Tag Archives: Leach

The Leach-Heffer Connection


The family members in this lovely photograph from the Leach archive, dated April 1906, are gathered in the back garden of St George’s (now 56) De Freville Avenue in Cambridge. The elderly woman in the centre is Mary Ann Leach (nee Goodenough, 1838-1909), widow of Frederick Richard Leach (1837-1904) and grandmother of the children in the photograph.

Looking at the ages of the children, it is probable that the baby seated on the ground is  Olive Leach (1904-1988), third child of Frederick McLean Leach (1868-1948) and Alice Mary Ross Leach (nee Chapman, 1877-1956), that the young boy perched on a stool on the far right is Olive’s elder brother Anthony Frederick Leach (1901-1989) and the girl in the white dress is their eldest sister Mary (1891-1961).

The two children wearing ‘sailor’ jackets are likely to be Eric Standley Heffer (1897-1994) and his sister Frieda Millicent Heffer (1899-1973) and the young man in the centre back may be their elder brother, Ralph Laurence Heffer (1893-1973), although it is hard to determine the age of the man in the photo.

Alice Leach would have been very heavily pregnant with Frederick McLean Leach who was born in July 1906 so she may have been absent from the photo for that reason or be concealing her ‘bump’ behind the Heffer children. Although we might expect little Tony to be resting his head on his mother’s lap, she does not look heavily pregnant. This may mean that the woman seated on the right is Ada Heffer (nee Leach, 1866-1936). The man seated on the left with  the moustache may be Frederick McLean Leach (1868-1948) or he may be Harry Heffer (1865-1947). Any of the three younger women could be Ethel Leach (1874-1922) or Edith Leach (1878-1928), unmarried daughters of Frederick Richard Leach and Mary Ann.

Fifteen years prior to this family photograph, at the time of the 1891 census, when Ada Leach was 25, there was a ‘Visitor’ recorded at her family home and workshops in City Road – one Harry Heffer, a 26 year-old ‘Commercial Clerk’. Less than a year later, on the 25th February 1892, Ada Matilda McLean Leach (1866-1936), eldest daughter of Frederick Richard and Mary Ann Leach, married Harry J. Heffer (1865-1909) at Christ Church Cambridge, bathed in the rainbow of lights and looked down upon by the myriad faces of the large stained glass window created by Frederick Leach in 1885.

Christ Church Cambridge

In his small, red “Atlas” pocket diary for 1892, Frederick Leach, father of the bride, wrote, “Ada wedded to H. Heffer at Christ Ch . . . sunshine came out for the occasion”. The words are written in red ink – it was clearly a happy occasion and one of his ‘red-letter days’ when all the family got together to celebrate. It appears that the reception was held at the Leach firm’s City Road workshops as Frederick writes (also in red ink) on the two days preceding the wedding, “Commenced the preparations for the wedding. Arranging Top shop, arranging glass shop, arranging Top office. Awning up the top office stair. General dusting out and clearing for 25th”.

City Road Workshops Photo: Tamsin Wimhurst
City Road Workshops Photo: Tamsin Wimhurst

Harry J. Heffer had seven siblings and one half-sibling. His parents were William Heffer (1843-1928), born in Exning in Suffolk, the son of an agricultural labourer and Mary Webb, born in Balsham in 1837. They were married at All Saints, Cambridge on the 28th May 1863.

At the time of the 1871 census, William and Mary were living at 10 Clement’s Place in Cambridge with their three children, Charles (7), Harry (6). Kate (4) and George (2) and a lodger, Thomas Barnes, who was an Ironmonger’s assistant. William defined his occupation as ‘Groom’.

By 1881, however, the family had moved to 104 Fitzroy Street and William gave his occupation as ‘Stationer’. In 1891, he added ‘Bookseller’ to his title.

In 1896 the firm added another branch in the more central location of Petty Cury and by 1901 five of William and Mary’s children were employed in the business– Kate Adelaide Heffer (1867-1940), Ernest William Heffer (1871-1948), Lucy Mary Heffer (1873-1951), Frank Heffer (1876-1933) and Sidney Heffer (1878-1959). George Herbert Heffer (1869-1947) was a bank clerk and Emma Louise Heffer (1874-1974) was a nurse. She travelled to Melbourne, Australia in 1904 and died aged 100 in 1974.

Shelley Lockwood


All in the name


When I first saw this recently revealed sign at the City Road site in Cambridge, I thought it was the sign for Miss Nora Leach’s business as a hat maker. I first came across Nora Leach in Sara Payne’s excellent book Down Your Street Cambridge Past and Present II East Cambridge (Cambridge 1984). The reminiscences, captured by Sara Payne, of Mrs Hilda Desborough (who was born at no.23 City Road in 1910, the daughter of John Summerlin, baker) included the fact that Miss Nora Leach ran a hat shop from her home next door to Digbys (the other baker in City Road): “Miss Leach used to make her hats on moulds. My mother got all her hats there”, remembered Mrs Desborough.

Nora Leach was born Eleanor McLean Leach in January 1895, the eldest child of Barnett McLean Leach (1864-1929) and Ellen Elizabeth Leach, née Eccard (1868-1947), making her a granddaughter of Frederick Richard Leach, founder of the family firm and purchaser of 36 and 37 City Road in 1862.

Nora was the eldest of three children, her siblings being Jean McLean Leach (1896-1960) and Francis Leach (1898-1962). Their mother, Ellen Eccard, was Catholic and she married Barnett McLean Leach at the Church of Our Lady and the English Martyrs (OLEM) in Cambridge on the 25th of April 1894. At the 1901 census, the family was living at 17 Humberstone Road, next door to William George Pye, scientific instrument maker, but by 1905 they were in 36 City Road where Barnett had lived all his life until his marriage. Nora, Jean and Francis never married but I came across a reference to all three of them as godparents to Margaret Plumb who was baptised in the baptistery at OLEM on the 30th January 1936. Margaret’s ‘Memories of a Parishioner’ are contained in Catholics in Cambridge (ed. Nicholas Rogers, 2003). Nora outlived both of her younger siblings and died in 1968 at the age of 73.

A collection of picture postcards found at the City Road premises includes seven postcards dated between 1905 and 1925 addressed to ‘Miss Nora Leach, 36 City Road, Cambridge’. All the pictures are of churches in England and Nora clearly collected them as one card (from Lucy Worrall of 44 New Square, Cambridge) asks, ‘How many postcards have you got in your book?’ The only card from abroad came from Alkmaar in the Netherlands and is of the Accijnstoren. It is from Francis, her younger brother, and simply says ‘Here is where we are’.

But it was another of those picture postcards which made me think again about the uncovered ‘N.E.Leach, milliner’ sign. It was a colour postcard of St Nicholas church, Pluckley in Kent, addressed to ‘Mrs Maclean Leach, 36 City Road, Cambridge’ and began ‘Dear N’. A common diminutive of Ellen was ‘Nellie’ and Ellen’s middle initial was ‘E’ so I now think it possible that ‘N.E. Leach, milliner’ refers not to Nora Mclean Leach, but to her mother and that Nora learnt her craft from her mother. This would make the sign date from sometime after 1905 when the family moved from Humberstone Road to live at 36 City Road.

Shelley Lockwood


It is a mystery as to how much tile design F R Leach & Sons actually carried out. We have evidence of tiles being painted and fired by the firm, then used to decorate the fireplaces of various Leach family homes. We also have evidence that paints for decorating tiles were sold in the shop. But we have no evidence of Leach tiles beyond this. Did the firm paint and design them for public sale or only for use in their decorative projects? Hopefully this is a question we can answer as our research progresses.

Below  is a tile that used to surround a fireplace in Pretoria Road, Cambridge, in a house owned by the Leach family. It was made by F R Leach and passed down through the family to the hands of Ric Leach, who inherited the craftsman’s gene to become a cabinetmaker, and made the frame in which the tile is today displayed.