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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
FREEHOLD HOUSES AND BUILDING LAND at BROWNHILLS
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.
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).
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.
When I found this news clipping about Thomas Onion, I thought he must be related, but the connection was not as straightforward as I had hoped. Once again this would take me back to country lanes in southern Staffordshire that I had travelled many times.
Historically, the area is famous for supporting the Catholic monarchy, helping King Charles II to flee the country after defeat at the battle of Worcester in 1851, the final substantial act of the English Civil War. As as child I was taken to Boscobel House to learn about King Charles and the Royal Oak, the inspiration for many pubs named the Royal Oak. This local quirk would make things difficult.
The key bits of information for the genealogist are that he was born about 1878 and lived at Bishops Wood. It was a simple matter to find Thomas in the 1911 census at Bishops Wood, age 33, road labourer, born Stretton, with his mother, Ann Maria, 75, widow, born Wolverhampton.
Ten years earlier Thomas was at a hamlet named Horsebrook, where Thomas was a “roadman labourer”, living with mother. This was near to the Bell Inn, a landmark on the south side of Watling Street (A5). I have passed this pub so many times! According to the gable it now incorporates “THE NOTED HAM ‘N’ EGGERY”.
It seemed clear that this was the Thomas featured in the news article, but how did he fit in?
Two year old Thomas was at Aqueduct, Horsebrook in 1881 (this was the only household at Aqueduct), together with father Charles, born about 1832. Sadly, I was unable to find a baptism, and that issue would dog this investigation. Carrying on with censuses I found various siblings and parents, Edward Onion, born about 1806 and Jane. In 1841 nine year old Charles was with family at Great Saredon, and I wondered if that was where he was born.
These days most people dash through the hamlet along the Watling Street at 50 mph or more, ignoring the SLOW painted on a ramrod-straight road (it was built for the Romans), but if you take the trouble to turn off you enter a network of narrow, hedge-lined lanes that wend through undulating fields, and sporadic farm buildings. On either side you find young, green cereal crops, or garish rape, or neatly ploughed red-brown fields awaiting their destiny. Here and there are small wooded areas, copses and spinneys, for game birds to take cover. If you are lucky you may spot a pheasant or partridge. To the west along the A5 is the aqueduct carrying the Birmingham and Liverpool Canal (now the Shropshire Union Canal), built by Thomas Telford in 1832. This is the only aqueduct in the area, so they must have lived close by.
The difficulty with baptism records is linked to the history of the local landowners, the Giffards of Chillington Hall, who for generations, remained steadfastly Catholic, somehow surviving the upheavals and brutality of Tudor and Stewart times. They allowed use of the family chapel for church offices. Between 1787 and 1844 such offices were carried out at another of their properties, Black Ladies, originally a Benedictine priory, in the chapel dedicated to St Mary the Virgin.
Oddly, FamilySearch throws up just one Onion (and no Onions) baptism at Brewood in that period: Oliver Onion, 20 Jun 1831, son of Thomas Onion and Sarah. I already had Oliver in my tree. He was the brother of second great grandmother Maria Onion, who married William Greatrex, my Darwinesque ancestor. This Thomas Onion was born about 1808 and I suspect that he was brother of Edward, but the absence of baptism records prevents this conclusion.
But there is another link. Maria’s brother Thomas married Mary Onion, respectively son and daughter of Thomas (1808) and Edward (1806), so they would be first cousins; unconventional, but not illegal.
What I had missed was the requirement to legalise marriage through a ceremony in an Anglican church, and I am indebted to Ciderdrinker via Rootschat for reminding me.
I also found online Susie’s Tree, which develops the Onion tree further. The acknowledged absence of citations, however, discouraged me from copying without testing things out. In my view, there are far too many trees on Ancestry where it is obvious that the owner has blindly copied someone else, without any attempt at verification. Some even manage to copy impossibilities such as parents who are long-deceased, or as yet unborn.
On Ancestry is a private tree owned by sarahking01, which includes Thomas Onion born 1781 and refers to an image of the Black Ladies register. I have sent a message, but have yet to receive a reply.
Even without seeing this, I am happy to proceed on the basis that three other people have looked at this and reached the same conclusions. The full dates of baptism on Susie’s Tree are another indicator that these really are from the records.
So, Thomas the road mender was some kind of distant cousin. Does that matter? Of course not, it is just idle curiosity. It appears that Thomas had no children, so there are no contemporary cousins with whom to compare notes. My Onions were labouring folk, working at hard, strenuous tasks for long hours with little pay (though the Council probably paid better than the old, Georgian farmers). In Thomas Onions’ early days in the seventeen eighties almost everything on the farm would have been done by hand, plough and sow and reap and mow, sometimes with the assistance of horses or oxen. By the time his grandchildren came along many tasks about the farm would have been mechanised, with continuous advancement in the replacement of manual labour by machines. The house Thomas grew up in would have had a thatched roof and an earth floor; dingy, draughty and damp, with scarce winter fuel. I imagine something like February Fill Dyke, by Benjamin Williams Leader (1881). I’ve had a print of this above my sideboard for several years.
Every so often some new snippet comes along that adds one more stitch to the tapestry of the family history. William Dennis (1805 – 1877), was my third great uncle, being brother of second great grandfather Henry.
OGLEY HAY, NEAR WALSALL
FREEHOLD COTTAGE PROPERTY,
TO BE SOLD BY AUCTION, BY
MR CHAS GILLARD, on MONDAY, the 16th of FEBRUARY, 1880, (by order of the Trustee of William Dennies, deceased), at the Chase Inn, Newtown, subject to conditions to be then stated, at six o’clock in the evening, TWO FREEHOLD COTTAGE DWELLING HOUSES adjoining each other, with brewhouses, Piggeries and other Appurtenances, together with the GARDEN GROUND at the rear of the same, upon which there is an excellent well of water, situate on the Watling Street Road, at Ogley Hay, opposite to Fox’s Row, now in the occupation of Dye & Perry,and containing about 26 ½ p.
For further particulars, apply to the Auctioneer, or to
Messrs. S. & H. S. CHINN
Solicitors, the Close, Lichfield.
This news article indicates that William owned some property. From the Probate Calendar the sole executor or trustee was Thomas Martin of Dove House Fields, Lichfield, bootmaker. William is named as Dennis otherwise Dennies, which ties in with the above notice, whose effects were under £100. William died in 1877, but this must be his estate as there appears to be no other William Dennis who died at the right time and place. The timing follows wife Elizabeth’s death in Spring 1879.
The 1881 census records a Richard Perry in about the right place with next record a Job Benton, greengrocer.
26 ½ poles equates to 0.165 acres, or about 798 square yards (668 square metres).
On the map below the Inn is the Anglesey Arms. Adjoining to the east is Fox’s Row. The road running east-west is Watling Street (A5). The property advertised was described as opposite Fox’s Row and having a well, which narrows down the location to that outlined in red.
Ordnance Survey 1962 Draft, from an image supplied by BrownhillsBob. The central part of the area shown on the 1883 map above.
On the map above, the Anglesey Arms is named and Fox’s Row remained. Opposite the east end of the row is a large stand-alone building which had been a grocery store run by Jonah Deakin Snr. and wife Jane from about 1900. By this time I think it was operated by George Mason. So that is what became of the land my third great uncle owned.
According to Kelly’s Directory of Staffordshire 1880, the licensee at the time was Mrs George Bradbury. In the 1881 census, Clara Bradbury, widow, publican. According to the Lichfield Mercury, 16 Aug 1878, at the Shenstone Petty Sessions “temporary authority was granted to Mrs Clara Bradbury, wife of the lately deceased George Bradbury, to carry on the Chasetown (sic) Inn”.
Recap from last time. This is a transcript, with analysis, of handwritten notes by my mother, Barbara Dennis, in about 1972. Again, mother’s words in italics.
Grandad also made a lot of wine: potato, parsnip, elderberry, dandelion, coltsfoot. I remember helping him gathering bags and bags of flowers and also yarrow growing on the pit mounds and on the common.
I like to make wine, though I stick mainly to blackberry with a bramley apple and a few home-grown black currants thrown in for a mellower flavour. Sometimes I use kits like Wilkinson’s cabernet sauvignon. I wonder if there is some genetic link or whether just knowing of the possibility led me to try. I remember from childhood that mother, as well as her mother’s recipe book – she was a cook at a large house in her days of service – had Daniel’s wine recipe book, but I have no idea where either went after she died back in 1982. I reckon publication of a genuine Edwardian recipe book would be quite lucrative if released in the run up to Christmas.
In 1937 he married Louisa Mycock on February 11 at Walsall Wood Church age 72 years. He went to live at 27 Brooklands Road. Mrs Mycock already owned this house, a double fronted house. One downstairs room was used as a fish and chip shop. He still carried on digging the allotment at Stonnall in Cartersfield Lane [and] also dug and planted at rear of home; kept pigs and fowl. Later he was a gravedigger at the cemetery which was nearly opposite 27 Brooklands Road.
The entry of marriage confirms. I remember mother telling me that she was put to work peeling potatoes for the chip shop and was rewarded with a portion of chips. David Oakley recalls the chip shop. Thanks for your comment, David.
Lived at Brook Cottage, Hilton?
Yes. He was there in the 1911 Census.
Gertrude Carter was 11 years old when they went to live at Leigh Cottage, Stonnall. Mrs Mycock lived at the school house which was at the other end of the road.
A mental map showing Leigh Cottage in Stonnall. The road top right (heading north) is Wall Heath Lane. Also the Ordnance Survey mapping, surveyed 1921, for comparison; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.
Daniel Carter was also a newsagent besides digging his large garden and allotment and full time job and papers had to be delivered to quite a large area – from the top of Castle Hill to the top of Shire Oak, down Sandhills to Barracks Lane, including Lynn Lane and Upper Stonnall. Gertrude Carter did deliver quite a lot of these for her father. This was during the war when there was a shortage of younger men.
This was during the First World War. Gertrude would have been 11 years old in 1913-14, when they moved to Leigh Cottage; they were still there in 1926 when Daniel’s mother died. When Gertrude was married in 1928 she was living at Watling Street, Brownhills: this could have been 123 or 47 Watling Street, where Gertie and Bill were living in 1939 and 1944. Later they lived at 45 Chapel Street, where I remember visiting as a child on the way home from school.
He left Walsall Wood when his wife died and went to live at 45 Chapel Street. 27 Brooklands Road was sold and the money divided Mrs Mycock’s nine children (see will). He lived at 45 Chapel Street for 5 years. He died there in August 1950.
He did indeed die at 45 Chapel Street in 1950. I have a copy of the will – Daniel did not benefit and I recall mother saying this caused a certain amount of ill-feeling.
Mrs Joan Jackson remembers that he always used to say ‘[if] I can hear Brownhills clock striking it is going to rain; the wind is in the right direction’.
This is nonsense. I don’t say Daniel never said this, but I have studied meteorology, and the prevailing winds that bring rain blow in from the Atlantic Ocean, generally from the south west or west, which would carry the sound of the bell away. Southerly winds, that would carry the sound of the bell, cross western Europe and sometimes north Africa, and tend to bring dry weather.
Daniel was evidently an interesting man, someone I would like to invite to that imaginary dinner party, along with other long dead people like John Harrison (Longitude), Harold Lloyd, Dorothy Paterson (pioneering nurse), and Queen Boudica, with Professor Michael Wood to translate. Would they get on? Imagine Boudica trying to get her head around Harold on that high rise building site! Hmmm …