Life story shared by Yota Dimitriadi with information from his obituaries from newspapers of 1928

Edward Jackson, founder of the iconic Jackson’s Department store in Reading was born on 22nd May in the year 1850 at the village of Sherfield-on-Loddon, Hampshire. Throughout all his life be retained precious memories of the early village days.

He was the son of Henry Jackson, the 9th child in a family of 10 children. When Edward died in 1928 only one of his siblings was alive, his sister, Miss Lucy Jackson. Four of his brothers became, like him, Mayors of the respective towns they live in —Basingstoke, Newbury, Marlborough and Rochester.

He was described as a devoted son to his parents. He and his siblings funded the building of the Jackson Memorial Chapel in Sherfield-on-Loddon, erected to the memory of his parents, which opened in February 1924.

From the website of the Friends of Newtown Road Cemetery, Newbury

He was educated at the village school at Stratfield Turgis and later at the private school of the late Mr. B. J. Austin at Encombe Lodge in Reading. That was his first acquaintance with Reading. He left at the age of 16 to become apprentice to Messrs. Carne and Co., of Kingston-on-Thames. Five years later he returned to Reading as an assistant to with Messrs. Long’s firm in London Street.

In a blog post by Reading Museum we find out the early history of Jackson’s store as he bought the shop from Mr Henry Fox, a clothier, woollen draper, hatter, hosier. Mr Fox is also buried in Reading Old.

On Sept. 13th, 1875, he started his business as a clothier (Gentleman’s Outfitters) buying Mr Fox’s tiny shop at 6, High Street and so laid the foundations of what was later recognised as one of the principal businesses of its kind in Reading and district. In 1885 No. 6 was demolished to make way for the tram and Jackson’s Corner were acquired and enlarged. “It was formerly home to a glass and china store owned by Adnams & Sons” (Reading Museum blog, 2021). Subsequently new branches periodically opened and by 1928 the firm had seven shops in Reading alone, its flagship at Jackson’s Corner, and country branches at Bracknell and Goring.

Replica model of Jackson’s Corner from Reading Museum.

The business was converted into a private limited company in December 1919, the directors being Mr. Edward Jackson, his two sons, Mr. E. Russell Jackson and Mr. R. H. Jackson, and Mr. J. Royle. The firm celebrated its jubilee in September, 1925, and to mark the interesting occasion Alderman Jackson entertained 115 members of the staff at dinner at Olympia. The staff presented him with “an illuminated address, offering him their very sincere and hearty congratulations on the great success which had attended his efforts in the building-up of the business during the past fifty years and testifying to the practical and lively interest he had at all times taken in the welfare of the staff.

The address proceeded: “The success is all the more remarkable from the fact that you have for many years give freely of your time to philanthropic, church and educational affairs, whilst your civic work as councillor, alderman, mayor and magistrate has been one untiring round of service for the town of your choice” (Reading Standard, Saturday 13 October 1928).

In 1940s, years after Edward’s death the shop installed the Lamson pneumatic system, which tubes transported cash and documents around the building. A video clip of the system in operation was recorded by Mike Taylor, Catchlight (2014).

Jackson’s remained a family-owned business for 138 years, until its doors closed for the last time on Christmas Eve 2013. A precise replica model of Jacksons Corner and its early shopfront was commissioned by Mr Thomas Macey, archivist for Jackson’s and it is on a permanent display in Reading Museum. Thomas Macey has also written a book on the history of the store Jacksons: E. Jackson & Sons Ltd (2009).

Personal Life

Edward Jackson married twice. His first wife was Miss Mary Emily Humphrey, daughter of Mr. Robert Humphrey, of Thrapston, by whom he had three sons and four daughters. She died in 1889, and in 1891 he married Miss Elisabeth Collier, sister of Mr. E. P. Collier, J.P., the then Chairman of the Reading Education Committee. During his Mayoralty Elizabeth Jackson was actively involved as a Mayoress and her death in 1911 was widely mourned. By 1928 the surviving children of the first marriage were Mr. Edward Russell Jackson, Mr. R. H Jackson, Miss Elsie Jackson, Mrs. Bentall and Mr. Arnold Jackson.

 His son Russell was a member of the Rotary Cub.

Photo of Mr Jackson with his second wife Elizabeth Jackson.

Mr Jackson was a great lover of animals and one of the most familiar sights in Reading around 1900s was to see his fast-stepping mare Nancy. When she grew too old for work he kept her in the meadow attached to Park House. Thirty-four years of age she was before he consented to part with her. When the era of motor cars came in, he continued to maintain his love of horses and Nancy was still left to mourn his loss.

Public life and work for the municipality

Edward Jackson was a Liberal in politics. In September 1900 he started taking an active public part in the municipal work of the borough. A seat on the Town Council became vacant as Councillor J. F. Euerby became Alderman. Edward was nominated for Battle Ward and was elected unopposed. In 1902, when standing again for the same ward, he was opposed, but was re-elected by a substantial majority. His ability , and integrity soon won for him a high place in the esteem of his municipal colleagues, and five years after his entry into the Council Chamber, he received unanimous invitation to fill the Mayor’s chair in the succession to the late Mr. Martin J. Sutton.

“The wisdom of the selection was quickly demonstrated. Mr. Jackson made no claim to oratorical brilliance, but his colleagues recognised in him a man of strict integrity, of common sense and business capability and tactfulness that could not fail to reflect credit upon the position he was selected to fill. At the end of his year of office the Council—again unanimously—invited him to serve for s second time, and that he consented to do so” (Reading Standard, Saturday 13 October 1928).

 In 1905 he was appointed a Justice of the Peace for Reading, and in 1920 he was elected an Alderman in succession to the late Alderman Poulton. During his long period of municipal service Alderman Jackson was a member at different times of practically every one of the Council’s committees. He was keenly interested in the educational welfare of the youth of the town, a hardworking member of the Borough Education Committee and a vice-chairman for years, a position he held at the time of his death.

He was also chairman of the Education Finance Sub-Committee and in that capacity “he presented the annual estimates to the main committee, his budget statements always having the merit of being both brief and lucid” (Reading Standard, Saturday 13 October 1928). He was a member of the Council of the University of Reading and of the Governing Body of Reading School.

He was considered generous supporter of countless philanthropic causes dedicated to the promotion of the welfare of his local community. A Free Churchman, Reading’s first Baptist Mayor he has been called, he was closely identified for nearly fifty years with King’s Road Baptist Church, of which for many years he was a deacon. He was also a trustee of Wycliffe Baptist Church since its formation, and had served as a President of the Reading Sunday School Union. He was a trustee of the Reading Savings Bank and of the Reading Church Charities.

Funeral and Tributes

Edward died on Monday 9th October 1928. The funeral took place on Friday 12 October. A service at King’s Road Baptist Church preceded the interment in Reading Cemetery. It was attended by a large congregation. There was a wealth of floral tributes and wreaths. The Mayor and Corporation attended in civic state and there were also present co-opted members of the Reading Education Committee, members of the governing body of Reading School, borough magistrates, representatives of business houses, church organisations and other bodies with which the late alderman was closely associated. and members of the staffs of the town and country branches of the great firm of clothiers which he founded.

Mr. F. W. Harvey was at the organ and there was a choir. The hymns sung were “Come, let us join our cheerful songs with angels around the throne” (a favourite hymn of Mr. Jackson) and “Peace, perfect peace”.  As the cortege left the church Mr. Harvey played “The Death of Ase” from the Peer Gynt suite. The Rev. E. Gordon Fairbairn, close friend of Edward, conducted the service and in his address paid an eloquent tribute to the memory of Alderman Jackson, who had served the town so well. Mr. Fairbairn mentioned in his address that thy had met over 27 years ego and they had spent many happy holidays together abroad and in this country.

Edward was buried in the same grave with his second wife and his daughter-in-law (Gertrude Jane, wife of his son Edward Russell). His first wife, Mary Emily (d. 1889) is also buried in an adjacent grave with their infant daughter Emma Marjory (d.1887) and their daughter Emily Madeline (d.1906).

Grave stone of his first wife Mary and two of his daughters.

Section 29, Row C, Plot 1