Yeovil People

Ernest John Brook farr

Rag, Iron & Metal Merchant


Ernest John Brook Farr , known as Johnny, was born in 1877 in Yeovil, the second son and fourth child of the six children of Marine Store Dealer Joseph Farr (1843-1901) and Elizabeth née Belben (b 1843). In the 1881 census Joseph and Elizabeth, both aged 38, were living at 18 Vicarage Street with five of their children; Mary Edith aged 11, Rosa Lilly aged 7, Alexander aged 5 and Ernest and Minnie both aged 4. All the children were listed as scholars. Joseph Farr was listed as a Marine Store Dealer of 18 Vicarage Street in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1882 and Collins' Yeovil Directory of 1907, but was noted as a 'Marine Store Dealer of Middle Street' in Whitby's directories of both 1898 and 1903.

A Marine Store Dealer was, in fact, nothing to do with boats or the sea but was simply a general dealer at the lower end of the market, dealing with the very poorest people with items usually worth a farthing or a halfpenny. Despite the fact that a Marine Store Dealer was a very lowly trade, described by social researcher Henry Mayhew in his book 'London Labour and the London Poor' (1851) as merely being one step above those who dealt in fats and greases, Joseph Farr managed to send Ernest to boarding school and the 1891 census recorded Ernest as a 14-year-old boarder at the District Independent College, Staplegrove, Taunton.

In 1903 at Weymouth, Dorset, 26-year-old Ernest married 23-year-old Minnie Ethel Amy Horsey (1880-1961), originally from Bournemouth, Hampshire. They were to have three children; Vera Jessie (b 1904), Elsie Muriel (b 1906) and Freida Josephine (b 1910). Immediately after their marriage Ernest and Minnie had lived briefly in Hornsey, Middlesex where their first daughter Vera had been born. By 1906 however the family were living in Yeovil where Elsie was born.

As a young man, Ernest joined the army and served in the South African War. The Second Boer War (11 Oct 1899 – 31 May 1902) was fought between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, over the Empire's influence in South Africa. It is also known variously as the Boer War, Anglo-Boer War, or South African War. On leaving the army, he became a Reservist.

In the 1911 census the family were recorded living at 45 Hendford Hill and living with them was Minnie's mother, Louisa Horsey, and a domestic servant. Ernest listed his occupation as a 'Rag, Iron & Metal Merchant'. He also listed himself as an employer.

It is likely that at this time Ernest was operating in a building and yard off Stars Lane once in the ownership of wealthy glove manufacturer and mayor of Yeovil Edward Raymond from at least 1850 until his death in 1880. Raymond lived in Mars House on the corner of Stars Lane. Behind Mars House, at the end of Raymond's orchard, was the building described in 1869 as "newly erected wool stores", seen on the map below, which were in the occupation of Raymond's son-in-law, Benjamin Chaffey. Ernest Farr, later his company EJ Farr & Co, traded in these premises until the 1960s.

Ernest was a Freemason and was initiated into Yeovil's Lodge of Brotherly Love on 8 April 1914.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, as a Reservist, Ernest was called up and was sent to France where he served with the rank of Sergeant. The photograph at left shows him in uniform wearing the cap badge of the Somerset Light Infantry.

During August 1915, Ernest was wounded in action, as described in the letter below.

He was later discharged from the army as unfit for further military service because of the wounds he received.


A letter published in the  Western Gazette, 13 August 1915

Sergeant EJ Farr, a well-known Yeovilian, who served in the South African War, and one of the representatives of the West Ward of the Town Council, who joined the 6th Somersets as a National Reservist, is also wounded. Mrs Farr has received a letter from her husband written in hospital on Sunday. He says "You will have probably heard that I was wounded last Thursday evening. I got a shrapnel bullet through my side and one in the left wrist which is still there. The X-rays were put on it yesterday and I suppose the doctor will operate tomorrow. At any rate the sooner the better as it is very painful. I was standing by my transport when a shell burst and killed four mules and I believe my own horse was very badly hurt. I was then put into a motor ambulance and taken to a proper dressing station where I had my wounds dressed. I was later sent down to one of the base hospitals, the journey occupying 15 hours. I was however, made very comfortable. I have been on my back since Thursday and expect it will be a week or ten days before I shall be allowed to sit up."

from "Letters home to Yeovil in the Great War, 1914 – 1919" by Jack Sweet
Courtesy of Jack Sweet



He was prominent in the town's affairs and served on the council for many years. He was elected Mayor of Yeovil and served during 1921 and 1922. In 1923 the Yeovil & Petters United Football Club became Yeovil Football and Athletic Club Limited, the company being registered on 3rd May 1923. Ernest Farr was appointed the first Chairman of the Limited Company.

Ernest John Brook Farr died in Yeovil on 11 March 1946. His will was proved at Bristol in July 1946 and his effects were valued at £4,806 (around £500,000 at today's value). The company, EJ Farr & Co, today trades at Buckland Road.


MAP & Aerial photograPH

The 1886 Ordnance Survey showing at top left Mars House and its large garden on the corner of Stars Lane and South Street, owned by mayor of Yeovil Edward Raymond from at least 1850 until his death in 1880. Behind Mars House were what were described in 1869 as "newly erected wool stores", seen at bottom right, which were in the occupation of Raymond's son-in-law, Benjamin Chaffey. The open land at the centre of the map, formerly an orchard, was also owned by Edward Raymond.


This 1946 aerial photograph shows the gasworks, at centre, which had by this time extended as far as Stars Lane next to the new, large gas holder just left of centre. The right-hand side is occupied by Yeovil Town railway station. Gas Lane is the narrow white 'J'-shaped road just right of centre




The 'Straw Hat Brigade' Yeovil Reservists marching off from the Borough to the Town Station at the outbreak of war in 1914. Yeovilians known to be in this photograph include Ernest Farr.


Ernest Farr in his mayoral robes. Photographed in 1921.


Photographed by Doug Keyse, courtesy of Andy Keyse

A detachment of Boy's Brigade, Scouts and Cubs assembles at the bottom of Stars Lane for the St George's Day parade in 1968. At left many people will remember the scrapyard of Johnny Farr. In the background are the lower slopes of Summerhouse Hill with the footbridge over the railway at top right. At extreme right is the end of the first house in Summerhouse Terrace.



As it reached the British Rail Parcels Office Gas Lane turned to the southwest. The gas works site has been cleared at right and in the distance at right the large building had originally been a wool store built around 1869 but by this time was the premises of scrap merchants EJ Farr & Co.


Having turned the corner in Gas Lane, this view looks west with Farr's building at left and the partially-cleared gas works site at right. The gas works site would, for many years, become Town Station Car Park.


The photographer is standing in Summerhouse Terrace, with the first house in the terrace at left and Foundry House at right, looking to the junction with Stars Lane running across the photograph. The other end of Ernest Farr's building and the entrance to his scrapyard takes up much of centre left while to its right, with the man seen walking along, is the Stars Lane entrance to Gas Lane.


Taken from the very bottom of Stars Lane, looking north, with Foundry House at left and the gas works at right. The entrance to EJ Farr & Co's scrap yard is marked by the two brick piers at the centre of the photograph.


The view from Old Town Station car park in the late 1960s / early 1970s looking towards Pen Hill. Farr's building is at the right, Foundry House in Stars Lane is at the left.


From my collection

EJ Farr & Co Ltd's advertisement in the 1970 edition of Kelly's Directory indicating that by this time the company had moved premises to the Pen Mill Trading Estate.


From my collection

A really unusual item - a coat-hanger that splits in two to become two clothes brushes. Presumably sold by Farr in the 1940s.


From my collection

An enlargement showing Farr's stamp on the coat-hanger / brush.