Howdles Lane and The Marquis

When I registered ownership of my house I received the deeds (which ceased to have any legal status), a bundle of documents setting out the history of land ownership, including leases, and I decided to find out something about the people named.

this conveyance
Conveyance of Number 28 from the builder, John William Cresswell, to my father on 26 July 1960.  The Marquis and George Howdle appear in the last two lines.

Some background has already been written by yours truly and published about old roads in the area by Brownhills Bob at: and;

Alternatively you can download this PDF file:

Old Roads

In brief, my house was 28 Howdles Lane.  An ordinary three-bed semi, it was completed in 1960, when my parents acquired it.  Eventually, it came into my ownership and I have recently sold it (June 2017).  The history of the place, as for all other places, is much older.

Along the western edge of the land was a hedge and ditch boundary, the boundary between the parishes of Norton Canes, to the west, and Hammerwich.  At the north west corner was a large fallen meer stone or boundary marker.  (Think standing meerkat in a box).  This was also the ancient manorial boundary.  Beyond the hedge, mainly hawthorn with some elder, was a field where horses grazed. The field beyond the hedge was developed in about 1967, becoming Knaves Castle Avenue. The brook was culverted through the new development and the ditch filled in by owners subsequently. The boundary stone was broken up by the builders.

Marquis of Anglesey

The earliest owner mentioned in the deeds is The Most Honorable Henry William George Marquis of Anglesey who leased other property nearby to George Howdle for 99 years from 5 April 1877 at £30 per year, including land on the east side of the Lane.

HWG was the third Marquis (lived 1812 – 1880). He benefited from coal mining on and under his land, which began in 1849 when the Hammerwich pit was opened for the first Marquis (lived 1748-1854) beneath the dam at Chasewater. This was formally the Hammerwich Pit, but was also known as The Marquis, and later Cannock Chase Colliery No. 1. In 1852 a new pit was opened:  Cannock Chase Number 2 pit, aka The Uxbridge (HWG was also Earl of Uxbridge) or The Fly to reflect the high speed of the winding gear. This new employment was undoubtedly the reason my Dennis ancestors came to the area.

In 1873, the Marquis, resident at Beaudesert, owned 14,344 acres, 0 roods, 11 poles, annual gross rent £88,719 10s.1

A detailed biography of the Marquis here.

Imperial measurements: 1 rod (or rood), pole or perch = 5.5 yards, 1 square pole = 30.35 square yards, 40 square poles = 1 rood, and 4 roods = 1 acre. Therefore 160 square poles = 1 acre.  One acre also = 1 furlong (220 yards) x 1 chain (22 yards), or 4,840 square yards.

Metric:  1 Hectare = 2.4711 acres. 1 square metre = 10.76 square feet.

Hammerwich Colliery

The first pit of what would become the Cannock Chase Colliery Company was below the Chasewater Dam.

Birmingham Journal 30 November 1850, p5, col1.



THIS COLLIERY IS NOW OPEN, and a Branch of the Birmingham Canal is brought up to the Pits, and there are good roads to Lichfield and the Neighbourhood.

Boats will be loaded without delay with the best House Coals and Coals adapted for Trade and Manufacturing purposes, on the most reasonable terms.

For information, apply to Mr. F. Higgins, at the Hayes Colliery, Rugeley; or at the Hammerwich Colliery.

This indicates that the colliery was recently opened, at about the same time as the Anglesey Branch Canal. The blue plaque beside the canal indicates the mine was opened in 1849, which is consistent.

marquis pit blue plaque
Site of “The Marquis” beside the end of the Anglesey Branch Canal at Chasewater.

There is more about this mine, including a plan, and the reason for closure, on Brownhills Bob, but search as I might, I have been unable to locate it.

At the time of the 1851 census Henry William Marquis of Anglesea, 82, was living at 1 Old Burlington Street, Uxbridge House, Westminster.  His occupation was Field Marshal and Master … [I can’t make out the rest], see below.  He was born at Bloomsbury, London.  Also present were Charlotte, Marchioness; son Lord Clarence Paget, Captain Royal Navy; a surgeon, housekeeper, ladies (sic) maid, 5 housemaids, still room maid, baker, scullery maid, 3 laundry maids, house steward, cook, groom of chambers, valet, under butler, porter, footman, usher of the hall, coal carrier, and [son’s] valet.

field marshal
Field Marshall and Master … [of what?].
According to the Probate Calendar, the personal estate of the Earl of Uxbridge, as it says he was commonly known, was “under £60,000 in the United Kingdom”.

To be continued …, England, Return of Owners of Land, 1873, Stafford, p2.



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”

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?”

Undecimus dio Septembris

Back in January Canada’s Anglo-Celtic Connections alerted to new Derbyshire Methodist records being published by Findmypast (FMP).  This is a useful website that acts as a signpost to new records and upcoming events.  As it turned out the new records added nothing to my tree, but there was tip-off about Leicestershire records and this is proving more fruitful with respect to my ancestry from Breedon on the Hill.

An intriguing record was grant of administration over the estate of a Maria Dennis to Ann Dennis in September 1649.  But it was in Latin and I was unable to read most of the words, let alone translate them.  I asked FMP if a transcription and translation could be found, but they were unable to help.  Once again Rootschat to the rescue, in particular the page for enquiries about Handwriting Deciphering & Recognition.  I am indebted to Bookbox for a full translation:

On the eleventh day of September in the year of the Lord 1649, before the aforesaid surrogate, the will was proved of Mary Dennis, deceased, lately whilst living of Breedon in the aforesaid archdeaconry, and the burden of execution of the same will was granted, and also the administration etc., to Ann[e] Dennis, the natural and lawful daughter of the said deceased and the executrix named in the aforesaid will, she first being sworn etc., saving etc.

(Value of Inventory) £29 9s. 8d.

So, I was looking for Ann Dennis the daughter of Maria or Mary of Breedon.  Whether or not Maria was married her natural daughter would have been born Dennis and sure to be unmarried by 11 Sep 1649.

Among the records available online through FMP, Familysearch and FreeREG, which are becoming quite comprehensive, there is only one baptism for an Ann Dennis at anything like the right time and place:  Ann Daughter of William Dennis of Breedon baptised the sixth of Aprill.

I already had this Ann in my tree.  Her father William Dennis was my 9th great grandfather.  There were several baptisms with father William at the right times, but no hint of a mother’s name.  If my thinking is right, the late Maria (or Mary) must have been William’s wife, indeed his widow, otherwise William would have ownership of any of his wife’s belongings.  William’s first child, also Mary, was baptised 23 Aug 1612 at Breedon.

So was there a wedding of William Dennis to Mary or Maria at about the right time and place?  No.  Well, at least I’ve not found a record.  The status of Maria is not given, so whether she was widow or spinster is unclear.  The burial of the only William Dennis that appears relevant in 1647 would at least fit with Mary being widowed and making a will later.

There is another hitch.  Although it seems there was only one William Dennis having children baptised in Breedon at about that time, two girls named Mary were baptised at Breedon in 1612 and 1615 with father William Dennis.  Ordinarily, if they were sisters I would expect to find a burial for the first Mary in 1612-1615, but, having scrolled through the register I cannot see such a burial.  Except …

Is this Mary the daughter of William Dennis buried 16 Jan 1613?

To my eye it reads “Mary the daughter of William …”.  If I am right (on the balance of probability) and the father really is William Dennis, then it all hangs together.

Kin of William Dennis (1580-1647), Breedon on the Hill – my 9th great grandfather.


A Tettenhall Wedding

My hope here is that names can be put to more of the faces.  The event is the wedding of Norman Grace to Lilian Hill (formally Edith Lilian) on 2 August 1937 at Tettenhall Wood Parish Church, Wolverhampton.  On the second image I have numbered the people for ease of reference.  So, if you can add names to faces, please reply.  Sadly, I don’t have a higher resolution image.



Nos. 25 & 26 are Norman Grace and Lilian (Hill).

The ones I know or have been told about are:  1 Derrick Arthur Dennis (my father), 63 Samuel Dennis (Derrick’s father), 47 Harriet Jane “Nan” Dennis (nee Evans) (Derrick’s mother), 29 Mary Ann Hill (nee Evans, Harriet’s aunt), 30 Francis Fowler (Mary Ann’s sister), 32 Albert Fowler (Francis’ husband), 50 Francis Ward (nee Shadbolt), 52 Bernard Fowler, 53 Gerald Fowler, 59 Lionel Fowler, 68 Sidney Cox, 2 Howard Ward, 5 Sam Ward.

Other thoughts.

23 Lilian’s sister?

John and Ruth Giles (nee Evans, Harriet’s aunt) ought to be there (48?).

Oh Eliza!

Over the years I have managed to connect very nearly all people named Dennis or Dennies, born, baptised or resident in Oakthorpe, Donisthorpe, Measham, Moira and Bagworth, with some from Church Gresley and other nearby places, in south east Derbyshire and north west Leicestershire, so when someone crops up I am keen to find out where they fit.

I seem to have the habit of finding things while looking for something else. Findmypast have added some non-conformist records for Derbyshire and I thought I would see if it adds anything to my exploration of Andrew’s Kindred. So far it has not, but it did lead me to look at the newspaper archive, where I found an article about an Eliza Dennies who had stolen a collar. I think this was probably a muslin-backed lace collar.

Ram Inn, Ibstock. Via Geograph, copyright: the bitterman.

What the papers say

The Leicester Mercury 27 Jul 1844 reported that Eliza Dennis, Bagworth, was committed for trial, charged with stealing a muslin-laced collar, property of Harriette Tunstall.

The Belper News 10 Aug 1844 reported that Eliza had pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one month’s hard labour.

On the same date the Leicester Mercury, reported on the Leicestershire Midsummer Assizes of Mon 5 Aug, before Lord Chief Justice Denman. It said that Eliza Dennis, 14, was charged with stealing a muslin-lined collar on 13th July at Ibstock. She was sentenced to one calendar month’s hard labour, two weeks of which solitary.


I have so far been unable to find out anything about John Tunley or Harriet Tunstall, but I did already have Eliza in my tree. She was baptised at Measham on 8 Aug 1830, daughter of Thomas and Ann (whose maiden name I have yet to discover; some say Hinks, but that must be different family). Our common ancestor was Eliza’s grandfather Henry Dennis, born 1718, Measham.

Imagine: a 14 year old young woman – she would not have been seen as a girl at that time – in solitary confinement! What impact would this have on her young life? There are several papers online that deal with the physical and psychological impacts of solitary confinement, though I think these are to do with considerably longer spells than two weeks. Nonetheless, it would be a stiff ordeal for a teenager and would probably just further entrench any resentment for authority that she already had.

What happened to Eliza after that is a complete mystery: she seems to have disappeared without trace! In 1844 an Eliza Dennies was buried, but she was born in 1843. In 1848 an Eliza Dennis married someone, presumably one of the four men on the same page: Joseph Blount, James Davys, Joseph Knight, John Proudman; but the 1851 census and index of deaths both draw blanks. One tree owner has Whetton and, indeed, an Eliza Whetton of the right age appears in the 1851 census, but that Mr Whetton’s bride was Eliza Plummer. I have not found a record of emigration, voluntary or otherwise.

A mystery it remains …

1939 and all that: PS

This is a postscript to 1939 and all that.  A visit to Grandad’s house, which stood, and still stands, at the corner of Castle Street and Watling Street, Brownhills, West Midlands.

“The Crest” today.  On the left.
The brothers Dennis:  L to R: Derrick (my father), Frank, Walter, Alan, at “The Crest”.

I can’t be sure about when and why this photo was taken, but it would be about the right time.  Uncle Frank had a camera by then and I guess Grandad Sam Dennis is pressing the shutter button.  At the outbreak of war in September 1939 these chaps would be aged (again L to R) 13, 16 , 26, and 21, which looks about right.  It might have been Alan’s 21st birthday, but I doubt anyone really knows.

Given that Grandparents had lived through World War One they might have expected their sons to be called up to some kind of action, with the chance that they might not come back, and it would be natural to take the opportunity.   I am pretty sure that by then Frank had a camera and probably developed the film himself.

As it turned out they were all able to celebrate VE Day and VJ Day unharmed.