Yeovil people

William Veale Matthews

Chemist, Grocer and Portreeve of Yeovil


William Veale Matthews was born in Dawlish, Devon, in 1812. Nothing is known of his parents (other than his father was William Matthews, Gent. of Dawlish) or his early life but on 10 September 1833 he married Emma Kiddle (1806-1847) at Martock, Somerset. Emma was the daughter of Lambert Kiddle and Sarah née Hart; her siblings were Sarah (1807-1885) and Jane (1809-1885).

William and Emma moved to Holborn, Middlesex, where their first three children were born; William (b1835), Henry (b1838) and Edwin (1839-1892). William was a chemist and was recorded as such in1839 at 25 Bedford Row, Holborn.

By 1841 William had moved his family to Yeovil and was living in Hendford. The 1841 census recorded him as a Chemist in Hendford with his sons William and Edwin, an apprentice named William Symons and two female servants. On 27 March 1843 William and Emma's son Lambert was born and baptised in St John's church on 4 October 1843. The record of Lambert's baptism records that by this time Matthew was a Chemist in the Borough. From later evidence we know that Matthew's shop and home was at today's 8a High Street (see Gallery).

Almost as soon as he moved to Yeovil William had become involved in local politics and in 1846 he was elected Portreeve of Yeovil, a post he would hold until 1849. In 1848, 1849 and 1950 he served as one of the two Churchwardens of St John's church. In January 1846 William was listed as the Yeovil agent for the Church of England Life and Fire Assurance Trust and Annuity Institution. This same year he was listed in the Yeovil Poll Book by virtue of owning and occupying his freehold house and premises in the High Street / Borough.

In 1846 William and Emma had their last child, a daughter named Emma. Sadly, in the summer of 1847 William's wife Emma died in Yeovil aged 41, leaving him to bring up their four young children. However, in the autumn of 1849 at Newton Abbot, Devon, William married his late wife's sister, Sarah Kiddle.

In Hunt & Co's Directory of 1850, William had three separate listings; as a 'Grocer & Tea Dealer', as an agent for Royal Farmers Fire & Life Insurance and as an agent for the Church of England Fire & Life Insurance - all 'of the Borough'. The Churchwardens' Accounts of 1851 recorded a payment to him in his role as a chemist.

In 1851, William was noted as an investor in the South Western Railway Company.

William and Sarah were recorded at the same High Street premises in the 1851 census. Living with them were William's four children by Emma, Sarah's sister Jane Kiddle, William's two apprentices and two domestic servants.

Despite a career as a chemist and grocer and despite all his good works for the community, on 15 May 1852 William filed for bankruptcy (see Gallery). He was described as a 'Druggist & Grocer of Yeovil'. It appears that soon after the bankruptcy William moved his family to Islington, London, where by 1861 he was working as a Clerk in an Italian warehouse.

In 1865 William applied to be admitted to the freedom of the City of London, stating that he was "carrying on the business of an Italian Warehouseman" in London House Yard, St Paul's. In the 1871 census, still in Islington with Sarah, Edwin, Lambert, Sarah's sister Jane and a domestic servant, William gave his occupation as a traveller in the Italian trade - with William, Sarah and Jane repeating the entry in 1881. Both Sarah and her sister Jane died in Islington in 1885 and in the 1891 census William was recorded as a 76-year old widower working as a Commission Agent. Living with him was his niece Sarah Kiddle.

In his later years William returned to Dawlish, his birthplace, where he was recorded in the 1901 census living at 10 Strand (which, judging by the number of different families living there, was a boarding house). Living on his own, he gave his age as 88 and his occupation as 'Living on own means'. He died in Dawlish during the autumn of 1901, aged 88.


The signature of William Veale Matthews




This sketch, made by Madeley to illustrate his map of 1831, shows the Borough seen from High Street - roughly the view seen today from the north end of King George Street. The Shambles is to the left and the Market House is to the right. The buildings at far left still stand today, that to the left is Clement White's shop, today's 8 High Street, at this time occupied by Benjamin Ryall, a draper whose name appears above the door. Next to it is William Matthews' chemist and grocery shop - today's 8a High Street


The baptism of William and Emma's son Lambert, recorded in St John's register in 1843, noting that William was a Chemist of The Borough.


8a High Street - once the home and business premises of chemist and grocer William Veale Matthews. Photographed in 2017.


The notice of William's bankruptcy from the 25 May 1852 edition of the Western Flying Post. As was the norm, William's bankruptcy was reported in almost every newspaper across England.


William's application for the freedom of the City of London in 1865.