|A HISTORY OF DAISIE RICH AND A HISTORY OF UPWARD AND RICH
By Francesca McLinden
She may have been known by many different variants of her name, but whichever name you choose, there is no question that the legacy of this formidable lady is ever in doubt.
So what do we know about Daisie? Let’s go back to the beginning and take a whistle-stop tour through the life of Miss Rich.
In the throes of Queen Victoria’s rule, change was afoot. In the August of 1880, times were- (quite literally) changing, following the adoption of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) as the legal standard throughout the country. One can only imagine that this must have been cause for celebration amongst the clockmakers and those folk who were sticklers for keeping time. Also in that same year, the Boers declared independence in Transvaal thereby triggering the First Boer War; and, the first degrees were awarded to women by the University of London.
But why is 1880 significant to our story? Because a little baby girl was born at number 51 Pyle Street in Newport, on the sixth of June of that year and her name was Daisie.
Daisie was the second child of Mary and her provision’s merchant husband George Rich- the Rich half of the successful and historic island firm Upward and Rich, that can be traced back to 1650. A son- Archibald, was born in 1878 but sadly lived for just seven months. Fast-forward a few years and Daisie became a sister to Gladys in 1887, and then to Muriel in 1890. With the Edwardian era in full swing, a second loss struck the Rich family, with Muriel’s death in 1904.
Leap-frogging into a new decade, and circumstances are changing once again in the Rich household. In 1913, Gladys tied the knot and married Edward Dould at St Marylebone Parish Church in London, attended by Daisie in a dress of finest pale pink crepe silk. Upward and Rich’s firm bestowed upon Gladys and her new husband a set of silver-mounted boars’ tusk carvers, and the lucky newly-weds were also fortunate enough to receive a Sunbeam motorcar. Swish indeed.
But back to Daisie. She had an active life and was a keen member of the Newport V.A.D (Voluntary Aid Detachment): during the course of WWI, she put her skills to good use and served at the Gatcombe House Hospital. She was also a gifted violinist, frequently performing across the island, and went on to become the leader of the Newport Philharmonic Society Orchestra.
Some twenty years later, with the ominous signs of a second world war looming, Daisie got stuck into the business of running the business and became a director of the Upward and Rich firm, overseeing proceedings during WWII. With victory declared in 1945, she continued with her directorship, until her death on the twentieth of September 1955, at The Royal IW County Hospital. As a director, one of her greatest priorities was the welfare of the firms’ employees. In turn, the employees held Miss Rich (as they referred to her) in high esteem.
On the fourth of September of that year, Daisie slipped at home and fractured her femur. Her housekeeper attributed this to the fact that Daisie had slippery slippers on her feet at the time, resulting in a slippage on the polished floors. Daisie was recovering well in hospital until she had a heart attack- most likely as a consequence of her accident.
At this time, Queen Elizabeth II’s rein was in its infancy. Colour television was yet to become mainstream and Winston Churchill had resigned from the number one spot due to ill health.
The year 1955 was also significant in the Upward and Rich story, as this year saw the end of both the ‘Upward’ and ‘Rich’ names’ active association with the firm. Shortly before Daisie passed away, George Vernon Upward also died at the ripe age of 80- the last living descendent of this line of Upward’s. Neither Daisie nor George married and neither had any children. However, as a firm, Upward and Rich continued to flourish and the name endured until 1974, following a merger with Mainland companies, at which point the trading name was then lost.
In her will, Daisie left the sum of £27,999 17s 8d gross and £27,843 5s 6d net (duty paid of £5,859) as well as shares in the company. She also bequeathed monies to employees, business associates and charities, plus life beneficiaries.
So how best to describe Daisie? Stern is a word that crops up a lot, but I think that is to be taken with a pinch of salt as Daisie was the sole female director in what many would say was a ‘man’s world’. This sternness is perhaps a sign of her strength of character. Those that knew her described her as being a lady of charming disposition. And those that knew of her- from parents or grandparents who worked for Upward and Rich, all had the same description to give: Miss Rich was kind.
It would be easy to say that Daisie’s story began in 1880, but that would be a disservice to her family who contributed so much to the island and the business which her father joined in 1877 and gave his name to. Really, Daisie’s story actually began in 1650- the year that the oldest provision’s merchants in the country came to be, when it was started by the Harvey’s at number 51 Pyle Street.
Nineteen years later, 51 Pyle Street was believed to have been purchased by the Harvey’s, having previously been held on leasehold. In 1703 and for the princely sum of £110 of good and lawful English money, a Mr John Upward purchased the business and premises from Matthew and Elizabeth Harvey. Thus began the ‘Upward’ involvement and the business that initially became known as Upward’s.
The firm has such a rich history that began in the same year that Charles II came to the throne, following the execution of his father Charles I who- just a year beforehand, famously occupied Carisbrooke Castle. Records show that in that same year (1650), Newport’s population was only two thousand five hundred; over three hundred and fifty years later, it now stands at ten times that amount.
The next mention of the Upwards is in 1734, when John Upward can be found in the Poll Book Records, suggesting that he is a chap of high standing. By the year 1814, John Upward has been succeeded by Edward Upward (and most likely other Upward’s in between. To complicate Upward matters, it seems that many of the first born sons are given the name Edward: the Edward Upward mentioned in turn had a son named Edward Upward in 1803 and he in turn had a son named Edward Upward in 1830. The 1830 Edward became known as Edward Jackson Upward. He then had a son in 1856 named- you’ve guessed it: Edward Finnimore Upward, but studies in Cambridge beckoned for him and his surgeon brother Harold. Instead, the family business passed onto Edward Jackson’s third son, George Vernon- the end of the Upward line).
After that minor jaunt into the Upward family tree, let’s return to 1814 and Edward’s mention in the London Gazette, edition 6th August. His occupation is listed as that of grocer and his residence is in Newport in the county of Southampton. Widow and innkeeper Sarah Parry of the Wheatsheaf Inn, had been taken to the Borough County Gaol in Newport for insolvency and debt. Amongst a long list of creditors are Edward Upward, as well as banks, butchers, gardeners, booksellers, coal merchants, millers, distillers and more.
Between 1823 and 1849, Edward Upward is listed as a member of the Corporation of Newport with an occupation of grocer. Following in his footsteps, Edward Jackson Upward is mentioned in the 1861 Census as a grocer and tallow chandler, showing that the business is expanding. At some point in time, it appears that Edward Jackson was joined in the business by his younger brother Alfred, in the role of partner. However, after a short illness, Alfred died unexpectedly at the age of just thirty-eight in 1875.
Two years later, in 1877, Upward’s became known as Upward and Rich, when Edward Jackson was joined by Daisie’s father- Isaac George Dyer Rich (known as George). George’s roots hail from the West Country in Somerset, but on reaching the Isle of Wight, Newport and Carisbrooke became his home until his death in 1921. Home for George and his wife was initially at 51 Pyle Street, which was also home of the business, before Carisbrooke beckoned.
Ten years after George Rich became a partner in the company, two things worthy of coverage in the Isle of Wight County Press happened. In January of that year, Upward and Rich had a stock-taking supper with a table ‘laden with the good things of this life.’ By all accounts, the evening was a positive affair, with past reminisces believed to be a firm indicator of good future progress. And indeed, the firm did continue to flourish and grow.
The second event of 1887 concerned Upward and Rich in relation to the poor businessman-ship displayed by a fellow grocer- Walter Parkes, of Newport High Street. After a mere twenty-nine weeks of business, Walter had unsecured liabilities that amounted to £303 15s and assets of just £54 11s 9d. Having begun the business in August 1886 without capital, Walter certainly found himself on a sticky wicket. This was compounded by the fact that he had also been served a writ for breach of promise of marriage to Miss Rosa Jefferies. The principal creditor that Walter owed monies to were Upward and Rich, for the sum of £55 5s. April 1887 was certainly not a good time for Walter Parkes. No further mention is made of what happened to him, but one can only assume that things were not especially rosy. In light of the judge making an example of Walter and awarding his not-quite-wife Rosa a house (left to Walter by his mother) and the on-hire purchase furniture of his residence to Rosa to furnish it with, Walter was left with very little, bar his debts.
However, as the Upward and Rich business continued to flourish, the social consciences of Edward Jackson Upward and George Rich continued to grow also. Outside of the business in the late 1880’s, Edward Jackson stretched his legs in the legal arena and became a Justice of the Peace (JP) for the borough of Newport. George meanwhile flexed his academic muscles, joining the Newport School Board and playing a highly active role in the appointment of the education committee in 1903. By 1914, George was described as a leading trader and also became one of four new additions to the Commission of the Peace for the Borough of Newport, having previously served as chairman of the Waterworks Committee. Both men demonstrate exceptional loyalty to their community- a trait exhibited by the many previous Upward’s.
Much is known about the pungent nature of Upward and Rich’s tannery and chandlery side of the business, because the smell is the stuff of local legends. Indeed, it is one of the first things that springs to the minds of many when they mention Upward and Rich. And yet, this pongy problem was not brought to the attention of the authorities until 1892. A substantial newspaper article regarding no less than ten disgruntled Newport residents’ stinking issues against the firm made for very fruity reading.
The process of making these candles involved melting down wasted animal fat, causing an abominable smell- I dare say, much worse in the warmer summer months. According to one witness, he had seen maggots dropping out of the fat that had been delivered. Other witnesses said that the fat was sometimes delivered six days a week and often stored for twenty-four hours before being rendered down, thereby causing the offending pong. Of course, from a retrospective point of view, there was probably a constant string of demand for candles, given that in 1892, electricity was not yet mainstream.
Mr George Quinton had been the shops foreman for the last twenty-eight years and said that he quite liked the smell. He explained that the air was treated with sulphuric acid and that the acid killed the smell. A later witness then complained that George Quinton was a major source of the offending smell, with the pièce-de-résistance of the witness’s statement being that this could be proved simply by sitting by Mr Quinton.
In the end, the magistrates dismissed the case against Upward and Rich. A resolution to keep all parties happy was agreed after a month’s adjournment: where possible, keeping the windows closed would help to minimise the unpleasant aroma.
Less is perhaps known about how the truth of the ‘almost confirmed’ story that the infamous Dick Turpin (of Georgian Highwayman fame), worked for the business as a lad- this scallywag certainly adds a bit of roguish charm to the firm’s history. After all, the company began life standing in the premises of Pyle Street and delivering goods across the island throughout the intervening years. (Forgive a writer’s indulgence, but the opportunity to squeeze in a reference to Mr Turpin’s infamy regarding ‘stand and deliver’ was just too good to pass up).
As of January 1900, notice was given in the London Gazette that the partnership between Edward Jackson Upward and George Rich was to be dissolved by mutual consent. Following Edward Jackson’s retirement, his son George Vernon stepped up to the mark.
From the early 1900’s, George Vernon Upward starts to crop up in the Isle of Wight County Press archives as much for his business work, as for his strong socialist political leanings. Over the years, George Vernon became a conscientious war objector- going so far as to declare in 1916 that he believed so much in his principles, he was prepared to be shot or imprisoned. At this time, he was forty years old and secured a conditional exemption from conscription, due to his essential work as a grocer’s manager. However, his exemption was dependent on him remaining in that line of work. Indeed, it was an essential role and the firm rendered ‘outstanding service to the Island people, particularly in supplying their needs during the shortages of the two world wars.’ George Vernon continued in his role, until he retired shortly after the end of WWII.
In 1913 Edward Jackson Upward died. He left behind a wife and three sons. He was cremated in Woking and had his ashes interned at Brading Congregational Church. At this time, cremations were far less common place than burials (the Isle of Wight crematorium didn’t open until 1961), suggesting that Edward Jackson was a man of substantial wealth. He is interned with his only daughter- Bessie Algerie, who died in 1886 aged just six years old.
Eight years later in 1921, George Rich died. Shortly after in 1925, the business became a company and was called Upward and Rich, Ltd. During WWI, W G Cutmore joined the firm and went on to become the manager on George’s death. Mr Cutmore continued in this role, until his retirement to South Africa in 1953. Upon his retirement, J A K Collins (known as Alford) joined the board as company chairman and financial advisor.
In 1950, Upward and Rich celebrated their three-hundredth anniversary. In honour of the occasion, the business was closed for the day- this may even have been the first time this had happened in its entire history. The current directors consisted of Daisie Rich, W G Cutmore, Frank Chiverton and Edgar Taylor. They marked this significant day by taking all staff and guests on a day trip to the Cadbury Bourneville Factory in Birmingham. The company also commissioned a brochure of the history of the firm that was given to all employees as a Christmas gift later that same year.
By the early sixties, the company had continued to faithfully serve the Isle of Wight. Upward and Rich, Ltd, had continued to branch out and expanded into the reams of frozen foods, prepacked meats, confectionary and tobacco, as well as continuing with groceries and provisions. With such a distinguished history, the firm was given a generous spread in the centenary edition of The Grocer magazine. Given that the company served both residents and businesses alike, a new modern warehouse was required. A five-acre site was found in 1963 in Newport off Petticoat Lane, and this became the home of the new warehouse, until its closure in 1993. Today, the site is home to Sainsbury’s.
With the approach of the seventies, central Newport was set to be redeveloped. Since the company began trading in 1650, the premises that it had occupied at 51 Pyle Street were to be vacated for the first time. A newly constructed site by the main warehouse and offices in Petticoat Lane were instead allocated for the Upward and Rich Confectionary Company and Vectis Meats in 1970.
Two years prior to this in 1968, Hambros Bank announced that plans were underway for the floatation of Upward and Rich on the stock market. In turn, arrangements were in hand for a merger with G Wright and Son (Dorchester) Ltd. With this merger, Upward and Rich were creating the precursors to today’s supermarkets.
During the course of researching the Upward and Rich history, I was fortunate enough to meet some former employees. When describing what it was like to work for the company, they each (in their own words) said that it was like a family. The numerous reminisces that followed were peppered with many bouts of laughter and lots of fond anecdotes. And just like any good family reunion, there was no end of recollections.
Before I parted ways with the group, I asked a simple question: if you had the opportunity to go back in time, would you still choose to work for Upward and Rich again? They all gave the same answer without hesitation: yes. An unequivocal yes.
Daisie’s co-director- Alford Collins, became Chairman of the Daisie Rich Trust after she passed away. Building on Daisie’s wishes in her will, Alford built the foundations for what the Trust is today. Now under the stewardship of a board of trustees led by Adrian Medley, the Trust has continued to flourish and follows the same altruistic aims that Daisie laid the groundwork for in her will.
Over sixty-three years after she died, the legacy of the company and Daisie’s kindness and care towards the people of the Isle of Wight continues to persist. Thank you, Miss Rich.
With thanks to the following people and organisations: the staff at the Isle of Wight Records Office, the Carisbrooke Castle Museum, the Isle of Wight County Press Archives, the Isle of Wight Family History Society, Adrian and Ann Medley of the Daisie Rich Trust, Lyn Mitchell of the Daisie Rich Trust, and the former employees of Upward and Rich, Ltd.
In addition to the Isle of Wight County Press Archives, material relating to Upward and Rich was also found in: The Changing Face of Newport, by Bill Shepard and Brian Greening; The London Gazette, and various censuses and poll book records.