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’.

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.

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.

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 Certificate
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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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

Sarah Ann Davis and the Illusive Birth Certificate

As Genealogists or family historians will know we spend an awful lot of time chasing paper clues albeit a lot of those are now available online, so we spend a lot of time in front of our computers. However for those of you who have never done this type of research and wonder how on earth we can find out so much about a person who died a hundred or more years ago I am going to tell you how I found out about my Great Grandmother, Sarah Ann Davis. She has really given me the runaround. Although her name has been on my family tree from very early on in my research ( I started back in 2000) it has only been earlier this year, 2016, that I finally found her Birth Registration.

Now I don’t want you to think I have spent 16 years trying to piece together Sarah’s life. As I am researching both the paternal and maternal sides of my family, I have quite a task on my hands. I tend to jump backwards and forwards. If I hit a brick wall I tend to leave things alone for a bit and go research a different ancestor. When I started my research there was no where near the amount of information you can get online today. So instead of popping on the computer at home when I have time to spare, it would be a trip to the library or local records office. Not living in the area where my ancestors came from meant I often had to wait until I could spare a couple of days away. Things have changed so much with new records appearing online all the time.

Two vital lines of enquiry are birth, marriage and death registrations and the census. Civil registration of BMD’s started in England and Wales on 1 July 1837. Before that date we have to look at Parish Registers which recorded baptism dates, rather than births, marriages and burial rather than death dates. Here we are at the mercy of them having survived and how good the local vicar or minister was at keeping these records. Regular censuses have been taken in the United Kingdom every 10 years since 1801. The first four however contained no helpful personal information, really being no more than head counts. The censuses are not released for public scrutiny for 100 years, so censuses available at the moment are from 1841 to 1911.

So onto Sarah Ann Davis one of my maternal Great Grandmothers. I knew her name from my Grandfather’s birth certificate. Here it is listed that his mother was one Sarah Ann Jones formerly Davis. My Grandfather’s baptism record also names her but does not give her maiden name. So the search begins to put together a picture of her life. My Grandad’s birth certificate gives me another clue to start tracking the family down, that of his father’s name, William Jones. Now I can start looking at the censuses and find the family quite easily on the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses. Sarah Ann appears on all of these as the wife of William. The 1881 census has her down as a Silk Winder but no occupation is given on the subsequent censuses.

Providing the information they have given is correct, and believe me over the years I have found out that what we read on one record may not be the whole truth, I should be able to start looking for a marriage for William and Sarah Ann prior to 1881. Sure enough they married on 04 November 1878 at the Register Office in Coventry. The certificate tells me that Sarah is a Spinster aged 21, very strange that the 1881 census 3 years later has her as 21, but this would make her of full age and not needing parental permission to marry. The bit of information I really need to try to find Sarah’s birth is her father’s name. This is on the certificate as Henry Davis, a Gardener.

Sarah Ann Davis & William Jones Marriage Certificate

The information I have from the marriage certificate and the census returns I can estimate her year of birth being about 1857 to 1860. I start looking for the Davis family on the censuses and this gets my head in a spin. Looking back, this family took me ages to sort out but more of that in another blog. Back to Sarah Ann and what the information on the censuses told me is her mother was a lady called Sarah. They also threw up another anomaly in that her father was a Silk Weaver, so why it said Gardener on her marriage certificate is a bit of a puzzle.

Armed with all this information I start trawling the birth indexes looking for a Sarah Ann Davis born around late 1850’s to early 1860’s. I find what I think could be her and send for the certificate. No, this Sarah Ann’s father is a David Davis, a Shoemaker. Back to the indexes again. I can find no match at all. I then strike lucky and find a baptism record in the parish registers of St.Michael’s, Coventry on 10 December 1860, parents listed as Henry and Sarah Davis, father’s occupation Weaver. This has to do for now.

St.Michael’s Parish Register showing Sarah Ann Davis baptism – One from the bottom, right hand page

I have better luck finding her death. Obviously now Sarah Ann Jones she dies at the young age of 41 years on 05 June 1902. The cause of death is a bit of a shocker though. She died of Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver, Bronchitis and Exhaustion. My Grandfather was just 9 years of age and I can’t image what his early life must have been like.

Sarah Ann’s death certificate

Sarah’s birth still eluded me. Many times I went back over birth records but nothing ever matched. Doing more research into her parents I discovered her mother’s maiden name was Radford and although appearing as husband and wife on both the 1851 and 1861 censuses Henry Davis and Sarah Radford did not in fact marry until October 1861. Sarah Ann’s baptism had been December 1860 and although the parish records clearly stated her parents were Henry and Sarah Davis, their marriage proved that at that time her mother was in fact Sarah Radford. Looking through the birth’s again searching for a Sarah Ann Radford I was finally able to order her correct birth certificate. Sarah Ann Davis was in fact born Sarah Ann Radford on 08 September 1860. No father is named on the certificate just her mother Sarah Radford. The final jigsaw piece. A Great Grandmother who had an illegitimate birth and died an alcoholic. So sad. I truly hope she had some happiness in her life.

The Illusive Birth 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