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The Crouch Family

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Surname/tag: Crouch
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The advertisements in The Scotsman give a vivid picture of the fortunes of a merchant family in Victorian Edinburgh.

William Crouch was a watchmaker and jeweller who was born in Edinburgh in 1797 or 1798. In June 1829 he married Jane Pratt, who also came from Edinburgh, and was born in October 1804. They had eight children altogether. At the time of the 1841 census they were living at 37 North Bridge, with five children: Morgan, born in May 1831, Jane, born in April 1834, Henry, born in June 1836, David, born in January 1838 and William Albert, born in June 1840.

Three more children were to be born in the ensuing years: Joseph in June 1842, Anne in November 1849 and Isabella in March 1851. Then in February 1858, The Scotsman reported the death of his eldest daughter Jane. At this time the family was living at 11 Lutton Place, and the shop was at 40 North Bridge.

In February 1866 he proposed to sell the shop premises at 32 North Bridge by auction.

SHOP No 32 NORTH BRIDGE with Extensive PREMISES below, occupied by Messrs Wm Crouch & Son, Jewellers. Rent £150

Although the property changed hands, the firm continued to operate from 32 North Bridge. In March 1867, The Scotsman printed an article that stated that the Queen Mary Casket, which had been designed and manufactured for the Paris Exhibition by ‘Messrs W. Crouch and Sons’, was on view at their showrooms in North Bridge. It seems that the shop also acted as a repository for lost and found jewellery, as illustrated by these advertisements from 1865 and 1869: LOST, on Wednesday evening, between Queen Street Hall and Bank Street, an EARDROP, Pink Topaz Set in Gold. Finder Rewarded. Apply at William Crouch & Son’s, 32 North Bridge. and BROOCH, Oval Gold, Blue Enamelled and Pearls, between Morningside and Portobello, last Monday. Apply Messrs W. Crouch & Son, 32 North Bridge.

Meanwhile, Henry Brougham Crouch married Maria Jane Hunter in 1869, and they moved into No 23 Dalrymple Crescent in the same year. Maria was born in Edinburgh in 1851, making her 13 years younger than Henry. He had not gone into the family business, but set up on his own as a goldsmith. In the 1871 census Henry and Maria had a boarder, Maria Louisa Laing, aged 22, and a servant, Anne Howie, 21, both of whom came from Edinburgh.

Henry had established a business at 27 Hanover Street, and in November 1875 a special announcement offered for sale the astronomical instruments in solid silver that had been in the possession of Sir John Herschel, the celebrated astronomer. In March 1877 he attended the tenth annual soirée of the goldsmiths of Edinburgh. In 1876 his home address was 7 Mansionhouse Road, and by 1881 he and Maria had moved to 1 Cobden Road. At the time of the census they had two children, Henry aged six, and Maria aged four.

Meantime the family business had expanded, and in May 1872 it was described as ‘Manufacturing Jewellers, Silversmiths, Watch and Clock Makers, based at 32 North Bridge Edinburgh and 221 and 264 Regent Street London’. However, the advertisement in The Scotsman announced that stock was being sold off at 20% below usual prices, due to the ‘dissolution of the partnership’ of ‘William Crouch and Sons’.

A similar advertisement appeared in November 1874. The only address given now was 32 North Bridge, but owing to ‘a change in their Firm’ they were offering their stock at 20% to 50% below normal. In 1875 much of the stock was auctioned off. Then, in February 1877, David, ‘having succeeded to the old established business carried on by Wm Crouch & Son, 32 North Bridge’ announced that he was selling ‘a large and well-assorted stock of first class jewellery and plate’ at a 20% reduction. From this time, the firm was referred to as ‘W. Crouch and Son’.

In June 1879 the firm was tangentially involved in a bankruptcy case, and The Scotsman reported the details of the Court hearing quite fully. They were minor creditors, but the case is interesting for the light it throws on the financial difficulties of Victorian women.

Two sisters, Helen and Elizabeth Mackay were the subjects of the bankruptcy case. They had lived with their father, who had died in 1868. Their brother, Robert who was the heir, had made an annuity to each of them of £250 a year, and this was their only income. He had married in 1869, but had no family, and when he died he left the bulk of the estate to his widow. The elder sister spoke for them, trying to explain why they had got into financial difficulties. She had paid some of her father’s debts, and had received an advance of £200 from the annuity to furnish the house where they were living. Her liabilities exceeded her income because of the expense of her fathers & sisters illnesses & she had given away more than she should have done to the needy poor.

She had no idea that her liabilities were so extensive. She was willing to restrict her expenditure so that her creditors could receive a portion of the annuity. With regard to a claim made by Messrs Crouch, jewellers, Edinburgh, for jewellery .. she said that the articles… were returned to Messrs Crouch, and she therefore did not consider that the account was due. She had tried to retrench before, but failed because her sister needed medical attendance. She had never represented to her creditors that she had been left annuities and ready cash, nor that she was not in debt, nor that she kept a carriage, neither did she represent herself as a close relation to Sir William Forbes with an account at the Union Bank. She might have said that her aunt was a granddaughter of Sir William, which was a fact! The case was held at the Edinburgh Bankruptcy Court, and the Sheriff administered ‘the oath’ - the sisters’ liabilities were held to be £1095 between them. Their assets were the interest of the annuity. It seems that the Sheriff was satisfied that the debt could be paid off.

In 1881 David married Margaret Bertram, who was daughter of George Bertram, the founder of Bertram of Sciennes, who were manufacturers of paper-making machinery. She was the sister of David Noble Bertram, who lived at No 3 between 1886 and 1889. David and Margaret Crouch lived at 21 Dalrymple Crescent from 1881 until 1893. Margaret was four years younger than David. At the time of the 1881 census they had one servant, Mary McGaugh, 29, from Ireland. His father and mother, William and Jane were now living at St Anne’s Villa, Craigmillar Road with Isabella, who was the only one of the children still at home. William was now 83, and he died in September 1881.

In the early 1880s, W. Crouch and Son, under David, continued to advertise in The Scotsman, with grand clearance sales, and Christmas specials at 32 North Bridge (only address). At the International Forestry Exhibition held in Donaldson’s Hospital in July 1884, several jewellers were exhibitors, including W. Crouch & Son

Several of Messrs Crouch’s exhibits are made of oak from St Giles Cathedral. This firm also show new brooches made of natural Scottish hazel nuts and English filberts.

In February 1885, a removal sale was advertised, as the business was moving to ‘large and Central premises in 56 new Buildings North Bridge (Opposite the general Post Office)’. In 1886, a very different type of story was reported in The Scotsman: William Crouch, jeweller, 21 Dalrymple Crescent, and George McIntosh, cattle-drover, Grassmarket, were remitted to the Sheriff for an alleged contravention of the Criminal Law Amendment Act

This was David’s brother William Albert, who had at one time lived in London, but was now back in Edinburgh. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 was aimed at protecting girls from under age sex and prostitution, but also had a section which criminalized male homosexuality.

The family was in the news again in July 1887. At court, a John Davidson was charged with stealing a ‘large number of articles’ from several jewellers, including William Crouch and Son, and Henry Brougham Crouch (whose shop was now in Princes Street). Davidson had been employed by these jewellers at the time of the thefts, and had an accomplice, Annie Hamilton. The judge said that Davidson had betrayed a position of trust, and sentenced him to 5 years penal servitude, but Hamilton was regarded as being under his influence, and was sentenced relatively lightly, being given 3 months imprisonment. In 1887 Henry was living at 13 Morningside Drive, and his business address was 67 Princes Street. However in October of that year, ‘Henry Brougham Crouch, Goldsmith and Jeweller, 67 Princes Street, Edinburgh’ was offered for sale. A liquidation sale offered 25% off stock, but in addition, ‘Offers for the entire stock and business’ would be received by his solicitor.

1888 was an eventful year for the Crouch family. In January there was an ‘Extraordinary Sequel to a Criminal Prosecution’ (The Scotsman). John Davidson, who had been the defendant in the 1887 jewellery thefts, had pleaded guilty to the theft of 248 articles, about half of the 477 quoted in the indictment. Most of the stolen goods were still in the hands of the Procurator Fiscal. Davidson claimed that the other 229 goods were his, and that he had bought them at auction sales. It transpired that all the articles except ‘a silver bouquet holder and a gold ring’ were claimed by other people, and the judge accepted these claims. It appears that when the police had searched the house before the original trial, the jewellery had been found hidden in different parts of the house, in a hole behind the skirting in the bathroom, for example. Davidson was ordered to pay expenses. So the Crouch family were able to retrieve all the property stolen from them.

Also in January, Henry and David’s mother, Jane, died at the age of 85, and a month later their brother William Albert died at David’s house in 21 Dalrymple Crescent, at the age of 48.

In March, ‘owing to the winding up of the trust Estate of the late Wm Crouch’, the shop on North Bridge was having another sale.

Henry’s wife Maria Jane Crouch died in 1891 at the age of 49. David and Margaret were still living at 21 Dalrymple Crescent, where, at the time of the census, they had two servants. The cook, Isabella Mackenzie, aged 30, was from Fort Augustus, and the waiting maid, Elizabeth McNabola, aged 19, was from Ireland. David moved to 34 Mayfield Terrace in 1893.

W. Crouch & Son continued to advertise and give discounts until the end of the century. In March 1895 there was a Compulsory Sale due to the rebuilding of North Bridge. The foundation stone for the new bridge was laid by the Lord Provost in May 1896, and the bridge was opened in September 1897. Finally in May 1897, another sale was advertised. The address was given as 32 North Bridge, and the firm had to vacate the premises, due to the demolition of the property. Again discounts of 30% to 50% were advertised.

Henry Brougham Crouch died in Dumfries, in 1902 at the age of 65. Isabella died in 1929, and is buried in Grange Cemetery along with her parents and brother William Albert.


Lamb, Joanne Myra. Dalrymple Crescent, A Snapshot of Victorian Edinburgh, T&J Lamb, 2011, ISBN 978-0-9566713-0-1

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