John Robert Singer was born in Chippenham in 1850, son of High Street grocer Charles Singer, formerly of Frome, and his wife Mary Thresher, who had married in Chippenham in 1838. John's siblings were: Mary Jane Singer (b.1839); William Singer (b.1841, bapt. 11th Apr.) and Charles Albert Singer (b.1845, bapt. 10th Aug.). William sadly died in 1845. Mary Jane married James Insell, a switch maker, in Chippenham on 15th may 1860. By 1861 John R. Singer was assistant grocer to his father Charles in the Chippenham shop.
John's father Charles died suddenly in 1867; from the Salisbury and Winchester Journal - Saturday 23 March 1867, p.8.:- "AWFULLY SUDDEN DEATH.- We regret to announce the sudden death of Mr. Charles Singer, grocer and shopkeeper of this town. Mr. Singer was in apparent good health, and transacted business as usual up to the time of closing his shop on Thursday evening. He retired to bed at half-past 10 o'clock, but in a few hours afterwards Mrs. Singer was disturbed by the loud breathing of her husband, and as she failed to arouse him she got up and sent for Dr. W. H. Colborne, but before the gentleman could arrive, the poor man had expired. A fit of apoplexy is supposed to be the cause of death."
At the time of the death of their father, John's elder brother Charles had already married Caroline Philpot Morgan Perris on 17th Apr. 1866 and had a grocer's business in Henley on Thames, Oxon. This left John Robert to run the Chippenham shop with his widowed mother Mary, but she died on 28th July 1873 aged 56 leaving the business to John. John took up photography, an example of which can be seen above, and also a small ginger beer manufactory, alongside the grocery business. It is tempting to think that perhaps the image above is actually of John himself.
John married Sophia, eldest daughter of Mr. F. Wren, of Waitley Cottage Farm, near Reading, at Christchurch, Reading, on Tuesday 11th June 1872, by the Rev. Matthew Powley. They didn't have any children of their own. Earlier that same year, John was appointed collector to the Chippenham Town Gas Company. By 1901 the couple had adopted a son, who was 10 years old in 1901, called John Robert Singer Craigie. John's wife Sophia ran the Registry Office For Servants at 11 St. Mary's Street and also baked "monster bride cakes". Although still in business in 1903 it seems that by around 1905 John had quit the retail business and become a commercial traveller, which he appears as in the census of 1911. By 1907, 30 High Street was the Wilts and Dorset Banking Co.
John died at 11 St. Mary's Street, Chippenham on 8th September 1931. Probate to William James Wheeler, grocer, and Arthur George Townsend, manager. Sophia had died the previous year, aged 79.
|Stone Ginger Beer Bottle|
|Printed: THIS BOTTLE BELONGS
TO / JOHN R. SINGER, CHIPPENHAM. (In circle). HOME BREWED / GINGER
BEER. (In Centre).
Cork Stopper, White Glaze.
Potter: Price 12 Bristol.