Person Male Born 5/6/1810 Died 13/5/1884
Campaigning working-man and temperance advocate. Son of a blacksmith from Princes Risborough, he came to Bermondsey in the 1830s and worked in the leather trade. Campaigned for political reform, the creation of Southwark Park and the temperance movement.
Southwark Park Association gives: The South London Press wrote: “Jabez West, although from first to last a temperance advocate, was still something more. He was a reformer —one of those working men who, in spite of meagre education, make their influence felt in local political circles. He was not a wordy demagogue, caring only for declamation. He was as content to do lowly work as he was to do the highest, so long as progress, social or political, was the watchword. He was the first working man in Southwark who fought his claim to the £10 franchise; he was one of the first in London to join the Anti-Corn Law League; was a representative delegate in welcoming Kossuth to England; he took part in the Garibaldi reception; was a delegate to the Reform League and was present at the fall of the Hyde Park railings. It is no wonder that Jabez West was known and honoured by others than the temperance party. But, as we have stated, his great work was that of advocating total abstinence from all intoxicating liquors. …It should require a great deal of space to enumerate even briefly the work accomplished by Jabez West in this department of social reform. We will merely say that he was never tired of addressing temperance gatherings, that he generally held three open-air meeting on Sunday, and that he was constantly canvassing in favour of temperance legislation. And it must be remembered that Jabez West was never more than working fellmonger. It is estimated that between sixty and seventy thousand people took part in the demonstration.”
Note: A fellmonger was a dealer in hides or skins, particularly sheepskins, who might also prepare skins for tanning.
Our colleague Andrew Behan has researched this man: Jabez West was born on 5 June 1810 in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire, a son of William and Anne West. His father was a blacksmith. On 21 October 1838 he married Sarah Johnson in St Lawrence's Church, Whitchurch Lane, Little Stanmore, Edgware, Middlesex and the marriage register shows his occupation as a Fellmonger. They went on to have seven children. The 1841 census shows him living, aged 30 years, with his wife and one year old son, Alfred, in Neckinger Place, Bermondsey.
The 1851 census confirms that he was a Fellmongers Labourer, aged 40 years, and living with his wife, his sons Alfred, aged 11 years and William, aged 4 years, together with his daughters, Ann aged 2 years and Sarah Jane just 8 days old at 6 St Anns Place, Bermondsey (later renamed to Gooch Place). The 1861 census informs us that he was now listed as a Fellmonger and Coffee Shop Keeper living with his wife and four children at 24 Fashion Street, Bermondsey (now renamed as Tanner Street). By the time of the 1871 census he was living at 3 Lucey Road, Bermondsey, with his wife and daughter Sarah Jane.
In 1873 his wife died, aged 62 years. On 6 September 1875 he married Hannah Aiton, at the Parish Church of St Paul's, Bermondsey and the marriage register shows his address to have been 9 Clements Road, Bermondsey and her address was given as 51 Frean Street, Bermondsey. The register also showed her as a 64 years old spinster. The 1881 census confirms them both living at 51 Frean Street, Bermondsey. He died, aged 74 years, on 13 May 1884 and was buried on 17 May 1884 at Forest Hill Cemetery.
At Ancestry Andrew found a newspaper history piece (Southwark News, 27 November 2014, page 36) and an 1884 'Memoir of Jabez West, by G.O.', a 16 page pamphlet that ran into a second edition, digitised by Google (though oddly we cannot find a link to it on Google) published at the cost of one penny to raise funds for the memorial, giving much detail of his life, including his arrest and trial for the offence of obstructing the highway at one of his temperance meetings. The memoir states that his first wife died in 1874 and he remarried in 1876, but that is a year out on both: Sarah West's death was registered in the 2nd quarter of 1873 and the marriage register for his second marriage is dated 6 September 1875.