Burglary at the Grapes Inn, Attleborough

A vicious and armed attack on two of my ancestors in 1879.

The Grapes Inn, Attleborough, Norfolk.  I wonder if that is my great great grandmother Ann Smith (nee Peach), standing in front of the beerhouse in this old photograph?

I first heard of The Grapes from my late grandmother Doris Brooker.  She recalled in her childhood, her father, Frederick Smith, once taking her by horse and cart to a pub in Attleborough, that had a grapevine growing in the doorway.  If you look at the above photograph, I think you can see growth on the front of the building.  Was that the same vine?  I had just seen a census that recorded her grandfather, as the victualler of the Grapes Beerhouse in Attleborough. It connected.  She didn't know, but that beerhouse was where his parents had lived.

Here's how they relate to my late paternal grandmother:

My 2nd great grandfather Robert Smith, had been born in Attleborough in 1833, to a local family.  His father, Robert the senior, at one point, lead a local riot against the background of the Swing Riots.  After a sentence imprisoned in Norwich Castle Gaol, Robert the senior made a living as a hawker, umbrella maker, and as a labourer.  In his fifties, he finally escaped the Agricultural Depression by taking a second wife, on the new railways to Sculcoates, a cotton spinning town in Yorkshire.  Robert the junior and other siblings though, remained in Attleborough.  

Robert the junior's wife, my 2nd great grandmother, Ann (nee Peach), had been born at Etton, Northants, in 1835, although her mother, Sarah Peach (nee Riches) was from a local Norfolk family.  When Ann was an infant, her father David Peach was convicted of stealing two steers, and transported to Tasmania.  Sarah and Ann returned to Norfolk.  Ann subsequently must have grown up in a very poor single parent family in the town.  Her mother Sarah, unable to remarry, made a living as a charwoman.

So both Robert and Ann were born into more poverty rather than riches.  They married at Attleborough in 1857.  Robert had become a bricklayer.  

Between then and 1876, Ann gave birth to at least six children - Harry, Frederick (my grandmother's father), Alice, Emma, Samuel, and Nellie Smith.  They must have worked hard to get what they had.  By 1879, they were running the Grapes Inn on Levell Street in Attleborough.  From there, they ran a beerhouse, a bricklayer's yard, a builder's merchant yard, and possibly a pork butchers.  Here they are at the Grapes in 1881:

That's the background.  That 1881 Census shows the family two years after the event that I am now going to retell.

The Attleborough Burglary

It was about one o'clock in the morning on the first of March, 1879.  The beerhouse was closed.  My great great grandmother Ann Smith, was suddenly awakened by a noise and a light on the landing.  As she reached out to the bedroom door in order to investigate, a masked man carrying a revolver pushed into the bedroom, exclaiming "hoi-a-hoi!".  Her husband Robert now awake, the intruder pointed the pistol at his face.  The threat made, the burglar backed out to the landing.  Just then, their eldest son Harry, awoke by the commotion opened the door of another bedroom.  The intruder turned his revolver onto Harry, pointing it at a distance of six inches into his face.  Harry slammed the bedroom door shut, and the gun was fired into it, splintering the door.  The burglar then bolted from the Grapes, running out of the front door.  Robert, Ann, and Harry surveyed the house.  The intruder had kicked over a lamp, which needed to be extinguished.  The house had been ransacked.  Robert's silver pocket watch and chain had been stolen, some money, a carving knife, and some silver from a dresser.

The thief was a 20 year old John Clarke, originally from Shields in the North of England, but who had spent some time himself as a bricklayer, on the West India Docks in London.  He was on a rampage in Norfolk.  Armed, he committed a spate of burgalries at Attleborough, Spooner Row, Shipdham, and Foulsham.

The following Tuesday, he was at Little Walsingham.  It was becoming to risky for him to continue his crime spate in Norfolk, and he was heading for the railway station, to escape back to London.  He was tracked by the Police to a Little Walsingham pub, where they preceded to question him.  He made a dash for it.  As the police officers pursued him through the village, three times he raised his revolver and fired the gun at them - missing every time.

He reached the village of Great Walsingham.  The Police officers had by now commodeared a horse and cart to pursue him.  Locals joined in, including a game keeper's son called Codman.  More shots were fired - one through Codman's apron!  They chased him across the fields.  Another bullet struck a horse in the neck.  The rider of that horse, PC Goll, diismounted and forced Clarke to the ground - the gun fired again during the struggle.  Goll managed to part him from the revolver, and to handcuff him.

Clarke was found with a number of stolen items including my great great grandfather's watch.  He also had a piece of glass, painted with a death skull, that he would use with a lamp to frighten his victims.  The next morning, he gave a full confession.

He was taken later that day to Norwich Shirehall.  Angry crowds beseiged the building and a force of police had to keep order.  There he was charged, and Robert, Ann, and Harry gave their accounts, and identified their stolen properties.

At the May Assizes, John Clarke was sentenced to twenty years penal servitude.

Norfolk News 10th May 1879

Eastern Daily Press 8th March 1879

Norwich Mercury 8th March 1879

My great grandfather Frederick Smith with his son Lenny.

East Anglian Ancestry for far-away genealogists

User:Ras52, OpenStreetMap, Amitchell125 [CC BY-SA 1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This guide is really aimed at distant cousins with ancestry from the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk. It's the perspective of a present day East Anglian from the ground.  My ancestors were the ones that usually stayed in East Anglia.

First - definitions of what constitutes East Anglia.  One modern governmental definition: "the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire".  Estate Agents, trying to sell properties in idyllic East Anglia, often go even further, also including Huntingdonshire, Rutland, parts of Lincolnshire, and Essex.  The ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of East Anglia (see above image), didn't really include these add-ons.  I go with that, but include parts of northern-most Essex.  Why?  Because on the ground, those areas still feel (and sound) East Anglian.  Norfolk, Suffolk, eastern Cambridgeshire, and northern most Essex.  That feels East Anglian.  But it's heart remains the English counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

East Anglia is situated on the North Sea coast of South-East England.  It is lowland.  A chalk bed lazily slopes down from west to east, with a layer of  boulder clay on top running through mid Norfolk and high Suffolk.  I say high, nowhere in East Anglia is high.  This is Low Country.  Our hills are in the main, very gradual, slight affairs.  To the west of the chalk bed, lays even lower country - the ultra-flat landscape of the East Anglian Fens.  Wetlands that have been drained for agriculture in rich peat and silt soils.

East Anglia is rural.  It is agricultural.  Largely arable, with favoured crops of wheat, barley, sugar beet, and oil seed rape.  Medium size agri-business fields of crops across a very gently rolling lowland landscape, with parish church towers around every corner, and a buzzard in every copse of trees.  Ancient narrow roads with bordering hedgerows, twist around long forgotten open fields and farmsteads.  Mixed farming enters the river valleys, where cattle are fattened on rich grasses.  Intensive pig and poultry broiler units also dot the landscape.

What about the East Anglians?  That is one of the subjects of this post.

East Anglia isn't on the road to anywhere, but East Anglia.  You don't pass through East Anglia on the way to the Industrial North, Scotland, Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham, or London.  It's far out on the periphery of Hub.co.uk.  It's main urban centres are the small City of Norwich, and the towns of Ipswich, Kings Lynn and Bury St Edmunds.  They are all, 'small'. Norwich comes in at a lowly 48th in English town by population size.  You see, small.  Far more medieval towers than modern high rise towers.

After the urban centres, most modern East Anglians probably live in or near the market-towns.  These are really tiny "towns" some little more than villages.  Some are lovely, ancient, with unspoiled centres and market places.  Places such as Wymondham, Holt, Diss, Woodbridge, Swaffham, Beccles, Pulham Market, Laxfield, Long Melford, etc.  There must be dozens scattered across East Anglia.

Wymondham market-town centre.

The rest of the East Anglians live in the countryside, outside of the market-towns.  Trying to explain this to American genealogists where the old Roman ideal of planned city prevails, is difficult.  We have villages.  We have lots of them.  Most are early Medieval in origin.  They are set in ancient divisions known as parishes.  Many East Anglians now live in suburbs on the edges of towns - but until a century or two ago, most of them lived further out in the countryside, in these villages.

How many villages have we got in East Anglia?  Would you believe, somewhere around 1,300, with over 700 in the county of Norfolk alone.  They absolutely dot the East Anglian countryside.  Living in the countryside, in farmsteads and villages - that really is the Anglo-Saxon way of Life.  Look at the below snip of a part of south Norfolk.  See all of those red circles.  Villages.  The Blue circle is a market town on the old Roman road (A140).

© OpenStreetMap contributors

Until a few centuries ago, most East Anglians lived in the countryside.  Most of these villages will have a medieval church.  There are more than 600 of them in Norfolk.  They'll also often have a later non-conformist chapel as well.  Over 600 medieval religious buildings in Norfolk!  Possibly the highest density of medieval churches anywhere in the World.  This is because Medieval Norfolk was central.  It wasn't so peripheral before the Industrial Revolution.  The medieval City of Norwich was the second or third largest city in England after London.  All of those empty medieval churches.  Where did the populace go?  Some of them may have been your ancestors.

How about the origins of the East Anglians themselves?  Who are they?

There are very few "Celtic" place-names in East Anglia, other than the Ouse river system.  Most of the villages and place-names in East Anglia are of Anglo-Saxon origin, dating to between the 6th and 10th centuries AD, around 1,200 years ago.  In addition there are a number of place-names that are Anglo-Danish in origin, dating to the 9th - 11th centuries AD, with a cluster of them in eastern Norfolk.  See the map below, of the area called Flegg, an Anglo-Danish place-name in itself.  All of those -by place-names - they were most likely settled by "Viking" Danish immigrants during the 9th to 11th centuries.

© OpenStreetMap contributors

Previous to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons during the 5th century AD, the region that we know call East Anglia had for centuries,  been a part of the Western Roman Empire.  Even further back than that, at the turn of prehistory to written history, the northern parts of the region were the home of the Iceni tribal federation, and the southern part to the Trinovante.  These Late Iron Age peoples were descended from an immigration event from the Continent into the British Isles that took place some 2,000 years earlier.  Call their ancestors Bell Beaker, Celt, British Celt, or Ancient Briton - their DNA is still the most dominant aspect of the modern British, and even English gene pool.  The Roman occupation appears to have had little impact on their genetic make up.

Then the Anglo-Saxons arrived.  They came from what is now Northern Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands.  Early Anglo-Saxon artifacts found in East Anglia, have their closest correlation on the Continent with artifacts in Northern Germany, south of the Danish border.  This was the origin of the Angles - which the early kings of East Anglia clearly identified with.  Saxo-Frisians in what is now the Netherlands were well placed to migrate to the region, and contributed to this migrant community.

The most recent genetic studies suggest that rather than displace the Britons in the lowlands, that the Anglo-Saxons admixed with them in marriage.  Indeed, as I said, genetically, the DNA of the earlier Britons is still the majority component, even in England.  There was no genocide.  However, an Anglo Saxon identity, culture, and language was adopted by all during following centuries.

West Stow reconstructed Anglo-Saxon village in Suffolk.  The birth of the East Anglian village.

Not all of the Continental DNA in East Anglia arrived here during the 5th or 6th centuries AD.  Some may have already been here from the Empire, or earlier.  Some arrived during the 9th to 11th century settlement of Danes in the region.  Then the Normans.  The Medieval saw Angevins from Aquitaine, and other French arrive.  Then during the 16th century, there was a significant settlement of Elizabethan Strangers (protestant refugees) from what is now the Netherlands.  Huguenots followed.  Asides from these noteable immigration events, there would have been a drip-drip feed of foreigners into the region.  Dutch herring fishermen and engineers, Lithuanian timber and fur traders.  Drovers from the Midlands.  Indeed surname studies suggest that during the late medieval and following Tudor periods, there were a number of people moving into the Norfolk countryside - from the Continent, but also from other parts of England such as for example, Yorkshire.  East Anglia isn't on the way to any where, but neither is it totally isolated from ingress of new settlers.

The consequence of the location of East Anglia in the North Sea World, is that Genetic Genealogists looking at their DNA "Ethnicity Estimates" or "Ancestry Composition" results might see high levels of DNA matching the panels for the Continent, rather than for the British Isles.

How did the East Anglians live?

Many genealogists proudly brag of documented descent from early medieval kings and emperors (usually Charlemagne).  The lines that they trace in order to claim this must be those of the minority of the medieval European population - the titled and landed nobles, with their heraldic records.  This elite weren't really representative of the entire population.

East Anglians were mainly rural, untitled, and really didn't have a lot of wealth.  During the feudal Medieval, most East Anglians would have been within the ranks of the common peasantry, owing a range of fealties to their lords, in return for protection.  Not all were particularly free, although there were high percentages of freemen peasants in eastern Norfolk.  Others were tied in levels of servitude to their manors.  They tilled their strips in the communal open field systems.  They grazed their meagre livestock on the commons.  They also worked the lord's land, supplied him with sheep fencing, ale, fuel, and grains.  When called on, the men would have served the lord in wars against the Scottish, French or other houses.  Life was hard, brutal, and often too short.  However, the abundance of medieval churches across the region testify to the wealth that their labour actually created.  It testifies to the success of their medieval economy here in East Anglia.

Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter c1325-1335 f74v - BL Add MS 42130

Two men threshing sheaf - Luttrell Psalter (c.1325-1335), f.74v  See page for author [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons.  Originally published/produced in England [East Anglia].

Most peasant families didn't even adopt hereditary surnames until around the 13th to 15th centuries AD.  Except for brief mentions in manorial records, tithes, and polls, most don't even enter the records until 1538, when parish registers were introduced with the English Reformation.  So unless you tie into an aristocratic line - you are not going to trace your East Anglian ancestry much further back than 1550.  Indeed, many parish registers are damaged, lost, or destroyed.  Many records are illegible.  There is no guarantee of making it back that far.  I find it difficult to trace back rural East Anglian roots with a high degree of certainty much earlier than 1720, for the lack of correlative evidence from censuses, transcripts, etc.
Hoard of 12th century (Henry III) hammered silver coins recovered in Norfolk, and recorded by my late father.

Not all East Anglians worked the soil.  There were skilled crafts people such as the cordwainers, potters, smiths, and weavers.  Some based in villages, others in the towns.  Protestant beliefs and practices spread across Eastern England following the Reformation, particularly in urban areas.  This was re-enforced during the late 16th century AD, when protestant refugees from the Roman-Catholic crown, in the Netherlands, were invited to settle in Norwich, Ipswich, and elsewhere across East Anglia and south east England.  One poll of Norwich at this time suggested that as much as one third of the City population consisted of these Dutch and French protestants.  They were invited not only as allies against Roman Catholic Europe, but to bring their valuable crafts and skills to East Anglia.

Their protestant vigour was infectious.  East Anglia became a hot bed of Protestantism.  As the Crown and Establishment turned down the Reformation, opting for keeping Conservative values in their Anglican Church, so the Protestants ... protested.  Some hopped back over the North Sea to the Netherlands, which had for the time being, repelled the Catholic powers.  However, some of these most puritan protestants then asked the English king for permission to set up their own colonies in New England.  Permission was readily granted.  The Puritans left Eastern England en mass.  The point though is that this particular chapter of East Anglians migrating away, was centred in main, on urban classes, skilled workers, and  those that could actually afford the voyage.

Norfolk saw little bloodshed during the 17th century English Civil War, as it was safely Parliamentarian. Except for a riot and explosion in Norwich when the Puritans tried banning Christmas. 

Back to the countryside...

Between the 16th and 19th centuries AD, the descendants of the old East Anglian peasantry had to adapt to a number of economic changes that were not in their interest.  The great land owning families were enclosing and renting out their lands to free tenant farmers, breaking up the old manorial estates.  Some fields were enclosed, and the peasants found themselves replaced by more profitable sheep.  Even the commons were enclosed and privatised.  While the more entrepreneurial freemen rented out land to farm themselves, as tenant farmers, many others found themselves surplus to requirement, and alienated from the soils that had fed their ancestors for generations.  They became farm hands, the great army of "ag labs" (agricultural labourers) of the 19th century censuses.  Not all  labourers were equal.  The more fortunate, loyal, and skilled might find themselves almost in full employment, with a regular wage and a tied cottage.  The less fortunate were the paupers.  Seasonal workers that had to constantly look for work, or beg for parish relief.  The rural poor didn't always accept these changes without resistance.  In 1381, Norfolk and Suffolk peasants joined in a rebellion that threatened London.  In 1549, Norfolk peasants rose into an army that captured the City of Norwich.  In 1830, East Anglia was a centre of the Swing Riots.

Many agricultural labourers and their families still married and baptised as Anglican at the Church of England, but although much of the puritanical fervour had by now swept away from East Anglia, many were increasingly turning to non-conformist chapels of the Baptists, Congregationalists, and Methodists.  The Primitive Methodists were particularly successful in East Anglia during the 19th Century.

If you had rural working class East Anglian ancestors during the 16th to 19th centuries, imagine them very poor.  Following the Agricultural Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, new machines and technologies replaced much seasonal and manual labour on the fields.  The commons, where the poor had grazed their animals had been taken away.  Poor relief was ceased, and the desperate were forced to enter prison-like workhouses, in order to be fed - families split into separate dormitories, the poor harshly penalised, and discouraged from asking for relief.

How the land owners, farmers, and parsons saw it - the East Anglian countryside simply had a large surplus of unwanted labour.  They were encouraged to leave.  Some to far away colonies - Australia and Canada.  Others to feed the factories and mills of the Industrial Revolution in places like Newcastle, Yorkshire, or London.  For many - the railways arrived just in time to escort them away.

Example of East Anglian Accent.

Researching rural East Anglian ancestry

Understand that:

  1. Most East Anglians were not titled, nor recorded in heraldic records.
  2. Parish registers online are incomplete.  Not all parishes or registers have even been digitally photographed.
  3. Some parish registers have been lost, destroyed, or are badly damaged.
  4. The transcriptions of the registers on some online genealogical services are sometimes incorrect.  Always if you can, try to see scans of the original registers online.  Because of these frequent errors, the databases often fail on searches.
  5. If your ancestor was rural, use OpenStreetMap.org and magnify down to get to really know the area that they lived in.  Appreciate distances by foot.  People did sometimes move more than several miles - but very often in East Anglia, didn't!  It's not unusual to see one family in the same small parish for several generations.  Sometimes marrying cousins.  It was the arrival of the railways, that sometimes allowed families to finally escape the rural poverty.
  6. You find Harry X marries Mary Z in a village.  You search the online databases for his baptism (and parentage).  You find a baptism of a Harry X in the same county.  You add him and his parents to your tree.  Problem is ... the baptism was 23 miles away, and you don't realise it, but there were a number of Harry X at the same time, several closer to the place of marriage - you have made an error.  You just saw the one on the database.  More research might have uncovered a more likely candidate, with siblings named like his children, in the village next to that in which he married Mary Z.  Getting to know the area really well may have made you search harder.
  7. Illegitimacy is a surprise to some.  You will see plenty of it in 18th and 19th century East Anglia.  It was generated by poverty, poor housing, poor education, and desperation.
  8. Most of your rural working class ancestors will be illiterate, and sign with an X.  Education of the labourers was discouraged.  However, now and then, you will find one that served as the parish clerk.  Some could read.
  9. Widows and widowers, with children in tow, would frequently remarry quickly.  Support for the children was vital to keep them out of the workhouse.
  10. Infant mortality can be very depressing or sobering.  Expect some high rates.
  11. Don't be surprised to find ancestors listed as paupers, or as inmates in workhouses, gaols, or even the asylum.
  12. Check non-conformist church records, as well as the Anglican.  The Methodists operated by "circuits".

The man with the mattock - my Swing rioter ancestor of Attleborough

Another genealogist gave me a hint some twenty years ago, that they'd seen one of my Attleborough Smith ancestors as listed among the inmates of Norwich Castle Gaol.  I never followed it up until today, when I bought a second hand book called "Unquiet Country".  Voices of the Rural Poor 1820 - 1880. Robert Lee 2005.

The guy behind the till in the book shop said that he had been tempted to purchase it.  I replied that I might find one of my ancestors in it.  I didn't think that I would.  Then sitting on the bus, on the way back, as I reading through the chapter "Seems we have a revolution on our hands",   I read about an incident in Attleborough, Norfolk during December 1830:  

At least their slow walk gave the two men time to weigh up what was happening.  The churchyard was crowded.  Francklin noted that many faces were muffled and masked.  In evidence, too, were a number of sinister looking sticks, clubs and cudgels, some resting on the ground, some shouldered, some being slapped rhythmically against tensed, sweating palms.

"See the flag Dover?" muttered Francklin from the side of his mouth, 'Seems we have a revolution on our hands'.  Still furled, but unmistakable and carried with defiant pride, the tri-colour flag of revolutionary France provided a splash of colour in a damp corner of the graveyard.

The background was the Swing Riots.  Since August, many agricultural labourers and paupers took direct political action in protest against their deteriorating condition, that had been escalating with a long history of enclosure - the privatisation of pastures where the poor grazed their meagre livestock.  A favoured target were the new machines of the Agricultural Revolution, such as the threshing machines, which reduced the need for much labour on the land.  Masked gangs would set fire to them.  A mythical hero called Captain Swing gave name to the riots.  Workhouses would be attacked - the places where the poor were expected to plead for food and shelter, living as inmates for the offence of being replaced by such machines.  Tithe barns would also be attacked - the farmers were falling over themselves to blame the Church for excessive taxation, that prevented them paying a living wage to their labourers.

Some of the labourers cried out "half, half," holding up sticks and a mattock was held up, the mattock was not held up till after I had agreed to reduce 10 per cent ... they became more violent...

East Anglia was the epicentre of the Swing Riots.  Continuing in Attleborough, the rioters harangued the annual tithe meeting where the parson organised tithes for the forthcoming year.  The Parson, the Rev. Francklin, was assaulted when he refused to drop the tithes to a half.  He was forcibly imprisoned by the Swing rioters.  One of the masked men lifted a mattock (a pick axe-like tool as top photo) when the parson refused to give more than a 10% reduction in tithe tax to the farmers that employed them.  Another called for a knife, to cut off his head.  The parson and his associates were beaten, the vestry pilloried with stones.  Previous to arriving at the church meeting, the mob had already destroyed three threshing machines, and attacked the workhouse, demanding that the master fed them, or they would march him around the town with a stone hanging from his neck.  This really was revolution in backwater Norfolk.

Then I read the names of the accused at the subsequent trial:

For their breach of the peace, and for having broken into and entered the vestry room of the parish church ... and for having beaten the Rev. Fairfax Francklin ... threatened him and kept him a prisoner for several hours', Robert Smith was imprisoned for two and a half years, Samuel Smith for two years....

and after that was decided he (witness) would communicate the result (to the labourers); saw Robert Smith with a mattock ; a cry was raised...

Hang on.  Is that my 3rd great grandfather Robert Smith of Attleborough?  It appears so.  That hint twenty years ago.  He was married only three years earlier, to Lydia Hewitt - by the Rev. Francklin!  No wonder they didn't have any children for a few years.  He was serving time in Norwich Castle.

Robert was born the son of Raphael and Mary Smith, in Attleborough during early 1807.  At least three generations had lived in Attleborough, perhaps many more.  Indeed, both of his parents carried the Smith surname previous to marriage.  The Samuel Smith convicted with him may have been a cousin of his.  Robert must have been around 24 years old when he raised that mattock at the parson.  He had two young children to feed and a wife.  Times were incredibly difficult for the poor.  I wonder if he was behind the voice that was reported during the Attleborough Riot by a witness:

Above the confusion of the voices one rang out, more stridant and confident than the rest 'We are the strongest party' the man cried. 'We always have been and we always will be.  This is only the beginning.  We have begun at the foot, and we will go up to the head.'.

That was the voice not of a mob rioter, but of a revolutionary.  Not just the beating up of an elderly parson perhaps.  It had to be nipped at the bud, and after the military declared the Riot Act, the magistrates did just that.

While Robert languished in the gaol of Norwich Castle, his younger brother, Raphael Smith, passed away age 21.  Tough times to live.

Robert was released and fathered several more children.  In 1841 he was living at Lydia's father's farm at Hill Common, with six of their children.  But Robert was diversifying.  He was recorded on that census as a hawker - a salesman.

Three years later, in 1844, Robert's wife Lydia past away, age only 37 years.  In 1849, with children to care for, Robert married a second time, to a widow named Frances Saunders (nee Husk).  Her children by her previous marriage joined the household.

In 1851, Robert, living still in Attleborough with his family, was now working as an umbrella maker!  Then something happened.  The railways had arrived, bringing opportunities for many poor Norfolk families to move away.  The cotton mill towns were beckoning.  Robert, in his fifties, and Frances, left my 2nd great grandfather Robert Smith in Attleborough, and moved up North to Sculcoates, East Riding, Yorkshire.  In 1861, there they were, until 1870 when Robert finally passed away.  The Man with the Mattock.

Meanwhile his son Robert Smith (the junior) did quite well in Attleborough.  He was a bricklayer.  He had a trade.  He married Ann Peach (who's own father had been transported to Tasmania in 1837 for stealing cattle), and they for many years ran a beerhouse and builders yard in Attleborough, called the Grapes.  Their son Fred Smith also apprenticed into a trade.  He became a wheelwright, moved to Norwich, where he met my great grandmother Emily Barber.  They had several children in Norwich, including my grandmother Doris Brooker nee Smith.

Fred Smith with his daughter Doris in Norwich circa 1908.

and they keep coming ... the Moll Family of Ranworth, Norfolk

I'm on a fresh family tree run.  Well, actually, this one I'm sort of restoring, after once trimming the branch out.  I found them a while ago, but then noticed that one baptism would have made the proposed mother around sixteen.  It can happen, but I don't see such young motherhood very often in my tree, so I cut a branch off.  When in doubt - cut it out.

The Moll family lived during the 18th century in Ranworth, and the neighbouring parish of South Walsham in glorious Norfolk.  Here's my Tracey on her phone earlier this year nearby at Ranworth Broad:

Isn't she lovely?  Getting back to the subject, a fresh look at the Moll Family using online genealogy, and I saw my mistake.  That early Moll baptism belonged to another mother / wife of the father, from an earlier marriage.  It all fit after all.

I descend from them through my maternal grandmother, born Ivy Tovell.  Let's start this time from the top, as far back as I can safely get on this line at the moment.

My 7th great grandfather Abraham Moll lived in the Norfolk parish of Ranworth.  Where was he born?  He couldn't have been the Abraham born at Hoveton, Norfolk in 1719.  He'd be too young.  He could have been the Abraham Moll born at Edingthorpe, Norfolk, in 1696.  Just the right age.  However, that's about 20 miles away.  Did people move that far back then?  Sure.  My Thacker family line for example, shifted around East Anglia.  But most in my experience did not.  Therefore I like more evidence before accepting an origin just like that.  When you go back much earlier than 1780, that extra quality evidence rapidly evaporates for the masses.  That is where many, many, online genealogists go wrong.  Particularly if they don't live locally, they just go for the nearest with the same name, and about the right date.  If I had done that, maybe I'd now be back to Charlemagne like they usually are.  But I wouldn't believe the pedigree.  They shouldn't either.

So the earliest record - the baptism of his, and his wife's son Abraham (junior) at Ranworth in 1728:

I then have baptisms at Ranworth for four more of their children, including my 6th great grandfather Solomon Moll.  The last record for Abraham (senior) though was his burial at Ranworth in 1745:

6th great grandfather Solomon Moll was quite interesting.  Born at Ranworth in 1731, rather than the usual agricultural labourer, he was a cordwainer (a shoe maker).  Over the years he apprenticed a number of young men in South Walsham, Norfolk, for example:

Solomon the shoe maker, married my 6th great grandmother Rebecca Johnson, in 1759 at South Walsham St Mary's:

and she was to give birth to my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth Moll at South Walsham in 1763.

I don't know when Rebecca died, but widower Solomon married a second time in 1805, to a widow named Elizabeth Ebbage.  He must have been about 74 years old.  Good on him.  Maybe it was love.  Companionship at least.

His daughter Elizabeth Moll married widower, Jacob Wymer at nearby Moulton St Mary in 1785.

Moulton St Mary.  One of my favourite local rural churches.  The walls, exposed by conservation work are covered with medieval murals.

My 4th great grandmother Mary Wymer was born at Moulton, Norfolk in 1789.  She married a local farm worker named William Springall at nearby Halvergate (on the edge of the marshes) in 1811.  They had at least seven children at Halvergate between then and 1834.  One of them was my 3rd great grandmother Elizabeth Springall.  She married local lad William Lawn over the marshes at Great Yarmouth, Norfolk during 1831.  They settled at Tunstall, next to the marshes close to Halvergate.  William was interesting.  Although a marshman and labourer, he served as the parish clerk at Tunstall for 33 years.

Their daughter, my great great grandmother, Eliza Lawn, was born at Tunstall in 1849.  She married George Tammas-Tovell at Tunstall in 1866.

Here she is, the old lady sitting on the right of the photo:

An interview with one of my late great aunts recalled that as an old lady, she'd sit long periods in front of a mirror, brushing her long grey hair.  In the above photo, she poses with her son, grandaughter, and great grandaughter, my mother's sister.  Probably taken at Halvergate or Reedham.

Stats Update

The boring stuff (last updated 20th Dec 2017)

My Ancestry tree currently contains the records of 2,924 family members.  Including 328 direct ancestors for myself and my siblings.

Generation 3 (grandparents) has 4 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 4 (great grandparents) has 8 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 5 (2nd great grandparents) has 16 individuals. (100.00%)

Generation 6 (3rd great grandparents) has 31 individuals. (96.88%)

Generation 7 (4th great grandparents) has 57 individuals. (89.06%)

Generation 8 (5th great grandparents) has 70 individuals. (54.69%)

Generation 9 (6th great grandparents) has 68 individuals. (27.34%)

Generation 10 (7th great grandparents) has 46 individuals. (9.34%)

Generation 11 (8th great grandparents) has 21 individuals. (2.15%)

Generation 12 (9th great grandparents) has 5 individuals. (0.24%)

I have 156 direct ancestors recorded for my father.

I have 170 direct ancestors recorded for my mother.

I have 490 direct ancestors recorded for my children.

Recent breakthroughs in Ancestry

I was stuck for months with 279 direct ancestors on record, when suddenly over the past few weeks, it's grown to 296, with a total of 2,806 family members in the whole tree.

Seymore

One recent breakthrough was on my father's line back to Oxfordshire.  I knew that my 4th great grandmother Brooker (nee Seymore) was born circa 1795 at Drayton, Oxfordshire.  Scanning through the digitally photographed parish registers of both Drayton St Peters, and then Drayton St Leonards, between 1780 and 1805, I had that eureka moment when I found this:

Actually, I found three baptisms of an Elizabeth to this couple, John and Phoebe (Faby) Seymour, as well as other children, and then their marriage in 1790:

So Phoebe (Faby), was a Godfrey before marriage, and a spinster.  I've traced some of the lines back a bit further:

It looks as though around 1720, the Seymore family moved from the area of West Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, to the villages of Lewknor and Aston Rowant in Oxfordshire.  Not a dreadful distance, only around nine miles.  I'll have to investigate these new ancestral villages in Oxfordshire sometime.

Edney

I've also made a little progress on another close by line, also on my father's Oxfordshire lines.  My 3rd great grandmother Brooker was born Mary Ann Edney in 1845 in Shiplake, Oxfordshire.  I've managed to extend that branch a little further back:

The Edney family has recently provided me with the furthest back DNA match on my paternal line.  DNA matching suggests with a moderate confidence level, that I and another British tester share identical by descent segments of DNA with a predicted relationship of 5th to 8th cousins.  Ancestry sees a relationship on our trees that it thinks is behind those segments:

I'm very keen to find these DNA matches, to biologically verify my research, where it can (over the most recent 8 - 10 generations).  However, I'm particularly concerned about proving or disproving my paternal line beyond Generation 3, as I had a slightly colourful great grandmother on that line.  The Edney match does indeed support, that my documented great grandfather, was indeed my biological great grandfather, but really I need more verification.  I'm looking for matches with common ancestry in Oxfordshire or Switzerland, in order to do just that - alternatively a Y-DNA match from another tester descended on the Y line from an Oxfordshire / Berkshire Brooker family.

Barber

I've been trying very hard to breakthrough on a Suffolk based branch on my father's side.  I have a brick wall above my 3rd great grandfather Robert Barber, born somewhere in Suffolk, around 1796.  I do have some good candidates, 

As you can see, a baptism of a Robert Barber of Halesworth, at a non-conformist chapel in Beccles during 1797.  Tempting to claim them as ancestors, if I could, then I could actually go back a few more generations on that line.  But I'm not convinced this is the right one.  There were a lot of Barbers in Suffolk at that time.  This is the thing about genealogy - you have to make that call, that decision to add, or not to add.  The further that we go back, the less the resources, and the more missing.  Then perhaps, we are forced to sometimes make slightly more generous decisions.  I do struggle with that though.

As a side note, I have ordered Robert's death certificate from the GRO.  He died quite young in 1846, and it smashed his young family apart, some ending up in the workhouse.  I'd like to know what happened.

His son George got out of Shipmeadow Workhouse and got work at a farm labourer in the Hedenham / Woodton area of Norfolk.  He married and settled there.  They had a number of children, including a daughter named Emily Barber.  When she was 11 years old, during the 1871 census, she was recorded as working as a "crow keeper" (children employed to scare birds from fields):

Emily later moved to Norwich, to work as a servant in a Solicitor's household.  There she met a young wheelwright from Attleborough, called Fred Smith.  They married at the bottom of Grapes Hill.  They were very congregationalist new chapel.  They raised their children in a terrace house in Suffolk Street, Norwich, including my father's mother, Doris Smith.

Here's Emily, with her son Sid Smith, who was a First World War veteran from the Western Front:

Brooker Surname and a new project

Above map modified from "© OpenStreetMap contributors".  The red dots represent baptisms of BROOKER (including derivations such as Broker, Brocker, etc) between 1550 and 1600.  The larger the red dots, the more baptisms in that parish.

The area focuses on South-East England.  There was also a secondary cluster in Warwickshire, and stray families in Manchester, Yorkshire, Devon, and Norfolk.  However, I have not catered for all of those on the above map.  See the below larger scale map for Brooker baptism counts in those areas by county.

The Blue dots and notes mark ancestral birthplaces and dates of my recorded surname ancestors in Berkshire, Oxfordshire, and Deptford, London.  My line traces back reasonably securely to a John Brooker born at Long Wittenham, Berkshire, circa 1722.

The Purple dot and text represents Thomas Chandler of Basingstoke, Hampshire.  Living there circa 1740's, he appears to have shared my Y-DNA markers L-SK1414 judging by some of his Chandler surname descendants that have tested.  At some point before 1722, we must have shared Y line (paternal) ancestors.

From this map I can conclude that during the late 16th Century, the BROOKER surname was most common in Sussex, Kent, Surrey, and Hampshire.  There was a secondary cluster in Warwickshire.

Distribution of BROOKER baptisms AD 1550 - AD 1600 by English County.  County boundaries modern, but East and East Surrey united for historical purposes.  Includes records of derivations of Brooker surname.

Surname Origin

This interesting surname derives from two possible origins. Firstly it may be of English topographical origin from the Old English word "broc", a brook, stream, plus the agent suffix "-er", used to describe a dweller at, hence "dweller at the brook". There is also a place called Brook in Kent and Wiltshire, from the same Old English word "broc" as above. Also the name may be an occupational name used to denote a broker, originating from the Anglo-French word "brocour", one who sells an agent in business transactions. The earliest recordings of the surname appear in the 13th Century (see below). John le Brouker was recorded in the 1327, Subsidy Rolls of Sussex. William le Brocker was listed in the 1326, Feet of fines Rolls. The Close Rolls in 1332, record a Elena Brocker. Kirby's Quest for Somerset recorded an Adam Brocker in 1328. Geoffrey Broker, aged 17, an immigrant to the New World, sailed aboard the "Merchant's Hope", bound for Virginia in July 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Brokere, which was dated 1296, Subsidy Rolls of Sussex, during the reign of King Edward 1, "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.

Source: Surname.com

Discussion

A weakness with the data will be that the sources may be selective and biased, due to incomplete transcripts, register survivals, etc.  However, it gives me an indication of just where my surname may have originated before John Brooker married Mary Gardiner at Oxford College chapel, on the 1st November 1746.  They were recorded as residing at Long Wittenham, Berkshire.  Mary Gardiner appears to have hailed originally from a family a few miles to the south of Wittenham, at East Hagbourne in Berkshire.  I also found families of Brooker in that same parish, including a suitable John Brooker candidate born in 1722.  However, on reflection, and in discussion with another researcher that also claims descent from the Hagbourne John Brooker, I decided to delete that connection.  Hagbourne John Brooker married another woman, not Mary Gardiner, and did not move to Long Wittenham.

I then chose the next best candidate.  Further afield, a John Brooker born 1722 at Chieveley in Berkshire.  I have to confess a bias to that direction as it lead towards Basingstoke (I'll get back to that further down).  However, once again, I can see evidence to eliminate him.  I need to consider another John Brooker at Oxford next.  So many John Brookers!

Why am I looking for a link to Basingstoke?  Because several people that have tested their Y chromosome DNA with Family Tree DNA, appear to have the same Y DNA data as myself.  Incredibly rare, and hailing from Western Asia, L-SK1414.  These several other testers are all from the paternal surname Chandler.  They form a small but distinct cluster in the Chandler Surname Y-DNA projects, very distinct from other Y-DNA in the group.  Some of them have traced their surname lines to a Thomas Chandler, that lived at Basingstoke early to mid 1700s, the same time as my 6 x great grandfather, John Brooker that married Mary Gardiner and settled at Long wittenham.  Basingstoke is about 32 miles south east of Long Wittenham as the crow flies.

At some point, the Y-line descendants of Thomas Chandler, and myself, must have shared a common Y grandfather.  Some point most likely between 2,000 years ago, and 400 years ago, and most likely, in Southern England.  Convenient for the Coast and for ports that our Asian Y ancestor may have arrived at by vessel.  Most likely I feel, in the Sussex or Hampshire region.  Look at the clusters in the top map around Southampton, Chichester, and Brighton during the 16th Century.

That I haven't found many Berkshire, and only one Oxfordshire Brooker baptism between 1550 and 1600 could suggest that my surname most likely trails down through Hampshire between 1600 and 1746.  There is always however, the possibilty of a relationship in the other direction to the Gloucester cluster.  That goes against the Basingstoke Y hypothesis, but it is a possibility.  Where did the Gloucester cluster originate?  For that matter, where did the more significant Warwickshire cluster originate?  Did it move there from South East England during the medieval, or does it converge from an independent surname origin?

If the surname line is still true to my Y-DNA at Generation 9 (John Brooker of Long wittenham), and the existence of the Chandler L-SK1414 does support that my Y-DNA most likely would have been in that part of Southern England at that time, then just when did the Brooker and Chandler families last share a common Y-DNA father?  The convergence could be the result of a non parental event in either direction.  Even a series of non parental events.  Alternatively, it could predate the emergence of peasantry surnames during the 14th Century.  The above quote from the surname website suggests some aristocracy were using the surname as early as AD 1296.  However, many peasant and commoner families would have been slower at adopting a surname.

Some more recent Brooker surname distributions.

From PublicProfiler.org.

1881 Census of Brooker


Modified from PublicProfiler.org.  © All Rights Reserved

1998 of Brooker

Modified from PublicProfiler.org.  © All Rights Reserved

Brooker Surname Study

But for now, I'm stuck at that marriage in 1746.  Therefore I'm launching a longer term surname research project, starting with collecting baptisms of Brooker, Brocker, Broker, Browker, etc. Between 1550 to 1600, and then moving forward.  Screenshots of my baby database below:


Henry Shawers - timeline of an ancestor

The above image I took recently at the medieval festival in Bayeux, France.  My great great great grandfather, Henry Shawers is described as a narrow lace or trimming weaver.  Does the above represent his trade well?  Here I'm going to record all of the evidence so far for Henry, who I believe, is the first non-English ancestor that I have discovered, out of 270 direct ancestors, researched for over 25 years.

I'm going to present the evidence in a time line.

1826-1828

1827 +/- 1 year, The approximate birth year of Henry Shawers, in Switzerland.  His father was a coppersmith named John Shawers.  Their names have most likely been anglicised with immigration.  Henry was illiterate.  Their surname could for example, have been:   Soruhes, Schwarz, Schwares, Shaers, Souers, Seuers, Scherrais, Shavier, Cerrier, or Soyers

1829
1830
1831
1832
1833
1834
1835

1835-10-11 (Oct 11th), Elizabeth Durran, born in this year, was baptised at Deddington, Oxfordshire.

1836
1837
1838
1839
1840
1841

1841-06-06 (Jun 6th), 1841 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of John Shawers or his son Henry.  Elizabeth Durran was 5 years old, living in Deddington, Oxfordshire.  Henry would have been about age 14.

1842
1843
1844
1845
1846
1847
1848
1849
1850
1851

1851-03-30 (Mar 30th), 1851 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of Henry Shawers.  Elizabeth Durran was age 15, still living with her parents and siblings in Deddington, Oxfordshire.

1852

1852-08-11 (Aug 8th), passengers on the Lord Warden, disembarked at Folkestone docks.  The ship had carried them across the Channel from Boulogne, in France.  The List of Aliens recorded as arriving with this ship included a Monsieur Shawers, recorded as having French nationality.  Unfortunately all of the passengers had their occupations lazily recorded as Gents, but I wonder, not a lot of immigrants coming into the country by the name of Shawers, and only five years before our Henry married Elizabeth Durran in Bethnal Green.

1853
1854
1855
1856
1857

1857-09-20 (Sept 20th), Henry Shawers married Elizabeth Durran at St Philip, Bethnal Green, London.  I have the GRO Certificate copy.  I also see the church register entry on Ancestry.com.  They tally.  He stated:

  • He was a bachelor, and age 31, born about 1826.
  • He was living with Elizabeth at Banner Square, London
  • He was a Narrow Weaver.
  • His father was called John Shawers who was a Coppersmith.
  • He signed X - he was illiterate.  Elizabeth, age 22, was a spinster and also signed X
  • They married by banns.
  • Witnesses were James Brown and Mary Tilsely.  Both signed X.

1858

1858-09-11 (Sept 11th), Elizabeth Rosina Shawers was born at 29 Pownall Road, Haggerstone, London.  I have the GRO birth certificate.  Daughter of Henry Shawers and Elizabeth (nee Durran)

  • Henry Shawers was a Narrow Weaver Journeyman.
  • Elizabeth the mother registered the birth.
  • They were addressed to 29 Pownall Road, Haggerstone, London.

1859
1860

1860-01-08 (Jan 8th), first son, Henry Shawers (junior) was born at 29 Pownall Road, Haggerstone, London.  I have the GRO birth certificate.  Son of Henry Shawers (senior) and Elizabeth (nee Durran).

  • Henry Shawers was a Narrow Weaver.
  • Elizabeth the mother registered the birth.
  • They were still living at 29 Pownall Road, Haggerstone.  That's at least between 1858-09-11 and 1860-01-08

1861

I believe that sometime between his birth in January 1860, and late 1861, that Henry Shawers (junior) had died, but the death is not registered in any way that I have yet found it.

1861-04-07 (Apr 7th)  1861 Census of England & Wales.  2 Sun Row, St Mary, Islington, Finsbury, London, England. Henry Soruhes Head. Mar. 33. Trimming maker Switzerland. Elizabeth Soruhes. Wife. Mar. 26. Oxfordshire.  Rose Sohures. dau. 2 Dalston. Henry Sohures. Son. 15 months
  • His name is recorded as Henry Sohures.
  • His son, Henry (junior) is still alive age 15 months.
  • He is recorded as being born in Switzerland.
  • He was 33 years old, born about 1828 in Switzerland.
  • They were living at Sun row, Islington, London.
  • He is recorded as a "Trimming weaver".

I believe that their son Henry Shawers (junior) died between April 1861 and April 1862, but I have not yet located his death or burial.

1862

1862-04-07 (Apr 7th), Second son, William (Henry) Shawers is born south of the Thames at Hospital York Road, Waterloo Road Second, London, Surrey.  I have a copy of the GRO birth certificate.

  • Reported by mother E Shawers (nee Durran) of 4 Austen Terrace, St Johns Road, Upper Holloway, North London.
  • Henry Shawers recorded as Narrow weaver of fringe and trimmings journeyman.

1862-10-31 (31st Oct), Henry Shawers is imprisoned at Wandsworth Prison, London with a sentence of one month, for the offence of begging.  I found this on a digitilised image of the Prison Register at FindMyPast.co.uk.

  • Henry Shawers was a Lace Weaver
  • He was age 34, born about 1828
  • Height five feet, two and three quarter inches.  Grey eyes, fresh complexion, no marks.  Weight, a eight stone, ten pounds.
  • He was a vagrant, no address.
  • He was registered as F born.  Foreign born, not British Empire judging by other entries in the register.
  • His crime was begging.
  • He was illiterate.
  • He was Christian.
  • He was sentenced at Wandsworth, London, by C Dayman, magistrate.

1863

1863-05-15 (May 15th) Second son, William Henry Shawers died at Bletchingley, Surrey.  I have his GRO birth certificate.  Son of Henry Shawers and Elizabeth.  He was recorded as 1 years old.  His cause of death was ?Caucrumous? certified.  See his burial which states Small Pox.

  • Henry Shawers was a Trimming Weaver
  • Registered by mother, Elizabeth, present at death.

1863-05-18 (May 18th) Second son, William Henry Shawers was buried at Bletchingley, St Mary, Surrey.  Found on Ancestry.com including digitilised image of registry.  William Henry Shawers was recorded as "a stranger's child', 13 months old at death.  Buried in the north side of the grave yard.  Died of Small Pox.  A number of burials at that time, both child and adult were recorded as Small Pox.

  • They had moved south, out of London.
  • "A stranger's child" could refer either to the family being on the move, travelling, or alternatively hint that the father was a foreigner.

1864

1864-11-07 (Nov 7th), Third son, Arthur Henry Shawers was born at 11 Thomas Street, St Peter, Brighton, Sussex.  I have the GRO birth certificate.  The son of Henry Shawers and Elizabeth (nee Durran).

  • Henry Shawers was a Trimming weaver Journeyman.
  • Registered by mother, Elizabeth of 11 Thomas Street, Brighton.
  • They were living at 11 Thomas Street, St Peter, Brighton, Sussex on the South Coast.  In 1871 on the census, 11 Thomas Street is full of tenants and appears to be a lodging house in Brighton.

1865

1865-04-06 (Apr 6th), Third son Arthur Henry Shawers died at Baker Street, Enfield, Middlesex.  I have a copy of the GRO death certificate.

  • Sometime during the winter of 1864/5, they had moved from Brighton on the south coast, up to Enfield, north of London.
  • Reported by father, Henry Shawers signed X.  Of Baker Street, Enfield
  • Henry Shawers recorded as a Lace Weaver journeyman.
  • Arthur died age 5 months of pneumonia.
  • This is the last record I find of Henry with his family intact.

1866
1867
1868
1869
1870
1871

1871-04-02 (Apr 2nd), 1871 Census of England & Wales.  I cannot find Henry or the family.  

    1872
    1873

    1873-07-21 (Jul 21st), A Henry Sayers, Lace Maker is imprisoned for seven days at Wandsworth Prison, London.  Sentenced for being drunk on the highway.  Is this our Henry Shawers?  Is he still alive?

    • Five foot two inches, blue eyed, Fresh complexion, no marks.  Weight, nine stone, seven pounds.
    • Lace Maker
    • Age 45, born about 1828.
    • Born in Switzerland.

    Is this our ancestor, Henry, still alive in 1873, while his wife and daughter lived in Kent under different names?  I think it is.

    1874
    1875
    1876
    1877
    1878
    1879
    1880
    1881

    1881-04-03 (Apr 3rd), 1881 census of England & Wales.  I cannot find Henry.  I find his wife and daughter, living as Elizabeth and Rosa S Hayes.  Now they are in service, in Fulham, London, working for a middle class Portuguese family.

    • Elizabeth states that she is married.  She is now 45 years old.  No sign of Henry Shawers or a Mr Hayes.
    • They are both working as servants.  Rosa S Hayes (Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, my great great grandmother) is 22 years old.

    1882
    1883

    1883-09-29 (Sep 29th), Henry and Elizabeth's daughter, Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, marries my great great grandfather, Henry Brooker at St Johns, Fulham, London.  They live at 49 Estcourt Road, Fulham.

    • Elizabeth states that her name as Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, not as Hayes.
    • Her father is recorded as Henry Shawers
    • Her father's occupation is recorded as a Weaver.

    1884
    1885
    1886
    1887
    1888
    1889
    1891

    1891-04-05 (Apr 5th), 1891 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of Henry Shawers.  His wife Elizabeth Hayes (nee Shawers, nee Durran) is living at 1 North Street, Deptford, London, with her son-in-law and daughter, Henry and Elizabeth Rosina Brooker

    • Elizabeth Hayes (nee Shawers, nee Durran) is recorded as a 55 year old widow.  I suspect Henry Shawers has passed away by now.

    1892
    1893
    1894
    1895
    1896
    1897
    1898
    1899
    1901

    1901-03-31 (Mar 31st), 1901 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of Henry Shawers.  Elizabeth Hayes is living at 33 Loampit Vale, Lewisham, with her son-in-law and daughter Henry and Elizabeth Rosina Brooker

    • She is recorded as a 65 year old widow.

    1902
    1903
    1904
    1905
    1906
    1907
    1908
    1909
    1910
    1911

    1911-04-02 (Apr 2nd), 1911 Census of England & Wales.  No sign of Henry Shawers.  Elizabeth Hayes is living at 78 Cold Bath Street, Lewisham with her son-in-law and daughter Henry and Elizabeth Rosina Brooker.

    • She is recorded as a 75 year old widow.

    1912
    1913
    1914

    1914-05-11 (May 11th), Elizabeth Hayes, of 78 Cold Bath Street, Lewisham, born 1836, is admitted to Greenwich Workhouse by her daughter Mrs Brooker.  From Ancestry.co.uk.  Digitilised image of workhouse entry register.

    • Elizabeth is described as a widow of "Henry, an Actor".  Is this a Henry Hayes, the "sailor", or some sort of referral to Henry Shawers?

    1915

    1915-12-01 (Dec 1st), Elizabeth Hayes dies.  I have the GRO death certificate.

    • Age 80 years.
    • Died of senile chronic bronchitis
    • Death registered by her daughter E.R Brooker in attendance at 31 Caradoc Street.
    • Addressed to 78 Cold Bath Street, Lewisham.
    • Records that she was "Widow of Henry Hayes (an actor".

    Henry and Elizabeth's son, my great grandfather, John Henry Brooker, was in the Royal Field Artillery at this time.

    John Henry Brooker and partner Mabel, at Sheerness, Kent, in 1933.  John was the only grandson of Henry Shawers.

    Conclusions

    Henry Shawers, Henrich Schwarez, Henri Cherrais, or whatever name that he was born with, was a 19th century lace weaving immigrant from Switzerland, into the East End of London.  He was illiterate, a christian, and he suffered terrible poverty during his life in England.  He was short and slight, only around 5 ft 2" (158 cm) tall, with a fair complexion, no marks, and perhaps grey-blue eyes.  He may have been the Monsieur Shawers that arrived from Boulogne, France, at Folkestonedocks in 1852.  He met and married a young woman from rural Oxfordshire, a tailor's daughter named Elizabeth Durran in Bethnal Green, close to the Spitalfields weaving centre of London's East End.

    Their first child was a daughter that they named Elizabeth Rosina Shawers - known as "Rosa".  She was to be their only child to survive infant hood to adulthood.  My great great grandmother Brooker, born on Pownall Road, Haggerstone, London, during September 1858.  A second child, a son named after his father, Henry Shawers the junior, was also born at Pownall Road in January 1860.  I don't see the family settle again after this date.  In April 1861, they were living in Islington.

    During early April, 1862, they were now living in Waterloo, south of the bridge in Central London.  Their second son, William, was born there.  I believe that their first son Henry, had already passed away by this time.

    Weaving was in decline in the removal of protectionism, the rise of the power loom, and factory production.  Henry survived by specialising in the lace trimmings and fringes, perhaps of dresses and skirts.  But it wasn't easy.  He resorted to begging, a crime of poverty that was punished by a spell in Wandsworth prison that October.  

    Something made them move south, out of London.  Was it an attempt to return to the Continent?  Perhaps visit a relative of Henry's on the South Coast, a work opportunity, or were they pushed by the gruelling poverty and disease?  Their second son William, was buried it appears, on this journey, from small pox, and was buried "a stranger's child" in the Surrey village of Bletchingley.

    They ended up for a while in a lodging house on the South Coast in Brighton.  Their third son Arthur, was born there.  Then they moved northwards again over the winter of 1864 / 1865.  In early April, 1865, they were now living at Baker Street, Enfield, to the north of London.  Arthur, age five months died there of pneumonia.  Their third son.  The third to die as an infant.  Only their daughter, Elizabeth Rosina Shawers still survived.

    I don't see them as a family again after the death of Arthur in Enfield, 1865.

    Then in July 1873, a Henry "Sayers", a lace maker of very similar physical description, born about the same time, appears briefly in Wandsworth Prison, for being "drunk on the highway".  It sounds so much like our Henry - and he was foreign born, only this record tantalizingly records him as "born in Switzerland".  Was this our Henry, estranged from his wife and daughter?

    That's the last possible sighting of Henry on record.  He evaded both 1861 and 1871 English censuses.  I can't find his death or burial.

    As for his wife Elizabeth, she continued to live under the name Elizabeth Hayes for many years at her daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth Rosina and Henry Brooker's home in the Deptford then Lewisham area.  Shortly before her death in Greenwich workhouse during 1915, her daughter recorded for her, that she was the widow of Henry, an Actor.  A final puzzle to her life story.  Was this really a Henry Hayes, or was it Henry Shawers?  Why actor?