Tag Archives: East Ardsley

Who Could Have Thought It – An Unexpected Lead To My 5x Great Grandfather?

Whilst looking at a 19th century map of the West and East Ardsley areas, the place name Who could have thought it captured my imagination. Although I don’t live too far away from the area, this was the first time I had encountered it.

That was it. Instead of focusing on a course about agricultural labourers (the reason I’d been studying the map in the first place) I now set about trying to find out more about the origins of this unusual location name. Amazingly this led me down a rabbit hole which was connected to my own family history.

Map showing the proximity of Chestnut Terrace to Brewery Lane, Ordnance Survey Maps – Six-inch England and Wales, 1842-1952, Yorkshire 233 Surveyed: 1848 to 1851, Published: 1854 – National Library of Scotland, under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA) licence

Some sources state that Who Could Have Thought It was named after a tragic accident in 1809, in which ten East Ardsley miners were killed.1 The location was a small cluster of miners’ cottages at Spring Bottom, which, as a result of the tragedy, became known locally as Who Could Have Thought It. The name appears on O.S. maps until circa 1930, after which it becomes Haigh Hall Terrace.


As a result of this information my interest was piqued further. I have direct maternal line ancestors who were miners in and around East Ardsley in this period. These include my 4x great grandfathers David Hudson, born in circa 1795, and George Broadhead, baptised in East Ardsley in 1803.

Now it was time to find out about this accident.

The York Herald and County Advertiser reported on it as follows:

We have to record a most melancholy accident which happened on Friday week, in two of the pits belonging to Mess. Lee, Watson and Co., situate at East Ardsley, near Wakefield. Ten men and four boys, colliers, employed in the said pits, were instantly drowned by the bursting, it is supposed, of the tunnel of some old pits, lying near and not now in use. —The water, which is not less than ten or eleven yards deep in each pit, is drawing off as quick as possible, but it is thought the bodies will not be got out before Tuesday. —Several of the unfortunate sufferers have left wives and families; thus in a moment bereft of their only earthly protectors and friends. Three young lads, who were at the mouth of one of the pits, on hearing the running water, swarmed up the rope, and alarming, by their cries, the men at the top, were fortunately extricated from their perilous situation. An inquest will be held on the bodies of the sufferers as soon as they can be got out. It since appears that only six men were drowned – four having escaped, but through what means we have not learned.2

The escape of these four additional men reduced the death toll to ten. An article in the Morning Post provide more details about their rescue. It also provided the names of the dead:

DREADFUL ACCIDENT

In the melancholy catalogue of misfortunes, so frequently occurring in Coal Mines, few have produced a deeper impression on the public, or been more dreadfully fatal in their consequences, than that which happened in the pits of Messrs. Lee, Watson, and Co, at East Ardsley, near Wakefield on Friday the 30th ult. The workmen at the time the accident happened, were driving through a throw, as it is technically called, when coming in contact with some exhausted pits, the water rushed through an aperture with irresistible impetuosity, and almost instantly inundated the pit where the people were at work. Three lads, fortunately in a situation to take the bucket, were drawn up without injury, but eleven men and three boys were shut up in the subterraneous abode, and for three days and nights consigned, in the imagination of their families and friends, to the mansions of the dead. Every exertion was made to drain the pit in hope that some lives might be saved; two engines were set to work for that purpose, and the Colliers from the works of Messrs. Branding, Smithson, Fenton, Wood, and Walker, were unremitting in their endeavours to rescue, if Providence had so ordered it, some, at least, of their unfortunate fellow workmen from the jaws of death.

On Monday, voices were heard to ascend from the pits; imagine the anxiety of wives, mothers, fathers, and children, all standing at the mouth of the abyss – anxious to catch a sound – and intensely anxious in that sound to recognise the well-known voice for some near and dear relative.

The moment had arrived when the hopes of some were to be elevated into reality, and the fond expectation of others to be sunk to dispair [sic]. Two men and two boys, John Hudson, Robert Kendrew, William Broad, and Joseph Goodyear, were drawn up alive and in health, though they had remained for three days and nights without rest or sustenance, except a little bread, which Kendrew happened to have in his pocket, and which, with unexampled generosity, he divided among his half famished companions, supplying his own wants with a quid of tobacco.3 The following are the names and families of the ten unfortunate sufferers:—

Aaron Haigh, a boy; George Gothard, an unmarried man; Samuel Bower, an unmarried man; John Haigh, has left a wife pregnant; Thomas Brook, one child and a wife pregnant; Thomas Broad, a wife and two children; William Broad, a wife and three children; Thomas Marshall, a wife and five children; Thomas Hartley, a wife and six children; and Jonathan Gothard, a wife and nine children.4

According to another report John and Aaron Haigh were brothers. They were alive for some time after the flooding. Eventually they made a bid to get out, but were drowned in the attempt. The remaining eight corpses were dragged out of the pit once the water subsided. Their lifeless bodies were presented to their heart-broken relatives.5


By now I was well and truly hooked. A Hudson featured amongst the saved, as did a Broad. Two further Broads were amongst the dead, including a Thomas Broad.

The cogs in the family history part of my brain were kicking into overdrive as a result of the Broad angle. My earlier research into the Broadhead family had revealed they sometimes used the surname Broad. My 4x great grandfather, George Broadhead, married in 1826 under the name Broad, and this was the recording of his surname in one census (1841). Some (but not all) of his children were baptised as Broad too. And George’s 1803 baptism entry (under Broadhead) names his father as miner Thomas. Other than that, I had no more information about Thomas. To be fair it is a branch I’ve not looked at for a few years. Could this mining accident be a breakthrough?.

A couple of more general points struck me from the newspaper coverage. Firstly the community involvement, with miners from other local pits helping in the rescue and recovery attempt.

Secondly, there is an incredible amount of detail for a newspaper report of the time into a mining accident in a Yorkshire village: Even down to the victims’ names, marital status and number of children. Reports in this period can be very sketchy on such details.

That the events in East Ardsley captured the public imagination is evident. It is not hard to see why. Apart from the tragedy, it had elements of raw human emotion, bravery and acts of pure selflessness, with the events having a central hero in Robert Kendrew.

Such was the impact of the East Ardsley pit disaster, and the survival over days of the four miners, in 1818 the Reverend James Plumptre, the Vicar of Great Grandsen, Huntingdonshire, wrote a play based on them. Entitled Kendrew: or, The Coal Mine, it focuses on the struggle for survival of Robert Kendrew, John Hudson, William Broad and Joseph Goodyear. The play is still available to read, with its religious overtones, its whitewashing of the realities of pit work, its romanticised depiction of a female miner and the weaving in of a love story.6


Back to reality, I decided to check parish registers for the burial of the men. So far I have located information for eight.

Four of the burials took place on 4 July 1809 at Woodkirk St Mary’s parish church. The register has the helpful annotation that they drowned in a pit on 1 July (note this is the day after the accident).7

  • William Hartley, from East Ardsley, Collier;
  • Thomas Brook, of Hague Moor, Collier;
  • John Hague of Hague Moor, Collier; and
  • Aaron, son of Aaron Hague of Westerton, Collier.
St Michael’s Church, East Ardsley – Photo by Jane Roberts

The burials of a further four of the victims are recorded, minus any explanatory notes, in the parish register of St Michael’s, East Ardsley.8

  • 4 July 1809 – Sam[ue]l, son of Jonathan Bower, Labourer, Wakefield Parish;
  • 4 July 1809 – Tho[ma]s Marshall, Miner;
  • 5 July 1809 – Thomas Broadhead, Miner; and
  • 5 July 1809 – William Broadhead, Miner.

My heart skipped a beat. Here Thomas’ surname is recorded as Broadhead, not Broad. Disappointingly there were no further clues in the register entry. An age would have been a bonus. The Bishop’s Transcript (BT) unfortunately added nothing further. Although on this occasion the BT was no help, they are always worth checking. The only hint as to age, therefore, came from the newspaper which indicated he had a wife and two children.


It was now time to hit the parish registers in earnest. In addition to East Ardsley, this included checking its surrounding parishes in this period: Dewsbury, Woodkirk, Rothwell and Wakefield. Searches included both Broadhead and Broad. As a result I now have page upon page of Broadhead research and family notes!

For consistency, in the following write-up of this research, I will use the surname Broadhead rather than Broad. However, I will indicate when the Broad version was used in records.

I focused on not only Thomas, but William Broadhead too, in case there was a family connection between them. The newspapers had mentioned the Haighs were brothers, nothing about the relationship between the Broadheads. But perhaps they were cousins?

The newspaper indicated William had three children and Thomas two. I first set about trying to identify these children to see if there was a possibility this Thomas was the father of my 1803 baptised 4x great grandfather.

Sod’s law. William was a doddle, Thomas was not.


William Broadhead was baptised at East Ardsley parish church on 13 June 1784, the son of coal miner William Broadhead.9 Siblings included David, Nanny and James. No sibling named Thomas has been found. William married Mary Claiton, also at East Ardsley, on 25 December 1805.10 Their children, all baptised in the same church, were:

  • Hannah, baptised 27 July 1806;11
  • Jane, baptised on 16 December 1807;12 and
  • Elizabeth, baptised on 24 June 1809, less than a week before her father’s death.13

In all the baptism entries William is listed either as a miner or coal miner. Elizabeth died in 1810.14 The other two girls survived, with Hannah marrying John Wainwright in 1823,15 and Jane marrying John Bedford in 1825.16


Over to Thomas, then. I checked for any Broadhead East Ardsley baptisms between 1773 and 1823, with a father named Thomas. The post-1809 dates were deliberate, to see if there was a Thomas in the parish after the accident.

There were eight baptisms in total, all occurring between 1797 and 1810. Four could be discounted as they related to children of a clothier from Wakefield parish. Another, linked to a labourer from Wakefield parish, was similarly ruled out. That left three, as follows:

  • George, baptised 13 March 1803, son of Tho[ma]s, miner [my 4x great grandad];17
  • John, baptised 11 February 1805, son of Tho[ma]s, miner.18 He died in 1818;19 and
  • Ellin, baptised 20 August 1809, daughter of Tho[ma]s and Hannah, miner.20

The obvious issue here is the number of children – three as opposed to the two cited in the newspaper. The other issue is Ellin’s baptism took place after the 30 June 1809 accident, and there is no reference in her baptism entry to her father being dead. The only difference in the BT was name, Ellioner, so no help there. I checked the baptism entry for John Haigh’s child for comparison purposes. The newspaper reports mentioned his wife was pregnant at the time of his death – no such mention for Thomas Broadhead’s wife. Unfortunately for my purposes the Haigh baptism took place in Woodkirk parish so the phraseology for the entry in this parish cannot be directly compared with that of East Ardsley. In the Woodkirk register, whilst John is named as the baby’s father, the entry clearly indicates he is deceased.21

The anomaly may simply be a newspaper oversight: Thomas did have two children when he died – George and John. But had his wife so very recently given birth to a third that it had been missed in reporting? Although saying that, William’s third child had only recently been born and she was included. The more likely scenario, however, assuming the likely interval between birth and baptism was weeks (though accepting this was not always the case), and with the 20 August baptism date, was Hannah being pregnant at the time of Thomas’ death, and this being overlooked in press reporting. Though the discrepancy is worth noting as an end that does not neatly tie, this latter scenario seems not improbable.

There is one final document to build the case for Thomas being my 5x great grandfather, and this is a probate document from the Exchequer Court of York. On the 12 August 1809 Administration of the goods of Thomas Broadhead, late of East Ardsley who died intestate, was granted to his widow Hannah Broadhead.22 The death can refer to none other than the miner who lost his life in the pit. This document is confirmation of the name of the widow of this miner.

As it stands I believe the balance of evidence is overwhelming now pointing to the 1809 death being George’s father, and my 5x great grandfather, Thomas Broadhead. There is simply no other candidate.


I wanted to find out what happened to Ellin, as much as anything for any further clues this might offer. Besides parish registers, other sources used here included censuses to corroborate age and birthplace, and GRO indexes.

Ellen Broad (note the surname) married Jonathan Hanson at Dewsbury All Saints parish church on 16 September 1827.23 The witnesses offer no further family information. The interchange between the Broad and Broadhead surnames is demonstrated by the registration of those children born after the introduction civil registration. Two have Broadhead as mother’s maiden name, and one has Broad.24


I now returned to Thomas and Hannah. When did they marry?

There were two candidates for the marriage, neither in East Ardsley:

  • Wakefield All Saints, 16 January 1792, Thomas Broadhead and Hannah Batty, both of this parish, with a William Broadhead as a witness;25
  • Rothwell Holy Trinity, 19 April 1802, Thomas Broadhead and Hannah Lumb, both of this parish, with a John Broadhead as witness.26

The first was eliminated. This couple appeared to be having children baptised in Wakefield parish from 1792 to 1807. And the baptism of one child, Charlotte, in 1804 provided the confirmation, naming Hannah as the daughter of David Battye.27 Interestingly one baptism for this family, from 1799, mentions an abode of Beck Bottom. only a hop, skip and jump over the East Ardsley parish boundary. And in 1817 David Broadhead, (brother of William who died in the accident), along with his wife Hannah and six children were removed from East Ardsley to Alverthorpe with Thornes.28 There does appear to be a particular location focus emerging for these Broadheads, around the southern East Ardsley parish boundary with the Alverthorpe area of Wakefield parish at the time.

Map showing location of Who Could Have Thought It, Beck Bottom and Kirkham Gate. The latter two fall under Alverthorpe Township. The East Ardsley parish boundary runs just to the north of Kirkham Gate and Beck Bottom, and covers Who Could Have Thought It. To give some idea of distance, Beck Bottom is under a mile away from Kirkham Gate.

This left the 1802 Rothwell marriage of Thomas to Hannah Lumb. Broadhead was not a common name in this parish. A Thomas cannot be traced in it before the marriage. There are no children of the couple baptised there subsequently. Another Broadhead marriage took place there in 1806, that of a William Broadhead to Charlotte Wainwright.29 Despite this also saying the couple were both of this parish, William was actually from Woodkirk parish, this is where the couple lived after their marriage and it was the baptism parish of their children. On this basis I have concluded the 1802 Rothwell marriage of Thomas Broadhead and Hannah Lumb is the correct one.


As for when Thomas Broadhead was born, this is still a work in progress. The most obvious baptism is one at East Ardsley on 29 October 1780, for Thomas son of miner John Broadead.30 But I cannot be definitive as there are other options in Wakefield and Woodkirk (the most likely other parishes) which I need to work through. Checking baptisms between 1740-1790 produced this list of candidates:

  • Wakefield, 26 October 1741 – Tho[ma]s, son of Dan Broadhead;
  • Wakefield, 16 February 1741[42] – Tho[ma]s, son of Adam Broadhead, Potovans;
  • Wakefield, 1 September 1755 – Tho[ma]s, son of Sarah Broadhead, base begot by John Beaumont, Thornhill;
  • Wakefield, 18 November 1769 – Tho[ma]s, son of Samuel Broadhead;
  • Wakefield, 26 December 1770 – Tho[ma]s, son of Jonathan Broadhead;
  • Woodkirk, 9 February 1772 (note this parish is still using old style dating and it is 1771 in the Register) – Thomas, son of James Broadhead, Beggarington, collier;
  • Wakefield, 24 February 1775 – Tho[ma]s, son of Joshua Broadhead;
  • Wakefield, 24 August 1778 – Tho[ma]s, son of Widow Broadhead;
  • East Ardsley, 29 October 1780 – Tho[ma]s, son of John Broadhead, miner;

Unfortunately, because of the scant information in parish registers of this period, it may prove impossible to reconcile them all with marriages and burials. I may be left with more than one candidate. I may have to see what alternative sources exist, and even that might be insufficient.


And in further frustration I have yet to establish what, if any, connection there was between the 1809 mining casualties Thomas and William Broadhead. The only lead I have is very tenuous. Witnesses at the 1823 East Ardsley marriage of William’s daughter Hannah to John Wainwright include what looks like two separate George Broadhead signatories. Having these handwriting examples for comparison purposes have not helped yet. Unfortunately, when my 4x great grandfather George Broadhead married Rachel Speight, at Woodkirk on 18 June 1826, he made his mark.31 This was a period when he was styling himself Broad, not Broadhead which constitutes yet another smokescreen. I have known people who did switch between marks and signing their name, but to date I have no signature for my 4x great grandfather with which to compare. In another complication neither of the other two George Broadheads I know who were around in this period signed their names when they married, so I cannot definitively eliminate them either. 32

Parish Register signatures: 1823 marriage at East Ardsley of Hannah Broadhead with a George Broadhead as witness; and my 4x great grandfather George Broad[head]’s mark in the Woodkirk parish register at the time of his marriage in 1826.

Finally, it looks highly probable that the boy named William Broad[head] named amongst the rescued, was baptised at East Ardsley on 25 December 1794, son of miner John Broadhead.33 I did initially wonder if he could be a younger brother of Thomas, especially if the 1780 East Ardsley baptism is the correct one. But further analysis showed this William’s parents were John Broadhead who married Mary Marshall at East Ardsley on 18 November 1793.34 Furthermore John and Mary are alive in the 1841 census, with John’s age being 70 (possibly rounded down in accordance with that census).35 His burial at East Ardsley on 23 July 1848, age 77, provides yet further confirmation this man cannot be the father of Thomas who married in 1802.36 But could he be a brother? More work needed there.


All this mixed bag of results goes to illustrate that family history is not simple. It takes time, and at the end of it there may not be a conclusive answer. I believe the evidence has stacked up in favour that Thomas Broadhead, who died in the 1809 mining accident, being my 5x great grandfather. Also that Hannah Lumb is my 5x great grandmother. If this is the case, I also have two siblings for my 4x great grandfather, in John and Ellen. But beyond that I have not found Thomas’ baptism. The most probable is the 1780 East Ardsley one, son of John. But I cannot categorically state that and add it to my family tree.

I also need to find out what became of Thomas’ widow, my 5x great grandmother Hannah Lumb, after his death.

It’s a typical case of answer one family history question and end up with a whole bunch more.


More work remains. In the list of priorities I need to:

  • Visit Morley Library (original) or West Yorkshire Archives (microfilm) to see if anything further can be found in the East Ardsley township and Churchwarden records about the Broadhead family, in particular after the death of Thomas;
  • Try to confirm Thomas’ baptism. Whilst the 1780 is a possible, I need to do more in investigation around the other Thomas Broadhead baptisms. Ultimately it may come down to attempting to reconstruct the Broadhead families in the East Ardsley, Woodkirk and Wakefield parishes, which is where the main linkages appear to be. And this will involve going through parish registers page by page. It is a painstaking and time-consuming task. And after all that I may still have no perfect answer; and
  • It is also then a case of seeking out any other sources which may help for the parishes of interest, beyond the East Ardsley ones mentioned above. Things like wider parish poor law records including removal orders, settlement certificates, bastardy bonds…if they survive!
  • And then there’s trying to trace Hannah Broadhead (formerly Lumb) in records – knowing in advance there are a number of Hannah Broadheads in the area.

If there are any developments coming out of this work I will provide an update.


The ‘Who Could Have Thought It’ area in May 2021 – Photo by Jane Roberts

In conclusion, this has been a glorious rabbit hole to explore. At a minimum I now know more about the turn of the 19th century East Ardsley community of my ancestors. Above all I believe I have made a family tree breakthrough and identified a set of 5x great grandparents. I also have information about my 5x great grandfather’s death, and added to my mining family history in the process.

Who would have thought a course on agricultural labourers, a map and a place called Who Could Have Thought It would lead to that?


Postscript: I am still unclear how the pit accident could lead to this peculiar place name, unless it was some reference to the survival of the four miners. Also the place name is not unique. I have since discovered another Who Could Have Thought it to the north-east of Thornton, Bradford on the 1847-1850 surveyed six-inch ordnance survey map, published in 1852. Who knows how many more there are?


Footnotes:
1. Loyal “Who Could Have Thought It” Lodge No. 416 of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows (Huddersfield Unity), Huddersfield Exposed, https://huddersfield.exposed/wiki/;
2. York Herald and County Advertiser, 8 July 1809;
3. Chewing tobacco;
4. Morning Post, 11 July 1809;
5. Statesman, 11 July 1809;
6. Plumptre, James. Original Dramas … With Prefaces and Notes. MS. Notes and Corrections by the Author. Cambridge: J. Hodson, 1818. Available via Google Books;
7. Woodkirk St Mary’s parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP108/1/1/4;
8. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/2;
9. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference:WDP16/1/1;
10. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/8. Register records she was the daughter of Mary, a widow;
11. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/2;
12. Ibid;
13. Ibid;
14. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/2;
15. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/8;
16. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/9;
17. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/2;
18. Ibid;
19. St Michael’s East Ardsley burial register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference WDP16/1/16
20. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/2;
21. St Mary’s Woodkirk parish register, baptism of Rachel Haigh, 20 August 1809, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP108/1/1/4;
22. Thomas Broadhead, Administration, East Ardsley, AUG 1809, Exchequer Court of York, Borthwick Institute
23. All Saints Dewsbury marriage register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP9/21;
24. Dewsbury registered Emma (1837) and John (1840) have Broadhead; Martha Ann, registered in Halifax in 1845, has Broad;
25. All Saints Wakefield parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP3/3/5;
26. Rothwell Holy Trinity parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: RDP91/3/3;
27. Charlotte Broadhead baptism 30 December 1804, Wakefield St John the Baptist parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP45/1/1/1;
28. West Riding Quarter Sessions, Leeds Sessions 16 October 1817, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: QS10/4;
29. William Broadhead marriage 8 September 1806, Rothwell Holy Trinity parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: RDP91/3/3;
30. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/1;
31. St Mary’s Woodkirk marriage register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP108/1/3/3;
32. George Broadhead who married Mary Hartley at Wakefield All Saints on 26 August 1822, son of William and Mary and baptised at Wakefield on 20 April 1801; and George Broadhead who married Elizabeth Broadhead at Woodkirk on 18 November 1828, likely the son of John, baptised at East Ardsley on 24 May 1807;
33. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/2;
34. St Michael’s East Ardsley parish register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/8;
35. 1841 England and Wales census, The National Archives, Reference HO107/1267/1/13/23;
36. St Michael’s East Ardsley burial register, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference: WDP16/1/16.


Robert and the Resurrectionists, a tale of Yorkshire body snatchers – Part 2

I left my last post with four men in custody on 10 November 1831, pending investigations into the discovery of an unidentified body on its way to Edinburgh via the Newcastle-bound Leeds coach. The suspicion was the youth had been murdered as part of the underground trade to supply medical schools with dead bodies for dissection. On display in Leeds Court House, the body remained unidentified despite extensive publicity and being viewed by thousands.

The tale took a new twist on Saturday 12 November. A friend recognised the body as that of Robert Hudson, a collier from East Ardsley. Other friends and family were summoned to corroborate the identification. Brothers Joseph and John[1] confirmed it, even explaining that the damaged missing fourth fingernail on the right hand resulted from him trapping his finger a fortnight before. John’s wife Permelia[2] also identified her brother-in-law.

Immediately after this identification a party was despatched to open Robert’s grave at East Ardsley. They found holes born into the coffin to allow the use of a saw. The lid was sawn open from head to breast. The coffin contained only a glove and an iron bludgeon which had been left behind by the body snatching gang. The body had gone.

Robert Hudson was born in around 1814 and baptised on 31 July 1814 at St Michaels, East Ardsley. He was the youngest child of miner Matthew Hudson and his wife Grace. At the time of his baptism the family lived at Outwood, just over two miles from East Ardsley. When Matthew died in December 1827 the family address was given as near-by Lawns, in the Township of Stanley-cum-Wrenthorpe in Wakefield Parish.

On Sunday 30 October 1831, 17-year-old Robert left his widowed mother’s home in Lawns at around 11am. His body was discovered between 3-4pm that day. He had hung himself by a his neck handkerchief from a spar in a coal pit cabin belonging to his employers, Messrs Charlesworth. The inquest on 31 October recorded a verdict “that the deceased hung himself when in a state of unsound mind”.

Robert’s burial took place at St Michael’s East Ardsley on 1 November. The burial register notes he “hung himself in the coal pit cabin”. Burial in a churchyard of someone who had committed suicide had been legalised by the 1823 Burial of Suicide Act. However the burial of the body of a suicide was conducted without Church rites and at nighttime between the hours of 9pm and 12pm. If the inquest verdict was that the suicide had been committed whilst the individual was of unsound mind, then a churchyard burial was permissible.

St Michael's, East Ardsley

St Michael’s, East Ardsley

In the light of this new information the Leeds inquest jury, suspended the previous Thursday, was reconvened first thing on Monday morning, 14 November. It found that the body was indeed that of Robert Hudson, who had hanged himself on 30 October, and afterwards was brought to Leeds and discovered in a box on the Courier coach.

This at least removed any potential murder charges against those rounded up in connection with the case.

Within an hour of the inquest jury reaching its decision, the Magistrates examined the case against those charged: in addition to Hodgson, Pickering, Norman and Wood four other men were now in custody. William Germain, packer; William Henry Bradley, joiner; Thomas Pearson, cloth weaver; and Henry Teale, gentleman’s servant. All were from the Leeds area. The latter broke ranks, providing full details of events.

The lengthy examination involving statements from Teale and numerous witnesses lasted from around 10.30am on 14 November until 2.30pm on 16 November.

It revealed Hodgson as the ringleader. Obviously undeterred by his previous sentence, less than three months ago, he recruited his gang over a period of several weeks. For instance he made initial contact with Teale on 22 September.

On 2 November Hodgson gave Teale a list of graveyards to check for recent burials: Hanging Heaton, Dewsbury and East Ardsley. There was also a list for Bradley. His too included the East Ardsley one. So, that afternoon, the pair went there together and discovered two fresh graves, one large and one small.

Robert’s was the large grave. The small one belonged to four-year-old Joseph Longley Fielding of Churwell, who died on 31 October and was buried on the day Teale and Bradley visited the churchyard.

After reporting their finds to Hodgson, arrangements were made for Hodgson, Bradley, Germain & Teal to set off for East Ardsley in two hired gigs late that night, between 9-10pm. Hodgson was armed with two pistols which he produced upon hearing a noise when at the church yard, an indication as to the high stakes at play. All four took it in turns to stand watch or dig.

IMG_0121

Once the coffins were reached and entries made, the bodies were drawn out of by means of a rope around the neck. The corpses were stripped, and all linen thrown back – the gang did not wish to run the risk of more serious theft charges. The graves were re-filled. The bodies were put in separate sacks, placed on the gigs and driven back into town, arriving back in Leeds in the pre-dawn hours.

The bodies were stored in an out-building belonging to Norman’s father. Early on the morning of 3 November, at around 5.30am, a failed attempt was made by Germain, Bradley and Teale to dispatch Robert’s body on the Times coach. Too late, they missed it and were forced to return the package to Norman’s garden-house.

As a result of a comment made by Norman’s father, on Saturday 5 November the gang were forced into making hasty, new arrangements. The child’s body was successfully dispatched to Edinburgh via the Rose and Crown evening Courier coach[3]. Robert’s was taken to the White House being rented by Pickering on Tobacco-Mill-Lane.

A second early-morning attempt, on 7 November, was made to send Robert’s body on its way via the Times coach[4]. The coach would not take the package. Back it went to Tobacco-Mill-Lane, where it was locked in the closet due to the scheduled house viewing.

On the evening of 7 November the foiled Rose and Crown Courier coach attempt occurred, resulting in the discovery of the body and subsequent arrests.

After hearing the evidence the Magistrates found no case against Pearson and Wood on this particular charge and discharged them, although they remained in custody. The other six, (Hodgson, Pickering, Germain, Bradley, Norman and Teale), were ordered to appear before the next Yorkshire Assizes.

At the Yorkshire Lent Assizes 1832, held in York, they were indicted with “severally, wickedly, willingly, and unlawfully conspire, combine, confederate and agree together to disinter a dead body, and afterwards, to wit, in the night of the 2nd of November aforesaid, in pursuance of such conspiracy and agreement, severally enter a church yard, situate at East Ardsley, in the West Riding, and did then and there unlawfully dig up, and disinter from and out of a grave the body of one Robert Hudson”[5] and Joseph Longley Fielding, with intent to sell and dispose of the same.

After hearing the evidence and consulting for a full two minutes the jury found Hodgson, Germain, Norman and Bradley guilty. Pickering was acquitted, as no proof existed that he was connected with the body prior to its exhumation. Hodgson was jailed for one year; Bradley, Germain and Norman received three month sentences; Teale, who turned King’s evidence, was discharged.

Those convicted were sent to Wakefield House of Correction to serve their sentences, much to the annoyance of Hodgson who wished to remain in York Castle which was more conducive to the pursuit of his studies.

I mentioned the sympathy with which body snatching could be viewed by the judiciary, given the acknowledged need to further medical science. This, accompanied by petitioning from anatomists and medical schools and the public revulsion at the work of body snatchers, led to the 1832 Anatomy Act, effectively ending the trade in stolen corpses. The Act allowed licensed anatomists and medical schools to use for dissection unclaimed bodies from institutions such as workhouses and prisons.

At around the time the Act was passed, in July-August 1832 Hodgson launched an unsuccessful petition for clemency. The National Archives Discovery summary describes his crime as:

“Disinterring the dead body of a male pauper for the purposes of dissection in churchyard near Leeds, together with four others, anatomy students from Edinburgh”.

The grounds for the petition were that the:

“…officers of the township who bore the expense of the burial refused to prosecute; the prisoner’s health is impaired by six months confinement and cholera is prevalent in the prison; he is willing to leave the country”.

Interestingly Hodgson focused on the pauper element at this time.

In 2015 York Dungeons featured John Hodgson in its Halloween show. It describes it as follows:

“The popular attraction’s new hair-raising show will see one of the most intimidating, darkest, characters ever introduced. John Hodgson, the local body snatcher is morbid, cruel and gruesome has no remorse for digging up the dead!”

 Sources:

  • Ancestry UK: Criminal Registers, Reference HO 27; Piece: 44; Page: 434
  • Find My Past: HO 13 Home Office Criminal Entry Books of out-letter, warrants and pardons; and HO 19 Home Office Registers of Criminal Petitions
  • Find My Past Newspapers: “Leeds Intelligencer” – 10 & 17 November 1831 and 5 April 1832; “Leeds Mercury” – 12 & 19 November 1831; “Leeds Patriot & Yorkshire Advertiser” – 9 July 1831, 12 & 19 November 1831 and 7 April 1832; “Yorkshire Gazette” – 7 April 1832
  • Pharos Tutors Course: Victorian Crime and Punishment, Courts, Police and Prisons http://www.pharostutors.com/
  • Photographs – taken by me
  • St Michael’s East Ardsley Parish Registers (also available via West Yorkshire Archives on Ancestry UK)
  • The National Archives Criminal Petitions Series I, Reference HO 17/36/159
  • York Dungeons: http://www.thedungeons.com/york/en/plan-your-visit/halloween.aspx

[1] Robert had brothers named both Joseph and John. Some reports named Joseph, others John. So they could both have played a part in identification and the law process. Or it could be a name confusion in reports.
[2] In reports she is named as Pamela.
[3] The 7 April 1832 “Yorkshire Gazette” trial report is at odds with other reports, indicating the child’s body was sent via the Golden Lion coach office.
[4] Some reports indicate this attempt was made on Sunday morning (6 November)
[5]Leeds Intelligencer” – 5 April 1832.

Robert and the Resurrectionists, a tale of Yorkshire body snatchers – Part 1

“A Young Man, about 18 Years of Age, Five Feet Six Inches high[1], Face slightly round, Brown Hair, cut short behind, and long before, slightly calf licked on the right side of the Head, very short down Beard, with scarcely any Whiskers; the left Incisor Tooth stands backward, and the left Canine Tooth forwards; Blue Eyes, of which the left is somewhat injected with Blood; rather fair Complexion, well made and somewhat muscular; the Nail of the ring Finger of the right Hand has been destroyed, and a new Nail partially formed; a slight graze on the right shin nearly healed; there is dirt on the Legs set into the Skin, and the Body exhibits no appearance of illness”.

So read the description of Robert Hudson, my 4x great grandad’s youngest brother, in the “Leeds Patriot and Yorkshire Advertiser” of 12 November 1831. Great to have such an early description. More noteworthy perhaps is the fact it is post-mortem of an, at this point, unidentified body. The press circulated the description and the corpse was placed on public display in Leeds Court House in the hope of putting a name to it.

The discovery of the body in Leeds on 7 November 1831 was triggered by something as innocuous as the prospective sale of a house on Tobacco-Mill-Lane in the Sheepscar area.

In late October the house-owner, Mr William Peniston rented the property to school master James Crabtree Pickering. However at the beginning of November a permanent buyer came forward via a friend of Peniston, Mr William Myers. Viewing though proved problematical. Pickering, who was not occupying the property, procrastinated. He claimed not to have the keys. When they did finally materialise on 7 November Mrs Evans, the buyer’s wife, was available, but not her husband. A locked upstairs closet also proved a minor inconvenience.[2].

Arrangements were made for Pickering to show the house again at 7pm that evening. Peniston and Myers arrived first.[3] Yet again Pickering proved elusive. But Peniston and Myers became aware people were in the property. Suddenly, as they watched, three men left the residence wheeling a box in the direction of Leeds. The pair followed all the way to the Rose and Crown Coaching Inn on Briggate.

Blue Plaque at Queens Arcade, Briggate, Leeds - the site of the Rose and Crown Coaching Inn

Blue Plaque at Queens Arcade, Briggate, Leeds – the site of the Rose and Crown Coaching Inn

The package was in the process of being placed onto the Courier coach heading north, when Peniston drew its suspicious nature to the attention of William Halton, the constable. He seized butcher James Norman, one of the men helping to load the package. The others involved melted away into the crowd. The package was addressed at one end to “Hon. Ben Thompson, Mail-Office, Edinbro’. To be kept until called for. Per Courier, Nov 7th 1831” and at the other “Hon Benjamin Thompson, Mail Office, Carlisle”. Opening it revealed the body of a young man.

July 1831 advert for the Courier Coach from the Rose and Crown Inn, Briggate

July 1831 advert for the Courier Coach from the Rose and Crown Inn, Briggate

Pickering was tentatively identified by some as one of the individuals who had brought the box to the Coach Office and paid for its transportation. So Halton went round to his Bond-Street rooms. Pickering was there with John Craig Hodgson and the pair were brought in to the Chief Constable. The room was also found to contain paraphernalia associated with body snatchers including wet, muddy clothing (obviously used), rope, spades, a saw, a gimlet and an implement that could be used for breaking coffin lids.

And Hodgson, an attorney’s clerk, did have history in this area. As recently as July 1831 he appeared before Leeds Borough Sessions, receiving a six week jail sentence for stealing a dead body.[4] At his trial he argued he too would be involved in its dissection to further his anatomical knowledge, which would be useful in his law employment; he had no intention of selling the body on. The leniency of his sentence owed something to the persuasiveness of the defence put forward, including that by Leeds surgeons, about the need for dead bodies for anatomical purposes to advance medicine. Solicitors also testified on his behalf.[5]

The increase in medical schools in this period combined with the reduction in supply of cadavers with the decrease in capital punishment sentencing[6] resulted in a growing shortfall of bodies for anatomical dissection. This in turn led to a criminal black-market trade in freshly-buried corpses. Providing only the body and no other grave contents were taken, including the burial garments, the crime was treated as a misdemeanour so would entail a lesser sentence.

Some did take it a step further and resorted to murder in order to supply the need. Burke and Hare are the most famous exponents of this. And in November 1831 the so-called “Italian Boy” case was hitting the headlines nationally. A teenage boy was murdered in London and an attempt was made to sell his body to an Anatomical School. On 8 November, a coroners’ jury found a verdict of “wilful murder against some person or persons unknown“.[7] This then was the backdrop to the Leeds find and, as such, it added to the feverish excitement of the town’s populace.

The fascination only increased in the following days. Speculation mounted that foul means also accounted for the demise of the Leeds body, which was put on public display for identification purposes. Despite being seen by thousands this proved fruitless and on 10 November, as the suspicion of murder increased, an inquest was held. By this stage four individuals were in custody: Hodgson, Pickering, Norman and shoemaker John Wood.

The body was moved to Leeds Infirmary for a post-mortem prior to the inquest at the Griffin Inn. Leeds surgeon Thomas Chorley found that there was no sign of illness or disease in the body; the cause of death was strangulation; he also said that, due to its unwashed state, it did not appear the body had been buried. Suddenly things were getting very serious indeed for those suspected of involvement in the crime. Body snatching was one thing; murder took it to a whole new level…..

With his legal background Hodgson’s almost two-hour long questioning of Chorley, in an effort to prove there was no certainty about cause of death, demonstrated he was fully aware of the stakes.

The inquest was suspended until the following Wednesday and the body returned to the Court House for public viewing in the hope that identification would shed more light on the case.

To be continued…….

Sources:

  • Ancestry UK: Criminal Registers, HO 27 series
  • Find My Past Newspapers: “Leeds Intelligencer” – 10 & 17 November 1831 and 5 April 1832; “Leeds Mercury” – 12 & 19 November 1831; “Leeds Patriot & Yorkshire Advertiser” – 9 July 1831, 12 & 19 November 1831 and 7 April 1832; “Yorkshire Gazette” – 7 April 1832.
  • Pharos Tutors Course: Victorian Crime and Punishment, Courts, Police and Prisons http://www.pharostutors.com/

[1] Other reports suggest 5’3”
[2] Later that week when the cupboard was accessible, blood stains were visible on the floor.
[3] Some reports indicate the purchaser was due to view.
[4] Ancestry UK Criminal Registers: HO 27; Piece: 42; Page: 438
[5] “Leeds Patriot and Yorkshire Advertiser” 9 July 1831
[6] The bodies of those executed were given over for anatomical dissection.
[7] In December 1831 John Bishop and Thomas Williams were hung for the offence

Oliver Rhodes and the Morley Car Accident of 1910

My last blog post covered a family connection to the Dewsbury tram disaster of 1912. However two years earlier the same branch of the family suffered as the result of another transport accident: but this one had fatal consequences. It involved Oliver Rhodes, the eight-year-old son of my great grandparents Jonathan Rhodes[1] and Edith Aveyard.

Jonathan and Edith married at Woodkirk Parish Church on 14 August 1897 and soon after settled at Healey Croft Terrace, East Ardsley. Jonathan was diabetic in an age before insulin. But despite his poor health he worked as a coal miner. They had five children. Alice was born in 1897; Ethel in 1899; Oliver in 1902; William Henry Bastow in 1903 and Pauline (my nana) in 1905. William died of meningitis in June 1907 and was buried in St Michael’s Churchyard, East Ardsley. It was the church in which their youngest children were baptised[2]. Shortly afterwards the family moved to Morley and in 1910 lived on Garnett Street[3].

Oliver too had health problems. Despite being generally fit and strong, he had extremely poor eyesight, a condition which in his short life necessitated five operations at Leeds Infirmary. Despite these issues he was able to attend school.

According to oral family history, on Saturday 8 October 1910 Edith struggled with a severe headache and eventually sent Oliver on an errand to get some medication. The “Morley Observer” report of the inquest makes no mention of this. Instead their coverage states Oliver went out to play just after 5pm. Local children were in the habit of playing in an area of land known as America Moor, across from where the family lived.

However witness statements from Annie Newsome, who watched events unfold from the end of Co-operative Row[4] and William Dean North, standing with a cart at the end of Garnett Street, all place Oliver, alone, on the opposite side of Britannia Road[5], from America Moor. The 1908 OS map[6] below includes all the relevant locations. This was not the children’s normal play area so would perhaps indicate the possibility of an errand. And this is supported by the report in the “Batley Reporter”.

Map of Morley showing Britannia Road (scene of the accident) and other key locations such as America Moor, Garnett Street, Co-operative Road Map of Morley showing Britannia Road (scene of the accident) and other key locations such as America Moor, Garnett Street, Stump Cross Inn and Co-operative Road

According to these witnesses, between 5.30-5.45pm[7] Oliver was walking along Britannia Road, on the causeway opposite his home. Some boys were on the other side of the road, which would be the America Moor side. Oliver began to cross towards the Garnett Street side, but halted to let three cyclists pass. They were heading in the Wakefield direction. Then he started to run to the other side, seemingly unaware that a motor car was almost upon him.

The chauffeur-driven vehicle belonged to Mr West, a Keighley chemist. He invited a Mr Arthur Emmett and two friends[8] to take a run in the car to watch Wakefield Trinity play Keighley in a game of rugby at Belle Vue. They were returning home in the Bradford direction after watching the match and stopping off post-game at the Alexandra Hotel, Belle Vue.

The chauffeur employed by Mr West, Willie Sugden, had held a licence for six years without incident. When he got to the stretch of Britannia Road in the vicinity of the Stump Cross Inn where the accident occurred[9], the three cyclists passed him. He noticed a cart on one side of the road and some boys playing at the other. Other than these distractions the road was quiet.

Photo taken at 6pm 8 October 2015 of the stretch of road where the accident happened looking towards The Stump Cross Inn The stretch of road where the accident happened, looking towards The Stump Cross Inn (bottom left) – taken at 5.45pm 8 October 2015

Willie sounded his horn fearing the children might run out. But he failed to see young Oliver on the other side from them, in the process of crossing in front of the car. Front-seat passenger, Arthur Emmett, had though. He urged Willie to brake. Although the car was estimated to be travelling at no more than 12 miles per hour, just faster than a horse-trot, it could not stop in time and knocked Oliver down. Two of the wheels passed over his head.

Whether Oliver’s weak eyesight meant he failed to see the car or caused him to misjudge the distance will never be known. One theory was in avoiding the cyclists Oliver ran in the way of the car.

At 5.45pm the family were told of the accident by a boy the Morley newspaper mistakenly describe as Oliver’s brother. It was more than likely his cousin Arnold Rhodes. Jonathan went out and met the occupants of the car carrying his unconscious son home. They gave Jonathan £1 in order to procure anything necessary.

Police Constable Newsome and Mr Davey, one of the car occupants, immediately drove to summon Dr Firth at Cross Hall. They returned with Dr Stevens[10], a locum. Inside he found Oliver lying unconscious on the couch. But it was a hopeless case. Oliver died shortly before 8pm as a result of a fracture at the base of his skull.

Oliver’s Death Certificate

The inquest, which was held at Morley Town Hall on 10 October, returned a verdict of “Accidentally killed by being knocked down by a motor car whilst trying to cross the road”.
Willie Sugden was exonerated of all blame and his licence returned. After the inquest the car occupants once again went to Oliver’s home to offer the family financial assistance.

On 11 October Oliver was buried alongside his brother William at St Michael’s, East Ardsley. The grave is unmarked. Below is the receipt for Oliver’s burial – £1 3s. It is to be hoped that the financial assistance proffered by the Keighley men at least covered the medical and funeral costs.

Interment Receipt Burial Receipt

The thing which comes across above all else in the otherwise factual inquest reports is Jonathan’s utter grief, shock, bewilderment and raw emotion. This is clear from just one phrase at the inquest, held less than two days after his son’s death, when he said he “was too much troubled to remember whether anything was said by the man who carried him [Oliver] home”.

The other point is the discrepancies in the newspaper reports, the need to analyse them carefully and, if at all possible, compare a number of sources (including as many newspapers as available).

Sources:

  • Batley Reporter – 14 October 1910
  • Death Certificate – Oliver Rhodes
  • Marriage Certificate – Jonathan Rhodes & Edith Aveyard
  • Morley Observer – 14 October 1910
  • Ordnance Survey Map of Morley (published 1908) – re-published by Alan Godfrey. Also on the National Library of Scotland website http://maps.nls.uk/
  • St Michael’s Parish Church, East Ardsley – baptism and burial registers. Available now on Ancestry UK http://home.ancestry.co.uk/
  • St Michael’s Parish Church, East Ardsley – burial receipt

[1] Jonathan was the son of Elizabeth Hallas, sister of Violet Jennings. Elizabeth was born a few months before Ann Hallas and Herod Jennings married.
[2] Eldest child Alice was baptised at Woodkirk Parish Church. Pauline’s baptism took place at St Michael’s in July 1907 when she was two. An event presumably prompted by the death of her brother the month before.
[3] The Morley Observer is less precise giving the home address as Britannia Road.
[4] It is possible that this location should be Co-operative Road.
[5] A portion of the Bradford and Wakefield main road.
[6] Surveyed in 1889-92, revised in 1906, published 1908.
[7] Witness estimates generally put the time of the accident as 5.40pm.
[8] The combined newspaper reports identified the three passengers as master plasterer Arthur Emmett and his brother; and landlord of the Stocksbridge Hotel, Keighley, Mr W Davey.
[9] From maps and eyewitness accounts I estimate the accident happened in the area between the Stump Cross Inn and the Cross Keys.
[10] Another report has an alternative spelling, Dr Stephen.

GRO Picture Credit: 

Extract from GRO death register entry for Oliver Rhodes: Image © Crown Copyright and posted in compliance with General Register Office copyright guidance.

Parish Registers: Brick Wall Breakers and Mystery Creators

I can immerse myself for hours in Parish Registers, tracking my ancestors and their communities. They can often lead to research breakthroughs. Conversely they can result in further knotty puzzles. Other than the normal but frustrating non-appearance in a register, or the ones containing multiple difficult to untangle options, here is a brief selection from my family tree.

Brick wall

Brick Wall Breakers
1) The baptism on 7 March 1779 at All Saints, Batley for Benjamin Rynder. This is the brother of my 5x great grandmother, Sarah, and his entry is in a Dade style register. So not only does it provide his birth date, his parent’s names and residence and father’s occupation, it also provides his grandparent’s names. It makes tracing the family back a whole lot easier. It also helps with linking to similarly Dade-style recorded siblings and cousins. Sarah’s baptism in 1777 does not contain this level of detail. Maternal Line

2)  All Hallows Kirkburton Burial Register gave a cause of death for my 4x great grandfather George’s sister, Esther Hallas. The entry on 13 July 1817 states a cause of death: “Killed by Lightning”. This entry led to further research breakthroughs feeding into Esther’s story, my first blog post.[1] Maternal Line

3) Robert Hudson, the brother of my 4x great grandfather David. His St Michael’s East Ardsley burial entry of 1 November 1831 gives a cause of death “Hung himself in the Coal Pit Cabin”. In following this up I unearthed a rather unsavoury tale which I will return to in the autumn. Maternal Line

4) The burial of George Hallas, my 4x great grandfather, solved the mystery of his father. I had, until this point, a number of possible options. George died aged 69. Nevertheless his burial entry on 12 May 1864 in the Mirfield St Mary’s burial register provided his father’s name, Amos. This information enabled me to go back two further generations. Maternal Line

5) This could easily have fallen into the “Mystery Creator” category. According to his birth certificate John Callaghan, my grandfather, was born on 16 June 1895. However, the transcript of the County Mayo Kilmovee baptism[2] register states his baptism took place on 30 May 1895 in Glan Chapel. One possible explanation is the family could not get to Castlebar to register the birth within the prescribed time-limits, so were creative with his date of birth to avoid a fine. He used to claim he had two birthdays – so this corroborates the tale. Maternal Line

Mystery Creators
6) My great grandmother’s first daughter was born in 1893 out of wedlock. The Parish Register of St Mary of the Angels, Batley has a bizarre entry which indicates otherwise. According to this daughter’s baptismal entry my great grandmother was married to Charles Regan. I have traced no record of this “phantom” marriage, or of Charles Regan. My great grandmother’s eventual Registry Office 1897 marriage certificate indicates she was a spinster. So was Charles her daughter’s real father? Paternal Line (I have anonymised this as it is comparatively recent).

7) The mystifying John Loftus. Another one from Ireland, this time from the County Mayo Kilbeagh Parish baptisms. The entry clearly indicates the baptism on 3 October 1869 of a son, John (Joannes), to John Loftus and Ann Barrett. John and Ann are my 2x great grandparents. I have been unable to trace a birth certificate for their son John. What I have discovered is the birth certificate for a daughter, Ellen, born on 30 September 1869. So have I a missing child of John Loftus and Ann Barrett, or is entry a red herring? Paternal Line

8) Sushanna Hill, my 4x great grandfather’s sister has a perplexing baptism entry in the wonderful Dade-style Sherburn in Elmet Parish Register. Usually Dade Registers are an absolute genealogical god-send. This one has led to a brick wall. Sushanna is the first-born child of Francis and Sarah Hill, so the Dade entry provides a wealth of family history information. The entry for Sushanna reads:

“1st Daughter of Francis of Sherburn, taylor. Son of Francis of Sherburn, wheel carpenter by Esther his wife, daughter of John Simpson of Brayton, yeoman. Mother – Sarah, daughter of Philip Gibson of Little Fenton, farmer, by Sushanna his wife daughter of [blank]. Born Monday 29th August 1785 and baptised the same day”.

I cannot find concrete evidence to support Francis’ parentage as recorded in the entry. As a result I have been unable to trace this line any further back. I have a suspicion that it is a false lead. I think I do know Francis’ parentage. This is one of the nuts I am hoping genealogical DNA tests will ultimately crack. Paternal Line

9) William Hill’s baptism at St Mary’s, Whitkirk on 14 July 1816 is another strange one. William is the brother of my 3x great grandfather. Joseph. According to the Parish Register he is the illegitimate son of Grace Pennington. No mention of “Hill” in the entry whatsoever. In fact Grace Pennington married Francis Hill by licence in that Parish in September 1811. There is however a footnote at the bottom of the page as follows:

“It was discovered when this child was brought to church September 1st having been privately baptized July 14th that this was an erroneous entry, Grace Pennington being lawfully married, and that the entry should have been William son of Francis & Grace Hill, Halton, Butcher. Signed this second of September 1816”

Signatories were the vicar and “Francis Hill, the father of the said child”. I would love to know the story behind this error and its subsequent discovery.[3] Paternal Line

10) My 4x great grandmother Zilla(h)[4] Rhodes, baptised at All Saints, Batley on 29 September 1780. The Dade Register does not help as she is described as a bastard. Neither are there any details provided of her mother Sarah’s parentage. From further entries in the register it appears Sarah went onto have another illegitimate daughter, Mary, in 1784. There are also possibly a further two illegitimate daughters in the 1790s. In turn Zillah had three, possibly four, illegitimate children. So far I have been unable to trace any further details, including through using Poor Law or Bastardy records, because of the paucity of surviving material. But to have so many illegitimate children does seem a tad unusual. Maternal line

Confused

Image from Pixabay.com

There are many other examples, but this is my starter for ten. 

Sources:

  • All Hallows, Kirkburton – Burials
  • All Saints, Batley – Baptisms
  • All Saints, Sherburn in Elmet – Baptisms
  • National Library of Ireland Catholic Parish Registers – Kilbeagh Parish baptisms, Microfilm 04224 / 17 http://registers.nli.ie/
  • Pixabay.com: https://pixabay.com/
  • St Mary of the Angels, Batley – Baptisms
  • St Mary’s, Mirfield – Burials
  • St Mary’s, Whitkirk – Baptisms
  • St Michael’s, East Ardsley – Burials
  • Transcript of the Kilmovee Baptisms from the former East Mayo.org website

[1] See my first blog post, “Death by Lightning”
[2] This is too late a date for the National Library of Ireland Parish Registers website. Some time ago there was a fantastic East Mayo website which had transcripts of the parish registers. Sadly this has long since gone. But it can be found using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine
[3] William and Francis feature in my blog post entitled “Attempted Murder in Halton? The Perverse Joy of Old Newspapers”
[4] Syllah in the baptism entry

Copyright

© Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.