czwartek, 25 stycznia 2018

John Benjamin Tolkien (1807–1896)
A grandfather, a philanthropist, a... freemason (?)

"Certainly the story - typical of the kind of tale that middle-class families tell about their origins - gave colour to the presence of Tolkiens in London at the beginning of the nineteenth century, making their living as clock and watch manufacturers and piano-makers. And it was as a piano-maker and music-seller that John Benjamin Tolkien, Arthur’s father, had come to Birmingham and set up business some years later."

H. Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien. Biography


John Benjamin Tolkien (1807–1896) was one of eleven children of George Tolkien and Eliza Lydia, née Murrell. When he was born on 27 March 1807, his father, George, was 22 and his mother, Eliza, was 20. He received his names after the grandfather from Gdańsk and London, Johann/John Benjamin Tolkien (1752–1819, see here). He was married three times and had seven sons and eight daughters. He died on 1 August 1896 having lived a long life of 89 years.  

His father was George Tolkien (furrier apprentice, dealer of watch and clock tools, a bass singer and finally a music professor) representing the first generation of the Tolkiens born in the United Kingdom (his father, Johann/John Benjamin came to England from Gdańsk). He died in 1840 and his last address was 25 Bidborough Street, Camden Town, London. George Tolkien was buried at St George the Martyr's cemetery, Queen Square, London.

St James, Clerkenwell, London

John Benjamin was his second child and second son of the Tolkiens (their children were: George William, John Benjamin, Eliza, William Murrell, Mary Ann, Henry, Rosina Susanna, Edward, Ellen Martha, Septimus and Alfred). He was born on 27 March 1807 at St John Street, Middlesex, London, and he was baptized at St James (Anglican), Clerkenwell, London on 29 April 1807. 

From the parish books of St James, Clerkenwell

It is my discovery that John Benjamin's first wife was probably Emma Baker (married in 1832 in All Saints, Southampton). She probably died soon after. He then lived at St Mary Abbot Kensington. In 1835 he married for the second time with Jane Holmwood (1806–1854) (see the term "widower") in St George church, Bloomsbury, London:


From the parish books of St George, Bloomsbury
Children of John Benjamin and Jane were: Jane (1836–1847), Loisa (1840–1900), Emily (1838–1921) and John Benjamin (1845–1883, born in Birmingham after the family moved). In 1841 the family of John Benjamin and Jane lived at "Tannter Place", Marylebone, London. John Benjamin was there described as a turner. 

In 1847 he and his family lived alredy in Birmingham. His new business "Tolkien & Co. Music and Musical Instruments Dealer" at New Street, Birmingham was dissolved (his companions were W. Chappell and Th. P. Chappell) in August 1847:


In 1849 he was described as a music seller and lived already in Birmingham, in the parish of Aston, in Portland Villa. The family had even a "maid of all work", Maria Swinbourne. Then the family moved. In the same year 1849 we meet John Benjamin Tolkien as a professor of music at Bristol Road, Hemlingford, Edgbaston.

John Benjamin's wife, Jane, died in 1854. As a widower and music seller from Handsworth, Birmingham, in the age of 48, John Benjamin married Mary Jane Stowe (1833–1915, daughter of John Sutcliffe Stowe, a commision agent from Grosvenor Place, Birmingham, of predobaptist or independent denomination). The wedding ceremony took place in the parish church of All Saints in Birmingham on 16 February 1856:

From the parish books of All Saints, Birmingham

John Benjamin and Mary Jane Tolkien had eleven children: Arthur Reuel (1857–1896), Mabel (1858–1937), Grace Bindley (1861–1904), Florence Mary (1863–1944), Frank Winslow (1864–1867), Marian Esther (1866–1934), Howard Charles (1866–1867), Wilfrid Henry (1870–1938), Mary Tolkien (1871–1904), Lawrence George Hammond (1873–1941), Leslie (1875).

Before 1871 the family moved to 2 Heathfield Rd, King's Norton, Worcestershire and before 1881 to Alcester Rd, Kings Norton. There they had a house servant, Ann Hough and house maid, Phebe Powel. It is good to know that third wife of John Benjamin Tolkien, Mary Jane was only three years older than his oldest daughter, Emily! In the census of 1881 J. B. Tolkien is described as a "Piano Fort & Prussia Dealer", in 1891 as a "pianoforte tuner".

John Benjamin Tolkien seems to be also the music composer:


According to the books about the nineteenth century composers he cooperated with his brother Henry from London:




In the 1860s John Benjamin Tolkien was a supporter of the United Brethren community (about Moravian Brothers or Herrnhuts or United Brethren you can read here). He was mentioned in the Periodical accounts relating to the missions of the Church of the United Brethren established among the heathen, v. 20 (1851/1853), v. 21 (1853/1856), v. 22. (1856/1858), v. 23 (1858/1861), v. 24 (1861/1863) v. 25 (1863/1866), v. 26 (1866/1868), v. 28 (1871/1873). He probably attended the services at the Brethren Chapel of the congregation of the United Brethren Church in Bristol with his daughter, Miss Emily Tolkien:
 

He was also a known philanthropist in Birmingham:

Modern Birmingham and its institutions: a chronicle of local events,
from 1841 to 1871. Comp. and ed. by John Alfred Langford. v. 2, p. 212
John Benjamin Tolkien had his own business in central Birmingham: "J. B. Tolkien – Music Warehouse", 87 New Street, Birmingham (1875, see here). He was a member of the local Freemason Lodge No. 573 (Lodge of Perseverence in Halesowen, Worcestershire) as a "S.W.", a Senior Warden (it could be also his son John Benjamin but we have no proof that his son was also a composer):

From The Freemason Chronicle (17 April 1875, p. 247)
Another adresses of his business ("Music And Musical Instruments Warehouse") are New Street 70, Birmingham and 2 Haydn Place, Bristol Road, Birmigham. In the same time his younger brother Edward Tolkien was a "Pianoforte tuner" at Clement St, Birmigham.

In 1891 John Benjamin Tolkien lived in his son-in-low's house of Henry Holden's house, his daughter Loisa's husband. His last address was Bell Lane, Erdington, Aston, Warwickshire (close to Birmingham).

After his son Arthur Reuel died in 1896 he also died of sorrow in his age of 89 in King's Norton on 1 August 1896 and was buried at the Key Hill Cemetery, Birmingham. His grave still exists:

Source: FindTheGrave
In The Freemason's Chronicle v. 43–44 (1896), p. 72 there is a mention on him (unfortunately this issue is not available on the net.

 

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