Persons of Interest – Alfred Olby (1845-1939) Posted 23 July 2018 by Tessa Keough Alfred Olby, the son of Robert Olby and Elizabeth [née Talbot] was born at 80 Lisson Grove North on 28 December 1845 1 and baptised at Christchurch, Marylebone on 18 February 1846. His father, originally a shopkeeper from Brandon, Suffolk, had by 1849 set up in business as a plate glass factor. The business showed every sign of prospering but on 27 August 1851 Robert died of gastric fever 1 and was buried in a common grave in Kensal Green Cemetery. The newly pregnant Elizabeth was left to run the business and look after Alfred and his younger brother Robert. Alfred was still living in Lisson Grove with his mother and her second husband John Porter at the time of the 1861 2 census but by the time of his own marriage at The Tabernacle, Praed Street on 19 September 1868 he had moved to 1 Wesleyan Place, Kentish Town.1 His bride, Lucy, was the daughter of the late James Woodward, who had been a successful house builder in West Bromwich. Alfred and Lucy briefly set up house at 383 Edgware Road 2 before moving to Ramsgate in 1875, when he started business in a small way as a painter and builders’ merchant at No. 27 King Street, the approach to the premises at that time being through a garden. Alfred’s younger brother Robert had lived in the area in 1871,2 boarding in nearby St. Lawrence – maybe Robert saw opportunities for Alfred in East Kent. If so, Alfred certainly took them – his premises were rebuilt in 1877 and the business prospered, opening branches in Margate, Canterbury. Ashford and Folkestone. In 1907 the firm became Alfred Olby, Ltd. During his career Alfred had built up a small one-man firm into a large organisation with branches in several towns and more than 200 employees. At this point Alfred handed over control to his son, John, but continued to maintain a keen interest in the business. The company restructuring may have been a consequence of Lucy’s death in February 1906; she and Alfred had been married for 37 years; they had ten children, two of whom had died in infancy. The Ramsgate premises of Alfred Olby, Ltd. His sons, Henry Olby and Hugh Olby, set up similar businesses in Dover and Lewisham, respectively, the latter continues to thrive today. And Alfred and his sons were not the only members of the family to succeed in business; his younger brother Augustus Robert Peter, Robert’s posthumous son, and Augustus’ son, another Augustus Olby, established very successful builder’s merchant and ironmongery businesses in south east London and Bognor Regis, respectively. After retiring Alfred lived in St. Leonards until April 1939 when he was knocked down by a car whilst crossing the road to catch a bus. He suffered extensive scalp wounds and a fracture of the skull, and died an hour and a half later without regaining consciousness. The inquest conducted by the Hastings Borough Coroner heard that for his age, 93, he had been in excellent health, and had apparently not seen a doctor for 55 years.3 Alfred Olby on his 90th Birthday Although the infant Alfred had been baptised into the Church of England, a strong thread of non-conformism ran through the family. Alfred’s great-grandmother Frances’ dwelling had been ‘set apart’ as a meeting house in 1822 4 and his grandfather, another Robert, had built a Primitive Methodist Chapel in Brandon around 1828. At some stage Alfred and Lucy had joined the Exclusive Brethren and Alfred was one of those involved in one of the Brethren’s many controversies, the “Ramsgate Question” [also known as the “Kelly trouble”] of 1879 – 1881, writing a heartfelt letter seeking guidance from one of the founders of the Plymouth Brethren, John Nelson Darby, on 8 March 1880.5 It is not known whether he received an answer. Sources: Olby family birth, marriage and death certificates 1841 – 1911 Census returns Alfred Olby’s Obituary, ‘The East Kent Times’, 29 April 1939 Records of Protestant Dissent in Suffolk, Vincent B Redstone / George Booth, Woodbridge, 1912 The Papers of John Nelson Darby 1800-1882 held at The University of Manchester, The John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester M3 3EH Reference code: JND/5/207 On the second and fourth Mondays of each month, we share a short story provided by a member about a person of interest in their one-name study. So whether your person is good, bad, or simply interesting or unusual, please send us your story. This post is from Guild member Chris Newall. Why not submit a story (200-300 words OR a bit longer if need be) about a person of interest in your own one-name study. Email each story and image(s) to email@example.com.