Monday, December 11, 2017

The unfortunate Bridget Jules

As a family historian, I often find myself researching the lives of people who are not genetically related to my family. Friends, neighbours, in-laws and god-parents are all of interest, since their lives often illuminate the lives of my forebears. I've mentioned how tracing the friends of John and Catherine Mason helped me to finally prove (at least to my own satisfaction) that John was an Irish convict.

One of the unrelated people who has fascinated, but eluded, me up to now is Bridget Jules, the friend of Susan Mason. She appeared in the Adelaide court with Susan, David Whybrew and Richard Hughes in 1868. I wrote a little about her in my book "Susan: convicts daughter, soldier's wife, nobody's fool" but since then I've discovered more details of her life.

Bridget began life either in Galway or Clare (both are mentioned) in the west of Ireland, as Bridget Bradley, the daughter of Henry Bradley. She arrived in Adelaide aboard the Rockcliff in 1864, at the age of 19. She came with hundreds of other English and Irish migrants, including 16 year old Mary Bradley, who was perhaps a younger sister. Bridget was looking for an opportunity to create a better life. But like many young single women from Ireland she probably had little education or experience in the sort of domestic work that employers wanted.

Adelaide Hospital in the 19th century
Despite this, Bridget apparently found work. In March 1866 she was admitted to the Adelaide Hospital. The admission index doesn't say for what reason, but it does reveal that she was working as a domestic servant in Bowden, in the north of Adelaide.

The Genealogy SA database shows that in 1866 a child was born  to Bridget Bradley, so perhaps her hospital admission was related to that event. Neither the baby or the father's names are recorded. I haven't been able to trace any further records for the child, but certainly it doesn't seem to have been in the care of Bridget.

Some time before 1868 she changed her name to Jules, or Julius (both versions appear in the records). Whether this was through marriage is unclear. If a Mr Jules existed, he seems to have disappeared from her life very quickly. Nevertheless, she kept the name for several years, and she is variously described as married or widowed in the records.

Bridget seems to have stayed out of trouble with the law until the episode in 1868, when she and Susan and the two soldiers were involved in relieving the sleeping Frank Jones of his pocket watch. Susan Mason managed to wriggle her way out of being tried for larceny, but poor Bridget was not so lucky. Fortunately she and the two soldiers were acquitted.

A downward spiral

Part of the Destitute Asylum in Adelaide
(now the Migration Museum)
After that her name appears regularly in the Adelaide newspapers. She was charged with larceny, the use of bad language, prostitution and disturbing the peace. In the newspaper account of one court appearance in January 1870 she was described as "an unfortunate", a term used for women with no means of support. Several times she was sentenced to imprisonment for a few days or weeks. In 1871 she spent time in the Destitute Asylum, where her usual occupation was listed as "prostitution".

In 1873 she gave birth to another child, a boy named James. The father was also named this time, as John Ross. The baby died before the age of two. Bridget's name is associated several times with that of John Ross in the newspapers, at least once as a result of a fight between them.

Bridget was in hospital again in March 1876 (as Bridget Julius). The hospital records show a 6 year old child named Mary Jane Julius from Bowden was admitted in April the following year - perhaps another of Bridget's children. Her age suggests a date of birth of about 1871, which co-incides with the birth of a Mary Jane McCarthy, whose parents are listed as John McCarthy and Bridget Julius Bradley. Again there is nothing to suggest that the child was in Bridget's care.

By 1878 Bridget was seldom out of trouble. In September she was charged with larceny in company with John Ross, They were said to have been living together for five years. Ross was discharged, she was sentenced to two months imprisonment with hard labour. The South Australian Police Gazette for 6 November 1878 provides a description of Bridget when she was about to be released: 
Bridget Jules, married woman, native of Ireland, aged 34 years, height 5ft 2in, sandy hair, grey eyes, small scar above nose.
In September 1881, when she was in her thirties, Bridget married Henry Tilley, a "cow keeper" from Somersetshire in England, and the son of George Tilley. They were both witnesses the following year during a coroner's inquest into the death of a young man, Thomas Maloney, from a head injury. It seems Maloney had accosted Bridget late at night, when she was out in the street, and two other men had come to her defence. During the fight Maloney had hit his head on the ground and fractured his skull.

Henry Tilley denied being involved. He explained the blood found on his clothes by saying that he had hit Bridget across the mouth when she was drunk. Despite this, he was exonerated, while her conduct was described as "disgraceful".

Last appearance

During the 1890's Bridget had several spells in hospital. She was listed as Bridget Tilley, married, but her address was constantly changing and she was employed as a charwoman, so she may not have been with Henry. In 1892 and 1893 she was back in the Destitute Asylum, which suggests Henry had died by then, or they had separated.

The last appearance I can find for Bridget is a hospital admission in 1897, when she was 49 years old. What became of her, or her children if they survived, is (so far) unknown. A Bridget Tilley died in South Australia in September 1919, but I'm not certain that this is her. Henry also disappears, so possibly they left South Australia.

Susan Mason, my great great grandmother, had a hard life as a soldier's wife, as I've described in the book. But compared to her friend Bridget, it seems she had much to be thankful for. Had she remained in Adelaide she might well have followed poor Bridget into chaos and destitution.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The story of two John Alfreds, part 2

In a previous post I looked at the life of the first of Alfred Pearson Bentley's sons to be named John Alfred. He was born in Salford, England, in 1873 and died there in 1933. Now it's time to look at the second John Alfred.

Boston docks about 1900
As we've seen, Alfred P. Bentley left his first wife and family in England in the middle of 1879, and married Annie Jane Smith a few months later in America. Their first and only child, John Alfred, was born in Boston several years later on 21 January 1884.

It seems strange that the boy was given the same name as his older half-brother, who was still alive and well in England. Could it be that Annie, unaware of Alfred's other family, wanted to call the baby John after her father, John Smith, and Alfred because it would be natural to give him his father's name? Did Alfred find himself unable to explain why "John Alfred", the perfectly obvious name for this child, was not a good choice? Or did Alfred and Annie perversely choose to name him John Alfred, both fully aware that Alfred had another son with this name?

Return to England

Whatever the case, the young John Alfred lived in Boston until he was about 6 years old. Then the family moved back to England. When the 1891 census was taken they were living in Runcorn in Cheshire. For the first time in his life John Alfred would have had aunts, uncles and cousins around him, since this was Annie Jane's home county.

After leaving school John Alfred found work as a clerk. He was still living at home with his parents and working as an insurance clerk when the 1911 census was taken. As far as I can tell he never married. His mother Annie died in September 1914 when he was 30 years old, just after the first world war began.

I haven't been able to discover what John did during the WW1. If he enlisted, there's no clear record of it. That's not to say he didn't enlist, but none of the many records for men named John Alfred Bentley or John Bentley have details such as a date of birth, parent's name, or an address that would confirm that they belong to him.

John Alfred disappears

In fact his whole life becomes something of a mystery between the age of 30 and when he died at the age of 87. His father Alfred's name was listed (posthumously) in the 1923 Kelly's directory for Cheshire, still at the same address in Woodhey, Higher Bebington as in the 1911 census.  Although there's no mention of John at that address in the directory, Alfred's will indicates that he still lived there.*

Alfred died in September 1922, leaving all of his estate of £1509 18s 1d to John. After this, John disappears from the records. I can't find him in the 1939 Register of England and Wales, created at the beginning of WW2. He was no longer living at his old address, and his name doesn't appear using his exact date of birth as the search term. Could he have migrated overseas - back to the USA perhaps, or to Australia? Was he an inmate in an asylum or prison? So far I haven't found any trace of him.

Cheshire Lunatic Asylum in the 1830's,
later became the West Cheshire Hospital
now known as Countess of Chester Hospital.
The next confirmed record of John's existence came with his death on 20 September 1971. His probate record shows that he died in the West Cheshire Hospital, Liverpool Rd, Chester, which at the time was an asylum for the mentally ill. According to his death certificate, he died of broncho-pneumonia. Despite being of "no fixed address", he left an estate of £12,000.*

Even allowing for the change in value of the currency over time, this was a fortune compared to the £278 4s left by the first John Alfred in 1933. The younger John Alfred lived nearly 30 years longer than his older half-brother. He had the benefit of being an only child and living with both parents rather than with a "widowed" mother who was struggling to make ends meet. He may have lived quite comfortably. Yet there are hints that his life was a rather lonely one. Perhaps if we knew more about those missing fifty years the impression he gives might be different.

*Details supplied by my cousin David. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Win a copy of "Susan"

If you're a member of Goodreads, you may be interested in this giveaway for my book "Susan". There are 3 paperback copies to be won.
Already read the book? Please let other readers know what you thought of it by leaving a rating or a review on Amazon, Goodreads or ibooks.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Susan by Stella Budrikis


by Stella Budrikis

Giveaway ends December 13, 2017.
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Saturday, November 11, 2017

The story of two John Alfreds, part 1

Nine Elms British Cemetery, Belgium
As I've mentioned before, my great great grandfather Alfred Pearson Bentley (b 1849) had two sons named John Alfred, one born to his wife Annie Reed in Salford in 1873 and the other born, through a bigamous marriage to Annie Jane Smith, in Boston in 1884. Despite sharing the same name and the same father, the two John Alfreds led rather different lives. In this post I'll tell the story of the older of the two half-brothers.

The first John was only four or five years old when his father left for America. He and his four siblings grew up in Salford, surviving on what their mother could earn from taking in laundry and renting out a room. When he was old enough to leave school he found work as a bricklayer's labourer and added his earnings to the family income.

In March 1897 John married Elizabeth Ann Brown, a girl from Stalybridge, a few miles east of Manchester. They were married in the Registry office in Salford. Their first child, Thomas, was born in August that same year while they were living at 20 Arthur St in Seedley, Manchester. 

St Ambrose Church, Salford,
where most of John and Elizabeth's children
were baptised.
Two years later, in August 1899, a daughter, Annie, arrived. By this time the family had moved to 49 Mayor St in Pendleton, and they remained at this address for several years, adding John Alfred (1902) Ernest (1905) and Elizabeth (1908) to their family. Two of the children, John Alfred and Elizabeth, died in infancy.

When the census was taken in  1911 John and Elizabeth had moved with their family to 11 Hodgson St. It was a four roomed house, but besides their family they had two single men from Stalybridge, both labourers, and apparently brothers, boarding with them. John was working as a contractors labourer.

John and Elizabeth's eldest son Thomas was 17 years old when the war began in August 1914. Like many young men, he enlisted as soon as he could, joining the 2/7th battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. He was given regimental number  281894, and after a long period of training was sent to Le Havre in France early in 1917.

This must have caused his parents some concern, but worse was to come. On 12 March 1917 John Bentley received a letter from the Borough Engineers Office in Salford. It didn't even address him by name, but read:

Dear Sir,  
Road Service in France 
I enclose a form from the War Department which you are requested to present to the recruiting officer at the Town Hall, Broad St, Pendleton on an early day between the hours of 9.00 am and 5.30 pm on Saturday between 9.30 am and 2.00 pm. 
Yours truly 
Ernest B Martin.
At the age of 43 John Alfred was being conscripted to build roads across other men's fields in France. Conscription had been introduced in 1916 and anyone under the age of 51 who was not a widow with children or a Minister of Religion could be called up. In reality, many of those called were rejected as unfit, or claimed exemption on the grounds that they were doing work of national importance or their absence would cause domestic hardship. However, like Thomas Henry Ward, John Bentley received no exemption.

He was enlisted on March 16 in the Royal Engineers, 338 RC (Road Construction) company as a "pioneer", regimental number 25500. He was later transferred to the 303 RC company. The army doctor who examined him noted two tattoos, one on his right arm saying "E A Brown", and the other a pair of butterflies on his left. After spending time at Salamanca Barracks in Aldershot, John was sent to France. 

With both her husband and a son on the front line, and a ten year old child, Ernest, to care for alone at home, Elizabeth must have been beside herself with worry. Her fears were not unfounded.

Street corner, Poelcappelle, Belgium 1918
Twenty year old Thomas was injured, probably at the Battle of Poelcappelle in Flanders on 9 October, and died of his wounds on 12 October 1917. He was buried at the Nine Elms British Cemetery in West Vlaanderen, Belgium. The cross on his grave bears only his name and regimental details. 

In his brief will, written on 8 April 1917 on a standard issue form provided by the army, he left all his possessions to his mother "Mrs E. Bentley of 5 Swan St, Pendleton." He apparently was aware of his father's enlistment.

John Alfred was admitted to hospital on 12 April 1918, for reasons unknown. He was discharged on  the 19 April. He arrived "TTBD" on 26 April and was released from "TTBD" on 6 May 1918. (The most likely explanation I can find of this abbreviation is "Temporary Transfer Base Depot" but if you can improve on that, let me know.) He was officially demobbed in 1919 while on home leave.

He returned home to Elizabeth on 26 December 1918. They were still living at 5 Swan St when their daughter Annie married the following year. When he died at the age of 59, in March 1933, he left an estate of £278 4s to his widow Elizabeth.

My next post will cover what I know of the younger John Alfred.