Category Archives: Northumberland

Worldwide Geneaology Collaboration post: Walter Hindmarsh

Kirk Yetholm, photo by Andrew Bowden

Kirk Yetholm, photo by Andrew Bowden

At the end of 2014 I signed up to do half a dozen posts across 2015 as part of the Worldwide Genealogy Collaboration.  My first post has just gone online today and it’s available here:

Walter Hindmarsh – using enlightened Scottish records for an Englishman

I hope you enjoy it.

Lynne, 21 February 2015

Hannah Drummond and the mystery of Alexander Hindmarsh

Hannah was born at Burdopecrag [Birdhope Crag], near Rochester, Northumberland, in 1834.  This is border country between England and Scotland and just outside what is now the Northumberland National Park.

Picture of River Coquet and Bygate Hall

River Coquet and (I believe) Bygate Hall, Harbottle, Northumberland, from Google Maps

Her father Thomas was a shepherd.  By the time she was 6 she was no longer living with Thomas, his wife Eleanor and their other 7 children who were aged between 15 years and 2 months.  I found Hannah instead living with Adam Hindmarsh, another shepherd, and his wife Hannah in Little Ryle, just over 10 miles to the north-east as the crow flies, 30 as the car drives.

By the 30 March 1851 census she has been joined at her Uncle’s house by her older sister Ann; they are both recorded as his nieces, and their brother Michael, a shepherd, is also there.

In contrast Alexander’s early years are such a mystery that I’ve spent many hours trying to tease out how he’s related to Adam and Hannah Hindmarsh. Census entries state he was born in North Shields, Durham.  The only birth I can find there at the right time says Alexander’s father is called William, so I have the wrong entry as that would give his uncle Adam Hindmarsh two brothers called William, and I know the other one is correct.  Why did his mysterious father travel there?  Love?  Employment?

In the 1851 census I find Alexander working as a shepherd in Grey’s Forest, Glendale, staying at Fleehope House in the College Valley, with the Black family.

Alexander Hindmarsh & Hannah Drummond's wedding announcement, Newcastle Courier

Alexander Hindmarsh & Hannah Drummond’s wedding announcement, Newcastle Guardian and Tyne Mercury, 19 April 1856, © British Newspaper Archive

It appears Alexander and Hannah are actually related to both Adam and Hannah, that Alexander is Adam’s nephew and Hannah Drummond is Hannah’s niece.  Perhaps their match was encouraged as a way to strengthen the relationship between the two families, perhaps the children Adam and Hannah didn’t have. They married in Burdhope in April 1856; their first son, William arrived later that year.

Ariel view of Carham

Carham Farm, Northumberland, from Google Maps

In April 1861 Alexander is away working as a shepherd in Carham, boarding with William and Elizabeth Elliot.  William is a farmer of 129 acres employing 8 labourers, so perhaps he was also Alexander’s employer. Carham is right by the river Tweed – if Alexander had swum across he’d have been in Scotland.

In April 1861 Hannah is back visiting her aunt and uncle at Featherwood.  She has with her their three young sons: William (6), Adam (2) and baby Thomas, just 2 months old. Perhaps she leapt at the chance for company and support for her baby.

The April 1871 census shows them in a much different location.  They’ve moved to work for Sir William and Lady Margaret Armstrong at Cragside stately home.  I visited Cragside when I was a kid and and had remembered it being hundreds of years old.  However obviously not much info had gone in that day as I’ve just been reading about Sir William and Cragside and the truth is much different.  He bought Cragside in 1863 on a holiday in an area he’d enjoyed visiting on holiday as a child.

Armstrong wasn’t a Duke but rather a polymath Victorian engineering magnate who appears to have a very wide range of interests and energy to match. He and architect Richard Norman Shaw designed and built the house.  Further info about Cragside:  History Today article and for lovers of engineering this CIBSE Heritage Group Website has lots of info.

Alexander is a coachman, the 1871 census tells me, before adding the more official ‘Domestic Servant’.  He and Hannah have 6 children living with them.  William is now a 14-year-old farm labourer, Adam (12) and Thomas (10) are scholars, John (7) and Alexander (4) are perhaps running round either helping or getting in everyone’s way, and Andrew is only a year old.  The info in the record suggests that Alexander Jnr and Andrew were born locally, the older boys born in a different registration area [in the Featherwood area], so perhaps Alexander Snr started at Cragside c 1865.

Newspaper story about Lady Armstrong

Lady Armstrong’s New Year generosity, Morpeth Herald, 1875 © British Newspaper Archive

In January 1881, Armstrong made history when Cragside was the first home in Britain to have domestic electric lights.  The lights, designed by Norman Shaw, were powered by hydro-generated electricity, but Dad remembers thinking on our own visit a hundred years after their creation that they didn’t look particularly safe!  Still it must have been a wonder for the staff to look up at the house and see the electric lights gleaming through the windows.

In April 1881 Alexander and Hannah are living at Cragside Farm with their children John, Alexander, Andrew, Michael D, Hannah E T, a 7-year-old scholar, and little Elizabeth, their 2-year-old.  By 1883 the gardens were stunning and hosted the 28th Annual Rothbury Flower Show (see news cutting).

Newspaper story about Cragside Flower Show 1883

Flower Show at Cragsidde, September 1883, from Morpeth Herald, © British Newspaper Archive

By 1891 Alexander is working as a gardener in these grounds and they still have five of their children living with them at Pethfoot College, Whitefield.  William is a married barnman – (although his wife isn’t listed on the page) – but Adam (32) is widowed and working as a general labourer.  Andrew (21) is a groom,  Hannah (17) is a dressmaker’s assistant and 12-year-old Elizabeth is still a scholar.

Next door lives their son John, now married to Barbara with an infant daughter Ann.  He’s working as a nurseryman on Lord Armstrong’s estate; his father Alexander also works on that estate.

Hannah died in spring 1894, aged only 60.  For the March 1901 census Alexander, himself only 65, was listed as ‘Formerly Coachman Dom’ so maybe he was too old or infirm to work – he died that spring.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 30 January 2015
First published:

Adam Hindmarsh, Northumberland shepherd made good

Photo of Alwinton by Peter Reed

Photo of Alwinton, Northumberland, by Peter Reed

Adam was born in 1797, the son of shepherd William Hindmarsh and his wife Margaret Grieve.  He was one of seven brothers and two sisters, but unlike his other brothers he seems to have suddenly taken the leap from small-scale shepherd to farming a large farm.

He was born at Carshope in Alwinton.  As I wrote in a post about his younger sister Jane, “Alwinton at that time had a population of 102 souls, a Norman church (St Michael and All Angels) for spiritual needs and a pub for worldly ones (the Rose and Thistle, some lovely views on their website). Now part of the Northumberland National Park, it looks like the area was beautiful but that Jane would have have had to get on with hard work in all weathers.  The Rose & Thistle website describes the nearest market town as Rothbury to the south east; Cragside stately home is nearby.”

Picture of River Coquet and Bygate Hall

River Coquet and (I believe) Bygate Hall, Harbottle, Northumberland, from Google Maps

As I don’t have access to many offline records relating to that period, the next online record I have is of his marriage to Hannah Thompson, in Alnham on 23 May 1828. 13 years after that, in the 1841 census, he’s working as a shepherd in Bygate Hall, Holystone, only about a mile away to the south east.

However, ten years later, the 1851 census finds him with a drastic change of circumstance.  He’s living at Little Ryle, and the census records that he has ‘200 acres of land, employing 12 labourers’.

Letting advert for Little Ryle Farm, Newcastle Journal, 1854, copyright British Newspaper Archive

Letting advert for Little Ryle Farm, Newcastle Journal, 1854, copyright British Newspaper Archive

Although there are a couple of mystery Hindmarsh men whose relationships I’m still to match up, I have found no concrete evidence yet that Adam and Hannah had children together.  There is however a tantalising shepherd recorded in a census called William and I wonder if he’s possibly a son from a possible previous marriage for Adam who’s he’s a few years older than Hannah.  But that’s still just a possibility, a theory to explore when I have access to the records.

Various census years find him with various nieces and nephews visiting or working for him, this has been helpful in working out connections to the Drummond and the Thompson families.  It helped to confirm a nephew of his, Alexander, whose father has presented the biggest challenge for mapping the Hindmarsh brothers and their families.

I found this newspaper advert for Adam and Hannah’s Little Ryle farm, so it looks likely they finished a let or sold their farm – now noted at 400 acres – in 1854.

Map image

Featherwood farm displaying on Streetmap

In 1861 census we see Adam and Hannah are living at Featherwood, a large farm by Rochester (still in Northumberland). If you look at the aerial view (grid ref NT 81524 03939) you’ll see the land round Featherwood is marked with military as well as farming scars.  A Roman Road marches past and there are sites of former camps just north of the farm.  Appearing less than half a mile – but almost two millennia later – there’s a Farm Bomb Blast Shelter immediately to the west.  This is listed by English Heritage for its significance in 20th century military development (for residents to shelter from artillery practice).  Inbetween those two eras, shepherds scattered sheepholds across the landscape.

In 1871 Adam and Hannah are still farming away at Featherwood.  Adam died soon after in spring 1872.  By 1881 Hannah was living in the small village Rochester, she died there two years later in 1883.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 15 January 2015
First published:

#52Ancestors #52 Alexander Hindmarsh, Shepherd with two good donkeys

Alexander Hindmarsh was one of seven brothers who farmed or worked as shepherds across Northern England and southern Scotland.  Himself the son of shepherd William Hindmarsh and his wife Margaret Grieve, he also had two sisters Elizabeth and Jane; Jane is my G-G-G Grandmother.

Alexander was baptised in May 1805 in the Northumberland village Alwinton; his family lived at Carshope [Farm].

The baptism entry reads “Inserted here by desire the Children to William Hindmarsh & Margaret Grieve his wife in Carshope parish of Alwinton… All of whom were baptised upon their respective births by the Rev David Morison Minister of Burgher Congregation Morebattle in Scotland”.

I find this intriguing – is this a different, perhaps non-conformist, religious denomination?  Alexander’s older brother Walter lived and worked as a Shepherd across the border in Morebattle. What’s the link here? It’s interesting that Margaret’s surname is always specified – I’ve come across this a lot in Scottish or non-conformist records.

I next come across Alexander when he married Jane Ogle in Alnwick in 1838.  By 1841 they are living in Broome Park where he is identified as an agricultural labourer; this village had only 77 people living in it in 1870 and I suspect would not be any larger back in 1841.

52 ancestors logoAlexander’s father died in 1847 and his mother in 1849; by 1851 he and Jane had moved to Flesh Bush in Glendale, Northumberland, and by 1861 he was working in Glanton, Alnwick, on Barns Farm; at the time of both censuses he was working as a shepherd.  They lived in Glanton until Alexander’s death in 1875, aged 70.

After his death Alexander’s goods and effects were put up for auction:

Alnwick Mercury, Dec 1875  © British Newspaper Archive

Alnwick Mercury, Dec 1875
© British Newspaper Archive

I love that we hear about his donkeys and his dog carts, but how sad that the marital bed had to be sold.  And a crib? I’ve not seen any mention of children in any of their census returns; Jane was only 29 when they married so still young enough to have children so I fear there is a human tragedy in there somewhere.

After Alexander’s death Jane lived in Green Batt, in Alnwick. The 1881 census records her as an annuitant, I don’t know who or how her living expenses would have been paid at that time. She died in 1886, aged 77.

I’m writing about Alexander today rather than his brothers as his life story seems relatively straightforward.  His older brother Adam owned a farm and also appeared to be childless; I’ve spent the last fortnight trying to untangle the twisting net of cousins, nephews and nieces as they visited each other, or worked on the various brothers’ various farms as servants. Hopefully soon I will be able to share their stories, even though those #52Weeks are now over!  How strange…  While I’ll keep writing about family I think I’ll miss the discipline of meeting deadlines – albeit voluntary ones.

So with only just over 7 hours left in Scotland in 2014, here’s wishing you a happy and healthy 2015.


© Text copyright Lynne Black 31 December 2014
First published:

#52Ancestors #51 the search for Jane – a hunch about Hindmarsh

Recently I’ve been writing about the Brown family. My G-G-G-Grandfather Joseph Brown was a horse-breaker born in 1838 in Northumberland, he married a mystery girl called Jane and they had seven children including Joseph 2nd.

That son Joseph Brown, a soldier and later a carpet fitter, married Alice Hedley and together they had six sons.  Four of these sons had names which were likely to be surnames, pointers, remembrances of loved ones and three I’d identified:

So that leaves Hindmarsh.  So I’ve been thorough, and now I’m going to try something.  Let’s see if his mysterious grandmother, Jane, with whom the trail goes cold, was a Hindmarsh.  I know from the census she was born in 1802, in Allington/Ellington, spelling has varied a lot.

FindMyPast has a set of records transcriptions made by the Northumberland & Durham Family History Society; that collection was one of the reasons I took out a subscription.

So. Type in Jane’s name and year, hit return.  Only 66 results offered, with only one of those a baptism. And it’s her.  My husband goes deaf as I scream across the room.  She’s living in Carshope parish of Alwinton and I now have her parents’ names, even her mother’s maiden name, and her home.

But best to double-check.  And there’s her marriage to Joseph Brown, a year before their first child was born.  So much easier to search for a Jane Hindmarsh than a Joseph Brown! So happy.

Jane’s Story

Bellingham Church interior

Bellingham Church interior

It appears then that Jane was born in Carshope, probably a farm/small-holding, just south of the Scottish border near Alwinton in 1802 in the reign of King George III. Her father William Hindmarsh was a hill man according to the 1841 census.  Her mother was Margaret Grieve, and I found 2 other baptisms on FindMyPast for Jane’s brothers Adam and Alexander.

Alwinton at that time had a population of 102 souls, a Norman church (St Michael and All Angels) for spiritual needs and a pub for worldly ones (the Rose and Thistle, some lovely views on their website). Now part of the Northumberland National Park, it looks like the area was beautiful but that Jane would have have had to get on with hard work in all weathers.  The Rose & Thistle website describes the nearest market town as Rothbury to the south east; and Cragside stately home is nearby (I’ve found family members working on that estate).

Ponteland Church, Northumberland

Ponteland Church, Northumberland

Jane’s path, however, led south-west rather than south-east as at the age of 20 she married in Elsdon, east of Otterburn, then moved further on to have her 7 children in Bellingham where Joseph worked as a horse-breaker.  I was looking at the area on Google maps and see both are towns on junctions of roads across the hills.

Later the family moved east, living near Ponteland (1841 & 1851) and Bulman Village, Cox Lodge (this now appears to be an area of Newcastle Upon Tyne) in 1861 and 1871.  Jane died in summer 1871, aged 69.

When pulling together all information I knew about Jane I googled Alwinton to see if there are any specific sites for it, Genuki, or perhaps A Vision of Britain Through Time.  And yes, there are both.  But the very first item that came up on my search results was the Hindmarsh Family Tree page.  Wow, just wow.

The site owners have obviously pulled together the findings of years of time and effort onto this website and have consulted some specialist sources.  There seem to be a whole wider family network of Presbyterian Hindmarshes.  And on this site it lists Jane’s baptism, correct parents and also six of her brothers and sisters’ baptisms.  These include Adam on whom I have some reliable info, and Alexander.  Alexander’s been a bit of a mystery, with confirmed information floating in a sea of possibles and probables.

52 ancestors logoAnd there are mentions of the likely origins of the surname and its variants; early recordings of the name, mainly in Northumberland.  Now I get really chuffed when I manage to trace someone back into the mid-18th century.  This site includes reference to some much earlier instances of the names around the area, albeit some info and links unconfirmed. I still have to work out the link to specific Hindmarshes in the area the author writes about so that will be something for 2015.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 21 December 2014
First published:

#52Ancestors #50 – Thomas Henderson Brown – the best man and the bride’s sister

Thomas Henderson Brown, born 1881, was the fifth of six brothers and he’s the final one I’m featuring in my blog.  The sons of Joseph and Alice Brown, in order, were JJ Hedley, Michael, James Denholm, William Hindmarsh, Thomas and Albert.

Photo of a Brown family wedding

Brown family wedding, possibly Thomas & Clara’s wedding in 1919

In 1910, at the age of 28, Thomas was a witness at his younger brother Albert’s wedding to Miss Fanny Swallow.  Fanny was the third of six sisters: Amy, Ethel, Fanny, Clara, Ida and Elsie.  Ten years later in December 1919, by then aged nearly 40, he married Fanny’s younger sister Clara.

My Dad and I are currently playing photo detective with a couple of wedding photos. I’m sure Thomas’ older brother (my great-grandfather) Michael is the man in the black hat – he was obviously very fond of that hat as he’s wearing it in other photos!  So there we go, another photo of Michael, and also perhaps my great-grandmother Sallie next to him, although in most of her photos she looks wistful rather than happy so I’m not 100% sure.

And I think that Thomas may be the groom, although I would appreciate views of any historical clothes experts out there in case it’s actually the 1910 wedding of Albert and Fanny.  Although two of the men are in military uniform they were reservists so would have had uniforms before the war.

52 Ancestors logoLike Albert Thomas worked in the clothing industry, unlike warehouseman Albert, Thomas worked as a clothier’s cloth cutter.

I don’t know what happened to them after their wedding, no clue!

© Text copyright Lynne Black 14 December 2014

First published:

#52Ancestors #49 Albert E Brown, clothiers’ clerk and soldier

Albert Brown, the youngest of six sons of Joseph and Alice Brown. He was born in Newcastle in 1884 but by the age of 6 the family had ’emigrated’ to Yorkshire and he was living in Leeds, so perhaps he had a hybrid accent.

His wife Fanny was the third of six daughters of a commercial traveller and book keeper called Fred Swallow.  Fred and his wife Ann (nee Holdroyd) seem to have travelled round a lot after their childhood and marriage in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.

Photo of Attestation of Albert E Brown witnessed by BSM Michael Brown

Attestation of Albert E Brown witnessed by BSM Michael Brown

By 1901 Albert was 16 and working as a clothiers’ clerk.  However, like his brothers, he saw service in the army.  At the age of 24 in 1909, whilst working as a stockman for J Hepworth & Sons he attested for four years service with the Royal Field Artillary, 151st West Riding Brigade.  I was looking at his sloping-back signature when I noticed that the witnessing signature on the line below was that of his older brother BSM Michael Brown, my great-grandfather.  Well that should have made it easy for Michael to be sure that Albert’s information was accurate!

The following year Albert and Fanny married in Leeds, with Albert’s older brother Thomas as one of the witnesses. Their honeymoon baby Mona was born a month before the 1911 census.

52 Ancestors logoAlbert was working as a stock-keeper and warehouseman by the time his daughter was born.  However during the first world war Albert was away with the 49th Divisional Company, Royal Field Artillary in France.

My grand-father’s hand-drawn family tree notes that Albert died in 1980, I don’t know when Fanny passed away.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 7 December 2014
First published:

#52Ancestors #48 James Denholm Brown and Ellen Howell

Photo of James and Ellen Brown and family

James and Ellen Brown and family

James was born in Newcastle in early 1878 and grew up in its Byker area with his parents and five brothers.

His father Joseph was a carpet fitter, but had previously been a soldier, like James’ two older brothers JJ Hedley and Michael.  His mother Alice had been a domestic servant before her marriage.  James had three younger brothers, William, Thomas and Albert.

James was working as an office boy by the time he was 13.  By the time he was 21 in 1899 he was working as a clerk.

Runaway Horse story, Yorkshire Evening Post 1894

Runaway Horse story, Yorkshire Evening Post 1894, from FindMyPast’s British Library Board’s records

He married Ellen Howell in St John’s Parish Church, Leeds that year; she was the daughter of the late James Edward Harvey Howell, a cab proprietor (see newspaper story).  The 1891 census intriguingly stated her occupation at the age of 16 as a school teacher, but her wedding certificate did not enter a profession against her name.  James’ older brother Michael was a witness, as was Ellen’s younger sister Ada and a Henry Howell.

James and Ellen had their first daughter Alice in 1900, a Victorian; Hedley Harvey born in September 1901 and Dorothy, who arrived in 1905, were born in King Edward VII’s reign. In 1901 and 1911 James was working as a woollen manufacturer’s clerk; Dorothy’s baptism record in 1905 describes him as a cashier.

During the war James served as a Lance Corporal in the 14th Northumberland Fusiliers, and was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

52 Ancestors logoIn 1931 he was the witness at his daughter Dorothy’s marriage to Cyril Short in St Stephen’s Church, Leeds.  Dorothy was working as a typist when she married, I always like it when I find out women’s occupations outside the home.  His son Hedley married Constance Pickard in 1936; I don’t know the end of their sister Alice’s story.

James died on 1 March 1964 at the grand old age of 86.  I suspect Ellen died before him as she wasn’t named in his will.

© Lynne Black, 29 November 2014
First published:

#52Ancestors #47 J J Hedley Brown, acting with distinction in the Boer War

J J Hedley Brown

J J Hedley Brown

John James Hedley Brown was the oldest of six brothers who grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland.  He was the older brother of my great-grandfather Michael.  Their father Joseph had been a soldier before becoming a carpet-seller, and so far I’ve discovered 5 of the 6 brothers also served in the Army.

Hedley’s preferred name was his mother’s maiden name – Alice Hedley was English but had grown up in Scotland. But hers is a different story.

The 1891 census finds Hedley working as a clerk – woollen [manufacturer?] However in 1892, aged 18 years and 9 months, he attested as a Private in the 3rd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment.  He was 5′ 9″ weighing almost 9st, of fresh complexion with blue eyes and dark brown hair.

I’ve come across a significant number of events in Hedley’s life from exploring the military records.

In 1893 he joined the Royal Engineers, by then he had a scar on his right eyebrow and his right forearm.  In 1895 Hedley was stationed down in Portsmouth.  One day when off duty, he and another soldier were setting up some goalposts, when out of a silent sky flew a golf ball, hitting him on the head behind his left ear and knocking him to the ground.  He felt groggy but carried on, but quarter of an hour later he returned to the barracks and was carried to the hospital.  There was an enquiry – no-one had been heard to shout a warning when teeing off.  The golfer had offered compensation immediately after Hedley had been struck but Hedley turned it down, but the golfer then promised to cover the costs of his engineer pay lost while Hedley was in hospital.  The medical notes say that it “will not in all probability affect his future efficiency as a soldier”  Fortunately this proved to be the case.

In March 1900 he was promoted to Corporal, promoted to Serjeant in December 1900, became Mecht Staff Serjeant in August 1901.  In March 1904 he was re-engaged to complete 21 years service.  In January 1905 he reverted at his own request to Sergt; in December 1905 he was promoted again to QMSjt [Quartermaster Serjeant].  In July 1908 he became QMSgt (Instructor) and promoted again to Sergt Major in August 1911.  In 1912 he was transferred and appointed Sgt Maj (Instructor).

An extract from [Boer War] Army Orders from Pretoria, South Africa, dated 16 July 1901 was also included in Hedley’s file:

The G.O.C-in-C has been pleased to sanction the promotion of the under-mentioned NCOs and men for distinguished gallantry in the field.
13 December 1900.  Seach Light Section, R.E. to the Serjeant.
On 13th Decr 1900, proceeded alone, though the Boers held all the intermediate country strongly, to repair the telegraph line from Rietfontein and Rustenburg, and got it through.  Also for conspicuous courage in blowing up a mill under heavy fire.

The report of the gallantry of these N/C/Os has been received with much satisfaction and has been duly noted.  A Corps Order is enclosed herewith confirming these promotions.

This then had earned Hedley the promotion from which he later reverted; he was 26 and maybe didn’t feel ready.

52 Ancestors logoThere are also records of Hedley becoming increasingly skilled as an electrician – Skilled in July 1894, Superior in December 1894 and Very Superior [great title!] in March 1896.

The military records also mention that in 1902 he’d married Florence Roberts in Leeds, his brother Michael was witness at their wedding, and that together they had 3 children:  Florence Mary, William Hedley and Eric.

I found another mention of of Hedley in the British Newspaper Archive.  In November 1933 there was a public appeal for a new hospital in Leeds, Hedley had made a contribution which was specified in the Yorkshire Post.

Hedley died in the spring of 1953.

© Text and photo copyright Lynne Black 23 November 2014
First published:

#52Ancestors #45 BSM Michael Brown, Inspector of Postmen

Sgt Michael Brown c1906

Sgt Michael Brown c1906

Michael Brown is my great-grandfather.  My Dad knew him, and was evacuated to his house during the war where he recollects Michael would listen intently to the war news on the radio, but Michael died long before my time.

He was the son of Joseph Brown and Alice nee Hedley and was born in 1876, the second of six brothers.  These were Hedley, James, William, Thomas and Albert and four of these six I know to have been in the army. All were born in Newcastle Upon Tyne, Northumberland, but at some point in the late 1880s the family moved to Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Michael was a sharp-shooter in the army cadets and we have a collection of newspaper reports such as this one about inter-Brigade shooting competitions.

Shooting match report, 4 November 1899, Yorkshire Post

Shooting match report, 4 November 1899, Yorkshire Post

He became a reservist and served in the 69th (West Riding) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.  I have a huge amount of information about Michael’s military career thanks to my dad who’s doing a fantastic job learning about the various horrific battles and near-death situations Michael survived.

Hopefully we’ll get it made up into a book, so I’ll not go into too much detail.

Image of paragraph listing DCM information

Information about Michael Brown’s award of the DCM

However I will just share this:  Michael was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1918 “when the battery came into action direct from a very long and trying march, he displayed conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.”  Sadly the medals are no longer in our possession, they were sold at Christies as part of a package which included a photo of Michael marching at the head of his battery.  Maybe the photo will suddenly display on a WW1 website or magazine.

My great-grandmother, Sarah E Halliday

My great-grandmother, Sarah E Halliday

Michael’s other, civilian, life-long profession was that of postman.  By the age of 16 in 1891 he was working as a telegraph boy in Leeds and by 1901 was the town postman.

He married Sarah Emmaline Halliday in 1902. ‘Sallie’ had been born in Leeds but was descended from a Gateshead family. They had one child, William ‘Bill’ Halliday Brown, in 1905.

In 1911 the census records his occupation as “Town Postman Acting As Asst Inspector Of Telegraph Messengers”.  After the war they continued to live in Leeds and by 1931 when Bill married, Michael was the Inspector of Postmen.  In 1936, or just after, he and his fellow post office workers were awarded the King’s Silver Jubilee Medal.

52 Ancestors logoMichael was clearly very loyal to his regiment as in April 1939 he obtained permission to open a recruiting office in Roundhay Road to recruit to the 69th (West Riding) Field Regiment R.A. (T.A.).

Michael died in London in 1951, a year after his wife Sallie; they had been staying with Bill and Phyllis who’d been taking care of them.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 12 November 2014
First published: