The Old Mansfield Woodhouse Society is concerned with the heritage of Mansfield Woodhouse and aims to promote studies and activities on all aspects of the place, from the past, to the present and into the future.
Albert Robert Jesson, Chemist
ALBERT ROBERT JESSON
1876 — 1952
Some years ago The Old Mansfield Woodhouse Society was given a portfolio of documents and photographs appertaining to one of Woodhouse’s more well-known businessmen, Albert Robert Jesson.
Within this paperwork are details of his education, his successful attempt to start up in business as a chemist on Woodhouse Market Place, his work for the church, and much more, even down to a motor vehicle insurance policy dated 1924.
Born on 10 April 1876 at Lutterworth in Leicestershire, to parents William and Elizabeth, Albert Jesson was one of four children. Albert’s two brothers were Ernest and Horace and his sister was Lucy.
At 13 years of age, Albert sat an exam and successfully gained a scholarship to attend Lutterworth Grammar School. There were 15 candidates, and eight were successful. The headmaster the Rev S Crawley wrote to his family personally to inform them. The scholarship covered his tuition fees for one year with a possible three-year extension subject to good progress and good behaviour.
An exemplary pupil, he received glowing reports and did indeed attend the school for the full period. He gained a 1st division, 2nd class, in January 1893, which qualified him to study as a chemist. He then sat an exam in magnetism and electricity and gained a second class in the elementary stage.
By March 1893 he was apprenticed to William Dalrymple, of Leicester, manager of the Leicester Provident Dispensary to learn the trade of a chemist and the art of compounding and dispensing medicine. The indenture from which this information was extracted, reveals that he had to serve his master until the age of 21 and that the apprentice’s premium cost £40, paid by his father, William Jesson, who traded as a tailor and grazier in Kilworth. Albert’s wage for the first year was 6s 6d a week (33p). It was increased annually until at the age of 21 in 1897, he was receiving 14s 6d a week (73p).
He went on to work in the Provident’s dispensary as senior dispenser and drug room manager.
Then in January 1900 and with glowing references he went to work for Mr W. A. Shaw, a chemist in Birmingham, for £5 per month.
By June of that year he had applied for the post of branch manager to John G. Agar, of the Westgate Pharmacy, Mansfield. But Mr Agar had other plans for Mr Jesson, because he explained that he was opening a new branch in the Market Place on the corner of Charles Street at Mansfield Woodhouse and would consider him with a view to working there.
It turned out to be a very good year for Albert and on a more personal level as well, for he married his sweetheart Minnie Abell that summer. Minnie was born at Glenfield, Leicestershire, in 1871.
Their daughter Lucy Beryl was born in July 1902 (she was probably named after her paternal aunt).
Sadly Mr Agar died in 1904. An indenture dated March 1908 shows that Mr Jesson was then renting the shop at 1 Charles Street, on the junction of High Street and Market Place from the landlord, Mr Charles Vallance, for £27 per year. Also that year he applied for a wine and spirits licence for the shop. The photo of the shop when it was being demolished in the early 1960s shows the initials VP below the roof line – most likely referring to the Vintage Port he could sell having obtained his licence.
More paperwork in 1907 shows him living at Glen Leigh Terrace, Mansfield Woodhouse. He rented the house at first, from Mr George Stevenson, a local joiner and builder, and one quarter year’s rent was £4.17s.6d. In 1911 he bought No 2 Villas, Woodland Grove, from Mr Stevenson (in the 1911 Census schedule the house is referred to as No 4 Woodland Grove)
He was probably one of the first men in Mansfield Woodhouse to own a car. In April 1913 he purchased a BEAN Touring Car, complete with hooter, number plates, and insurance, from Reg Lucas, motor dealer, of Brunts Street, Mansfield, for £370.9s.6d.
Mr Jesson and his wife were invited to attend the Duke and Duchess of Portland’s silver wedding celebrations at Welbeck Abbey in June 1914. The letter is addressed to him at Woodland Grove, Mansfield Woodhouse.
Mr Jesson was a man who gave his time very generously. His voluntary activities involved working for St Edmund’s, St Catharine’s and St Chad’s Churches. He was the accounts secretary for the Duplex collection envelopes, which was a free will offering system for the church at home and abroad. A leaflet from 1921 illustrated how the system worked and a suggestion was that each contributor gave an average of 3d in the £ of their income.
By 1922 he and his family were living at Park Road, Mansfield Woodhouse. Kirkland’s plumbers, of Station Street, Mansfield Woodhouse, supplied and fixed a new WC upstairs in the house at a cost of £17.19s.5d (from a receipt dated 1924).
Another receipt reveals that he took his car in for repair to W. Pike, motor engineer, of Toothill Lane, Mansfield, in 1926. Of note was the price of petrol then 1s 7d (about 8p) per gallon. I think of the no claims bonus as being a modern idea, but no, on hiscar insurance policy renewal receipt from Reg Lucas, in 1924 a no claims bonus facility cost £1.6s.
A later move saw the family living at 3 Church Hill Avenue, Mansfield Woodhouse in 1929.
He was also a singer for he features in a photograph of the Mansfield Woodhouse Male Voice Choir taken in 1934 outside the Manor House. He is seated on the front row sixth from the left.
Both Albert and Minnie died within days of each other in the Autumn of 1952, he was aged 76, she was 80. They are buried in Mansfield Woodhouse Cemetery.
Although Albert and Minnie had both died, it was not the end of Jesson’s the Chemists Shop. The name carried on for a good few years after that. Local people tell me that after several shops fronting the High Street were demolished in the early 1960s, including 1 Charles Street, Jesson’schemist’s shop was relocated across the road into what had been Briggs and Woodhead’s shop. Jesson’s shop was still there in 1974 (according to Linney’s street directory, but by 1976 the shop was trading under the name of Winson’s chemist).
Lucy Beryl died on 19 July 1967 in Leeds General Hospital. Local people remembered her as a gardener and one who organised the children from the National School in their plays performed at the Turner Memorial Hall during the 1920s and early 1930s.
Some years ago I interviewed a Woodhus lass who told me she had worked at Jesson’s chemist’s shop after leaving school in 1941 up to 1950. One of her first tasks of the day was to sweep the pavement outside the shop and one of her regular jobs was to dress the windows and refill the large carboys with blue, red and yellow coloured liquid. Her wage in 1941 was £1 a week and by the time she left in 1950 she was earning £2.16s a week. Customers could take their photographic films there and she delivered them by bicycle to Vallance’s photographers on Newgate Lane, Mansfield, for developing.
She explained how Mr Jesson was a real gentleman and a big churchman: “He did a lot of things for Mansfield Woodhouse in a quiet way. He was polite, very generous and really interested in his profession. He made a lot of his own remedies and created Jesson’s baby food and tailor-made mixtures for people with colds.”
“He would walk to work from his home on Church Hill Avenue, down St Edmund’s Avenue, across Welbeck Road and then across the gardens behind Betts the ironmongers.” (across what is now the car park).
She says he never really retired, and she can’t remember him even having a holiday. But she can remember him wearing pince-nez spectacles and sitting in his swivel chair at the shop.
She added: “Miss Jesson was a rose grower and also grew raspberries. They had a massive garden with a glasshouse. Mr Jesson had a love for passionflowers and would wear a fresh one in his lapel every day during the flowering season.”
By Ann Sewell, archivist for The Old Mansfield Woodhouse Society.
Credits and Sources:
Paperwork and photos donated to the Old Mansfield Woodhouse Society.
Birth, Marriage and Death Registers
We don’t have any photos of Minnie Jesson or Lucy Beryl Jesson in the Society’s archive, nor do we have anyone’s memories of Minnie. Perhaps you the reader can rectify that. If so, we would love to hear from you.