Albert Dadswell Baldwin

The summer in East Sussex during August 1856 was particularly fine, although towards the end of the month the weather turned stormy. On the 24th a young widow of just 28 stood watching at the graveside, the burial of her husband of only short two years. Perhaps she was holding her one year old daughter, perhaps the small girl was with relatives awaiting her mothers return.

Albert Dadswell Baldwin was born in 1833 to James and Sophia. He was the eldest of 7 children that I have so far found – all but the youngest of them being boys.

James Baldwin was a hairdresser and the family had premises on the high street in Wadhurst a small but bustling village on the border of Kent and East Sussex. As the children grew he trained some of them up in the same trade, just as his father had done with him, and a couple of them eventually married and moved away from the village, becoming hairdressers themselves in other villages close by. Albert, however, stayed at home and took over his fathers shop along with his younger brothers.

I usually have a picture in my head of how the people in my research looked, and to begin with I was seeing an image of Albert with one of those long curly moustaches (or is that moustachi?!) standing in front of a mirror waving a pair of scissors around while chatting  about holidays, the sound of hairdryers and the phone ringing in the background.  Then I remembered it was 1856 not 1956.

It was about this time that the first post boxes started appearing in the UK, ‘Londonderry Air’ was published for the first time, and the clock tower which would eventually hold ‘Big Ben’ hadn’t even been completed yet. Yes it was a loooong time ago.

Of course I’ve had to do a little research into the art of Victorian Hairdressing….. and to my dismay I found that Albert probably wasn’t curling and plaiting hair into those beautiful 19th century hairstyles, he was more than likely to be found cutting the hair of Fred next door who had just finished a days work spreading manure on the potato fields. And didn’t have a shower at home. Or a bath. In fact he would have shared a toilet with at least one of his neighbours and his wife would have got the tin bath out of the shed on a Sunday for him. Albert certainly earnt his money!

A few doors away from the Baldwins lived James Burt, a tailor, and his daughter Emily. Emily was a dressmaker and also took care of her brothers and her widowed father, cooking, cleaning and generally keeping house.  Albert and Emily were the same age and might have attended the village school or a ‘Dame school’ together as they grew up a few doors apart. They were married in the spring of 1854 and the following year their daughter Elizabeth was born.

Albert became ill during 1856, and the doctor diagnosed Consumption, the lung disease we now know as Tuberculosis.

The prognosis for Albert wasn’t good. Tuberculosis was occasionally curable, depending on the strain  but most cases ended with the death of the patient. It was a familiar disease to families in Victorian England – it was easily spread through coughing and didn’t discriminate between victims, young and old were all at risk.  Albert would have had a terrible cough, and he would have gradually got weaker and weaker. By the time he was coughing up blood he would have been very unwell indeed.

Albert was dead within a month. He was just 32 years old. He passed away quietly at home while life outside the bedroom window carried on as usual. A friend and neighbour shoemaker Richard Pilbeam sat with him as he died and it was Richard who went to the local Registrar William Martin to officially report the death and receive a copy of the certificate.

Emily returned to the home of her father, taking her daughter with her. She probably returned to dressmaking to help pay for her keep – but, as is often the case for women, the census gives her occupation just as ‘Housekeeper’.  James Burt died in 1875 and 4 years later Elizabeth married Sidney Ansell, and Emily lived with her daughter and son in law until her death in 1911. She remained in the village, close to her husbands family for the rest of her life. She never married again and had died a widow of almost 55 years.



And I will seek a foreign home.

Thomas Woolley

I rather thoughtfully scrawled my name on the fly leaf of this book when I was  10 although luckily it wasn’t over the original owners name.  I have no idea where it came from, I thought I had pinched it from the school library but having researched it, now I think it may have belonged a distant relative at some point.

The book, ‘The clock on the stairs’ by Alice Webber, was given to Thomas Eli Woolley for his good conduct and careful work at school in 1904, funnily enough he was almost 10  when he got the book. He was the eldest of 7 children born to Amos, a labourer, and Mary Ann and the family lived in and around Plumstead, southeast London. After he left school he became a printer, an occupation he continued with for many years.

I can’t find hide nor hair of him serving in WW1 but, as a great many service records were destroyed during bombing in WW2, it is possible there are just no surviving records for Thomas. He was of an age to go to war so it is likely he did.

Now, as the war ended, Thomas decided to do something very exciting. Just as the Roaring Twenties were beginning, 25 year old Thomas packed his bags and left behind London, setting sail for New Zealand. He might have paid for his ticket or if he was an ex-serviceman he may have been able to take advantage of a free passage. This was being offered to various groups of people to assist them to start a new life in NZ.

He sailed from Southampton on the 20th of May 1920 on board the Osterley and arrived in Auckland (via Sydney) finishing his journey on the Riverina on the 20th of July.  The passenger list gives his occupation as still being a printer although he was unable to find work in the printing industry on arrival.    He settled in Moa Street, Otahuhu and found work at the Westfield Freezing Works, which I think froze meat before it was sent to the shops.

A few months after Thomas arrived, his younger sister Elizabeth set out to join him.  Leaving Southampton in November and sailing through a terrible storm lasting several days, she arrived in Auckland on the SS Arawa on December the 28th 1920 and presumably lived with her brother while she found work.  Elizabeth was 22 years old. I wonder how their family felt, thousands of miles back home knowing they were unlikely to see Thomas and Elizabeth again.

Life in Otahuhu would have been a fair bit different from London I would imagine. The weather, the people, the housing, simply the access to the cleaner fresher coastal air would have been like nothing the pair would have known. It would have taken time for them to settle down and get used to their new life. Sadly time wasn’t something Thomas had a lot left of.

On the 13th of April 1921 Thomas was at work. He was stirring boiling tar in barrels when his apron caught light and despite the best efforts of his work colleagues to quickly put the flames out, Thomas suffered terrible burns to his arms and legs.  He was taken to hospital where for a time he rallied but after two whole weeks of suffering he passed away from septic shock on the 30th of April.

His sister placed a small notice in the newspaper. She would have had to telegram her parents back in England, who would have been unable to travel to her. The voyage out had taken 2 months. Thomas’ father Amos wrote a small obituary for his beloved and eldest son giving details of his funeral on the 2nd of May at Otahuhu public cemetery.  Not quite ten months after arriving in Auckland.

Elizabeth stayed in New Zealand, even if she had wanted to return to her family it is unlikely she would have been able to afford to.  In 1923 she married a local man and died a widow aged 93.


What were the chances of that happening?

Serendipity.  Coincidence. Fluke. Chance.

Family history and genealogy is full of it. Whether or not we believe in magic or fairies  sometimes  something will take pity on us and put us out of our misery and while we are researching something,  that elusive ancestor will pop up living next door to a totally unrelated person we are looking at in the 1851 census.

When I was researching Annie, one of my first posts on the blog, I was surprised to find that I had actually visited her home before as  it is now the veterinary surgery I take my cat to. Not that Gingercat is very impressed.

While I was researching Esther (see previous post) I found that her brother Archibald was killed in World War One. I spent an afternoon trying to find out which local war memorial his name was recorded on. There was a choice of two churches it could have been at. I emailed Penshurst church and they said no he wasn’t listed there and to try Speldhurst Church.

So I actually drove to Speldhurst to look for myself – but he wasn’t mentioned on the memorial there either. I did have a look around the church though as I hadn’t been there before and it is well known for its windows that were  designed by William Morris and they are indeed worth a look.

speldhurst church

I had also tried to discover where Esther was buried, I had a date of death for her and her husband but I had no luck in finding her last resting place.

I did find a mention of her father Edgar Child’s funeral in a local paper, it was held at a tiny  chapel that I hadn’t heard of before. I wondered whether there was a war memorial there with Archibald’s name on so yesterday I dragged the family and the dog over to the chapel to have a look.

There was no memorial there so I had a quick look for Edgar and his wife Harriet. No sign of them.  I was about to give up when who should I find right beside me but Esther herself, quietly waiting with her husband and daughter for me to find her.


Esther’s grave with her childhood home in the distance.

So I was fairly pleased with that!  I wasn’t so pleased with the muddy wet dog we had to take home but it was a small price to pay.

As we left I had a quick glance round for interesting headstones and one caught my eye, that of Hope Constables wife, Emma Ann Lewis.

Hope Constable

That evening I sat down to see what I could find out about Hope and his wife. The first thing I discovered is that  he was a builder and brickmaker.  And amongst the many buildings he built was Speldhurst Church. Yes, the one I had visited and admired for the first time a couple of days before.

The second thing I found was that his 12 year old daughter Ama Beatrice drowned in the river beside the family home. But that’s another story.



… with best love from Esther

Esther Childs

I spotted this small bible and the common prayer book laying side by side on the table, obviously trying to get my attention by flapping their pages about in the breeze. And (as much as I tried to resist) of course I ended up picking one up. Inside it read  ‘To Mother with best love from Esther. Christmas 1910.’

Not much to go on there so I put it back down.

Then I picked up the bible. ‘To Esther A E Childs from her sister Belinda. Christmas 1903. The Lord bless Thee and keep Thee.’

So now I had given myself a dilemma. Do I buy the book with the inscription? and if so do I leave the other book behind which Esther has given to her mother? Arghhh!

So I asked the stallholder how much he wanted for the bible. He took a quick look at it and told me he thought it once belonged to someone in his family. And then asked a couple of quid for it.  And then even though the other book had no other information to give me I bought that too because I just couldn’t bear to split them up.

It took me a while to find out about ‘Mother’ and her two daughters – their surname is sometimes spelt with an s on the end and Belinda isn’t really her first name – she was baptised Clara. But eventually I tracked them down and here is a little peek into their lives.

The Autumn of 1888 is remembered for its connection to the Whitechapel Murders, and at the same time Jack was finishing off the last of the Canonical Five, a little girl was being born in the small parish of Penshurst in rural Kent, about 30 miles south of London. The little girl was named Esther after her paternal aunt.

The village grew up around the medieval manor house Penshurst Place which today is partially open to the public. And apart from seeing many a royal visit and being owned by kings and earls  some of that film The Other Boleyn Girl was filmed there (but maybe we will forget about that last ‘claim to fame’…! )

Esther’s father Edgar worked on one of the many farms within the parish as a carter and her mother Harriet tried to keep the household running smoothly with three growing sons at school, a small daughter and now a newborn baby to contend with. Another daughter would follow a couple of years later to complete the family. The couple were luckier than many – all six of their children survived childhood.

Both Harriet and Edgar were born in the village. They were married in the parish church, just a few minutes walk from the family’s cottage, where their children would later be baptised. The children all attended the small village school and Edgar remained at the farm for his entire working life. All in all they were just an ordinary hardworking family.

Belinda was the first child to leave home, in the 1901 census she is living with a family in the village working as a maid. Also in the household is 16 year old Mary Mortlock who is the family’s cook! I’m not sure I have ever seen a cook as young as her. If I had been Mary the whole family would have dined on scrambled egg on burnt toast frequently.  That and burnt tinned soup.

Belinda was married in 1906 (maybe the food drove her away?) to Frederick, a signalman on the main line to London,  and moved away from the village to a workers cottage near the railway in the local town. Belinda and Frederick had several children.

The three sons of the household remained at home until they married, Henry was a builders labourer, Archibald a gardeners assistant and the youngest, Alfred helped with the horses his dad used on the farm.

Esther went to work as a domestic servant for a family in the village. She would have had a great many duties including perhaps making beds, cleaning carpets, laying and lighting the fires, emptying chamber pots, washing up, laundering, ironing and mending  clothing, cleaning floors and windows, helping to prepare and serve meals. The list of jobs is endless. Add to this that the family ran a grocer and draper shop and we might find that Esther sometimes had to work in the shop too.

But I suspect she must have had a little time to herself occasionally because on Saturday the 12th of April 1914 Esther Annie Elizabeth got married to Frederick, a local bricklayer.  She wore a cream taffeta dress with white lace and silk,   her sister Grace was the chief bridesmaid and wore blue and her two young nieces (complete with silk bonnets) carried white flowers tied with pretty blue ribbons behind the bride into church.

The three sons of the family joined up during the First World War and Archibald was badly injured twice whilst serving in France before going missing in April 1918.  A small article about him, along with his photograph, appeared in the local paper with his distressed wife Hannah asking for news of him from his comrades. She was later was informed he had been killed in action and she received the  £19 17s 4d back pay owed to him, followed by his service medals.

Archibald may not have known about the death of his father, Edgar died aged 65 in January 1918 following an operation in hospital. His funeral was attended by a great many people, he was obviously a very well thought of man.

Grace was now the last of the siblings remaining at home, and I can’t imagine she had an easy life – perhaps she helped keep house for her widowed mother, spent caring for relatives in the village or helping around the farm if she was able to get some work there. With her siblings all supporting families of their own, money would have been tight. Harriet and Grace remained in the family home until Harriet’s death in 1920 and shortly after this Grace was married.

Both Clara and Esther survived their husbands by many years and lived well into their nineties.

I don’t know how the books remained together for such a long time, someone obviously looked after them. And now they are sitting next to each other on my book shelf. But should they be on yours?


Lest we forget.

daniel t kay

Lest we forget.

Today being the 11th of November I thought it fitting to remember a soldier from my family  who died at the end of the Great War of 1914-1918. Thank you to mynwent for kindly allowing me to use the photograph.

My mum has written his story for you….

Daniel Thomas Kay was born in Stepney, London on the 11th October 1896, the son of Robert McGowan Kay and Ellen Catherine Nolan. As was often the case in those days he was named after his grandfathers. The Nolans had lived in the area for many years but the Kay family had moved from Oxfordshire where Roberts Scottish grandfather had worked for the Churchill’s at Blenheim Palace.

The young family lived and worked in East London, Robert was in his early 20’s and worked in a horseshoe factory as a labourer, possibly keeping the fires hot enough to melt the metal or moving sacks of coal around to the blacksmiths. It would have been hot and uncomfortable work. Ellen was a seamstress before her marriage and probably continued sewing to help support the family.

Three year old Daniels life changed for ever when, on the 2nd of March 1900, his father died from pneumonia and his maternal grandfather, Thomas, succumbed to bronchitis. Daniel and his mother seemed to part ways at this point, the little boy moving in with his widowed maternal grandmother Joanna and her children, while his mum, who was just 21 years old, moved in with her in-laws. Life was hard in those days with no real financial help for families where the breadwinner had died. It must have been a difficult time for Ellen – living apart from her son so she could support him and herself by returning to work.

The following year, when the 1901 census was taken, Daniel was still living with his grandmother, his uncle Thomas and his aunts Teresa and Annie where, according to family legend, he was spoilt rotten. Meanwhile a couple of miles away in Poplar, Ellen was still with the Kay family. Amongst the family there was her widowed brother in-law Charles and his 4 year old daughter Jane. Charles and Ellen became a couple soon after this and happily Daniel was re-united with his mother. Ellen married Charles in 1908, by this time I think it was almost acceptable for this to happen – before that it was illegal. As Ellen was a catholic I won’t mention the fact that they had already had two children together!

A month before the 1911 census the couple had their 5th child, Ellen. 14 year old Daniel was working in a paint factory with his stepfather Charles, and his stepsister Jane was a feather curler – curling feathers for ladies hats, which for some reason gave the family a great deal of amusement.

On the 9th of September 1914, just over a month after Britain entered the Great War, Daniel went to the local recruiting office and signed up.  He was a few weeks short of his 18th birthday but gave his age as 19. His service records tell us he weighed 118lbs had dark brown hair, blue eyes, was 5 feet 4 and 3/4 inches tall. He joined up at Greenwich and joined the London Rifle Brigade. He was then sent off for basic training.

By the autumn of 1915 he was in the trenches somewhere on the front line in France. On the day of the 23rd of September he came face to face with a German soldier of about the same age. The two youngsters hesitated while they took the situation in for a couple of seconds. Finally a decision was made and the other soldier fired. The bullet hit Dan’s chest pocket containing his grandmother Joanna’s bible and entered his upper arm. He was reported as missing in action, and later his family were told he had died of his wounds.

However, it later transpired through the Red Cross that he had been taken prisoner and had had to have his arm amputated. He was among first of 300 British officers and men to be sent to neutral Switzerland where he arrived on the 30th of May 1916. These men were chosen from German prisoner of war camps because they were regarded as being unable to take any further part in the war due to their injuries and wounds.

As they arrived in Switzerland people came out to cheer them along their way. Many of these men were suffering from terrible depression after being held prisoner for so long. The men made their own entertainment in their new home, they put on concerts and plays and those that were able could enjoy some freedom by walking and exercising. They could write to their loved ones and receive parcels from their families. Efforts were made to enable wives and mothers to visit them while they waited to be allowed home and many women did undertake the rather perilous journey across the sea to spend a few weeks with their men.

His mother Ellen made several attempts to see him, once her boat had to turn back after being torpedoed, but eventually she did manage to see him and when he told her about his grandmother’s bible saving his life she told him that Johanna had died at about the same time. Ellen reported back to the family she had left him in good spirits and they had talked about him returning to England after the war.

Unfortunately they were not to meet again. Daniel died from pneumonia, a complication of the influenza he fell ill with in November 1918. On the evening of the 5th of December a Catholic Priest sat with him briefly on his ward visit as he did each evening with many of sick and dying men, and later that night Daniel passed away in his sleep. He was just 22 years old.

Daniel was buried in a small graveyard and later he was re-interred in the larger cemetery at Vevey, Switzerland in a commonwealth grave. He is with 87 other men who died of wounds or influenza while waiting to go home to their families. His mother was allowed to choose the words to go at the bottom of his headstone – He died that we might live.

His brother and sisters had happy memories of Daniel. Ellen was three years old when he left for war but always remembered him swinging her round and making her squeal with laughter.

Digging up the past.


I sometimes worry what the librarians at my local library must think of me.  My list of reservations must look very odd. Mostly full of books about Victorian death, disease, hospitals, murder, cemeteries, railways, murder again, adultery, asylums and prisons, interspersed with ‘The day the crayons quit’ (brilliant book!) and ‘The Twits’ (ditto) and various other children’s books for when my daughter and I have forgotten her card. I will put my hand up to the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ though 😀

I am finding that when I begin to research a new item I am heading straight to my library account and reserving yet another book.

Well this week is going to throw them!

The item I have chosen  is a Common Prayer book that was given to Albert Early for his birthday. It doesn’t have a date on it but I have managed to narrow it down by census to the 1890’s. He was born on the 19th of January 1888 and he lived with his family in a quiet village near Battle in East Sussex.

I  began to research ‘Little Bertie’ as he is called on the flyleaf of the book but I found myself returning to the inscription again and again so I decided to see what I could find out about the giver of the birthday present.

It did take me a while to decipher the signature (L Leila L Coutwith Waterhouse Hawkins) but after finding Albert on that 1891 census entry and a quick search I had confirmation of the lady’s identity, Louisa Leila Leezinka Waterhouse Hawkins.

Louisa, although I think she preferred Leila so I will call her that, was born in 1842 in London. She was the eldest daughter of Frances ‘Louisa’ Keenan, an artist, and Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins who was a sculptor and natural history artist. Her younger sister Margaret was born in late 1847.

In 1851 the Great Exhibition was opened in Hyde Park, London.  It was only a few minutes walk from the family home in Paddington and no doubt Leila, who was 9 at the time, would have been able to see the huge glass structure that everyone was calling a marvel, a crystal palace. It was designed for various Countries to show the best of their industry and it must have been an amazing experience to visit it at that time.

After the exhibition was closed in October 1851 it was moved some miles away and across the Thames to Sydenham where it was rebuilt and incorporated within a much larger structure.

Leila’s father Benjamin, who by now had become very interested in natural history and geology,  had been working alongside many famous biologists and  paleontologists. He was commissioned to create 33 enormous extinct animals for public display. He retreated to his  studio for  two years and sculpted the huge life sized mammals and dinosaurs which were to be  displayed within the grounds of the new Crystal Palace Park.

After a lavish dinner actually inside the structure of one of the animals on New Years Eve 1853 the collection was opened to the public and Benjamin and his creations were a roaring success.

Dinosaurs were a fairly new discovery at the time – their remains having been first discovered only about 30 years before, so while Benjamin’s finished work is not accurate in our modern times it was impressive to the Victorians. I visited the park many times as a child as I grew up nearby, and I can still remember seeing those big scary monsters hiding in the foliage!

Leila took after her parents artistically.   In 1858 aged just 16 she exhibited her work for the Society of Female Artists in London.  She became a Student of the History of Fine Arts. She entered and won painting competitions. She had a bright future ahead.

Things began to go wrong for the Hawkins family in the early 1870s. Frances discovered she wasn’t the first Mrs Hawkins. In fact she discovered she wasn’t the only Mrs Hawkins. There was another one and she was alive and well. It seemed Benjamin had married Frances when he was already married and a father to 6 children.  It destroyed the relationship and Benjamin left the family to work in America.

Margaret was next to leave the family home, she married and moved away.  I have been unable to find her in later life.

Now it was just Leila and her mother. The two woman left behind life in London and moved  to the quieter, picturesque south. They seemed to live with various unconnected families in Sussex, Leila continuing to earn her living by painting .

They must have had some contact from Benjamin because, after the death of the first Mrs Hawkins in 1880 and Benjamin now being free to marry – he decided to marry Frances, legally this time in 1883. The couple never lived together again so perhaps they married to legitimize their children.

After Frances’ death in Brighton in 1884,  Leila settled in and around Battle, famous for its abbey built on the site of the Battle of Hastings. This is where I found her in 1891, boarding at the home of  Frederick and Emma Early and their five children in a village  just outside the town .  I think she enjoyed her time with this family, perhaps it reminded her of happier times.

In July 1912 Leila was admitted to the County Lunatic  Asylum in Hellingly  East Sussex.  She had been living in a beautiful house in the centre of Battle and still classed herself as an artist the year before even though she was approaching 70.  She died at the Asylum a few weeks later.

I really do hope she had a good life, but I can’t be sure.

Benjamin passed away in 1894 and is buried in Putney, London. I have been unable so far to locate Leila’s last resting place.

The whole family seems to have been scattered by the wind and lost.

I’m off to reserve some dinosaur books.  And top of my list is Barbara Kerleys Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins…. for my daughter of course 😉

Update 26th October…..   I just had to go back and visit those dinosaurs! So spent a lovely day with my whole family wandering round the park ☺

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A Blank Space.

WP_20140421_005Occasionally on my travels I stumble across (sometimes quite literally) a headstone like this one belonging to Caroline Young.  Caroline has died in  the prime of life and her husband has  purchased a memorial for her and rather thoughtfully left a nice blank space on it for his own name to be added to it when he joins her.

Except his name hasn’t been added to the stone .

The usual reason for this is the surviving spouse has married again and is buried with their second spouse.  I have found a man who married three times,  his first two wives are buried together and he is buried with his third wife.  Not quite sure how those first two dearly departed wives would have felt about that!

Caroline and James were both just 22 when they married in 1843. James seems to have moved into the quiet village with his parents and siblings a couple of years before this.  He worked on the surrounding farmland but in later years he became a Sawyer.  They had five children and if Caroline had lived just a month longer they would have been married for 20 years.

By the time of the 1861 census James and his three youngest children are living alone, the two eldest children have left home and are working away.  Caroline has gone AWOL but I think I may have found her mistranscribed in an infirmary in a nearby Kent town as Catherine instead of Caroline.

If this is our Caroline,  I think she must have been fairly unwell to have been admitted into the hospital. Nowadays if we are ill enough to go into hospital we are fortunate to know the standard of care provided and the progress of medicine is such that we will have the best possible treatment, but back in early to mid Victorian England things would have been very different. Usually a patient had to be recommended to the hospital by someone who donated money towards the upkeep of it.  Another way of being admitted was to be sent by the local Parish Clark. There were no antibiotics, not much in the way of pain relief and too much in the way of infection. A good outcome to a stay in hospital wasn’t always likely at that time. Patients may also have been required to pay something towards their keep, this may have prevented some people going until they absolutely had to.

Doctors may have been young and inexperienced, they would quite possibly have taken on private paid work to survive as  positions at voluntary hospitals were sometimes unpaid. The matron at the hospital Caroline may have been in worked there for almost 30 years and I noticed that after she had left the hospital and returned to her native Devon she was given the occupation of ‘Spinster’ in the 1891 census. Nothing mentioned about a whole working life devoted to caring for the sick and dying.

We know Caroline died in 1862, and I have ordered her death certificate so I can find out what happened to her and where. I will share that information with you when the certificate arrives hopefully next week.

Second marriages could be fairly rapid, sometimes just months after the loss of a spouse. It was most likely necessity –  a working man left with several dependent children needed a wife to care for his family. A widow with small children needed a steady income and of course both would want companionship. There was little official help available for bereaved families and the workhouse was a grim prospect.  Sometimes potential partners were neighbours or friends.

Another reason for a quick marriage could be where the new wife was a servant already in the household and tongues had begun wagging, especially after the arrival of a new child.

But James didn’t rush into another marriage, he waited 2 years before he married new wife Ann who  was a widow. Her husband had died shortly after Caroline in May 1862 and is buried close to her.  Ann brought to the marriage her own three children making a new household of 6 children.  And a father-in-law as Ann’s elderly father moved in with them. It must have been true love!

James, Ann, some children, a couple of nieces, a grandchild or 2 and a father-in-law moved into town where James opened a Beer Shop. He was fined a shilling for selling beer after hours (maybe he needed the money to support his extended family!)

Ann passed away in August 1888 and James followed her in 1908.  He lived with his widowed daughter Esther and her children  for the rest of his life. He passed away peacefully at home and was buried 4 days after his death.

Ann and James Young


I’ve managed to track down Ann and James’ last resting place, they are buried together in a quiet spot in  a cemetery on the outskirts of the town they lived in. Funnily enough if you stand at the edge of the churchyard Caroline is buried in you can see the cemetery where James is in the distance, only trees and fields separating the two.


A shady hat and a bottle of smelling salts.

Flora LouisaThis pretty sepia photograph was taken in India to celebrate the wedding of Flora and Edward Hart at the church of St John, Calcutta in 1883. Flora sent this copy home to her family, thousands of miles away in Bristol.

I purchased the photo from a flea market many years ago. The reverse gives a name and a date, but I misread the surname and so unable to find any clue of Flora, I gave up. Defeated. Until now. Having recently found* the picture again  and looked at the name from all angles until there it was, staring back at me.  SLANT became HART and all was revealed. And a good job too really because Flora has an interesting story to tell.

*Not that it was lost, it was just filed away ☺……

Flora Louisa Dix was born in 1857 in Bristol, England. She was the fourth of seven children born to  George Dix and Emma Churchill.  George was a local Auctioneer and by 1853 also the Landlord of the Black Horse. Emma -along with her four siblings -had grown up in the pub, her father Robert having owned it at the time.  The family seem to be a fairly affluent one, documents found online show George was able to loan money to friends and family. £500 in one case, a huge sum at that time.

Emma Churchill suffered a truly horrendous year in 1871. Firstly, in the February, she lost her husband George, his death was was quickly followed a few weeks later by her mother Mary aged 71 and then her father Robert passed away aged 77. She gave the pub up in 1874 and settled back comfortably (maybe a well-deserved glass of stout in hand?) to watch her children marry well.

Lets get back to Flora… now  we do have one teeny tiny problem with Flora. I can find no record of her climbing aboard a steamship and sailing to India. Nothing about the 2 or 3 week voyage she took through the increasingly hot weather, what class she travelled in or even the name of the ship that took her.  Nothing about who she sailed with or when she left England. It must have been after the census taken in April 1881 where she was living with her mother. And it must have been before February 1883 because she married in the March. Infuriating isn’t it.  We know she was single though, but we don’t know if she knew her future husband or not at this point. When she stepped off the ship and into a new life full of exciting sights and smells, who was waiting for her at the dock?

Fortunately however, we can have a little peek at what her voyage would have been like.  Because in 1882 a handy little book was published for people wanting to travel to India. Its called Indian Outfits and establishments, a practical guide for persons to reside in India, and its online to browse through. It gives advice about routes to travel, baggage weights, what clothes to take -12 thin cotton nightdresses, 12 thicker cotton nightdresses, 26 various kinds of petticoat, vests, drawers, bodices, 36 lace hankies, corsets, stockings, wrappers, mittens, a good stock of collars and frills, plain dresses, afternoon dresses, evening dresses, tennis dresses, – the list of clothing  is endless. This of course is in addition to clothes simply needed for the actual journey.

The traveller is advised to pack a months worth of clothes for the voyage and onward travel by train. It won’t be possible to wash clothes while sailing. And  a shady hat for using on deck. And ginger in case of seasickness. A favourite book and some writing materials. Brandy, sticking plaster, smelling salts, a glass to drink from. Oh and some candles for the train. Maybe a tin of sugar and some cocoa and biscuits.  An umbrella, waterproof wrap and some shawls. Also a chair may be of some comfort.

Cabins might be shared with 4 or 5 other women, I can’t imagine how jam-packed the ladies were with all their bits of luggage.  But of course these ladies wouldn’t have been able to buy these vital comforts en route to their new homes. The book goes on to describe places of interest to visit if time allows, how to engage and manage servants, how to furnish your home, illness and entertaining and a great deal more. It really is a fascinating read.

During the British Raj (1858-1947) a great many British men had travelled to India, the majority to work in some capacity. Edward Hart was to be one of these men. He was born in Portsmouth on the south coast of England in 1856. His  father, Edward Hart Snr – an Engineer,  had died when Edward was a small boy and his mother Elizabeth had married again a short time later. Her new husband, Thomas Hindmarsh, was a Civil Engineer who was involved in building the railway system in India. Elizabeth and Thomas had three children during the 1860s and then it seems Edward may have accompanied his stepfather on one of his trips to India after 1871.  Edward had been training to be an engineer himself and would eventually work on the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. Again there is no record of these outward journeys, argh!

Perhaps the couple met through their families,  perhaps through mutual friends. Maybe they wrote letters to each other and then Flora travelled to meet her intended. It is even possible that Flora simply upped and left England with friends bound for India and met Edward for the first time over there, many women did indeed do this. What we do know though is that the couple settled to down and had four children who, like their peers, were sent to boarding school in England. A country they had never seen, with a completely different climate and with family they had never met.

In 1889 Edwards half-sister Elizabeth married  another Civil Engineer, Sulyarde Cary. The marriage was short-lived  and the widowed Sulyarde went on to marry Georgianna Dix, a younger sister of Flora’s in 1893. This sister had followed Flora out some years later,  perhaps as a result of Floras letters home. A second sister, Beatrice, joined them in 1900, along with her husband – Edward Harts half brother Thomas Hindmarsh who had been working in Bengal on the railways since 1884.  It is possible the 3 sisters were near enough to each other to be able to enjoy each others company in what could otherwise have been a lonely existence, having to live at a distance from the servants and local population with only a small crowd of fellow British wives. While the men got on with their work the wives were left to keep house and raise the children.

I have found a  mention of Edward Hart being promoted to from Captain to a Major of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Volunteer Rifle Corps in July 1903. 

Beatrice died in India in 1904 at the age of 30. She was shipped home to Bristol and buried in the village churchyard. Georgianna followed her sisters path in 1906 aged just 33 possibly escorted by Flora who stayed in England, while Edward seemed to make many more crossings to Bombay.  Edward died in 1934 and his death registered in Southampton. Flora is living in London at this point and remained there, dying at Ealing Common during the second world war in 1941.

What an amazing life Flora must of lived, from our distant viewing point – Flora may well have disagreed.






The Lady of the Manor.


This charming leather bound Common Prayer book was given to Constance McNicol in May 1872, when she was just 8 years old.  Despite its age and now rather shabby appearance you can tell by its soft, velvety worn cover and the fragile pages inside that it has been well used. Constance has placed  flowers in between some of the pages, a few still remain hidden inside today and you can see brown outlines where others have left their mark behind.

Constance was born in February 1864 in Calcutta, India. Her 20 year old mother Wilhelmina was from London,  and her father Nicol was a Shipbuilder who originated from Greenock in Scotland.

The family sailed to England in the mid 1860’s, and Constance became a big sister to  brother Ernest who was born in London in 1866. The family lived in a town house just a short walk from Hyde Park.

Nicol died in May 1872 and perhaps Constance received the book to mark the passing of her father. She certainly placed a flower across the page with the prayer for the ‘Burial of the Dead’ which has stained the paper.

Wilhelmina McNicol married again in 1878, this time to the recently divorced David Sandeman.

Constance herself was married in July 1890 to John Budd, the son of a Copper Merchant. The couple resided with the Budd family at Kingston House in Leatherhead, Surrey for several years until news that a large property, in a tiny rural hamlet in East Sussex, was coming up for auction. The previous owner had paid £13000 for the house ten years earlier but had just gone bankrupt and the Budds were able to purchase Tidebrook Manor for the princely (but bargain) price of £7600 in December 1897.

The couple settled in to their new life in the countryside. They employed many local people, and several of these stayed working for the Budds for the rest of their working lives. This included Thomas and Eleanor Knight who received £200 from Constance’s Will for their long service of over 40 years.

Constance took a great interest in the local church and gave it many gifts during her lifetime.  She enjoyed being part of village life, joining several societies and clubs. She was Vice-President of Tidebrooks Womens Institute for a time in the 1920’s.

John also was an active member of the community, he often played the church organ for services and attended local gatherings with his wife.

John Budd died in 1948, and Constance followed in 1950. They share a grave in the peaceful churchyard a few minutes walk from their home.

Shortly before her death, Constance paid for a huge stain glass window to be placed in the church. It reads…The thanksgiving of John Evelyn Budd and Constance Anne his wife in grateful remembrance of 50 years at Tidebrook Manor. 1898-1948.


isaac  churchgate 003

These two photos are of the same grave, taken a few years apart. It is sad to see how the elements have weathered the sandstone, leaving the inscription almost illegible. Fortunately my mum and I recorded it many years ago, but if we had tried to do that now I think it would be almost impossible. This particular headstone is a good example of how much information can be lost if we don’t get to it before the weather does.

This is the last resting place of Isaac and his sister Rebecca. Although you can no longer read most of the inscription on the stone it used to tell us that Isaac was 21 when he died in 1829. It also informed us that Rebecca was married to William Hilder, she left one surviving son and she also died in 1829. The parents of the 2 siblings had arranged for the stone to be put up and they had also put their own names on it.

From this information we were able to find a baptism for Isaac in a nearby village, and those of all his siblings……except Rebecca. So if she hadn’t of been mentioned on the headstone we wouldn’t have know she existed. But she did exist, so we tracked down her marriage – 1828 in Brighton, Sussex. This is many miles away from where she had lived with her family. Had some kind soul not transcribed the record and put it on a cd we wouldn’t have found it.

The last sighting of Rebecca at this time is of her entry in the burial register, under her married surname.

The problem here is that the siblings were born and died before 1837, this is the year that the recording of births, deaths and marriages became compulsory in England and Wales. Details were (supposed to be!) collected locally and transferred to a central register -at the General Register Office. Because of this act we are able to search for our ancestors easily as the details appear on various websites and usually we find what are looking for – although sometimes it takes a while, but don’t we all get that glowing feeling of satisfaction when we find that elusive marriage?

And because Isaac and Rebecca lived and died before 1841 they don’t appear on a census return.

So what can we do about ancestors who died before this? how can we find out more about them? Well we can look locally at Parish records from before 1837, we can search old newspapers for family notices or in Rebecca’s case we can try and find her husband and child in the 1841 census to see what became of them.


we can only do this if we know about them.

Having finally tracked down Mr William Hilder in 1841 we found he had married again and had several more children with his new wife. Rebecca’s 12 year old son was living with his father and stepmother, of course no mention was made of his deceased mother.

So without the information this headstone had provided us with at one time we wouldn’t have known about Rebecca or her marriage and child.  Quite possibly anyone researching backwards from themselves to Rebecca’s son wouldn’t know his real mother or her family, not without the help of that little bit of knowledge from her headstone.

Headstones can sometimes be an important resource that may be able to provide us with information we wouldn’t find anywhere else.