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.

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.

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.