Patrick Delaforce

'Family History Research - Chapter 2
The Fishmongers of London - the Delforce family

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Chapter 2

The Fishmongers of London - the Delforce family

The Delforce family started their fishmongering business in Billingsgate, London in 1820. It was founded by John Delaforce born in 1780 who married Jane Starmer in 1802 and then Mary Morris (a widow) in 1807. John William Delforce was born about 1807 and married Mary Maria Doughty in 1835. The three main partners in the middle and late 19th century were John William's sons - George, Charles and Henry.

There are two possible reasons for the change of name from Delaforce to Delforce. One was that here might have been a clash of interests with the Port Wine business and the London wine merchants run by George Frederick. The other (and more likely) reason is or was a good old-fashioned Victorian family row! The John Delaforce born in 1780 was a son of the second marriage of John's (the Card, see chapter 8) second marriage to Sarah Wilmor when she was very young and he was distinctly middle-aged. Possibly a scenario for a family row.

With the arrival of a good railway system the fish business prospered. A main warehouse was set up at No.23 Love Lane (later renamed Lovat Lane) in Eastcheap. Soon market stalls, stands and retail shops were set up in Stamford Hill, Enfield and Surbiton (south of the river). By the turn of the century between 80 to 100 people were employed and the business was then mainly wholesale - buying fish in bulk and supplying retail fishmongers daily on a 'country order' basis by rail to Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hants, Wilts, Dorset, Somerset and Gloucestershire even the Channel Islands by railway-steamers.

It was, and is, hard work. Both at the deep sea end and certainly at the distribution points. It meant getting fresh fish to London by four o'clock in the morning for repacking and reshipment by rail to reach the retailers by 8-9 a.m. perhaps a 100 or more miles away.

Hundreds of retail shops bought fish daily from Delforce Brothers. Retail fishmongers with open stone or marble counters with straw hats and blue aprons served fresh fish throughout London, the Southern and Western regions. Cod, mackerel, hake, herring, whitebait, kippers, large quantities of salmon, and trout from Lord Lovat's estates.

George's son was called George Blake who married Constance Baily in 1912. Their only son is Colonel Cedric Delforce later Administrator to Lord Devon at Powderham Castle. Charles married twice, to Fanny, and later, on her death, to her sister Adelaide. The family bought shares in various fishing trawlers. They had agents and buyers in Oban, Fleetwood, Milford Haven, Newlyn, Brixham, Ramsgate, Hull, Filey, Scarborough, North & South Shields, Dundee, Aberdeen, Lossiemouth & Wick practically every fishing port in the United Kingdom. Fish came into the country from Esbjerg and Ijmuiden.

Delforce brothers prospered for about 100 years. But a chain of related problems arrived. Modern deep freezing techniques were ignored. Alternative methods of transportation by truck and lorry were not tried out. Tastes were changing and cooking habits too.

In 1939 the Emergency Defence Regulations closed the firm down and George Blake Delforce became a Government fish distribution unit based at Watford. After the last world war, two new developments helped to kill the business. The frozen prepacked fish (finger) business developed for or by the grocery and supermarket chains eliminated the retail fishmonger. The final straw was the new Billingsgate market which opened only at 6 a.m. (not 4 a.m. as formerly) and the early express railway delivery services were cancelled - all in the magic name of progress.

John Delforce, Founder of the London Fishmonger family.

The London Fishmonger scene at Billingsgate mid 1850's

John DELFORCE (1780 - ?) back link to his father = 1. (1802) Jane STARMER
=2. (1807) Mary MORRIS (a widow)

John William DELFORCE (1817 - 1871) = (1835) Mary Maria DOUGHTY
1st five children

Mary Ann DELFORCE (1837 - ?) = (24/7/1856 Trinity Ch, Lambeth) George James WILLIAMS

Matilda WILLIAMS (1862 - ?)

Mary Ann WILLIAMS (?1865 - 1929) = (1885) William SHELDRAKE

Annie SHELDRAKE (1892 - 1974) = (1917) James Charles HOWARD

Ancestors of Jim Howard, who added this information

3 others

Charles DELFORCE (1850 - 1942) = (1883) Fanny ?

John DELFORCE (2/1841 - ?)

George DELFORCE (1846 - 1928) = (1886) Sarah

see next family tree below

William Edward DELFORCE (1845 - 1845 Southwark)

Thomas Alfred DELFORCE (1850? - 1873 Southwark)

Annie DELFORCE (1860? - ? )

2nd five children

Harriet DELFORCE (1844 - 1858)

Jane Ellen DELFORCE (1846 - 1858 maybe mistake for 1848)

Henry DELFORCE (1848 - 1947 Wandsworth) = (1875 Clapham) Cathleen ?

Jane DELFORCE (1852 - 1925) = (1881) John ORME

5 others

Daisy ORME = ?

Grandmother of Gillian Skinner, who added extra information

Caroline DELFORCE (1855 - ?)

George DELFORCE (1846 - 1928) = (1886) Sarah

George Blake DELFORCE (1889 - 1928) = (1912) Constance BAILY

Cedric George DELFORCE (b. 1917) = (1948) Miss REEP (Wandsworth)

Beatrice Mary DELFORCE (? - ?) = (1905) James CHAPPELL (West Ham)


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Contact: Ken Baldry for more information, 17 Gerrard Road, Islington, London N1 8AY +44(0)20 7359 6294 but best to e-mail him
©1980-2005 Patrick Delaforce & Ken Baldry. All rights reserved Last revised 19/10/2005