Monday, 29 January 2007

Edwin 'boss' Cruwys of South Molton

There are only two births registered in the name Edwin Cruwys in the GRO indexes and it is quite a coincidence that just a few days after writing about Edwin Cruwys the Boer War veteran I have received an interesting newspaper article from Shirley Bray about the wife of the other Edwin Cruwys, who was the uncle of our Coldstream Guard. I thought it would be appropriate to write a short piece about Edwin's life as he seems to have been quite an interesting character. I am indebted to the late David Ryall, the former OPC (online parish clerk) for Chittlehampton and Filleigh, who assisted with the research.

Edwin Cruwys was born in 1854 in Mariansleigh, Devon, the twelfth and youngest child of William Cruwys, a mason, and Mary Meecham. Edwin married Sally Cawsey Webber in 1882. Sally was born in 1858 in Landkey. Edwin was by all accounts quite a character in South Molton. He was known as 'boss' Cruwys and was often seen around town with his 'oss 'n 'earse (horse and hearse). As can be seen from the invoice reproduced below Edwin seems to have had his finger in a number of pies and is described variously as a grocer, tea dealer, pork dealer, undertaker, and post horse proprietor. Edwin and Sally lived at 12 East Street (later renumbered as 9 East Street), where they presumably lived above the shop. Edwin also had a livery stables at South Street where he kept his horses, which is possibly the location of the Unicorn Yard mentioned in the invoice. The picture below is a view of East Street from the early 1900s when Edwin and Sally were living there.Edwin and Sally had just one child, a son called Archibald Edwin Cruwys, born in 1884. Sadly Archibald passed away on 7th March 1897 when he was just 12 years old. Sally died on 22nd February 1925. Her death was reported in the South Molton and West Somerset News on 28th February.
We regret to record the death of Mrs. Cruwys, the wife of Mr. Edwin Cruwys, dealer, of Southmolton, which took place on Sunday, at the age of 67. She had been in poor health for some years, and on Saturday, when she appeared to be as usual, she was seized with sudden illness. Medical aid was summoned, but she succumbed early on the following day. Much sympathy is felt with Mr. Cruwys in his unexpected bereavement. Mrs. Cruwys was long associated with the Wesleyan Methodist church, and was highly respected.
Edwin died just three years later on 15th February 1928 at the North Devon Infirmary in Barnstaple. He was buried alongside his wife and son in the South Molton Cemetery. Edwin's estate was valued at just over £3,000 gross and £2,000 net which was then quite a substantial sum for a shopkeeper and undertaker. He left small bequests to the South Molton and Landkey Wesleyan Chapels, but the principal beneficiary was Eva Couch, his faithful domestic servant. Eva was born in 1870 in South Molton, the daughter of William and Emily Couch. Her father was a labourer, and in the 1871 census the family were living at Crispin's Court in South Molton. Eva went to work for Edwin and Sally as a young girl. She was living with them at 12 East Street in both the 1891 and 1901 censuses where she was described as a domestic/general servant. At the time of Edwin's death Eva's address was given as 9 East Street. By this time of course the houses had been re-numbered, so it is clear that Eva continued to live with Edwin until his death. It is not known what became of Eva after Edwin's death but it seems likely that she continued to live in her employer's house and probably stayed there for the rest of her life.

Interestingly the house where Edwin, Sally and Eva lived became known as Crucou House. It is not known whether the house was given this name during Edwin's lifetime or if it was so named after his death. Perhaps Eva named the house in memory of her former employer. CruCou House can be clearly seen in the photograph below which was taken some time in the early 1960s.
CruCou House was demolished in the late 1960s, along with the adjacent property at no. 10 known as Marley House, to make way for a new health centre. The new South Molton Health Centre opened in the autumn of 1968.

The colour postcard of East Street is from Shirley Bray's private collection. The black and white photograph is the copyright of Gordon Bray. Both pictures are published by kind permission of Shirley and Gordon Bray. The invoice is in a collection at the South Molton Museum and was kindly supplied by Shirley Bray.

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