X marks the spot

Prime Minister from Liverpool to May

I have featured this coin before. These pictures were the first I took with a new lens that acts as a short range telephoto (90 mm) and macro, or close-up. But what was going on when it was minted two centuries ago?

As mentioned in my blog about the year without a summer, 1816, the country was suffering. Wages were in decline, harvests failing, the price of grain rising and with it the cost of daily bread. There remained a surplus of labour following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Continue reading “X marks the spot”

Publicans & Beer Sellers

Revised to inlclude download link.

This is a bit of hard core local history research, but it might be the sort of project that appeals to other family historians with heritage to do with pubs and beer houses.

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Prince of Wales, Watling Street, Brownhills.

For several years I have been building a dataset of public houses, inns and beerhouses, with particular focus on their proprietors, managers and keepers.  I have focused on the areas inhabited by those ancestors who lived near to my home, that is mainly Brownhills and Chasetown.  I have been in many of them at one time or another, those that were still open in my adult life.  Some were run at one time by Andrew’s Kindred – the “Pub Dennises“, some were, doubtless, frequented by others, and some grew up there.

You are welcome to download, share and add more information.

Continue reading “Publicans & Beer Sellers”

1939 and all that

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Rear view of 43 Chapel Street, Brownhills, by Joan Jackson.

A while back I looked at my father’s family as war approached – also 1939 and all that.  Now I visit my mother’s family, name of Brown, who lived at 41 Chapel Street.  Number 41 is the house beyond the hedge on the right of the painting.  The artist was Joan Jackson, who lived later at 43 with her husband Les.  Number 41 was where I spent the first year of my life and where my mother grew up.

I pointed out that searching the 1939 Register, online via Findmypast, can be a frustrating exercise, as the records of many people who are long dead remain locked because they have not been updated to anything like the present.  This time it would be more difficult.  I would have to break in by the back door.

Continue reading “1939 and all that”

Esme and the Nasty Twisty Bridge

Burntwood Road Bridge. Ordnance Survey 1938 survey. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

Esme Cynthia Dennis was a cousin I didn’t know I had. She was my second cousin once removed, one of the Pub Dennises – her father and his father ran the Royal Oak, Chasetown, which is why I had no idea of her existence.  Anyway, Esme was a posh name, to be encountered in plays or books about posh people, such as those lampooned by P G Wodehouse (Jeeves and Wooster).

Burntwood Road Bridge, to use the proper name, was dubbed the “Nasty Twisty Bridge” by my uncle Frank. It was a hazardous S-bend, where an important local commuter road, connecting Brownhills to Burntwood, crossed the canal. It was always a marvel that so few accidents occurred there.  Buses would knock chunks out of the brick parapets and there are still fallen bricks on the bottom of the canal. The high parapets obscured any forward vision for car drivers, who approached the bridge blind.

Continue reading “Esme and the Nasty Twisty Bridge”

Hard Times At The Collieries

I found an article in the local press, one among many about parents not sending their children regularly to school, which resonated in two ways.  Most recently the debate about parents who take their children out of school for holidays, and maybe the reason from around 1875-80, why some of Andrew’s Kindred migrated to Derbyshire to find work.

Continue reading “Hard Times At The Collieries”

Who was the father?

Any genealogist or family historian who has researched more than two or three generations will almost certainly have found someone whose father does not appear on the entry of birth or baptism record.  In many cases there is not real clue as to the identity of the father and dubious speculation is all that will ever be available.

However, sometimes there is a clue.  In the case of my grandmother, “Nan”, this was in the form of unsupported family lore.  Much later, though, Nan’s mother and alleged father married, which adds some force to the argument – see Mystery number one: Nan (part 3).

The identity of the unnamed father is sometimes hinted at on official entries of death, and there are two examples in my tree that I have found.

Continue reading “Who was the father?”

Three shillings, five farthings


Paying the rent, obverse.

Here is an article that tells something very specific about one of Andrew’s Kindred:  precisely where he lived, and how much rent he paid.  Reverse sides below.



TO be SOLD by AUCTION, by Mr. HENRY FARRINGTON, at the NEW INN, PARK STREET, WALSALL, on Tuesday, the 19th. day of May, 1857, at six o’clock in the evening, subject to conditions; all those ten HOUSES, commonly called “Webb’s Row,” with the ten Brewhouses and other Outbuildings, and Gardens thereunto belonging, situate at Brownhills, in the parish of Hammerwich, near to the Anglesey Arms, and now occupied by Mssrs. Hill, Halford, Luke, Dennis, Hopery, Robinson, Orgill, Bellamore, Wright and Day.
      The property contains, with the site of the buildings, nearly 5,000 square yards, is in the neighbourhood of Brownhills and Cannock Chase Collieries, where houses are in great demand, and affords room for the erection of twenty additional houses without overcrowding.
      There is a large soft water cistern, and a well of good water, for the joint use of the tenants.
      The Houses are new and substantially built, and produce low rentals £80 12s. per annum.
      The tenants pay all rates, which are, however, very low.
      For further particulars, apply to the AUCTIONEER, or to Mr. WILKINSON, Solicitor, Walsall.

The occupier Mr Dennis was my second great grandfather’s older brother, William (1805-1877).

Webb’s Row, stood on what is now Castle Street, sometme past The Fault.

Webb’s Row, Hammerwich, Staffordshire. Ordnance Survey 1882-83 survey. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

The land edged blue was subject of the auction.  The three ringed features are Webb’s Row, the well, and the Anglesey Arms Inn.  The P.H. on the corner was the Queen’s Head.  The additional twenty houses had not been built some 24 years on.  Webb’s Row was demolished in about 1967.

From the 1861 census, nearest to the Queen’s Head was not Day, but Dye, so it appears William Dennis lived in the seventh house going north.  William was still there in 1858, but by 1861 had moved round the corner to Watling Street.

The rent was £80 12s. per year for the ten houses, that is £8 1s. 2½d. each, at 3s. 1¼d. per week (three shillings, five farthings).

Three shillings, five farthings. Made up of a half crown (1882), threepenny pieces (1896 & 1864), farthing (1950) and one penny (1862).


Although these are not contemporary, four are Victorian and the older ones might possibly have found their way into William’s pocket at some time or another.

Finding out how much a coal miner like William was paid is difficult.  This is partly because the rate of pay varied with age, time, company and colliery.  A study of the living standards of Tyneside coal miners, 1836-1862 (1) demonstrates this.

Solomon found that, although there were fluctuations over time, the wages for hewers in 1836 and 1862 were broadly the same, averaging 351 and 346 pence per fortnight (about 8s. 9d. per week).  However, there was a range from about 200 – 500 pence (Graph 2, p50).

Another finding was that wages varied in inverse proportion to the number of hewers available in the workforce (Graph 5, p53).  This is a matter of simple economics, but at least someone has taken the time to crunch the numbers.

Graph 10 (p65) plots the national average wage for hewers and this gives a figure of about 530 pence per fortnight, about 22s. per week.  If William earned at this level, the rent would be about 14% of his weekly pay.  However, other family members were bringing in some money:  daughter Mary (27) was a dressmaker and son John (13) was a coal miner.  There were three younger children.

As it turned out the rent could not have been too great a burden as, when he died, William owned two cottages on Watling Street – see Auction and Transition.

(1)  Solomon, Samuel Guy, 2014, The living standards of Tyneside coal miners, 1836-1862, University of York (MSc dissertation).