By 1901 Michaud had moved and Firs was occupied by Thomas Wilson. Either Wilson or his landlord sold the estate to Collins soon after this. As the houses in Firs Avenue were not built until 1904, Firs was probably still occupied while Collingwood Avenue and Grand Avenue were being built. Collins had installed his foreman in the cottage which had once been occupied by Narroway, the coachman in the 1881 census, and proceeded to build the Collingwood and Grand Avenue. 'Fortismere' with its lake and rowing boats, was now his family home, so that for years they lived with houses rising around them.

Two other houses concern us, 'Midhurst' and 'Highfield'. Collins did not buy either, but their stories are of interest and in one case affected Collins's building strategy. In 1861 Martha Baker, unmarried, aged 31 and a 'Fund Holder', was living in Midhurst, in Fortis Green with her three children. Walter, age 11, had been born in Devonshire, Annie, aged 6, in Islington, and Arthur, aged 3, in Fortis Green. It was rather bold in those days for a woman with three children to declare herself unmarried: it shows perhaps the confidence given by being a fund holder and able to defy the neighbours. Living in the same house was a boarder, William Arnold, aged 34, a 'Stationer - master employing 5 men', who had been born in Shoreditch.

By the 1871 census William Arnold was married to Martha Baker and was living as Head of Household in Midhurst. Arnold had given his name to Arthur, the three year old in the previous census. Martha Baker's two older children (aged 21 and 16 by this time) are not listed in this 1871 return. Incidentally, Martha's age has increased from 31 to 45 in ten years so perhaps she may have pretended earlier to William that she was younger than she was. There are four more children aged from 7 to 2, and one domestic servant who had been born in Clovelly, Devon.

In 1881 the family was growing up. Arthur, now 23, was an analytical chemist, while Rose, the baby of the family, was twelve. All the children, from Mary aged 18 downwards, are listed as scholars and the large family was looked after by a single cook from Inverness. The Amolds seem to have drawn their servants from the far corners of the British Isles.

The local directory shows that Arnold was still living in Midhurst in 1901, but the fate of the family we shall not know until 2002 when the census details are released.

Highfield is referred to again on page 120, in connection with the building of Grand Avenue.



Page 111
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