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Dear Reader #124

Dear Reader,

I’m researching the Victorian era and my poverty-stricken London ancestors. This is a view of Whitehall from Trafalgar Square, 1839. Produced by M de St Croix, it’s one of the earliest daguerreotype photographs of England, taken when M de St Croix was in London demonstrating Louis Daguerre’s pioneering photographic process during September and December 1839. 

In the foreground is Le Sueur’s statue of Charles I on horseback, and in the distance Inigo Jones’ Banqueting House – practically everything else has subsequently disappeared. The image has been reversed to show the scene as it was, as daguerreotypes only produce reversed views.

My direct ancestor Joan Plantagenet, daughter of Edward I of England and Eleanor of Castile. Joan was born in April 1272 in Akko (Acre), Hazofan, Kingdom of Jerusalem.

Joan has appeared many times in fiction, often depicted as a ‘spoiled brat’.  There is no evidence that this depiction represents her true character, but the myth remains. That’s the power of fiction.

A lovely drawing of St Mary’s, West Bergholt, Essex, in the 1600s and 1700s the parish church of the Fincham, Balls, Clark and Sturgeon branches of my family.

My 4 x great grandmother Mary Ann Thorpe was baptised on 4 August 1816 in Great Braxted, Essex. The daughter of Thomas Thorpe and Mary Ann Freeman, she married Henry Wheeler on 3 November 1844 in St Mary, Lambeth, Surrey.

Mary Ann was Henry’s second wife. He was a petty thief. Also, she was eighteen years younger than him. Why did a young woman marry a far older, disreputable man? We will explore that question later.

A slum in Market Court, Kensington, 1860s.

Mary Ann and Henry produced four children: Mary Ann, Charlotte, Joseph and Nancy, my direct ancestor, who when married at sixteen changed her name to Annie. There was a nine year gap between Mary Ann’s birth and Charlotte’s birth. This pattern replicated Henry’s first marriage to Elizabeth Mitchell where there was a nine year gap between their first two children, Henry and Eliza. That marriage produced five children in total. Why the nine year gaps? Henry’s wives were clearly fertile, but he was not around. Where was he? Read on…

After each marriage and the birth of the first child, Henry resorted to petty crime to make ends meet. The family endured great hardship, extreme poverty, and with new mothers and babies to feed Henry became ‘light-fingered’.

At other times, Henry was no saint. His name features frequently in the criminal records. However, on many occasions he was found ‘not guilty’. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the Wheeler family lived their lives on the fringes of society and mixed with petty, and possibly, hardened criminals.

“Wentworth Street, Whitechapel”, 1872, by Gustave Doré (Wellcome Trust).

In 1845, after the birth of his daughter Mary Ann, Henry served a seven year prison sentence. The Victorians were keen on multiples of seven for their prison sentences, and this pattern extended to periods of transportation as well.

While Henry was in prison, his wife Mary Ann endured a difficult time. On 24 August 1849 it’s possible that she entered St Luke’s asylum. The records are sketchy, so it’s difficult to be certain, but the facts and circumstances fit so I am inclined to believe that she did spend some time in the asylum, maybe due to the burden of her circumstances. 

Or maybe Mary Ann suffered from long-standing mental health issues. It’s possible that those issues made a match with a man her own age unlikely, hence her choice of Henry, the eighteen year older petty criminal. The psychological profile certainly fits. That said, maybe it was a love match. Love can still blossom even in the most dire of circumstances.

Earlier, on 20 September 1848, Mary Ann entered the workhouse, a foreboding institution that was more a place of punishment than support. The Victorian era through the Industrial Revolution generated great wealth, but that wealth was concentrated on a relatively small number of individuals. These people were extremely rich, but they treated the poor with contempt. We can see a parallel in our own times.

Mary Ann left the workhouse on 10 January 1849, but her troubles were far from over. She still had a baby to feed, no husband to call on, and a fight against the diseases poverty brings. For all her troubles Mary Ann was a strong woman and lived to be eighty-six.

Before exploring Mary Ann’s later years, first we must go back in time, to 3 February 1845 when she found herself following her husband’s well-trodden path to the Old Bailey.

A trial at the Old Bailey.

Mary Ann was indicted for feloniously breaking and entering the dwelling-house of Susan Laws, on the 18 January 1845, and stealing two gowns, value 30s., the goods of Caroline Allen; and one shawl, 6s., the goods of Henry George Steer.

Caroline Allen, a dressmaker, gave evidence: she locked her door and went to bed late. In the morning, she discovered the door open and her possessions gone. She had no knowledge of Mary Ann. She also stated that two families and an old gentleman shared the dwelling-house.

John Robert Davis stated that he was a shopman to Mr. Folkard, a pawnbroker, in Blackfriars Road. On the 18 January, at half-past nine in the morning, Mary Ann pledged the stolen gown at the pawnbrokers and he gave her an inferior duplicate. He reckoned that Mary Ann made three shillings on the trade.

The Pawnbroker’s Shop, 1876. 

Police constable Michael Cregan stated that he visited Mary Ann’s lodging and found the gown and shawl hidden under bedclothes. The court also established that the main door was ‘broken open’ although there were no marks of violence. The conclusion was that someone had used a skeleton key.

Eliza Beale, a fellow lodger, stated that she knew Mary Ann and that she was ‘an unfortunate girl.’ – An observation on Mary Ann’s mental health? Crucially, Eliza added that she came home at four o’clock in the morning when a man and woman asked her if she knew where they could get a bed. She let them into her room. They had a bundle with them, but she did not see them the following morning.

Martha Winfield, the landlady, contradicted Eliza Beale. However, Martha did not live in the house and therefore she was not an eyewitness to the events that night. Her contradiction was based on opinion, not on fact.

Verdict: Not Guilty.

In her closing years, as a widow, Mary Ann lodged with other elderly people. Over her eight-six years she certainly witnessed the darker aspects of London life. She also witnessed a period of dramatic change. At no stage was Mary Ann’s life easy. But she battled through and her life stands as a testimony to the human spirit.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #121

Dear Reader,

I’ve received messages asking me when Operation Cameo, book six in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, will be available. I’m pleased to say that the book will be listed on all major platforms as a pre-order later this month.

The earliest photograph to feature people. The Boulevard du Temple 1838 by Louis Daguerre. Because the exposure lasted for several minutes the moving traffic in the busy street left no trace. Only a shoe polisher and his client remained in place long enough to appear on the printed image. Sam mentions this in my latest Sam Smith mystery, Damaged.

Summer 1915, C Company, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, Number Nine Platoon. This picture includes my 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick. 

On 25 September 1915 the Royal West Surrey Regiment engaged in the Battle of Loos, which resulted in 80% British casualties, including Albert, when the generals gassed their own men.

A State Lottery was recorded in 1569. The tickets were sold at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, pictured c1560.

A poem written in Welsh c1920 about my 2 x great grandfather William Howe. Lines include: ‘He deserves all the praise he receives’. ‘A Christian in his warm home’. ‘William Howe is a godly saint for getting us all to pray again in the chapel with the children’. ‘We will enjoy a big feast at the Sunday School’. ‘We will sing his praises when we meet in heaven’.

My latest article for the Seaside News appears on page 36 of this month’s magazine.

I’ve traced the Bick branch of my family back to the fifteenth century. They settled in Badgeworth, Gloucestershire and lived there for hundreds of years. My branch of the family moved to London in the Victorian era, but you can still find Bicks in numerous numbers in Gloucestershire.

Unfortunately, the records for the Bicks of Badgeworth are not extensive, but I have uncovered a few nuggets of information that add details to my ancestors’ lives.

The surname Bick is of Dutch and German origin. It derives from the Middle Dutch and Middle High German word bicke meaning pickaxe or chisel. The name was associated with stonemasons and people who worked with pickaxes and chisels.

It’s likely that the Bicks arrived in Gloucestershire from the Netherlands or Germany in the early Middle Ages. My branch of the family feature in many land deeds during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These deeds indicate that they farmed land as yeomen. However, they were never described as ‘gentlemen’, which suggests that there was no link with the gentry.

Bick sons married the daughters of the following families: Meek, Fawkes, Spring, Blush, Izod and Netherton. Evocative names. These families were also of the yeomen class. The name Fawkes suggests a link to the infamous Guy Fawkes. However, Guy was from York and it is unlikely that my ancestor, Jane Fawkes, was closely related to him.

From the land, my Bick ancestors became innkeepers, running coaching inns. George was a popular name over four successive generations. George ‘the second’ – 22 October 1668 to 3 June 1738 – was an innkeeper in Badgeworth. Some of the Bicks left wills, but they are difficult to read and those that are legible contain only basic details of modest inheritances for sons and daughters.

The Bick ancestor who captured my attention was Thomas Bick, born 1575 in Badgeworth. He died in 1623 of the ‘pest’, also known as the pestilence or plague. The plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which mainly infects rats and other rodents who become the prime reservoir for the bacteria.

Seventeenth century plague doctor with protective mask and clothing.

The Pestilence was a bubonic plague pandemic that occurred in Afro-Eurasia from 1346 to 1353. The plague created religious, social and economic upheavals with profound effects for the inhabitants of the time. It also drastically altered the course of European history.

Further waves of the plague swept over Europe throughout the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. Certain years were more blighted than others, including 1623 the year that Thomas died. That bout of the pestilence lasted until 1640. It reoccurred again in 1644–54 and 1664–67. 

The 1664 to 1667 episode was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. In 1665-66 it swept through London producing the ‘Great Plague of London’. Then, in September 1666, the ‘Great Fire of London’ destroyed the city. Some people speculated that the fire killed the pestilence, although records suggest that the disease was already on the wane. My London ancestors were caught up in the ‘Great Fire of London’, but more about them in future posts.

London 1665.

As we know to our cost, when we abuse nature and animals we create pandemics. Our ancestors did not have the scientific knowledge to appreciate this, but we do; there is no excuse.

Along with the pestilence, our ancestors died from a range of diseases and illnesses. Here is an example from 1632 with a few definitions.

Cut of the Stone – The surgical removal of a bladder stone

French Pox – Syphilis

Jawfaln – Locked jaw

Impostume – An abscess

King’s Evil – A tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands

Livergrown – Liver disease, possibly caused by alcoholism 

Murthered – Murdered

Planet – To be stricken with terror or affected adversely by the supposed influence of a planet

Purples – Purple blotches on the skin caused by broken blood vessels, indicative of an underlying illness, such as scurvy

Rising of the Lights – A condition of the larynx, trachea or lungs

Tissick – A cough

Tympany – Bloating

The saddest entry on this list, and the largest in number, is chrisomes and infants. Chrisomes refers to a baby less than a month old, which indicates that the start could often be the most dangerous period of a person’s life.

Stay safe. Wishing you well.

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 🙂

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #91

Dear Reader,

My Top Ten Sales Countries in February.

In total, my eBooks were downloaded in 29 countries during February. Very exciting to see such diversity and grateful that I decided to publish wide and not limit myself to Amazon.

Through Smashwords

America 🇺🇸 Canada 🇨🇦 Australia 🇦🇺 Bulgaria 🇧🇬 Britain 🇬🇧 Japan 🇯🇵 Spain 🇪🇸 New Zealand 🇳🇿 Germany 🇩🇪 Italy 🇮🇹

Through Gardners

America 🇺🇸 Canada 🇨🇦 South Africa 🇿🇦 India 🇮🇳 Britain 🇬🇧 Netherlands 🇳🇱 Indonesia 🇮🇩 Malaysia 🇲🇾 Vietnam 🇻🇳 Venezuela 🇻🇪

Through Amazon

America 🇺🇸 Britain 🇬🇧 Canada 🇨🇦 Australia 🇦🇺 Germany 🇩🇪 Mexico 🇲🇽 Spain 🇪🇸 Brazil 🇧🇷 France 🇫🇷 India 🇮🇳

My latest translation, the Spanish version of The Olive Tree: Branches. Leaves, book three in my Spanish Civil War saga will be available in numerous languages in the summer.

Kenfig Pool sand dunes this week. And Mawdlam church, which overlooks the dunes, the final resting place for many of my ancestors.

Included in this month’s Seaside News, my article about SOE heroine Peggy Knight. In her 100th year, this remarkable woman now lives in New Zealand.

Mom’s Favorite Reads eMagazine March 2021. Our spring issue.

In this issue…

A seasonal blend of articles including Mad as a March Hare, Dr Seuss, Reiki, World Wildlife Day, International Day of Forests, plus short stories, recipes, puzzles, humour, photographs and so much more!

Sheep took over the sand dunes this week 🐑 🐑 🐑

My 4 x great grandfather, Richard Morgan, was baptised on 2 December 1792 in Llantrisant, Glamorgan. The ninth of twelve children born to James Morgan and Hannah David, Richard established himself as an ostler tending the coaching horses that travelled through Glamorgan, transporting people and goods from Ireland to London, and vice-versa.

‘Ostler at Margam 1818’ by George Orleans Delamotte

At the relatively advanced age of 43, Richard married Margaret Jones in St James’ Church, Pyle. Born in 1811 to John and Mary, Margaret hailed from Pyle, a rural village that contained the main highway in Glamorgan.

During my research, I wondered what persuaded Richard to travel twenty miles west to settle in Pyle. Then, I hit upon a theory. As an ostler, he moved there to work at Pyle Coaching Inn, the main Inn on the main highway. Then, while researching the births of Richard and Margaret’s children, I discovered that Richard was listed as a horse keeper at Pyle Coaching Inn, and living in nearby Cefn Cribwr, or Tythegston Higher as it was also called. It’s lovely when your theories are confirmed in that fashion.

Mail deliveries had become available to the public in 1635 and the introduction of national mail coaches in 1785 further increased the traffic travelling along the highways. The ongoing war with France meant that the gentry could no longer take the ‘grand tour’ of Europe and so they looked around for alternatives, their eyes and minds soon focusing on Wales with its romantic landscapes and medieval ruins. All of this led to the building of Pyle Coaching Inn during the 1780s by Thomas Mansel Talbot of Margam.

Thomas Mansel Talbot took a private apartment at the Inn and he would stay there while indulging in his passion for hunting and fishing. He had built the Inn in the fashionable Georgian style with three floors and rooms of various sizes. The largest room was five metres by four and a half metres, and the building contained forty beds and twelve double-bedded rooms. Moreover, the Inn also boasted a spacious dining room and stables for eight coaching horses.

Many 18th and 19th century antiquarians who travelled through South Wales would visit the buried medieval town at nearby Kenfig and invariably they would stay at the Inn. Also, it is rumoured that Admiral Lord Nelson resided there on one occasion. 

Pyle Coaching Inn, c1950

Isambard Kingdom Brunel did stay at the Inn in 1849 – 50 to oversee the construction of the South Wales leg of the Great Western Railway. Another distinguished guest was Josiah Wedgwood and it is said that he gained inspiration for some of his pottery from the colour of the rocks and pebbles on the beach at Pink Bay.

Richard and Margaret produced five children: Catherine, Thomas, Mary Ann, Richard and my direct ancestor, Hannah. With secure employment in a job that he clearly loved and in the green pastures and open spaces of Cefn Cribwr, life must have been good. Then, in the late 1840s, the railways arrived.

The railways took passenger and commercial trade away from the horse carriages and Richard lost his job at Pyle Coaching Inn. However, the family adapted. Richard became a colt breaker then a horse keeper. With his love and knowledge of horses, he worked with the animals for the rest of his life. 

Meanwhile, Margaret established her own ‘Inn’ boarding navigators who had travelled from their homes in Ireland to help construct the railways.

Residents of Pyle Coaching Inn in the early 1900s

Richard died in 1865 after a life well lived. By this time his children had married. After Richard’s death, Margaret moved to Mountain Ash to live with her son-in-law, John Davies, and help raise his children. Sadly, Margaret’s daughter, Mary Ann, had died and John was a widower.

I cannot leave this branch of my family without mentioning Margaret’s mother, Mary Jones. Born in 1765 in Carmarthen, she’d moved east with her husband, John, to work on the land. Mary lived with Richard and Margaret in later life. She had a strong constitution, which only failed on 19 January 1864 when she was ninety-nine years of age.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #88

Dear Reader,

This week, I discovered that my direct ancestors John Dean and Joan Fuller emigrated to America. They arrived in Massachusetts in the 1630s, following Joan’s uncles, Edward and Samuel Fuller, who arrived as Founding Fathers on the Mayflower. More about this in future posts.

The Moon doing its Saturn impersonation.

A great week for my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE Series, #1 in America, Australia, Britain and Canada. Many thanks to everyone who made this possible.

Merthyr Mawr this week.

For the man who has everything, Madame Dowding‘s Carlton corsets.

For Christmas, I received a DNA test kit to assist me with my family history research. The result arrived today.

I’m 52% Welsh
26% European, which includes Belgium, England, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland
19% Scottish, which in this case also includes Ireland and Brittany
3% Scandinavian, mainly Norway, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden 

Some of my ancestors emigrated and settled in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and California.

The great thing about ancestry and DNA is that the DNA link enables you to identify ancestors who have escaped the written record, so I anticipate lots of new exciting discoveries 🙂

Breaking news: through DNA, I’ve discovered that my 9 x great grandfather, John ap Evan (John son of Evan) and his wife, Barbara Aubrey, established the Welsh Tract, pictured, in Pennsylvania. He arrived in America with his fellow Quakers in 1683.

A DNA map. My ancestors, 100 years after arriving in Pennsylvania. More about this in future posts.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #86

Dear Reader,

This week, I discovered that Henry Wheeler, my 4 x great grandfather, was a regular visitor to the Old Bailey (pictured), as a defendant 😱 More about Henry, his two wives, eleven children and larcenous life on the streets of nineteenth century Westminster in future posts.

Our garden this week…

Incredible picture of the Earth from the Japanese Kayuga spacecraft orbiting the Moon.

New pools formed in Kenfig sand dunes this week.

My article about SOE heroine Phyllis Latour, still alive at 99, features on page 36 of the Seaside News.

Latest translation news. I’m delighted that Kamila has agreed to translate The Devil and Ms Devlin into Portuguese. Translation work started this week. Meanwhile, here’s one we made earlier.

My 9 x great grandfather, Captain John Hodsoll, was baptised on 31 March 1622 in Ash By Wrotham, Kent. A captain in the merchant navy, he married Mary Bucher in 1656.

Little is known of Mary Bucher. She was born in 1629, in Wadhurst, Sussex, the daughter of John and Elizabeth Bucher. Her surname suggests German ancestry and in some documents it features as Butcher or Batcher. There is a suggestion that Mary was a Quaker, but this might be a result of coincidental names and dates. Certainly, Quakers did marry into the Hodsell family, so the idea deserves consideration.

Seventeenth Century Lady, artwork by the French School.

During the 17th century, sea trade experienced significant change.  British shipbuilders adapted the superior design of the Dutch fluits to create ships that required smaller crews, yet had larger storage.  This resulted in a growth in maritime shipping through trade with the Mediterranean, the East Indies, the North American Colonies and Newfoundland. John became a captain and took advantage of that trade.

Captain John Hodsoll’s sailing exploits established a naval tradition within the family. Two Hodsolls, including an admiral, served in Charles II’s navy and later generations set sail for America where they were among the earliest settlers in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California.

“Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor,” by William Halsall.

In his Will, John mentions his “eldest sonne, William” his “deare and loveinge wife, Mary” and his “two youngerst daughters, Anne and Jane”, bequeathing the girls “the summe of ffifty pounds a peece out of her house in Wadhurst Towne in the County of Sussex.” John also left money to his “Seaven Sonns”, William, John, Henry, Charles, Thomas, Edmund and James. His sixth born son, Robert, died in infancy.

Branches, incomplete, of the Hodsoll family tree.

In the Hodsoll chancel in the Ash-by-Wrotham church, a monumental inscription above John Hodsoll reads, “Hereunder rests in hope of a joyfull resurrection the body of Captayne John Hodsoll, of South Ash, esq., who departed this life to enjoy a better (life) on the 6th day of July, 1683, aged 61 years. He was marryed to Mary, the daughter of John Batcher, of Wadhurst, in the county of Sussex, gent., whose Conjugall love hath occasioned this pious memorial of him.” 

John and Mary produced twelve children, eight boys and four girls. Their daughter, Mary, my direct ancestor, married the Reverend James Axe, uniting the Hodsoll and Axe branches of my family.

The birth date of William – John and Mary’s first born – looks sound –  9 January 1656 in Wadhurst, Sussex. Equally, their marriage date –  9 September 1656 in Cowden, Kent – is a matter of public record. This begs the question: why did John and Mary wait eight months to get married? Maybe John was away at sea and returned to find Mary cradling a baby in her arms.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx