Thursday 22 December 2016

A Series of Unfortunate Accidents - two Blackburns from Barnsley in the Wakefield Coroners' Notebooks

When a friend contacted me to say that the Wakefield Coroners' Notebooks were now available on Ancestry I must admit that my reply was, "There are not enough hours in the day!"  So many new record sets appear every month now that keeping up with them for my own family history is just impossible.

Happily, when I attended a meeting of the Cudworth Local History and Heritage Group yesterday BS persuaded me to take a look, explaining that the records ran right up to 1909 and did cover Barnsley.  Most of the cases seem to take place in public houses which gives a fascinating insight into the lifestyle of our ancestors - but it might take a while for me to investigate that angle of this new record set. 
Snip of the start of this Coroner's Report (thanks to Ancestry)
I did a quick search for one particular death in the OH's family that I knew had been the subject of an inquest.  William Henry Blackburn had been killed within six months of his marriage to Mary Ann Loveland in 1871, leaving her expecting their first child.  They were the OH's 3x great grandparents and William's posthumous child, named after his father, born in July 1872, was the OH's 2x great grandfather.  Mary Ann re-married three years after William's death and went on to have seven more children with her second husband Walter Jobling.  I have taken a snip of the header of the report into his death so you can see the style and the old handwriting, but I have transcribed it in full below.
A snip of the report into another Blackburn death (thanks to Ancestry)

Today I started a proper search of the records looking for family names in Barnsley and soon found another unfortunate member of the same family. William's father George Blackburn, who was a witness in the investigation into his son's death, himself featured in a Coroners Report in 1879.  How terribly sad for his wife, who had to give the first statement in this case.  She had lost her eldest surviving son and her husband within eight years of each other. 

Here are the full transcriptions of the two reports, we think sw means sworn witness, deced is short for deceased of course:

"At the house of Henry Coles the Devonshire Arms Inn Barnsley on Tuesday the 5th day of December 1871 on view of the body of William Henry Blackburn deced

George Blackburn of 22 Harbrough Terrace, Barnsley Bill Poster sw says, Deced was 20 years old & a Coalminer & my son. He was married & lived in Jumble Lane. Last Saturday he was brought to our house at his own request & by the direction of Mr Wm T G Smith. Deced complained of pain in his abdomen but was quite sensible. He died yesterday morning about a quarter past 9 o'clock. I saw him in bed at his own house last Friday morning. [signed by George Blackburn]

George Hirst of Silver Street Barnsley Coalminer sw. says, On Friday the 24th ulto deced & I began a Bank on the South side of High Stile Colliery, Barnsley. Last Friday morning about 6 o'clock we went to the Bank when Josh Bryan told us all was right. We found the shovel marked with the day of the week. Isaac Midgley was also with us. All 3 started ?? to get coal in the Thick Bed. We were holing in the low "softs" to get the "hards" or middle seam. The bank was about 12 yards wide & 12 yards up & it was fast at both ends. There was a row of wooden props about a yard from the face. The props were about a yard & a yard & a half apart. There was a level on the top side of our bank driven to the Throw about 20 yards off. Deced was between me & Midgley & had continued to work while I & Midgley were filling a corf. Suddenly about 3 yards in lenght of the "hards" fell forward & knocked deced down. He was straight out & covered with coal up to his middle. The coal was in one lump & we prized it up with sleepers. Deced could not stand. We continued to work the day out.

Isaac Midgley of Marine Row, Kingstone Place Barnsley Coalminer sw. says, I have worked in High Stile Colliery for the last 3 years. I began a Bank about 3 weeks ago. Deced & Hirst came on the 24th ulto as another man had left me. We had sprags but no set last Friday morning. We had not holed under more than a foot & that only at one end & in the middle. We had expected to have to blast the coal down. [signed Isaac Midgley]

Joseph Bryan of Spa Terrace, Barnsley Deputy Underground Viewer in High Stile Colly sw. says, Deced had no tools but was assistant to Hirst & Midgley. I examined their bank last Friday morning & found a shot had missed fire at the low end & I send them to the top end about 8 or 9 yards from a throw. About 8 o'clock last Friday morning I heard deced was injured & on going to the bank I found he was sitting on the ground & free. I took off his right boot as he complained of pain in his ankle. I saw that the ankle was slightly swollen. I hurried him to the bottom & went out with him. He began to complain of pain in his bowels as soon as he got to the top. The coal fell from a cross slip. It was all the coal undermined at that place. [signed Joseph Bryan]

Verdict. Accidentally injured.
Paid Hodgson Dewham PS  £1:6:0 Persl exps"   [PS = Police Sergeant]

When I first began my husband's family tree I was suspicious of William's death at twenty years of age. I was lucky enough to find a short paragraph relating the event in the Wakefield Express of 9 December 1871 at the Local Studies Library in Wakefield.  I now know that that piece must have been taken from this very Coroner's Report as the wording is almost the same. 
A section of William Blackburn's death certificate
I subsequently sent for William's death certificate which notes that he lived 3 days after the accident (the accident was on the Saturday and he died on the Monday) and that he died at 22 Harbrough Terrace (I think the wording of the Coroner's report doesn't make that clear). 

William Henry Blackburn was buried in Barnsley Cemetery on 7 December 1871 in plot M 539 where he was later joined by his wife's second husband Walter Jobling!
Onto the second Coroner's report which concerns George Blackburn, the OH's 4x great grandfather:

"At the house of William Norman the Wood Street Hotel, Barnsley, on Thursday the 26th day of June 1879 on view of the body of George Blackburn decd.

Eliza Blackburn of No 74 Heelis Street, Barnsley, widow, sw. says, Deced was 59 years old & a Bill Poster & my husband.  I insured his life on the 12th November 1877 with the United Kingdom Assurance Corporation Limited for £6:12:0 but in the name of George Blackbourn. On Saturday the 7th inst he got up early & set off to his Office & he was brought home in a Cab in the afternoon. He was carried from the Cab to his bed upstairs. He said that his back and abdomen were injured. Albert Wm Rogers came twice to see deced. Deced told me he had been riding with Rogers & expected they could get under an archway. Mr Scott attended him. Deced gradually became weaker as he could not take nourishment & he died yesterday evening about 6 o'clock.

Albert William Rogers of No 16 Easton Street, Exmouth Street, Clerkenwell, Groom sw. says, I am in the service of Mr. James W Myers the proprietor of a Circus. On the 7th inst. I came from Doncaster with a covered carriage & a pair of horses. The carriage is a Bill posting conveyance. Deced met me outside the Town about 1/2 past 2 o'clock & told me he had been sent by the Agent in advance to show me where to put up. He then got up to the front seat alongside of me. The seat is level with the top of the van. He first took me to his Office & wanted me to take some bills out of the Van. I told him it would be better to wait until the horses were put up as rain was falling fast. I did not know anything about Barnsley. By deced's directions I drove up Graham's Orchard & across Shambles Street into an entry which he subsequently said was the Windmill Yard & I pulled back & went round & up the next entry & asked him whether we could get through the archway. He replied, "O Yes". There was plenty of height at the entrance. Being up hill & steep the horses began to pull & I saw that the archway became lower. I told deced to put his head down & he did so. We passed under one beam but on getting to the next beam I felt myself fast & stopd the horses & backed a bit. Some men lifted deced down & assisted him into the kitchen of the Old White Bear Inn & I followed. He complained of pain in his back. He drank some brandy & then I returned to my horses. He appeared to be sober but not very active. He was helped by two men into a Cab & then driven away. He seemed to be rather better when he left. [signed Albert W Rogers]

Jane the wife of Joseph Asquith of No 33 Wood Street, Barnsley, Stonemason's Laborer, sw. says, I have known deced many years.  I saw him in a chair at his own house in the afternoon. His sons carried him in the chair upstairs & I helped to put him to bed. I have frequently seen him since. Last night I washed & laid out his body which had become very thin. There was not any external mark of injury.

Verdict  Accidentally injured
Paid Wm Mansfield PS £1:0:6 Persl exps."

1889 snip of area described in the testimony
The map snip to the right is from an 1889 town plan of Barnsley.  It shows the exit from the top of Graham's Orchard at the bottom right adjacent to the Lord Nelson Inn (the shaded X indicates an archway or entrance on the ground floor). Opposite and a little way up Shambles Street (which crosses the map at the bottom) looking to the left is the entrance to the Windmill Inn Yard.  The next entrance along is beside the White Bear Inn. 

It is tricky to interpret the testimony of the driver of the van, Albert Rogers, but I think it means that he entered the Windmill Inn Yard, drove straight through exiting onto Westgate (at the top of the map snip) then turned his van round and entered the Old White Bear Yard from Westgate.  The entrance at the front of the Old White Bear was far too low for anyone to expect a horse and cart to enter. There is a photo of that stretch of Shambles Street on YOCOCO, Barnsley Council's photo archive, looking down from the Sovereign Inn next door to the Old White Bear.  Of course I could be wrong and he just started to enter the Windmill Inn Yard, pulled up and tried to enter the Old White Bear Yard at the front!  At least the pub was handy for a quick snifter of brandy after the accident.

We can see that George and Eliza had moved from Harbrough Terrace to Heelis Street between the deaths of William Henry in 1871 and George in 1879.  The testimony of the neighbour mentions George being carried upstairs by his sons.  I only know of one son, James Blackburn, alive at this time, but the other man could have been his son-in-law William Hinchliffe.

George was buried in Barnsley Cemetery on 29 June 1879 in plot M 538, adjacent to his son's burial plot.  Three little Hinchliffe grandchildren share the plot with him and finally Eliza his wife, who had married to a chap called Thomas Ashurst eight years after George's death, joins him there in 1902 at the age of 74 years.  I am not aware of a gravestone on either plot.

Who knows what else I will find in these Coroner's reports?  You certainly get a lot of information in them and I am so glad I was persuaded to take some time and have a look!

Thank you for reading. 

Saturday 17 December 2016

The Meaning Behind a Beer Name - Double Maxim Beer and my cousin Ernest Vaux

My choice when I got up today was to do a bit of work on the Imperial War Museum's War Memorials Register (I am slowly adding all of Barnsley's 640+ war memorials to their website), or to continue working my way through my ancient 'to-do' list.  Put on one side in 2012 when I began researching war memorials for a talk commissioned by the Friends of Barnsley Archives I have barely touched my own family history for over four years.
Descendants of John Storey Vaux of Sunderland (I use Family Historian)
Several items on my list refer to the Vaux family of Sunderland.  I am distantly related to this well known brewing family, as my first cousin 4x removed, Harriet Douglas, b.1837 in Sunderland, married John Storey Vaux in 1861. In the snip above little tags after the boxes for each person indicate which census returns I have found them.  These 'flags' can be customised in Family Historian to indicate all kinds of facts, I have just added a little cannon to Ernest Vaux to show that he was a soldier prior to WW1 and a 'Tommy' symbol to show he served in WW1. Other than those two military flags this is how I found this part of my family tree this morning. It's a bit thin on the ground!

If you look at this old post about a Vaux family gravestone in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery you will see an even earlier version of this tree section which includes a previous generation of the Vaux family.  There are quite a lot of Vaux's for me to research.  But today's connection combines two of my favourite things - WW1 and beer!
Maxim Beer Label (from Zythum - An Ale Anthology)
This is reason that I wanted to write about one of the Vaux family today.  It is a beer bottle label, possibly dating back to 1901.  I wonder how many people know that the present beer name refers back to a machine gun!
Double Maxim Beer label (from Sunderland CAMRA's site)
The original beer, Maxim Ale, was apparently first produced to celebrate the return from the Boer War of my 2nd cousin 3x removed, Major Ernest Vaux.
Captain E Vaux South Africa Medal and Clasps (from Ancestry)

He had commanded Maxim guns in the 5th Imperial Yeomanry during operations in the Transvaal, Orange River Colony and Cape Colony. He was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal in 1901 with clasps commemorating these campaigns, see snip above from UK Campaign Medals on Ancestry. He was appointed a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in November 1901 (from Wikipedia).

The websites I have looked at today offer slightly different stories about the origin of the 'Double' which now forms an integral part of the name.  The Maxim Brewery site suggests that the beer was originally quite strong, but the strength was reduced because landlords complained their customers were falling asleep.  Both this site and Zythum - An Ale Anthology do agree that the strength of the beer was doubled in 1938 and at this point the name was changed to reflect this.  I wonder if the strength was originally reduced during WW1 when legislation was brought in to reduced the detrimental affect of alcohol consumption on the war effort?
Major Ernest Vaux on a cigarette card dating from the Boer War
(saved in 2012 from a now closed website)
After his return Ernest Vaux married in 1906 to the daughter of a local shipowner.  I have mentioned before how my Sunderland family branches worked and married within a close community of middle class business families.  The middle names of their children frequently reflect the surnames of mothers and of other local families, maybe those of godparents or other relatives. For example Ernest's fourth child and only son was baptised Peter Douglas Ord Vaux in December 1913. Douglas will refer to his grandmother's maiden name and Ord to his mother's.
Lt-Col Ernest Vaux (from a Sunderland newspaper website)

When the Great War began in 1914 Ernest Vaux, being an experienced old soldier, stepped forward immediately. He had commanded the 7th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry since 1911. He reached France in 19 April 1915 where he was mentioned in dispatches many times. Lieutenant Colonel Vaux was invalided home in April 1918 suffering from dysentery. He died in 1925 aged 60.  You can find his page on Lives of the First World War here.

A few months ago I regaled some the OH's CAMRA colleagues with this story during a beer tasting in Maison Du Biere at Elsecar Heritage Centre after spotting a bottle of Double Maxim for sale.  I've been meaning to write it down ever since.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday 14 December 2016

WW1 Women's Stories - Margaret Briggs, housemaid, killed at Scarborough 16 December 1914

Barnsley being landlocked and not a particularly well known site for war industries escaped attack in WW1 from the Germans.  We know a Zeppelin passed over Silkstone in November 1916, and a description of this event can be found in Tim Lynch's book "Yorkshire's War".  Happily no-one was killed or injured as a consequence.

Poster from the IWM
The safety of Barnsley connected civilians who lived and worked in seaside or industrial towns, or who were undertaking journeys through theatres of war was not so readily assured.  

The first civilian death that I am aware of occurred during the German bombardment of the east coast on 16 December 1914.  Such an attack on British home soil was so without precedent and deaths and injuries to non-combatants, including women and children were so shocking at that time, that images based on the event were used in recruiting posters, like this one on the right.

Margaret Briggs was born in Holmfirth on 7 October 1884 according to the information recorded on her baptism register entry and in the family's census entries.  She and her younger sister, Mary Ann, were baptised at the same time, 7 July 1889, at St Margaret's church in Horsforth. 

Margaret's parents, Samuel b.1859 in Pontefract, and Margaret (maiden surname Meredith) b.1854 in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, married in Pontefract on 11 January 1880.  Samuel's occupation at that point was as a Groom.  By 1881 the couple and their three month old son, Thomas, born Wragby, were living in Avenue Cottage at Hill Top, Wragby, which is near Nostell Priory.

More children followed, Arthur in 1882 in Wragby, Margaret in 1884 in Holmfirth, Eliza in 1886 in Huddersfield, Mary Ann in 1889 in Horsforth, then George in 1892, Alice in 1896 and Jane in 1897. All the last three were born in Barnsley.  I wonder who Samuel Briggs worked for? Did he change employers on several occasions or are the varied birth places of children a reflection of some other reason for moving around West Yorkshire on a frequent basis?

In 1891 the family were living at 58 Honeywell Street, Barnsley and Samuel was a Coachman. In 1901 they were at 1 Vernon Street and Margaret and Eliza, who would have been 16 and 14 years of age, are not at home.  They appear to be both living in Sowerby Bridge as General Domestic Servants to a Wholesale Drysalter and a Mechanical Engineer respectively. The youngest Briggs child, Jane b.1897, had died in October 1898 aged just 10 months and was buried in Barnsley Cemetery, plot S 384. When she was baptised in January 1898 Samuel's occupation was noted as a Cabman, but in 1901 it is given as Coachman/Groom again. 

The 1911 census should contain additional information about the total number of children born to a marriage and how many had died and were still alive at time the census was taken.  However Samuel and Margaret did not fill in this information so we can't tell if there were any other children, or to double check if the still absent Eliza had died young. Samuel has been recorded as a Cab Driver this time, and the family are living at 11 Sherwood Street, Barnsley.  The family remain at this address for quite a long time. Sherwood Street runs parallel to Pontefract Road on the way up the hill towards the Barnsley football ground (click here to see the address on Google Maps). Number 11 is a small terraced house near the top of the street which fronts straight onto the pavement.

Happily I found that Eliza Briggs had moved a lot nearer to home and was living at 5 Sherwood Street, just a few doors away, in 1911.  Her occupation is given as Domestic Servant, which seems a little odd in the household of a Bobbin Finisher.  But maybe she was only lodging there, as the married couple listed, John and Cassandra Shaw, had five rooms (not counting their kitchen) and no children to their four year marriage to occupy their spare bedroom(s).
1911 census snip for 31 Filey Road, Scarborough (from
Meanwhile Margaret has moved to Scarborough, where she is a Housemaid to a widowed Solicitor.  It is a fairly grand household as there are four servants, a cook, two housemaids and a houseboy. It seems to be the same address where she was killed in 1914.

One of Margaret's sisters, Mary Ann aged 25, married on 1 August 1914, just three days before Britain declared war on Germany after their invasion of Belgium.  Her new husband was John Wales, a Miner and both bride and groom give their address as 11 Sherwood Street when they marry at St Peter's church on Doncaster Road. This couple move to Normanton which may be where John originated from, before birth of their son John in early 1916.  That is not so far away and I am sure they would have returned for future family events such as weddings and funerals.

In the Barnsley Chronicle of 19 December 1914 Margaret's death is reported under the headline, "East Coast Raided - Scarbro', Whitby and the Hartlepools Bombarded - Great Loss of Life - Barnsley Woman Amongst the Slain."  Some young Barnsley boys were attending school in Scarborough and their thrilling escape from the town on a train to York is fully reported.

Here is what the Chronicle said about Margaret:
"Information has reached the town on Wednesday evening to say that Miss Margaret Briggs, a daughter of Mr. S. Briggs, of 11 Sherwood Street, Barnsley, was one of the victims of the German Bombardment. Miss Briggs, who was 29 years of age, was employed as a servant at "Dunollie", Filey Road, Scarborough. She was very well liked by her many friends in Barnsley, and great sympathy will be felt with her relatives. Her father is a very well-known cabman and dog fancier. From all accounts, Miss Briggs was intending very shortly to return to her home, and the tragedy is made all the more pathetic by the fact that she had already sent on some of her luggage in advance. Miss Briggs was killed on the doorstep of the house whilst taking letters from a postman who was also killed. "Dunollie" is one of the most southerly of the buildings hit in Scarborough. The shell struck the gable end of the house nearer the sea, and then appears to have dropped straight in front of the main entrance where Miss Briggs was standing."
"Dunollie" showing bomb damage (with thanks to The Rowntree Society)

In 1947 a "Dunollie House" was opened as a Rest House by Rowntrees of York for company employees suffering from stress and ill health.  The above photo from their website shows the the damage sustained by the house in the bombardment in WW1.  That could be the very doorstep on which Margaret was standing when she and the postman were struck down. Some of the details on their site do not tally with the information on the 1911 census, so I am being a little cautious about this. I also found a short silent film of the actual opening which shows the inside of the house and the opening ceremony in 1947.

Margaret's body was returned to her family in Barnsley and she was buried in Barnsley Cemetery on 20 December 1914 in the same plot as her baby sister Jane.  There is a mystery child, John William Briggs, aged just 4 months buried in the plot in 1909 from the same 1 Vernon Street address as Jane. His General Register Office entry suggests he was illegitimate as no mother's maiden name was mentioned. I assume one of the older sisters, either Margaret, Eliza or Mary Ann was his mother. 

A second of Margaret's sisters, Alice aged 19, married in June 1915, again at St Peter's church on Doncaster Road. Her husband was Albert Laughton, a 20 year old fitter and steel turner.  I believe they had at least five children together before Alice's untimely death in 1923 aged just 28 years.  Albert remarried again to an Ellen Watkins in the June Quarter of 1927.
1918 Absent Voters List snip showing Sherwood Street (thanks to Barnsley Archives)

The 1918 Absent Voters list gives information about men who joined the services in WW1 who were expected to be away from home for the election in December of 1918.  The register has been transcribed by the Barnsley War Memorials Project and can be found online here and also in paper form on the open shelves at Barnsley Archives.  Margaret's middle and younger brother are both in the services in 1918 and have given 11 Sherwood Street as their home address.  Arthur is a Private in the 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment, he would have been 35 years old.  George is a Bombardier in the 286th Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery, he would have been 26 years old.  There is a Thomas Briggs enlisted in the 13th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment a couple of streets away who may be the eldest Briggs brother - but there is no definite proof. I cannot find either of the sisters' husbands listed.

The mother of the family, Margaret Briggs (nee Meredith), dies in 1919 and is buried in the family plot in Barnsley Cemetery. At least she would have know that her boys were safely home before she passed away. Husband Samuel joins her there in 1924; both were 65 years old when they died.  
Snip of entry for 11 Sherwood Street in 1939 Register (thanks to Find My Past)

Just because I can and to try to finish this story off I searched for the Briggs brothers and sisters in the 1939 Register on Find My Past.  There was no sign of Thomas, the eldest brother but here is proof that Arthur and George made it home safe from WW1. Arthur, aged 56, is an Air Raid Precaution warden in WW2.  Both men are marked as carrying out Heavy Work (H.W.) - I believe this means they were entitled to extra ration points. Unmarried 53 year old sister Eliza is living with them, housekeeping for them maybe?  What I assume is a niece, 18 years of age, presumably a daughter of their deceased sister Alice Laughton, is also living with them, maybe they took her in to help out when her mother died?

Sister Mary Ann was living in Normanton in 1939 with husband John who is now a Colliery Deputy. Living with them were son John W and one more member of the family whose details are still hidden on Find My Past (details in the 1939 Register are closed if the person died after 1991 and the record has not been unlocked by a relative submitting a death certificate). Both father and son are ARP wardens. Albert Laughton and his second wife Ellen are living at 2 Bala Street, just around the corner from Sherwood Street. He too is a Heavy Worker in a his old trade of turner and borer, which does sound fairly essential for the war effort.

I am sure the family remembered Margaret and her shocking death in the German Bombardment of Scarborough for many years and with all the Briggeses buried in Barnsley Cemetery I wonder if there is a gravestone on plot S 384 recording them? One to check when the weather gets nicer again!

Thanks for reading.

Edit: 26 August 2021

I've been catching up with some recording and filing and have found this photo of a stone and commemorative plaque on Margaret's grave in Barnsley Cemetery. 

The photo was taken on 6 August 2018 by myself. 

There is a Remember Scarborough website with other information.

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Review of our Oaks Colliery Disaster Anniversary experience

Over the past few days the OH and I have attended some events commemorating the 150th Anniversary of Oaks Colliery Disaster.  Here are a few photos and thoughts.  DVLP means Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership which is far too long a name to keep writing out!
Barnsley Main (thanks to DVLP)

The event on Sunday 11 December at the Barnsley Main site had been advertised in the Barnsley Chronicle the previous week.  The idea was to place wooden crosses, similar to those used on Remembrance Sunday, near the site of the Oaks Colliery.

The OH drove us down from Cudworth. Years ago, when I could still walk long distances, we had walked around Hoyle Mill photographing various interesting sites and probable locations for his family history such as Ash Row and the filled in canal and the Barnsley Main site, and I knew that it was too far for me to walk up there from the nearest bus stop now.  We arrived fairly early so we were able to park (with my blue badge displayed) opposite the site.  Hot drinks and mince pies were available and the OH happily accepted a cup of coffee.  The wooden crosses were arranged alphabetically in half a dozen large boxes and a helpful clergyman (Rev Dewey according to the programme of the event we were given) and several young girls found the three I had emailed to reserve.  Matthew Scales, John Everett and Henry Wilby, as I explained in my post last week, are related to the OH via his 4x great grandmother Sophia Bedford.
Lovely photo of us and crosses (thanks to Peter Davies)

People were gathering and the above photo was taken by Peter Davies whom I know via the Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP).  He takes wonderful photos of church memorials and stained glass windows and is connected to the Thurnscoe History Group as well as the People and Mining Group who are fundraising for the new Oaks Memorial sculpture which is being created by Graham Ibbeson.

One of our crosses was claimed back by some family members who were more closely related to Henry Wilby than the OH.  They were just about to share their family tree with us when the speeches started!
Local MPs (via Twitter from DVLP)

After some introductory words from the Chair of the Barnsley Main Heritage Group (who seem to be so new they haven't got a website or a Facebook page to link to), Councillor Brian Mathers (who has a close interest in the history of the Oaks Colliery) and our local MPs, Dan Jarvis and Michael Dugher, the cross placing began.

I was glad I'd worn my older boots as the grass was very wet and lumpy.  I've seen photos of the site during its recent tidy up by the Friends of Barnsley Main - it had been quite overgrown and lots of litter was picked.  

After the OH and I planted our crosses I sought out the Wilby descendants whom we had met earlier.  They had a large family tree showing Henry Wilby's parents and children and an Oaks Bible.  We explained that the OH was descended from Henry Wilby's wife by her first husband, had a good discussion and exchanged email addresses, as you do. They allowed us to take some photos of the bible for this blog.

Oaks Bible inscribed to Willie Wilby (click to enlarge)
These bibles were given to all the recipients of funds from the Oaks Colliery Explosion Subscription Relief Fund.  This one was inscribed to Willie Wilby, whom I knew from my own research was the OH's second cousin 5x removed, eldest son of Henry Wilby and Jane Bedford. Bill Shaw from the People and Mining group came up to speak to us and he told us he had a bible inscribed to Tom Wilby, Henry's youngest son, which he had been given by the sole surviving descendant of that line still living in this country. Fantastic coincidence! It was a real privilege to see and touch an actual item our ancestors would have held.

My Downton Abbey hat on TV!
I was asked by Stephen Miller, who had organised the DVLP's research project into the names of the men killed, if I wouldn't mind speaking to the man from the Calendar news programme who was there. The OH and I were both interviewed by the reporter, and a section of my piece was shown that evening on the news.  My friend Fay managed to catch my moment of fame and you can see the full report here on YouTube. There was also coverage on the BBC Look North programme.

On Monday evening the OH and I attended the official launch of the Oaks Colliery Disaster Exhibition which is at Experience Barnsley Museum until 8 February 2017.  I had been invited because I had done some research for the DVLP on some of the names of the men killed in the explosion on 12 December 1866.  I had researched about a dozen names, but I know some of the other volunteers researched hundreds - great job and well done to everyone.  I was sorry not to have done more but pressure from BWMP work prevented me.

The event was held upstairs in the reception rooms at the front of the Town Hall.  I've been in there before, in fact one of the sections is the room where the OH and I were married twelve years ago.  The room was already busy by the time we arrived (we'd had tea at the Joseph Bramah on the way so I could rest instead of having to cook and wash up) and again tea and coffee were on offer.  
Tweet by John Tanner showing the packed rooms

There were the usual introductions and then an overview of the project by Stephen Miller (who has done a wonderful job). He named all the volunteers who had helped, which included myself, and explained that he'd not realised how big an undertaking the Oaks Colliery Disaster work would be.  There were some poetry readings by Ian McMillan and three people who had attended a workshop to create works inspired by the Oaks Colliery Disaster.  The OH commented that the man who spoke was a Barnsley CAMRA member.  I sometimes think the OH knows everyone in Barnsley either via CAMRA or his work!
Presentation to the Volunteers

At the end of the Mayor's speech Stephen called all the volunteers present up to the front of the room.  Now that was a surprise.  The Mayor, Councillor Linda Burgess, then shook our hands and handed us each a framed commemorative list of the 383 names of the men killed in the disaster.  That's me in the photo above, on the left of the row, next to receive a plaque, just hiding behind Stephen. 

Afterwards we all went down to the exhibition which is in the display area next door to Barnsley Archives.  There are photos of surviving miners, rescuers and widows with their stories, and some artefacts including a rather scary preserved pony's hoof!  The visual recreation of the Oaks Colliery runs on a screen on the wall continually and includes a list of the names of the men killed. 

It was lovely to be thanked for my contribution to the project.  I'd like to thank Stephen Miller and the rest of the DVLP team for giving us the chance to do the work.  When NS, one of the other volunteers, mentioned that he had a void in his life now the project was complete Stephen promised that we could go on to research other mining disasters and accidents in the DVLP area.  That might take us the rest of the lifespan of the DVLP to complete!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Oaks Colliery Disaster 150th Anniversary - our family connections

Next Monday, 12 December 2016, marks the 150th Anniversary of the firing of Oaks Colliery, when 383 Barnsley men and boys lost their lives.  You can find out more about the planned commemorations on the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership (DVLP) website. We plan to attend the Memorial Service on Sunday 11 December at the Barnsley Main site and place three wooden crosses to the OH's known relatives. 
Image of the Oaks Colliery after the Explosion from the Illustrated London News
(from various sources across the web)

With so many names to research the DVLP recruited volunteers from across Barnsley to investigate each one and to eliminate duplicates from a master spreadsheet compiled from the death certificates and the various historical printed lists which have been made available online on a dedicated Oaks Colliery 1866 Disaster website.  I was pleased to be one of these volunteers for a short while, although I only researched a handful of names, being rather busy with Barnsley War Memorials Project work in the run up to the Somme Commemoration. I know that other volunteers researched hundreds of names over the autumn of 2015 and into early 2016 (including those of the OH's relatives) as the names were handed out in alphabetical chunks for fairness and lack of bias.  A searchable online list of all the names identified and researched can found on the DVLP website.
Snip of the OH's family tree, Oaks fatalities highlighted (created using Family Historian)

I had known that Matthew Scales and other members of his family had been killed that day for many years, but as they are a distant connection of the OH's I had not researched them particularly deeply.  Looking at the family tree snip above you will see on the far left Matthew Bedford who died in 1796 at "Oaks, Barnsley".  He is the OH's 6x great grandfather.  He had at least four children that I know of, including the two sons shown here, Matthew b.1782 and Richard b.1789.  Richard is the OH's 5x great grandfather and his daughter Sophia, b.1826 who married Alexander Charlesworth in 1851, is the OH's 4x great grandmother.  For clarity I have not shown all the children of each generation.

Sophia's first cousin Jane Bedford b.1824 lost a husband, Henry Wilby, a son, Matthew Scales, and a son-in-law, John Everett on that dreadful day 12 December 1866.  Given the family's close connection to the area the OH may well have other connections to the men lost that day, but these are the ones I am currently aware of.
1843 Marriage William Scales & Jane Bedford (with thanks to Find My Past - Yorkshire Marriages)

Jane Bedford married William Scales on 5 June 1843 in All Saints church at Darfield. She was just 20 years old, he was a 23 year old Coal Miner and they both lived at Ardsley. Bride, groom and both witnesses marked the register with their crosses as they were unable to sign their own names. Jane and William went on to have two children, Matthew b.1843 and Mary Ann b.1845.  Sadly William Scales died in March 1847 aged 26  and is buried at Christchurch, Ardsley.  Having been left with two small children to look after it is not surprising that Jane remarried within a few years.  
1851 Marriage Henry Wilby & Jane Scales (with thanks to Find My Past - Yorkshire Marriages)
Her second husband was Henry Wilby, a 28 year old Labourer from Hopton in Yorkshire (which I think is near Mirfield). Jane is now 27 years old. At their marriage at St Mary's church in Worsborough Village in June 1851 both parties give their address as Stairfoot, neither bride nor groom could sign their names, but the two witnesses could. Jane and Henry had six children, but only three (William b.1855, Henry b.1858, and Tom b.1864) were still alive when Henry Wilby snr was killed in the Oaks Colliery Disaster on 12 December 1866 aged 46. He was buried at Christchurch, Ardsley on 23 December 1866. His home address is given on the DVLP list as 2 Common Side, Ardsley.
1868 Marriage George Kenyon & Jane Wilby (with thanks to Find My Past - Yorkshire Marriages)

Jane's third marriage was to George Kenyon in 1868 at Christchurch, Ardsley. She was now 44 years old, George was a 33 year old widowed tailor from Ardsley.  As far as I am aware Jane had no further children.  In the 1871 census George and Jane are living next door to the Black Bull pub at Stairfoot with Jane's youngest son, Tom Wilby, aged 7 living with them, Henry jnr had died in 1869 aged 11Jane died in June 1880 aged 55 and is buried in Monk Bretton churchyard (the cemetery did not open until 1886). George Kenyon married again in December 1880. 

Jane Bedford had a hard and relatively short lifeShe buried two husbands, five children and a granddaughter (an illegitimate child of her daughter Mary Ann Scales, born and died in 1863), but she did live to see her daughter remarry and would have enjoyed a number of other Everett, Webster and Wilby grandchildren.

1866/67 Burials at Ardsley
(from Find My Past - Yorkshire Burials)
Jane Bedford's son, Matthew Scales, b.1843, married Alice Wood on 18 October 1863 in All Saints, Darfield. He was a 19 year old Collier and she was 20.  Matthew did sign his name on the marriage register as did their two witnesses, Alice had to mark a X.  Matthew and Alice had two children, William Henry b.1864 (named for his grandfather and step grandfather maybe?) and Fred b.1866.  Matthew Scales was killed in the Oaks Colliery Disaster on 12 December 1866 and was buried at Christchurch, Ardsley on 23 December 1866. His home address is also given as 2 Common Side, Ardsley in the DVLP listing. He was just 23 years old.  He was the OH's second cousin 5x removed.

His name appears in the burial register immediately after his step-father Henry Wilby.  Sadly young William Henry Scales did not long survive his father, dying in February 1867 aged just 2 and a half, his burial is listed at the foot of the same page on which his father and step-grandfather's names appear.

At least 35 men who lost their lives in the Oaks Colliery Disaster of 1866 are buried in the churchyard at Ardsley, where there is also a memorial to all the men (here's a link to a photo and an enlargement of the inscription on Geograph).

Jane Bedford's daughter, Mary Ann Scales, b.1845, married John Everett on 29 May 1864 in All Saints, Darfield. He was a 25 year old Plate Layer (a railway worker) from Toft Newton in Lincolnshire. She was 20 years old. John could sign his name, Mary Ann could not and they both lived at Ardsley. They had one child, John Henry Everett b.1865.  When he was baptised at St Mary's in Barnsley on 14 December 1865 the family were living in Barnsley.  John Everett was killed in the Oaks Colliery Disaster on 12 December 1866 aged 29. He was buried on 16 December 1866 at Christchurch, Ardsley. The DVLP online listing gives his home address as Union Street, Barnsley which was in the parish of St John the Baptist (in the Barebones area near the town centre).

Mary Ann Everett, widowed at 22 years of age with a one year old child, remarried on 7 Nov 1867 to Manwaring Webster at All Saints, Wakefield (now the Cathedral). He was a 22 year old Butcher, born in Southey Green or Ecclesfield in Sheffield.  Both parties say they were living in Westgate in Wakefield when they married and state that they are 'of full age' rather than being specific about their ages. Mary Ann and Manwaring had moved to Monk Bretton by the 1871 census and they have at least four children that I have found.

There must be many more direct descendants of these three men alive today, but in their absence the OH and I will be honoured to lay our wooden crosses in their memory next Sunday morning.

Thank you for reading.