The Day Family

The Day Family

The Days were a family who built up their business mainly in the building trade in Bedford but also in ironmongery, at a time when the town of Bedford was rapidly expanding. Through marriage they had links to the Cherry family, also builders. Sons John and Charles Day especially became respected and successful citizens of Bedford while second son William was a successful ironmonger with a shop on the High Street in Bedford. Many of the family lived on Gwyn Street, which at that time was a long road connecting Bromham Road with Midland Road before it was cut off by All Hallows Car Park, Bedford Bus Station and shops in the 1960’s. John and Charles eventually moved upmarket to property on Bromham Road.

Parents: William and Catherine
William Day 1792-1860 b Ampthill Beds, buried 27 April 1860 aged 68
Catherine Day 1793-1861, wife, buried 28 November 1861 aged 69 They had married on 8 November 1814 at St Paul’s Church, Bedford.

William in the 1841 census is recorded as ‘bricklayer’ aged 49 living at Gwyn St with his wife Catherine and 3 children, George (20) William (19) and John (12)
By the 1851 census he was building up the business, and is recorded as ‘Builder employing 3 men’, aged 59, living with wife Catherine at Gwyn St and with sons involved: Charles ‘Carpenter’ (28) and John ‘Bricklayer’ (22) and daughters Anne (24) ‘dressmaker’ and Sarah (17) ‘dressmaker’ His son George (32) had moved to the High Street and is recorded as ‘innkeeper’.

William died in April 1860 and the 1861 census records Catherine as widow of ‘Builder’, aged 68 living with son John (32) who was now a ‘Master builder employing 3 men’ and unmarried daughter Sarah, at 30 Gwyn St. Catherine died the following year in December 1861
William’s will states that he left ‘Effects under £450’ Address Gwyn St.

Catherine’s will states that she left ‘Effects under £100 Address Gwyn St This seems to suggest that life was hard once the breadwinner had died and her sons’ businesses were not yet prosperous.


William’s Grave Ref: G9.137

Catherine Day G9.127



They are buried with separate gravestones next to each other, alongside some of their children. Both gravestones are very degraded.






William and Catherine were the parents of Mary, George, William, Charles, John, Anne and Sarah Day

George Day, the oldest son, partly followed his father in his connection with the building trade, but he is also recorded as both ‘builder’ and/or ‘innkeeper’ later. In 1841 he lived with his parents aged 20, with no record of occupation. in 1851 he was an ‘innkeeper’ living on the High Street, Bedford with his wife Elizabeth and in 1861 as ‘builder and innkeeper’ living at ‘The Bear Inn’ at 92 High Street with Elizabeth. He is recorded in the Letters of Administration in 1863 following Catherine’s death, as ‘Innkeeper’.

‘Melancholy Death’ (Beds Times 9 June 1866)
His wife Elizabeth had died on 2 June 1865 and he appears to have had a sad ending to his life a year later. He was found dead in his bed on 8 June 1866 by a young girl of 13 who had been visiting daily to help with some household duties. At the inquest a chemist on the High Street gave evidence that the previous day George had asked for some strong poison to kill a dog, as requested by its owner. He was given a phial of prussic acid, the contents of which were found in his stomach post mortem. Other evidence records that he had not been himself in the days before, having stopped working altogether and was rambling in his speech. He had had a severe accident about 4 years earlier, in which he had been thrown from a cart and had injured his head badly, giving him much ongoing pain. He was declared to have been suffering from ‘delirium tremens’. A verdict of ‘Temporary Insanity’ was returned, and he was able to be buried in consecrated ground with his wife and close to his parents. Probate granted to his brother William revealed his modest means: ‘Effects under £100’.

George and Elizabeth have a joint grave stone. Elizabeth, who died first, is inscribed: ‘Elizabeth Day b 10 June 1820 d 2 June 1865’ Her address at burial was Cemetery Road (now Foster Hill Road) George is inscribed: ‘George Day, husband, died 8 June 1866’ His address on burial was also Cemetery Road.
There were no living children recorded.

Elizabeth and George Day G9.146

William Day ‘Whitesmith’, the second son of William and Catherine. He worked his way up in life as a ‘whitesmith’ or ironmonger of some note. He was born in 1822 and is first recorded, living with his parents William and Catherine, in the 1841 census as ‘whitesmith’ aged 19. In 1846 he married Mary Vaughan Freshwater at St Sepulchre, Holborn, London while living in Middlesex, London, and he moved back to Bedford, his birthplace and that of his wife, to raise his family. By 1861 he was employing 3 boys and 3 men, living in Duke Street, Bedford.

Shop in the High Street: ‘William Day, ironmongers’ and ‘Day and Sons, Ironmongers’
In 1871 and 1881 he was living at 80 High Street employing 6 boys and 6 men. The Bedford High Street Gazeteer notes, in 1890, the presence of ‘Day and Sons, Ironmongers, at number 80, the address where the family had lived since at least 1869, (the Bedford Directory of that year) They are also recorded living there in the 1871 census, so it appears that he worked from this address during this period. He died on 21 July 1888, leaving the business in the hands of his 2 sons, William Samuel and Charles Peter who were both ironmongers. William Samuel is also recorded in 1890 as Registrar of Marriages. They, with his widow, Mary, were still resident at the shop in the 1891 census and according to the Bedford Gazette the business was briefly at 107 High Street where Goldings was until recently. By the 1901 census they had all moved to Aston, near Birmingham, Warwickshire, and in 1903 the Bedford shop at number 80 had become a bookseller’s. Today the premises are occupied by ‘Harrison and Simmonds, Gentleman’s Gift Emporium’, established in 1928.

William’s Grave ref: H9.246






Inscription: In Loving Memory of WILLIAM DAY
Born July 9th 1821 Died July 21st 1888
“Make Him To Be Numbered With Thy Saints



The graves of his wife and daughter
His wife, Mary Vaughan Day was buried in FHR cemetery on 23 April 1908, aged 84. Her burial address was 14 High Street Chalton. Sadly there is no gravestone but her burial plot is close to William’s. Grave Ref: H8 13

Between William’s and Mary’s graves is that of their young daughter Annie, who died aged 7. The gravestone has an iron cross on the top, a reminder that William was a skilled ironmonger.

Annie Day H8.2

In Memory of ANNIE
Daughter of William and Mary V Day
Who died 23 September 1857
Aged 7 years and 6 months

Charles Day ‘Builder’, the third son of William and Catherine, who prospered in the family building trade. He started as a Carpenter, recorded in 1851. By 1861 he was a Carpenter and Builder employing men including 2 bricklayers, and was living next door in Gwyn Street to his younger brother John.

Retirement of Headmaster Thomas Riley
In July 1869 the Beds Times records that he, along with his brother William and 2 others, were instigators in collecting contributions for a testimonial to mark the retirement of Mr Riley, Head of the National School. Thomas Riley was highly regarded, having served the school well for many years and had raised the standards considerably.

Expanding business
By 1871 Charles had progressed to employing 3 boys and 9 men, to meet growing building demands in Bedford. By the 1881 census, like his brother John, he had moved from Gwyn Street to Victoria Terrace on Bromham Road, a property with mews buildings, a symbol of his success in his trade.

In 1852 he married Catherine Liley from Redbourn, Herts. They had 1 daughter, Frances, and no sons to continue in the building trade. Catherine died in 1882.

Charles died on 7 March 1891. Probate refers to him as ‘Gentleman’ leaving £532, quite a sum at that time. He and Catherine are buried in the same grave.

Charles and Catherine Day D2.14




Inscription: “The memory of the just is blessed.”

In Affectionate Remembrance of CATHERINE, the Beloved Wife of CHARLES DAY,
Born May 28th. 1825, Died July 18th. 1882.

Also of CHARLES DAY, Born January 25th. 1823 Died March 7th. 1891



John Day ‘Builder and Architect’, the fourth son of William and Catherine. John’s fortunes appear to have prospered too, and he progressed from ‘bricklayer to ‘Master builder’ to ‘Architect’ and ‘Surveyor’ as well as being chosen for public service in the town. He was born on 13 December 1828 and died suddenly on 14 September 1887
John and his wife Ellen both lived on Gwyn Street before their marriage and may well have been known to each other as youngsters. The census shows that in 1851 John lived with his parents, William and Catherine, at Gwyn Street and was a bricklayer. In 1861 John was living with his widowed mother Catherine at 30 Gwyn Street aged 32, as ‘Master Builder’ employing 3 men. It appears that, on the death of his father, William, in 1860, he had taken over the family business recorded in the 1851 census.

8 July 1863 he married Ellen Francis at St Paul’s. Bedford born, she was aged 14 ‘Scholar’ in 1851 census, also living on Gwyn St, with her grandmother Mary Lilley, a ‘Proprietor of Houses’. In 1861 she was still living with her grandmother at 7 St Loyes, aged 24 She married John in 1863 and she and John had 2 children, John Francis b 1867 and Alice Mary b 1869.

Growing business
In 1871 John was employing a number of people including 4 apprentices and a clerk, as he now had set up an office where plans would be inspected and tenders delivered for new projects.

Harpur Trust assignments
By 1871 the family business and John’s status in the town were flourishing.

In March 1869 he was appointed by the Harpur Trust to examine the buildings of Bedford Grammar School with regard to the extreme cold in winter and heat in summer. His recommendations were laid out in his report a month later.

Future of the Bedford Charity
In December 1869 he served as a Trustee of the Harpur Trust to consider future use of William Harpur’s funds. This followed the Endowed Schools Act of 1869, and an adverse report by the Charity Commissioners with unwelcome future plans for Bedford from that commission. Despite his best efforts and those of his fellow trustees they were overruled. In 1873 a new scheme came into being for the use of William Harpur’s legacy and the advantages of the Grammar School were no longer restricted to citizens of Bedford.

Planned new Commercial School buildings
During 1869 John was put in charge of managing tenders for the new buildings of the Commercial School which the Harpur Trust was planning. In the end the changes were deferred, pending new government legislation on the future of funds of charities such as the Bedford Charity.

In the 1871 census John lived at 30 Gwyn Street with his family, still recorded as builder, employing 1 clerk, 6 men and 4 apprentices. However by then he was being referred to as an architect as well as builder. A number of advertisements appeared in local papers for tenders for his house designs. These included a ‘Villa Residence’ on Castle Hill near the Castle Brewery and another for a ‘Gentleman’s Residence’ on Bromham Road. In October 1873 a notice appeared in the Beds Times inviting tenders for the laying on of water and alterations and repairs at The Lodge, Clapham Road (part of the site of Bedford Modern School today) ‘to be submitted to John Day, Architect and Surveyor’.

New Residence
In the 1881 census his occupation was recorded as ‘architect’, aged 50. By then he was upwardly mobile, having moved with his wife Ellen (44) from Gwyn Street to Victoria Terrace, then ‘Conduit Street’ named after the site of the old conduit, near the junction with Union Street. (The name of ‘Bromham Road’ was extended in the 1880s to cover this part of the road) The site is now ‘Olivia Court’ flats, dating from the 1980’s and its history included previously George Langley garage, taken over by Kennings from 1959. Part of the site had also been the American Officers’ club in World War 2 and was visited by the late Queen Mother during the war.

Sudden Death
14 September 1887 John died tragically at the Covent Garden Theatre, London, and his death was reported in the London Evening News as well as the Bedfordshire Times. His address was given as 12 Victoria Terrace, Bromham Road, Bedford, and his occupation ‘builder’. The reports stated that he had gone to London with a friend and fellow builder, Thomas Spencer. They had separated during the day and met up for an evening meal. They then went to a Promenade Concert in Covent Garden. Unfortunately before the programme had started he suddenly dropped dead. He was taken to the police station opposite and given water but nothing could be done for him. Medical evidence afterwards found that he suffered from heart disease as his aorta was blocked, and from ‘congestion of the lungs’ due to an undigested large meal. He had had no previous symptoms of ill health. A verdict of ‘Natural Causes’ was recorded.

A very well attended funeral in St Paul’s Church followed, with many local dignitaries there, including the Mayor, Aldermen, Councillors, Harpur Trust members and Mr Philpotts, Head of the Grammar School, reflecting the esteem in which he was held. He had been a member of the choir at St Paul’s for over 20 years and was the choir master at the time of his death. The Beds Times notes that nearly all the blinds and shutters were closed as the funeral procession passed.

Probate was granted to his older brother, Charles Day, of 7 Victoria Terrace, Bedford. He left the considerable sum of £1,148 at the age of 58. He is buried with his wife Ellen and they share a gravestone.

Ellen Day, his wife, was born on 13 March 1837 into a needy family in receipt of Poor Relief. In 1841, aged 4, she was living with her paternal grandfather William Francis at St Peter’s Green. In the following two censuses she was living with her maternal grandmother, Mary Lilley, on Gwyn Street (1851) and St Loyes (1861) On 8 July 1863 she married John Day at St Paul’s church, Bedford, and they lived on Gwyn Street. She outlived her husband by nearly 30 years and died on 17 September 1916 At her death her address was given as ‘The Three Counties Asylum, Arlesey, Beds’, later known as ‘Fairfield’. This was an institution for patients with mental illness or what was considered mental illness at the time, such as epilepsy, and, in children, low intelligence, a striking contrast with the thinking of today.

John and Ellen Day G9.87





The inscription on the gravestone reads: ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the World to come’.




Ellen’s maternal grandmother, Mary Lilley, with whom she lived before her marriage, is buried among the Day family graves but sadly without a gravestone. Grave Ref: G9 97

John Francis Day, son of John and Ellen Day
Named after his father and given his mother’s maiden name, Francis, as his middle name, he was the only son of John and Ellen. He followed his father into the architecture and surveying business, recorded in the 1891 census as ‘Clerk to Architect’. He married Ethel Brown in Sunderland in 1904 and they had 1 son, also named John Francis. He moved to Kettering and by 1911 he was Deputy Surveyor there.
He died in June 1937 in hospital back in Bedford, his burial address recorded as 101 Kimbolton Road. He is buried near his Aunt, Catherine Ellen Cherry (I.3 84) and alongside his Aunt, Sarah Day, (I.3 106) Sadly there is no gravestone.
Grave Ref: I.3 95

Mary Ann Day, christened in December, 1816 at St Paul’s Bedford, was the oldest of William and Catherine’s children.

Employment at the Grammar School
She had left the family home by the time of the 1841 census and in 1851 was employed as a resident nursemaid at Bedford Grammar School in Horne Lane where Henry Le Mesurier, Clergyman and Second Master, was Head of the household. In 1861 she had progressed to resident ‘Housekeeper’ at Bedford Grammar School with Headmaster, Frederick Fanshawe, as Head of the household.

She died, unmarried, in 1866 at the age of 49; her address at burial, St Paul’s Square, suggests she died while resident at the Grammar School and was buried on 5 March 1866. Probate shows she left ‘effects under £100’.

Her gravestone has fallen face down, and lies on the ground between others of her family.
Grave Ref: G9 117

Anne Day, William and Catherine’s second daughter, followed the family pattern by marrying someone in the building trade and living on Gwyn Street. She is the link with the Cherry family.

In the 1851 census she was living with her parents William and Catherine and brothers Charles and John on Gwyn Street, as a dressmaker, aged 24.

Marriage 19 October 1852 Anne married James Cherry at St Peter’s Church, Bedford.
In the 1861 census she is recorded as the wife of James Cherry, bricklayer, aged 33 living at 45 Gwyn Street with 3 children, Catherine (6) Frederick (4) Alfred (1)

She was buried on 1 December 1870 aged 44 with her address as Gwyn Street.

The gravestone is badly eroded but the inscription was recorded in 2018 as follows:
‘In Affectionate Remembrance of Anne Day
Wife of James Cherry Who died ….1870 Aged 44 years’
‘Here remaineth therefore a rest to the people and God’.

Anne Day G9.107

Sarah Day, William and Catherine’s youngest child, was born in June 1833. The 1851 census records her living with her parents, aged 17, as a dressmaker apprentice. Her older sister Anne was recorded as a dressmaker. In 1861 she was living with her widowed mother Catherine and her brother John, unmarried, aged 27, with no occupation mentioned. In 1871 she had become the Assistant Hotel Keeper under Ann Taylor at the George Hotel on the High Street. The George Inn/Hotel had occupied the site where Nandos now is, next door to the Swan Hotel, since 1791, previously called ‘The Maidenhead’ according to the Bedford Gazeteer. It closed in 1910 and became a car show room for Murkett brothers until Barclays Bank took over the site. By the 1891 census she had replaced Ann Taylor as the Manager, and in 1901 she is recorded as the ‘Hotel Proprietress’. She died on 13 January 1903 aged 69 and is buried in Foster Hill Cemetery.

Sarah Day I3.10

The Cherry family, linked to the Days through marriage with Anne Day.
James Cherry’s first wife was Anne Day. James Cherry was born in 1820 in Elstow, Bedfordshire.

In the 1851 census he was living alone on Brace Street, a bricklayer aged 31 His marriage to Anne Day followed the next year on 19 October 1852 and by the 1861 census 3 children had been born, Catherine, Frederick and Alfred. They lived at 45 Gwyn Street. After Anne’s death in 1870, 1871 census records James as a widower aged 51. It seems he had built up his trade, as a ‘builder employing 3 men’. He remained living at 45 Gwyn Street with 7 children and 1 servant.

Second Marriage
He married his second wife Jane Gear, who had been born in Riseley, on 12 November 1874 at St Paul’s Church, Bedford. In 1881 he was aged 62, still living at 45 Gwyn Street with his wife Jane (46) and his 2 youngest children by his late wife Anne, Alice Mary (13) and Charles, (11) both at school.

In 1891 he was 73, still working as a builder, and living with Jane (58) Alice Mary (23) a Dress Milliner, and Charles (21) who had joined the trade as a painter.
He died on 3 December 1896. The probate record states that he left a substantial sum of £913

James Cherry G9.126

Inscription: In Loving Memory of JAMES CHERRY
Who Died December 3rd 1896, Aged 77 years



Catherine Ellen Cherry– the oldest child of James and Anne.
Born in December 1854 she became the housekeeper for James and the younger children after Anne died in 1870. This was recorded in the 1871 census. By 1891 she was living at 10 Adelaide Square, single, with a servant. Her occupation was ‘Milliner’. She was at the same address in 1901, employed as a Milliner, living with 1 servant. She died on 21 March 1907, a spinster at the same address. Probate shows that she left £1401 which suggests that she had made a good living from her millinery business.

Catherine Ellen Cherry I3.84

Inscription on the grave stone: ‘Life’s troubles oe’r and the weary are at rest’.

Frederick George Cherry– the second child and oldest son of James and Anne
Born in 1857, in 1871 he was living on Gwyn Street with his widowed father, James, his mother Anne having died the previous year. On 24 February 1876 he married Mary Ann Baxter at her local church in Chelveston, Northants. His occupation on the Marriage Register is ‘Bricklayer. In 1881 he was living with his wife and a young son, named Alfred, at 88 Bromham Road, a builder employing 1 man. After the death of his wife, Mary, he was living with his new wife, Rose Hannah Cherry, nee Carter, in the 1891 census at 88 Bromham Road, with 4 sons, aged 13, 8, 8 and the youngest Reginald Cecil, 3. They were still living there in 1901 with the 3 youngest sons but by 1911 they had moved to the King’s Arms in Cardington, where Frederick aged 54 was the publican. The only son living with them then, Sydney Lionel, aged 28, was connected to the building trade as a joiner. Frederick died on 29 November 1933, address 16 Hartington Street, Bedford. Rose died in July 1943. They are buried together, near the footpath of the section, sadly with no headstone. Grave Ref: L.807.

The nearest graves, to the left of the burial spot are those of Clementia Minchin and Alice Reed.

Mary Ann (Baxter) Cherry– 1st wife of Frederick George Cherry, oldest son of James and Anne.

Born on January 17 1853 in Chelveston, Northants. Mary Ann Baxter was noted as the only daughter among several brothers of William Baxter, an agricultural labourer, and his wife Emma, in the 1861 census. Then aged 8 she is recorded as a lacemaker. In 1871 aged 18 she was a housemaid/domestic servant at the home of Janet Leighton, Principal of the Ladies School at 17 the Crescent in Bedford. She married Frederick George Cherry in 1876. In 1881 she was living with Frederick, her husband, at 88 Bromham road, with a young son, aged 3, named Alfred, the name possibly in memory of Frederick’s younger brother who had died in 1877 and is buried in Foster Hill Road Cemetery. She died on 21 July 1888 aged 35.

Mary Ann Chery G9.115

Grave inscription: ‘Thy Will be done’
‘I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad:
I found in Him a resting place
And He made us glad’.

Alfred Cherry, second son of Anne and James Cherry.
He was born in 1860 in Bedford. He is recorded in the 1871 census as ‘Scholar’ aged 11, living with his widowed father and 5 siblings. He died aged 17 and was buried on 11 January 1877, his address at burial Gwyn Street, Bedford. It is not known but seems likely that he had joined the family building trade by the time of his death. Sadly there is no gravestone. Grave Ref: G9 96

-Census 1841-1911
-Bedfordshire Times 9 June 1866
-Bedfordshire Times 9 February, 1 April & 19 October 1869
-Bedfordshire Times 2 January, 2 February and 8 February 1869
-Bedfordshire Times 19 October 1869
-Bedford Mercury 25 December 1869
-Polling Book 1872
-Bedfordshire Times 25 October 1873
-Bedford High Street Heritage Gazetteer
-London Evening News and Bedfordshire Times and Independent September 24 1887
-Bedford Directory 1869, 1884
-Kelly’s Directory 1903
-National Probate Calendar