Chapter 6

The Next Generation


Just two weeks after the death of William George Nixey, their second grandchild, Charlotte Maude Secker, was born at Springfield House on 15th April. For Charlotte Nixey, there must surely have been a mingling of tears of joy with tears of sadness and loss. In it’s issue of Saturday 14th May 1870, the Bucks Herald printed the following announcement:

Mr. John Thornton will sell by unreserved auction On Friday, May 27th 1870 At One o’clock, at Upton Court Farm, Slough near Windsor The Entire and very First-Class Herd of Pure-Bred Devon Cattle, belonging to the late W. G. Nixey, Esq. The Stock has been very carefully selected from the well-known Herds of Mr. George Turner, Mr. W. Smith, of Exeter; Mr. Shapland, of North Molton; and Mr. J. A. Smith, of Bradford Peverell. The Prize Bull, “Young Prince”, being in service.
The Sale comprises between 60 and 70 head of cows, heifers, bulls, and steers; among them will be found some well-known winners, and those famous prize animals that Mr. Nixey exhibited so successfully at the Royal, and the Bath and West of England Shows. There are also a number of bullocks and fat animals in a very forward state intended for exhibition at the next meeting of the Birmingham and Smithfield Club, at which shows last year and the year previous a number of prizes were won.
Catalogues, with Pedigrees, may be had of Mr. Shacklady, Upton Court Farm, Slough, or of John Thornton, 10, Langham Place, London.

Losing her husband was undoubtedly a huge blow to Charlotte, but another severe blow was to come the day prior to her husband’s stock of cattle being auctioned. The Berkshire Chronicle in its issue dated Saturday 28th May reported:

Melancholy Suicide At Slough. On Thursday morning Mr. William Francis Pitt, a large builder and contractor of Slough, Bucks, got up at his usual hour, six o’clock, and went as usual to his counting house, and was seen by a washerwoman several times between that hour and eight o’clock, the time for breakfast. As he did not then make his appearance, his nephew, Edward Williams, went in search of him, and discovered deceased in the nail room under the counting house in a sitting posture quite dead. Serjeant Bowden, of the police force, was immediately sent for, who found deceased with a rifle underneath his right leg, the muzzle pointing towards the body, and ramrod lying across the left leg with a piece of wood attached to it, as if to enable deceased to push down the trigger, the upper end of the ramrod being stained with blood. On examining the body it was found that the contents of the rifle had entered the right breast, and blood was flowing through an opening at the back, which must have caused instantaneous death. Mr. Pitt was in good circumstances, and a large sum of money was found in the house. He had been under Dr. Britwell for some little time, and there is no doubt that he committed the rash act in a sudden fit of insanity, as only a short time previously to this fatal occurrence he had given out some nails. Deceased was a single man, and brother-in-law to the late Mr. Nixey, who had amassed so large a fortune in the black lead manufactory, and died at his residence, Springfield House, in the same parish, a few weeks ago. An inquest was held on the body yesterday (Friday).

The following week, an article published in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette on Friday 3rd June 1870 gave a clear indication as to the value of the Devon cattle William George Nixey had owned:

On Friday the celebrated stock of Devon cattle (selected and bred by some of the best breeders of the day) of the late Mr. W. G. Nixey of Upton Court Farm, Slough, was submitted to auction at the farm by Mr. Thornton, of Langham-place. There were four bulls, twenty-nine cows and heifers, twenty-nine fat oxen, steers, and heifers disposed of, realising £1,330 [£60,781]. The highest price obtained was for a heifer six months old, which fetched 81 guineas [£3,886].

“To Maltsters, Brewers, & Others
To be Let, with immediate possession, Two capital Malthouses, with Two Cottages and Out-Buildings, in thorough repair, the property of the late W. G. Nixey, Esq., at Upton, Slough. Apply to Messrs. Buckland and Sons, Windsor.”–Windsor and Eton Express, Saturday 19th November 1870

When the 1871 census was taken on the night of 2nd April, Charlotte Nixey and all but one of her children were living at Springfield House. also with them were four servants, Hannah Walston, Mary A Horne, Hephsibah Blackall, and Eliza Atkins, and a visitor named Mary Burton. Meanwhile, at 12 Soho Square is black lead manufacturer Richard Muir with his family, and two servants, Elizabeth Smith and Jane May.

William and Charlotte’s third grandchild was Edward Howard Secker, who was born on 28th May 1872. Soon afterwards, their second eldest daughter Marie Anne married a merchant of Kensington, Thomas Collingwood Chown at St Lawrence’s on 9th July of the same year, in the presence of Marie Anne’s sister Jessie Nixey, William Griffin Sutton (husband of Edward and Eliza Nixey’s niece Emma née Silver), Thomas Chown (father of groom), and John William Edwards (who married the groom’s sister Ellen Rose Chown two years later). Two days after Thomas and Marie Anne Chown’s first child Thomas Lionel Collingwood was baptised at St Lawrence’s, The Chemical News and Journal of Physical Science in its issue of 26th September 1873 printed the following query submitted by a subscriber:

Black-Lead. – I should feel much obliged if you would kindly inform me, through the columns of your valuable paper, of the process the plumbago has to undergo to make it into cakes of “black-lead” for polishing stoves as sold by Nixey and others.

Even though most queries published in this journal were answered in the same issue, no answer could be found to this person’s query, not even in subsequent issues. It wouldn’t be at all surprising if the exact manufacturing process was an industrial secret!

The next grandchild was Edward and Charlotte Secker’s third child, John Hugh, who was born on 16th March 1874 at Springfield House. A little over three months later, William George’s sister, Mary Ann Deverill, passed away at her home, Ivy Cottage, Slough, on 25th June 1874 at the age of sixty-four. She was buried at St Lawrence’s on 30th June.

More than twenty years after William George Nixey’s money till was invented, an article that appeared in The Era in its issue dated Sunday 25th October 1874 under the heading “Robbery by a Barman” showed that even if the purpose of the till was to ensure mutual satisfaction between staff and customer, it still didn’t stop deceiptful people from stealing from their employers:

At the Southwark Police-court, on Monday, George William Robinson, who had described himself as the son of a clergyman, was placed at the bar charged with robbing his master, Mr Simon Cornish, the proprietor of the Olive Branch, New-cut, Lambeth. The prosecutor deposed that he engaged the prisoner as barman on the 13th inst., and received a character with him, but, owing to his being from the country, he did not make any inquiries about him. The witness left home on the 15th, and returned on Saturday morning, when his suspicions were aroused. He accordingly marked a pound’s worth of silver, consisting of shillings and sixpences, and placed them behind the till to give change. He used Nixey’s patent till, with a tell-tale, and it was the duty of the prisoner to put all money received from customers in that. If he wanted change he took it from the silver behind. About one o’clock witness left the house, and returned about two, unknown to the prisoner. He then saw him take a shilling from a customer. He went to the silver and took two sixpences, one of which he gave to the customer, and the other he put into his waistcoat pocket. The witness immediately called in a constable and gave him into custody, when ten marked sixpences and a marked shilling were found on him. They searched his box and found 112 sixpences, nine shillings, and a half-crown, and in a case two half-sovereigns. In answer to Mr Beard, the prosecutor said that when the prisoner came to him he was in great poverty, and had not a farthing. Mr Beard informed his Worship that a letter was found on the prisoner addressed to a female at the Isle of Wight, setting forth that he was saving money, and would soon be with her. He had pawnbrokers’ duplicates on him of property recently pledged. The prisoner pleaded guilty, and Mr Patteson sentenced him to six months’ hard labour.

It’s already evident that William George Nixey had his fingers in a number of pies, and another example can be seen in the Bucks Herald of Saturday 31st October 1874:

The Slough Waterworks. – The question of the purchase of the Slough waterworks by the Sanitary Authority is under consideration. These works were commenced in 1868, and completed in 1870, at a cost of about £14,000 [£639,800], the promoters being the late Mr. W. G. Nixey and Mr. E. O. Secker. A shaft was sunk to the chalk formation, at a depth of 114 feet, but an accident occurred after the works had been some time in operation, and the water has since been drawn from a level comparatively near the surface, and pumped to a tank on the top of a tower about 75 feet in height.

The Secker and Chown families continued to grow with the births of William Hubert Collingwood Chown on 29th January 1875, and George Arthur Secker on 5th May 1876 who very sadly died on 27th August of the same year.

A fine example of not believing everything you read in a newspaper can be found in the Sydney Morning Herald of Wednesday 6th September 1876:

Plumbago and Fortune. – The London correspondent of the Pioneer writes: “Talking of four-in-hands, have you ever heard of Nixey’s black-lead? Because one of the best appointed drags in London belongs to, and is driven by, one of the handsomest men in London, and one of the nicest fellows – young Nixey. Old Mr Nixey never sold an ounce of anything in his life except black-lead, the black-lead they clean grates with, but he sold that to some purpose, since he bought a fine house in Piccadilly and a splendid place at Slough, and died suddenly, the very day on which Prince Christian was engaged to lunch with him about two years ago, leaving his widow the same place at Slough for life and £60,000 a year, each of his three daughters £80,000 and his son, who has been brought up at Eton and Oxford, just about £20,000 a year. All honour then to black-lead.”

The next grandchild was another granddaughter, Dora Collingwood Chown, who was born on 24th December 1876. Almost six months later, Edward Nixey’s widow Eliza died at the age of seventy-five, and was buried at St Lawrence’s on 29th June. An inscription appears on the Nixey family vault immediately after her husband, which reads:

To the memory of Edward Nixey who died Soho Square March 8th 1866 aged 63

and Eliza, wife of the above-named Edward Nixey, who died June 22nd 1877 aged 75 years

Following in his father’s footsteps, William George Nixey joined the United Grand Lodge of England when he was initiated into the Lodge of Nine Muses at Westminster on 13th February 1877, he passed as a Fellow Craft on 13th March, and was raised to Master Mason on 24th April. On 13th May 1878, he was also initiated into the Lodge of Friendship and Harmony at Walton on Thames. He paid dues in both these Lodges until 1881, his address in both cases being given as 66 Piccadilly, W.

For Charlotte Nixey, it must have been quite a tough time, on the one hand seeing so many grandchildren being born, while on the other hand undoubtedly still mourning the loss of her husband and brother. Very sadly though, she found herself going through the grieving process again, not once, but twice in quite close succession. The first of these was when her sister Elizabeth Williams died at the age of 59 on 7th September 1877. Elizabeth was buried at St Lawrence’s on the 13th September, and The very next day, amid all her grieving, Charlotte’s next ghrandson, Victor Hart Secker, was born.

The second occasion was just one day before the eighth anniversary of her husband’s death, when her daughter Marie Anne Chown died on 30th March 1878 at Springfield House after four days of illness. Her memorial (right) at St Lawrence’s reads:

Marie Ann, the beloved wife of Thomas Collingwood Chown,
who departed this life aged 28 years.

Charlotte’s third eldest daughter, Jessie, married William Mills, a Clerk in Holy Orders, on 29th April 1880 at St Lawrence’s, in the presence of Henry Mills, Charlotte Nixey, Augusta Nixey and William George Nixey.

It’s apparent that there were still people wanting to cash in on the success of Nixey’s blacklead, as can be seen from this article that appeared in the North Devon Journal of Thursday 1st July 1880:

In the case, Nixey v. Reece, in the High Court of Justice, the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Richard Malins, on the 3rd day of June, 1880, upon the application of Messrs William George Nixey, of No. 12, Soho Square, awarded a perpetual injunction, restraining the defendant, Reece, her servants and agents, from hereafter offering any black lead, in tablets, enclosed in wrappers similar to the plaintiffs, or so as to represent, or to have the appearance of representing, the article known as Nixey’s Black Lead.

According to the website of St Lawrence’s church, it was around this time that “the old organ was removed, extended and taken to St. Peters church, Chalvey to be replaced by a new organ donated by the Misses Nixey, the sisters of Mr. Nixey a well known benefactor to Slough churches. Who had previously bought the old rectory, and on the site built a home named Springfields, known later as Upton Towers. But colloquially called Black Lead Castle by the residents of the town in allusion to his wealth accrued from the sale of black lead polish used by so many households for polishing their iron grates and ranges in those days.” It’s evident by the timing and phrasing of this that the “misses Nixey” referred to were actually the sisters of William George Nixey junior, namely, Augusta and Clara Burnell, and not of their father, who had just one sister who survived childhood. It appears that they donated the new organ in memory of their recently deceased sister, Marie Anne Chown.

Shortly before the 1881 census, which was taken on the night of 3rd April, William and Jessie Mills’ first child, William Eustice, who was born on 20th March at Great Marlow, Buckinghamshire, became the tenth grandchild. Charlotte was still living at Springfield House at the time, along with her son William George, whose occupation was recorded as Black Lead Manufacturer, her daughter Augusta, her three Chown grandchildren, Lionel, William and Dora, and seven servants, Caroline Smith, Harriet Spiers, Hannah Wild, Elizabeth Foster, Kate V Dunn, Elizabeth Horne, and Jane E Hitchcock. Richard Muir and his family were still at 12 Soho Square, along with two servants, Anne Hunt and Sarah Steer.

A little over two months after that census, on 9th June at St Lawrence’s, Augusta Nixey was the next of William George and Charlotte’s children to be married. Her groom was a Solicitor named Charles Bridges Stevens, who was born at Eton College in the Spring of 1848. He was the ninth of thirteen children born to Thomas Howell Stevens and Mary née Comins who had been married on 29th November 1834 at Witheridge in Devon, Thomas being a Surgeon and a member of the Royal College of Surgeons. A brief announcement regarding Charles and Augusta’s marriage appeared in The Times of Tuesday 21st June:

On the 9th June, at St. Lawrence, Upton, Slough, by the Rev. William Mills, brother-in-law of the bride, CHARLES BRIDGES, second surviving son of the late THOMAS HOWELL STEVENS, of Eton College, Bucks, and Trafalgar Lawn, Barnstaple, to AUGUSTA, third surviving daughter of the late WILLIAM GEORGE NIXEY, of Springfield House, Slough.

In the next issue of The Times which was published the following day, Wednesday 22nd June, an announcement regarding property belonging to the late William George Nixey was printed:

Freehold and Leasehold Properties.
Mr. Liverd has received instructions from the Trustees of the late W. G. Nixey, Esq., deceased, to SELL by AUCTION, at the Crown Hotel, Slough, on Thursday June 23rd 1881, at 2 for 3 o’clock, the valuable FREEHOLD and LEASEHOLD PROPERTIES, comprising a freehold house known as No. 8, Church-street, Windsor, rented by the Vicar of Windsor for the Working Men’s Institute at £42 per annum; two freehold cottages at the rear, in St. Alban’s-street, Windsor, in the occupation of Groves and Cox as weekly tenants, producing £19 10s per annum; two leasehold villa residences, very pleasantly situate in Chalvey-park, Slough, one in the occupation of the Hon. and Rev. P. Amherst, as yearly tenant, at £42 per annum; the other at present in hand, but of the estimated annual value of £50; a piece of freehold land, situate at Eton-wick, containing over eight acres, in the occupation of Mr. Hawkins as yearly tenant, at £20 per annum. May be viewed by permission of the tenants. Particulars and conditions of sale may be had of Messrs. Tatham and Sons, Solicitors, 11, Staple-inn, Holborn, W. C.; and of the Auctioneer, Windsor and Slough.

Charles Bridges and Augusta Stevens’ first child, George Bridges, was born at Regency Square, Brighton on 28 September 1882. William and Jessie Mills had moved from Great Marlow to the Bennington Rectory near Stevenage in Hertfordshire, where their family soon grew with the birth of another son, George Ernest on 25th November 1882.

Another example of a deceiptful employee is found in the Morning Post, Wednesday 1 November 1882:

Albert Browne, late head barman in the employ of Mr. William Pincent Hummerston, the proprietor of the Trevor Arms, Knightsbridge, was charged on remand with stealing two coins – a half-crown and florin, the moneys of his master. Mr Maitland (Peckham, Maitland, and Peckham, solicitors to the Licensed Victuallers’ Protection Society) prosecuted, and Mr. Dutton defended. Mr. Hummerston deposed that the prisoner had been head barman for 6½ years, with £1 a week wages, and board and lodging. It was his duty and that of every other servant to place florins and half-crowns in Nixey’s patent tills; these were screwed down and a compartment at the bottom received the coins, as they were passed through an aperture, a spring passing the coin into a certain position from which it could not be abstracted. (Witness then explained the action of the tills to the satisfaction of the magistrate). Smaller coins and coppers were placed in the ordinary tills drawn out from the lower part of the counter. As near as possible these tills had been in operation and use for about three years, and of course the prisoner must have been well acquainted with the working of them. It was a fact that fresh hands unused to the patent tills had more than once made mistakes and had placed large silver coins in the drawer tills. It had been the practice of the witness to clear the ordinary tills several times a day; and with regard to the finding of large coins in the minor tills the prisoner, when spoken to about it, had said that of course he had not put them there. The prisoner also had strict instructions not to take money for his personal change from the till. About a fortnight ago witness had placed £60 in gold and silver at the back of the bar for change, but when it was counted by the prisoner at his order only £51 could be discovered; and prisoner was asked to count it again, but with the same result. That deficiency had never been made up, consequently the police authorities at Scotland-yard were communicated with, and Sergeant Conquest marked a quantity of silver. On the 21st inst. the witness examined particularly the patent tills and found that a marked half-crown paid to the prisoner was not there. On Monday morning, in consequence of a message, he went down into the bar parlour, and found Sergeant Conquest, another constable, and the prisoner. A bottle of whisky had been paid for designedly by a florin and half-crown, marked, and he had given no change, although the price was only 3s. 6d., and the person who had passed the coins notice particularly that neither of them had been put into any till at all, although the prisoner had pretended to put them into the patent till. The prisoner, when spoken to, rushed to one of the tills and pretended that he had taken the half-crown and florin out, but there could be no doubt that he had them up his sleeve; in his confusion he had thrown other money out of the till on to the floor. Prisoner was then asked for an explanation, and said that he had never robbed the prosecutor. He admitted he had been wrong, after a long service, and hoped he would be let go. Afterwards a marked shilling was found on him, for which also he could not account. Mr. Dutton asked for a remand, and this was granted for the completion of the case and the cross-examination of Mr. Hummerston, Mr. Partridge declining to accept bail at present. An application would be made for bail on the next occasion.

William George and Charlotte Nixey’s youngest daughter, Clara Burnell, was the next to be married. Ponsonby Ross Holmes was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Marines at Forton, Gosport, and was the son of Stephen Holmes, a Lieutenant Colonel in Her Majesty’s Army. He married Clara Burnell on 25th July 1883 at St Lawrence’s.

William and Jessie Mill’s third child was Clara Marguerite, who was born on 4th June 1884. Two weeks later, the first of Ponsonby and Clara Holmes’ children, George Sydenham, was born at Gosport on the 18th June.

In its issue dated 30th August 1884, the Bucks Herald printed a brief announcement on the death of Harry Deverill aged thirty-one, the cousin of William George Nixey junior:

Deverill. – At Port Erin, Isle of Man, on the 21st inst., after a few days’ illness, Harry, youngest son of Mr. John Deverill, of Slough.

At the age of nineteen, after having suffered from mania for nine days, Harry had been admitted to the Bethlem Hospital in London on 3rd June 1872, his occupation being recorded as a commercial clerk of 12 Soho Square. According to his notes, he appears to have recovered, and was discharged on 18th October 1872. His notes disclose that two of his brothers had also previously suffered from mania, the brothers referred to being William and Edward. In the 1881 census, Harry was a visitor at 13, Gower Street, St Giles, London, in the household of a glass merchant named Charles Bussell, Harry’s occupation being recorded as an assistant man to black lead manufacturer. He was buried on 27th August 1884 at St Lawrence’s, Slough.

On 13th December 1884, at St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, London, (right) William George and Charlotte Nixey’s only surviving son, William George, who at that time was living at 66 Piccadilly, Westminster, and Lucy Bell née Fletcher, of 6 Middleton Road, were married by licence, in the presence of Lucy’s father and son-in-law, Thomas Bell Elcock Fletcher and Edward Leonard Welstead. The St James’ Gazette in its issue dated Tuesday 16th December 1884 briefly announced their marriage as follows:

Nixey – Bell. – At St. Mark’s Battersea-rise, Mr. W. G. Nixey, of Piccadilly, to Lucy, widow of Rev. J. Bell, Dec. 13.

As Lucy was forty-five years old when she married William George Nixey, they had no children together, so there were no future generations to carry on the Nixey surname as far as their family was concerned. However, Lucy had three daughters and two sons from her first marriage to John Bell, who of course became step-children to William George Nixey.


1871 Census:
Thomas Nixey and Louisa Lucy née Hart, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG10 piece 1401 folio 86 page 50.
John Deverill and Mary Ann née Nixey, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG10 piece 1401 folio 86 page 50.
Elizabeth Williams née Pitt, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG10 piece 1401 folio 102 page 6.
Charlotte Nixey née Pitt, and William George Nixey, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG10 piece 1401 folio 88 page 53.
Joseph Nixey and Martha née Blincoe, Twerton: RG10 piece 2474 folio 43 page 24.
Edward Onslow Secker and Charlotte Elizabeth née Nixey, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG10 piece 1401 folio 4 page 5.

1881 Census:
Thomas Nixey and Louisa Lucy née Hart, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG11 piece 1460 folio 40 page 6.
John Deverill, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG11 piece 1460 folio 40 page 6.
Charlotte Nixey née Pitt, and William George Nixey, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG11 piece 1460 folio 38 page 2.
Martha Nixey née Blincoe, Twerton: RG11 piece 2430 folio 41 page 8.
Edward Onslow Secker and Charlotte Elizabeth née Nixey, Upton-cum-Chalvey: RG11 piece 1459 folio 65 page 47.
Harry Deverill, St Giles in the Fields: RG11 piece 325 folio 40 page 11.

The quotation regarding the new organ donated by the Misses Nixey is found at the website of Saint Laurence Church, Slough.

Unless otherwise stated, all newspaper articles can be found at the British Newspaper Archive.


The photograph of Marie Anne Chown’s memorial appears by kind permission of Julia & Keld.

The photograph of St Mark’s, Battersea Rise, London is from Wikimedia