Ken & Teresa Ripper's Ancestors and Family
Whitelegg and Oldridge
Families of South
The Fairground Families
William and Tryphena Oldridge (nee Woodman) had nine children. The first born was John (baptised 17 June 1810 at Newton St Cyres. Their last child was Mark baptised 3 March 1833 at Newton St Cyres.
Mark Oldridge married Emma Venton on Christmas Day 1855 in Brampford Speke and had eleven children - their tenth child was Francis William (Teresa’s grandfather), born 16 November 1874 and baptised 28 February 1875 in Brampford Speke.
Mark’s eldest brother, John Oldridge mentioned
above, met Harriet Luxton and they married on 10
August 1834 in Newton St Cyres. John worked as a
quarryman in and around
As Fred grew up, he worked with his brother-in-law Thomas Wallser in a travelling fair. Thomas had married Fred’s sister Eliza Oldridge. Fred met and married Rosina Lismore in 1881, a young lady whose family were also associated with travelling fairs. Rose, as she was known, tells us more about her life in this article:
World's Fair, April 9th, 1932
Mrs.Rose Oldridge [nee Lismore]
It was through the good offices of her daughter, Mrs. Thomas Whitelegg that I was introduced to another grand old showlady, Mrs Rose Oldridge. Though not so old as the two ladies I have mentioned this lady has nevertheless lived a considerable number of years and can furnish a host of reminiscences of West Country show-life. She was, she tells me, a daughter of the famous Emma Lismore and grand-daughter of the elder Lawrences, both families being well remembered as belonging to the old time pioneers.
Mrs Oldridge was born at Exeter in the year 1865 and later in her history married Mr. Fred Oldridge who was then in the employ of Mr.Thomas Wallser, his brother-in-law. Some time after their marriage the Oldridges started on their own account, fetching their family up in the Summer time on the proceeds of their smart looking shooting range and in the winter while Mr. Oldridge worked hard in the Plymouth Gasworks, his equally industrious wife carried on the good old game of pilchard cleaner on the Barbican.
Good luck followed their combined efforts at making a livelihood and
this increased so much that while the Great War was in progress, Mrs.
Oldridge secured a good position as licensee of the Lord Warden Inn in
Battery Street, Stonehouse, just opposite to the
Grand Theatre. After five years of public house proprietorship she then
acquired the fine premises in the
On researching Rose Lismore’s family a little more, we have unearthed an amazing tale. Rose’s father was Walter Lismore whose first wife was Ellen Commie. They had five children:
· Ellen (born 1845),
· Eliza (born 1849, died before 1855),
· Eliza (born 1855),
· Rosina (born 1858)
· Walter (born 1862).
As the family travelled around
the fairgrounds, the children were born in a variety of places throughout
In the 1861 census they are living in
Loosemore, head, married, 34, comedian, born in
Ellen Loosemore, wife, married, 32, comedian, born in Devonport
Ellen Loosemore, daughter, 15, born in Cornwall, Redruth
Eliza Loosemore, daughter, 4, born in
Rosa Loosemore, daughter, 2, born in Devon Plymouth
In the early hours of Monday 9th March 1863 a
fire killed most of the Lismore family and most of
the early hours of Monday morning in a house in
Lawrence 50 Pyrotechnist Died
Lawrence and his son who were sleeping in the front room on the ground floor died
instantaneously. Ellen Lismore and Emma Lawrence
who were in the back room of the house managed to flee without injury. All
the others managed to flee via the garret over the roofs of other houses.
George Collins and John Smith sustained injuries due to the fire and the
manner of their escape and were taken to East Cornwall and
The inquest was held and reported:
Yesterday afternoon, at 4 o’clock, John Edmonds, Esq., coroner for the borough of Plymouth, held an inquest at the Guildhall, on the bodies burnt to death by the fire in Stonehouse Lane, on Monday morning last, and also on three others lying at the South Devon and East Cornwall Hospital, who have subsequently died from injuries then received. The names are Morris Lawrence the younger, Ellen Lismore the elder, Eliza Lismore, Walter Lismore, and those at the hospital – Oliver Waterman, George Collins Harris, alias Button George, and Charles Lawrence. The following gentlemen composed the jury:- Messrs. Robert Robinson Langford (foreman), Thomas Vivian, Charles John Pertherick,, John Vivian, James Brock Torr, Josiah Solomon, Thos Holman, George Browse, Edwin Frith, Thomas Knuckey, Thomas Smale, Charles Fred. Crewes, Henry Bate, William Heath, Jeffry Hardy and John McKeer.
The Coroner: Did you work Sunday last?
Witness: Yes. They were packing up the fireworks, which were of various descriptions.
Q. What did they consist of mostly?
A: Rockets, blue and red lights, and Roman candles
Q: Were they all packed up on Sunday night
A: Nearly all.
Q: Where were they going?
Q: When was the last time you saw your father and brother alive?
A: About half past eleven on Sunday night after they had their supper.
Q: What room were they in when you parted with them?
A: In the front room downstairs. There was a bed in the room and they were then going to bed. The whole of the fireworks were in that room.
Q. Had they a lighted candle in the room?
A. No. There was a Paraffin lamp burning which was hanging up near the window with a glass round it.
Q. Where did you sleep?
A. In the attic, with my brothers Charles and Edwin, and also four lodgers. Waterman and Harris were two of the lodgers.
Q. On the following morning witness heard Waterman call out what was that?
A. That awoke all of them and he jumped out of bed but saw no fire. He opened the door and seeing much smoke shut it again. He then broke out the front window, got out on the roof, slid down towards Mr. Gasking’s shop and jumped into the garden. John Rogers one of the lodgers followed him. His brother Charles got out on the roof but went back to fetch Edwin. Afterwards he saw Charles push out Button George and then got out himself on the roof with his brother Edwin. He did not know how Waterman got out.
Q. Did you see him after he was out?
A. No. My Brother Charles’ legs were cut, and he afterwards complained of something tickling in his throat so that he could not breathe. He became worse on Tuesday and died yesterday morning.
Q. Was the house licensed as a lodging house?
Q. Was it for fireworks?
Q. Do you suppose that your father and brother Morris, Mrs. Lismore and her three children perished in the flames?
The Foreman: How long had you lived in that house?
A. Over three years.
The foreman: And at intervals during that time you have made fireworks?
The Foreman: How many chests were there in the room on Sunday night?
A: Only two; the other fireworks were loose.
The foreman: Were there fireworks in other rooms of the house?
A: Yes, there were a few in the back room upstairs.
A Juryman: Had you any materials in the house for making fireworks?
A: Yes, in another part of the house; composition, and about 14 lbs of mealy powder. There was no lighted candle taken near it during the evening.
answer to other questions put by several jurymen the witness said he thought
the coloured fire ignited the other combustibles.
On Sunday night before he went to bed he had a little fear of it, as there
was a curious smell. He communicated it to his father
who afterward thought he smelled it, but taking it to be an imagination, the
matter was taken no further notice of, and they retired to bed. Mr. Whipple,
surgeon, residing at No 14,
The Coroner asked Mr. Whipple whether it was not better to send the last witness, W. H. Lawrence, to the hospital, as he appeared to be suffering from the effects of the vapour.
Mr. Whipple, after examining him, said he ought to be taken care of and thought it would be advisable to send him to the hospital. The young man, however, refused to go, and the Coroner paid for a cab to drive him to his residence. Ellen Lismore, a young woman of about 18 years of age, was then called. She said she was the daughter of Walter Lismore who lately resided at 103, King-Street West. About half past eleven on Sunday night Emma Lawrence got the supper, of which they all partook. They afterwards adjourned to the front room and she and Emma Lawrence were left alone. They went to bed. On Monday morning Emma Lawrence was awoke with coughing, which also aroused her from her slumbers. They both got out of bed, and Emma Lawrence opened the door. Seeing the passage in a blaze of fire they jumped out of the window into the yard. Emma Lawrence there called out “Father”, and she thought she heard him say, “Morris, where are you?” Emma Lawrence was at present very ill. She knew the number of persons in the house on Sunday night. They were herself, Emma Lawrence; Morris Lawrence, the elder; Morris Lawrence, the younger; her father and mother; Ellen Lismore, aged 33; her sister Eliza, about 6 years of age; her sister Rose, 3 years old; and her brother Walter, 10 months old. She did not know how old Waterman was. George Harris was about 40 years of age. John Rogers, John Smith, Henry Roberts, and Charles Lawrence were there. The latter was about 17 years of age, and used to assist his father. Edwin Lawrence was also in the house. She had no doubt but that her mother had perished in the fire. Mrs Lawrence was very ill.
Michael Burke, a mat maker, said he had recognised the dead bodies at the hospital as those of Waterman and Button George.
March, of the
Searle remembered about twelve months since Mr.
[There is a dispute whether the property concerned was number 99 or
103. The 1861 census records the families living at
Walter Lismore and his 18 year old daughter Ellen survived the fire and Emma Lawrence and two of her brothers in the house at the time survived. It appears that Walter and Emma consoled each other because in 1865 they had a child, Walter. Rosina was born to them in 1868 and another daughter, Fanny, a year or so later. No marriage has been found for them – possibly because Emma was still married to Incennzio Lupo whom she married in 1858 at the age of sixteen. The marriage had obviously failed long before the fire in 1863.
We find them listed in the 1871 and 1881 censuses:
census - a group of caravans between
Lismore, head, married, 44, licensed hawker, born
Emma Lismore, wife, married, 29, born in
Lismore, son, 6, born in
Rosy Lismore, daughter, 4, born in Plymouth
Fanny Lismore, daughter, 2, born in Plymouth
Lismore, head, married, 40, hawker, born in
Emma Lismore, wife, married, 38, born in
Fanny Lismore, daughter, 14, scholar, born in
Walter Lismore, son, 12, scholar, born in Plymouth
Walter died in the
and Emma’s daughter Rosina Lismore married Fred Oldridge in 1881 at Stoke Dameral,
Oldridge, wife, married, 26, born in Exeter,
Oldridge, daughter, 10, born in Plymouth,
Oldridge, daughter, 3, born in Plymouth,
W Oldridge, son, 1, born in Plymouth,
census - in a van in the courtyard of the Ferry House Hotel,
W. Oldridge, head, married, 37, travelling showman
working on own account, born in
Oldridge, wife, married, 35, born in
Oldridge, daughter, single, 19, attendant travelling
show worker, born in
Oldridge, daughter, single, 17, attendant travelling
show worker, born in
Rosey Oldridge, daughter, single, 14, attendant travelling show worker, born in
W. Oldridge, son, 11, born in
Oldridge, son, 9, born in
Oldridge, daughter, 6, born in
John Oldridge, son, 4, born in Teignmouth
Florrie Oldridge, daughter, 1, born in Brixham
Fred Oldridge died in 1928 in
It is Fred and Rose’s daughter, also called Rosina or Rose, whom we now follow. Rose married Thomas Whitelegg who established the Whiteleggs as the premier west country travelling company
From 'T Whitelegg and Sons, Cavalcade of shows' by Guy Belshaw, 2005:
Oldridges were a large family of Plymouth-based travellers and attended fairs in Devon and
couple enjoyed no honeymoon, instead they bought a
few bananas and oranges and went to Lee Moor on the fringe of
Rose and Thomas Whitelegg bought their first ride in 1916 which was a hand turned juvenile roundabout, the rounding boards of which stated 'T Whitelegg Pony Roundabout Pride of the West'.
Tom was 29 when the war broke
out and joined the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, serving in this country, and was
posted to Tidworth in Wiltshire while Rose ran a
cafe and shooter at Anderton and Rowlands Winter Gardens in
After the war Tom and Rose
went into partnership with their brother-in-law Alf Jones who was married to
Rose's sister Fanny. Together they bought a set of Tidman
Gallopers which was an elaborate machine with a variety of animal and bird
mounts. Later Tom bought out Alf Jones' share of the ride and began the firm
of T Whitelegg and Sons, basing themselves in
In 1934 recorded in 'The World's Fair”that at Barnstable were Tom's brother Joe Whitelegg's 'Shooter', Alf Whitelegg's 'Dip and Swag' stall and Tom's sister, Mrs Louise Graham, with her 'Shooter' and brother in law, Johnny Gratton, with his 'Shooter' and 'Coconuts”.
made an excellent decision and opened up The Olympia in
'The World's Fair' of December 1934 reported "Whitelegg's had
been opened at New Passage [
'The World's Fair' of January 1935 gave details of a party held by Rose Whitelegg.
must mention Mrs Whitelegg's
party. It was held at their new quarters at the
Pegasus writing in 'The
World's Fair' of August 1935 reported from Kingsbridge "Here on Thursday last I found the Whitelegg Brothers snuggly ensconced. This firm under
their new title seems to be prospering more than ever. Tommy senior says it
is owing to having younger blood in the business;for Tommy junior and his brothers are in every
sense a live trio bent on reaching the topmost position in their trade. It
would be a good thing for the fair business if there were more like them! The
firm had their celebrated Super Dodgem well looked after by sister Rosie. I
looked everwhere for Queen Rose and found her busy
with domestic duties. 'They can do without me on the machines,' she rather
petulantly remarked. But I doubted this as every minute a courier was
arriving with a message or for advice on this or that. And the good lady had
to drop her pots and pans and do business in the old familiar way." The
rides the family were operating were listed as the
'The World's Fair' of April 1936 reported "a most significant event in the rise of the Whitelegg's fortunes" when the new ride 'The Monster' [based on the Loch Ness
monster] was delivered. By this time the family ran two successful sites -
By 1937 the Whiteleggs had
become so successful that although Tom senior couldn't drive, they had
purchased a Rolls Royce. They had also bought a house in
The War caused many of the amusement companies to close or base themselves in near permanent sites under blackout conditions. Some companies managed to keep going as Holidays at Home became popular, but many simply closed. The War made the company of T.Whitelegg and Sons a significant nest egg.
In May 1950 Rosina Whitelegg suffered a severe stroke at Fowey
In December 1959 Rosina died.
The funeral on 14th December at
Thomas Whitelegg died in 1962 and left three sons - Thomas (Tommy), Frederick (Bibsy) and Arthur. They also had two daughters Rosina (Rosie) and Phyllis.
With thanks and acknowledgements to Guy Belshaw and his wonderful book
“T Whitelegg and Sons’ Cavalcade of Shows”
New Era Publications, 2005,
ISBN 0 9535097 6 1