In the previous blog we saw how one couple left Bodmin for Manchester. Such moves – from market towns to the big cities of the industrial north of England – were not unusual, as the case of Eber Webster shows. Eber had an unusual first name, but that was a boon for this research project as it made it easier to trace him. His father, like Mary Hender’s, was also called Richard and also a craftsman, but this time a journeyman tailor. The family were living at Fore Street in Bodmin in both 1851 and 1861 but by the later census his father had made a slightly surprising career move and become a postmaster.
During the 1860s the young Eber entered the grocery trade and by 1871 had gone to London, where he was employed in a large grocery business near or perhaps on Islington High Street. He lived in a house or apartment with seven other grocery assistants, the rest all from eastern England, with a housekeeper to look after them and no doubt keep order. At some point before 1876 Eber met and married Sarah Lester, who came from Epsom in Surrey, their wedding taking place in east London. However, the pair did not stay long. They soon headed north to the booming city of Leeds.
By 1881 Eber and Sarah and their two young children were living in the growing suburb of Headingley in Leeds, where he was described as a commercial clerk for a tea dealer. Sarah was also given a paid occupation in that census, as a milliner and dressmaker. Ten years later, Sarah was not present in the census, although Eber was still described as married. Sarah was clearly absent for some time as Eber was employing a housekeeper to look after him, one daughter and two boarders.
In 1891 he was living at Harold Mount, a street of substantial, though back-to-back, houses. Eber could well have been one of the first occupants as the 1888/89 OS map suggests the area was in the process of being built up. He made at least one more move after this, but not back to Cornwall, his death being registered in Sheffield in 1915.