The "Norasearch" Diary - by Andrew Conway

20 May 1999

One of the librarians shows me a couple of vital new resources which immediately throw up some interesting facts: a few surviving telephone books, and a series of trade directories under the name of Kelly's.

Prior to 1930 there are only a handful of telephone directories available and the 1906 Telephone Directory Birmingham & District throws up this entry:

Central 05062   RW Parker   St Phillips chas   Church St

It is also listed in the 1907 edition, but by the 1908 edition the number has changed to Central 6262. The only other available editions are 1911, 1912 and 1921. Significantly, it is listed in the first two but not in the final one, so I have a hunch that this might be Robert, even though the address doesn't tally with Alcester Road or Strensham Road.

Anyway, once the librarian shows me the stacks of red bound volumes covering over a century, all bearing the title Kelly's Directory of Birmingham, the mystery is solved. I feel like I've stumbled on a goldmine, and the trail is hot again.

Each edition is split into several sections: Streets, listing every business address in the city with its occupant; Court, giving a list of homeowners by surname (this is titled Private Residents in later editions); Commercial, which is a list of traders, by surname; and Trades, which covers each occupation, say Accountants, and provides names of all who work in the city.

I go straight for the 1907 edition and look up Church Street in the 'Streets' section:

41 Church Street   Parker Robt.W.   chartered accountant

Bingo! It is now obvious that Church Street was Robert's office and the 'chas' stands for 'Chambers'. Looking in the Trades section confirms this. Under Accountants he is listed as working from St Phillips Chambers at 41 Church Street, which is right in the city centre. He is also marked as an Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants (rather than a Fellow).

Birmingham Cathedral, St Phillips, right in the centre of town, is located in St Phillips Square, and Church Street is just off to the side.

This listing is identical from the 1903 edition right through to the 1912 edition. It explains why it was Amy who registered Honora's birth - Robert was obviously out at his office every day.

The 1900, 1901 and 1902 editions have a different listing:

Parker Robt.V   chartered accountant   Temple cts.  Temple row

Surely the same Robert, despite the 'V'?  Temple Row runs along the other side of St Phillips Square and, ironically, I walk down it on the way home after every library session.

The 1899 edition was missing, but there was no entry for this Robert Parker in the 1898 edition. So, if we assume (for now) that he started trading at Temple Row from late 1899 and stayed there for three years, he then moved to the Church Street office in late 1902 and remained there until his death in 1912. This means he started trading as an accountant at the age of 26.

But what about before?

There is a Robert Parker resident at 262 Victoria Rd, Aston from 1902 - 1906. The only Robert Parker in Birmingham. Significant? I think so.

Regarding his home address, Robert William Parker isn't registered at 12 Alcester Road until the 1908 edition of Kelly's. Tracing it back, I discover the previous occupant was William Holder until 1905. There's no entry for the 1906 and 1907 editions (was the house empty or was Robert tardy in registering?).

The Robert Parker in Aston appears living at 315 Victoria Road from 1896 - 1901. The previous occupant was a Mrs Mary Ann Avery until the 1894 edition, with 1895 being blank (empty or was this Robert also tardy in registering?). In 1902 he then moved to 262 Victoria Road, Aston and remained there until 1906.

If these two are the same person, we have the following scenario:

Robert arrives in Birmingham in 1895 (aged 22), or he leaves his parental home for the first time. He is possibly already married to Amy, or, more likely, he is an apprentice accountant. He starts living in Aston at 315 Victoria Road.

Four years later, in 1899 (aged 26), he becomes a Chartered Accountant, and starts trading from a prestigious office in Temple Row, right in the heart of Birmingham's financial sector; he also moves across the street to 262 Victoria Road, possibly to a larger house to reflect his rise in status.

He trades from Temple Row for three years until 1903, when (aged 30) he relocates to St Phillips Chambers, Church Street, just a stone's throw away.

He remains living in Aston until early 1907, when (aged 34) he moves to the more prestigious Moseley address of 12 Alcester Road. Although Kelly's Directory doesn't list him here until the 1908 edition, we know that Honora was born there in December 1907. (It is possible that the move to Moseley was due to his having just married Amy Lilian Blakemore.)

The Parkers remain at 12 Alcester Road until 1910, when they are replaced by a Mr Arthur J Williamson (listed as resident in Kelly's 1911). They move to 38 Strensham Road, replacing a Miss Elizabeth E Lee (listed in Kelly's 1910, the Parkers are listed in the 1911 edition).

But, tragically, Robert dies (aged 39), at the City Asylum in Winson Green in January 1912. He obviously isn't a bankrupt because he leaves his widow, Amy, a substantial sum of money. His daughter, Honora, is now four.

Amy sells the house almost immediately and 38 Strensham Road is taken over by a Mr John Henry Prince (he is on the Electoral Register for that year, published 31 July 1912).

So what happened to Amy and Honora?

Presuming that Amy didn't move out of Birmingham immediately, there are three women who suddenly appear in the 1913 edition of Kelly's under the name 'Parker, Mrs' (none of them present in the previous year's list of Mrs Parkers). Their addresses are:

40 Alcester Road, Kings Heath (another very short move?)

123 Alston Street, Ladywood (in the north of the city)

High View, Gravelly Hill, Erdington (again in the north, and sounds a little grand)

There's only one thing for it. I check every 'Mrs Parker' in Kelly's from 1911 through to 1930. The one resident at 40 Alcester Road looks incredibly promising (she disappears in 1924, and then a 'Miss Parker' is listed there for 1925, which I thought might be the 17 year-old Honora), but, alas, the 1921 Electoral Register shows them to be Elizabeth Helen and Elizabeth Mary Parker.

The one for Gravelly Hill is still listed in Kelly's 1935, where she is finally named as Georgina. Obviously, as Amy and Honora emigrated to New Zealand in 1927 (according to everyone else, though I've yet to see the documentation to support this) I can't consider anyone still in the UK after that year. This leaves only the Alston Street Mrs Parker. If it is Amy, she disappears in 1914. It is therefore looking increasingly likely that Amy left Birmingham with her daughter Honora shortly after Robert's death. If so, it will be near impossible to track her down.

Copyright © 1999 Andrew Conway. All Rights Reserved.