When I was very young, my grandparents moved to Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. My grandfather, David Day, had been interested in discovering our ancestry – bear in mind this is before the 1980s! – and had collated a family tree from certificates, birthday books, letters and other documents passed down from generations before him. His paternal grandmother was Elisabeth Caroline Fielder and on the hand-drawn tree, written in pencil, David made note that she was the daughter of James Robert Leonard Fielder, a pianoforte maker, and Ann Hayhurst. From memory, this was as far back as he had traced.
James was the first child born of Leonard and Maria (nee Kean) Fielder. I remember that my great-aunt Win used to swear that we were related to Edmund Kean, an English actor (1787-1833) who was regarded in his time as the greatest actor ever. After disproving this theory, my attention turned to James’ life.
Born 19 February 1840 and baptised at St Andrews Holborn on 29 March 1840, James was living at John St in Lambeth in 1841 aged just 1 year old. His father, Leonard was noted as a book binder aged 25 and his mother, Maria, aged 20, with no occupation recorded. This is not unusual for married women in this period. Some extended family members – Eliza Keen aged 15 and Mary Keen aged 10 – were indexed below the Fielder family on the census enumeration schedule.
James was the eldest of ten children born of Leonard and Maria. Leonard did not stay in the book binder business for long and, throughout all censuses after 1841, he was referred to as a bricklayer.
James did indeed marry Ann Hayhurst – my grandfather was right – on Christmas Day in 1864 at St Mary’s Church, Lambeth. A few years prior to this, ‘Robert’ Fielder was visiting George Hardisman in 1861 at 3 St John’s Terrace in Finsbury, noted as a pianoforte maker aged 21; the occupation he held all his life.
James and Ann – like his parents before him – had a total of ten children:
In the censuses from 1871 to 1891, all of the children who were old enough to work held employment in the book binding business, with job titles including ‘book sewer’, ‘bookbinder collator’, ‘bookbinder folder’ and ‘bookbinder learner’.
James and his family lived in various London locations from Newington to Enfield. Until the early 1890s, the Fielder family lived at 107 Percival Road, Enfield. But unfortunately, Ann was widowed in 1893 when James died in All Saints Convalescent Hospital in Eastbourne, East Sussex aged 53, of phthisis, haemorrhage and exhaustion. Their youngest son was just 11 years old at the time of James’ death.