Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #117

Dear Reader,

My latest translations, The Olive Tree: Leaves, Sins of the Father, Smoke and Mirrors, and Mind Games, all in Portuguese.

Just discovered that my 7 x great grandfather Thomas Hopkin lived to be 96 (1730 – 1826). He lived in Hutchens Point, Nottage, Glamorgan. On 29 May 1762 he married Catherine Rees from St Athan.

In the 1980s, Douglas Adams wrote a book, The Meaning of Liff, in which he applied humorous definitions to place names. He included Nottage: items you store in your shed for years, decide to throw out, only to realise that you need them a week later.

From 1918, ’Marriage Advice to Young Ladies’ from a ‘Suffragette Wife’.

Original pamphlet: Pontypridd Museum, Wales.

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

An exclusive interview with author, playwright and journalist Tim Walker featuring his meetings with a range of movie stars

Short Stories

Poetry

New Releases 

Travel

Activities 

Author Resources 

And so much more!

Around twelve years ago this was the first branch of my family tree that I explored in detail.

My 3 x great grandfather Thomas Jones was born to Thomas Jones, a coal miner, and Mary Morgan on 16 July 1843 in Laleston, Glamorgan. Thomas and Mary were not married at the time. This is a common discovery I have made for many of my Victorian ancestors and I will elaborate further in a future post.

Thomas’ wife and my 3 x great grandmother Hannah Morgan (the names Hannah, Morgan and Jones reoccur a lot in my family; indeed, four of the first sixteen branches start with a Jones) was born on 30 July 1848 to Richard Morgan, an ostler, and Margaret Jones in Tythegston, a small village near Laleston. You can read Richard and Margaret’s story here https://hannah-howe.com/ancestry/ancestry-13/

In 1851 Thomas was living with his parents in Laleston along with his three year old sister Ann and his grandmother, Jennet Morgan. Jennet was a widow at this time. Meanwhile, Hannah was living in Tythegston with her patents, four siblings, three lodgers and her grandmother, Mary.

Bridgend, 18 June 1850, a picture commemorating the opening of the railway station.

Ten years later Thomas was employed as a servant at Broadland House, Laleston. The owner of Broadland House, at the time, was Charles Drummond, a Londoner, an ‘esquire’, who later moved to Somerset. Drummond died in Somerset in 1888 leaving £2,500 11 shillings in his will.

Broadland House was set in 70 acres of land and the farm employed five servants, including Thomas, who worked as a ‘cow boy’. Mention of cow boys conjures up images of the Wild West. However, Thomas’ work was more prosaic, milking and feeding the animals. Twelve years old, Hannah was still at school and it’s likely that the couple had yet to meet.

That changed a few years later and on 22 February 1868 Thomas and Hannah found themselves walking down the aisle in Ruhama Baptist Chapel, Bridgend. There is a large church in Laleston so presumably Hannah chose the venue.

A child soon followed, my direct ancestor, Thomas. At the time of Thomas’ birth the landscape around Laleston was changing dramatically with the arrival of the railways and the development of coal mines. Thomas left the land to work in a coal mine and this ushered in a period of transience for the family as they moved from village to village seeking employment.

In 1881 the family found themselves in Llandyfodwg near Bridgend. Now with five children, Thomas and Hannah lived in Cardigan Terrace. The street name is revealing and indicates that it was established when a number of families settled in Llandyfodwg to work on the land and in the local coal mines. These families originated from west Wales. They were joined by families from the West Country of England. 

The west Walians and the locals spoke Welsh while the people from the West Country spoke English. Over time, a period of twenty years, many Welsh speakers became bilingual. However, few of the English people learned Welsh.

No pictures of Thomas Jones or Hannah Morgan exist, but this is their son, Richard Morgan Jones.

Each change of address for Thomas and Hannah represented a move of only a few miles. The baptismal records of their children allow us to chart their movements: Laleston, Newcastle, Llangeinor and Llandyfodwg, all within a five mile radius of Bridgend. 

Within this transience records were lost and Hannah disappeared from history. A death record dated 1881 pointed to Hannah. However, when examined in detail it revealed a different Hannah Jones (her married name, of course). My Hannah’s death was not recorded, or more likely it was lost.

Hannah definitely died before 1891 because at that time Thomas was a widow. He’d moved to Llantrisant, the home town of Hannah’s grandparents. Maybe he moved there to be closer to his extended family.

In 1891 Thomas was still working in the coal mines. His working life  represented stark contrasts: the early years spent in the open air, the latter years spent working in the dark. Both occupations offer a certain romanticism: the pastoral beauty of the countryside, the camaraderie of men working in life-threatening conditions, their existence reliant upon each other.

In 1891 Thomas and his three children, Thomas, Richard and Margaret, lived in Dinas, Llantrisant. Like their father, Thomas Jr and Richard were coal miners while fifteen year old Margaret was their housekeeper. Margaret’s childhood effectively came to an end when her mother died as she assumed the role of ‘woman of the house.’

Thomas’ street contained thirty people. All the men were coal miners. Twenty-three of those people spoke Welsh, six spoke English and only one was bilingual. 

After 1891, like Hannah, Thomas disappeared from the historical record. It’s probable that he died in May 1898.

Bridgend coalfield: Bryndu Colliery.

While at work Thomas diced with death, every day. At random I have selected ten Joneses who worked alongside Thomas in the local coal mines. The brief notes that follow record their fate.

Thomas Jones, aged 22: killed by falling from a byat while moving a stage in the shaft.

Evan Jones, aged 14: killed by a full train passing over him.

William Jones, aged 38: killed when the mineshaft roof fell.

William Jones, aged 37: killed by a fall of coal.

William Jones, aged 16: killed by a fall of coal.

Richard Jones, aged 34: killed when the side of the pit gave way.

David Jones, aged 45: killed when the mine roof collapsed.

Thomas Jones, aged 48: killed by an explosion of firedamp, one of two people killed.

David Jones, aged 26: killed by a gas explosion, one of eleven people killed.

Lewis Jones, aged 12: run over by trams through breakage of coupling chains.

Bridgend coalfield: Aberbaiden Colliery showing the entrance to the slip.

Did my Thomas die in a mining accident? It’s possible, but there is no record. More likely he died from the illnesses associated with working in the coal mines, particularly ‘the dust’, aka emphysema, a cruel illness that smoothers the sufferer. 

Ancestors like my 3 x great grandfather Thomas worked and died so that Victorian society could prosper and a few select men could become obscenely rich. It’s a lesson from history we have yet to learn. Today, rich men pollute the planet and massage their egos by jetting into space. Meanwhile, many of their workers live and die in poverty. We must hope for a wiser generation, our children’s generation, that will look into the past, learn the lessons, and create a better future for us all.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 31 occasions.

A special offer from my publisher and the Fussy Librarian. https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/?ref=goylake

Don’t forget to use the code goylake20 to claim your discount 🙂

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #113

Dear Reader,

We are making great progress in translating all my books into Portuguese. Here is the latest addition, Stormy Weather, Sam Smith Mystery Series book eighteen. The theme of this story is the climate crisis.

I’m researching my 4 x great grandparents, John Glissan and Sarah Foreman. John was a surgeon/dentist/chemist while Sarah was a nurse/dentist/chemist. In the 1830s they were living on Blackfriars Road, a prosperous street according to Charles Booth’s Victorian maps. Incidentally, my youngest son is thinking of becoming a dentist 🦷 

Just discovered that in the third quarter of the eighteenth century my ancestor Thomas Glissan subscribed to ‘Essays and Poems, Satirical, Moral, Political, and Entertaining’, by J.S. Dodd, which is still available.

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine…

Bushcraft and Survival Skills

The Olympics

Side Benefits of Writing

World Honey Bee Day

Plus photography, puzzles, poems, recipes, short stories and so much more!

My 11 x great grandfather William Dent was born into a life of privilege in 1627 in Ormesby, Yorkshire. He married Elizabeth Jarrett on 16 July 1650 and the couple produced four sons: Robert, John (my direct ancestor), Charles and Edward, who sadly died in infancy. Robert entered Jesus College, Oxford on 28 May 1672 as ‘Robert Dent, son and heir of William Dent of Guisborough, gent.’ In July 1674, after college, Robert was admitted to the Middle Temple. 

In 1673 the Hearth Tax returns for Guisborough listed 214 households of which only twenty-one were taxed for possessing four or more hearths. William Dent’s property had nine hearths, which offers an insight into its grandeur. In later life William moved to Sunderland where he died in 1698.

The Dent branch of my family continued with John, son of William, William, John, George, William and Thomas Thompson Dent (11 February 1781 – 10 November 1854). By the eighteenth century the Dent family owned a number of properties throughout the North East of England. They farmed these properties as yeomen. 

John Dent, father of George, was born on 16 June 1700 in Romaldkirk, Yorkshire, the family’s main residence. Romaldkirk is a village in Teeside. It’s thought that its unusual name derives from St Rumwold, an obscure Saxon saint.

On 7 September 1715 John Dent became an apprentice merchant tailor to Peter King of York. Trade directories reveal that the Dents did branch out into the clothing trade with stores in Leeds. They also held on to their lands in Yorkshire.

John Dent’s Apprentice Indenture and signature

Thomas Thompson Dent married Betty Brown on 12 April 1806 in Bowes, Yorkshire. The couple produced six sons: Thomas Thompson Dent (my direct ancestor), John, William, George, Henry and Richard. 

In September 1842 Isabella Hutchinson was brought before the court and charged with stealing oats from one of Thomas Thompson Dent’s fields. Isabella cut off the ears of corn as they were growing. The case was proved and she was sentenced to one month’s hard labour in Northallerton gaol.

A contemporary newspaper report

In 1851 Thomas was seventy years old and a widower farming 200 acres in Lartington near Romaldkirk. His sons John, George and Richard, 42, 38 and 32 respectively, lived with him. All three were unmarried. A fourth son, Henry, had moved away from the family home. Three servants also lived on the farm: Mary Brunskill, 32, Sarah Langstaff, 25, and Joseph Minto, 22. Between master and servant events now took a romantic turn.

In 1840 the trade directories listed Richard Dent as a flour dealer no doubt trading in the crops grown at his father’s farm. Meanwhile, Sarah worked as a servant on the farm. The couple fell in love and married on 14 March 1857 in Romaldkirk. This was unusual for the Victorian era where there are plenty of examples of masters taking advantage of servants, but fewer instances of those encounters resulting in marriage.

Richard and Sarah’s marriage produced three children: Elizabeth, Mary Ann and Richard Thompson Dent. Sadly, Richard died in 1866, the year his son was born. 

Sarah lost her husband, but inherited a small fortune – the equivalent of £93,000 in today’s money. Sarah sold the farm and lived off her inheritance until her death in 1891. Despite her status of ‘highly desirable widow’ she didn’t remarry, maybe out of affection for her late husband. Certainly, her job as a humble servant on the Dent farm had turned her life around and placed her in a position where, financially at least, she had no reason to worry ever again.

Richard Thompson Dent, Richard and Sarah’s son, became a chemist in Barnard Castle, a highly successful chemist, for he left the equivalent of £235,000 in his will.

Thomas Thompson Dent’s will of 1854 bequeathed a farm in Cotherstone to his son John, another farm in Bowes to William, a third farm, also in Bowes, to Henry, and a fourth farm, again in Bowes, to Richard. Money, farming equipment and household utensils were also divided between the four sons.

Extract from the will of Thomas Thompson Dent and his frail signature 

But what of Thomas’ son and my direct ancestor, Thomas Thompson Dent Jr? Why didn’t the will mention him? The reason is Thomas Jr, his wife Dorothy Hornsby and their five children had set sail for New York en route to Canada, arriving on 24 June 1846. More about them next time.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Bestselling psychological and historical mysteries from £0.99. Paperbacks, brand new in mint condition 🙂
https://hannah-howe.com/store/

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #108

Dear Reader,

The munitions factory at Bridgend, 1942, known locally as ‘The Arsenal’. The factory was of huge significance to Britain’s war effort employing 40,000 people.

The chemicals in the munitions turned many of the women’s skin temporarily yellow. When the Americans arrived in 1944 and dated the women they called them their ‘Welsh daffodils’.

‘The Arsenal’ features in my Ann’s War Mystery Series.

Evening at Tenby this week.

I’ve added a Keats branch to my family tree. Thomas Keats Esq built Sulham House, Berkshire (pictured) c1525. His daughter, Alice, married John Wilder and inherited the estate.

The Wilders arrived from Bohemia in the shape of another John, born 1418. John of Bohemia’s son, Nicholas, fought in the Battle of Bosworth alongside Henry Tudor. After his victory, Henry gifted lands to Nicholas Wilder, which secured the family’s fortune.

Researching Burt Lancaster for my writing, seen here as Dr Ernst Janning in the timeless classic Judgement at Nuremberg. Burt Lancaster, “A liberal with balls.” – Screen Actors Guild president Ed Asner.

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

A Family of Mice

Flash Fiction

Picnic Recipes

Author Features

Travel: Azerbaijan

Independent Bookshops

International Tiger Day

Plus, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

George Wood, my 9 x great grandfather, was born on 12 March 1625 in Bonsall, Derbyshire and baptised on 10 January 1632 while Hannah Quick, my 9 x great grandmother, was born in 1635 in Derbyshire. The couple married in 1658 in Matlock, a fact recorded in the Monyash Ashford Meeting of Quakers.

Quakers, a Protestant group also known as the Religious Society of Friends, established themselves in mid-seventeenth century England. Undoubtedly, the English Civil War had a strong bearing on their creation and beliefs. 

The Quakers based their message on the belief that ‘Christ has come to teach his people himself.’ They stressed the importance of a direct relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and a direct religious belief in the universal priesthood of all believers.

Quakers used thee as an ordinary pronoun. They wore plain dress, were teetotal, refused to swear oaths, refused to participate in wars and opposed slavery. Later, they founded banks and financial institutions, including Friends Provident, Lloyds and Barclays. They also founded three major confectionery makers, Cadbury’s, Fry’s and Roundtree’s.

James Naylor, a prominent Quaker leader, being pilloried and whipped.

A notable difference between Quakerism and Orthodox Protestantism was that many of the early Quaker ministers were women. Quakers were noted for their philanthropic efforts, which included the abolition of slavery, prison reform and social justice.

George’s union with Hannah was his second marriage. Previously, he married Anne who produced three children before her death in 1656. George and Hannah’s marriage also produced three children, including their last born, my 8 x great grandmother Elinor Wood.

The upheaval of the English Civil War left a deep scar on society, which took generations to heal. In some communities Quakers were accepted while in others they were ostracised and persecuted. At the age of 57 and 47 respectively, George and Hannah made the momentous decision to create a new lives for themselves and their children by emigrating to Pennsylvania. They began this hazardous journey on 27 May 1682.

George and Hannah were not a young couple looking to make their mark on the world. Indeed, they were approaching the stage where they could contemplate a quiet life. Yet, they embarked on their Pennsylvanian adventure. This suggests that their commitment to the Quaker cause ran deep and was central to their lives.

William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania and West Jersey, as a young man.

Along with his son-in-law Richard Bonsall, and seven other families – six from Derbyshire – George was a founder member of Darby Township, alongside Darby Creek. The records described George as a yeoman or landowner with 1,000 acres of land to his name. George bought the land from William Penn on 23 March 1682. He also subscribed £50 (approximately £5,725 in today’s money) to the Free Society of Traders. A dam, saw mill and grist mill existed on his portion of the creek, which was obviously a hive of activity.

George was also active within the community, serving on the local Assembly. His fellow settlers elected him to this post in 1683, shortly after his arrival in Pennsylvania. 

Darby Township, Pennsylvania.

Quakers introduced many ideas that later became mainstream in American society, such as democracy in the Pennsylvania legislature, the Bill of Rights, trial by jury, equal rights for men and women, and public education. Furthermore, the Liberty Bell was cast by Quakers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Quaker meetings in Delaware recorded the births, marriages and deaths of the Wood family, including Hannah’s death on 9 March 1687, five years after her arrival, and George’s death on 27 April 1705. George bequeathed his land, buildings, purse, apparel and ‘some books’ to his son, John, while his three daughters, Mary, Elizabeth and Elinor received a shilling each.

George and Hannah’s daughter, Elinor, married Evan Bevan, son of John Bevan and Barbara Aubrey, founder members of the Welsh Tract in Pennsylvania. More about the Bevan family and their lives in Pennsylvania in future posts.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Bestselling psychological and historical mysteries from £0.99. Paperbacks, brand new in mint condition 🙂
https://hannah-howe.com/store/

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #104

Dear Reader,

This week, we made a start on the Portuguese versions of A Parcel of Rogues and The Hermit of Hisarya in my Sam Smith Mystery Series, translations number eighty-one and eighty-two of my books.

An exciting new venture for a wide range of Welsh products. Full details here https://www.allthingswales.co.uk

The latest issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads 🙂

In this month’s issue…

Flash Fiction 

New Releases

Bluebells

Interviews

Nature

World Oceans Day

Plus, travel, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

My 7 x great grandfather Gregory Wright, a gentleman who ran a successful stable and coach business, featured in two court trials. The first trial took place on 22 February 1752 at the London Sessions where Gregory gave the following evidence.

‘Gregory Wright on his Oath Saith That On or about the Fourteenth of January Instant Two Coach Door Glasses was discovered to be Stolen out of a Coach House at the Bell and Tunn Inn, Fleet Street. Aforesaid the property of William Chamberlain, esq.’

The report continued with the suggestion that the thief tried to sell the coach glasses for twenty shillings, approximately £120 in today’s money.

Eighteenth century coach and horses

The second trial, for perjury, took place on 8 April 1752 at the Old Bailey. Trials in those days were usually brief affairs, over in a matter of minutes. However, this trial received a number of witnesses and ran for some time. Details from the Old Bailey website https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/

‘Thomas Ashley, was indicted for wilful and corrupt perjury on the trial of Joseph Goddard in swearing he met Simons the Jew near Brentford-turnpike, and asked him to drink a pint of beer, that he then took hold of his beard in a joke, that the Jew held up his staff and struck him, that after that he throw’d the Jew in a ditch and scratched him in the bushes, and flung a stone which fell on his head and broke it three weeks before, Sept. 11.’

Henry Simons gave evidence through an interpreter and insisted that no one had harmed him, therefore suggesting that Thomas Ashley had committed perjury at Joseph Goddard’s trial. In his evidence, Henry Simons mentioned the Rose and Crown, an inn later owned by my Brereton ancestors.

Lettice Sergeant also gave evidence and mentioned the Rose and Crown, ‘on this side of the turnpike on Smallbury-green’. She lodged there ‘from the latter end of April to Michaelmas Day.’ She stated that Ashley was drunk, that insults were offered, but that no violence took place.

Gregory Wright gave evidence. He stated, ‘I live at the Temple-Muse, Fleet-street, White Fryars, on the 21st of August last, I set out from my house after one o’clock, for Newberry-Fair by myself, till I came on the other side Hammersmith, there Mr. Pain and Mr. Mercer overtook me; we lay at Maidenhead that night; we continued in company till we came to Newberry; upon out going between the Coach and Horses, on the other side Brentford, and the Rose and Crown Alehouse, before we came at the Turnpike, I saw one man pursuing another; we might be about two hundred yards from the Rose and Crown Alehouse; I saw it was a Foreigner by his dress, that was pursued, which made me anxious to enquire what was the matter; the man behind called out stop Thief! stop Thief! which I believe to be the prisoner at the bar; when the Jew got to us, he got between Mr. Pain’s horse and mine; the drunken man, the pursuer, scrambled up near, we kept him back, the drunken man said he is a rogue and a villain; we desired he’d tell us what he had done; he said he has drank my beer and ran away, and would not pay for it; said I if that he all, let the poor man go about his business, and what is to pay, I’ll pay it; no said he, he would not, and made a scuffle to come at the Jew; I took particular notice of the Jew, he made signs holding his hand up to his beard, we said he should desist; then he (Ashley) said to me, you have robbed me, said I if this is the case you are a villain, and if you say so again I’ll horse-whip you; we stopped him there till the Jew got near to the houses at Brentford; he was very near turning the corner where the bridge is; I believe on my oath, the Jew was at least two-hundred yards off; I turned myself on my horse, half britch, to see whether he was secure, the drunken man swore and cursed, and used many bad words; there came a woman and took hold on him, she seem’d to be his wife, she desired him to go back: he fell down, then Mr. Pain said, the man (Simons) is safe enough; the last woman that gave evidence told me nothing was the matter, that the Jew did nothing to him, he had drank none of his beer, but refused it, and that he made an attempt to pull him by the beard, with that we advanced towards the Crown Alehouse, I, and I believe Mr. Pain, stopt with me; there was the woman that was examined first, I asked her what was the matter, she said no thing at all; I said if there is anything to pay for beer that that poor Jew has drank, I am ready to pay for it; she said the Jew did no harm to the man, nor drank none of his beer.’

Eighteenth century trial at the Old Bailey

Question: ‘Had there been a stone throw’d?’

Gregory Wright: ‘I saw none throw’d, and believe the man was so drunk that he was not able to pursue or over-take him: I saw the woman at the door the time they were running, they crossed the road backwards and forwards; the Jew kept, it may be, fifteen or twenty yards before him, I kept my eye upon them from the first of the calling out stop thief!’

On his cross examination Gregory Wright said, ‘When we first heard the alarm, we believed the Jew might be within fifty yards of the alehouse, and the others about two-hundred yards from the Rose and Crown alehouse; that they were nearer that than the Coach and Horses; that they met the Jew about two-hundred yards on this side of the Rose and Crown alehouse; that we saw no blood or mark at all on the Jew, that he made no such complaint or sign to his head, but said my beard, and sign’d to it.’

Other witnesses agreed that although the mood was threatening no violence took place and that on the whole the community were protective of Henry Simons.

Question to Mr. Wright again. ‘How came you to know of this trial to give your evidence?’

Gregory Wright. ‘I was waiting at the door of the grand jury last sessions, to find a bill against a person (the stolen coach glasses); as I was leaning over the rails, I heard Lettice Sergeant talking about the affair of this Jew; the Jew I observed looked me out of countenance; I asked his interpreter what he look’d at me so hard for, he said he believed he knew me. The woman said she was come to support the cause of this poor unhappy man, and added, that in August last there were four gentlemen coming on the road when he was pursued, and he has made all the enquirey he can to find them out, and can’t find any of them; said I what time in August? she said the 21st; I look’d at the Jew, and saw he was the same man; I ask’d his interpreter whether he was pursued by any man, he said yes, he was; I said to the woman, I know the men, by which means I was brought to the grand jury about this affair; this bill and mine were in together.’

Question to Mr. Wright. ‘Did you, or any of you, tell this witness the drunken man had thrown the Jew into the ditch?’

Gregory Wright: ‘When this witness said so, it gave me a shock: we neither of us told him so. I saw Ashley down: there were none but women at that man’s house when we came there.’

Other witnesses, including thirteen-year-old Edward Beacham supported the testimony offered by Gregory Wright, while Martha James stated that Thomas Ashley was drunk, and that ‘I never saw a man so drunk in my life.’

Verdict: Guilty.

Sentence: Thomas Ashley, to stand once in the pillory at the gate of the Sessions House for the space of one hour, between the hours of twelve and one, and imprison’d during twelve months, after which to be transported for seven years.

Perjurer in the Pillory

This trial offers an insight into the local community, the legal system and Gregory’s character. He was protective of Henry Simons and was willing to meet any expense incurred by Simons at the inn. Gregory was obviously a kind and principled man; an ancestor to be proud of.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

Bestselling psychological and historical mysteries from £0.99. Paperbacks, brand new in mint condition 🙂
https://hannah-howe.com/store/

Categories
Dear Reader

Dear Reader #99

Dear Reader,

On 15 May 2021 we will publish Stormy Weather, book eighteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series. Meanwhile, I’m working on Damaged, book nineteen in the series. We will publish this book in the autumn. Meanwhile, here’s the cover.

Chester, 1590, den of iniquity.

The Brereton’s are on my family tree. One generation were involved in a murder plot and an attempt to alter a will. The case reached the Star Chamber.

My latest translations, Ann’s War: Victory in Afrikaans and Eve’s War: Operation Broadsword in Portuguese.

The May 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads.

In this month’s issue…

Am I a Real Mum?

The Benefits of Journaling

International Nurses Day

Discovering Your Eighteenth Century Ancestors 

Things to Celebrate in May

Plus, travel, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

Colourised image of Fleet Street, London, 1888.

Just discovered that my 5 x great grandfather James Noulton served in the Napoleonic Wars, receiving a decoration in 1811 for his participation in the Invasion of Java.

Picture: A plan of the Cornelia, 1808, one of the two ships James Noulton served on.

More about James in future posts.

My 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick was born on 3 September 1879 in Battersea, Surrey, the youngest of William Bick and Fanny Brereton’s eleven children.

William and Fanny moved to Battersea from Gloucestershire. The family also had connections in Hampshire and over several generations moved between these counties. William was a labourer so money for the family was always tight.

Albert started school at a young age, three. He attended Sleaford Street School, one of the new board schools created to give working class children an education.

Albert at school

After school, Albert found a job as a car man at the coal wharf, transporting coal on a horse and cart. He was still in this form of employment when he married Annie Noulton on 22 March 1902 in Lambeth, London. In thirteen years the couple had seven children.

In 1911, Albert was still a car man, now working at Doulton’s Pipe Works in Lambeth. The birth records of Albert and Annie’s children reveal that he worked as a car man throughout his married life. On 7 April 1911 there was a mass baptism when four Bick children from various strands of the family were baptised.

When the First World War broke out in 1914 Albert and Annie had six children with another on the way. During the summer of 1915, after the birth of his seventh child, Albert volunteered to serve in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. Why did he volunteer? 

Albert’s brothers William, John and Frederick also volunteered, Frederick for the Red Cross. It would appear that the brothers volunteered together, and that it was a family decision. In 1911, the  family baptised four children together, so obviously they were a tight-knit family. By this time, the war had been raging for a year so unlike the first wave of volunteers who set off with naive optimism, the Bicks volunteered in the knowledge that they were entering hell.

The hell Albert entered had a name, the Battle of Loos. He departed for France on 31 August 1915 and engaged in the battle less than a month later, on 25 September 1915. 

The Battle of Loos was the biggest British attack of 1915, and the first time that the British used poisoned gas. The plan was for the French and British forces to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne, and disrupt the pattern of trench warfare. 

At a conference on 6 September 1915 British commander Douglas Haig suggested that the extensive use of chlorine gas might facilitate an advance as long as the French and British were able to keep the attack secret.

Royal Engineers dug under no-man’s-land and planted mines under the parapets of the German front line trenches, ready to be detonated at zero hour.

Insufficient ammunition hampered the initial bombardment. Also, the British commanders did not fully appreciate the defensive formation of the German machine guns.

Prior to the attack, the British released 140 long tons of chlorine gas. The wind favoured no side and the gas affected both British and German troops.

British infantry advancing at Loos 25 September 1915

The gas masks were inefficient so many soldiers removed them to obtain clear vision and, ironically, to catch their breath. At 6.30 am on 25 September 1915 Albert engaged in battle, charging across open ground, the air full of gas and bullets.

In many places the British artillery had failed to cut the German barbed wire before the attack. Furthermore, the engineers manning the poison gas cylinders warned against their use, because of the unpredictability of the wind. However, they were overruled by General Sir Hubert Gough. 

As the battle developed, the gas claimed more British than German casualties. Despite that disaster, the British did capture the village of Loos-en-Gohelle. Bad planning meant that the breakthrough could not be exploited. A contemporary account stated, ‘From what I can ascertain, some of the divisions did actually reach the enemy’s trenches, for their bodies can now be seen on the barbed wire.’

Major-General Richard Hilton, a Forward Observation Officer, said of the battle, ‘A great deal of nonsense has been written about Loos. The real tragedy of that battle was its nearness to complete success. Most of us who reached the crest of Hill 70, and survived, were firmly convinced that we had broken through on that Sunday, 26 September 1915. There seemed to be nothing ahead of us, but an unoccupied and incomplete trench system. The only two things that prevented our advancing into the suburbs of Lens were, firstly, the exhaustion of the “Jocks” themselves (for they had undergone a bellyfull of marching and fighting that day) and, secondly, the flanking fire of numerous German machine-guns, which swept that bare hill from some factory buildings in Cite St. Auguste to the south of us. All that we needed was more artillery ammunition to blast those clearly-located machine-guns, plus some fresh infantry to take over from the weary and depleted “Jocks.” But, alas, neither ammunition nor reinforcements were immediately available, and the great opportunity passed.’

Twelve attacking battalions suffered 8,000 casualties out of 10,000 men in four hours. In total, the British suffered 48,367 casualties in the main attack and 10,880 more in the second attack, a total of 59,247 losses, a high percentage of the 285,107 British casualties on the Western Front in 1915. Though Haig and Gough were culpable for this disaster, they escaped much of the blame. 

Albert Charles Bick died at Loos on 25 September 1915, whether through gas poisoning, a machine gun bullet or a mortar bomb is not known, for his body was not recovered. In the official files he is listed as ‘presumed dead’.

Annie received a widow’s pension. She did not remarry and died in 1963. Her eldest daughter and my direct ancestor, also Annie, survived her. As a child, I met daughter Annie several times during her later years, although I was too young to appreciate what the family had been through.

Loos War Memorial

The poet Robert Graves featured in the Battle of Loos and wrote about his experiences in Goodbye to All That while the Loos Memorial commemorates over 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell in the battle and have no known grave, including Albert Charles Bick.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx