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Abington, Leonard Joseph (1763-1842) & Herbert Joseph (1808-1884) BAPTISTS & CHEMISTS

Abington, Leonard Joseph (1763-1842 ) and Herbert Joseph (1808-1884). Baptists.


We have told the story of Edidah (or Jedidah or Louisa) Abington who went to live in Manchester and then returned in middle age to marry the butcher, John Ball. We also mentioned her father Herbert and this is his story but also that of his father and eldest brother

Let us start with the father, Leonard Joseph Abington, who was born on the 11thJune 1763 in St Marylebone, London. He was the son of another Leonard Abington who was a violinist and bass singer, possibly singing at Westminster Abbey. He also composed songs for Vauxhall Gardens, a notorious place of pleasure for the upper classes. Titles such as The Luckless Lover, A Midnight Thought, Phillis’s Resolution or The Power of Love give some clue to the content of these songs. It seems, however, that that he wrote the music to other people’s  words. In, The History of our Abington Ancestors, Ian and John Abington reveal that, in the notes, written much later by Leonard Abington Vessey, Leonard by his first marriage 'had a good estate but by negligence and imtemperance it was lost'. Leonard Joseph was the only offspring of this second marriage, in 1762, to Elizabeth Jenkins

Not only was Leonard’s father a musician but his grandfather, Joseph Abington Junior. (1698 -1774) was a trumpet and harpsichord player (and a lawyer according to his great grandson's Memoir) and his great grandfather, Joseph Abington Senior (1668 – 1745) was one of His Majesty’s Band of Music. All three are listed in Mortimer’s London Universal Directory (1763) under the heading “Masters and Professors of Music”. Leonard’s address was given as Great Putney-street, Joseph Junior as Compton-street, St Anne's, Soho and Joseph as Beauford Buildings.

We know, therefore, that the Leonard Abington who came to Ringstead is the one listed in A Musical Directory for the Year 1794 as his father had died only some three years after Leonard’s birth, in 1766, of typhus fever. His mother was a widow for 56 years, although she 'enjoyed an ample annuity', as her grandson tells us later, which came as a result of her husband's membership of the Royal Society of Musicians. Nonetheless, his father's early death must have had an impact on the family for Leonard, the only son, was apprenticed as a wood carver to a furniture maker from the age of 12 for seven years, which had been also sponsored by the Society.  There is no evidence, however, that he ever followed this trade.

In 1794 Leonard was living at 6 Gilbert Street, Bloomsbury, London and his occupation was given as bass singer and musician. He was also a member of the Long Acre Society, of the Choral Fund and the Surrey Chapel Society. Some ten years before this entry, on 15thOctober 1784, Leonard had married Jane Bollard in the parish of St George, Holborn in the City of London. Jane was born on 28thFebruary 1764 in Finedon, just a few miles down the road from Ringstead. Was it coincidence or was Jane the link that drew the couple back to Northamptonshire in their old age? How and where did they meet? The fact that the wedding was in Holborn perhaps makes it more likely that it was Jane who had moved to London rather than the reverse. Jane came from an ordinary labouring family and many of her siblings died before reaching maturity and are buried 'in woollen'. This practice came from an act of Charles II designed to protect the English woollen industry, with a fine if any other cloth was used. Most churches would keep a coffin for use by the poorer parishioners to take the body to the graveside but it would be buried only in the woollen shroud and the coffin taken back to the church ready for the next body. [Another royal Charles is today advocating the use of woollen coffins]

Whellan’s History, Topography and Directory of Northamptonshirefor 1874 gives a brief biography of Leonard Joseph as being an important personage associated with Ringstead. It tells us:

He was of an ancient family and was a classical scholar of fair repute and the author of the works entitled, “Letters from the Dead to the Living”, Consummation” a poem, “The Living Temple”, “The Rebellion of Korah”, a sacred drama, etc.

This does not mention any musical abilities but it does indicate a creative person. It also states that he was from an “ancient family”, so it may be that he had visited among the network of halls and mansions that the upper classes of the day moved among. Could this be how he knew of Ringstead or how he met Jane Bollard?

At this point we must introduce Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon. In 1739 she joined the first Methodist Society in Fetter Lane, London. After the death of her husband in 1746/7 she threw all her energies into the revivalist movement of the Wesleys and others and George Whitefield became her personal chaplain. She reluctantly broke away from the Anglican Church and founded the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection which was a Calvinistic movement within the Methodist Church. Her family home was at Donnington Park in Leicestershire so around that area particularly, but also elsewhere, she founded some sixty-four chapels. In particular, in 1780, she took over a building called The Pantheon adjacent to her London home in Spa Field, Clerkenwell and converted it to a chapel. It had been opened some ten years earlier as a “place of amusement” selling tea, coffee, wine punch, etc.

The complexities of the coming together and separating of various nonconformist groups need not concern us here. The important point is that the “New Connection” came to believe in adult baptism and that only some (not all) people could be saved. In this they were similar to the Particular Baptists

This relevance of this to our story is that after Leonard James ( born 27 November1785) whose baptism we have not yet found, the next five of Leonard and Janes's children were christened at Spa Fields, Lady Huntingdon’s, Clerkenwell. These were Benjamin [Edmund] (born 24 Sep 1787; baptised 16 Dec 1787), Jemima (born 6 May 1791; baptised 29 May 1791, Letitia (born 27 May 1793; baptised 30 June 1793), Ebenezer (born 8 August 1795; baptised 20 Sept 1795), and Rebecca (born 18 May 1800; baptised 14th Sept 1800). As both the birth and baptism dates are given we can see that these are infant christenings.

There is another son, Edwin, born in about 1803 in London whose birth or baptism we have not yet traced and then Emma Jane born on 3 January 1806 and Herbert Joseph born on the 28 October 1808, both of whom had adult baptisms in Ringstead Particular Baptist Chapel. It seems therefore that at some time after 1800 Leonard Joseph became a believer in adult baptism, perhaps as part of the movement of the ' New Connection' to this belief or perhaps he was accepted into the Particular Baptist Church

The Ringstead Particular Baptist Church Book records that Leonard came from 'Mr Stevens' Church of London'.  This probably refers to the Rev. John Stevens, a leading preacher of the Particular Baptists, who until 1813 worshipped in Grafton Street, Soho, then in Duke Street, St James and from 1824 in Salem Chapel, Meard Street, Soho. As we have said the  non-conformist groups were very fluid at this time and it were often associated with specific preachers forming new congregations. Ther is evidence that Leonard helped his son, Leonard James, with the restoration of the Baptish Chapel in Hanley and he certainly preached around the area. I have found no proof that he moved comletely to the Potteeries but that is the belief within the family.

We know from later censuses that Leonard and Jane's youngest children, Emma, who married shoemaker Samuel Farey and moved to Rushden, was born in St Pancras and Herbert in Somers Town (which is essentially the same area)

Somers Town, by the middle of the nineteenth century belied its name and was a notorious area around St Pancras. For most of the eighteenth century this large triangle of land between the Hampstead, Pancras and Euston Roads was mainly pastoral. Towards the end of that century the rapid covering of the area with, mainly badly built, houses began and by the 1820s it was just another part of the metropolis. Earlier it had been filled with French artisans escaping from the Reign of Terror. By the middle of the century the area contained some of the worst housing in London with overcrowding, crime and disease. Plonked in the middle of this was Billingsgate with its street sellers and hucksters: a heaving mass of people from all nations and backgrounds trying to survive on their wits.

What was it like when Herbert was growing up? It was certainly well built-up by 1823. The earlier children of Leonard and Jane had been born in London but whether Somers Town represents a change of home is not clear. Did his father, Leonard Joseph, continue as a musician and scholar or had he become a full-time Baptist Minister or was there another intermediary job? It is possible that he was a man of "independent means".

Perhaps surprisingly, it is recorded that his son, Leonard James, who became a well-known radical minister in the Potteries was influenced in his path by his grandmother Elizabeth Abington (nee Jenkins), not his father. She had been converted to Christianity under the ministry of George Whitefield. It was about the year 1800, when he was some fifteen years old, that Leonard James joined the Baptist church. This may be that it was part of the same family conversion, in 1802, that saw Leonard Joseph, his father, become a Baptist and so decide not to give his younger children infant christenings.

Leonard Joseph probably moved to Ringstead, aged 67,  to take up the vacant ministry at the Particular Baptist Church. His gravestone in the small Baptist Burial Ground records:

Here are laid the bodies of Leonard Joseph Abington 17 years [sic] Pastor of the adjoining Chapel who died April 12 1842 aged 79 years. Also Jane his beloved wife who died December 24th 1849 aged 85 years.

The Ringstead Baptist Church Book states that Leonard 'was received into this church on 26th Sep 1830...' so the gravestone should read 12 years for his time as Pastor. Certainly the memorial in the schoolroom confirms the lesser time.

It seems likely that Leonard and Jane's youngest children, Emma and  Herbert  came with their parents to Ringstead as both married local people. Herbert  married a local girl, Kezia Bull on 13thSeptember 1835 in Ringstead Parish Church (The Baptist Church did not yet have a licence to conduct marriage ceremonies at that time). Kezia was the daughter of John and Sarah Bull who had been paper-makers at Ringstead Water Mill (not Willy Watt – see the William Mitchell biography). She had been baptised on September 11th1814 at the Parish Church with her sister Susannah. By 1835 John had died and Sarah had just given up the mill to William Mitchell. As we have described in the Mitchell story, a paper-making mill was a far from idyllic place to live. It was noisy, damp, smelly and dangerous. The Bulls became involved in a number of shops and life in a village grocery shop probably seemed a great improvement for Kezia.

Herbert’s eldest brother, Leonard James, who we mentioned earlier, had been a co-deacon of the Baptist “Little Wild Street Church” in Bloomsbury. Little Wild Street is now called Keeley Street and is a few streets away from Gilbert Street where his father was recorded as living in 1794. [You can still buy on individual copies of the famous sermons preached there during the eighteenth century]. Leonard James had become a pottery modeller and worked on the decoration of Drury Lane Theatre and the Bank of England. His first wife had died just a year after their marriage and he had then married Sarah Sandys, the daughter of a Baptist Minister.

In 1819 he had moved away from London for health reasons and settled in Hanley in the Potteries. This would seem an odd choice if 'health' was the real reason.  The Potteries, with the smoke belching from the close-packed, coal-fired bottle kilns, as well as the usual housing, water and sewage problems of the nineteenth century industrial towns, meant early mortality was higher than the national average. Even up to the 1920s respiratory diseases were the commonest cause of death.

The local Particular Baptist Church in New Street  (now Goodson Street) had closed down in around 1803 but Leonard James bought it and re-opened it in 1820 in an attempt to revive the Baptist movement in the area. He became a radical Baptist preacher and his father Leonard Joseph, also preached in the New Street Church. Is it possible that the family, including his parents and brother Herbert also moved to Hanley before Ringstead? We have no proof and certainly Leonard Joseph appears to have come from London to Ringstead according to the Church Book

Leonard James became a well known local figure in Staffordshire, editing the Pottery Mercury newspaper and, in partnership with two generations of the Ridgeway family he ran an important pottery.  The Ridgeways were 'New Connection' Methodists and with them, on New Year's Eve 1819 he was involved with the setting up of the Pottery Philosophical Society, 'for the purpose of propagating and extending useful and scientific knowledge'The nineteenth century was the one when science and religion met head on most dramatically with the publication of Charles Darwin's The Ascent of Man. Devout Christians, especially those who proclaimed the absolute literal truth of the Bible must have found it a difficult line to walk. Leonard James was a Baptist Minister, but he also gave many of the lectures at the Society and in less formal settings. Steven A Shapin reports that he lectured on:

....geology, mineralogy, metallurgy, conchology, entomology, chemistry, astronomy, heraldry, pottery, the chemistry of pottery, Egyptian antiquities, meteorology and (pausing for breath) revealed religion. 

Shapin also relates that the writer of his Memoir tells us that:

While many good and able men trembled for the safety of the Ark of God, and shuddered lest the facts Geology was unfolding should conflict with the Mosaic Record, he looked calmly on, reposing in the assurance that the investigation of Science would strengthen rather than weaken the evidence of its Inspiration. From this steadfast conviction he never swerved and lived to see his fond anticipations fully realized.

In fact he found it more difficult as time went on to support the new discoveries and theories of science and still believed the Mosaic view, that the earth came from water, rather than in the geologists' assertion that it was from 'fire'. Leonard James embodies the two aspects of nineteenth century life, religion and science struggling through unsettling but dynamic times. One imagines there were long conversations between Leonard James and his father, musician and classical scholar as well as Baptist minister.

In the 1851 Census Leonard James is listed as “Earthenware Manufacturer employing 438 men” and there are two female servants He has also became the Pastor of the Hanley Baptist Church and in 1834 was appointed Chief Bailiff of Hanley. Altogether he seems to have had a very full and busy public life.  

As an interesting aside, George Whitefield, who had first converted his grandmother, was probably the most famous preacher of his time, both in England and the United States of America and is by many considered the founder of the Evangelical Movement. He held views, however, which most people today would find difficult to reconcile with his charitable work and Christian faith. He lived much of the time in America and was a slave owner and actually helped persuade the state of Georgia to re-legalise slavery in 1751.

A little over a hundred years later in about 1858 Leonard’s firm of Ridgway and Abington produced a fine stoneware jug. It  depicted scenes based on the hugely popular book of the time, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and is often called the Anti-slavery jug.


Anti-slavery jug by Ridgway and Abington 

There are a number of pictures of these jugs on the internet and I cannot find again where this came from. My apologies for that. There are pictures online of one in the New Walk Museum and Art gallery in Leicester in connection with the BBC programme “A History of the World in a Hundred Objects.”.

Some aspects of Leonard James’ life may give clues to the lives of his Ringstead relatives. In the story of his niece Edidah, we told how she suddenly appears in the Manchester Census as a servant of Carlos Chamberlin (Chamberlain). The Manchester Guardian of 25thMay 1840 reports on the Anti-Corn Law Conference being held in Manchester. One of the delegates, a Mr Abington, had just arrived from the Potteries and told of the violent strikes there. This was Leonard James, or perhaps more probably, his brother, Edwin Bollard Abington This may give a clue to the connections that took Edidah to Manchester later. Manchester in general, and Victoria Park (where she worked), in particular, was closely bound up with the Anti Corn Law League. It seems posssible that it was through her uncles' connections that Edidah’s position was secured.

The other piece in the family jigsaw, that Leonard James may give some help with, is to do with his work. As well as being a partner in the firm he was also the "Works Chemist" from 1831. His brother Edwin was also an "operative chemist" in the Hanley pottery industry.This may have some connection with their younger brother, Herbert’s later career, as we shall see.

Although his links with Ringstead are tenuous, Herbert's brother, Edwin Bollard Abington, had a life story that is, briefly, worth the telling

Like his brother, Leonard, Edwin was also a 'Corn Law repealer'. We know this because he gave evidence against the Chartist lecturer and firebrand Wesleyan preacher, Thomas Cooper who, on Friday March 24 1843, had been accused of setting fire to a magistrate's house in Hanley as well as sedition for his preaching in the market square before serious riots and arson took place. The troubles in the area arose from industrial disputes by the coal miners and pottery workers. At the meeting Cooper had read out his poem which included the lines

Shout as one man, - 'Toil we no more renew

Until the Many cease their slavery of the Few!'

Edwin had, at first not come forward with his evidence because:

There was a good deal of excitement in the town, and many threats were used towards persons coming forward to give evidence on the part of the Crown.

As far as we can tell this may have been the end of his political career but, some eight years later, more domestic matters brought his world crashing down. On 18th March 1851, at Stafford Assizes, he was found guilty of, 'feloniously attempting to procure the miscarriage of his child by Emma Williams'. Judge Thomas Noon Talfourd sentenced him to ten years transportation for his crime.

Edwin was fortunate in that he was sentenced at a time when the Tasmanian and Australian authorities were refusing to receive any more convicts. To find a place, in England, for all those prisoners who were previously transported, a number of convict establishments were built. The first was on the Isle of Portland on the south coast, which was designed 'for the employment and reformation of offenders'. The Penal Servitude Act of 1850 substituted prison sentences for all crimes formerly visited by sentences of transportation to a period of less than 14 years. Thus, it was to Portland that Edwin was sent, rather than Australia.

On 5th June 1855 a licence was granted for Edwin's early release after just four years in prison. He was then, it seems, head-hunted by 'Petrus Regout' who had, in 1836, opened a modern mechanised earthenware factory in Maastricht in the Netherlands. The factory struggled to match the quality of the English earthenware but, significantly perhaps, it started to improve at the time when Edwin replaced William Crisp, who was from Sunderland, at the factory. His job was to teach the owner's son, Lodewijk Regout, how to produce quality eathenware. Edwin's pay rose to 432 guilders a month when the average pay was 100 guilders so his worth to  the company was recognised. The Regout-Sphinx company then went from strength to strength. It may be that Edwin played a vital part in this and it probably would not have helped him to be welcome again in the Potteries. He finished working for Regout in 1873 and died in Maastricht, aged 77, on 18th Novemeber 1881.

Our story must return to Ringstead and the brothers'  father, Leonard Joseph Abington. It seems likely, as we have said, that he was a classical musician and came from generations of musicians. It is possible that he moved with two of his sons, Leonard James and Edwin, to Hanley, but certainly we know that by 1830 he had moved with his wife and Herbert to Ringstead to take up the post of pastor. It is also possible that he only visited Hanley to preach at his son's chapel.

He was already, by the standards of the time, an old man when he came to Ringstead and he became frail during his time as Pastor and in his later years was allowed to preach only, “when he felt able”. He was still paid £4 a quarter and received a gift of £10 from the Baptist Fund

Photograph by Agnes Burton (with her kind permission)

The memorial to Leonard, shown above, is on the wall of the schoolroom of the chapel. Someone unused to Baptist rhetoric might read into the words of the memorial that Leonard‘s life had perhaps once been ungodly but that he had been saved and become a good man. In fact the inscription was dictated by Leonard before his death and tells of his gratitude to Jesus Christ for his conversion. His son, Herbert, described it as "rather unique and striking". We know this from a little booklet that Herbert published after his father's death. It is a strange "Memoir" to modern eyes . It is titled as, An Affectionate Reminisce of his Much Beloved Father, but most of it is concerned with listing his father's, (and his), connection to a, 'very Ancient and Honourable family' dating back to Henry II. Perhaps he was was wanting to make clear to the people of Ringstead that the frail old man that they had seen at the end of his life was a man of importance and breeding. He tells us of Leonard's irreproachable life and that at his funeral there was an 'extraordinary assemblage of people'.


Leonard and Jane had, we believe, nine children. Leonard James, as we have heard, moved to Hanley as a potter. Benjamin Edmund, the second eldest, was born in 1787 and died on 29thMay 1830 in London (His son , Cousin Samuel, figures prominently in Herbert's diary. Could his death have been one of the reasons why, a few months later, his parents moved to the Northamptonshire countryside of his mother's birth? Their two elder daughters both married, Jemima to John Cooper and Letitia to John Winter. They seem to have remained in the London area.

Herbert Joseph, the youngest of the family, is the child who made Ringstead his home. He and his wife Kezia had, like his parents, nine children although one I have not yet confirmed. These were Edidah, Mary Jane (who probably died in infancy), Leonard, Ebenezer Edwin, Mary Jane, Edmund, Herbert, Joshua and Samuel. Herbert Joseph became a shopkeeper in Ringstead for some forty years. and his sons became butchers, bakers, publicans, pawnbrokers and tailors.  One daughter, the second Mary Jane, married a shoemaker and Edidah, later, a local butcher. Henry II was a long time ago. [ the Memoir of Leonard James tell us that the main [male] Abington branch of the family lost their lands during the reign of James II when a sister, Mary Abington, married Walter Compton and became a Roman Catholic and obtained the inheritance of estates in the counties of Worcester, Salop, Hereford, Cambridge etc.]

We first see Herbert in 1841 as a “Tea Dealer” living with Kezia and three of his children, Jedidah, Leonard and Edwin. Two years later, as we have told in the story of his daughter (J)edidah, Herbert was brought before Wellingborough magistrates and fined 12 shillings for having deficient weights and measures. He was not alone for many shopkeepers were fined for similar offences at this time. It was part of the centralising and standardising of all measurement from Greenwich Mean Time to the scales in small village shops. Before this many shopkeepers and street traders used deliberately inaccurate scales as well as contaminating foodstuffs to add cheap bulk. It was the poor that mainly suffered. In this case the police and then a Weights and Measures inspector began to check all premises for the first time. Herbert was probably just caught by this new bureaucracy rather than any deliberate wrongdoing. A grocery competitor in Ringstead, James Whiteman was fined £3 12s 0d, some six times greater, so perhaps his reputation was not harmed too much.

By 1851 he is a “Tea Dealer and Grocer” in Shop Street and there are three more children Mary Jane, Edmund and Herbert. In the 1861 Census two more children are recorded, Joshua and Samuel, but all the older children except Herbert, who is, at 13, a baker, have left home. Mary is only a few doors away working as a servant to the elderly widower John Williamson and his three daughters. Jedidah is now in Manchester. Herbert, aged 62, is still a grocer in 1871 and Kezia and their is living with them. As we see in his biography, Herbert junior was very ill and he dies in 1872 aged just 25 years

Their youngest son, Samuel Edmund also dies, aged 18 years, in 1875. He has been working, with his cousin Sarah Vessey and her husband as an apprentice pawnbroker, in Bristol. He dies on the 8th April 1875 of Phthisis pulmonalis (T.B.) in Ringstead. It seems that he had come home to die. At least Herbert would have been in a good position to alleviate his suffering, but if he would also have had to accept the limitations of his patent medicines. Even the best hospitals had few weapons in the fight against tuberculosis at this time. (See Herbert's biography). The death is reported by his sister Jedidah who was present at his death. It seems at first that  she had come home later to look after her widowed father but perhaps it was herbert and then Samuel who first brought her home from Manchester. Three years after the death of Samuel, on April 1st1878, Kezia, aged 67, follows Samuel to the grave. Her death certificate records that she had suffered from dementia for five years prior to that. It must have been a difficult and tragic time for Herbert.

A Conveyance of 1874, in which the Joseph Driver estate sold two cottages in the High street to Herbert Abington makes no mention of a shop. It does state, however that Herbert was occupying one cootage and Widow Cottingham the other. We know that this document refers to two ironstone and limestone cottages next door to the present post office. These are now made into one house but much of the original building can be seen. Was it  Herbert's shop as well? There is no evidence that it was, although the present owner has found many medicine bottle in the garden. It may be that the shop was elsewhere in the High Street and he moved into this cottage in his old age. On the other hand he may have been a tenant who took the chance to purchase the property. Although he had previously been put down as Shop Street, this was just an alternative name for the High Street. We do know that Herbert had to take out a mortgage to buy the houses; £100 from local farmer David Beeby and £60 form Oundle grocer John William Bullivant.

In 1881 Herbert, now 73, is living in High Street with his daughter Jedidah, a 43 year old spinster. It must have been a surprise when, just a few months after the death of John Ball’s wife he married Jedidah. Was John the reason she went away to Manchester in the first place? We may never know for official records rarely record much about the unofficial human heart.


Herbert's profession is now 'Chemist'.  He is not in many of the century’s Directories for Northamptonshire but Slater's Directory of 1862 and Kelly’s Directory for 1869 describe Herbert as a “Chemist and Druggist”.  The Slater Directory , which wrongly calls him John, also has him as a 'Shopkeeper and Dealer in Sundries'. This quick trip through the censuses tends to underplay what would be today a large leap from “Tea Dealer and Grocer” to “Chemist and Druggist”. Tea was considered then to be a leisure drink but also to have medicinal properties, not least because it was not alcohol or opium based and the making necessitated the boiling of water which was an important preventative measure in itself. Tea Rooms and especially Coffee Taverns were an important part of the temperance movement. (There was one built in Raunds in Marshalls Road).

It is possible that Herbert was not the first 'Druggist' in Ringstead for the 1841 Census has Jabez Gulliver, aged 25 (approximated to the nearest 5 years), 'Druggist', with his wife Catherine and their baby Catherine, just six months old. They are living next door to Catherines's widowed mother Catherine Cox, who is of independent means. The new baby Catherine was born in Ringstead but at the couple's wedding on 9th July 1839 in Ringstead, Jabez, or Walker Job Gulliver, to give him his correct name, is stated to be a druggist and chemist of Lutterworth (and Catherine is a 'lady' daughter of a 'gentleman deceased'). Certainly, by 1851 Walker J Gulliver, aged 38, is a chemist and Druggist in High Street, Lutterworth, Leicestershire. Walker and Catherine have only the one child, but there are two apprentices and a servant. 1861 finds them with two assistants and two servants at 24 High Street, next to the Town Hall in Lutterworth. Walker died on 24th September 1868, a comparatively rich man.

It seems most likely that Walker may have traded as a druggist for a time in Ringstead before returning to the larger town of Lutterworth to earn a better living. It is even possible that he worked for Herbert Abington but, at the moment, this is just speculation.

The nineteenth century saw the gradual rise of professional and medical practitioners, together with an increasingly scientific approach to treatment. Yet, as Hilary Marland has pointed out:

…rich and poor alike continued to resort to a variety of “unqualified” or “fringe” sources of medical aid. For some, such forms of medical treatment supplemented treatment by a “regular” practitioner; for others, with limited access or money, or with a preference for fringe methods, these were the sole means of medical relief.”

If you look on the front page of most local and national newspapers at the time what you notice first are the advertisements for a whole range of medical remedies to cure most of the diseases known to man. Herbert himself also used the small adds to sell his wares. In the December 14th 1872 edition of The Lady's Own Paper, nestling among the advertisements for Killiwicke's Embrocation; Four Hundred and Eighty-One Questions selected from the History of France; Frampton's Pill of Health; Inexpensive Hair Restorer; An Essay on the Admission of Women to the Electoral Franchise; Akhurst's Golden Lotion -Positively cures Scurvy, Ringworm, Itch, Redness etc. is the following small box:

Herbert had obviously seen the opportunities that the post office and the railway could bring to his business. It also probably tells us that he had endured some ill-health through his life although it seems very unlikely that a, Carbolic Chest Protector, could have much effect on 'excrutiating pain in the liver'. A descendant, Will Abington, recorded later that he was 'the originator of the locally famous Abington's Pills which became popular in the district as a panacea for most of the ills afflicting the human race'. Significantly,, perhaps, we do not hear them mentioned in the treatment of his son, Herbert's, illness.

Another hint at the way country people still had to try to gain relief from their ills is given at  the trial of William Weekley Ball, where labourer Henry Dix told how he pulled one of the teeth of the heavily pregnant Lydia Attley shortly before her alleged murder. We also see Emma Kitchen in the 1881 Census who is described as a “Vendor of patent medicines”. Every village would have its person selling herbal and other folk remedies (and in earlier days some would have been hung as witches). By the mid nineteenth century, however, Chemist and Druggists had become the most important first points of call for many sick people who could not afford the doctor and had managed to stay outside the workhouse.

From this time the Chemists began to become more professionally organised and under the 1868 Pharmacy Act compulsory training standards were introduced. Just where Herbert stood in terms of professional expertise we cannot be sure. With his background it is almost certain that he would be literate probably in English and Latin and have some scientific knowledge. Did he make up prescriptions for a local doctor or did he sell his own concoctions alongside the increasing number of patented and pre-packaged remedies. It seems most likely that it was the over-the-counter trade that provided the bulk, if not all of his work and income. Hillary Marland, again, states that:

…a typical chemist’s shop of the nineteenth century would, in addition to a wide range of pharmaceutical preparations, stock a selection of toilet articles, tobacco, snuff, tea, coffee, herbs and other foodstuffs, oils, candles and dyes. In some cases the chemist combined with his pharmaceutical enterprises the activities of a grocer, bookseller, insurance agent, tea or lead merchant.

 [We should not be too surprised about this list. A walk round any small town or village chemist shop today will usually show a bewildering range of non-medical items for sale]

This list is written, looking particularly at two large industrial northern towns but one can imagine how Herbert gradually expanded the range of his business from tea merchant, to grocer, to chemist and druggist. Nevertheless we must not forget that in the advertisement he describes himself as a 'Dispensing Chemist' which implies that he made up prescriptions from doctors.

Of course there was a darker side to the chemist’s trade because many of the nineteenth century medicines contained opiates. Large quantities of Godfrey’s Cordial, Atkinson’s Infant Preservative, Peace and Steedman’s Soothing Powders for Children and other laudanum and opiate based products were sold. In the summer of 1871, Alfred Mayes, aged one month died from an overdose of Syrup of  Poppies. Further, it was common practice, in some areas, for opiates to be sold for, what we would now class as, recreational use. The men would buy a “pennyworth” tab on pay day and have it with their beer.

Nevertheless, the village Chemist and Druggist became a respected member of many communities and it is likely that Herbert fell into this category. It is possible that his brothers Leonard James and Edwin assisted him in his transition to Chemist although they used the science in a very different field.

Herbert died on January 18th1884 aged 75 years and was buried in the Baptist Burial Ground with his wife Kezia and their two sons who had died as young men. Jedidah is buried with John Ball and also remembered on her sister’s grave in the new “Council” cemetery. Leonard James had died in 1867 and is also recorded as being buried in Ringstead although I have not found his grave. The Wellingborough News for 26th January 1884 gives a moving obituary of Herbert . It tells us that.

Mr. Abington had followed the business of chemist and druggist and grocer, and by his skill in the treatment of various diseases had obtained a wide reputation in the surrounding country, and his loss in this aspect will be much felt.

It also states that he came to Ringstead between fifty and sixty years ago which confirms that he probably came with his father in 1830. We learn that he had been an officer in the local lodge of the Oddfellows and a Superintendant of the Baptist Sunday School. We also discover that in his last years he had endured a long and painful illness.

He had maintained his strong faith until the end and, in great pain, he had, on his 75th and last birthday, just a few months before his death, written a poem telling of his enduring belief:

Thou hast not forsaken me, O God

now I am old and grey headed.

Dear Lord at thy footstool I bow,

And own thou hast led me till now;

When tempests may beat at my head,

And all earthly comforts art fled,

Afflicted, pain'd, pursued to Thee I flee

For succour and comfort O Jesus to Thee.

Joseph Abington, musician and classical scholar and  two of his sons, Leonard James, newspaper editor, pottery works owner and chemist, and Herbert Joseph, Grocer, Druggist and Chemist, span much of the nineteenth century. They had very different lives, reflecting the changes during the century but they were finally united by the Ringstead Particular Baptist Church.

On his death, Herbert's Will stated that his properties should be sold and the proceeds divided between three of his four children still living. Jedidah was singled out to be left just £100 (which was probably the largest bequest). Was this be to recognize a loan from her, or her nursing of him in her last years? Without knowing the full story we cannot be sure. We do know that his son, Edwin Ebenezer, purchased the two houses at auction for £240 and this sum was divided between Edwin, Mary (Lovell) and Joshua. It seems that the house stayed in the Abington family until 1926  when it was sold to Mr. C.M. Burgess.



Grave of Herbert Joseph Abington and his wife Kezia (and, at the bottom, their two sons who died young). Leonard James is also reputedly buried in Ringstead although I have found no proof of this.

(The original is slightly more readable [2010] than the photograph but the face of the stone is slowly peeling away)



My thanks to Vivienne Marshall for her help with this biography. Any errors are mine alone.

My thanks also to Lynn Harris for the chance to read and copy the old deeds to the Abington cottage. (I feel that there is more to learn from them). Also to Ian and John Abington for the privately published The History of Our Abington Ancestors 1668-1923 (May 2011) which I have used to amend and add to the original story.

Censuses 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911 ( )

England & Wales FreeBMD Marriage Index 1837 – 1915 (

Ringstead Parish Records (NRO)

London, England, Marriages and Banns 1754 -1921 (

Death Certificate of Edmund Abington (18) ( Thrapston April - June 1875 vol. 3b page 123) (Selina Hasting, Countess of Huntingdon)

Brass and woodwind players’ routes into the music profession. Helen Barlow ( )

UK and US Directories 1680 – 1830.

            A Musical Directory for the Year 1794

            1869 & 1877 Northamptonshire Directories

Slater's Royal National Commercial Directory 1862 (NRO)

Kelly's Directory 1869 (NRO)

Abington Family Tree ( ).

http://dash.harvard.eduThe Pottery Philosophical Society 1819 - 1835. Shapin, Steven 1972

An Alphabetical of Baptist Ministers in England: The Baptist Magazine Volume 23 by Baptist Missionary Society (on )

Somers Town and Euston Square (

The Victorian Dictionary on  (This is a great site once you begin to explore it)

Stoke-on-Trent – Protestant Nonconformity (

Memoir of Leonard Joseph Abington published by H.J. Abington. (Northampton Library).

What About the Workers? 1830s - 1840s Reform (

Memoir of Leonard James Abington [Extract from The Personal Recollections published 1868](printed by Thomas M Parker, Kimbolton) With kind assistance of Vivienne Marshall.

1858 - 1983 Abingtons. A Century and a quarter of high class tailoring. William Abington Northamptonshire Life April 1983. (Northampton Library)

Manchester Guardian May 25th 1842. Re Anti Corn Law League meeting (via Cambridgeshire Libraries online)

Reports of State Trial Vol. lV. The Queen against Cooper and others 1843 ( (Anti-slavery jug, Uncle Tom’s Cabin) (The Pitt Estate in Dean Street. Meard Street)

Legal & Personal Papers of Thomas Noon Talfourd. Notebook of Cases heard at Stafford Assizes 12-20 March 1851 (Berkshire Record Office D/EX 1410/1/1/6) (Access to Archives).

Edward Abington [Returns of all persons Committed or Bailed to appear for trial or Indicted at the Assizes held at Stafford (11th March 1851)] (

About London J. Ewing Ritchie 1860 Chap XVII Criminal London [About Portland] (

Fabricage van versch illen. Gertjan de Groot  [on Edwin in Netherlands](

PCCOM3/31/3186 (National Archives) [Edwin's release on licence]

The Medical Activities of Mid-Nineteenth Century Chemists and Druggists with special reference to Wakefield and Huddersfield. Hilary Marland (Medical History 1987 31 pps 415 – 439)

The Lady's Own Paper. Saturday December 14th 1872 (

Wellingborough News 26th January 1884 transcribed by Kay Collins ( )

Memorial Inscriptions at the Church of the Nativity of the Blesses Virgin Mary and the Shared Church Ringstead (Northamptonshire Family History Society 2005)

Ringstead Baptist Church: a brief history. Bull, Evelyn (2004) (Raunds & Northampton Libraries)

Wills 1869. Gulliver, Walker Job 16th February  (

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