Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2010 07 Volume 18 Number 4



Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal

July 2010     

Vol. 18 No. 4
Contents of this issue.
From the Chair...
Census Humour Censored
News from the Secretary
An Unintended Family Confusion
The Horror of Gallipoli
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks
A Woman of Business
Website News
Age of Change
This Issue’s Cover Photograph
From the Chair...
Dear Friends, The visit to Kew in May was very successful and enjoyed by all. Thanks must go to Jenny for her impeccable organisation as usual. We seem to have been invited to attend several functions this spring and summer. They are usually very enjoyable, but we could do with a few more volunteers to help out so that the responsibility does not fall on the same people every time.
The new display screens look very attractive thanks to members who volunteered to collect up the items for the different sections. Perhaps you could come along to the Chase Wakes on Saturday July 24 and give some help?
Unbelievably, our family history group has been in existence for 24 years! What a lot of changes there have been, not only for our group but in the wider world of family history. It has been a fascinating and enjoyable experience to be the chairman for many of those years. I have met so many people and made many new friends as a result, but the time has come for me to hand over the ‘chair’ to someone else at the AGM in September. I made the decision some time ago and want to tell you all in good time so that you can think about who you would like to see take my place.
I feel it is important for you to find someone who has a good knowledge of family history research and who is able to give time to supporting the group and its activities. It may be a good idea to approach people you feel would be able to lead the group forward, to see if they are willing to be put up for election, thus avoiding the awkward silence which always arises when it comes to the election of officers in September. I shall, of course, still be a member and around to help the new chairman, if he or she should need any support. I have thoroughly enjoyed helping to organise Burntwood Family History Group over the years and thank you all for the support you  have given to me. Jane Leake
Census Humour Censored
The 1911 census is without doubt the most revealing yet to be published, because it includes the original forms filled in by the heads of each household in their own handwriting. For all of the earlier censuses, the only documents which have survived to the present time have been the summaries produced by professional enumerators. These people tended to excise anything which they considered anomalous, and this certainly included any attempts at humour from the occupants of the households being surveyed.
Some jokes have survived in the 1911 documents, however, and these include one memorable effort from a man whose entry describes an occupant of his house as ‘Peter Tabby’ and lists his occupation as ‘mouser’. The nationality of the said Mr. Tabby is given as ‘Persian’. The enumerator has crossed out the entry with red ink and noted sternly: “This is a cat.”
News from the Secretary
Several important developments have taken place in our organisation recently. Our Thursday meetings have become much more popular with members and we have decided to move from the small Committee Room to the Community Room, so that we can provide more comfortable conditions for everyone to utilise the group’s research facilities. It will cost more to use the larger room, but, thanks to the grants we have received this year, we feel able to give our local members the benefits of this support. If anyone is not accustomed to attending the Thursday meetings, I would like to say that they are much more of a social occasion, where interaction between Members is much easier, as we also use the Computer Room (which contains ten computer desks with free access to the main websites) on the first floor. This leaves the Community Room available for use of the library, fiche readers and laptop computers, plus an opportunity to discuss problems and have a drink and biscuit with other members and group officers. If attendances at the Thursday meetings continue to improve, in due course the new arrangement will probably become permanent.
Because we are being asked to attend more and more functions in the local area (libraries, open days, local festivals), we have added a set of display boards to our collection. Once again it has been possible to purchase these because of our improved financial situation following the receipt of grants. The display boards were used for the first time at the Lichfield Library Family History Day at short notice and proved to be a big asset. However, we are beginning to have a problem in meeting all the requests we receive to be represented at functions, because they do require adequate staffing by people who are familiar with the group’s activities and who have a knowledge of how to do family history research. New volunteers to staff these events are always welcome, so please let us know if you live locally and can help. Experience has shown that display material is very helpful for explaining to people how we do our research, and a few modifications have now been made to make it even more useful.
The group website is developing very well, and if you have not had a look at it yet, please do so – even if you have to ask to use someone else’s computer and internet connection for a while. Some of our advertisers have been approached to have their businesses named as sponsors of some of the pages and a trial run is taking place between 1st June and 31st July, to give them an opportunity to see what we can provide. The website is also carrying credits to our supporters and you will see these at various points on the site. The new website is much quicker and easier to access and very simple to navigate, with lots of instant links (shown in blue script) which will take you to other parts of the site or directly to other useful websites. Lastly, you will have seen the article in the May edition of the Journal about the limited survey which Pam Woodburn carried out and which provided some interesting information on how we serve our members. As this survey was very limited – only being completed by members who attended meetings earlier this year – we would like to get some feedback from our many distant members on similar lines. We are therefore inviting everyone who did not complete the earlier survey to give us their views by completing a similar questionnaire, to enable us to understand how we are serving those who cannot attend meetings. You will find the questionnaire included with this issue of the Journal.
Renewal of Membership
All memberships are renewable at or before the first meeting after 1st August 2010. A renewal form is enclosed with your Journal and we hope that you will be continuing as a member of the group for a further year. We know that for many of you, one or two years as members is sufficient time for you to make all the progress you want to make in that time. Alternatively, many people find their research leads them to the Burntwood area, and then, when they research an earlier generation, they are led straight out again and on to somewhere else! This is understandable and is the reason why each year we lose about 15% of our membership through non-renewal, and then build numbers back up again the following year with new recruits. For the last few years, the pattern has been fairly consistent and our numbers seem to stabilise at around 130, some of these being two-person ‘family members’. Membership fees are staying the same as last year.
Members’ interests & research materials booklets
The changes proposed in my previous Secretary’s News (in the May edition of the Journal) have been discussed by the Committee and, as I have had no unfavourable feedback from anyone, they will be implemented from now on. You will, therefore, not receive a printed Members’ Interests List or a printed list of the group’s research materials in the future. All of the information contained in these booklets will in due course be available on our website and will be updated continuously. If you encounter any problems, or do not have access to our website and wish for updates to the lists in your possession, or for information about members’ interests, our library, microfiches or CD-ROM collections, you can write to or telephone me and I will provide the information you require. I can also do limited research (for members only) using the database information contained in our published local parish register transcriptions, on request by telephone or letter to me at the address shown in the Journal.
Annual General Meeting
This will take place at the September Monday meeting (13th September). Please try to attend and perhaps be prepared to put your name forward for the Committee or for some other group activity. There are several ways in which you can help which do not necessarily mean you have to be a member of the Committee, and as several of the longserving Committee members are getting rather ‘long in the tooth’, they will, in the not too distant future, be looking towards handing over to someone younger. Geoff Sorrell
An Unintended Family Confusion by Roger Smethers
Most family researchers will eventually find one or more illegitimate children amongst our forebears. More often than not we have no idea who the fathers were, yet we would love to know, wouldn’t we? In the 19th Century and earlier, it was quite common to reveal in the parish register that a child was born out of wedlock and the name of the supposed father was often given, but entries like that would provoke an outcry today. The reason for such actions were, presumably, to admonish the parents and to warn others what would follow for them in similar circumstances. Three typical parish register entries are given below. They are from the registers of All Hallows Church at Great Mitton, which is now in Lancashire but was then in Yorkshire.
14th May, 1780. Baptism of John Hayhurst, illegitimate son of Jennet Hayhurst.
21st September, 1782. Baptised, John Cooper the illegitimate son of Richard Cottam, supposed father, and Jane Cooper.
23rd February, 1783. Laurence Hacking, son of Edward Snape and Jennet Hacking. A margin note says, ‘Supposed son of father’.
The final one was within my own family, James being a 1st cousin, twice removed: 13th June, 1820. Baptism of James Smithies, illegitimate son of Elizabeth Smithies of Bashall Eaves.
What makes this case somewhat unusual is not the parish register entry, but the complications that arose in the family when the identity of the father became known or suspected. An illegitimate child usually grew up with the mother and so took on her name, which is what James did. He married Elizabeth Bailey on 15th February, 1849, and kept the name Smithies.
The next time we hear of him is from the 1851 census. James was 24 and a ‘farmer of 20 acres’. James’s wife Elizabeth and baby Elizabeth, 8 months, all retain the name Smithies. So far, nothing unusual. The All Hallows registers record the baptisms of their thirteen children – quite a number, even by the standards of the time. The oddity is that eight of them carry the name Smithies and the remaining five have the name Sager. If all the Sager children came at the end of the family list, one would conjecture that Elizabeth had died and James had remarried. However, she hadn’t died and there was no second marriage. The actual order of the 13 baptisms was as follows:
Elizabeth Smithies [4-8-1850]
Thomas Smithies [14-3-1851]
Mary Smithies [31-7-1853]
Ann Smithies [27-5-1855]
William Sager [17-3-1857]
Hannah Sager [27-3-1859]
Edmund Sager [17-6-1859]
James Smithies [14-9-1862]
Jane Sager [18-6-1865]
John Sager [26-5-1867]
Hannah Smithies [20-6-1868]
Joseph Smithies [22-10-1871]
Benjamin Smithies [31-12-1876]
By the time of the 1861 Census, only five children were in the family home. Six of the thirteen had not yet been born and two had died. William and Edmund, both of whom had been baptised as Smithies, were now Sagers! In 1867/8, James’s wife Elizabeth died and he remarried soon afterwards. By 1871, no-one remained to carry on the name Smithies. This is a convoluted story that requires some attempt at an explanation. Why would James, after 30 years being named Smithies, want to be renamed Sager? Was it that his mother had revealed his father’s name, or perhaps that some other family member did so? I can think of no better reason than the wish to carry his father’s name, especially after his mother died.
Elizabeth’s grandparents were Sagers and she had two uncles of that name, Edmund and William. And these two, of course, were great uncles of James. William Sager died, unmarried, in 1866. Who would be most likely to be a beneficiary in his will? His son, James, immediately springs to mind. And indeed, he was.
The Horror of Gallipoli by Alan Betts
I was born in Hednesford in 1951 to parents Christina Patricia Barnett and Frederick Charles Betts. My father was a coal miner, as were my grandfather James Herbert Betts and my great-grandfather James Betts. My maternal grandfather, Thomas Barnett, his brothers John Thomas Barnett and Joseph Edward Barnett were also coal miners, as were my great-grandfather Thomas Barnett and great-great-grandfather Edward Barnett. In 1911 my great uncle Joseph Edward Barnett, aged 29, was still living at home in Hednesford, single and a ‘coal miner hewer’. Like his brothers Thomas and John Thomas, he was a member of the Ancient Order of Foresters, based at the Cromwell House (Court 5123), Mill Street, Cannock.
At the outbreak of war in 1914, Field Marshal Kitchener called for volunteers to join the army, and within two weeks, 100,000 men had signed up. Whether Joseph Edward Barnett had had enough of working in the coal mines or wanted to fight for his country I will never know, but he enlisted at Hednesford with the 7th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment, becoming Private No.15076. In March 1915 he started his training, first at Grantham and then Frensham. On 23rd March 1915, British marines occupied the Greek Island of Lemnos in preparation for a military attack on Gallipoli. Mudros became a considerable British and French camp. The 7th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment were part of the 11th Division (under General Hammersley) of the 33rd Infantry Brigade, and in June they were ordered to Gallipoli.
On 1st July 1915, Joseph Edward left Liverpool docks on the troopship Empress of Britain and sailed for Alexandria, arriving on 7th July then departing for Mudros on 16th July, where 750 men of the 7th Battalion disembarked on 18th July as First Reinforcements. On the 20th, they transhipped into small boats for Cape Helles, Gallipoli and the following day landed at ‘V’ beach, where for three days they were occupied in preparing a rest camp. On 23rd July they entered the trenches and received their first casualties. By the end of July there had been many casualties and the battalion was relieved by the French and rejoined the 11th Division at Imbros, Lemnos. Their relief didn’t last long as they were ordered to re-embark to take part in the Suvla Bay Landing. On 6th August, they were towed in ‘beetles’ and ‘picket boats’ by destroyers into the Dardanelles onto ‘B’ beach at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, where they were ordered to construct a trench and move in. Only a small party of Turks was seen, about 800 yards away from the shore. This party fired, then ran away.
During the first two weeks in August the battalion came under heavy fire, but they made various advancements and achieved numerous objectives. On the 13th they moved back to the beach so the wounded and sick could be transported back to Mudros. Some 800 were now in Australian, New Zealand and Canadian hospitals. On 18th August, they were on the move again, manning trenches. Two days later, naval guns began bombarding the Turkish trenches and at the same time the brigade moved out to support the attack. As they moved forward, they were subjected to an exceedingly heavy shell fire and their losses were considerable. In a short time all but two officers of the 7th Battalion were hit. About 300 men were killed and wounded.
On 23rd August, General Hammersley was taken off the peninsular in a state of collapse. The troops were disillusioned and exhausted. Throughout August, 45,000 soldiers had fallen. Those still alive were ill and suffering with dysentery. 800 sick troops per day were being shipped back and no reinforcements were ordered. On 28th August the 7th Battalion again went up to the front line trenches. No active operations were undertaken, all ranks being absolutely exhausted by the heavy fighting, the great heat, diarrhoea, dysentery and an insufficient supply of water. It was agreed that French reinforcements should be despatched, but they could not get there until mid November, so they were given rest. September came and the temperatures began to drop quickly, and it was then that things changed.
On 21st September the battalion moved again to the front line, suffering another 38 casualties. Exhausted as they were, a tolerably good system of defence trenches was gradually built up. It must be remembered that in practically all parts of the peninsular, except for the plain itself, trenches had to be dug out of solid rock, with no equipment other than blunted picks and shovels. In October temperatures were dropping and their circumstances were getting worse. The soldiers’ fate was at that time being decided in London and by 22nd November it had been decided that Gallipoli was to be evacuated.
On 25th November the 7th Battalion again took over the front line, and there experienced one of the worst storms troops had ever had to face in any of the fighting areas. A blizzard came in, with hurricane force winds, snow and sleet – the worst in 40 years. For 24 hours it was thunderstorms and rain non-stop. As the snow and frost thawed, a torrent of water came down the hillside towards them, carrying drowned Turks with it. Freezing British and Turks held a truce and forgot the war, perching on parapets together to avoid drowning. One morning, sentries were found standing, frozen to death, with their guns in their hands. Between 26th and 28th November there were heavy frosts and over 20,000 were either evacuated sick or died on the peninsula.
On 29th November the gales died down and the following day it was quite calm, so fighting began again. It was on this day that Joseph Edward, already suffering from dysentery, frostbite and jaundice, sustained a wound. With many others he was taken back to a hospital in Mudros. Hospital staff fought overnight to save his life, but the following day, 1st December 1915, he died and was buried in East Mudros Military Cemetery, Lemnos, Greece. Gallipoli was eventually evacuated, but Joseph Edward was one of 251,000 soldiers who ‘fell in Gallipoli’ and never returned home. He was awarded the 1914–15 Star Medal, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. These were given to his parents, together with a ‘Death Penny’, a ‘Death Scroll’ and a ‘Death Letter’.
He is commemorated on the War Memorial at Hednesford and on a memorial plaque on the wall of the ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’, which faces into the grounds of Saint Luke’s Churchyard in Cannock. In May 2010 I went to the National Archives at Kew to look for Joseph Edward’s WWI service records, but they had been destroyed during the bombing of London during WWII. Then in June I went to Lemnos and visited Joseph Edward’s resting place in East Mudros Military Cemetery to pay my respects. The cemetery is one kilometre north-east of Mudros, next to the Greek Civil Cemetery on the road to Kaminia. There are 885 1914–1918 Commonwealth burials commemorated there.
Joseph Edward left the mines to fight for his country but only served nine months in the army before he met his death. I wonder whether, if he had known that he was going to have to fight in gales, rain, sleet, snow and freezing conditions, get wounded and ultimately give his life for the cause, he would have stayed down the mines with his father and brothers. I have only two ancestors who fought in the First World War and both lost their lives. Joseph Edward Barnett was one. His sister Gertrude Ann Barnett married George Michael Ball. He was the other, killed on 28th March 1918 in Arras and buried at Bienvillers Military Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France. In October 2005, I went to Bienvillers and visited his grave and paid my respects. But that’s another story.
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks - April 2010: Ros Bott on ‘How to create a biography’ Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
Ros Bott has been a professional genealogist for more than 15 years and is also an author of historical novels. In her talk she suggested ways of taking the names and dates we get from official records and creating a picture of our ancestors’ lives by looking at events and conditions prevalent at the times in which they lived. She first asked members of the group why they liked genealogy. Among the answers given were the following:
It gives us a sense of the identity of our ancestor.
It puts ‘meat on the bones’ of our research.
We enjoy the detective work involved.
It helps us to understand why we are who we are.
It puts us in touch with the history of the times our ancestors lived.
It was this last point which Ros Bott used to show us how looking at the times in which one of our forbears lived can give us extra information to enable us to put together a credible biography. Her mother’s family lived in Manchester during the 19th century during the establishment of the cotton industry, the canal system and the early railways, on which one of her ancestors worked. Occupations recorded on the census returns can be studied to see what working conditions were like. On her father’s side of the family were fishermen who lived in the Isle of Man. Her great-grandfather was the captain of a fishing boat. There are many books giving the conditions of life aboard such a vessel and the conditions of the families who were ashore.
Her illegitimate great-grandfather started work as a bricklayer, gradually improving his lot and ending his life as a successful builder who employed several men. His eldest son became a joiner, and Ros showed us a photograph of the house in which they lived. The family firm had probably built it, and the woodwork the joiner had done was still intact. Even with little personal documentation other than birth, marriage and death certificates plus census returns, one can augment a past life with local and national history – events which give clues as to why they moved house or town, or changed their career. Ros suggested a three-pronged approach to compiling a biography:
1 Collect as much personal information as you can, together with birth, marriage and death certificates and a will if there is one. The cause of death may point to an occupational hazard or a family predisposition. Wills gives me idea of possessions and other family members, and may also indicate whether they were religious or supported a charity. Gravestones often have interesting inscriptions. Newspapers may contain obituaries or, if a particular relative fell foul of the law, a report of court proceedings. Court records can then be studied. Trade directories and military records may also prove useful.
2 Look for local information about where the person lived and worked, perhaps taking photographs of houses and streets if they still exist, and local landmarks such as churches and pubs. There may be old photos and maps in libraries and record offices. Tools and equipment used by local trades and everyday objects are on view in living museums. Local history resources contain records of events such as disasters, epidemics, celebrations, fairs and royal visits. Council websites sometimes have potted local histories.
3 Look at national and international events which may have affected employment prospects or caused a change of living place. Clothes, food and social mores will all have affected your ancestor’s life, too. A useful book is  The Chronicle of Britain and Ireland by Henrietta Heald, as it can be used to discover the events which took place in any particular year. Ros Bott also showed us examples of how to present our biographies, such as in book or booklet form or by using a computer program to create a visual history of our subject. Her talk was extremely useful for those of us wishing to write a biography of one or more of our forebears.
May 2010: Danny Wells on ‘The Victorian way of death’ Reviewer: Sheila Clarke
In Victorian times, death was treated with a great deal of ceremony, symbolism and a strict code of conduct. Death was ever present, considering the short life expectancy at that time, and diseases such as cholera were endemic because of poor sanitary conditions, particularly in the growing towns. The population, which had been 11½ million by 1841, had risen to 42 million by the time of the 1911 census. The medical profession had few means to cure illnesses, and before antiseptics and anaesthetics, operations could have dire consequences. In 1841, one in every five children born to the gentry died young, and this figure rose to one in two among the poor.
The rising evangelical movement encouraged piety, duty and fortitude, and visible intense grief was advocated. Interest in the medieval period revived the values of ‘the art of dying well’ and having ‘a good death’, and the dying would have their family around the bed to say their farewells, with the expectation of a family reunion in Heaven. In one book about the subject, it was urged that the dying should remain lucid until the end, though how this was to be assured was not made clear. Danny Wells commented how different this was to the attitude to death prevailing in the 20th century, particularly after the First World War, when the attitude amongst all social classes seemed to be that death had to be tidied away.
The 1884 Hymns Ancient and Modern contained 638 hymns dealing with death and dying, whereas by 1984 there were virtually none. In the early 19th century people began to question whether they would really achieve peace as they waited in the churchyard for ‘the last trump’ to call the faithful. Advances in medicine meant that more bodies were needed for dissection and the study of anatomy, and only 20–30 were available each year from hanged murderers. An illegal and lucrative trade therefore developed, with newly buried bodies being dug up to satisfy the requirements of the medical profession. In 1832, the Anatomy Act was passed, stating that the lives of poor people without means of support could be used for dissection.
The Act led to the rise in insurance companies, as many poor people saved as much as they could, even going without essentials, to ensure they would have a good funeral and their body would not go to be dissected. One of the most lavish buildings in London at the turn of the 20th century was the Prudential. The ever-rising population put a strain on churchyards and caused overcrowding. The poor were often buried in shallow graves above previous interments, which gave rise to cholera epidemics.
The government recognised the urgency of the situation and that ‘the dead were killing the living’, so alternatives were discussed, such as burial at sea. New cemeteries were opened, the first in Liverpool in 1825. Glasgow’s necropolis became its greatest tourist attraction by the 1870s, and between 1833 and 1841 commercial cemeteries were set up around London, including Highgate. The public wanted cemeteries to be secure, hygienic and aesthetically pleasing, and those who could afford it wished to be buried as near to the church as possible. However when a Royal Duke died and could not be buried within the Royal Vault because he had married a commoner and wanted to be buried where she could be buried, he was interred in Kensal Green Cemetery. Thus the seal of approval was accorded the new burial grounds by those from all walks of life.
Death was commemorated in art, photography and literature. A whole industry serviced funerals where strict etiquette was observed, particularly in the upper classes, who spent vast amounts of money on funerals. The hearse was followed by the funeral director and often by a mute and perhaps other hired mourners, to signify the depth of sorrow being experienced. After these walked the ‘feather man’, carrying feathers which represented the plumes on a knight’s helmet. Top-hatted mourners accompanied at the rear, followed by empty carriages.
Mourning, too, followed strict guide lines. Memorial cards with black edging were issued and women were expected to be in strict mourning for at least two years, during which period they wore scratchy black crepe or bombazine, with a black veil covered their faces during at least the first three months. Gradually lilac or grey clothes also became acceptable mourning attire. Queen Victoria’s of mourning after the death of Prince Albert in 1861 was particularly prolonged, as she wore black for the rest of her life. As the century went on, the rich began to lose their taste for showy funerals, but the artisan class continued with this fashion. The first crematoria were built at Woking in 1879, in
Manchester in 1892 and in Liverpool in 1896. World War I put an end to the Victorian way of death, and in 1968 the balance tipped from burial to cremation. Danny ended his talk with a slide show giving examples of Victorian customs such as covering mirrors and tying black crepe to the door for an adult’s death, or white for a child’s. He showed Victorian paintings of the dead, most of which were redolent with symbolism. He also read out some epitaphs found on gravestones, some intended to be amusing and others being so just by chance. This speaker certainly demonstrated his enthusiasm for history and gave us all a fascinating glimpse into the Victorian attitudes to death.
June 2010: Patsy Jarman on ‘Crime and punishment’ Reviewer: Jenny Lee
With the aid of many pictures of the appropriate times, Patsy Jarman discussed crime and punishment from the 11th century. She began with ‘Forest Law’ a legal term introduced by William the Conqueror. Most people lived in small cottages in tiny hamlets and villages in forests. They had areas in which to keep pigs, but all other game belonged to the king, and laws to protect it were harsh. The penalty for killing deer was to have one’s hands cut off or be killed, under a law known as ‘venison’. Henry I was a little kinder and only sent offenders to prison, but this law remained in place until 1877.
From the 15th–17th centuries, the crime of heresy was strictly enforced, and people were required to share the beliefs of the reigning monarch of the times. They were given the chance to recant if they were disobeying this law – and burned to death if they refused. Such burning often took place on market days and was at times a very slow process. Elizabeth I was more enlightened as she disliked executions, only burning four Catholics during her reign. The last person to be burned at the stake, a man by the name of Wightman, was from Burton-on-Trent, and earlier two people had been burned in the market square beside St Mary’s Church, Lichfield.
Wightman was only scorched initially, whereupon he was given the chance to recant. This he refused to do and he was returned to prison and later burned again, this time to death. We next heard about the crime of treason, defined as betraying or conspiring against the monarch, as in the case of Guy Fawkes. The punishment for treason was to be dragged publicly through the streets, hanged, taken down alive, quartered and flogged. This gruesome spectacle was witnessed by Percy Bysshe Shelley, when it was inflicted on a man named Brandreth who was executed in Nottingham in 1817.
In the 17th century there existed what was known as the ‘Bloody Code’, which initially covered about 50 offences but was gradually increased to 160. Among these were such diverse crimes as murder, rape, stealing a horse, taking goods worth more than five shillings, forgery, damaging Westminster Bridge, pilfering from shipyards or naval dockyards and cutting down a tree. In some cases, offenders were let off if they agreed to join the army or navy. To discourage crime there existed for a time the ‘Frankpledge’, which was a type of neighbourhood watch. There were also several minor crimes for which lesser punishments were carried out in one’s own locality, such as the ducking stool, stocks, the pillory, a scold’s bridle and whipping – the last of these continuing for a considerable time. People were retained within their own parishes if they had committed such felonies, as no other parish would welcome offenders.
Occasionally offenders could be excused a crime under ‘benefit of clergy’, in which case they would be handed over to the ecclesiastical courts for punishment. A great deal of information was covered by Patsy in a wide-ranging presentation, complemented by her interesting illustrations, many of which were of Staffordshire events.
A Woman of Business by Jane Leake
Mary Ann Darnell was born on 15th September 1861 at Whaplode, Lincolnshire, the sixth of nine children born to Henry James Darnell and his wife Sarah Pinch. She married three times but had no children, and she appears to have been something of a businesswoman, which was unusual for the times. On 9th November 1889 she married Thomas Hutchinson at Manningham, Bradford, whom she may have met when she was in service in Bradford. He died in 1907 in South Africa and in the September quarter of 1907 she married again to James Bowling Clabour of Wharfedale. However, this marriage was cut short, as he died in 1908. Her third husband was Thomas Watson Ward, whom she married some years later in 1921 at Basford, Nottingham
Mary Ann was always called Polly, which may have been to differentiate between herself and a sister named Mary Jane. Polly was small of stature, being about five feet tall, but very energetic, and several of her siblings turned to her when they had problems. The 1881 census, taken when she was nineteen years old, lists her as nursemaid to the children of Councillor John Limber-Morley, the Mayor of Bradford. He was a silversmith and his cook was Elizabeth Hartburn, who later married my grandfather. Perhaps he met her when visiting his sister Polly at the Mayor’s house.
By 1891 Polly was living at 3 Wells Road, Guiseley, Yorkshire, with her husband Tom Hutchinson. His occupation is given as ‘architect’, but only a few years later they were living in South Africa and Tom was working as a surveyor for de Beers, the diamond mine owners. They lived at several places during the next few years, including Durban, Somerset West and Capetown. Polly’s niece Rosa was with them for some time, as she ‘suffered with her chest’. Perhaps she was asthmatic, as several family members of later generations suffered similar health problems.
Sadly, a freak accident resulted in the death of Tom in 1907. He was killed when the horse and trap he was driving turned over and he struck his head on a rock and was killed. After this tragedy, Polly returned to England with Rosa. Evidence of their stay in South Africa is jewellery made of garnets set in gold and given to various members of the family on Polly’s return to England.
It appears that Polly did not return to her family, who were still living in Derbyshire, but set up home in Yorkshire. There she met and married her second husband, James Bowling Clabour, an engineer and businessman. The marriage was, however, short-lived, as James died aged 64 in 1908. He may have been an invalid and perhaps Polly married him to be his carer, for he died the year following their marriage. They had no children together, but James had eight children from a previous marriage. He left most of his money to these, but Polly received an annuity of £1,000 pounds for life.
Shortly after this, Polly moved to South Normanton, where she took a job as housekeeper to a Mr Slater, probably to be close to her family. Between the years of 1914 and 1918, Polly went into business in Bridlington. She had a sweet shop close to the harbour and a grocer’s shop managed by her nephew. A niece of hers went to live with her, and she worked at a home for wounded soldiers at Robin Hood’s Bay. Polly had other shops in various parts of Yorkshire. There was one in Scarborough, another in Shelf, near Bradford, and one in Hipperholme. The goods sold at these varied from groceries to haberdashery, and maybe she used money made during her time in South Africa to start her business ventures. Meanwhile, she was still in touch with her family, and when her niece Marion was being a troublesome teenager, she was sent to live with her Aunt Polly for a while.
In 1921 Polly embarked on her third and last marriage. This was to Thomas Ward, a butcher. Maybe she met him when visiting her family, as they were married in Basford, a district on the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire border. He was always referred to as Mr Ward by the family, never his first name. He built a bungalow for them to live in at Skegby, but it took a long time to complete, and while the work continued they lived in an old converted railway carriage in the garden. Polly was still keeping herself busy, as she kept a baker’s shop nearby.
Polly kept in close touch with her brothers and sister and almost all the family remembered her. She befriended her nephews and nieces, perhaps because they filled a need for the children she never had. Sadly I did not know her, though I do remember visiting her once as a small child and I still have a couple of china keepsakes given to me on that occasion. She lived to the grand old age of 97 and died on November 27 1956 in an old people’s home. Her money was left to be shared between her many nieces and nephews, whom I am sure had many happy memories of their Aunt Polly.
Website News by Alan Betts
Some time ago, a friend of mine said to me “You’re into family history, can you identify this medal?” It belonged to one of his ancestors and he hadn’t got a clue what it was. When I looked at it, neither had I. He had the ribbon bar with it, so I volunteered to look it up for him on the Internet. Could I find a website purely for identifying medal/award ribbon bars? No I couldn’t. I found a few descriptive websites and websites offering them for sale, so I thought I’d create one. Well, not a website but a page on ours.
Having scoured the Internet, I found loads of ribbon bars. I collated them and I’ve now created a page containing about 300 ribbon bars. Each ribbon bar displayed has the name of the award/medal underneath it that it represents, and they are listed alphabetically. Most of the names are also links that will take you to a website that will give you information about the award/medal. You will find the page by going onto our website (www.bfhg.org.uk). Hover over the tab ‘National Research’ and a window will drop down containing the tab ‘Ribbon Bars’. Click on that and it will open up the page; or you can go to it direct on www.bfhg.org.uk/Ribbon-Bars.php
If you do look at the page and you find a descriptive error or a broken link, please let me know. If you know of, or find another website that has a better description, let me know and I will link the ribbon bar to that site. And if you have any more ribbon bars that you suggest I add, please let me know.
I was asked recently if I could create an album of postcards of locations within our vicinity, so I have done so. The postcards can be accessed by going onto the site and hovering over the tab ‘Local Research’. Click on the drop-down window ‘Postcards Of Landmarks In Our Vicinity’, then click on the town or village you want to see postcards of. Over 100 postcards represent only 11 of the 39 towns and villages in our vicinity. Thanks to those who have submitted material for inclusion on our website. We would like more postcards, especially of the towns and villages not yet represented, so please continue to submit your photographs of family and locations, and any postcards of local places you might have.
The pages I hope to add next will be about War Memorials. There are about 18 in our vicinity. A photograph of each one will be displayed and a list of names recorded on each one. I have completed four so far, so watch this space.
Age of Change submitted by Judy Hawker
It was after I received the article below from a cousin in Shenstone that I first became really interested in my own family history. Along the way I found a few discrepancies in my ‘Uncle Ernie’s knowledge which are puzzling to this day. However, it has led to holidays for my husband John and I in South West Scotland, where we discovered unknown cousins! The article was written by Stewart Heeley and was first printed in the Lichfield Mercury dated 9th February 1990. Thanks very much to Mr Deakin of Christchurch Lane, Lichfield, for sharing his stories and photographs with us.
An idyllic scene of peace and tranquillity that has, unfortunately, passed Lichfield by... The time is around the turn of the century, and the place is Christchurch Mill and pool, which was filled in just after the Second World War, had a house built on the site, and is now in line for a new housing estate. The mill was demolished soon afterwards, and the nearby farmhouse has now all but disappeared – only the foundations can now be seen. The mill has a special meaning for Lichfield man, Mr Ernest Deakin, the only surviving grandchild of the family that lived on the farm at the end of the 19th century.
Mr and Mrs David Blair arrived from Scotland to live and work on Trunkfields Farm in the bleak winter of 1890, with their two young daughters, Mary and Ellen. Access to the farm was via a narrow lane from Walsall Road, or across fields by the side of the old Friary Road swimming baths, Mr Deakin recalls. Unfortunately for the family, their bedding and furniture was held up for weeks because even the railway lines from Scotland were put out of action by icy conditions!
Their new neighbours in Christchurch parish came to the rescue, and donated bed linen and pots and pans. Drinking and cooking water came directly from the pool. and it was many years before a proper clean supply was piped to the farm. The pool, at the centre of the farm, became a focal point during the winter months. when people from Lichfield skated on its frozen surface, and a bonfire was lit on the small island in the centre to roast potatoes on. Both Blair children attended the old Christchurch School. under the guidance of headmaster. Mr Jonathon Job, who taught ‘the three Rs’. to children aged between five and 15. in three crowded rooms. Mary and Ellen grew up on the farm and survived outbreaks of diphtheria and other lethal diseases at the school. Log books recorded: ‘Attendance has fallen off on account of Scarlet Fever breaking out in the parish, one of my boys and his sister died last Monday, and were buried on the following day.’
The family continued to farm in the early days of the 20th century, and the pool became known as Blair’s Pool! t passed into the ownership of Mr WH Saxton (Mr Blair’s son-in-law) during World War II, who brought in modern farming methods, including ploughs to replace horses. His son, Fred, bought his own farm at Shenstone, but his sister (Mrs Bartlett) continued to farm Trunkfields with her two sons until its demolition.
This Issue’s Cover Photograph
Mine Disaster Memorial, Pelsall This issue’s cover photograph is of an obelisk which stands in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels, Pelsall, and commemorates the Pelsall Hall colliery disaster of 1872. On Thursday 14th November 1872, 22 miners at Mouse Hill Pit, Pelsall, died when the pit flooded.
At about 9.00 am that morning, there were sudden cries of “Pull up” from the pit shaft. When the cage bonnet appeared, three men were found to be clinging to it for dear life, and a rescuing party descending into the shaft found men ‘swimming indiscriminately around and climbing up any support available, keeping themselves above the water level’. Many were rescued, but bad weather impeded the efforts and for some it was too late.
The stone reads: This stone is erected to commemorate the sudden and disastrous inundation of the Pelsall Hall Colliery on the 14th day of November 1872 whereby the 22 miners whose names are inscribed hereon lost their lives and whose bodies are, with the exception of John Hubbards’s, buried beneath. “In the midst of life we are in death”.