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Sunday 17 March 2024

And I Will Give You Rest - John and Mary Ann Thomas - Fairground Proprietors


All Saint's Cemetery,
Maidenhead, Berkshire,

"Come unto to me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, And I will give you rest.
In loving memory of John Thomas who passed peacefully away Nov 2nd 1914 aged 53 years.

Farewell dear wife my life is past.
I loved you well while it did last.
Mourn not for me, nor sorrow take.
But love my children for my sake.

A loving husband, a father dear.
A faithful friend when he was here.
He lived in hope and died in peace.
We hope his joys will never cease.

Mary Ann Thomas, wife of John Thomas, passed peacefully away July 17th 1935 aged 77.

Rest in Peace."

John Thomas was born in Walworth, Surrey in 1861 to parents Evan John Thomas, a Travelling Hawker from London, and Sarah Ann. On 23rd of August 1880 at Holy Trinity Church, Newington, Surrey, John Thomas married Mary Ann Smith.

Mary Ann Smith was born in Blackwater Hampshire in 1858 to parents William Smith, a Travelling Hawker and later a Steam Circus (Fairground) Proprietor, and Mary Ann.

In 1881 the newlyweds John and Mary Ann can be found living with Mary Ann's parents on Chertsey Road, Windlesham, Surrey, in three fairground carts. Both John and Mary Ann's occupation is listed as Games Assistant.

Types of Living Waggons

1891 finds both the Smith and Thomas families living in a collection of caravans on the Bath Road in the village of Colnbrook, Buckinghamshire. Living with John and Mary Ann are their children, Mary Ann born in 1881, Lavinia born in 1882, Sarah born in 1885, John (Jonto) born in 1887, and Lousia born in 1889.  Two further children were to join the family, Albert in 1891 and Willaim Lewis in 1892.

No trace of the family can be found on the 1901 Census, which is not unusual for travelling or fairground families. However, in 1904 Mary Ann was summoned to court in Windsor for noise nuisance at Windsor Fair. The Slough, Eton, and Windsor Observer reports as follows:

"Mary Ann Thomas, William Hastings, Samuel Jones, Richard M. Warrick; and William Biddell were summoned at Windsor under a new bye-law for causing to be made by an organ a loud and continuous noise to the annoyance of residents and passengers.

Detective officer McLain said: I went to the fair being held opposite the 'Duke of York' past Mr. Garlick's, in consequence of information received. On approaching I heard a great noise. There were a number of shows and roundabouts. There were organs to the shows and roundabouts, and the motive power was steam. The first show was in charge of Mrs. Thomas, and she was taking the money. I asked her who was the owner, and she said her husband was, and they lived at Church-street, Woking. There were cymbols [sic] attached to the organ and a whistle." Slough, Eton, and Windsor Observer, November 5 1904.

It was decided in court that the by-law could not be enforced on the vacant land the fair took place on and the case was dropped.

John and Mary reappear on the 1911 Census living in caravans at Fair Field, Guildford Street, Chertsey, Surrey. John is listed as being a Fair and Roundabout Proprietor and Mary Ann as an Assistant to the Business. Living nearby in another caravan is their son William Lewis Thomas, his wife Lillian, and their one-year-old son William. It is possible John and Mary Ann, and their son were in Guildford Street for the annual Black Cherry Fair, held in Chertsey.

Guildford Street, Chertsey, Surrey

Colourised Photograph of the Black Cherry Fair,
Chertsey, Surrey.

John was to pass away in Reading, Berkshire, on 2nd November 1914 aged just 53. Mary Ann passed away in Reading, Berkshire, aged 77 in 1935.

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