Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2005 07 Volume 13 Number 4
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
 July 2005     
Volume 13
Number 4 July 2005
 Vol. 13 No. 4
  Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...
News from the Secretary
Trip to London report
Murphy’s Law in Genealogy
Reviews of Talks (inc. An Evening with Carl Chinn)
The Great House Name Mystery
Extracts from Church Newsletters
A Melancholy and Fatal Occurrence
From the Chair…

Dear Friends, As I write this I am still excited by the success of our ‘Evening with Carl Chinn’. He is certainly a gifted speaker and was enjoyed by all the people I have spoken to. The venue turned out to be ideal and all tickets were sold well beforehand. In fact we could have sold more, had they been available. On behalf of the group we gave Carl a book token for £20, as he did not ask for a fee and we felt that it would be appropriate to show our appreciation in some way. Hopefully he will come again, but due to his commitments it won’t be until 2008! Meanwhile, if you were unlucky enough to miss Carl, you can read a review of his talk on pages 8-9.

After covering our expenses we made a profit of £690, so our bank balance is looking healthy at present. We hope to use the money to purchase more CDs of census returns and other useful research aids, but would like to hear from you if you have any other suggestions that would benefit the group as a whole. Please give your ideas in writing to any member of the committee for consideration.

As you probably know, John and Jenny Hodgson have taken over the care and organisation of our microfiche library and the fiche readers, after a long spell without anyone being responsible for this important resource. It will take some time for them to do a thorough check, but already they have found that some fiche are missing. If you find that you have any of these at home, please do return them as soon as possible.

The London trip on 11th June was a great success, with several people finding helpful information. The traffic was light and the driver excellent, so we were able to make the most of the visit. Even the Family Records Centre was hassle free, and it was relatively easy to find a space to work in (see page 7).

This will be the last journal before the AGM in September. so it is a good time to remind you to consider standing for the committee next year, as we do need fresh ideas. Even if you do not wish to stand yourself, you may well know a member who would be interested and would be prepared to spare a little time to help with the running of the group. It is not very demanding as we only have four meetings per year, so please give it some consideration. Best wishes to all. Jane Leake


1861 Census Street Index David Heydon (david@heydon.org) writes:

“I have compiled a street index of the 1861 census for Staffordshire and posted it on the web. It also includes Dudley and those parts of the adjoining counties that came within the Staffordshire enumeration districts.”

The index can be accessed at  http://genealogy.heydon.org and David has quoted the Piece. Folio and Page numbers together with the Parish, town/village/hamlet and ecclesiastical districts where enumerated.

The Folio and Page number are for the start of a street and of other instances of the street throughout the piece. It also includes parishes of Derbyshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire. Details can be found on the website.

Whittington One-place Study

Phil Wood (phil.norcis@ntlworld.com) writes:

“I have a ‘One Place Study’ of Whittington, nr Lichfield. It contains 23,705 entries at the moment, but is added to frequently.

If any of your members need a ‘look up’ I am happy to see what information I have.

Whilst it is predominantly for Whittington, I have occasionally followed a family line to other areas. Kind regards, Phil Wood.”
News from the Secretary

Since the last Journal was published in April, we have recruited a number of new members and have also been pleased to welcome back one or two whose membership had lapsed. The net result is that we have currently over 100 subscribed members. Now is the time of year when I try to remind everyone that all subscriptions are due for renewal on 1st August. There have been misunderstandings over this in the past, due to some subs being reduced by 50% for new members joining after 1st February. Anyone who paid the reduced rate during 2005 will need to renew on 1st August to continue to receive the benefits of membership.

When we had a smaller membership, I found that it was possible to continue to supply the Journal and other publications to unsubscribed members until the end of December and then give them a polite reminder that their subscription was overdue. THIS TIME I AM NOT GOING TO BE DOING THIS. If you have not renewed your subscription by 30th September, your name will be removed from the membership database and your interests will be removed from the 2006 Members’ Interests List, which will be published on or before 1st January 2006. Late renewals will be at the full rate – the 50% reduction is only for new members joining after 1st February 2006. I have discussed this with your Honorary Treasurer, Harold Haywood, and he would prefer to receive cheques only through the post any time from now on. It is also more acceptable when paying subscriptions at meetings to do so by cheque rather than in cash, as this ensures that no errors or doubts arise as to whether or not a subscription has been paid.

Annual General Meeting
As is our normal practice, the September Monday meeting will be our AGM. Because it is normal to conduct only formal business at the AGM, it is essential that, if you wish to have an item put on the agenda, it should be presented in writing to the Chair well in advance. For those who have not attended an AGM previously, its purpose is for the officers and Committee to present to the membership a report of the activities and finances of the group and to elect a Committee, Chairperson and officers for the coming year. Any member who would like to serve on the Committee is welcome to put their name forward and, again, it is better to do so in advance of the meeting rather than do it on the night.

The AGM is also the time when we say ‘thank you’ to everyone who has put so much effort into keeping the group alive and active during the year. For those who are not able to attend the AGM I would to thank, on your behalf, the following: Pauline Stanley (CD-ROM library); John and Jenny Hodgson (fiche and reader hire); all the ladies and gentlemen who provided the refreshments; Jane Leake for organising all the speakers and the ‘Evening with Carl Chinn’; Bernard Daniels, Jenny Lee and their team of transcribers; Jan Green and Brian Asbury for editing the Journal; the several members who kept the raffle going throughout the year; Pam Woodburn for organising the coach trips; Alan Betts for producing and maintaining what is acknowledged to be one of the best organised and user-friendly websites on the Internet; and last, but not least, Harold Haywood, not only for keeping our finances in order but also for taking charge of the purchasing of our extended range of CD-ROM research facilities. Len Wenman and Geoff Colverson are mentioned elsewhere.

Recent Events
The special meeting held at the Burntwood Memorial Hall at which we welcomed Dr. Carl Chinn as our guest speaker was a resounding success, and served to considerably boost the group’s funds. Your Treasurer will be presenting his Financial Report at the AGM, and the Committee which is elected then will have the enviable task of deciding how to spend your money most usefully in the future. The Committee is always ready to listen to members’ suggestions as to how our funds might be employed in assisting genealogy research in the Burntwood area.

Our regular meetings have been well attended, although there have been one or two problems due to the absence of one or more of our service providers. I am sure that you all appreciate the effort that is put in by those who provide the facilities available at both our Monday and Thursday meetings – it is only when they are not provided that we realise how valuable is the input of the small core of members who provided the service. One way that the Committee has tried to ensure that illness and holidays, etc. do not result in facilities not being available is for each officer or service provider to have a ‘deputy’, who liaises with the Committee member, officer or other functionary and takes over their duties temporarily. Have a look at the list in the front of the Journal and see whether you could be someone’s deputy.

I myself have been unable to attend all of the recent meetings, but you will find reviews of the speakers elsewhere in the Journal. The Thursday meetings are still very popular and are very much of the ‘drop-in’ type, so that we often have twenty or more people signing the book but perhaps only 12 or so in the room at any one time. Unfortunately, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, there have been times when members have come on a Thursday and have been unable to do the research they were expecting to do because the facility was not available. Nevertheless, Thursdays are a very sociable occasion, and even if you only pop in for a few minutes it is sometimes much easier to have a question answered or to put a point over to someone on a Thursday than it is at the more formal Monday meetings. And there’s always tea, coffee and biscuits on offer (even if it is sometimes self-service).

Library and Publications

Many of you will have known that our Librarian, Geoff Colverson, and our Publications Officer, Len Wenman, both suffered ill health during the past year and for a time had to relinquish their duties. However, I am very pleased to be able to say that normal service has now been resumed and both Len and Geoff are back in their respective driving seats again. Our thanks are due to Stan Fussell for taking on the library during Geoff’s absence. It would be ungracious of me to thank myself, but I kept the publications section going whilst Len was off station and was very happy to be able to hand everything back to him.

Looking to the Future

For those of you who did not know already, the group is having its 20th Anniversary next year (2006) and for some time the Committee has been discussing what special projects might be undertaken to celebrate this landmark. For our 10th Anniversary we launched the Transcription Project, which is nearing its completion, and when all the current transcriptions are completed – hopefully before or during 2006 – it is planned to offer our members, and the genealogical fraternity in general, a CD-ROM for use on a home desktop computer which will contain all the transcriptions in searchable format. This will not necessarily make the 3.5" floppy discs redundant, but it may well appeal to many researchers with general interests in the Burntwood area who will appreciate a single searchable database in CD-ROM form.

Our proposed projects for the 20th Anniversary are a new publication in which members will be asked to contribute short notes on the events which occurred on each day of the year, and a special edition of the Journal in more professional format with better quality paper, more colour and a glossy cover. These projects have been discussed by your Committee but are not yet finalised. It should be possible to let you have all the details in the October issue of the Journal.

New Members and their Interests

Since the publication of the 2005 Members’ Interests List I have tried to ensure that new members’ interests have been published in the Journal. However, there have been so many new names added to the list recently that I have decided to publish a supplement to the 2005 List to include with this issue of the Journal, rather than trying to provide the usual short summary.

One of the joys of doing one’s family history is finding  long-lost relatives, however distant they may be. All applications for membership of the group come to me, which gives me the opportunity to see everyone’s surname interests at the earliest opportunity. Every now and again I see a name which has appeared in my own research or which I recognise as being of particular interest in the Burntwood area. Generally speaking, I can usually think of someone who is or has been a member of the group who has the name listed and am able to telephone or write to them to put them in touch with their probable relation.

Very occasionally it happens that the name I see is one that appears in my own direct line of ancestry, and when an application for membership arrived recently from a lady living in Bloxwich (the northern part of Walsall, for those who didn’t know) I saw that there were four names listed. All four of these names were relevant to me or someone in the group. The first two were my own Great-grandparents, the third one was of particular interest to one of our editors, Jan Green, and the fourth was the same name as one of our members.

Naturally I was soon in touch with the new member by telephone, and was able to confirm that she and I were indeed distantly related, and I was able to tell here many things about our common ancestors which she was not aware of. I subsequently spoke to her mother on the phone and discovered that she and I were almost the same age and had been born in Bloxwich only 200 yards from each other. I was able to tell them that there were people still living in Pelsall to whom they were also distantly related.

During the conversation with the new member, it became fairly clear that, although only by distant marriages, I am related to Jan Green! I have at the time of writing not yet established whether there is any connection between our other member and the new member, but I shall be following that up very soon.

Last year I received an enquiry to the group from a lady who was researching the name Sorrell, and when I got in touch with her I discovered that she was married to a first cousin with whom I had lost touch nearly 60 years ago. What a small world it really is! Geoff. Sorrell, Honorary Secretary.

Trip to London Report by Pam Woodburn

On Saturday 11th June 2005, the blue coach arrived at the crack of dawn to take the ever-keen researchers of the Burntwood Family History Group to the Family Records Centre in London. Everybody was on time and a good start was made.

After our stop (midway to London and time to wake up!), everyone enjoyed the quiz (thanks to Jane for organising that) and the journey flew by. There had been some concern when we realised that the day chosen was also the day the Queen had chosen for Trooping the Colour. We anticipated delays in London, but none came. As before, we simply sailed through and arrived in good time.

The day passed in a flash and soon we were piling back onto the coach for the homeward journey. Most people had managed to find some useful information and one person had ordered eleven certificates! (In fairness I should say that this was someone who has just started and wanted firm ground to move forward from.) Is this a record for one day’s research – a total of £77.00? Or can you beat it?

We arrived back in Lichfield and Burntwood before it was dark. Our thanks should go to Adrian, the driver for a very smooth ride.

Finally, a plea from the organiser: when you pay for the trip would you please make sure that it is in the form of a cheque (not cash) made payable to the Burntwood Family History Group. These should be paid at least a month before the trip takes place.


Murphy’s Law in Genealogy

You know the great god Murphy is influencing your research when...

Ø You track down your great-grandfather’s name in the parish records, then find there were actually three people of that name born in the same parish at about the same time!

Ø There are two obviously different people with your ancestor’s name alive at the same time, but whoever has entered their records on the IGI has assumed they’re the same person.

Ø After you’ve spent months carefully researching and cataloguing your grandmother’s line all the way back to 1500, your Uncle Sid casually remarks: “You do know your gran was adopted, don’t you?”

Reviews of Monthly Talks

Special Event May 12th 2005: An Evening with Carl Chinn

“I never felt old until I got a job at Birmingham University 14 years ago.” With these words, Professor Carl Chinn MBE began a talk to a packed Burntwood Memorial Hall which was to hold everyone present spellbound for the next hour and a half. Carl, well known for his radio show on BBC Radio WM, his weekly history column in the Birmingham Evening Mail and his many books, went on to explain that his sudden feelings of age stemmed from a realisation that his students were growing up in a dramatically different world from the one that had shaped him and had inspired his love of history. It wasn’t just that they almost spoke a different language – it was that the pace of change of their world was so rapid that they lacked the sense of continuity with the past that previous generations had always had. Furthermore, he found that they lacked the sense of local community he had when he was young. As he put it, we’ve “lost the street”.

And, he told us, it’s going to get worse as time passes. Already there are children who have no memory of the 20th century. To most of us, 1999 was a few years ago. To these children, it was in the last century – and they view the 19th century the way we view the 18th century!

Yet, so much of today’s world exists only because of what happened in the 19th century, when there were huge shifts of population into the Midlands because of the Industrial Revolution and the growing demand for coal and iron. Many of the area’s important buildings, still in use now, date back to that age, and much is owed to the industrialists of the Victorian era, who made themselves vastly rich but who also gave something back to the community in the shape of ‘recreation’ facilities – literally intended to ‘re-create’ the ordinary people intellectually, physically and also spiritually.

It is important therefore to keep the 19th century alive for young people – to let them know who they are. In fact, Carl believes it is our civic duty to do so – to give youngsters a grounding in who they are, particularly given the pace of change today. Carl was once asked what time period he would like to live in, and the answer was now, with all the advantages the present day has brought us. However, while we shouldn’t live in the past, it is vital to remember the lessons of the past.

Carl told us anecdote after anecdote about his life growing up in Birmingham – anecdotes which he has also related to his students to try and enlighten them about the very different world that existed when he was growing up, and before that when his parents and even grandparents were children. Even in the poorest areas in the past there was a sense of community – of ‘the street’. People helped each other freely and unconditionally, because it was ‘the right thing to do’.

In the face of this, Carl reminded us of the now almost forgotten heroism of those working-class women, running a household and feeding their husbands and children, often on a pittance and often managing only by taking the burden on themselves and ‘going without’ for the sake of the family. Their spirit and dedication should be an example to us all and must not be forgotten.

It was also important not to let the language of the region die, as this is something else inexorably tied to a sense of identity. Carl talked about derivations of local place names and how they preserve old language, and how much of Midlands slang and dialect has also evolved from those same Anglo-Saxon words.

Carl’s own interest in history came out of his parents, grandparents and other relatives. They were not educated people, but they told stories of the past and brought the past alive for him – a skill which is becoming all but forgotten now. It’s no use, he said, just showing kids black and white photos of how the past looked and expecting them to take an interest just from that. They need to be shown the colour that’s missing from those photos, and the only way to do that is to help them get into the photo, to bring the past alive for them just as it was done for Carl, and for those of us of Carl’s generation.

“We have a duty to pass on our stories, because if we don’t, they will die with us. But if we do take time to do this, our children won’t have to ask ‘who are we?’ They will know who they are – because we will have told them!”

May 2005: Beryl Wilkes on ‘Beryl’s Treasures’

When Beryl Wilkes opened the antique chest containing her ‘treasures’, we inhaled the dusty fragrance of history and knew we were in for a real treat. It contained family memorabilia dating back to the early 19th century, and Beryl’s careful research enabled her to embroider this hoard with some enthralling life histories.

We were shown rings and lockets belonging to Beryl’s ancestors, all worn regularly to keep their memories alive. She described being taken, aged 10, to the post-mortem clearance of her great-aunt Betty Newton’s ‘Aladdin’s Cave’, where she had been allowed to take away whatever she liked. One of Beryl’s great-great-grandfathers was Caleb Coles, a silken shawl manufacturer, from whom she has a skein of pure silk. She also has a newspaper advertisement containing an image of Caleb’s Southsea shop, with ladies’ crinolines displayed in its windows.

Beryl particularly treasures an 1833 letter inviting Caleb to become a Burgess of the Borough of Portsmouth; his cheque book containing stubs dated 1825-6; and a large notecase designed to hold his white five pound notes. Caleb’s wife Sarah had preserved her own wedding dress and reticule and Beryl was able to show us photographs of these, the originals now being on display in a London museum.

Other photographs include some taken in 1865 of her strikingly attractive great-grandmother Bertha, clad in crinolines. Bertha died aged only 27, and a long lock of her hair kept by her husband John Thomas Hyde has been preserved on a card in the collection. John was a very talented man, and Beryl has programmes for his ‘Smoking Concerts’ and ‘Musical Evenings’ in Leeds, a play written by him in 1871 and a patent for sash fasteners which he invented. He had worked at Windsor Castle as a groom, and Beryl has a card granting him admittance to Parkhill for Edward VIII’s marriage in 1863.

Other treasures included a Bible containing the names of Sarah’s children; J T Hyde’s personal stamp; a mother-of-pearl stiletto used for embroidery; mother-of-pearl opera glasses; and much, much more. Understandably, at the end of her stupendous talk, we fellow genealogists were left green with envy!

June 2005: Roger Bragger on ‘The Hejaz Expedition 1916-1917’

On June 13th, Roger Bragger not only treated us to a wonderful display of service medals and documents but also illustrated his talk with computer graphics of old photographs and maps.

The main focus of his talk was Captain Thomas Henderson RFC, and Roger explained how he had come to acquire not only his service medals, but also many articles and documents which had belonged to him.

Few of us knew much about the war between the Arabs and the Ottoman Empire, but Roger was able to explain the various aspects in a way that we could all understand. He dwelt in turn with each of the serviceman’s records and how they had been involved in the Arab Revolt in 1916. We were shown photos of the four together and also some with TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).

It was obvious that Roger had spent a huge amount of time (and money) tracking down artefacts and using family history in a way that is quite different from how we go about it in order to verify his facts.

We were kept interested and entertained, and the general comment was “That was really good!”

The Great House Name Mystery by Pam Turner

As a child I often heard my father mention the name ‘Desborough’ and, after asking to what he was referring, I was told it was the name of his grandfather’s house. Although at the time I thought it a strange name for a house, my curiosity never went as far as to ask why it was called that.

So fast-forward 40 years, and in the midst of family history research I find myself asking just that question: why did great-grandfather Alfred Haycock call his house Desborough? Of course my father is no longer here to ask, and neither are most of the other relatives who may have known the answer; and of the few remaining persons connected to the family that are still around, no-one has been able to throw any light on the subject.

My first thoughts were that maybe the Haycock line had originated from the town of Desborough in Northants. However, although I have taken the name back to 1740, the town has not featured anywhere in the research. I also considered that the name may have come from someone with that surname connected to the family. But again I found no evidence to support that theory, so I resigned myself to the fact that the mystery would probably remain unsolved; until…

On a visit to Walsall Local History Centre last year, I was not getting very far with my research on the microfiche readers and decided to abandon it for a general look around at the other records they had got there. Whilst looking through their indexed card system, I noticed they had some records pertaining to Walsall Borough Police Pay and, as great-grandfather Alfred Haycock had been in the Walsall Police Force from 1892 to 1927, I thought there might be something of interest and therefore requested the relevant documents from the archive.

There were numerous papers included in the documents, most of which related to various pay increases between 1912 and 1919, including a petition instigated in October 1917 by the Chief Constable of Walsall requesting Walsall Council to pay the same amount of ‘War Bonus’ to police officers as was granted to gas workers and other organised workers in the Borough. However, the paper that most caught my eye related to a pay increase in 1919 in which my great-grandfather’s Inspector’s annual salary would have risen from £195.00 p.a. to £355.00 p.a, an increase of over 80 per cent. This pay rise was the result of a review on police pay set up by the government of the day, and the man in charge of this review and ultimately the person who made the recommendations was one Lord Desborough!

Lord Desborough was William Henry Grenfell (1855 to 1946), who served for a time as a politician and became involved in many other things to do with government and justice. To most of his countrymen at the time, Lord Desborough was known as a genial and friendly man with a wide range of activities, especially in relation to athletics. In 1908 he was President of the Olympic Games held in London.

In 1927, eight years after my great-grandfather has his pay increase, he retired from the police force and consequently had to vacate Bloxwich Police Station, his home for the previous 11 years. As a consequence, he purchased and moved into a reasonably sized newly built property in Bloxwich. This house was the one he named ‘Desborough’.

So, at last, I am almost certain I have my answer: Alfred named his house in recognition and gratitude of the man who was responsible for almost doubling his wages in his final years of employment – and this, in my opinion, must have contributed considerably to enable him to buy a nice property in which to spend his retirement.

Church Newsletters Revisited...

By popular request (well, we like it), we feature once more the lighter side of religion, with a further selection of actual sentences found in church bulletins and newsletters:

Ø The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind and they may be seen in the church basement Friday.

Ø Eight new choir robes are currently needed, due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

Ø The senior choir invites any member of the congregation who enjoys sinning to join the choir.

Ø Please join us as we show our support for Amy and Alan in preparing for the girth of their first child.

Ø Scouts are saving aluminium cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

A Melancholy and Fatal Occurrence by Roger Smethers

I have written a series of articles of early 19th Century incumbents at Christ Church, Burntwood, intended for the church magazine. The one about George Poole, who served from 1852, was very extensive as a niece of his had written a biography of him. This was unusual for an ordinary clergyman in an obscure parish, but it made writing the article relatively easy.

As I was reaching the end of that article, I had little intention of trying to find out more about other early incumbents of Christ Church until I got curious about the event that unexpectedly resulted in the Revd. Poole being appointed. The joint livings of Hammerwich and Burntwood had become vacant in 1852 as a result of the ‘sudden and tragic death of Ralph Errington’. The use of the word ‘tragic’ was, of course, sufficient for me to want to discover what had actually happened and, if possible, more about his life.

The censuses were a logical place to look for information on the Revd. Ralph Errington, 4th incumbent of Christ Church. However, as we all know, census entries are a valuable source of information only if you know where the individual was living at the time or if some kind researcher has compiled an index of names. If you have neither, it becomes like looking for a needle in a haystack. Remarkably, I found two needles in two haystacks.

On the 1841 Census for Lichfield, living in the house of one Richard Lishman in Boar [sic] Street was Ralph Errington, 25, clergyman. 1841 records are woefully deficient about what they say about an individual and, in addition to the above, all it told me was that he was not born in Staffordshire. It does not indicate whether he was married or not but, as there was no woman in the house named Errington, he was probably a bachelor at that time. Even noting his age as 25 is imprecise, as in this census ages for adults usually were rounded down to a multiple of five.

Turning to the 1851 Census for Lichfield seemed much more promising as there was both a transcript and a names index. My expectation of finding the desired entry was soon dashed, however, for there was no mention of any Errington. The most obvious explanation was that the family had been away on the night of March 30th and so would not have appeared in the index.

Overcoming my disappointment, I decided to see who was living in Church Road, then called Church Lane, where I live. Disappointment was replaced with joy, for there they were: a family of five plus three servants. They had not been in the index because they had been incorrectly recorded as ‘Essington’, not Errington. So what does this record tell us about the Erringtons?

In 1851 Ralph Errington was 35 and Curate of Burntwood and Hammerwich. I already knew that the name Errington was particularly concentrated in northeast England, but this census is much more precise, telling me that he was born in the village of Meldon in Northumberland, five miles west of Morpeth.

His wife was Caroline, aged 39, born in Lichfield, and there were three daughters: Emily, Caroline and Frances. The three servants were Ann Howell, 20, from Perry Barr; and Katherine Kesterton, 15, and Kate Derry, 13, both of Burntwood.

Having found that Ralph’s marriage was to a Lichfield girl, I wanted to identify who she was and where it took place. My guess that it was at St. Michael’s proved correct. The BFHG has transcribed a number of local parish registers, including St. Michael’s in Lichfield, and I had a copy. The marriage entry is as follows:
3rd October, 1843 Ralph Errington, of full age, Batchelor, Clerk of Burntwood, son of Ralph Errington & Caroline Parr, of full age, Spinster, of Beacon Street, daughter of Thomas Gnosall Parr, Solicitor. In the presence of Thomas Bramall, Mary Sophia Parr & Diana Errington. Minister T. Gnosall Parr 
So Ralph was married by his father-in-law who, as Vicar of St. Michael’s, was also his immediate superior within the Church.
His three children were all born at the Parsonage, and their names would not have been out of place in a Jane Austen novel. The parish register entries are:
22 June 1847. Bapt. Emily Diana Sophia ERRINGTON, child of Ralph and Caroline ERRINGTON, Clerk of Burntwood. Minister R. Errington.
25 July 1849. Bapt. Caroline Isabella ERRINGTON, child of Ralph and Caroline ERRINGTON, Clerk of Burntwood Parsonage. Minister Ralph Errington
25 February 1852. Bapt. Frances Henrietta ERRINGTON, child of Ralph and Caroline ERRINGTON, Clerk of Burntwood. Minister R. Errington.
Ralph Errington had taken over the incumbency in late 1842 or early 1843, following the death of Thomas Harwood. Sunday services were held in the morning in one of his two churches and in the afternoon in the other on a rotating basis. Regrettably, there is no account of what he was like as a man, his work in the parishes or the style and quality of his ministry, as no-one seems to have thought fit to record what he did, what he preached or what he wrote.

We do, however, have the parish registers, recording baptisms, marriages and burials (though the frequency of those occasions could not have been very demanding). Taking the year 1846 as an example, the register entries where he officiated were:

                           Baptisms      Marriages   Burials

Hammerwich            5                  2                9

Burntwood             24                  4                6

These figures simply reflect the low population at the time. Miners’ names do get mentioned, though they do not yet constitute the overall majority that they would become thirty years on. The rural economy largely predominated.

Church of England rural clergy were mostly from well-to-do families and had an Oxbridge education. Some were outstanding examples of Christian ministers, while others used their position in the social hierarchy for personal advantage. It was quite common for a minister to pay a poor clergyman to act in ‘locum tenens’ when more rewarding, pursuits were offered. Oh, for some contemporary accounts to let us know what Ralph Errington was really like, as a person or as a minister!

The account of the Rev. George Poole’s life mentions the tragic death of Ralph Errington and a rumour of sorts that the ‘accident’ had possibly not been quite what it had appeared. I found this curious. If there had been an inquest, I found no mention of it, so I decided to look for contemporary newspaper accounts.

The Lichfield Mercury would undoubtedly have carried a report of the death, but the 1852 editions, unfortunately, have not survived to the present day. The only other possibility was the Staffordshire Advertiser.

A telephone call to the William Salt Library revealed that they had copies of the Advertiser for that year. I looked forward to the William Salt with some anticipation, as I knew it was not in the usual mould of libraries.

I knew I would not be disappointed as I entered what must have been an 18th Century town house. Were it not for the electric lighting, I could easily have imagined myself in the private library of a Victorian antiquarian. In so many libraries, microfilm and fiche copies of the originals are what you are given, but not here. The quality, variety and scope of the paper’s reports were astonishing, and I was so entranced that I just read on long after I had found what I sought.

But to return to the subject of my search. The edition of the Advertiser dated 15th May, 1852, included the following:

An accident of the most heart rending and disastrous nature occurred on Wednesday afternoon last, at Burntwood near Lichfield, resulting in the almost instantaneous death of the Rev. R. Errington, the incumbent of Burntwood and Hammerwich. The painful circumstances of the case are briefly these. It appears that the garden connected with the house had been very much infested with sparrows and the unfortunate deceased has ascended a ladder for the purpose of destroying some nests in a pear tree growing against the residence. The tree in question was a wall tree and the deceased incautiously stepped off the ladder on to it, when the branch which he held gave way and he was precipitated backwards headlong to the ground, a height of fifteen to twenty feet.

Mrs. Errington, who had just come to the spot to warn her husband of the danger witnessed the accident. A messenger was immediately despatched for Mr. M. B. Morgan, surgeon, who was promptly in attendance but sometime before his arrival all life was extinct. We understand that his collar bone and several of his ribs were fractured.

Mr. Errington left a widow and three children to bewail their serious loss, rendered more distressing by the painful circumstances under which it has occured.

The burial record of Ralph Errington MA is entered in the parish register as:

‘17 May, 1852. Ralph, the Younger, ERRINGTON age 36 of Burntwood Parsonage. Minister Will. Mellamt, Curate of Lichfield St. Michael.’

His large, and dare I say expensive, grave is just a few yards from the west door and is inscribed:

‘This tomb is erected in memory of Rev. Ralph Errington MA, late incumbent of this chapel, who departed this life May 12 1852, aged 36 years.’