Information supplied by Rosalind Green (descendant of Mr. Toone)
Supplementary information supplied by Joyce Taylor
John Toone was born on 14th June 1787 at Mound Nod, at a small farm in the extreme north of the parish of Stoneleigh, son of John and Ann Toone.
According to a short biography written by William Dawkes in 1898 John Toone was apprenticed at Baginton, with a Mr. Gunn. Afterwards he moved to Leamington and became acquainted with his future wife. He started to walk to London, with only seven shillings and sixpence in his pocket, which sum was spent before he got there. A man met him on the way and asked him to help get in hay. He thereby obtained a good dinner of bacon and cabbage, and three shillings and sixpence in money. There he stayed the night, and then went on to London, where he got lodgings with an old man who took a liking to him, and taught him to write and spell. He remained there twenty weeks and saved £20. He often wrote to his mother of his doings, and of the mysterious Providence that was around him.
On his return he married Elizabeth Reading of Bishops Tachbrook on 4th May 1812. It seems likely that John took his new wife to Birmingham shortly after they were married as his first two children, John and Elizabeth were born in Birmingham in 1813 and 1815. He was working as a carpenter in an area not far from the present day Snow Hill Station. The family however returned to Bishops Tachbrook where a number of his children were baptised from 1817 to 1824.
Of his 13 children four died in infancy, and of the nine survivors his eldest son emigrated to Salt Lake City in the mid-19th century and a grandson died fighting in the American Civil War.
According to Dawkes, Toone's success was greatly due to his untiring energy and application to business; his imperfect education being greatly compensated for by a most wonderful memory, it being a constant boast of his that he was unable to forget anything.
1833 saw John's eldest son, John, being articled as a clerk in June, to William Charles Empson, attorney, of Leamington. John junior thus started his five years of training to become an attorney at law and solicitor.
An indication of John's benevolent nature was given when 280 children of the infant schools in Leamington were examined in April 1838; it was John Toone who afterwards provided the children with tea and plum cake.
Whenever the town was celebrating something special, John's properties were always dressed for the occasion. When Princess Victoria was crowned in June 1838, his property in the Upper Parade was sporting a pink and white streamer in honour of her Majesty's Coronation.
It was in November 1838 that the Governors of the Nicholas Chamberlaine Charity placed an advertisement in the Times - To Architects, Builders, &c - ALMSHOUSES, consisting of 20 sitting rooms and 40 bed rooms, together with a porter's lodge, are proposed to be built in the parish of Bedworth, in the county of Warwick. The sum to be expended not to exceed £800. Plans estimates, and specifications to be sent to Mr. Robert Evans, of Griff, near Coventry, on or before the 1st day of February 1839. For the best plan, &c., a premium is offered of £10; and for the second best, £5. For plan of site and further particulars apply to the above Mr. Robert Evans.
Mr. Toone who by now had a very good reputation as a builder, having built many prestigious buildings including the Wesleyan Chapel, Portland Street, Leamington, Mill Street Chapel, Leamington, Leamington Town Hall, High Street, the Wesleyan Chapel, Coventry and the Leamington Brewery took on the work of building the Bedworth Almshouses. He oversaw the building work, and any not up to his standard he ordered to be taken down and rebuilt. A newspaper report at the time said "The hospital will, when complete, be one of the finest public buildings in this neighbourhood."
At the end of the Crimean War in 1856 Leamington decided to celebrate the return of peace by a Public Rejoicing on Thursday May 29th. John Toone was one of those who contributed the sum of ten shillings to this cause.
I am sure it was with great regret that towards the end of 1873 John's son, William, and John's sons in law, Richard Hodkisson and John Dutton took the step of calling in the Masters in Lunacy to declare that John was of unsound mind and therefore unfit to govern "himself, his houses, messages, lands, tenements, goods and chattles". At this point John is living at the Albion Hotel, possibly in the care of his daughter Sarah.
John Toone's death was recorded in the Leamington Courier of 27th February 1875.
TOONE - On the 13th instant, in Clarendon-street, John Toone, aged 80 years.
Although this notice states he was 80 years of age, he was, in fact, 87 years old when he died, having been born in 1787.
John Toone's personality was distinguished for its originality, and in the later years of his life for its venerable characteristics. Tall and erect, his face a picture of health and happiness, wearing a low crowned hat, and spectacles, through which he became contentedly on his generation; a beard of snowy whiteness, "descending swept his aged breast." such was the patriarchal appearance of old John Toone in the hardy winter of his time.