Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2011 10-12 Volume 20 Number 1
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
July - Sep 2011
 Vol. 19 No. 4
Contents of this issue.
From the Chair
I Bet You Didn’t Know That
News from the Secretary
25 Years On – Part 2
Brisbane and Back
Request for Genealogical Help
Researching a Family Tragedy
Reviews of Guest Speakers
Epitaph for an Army Mule
The Elusive William Turner
A Wealth of Family History
Wife for Sale!
The Memorial Project
This Issue's Cover Photograph
From the Chair... Hi everybody. Hope you have all had a good summer. Not too bad overall, was it? Now for Christmas! Talking of which, we shall be having our annual dinner at the Wych Elm again this year, probably between Christmas and New Year. If you are interested, please add your name to the list, which will be available at all our meetings. The AGM went quite well, with 23 in attendance. The only change to the committee was our Meetings Secretary, who resigned after eight years; therefore we are seeking a replacement. The committee meet just four times per year, plus the AGM. Anyone interested should contact me or one of the committee members. Jeff Wilson, our Treasurer, reported an income over expenditure and a healthy bank balance, so if anyone has any thoughts on what could be purchased to facilitate the Group, please let us know. Our Secretary, Geoff Sorrell, reported a slight drop in membership, but expected it to be back to an average of 120, of which 12 are family members, giving a total of 130, by spring next year. Alan Betts reported about 100 ‘hits’ per week on our website and asked for pictures and articles to keep coming. Have you seen the website recently? It really is superb. I am happy to report the Group received two grants this year: £100 from Burntwood Town Council and £100 from Staffordshire Council, who also continue to cover the cost of our renting the meeting rooms at the Old Mining College. Transcription work is almost complete on St Mary’s, Lichfield parish records, and this should be available on CD very soon. On the subject of CDs, a name index compiled from all the discs should now be accessible on Staffordshire ‘freeReg’. Speakers this year have on the whole been interesting and informative. Costs have risen slightly, but usually they are affordable. Don’t forget booking of speakers is now being done by Jane Leake, and she would welcome names and ideas for future meetings. For anyone interested, the ‘Who do you think you are’ Show at Olympia (24–26 February, 2012) is offering a ticket reduction to £10.00 if a group of ten or more people attend. My thanks to the committee for their support during my first year in office. My thanks also go to everyone who volunteered for the many duties, large and small, involved in running the Burntwood Family History Group. A few more volunteers to help with refreshments would be appreciated! Good hunting. Carole Jones
I Bet You Didn’t Know That... There is an old hotel/pub in Marble Arch, London, which used to have a gallows adjacent to it. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial, of course...) to be hanged. The horse-drawn dray carrying the prisoner was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if he would like one last drink. If he said “Yes”, it was referred to as ‘one for the road’. If he declined, that prisoner was ‘on the waggon’. They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families all used to pee in a pot, and then once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were ‘p*** poor’. But worse than that were the really poor folk, who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot – they ‘didn’t have a pot to p*** in’ and were the lowest of the low. The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be!
News from the Secretary The Group is now into its 26th year and continues to develop its activities and facilities. Those of you who attended the AGM will have been acquainted with our financial situation (very healthy) and have heard of the progress of our various projects and activities. Your Journal should contain information on the AGM proceedings elsewhere, so I shall not say anything more other than to remind everyone how indebted we are to those members who spend their time and energy working for the Group in their various capacities. Many of us are of ‘advanced years’ and have to consider the prospect of handing on some of our responsibilities to relatively younger people in the near future.
Membership - Total membership of the Group at the time of going to press is 123, of which 13 are family memberships making a total of 136. If the current rate of new members is maintained throughout the current year, we shall have our highest membership ever by next July.
Condolences - We are sorry to have to report that two of our long standing members have unfortunately lost their partners recently. Pauline Stanley’s partner Ken died suddenly and unexpectedly last month. Pauline has been a member for many years – almost a founder, I suspect – and has contributed much to the Group. Although Ken was probably not known to many of our members, he was a great railways enthusiast who maintained a model railway in his garden and had numerous model trains in his collection. Our thoughts are with Pauline, as they are also with Maureen Hemmingsley, our committee secretary. Although Maureen’s husband had been ill for some time, it was a shock to us all to hear that he succumbed to his illness so suddenly. Although Maureen has not been with the Group for quite as long as Pauline, she was invaluable to us for ten years as the minuting secretary to the Committee. Maureen had resigned from that position shortly before her husband’s death. Our condolences to both these ladies in their loss have been expressed on behalf of all our members.
Forthcoming events - On the back cover of this issue of the Journal, you will find details of our Programme for the coming year. Remember that the December Monday meeting will be a Christmas social and quiz night. The more the merrier – we always have good fun at these social events, so do come along and join in. There will also be a Christmas dinner at the Wych Elm in Chase Terrace, to which you may like to come. It has to be pre-booked, so put your name on the list that is available at our meetings to ensure that there is table space for you on the day.
Group website - If you have access to the Internet, please keep in touch by visiting www.bfhg.org.uk, where you will find all the latest news ‘as it happens’, courtesy of our webmaster, Allan Betts. While the Journal is very much loved by most of our members, the website has taken over many of the functions formerly served by the Journal and our other publications. It does have advantages in that it can be continuously updated, whereas the Journal is dependant on its publication dates and therefore is sometimes a bit late with its news.
A Happy Christmas to all our readers and good hunting in your search for your ancestors in the coming year. Geoff Sorrell, Hon. Secretary.
25 Years On by Geoff Sorrell. To mark the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the Burntwood Family History Group, last issue I began to chronicle this history of the Group, taking it up to the mid-1990s. In this concluding part, I look at how we have fared since then, up to the present day.
Part II: Into the 21st Century - Developments within the Group during the early 1990s included the establishment of a Member’s Interests List. A card index of surnames had been kept for a year or two, but in 1993 the first steps were taken towards compiling an alphabetical list of all surnames being researched by current members, together with the geographical areas in which they might be found and the dates for which information was needed. Initially, these names were recorded in the Journal and, as more and more members added their names to the list, it soon became necessary to produce an annual Members’ Interest List in booklet form, with a copy being issued to every member.
When the Genealogical Society of Utah decided to transcribe the 1881 Census of the United Kingdom, one of our founder members, Pam Woodburn, was appointed coordinator for the Lichfield area, and members of the Group contributed many hours of work in producing the transcribed enumerators’ sheets, which were subsequently used to produce the complete census in the form of CDs.
When the transcribed version of the 1881 Census became available, the group began to acquire the microfiches from the GSU. A set of fiches for Staffordshire was donated to us by the GSU in recognition of the work done by the Group. Over time, many other English counties were added to our collection and this research material became an important part of our members’ requirements. The fiches and readers were loaned out to members between meetings so that they could continue to work at home.
Applications for membership from other parts of the UK, and even from abroad, were received from time to time. The Journal became a quarterly publication, and advertisers were recruited to fill the centre pages with the basic details of 16 local shops and businesses. The charge for this advertising was initially set at £8.00 per annum – later increased to £10. The adverts made a big contribution to the costs of providing a Journal for every member of the Group, and the subscription for out-of-town members was increased to the same level as local members to help cover the cost of sending the Journal to everyone who was a subscribed member. Increased membership and fundraising activities also enabled plans to be made for improving the quality of the Journal in the future.
The Group also began its 10th Anniversary Project to transcribe and index the parish registers of the local area in booklet form. The first to be tackled was Burntwood Christchurch and a team of transcribers, under the overall supervision of Bernard Daniels, was recruited to convert the register entries into a form which could be used to produce a booklet index in A5 format. The complete transcriptions were computerised as databases. In later years, these became the basis for the production of floppy discs and CD-ROMs as the digital technology of computers became available. These transcribed records have been a major contribution to family history research in the local area right up to the present day, and are still an ongoing project.
The microfiches were obtained from the Staffordshire County Record Office. These proved to be invaluable when the proliferation of computers and hard media, on which to record data which could be viewed by those with access to computers, enabled the group to expand the project to include full transcriptions rather than the indexes published in the original booklets.
Unfortunately, this created a problem some time afterwards, when the Records Office raised the question of copyright of the microfiches. However, the Group took the view that, as we had created a completely different form of presentation and were not using the images on the microfiches as part of our published CDs, there was no infringement; the Group owned the copyright of the transcriptions and the search programme (courtesy of Bernard Daniels) which made the finished product such a popular choice for people researching parishes in our area.
Not wishing to antagonise the Record Office or the diocesan authorities (who had granted permission for the filming of the original registers), we did agree to publish an index of surnames only on the CDs for entries less than 100 years old. We do have all the information on these later events and we can provide it to members if it is requested.
The Group has had considerable help in financing its projects over the years. When the decision was taken to apply for a grant from the National Lottery Awards, it was done with some doubt that we would be successful. However, we did eventually succeed in obtaining a grant of £5,000 to cover the cost of various items to help us in producing the Journal and continuing to expand our transcription projects. We also applied for a desktop computer from BT and this application was also successful.
The continual addition of property to the Group was a problem, as there was nowhere to keep the various items except at members’ homes. The cost of the meetings at Burntwood Library also rose to an unaffordable rate and, after some debate and consideration of alternatives, it was decided to move our meetings to the Old Mining College when it was re-opened as a community facility. Initially all meetings were held in the main Community Room but, with the number of people allowed in the room being restricted to 50, it very soon became necessary to take on the hire of another small room where we could keep our desktop computer and have research sessions.
At one stage in the early part of the 21st Century, total membership of the Group rose to 150, and the decision was taken to have regular meetings at the Old Mining College twice a month to enable more people to do research. The Monday meetings were then devoted to having a speaker or some social activity (notably at Christmas), and the Thursday meetings were held in the small committee room, where the Group’s research aids were available for members to use. Although the overall membership has not been maintained at the peak reached a few years ago, the pattern of meetings has now expanded further, and the Thursday meetings are held in the main community room, with the Group’s facilities, while those who wish to do research via the Internet use the computer room on the first floor. This was made possible principally due to a grant to the Group from the Adult Learning Group for the cost of hiring the rooms.
Editorship of the Journal passed to Brian Asbury and Jan Green in 2004, and they redesigned it considerably, giving it a more professional look. It evolved to a further stage with the production of the Special Edition 20th Anniversary Issue in 2006. This saw the introduction of a cover sheet and advertisement pages in colour. The Special Edition was produced by a local printing firm with high-quality paper and print processes, but this was considered too expensive to be done on a regular basis and subsequent quarterly issues were produced in a similar style by members of the Group using our own printing facilities to set up the colour elements and the printer to produce the main body of the Journal. The print run we ordered reached 170 on one occasion, but usually it was somewhat lower than that due to fluctuations in membership.
For many years, the Group has had exchange arrangements with a number of other Societies, provides a copy for every public library in the Lichfield area and gives a complementary copy to each of our advertisers. This is why the print run has to be about 40 more than the number of memberships.
A further step forward was made when our printer installed a new machine which could do the whole job from a CD which we produce. We now order and pay for each print run and receive a complete booklet, assembled and stapled ready for sending to our mailing list. Part of the additional cost of this has been subsidised by grants from local funds for which we have successfully applied.
The Group has always been involved in giving assistance to others who wish to set up their own organisation, and has provided assistance to the local libraries at Lichfield, Burntwood, Shenstone and Norton Canes in the provision of family history surgeries for some years.
We have also provided practical help to a group which was formed at the St. Mary’s Centre in Lichfield on a regular basis and have been present at a number of open days and exhibitions organised by other local and family history organisations in the Lichfield and Cannock areas. A set of display boards and a display banner have been acquired for use at these events.
So it is that in 2011 we are celebrating 25 years of steady progress towards becoming the recognised server of genealogy research for an area of South Staffordshire which includes the parishes which are part of the Lichfield District Council area, Cannock District Council area and that part of the Walsall Metropolitan Borough area which is within the Parish of St. James, Ogley Hay.
There have been suggestions in the past that the Group’s activities might be extended to include other parts of South Staffordshire, with an appropriate change of name to indicate the expansion. There are two main reasons why this will probably not happen. Firstly, there are other organisations in adjoining areas involved in similar activities – some on a much smaller scale and others, such as the Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy & Heraldry, on a much larger scale. Secondly, the Group has no permanent home for its meetings and storage of property. Without the necessary facilities, there is no point in promoting an increase in membership or expanding our current programme of activities.
Looking to the future, therefore, the next step would seem to be to campaign for the provision of a permanent facility, provided by local funding, where groups such as ours could store and display their archival material and accommodate greater numbers at their meetings. Such a facility is badly needed in Burntwood, and hopefully there will, at some time in the future, be a building of some description available which the District Council or Town Council will offer to the people of Burntwood and all those local associations for their use in providing affordable community activities.
Perhaps a campaign for such a facility could be our next project – the achievement of which may be celebrated in our 30th anniversary year, 2016.
Brisbane and Back (With a little help from the BFHG) by Pam Turner. Since the BFHG’s website has been revamped, there have been lots of welcome and beneficial additions, and for me personally it has proved very fruitful. Last year I submitted two short biographies on the ‘Local people of interest’ section about my great grandfather Alfred Haycock and his brother Albert, both of who were born in Brereton, Rugeley in the 1870s.
After the articles were put on the site, I didn’t give either of them much thought until a couple of months ago when I was emailed by a lady from Australia, who told me she had seen the articles and was sure that her husband’s ancestor Thomas Haycock was the brother of Alfred and Albert. As soon as I had read her email, I knew at once that she was right, Alfred and Albert did have a brother Thomas, but up to that date I had only managed to obtain limited info on him.
Dorothy’s email told me that Thomas had emigrated to Australia from Staffordshire in 1912, followed by his wife and daughter in 1914, and they had settled in Brisbane, Queensland. After his arrival Thomas had joined the Garrison Military Police in Brisbane, but he had had to retire from it in 1917 due to ill health. Unfortunately, these health problems continued for Thomas, resulting in his death in 1926, just 14 years after emigrating. Thomas’s wife Elizabeth Jane and his daughter Margaret remained in Brisbane for the rest of their lives, with Margaret marrying an Australian and having two daughters.
During our following emails, Dorothy gave me access to pictures, documents and other information, enabling me to complete the life story of Thomas and his family. All this detail was great, but the icing on the cake came when she offered to send me a copy of two letters that had been written by my greatgrandfather Alfred to Thomas’s daughter Margaret. These letters had been passed down through the family to Dorothy’s husband, who was Thomas’s great-grandson. I have to admit that during my 14 years of family history research I have found many interesting details on my ancestors, but nothing had ever made me feel quite so emotional as when I received and read these two missives.
Alfred had written the first letter, dated June 1926, while he was still a police inspector at Bloxwich Police Station, it is headed up with the Station’s own stamp and is mostly about the death of Thomas, with Alfred offering his condolences and words of comfort and advice to niece Margaret. Also, he mentions the General Strike here in England, and how it was affecting our country. I am not sure of the exact date of the second letter, but as Alfred mentions the war and his own failing health, I have guessed that it was written around 1945/46. Alfred died in January 1947, after suffering four years of heart problems, and it is quite possible that this was the last letter he wrote to Australia.
When we obtain details on our ancestors, we can look at pictures and analyse facts and figures, but to read an ancestor’s thoughts on paper tells us so much more about the person they were. Both of Alfred’s letters are beautifully written and so caring, which gives me the impression that my great-grandfather was a lovely man. While I was reading them, I wondered what he would have thought as he posted them – could he possibly have envisaged that they would survive 85 and 65 years respectively, or that copies of them would wing their way back to Staffordshire in the 21st Century, to be read by his greatgranddaughter? I doubt it very much!
In conclusion, I am so grateful that Thomas’s descendants have kept and passed on these letters over the years, but also I am so pleased that I took the time to write the articles for the BHFG website. Having information from our area that is instantly accessible globally has ultimately led me to find items from my great-grandfather’s past that I did not know existed, as well as to becoming part of someone else’s memories on the other side of the world.
Requests for Genealogical Help. Paul Webb (paul_webb@primus.com.au) sent us an indenture document (much too large to include here as it would fill 10 pages of this Journal, but Ye Editor will happily email a copy to anyone who is interested). Concerning this, he writes: ‘I am researching my family history, and the attached Indenture refers to some of my long lost ancestors and other members of the family. I particular, I am interested in one Richard Walmsley and Richard Nangreave, who are mentioned. I was hoping that some light may be shed regarding any information on these two gentlemen, as Richard Walmsley was supposed to have spent some time at Pipe Hill. Richard Nangreave was known to have been associated with Woodhouses, but I am not sure if the Woodhouses in your area is the correct location. Any help would be greatly appreciated'.
Researching a Family Tragedy. By Barbara Williams. My husband and I have been researching our family history for many years now and, like everyone else we feel a sense of achievement when we step back in time to find another generation of ancestors. However, we sometimes fight shy of peeping at more recent events in our family tree. When we were courting, and in our early years of marriage, we occasionally heard little stories of my husband’s uncle, who committed suicide in the Brownhills area, and the reasons behind it. Many years have since passed; my mother and father-in-law have passed away and the subject was never brought up again until recently, when we met the wife of one of my husband’s cousins. So, we decided to find out the truth once and for all.
First we needed a death certificate. We found the death on the index of www.ancestry.com, registered at Cannock in May 1937, so off we went. The staff were extremely helpful; after first searching the index on the computer, she looked in the registers, but to no avail. She then decided to ring Walsall Register Office and they agreed to do a basic search, but they also found nothing. I was invited to leave my money and my application form so that they could have a think about it, but the next day they rang me up and asked me to collect my money and application form. On the way home, we decided to visit Lichfield Register Office and, again, the staff couldn’t have done more to help – but again, they could find nothing. I decided, therefore, to contact the GRO at Southport, and a few days later the certificate duly arrived.
We then decided to find out why he had taken his own life at the age of 24 and under the circumstances there would have been an inquest. We booked a reader at Walsall Local History Centre in Essex Street, hoping there would be a report in the Walsall Observer, and we were in luck. At last we were able to satisfy ourselves that one of the stories we had been told was true.
It is always a good idea to provide feedback, so we returned to Cannock Register Office to show them the death certificate. It was explained to us that because it was a suicide and a coroner was involved, only an ‘intermediate death certificate’ would be issued in the first instance for the sole purpose of burial. The official death certificate would eventually be issued by the coroner and would have been sent directly to the GRO, stating the registration district, the family of the deceased having no requirement to register the death themselves. This procedure could take anything from three months to three years!
Footnote: We were also amazed at how much news there was in the Walsall Observer about the Burntwood area. It’s well worth a look.
Reviews of Guest Speakers’ Talks
August 2011: Pamela Sambrook on ‘The Trouble With Servants’ Reviewer: John Catliff
Beginning her talk, Pamela Sambrook said that many people attending would have found a past relative who was listed as a servant in their family tree. People would not have had to have been wealthy to have employed a servant. Middle-class and, indeed, some working-class families could have employed a servant; having several children to look after, a family might employ a 13–14 year old girl as a nursery maid. By reading extracts from some of the letters and diaries she had obtained, Pamela allowed the servants to speak for themselves. In the West Staffordshire and Shropshire area in 1851, 27% of 15–19 year old girls worked in service, and 40% of girls in service were domestic servants. If they were employed by farmers, along with other duties in the household they would be involved with preparing the meals for the ‘ag labs’. Servants’ positions could be reviewed at Christmas, as they were usually hired on a yearly basis.
The master or mistress of the household demanded respect from his or her employees, but in return provided a home, food and training. For the girls, this was a good grounding in housewifery, and while they were employed there was always the possibility of the chance to meet a marriage partner. The ‘big house’ was seen as a place where a servant could meet many people – the likes of gardeners, footmen and, of course, the ag labs. If all else failed and no marriage was forthcoming, a long-term career could be assured from the employer.
Pam read an extract from ‘Thomas’s diary 1838-39’. Thomas wrote that he had obtained a position as a footman at West Hill, The Duke of Sutherland’s estate on the west side of the Thames. He had a girlfriend (Martha) who had moved to London in service at another household. In January he wrote: ‘We went to Drury lane it cost 2/- but I didn’t think much of it’ (not clear if this cost was for himself or both of them). He later wrote he had bought a watch for £5/15/6 – quite a lot of money then! Someone named Sarah promised to go out with him on a visit to a country house and they had crossed the river on a ferry – that would have been exciting. Was this a new romance? On his return he wrote the watchmaker had asked for the watch back. Perhaps he had bought it on the never-never and not actually paid for it!
In June he wrote, ‘I have been to visit Martha. We walked around some gardens.’ His feelings for Martha appeared to be cooling as he later wrote, ‘I don’t want her here.’ The end of that year he wrote, ‘My father has died and I am going home.’ Further extracts were from the diary of Earnest King, a footman who wrote that a young maid was bothering him, kicking his ankles under the table. One can only surmise that things were getting out of hand; while she was away, he handed his notice in and left.
A letter written by a George Washington said he was having a relationship and he used to cycle to the local pub, where a local spinster of about 25 had taken a liking to him. One morning, he rose late for work and the mistress accused him of sleeping with one of the maids. He decided to leave his employment. Another letter, dated 1847, was from blacksmith John Spendlove to Ruth Barrow in Leicester. This was an example of cross writing; paper was expensive and this was a way of making full use of the space, albeit making it a little difficult to read. John had made a request to get engaged. Ruth replied she was surprised he had made this request. She needed an excuse to get out and meet him, so she would tell her employer she was going to attend the October fair with her sister.
Pamela said that very few diaries were written by the female servants but, in an interesting letter dated 24th January 1838 to her son Tom, a widow, Mrs Bacon, living with her father in Northampton, said: ‘A man came to visit Cook again. She has had 14 Sunday visits; the man gave different excuses as to why he should be allowed to visit her, but I don’t believe he is her brother. The housemaids have been told not to speak to Cook.’ (a sort of sending to Coventry). It seemed the cook was giving the visitor food; if caught, she would be dismissed without references, and she probably was. A letter with rather scrawly writing read: ‘I am sorry to trouble your ladyship but the gardener and the maid are having an affair.’ This was written by a neighbour who said he was just looking out for her ladyship.
In a 12-month diary belonging to a William Taylor, who was employed in London, he wrote: ‘I go out walking every day on two occasions to see my friend.’ It seems fairly innocuous, but he was married and had managed to place his wife in a local house. In most cases, if a female servant married, she would have to leave her employment. Sometimes, men who were a little older, perhaps, and had been promoted to butlers, footmen or coachmen, were allowed to marry.
Pamela also read some interesting letters from managers of the Duke of Sutherland’s Estate. The Duke owned property in Scotland, London and Lewisham. In one example, Mrs Doar, the housekeeper, had been ill for some time, senior or older women were always referred to as ‘Mrs’ whether married or not. It would appear Mrs Doar had a child stillborn at seven months. While she was away from her duty, another lady, a Mrs Cleaver, had taken charge of her duties and performed a full inventory of the household. In the letter, the manager stated it had been found that Mrs Doar had been sending large packages from the Hall... ‘and I request you deal with this letter in confidentiality and investigate carefully. Parcels must have been intercepted, as it involved wine, food, blankets, enough to run a home. And all the property of His Lord and Ladyship.’ The outcome was that Mrs Doar`s husband was summoned to the Hall, and obviously his wife lost her job and reputation. Pamela said that much of her information had been found at the Stafford Records Office, but there are huge numbers of records, so it is a long and painstaking job to uncover some of the information, albeit rewarding. Many thanks to Pamela for an enthralling insight into the lives of the servants.
October 2011: Roger Smethers on ‘Cannock Chase Army Camps of WWI’ Reviewer: Sheila Clarke.
Roger Smethers’ projector had developed a fault, so he was unable to illustrate his talk with slides. However, he used a map which had recently come into his possession to show us the changes which took place at that time. It showed the position of the thousands of buildings which were erected on the Chase during the First World War. Many of us were unaware that the topography of Cannock Chase before 1914 was so different from what we now see. There were very few trees at that time and the area was open heathland. Before war was declared, there were 170,000 troops in the army – but even before the end of the first year of the war, 175,000 more had volunteered. It was realised that camps would need to be set up throughout the country to train and house these soldiers. Land of low value was chosen where possible, rather than acquiring farming land. Cannock Chase was ideal from this point of view, the land having little value. Soldiers had also trained on the Chase during the 19th century.
It was decided that a camp for 40,000 troops would be built on the Chase. Initially, the soldiers were housed under canvas, but bad weather and high winds which blew down tents forced some of them to be billeted in local homes, and others in unfinished huts. The Sherbrook valley cuts through the site, so it was decided that two camps would be set up, each catering for 20,000 personnel. One camp, near Brockton, was named Brockton Camp; the other was named Rugeley Camp, though it was more than four miles from Rugeley. The soldiers arrived by train to Rugeley station, and then would have to walk to the camp. A railway built by the Cannock 5 Colliery Company ran from Hednesford to the Chase plateau, and then on to Milford. This was to carry building materials to the site, and then to transport goods, coal, army equipment and foodstuffs when the camps were up and running. The locals called this goods train the ‘Tackaroo Express’.
The huts to house the personnel were 60 ft by 20ft and were prefabricated, coming to the site in sections to be bolted together by the 1,000 civilian construction workers and some of the soldiers. The huts were set upon brick pillars rising two and a half feet from the ground. Thirty-four men were housed in each hut. The huts were erected in ‘streets’, each row being imaginatively named after a letter of the alphabet, or a number. After the war, some of the huts were moved to other locations and used for different purposes, such as the one that became the Church Hall for St. John’s for many years. Others became classrooms for local schools, and one ex-army hut can still be seen at Chase Visitors Centre.
A power station and a water tower were constructed, together with a water supply and sewage system. All buildings necessary for a small town were erected, including churches, a telephone exchange, shops, stables and a cinema. The quality of the work done was excellent, and the facilities provided were better than those enjoyed by most of the inhabitants of Cannock and Rugeley at the time. Some of the ground work is still visible to eagle-eyed walkers on the Chase. Evidence of the tarmac roads, urinals and other buildings can also still be seen today.
Two hospitals were built, one at the camp and the other at Brindley Heath. The latter hospital had 12 wards with 50 beds in each. After the war, it was retained as a hospital well into the 1920s, treating victims of mustard gas inhalation and shell shock. Miners’ families then moved into the village, which grew around the hospital, together with its church and school. Mining subsidence finally caused the village to be abandoned in 1954. Roger had been able to find the names of only a few men who were stationed at the camp. He had a photograph of a Captain WH Hill of the Royal Engineers who had worked at the camp; but perhaps the most famous soldier to be posted there was one serving in the Lancashire Fusiliers, namely JRR Tolkein. Perhaps Tolkein gained inspiration for some of the settings in his novels from Cannock Chase.
The camp was mainly used as a training facility for infantry divisions. Apart from the British soldiers, troops from New Zealand were also billeted there. A memorial to the New Zealanders’ mascot, a Dalmatian called Freda, can be seen, although the original stone was misplaced some time ago. There were also a few women from the WAACs stationed at the camp. Roger read out a few postcards which soldiers sent home. Many complained about the distance from Rugeley, the desolate nature of the surrounding countryside or the cold in winter. One called it a ‘dog hole’. However one New Zealander penned a poem in an autograph book to the ‘girls in brown’, the WAACs. Another soldier said he enjoyed the camp, particularly the picture house.
At the end of the war, the camp housed German prisoners of war. The original ‘German’ cemetery contains 387 graves. The majority are German, but about 70 New Zealanders are also buried there, as are a few British soldiers. Many of the graves are of men who died in the Spanish flu epidemic. The larger German cemetery contains 5,000 graves of men who served in both wars, and whose bodies were moved from other areas and reinterred at Cannock Chase. Roger Smethers’ talk will encourage us to be on the lookout for remains of the WWI camp when we walk on the Chase. I, for one, was unaware of the size and scale of the camp and the facilities it contained.
Epitaph for an Army Mule. You think odd gravestone inscriptions are for humans only? Well, how about this one, dedicated to Maggie, a World War II army mule who was buried in France?
In memory of MAGGIE who in her time kicked two colonels, four majors, ten captains, twenty-four lieutenants, forty-two sergeants, four hundred and thirty-two other ranks AND one Mills Bomb
The Elusive William Turner by Pauline Stanley (née Turner). As many of our members know, my family, the Turners, came from Cumberland, the parish of Kirklinton. Using the parish register, census and other aids now on the Internet, I had finally reached this, taken from the parish register: JOHN SON OF WILL TURNNER Bapt. THE 5TH MAY 1695
I am used to this type of spelling error, but in this period of time, vicars often did not name the mother. By the 1750s, the vicar usually did name the mother – a great help with your research to aid in getting the correct family. The first thing was to find a will for a William Turner or Turnner, but there where quite a few with this name in this parish. I had a fellow researcher named William who visited the record office at Carlisle, and he discovered a will, which also had an inventory attached, for a man called William Turner of Highgate. For a family researcher, this was just like manna from heaven, but proof was needed. We both searched all maps – old and not so old – but found nothing for ‘Highgate’.
So William Turner was put aside, until I got a phone call from William enquiring, ‘did I know the name of the churchwarden for Heathersgill and did they hold a plan of the cemetery?’ I was able to answer this question, giving the name and the telephone number for this lady. A few weeks later, William telephoned me to say he had misplaced the telephone number of Mrs. Strougen the churchwarden but, using the telephone directory, guess what he had found? Mrs Strougen lived at Highgate, Hethersgill!
Way back in 1742, when William wrote his will, Highgate was a small plot of land like a modern day smallholding. This proved that this man was one of my family as, in his will, he named his children. There with the right age, was my John Turner. They all came from, in or around Hethersgill. This is typical of doing research! This farm was right under our noses and the use of a modern telephone directory gave the information required!
For now, though, that is the end of my good news. William Turner’s christening on 17th September 1665, shown in the parish register, just says his father was John Turner of Hethersgill; no more information was available. So this seems to be the end of my research for my Turners, as there is no more information held for this parish church.
A Wealth of Family History by M. F. Jennings. My wife’s great-grandparents were Edward Lord, who was born in 1853 at Coleorton, Leicestershire, and Mary Ann Mason, who was born in 1854 at Staunton Harold in Leicestershire, where they were married in about 1872. Edward was a coach and coffin maker as well as a wheelwright and farmer. I was able to obtain all of this information by talking to my wife’s oldest aunt but, as with most elderly relatives, she was very reluctant to go into any detail.
In recent years, my wife has made contact with her cousin, who was still in touch with relatives on the Lord side of the family. From this new source, the family tree was enlarged to include the four brothers of Mary Ann Mason and her four sons, who included the Mason name as a Christian name. It was from Eva, the daughter of one of her sons, that a fairly accurate list was made. Eva is a cousin of my wife’s mother and, two years ago, after I had managed to write down all of the information, we went to see her and have returned a number of times since with further information.
As is often the case, she asked some questions to which we did not know the answers. This was quite remarkable, as Eva is now 98 years old. One of the things that she wanted to know about was the army service record of her uncle, Edwin Mason, and whether he had served in India. She remembered him when he went to live with them in Burslem in about 1918. He stayed in the front room with them until he died in 1930. The family moved to Rhos-on-Sea in North Wales in 1931.This was after her father, Edwin Mason Lord, retired from the family pottery firm, and why we lost contact with them for many years.
I have since found out about her uncle Edwin and his army service. He was born on a small farm in 1852 at Staunton Harold in Leicestershire, the oldest of five children. When his father died in 1860, his mother remarried and took on an older family as well as bringing up two younger children from this marriage. It may have been because of this that Edwin Mason joined the army in 1871 with the 54th West Norfolk Regiment – and also why, years later when he retired, he went to live with Eva’s family.
After joining the 54th Regiment, he served for 31 years until he was compulsorily retired, when he reached 50 years of age in 1902. He was now serving as a Sergeant Major in the 39th, the Dorset Regiment. The 54th and 39th Regiments were amalgamated in the 1881 army reorganization to form a new 39th Dorset Regiment with two battalions. The old 39th Regiment became the 1st Battalion and the old 54th Regiment the 2nd Battalion. I recently went to the National Archives at Kew and was able to find Edwin’s pension record, which showed that he served for fourteen years in India. He was given a pension of 54d per. day [4/6d or 22½p] in 1902. He was discharged to live at Whitborough Farm Lodge, which adjoins the farm where my wife’s grandparents lived at Moira, near to Ashby-de-la-Zouch. By the 1911 census, he was now living in Derby with another of his relatives as his housekeeper.
As you can imagine, Eva was delighted with all of this information and cannot wait for me to write to the Dorset Regimental Museum to see if they have any further information about him. It is certainly a great help if you can find out as much information about your family history from your oldest relatives while they are still alive, as they can possess a wealth of information that is not easy to find from websites.
A correction. My article entitled ‘The House with Twelve and a Half Chimneys’, featured in the last issue of the Journal, had a minor error of detail. The house is on the outskirts of Penzance, Cornwall and is called Treneere Manor, not Trenacre Manor.
Wife for Sale! Contributed by Alan Betts. In November 1837, The Wolverhampton Chronicle reported the sale of George Hutchinson’s wife, Elizabeth, to a Thomas Snape of Burntwood. The sale took place at Walsall market, and Elizabeth went for the grand sum of two shillings. Hutchinson claimed he was glad to see the back of her, as she had been living openly with Snape for three years.
Although the practice was not legally sanctioned, it was commonly accepted by the people as a legal separation. As long as the sale followed the same procedure as livestock sales, then it was considered binding. And, in most documented cases of wife-selling, the buyer was previously known to the wife and the sale previously agreed!
The Memorial Project. As we approach the first anniversary of the Memorial Project, it’s time to examine what we have achieved and what progress has been made so far. This time last year we were considering whether it would be viable to undertake some research on some of the local lads who gave their lives in WWII and what form this research should take. One year later, with the help of a most dedicated band of volunteer helpers and assisted by a small (but nevertheless useful and appreciated) award from Burntwood Town Council, we have completed minibiographies of six servicemen. These are published on our Group’s website (www.bfhg.org.uk) and several more are almost finished. Our approach to this project has been simple. We advertise wherever possible for descendants or relations of the men whose names appear on local war memorials to contact us and to give their permission for us to go ahead with research on their family member. Each one is assigned a researcher, who then works on their soldier’s mini-biography and keeps in contact with progress reports. The best news of all is – There is no charge for this! But it is very much appreciated if the family member of the soldier writes a few words to be published on the website with the mini-biography when it is complete. At the present time, all our volunteer researchers are working on a mini-biography and we have a short waiting list, but don’t let that put you off if you have a family member whom you would like researched. We will be happy to do it. And we have just heard that Burntwood Town Council will be making another award this year to help us continue the good work.
This Issue’s Cover Photograph. Lichfield Registry Office, Bird Street, Lichfield Standing at the corner of Beacon Park, the building which is today the Lichfield Registry Office was was erected in 1856 as Lichfield’s Free Library and Museum, and still bears that name on an inscription above the door. It was only the second free library to be opened in Britain. When the Friary School moved to its present location in 1975, the library moved from Bird Street into the former school building, leaving the old building to assume a new purpose as the Registry Office for births, marriages and deaths.