The Walter Family

Copyright Carol Baxter 2012
Prepared for Walter descendant Jeanette Bradley

George Walter (1804-1892) and Elizabeth Spencer (c1809-1870s)

George Walter was born on 25 March 1804, the third child of Jacob Walter and his wife Ann Bagnell, and was baptised on 13 May 1804 at the church of St Martin in the Fields in Westminster, London.[1] He moved with his family to the parish of St George Hanover Square, London, around 1809[2] and, according to a later biography, settled in the parish of St Bride, Fleet Street, around 1815.[3]

Following the death of his father in 1817,[4] George assisted his mother in her business, according to his obituarist, who added that ‘George Walter inherited his father’s business aptitude.’ Around 1825 George acquired the licence for “The Bell” at Poppin’s-court, perhaps his late father’s business as Jacob was listed as a resident of “Poppins Court” at the time of his death.[5] In 1827 he became a life subscriber to the Licenced Victualler’s Association which had only recently been founded.[6]

On 18 February 1836 George Walter married Elizabeth Spencer at St Martin in the Fields.[7] Elizabeth was apparently a widow when she married George Walter as her son’s birth certificate describes her as “Elizabeth Walter lately Spencer formerly Brede”.[8] She was born around 1809 in Bermondsey, Surrey.[9]

At least six children were born to the couple: Ann (c1835), Elizabeth (c1837), George (c1839), Lucy (c1840), Jane (1841), John Spencer (1844) and James (c1849), as shown below. George described himself as a publican at the baptism of his daughter Jane early in 1842[10] and as a victualler in 1844.[11]

The Walter family were long associated with the Incorporated Society of Licenced Victuallers established in 1794, George’s father being one of the first members. George himself became a member in 1830 and frequently attended meetings held at the old school in Kennington-lane. He took a keen interest in the welfare of the school for the education and maintenance of the children of members of the trade who had fallen by the wayside or become impoverished. He acted as one of the stewards when the foundation-stone of the present building was laid by Lord Melbourne as locum tenens for his Majesty King William IV in the year 1836. He served the office of Governor in the year 1842-3, obtaining during his year of office the largest amount of subscriptions for the School which had up to that time been reached - ₤4805. George remained a member of the Society throughout his life and actively served on the Society’s committee for 17 years.[12]

George was also one of the founders of the Licensed Victuallers Protection Society of London which commenced in 1833. Having served on the committee for three or four years, he was voted chairman and successfully carried out his duties in 1839.[13]

Towards the end of 1846 a deputation of local men waited upon George Walter. Carrying a requisition signed by 250 inhabitants of the Ward of Farringdon Without, they asked if he would allow himself to be nominated on St Thomas’ Day (21 December) as one of the sixteen candidates to represent the ward in the Court of Common Council. The Ward had some 700 residents who filled the voting criteria: male adults who owned or rented property of a substantial value. As it eventuated, eighteen candidates offered their services for the sixteen positions and the battle became personal. The Alderman, Sir James Duke, was forced to adjourn the poll when the allocation of votes was disputed. ‘The poll adjourned at 3 o’clock,’ noted the wardmote minutes, ‘in consequence of a discreditable scene of personal abuse. The Alderman immediately ordered the ward beadle to adjoin the wardmote until the following day, the 23rd.’ A recount was demanded and a scrutiny of the results revealed that Mr Hodgson replaced Mr Harding who had been declared duly elected on the preceding day. Mr Joshua Thomas Bedford was re-elected and was appointed Deputy, and George Walter was also elected.[14]

From that day until his death forty-five years later, George was one of sixteen representatives of the ward, surviving twenty contests. In 1868 Alderman Sir James Duke appointed him as his Deputy for the south side of the ward and he continued in that role under the late Mr Alderman Figgias and under Sir Polydore de Keyser, who was Alderman late in 1891.[15]

In a newspaper article written less than a year before his death, the correspondent wrote:

Although within only a few weeks of his eighty-eighth birthday, Mr Deputy Walter is far more active and energetic than many of his younger colleagues. At the recent wardmote on St Thomas’ Day held in the school-room of St Sepulchre’s Church, the aged Deputy was in his place soon after nine a.m. while some of his younger colleagues straggled in at the close of the proceedings.

The longevity of the City fathers is a puzzle to the uninitiated, whose idea of a Corporator’s life is that it is one round of swilling and feasting. If this were so, there would be fewer octogenarians, both in the Court of Alderman and Common Council. Doubtless it is the active and busy life of its members that conduces to their health and length of life. It is the self-indulgent idler who is always ailing who early disappears from the scene. It is often asked why it is that gentlemen, on the one hand, with large and important businesses of their own, with local and other public duties to discharge, go to the trouble and expense of contesting an election for a seat in the Court of Common Council; and, on the other hand, why gentlemen who have passed the prime of life, who by their ability, industry, and frugality have ample means for ease and retirement from the whirl and bustle, rush and pressure of daily business, seek the arduous duties and responsibilities of a Corporator’s life. Perhaps the reason is to be found in the fascination and interest of the useful public work connected with the institutions of the Corporation of the City of London.

Take the following: The Freeman’s Orphan School, with its hundred and fifty orphans, their guardianship, their education, their social and secular future is a work in which an angel’s wing would not be soiled; the City of London School with its seven hundred boys, the Guildhall School of Music with its four thousand pupils; the Guildhall Library and Museum and Art Gallery with its average of 350,000 visitors annually; the Corporation markets; the Bridge House Estates, the City Lands, and many other institutions, all of which require committees of management, and afford ample scope for great and useful work.[16]

The Walter family had settled in the parish of St Bride where George worked as a licenced victualler. They were listed as residing at 10 Shoe Lane in 1851,[17] at 10-11 Shoe Lane in 1861,[18] and again in 1871,[19] according to the census returns for those years. Twenty-five year-old Barmaid Elizabeth Crow resided with them in 1851, two servants, William James and Fanny Stroud, in 1861, and another two servants, Jane Lewis and Eliza Carvill in 1871. Nephew Alfred Walter, aged 23 and the first mate on an East Indiaman, and granddaughter, Kate E. Gilbert aged 8, also resided with them in 1871.

George was listed as a wine merchant in 1871,[20] however he had retired by 1881[21] and was listed as such in the 1881 and 1891 Census returns.[22] His son, John, described him as a “gentleman” on his own marriage certificate.[23]

Elizabeth died between 1871 and 1881,[24] and George moved to Havelock House, 1 Heath Road, Twickenham, where he was residing with two daughters and two servants in 1881.[25] In 1891 George’s household also appeared to occupy Yew Cottage in Heath Road. George resided in Havelock House with his two daughters, Lucy and Jane, his brother, William, and two servants, with an additional two servants and a visitor residing in neighbouring Yew Cottage.[26]

In the municipal life of the metropolis, George was a prominent figure and his character and hardworking nature impressed his obituarist:

I have often been amused at the avidity with which Mr Deputy Walter has assumed increased duties. He never seems to have enough work to satisfy him. You may meet him day after day in sultry weather, in a stuffy committee room, taking a keen interest in all questions under discussion or running after an omnibus in Fleet-street or Ludgate-hill, or wading on foot through the slush and snow to attend his committees. During the Deputy’s long and honoured career in the Court of Common Council there has been no more loyal and faithful Corporator. He has never been what is known as a “chair-hopper”. He has been content to serve his ward and the interests of the citizens for the most part as one of the rank and file. He has steadfastly set his face against all wire-pulling, planning, and scheming for the occupancy of chairs of committees. He does not overlook the necessities of the destitute poor. Always just before the adjournment for the Christmas recess, the Deputy is accustomed to rise in his place and move that a sum of ₤500 be voted for distribution amongst poor widows of freemen.[27]

‘Mr Walter had an enormous capacity for work,’ agreed his obituarist.[28] George served on all the Corporation’s committees and of the Commission of Sewers. Additionally, in 1863 he was appointed a governor of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, in 1869 a governor of Christ’s Hospital, and in 1890 one of the trustees of Mitchell’s Charity. In 1877 he occupied the chair of the Metage and Grain Committee, in 1878 he was appointed chairman of the Gresham Committee, in 1879 Chairman of the Finance Committee (Sewers) and in 1881 chairman of the General Purposes Committee. In 1887 he served as chairman on the Lord Mayor and Sheriff’s Committee. At various times, he also served on the West Ham Park and the Water Inquiry Committees.[29]

George was present at the funeral of the Duke of Wellington at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1852.[30] Wellington was responsible for Britain’s victory in the Battle of Waterloo and for the end of the two-decade long Napoleonic Wars, and also served as Britain’s Prime Minister between 1828 and 1830. George served on the reception committee in connection with the visit of the Shah to the City in 1877.[31] He was also present at the funeral in 1890 of Robert Cornelius Napier, Lord Napier of Magdala, a distinguished British field marshal who commanded troops in India, led the British expedition to Abyssinia in 1867, and served as governor of Gibralter.[32] Napier was constable of the Tower of London at the time of his death.

Through his involvement with the Corporation, George participated in many other important events on London’s calendar. He was present at the opening of the Live Cattle Market at Copenhagen Fields, Islington. It had cost upwards of ₤500,000 and was opened on 13 June 1855 by His Royal Highness, the Prince Consort.[33] On 24 November 1829 George was present at the inaugural ceremony opening the London Meat Market, one of the markets in the cluster that eventually came to be known as the London Central Meat, Poultry and Vegetable Markets. Situated in George’s ward, the markets cost nearly ₤2 million, and for the ceremony, the central roadway was fitted up as a banqueting hall and 1500 guests invited to celebrate the event.[34]

The Improvement Committee had been responsible for the construction and/or improvement of many London sites. As a member of the committee, George was present at the opening of Blackfriars Bridge (rebuilt at a cost of ₤400,000) and at the opening of Holburn Viaduct Improvement (completed at a total cost of ₤1,570,000), both presided over by Her Majesty Queen Victoria on 5 November 1869.[35] George was also present on 9 January 1874 when the Prince of Wales unveiled in Holborn-circus (which was within the ward of Farringdon Without) the equestrian statue of the Prince Consort in the dress of a Field Marshal of England.[36]

On 29 July 1880 at a public dinner held at Anderton’s Hotel in Fleet Street, the inhabitants of the ward of Farringdon Without presented to George a testimonial of the esteem and affection in which he was held. Surrounded by many long-standing and valued friends and colleagues, George received the ‘service of plate’ which had been subscribed for by the inhabitants. George’s long and useful career was mentioned in eulogistic terms. Special allusion was made to his work on the Commission of Sewers, and also to the widening of Chancery Lane which was carried out mainly through the Deputy’s efforts with little cost to the Corporation.[37]

Another celebration marked the occasion of George’s 80th birthday. On 25 March 1884, he was entertained at a complimentary dinner at the Guildhall Tavern by the Governor, the Governor-elect and Past Governors of the Incorporated Society of Licenced Victuallers.[38] As a reflection of the appreciation felt for his services to the trade, George’s fellow London victuallers presented him with a handsome silver cup and salver. The presiding Governors called upon the secretary to read the inscription on a beautifully-illuminated vellum which was also presented to George as a token of their appreciation of his many valued qualities. The vellum was surmounted by a portrait of George and contained the seal of the Incorporated Society, the City arms, and other appropriate armorial bearings. The inscription read:

Incorporated Society of Licenced Victuallers.
This vellum was presented to Mr Deputy George Walter at a banquet at which he was entertained at the Guildhall Tavern, Gresham-street, City, on Tuesday, 25th March 1884 by the Governor and surviving Past Governors of the Society in commemoration of his having on that day attained his eightieth birthday. The presentation was accompanied with an expression by the Chairman on the part of all the officers of the society, of their high appreciation of Mr Walter’s long and honourable connection with the institution, the many valuable services he had rendered it before, during and since his governorship in the year 1842-3, his faithful representation in the Court of Common Council for upwards of 37 years in the ward of Farringdon Without in which the City property of this Society is situated, and with their warmest wishes for his health and prosperity for many years to come.

Addressing George, the Society’s Governor said he was deputed by the Past-Governors to ask his acceptance of that vellum as a mark of the great esteem they entertained towards him, and in recognition of the valued services he had rendered to the Incorporated Society for so many years. They all hoped he might live and enjoy good health for many years yet to come – and that he might hand down to succeeding generations this testimony of their regard as a stimulus to follow in his footsteps. The Governor concluded by proposing “The Health of Mr Deputy Walter”, wishing him many happy returns of the day. In his response, George remarked that his had been a busy life ever since he was 13 years of age when his father died.[39]

George was one of the founders of the Fourty City Mutual Building Society – one of the most flourishing of its class in existence, wrote a correspondent in 1892 – and that he had been its deputy chairman from the commencement, a period of 27 years.[40] He had also had a long connection with the Morning Advertiser, and it was through his persistent efforts that that paper was reduced in price from three-pence to one penny. ‘Although not what is called a newspaperman,’ wrote his obituarist, ‘Mr Walter had a very large knowledge of newspaper properties, having since 1815 resided in the parish of St Bride, Fleet Street, the very centre of the news and literary mart of Great Britain.’ [41]

George served the parish of St Bride as Guardian, Overseer and Churchwarden, with the newspaper correspondent reporting:

He is one of those representatives who is at all times come-at-able and ever willing to do his best to remedy any grievance in the ward. Courteous and kind to his younger brethren in the Court, where he thinks much and talks little – puts on no supercilious airs on account of his years and experience – a wise councillor, a kind and faithful friend, a loyal corporator, of whom the Ward of Farringdon Without is justly proud, esteemed and honoured by the whole Court of Common Council, and beloved by the poor in the ward.[42]

On George’s 88th birthday, the City Press wrote:

Hearty congratulations to Mr Deputy Walter, the “Father” of the Court of Common Council, who today enters upon his eighty-ninth year. He is still hale and hearty so that we may hope that for some years yet to come he may be spared to continue the public work in which for upwards of half a century he has been engaged.[43]

George died on 13 October 1892 at Havelock House and his obituarist remarked:

It is with profound sorrow that we announce the death of Mr Deputy George Walter, father of the Corporation of the city of London … Full of years, honoured and respected by everyone who had the pleasure of his acquaintance and friendship, the lamented deceased passed away quietly yesterday at his residence, Havelock House, Twickenham, in the eighty-ninth year of his age, having been born on 25 March 1804. Until within the last few days, Mr George Walter had led a life no less busy than honourable and useful. His illness appears to have originated with a chill about a week ago, and he soon became convinced that his end was approaching. In him the members of the licenced trade have lost a staunch and earnest friend, and the Corporation of the city a devoted and ardent worker for the public benefit. This assiduous and faithful public servant has been called away at a ripe old age, and his loss will be deeply felt not only by his colleagues in the Corporation of the City and the institutions of the trade, but by that infinitely larger circle of friends and associates who had come to look upon the name of Deputy Walter as a synonym for integrity, honesty, steadfastness of purpose, and untiring devotion to the public well.[44]

Havelock House, Twickenham

Havelock House, Twickenham

Garden of Havelock House, Twickenham

Garden of Havelock House, Twickenham

Family of George Walter and Elizabeth Spencer

1. Ann Walter[45]
- Born c1835

2. Elizabeth Walter[46]
- Born c1837, Clerkenwell.

3. George Walter[47]
- Born c1839, Clerkenwell.

4. Lucy Walter[48]
- Born c1840, Clerkenwell.

5. Jane Walter[49]
- Born 12 December 1841, 10 Shoe Lane, St Brides Fleet Street parish, London.
- Baptised 2 January 1842, St Bride Fleet Street parish, London.

6. John Spencer Walter (see below)
- Born 9 February 1844, 10 Shoe Lane, St Brides Fleet Street parish, London.
- Baptised 10 March 1844, St Bride Fleet Street parish, London.
- Married 2 May 1877, St Paul Covent Garden, London, to Elizabeth Hindley nee Grainger.
- Died 18 April 1917, Burilda Private Hospital, Gower St, Summer Hill, NSW.

7. James Walter[50]
- Born c1849