Inherited Craziness
A place to share all the nuts found on my family tree

Showing posts with label Family stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family stories. Show all posts

Wednesday 8 May 2024

James Edmond and Sarah Ann Wood

British Cemetery Graves, St Sever Cemetery Extension Photo: GiogoSome rights reserved

James Edmond (b. 1888, in PrestonpansMidlothian, Scotland), son of George Edmond, married Sarah Ann Wood (bap. 12 Jul 1885 in Kentisbeare) daughter of James Wood and Mary Ann Melhuish, at St. Mary’s, Kentisbeare on 8 May 1911. At the time of the marriage, James Edmond was a Lodging House Keeper and Sarah was a Domestic Servant. Both gave their address as Ponchydown, Kentisbeare (former Ponchydown Inn in Blackborough).

James and Sarah Ann had three children:
  1. James Roland George Edmond b. 24 Jul 1912 in Scotland, bap. 29 Dec 1912 at Blackborough, Devon, although the family's address on the baptism record was given as 2 New St, Prestonpans.
  2. Arthur Cecil Ronald Edmond b. 23 Dec 1914 (1915 M Quarter in TIVERTON Volume 05B Page 666)
  3. Constance Mary Helen Edmond b. 11 May 1917 (1917 J Quarter in TIVERTON Volume 05B Page 537)
On 23 Jun 1906, James Edmond enlisted for Short Service in the Scots Guards. He served until 23 Jun 1909 and was transferred to the reserve. However, he was mobilised again on 5 Aug 1914, the day after Britain declared war on Germany. James was promoted to Corporal in 1915 and Sergeant in 1916. His army record states that he embarked on the "SS Queen Alexandria", in Southampton on 9 Aug 1916, arriving in Le Havre the next day.

Admitted to hospital on 14 May 1918, dangerously ill, having received a gunshot wound to the head, James died of his wounds, at the No 5 General Hospital, Rouen, on 25 May 1918. Sgt James Edmond is buried at the St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, Plot: Q. I. A. 3.

In 1921, Sarah Ann Edmond (36) Widow; James Roland George Edmond (8), Arthur Cecil Ronald Edmond (6) and Constance Mary Helen Edmond (4) were living with Sarah's mother, Mary Ann Wood, at Downlands, Kentisbeare.

Devington Park, Exminster
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Sarah Charlesworth -
A huge complex of apartments, housed in what was once the Devon Mental Hospital.

However, Sarah Ann Edmond, widow, of The Mental Hospital, Exminster (originally Devon County Lunatic Asylum, Exminster), died at 48 on 4 Dec 1933 (1933 D Quarter in ST. THOMAS Volume 05B Page 76), leaving her effects to her son James Roland George Edmond, Guardsman.

Constance M H Edmond, in 1939, Incapacitated, was resident at the The Royal Western Counties Institution For Training And Treatment Of Mental Defectives, Starcross. "Originally known as the Western Counties Idiot Asylum, this institution opened in 1864 in a house and land, rented from W.R. Courtenay, 11th Earl of Devon." "It later became known as the Western Counties Institution, Starcross, and was certified as 'a residential special school for mental defectives'. Residents were trained in carving, weaving, basketry, lace-making and carpentry, and worked on the institution's agricultural holdings." It was closed in 1986, and demolished.

Constance M H Edmond died, aged 32, in 1949 S Quarter in DEVON CENTRAL Volume 07A Page 303. 

Saturday 17 February 2024

David Jones and Laura Elizabeth White

Christ Church Rushbrooke Cobh

My great-grandparents, David Jones (b. 10 Jul 1850 at Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire), son of Thomas Jones and Mary Harty, and Laura Elizabeth White (b. 15 Oct 1870 in Thorpe St Andrew, Norwich, Norfolk), daughter of Walter White and Hannah Blazey, married at Christ Church, Church of IrelandRushbrooke, Cobh (Queenstown, as it was then), Ireland on 17 Feb 1892. David Jones was then Sexton of this Anglican Christ Church. But this was not David's first marriage, so we have to rewind for the full story: 

David was baptised, on 1 May 1851, at St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Kings Lynn, Norfolk and brought up in Baltimore, West Cork. He enlisted in the Royal Navy as a Boy Second Class, on 7 July 1865, just shy of his 15th birthday. His father, Thomas Jones, and mother, Mary, co-signed the papers. David was then 4ft 8½in tall, with a sallow complexion, dark brown hair and hazel eyes. Once he reached 18, his period of engagement was to last a further ten years, obviously intending to follow in his father's footsteps. At 14 he was assigned to HMS Implacable, which had become the Royal Navy's first training ship at Devonport in 1855. But instead of continuing his service as planned, David was discharged on 17 Oct 1866, when he will have been just 16. Under the Cause of Discharge, is the abbreviation for Invalided.

Because David always claimed to come from Wales, I almost missed his naval record. In fact, I'd dismissed it twice, because, although many other details seemed close enough, the boy was born in Lincolnshire, which didn't seem relevant. Then I found his father's posting to Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire and David's birth there and the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place.

You gotta love a family story. There's always a grain of truth in them, but inevitably some embellishment. Family tradition was that David had "lost a hand in battle". We searched high and low for a naval battle in the right era and came up with nothing. "In battle" sounds more heroic, clearly. Maybe it also proved handy (pun intended) in attracting him two wives! My late cousin in Ireland recounted that her older sister had remembered visiting the family in Rushbrooke and seeing David's 'Sunday Best' gloved hand hanging up in the kitchen (such a creepy image) and continued that, apparently, he had a fork attachment for everyday - from which we may deduce that it was his left hand he lost - that attached to a metal pin that was inserted at his wrist. 

There not being more detail, nor medical records we can access, we have to surmise the rest of story. That he lost a hand is not in question. He was still in training, so there was no 'battle'. But, taking into consideration that this was 1866 - general anesthesia was still very much in experimental infancy - my feeling is that the only place that such a procedure as inserting a metal pin into his wrist was likely to be carried out was in a military hospital and at that time there was the the former Royal Naval Hospital, Stonehouse. That they did this and sent him off with a pension at the tender age of 16, suggests that the Navy was at fault and, my cousin's sister had recalled that this was as a result of an exploding gun, which also seems to confirm this theory.

After being pensioned off from the Navy, David Jones was next recorded at Castle Oliver in Limerick at the time of his father's death in 1873. Records of his Dog Licences then placed David at Castle Oliver in 1874 to 1877 too and, from 1878 onwards, man and dog were at Rushbrooke. Following the Dogs Act of 1865, every dog owner in Ireland had to go to the court and pay 2s 6d - to have the breed and colour of dogs written down in a ledger. It was hardly an exact science, because the same dog was described differently each year. Most of David's dogs were terriers, retrievers and spaniels, so I'm pretty sure he was using them to hunt. Nevertheless, we learned from these listings girl dogs were called 'Slut'. As if bitch wasn't bad enough!

On 5 Oct 1880, David Jones married Johannah Anne O'Callaghan at the Parish Church in Inchigeelagh, Cork, By Licence. Johannah's father, Cornelius O'Callaghan was a Schools Inspector and on a later census return pedantically listed himself as Church of Ireland, and a member of the 'Irish Truth Society - Protestant'. Interesting choice of father-in-law for "a nice Catholic boy".

David and Hannah had five children, all baptised at Christ Church: 
  1. Thomas Jones b. 19 Oct 1881, bap. 19 Nov 1881. (Died 8 Jan 1891.)
  2. Marcella Jones b. 10 May 1883, bap. 2 Jun 1883
  3. Helena Jones b. 4 Mar 1885, bap. 14 Mar 1885 [1]
  4. Anna Jones b. 14 Feb 1887, bap. 19 Mar 1887. (Died in 1902.)
  5. Marion Jones b. 27 Aug 1889, bap. 21 Sep 1889 (Died 8 Mar 1891.)
By the time of the baptism of David and Hannah's first child in 1881, David was listed as "Sexton of Church". Rushbrooke had docks, a tradition of ship building and the Irish Naval Service nearby, so I don't suppose it hurt that he was a Naval Pensioner, but the timing and the fact that the pedantically detailed school records were held in the church, lead me to believe that his father-in-law's contacts may have secured David this position. 

David appeared before the Petty Sessions Court on 17 Oct 1884 and was fined three shillings, plus one shilling and sixpence costs, for trespass. This time the cause of the complaint reads, "Trespass: Defendant's goat trespassed on complainant's pasture land at Ringmeen, Queenstown on 15 Oct 1884." From this we can probably safely deduce that David kept a goat. 

And so things might have continued, but Johannah Jones (35), wife of David Jones a Naval Pensioner, died of Typhoid fever, on 18 Feb 1891. Johannah was buried, on 20 Feb 1891 in the same plot as David's father, Thomas Jones (Section S, Row 9, Position 76), at the Old Church Cemetery (Cobh), where her son Thomas (9) had been buried little more than a month earlier, on 10 Jan 1891. One assumes from the same cause. Youngest daughter, Marion (2), also died on 8 Mar 1891. There was no record in the church of Marion's burial, but I imagine she'll have been buried with her mother.

The kitchen at Fota House

So, on 17 Feb 1892 - 'scandalously' one day less than a year after Johannah's death - David Jones married Laura Elizabeth White. Witnesses were Ellen Jones (David's brother Nicholas' wife) and Annie Jones, David's sister. On the marriage certificate, Laura's address is given just as 'Fota', the island in Cork Harbour, just north of Great Island and Fota House & Gardens was (and is) probably all there was there, so perhaps Laura was employed at Fota House, which makes sense, because my gran had talked about them baking cakes for "the big house". We also know that the family from Fota House attended the Anglican Christ Church, which is obviously where David and Laura met.

David and Laura added yet another six children: 
  1. Cornelius Walter Jones (Con) b. 2 Jan 1893, bap. 22 Jan 1893 [2]
  2. Ellen Jones (Nell) b. 23 Apr 1894, bap. 13 May 1894
  3. Laura Mary Jones (Queenie) b. 2 Aug 1896, bap 28 Aug 1896 [3]
  4. David Jones (Young Dave) b. 10 Nov 1898, bap. 9 Dec 1898
  5. Alice Jones b. 26 Jul 1903, bap. 14 Aug 1903 [4]
  6. Agnes Jones (Daisy) b. 27 Feb 1907, bap. 15 Mar 1907
Here I should mention that prior to going to Cobh in 2014, I'd only known that my grandmother had lived in Ireland growing up: we didn't know when or where she was born. There'd been some mention of her father marrying twice and I'd known of a younger sister. Getting to the church and being let loose with all the original records was a huge surprise: finding record after record until I had various marriages, all eleven children, every relevant baptism, school record and, where appropriate, burial, was quite a shock.

It's interesting that the first son by the 2nd wife is named after the 1st wife's father first and the 2nd wife's father second. (Irish logic?) David appears to be - less strictly with the girls - following the traditional naming pattern that was often used by Irish parents until the later 19th century, but it's clear that this is in the order of the father's 1st, 2nd, etc., child irrespective of which wife produced it. Did wives not matter? Yeah, that's probably rhetorical.

In 1901, David Jones (50), Laura (30), Helena (16), Cornelius (8), Ellen (6), Laura (4) and David (2) were living at Queenstown Urban, Cork. Marcella had already left home and was working as a servant in the household of Edward Gibbings, Rector of Kinsale, at Rampart's Lane (Kinsale Urban, Cork), while Anna (or Annie) (13), was staying with her grandfather O'Callaghan.

At the Cork Petty Sessions on Monday 9th September 1901: "Defendant was found unlawfully on the premises of one Zachariah Fox licenced for the sale of intoxicating liquor by retail during a period during which said premises are required by law to be closed on Sunday the 1st September 1901."

Then on 13 Apr 1902, Annie Jones (14), Daughter of a Naval Pensioner, died from Tuberculous meningitis. Her grandfather was present when she died.

On Monday 13th May 1907: "Defendant was found unlawfully on the premises of one John Luddy licenced for the sale of intoxicating liquors by retail at Newtown during a period during which said premises were required by law to be closed to wit at the hour of 10.20 of PM on Tuesday 7th of May 1907." On this second occasion David was convicted and fined 1/- plus costs of 1/-, with the threat of 7 days imprisonment if he failed to pay up. 

In 1911, the household, still at Rushbrooke, included David (58), Laura (40), Cornelius (18), Ellen (16), Laura (14), David (12), Alice (7) and Agnes (4). 

On both census returns, David listed his birthplace - wrongly - as Wales, but I think we can all imagine reasons why being Welsh in Ireland was far more desirable than being English and with a name like Jones and his father supposedly born in Swansea, this was a perfectly believable fib.

Once more, David Jones was back before the courts, this time for the heinous crime of failing to obtain a dog licence. Friday 12th April 1912: "Defendant had in his possession at Queenstown on the 12th April 1912 one dog for which he omitted to take out a licence on or before the 31 March 1912."
He was ordered to take out a licence forthwith. (Records show he did.)

Laura Jones, wife of David Jones a Naval Pensioner, died, aged 46, on 17 Jan 1917 from Splenic Leucocythemia (or Leukemia) and Influenza. Laura was buried, on 19 Jan 1917 at the Old Church Cemetery (Cobh), in Section D, Row 6, Position 50. So David was widowed again. Daughter Ellen (Nell), then 23, (resentfully) looked after the house and younger children until she married, after which David's sister, Annie, took over as housekeeper. 

From the The Weekly Freeman on Saturday, January 18, 1919: Raid at Queenstown: "The sexton's lodge at Rushbrooke Church, near Queenstown, has been raided for arms, and a fowling-piece belonging to the sexton, David Jones, was taken away by the three men with their faces muffled, who presented revolvers." This was just days before the start of the Irish War of Independence. My grandmother had also told me this story, because she was there when the raid took place and specified the raiders were Sinn Féin.

On 7 Aug 1935, David Jones, widower, 79, Sexton of Church, died at Church Lodge from Hemiplegia 2 years (from which I'm reading that he'd probably had a stroke in 1933) and Cardiac failure. David was buried, on 10 Aug 1935, at the Old Church Cemetery (Cobh), in Section D, Row 6, Position 50, along with second wife, Laura, and their son Cornelius, who had died in 1926.

The Jones Family Church Lodge Rushbrooke at Rest, Section D, Row 6, Position 50
Old Church Cemetery (Cobh). Resting place of David Jones (1850-1935), Laura Elizabeth Jones (1870-1917), Cornelius Walter Jones (1893-1926) and David Jones (1898-1966).

Researching documents and discovering online records that go towards telling an ancestor's story is fascinating. Visiting the places where they were born, baptised, married, lived or worked really helps put those things into context, but there is something very emotive about finding a grave with a headstone to feel properly connected to family members, knowing a physical part of them is right there beneath your feet. But with cremation being the norm in the most recent generations and the majority being too poor for headstones, such moments are very rare and special. There are no graves for my parents nor grandparents, so the first would be for my great-grandparents. 

Old Church Cemetery, Cobh, Cork, Ireland

In 2014, we went to Cobh (formerly Queenstown), Cork, Ireland where my paternal grandmother had been born and brought up. While there, we were met by the late Jack Gilmartin, who used to provide free guided tours of the Old Church Cemetery, where there are a number of famous burials, particularly many of the victims of the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. I don't know what I was expecting, but Jack took me totally by surprise, when he said, "I'll take you to your family's grave." It sent a shiver down my spine and completely took my breath away. And it still does.

With an inscription on the cross-shaped headstone reading, "The Jones Family, Church Lodge, Rushbrooke, At Rest", this is the final resting place of my great-grandfather, David Jones (1850-1935), my great grandmother, his second wife, Laura White (1870-1917) and their two sons, Cornelius Jones (1893-1926) and David Jones (1898-1966) (Young Dave.)

What I didn't fully appreciate until later is there's also an earlier family grave in this cemetery, where the inscription reads, "Erected by David Jones In memory of his beloved father Thos. Jones Who died Jan. 8th 1873 aged 56 years Also his beloved son Thomas Who died Jan. 8th 1891 Aged 9 years and 3 months And his beloved wife Johanna Who died Feb 18th 1891 Aged 35 years."

There also is the grave of Catherine Jones (Kitty), wife of Young Dave

And I wouldn't have known about any of those, had it not been for Jack giving me a pair of A4 sheets, listing all the Jones' burials there. It was so sad to read about Jack's death less than a year after we'd met him, but lovely to know that he has been buried in the Old Church Cemetery. You can listen to Jack talking about the cemetery and some of the stories of his co-occupants here.

[1] The last record I have that mentions Helena Jones is where she was witness to the marriage of her sister, Marcella to Edward John Bicknell, in Portsmouth, in 1906, so we know she was in England then. There are also records of voyages to America for a Helena Jones of the right age.

10.11.1917 EGYPT

[2] We've never been able to find a military record for Cornelius Walter Jones, but know he enlisted in the Army and served during World War I. His first cousin's husband, who was in Queenstown with the US Navy, kept a detailed diary and had written that Cornelius (Con) was leaving for Egypt in 1917

The image above, which I admit I downloaded some years ago (the page no longer exists), is dated 10.11.1917 EGYPT. The taller man (that makes perfect sense too as his grandfather, Thomas Jones, had been 5' 9½", which was tall for his time), second from right, back row, is so much like my father it's literally like looking straight into his eyes. His stance, his eyes, ears, nose, mouth, brow line and, above all, hair, are utterly identical. It's so close a resemblance that it's eerie and uncanny and, unless someone can prove otherwise, I feel sure this has to be my great-uncle, Cornelius Jones.

Though our cousin had thought that Con didn't return from the war, I now know he did, probably suffering shell-shock, for which his sister Agnes had described him as "daft" - such was the lack of understanding. So not expecting to find him there in Ireland, we were quite shocked when we read the listing of his burial at the Old Church Cemetery (Cobh). His death certificate tells us Cornelius Jones, late of Rushbrooke, Cork, died on 21 Apr 1926 at the Cork District Hospital (now St. Finbarr's Hospital, with its origins in the Cork Union Workhouse and Infirmary). He was a bachelor, previously employed as a labourer. The record says 30, but he was 33 and died from Pneumonic Phthisis (tuberculosis, also known as consumption), after 8 months in hospital. The informant was Helena Lynch, "Inmate" Cork Union. Cornelius Walter Jones was buried on 24 Apr 1926, in the family plot at Old Church Cemetery (Cobh), along with his mother.

The file name of the image above, b4croad3 matches the file name of the now defunct page at the former Royal Munster Fusiliers website at (also mentioned here) appertaining to a Private Frederick R Croad, 2nd R. Munster Fus, who I believe is also in the image. We have no record of what unit Cornelius joined or when, however, two Extra Reserve Battalions of the Royal Munster Fusiliers were mobilised at Queenstown (Cobh). The 6th (Service) Battalion certainly sailed on 9 Sep 1917 from Salonika for Alexandria in Egypt.

[3] Laura Mary (Queenie) Jones was alive and unmarried in 1942, when she and her sister Alice were both witnesses at their brother Dave's wedding.

[4] As with her sister, Laura Mary, I've found no records that I can definitely attribute to Alice Jones beyond 1942. My belief is she stayed in Ireland, as when I was a child, my gran used to have shamrocks sent to her for St. Patrick's Day and I'm sure I remember them coming from an Alice, in Ireland. Family stories - we know how reliable those are - alleged that Laura and Alice had been thrown out of the family home and sent to the workhouse as they both had children out of wedlock. We were unable to find records of them entering the Cork workhouse. My late cousin had said they had lived at the Cork County Hospital for years and visited them there in 1946. Unfortunately, without an admission date, the Health Service in Ireland couldn't (wouldn't) make a search of the records for me to be able to confirm.

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Dan Tompson and Mary Ann Green

Junction of Cable Street and Watney Street, Shadwell
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Robin Stott -

Dan Thompson, one of my 2nd great-grandfathers, was born in Broughton, Northamptonshire on 12 Oct 1848 and baptised, on 5 Nov 1848, at St Andrew's Church, Cransley. His parents were Daniel Thompson and Mary Adcock. He ended up in Canada, but via a pretty indirect route:

In 1851, Dan (2) was with his parents, in Broughton. Following his father's death in 1854, by 1861, the 12 year old Dan was living in the household of his eldest brother, George Thompson (b. 1836), who appeared to have taken over the family carpentry business in Broughton, along with their widowed mother, Mary Thompson (née Adcock). Dan's brother Benjamin (19) was then living with their aunt and uncle, in St George in the East, Middlesex. So it's presumably as a result of this latter connection that Dan also went to London and it seems to be that when the brothers reach the East End they drop the aitch from Thompson. My mother always insisted it was Tompson.

On 15 Aug 1867, aged 19, Dan Tompson married Mary Ann Green (17), daughter of Edward Green and Eliza Goodman (landlords of the King and Queen public house in St George in the East), at the Church of Saint John the Evangelist, in Limehouse (bombed in 1940 and since demolished). Witnesses to their marriage were Robert Davis and Harriet Blundell (in 1861, Harriet, then around 12, had been a visitor in the household of Mary Ann's parents, so she may well have been family and was very possibly bridesmaid.)

Dan and Mary Ann had two children:
  1. Eliza Louisa Tompson b. 24 Aug 1868 at 299 Cable Street (1868 S Quarter in SAINT GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 417)
  2. Dan Edward Green Tompson b. 12 Mar 1870 (1870 M Quarter in SAINT GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 466). Died 1870 J Quarter in SAINT GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 288.
Mary Ann Tompson, wife of Dan Tompson, Bricklayer (present at the death), died on 19 Mar 1870 at 363 Cable Street, St George in the East, after giving birth to their son. The causes listed on Mary Ann's death certificate state "Childbirth 7 days, Scarlet Fever 4 days, exhaustion". She was just 20.

In April 1871, the widowed Dan Tompson (22) was lodging in Cable Street, while his daughter Eliza Louisa (2) (listed as Thompson), was living with her widowed maternal grandmother, Eliza Green, then landlady at The King and Queen Public House in Tait Street, St George in the East (Wapping). 

On 4 June 1871, Dan Tompson (23) remarried to Sarah Jane Baker (19), daughter of Charles Hoile Baker and Amelia Young, at Christ Church, Watney Street, Stepney (four of the five Tompson siblings married in this church). Witnesses were Charles Richard Baker, Sarah Jane's brother; Amelia Baker, who was either her mother or sister and Louisa Tompson, Dan's sister.

Dan and Sarah Jane went on to have a further TWELVE children:
  1. Amelia Mary Tompson b. 1872 D Qtr in STEPNEY Vol 01C Page 473 (Died, aged 1, in 1874 M Qtr in MILE END OLD TOWN Vol 01C 399)
  2. Jessie Elizabeth Tompson b. 1874 D Quarter in MILE END OLD TOWN Vol 01C Page 597 (Died, aged 1, in 1876 M Qtr in Vol 01C Page 433)
  3. Sarah Sophia Tompson b. 9 Oct 1876 (1876 D Quarter in MILE END OLD TOWN Volume 01C Page 523), bap. 5 Jun 1895 in Waddesdon
  4. Mabel Grace Tompson b. 6 Aug 1878 (1878 S Quarter in STEPNEY Volume 01C Page 443), bap. 25 Dec 1890 in Waddesdon
  5. Mary Adcock Tompson b.  1880 S Quarter in ST GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 371 (Died, aged 1, in 1881 J Quarter in ST GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 280)
  6. Dan Baker Tompson b. 1882 D Quarter in ST: GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 385 (Died 1883 J Quarter in ST GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 274)
  7. Charles Frederick Tompson b. 1884 M Quarter in ST GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 409 (Died, aged 3, in 1887 M Quarter in POPLAR Volume 01C Page 451)
  8. George Daniel Tompson b. 1885 S Quarter in SAINT GEORGE IN THE EAST Volume 01C Page 349, bap. 25 Dec 1890 in Waddesdon
  9. Ernest Wilberforce Tompson b. 1888 D Qtr in POPLAR Vol 01C Page 641 (Died, aged 1, in 1890 J Qtr in WEST HAM Vol 04A Page 81)
  10. Amelia Mary Tompson b. 14 Nov 1890 (1890 D Quarter in AYLESBURY Volume 03A Page 648), bap. 25 Dec 1890 in Waddesdon
  11. Ellen Hoile Folville Tompson b. 22 May 1893 (1893 S Quarter in MELTON MOWBRAY Volume 07A Page 323), bap. 5 Jun 1895 in Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire
  12. Ivy Maud Tompson b. 23 Feb 1895 (1895 J Quarter in AYLESBURY Volume 03A Page 761), bap. 5 Jun 1895 in Waddesdon
The mother's maiden name on all of these birth registrations is BAKER.

In 1881, Dan Tompson (32) and Sarah Jane Tompson (29) were living at 27 Watney Street, St George in the East, with Dan's daughter Eliza Louisa Tompson (12) - listed as Elizabeth L - Sarah Sophia Tompson (5), Mabel Grace Tompson (3) and Mary Adcock Tompson (0). (Living at the same address were Sarah Jane's younger sister, Sophia and her husband Charles Frederick Burden. Both couples followed similar naming patterns for their children, with Dan and Sarah Jane naming one son Charles Frederick, which suggests they were close. Burden went to Canada in 1900. Did this have a bearing on Dan and Sarah Jane's decision to emigrate in 1912?)

On 4 Oct 1886 Mabel Grace and on 1 Nov 1886 Sarah Sophia, daughters of Dan Tompson of 106 High Street, were enrolled at Bow High Street School (Closed in 1932). This record provides their actual birth dates.

Mabel Grace (b. 1878), George Daniel (b. 1885) and Amelia Mary (b. 1890), were all baptised on Christmas Day 1890, in Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire.

In 1891, in High Street, Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire were Dan Tompson (40) Bricklayer; Sarah Jane Tompson (39), Mabel G Tompson (12),  George D Tompson (5) and Amelia M Tompson (0). Eliza Louisa Tompson (22) 'Fancy box maker' was living with William and Ellen Burton, in Knapp Road, Bromley, Poplar, listed as their niece (Ellen Burton (née Baker) was Sarah Jane' sister). Sarah Sophia Tompson was visiting her aunt Mary Thompson, widow of her father's brother, Benjamin, at the Spotted Cow, Hither Green, Lewisham.

St Michael & All Angels,
Waddesdon - Font
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © John Salmon
Sarah Sophia, Ellen Hoile Folville (b. 1893 in Ashby Folville, Leicestershire and Ivy Maud (b. 1895) were also baptised, in Waddesdon, on 5 Jun 1895. The denomination on all of the baptisms is listed as Anglican, so I assume this was at the church of St Michael & All Angels, Waddesdon. In later documents, Dan lists himself as Wesleyan and there is a Wesleyan Chapel in Waddesdon High Street.

In 1901, Dan Tompson (52) and Sarah Jane Tompson (49), are listed as living in Gracious StreetWhittlesey, Cambridgeshire with George Daniel (15) Bricklayer; Amelia Mary (10), Ellen T H (7) and Ivy Maud (6), plus lodger, William Warren (61), described as 'Draper But Not In Occupation'. 

Dan's obituary details that, in 1904 he was elected to the Whittlesey Urban District Council and that "Mr Tompson came to Whittlesey in July 1896 and became landlord of the "King's Head" (now in residential use, see image) in, Gracious Street, which he kept until he left for Canada in 1911."

Gracious Street, Whittlesey (1897) A decorated house on Whittlesey’s Gracious Street during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria in 1897. Image Peterborough Images Archive

In 1911, Dan Tompson (63), Sarah Jane Tompson (60), Ellen Thoila Tolnilla Tompson (sic) (18), Ivy Maud Tompson (16) and William Charles Kritzer (7), Grandson, born "At Sea", were living at Lattersey Field, Whittlesey. Mabel Grace Tompson (29) was employed as a Lady's Maid in the household of Sir Philip Hickson Waterlow, 2nd Baronet (Waterlow and Sons); Amelia Tompson (23) from Waddeston, Bucks was a Domestic Servant in the employ of James Hainsworth Ismay (second son of Thomas Henry Ismay, founder of the White Star Line) at Iwerne Minster HouseIwerne Minster, Dorset.

R.M.S. Corsican Image: Eric Eggertson Some rights reserved

Family stories, at best, usually have a mere grain of truth in them, almost universally contain large measures of exaggeration and "self-aggrandisement" and sometimes, huge amounts of complete fiction. Researching family history, therefore, becomes an exercise in debunking the family myths. Some relatives are more prone to bigging themselves and their forebears up, so you learn to question (read completely disbelieve) their tales, so you could honestly have knocked me down with a feather when I found this one was mostly true.

My mother said that one of the Tompsons had gone to Canada and set up a business. The story wasn't without some exaggeration, as she did make it sound like they'd set up a massive corporation and given the impression that if one were to go to any place in that vast country and mention "Tompsons" everyone would instantly know the household name - when reality was a couple of self-employed brickies - but they do turn up in Canada.

To be fair, she will have got this story too from her grandmother, Eliza Louisa Sweeney (née Tompson), but my mother didn't seem to know who among the Tompsons had gone to Canada and the way the story came across is as if it was some distant relative, not Eliza Louisa's own father, Dan Tompson.

Son George Daniel Tompson, had travelled, initially to the US, in 1908, but on 6 Jul 1912, Dan Tompson (63), with daughters Amelia (21) and Ellen (19), embarked in London bound for Montreal on the R.M.S. Corinthian. They're listed on the passenger list under "The Salvation Army Pantel", with Dan's Profession, Occupation or Calling listed as "Farming" and of the girls, "Domestic". They travelled 3rd class, or Steerage.

Then separately, on 18 Oct 1912, wife Sarah Jane (listed as 36, was actually 61), youngest daughter, Ivy (17) and Willie Thompson (8) - this has to be the grandchild listed on the 1911 Census as William Charles Kritzer - embarked in Liverpool aboard the SS Corsican, also bound for Montreal.

House on the left 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto, Canada

The family set up home in the Earlscourt neighbourhood in Toronto, settled in 1906 by labourers from the British Isles. Even in 1914 it still had a “shack town” reputation. This article about the area, which talks of a "Building Boom", indicates why the Tompsons went there, "The modest sized lots on empty fields appealed to those looking for affordable land, low taxes and lax building regulations." Reading between the lines, my belief is that the family acquired one of the plots and split it between father and son. George Daniel initially lived in the house on the right of the picture, 133 Morrison Avenue and Dan settled in the house on the left, 131 Morrison Avenue. Given they were bricklayers, there's a good chance they built the houses themselves.

In the 1913 Toronto City Directory, Dan Tompson is listed at 131 Morrison Avenue, Torontoas a bricklayer. In the 1917 directory, Dan is listed at 73 Ashburnham Rd, Toronto, with George at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto

On the 1921 Census of Canada, Dan (72), Sarah Jane (69), Amelia Mary (31), Ellen (29), Ivy Maud (27) and Willie Christie (18) - the grandson with the ever-changing surname - were all living at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto.

Dan Tompson died on Friday, 1 Aug 1924, at his home of 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto. The record of his death says it was from "Senility", although his obituary contradicts that saying, "He was 77 years of age, but his vigour of mind made him appear younger." He was actually only 75. Dan was buried on 4 Aug 1924 at Prospect Cemetery, Section 17, Plot 509. (Plan

Grave of Dan Tompson at Prospect Cemetery in Toronto

August 23, 1924

A Noted Builder's Death in Canada
Whittlesey Council Meetings of the Past

Old friends in the Whittlesey neighbourhood will learn with regret that Mr Daniel Tompson, formerly a well-known Whittlesey resident, of whom many will have lively and pleasing recollections, is dead.

The following is culled from the "Toronto Evening Telegram":- The Lloyd George of Earlscourt is dead. Dan Tompson he was to strangers, but Lloyd George to the hundreds of Earlscourt residents who saw a likeness to the British statesman in the shaggy crop of hair and the rugged, honest face - who watched him as he stood at rate payers' meetings denouncing some condition which he thought unjust - who heard his ejaculate "Shame!" at some big public gathering, when overpowering indignation forced a remark from him. Dan Tompson died on Friday at his home, 131 Morrison Avenue. He was 77 years of age, but his vigour of mind made him appear younger, and he rarely missed a meeting of his favourite organisation, the British Imperial Association. Born in Kettering, Northamptonshire, he lived over 30 years in London, and was nine years on the Whittlesey Urban Council. In 1912 he came to Toronto, and lived in Earlscourt for the last seven years. He was a member of the Church of England [?] And Royal Alexandra [?] No 2459. Surviving him are his widow, Mrs Sarah Jane Tompson; one son, George, 124 Hatherley Road; and six daughters, Mrs J Sweeney, Mrs J Christie and Mrs Mabel Martin, of England and Misses Amelia, Ellen and Ivy at home. He was always an outstanding figure at meetings. Head thrown back and blue eyes flashing, he could speak from his extensive experience on practically every subject which was under discussion.

The last paragraph of the above report is indeed a tribute to Mr Tompson's powers of expression and volubility.

His Whittlesey Associations

Mr Tompson came to Whittlesey in July 1896 and became landlord of the "King's Head" in, Gracious Street, which he kept until he left for Canada in 1911. Always original, and by no means hide-bound by convention, he combined the role of publican with that of a local preacher, truly a strange combination, and one not often seen nowadays. But "Dan" as he was intimately known to hundreds, could well sustain this dual role. There was one occasion when his dignity suffered a severe shock, and that was at Pond's Bridge. He had been invited over there in his capacity as a local preacher to take the service at the little chapel, which was given to the hamlet by Lord de Ramsey, and being unused to the pulpit, which was of [unreadable] design, he had no sooner got into it he tripped out!

By trade he was a builder and a very efficient and reliable contractor too. Among works undertaken by him was the building of the New Whittlesey Brick Company, now known as the Victory Brickworks, and he also assisted in the building of the Gildenburgh Brick Works, now known as the United Brick Company. An employer of labour, he was most generous and paid his men liberally. Inclined towards Liberalism in politics, and delivered many stirring orations in his advocacy of the cause. As will be realised by "Sub Rosa's" accompanying article, a meeting at which Mr Tompson was present was never dull and although Dan's electioneering motto - or shall we say, battle-cry - was "Actions speak louder than words", he was never a believer in the quiet subdued style of advocacy, but went "all out" with a force that told.

Besides the wider realm of national politics, local government attracted him, and in 1904 he was elected to the Whittlesey Urban District Council, fourteenth on the list of the eighteen successful candidates. Again in 1907 and 1910 he was returned, improving his position each time, and he retained his seat on the Council until he left for Canada in 1911. Arrived in the Dominion, he carried on his business as a builder.

His wife, who, as the Canadian report states, survives him, was a charming lady, and made a host of friends in Whittlesey.

Their daughters must have travelled back to the UK, because on 17 Sep 1926, Amelia Mary Thompson (35) and Ellen Hoile Thompson (32), embarked in Liverpool, bound for Montreal on the R.M.S. Regina. Interestingly, they gave their last address in the United Kingdom as c/o Mrs Sweeney, 102 Fore Street, London (my great-grandmother, their half-sister). 

Then on 19 Sep 1931, Ellen (38) and Ivy Maud (36) made the crossing from Liverpool to New York, in transit to Canada, on the R.M.S. Adriatic. They stated they were citizens of Canada. (Until 1947, settlers from Britain were considered citizens of Canada without needing to naturalize.)

The three Tompson girls then all appeared in the Toronto Centennial City Directory of 1934 at 131 Morrison Avenue, Toronto

Sarah Jane Tompson died on 4 Aug 1937 and was buried with her husband.

In 1939, the three daughters were back in the UK, living together at Way Homesteads, Broadway, Yaxley, Cambridgeshire. Amelia and Ellen were dressmakers, while Ivy was a School Teacher (Technical). Their brother George Daniel's father-in-in law, George Oldfield's parents were, George Oldfield and Mary Haddon and, in 1851, Mary was listed as having been born in Yaxley, then in Huntingdonshire. This may well explain why the three sisters were in Yaxley after they returned to the UK from Canada. None of these three sisters ever married and they returned to Whittlesey

On 12 Sep 1939, Probate was granted to Amelia Mary Tompson and Ivy Maud Tompson on the estates of both Dan Tompson and Sarah Jane Tompson. They left effects of £400 (worth around £26,000 today), hardly a fortune. 

Ellen died on 14 Jan 1976. She will have been 82. Amelia Mary Tompson of 81 Benwick Road, Whittlesey, died on 4 Mar 1986. She was 95. Ivy Maud Tompson of Keneydon House, 2 Delph Street, Whittlesey (a Residential Dementia care home) died on 12 Feb 1991, just eleven days before her 96th birthday. 

Friday 4 August 2023

Henry Staines Wilton and Amelia Palmer

Bridge Street, Bishop's Stortford
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Bill Boaden -

Henry Staines Wilton, (bap. 27 Sep 1840 at St Giles, Mountnessing), son of Henry Wilton and Sarah Staines, Harness Maker, married Amelia Palmer, daughter of William Palmer and Henrietta Crabb of Bridge Street, Bishop's Stortford at St Michael, Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, on 4 Aug 1868. Witnesses were the bride's father, William Palmer, the bridegroom's parents, Henry and Sarah Wilton and Martha Palmer, the bride's older sister.

This looks like a 'beneficial match' for Henry, because Amelia's Great Western Railway shares passed to her husband on their marriage. This is, of course, before the Married Women's Property Act 1882, when anything a woman owned, became her husband's by default, effectively becoming dowry.

Henry Staines Wilton and Amelia Palmer had five children:
  1. William Palmer Wilton b. 19 Sep 1869 (1869 D Quarter in THE BISHOP STORTFORD UNION Volume 03A Page 265), bap. 28 Nov 1869 at St Michael's, Bishop's Stortford. The Essex Herald of 28 Sep 1869 announced the birth, "WILTON: 19th inst, at Bridge Street, Bishop's Storford, the wife of Henry Staines Wilton, of a son."
  2. Mary Henrietta Wilton b. 8 Feb  1871 (1871 M Quarter in OF THE BISHOP STORTFORD UNION Volume 03A Page 282), bap. 30 Apr 1871 in Bishop's Stortford. Her birth was announced in the press.
  3. Olive Martha Wilton b. 25 Dec 1872 (1873 M Quarter in BISHOP'S STORTFORD Volume 03A Page 295), bap. 28 Feb 1873 in Bishop's Stortford. (Olive Martha Wilton, artist, died, aged 45, on 14 Apr 1918 in Ringwood, Hampshire. She is not buried with the family.)
  4. John Staines Wilton b. 17 Feb 1874 (1874 M Qtr in BISHOPS STORTFORD Vol 03A Page 295), bap. 24 Apr 1874 in Bishop's Stortford. (Died 6 May 1936 (1936 J Qtr in WESTMINSTER Vol 01A Page 521), at 62, buried on 11 May 1936 at Hampstead Cemetery.)
  5. Margaret Staines Wilton b. 22 Dec 1876 (1877 M Quarter in SAINT GEORGE HANOVER SQUARE Volume 01A Page 365). (Died aged 81 in 1957 D Quarter in CHAPEL EN LE FRITH Volume 10A Page 932. She was buried, on 31 Dec 1957, in Hampstead Cemetery.)
In 1861, Henry Staines Wilton (20) had been staying with his grandparents, Thomas Staines and Sally Hockley at Lord Peters (Sir William Petre) Alms Houses, Stone Field, Ingatestone, Chelmsford. He then set up business next door to his future father-in-law, in Bridge Street, Bishop's Stortford.

By 1871, Henry Staines Wilton (30), Saddler and Harness Maker, Employing 2 men, 2 apprentices and 1 boy in Bridge Street, Bishop's Stortford; Amelia Wilton (29), William P Wilton (1), Mary H Wilton (0). The household was completed with William Thorman (15) Saddler Apprentice; Martha Cornell (24) General Servant and Elizabeth Kitchener (16) Nurse.

In 1875, Henry Staines Wilton bought into an established saddlery company in Oxford Street and became associated with Henry Champion, and from the merger, the Champion & Wilton brand officially appeared. [Source]

Champion & Wilton Saddlers and Harness Makers by Royal Appointment

Champion & Wilton were the successors to two old-established firms of Oxford Street saddlers. One started out under the name of Matthew Wilson, in South Molton Street, moved around 1806 to Oxford Street, and became successively Wilson, Wilkinson & Kidd, then Wilkinson, Champion & Frewer and finally Champion & Wilton. Neighbouring saddlers, Samuel Blackwell, also long-established, was taken over by Champion & Wilton in the 1880s.

"Champion and Wilton [its predecessors, clearly] were founded in 1780 and had premises in Oxford Street, opposite Selfridges, in London’s West End. At one time they employed over one hundred saddlers making saddles, harness and other saddlery items and became, as holders of the Royal Warrant, the most highly respected firm in the country and I don’t doubt that many a stately home will still have a Champion and Wilton saddle tucked away somewhere in their tack room." - Keith Jenkin, SMSQF of Minster Saddlery

In their time, it is said that Champion & Wilton held Royal Warrants to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII, King George V, King George VI, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Duke of Edinburgh, as well as to the German Emperor, Queen Maud of Norway and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. 

In The London Gazette of 4 January 1878, there was a notice regarding a Patent application: Henry Staines Wilton, of Bishop's Stortford, in the county of Herts, Saddler, for an invention of "improvements in the construction of saddles and saddle girths."—Dated 24th December, 1874. Then in 1879: 

In addition to the quality of the product, the main peculiarity that distinguished the saddles of this brand, owed much to the invention made in 1879 by Henry Wilton, who patented the well-known safety system, still in use and much appreciated today, which represented a technical revolution. 

This was but one of many Patents that Henry Staines Wilton applied for, including: "An Improvement in Side Saddles" in 1893; for "Improvements in and connected with Saddle Bars", in 1895; "Improvements in Trace and Pole Chain Attachments" in 1896; "Improvements in the Heads or Pommels of Side Saddles" in 1903 and "An Improved Machine for Centrally Punching and Spacing Holes in Leather Straps, and for like purposes" in 1905, are those I can find records for. The first was just in his name, the rest were applied for by Henry Staines Wilton in conjunction with Benjamin Samuel Weston.

Not found on the 1881 Census, the Hertford Mercury of 15 Oct 1881, reported on "DAMAGING A WALNUT TREE. Samuel Cowland, John Curtis, John Bush and Arthur Shorter, all young men of Bishop's Stortford, were charged with maliciously breaking part of a walnut tree, growing on enclosed land at Whitehall Farm, Bishop's Stortford, the property of Mr Henry Staines Wilton ..." Of course, owning the farm doesn't mean he lived there.

In 1891, the family were living at Braywick, High Town Road, Bray, Cookham, Berkshire with Henry S Wilton (50) Sadler & Harness Maker; Amelia Wilton (49), Olive Martha Wilton (18), John S Wilton (17) Saddlers Apprentice; Margaret Wilton (14), along with Sarah Asbridge (28) Cook from Margaret Roding and Kate Maydwell (23) Housemaid from Hornchurch, Essex. William P Wilton (21) Sadler, was that year [so far unaccountably] a Visitor in a household in Wanstead, Essex, along with three female servants. 

At the time of their daughter Mary Henrietta Wilton's marriage to Augustus Percival Bartley (of Bartley & Sons, Military and Hunting Bootmakers, of 493, Oxford Street), on 11 Aug 1894, at St Michael's Church, Bray, Berkshire, their address was then stately Stafferton Lodge, Braywick Road, Maidenhead

Fake news is not a new thing: Apparently, according to this document (PDF), in Vol IV No 5 of 'Saddlery and Harness' November 1894, a spurious claim appears, "p.101 Notable Members of the Trade: Mr H S Wilton (Champion and Wilton) Owner of Champion and Wilton. At 457/459 Oxford Street. One of the leading West End saddlery firms. Made Queen Victoria's first saddle when HSW was only 19 years old, some 63 years ago." [i.e. 1831] Complete and utter horse poop, of course, like so many family stories, and you have to laugh, as he wasn't even born until 1840! My feeling is the Oxford Street company that later became Champion & Wilton probably did make Queen Victoria's first saddle. It was Henry Staines Wilton's personal involvement that got tacked (pun intended) on as an embellishment to aggrandize himself.

In 1901, the family had moved back into town to 29, St Johns Wood Park, in the affluent community of Hampstead, where we find Henry S Wilton (60) Sadler & Harness Maker; Amelia Wilton (59), William P Wilton (31) Sadler & Harness Maker; Olive M Wilton (28), John S Wilton (27) Sadler & Harness Maker; Margaret S Wilton (24), along with Mary J Howlett (23) Cook from Norfolk and Annie Fosbury (21) Housemaid, from Maidenhead.

In 1911, still at 29, St Johns Wood Park, Hampstead, were Henry Staines Wilton (70) Sadler & Harness Maker; Amelia Wilton (69), Olive Martha Wilton (37) Artist; John Staines Wilton (36) Sadler & Harness Maker; Margaret Wilton (33) attended by three servants: Emma Fosbury (61) Widow, Cook Housekeeper; Ellen Gorey (37) Parlourmaid and Alice Fordham (24) Housemaid. The original census schedule also confirms that the couple had been married for 43 years and had five children, all then still living.

The Rebuilding of Oxford Street

"Nos. 453–459 (odd) Oxford Street and Nos. 22 and 23 North Audley Street, a small but elegant set of shops with flats over, were designed by Herbert Read and Robert Falconer Macdonald and built by Holloway Brothers in 1900–2 (Plate 46b). The client was E. H. Wilton of Champion and Wilton, saddlers, of Nos. 457 and 459 Oxford Street. (There was nobody with the initials  E. H. Wilton, so I assume this is H. S. Wilton and an error.) The building had three storeys towards North Audley Street and five on to Oxford Street. The ground floor was of Doulting stone, the upper storeys of red brick with stone dressings, and the style a picturesque and effective Arts and Crafts treatment." This tells us where the Champion and Wilton premises were, on the diagonally opposite corner to where Selfridges was later built. The building is long gone and replaced, with currently, a branch of Zara on that corner

Henry Staines Wilton died on 31 May 1915 and his funeral took place on Thursday 3 Jun 1915. He is interred in Hampstead Cemetery (Camden) grave reference WE/222. He left his fortune to his two sons, William Palmer Wilton and John Staines Wilton, saddlers, and his son-in-law, Augustus Percival Bartley, bootmaker. The Probate record shows that he left £57,256 11s 4d, which is worth just shy of six million pounds today (£5,925,591 in 2020).

Hampstead News of 10 Jun 1915, reported on the:
Death of Mr H Staines Wilton
The funeral of Mr H Staines Wilton, of 18 Fitzjohn's Avenue, took place on Thursday morning at St Paul's Church, Avenue Road. The deceased gentleman, who was much respected, had long been a resident in the neighbourhood and a member of St Paul's Church, where he was a sidesman and a generous supporter of the church. He had been in failing health, but was in church on Sunday morning and died the following day. The service was conducted by the Vicar (Rev W H T N Rainey) and the Rev P B Phelps, who together with the choir met the cortege at the entrance gate to the church. Psalm 39 was chanted, and the hymn "Blessed are the pure in heart" was sung during the service, and as the coffin was carried from the church, preceded by the clergy and choir, the "Nunc Dimittis" was sung. The coffin, upon which rested a few floral tributes, was of polished oak with brass fitting and plate, which was inscribed "Henry Staines Wilton, born 14th August, 1840; died 31st May, 1915." The immediate mourners at the church were the widow and family, but a large congregation included Mr Boyton MP, the Rev W H Wilkins (a former curate), the staff and employees from 457 & 459 Oxford Street, and the household servants. The coffin was conveyed in an open car, and was immediately followed by the deceased gentleman's carriage filled with numerous and beautiful floral tributes. The interment was made at Hampstead Cemetery, where the service at the graveside was concluded by the Vicar. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs J Nodes & Co (M Nodes Lello) of 193 High Road, Kilburn; 23 Church Street, Grove End Road, etc.

Amelia Wilton died four years later, aged 77, and was buried, on 17 Dec 1919, in Hampstead Cemetery, along with her late husband. 

Neither Olive, John, nor Margaret ever married. I can find neither John, nor Margaret in 1921, however, in 1939, Margaret S Wilton (b. 22 Dec 1876) Single Female of Private Means, was at Lilybank Hydro, Chesterfield Road, Darley Dale, Matlock, Derbyshire (the last Hydro in Matlock to close in 1962). Described in the 1930's, "The establishment is not exclusively a sanatorium; it affords accommodation to families and others who desire to spend a holiday amidst the beautiful scenery of the English Switzerland and it is also a delightful winter resort for those delicate individuals who dread the severities of our English climate." As Margaret also died in Derbyshire, in 1957, we may reasonably assume she was using Lilybank as a residential care home.

Monday 10 July 2023

Con Colleano and Winifred Constance Stanley Trevail

Winifred Constance Stanley Trevail and Con Colleano

Cornelius Sullivan (b. 26 Dec 1899 in Lismore, New South Wales), Theatrical, son of Cornelius Sullivan and Julia Robinson, married my 2nd cousin, twice removed, Winifred Constance Stanley Trevail (b. 16 Sep 1900 in Lambeth, Surrey), Actress, daughter of Herbert Fleming Trevail and Alice Maud Stanley Blazey on 10 July 1926 in DetroitWayne County, Michigan. The marriage record states that they were married by the Associate Pastor of the Central Methodist Episcopal Church, from which I deduce that the venue was the Central United Methodist Church (Detroit), although they were resident in Brooklyn, New York. Both stated they had not been married before.

Known professionally as Con Colleano, Cornelius Sullivan, was the most famous and highest paid "swashbuckling circus performer with matinee idol looks" of his time, “The Australian Wizard of the Wire”. A member of the Circus Hall of Fame, Con Colleano is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first person to prefect the forward somersault on the tight wire. 

"Mrs. Winnie Colleano (neé Trevail) was herself a well known Australian Vaudeville Soubrette", dancer and trapeze artist." One article says that Winnie Trevail began appearing on the stage in Sydney as a child, but actually, she was performing before that in New Zealand. There in Lyttelton, New Zealand in 1909 - where her father's aunts, Ellen Higgs and Mary Ann Burn Trevail Bawden then lived - reports in the Lyttelton Times in Oct 1909 detail that Miss Winnie Trevail was appearing in one of the principle roles in a production staged by the Garrick Juvenile Opera Company, at the Opera House there. 

Trevail abandoned her own career in 1924 to travel with her husband.

Con Colleano on a slack-wire, circa 1920
Con Colleano, was of Aboriginal, Anglo-Irish and West Indian descent and adopted a Spanish persona and a costume of a ‘toreador’ or bullfighter.

Colleano’s Indigenous heritage was unknown to his fans – which included one of history’s most infamous racists - "Few people are aware of the fact that in the 1930’s, Adolf Hitler issued an Aboriginal Australian tightrope walker with a German passport so he could come and go as he pleased."

Passenger lists reveal that Cornelius Sullivan and Winifred C. S. Trevail left Southampton, England on 13 Sep 1924, on the RMS Berengaria (former SS Imperator), The first Cunard "Queen". This was their first trip to the US, so their port of arrival was the infamous Ellis Island, New York. Various sources tell us that, in 1924, Con made his debut at the New York Hippodrome before returning to the circus with Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

There's also record of Cornelius and Winifred C Sullivan Colleano travelling from Southampton to New York, on the Berengaria, on 24 Feb 1937.

On 7 Jan 1938, Cornelius and Winifred (Sullivan) Colleano, left Sydney, bound for California, on the luxury ocean linerSS Mariposa (1931).

On 8 Sep 1939, Cornelius and Winifred Sullivan, listed as British, boarded the Italian ocean liner, SS Rex, leaving Genoa, bound for New York.

In 1940, they are shown arriving in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

These, I'm sure are just the tip of a globe-trotting iceberg, but it was finding these records of voyages that led me to discover more of their story.

The former Albion Hotel (pub) at Forbes, New South Wales, Sheba, CC BY-SA 2.0

"Sadly Con and Winnie ultimately lost all their money indulging in a luxurious lifestyle, giving it away to friends and making a disastrous investment in a pub in outback Australia in the 1950s (what were they thinking?)."

Con Sullivan died, in Miami, Florida, on 13 Nov 1973 and in his obituary in The Stage, the wife of Con's brother is quoted as saying, "His wife WINNIE has cabled that she is broken-hearted because she found my dear brother-in-law lying dead, obviously she is too shocked to tell me more."

Winnie returned to Australia, where she died, in Sydney, in on 5 Jan 1986. 

While researching, I found a record of a marriage of a Winifred C Trevail, in Victoria, Australia, in 1919 to a Leonard Mendoza. It would take $20 AUS to obtain the certificate to see if there are enough clues to tell whether this is the same Winifred C Trevail, but just how many people named Winifred C Trevail are there likely to be in the same area? We know Winnie was in Melbourne before this, because in the Victoria Police Gazette of 11 Apr 1918, is: "TREVAIL, WINNIE theatrical, 7 McKenzie Street, Melbourne, reports stolen from the dressing-room, Bijou Theatre, Bourke Street, Melbourne on the 3rd inst. a diamond cluster ring, diamond in the centre set with other stones around, the centre stone is set a little to side, gold band at side of setting is wavy. Value £8." It's obvious this report is from "our" Winnie and hard to accept that a completely different Winifred C Trevail turned up in the very same area only a year later. Someone with the surname Mendoza even sounds like Winnie's "type". It's said that Winnie met Con, in Melbourne, Victoria, when she was 22. What can have happened to Leonard Mendoza? If he died, or they had divorced, Winnie would have listed that she was a widow, or a divorcee when she married Con. Was Winnie committing bigamy in 1926?

I'm much amused by self-aggrandising family stories, but this one probably takes the biscuit - although no surprise perhaps among theatrical types. In several articles, it mentions that Winnie "claimed descent from the Earls of Derby" and it appears that the source of that quote is her own brother, Eric, so it may well have been a story perpetuated in the family. A claim doesn't make it true though! And through which side would that be, I wonder? The line we share to the 'illegitimate born' former dyer who downgraded to labourer in Norfolk, or the bankrupted tenant farmer in Cornwall? Lovely people, I'm sure, but Earls or any other type of nobs they were not!

Sources (many of these links contain images):

Further reading: The wizard of the wire : the story of Con Colleano