Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Researching a Re-Discovered Roll of Honour: Brampton Parish Hall

A Roll of Honour found recently. Photo by AT
My friends know that I like a good (or even bad and indifferent) war memorial, especially if it's new to me. Bearing in mind the huge range of things that can be war memorials that includes a lot of items for them to spot. Gravestones (with a war related inscription, but where the man or woman named is NOT buried in situ), a bench, a mural on a wall (temporary art counts), as well as the more well-understood outdoor memorals, tablets in churches, and like the one pictured above, framed pre-printed paper items with hand-written (sometimes typed) names inserted.

This example was found by AT at Brampton Parish Hall when he attended a wedding reception a few weeks ago (early 2020). I have transcribed the list of 100 names and published a descriptive post on the Barnsley & District War Memorials blog. Although Brampton is just outside the Barnsley Borough boundary I know that boundary memorials often list men who were born or who lived in Barnsley. They could be named simply because a member of their family lived in the catchment area after the war.

The names on this Roll of Honour are in a roughly alphabetical order, except for one name at the very end which was added in pencil rather than ink. This suggests that the memorial was created after the war (or at least a good while into it) for so many names to be ordered rather than entered in order of enlistment. It includes men who died, but the majority of men named survived the war. The men who fell are not indicated in any way, which is unusual in a Roll of Honour in my experience.

This post is about the methods I am using to research the names. I would like to know where this Roll of Honour originated, what church or chapel, workplace or school thought it important to record the men (and they are all male names) who went from their community to serve in the Great War. By discovering where they lived, their ages, their occupations, their religious affiliations, I hope to narrow down the options. I have approached Brampton Parish Hall for information, but thus far the Parish Clerk has not found anyone who knows how this large framed, but battered, document came to be displayed in their building.

Over the past few weeks my research methods, using online resources accessible from my home, as I am limited in my available time and energy at the moment, have expanded in scope to include cemetery registers, newspaper indexes and local history society websites. Finding information on men who died in the war is somewhat easier than for those who served as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website is very easy to search and a Roll of Honour for Barnsley's First World War Fallen was recently published and is accessible online. At my present count 14 of the 100 men named died in the war. 

My initial searches began by entering the man's name into the 1911 census search pages on either Ancestry or Find My Past (FMP). I have subscriptions for both but they are available free in Barnsley (Ancestry) and Sheffield (Find My Past) libraries. I entered a year of birth range of 1892 +/- 10 years. Ancestry expand results beyond that range where other similar results are found. FMP seems less forgiving. I left place of birth blank. Inward migration to Barnsley was very common in the 19th and early 20th centuries as new industries, such as glass making and coal mining expanded. I did however enter Wombwell as a place the man may have lived, as that is a larger town than Brampton, but immediately adjacent.

After a few searches I was finding enough common features in my results to lay out a spreadsheet which I am keeping on Google docs so that I can update it on both my laptop and my tablet. I do a lot of work in bed in the early hours when I can't sleep, and the tablet is perfect for that, less likely to disturb my other half (OH).

I also searched for the names on some nearby memorials for which I could find a transcribed list of names. Barnsley's war memorials are listed on the Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP) website. A Roll of Honour in Christ Church, Brampton is listed on the Imperial War Museum's War Memorials Register website.  As an online volunteer for this project I submitted the Brampton Parish Hall Roll of Honour as soon as I had tidied up the photos and transcribed the names. Unfortunately adding the names to their site is currently a laborious task, so I have been putting it off ... it is easier to refer to my own list.

I also cross checked Rolls of Honour for Wath Main and Cortonwood collieries which I have on file. Cortonwood's War Memorial stands right outside Brampton Parish Hall, so that was an obvious one to check. Only the names of the Fallen are listed on the BWMP website, there are three times as many names of the men who served on the memorial, but fortunately I have photos which the OH and I took many years ago on file from which I could make my own transcription.

Only 24 out of the 100 names on the new Roll of Honour appear on the Cortonwood Memorial.  Thirty-nine names appear on Brampton Christ Church's Roll of Honour with only a couple appearing on both. Some are only possible matches when it is a common surname as both only list initials for forenames. Five names appear on the Wath Main Colliery Roll of Honour including the distinctive Alonzo Turner, who does not appear on either of the two memorials previously named. Eleven names (still bearing in mind my proviso about common surnames), appear on the main Wombwell war memorial outside St Mary's church, and 4 on the Wombwell Reform Club memorial, all men who died. Only James Crawford is named on the Wombwell Church Lads Brigade memorial, and apart from a couple of possible common surnames no men are named on the Wombwell Methodist plaque or the Wombwell Conservative and Unionist Club Roll of Honour.

The various places of origin of the men (admittedly mostly Wombwell and West Melton, but also Staffordshire, Birmingham, Huddersfield and Grimsby and I have only reached F on the list as yet) and their disparate ages (from 1878 to 1900 so far) appear at first sight to preclude a school memorial.  However I did find a community, that had a nearby school and chapel, which appears fairly frequently amongst the address information I have discovered thus far.
1907 map of Cortonwood Colliery and Concrete Cottages.
From Old Maps.

The most noticeable common factor is the housing at Concrete Cottages, also known as New Wombwell, centre of the above map snip. According to Melvyn Jones in his book South Yorkshire Mining Villages, these flat roofed concrete house were built for the workers at Cortonwood Colliery in 1876. Some of the men who were living further afield in 1911 can be traced back to 'Concrete' in previous census returns or at their baptisms (many in Christ Church Brampton).  There were 106 houses in total and, as you can see above, the community included a school and a chapel.

Other men were living on Wath or Brampton Roads in 1911. These are the two roads running south east from the centre top of the map snip above. Wath Road is labelled. One man's father is the signalman at Brampton Crossing, a couple more live at The Junction, seen at the top of the map, which appears to be named for the junction of two canals. There are (so far) very few who give an address in Brampton itself, which is just off the map to the bottom right.

Once I have found a likely man in the 1911 census I check the previous census returns, 1901 and 1891. Most of the men found so far were born between 1880 and 1897. Not surprising as that makes them 34 to 17 years old when the war breaks out in 1914. I have found Service Records for a few, Medal Cards for most, Pension Ledger entries (via my Western Front Association membership access) for those I have looked for.  The Pension Cards/Ledgers give addresses post war for men or their dependents, and many of these are still 'Concrete' into the late 1920s. I have also been searching for the men or their families in the 1939 Register.

Some of the men, but not many, are buried in Wombwell Cemetery. Other burials in Barnsley Cemeteries can be searched on the Dearne Memorial Group's Barnsley Cemeteries website. I have no access to burials in churchyards that are not covered on Ancestry or Find My Past, and few of those that are include burials in the later 20th century as the church yards would have been full by then. As yet I have found no online index to Rotherham cemeteries. However I can check death registration entries online at FreeBMD (also on Ancestry and FMP but I find FreeBMD very easy to use). One man, with an uncommon surname, Fred Bristow, has eluded me so far. He is not killed in the war, but does not appear in 1939 or in the marriage or death registrations. Did he emigrate?

I have found some transcribed newspaper entries with photos of 8 men on the Dearne Valley History website, all taken from the Mexborough and Swinton Times (MST). As this group cover Wombwell and Brampton I wanted to ask them if they knew about this Roll of Honour, but I couldn't find a contact email address. I have sent a message to their Facebook page, but it doesn't seem very active. The photos on their website are greyscale, which suggests they were not taken from the microfilm copy of the newspaper which I have seen in Barnsley Archives. That was scanned in black and white and the photo reproduction is poor.  I have a copy of an index to the First World War entries in the MST that a friend obtained from Doncaster Library. It covers Wombwell, Thurnscoe, Bolton on Dearne and Goldthorpe which are all in the current Barnsley Borough. Brampton, West Melton and Cortonwood, which are in Rotherham, are also included. I have added a search of this to my routine for each name on the list.

I do have access to an index for the wartime Barnsley Chronicle newspaper, but in my experience its coverage of the eastern areas of Barnsley Borough is poor.

So, to summarise:

Search the BWMP's Roll of Honour of the Fallen.
Search the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.

Cross check with other memorials in the area.

Search the 1911 census, year of birth 1892 +/- 10 years, residence Wombwell.
Follow that up with searches of the 1901 and 1891 census returns using the information from the 1911 entry.
If the man cannot be found with my search terms in 1911 try 1901 directly.
Look for the men, or their families if they were killed in the war, in the 1939 Register.

Check for a baptism and/or marriage in Brampton or Wombwell, and other South Yorkshire record sets available online. Look for a marriage registration on FreeBMD and follow that up on the genealogical sites.

Check the MST index and the bural index for Wombwell Cemetery.
Look for a death registration on FreeBMD.

Google the name ... a last resort, but sometimes the families turn up on other people's genealogy pages.

A friend has offered to research a few names towards the end of the list, and as it has taken me over two weeks to get to Fenton I am very grateful. I am still waiting for news on the provenance of the Roll of Honour, but a guess based on a descriptive history page on the Dearne Valley History Group website is the Wesleyan chapel that was originally adjacent to the Concrete Cottages.

Wish me luck!

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