George Edward Marfitt was born in Ardwick, Manchester, on 12th December 1873 to parents Thomas Edward Marfitt (1848-1921) and Eliza Hanson (1852-1940), who married by license at St Margaret’s Church in March that year. George was to be their only child. Thomas Edward was a maker-up and packer, in partnership with J Morton in Manchester until the liquidation of the business in August 1874. They remained in Manchester, living at various addresses, until at least 1880. However, George was baptised St Martin’s, Lincoln on 3rd April 1874. This was Eliza’s home parish, although she had left Lincolnshire as a young girl to work as a domestic servant, including working in London.
George attended Wyggeston boys’ school from 1st April 1886 until the winter of 1889 when, whilst in the upper sixth form, he completed his exams (and was awarded a prize for scripture). George and his mother Eliza seem to have lived alone without Thomas during these years. In 1891 Eliza described herself to the census enumerator as a widow. Eliza and George lived with Eliza’s adopted mother Ann Bell, who was the owner of a servants’ register officer (akin to an employment agency today). Eliza was the manageress of the business, which operated from Churchgate. They lived round the corner at 14 New Bond Street. Thomas joined Eliza by 1901 – he was a member of the PCC of St Martin’s and a sidesman from at least 1909 until 1921. Eliza was one of the ladies responsible for the flowers. They attended St Martin’s from at least 1899.
After George finished school he began an apprenticeship with chemist George John Blennerhassett Woolley (1847-1932). This ended in 1895 when he qualified as a chemist, having spent a term studying at South London School of Pharmacy, affectionately known by its students as Muter’s College as it was led by Dr Muter at 325 Kennington Road. He spent some time working as a chemist in Bournemouth before marrying Married Mary Ann Poundall Pearson (1875-1943) at St Martin’s on 3rd June 1895. Mary lived at 25 New Bond Street so it is likely that they had known each other for a long time.
By 1898, when George and Mary’s first child Ronald George (1898-1898) was born, George was the manager of his former master Mr Woolley’s chemist’s shop in Oxford Street, living with him in Carlton Street. That year Mr Woolley was fined £2 for using deficient weights, which he and George claimed was due to washing the weights in oxalic acid, eroding them. Sadly baby Ronald died aged 5 months in November and was buried at Welford Road Cemetery. Mary gave birth to their second child, Kathleen Thelma Mary (1903- 1952), in 1903 whilst they lived at Rose Hill Villa, Duncan Road. In 1906 they moved to 10 Filbert Street.
In 1900 George purchased G J B Woolley’s chemist business at 29 Carlton Street and 116 Oxford Street. The former was one of the oldest pharmacies then in Leicester, being established before 1850 by Oliver Burden, before it was taken over by Woolley. In his spare time George was a member of the YMCA and a keen sportsman, enjoying swimming, football, cricket, golf, fishing and shooting. He was also a keen freemason, belonging to Galen Lodge as well as the Harford Lodge of Leicester. As a member of the Leicester Chemists’ Association he took part in many cricket matches, for example in 1905 the Leicester and Leicestershire Chemists played against the Leicester Doctors (rained stopped play). By 1906 he was joint honorary secretary of the association.
George grew in success during the early twentieth century. In 1906 moved the Carlton Street business to 2 Infirmary Square and a few years later in 1910 purchased a business at 2 Hartington Street from Mr Furnival. From 1909 George, Mary and Kathleen lived at Lyndhurst, Birstall Hill, where they kept a servant. In 1916 they moved to 54 Regent Road, where they lived until George died.
When war broke out George had chemist shops at Infirmary Road, 46 Green Lane Road & Hartington Road. Although no records of his service survive whatsoever, except notices in the London Gazette, we know that on 4th October 1917 was appointed second lieutenant in the Leicestershire Volunteer Regiment 2/1st Battalion. This is not surprising, even though George was by this time aged 44, as he was described as “a keen volunteer” in the early 1900s. He relinquished his commission on 11th October 1919, retaining the honorary rank of second lieutenant. By this time he was serving the 4th Volunteer Battalion Leicestershires.
However, during the war George still remained relatively active in trade – in May 1918 he gave a talk on window dressing to The Progressive Pharmacy Association. In fact, George was by now pretty famous in chemist and general trade circles, 1926 The Chemist and Druggist described him “as a window dresser…In a single year he has won prizes for his windows amounting to no less than £750. His talents in this direction have received a wide acknowledgment ; for example, in ” Window Dressing for Chemists,” by E. Barman (editor of ” Display “), the work of Mr Marfitt is described and profusely illustrated.” One such example was the Drapery Trades Exhibition of May 1919, where George took first prize (a silver cup and gold medal) for a window display of phosphorus-and-quinine tonic. George was also an active member of the National Chamber of Commerce.
Life wasn’t always easy. In 1921 George’s mother Eliza was seriously assaulted near her office, by a man and woman who pretended to be looking for work. They attempted to rob Eliza but her screams made the assailants run away. They were caught and the man was sentenced to 12 months hard labour. George’s father Thomas died the same year (but not Eliza, who outlived her son, dying in 1940). In March 1926 George was summoned for having taken ” an order for spirits in a quantity less than two gallons for retailing without an Excise licence entitling him to do so.” The chairman of the Bench said it was obvious that George had acted in ignorance ; nevertheless, ignorance was not a good defence in law. A fine of £20, with £5 costs, was imposed. This must have been embarrassing to a prominent tradesman such as George.
George died at home aged 54 on 9th June 1928, leaving £6250 to his wife Mary. He was buried at Gilroes Cemetery alongside his father. George’s mother outlived him by twelve year. Wife Mary lived on until 1943, when she too was buried in the Marfitt family grave.