Category Archives: England

Researching Great-Grandfather Benjamin

Have you seen those ads for Ancestry reminding you that you may be like your ancestors? Logical, isn’t it? My 2X great-grandfather, Benjamin Knight and I have something in common. We did not move very far. Benjamin never strayed further than 20 miles from where he was born, just like me.

Benjamin Knight was born in Lapley, Staffordshire, England in 1835. In 1851, 251 people lived in Lapley. The village included 47 houses.1 In the same year, Benjamin,16, still lived in Lapley, working as a servant at the vicarage, the home of John Rate and his wife. This made me wonder how a vicar could afford a servant. Research tells me that vicars in the 1800s in England were relatively well off. They became vicars by being appointed by a patron and the vicar’s housing was provided by the patron. They also had a “living,” an income for life. This income, although usually not remunerative, was assured and steady. The term describing the right to appoint a clergyman to a living was called an advowson and considered a form of property to be bought, sold, and inherited. In addition to his living and free lodging, the vicar could also increase his income through tithes, teaching or cultivating gardens or the glebe (acreage provided by the parish). Parishioner also paid the vicar for ceremonies such as baptisms, marriages, and burials.2

John Rate’s patron was a member of the Swinfen family that owned Lapley Hall, the manor in the village.3 It is also no surprise that the vicar and his wife would have needed servants as the vicar would have been very active in the community.

Lapley Hall, National Heritage List for England, Listing no. 1178246

The vicarage was attached to the Church of England’s All Saints Church, which has an interesting history. Benedictines established and founded Lapley Priory on the site of the current church at the very end of the Anglo-Saxon period, as a satellite house of their Abbey of Saint-Remi or Saint-Rémy at Reims, France. King Henry V put an end to the priory in 1415.4 It is believed that the current church building in Lapley probably dates from the late 11th or 12th century.5

Church of All Saints, Lapley, National Heritage List for England, Listing no. 1374057

The 1851 census not only shows Benjamin as working as a servant at the vicarage; his future wife also worked there, as a house servant.6 Surprisingly, they only married nine years later, in 1860 and at that time, Jane was 40 and Benjamin was 25.7 Vicar John Rate officiated at the ceremony. Sadly, they were married a little over a year when Jane died on October 31, 1861. Jane’s death certificate states that the cause of death was unknown.8 Surprising, on the registration of her burial in the Parish of Lapley, the vicar writes that the cause of death was an accumulation of fat around the heart. This is the first time I have ever seen a cause of death in a church’s registration of burial but it seems that Vicar John Rate took the time to enter in all causes of death in the parish register. For example, the parishioner who was buried a few days before Jane died of English cholera. Oddly, no one else seemed to die of cholera in the village at that time.

Benjamin recovered quickly from the death of his wife and went on to marry Jane Everall on June 10, 1862 in Wolverhampton, where Jane lived.9 A little twist to the story: Jane Everall was a witness to Benjamin and Jane Watson’s wedding two years earlier.10 Benjamin and Jane Watson had no children but Benjamin and Jane Everall had eleven, one of which was my great-grandmother, Alice Mary Knight, born in 1876.11 Both of Benjamin’s wives were named Jane and they became Jane Knight in the records, adding a layer of complexity to the research.

Great Grandfather Benjamin worked in service all his life. He worked as a servant, a groom, and a gardener. After their marriage, Benjamin and Jane, his second wife, moved to Wolverhampton, about eleven miles away from Lapley.12 Later on they moved to West Bromwich, another 10 miles away, but the birth place of Jane. I assume that family living in this village was a factor in their decision to move.

Jane Everall also predeceased Benjamin in 1902.13 Benjamin died in 1908 in the Union Workhouse of West Bromwich.14 People ended up in a workhouse because they were too poor and too ill to take care of themselves and no one from the family would take care of them. Benjamin died of senile decay so he was certainly too ill and probably too weak to live alone. Still, it is surprising that he died in a workhouse as he had eleven children. Benjamin’s youngest son, Benjamin, was present at his death.15

  1. GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Lapley in South Staffordshire | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time, http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/8383, accessed 19 July 2022.
  2. Grace, Maria, Random Bits of Fascination, https://randombitsoffascination.com/, accessed 19 July 2022.
  3. Genuki, John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales – 1870-2, Lapley in 1872, https://www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/STS/Lapley/Gaz1872, accessed 20 July 2022.
  4. Wikipedia, Priory of Lapley, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapley_Priory, accessed 20 July 2022.
  5. Wikipedia, Lapley, England, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapley, accessed 20 July 2022.
  6. Findmypast, Census, Lands & Substitutes, 1851 Census of England and Wales, Benjamin Knight, accessed 3 July 2022.
  7. Findmypast, Birth, Marriage & Death (Parish Registers), Registration of marriage of Benjamin Knight and Jane Watson, 28 June 1860, accessed 07 July 2022.
  8. Registration of the death of Jane Watson, Superintendent Registrar’s District of Penkridge, Registrar’s District of Brewood, County of Stafford, ordered from the General Register Office of the U.K. and received 18 July 2022.
  9. Family Search, England, Staffordshire, Church Records, 1538-1944″, database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:2:QPSL-KHBC : 8 July 2020), Entry for Jane Everall and Benjamin Knight, 1862, accessed 21 July 2022.
  10. Findmypast, Birth, Marriage & Death (Parish Registers), Registration of marriage of Benjamin Knight and Jane Watson, 28 June 1860, accessed 07 July 2022.
  11. Certificate of birth registration, Alice Mary Knight, Registration District of West Bromwich, Sub-district of West Bromwich North-East, County of Stafford, 04 May 2021.
  12. Registration of birth of Harry Knight (first born in 1863), Superintendent Registrar’s District of Wolverhampton, Registrar’s District of Wolverhampton West, County of Stafford, ordered from the General Register Office of the U.K. and received 07 July 2021.
  13. Assumed from other family trees, Ancestry.
  14. Registration of death Benjamin Knight, Registrar’s District of West Bromich, Registrar’s Sub-district of West Bromwich North East, County of Stafford, ordered from the General Register Office of the U.K. and received 15 May 2021.
  15. Ibid.

Joseph Mitcheson, Yeoman Farmer

We reached Whickham Parish Church in County Durham, England at the end of a long day of exploration. I knew that two of my ancestors had been baptized in the little Norman-style church, but I didn’t know whether any family members were buried in its surrounding large cemetery. The weather was cool and rainy and the church was locked, so, after giving the cemetery a quick glance, we turned to leave. At that point, our guide drew our attention to an old gravestone to the left of the church door. 

“What you say the family name was?” he asked.

“Mitcheson,” I replied.

The Philipson/Mitcheson headstone, Whickham Parish Church. JH photo

Only part of the inscription was legible, but enough remained to identify the couple buried there. This was the grave of my ancestors Joseph Mitcheson (1746-1821) and his wife Margaret Philipson (1756-1804). I like to imagine that, knowing we had come all the way from Canada, Joseph and Margaret were trying to get our attention. They didn’t want us to leave without finding them.

This couple is of special significance to my family tree.  Two of their children, Mary Mitcheson Clark and Robert Mitcheson, moved to North America, and both are my direct ancestors. In 1844, Mary’s grandson, Stanley Clark Bagg, of Montreal, married his first cousin once removed, Catharine Mitcheson, daughter of Robert Mitcheson, of Philadelphia.1 This makes Joseph and Margaret simultaneously my four-times and five-times great-grandparents.

I know almost nothing about Margaret, and only a few bare facts about Joseph. He was born and baptized in Lanchester Parish, County Durham, in 1746, the youngest son of gentleman farmer Robert Mitcheson and his wife, Mary..2

When Robert died in 1784, he left most of his estate to Joseph.3 Joseph became what is known as a yeoman farmer, meaning he owned a small amount of property. Socially, a yeoman was notch above a tenant farmer, but below a gentleman.

Joseph Mitcheson, of Lanchester Parish, married Margaret Philipson, of Whickham Parish, by licence at Whickham Parish Church in 1774.4 They eventually had six children – four girls and two boys.

Before his father’s death, Joseph’s family seems to have moved frequently. According to family notes, Mary (1776-1856) was born at Stowe House in the hamlet of Cornsay, Lanchester Parish. Again according to family stories, Robert (1779-1859) was born at Eland Hall, Ponteland, near Newcastle. I can’t confirm either of these accounts, but both children were baptized in Whickham. All of the couple’s other children – Margaret (1781-1864), William (1783-1857), Elizabeth (1786-?) and Jane (1793-1825) — were baptized at Lanchester Parish Church, so the family must have been living in the Lanchester area by 1781.

Fortunately, County Durham has kept its records of land tax returns. These lists showed who owned each property, who lived on it and whether the occupant was the owner or a tenant. In 1789, Joseph was living in Lanchester Parish on a property owned by John Stephenson, Esq., who may have been the husband of his aunt Jane Mitcheson. Meanwhile, Joseph was getting income from three properties that he rented out: a farm in Iveston that he had inherited from his father, and another farm in Witton Gilbert,5 both located in Lanchester Parish.

In addition, his wife had inherited property in the town of Swalwell from her parents. Married women’s property belonged to their husbands, so legally it belonged to Joseph and he collected rent from the house, or houses, on this land. Swalwell, a township in Whickham Parish on the River Derwent, was an important iron manufacturing center in the 18th century.

The tax records show that, by 1798, Joseph and his family had moved to the Iveston, where It appears he farmed the land: in the will, written in 1803, he bequeathed his “implements of husbandry”, as well as the household goods and furniture, to his wife.6

Margaret died in 1804 and perhaps Joseph decided to give up farming after her death and move into town. The Durham tax records of 1810 show the farm properties at Iveston and Witton Gilbert were occupied by renters and Joseph was living on his Swalwell property, although it now belonged to his son Robert, an iron manufacturer.

Harold and Geoff take a close look at the family gravestone. JH photo

When Joseph died in 1821, he left cash to his daughters and the farm in Witton Gilbert to his middle son, William. William lived in London, so he rented the farm to a tenant farmer. Joseph left the bulk of his estate to his older son, Robert, although by this time, Robert had settled in Philadelphia. The 1824 land tax records show that Robert rented out both the properties in Swalwell and in Iveston.

Two final remarks:  I suspect that Joseph Mitcheson and Margaret Philipson’s grave was in a prominent location in Whickham Parish Cemetery because of her family’s prominence. The grave is near the front door of the church where everyone coming and going could see it.  (See the link below to the story of the Philipson family, “Can Two Wrongs Make a Right?”)

My other thought is that, while Joseph was a farmer like his father, his children were the first generation to break new trails. In Montreal, Mary and her husband, John Clark, invested in real estate. In Philadelphia, Robert was involved in several different business ventures as a merchant, a manufacturer and a landlord. Meanwhile, son William was an anchor manufacturer. Did Joseph and Margaret encourage their children to be adventurous and to leave County Durham, or were the next generation just fortunate to live at a time when new opportunities beckoned? That is a question I can’t answer.

See also:

Janice Hamilton “Can Two Wrongs Make a Right?” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 4, 2022, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/05/can-two-wrongs-make-a-right.html

Janice Hamilton “Robert Mitcheson’s Last Will and Testament” Writing Up the Ancestors, March 1, 2022, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/03/robert-mitchesons-last-will-and-testament.html

Janice Hamilton “Mary Mitcheson Clark” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 16, 2014, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2014/05/mary-mitcheson-clark.html

Janice Hamilton “The Mitcheson Family of Limehouse” Writing Up the Ancestors, Jan. 21, 2015, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2015/01/the-mitcheson-family-of-limehouse.html

Janice Hamilton “The Mitcheson Sisters” Writing Up the Ancestors, May 18, 2022, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/05/the-mitcheson-sisters.html

Janice Hamilton “Master Mariners in the Family” Writing Up the Ancestors, June 13, 2022,  https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/06/master-mariners-in-the-family.html

This article is also posted on Writing Up the Ancestors.

Notes:

My husband and I made that trip in 2009. Our guide that day in Durham was retired professional genealogist Geoff Nicholson. Later, Geoff e-mailed me the whole memorial inscription, copied by the Northumberland and Durham My Family History Society in 1995. It said, “In memory of Margaret, wife of Joseph Mitcheson of Swalwell who died June 23 1804 aged 49? years. The above Joseph Mitcheson died June 1821 aged 77 years”

Sources:

1. Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1078, database, Ancestry.com (http://:Ancestry.ca, accessed Dec. 22, 2019,) entry for Stanley Clark Bagg, 9 Sept. 1844; citing Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

2. England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Joseph Mitchinson, Lanchester, accessed May 2, 2022), citing England, Births and Christenings, 1538-1975. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

3. Robert Mitcheson’s will is stored at Durham University Archives and can be viewed online. Search for it at http://familyrecords.dur.ac.uk/nei/data/simple.php and view it on Familysearch.org. “England, Durham, Diocese of Durham Original Wills, 1650-1857,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-67DQ-481?cc=2358715&wc=9PQL-ZRH%3A1078415794 : 7 July 2014), DPRI/1/1784/M5 > image 3 of 3; Special Collections, Palace Green Library, Durham University, Durham. (accessed Feb. 28, 2022).

4 England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Joseph Mitcheson, accessed May 2, 2022), citing England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

5. Durham County Records Office. Quarter Sessions – Land Tax Returns, Chester Ward West 1759-1830, www.durhamrecordsoffice.org.uk, search for Mitcheson, viewed April 19, 2022.

6. Will of Joseph Mitcheson, yeoman, Iveston, Durham, The National Archives, Wills 1384-1858 (http://nationalarchives.gov.uk, search for Joseph Mitcheson, accessed Nov. 18, 2010), The National Archives, Kew – Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 9 February, 1822.

The Mitcheson Sisters

Sisters Margaret (born 1781), Elizabeth (born 1786) and Jane Mitcheson (born 1793) grew up together on their parents’ farm in County Durham, England, but when they became adults, their lives followed very different paths. The eldest married a much older man who provided her with financial security, the middle sister was swept off her feet by a tenant farmer and the youngest married a mariner who was often away at sea.

The daughters of yeoman farmer Joseph Mitcheson and his wife Margaret Philipson, they were baptized at Lanchester Parish Church and grew up in the rolling countryside of northeast England. Their mother died in 1804, when Jane would have been just nine years old.

They had two older siblings, Mary (born 1776) and Robert (born 1779) who both immigrated to North America, and another brother, William (born 1783), an anchor manufacturer who lived near the docks of London. (Mary and Robert were both my direct ancestors since Mary’s grandson, Stanley Clark Bagg, married Robert’s daughter Catharine Mitcheson in 1844, so these three sisters were my 4x and 5x great-aunts.

Their grandfather Robert Mitcheson (-1784) left each of his older grandchildren 50 pounds, part of which could be spent on their care and education and the rest given to them when they turned 21. In his will, written in 1803, their father also left them between 100 and 150 pounds each,1 although he gave the two youngest, Elizabeth and Jane, their inheritances in 1807.

Margaret Dodd

Margaret would have been considered as having married well when she wed gentleman Thomas Dodd (1743-1823) at Whickham Parish Church in 1808.2 The Dodd lineage in northern County Durham can be traced back to 1645, and his family owned a farm called Woodhouse, located in Woodside Ryton Township.

Whickham Parish Church. JH photo.

Thomas was in his sixties and Margaret was 27 when they married. They had five children, three of whom lived to adulthood, although their only surviving son, Thomas Anthony Humble Dodd (1824-1899), was born after his father had died. Thomas grew up to be a well-known Newcastle surgeon and married his cousin, Frances Jane Mitcheson (1824-1898), daughter of the anchor maker.3

Thomas Dodd senior was an early pioneer of Methodism, founded in the 18th century by English minister John Wesley. Wesley often preached to large crowds outdoors. According to the late Durham-based genealogist Geoff Nicholson, John Wesley may have preached in the fields at Dent’s Hall, near Ryton, and Thomas may have met Wesley.4

After her husband’s death, Margaret remained at Woodhouse. In 1824, 1825 and 1827, the property was listed as owned and occupied by the executors of Thomas Dodd’s estate, but according to the 1830 land tax returns, it was “Property of Mrs. Dodd, occupied by Mrs. Dodd.”5

She was also a farmer. A local directory published in 1828 listed Margaret Dodd as a farmer in Woodside Ryton Township,6 and the 1841 U.K. census did the same.  

The 1851 census found son Thomas A. H. Dodd as head of the household, living at Woodhouse with his wife and two small children, his mother and two servants. Margaret was listed as an annuitant, meaning she had her own income. The census noted that Thomas was a surgeon, and that the farm had 96 acres and employed two labourers.

When the 1861 census-taker came around, Margaret was once again head of the household, living with her widowed daughter Mary Robson and a house servant. Margaret died in October, 1864, age 83, and was buried with her husband in Holy Cross Parish Churchyard, Ryton.7

Elizabeth Maughan

While researching Margaret was straightforward, finding records of her sister Elizabeth’s life was more challenging. What I did find suggests that Elizabeth’s life was far from easy.

She was just 20 when she married farmer John Maughan, of Shotley, Northumberland, in 1806 at Whickham Parish Church.8 They lived in Shotley, a sparsely inhabited parish in southern Northumberland, located between the River Derwent and the town of Hexham. Its soil consists of sandy clay, and coal, silver, lead and iron have been produced in the area.

Elizabeth might have been lonely on that remote farm, but she probably didn’t have much time to think about it as she gave birth to at least 10 children.9 Several of them died young, but Joseph (b. 1810), Margaret (b. 1814), Isabella (b. 1816), Mary (b. 1817) and possibly William (b. 1823) grew to adulthood.

The family eventually appears to have left Shotley. In 1842, my Montreal ancestor Stanley Bagg and his 21-year-old son Stanley Clark Bagg travelled to England. In an account of the trip, Stanley Clark Bagg mentioned that they visited his great-aunts Mrs. Dodd near Ryton and Mrs. Maughan in Sunderland, in northeastern County Durham.11

Some genealogists suggest Elizabeth died in Hexham, Northumberland in 1839, but in that case, the Baggs would not been able to visit her. The 1841 census counted a John Maughan, agricultural labourer, and Elizabeth Maughan, age 55, in Sunderland, along with 15-year-old Thomas Maughan, so this may have been the family.12 I do not know when Elizabeth died.

As for the youngest sister, Jane, she married master mariner David Mainland in 1812. About 10 years later, the family moved to London. Jane died in London in 1825 and their son David married his widowed cousin Mary Ann (Mitcheson) Eady in 1849. Jane’s family will be the subject of my next post.

Notes:

According to genealogist Geoff Nicholson, Margaret and Thomas Dodd’s children were: Margaret (c.1810-1851) m. John Milburn; Isabella Ann (1815-1822), Mary (1817- ) m. Rob. Robson or Ritson; Anthony Humble (1818-1821) and Thomas Anthony Humble (1824-1899) m. Frances Jane Mitcheson.

Elizabeth and John Maughan’s daughter Mary (born 181712))moved to Montreal, Canada, where her Aunt Mary (MItcheson) Clark lived. Mary Maughan married merchant William Footner in Montreal in September, 1840,13 and she gave birth to one of her three children at Mile End Lodge, a large farmhouse that belonged to her aunt. The Footner family later moved to the United States and Mary died in Minnesota in 1901. (There was another William Footner, an architect, married to another Mary, in Montreal in the mid to late 1800s.)

See also:

This article has simultaneously been posted on http://www.writinguptheancestors.ca.

The Lucy H. Anglin Family Tree on Ancestry Public Member Trees. Numerous members of the Mitcheson family in Durham, including several generations of men named Robert Mitcheson, as well as their descendants in Philadelphia and Montreal, are listed on this tree.

Janice Hamilton, “Mary Mitcheson Clark”, Writing Up the Ancestors, May 16, 2014, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2014/05/mary-mitcheson-clark.html

Janice Hamilton, “Philadelphia and the Mitcheson Family,” Writing Up the Ancestors, Nov. 22, 2013, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2013/11/philadelphia-and-mitcheson-family.html

Janice Hamilton, “Robert Mitcheson’s Last Will and Testament”, Writing Up the Ancestors, March 1, 2022, https://www.writinguptheancestors.ca/2022/03/robert-mitchesons-last-will-and-testament.html

Sources:

1. Will of Joseph Mitcheson, yeoman, Iveston, Durham, The National Archives, Wills 1384-1858 (http://nationalarchives.gov.uk, search for Joseph Mitcheson, accessed Nov. 18, 2010), The National Archives, Kew – Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 9 February, 1822.

2. England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973, Ancestry.com. (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Margaret Mitcheson, accessed April 19, 2022), citing England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

3 London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597-1921, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Thomas Anthony Humble Dodd, 1848, accessed April 19, 2022), citing Marriage Bonds and Allegations. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives.

4 E-mail correspondence from Geoff Nicholson about the Dodd family, June 13, 2009.

5 Durham County Record Office. Quarter Sessions – Land Tax Returns, Chester Ward West 1759-1830, www.durhamrecordsoffice.org.uk, search for Dodd, viewed April 19, 2022.

6 The History, Directory and Gazetteer of Durham and Northumberland, Vol 2, by Wm. Parson and Wm. White, W. White and Company, 1828, p. 186, Google Books, search for Margaret Dodd, accessed April 19, 2022.

7 Find a Grave (www.findagrave.com, database online, search for Margaret Dodd, accessed April 19, 2022), https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/231216340/margaret-dodd.

8. England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Elizabeth Mitcheson, Whickham, accessed April 10, 2022), citing England, Marriages, 1538–1973. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.

9. England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975, Familysearch.org, database online, entry for John Maughan and spouse Elizabeth, Shotley; accessed April 10, 2022.

10. Letter from Stanley Clark Bagg to Rev. R. M. Mitcheson, Dec. 6, 1842, probably transcribed by Stanley Bagg Lindsay; Lindsay family collection.

11.1841 England Census, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Elizabeth Maughan, Bishop Wearmouth, accessed April 10, 2022), citing Class: HO107; Piece: 310; Book: 4; Civil Parish: Bishop Wearmouth; County: Durham; Enumeration District: 4; Folio: 13; Page: 21; Line: 1; GSU roll: 241353, original dataCensus Returns of England and Wales, 1841. Kew, Surrey, England: The National Archives of the UK (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), 1841.

12 “England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JWVX-TMS : 20 March 2020), entry for Mary Maughan, accessed April 19, 2022).

13. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.ca, database on-line, entry for Mary Maughan, accessed April 19, 2022), citing Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.

The Mothering Bureau

My great aunt Marguerite Lindsay, aged 22 in 1918, was well trained in mothering long before she might have had a child of her own. She “mothered” grown men while volunteering with the Information Bureau of the Canadian Red Cross Society in London during the Great War.

Lady Julia Drummond1, a Montreal philanthropist, established the Information Bureau within the Canadian Red Cross in 1915, when the first of the Canadian contingents landed in France.

“It was her absorbing wish to bring to the fighting men of Canada, when they returned from the battle line, sick or wounded, some sense of personal interest and sympathy, of individual thought and care.”2 Thereby, given the nickname “The Mothering Bureau.”

As soon as the wounded Canadians arrived in London, they were informed of the Information Bureau as sort of the fairy godmother of childhood dreams. Then they completed an index card (white for the enlisted men, blue for the officers), stamped and addressed to Lady Drummond, with their name, number, battalion, the name of the hospital and next of kin. Within days, not only would they receive a note from Lady Drummond herself, but each soldier met with their assigned “visitor” who learned more about him as she kept in touch with all Canadians admitted to her specific hospital.3

The Visitor reported weekly to the Bureau of the soldier’s wound or illness, his physical and mental condition, his needs and general well being. These reports, completed with initials and dates, were kept on his index card and eventually held a complete record of the soldier’s case.

The various departments would then immediately become active:

  • Letters of comfort or condolence based on these reports were quickly sent to the man’s family.
  • The parcels department would dispatch tobacco, cigarettes, and other comforts as requested by the visitor.
  • The newspaper department would send Canadian newspapers (often from their hometown).
  • The drives and entertainment department brought some diversion.
  • The hospitality department might arrange for leave in some kindly English home.

Efficient correspondence was the most important and valuable work of the Bureau.

Marguerite might have volunteered in one or several of the previously mentioned departments. However, I wonder if she worked along side Princess Mary3 (daughter of King George V and Queen Mary) as she too began her nurse’s training around the same time as Marguerite? Apparently Princess Mary told a friend: “they were some of the happiest days in my life.” Probably because she was not treated any differently from the others and the patients and her fellow nurses loved her.

Princess Mary wearing the same Red Cross uniform as Marguerite Lindsay – 1918
Miss Marguerite Lindsay – 1918

During that time, most of Marguerite’s family were also involved in the war efforts in different ways. Marguerite’s mother and sister-in-law (wife of her brother Lionel a doctor in the Canadian Army Medical Corps) were also volunteers with Lady Drummond’s Information Bureau. Her brother Stanley, a Captain, fought in Ypres in 1915. And her father, Robert Lindsay, co-founded along with Lady Drummond and Lady Perley (wife of Canada’s High Commissioner) the first of The King George and Queen Mary Maple Leaf Clubs3. (A Montreal Stockbroker…and much more) Several large London homes were donated and refurbished to provide for the welfare of Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) soldiers on leave from the front.

Robert Lindsay kept a family residence in London for several years at 8 Radnor Place, Hyde Park, just over a mile from Coulter Hospital4 (another refurbished home) at 5 Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, where Marguerite volunteered her time with the Bureau. A 20-minute walk home to the shelter of family life might have provided a bit of normalcy to her hectic days.

Sometime in 1919, after the end of the war, Marguerite continued her volunteer work as one the much needed VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments)5 at the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Sidmouth, Devon. She must have lodged with the other nurses since the family home in Hyde Park was now 160 miles away.

What did Marguerite and the other volunteer “mothers” accomplish in the Great War?

To some of the men, they provided kit bags, tobacco and chewing gum and such, but to others – a renewed interest in a changed life and some hope for the future. All the soldiers were cared for as individuals and that’s what really mattered. A much needed human and personal touch during the time of war.

1http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/quebechistory/encyclopedia/LadyGraceJuliaDrummond-QuebecHistory.htm

2The Maple Leaf’s Red Cross, The Mothering Bureau, p. 70

3The Story of Canadian Red Cross, chapter 111, p. 16

3https://www.historyofroyalwomen.com/mary-princess-royal/mary-princess-royal-the-beloved-princess/

3http://www.canadianmilitaryhistory.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/5-Cozzi-Maple-Leaf-Club.pdf, Sarah Cozzi

4https://wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/hospitals/hospital.php?pid=13605

The Coulter Hospital opened in September 1915 in a house in Grosvenor Square lent for the purpose by Sir Walpole Greenwell (1847-1919).

5At the outbreak of war in 1914, some 46,000 women were serving as VADs and by the end of the war, over 90,000 had registered.

Mary Died of a Broken Heart

I have no doubt that the real cause of my great-grandmother’s death was a broken heart. She had experienced one grief too many and after the death of her daughter, she gave up and her heart gave out.

Alice Mary Knight, my great-grandmother, was born in the small village of West Bromwich, Staffordshire in 1875.1 Mary’s love story started in Birmingham, about six miles away. She went to Birmingham to work and met John Deakin at the rooming house where they were living.2 John also came from a nearby village. They were single, away from their families, and most certainly lonely. They married in 1900 and almost immediately moved to Sheffield, 90 miles away.3

The move to Sheffield would have been difficult. While Mary and John had each other, they would certainly have been homesick. Especially as their son, my grandfather, George Deakin, was born soon after they moved. In a strange city with a newborn, far from her mother and sisters, Mary would certainly have missed living in the village.

John found a mining job in Sheffield and he possibly worked for the Tinsley Park Collieries, situated very close to where John and Mary lived.Mary would have been alone most of the day as miners often worked 12-hour shifts. This young couple could have no inkling that the mine would unravel their lives.

In 1905, their little family was complete with the birth of George’s sister, Alice Gertrude Deakin.4

When George finished school, he went on to apprentice as a fitter, also at a mine, and possibly the one his father worked at.5 Fitters repaired and maintained machinery. George always worked at the surface of the mine. But he knew that it would not be long before he would be asked to work below ground. He was a short man and therefore an ideal size for moving around in the close spaces below ground. “I did not want to work below ground in the mine,” Gramps would say every time someone asked him why he came to Canada.

When George came to Canada in 1922, he had not yet decided whether he would stay.6 As soon as he arrived, he went out west by train to work on the wheat farms, to bring in the harvest. When the work dried up on the farms, he returned east to Montreal and met my grandmother, Grace Hunter. He was content living in Montreal. He married my grandmother and they had two children, Jack and Patricia. He had a job he enjoyed and worked there all his life, even during the Great Depression. George went on with his life but I cannot help but think that his mother must have been sorry he was so far away. Mary must have regretted George’s job at the mine, the catalyst for his emigration to Canada. It is unlikely that George ever went back to England for a visit, possibly because he may have felt that he could not take the time off work. A week to get there, a day’s journey by train to get to his parents’ house, and then the return. My grandparents were not rich, so money would have also been a consideration.

In 1935, John and Mary received more bad news. John had laryngeal cancer. At the time they did not know it, but mining is now considered a risk factor for laryngeal cancer. John underwent surgery to address the cancer, but he had heart failure from the shock of the operation and died on the operating table.7

After the death of her husband, Mary and her daughter, Alice, decided to move back to the village of Smethwick, John’s birthplace. Both John and Mary’s family were in the area. At least Mary would be close to some family members. Mary purchased a house and Alice found a job as a timekeeper at W&T Avery, a spring balance manufacturer.8

Tragedy struck again about ten years later when Alice was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Alice Gertrude died in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on November 1, 1951. Alice’s friend and neighbour, Marie Evans, was the informant on the death certificate.9

Within a week of Alice’s death, Mary changed her will.10 She must have already been seriously ill and, although we don’t know for sure, the urgency would have been to dispose of the house. Mary died of a heart attack less than two months after the death of her daughter. She was a widow, her son lived far away, and her daughter had died. The sorrow would have been overwhelming.  Mary died at home on New Year’s Eve in 1951, in the company of her younger brother, Benjamin.10

Mary’s new will left 20£ to her brother, Benjamin, for being the executor of her estate. She left a few bequests of 5£ to some of her friends and to the Firth Alms House in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Mary required that all of her other possessions, including her house, be sold and bequeathed to her son, George, in Canada.11

Mary must have felt that she lost her son to Canada and that when her daughter died in 1951, that the future was bleak. When death gently came to claim her just two months after her daughter’s death, Mary did not fight back.

  1. Certified copy of an entry of birth, Alice Mary Knight, born April 17, 1875, extract dated May 4, 2021.
  2. Certified copy of an entry of marriage, John Thomas Deakin and Alice Mary Knight, November 25, 1900, St. Paul’s Church, Aston, Harwick, extract dated May 25, 2021.
  3. 1901 census, Tinsley, Yorkshire, John Deakin and Mary Deakin, referenced January 1, 2016.
  4. Copy of an entry of birth, Alice Gertrude Deakin, born July 19, 1905, referenced July 27, 2021.
  5. Declaration of passage, George Thomas Deakin, Form 30A, referenced October 2, 2009.
  6. Idem.
  7. Copy of an entry of death, John Thomas Deakin, died July 8, 1935, referenced October 29, 2021.
  8. 1939 Register, Findmypast, Deakin, Alice G. and Deakin, Alice M., Alice is registered as a timekeeper at a balance manufacturer. Mary is registered as unpaid domestic help, referenced June 24, 2017. 
  9. Copy of an entry of death, Alice Gertrude Deakin, died November 1, 1951, referenced August 29, 2021.  The informant was Marie Evans, neighbour and friend. The law is specific about who can register a death in England: a relative, someone who was present at the death, an employee of a public house where the death occurred, or the person making the funeral arrangements. As Marie Evans was not a relative, she was allowed to register the death if she made the funeral arrangements. As such, the death certificate states that Marie Evans was “causing the body to be buried.” This way Marie Evans was able to allow her to register the death.
  10. The Last Will and Testament of Alice Mary Deakin, dated November 1, 1951 and probate, dated February 6, 1952, referenced August 12, 2021.
  11. Copy of an entry of death, Alice Mary Knight, died December 31, 1951, referenced August 8, 2021.

The Harvester Scheme

When I was a little girl, I would spend hours with my grandfather in his home workshop. He would make all kinds of things and I used to love watching him at work. I still have some of the tools he made, as well as a cribbage board and a turntable that swings the Scrabble board around to face each opponent. He crafted a complete house of Barbie furniture for my dolls and, to my delight, he asked me my opinion about every single piece. I felt both the weight of responsibility for deciding what each bed and chair would look like, and pride in participating in this project with him.

My grandfather, George Deakin (1901 -1983,) born in Sheffield, England, learned these skills when he was a young man. His father was a miner and George also worked for the coal mining companies of Sheffield, which were significant employers in the early 1900s. Gramps was a fitter which means that he made parts either for piping or for equipment and machinery.1, 2

I used to ask my grandfather why he came to Canada and the answer was always the same and always emphatic. “I did not want to work in the mine.” Sometimes he would go on to explain that, when he left, he still worked above ground for the mining company. However, he was a very short man and he knew that it was a matter of time before he would be required to work underground. Small men were valuable in the low tunnels of the coal mines, but the work was dangerous and unhealthy. Gramps had no intention of ever working underground.

So in 1923, he came to Canada as part of the Harvester Scheme. That year, Canada had a bumper wheat crop and North America could not provide the labour needed to harvest the crop.  Under the Harvester Scheme, the two major Canadian railway companies entered into an agreement with the British government to transport 12,000 workers out west where they would earn $4.00 per day plus board. 3

He ended up in Manitoba and the Canadian west must have suited him because he used to enjoy talking about his time on the farm. The days were long and the men worked hard but Gramps found it satisfying to work so hard.  And how the workers enjoyed the hearty meals that the women of the farm prepared for them!

He only stayed one harvesting season in Manitoba because, once that bumper crop had been harvested, there was no more work. He took the train to Montreal and easily found work as a draftsman at the Northern Electric plant. He had learned to read and draft drawings in Sheffield and his skills were in high demand. He worked at the Northern Electric plant in Lachine all his life, even during the Great Depression.

When Gramps first arrived in Canada, he was not sure he would stay.4 But after he met and married my grandmother in 1925, they settled in the Montreal suburb of Verdun and raised two children.

Here, he was able to work all his life in a job that he loved. He especially enjoyed the attention to detail that went into designing. And when he wasn’t designing at work, he was making tools, games, and Barbie furniture for the family.

1 Canada. “Immigration Records (1865 – 1935)” Database. Library and Archives Canada.  BAC-LAC, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/passenger-lists/Pages/introduction.aspx#d: 2017.

2 http://www.occupationsguide.cz/en/POVOL/148.htm

3 Foster, John Elgin, The Developing West:  Essays on Canadian History in Honor of Lewis H. Thomas, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1983

4 Canada. “Immigration Records (1865 – 1935)” Database. Library and Archives Canada.  BAC-LAC, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/passenger-lists/Pages/introduction.aspx#d: 2017.

The Schoolmaster

In 18th century England, schoolmasters and tutors had to belong to the Church of England. The 1662 Act of Uniformity required all clergy, dons, schoolmasters, and tutors to subscribe to a declaration of conformity to the Articles of the Church of England.1

Samuel Everell,* my four times great-grandfather was the schoolmaster in the village of Longnor, Shropshire, England. He was probably a schoolmaster all his life as I can find him in the records as schoolmaster from the time he registered the birth of his son, Charles, in 18132 until he was 57, in the 1841 census.3 All of the records indicate that Samuel and his immediate family belonged to the Church of England. While there was a community of Quakers in the village of Longnor, Samuel could not have been one of their members. Nonconformists were banned from teaching.4

Samuel, while not necessarily well educated, would have certainly been able to read and write. He was born in 1784 in the village of Condover, about four miles away from Longnor. His father, Benjamin Everall was a blacksmith.5 At that time, one had to be a member of the nobility to attend one of the two universities in England: Cambridge or Oxford. Graduates of these universities sometimes became private tutors for the children of the gentry. These tutors would live with the family and even dine with them.

Samuel probably taught in a charity school. The gentry generally believed that education should not be extended to the poor as it might upset the social order.6 They did, however, believe that the poor should read the Bible. Education for the working classes was haphazard. Sunday schools taught reading so that children could read the scriptures. They also sometimes taught writing and arithmetic. In 1800, when Samuel was 16, there were 2,000 Sunday schools in England with an enrolment of 10% of the population between 5 and 18.7 Maybe this is where he learned to read and write. It was not unusual for one of the better students to become the schoolmaster. The salary of the schoolmaster was either covered by the parents or sometimes the gentry would contribute to the cost of the running of the school, including the schoolmaster’s salary.

It is possible that Samuel’s salary was paid by the estate of Sir Richard Corbet, the 4th Baronet of Longnor. The 1831 Parliamentary Report on Charities states the following:

Sir Richard Corbet, of Longnor, in his will dated November 19, 1764, declared that the trustees of his estate ensure that the poor children of Longnor, Leebotwood, Cardington, and Fodesley and poor children of the tenants and that the trustees shall appoint and pay the master to teach the children to read and write English. There were about 14 children who were instructed in a private home by the schoolmaster. The schoolmaster was paid quarterly between 14l and 15l and included 50s for teaching Sunday School. 7

Manor of Sir Richard Corbet (1696-1774), 4th Baronet of Longnor.8

In the beginning of the 19th century, the Church of England continued to sponsor education. Samuel probably died around 1849, so he would not have seen any sweeping changes during the time he was a schoolmaster. However, the government did start to become involved in the education of the poor, voting sums of money for the construction of schools for the poor. Despite the Elementary Education Act of 1870, 2 million children out of 4.3 million children had no access to schooling at all. England saw compulsory and free primary education in the 1870s and 1880s. It wasn’t until 1918 that the Education Act (Fisher Act) made secondary education compulsory until age 14.9

*Everell can be found in the records as Everell, Everel, Everelle, Everil, Everill, and Heverell.

  1. Gillard, Derek, Education in England: a History, May 2018, http://www.educationengland.org.uk/history/chapter04.html, accessed July 21, 2021.
  2. Findmypast, basptismal certificate of Charles Everall, accessed July 7, 2021.
  3. Findmypast, 1841 census records for the parish of Longnor, accessed July 15, 2021.
  4. Gillard, Derek, Education in England: a History, May 2018, http://www.educationengland.org.uk/history/chapter04.html, accessed July 21, 2021.
  5. National Archives, Probate Benjamin Everell, accessed August 11, 2021.
  6. Dartford Town Archive website, Charity Schools, https://www.dartfordarchive.org.uk/early_modern/education_charity.shtml, accessed Aug 16, 2021.
  7.  Lloyd, Amy J., Education, Literacy and the Reading Public, University of Cambridge.
  8. Parliamentary papers, Reports from Commissioners, 1831, volume 11, Charities, Twenty-Fourth Report of Commissioners, https://books.google.ca/books?id=9joSAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA387&lpg=PA387&dq=schoolmaster+longnor&source=bl&ots=BCKVnr91SC&sig=ACfU3U2H-rc0FjRaxNBk4IFw4WzRMbHfhw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwig1tXOtObxAhWHGFkFHU78AKUQ6AEwCHoECBYQAg#v=onepage&q=schoolmaster%20longnor&f=false, accessed July 21, 2021.
  9. Wikipedia, Sir Richard Corbet, 4th Baronet,  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Richard_Corbet,_4th_Baronet, accessed July 21, 2021.
  10. Wikipedia, History of Education in England, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_education_in_England, accessed August 18, 2021.

The Legend of star gazey pie

Have you ever heard of Star Gazey Pie? Me, neither, but soon after their marriage, my Dad, from Cornwall, asked my Mum, from Devon, to make him a Star Gazey pie. I think it was a sneaky request as she had absolutely no idea what he was talking about and I think he knew that!

The main ingredients are Pilchard – or Sardines – a small, tasty fish high in omega 3 oils. Today we buy them in tins, submerged in water, tomato sauce or mustard. In England, we usually serve them on hot buttered toast.

Star Gazey Pie was created in Mousehole, Cornwall UK, where ‘Mousehole’ is pronounced as ‘Mow-Zul’

A legendary character by the name Tom Bawcock appears to have been a local fisherman in the 16th century, and according to the legend one winter was extremely stormy and the fishermen could not leave the harbour to fish.

Christmas was approaching and fish was the main source of food. The villagers were facing starvation but Tom Bawcock decided to brave the storm.

He safely returned with enough fish to feed the entire village and the whole catch was baked into a pie, which was named ‘Star Gazey Pie’ in his honour, and is now a festival called “Tom Bawcock’s Eve” held on the 23rd of December. (1)

Pilchard, or sardines were fished using ‘seine nets’ all around the coastline of Cornwall and in the early days of fishing the seine nets used were large and very expensive, so they were owned only by the wealthy noblemen.

The shoals appeared in late summer and autumn in North Cornwall following warm currents and planktonic food. The shoals were so huge, the fish could be seen from the cliff tops. ‘Huers’ were employed to keep watch and when the enormous shoals were spotted the Huers would shout ‘HEVVA!’ and alert the village into action.

On Newquay’s Towan Headland, thought to have been built in the 14th century, there stands a huers hut.

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Huers Hut Towan Headland, Newquay, Cornwall

Pilchard seines nets were huge cotton nets with small mesh, in a horseshoe shape and were used in shallow waters. A cox and four oarsmen in 40 foot length rowboats, were used to set up the nets.

Then, the ‘stop net’ was set, this was a smaller wall of net, which trapped the fish in shallow water. This net would be hauled until the fish were now in a smaller, concentrated area. The fish were then scooped out of the shallow water into baskets. (See the drawing below).

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Drawing of seine nets (Image courtesy of John McWilliams ©)

The ‘tucking’ process was very labour intensive and fishermen, boys and women were all involved.

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Tucking of seine nets (Image courtesy of John McWilliams ©)

This way of fishing was used for hundreds of years until the late 1890’s when the fishing industry begun to decline. The seine nets were hugely expensive, and if a fisherman wanted to be his own boss, he used the smaller drift nets, which became the mainstay of pilchard fishing. During the First World War motors began to be installed which was safer and much more practical.

However, by the 1970’s pilchard fishing ceased in Cornwall, until the 1990’s when an enterprising skipper began experimenting with ring netting for pilchards. Others followed and once again there is a thriving industry in pilchards or, as they are now known, Cornish Sardines. (2)

And now for the most interesting bit , a photo of an unbaked a Star Gazey Pie.….

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Here is the recipe and how you make it; go on, have a go!

STAR GAZEY PIE

454 grams (1 pound) of shortcrust pastry.

6 pilchards – or 8 large sardines gutted and filleted BUT with their heads left on and tail fins removed.

171 grams (6 ounces) of brown breadcrumbs

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

Freshly ground black pepper

One small onion

1 egg

3 hard boiled eggs, chopped

4 teaspoons single cream, and 4 table spoons chopped parsley.

METHOD

Set the oven to 220 C or 425 F

Wash the fish and pat dry then open them out.

Make the stuffing with bread crumbs, cloves spice and pepper mixed with finely chopped onions bound together with beaten egg.

Fill the opened fish with stuffing. Close up, reshape and leave in a cool place.

Grease a flat pie-dish about 25.4 Cm. (10 inches) in diameter. Line with 113 grams (1/4 pound ) pastry.

Arrange the stuffed fish like the spokes of a wheel with their heads on the fin and tails in the centre. Cover with hard boiled eggs, cream parsley and pepper; finish with the rest of the pastry and pinch the two layers firmly together between the heads but roll back the pastry round the heads to reveal their eyes gazing starwards. Brush with beaten egg.

Bake for 15 minutes reduce heat to 180 C (350 F) and continue for a further 20 minutes until the pie is golden brown. (3)

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The baked Star Gazey Pie.

And, no, I have not baked one myself, however, I think I may now have to try. However, when I asked the family, their response was not the most enthusiastic! I wonder why??

SOURCES

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Bawcock

(2) Drawing of seine nets Image courtesy of John McWilliams ©

(2) https://www.cornwallgoodseafoodguide.org.uk/cornish-fishing/history-of-the-cornish-fishing-industry.php

(3) ‘Favourite Cornish Recipes’ compiled by June Kittow

Below is a 1943 documentary about pilchard netting and life in Mousehole during the Great War era. (2)

Video: https://film.britishcouncil.org/resources/film-archive/coastal-village

The 106 Year Old Postcard

So, just who was the mystery man who sent my Gran a postcard in 1915?  For many years, I have held in a box of family history memorabilia a small item – a postcard.

Life, (bringing up children, and work), prevented me from finding out more about this postcard before now- sent by a stranger to my Gran who, born in 1900 was just 15 years old.  Who was this mystery man, I wondered? Now, in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have no excuse and plenty of lockdown time.

I had often looked at this flimsy piece of history over the years and wondered… And so, at last, I started my research into Pvt. John Harold Polfrey.

As it happens, all the information I needed was on the postcard that my maternal Gran, Edith Bevan had received  106 years ago.

World War 1 was in its second year and during this  ‘War to end all Wars’ citizens, even children, were asked to send to the soldiers at the front gift parcels of random gifts. So, Edith had sent a gift parcel of cigarettes and tobacco to an anonymous soldier serving with the British Expeditionary Force.

In due course, Gran received a reply to her gift.  It was written in pencil on a flimsy khaki coloured postcard addressed to:

Miss E. Bevan,  29 Elliot St.  Devonport.

No County or Country was added but the county was Devon, in England and on the front of the Post Card, is the Censor’s stamp. The first word is blurred, but I assume it reads ‘READ by the censor. There is no stamp, but it is francked [1]  ‘Army Post Office 33’ and the date is 5th Jan 1915.

 

The message reads:  ‘Dear Madam, I have received your gift parcel of cigarettes and tobacco and would like to thank you sincerely. Hoping your New Year will be as happy as you deserve, I beg to remain yours thankfully

Name: Pte. J. Polfrey No. 10089

Regiment (or ship) A Sqdn. ? Hussars? Calvary Brigade

Black dots can be seen on the postcard, and I believe these are the censor blacking out the number of the Hussars and Calvary Brigade, so you would not know where the soldier was serving.  After scanning the postcard and editing with the photos, I think the numbers are 4th Hussars and 2nd Cavalry.  I thought his name was PALFREY but again, with today’s photo scan software, I was able to read it as POLFREY.

John H. Polfrey was born in Fulham, in the southwest of London, England on the 5th of July, 1894 and enlisted on 20th May 1913. He would have been about 19 years old.

He joined the 2nd Cavalry Depot, 4th Hussars (The Queen’s Own).

The 4th Queen’s Own Hussars was a cavalry regiment in the British Army. First raised in 1685 it saw service for three centuries, including the First World War and the Second World War. The Colonel-in chief was Sir Winston Churchill.  The 4th Hussars deployed from Ireland to the Western Front in 1914, remaining there for the entire First World War (1914-18).

They took part in the Retreat from Mons, the First and Second Battles of Ypres (1914 and 1915) and several other engagements. In 1958 the 4th amalgamated with the 8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars and became The Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars. [2]

Pvt. John Polfrey would have seen a great deal of action in his young life and was awarded three medals for his services. The 1914-15 Star (or Silver War Badge),  The British War Medal, and the Victory Medal These three medals are also known as ‘The Trio’ **

1914-1915 Star (Silver War Badge)

This collection includes records of British soldiers who survived World War I and were discharged from the ranks for honourable reasons of illness or injury. In September 1916 such men were honoured by King George V with the institution of a special award, the Silver War Badge.  Also known as the Mons Star, the medal is a bronze star with a red, white and blue ribbon, reflecting the French Tricolore. It was issued to British forces who had served in France or Belgium from 5 August 1914 (the declaration of war) to midnight 22 November 1914 (the end of the First Battle of Ypres).   [3] [4]
 
The British War Medal:
The silver or bronze medal was awarded to officers and men of the British and Imperial Forces. [3]
 
The Victory Medal:

The British version depicts the winged figure of Victory on the front of the medal and on the back, it says ‘The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919’.  To qualify, an individual had to have entered a theatre of war (an area of active fighting), not just served overseas. Their service number, rank, name and unit were impressed on the rim. [3]

 
Some men sent home after sickness or injury came under the close scrutiny of the public since many were perceived to be shying away from their duties to the country and were treated with contempt and sometimes violence.
 
The 1914-1915 Star (Silver War Badge, that Pvt. Polfrey was awarded) was intended to be worn with civilian clothes.  It had been the practice of some women in England to send white feathers, a traditional symbol of cowardice within the British Empire, in an attempt to humiliate men, not in uniform.  [4]

 

Pvt. Polfrey was discharged on 11 December 1917 and although I searched,  I could not access the reason for his discharge, although receiving the British War Medal meant that he was “discharged from the ranks for honourable reasons of illness or injury”.  So, I concluded the records possibly could have been burnt in the London Blitz of WW2.

After the War in the 1939 Register of England and Wales Mr Polfrey was living in Uxbridge, Middlesex, England, (where, coincidentally, I was posted as a Medic to RAF Uxbridge, Uxbridge, Middlesex in the 1960s). His occupation was a Catering Manager.

In addition, on the My Heritage site, there is a family photo of Mr Polfrey, with the caption ‘Pop receiving the OBE with his wife and daughter’ there is no date, but it looks to be the mid-1950’s. I was curious as to what Mr Polfrey had received the Order of the British Empire Medal for, so further searching provided the following information.
 
“1952 New Year Honours (section Officers {OBE]  John Harold Polfrey, lately Catering Manager, Festival of Britain”. [5]
 

After 14 years of war rationing, which did not end until  4th July 1954, the Festival of Britain opened six years after WW2, on the 4th of May 1951. It celebrated the inventiveness and genius of British scientists and technologists probably in an effort to allow the citizens of Britain to feel that life was going to be better. [6]

What a valuable member of society Mr Polfrey proved to be!

Mr Polfrey died at the age of 92 in May 1986 in Torbay, Devon England, my home county.

RIP Mr Polfrey.

Notes

[1]  https://www.britannica.com/topic/franking

Franking, a term used for the right of sending Letters or postal packages free of charge. The word is derived from the French affranchir (“free”). The privilege was claimed by the British House of Commons in 1660 in ‘A bill for erecting and establishing a Post Office,” their demand being that all letters addressed to or sent by members during the session should be carried free.  https://www.britannica.com/topic/frankin

[2] www.nam.ac.uk/explore/4th-queens-own-hussars

[3 ] https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/first-world-war-service-medals

[4]  https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/blog/2015/12/10/the-silver-war-badge-and-kings-certificate-of-discharge

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Festival_of_Britain

** Acknowledgements

Image of Silver War Badge courtesy of Martin Fore.   greatwar.co.uk/index.htm

https://www.researchingww1.co.uk/ww1-wound-stripes

*** All photos with permission of the Polfrey Family.

An additional informative link:

https://www.researchingww1.co.uk/ww1-wound-stripes

A Policeman’s Lot Is Not A Happy One.

A policeman’s lot is not a happy one. When constabulary duty’s to be done, to be done, a policeman’s lot is not a happy one, happy one. [1]

 

Francis Bulford (Front row, 2nd from the left) With Newquay, Cornwall Division 1929/30

(I can’t help but notice their enormous feet!)

My Grampy, Francis Bulford, was born in Devonport, Devon, England on 28th October 1884.

In 1905, he was a 20-year-old seaman in the Royal Navy when he decided to join the Cornwall Constabulary, and on the 1st November 1906, he was appointed to the force as Police Constable number 106. He retired in 1936 with 29 years of service.

After reading various newspaper clippings about the doings of my Grampy, I thought of the above verses by Gilbert and Sullivan as his duties were usually routine, but sometimes they were unusual, or even frightening.

His first posting was to Porthleven, a small fishing port not far from Helston. His ‘beat’ included the village streets, as well as the surrounding meadows, beaches and cliffs.

During Grampy’s time on the police force, he and his family lived at a three-bedroom rented property in a street known then as “Little Gue” at either number 14 or 15. My cousin Diane tells me her Mum (one of Grampy’s daughters) identified the building some 35 years ago. It was their home as well as the Police Station and the two small windows at street level were then barred.

This was where the cells were. The property is still standing, and the photo shows the modern window frames.

The house in Little Gue Street

Diane also told me about a time early on in his career when he was tied to a rope around his waist and was lowered down the cliffs to bring up a dead body at a place called Hell’s Mouth, on the north cliffs of Cornwall. Even the name sounds frightening.

It was Monday evening, January 1916 and Constable Bulford was doing his ’rounds’ at 10:30 pm when he happened upon a dead body, washed ashore on the rocks at Breageside, Porthleven.

Porthleven 1906

When PC Bulford was interviewed by the local newspaper, The Cornishman, a month later, he described the bodies as follows: [2]

The first body found was a big body, about 6′ 6″ stoutly built, badly cut upon the rocks with no clothing and decomposed, and headless. PC Bulford sent for a stretcher and the local doctor, Dr Spaight.

The next day, Tuesday, at about 9:30 a.m., a second body was found by PC Bulford on the Sithney side of Porthleven. This body was about 5 feet in height, slightly built, with no identifying marks except cuts from the rocks, decomposed, nude and again headless.

The local doctor examined the bodies, but there was no possibility of identifying them or finding the cause of death.

The newspaper suggested that these were two of the crew of the SS Heidrun, a Norwegian collier ship that had departed from Swansea, Wales with coal for Rouen, France. It was wrecked on December 27th, 1915, four miles off of Mullion, with the loss of all 16 hands.

The crew members whose bodies were found are buried at Church Cove, The Lizard Landewednack, Helston, Cornwall. The church overlooks the English Channel, so it seems this was a fitting resting place for these sailors.

Headstone for the crew of the SS Heidrun

(Photo Credit: https://www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?181509)

Sources:

[1] https://www.gsarchive.net/pirates/web_op/pirates24.htm Opera, The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan

[2] “The Cornishman” 27th January 1916. Newspaper cutting in the Bulford Family archives

Notes of interest about Porthleven, Cornwall England.

Porthleven was the home town of the ‘Dambusters’ Commanding Officer Guy Gibson, and there is a road named in his memory.

http://www.helstonhistory.co.uk/local-people/wg-cdr-guy-gibson-raf-vc/

It is a town, civil parish and fishing port near Helston in Cornwall and was originally developed as a harbour of refuge when this part of the Cornish coastline was recognised as a black spot for wrecks in the days of sail.

Porthleven has exploited its location and exposure to powerful swells to become one of the best-known and highly regarded surfing spots in Britain and has been described as “Cornwall’s best reef break”. Waves often exceeding 6.6 feet (2.0 m), break on the shallow reef that was shaped by blasting the harbour. Kayaking is also popular. RNLI lifeguards patrol the beach during the holiday season. The beach is separated from the harbour by a granite pier, which stands in front of the Porthleven institute and clock tower. When the tide is out it is possible to walk east along Porthleven beach for approximately three miles.

Read more about this wonderful part of Cornwall, England here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porthleven

Two previous stories about my Grampy and his police adventures in Porthleven can be found here;

https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/10/10/all-in-a-days-work/

https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/12/12/plucky-police-constable/