On the Ancestral Trail of Jourdan Nottage

Jourdan Nottage
Photo supplied by Angela Buckley
Railway Tavern P.H.
Robert H Clark postcard

The following article first appeared in the July 2010 issue of Meldreth Matters.

I came across Meldreth for the first time when I discovered that my 2 x great-grandfather, Jourdan Nottage died in the village. His death certificate records that he died on New Year’s Day 1897 aged 56, in the Railway Tavern where he was the publican.

Jourdan had moved to Meldreth just three years before his death with his wife and youngest daughter, Florence aged 20, after retiring from his long career as a police constable in the Metropolitan Police.

Originally from Barkway, Hertfordshire, Jourdan Nottage was born in 1840, the fourth of the eight children of Henry and Ann Nottage. His father was a shepherd and when he died in 1852, his wife Ann was left alone to bring up her young family.

In 1859, Jourdan aged 19 moved to West London where he joined the Metropolitan Police. He settled in Acton after marrying Elizabeth Wise, a carpenter’s daughter from Wiltshire. They had five children. Jourdan spent over three decades in the police force. He didn’t rise above the rank of police constable and stayed in the same locality throughout his career. The only cases in which he was involved that made the newspapers was the wilful neglect of a working horse and the theft of tools by a man ‘troubled by devils’.

Meanwhile, back in his home village, Jourdan’s widowed mother and his siblings had all emigrated to America. In the 1880s, both his sons joined the family abroad. According to his American descendants, Jourdan was bitter about the loss of his sons and there is no evidence to suggest that he ever saw them again.

Jourdan’s retirement record reveals that he was 5 feet 8, with brown hair, grey eyes and a ‘fresh complexion’. He remained in Acton for another ten years working as a laundryman and publican before moving back to the countryside.

In 1894, Jourdan and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter, Florence was married in Holy Trinity Church. By that time her father was the publican of the Railway Tavern. The family’s happiness in Meldreth was short-lived as Jourdan’s wife Elizabeth died in the summer of 1896 and he died six months later. They are buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity along with Jourdan’s brother-in-law Charles Clarke.

After Jourdan’s death, his furniture and effects at the Railway Tavern were sold at auction. The sale particulars, held in the Cambridgeshire Archives, reveal that he was quite prosperous. The inventory lists all his possessions, which filled the five rooms at the tavern. They include everything from bedsteads and feather pillows to washstands and fenders. There are also various luxury items including pictures with gilt frames and cases of stuffed birds. The profits from the sale totalled £215 (about £12,000 in today’s value) and his estate was divided between four of his children and his grandson. The reason why he did not include his daughter Annie in his inheritance but instead favoured her illegitimate son, remains a mystery.

My branch of the Nottage family (my great-grandmother, Emma was Jourdan Nottage’s eldest child) moved to Lancashire to find work, settling eventually in Manchester where I was born over a century later.

It was an amazing and emotional experience to visit Jourdan and Elizabeth’s grave in the churchyard and I am indebted to John Price and Joan Gane for their help with my research.

If you have any information about the Railway Tavern during Jourdan’s time as publican, please email me. I would love to hear from you.

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