yeovil people

John membury

Hairdresser, Tobacconist and Fancy Goods Dealer


John Membury was born in Allington, Bridport, Dorset, in the spring of 1861 and baptised at Allington on 2 June 1861. He was the only son of weaver John Membury (1834-1866) and Elizabeth née Cornish (b1841). John had two sisters; Jane Annie (b1863) and Mary Emily (b1866).

His father died in 1866, aged just 32, and his mother was left alone to bring up her three very young children. In the 1871 census 30-year old Elizabeth was listed as a widowed laundress with her three children, all listed as scholars, at Allington.

In 1878 John moved to Yeovil and started his own hairdressing establishment at 10 Middle Street.

In the winter of 1880, at Yeovil, John married Elizabeth Committy (1859-1929), known as Bessie. They were to have seven children (two, Ralph and another child, didn't survive childhood), all born in Yeovil; Bertram John, known as Bert (1881-1918), Archibald Ralph, known as Ralph (1886-1892), Graham (1894-1960), Gladys Muriel (1895-1976), Doris Marian (1899-1981) and Nora (1902-1945).

In the 1881 census John and Bessie were living with Bessie's widowed mother, sisters and grandmother at 30 Huish. 21-year old John gave his occupation as a hairdresser employing three apprentices. He was listed as a hair-cutter of 10 Middle Street in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1882.

In 1889 John moved his business to 100 Middle Street (see Gallery), where it was to remain until the 1950s. In Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1889, John had two listings, as a hairdresser and as a fancy goods dealer, both at 100 Middle Street. The family and a domestic servant were listed living above the shop in the 1891 census and John gave his occupation as hairdresser and fancy shop.


In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' John Membury's business was given the following description -

Mr J Membury
Hairdresser and Tobacconist & Novelty Stores
100, Middle Street

Most people who are fortunate enough to have hirsute appendages, will agree that occasional pruning is not only necessary for their comfort, but also conducive to the vigorous growth and continued health of the hair. Since it is therefore essential to keep our capillary organs in a proper condition it is important to select a thoroughly reliable hairdresser, and among the most reputable in the trade, Mr J Membury, hairdresser, stationer and tobacconist, of 100, Middle Street, claims special mention.

The business has been in existence for thirteen years, and during that period has been continually increasing and taking in new branches. It was previously carried on at No 10, Middle Street, but its largely increasing demands outgrew the accommodation and the present premises were taken about two years ago. These premises are situated in the main thoroughfare and on the direct route to the railway station. The hairdressing saloons are fitted up with every modern convenience for shampooing, hairdressing, shaving, &c, the hair brushing machinery being of the latest design, and the most scrupulous cleanliness is observed.

Mr J Membury is a highly skilled and experienced hairdresser, and gives a constant personal attention to every detail. In Mr J Membury's handsome and well-stocked shop is displayed not only all the best classes of perfumery and toilet preparations, but also a large stock of superior stationery, account books, pens, pencils, &c. In the tobacco and cigar department are to be found cigars of the choicest brands, in very fine condition, cigarettes by all the leading manufacturers, meerschaum and wood pipes in every design, and in various styles of mounting. All this, however, does not exhaust Mr J Membury's energies, he is agent for Sutton's parcel delivery, has a Iarge posting business, and lets out horses and traps on hire. His conveyances are thoroughly reliable.


The situation was very similar in the 1901 census, with Graham, Gladys and Doris added to the family. Both 40-year old John and 19-year old Bert were listed as hairdressers. Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1895 listed John as a fancy goods dealer of the Novelty Stores at 100 Middle Street and the 'Where to Buy' of the same year listed him as a hairdresser, tobacconist and novelty stores. Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1903 and Collins' Yeovil Directory of 1907 both listed him, the former as a hairdresser and stationer, the latter as a hairdresser and tobacconist.

The 1911 census saw John and Elizabeth still living above the shop premises, with daughters Gladys, Doris and Norah. John gave his occupation as a hairdresser. His final listing in a trade directory was in the 1919 edition of Kelly's Directory which listed him simply as a tobacconist.

John died in Yeovil on 8 July 1926, aged 65. His estate was valued at £1,744 (just under £100,000 at today's value). Elizabeth died in Yeovil in the summer of 1929, aged 69.

After John's death, his daughters Doris and Norah carried on their father's business as a tobacconist. They were listed as tobacconists of 100 Middle Street in Kelly's Directory of 1935. Nora died in 1945, and in Edwin Snell's Directory or 1954 D & M Membury were in the final listing of the shop as a tobacconist. I'm not sure who 'M Membury' was - presumably one of John's grandchildren.




John Membury's advertisement in the 1889 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.


John Membury's advertisement in the 1892 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.


Taken about 1900, this photograph looks west along Middle Street towards the Borough. At extreme left is John Membury's store at 100 Middle Street (sporting a large, traditional red and white barber's pole above the projecting 'Membury' sign) and, most likely, John himself is seen wearing the white apron.


A photograph of around 1910 looking along Middle Street to the Borough, with the sign of John Membury's premises clearly seen at left.

Note the two council road sweepers (one at centre, one at extreme right) with their horse and cart left of centre. For information and photos of the Corporation's horses click here.