Richard Hewens was born at Morton Pinkney, Northamptonshire in 1819/20. The first mention of him in Leamington is his marriage to Mary Ann Hall of Budbrooke at All Saints Parish Church in 1841. Richard and Mary Ann were listed at 38 Althorpe Street in the 1851 Census, with Richard’s profession given as “Smith.” They had three sons and two daughters aged from 10 years – 1 month, and two railway labourers as lodgers, – one of whom was married with a one-year old daughter. It is hard to imagine how so many people fitted into a small terraced house, but clearly, they did, and the business went on to prosper for a good twenty years until Hewens’ early death in January 1869.
Both the Leamington and Lillington Local Boards of Health regularly advertised in the local press for tenders from Iron Founders for the provision of street furniture such as drain covers, etc. Their Finance Reports, also published in the press, show payments made to local manufacturers for building and other work, and Hewes features for a number of years in the accounts of the Lillington Board, sometimes in conjunction with John Toone, a Leamington builder. In 1869, Hewens & Son were paid for work associated with the Water Supply installations, and the new gas lamps on Kenilworth Road.
By 1861, the Hewens family were established at 120 Warwick Street, and Richard was then an “Ironmonger and Blacksmith employing 16 men and 6 boys”. His older son, William was also an Ironmonger, and was also later described as an Ironmonger Master.
When Richard died, Mary Ann was left to carry on the business at Warwick Street, assisted by her older daughter, also named Mary Ann, her sons Richard Henry, and Mark, and a staff of 8 men and 2 boys. William Hewens the Ironmonger Master was married and lived elsewhere in Leamington, but was also part of the family firm. The Leamington Courier, Warwick Advertiser and Birmingham Daily Gazette ran advertisements for R. Hewens, and Hewens and Sons until at least September 1870, following Mrs Hewens’ announcement on 28th May 1869 that the business would be carried on after her husband’s death:
“On behalf of herself and Family, [Mrs Hewens] begs to return thanks for the kind patronage paid to her late Husband, and to inform the Nobility, Clergy, Gentry and Inhabitants of Leamington and Neighbourhood, that the Business of GENERAL and FURNISHING IRONMONGERS will be carried on at the above Address [Warwick St] by herself and Son, under the name of R Hewens and Son (as before) and hopes by strict attention to retain their patronage and support.
All kinds of Ranges and Grates taken out, repaired and re-set.”
A lengthy advertisement in the Birmingham Daily Gazette on 13th September 1870 showed Hewens’ on Stand 13, W Glover & Sons at Stand 19 and Thomas Radclyffe at Stand 21 of the Warwickshire Agricultural Society Show held on Welch’s Meadow. A report the following day detailed the variety of manufactured articles offered by “the prize and best makers … Patent Leamington Ranges and register stoves are in work at Messrs R Hewens & Son’s Stand no 13. Had the weather been such as to allow ladies to have attended the show, (there had been torrential rain on the day) this stand would have received particular attention. The cleanliness and simplicity of these well-known cooking appliances are sufficient to justify our calling attention to them.” Clearly, Hewens & Sons were a force to be reckoned with, especially in Kitchen Ranges.
However, in October that year, Richard Hewens’ Executors were forced to take a Wolverhampton Ironmonger to court for non-payment of accounts of relating to equipment installed before Hewens’ death. The bill for the supply of two smoke-consumers came to £25. 4s, (not including installation) – an amount just short of £3,000 at today’s prices. As often seems to have happened in local disputes of this kind, the defendants brought a counter-claim of improper procedures and the case was adjourned. A kindly legal adviser suggested that Hewens & Sons would not have been in this position had the father lived longer, and the sons’ inexperience not caused them to allow too long a period of credit to their debtors.
By 1881, Mrs Hewens was effectively retired and living in Holly Street East not far from William and family. Mary Ann the younger had become a schoolmistress at a private school, and Mark the youngest son, aged 30 was an unemployed clerk. Yet again Mrs Hewens was forced to take in lodgers, as she, William, Richard Henry and Mark had been forced to file for Bankruptcy in 1876. A final dividend of 3s. 1d. in the pound was declared and claimants were referred to the Trustee, Mr W. Smith of Jersey Villa, Emscote. The family dispersed, and Mary Ann died five years later in 1886.
M M Rushton
Sources: The British Newspaper Archive: Leamington Spa Courier; The Warwick & Warwickshire Advertiser; The Birmingham Daily Gazette; Spennell’s and Kelly’s Street Directories (Leamington and Warwick).