History of 62 Gwydir Street

In the 1881, the Census records that 62 and 64 (which is next door) were occupied by
Herbert Johnson WATSON, born around 1844 in Cambridge, a grocer and provision man (employing 3 men);
his wife Louisa Catley (nee WISBEY), born in August 1842 in Cambridge;
and their family
Arthur Wisbey, born around 1870 in Over, Cambs
Sidney Herbert, born October 1874 in Cambridge
Florence Louisa, born April 1879 in Cambridge
Herbert Percy, born in 1881 in Cambridge
They had two servants: 14 year old Eliza PINK, a nurse maid from Longstanton, Cambs, and domestic servant, 15 year old Adelaide Simmons from Teversham, Cambs. Also lodging at the house (grocer’s assistants) were 24 year old Edward W TEBBIT born in Burwell, Cambs, Samuel TEBBIT, 20, born in Bourne, Cambs, and 17 year old Charles RAYMENT, born in Madingley, Cambridge.

Herbert WATSON, grocer is also listed here in the 1879 and 1883 Directories.

Charles Brown, hardware stores, lived in 62 Gwydir St in 1904 (see Spaldings directory) and 1913 Spaldings directory.

In the 1911 Census, the house was occupied by
William Edward LEMMON [also LENMAN], born in 1892 in Cambridge, a fish merchant; and his wife Frederica Frances Clarissa (also known as Crissa, Crisse or Chrissa) (nee DUNN), born November 1891 in Cambridge.
They were boarders with MERRISON family (Frank – a butcher - and his wife Gertrude, two sons and a daughter).


C. Brown and Sons (oil and hardware merchants) were next door at number 64 and Robert Brown (also oil and hardware merchant) lived at number 32.

Someone sorting out their loft came across these photos. Click on one for a large version, complete with the writing underneath. One mentions the address 32 Gwydir Street and another 64 Gwydir Street. But while the vans may come from Gwydir Street, the houses are somewhere different.

From an article in the Cambridge Evening News by Mike Petty in 2009, about these photographs.

It was about 1887 that Charles Brown had the idea of supplying groceries and paraffin oil to outlying villages. He believed he could establish a successful business and at the same time provide a service to residents. His son Robert C. Brown joined in, amalgating it with a similar business of his own, and soon many other members of the family were engaged in the paraffin-selling business from their base in Gwydir Street, Cambridge. The early deliveries were made by horse and cart. The family's travelling shops became well-known outside Cambridgeshire and over the Great War spread to 17 counties in Eastern England. Their vans were loaded with saucepans, frying pans, crockery, teapots, soap and brushes and at one time they sold enough matches to stretch from Cambridge to Cairo. But their biggest seller was Somerlite Lamp Oil. To Robert brown, 'Somerlite' was his life blood; he bought oil from various souces of supply, mixed it together and told the public it had no equal. And people seemed to agree: he sold two million gallons a year and was concerned to protect the quality of the product. So when a Fordham retailer started to obtain paraffin from another supplier, he went to court to try and prevent it being sold under the name of 'Somerlite'. It was part of this legal process that the photographs of the vans were produced. They show various horse-drawn vehicles including one used at Fordham from January 1919 to Novemeber 1920 clearly proclaiming 'Somerlite Lamp Oil has no equal' and the name 'Robert Charles brown, Wholesale Oil and Hardware Merchant, Gwydir Street, Cambridge.

Today the name is famous since Corgi toys made a model of a Somerlite delivery tanker which is highly sought after by collectors and widely advertised on the internet.

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