The Story of a Bible

The Walker family ran Wivenhoe's apothecary business for the best part of 50 years

John and Sheila Foster

The bible given to Eliza Rix in 1878.
John Foster
Inscription in Eliza Rix's bible. There are also later notes.
John Foster
Wedding photograph of Eliza Rix and Samuel Charles Walker.
W Vick
Wivenhoe Burial Board certificate.
John Foster
The Walker family headstone in the Old Cemetery.
John Foster

In 1878 Samuel Charles Walker and Eliza Rix were married in Hartismere in Suffolk. Eliza had been given a bible as a wedding present inscribed `Eliza Rix from Sarah’.

The couple then moved to Wivenhoe to take over the apothecary business on the corner of Anchor Square and East Street.

On 15 March 1880 the couple had a daughter: Muriel Kate Rix Walker. Muriel grew up in the shop, and appears in the 1901 census, aged 21 and in the 1911 census aged 31. Neither census gives any occupation for her but it seems safe to assume that she was helping with the family business.

A few months after the 1911 census Muriel’s father Samuel died. He was buried in the Old Cemetery on 12 August 1911 in the plot numbered E-4-32. His wife Eliza then took over the business, as witnessed by the entry in the 1912 Kellys directory “Walker, Eliza (Mrs) drug stores”. The same entry appears in the 1914, 1917 and 1922 directories.

Then, eleven years after her husband’s death, Eliza died. The burial record gives her place of death as Anchor Hill and records that she was buried on 30th March 1922 in plot E-4-32 with her husband. Her bible then passed into Muriel’s possession.

After her mother’s death Muriel continued to run the business: the 1925 Kellys directory lists “Walker, Muriel (Miss), drug stores” but by the time of the 1929 edition of Kellys, neither Muriel nor any other druggist is listed. Presumably she had by then closed the business.

By the time of the 1939 census, aged 59, Muriel had moved to Ipswich and was living in the home of John and Elizabeth Gayford. John was 23, and Elizabeth was 76 years old and described as both “widowed” and “incapacitated” so it can reasonably be assumed that Elizabeth was John’s grandmother, and that Muriel was chiefly concerned with looking after her.

Muriel lived until the age of 87. She died on 21 July 1966 in St Clements Hospital in Ipswich and was buried in Wivenhoe in plot E-4-32 with her parents. She had kept her mother’s bible all her life, and on her death it passed to her executor, a lay preacher. And then when he died, his niece discovered the bible in a suitcase full of bibles that had been left to him.

Tucked inside this bible were some treasures which were also clues. Inside the bible Eliza had preserved a picture of the Free Grammar School in Birmingham where her husband Samuel had been educated, and a wedding photograph of the couple with Eliza in her wedding dress. There was also a certificate from the Wivenhoe Burial Board confirming Muriel’s right to be buried in the Old Cemetery in plot E-4-32: the plot in which her parents were buried, thus confirming her continuing attachment to Wivenhoe. The certificate is undated but gives her address as Heath Road, Ipswich. That address was also her last address as given on her probate record.

Guided by the certificate from the Wivenhoe Burial Board the executor’s niece then contacted the Wivenhoe History Group and offered us the bible, which we accepted. And so it came back to Wivenhoe after all those years.

We know that Muriel was an only child and that she never married, so there are no direct descendants of the Walkers. However, if any other members of the family should read this and wish to have the bible we will be happy to hand it over.

This page was added on 05/09/2018.

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