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Dear Reader #118

Dear Reader,

My Sam Smith mystery The Hermit of Hisarya has been included in academic lectures this week in Bulgaria, discussing cultural studies and world literature, and the interrelation between cultural identity and the imagination. What an honour, I’m blown away 😱

https://academia.edu/51152850/

My latest translation, The Hermit of Hisarya in Portuguese.

My article about my ancestor John Howe features in this month’s Seaside News.

c1926, five generations from the Iveson branch of my family. More about the Ivesons next week.

My 5 x great grandmother Jennet, aka Jane, Williams was born to David Williams and Mary Jones in 1787 in Newton-Nottage, Wales. In the eighteenth century Newton-Nottage was a rural community and the majority of its inhabitants earned a living from the land.

Nottage, 19th century tithe map. Source: The National Library of Wales.

Jennet married Thomas Morgan in nearby Laleston on 10 October 1815. The couple produced five children: William, Richard, Mary, Sarah and a second child called Richard. Sadly, infant mortality was common in the nineteenth century and parents often reused a favourite name.

Jennet and Thomas’ eldest son, William, was born in 1812, three years before their marriage. Their first Richard was baptised on 21 January 1816, which indicates that Jennet was six months pregnant with her second child at the time of her marriage.

The accepted wisdom is that bastard children and their mothers were cast out by Victorian society. For the middle and upper classes this might well have been true. However, for the lower classes and those living in rural communities the locals took a more pragmatic view. Producing babies, in and out of wedlock, was literally a fact of life. An example from my family tree: my 3 x great grandparents William Bick and Fanny Brereton had six children before their marriage on 13 December 1868 (they had five more children after their marriage). Obviously, they did not feel pressurised into marriage and were not ostracised by their community. Marriages were expensive and many people needed the money for food and shelter. That said, some women were embarrassed about admitting to an illegitimate child as we shall see shortly.

Jennet’s husband, Thomas Morgan, was a shoemaker while his father, Richard, was a victualer in Laleston. When Thomas Morgan was born in 1784 only seven children were baptised in Laleston (population 2011, 12,586), which indicates that it was a small community, and that a birth, marriage or death was a major event.

Laleston baptisms, 1784.

Thomas Morgan died on 28 December 1827. A widow, Jennet supported herself and her family by working as a stone cutter at the local limestone quarries. Women who worked with stone, iron or coal usually wore shorter dresses compared to the Victorian norm because of the danger of those dresses catching fire. ‘Shorter’ in this instance means just a few inches above the ankle, so they were hardly a huge advertisement for health and safety.

In 1829 Jennet met Thomas Harris and the couple produced a son, George, baptised on 8 December 1829. In the ten years before 1829 and the ten years after there was no one called Harris living in Laleston or surrounding villages. A family called Harris arrived in the 1840s, but they were not related to Thomas or George.

George’s baptismal record.

So, what of the mysterious Thomas Harris? It would appear that he drifted into Laleston looking for work, took advantage of Jennet, a lonely widow, then drifted out again. There is nothing to suggest that he acknowledged George as his son or supported him during his childhood.

Between 1829 and 1851 George was know as George Morgan and George Harris. In 1841 Jennet told the census enumerator that George’s surname was Morgan, even though her husband had died two years previously. Clearly, with this untruth she was trying to save face.

On 24 December 1853 George, now a blacksmith, married Lydia Williams and the couple took the surname Morgan. Indeed, George acknowledged Thomas Morgan as his father. Did he know the truth? Probably, because at various times before his marriage he did call himself Harris. Thomas Harris played no part in George’s life, so George decided to adopt his mother’s married name.

Lydia was a ‘minor’ at the time of her marriage to George and the couple were living at the same address. A ‘minor’ in this context means someone under the age of twenty-one; Lydia was twenty. During her marriage to George she gave birth to ten children.

On 9 April 1873 at the age of 86 Jennet died in Laleston. In her later years she lived with her daughter, and my direct ancestor, Mary, along with Mary’s husband and children. All of my Welsh ancestors during the Victorian era were tight-knit and supported each other. To date, I have not discovered any of them in the workhouse.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #115

Dear Reader,

Published this week, The Olive Tree: Leaves, part three of my Spanish Civil War saga. This story focuses on Dr Martinez’s attempts to protect his daughter, Espe, from the advancing fascists, and journalist Bernie Miller’s efforts to smuggle pictures of fascist atrocities out of Spain.

More details here 👇

I’ve discovered a hairdresser in the family. In 1790, my 6 x great grandfather Thomas Meek was educating an apprentice while fashioning the hair of the wealthy ladies of Gloucester in the style of Marie Antoinette, pictured here in the same year, 1790.

Known for being straight-laced, especially in photographs, here a Victorian couple reveal a playful side to their nature.

The son of Thomas Thompson Dent and Dorothy Hornsby, my 3 x great grandfather Richard Davis Dent was born in Bowes, Yorkshire and baptised there on 19 August 1839. Along with his parents and four siblings six year old Richard set sail for New York on the Rappahanock, arriving on 24 June 1846 before making his way to Canada.

In Canada, Richard and his family settled in Halton County where he worked on his father’s farm. Richard remained on the farm until his early twenties when he decided to leave.

Leaving must have been a big decision for Richard because the farm was prosperous, he was living amongst family and this combination offered a degree of security. That said, two of his sisters had died shortly before he made his decision and maybe their passing was a factor.

Richard returned to Britain, to London’s Docklands, where he found employment on the docks and on ships that were looking for crew members. Maybe his boyhood voyage on the Rappahanock hadsowed a seed for Richard. Not content to work within the confines of a farm he sought the freedom of the open ocean.

London Docks, 1845.

In London, Richard also found a wife, Sarah Ann Cottrell. Sarah Ann was born on 24 June 1848 in Bethnal Green, London to Matthew Cottrell and Sarah Gadsden. Matthew was a market porter while the Gadsden’s hailed from Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. Matthew and Sarah married on 9 January 1843 in St Mary, Haggerston, after the birth of their first two daughters.

Between 1870 and 1882 Richard and Sarah produced six children including my direct ancestor Jane, born 10 September 1870 in Whitechapel. You can read Jane’s story here https://hannah-howe.com/ancestry/dent-yorkshire-canada-london/

In 1881 Richard and Sarah were living in Hackney with their children. Richard worked on the docks while Sarah was a housewife. Life for a docker was hard. Colonel G. R. Birt, the general manager at the Millwall Docks, gave evidence to a parliamentary committee, on the physical condition of the workers: 

“The poor fellows are miserably clad, scarcely with a boot on their foot, in a most miserable state … These are men who come to work in our docks who come on without having a bit of food in their stomachs, perhaps since the previous day; they have worked for an hour and have earned 5d.; their hunger will not allow them to continue: they take the 5d. in order that they may get food, perhaps the first food they have had for twenty-four hours.”

These conditions led to the notorious dock strike of August 1889, which resulted in a victory for the 100,000 strikers. That victory led to the establishment of trade unions amongst London’s dockers and is widely considered to be a milestone in the development of the British labour movement.

Manifesto of the South Side Central Strike Committee, issued during the strike.

With pay and conditions at the docks poor, Richard found employment on a merchant ship, the Stadacona, a name associated with a sixteenth century Iroquoian village located near Quebec City. 

Richard’s Stadacona was registered in Cardiff, Wales although a ship of the same name was launched by the Canadian navy in 1899. Thirty-five year old Charles Stocker mastered the Stadacona and with a crew of nineteen, including Richard, he set sail from Pensacola, Florida heading for Cardiff. Sadly, the Stadacona never arrived. On 13 March 1883 a shipping register recorded that the ship foundered, location unknown. and that all hands were lost.

Stadacona, 1899 version.

In the 1800s icebergs from Canada and Antarctica drifted into the waters off Florida, and it’s possible that the Stadacona stuck one of them. Equally, a storm might have caused the disaster. Whatever the reason, the sinking of the Stadacona must have been a horrific scene.

Richard’s tragic fate calls to mind this beautiful song by Mark Knopfler, ‘The Dream Of The Drowned Submariner’.

Lyrics: We run along easy at periscope depth

 Sun dappling through clear water

 So went the dream of the drowned submariner

 Far away from the slaughter

Your hair is a strawflower that sings in the sun

 My darling, my beautiful daughter

 So went the dream of the drowned submariner

 Cast away on the water

 From down in the vault, down in the grave

 Reaching up to the light on the waves

 So she did run to him over the grass

 She fell in his arms and he caught her

 So went the dream of the drowned submariner

 Far away on the water

 Far away on the water

A widow, Sarah Ann faced the daunting prospect of keeping her family fed and housed. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 stated that widows were entitled to outdoor relief, meaning that they could receive assistance from outside the workhouse in the form of money, medical services, food, coal, and/or clothes. However, this assistance only lasted for the first six months of their bereavement.

In 1891 Sarah Ann was ‘living on her own means’, which suggests that she might have received a pension. More likely, her family were supporting her. Her son, Arthur Davis Dent, was living with his mother and he had secured a good job as a market porter at Billingsgate. 

When Arthur married, Sarah Ann lived with her father, Matthew Cottrell, an eighty-four year old widower. Sarah Ann supported herself and her father through employment as a charwoman, the Victorian name for a part-time domestic servant. This might sound like degrading work, and in some instances it was, but from my knowledge of elderly relatives, some of whom were charwomen, pride was often involved; to them, doing a good job was important, and they held their own in terms of their social standing.

London street dealer, 1877.

In 1911 Sarah Ann’s lived with her son Arthur, at thirty-eight already five years a widower, and his four children, aged six to fourteen. Obviously, she took on the mother’s role for these children. That task complete, Sarah Ann moved to West Ham in London. She died there during the summer of 1934 aged eight-six.

Although I have no letters to prove that the Dents in Canada corresponded with the Dents in London, it’s natural to assume that they did. And despite the fate that befell Richard, two of his children decided to make a life for themselves in Canada. On 27 September 1896 twenty year old Eliza Dent arrived in Philadelphia bound for Ontario. What a journey. What an adventure. Two years later she married Francis Gowan, originally from Ireland, and the couple produced three sons. They farmed land in Nottawasaga, Simcoe North, Ontario. Eliza died there in 1963, aged eight-seven.

Eliza’s brother, Robert Dent, arrived in Ontario in the early 1900s. He married Edith Eugenia Mollett. More about Robert next time.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #110

Dear Reader,

A busy time with the translations. I have eighty books translated and ten in production: one in Afrikaans, one in French and eight in Portuguese. Thanks to my translators, it’s wonderful to see my books reaching an international audience.

The storyboard for Damaged, Sam Smith Mystery Series book nineteen, is nearly complete. The book will be published on 27 December 2021. Pre-order details to follow soon.

From the British Newspaper Archive, The Court Gazette and Fashionable Guide 27 March 1841, manslaughter at the age of 94.

James Inglett appeared in the 1841 census, living in Hemingford Grey workhouse where he died at the age of 98 in 1844.

– 0 –

Lambeth, c1860, a scene very familiar to the Noulton and Wheeler branches of my family.

My 4 x great grandfather James Richard Brereton was baptised on 22 December 1793 at St Dunstan in the West, London. His parents were Thomas Brereton and Sarah Wright of Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, London. 

The Brereton branch of my family originated in Cheshire and arrived in London in the mid-1700s through my 6 x great grandfather Sandford Brereton while the Wright branch of my family had their roots firmly in London.

James was the third born of nine children. In 1807 he became an apprentice cutler, learning the skills required for metalworking. Apprentices usually served a seven-year term and, as with James, commenced their learning at the age of fourteen.

The apprentice became an extra worker in the master’s household. He or she was subject to the absolute authority of the master and by the terms of their ‘indenture’ could not gamble, go to the theatre or a public house, play cards or dice, marry or fornicate. Little wonder that some of the apprentices ran away from their masters.

The indenture signed by James Brereton.

In 1814 James qualified as a cutler. He was unable to establish a business in London so he took to the road as a tinker, making and repairing pots and pans. Various documents also describe James as a metal beater and a gold beater. Obviously, he was adept at working with precious metals and forming them to match the needs of his clients.

On 17 May 1818 James married Ann Lowcock in Martock, Somerset. At the time, Martock, situated on the fringe of the Somerset Levels, was a large village with a regular market. Maybe James and Ann met at the market as he travelled from town to town, selling his wares.

All Saints’ Church, Martock. Picture: Wikipedia.

Ann was the youngest of ten children and her parents, Aaron Lowcock and Mary Ashelford, produced her late in their married lives. Ann was only seventeen at the time of her marriage. It is easy to understand her situation: her parents were elderly and she faced the prospect of being alone. James, the tinker, had a trade and that alone set him apart from the agricultural labourers in the village. For both parties, there was an obvious attraction in the match.

Based mainly in Bristol, in nineteen years James and Ann produced six children, a child born approximately every three years, whereas the standard for the time was a child born every two years. Their sixth child, Fanny, was my 3 x great grandmother. Sadly, James did not live to see Fanny’s birth. He died in the summer of 1837 while Fanny was born on 19 November 1837. 

A 19th century tinker. Photograph by Ignacy Krieger (1817-1889).

Retracing James’ footsteps, Fanny moved to London where she raised her family. She moved there with William Bick, a West Countryman. However, Fanny and William only married on 13 December 1868 when she was carrying his seventh child. Obviously, their relationship was not wholly dependent on their marriage vows.

A widow with a baby and young children to support Ann moved south to Portsmouth and Southampton where she stayed with relatives. It is interesting to note that Ann’s home life revolved around three major ports: Bristol, Portsmouth and Southampton, and the various employment opportunities these ports offered.

In Portsmouth, Ann met William Poole and the couple produced two children. At various times, they lived in the West Country and on the south coast as William travelled, selling his wares as a toy maker.

A widow again in 1870 Ann returned to the West Country where she spent the remainder of her days, passing away on 29 November 1882, aged eighty-one.

James died young and I wonder if working with metal, metal poisoning, was the cause of his death. A skilled man with a trade to call on he provided for his family and ensured that they lived above the poverty line.

As for Ann, she lived a long life for the time. She lost two husbands, and a child in infancy, a child called James. Sadly, this was expected in the Victorian era. Through necessity and choice she travelled throughout her married life. I wonder if her decision to marry James was tied in with a desire to break free of her rural surroundings and village life.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #107

Dear Reader,

Exciting translation news. Nelmari will translate my Sam Smith mystery series into Afrikaans. She will start work on Sam’s Song this week. The series will then be available in eleven languages 🙂

From LinkedIn and WikiTrees.

I have my ADGD under control today. I’m in the sixteenth century focusing on the Aubrey and Herbert branches of my family.

This week, I outlined Damaged, Sam Smith Mystery Series book nineteen. This book is set in Wales and France. Next week, I will work on the storyboard and when that is complete the book will be made available for pre-order.

Regent Street, London, May 1860 a familiar sight for my London ancestors.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were periods of great religious conflict, which resulted in many people entering, and leaving, the Netherlands and the Low Counties. Antwerp witnessed an exodus of fifty percent while the city of Hondschoote saw a decline of 18,000 to 385 inhabitants. My 11 x great grandparents Jacob Quick (1547 – 1604) and Wilhelm Steenberg (1582–1613) joined this migration. 

At the turn of the sixteenth century, Jacob and Wilhelm arrived in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, England. Apart from the quest for religious freedom, what drew them there? The answer could well be lead. For centuries the people of Wirksworth had relied on lead mining to make a living and by the 1600s lead had become as important to the national economy as wool. 

T’owd Man, Wirksworth. Image: Wikipedia.

Lead was vital for roofs, windows, water storage and piping. And, as the seventeenth century progressed, it became increasingly important for ammunition. In the mines, flooding was a problem. Therefore, in search of a solution, the locals turned to people who were experts at drainage and flood defences – the Dutch.

Jacob Quick and Wilhelm Steenburg settled into their new lives in Derbyshire. Jacob produced a son, Philip, born on 29 June 1597 in Bonsall, Derbyshire while Wilhelm produced a daughter, Rachel, born on 15 August 1602, also in Derbyshire. c1625, Philip married Rachel and in 1635 they produced my 9 x great grandmother Hannah Quick.

Although lead mining was hard and dangerous work at least the Quicks had the freedom to express themselves through their religion. Or so they thought. Then, in 1642 turmoil in the shape of the English Civil War, which raged until 1651.

Sir John Gell

Led by land and mine owner Sir John Gell, the people of Derbyshire sided with Parliament against the Royalists. A key Derbyshire battle was the Battle of Hopton Heath, which took place on Sunday 19 March 1643 between Parliamentarian forces led by Sir John Gell and Sir William Brereton (also an ancestor) and a Royalist force led by Spencer Compton, 2nd Earl of Northampton. 

After the battle, which involved 2,600 men, evenly divided on each side, both camps claimed victory. The Parliamentarians believed that they had won because they held the field at the end of the day and had killed the Royalist’s commander, the Earl of Northampton. The Royalists claimed victory because they had captured eight artillery pieces and reoccupied the field the next morning. In truth, the battle was typical of war – a bloody draw.

Steel engraving, Battle of Hopton Heath by George Cattermole.

Did Philip Quick participate in the battle? History does not record his involvement. However, he did die c1643, possibly in a battle or skirmish associated with the Civil War.

A widow, Rachel remained in Derbyshire with her daughters Hannah and Sarah. She died in 1676. Meanwhile, Hannah met and married a local man, George Wood, born 1625. Their marriage was recorded at a Quaker Meeting in Matlock, Derbyshire in 1658. 

The Quicks, religious migrants, had discovered Quakerism, the new religion that was sweeping through England. However, George and Hannah’s beliefs would lead to more migration and a new home in America. More about that next time.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #101

Dear Reader,

My latest translation in Portuguese, The Olive Tree: Roots. A Spanish Civil War Saga. Available soon 🙂

Many of my London ancestors came from Lambeth. This is the Thames foreshore at Lambeth, c1866, a photograph by William Strudwick, one of a series showing images of working class London.

My article about SOE heroine Eileen Nearne appears on page 36 of this month’s Seaside News.

Mapping my ancestors over the past thousand years.

Map One: Twentieth Century.

My twentieth century ancestors lived in Glamorgan, London and Lancashire. My Glamorgan ancestors were born there while some of my London ancestors were evacuated to Lancashire during the Second World War where they remained for the rest of their lives.

Map Two: 1850 – 1900

Three new counties appear on this map: Carmarthenshire, Gloucestershire and Yorkshire. Yorkshire is represented by a sailor who lived in Canada for a while before settling in London. My Gloucestershire ancestors moved to London because they had family there, and no doubt they were looking for better employment opportunities. My Carmarthenshire ancestors moved to Glamorgan to work on the land, on the newly developing railway lines, and in the burgeoning coal mines. Some branches emigrated to Patagonia, but my direct ancestors remained in Glamorgan.

Published this weekend, Stormy Weather, book eighteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series. My intention was to write one book, but I’m delighted that Sam convinced me to develop her story into a series 🙂

My 2 x great grandmother Jane Dent was baptised on 9 October 1870. The eldest daughter of Richard Davis Dent and Sarah Ann Cottrell, she lived in Whitechapel during the terror of Jack the Ripper.

The police investigated eleven brutal murders in Whitechapel and Spitalfields between 1888 and 1891. Subsequently, five of those murders were attributed to Jack the Ripper, those of Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Elizabeth Stride, Catherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly, the murders taking place between 31 August and 9 November 1888.

The murders attracted widespread newspaper coverage and were obviously the major talking point within the Whitechapel community. What did that community look like and where did my ancestor, Jane Dent fit in?

Members of the public on the streets of Whitechapel, London, circa 1890.

By the 1840s, Whitechapel had evolved into the classic image of Dickensian London beset with problems of poverty and overcrowding as people moved into the city from the countryside, mingling with an influx of immigrants. In 1884, actor Jacob Adler wrote, “The further we penetrated into this Whitechapel, the more our hearts sank. Was this London? Never in Russia, never later in the worst slums of New York, were we to see such poverty as in the London of the 1880s.”

In October 1888, Whitechapel contained an estimated six-two brothels and 1,200 prostitutes. However, the suggestion that all the Ripper’s victims were prostitutes is a myth. At least three of them were homeless alcoholics. The common thread they shared was they had fallen on hard times.

Jane’s father, Richard Davis Dent, died in 1883 when she was twelve so Jane lived in Whitechapel with her mother, Sarah Ann, and younger brothers and sisters, Thomas, Arthur, Eliza, Robert and Mary. The 1881 census listed Jane as a scholar, and it’s likely that she became a domestic servant after her schooling.

Charles Booth’s poverty map of Whitechapel. The red areas are affluent while the black areas indicate criminals and extreme poverty.

The Dent family lived in Urban Place. Their neighbours included a toy maker, a tobacco pipe maker, a French polisher, a vellum blind maker and a cabinet maker. These people were skilled artisans, so it wasn’t the roughest of neighbourhoods. Nevertheless, did Jane and her family discuss Jack the Ripper and his latest atrocities over the dining table? Almost certainly they did, and mothers throughout the generations have echoed Sarah Ann’s warnings to her daughters.

Did Jane meet Jack the Ripper, socially, at work or in the street? Possibly. Did she have a suspect in mind? Her thoughts were not recorded so we will never know. Did she modify her behaviour and avoid Whitechapel’s network of dark and dangerous allies? It is to be hoped that she did.

Although there are numerous suspects, from butchers to members of the royal family, it’s unlikely that we will ever discover Jack the Ripper’s true identity. The police at the time were led in the main by retired army officers, and were not the brightest detectives. Forensic science was basically unknown, so evidence gathering was limited. Nevertheless, the police’s failure to identify Jack the Ripper does raise some serious questions. 

‘Blind Man’s Bluff’. A Punch cartoon by John Tenniel, 22 September 1888, criticising the police investigation.

Was there a cover-up? It’s likely that members of the royal family did visit prostitutes – this is a common theme over many centuries – and the government would have issued instructions to the police to cover-up any royal association with prostitutes for fear of a public backlash and revolution, which was rife in parts of Europe. Any royal cover-up would have hampered the investigation, but ultimately Jack the Ripper evaded arrest because the Victorian police force did not have the skills required to solve complex murders.

By 1891, the Whitechapel murders had ceased and Jane had married William Richard Stokes, a cabinet maker. The couple moved to Gee Street, in the St Luke’s district of London where they raised a family of nine children, including my direct ancestor, Arthur Stokes, and Robert Stokes who died on 26 June 1916 at Hébuterne, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France during the First World War.

Jane Dent survived the terror of Jack the Ripper, but memories of his murders must have remained with her for the rest of her life. After all, she was only eighteen years old, an impressionable age in any era. She died on 6 June 1950 in the London suburb of Walthamstow.

As for Jack, I suspect that either he took his own life in November 1888 or, unknown as the Ripper, he entered an asylum at that time, and remained there for the rest of his life. Jack the Ripper was a compulsive murderer. He didn’t stop killing, something stopped him.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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