Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2016 04-06 Volume 24 Number 2
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 
 
 
 
 
April - June
2016
 
 
 
 
Vol 24.2
 
Contents of this issue.
 
From the Chair 1
Getting Unstuck2
The BFHG Transcription Project 3
"Who Do You Think You Are" Live at the NEC 5
American Religion Doncha Just Love It? 6
Reviews of Guest Speakers' Talks 7
Curious Facts About WWII 15
Life and Death on the Western Front 16
This Issue's Cover photo 19
World War Weird 19
Useful Addresses 20
Transcriptions of CD Available for Sale 21
Programme of Speakers - Back Cover


From the Chair

The year seems to be gathering speed again, the days are getting longer and sometimes warmer. Make the most of them, as the longest day isn’t too far
away (just to curb your enthusiasm)! Our trip to The ‘Who Do You Think You Are Live Show’ at The NEC, Birmingham in April was a success and enjoyed by all who went. We hired a minibus along with the driver from Travelwood, a local company who did a sterling job for us. Our Monday night meetings continue to be well attended, so thanks to Jane Leake for finding a wide range of interesting speakers. I still cannot work out our attendances on Thursday nights used for research; we have an influx of new faces some weeks, and just one stalwart member on others. It doesn’t seem to be weather- or holiday-dependant – it’s a mystery to me! Talking to other family history groups at the WDYTYA show and Pam Woodburn’s visit to The Federation of Family History Societies conference, it would seem that attendances in general are dropping. However, we seem to be bucking the trend with our well-attended Monday night talks. There seem to be a lot of armchair genealogists out there who do all of their research on the Internet, so perhaps they get what they want out of family history on there. My experience over the past few years is that there are quite a few mistakes on the Internet, through transcription errors, etc. Deciphering other people’s handwriting can be difficult at times, and bordering impossible in some instances. This was reinforced with my visit to WDYTYA on investigating my maternal side of the family while on the ‘Find My Past’ stand. I have written my account of my visit to the show and what I discovered, which can be found in this issue of the Journal. As you may know Burntwood, Town Council have taken over the running of The Old Mining College from Lichfield District Council, and have pledged to improve the facilities. The kitchens have been refurbished, so air conditioning in the room we use on Monday nights would be welcome, especially with our increasing numbers and summer approaching. We will continue to lobby the council for this to make our meetings a more pleasant experience. Keep on hunting for your elusive forebears. Steve Bailey, Chairman BFHG 2015–2016
 
Getting Unstuck by Keith Stanley

Have you thought about publishing the results of your research? You might discover distant relatives! The most cursory search of the Internet is likely to reveal a number of websites that are dedicated to your particular surname. The quality varies enormously. If you are lucky, there will be one that is run by a serious researcher, and is reasonably active. In my case, http://stanleyorigins.org.uk/ turns out to be a good source of general information. I have corresponded with the webmaster and received some useful pointers. I then found http://www.thebrassbuddha.net/stanley/?p=1093 . This is dedicated to the Stanley families in Ireland, which is my particular focus of interest. They have published the results of my research. I have had one enquiry from an American, but this came to nothing. I remain optimistic. The advantage of this method is that you don’t need to create and maintain your own website. In delving into my wife’s family I came across the following: http://clogsandclippers.blogspot.co.uk/. This website is the creation of Stella Budrikis. The connection to my wife is the Beales family from Essex; there is a shared great-grandfather. The site is highly professional. Stella is a professional writer, and it shows. She is also a very thorough family historian, and pretty good with websites as well. Her website probably represents the gold standard. I have corresponded with Stella and provided some additional information, such as family photos. We have also bounced ideas off each other regarding missing information. The old adage about a trouble shared being a trouble halved seems to work for family research.
 
The BFHG Transcription Project by Jane Leake
 
A lot of you who are reading this have actually contributed to this project over a number of years but I felt it would be a good idea to mark its closure by recording the details for the Journal. Our first foray into transcribing was in 1981, when we decided to help with a national project to transcribe the 1881 Census, and Pam volunteered to be the co-ordinator. We were supplied with the information covering our own area of Burntwood, Lichfield, Cannock and Rugeley. Members met together once a week at the Lawnswood Avenue Methodist Chapel, which was our meeting-place at the time. It was a very pleasant get-together, and we were able to help each other when entries were difficult to decipher. There was much laughter at times! To mark our tenth anniversary as a group in 1996, we decided to begin our own transcription project by working on local parish registers. These were first published as booklets. We worked from microfiche records, which we purchased from the Staffordshire Archives Department. The publications have evolved over the years, but were originally a simple name index. Later, they became a full transcription, which was fully indexed and published on CD. Throughout, we have maintained a 100-year rule to protect privacy but, to include the entries up to each year and beyond, they have to be updated regularly. Many members have given time and effort to produce the twenty-one CDs we now have available, but by far the greatest contribution has been that of Bernard Daniels, who has spent many hundreds of hours working at his computer. We could not have achieved this amount of work without him and thank him most sincerely.
 
How the Project progressed

The first parish register transcribed, Burntwood Christchurch, was published in August, 1997. The Methodist Registers: a few Baptismal Registers were discovered tucked away in a corner of a room at Chasetown Methodist Church, and there was concern that they could be lost or destroyed. It was important that they should be placed with the County Record Office for safekeeping. It was decided that BFHG. should be asked to transcribe and index them. Other baptismal records were located for chapels in the area and duly indexed – all except for one. The missing one is for Carmel Methodist Chapel between 1908 and 1924. If anyone has information about its location, we should be delighted to complete the collection by making a transcription. For St. Matthew’s Hospital, we compiled the information from the hospital’s Register of Graves, which was made available to us in 1996 by Premier Health. The original register is now deposited with Staffordshire Record Office. Access to St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church Register was given to us by the Rev. Stephen Squires, the parish priest at the time, and Mrs. Pat Green, the parish secretary. At first, Bernard Daniels and I were allowed to sit in the vestry to work, but eventually they relented and we were told we could take them away to complete the task. This speeded things up considerably! All other parishes were transcribed from microfiche purchased from Staffordshire Record Office with the help of various grants.
 
Thanks where it’s due
 
Thanks must go to all members who have given up their valuable time, and especially to Bernard Daniels, who is responsible for all the technical work involved with the production of the CDs. It could not have been achieved without him. Mary Pochin provided all the drawings for the covers of the early booklets, and
Alan Betts takes the photographs for the CDs and, of course, for the front cover of the Journals. Other members who have made significant contributions to the work of transcribing are the late Len Wenman, Barbara Williams, Beryl Eadon ,Diane Ladds, Geoff Sorrell, Pauline Stanley, myself and many others too numerous to mention by name. Many family historians will also be indebted to our transcribers, as the CDs, are still bought by people in many parts of the country and quite a few have travelled overseas. We decided to bring the project to a close in 2015, but not because there was nothing left to do. Far from it! However, if a group would like to pick up where we have left off, we would be delighted for it to be continued, and would be willing to offer any advice requested.
 
‘Who Do You Think You Are’ – Live at the NEC by Steve Bailey
 
After last year’s successful and enjoyable trip to the WDYTYA ‘live’ show, we decided to run another trip this year. This year we went on the Friday (8th APRIL) instead of the Thursday which suited our members who are still working for a living better. Travelwood, a local company, did us proud again picking members up, dropping us off close to the entrance of the NEC and bringing us safely home again. We stayed later this year, until the show had finished, as last year we left early and got caught in rush hour traffic, so we were no quicker getting home. There was an abundance of stalls this year, ranging from various family history societies from around the UK and some from overseas. Other companies were also there, many of them related to family history, although there were some others where I could not see the connection. There were various lectures on throughout the day around the show, which could be booked in advance for a couple of pounds. Again, the subjects were wide-ranging from how to overcome brick walls in your research to DNA testing, which could be carried out for as little as £70. Ancestry and Find My Past had large stands there, with multiple computer terminals set up for us poor attendees – although seats would have been a nice touch! Perhaps this was a ploy to ensure that people didn’t stay long, so larger numbers of people could access their systems. Help was at hand from a large number of their employees to ensure customer satisfaction, and hopefully leading to their paid subscription services. I spent quite some time on one of the terminals on the FMP stand, looking at the 1939 register. I was looking in particular for my maternal grandparents house, which was 47 Farringdon Street in the Birchills area of Walsall. I could not find it because, although the houses in the street were listed numerically from 1 through to over 100, number 47 was missing! I knew for certain that my grandparents lived there all of their married life until they died, and the house was demolished in about 1960. My mom used to take me when I was a child every Saturday, it seemed, on the bus, so I was convinced I was right. I then altered my search criteria, using names instead of addresses. My grandfather’s name was William Smith, so that threw up loads of names, which that didn’t help much. I then tried my grandmother’s name, Gertrude Smith, which narrowed things down considerably – to two, in fact. The address that came up was 47 Janningdar Street (I suppose there is some similarity...). All of the family I knew about were listed as living there and, as a bonus, I found dates of birth of my mom’s brothers and sisters, too – information I was missing. The moral of this story is ‘don’t take everything as gospel on the Internet’ – transcribers are only human, too. I demonstrated what I
had found to one of the FMP personnel, who showed me how to report the error on the system. From what I understand, it does take time to get the error rectified on the system. I haven’t checked yet. One of our party who came had an ‘app’ on her mobile phone and discovered when she got back on the minibus to come home that she had walked four miles around the show!! So, if you are coming to the show next year ... get fit (or bring something to sit on, like I will be doing)!
 
American Religion – Don’cha Just Love It?
 
Last issue we printed some howlers from quite genuine signs erected outside churches in the United States. This issue, by popular demand – more of the same!
 
In the grave of Ezekial Aikle in East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia: ‘Here lies Ezekial Aikle, Age 102, The Good Die Young’
 
When you were scraping your knees, your mother was on hers – Unity Free Will Baptist
 
Easter comes once a year – how often do you? – Beulah Baptist Church
 
Sunday’s message: Jesus said, bring me that ass – New Olivet Baptist Church
 
Porn & Pancakes – Union Christian Church (I suspect this one had been tampered with!)
 
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks - Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
 
January 2016: Phil Griffiths on ‘Stories of the English Coinage’
 
Phil Griffiths, like many of our members, became interested in coinage around the time of decimalisation. He began collecting old coins and delving into their history, and he picked some of the most interesting facts to share with us. He illustrated his talk with photos of the coins and maps, which put particular coins in their historical and geographical context. He pointed out that coins show the technology available when produced, and reflect the political, religious, social, and artistic trends of their time. One coin he would love to find is a very rare 1933 penny. Later, he admitted that it would be almost impossible to obtain one (although there are forgeries), because only four were produced that year. The Royal Mint ration the number of coins produced in a given year, to balance the number needed in circulation. Pennies had become scarce in 1932, and the Mint put so many into circulation that none were needed the following year. Of the four produced, two are in the British Museum and two were put in the foundations of churches. However, it is probable that a few more genuine coins found their way out of the Mint instead of being melted down, so a few genuine 1933 coins have come onto the market. Phil projected a map of the Mediterranean region, which showed the settlements of the Greeks 2,700 years ago. To facilitate trade among the settlements, traders needed small items of value as a unit of exchange. As gold and silver was found in Lydia (now part of modern Turkey), they produced beads in these metals. Over time, merchants needed to be sure that the beads they used were ones to be trusted, so they broke a nail in two and stamped their own beads with the broken end to identify them in future. They carried the broken nail around with them, and could then verify their own beads as genuine by matching the cut end. The first coins are said to have been produced in Lydia at the time of King Croesus (561–546 BC). They were made of a naturally occurring alloy of gold and silver found locally. Though rather crude, the one shown had the heads of a bull and a lion, and on the reverse, the stamp of two broken nails. The coin measured 1½ inches in diameter. We still use the phrase ‘rich as Croesus’ today.

City-states began producing their own coinage, and they were used for everyday transactions. We were shown an image of a coin made in Thrace (Athens) under King Lysimachus 323–281 BC. The head of Alexander the Great is on one side, and on the reverse an image of the goddess Athena, who looks so much like Britannia on British coins that this image probably inspired the later designer. Celtic tribes in the Danube valley, familiar with these early coins, produced their own when they moved into Western Europe. We were shown the image of a coin found in a hoard in Brittany. It dates from 75–50 BC, ¾ inch in diameter and has a triple spiral on the head and the image of a horse on the reverse. After the Roman invasion of Britain, Roman coins were used alongside the local coinage – that is, until the defeat of Boudicca, after which only Roman coins were allowed as legal tender. At the time of Hadrian, 117–138 AD, denarii were used. They were small silver coins, and a denarius was based on what a labourer could earn in a day. The ‘d’ we used for the old pennies meant denarius. The image on a 1¼ inch bronze sestertius from the time of Antonius Pius 138–161 AD is a seated goddess Britannia. With this coin, a loaf of bread and litre of wine could be bought. In 410 AD, it was decided to withdraw the legions from Britain, as there had been onslaughts from the Scots, the Angles and the Saxons. The first English coins, thrymsas, made of gold, were mostly used as bullion. We were shown a picture of a thrysma dating from around 620–675 AD. Around the edge was runic script. This form of writing was gradually supplanted by Latin, with runes not used on English coins after 1000 AD. However the rune for ‘s’ (looking like a double lightning bolt) was used in the emblem for the Waffen SS. Mercia became the most powerful country in Britain under King Offa (757–796 AD). During his reign, the denarius became known as a penny. 240 coins weighed a pound; hence ‘£’ for libra, the Latin for pound. The Offa penny is ¾ inch in diameter, with text a mixture of Runes and Latin. The head of Offa is on one side, and a depiction of the Roman story of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a she-wolf on the reverse. The penny remained the only currency for hundreds of years. The design of the coins sometimes suggested four equal quarters, facilitating the cutting of pennies for transactions of less value. This practice gave us ‘halfpenny’ and fourth ling, later combined as ‘farthing’.

During the 9th century, Wessex became the most powerful of the English Kingdoms. King Alfred had a vision of one united kingdom. By that time, London, once part of Mercia, was subject to Danelaw. Alfred captured London from the Danes and said that it would be part of Mercia again, but also persuaded Mercia, along with Northumbria, East Anglia, Essex, and Sussex to join Wessex as parts of a united country. Devon and Cornwall were incorporated later. In the 10th century, the Anglo-Saxons called their Kingdom Engle Land, and then England. Needing to raise money, the King sold dies to Moneyers. These wielded the power of distributing dies to coin makers, and sometimes had their initials on the coins. Silver was melted in a furnace and poured into moulds. The designs were then hammered on by hand, a very labour-intensive process. Finally, the coins were hardened before being stored in a strongbox. Money was used to pay taxes or to purchase land, not for everyday transactions. Mints were established a riding distance apart. This efficient method of tax collection was probably seen as a bonus by William the Conqueror. William I (1066–1087), kept the same design on his coinage as King Harold, apart from having his own head on the coins. This suggested continuity and legitimacy to the populace. During the reign of Henry I (1100–1135), the quality of the coinage became so bad that the public would not accept it, and 194 moneyers were found guilty and had their right hand and testicles removed. The quality of coins then improved. Late in the 14th century, the Mint moved to London. We were shown a picture of a silver crown of Edward I, ‘with the ‘Grace of God’ in English, and the date 1552. Ever since, the date of minting has been stamped on all coins.  The clipping of coins to garner silver was not solved until screw presses were used. A collar could then be incorporated on coins, and milled edges were possible. Smaller and thicker coins were then made. Charles I lost control of the Mint during the Civil War, so he persuaded inhabitants of the towns he occupied to donate silver to his cause. We saw a photo of a diamond-shaped coin minted in Newark in 1646. After Charles’ demise, the Government took control of the Mint. Every coin minted during the interregnum used the same design, differing only in size and value. After the Restoration, the design of the copper halfpenny of Charles II shows Britannia.
 
In Colonial America, emergency-issue dollars, using Spanish eight-real pieces of Charles III, were over-stamped with the head of George III. These dollars were often obtained through illicit trade, but were recognised as a stable currency. The Industrial Revolution saw greater mechanisation of the minting process.
Late in the 18th century, Boulton and Watt produced a steam coin press. Matthew Boulton was employed by the Royal Mint to produce a whole range of broad-edged coins. One of 1797 weighed two ounces. Manufacturers sometimes produced their own coinage. We saw coins made and used by the Parry’s Mining Co., with its monogram. Such companies could pay workers with their coins, to ensure they would be redeemed in the company store. By the time of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, Britain had the largest fleet. After the Napoleonic War, the price of copper increased. The coins produced by the Royal Mint after 1816 became token coins; the metal used was of lesser value than the value displayed on the coin. Between 1817 and 1971, Britain used coins with the same values, together with a few additions. The silver florin introduced at the time of Queen Victoria had the value of 2/- and, at a tenth of a pound, was our first decimal coin. For a short time, a double florin was in circulation but, because it was only a little larger than the florin, it was easily confused, so it quickly fell out of favour and discontinued. A coin of Edward VII had the legend Ind. Imp. (Emperor of India). This title was created for Queen Victoria by Disraeli because her grandson, as Kaiser of Germany, would have outranked the Queen, his grandmother, and that would never do! One of the most beautiful Renaissance-style designs on a coin is that of St. George, the Patron Saint of England, on the gold sovereign. The design on the silver crown of George V is Art Deco in style. From the late 19th century and throughout the 20th, the precious metal content of British coins lessened still further until 1948, after which no coin apart from commemorative coins contained any precious metal. Even so, the fact that British coins began to cost more than their value accelerated the introduction of Decimalisation in 1972. The pound coin was introduced in 1984, and the £2 coin in 1997. The design of the £2 coin is much admired. We no longer have Britannia on our coins. The most recent design used on our coins was selected after a competition which was won by a 15 year old schoolboy from Queen Mary’s Grammar School, Walsall. The £1 coin is due to be superseded in 2017. At the present time, one in 40 £1 coins are estimated to be counterfeit. The new coin to be introduced is said to be ‘uncounterfeitable’. The Royal Mint is now at Llantrisant in Wales. We thanked Phil Griffiths for his interesting presentation. As a final comment, he estimated that the use of coins will die out within 20 years.
 
February 2016: Mac Joseph on ‘Do you Remember? (The 50s and 60s )’
 
Mac Joseph started by saying that he expected older listeners to join in with anecdotes of the 1950s and 1960s which they remember. He first showed us photos of ‘corner shops’ – the mainstay of many communities in the past, now largely superseded by supermarkets. He remarked about the time when it was possible for families short of money to have items put ‘on the slate’ at the corner shop, and that it was possible for smokers to purchase one or two cigarettes if they did not have money for a whole packet. Many shoppers in the fifties would buy their groceries from the local shop and, if they did not have a fridge – a common fact then – would have to shop for perishables more frequently, making a shop near to their homes essential. Dry goods were delivered to grocers in large containers and sacks to be weighed and packed for each customer, the bacon and cheese sliced to order. A photo of a High Street reminded us how our streetscape has changed. We saw Wrenson’s, once part of a grocery chain; the butchers, with large cuts of meat and poultry hanging in the shop window, a magnet for flies and dust; the greengrocers with boxes out on the pavement, where a passing youngster could purloin an apple on the way home from school; the ‘Outdoor’, where many a child was sent to buy beer for their father. Mac said that he preferred to get beer in a jug, because then a drink could be had on the way home! However, as money could be had for returning empty bottles, shopkeepers must have been aware that sometimes ‘enterprising’ children found his pile of empties at the back of the store and took some round to the front of the shop to get money for the ‘return’. Also popular with children were sweet shops, with their jars of sweets whose contents were also weighed out for customers. One of our members commented that her grandmother kept a sweet shop, where she sometimes served. Unfortunately she was warned by her formidable grandma that on no account was she to eat any of the stock. Going to the cinema was an important form of entertainment. The ABC chain had the ‘Minors’, a Saturday morning showing for children with its well-remembered refrain; the most popular with boys were cowboy films, often in serial form, where the hero was left in a perilous situation, ensuring that the audience would return the
following Saturday to see what happens. Mac commented that after a cowboy film, boys would gallop home slapping their own bottoms to ‘make the horse go faster’. Some children who wished to see a film, but who did not have the funds, would wait at the exit and, when someone came out, would sneak in, hoping not to be seen in the dark. The films were shown continuously, so if you missed the start, it was possible to stay until you had seen the part you missed. At the last showing, there was often a rush for the exit to avoid staying for the National Anthem. The cheapest seats were at the front of the stalls, and the most expensive in the circle. Mac said that he had asked a girl to go to the cinema with him, but when he came to buy the tickets, she said she wanted to go upstairs, which meant that he did not have enough money. She had to pay for her own ticket, and she never went out with Mac again!
 
Radio shows were popular and series lasted for many years. We were played theme tunes to try and guess the programme. These included ‘Dick Barton, Special Agent’, ‘Have a Go’, ‘Housewives’ Choice’, ‘Mrs. Dale’s Diary’, and ‘Workers’ Playtime’. Lasting until well into this century was ‘Sing Something Simple’. One which is still going strong is ‘The Archers’, begun in 1951.We were asked to identify photos of popular artists of the time, including Alma Cogan, Billy Fury (who looked rather like Elvis Presley) and Jonnie Ray. Pirate radio and Radio Luxemburg were also popular stations. Mac had a Dansette Record player, paying so much each week on the ‘never-never’. His father had to sign the hire purchase agreement because Mac was under age at the time. Several records could be placed on the turntable at a time, and they enabled a succession to be played – that is, until the bottom record began slipping, thus spoiling the sound. Around this time, vinyl replaced shellac for manufacturing records. One advantage of the Dansette was that its legs could be removed, so it became portable, which enabled Mac to take it to his friends for an evening listening to their favourite music. Many people had radiograms, which were often much prized pieces of furniture in the home. Television ownership became more and more prevalent throughout the fifties and sixties, particularly after the broadcast of the Coronation in June 1953. Popular television programmes of the time included ‘The Huggetts’ and ‘Dixon of Dock Green’; popular in the Midlands were ‘Lunch Box’, and ‘Crossroads’ with Noele  ordon. ‘Crackerjack’ was watched by many children on a Friday. Programmes for smaller children included ‘Muffin the Mule’, ‘Pinky and Perky’ and ‘Andy Pandy’. Nowadays, television programmes are broadcast 24 hours a day, but at first programmes were only broadcast for a few hours a day, and there was only one channel – the BBC. Commercial television began in 1955. Mac mentioned some foodstuffs popular at the time. Spam was still a favourite in the fifties, and a mainstay of the family without a fridge was sterilised milk, which lasted longer without going sour. Most coffee in the home was made using a spoonful from a bottle of Camp Coffee, a mixture of coffee essence, chicory and sugar. A copy of a bizarre advert of the time showed a couple with the caption, ‘they love each other because they eat lard’. Now we would think that many adverts of that day were extremely patronising and sexist. One had the caption ‘even a woman can open it’. Another suggested that a ‘Hoover’ would be a welcome gift for a woman at Christmas. It was assumed that women did all the household tasks – washing, cooking and cleaning – so adverts of the time targeted them.
 
Throughout these years, fridge ownership became almost universal, and washdays were revolutionised by consumers eventually progressing from the twin tub, with a hand-cranked wringer, through ones with electric wringers, to automatic machines and driers. Car ownership, too, gradually increased throughout the 50s and 60s, though public transport was still the most used form of transport. Mac mentioned the buses which were on the no. 8 Inner Circle bus route in Birmingham. The passengers alighting would hold onto a pole to help them get down from the open platform. He (and his friends) liked to swing round and round on the pole – something he said he wouldn’t be able to do now, with his increased girth! Large firms often put on parties for their staff and their children, particularly at Christmas. Street parties for children took place at the time of the Coronation. Families would contribute food, fun and games were organised, and the street closed for the day. In some streets, bonfires were lit in the evening. Many of us can remember going to Lewis’s store in Birmingham to wend through the Christmas Grotto with moving puppets and fairy tale scenes – magical for children – and then talk to Father Christmas. Most people’s Christmas decorations consisted of home-made paper chains, paper bells and spheres, which would pack away flat for the following year, and silver tinsel on the tree. is now, both imitation and real Christmas trees were popular. In the fifties, holidays were mostly taken in the UK although, with the greater ownership of cars, many enjoyed touring. Coach trips were popular, too. Mac showed us a photograph of his family on the beach, the men still wearing their suits, complete with ties. During the sixties, more people went abroad to get some sun, and package holidays were taken. Spain was one of the favourite destinations at that time. Looking back made us all realise how much things have changed since the fifties and sixties (changes have accelerated even more since then), and how essential it is to make a record of everyday life. These facts will hopefully make interesting reading for our descendants.
 
March 2016: Richard Stone on ‘The 1851 Religious Census’
 
We are familiar with the civil censuses. Those undertaken before 1851 gave only scant information useful for the family historian. From the 1851 census relationships of individuals were recorded, plus their age and place of birth; but the 1841 census for example rounded ages to the nearest five years, gave no indication of family, and only answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question, ‘born in the same county’? However even the 1851 census did not give the government all the information it felt was needed. One of the extra censuses taken in 1851 was one to gauge church attendance. I am sure many of us were unaware of this census. There was concern because, as the Industrial Revolution took hold, the population of the country grew at an increasing rate. In 1740, the population of Britain had been around five million, which had been fairly constant for several hundred years. By 1801, the population had risen to 8.5 million, and by 1851 to nearly 18 million. Most of the rise was concentrated in the towns, to which people had flocked in search of jobs in the new factories. Middlesbrough, in 1801, consisted of a farmstead with outbuildings and 25 inhabitants, but in 1851 a new town had grown to be a major coal port, and would develop still further on the discovery of iron ore nearby. In a time of political unrest, there was alarm that the working population was losing touch with organised religion. In country areas before this time, church-going was often mandatory. Liberals were now suggesting that the Church of England should cease to be the established church, considering the rise of non-conformist religions. Religious provision had not kept pace with population growth. In 1818, Parliament passed a Church Building Act with a grant totalling £1 million, along with the proviso that new churches could be built without resorting to separate Acts of Parliament, but this did little to increase church building. In 1851, Leeds, with a population of 250,000, had only one parish church. Richard Stone showed us a photograph of Major George Graham, the man who had the idea to have a Religious Census. This was to gain knowledge of the religious practices of the nation and how many people attended a religious service on Sunday March 31st 1851. He was the brother of the Home Secretary of the time, and had reorganised and modernised the GRO. To design and organise the task he appointed a 28-year-old lawyer, Horace Mann. It was felt that, rather than ask individuals to tick a box if they attended a church, a less inquisitorial approach would reveal a truer picture of religious worship. It was decided that the vicars, or custodians of places of worship, would complete the forms.
 
Local enumerators were appointed, each covering a small area. Their job was to contact the District Registrar with the names and addresses of celebrants in the locality. The registrar then sent a schedule to the celebrant to complete. Three types of schedule were produced; one to be sent to Church of England ministers; another to the nominees of non-conformist places of worship; and a third type to nominees of Quaker Meeting Houses. The form had to be completed and returned to the enumerator. Enumerators would chivvy any laggards and then send the completed schedules to Horace Mann. The schedule for the Church of England asked several questions; whether the church had been built before 1800; the number of seats available in the church; the number of people attending on Sunday March 31st, whether that was above or below the average; and the number of Sunday school pupils. They were also asked about endowments and funding, including renting pews. Non-conformist establishments, including those for all other faiths, were asked similar questions, omitting the funding question. In addition, they were asked if the building was solely used for worship. Some services for small congregations were conducted in the home of the celebrant. Quaker Meeting Houses were only required to give the size of the building, along with the number of people attending. Over 34,000 schedules were returned from England and Wales. Fewer churches responded in Scotland. Mann collated the returns and produced a report and tables of the results at the level of Registration Districts. No individual churches were mentioned by name in the data published at the time. The results showed that, of the total population, only 41% attended on that Sunday – and, of those, less than half attended a Church of England service. Some sceptics at the time felt that because a higher number of people were shown attending nonconformist churches, those congregation numbers must have been augmented. There was no evidence for this, and historians now feel that the data Mann published is accurate. More than a hundred years has passed since that census, so it is possible to see the returns of individual churches. Looking at many of the Church of England establishments, we could see that, even if people wished to attend, the number of free pews at that time was limited; rich families paid for their pews, passing the leases down the generations. The cost of renting a pew was prohibitive for the poor. The situation of ‘spiritual destitution’ cited by Mann was not because of lack of faith alone, but because of the lack of churches. Incumbents often discouraged another church being built too close, as this could result in a lower income for the vicar. Many people had to work on Sunday, or needed a day of rest after working for many hours during the rest of the week. Many of the clergy who sent back schedules mentioned the dreadful weather on that Sunday. Trudging for miles down muddy lanes in the wind and rain would also keep some away.
 
Richard Stone showed photos of ornate and box pews for individual families. He mentioned that in Burton, a pew in the church was included with the tenancy of the George Hotel. His talk about this census was thought-provoking. The established church did not react quickly and build churches for the growth in population. It was not until 1856 that churches had half their seating free of charge. Nonconformist churches must have seemed more welcoming, because the overt segregation of rich and poor in Parish churches made many feel that the Church of England was not for them. The lack of a church nearby also meant that some people got out of the habit of attending altogether. Returns for the religious census in Staffordshire are available to view in the Stafford County Archives. Other county Archives have the Religious Census returns for their area. The 1851 Religious Census is free to download from the Internet.
 
Curious Facts About WWII
 
An extract from a Web article entitled ‘65 Facts About WWII’.
 
Fanta was invented in Germany when the war made it difficult to bring in Coca-Cola syrup from the USA.
 
The SS officer who captured Anne Frank and her family bought her book to see if he was mentioned. He wasn’t.
 
Russia and Japan still haven’t signed a peace treaty to end WWII due to a dispute over sovereignty of the Kuril Islands.
 
The lift cables of the Eiffel Tower were cut by the French when Germany occupied France in 1940. As a result, German soldiers had to climb to the top to fly the swastika flag. . The last Japanese soldier to surrender did so in 1974, 29 years after WWII was over.
 
A radio belonging to a British POW was hidden so well that when the soldier visited the camp 62 years later, he found it right where he left it.
 
The Taj Mahal was covered with a scaffold to camouflage it as a stockpile of bamboo and misguide bombers.
 
Life and Death on the Western Front by Chris Graddon
 
For most of his life, my grandfather, Charles William Graddon, served his country as a career soldier, steadily working his way up through the ranks. Last issue, I gave a brief outline of his career. However, during his periods of service in the Boer War and the Great War, Charles kept a personal day-by-day account of his experiences of those conflicts. The following extract is from the early days of the First World War and describes how the horrors of war could erupt at almost any time during the long, humdrum and repetitive days of army life on the Western Front. The 13th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps was formed at Winchester in October 1914. After extensive training in the south of England, the men of the 13th boarded a steamship on 30 July and sailed for Boulogne, escorted by British destroyers. They were taken by train to Watten, a journey of about 40 miles, and from there they marched to Bayenghem-les-Eperlecques, in the Pas-de-Calais department of northern France, before marching some 30 miles over the next two days to Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel, where they were billeted in six farms, all within 1¼ miles of the village. The 13th Battalion War Diary notes that “March discipline left room for improvement, particularly with regard to straggling without permission”. The sound of the guns at the front could now be heard all too clearly and the ruins at the railway station provided graphic evidence of recent German raids. The Commander of the Second Army, General Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, inspected the 13th Battalion K.R.R.C. on 8 August. Two companies were then assigned to a composite brigade and marched off to Bailleul en route to Armentieres in northern France where, amidst sustained shell fire, they began digging trenches under the direction of the Royal Engineers. The remainder of the Battalion remained at Saint-Sylvestre-Cappel until 15 August, where specialists received training in the use of machine guns, and in signalling, sniping and bombing.
 
11 August 1915 (Wednesday). Saw again an airplane being shelled by Germans; in fact this game seems to go on all day. I went to the Convent where our men are billeted at 5.30 p.m. and issued rations, after which I went and had a look over a splendid Roman Catholic Church, called St. Vaast {the neo-Gothic L’eglise Saint-Vaast, Armentieres}. It is a lovely place, the roof is groined and built with small red brick, very beautiful; the pillars are very large, the pulpit beautifully carved in dark brown wood and very lofty; the stained glass windows, some of which had been broken by shell explosions, were among the finest I have seen. There was a dim light and altogether the place seemed very solemn and made one think of the contrast of the peace there and warfare a few miles away; even while I was there I could hear the bursting shells not far away. On returning to my billet I found that a house in the same street had had a shell through it, not far from the Convent. Had a letter from Arthur. He does not say where he is stationed; must write to him. Wrote to Rose and sent 7 pages of this diary; hope they are all well. {Arthur Graddon, the eldest son of Charles and his wife Rosetta, was also on the Western Front, serving with the Army Service Corps, 10th Army Corps Headquarters} Postcard of L’eglise Saint-Vaast, Armentieres, 1906
 
12 August 1915. Had a wretched night, the ground seemed harder than ever. Was up at six, had a good breakfast and off to draw rations; had to wait about two hours, very hot and dusty. The ditches of water alongside the roads appear filthy, with a green slime, and the horses have to drink it. Fortunately, we have
taken a deserted stable near our billet for four horses and there is plenty of good water there. We drew very short rations today, but had more come up about 7 p.m. Wrote to Arthur, should like to see him; not much news today, the normal aeroplane shelling. Will turn in, it is nearly nine p.m. Hope they are all well at home.
 
13 August 1915. The floor seemed harder than ever, but I shall be better off now; we saw the owner of the house this morning and he has lent Captain Landale and I a mattress. {Captain Cyril Landale had become wealthy as a grazier at Mundiwa Station, a farm near Deniliquin, New South Wales. Cyril served with the 13th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps throughout the war, was wounded and was mentioned in despatches; he was killed in action at the age of 37 on 21 August 1918 and is buried at St. Amand British Cemetery, Pas de Calais.} Had a few returns to make out this morning and then went for rations; still hot and dusty. The usual aeroplane shelling this afternoon. Had some excitement in the Convent; a shell came through the roof, down two floors and bounced against the wall without exploding, and never even touched anyone. The shell appears about an 18 pounder, we have it in our billet; the nose has broken off. No doubt it will be taken away and be examined by the artillery experts. {The 13th Battalion War Diary records that the Hospice Civil in Rue de Pastures in Armentieres, where B and D Company were billeted, was shelled every evening. During this period it was struck twice, one shell failing to explode and passing through three rooms full of men having their tea; the other fell unexploded in the courtyards of the convent, causing some damage.} Had a few showers this evening which will lay the dust and make the air cooler. Had a walk round the square this evening; the grass is beginning to grow in between the stones and makes a very deserted appearance. Really nothing to do this evening and am looking forward to a good night on my mattress. Had a letter from Rose and from Alice {Charles’s second and eldest surviving daughter}. Hope they are well at home.
 
14 August 1915. Had a good sleep on the mattress and out for a stroll before breakfast; saw about half a regiment of Belgians going off to the trenches with picks and shovels. Went for rations, a lovely morning with a breeze, blue skies and white clouds. An aeroplane was being shelled, it looked just like a huge bird, and the shrapnel bursting round with fluffy looking balls of smoke looked quite pretty. It is always interesting to me to watch this war in the air. There was a noise of our big guns during the night otherwise one would not think there was war. The people are going about their usual business, and the children are playing in the streets, while near them guns are killing men. The road to the refilling point is through the town to near Nieppe, over the Pont-de-Nieppe which crosses the river Lys, a dirty stream more like a canal than a river. I fail to trace any movement in the water, and a lot of rushes and green slime grows on the water. The road too is lined with ditches half full of slime, and huge holes in the road which will be mud holes when the wet weather comes. The whole place seems full of A.S.C. {Army Service Corps} who appear to be very comfortable in bivouacs and tents. There are also many Territorials about this part. The whole town does not compare with England for cleanliness. Had a very nice dinner about six and at half past went to the stable a little higher up the street to see how the horses were. While there, a German shell came over and burst in the street close by, killing one Belgian soldier and wounding five others; quite a shock to us all, this is the first man killed out here that I have seen. About the same time, a shell came in the men’s billet but did not explode; this incident brings death very near to us all. Have since heard that one other Belgian has died. I thought his wounds appeared too serious for him to live. The explosion of the shell made an awful noise and splinters flew in our back garden. Retired to bed soon after 9.
 
15 August 1915. A fine drizzle of rain, and most of the people I have seen before breakfast are in their best and seem to be either going to or returning from church. The women do not wear hats as a rule, except on Sunday, when one sees an occasional very showy one, but black is the prevailing colour; and one meets many women with huge crape streamers, probably widows. A heavy shower came on after breakfast, and I went off to draw rations. The sun was then shining but a storm came on, the water coming down in sheets, a good thing I had my waterproof also a ground sheet round my shoulders. The field where the rations were dumped was in a bad state, the clay sticking to one's feet making it difficult to walk; everything got very wet, the bread was quite sodden. I had to wash my boots and leggings when I got home. In the afternoon I went to the Church of St. Vaast again and once more admired the windows, pulpit, organ and altars; a service was apparently going to be held and I left. {It would have been a Catholic service, and Charles William Graddon was a devout Methodist.} All the troops cleared out of the Convent this evening for two hours, in the event of shell fire. We drew tobacco and cigarettes today. Have heard that the (remainder of the) Battalion – 13th Battalion Headquarters, A Company and C Company – arrives on Tuesday next, and that we change our billets further away. Thus endeth another Sabbath day.
 
TO BE CONTINUED IN THE NEXT ISSUE OF THE JOURNAL..........
 
This Issue’s Cover Photograph Organ Screen, St. James the Great Church, Longdon. Photograph: Alan Betts
 
The Church of St. James the Great in Longdon has stood on its present site for about 850 years and probably replaced an earlier wooden building of the Saxon period. Situated at the west end of the church, the tower is built in Gothic Perpendicular style, with buttresses, and is capped with battlements and pinnacles. It is thought to have been built circa 1450. The Nave is the oldest part of the church; built in the early part of the 12th century, the magnificent Nave Arch clearly reflects its Norman origins.  Made of oak and erected in 1903, the organ screen is the work of Robert Bridgeman and Son of Lichfield. The shield mounted to the left of the central door in the screen carries the Arms of St Chad and Lichfield. The shield to the right of the door carries the Arms of the Province of Canterbury. The shield in the corners of the screen symbolise St James and St George.
 
 
Journal          Index          Home