Sometimes, our files on Alcester and the indices to them come in useful. The discovery of a cash book dated 1849-51 had, apparently, no indication who kept it. The trade looks likely to refer to a shop but no goods are mentioned: there are, however, several entries which seem to refer to funerals. Our index shows that in the mid 19th century one, William Grizzell, was both draper and undertaker in Alcester High Street. The shop was called 'Manchester House' , at the lower end of the street: today, the name is still visible, between Swan Street and the Midland Bank.
Some years ago, the writer was meandering through the churchyard at Did brook, Gloucestershire, when he saw the gravestone of William Grizzell of Alcester, departed 1866. He was in his 70th year and in the first issue of the 'Alcester Chronicle' in 1864 had described himself as 'Hnen and Woollen Draper, Gentlemen's Suits, Hatter'. There was no mention of a funeral business.
The cash book records the weekly income and expenditure, not so much of the shop but of Grizzell as a person. It is not a day book recording individual sales but no doubt includes the day book totals. Grizzell's funeral business shows him more of a funeral director than as the usual undertaker who also made the coffins. He paid out sums of money for fees to the Rector and the sexton as well as for mortuary (resting room for coffins): outgoings fdr hbd (haberdashery?) and gloves and ribbons were probably normal funeral expenses in the 19th century and would be included in the bill paid by the deceased's executors. There seem to be no payments for coffins or coffin bearers or hearses: at least, not in those terms. Names of deceased persons appear, the most well-known being Lady Throckmorton.
This cash book holds many secrets; but they may never come to light. William Grizzell probably never intended that they should. However, like 19th century tradesmen generally, he kept his accounts meticulously: his business acumen must have been realised locally, for in 1849 when the Alcester Gas, Light & Coke Company was being formed he was elected its chairman.
Modern individuals, shops and firms in general would be well advised to make clear in their business accounts to whom they belong and with what they are dealing. The future will thank them
Summer 1996 Index