickets for the Dundee Temperance Society’s annual festival in 1866 could be had from the premises of James Anderson, tea merchant, Murraygate, amongst others. The rateable value of his address in Dundee Voter’s Roll (1865-66) was a hefty 47/- (his father, David, was levied 50/-). As today, tea was a very popular beverage in the UK in the C19th, and its merchants were on to a good thing if they could guarantee its quality.

By 1871, the family (now with five children) was living in Whittlesey,

Cambridgeshire, England. According to the census, James was an oil cake  manufacturer. Oil cake is the solid residue left after the actual oil has been pressed from seeds such as cottonseed, linseed, and sunflower. It is used as crop food and fertiliser. A secondary occupation looks like "flax scutcher"; scutching prepares flax for spinning, such as separating the seeds from raw cotton or the woody bits from flax. Linseed is flax oil so it sounds as though James was processing industrial quantities of flax into a range of products. A final occupation "...ic maker", which is likely to have been the remains of the flax (after having been pressed and scutched) being turned into bricks. Flax bricks, apparently, are coming back into fashion in C21st eco-building. 


James and Elizabeth

 Charlotte Elizabeth  Vida Mary  Blanche Evelyn  Nora Constance  Clare Gertrude  Henry Robert William  Ethel Maud

         (1860-1933)                 (1861-1894)         (1864-1948)                   (1866-1944)                     (1869-1951)                     (1873-1943)                    (1874-1949)

The British Newspapers archive (specifically the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal) offered three possible sightings of James during

the family’s time in Whittlesey: (i) “October 29, the wife of Mr James Anderson, of Whittlesey, of a daughter” (Clare Gertrude A)(6 November 1869); (ii) a washerwoman servant of Mr James Anderson of Whittlesey “carelessly got two fingers of the right hand between the rollers of a mangle, and they were severely crushed. It is hoped that by rest and surgical skill, the amputation of the fingers may not be necessary” (17 June 1871); and (iii) “TEMPERANCE -  A branch of the Women’s British Temperance Association has been formed at Wisbech, with Mrs James Anderson as its president…” (16 June 1877).

The family had moved to Lambeth, London by 1881 when James’ occupation was again that of tea merchant. Elizabeth’s

occupation was “principal of school”, the only occasion she was anything other than “wife”. The census also lists boarders and teachers for their address - Duffield House, Tulse Hill/Norwood. There were several newspaper entries during the family’s residence in London including the announcement of (daughters) Nora’s marriage and Charlotte’s engagement. Of particular interest are reports of fundraising support for a Home for Gentlewomen, Warwick House, Upper Tulse Hill. The Home’s residents were gentlewomen who had fallen on hard times and who were not only provided with somewhere to live but were guaranteed a minimum £20 annual income although a speaker at one of the functions was hard pressed to imagine living on less than £100 p.a. Subscriptions had been dropping because of unpleasant and groundless rumours that the residents could well afford to support themselves. Mrs James Anderson had sent a supportive letter to one event where it was noted that the Church of England was missing in action when it came to providing financial backing. One speaker commented that, despite their being patrons of the Home, the names of the Archbishop and four Bishops were not on the subscriber list. In 1885, Elizabeth and Mrs A Ernest Foster organised a fund-raising concert “of unusually high order” for the Home. Entrance to the event was also of high order at 2/6 and 5/-.

By 1891, the Andersons had moved on and were living Barcombe, Sussex then, in 1901, at 6 Clarendon Road, Margate, Kent (Isle

of Thanet electorate). James’ occupation was retired ? manufacturer. The ? is a word that has been overwritten but could, at a push, end with an “x” which could, perhaps, be ‘flax’ although I don’t know if it could be said he actually manufactured flax. He certainly processed it albeit not, I’m sure, personally. Their final address was North Cliff Lodge, Lowestoft, Suffolk when his occupation was recorded as ‘retired banker’. It may be he combined the tea merchant, manufacturing and finance industries in his professional life.  

There were several newspaper reports of their civic doings from their Lowestoft years. For example, in 1909 James attended St

Johns Anglican Church’s sales of work, Elizabeth opened a bazaar in aid of the Wesleyan Church. To my delight, also in 1909 the Lowestoft Journal ran a detailed report of their golden wedding anniversary celebrated at the Piccadilly Hotel, London.


James died at the beginning of 1913, his occupation in the

probate records was ‘gentleman’. Probate of his effects (£2,391/13/6) went to Elizabeth who died two years later at her daughter’s (Nora) address in Englefield, Surrey. Her effects were valued at £6,772/4/1, probate to her son, Harry, and son-in-law, Richard Beaumont-Thomas (Nora’s husband), of whom there is much more later.

It seems that James and Elizabeth, like the rest of our Andersons,

were resourceful people who were not averse to moving where opportunity took them.  Despite the frequency of their moving house, they seem to represent the end of stability before the Great War brought the massive social upheaval that changed everybody’s sense of what was possible. As will be seen, their children's generation lived lives very different from those of their parents and from those of the earlier generations we have tried to reach back to. One daughter predeceased her parents. Two remained independent all their lives with one dying in a mental institution. There were scandals and divorces, and much travel around the colonies. It is hard to imagine what James may have made of his family. Some of their lives may have brought a crease to his brow although the more browcrease-worthy generations were born after his death, apart from a son-in-law’s association with what was, at the time, the financial crime of the century (a possible exaggeration on my part). It may be that daughter Nora waited until after James’ death to petition for divorce to save him embarrassment. He may have been proud of the men who fought, and very bravely, during the world wars and supportive of the women who made their choices in ways not possible for the women of his generation. I would like to have found more about the school Elizabeth presided over and in which her daughters taught. In England about that time, changes to the legal framework that constrained women's potential and aspirations saw many from the middle class (who previously were unable to be publicly employed doing anything) pursue a career in education. The Anderson women may have been in the vanguard of women's emancipation, taking full advantage of what possibilities were on offer. Elizabeth’s active support for impoverished gentlewomen, as well as her heading a college for young women, indicates a sensibility of, and the willingness to do something about, women’s precarious social status. James and Elizabeth’s only son was briefly a father himself but had no more children so this branch of the Anderson line died with him. 

Golden wedding Lowestoft Journal, Sat 1

Lowestoft Journal

1 May 1909

British Newspaper Archives

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