By the mid 1790s two Flockton brothers from Green Hammerton in Yorkshire had moved to London to take over the turpentine works of their father's childless cousin Edward Webster and his wife Mary née Stephens. Their three surviving Flockton sons also worked in the business.
The business had been based at Potters Fields, opposite the Tower of London, but subjected the surrounding area to such extreme risks of explosion and fire that an Act of Parliament in 1785 provided compensation for the factory to be moved upstream to Battersea. The first record of the new factory in operation at Battersea comes in 1802.
From around 1825 another branch of the family business at Spa Road, Bermondsey manufactured pitch, tar, turpentine and varnish and in 1828 claimed to be the sole manufacturer of the patent resin.
The Battersea factory moved upriver again, around 1840 to the Twickenham oil mills, and again to Weybridge around 1842.
|Oil Mill at Weybridge, 1924|
Courtesy Elmbridge Museum, Surrey
It is interesting to consider the possible influence of their chemically-polluted working environment on the life spans of all the Flockton partners in the family business.
William Flockton, 1770-1818
Elder brother William Flockton, born in 1770, had six children, all born in the parish of St Mary Battersea, of whom only a daughter and a son reached adulthood. William was apparently responsible for the Battersea factory operations of the turpentine business, until he died early in 1818, aged forty-seven. No details have survived for his cause of death. His widow Elizabeth reputedly kept the Battersea factory going for some years, working with her son Thomas (Tom). By the early 1840s their oil crushing business had again moved upriver, to Twickenham.
Here William's son Tom died of 'fever' in 1843, aged forty-two and Tom's only child, born in 1841, died in 1847.
William's daughter Mary Elizabeth, who had married the soap maker Samuel Thomas Moate in 1820, had 11 children. Two of their eight sons died in infancy. Their three daughters lived long lives in England. Their three sons who moved to Victoria, in Australia, lived longer than the three brothers who stayed in England, who died in their forties and early fifties.
Thomas Flockton, c.1772-1846
Younger brother Thomas Flockton, born around 1772, lived in the parish of St John Horselydown, Southwark where his two sons and two daughters were baptised. From 1828 he and his two sons ran the office side of the business from the family home at 20 Freeman's Lane, Horselydown, and also factory operations at nearby Spa Fields, Rotherhithe. His sons having married, Thomas moved out of Freeman's Lane around 1833-4 and lived nearby. He effectively retired from the family business in 1839 through ill-health and died of 'general dropsy' in 1846, a condition he'd suffered for eight years.
Webster was an industrial chemist and inventor and he worked at the family's various factories while it seems that his younger brother Thomas Metcalf Flockton was the business manager. Both continued to reside at 20 Freeman's Lane until around 1837, when Webster and his family moved to Spa Cottages, Bermondsey.
In the early 1840s, Webster was also helping his cousin Tom at Twickenham. The relationship was close as Tom was also Webster's brother-in-law, being married to Webster's sister Thomasine. Tom died in 1843, the Twickenham site was soon abandoned and Webster moved with his family to Weybridge where a new seed crushing factory was built near the junction of the Wey Navigation Canal with the Thames. Webster's family now lived at Stanmore House, Weybridge.
Thomas Metcalf Flockton died four years after his father, in 1850. He died of dropsy of the chest, said to be aged forty-six although he had turned forty-seven. He had two stillborn daughters and one son, who died in a horse-riding accident in 1858, aged twenty-three.
Webster Flockton, who had spent his entire life in and around factories, died in 1853 at the age of fifty-one, of chronic bronchitis and effusion into the chest. His widow Maria Isabella née Cruikshank soon moved her family to Romford in Essex but kept the business going for another three years before amalgamating it with a similar business, in which she continued to play an active role for another decade.
Webster had 14 children and a number of his children also suffered from health problems which shortened their lives. The males who worked with chemicals generally lived much shorter lives than their sisters, who were not exposed to the same pollutants. Two of the sisters, Isabel and Thomasine, were artists who married fellow artists, but they were water colourists rather than painters in oils so were not exposed to the turpentine used to dilute paint and clean brushes. Thomasine succumbed early in life to typhoid fever but her sister Isabel lived a long life.
Webster Flockton's three children born at Freeman's Lane, Horselydown:
|1833- ?||Thomas, shipbroker, still alive in 1887, died of ?|
|1835-1917||Isabel Mary, aged 82, senile decay & cardiac failure|
Webster Flockton's five children born at 'Spa Cottage', Bermondsey:
|1837-1901||Webster, aged 64, gas manager, carcinoma of neck & bronchitis|
|1838-1922||Anna Maria (Annie), aged 84, lifelong mental health problems but died of 'senile decay of considerable duration', Brookwood Asylum|
|1839-1882||Squire, aged 43, mercantile clerk, suicide|
|1841-1873||Berkeley St Vincent Cruikshank, aged 31, mercantile clerk, phthisis pulmonalia|
|1842-1903||Mary Webster, aged 60, carcinoma of uterus (longstanding)|
Webster's six children born at 'Stanmore House', Weybridge, Surrey:
|1845-1870||Thomasine Browning, aged 25, typhoid|
|1846-1927||Arthur Cruikshank, aged 81, Royal Navy engine room fitter, senile decay|
|1848-1929||Maria Isabella, aged 81, carcinoma of the bowel and heart failure|
|1850-1907||John Cox, aged 57, gas manager, died in elevator accident|
|1851-1938||Beatrice, aged 87, heart failure and uraemia following fractured hip|
|1853-1916||Frederick Cox, aged 63, various occupations, cellulitis of the arm & toxaemia|
NOTE: The author Louise Wilson is a descendant of the artist Francis Stephen Flockton and his artist wife Isabel Mary Flockton, Frank's distant cousin. She has researched the Flocktons for many years and the above notes briefly summarise one aspect of her work. Louise Wilson's biography of the scientific botanical artist Margaret Flockton: A Fragrant Memory was published by Wakefield Press in 2016.
P.S. You are invited to 'Like' Louise Wilson, Author on Facebook.