Carmen Beckford MBE -Carnival Queen.Catering Entrepreneur, Land Owner1837 to 1917March 8, 2022
Commander Joseph SeymourCatering Entrepreneur, Land Owner1837 to 1917August 28, 2022
Ellen, the self made woman. An entrepreneur who was born into the refreshment trade.
Ellen was born in Stapleton in 1837, to William and Elizabeth Sainsbury.
Her father had various jobs one of which was innkeeper of The Three Blackbirds Inn on Stapleton Road. It was then a detached country inn with pleasure gardens at the rear stretching down to the River Frome.
Ambitious and capable
By the age of 23, Ellen was working in a Refreshment Room, opposite Temple Meads Station. Here, and at her father’s Inn, she gained valuable experience of the refreshment trade. She was ambitious and soon gained a post working for the Bristol & Exeter Railway Company, in charge of the Refreshment Bar at Temple Meads. After eight or nine years, she became manageress of the company’s Rooms at Cheddar, and on leaving Temple Meads received a Testimonial of Esteem, a gold watch, jewelled locket and chain from her regular customers.
Within the next ten years she was also running the Rooms at Temple Meads Station, Weston-Super-Mare Station, and Chippenham Station. Later she also added Salisbury to the list. At some point, she became a subcontractor to the GWR, and held the franchises to run these Refreshment Rooms. This meant that the profits gained were hers. The establishments were quite large and the 1881 census records Ellen at Temple Meads as head, Keeper of Refreshment Rooms. She had twelve live-in staff: six female assistants, two female servants and four male waiters. Other staff lived locally with their families.
Catering to Royalty
The Rooms did not just cater for train passengers, but also for visiting tourist groups and local functions. One occasion was the visit to Cheddar Gorge & Caves of a hundred people from the Cardiff Chamber of Trade. Miss Sainsbury supplied a cold luncheon with “the usual delicacies & ‘pièce de resistance’”. Later, at 5pm, they were served tea. The tables were apparently laid with exquisite taste. On another occasion she was required to prepare a sumptuous dinner for Queen Victoria’s son the Duke of Edinburgh, his wife and local dignitaries, who had come to support the Triennial Music Festival. This provided a scholarship to the Royal College of Music.
Marriage and home
In 1887, aged 50, she married widowed David Jefferies, who had been station master at Cheddar. By now, Ellen was wealthy enough to buy Harefield Hall in Willsbridge, where they lived for the remainder of their lives.
Ellen was widowed thirteen years later, but continued working. When she was 68, she negotiated an agreement with the GWR, to supply catering on the luncheon cars between Bristol and Liverpool. She was still in charge of the rooms when she was 77 years old.’
Philanthropist, gardener, and community member
While in Willsbridge, she had many philanthropic interests, supporting the local churches, and opening charity events. She was vice-president of the Kingswood Nursing Association which provided District Nurses. She enjoyed growing plants and vegetables, and won many prizes in Horticultural shows. She hosted Conservative functions, contributed to the building of a new church at Longwell Green, and donated the east window.
Death and legacy
She died aged 80, leaving £57,600. She had acquired a large portfolio of properties over the years. It comprised five substantial houses, seven farms, six cottages and pasture lands in Oldland, Wick, Bridgeyate, and Siston. Finally was the tiny village of Cowhill, near Thornbury with three farms; some cottages, a smallholding and salmon fishery. She also held the title Manor of Cowhill. She made copious bequests in her twelve-page Will. These went to hospitals, family, friends, managers and staff in the refreshment rooms and at Harefield Hall. Sadly much of which was later swallowed up by death duties. Her funeral at the cemetery was well attended, and the mourners included nine officials from the Great Western Railway including the divisional superintendent.