Stop number WHITE 7: You are almost at the end of the avenue of trees. There was once a turning circle here for horse drawn hearses as this is where the cemetery originally ended. You are now going to head back to the Priory Road entrance, looking at the graves on your left side as you return. So cross to the first tree on the other side and look for the vault of the Gomme family.
Read Ebenezer Gomme's story below and when you are ready to move on click on the dot/circle for J Eccles.
I am Ebenezer Gomme, chair manufacturer. Most people have heard of Gommes. I married Isabella Alice Pierce, known as Alice, in 1881 and established the firm in 1898 in partnership with my brother-in-law, Jim Pierce.
Back then we were living in Slater Street. We were to have five children but only two survived to adulthood, Frank and Edwin. We later moved to Duke Street and then to Redford House in Leigh Street, where in 1909 we built our new factory - we were on the up!
In 1911 I took my two sons into partnership. They were both still single in those days of course, so they had plenty of spare time to commit themselves to the work ahead. The future was looking rosy for us all.
Then the war started and everything changed. Aircraft needed to be built and these were constructed using timber frames which needed skilled woodworking men to make them. We made DH4 and DH9 wings which we produced for Airco in Hendon and we also made propellers. Birch, and also Skulls, were making aircraft parts too. Unfortunately many of Wycombe’s woodworkers moved to Hendon because the work there was lucrative, and so the town was drained of its skilled workmen.
Of course, men also wanted to join up and do their bit in the fighting. We had a real struggle to meet our normal orders, let alone the furniture required for army barracks and the like. We tried to get some of our men exemptions from conscription but these were only granted on a temporary basis until we could find an alternative solution. This included exemption requests for Frank and Edwin just so that we could get the war work completed on time, which caused a lot of bad feeling from those who didn’t understand the necessity of keeping them here. Frank only got a month, whilst Edwin’s was turned down. So all us furniture manufacturers have had a hard time to stay in business – but we’ve got to think ahead to the future you know, for when the war’s over.
Well, several of us thought that if our men were moving to Hendon to build planes, why not build the planes here and get our skilled workmen back. So in 1917 we’re planning to have a new aircraft factory built at Bellfield – it’s going to be huge and will bring the town a lot of work. It will be just what we need, providing opportunities for our sons and grandsons and for all the men who’ll be needing work after the war is over, whenever that will be.
Of course I don’t know it yet but just as we get the new aircraft factory built, and start advertising for staff, the war goes and ends. Well, that’s obviously the news we’ve all been waiting for but talk about timing, it’s all over before we get a single aircraft built!
However, we manufacturers will ride the storm and in 1927 Gommes will build a new furniture factory at Spring Gardens. Yes, we’ll survive for quite a while yet!
E Gomme researched by Sally Scagell and performed by Richard Ogden