Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2006 11 Volume 15 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
November 2006     
     Vol. 15 No. 1
  Contents of this issue.
From the Chair
News from the Secretary
Secretary’s report to the AGM
The Data Protection Act
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks
The Murder near Bingham
Unusual burials
Arising from Coal Dust (Part 10)
From the Chair…

In this, our twentieth year, Burntwood Family History Group has continued to move forward. The level of membership has been maintained and the Monday meetings have, on the whole, been very well attended. We continue to offer help and research facilities at the Thursday meetings, but the level of use varies tremendously.

The Group’s website, created and managed by Alan Betts, continues to prove its worth and several people have joined as a result of discovering it. If you are not familiar with it, please do have a look, as I am sure you will be impressed by the information it contains and the wide range of useful links which you can access. Alan is always on the lookout for new links to add to it, so any suggestions would be well received. It is the only way of publicising our group nationally and, of course, is a means of selling our transcriptions and indexes. Please accept our thanks and congratulations for the work you have done, Alan.

Work on our transcription project is now in its eleventh year. Due to changes in computer technology, we decided to transfer our Parish Register transcriptions to CD-ROM, as most new machines do not have floppy disc drives. This has caused us some headaches, but I think it has now been settled and we are producing transcriptions with information up to the end of 1905, to comply with regulations on privacy. The price of the discs has been pegged at £2 for members and £3 for non-members, which would seem to be a bargain. We still have some floppy discs for sale, as well as the new CD-ROMs, which will be on sale at meetings as soon as they can be reproduced in that format. None of this work would be possible without Bernard, who spends many hours in front of his computer, so I would like to thank him on your behalf and also the people who transcribe and check the information. Despite his health problems, Len Wenman continued to cope with the orders for several years, but has now passed this task on to Jeff Wilson. Many thanks, Len, for your valued contribution to the project.

We have bought a number of census CDs this year, mainly for Midland counties, and they are in great demand. More are on order and will be available as soon as we receive them. A few members have generously donated discs to our collection. Thanks go to John and Jenny Hodgson, who look after this area so ably; it is much appreciated by our members, who make full use of this service.

Harold Haywood has, as usual, kept his meticulous financial records on our behalf, to ensure that the committee know exactly where we stand in financial terms. Many thanks, Harold, for all your work on behalf of the group.

Geoff Colverson continues to look after our library, which continues to grow despite the storage problems. Thank you, Geoff, for your time and help.

Our speakers have, on the whole, been interesting and informative this year. One of the high spots was the visit of Chris Pomeroy, who talked about using DNA in family history research. He travelled up from Slough for the evening and accepted a greatly reduced fee, which was much appreciated. He also drew a record attendance! The Christmas social was well attended, and thanks to Alan Betts for arranging it. About 16 members enjoyed a festive meal at the Park Gate Inn.

Support for trips to London has not been forthcoming this year and we have only been able to run one. I think this is mainly due to the amount of research material available on the Internet, but this has had an impact on our funds, which have benefited from profit made in previous years. Also, Chase Coaches, the company we have always used, has been sold, and we do not know how this will affect the cost of hiring a coach in the future.

Our Honorary Secretary has, as ever, worked extremely hard in supporting all aspects of running the Group. I would like to express our thanks to Geoff for his unfailing support. Thanks must also go to Maureen Hemmingsley for her work as Minutes Secretary. She makes sure we are all furnished with agendas and relevant minutes for committee meetings, besides contributing new ideas.

Many thanks also to Brian Asbury and Jan Green for the work they do to produce the quarterly journal. The 20th Anniversary edition was very attractive and well received, but sadly we cannot produce this standard of printing for every edition, due to the cost. Please keep the articles coming to make their work easier. Thanks also go to Jan for the précis she does of the monthly talks.

Thanks to all the people who have helped sell raffle tickets at the meetings particularly Eric Grimshaw. The amount raised in that way helps to pay for the hire of the room.

The provision of tea and coffee at the meetings is appreciated, but people do not want to volunteer to make it on a regular basis. We have overcome this problem by choosing two people on the meeting night to serve it and do the washing up afterwards. That system means that no one is asked to help very often. Thanks to Jenny Lee who does the shopping, and to Diane Ladds who puts out the cups, etc. at the start of the meetings.

We have embarked on some new ventures this year which have proved to be very successful. The first came about when Lichfield Library asked if we would like to help them to run a ‘drop in session’ once a month at the library. It has been most successful, and we have talked to many people and tried to help them with their research. Of course, a spin-off is that a few have since joined our group. A second request for help came from the St. Mary’s Centre in Lichfield. They needed help once a week, which is quite a lot to ask, but Bob Houghton and Jeff Wilson have nobly undertaken this task. Lichfield Records Office also expressed a need to have some help, but this has been more difficult to arrange, as they usually do not know when help will be needed. Obviously people don’t want to spend a morning just sitting waiting to help, so this will need to be reviewed. Our friends at the Mormon Church also appreciate help, as they have a shortage of helpers. Volunteers would be much appreciated, so please speak to a committee member if you feel you can help, and thanks to all who have supported us this year. I must say it is most enjoyable, so don’t be afraid to put your name forward if you can spare a few hours.

To end with, I would like to thank the committee and all the members for the support they have given to me. I hope the Group will continue to go from strength to strength in the coming year. Jane Leake, Chairman.

Amusing Gravestone Inscriptions

Here lie the bones of Copperstone Charlotte,
Born a virgin, died a harlot.
For sixteen years she kept her virginity,
A damn’d long time in this vicinity.

News from the Secretary

Our Annual General Meeting was held on Monday 11th September but was, as usual, not well attended. In the absence of any other nominations, the offices of Chair, Secretary and Treasurer were retained by the present incumbents, Jane Leake, me and Harold Haywood respectively. Whilst this is very gratifying for us, as it exhibits confidence in the way we and the other members of your management committee run the Group, it is a bit worrying that no one else is standing in the wings, with the necessary knowledge of and enthusiasm for the Group’s work, who would be able to take on these duties in the future. Fortunately we have one or two members now who are taking on some of the other tasks which are necessary to the smooth running of the Group, and our appreciation of the work put in by John and Jenny Hodgson, Jenny Lee and Jeff Wilson was recorded by Jane in her review of the year. Jane also mentioned the contribution made by the volunteers who attend the FH Surgeries at Lichfield Library, the meetings at St Mary’s Centre, the Mormon Library and Lichfield JRO.

After the AGM had finished, we had several contributions from members to complete the evening. Eric Grimshaw told us how he had used the Internet to reveal some fascinating details of his recent ancestors, and if anyone has the name Dickson (rather than Dixon) in their tree, I am sure Eric would like to hear from you. Beryl Eadon then showed us some old letters from the 1940s which related to her father, when he was serving with the British Army of the Rhine in Germany. The letters refer to a mystery woman named Margaret, whom no one in her family can identify. The evening was completed with the return of Mike Jennings and his mysterious walking stick. The stick had belonged to his grandfather, who was a farmer and blacksmith. Some of us had seen the stick at an earlier meeting, and I told Mike that it was almost certainly a device for measuring the height of a horse. However, close examination showed that it was only marked in centimetres, and until quite recently British Horse Measurements were in ‘hands’. I showed one that I own, of more recent manufacture, which had ‘hands’ on one side and ‘centimetres’ on the other. The mystery is not quite solved yet.

At the time of going to print, our membership stands at just under 100, which is about the same as it was last year at this time. However, this is 20% down on the membership at the end of the last membership year in July. Hopefully some renewals are still to come in, and there will be a steady flow of new members throughout the year, otherwise the increased subscription will be nullified. Also, a number of membership renewals have been paid for, but the new form which was sent out with the Special Edition Journal in July has not been completed and returned. My next paragraph refers to the problems which may arise if the form is not returned. If you have lost your form, please let me know and you can have a replacement.
New membership database

During last year, I mentioned several times in the Journal that for 2006-7 I should be setting up a completely new Membership Database and Members’ Interests List. These are now being prepared and the value of the new form is being proved, as members’ details, particularly in relation to their email addresses, were in many cases wrongly recorded in the old database. Please remember that I cannot update any changes to your details if you do not let me have them.

Many of you have sent in your forms without indicating, by deletion of the YES or NO in the bottom right-hand corner of the form, your wishes regarding the linkage of your address and telephone number to your email address on our website. The effect of this is that Alan Betts will not put in a link on the website for members who have indicated NO on the form, but he will put in the link if you have indicated YES. If you have not deleted either choice, what is he supposed to do? I did not realise until it was too late that some of the forms (no more than half a dozen or so) were sent out with the last few lines of the form dropped to Page 2 (which was not printed as part of the form). If you had one of these, I shall be in touch with you by phone or email shortly after you receive your Journal, to get your answer.

New Members’ Interests list

The 2007 list will be published towards the end of this year and will only include those names which were on the Membership Renewal Form. I know that it was a bit complicated, but what it said on the form was that if you were renewing your membership and your membership number was on the form, there was no need to write the details in provided that they had not changed. However, this did not affect the Interests section at the lower end of the form, which clearly stated that only names on the form would be included in the new list for 2007. I am now preparing the new list and, unless I have names on your renewal form, I shall have to assume that you do not want your surname interests to be published. If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you filled in that part of the form, please let me know and I will check in case you left them out in error. The deadline for names to be included is being extended to 15th November, in view of the possibility of misunderstandings, so that everyone will be able to read this before I close the database prior to printing.

Membership Number

Some years ago we started adding an initial 1 to all membership numbers which were issued to ‘out of area’ members for ease of identification. These days, a much higher proportion of our membership is ‘out of area’, so there was little advantage in continuing that system. One or two renewals have come in where I had put the membership number on the form without the initial 1, and the member has very kindly reinstated it. Thanks for trying to be helpful, but now that I have explained the change you will see that it is no longer necessary to use the four-digit number you were originally allocated and you can now use the three-digit one. If I can possibly organise myself to do it, I shall be sending a small membership card to all members either with this Journal or the 2007 Members’ Interest List. This will have your number on it and will constitute identification of your current membership of the Group.

Request for help

One of our local members, Christine Gilbert, has asked for information about Herbert Gilbert and his military career. He was born in 1896 and joined the North Staffordshire Regiment. He was gassed in WW1 and discharged from the Army. He married Lily Walker and lived in Queen Street near Cottage Lane. His mother was Clara Gilbert née Benniston and his father’s name was Alfred Gilbert. If you can add anything to this please contact me and I will put you in touch with Mrs. Gilbert.

July Journal

Below you will find my report to the AGM, in which I mention the fact that we have about 100 copies of the Special Edition Journal. These are on sale for £2.00 each to non-members of the Group to cover some of the printing costs. We had extra copies printed because the cost was virtually the same whether we had 180 (our normal print run) or 300. If you would like more copies, or know of an outlet where they might be sold, please let me or one of the Committee members know.

Report to the AGM

The following is an edited transcript of the report of the Honorary Secretary to the Group’s Annual General Meeting on 11th September 2006:

For the 20th time in the life of the BFHG, we are meeting to review our progress and status at the end of a financial year. So far as I can remember, it has never yet been the lot of the Honorary Secretary to deliver an annual report which was recording a backward step for the Group. This year is no exception.

You have heard from the Chair of the steady progress made throughout the year with our various projects. My main involvement has been with the design and production of the Special Edition of our Journal, which has been circulated to everyone who was a member of the Group during the year. This accounted for 122 of the 300 copies which we were able to have printed within the budget approved by your Committee. I think that we can be satisfied that the end result was well worthwhile and it is a pity that, as Jane mentioned earlier, we cannot have the same format and style of production every quarter. We do, however, still have over a hundred copies of the July Journal which can be offered for sale to the general public. Hopefully these will raise some additional income, with which we may be able to improve the quality of our quarterly issues.

The routine tasks of keeping track of our membership through the database which I set up some years ago and of publishing Members’ Interests Lists annually came under review during the year. As a result of this, everyone will have received a Renewal of Membership form with their July Journal. The information on these forms will be used to update the membership and members’ interests databases and it is essential that they be returned to me or to your Treasurer as soon as possible. In future, this pattern is to be followed at the end of each year, so that only subscribed members will receive the benefits of membership after 30th September. I am pleased to be able to say that most of you have returned the forms with your subscription and will, therefore, have no problems. At the time of writing my report, 80 subscriptions have been paid and 68 forms have been returned, but the exercise has been worthwhile, if only for the fact that many of you have now updated your email addresses which will enable us to communicate with you by this means if necessary rather than spending money on the increased cost of postage which has just come into force. Please remember to notify me if you change any of your details during the coming year – don’t leave it until your next renewal.

Fortunately for me, there is not too much correspondence to deal with these days and probably 50% of it is email and arrives on my computer via Alan Betts and our website. Usually it consists of requests for help in tracing ancestors in the area we cover, but we often get requests from people who seem to think that we are the Staffordshire Family History Society. We do try to be helpful and point them in the direction of one of the other groups or societies who might have better information on the area they are researching. Like everyone else these days, I also receive a certain amount of ‘junk mail’ on behalf of the Group and, unless I feel that it is appropriate to our services, it goes into the waste paper bin. Anything that might be of interest to members but which does not require a reply from me, I put out on the table at one of the meetings so that it is available to everyone who attends.

I am looking forward to serving you for another year as your Honorary Secretary and confidently expect to be able be here again in September 2007 reporting more progress for the Group. A big thank you to all those who were mentioned by the Chair for giving their time to help running such a successful group. Geoff Sorrell, Honorary Secretary.

The Data Protection Act

The following letter was received by our Chairman Jane Leake from Diocesan Registry Archivist Mithra Tonking in response to a query about why there is a policy of not transcribing records less than 100 years old:

[In response to your enquiry] I have now heard from the Staffordshire Record Office as follows:

‘The Data Protection Act requires us to protect sensitive personal information about living individuals. For the purposes of the Act we are advised by the National Archives to assume a lifetime of 100 years. There is no doubt, therefore, that this includes baptismal entries. The DPA, however, also requires us to be mindful that the publication of sensitive personal information should not take place if it is likely to cause substantial harm or distress to living individuals, whether they be the data subject or a third party.

‘The latter is very hard to define. It is impossible to say whether the publication of marriage entries, which record ages, marital status, fathers’ names, occupations, etc. or burial entries, which record age at death, are likely to upset anyone, but there could well be instances where it might. We take the view that 100 years is a reasonable cut-off across the board whatever the nature of the entry, and this is what I have always advised the SPRS and any other society who asks. In this way we achieve some consistency. In my own view, there is a big difference between making something available on a CD or online for anyone to see and just providing access to individuals for personal use in the record office.’

I would agree that the 100 year rule allows compliance with the Data Protection Act; it is also in line with the practice for the National Census, hence the Registry adopts the rule as best practice. Whilst we recognise the desire of local history societies to make information more accessible, we do feel that not transcribing information less than 100 years old is necessary to protect living individuals and their relatives, and indeed there have been recent instances where access to burial records have led to criminal actions. I hope this may be helpful and I am sorry if it causes the History Group inconvenience. Mrs Mithra Tonking Diocesan Registry Archivist mithra.tonking@lichfield.anglican.org

Reviews of Monthly Talks - July 2006: Chris Pomery on ‘DNA and family history’

Chris Pomeroy is a member of the Guild of One-Name Studies, the Society of Genealogists and the Cornwall Family History Society. This was the first time he had given his talk to a local group, and he was very impressed by the turn-out.

He told us that the use of DNA testing in genealogy came about via academic studies to confirm the notion that about 150,000 years ago, mankind emerged from Africa. The studies were an attempt to map migrations out of Africa. There are two types of DNA test: the Y-chromosome test, which tests the direct paternal line only; and the Mitrochondrial DNA test, which tests the direct maternal line only and has no clear family history application. Y-test results are used to compare the ‘DNA signature’ of men who share the same surname.

The first known use of Y-chromosome testing was by a family historian in 1997. He came to the surprising conclusion that the 8,000 members of his family had the same genetic origin. Chris had 2,500 Pomerys in his tree and was interested to know how this conclusion had been reached. What he eventually discovered changed his entire thinking about family history research and its verification. In 2000 he launched the Pomeroy DNA project.

He briefly explained the science behind DNA testing and its impact on his understanding of his own ‘deep ancestry’ and his surname. On reconstructing the family’s surname, he found that its spelling had mutated more rapidly than the family’s DNA! There were multiple variants, including Pomeroy, Pomroy, Pummery, de Pomeroy and Pumroy.

The cost of DNA testing is now falling and is useful as a tool to corroborate or expand a family tree. These can no longer be accepted as ‘given’, as many are based more on hope than reality. His advice, if we have access to a lot of trees, is to go back to the original data and try to build up the research yourself, as the links between people may turn out to be not as strong as it was hoped.

Interpretation of Y-test results can be tricky and time-consuming, and it will not do your family history for you. It is just a tool, though a very interesting one, providing information not obtainable by other means. It is particularly useful where documents do not exist. It also allows comparisons of surnames by geography or type.

Chris advised wariness as we approach this subject, as it could suck us in. We are likely to end up involved in carrying out a massive one-name study!

Reviews of Monthly Talks - August 2006: Thea Randall on ‘Staffordshire’s changing landscape’

Thea Randall of Stafford Records Office began her talk by telling us how, in the late 17th century, King James II expressed a very unflattering view of Staffordshire, declaring at that time it was ‘fit only to be cut into thongs to make highways for the rest of the United Kingdom’. In her well-illustrated talk, she revealed that Staffordshire has served countless other purposes. Using slides, she demonstrated how sources such as images, books, maps and special collections offer insights into the many transformations wrought on Staffordshire’s landscape over the centuries.

The county did not take up much space in the Domesday Book, when Stafford, Tutbury and Tamworth were the only existing Staffordshire towns. At that time, the county was primitive and thinly populated, with 63 watermills, no industry, and subsistence agriculture. Stafford had plenty of forest but only 128 occupied houses, and a tranche of church building was underway in the county.

An ancient map of Alrewas revealed agriculture to be the dominant form of the medieval economy, with an open field system in which fields were divided into strips and crops rotated annually between them. A later enclosure map of Alrewas in the early 1800s showed how those fields gradually became enclosed.

Thea also illustrated with images and maps the effects that new buildings had upon the landscape. Between 1350-1500 there was a tranche of church building in Staffordshire, then during the 19th century there was a rush to build Anglican churches to counteract the influence of nonconformity amongst the growing urban populations. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the development of country houses and big estates had a huge impact, and in the 18th-19th centuries many public buildings, such as market halls, were constructed. In the mid-19th to early 20th centuries, a great many factories sprang up in urban areas.

Staffordshire also became a hub of communications, with major road improvements in the early 17th century followed by the development of the canal system and then, during the 18th century, the railway network. Recent changes in the county’s landscape are well illustrated by the obvious impact of the new toll road.

We learned that, though the county’s coal, iron and pottery industries had roots in the Middle Ages, it was during the 19th century that the three coalfields opened and the great industrial conurbations of the Black Country and the Potteries developed. By the 19th century, these industries had begun to impact profoundly on the landscape.

The last two slides showed that some parts of the county’s landscape have not actually changed much at all. The first showed the green bank of Staffordshire County Park, and the second was of the roaches in Leek, at the top of the Moorlands.

Thea thus showed us how Staffordshire has developed into a county of extreme contrasts between nature and human-inspired developments. She quoted from Arnold Bennett’s ‘The Old Wives’ Tale’: ‘England can show nothing more beautiful and nothing uglier than the works of nature and the works of man to be seen within the limits of the county.’

The Murder Near Bingham - by Jenny Hodgson (née Welbourne)

The following is an extract from the Leicestershire Journal May 16th 1872, when an ancestor of mine was murdered by his father-in-law:

As briefly reported in the Journal on Tuesday, Plungar, a quaint Leicestershire village in the vale of Belvoir and about midway between Bingham and Bottesford, was the scene of a terrible tragedy last Sunday. James Wright, an old and infirm man, about eighty years of age, shot his son in law. Francis Welbourn, killing him dead on the spot. The deceased was about forty-eight years of age and unfortunately appears to have been addicted to drink. Wright appears to have taken little notice of him on such occasions, but it is presumed that he was afraid his son-in-law was making away with his property. Though they do not appear to have lived in a state of disagreement, it can well be imagined that no very good feeling existed between them. Last Saturday night, Welbourn, it seems, was away from home until nearly twelve o’clock, and his wife sat up waiting for him, but the old man and his grandson, who slept together, went to bed some hours before. Wright, however, from his own statement, was disturbed by his son-in-law coming in and, on Sunday morning before he got up, he made a remark to his grandson that he felt he should like to be killed, or as if he could kill someone, and then be killed himself. His grandson naturally remonstrated with the old man, whereupon he knelt down and said he hoped the Lord would forgive him. James Welbourn then assisted his grandfather to get up, after which the old man went downstairs and had breakfast, the only person then in the house being his daughter.

After breakfast the old man walked about the house, and presently his son-in-law came downstairs and had breakfast. There was no quarrel between the two men; neither do any angry words appear to have passed between them, either that morning or on the preceding day. On Sunday morning, as before stated, the son-in-law sat down to his breakfast, the old man walking about the house. At length Welbourn arose and went to the front door to brush his coat, and Wright entered the parlour.

This was about ten o’clock immediately after, the wife of deceased saw the muzzle of a gun pointing from the parlour doorway towards the front door, and she had barely time to call out “Oh Frank” (meaning her husband) when the gun was fired and her husband was shot dead. Young Welbourn was upstairs at the time and, hearing the report of a gun, he rushed into the house to find his father murdered and raise his mother from the floor, where she had dropped in a fainting state. He placed her upon the stairs, and soon afterwards ran off for assistance. After the murder, the old man went out of the parlour and quietly seated himself in an armchair by the fire. Welbourn was found lying across the path and flower bed, the upper part of his head completely blown away, his brains and blood being scattered over the flower beds, the path, on the door, on the floor of the house, and on the ceiling. As the muzzle of the gun must have been within a foot of the head of the deceased, death was of course instantaneous.

The gun belonged to Wright and, before the occurrence, was placed in the parlour, loaded, though not capped. After the murder, the police and other persons arrived and the body of the deceased was taken into the parlour. The murderer seemed fully aware of the enormity of his crime and frequently remarked, “You have nothing to do but to hang me; I have broken the law.” He was taken into custody by police constable Ormiston and removed in a cart to the lock-up at Bottesford. Superintendent Platts, of Melton Mowbray, and Sergeant Wilson, of Bottesford, visited the scene of the murder during the day, as also did many other people from neighbouring villages.

On Monday morning the old man was charged with the murder before the Rev F J Norman, vicar of Bottesford, and brother-in-law to the Duke of Rutland, and remanded until Thursday. He was then conveyed to Plungar and remained at the Anchor Inn, where the inquest was opened at one o’clock by Mr E H M Clarke of Melton, the coroner of the district.

After the jury (of which Mr A G Weils was foreman) had been sworn, the coroner and several jurors went to Wright’s house to take the evidence of Mrs Welbourn, who was so distressed that it was thought best not to compel her to attend the public house. The depositions of the other witnesses were taken at the inn.

Mary Welbourn said, “The deceased, Francis Welbourn, was my husband, and was about 48 years of age. He was a labourer. My father, husband and son lived together. I arose between seven and eight o’clock on Sunday morning, and was first downstairs. My father came down next – about half past nine. He looked at the clock and said, ‘Is it so late?’ He then sat down and had his breakfast. After he had finished, my husband came down. I cannot say if anything passed between my father and the deceased. My father had previously gone into the parlour. While my husband was at the door I saw the muzzle of a gun pointing towards the door, and said, ‘Oh Frank!’ and the gun went off almost before I had said it. I went to the door and told William Henry Welbourn, nephew of the deceased, to run and fetch his father.”

James Welbourn (who appeared deeply affected) said: “I resided in the same house as my father and mother and grandfather. The deceased was my father. I was in my bedroom about quarter past ten on Sunday. I heard my mother call out ‘Oh Frank’ and immediately I heard the report of a gun. I rushed downstairs and saw my father lying against the front door outside.”

“Mr. Clarke, surgeon, of Stathern, was sent for; and the body was not removed till him and Ormiston, the policeman, came. It was then conveyed into the parlour. I did not take notice of where the injury was. The brains were scattered all about. When I saw the body in the garden I was quite satisfied that my father was dead. On coming downstairs I observed a great deal of blood on the wall, on the floor and on the ceiling, in the garden, on the causeway and all about. Both my father and grandfather were in the house when I went upstairs after I had my breakfast. They did not seem unfriendly. They had had no words that morning, and had had no quarrel lately.

“The gun belonged to my grandfather. The last time I saw it, it was hanging up in the living room. It was loaded with powder and No 5 shot. It was sometime about the 20th March. I had been pigeon shooting. I loaded it.” (The witness was again greatly affected.) “The gun was in the kitchen against the copper, I believe; someone put it there. My grandfather said to me on Sunday morning that he was very ill, that he had a bad pain in his head, and he believed his affliction would turn to madness. I slept in the same bed as my grandfather. It was before he got up that he said these words. He also said that he felt he should like to be killed, or kill someone and be killed. I remonstrated with him a little and got him out of bed. After a few minutes he said he felt somewhat better.

“He knelt down by the bedside and prayed, and when he got up he said he hoped the Lord would forgive him. I have never heard my grandfather threaten to do injury to us, or we should not have allowed the gun to be in the house.”

After the evidence of William Henry Welbourn, aged eight years, and Ann Minkley had been taken, police constable Ormiston, of Stathern, said: “I received information yesterday morning about twenty minutes past eleven that a man had been shot in Plungar. I came here immediately, and on arrival, found the deceased Francis Welbourn, lying against the front door of James Wright’s house. His legs lay on the path, his head and shoulders were resting on the flower bed. He was covered up with a shawl. Mary Welbourn, wife of the deceased, told me that her father had shot him aboutten minutes past ten that morning. I found Wright sitting against the fire. I asked him what his name was; he said, ‘James Wright, but I am wrong this time.’ I said, ‘I have been told you shot Francis this morning.’ He said, ‘Yes, I did it.’ I told him I would have to apprehend him on a charge of murder. He said, ‘Yes, I expect you will. I did it and I am very sorry for it.’ I then left him in the charge of the parish constable.

“Thomas Welbourn and I assisted Dr Clarke to convey the body into the parlour. I there saw the gun produced, reared up in the corner. I showed it to the witness, James Welbourn, and asked if it was the gun that did the deed. He said ‘Yes.’ I asked him if he knew what it was loaded with. He said ‘Yes, I loaded it myself but it was not capped.’

“On the way to the police station, the old man told me he had put the cap on the gun himself, but did not know he had done it. He said he should not have done this if he had not been disturbed in the night by the deceased coming home intoxicated. I conveyed him to the police station at Bottesford. The gun appeared to have been recently discharged. Mr Peter Clarke, surgeon, said the shot appeared to have entered behind the left ear. Part of the head behind the left ear was blackened by powder. Death would be instantaneous. I asked James Wright how he felt. He was sitting in the armchair in the house. He said he had restless nights and alarming dreams. I felt his pulse and examined his tongue; he seemed quite composed, but depressed in mind, and could not settle anywhere. He said ‘I doubt I have made a sadness.’ I enquired if Francis and he had had any words. He said ‘No, not at all. He only told me to go into the parlour and shut myself up.’ He further stated that Frank was going to destroy them all. His grandson came into the room, and began to take away some shot and powder from the kitchen, and Wright said, ‘Don’t take that away; there will be none to shoot anymore’.”

James Wright, the murderer, was called into the room, and the coroner read over the depositions in his presence. In answer to the question ‘did he have anything to say’, he replied, “I did the deed; it came into my mind yesterday to do it, and I did it.” He appeared quite composed. The jury then concluded a verdict of wilful murder against James Wright.

Post script:

James Wright was sentenced to death by hanging. He was transferred to Pentonville Prison on August 19th 1872, where he was executed using a trap door and scaffold, and he is buried in an unmarked grave at the prison.

Unusual burials - by Pam Turner

Some entries I have come across in the burial register for All Saints Church, Bloxwich (1830–1850), which have a little more information than usual.

27th May 1831

A woman (a stranger) supposed name Ann Gregory thought to be 63. Died suddenly at Spread Eagle. Supposed to have lived in the neighbourhood of Birmingham

25th February 1834

Elizabeth Westwood from Bloxwich age 41. Accidentally shot dead by own son.

14th January 1835

A boy unknown died from a kick of a horse in employ of Boatman. Supposed age 14 years.

3rd February 1845

James Wild from Bloxwich. Drowned in the canal accidentally while dressing himself.

12th September 1845

William Walker age 24. Died awfully sudden by the rupture of a blood vessel often? bowling at skittles

28th September 1845

A person unknown aged 14-18 from Birchills. Killed instantaneously falling down a coal pit.

2nd June 1847

James Merrick aged 14 years from Little Bloxwich. Drowned whilst bathing.

Amusing Gravestone Inscriptions

Here lies the body of Martha Dias

Who was always uneasy

And not over-pious.

She lived to the age of

Three-score and ten

And gave that to the worms

She’d refus’d to the men.
(From a Shrewsbury churchyard)

Arising from Coal Dust (Part 10) - by Alan Brookes

My Gran and Grandad Brown used to spend their holidays at the Golden Sands caravan site, Sandy Cove, near Rhyl, North Wales. The caravans were sited in a grassy field which was adjacent to a wide, sandy beach in a cove. From the beach, Llandudno could be seen on the western horizon and Rhyl to the east. My first recollections of a holiday there were when, at four years old, I slept in the base of a wardrobe which substituted as a bed. There was no running water inside the caravan, so I used to wash myself at the standpipe tap outside. My Uncles Charlie and George owned three caravans on the site, so my brother Peter and I used to spend our holidays there three times each year.

My grandparents went firstly at Easter to ‘open’ and clean the caravans to make sure they were ready for their forthcoming clients. They spent at least one long holiday there in the summer and then returned in September/October to ‘close’ the caravans. Occasionally Mom, Dad, Clive and David would join us for a great family holiday. The journey from Chase Terrace to Rhyl with my Gran and Grandad was as follows: a bus ride from Chase Terrace to Stafford railway station; a steam train to Crewe, where we changed trains to obtain the Chester train; and on arriving at Chester we changed trains again to the Llandudno train.

For reasons best known to British Railways, we occasionally caught a train at Stafford, which went to Llandudno direct. The exigencies of the service meant we did not have to change trains and kept the same compartment for the whole of the journey. The locomotives for these long distance runs were the 4:6:4 ‘Britannia’ 7000 class engines, which were faster and smoother than all the other normal trains – the ‘Rolls Royce’ of the LMR line.

The luxurious train journeys were always full of interest. On each train we had our own private compartment, with plush upholstery and pictures and mirrors. A corridor running the whole length of the carriage led to the toilets and the exit doors. I used to love standing at the door with the sash window fully down, breathing in the fresh air and watching the ever-changing scenery race by. The billowing, pungent smoke from the steam engine drifted by in heavy, puffy clouds and, together with the continual heartbeat of the train, the ‘clickety-click, clickety-click’, it all added to the mystique of our adventure.

Soon after leaving Flint railway station, the line ran alongside the coast for the whole length of the River Dee estuary until it reached Prestatyn. Very often we would see wading white storks in the estuarine shallows, and sometimes schools of porpoises leaping out of the water in a rhythmic circular motion.

After arriving at Rhyl station, we walked a short distance to the Clwyd bus depot. The bus ride from here would take us within half a mile of the caravan site.

“Two and two halves to Sandy Cove,” my Grandad would say to the conductor of the green and cream coloured bus, which was marked with Towyn or Abergele as the terminus destination. Those few words by my Grandad became a favourite saying of ours. We knew then that our holiday was about to begin for real. By the time we reached the caravan site, my Grandad was tired from carrying the heavy suitcases. Peter and I would firstly fetch water in the stainless steel carriers and then visit the camp shop for groceries. Our chores on holiday were carried out mainly to save the legs of our grandparents.

It was at the Golden Sands camp that I first learned to ride a two-wheel bicycle. After my Grandad paid for its hire, he walked alongside me, holding the saddle as I swayed from side to side. After what seemed a long time, I became aware that he was no longer alongside me. I turned my head and saw him walking about 50 yards behind, which shocked me so much that I lost my balance and fell off. I will always remember him coming up to me, his face beaming with delight, to tell me that I had ridden unaided for the last ten minutes. “There, you can ride a bike now!”

Later in the year, Grandad made me my first bicycle by renovating an old frame and replacing all the old mechanical parts with new ones. To make it look brand new, he painted it with shiny, black enamel paint. I treasured the bicycle until I grew out of it. All my paper deliveries and journeys to and from school were made on it.

My boyhood up to the age of 13 years old was so carefree and full of fun, from morning till sun-filled evenings. I was still a boy enjoying an idyllic childhood, free from worry or responsibilities and thinking that my halcyon days would never end. But they ended abruptly in May 1958, when Grandad Brown had a cerebral stroke. He was 66 years of age and had over-exerted himself carrying heavy concrete paving slabs in a wheelbarrow from Boney Hay to Chase Terrace. Having lost the use of most of his faculties, he was confined to bed, and to help my Gran look after him, we all moved back to The Chequers to live. Grandad needed round-the-clock care, so my mom was near him all the time.

One day, films of the last holiday my grandparents and I spent together at Rhyl were developed and delivered to our door. I took the photos up to Grandad and showed them to him one by one, after firstly putting his spectacles on his nose.

After looking at the last picture, tears were moist on his cheeks, so I wiped them away with my handkerchief and gave him a hug. This upset me a great deal; those few tears of Grandad’s made me realise that, although he had lost most of his faculties, he hadn’t lost either his mind or his senses. How cruel it was for him to be lying there unable to move, yet all the time aware of his own helplessness. For someone like Grandad, who had always been so independent, capable and active, that must have been incredibly hard to bear.

That evening, after going to bed, I went downstairs for a drink of water. In the lounge I found my mom sitting across Dad’s lap sobbing and sobbing, and Dad had his arms around her, trying to comfort her.

It wasn’t long afterwards that Grandad was placed in bed downstairs, to save the legs of Mom and Gran, who were continually running up and down the staircase.

His son, my Uncle George, came to visit him one day, and afterwards I found him crying outside the veranda. He said to me sadly, “Look after your bicycle, Alan, because I don’t think your grandad will be repairing it for you any more.”

One morning, soon after this, as I prepared to go to school, my mom told me to be extra quiet that day, because Grandad was really poorly. I think I knew he was dying, because of Mom’s hushed tones and strained looks. At school, my class teacher Mr. David Deakin excused me some lessons because of my constant tears. Leaving school early at 2.30 pm, I journeyed home, hoping against hope that he would still be alive, but knowing deep in my heart what I would find. Sure enough, the curtains were all drawn tightly shut and a strange stillness surrounded the house. I went in to find Gran and Mom not crying, but reacting mechanically and stoically, both with sore-looking, red eyes. With robot-like actions, Mom made me a cup of tea and told me stiffly that Grandad had died. Although I had been prepared for the news, I went into deep shock and was unable to show that my heart was broken. The world seemed to have come to a standstill for me, with no tomorrow to look forward to. After the rest of the family had arrived home, Dad took my three brothers and me into the front parlour to see Grandad for the last time. I was 13, Peter was 11, Clive seven and David six.

Grandad was lying across the four dining chairs, his body – apart from his face – covered by a white sheet. That occasion was the only time I can remember my Gran’s front room and her parlour dining chairs ever being used. Grandad seemed to be surrounded by a white mist, yet he appeared to be just asleep. I stood transfixed, unable to move. Dad was standing behind, holding us all tight. Not tight enough for Peter, however, who darted underneath Dad’s grasp and ran out of the room.

Dad said, quietly, “Stroke his cheek. He is at peace now and finished with his suffering.”

I touched his wispy, curly, golden hair and whispered my goodbye. Clive and David were quietly stroking his cheek. I just could not cry; I was so shocked and horrified. That night, Dad took us boys back to our own house in The Crescent, Boney Hay, leaving Mom to stay with Gran. That night, and for many nights after, my dad needed to sleep with me. I suffered constant, recurring nightmares of seeing my grandad floating away in a white mist, gone from me forever. That day was 19th June 1958, the day my boyhood finished. I grew up quickly after that.

On the day of the funeral, I was at school, but came home to find my gran’s house full of relations and neighbours, all drinking tea and eating cakes and sandwiches. The atmosphere was noisy and almost celebratory, except, in the midst of this entire clamour, my gran sat alone in her favourite fireside chair. She looked so tired, empty and finished. I felt angry that nobody seemed to be noticing her or her grief, though it was so obvious to me. I felt like shouting at them all to clear off and leave my gran and us alone to ourselves.

A few weeks later, the shock of losing Grandad was made much worse. A parcel arrived in the verandah. When it was unpacked, a brown and copper-coloured metal casket with a domed top on it was revealed. The ashes inside were the cremated remains of my grandad.

“This is all that’s left of my dear grandad!” I thought in utter revulsion. It all seemed so horrible and ghastly to me. I think everyone else in the household must have felt these sentiments, because his ashes were not touched, but stayed in the same place in the verandah for weeks.

Grandad’s ashes were scattered on the beach at Sandy Cove, Rhyl, by Mom and her brother, Uncle George. They walked along the beach, holding a bag between them that contained Grandad’s remains, and his ashes trickled through the holes they had made in the bag and onto the sands as they walked along. I can only imagine the lovely but sad remembrances they must have had together about Grandad as they let him slip from their grasp. They were carrying out his prior wishes, requesting Sandy Cove beach to be his final resting place. Some nine months later, Gran died at our house, after being poorly for some time. I think she just gave up after Grandad had gone. Mom asked me if I would like to see Gran, but this time I declined. After the experience of seeing Grandad dead, I wanted to remember her as she had been – kind and loving, and just ‘my Gran’.

The same procedure followed, with the scattering of her ashes in reunification with Grandad, on the beach at Sandy Cove.

I have visited Sandy Cove many times since, and always take time to walk the beach alone, to talk to and feel close to my dear grandparents. They loved spending their holidays there, and now Sandy Cove was theirs together for always.

How could all that was Grandad and Gran be contained in those tin caskets? I can still remember looking at them, shuddering and feeling so lost and empty. That was how I felt at that time but, as time passed and the traumatic grieving eased, I came to realise that of course the contents of those caskets wasn’t all that Gran and Grandad were. To my family and me, who loved them so much, they are still with us every day of our lives.