Pawnbroker, draper and mayor of Yeovil
John Vincent was born in Frome in 1840, the son of pawnbroker William Vincent and his wife Anna. In the 1851 census John was living with his parents and three younger sisters in Cheap Street, Frome. He was educated at Beckington Grammar School near Frome.
By the time of the 1861 census William and Anna had moved to Yeovil and were living over William's pawnshop in Middle Street with two of their daughters, Sarah and Mary, working as assistants. John, however, was living with his uncle Richard Ames who had taken over William Vincent's pawnbroker business in Cheap Street, Frome. Also living there was John's older brother, Thomas Baily Vincent, and his younger sister Elizabeth. Thomas gave his occupation as watchmaker journeyman and John gave his as 'assistant'.
The following year John moved to Yeovil and was listed with his parents and sister Sarah at Middle Street in the 1871 census although he did not state his trade.
Around 1875 John married Elizabeth Charlotte Christmas Newby, eight years his junior and the daughter of Captain James Patterson Newby and his wife Elizabeth, of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. By the time of the 1881 census John and Elizabeth were living at 21 Middle Street with their one-year old daughter Dora, a domestic nurse and a general servant. John gave his occupation as 'Outfitter &c'. In the 1891 census the family were still at 21 Middle Street and John listed his occupation as 'Outfitter, Pawnbroker, &c'. They now had four children; Dora, Hilda, John and Francis and also living above the shop were a nurse, under nurse and a general servant.
John Vincent had many business interests in Yeovil and held a number of public positions at various periods of his long life. He was a director of the old Yeovil Gas Company before the undertaking was taken over by the Corporation, and at the time of the transfer represented the Company at the inquiry in London. For over 30 years he was a director of Petters Ltd.
The extensive land holdings of Frederick Greenham were sold off following the death of Frederick's widow Mary in 1889 and at the sale John bought the site that is now occupied by the building to the immediate south of Prestleigh House. The sale description in the Western Gazette edition of 10 May 1889 read "Lot 5, a small piece of enclosed garden ground, situate in Hendford, immediately below the carriage entrance to Lot 1, having a frontage to the main street of 36ft 6in, was bought by Mr J Vincent for £200 (about £19,000 at 2017's value).
John was elected a Town Councillor in August 1897 and served until 1904. In November 1898 he was elected mayor and continued in that office until 1901. He became a Justice of the Peace for the Borough in August 1901 and also sat as a county magistrate.
By the time of the 1901 census John and Elizabeth had moved to Braggchurch, Hendford Hill, and were living there with Dora and Hilda, a cook and a housemaid. He readily lent the beautiful grounds for public functions for charitable purposes.
Up to the time of his death he was a member of the Almshouse Committee, and in 1899 he made a gift of £100 towards the Almshouse Trust Fund, this sum being used towards the cost of erection of the Corporation Almshouse, Preston Grove, which was built in 1913, in replacement of the Portreeve Almshouse in Union-street, which was burnt down.
He was a member of the Committee of the School of Arts and Crafts and was intensely interested in and actively worked in connection with higher education. He served on the Committee of the Technical Institute and the Higher Education Committee. Taking an active part in the founding of the Yeovil High School for Girls, he served as a member of the governing body of both this and the Yeovil County School.
Elizabeth died in 1931 and John Vincent died at Braggchurch in January 1934, aged 92. A notice of sale appeared in the Western Gazette edition of 16 March 1934 (shown below), following John Vincent's death. The list of Vincent's household items makes interesting reading.
Courtesy of Olly Ewens
This photograph is from a 1952 newspaper article and was taken on the occasion of the opening of the gardens in June 1898. The group, photographed with the Mayor, Mr John Vincent, has as its background the thatched bandstand given by Mr James Bazeley Petter to mark the opening. Standing (left to right) are: - E Benson, W Summers, J Kerby Whitby, Mr Brown, William Maynard, GH Gould, ES Ewens, H Jesty (mace-bearer), WW Johnson, CJ Hook, JB Petter (donor), W Armitage (Borough Surveyor), J Farley, WJ Nosworthy, WB Collins, C Fox. Sitting - Levi Beer, CW Pittard, Sidney Watts, Mrs Vincent, John Vincent (Mayor), JC Moore, W Cox.
John Vincent, at centre in his role as mayor, attending the presentation of the fountain on 24 May 1899 in Sidney Gardens.
This postcard, from the 1920's, shows Braggchurch, the house built on or near the site of the original Bragg Church or chapel. It was for over forty years the residence of John Vincent who readily lent the beautiful grounds for public functions for charitable purposes.
Courtesy of Rob Baker
This notice of sale appeared in the Western Gazette edition of 16 March 1934, following John Vincent's death. The list of Vincent's household items makes interesting reading.