Tag Archives: Devon

John Victor, Boiler-maker and Hammerman, 1852-1934

Photo of Mousehole Harbour at low tide

Mousehole Harbour at low tide

On Boxing Day 1852, Bernard and Alice Victor (nee Rowe) stood in Paul Church, Cornwall, for the baptism of their son John.  Bernard was a fisherman, and Alice was a fisherman’s wife, formerly a domestic servant.

During John’s childhood the family lived in various streets in the small village of Mousehole.  A smart new granite pier was built in 1870-71 but he didn’t stay to become a fisherman, instead in the first half of the 1870s he moved east to Devon, and lived in Stoke Damarel, near Plymouth.  There was a smallpox epidemic in Plymouth in 1872 when hundreds died; hopefully John was still in Mousehole at that time or his parents would have been going frantic. Also in 1872 horse-drawn trams were introduced but I suspect labourer John, a fisherman’s son, would have walked around Devonport.  His married older sister Mary Wright Victor had by this time also moved away to Devonport but had come back for an extended stay with her young family when her husband Edward Kelynack was away at sea.

Photo of Plymouth Hoe by Robert Pitman

Plymouth Hoe, by Robert Pitman, Flickr bobchin1941 Creative Commons license

John met a girl called Eliza Jane Crews, a carpenter’s daughter, and they married around February 1877 and their first child, Alice, was born on 28 May of that year when John was 25 and Eliza only 18. They maybe had a concern for Alice’s health, as she was baptised two days later in St Stephen’s Church, Devonport. At this time new dad John was working as a labourer.

Their second daughter, Eliza Hutton, was born in March 1880; the young family were living at 12 Clowance Street where they were to stay for at least 13 years. A year later, at the time of the 1881 census, John was working as an assistant boiler maker, and in December 1882 when their third child Agnes Kate was baptised aged approx 10 months he was described on the record as ‘Hammer man’.

On 11 December 1884 their fourth child and first son, William Robert, was born.  Maybe William was in good health to begin with, as they weren’t in a hurry to get him baptised.  Sadly when they did get round to it; when he was 18 months old in June 1886, it was likely urgent as William died two weeks later and was buried in Stoke Damerel parish.

Mum Eliza must have been early on in another pregnancy at that time as she gave birth six months after that, on 28 December 1886, to a daughter called Harriett Ruby, who was always referred to after that as Ruby. When Ruby was born John was working as a boilerman in HM Dockyards. Working in the Dockyards was the dominant industry in Plymouth at that time. A later writer described how:

“It is impossible to convey any idea of the varied activities which are to be witnessed at the dock sides and in the many workshops. The visitor should not fail to visit the large Smithery, however much the smoke and soot may drive him to the open air. Here anchors and other heavy metal work are dealt with and the great Nasmyth steam hammer may be seen.”
From the Devonport Online transcription of ‘A pictorial and descriptive guide to Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport with excursions by river, road and sea’ [1] Ed. 5, rev. Published 1914 by Ward Lock & Co Ltd. London.

John’s father Bernard died in summer 1890. Unusually for my Cornish ancestors John didn’t choose his father’s name for either of his own sons. Maybe they weren’t close, or maybe someone just hated the name Bernard.  John and Eliza’s second son John Ernest was born later that year, on 13 November 1890.

Daughter Mary Ann was another winter baby, born on 22 December 1892.  I fear that Mary Ann also died young as I haven’t found a trace of her anywhere after that.

Their eighth and final child, Ethel May, was born on 1 December 1894.

At the end of the 19th century the family moved to Ker Street, Devonport. Around that time, in 1899, the horse-drawn trams being just so 19th century, were starting to be replaced with the introduction of electric trams.  The family were definitely in Ker Street for the 1901 census, a year which also saw their first of their children get married: 24-year-old Alice Victor, a tailoress, married Scottish shipwright James Mathie in autumn 1901 in Devonport. As far as I know they didn’t have any children.

By March 1901 their third daughter Agnes was working as a servant for Church of England clergyman William & Isabella Allin & their family. In the summer of 1902 Agnes, aged about 19, married skilled labourer William Avery (also working in HM Dockyards) , and that year John and Eliza became grandparents for the first time when Agnes had her first child, a boy called William.

In late 1902, second daughter Eliza married James Edwards.

The next few years weren’t very kind to John. In summer 1903, when he was 51, his mother Alice (nee Rowe), aged almost 80 and still living back in the Penzance area, probably Mousehole, died.  The following year in Stoke Damarel, John and Eliza would have been scared and horrified when their daughter Ruby, then aged 18, started having fits.

In spring 1904 Agnes had another baby, named Agnes Kate for her mother, but I think the baby must have died soon after birth.

In early 1904 their third grand-child was born, this time to Agnes’ sister Eliza and James Edwards; they named the baby Ruby for her aunty.  Three years after that, in summer 1907, the baby’s granny Eliza Snr died at around the time of her 49th birthday.  It also looks like James sailed for the USA in 1907.

On 13 August 1907 poor Agnes and William stood at St Mary’s Church, their newborn daughter Eliza Honor in their arms for Eliza’s baptism.  Eliza had been born that same day so can’t have been well; I don’t have the exact death date for Eliza but it was August/September that year. Agnes and William went on to have another lost child before the 1911 census.

Photo of Elizabeth, NJ, USA

Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA by Ron Coleman https://www.flickr.com/photos/roncoleman/

In June 1908 their daughter Eliza and grand-daughter Ruby sailed from Southampton to New York on the SS Majestic.  She and Edward had had a son Wilfred, born c November 1909 in New Jersey; by 5 May 1910 they were living in Elizabeth City in Union County, with James working as a cabinet maker.

Back in Devonport, John’s daughter Agnes had her fifth child in August 1911; hopefully this baby was stronger as this time there was no rush to get little Samuel to be baptised.

That October, Agnes’ younger brother John, who was a plumber, joined the Royal Navy.  He served on the Vivid (the cadet ship I believe rather than the Naval base), but in November 1911 was invalided and spent four months in Plymouth Hospital.  I’m love to know the background to these intriguing remarks, perhaps about a gratuity: 10/- Grat. for raising/saving the Vivid” Nov 1911.

Naval discharge notes for John Victor, 1911

Naval discharge notes for John Victor, 1911-12, from FindMyPast

Blue-eyed, brown-haired John left hospital in March 1912 and perhaps fancied a new start as in July he headed for New York on the White Star Line’s Majestic. After that I lose track of his story.

17 June 1916 saw the marriage of his youngest daughter Ethel to a blacksmiths apprentice called Francis McCalley. Francis was the only child of a seamstress called Alice Rowlings who worked for the government in the dockyards, sewing flags.  Alice’s sister had also lived with them, so Francis lived in a female household, it was maybe a shock to go work in a blacksmith’s shop!

In 1920 the census finds Eliza, James and Ruby Edwards renting a house in Elizabeth, NJ, but by that time James was working for the church as a sexton. That census suggests they naturalised in 1912 but the scrawl on a later census seems to contradict that.  Eliza and James had a daughter named Jean in 1923, when their son was 13, must have been a bit of a shock after a gap of several years! James was still a sexton in 1930; the census tells me that they not only owned a house by then but that they also had a radio.

This is of course the point in John’s family story where I run out of UK online registration resources to access. I do however know that despite what must have been very hard physical labour John lived until the age of 81, dying in Devonport in spring 1934, less than a year after the the death of his eldest daughter Alice.

Ruby didn’t marry, she lived on until 1855; Agnes died in 1961 and Ethel in 1973.

Back in Elizabeth, USA, in 1940, Eliza and sexton James’ family had grown following gas fitter Wilfred’s marriage to beautician Lillian; Wilfred’s younger sister Jean was an office worker.  How strange to get such recent online records; I wonder if Jean’s still over there in New Jersey.  Such a difference in the world since her grandfather John Victor’s birth in Cornish Mousehole, almost 90 years before.

© Lynne Black, 27 September 2015
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/john-victor/

Photo of Newlyn Beach, Cornwall

Grace D Rowe 1819 – 1905 – milliner and dear aunt

Photo of Foundry Lane, Newlyn

Foundry Lane, Street-an-Nowan, Newlyn

Grace arrived in the world on Tuesday 7 December 1819 and baptised into the Methodist faith on 7 January 1821 in the Penzance area, probably in the local Trinity Methodist Chapel in Newlyn.

Born in Newlyn, Penzance, she was the daughter of William Rowe, a shoe-maker, and his wife Alice nee Daniel.  She was the third of their 9 children and her middle name is likely to have been Daniel, after her mother.

In June 1841 her occupation was given as a female servant.  However by 30 March 1851 she was working as a straw bonnet maker. There are some lovely examples here on Pinterest, although perhaps she would more likely have produced ones like in this Stanhope Forbes painting Fish Sale on the Beach.  Although her occupation was given as 1861 as seamstress, in 1871 and 1881 her occupation was stated as milliner and 1891 as a retired milliner so presumably she had a flair for it, perhaps inherited from her shoemaker father, and maybe he got her started off with his local connections.

Photo of the Foundry Lane well.

Foundry Lane Well, Street-an-Nowan, Newlyn in 2015

Her mother Alice died in 1845, aged only 52, and by March 1851 Grace, sisters Patience and Elizabeth were still at home with father William. By 1861 Grace was was still living in Street-An-Nowan in Foundry Lane looking after her father, who was by then 73, and working as a dressmaker. Patience had married Thomas Tremethick in 1853 but was also living in Foundry Lane.

The 13 households of Foundry Lane – and others round-about, would have been served by the well at the top of the Lane (the semi-circle which can be seen in the top photo). Grace and her neighbours would have wound the handle to bring up the bucket.  This was in use until the early 1900s at which point the well was closed and a standpipe was connected, followed two years later by the addition of a tap. Users would still however had to carry the containers by hand back to their homes.  The pipe will still in use in the 1930s.

William died in 1869 and was buried in Paul Cemetery on 19 December.

Photo of Newlyn streets

Chapel Street and Orchard Place, Street-an-Nowan, Newlyn

In 1844 Grace’s younger sister Alice, 5 years younger than Grace, had married Mousehole man Bernard Victor and in 1846 their daughter Mary was born. Mary married a Newlyn naval carpenter called Edward Kelynack in 1867.

By 1871 they had a daughter Mary and a baby son Edward and Mary was staying in Newlyn; Grace was lodging with Mary (her great-niece) in Chapel Street, literally a minute away from Foundry Lane, while Edward was away at sea in the East Indies.

By April 1881 Grace had moved considerably further than a minute’s walk from home, she’d moved to Martin Street, Stoke Damerel [Plymouth] in Devon. Mary was living there with Mary Jnr and Edward Jnr; once again father Edward was away, this time in Gibraltar.

Grace and Mary were still in Martin Street in 1891, although Mary Jnr had flown the nest and married Army Schoolmaster John Pearce in 1888. Edward was still living at home and working as a newspaper reporter; the household now included youngest child Lorina, born in summer 1883.

Tragedy struck their family c February 1901 when oldest daughter Mary Pearce died after a long illness.

By 31 March 1901 Edward Snr had retired as the Royal Navy’s Chief Carpenter and was living at home with Mary, Edward Jnr, Lorina and Grace. Their household also included their grand-daughter Beatrice Pearce who had not long lost her mother.

Edward Snr died in summer 1904 aged 63; he was living in Trelawny Road, Plymouth at the time.

Grace died the following year, in late 1905, in the Stoke Damerel area at the grand old age of 85. I hope that she was buried in one of her own bonnets.

© Lynne Black, 20 September 2015
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/grace-d-rowe/

Mary Wright Victor: Royal Navy Chief Carpenter’s wife, Plymouth

In the summer of 1846 Mary Wright Victor was born in the small Cornish fishing village of Mousehole. She was the second child and oldest daughter of fisherman Bernard Victor and his wife Alice nee Rowe.

Photo of a cobbled street in Newlyn

Cobbled street in Street-An-Nowan area of Newlyn

In September 1867, when she was 21, she married a Newlyn man five years her senior called Edward Albert Kelynack in St Peter’s Church, Newlyn.  Edward was the son of a fisherman but was himself a carpenter; he turned out to be a very good one. He had joined the Royal Navy and by the time he was 20 in 1861 was away serving on the Algiers, a 91-gun ship under the command of George O’Callaghan. It looks like the Algiers was in Corfu although the census reads what looks like ‘Corfu Road’.

Their first child, Mary, was born in 1869 in Devonport [Plymouth] but their second child, son Edward, was born in spring 1870 back in Newlyn so perhaps father Edward was away at sea.

In April 1871 Edward was away at sea in the East Indies, this time working as a Carpenter 2nd Class on the Dryad sloop. The Dryad is reported to have caught five slave dhows in 1869 and was in the East Indies in 1870. The ship is recorded as being in Devonport in 1879,

In 1871 Mary’s unmarried Aunt Grace was staying with her in the Street-An-Nowan area of Newlyn, perhaps for company and support for Mary as a new mum. I’d be interested to know if Edward had been home for the 8 years in-between 1871 and 1879, otherwise it sounds like a really long posting, no wonder she wanted a companion.

Devonport, Stoke Damerel, 1892, from NLS collection

Map of Devonport, Stoke Damerel, 1892, from National Library of Scotland collection OS Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952

The 1881 census also finds him overseas, this time in Gibraltar on the iron-clad ship the Agincourt, Channel Squadron, as a carpenter. Mary was living with her two children in Devonport; they were living at 7 Martin Terrace which I think would be in this area shown on this c1892 National Library of Scotland map.  Again I find Aunt Grace staying with her, marked as a visitor, so hopefully Grace and Mary were close and got on well.

Edward must have been home in 1882 as their third and final child Lorina was born in summer 1883.

In April 1888 her 19-year-old older daughter Mary married an army schoolmaster called John Frederick Pearce in St James Parish Church, Devonport.  Their son Harold was born the following year. By November 1890 John had been posted to Scotland: South Leith (by Edinburgh), at Pirshill Barracks, ‘Jock’s Lodge’, again as an Army Schoolmaster. Their daughter Beatrice Sylvia was born on the morning of 18 November and registered on 1 December in South Leith by her father; he had also been present at their daughter’s birth. I suspect they may have used her middle name and known her as Sylvia as that’s how she’s listed in 1891 on the census at the barracks. Sylvia (as she was referred to in 1891 census) wasn’t baptised up in Leith, she was baptised in 1892 back in Devonport.

In 1891 Edward is again away at sea, and this time Mary, still down in Devonport, proudly describes him as Chief Carpenter, Royal Navy. Their son Edward was working locally as a newspaper reporter.

HMS Camperdown, pictured after 1883 collision with HMS Victoria, picture from Wikipedia

HMS Camperdown, pictured after 1893 collision with HMS Victoria, picture from Wikipedia

In June 1893 Edward Snr was serving on the flagship of the Channel Squadron: the Camperdown [boat spec here].  They were near Tripoli in the Lebanon but “Following an order by the admiral to carry out a dangerous and near impossible manoeuvre, taking into account the positions of the vessels” according to this ship index web page, it collided with HMS Victoria during manoeuvres which then sank with the loss of 358 men [see painting of the collision here]. No doubt Edward was extremely busy doing emergency repairs as the ship limped into port.

This was one of many experiences he had while Mary was home in Devon; others included a long spell in Vancouver and time on the east African coast, notably Natal “where he was favoured, at Natal, with the friendship of the late Bishop Colenso” [reported in The Cornishman].

At some point in the 1890s daughter Mary became ill; she died in early 1901 back in Devonport.

By March 1901 Edward had retired as Chief Carpenter and he was home in Devonport with Mary Snr, Edward and Lorina, still in Martin Terrace.  By then their son Edward was working as a political registration agent. The household also included their grand-daughter Beatrice.  I’d feared her brother may have died as he was not listed but I tracked him down in Rathmines, Dublin, where he was living with his father.

The following year widowed son-in-law John remarried back in Plymouth, his bride was Emma Cockram, another Devonport-born woman.

Edward Albert Kelnyak died on 23 April 1904 at the age of 63.

His obituary in the Cornishman newspaper refers to a fascinating career:

“Death of Mr E. A. Kelynack, of Plymouth.

On Saturday, less than a week after his brother’s decease, Mr. E. A. Kelynack died at his residence, at Trelawny Road, Plymouth.  Deceased was sixty-three years of age.  He had served a long period in the Royal Navy as carpenter, attaining to the rank of chief carpenter, and retiring with the rank of hon. Lieutenant.

Mr. Kelynack had seen a good deal of this world as a naval man.  He served commissions on the East African coast, where he was favoured, at Natal, with the friendship of the late Bishop Colenso.  He was in charge of the shipwright department of Vancouver dockyard for several years.  He had also served on the Northumberland in the Channel squadron, and was on the Camperdown in the fatal collision with the Victoria.  Mr. Kelynack was a very genial man, and had a large number of friends at Devonport, Plymouth, and Newlyn.  In politics he was a Conservative, and was an active worker for the cause in Devonport.  He leaves a widow, one son and daughter, unmarried,  Within recent years his eldest daughter, married, died after a long illness.  Mrs. Kelynack the widow, is from Mousehole, and was a Miss Victor before her marriage.’”

Mary had further sadness when her aunt and long-time companion Grace died in late 1905, still in Devonport.

In 1906 Edward married Eva Cheyne nee Beachey; by 1911 the were living in Paignton, Devon.

In April 1911 Mary was living alone in Plymouth and described herself as ‘housekeeper, formerly’.

I can’t find Lorina in the 1911 census; the only info I have about her after 1901 is from a news story in the Western Morning News in 1934 (via the British Newspaper Archive) which reported that she was trying to sort out an insurance policy for a man called Alfred Beckett with whom she’d been living as his wife in St Just-in-Roseland, near Truro in Cornwall.

I don’t know where Mary ended her days, but I found a reference to the death of a Mary Kelynack in 1834, in The Cornishman.

© Lynne Black, 31 August 2015
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2015/08/31/mary-victor-kelynack/

#52Ancestors #26 James E Glover, Customs Man AKA Grandad

Jim Glover, Penzance Magpies AFC, 1938

Jim Glover, Penzance Magpies AFC, 1936

James ‘Jim’ Glover, my grandfather, was a Customs man. He was born in 1909 and grew up in Cattedown, Plymouth, Devon.  The second of the five children of Henry Alfred Glover and Florence Selina Dolton, he joined the Navy in his teens.  He was in the last group of men who trained on HMS Impregnable, the navy training ship and was promoted to be a writer on HMS Lucia fairly quickly. By 1931 he was working in Newlyn, Cornwall, as a Customs Officer.  There he met my grandmother, Mary Jelbert.

One year they went to the Helston Furry Dance with friends, and they saw a man with a stall selling cheap stockings – roll up, roll up!

London Man's Adventure, The Cornishman, 31 August 1939, from the BNA

London Man’s Adventure, The Cornishman, 31 August 1939, from the BNA

They bought a couple of packs, but when they opened them in the pub later they fell about laughing when they found their bargain stockings were full of holes. Grandad, however, was not impressed. What, he said, if an old lady had bought them to save her money and then found she’d been ripped off?  So they all headed back to the stall where Grandad stood at the back of the crowd, waving the holey stockings, shouting “Got any more of these mate?”  The trader was not happy, tried to shush Grandad and gave them their money back; he made a lot fewer sales that day…

That same day Granny paid for something and the seller counted accurately the change into his own hand then tipped it into Granny’s hand. Grandad, sharp-eyed customs man, immediately slapped the back of the seller’s hand and said “That one too!” and the final coin fell out from where the hawker had carefully slipped it between his fingers.

Grandad had a tattoo on his arm.  Once I asked him what it said and they both laughed; Granny said it was the name of ‘a bit of stuff’ he knew before her so he had scribbled it out.  They married in Newlyn and lived together for his work at various times in Plymouth, Grimsby , Poole and Newlyn.  Together they had three children.

Mary and James Glover with grand-daughter Lynne

Mary and James Glover with grand-daughter Lynne

Grandad was a keen sportsman, growing up in a sports-mad family.  He played football for various Cornish teams, and captained Penzance Magpies when they won the Penzance & District Charity Cup in 1938.  I found many match reports of his game in the Cornishman for that period in the British Newspaper Archive.  Sport is big in Cornwall!  All his life he would walk for miles a day, with his dogs Rusty, Bosun and Skipper.

When we used to visit when we were kids, Grandad would take my brother and I down to the beach in the mornings to play on the sand, or the rocks depending on the tide, to let Mum and Dad have a lie-in. In the evenings we liked it when he would take us down to the harbour and we would try to guess the registration ports of the fishing boats moored in Newlyn Harbour, sometimes four deep.  FY Fowey!  SS St Ives! GY – er Grimsby?  Yeah!

52 ancestors logoGrandad died in 1997 in Newlyn, Cornwall, leaving Mary, 3 children, 7 grand-children and 3 grand-dogs.

© Text and photos copyright Lynne Black, 25 June 2014

#52Ancestors #25: Henry Alfred Glover, docker and amateur vet

Henry Glover, census entry

Henry Glover, census entry

My Great-grandfather, Henry Glover, was born in April 1887 in Plymouth, Devon.  His father Walter Glover was a mason and his mother Emily Keast Glover was a housewife. Both had been married to other people before so in addition to his nine brothers and sisters he knew two half-brothers from Emily’s previous marriages.

He married Florence Selina Dolton in 1908 and they had five children of their own: Bill, Jim, Bertha, Walt and Harry.

When he was younger Henry worked as a horse driver in the draper industry, but later he worked as a docker.  He lost his job in 1925 with the fall of the ‘Geddes Axe‘ [Government cuts], but later found work again.  However, this was a mixed blessing as he was injured in an accident at the docks.

52 ancestors logoHenry had a reputation as an amateur vet so people would ask his advice about their animals.  The family bred racing dogs which needed a considerable number of long walks but the only dog allowed in the house was a lurcher called Toby.  They also had a cat called Smokey Joe – whenever the children stroked this bad-tempered cat their hands would come away filthy.

The family also had rabbits and pigeons.  Henry was the secretary of the local pigeon club and he had a special clock which worked off the pigeons race number for clocking the flying time of each pigeon  for races. Henry was also skilled at mending clocks and would fix other people’s clocks for them when they stopped working.

Their children were also keen sports fans, with success in boxing and in football.  He also encouraged their participation in the Scouting movement, a lifelong love for his youngest son Harry.

Grave of Henry A Glover and Florence S Dolton Glover, Efford Cemetery, Plymouth

Grave of Henry A Glover and Florence S Dolton Glover, Efford Cemetery, Plymouth

Other passions of the family were the Co-operative Movement and politics, and they hosted Lady Nancy Astor’s 1929 re-election campaign from their living room [see Fuelling Nancy].

Henry died in March 1949 and is buried in Efford Cemetary, Pymouth, with Florence.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 18 June 2014

#52Ancestors #23 Jane Coursons, 19th Century Nurse

Jane, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, is standing at the edge of this family branch – before her the information is definitely disappearing into the mist.  I know her first name was Jane (1851 census) and until last month believed her mother’s name could be Grace Thorning.  Not so – fantastic work by my cousin Chris (we met via matching family trees on Ancestry) has shown that Jane’s maiden name is actually Coursons.

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Wikipedia

St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Wikipedia

Born c 1820 in Exeter, she married Plymouth quarryman John Tope in 1837 in the rather swanky-looking St Mary, Redcliffe Bristol, Gloucestershire, England.  So why Bristol?  It appears it’s because they paid well!  Despite the availability of work for quarrymen in Plymouth, many of them appear to have gone to Bristol for better wages.

By 1840 she was in Plymouth, but four years later she had her daughter Mary Ann in Cullompton, Devon, some 55 miles away.  Family there, perhaps?  We shall see…

By 1851 she was living in the village of Oreston in Plymstock, Devon with John and four children: John (1840), Mary Ann Tope (my ancestor, 1844), William (1847) and Elizabeth Ann (b1850).  In 1854 their son George Curson Tope (Jane’s maiden-name clue was in the name!) was born, all in the Plymouth area.

By the age of approx 43 in 1863 she had seen two of her children married off: John to Elizabeth Holbertson and Mary Ann to Samuel Preece, and she was a grandmother.  However just as her own home quietened down her life got harder and more precarious when her husband died in 1866 in Plympton St Mary.

52ancestorsBy 1871 census Jane was working in Plymstock as a general servant and living in Chelson Meadow.  Much more unusually for my family, by 1881 she was listed as a nurse, again living in Plymstock.  Ten years later, aged 71, she was still a nurse.  71!!!!???  [And I’m unimpressed the retirement age will be 67 for me, rather than the age of 60 which was the norm when I was a kid.] In 1873, two years later, Jane died, nearby in Plympton St Mary.

In addition to identifying her parents I’d like to find out more about where Jane Tope (as she was then) was nursing.  It was the post-Crimean Nightingale era but Jane wouldn’t have been well off, and at the age of over 55 and a widow is likely to have taken what work she could to have an income.

And hopefully the mists will clear as the search for long lost Coursons continues…

© Text copyright Lynne Black 4 June 2014

#52Ancestors #22 – Mary Ann Tope, Mariner’s wife

Cullumpton Church c Google Maps

Cullumpton Church c Google Maps

Mary Ann Tope is my great-great-great-grandmother. Born in Cullumpton, Devon in 1844 to stone quarryman John Tope and Jane Courson, she was the second of their five children and grew up around Oreston, Plympton St Mary near (what’s now) Plymouth, Devon.

Before her marriage Mary Ann was living in Langdon and working as a general servant on John Coombe’s farm which employed 16 men and 3 boys.  I think this may be near Wembury village but advice welcomed!

She met Samuel Preece, a mariner from Somerset, and they had their first child, Bessie Ann, in 1865.  I’m still to actually track down their marriage certificate but I’ve not reason to think they weren’t married; a Mary Jane Tope married in Plymouth c February 1865, so that’s my best lead.

Extract from map of Plymouth, showing the Oreston Breakwater

Extract from map of Plymouth, showing the Oreston Breakwater

They had two more daughters, Sarah Jane (1868), Florence Elizabeth (1870) and sons Chas (1874) and Frank (1875) in Oreston.

I would love to know how Samuel and Mary Ann met.  I suspect it was because he was a sailor and had gone to Plymouth for work.  He wasn’t actually home the night of the 1871 census, maybe away on a ship. [Mary Ann was with the children at Breakwater in Oreston.] Perhaps when I eventually track down their marriage certificate it will show their addresses and professions and give me a clue.

52ancestorsI also have had trouble tracking down their death certificates, they maybe mumbled their words as I’ve seen various spellings of Preece (and indeed Tope) including some too obscure for even the wider search settings.  Maybe they sailed off into the sunset together after completing their 1891 census…

© Text copyright Lynne Black 28 May 2014

#52Ancestors #21: Bessie Ann Preece of Oreston

Bessie was born c 1863 in a small but ancient village called Oreston, part of the larger sprawling village of Plymstock, near Plymouth, Devon, England.

Extract from map of Plymouth, showing the Breakwater

Extract from map of Plymouth, showing the Plymstock Breakwater

She was the daughter of a merchant sailor called Samuel Preece and his wife Mary Ann (née Tope) and was the oldest of five children, three girls then two boys, all of whom survived into adulthood.  In 1871 the family were living in Plymstock, in the Breakwater and Colliers’ Offices, so maybe the fresh sea air did them a lot of good!

By the age of 20, in the 1881 census, she was working as a general servant, still in Oreston, but when she married  William Henry Thorn Dolton, a quarryman, in 1883 they married in nearby Plymouth where they settled down to have eight babies.  Four of the children survived into adulthood: Samuel, Ernest, Florence Selina (my great-grandmother) and Mary Kathleen.

52ancestorsSadly I don’t know too much about Bessie as an individual. Her life was intertwined with her husband and her children, with her role defined by her relationship with them. But I do know she would have seen the standard of life for Plymouth’s people gradually improving, with a proper drain and sewage system introduced, hospitals built and public parks created in the second half of the 19th century.

Western Times, 16 December 1913 © National Newspaper Archive

Western Times, 16 December 1913
© National Newspaper Archive

Dockyards had been expanded and there was even a political protest with a suffragette burning down one of them!  She would have seen the inter-continental cruise liners calling in a Plymouth and leaving with emigrants for the new worlds.

Reforms continued apace into the 20th century, with the merging of the three towns of Plymouth, East Stonehouse and Devonport into the one city of Plymouth in 1914; a slum clearance project later reshaped the face of the city.

Bessie died late in 1935 in Devonport, aged about 70.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 22 May 2014
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/bessie-ann-preece/

#52Ancestors #20: William Dolton – a mysterious end?

William Henry Thorn Dolton was born c November 1862 Devon, England. His father John Willing Dolton had worked on the land but by William’s generation the family was living in Plympton St Mary [now part of Plymouth].

52 ancestors logoWilliam was the fourth child, second son, of John and his wife Selina Ann Horn [his middle name Thorn was probably the result of the registrar mis-hearing his parents]. His father John had been married previously but after the death of his first wife had struggled to cope with three young children and William’s older half-brothers and sisters had been raised by their grandmother Elizabeth Dolton.  By the age of 20 William was apprenticed to a blacksmith, but that doesn’t seem to have worked out as later he was working as a quarryman (stone), a labourer in the limestone quarries, and later still as a tar worker.

He married Bessie Ann Preece, in August 1883 in Plymouth Registry Office and they had their first child the following summer, named William Samuel for his father and grandfather.

William Jnr was followed by 7 more by 1896: Ernest Francis, Florence Selina (my great-grandmother), Francis (who died in infancy), Bessie Matilda (died in infancy), Mary Kathleen and another Francis, who again died in infancy. I found a reference to a 7th child but haven’t found a birth entry for him/her. Four lost children, how cruel…

It was a very poor time and a time of great change in the country. In December 1913 a suffragette had burnt down an (uninsured) Devonport timber yard as a protest – I’m sure William and his mates would have had strong thoughts on that as the smoke curled high above!

Three Towns in One: Derby Daily Telegraph, 4 May 1914   © National Newspaper Archive

Three Towns in One: Derby Daily Telegraph, 4 May 1914
© National Newspaper Archive

This year is the centenary of the merging by Local Government Order of the three towns of Plymouth, East Stonehouse and Devonport and there are loads of events on.  And where am I? Scotland. When did I get to visit Plymouth? Last year. Bad timing. Plymouth Remembers commemorates this; the Plymouth History Festival is on at the moment and there are so many events relevant to the lives of my ancestors that it’s really frustrating being so far away!

I suspect back then people just got on with their lives – I wonder if there was discontent about losing the prominence of the names of East Stonehouse and of Devonport by taking the name of their neighbour? Local rivalries? Or just cynicism that whatever they were called they’d still have to go to work and to pay their taxes?

Western Morning Times, 16 October 1942

Western Morning Times, 16 October 1942 © National Newspaper Archive

William lived through the First World War, and the 20s and 30s when Lady Astor was MP for Plymouth.  He would have seen many grandchildren and heard of their sporting successes and also seen his daughter Florence [then] Glover busy in the Co-operative movement.

I believe William met his death in 1942, in a fall from a 3rd floor window. This news cutting refers to a coroner’s report so tracking that down will be my next step.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 16 May 2014
First published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/05/15/william-dolton/

#52Ancestors #17 John Dolton’s family of amazing names

Brixton Church (photo © Andrew Jago)

Brixton Church, Devon (photo © Andrew Jago)

John Willing Dolton was born on 18 August 1816 in Brixton, a parish east of Plymouth. He was my great-great-great grandfather.  John was the son of Elizabeth Dolton and Joseph Willing, a neighbour of Elizabeth.  Joseph and Elizabeth did not marry; both ended up with other people.  Two days before his birth Elizabeth had been discharged from her apprenticeship in husbandry for being “guilty of several Misdemeanors, Miscarriages, and Ill-behaviour in his Service, as an Apprentice; and in particular in being with child of a Bastard child”. My jaw dropped when I saw that one of the signatures on her original indenture was a Joseph Willing… It’s a different Joseph Willing, but disconcerting to see.

John himself was indentured into service as “a poor Child, aged ten Years, belonging to your said Parish”.  He was apprenticed to a farmer called Matthew Revell in Brixton parish.

In 1838, when he was 21, John married his first wife, Susan/Susanna Gulley, a quarry-man’s daughter in Plymouth.  Together they had 3 children: Ann Cook Gully Dolton (1839), John Dolton (1841) and Sarah Jane Dolton (1844).  Sadly their time together was cut short as Susan died on 1 September 1845, leaving John to look after 3 children under the age of 6.

He must have found this impossible whilst bringing in money for food and rent as in April 1851 the children were staying with his mother Elizabeth (now married to Nathaniel Ramsen). He was living with his brother-in-law Thomas Gully, Thomas’ wife Ann and family.

John’s second wife Selina Ann Horn was born in Dover, Kent, in 1836.  Her father, Joseph Horn, had worked as an agricultural labourer in Plymstock, Devon, in the 1825s, but later became a customs man.  Sadly he died before the 6 June 1841 census. My friend Chris has done a lot of work following up leads – perhaps I should spend my British Newspaper Archive credits on checking for accidents…

52 ancestors logoJohn and Selina married in 1865, by which time they’d had five children together, which I think is sweet as it shows commitment, or maybe it just shows bowing to community pressure!  John is listed at various times as a quarry man and also a labourer, an agricultural labourer and a husbandman, so I guess he would just work at anything which would bring in a wage for his (now two) families.

He and Selina had 10 children together will a range of amazing names:

  • Archealeus Joseph Avery Horn Dolton 1857;
  • Sarah Ann Horn Dolton 1859;
  • Florence Selena Dolton 1860;
  • My ancestor William Henry Thorn Dolton [we think the vicar misheard the name Horn] 1862;
  • Catherine Amelia Dolton 1865;
  • Susan Jane Dolton 1867;
  • Mary Elizabeth Dolton 1869;
  • Matilda Harriet Dolton 1871;
  • Alice Maud Dolton 1873; and
  • Ernest Albert Dolton 1876.
Image of Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

It’s interesting that the names are so grand as both John and Selina were illiterate and I wonder where they got inspiration for some of those names. Florence was born after the [sadly, first] Crimean War and obviously likely to be inspired by Florence Nightingale but the rest…  Archealeous – wow! I wonder if names were so important to John as his was so significant to him – proof of his birth father always had to be given. Selina’s parents too chose some flamboyant names for their children; Selina has a brother called Hercules, which I think is brilliant.

They lived at various times around what is now Plymouth in East Stonehouse, Higher Hooe, Plympton St Mary, Lower Hooe and Ugborough, perhaps so John could be where the work was.

John died in 1895 in Plymouth. Selina outlived him and died in on Boxing Day in 1918 at the age of 81 from senile decay.

Thanks to Chris for sharing John and Elizabeth’s fascinating apprentice documents with me. Thanks also to Andrew for the lovely photo of Brixton Church.

© Text copyright Lynne Black 24 April 2014
Content first published: https://starryblackness.wordpress.com/2014/04/23/john-dolton/