Sunday 4 November 2012

Join Up Young Man! for Travel and Adventure

Here is another family history story previously published in the Barnsley Family History Society (BFHS) journal, Domus Historiae.  "Join Up Young Man!" was published in July 2011 edition, but even before it made it to print I had had one of those 'small world' moments with the family name it features.

The occasion was a family history fair in Rotherham in March 2011 and the BFHS had attended with the bookstall as usual.  The weekend timing of the weekend hadn't worked out very well for me as my father had passed away at the end of January so myself and the OH were spending nearly every other weekend at my mum's to help her deal with paperwork and the clearing out of my father's things.  As a consequence I had, in my bag, at the fair the new ipad which I had just bought for my mum.  My father had worked in the computer industry from quite early days, the late 1960s, and once retired had no time for modern computers.  In his mind a computer smaller than a room couldn't possibly work.  He often said that in his opinion the London congestion charge was unworkable as no computer could possibly be powerful enough to scan all those registration plates and make then necessary connections to check the people who had paid or send out bills.  When I upgraded my computer in 2001 I gave him my old desktop; he bought a second hand desk and monitor for it, but to the best of my knowledge the only people who ever turned it on were my kids to play games when they visited their grandparents.  Oh, yes, he also didn't believe that email could work ... how would the messages find the right inbox?  So needless to say my parents' house was not on the internet and being very rural the only way to get a good signal on a mobile phone was to walk up through the woods to the top of Barrow Hills! My plan in buying the ipad and getting broadband installed at my mum's was to encourage her to access the Internet to communicate with the rest of the family now we no longer had to compete with my father's prejudices.

There I was sitting in a church hall in Rotherham with a new ipad burning a hole in my bag - I'd loaded up our family history for my mum using an app called GedView and was dying to play with it.  I got out the ipad ... a BFHS member sat with me was interested in the ease with which the ipad displayed the information and asked some questions. An older chap, he sympathised with my parents' lack of computing knowledge and started to describe his own first encounter with computers.  He had attended some sessions on Family History on the Internet at a local Adult Learning centre.  The family name he had been researching at the time was Charlesworth.  Alexander Charlesworth.  This rang immediate bells with me and I showed him the information I had on an Alexander Charlesworth on the ipad.  It tallied with his recollection and we quickly worked out that his wife was descended from a brother of my OH's 3x great grandfather.  Small world moment as I said.  By the time the article below made it to print we had exchanged information and I had a picture of Tom Charlesworth to go with my story and knew that he had also served in the First World War.

So here is my story about Tom's first military experience:

Join Up Young Man! for Travel and Adventure (first published July 2011)

Tom Charlesworth was born in Hoyle Mill in 1864 the second youngest of a family of five boys and two girls.  His father Alexander Charlesworth, a Blacksmith at Oaks Colliery, had been born in Worsborough Dale in 1829 and had married Sophia Bedford, an Ardsley girl, on 18 August 1851 at Darfield All Saints church. Most of Alexander and Sophia’s children were christened in Ardsley church and give Hoyle Mill as their place of birth on later census returns so it looks as if Alexander settled in Hoyle Mill near Sophia’s family after their marriage. In 1871 their address was 28 Ash Row, Hoyle Mill, a house which can still be seen today, between the main road and the banking that used to hold the canal.

Sadly Sophia died in Birdwell on 22 June 1872 of phthisis, an old term for tuberculosis.  Her youngest child Richard would have been five and Tom was only eight.  The death certificate doesn’t say exactly where she died, just Birdwell, Worsbrough; maybe she was being nursed by a friend or relative there.  Afterwards the children seem to have been parcelled out to various families, Alexander turns up in Wombwell in 1881 as a boarder, still working as a colliery blacksmith, probably now at Mitchells Main, but he has none of his children living with him.  I think I have identified Tom in 1881, boarding with a family at Robinson’s Terrace, Birdwell as a 16 year old colliery labourer. 

I found Tom Charlesworth’s military records from 1885 to 1897 on Ancestry in the WW1 Service Records and on Find my Past in the Chelsea Pensioner’s records (this time in colour).  He would have been in his 50s at the time of the First World War, so I guess he probably wouldn’t have been called up again (as later proven this was incorrect), but by then he had already seen the world and come back to Barnsley, no doubt with plenty of tales to impress the girls.

Tom’s adventures begin in 1885 when he has a successful medical examination at Barnsley with a view to joining the 2nd Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment.  He is certified as being free from “scrofula, phthisis, syphilis” and an assortment of other diseases and conditions.  He is 5’ 5½” tall and weighs 127lbs, so quite a slight lad.   His eyes were blue and his hair light in colour and he gave his age as nineteen years and six months (which is odd as he was christened at Ardsley in June 1864, so he should have been twenty one by 1885?). 
His next of kin is quite clearly stated as his father, Alexander Charlesworth of Mitchells Main, near Barnsley, so I am sure I have the right person.  He takes his oath in Barnsley and enlists in Pontefract on 3rd July 1885.  On his attestation papers he states that he has previously served in the militia with the 4th Battalion of the Northern Division Royal Artillery which would have been something like the Territorials today.  It must have given him a taste for army life.
When Tom joined the 2nd Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment had been fighting in Egypt since 1882, he was sent to Sheffield, probably to do some basic training.  His medical records indicate that he was posted in Fleetwood and Sheffield until May 1887 when he embarked for Halifax, Nova Scotia where he remained for a year and a half.  Ships in the 1880s had a combination of steam engines and some sails, the 3000 mile journey would have taken about a month. Nova Scotia has a similar climate to Britain, but with harsher winters, so he must have been glad to have been posted to the West Indies in September 1888.  This would have been a 1000 mile plus trip.  He remained in the West Indies, possibly Bermuda, until May 1891when the regiment was sent to Cape Town, South Africa.  This was Tom’s longest journey yet, over 7500 miles across the Atlantic and passing over the equator.  The regiment were distributed around South Africa on garrison duty, until Tom was posted home to England in August 1892.
This was probably because his seven years service were up, but whatever the reason he was lucky to return then as the regiment became involved in the Matebele War a year later.  Tom had travelled around 20,000 miles by sea and marched who knows how far in England, Nova Scotia, the West Indies and South Africa.  He had seen the ice of the Gulf of St Lawrence; the lush islands of the Caribbean and Table Mountain in sub tropical Capetown.   He didn’t suffer any wounds, and apart from a few minor problems possibly relating to his initial health in Sheffield he was not hospitalised on any of his postings.  I can only imagine he was very lucky or very tough!
His records show that his service continued until 30 June 1897 at home, this was probably in the reserve as he returned to Barnsley and married Sarah Edgar in the autumn of 1895.  I like to think he must have met her whilst staying with or visiting his brother John, my husband’s three times great grandfather.  Sarah’s family lived on New Street, Hoyland Common and John Charlesworth in Gould’s Yard on Queen Street only a hundred yards away.
Tom returned to the pit, he’s shown on the 1901 and 1911 (above) census as a Coal Miner living at 15 Wentworth Street, Birdwell.  He and Sarah had at least eight children, I wonder what stories he told them about his travel and adventures?

My contact at the BFHS also gave me a copy of a newspaper obituary for Tom.  He lived a long life and his funeral was attended by many of his family and friends.

The cutting does wrongly state that he served in the Boer War - I guess to the family any army service in South Africa prior to the First World War must have the Boer War - Tom may even have used the term in his stories to simplify things.  However it shows, yet again, that not everything we see in print is correct!


Taylor M. said...

Hi there, I am researching my family history and have hit a snag. My maternal grandmother was born in Staincross in 1950. Her father was Edwin Charlesworth and mother was Margaret Raye/Wray Taylor. I am located in the United States and therefore cannot research in Barnsley. I ordered their marriage certificate and it looks like Margaret did not know who her father was and I cannot figure out her mother either. Margaret may have worked as a nurse at a local hospital, St. Helen's. She and Edwin lived at the Jarretts Buildings. Edwin's father was George Thomas Charlesworth, born in 1898 at Monks Bretton. His father was Walter Charlesworth and mother was Catherine Kelly. This is as far as I can get. Would you happen to have any additional info to help me get past this roadblock? Thank you! -Taylor

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Hi Taylor,
Charlesworth is a very common name in Barnsley and throughout Yorkshire. The names you give don't appear in my OH's family tree I'm afraid.
I couldn't resist having a look, but to be honest other than the burial record for Barnsley Cemetery the rest of what follows is available online worldwide.
A search of the new GRO online index ( tell us that Walter's mother's maiden name was Riley (Walter was born Q1 1863).
A search of FreeBMD gives a marriage in Q2 1848 between William Charlesworth and Ellen Riley which fits with census returns for 1861 and 1871 in the St John's parish of Barnsley (found on Ancestry). Their marriage took place in Ardsley and the records for this parish are available on Find My Past. However William Charlesworth was much older than Ellen and died in January 1862 aged 58 (buried in a pauper grave plot in Barnsley Cemetery), which means he cannot be Walter's father. When Ellen has her three younger children baptised in November 1868 at St John's no father's name is given for Walter, Michael or Sarah. I am afraid this is another brick wall for you.
Ellen Charlesworth remarries in 1890 (Ancestry West Yorkshire Parish Records) and says her father was Bernard Riley which tallies with the earlier marriage information, this family can be found on the 1841 census on Ancestry.
My email is if you wish to contact me directly.