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High Street History

Places > Bedford > Streets > High Street

Hockliffe - Booksellers
78 and then 86-88 High Street

Home | Hockliffe Family | Timelines | Sources | Images

The Hockliffe Family

86 and 88 High Street BedfordFrederic Hockliffe was born on 6th September 1833 and died on 13th February 1914. He married Jane Elizabeth Rich. He was born in Bedford and educated at the Modern School. He trained as a printer with Forman and Lawrence before leaving Bedford to train as a printer with Austin & Sons in Hertford. He then worked for Simpkin Marshall in London before returning to Bedford and establishing his own business, founding Hockliffes booksellers in about 1870. He bought the second-hand book business of Mr Rolls in the 1870s. He was a connoisseur and keen collector of books, prints, historic documents, antique furniture and china and also had a collection of childrens books and straw-work made by French prisoners in the Napoleonic Wars. Eventually retiring to Pavenham, he died of heart failure on a visit to his son Ernest who was a master at Uppingham School. He was buried in Bedford Cemetery following a service in the chapel.

Frederic Richard Hockliffe, his son, was born in 1861 and died in 1929. His wife, Elizabeth, died in 1937. A keen cricketer in his youth, he was a JP and was connected with the Reform Party movement of 1901. He was elected to the Town Council in 1903 and served as Mayor in 1915, 1916 and 1918. In 1919 he became the first president of the newly founded Chamber of Trade and became an alderman in 1919. He was chairman of the Bedford War Tribunal and a member of the Bedford Club and also of the Bedford Arts Club of which he was president in 1914. He was also a governor of the Harpur Trust. He and his wife lived for many years at 64 Goldington Avenue before moving in 1916 to 27 Bushmead Avenue. He latterly retired to Pavenham, where his wife remained after his death. His funeral took place in St Pauls Church before the coffin was taken to Golders Green for cremation. The ashes were scattered on the grave of his parents at Bedford Cemetery. Business was suspended in the High Street as a mark of respect and the Borough flag flew at half mast over the Town Hall.

Elizabeth Hockliffe, his widow, was known for her war work during the First World War. She took an active interest in the business after her son Maurice left to work in London in 1935.

Maurice Frederic Richard Hockliffe (son of the younger Frederic) was born in 1900 and died in 1989. He attended Bedford School from 1910-1918, eventually becoming head boy. He passed an entrance examination into the Royal Navy and served as a cadet at Keyham but afterwards went into the Forest Service abroad and was stationed in Kenya for some time. After his fathers death, he returned to Bedford to manage the business but left again in 1935 to take up a post as librarian in London. He was a fine amateur actor and a member of Bedford Dramatic Club. His daughter donated a further collection of her grandfathers books to the University of Bedfordshire in 2010.


Hockliffe's Bookshop Timeline

1870 Frederic Hockliffe set up shop in Bedford High Street premises (subsequently Sell and Willshaw's)
1870 64 St Loyes Street, Bedford
1871 32 St Loyes Street, Bedford
1878 78 High Street, Bedford
c.1885 86 and 88 High Street Bedford
1914 death of Frederic Hockliffe. Business continued by his son Frederic R. Hockliffe
1929 death of Frederic R. Hockliffe
1929-35 business managed by Maurice Hockliffe, Frederic's son. Second-hand bookshop at 8 Lime Street, Bedford until 1965
Late 1930s business sold to W.H.Smith but continued to trade under the Hockliffe name

86-88 High Street, Bedford Timeline

18th C Shop with bakery and yard at rear built
1840s 88 High Street acquired by Mary and William Pearson from the Malden family, at one time millers at Duck Mill
1870 J. E. Liller, printer (No.86) and Mary Pearson, Baker  (No.88)
c. 1880 Holmes and Co., Fancy Goods and Toys (No.86) and Malden's Bakery (No.88)
1883-5 Nos. 86 and 88 rebuilt for Hockliffe, Bookseller, designed by Henry Young in the Queen Anne style. Described as mixed residential and commercial use. The Hockliffe family lived there for a time. Described by J. Hamson in Bedford Town and Townsmen thus: " The new and handsome shop of Mr F. Hockliffe is on the site of Malden's Bakery, which was quite an extensive concern. This Mr Malden was also proprietor of the Duck Mill. His business was taken by Mr Pearson, who was for years a member of the Town Council...".
Late 1930s taken over by W.H. Smith but still traded under the Hockliffe name
1975 W.H. Smith
1982 Central Chambers Woodfine and Co., Solicitors
1986 Park Woodfine, Solicitors
1990 The Yorkshire Bank
2011 The Jeweller's Bench and The Skills Bank

Information from Sally Heard 2011


Bedford Local Studies Library and Heritage Library (HL)


  • Wildman, Richard, Bedford Past and Present, Paul Hooley, 1975. BED/WIL
    Photographs of 86 and 88 in 1870 and 1975
    Photographs of Lime Street showing Hockliffe and W. and H. Peacock in 1885 and 1975
  • Wildman, Richard, Bygone Bedford,  White Crescent Press, 1974.BED/WIL
    Photograph of the view South down the High Street in the 1870s showing previous buildings at 86 and 88
  • Wildman, Richard, Bedford, a Pictorial History, Phillimore. 1991. BED/WIL
    Photograph of Maldens Bakery c. 1880
    Photograph of eight mayors, including F.R. Hockliffe bowling at the Bedford Club in 1925 (Gearey print)
  • Hamson, J. Bedford Town and Townsmen 18454-1895: a record of the local history of Bedford during the last half century, Bedfordshire Times Office, 1896. HL 942.561
  • Where to Buy at Bedford: an illustrated local review, 1891 p. 50. HL BED/WHE
    Image of 86 and 88 High Street shortly after construction in 1883
  • Bedford Local Directories HL
  • High Street Historical Gazetteer, Bedford Borough Council, 2008. HL
    Photos old and modern and brief timeline (architect wrongly attributed, see plans at BARS dated 1883 which state the architect to be Henry Young, not Usher and Anthony).


Bedford and County Record

  • 17th February1914 (p.1) Frederic Hockliffe obituary
  • 30th April 1929 (p.9) Frederic R. Hockliffe obituary

Bedfordshire On Sunday

  • 26th June2005 p.29 Kids books go online

Bedfordshire Times

  • 20th February 1914 p.8 Frederic Hockliffe obituary
  • 26th April 1929 p.11 Frederic R. Hockliffe obituary
  • 3rd May 1929 p.10 Frederic R. Hockliffe obituary
  • 9th April 1937 p.9 Elizabeth Hockliffe obituary
  • 26th May 1944 p.7 Ernest Hockliffe obituary
  • 22nd October 1976 W.H. Smith takes over the business but keeps the Hockliffe name

The Eagle

  • Obituary of F.R. Hockliffe  vol. 17 no. 5 July 1929 pp.373-374

Transactions of the Bibliographical Society

  • vol xiii no:3, Dec 1932 (advertisement for the business recently published, catalogue 59)

University of Bedfordshire

  • Hockliffe Project at the University of Bedfordshire a collection of early childrens books.

BARS (Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service)

  • Hockliffe billheads various dates
  • 28th September 1883: Plan of business premises, High Street, Bedford for Mr F. Hockliffe by Henry Young, Architect.
  • 1883: notice of intention to commence works by Samuel Foster, builder.
  • 2nd September 1884: application to connect drains with public sewer
  • Plans for alterations to 86-88 High Street on 5th October 1904 (removal of chimneys and new stairs, addition of WC and window to 2nd floor).
  • 1925: three applications for alterations to shop in Lime Street and a letter from George P. Allen FRIBA, 81 High Street Bedford on 22nd June of that year, asking to commence work as soon as possible. I herewith enclose your plan showing proposed alterations for my client Mr F. R. Hockliffe and he has asked me if you would be so kind as to go through the plans as soon as possible so they can have the approval of the Building Committee as he wishes to start at once. The plans were agreed on 23rd June so he got his wish!
  • 1925 plan from George Allen for proposed alterations with a plan of elevation.
  • February 1926: application from E. Hopkins, builder of 54 Tavistock Street for addition of shed.
  • 24th April 1929: another application from E. Hopkins for alterations to drains.
  • 6th July 1930: application to erect a bicycle shed.
  • 21st April 1932: another application for alterations to drains.

Information from Census Returns

  • 1871  Census: residents at 32 St Loyes Street, Bedford
    Frederic Hockliffe, bookseller
    Jane Elizabeth Hockliffe, wife
    Elizabeth Rich, widow
    Frederic R., Ernest H., Beatrice Mary and Maurice Fraser Hockliffe, children
    Mary Ann Dickins, servant
  • 1881 Census: residents at 62 St Loyes Street, Bedford
    Frederic Hockliffe, bookseller
    Jane Elizabeth Hockliffe, wife
    Frederick R. Hockliffe, son, booksellers assistant
    Ernest Hockliffe, son
    Clara Burgess, servant
  • 1891Census:  residents at 88 High Street, Bedford
    Frederic Hockliffe
    Jane Ellizabeth Hockliffe, wife
    Beatrice Hockliffe, daughter, Governess
    Mary Webb, servant
  • 1891 Census: residents at 124 Foster Hill Road, Bedford
    Frederic R Hockliffe, bookseller
    Elizabeth Hockliffe, wife
  • 1901 Census: residents at 64 Goldington Avenue, Bedford
    Frederic R Hockliffe, bookseller
    Elizabeth Hockliffe, wife
    Kathleen and Maurice Hockliffe, children
    Esther Freeman, servant


Page last updated: 28th January 2014