Jeremiah James Wright Tuck was born around 1820 - the son of Samuel Tuck, a sailor,
and Mary (nee Wright). His childhood home was Happisburgh (pronounced Hazeber by
the natives) which is located on the coast of Norfolk, seventeen miles north of Great
Yarmouth. Now and again Happisburgh features in news stories as yet another section
of its land succombs to the pounding of the North Sea.
That Jeremiah had an attachment to his mother’s family may be inferred from the christening
of all of his eight children with his maternal family name, Wright. While on the
subject of names, he was also inclined to inform census enumerators and others that
his first name was James.
As a young man, he followed in his father’s wake and became a sailor. Then, on 20
December 1845 he married Sarah Ann Barnaby at Gorleston (which is just to the south
of Yarmouth). Both husband and wife were literate as they signed the marriage register.
Sarah Ann was christened on 21 November 1825 at St Nicholas, Yarmouth. She was one
of nine children born to Thomas Barnaby (a baker) and Mary Ann (nee Calf). When
Sarah Ann married, she gave her maiden name as Calf. This may well show some antipathy
towards her father who was also blanked by Sarah Ann’s sister when she married. The
likely reason for this is that Thomas became a bankrupt in 1839 and his family endured
hard times as a result, culminating in his early death and his widow’s eventual descent
into Great Yarmouth Workhouse.
James Jeremiah Wright Tuck, Jeremiah’s first son, married Martha Robson in 1880 and
followed his father’s profession as a commission and insurance agent. The couple
lodged at 8 Green Road, Portsea in 1881.
Ten years later they had moved to Cheriton, Kent. While there, in 1891, James, working
as a brewery agent, made several agreements with tradesmen to supply the Honourable
Artillery Company with rations during their stay at Shorncliffe, Kent. This enterprise
failed and he was sued in the County County when judgment with costs was made against
Following this, James took on the Elm Brewery Tap in Portsmouth but stayed only five
months and then tried other business ventures but made ‘no headway in any’. As a
result, he appeared at Portsmouth Bankruptcy Court on 24 December 1892. He was an
insurance agent living at 40 King Street, Southsea and had a deficiency of £80.
Just before this episode, a twenty-year-old servant girl (with four aliases) was
accused of stealing a gold pencil case, valued at 30 shillings from James for whom
In late 1846, Jeremiah and Sarah Ann had their first child - Sarah Ann Maria Wright
Tuck. When their second daughter, Ellen Wright, was born, the family was living
at North End, Yarmouth and Jeremiah had left the sea and was making ends meet as
Trying to trace the household in the middle of the eighteenth century is a little
difficult. They moved to London and were living at Whitecross Street, St Giles,
Cripplegate in 1851. Jeremiah was a factory engine (or machine) driver. About this
time, it appears that he became passionately interested in friendly societies. Nine
years later, they had moved south of the Thames to Kings Court, Suffolk Street, Southwark
and Jeremiah described himself as an engine (machine) fitter. By 1861 they had relocated
again to 3 Williams Place, Lambeth and Jeremiah was still involved in industry as
It would be obvious to conclude that the family lived in London throughout this decade
(and two children, Rosina Amelia Wright and James Jeremiah Wright Tuck, were undoubtedly
born there) yet, in 1851 and 1855, two other children - Mary Ann Maria Wright and
Maria Amelia - were born back in Yarmouth. Probably, Sarah Ann simply returned to
her home for the birth of these daughters – a probability which becomes more of a
certainty when we take into consideration that her mother was a nurse.
Around the mid-1860s, the family moved from London to Portsmouth where the two youngest
children were born - William Thomas Wright Tuck (1869) and Thomas Samuel Wright Tuck
(1870). In 1871, the family was settled at 3 Chapel Row which was near the sea at
Portsmouth Harbour and skirted the walls of the naval Dockyard. Two of the Tuck daughters
were to marry Dockyard shipwrights.
In 1871, Jeremiah was not at home on census night. He was lodging at Christchurch,
Dorset where he was on Friendly Society business (possibly recruiting new members)
working as a life assurance agent - a calling/occupation which was to last for a
further thirty years.
Then, Sarah Ann died on 23 November 1878 at the age of 53. The cause of death was
cancer of the uterus.
Three years after her death, Jeremiah had moved a little inland to the main thoroughfare
of Portsmouth at 31 Commercial Road where he was the beer retailer of the The Gem
(which was a few doors away from the Theatre Royal). Jeremiah was granted the license,
previously held by Thomas Haines, on 11 September 1880. In January 1882, he was
found guilty of selling beer at an unlawful hour on Sunday 1 January and fined 20/-
including costs as it was his first offence. Later that same month, Sarah Warren
was found guilty of being on his licensed premises at an illegal hour and fined 15/-.
In February 1884, Jeremiah ‘went surety’ for Samuel Weycott who was the landlord
of The West Coutry Home at Bath Square, Portsmouth Point. Probably using a life preserver,
Weycott had ‘dangerously’ wounded a butcher during a quarrel at The Ship Worcester,
Broad Street, Point. Jeremiah was described as a ‘beer retailer and agent’.
Ten years later, he was still at the Gem, slaking thirsts, but in 1891 he was lodging
at 28 York Street, Portsmouth and, although now in his seventies, he continued an
insurance agent. One suspects that he had stayed in this career from the 1870s as
beer retailers often had a second occupation.
Jeremiah died on 27 November 1906, yards from the sights and sounds of the sea at
38 Broad Street, Portsmouth Point (which was The Blue Posts inn). He was eighty-five
years old and died from fatty degeneration of the heart which resulted in a stroke.
His son, William was present and gave his father’s occupation as ‘formerly an Assurance
Agent’. Jeremiah was buried at Highland Road Cemetery, Southsea.
Following Jeremiah’s death a brief obituary notice was posted in the Portsmouth Evening
News: ‘A member of Foresters and Odd Fellows for upwards of 54 years’.
Friendly Societies claim a beginning in Roman times - hence the name, ‘The Ancient
Order of Foresters’. They were formed to provide financial help to their members
in times of want. Subscriptions of a few pence a week were paid into a communal pot
and from it were drawn sick pay, unemployment relief, doctor’s fees, funeral expenses
and widows pensions as needed. They were self-managing mutual aid organisations.
The Societies varied in size from a few dozen members in small village clubs to giants
such as the Independent Order of Oddfellows which had four million subscribers in
1874. Many Friendly Societies failed. If local work was seasonal, or there were times
of mass unemployment or an epidemic, there simply might not be sufficient funds to
be distributed - another example of the greater security to be enjoyed in numbers.
Meetings of Society ‘lodges’ or ‘courts’ were held every two or four weeks, often
in public houses. This arrangement was a sometimes a source of contention and resulted
in the formation of the Independent Order of Rechabites - their motto pointedly being,
‘Truth and Temperance, Love and Purity’.
At their gatherings, subscriptions were paid and the Secretary reported on visits
and payments to needy souls who had been helped. Elaborate rituals at these meetings
evolved - initiation ceremonies, secret passwords and flowing regalia were introduced
which confirmed the sense of brotherhood among the members.
Some might find the names of these organisations to be a little eccentric - but they
were deliberately coined. The Oddfellows were formed by people who were unable to
join other trade guilds – and hence were oddfellows. The Foresters’ title is a reference
to one’s journey through the ‘forest of the world’ wherein all manner of dangers
lurked. The Rechabites were named after the Biblical tribe who renounced alcohol.
The main recruits for the Friendly Societies came from the vast ranks of the insecure
working classes and extra impetus to the movement in the nineteenth century was given
by the grim alternative of the workhouse in times of hardship. By the end of this
century, there were 18,000 Societies with around ten million members.
Their raisin d’etre was diluted in 1911 by the National Insurance Act which levied
compulsory contributions on all workers in return for welfare benefits. The Societies
were still used by central government to collect contributions and pay benefits.
The coup de grace came in 1948 when the system of state benefits was gathered under
one umbrella and the services of Friendly Societies were no longer required. Jeremiah
may then have turned in his grave.
His attachment to Friendly Societies may give us a clue to Jeremiah’s character.
He likely had a keen sense of responsibility for the health and welfare of others.
He appears to have been a sociable man (remember, he had been a beer seller), perhaps
revelling in the regular Society meetings and being comfortable and persuasive when
talking to strangers to convert them to the cause.
He would also have been literate and numerate, keeping records of subscriptions and
payments. Of course, he may have been an assurance agent simply as a means of making
money! But the obituary placed by his family surely speaks of fifty years devoted
to the welfare of others - there is a certain satisfaction to believe this of my
great x2 grandfather.
One of my long-term goals is to trace a photograph of my great grandfather who died
as recently as 1906.
James and Martha had three surviving sons. In July 1899, there was an unfortunate
court case involving one of these. The family had a lodger who committed an act of
gross indecency with him. It was alleged that Martha Tuck approached the accused
and offered to settle the case if he made a payment to her.
As a result of James’ business experiences, 1901 found him working as a Dockyard
labourer and living with his family at 15 Brougham Street, Southsea.
Ten years later, in 1911, Martha was living at 4 Church Street, Southsea and working
as a lodging house keeper. James was living with William and Mary Ann Bartlett, his
brother-in-law and sister, and worked as a drapery commercial traveller . It emerged
from the census that the couple had had ten children of whom seven had died.
James died in the Southampton area in the Spring of 1926 and Martha died the following
year at Portsmouth.