Alfred Fouracre – who was he?

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September 14, 2014 by auntkatefirmin

Alfred Fouracre at age 84 in July 1900.

Alfred Fouracre at age 84 in July 1900.

Kate’s brother was named Alfred Fouracre Firmin.  If not for the correspondence with the English cousins, this might have remained a bit of a mystery.

It was cousin Fanny who sent the photography of of Mr. Fouracre.

In 1948 Fanny (Firmin) Hall wrote a postscript in one of her letters, most likely in response to a question about names:

“About Mr Fouracre I remember it was always a “Red Letter” day when he came to see us I was only a child but I believe all our older relatives looked upon him as an honorable manager of grandfather’s business who rendered profits to all the sons & daughters perfectly fairly after both grandfather & grandmother had passed away & they made him guardian of the three youngest viz Mick, Harry [Harriet] & Eddie the latter was only 4 years old & only two years older than my sister & used to spend his holiday (he was sent to boarding school) with us. & I think your father must have appreciated very much Mr Fouracres’ kind care of his little brother & sister as he was so far away & actually the head of the family also perhaps had his share of our grandparents estate some time about when your brother came along.”

Postscript from Fanny Hall's 1948 letter to Aunt Kate.

Postscript from Fanny Hall’s 1948 letter to Aunt Kate.

Alfred Fouracre was one of three executors of Fanny & Kate’s grandmother Emily (Hall) Firmin’s estate, the other two were Henry Firmin (Emily’s brother-in-law) and Emily Louise Firmin, the oldest daughter who was 25 at the time. Henry (age 47) died two years after becoming an executor, so Mr Fouracre and Emily must have taken care of the remaining duties.

It seems logical that Kate’s father John, although he was the eldest, was not an executor because of the distance involved.  Fanny’s father George was the next oldest. It’s possible he was not made an executor because he had already started his own family and was living in Reading – if there were other reasons, it would be difficult to discover them at this distance in time. Frederick was about 22 but he was also married and his work frequently took him out of London.

Either because of her duties to the family or because the opportunity did not arise, Emily did not marry until 1881 when she was 31 and Eddie turned 16 – on the other hand there is no evidence that the younger children lived with Emily and it could be that the rift between the sisters Harriet and Emily dates back to this era.

No doubt Fanny was correct and it took a load from John Robert Firmin’s mind to know that someone was looking out for his younger siblings so that it was not necessary for him to travel to London to supervise their care and education. John did not marry until three years after his mother’s death; I’m guessing that financial constraints were part of the delay rather than any duties to his family in England.

It’s good to remember that Fanny was writing over 70 years after her grandmother had passed away and while she did have all the birthdates of her aunts and uncles, she did not pause to do the arithmetic.  The youngest children, Mick, Harriet and Eddie, were nearly 16, 12, and 9 respectively. Fanny’s sister Sarah (known as Kate) was seven years younger than Eddie, not two. What does seem evident is that of the cousins, Fanny mentions Eddie the most and seems to have been closest to him.

Fanny also appears to be mixed-up on her dates with reference to Kate’s family which is not too surprising. Kate’s father John Robert Firmin may have been a taxpayer in the United States by 1866, three years before the death of his father, but (as mentioned above) he did not marry for another twelve years. His son, the namesake, Alfred Fouracre Firmin (I think he is the brother Fanny meant) was born in 1882, which would have been a long wait for any inheritance.

The story in the American family is that John Robert Firmin received only a family Bible as his share of the Firmin inheritance. The probate entry for his mother Emily has only the indication “under 1500 pounds” for the value of her estate. While a substantial sum for the time, closer to 68,000 pounds in spending power in 2005, it wouldn’t go far to support ten children if split evenly. It seems likely that grandmother Emily’s assets would have been needed to provide for the schooling of the younger children and some sort of annuities for Emily and Kate who were not yet married in 1875. (The copy I have of Emily’s will has such poor contrast that I’ve avoided fully transcribing it but she did provide for the education of the youngest children.)

Alfred Fouracre Firmin school photo from 1900.

Alfred Fouracre Firmin school photo from 1900.

So thanks to the cousins’ correspondence, we know that young Alfred Fouracre Firmin, born in 1882,  was the namesake of the executor and business associate of his grandfather, George Firmin, though the details were lost to the American family with the early death of Alfred’s father, John Robert Firmin.

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