Chapter 8

Another Decade of Change

(1886–1895)


“‘CLEANLINESS’
Nixey’s Lead – Polishes Instantly. Thirty-six years’ World-Wide reputation for its unrivalled Brilliancy and Exquisite Polish
Nixey’s Lead – No Waste.
Nixey’s Lead – No Dust. Nixey’s Refined Black Lead Sold everywhere in 1d., 2d., 4d. Packets; 1s. Boxes.
Nixey’s Lead – Refuse Imitations.
Nixey’s Lead – Insist on Nixey’s.
CAUTION As Spurious and worthless imitations are often substituted for the sake of Extra Profit, be sure you ask for Nixey’s. See you get it.
Nixey’s Refined Black Lead, Soho Square.”–Western Times, Monday 11th January 1886


In January 1886, the family continued to grow with the birth of two more granddaughters, Jessie Dorothy Mills on the 3rd, and Clara Augusta Holmes on the 24th. Later the following year, Clara was joined by a brother, Francis Lennox Holmes, who was born in Devon on 11th October 1887.

The Slough, Eton and Windsor Observer of 15th September 1888 published a lengthy article regarding the circumstances surrounding the death of William George the elder’s last surviving sibling, Thomas Nixey. Below are excerpts from this article:

Death of Mr. Thomas Nixey
We regret to have to record that Mr. Thomas Nixey died last Sunday afternoon (10th September), about three o’clock, owing to the shock to the system at his great age, and the congestion in his lungs resulting from the accident by fire on the 4th instant. Mr. Brickwell did all that medical and surgical skill could suggest for his relief but a fatal termination was inevitable. ...
It may be remarked, however, that the evidence hardly brings out with sufficient prominence the courageous and admirable conduct of the servants, Clara Didcott and Miss Augusta Hare. To Didcott’s promptitude of action and the presence of mind, it was mainly owing that the fire, which had broken out, was prevented from getting a greater hold of the premises than it had, and that a serious and extensive conflagration was probably averted. And to Miss Augusta Hare’s courage and good example it was principally due, that Mr. Nixey was removed from his intensely hot and smouldering bed in time to prevent him being there and burnt to death, or suffocated by the smoke.
... The family to which the late Mr. Thomas Nixey belonged, first commenced business at Slough in the year 1778, and sometime after a branch business was established at Winkfield. It was at Winkfield that Mr. Thomas Nixey was born, his father being Mr. John Nixey, who had a family of five sons and one daughter, deceased being the third son: in order of age, and the last survivor. The late Mr. William George Nixey, the celebrated manufacturer, who was born in 1812 and died the 31st March 1870, was the fourth son of Mr. John Nixey we have mentioned. Mr. Thomas Nixey had in the course of his life held various parochial offices in connection with the parish, one of these being that of Surveyor of Highways, he was, as we mentioned last week, the first Surveyor appointed by the Slough Local Board, which Board was established in the year 1863. He was of a kindly and gentle disposition, and in his prime formed one of a social circle that is now almost, if not entirely, extinct! He loved to speak of olden times in Slough, and often said that although many improvements had taken place in the town, yet there was one thing now lacking that was, the spirit of friendliness and sociability that formerly existed one amongst the other. Mr. Thomas Nixey had been for some time past in very infirm health, and though he died in the fullness of years, all who knew him will be greatly pained that his end was hastened in so shocking a manner! ...
The Funeral
The funeral took place on Wednesday afternoon at 8 o’clock, the interment being made in Upton Churchyard, near to where many other members of his family rest. The coffin, which was of polished elm, with handsome brass furniture, was conveyed from the house in the High Street on the wheeled bier. On the top were several wreaths of flowers and the plate bore the following inscription: THOMAS NIXEY, Died 9th September 1888, In the 81st Year of his Age.
The following relatives attended as mourners; Messrs. George Nixey, Walter Nixey, and Edward Nixey, (sons); Messrs. Batley and Lawless, (sons in law); Mr, J. Deverill senior, (brother in law); Messrs. W. G. Nixey, J. Deverill and E. Deverill, (nephews); Messrs. H. Sargeant and G. Sargeant, (grand nephews); and Mr. Heath, (a cousin).
... There were many persons assembled in the church yard. The burial service was impressively read by the Reverend E. B. Mackay. Many beautiful wreaths of flowers were sent by relatives and friends. The funeral arrangements were conducted by Mr. Edward Sargeant.

The next grandchild to join the family was Arthur Edward Mills, who was born on 24th March 1889 at the Bennington Rectory near Stevenage in Hertfordshire. Sadly, on November 25th of that year, William George Nixey’s widow, Charlotte née Pitt, passed away at her home, Springfield House, after a prolonged illness. She was sixty-nine years old, and was buried on 29th November in the Nixey family vault at St Lawrence’s churchyard. Regarding Charlotte’s death, the Bucks Herald published the following notice in its issue dated Saturday 30th November:

The widow of Mr. William George Nixey, the originator of the blacklead which goes by his name, died at her residence, Springfield House, Slough, on Monday. She had been ill for some considerable time, and despite attention from an eminent physician in London, succumbed to her malady, at the age of over seventy years. Both Mrs. Nixey and her husband were born in Slough. The latter died twenty years ago after amassing a large fortune by his business, which is now carried on by a company, to whom it was transferred by his son. Springfield was built nearly thirty years ago. It is a very fine house, popularly known as “Blacklead Castle”, and is situated not very far from Old Upton Churchyard, containing the family vault.

Another announcement regarding her death was published in the Windsor and Eton Express on the same day:

Death of Mrs. William Nixey. – The death took place, at her residence, “Springfield,” on Monday, of Mrs. William George Nixey, in her seventieth year. The deceased lady was the daughter of a Mr. Pitt, builder, of Slough, and was predeceased by her husband by about twenty years. Mr. William Nixey lies buried in Upton churchyard; and his widow was interred yesterday (Friday) in the same vault. She had been in failing health for some considerable time. Her medical attendant was Dr. Gooch, of Windsor, but upon several occasions a physician from London was called in. There was an apparent improvement in the deceased’s condition on Sunday, but the following day she grew worse, and succumbed about two o’clock. “Springfield” was built about thirty years ago by Mr. Nixey, when his extensive business in Soho, London, had attained conspicuous success; and it has been maintained in excellent condition ever since.



In affectionate remembrance of William George Nixey
of Springfield House Upton and 12 Soho Square London
Born August 12th 1812, Died March 31st 1870

And Charlotte, wife of the above, Born February 14th 1820, Died November 25th 1889



The Morning Post in its issue dated Friday 31st January 1890 reported on an incident that had taken place the previous year which resulted in William George Nixey being sued. After reading the details, the outcome would seem obvious, but in fact was quite the opposite:

The plaintiff Mr. James Samuel Lee, a master lamp-maker, sued Mr. Samuel George Nixey, blacklead manufacturer, to recover damages for personal injuries, sustained, as he alleged, through the negligence of defendant;s servants. The defendant denied negligence, and pleaded that the injuries were caused by plaintiff;s own neglect.
Mr. Crump, Q.C., and Mr. Bankes appeared for the plaintiff; and Mr. Kemp, Q.C., and Mr. Rolland for the defendant.
It appeared that on the 7th of March, 1889, the plaintiff was passing along Shaftesbury-avenue, and when he came to defendant;s premises he found a slide from a van to the door of the warehouse, used for the purpose of unloading barrels. In order to cross this obstruction plaintiff placed his foot upon the slide and immediately fell forward, it being stated that the blacklead with which the slide was coated rendered it particularly slippery. The defence was that plaintiff was himself to blame, as he had attempted to do a dangerous thing. There was also some dispute as to the extent of the injuries which the fall had caused.
The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, with £300 [£17,967] damages.

Needless to say, William George Nixey applied for a new trial as reported on in The Times of Wednesday 4th June 1890, but his application was refused. The article gave a very full description, as follows:

This was a motion for a new trial on the ground that there was no evidence that the defendants were guilty of any negligence causing the alleged injury to the plaintiff, and that there was evidence to show that the said alleged injury was caused or contributed to by the plaintiff;s own improper or negligent conduct. The action was one for negligence tried before the Lord Chief Justice and a Middlesex special jury on the following facts: – On the 7th of March, about 3 or 4 o;clock in the afternoon, the defendants, who are well-known blacklead manufacturers, had a cart backed against the pavement in Shaftesbury-avenue. From the cart to the ground of the defendants; premises there was a ladder or “slide” stretched across the footpaving for the purpose of unloading blacklead in casks from the cart. The plaintiff, a master lamp-maker, saw the ladder, looked into the cellar, and then stepped on the side of the ladder or “slide” to get over it, and he fell and suffered a rupture. The ladder was about 3ft. high at the cart, the width of the pavement was 12ft., therefore there was an inclination of about one in four. The “slide” was very slippery from the blacklead. The jury gave a verdict for £200, and found that the plaintiff had only acted reasonably.
Mr. Kemp, Q.C., and Mr. Rolland appeared for the defendants. They urged that, before the plaintiff could succeed, it must be shown that there was a clear, immediate, and necessary connexion between the alleged act of negligence of the defendants, and the injury to the plaintiff. Here there was no negligence by the defendants which caused the injury. Putting the slide across the pavement did not cause it. Secondly, it must be entirely the fault of the defendants that caused the accident. It must be an incuria dans locum injuriae. Thirdly, the plaintiff could not succeed if, notwithstanding any illegality, the plaintiff brought the accident on himself. Here had the plaintiff waited two or three minutes the operation would have been finished. Or he might have walked round by the horse;s head. It was the plaintiff;s own conduct that brought about his injuries. It was a careless and dangerous thing for a man to put his foot on the bevelled edge of the slippery side of the ladder. ...
Mr. Crump, Q.C., and Mr. Bankes were for the plaintiff. The real question was whether the plaintiff acted prudently. The jury had found that he had done so in their verdict.
Mr. Justice Cave said the verdict must stand. At the trial the case was fought on the admission that the defendants had been guilty of an illegal act in obstructing the pathway, but they said they were not liable as the injury was attributable to the plaintiff’s negligence supervening on the unlawful act. It was not necessary to go into the question of whether the defendants were acting illegally, but the learned Judge was of opinion that Mr. Kemp was right in admitting it. The facts were there. The plaintiff, coming along the footpath, found the “slide” right across it. There were then three courses open to him: he might get over, he might wait, or he might go round. The question in the case was whether the accident was due to the contributory negligence of the plaintiff. If a man took a manifestly dangerous course when there was another course not dangerous, that would be evidence of recklessness. Was what the plaintiff did consistent with ordinary care and prudence? If not, he must bear the consequences of his act. It was said that evidence was conclusive to show that the plaintiff had been guilty of negligence in stepping on the side of the “slide”, and that the jury ought to have found it. That depended on many considerations – such as the slope of the slide and the width of the footpath &c. The jury had them before them, and they were the proper tribunal for deciding it. In this case the “slide” was extraordinarily slippery, owing to the blacklead. Ought the plaintiff to have seen that it was in that condition? If not, was it careless for him to step on an ordinary piece of wood? These questions were proper to be left to the jury, and they had decided it in favour of the plaintiff. The cases cited need not be referred to, as the only question was whether the plaintiff had taken ordinary care in stepping on the “slide”. As to the amount of damages, the jury were the judges. The plaintiff having been laid up for 11 months, there was nothing excessive in them.
Mr. Justice A. L. Smith concurred. He referred with approval to the observation of the then Mr. Justice Brett in the case of “Adams v. Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company” (L.R. 4, C.P., 729), that an inconvenience might be avoided if it could be done without running into obvious danger.
In this case it was clear that the danger was not obvious to the plaintiff. The Lord Chief Justice would have been wrong if he had not left it to the jury.
Mr. Justice Vaughan Williams was of the same opinion.
The motion was dismissed.

William George Nixey (the elder) had amassed a large number of properties around the Slough area, as can be seen from an article which was printed in two issues of the Reading Mercury on Saturday 14th and 21st June 1890:

By Order of the Trustees of the late W. G. Nixey, Esq.
Slough and Windsor
Messrs. Beal, Son, and Chartres will Sell by Auction, at the Mart, E. C. on Tuesday next, June 24th, at Two precisely, in Lots, the following valuable Freehold and Leasehold Investments:
Lot 1. – The Royal Nurseries, Slough, Freehold, comprising nearly eight acres, of which over four acres are available for building purposes; let on lease at £300.0.0 per ann.
Lot 2. – The capital Family Residence, known as Hillersden, Windsor-road, Slough; let for a term expiring June, 1893, at £170.0.0. per ann.
Lot 3. – The valuable Family Residence, known as Bramcote, adjoining Lot 2; let for a term expiring Michaelmas, 1893, at £210.0.0 per ann.
Lot 4. – Two Family Residences, known as Upton House and Fairview House; let respectively at £75 and £150 per ann., thus producing a gross rental of £225.0.0 per ann.
Lot 5. – A Building Site at Upton, Slough, comprising about two acres, with extensive frontage to the road to Datchet.
Lot 6. – Two Freehold Cottages, on the Windsor-road, Slough, producing £22.0.0. per ann.
Lot 7. – A Freehold Stable and Coach-house, situate at Arbour-vale, Slough; let on a yearly tenancy at £25.0.0 per ann.
Lot 8. – A Freehold House, with two Cottages in the rear, situate in Church-street, Windsor, producing £61.10.0 per ann.
Total – £1013.10.0 per ann.
Particulars may be obtained of Messrs. Tathams and Hardy, Solicitors, Library Chambers, Gray’s Inn, W.C.; of W. G. Nottage, Surveyor, Slough; at the Mart, E.C.; and at the Auction and Estate Offices, 20, Regent-street, London, and Eastbourne.


“Ask For, Insist on Getting, & Use Only
NIXEY’S REFINED BLACK LEAD

NIXEY’S BLACK LEAD
Is a Household Expression.
WE LIKE NIXEY’S BLACK LEAD
Is a Family Confession.
BUY NIXEY’S BLACK LEAD
Is a Public Suggestion.
TO BEAT NIXEY’S BLACK LEAD
Is Out of the Question.

Used in Her Majesty’s Royal Households
For Exquisite Polish and Unrivalled Brilliancy
W. G. Nixey, Largest Black Lead Manufacturer in the World.”–Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, Wednesday 18th December 1889


Exactly seven months to the day following Charlotte’s death, Frederica Vera Holmes was born on 25th June 1890 in Thanet, Kent. We can only wonder whether Charlotte was aware of her next expected grandchild, but if she was, then she would only have known for a very short period of time. Later the same year, Louisa Lucy Nixey née Hart, the widow of Thomas Nixey and last surviving sister-in-law of William George Nixey the elder, passed away on 16th November in her eighty-seventh year, and was buried on 20th November at St. Lawrence’s Churchyard in Slough.

In the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of Saturday 24th January 1891, an article appeared regarding an outstanding sketch that had been drawn by Thomas Collingwood Chown, brother-in-law of William George Nixey the younger:

A NOVEL SHOW CARD. – Our attention has been called to a show card designed by Mr. T. C. Chown, a gentleman at present staying at St. Leonards. It is of a very attractive and novel character, and has been pronounced by very good judges to be an excellent work of its kind. The card, which has been designed during Mr. Chown’s stay here, is intended to advertise Nixey’s Refined Black Lead, and consists of a representation, in colours, of Punch leading a black horse down the hill towards the city of Mecca. The sketch is highly artistic. It is interesting to note that the designer himself attributes whatever merit there may be in the work to the beneficial effects of the air of St. Leonards.

William George Nixey’s last surviving brother-in-law, John Deverill, the widower of Mary Ann née Nixey, passed away at his home, Ivy Cottage, High Street, Slough on 31st March 1891 at the age of eighty. He was buried at St Lawrence’s churchyard on 4th April, as reported on in the Windsor and Eton Express of Saturday 11th April. In part, it reported:

The Funeral of Mr. J. Deverill, builder, plumber, and decorator, whose death was recorded in our last issue, took place on Saturday amid general signs of respect. Most of the tradesmen of the town exhibited their shutters, blinds were drawn at private houses, and, in spite of the wet weather, hundreds of people lined the route of the cortège, which left the deceased’s residence, Ivy cottage, High-street, at a quarter past twelve o’clock. The coffin, which was of polished oak with brass furniture, was borne upon a Washington car, which was followed by Messrs. William, Edward, John, and George Deverill (sons of the deceased), Richard Muir (son-in-law), Walter Muir, Harry Kember, Edward Deverill, jun., and Masters Arthur William, Herbert Nixey, and Ernest Deverill (grandsons), Mr. George Nixey (nephew) ... The cortège proceeded along High-street, and through Upton-lane to St. Laurence’s Church, where the Rev. H. Savill Young (rector) and the Rev. Cyril Hallett conducted an impressive service, before and after which a funeral selection was played upon the organ by Mr. W. P. Blanchett. At the close of the service the remains of the deceased gentleman were interred in the eastern part of the churchyard. The coffin bore the following inscription: – “John Deverill, died March 31st, 1891, aged 80 years.” It was covered with floral tokens, which were forwarded by the following: – Mr. Muir and family; Mr. William Baxter Deverill and family; Mr. John Deverill and family, Mr. Edward Deverill, Mr. George Deverill, Miss Deverill, Mrs. Kember and family, Mr. Edward Nixey and family, Mr. Charles Turner, Mr. George Nixey, and the employés. The whole of the funeral arrangements were entrusted to Mr. E. Sergeant.

It is particularly noticeable that William George Nixey was not included in the exceptionally long list of mourners at the funeral of John Deverill. In addition, it has not been possible to locate William George and Lucy Nixey in the 1891 census of England, Scotland and Wales, which was taken on the following night, Sunday 5th April. In that census, numbers 65 and 66 Piccadilly had a joint entry, and there were only two servants in residence, Ellen Austen who was a housemaid, and Florence Woodward, a kitchenmaid. In addition, the only person to be found at 12 Soho Square that night was a caretaker named Annie Lawrence. This leads to the assumption that William George and Lucy Nixey were most likely out of the country at this point in time.

William George Nixey’s brother-in-law, Thomas Collingwood Chown, is found at Hastings in this Census, along with his second wife, Eugenia Ada née Churchyard. The Hastings and St Leonard Observer in its issue of Saturday 11th April 1891 printed the following regarding another show card that Thomas had recently completed:

A Clever Work of Art. – Some time ago we had occasion to draw our readers’ attention to a show card which had been designed and painted by a local gentleman, and we have now once more the pleasure of congratulating Mr. T. C. Chown on the very excellent piece of work he has just completed. This show card has been designed for advertising Nixey’s refined black lead, and it gives us a capital view of a racecourse, with the horse just passing the winning post, the letterpress at the foot being as follows: – “The Grate Race ! ! ! Nixey’s Black Le(a)d from start to finish, and won in a canter; ‘Spurious Imitation,’ ‘Fraud,’ and ‘Copy’ broke down and were le(a)d to the paddock, where they were mercifully killed by a knacker, who had a knack of doing such things.” The course, with its hundreds of people, its police, its grand stands, etc. is very clearly drawn, while the horse “Black,” a fine animal, stands out in marked contrast to the worn-out hacks, “Fraud” and “Copy,” which are seen coming up dead beat.

It was just a few days after that newspaper item was published that Gerald Desmond Mills, the twentieth grandchild, joined the family when he was born on the 14th April at the Bennington Rectory at Stevenage.

The next sighting of William George Nixey was about four months later, as reported on in The Scotsman of Thursday 13th August 1891:

PERTHSHIRE
In the Lochearnhead and Callander district, after the brilliant weather of Monday, hopes were entertained of a favourable Twelfth; but Tuesday brought a wet forenoon, and yesterday it poured, but cleared up in the afternoon. For several years in succession sportsmen in this district have not been fortunate as to weather on the opening day of the season. Notwithstanding the wet yesterday, the sportsmen were on the moors, and good bags were expected. Mr. W. G. Nixey of Edenample Castle, is shooting over the Lochearnhead moors for the sixteenth season, where first-rate sport has always been obtained and good bags made.

Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser, Wednesday 9th December 1891:

ART AND UTILITY. – The very pretty picture which the well-known Mr W. G. Nixey has just issued in connection with the celebrated if somewhat homely article of utility with which his name is so intimately associated, is a charming specimen of the perfection to which modern art has attained. The subject of this picture (which is produced in choice colours, and is 17in by 1½in) is a little maiden – and a very pretty one too – of some ten or twelve summers, who is in the act of vending ‘Nixey’ from a tray suspended from her shoulders. The details of this tray and its contents are surprisingly true to artistic requirements, whilst the sylph-like figure and sweet face of the little maiden, albeit she is of humble parentage, are irresistibly attractive. One would have thought, however, that the fame of Nixey’s superlative black lead already shone so resplendently that the idea of invoking adventitious aid of any kind to add still further to its lustre was superfluous. Mr Nixey, however, has doubtless the public welfare and comfort at heart, and his idea probably is, in thus issuing the charming picture under notice, to create a still larger number of bright hearths by bringing an article, the use of which contributes very largely to that desirable result, still more prominently before the public.

Stonehaven Journal, Thursday 31st December 1891:

CHRISTMAS IN THE METROPOLIS
Another commendable fashion, too, is greatly on the increase. In lieu of common-place shop-window cards, our great manufacturers are adopting artistic designs, which, when they have served their purpose in giving publicity, may be received into houses where original pictures are beyond the reach of small-income occupants. Probably no work of Millais’ has done so much to familiarise the name of the great R.A. with the British public as his famous picture of “Bubbles;” and this Christmas Mr G. W. Nixey, the world-famous black lead manufacturer, has presented his friends with a really beautiful work in the shape of a replica of Mr Fred Morgan’s charming “Newsgirl,” which excited such admiration at the Royal Academy three years ago. It would seem impossible by this means to increase the sale of indispensable articles in such demand as those so long and so honourable associated with the name of Nixey, articles which hold their own in almost every household against countless imitations. It may safely be said, however, that there is no man living amongst us who can lay stronger claim than he to being a man of polish, and it is pleasant to note that one who does so much to give lustre to British hearths does not despise the aid of art in promoting the interests of business. Another point is worth mention in connection with supporting home industries – all Mr Nixey’s goods are made in London, and known to be safe from poisons and the noxious leads so commonly imported from the Continent.

The Motherwell Times in its issue dated Saturday 23rd January 1892 printed the following article, which made it perfectly clear as to the high quality of Nixey’s Refined Black Lead in comparison to all other competitors in the field. The image (below right) is inevitably the one referred to in this article, and also in the preceeding two newspaper articles quoted above. However, it was re-issued around eleven years later by Raphael Tuck & Sons, and so the wording on this image is in connection with King Edward VII rather than Queen Victoria:

NIXEY’S BLACK LEAD
However much the statement, “Is not the Old better than the New”, may be questioned in many other matters, it will readily be allowed that with regard to “Nixey’s Black Lead”, in comparison with all modern rivals for a place in public estimation and favour, it is unchallengeable. Its continued and increasing employment by all sensible and thrifty housewives who have once come to know its sterling qualities fully justifies its position as a Black Lead unrivalled and unapproached. The “Queen of the Kitchen” is a good judge, perhaps the best, of the excellence or defects of an article in daily use by her in the work of the household, and the unhesitating preference which she shows for “Nixey’s Black Lead” abundantly attests its worth, while, we may also add, the educated and critical adjudicators of the Exhibitions held at Adelaide (1887) and Melbourne (1888), bestowed upon it the Highest Prize Medals and Certificate honours, and at that of Dunedin (1890) the “Lead” was awarded First Order of Merit – the best distinction given.
Those who know anything of the care and skill given and patience exhausted, in other instances, in producing something like a satisfactory polish, will at once admit that Mr Nixey has by his special preparation conferred upon the household an inestimable boon. The decided superiority of this “Black Lead” is, however, only what might be expected when we take into consideration the care and attention paid to the mixing of the ingredients, and the judgment and experience of the Manufacturer. In short, this excellent “Black Lead” combines in the highest degree all those qualities which commend it to the public generally. It is the most economical that can be had; it saves time and strength and patience, and by the lasting brilliancy of its polish – for it does not fade or rust like new polishes – it gives perfect satisfaction and delight.
In connection with his “Black Lead”, Mr W. G. Nixey has just issued a very pretty and suggestive picture. It is that of a little maiden, fair and radiant, vending the article, and most happily symbolizes the excellency and priceless worth of his lustrous polish. Mr Nixey has thus with the smallest expense of money and labour added a beauty and attractiveness to the fireside, and won for himself the name not only of a public benefactor, but that also of Social Reformer.

It seems most likely William George Nixey was at Eastbourne on 18th November 1892, as a “Mr Nixey” was one of the mourners at the funeral of his brother-in-law, Ponsonby Ross Holmes, as reported on by the Eastbourne Gazette of 23rd November:

On Friday afternoon the remains of the late Major-General Ponsonby Ross Holmes, who died at his residence, Milnthorpe, upper Level Drive, Eastbourne, on the 14th inst., were interred at the Ocklynge Cemetery. The deceased officer having formerly been commander of the Chatham Division of the Royal marines, six sergeants of the Marines attended and bore the coffin, which was made of oak with plated fittings, and covered with the union Jack to the grave. The mourners were Mr G. S. Holmes, Major Williams, Mr. Nixey, Mr. Secker, General Meade, Major-General Blake, Major-General Jones, Major-general Cairnevoss, Colonel Phillips, Colonel Heseltine, Colonel Innes, Colonel Scafe, Colonel Cockburn (A.A.G. Thames District), Major Evans, Major Wylde, Captain Cotterill, Captain Brittan, Lieutenant Matthews, Lieutenant Curteis, and Lieutenant Frankis. The late Major-General Holmes was 54 years of age, and served with the Baltic Expedition in 1855, taking part in several notable achievements, including the destruction of the enemy’s forts and of a Cossack encampment. He was also present at the bombardment of Sweaborg and received the Baltic medal.

During 1892, William George Nixey received the Royal Warrant to use The Royal Arms on his Black Lead product. Numerous advertisements began appearing in November of that year which contained the following text either side of the Royal coat of Arms: By Special Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen. Shortly afterwards in connection with this, the 3rd January 1893 issue of the London Gazette named W. G. Nixey as the sole supplier of Black Lead in a “list of Tradesmen who hold Warrants of Appointment from the Lord Chamberlain, with authority to Use the Royal Arms.”

Meanwhile, the youngest of William and Jessie Mills’ children was Eileen Maude, who was born at the Bennington Rectory near Stevenage on 1st December 1892.

A key event at this stage in the firm’s history was the appointment in 1893 of John Langsford as Manager, as reported on in the Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser in its issue of Wednesday 7th June that year:

Nixey’s Black Lead. – The proprietors of this popular polish for grates and stoves are to be complimented upon their good business judgment in appointing Mr. John Langsford as manager. Since the time – about half a century ago – when a knight in full armour, mounted on a fine black charger, first announced the invention of Nixey’s Black Lead, the success of the firm has steadily progressed, and we feel sure that under the supervision of Mr. Langsford its reputation and commercial success will be fully maintained.

Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, Friday 4th August 1893:

Nixey’s Black Lead and Blue Works. – Commerce, a new illustrated weekly paper, gives an excellent article upon the origin of Nixey’ celebrated black lead and blue works and the progress made. The article is illustrated and gives us portraits of the late Mr. W. G. Nixey, Mr. W. G. Nixey, the present head of the firm, and Mr. John Langsford. We are also afforded a peep at a corner of Soho Square, views of the factory in Shaftesbury Avenue, the entrance to the Schwarzenberg Mines, Bohemia, a shaft and works on the mines, and a wrapping room and a corner of the machine room at Shaftesbury Avenue. The article gives us an admirable outline of an important business and an insight into the many operations carried on to give us two great household necessities, a good black lead and a reliable blue.

A very descriptive and informative article appeared in the 19th January 1895 issue of The Colonies and India, showing the great expansion of the company that had taken place:

Everything in the world has good and bad points. An article is either good, bad, or indifferent, and in such a thing as blacklead there is great difference in quality. Some years ago London saw a fine figure parading the streets daily, mounted on a splendid black horse. The figure was clad in full armour, which was bright and spotless. The curiosity the man and horse aroused was very great, but the clue to what it signified did not want much seeking, for the knight in armour bore a standard which informed all that the splendid polish with which he shone was due to “W. G. Nixey’s Refined Blacklead,” the good qualities of which are known all over the world ; but perhaps it would be of interest to relate the discovery of block blacklead. About the year 1847 it occurred to a proprietor of a shop in the neighbourhood of Soho – viz., Mr. William George Nixey – to improve upon the powdered lead with which housewives and maids were at that time constrained to polish their stoves. Now this powdered lead was both dirty and wasteful, and there was no preventing it from flying all over the room if it were upset, as frequently it was. After expending some time and trouble, Mr. Nixey discovered a method of producing the lead in the form of a small, convenient, and economical block, now so familiar in almost every home. The new invention was first sold over his own counter ; but the sale soon became so extensive that now the manufacture of it employs a great number of people. ... The factory is situated in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, and comprises several buildings five storeys high, connected together by bridges from each floor. The machinery and plant is of a very improved and modern type, a great deal of which has been invented by Messrs. Nixey. The motive power is supplied by gas engines. Blacklead is by no means the only article manufactured, for at the Shaftesbury factory separate buildings are used for making blue, knife-polish, emery cloth, &c, and in no small quantities either, thus testifying how large a business this firm transacts. There are also spacious packing and labelling rooms, large basement accommodation for the storage of ingredients used in the manufacture of the various things made by Messrs. Nixey, and a carpentry department, where the firm make all their own boxes and packing-cases. The export of blacklead is growing rapidly to very extensive dimensions, thus proving that those across the seas are finding the superiority of the goods of this firm over others. Another proof of the genuine value of the manufactures of the firm, notwithstanding the many rivals and imitations that have for the last few years flooded the market, is the winning of the highest awards and prize medals at Adelaide in 1887 and Melbourne in 1888, also two first orders of merit at Dunedin, New Zealand, in 1890 ; and the latest distinction they have received is three first orders of merit and prize medal at Chicago, 1893. Besides the refined blacklead, Messrs. Nixey produce a “Silver Moonlight Plumbago Stove Polish.” The firm have also obtained the Royal Warrant appointing them blacklead manufacturers to Her Majesty the Queen.

Hastings and St Leonards Observer, Saturday 28th September 1895:

FAMOUS FIRMS
MESSRS. NIXEY, 12, SOHO SQUARE.
THE ROYAL BLACK LEAD MANUFACTURERS
Established now for nearly fifty years, the name of Nixey has for the greater part of that time been recognised in household circles and in the world of commerce as the leading firm in the universe for the manufacture of black lead. To say that there are no other manufacturers of his particular kind of polish for cleaning and brightening our stoves and grates would be, of course, untrue, but to say that there is no other black lead manufacturer of equal eminence is absolutely veracious. Prior to the year 1847 it was customary for housewives and servants to use a powder of the name of “Servant’s Friend,” the use of which had several drawbacks, including those of dirt from the powder flying about over the furniture, &c., and waste from the powder getting spilt. In the year named Mr. W. G. Nixey, the founder of this “famous firm,” and father of the present chief proprietor, hit upon the happy expedient of refining this substance, and by a patent process, arrived at after many experiments, of producing it in solid block form, with the title of “Nixey’s Refined Black Lead.” The economy and superiority of this article, which imparts a deep and lasting brilliant polish, was quickly recognised, and the seal of success was set upon it at the first great London Exhibition of 1851, since which it has been awarded prize medals and honours at all the leading International Exhibitions the wide world over, the latest being Highest Award at the Chicago World’s Fair.
That the materials used in the preparation of this substance were, and are, the very finest procurable, goes without saying, for to-day, after being before the public for close upon half a century, nothing has been found, in spite of the improvements of machinery and the wholesale nature of foreign competition, to equal, or even approach in excellence, “Nixey’s Refined Black Lead.” This certainly is a unique distinction, and one which should be remembered and appreciated by householders who have their country’s good at heart, for never has there been an age in which there was greater need to encourage and support British industries.
The factory of Messrs. Nixey, consisting of several extensive buildings, is essentially a British industry, situated in the heart of London, in the neighbourhood of Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, and employs a large number of English hands. We mention this because it was owing to making some inquiries of this Firm on the subject of foreign competition a year or two back that we became acquainted with the magnitude of its operations, thanks to the courtesy of its exceptionally able manager, Mr. John Langsford. This gentleman then took the trouble to show us the host of inferior imitations that unscrupulous manufacturers were continually trying to foist upon an unsuspecting public, and the marked difference between these and the genuine article was palpably obvious to the most uninitiated. Although black lead may be said to be the chief article manufactured at these mammoth works, it is not the only one. “Nixey’s Silver Moonlight Plumbago Stove Polish,” “Nixey’s Cervus Knife Polish,” and “Nixey’s Soho Square Blue and Emery Cloth” have each of them a deservedly high reputation, sufficient to bring name and fame to their inventor. We must, however, not omit to mention “Nixey’s Bag Blue,” the purity of which is its special feature, and the commodious and convenient form in which it is put up in flannel or linen bags must commend it, since it is handy, economical, and avoids the presence of and sediment in the water. Directions accompany each of these bags, and the patronage already extended to this article shows that it has more than caught on, and bids fair to rival in popularity Messrs. Nixey’s black lead.
In addition to employing the large number of persons already mentioned, the Firm has spent considerable sums for advertising purposes, in purchasing celebrated pictures, such as Fred Morgan’s “News Girl,” and one by Wimper, R.A., and not long ago gave valuable prizes in a contemporary for the five best poems on “Nixey’s Black Lead,” a competition which attracted no less than 600 competitors, some of which poems have since been published in volume form.
Messrs. Nixey hold a special Warrant of Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen, besides several Governmental appointments, and they have depôts on the Continent, together with special agencies in the Colonies and Canada.
The Court Circular, September 7th, 1895.

Even though W. G. Nixey had won prizes in Chicago in 1893 as stated in the preceeding articles, it’s apparent that the awards had not been received as expected, because John Langsford wrote the following letter which appeared in The Times of Wednesday 25th December 1895:

Chicago Prize Medal and Awards Exhibition, 1893
To the Editor of the Times
Sir, – May I be permitted a small space in your valued paper to inquire if any of the British exhibitors have yet received the certificate or medals they were led to believe would be prepared and despatched for their exhibit award at the World’s Exposition at Chicago over two years ago? Should any of your readers be in a position to furnish any information as to how these awards can be obtained and to whom applications may be addressed, I shall be grateful, as the secretary for the British Section seems to express himself as powerless in the matter. I am supposed to have gained three highest awards and prize medal.
I am, Sir, yours obediently,
(per pro W. G. Nixey) JOHN LANGSFORD, Manager
12, Soho-square, London, W., Dec. 20.


“Great Scott! ‘Polish is essential to great and small,’ said Mrs. Blumblechick to her grandson, who replied: ‘I suppose, grandma, that’s why Emma Jane puts Nixey’s Black Lead on our grates.’”–Sussex Agricultural Express, Friday 12th January 1894


The Leeds Times of Saturday 14th December 1895 printed the following announcement:

A Word of Praise is due to Mr. W. G. Nixey, the well-known black lead manufacturer, for the happy idea he has conceived of issuing a neat little booklette of prize poems on the merits of his goods. The verses are capitally illustrated, and one at any rate – the burglar story – shows some originality. Copies may be obtained, post free, or remitting three half-penny stamps to 12, Soho-square, London, W.C.

Finally, a few events took place in the family during 1895, the first of which was the second marriage of Clara Burnell Holmes née Nixey which took place on 28th January. The venue was St John’s church, Eastbourne, her groom being Bernard Gauntlett Harrison, Captain of the Princess of Wales’ Own Yorkshire Regiment. Their only child, a daughter, Dorothy Christine Gauntlett Harrison, was born on the 11th November the same year. Then, the following month, Dennis Bridges Stevens, William George and Charlotte Nixey’s twenty-third and final grandchild, was born on 28th December at Reading.


References

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


Credits

The image of the authentic box that once contained Nixey’s Cervus Bag Blue is by kind permission of Andrew Steer.

The advertisement of Nixey’s Refined Black Lead, Soho Square Blue, and Berlin Black is taken from the Taunton Courier of 24th October 1888. It is Copyright by D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd., and was created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

The Black Lead advert was reproduced as a postcard in 1904 by Raphael Tuck & Sons, with permission from Messrs W. G. Nixey.

The image of the Royal Arms is edited from the Bath Chronicle & Gazette of 17th November 1893. It is Copyright by D.C. Thomson & Co. Ltd., and was created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

The image of Nixey’s Black Lead poster for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee 1887 is by Andrew Nixey.