My Head Hurts – Trying to track down a large family

Families these days tend to consist of two or three children. I know there are exceptions but I had two children and I have just one sibling. My parents were from slightly larger families. My mother had three brothers and my father, three brothers and two sisters. Go back through the generations and families were much larger. Without the luxury of birth control our female forebears seemed to be constantly pregnant.

Having retired from work a year ago I have started looking in more depth at the siblings of my ancestors. I had been concentrating on the direct line when I had the chance but with more free time I am finding my family tree rapidly expanding. I have just finished looking at the children of my 2nd great grandfather Henry Davis and my goodness what a task it has been. It appears he fathered 19 children and I’m not a 100% certain that I may not have missed the odd one or two.

Henry was born in 1808 and baptized at St.Michael’s Church in Coventry on the 16 November. Henry was married twice. His first marriage took place at St.Michael’s on 18 May 1833 to Ann Aden. Ann died in 1844 and on the 14 October 1861, again at St.Michael’s, Henry married my 2x Great grandmother Sarah Radford. Ann was to give Henry 5 children although 2 didn’t survive infancy. Sarah and Henry had 14 children again some of these did not live to adulthood. It appears that both of Henry’s wives gave birth every two years and in some cases even less. Henry was 26 years old when his first child was born and 63 when the last came into the world.

Henry Davis & Sarah Radford marriage
Henry’s marriage certificate to Sarah Radford

Tracking down all these births proved a bit of a headache. Firstly I had to deal with the fact that Henry and his wives were illiterate. On signing the copy of entry of their marriages Henry, Ann and Sarah made the mark “x”, not being able to sign their names. This made hard work of the census returns. Census forms would be delivered to each household and the enumerator would go round the day after the census to collect the completed forms. Unfortunately, what happened in a lot of cases, the enumerator would end up having to fill in the form for our illiterate ancestors. This would have happened in the case of Henry and his wives. Of course the enumerator could mishear or not understand someone’s accent which would lead to spelling mistakes or even the completely wrong name being recorded. Some of these mistakes are only minor, Harriot on the 1841 census becomes Harriet on the 1851. In this case the ages of  4 and then 13 ten years later, I am confident that this is the same person. Sarah Ann my great grandmother did not appear to be on the 1871 census. All the other siblings that would have been present in the household at that time I could account for. However there was a Susannah that did not fit. No birth or baptism record for this alleged girl. No marriage or death. No appearance on future censuses, so could this be Sarah Ann? The age certainly fit. Edward aged 6 on the 1861 census seems to have become Endin aged 15 in 1871. I also have a big query that he might also have been known as Edwin.

Problem two with tracking Henry and Sarah’s children was that 8 of them were born to the couple before their marriage took place. These births were registered in their mother’s maiden name of Radford. However their baptisms revealed a whole host of variations. Parents names ranged from Henry and Sarah Davis to Henry Davis and Sarah Radford to illegitimate daughter of Sarah Radford. I only know in the last case that Henry was the father as the child name is recorded as Sarah with the surname Davis.

One thing that did actually help in my search is that Henry never strayed from Much Park Street in Coventry. During both his marriage to Ann and Sarah the family is found on censuses, in parish registers and on Birth, Marriage and Death certificates in Much Park Street and with Henry’s occupation of Weaver confirmed by these pieces of paper, I started making some headway with tracing the family.

So here is the results of my labour. All Baptisms I found took place at St. Michael, Coventry and in each case the father’s occupation is given as Weaver of Much Park Street.

Henry’s children by his first marriage to Ann Aden.

Henry  1834-1834    Baptised 10 Feb 1834. Burial (St. Michael’s) 24 Feb 1834, aged 2 weeks

Thomas  1835-?       Baptised 30 Mar 1835.  Have not found marriage, death or burial record

Harriet  1837-1870  Baptised 25 Jan 1837. Marriage to Henry Rollings 1861. Death registered 1870 in Coventry aged 33

Hannah  1839-1841  Baptised 15 Jul 1839. Burial (St.Michael,s) 16 May 1841, aged 2 years

Emma  1843-?           Baptised 22 May 1843. Have not found marriage, death or burial record  

Ann Davis nee Aden died in 1844 and was buried at St.Michael’s on 11 Aug

Henry’s children by his second marriage to Sarah Radford

Matilda  Abt.1848-1903  Have not found birth or baptism but on 1851 census aged 3 listed as Henry’s daughter. Marriage as Matilda Radford to Henry Onions 1868. Death registered 1903 in Birmingham aged 56

Elizabeth  1851-1906  Birth registered as Radford 1851. Baptised 21 Oct 1861 aged 11. Parents Henry Davis and Sarah Radford. Marriage to Thomas Kelley Lack 1883. Death registered 1906 in Coventry aged 54

Elizabeth Radford-Davis baptism
Elizabeth Radford/Davis baptism record. Bottom right hand page. Showing parents as Henry Davis and Sarah Radford

Henry  1852-1922  Birth registered as Radford 1852. Baptised 25 Dec 1852. Parents Henry and Sarah Davis. Marriage to Mary Ann Hewitt 1872 at St.Michael’s. Exact date                     unknown as register damaged. 2nd marriage to Emma Maria Yardley 1890. Death registered 1922 in Leicester aged 68

Henry Radford-Davis baptism
Henry Radford/Davis baptism record. One up from bottom left hand page. Showing parents as Henry and Sarah Davis although they were not married at this time.

Sarah  1853-1858  Baptised 30 Oct 1853 as Sarah Davis but no fathers name given and described as the illegitimate daughter of Sarah Radford. Death registered 1858 in Coventry

Sarah Radford-Davis baptism
Baptism record showing Sarah as the illegitimate daughter of Sarah Radford. One up from bottom left hand page. Note child’s name is given as Sarah Davis possibly to acknowledge who the father was.

James  1854-?         Birth registered as Radford 1854. Have not found baptism, marriage or death

Edward  Abt. 1855-?  On the 1861 census and possibly as Endin on the 1871 (age fits) but cannot find any records of birth or baptism

Mary Ann  1857-1928  Birth registered as Radford 1857. Baptised 18 Feb 1858. Marriage to Frederick Workman Smith 1877. Death registered 1928 in Coventry

Sarah Ann  1860-1902  Great Grandmother read her story here.

Ann Selina  1862-1933  Birth registered 1862. Baptised 01 Jun 1862. Marriage to John Woodhall 1884. Death registered 1933 in Coventry aged 70

John William  1864-1873  Birth registered 1864. Baptised 23 May 1864. Date of birth given as 13 Apr 1864. Death registered 1873 in Coventry aged 9.

Laura Phoebe  1866-?  Birth registered 1866. Baptised 04 Feb 1866. Date of birth given as 09 Jan 1866. Married at Holy Trinity, Coventry on 01 Feb 1886 to Alfred Fell. Have not found death or burial record

Charlotte Ellen (twin)  1869-?  Birth registered 1869. Baptised 02 May 1869. Date of birth given as 19 Feb 1869. Have not found marriage, death or burial record

Peter Oliver (twin)  1869-1888  Birth registered 1869. Baptised 02 May 1869. Date of birth given as 19 Feb 1869. Death registered 1888 in Coventry aged 20

Arthur George  1871-?  Birth registered 1871. Baptised 06 Aug 1871. Date of birth given as 06 July 1871. Have not found marriage, death or burial record

Still lots of work to do on this family which should keep me busy. It’s the largest I have found so far in my family tree but with loads more sibling research to undertake I may just top it one day. Better stock up on the headache pills.

Henry’s youngest child Arthur was just 10 years old when his father died on 14 December 1881. His cause of death was disease of the kidney and bladder. His death certificate also reveals he had been suffering with this for 3 years. As he died at home in Much Park Street I like to think that he was surrounded by several of his numerous children. I know at least his son Henry was present as this is stated on the death certificate.

Henry Davis death
Henry Davis death certificate

 

 

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.

watchmakers-in-coventry
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.

william-barnacle-death
William Barnacle Death Certificate
jane-barnacle-nee-harrison-death
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.”

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.

john-jones-grandad-2
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.

john-jones-and-clara-barnacle
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.

me-with-grandad-jones
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.

john-jones-retirement-1963
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.

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.

jgw-grey-birth
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 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.

jgw-grey-and-catherine-marsh-marriage
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.

aunty-hilda-wedding
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.

jgw-grey-death
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.

hannah-marsh-robbery
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.

william-kate-1st-marriage-certificate
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.

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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.

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William and Kate’s 2nd Marriage Certificate

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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St.Joseph’s Cemetery, St.John, New Brunswick
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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.

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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