Thursday, December 23, 2010

Joshua Harris

Most of the new shopkeepers who opened the first shops at Wolverton were based in Stony Stratford and opened their shops as branches. Joshua Harris was the exception.
As soon as Bury Street was completed in 1840 Harris took one of the three storey buildings at a rental of 7/- a week. He and his wife Charlotte were Oxfordshire born - he from Banbury and she from Finstock. Both were born about 1812. So they were both mature and had probably had the opportunity to get some money behind them. Their first child was born only 6 months before the 1841 census was taken. We learn a little more from the 1851 Census where Harris gives his occupation as Draper, Grocer and Druggist, suggesting more of a general store. At number 414, with three stories,  he had plenty of space to accommodate his business and family. The mixture of selling groceries and drugs may seem odd to us now but grocers had a long tradition of dispensing drugs going back to the middle ages. The separate function of Apothecary, or Chemist, developed in the 16th century but plainly the function could still be combined in small communities in the middle of the 19th century. Harris was a member of the Pharmaceutical Association at this time, so this must have been a role he took seriously.
Joshua Harris died in his forties and his widow moved to Charlbury in Oxfordshire with her young family. As a "fundholder" (as she is described in the 1961 Census), presumably with capital from the sale of the Wolverton stock, she was able to support her family. It does not appear that the business survived Joshua Harris’s early death, at least in this location, because the house is occupied by an engine fitter in 1861.

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