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The Mysterious Miss Pearce?

Author: Alex Keane

My name is Alex and I’ve been volunteering in the library for over a year now. I have recently finished re-classifying the books on the shelves and now have the exciting job of adding new accessions. This week I have looked through two boxes of books donated by Keith Sutherland. The books within these boxes are in the field of cereals, roller milling and bread making, but on closer inspection many of these books also contain the names of their previous owners. We are doing research to find out who they are and their connection to mills and milling.

Poster Image

One book in particular, Organization and Management in the Flour Milling Industry by Ernest Leigh Pearson (1925), was the source of an interesting line of research, growing from an unlikely source. This passport sized picture of a young woman above fell out from between the pages. A curious book mark and when combined with the initials ‘R. A. Pearce’ signed modestly on the inside front cover, the hunt began to discover the previous owner of the 91 year old book and the identity of the lady in the photograph.

After a few minutes the first clues were found. The Wikipedia article for ‘Priday, Metford and Co. Ltd.’ revealed a family of millers working at City Flour Mills in Gloucester under the name of Pearce, beginning with Francis Tring Pearce being named as a partner 1875, up until the death of R. A. Pearce in 1968.

An extensive company history in Grace’s Guide identified Richard Anthony Pearce as the owner of this book. R. A. [Richard Anthony] Pearce became a Director of Priday, Metford and Co. Ltd. in 1936, just as the company celebrated its 50th birthday, before he became Chairman 29 years later in 1965.

Yet there were still no clues as to the identity of this young woman in the photograph. However, the Wikipedia page also shows some Victorian and Edwardian photographs of the Pearce family. There is a family resemblance of the young woman in our photograph and the three daughters of F. T. Pearce, named Charlotte, Helen, and Margaret as well as his FT Pearce’s wife, Martha Pearce nee Allen. Judging by the modern hairstyle, our photograph dates from the 1920s. Could she have been granddaughter or Richard Anthony Pearce’s wife?

Perhaps the answer can be found with a little more research, and if a reader happens to know who she is, or has more information about the company, please let us know. For now the mystery is unsolved but there are plenty more books in our Library with interesting stories to be told of their previous owners.