Henry Kingham, 1817-1882, Watford Grocer, Origins

Michael R. Paulick

Henry Kingham was a well-known grocer and prominent citizen in Watford, Hertfordshire during the 19th century. His business continued until about 1960 when it was purchased by Waitrose Ltd. A family story was related to me by Helen Kingham, of Bridport, Dorset, a great, great-granddaughter of Henry Kingham. The family story is that Francis Kingham, 1792-1828, was encouraged by his wife, Elizabeth (Dancer) Kingham, b.1796, to become a grocer in Watford. That was believed to be the origin of the Henry Kingham & Sons Ltd. grocery business in Watford. In their 1946 advertisement the Kingham company called themselves “Hertfordshire’s Leading Wholesale and Retail GROCERS”.1 This article references some of the early contemporary facts to determine if there is any truth to the family story.

Henry Kingham, born on 1 November, 1817, in Watford, was the eldest child of Francis and Elizabeth (Dancer) Kingham. 2Pigot’s 1823-24 London & Provincial Directory, included Watford and listed Henry’s father, “Francis Kingham” as a Grocer, Tea Dealer, Cheesemonger. A 1941 obituary for Arthur Kingham, one of Henry and Elizabeth’s sons, stated that the grocers business was “founded in 1820.”3 Francis Kingham was listed again under the same Grocer heading in the 1826-27 Pigot’s directory for Watford.4 Henry’s Kingham’s brother, William, was 7 years younger. When William married Ann Box on April 22nd, 1852 the marriage banns recorded his father as Francis Kingham, a “Grocer dec[eased]”.5
Francis Kingham, died in 1828, at the age of 36, when Henry was 11. Francis’ will did not mention his occupation although he mentioned “stock in trade” which indicated that he was a tradesman. He left everything to his wife, Elizabeth, and made her the sole executrix.6 Elizabeth continued the grocer’s business as “Elizabeth Kingham.”

The 1832-34 Pigot’s London & Commercial Directory, which included Watford, listed “Kingham Elizabeth” as a Grocer and Dealer in Sundries.7 It was not unusual in Watford for women to become grocers. Under the same listing were Frances Evans, Sarah Hopkins, Elizabeth Sanders, and Elizabeth Taylor, all grocers in Watford. Sarah Hopkins had been a grocer for, at least, 10 years, as she was listed in the 1823 directory. A petition in the 1835 newspaper by the tradespeople in Watford advocated for Sunday closing. This included “E. Kingham, probably Elizabeth. A record in the Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (HALS) is for a receipt, dated 28th September, 1835, from “Elizabeth Kingham” for sugar purchased from her business in “High Street, Watford”.8 A Pigot & Co. 1839 Trade Directory listed “Elizabeth Kingham” as the only female grocer in Watford.9 She has disappeared from the records after 1839 and her fate remains a mystery.
The first record showing Henry Kingham’s occupation was in the 1841 Watford census where he was described as a “Grocer”, shown, incorrectly, as 20, in High Street (unnumbered), The Town, Watford. He was head of household with his siblings William,15, and Ann, 13. He was 23-1/2 years old when the census was taken on 6 June, 1841.10 Although his mother, Elizabeth (Dancer) Kingham, may have been living, she cannot be found in the 1841 Watford census or later.

On 1st August, 1849 Henry married Fanny Mary Hall at the Baptist Chapel, most likely, Beechen Grove Baptist Church, in Watford. Dr. William Harris Murch, 1784-1859, the bride’s uncle, performed the marriage. Murch was a renowned Baptist Preacher whose portrait is located at Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford.11
In 1851 Henry purchased, at auction for £1,150, “Lot 1, High Street, Watford” business premises and dwelling house. The purchase included “ a double fronted shop 23 feet wide with a carriage entry, containing, ware rooms, cellars, counting house, parlour, kitchen, scullery, 3 chambers, 4 attics, coach house, 2 sheds, and an extensive garden”. No street numbers were quoted, its location was described as “opposite the Market House.”12 These premises were, almost certainly, 85 High Street, Watford. The 1851 Watford census later that year recorded Henry as a “Grocer/Master” and his brother, William as an “Assistant Grocer”.13 The two brothers were now following the trade of their parents. In September 1844 Henry advertised as Mr. H. Kingham for a grocers assistant who “has proved that intoxicating liquors as articles of diet are worse than useless.”14 This probably indicated that Henry was the business owner seeking new staff. Earlier, similar, newspaper advertisements have not been discovered. By 1856 H. Kingham added the title “Colonial and Foreign Fruit Establishment” with a branch in Hemel Hempstead.15 In 1870 his newspaper advertisement included the message that “No Wines or Spirits of any kind Sold” and mentioned a branch in Pinner, Middlesex.16

On April 22nd, 1852 William Kingham, then 28, married Ann Box in St. James, Westminster. The 1855 Kelly’s Directory listed the Kingham brothers under Grocers & Tea Dealers as “Kingham H., High street (sic), Bushey [should have included Watford] and Kingham W. West street, Farnham.”17 The Farnham, Surrey census in 1861 showed William as a “Grocer”, married to Ann, with 5 children, all born in Farnham. The address was West Street which was large enough to house the family, 4 employees, a Cook, Housemaid, and Nursemaid. In addition, there was Mary D. Strickland, 33, Ann’s widowed sister. There were 15 people in the household.18 William had established a successful grocery business.

Henry Kingham was deeply religious. He was a Deacon at Beechen Grove Baptist Church from 1856 until his death on 9th September,1882. He was a Sunday school teacher, preached at the Baptist churches in Leavesden and Hunton Bridge, and was guided by “principles of Love to Christ and to men.” Henry was the founder and President of the Watford and Bushey Temperance Society and a member of the United Kingdom National Temperance League.19


Copies of contemporary sources show that most of the family story is true. Francis Kingham became a grocer by 1823, probably in 1820, and died in 1828. He bequeathed his grocer’s “stock in trade”, some savings, and all his belongings to his widow, Elizabeth. She continued the grocer’s business until, at least, 1839. The transfer of the business to Henry Kingham took place between 1840 and September 1844 when Henry advertised for an assistant grocer. In 1839 Henry had just turned 21 so it was an opportune period for him to takeover. Henry Kingham was from a grocer family as a very young boy and had probably worked in his parents’ businesses. Henry is buried in Vicarage Road Cemetery, Watford, with his wife and son, Henry, Jnr.20 There are comparatively few businesses that have lasted over a century.

My thanks to Helen Kingham and Christine Orchard for their help and encouragement.

Michael R. Paulick (paulickmike@gmail.com) is an amateur researcher in California whose articles have been published in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, Mayflower Descendant, Mayflower Quarterly, Mayflower Journal, Bygone Kent, and others. He is a descendant of Thomas Kingham, 1708-1760, and Sarah Hopkins alias Janes, b.1715, who were Henry Kingham’s great grandparents. Several of the documents have been posted on “Paulick and Cooper Family Tree” at ancestry.com.


1. Watford Association Football Club, Official Journal, 25th December, 1946 at “Old Watford”.
2 England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1936, Beechen Grove Baptist Church.
Parents’ marriage was recorded in St. George, Hanover Square on 24th May, 1816. Geo. J. Armytage, Editor, The Register Book of Marriages, Parish of St. George, Hanover Square, (London: The Harleian Society, 1896), Vol. III, 1810-1825, 125.
3 Buckinghamshire Advertiser newspaper, 25th July, 1941, page 4.
4 Pigot’s 1823-24, London & Provincial Directory, 368. Pigot’s 1826-27 London & Provincial Directory, 588.
My thanks to Christine Orchard, Watford Museum, for providing the invaluable directory page copies.
5 Marriage Banns, April 22nd, 1852, St. James, Westminster.
6 The National Archives’ reference PROB 11/1735/128, Francis Kingham, will 1828.
7 Pigot’s 1832-34 London & Commercial Directory, 766.
8 LAUDABLE PROCEEDINGS IN WATFORD WITH A VIEW TO ABOLISH TRADING ON SUNDAYS, Hertford Mercury and Reformer, County: Hertfordshire, 15 September, 1835, 2. The British Newspaper Archive is a useful resource for family historians. Hertfordshire Archives & Local Studies (HALS) ref: DE/X548/B4, Receipt for sugar, Elizabeth Kingham, 28 Sept. 1835.
9 Royal national and commercial directory and topography Essex, Herts, Middlesex, Pigot and Co., 1839,
ISBN: 0950406945, Facsimile ed., Call Number, 942 E4rp, page 141. FHL Remote Access Service, Salt Lake City, Utah.
10 1841 Watford Census, HO 107/439/8.
11 Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford, Dr William Harris Murch by George Frederick Clarke (1823–1906).
12 HALS, DE/X548/B5, Sales particulars: business premises in Watford High Street, 21 Jan 1851.
13 1851 Watford census, H.O. 107 1714.
14 The Patriot newspaper, London, 26 September, 1844, No. 1124, Vol. XIII. Page # not shown.
15 HALS Ref: DE/X548/B9: Fruit price list, H. Kingham, 10 Dec, 1856.
16 Watford Observer, Jan 1st, 1870, No.362, cover.
17 Post Office Directory of Essex, Herts, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex, (London: Kelly & Co., 1855), 1257.
18 1861 Farnham census, R.G.9/432
19 Rev. James Stuart, Beechen Grove Baptist Church, Watford, (London: The Kingsgate Press, 1907), 134-36.
See also, Rev. J.P. Barnet, Editor, Baptist Magazine, 1882, Vol. LXXV, Yates Alexander & Shepherd, 529-533.
20 See findagrave.com memorial #199590631.

This page was added on 28/06/2023.

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