Albert Willie Gregory Prosser – Builder, Estate Agent and Architect. His Life and Family
by Linda Ayres
Albert Willie Gregory Prosser was born in 1870 at Luton, Bedfordshire. He was one of the four children of John Gregory Prosser, and his wife Phebe, nee Cannon Field (1842-1878). John was a carpenter, joiner and builder. In 1879 John went bankrupt and at that time he was living at Wentlock Street, Luton. He would later buy houses and renovate them and rent them out to tenants. It seems that Albert learned the skills of the building trade and buying and selling properties from his father.
In 1889 Albert Prosser went into partnership with Albert Conisbee
Albert Frederick Conisbee (1866 -1929) was one of the three children of Frederick Conisbee and his wife Jane, nee Woodman Gutteridge. The family lived at Burr Street, Luton. Frederick was a butcher and was one of the first councillors elected to Luton Town Council. He died from a heart attack in June 1878. Jane Conisbee and her three children subsequently moved into Wentlock House, Wentlock Street, Luton, and on the same street where Albert Prosser and his family lived. Albert Conisbee went to Norton College, Luton, which offered a high class education. On leaving college he went into the building trade. He became a highly skilled woodcarver.
After forming the partnership, they moved to Bedford where they ran their own building firm. The 1891 Census shows that Albert Prosser was a joiner by trade and living at Battison Street, Bedford.
In May 1891 they both sat for the Harpur Trust Boys’ Elementary School Examinations. They each earned the 2nd Class Certificate in perspective art and Albert Prosser earned the 1st Class Certificate in advanced stage building construction. In May 1896 Albert Conisbee earned the 1st Class Certificate in Art.
On the 2nd June 1896 Albert Conisbee (age 29) married Rosa Trasler (age 22), at Holy Trinity Church, Bedford. Before his marriage he lived at Stanley Street, Bedford. In 1897 their only child, Lewis Ralph was born.
Albert Prosser’s marriage to Sarah Ames
On the 10th January 1900 Albert (aged 30) married Sarah (aged 30) at Kempston All Saints Church. Before her marriage Sarah lived with her widowed mother also named Sarah at 170 Bedford Road, Kempston. Sarah’s father Joseph died in 1865 when she was 3 years old.
At the time of his marriage Albert was a builder and lodging at Fevick House, Goldington Road. After they were married, they moved into 17 Devon Road, Bedford. Albert and Rosa Conisbee lived next door at 15 Devon Road.
Sarah and Albert had five children, Jack (1900-1943), Ruby (1901-1991), Molly (1903-1985), Gladys (1905-2001). Sadly, their youngest child Mary died in childhood. The inscription on Mary’s grave stone reads. “In sweetest memory of Mary Prosser, who passed away on Epiphany Sunday, January 5th 1919, aged 8 years. Safe in the arms of Jesus”. Grave ref. G4 190.
Estate Agent and Architect
The 1901 Census shows Albert is an architect and a builder. He built a pair of large houses at 90 and 92 Kimbolton Road. By 1907 he had moved into 90 Kimbolton Road. The house consisted of 3 sitting rooms and 6 bedrooms. Number 92 Kimbolton Road, was smaller with 3 sitting rooms and 5 bedrooms. From April 1907 he is no longer a builder but an architect. Albert ran an estate agency from his home. He marketed the properties as being in Bedford’s best situations, as well as ‘RUS-IN-URBE’, an illusion of the countryside created by a building within a city. In 1910 he moved his estate agency office to the building that adjoined the Post Office on the corner of Kimbolton Road and Pemberley Avenue. The Post Office is now inside Budgens supermarket.
In 1929 Albert was elected a trustee of St. Peter’s Church. He was the President of the Bedford Arts Club and a member of the Bedford Natural History and Archaeological Society.
Re-erection of Cemetery Lodge
Albert was elected to the Bedford Burial Board in April 1912 for the parish of St. Paul’s. On the 11th September 1919 the Burial Board held a public inquiry into the poor state of the Cemetery Lodge (Gate House). Mr. Marjoribanks Keppel North, Inspector for the Ministry of Health, suggested that the Burial Board needed to borrow money for a new residence for Harry Franks, the Registrar. Albert and the other members of the Board had stated that the house was built 65 years ago and the accommodation was now insufficient. The bricks were porous and three out of the four bedrooms were so damp in winter that they could not be used; several times the walls had been underpinned and sheared up, and treated three times with damp proof with no effect. The roof was in urgent need of repair. Mr. North inspected the house – he said that it was uninhabitable, and it was harmful to the health of Mrs Franks and the children.
Albert drew up the plans to re-erect the Registrars house. In June 1919 he invited Tenders to his office at 23 Lurke Street, Bedford to view the Plans and copies of the Specifications and Quantities. During the repairs it is unclear if the Franks’ family moved out of the Cemetery Lodge. Cemetery Lodge was made habitable and the family lived there until Harry Franks died in 1943.
Sarah’s death and Albert’s second marriage to Jessie Gray Badger
Sarah died on the 6th December 1920, aged 54 years, at 28 Lurke Street, Bedford. Her burial took place at Foster Hill Road Cemetery on the. 9th December. Grave Ref: G4.190.
On the 3rd July 1923 Albert married his second wife, Jessie Gray Badger, at Holy Trinity Church, Great Portland Street, London. Jessie was born at Cottingham in Northamptonshire. In 1898 Jessie married her first husband William David Badger, a dairyman. He was the son of a wealthy farmer of Syerscote Manor, Staffordshire. In 1902 Jessie and William and their one year old daughter, Gwendoline moved to Bedford. William died on the 12 June 1902 aged 39, at 47 Howbury Street, Bedford. His funeral took place at Foster Hill Road Cemetery on the 16th June. Section F1 Grave 43a. Jessie and Gwendoline later moved to Goldington, Bedford.
Albert Conisbee’s Final Years
Albert Conisbee retired from his business just before the outbreak of the First World War. His favourite pastime was bowling. He died on the 19th July 1929 at his home, The Oaks, Bromham Road. His funeral took place at Biddenham Church. Among the many mourners was his lifelong friend and onetime partner, Albert Prosser. He was survived by his wife and his son, Lewis, who was a Senior English Master at Hastings Grammar School. Lewis later became a Master at the Bedford Modern School. He wrote histories of both schools and several articles for the Bedfordshire Magazine. Lewis died aged 94, in 1991 at Berkshire.
Death of Albert Prosser
Albert Prosser died in 1961, aged 91 years, at 14 Park Avenue.
His burial took place in the family grave on the 8th September at Foster Hill Road Cemetery.
Grave Ref: G4.190.
Jessie survived Albert by 12 years. She died in 1973, aged 93 years in Northamptonshire.
Albert and Sarah’s children
After Jack left the Bedford School in 1915, he went as a cadet to the Thames Nautical Training College, HMS Worcester (1915-1917). During the latter part of WW1, he served as a midshipman in the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR). He later became a Navigating Officer for the Western Cable Company. On the 7th September 1928 Jack married Margaret Evelyn Herbert at St. Ethelburga, Bishopsgate, London. Jack’s sisters Molly and Gladys were bridesmaids. The reception was held at the Savoy Hotel, London. Margaret earned a Bachelor of Science Degree at the London University. She was the eldest daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert, Indian Medical Service (retired). Jack and Margaret had two children, Dacre was born in 1930 and Richard in 1937.
In WW2, Jack served in the Merchant Navy as Master on the S.S Baltonia. At 23.59 on 7th Feb 1943 SS Baltonia ran into a minefield west of Gibraltar. The resulting explosion caused many casualties. Jack aged 42, nine crew members and one gunner were killed. The British Merchant Ship Kingsland, picked up 42 survivors. Jack is commemorated on Panel 13 at Tower Hill Memorial, London. On his mother’s gravestone is the inscription, “Capt J. A. Prosser, Killed at sea by enemy Action.
Dacre Prosser studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and trained at St. George’s Hospital, London. He was a G.P. at a practice in Norfolk. Dacre died on the 19th August 2011. The Eastern Daily Press reported on the 9th September 2011 Dacre Prosser’s obituary:-“Bow-tie wearing Dacre Prosser relished both his role as a family doctor and the many good things in life – ranging from red wine to the natural world.”
Gladys trained at the Training College for Teachers, 14 The Crescent, Bedford. On the 1st October 1930 Gladys received the National Froebel Union Teacher’s Certificate. She was an Assistant Mistress at Cheswycks School, Camberley in Surrey in 1928, and Northwood Preparatory School, Northwood in Hertfordshire, from 1929 to 1931. In 1931 Gladys sailed from Liverpool to Shanghai, China, to teach at the Girls’ Cathedral School in Shanghai. On the 22nd December 1932 Gladys married school teacher, Arthur Hugh Candlin at Holy Trinity Church Shanghai. They lived at Fo Shn Gardens, Shanghai. Arthur was born in 1901 at Shropshire. He gained his MA at Edinburgh University. In 1924 he sailed from London on the ship Kashgar to Shanghai. From 1925 to 1938 he was the Assistant Master at four different boys’ schools in Shanghai. On the 26th October 1935 their son, David was born at the Country Hospital, Shanghai.
In 1938 Arthur, Gladys and David returned to England. Arthur’s first teaching post was as the Co- Principal at the Dane Court Preparatory School at Parkstone in Dorset. In 1941 they were living in Bedford. Arthur taught Greek at the Bedford School. His main interest was playing the organ in the Bedford School Chapel. In 1942 their daughter Amelia was born at the Rena Nursing Home at 24/26 De Parys Avenue. In 1946 Arthur had taken up the appointment as the Headmaster of St. Bede’s Boys’ School, Eastbourne. Their son David went to St Bede’s School, before going on to Eastbourne College from 1949 to 1954. Arthur retired in 1964 and the following year, he died aged 64, at St. Bede’s School. Gladys survived Arthur by 36 years, she died in 2001, aged 95, at Rockdale House, Rockdale Road, Sevenoaks, Kent. Gladys and Arthur’s burials took place in Foster Hill Road Cemetery, next to the Prosser family graves. Grave Ref: G4.183.
Ruby went to Bedford High School. By 1920 the family had moved to Old Gaston House, which stood on the corner of Lurke Street, and St. Cuthbert’s Street. In 1931 Ruby taught students shorthand and typing at Gaston House. By 1934 the family had moved to 14 Park Avenue, where Ruby continued to teach students shorthand and typing. In 1938 Ruby was Principal and the owner of, St Anne’s Secretarial College, at 14 Park Avenue. She taught students shorthand, typing, dictaphone, book-keeping, French shorthand, German and French conversation. Ruby never married. She died in November 1992, aged 91 years at 1 Kimbolton Road, Bedford. Ruby’s burial took place in the family grave on the 24th November. Grave Ref: G4.190.
Bedford Mercury Saturday Sept 28th1895
Luton Times an Advertiser Friday 15th August 1879
Luton Reporter Saturday 8th February 1879 and 14th June 1879
The Bedfordshire Mercury, Saturday 10th October 1891
Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 21st February 1908 and 18th December 1908
Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 24th December 1909 and 12th April 1912
Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 9th April 1920 and 12th July 1920
Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 6th July 1923 and 14th Sept 1928
Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 26th July 1929 and 2nd October 1931
Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 7th April 1933 and 24th July 1936
Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 10th August 1938
Bedford Times and Standard 26 March 1943 and 10th August 1951
Old Eastbournian College Archives 2014
Passenger Lists 1890-1960
Teachers’ Registration Council 1914-1948
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