One of the joys of the internet is being able to read historical newspapers from the comfort of home. I access these online via Findmypast newspaper collection – as they are included as part of my annual subscription. Completely fascinated by the interesting snippets that can be found.
Recently whilst researching a family tree for a 70th birthday present I came across the following:-
Stamford Mercury 4 November 1864
Eccentric Whim.- A tradesman of Spalding some
days since ordered an upholsterer in this town to make
his coffin, which the owner purposes making use of dur-
ing his life-time as an article of furniture, and when he
“shuffles of this mortal coil” it is to be the receptacle of
his remains. This coffin is now finished, and is of thick
Spanish mahogany, polished, with double lock, and two
shelves inside forming three compartments. Fixed in an
upright position, it will answer the purpose of either cup-
board or wardrobe, and doubtless will be considered by
the owner a very elegant article of furniture. The cost,
we understand, will be about 20 guineas. What next !
In fairness, maybe he had the right idea – good solid wood coffins are expensive and end up in the ground or a pile of ashes in a matter of days…….
The cost of 20 guineas in 1864 is now approx £1,525 for a solid mahogany English style casket with split lid rising to £3,019 for polished mahogany with a domed lid. One of the cheapest coffin options is the Whitby at £457 – which is oak veneered chipboard with rope handles……
Have you decided what you would like? or are you leaving that for the family to decide?
Pleased to be taking part in the Local Focus exhibition at Bromley House Library, Nottingham. The photographs were taken in and around Nottingham by the Libraries Photography Group. The exhibition is open to the public every Wednesday between 2.30pm and 4pm and runs from November 15th through to January 12th.
Why not combine a visit with a tour of the library.
In the group there is a range of photographic experience from beginner through to those having professional experience. This is a non-competitive group which meets on the first Tuesday of each month at 1.30 pm in the Thoroton Room at Bromley House. New members are welcome. For more information contact Eric Butler: photo@bromleyhouse.
My 3 photographs were taken at Nottingham Cemetery.
ROBERT HUMPSTON VC – Originally buried in a paupers grave. The headstone was erected, at Nottingham Cemetery, in 2007 after a fundraising campaign.
Private 2638 Robert Humpston VC – Rifle Brigade
Born: 1832, Derby
Died: 22 December 1884
Robert was just 23 years old when he was awarded the UK’s highest military award, The Victoria Cross. The Victoria Cross was first introduced in 1856 by Queen Victoria during the Crimean War and is awarded for gallantry “in the face of the enemy”.
Extract: Derby Mercury 8 July 1857
Robert Humpston, son of Mr. S. Humpston, once a tobacconist in this town. In December, 1851, he enlisted into the 30th Infantry, being then only 17 years of age; afterwards he volunteered into the 1st Rifle Brigade, who were under orders for the Cape, to take part in the Caffre war. Humpston was not then sent out on account of his extreme youth. On the expectation of the Russian war the 2nd Rifles were ordered for Turkey, when Humpston volunteered into that brigade and was sent to Malta, then to Gallipoli, to Varna, and ultimately to the Crimea, where he landed with the expedition a few days before the battle of Alma. Humpston was one of the 200 Rifle-men who preceded the army at the alma on the left attack, and was one of the earliest to crest the hill on that memorable occasion.
The heat and fatigue endured by Humpston was too much for his strength, and he was seized after the battle with serious illness, and the next day he was found upon the field nearly insensible; he was removed to the hospital at Scutari, and was not able to rejoin his regiment until November, a few days after the battle of Inkermann; but he was then able to take his share of duty to the end of the campaign. It will be seen by the following extract from the Gazette that he was awarded the Victoria Cross:-
Supplement to The London Gazette, Tuesday the 24th of February 1857.
No. 2638 Private Robert Humpston, 2nd Bn, Rifle Brigade.
A Russian Rifle Pit, situated among the rocks overhanging the Woronzoff Road, between the 3rd parallel, Right Attack, and the Quarries ( at that period in the possession of the enemy ) was occupied every night by the Russians, and their Riflemen commanded a portion of the Left Attack, and impeded the work in a new battery then being erected on the extreme right front of the 2nd parallel, Left Attack.
It was carried in daylight on the 22nd of April 1855, by two riflemen, one of whom was Private Humpston; He received a gratuity of £5 and was promoted. The Rifle Pit was subsequently destroyed on further support being obtained.
For the success of this dangerous feat of arms Humpston was awarded five pounds, which to his honour he forwarded to his mother; and on Friday last he received the Victoria Cross from the Queen herself, in Hyde Park on 26th June 1857.
When Robert died he was buried 4 days later in a pauper’s grave. However, a local man, Tony Higton, started a campaign to fundraise for a headstone. This culminated in a ceremony in September 2007.
I am a little confused and further research is needed but I found a small newspaper article to say that Roberts Victoria Cross was loaned to the Derby Corporation Art Gallery – this is a report in 1913. In the article, it mentions that ‘he died on 22nd December 1883, at the age of 52 years, being interred at Nottingham Road.’ This would indicate that he was originally buried in Nottingham Road Cemetery, Derby. So why is there a headstone in Nottingham Cemetery?
In 1940 there is also a short story in the Nottingham Evening Post under the heading, The Wendy Hut, For Valour which is about Robert and Joseph and their conversations and actions which earned them the Victoria Cross. I can only believe that this is a work of fiction based around the facts and personally find it quite disrespectful.
I have a personal interest in the Crimean War as my Great Great Grandfather, Henry Keevill, fought and had clasps for Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman, and Sebastopol.
He survived the war and returned back to the UK. His discharge papers mention that he would be returning home to Wiltshire but he actually started a new life in London as a Porter.
Note: Robert Humpston’s grandson, Arthur Robert Humpston, died on 15 September 1917 at the Battle of Passchendaele.
THINGS AREN’T ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM
Private 28578 Charles Oakley
Notts and Derby Regiment
Born: 1867 Derby
Died: October 1917
Charles Oakley was born in Derby to parents James and Hannah Oakley. However his father James was a lace maker and moved to Nottingham by 1874.
In 1901 Charles is living at 43 Milehill Street, Radford with his wife, Mary Ann and 2 daughters, Florence Ellen aged 5 and Ivy Gladacy* aged 2. Charles is listed as a lacemaker the same profession as his father James.
By 1911 Charles and Mary have 6 daughters with Evelyn Mable*, Beatrice May, Hetty Agness* and Ethel Lottie joining Florence Ellen and Ivy Gladacy.
*The spellings as entered by Charles on the 1911 census.
Charles joined on the 2nd August 1915 aged 39 years and 11 months.
On first reading the headstone it would be natural to assume that Private Charles Oakley died whilst serving. Especially with the epitaph, ‘Peace after Pain’.
However on checking the records Charles Oakley had already been discharged from the Army, with the following reasons being quoted.
Extracts from his medical report (dated 26.4.17)
“Not likely to become efficient. Delusional Insanity.
Origin since puberty.
Not caused but aggravated by xxxxxx mil: service.”
It is clear that serving had made his condition worse and he died just 6 months after being discharged, making the ‘Peace after Pain’ very poignant.
Watching the ceremony at the Menin Gate tonight to commemorate 100 years since the start of one of the bloodiest battles of WW1 brings back emotional memories of my visit to the area in 2002. During my trip to many of the war graves I was privileged to lay five poppy wreaths at the various sites to thank and acknowledge various ancestors who gave up their young lives for our future.
This article is about two of the soldiers I laid wreaths for, John William Whitfield, my late husband’s Great Uncle, and Walter James Keevill, my Great Uncle. They both died during the Battle of Passchendale (Third Battle of Ypres) – John dying on 9th October and Walter on the 10th October 1917. I have no knowledge if they met. They have no known graves and are commemorated with honour at the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing alongside another 35,000 soldiers. Tyne Cot also has 11,961 graves, of which 8,373 contain unidentified soldiers.
The month of July this year has brought a lot of rain, which in my mind is very fitting as our lads had to contend with very wet weather and lots and lots of mud. Please take a moment to read through the war diaries (link below) of the 42nd Battalion (Walter James Keevill) which mentions the weather several times.
JOHN WILLIAM WHITFIELD Private 15182, 10th Battalion Duke of Welligton (West Riding division). Killed in action 9th October, 1917, near Passchendaele aged 26. Remembered with honour on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.
Initially his parents, Thomas and Sarah Whitfield, were informed he was wounded and missing on 9th October 1917.
Heartbreakingly a month later they place a newspaper advert asking for information.
Mr and Mrs T Whitfield, of Linton, inform us that their son, Private John William Whitfield, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, was officially reported wounded in France on October 9th last, and that they have heard no further news of him. If any of his comrades see this announcement and can throw any light on this matter, they would be doing a kindly act if they will communicate with the anxious parents.
In September 1918, nearly a year after he was reported wounded and missing the family receive news that he was officially killed on that date.
War Records – There appears to be some confusion in that although John was in the 10th Battalion, Duke of Wellington (West Riding division), his death certificate states he was in the 8th Battalion.
The 10th Battalion were in the 69th Brigade, 23rd Division. They were not involved in the fighting of 9th October 1917 – The Battle of Poelcapelle (a ‘battle’ within the ‘Battle of Passchendaele’ as the Third Ypres came to be called.
The 8th Battalion were involved that day, as part of the 3nd Brigade, 11th Division.
On Tuesday 9th October 1917 ( a clear day, no rainfall, temperature 53 degrees (F), the 11th Division attacked at 5.20a.m. with one brigade.
With the 6th Green Howards (32 Brigade) and the 9th West Yorkshire Regiment – advancing to the left of the village of Poelkapelle. The Green Howards initially met little resistance in the village but on nearing the fork in the road opposite the Brewery, they came under heavy fire from Meunier House and from the direction of Stirling House. They cleared a number of pillboxes northwest of the Brewery. These could not be held and a line was established a short distance in the rear.
At 11.15 a.m. the 8th Duke of Wellington’s were brought up in close support.
The West Yorks encountered enfilade* fire from the village and took severe casualties. Seeing the Green Howards pulling back, they too fell back and eventually established a line near their assembly position. The 6th Lincolns were brought in line between Pheasant Farm and Retour Crossroads.
On Wednesday, 10th October, 1917, the 11th Division were relieved by the 18th Division. Too late for John who had died the day before.
*enfilade – a volley of gunfire directed along a line from end to end.
LINTON SOLDIER’S SACRIFICE (extract from local newspaper 6th September 1918) News has been received from the record Office, York, by Mr. & Mrs. T. W. Whitfield, Linton, that their son, Sapper J.W. Whitfield, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, reported wounded and missing on the 9th October, 1917 is now officially stated to have been killed on that date. He voluntarily enlisted, thinking it his duty to fight for his Country, in January 1915. After being trained at different camps in England, he was, in August, 1915, drafted to France. After serving in the trenches for some months he was transferred to the Engineers (as platelayer) where he remained until taken back to his old regiment in September 1917. He was 25 years of age, and a genial disposition which made him a great favourite in the village, where he will be much missed. His letters home were always bright and cheerful. Great sympathy is felt for the parents and family. Previous to joining the Army he was employed on the Yorkshire Dales Railway as a platelayer on the Rylstone section. WW1 Commemorative Scroll He whom this scroll commemorates was numbered among those who, at the call of King and Country, left all that was dear to them, endured hardness, faced danger, and finally passed out of the sight of men by the path of duty and self sacrifice, giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten. Pte. John William Whitfield W. Riding Regt.
On 10 October 1919 – amongst 4 memorial notices in the paper, one reads as follows: WHITFIELD – In memory of a dear comrade, Private J. W. Whitfield, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, who fell in action on October 9th 1917. You did your duty nobly well and glad the price did pay; And in the years that are to be Your memory will remain. Inserted by Sapper P. Heyburn (on Service)
A year later the wording has changed to
WHITFIELD – In loving memory of a dear comrade, Private J. W. Whitfield, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, who was reported wounded and missing October 9th, 1917, later reported killed on that date. The peaceful sleep of Death is his in battlefields afar; with his young life he dearly paid The dreadful toll of war. Inserted by P. Hepburn, Longstone, Slateford, Midlothian
There is also a photograph and entry in the book Craven’s Roll of Honour page 288 – copy of the book is in my possession.
WALTER JAMES KEEVILL Staff Sergeant T876 (Armourer) Royal Army Ordnance Corps attached to 42nd Brigade R.F.A. Killed in action on Wednesday 10th October 1917, aged 31. Remembered with honour on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing.
Mentioned in dispatches – unsure as to why and there seems to be no information on his medal record.
John William Whitfield was born 15 June 1891 at Lower Heights, Skyerthorns, North Yorkshire, being baptised a few months later at the Primitive Methodist Church, Grassington. His parents, Thomas William and Sarah Hogg Whitfield had 6 children, with John being 4th in line and the only boy. Florence (know as Flossie and my late husband’s Paternal Grandma) his youngest sister had the same birthday as John, 15th June. Consequently she never liked to celebrate her birthday.
1901 Census – Linton in Craven
• Thomas Whitfield, Head, M, 41, Navvy, Scrafton
• Sarah Ann Whitfield, Wife, M, 38, Scrafton
• Vina Whitfield, Daug, 12, Scrafton
• Elizabeth Whitfield, Daug, 11, Skirethorns • John William Whitfield, Son, 9, Skirethorns
• Harriet Whitfield, Daug, 4, Linton
RG13 piece 4035 folio 30 page 3
1911 Census – Linton Skipton
• Thomas Whitfield Head 50 Married Railway Fencer M.R.C. worker Yorkshire West Scrafton
• Sarah A Whitfield Wife 49 Married 6 6 Yorkshire Caldberg • John W Whitfield Son 20 Single Railway Platelayer M. Rly. Co. worker Yorkshire Linton
• Harriet Whitfield Daughter 14 School Yorkshire Linton
• Florence Whitfield Daughter 6 School Yorkshire Linton
Walter James Keevill was born 26th December 1885 at Boston Rod, Hanwell, Middlesex. His parents Henry John and Elizabeth Keevill had 8 children of which Walter was the 5th oldest. My Grandmother Daisy, was his youngest sister.
1891 Census – 44 Maynard Street, Leicester
• Henry Keevill, Head, M, 34, Manager Shoe Mercury, London, Paddington
• Elizabeth J, Keevill, Wife, M, 39, London, Paddington
• Amy E Keevill, Daur, 13, Shoe Fitter, London, Islington
• Alice H Keevill, Daur, 11, scholar(half time) Elastic Web Weaver, London, Paddington
• Henry J Keevill, Son, 9, Scholar, Middlesex, Hanwell
• Herbert E. Keevill, Son, 7, Scholar, Middlesex, Hanwell • Walter J. Keevill, Son, 5, Scholar, Middlesex, Hanwell
• Elsie A. Keevill, Daur, 3, Scholar, London, Paddington
• Lily E. Keevill, Daur, 1, Leicester
RG12 piece 2527 ecclesiastical parish of St Saviours
1901 Census – 18 Curzon Street, Leicester
• Henry Keevill, Head, M, 45, Cashier Commercial, London, Paddington
• Elizabeth J. Keevill, Wife, M, 48, London Paddington
• Alice H. Keevill, Daug, S, 21, Hosiery Seamer, London, Paddington
• Henry J. Keevill, Son, S, 19, Railway Clerk, Middlesex, Hanwell
• Herbert E. Keevill, Son, S, 17, Cigar Bundler & Sorter, Middlesex, Hanwell • Walter J. Keevill, Son, S, 15, Hosiery Machinist Fitter, Middlesex, Hanwell
• Elsie A. Keevill, Daug, S, 13, Book Binder, London, Paddington
• Lily E. Keevill, Daug, S, 11, School girl, Leicester
• Daisy E. Keevill, Daug, S, 9, School girl, Leicester
• Priscilla Keevill, Stepmother, W, 68, Pembroke, St. Tissles
RG13 piece 2991, folio 145, page 4, ecclesiastical parish of St. Lukes
In 1909 Walter married a Beatrice Ellen Sharpe. On the 1911 census they are living together at 62 Walton Street, Leicester. Also listed is a Dora Keevill Sharpe, aged 4 and scribbled underneath is the comment ‘commonly known as Dora Keevill’. I believe this may be a child they had out of wedlock some two years before they married. Dora’s birth appears twice in the General Register Office index, once as Dora Sharpe and once as Dora Keevill. Dora went on to marry a Francis Southwell in 1930.
Beatrice, Walters wife, died in 1966, aged 79 having never married again.
The sad case of Thomas Knighton, killed whilst leaving the coal mine to go home. Aged 11. Thomas was my Great Great Grandfather, Moses Knighton’s, nephew.
The coroner reported a case of ‘accidentally killed’. The main witness appears to have been Joseph Sisson. During his evidence he explained that there are two methods to leave a pit – either by a chain winch contraption or a box you stepped into. The safest method is known to be via the chains. This was operated by a ‘whimsey-man’.
On the day in question Thomas and his brother (unnamed in the report so not sure which one) were preparing to leave the pit and the deceased and his brother choose the box to travel in. Whilst they were travelling up to the surface of the mine the descending chain fell into the box. The brother called out to the whimsey-man to pull the descending chain out of the box. However before the chain was fully out of the box Thomas shouted it was OK. The whimsey-man then immediately lowered the chain and that action capsized the box.
The deceased fell to the bottom, but his brother managed to link his arm through the chain and hold on – he was drawn safely to the surface.
Thomas suffered terrible injuries from the fall. The witness said he only stirred once and was ‘quite dead’ within 5 minutes.
His body was carried to the top of the pit and then carried home by a Samuel Haywood. I don’t want to imagine the family dealing with the trauma of the event.
Whimsey or Whim was a winding mechanism for carrying men and materials up and down the mine shafts. The Men or Man employed in this operation were known as whimsey-men. (Info from rmhh.co.uk)
Joseph says it was safer to go up n the chain than the box but it was not his business to make men go up in the tackle. Thomas was 11 years old.
Messrs Barber, Walker & Co
Thomas was killed at the mine of Barber, Walker and Co at Eastwood, Nottingham. It was owned by Sir Philip Barber – often referred to as Major Barber.
Thomas Knighton born 1828 – 1839
Thomas was the 5th child of Sampson and Elizabeth Knighton (nee Caley). He had 5 sisters and 4 brothers. It is difficult to determine which brother was working down the pit with him. His elder brother was William was born in 1824 or Robert who was born in 1830 seem the most likely.
So far have only been able to locate one Sampson Knighton (coal miner) living with a Robert 10 and Isaac 6 (his sons) – Are all the other children away from home or have they died?
As you can see it’s been a while since I posted anything. Work and family matters until recently seem to have lessened the time I have had for family history.
However in the last few weeks I have been addicted to the Yorkshire Parish Records on Findmypast as mentioned on Dick Eastman’s blog.
My late husbands Paternal Great Grandparents were from the Upper Dales and it is wonderful to be able to verify most of the information I already had without leaving my office chair. It has also been a reminder of the hours I used to spend pouring over parish ledgers and trying to decipher the writing.
Plus I have found some additional facts to add to the family tree. It is difficult to explain to people how exciting I find this. Do your family members glaze over when you inform them of their ancestors?
The main reason for the post was my surprise at reading an article on the BBC website – posted 5 June 2016 on a subject I had never heard about before. It’s title ‘Taken from life: The unsettling art of death photography.’
As an ex professional photographer it is something I certainly won’t have fancied doing. On the plus side I suppose your subject can’t fidget or answer you back. (To dark)? However it is something that I’m sure I would find quite challenging.
Psychologically I can see how it may be helpful to the family and it is only in recent years that parents have been encouraged to be photographed cradling their stillborn baby. This I thought was something new that had been recognised as a way to help survive emotionally. However it would appear that the Victorians clearly knew a thing or too about grief.
Please don’t click on the link if you feel that these images could cause distress.
Happy New Year. Wonder what 2016 will bring. Did you make any resolutions?
I did consider making one. That is to spend less time on Family History. But as that resolution is domed to failure – probably by mid January, I decided best not to bother.
With regard to the coming year in reality it is probably going to be more time. As more websites and archives become available on the internet I will be glued to the computer screen gazing at illegible hand writing etc.
Also their seems to be an increase of very interesting history programmes on TV. Did you see the one over Christmas? Back in time through Christmas, about Christmas through the decades – well that certainly bought back a few memories. Also managed to catch the repeat of the Great History Quiz on the Tudors – personally I thought that was a great way to learn about history. Both these programmes are still available in BBC iplayer.
One for your diary, especially if you have a Baker in the family, or even just enjoy baking, is Victorian Bakers, a three part series, starting Tuesday 5 January at 20.00 on BBC Two. The first episode starts in 1837. As my 4th Great Grandfather, George Pearson, was listed as a Baker in the 1841 and 1851 census I shall be watching this with interest.
So all the best with your research this year and may you have some interesting discoveries.
Today I received an email from Ancestry stating the following
Dear Family Tree Maker™ community,
Ancestry is proud to have made a significant investment this year to bring valuable new content and records to the Ancestry site. In 2015, we’ve made 220 million searchable historical records from Mexico available, more than 170 million pages from the largest collection of U.S. will and probate records, among others. We’ve also introduced new features such as Ancestry Academy, and major advancements for AncestryDNA.
As we strive to provide our customers with the best experience possible, we are constantly evaluating our services and product offerings. True to this focus, we’ve taken a hard look at the declining desktop software market and the impact this has on being able to continue to provide new content, product enhancements and support that our users need. With that, we’ve made the tough decision to stop selling Family Tree Maker as of December 31, 2015.
We will continue to support existing Family Tree Maker owners at least through January 1, 2017. During this time, all features of the software, including TreeSync™ will continue to work. Our Member Services team will also remain available to assist with questions or issues you may have.
These changes are never easy. But by focusing our efforts, we can concentrate on continuing to build great products for our loyal Ancestry community.
Looking at the reaction on their blog this has not been well received. Personally I have been using Family Tree Maker since around 1999 if not before. I use the software so I have a copy of all my work on the computer rather than on Ancestry’s website only. It also produces some very good reports which can easily be shared with the family either in printed form or as a pdf for emailing.
Working on a MAC computer at home there is limited choice with regards to genealogy software and of course I am not too keen to start learning a new product but I will if forced.
Maybe Ancestry should stop offering 6 months free membership subscription on the Family Tree Maker products then it would be more profitable. Sadly rather than being passionate about genealogy they are passionate about profit. Very disappointed and I will certainly be reconsidering my subscription when it comes to renewal.