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Edward Joyce (1848 - 1935)

Edward Joyce and his wife Mary gardened Plot 3 on the east side of Waterfurlong for many decades. They gave over part of their garden to a tennis court, and during the 1880s the Sandall children next door enjoyed watching the Joyces' matches from the eyrie of their tree-house. 

Born into poverty in nearby Barnack, Edward was the epitome of the Victorian self-made man, rising to the prominent position of general manager of the Stamford Mercury newspaper. 

Edward is born in 1848 in the village of Barnack, Northamptonshire, the tenth and youngest child of Henry Bishop Joyce and his wife Elizabeth, née Hensman. Plasterer and slater Henry moves the family back to his native Stamford when Edward is a child. The Joyces live at 61 Scotgate, in what was then one of the poorer parts of town, and Henry takes on additional work as a maltster for a nearby brewery.

The move offers talented young Edward better opportunities, and at sixteen he is taken on as a junior clerk by the Stamford Mercury, the town’s oldest

Scotgate in 1860

and most prominent newspaper. Edward works diligently, studying book-keeping at evening classes, and by his mid twenties he has become the newspaper’s accountant. However, his big step up the social ladder arrives in 1878 when on 5 June he marries Mary Agnes Southwell at Upper Hill Street Chapel in Wisbech. Edward's new father-in-law, Frederic Southwell, manages a firm of Wisbech solicitors and is comfortably off, with three live-in servants. Both families are staunch Congregationalists and it is likely that Edward and Mary met through their chapel activities.

The young couple set up home in Stamford's Tinwell Road near the junction with Waterfurlong, and about this time Edward takes on the tenancy of their allotment garden round the corner.


Daughter Muriel is born in 1879, followed by siblings Clifford in 1882, Evelyn in 1883 and Cyril Hensman in 1889. By the time of Cyril’s birth Edward has been promoted to general manager of the Mercury, handling all non-editorial business, and is in the position to buy 2 St Peter’s Street, a lovely Georgian property which the family names Walsoken House after Mary's home parish. Whilst Edward sets off every day for the Mercury’s offices at 62 High Street, Mary runs their large home with the help of a live-in general servant and a nursemaid. It is a

Walsoken House, St Peter's Street

far cry from the circumstances in which Edward grew up.


Edward and Mary are active members of the Star Lane Chapel, for whom Edward acts as auditor, and on 7 December 1904 elder daughter Muriel is married there. Muriel’s husband, Ernest Tidd, is a commercial traveller in ladies’ costumes and it is a big wrench for Edward and Mary when the newly-weds settle in Darlington. However, the two families see a lot of one-another in Stamford, as Ernest’s father Robert Tidd runs a draper’s shop at 51 High Street, is a local councillor, and sits alongside Edward on the Albert Hall Improvement Society.

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1912. Front row: Edward Joyce, second from right, Robert Tidd far right

‘The bride, Miss Muriel Joyce, wore Eolienne silk, trimmed with chiffon and velvet, a veil of Brussels lace and a wreath of orange blossoms. She carried lily of the valley and Harrisonii lilies.  Her brother Clifford was best man. The reception for 70 was held at Walsoken House.’

A year later, Irene Joyce Tidd is born, the first of Edward and Mary’s seven grandchildren. In 1907 daughter Evelyn marries Alexander Cleland, a Walsall shoe retailer, and in 1911 son Clifford (who is following in his father’s footsteps at the Mercury) marries Edith Butler, daughter of a Wesleyan minister living in Westgate, Peterborough. Clifford and Edith set a new trend by opting for a ‘best girl’ instead of a best man.

Edward is a well-known figure in Stamford and as his children grow up and move away he becomes increasingly involved in the town's civic life, serving as a JP and sitting on numerous boards and committees, including that of the Stamford Institution – its facilities only a stone’s throw from his front door. The Joyce family is enthusiastically involved in the Institution’s fund-raising activities, but they and many other chapel-goers begin to disengage after allegations of illicit gambling on the premises, and in 1910 Edward turns down the offer of the Institution’s presidency, citing his heavy workload. The Institution never recovers from the claims of impropriety and the opening of the free public library sounds its death knell.

In 1908 Edward and his garden neighbour, retired bank manager Tom Sandall, become joint trustees of the Stamford United Municipal Charities and Edward also joins the Corporation’s Pensions

The Stamford Institute with its distinctive camera obscura
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The Mercury shop and offices, 62 High Street, Stamford 

Committee and the board of the Stamford Nursing Society. Like many of his contemporaries, it is difficult to see how he fits so many commitments into his day.


But it’s not all work. As well as being tennis enthusiasts, the Joyce family is very musical. They are members of the Congregational Church Choir and Clifford is a fine bass soloist with the Stamford Operatic Society. Mary and daughter-in-law Edith are both accomplished pianists, with Edith giving regular public performances in her home town of Peterborough.

Like almost every family in the country, the Joyces are deeply affected by the Great War. Whilst the Mercury is reporting on news from the front, Edward’s younger son Cyril is fighting in France with the 4th Lincolnshires, under the command of local friend Captain Leonard Hart. In October 1915 Cyril’s battalion is involved in the Hohenzollern Redoubt, where eight fellow Stamfordians are killed. Cyril rises through the ranks from private to captain and in May 1918 he is awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. The following month a shell fractures his jaw and causes severe facial wounds. Sadly, twenty-nine year old Cyril’s injuries are to leave him disabled for the rest of his life.

With their children and grandchildren scattered, it must be a comfort to Edward and Mary when Evelyn’s son Wynston becomes a boarder at nearby Oundle School in 1918.


In 1923 Edward retires from the Mercury after 59 years’ service. It has been his whole career, man and boy. On 11 August the owner, Mrs Todd Newcombe, presents Edward with a gold and silver cigarette casket, a wallet containing £50 in bank notes and an illuminated album listing the names of staff and subscribers. Six years later the venerable, privately-owned newspaper is bought out by the Westminster Press.


Edward and Mary take what must be the difficult decision to leave Stamford and move to Streetly near Sutton Coldfield, where they are closer to daughter Evelyn and son Cyril, both of whom have settled in the West Midlands.


On 5 June 1928 Edward and Mary celebrate their golden wedding anniversary and we have a lovely clip from an unknown newspaper about the occasion:















'A very happy family gathering took place yesterday at Hunstanton, at the invitation of Mr and Mrs E Joyce, of Streetly, near Birmingham, in celebration of their golden wedding. Hunstanton was chosen as a more central point for the various branches to assemble, from the North, Peterborough, Wisbech, Stamford, and the Midlands. Some arrived by road and train, but none by aeroplane, though a few hovered over in a somewhat lowering sky. Rain, however, was absent during the whole day. Those arriving early visited the new bathing pool on the west shore, admiring the enterprise of Hunstanton folk in providing such an attractive addition upon the foreshore.


As soon as the company had assembled photographs were taken of Mr and Mrs Joyce and the assembled guests on the lawn outside the Golden Lion Hotel, where luncheon was later served. This was excellently provided by the proprietor of this old-established hostelry. Afterwards, Mr Joyce, on behalf of his wife, gave a cordial welcome to his family and relatives, acknowledging their ready response to the invitations and their kind congratulations. Alderman Alfred Southwell of Wisbech conveyed the good wishes of the company, and Mr F J Gardiner followed. Also Mr Winston (sic) Cleland, on behalf of the younger members, endorsed the desire of the company that their host and hostess might be spared for many years to enjoy the retirement and rest which they had so well earned and sustained through a long and busy life.


Mr Joyce has been for a great many years associated with the publication of the old-established “Stamford Mercury,” which under his management had maintained its reputation as one of the oldest and best of the provincial journals. Mrs Joyce was well-known in Wisbech as the eldest surviving daughter of the late Mr and Mrs F C Southwell, and later an excellent worker in many Stamford progressive projects. Tea was later served in the drawing room overlooking the sea and a very united and pleasant gathering broke up late in the afternoon, with pleasant recollections of a successful celebration, which even suggested the possibility of a future diamond wedding! Among those present were Mr and Mrs Alfred Southwell, Mr and Mrs F J Gardiner, Mr and Mrs Clifford Joyce, Mrs G S Gardiner (Mr G S Gardiner being unable to accept), Mrs Wilfred Pratt (Dersingham), Mrs S Mansfield (Cambridge), Mrs Tidd (Darlington), Mr and Mrs Cyril Joyce (Grafton, Warwickshire), Mr and Mrs A Cleland (Streetly, Birmingham), Mr Winston Cleland, Miss Edwards (Peterborough) etc. When the company dispersed, some travelling by road, yet several remained for the week-end to enjoy the salubrious air of this popular sea-resort. Telegrams, letters and presents were received during the day.


It should be added that the birthday cake was cut by Mrs Joyce in the drawing room where there was also a clever display of sweetmeats by her daughter, Mrs Cleland (whose 21st wedding day coincided with this celebration). The collection included bananas, pods of peas, potatoes etc and are to go to Duffield Hall, as Mrs Cleland’s contribution to a Missionary bazaar there.'

Sadly, Edward and Mary were not to see their diamond wedding anniversary. Mary died in early 1933 and Edward followed her in September 1935 at the grand age of 86. His obituary was published in the Nottingham Evening Post of 24 September:


Why Edward was buried in Berkshire and where Mary was buried is unclear. Sadly, their eldest son, Clifford, who had risen to become the Mercury’s publisher, died only three months after his father, leaving a widow and three daughters – Mary, Norah and Edwina. Norah became a nurse and midwife, practised in Stamford, and lived at 11 Recreation Ground Road until her death in 2001. She was the only one of Edward and Mary’s seven grandchildren to remain in the town.

Captain Cyril Joyce married but had no children and died in 1941 at the age of 51. With him died their branch of the Joyce name.

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'Formerly a well-known figure in the newspaper world, Mr Edward Joyce, late of Stamford, was laid to rest at Hurst, near Reading, this afternoon.


Mr Joyce was for 60 years a member of the “Lincoln, Rutland & Stamford Mercury.” From the humblest position he rose to be general manager, a position he filled for more than 35 years until his retirement 12 years ago. He was well-known throughout the Eastern and Midland Counties.


Closely identified with Congregationalism, he represented the Lincolnshire Union (of which he was twice president and for about fourteen years treasurer) in the national assemblies of the denomination. He was a life deacon and generous supporter of the Stamford church, and connected with its Sunday school for 61 years, being the superintendent for 35 years.

Mrs Joyce predeceased him eighteen months ago, and he leaves a grown-up family of two sons and two daughters.'




Edward and Mary’s two grandsons had distinguished military careers during WWII and both sadly perished young in the Middle East. Squadron Leader (Hugh) Wynston Cleland was killed in action in 1943 in Egypt, when his plane crashed on the return to Heliopolis. He left a widow and two young children, who lived in Norwich. Muriel’s son, Wing Commander Gordon Caryl Tidd, was awarded the OBE and died in unclear circumstances at RAF Habbaniya in Iraq in 1950.


The Joyces had a strong sense of kinship and community and many of their family and friends must have enjoyed their Waterfurlong garden with its popular tennis court. Although the court is long since gone, the plot still contains several old fruit trees which were most probably planted by Edward Joyce or his gardener.

Squadron Leader H Wynston Cleland


1) The British Newspaper Archive © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. All Rights Reserved.


3) Frank Newbon's History of Stamford Facebook page, with grateful thanks.

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2020

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