One of the first family groups I identified when I started my study on the Heenan surname, was that of Robert James HEENAN and his wife Eva CORFIELD
What attracted my attention when I found them in a census record was that Robert was described as a baker and grocer. Baking is in my own family – my dad owed a bakery and some cake shops. Since it was a family business I was roped in to help at busy times, either slicing the bread or decorating Yule logs at Christmas time.
Robert clearly wanted his own enterprise to be a family concern because in the 1939 National Register his wife Eva is described as “unpaid shop assistant”; his 20-year-old daughter Molly is occupied as “shop assistant (baker and grocer)” and his 19-year-old son Donald is a baker and van man. I’m speculating that Donald was involved in delivering the products to customers. The family is living at Number 1, The Square, in Hadley, Shropshire.
Just around the corner in Church Street were two of the couple’s sons, both in the occupation of bakers. I think it’s safe to assume they were working in the family business.
At number 2 was Barney HEENAN, his wife Florence, a 3-year-old son David and two other individuals (their records are redacted). Barney is working as a bread baker and is a volunteer with the Royal Airforce in the capacity of cook/baker.
At number 5 was Robert James HEENAN (junior), aged 23, his wife Violet and three individuals with the surname of Jones (Violet’s maiden name) Robert James is described as a baker.
The village of Hadley is today part of the new town of Telford and the location of the Square has been obliterated by new road building. In the 1930s it was described in Kelly’s Directory as a village on the road between Wellington to Newport, well served by commercial premises as well as pubs and churches.
From Ireland to Shropshire
Robert James Heenan (senior) arrived here having been involved in the grocery business from a young age. Born in County Down, Ireland, in 1875 he migrated to Liverpool by the time he was 15 years old. He is recorded in the 1891 census as a single man boarding in the home of a grocer in the St Martins district of Liverpool, and working as his assistant.
The next census (1901) finds him as a boarder in a different area of Liverpool – Toxteth Park and still occupied as a grocer’s assistant. In the same house is David Heenan, aged 23, working as a joiner. The relationship between these two young men is not identified but it is possible, given the ages, that they are brothers or cousins.
By the time of the 1911 census Robert James has moved to Oakengate in Shropshire. He is still single at the age of 35 and lodging with a family but he has prospered enough to have his own grocer’s shop. He marrieD shortly after Eva Corfield, a grocer’s daughter aged about 32, from Shropshire.
The wedding photograph shows two older people to the right of the bride, who are likely to be her parents. On the groom’s side however, there is only one person – who could be the best man or a relative. But the absence of people of the right age to be Robert’s parents suggests that they are not living in England or are deceased.
The Heenan Family
Over the course of the next eight years the couple’s family grew with five sons and a daughter:
Barney HEENAN: Born 1912 Shropshire; died 1957, Wombridge, Oakengates, Shropshire
Married Florence Gertrude FERRETT
George A HEENAN: Born 1913 Shropshire; died 1918
Alfred J HEENAN: Born 1915, Shropshire. Died 1915
Robert James HEENAN: Born 1916, Shropshire; died 31 Aug 1945, Holyhead Road, Wellington, Shropshire
Married Violet JONES
Molly HEENAN: Born 12 Dec 1918, Shropshire. Died 1982
Married Joseph T ROBERTSON
Donald HEENAN: Born 1920, Shropshire, died 1995
Married Louisa R EDWARDS
Their business also appeared to thrive. By 1917 they were in Hadley, listed in Kelly’s directory as running a grocery store.
But in 1922 circumstances appear to have changed. In a notice which appeared in The London Gazette on 25 July there is a request for creditors with claims against Robert James Heenan to send in their details to a chartered accountant acting as the trustee.
The notice references a “Deed of Assignment” which is a legal mechanism used when a person/company who originally was a party to a contract transfers their rights under the contract to another party. The deed of assignment procedure is used in cases where the original party to the contract experiences a change of circumstances. We don’t know why this action is being taken in relation to the Heenan grocery and bakery business – it is clearly still viable otherwise this would have been a notice of bankruptcy.
But the fact that this deed has been executed means that some aspect of the business has passed into the control of a trustee.
It evidently didn’t mean the end of the Heenan business because in the 1934 Kelly’s directory, there is a listing for Robert James Heenan, grocer in the Wellington district and, as evident by the 1939 National Register, he is still actively occupied in that field.
I’d love to know how long the business remained in existence after this. Eva died in hospital in Shrewsbury in January 1955 and her husband a few months later. Their surviving children continued to live in the Hadley/Wellington area.
Want To Know More?
Details of the records relating to this family can be found here in my database. if you have additional information about any of the family members do leave a comment.