The Bly family has a long association with the town of Tring, as John Bly explains
‘The Bly’s first connection with Tring dates back to the 1440s when a group of French noblemen, their sires and assorted retinue arrived in the area and settled here.
‘And when a descendant of Stephen of Blois married into the Manor of Tring his name was pronounced as spelt – Bloy.’
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‘By the middle of the 18th century the spelling had changed to Bligh, which in turn was changed to Bly in 1863.
‘Despite noble origins, we soon descended into trade and commerce; upholstery in London, pottery decorators in Lowestoft, seafarers – most notably Captain Bligh (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame). In Tring we were general dealers, shepherds, cattlemen, innkeepers, fellmongers, horse traders and finally in the 1870s my great grandfather declared that he had been an antiques dealer since the reign of William IV.
‘Most lived in Frogmore Street and had The Black Horse, The White Horse, The Dolphin and The Victoria pubs to drink in. Next to The Black Horse was one of many bakeries (now Hughes & Co, Solicitors) where my grandfather was born. He was teetotal but was supportive of those not of that persuasion.
‘Probably just as well for he might otherwise have fallen out with the rest of the family; particularly a cousin Arthur ‘Bumper’ Bly, a rotund and jolly horse dealer.
‘Legend has it that he decided to paint two mangy chestnut ponies with whitewash to make them more attractive. Two revellers come out of the ‘Black’un’ and bought Bumper’s horses. All was well until it rained before they got home! As a result Bumper left town and ended up in London where he started the first horse-drawn pantechnicon (a large van) service out of Euston Station.
‘From an equally humble beginning my grandfather rose to become Mayor of Tring. He co-founded the Tring YMCA, opened the first cinema in Akeman Street and the new Fire Station on the corner of Akeman and High Streets.
‘From pushing a handcart to Aylesbury market and back, loaded with furniture to sell in his shop in Albert Street, grandfather Bly moved to the High Street and owned horses and a cart. He did maintenance work for Lord Rothschild having learned cabinet making, restoring porcelain and metalware.
‘The first Friday after Grandfather John died in 1936, my father was surprised to see a line of people waiting outside our shop. The first person asked if young Mr Bly would continue to give the weekly shilling for a portion of fish and chips on the market, as Mr Bly senior had done.’
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