by Victor Harley
Uncertain political times reigned in the Germany of the middle eighteen hundreds, during which a German watchmaker came to live and set up business in Mold. He became prosperous, and whilst still not old in 1883, and with his watchmaker and jewelry business going over to an assistant, he prepared to return to his native land. Sadly, and as the Chester Chronicle put it, ‘just as he was about to move to his native place, Bade, Germans’, to enjoy the remainder of his days in rest, he was taken ill, and never again left his house.’ In other words, he died.
He was Mr. Severin Lehmann, who passed away in his house in King Street. His assistant was Mr. Joseph Saum, and by then the business was the well known watchmakers and jewellers shop in the High Street.
The writer doesn’t know why Mr. Lehmann came to Mold, nor exactly when, but interest in him was stimulated by the nineteenth century American clock with the ‘S. Lehmann, Mold’ name on its face that has been in the writer’s family for a very long time. Perhaps since when it was new. It still ticks the seconds away and chimes the hours, though now without any great claim to accurate timekeeping.
The story can start with reference in the 1856 version of Slater’s Directory to a Mr. John Butcman, who had a watchmaker’s business at 5 Wrexham Street. The 1861 population census return confirms this in recording that Mr. John Bateman (aged 57). Sarah, his wife (aged 51), and Anne their daughter (aged 20), lived at 5 Wrexham Street, and that Bateman employed one man. The 1863 version of Slater’s Directory shows in its watch and clockmakers section that the man in business at 5 Wrexham Street was now Mr. S. Lehmann. Perhaps he might be the unnamed man of the 1861 census, but the return gives no name for him. Information from the 1868 Slater’s Directory augmented by the detail of the 1871 census return confirms that Sevcrin Lehmann (aged 39), watchmaker, and his wife Sophia (aged 34) lived at the above address. Both had been born in Baden. They also had a Joseph Mizz (Mertz? The writing is uncertain.) aged 20, who was another watchmaker born in Baden, living with them.
Worral’s Directory for 1874 records S. Lehmann’s continuation at 5 Wrexham Street, as also does Cassey’s Directory for 1876. This directory includes a ‘watchmaker’ entry for Joseph Mertz, in New Street – highly likely to be the man of the 1871 census with his name spell correctly. The story advances to the 1881 census. Severin Lehmann’s business must have grown since the previous census, because in 1881 S. Lehmann (aged 48) employed 4 men, is recorded as born in Germany, his wife Sophia (aged 43) also born in Germany, and had under his roof at 12 King Street, Joseph Saum (aged 26) watchmaker’s assistant, and Andrew Tresher, also watchmaker’s assistant and nephew (aged 17), both born in Germany, and Winifred McFadden (aged 19) general servant/domestic.
Of interest, the 1881 census includes Severin Lehmann’s brother Francis X. Lehmann, tailor, (aged 34, born Germany) whose wife Ellen (aged 28) was born in Wool ton, Lanes, and and a son Phillip (aged 9), born in Mold, living in 53 Bridge Street, Mold. Francis Lehmann is mentioned in J. J. Morgan’s 1936 book about the life of Daniel Owen, as one of Daniel’s tailors and as a competent organist.
The 1881 census return also reveals that Joseph Mertz (aged 30) watchmaker, his wife Kate (aged 28), their daughter Ethel (aged 5) and their son Joseph (aged 3), lived at 18 New Street.
On a contemporary photograph the shop in High Street carries the names of Saum and Lehmann, but later on, the designations ‘Joseph Saum’ and ‘Late S Lehmann’ are used.
Severin Lehmann. watchmaker, Roman Catholic and a German by birth, died in King Street, Mold, on 26 June 1883. The Death Certificate gives his age as 50. Cause of death is certified by W. Williams. M.D. as ‘Diastase of the Heart.’ Francis Xavier Lehmann was present at the death.
The story comes lo its end with the full report from the Chester Chronicle (30 June 1883):
‘DEATH OF MR SEVERIN LEHMANN
On Tuesday evening last Mr Severin Lehmann, watchmaker and jeweler of this town, died at his residence in King Street after an illness of but a few weeks’ duration, during which he was attended by Dr Williams, at the age of 51 years. Mr Lchmann was well known in the town and neighbourhood, having carried on business here for about 20 years. He started in a small way, but by diligence and perseverance he made for himself a very comfortable position, and just as he was about to remove to his native place, Baden, Germany, to enjoy the remainder of his days in rest, he was taken ill, and never again left his house. The funeral takes place today at Pantasaph, in the Roman Catholic ground, as the deceased was a member of that body.’
The writer went to Pantasaph to look for Mr Lehmann’s grave. It was easy to find, and as seen in the photograph the gravestone is by now just a bit weathered, and carries the inscription (suitably spaced on the gravestone) : OF YOUR CHARITY PRAY FOR THE SOUL OF SEVERIN LEHMANN OF MOLD WHO DIED THE 26th JUNE 1883 AGED 50 YEARS ON WHOSE SOUL SWEET JESUS HAVE MERCY
No mention is made of his wife Sophia, so perhaps she returned to Germany, alone.
Copyright of articles published in Ystrad Alun lies with the Mold Civic Society and individual contributors. Contents and opinions expressed therein remains the responsibility of individual authors.