Orlando Lewis 1880-1933

Orlando Lewis, 1880-1933, Furniture Maker & Antique Dealer. Kindly Supplied by Ann Leigh

My grandfather Orlando Lewis was born in March 1880 in Bridgwater to a John Lewis and Elizabeth Foster, his father being a plumber, painter and decorator in the town. In the 1881 and 1891 census the family are recorded living in Friarn Mews, somewhere near Friarn Place – possibly some cottages behind the Friars. Orlando went to Albert Street School and left when he was 14. He was then apprenticed to a Charles Henry Baker, a wood Carver & Cabinet Maker. Below is a photograph of his indenture with a transcription.

This Indenture Witnesseth that Orlando Lewis of the age of fourteen years on the twenty fourth day of March one thousand eight hundred and ninety four the son of John Lewis of Bridgwater in the County of Somerset painter, by and with the consent of his said father testified by his executing by these presents ————— doth put himself Apprentice to Charles Henry Baker of Bridgwater aforesaid Carver and Cabinet Maker to learn his Art and with him after the Manner of an Apprentice to serve from the first day of January one thousand eight hundred and ninety five until the twenty fourth day of March one thousand nine hundred and one when the said Orlando Lewis will attain the age of Twenty one years ——————————-During which Term the said Apprentice his Master faithfully shall serve his secrets keep, his lawful commands every where gladly do, he shall do no damage to his said Master, nor see to be done of others, but to his Power shall tell or forthwith give warning to his said Master of the same, he shall not waste the Goods of his said Master nor lend them unlawfully to any, he shall not contract Matrimony within the said Term, nor play at Cards or Dice Tables or any other unlawful Games whereby his said Master may have any loss with his own goods, or others during the said Term without Licence of his said Master, he shall neither buy nor sell, he shall not haunt Taverns or Playhouses nor absent himself from his said Master’s service day or night unlawfully. But in all things as a faithful Apprentice he shall behave himself towards his said Master and all his during the said Term.

And the said Charles Henry Baker in consideration of such his good and faithful service doth hereby for himself his heirs executors and administrators covernant with the said John Lewis his executors and administrators that he the said Charles Henry Baker his executors administrators and assigns—————————his said Apprentice in the Art of a Carver and Cabinet Maker which he useth by the best means that he can, shall teach and Instruct, or cause to be taught and instructed, and also will pay unto the said apprentice weekly the weekly wages following, namely, one shilling per week during the first year of the said term, two shillings per week during the second year of the said term, three shillings per week during the third year of the said term, four shillings per week during the fourth year of the said term, five shillings per week during the fifth year of the said term, six shillings per week during the sixth year of the said term, and seven shillings per week during the remainder of the said term.

And for the true performance of all and every the said Covenants and Agreements either of the said Parties bindeth himself unto the other by those Presents
In Witness whereof the Parties above named to these Indentures interchangeably have put their Hands and Seals the fifth day of January and in the fifty eighth year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lady Victoria by the grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland QUEEN Defender of the Faith and in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and ninety five.
                                                                                                            Orlando Lewis
                                                                                                            John Lewis
                                                                                                            Charles Henry Baker
Signed sealed and delivered by the said Orlando Lewis  
John Lewis and Charles Henry Baker in the presence of  Clara Annie Baker

Orlando was living in Southgate Avenue (off Old Taunton Road) Bridgwater, by 1901 with his parents and siblings. He married the love of his life Bessie Eliza Griffiths in 1904 at Holy Trinity Church Bridgwater, and they set up home a few doors down in Southgate Avenue.

Orlando and Bessie Lewis

When Charles Henry Baker died in 1924, Orlando took over the premises at 24 St Mary Street and that became their new home. The front of the house was the shop itself, and on the same floor as the shop was the kitchen. Steps led down to a cellar where my Granny cooked the meals and brought them up into the kitchen. In the cellar were the water pipes and the tin bath. Upstairs were bedrooms, and the front parlour overlooked St Mary’s Church, where my Granny entertained. My mother remembers not being able to enter through the shop as it was only for customers; there was a side passage so the family used this.

O. Lewis Ye Olde Curiosity Shop late C.H.Baker – Shop in 1925

When my grandfather got his call up papers for the Great War Charles Baker, who was by then disabled and in his 70s, appealed to the authorities for Orlando to be excused from military service, but this was refused so Orlando went as an ordinary Sapper into the Royal Engineers and was stationed at Sandwich in Kent.

Orlando in his uniform
Above: Location of the shop in St Mary Street on the 1887 OS 25″ Town Plan.

Left: Detail from BT Archives: TCE 361/ARC 103 National Telephone Company Exchange, Bridgwater, Taunton Area, Somerset, 1910. The shop can be seen here with a version of the town seal above the sign – this is possibly the Coalbrookdale cast that was once on the town’s iron bridge, now preserved in the Blake Musuem.
My mother with her parents

Following the death of my Grandfather in 1933, my mother a lass of sixteen, and her mother continued with the shop for a few more years until my Grandmother decided to buy a house in Taunton Road, Bridgwater.

As a little girl I can remember going on holiday to my Granny’s in the fifties and seeing the two chairs each side of the fireplace. They were in a prominent position in the front room of the house, together with all the other pieces that he had made during his lifetime.

They have stayed in the family ever since, moving round the country until today.

As my children have said quite openly that they do not want them, I got in touch with Mr. Woolrich of the Bridgwater Heritage Group who together with Mr. Brian Smedley, one of the Councillors in Bridgwater,  decided that they would look good in the Kelting Room of the Bridgwater Arts Centre which is where they are housed today.

I must thank everybody concerned who without their help the chairs would have ended up in a skip, and we wouldn’t have seen the work of a very talented man who spent all his life in Bridgwater.

Ann Leigh (Mrs). January 2023

The Kelting Room

Orlando Lewis’ Chairs in the Kelting Room – picture by Brian Smedley 9 December 2022