The Meek family was in evidence in Berkhamsted from the second half of the 19thcentury onwards until the mid 20th century. Most Meeks were active in the wood trade. From the 1890 Kelly’s Directory at least until 1910 Edward Meek was a dealer and woodturner in the High Street whilst Thomas Meek was innkeeper at the Crystal Palace for a while and also a wood turner. The Meek of particular interest, perhaps because he chose to follow a very different line of business was Arthur Cecil Meek, the son of Richard Meek, a goldsmith and jeweller in London and of Sarah Susannah, who was the daughter of John Edward Lane, the nurseryman of Berkhamsted. Richard and Susannah moved out from London and in 1871 Richard was a goldsmith and jeweller in Pinner By the time of the 1881 census, however, Sarah Susannah, now widowed joined with her children the household of her father John Edward Lane, who was also a widower in Berkhamsted, where Arhur Cecil finished his schooling.
Not only did Arthur Cecil break with tradition in his occupation but he also did not marry a local girl. In January 1897 he married Nina Henriette Regnier, a French girl in Kent. They lived in Potten End to start with and had already established his jobmaster business in Lower Kings Road. A little girl, Nina Ethel was born in 1899. By 1911 the business was flourishing and the family also had a house at 29 Charles Street. He was an employer of a sizeable staff of coachmen and groomsmen and designated himself as a jobbing and posting master. He was also a member of the Yeomanry, a keen horseman and a member of the hunt.
By 1911 he also had a son Arthur Victor Meek (born 1901) and a daughter Poppy-Blanche born 1908.
In a 1912 Directory Arthur Cecil gave both his Lower Kings Road address and 29 Charles Street.
His premises in Lower Kings Road still partly exist and if you look on the side of the building now the Berkeley Gallery at No 41, you can just make out ‘A.C Meek, victorias, broughams and carriages for hire’. Presumably one could also hire a horse when necessary. We know that horses were kept in the stables at the back when a bad fire destroyed several horses.
Arthur’s income was largely dependent on horse-drawn carriages and by 1915 he had lost most of his income due to the popularity of the motor car. This set-back, which he further complicated by refusing to dismiss his staff or sell his horses, and the combination of a fraudulent tenant whose debts with the local tradesmen and merchants he honoured, left him financially ruined.
In 1937, eight years after the death of his wife he emigrated to Australia to live with his younger daughter Poppy-Blanche, who had emigrated to Sydney in 1929. Arthur died in Sydney on 30 October 1945 following a complication from gangrene in his leg and was cremated in Sydney. However he is commemorated in Berkhamsted with his wife and other family members.
Jenny Sherwood, with additional information from Mike Gray, grandson of Arthur Cecil