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1834 Robert Beck, Third Class Clerk

I thought I would push my census sources as far as they would go, to the 1841 census , with a fair chance that I would be able to pick up a 25-30 year old  ex-1834 Cornet Robert Beck.

I thought it would be easy –  William Beck’s Stocking Shop is now clearly seen on your way through the Round Close to the doctors or the Haugh. William Beck came from Carlisle in 1772, married into a Hawick family, and by 1818 was producing 41,000 pairs of hose a year. [He taught frameknitting to John Pringle, the brother of Robert Pringle, founder of Pringles in 1815]

A traditional, former stocking-manufacturing premises marking the transition between cottage and factory industries at the turn of the 19th century, which largely retains its original profile, including the distinctive, small, square, first-floor openings which would each have lit the space of one stocking-maker. This building is the only survivor of the type in Hawick and is important to understanding the development of the textiles industry in the town.

William Beck was apprenticed to Bailie Hardie in 1775 and, according to Douglas Scott’s Hawick Word Book, became ‘one of the most popular employers in Hawick, being the only manufacturer to refuse to lower wages during the dispute that led to the “Lang Stand Oot” [strike] of 1822.’ His firm collapsed in 1826, possibly in connection with bank failures.

and his effects were sold in Hawick on 2 November 1827

Quite a mix here – the main items are the 9 stocking frames in various gauges, together with the leg boards etc. It looks like he must have had a shop – possibly at the High Street end of his property, with the stocking shop behind – because there is also for auction a shop counter and metal weights, beams and scales; together with what must have been his stock – 30 baskets, 120 pairs of womens shoes, and quantities of shawls, crystal bottles, and stuffed birds.

The Beck property is shown on Woods map of 1824 just along the High Street from the Tower Knowe stretching down from the High Street to the Teviot – so shop on the street, stocking shop tucked in behind?

[and there is one other Beck property named on the map – at the East end of the High Street]
No evidence for it at all, but my guess would be that William Beck [born 1760ish to be apprenticed in 1775??] could be the grandfather of the 1834 born 1814 Cornet Robert , so there would probably be a family of some sort to find.

And there is – William Beck Cornet in 1808 – also a hosier.
I have no evidence for this, but the strong likelihood would be that this is William Beck from Carlisle’s son, born in Hawick about 1788ish – the dates would be about right.

And if Cornet William waited a couple of years after 1808 before marrying, he could have had Robert Beck in 1814 or so, ready for him to become Cornet in 1834.

Maybe the family line would be : William Beck – Cornet William Beck 1808 – Cornet Robert Beck 1834

I cannot find where Cornet Robert Beck lived, but he was a flesher. In 1832 Robert Beck, flesher is recorded as paying £23 as rent for the Bleachfield – part of the Common Haugh. Before Commercial Road was developed, many of those who leased parts of the Haugh were butchers, presumably to keep stock before slaughter.

The Flesher Cornet Robert Beck may well have been based at the East end of the High Street, at the other end from hosier Becks and the workshop and shop.

[There is one other Beck listed as letting a part of the Haugh – the innkeeper John Beck of the Grapes, Buccleuch Street in 1825, and then Vintners, 4 Silver Street in 1837 presumaby to graze his, or his customers, horses. This John Beck born 1770 in England could have come to Hawick as the two year old son of hosier William Beck from Carlisle]

Of course there are still Becks in the town, involved with the Common Riding, and last year with the selection of the Cornet

However, the organisers reversed their decision on Friday and are now looking for potential candidates to fill the post. Mrs Mary Beck, who owns her own dress-making shop in the town, said: etc etc etc [from 2010 newspaper]

and 5 years before that, in June 2005, Robert Beck was remembered in a musical put on by the Gutterbludes

Gutterbludes set the stage

100 YEARS ago audiences packed the Exchange to see the first Gutterbludes show. Sadly the centenary shows were a poor reflection on present day Gutterbludes, or natives, with the Two Rivers Theatre Company performing to less than a half-filled Town Hall on each of their four performances.

The people who missed this treat will be kicking themselves, because they missed a gem of a show! It was a show liberally sprinkled with some of the best Common Riding tunes, performed by some of the best Common Riding singers. The acting was superb and Jean Wintrope once again ….

While many Hawick people couldn’t rouse themselves to make their way to the Town Hall, five descendants of one of the play’s authors, Adam Grant, had travelled all the way from Canada to take in the Two Rivers Theatre Company production. Great grandson Grant Ward was joined by great granddaughters Sharon McFarlane, Sheila Bolger, Louise Winterstein and Jan Delvecchio.

The early part of the show is based in ‘Teri Lodge’ deep in the Canadian Forests on New Year’s Eve 1834 while the second act sees the Town Hall stage transformed into Common Riding Friday, 1835 ….

….. From here on the Common Riding songs come thick and fast, delivered with passion by Bert Armstrong, Michael Aitken, Fran Barker, Iain Scott and the rest of the exhuberant cast. It is not often that someone with a non-speaking part can make such an impact on a show but Ian Landles in the role of ‘Gibbie the gowk’ did that in incredible fashion.This was entertainment. Hawick style!

By the end when Cornet George Young left the stage, accompanied by the rest of the Common Riding principals, the Hawick crowd, along with the Canadian guests showed their appreciation of a fine show. A show which J. E. D. Murray and Adam Grant would have been proud of.

Meda, The Scout   Fran Barker
Wat Hardie Iain Scott

Dan Knox : Steve Brown

Colin Armstrong:    Stuart Gibson

Alex Maxwell:   Jim Arbon

Spunk: Bill McCraw

Jean Kaishie: Christine Lyon

Nannie Kaishie: Anne Clark

Mysie Maxwell: Karen Whinam

Gibbie the gowk: Ian Landles

Caleb Rutherford: Bert Armstrong

Senior Baillie: Colin Thorburn

His Wife: Janette Thorburn
Cornet William Turnbull
: George Young

Cornet’s Lass: Leanne Stormont

Right Hand Man Robert Beck
Richard Walker
Right Hand Lass: Linda Walker

Left Hand Man James Millar
: Stuart Irvine

Left Hand Lass: Gillian Patterson

The Bairns: Emma Elliot-Walker, Isla Elliot-Walker, Rachel Inglis, Lysney McFarlane, Natalie Paterson, Alison Rafferty, Emily Rafferty, Mandy Rayner, Abigail Tofts, Liam Caswell, Fergus Hislop, Stuart Mitchell, Jamie Scott, Aimee Fraser, Rhinna Graham, Sarah Whillans.

Crowd: Pamela Casson, Shelagh Duncan, Linda Mason, Gillian Patterson, Alison Seeley, Leanne Stormont, Michael Aitken, Bert Armstrong, Derek Inglis, Ian Landles.

Musicians- Ian Seeley (Piano), Pamela Walker (Violin)
Drums and Fifes- Ronnie Nichol, Dougie Rae, Roddy McIntyre, John Riddell.

So you would expect that it would be very easy indeed to find traces of Robert Beck – but there weren’t any!

Robert Beck, flesher was running a business in the town in 1832 – 1833, and his father’s uncle? John Beck was running The Grapes and then an inn in Silver Street until 1835.
But his father William and grandfathers successful hosiery workshop and shop had folded and been sold off by 1828.
Maybe the Beck family were past their best in Hawick –  the 1841 census had no Robert Beck or Robert B*ck or indeed very few Becks at all.
The last of the old guard, 71 year old innkeeper John Beck was in Silver Street with Nanny Beck aged 66; and a few scattered children [eg in the Sandbed living with a Confectioner and her lodger Druggist] but no families.

Maybe a lot had happened in the 7 years since 1834, and lingering debts and the loss of the main businesses in 1827 had done for the Becks, with Robert Beck just hanging in there long enough to follow on from his 1808 Cornet father as the 1834 Cornet.

I need to have a look at the Scotlands People records – ie pay to look at them!
Maxwellancestry.co.uk is an absolutely amazing resource, and the Library edition of Ancestry.co.uk is OK – but maybe, just maybe there might be some trace of this Cornet to be found.        After all – he was in a musical with Ian Landles!


Graham Maxwell has come up trumps with what happened to Robert Beck after he was Cornet in 1834.

He married Euphemia Thomson on 7 September 1835 in Hawick, and they had 2 boys John Beck baptised 6 August 1836 in Hawick, and Walter Beck baptised 6 July 1838 in Hawick.

By 1841, Robert, Euphemia and 3 year old Walter are not to be found in Hawick, but 5 year old John Beck does seem still to be there, living with 50 year old Janet Thomson – Euphemia’s mother? so John’s granny? – at her confectioners shop at 12 Sandbed.

Robert Beck doesn’t seem to surface again until 1858, when the Edinburgh based Caledonian Mercury on 8 March 1858 reported his promotion to Third Class Clerk in General Business, London.

This was a not inconsiderable post, and a rung up on the Civil Service career ladder – George Sheldrick and Benjamin Bond were moving up with him.

The grade was created in 1856. The number of Third Class Clerks was fixed at ten [in the Treasury]. The salary scale was £100 rising by annual increments of £100 to £250.

How much was that? £7,650 if using RPI, or £67,700 if using average earnings calculated here. Basically, he was in a secure Civil Service position, and heading for a comfortable Pooterish Senior Clerk position.

And then in the 1871 census , living in Peckham, London with Euphemia,  a First Class Clerk, HM Customs at 96 Gordon Road.

Now with the garden concreted over, and in the South London borough of Trotters Independent Trading and Damilola Taylor, but in its day a very appropriate residence for a Clerk. Next door at 98 lived a Stockbrokers Clerk, and at 99 a Commercial Clerk to an East Indian Merchant.

He had managed to get his three daughters into the Civil Service as well – Jessie, Agnes and Euphemia were Telegraphists. The machine here is from the 1880s, and  shows the job they did, transcribing Morse code to and from paper format.

Here illustrated by a man, but Telegraphy was the first job for women in the Civil Service – here in the 1910s in the GPO

By 1881, Robert Beck 1834 Cornet is dead, and his Hawick born widow Euphemia has moved along the road to 2 Gordon Road, Peckham , still with her three Telegraph Clerk daughters – but also with a 40 year old Ship’s Steward son – another Robert Beck.


So it looks like the 1834 Cornet did leave some traces – a flesher renting part of the Haugh just before he became Cornet, he married Euphemia Thomson a Hawick girl, and then applied for a prized clerk’s job in the Civil Service and was posted away from Hawick to London, taking his wife and 3 year old with him, but leaving his 5 year old for a while in the care of his grandmother in her sweetie shop in the Sandbed. He died a comfortable First Class Clerk in suburban Peckham, with a pension for Euphemia, three Telegraphist daughters and a son Robert , home from the sea.

An interesting family, which played a major part in the development of the hosiery industry in Hawick, and then declined.


About Neil Wallace

Born in the Haig Maternity, lived in Dovemount Place, and started school there at Trinity. To Burnfoot Primary then the High School. Moved away from the town to Cardiff, then Edinburgh, and now an exile in Suffolk.


4 thoughts on “1834 Robert Beck, Third Class Clerk

  1. I have just read this and other posts with great interest. I am happy to see our site has proved helpful. I can help with a couple of things – the people of Teviothead were not missed from the 1841 census, rather the situation is that Teviothead parish was not created until 1850, (see http://canmore.rcahms.gov.uk/en/site/54087/details/teviothead+old+graveyard/ ).

    The people of what was later Teviothead parish are to be found in the 1841 census of Cavers and the 1841 census of Hawick.

    With regard to Robert Beck – he seems to be the Robert Beck who married Euphemia Thomson on 7 September 1835 at Hawick (surname spelled ‘Beek’, perhaps mistakenly, in the IGI). They had children John Beck, bap. 6 Aug 1836 at Hawick, and Walter Beck, bap. 6 Jul 1838 at Hawick. John appears as a five year old child in the 1841 census of Hawick here: http://www.maxwellancestry.com/census/41transcript.aspx?houseid=78904214 , but there is no sign of Robert and Euphemia.

    However, they can be found on the 1871 census in Camberwell, London, where Robert is recorded a 62 year old clerk, H.M. Customs, born in Scotland. His wife Euphemia is 60 and also born in Scotland.

    Hope this helps to clear up this mystery,

    Graham Maxwell

    P.S. I have tried hard to make the “Notes on Location”, and latitudes and longitudes of houses as precise as possible for the old census records on our site. However, it may be that more expert local knowledge will be able to correct or render more precise some of the details, and we welcome anything that will improve the accuracy of the information, so if anyone has any suggestions, we would love to hear from them.

    Posted by Graham Maxwell | February 20, 2011, 16:16
    • Graham

      Many thanks for this – I really need to start being more conscientious with my note-taking – and missing census schedules is a case in point – I have in the past battered my head against a brick wall for Wallaces in Fife because of poor note taking on missing schedules!

      But most particularly thank you for tracking down Robert Beck!

      His IGI marriage as “Beek” to Euphemia Thomson seems to fit very well indeed, and a move to – somewhere outside Hawick [ ending up in London in 30 years time] would explain the “stray” Beck children. John Beck as a 5 year old living with a 50 year old Janet Thomson, confectioner is probably him living with his granny – Euphemia Thomson’s mother. [On Ancestry, they transcribe the lodger McIntosh as McTurtlane or similar – your eyes are much keener than theirs!]

      So I can really fill in the Rober beck story very well indeed – thanks again!

      Neil Wallace

      Posted by Neil Wallace | February 20, 2011, 22:34
  2. Note that since Robert Beck was Cornet in 1834 and married in post-summer 1835, then he presumably wouldn’t have been Left-Hand Man in 1836.
    And couldn’t he have been the Robert born to John Beck and Agnes Wilson in Hawick in 1808? That would make him a little older than usual, but not absurdly so. Do we have an estimate of his birth year from the English census entries?

    Posted by Douglas Scott | December 14, 2011, 09:55
    • Douglas

      He jolly well could have been! The 1871 Census gives his age as 62 – so a late 1808 birthdate would be right for a son of John Beck / Agnes Wilson.

      And they could/might be the John Beck 71 year old Innkeeper and 66 year old Nanny Beck living in Silver Street in 1841. [I had overlooked the Nanny as meaning “granny” rather than coming from Agnes / Nan ]

      Another rewrite coming on! Thanks


      Posted by Neil Wallace | December 27, 2011, 22:14

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