Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2008 02 Volume 16 Number 2
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
February 2008     
     Vol. 16 No. 2
  Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...
Burntwood Town Council Grant Aid Scheme
News from the Secretary
American Records Going Online
Reviews of Visitors’ Talks
What’s in a Name?
Your Average Ancestor
Request for Help
Things I Wish my Family History hadn’t Revealed!
Weird and Wonderful Gravestone Inscription
The Lost Photograph
Arising from Coal Dust, part 12
Back cover
From the Chair...

Dear Friend, By the time you read this we shall be well into the New Year, but I hope it is not too late to wish you all a happy and healthy 2008.

My thanks go to all the members who have supported the group by buying diaries and magazines. So far, these sales have provided an extra £85 for our funds. The Family History Monthly magazine will continue to be on sale at both the monthly meetings. If you haven’t already purchased one, do consider buying it, as it is both informative and interesting.

To try to offer our members more help with their research, we have decided to change the format of some of the Thursday meetings. On February 28th and April 24th, we shall be booking the computer room for members to use, and there will of course be people on hand to give help where needed. There will be access to the Internet (but not Ancestry.co.uk, I’m afraid), and all will be welcome to come along. Making this booking will cost extra money, but the grant from Burntwood Town Council should cover this.

If we get your support, it will be a regular feature of the Thursday evening meetings, perhaps on a bi-monthly or quarterly basis. Unfortunately, library books, CDs and fiche will not be accessible on those evenings, due to a lack of space.
The latest CD in our Parish Records Series is the one for Shenstone, and it went on sale on January 1st, to comply with the hundred-year rule. To cover the rise in postal costs, the new prices for all CDs will be £4 to members and £5 to others.

The trip to Kew on Wednesday May 21st is attracting a lot of interest, so please do make sure you put your name down as soon as possible, if you are hoping to go. Jenny Lee will be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

My thanks to all who have supported us in any way during the last year. Good hunting, Jane Leake

Burntwood Town Council Grant Aid Scheme

As some of you are already know, we applied to Burntwood Town Council for a grant to help us pay for the meeting room. I am delighted to tell you that our application was accepted and that we have received a grant of £100.

There is a limited Grant Aid budget each year, and the requests from applicants usually exceed the amount available. To be considered, we had to provide a copy of our constitution and state our aims and objectives. Audited accounts for the previous two years were also provided and we shall have to produce evidence that the money has been spent for the purpose requested.

Barbara Williams, who took on the task of filling in the forms, has sent a letter of thanks on behalf of the group to Burntwood Town Council. This added income will be most welcome.

We hope to reach even more local people through our monthly surgeries at Burntwood and Lichfield Libraries, and perhaps some of them will become members of the group in due course.

Once again, many thanks to the council members who have given us this helping hand. It is much appreciated by us all. Jane Leake


News from the Secretary

2007 concluded with the Christmas Social meeting, which produced an excellent attendance, and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all. A DIY buffet meal was provided by those attending, so we all enjoyed a variety of sweets and savouries, many of them home-made and delicious to see (and eat of course). The short talks by members provided wide ranging entertainment.

Members’ Interests

The 2008 Members’ Interests List will be arriving along with the Journal. I have tried to make it a little more user-friendly than previous issues but, within the restraints which have to be exercised in order to keep the cost of production to a minimum, it is not possible to provide a quality of print similar to that of the Journal. However, you should find it legible and, if you spot any errors or have any queries, please email or write to me so I can ensure that they do not recur and, if necessary, mention them in the next issue of the Journal.

Should your copy of the List have missing or badly printed pages, I can supply replacements on request. I have tried to make sure that everyone who renewed their subscription in good time and provided me with the necessary details is included in the booklet but, should you not find your details listed, let me know and I will put them in the next Journal. It is always very helpful if subscriptions are renewed in July or early August, and that is the time when you can add to or delete any surnames which are listed under your membership number, by writing a note on the back of your renewal form.

Parish Register Transcriptions

Many of you will already know that our transcriptions, which were formerly available first as index booklets, then as full transcription floppy discs, are now being converted to a more easily searched format on CD-ROM. These are available from Jeff Wilson, our Publications Officer. You may not know that for some years I have been working on the Registers of St Michael and All Angels, Pelsall, which is outside the area covered by the BFHG. However, with the help of Bernard Daniels, our member responsible for much of the design and production of the Group’s CD‑ROMs, this transcription is now also available as a BFHG publication in a similar format. Details of all the CD-ROMs available can be found on the group’s website or can be obtained from Jeff Wilson.

Library Catalogue

Those of you who use the group’s facilities on the fourth Thursday in each month, at the Old Mining College, may not be aware of the wide-ranging subjects covered by books in the library which has been collected over a period of more than 20 years. It is in the nature of things that books easily become dated, due to technological progress, and the Committee decided during 2007 that it was time to review the contents of the library with a view to making it more manageable. The result is that, in addition to the books being on display at the Thursday meetings, there is now a catalogue in alphabetical subject order which can be browsed, and any book found in the catalogue will have a unique number. The books themselves are displayed in trays, in numerical order, so it should be easy to find what you are looking for.

Books can be borrowed and taken home to read, or read during the course of the evening. Please be careful to replace any book which you take from the trays back in its correct numerical order. This should ensure that the next person looking for it will find it where it should be. Our Librarian, Geoff Colverson, is at most Thursday meetings; if you wish to take a book away with you, he will make a note of it, alongside your name and membership no, in his record book. We have lost books in the past, so it is essential that we know where they are at all times in order that they can be traced to the last borrower at any time.

There is some excellent reading matter to be found – you should try it sometime, by coming along to a Thursday meeting.

Thursday Meetings

For a trial period, the Committee has decided to hold some of the Thursday meetings in the Computer Room at the Old Mining College, instead of in the Community Room. The Computer Room is slightly smaller and is on the upper floor. It can be reached via the stairs or the lift.

The computers will enable members to access the Internet and to use the Group’s CD-ROMs for their research. Hopefully we shall be able to find room to display the library books as well, so visitors will not lose that facility. However, because of the risk to the equipment, it will not be possible to serve drinks in the room, so we may have to prepare them in the kitchen and serve them in the foyer on the ground floor.

Initially we are doing this for the February and April Thursday meetings, to see how it goes. If it is a success, and there is a demand for the computer facilities on a regular basis, we shall probably have every third Thursday meeting in the Computer Room. We are grateful to Burntwood Town Council for giving us a grant of £100 to assist with the cost of room hire, which makes it possible for us to afford the additional cost involved.

Best wishes to all our members for 2008. Geoff Sorrell
American archives going online

We thought this might be of interest to those who are researching American ancestors or relatives:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) of the United States, along with FamilySearch, the web-based genealogical service of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, recently announced a major programme to digitise, index and place major segments of NARA’s vast records collection online in the coming years.

Founded in 1934, the NARA meets a wide range of information needs, among them helping people to trace their families’ history, and preserving original White House records. It achieves this through a nationwide network of archives, records centres and presidential libraries – and on the Net at www.archives.gov. FamilySearch maintains the world’s largest repository of genealogical resources, accessed through FamilySearch.org, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, and over 4,500 family history centres in 70 countries.

The majority of the records going online include court, military, land and other government documents that date from as early as 1754. A collection of 3,150 American Civil War widow pension application files (approx. 500,000 pages) are already being digitised to be posted online. FamilySearch intends to do all 1,280,000 files and will make the indexes available for free on their website.

FamilySearch will operate highly-specialised digital cameras five days a week at the National Archives in Washington, DC, and will expand to additional regional facilities at a later date. This will create a continuous flow of millions of images for genealogy buffs to explore from the convenience of their home computers.

James Hastings, director of Access Programs at the US National Archives, said: “For decades the National Archives has helped thousands of researchers gain access to this rich trove of records in Washington. Thanks to this agreement with FamilySearch, this valuable information will now be available to millions of users around the world in a far more accessible format.”

Wayne Metcalfe, director of FamilySearch Record Services, said: “No single group can preserve, organise and make available all the information contained in the world’s important genealogical documents – like those found in the National Archives of the United States. Such immense undertakings require the cooperation of record custodians, researchers and specialised services. FamilySearch is committed to being an integral partner in this global effort.”


Reviews of Visitors’ Talks - October 2007: Paul Walker on ‘A squire’s tale’ - Reviewer: Geoff Sorrell

Paul Walker and his wife Karen appeared dressed in the fashions of the early 15th century and brought with them a comprehensive display of contemporary items, including a full set of armour as would have been worn by a knight in battle and some of the fighting weapons which would have been used by him and against him.

For the purpose of illustrating the talk, Paul narrated the events leading up to the meeting of Prince Hal’s army, moving out of Wales to meet up with his father at Shrewsbury, and the army of Harry Hotspur, Pretender to the Throne of England.

The remainder of the talk concentrated on the battledress of the knights and squires of England at the turn of the 15th Century and the weaponry they would have used.

A fearsome array of weapons was available to the fighting men of that era. We were shown the longbow, the crossbow and a number of different types of sword and dagger. There was even a primitive version of a firearm. Paul gave us graphic explanations of how and where injuries could be inflicted with these mediaeval weapons, and quoted some examples of injuries which had been found on the skeletons of men killed in battles of the time.

The next phase covered the defensive armour which was available to the men who had to fight hand-to-hand once the archers of both sides had taken their toll of the heavily armoured knights and their mounts. It was explained that, contrary to some accounts, the armour used, while quite heavy, was light enough for a man to be able to remount his horse after having been knocked to the ground, or even to fight on foot in spite of the weight of the armour. There were, however, some pieces, such as the heavy visors on the helmets to protect the head and eyes, which could be, and were on occasions, removed or lifted away during battle to improve the wearer’s field of vision.

Responding to an appeal for ‘one of the younger members of the audience’ to volunteer to be dressed in the armour which Paul had on display, Steve Bailey came forward and offered his services.

It was fascinating to see how all the different pieces were fitted on to a basic jacket with straps and buckles. Almost the whole of the body was eventually covered with cleverly articulated plates shaped to fit around the feet, legs, arms, head and trunk.
Steve was spared the wearing of the shoes as they were too small and pointed for his feet, but all other parts of his body were eventually encased in metal and leather, so it was quite a surprise to see that he was still able to walk about and move his limbs quite freely.

The process of removing the armour was much quicker than putting it on, for which I am sure Steve was very grateful, as it must have been pretty hot under all that metal!

To conclude the evening, everyone was invited to look in detail at some of the items. The gauntlets in particular were fascinating to see. They were lined with soft leather and each digit was fully articulated almost to the same degree as an ungloved one would have been. There were also numerous other artefacts on display to illustrate the mediaeval period, including icons, medallions and household items.

A very interesting evening and deserving of a better attendance

November 2007: Clive Hester on ‘Mapmaking – past, present and future’ - Reviewer: Brian Asbury

Clive Hester gave us a very informative talk on how the Ordnance Survey has been creating accurate maps of the UK for over 200 years. He began by telling us how Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond, began the task of mapping the British Isles back in 1791. The original motive was military – accurate maps were vital for the defence of the realm against the growing threat from across the Channel in the wake of the French Revolution. By 1901 the first OS map of Kent was published, showing defensible points.

As the 19th century progressed, more maps were commissioned for non-military purposes, including such projects as the Enclosure Act (1845), the expansion of the railways, the 1862 Land Registration Act, geological surveys and so on. Their increasing importance was reflected in the 1841 Ordnance Survey Act, which gave surveyors a legal right to enter into and upon any land for such purposes. The original offices were in the Tower of London, but by 1841 a move to bigger and better office space in Southampton was necessitated.

During World War I, demand escalated and aerial photography was used for the first time. 34 million maps were created for war purposes!

At this time, there was no grid scale and each county was mapped as a separate entity, so the maps tended to be slightly out from one another and were hard to join up. This changed in 1938 when the Davidson Committee recommended the introduction of a National Grid, a national projection and new scales. The international metre was also adopted as a unit of measurement. The National Grid was set up by a triangulation network across the country at strategic fixed points marked by 4-foot high concrete pillars known as Try Points.

By the end of World War II, OS had printed over 363 million maps for war purposes, and the Normandy Landings alone accounted for 120 million! Since then, up-to-date techniques have been gradually introduced, including aerial photographs and digitisation. By 1995, all maps had been digitised, and electronic data is now available to customers within 24 hours of being surveyed.

Clive also outlined how maps are created, from surveying to finished projects. Some of the old Try Points are still used, but new technologies such as GPS and specially adapted aircraft have made many of them redundant. GPS can fix a position anywhere within 5 cm! However, work on the ground is still important as street names and many other features are only identifiable from ground level.

Today around 300 surveyors are constantly at work to record changes and keep maps updated – primarily the Master Map from which all others are created. They have over 200 GPS kits for mobile surveys, contrasting sharply with the bulky theodolites and other equipment that their predecessors had. Approximately 5,000 changes are made daily to the Master Map, and all major changes are captured within 6 months.

After all this, I think we all went home realising there is much, much more to the maps, modern and old, that we often take so much for granted.

January 2008: Patricia Boyd on ‘What the butler saw’ - Reviewer: Sheila Clarke

Patricia Boyd stepped in when the designated speaker cancelled at short notice. Her enthralling talk gave us an insight into the symbiotic relationship between servants and their employers in the Victorian and Edwardian era. What did the butler see? Well, he and the rest of the servants were privy to all the happenings within the household, and undertook their duties so that their employers were as unaware of their presence as possible. Mrs. Boyd pointed out that ‘summoned by bells’, servants would never knock on a door, but would enter, complete the assigned task and leave unobtrusively.

She gave the group a ‘test’ to see if we would make good servants. She told several true stories of amusing dinner party conversations. The servants waiting at table would have heard what was going on but could not laugh or show any indication that they had heard. We laughed at the anecdotes, so failed the test.

The class system was very evident at that time and people rarely moved from the class into which they were born. Being a servant in a well-run establishment was infinitely preferable to the life of squalor and penury endured by many poor at that time. Servants would be clothed, fed and housed and, in return, complete loyalty and discretion was expected and given. Servants would gossip, even with servants they met from other households, but the gossip would not go outside their world.

Mrs Boyd told us about the work of some of the household staff. The butler and housekeeper had to engage fully in the lives of their employers. On occasion they would lie on behalf of an employer.

The children of the house usually had a good relationship with the servants; the children being seen but not heard, and the servants being neither seen nor heard. The children liked to go in the kitchen and be given tasty morsels from the cook. Nannies had a special place, looking after children until the age of seven and never being off-duty. The relationships built up lasted a lifetime; they were well looked after in later life and held in great affection by their charges.

The governess, however, was often a well-educated woman who had fallen on hard times and could, in contrast to the nanny, become the butt of cruel pranks instigated by her charges. The children usually went unpunished but the governess faced dismissal for not being aware of their mischief.

She pointed out that at a weekend party, servants needed to know of the bedroom arrangements. In the days of limited divorce, and arranged marriages in the upper classes, discreet liaisons were accepted. Servants facilitated these in order to avoid scandal and keep their households intact.

We were given an insight into Edward VII’s lifestyle, his mistresses, and his love of good food which caused him on one occasion to ask after the chef, only to find out that the chef was a woman, Mrs Rosa Lewis. She rose from humble beginnings to become a celebrated cook, much favoured by the king. The series The Duchess of Duke Street was based on her life.

We are most grateful to Mrs. Boyd for coming to talk about servants and their masters and their attitudes and behaviour towards each other.

What’s in a Name? - by Brian Asbury

Some time ago, I wrote a piece for the Journal about my search for my great-grandmother Harriet Drucilla Booker, and how I tracked down her ancestry despite the fact that she seemed to change her name from time to time. Opening up Harriet’s line took me back through many generations and opened up several new branches, some of them very interesting.

Harriet’s paternal grandmother was Harriet Hartshorn, and the older Harriet’s father was Daniel Granger Hartshorn. His maternal grandmother Mary Hancox (who married Abraham Granger) was a member of a family which was quite important in Dudley in the 18th century. Her father Herbert Hancox was Mayor of Dudley in 1764, and furthermore his brother Abiather and several other members of the Hancox family also were Mayors of Dudley at various times.

There are records of the Hancox family in Dudley going back to Sigismund Hancox, born 1570, and as I delved about I started to find that the Hancoxes and the Grangers – as well as another family from which I’m descended, the Rolinsons – had intermarried several times. A query I received about them on Genes Reunited led me to examine some of the side branches, and an odd name came to light. In 1768 a different Herbert Hancox – not the one who was Mayor – married someone called Sobieski Round.

What an odd name, I thought. Sounds East European – Russian or Polish, maybe. However, I thought nothing of it until I started turning up more Sobieskis –Sobieski Grangers, Sobieski Hancoxes, Sobieski Rolinsons... it was obviously a name which had become traditional in these families, but why? While the Hancoxes in particular seemed to have been fond of slightly strange names (Sigismund, Abiather...), this one stood out as being especially odd, because I couldn’t find any obvious East European connection.

I Googled the name to see where it had originated, which led me to a Wikipedia entry on Jan III Sobieski, King of Poland from 1674-1696. However, this was nearly half a century before any females named Sobieski started turning up in Dudley, so it was no help in explaining what connection, if any, there could be. I looked to see if anyone else had been investigating this, and found a 2000 entry on a genealogy forum enquiring about Sobieskis in Dudley and asking if anyone knew what it was all about. Unfortunately, no-one had offered an explanation.

But my imagination was now piqued and I was determined to discover why this name should show up in such an unlikely place as Dudley. And why was it that girls were being given this name? On a whim, I typed ‘Sobieski’ into the IGI online, no surname, and just England as the place. It found no less than 311, with numerous variations in spelling, and not just in Dudley but all over England (although 95 in Worcestershire alone). All but a very few were female; the earliest was born in 1719 and they popped up all through the 18th century, although the name seems to have died out in the 19th – the most recent listed was born in 1848.

So... no Sobieskis in England before 1719, and then suddenly lots of them. Maybe that date was significant. However, all that typing ‘1719’ into Wikipedia told me was that it was a pretty unremarkable year. Apart from Daniel Defoe writing Robinson Crusoe, the only notable British event seems to have been the Battle of Glen Shiel, when the British army defeated an alliance of Jacobites and Spaniards in the Scottish Highlands.

That did get me thinking, though – this period was a time of unrest in Britain. Five years before, George I, a German who spoke little English, had ascended to the throne amid great controversy. Many people – particularly Tories – felt sympathy for the Jacobite cause, whose aim was to restore the Stuarts to the throne in the person of James Francis Edward Stuart, the ‘Old Pretender’, son of the deposed James II. The first major Jacobite Rebellion had occurred only a year into George’s reign, in 1715.

The Old Pretender

I looked up the Old Pretender, and found to my astonishment that in 1719 he married – wait for it – Maria Clementina Sobieska, the granddaughter of Jan III Sobieski! Maria would become the mother of the rather more famous ‘Young Pretender’, Charles Edward Stuart, or Bonnie Prince Charlie.
So is this the answer? It just has to be. Imagine you’re a Jacobite sympathiser in the 1720s. What better way to demonstrate it than name your daughter after the woman you’d like to be the next queen of England? And even if you’re not really a Jacobite but want to hedge your bets and be able to say ‘Look, I’m on your side and I can prove it’ should the Jacobites win (which did look like a possibility at times), then this seems like a good strategy.

Of course, I can’t prove any of this, but there was a great deal of Jacobite sympathy in both Worcestershire and Staffordshire, and the fact that several Sobieskis listed on the IGI had a middle name of Clementina or some variation thereof is strongly suggestive of being named after Maria Clementina Sobieska. And long after the Jacobite cause became lost, families still kept the name alive to show that they didn’t really approve of these Germans on the British throne. It didn’t really die out until the last of the Hanoverian Georges had gone. It’s a nice thought, anyway. But no... if I had a daughter, I wouldn’t name her Sobieski!

Your Average Ancestor - by Barbara Williams

Here are some interesting facts about life, death and marriage in Britain in the past for you to mull over when you think about the lives your ancestors led...


In 1538 when Parish Registers began, the population in England was probably about 2.27 million. About 100 years later, in 1641, it was about 5 million. But by 1861 it had only increased to about 5.1 million, due mainly to the Great Plague which killed approx. 2.5% of the population.

The increase in population between 1750 and 1871 was due mainly to a general increase in fertility, with more people marrying and marrying earlier, and a falling death rate. But in the 1880/90s the birth rate and fertility rate both declined, largely due to a wider knowledge of contraception techniques.


In the 17th century, most couples had 4-6 children. Two or three of the children would die before the age of 14, and by that age the others would have been sent away from home as servants or apprentices. The more affluent people had more children than the poor until the end of the 19th century.

In the late 17th and early 18th century, about one third of all children died before reaching 10 years old, but in London and some other large cities it was estimated that two-thirds died. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the majority of children had lost at least one parent before they reached adulthood. In the aristocracy, this figure was 1 in 3. Illegitimate births were never common – about 2% – but by the 1840s it was 7%. By the 1980s it had risen to 19%.


Although, before 1929 it was possible, with parental consent, for boys to marry from the age of 14 and girls from 12, it was virtually unknown, although prior to 1754, arranged espousals of children took place amongst the nobility. Marriages of girls in their teens (15-16) are occasionally found, but from the mid-16th century at least, the majority of middle and working class women married at about 26 years and men at 28-29 yrs.

In the first half of the 19th century, a third of women were pregnant at marriage. Before 1775, quite a high proportion of people never married. Towards the end of the 18th century, this figure began to fall. Divorce did not become possible in England and Wales until 1858. By 1921 the yearly rate of failed marriages was 1 in 87, rising rapidly to one in three within the last generation. In England and Wales in 1850, some 31% of men and 41% of women could not write their names at the time of their marriages.


Expectation of life at birth in England did not rise above 40 before the end of the 19th century, being better in the country than the town. In 1897, 18% of children in industrial counties died in their first year, while in country areas the figure was rarely less than 10%.

In Cheshire, Durham and Staffordshire, 46% of deaths registered in 1897 were those of children under five years old. Some historians put the number of those over 60 at the end of the 17th century as only about 5%. In any case, there were relatively few aged parents for the next generation to worry about.

From deaths registered in 1834-54, it was estimated that at birth, males had a life expectation of 39 years and females 41 (if they survived to the age of 15 years, the expectation was a further 43 years).

In 1871-80, the figures were 41 & 44 at birth (plus 43/45yrs if they reached 15)

In 1912,      "        "             51 & 55 "   "             48/51 "   "   "        "        "

In 1984,      "        "             71 & 77 "   "             57/63 "   "   "        "        "

Cremation became possible in the late 1880s.

By 1970, half the population were being cremated after death, and in London the figure is now about 71%.

Request for help

We received an email from Liz Kendall on 18th October asking for help relating to the local area:

‘I wonder if you can help me please? I have a death certificate which may be that of an ancestor – Anne Maria Lerner who died in Burntwood Asylum in March 1869 – from brain disease as a result of TB, I think. As far as I know the family always lived in London, but it is a fairly unusual name and I cannot find another likely entry. I would like to find out a little more about the asylum and maybe look at local records and burials to see if I can be more certain.

‘I live in Hampshire but I have the opportunity to visit Staffordshire on my
way up to Preston ... but perhaps you could advise me on the best place to look. I will only have a few hours so would like to maximise my chances of finding the information.’
In response, Jane Leake, our Chairman, looked in one of the very few remaining copies of the transcripts that we have for St. Matthews Hospital, (the asylum) Burntwood. She thus replied to Liz:

‘There is an entry for A.M Lerner and the address given is Mile End. That would seem to answer one question and ask another! Perhaps the certificate will be of some help. Sorry the information is sparse, but that’s how it was in those days. There is also a reference 578 which may possibly be the number of the grave.

‘I will try to get a look at the St. Matthew’s book and if anything looks relevant, I’ll photocopy it.’

Liz wrote back to say that she had since called in at Stafford Record Office. ‘I found a book full of Case Histories – a fantastic resource which may be of interest to some of your members. I was surprised to find that many inmates recovered and were discharged. There is a great deal of detail about the inmates.

‘Transcript of extract below:

Ann Maria Lerner No 578 Mile End Old Town

Admitted 1st March 1869 Age 52

13 years occupation as Needlewoman – Widow – A Protestant. Can read and write. Is of short stature – moderate habit of body – has dark brown hair and dark eyes.

Pallid complexion – Careworn, languid expression of countenance – no peculiarity about the formation of head (!)

‘There were also details of her illness and treatment – all terribly sad and rather haunting as she had TB which seems to have affected her brain and to have left her paralysed. Sad to think that she was taken so far from her family only to die within a few weeks. It seems that when the asylum first opened it took in hundreds of “paupers” from all over the country and Ann Maria was no means the only one to come from Mile End.’

She concluded: ‘Thanks again for your interest. Perhaps you would be kind enough to let me know if you come across a copy of The History of St Matthew’s for sale. I have tried to find one but no luck so far.’

Liz very kindly said that we could print her findings in the journal. Maybe someone has a copy of the book that she could have?

Things I Wish my Family History hadn’t Revealed! - (Pam Woodburn’s Christmas talk)

At the Christmas meeting I was able to tell a cautionary tale about family history.

When I started, over twenty-five years ago, I had no idea that my family would contain a large number of paupers, some of whom wound up in the workhouse. Poor souls!

Like many others, there were illegitimacies. The first one I found was born to a mother called Temperance, and they followed thick and fast after that.

There was a murder, in the not too distant past, that nobody had ever mentioned to me.

And after twenty-five years of searching, I found my grandmother’s death in an asylum, where it appears that she was put when suffering from post-natal depression.

The conclusion that I drew was that it’s all in the past and you can’t change history (unless your name is Henry Tudor, of course!).

My thanks to the kind, sympathetic souls who offered consolation. Pam Woodburn

A Weird and Wonderful Gravestone Inscription
This is a quite genuine memorial inscription found on a grave in Markham, Norfolk:

Here lies the body of Christopher Burraway, who departed this life 18 day of October 1730 aged 59 years. And their (sic) lies Alice, who by her life was my sister, my mistress, my mother and my wife. Died February 12 1729 aged 76 years.

(It seems Christopher was the product of an incestuous relationship between Alice and her father. He left home as a boy, returning as a young man. Christopher and Alice did not recognise each other, he took her as his mistress and later married her. Alice only recognised him as her son after his death.)

The Lost Photograph - by Pam Turner

When my father was alive, he would regularly bring out an old photograph of himself taken around 1929, when he was aged 5 and in his first year of school. The picture showed Dad on the front row of a class of around 20 children at the Sunshine School in Blakenall, Walsall. After his death, 13 years ago, my mother and I searched extensively for the picture, but were unable to locate it; however, we did think that eventually it would turn up somewhere.

Four years after his death, my mother decide to relocate to a smaller property. We were sure that during the clearing-out process, the photograph would come to light, but our search again proved fruitless. We resigned ourselves to the fact that the photo was probably lost forever.

During the last couple of years I have been working two days a week as a receptionist in Cannock. It was during the latter half of last year that an elderly lady came into my place of work. While she was waiting for her appointment, we engaged in a conversation that initially started with the weather and then progressed on to where we lived. We discovered that we had both resided in Burntwood for around 30 years – and prior to moving to Burntwood, both of us had originally lived in the same area of  North Walsall!

I revealed that my family name had been Oakley, to see if the lady recognised it. After a short while she declared that she had been at school with a Sidney Oakley. I was dumbfounded, because that was my father’s name. When I asked her which school she was referring to, her reply was ‘the Sunshine School in Blakenall’.  I was then certain it was my father whom she had known.

She went on to describe my father as he had been at five years old, and said she had a photograph of him. Of course, I knew straight away that she was referring to the photograph we had mislaid, so described it to her. She agreed that it was the same one she possessed, and went on to say that in it she was sitting on the front row, in the desk alongside my Dad. I asked her if it was possible for me to have a copy of the photo, and was delighted when she agreed to this.

It is still a mystery what happened to Dad’s original photo; however, at least I now have another copy of it to put in my family history file. During my ten years of research I have often been amazed at how information on my ancestors has come my way, but this recent encounter has really stunned me. It was sheer luck that I was working the day the lady came in to my workplace, and also that she had to wait a short while for her appointment, thus enabling us to engage in a conversation.

Arising from Coal Dust - by Alan Brookes - Part 12: Deadly Hedley

Chase Terrace Secondary Modern boys’ school was a happy place for me. From the age of eleven until fifteen I received a good education from capable teachers, most of whom I respected and listened to. Each teacher could generally teach each of the subjects on the school curriculum, so if you were placed in a particular class for a year, you received the majority of your lessons from that class’s teacher.

My masters, in the first to fifth years respectively, were Mr Ronald Hedley, Mr Edwin Dawes, Mr Walter Spight, Mr David Deakin and Mr Alan Bewley.

The first year was the worst. Mr Hedley’s reputation as a teacher who meted out lots of corporal punishment preceded him. He had a short fuse and a vile temper, to which his pupils were regularly subjected. Most days, someone would receive his stern discipline. His favoured instrument of torture was the slipper.

A slipper is associated with carpets and softness, but in the hands of our teacher it was transformed into a lethal weapon. Gripping the heel part, he would bring the rubber sole to bear on the backside of a boy with a sideways scything motion that would sometimes leave a weal mark. Also, if you didn’t keep your legs together when receiving his punishment, your private parts could suffer part of the blow.

I passed through Mr Hedley’s class, only receiving his slipper on a few occasions. I learned very quickly to keep my head down, keep out of trouble and listen intently to what he said. The threat of incurring his wrath was a definite incentive to do well.

One particular day, he was reading out loud to the class from a history book when one of my classmates broke wind. The noise this made was so loud that it made Mr Hedley stop reading and jump in astonishment and indignation. He demanded that the culprit own up to this foul deed.

“I don’t have to come here and breathe in your stench! Who was it?” he hissed at the class through clenched teeth.

His menacing stance frightened me, yet I was innocent. It was highly unlikely that the perpetrator would come forward, because he would know only too well that the slipper would be brought out of the teacher’s drawer in double-quick time. The classroom was silent, except for the increased rantings of Mr Hedley. “Right then, you lot, I’m not putting up with this! The culprit had better come out here right now, or anyone who knows who he is!”

We all looked around at each other, but everyone was silent. “Okay,” he said sarcastically and a little more calmly, “so you would like to play games, would you? Everyone line up in alphabetical register order!” he taunted, with a red bloated face. “You’re all going to get a taste of this.”

He reached down to his dreaded drawer. Out came his well-worn slipper, the shiny sole reflecting the ceiling lighting into our eyes. We all started to form a queue in register order, as he sat at his desk reading out our names, waiting for us to organise ourselves.

“Bailey, Ball, Bayley, Birch, Brookes, Craddock, Derry, Dewsbury, Harper...”

“Oh dear,” I groaned to Michael Craddock standing next to me. “I’m fifth in order. Hedley’s arm will be strong with only four before my turn!”

‘Whitehead and Yates are the lucky ones,” he said, “The last two will have an easier time of it than us. At least his arm will be tired by then”.

Mr Hedley gave each of us in turn a single stroke of his infamous slipper. The exercise book I had previously surreptitiously slipped down the inside of my trousers did little to lessen the impact. Now we realised why he was known as ‘Deadly Hedley’.

“This is unfair. Why have 31 innocent boys been punished because of the actions of one?” Michael Ridgeway bravely called out, as he rubbed his still smarting backside.

“If you don’t shut up, Ridgeway, you’ll get another one quick!” thundered Mr Hedley.

Usually it would do no good to go home and complain to Mom and Dad about my punishment, because they would just say, “Well you must have deserved it”. However, Michael Ridgeway did inform his parents of the mass punishment, with amusing consequences. Amusing, that is, for us, but not for Mr Hedley.

Later the next morning he received a visit from Michael’s father, who came bursting into our classroom. “Where’s this bloke ‘Deadly Hedley’?” he shouted, glaring straight at our amazed teacher.
Mr Ridgeway was a rough-looking man, unshaven and quite dirty, with a shredded collar. His greying hair was untidy and hung lank about his face. His untied bootlaces dragged and clattered along the floor behind him, as moved towards our astonished teacher.

In front of thirty-two gleeful pupils, Mr Ridgeway grabbed Mr Hedley’s shirt and tie, and threatened, while showing him his bulging, clenched fist: “If you ever lay a hand on my boy again for something he hasn’t done, I will give you this bunch of fives!”

For one frozen moment, it looked as though Mr Hedley was going to be thumped in the face. I will never forget his look of embarrassment and terror; he went bright purple and started to stammer. Lifted on tiptoe by Mr Ridgeway, he stared up into his adversary’s fierce countenance, until he eased his grip and both men went outside.

The class went into uproar, cheering and howling. Mr Hedley came back alone about fifteen minutes later, still looking flushed and embarrassed. “Get on with some work you lot, or it will be the worse for you!” he shouted at us, as he walked across the classroom.

He reached into his drawer and brought out his slipper, which he placed on top of his desk. He then sat at his desk for the rest of the lesson, talking to himself. No one uttered a sound for the next thirty minutes, until class was dismissed.

Mr Ridgeway’s actions caused at least one good result. It was fully three days before any boy received the slipper again, and normality returned.

Every summer a cricket match was organised on the school sports ground between the masters and the pupils. To promote a more even match, the pupil players were usually selected from the fourth year. Among our side was Ken Macauley, a superb cricketer who eventually went on to play County Cricket with Warwickshire. Ken was batting at the crease and edged a ball into the slips, where Deadly Hedley was fielding. He misjudged the flight of the ball and it hit the teacher firmly between the legs. Mr Hedley rolled on the floor in agony for about five minutes, with a purple face and loud bursts of “Oh, my b...!” until he was carried off by the other masters.

The whole school, watching from the sidelines, was in an uproar of cheers and laughter, and I’m sure I caught sight of a few smiles from the other masters. In later years, Mr Hedley went to live and teach in South Africa. I wonder if any young South African was to feel the wrath and the slipper of ‘Deadly Hedley’, and I wonder if he used the same slipper?
I know from my own adult experiences as a college lecturer that there were times when I became exasperated trying to teach young people, and I related my frustrations to the actions of my old teacher in Chase Terrace Secondary Modern Boy’s School. The ‘Deadly Hedley’s of 1955 would not last one day in the modern educational system.

And by the way, I still don’t know to this day who caused my innocent punishment from ‘Deadly Hedley’s slipper.


Looking back as I originally wrote this, I thought of Mr Hedley as basically a bad teacher who had difficulty communicating with his pupils and possessed a vile temper. However, I have since I learned that he had suffered severe hardship at the hands of the Japanese in World War II. He had been incarcerated as a young soldier in one of their prisoner of war camps in Singapore for most of the duration.

These facts must have had a bearing upon his temperament as a man and a teacher, and perhaps explains his short temper and inability to communicate freely with his pupils. If I had known this information prior to commencing this chapter on ‘Deadly Hedley’, it would have been crass insensitiveness on my part to describe the malevolence of the man, knowing the probable reason for his behaviour. However, I decided to leave the chapter complete in its original form as it demonstrates the integrity and completeness of my recollections of events from that time, retrospectively unbiased or compromised.

This Issue’s Cover Photograph

This issue’s cover photograph depicts the new St. John’s Church at Chase Terrace. St. John’s was originally a daughter church of St. Anne’s, Chasetown. The old church was demolished a five years ago and replaced by this modern building, which is a Community Church also used for secular activities. The original War Memorial was retained when the new church was built. The Burntwood Chase Heritage Group holds its meetings here on the first Tuesday of each month.

Church Newsletters

And finally, a couple of those ever-popular bloopers from church newsletters and bulletins!

… Thursday night – Potluck Supper. Prayer and medication to follow.

… Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. there will be an ice cream social. All ladies giving milk, please come early.