John Richardson: A Life of Scandal

When my Great Great Great Great Grandfather, John Richardson, was born in 1832, it would be unbeknownst to all what a scandalous life he was about to lead. One that is even still quite uncomfortable to discuss just under 150 years after it ended. Failed marriages, bigamy, illness and abandonment define what was still an incredibly interesting and unique journey to an untimely end, aged just 47.

John Richardson’s story, however, began around just under 70 miles from where it ended, in County Durham, specifically the village of Neasham, which is located nearby to Darlington. He was the eldest son of Robert Richardson, a shoemaker, and Ann Wennington, who had married a few years prior to his birth in 1829. He was baptised at the Parish Church nearby to Neasham, located in Hurworth, on 26 February 1832, the same place as where his parents married. Furthermore, the parish register notes his date of birth as 29 January 1832, which is the only record we have of his birth date, but it is important to note that this date can sometimes be unreliable.

Map showing Neasham in the 1890s

Clearly, as the couple’s eldest child, barring an early death, he would have some siblings to grow up with but also be a role model towards. These children came at wildly inconsistent rates down to what could be a multitude of reasons, but regardless, by 1855, when he was aged about twenty-three, his parent’s final child, a lad named Joseph, was born. In total, including John, they had eight children who survived infancy – 5 boys and 4 girls.

Despite the fact his family was growing, John didn’t remain in Neasham for long after he came of age. In fact, the last recorded time he was living with his family and in his place of birth was the 1851 census, where he is recorded as working as a joiner. Furthermore, it is noted that John is a journeyman, indicating that he may have also spent time away learning his trade as an apprentice, or at the very least illustrating his skills. Perhaps with his new skills and his trade, he set off into an ever-changing world with ambitions to build his own life and future.

Extract of their marriage certificate showing the hand of both John Richardson and Emma Exley

With this in mind, the fact within just over a year or so, he had moved to the up-and-coming West Yorkshire town of Dewsbury doesn’t seem too surprising. However, what is undoubtedly interesting is that in June 1852, within a year or so of his move, he married the 17-year-old Emma Exley. The couple settled into married life and welcomed their first child, John William, in 1854, followed by James in 1856.

In 1861, the family of four was residing on King Street, Batley Carr and John unsurprisingly worked as a joiner. Also, in what I feel to be somewhat of a poignant gesture towards John’s younger brother and father, their third lad born in 1864 was named Christopher Robert Richardson.

John’s brother, Christopher Robert Richardson, many years after the events of John’s life, aged about 90

However, despite all seeming well, the scandalous nature of John’s life was about to begin, for John left his wife and three boys in about 1864.

We will never know the exact motivation as to why John leaves his wife. From my perspective, the marriage seemed to be rushed and strange; Emma seemed too young and considering that John was also still a young lad that had just moved nearly 70 miles, how did the couple even meet? Was their period of courtship long enough? Was the marriage “rushed” with John regretting his decision? Emma’s family was more middle class, with her father being an employer, so perhaps John saw his marriage as a means to advance himself and was ignorant of any long-term consequences? Ignoring all of these more philosophical questions, which we realistically cannot answer easily, I believe that there is a trigger that caused him to leave his family – another woman.

Put in simple terms, my Great Great Great Grandfather, Samuel Walker Richardson, was born in December 1865, John’s first son to Lydia Walker, the above “other” woman. We do not know when they met exactly but using logic, they both must have known each other since the beginning of the year, and as it was around that year that John is later reported as leaving Emma, I think it is fair to come to the conclusion that this was the trigger. It is also worth noting by 1871 after the births of a few new kids to her – namely Tom, Harry and Jane – John is recorded as living with Lydia on Mill Lane, Hanging Heaton as her lodger.

The Baptisms of two of Lydia and John’s children – Jane and Tom – at St Thomas’ Church, Batley

John was in court around the same time period in 1871, specifically May, when he was summoned by the Dewsbury Poor Law Union at Dewsbury Borough Court for leaving his wife and children dependent upon the common fund of the Poor Law Union. The court notes that John typically paid weekly maintenance fees to Emma, but since he was recently taken ill, he could not do so. He was allowed to settle with the Receiving Officer outside of court, and the case was closed.

Arguably the most scandalous action of John’s life was when both he and Lydia moved to Wellington Street, Leeds, for a short period in late 1874, where they were married bigamously. They must have determined Leeds to be large enough to keep some anonymity as they were committing a crime but wasn’t too far removed from Batley and Dewsbury, where they would eventually live again. Banns were read between 25 October and 8 November, before their marriage on 21 November.

The marriage that shouldn’t have legally happened

Both John and Lydia had another son, in about 1872, named Fred, and then Mary Ann in 1875 and had moved back to Batley by the point of her birth. Despite now getting their relationship confirmed in front of god and effectively already existing as a married couple, John was once again summoned for neglecting to pay Emma’s maintenance and once again leaving her at the mercy of the Dewsbury Poor Law Union. He admitted in May 1876 before the Dewsbury Borough Court as being “away’, perhaps linking back to the time spent in Leeds. He was sentenced to three month’s hard labour unless he managed to settle with the Board of Guardians out of court, which he appeared to do. Interestingly, the newspaper report notes that he is “living with another woman” and that he has a sizeable number of kids with her. From this, it was likely well known that they were together, both John and Lydia, so the fact that they were able to get away with marrying bigamously is quite impressive.

It was touched upon in the May 1871 case that John had been taken ill, and ignoring if that was an excuse made for the court or a genuine fact, it foreshadowed what was to happen to John. Specifically, by August 1879, he becomes ill again – fatally ill. Tuberculosis is what kills him, aged 47, on 13 August 1879 at his home with Lydia on Ambler Street, Batley Carr.

Part of John Richardson’s death certificate – not the greatest copy in the world.

Funnily enough, Emma registers his death and is noted as being “in attendance”. This doesn’t illustrate anything significant, as she may have just felt it was right to fulfil her final duties as his wife and mother of his children, or they have reconciled even just a little towards the end. John was buried at Dewsbury Cemetery on 16 August 1879 in a grave that Emma bought and was later buried in herself. Again, the more romantic point might be a reconciliation between the two on his death bed. Yet, I honestly feel that Emma bought the plot over Lydia as, despite the bigamous marriage, Emma was John’s legal wife. Perhaps Emma didn’t even choose to be buried with John. She may have been buried there because it was the easiest for her family members.

There isn’t an easy way to conclude John’s tale as it is one that was cut short, and many pieces are missing from it, unlikely to have ever been recorded by any official records. His thoughts and feelings were especially crucial to his story, and as we don’t know them 150 years on, we should be mindful of that when discussing his actions and intentions. It is essential to discuss regardless as it beautifully exemplifies the fact that not everything is as simple as it appears. Despite what we may think of the past, people have always been people, easily all been able to make similar mistakes and decisions as we are in the modern world. John Richardson’s story isn’t one I gladly shout from the rooftops, but without him and the fact he left his wife, I wouldn’t be here today, so I feel it would be wrong of me to ignore it. After all, he led an incredibly interesting and unique journey through life irrespective of his flaws and scandalous nature.

Emily Butcher: The Survivor

There is an irony to life, chiefly visible to those that look back, and I suspect that Frank Butcher didn’t want the loss he experienced in 1854 to be repeated again. No child should have their mother ripped away from them, especially not by a cruel disease like cancer. To watch the woman you so profoundly rely on slip away. How did it affect your father? Would it make him closer to you being able to step up to the mark, or would it make him distant, unable to process a rather sudden or perhaps more drawn out loss? The family group would be irreversibly affected, regardless of circumstances.

Frank’s mother’s death certificate

I wonder if Frank worried about this when he married Eliza Jackson in 1874? Or each time a new child was born? The couple ended up having three lads and five girls, the second youngest of the lot was born in May 1887 and was named Emily. She would later become my Great Great Grandmother.

But as mentioned before, there is an irony to life, and when Emily was aged six, a similar age to her dad, who was about five when his mother passed, she lost her mother to the effects of childbirth. Eliza’s cause of death was recorded as ‘placenta praevia’, which perhaps would indicate she was pregnant at around the time of death, but no record seems to suggest so, and I am certainly not an expert.

St. Paul’s Church, Hanging Heaton where both Frank and Eliza Butcher are buried

Regardless her childhood was affected irreversibly, and her family changed forever. To what extent and in what ways is debatable. Frank never remarried and passed away in 1906, aged 57. He died out of what was once known as ‘Bright’s Disease, and his passing wouldn’t have been nice to experience, but his son Percy was present at the death, so he wasn’t alone. What caused his death is unclear, but there is a chance he may have turned to alcohol when Eliza passed or perhaps he was simply unlucky and inherited it genetically.

Emily now was without a mother or father, but she still very much had a family. She likely lived with her sister Annie after her father’s death. I cannot be exactly sure, but in 1911 the other remaining Butcher siblings lived with her and her husband, Walter Hall. He is quite important as he was the son of William Henry and Eliza Ann Hall and brother of Ernest James Hall, Emily’s future husband.

Ernest James Hall, circa 1910

It is likely the latest date they could have met would have been Walter and Annie’s marriage in 1901. It doesn’t really matter how they met as they married in 1908 at Batley Parish Church and moved into the local Providence Street to raise their family. First came my Great Grandfather Percy in 1908, then Evelyn in 1910, and then Marion in 1913. What could go wrong for the young couple? Their lives had just begun.

Emily with Evelyn, circa 1910

War is merciless, and at some point after the birth of their daughter Phyllis in July 1915, Ernest went off to fight in the First World War. I dread to think what Emily felt watching her husband leave her; I suspect she was proud but also profoundly worried and petrified. How did she cope watching her children wave goodbye to their father? It is unthinkable.

Ernest survived the war and was ostensibly unscathed, barring a slight injury to his eyesight. Unfortunately, this wasn’t entirely true. The trauma of the war deeply affected Ernest, and he became what was known at the time as ‘Shell Shocked’.

There wasn’t a great dealing of understanding of the condition at the time, and men were just expected to return to life as normal. Imagine trying to settle back into life after fighting a brutal war, and you couldn’t find work as unemployment was rampant, whilst also being shunned as “personally weak” for suffering mentally. The treatment of these veterans by the establishment was disgusting, but my personal feelings on the matter are irrelevant, and for Ernest and Emily’s case, life went albeit different.

Proud? (Portrait taken circa 1915)

I do not know to what extent and exactly how Ernest’s trauma affected him, but it did. Was it nightmares? Near perpetual anxiety and bouts of shaking? Was he okay one moment only to opposite the next? Furthermore, it is absolutely unknown as to how Emily felt about this and how she dealt with it. Nonetheless, as a couple, they continued in life.

They moved to 99 Whitely Street, Daw Green (in the modern Westtown area), Dewsbury by 1920 and in 1921, Ernest was working as a Fettler at Alexandra Mills in Batley. More kids followed, and by 1927 the Hall family was finally complete. Emily arguably had kept the family together and likely provided Ernest with enough support to keep him going.

She raised quite a glamorous daughter in Phyllis and also a daughter who was good at acting/singing in Evelyn. Evelyn acted in some plays and was very enthusiastic about it, even being ‘spotted’ by an individual who wanted her to come to London. However, Emily told her no and that she had to go work in the mill to earn some money.

Evelyn Hall on her wedding day with her parents Emily and Ernest, 1939

By 1939 two daughters and a son had left home, and the family had moved to 32 Commonside, Hanging Heaton, and I suspect both Ernest and Emily felt powerless as they watched another generation sent off to war. Their son Frank served in the Royal Navy, and their son Jack also likely served.

It is hard to imagine Emily waving to her children, just as she had done to her husband a mere twenty-five years or so ago, as they went off to serve their country.

Throughout the war, Emily’s first grandchildren were born, all boys. Phyllis had Brian, my Great Grandad Percy, who likely stayed at home due to his reserved occupation, had John in 1942, followed by my Grandad Richard in 1944. Despite so much conflict, hardship and strife, another generation had been born.

The next generation?
Left to right: John Hall, Edith Annie Hall, Percy Hall, my GG, Richard Hall,my grandad

Another grandson recounts only ever meeting Ernest once, and even then, he went to the other room away from everybody. Obviously, even then, nearly three decades after his war service, Ernest was still affected by his trauma, and Emily also was by default.

She soon became ill with cancer and on 6 June 1948 passed away aged 61. Her daughter Marion registered her death and was present at her death as I would like to think most of her family, and at least both Marion and Ernest. She was buried three days later at the local St. Paul’s Churchyard at Hanging Heaton. She wouldn’t remain separated from Ernest for too long as he passed away suddenly of a heart attack about eighteen months later.

Both of them were finally able to rest together in peace.

Grave of Ernest and Emily after I had marked it

I wanted to find their grave for a long time and failed to do so until August 2021. The grave has sunk with time, just like both Ernest and Emily’s memory – fading slowly away. Both their legacies are complicated, with one of their daughters remarking that her father should have never had kids. Perhaps that was true to an extent, but both Ernest and especially Emily are awe-inspiring figures. Both clearly had guts and were able to endure and stick together to make sure that, no matter what, in spite of everything, both themselves and their family would survive.

Rainy selfie

To say they died nearly sixty years before I was born, they both mean a lot to me. Both their stories are remarkable but so ordinary, and I hope that as one of the many carrying their ‘Hall’ name, I can live up to their grit and courage.

Rest easy, Ernest and Emily.

The Crimes of Fanny Fell

Fanny Fell was an ordinary working-class York lass, her husband worked as a comb maker, and by 1872 the couple had six children. They were raising their family on King Street. The area was dominated by the famous Clifford’s Tower and the imposing Victorian Prison. The great irony in this is that unbeknownst to Fanny, she was going to spend nearly seven years of her life in its confines.

The Fell family on the 1871 Census

Not much is known regarding the specifics of her first crime, but we know she entered custody on 21 November 1872 and was charged on two counts of larceny (the theft of personal property) for stealing some beef and a pair of trousers. She was charged with six months of hard labour and was locked away in the very local York prison. Her daughter Rose was barely a year old and now had her mother ripped away from her.

The beautiful but imposing Clifford’s Tower (2018) via the Wikimedia Commons

Victorian prisons were harsh, inhospitable places with strict regimes imposed upon their inmates. In my research, I haven’t come across any specifics regarding York prison at the time, but there was generally a difference in how men and women were treated. There was a real push for women to reform their character by reclaiming their “true domestic hearts”, which was achieved by controlling every little aspect of a female prisoners’ life.

Six months of dreary domestic labour, religious instruction, and degrading moral supervision dragged on, and Fanny finally re-entered free society as a marked woman. Sadly, due to the sexist attitudes of the time, she will have likely been notorious. This notoriety may have led to a breakdown in some of her relationships and made it difficult to find any work at all. Luckily, Alfred, her loyal husband, seemed to stick with her. Although we can’t say the specifics of how both Fanny and Alfred felt about their relationship at this time, it seemed to be quite strong, indicative of true, near unbreakable love.

Female prisoners working a fire pump via the Wikimedia Commons

Another aspect found in my wider research of Victorian female prisoners was that although during the period there were fewer women were convicted than men, it was more likely they would re-offend. Perhaps this was down to the aforenoted factors which led to a downward spiral. Despite having unusual support from her husband, Fanny followed the pattern and was once again convicted of larceny in February 1878. She had stolen some wool and two skirts and was locked away for nine more months.

After being released later that year, Alfred and Fanny may have decided they needed a change and, therefore, by 1881 moved to London. Thanks to research done by a cousin, the conditions where the family moved to (Nisbet Street in Hackney) were appalling. The houses were built in the 1870s upon a strip of gardens and had a squalor, cramped and plainly awful conditions. At the time, this may have been seen as alright, but there is no justification for the living conditions people suffered through. It was simply immoral and unacceptable.

Nisbet Street and some context via user @soxgnasher on Twitter

I’m a Yorkshireman through and through, however, so I don’t want to focus on this move to London too much. Instead, I frame it as a detour as the family were back in York by 1882.

In late September 1882, Fanny rose early on a Saturday morning and visited William Hansell’s shop to price a pair of boots. Whilst in the process, she walked off from the general dealer’s store but was soon caught redhanded and brought back to the shop. The reporting of the theft liked to emphasise the fact that she let the stolen boots fall to the floor when she returned to the shop, but I don’t understand what they expect of her? She certainly wasn’t going to be happy that she was caught. However, her feelings were irrelevant, and she was sentenced to another three month’s hard labour.

She was set free early in the New Year but would return to the prison not even eight months later when she was caught stealing again. This time, she stole a stuff skirt from Ernest Haythorne’s shop. She was actually in the process of carrying the skirt away when Ernest’s brother caught her and handed her to the police. There was much scoffing and disdain when Fanny stated that “drink did it”. Ignoring the scoffing, this comment gives us a unique into her mind. She was obviously suffering because of her crimes which were caused to an extent by alcohol. The notoriety and grim life she lived through likely led to more drinking and then crimes. A vicious cycle of despair – Fanny’s worst enemy was herself.

She spent another twelve months doing hard labour and stopped offending (or wasn’t caught) for two or three years. This time, in 1887, she went to John Jackson’s shop and asked if she could look at a hat in the afternoon, and when leaving, she grabbed a brush hanging from the door. This was witnessed by a lady called Mary Burley, and soon after, P.C. Mason apprehended her. She admitted the theft and was once again sent to prison, albeit for a longer sentence of 18 months and one year’s police supervision was also attached to the sentence.

1890 rolled around, and Fanny likely turned sixty; both Fanny and Alfred were getting older and had a fair few grandchildren. However, this didn’t stop Fanny’s compulsion to drink and steal, and she was once again sent down for a year’s hard labour with an increased two year’s period of police supervision. I term it a compulsion down to another quote from Fanny’s mouth that “she couldn’t help it” after she was handed to the police once caught.

John Close, Lord Mayor of York in 1893

Three years later, in April 1893, Fanny was once again before the Lord Mayor, accused of stealing a cloth jacket from the door of George Merriman’s shop. Once accused, the police searched her house and found the jacket situated between the bed and mattress. In an almost heartbreaking way, at least to me, Fanny asked the police officers, “Will you do the best you can for me?” and further stated, “I am sorry I took it”. Undoubtedly Fanny was probably only sorry because she was caught, but I find it admirable that she never tended to deny her guilt. She was always able to face up to her actions. She was once again sent to York prison.

She left prison on 5 May 1894 after serving her twelve months of hard labour. She had spent her final months of this term of imprisonment throughout a severe winter. I wonder how Fanny felt when her lightly pillpocked (marked by smallpox) skin felt the air of the city again, or how she felt when seeing her family again through her hazel eyes. Did she smile when she saw Alfred, showing the few teeth she was missing? Was she welcomed at the gates or left to walk home alone? If so, was she easy to spot walking down to the family home on Laurence Street by the distinctive situated above her lip on the right-hand side of her face?

Her final recorded crime occurred in 1895 when she was around sixty-five; she stole a shawl from a local shop. Just as she made her exit, a shop assistant noticed it was missing and ran out into the street, where they found it wedged between the apron that Fanny was wearing. It feels incredibly monotonous to repeat the fact that she was sent down for a year’s hard labour. But, intriguingly, the jury actually recommended that she was granted some mercy in the sentencing due to the fact she was of an “advanced age”.

We haven’t spoken much about Alfred regrettably, but her conviction led to a poignant piece of reporting. We have Alfred’s direct testimony declaring that Fanny “was a good wife when sober” – perhaps adding further credence that her stealing was a compulsion brought on by alcohol. The fact that was Alfred was dead within less than two months adds more weight to his testimony. He clearly loved his wife and was willing to defend her after a life of absolute turmoil.

The loss must have been significant to Fanny but what must have been worse to her was the fact that she probably didn’t get to be with him when he passed away on 16 November 1895. He was buried in a public grave (18875) at York Cemetery not long after his passing – it is unclear if Fanny was able to attend. It is clear that Fanny regretted her crimes, but what must have stung more was that she probably missed her husband’s funeral for the sake of a shawl.

York Cemetery in Autumn, by Johnson Cameraface on Flickr

By 1901 she had moved onto North Street, Castlegate and her twenty-year-old granddaughter, Mary Jane Fell, lived with her. She worked as a laundress whilst Fanny, now about seventy, stayed at home. A few years later, she passed away on 26 June 1906 and was buried in a different public grave (19402) to her husband. A sad irony is that they were divided by bars in life and also divided in death.

At first, I didn’t know how to feel about Fanny’s life and found it hard to reconcile her actions. However, over time and after undertaking more detailed research, I have developed a surprising fondness for her story. She may have been a criminal, but she was only a petty one at that and one who always seemed to be caught. I accept that she was causing damages to others by stealing things, but they were replaceable. Her husband’s funeral, raising your children and cherishing your grandchildren were things Fanny stopped herself from doing/attending. As I alluded to before, Fanny was indeed her own worst enemy, and I hope that in death but also the final years of her life, she finally found some peace.

Mary Jane and Alfred Dale, my 3 x Great Grandparents. Mary Jane is Fanny and Alfred’s daughter.

It might be controversial to some, but I can proudly claim Fanny Fell as my Great Great Great Great Grandmother.

Ernest James Hall: The Spinner and Soldier

The youngest child of William Henry and Eliza Ann Hall, Ernest James Hall, was born at the family’s home, 48 Taylor Street in Batley, on 11 February 1885. His family came from a pretty typical working class background, with his father working a variety of jobs at local woollen mills and his mother raising her seven surviving children and performing dreary and demanding domestic work.

What was atypical, at least to an extent, was his father’s rampant alcoholism. Not only did William Henry Hall have a reputation of being an alcoholic, but he was also convicted of being “drunk and riotous” at least four times. Furthermore, Lewis Hall, the second youngest child of William and Eliza, would recall to his grandchildren that William went around local pubs selling shellfish to fund his habits. It is unclear if this led to William being abusive to his family, as there is no evidence directly confirming or denying abuse. None of his youngest two boys, Ernest and Lewis, ever spoke of facing abuse, but either way, the possibility stands.

In 1891 the family had moved to 25 Beaumont Street; the house is recorded as having three rooms and housed both parents and seven siblings of Ernest. Two of William Henry’s convictions occurred before the next census in 1897 and 1900, both resulting in a hefty or prison time. In 1901 the family resided at the four-roomed 42 Cobden Street, which was located near Batley Town Centre. In July of the same year, Ernest’s brother Walter married Annie Butcher at St. Paul’s Church, where he probably met his future wife, Emily Butcher, Annie’s sister, for the first time.

A map showing the areas Ernest spent his childhood in

After an illness of about two months, William Henry succumbed to Thyroid Cancer, aged 62, on 20 September 1904 at the Batley District Hospital. Three days later, he was buried at Batley Cemetery in the unmarked plot R 476.

Banns of marriage were read between Ernest James Hall and Emily Butcher at All Saints Church in Batley on 26 April, 3 May, 10 May 1908. The wedding took place on 24 May 1908; they were both living on Cobden Street. Emily is listed as living at number 49, and Ernest’s house number is not specified. Emily’s siblings, Walter and Agnes Butcher, witnessed the marriage.

Batley Parish Church

The couple moved to 1 Providence Street, nearby Cobden Street, after their marriage. Their first child, Percy, was born on 17 September 1908. His baptism took place on 11 November 1908 at Batley Parish Church. Ernest took up business in the mill to support his young family.

The Hall family appears on Lloyd George’s 1910 Tax Valuation. They had moved to 5 Providence Street, which had a gross annual value of £5 10 shillings and a rateable value of £3 15 shillings. The house had two rooms recorded on the 1911 Census. The couple’s first daughter, Evelyn, was born on 26 May of the same year. Interestingly, she was baptised alongside many Hall cousins at Batley Parish Church on 6 July 1910. Some were unusually old to be baptised, but it is interesting as it shows that the family have been quite close.

Emily holding a young Evelyn circa 1910

Marion was born three years later in 1913 with a deformity in her legs. This prevented her from walking, so she effectively lived on the couch until she was aged three. Luckily, she had a relatively normal life past that point but was just a little shorter than her peers.

Phyllis Hall was born on 1 July 1915, and at some point after her birth, Ernest was either called up or voluntarily enlisted into the army during the First World War. He served as a Private in the 8th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and was given the service number 35562. He likely served across the Western Front for a few years before serving in Italy towards the end of the war.

Ernest and Emily Hall

He was injured at some point in his service, as he is included in a list of the wounded in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph on 10 July 1917. Furthermore, he suffered from PTSD (or “Shell Shock”) due to his war service for the rest of his life.

He was awarded the British Victory Medal and discharged from the army on 16 June 1919.

One of Ernest’s war medals

A few more details of Ernest’s injury can be found on his army pension record, which states that he had defective vision attributable to his war service. His pension commenced on 17 June 1919, describing the degree of his disablement as 20%. On 29 October 1921, the record states that there were no grounds for the claim to stand.

The family moved to 99 Whitley Street, around the Westown area of Dewsbury, by 1919. It is quite tricky to pinpoint a direct date on the move, but the town of his next of kin is Batley on the war injury newspaper report, so the move was most likely after July 1917.

Jack Hall, the couple’s second son, was born on 5 June 1920, and Ernest had returned to his pre-war occupation of a card fettler in a woollen mill by that point. Frank was born soon after on 22 July 1922, and the final child, Mildred (or Millie), was born in May 1927.

Ernest’s brother Lewis lived close by at Green Lane during the same period. Lewis’ granddaughter described the conditions of their house; “The bedroom ceiling was open to the rafters, and it was so cold in winter that a glass of water would freeze solid. The house was lit by gas mantels and candles. The mattress was stuffed with straw animal bedding, and they would have to pick the flees off it”. It is possible that Ernest and the family lived in similar conditions.

Evelyn (right) and Phyllis (left), probably during the 1930s

The family continued to live at 99 Whitley Street for about seventeen years when they moved to 32 Oakfield Terrace, Commonside in Hanging Heaton, in 1936. The houses had much nicer conditions, and at least one member of the Hall family would remain living on the Oakfield Terrace row of houses for the next sixty years. Lewis Hall, Ernest’s brother, moved next door at number 30 in about 1938.

Many marriages ensued during the next four years. Firstly, Phyllis married Herbert Grimbleby in the summer of 1936 and was the first child to move out. Next, my Great Grandfather, Percy Hall, married his wife Edith Annie Whitaker at St John the Baptist Church on 17 July 1937. The last marriage of this period was Evelyn’s marriage to Tom Senior in mid-1939.

Evelyn alongside her parents on her wedding day

The 1939 Register details a few things about Ernest’s children who remained at home, barring Mildred, whose record is closed. Both Ernest and Jack Hall worked in woollen mills, with Ernest specifically working as a hopper minder. Emily undertook domestic work alongside help from Evelyn, especially helping outside. Frank worked as a grocery shop assistant.

Marion’s identity card

The outbreak of the Second World War affected Ernest’s life in two ways; his son Frank went to war serving in the Navy, and the more obvious but slightly overlooked effects of the war domestically. Rationing, fears of invasion, and the Blitz, which hit the towns of Dewsbury and Batley directly.

Frank Hall in his army uniform

Life went on, and the first grandchild of Ernest and Emily, Phyillis’ son Brian, was born in late 1940, followed by my Great Uncle John Edward Hall in October 1942. Percy, my Great Grandfather, had moved to 36 Oakfield Terrace, next door but one to his parents, by the birth of my Grandfather Richard on 14 January 1944.

Emily Hall passed away at home due to cancer on 6 June 1948, at the age of 61. Her daughter Marion registered her death and was present at it. She was buried at the Hanging Heaton Churchyard on 9 June 1948. His wife’s death made Ernest even more reclusive, and he was always in the other room to others. He passed away at home due to a heart attack on 2 December 1948, aged 64 and was buried in the same plot as his wife.

Ernest and Emily Hall’s grave at Hanging Heaton Churchyard

Ernest is easily one of my favourite ancestors, and I am incredibly proud to be a descendant of his. There are many reasons, but his story has literally taken about 20 months to uncover, and I am proud of the research I have managed to undertake. Furthermore, I work not far from Hanging Heaton Churchyard, and the Church overlooks me, connecting me to Ernest’s story on a more personal level. We also share the same birthday, albeit exactly 120 years apart. I just deeply connect to him as a person and love his story, which is far from rosy but one I am proud to be able to tell.

Richard Totton: An Extraordinary Extra Ordinary Man

After a pregnancy in the wettest summer and autumn in years, Alice Totton (formerly Berry) gave birth to a boy on 25 November 1875. Given the name Richard, he was the youngest boy of Alice and William Totton. Just under three years later, his sister Ethel would take the spot of the youngest child. This gave the couple nine children in total (three boys, six girls), with two girls sadly dying in their childhood.

A postcard showing Cowcliffe wherw Richard grew up via Huddersfield Exposed (https://www.huddersfield.exposed/)

Death struck Richard’s childhood traumatically in another way, with the untimely death of his mother Alice, when he was just five years old. Cancer of the uterus tore her away from Richard and his siblings in January 1881. It is unclear how this loss affected Richard and if it changed much about him and his future as he was so young.

Childhood continued regardless of the loss as Richard managed to obtain a one hundred percent attendance record in July 1884. He was being educated at Cowcliffe National School and after a ceremony of songs and dance, he got his award.

Singing was the passion of another Totton sibling; Clara preformed at a variety of places including the Methodist Free Church in Lindley. She also performed recitations and readings which were greatly appreciated by the audience. I can imagine William sat watching proud as punch while Richard and his siblings just want to go home and play outside!

Methodist Free Church in Lindley via Huddersfield Exposed (https://www.huddersfield.exposed/)

Richard ended up working as a gent servant by 1891, when he was 15 years old. He lived at 32 Thornes Lane working for the Whittam family in Thornes, Yorkshire. We sadly do not know much about this period of his life, only this quick snapshot via the 1891 Census.

He returned to the homeland of Lindley, by Autumn 1895, where he began to work as a labourer.

Richard married Betty Smith in the fourth quarter of 1897 in the Halifax registration district. Soon after their marriage, the couple moved into one room in the Lindley Moor area. The birth of their eldest child, at home, followed the move, at around 17:30, on 25 May 1895. With the arrival of this baby boy (named George), Richard began to work as a coal miner to provide for his growing family.

The family decided to up sticks by 1904 and relocate approximately 7 miles to Halifax Road in Liversedge. George was baptised at the unusually late of 6 years in 1906 at the local church in Hightown. The next year another boy, Wilfred “Wilf”, was born to the couple on 7 August 1907 at roughly 20:15. Wilf would also be baptised two months after his birth at the same church.

Halifax Road via Google Images

The third child of Richard and Betty, Lucille, was born in the early hours of 13 February 1911, at home. Richard was promoted to be a Colliery Deputy at some point between the baptism of Wilf and birth of Lucille. Things were looking up for the family with the boys being educated and George starting part time work to help out his parents but sadly it was not to last.

Death would strike again.

Lucille would become ill with Tubercular Peritonitis in March 1912. The disease is a form of extrapulmonary tuberculosis which affects the tissue lining the abdominal wall. She fought it for an impressive two months, but she succumbed to the disease, aged 15 months, on 30 May 1912 at home. She was buried at the nearby Liversedge Cemetery on 3 June 1912.

Liversedge Cemetery circa 1903 via Ebay

My Great Grandmother, Doris, was born 26 June 1914 at Sycamore Cottage in Liversedge. She was baptised at St Barnabas Church on 25 February 1917. The family had moved to Clough Lane by this point, and Richard continued to work in the coal mines.

The Tottons moved into the village of Hartshead by 1920, where they resided at Highfield House which they rented at the value of £18, from Sir Geo. A Armytage. The house came with land and stables. We know from Richard’s notebook that he had some sort of interest in horses and a photo pictures Wilf with a horse too.

Wilf outside Highfield House with a horse

George married Ada Whitley at Upperthong Parish Church on 2 April 1923. The couple lived with Richard and Betty up until 1927, when they moved a few houses away to Walker’s Buildings. The couple’s first grandchildren were born in this period, Edith in 1924 and Jack in 1925.

The reason of the move might be quite simple, as Richard and Betty would move into one of the smaller neighbouring Parkview houses. With less space, George and Ada may have preferred to have more space for themselves and their young family. The reason for the move for Richard and Betty may have been down to a variety of factors including downsizing or issues with their finances.

Wilf would get married in 1930 to Minnie Ripley and the couple moved down Peep Green Lane. Richard and Betty continued to live up at Parkview in Hartshead with Doris. Five became three and was sadly about to become two.

Two of the three, Doris and Betty outside their house

10 May 1934 was a dark day for Richard Totton. His wife of 36 years died, aged 60, at home. She was interred in Section A Plot 986 with her daughter Lucille at Liversedge Cemetery on 12 May 1934.

Betty’s death was caused by Pernicious Anaemia, which is caused by a lack of vitamin B12, which is used to make red blood cells. Bad cases of pernicious anaemia can damage the heart, brain etc… but can also cause a variety of other issues such as memory loss and digestive tract problems.

Richard has also changed occupation by this point, becoming a road labourer for the County Council. This was perhaps due to his age or better conditions and pay.

Doris and Richard would live together up until the early 1940s. Richard had met a widow, by the name of Miriam Roberts, who resided in the nearby village of Clifton. The two got married at St Peter’s Church in Hartshead on 29 Mar 1941, in the midst of the Second World War.

Richard’s marriage to Miriam

Richard would not make it to the end of the war. He became ill with a form of cancer and died, aged 69, on 24 April 1945 at his new house in Clifton. His son Wilfred was in attendance at the time of his death and registered it. His burial took place on 27 April 1945 at Sowerby Bridge Cemetery in the Roberts family plot. Richard retired shortly before his death.

The Tottons hold a special place in heart. They were the first family I managed to find a large variety of sources on, building a story which was not just names and dates. I am able to hold Richard’s notebook in my own hands, which is the strangest feeling I can think of. It is hard to compute that I am holding the notebook of a man I know so much but so little about, my direct ancestor and a man that will have never even thought about my existence as a passing thought.

Richard is special to me for the reasons above, but also for the fact he went through so much in his life. I will always remember and ramble on about the story of my Great Great Grandfather Richard Totton.

A truly extraordinary extra ordinary man.

William Henry Hall: The Drunk

The youngest child, William was born on 13 February 1842 in Batley, Yorkshire. His father was Jeremiah Hall and his mother was Harriet Hall. The couple married at Batley Parish Church on 8 September 1830 and had five children (including William) that survived infancy.

I do not want to dwell too much on William Henry’s childhood as my previous blog details it.

Find it here: https://genealogywithgeorge.com/2021/06/06/jeremiah-hall-the-forgotten-hall/

William married Eliza Ann Day, illegitimate daughter of Sarah Ann Day, at Batley Parish Church on 27 Jan 1866. The couple boarded with William’s mother, Harriet, from their marriage up until her death in 1877.

The only snapshot we have of this time is the 1871 Census. The Hall family was living on New Street in Batley (see map below) with Harriet Hall, a shopkeeper, recorded as the head of the household. William worked as a plucker and Eliza was the housekeeper.

Map of where the Halls lived in Batley

Two years after the death of his mother, which he was present at, William was charged and fined for being drunk and riotous. He is described as having no education, sandy hair and being five foot and a half. He worked as a card fettler. He remained in this occupation in 1881, and the family moved, not very far, to live at Spring Gardens, Batley.

He was back to court in 1884, where he was probably sent to prison for being drunk and riotous. The description remains the same but we get some get more details. He is described as a Wesleyan, he has freckled arms and a cut on his right eyebrow.

Maybe it was his traumatic childhood or the loss of his mother, who he seemed very close to, but William began to have troubles with alcohol. There was a story from his son Lewis which detailed the fact that his father made extra money selling shell fish in pubs to help fund his alcoholism.

His convictions died down for just over a decade. The family lived at 25 Beaumont Street in 1891 and William continued to work in the mills as a machine fettler.

Eliza and William had nine children in 18 years, with their first two children (a boy and a girl) dying as infants. Their youngest child was my Great Great Grandad Ernest James Hall, who was born on 11 Feb (my birthday!) 1885.

William got sent down again, in 1897, for being drunk and riotous and in 1900 for the same crime. By 1901, the family moves to 42 Cobden Street and William changes his occupation to a Willyer. According to my Grandad, this was an easier occupation compared to a Card Cleaner (or fettler) so this may show us that William was beginning to age.

In July 1904, William began to suffer from Cancer of the Thyroid. In a short two months, he died of the disease, aged 61 years, at Batley District Hospital on 24 September. His interment into plot 476 in section R at Batley Cemetery took place on 23 September 1904.

Plot 476 in section R at Batley Cemtery on 27 Dec 2020

William and his, ostensibly, undesirable story is one of my favourites. He wasn’t a perfect character at all but his story is very real; you can see the turning points in his life.

For those on Twitter, that is why the unmarked grave is so important to me.

Jeremiah Hall: The Forgotten Hall

The third child of Joseph Hall and Ann Gledhill was born on 4 Mar 1804 in the Parish of Batley. A boy, he would be given the name of Jeremiah and would be baptised1 at Batley Parish Church on 2 Apr 1804.

The Baptism of Jeremiah Hall at Batley Parish Church

Batley Parish Church was also the place where Joseph Hall and Ann Gledhill got married2 by banns on 20 Nov 1799. Joseph was able to leave his signature while Ann left her mark. By the baptism3 of his eldest child in Jul 1800, Joseph worked as a clothier. Clothiers4 made and sold woollen cloth with the wealth and status of each clothier varying greatly.

Batley Parish Church in the snow circa 1904. Kindly uploaded by Maggie Land Blanck (http://www.maggieblanck.com/).

By 1817, the couple had nine children in total, 4 boys and 5 girls, over a span of 17 years. The family resided in a world that was rapidly changing, with Batley feeling the effects of the Industrial Revolution. Deserted rural northern villages were becoming influential, populated industrial towns.

Jeremiah’s father, Joesph, aged 49 years, would be taken, by an unknown ailment, to the grave in June 1826. His burial5 would take place on 15 Jun 1826 at Batley Parish Church. Jeremiah was 22 years old when this took place.

Four years later, Jeremiah married6 Harriet Keighley at Batley Parish Church on 8 Sep 1830. The marriage took place after banns, with Jeremiah being able to leave his signature, like his father, while Harriet left her mark.

The Marriage of Jeremiah Hall and Harriet Keighley

The family continued to live in Batley, with Jeremiah taking the same occupation of his father. Jeremiah and Harriet would have 6 children over a period of 11 years. Their eldest daughter Grace Hall would die as an infant of an unknown cause. Her burial7 took place at Batley Parish Church on 22 Apr 1833.

By 18418, the Hall family was living at New Batley in Batley. Jeremiah continued to work as a Clothier in an everchanging world. 1842 would mark the last addition to the Hall family, with the birth of my Great Great Great Grandfather William Henry.

He drew his final breath9 on 14 May 1845 at New Batley at the young age of 41 years. Phthisis, tuberculosis or a similar wasting disease10, was what dragged him away from his family and life. His brother was in attendance at the time of his death. All five children that survived infancy outlived him, his mother and his wife also. Like his daughter and father, he was buried11 at Batley Parish Church on 18 May 1845.

The Death Certificate of Jeremiah Hall

He was just another of my Hall direct line to die young, following his father and like my Grandfather. His children may not have necessarily forgotten he existed, but I think mainly about my Great Great Grandfather William Henry, who was only 3, at the time, of his father’s premature death. He most likely wouldn’t even have had a strong memory of his father which is just heartbreaking.

I will never forget about Jeremiah Hall and his short but important story.

Citations

  1. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812, Baptism, Batley, All Saints, 1804, Page 3, Jeremiah Hall; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 7 Jun 2021); citing the new reference number WDP37/2, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, Yorkshire
  2. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812, Marriage, Batley, All Saints, 1799, Page 27, Joseph Hall and Ann Gleadhil; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 7 Jun 2021); citing the new reference number WDP37/15, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, Yorkshire
  3. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1512-1812, Baptism, Batley, All Saints, 1800, Page 5, Elizabeth Hall; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 7 Jun 2021); citing the new reference number WDP37/2, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, Yorkshire
  4. https://www.geni.com/projects/Clothiers/27180
  5. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985, Batley, All Saints, 1826, Page 5, Joseph Hall; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 7 Jun 2021); citing the new reference number WDP37/40, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, Yorkshire
  6. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1935, Batley, All Saints, 1830, Page 19, Jeremiah Hall and Harriet Keighley; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 7 Jun 2021); citing the new reference number WDP37/18, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, Yorkshire
  7. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985, Batley, All Saints, 1833, Page 4, Grace Hall; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 7 Jun 2021); citing the new reference number WDP37/40, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, Yorkshire
  8. 1841 Census of England, Yorkshire, Batley, Subdistrict Batley, Enumeration District 9, page 13, Jeremiah Hall Household; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 7 Jun 2021); citing Class H017, Piece 1267, Folio 49, GSU roll 464238, The National Archives, Kew, Surrey
  9. PDF copy of death certificate in personal collection of George Hall
  10. https://languages.oup.com/google-dictionary-en/
  11. West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1985, Batley, All Saints, 1845, Page 8, Jeremiah Hall; Digital image, Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 7 Jun 2021); citing the new reference number WDP37/41, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, Yorkshire