The Warder Family: 
Isle of Wight Shoemakers

During the nineteenth century, many members of the Warder family of Shanklin, Isle of Wight engaged in the trade of shoemaking (although they often listed their occupation as cordwainer -- an older term for shoemaker). By the middle of the century they had shoe shops scattered in several different towns at the eastern end of the Island.

Shanklin is located on the southeast coast of the Isle of Wight.  A stream passes through the village and then plunges down through an "extraordinary fissure" in the cliffs known as Shanklin Chine, a ravine about 60 yards wide and 100 yards deep.  A modern description of Shanklin says:

Two poets who loved to stay at Shanklin were John Keats and Henry Wadswoth Longfellow and they did some of their writing there, as did Charles Darwin.  Keats lived at Shanklin around 1820, while Longfellow and Darwin came to Shanklin many years later.

The origins of the Warder shoemaking business actually go back into the Whitebread family.  Robert Whitebread was the son of Thomas and Mary (Mory) Whitebread and was baptized on May 5, 1734 at St. Mary's church in Brading.  When he grew up, he became a shoemaker at Shanklin. (Note 2)

On November 30, 1759, Robert married Elizabeth Cawse at Brading.  Isle of Wight vital records show only two children for this couple -- a son Robert who died in infancy and was buried at Brading on January 28, 1762 and a daughter Frances baptized June 5, 1763 at Shanklin.  Elizabeth Cawse Whitebread died at age 54 and was buried at Brading on 11 April 1781.  Her daughter Frances was 17 at the time.

Just over two years before this, on February 5, 1779, Robert Whitebread took two apprentices into his shop - Stephen Prichard and Robert Warder. (Note 3)  The latter was the son of William and Mary (Jacobs) Warder of Bachelor's Farm, which is just a mile or so west of Shanklin. He had been baptized at Newchurch on December 23, 1763. Eventually apprentice Robert Warder began courting his master's daughter and he and Frances married on November 24, 1785 at Shanklin.  Upon finishing his apprenticeship Robert Warder then joined the Whitebread shoe business as a partner to his father-in-law.

Robert and Frances may have lived initially with her father over the shoe shop, but records show that on August 1, 1791, they rented a newly-built cottage at Shanklin. (Note 4)  Robert and Frances had three daughters by this time and their family eventually grew to eight children -- four boys and four girls.

The Warder shoe shop in Shanklin
The Warder shoe shop at Shanklin (torn down in 1875)

By 1800, Robert Whitebread had reached the age of 66, so his son-in-law took over more and more of the work of shoe business. Eventually the four grandsons -- William, Robert, John, and James Warder -- began assisting in the shop.

Robert Whitebread drew up his last will and testament in 1810, although he did not die until 1821, at age eighty-seven.  In this document, he left to his daughter and son-in-law the bulk of his estate.  He did set aside 160 pounds for his eight grandchildren, with the money to be invested and the interest applied toward their support as long as they were minors.  As each grandchild reached the age of twenty-one, they were each to receive their twenty pounds of the principal. (Note 5)

Although the shoe business at Shanklin began before the involvement of any Warders, over the years the shop and house became known as the Warder block and the corner on which it was located was called Warder's Corner.

Map of Shanklin in 1842
Shanklin in 1842 (Warder's Corner near upper left)

Of the grandchildren, the first to leave home was the oldest, Elizabeth, who married in 1812.  Frances, the second child, lived only to the age of thirty and died in 1819.  There is no record of marriages for Sophia and Maria, who are undoubtedly the "Misses Warder" who taught school in a room in the rectory barn beginning in 1833. (Note 6)

Each of the Warder boys apprenticed to their father and learned the shoe business.  William, the oldest, eventually left home to become a shoemaker at the nearby town of Brading.  Undoubtedly Robert Warder helped his son to establish his own shop.  As the next two boys reached adulthood, Robert helped each of them establish their own shoe shop in a neighboring village.  Robert Warder, Jr., opened his shop at Wroxall and John Warder went into business at Nettlestone.  James Warder was still at home when their father died in 1829 and he took over the shop at Shanklin.  There is evidence in directories from the 1840s of a Warder boot and shoe shop in Yarmouth owned by a William Warder, but whether this was the same William, his son (also named William), or a Warder from a different family is yet to be determined.

In his will, Robert left his widow Frances the sum of forty pounds a year along with her choice of one of his cottages and whatever furniture was necessary to furnish the cottage (he had freehold cottages at Ryde and Brading and several leasehold cottages at Shanklin).  Apparently Frances chose to remain in the cottage at Shanklin which she and her husband had rented in 1791 as the family did not give up the lease on this property until a year after her death.  Their youngest son James got to remain in the shop and house and take over the tools of the trade and all of the leather that was already paid for.  The rest of Robert's real estate and personal property went to his surviving children. (Note 7)

For many years after that time, the Warder family remained a major force in the production and sale of shoes and boots on the Isle of Wight. Although the Shanklin shop was torn down in 1875, the family continued the business in the new building constructed on that site. James Warder operated the Shanklin shop until he retired and turned it over to his son William.  William eventually passed it on to his children.  In 1926, they sold it to a distant cousin Victor Harvey (his great grandfather was the William Warder who established the Brading shop) from Andover, Hampshire.  He operated the Warder-Harvey stores on the Island for many years, eventually selling out to a large chain of shoe stores.


1. Mee, Arthur.  The King's England, Hampshire with the Isle of Wight (1967), pp. 326-327. Return to the text.

2. All dates of baptism, marriage, and burial in this history are from church records on file at the Isle of Wight Records Office at Newport.  A card index to these records is available on microfilm through LDS Family History Centers under the title Isle of Wight Consolidated Parish Records Index. Return to the text.

3. A record showing these apprenticeships appears in "UK, Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures, 1710-1811" on the website to the text.

4. Miscellaneous records portion of the Warder records in the Isle of Wight Consolidated Parish Register Index. Return to the text.

5. Will number 1821B/83, Hampshire Records Office, Winchester, Hants. Return to the text.

6. Parker, Alan.  The Story of Victorian Shanklin. Return to the text.

7. Will number 1829B/112, Hampshire Records Office, Winchester, Hants.; lease information is from the miscellaneous records portion of the Warder records in the Isle of Wight Consolidated Parish Register Index. Return to the text.

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