Francis Family (1836 to c1967) of Martham
This page mainly celebrates the life and times of Albert Alfred Francis (1888-1958) and his brother Samuel (1882-1937). They and their family ran businesses in the centre of Martham that are remembered for touching on the lives of hundreds of villagers for many years. It may be helpful to refer to the following portion of their family tree.
Henry William Francis & Mary Ann Maria Long
Our story starts with Henry who was the first member of the Francis family to live in Martham. He was born in 1836 at Workhouse Green, Plumstead, Norfolk as the fifth child of Charles Francis & Ann, nee Goodrum. When he was 15, in 1851, he was already an agricultural labourer having left school at an age that was common at the time and taken up work that was typically the only sort of job available in a rural community. His father also worked on the land so young Henry probably joined him.
Henry broke away from the hard, poorly paid work of labouring on the land and joined the Royal Navy. At the time of the 1861 census he was on board the 91 gun ‘Edgar’ at sea in the English Channel. He was an Ordinary Seaman, second class. He remained in the Navy but during shore leave married a widow called Mary Ann Maria Long on 29th September 1868 at St Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth. Mary had a daughter called Laura from her first marriage to Samuel Thompson who died in 1867.
In a curious twist Henry was listed twice in the 1871 census. Firstly, as living with his wife and stepdaughter Laura at 8 Shuckford Buildings, Great Yarmouth and secondly as being on board the ‘Royal Oak’ which was off the Mole of Naples in the Mediterranean. The Mole was the name given to a pier on which stood an 18th/19th century lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour at Naples. By this time Henry was a leading seaman aged 36.
Henry & Mary moved to Martham between 1882 and 1885 and were listed in census returns from 1891 to 1911 as living at Jubilee Cottage, 4 Black Street, Martham with their children. By 1891 Henry had retired from the Navy as a chief quartermaster.
Henry’s wife Mary was born in 1843 at Great Yarmouth to David Long & Maria Aitcheson Shardelow. When she was 18, she married Samuel Thomas Thompson on 11th May 1861 at St Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth. Samuel died in 1867. Mary then married Henry Francis on 29th September 1868 also at St Nicholas Church. Mary died on 11th March 1929 at Martham when she was 86 and is buried with Henry at St Mary the Virgin graveyard section H, plot G36. Their gravestone is shown on the right.
Henry & Mary had the following children:
- William David Francis was born in 1872 at Great Yarmouth.
- Rosa Maria Francis was born in 1877 at Great Yarmouth.
- Maria Aitchison Francis was born in 1880 in Great Yarmouth.
- Samuel Francis was born in 1882 at Great Yarmouth. You can read more about him below.
- Mary Ann Francis was born on 3rd July 1885 at Martham. She remained a spinster all her life and died in 1952 and is buried at St Mary the Virgin graveyard section H, plot O31.
- Albert Alfred Francis was born on 21st April 1888 at Martham. You can read more about him below.
In 1906 Henry & Mary were living at Black Street and he had retired from the Navy. On 1st November he made what would turn out to be a significant purchase of two dwellings on what has become known as the ‘Island Site’ at Martham from Isaac Manship and James William Bane. Today we know the properties as 17 & 17a The Green. The front of No17, facing The Green, had been a small general store since at least 1841 and was run by Thomas Manship (1811-1893) & his half brother Isaac (1817-1892). It was probably their father Thomas Manship (1782-1829) that built the barn to the rear of No17 that was known as the Manship barn and is shown in the photo below before it was converted into the general store owned by Henry.
Under the Francis family ownership the store became a focal point that everyone passing through the village would be aware of. Henry died on 3rd November 1914, aged 78 and is buried with Mary as shown above. After his death Mary continued to live at 17 The Green and ran the store to its rear. When she died in 1929 she left 17 The Green and the general store to her son Albert whilst Samuel had established his own business interests – see below.
Samuel Francis, Frances Durrant Rose & Dorothy May Wiseman.
Samuel Frances was born in 1882 at Great Yarmouth as the fourth child of Henry & Mary. He grew up with his parents at Great Yarmouth and Martham. He attended the Martham Board School from 14th October 1889 to 13th November 1894 and the register says that when he left he went to work; he would have been only 12 at that time. When he was 22, he married Frances Durrant Rose on 27th December 1904 at her home village of Burgh St Margaret, (Fleggburgh), Great Yarmouth.
Samuel & Frances had the following children:
- Ivy Mary Isabel Francis who was born on 8th June 1905 at Martham. She married Cyril Edward Angell in 1932 at Great Yarmouth. They lived at various places in Martham including 17a The Green from about 1939 to 1945 and towards the end of their life at 43 White Street. Cyril died on 16th October 1978 and Ivy on 18th June 1999 at White Street. Ivy is buried at St Mary the Virgin graveyard section H, plot 38. Cyril was cremated at Gorleston, Great Yarmouth.
- Marjorie Joyce Francis who was born on 23rd May 1915 at Martham. She went on to become an art teacher and married Frank Davis on 27th July 1940 at St Mary the Virgin, Martham.
- Charles William Samuel Francis who was born on 2nd September 1918 at Martham. As a young man he liked playing cricket and played for Martham in 1932. He married Nora Sill Freeman in 1942 at her home village of Ormesby St Margaret.
As a young man, after he left school, Samuel started out as a carpenters apprentice whilst still living with his parents. By the time he married he had finished his apprenticeship and was a carpenter but this did not last long because by 1911 he had become a self employed cycle agent working from home as can be seen in the photo below taken at 4 Black Street which also mentions picture framing so he still made use of his carpentry skills.
Samuel must have had an entrepreneurial streak as by the 1930’s he had branched out into full scale motor car sales and repairs at a shop and garage opposite the family general store and which is now (2021) the Royal China Chinese takeaway. Having become a motor engineer he was also an agent for Singer, Standard and Trojan cars. He advertised that he could supply any make of car on easy terms and he hired them out.
Samuel’s wife, Frances, died on 10th March 1929 when she was only 46. She is buried at St Mary the Virgin graveyard section H, plot J38 along with her daughter Ivy. Their grave is shown on the right.
Some years later Samuel married again on 9th January 1932 at the parish church at Thurne this time to Dorothy May Wiseman, the daughter of Alfred & Laura Wiseman. Dorothy’s father had been a landowner and farmer of Oby Hall, Ashby. Samuel died on 8th May 1937 at the Grove Nursing Home, Newmarket Road, Norwich and Dorothy at Martham on 9th August 1990. They are buried together at St Mary the Virgin graveyard section H, plot L9 as shown on the left.
Albert Alfred Francis & Kate Adelle Rumbelow
Albert was born on 21st April 1888 at Martham. He grew up with his parents at Black Street and The Green, Martham and then married Kate Adelle Rumbelow on 21st June 1911 at St Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth and at that time he was a hairdresser. Kate was the daughter of Philip Booth Rumbelow & Caroline, nee Berry, of Great Yarmouth.
Albert & Kate had the following children:
- Albert Philip Francis was born on 18th April 1912 at Martham. Very sadly he was killed on 3rd August 1929 at Winterton-on-Sea beach when a sand hole caved in on him. He was 17.
- Kathleen Doris Francis was born on 26th November 1915 at Martham. She went on to marry William Rayner Chapman at Martham on 8th June 1938 at St Mary the Virgin. William was a farmer and cattle breeder who successfully showed his Aberdeen Angus and Charolais cattle at local and National Shows, receiving recognition at the Smithfield Show. Kathleen died in 2005 at Ipswich. Both Kathleen and William are buried at St Mary the Virgin graveyard section E, plot A1.
- Roy Edward Francis was born on 10th June 1921 at Martham and worked with his parents in the general store before taking over the day-to-day running of the business in 1954.
By all accounts Albert was a real community man and so busy it is a wonder he found time for it all. He ran a hairdressing business from the old buildings that later became Kirby’s Garage and are now the Kebab and Pizza shop and ironically a gents barbers (2021).
As well as being a hairdresser between at least 1906 &1921 he became a shopkeeper of groceries, hardware, earthenware, fancy goods, tobacco and ironmongery and he was a Special Constable and a member of Martham Parish Council from 1936 to 1958 and a Trustee of the Loyal “Rising” Lodge of the Order of Oddfellows, Martham. It is however something else that he will be remembered for long after his death in 1958 and that was a wonderful legacy of his photographs. Amongst all his other interests he took memorable photos of the surrounding community and events. He sold these as post cards in his shop along with photographic materials as can be seen by this photo of the shop featuring Kodak products. He was of course fully supported by his wife Kate who worked in their shop.
The photos Albert took are now very collectable and capture moments in time that record invaluable social history. At the foot of this page I have drawn together as many as I can find but as far as I know no-one has ever compiled a definitive collection. If you know of others please contact me.
Albert died on 3rd November 1958 and Kate eventually sold the store to Timothy Wyles in 1967. She died on 23rd July 1969 and is buried with Albert at St Mary the Virgin graveyard section H, plot J40.
You may also like to read a page that is associated with this one by clicking on “Island Site”.
The following photograph album includes what are believed to be photos taken by Albert Alfred Francis but no formal collection is known. If you can provide more information about his photographic work please contact me.
Click a thumbnail for a close-up and scroll through all the images from there.
Albert & Samuel also advertised extensively and here are a few of the adverts and pamphlets they produced for the parish magazine and newspapers. Click a thumbnail for a close-up and scroll through all the images from there. All the images are courtesy of David Stretton