A Tale of Two Grandfathers – Part One : James George William Grey

I have very different memories of my two sets of Grandparents. I have lots regarding my maternal Grandparents but very few of my paternal ones, the Greys. In fact I have no memories at all of my Grandad Grey as I never met him. I was just 7 years old when he died but as he and my Grandmother had divorced, he unfortunately was never on my radar. It was my much adored Dad’s death that started me researching my family history. A conversation he had not long before his death piqued my interest. He admitted to taking his Mum’s side when his parent’s separated and had totally regretted not keeping in touch with his father. I realised too late that I really knew nothing of this man and my journey started. So here is what I have found out about my Grandad Grey.

James George William Grey. Averil's Grangfather
Grandad, James George William Grey

James George William Grey was born on 26 September 1883 in the Railway Gatehouse, Linby, Nottinghamshire. His father, Ellis John Grey, was a Railway Signalman for the Midland Railway Company. By the time Grandad was 5 years old the family had moved to Kensworth in Hertfordshire where his parents ran the Red Lion Pub. It is here I found him on the 1891 census aged 7, along with Mum, Dad, two older sisters and two younger brothers. His mother, Jane Grey nee Hall, was originally from the village of Hook Norton in Oxfordshire and it was here the family moved at some point after that census, for Jane’s death is registered there in 1897. It is Ellis who registers the death and he gives his address as Hook Norton and his occupation as Farmer. Grandad was just 14 years of age when his mother died.

James George William Grey birth certificate

By the 1901 census Grandad is 17 years of age and still living in Hook Norton but not with his father. He is in fact living with his sister Annie Christina and her husband William Harris. His occupation is listed as Groom – Helper in a stables. I had a flash of inspiration regarding which stables this might be. William’s occupation on that census was Brewers Drayman and I knew Hook Norton had a lovely Brewery which is still in operation today. Could Grandad be working in the brewery stables? Getting in touch with the brewery to see if they had an archivist or indeed had any old records, I was delighted to find out that indeed Grandad did work in the stables there from January 1901 to August 1902 earning 11 shillings a week.

Hook Norton Brewery

Hook Norton was a small rural community but there were a lot of ironstone deposits in the area. With the coming of the railway in 1887 it opened up the opportunity to quarry this resource. Although certainly one of Grandad’s brothers worked at the ironstone quarry, it appears that Grandad himself moved to Coventry for employment. Coventry at this time was a thriving industrial city. The end of the 1800’s saw the city’s trades of watchmaking, silk weaving and bicycle production booming. In the early 20th century as these occupations started to decline car manufacture and electrical goods became the mainstay of employment in the city. My Grandfather’s occupation, well certainly according to his marriage certificate in 1909, was that of Timber Haulier.

He married my Grandmother Catherine Marsh on 05 June 1909. According to his date of birth Grandad would have been 25 years of age but his marriage certificate has him as 22. Grandma was just 17 although again the certificate has her at 19. The fact that Grandma gave birth to their first child, my Uncle Jim, just 5 months later means that Grandma was indeed pregnant at the time of the marriage. They were living with Catherine’s parents in Red Lane, Coventry.

Grandad and Grandma’s marriage certificate with the questionable ages

By the time of the 1911 census my grandparents now had their own home in Peel Street and Grandad’s sister Camellia was living with them along with the now 1 year old James (Uncle Jim). Grandad was still working as a Timber Haulier. In January 1912 a daughter, Hilda Annie (Aunty Hilda), was born.

At the outbreak of World War 1 my grandfather now aged 31 joined the Bedfordshire Regiment. Research is still ongoing into his military career but I do know at the end of the war he received the Victory Medal, the British War Medal and the 14 Star.

After the war he had 4 more children, including my father, the last being my Uncle Tony in 1931. By the outbreak of World War 2, when the 1939 Register was taken, my grandparents had separated. Grandad was living on his own in Cheveral Avenue. All of his children were with their mother, apart from Aunty Hilda who was already married by this time. His occupation at this time is given as Air Ministry Warden.

Grandad back row on the left at Aunty Hilda’s wedding

I have no idea why the marriage broke down or of the date of any divorce but on 19 March 1947 Grandad re-married. His second wife was Florence Kate Abel and they were married at the Register Office in Thanet, Kent. He was 63 and was described on the marriage certificate as “formerly the husband of Catherine Grey, formerly Marsh, Spinster, from whom he obtained a divorce”. He was living at 105 Westgate Bay Avenue, Westgate on Sea and gave his occupation as Odd Job Man (Boarding House). I know at this time his daughter, my Aunty Hilda, ran an hotel in Westgate.

This unfortunately is all I know of him. I was born in 1954 and Grandad died in 1961 of Broncho Pneumonia. He was living back in Coventry in Jobs Lane. His death certificate has his occupation as retired machinist in a car factory. I find it so sad I will never know if he even knew of my existance.

James George William Grey death certificate

Attempted Murder, Bigamy and Bankruptcy

I might not have been here writing this blog had Henry Harwood succeeded in murdering my 2xGreat Grandfather William Marsh. William married my 2xGreat Grandmother Kate Harwood nee Cock in 1857 and again in 1869. I had always had the feeling that Kate had committed Bigamy by entering the first of these marriages. The other day while conducting some research on the British Newspaper Archive website I found my proof. William also became bankrupt later in life and died in the Workhouse. Can’t help but feel sorry for him.

William Marsh was born in 1806 in Hampshire. His parents were George and Mary Marsh.I don’t know anything about his childhood but know he married a lady called Hannah Freke White in Portsea, Hampshire on 12 September 1830. They were to have seven children together and on the 1841 and 1851 census were living at 3 Clock Street, Portsea. William carried out his business as grocer from this address.

A report in the Hampshire Telegraph 15 September 1855 tells of an attack on poor Hannah by Private Robert Bowie of the first battalion Rifle Brigade. He stole from her a black Coburg cape and struck her a violent blow. On appearing in court Robert was sentenced to 1 month’s imprisonment.

Report in the Hampshire Telegraph, 15 September 1855, on the robbery from Hannah Marsh

After 26 years of marriage Hannah died in September 1856 and was buried on 16 September that year. William would be 50 years old and within 7 months of Hannah’s death he marries Kate some 21 years his junior. Did he rush into this relationship with his eyes closed, still in grief at the loss of Hannah? He had children to care for and a growing business to run. As would  become apparent all to soon, Kate had entered into a bigamous marriage.

Kate Cock was born in Portsea in 1827 and marries Henry Harwood on 03 March 1851. Henry is a Boot maker from Salisbury, Wiltshire. They were to have a son Henry James born on 31 March 1854. Sometime over the next three years Kate and Henry separate and on 18 April 1857 Kate and William are married at the parish church Portsea. Kate is said to have received information about Henry’s death and William believed that Henry had deserted her and had since died.

A bigamous marriage

They had lived together for three years as man and wife and had had two children before the awful event that took place on the 20 June 1860. I have managed to put the story together with the help of newspaper reports at the time of the incident and the ensuing court case.

It was 11 months prior to the attempted murder that Henry Harwood appeared at the home of William and demanded his wife. William had received a letter from Henry the previous month, this was the first William knew that Henry was still alive and for me there will always be a question mark over whether Kate genuinely thought Henry to be dead. William treated him kindly and did not turn him away. There was a second visit to the house by Henry in which he demanded to see his child, who William had taken in and looked after with his own children. Henry asked to see his wife so the matter could be settled amicably but Kate refused to see him. Henry said he would not come to the house again if he could have his child or at least be allowed to see him. William was not in agreement of the child going to live with his father but apparently agreed that he should see him.

On 20 June 1860 Kate and Henry met in the street. Henry wanted to know why she wouldn’t let him see his child. Kate had on a previous occasion torn the child from his arms when they were embracing in the street. She told him it was not her wish that he did not see his child but William’s, going so far as to say that William would throw her out if she spoke to him or allowed him to see the child. Henry said he would take her back if she would return but Kate said that he would not keep the two children she had with William.

After this encounter  Henry is said to have gone and had a few glasses of porter. He was to use this as his defence, saying he could not recollect what then took place. At around 10pm that evening William who was now running a beer house as well as his grocery business from the adjoining property, was sitting in his tap room. Henry appeared somewhat excited and walked up to William saying “Give me my child” pushing him, William felt a sharp pain in his left side. Witness to this altercation was William’s son, also named William who was a baker. He saw the knife in Henry’s right hand and rushed to his father’s aid. He saw the knife thrust at his father’s left side and struck Henry two or three times. Henry made off through the shop. Outside William Webber, a resident of Clock Street, had seen Henry enter the premises and heard the scuffle. He witnessed Henry running from the premises pursued by three or four people and saw Henry drop the knife, which he then picked up and latter passed on to P.C. Hales.

William was examined by Dr.Garrington who discovered a wound about three-quarters of an inch long over the last rib on his left side. The knife had hit the bone preventing a fatal result and William fortunately only suffered a superficial wound. Dr.Garrington told the police constable, who was with William, that the knife dropped by Henry could indeed have made the wound. P.C. Hales apprehended Henry on Havant Street that night and charged him with stabbing William Marsh. Henry replied to this “Are you joking”? P.C. Hales said that the prisoner appeared to have been drinking and on searching him found ‘a short clubbed stick with a large knob at the top, secreted on his person’.

Henry was committed for trial on the charge of attempting to murder William Marsh. At the trial the whole of this sorry story came out and Henry was found guilty of unlawfully wounding not attempted murder. The jury also recommended him to ‘merciful consideration’. The judge having directed the jury to acquitting the more serious charge said the offence usually warranted a severe punishment but the case was of an exceptional character and would adopt the recommendation of the jury. Henry was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment with hard labour.

As to what happened to everyone after these events. Henry would have served his time and on the 1861 census I found him back in Salisbury with his son Henry James now aged 7. Henry however dies in October that year. Poor Henry James I assume returns to his mother and William and the 1871 and 1881 census returns show he followed a career in the Royal Navy.

William and Kate carried on living in Clock Street and on 31 December 1861 had another child together, Robert Edward, my Great Grandfather. So as I said at the beginning had Henry killed William I would not be here. In both 1867 and 1869 I have found bankruptcy adjudications against William.

Portsmouth Times and Naval Gazette -Saturday 23 February 1867 – One of many bankruptcy reports I have found referring to William

William died on 31 December 1870 in the Union Workhouse, Portsea of Stomach Cancer. He and Kate had re-married  at the Register Office, Portsea on 09 July 1869. This time a legal marriage.

William and Kate’s 2nd Marriage Certificate


William’s death certificate

I found Kate on the 1871 census still living in Clock Street as a Grocer, she must have taken over the business. The three children her and William had together are with her. There for the moment her trail runs out. I have not been able to find her death or find her on any subsequent census returns. I have searched marriages in case she married again after William’s death but no luck there either.

So ends this sorry story. Nobody wants to think ill of their ancestors but do I see William as a kind, forgiving man, who would have allowed Henry Harwood access to his son and who stuck by Kate even though she appears to have lied to him. Or was it as Kate told Henry that William would not allow him to see his son and threatened to throw her out. The answers to that are lost in the passing of time.

Newspaper extracts copyright THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD taken from the britishnewspaperarchive website



The Great Hook Norton Farm Mystery

My Great Grandfather Ellis John Grey was a Farmer. He came to that profession when he was possibly in his 50’s. He had previously been a Gardener and a Rural Messenger for the Post Office, before embarking on a career on the railways. During his time with the Midland Railway Company his jobs included Porter, Pointsman, Gateman and Signalman. On leaving the railway company he became a Publican and finally at some point returned to his wife’s roots in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire and became a Farmer. See my blog on Ellis John Grey.

Two pieces of paperwork led me to his change of occupation. The first being his wife Jane’s death certificate in 1897. On the certificate Jane’s occupation is given as “Wife of Ellis John Grey, Farmer”. Secondly on the 1901 Census for Hook Norton his occupation again is listed as Farmer.

But why I hear you cry have I entitled this blog as ‘The Great Hook Norton Farm Mystery’. It’s because I am trying to find out the location of the farm and whether it was wholly or part of the farm that belonged to his wife’s parents. Sometimes our research creates more questions than it gives answers.

On Ellis’s death in July 1907 his daughter Elena Maria Woodcraft was appointed as Administratrix of his estate. On the 07 October 1907 there was an auction at Netting Farm on the instructions of Elena. Everything was to be sold including 5 Cart Horses and Colts, 3 Pigs, Barley, Oats, Meadow Hay, Harnesses, Implements and Furniture. I am assuming that Ellis was a tenant farmer and did not own the land.

From the Banbury Guardian – 26 September 1907

On a visit to Hook Norton back in 2007 I was introduced to a lovely lady who turned out to be my father’s cousin. She informed me that the farm had been off Netting Street. Looking at old maps really gives no indication as to the exact whereabouts of the farm or of it’s size. The 1901 Census only gives the address of Netting for Ellis and 2 of his sons who were living and working with him.

1901 Census showing Ellis John Grey’s occupation as a farmer and the address as Netting.

Ellis and his wife Jane had been living most of their married life in Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire. They had made the return to Jane’s childhood home of Hook Norton sometime after the birth of their last child in 1892. Jane’s father, James Hall, who was a farmer had died in 1882 leaving her mother, Elizabeth, with the farm. Had the move back been to assist her aging mother? If so was Netting Farm originally the Hall’s farm?

Back in 1851 James is on the census as an Agricultural Labourer. On the 1861 census he is listed as a Carter. He has probably bought himself a horse and cart and is busy moving items around for people in this rural location. Moving further up the career ladder by 1871 he is farming 11 acres and employing 1 man and a boy. Further advancement by the 1881 census has him farming 22 acres. But the problem is the location of this land. The census records really don’t help here. The enumerators unfortunately did not give many addresses in the village. Each household just follows on from the previous one, with only a few of the larger properties having their address duly noted. The 1891 census, after James’s death, lists his widow Elizabeth, a farmer, in Thrutting. I cannot find Thrutting on any map but Elizabeth’s neighbours address on this census is Scotland Road. I am thinking that Scotland Road may well be Scotland End which appears on the 1901 census. Scotland End runs into Netting Street which is where we find Ellis farming in 1901.

None of Jane’s siblings took over their parents farm. I think it is reasonable to assume that Jane and Ellis came back to Hook Norton to help on the farm. Jane died three years before her mother. It looks like on her death Elizabeth leaves the farm in the hands of her son-in-law Ellis.

I suppose at the moment I cannot be certain that this is true. Maybe one day an illusive bit of information will drop in my lap then it will either confirm or destroy my theories.

Poster advertising the auction at Netting Farm. Someone has written next to each item how much it raised.

Newspaper extract copyright THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD from the website britishnewspaperarchive

Lest We Forget – Raymund John Grey

During the Second World War my father lost a brother. Here is the story of the Uncle I never had the chance to meet.


Raymund John Grey was born on 6 January 1923 at 53 Much Park Street, Coventry. (I have used the spelling Raymund as this is how it appears on his birth certificate however later documents have the spelling as Raymond). His father James George William Grey was a Motor Tester. His mother was Catherine Grey nee Marsh. Raymund had an older brother James Ellis (Uncle Jim) and an older sister Hilda Anne (Aunty Hilda). When Ray was just nineteen months old his mother gave birth to my father Kenneth Joseph. Another sister arrived two years later Catherine Monica (Aunty Monica) and the family was completed in 1931 with the arrival of my Uncle Tony.

I have been told by family members that Ray and my father were very close. Being so near in age I imagine them growing up together possibly getting into all sorts of mischief.They spent their childhood together in Coventry in Short Street where my father and Aunty Monica were born and then moved to Cheveral Avenue by the time Uncle Tony was born.

Unfortunately before the outbreak of World War 2 Ray’s parents had separated. On the 29 September 1939 a National Register was taken of everybody living in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It was this register that would be used when the government were to issue identity cards and ration books. On the register I found my Grandfather still in Cheveral Avenue but living on his own. His occupation is listed as Air Ministry Warden. My Grandmother was now living in Victory Road with all of the children apart from my Aunty Hilda who had married in 1932

Uncle Ray on the far right.

Ray joined the Royal Navy in January 1942 at the age of 19. He had previously been a member of the Home Guard and was probably on fire and rescue duty during the many raids Coventry suffered.  Unfortunately I don’t know anything about his naval career. Maybe a trip down to the National Archives in London may reveal something but for now I only have photographs, family stories and the knowledge that he died on war service in Canada.

Uncle Ray. On the back of this photo is written ‘Taken in Main Street, St.John. N.B. Canada. July 1943. To Mother with love Ray. xxxx’

According to a family photo I have, Uncle Ray was certainly in St. John, New Brunswick Canada in July 1943 as it is written on the back of the photo. On a list of Navy death records I found that at the time of his death, 21 August 1943, he was serving on HMS Arcturus as a Telegraphist. All I can find out about HMS Arcturus is she was a minesweeper of the Algerine class. She was ordered on 9 December 1941, laid down on 21 February 1942 and launched on 31 August 1942. However she was not commissioned until 23 October 1943, this was 2 months after Ray’s death. She was built by Redfern Construction of Toronto, Canada.

HMS Arcturus

The sad thing about Uncle Ray’s death is it was an accidental drowning. Family members have told me he had suffered an injury loosing a lot of blood. While on a training exercise, which involved a swim in the St.John river, he got into difficulty, whether this was as a result of the injury I don’t know. Before any one realised there was a problem it was too late. My poor Grandmother felt he was out of danger being in Canada and just a week before Ray’s death her mother (my Great Grandma Ann Marsh) had died.

Roll of Honour in the Coventry Evening Telegraph 30 August 1943

A lovely but sad story my dear cousin Wendy in Australia has told me was a memory she has of a visit to Grandma’s. Although very young she remembers being surprised to see all three family members who had enlisted there at the same time, Uncle Ray, my father also in the Royal Navy and Aunty Monica. Not sure of the exact reason, it seemed unusual for the three of them to get leave at the same time unless it was for Ann Marsh’s funeral. She died on 14 August and the funeral was on 17 August and Uncle Ray is definitely back in Canada on 21 August when he has his terrible accident. I have found out from the newspaper announcement of Great Grandma Ann’s death she had been in hospital for a short time prior to it. So could the leave have been to visit her in hospital especially if the prognosis was not good? However enough supposition, this visit was the last time anyone of the family saw Uncle Ray. A short time later my cousin found out he had died and a couple of weeks after that a parcel arrived from Canada for her. It contained a pink and white bunny from our Uncle Ray. She named it Yankee Doodle, Canada/America seemed like the same country to her then.

Although he was not killed in action but died on war service he is still remembered with honour at St.Joseph’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, St.John County, New Brunswick, Canada. He is buried in Naval Plot Grave 38.

St.Joseph’s Cemetery, St.John, New Brunswick
Grey, Raymond J.
Uncle Ray’s Grave. Note it says HMS Arcturuc not Arcturus.

A year after his death the family remembered him with a memoriam notice in the local paper. There were two announcements, one from his Mother and siblings still at home and one from my Aunty Hilda and her family. He is still remembered today certainly by some of his nieces and nephews. RIP Uncle Ray.

In Memoriam notices, Coventry Evening Telegraph, 21 August 1944

Newspaper Extract copyright Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website www.britishnewspaperachive

Photo of St.Joseph’s Cemetery from Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Lest We Forget -Edward Marsh

I find it very sad that each of my Grandparents lost a sibling during the First World War. Edward Marsh, my Great Uncle, was my paternal Grandmother’s brother. Here is his story.


Edward was born in 1894 in Coventry, Warwickshire. The eldest son of Robert Edward Marsh and Ann Marsh née Holtom. He had two older sisters, Ann and my Grandmother Catherine. At the age of 2 his mother gave birth to another boy Charles.On the 1901 census the family are living in Bridge Row, Coventry.

On the 1911 census a 17-year-old Edward is living with his Mother and Father and younger brother. The family also have four boarders and live in Red Lane, Coventry. Edward’s occupation is given as a Machinist Driller in an Ordnance Works.

Corporal Edward Marsh

In 1914 Edward would be 20 years old and working as a Turner at Rover Co. Ltd. He was to enlist at the outbreak of the war. He was part of “C” battery, 78th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery which was placed under the command of the 17th (Northern) Division. The Division was established in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s Second New Army. They were moved around quite a bit during training and were to be retained in England for home defence duties. However this order was reversed and an advance party set off for France on 6 July 1915 with the main embarkation starting on the 12 July.

The division was originally concentrated around St.Omer and spent time in the southern area of Ypres salient for trench familiarisation then holding the front lines. During 1916 they would see action at Bluff, south east of Ypres and take part in the Battle of Albert at the beginning of July that year, where they would capture the village of Fricourt. It was during the Battle of Delville Wood which started on 15 July 1916 and would last until 3 September that Edward received fatal injuries.

He was taken from the front line to No.3 Stationary Hospital in Rouen. It was here on the 29 July 1916, at the age of 22, he would die from his injuries. He had risen to the rank of Corporal. His death was reported in the Midland Daily Telegraph in which it stated “the family has received the official notification of the death, and a letter from the authorities states that the soldier was scarcely conscious during the five days he was at the hospital.”

Corporal Edward Marsh, Roll of Honour Midland Daily Telegraph 02 August 1916

Edward Marsh is buried in St.Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France, (Grave Reference A. 13. 51.)

St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France.

Photo of St. Sever Cemetery from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org

Newspaper extract copyright Trinity Mirror . Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk



Lest We Forget- Lawrence Percy Grey

Each year in November we take time to remember. Armistice Day, the 11 November 1918 was the day hostilities ended at 11:00am in World War 1.However it was June 1919 before the Peace Treaties were signed. After the Second World War we started to remember those who had died on Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday of November. It is then people’s thoughts turned to loved ones lost in the two conflicts. Of course today we think of all the brave men and women who have given their lives in conflicts all around the globe.




One young man who lost his life in World War 1 was my Great Uncle Lawrence Percy Grey. This is his story.

Lawrence Percy Grey was my paternal Grandfather’s brother. Born in Kensworth, Hertfordshire in 1888. He was baptised in Kensworth on 4 August 1889. His parents Ellis John Grey and Jane Grey nee Hall were running the Red Lion Pub at the time of his birth. He had 5 older sisters and 2 older brothers. His mother would go on to have another boy and girl after Lawrence’s birth.

When Lawrence is just 9 years old his mother dies of breast cancer. The family had already left Kensworth and moved to Hook Norton, in Oxfordshire where his mother’s family came from. It must have been awful for the family as some of the children were still so young. Three of his sisters were married when his mother died and by the 1901 census there is just Lawrence aged 14 and his older brother Ellis John living with their father. Ellis John senior is a Farmer and the two boys are working with him, Ellis junior being a Carter on the farm and Lawrence a Plough boy. The rest of his siblings are back in Hertfordshire apart from my Grandfather James and sister Annie who are both living in Hook Norton.

In 1907 when Lawrence was just 20 his father died. The 1911 census included records of overseas military establishments and I found Lawrence with the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 1st Battalion in India.He was a Private aged 22. The Battalion had moved out to India in 1903 and was to stay there until the outbreak of World War 1 in 1914. So it seems at some point, possibly after the death of his father, Lawrence had decided to become a career soldier.

During the 1st World War the British relied on oil to keep its Navy afloat. Mesopotamia (current day Iraq) was important for that reason. It was part of the Turkish Ottoman empire. The Turkish army was run by German advisors, so the British army was sent here in 1914 to protect the oil supply lines. They captured Basra in November 1914. In India, Lawrence’s battalion was under the command of the 17th Indian Brigade of 6th Poona Division. They left for Mesopotamia on 23 November 1914.

On arriving the 6th Poona Division started making advances away from Basra towards Baghdad but their supply line was very thinly stretched behind them. By the time they reached Kut al Amara they were already 600km from the sea. Although some concern was raised that the supply line should be strengthened before they advanced further, the order to carry on towards Baghdad was given. Unfortunately on reaching Ctesiphon in November 1915, the British suffered a terrible defeat sustaining some 4,500 casualties. They were forced to retreat to Kut al Amara where they were under seige from early December 1915 to the end of April 1916.

Siege at Kut al Amara

One just can’t imagine what conditions would have been like. They would have many injured men with them  and they would have inadequate medical supplies. Food would be scarce and disease would be rife. Attempts were made to reach them and send in supplies but all failed. It is hardly surprising that men would die of ‘natural causes’ in these conditions. Around 1,750 men would die from injuries, disease or starvation during the siege. Lawrence Percy Grey was one of those men. He would not see the Anglo-Indian troops taken prisoner. The siege ended on the 29 April 1916, Lawrence had died on 16 April 1916.

Banbury Gaurdian 24 August 1916

On the 13 July 1916 Lawrence is Mentioned in Dispatches and on 12 December 1917 he was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Research at this time is still on going as to why this was awarded. He is buried in the Kut War Cemetery, Iraq, Plot 1 Row E Grave 14. The Cemetery was renovated in 2014 by the War Graves Commission.

Kut War Cemetery

Photo of Kut War Cemetery photo from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission www.cwgc.org

Newspaper extract copyright Johnston Press plc. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website www.britishnewspaperarchives.co.uk

Great Grandfather Ellis John Grey

I have already covered a part of my Great Grandfather Ellis John Grey’s life when I wrote about his wife Jane Hall. Here however I will cover his life in more detail particularly his childhood and what happened to him after his wife died at the young age of 49.

I had a terrible time trying to find Ellis’s birth. I had already learnt in the early days of my research to check our family name spelt GREY and GRAY. I knew his name from my Grandfather’s birth and marriage certificate and had found him on a couple of census returns. The census returns were pointing me in the direction of a birth recorded in Buckingham. Then bingo, not only a spelling of -AY (in more recent history we spell our name with an -EY) but his name recorded at birth was John Elias. Born on the 11 July 1844, the son of John Gray a Blacksmith and Rosetta Bowden. Rosetta’s surname was spelt Boughdon on his birth certificate yet another reminder that a lot of our ancestors were illiterate and it would be down to individual registrars how names would be spelt. It was his father John who was the informant of his birth and I wonder if he told the registrar the decided names the wrong way round because one month later, on 11 August 1844 he is baptized with the name Ellis John. Maybe the registrar misheard, Ellis or Elias are quite similar.

Ellis John (or John Elias) Birth Certificate

Ellis had a sister Maria two years older than him and the 1851 census finds the family living in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire. Both Ellis aged 6 and his sister are at school. Tragedy would strike the family just four years later when Ellis’s father dies at the age of 41. The cause of his death was Abscess of the Lungs. As a Blacksmith one can only imagine the type of conditions he would be working in. No health and safety making sure masks were worn back then.

So at the age of ten Ellis becomes the man of the family. By the next census of 1861, Ellis at just 16 years, is working as a Gardener, a job he has probably been doing for some time. Children in Victorian England would most likely be at work by the time they were eight and a half. In rural areas they tended to be a bit older but with Ellis losing his father he probably would have had to work to help support his Mother and sister. What I find interesting about the 1861 census is while Ellis and Maria are both working, there is no occupation listed for their mother Rosetta. The family are living in Hemel Hempstead at this point. This is where Ellis would marry Jane Hall in 1869.

At the time of his marriage Ellis has moved on from gardening and is a Rural Messenger for the Post Office. By the 1871 census the newly married couple have moved away from Hertfordshire to Clifton on Dunsmore in Warwickshire and Ellis is now employed as a Railway Policeman. The railways in Britain would have been rapidly expanding at this time. Ellis was employed by the Midland Railway Company and was to move his family to Nottinghamshire. I have managed to trace a bit of Ellis’s career with the Midland through some of their employment records. In November 1872 he was working as a Porter at Radford Station earning 17 shillings, this was to rise to 18 shillings in 1873. He had signed for his rule book in February of 1872 so I think this is probably when he started working for them. Sometime between then and 1877 he moves to Linby Station as a Pointsman and then succeeds the Gateman at Hucknall, his wages rising from 21 to 22 shillings. Another advancement sees him back at Linby as a Signalman. This fits in with the 1881 census when the family are living in the Railway Gatehouse, Linby.

1881 Census showing Ellis and his family living in the Railway Gatehouse

From what I can find out from the records the trail runs dry in 1885. I know they were in Linby in September 1883 as my Grandfather is born in the Gatehouse there. By the 1891 census the family are back in Hertfordshire in Kensworth. They have been there for at least two years as a son Laurence was born there in 1888. Ellis is now working as a Publican and a Farm Labourer. They are residing in the Red Lion on Village Road. Why the change from the railways? This move bought them closer to Jane, his wifes family. Her father had died in 1882 in Hook Norton, Oxfordshire about 50 miles from where they now lived. Jane’s family were farmers and it seems strange that Ellis is now working part of the time as a farm labourer. Is the intention to go back to his wife’s roots and help her mother with the family farm?

The family do in fact move to Hook Norton at some point as when Jane dies in 1897 that is where her death is registered. It is also interesting that on her death certificate Ellis is stated as being a Farmer. Did they return to help on her Mother’s farm or because of Jane’s failing health? Ellis remains in Hook Norton for the rest of his life. On the 1901 census he is listed as a Farmer in Netting, Hook Norton. He has two of his sons living and working with him, Ellis John (there is yet another Ellis John in the next generation – can get very confusing sometimes) and Laurence. Carter and Plough boy respectively.

In 1907 Ellis John Grey passed away at the age of 63.His son Ellis John was present at the time and registered the death. Cause of death was Sudden Heart Failure and his occupation was that of Farmer. According to the Hook Norton parish registers he was buried on the 01 August 1907.

Ellis John’s Death Certificate.

Back in 2007 I took a trip down to Hook Norton. It has a Brewery thought to have started commercial brewing back in 1856. There is a Brewery Museum, which also houses a Village Museum and Archive. I met up with two lovely ladies there who gave me some fantastic bits of information about the Grey’s of Hook Norton. However the best part was they put me in touch with a wonderful lady called Nellie. I went to visit her and it turns out she was my father’s cousin. Like me she was born a Grey and had the most fantastic poster for the auction when the Grey family farm was sold after Ellis’s death. Someone had written next to each lot the amount of money it went for. Lots included everything from cart horses and pigs, to farm implements and even manure, and all the household furniture. Ellis unfortunately did not leave a Will but according to the National Probate Calendar on the 12 August 1907 Elena Maria Woodcraft who was Ellis’s oldest child, was appointed Administer of his estate.

Poster advertising the Auction at Netting Farm.