Mr. F.B. Senior

Richmond Herald 19th February 1916

It is with deep regret that we have to record the death of Mr. Frederick Bernard Senior, who passed away peacefully yesterday at his residence, Gloucester-gardens, Richmond Hill. Mr. Senior was 85 years of age, but until a few days ago he exhibited all that vitality and keen interest in the affairs of the town which had always characterised him. Some months ago he was seriously indisposed, but he fully recovered, and a fortnight ago he was well enough to go to London on business. Later, however, he contracted a chill, and gradually became worse.

Eighty-five Years in Richmond

Of Mr. Senior it may be said that his history is the history of the Richmond of later years, for his whole life was bound up with the town and its affairs. He was born in London, but was brought to Richmond by his parents when only three months old, and he spent his school days in the town and at Kensington. The law having been chosen as his profession, he was articled to Mr. William Chapman, then a well-known Richmond solicitor, and in 1853 he was admitted to practice. In 1857 he commenced to practise in the town, and for nearly sixty years, until his death, remained in active work. From the very first he attended the Parish Church. In 1867 he was made a sidesman; four years later he became churchwarden, and he numbered among his closest friends in succeeding years the Canon Proctor.

Work was Mr. Senior’s hobby. For most of his life he was the hardest-worked man in the town. It was in May, 1873, that he commenced his official connection with the borough. Then Mr. Alexander Smith, the clerk to the Select Vestry, retired, and Mr. Senior was elected to take his place. Never was wiser choice made. The new clerk, abundantly endowed with shrewdness, energy, and legal knowledge, plunged into the work with enthusiasm, and soon had the affairs of the town at his finger-ends. Mr. Walter Lambert was taken into partnership in his private practice in order that he might have greater freedom for the town’s affairs. Mr. Lambert broke down in health, and left Richmond in 1897, and Mr. A.J. Furbank succeeded him in the practice now conducted under the title of Messrs. Senior and Furbank.

Saving the Eyots

In the first year of his appointment as Vestry clerk, Mr. Senior rendered the town a great service. The lovely eyot nearest Richmond Bridge was then in danger of being converted into a boatbuilder’s premises, and he was the first to see the effect on the beauty of the reach. It was through his efforts that this was averted, and the island now known as Corporation Island secured to the public for ever.

Mr. Senior’s work in opposing the Southwark and Vauxhall Water Company will be remembered by the older residents. The Vestry was dissatisfied with the supply of water and the increased charges, and in 1876 put forward a scheme of its own. There was considerable opposition on the part of the Water Company, and the matter went to the House of Lords, and in the end the Company withdrew their Bill. There was a long inquiry by the Local Government Board, and the contract for the water supply was proceeding when the Company suddenly cut off their supply and left the inhabitants to their own resources. In the end Mr. Senior’s legal acumen and tact found a way out of a difficulty which caused a great deal of resentment at the time. Through these stormy days the Select Vestry, then the governing authority, were ably led by their clerk, and in the end they won their battle. That was only one of many fights in the interests of the town in which he triumphed. Incorporation, borough boundaries extension, the Terrace Gardens, preservation of the view – in all these things he held the guiding hand. In addition he acted as clerk to the magistrates and to the Burial Board, was superintendent registrar of births, marriages, and deaths, was hon. solicitor to the hospital, and yet found time to be a Freemason, an Oddfellow, and a Forester.

No Holidays

Mr. Senior never spared himself. In those busy years which followed the incorporation of the town – he had, of course, been made Town clerk as soon as the Town Council was elected – he was at his office from early morning till late at night. Generally his luncheon was two penny tarts, bought at the nearest pastrycook’s, and eaten as he took a little walk by the Greenside. Holidays were unknown. On the records of the Town Council to-day are the formal decisions of the Corporation in that memorable year when he was forced to take a holiday. Only when the severest pressure was applied did he consent to take a holiday at Eastbourne – later on. And then he put off the – to him – evil day until he was faced by an insistent mayor. Virginia Water was finally chosen, and the town clerk and a member of his family left on the Saturday afternoon. All Saturday night he was unable to sleep. On Sunday he recollected that he had some papers to prepare for the magistrates on Monday morning, and came back. Once more the mayor insisted, and Mr. Senior went back to Virginia Water on the Wednesday, only to return again on Thursday, tired from want of sleep, and determined to defy the whole borough should holidays ever be suggested again. Work – hard, unremitting work, done in his own way, and generally with his own hand – was all he was accustomed to, and all he required. “No more holidays for me!” he remarked when he returned to the Town Hall from the Virginia Water adventure. And he kept his word.

Some Useful Achievements

He had his share in the erection of the Footbridge and Lock, the establishment of the Free Public Library (1881) and the Public Baths (1882), acquiring the Terrace Gardens (1887), the incorporation of the borough (1890), the extension of the borough boundary (1892), the purchase of the Town Hall site and its erection (1892-3), the building of the Petty Sessions Court in Paradise-road (1895), and of the Isolation Hospital at Modgen a year later, the purchase of the islands in the Thames at Kew (1899), and the widening of George-street. All these years he retained his clerkship of the Select Vestry, in addition to the town clerkship and his other appointments.

It was in 1907 that he resigned his position as town clerk, and, so far as the Corporation was concerned, went into retirement as consulting solicitor. Soon afterwards he suffered his first severe illness, but a serious operation, performed by Sir Frederick (then Mr.) Treves, put him on his feet again, and he was soon as busily engaged as ever with the work of the Vestry. Almost to the end he remained immersed in public affairs. One by one his friends and associates of the earlier, more strenuous days passed away – the recent death of Mr. Carless, one of his earliest friends in the town, was felt very keenly – but his interest in the work of his life was never allowed to flag. His is a splendid record of honourable service.

Mr. Senior leaves a widow, a daughter, and two sons.