William and Jane Barnacle – Married or Living Over The Brush

“Living over the brush” most people, these days, recognise as a saying relating to a couple living together as man and wife who have not gone through a legal marriage ceremony. There are several suggestions as to where this saying originated. Does it have British Romani origins where a couple would literally jump over a broom, allegedly? Or has it come down from African American culture during the slave trade? However the saying started it is one I have thought of many times in relation to one of my maternal 2xgreat grandparents, William Barnacle and Jane Harrison. Numerous attempts to find a record of their marriage have drawn a total blank.

On the birth certificate of my great grandfather Frank Barnacle in 1865, his parents are clearly stated as William Barnacle and Jane Barnacle formerly Harrison. This certainly infers that they were married. William’s occupation is noted as ‘Watch Finisher’. Going forward to Frank’s marriage certificate in 1889 his father’s name again is confirmed as William Barnacle ‘Watch Motioner’.

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Frank Barnacle Birth Certificate clearly stating his parent’s names

Looking at the census returns of 1871 and 1881 Frank appears as a 6 and 15 year old respectively, living with his parents in Coventry. Both of these censuses have Jane listed as William’s wife and William employed in the Watchmaking trade. Watchmaking in Coventry enjoyed a peak period between about 1850 and 1890. In fact Coventry was the third watchmaking centre in England behind London and Liverpool. Quite a few of my Coventry forebears were employed in the industry.

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Interior of a watchmaking workshop about 1891

Looking at the census returns before Frank’s birth I was able to find William and Jane on the 1861 census. They are at the same address as 10 years later, Spon Street, Coventry. William is a Watchmaker and Jane a Silk Winder. Again these occupations tie in with the 1871 census. So I’m sure a have the right couple and yes, Jane is listed as William’s wife.

If a marriage did take place, it would have been sometime before 1855, assuming they married before having any children but I have found in the past not to assume this. In 1861 they already had two children, Emily aged 6 and Thomas aged 8 months.

Going back in time to the 1851 census William and Jane are both still single living with their parents and siblings. William’s occupation is given as ‘Watch Motioner Apprentice’ and his age of 17 years fits in with his age on subsequent censuses. So do I now have the name of his parents, Thomas and Sarah Barnacle. Of course this is why a marriage certificate would be most helpful as it would confirm his father’s name. Likewise for Jane’s father, who I believe to be Joseph Harrison who in 1851 was living with his wife Amelia and their four children including Jane aged 17 and a ‘Silk Winder’.

Using the census information I have found William’s baptism at St.John’s, Coventry on 10 March 1834. His parents Thomas and Sarah Barnacle are living in Spon Street and his father’s occupation is a ‘Watch Maker’. Jane’s baptism I found in the England and Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970. I have a little more information for her than William as the register is more detailed. Jane was born on 28 August 1833 in the parish of St.Martin in Birmingham.and she was baptised on 02 January 1834 at Vicar Lane Independent in Coventry. Her parents were Joseph Harrison and his wife Amelia Jane.

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Baptism record of William Barnacle – Left hand page one up from the bottom.

The first census both William and Jane appear on is for 1841. William just 5 years old is with his parents and 5 brothers and 1 sister in Spon Street. His father is a Watch Maker so it appears William followed his father into that trade. Jane aged 8 is living with her parents in Spon End and her father is a Wood Turner. There are three more censuses that the couple appear on after their son Frank has left home to marry and start his own family. The 1891 census is strange in that they do not appear to be living together. Jane is found at 8 Chauntry Place which is where they appear to be living at the time of Frank’s marriage but she is alone, still stated as being married and working as a Charwoman. William I found in a lodging house in Spon Street.By 1901 the couple are reunited living in Birmingham with their daughter Rose, her husband John Clarke and two daughters Beatrice and Rose. William’s occupation has changed to Cycle Machinist. The watch trade in Coventry started to slump with the arrival of cheaper watches from America and Switzerland. However by the 1911 census William is back as a Watch Motioner and also back in Coventry with Jane.

Armed with all this information about this couple their marriage still alludes me, if indeed one actually took place. The search continues. Just to end their story Jane died on 26 August 1916. Her age according to her death certificate was 79 and the cause of death was Senile Dementia and Heart Failure. She died in the Workhouse Infirmary. William died just 17 months later on 11 January 1918 at the home of his daughter Alice. Cause of death was Senile Decay and Heart Failure. He was 80 years old.

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William Barnacle Death Certificate
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Jane Barnacle Death Certificate

 

On Jane’s death certificate it gives her occupation as Wife of William Barnacle. One day I may just track down that marriage until then I will keep asking that question “Are you living over the brush.”

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A Tale of Two Grandfathers – Part Two : John Jones

John Jones was my maternal Grandfather and unlike my paternal one who I have no memories of at all, Grandad Jones is an entirely different kettle of fish. I grew up adoring my Grandad. He was a true gentleman, kind, loving and a big part of my childhood and teenage years. Here is his story along with some of my memories of him.

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My Grandad – John Jones

 

John was born on 21 April 1893 (this also happens to be my birthday some 60+ years later) in Much Park Street, Coventry. Due to industrialisation, by the beginning of the 19th century cities like Coventry were growing rapidly. For most of the 1800’s and into the 20th century, back to back court housing was the home to many of the cities inhabitants. These houses were cheap to build, overcrowded with very poor sanitation. Just a thin wall would divide each house. There would be a privy shared with numerous neighbours in the courtyard. These would have originally been no more than ‘earth closets’ as it would be the early 20th century before flushing toilets and mains drainage would be connected. Much Park Street would have been such a community and it was into this that John was born.

The 1901 census gives us a little bit of insight into this world. My grandfather was just 7 years old and living in one of these courts in Much Park Street. The census tells me that the family occupied three rooms. So Grandad was almost certainly sharing a bed with one if not more of his four brothers. His father William was working as a Cycle Driller and his two older brothers, William 21 years old and Henry 18, were also working in the cycle industry as a cycle fork builder and cycle brazier. The census unfortunately doesn’t tell me if the younger boys Arthur, 12, Oliver, 10, and my grandfather were at school. The brothers also had a sister Annie Selina but the last I can find of her is on the 1891 census. As yet I have found no marriage or death for her and one possible record on the 1901 census of a 20-year-old servant but nothing to prove it could be her.

The following year after this census, the boys lost their mother, Sarah Ann. She was aged just 42 and according to her death certificate died of Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver, Bronchitis and Exhaustion. What had driven her to drink so heavily we can only speculate but living in such conditions certainly was a possible factor. Read her story at Sarah Ann Davis.

So at the age of just 9 my grandfather was motherless and I wonder what his early childhood had been like with an alcoholic mother. By the 1911 census all the brother’s are living in different parts of the city, however, although he is still alive, I cannot find their father. William the oldest brother, is married with three children, as is Henry, also with three children. It is with Henry, his wife and children that my grandfather is living. Henry is still employed as a Brazier in the cycle industry and John is a Bottler. Oliver I found living with and working for a carting contractor. Arthur, also a bottler by trade, was a boarder with a family called Barnacle, Frank and Esther and their seven children. It is one of their daughters Clara that my grandfather would marry in 1918.

Unfortunately I have been unable to find my grandfather’s military history for World War One. His oldest brother William was killed in France in 1916, see his story here. I have also found Arthur and Oliver’s service records but nothing for Henry or grandad.

I wonder if it was Arthur who introduced my grandparents when he was lodging with the Barnacle’s? John Jones and Clara Barnacle were married at Holy Trinity Church, Coventry on 21 December 1918. They were to have four children, three boys and their youngest child a girl is my mother.

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My Grandparents

On the 1939 register which was complied just before the outbreak of World War Two, John and Clara are living at 55 Gordon Street, Coventry. This is the house they spent the rest of their lives in and one I remember very well. A little terrace house with a cosy front room which was never used, along with the best china in a glass fronted cabinet. On the fireplace stood every one of their children’s wedding photos. One of my uncle’s sadly got divorced and Grandma, to our horror, took his wedding photo and cut my aunty out of the picture before replacing just my uncle into the frame. Mind you photos would not be taken with such regularity as they are today, so I suppose it was just the logical and cheapest thing to do. My grandparents spent their time in the back room which was dominated by a large table in the middle. Grandad had his comfy chair in front of the telly. On a winter’s day the fire would be lit. I will always remember the ticking of grandad’s clock on the wall. No one was allowed to touch that clock, he wound it up meticulously each week. Down a step and you were in a small kitchen with a pantry off. A gas cooker stood in one corner and a table in the other, either side of a fireplace. There was a sink with a wooden draining board and no hot running water. Out in the back yard was a coal house and an outside toilet. My mother tells me this was considered a luxury, your own flushing toilet. Where they had lived when she was a very young girl they shared a toilet with several of their neighbours. On the first floor there were two bedrooms. The front one was my grandparent’s. There was also an attic room.

However I digress. On the 1939 register in the house in Gordon Street was grandad who worked as a Radial Driller in the aeronautical industry, grandma who is described as an unpaid domestic servant, my three uncle’s (the oldest two also working in an aeronautical factory and the younger one at school) and my mother. I recall hearing stories as a child of my grandfather spending time in Kendal , up in Cumbria during part of the war. I know he was working for Hawker Siddeley who produced such planes as the Tornado, Typhoon and Tempest. However I can find nothing to support that they moved part of their production away from the Midlands.

Grandad saw two of his sons marry during the war years and in 1949 both my mother and her youngest brother married. That attic room in Gordon Street became home to my parents for the first five years of their marriage. When I came along in 1954 they were still there. So much of Coventry had been destroyed during the war and after it was over the city council were intent of getting the factories and infrastructure back in place. This meant no houses were being built. Luckily not long after my birth land was released for residential development and when I was 6 months old we left my grandparents for our own new home.

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Me and Grandad outside my new home

Grandad saw out his working life with Hawker Siddeley. I am the very proud owner of his long service clock presented to him for 25 years loyal service. The inscription inside unfortunately does not carry a date. He retired in 1963 aged 70 but did not have a long retirement.

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Being presented with a present on his retirement

I have many more memories of John Jones but they will have to wait for another time. Grandad died on the 16 July 1971. I was 17 years old and it was the day I broke up from school for the summer holidays. I remember arriving home and the curtains being closed as I approached the house. It was tradition then to do this on the death of a family member. I was heartbroken at the thought of never seeing my beloved grandfather again. A strange thing happened that day though. Remember that clock hanging on the wall that no one other than grandad touched, it stopped. Apparently this is not an unusual occurrence, I believe, as a clocks mechanism does get used to being wound up a certain way. However grandad had suffered a stroke several months before his death and couldn’t wind it, so my father had been given that privileged job. My father took ages getting it started again. The only way it would tick away was being on a slight angle. Eleven years later on the death of my grandmother the clock passed down to me and now has pride of place on my wall.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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James George William Grey death certificate

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.)

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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