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Monday, 19 March 2012

4. The Transition: Albert Ray's Grandparents, Thomas Ray and Eliza Johnson.

Thomas was the eldest child of Robert Ray and Mary Susannah Tue. He was born in 1819  in the Buckinghamshire village of Charndon and was baptised privately, presumably for a health reason, either doubt about his survival or fear of contagion. He married  Susannah Howes from the nearby village of Poundon in 1840. She was 19 and working as a servant, Thomas, like his father, was an agricultural labourer.

Iver Village 1908.
Within two years, Thomas and Susannah moved about 20 miles closer to London, to the Buckinghamshire village of Iver where Thomas worked as a servant. Their first two children, Mary Susannah and Jesse, were born in Twyford.  Mary Susannah died before reaching the age of two. Their other five children were born in Iver. The youngest, Susannah, was five years old when her mother died early in 1858.

St Peter's Church Iver, Bucks, Photo by John Chisholm
In November of the same year, Thomas married a widow, Eliza Mouncer (nee Johnson), ten years his junior, originally from Norfolk, with three children of her own between the ages of nine and five. They were married in Christ Church Surrey - Southwark. Their marriage record says they were neighbours in Stanford St, Surrey. Thomas was a 'shop proprietor'. Thomas might have moved to the city to try his luck after the death of Susannah. He and Eliza settled back in Iver Village where Thomas ran a greengrocer's shop, the first of his family to use his agricultural skills in a different way.

By  1871, Thomas and Eliza, have five children from their own marriage. The youngest of these, barely two, is Albert Ray, father of our Bert. Their oldest child is Arthur William. Along with Susannah, the youngest child of Thomas's first marriage, they are living in Harlington, Middlesex, at the Crown Inn (49 Bath Rd., now demolished), and Thomas is a ginger beer manufacturer. Ten years on, Thomas is a mineral water manufacturer in the same area, but now living at 2 Holly House Harlington.

The mineral water industry had its beginnings in mineral springs as early as Roman times. The waters of various spas sold well - Leamington, Epsom, Clerkenwell, Malvern and Sadlers Wells, for example. The discovery of lime and lemon juice to prevent scurvy contributed to experimentation with mineral waters, as did the introduction of ginger beers - all associated, as were  the spas, with health and apothecaries.

It is, however, after the publication by Dr Joseph Priestley in the 1772 of Directions for Impregnating Water with Fixed Air and the subsequent identification by Antoine Lavousier of 'fixed air' as carbon dioxide that equipment for carbonating water and fruit juices was developed and commercial production of soft drinks was taken up across Britain. In the late nineteenth century the temperance movement also boosted the industry.

Thomas Ray was one of those who recognised the potential, adapted his skills, gained knowledge, and went into business. He seems to have had the support of both wives and his children. There continue to be family links between children of his first marriage and Eliza's family, and further stories could be researched and told round this venturesome man.

from Hounslow Council Library Local Studies website
Thomas died in 1889, aged 70, a mineral water manufacturer living at 102 High St Hounslow, leaving an estate of just over one thousand pounds to his widow, Eliza. Two years later, she is still living there on her own means, with her son Arthur Ray, who is now the mineral water manufacturer.  Arthur soon moved his family and mineral water manufacturing to Woolpack Farmhouse in Dawley, Harlington, and then to Bourne Bridge in Hayes, Middlesex. When he died in 1916 he left an estate of 2256 pounds to his two surviving daughters who had worked with him in the business.

After Arthur moved from High St Hounslow, his young brother, Albert, and his family, moved in with Eliza and operated the mineral water business. Eliza was there as Bert Ray, his sister and brothers, were born into a reasonably comfortable, industrious household, built on the efforts she and her husband Thomas had made over many years in a journey, with a large blended family,  from agricultural labourers, to servants, to greengrocers, to manufacturers of gingerbeer and mineral water.

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