Monday, August 7, 2017

Muslin by the yard - John Mason's trial

Limerick c 1900
John Mason was 18 years old when he was transported to Australia aboard the Parmelia. Until recently all that I knew about his crime came from his convict records, which stated that he had been sentenced in Limerick for 'stealing cotton'. The Limerick prison records (available at Find My Past) showed that he had been tried on 27 June 1833 and sentenced on 11 July, but gave no other details.

This week the British Newspaper Archive posted a new batch of pages from Irish newspapers, including the Limerick Chronicle, and I was finally able to discover a little more about John's trial. On 13 July 1833, under the heading "Limerick City Sessions" this appears:
John Mason, for stealing 29 yards of muslin goods from Thomas Evans.
James Evans sworn - He was behind the counter when he heard a pane of glass broken in the window; jumped over the counter and saw the prisoner outside with the piece of muslin in his hand; his brother coming out, they took the muslin from him.
George Evans sworn - corroborated the evidence of his brother, whom he saw struggling with the prisoner outside the window.
Thomas Evans; fully confirmed the testimony of the two preceding witnesses, young boys, who gave their evidence in a most correct and intelligent manner. Verdict - Guilty.
The sentence, transportation for seven years, given a few days later, appears on page 3 of the same paper.

Since reading this I've been trying to find out more about the shop owned by Thomas Evans. Where was it? What did it sell? On a genealogy site I found a Thomas Evans in Limerick with sons named George and James, born in  1817 and 1818 respectively. That seemed promising

The Evan's family in the 1846 Slater's directory p 264
Then I came across an entry in the 1846 Slater's National Commercial Directory of Ireland for Thomas Evans in William St, Limerick  (pg 264). But according to this he was an ironmonger, and the correct and intelligent George and James were hardwaremen in Rutland Street. Another entry showed Thomas Evans and his sons also held a license to sell gunpowder (p 274). It didn't seem likely that either of these stores would sell muslin by the yard. Had Thomas Evans changed his business in the thirteen years since 1833, or was this a different family?

George St, Limerick c 1880
The mystery was solved when I noticed a Hannah Evans listed as the owner of a haberdashery store in George Street, Limerick. Thomas Evans' wife and James and George's mother was named Hannah, so I'm guessing that it was the Evans' haberdashery shop rather than the hardware or gunpowder store that John Mason robbed. 

John was not the only Limerick resident sentenced on 11 July to being transported. Just below the newspaper account of John's trial is one for Mary Lynch, who stole a coat. She freely admitted that she was guilty, adding that she had deliberately stolen the coat in the hope of being transported, since so many of her family and friends were now in New South Wales. She was found guilty and had her wish granted.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Annie Reed

Market place, Barnard Castle 
(cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Ben Gamble )
Now that I've traced back through Alfred Pearson Bentley's forebears, it's time to have a look at his wife Annie Reed. As I've mentioned before, Alfred and Annie were married in Dewsbury in Yorkshire in 1869, and moved to Salford in Lancashire before 1872. In 1879, soon after the birth of their fifth child, Alfred sailed to America, apparently promising to send for his family as soon as he was settled. Instead he entered into a bigamous marriage in Boston with another Annie (Anne Jane Smith from Cheshire in England) and poor Annie in Salford either believed, or made believe, that he had died in the USA.

The castle at Barnards Castle
photo by Francis Hannaway
via Wikimedia Commons
At first glance it's not clear how Alfred and Annie Reed could have met, since he was born in Hunslet, part of the city of Leeds in West Yorkshire and she grew up in Barnard Castle, a market town in Teesdale, County Durham. However, her father, Henry Reed (b 1804), a carpet weaver, originally came from Leeds, so perhaps Annie's childhood family maintained some connections with Henry's family in Yorkshire. Her older half-sister, Jane, also married in Dewsbury in Yorkshire in 1853 and went on to live there, providing another connection to that county.

Annie's childhood

Annie's mother, Margaret Waite, was Henry's second wife. His first wife, Elizabeth Stout, bore him at least six children, all girls, but only two, Sarah (b 1827) and Jane (1831), survived childhood. Elizabeth herself died soon after the birth of the last ill-fated child in 1834.

Annie was the youngest of Margaret's four children. Hannah (b 1838) and John (1841) were a part of her childhood, but Annis (1844) died soon after birth. Henry, Annie's father, died in 1859 when she was about 13 years old.

In the 1861 census she was the only child still living at home with Margaret. The financial hardship caused by the loss of Henry's income might have led to Annie being sent to her relatives in Yorkshire, or perhaps she found work as a servant there. Her mother continued to live in Barnards Castle until her death in 1875.

Marriage to Alfred Pearson Bentley

When Annie married Alfred at the age of 23, she most likely thought her chances of having a more comfortable life than her mother were fairly good. Living standards for the working class in England had been improving over the previous years, and Alfred's skills as an engraver gave him good prospects for employment. He may well have inherited his father Ben's ambitiousness.

Their first child, James Henry was born in Dewsbury in 1870, and they were still living there at the time of the 1871 census. By the time their second child, Margaret Ann, was born they had moved to Hollinwood St, in the Ordsell district of the city of Salford, Lancashire. Their neighbours in this area of booming population included a "gold beater" and a lithographic printer along with masons, bricklayers, shop keepers and mill hands.

Sadly little James died in 1873. The following year Annie gave birth to another son, John Alfred, then Walter Horatio in 1876 and Ernest Reed in 1878. It was then that Alfred senior decided to go to Boston.


Perhaps he and Annie really believed that he was going to find a better life for his family in America and they would join him there, but then, somehow, he just got sidetracked from his plans after he arrived. Or perhaps the promise of a better life was just the story he told Annie, while secretly planning all along to meet up with Miss Annie Jane Smith in America. Or possibly his marriage with Annie had fallen apart and they tacitly agreed that, since they couldn't afford a divorce, he should conveniently disappear to America.

Whatever the case, Annie was still describing herself as 'married' on the 1881 census. By 1891 she had begun to call herself a widow. Whether she had received news that led her to believe this to be the case, or simply found it best to make this her story, she clearly didn't expect Alfred to return. Did she ever learn that he and his new wife and son had returned from America in the late 1880's and were living just across the county border in Cheshire? We'll probably never know.

Life must have been hard for Annie as a single mother with four children. In the 1881 census the family had an elderly woman, Jane Bastow, boarding with them, but she was on Parish relief, so she couldn't have provided much in the way of rent.

Arthur St, Pendleton (just north of Liverpool St)
from 1930 map of Manchester*
Click to enlarge.
By 1891 the family had moved to Arthur St in Pendleton, between Langworthy Park and the Salford cattle markets. Annie was taking in washing and ironing to make ends meet, and had another lodger staying with her. Any hope she might have had of her children having a better standard of living had gone west with Alfred. Nineteen year old Margaret had by now left home and was working as a servant, and the two older boys had jobs, John as a bricklayer's labourer and Walter as an office boy. A year later Margaret, still single, gave birth to a son, John Henry. She never married.

Annie died in 1899 at the age of 53. The doctor who wrote the death certificate gave "cirrhosis of the liver, ascites, syncope" as the cause of death. (Thanks to my cousin David for this information). It's impossible to know whether the cirrhosis and the associated ascites (fluid in the abdomen) were the result of alcohol abuse or some other cause, but her last few years must have been spent in very poor health. Neither the registrar nor the person providing the information were aware that Alfred was still alive and well. Annie was described on the death register as "widow of Alfred Pearson Bentley, an engraver journeyman".

*Map extracted from:
The site has a wonderful collection of old maps from all over Britain.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Harriet Smith, gentleman's wife

St James Church, Tong, built 1727
 © Copyright Humphrey Bolton
licensed for reuse under this CC Licence
Harriet Smith is one of those people whose story can only be told in terms of "daughter of..", "wife of...", mother of...". Anything we know of her character or actions has to be deduced or guessed.

She was born in Armley, near Leeds in Yorkshire, on 18 July 1817, the second daughter of James Smith and Martha Naylor. Her baptism in September that year took place in the Bethel Independent Chapel in Leeds. Her mother's family, the Naylors, were stonemasons from Pudsey, a market town between Leeds and Bradford. Her father's background is obscured by the difficulty of accurately tracing a name like James Smith.

Harriet married Ben Bentley in October 1839. The ceremony took place at St James church in the tiny village of Tong, chosen perhaps because it was mid-way between Pudsey and Ben's home town of Gildersome. Their first child, William, was born the following April. Perhaps Harriet had a miscarriage or still birth between William and her next child, Martha Ann, born in 1845. John Henry arrived in 1847, Alfred Pearson in 1849 and daughter Harriet in 1851. Then came a twelve year gap before Walter Smith was born in 1863.

I've described previously how Ben Bentley became a little too ambitious in making money and in 1856 found himself sentenced to four years penal servitude. He was in Portland prison in Dorset, on the south coast, from 1857 until December 1860. For his wife Harriet the whole experience must have caused both shame and anxiety. She would have had little or no opportunity to visit Ben so far away from Yorkshire. Did she miss him? Was their re-union a joyful one, or did Harriet take a while to come around to accepting Ben back into the marriage bed? We can only guess.

The death in 1861 of her daughter Martha, still in her teens, must have been a great sadness for Harriet. More sadness would have surrounded the bankruptcy in 1865 of her son William. Her first grandchild, as far as I can tell, arrived in 1870 with the birth of a son, James, to Alfred Pearson Bentley and his first (and only legitimate) wife Annie Reed. Several more grandchildren followed.

Harriet died in Dewsbury on 19 December 1876 at the age of 59. She was buried in the Soothill Nether cemetery at Earls Heaton, and the burial is recorded in the Dewsbury Quaker records. The record notes that she was "NM", not a member. Ben's burial, twenty one years later, appears in the same records without the "NM", so perhaps he was, or became, a member. Less than twelve months after Harriet's death he remarried.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Whybrew family past and present

This is a rather special post. A few weeks ago I received an email from Dawn Spradlin, who introduced herself as the great great granddaughter of Jeremiah Whybrew, David Whybrew's older brother. She had come across this site and realised that we must be related. I asked if she would be willing to write something about her research into her own family's history, or share some photos, and to my delight she said she would. Here's what she sent me.


Finding ancestors today is at our fingertips, through the internet, and that is how I met Stella. My daughter, Erin, researched the English Whybrew line of my great great grandfather, Jeremiah Whybrew, who immigrated to NY from Liverpool and settled in Oro, Simcoe, Ontario, Canada in 1851. He travelled on a ship named the Forest Queen along with his girlfriend, Hannah Leatherdale and 16 members of the Leatherdale family.

The Crown Inn, Wormingford, and Whybrew's house opposite.
Jeremiah is mentioned in chapter 5 of Stella’s book, “Susan”. He spent his childhood living in Wormingford, Essex, England along with his family, James (father), Sarah (mother), and siblings including his little brother David. The 1841 census states that they lived opposite the Crown Inn, which is still operating, having been built in the 1600’s.

In 1851 Jeremiah’s mother and father had died, his sisters had gone into service, Jeremiah had boarded the Forest Queen and little 10 year old David had gone into a work house. My heartfelt curiosity about a little boy enduring the workhouse all alone prompted many internet searches, until I found Stella’s Clogs and Clippers blog, with a wealth of information about David and his wife Susan Mason, Stella's great great grandmother.

Stella brought Susan Mason alive in her book "Susan". It was a real page turner for me and brought me closer and more connected to the Whybrews, along with the added benefit of meeting (via email) a current living relative.

Lumber camp, Oro
I can only imagine how my great great grandfather Jeremiah and his new wife, Hannah, coped with their first harsh Canadian winter in Oro, Simcoe, Canada. The area was booming with lumber camps, ore mining camps, shipping and railroads along the Great lakes.

Hannah died in 1867 at 38 after giving birth to a daughter, Emily. Jeremiah was distraught and his children were absorbed into other families. Jeremiah died drunk and prostrate in a snowbank in 1878. He was 43. All the children survived and moved to Escanaba and Gladstone Michigan. 

Vira Whybrew
My grandmother, Vira Whybrew, was born in Escanaba in 1894. She fell in love with an amateur baseball player and moved to Chicago where I grew up. My Whybrew line ends here.

The Gladstone Butchers baseball team

Emily Whybrew Alger
Once again heartfelt curiosity overcame me regarding Emily (my great aunt who died in 1938 in Los Angeles, CA ) and her history prompted me to do several internet searches until I found a living Whybrew. His grandfather and my great grandfather were two of Jeremiah’s children raised by other families.

To actually meet living relatives while following clues and instincts about the past is an amazing gift of this technological age, recharging our curiosity and discovering the links to each other.

Dawn Spradlin
Exeter, New Hampshire

Do you have information, stories, or photos relevant to any of the people and families mentioned here on Clogs and Clippers that you would like to share? If you do, I'd love to hear from you. You can use the contact form on the right to send me a brief message and I'll get back to you by email.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

William Bentley, tailor of Gildersome

Drawing of the first patented lockstitch sewing machine, 
invented in 1845 by Elias Howe and patented in 1846, 
15 years after William Bentley's death. He would have
done all his tailoring work by hand.
After posting a couple of articles about Ben Bentley my plan was to say something about his forebears and those of Harriet Smith, his wife. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot to say with any certainty about Ben's parents. 

His father, William Bentley, was born in Gildersome near Leeds and was baptised on Christmas day, 1785, at the parish church in nearby Batley. He was the son of Samuel Bentley, a clothier of Gildersome, and his wife Hannah Clough.

The baptismal records of several of William's children show that he was married to "Ann Wildrick", daughter of John Wildrick. I haven't been able to trace this Wildrick family or the marriage between William and Ann with any certainty. The only Ann Wildrick I've come across lived in Fishlake, near Doncaster, which is quite a long way from Gildersome and Leeds.

Possibly Wildrick is a variation on Weldrake, with several families by that name (or something similar) living in the Gildersome area. In 1785 a Nancy Weldrick, daughter of John Weldrick was baptised in Birstall, in the Cleckheaton parish, which is not far from Gildersome. Nancy is sometimes used as a diminutive form of Ann. Could this be "Ann Wildrick"?

Curiously, the only possible marriage I've come across for William and Ann, or Nancy, occurred in Oldham, Lancashire. William Bentley, tailor, "of Royton" (sic) married a Nancy Weldrake there on 3 June 1806. Unfortunately no details are given about their ages or their fathers' names. This date would fit in well with the dates of their children's births, but begs the question of why they would go to Oldham to marry. Was William there on business? Were they avoiding marrying in Gildersome for some reason? Or was this another couple entirely? For now it remains a mystery, and I'd be happy to hear any suggestions.

All the children of William and Ann were born in Gildersome. Matthew, the eldest, was born in 1808 and became a tailor like his father. John (1811) Ann (1813) and William (1815) followed before Ben arrived in 1819.

William's name appears in the 1826 General and Commercial Directory for the Borough of Leeds as one of the two tailors living in Gildersome, the other being William Dixon. In the 1830 Leeds and Clothing Directory he's listed as Wm. Bentley & Son, tailor (& draper). He probably had a shop front somewhere close to the Town Green, and would have sold fabric as well as making up clothing on commission and perhaps doing repairs. The first practical and commercially available sewing machine didn't appear until 1846, so he would have done everything by hand.

William died on 4 August 1831 at the relatively young age of 46. According to the Leeds Patriot and Advertiser on 20 August, he died "after a lingering illness". Ann, his wife, died in Gildersome in December 1849.

Image: By Frank Puterbaugh Bachman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

And it's done!

View the book
The book I've been writing about Susan Mason and her family is finally complete and published on Amazon worldwide. It's available as an e-book which can be read on any Kindle device or Kindle app. A paperback version is also available (although sadly not through the Australian Amazon site, which doesn't stock printed books yet). I'm still looking into other e-book options such as epub and ibooks.

I hope if you've enjoyed reading my articles about the Mason and Whybrew families here on Clogs and Clippers you will find this much expanded and chronological version of their stories interesting and enjoyable. The book has extensive endnotes and a bibliography.

I've had great fun writing it. My sincere thanks to all who have helped with the research, editing, and revising of the book. Thanks especially to Katie for the cover and Amy for her editing.

For UK readers, the Kindle edition is available here.
For customers of the Australian Amazon site, it can be found here.

Visit my new "author page" on Amazon for more information.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Almost there

My book about Susan Mason and her family is finally complete and almost ready to launch. In fact it's already sitting on the Kindle Direct Publishing page on Amazon. Once I set a price, then hit the "publish" button, it will be on it's way into the world as an ebook. I'm just waiting for confirmation from a couple of people that they're happy for their names to appear on the acknowledgements page. No doubt I should have thought to ask them much sooner.

In the meantime, here's a preview of the wonderful cover that Katie Stewart designed for me. The image is a detail from a painting by S.T. Gill titled "Rundle St, 1845" showing a street scene from early Adelaide. You can see more of Katie's work at her website Magic Owl Design.