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.
1827 +/- 1 year, The approximate birth year of Henry Shawers, most likely 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, Schoovers, Chouart, Scherrais, Shavier, Cerrier, or Soyers
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.
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.
1852-08-11 (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.
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.
1858-09-11 (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.
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
- 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.
1862-04-07 (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.
1863-05-15 (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.
1864-11-07 (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.
1865-04-06 (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.
1871-04-02 (Apr 2nd), 1871 Census of England & Wales. I cannot find Henry. However, I find his wife Elizabeth, and daughter Elizabeth Rosina Shawers, living at 7 George Place, Lansdown Road, Charlton, Kent (East extremity of London), under new identities:
- Elizabeth Shawers (nee Durran) is known as Elizabeth Hayes, wife of a sailor (mariner). This could suggest that Henry Shawers died between 1864 and 1871. However, poor people, particularly in urban centres could not afford divorce, nor always marriage licence. I haven't yet found Mr Hayes, who may not even have existed, nor her marriage to him. I find no death or burial of Henry Shawers. No remarriage of Elizabeth.
- Their daughter Elizabeth Rosina Shawers is known as Rosa Hayes, age 7. She is living alone with her mother at the above address.
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.
1881-04-03 (Apr 3rd), 1881 census of England & Wales. I cannot find Henry. I find his wife and daughter, still 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. Still no sign of a Mr Hayes.
- They are both working as servants. Elizabeth Rosina Shawers (my great great grandmother) is 22 years old.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
1915-12-01 (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.
Henry Shawers, Henrich Schwarez, Henri Cherrais, or whatever name that he was born with, was a 19th century lace weaving immigrant into the East End of London, perhaps French, perhaps Swiss. 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. By 1871, Elizabeth and their daughter were living at Charlton, near to Woolwich, South London. However, they used the names "Elizabeth and Rosa Hayes" and Elizabeth stated that she was the wife of a sailor. Her marriage to Henry Shawers appears to have been over - but had Henry died between 1865 and 1871? I can't find his death, neither have I found her second marriage to a Mr Hayes, a sailor. I never see her with him on any record.
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?