Benfford Family and Plague, War, and Fire in Northamptonshire in 1600’s….

15 Jul

SoEaEng_Janss

Northampton, on the Great North Road out of London, was for many centuries, subject to a steady flow of people and goods on the move and thus liable to infections and diseases from this transient population. It succumbed to the plague from 1570 to 1579, then again from 1603 to 1605 when 500 perished.

In 1638, the Register Book for St. Sepulchre’s ChurchThe-Church-of-St-Sepulchre-Northampton-by-Harris-Brothers-Abel-Son-c-1850s2  has  an entry on March 29 among the burials…”att which time the sickness beegan”…and on January 1 of the following year…”att which time the sickness ceased, the Lord be praised.” In this parish in 1638, there were 114 deaths, the average for the previous five years only 18. Great_plague_of_london-1665 (1)

Understanding what is happening in the area in which your ancestors lived is extremely important. We often overlook the fact that entire families can die when a disease sweeps through the city, town or village. We are searching the records without success and asking ourselves why we can’t find any marriages…perhaps the reasons could include deaths in the family causing families to break apart and move elsewhere to re-establish themselves.

There is also the fact of war..in this case, The English Civil War, a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between the Parliamentarians (Round Heads) and the Royalists (Cavaliers)  principally over the manner of government.

One of the famous battles took place at Naseby in Northamptonshire. “It was a war that more men per head of population lost their lives than in the First World War, with Northamptonshire always on the front line between the Royalists and Parliamentarians.

Article comes from “Northampton Herald and Post”   Posted: May 27, 2015 By Mike Ingram

Battle of nasby

Battle at Naseby, Northamptonshire

“On 22 August 1642, King Charles I raised the Royal Standard at Nottingham, signalling the start of the war. He immediately sent around 300 men under the command of Sir John Byron (the poet’s ancestor), from Nottingham to the Royalist center of Oxford to enlist effort in the south. Byron’s route took him through Brackley, where he arrived on the evening of 28th August. Then, as supper was being prepared, they were attacked by a force of some five hundred locals wielding pikes, bills and pitchforks. Whether the attack was opportunistic or planned is unknown, although the numbers are large enough to suggest an ambush. Byron and about half his men made their escape towards Oxford. The others were caught unprepared and routed. The booty was enormous, and the value of all the gold, money and apparel taken was worth more than £6,000 to £8,000. Most but not all was handed over to Parliament.

Parliament began to assemble its army at Northampton under the Earl of Essex. In letters to his brother in London, Nehemiah Wharton, sergeant of musketeers recounted how he, and his men marched from Coventry to the town, plundering the countryside as they went. On 1 September, they spent a night at Long Buckby, ignoring the Royalist presence at Holdenby House, but there was a shortage of accommodation and the church was crowded with tired soldiers. Nehemiah Wharton, told his brother they “were glad to dispossess the very swine.”

 Northampton would become the main infantry garrison and supply depot for the Parliamentarian Army in the East Midlands for the entire war. On 14 September, the Earl of Essex reviewed his army in Northampton. It was said to be 00 – 20,000 strong. The royal connection to Northampton Castle had becomes less significant, and by the time of the English Civil War,  Northampton was decidedly pro-Parliament, the people of Northampton supported Parliament and Oliver Cromwell’s Republican Roundhead Army. The town had a long history of religious dissent from the Lollards and Puritanism gained a strong hold on the town. The corporation of the town, having already refused to provide troops to the King in 1632 or to pay the notorious Ship Money Tax in 1636, petitioned Parliament in 1642 against papists and bishops.

Over 4,000 pairs of leather shoes and 600 pairs of cavalry jack-boots for the Parliamentary armies were manufactured in Northampton during the Civil War, and a further 2,000 for Cromwell’s New Model Army  in 1648. Until well into the 19th century, the shoe industry boomed in and around the town with small manufacturing workshops set up in the surrounding areas.

The war ended with a Parliamentary victory. England became a Commonwealth which lasted 10 until the restoration of King Charles II in 1660.”

Casualties

As usual in wars of this era, disease caused more deaths than combat. There are no accurate figures for these periods, and it is not possible to give a precise overall figure for those killed in battle, as opposed to those who died from disease, or even from a natural decline in population.

Figures for casualties during this period are unreliable, but some attempt has been made to provide rough estimates. In England, a conservative estimate is that roughly 100,000 people died from war-related disease during the three civil wars. Historical records count 84,830 dead from the wars themselves. Counting in accidents and the two Bishops’ wars, an estimate of 190,000 dead is achieved,out of a total population of about five million.

Northampton had only begun to recover following the war when the entire town center was destroyed by fire in 1675.  The blaze was caused by sparks from an open fire in St. Mary’s Street near the castle and devastated the town center, destroying about 700 buildings [out of 850] including All Saints Church, in six hours. Three quarters of the town was destroyed, 11 people died and about 700 families were made homeless.

The Fire of Northampton in September 20th 1675. (Northampton Mercury Sept’ 25 1875.) 

The late Mr de Wilde, writing in the “Northampton Mercury” on September 25th 1875, says:  “September 20th 1675` – perhaps the most memorable day in the history of Northampton – was a blistering autumn day, with a fierce wind blowing from the West. We can imagine that the industrious trade folk were not tempted out much but preferred – those that were in the leather trade to stay at home and apply their skill to the manufacture of leathern bottles and the immense pliant folding-top boots of the period, the women plying their bobbins and thread. Towards 12 o’clock, however, when, perhaps dinner was occupying the attention of most, the news spread that a fire had broken out in a hovel near the castle, and had extended to some adjoining tenements. Some run down to the scene of the disaster, to look or assist in extinguishing the flames, while others deemed it the wiser and more comfortable thing to make sure of a good dinner while it was good, designing to stroll down afterwards and see what was to be done. Little did they think, those who were thus nonchalant, that the fire was coming to them to save them the trouble of going to it. But such it was and with terrible speed. The bells of All Hallows had scarcely chimed the hour of noon, when say an eyewitness they “began to jangle a different tune.” Dinner was then forgotten and boots and leathern bottles and lace, and everything save personal safety, for fanned and fostered by the fierce west wind, it was making its way with terrific speed to the centre of town, literally licking everything up in its course. It commenced in a cottage at the upper end of St Mary’s Street near the castle”

Now you may ask what all this has to do with my Family History and my Research. Our ancestors did not live in a bubble. They were part of the action that was going on around them. It is extremely important to know your history and its timelines. It is also important to have maps from that same time period. Villages disappear..borders move. All this information can help you understand why your ancestors did what did and moved where they moved. 

 Nathanel Benfford was likely born around the end of the English Civil War…circa 1654. He married Jane Joalmer in 1679, four years after the great fire destroyed Northampton. They were married at St. Giles on December 20, 1679. The register indicates they were living in Denton, a small village 7 miles outside Northampton.

100430874_00235

Nathanel Benfford of Denton 1679

Interestingly, at the same parish church, St Giles, in 1660, a Will Benfford married a Mathe?  Taylor on February 11, 1660. It took me awhile to decipher the early English writing, but when I did I had quite the surprise. Here was a possible connection I had been searching for that would back up my hypothesis that my Benford Ancestors originated in Warwickshire. The register indicated that Will Benfford was from Couentree (Coventry, Warwickshire) and Mathe? Taylor was from Northan (Northampton, Nothamptonshire). Hours of hard work had finally paid off….and only if you are a Family Historian will you understand why anyone would spend hours searching for one record.

100430874_00228

Will Benfford of Couentree…1660

Why would I stop searching at this point when I am on such a roll. WOW…there he was…..an even earlier Bennford…William Bennford… with another spelling of the surname….this time in Raunds, Northamptonshire in 1626 and marrying Mary Wells. Raunds is 20 miles from Northampton. Don’t      know where this William is from….more digging.

FreeReg Marriage entry on 13 Jul 2016

For information about this place follow the link to Raunds

If you believe there to be an error in this transcription then please report it to our data manager.
Field Value
County NTH
Place Raunds
Church name St Peter
Register type
Marriage date 01 May 1626
Groom forename William
Groom surname BENNFORD
Bride forename Mary
Bride surname WELLS
Register note
Transcriber not
 People move….people have always moved….we tend to overlook this fact when trying to locate our ancestors. 

POPULATION MOVEMENT IN SEVENTEENTH CENTURY ENGLAND

Peter Spufford is a Senior Lecturer in History

ww.localpopulationstudies.org.uk/PDF/LPS4/LPS4_1970_41-50.pdf

“single population movement in seventeenth century England was this enormous flow of people into London. The growth in size of London affected many parts of the country...He mentions Cogenhoe in Northamptonshire where “in a 10 year period…1618 to 1628…two thirds of the population changed due to migration”.
Don’t limit your thinking to the village where your ancestors were born and when you can’t find them there in subsequent years …give up…It would be like saying “people born on the other side of the country in Newfoundland would never move to Ft. McMurray Alberta for work”…they do now and they did then!
mary wells

Mary Wells daughter of Thomas Wells, Parish Record, 1606 of Wadenhoe..21 miles from Northampton

Going backwards one generation, to search for William’s father has proved difficult. There are a number of William’s born in Warwickshire around this time and also one born in Lichfield, Staffordshire in 1600. Are any of these William’s the father I am seeking….who knows…..suffice to say….likely one could be and that makes my connection to Warwickshire even more certain.

TIP: Spellings of names aren’t fixed..they change for many reasons….I look for Benford, Bentford, Beneford, Bendford, Benfford and Bennford and I am sure there are others….makes life interesting. 

 

If you are interested in Coventry…..Further Reading

The City of Coventry: Social history to 1700

“The 1590s and 1600s were marked by another period of activity on the part of the Puritan council. The same council meeting which gave permission for the last performance of plays in Coventry ordered all the maypoles in the city to be taken down ‘and not hereafter to be set up’. With the suppression of the last of the public festivals, life became very drab, and, moreover, trade probably suffered. Ben Jonson’s description of the Puritan tradesmen of Coventry, though written in 1625, doubtless applied equally to the 1590s:

‘A pure native bird This: and tho’ his hue Be Coventry Blue Yet is he undone By the thread he has spun For since the wise town Has let the sports down Of May games and morris For which he right sorr’ is, Where their maids and their mates At Dancing and Wakes, Had their napkins and posies . . .’ Jonson ends by suggesting that the only use left for the Puritan’s thread is ‘to hang or choke him’.

Sabbatarianism was also growing during this period. In 1588 the opening of shops, playing games, or idly walking about were forbidden during servicetime on Sundays.  In 1599 these orders were intensified, indoor games and idly sitting in streets or fields being added to the other forbidden activities. Football in the streets would incur gaol after 1595 and children’s games in the street were forbidden in 1605.  This suggests that the earlier prohibitions were being disregarded, as does the complaint of churchwardens that, in spite of their efforts, many ‘do lie in bed’, while others went to neighbouring villages where they could spend the Sabbath profanely, drinking and enjoying themselves ‘to the great dishonour of God and the offence of others’. In the same year church attendance on Sundays was made compulsory and listening to sermons and theological debates replaced the more frivolous recreations of the past. The first weekly lecture, which was to become a feature of the Commonwealth period, was established in 1609.

The Puritans found that James I, like Elizabeth, disappointed their expectations. In 1611 they were ordered, in a letter from the king himself, to receive the sacrament kneeling, ‘to the grief of many’. Ten years later James refused to approve the new charter until he was satisfied that the orders of the church were being observed.

The Puritans were back in the ascendancy in 1641 when the altar of Holy Trinity was replaced by the table. Two Presbyterians, Obadiah Grew and John Bryan, became vicars respectively of St. Michael in 1642 and Holy Trinity in 1644. The covenant was taken in 1643 and Coventry remained staunchly Parliamentarian throughout the Civil War period. It is possible that the phrase ‘sent to Coventry’ derived from the unbending attitude of the townsfolk to Royalist prisoners sent there.  The diary of Robert Beake (mayor, 1655) gives some indication of the strict Sabbatarianism in force in Coventry during the Commonwealth period. Offenders were put in the stocks or the cage for travelling on Sunday, and even the man who was travelling ‘to be a godfather’ was fined.

Most of Coventry’s chief citizens remained Protestant and anti-Royalist in sympathy, and many of the measures of the Puritan years, like the compulsory attendance at church and the closing of shops on Sunday, remained. Nevertheless, there was a conscious reaction against Puritan repression at the Restoration, at least on the part of those in power, and probably among many of the people as well. The Restoration was celebrated with feasting, bonfires, and conduits running wine. Grew and Bryan were ejected, the lectures suppressed, and maypoles brought back.  In 1662 the font and organ were restored to St. Michael’s and the king’s brother, later James II, was entertained by the city council.  The pageants were never revived but there was some attempt to recreate the pageantry and gaiety of an earlier period. Waits were appointed in 1674 ‘to play in the city as the waits formerly did, during the pleasure of the house’ and the Great Show Fair, the successor of the Corpus Christi Fair, was celebrated by feasting at about the same time.  The year 1678 saw the permanent establishment of two institutions – the waits and the Godiva procession.

Benford Family….Weavers of Kettering, Northamptionshire in the Worsted Trade

5 Jul
2013-09-26 07.01.41

Settlement Certificate for Benjamin and Sarah Benford of Kettering – 1745 to the Parish Of Ullesthorpe and attested by: Thomas Benford  and George Smille (DOC 1)

The Northamptonshire worsted trade began in the late seventeenth century.  The Militia Lists of 1762 and onwards  list a number of freeholders engaged in the industry in the market town of Kettering. The establishment of the trade is attributed to the local supply of the long – staple wool that was necessary for worsted cloth production.

Northamptonshire Milita Lists for Kettering:

Benford John    Kettering Hux     weaver   1762

“WEAVER – A person who runs one or more looms to weave cloth. The more looms, the more money. Weaving is a very noisy operation, leaving many weavers deaf. Whether deaf or not, most weavers will have learned to lip-read since this is the only way to hold a conversation in the weaving shed.”

Benford Sam     Kettering Hux     combmaker    1762

COMB MAKER – “Makes Combs for the Textile Industry”

 

Benford Ben      Kettering Hux     weaver    1771

Benford Thos     Kettering Hux    wool comber    1771

 WOOL COMBER – “Operated machinery that separates the fibres ready for spinning in woollen industry”

Benford Wm      Kettering Hux     weaver    1771

 

Benford Ben Jr  Kettering Hux     weaver     1774

Benford Ben Sr    Kettering Hux     weaver    1774

Benford Thos     Kettering Hux     wool sorter    1774

WOOL SORTER – “one that sorts wool according to grade specifications”

Benford Wm      Kettering Hux     weaver    1774

 

Benford Ben       Kettering Hux    weaver    1777

Benford John     Kettering Hux    weaver    1777

Benford Thos     Kettering Hux    wool sorter    1777

Benford Wm       Kettering Hux    weaver    1777

 

Benford Wm     Kettering Hux    weaver 1781

Kettering was an influential urban area in the 13th and 14th centuries and by 1700  it had become an important centre for the woollen cloth trade. During the late 17th century and in the 18th century, Kettering specialized in the worsted trade, which has been attributed to the local availability of long-staple wool, best suited to domestic spinning. The wool was sorted and that which was intended for manufacture at home, was combed and then distributed in small quantities to the lower economic class of people who spun and reeled the wool. The spun wool was then passed on to the weavers. A Randall, in his book The Kettering Worsted Industry of the Eighteenth Century, claims “weaving was concentrated in Kettering, while the wool combing took place at Long Buckley about 15 miles south-west of Kettering”.  By 1741 Kettering was producing Shalloons – “A fabric of tightly woven wool, mainly used for the linings of articles of clothing” (Wiktionary) and was sending upwards of 1,000 pieces to the London markets.

There was a sudden collapse of the Northamptonshire worsted industry in 1770 and by 1794 the work force was 50% of the 5–6,000 people employed at its peak. The decline of the worsted trade of 1770 was largely due to the mechanization of worsted spinning in the West Riding of Yorkshire and over the county border in Leicestershire.

In my previous Blog, I referenced Benjamin and Sarah Benford who had relocated from Kettering to Ullesthorpe around 1745. They had relocated  prior to the decline of the Worsted Textile Industry, but their move may have had more to do with family as Sarah was from there and the birth of their first child was eminent. Many young women returned to their family at this time.

On my visit in 2013, I was able to visit the County Records Office in Leicester and discovered a document  known as a Settlement Certificate. These were documents issued by Church Wardens and Overseers of the Poor in a given Parish, to prove in which Parish a Family was  legally settled and to indicate, that should Poor Relief be needed, the family could be returned to that Parish. These certificates weren’t only provided to paupers. Regular Families often obtained them if they were moving to a new parish, and subsequently, if they fell on hard times, that Parish would know where to return them to obtain Poor Relief. This document helped me break through one of the many Brick Walls I had encountered in my research.

  1. In 1745, one such Certificate was issued to Benjamin Benford and Sarah (Page) Benford of Kettering, Northamptionshire and was addressed to the Church Wardens of the Parish of Ullesthorpe in Leicestershire. Benjamin had been born in Kettering in 1714 to Thomas and Sarah (Stanley) Benford (married Dec 16, 1708. On January 3, 1745 he married Sarah Page of Ullesthorpe. In order to settle in Ullesthorpe, the family would need a Settlement Certificate.  This Certificate answered my question….Was Benjamin who lived in Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire….from eleswhere? It seems this was the case… And just like like in the Bible…Benjamin begat Nathaniel in 1748?, Nathaniel begat Nathaniel in 1774, and Nathaniel begat Nathaniel in 1804.  (see Document 1 at the top of the Page) It is from this line that my Great Grandmother Clara Benford Perkins descends…..she being the daughter of Nathaniel (1804).

 

2013-09-26 06.59.44

Settlement Certificate for Benjamin and Elizabeth Benford and their Children Joseph, Jesse and Hannah – 1779. (DOC 2)

In this document (Doc 2), we have a Settlement Certificate for a later Benford Family who looks to be relocating at the time the decline is hitting its peak. It is 44 years later……1789 when this Benford Family is looking for opportunity eleswhere. There are two signatures of interest on the document…..Thomas Benford Senior and Thomas Benford Junior. On the document (DOC 1) created in 1745, there was one Benford signature…..there was a Thomas Benford who dies in Kettering in 1750 and I would guess he is the signatory on document. He had a son Thomas born in 1721 who could be Thomas Senior age 58 on document 2 and the other signature that of his son, Thomas Jr. likely around 25. Have I confused everyone…if only these people would have used different names or incorporated their birth year into the name as in Thomas 1721. You have no idea how difficult it is to sort out who is who in the records.

I located a Thomas Benford of Kettering listed as a Master Serge Maker in 1753 (The Genealogist) and he had an Apprentice by the name of Benjamin Meadows. In 1755 Thomas is listed as a Serge Weaver and has an apprentice Thomas Spriggs. This is likely Thomas Senior (Thomas 1721 who would be 34). 

The Genealogist-paid site

Masters Name Thomas Benford
Masters Trade Serge Weaver
Masters Abode Kettering, Northamptonshire
Apprentice Name Thomas Spriggs
Date of Duty 29th July 1755
Date of Indenture 4th July 1755
Term 7 Years From 24th Ju

Serge Weavers weave SERGE, a type of twill fabric that has diagonal lines or ridges on both sides, made with a two-up, two-down weave. The worsted variety is used in making military uniforms, suits, great and trench coats. Its counterpart, silk serge, is used for linings.  The word is also used for a high quality woolen woven.

I have been attempting to trace the ancestry of the Benford Family of Claybrooke Magna, Leicestershire for the past 10 years. I had always thought that the family likely originated in Warwickshire and moved up the road through marriage, perhaps from somewhere in the Coventry area.  My thinking may be partially correct.It would appear that at least one Benford Family…Benjamin Benford/Sarah Page had moved up the road …not from Warwickshire but from Kettering, Northamptonshire to Ullesthorpe, Leicestershire in 1745.  

I can’t find Benford’s in the Parish Records of that County (Northamptonshire) earlier than the 1700’s and these people all appear to be connected to the Worsted Industry which developed in the 1600’s. Could it be that the ancestors of these Thomas Benford’s…..weavers of Kettering, had originated in Warwickshire where the Benford name appears in the Parish Records from the 1500’s. People always moved for economic opportunities.  (Distance from Coventry, Warwickshire to Kettering, Northamptonshire is only 33 miles.) More research is needed.

From parish records for Claybrooke LEI we have a Benjamin Benford christened in 1751 – parents Benjamin and Sarah Benford. From apprenticeship records, we have a Nathaniel Benford (age 14 born circa 1748) apprenticed to John Barker CARPENTER of Little Ashby (Ashby Parva) about 1.5 miles from Ullesthorpe in 1762…perhaps the beginnings of the Carpenter trade for the Benford Family. The BIG Question…Is he Benjamin and Sarah Benford’s eldest son? Have not located a Birth Record for him. He would have been born 3 years after they married. Are there previous births for this couple..maybe the child died? 

We have in the Kettering Fuller Street Baptist records, a Benjamin Benford buried  21 Sept 1800 age 84 (born 1716) and his wife Sarah buried 26 Oct 1800 age 82 (1718).   We have a Thomas Benford buried there in 1791 age 81 (born 1710) and  a Nathaniel who was christened in Theddingworth , LEI (13 miles from Kettering)  June 5, 1714… parents Thomas and Sarah Bendford.  Are these  Benford’s related and the sons of one Thomas Ben(d)ford of Kettering? Did Benjamin and Sarah return to Kettering at some point in their lives?  ketteringca1900

If my thinking is correct then a Benjamin Benford of Kettering, Northamptionshire married a Sarah Page of Ullesthorpe LEI and started the Benford dynasty in Leicestershire. They were Non Conformists (Baptists) and the records are difficult to track, but a Benjamin and Sarah Benford are both buried back in Kettering (Silver Street Baptist). The names Benjamin and Nathaniel run through several lines in both counties making great difficulties in determining who is who.

On top of that, there are Benford’s in the southern USA in the early days of the plantations where a Nathaniel Benford is a slave owner in Charles City Virginia. He frees his slave and they move north and today there are many Slave Descendents with the Benford name. Many Non-Conformists left the Midlands to escape religious persecution and became some of the earliest settlers in the USA. Thomas, Benjamin and Nathaniel are the names running through generations on both sides of the pond.

As is always the case, my research will continue. I think I have proved the Kettering and  Ullethorpe/Claybrooke connection. Now I must continue to find out the Kettering/Warwickshie connection…if there is one.

More info on the Textile Industry if you are interested…

Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World | 2004 | GULLICKSON, GAY L.
COPYRIGHT 2004 The Gale Group Inc.
TEXTILE INDUSTRY.

“Between 1450 and 1800, textile production was second only to agriculture in economic importance. It employed more people and produced more profit than any other manufactured product. Production and trade existed at two levels:

Peasants and villagers turned locally grown wool and flax into fabric and clothing for themselves and their neighbors. The cloth they produced was of poor quality and not designed for export to distant markets.

On top of this local market, there was a large and lucrative trade in quality goods.

Two types of wool fabric were produced in Europe—woolens and worsteds.

Woolens were made from short-staple wool fibers that were swirled together before spinning. The cloth had a soft-textured appearance and feel.

Worsteds were made from long-staple wool and had a harder, smoother finish. Soft woolens were considered far more desirable than the harsher worsteds and dominated the wool trade.

Turning raw wool into fabric was a long, complicated process. The sheep’s fleece was sheared in one continuous piece, rolled, sacked, and sold to merchants (drapers) or clothiers or their agents. The fleeces were dirty and greasy, not uniform, and far from ready for spinning and weaving. Fleece breakers opened up the fleece and removed the large pieces of debris that were caught in it. The fleece was then pulled apart, and the wool was sorted into three or four grades. Next, the sorted wool was cleaned. Any remaining debris was removed from the fleece by beating it with sticks, and then it was washed in alternating hot and cold, soapy and clean water. Some fleeces were dyed at this point, but dyeing raw wool produced dull colors, and it was common to dye fabric after it was completed rather than when the wool was raw. Whether it was dyed or not, the fleece was now lubricated with butter or oil to make it easier to work.

After breaking, cleaning, and oiling, the wool passed into the hands of combers and carders. Their task was to convert a mass of tangled, curling wool into long, straight, smooth fibers for worsteds by combing, or into a smooth ball of short wool fibers for woolens by carding. Spinners converted the combed or carded wool into continuous lengths of yarn by pulling, twisting, and turning it into a thin, continuous thread. This was the most labor-intensive part of the process.

Weavers usually wound their own warps and prepared their own bobbins for the loom. The best woolens were woven on broadlooms that produced fabric that was 1¼ meters wide and 22 to 23 meters long. It commonly took two men and one child (most often, probably, a boy in training) to operate a loom and weave the cloth. Once the woolen cloth was woven, it passed into the hands of fullers who cleaned and softened it by dunking it in water that contained various kinds of detergents and soaps that dissolved or absorbed the fat that had been added to the wool before it was carded or combed.  Fullers placed the folded cloth in a vat and trod on it with their feet, periodically removing and refolding the cloth so it would be evenly fulled.

After fulling, the cloth was dried, stretched, bleached, and perhaps dyed. Teaselers raised the nap by brushing the cloth with the burr of the teasel plant to impart a soft finish. It was clipped smooth by shearmen, pressed, and returned to the merchant for sale. The entire process involved twenty people (not including dyers) for each piece of cloth produced and took at least six weeks. Women worked as carders, combers, and spinners, while men performed most of the other tasks. The finer the cloth, the larger the labor force and the longer the time it took to produce it. The finishing of worsteds was much simpler (they did not require fulling, teaseling or shearing, for instance), but the market for them was much smaller.

For the  luxury trade in silk, wool, linen, and (eventually) cotton fabric, the most important were heavy woolens. The customers for these fabrics were wealthy landowners, government and church officials, merchants, financiers, aristocrats, and master craftsmen in Europe, Asia and the Levant.

Most important of all the textile industries was the trade in raw wool and wool fabric. Sheep raising abounded everywhere and in the fifteenth century, the best fleeces came from England. In the sixteenth century, Spanish merino sheep knocked English sheep into second place.

Where oh Where Was Benjamin Sleeth Born? …….and is there a Parish Record?

26 Jun

 

GBPRS-STAFF-ST-NICHOLAS-ABBOTS-BROMLEY-BIRTH-D1209-1-3-1734-1780-00061

Parish Record 1753 at St. Nicholas, Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire

That  A Benjamin Sleeth was born is a fact, as his marriage to Mary Quinton is recorded at Abbots Bromley,  February 14,  1753. Likely he was born sometime between and  1713 and 1735 making him between 18 and 40 when he married. On checking the records, there does not appear to be any Sleeth’s or Quinton’s baptised in this Parish around that period, so the likelihood is that Benjamin and Mary did  not grow up here.

st-nicholas-church-abbots-bromley

St-Nicholas Church, Abbots-Bromley… Interior

Benjamin Sleeth with his wife Mary, had a son William, October 22, 1769 and recorded it in the Parish Records of St. Editha at Church Eaton, Staffordshire.  Many of the descendants of William Sleeth/Sleith are buried there. (Note the spelling changes Sleeth to Sleith to Sleath for later generations.) William is the only Sleeth baptised here in this time period.

william sleeth

Baptismal Record for William Sleeth/Sleith (1769) who was the son of Benjamin Sleeth.

 

St Editha's Church

St Editha’s Church at Church Eaton

I was in Church Eaton in 1979 and visited with descendants of William Sleeth/Sleith. Sarah Jane Sleath (1869)Perkins’ father George Sleath (1830) and Nan (1911) and Richard (1913) Sleath’s Grandfather Richard Sleath (1843) were brothers. They were the sons of John Sleith (1805) who was the son of William (1769)

Nan Sleath Bailey and Richard Sleath  at St. Editha Church…1979.

Sarah Jane Perkins, daughter of George and Abigail (Rogers) Sleath later years of Lichfield, Staffordshire

Sarah Jane Sleath Perkins, daughter of George and Abigail (Rogers) Sleath later years of Lichfield, Staffordshire

 

 

 

 

Benjamin sleeth

Benjamin Sleeth buried September 16 , 1798 All Saint’s Bloxwich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also have Benjamin Sleeth’s burial in Bloxwich, Staffordshire at All Saint’s Parish Church on September 16, 1798 which was 45 years after his marriage. We could assume that, had he been born in 1713, he would have been 85 years of age and if born in 1735, he would have been 58 years of age. His wife Mary, had been buried 10 years earlier in 1788.

 

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“there was no municipal cemetery, and all the dead of Bloxwich were buried in the churchyard of St. Thomas of Canterbury (now All Saints).”

“Throughout the Middle Ages Bloxwich had been a small agricultural village with a population of around 600, but it expanded in the 18th century when coal mines were opened. There were many cottage industries at this time, making awls, nails, needles and saddle blades. By early 19th century Bloxwich was surrounded by canals, encouraging expansion, as goods could be moved more easily.

Bloxwich had a chapel of ease within the parish of Walsall, granted in the 15th century, but did not become a separate parish until the 19th century. An old preaching cross, believed to pre-date the church still stands in the churchyard. All Saints Church dates mostly from 1875-1877 when the original church, St. Thomas of Canterbury, was rebuilt and rededicated. Church Street led to the poorest part of Bloxwich known as Chapel Field Cottages. A workhouse on Elmore Green was open by 1752.”   (British History online)

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Grounds at Bloxwich Church  

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Rebuilt Bloxwich Church

 

Susan Martin, who I met at the Exodus: Movement of the People Conference in 2013  sent this email: “Benjamin and Mary would have been buried from what was then a chapel of ease from St Matthews, Walsall . Bloxwich didn’t become a separate parish until 1842. Mary would have been buried by the old chapel of ease but this was rebuilt in 1794 , in time for Benjamin in 1798.The present church was virtually rebuilt in the 1870s. However I guess Benjamin and Mary are in the grounds. All tombstones removed, some against the wall surrounding the cleared line”

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Bloxwich Church Grounds

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Cycle path through Goscote Corridor

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View from back of #72

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“We had a good afternoon – after several days of non-stop rain and more due for the next three days that I took a walk to Station Road Rushall and can now send you updated photos. No 72 is still there, windows different. I guess the two sheds were the back gardens? I walked along a drive at back and took two photos of the view which there must be from the house. One of the last photos shows the cycle path now going through what is known as the Goscote corridor (goes through the land at the back of 72) and the big stream.  The countryside in the Goscote corridor hasn’t changed over the past 40 years!

 

Records:

Place Church Baptisms Marriages Burials
Bloxwich All Saints 1733-1932 1843-1928 1733-1954

Benjamin is not a name that was popular with any of the Sleath’s anywhere at that time…I only found one baptised in 1665 in Gilmorton, Leicestershire, and none in Warwickshire or Staffordshire in the 1700’s using Ancestry. The one born in Gilmorton, Leicestersire would have been a good candidate for having a son named Benjamin, but he died in 1713 leaving his wife Mary Crick with 3 small children living in Husband Bosworth and none of them a Benjamin.  Did any of his siblings born before him, name any of their children after him?

While I was searching The Genealogist, I came across an interesting record….

Sleeth london

Sleeth Mary wife of Benj, Gent Servant, 29 Rugeley Staff.

In 1772, at the British Lying in Hospital (for “poor and distressed married women”) in Endell Street, St Giles in the Field in London, I found a record for  male child born to Benjamin and Mary Sleeth. I would have discarded this as a possibility as I know there are many Sleeth’s/Sleith’s/Sleath’s born in the London area, however they listed their Parish of Abode as Rugeley, Staffordshire….6 miles from Abbotts Bromley,   10 miles from Bloxwich and 12 miles from Church Eaton. He was a Gentleman’s Servant….A valet or “gentleman’s gentleman” is a gentleman’s male servant; the closest female equivalent is a lady’s maid. The valet performs personal services such as maintaining his employer’s clothes, running his bath and perhaps (especially in the past) shaving his employer). This Benjamin may have entered service as a younger man and worked his way up to this position.

British Lying -In Hospital….24 Endell Street, Covent Garden  1749 – 1913  Maternity

Surgeon in attendance would be called to judge whether the birth would be an easy natural one and could be left to the Matron to deal with, or would need continuing medical involvement.

From 1752 female pupils were admitted to learn midwifery, usually for a period of six months.

In 1756 the Hospital changed its name to the British Lying-In Hospital for Married Women to avoid confusion with the City of London Lying-In Hospital, which had opened in 1750, and theGeneral Lying-In Hospital, which had been founded in 1752.

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The oldest maternity hospital in London, the Lying-In Hospital for Married Women, opened at the end of 1749 with the Duke of Portland as its President.  It had been established by a group of governors of the Middlesex Hospital, who were dissatisfied with the facilities available in that Hospital for women in labour.  They purchased a house in Brownlow Street (now Betterton Street), off Long Acre, and furnished it with 20 beds.

The staff consisted of two physicians and two surgeons who practiced midwifery, a Matron skilled in the same, a chaplain, an apothecary, nurses and “other inferior servants”.

Women were admitted in the last month of their pregnancy – they were only permitted to stay for three weeks –  and needed a letter of recommendation from a subscriber (patients were not charged by the Hospital) and an affidavit of their marriage and their husband’s settlement.

Patients received breakfast at 9 o’clock, lunch at 1 o’clock and supper at 7 o’clock.  In the winter they  went to bed at 8 o’clock and in the summer at 9 o’clock.

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Brick Building just down the street was the Lying In Hospital

In a strange coincidence, I had walked Edell Street many times before on trips to London and often had coffee at a small cafe….turns out I had a view of the Lying In Hospital but I was unaware of what the building had been in earlier times.

 

Another record for the same birth date, lists a girl Jane as being born to Benjamin and Mary Sleith……so was it a boy or a girl or twins or a different Benjamin and Mary or transcription error.

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27 Sept…. 28 Sept a boy

 

 

 

Had  Benjamin  been hired as a Gentleman’s Servant in Staffordshire and come to London with his Gentleman. Did his gentleman live in London with a country house in Staffordshire or  did his Gentleman live in Staffordshire and have a London house?

I kept looking in that area and discovered a Richard born to Benjamin and Mary Sleith in Wandsworth in 1767. Wandsworth in those days was rural and agricultural. Was this the same Ben and Mary? Did the Gentleman have a home in this area? Was this Benjamin and Mary the parents of Jane?

More Records more confusion….This Record  was discovered among the Clandestine Marriage Records in London for 1667 to 1754….on Ancestry.

A Benjamin Slyth of Walsall married Mary Thompson of Santree, Ireland on August 3, 1717 in London.  Officiating Ministers: Vyse, Draper, Evans, Wagstaffe, Floud, Gaynam, etc (1709 Nov – 1721 Apr) (Ancestry) Now whether this was my Ancestor, I can only surmise. Again the reference to Walsall, (Bloxwich was a chapel of Ease from Walsall Staffordshire) would give me pause for my thinking. Was this a young couple…. he Church of England, she a Catholic from Ireland and were they pregnant? Did they run away to London to be married or were they already in London?   Did they remain in London or return at some point to Staffordshire. Did they have a son and name him Benjamin? 

What was a clandestine marriage?
A Fleet Marriage is the best-known example of an irregular or a clandestine marriage taking place in England before the Marriage Act 1753 came into force on March 25, 1754. Specifically, it was one which took place in London’s Fleet Prison or its environs during the 17th and, especially, the early 18th century.

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Facts are beginning to build.

1717                   Benjamin Slyth and Mary Thompson marry in London…..List Walsall as his abode

Early 1700’s    Benjamin Sleeth is born …SOMEWHERE..

1753                   Benjamin Sleeth and Mary Quinton marry in Abbots Bromley

13 years between these records…..so Mary, mother of William, would have only been 13 when she                                                                      married in  1753.    How likely would this be?

“Under Lord Hardwicke’s marriage act in 1753, the law was changed so that anyone under twenty one had to have the consent of guardians or parents, but there was no lower age limit. It also had to be celebrated in church and an entry had to be made in the parish register and signed by both parties. The law was introduced to in response to agitation on the part of the nobility, who were alarmed at the ease with which young heiresses could be trapped in indissoluble marriages, and have their money stolen!
Source : Belinda Meteyard, ‘Illigitimacy and marriage in the eighteenth century’, Journal of Interdisciplinary history

Ithis a different Mary? An entirely different  couple?   Does this Mary die and Benjamin married a different Mary?

1769                Benjamin and Mary Sleeth (26) have a son William baptised in Church Eaton...Home Parish?

1772                   Benjamin and Mary Sleeth have a male child at the Lying in Hospital in London and list Rugeley                                at their abode…he a Gentleman’s Servant. Mary is 29 so born c. 1743.

Still there are so many questions…are these Benjamin’s the same or different people? What about the Mary’s? Why are there no Sleeth Children born between 1753 and 1769. Does Mary Quinton Die and Benjamin  doesn’t remarry for several years? again to another Mary?

 

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Nan Sleath Bailey and Me at Rushall, Staffordshire in 1979

I’m stuck! For the past 8 years I have been trying to trace my Sleath Family and it hasn’t been easy. They of course couldn’t be consistent in the spelling of their surname, and this is only the first of many issues.  I started out by tracing my Grandmother, Sarah Jane Sleath, born 13 Aug 1869 in The Outwoods, Shropshire.  Things seemed to be going well and I located her father, George Sleath born in Hinstock, Shropshire in 1830.  His father John Sleith, I found in Church Eaton, Staffordshire. John Sleith (note first change of spelling for name) was christened 17 Mar 1805, the son of William Sleith of Church Eaton. I knew this was the right connection as St. Editha’s Church Cemetery is the burial place for a number of  my Sleith’s. Richard Sleath, George’s brother,  was born in 1843 in Sydney, Shropshire and buried at St Editha’s. I took the photos in 1979 on my first trip to England, long before I got into searching my family history. Oh how I wish I would have asked those “oh so important questions” when I was there and my relatives were still alive.

My Great Grandfather Left his Mark….

8 Jun
Mark of John Perkins

Stable block in Claybrooke Parva, Leicestershire showing my Great Grandfather’s handiwork.

I shall pass this way but once; any good that I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being; let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

Etienne de Grellet
Quaker Missionary

This was an Email I sent to John Althouse, Editor of the Clandigger:
Just reading the May Clandigger published by the Edmonton Branch of the Alberta Genealogy Society and the article about the BRICK in the Wall. It reminded me of an email I had received some time ago from someone from my ancestral village…Claybrooke Magna/Parva in Leiecestershire, England. I had posted an enquiry on the Leicestershire Village Website re the Perkins Family.
Nicholas Jenkins references his stableblock (see picture 1891 ) with the name of my great grandfather…John Perkins.
Thought this might be an interesting follow up to your article. Didn’t know the format you required so I sent the entire email with pictures so you could judge for yourself.  Louise

Email from Nicholas Jenkins:

“Paul Smith, who is my neighbour, passed a copy of your email to me. 

I can’t tell from your email where you are located. From your note it would appear that you might be abroad. If so, are you in Canada? You will see why I ask the question later in my message.  I & my family have lived in Claybrooke Parva since November 1979. There was a chap who lived in Magna named Tom Perkins & I suspect he was the chap who Paul Smith spoke to. He was much involved with village life & I believe served for many years on the Claybrooke Magna Parish Council. He moved to Lutterworth in his latter years where, I presume he died. 

My home has a stable block that was erected in 1891 and the ironwork was made by J Perkins of Claybrooke Magna – see attached photo & note that the village had no ‘e’ on end. The number 1 under the crown indicates the quality of the iron as there were different qualities used for things like hinges to pots & pans etc. 1 is the lowest quality. I have a sheet on this somewhere but can’t find it. It would seem that this would have been John Perkins – see attached document. I have not studied the family tree but your photo would seem to be early 20th Century. This would make me think that the John Thomas shown would probably be son of the John who died in 1896. The Tom Perkins I knew – but only in passing – did tell me a bit of history when I showed him our stable block iron work.

 The info from Kelly’s Directory 1891 for the Claybrookes might be of interestKelly Directory p2

Tom Perkins told me that he was named after his uncle, the Claybrooke Magna Blacksmith. His uncle emigrated to Canada after WW1 (early to mid 1920s??) to make a better life for himself & family. Would our Tom have been named after John Thomas? Is John Thomas the man who emigrated & Tertius (3rd son?) would have gone too? Hence I ask if you are in Canada. Tom did tell me that the Perkins smithy also made most of the ironwork in the cemetery & around the churchyard. Sadly a lot of that was used for military purposes in WW2.

Note: My Grandparents and my dad, then 9 years old, emigrated to Canada in 1913. Don’t know who Tom was named after…perhaps it was his uncle John Thomas. 

 

Obituary for John Perkins…Village Blacksmith.  1896

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That’s about all I have. If you’ve contacted the Benfords then I would have thought they’d know something more on Perkins. The buildings you have in your 2011 photo are for sale at a very high asking price & planning permission for 4 homes. The agents are Wells McFarlane see attached.”  Regards..

The Village Smithy around late 1890’s and Main Street in Claybrooke  Magna

John Thomas Perkins Blacksmith

Claybrooke Magna

Main Street Claybrooke Magna as it looks today. Property was up for sale on my last visit. 

 

 

Memorial for Meiko…..

23 Apr

 

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Meiko at 10 weeks

 

We all love our animals and it was no different with Meiko. She was actually the first kitty I had ever owned. Being a dog owner all my life, I had always thought that cats were rather standoffish and wouldn’t make for great companions. Boy was I wrong!

Meiko’s story began on the Island of Okinawa, Japan. My friend David was over there on a three year contract, and I had made visits about every 6 months starting in 2004. You know me….never miss an opportunity to travel, especially if you have a friend and a place to stay at the other end.

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Loved to drink from the fountain

David had made friends with many of the island strays and had taken one in. Sadly that one had died and by the time I made my first visit in 2004, he was thinking about adopting another friend. One day we went over to Caring Kennels on the American Military Base and there we found THE ONE waiting for us….he was a one year old Chinchilla Persian  we named KUMO. He was gorgeous…I guess I should say Handsome….green eyes and long soft white hair like the kitties in the Toilet Paper Commercials. He was a laid back kind of guy.

On my second visit in the spring of 2005, we visited a night market in Chatan. There we encountered this very tiny black kitten hanging out among the wooden stalls. She looked so small and vulnerable, my heart broke. There were people all over the place, so at first we thought, she belonged to someone and had just wandered off from the rest of her litter.

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Samantha in my suitcase and wanting to come with me in 2005

David was going to take her home, but then decided the mother might miss her. Four days later, during the daytime, we returned to the site of the market. We looked through all the empty stalls and there she was, curled up with 2 brown dogs. Well as you might guess….by evening she was happily ensconced in a new home and with a new friend to cuddle…. Kumo. David called her Samantha. She must have been about 7 weeks old. She was so tiny and was black with white makings. We decided to make her birth date, February 14th, as that seemed about right.

 

David was to make an appointment to have her spayed some time after I had returned home. When he took her to the vet, they discovered she was pregnant and the decision was made to let her have her kittens. September 21, 2005, Meiko and her 2 brothers were born, assisted into the world by Dr. David.

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Feeding time for the kittens and Mom Samantha

 

 

 

 

I first saw them in November when I made my 3rd trip. Mom and kittens were staying with a friend who had a golden retriever. David had met me in Osaka, he had been home to the states for a visit, and our overseas flights would arrive at the same time. We had decided to visit Kyoto and Nara before going on to the island, another 2.5 hour flight south.

On arrival,  we drove directly to Tim’s place to pick the kittens. My first recollection of them was four balls of fur racing out of the room where they had been sleeping with the Golden Retriever……Mom Samantha, who was black with white markings, and the kittens…2 black with white chins and 1 white with black makings and spectacular green eyes. I named the girl Meiko, the boys we couldn’t decide on names and because of their white makings, called them Milk Lips and Milk Chin. They never did get real names and were eventually called Milip and Milchin. IMG_20160420_103735

Of course I fell in love with them all and by the time I was to return home, it was the Christmas Season, and Air Canada did not allow animals to travel.  I still didn’t know if I wanted the responsibility of a cat and I didn’t know what Daisy would think about a new mate…..but I didn’t have a decision to make, the chosen one couldn’t come with me anyways.

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Samantha and Meiko

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Meiko enjoying her final days in the Okinawan sun and heat!

Spring 2006 rolled around and I was making my final trip to Japan. David was returning to the States by the fall. This trip, I knew I would have to make a decision. And so it happened…..after a visit to the vet to get her shots, and a stop at the Government Office to get an Export Permit, Meiko was packed into her crate for the long journey to her new home in Canada. Mom, brothers and Aunty Moneypenny would eventually join David in Brigham’s Cove, Maine.

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Samantha, a Brother and Moneypenny making sure the crate was OK for Meiko!

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Time to go……..

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Airport in Naha, Okinawa, Japan….heading to Edmonton

I remember that day like it was yesterday. I had laid out a yellow sweater on the bed, one that I would wear on the plane. Returned to the room for the final check of stuff before leaving. Picked up the sweater….it was wet.someone had peed on it!!!!! Who it was I will never know…..but obviously someone was not happy. I quickly rinsed it out and stuffed it in a plastic bags in the outside pocket of my luggage. Meiko was stuffed into her crate, one final farewell to the remaining animals and we were off…..

At the airport, we were advised that my AC flight from Osaka to Vancouver might be delayed but that we should proceed anyways. Once we landed in Osaka, the whole story came out. My plane which leaves Vancouver for Osaka and then returns, had had mechanical trouble and was back in Vancouver. They didn’t even know when it would  arrive, it hadn’t left…but I knew it was about a 10 hour flight..and I was going to have a very long day in an airport with all my luggage and a 9 month old kitty in a crate.

 

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I was prepared..litter box, food and water for Meiko. I piled IMG_20160420_103812luggage and kitty on a trolley and set of in search of coffee. Now that is another thing most of you know about me….I live on coffee. As I had been in this airport many times, I knew where to find a quiet spot. Tried several times during the day in the handicapped washroom to let Meiko out and have food and water. She was having none of it…..“You packed me in here and I will get out when I hit my new home in Edmonton!”.….

Eventually after about 11 hours in the airport , we were told that our flight home was ready to board…at last the rest of the journey could begin. Japanese ground staff are very good. Meiko’s crate had a safety net put around it and the agent personally took her to the flight. 10 hours later, we arrived in Vancouver. I quickly cleared customs but had to report to Agriculture Canada to have Meiko and her documentation inspected. To my surprise, the agent never even looked at her on the trolley, gave all the paperwork a cursory glance, stamped it and said…“You’re good to go”…I was off to meet my friend Judy for coffee as I had a bit of a wait for the Edmonton flight.

It was only when I went to go back through security, that I encountered problems. They wanted me to remove the cat from the travel crate so they could x-ray it. Now this cat hadn’t been out of the crate for nearly 25 hours and she wasn’t about to come out now in the midst of the herd of people lined up in security. Got into a tiff with the security staff…the ones I detest most and have had more negative than positive experiences over the years of my Asian travels……and said..“You find me a room with a door and I will take her out”...Give me a break, I know they have many small offices for all kinds of searching, but she was trying her best to be MOST UNHELPFUL….YES….this is what VANCOUVER International Airport is prized for….but eventually I WON and she took me to a small office and said I could go in the corner and remove the cat!!! Finally made it to the Boarding Gate and Meiko was taken to the Cargo area.

We arrived at the  Edmonton International after nearly 30 hours in transit…..and as I looked around, saw one lone crate waiting for me  in the Cargo area. Meiko had made it and I hoped, was still alive in there. Well she was and I could breath. Our journey was over and a new chapter was beginning for both of us…..little did I know then, that 10 years later her Mom Samantha would be making her own journey to Edmonton..but that will be a story for another time.

Princess Meiko was a gift to us for 10 wonderful years….every dog and person in the neighbourhood knew her. They called her the Japanese Cat! Notice…. I didn’t mention any cats as her Friends……NO……none of those were allowed in her Royal Court!  We will miss you……

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Samantha and Meiko in the Princess Bed!

 

 

 

 

 

Cu Chi Tunnels…. The Vietnam American War

17 Jan
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Intrepid Travelers…..Should I?

I had arrived in Saigon, or as they now call it, Ho Chi Minh City, on my tour of Cambodia and Vietnam. This was a dream trip for me. Growing up in the 60’s in North America, something was always happening in this period of rapid change. I was in High School when John. F Kennedy was shot in Dallas in 1963  and Lyndon Johnson was elected president of the United States in 1964. I was aware there was a war going on in Vietnam, but is seemed so far away, I didn’t give it much thought until the “Draft Dodgers” started arriving in Canada. I was in University at the time and realized that many of my profs and fellow students were newly  arrived young American males. Not everyone was a draft dodger, some had obtained deferments or exemptions.

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Picture in the Museum of the Revolution in Saigon

There had been some opposition to the draft in the USA prior to their involvement in Vietnam, but it was when the Baby Boomers, that well known group ( me included) born between 1946 and 1964,  became eligible for the draft, that there was a steep increase in these deferments and exemptions, especially for college and graduate students. For those that were not successful…..living in Canada was a possibility.

By the time I was able to afford to travel the world, the Vietnam War had been over for 40 years. For  most it was just part of history, but for me, it was the one war with which  I felt some connection…..so here I was in November 2015, hot, sweaty and almost dead from the heat and humidity I had experienced along the Mekong River, checking in to the Hyatt Hotel,

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A cold Beer!

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Hyatt Hotel Saigon

where all I wanted was a room where I could hole up in the cool. It was waiting for me and I didn’t care if I ever left. Well as you will know if you travel, this feeling passes quickly once you are revived with a local beer and a short rest. Thank goodness for Mini Bars, even if they cost a fortune! I was ready to take on SAIGON! I  discovered that our tour the next day would be to the Cu Chi Tunnels somewhere outside of Saigon and that it would take most of the day.

Now I had never heard of the Cu Chi Tunnels and didn’t have a clue as to where I was going or what I would be seeing. I did a bit of research on my laptop and discovered that these tunnels, 40 km north of Saigon near the village of Cu Chi and covering some 400 square km, had originally been  dug in the 1940’s when the Communist led Viet  Minh were fighting French Colonialism. When the Vietnam War, or as the Vietnamese refer to it…the American War, began in the 60’s, the Viet Cong dug more tunnels and linked them together from one village to another. This area, a Viet Kong stronghold, was heavily defended and used as a base for attacks on Saigon. When the Americans built their base at Cu Chi in 1966, they were unaware that just below them were hundreds of miles of tunnels that reached as far as Saigon. It is impressive to note that these tunnels were dug  by hand…..they used a simple tool and a basket to take out the dirt!

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Basket used to remove dirt when building the tunnel

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Generally done by children and younger adults

The 75 mile long complex of tunnels at Cu Chi has been preserved by the government of Vietnam and turned into a destination for tourists, as well as a memorial park with two different tunnel display sites, Ben Dinh and Ben Duoc. Visitors are told about the tunnels with demonstrations by interpreters and  invited to crawl around in the safer parts of the tunnel system. These have been modified to allow larger people entry.

The tunnels contained living areas, storage depots, ordnance factories, hospitals, headquarters and a range of facilities than enabled people to live, and wage war from underground for years at a time.

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Building weapons using American leftovers

 

 

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Cooking and eating area

 

When United States and Australian troops began sweeps into the area they had no idea of the tunnels’ existence. Known as Operation Crimp (1966) and involving some 8,000 troops from the United States and Australia, this attempt to defeat the Viet Cong in the Cu Chi district was, to that date, the largest operation in Vietnam.

The Tet Offensive in January 1968 signaled the beginning of the end of the war. Although the communists suffered a terrible defeat at the hands of the Americans,  it had a profound effect on the US government and shocked the US public, which had been led to believe by its political and military leaders that the communists were being defeated and incapable of launching such a massive effort. What the World, saw thanks to Reporters,

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Saigon during the Tet Offensive   Cholon District

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Prize winning photo taken on the streets of Saigon during the Tet Offensive  “Saigon Execution” by (Eddie Adams)

 

 

Cameramen and Reporters in Saigon, was that the greatest power on earth had been humbled by the courage of the Vietnamese resistance. U.S. public support for the war declined and the U.S. sought negotiations to end the war. Nixon was elected president in November 1968 with his plan to end the war in Vietnam. It took him 5 years to do so.

 

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We arrived at the Cu Chi site and began our tour through the jungle. Don’t think it was  quite the same as during the war…..they now have paved paths, clean washrooms and a Refreshment and Souvenir area.

The brave, who could handle enclosed spaces in darkness and hot stale air, went down into the first 2 levels of the tunnels. The taller people had to crawl on the their knees..and these tunnels had been enlarged to accommodate westerners. Can you imagine what it would have been like to spend years in here along with the rats, ants, poisonous centipedes, scorpions and spiders ?

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U.S. 25th Infantry division troops check the entrance to a Vietcong tunnel complex they discovered on a sweep northwest of their division headquarters at Cu Chi on Sept. 7, 1968 in Vietnam. (AP Photo)

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The tour pointed out the use of camouflage to hide the tunnel entrances.

 

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Using Leaves for camouflage

 

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The passages were usually about 5 feet in diameter, but in some places they were much narrower. Everyone was involved in building these tunnels…the young were the diggers, even children were involved in collecting leaves to cover the trap doors.

We saw various examples of Booby Traps that were used to maim or kill the enemy.

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Punji Bo0by Trap

They  were quite gruesome when you imagined someone impaled on such a device. IMG_20151109_104136IMG_20151109_104006 (1)IMG_20151109_104058 (1)

 

 

 

We returned to Saigon later that afternoon. I decided to see what else I could find on the internet related to the War here in Saigon. I came across the following article which gave me something to think about following my visit to Cu Chi.

In remembering Saigon, we forget why the US lost

 

 

The Benford Family of Leicestershire and Beyond….

24 Jul
Across the field from the curve in the road on the way to Claybrooke Magna

St. Peter’s Church, Claybrooke Parva, Leicestershire

Clara Benford, born 1836, was one of 10 children born to Nathaniel and Ann Benford of Claybrooke Magna, Leicestershire over a span of 21 years. She was my Great Grandmother and married John Perkins in St. Peter’s Church June 6, 1859. I have spent the past 10 years researching this family and have traced many of the lines into the 21st Century.

At the same time, I was working backwards  to discover the origins of this family in Leicestershire. There appeared to be no Benford’s in the Claybrooke/Ullesthorpe Parish records in the early 1700’s and I had decided, it was possible that a Benford had married into the villages from elsewhere. Warwickshire and Northamptonshire were good possibilities. There were Benford’s in earlier Parish Records in both these counties.

On my visit in 2013, I was able to visit the County Records Office in Leicester and discovered a document  known as a Settlement Certificate. These were documents issued by Church Wardens and Overseers of the Poor in a given Parish, to prove in which Parish a Family was  legally settled and to indicate, that should Poor Relief be needed, the family could be returned to that Parish. These certificates weren’t only provided to paupers. Regular Families often obtained them if they were moving to a new parish, and subsequently, if they fell on hard times, that Parish would know where to return them to obtain Poor Relief. This document helped me break through one of the many Brick Walls I had encountered in my research. 2013-09-26 07.02.38

In 1745, one such Certificate was issued to Benjamin Benford and Sarah (Page) Benford of Kettering, Northamptionshire and was addressed to the Church Wardens of the Parish of Ullesthorpe in Leicestershire. Benjamin had been born in Kettering in 1714 to Thomas and Sarah (Stanley?) Benford. On January 3, 1745 he married Sarah Page of Ullesthorpe. In order to settle in Ullesthorpe, the family would need a Settlement Certificate.  This Certificate answered my question….Was Benjamin was from eleswhere? It seems this was the case… And just like like in the Bible…Benjamin begat Nathaniel in 1748, Nathaniel begat Nathaniel in 1774, and Nathaniel begat Nathaniel in 1804 who begat the 10 children I am going to tell you about.

I will begin with William Benford. He was christened April 3,1833 at St. Peter’s in Claybrooke Parva. His life was short and he died in August 1847.

Anne Marie Benford, the first daughter,  was christened September 28, 1834. She married John Malliband in 1855 and on the 1861 census,  she is living with husband John (27) and daughter  Ann Eliza (10 months) in Walworth, Southwark, London. John is a leather dresser and next door is Thomas Malliband (24) a skinner and a brother. By 1871, the family has moved to Kingston on Hull in Yorkshire and John is still working in the Wool and Leather trade. They remain there for the remainder of their lives and Anne Marie dies in 1898. They had 6 children but not all survived to adulthood.  (Anne Eliza 1861, John Thomas 1863, Charles W 1865, George Henry 1868, Herbert 1870, Eliza Jane 1874)

My Great Grandmother Clara Benford was born in October 27,1836. She married John Perkins in St Peter’s Church June 6, 1859. Her two sons, John Thomas (2Jun1863) and Walter Joseph (4th Qt 1864) were born in Claybrooke Magna, where John was the village Blacksmith. On the 1891 Census she and her husband have taken in 3 children of her brother Thomas Benford who died in a railway accident in Cheshire. They are Ellen (13), Alfred (7) and Annie (5). Ellen, later known as Nellie, remained a spinster and stayed with the family her entire life. Clara died in 1910.

Wedding was at St. Peter's Claybrooke Parva. Think Walter Joseph Perkins is standing above his brother John's right shoulder

Wedding of John Thomas Perkins and Sarah Jane Sleath… June 5, 1901. Clara Benford Perkins (front row), Nellie Benford, John Thomas Perkins, (Clara’s Son), Sarah Jane Sleath and Bessie Tyres. Walter Perkins (Clara’s second son) standing just left of Nellie.

John Thomas Perkins Blacksmith Shop on Main Road Claybrooke Magna c. 1898

John Thomas Perkins Blacksmith Shop on Main Road Claybrooke Magna c. 1898

Next came Edwin Benford. He was christened 14 February 1841. He married Ann Hollier of Sharnford in 1865 in Hinckley. On the 1871 census he is in Claybrooke Magna listed as a Publican and  Carpenter. By 1891, he is a farmer and Carpenter at High Cross and is living with his 5 children and niece Mary, 11 year old daughter of his brother Thomas who has recently died. At age 70 on the 1911 Census , he is still at High Cross and living with his 2 children Clara (36) and Leonard (33). When he dies in June of 1912, these two inherit the Farm. (Katie 1866, Lucy M 1869, Ada Florence 1873, Clara Jane 1875, Leonard 1878, Ernest Ernel 1880)

Field's once owned by Edwin Benford at HighCross along Fosse Way

Field’s once owned by Edwin Benford at HighCross along Fosse Way

   Caroline Benford is the 5th child to be born in 1843. She has a daughter by Michael Spawnton in 1862, but they don’t marry until May 1866. On the 1881 Census they are in Brinklow running the White Lion Inn. By 1901 Caroline is a widow and is living with her sister Clara Perkins in Claybrooke. On March 29,1902 she marries Thomas Brooks, a widower and a tailor from Ullesthorpe, in St. Peter’s Church, Coventry. One of the witnesses is Tom Ashmore, her daughter’s Ellen’s husband. (Ellen 1862, Joseph 1867)

Fields at House Cross

Fields at High Cross

Eliza Benford is christened September 14, 1845. On the 1871 Census, following the death of both her parents, 26 year old Elizabeth (Eliza) is living with her brother George. William Bird, a Blacksmith, is a lodger next door. In 1875 she and William marry. Their first child Annie was born in 1877. William was from Brinklow, Warwickshire and was apprenticed to John Perkins, the village Blacksmith. S0metime after 1881, the family moves to the Plough Inn, Willey where they remain for the rest of their lives. They have 5 children…Ann 1877, John 1881, Charles 1883, William 1887 and Ethel 1889.

Clara Blockley and children

Clara Blockley Benford (wife of George) outside the Royal Oak with some of her children…Lizzie, Amy and Fred in back, Mabel Herbert, Ethel, Tom and Harry

George Benford, was christened August 20, 1848. On the 1871 Census he is an Innkeeper and has taken in his 3 siblings, Eliza (25),  Frederick (18) and Elizabeth (Betsey) (16) following the death of their parents. In 1873 he marries Clara Blockley (Parish of Markfield) and they have 10 children. He owned the Royal Oak and worked as a carpenter. He dies 17 Oct 1912. (George 1877, Amy 1879, Frederick 1880, Lizzie 1882, Thomas Blockley 1884, Harry 1886, Mabel 1887, Herbert Lewis 1889, Ethel 1891, Harrold 1893)

royal oak 2

Royal Oak owned by George Benford.

Thomas Benford was the 4th son. He was christened September 29,1850. He had moved to Witton, Cheshire and was working as a Railway Clerk. On September 22, 1875 he married Elizabeth Chadwick at St. Nicholas Church in Halewood, Cheshire. He had been promoted to a Station Master. On the 1881, the family was living in Northenden. There were 3 young children along with Elizabeth’s widowed mother Mary. The family would be struck by a double tragedy in 1890. In April as he was walking beside the Cheshire Railway Lines, Thomas was struck and killed by an express train from Manchester. He was 40 years old and left a widow and 5 children. Tragedy struck again in June when Elizabeth died leaving the children orphans. Mary Hannah went to live with Edwin Benford, Nellie, Alfred and Annie  go to live with Clara Benford Perkins and Elizabeth , the eldest Elizabeth, was adopted by the Station Master from Northenden, Thomas Senior and Emily, his wife.  She was 14.

Alfred Frederick Benford was christened in 1852. Following the death of his parents, he went to live with his brother George. On the 1871 Census he was working as a carpenter. He died at age 22 in 1874.

Elizabeth (Betsey) Benford was born in 1854. Following the death of her parents she went to live with her brother George. On the 1871 Census age 16, she is working as a dressmaker. In June of 1878, she marries Arthur Edwin Richards. By the 1881 Census the family is living in Leicester. Arthur is an Ironfounder, son of William Richards, owner of W. Richards and Co which was founded in 1844. They eventually have 5 children. There were a number of Iron Foundries in Leicester and Richards, in later years, the company specialized in steel roofing, railway and road bridges, and engine and wagon turntables. They eventually have 5 children…Elizabeth 1880, France M 1886, Grace Hilda 1888, Ellen A 1891, William Benjamin 1892 and ida Doris 1899.

2012-08-08 10.38.51

Clara Benford Perkins’ son John Thomas, His wife Sarah and son Tertius at their home in Canada in 1929.

This is the story of a large family that grew even larger in the next generation. These 10 siblings born during the mid 1800’s went on to have 41 children. They and their children would grow up in an England very different from that of their parents. Many of the young men would go off to fight in the Battlefields of France during WW1 and some would not return. Others would come back scarred by what they had seen. Increasingly they would move from the villages to the bigger centres…Leicester, Coventry, Birmingham, London and beyond…to find new opportunities.  Their story is one for another time……

There is also the story of the first Benford’s back in the 1600 and 1700’s…this one is more difficult to research and tell, but it is not impossible.  Were the Leicestershire Benford’s connected to the Benford’s in the Parish Records for the Silver Street Baptist Church in Kettering in the 1700’s as I believe? There was a Thomas born c. 1710, a Benjamin born c. 1716 and a John born c. 1719. There is also a Nathaniell Bendford? christened at Theddingworth in 1714….were they all Children of the same parents…Thomas and Sarah Benford?

If anyone reading this blog notices mistakes in dates, names or other details or can add to my information, please let me know. I would als0 like to thank those that had posted pictures on the Old Pictures of Claybrooke Facebook page. I have included a couple to put faces to names.

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