The Victorian Gentleman

For this article we are going to look at a photograph of a rather important looking gentleman, and will highlight just how interesting things can get when you figure out who is actually in the picture. To be perfectly honest, this is one piece of research that had me struggling to stop going any further, I just wanted to carry on; it is a fascinating insight into social mobility and the effect of one man’s childhood reaching into adult life.


Anyway… onto the research.

Alfred Annett watermarked 

The photograph

As usual, the first thing we look at is the physical photograph. Unfortunately, as is the case with many photographs, this one has been rather inexpertly trimmed, probably to fit into the photograph album. The subject is a well dressed middle-aged man, with neatly trimmed beard. He is standing behind a table on which papers are resting on a book – he is holding a little book or perhaps a pile of small papers, it’s difficult to tell. He looks confidently at the camera and, if you look at the bottom right hand of the photograph, a name has been signed in black ink: the name of the subject. I’d like to think this is his handwriting. I also suspect that this photograph was taken to highlight an occasion (I’ll get to that later), and was taken in the late 1890s or early 1900s.

Looking on the reverse, we can see that the photographer was William Gee Parker who ran a photographic studio out of 288 High Holborn, London from 1890; the studio being taken over by his son in 1903 and continuing until the son’s death in 1935. This photographer seems to have had a rather colourful life, however we are interested, in this instance, in the gentleman in the picture, so we shall leave his history hidden for now.

It does mean we can definitely date the photograph to the years following 1890.

Alfred Annett back


My next step was to search the 1891 census. Take another look at the name signed on the photograph…



Identifying the gentleman

We can definitely see  ed L. Annett, and after years of reading old handwriting I can confidently say that the first letter, of which we only see the tip, is an r… making the name ???red. L. Annett

We also have three possible other letters, all with long strokes, which is helpful when name searching.

So on to a census search.  I used wildcards to show letters that appear before the r and only one name popped up, even taking into account name variations (thankfully the name Annett is not a common one).  Alfred Lewis Annett.

In South Kensington we find Alfred with his family:

24 St Mary Abbott’s Terrace

Alfred L Annett               head       46      Secretary to Licensed Victllr Asylum Instit

Louisa Annett                  wife       40

Edith M Annett               daur       16

Helen M Annett              daur       9         Scholar

Fanny S Hopkins             serv       26       Cook Domestic servant

Louisa Gardner                serv       19       Housemaid  “    “


And I am confident we have found our man, especially as in the photograph he has the tools of a secretary’s trade in front of him. We can then follow him through the census:

1901 still finds the family at St Mary Abbott’s Terrace:

James H, a son, is living with Alfred and Louisa. He is a 27 year old, unmarried clerk. Edith and Helen are still at home, with no occupation (young ladies of leisure) and Arthur J.P. Carrington, a 22 year old architect surveyor’s clerk is noted as being a step-son. The family still have two maids – Sarah Gould, a 45 year old married cook, and Ethel Sanders a 17 year old housemaid.


Family background

Working backwards through the census, and other archive material, we get a fuller picture of the family life of Alfred Lewis Annett:

Alfred Lewis Annett was born in Chelsea in between July-Sept 1845   (District 51 vol.3 p.37) to John Lewis and Jane Annett.

John Lewis had a difficult career. In 1841 he was a Licensed Victualler (or what we would know as a publican) at the George on Gravel Road in Southwark. At the time he had two children James, aged 1, and Ann, aged 3, and his father Thomas, a carpenter, was living with him.

The London Gazette mentions Lewis in both 1841 and 1843 as an insolvent debtor:

On Saturday 2 Jan 1841

Lewis Annett (sued with Thomas Fox and Keith Thomson), formerly of the City of Carlisle Public-house, in Rosemary-lane, Middlesex, trading as a Victualler at the sign of the City of Carlisle aforesaid, under a licence in the name of Cliford, then of the sign of the George Public-house, in Gravel lane, Southwark, Surrey, Licenced Victualler, part of the time residing also at no.77, Great Suffolk-street, Gravel-lane aforesaid, and late of no.28, formerly of no.5, Wellington-street, Blackfriars-road, Surrey, out of business and employ.


So despite still being listed as publican at The George a few months later, in 1841 the family were going through a pretty hard time. Then:

Thursday 15th June 1843

Lewis Annett, formerly of no. 18 Cole-street, Dover-road, Surrey, out of business, next of the George, in Gravel-lane, Southwark Surrey, Licensed Victualler, and late of the Goat Public-house, Tash-street, Gray’s-inn-lane, Middlesex, Manager of the said Public-house for Messrs Meux and Company


So John Lewis’ early career went loosely something like this…


Pre-1841 City of Carlisle Public-house, in Rosemary-lane, Middlesex,

no. 18 Cole-street, Dover-road, Surrey

Pre-1839 The George Public-house, in Gravel lane, Southwark, Surrey, Licensed Victualler, (part of the time residing also at no.77, Great Suffolk-street, Gravel-lane) (noted in 1839 in Pigot’s Directory)

Jan 1841 No.28, formerly of no.5, Wellington-street, Blackfriars-road, Surrey.

March 1841 The George Public-house, in Gravel lane, Southwark, Surrey, Licensed Victualler

June 1843 The Goat Public-house, Tash-street, Gray’s-inn-lane, Middlesex


A more detailed search would bring up more of his early life, but it seems that his time as a publican was fraught. The pubs that he ran were well established, so perhaps he just wasn’t cut out for the life. Either way by 1851 he was noted as a retired publican at 6 Buckingham Street, St Margaret, Westminster. On Jan 2nd 1850 he had three children baptised while living at 6 Buckingham Street: Alfred Lewis, George Henry and William Fenn. His previous two children are not with him in the 1851 census, however Alfred was there aged 6 with brothers George, aged 4, and William aged 1. By 1861 he made his living as a carpenter and was staying at 11 King St, St Mary Abbotts in Kensington, William is not noted, but another child Henry, now aged 7, has arrived. Alfred is working as a Solicitor’s General Clerk. By the time of the 1871 census, Lewis was still a carpenter but now a widower living in Twickenham, after his wife’s death in 1866, with his son George, now a 24 year old carpenter. Lewis died in Brighton in 1875.


Moving up Society’s ladder

Alfred Lewis Annett must have been aware of his father’s life as a publican; after training as a Solicitor’s general clerk, a profession that only an educated child could have pursued, he became a clerk in his own right, then a secretary to the Licensed Victualler’s Asylum, which we will come to later.

In the July quarter of 1868 (meaning sometime during July-September), Alfred married Jane Elizabeth Tilsbury. They had at least five children, all born in Kensington, however further research may turn up more children:

Helen Maude Annett         born  April quarter  1882 ( 1a 117)                possibly married 1908

Edith Mary Annett             born Jan quarter  1875  (1a 158)

James Henry                       born Jan quarter 1874   (1a 178)                  possibly married 1907 in Reigate, Surrey

John Cox                              born December 1872                                     died 1st March 1873

Jane                                      born October quarter 1869  (1a 90)            possibly married 1890


The family did well, moving from a fairly modest Georgian townhouse, at 34 Holland Street, off Kensington High Street, in 1871 to a house literally around the corner at 7 Hornton Street – a much grander townhouse (1881 census) where they employed one servant. Alfred’s brothers William, a foreman decorator, and Henry, a clerk, were living with the new family in 1871, but had moved away by 1881. The move may have been helped along by a pay rise in 1878… The Era newspaper reported on the Victuallers’ Asylum dealings and noted that Alfred has asked for an increase in salary. His “energetic  exertions for the welfare of the Institution at all times” was commented upon, as was his being a “zealous secretary”, and his salary was duly increased from £400 to £500 per year. An enormous amount! The next move that I have found was to 24 St Mary Abbott’s Terrace, where they now had two servants, a cook and a general domestic servant; maps show fairly modern townhouses on the site, in a highly sought after area, where prices today top £3,000,000. The final move seems to have been to 6 Nevern Road, Earls Court Road.

On the 4th June 1879 Alfred applied for freedom of the City of London, he was occupying premises at 67 Fleet Street (perhaps his secretarial office?), and the paper bears his signature… exactly the same as the signature on our picture!

Jane, Alfred’s first wife, died between October and December 1882 (1a 57), aged only 40, with her last child, Helen, being only around 6 months old.

In 1888 Alfred married Louisa Carrington, the widow of Samuel Carrington, a licensed victualler who ran the Royal Standard Public House in Piccadilly and who was also a Governor of the Victuallers’ Asylum.  In 1901 Arthur John Rowe Carrington, Alfred’s step-son was living with the family, however was missing in 1891, perhaps he was at school.


The Licensed Victuallers’ Asylum

So we know a little about the family life of Alfred, he became a hugely successful Secretary and seems to have lived a very comfortable life. But what exactly was the LVA?

The Asylum was not what probably first springs to mind when you hear the word. It was an institution that looked after those in the Licensed Victualler’s trade, and their families, allowing the members to live out their lives in dignity after a lifetime in the profession. As well as being given housing, the occupants were given medicine and nursing care when needed, a coal allowance and a weekly allowance to spend on anything they fancied or needed.,news,8472,466,00.htm


The site was founded in 1827, but the complex wasn’t completed until well into the 1860s due to constant expansion. Funded on the most part by donations and fundraising, the asylum had 200 residential units by 1927, and moved away from the site in 1960 due to further expansion. The huge complex is now called Caroline Gardens

So you can see that being Secretary of this massive and hugely important institution was a position of great standing.

Alfred Annett, perhaps spurred on by his own father’s failings as a victualler, ended his days a respected man who had spent his life in the pursuit of looking after others less fortunate than himself.


And so we come back to the photograph.

Alfred Lewis Annett, victorian gentleman, secretary, Licensed Victuallers' Asylum, London

Tying in with the date, it is likely that the image was taken to celebrate Alfred’s 25th year as Secretary of the Licensed Victuallers’ Asylum. A notice in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, dated 18 Dec 1897 states:

Mr Alfred L Annett has been presented by the supporters of the Licensed Victuallers’ Asylum with a testimonial, consisting of a silver tea and coffee service and a cheque, together of the value of £1,000, in recognition of 25 years’ Secretaryship, and his 40th year of connexion with the institution


I think that’s as good a time as any to have your photograph taken!

Alfred was still the secretary in Sept 1902 when the Victuallers’ Asylum celebrated its 75th anniversary festival at the Crystal Palace. I can find no retirement notices for him.


Alfred Lewis Annett died on the 4th December 1908. Generous to the last, the newspapers reported on his will:

15 February 1909 Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser

Latest Wills

Mr  Alfred Lewis Annett, of 6, Nevern-road, Earl’s Court-road, S.W., formerly of 24, St. Mary Abbott’s-terrace, Kensington, secretary of the Licensed Victuallers’ Asylum for many years, left £300 to the Licensed Victuallers’ Asylum, Old Kent-road, 10s each to the inmates of the said Licensed Victuallers’ Asylum, Old Kent-road, and £50 to the Licensed Victuallers’ Schools, left £20,476


Alfred Annett's family tree


England & Wales Birth, Marriage and Death registration index

St Margaret, Westminster baptism registers

1841-1901 Census

London Gazette archives

England & Wales Probate Calendar (index of wills and admons) 1858-1966

British Newspapers,news,8472,466,00.htm

London, Freedom of the City Admission Papers, 1681-1925

9 thoughts on “The Victorian Gentleman

    1. Just out of curiosity… I have a few photo albums (I love old photos), and the partial signature gave me the chance to do some more in-depth research.

      The photographer seemed interesting too… I may research him in the future. But it is hard to know when to stop with these little research projects. When working for clients I stick to a pre-arranged budget, when researching for myself it’s very hard to stop! 🙂

  1. Hi I see you have a photo of Alfred Lewis Annett who is a first cousin x4 removed from my mothers side. Could I please download a copy to put in my family tree that I have on ancestry. com. I will of course acknowledge you. I also have a copy of marriages and banns with his signature and it looks the same,

  2. Hi, when you said you had a few photo albums were they just of old photos that you put into an album or was there any other of Alfred’s family members in an album? Like you I love old photos’ and I am trying am trying to get as many as I can of the Annett family.

    1. Old photo albums and random old photos mainly from antique dealers on eBay. But often they are unrelated photos, and unfortunately there are very rarely names with them.

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