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Fred Brand


Frederick Joseph Brand 1857-1939: Author, artist, musician, archaeologist, noted authority on Essex history, bibliophile and a founder of the Barking and District Historical Society.

Bill George

Frederick Joseph Brand was born in Barking on 14th January 1857, the younger son of Richard Brand and Emma (née Knowles) who had married on 23rd January 1856 at St. George’s in the East. His grandfather, Richard Brand had opened a grocery business in Barking in 1808. His father, who had been born in the City of London, was a widower aged 42 and a Barking grocer of North Street; while his mother was a 37 year old spinster whose father, Edward Knowles was a ships’ chandler. Her family were a well-known local family of fishing smack owners. Fred Brand’s father, who died on 26th February 1872, left effects valued at under £450. His mother, Emma, died on 26th August 1913 leaving effects valued at £782.62p.

Frederick Joseph Brand 1857-1939

F.J. Brand was educated at Mr. Woodward’s “Academy for Young Gentleman” situated in North Street, Barking. In the 1871 census he is recorded as a 14 year old scholar. He then joined his father’s grocery business and he is listed in the 1881 census as a grocer living with his widowed mother. His heart however was in music and he gave up the grocery trade when he was appointed organist and choirmaster at St. John’s Church Loughton. He held this post for 33 years. Brand trained choir boys in musical comedy and they presented under his direction the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, including H.M.S Pinafore. In 1890 he produced at Loughton an opera entitled “Dolly Dearest”. He then served there as vicar’s warden for another decade. Brand never forgot his choirboys and left a bequest of £100 to provide gifts each Christmas for Loughton choir boys. He also left £100 for St. John’s to buy an ornament or decoration for the church.

Fred Brand was in the fortunate position of being of independent private means and was accordingly largely able to follow his artistic bent. He was closely associated with his cousin Edward Davidson Knowles (1851-1901), a renowned artist, and acquired much skill as a painter and designer from him. Some of Brand’s black and white drawings of local scenes appeared in the Ilford Recorder. He was also an expert architectural photographer. Apparently the click of his camera was often heard on Essex Archaeological Society excursions. He was usually one of last to get back on the excursion coach. Brand was keen to help others and, for example, took many photos of ancient closing-rings on Essex church doors for his friend G. Montagu Benton. Occasionally he would even hire a taxi and with a friend or two make a special excursion for the purpose. Brand amassed a good collection of photographic equipment and in his will he left his “cameras, enlarger and all my other photographic apparatus and my gold watch and chain” to Harold Fell of 23 Cambridge Road, Goodmayes.

Fred never married and always lived with his mother who died in 1913, aged 93. When he died in 1939 he was the owner of 7 freehold properties including five dwelling houses at 5,6,7,8 and 9 Alma Place Barking; a cottage at 13 Kings Road, Barking and his house 26 Oakfield Road. Some idea of his lifestyle may be glimpsed from his will in which he specifically mentions several items such as his mother’s portrait in oils,” a small water colour portrait of his mother when a child and also a portrait of her mother”, a mahogany bookcase, a piano, a clock by Latham, a sampler by Rebecca Brockett, two china ornaments known as “the Chess Players”, “Two China Cottages” and his diamond ring.

Brand lived in Barking in the earlier part of his life and then Ilford from 1885, apart from seven years in Loughton during his church wardenship. In 1871 he was living with his parents in North Street. He was still at North Street in 1881. By 1891 he was living with his mother at Wycliffe House, Pleasant Row. In 1891 he was at Wycliffe House, Pleasant Row, Ilford, while in 1901 and 1911 he was living at Holmesdale 26 Oakfield Road and listed as ”living on private income also organist of Loughton Parish Church”.

Brand was a bibliophile and amassed a remarkable collection of books, manuscripts and engravings relating to Essex, including items of great rarity. He would often loan a precious manuscript to those interested. Brand often advised others on the repair of old books and manuscripts. Brand spent 15 years compiling a reference index to the numerous scattered articles relating to Essex parishes. He completed this huge undertaking in 1925. He duplicated many copies on an ordinary duplicator. Brand stencilled 1,388 pages and did the binding of the four folio volumes. He presented copies to the British Museum, the Guildhall Library, the Bodleian, Manchester, Harvard and Yale, and the Essex Archaeological Society and several public libraries in Essex. He also produced “570 Essex Extracts from Public Records” with an index. This consisted of transcripts of forty-one early Essex grants and charters They were printed at his own expense in 1937. James Oxley gave Fred Brand valuable assistance in translating many of his old Latin documents and they became good friends. In later years Brand was a frequent visitor to Ilford Library, which was in the road where he lived, and became a close friend of the Borough Librarian Mr. W.J. Chamberlain. In his will Brand stipulated that all his “books, pamphlets, prints, translations, indices and manuscripts” were sold. Much of the collection was purchased by Ilford Public Library as a whole. Brand was generous and made gifts to various museums. He presented to the British Museum, just before his death the original 1456 rent roll of Barking Abbey. The Frogley Manuscript was donated to the Essex Archaeological Society. Brand appears to have acquired this manuscript in the thirties but was apparently reticent about it even to his friend James Oxley. It has been suggested that Brand may have intended editing and publishing it himself (Lockwood 1994 p. 10).

Fred Brand was an ardent antiquary and was interested in the past as a living thing and had little time for research that just involved a patient accumulation of facts. He was a founder of Barking and District Archaeological Society. He served successively as Vice-Chairman and Chairman of the new society and was honoured by a Vice-Presidency and Life Membership shortly before he passed away (Lockwood 1994 p. 2). Brand was a familiar figure on excursions of the Essex Archaeological Society which he joined in 1899. He served as a Member of Council from 1936-39. Brand was also a member of the British Archaeological Association and the Royal Archaeological Institute. He was involved in both Barking and Essex Pageants. The 1931 Barking Pageant was part of the celebrations for Barking being granted Charter Borough status. Brand wrote the second chapter entitled “Some Notes on the History of Barking” for the souvenir Book of Barking produced as part of the celebrations. When the Pageant of Essex was presented in Valentines Park in 1932, in aid of King George V Hospital, he was responsible for some of the outstanding dramatic episodes, notably that of Boadicea, with which the pageant opened. He acted as chairman of the Pageant Historical Committee, and wrote a valuable contribution to the programme under the title of “This Essex of Ours”. Interestingly our late esteemed President Bert Lockwood recollected seeing “Boadicea” being performed in Valentines Park as a child (Lockwood 1994 p. 2). Did Brand spark Bert’s lifetime passion for history?

In later life Brand took up study of the French language at the age of sixty. He also had a workshop built and equipped in his garden where he started bookbinding. At 70 he taught himself printing and issued from his private “amateur press” a series of booklets entitled “Items of Essex Interest”. He bound and in some cases illustrated them himself. Brand was doing light bookbinding on the day before he died.
Brand was a devout churchman. His serene and winning personality, his outstanding qualities of heart and mind were due to the fact that he “found no answer to the puzzle of life but in truth and courage and beauty and belief in God”.

In character Brand was a simple, loveable man, with a keen sense of humour. He was however tenacious when he thought he was right. He had a marked personality, modest, of a retiring disposition and was at his best in the company of a small circle of intimate friends as on Essex Archaeological Society excursions. Brand was the kindest of men who delighted in helping fellow antiquaries, giving his time and energy. Little children were instinctively drawn to him and they adored his “Brer Rabbit” stories. An obituarist wrote “His generosity did not run in narrow grooves, and there are numerous small pensioners now mourning the loss of their benefactor” (Benton 1940 p. 194). Fortunately he had vigour of mind until the very end. In his will he left £200 to his housekeeper Mrs A. King. Oxley writing in 1955 recollected Brand’s keen enthusiasm, deep scholarship, wisdom and wise criticism (Oxley 1955 p. viii).

He died, aged 82, at Holmsdale, 26, Oakfield Road, Ilford on 29th December 1939. The funeral service was held at St. John’s church Loughton on 3rd January 1940 at the special request of the rector. The internment followed at St. Mary’s Cemetery, Ilford. Brand was buried in the same grave as his mother. His estate was valued at £10,956.21. In his will dated 23rd May 1938 he left £100 stock for the deserving poor of St. Margaret’s parish and £100 in trust for distribution each Christmas among the choirboys of St. John’s Loughton. The Barking charity was amalgamated as recently as 25th October 2008 [Charity Commission Files 227, 65829].

Detail of Fred Brand's Gravestone Inscription

Gravestone of Fred and Emma Brand
Buckingham Road Cemetery

Fred Brand was a prolific worker and published many short notes, articles and booklets. He also left many notes, cuttings etc. Some of his work has come down to us in several guises, including drafts, articles and revised notes. Sometimes notes and self-published items are not dated. The main source and store of his material is at Redbridge Libraries. The following list gives some indication of his tremendous output. What is his legacy? His main work, the four volume Essex Index was largely subsumed in the Essex Victoria Count History Bibliography which appeared in 1959. We should be grateful that he purchased and put into the public domain several valuable documents, especially the 1456 Barking Abbey Rental and the Frogley Manuscript. Members of the Barking and District Historical Society should also pay homage to one of our prime founders!

Frederick Joseph Brand (1857-1939)
A Founder of the Barking & District Historical Society

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