The Tanner Family
William Tanner was born in Croydon in 1880. When he was aged twelve the family moved to Portsmouth where he was apprenticed to a jeweller for five years. He earned 1/- per week in the first year, a sum that rose to 5/- per week by the end of the apprenticeship. He worked around the country for a few years, becoming the manager of a shop in Rutland. He was offered a business in Portsmouth where he rented the premises. ........................................................................................................................................................
In 1900 William married Mary, a girl he had met in Rutland.
She moved to Portsmouth with him and in 1907 their daughter Ethel was born.
Ethel as a baby
...................................................................................................... (both photos courtesy Geoffrey and Shirley Hooper)
Ethel with her father when aged three in 1910
(photo courtesy Geoffrey and Shirley Hooper)
In 1911 William Tanner sold his Portsmouth business bought a jewellery, clock and watch shop with living accommodation above in Station Road, Redhill, that had previously belonged to a Mr Eastmond and was established by him in 1878. William moved his family from Portsmouth, his four year-old daughter, Ethel, travelling by train with her mother, Mary, canary and dog. The furniture was brought by a removal company using a solid tyred, steam driven Foden. The move took two days and the cost for two men was 8.10.0.
In 1912 year Ethel, now aged five, went to a private school in Upper Bridge Road where after lessons she was taught to play the piano. William Tanner made various improvements to the Station Road property. A new front was installed in 1913 as was a workshop, built at the rear to accommodate staff employed to carry out repairs to clocks, etc. In 1912 these young men were being sent to large local houses to to wind clocks weekly and to bring back any that were in need of repair.

The outbreak of WW1 saw the young men in William tanner's business going into the armed forces. William went to the Monotype where his skills were used in the making parts for guns. Ethel also had to work part time making mail bags at the Market Hall in Redhill. Ethel's mother, Mary, continued to run the jewellery business with the help of a girl assistant, Miss Hunt, and an elderly watchmaker. They also took on two boys from St Matthew's School who later became apprentices.

William Tanner's shop was at 54 Station Road and was easily identifiable by the clock that stuck out over the pavement. Only the face and hands were outside, the movement being in a corner of the first floor sitting room. The weight was on a steel line and as the movement unwound descended almost to the basement. The clock led to the sales slogan 'MARRY ME, WALTER, AND BUY THE RING UNDER THE BIG CLOCK, STATION ROAD, REDHILL'


William Tanner pictured in 1937 when he stood for election as a borough councillor
(photo courtesy Geoffrey and Shirley Hooper)


A picture of the shop around WW1 with pendant gas lamps outside. It was advertised as 'The House of Quality'. Its advertisement went on to say 'This fine modern establishment carries the best stocks of gold and silver goods to be found outside of London, and is noted for Quality and Low Prices. Practical men sent to all parts of the county for repairs to House and Church clocks.'

At the age of ten years Ethel passed the entrance exam for the County School for girls, which at the time was situated in a large house in Cavendish Road, Redhill. She spent six years there and her leaving came close to the end of WW1. She was expected to go into business with her father, which she did, and was given the job of threading pearl necklaces and dressing the shop window.

When the war was over the shop gradually returned to normal. A new workshop was built and staff were re-employed on regular work. There were four men and two boy apprentices and by 1920 they were again going out to large houses to wind and maintain clocks. Tanners also had the contract for the winding of the clocks at St Matthew's and the Market Hall. As well as winding clocks in large houses the men also took jewellery items from the shop to sell, as the story has it, to servants in the houses.

1929/1930 William Tanner bought Clarence Lodge in Pendleton Road. This was a derelict house on a large plot of land. The house was demolished and a new four bedroomed house built in its place, which enabled the family to move away from the Station Road premises. The old coach house at the bottom of the garden in Clarence Walk was altered to provide accommodation for a full time gardener.

In the 1930s Jimmy Bridger, whose mother ran Latty's sweet shop in Redhill High Street, would open the doors of Mr Tanner's garage in Rees Road ready for him to collect his car, a big American Chrysler, at shop closing time. Mr Tanner would drive the car out of the garage and back to his shop in Station Road with Jimmy standing on the running board and holding on to the font door. It was a free trip to Jersey Dairies, which was close to Tanner's shop, on errands for his mother.

When war came again William went back into the workshop where there were now no staff. For much of the time the shop was opened only three days each week.

Ethel's mother had a serious operation and as it was impossible to get nursing help for her Ethel had to stay at home to look after her, taking over the running of the house, returning to the shop as and when possible. When her mother died Ethel continued to look after her father in his latter years.

Ethel in middle life
(photo courtesy Geoffrey and Shirley Hooper)
Ethel and her father opened the house and its gardens to raise money for local charities for fetes and coffee mornings for St John's Church and the Reigate Conservative Association, where Ethel became Chairman of the ladies section. William Tanner died aged ninety-four in 1973. Ethel had been helping in the shop since she was sixteen and now continued to run it single handed until a manager, was found to take over the reins from her and to run the business until it was finally closed down. She decided that the house was too large for her. The Redhill and Reigate Golf Club had shown interest in buying the property so she decided to sell it to them.
 Clarence House viewed from the west.
(photo courtesy Ethel Bristow)
In 1973 Ethel married Percy Bristow, a retired director of the Direct Motor Repair Service in Emlyn Road, Redhill, and they decided to move into no.1 The Crescent, part of a group of houses that had been built on the site of Meadvale House which had stood next to her old house in Pendleton Road. Ethel joined the Reigate Priory Bowling Club where Percy was already a member and eventually became ladies captain. She was very interested in local affairs and charities. She was a member of the Towns Women's Guild and was very involved in the administration of Centenary House, the community centre for the elderly in Warwick Road. In addition she and Percy organised meals on wheels services to those who needed it. In 1990 she became very interested in Action medical Research, of which she as a local committee member. Ethel had an award presented to her in 2006 for her long service to local charities.

Percy Bristow died in 2001 and Ethel continued to live alone at 1 The Crescent with the help of a domestic cleaner and having ready meals delivered. She managed extremely well despite her now advanced age. Having spent a socially orientated life she had made countless friends and had visitors every day. There was always a warm welcome at her house - she loved company.

Ethel on her 102nd birthday in 2009
(photo courtesy Bertie House)

Ethel celebrated her 100th birthday on 29th September 2007 with a lunch party at the Redhill and Reigate Golf Club - her old house - and the Mayor of Reigate was invited. In January 2008 she spent two weeks in respite at in Eversfield at the end of which time she decided to stay there, so arrangements were put in hand to sell no.1 The Crescent. She has been extremely happy at Eversfield. The staff are wonderful and the other residents have become very fond of her.

Ethel's 103rd birthday 29th September 2010
Ethel Bristow with the Mayor and Mayoress of Reigate, Councillor David Pay and his wife Barbara. Standing on the left are Geoffrey and Shirley Hooper (photo courtesy Bertie House)Ethel, sat in the window beneath the balloons, enjoys the entertainment (photo Alan Moore)
Ethel Bristow and the Mayor, Cllr Pay, On Ethel's 103rd birthday (photo courtesy Bertie House)A blotter advertising Tanners Jewellers that would have been issued free by the shop.(photo courtesy Ethel Bristow)
Grateful thanks are due to Ethel Bristow for information provided in 2002, to Geoffrey and Shirley Hooper for further information provided in 2010, and for photos provided by Ethel Bristow, Geoffrey and Shirley Hooper and Bertie House. Other photos are from my own collection. AJM September 2010

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