The life of my shoemaker ancestor

Joseph Turner, was my great (x3) grandfather on my maternal grandmothers’ side. He was born in Darton, Yorkshire on 26 December 1820[1] to Joshua Turner and Sarah Turner (nee Crossley), being the sixth child of eleven (six girls and five boys). He was baptised on 4 February 1821[2] at All Saints Church, Darton, Yorkshire.

In 1881 Darton was described as a “parish and village and station on the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway, 3 miles north-west from Barnsley, 8 south-west from Wakefield and 12½ east-south-east from Huddersfield”[3]. Joseph’s father, Joshua, was a tenanted farmer[4]. When Joseph was a child there was an endowed school in Darton for both boys and girls which was a free school set up by George Beaumont in 1688[5]. There was also a Sunday school. This meant that education would have been available to Joseph as a child, although I have no documentary evidence to confirm whether he did attend school. I have searched the online catalogue for school records for Darton in this period on the West Yorkshire Archive Service website[6] and there do not appear to be any records available.

What I do know however is that Joseph did not follow in his father’s footsteps and become a farmer. It may be that his parents wanted more for Joseph (and his siblings) and he may have gained some form of education in between no doubt helping his father on the farm. In 1841, at the age of 20, Joseph is listed in the census returns as living at Anchors Yard, Knottingley, Pontefract, West Riding of Yorkshire where he is, a shoemaker’s apprentice, living with Charles Abson, Shoemaker. Given his age, he would by this time have been coming towards the end of his apprenticeship. Apprenticeships for skilled workers were 7 years, usually ending at the age of 21, thus he would have begun this apprenticeship at the age of 14 (in 1835). Apprentices worked under a master. Charles Abson is not described as a master shoemaker, however given Joseph appears to be living with him at the time the census was taken it is most probable that he was Joseph’s master.

Having searched the West Yorkshire Archive Service catalogue again in various ways, I have not been able to find a record of his apprenticeship indenture unfortunately but not surprisingly. Stamp duty was no longer payable on apprenticeship indentures and there was therefore no longer a central record for apprenticeships. It is not known therefore how Joseph chose this trade and/or his master was found.

It is unlikely this was a parish apprenticeship as they were usually entered into within the child’s own parish or a neighbouring parish (with anyone who would take them and they were not necessarily taught a trade). Knottingley is about 25 miles north east of Darton where his parents stayed until their respective deaths and not a neighbouring parish. However his father was a farmer, a notoriously fluctuate business and farmers were often found in poor law books as being in receipt of some assistance at difficult farming periods, then it is not beyond the realms of possibility, although parishes where not usually able to afford the high premiums skilled masters often demanded. Charities often then stood in and provided the financial assistance to enable those from poorer families to enter trade apprenticeships. These records would be held at West Yorkshire Archives Service. A search of their online catalogue does not find any obvious records available[7] and as I live 200 miles away I am unable to visit the archives at this time.

My instinct however is that this was more likely to be a private agreement between the parents and the Master, his parents perhaps wanting a better life for Joseph. It may be that Joseph’s parents advertised for a master to apprentice Joseph, or that they answered an advertisement place by Charles Abson, seeking an apprentice.

Knottingley is described in1881[8] as “a township and ecclesiastical parish formed from the parish of Pontefract….3 miles east-north-east from Pontefract and 171 from London, situated on the south bank of the navigable river Aire”. It was an important inland river port until 1699 when the river Aire was made navigable up to Leeds. However its main industry until well into the 20th century continued to be boat building. There remains a joint station at Knottingley for the Great Northern and the Lancashire and Yorkshire railways (after this section opened in April 1847).

In reality there was poverty, squalor and disease, with a lack of adequate drainage and sewerage facilities, and polluted and insufficient water supply. Anchor Yard where Joseph was living and learning his trade from 1835 to 1842 was a densely populated area between Aire Street and Back Lane/ The Croft, where the problems were particularly acute with open gutters, cesspools and refuse heaps.

“Knottingley also had a reputation for hard living. With over 40 liquor outlets in the town vending their wares to a motley band of ‘outsiders’ such as mariners, commercial travellers and transient visitors, all supplementing the demands of the local inhabitants, there must have been some lively times at Knottingley during the mid-nineteenth century.”[9] Aire Street, was a major shopping street, with for example, bread bakers, drapers and tailors, a currier, shoe makers, a nail maker, a basket maker and a whitesmith as well as housing the traders families and many mariners and their families.[10]

Shoemaking was an ancient local hand craft with most villages having their own shoemaker. A shoemaker was also sometimes known as a cordwainer. Shoes were “made to order” for individual customers. It gradually grew into a cottage industry with workshops or “factories” breaking the shoemaking process down and sharing the process between different people: for example, “clickers” who cut around the shoe pattern, “closers” or “binders” who sewed the uppers[11] of the shoe together, “blocker” who shaped the instep and “riveter” who attached the sole to the uppers. This was particularly the case in towns which were rapidly growing as a result of the industrial revolution.

By the time Joseph was an apprentice there was some mechanisation with machines being adapted to making boots in particular as a result of the increased demand for boots during the Napoleonic war years (1803 to 1815) however it was not until the late 1850’s when mechanisation lead to the start of shoemaking factories being opened (see later) and Joseph as an apprentice shoemaker, would have been trained in the art of making shoes and boots by hand. He would have received training in every stage of the shoemaking process:

  1. Constructing the last – the wooden shape around which the shoe would be shaped;
  2. The pattern would be made;
  3. The parts of the leather uppers would be cut out using a clicking knife[12];
  4. The leather uppers would be sewn together;
  5. The complete upper would then be moulded round the last;
  6. The leather soles and heels would be attached to the uppers[13];
  7. The complete shoe would then be finished by trimming, polishing and removing it from the last.

He would acquire knowledge of leathers, leather tanning, Fatliquoring (using fats and oils to soften leather), deglazing, washing, and preparation of leathers for dyeing dyeing, finishing, colour restoring preparations and processes; leather cleaners and polishes, leather cements and glues, removing spots and stains from leathers, shoe and leather oils, greases, and waterproofings.

The process of making a pair of shoes would normally take around twelve to fourteen hours to make a standard pair of boots, no doubt as an apprentice, at least in the beginning, it would have taken Joseph much longer. He would have been taught to use the tools of the trade including:

  • A tranchet (knife);
  • Lingels (thread);
  • Lasts (the shoe moulds);
  • Awls (piercers);
  • Shoeing horn;
  • Nails

Shoes were traditionally hand made with leather, however in the 1840’s a new material for soles of boots and shoes was available known as Gutta Percha[14]. In 1851 the material was promoted by Thomas Horlock, a shoemaker from Uxbridge[15]:

“You are now just left to the alternative to take it and turn it to your own account, or let it alone, for it will be used, and if you will not meet promptly the wishes of the public, there will be plenty who will, and you will be left with your last and stool to make whatever else you can of them. The great secret of success in life is to take advantage of circumstances as they rise, it is this that gives one man the start before another; and so you will find in the present instance, those who come first will fare best”.

This maybe a material Joseph trained with or later used to sole the shoes he made. Horlock’s book explains how to use and work with the material. However it is unlikely Joseph read this manual as I do not believe he could read or write (see later).

I am sure he would have worked very long days even more so given that he was living and working with his Master. In return for his apprenticeship, Joseph would not have been paid in monetary terms, but would have been provided a roof over his head, food to eat and clothing to wear all at the expense of his master.

When entering into an apprenticeship indenture, there were usually a number of rules relating to conduct which the apprentice agreed to obey, including for example, not to steal from their Master, not to reveal any trade secret of their Master, not to visit taverns, inns or alehouses (thus it is unlikely he took advantage of the “over 40 liquor outlets in the town”) or undertake any gambling and not to marry during the term of their apprenticeship. We know therefore that Joseph had completed his apprenticeship by October 1842 as he married Ann Lockwood on 19 October 1842 at St Edmunds church, Kellington (with Whitley).

Kellington was and still is a rural village about 3 miles east of Knottingley, described in the 1881 Kellys directory as five miles “from Whitley Bridge station on the Wakefield and Goole branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway, 6 miles north-east from Pontefract, 6 miles north-west from Snaith and 6 south-west from Selby”. St Edmunds church dates back to at least 1185 and its gate posts are under a protection order having been built in 1698![16]

Ann was the youngest child of John Lockwood and Ann Lockwood (nee Shillito), having an older brother and sister. Ann was born in Kellington in 1817[17], being baptised at St Edmunds church on 27April 1817. Her father, John, was an agricultural labourer. No occupation was listed for Ann in the 1841 census before she was married.

Joseph and Ann’s marriage certificate describes Joseph as a labourer and suggests neither Joseph nor Ann could write as they have made their marks with an “X” rather than signing their names. This would suggest that Joseph did not in fact attend school as a child, neither did Ann. It is interesting that he is described as a labourer, suggesting he was an unskilled manual worker. On completing his apprenticeship he would have usually been known as a journeymen. It is likely therefore his occupation has been incorrectly described by the vicar and as it seems neither Joseph nor Ann or their witnesses (who also made their mark with an “X”) could write, then it is probable that they also could not read and were therefore unable to confirm the details on the marriage certificate were correct.

He could not be known as a master shoemaker until he had his own apprentices, a system usually regulated by guilds, although their powers had diminished by the mid 1800’s. I have not been able to find any records for any local shoemakers/cordwainers guilds, I believe the nearest to Knottingley would have been either:

  1. The Cordwainers guild of Leeds established in 1661[18]. I cannot find any other information about this guild and it is likely membership was restricted to those shoemakers actually working in Leeds.
  2. The Company of Cordwainers of the City of York dating from around 1272/3[19]. However Joseph could not have been a member of this guild as it actually ceased in 1808, according to an article in the York Press newspaper[20] ran out of money!

I have therefore not been able to establish whether Joseph was a member of a guild, however in the 1871 census he is described as a Master Cordwainer. I will come back to this later.

At the time of their marriage Joseph’s address is given as Barnsley so it may be that he moved back home briefly after he completed his apprenticeship, or again this could just be an error by the vicar: if Joseph was asked where he was from he would probably have said Barnsley as that was his home town (where he was raised). Following their marriage Joseph and Ann lived in Whitley. By 1851[21] they were living at Whitley Thorpe and Joseph is described as a shoemaker. By this time they had four children: Sarah Ann aged 8, Hannah Marie aged 6, William Lockwood aged 3 and Joshua John aged 1.

Ann’s parents lived next door to them and her cousin next door but three from them (he was a Teasel[22] grower)! There were 46 families living at Whitley Thorpe, many were farmers and agricultural workers, although other tradesman/professions/workers included: two blacksmiths, a grocer and draper, a wheelwright, a grocer and char woman, another shoemaker employing two apprentices, a school master, a school mistress, railway labourers, canal labourers, brick maker, publican, tailor, butcher and Teasel growers. There were also a number of annuitants and paupers, so quite a “mixed bag” of residents but together making up a small community providing many daily requirements! In fact genuki[23] describes Whitley Thorpe as “a farm-house in the township of Whitley, and parish of Kellington, liberty and bailiwick of Cowick and Snaith; 7 miles E. of Pontefract and 7 from Snaith.”.

This was and still is a rural area 2 miles from the Aire and Calder navigation canal at Whitley Bridge where there was (and still is) a station on the Wakefield and Goole as mentioned above.

What is unclear from the census return is whether he was working for himself or with/for another shoemaker. He was not described as a master shoemaker at this stage and does not have any apprentices living with him. There is another shoemaker, Charles Taylor, living at Whitley Thorpe who is listed as employing two apprentices. Usually a journeyman would continue working alongside a master until they created their “master-piece” and were accepted by the local guild as a master.

It appears from the census returns that Joseph and his family moved about quite a lot over the next 30 years. In the 1861 census they lived at 19 Victoria Street, Doncaster and had a further three children: Charles aged 7, Henry aged 5 and Mary Ann aged 3. Joseph is described as a shoemaker. Doncaster is one of the oldest towns in England, famous for its horse racing since 1755, and railway heritage.

Doncaster had been like all towns in the first half of the 19th century, dirty and unsanitary with many families living in squalid and overcrowded conditions. In the late 19th century however, sewers were built and a piped water supply was created. An infirmary opened in 1853 and the first free public library opened in 1869. Doncaster had good transport links for trade and travel, being located on the Great North Road (now known as the A1) and “In 1852 the Great Northern Railway opened their Locomotive and Carriage Buildings Works, where Flying Scotsman and Mallard would be designed and built many years later”[25], this brought a new prosperity to Doncaster with the engine works becoming the main employer in the town. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries industry in Doncaster was dominated by engineering.

Doncaster was also (and still is) a market town “Doncaster’s market can trace its origins right back to the Roman times”[26].

Perhaps Joseph and his family moved to Doncaster in the hope of finding more lucrative business, perhaps having a market stall to sell his shoes, or trying to specialise in shoes/boots which may have been worn by the workers of the local industries such as:

  • Welted boots – “The upper part of the shoe is shaped over the last and fastened on by sewing a leather, linen or synthetic strip (also known as the “welt”) to the inner and upper sole. As well as using a welt, stitching holds the material firmly together.”[27] These were traditionally made by a hand-welted method and it was not until 1869 that Charles Goodyear Jr invented a machine-based alternative. “In 1872 the first Goodyear welt sewing machines were introduced into England. (fn. 84) Invented in 1862, they were said to be 54 times as fast as stitching by awl and thread. (fn. 85) With this machine and the Goodyear chain stitcher it was claimed that a boot similar in quality to a hand sewn boot could be produced, and boots produced on these machines eventually superseded cheap hand-sewn and welted work. By 1899, the improved version, first introduced into Leicester by Royce Gascoigne & Co., could do in 18 seconds what had formerly been done in an hour”[28]. These are the types of boots which the local railway workers and labourers may have worn, possibly with the benefit of what today is known as the “steel toecap” in the 19th century they were more commonly known as “toe plates” usually made from steel or iron and affixed by nails.
  • The Jockey Boot
  • The Racing Jockey Boot

Interestingly their children were not described as scholars, suggesting they were not at school, of course compulsory education had not yet been introduced and it may have been in fact that Ann and his older children helped Joseph in his business. Women and children traditionally “worked” as “closers” in the shoe making industry.

Shoemaking was not a lucrative trade, shoemakers often went bankrupt. However having searched the London Gazette archives[29] I cannot find any record of Joseph being made bankrupt, but it may be that they moved about to stave off bankruptcy, most probably living hand-to-mouth. I have found it difficult to locate the actual street in which they lived, or any of the other streets mentioned in the enumerators description of the area covered in the census return of 1861. I have found Victoria Street still listed in the 1911 census but no such street appears exists today (although there is a Victoria Road). Victoria Street was said to be in the ecclesiastical district of Christ Church which consists of rows of terrace housing. Their neighbours consisted of railway labourers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, other labourers of various sorts and a number of other boot and shoe makers. I have not been able to find Joseph in any trade directories from the period, or indeed in any period up to his death (see below).

Certainly Yorkshire was not a shoemaking industry centre. Making an income for the small local shoemaker was increasingly made more difficult as the 19th century progressed as the process became increasingly mechanised in the major shoemaking towns and cities, in particular Leicester, Northampton and London, following the invention and adaption of the sewing machine to stitch leather in 1830 in America.

“The first machines were introduced to Britain by Edwin Bostock in Stafford in October 1855. Although quickly abandoned following workers’ unrest, it was soon introduced in Northampton and London, and the first recognisably modern factories followed in 1857. These early machines were only for closing the uppers, traditionally women’s work, so other processes were still carried out in the shoemaker’s home. Over the next decades a series of further inventions ensured all processes could take place in a factory system. The Blake sole stitcher was perfected around 1864, and introduced to Stafford and Stone by 1871. Pegging and riveting machines were adopted in Britain during the 1860s. Finishing was the last process to be mechanised, but by the 1890s mechanisation was complete”[30].

However it was not until the 1920’s that most village shoemakers had changed their business to become cobblers: the difference being that a shoemaker would make new shoes from scratch whilst a cobbler would repair shoes. Joseph’s trade was therefore still in demand in the 19th century, particularly in more rural areas, but would no doubt have become increasingly challenging as his career progressed with this growth of factories, mechanisation and transport links making mass produced footwear less expensive than hand crafted. There was also the challenges faced by the industry of American imports both in machinery and actual footwear in the later part of the 19th century (about 1870 onwards).

Joseph is likely to have made his own shoe polish, ‘jet’ for boots, ‘dressing’ for leather, waterproofing ‘compositions’, leather ‘renovators’, cementing glue, shoemakers wax and other “lotions and potions” used in the shoemaking process. He may have even produced some of these to sell to boost his income. Recipes for these ‘lotions’ and ‘potions’ can be found in books such as “The Art of Boot and Shoemaking”[31] and “Handbook for Shoe and Leather Processing”[32].

By 1871 Joseph and Ann had moved back to living at Whitley Thorpe with their youngest daughter Mary Ann (nicknamed Polly) now aged 13 (their other children now making their own way). Their neighbours were some of Ann’s family – her brother William and a cousin, Robert, her parents have now deceased. Joseph is described as a Master Cordwainer for the first time. Although there is no record of him employing an apprentice in the census records, there is of course a period of ten years between them and as an apprenticeship was for 7 years it is quite possible that within that ten years he did have an apprentice enabling him to become a master cordwainer. On the other hand, this could just be an error by the enumerator because in the 1881 census Joseph is described once again simply as a shoemaker and not a master; he and Ann were by this time living alone in Kellington. Unfortunately later that year Joseph died[33], he would have been 60 years old (although his burial record gives his age as 60). He was buried at St Edmunds Church Kellington on 19 November 1881[34]. It seems sometime after his death Ann moved back to live in Whitley[35] where she died in July 1892.

The demise of the independent shoemaking industry and the rural area in which the family lived were most likely the reasons why none of Joseph’s children followed him into the trade: William was a cartman (a driver of a horse-drawn vehicle for the transporting of goods); Joshua was an agricultural labourer (also described as a shepherd[36]); Charles was a road worker/labourer for Rural district council; and Henry was a farm labourer. All their children married and had children of their own.

[1] West Yorkshire, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910

[2] West Yorkshire, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910

[3] Kelly’s Directory of West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881. [Part 1: County Information & Places A-K], page 284

[4] 1841 census




[8] Kelly’s Directory of West Riding of Yorkshire, 1881. [Part 1: County Information & Places A-K], page 609


[10] 1841 census

[11] The name given to the complete parts of the top of the shoe when stitched together

[12] hence the name “clicker” being given to those individuals who carried out this task in the workshops or “factories”

[13] Known as “making”

[14] “Gutta-percha, yellowish or brownish leathery material derived from the latex of certain trees in Malaysia, the South Pacific, and South America, especially Palaquium oblongifolia and, formerly, P. gutta” –

[15] “A Few Words to Journeyman Shoemakers about Gutta Percha; What it will do, and what they may do, to turn it to their advantage” published by W Strange, London 1851

[16] I have a large number of ancestors on both my maternal grandparents sides buried in this churchyard dating from the death of Joseph in 1881 (see later) to my maternal grandfather (in 2003) and maternal grandmother (in 2012). However the graves of those beyond two generations are either unmarked or have unreadable gravestones, I have searched the graveyard on a number of occasions in the past! I need to see if the church has any records/plans of the graves.

[17] Baptism record and census records

[18] The Leeds Economy Handbook, published by Leeds City Council Economic Development online at



[21] Census returns

[22] Dipsacus Fullonum – formerly widely used in textile processing, providing a natural comb for cleaning, aligning and raising the nap on fabrics, particularly wool.


[24] –






[30] History of Shoemaking in Britain – Napoleonic Wars and the Industrial Revolution:

[31] John Bedford Leno’s 1885 book reprinted by Ravenio Books 1949

[32] By Anon (original publication date not known) reprinted by Read Books Ltd 2013

[33] In November

[34] West Yorkshire, England, Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985

[35] 1891 census

[36] 1901 census

The Christmas of our ancestors

With Christmas just around the corner I have been wondering and reading about the Christmases of the past which my ancestors would have experienced. Did they really celebrate Christmas like we do today? With the commercialism of Christmas today, I doubt it very much. In fact what I have discovered is that our ‘modern’ Christmas is in fact only around 170 years old! The Victorian Christmas is often talked about and celebrated at various events, this is because it was in fact Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who essentially began the ‘trend’ of celebrating Christmas as we do today!

So was Christmas celebrated pre-Victorian Britain? And if so how?

The winter solstice is of course on the 21st December each year and is thought to have been celebrated even in the Neolithic and Bronze Age considering the layout of archaeological sites such as Stonehenge (primary axis points to the winter solstice sunset) and Newgrange (in Ireland where the primary axis points to the winter solstice sunrise).

The winter solstice was celebrated in a pagan festival celebrating fire, light and jollity, marking the end of winter and the dawning of spring when they celebrated ‘Yule’, a 12 day festival of the winter solstice, originating in or about the 4th Century. The festival incorporated many of the traditions of todays Christmas – decorating with greenery including boughs, evergreen herbs and trees and placing a yule log on the fire to burn for 12 days and nights. 

But Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus not the winter solstice so how are they linked?

The Roman Empire were also well known for their festival ‘Saturnalia’ celebrating Saturn, the Roman God of agriculture and plenty which took place between the 17th and 23rd December with the Roman Emperor Aurelian consecrating the temple of Sol Invictus in 274 AD creating ‘Die Natalis Solis Invicti’ (the birthday of the unconquered sun) which was celebrated on the 25th December, the Roman winter solstice festival.

Perhaps this is why Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December a few years after 336 AD when the first Roman Christian Emporer Constantine appears to have made the first reference to the 25th December being the birthday of Jesus. There is much debate and theses surrounding the timing of the birth of Jesus and of course there are many who would deny his very existence.

Interestingly Jesus was in fact a Jew and the Jewish festival of lights, known as Hanukkah, starts on the 25th of Kislev (in the Jewish calendar this is the months which occurs at about the same time as December) and celebrates when Jews were once again able to practice their religion after many years of it not being allowed.

Whatever your beliefs, from my reading I am of the view Christmas as a festival, began as a celebration of the winter solstice and was ‘adopted’ by Christianity as the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus and the introduction of Christmas (a shortened version of Christ’s Mass).  

Whilst the early Roman celebrations saw the wealthy eating and drinking lavishly and engaging in games such as: throwing a dice to decide who should play the role of the Saturnalia monarch and masters and slaves swapping clothes; and the wealthy were also known to give gifts to the poor to help them through the hardship of the winter season, Christmas was not a holiday as today, it was purely a religious day and not celebrated as it is today. Singing and Carols have therefore always been associated with Christmas.

Mince pies were introduced in Tudor times and the plum porridge was a medieval creation adapted by the Victorians to what we know today as Christmas pudding. Through the centuries, the practice of giving presents began to develop but traditionally took place on new years day gradually moving to the 25th December with Father Christmas first appearing in England in the early 17th century, although initially he was associated with joviality and drunkenness, it was not until the Victorians re-invented him that he became synonymous with gift giving as was the traditional Saint Nicholas from which he originated, who was known for the care of children, generosity, and the giving of gifts.

The union of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert saw the introduction of the ‘modern’ Christmas. Prince Albert was German and brought with him many of the traditional German traditions of pagan decent. Ultimately it was a photograph in the Illustrated London News in 1848 of the royals stood in front of a decorated tree which began the new trend of decorating trees at Christmas, hence the birth of the Christmas tree in the history of the English Christmas. 

In 1979 at the Scottish Record Office the first known Christmas card to have been sent was found. It had been sent by Michael Maier to James I of England and his son Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1611. However Christmas cards were first designed for commercial use in 1843, commissioned by Sir Henry Cole (who had three years earlier introduced the penny post) and illustrated by John Callcott Horsley. 

Christmas crackers were, it is said, invented by Tom Smith, a confectioner of London, in 1847 when he was ‘re-inventing his ‘bon-bon’ sweets. The sweets were replaced by a trinket: fans, jewellery and other substantial items and later, his son, Walter Smith, introduced the paper hat, gift and varied designs to distinguish their brand from other rival brands which had sprung up. 

Eating turkey as Christmas was also introduced by the Victorians. Although they were expensive compared to the more usual bird of choice, goose, the Turkey was larger and able to feed more mouths so became increasingly popular for large entertaining such as Christmas family gatherings. Families would have needed to save up to buy the Christmas Turkey, even in the 1930’s the cost of a Turkey would have been the average persons weekly wage!

Today our beloved Turkey is much more affordable, becoming more widely available and affordable in the 1950’s. Although I know many people today have goose, duck, five bird roast and other alternatives (including meat free!) so maybe with the popularisation of turkey being available all year round, this is one tradition which may fall by the way side.

Can you imagine a year without Christmas? Well, during the civil war and commonwealth years (1640 to 1660) Christmas was banned by Oliver Cromwell (Lord Protector of the Republic of England) who, along with his Puritan colleagues, saw such festivities as ‘wasteful’. I am sure it did continue to be celebrated in private though by none Puritans. 

Christmas must have been a difficult period in the first and second world wars both for those on the battlefields and their loved ones at home. Of course I’m sure we’ve all heard about the Christmas Truce on 25th December 1914 during World War 1 and the infamous football match on the front line!

This is a Christmas card sent by my Nanna to my Grandad during the Second World War, I am not sure which year but he was called up for service on 16th July 1942. They had only been married 5 years and had a 5 year old daughter. At least he was not on the frontline due to health issues.

This Christmas, as I open my presents, eat my turkey, pull my cracker, eat my Christmas pudding, my thoughts are with those less fortunate then myself and my family and with all those loved ones who cannot be together at Christmas and all those much harsher Christmases my ancestors will have endured.

What dates do we need to know?

Whether you are a hobbyist or professional genealogist there are key dates when events and government interventions affected the type of and content of those research documents which provide the basis of any family tree research: parish registers, census records and civil registration records.

Having completed the first 6 lectures of the IHGS Higher certificate in Genealogy, I have opted to take the Elementary Level exam to gain my first official qualification in genealogy and after revision in readiness for the exam my head is swimming with these key dates. So what are they?

Parish Registers

1537 Parish registers first “officially” introduced

1597 Bishops Transcripts of parish registers introduced

1641 – 1660 Civil War and Interregnum including:

1653 Marriage Act – marriage by Banns only

1657 Marriage Act – marriage licences restored

1666 Burial in Woollen Act

1694 Marriages, Births and Deaths Tax – to 1706

1752 Change from Julian Calendar to Gregorian Calendar

1754 Lord Hardwick’s Marriage Act – separate marriage registers

1765 Dade Registers

1783 The Stamp Act – repealed 1794

1812 Rose’s Act – separate birth and burial registers and age at death to be recorded in burial registers

Civil Registration 

1837 Civil Registration introduced – records of the Home Office

1874 Legal penalties introduced for none registration of births

1911 Mothers maiden name to be included in the GRO birth index

1912 Both surnames of spouses to be included in the GRO Marriage index

1927 Adopted Children Register

1927 Still birth register introduced – Births and Deaths Registration Act

1984 GRO began to produce annual indexes rather than quarterly indexes

Parish registers continue to exist today for baptisms and burials, however with the GRO records are now the main source of information for births and deaths as they are the legally required records.

Census Records

1801 First decennial census introduced (numeric only)

1841 First decennial census to include Name, age (rounded down to nearest 5), occupation, whether born in current county

1851 Also included relation to head of household, marital status and place of birth. Rounding of ages dropped

1861 Census records become the responsibility of the General Register Office (GRO). includes economic status

1871 Includes whether imbecile, idiot or lunatic

1881 Includes language spoken (in Scotland)

1891 Includes language spoken (in Wales), whether employer, employee or independent

1901 Includes number of rooms (if less than 5), whether employer, worker, work from home or not

1911 First census where the household schedules are the primary census returns available to the public and the industry/service with which the worker is connected, how long married, how many children born, how many still living and how many have died, and whether any infirmity

There is a 100 years restriction rule in the release of census records and therefore the 1921 census records will be release in 2022.


IHGS course progress

Well, it is now 6 months since I signed up for the IHGS Higher Certificate in Genealogy and I have completed the first 6 lectures…that’s 1/4 way through the course! I am really enjoying the course although sometimes I really wish I had more time to dedicate to it. With two young children and the summer school holidays, my study for 8 weeks was certainly cut short!

I have now covered the elementary genealogy topics:

  • Introduction to family history
  • Family records
  • Census records
  • Civil registration
  • Parish registers
  • Parish records

I am very pleased with my progress, both in terms of being on target to complete the course in 2 years and the marks I have attained. I would certainly say the most challenging lecture so far was parish records. Actually getting the time to visit the local archives to carry out the research necessary to complete the assignments was a challenge in itself!  But I got there and found attending the archives a very interesting and rewarding exercise. Everyone at the local archives were friendly and helpful and I felt very welcomed.

Some may say this is very brave of me but I have provided links below to some of my course work which discuss some of the topics covered:

Census records

Parish registers

Parish records

It is now an exciting time, having finally gained the confidence to officially launch this new business venture and start to put together my application for AGRA associate membership.
I have received my first family history commission and started work on the next set of lectures, firstly Wills and Probate followed by Palaeography.

A further update on my course progress will follow soon!


When did we become obsessed with time?

So today is the day we put the clocks back and marks the start of the shorter days of winter. But this is a relatively new phenomenon as is standardised time and what changes in time keeping did our ancestors experience?

From Ancient Egyptian obelisks dating back to around 3500BC and sundials to around 1500BC the latest digital ‘gadgets’ of today, to the latest time has always been measured in one way or another. But I doubt our ancestors were so aware of time as we are today.

Until the mid to late 19th century, time was set locally rather than nationally or internationally. Our ancestors largely kept time by the sun – an organic system known as local mean time. How did this work? In each town across the country the time of day was decided, firstly, by consulting a sun dial and then by the creation of local time.

With the introduction and development of the railways there came a need to standardise time and the UK was the first country to set a standard time when it established the Greenwich Mean Time standard in the 1840s (initially known as “railway time”). As Greenwich, due to the presence of the Royal Observatory, was the national centre for time and had been since 1675, the choice was obvious. .

Most railways used this time by 1847 however our ancestors day to day life was still governed by local mean time and so arose the situation where the town railway station h kept one time, and the town itself kept another! Very confusing! And by 1845 railway timetables had to point out that there was a difference between “town” time and “railway” time. Some stations even had two clocks, one for local time and one for railway time!

Clearly the situation could not last and by 1855, most public clocks in Britain were set to GMT, although some had two minute hands, one for local time and one for GMT. However it was not until 2 August 1880 that GMT was adopted officially by Parliament

I wonder how this affected our ancestors lives?

Would it have made their lives easier? It would have certainly made travel easier and time less confusing! Was this the beginning of our ‘obsession’ with time?

What do you think?




The future starts here

Whilst I  started writing my own family history and  set up this website to run a business in genealogy, I came to the conclusion that the only way to progress any career in this field is to get that all important qualification. So I did some research into courses – what was available, the costs, how long it would take, home study or institute study, the qualification to be attained and its acceptance by professional associations.

With two preschool children to look after my ‘free’ time is precious and I wanted something that would fit around the children and of course my home with my husband, who has been very supportive in my venture. I wanted a home study course which was not time limited and provided a suitable qualification to enable me to join AGRA (Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives).

After reading reviews of various courses in April 2018’s edition of “Who Do You Think Yo are?” magazine I made my decision, spoke to my husband about the cost, which had a monthly payment option – perfect, manageable!

So, I signed up! I chose Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies Correspondence Course in Genealogy which will lead me to a Higher Certificate in Genealogy and hopefully onto a Diploma in Genealogy. I only signed up on 8th April but have already submitted and had my first assignment marked. It is some time since I did any academic work and therefore was quite nervous as I submitted the completed assignment and even more nervous when I received the email with my first assessment mark. I have to say it was with relief that I had obtained an excellent mark, an “A”. A great start to my studies, lets hope I can keep it up.

Studying whilst being a full time mum of a three and a half year old and a 19 month old is not going to be easy, but with the eldest in nursery/pre-school three days a week and the youngest still having a daytime nap (and praying that continues…..), I have my daytime window of opportunity along with evenings and weekends. I am happy to say I am not finding studying as hard as I thought I might….well at least so far, no doubt it may get harder! The beauty is the course can take me as long as I need, but I am keen to get going on my new career!

Like many careers, to get ahead, as well as obtaining a qualification, I need to build up a portfolio to be able to apply for membership to one AGRA. My business therefore starts here and I am looking for willing “guinea pigs” to start building up that portfolio.

So if you’re interested why not contact me, its not very often we get anything from free in this life.

Writing my Family History

I have now completed draft mini biographies of maternal grandfather and his direct ancestors back to my great (x3) grandfather, which put together form the beginnings of my family history. I say ‘drafts’ as these are by no means the final article! There is further information and documentation to obtain and I am sure there is more out their to be found on the lives of those individuals. I will blog some extracts  to provide taster.

You may be wondering how I started out with my research; what documents I had and how I came about them in order to be able to even start to write an ancestors mini biography.

Well I began researching my family tree a number of years ago and found my great, great grandparents with relative ease, particularly on my paternal side and maternal grandfathers’ side. My maternal grandmothers’ side was not so easy. Initially my research was conducted by speaking to family members and subscribing to I have since also subscribed to and the Genealogist as well. I have also used (trial version) and

I started by setting out myself and my parents who are both still living and all their essential information (birth, marriage) are within my own knowledge. I was also lucky enough to know both my maternal grandparents and my paternal grandmother until I was into my late 20’s. I therefore knew their essential information in terms of birth and death. My paternal grandfather died the year before I was born, however his grave is in the local churchyard where I grew up and I knew his date of birth and death. What I did not know, were the dates of my grandparents respective marriages. I don’t ever remember enquiring about my paternal grandparents’ marriage but I do remember enquiring about my maternal grandparents’ marriage which they were always elusive about. That intrigued me. I also knew that my maternal great grandfather never knew his father and this was a mystery which I wanted to pursue.

Save for my maternal grandmothers family, I have managed to trace my direct ancestors back for several generations, potentially in some lines back to the 13th century although I have not gone about corroborating any of that information as yet, it is largely information gained from other ancestry trees so is very questionable at this stage.

There are some dates of births, marriage and deaths for which I only have the details from the indexes. Some of those gaps were filled in from the 1939 Register (dates of birth) although these should of course be used with some caution and where I have been unable to find copies of documents online the next step would be to purchase copy documents from the General Register Office. At this stage I have not gone that far due to the number of dates I have missing and therefore the cost.

My maternal family required more research. What I knew before starting my research, from my grandfather, was that his family originated from Cambridgeshire, it was his grandfather who moved to Yorkshire, closely followed by all but two of his siblings and his mother. I knew something of the life of my great grandfather who was a publican. My mother and particularly my Aunt and great maternal Aunt, have able to provide some details of my great grandfather’s life although he died before either my mum or aunt were born.

As less was known about my maternal ancestors in some cases I used wider search details, such as searching siblings which often provided more information for my pedigree ancestors. I will detail these searches when I come to those ancestors below.

I knew my grandfather’s basic details save for his date of marriage to my grandmother, Mary. It was only when my maternal grandmother died and my mother was looking through her papers that their marriage certificate was found. It must have caused a bit of a scandal at the time and now we know why it was never mentioned, my grandmother was six months pregnant with my maternal aunt when they were married!
We also found my maternal grandparents birth certificates amongst the papers. There was also the birth certificate, death certificate and marriage certificate for my maternal grandmothers’ father. At this stage the rest of my research has been conducted and information gathered online from a variety of websites.

One thing I have learnt is that research into your ancestry will never be complete. There is always more to find. New records are being released all the time, new resources are made available and who know what I will when I get the time to attend the various record offices and search physical archives. Its exciting!

So my research continues, my family history writing continues as I expand on the Huddlestone ancestors and start write about my other ancestors – the Oldfield family (my maternal grandmother); the Richardson family (my paternal grandfather) and the Sayner family (my paternal grandmother); and I am sure one day my writings will expand beyond these direct ancestors! You never know it may all even end up in a book one day!


My Great (x3) Grandad James

A couple of excerpt from my mini biography of James Huddlestone, who became a publican in Thirplow, Cambridge and was the last of my Huddlestone ancestors to both live and die in Cambrigeshire and lived though the Victoria era

“James married Elizabeth Flanders on 25 August 1850 at St Lawrence Church in Foxton, Cambridgeshire where they both lived at the time according to the marriage certificate. Elizabeth was born in about 1828 and was the third child of Zachariah Flanders and Susannah Flanders (previous married name Albon nee Pitt/Pett). Elizabeth had three older half-sisters (from her mothers’ first marriage), two older full sisters, two younger full sisters and two younger full brothers. I obtained a copy of their marriage certificate as I was unsure I had the correct details for James’ father, but it confirmed I did have the correct details.

At the time of marriage James is described as a “minor” that being he was under 21 years of age and was working as a “jobber” as was his father. It may be that they worked together although I have no evidence to confirm this. By the time the 1851 census was conducted on 30 March 1851 James and Elizabeth were living at Foxton Street, Foxton. James is described as 19 years of age and Elizabeth as 22, thus James was either 18 or 19 when they got married. He is also by this time working as an agricultural labourer. The census also shows that they had one son, George, living with them by this time who is said to have been 1 month old, having therefore been born late February or early March. Given they were married in August the previous year you can deduce that Elizabeth was in fact about 3 month pregnant when they were married. This is becoming something of a common theme in my family – in the four generations I have research so far, three out of the four were expecting their first child when they got married! I wonder therefore whether this really would have been such a scandal????

As an agricultural labourer in the 1850’s James would not have been well paid. They were usually amongst the poorest in a village, with work being on a day to day basis. However I have not found James and Elizabeth in any poor relief records and by the 1861 census James was working as a “Dealer” and they were living on the High Street in Foxton. By this time they had four sons, George, Charles born c. March 1855 (baptised 15 April 1855), Frederick (my great great grandfather – see his separate blog) born c. December 1856 (Baptised 14 December 1856) and Arthur born c. June 1859 (baptised 26 June 1859).

In fact checking back to the 1851 and 1861 censuses they were at that time also living next to James’ parents, but his father was described as a “Butcher” in 1851 and a “Dealer” in 1861. I suspect what is described as “Foxton Street” in the 1851 census was in fact the “High Street” as named in the 1861 census. So it appears that by 1851 the whole family had moved to Foxton. It is further interesting to note that in the 1871 census James’ father is still living at the same address and is once again described as a “Butcher”. It is therefore very likely that they worked together and whilst I have not found out any more details as to what they were dealers in my suspicion is that they dealt in meat (hence the description of Butcher) and other food supplies.”

Foxton is described in the 1869 Post Office Directory of Cambridgeshire as “a village, parish, and station [opened in 1851 ], on the Great Northern Railway, 52 miles from London, about 7 south from Cambridge, 6 north from Royston, and 9 west from Linton, in the hundred of Thriplow, union and county court district of Royston, rural deanery of Barton, archdeaconry and diocese of Ely”. They had not moved far. The population in 1861 was 405.

However by this time (1969) James and his family were living in Thriplow. He is in fact listed in the 1864 Post Office Directory of Cambridgeshire as the publican of The Green Man public house in Thriplow. In fact I suspect James became the publican at The Green Man some time before this, as their son, Albert Henry (aka Henry) was born c.1863 being baptised on 30 August 1863 in Thriplow, his baptism record describes his father, James, as a publican. It would be interesting to know how and why James made the jump from “Dealer” to “Publican”.”

“The earliest records of the Green Man are that the property originally belonged to Barenton’s Manor and in 1657 is described as “1 messuage with orchard and garden and 3½ acres arable land”. The first record of it being a public house are of it being called the Garden and Spade in 1788 changing its name to the Gardener’s Spade in 1794 and to the Gardener’s Arms in 1798. It then changed its name back to the Gardener’s Spade in 1800 and eventually to the Green Man in 1822.

Their time at the Green Man was not with objection. In 1878 James appears in the Herts & Cambs Reporter where the following report appears under the Melbourn Petty sessions section, in an application for renewal of the annual licence for The Green Man, Thriplow :

“In the case of the license of the above house at Thriplow, held by James Huddlestone, Mr. Stretten had given notice to the holder of the license of an objection being made at the present meeting against his license being renewed. The notice set forth that Huddlestone was an unfit person to hold the license from his having when goods were offered to him at very much under value by one Walter Morley, and which there was every reason to believe might have been stolen, expressed his willingness to purchase the same, and would have done so except for the interference of his wife; and also that he concealed and denied that the said goods had been offered to him until he was informed the one of the persons had confessed the robbery, and that he (Huddlestone) had offered to purchase the goods.

Mr. C.W. Palmer, solicitor of Cambridge, appeared for Huddlestone, and submitted that the notice was bad in law. The objection, however, was eventually waived, and Mr. Stretten, in support of the facts stated on the notice, called Police-sergeant Levitt, of Chesterton, who said that in February last he received information of a robbery from Thriplow of a quantity of wheat. He went to Duxford and found the men suspected and charged them with stealing it. From what was said to him by the prisoners he called upon James Huddlestone, of the Green Man, Thriplow and told him that he (witness) was informed that a sack of wheat had been stolen from Mr Webster’s premises at Thriplow and that the wheat had changed hands at or near his (Huddlestone’s) house. He replied that he saw nor heard nothing of the wheat. In company with Huddlestone witness looked round the yard but saw nothing of any corn. On the following day February 25th, witness had further communication with the prisoners, and from what they said he went to Thriplow and saw Huddlestone again. He said to Huddlestone then, ‘These prisoners have made a very strong Implication against you. One of them said it was offered to you for sale by Walter Morley.’ Witness told him he thought as he was a licensed man he had better tell him the truth about it. He replied that he would do so, and said that Walter Morley came to him as he was drawing beer in his cellar and asked if he would buy a sack of wheat, to which he (Huddlestone) replied, “I have made up my mind to buy anything worth the money.’’

Huddlestone: “’In a straightforward way,’’ I said. Witness (continuing) said Huddlestone told him that he asked Morley the price of wheat and he said 7s. and that he should have bought it only his wife came up and he should not buy it for anybody. He never saw the wheat.

The Clerk, referring to the circumstances of the robbery, said he believed the prisoners were brought up to that bench and dealt with summarily, and that no charge was preferred against Huddlestone. Sergeant Levitt said that was so, Huddlestone was called as a witness by Deputy Chief Constable Stretten: Huddlestone did not say anything to me about it until I told him that the prisoners had confessed to stealing it and to offering it to Huddlestone for sale.

Mr. Palmer: were you present when the prisoners were convicted? Witness: I was, they pleaded guilty.

Mr. Palmer: There was not a single word said against Huddlestone upon that matter in Court-they made no statement in the Court against the applicant at all? Witness: No. I have resided in this (Melbourn) district for several years. I am not aware that any complaint has been made against Huddlestone.

Mr. Palmer said there was no proof that “he would have purchased it” as set forth in notice, and he took it that the clause in the notice was abandoned by Mr. Stretten.
Mr. Stretten said he did not abandon it at all. If a man offered to do a thing it was a matter of inference as to whether he would do it, and that must be left to the Bench to decide.

Mr. Palmer submitted to the Bench with confidence that there was nothing in the evidence adduced to justify them in withdrawing this man’s certificate. These prisoners plead guilty of having stolen the corn. They did in all probability offer it to his Client, but he did not purchase it; and the prosecution was so satisfied with his respectability that they actually would have called him as a witness to prove the case against these men had not they pleaded guilty. While as to the statement of the corn changing hands at Huddlestone’s, the witness searched the premises and could find no traces of having been the case. Then they had to look at the character of a man who had conducted his house for 17 years in a respectable manner, and never had any charges brought against him. Upon this matter coming to the knowledge of the Messers. Phillips, the owners of his house, they gave him (Huddlestone) notice to quit, but upon subsequent inquires they considered him a proper man to conduct the house, and therefore, subject to the magistrates decision now, did not propose to put the notice into force. In addition to this he had a testimonial from the clergyman of the parish as to the character of his client, which, utterly unsolicited, was sent to the owners of the house in consequence of the notice to quit.

Mr. Palmer then read a letter from the Rev. J. Watkins, Vicar of Thriplow, in which that gentleman stated that from what he had seen and heard of him (Huddlestone) during the last 4 years he considered them to be very respectable and hard working. They conducted their business-which as well-known was always a difficult one-in as honest and straight forward a way as was possible among people who were to drunkenness, as Thriplow people unfortunately were. (laughter). With regard to the question of the corn he (the writer) believed them to be entirely innocent. He should be the last to defend a publican against whom he knew any real ground of the complaint; and it was in the interests of justice both to tenant and to the owners of the house that he had written a letter. Mr. Stretten said he admitted all that had been said, and would go even further in speaking of the good character borne by the applicant during the time he had conducted his house, but it was his duty to lay the facts concerning the conduct of the houses in the division before the magistrates from year to year, and that was his only object in bringing the case before them.

The magistrates then retired, and on their return the chairman said they were unanimously of the opinion that there was no case to justify them in withholding the license, and that it was the opinion of the whole parish of all ranks that he was a most respectable man as publican. At the same time it was the duty of the police not to refuse any information they could get. The license was granted as usual.”

This report is also interesting as it confirms the Green Man public house was owned at this time by Messrs Phillips. This was the brewery known at that time as Phillips Bros, previously known as Royston Brewery and later known as J and J E Phillips Ltd and then Phillips of Royston.

I suspect James was quite a colourful character. I have found further reference to him in the Herts and Cambs Report on 28 October 1892 under the hearing “A Publican Fine” which reports

“James Huddlestone, publican and farmer, of the Green Man, Thriplow, was charged with having being drunk whilst in charge of a horse and cart at Hartson, on October 15th. The defendant pleaded guilty, and, evidence having been given by P.c. Huckle, he was fined 5s and costs”.

The pub also has a colourful history. There are newspaper reports of inquests being held at the pub. During James’ time as publican I have found the following reports:

On Thursday 20th. April 1882 an inquest was held at the Green Man and reported in the Cambridge Chronicle on the death of Elizabeth Fuller aged 2 yrs and 7 months.

On 23 June 1883 again in the Cambridge Chronical it is report “On Tuesday, at the Green Man public house, Mr. C. W. Palmer, County Coroner, held an inquest touching the death of Wm. Bush, aged 70, bailiff to Mr. Perkins.- It appeared that the deceased, since the death of his wife, 2 years ago, had lived by himself. For a fortnight or so prior to Friday, the April 8th, he had been in a depressed state of mind. During Friday, the deceased had some refreshments at a neighbours house, where he said his poor head was very bad, and when it was suggested to him that the Doctor should be call on him, he said that “there was no telling where he should be”. He was missed from his home on Friday evening, and on the Saturday was found lying in a neighbouring field. A four chambered revolver, with 2 chambers empty, was lying close by, and the deceased had apparently shot himself. He was however, alive. After being taken home he admitted he had done wrong, but assigned no reason. He had been in the habit of keeping the revolver by his bedside. He died on Monday last-Mr. Earle, surgeon, give evidence showing that the death resulted from a bullet wound in the head, and said that judging from the position of the wound and the state of the ear, he believed the wound was self-inflicted.- Verdict, “suicide while of unsound mind”.

On 20 September 1890 the Cambridge Independent Press reports “An Old Man’s Presentiment – An inquest was held at the Green Man, Thriplow, on Tuesday, before the county coroner (Mr C. W. Palmer), concerning the death of Nathan Ison, aged 60 years, shepherd – Sarah Ison, the widow, said she was sent for on Monday morning to go home. When she arrived there she found her husband in bed. He complained of being unwell when he went to work, and said he could no live. A doctor was sent for, but her husband died before he arrived – James Huddlestone, publican, of Thriplow, deposed that on Monday morning he saw the deceased reeling about the road. Ison said to him “James, I am a dead man; help me home”. He took the deceased home , and assisted him to bed – Mr H. S. Reynolds, a medical gentleman living in Melbourn, state that he had made post-mortem examination. The cause of death was syncope, consequence upon fatty degeneration of the heart – Verdict accordingly”

On 29 May 1891 there is a report in the Royston Weekly News that quotes an inquiry that was held in the Green Man on the death of Emily Hannah Freeman aged 4½ who had died from scald caused by pulling a frying pan over herself. The jury found the verdict of “Accidental Death”.”

greenman wth saracen's Head on right (1847-late 1870's)

This is a painting of The Green Man with the Saracen’s Head public house on the right which operated from 1847 to the 1870’s, so during the early days of James being the publican at the Green Man. It is interesting that the Saracen’s Head closed in the 1870’s as this is following the introduction of the Licensing Act 1872 (parts of which still remains in force today) which:
• “for the first time gave magistrates the power to issue licenses to public houses; where it was thought that there were too many of these, magistrates were able to close down some of them;
• public houses now had to close in towns at midnight and at 11 p.m. in the countryside – so that agricultural labourers could walk home and arrive before midnight;
• the adulteration of beer was made illegal: it was common for salt to be added to it, to make the consumers thirsty and so drink more.”
The 1874 Licensing Act provided for longer opening hours.
It may be that the Saracen’s Head was closed by the magistrates. There were in fact at this time five public houses in Thriplow. As well as the Green Man and Saracen’s Head, there was The Fox in Church Street which burnt down in 1920; the Red Lion in Middle Street which burnt down in 1941; and the Shoulder of Mutton which closed c. 1915. It is nice to know that the Green Man is the only pub remaining in Thriplow; after a few turbulent years the pub is now a community owned pub .

The green man today
The Green Man today

It would be nice to think that his children celebrated their marriages with a wedding breakfast at the Green Man. All of his children were married during James’ lifetime and his time as the publican at the Green Man. However only three of his children, George, Charles and Ruth, were married in Cambridge.”


My Great (x2) Grandad Frederick

An excerpt from the mini biography of Frederick James Huddlestone who brought my Huddlestone ancestors (pedigree lineage) to Yorkshire from Cambridge

“Throughout the Victorian era farming faced a number of challenges (see blog on James Huddlestone for more details). In the 1870’s there began an agricultural depression resulting from the industrial revolution; a series of bad harvests due to poor weather; technological advances in farming machinery reducing the amount of labourers needed; and the increase of cheap American imports (post the American Civil war (1861 to 1865)) reducing the price of home grown crops. The repeal of the Corn Laws (which had imposed tariffs on imported grain) in 1846 had led to free trade. Ultimately this agricultural depression led to the Board of Agriculture (now the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) being set up in 1889. This was the period when Benjamin Disreali (1874 to 1880) was Prime Minister. There were a number of other technological advances and inventions during this period including the Gasoline Carburettor, Telephone and Phonograph in 1876; .Microphone in 1877; the Lightbulb in 1879; the electric iron in 1882; the Motorcycle in 1885; and the Automobile in 1886.

Pay for agricultural labourers was generally poor but especially low in the south where there was little competition from the lure of the new, industrial areas of the Midlands, North West and West Yorkshire, where wages were higher. There are stories of whole families packing up and leaving Cambridgeshire for a new life in these areas with examples of agents actively negotiating with Parish officials in Cambridgeshire to arrange for workers to be shipped to the mill towns in Lancashire because this took them off parish relief.

It appear that Frederick was attracted by the ‘lure of the north’. By 1878 Frederick was living in Cridling Stubbs in the Parish of Womersley in the lower division of the Wapentake (also known as Hundred in other parts of the country) of Osgoldcross in the West Riding of Yorkshire; marrying Mary Elizabeth Turner on the 4 December 1878 at The Parish Church in the Parish of Womersley, and working as a Blacksmith. Mary was the youngest child and only daughter of John Turner and Martha Turner (nee Heap) born 12 April 1859 in Burton Salmon, Yorkshire. Her father was a shopkeeper and according to the 1871 census he described himself as a grocer and beer dealer.

In the Directory and Topography of Sheffield 1826, Cridling Stubbs is described as “a scattered township, 4 miles E. of Pontefract, contains 1,380 acres of land, and in 1861 had 127 inhabitants. Rateable value, £1,500. William W. Chafey, Esq., and Sidney College, Cambridge, are the principal owners; the former is also lord of the manor”. Sidney College bought Cridling Park, part of the manor of Cridling Stubbs from the Earl of Monmouth in 1634 for £2,670 after Sir John Brereton, one of the first scholars of Sidney College, who died in 1626, left one-half of his estate for such purposes as would be for the good of the College.

I have not found any particular reason why Frederick chose Cridling Stubbs to move to from Foxton nor when he actually moved but this is interesting because two of his brothers moved to the area around the same time, working as chemical labourers at Whitwood and ultimately four of his six siblings moved to the surrounding area. It would have been relatively easy to travel to the area following the completion of the great north railway in 1850 (London to Doncaster with a connection to York) to which there was a link from Foxton Station via the Hitchin and Cambridge branch line of the great northern railway. The line also continued to Edinburgh (line from Doncaster to Edinburgh was completed in 1846) and London to York direct was available from 1871″


My Great Grandad Arthur 1879 – 1937

A couple of excerpts from my mini biography of Arthur Turner Huddlestone spent most of his life as a publican 

“I am not sure that Arthur’s trade would be greatly affected by the First World War. Farmers played an important part during the war, in particular arable farmers which helped to stave off famine in Britain, despite a food shortage and it is therefore doubtful he had a shortage of customers. In fact the national trend was an increasing concern as to the level of drinking during the early part of the First World War due to increasingly demanding work and increasing wages. Public houses had traditionally been the place for men not women, but interestingly because more women were working to support the war effort (with so many men away at the front) women found themselves with more disposable income and freed from many domestic restraints. In increasing numbers, they flocked to pubs and drank alcohol in greater quantities than before. This national trend did lead to changes in licensing laws which would have affected Arthur’s business.
In 1915, the then Minister for Munitions, Lloyd George, declared that; “We are fighting Germans, Austrians and drink, and so far as I can see the greatest of these deadly foes is drink”. The concerns were that this increase in alcohol consumption would have a negative impact on the war effort. New licensing laws were therefore introduced restricting opening hours for licensed premises to lunch (12:00 to 14:00) and later to supper (18:30 to 21:30). Before this, public houses could open from 5 o’clock in the morning to 1230 at night!

There were also restrictions regarding alcohol content; Beer in particular was ordered to be ‘watered down’ to make it less potent and reduce drunkenness. Additionally it became illegal to buy drinks for other people, thus ending the tradition of buying alcohol in rounds. Interestingly there were no measures specifically targeted at women despite there being a moral outrage among regarding women drinking in public houses.

Arthur managed to avoid conscription in the First World War, with only his younger brother, Albert, joining up. The Military Service Act was introduced in 1916 and initially he would not have been eligible because he was a married man, although that rule changed in June 1916. The Act thereafter made all men aged 18 to 40 years old were liable to be called up for military service unless they were widowed with children or ministers of a religion. There was a system of Military Service Tribunals to adjudicate upon claims for exemption upon the grounds of performing civilian work of national importance, domestic hardship, health, and conscientious objection and it may be that Arthur and his siblings became exempt because of they were farmers. Although Arthur was a publican, in the 1911 census he was also listed as a land owner and farmer and he continued to own farm land throughout his life.”

dav    Jolly Miller Station Hotel as was
The Station Hotel c.1920 the pub Arthur ran from c. 1922 until his death
Later re-named the Jolly Miller


I imagine the pub would be quite a bustling place given the trade that would have been passing at that time on the canal and railway. The opening of the canal coincided with the opening of new docks at Goole on 20 July 1826. The new section of canal was 18.7 miles (30.1 km) long, with locks at Ferrybridge, Whitley, Pollington and Goole. Goole became an official port in 1827, when it gained its own Customs facilities. The transportation of coal was one of the main cargos on the canal. Although by the time Arthur was running the Stain Hotel the railway was probably much busier than the canal. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway had the largest fleet of all the railway companies in the early 1900’s before railway companies began amalgamating. Amongst others, in 1905 they took over the Goole Steam Shipping Company. By 1913, among others, they not only ran the trains passing through Whitley Bridge to Goole by also ran steam ships between Goole and many continental ports including Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Rotterdam.

I have not been able to find out at this stage which brewery the pub belonged to, possibly Bentleys Yorkshire Brewery’s Limited. There were two other local pubs at the time, The Horse and Jockey at Hut Green, Eggborough which was and remains a Tetley’s Brewery pub and the George and Dragon at Whitley was and remains a John Smiths Brewery pub.
The Station Hotel must have been a successful business because by 1927 Arthur was also listed in Kelly’s trade directory as a “motor engineer; petrol, oils, tyres & accessories stocked; repairs a specialty”. He had bought the Station Garage across the road from his pub, where he also continued to be the publican. I am told by family members that the pub was known for “lock ins” which were often with the full knowledge and participation of the local police. This may explain an article I have found in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph dated 15 October 1924 stating

“Arthur Turner Huddlestone, licensee of the Station Hotel Whitley Bridge, appealed against a conviction at the Snaith Court for supplying beer during prohibited hours. The appeal was dismissed with costs”

This is also the period in history when women were given the right to vote. It would be interesting to know what Arthur and his family thought of the suffragettes and whether, being a business women as landlady, Annie supported the movement or was part of any local movement. The right to vote was given to certain women, those over the age of 30 who either owned property or was married to a man who did, in 1918, in the first general election post the First World War. In 1928 the voting right was extended to all women over the age of 21. Annie was amongst those women who qualified and I have found Annie listed on the West Yorkshire electoral register in 1918.

This was also a time when the punishment of hanging was still available for the severest of crimes and I am told that the infamous hangman Thomas Pierrepoint (hangman from 1906 to 1946) was a regular guest at the Station Hotel. Thomas assisted at 35 executions and carried out 203 civilian hangings in England and Wales and four in Scotland. And was the official executioner for Irish Republic after it gained independence from England in 1923 carrying out 28 executions at Dublin’s Mountjoy prison between 1921 and 1944, plus four in Belfast.

He was also appointed by the US Military in Europe, being responsible for the hangings of 16 US servicemen at Shepton Mallet prison during World War II, assisted by his nephew, Albert in at least six of the hangings at Shepton Mallet. He was flown over to Normandy in France in August 1944 to hang a US serviceman, who had been convicted of rape.”