Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2017 01-03 Volume 25 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 
 
 
 
 
January - March 2017
 
 
 
 
Vol 25.1
 
Contents of this issue.
 
From the Chair1
The Memorial Project Needs You! 2
Change of Opening Hours at Walsall 3
Jubilee Cottage and Other Matters 4
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers
Ken Knowles: ‘The Town Crier’ 6
Anthony Poulton Smith: ‘Humorous Etymologies’ 8
BFHG Memorabilia Evening 9
A Burntwood Soldier 12
Obituary 13
Sweet Fanny Adams 14
Off to War 16
This Issue's Cover Photograph 18
The Lighter Side of Genealogy 19
Useful Addresses 20
Transcriptions on CD Available for Sale 21
 
 
 
From the Chair
 
A warm welcome to the first Journal of 2017 from myself and your committee.As you will all know by now, subscriptions for this coming year are unchanged from last year. Our Treasurer Chris Graddon will be more than happy if you have paid your subs – for those of you who haven’t paid, could you please do so? We applied to the Burntwood Town Council Grant Scheme and were successful; we were awarded enough money to cover the cost of 12 months subscription to Ancestry. This will be available to members once the committee have agreed how we can access it. This should provide some incentive for members to come to our Thursday evening research nights. We are running a trip to ‘Who Do You Think You Are Live’ Show at The NEC in Birmingham, which runs from Thursday 6th April through to Saturday 8th April. The actual day will be decided by popular demand by those wishing to go. We will be hiring a 16-seater minibus and driver for the day as last year, with local pick-up and drop-off points. In May, there is the WWI Battlefields Tour run in conjunction with Leger Tours, which a number of our members are going on, so we should be getting some interesting talks later in the year, as well as articles for the Journal. In June there will be a trip to The National Archives at Kew – or, if you want to go to Kew Gardens or into London instead, as people have done in the past. This date is to be finalised; please register your interest at one of our meetings, or email us. Admission to the National Archives is free, so we just need to cover the cost of hiring a coach and driver. The date of this trip will be decided by the availability of coach parking spaces, which is very limited at the National Archives. We have been asked by Burntwood Town Council if we will support the Burntwood Wakes Festival, which is to be held on Saturday 1st July at Burntwood Recreation Centre, by taking our display boards, etc. Obviously, this is weather-dependant for us, being an outside event. Any volunteer helpers would be greatly appreciated. It is also a good event to showcase our group to the general public and generate some interest. All in all, it looks like we have a busy six months ahead of us, so good luck with your research, wherever it takes you. Steve Bailey BFHG Chairman 2016–2017
 
The Memorial Project Needs You!
 
Since we started the Memorial Project over two years ago, we have achieved some excellent work and, at the moment, we have a total of 25 completed biographies. Well done everyone who has taken part so far! That’s the good news. Unfortunately, the bad news is that, of the group of researchers who started, some have suffered misfortunes or ill health and are unable to continue. I expect you can see where this is going! We need more researchers if we are to keep up the excellent standard of work. Could you possibly join our happy band and help keep up the good work? All it entails is contacting the relation of the fallen soldier and talking to them about their lost family member (this can be done by phone if they live at a distance). Then, using their input and any documents or photos they can provide, you start to research the soldier’s (often brief) career and his family life. As you research, all information is saved in a file on your computer until it is complete. At that point, two copies are printed – one for the family and one for our records, and an electronic copy sent to Mike Woolridge, who is the Memorial Project webmaster.
 
Change of Opening Hours at Walsall
 
For anyone intending to visit the Walsall Local History Centre, please be advised that, from 1st April 2017, it will only be open on two days a week – Tuesday and Wednesday. The following missive from the WLHC explains all: ‘During 2017, the Local History Centre and Archives in Walsall will be moving premises from Essex Street to the centre of Walsall on Lichfield Street. The Local History Centre will be relocated within a building also housing the library service. This means the public will have access to both services, and will have facilities to research and locate archival material in a modern facility. ‘To ensure that all the necessary preparation is made to remove the archives and local history services successfully and safely, the Local History Centre will be revising its opening hours to the public. Opening hours for the general public will reduce to two days a week (Tuesdays and Wednesdays 10 am – 4 pm) witheffect from 1st April 2017. ‘Where the Local History Centre is closed to the general public, time will be spent cataloguing collections and packaging documents for moving the Local History Centre and Archives successfully to the new location. ‘This change in opening hours to the general public is a temporary measure and will remain in place until the move is completed. ‘To keep you informed of progress with the move and of any changes that may impact you as our customers we will post regular updates through social media and local postings in the Local History Centre. ‘Cath Yates, Collections Librarian, Walsall Local History Centre’
 
Exhibition
 
A special exhibition celebrating the 30th anniversary of the opening of Walsall Local History Centre opened on Wednesday 23 November 2016, until further notice. Entitled Walsall Local History Centre 30, it reflects the history of the Centre, its work and specially selected archives chosen for display by staff. You can download a current general information leaflet on the Walsall Centre at http://cms.walsall.gov.uk/walsall_local_history_centre_leaflet.pdf. Historic images of Walsall are available to view on the ‘A Click in Time’ website (http://www.aclickintime.co.uk/).
 
Jubilee Cottage and Other Matters by Gail Fynes
 
My great-grandfather, William Robinson, was a miner and a very determined man and decided that he wanted his own house. He borrowed the money from the Society of Rechabites, and had Jubilee Cottage, Rugeley Road, Burntwood, built and paid for between April 1897 and 1899. What is interesting is that when money was sent through the post, it was cut in half, and some letters I have refer to the first half being received and the second half being received. What would happen if half went missing, I don’t know. The cottage cost £178 to build, paid for in three instalments – £50 when joist-high, £78 when house covered in, and £50 at completion. I have no photos of William, unfortunately, but I have a photo of his wife Ellen with her three daughters, the youngest of whom was my grandmother. William and Ellen lived there for the rest of their lives, and their unmarried daughter continued to live with her widowed brother until their deaths, when it was sold. I was very lucky that before my mother died, I took her to visit, as she had lived there for about ten years, and the people who owned the house gave me a Victorian penny which had been built into the house in 1897. Family relationships were very difficult in those days. My grandfather was in the army in India and Egypt and, when they returned to England, they sent my mother to live with her aunt in Jubilee Cottage and allowed her to come home when she was 16 years old, had left school and could get a job! Her two younger sisters remained with the family in Woolwich, but did go to stay there for a while during World War II because of the bombing. I recently had a visit from a cousin who lives in the USA. She brought her mother (my youngest aunt) with her, and I asked her why they had sent my mother away. My aunt, who has Alzheimer’s, just said their mother didn’t like her! Out of the mouths of babes! However, my mother was very lucky as she attended the Friary School and did very well there, going for violin lessons with the headmistress. I found my parents’ love letters from 1941 to 1944 which were illuminating, as my mother was being bombed at the Woolwich Arsenal while my father was in The Robinson ladies the Royal Navy on HMS Garth, but they still managed to write regularly, meet up frequently and there were comments about my grandparents visiting Jubilee Cottage for a holiday. Until then, I had thought there was no communication at all, so it just shows how mistaken you can be.
 
Family research at a distance
 
I subscribe to FindMyPast, which is quite expensive, but does mean you can look things up in your own time. Very occasionally I go to Kew, which is a long way from me. However, recently I stayed overnight in London and decided to visit the Society of Genealogists, as they have some very old records, and you can either join full-time or pay for a visit. I didn’t find it as helpful as I thought I might, but I will try again. However, the following day I visited Kew, and one of the most helpful things is that the 1939 Register is free of charge there. I discovered my great-aunt and great-uncle living in Jubilee Cottage with my older aunt – but not my younger aunt, which I couldn’t understand. She was only 11 yrs old at the time, but someone had crossed out her maiden name and put in her married name. I then looked up my mother and the same had happened there. She was living with her parents again, but they had put her married name, despite the fact that she didn’t meet my father until 1941! I wish I knew when extra information is added as, until then, I assumed the details were just from 1939. However, I do find Kew well worth the visit and will definitely go again soon. Does anyone know anything about miners’ records locally? As I said above, my great-grandfather was a miner, as was my widowed great- uncle, and I can remember the latter coming back to Burntwood coveredin coal and being told to stay in the other room while they brought out the bath and filled it in front of the kitchen fire for him to get clean again. We are so used to having indoor bathrooms now that it’s hard to remember when I visited and had to walk past the dog kennel to go to the outside toilet! The upside was the lovely feather bed we shared, which was so high and soft that you could jump into it. The downside was not being allowed to waste food – if you didn’t finish it, you had to sit there while it got cold and still eat it!
 
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers. Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
 
January 2017: Ken Knowles on ‘The Town Crier’
 
Ken Knowles is the Town Crier for Lichfield. He took over the post in 2009, and has been World Champion three times. The trophy is a magnificent bronze of a lancer which, unfortunately Ken cannot keep long-term. He and his partner Marilyn Masters came to our meeting wearing their splendid costumes. Ken told us about the history of town criers and their place in the community; the significance of their costume and regalia; his path into his role; and the competitions he has entered in Britain and as far afield as New Zealand. His amusing and informative talk began with an explanation of the importance of the town crier in the days when most people were unable to read and there was no other way of informing the general population of the town about important news; new laws; a rise in taxes; or a call to arms. With the ringing of a hand bell and the cry of ‘Oyez, Oyez, Oyez’, he drew the townsfolks’ attention to what he was about to read. This often took place outside the local inn – hence the reason why so many pubs are called ‘The Bell’. After his proclamation, the notice would be nailed to a nearby post. We now use the word ‘post’ for sending mail, and there are a number of newspapers which use the word ‘Post’ in their title (e.g. ‘The Birmingham Post’ and ‘The Washington Post’), its use deriving from the Crier’s post. It is not known when town criers were first used, but around the world, as well as Britain, there are similar institutions. The Bible, for example mentions heralds. The cry ‘Oyez’ is thought to be a derivative of Norman French brought over with William the Conqueror, and means ‘Listen to this’. It is probable that in earlier times, town criers were elected. Nowadays, such jobs are advertised. Thomas Roberts, born in 1759, was elected town crier of Cirencester, a post he held until 1822. Ken was born in Aston, and spent his working life as a teacher. When he was appointed the Lichfield Town Crier, he was told that the post was his for as long as he wished. He is required to attend for duty in the city on 13 special days during the year, for which he is paid a small fee. His tricorn hat was handed to him by the previous crier, and the scroll was embroidered for him by the Burntwood Embroiderers Group. This beautiful piece of work depicts the Lichfield City Coat of Arms. The brass buttons on his spats were made in the Birmingham jewellery quarter. He has a coat which is similar to that worn by an infantryman of the 19th century, and another has a short over-cape similar to that worn by stage coach drivers. Ken is also an ambassador for the city. He is able to carry a sword, particularly during the Sherriff’s Ride, which circles the boundary of the city every September. Competitions for town criers are held regularly and have taken place around the world. A contestant is judged on the following: Volume (without the voice cracking or straining). Diction and inflection. Confidence. Accuracy. Competitions take a whole day, with the morning ‘cry’ consisting of the crier’s ‘Home town cry’, and the afternoon on a specific subject chosen by the organisers. Each ‘cry’ must be between 100 and 125 words which must include ’Oyez’, ’Oyez’, ’Oyez’, and end with ‘God Save the Queen’. Ken stressed that because the subject chosen for the afternoon cry is the same for every competitor, it is wise to make your take on the subject unusual, to make sure of the judges’ full attention. Over the years, Ken has been invited to a competition in Canada, but the date it takes place has always clashed with his commitments to Lichfield. However, in 2015, the Canadian competition was to take place two weeks later than usual, so Ken and Marilyn were able to take part. The competition took place in a town called Bracebridge. For his afternoon cry, Ken was able to bring in the fact that his great grandma lived in Bracebridge Street in Aston, and that Washington Irving (author of Rip Van Winkle) based a medley called ‘Christmas at Bracebridge Hall’ on Aston Hall, which Irving had visited while he was in England. Irving changed the name to Bracebridge Hall after Abraham Bracebridge, who married the last surviving member of the Holte family. Ken peppered his talk with amusing stories of his early life, particularly about his father, who would not have a clock in the house, but subsequently many of Ken’s prizes have been timepieces. These tales added to the enjoyment of Ken’s talk.
 
March 2017: Anthony Poulton Smith on ‘Humorous Etymologies’
 
Etymology, the meaning and origins of words, has been a lifelong interest of our speaker Anthony Poulton Smith. He has appeared twice on Countdown, and spoke very highly of Suzy Dent, the wordsmith on the programme. However, as Anthony pointed out, etymology is not an exact science because, with use, the meaning of words change. Who could have thought that a few years ago, ‘wicked’ could mean excellent as well as evil, and ‘cool’ could mean fashionably attractive as well as less hot. He pointed out that even ‘text speak’ such as ‘IMHO’ (in my humble opinion) and other abbreviations have already found their way into the dictionary. Anthony went on to talk about other words which have changed their meaning over the centuries. ‘Dashboard’, for example, used to mean the board which stopped the mud and grit flying off a road onto the people in a cart or carriage. Now it contains the instruments in our cars. ‘Gasket’ has had a convoluted history over the years, until it has come to mean the seal between two castings. Sails on ships were furled with rope called gaskets. This word developed from ‘garcette’, the feminine of the French ‘garçon’. It described the loop to tie a hair plait. In the fifteenth century, the word was used for a ‘lady of the night’, because they wore a plait over the shoulder. The word has a Greek origin as a string, such as that used by the hero Theseus to find his way out of the labyrinth of the Minotaur. Another word with a Greek origin is ‘sycophant’, now meaning an obsequious person. In ancient Athens, sycophants were fig smugglers. In those days, blackmailing for profit was encouraged. Although Athens had to import most goods, they were able to grow figs, so the city-state banned the export of figs. Sycophants ignored the ban. Anyone not Greek was referred to as a barbarian or sheep-like – uncultivated. ‘Dunce’, fortunately now well out of favour, was originally used for the followers of John Duns Scotus who, in the sixteenth century, were ridiculed by humanists and reformers as enemies of learning. ‘Brummagem’, now used for the language or people of Birmingham, was originally used for cheap showy or inferior goods produced in the town. Some names have derived from an observed action, a sound a creature makes, or a characteristic which differentiates one animal from others. ‘Salmon’ means leaping; ‘wallaby’ is an Australian aboriginal word for leaping. However, when a native Australian was asked by an early visitor to Australia what name did the large jumping animal go by, the man answered ‘kangaroo’, which Anthony said actually meant ‘I don’t know’. This story may or may not be apocryphal. ‘Deer’ means ‘not human’, indicating that the animal could be hunted for food. Some names develop from the colour of the creature; for example, ‘bear’ means brown; ‘hare’, grey. ‘Fox’ refers to the tail, as does ‘squirrel’, which derives from the Greek ‘scurios’, meaning shade tail. The squirrel shades its head from the sun with its tail. ‘Avocados’ from the Aztec, and ‘orchid’, from the Greek, derive their name from their shape – a testicle. ‘Noon’ once meant the ninth hour from sunrise; ‘minute’ just meant small (and still does in its other pronunciation); ‘second’ meant periods of time which were smaller than a minute. ‘Addict’ once meant a slave. ‘Mortgage’ sounds very apt, as it meant a death pledge! I have not mentioned all the derivations which Anthony Poulton Smith gave us; however, I am sure that some of us will be delving into our dictionaries to explore more of this interesting subject.
 
BFHG Memorabilia Evening
 
Short talks and anecdotes given by members on 13th February 2017
 
Keith Stanley: Keith brought in a reel of cotton. In 1836, an ancestor of his was transported to Australia for stealing cotton. What happened to this man in Australia was undiscovered by Keith for many years. Ex-convicts were discouraged from moving to some towns, including Adelaide, even though they had served their time. This man had defied the ‘ban’, moved to Adelaide and lived a successful life there. He married and had two children.
 
Jane Leake: Jane brought in family memorabilia of WWI pertaining to grandfathers who died in the Great War. She displayed one of two bronze plaques she has. Each plaque is five inches in diameter, and commemorates those who died in the war. They became known as the ‘dead man’s penny’. One of her grandfathers joined the army although he was aged 38 years old, married, with eight children. He has no known grave, and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial. The family knew he had died on Christmas Day, and assumed it had been during battle. However, on a visit to the village in France, his grave was found in the churchyard – the only war grave there. It transpired that there was no combat on the day he died. A group of soldiers had gone down to a local river, where they threw grenades into the water to get fish for a meal. Unfortunately, the grenades caused a large wave to breach the river bank and sweep Jane’s grandfather into the river, where he drowned. His grave continues to be tended by local people.
 
Mike Jennings: Mike showed us a framed copy of a scene by Laura Lowe, a Cornish artist. This showed a Cornish clapper bridge which can be seen spanning a stream near Cape Cornwall. This is on a circular walk from St. Just, and is signposted. There are also old mine workings along the way. The painting also shows a farm building and a flock of geese. Mike remarked that geese make very good guards. The bridge is made of two granite pillars with large granite slabs laid across, and is wide enough to carry a cart. When Mike’s uncle was clearing a room in the house with 12½ chimneys (which has been the basis for some of Mike’s talks), the painting was found. Mike took a copy of the original meaningof ‘clapper’ on line. The best explanation is that it is derived from an Anglo Saxon word meaning a bridge of stepping stones. The bridge in Mike’s picture is thought to be medieval.
 
Jenny Lee: Jenny brought her collection of photographs and pamphlets about the women’s suffrage movement. Jenny read out extracts. One pamphlet, distributed at the time, set out to refute the claims made by women who had been imprisoned for their suffrage activities about the brutal treatment they had received while inside. The pamphlet stated that women had been treated well in prison, and those who claimed otherwise were exaggerating. Was this an example of a ‘cover up’ to discourage sympathy from the general population, I wonder?
 
Georgia Hancox: Georgia showed an Air Ministry watch which had belonged to her relative George W. Lewis. George, who was born in 1921, volunteered for the RAF at the start of World War II. The family knew that he was a navigator, and that he and his Canadian pilot had died during a mission. The pair had set out in their Mosquito from Sleaford in Lincolnshire, as part of a raid targeting the Phillips factory in Holland. George is named on the Runneymede memorial, but the family did not know any other details. A Dudley newspaper was contacted by a Dutchman with information about the event, so after all these years the family found out exactly what had happened to George. The Mosquito encountered no resistance on the flight out and the bombing of the Phillips factory was successful. The plane turned for home, crossed the Dutch coast and began to cross the North Sea. It was there that they were attacked by a Messerschmitt 109. The Mosquito in which George was a navigator was shot down and upended into the North Sea, killing both men.
 
Ann Wheeler: Ann brought in a large toy monkey. This toy had been given to her when she was three months old, the first day bombs were dropped on Bristol, her home town. This much-loved toy has been cherished by Ann, but is now rather theworse for wear. It comforted her during the dark days of the War, and brings back happy memories of her early life. Many of us had a teddy or some other stuffed animal which we loved above all other toys. Ann concedes that her children will not want him handed down to them, though!
 
Chris Graddon: Chris has a tiny book which was among his father’s effects. However, Chris is unsure whether the book had always been in the family, or had been acquired by his father. The family had moved to the Royal Borough of Kingston when his father took the post of supervisor of the borough’s Cleansing Department. The area covered by the department included Winston Churchill’s home in Lancaster Gate, Rillington Place (where the murderer John Christie had his flat at number 10), and Notting Hill Gate, which has now become fashionable. They lived on site and the children’s favourite pastime was using the street cleaning vehicles as an assault course. Chris’s father liked nothing better than looking for unusual items at the street market in Portobello Road on Saturdays, and the mini book may have come from there. It is titled ‘Gems of Sacred Poetry’, and was published in 1840 by the Religious Tract Society. Chris read out one of the verses. The language used was rather florid, and full of religious fervour.
 
Sharon Towers: Sharon has acquired a small Bible and a purse belonging to her great aunt Alice Sargent. Alice was the daughter of John Sargent, Sharon’s great-grandfather, who kept the White Lion Pub in Cannock. These items helped fire Sharon’s interest in her family history. The Bible had been given to Alice for her attendance at the Congregational Sunday School Cannock and bears the date 21st December, 1902 – the birthday of Sharon’s grandma. The purse was of a design which older members will remember was popular many years ago. Sharon commented that it was very small by present-day standards. In it she had found a folded slip of paper on which was written some family birthdays with dates, a very useful find.
 
The varied items brought in and the stories told by our members made for an enjoyable evening.
 
A Burntwood Soldier by Pam Turner
 
On 13th January 1792, William Ball was christened at St Michael’s Church, Lichfield. He was the fifth child of Thomas and Ann Ball of Burntwood, and the older brother of my three-times great-grandfather, James Ball. In 1811, William enlisted with the 80th Regiment of Foot, also know as the ‘Staffordshire Volunteers’. The original headquarters and place for enlistment was The King’s Head in Bird Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire. However, William’s papers were finalised at Windsor, in Berkshire. The 80th Regiment of Foot was raised on 9 December 1793 by Lord Henry Paget, and recruitment was largely from the Staffordshire Militia, which was comprised of men living on the estates of Paget’s father, The Earl of Uxbridge. I know that William’s father was a woodsman, so it is very likely that he worked on one of the Earl’s estates. Foot regiments of the day wore red tunic uniforms and, to distinguish each one from the other, they wore different-coloured facings, collars and cuffs. The 80th wore yellow with gold lace. In 1812, William was posted to the East Indies. The regiment had already been stationed in India since 1802, fighting in the Second Maratha War (1803–1805) and seeing service in the Travancore war of 1808–1809. In 1815, William was recorded as stationed at Quilon (Kollam) in Southern India, which is where the regiment remained until they left India in 1817. William, however, must have liked being in India, because he did not return with the 80th Foot; instead, he transferred to the 17th Regiment of Foot, otherwise known as the Leicestershire regiment. The 17th wore white facings with silver lace. The 17th regiment had been in India since 1804, and had played a noble part in the work of rescuing India from the dominion of cruel despots and laying the foundations of the Indian Empire. In that period, the regiment saw much arduous service in the remoter parts of India. The 17th stayed in India until 1823, and their service and the courage of all ranks was considered to be so valuable that they were awarded the ‘Royal Tiger’ badge, superscribed ‘Hindoostan’ as a lasting testimony to the regiment’s exemplary conduct whilst serving in that area. Again, William did not leave India with the 17th, instead transferring to another regiment – this time, the 14th Regiment of Foot (Prince of Wales Own). This regiment wore buff facings with silver lace. In 1823/24, the 14th were stationed at Meerut, and the following year they took part in the capture of Bhurtpore. William unfortunately received a blow to the head while taking part in this siege. Following this, the regiment moved to Cawnpore and then to Fort William, arriving there in January 1827. In 1828, the men relocated to Berhampore, but returned to Fort William in 1830. In 1831, the regiment left India, arriving back at Gravesend from the 13th May onwards, the last arrivals being in the following January of 1832. William arrived back in England on 21 November 1831, where it was reported that he had been suffering with epileptic fits for four years; probably, his blow to the head had been the trigger for this condition. William had been given medical care in India, but it had given him no relief, and so on his return he was hospitalised for two months. After his hospital stay, William was finally declared unfit for further service and was discharged from the army. His description at his time of discharge was listed as aged 39, 5ft 6ins, dark hair, eyes and complexion, and by trade a labourer. His military conduct was described as ‘indifferent’. Altogether, William served nearly twenty years in the East Indies, and was finally sworn out of service on April 10th 1832. He then returned to Lichfield, where he collected his pension. In 1841, William was listed on the Lichfield census living with a Sarah and Ann Arnold at Paradise, which I believe was in the St Chad’s area of the city. His occupation was listed as ‘Army pensioner’. William died at the beginning of July 1848 in Stowe Street, Lichfield, aged 55. He was buried at nearby St Chad’s Church.
 
Obituary
 
Those of you who have been members for a long time will remember Mary and Geoff Colverson who lived at Shenstone. I was sad to hear that Geoff had passed away a short time ago. After the death of Mary he moved to Bude, Cornwall, to be near to his daughter so we lost touch with him. He seems to have been ill for some time and was living in a home. Geoff was our librarian for several years and was usually present at the Thursday meetings looking after the books and helping people search for information that might be helpful to them in their research. He was a quiet fellow but very friendly once he got to know you. He died peacefully in his sleep a few weeks ago. Rest in peace Geoff.
 
Sweet Fanny Adams by Peter Thorpe, from the website www.historyanswers.co.uk
 
The phrase ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’ came into popular usage in Victorian England to mean nothing or very little. But was there a real Fanny Adams? The answer is yes, and her story is anything but sweet. The rural village of Alton, a quiet and peaceful place in Hampshire, became the talk of the nation when, on Saturday August 24th, 1867, the abduction, and subsequent murder and mutilation, of a girl called Fanny Adams created horror and revulsion throughout the land. Nobody at the time could recall any murders in Alton prior to this, let alone one of such savagery. On that dreadful day, three little girls went out to play together, not knowing their innocent lives would change forever, or that one of the girls would not return home alive. Fanny, eight years old, her sister Lizzie, seven, and friend Minnie Warner, eight, walked off happily together from Fanny’s home in Tanhouse Lane towards Flood Meadow. Soon they met up with 29-year-old Frederick Baker, a solicitor’s clerk. He was smartly dressed in a black frock coat, waistcoat and light coloured trousers. Outwardly, Baker looked respectable as befitting his position, but had been drinking fairly heavily. Baker offered Little Minnie three-halfpence if she would take herself and Fanny’s sister Lizzie away somewhere else to play. Fanny was offered a halfpenny to go with Baker to ‘The Hollow’, which led to the village of Shalden, but when he gave her the money, she refused to accompany him. Annoyed, Baker picked her up and carried her off into a hop field and out of sight. This was about 1:30 in the afternoon. The two girls, Minnie and Lizzie, played together until about 5:00 pm, and then decided to make their way home. A Mrs Gardiner, neighbour of the Adamses, spotted the girls and asked where Fanny was. When Mrs Gardiner was told what had happened, ‘alarm bells’ began to ring in her head. She and Minnie rushed back up the lane in search of them both. Finding Baker returning alone to the village, she demanded to know where Fanny was and what he had done with her. His reply was simply ‘Nothing’. He refuted the allegations against him, including denying giving Minnie three-halfpence if she and Lizzie would go off and leave Fanny with him, but said the money he gave Minnie was for sweets. Baker was threatened with the police, but he told Mrs Gardiner to do what she liked and walked away.
 
Eventually, about 7:00 pm, a search party was formed and they made their way to the hop garden. What they found there was the most ghastly sight one could imagine. In the gateway, they found a pool of blood, and beneath a hedge the decapitated head of little Fanny stuck on two hop poles. Scattered around the field was the rest of her defiled body, hacked into pieces. Fanny’s father was told of the find, and in a blind rage he made his way back home to get a shotgun, but fortunately for him and for Baker, he was disarmed. Frederick Baker was arrested at his office but insisted his innocence, but spots of blood were seen on his clothing. The people were outraged at this hideous crime and would have probably lynched Baker, had the police superintendent not smuggled him out of the back door of the police station. After Baker was charged with the murder, he was held in custody for a week and then transferred by cab to Winchester, where an angry crowd was waiting for him. The police, however managed to thwart the baying crowd trying to grab him. The inquest was held in The Duke’s Head Inn on the Tuesday evening. The evidence was heard, and the sad remains of Fanny were viewed. Baker was asked if he had anything to say, and all he could say was “I am innocent.” He was remanded for trial, which began on Thursday 29th of August in Alton Town Hall. One of the most shocking pieces of evidence was an entry found in Baker’s diary in his office, for 24th August: “killed a young girl, it was fine and hot.” It took only fifteen minutes for the verdict of the jury to find him guilty, and the judge advised them that maybe Baker was not responsible for his actions, due to him being abused by his father when he was a child. This plea was rejected by the jury, and the judge had no choice but to hand out the death sentence. On 24th December 1867, Frederick Baker had the dubious honour of being the last person to be hanged in public at Winchester. To add insult to injury over a murder case so shocking, in 1869, tins of mutton were introduced into the Royal Navy food rations. When sailors opened the tins, they declared the contents must be the butchered remains of ‘sweet Fanny Adams’. The tins themselves became known as ‘Fannys’.
 
Off to War. An extract from the Boer War diary of Charles William Graddon 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 from the time he joined the Commissariat and Transport Corps as a Private on 12 January 1882 at the age of 18. From 21 October 1899 to 13 August 1900, Charles served in the Boer War, for which he received the Queen’s South Africa medal with four clasps, for Orange Free State, Tugela Heights, Relief of Ladysmith and Cape Colony. He also received the Long Service and Good Conduct Medals. 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. Here is an extract from one of those diaries, telling of the first few part of his 18-day journey to South Africa to join the Boer War campaign. The ship he joined was the Moor, built in 1881 by Aitken & Mansel at Glasgow, with a tonnage of 3688 grt, a length of 365 ft, a beam of 45 ft 10 in and a service speed of 12 knots.
 
21 October 1899 (Saturday) What a day of bustle and confusion. Just managed to get to station by 10 past 5. Very dark and cold. Got a 1st class lavatory carriage and had a good run to Southampton. On arrival, all troops got on board and settled down, a beautiful sunny day. Took a cab to gate of Docks and met Dad, Mother and Walter Burt; got lunch for them in the “Moor”, a very good spread after which I showed them all over the ship, which delighted them, and engaged cab to take them to station, cost 5 shillings. We sailed about 6 o’clock, there were thousands of people to see us off, with great cheering and singing. Was appointed R.S.M. of ship by Lieutenant Brooke, had a very busy time and got to bed by 10.30 p.m. very tired. Am sharing a cabin with S.S.M. Bennett, a good 2 berth cabin, most comfortable, the living on board is splendid, plenty of courses, dinner at 5.30 p.m. off to bed.
 
22 October 1899 (Sunday) Up at half past 6, rather a dull day. Saw the sun rise, a very busy morning, on the move all the morning, hardly a minute to myself. About 9 o’clock a drizzle came on, which made it very uncomfortable. Have to detail all troops for guard and duty. Had a sit in smoke room about 12.30 p.m. The porpoises were about the ship during the afternoon and the sea was quite calm, the good old “Moor” is slipping along about 15½ knots, we had made 216 knots by 12 o’clock, will about begin to enter Bay of Biscay during the evening. Got a wire from Rose acknowledging receipt of £7. Just come from having a nice cup of tea at 4 o’clock, it was good, like old times at home. Dinner at 5.30, a splendid and comfortable meal, seen Mr Brooke and got tomorrow’s orders. Finished at last and got to bed about 9.30.
 
23 October 1899 (Monday) Was awakened this morning by the steward with a cup of coffee about 6, decided to have a salt water bath, enjoyed it very much, went on deck about 6.45, very dull and misty, rain fell heavily about 8 a.m. and turned below waiting for breakfast. Had a good breakfast and was then on the move till afternoon. Had to go to the captain’s cabin and give out books and papers to the troops, paraded the guard at 4 p.m. 18 men and 2 N.C.O.s of the A.P.O.C. {Army Post Office Corps}, after which had a good cup of tea, dinner again at 5.30, saw the Chief Steward and had a chat with him in his cabin and then to bed.
 
24 October 1899 (Tuesday) Was woke again by the coffee, had a bath, went on deck and saw about a fatigue party for the pumps, a stiff breeze blowing but getting rather warm, everyone looking forward to Madeira and to send letters off. The sea has begun to put its blue look on, up to the present it has been fairly calm and pleasant trip. As about 11 o’clock the wind got up and now (1 p.m.) the ship is tossing a bit. I had a wetting while leaning over the side talking to Baker, a wave came and made us move sharply; am now waiting on for lunch. Our meals are coffee at 6, breakfast 8.30, lunch at 1, tea at 4 and dinner at 5.30; the meals are splendidly served and I seem to enjoy each of them. I wonder how poor dear Rosie is now. Just had a cup of tea and a squall of rain is raging, the wind blowing half a gale. Bought some stamps for letters and am now going to finish them ready to post at Madeira. By 12 o’clock today had run 216 + 361 + 355 = 932 miles, not a bad passage so far. Just come from dinner which was very nice but have a headache so took some pills. Had to see Mr Brooke at 10 o’clock, to arrange about police around ship at Madeira, to keep boatmen off, and then to bed.
 
25 October 1899 (Wednesday) Had to run out about 4 o’clock, the ship was pitching very much and at six o’clock was roused up for men for pumps. All passed off well, have had it very showery, all the morning and have been in sight of some islands, they say they are called the Desartas {or Desertas Islands}; they don’t appear to have many inhabitants and are very rugged, and high, clouds covering the highest peaks. It is now one o’clock and we are within a few miles of Madeira, it seems very high and beautiful and green with houses and gardens scattered about; first sight reminded me of Gibraltar. I managed to go ashore after lunch and the gardens were beautiful, bananas, sugar cane and flowers were growing plentifully, had several views of the mountains and harbour. The people were ragged and dirty looking; the soldiers seemed very lazy and stood on sentry as if they could not help it. Bought some fruit and enjoyed it very much, the transport there is all by sledges and oxen and pack mules. Got back on board again by 5 o’clock, had a splendid dinner at 5.30; arranged about fatigues and then for a blow on deck and a sight of the receding lights of Madeira, and then to bed.
 
26 October 1899 (Thursday) Up sharp by 6 this morning, The Desertas Islands, seen in the background from Madeira. They are currently a seabird sanctuary and a had to bustle about a bit; came protected nature reserve, due to being a habitat for the in sight of Tenerife, saw the endangered species of monk seals. peak, thought it was a magnificent sight although the top of it was surrounded by clouds, the sea is lovely and blue, and for 2 hours I was drilling during the morning, also this afternoon, and am now waiting for a cup of tea. We made 275 miles till noon today, there has been no ship in sight, and can now settle down to another 13 or 14 days before making Cape Town.
 
To be continued in the next issue.......
 
This Issue’s Cover Photograph: The Clock Tower, Cannock. Photograph: Alan Betts

The clock in the photo was originally on a traffic island but, with the pedestrianisation of the area, it has been surrounded by a circular base of bricks and a pond encircled with railings. The clock tower has a four-sided pedestal with a scroll feature on each corner. A fluted column rises from the pedestal, and a simply decorated capital supports the clock, which is four-faced, its stripped Modernist design contrasting with the column and pedestal. The clock was donated to the town by Henry Benton (1864–1922), a local butcher for many years. The money for setting up the clock came from his estate following the death of his widow in 1935. It was unveiled by a close family friend, Albert Bate, in the presence of senior members of the council.
 
The Lighter Side of Genealogy
 
Genealogy is a serious business, isn’t it? Well, not necessarily! Sometimes it can be downright silly. For instance...

Top 10 indicators that you’ve become a ‘geneaholic’
 
10 You introduce your daughter as your descendant.
9 You’ve never met any of the people you send email to, even though you’re related.
8 You can recite your lineage back eight generations, but can’t remember your nephew’s name.
7 You have more photographs of dead people than of living ones.
6 You’ve even taken a tape recorder and/or notebook to a family reunion.
5 You’ve not only read the latest GEDCOM standard, you also understand it!
4 Local genealogy societies borrow books from you.
3 The only film you’ve seen in the last year was the 1881 census index.
2 More than half of your CD collection is made up of marriage records or pedigrees.
1 Your elusive ancestor has been spotted in more different places than Elvis!
 
Quirky Queries

The following are examples of some genuine correspondence sent to a genealogy helpline:
 
• I would like to find out if I have any living relatives or dead relatives or ancestors in my family.
• We are sending you 5 children in a separate envelope.
• Enclosed please find my Grandmother. I have worked on her for 30 years without success. Now see what you can do!
• I have a hard time finding myself in London. If I were there I was very small and cannot be found.
 
 
Journal          Index          Home