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Lyn Howsam


A mystery around the Fletcher surname

Sepia photograph of some of the Fletcher family next to their shop front, Gower Street.
The shop in the photograph is probably the Fletcher's greengrocer shop on Gower Street, undated © Lyn Howsam

My husband's family are called the Howsams. They originally came from Spilsby in Lincolnshire to Sheffield in the mid 1800's. They were two brothers, John and Nathaniel. They first settled in Attercliffe, but by 1891 John's son (also called John) had moved with his wife to Gower Street. By 1913, they were running a greengrocer's shop at 59 Gower Street under the name of Fletcher.

Researching their family history gave me some problems as this surname Fletcher kept cropping up. Both brothers and their families sometimes used it. It was quite a long time before I realised this and found a reason as to why this might be. Going back to when the two brothers lived in Spilsby as children, their mother's maiden name was Fletcher. She had died when they were very young and they had been born prior to Civil Registration so they had no birth certificates. The husband did not originate from Spilsby so I can only assume that the children grew up being known as the Fletcher kids. Maybe her family had some role in bringing them up? So at various times in the following years, they registered or baptised their children either as Fletcher Howsam or Howsam Fletcher. This persisted through the generations.

Some years ago I managed to make contact with a cousin of my husband. He gave me a photo of what I believe to be the shop on Gower Street. Possibly the lady outside is Elizabeth (Fletcher) Howsam, the wife of the younger John.

Written by Lyn Howsam, 2006.