Tag Archives: Leicestershire

Benford Family….Weavers of Kettering, Northamptionshire

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.

“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.


The Benford’s 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.

Upstairs and Downstairs at Claybrooke Hall, Claybrooke Parva, Leicestershire

13 Jan

claybrooke hall from the roadIt was the  advertisement on the internet that caught my eye………

“7 bedroom House for sale in Lutterworth  950000£……..Approached via a private gated driveway, this magnificent Georgian hall benefits from an abundance of period features. Claybrooke Hall is a magnificent Grade II listed hall and offers the opportunity to reside in a truly unique historic home, with the benefit of a central village location and an ample plot …  Claybrooke Hall was where my Grandmother Sarah Jane Sleath worked prior to her marriage to John Thomas Perkins in 1901.

The pictures showing the interior are wonderful….and I could see the Parlor where my grandmother worked as a Parlor Maid and the kitchen where her friend worked as a cook. Bet these rooms  didn’t look like that back in 1901.




And look at the gorgeous bedroom….a few too many flowers but all that could be changed.

Now 114 years since my Grandmother worked there, this Old Hall is once again up for sale. I would wager it has many stories to tell about the occupants, if only it could talk. Well it can’t, but perhaps I could fill in the few details I have discovered about the place.

Claybrooke Hall was built in 1718 by Thomas Byrd, a local landowner and Justice of the Peace and in 1765 it was sold to Cluer Dicey as a “gentleman’s house”. The conveyance of Claybrooke Hall and lands from George Byrd to Cluer Dicey is dated 11 Oct 1767…(From Humphry’s Family Tree Page).  When he died in 1775, his will described him as of “Little Claybrooke in the county of Leicester, Esq.” He also had two farms in Little Claybrooke and property in Stoke Newington, London.

“A George Fitzwilliam Hodgson also lived at Claybrooke Hall. He was a Lieutenant in the Queen’s regiment of Foot. He died Feb 1799 aged 45. He  married his wife Sarah Brotherton in Boston Lincolnshire in 1787 and had a number of children both there and at the Hall. A son Thomas Brotherton Hodgson born 12 Feb 1794 and christened at St. Peter’s Claybrooke Parva died in East Indies 1816 aged 22. I’ve not found anything on him & why he was in East Indies. Family tablet is in East wall of South aisle, the Lady Chapel, in church. St Mary’s Church in Withern Lincolnshire has a number of monuments to the Fitzwilliam and Hodgson families.  Information provided by Nicholas Jenkins….August 2015….

On the 1841 Census,  Thomas Edward and Anne Mary Dicey were living there with their 4 sons including  Albert Venn Dicey who was born 4 February 1835 at Claybrook Hall in Leicestershire, England. He was the third son of Thomas Edward Dicey, a leading journalist of his time, by his wife Anne Mary, younger daughter of James Stephen, master in chancery. Albert was a British jurist and constitutional theorist. He is most widely known as the author of An Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885). The principles it expounds are considered part of the uncodified British Constitution.  He was a graduate of Balliol College, Oxford and became Vinerian Professor of Law and a leading constitutional scholar of his day. Dicey popularised the phrase “Rule of law”, although its use goes back to the 17th century.” (from Wikipedia)

On the 1861  Census,  Mary Douglas, wife of  H. Sholto Douglas, captain in Her Majesty’s 42nd Regimen and their 8 children were living in the Hall. The Captain was away on Military duties, however he obviously returned home frequently as he had 6 children born at the Hall between 1854 and 1859. At this time a number of Domestic Servants were required to keep things running….Butler, Groom, Cook, Kitchen Maid, Parlor Maid and 3 Nurses to care for all the young children.

On the 1881 Census, Mary Emily Simpson formerly of Oswaldkirk, Yorkshire and her sisters Emma and Louisa had taken over the hall. Mary had worked with her father , the Reverend Francis Simpson, to improve the lot of the farm lads of Boynton and Carnaby. She gave us an account of her labours in a book, “Ploughing and Sowing: or the Annals of an Evening School in a Yorkshire Village and the work that grew out of it- By a Clergyman’s Daughter”. According to her Obituary, she carried on her charitable work once she moved to Claybrooke Hall  where she opened a Convalescent Home in connection with the Leicester Infirmary. Her twin sister Emma, who was ill at the time of Mary’s death, died not long after. At this time, the Hall had 4 general Female Domestic Servants and a Cook. Louisa, the remaining sister continued to live in the Hall, and on the 1891 Census only the Housekeeper, Sarah Robinson and the Parlor Maid Bessie Tyres were listed. It is likely that Louisa was away visiting friends when the census took place.

DSCF2688 - Copy

Louisa Simpson and her companion Charlotte Hillyer


Sarah Jane on her Bicycle

My Grandmother Sarah Jane Sleath had taken up the position of Parlor Maid, by the time the 1901 Census was taken. Louisa had a companion Charlotte Hillyer and a full staff in residence. These included Bessie Tyres, now the nurse attendant, Sarah Haywood, a housemaid, Ethel Crisp, a kitchen maid, Janet Taylor, a nurse and Hetty Williams, the cook.

Bessie Tyres and Sarah Jane Sleath

In the late 19th Century, British families were in the world of “Upstairs Downstairs”. Each family either had a member that was in service or the household included at least one maid. By the end of the Victorian era, likely one third of all women had been a domestic worker at some point in their lives. In 1881, there were over 1.2 million females in Domestic Service and at least 50% were under the age of 20. Interesting to note that when my Grandmother was at the Hall, the younger Housemaid and Kitchen Maid were from the local area, whereas the nurse, nurse attendant and the parlor maid were from neighbouring counties. It would be interesting to discover how they came to be employed at the Hall. Had they responded to an advertisement, attended a Hiring Fair or heard of the vacancy from a friend or other relative? Claybrooke Hall was no Downton Abbey, but likely the same things occurred just on a smaller scale. These young women may have been kept busy with all the household chores, but they must have had the odd day off…how else were they to meet prospective husbands. Sarah Jane may have met John Thomas Perkins, the village Blacksmith, when he came to the Hall to carry out some work. Tradespeople and craftsmen would have used the back door and it would have been answered by one of the maids who would have supervised them in their duties.

1891 Perkins & Nixon stables (1)

J Perkins Claybrook his handiwork as Village Blacksmith

The following is an extract from correspondence between myself and a resident of Claybrooke Parva today. It provides some light on the duties of a Blacksmith.  Mr. Jenkins wrote “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.  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.

Tom Perkins told me that he was named after his uncle, the Claybrooke Magna Blacksmith. His uncle emigrated to Canada  to make a better life for himself & family. Would our Tom have been named after John Thomas?(Possibly) Is John Thomas the man who emigrated & Tertius (3rd son?) would have gone too? Yes along with his wife Sarah Jane Sleath) 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.”

Watts family2 - Ullesthorpe

Fanny Haywood Cook, (black belt) Sarah Haywood Maid (back row) with their husbands and mother Emma.

Fanny Haywood, a friend of Sarah Jane,  must have gone to Claybrooke Hall just after the 1891 census. Her descendant Ann who now lives in Wales, has several books inscribed by her dated that year (1891) when she was still at Great Longstone,  Derbyshire as Cook for Captain Legge the Chief Constable of Derbyshire.  She wrote “Fanny downgraded going to Claybrooke to be nearer home when her mother became ill and after Fanny married, her mother lived permanently at Ullesthorpe”.


Nellie Benford, niece of John Thomas Perkins, Sarah Jane Sleath, Bessie Tyres on Wedding Day May 5, 1901.

Sarah Jane left the Hall when she married John Thomas Perkins at St. Peter’s Church on May 5, 1901. That was, as I said earlier,  114 years ago.


St. Peter’s Church at Claybrooke Parva LEI

The hall has had other residents since then, but as yet I haven’t done any research to determine who they were. If anyone has information, I would be delighted to hear from you and add your story to mine. I also hope that the information in my Blog is correct, but if anyone notes errors, again, please let me know so the story can be amended. Also a reminder to those doing their own family history, also fully check the Census to see who lives with or near by to your ancestor. Often relatives live nearby or a widowed parent moves in with a married daughter or a relative isn’t where you think they should be but may be listed as a Visitor at another relatives place. Often over time, you find young people marrying others who live down the road.

It is amazing who you are able to locate in the manner. I did research for someone and it turned out that the ancestors they were looking for had once been neighbours. She was the daughter of the grocer and he was the married man living next door with his wife and family and for whom she did housework. Turns out she became pregnant, he left his family and they emigrated to Canada from England where they established a complete new family. Lost all contact with their English families!

Claybrooke Hall

Reburying of a King Found in a Car Park! Richard lll

12 Sep

King Richard III

The remains of Richard III will be reburied in Leicester Cathedral on March 26, 2015. Now why would I be interested in such an event? The story begins in 2010, when I first visited Leicester. The London Trippers, part of the England/Wales Group at the Alberta Genealogy Society, had spent 2 weeks in London researching their ancestors in  various archives. Following that, everyone went their separate ways and I decided to visit Leicestershire, home to my Perkins/Benford ancestors.    



My home away from home in the Belmont Hotel. Made The Bar my office.

I wanted to visit Claybrooke Magna, a small village 12 miles from Leicester on the Leicestershire/Warwickshire border, where my Dad had been born in 1904. His father and grandfather had been the Village Blacksmiths since 1860. The Benford branch of my family had been the Village Carpenters for an even longer period of time.  I made the Belmont Hotel in Leicester my home base and would often head out along the New Walk, a delightful pedestrian walkway which took me to the city centre, where I  would  take photos. 


My picture taken in 2010 of the Car Park where Richard was discovered behind the wall on the right.

One day, late in the afternoon, as I was heading home, I came upon a property with an iron fence and gate and behind it some Brick Buildings  with chimney pots and a long Brick Wall which made a great picture against the darkening sky. This was one of hundreds of photos I took on the trip, and I never gave it another thought until August 2012  when I learned that the  remains of King Richard III had been discovered in a car park in Leicester. 

Richard III Dig: Bones Found Under Leicestershire Car Park

Richard III: ‘When I saw the skull, the hair on the back of my neck stood up’

As archaeologists leave the Leicester site where they believe they have found royal remains, locals are already convinced………

Richard III car park

Trench 1 was dug on the other side of the wall and that is where Richard’s remains were eventually discovered. (From The Guardian Newspaper Sept 23, 2012)

I  thought, “Could this be  in the same area that I had taken the photo 2 years earlier. The place looks familiar.” I got out my pictures and sure enough it was the very same site.    I joked with friends that the archaelogists should have asked me as I knew where Richard was…. I had taken that picture in 2010 because Richard III had been trying to  get someone’s attention to have him removed from the car park site to somewhere more befitting a grave for a king.

It was the same site !

It was the same site ! The wall behind which he was discovered has been taken down.


Greyfriars Friary

The actual search began on August 25, 2012, the 527th Anniversary of his burial. In  2010, Dr. Ashbrown-Hill had published compelling evidence building on the work of David Baldwin, that Richard was buried in the choir of the Greyfriars and his remains had not been disturbed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. He also traced Richard’s family tree to the Ibsen family, descendents of Richard’s sister. Their mitochondrial DNA sequence could be helpful in proving the remains were Richard’s if they were ever located. Phillipa Langley had approached the Leicester City Council with a proposal that part of the Car Park where part of Alderman Herrick’s garden and the Greyfriars Friary had stood, be investigated. A team of archaeologists undertook an assessment of the site and developed an excavation strategy. The dig was eventually funded by the City Council, The University of Leicester and the The Richard III Society. By a strange quirk of fate, the bones that were discovered on the first day of the dig in the first trench dug, ultimately turned out to be those of Richard III.

Richard III reigned for only two years and two months…1482 – 1485. He was born during the reign of King Henry VI and his childhood was lived during the War of the Roses. Richard’s first recorded visit to Leicester was on May 10, 1464 at the age of 11. He was also in Leicester on a Post Coronation Progress and stayed at the castle from August 17-20, 1483. On August 7, 1485 Richard learned that Henry Tudor had landed in Wales and intended to claim the throne. Richard sent out letters to his followers ordering them to gather at Nottingham and Leicester. On August 20, 1485 rode into Leicester for the final time. He stayed overnight at the White (Blue) Boar Inn and the following morning rode out over the old Bow Bridge. He was on his way to fight in what would become known as the Battle of Bosworth. During a gallant fight, he was killed in battle and his body was brought back to Leicester over the same bridge he had crossed that morning. He was 32 years old. His body was eventually buried in the Greyfriars Friary, a site that runs parallel to St. Martin’s Cathedral. His remains were to languish in this grave till August 2012. He was 32 years old.


Greyfriars with St. Martin’s in top left corner


Richard’s remains were found in Trench 1 beside the wall


I took my photo from the iron fence on the street looking towards the wall.

King Richard III to remain in Leicester

May 23, 2014

 Follow Dean Monteith’s Blog on the St. Martin’s website.

A statement from The Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester Cathedral:

“The delays are over.  The law is clear and unequivocally set forth in today’s judgement.  Richard III fought here, fell here, died here, has lain here and was rediscovered here.  He will now be finally led to rest with the prayers of God’s people in a manner fitting to his story and with dignity as befits a child of God and an anointed King of England. This historic place marked the end of one dynasty and the start of the next.

This community, which has changed so much since then, then symbolises the best of modern Britain – respectful of the past, diverse in character and generous in welcome.  Our community are humbled to be entrusted with this next task on behalf of the people of England as the eyes of the world watch on.

Everyone now knows about the ‘King in the Car Park’, championed by the Looking for Richard project and achieved with the partnership of the City of Leicester and the expertise of the University of Leicester.”

Richard’s remains will be buried in St Martin’s Cathedral March 24, 2015.   At present there is a Memorial Stone to Richard. This will be removed and a new tombstone created.


St. Martin’s Cathedral showing Choir and Altar.


Memorial to Richard in front of Altar.


Plans for the new memorial.

David Monteith’s Blog continued…

“We now will continue to work together to complete the task in Spring 2015. The past weeks of waiting have been trying for all our staff and volunteers and this entire process has been costly financially and emotionally.  But I want to say to everyone, whatever viewpoint you take that everyone is welcome here.  Bosworth was a bitter battle with different branches of the same family at war.  Five hundred years on we can learn a little and my prayer is that we might travel now together to finally lay King Richard to rest. The final paragraph of the ruling summed up: ‘Since Richard III’s exhumation on 5 September 2012, passions have been roused and much ink has been spilt.  Issues relating to his life and death and place of re-interment have been exhaustively examined and debated.”

The Very Reverend David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester Cathedral, has explained the considerable efforts and expenditure invested by the Cathedral in order to create a lasting burial place “as befits an anointed King”.  “We agree that it is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest.”

Recent announcements indicate that The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster (Roman Catholic) and The Archbishop of Canterbury (Church of England) will both be taking part in services in Leicester Cathedral to mark the reinterment of King Richard III. Remember there was no Church of England in the time of Richard III. It hadn’t yet come into being, so Richard would have been a devout Catholic.

Both Dioceses are working together with other stakeholders to organise various acts of worship during the week in which Richard III’s mortal remains will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral. 

  • On Sunday March 22 the remains of Richard III will be received into Leicester Cathedral. 
  • On Monday March 23, Cardinal Nichols will celebrate Mass for the repose of the soul (a ‘Requiem Mass’) of Richard III in Holy Cross Church. 
  • On Thursday March 26, the mortal remains of Richard III will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral, with an invited congregation and in the presence of the Most Revd Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • On Friday March 27, invited people from across the city of Leicester and the county of Leicestershire will gather in the Cathedral to mark the end of King Richard’s journey and the sealed tomb will be revealed to the public.
  • In addition, the Cathedral will be open for people to visit, to pay their respects and to pray from 23-25th March, and from Saturday 28th March the area around Richard III’s tomb will be open to the public.

 It is not only Richard who has a connection to Leicester. In 1913, it was from here that John Thomas and Sarah Perkins, my grandparents and Tertius Perkins, my father, left for Liverpool and ultimately their new home in Canada. They had been living in the city for several years since leaving Claybrooke Village.    See the 1911 Census Form completed by my Grandfather.

Perkins 1911 England census

The 1911 Census Form completed by my Grandfather.

Leicester Train Station

Leicester Train Station

 My roots go deep in the English soil. I have discovered Perkins, Benford, Mason and Sleath names in the Parish Records of Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire going back to the late 1500’s.  My immediate family was from Claybrooke Magna, LEI and Withybrook, War, while my Benford family, was at one point in time in Leicester.…perhaps some of them were actually there when Richard was buried.

I have a Burial Record from Ancestry…Scanned Parish Records from Withybrook Church showing that Thomas Mason would have been born around 1600, 115 years after Richard’s Burial. Thomas’ Great Great Grandfather could then  have been alive during Richard’s Reign. Gives one something to think about!

Thomas Mason
Death Age: 90
Birth Date: abt 1601
Burial Date: 13 Jan 1691
Burial Place: Withybrook, Warwickshire, England
Father: Mason
Mother: Mason

John Mason
Death Age: 85
Birth Date: abt 1656
Burial Date: 15 Dec 1741
Burial Place: Withybrook, Warwickshire, England
Father: Mason
Mother: Mason

My plan is to be in Leicester in March 2015 for the Reinternment of the Remains of Richard III. I may not have a seat in the cathedral, but I will certainly be outside! Perhaps some spirits from the past will be there with me!

UPDATE: March 18, 2015

Only 4 days and I will be flying over to London and then on to Leicester for the Reburial Activities. It is a solemn occasion indeed, as is any burial, or in this case a reburial of remains. That does not mean that there can’t be any celebrations…..life is for the living and they are the ones left to remember and celebrate the life of the one who has died. This can be done with words, pictures and music and in this instance FIREWORKS from the Cathedral roof. Let us all remember this King who ruled for such a short time and died too young. Let us try for greater understanding of him and his accomplishments…..a man of the late Middle Ages.

Claybrooke Magna, Leicestershire..John Perkins… The Village Blacksmith

16 Mar

My Ancestors were Blacksmiths      

The most thorough transformation of England relative to the period, probably took place during the reign of Queen Victoria. In 1837, when she came to the throne, the nation was primarily rural and 66% of the population lived in the countryside. By 1851, those living in rural areas had been  reduced to 50% and by 1901, to just 25% of the population.

The appearance of the village reflected the character of the land, for they were built with the materials that could be obtained locally, stone where there were quarries, bricks where there was clay, and timber where wood was available. In the 19th Century, country folk were dependent on the land for their living  and the village for its services.

John Thomas Perkins Blacksmith

Thomas Hardy wrote that “villages, in addition to the agricultural inhabitants, contained an interesting and better informed class ranking above the others – the Blacksmiths, the Carpenters, the Wheelwrights and a wide range of  other individuals that were required to maintain the village and keep it generally self-sufficient. The “Prince of the Tradesmen” was the BLACKSMITH.

My immediate ancestors came from the small Midland villages,  Claybrooke Magna, Burbage and Withybrook in the border area between Leicestershire and Warwickshire. My grandfather John Perkins and his two sons, John Thomas and Walter Joseph, were Blacksmiths in the village of Claybrooke Magna from 1861 to at least 1916 and possibly longer, though I will have to wait for the 1921 Census to find out. Blacksmiths not only shod horses, but made wrought iron works of every kind, made and repaired tools, implements, parts of gates and ornamental iron work – all these things were produced on the hearth of the smithy to the accompaniment of the roar of the bellows and the ring of the hammer. Blacksmithing was a trade carried out by the same family over generations.

1891 Perkins & Nixon stables (1)

The metalwork on the stableblock (shown in the picture) of W. Nixon, the builder in 1891 was done by “J. Perkins Claybrook”. Whether this was the work of father or son, I don’t know.

On the 1851 Census, John Perkins, my great grandfather, was listed as an Apprentice Blacksmith. He was 19 years old and living in Withybrook with his widowed Mother Ann on his Uncle John Mason’s Farm. I don’t know how he came to this trade as his father Joseph was a Butcher.  Joseph however, had died when John was only 7, so someone else, possibly his uncle,  had arranged this apprenticeship for him, likely when he was around 14. In Historical Directories, I discovered that he was apprenticed to William Holyoak of Claybrooke Magna. William was one of three brothers, the others in Burbage, who were all Blacksmiths. By the 1861 Census, John had married Clara Benford and  was living in Claybrooke Magna and had become a Master Blacksmith. His 2 sons followed in the trade, my Grandfather John Thomas in Claybrooke Magna and his brother Walter Joseph in Rugby.

Master Blacksmith

Master Blacksmith

John Perkins died in 1896. The Leicester Chronicle headed his Obituary “Death of a Tradesman” and goes on to say “By the death of Mr. John Perkins, Blacksmith, at the age of 62, this village loses one of its best known and most highly respected tradesmen”. It would appear that not only was he a Master Tradesman, he was a volunteer in many community activities. He held various “public and parochial offices, including those of Assistant Parish Overseer, Parish Constable, and Clerk to the Burial Board, the later he held up to his decease, as well as taking a prominent part in the management of the various Village Sick Clubs.” He was buried at St. Peter’s Church Cemetery in Claybrooke Parva, LEI.



St Peter's Church

John Perkins of Claybrooke Magna

1851  Census   John Perkins (19)  apprentice Blacksmith  to William Holyoak (Master)

1861   Census   John Perkins (29)        Blacksmith in Claybrooke Magna

Apprentices  George Cramp 15, William Bird 19

Interestingly, John’s wife Clara Benford  had a younger sister who married William Bird when he finished his apprenticeship.  Often relatives of tradesmen, would marry tradesmen and the Benford’s were Carpenters in the village.

1871   Census   John Perkins (39)   Blacksmith (Master) Claybrooke Magna

Apprentice   Thomas Knight 19

1881  Census  John Perkins  (49)   Blacksmith (Master)

1891  Census  John Perkins (59)    Blacksmith

KELLY’S DIRECTORIES shows John Perkins for the following years : 1877   Black & Shoeing Smith, agricultural implement maker & machinist 1884  Blacksmith & machine & implement maker 1891  Blacksmith & Clerk to Burial Board 1896  Blacksmith, implement maker & Clerk to Burial Board


The Statute of Labor and Apprentices 1563 was the framework on which the career of most young men were based. It was the legal duty of a father to get his son apprenticed to a trade, at 14 or before and generally they aimed to get the best trade  they could afford, not necessarily one selected by the lad. Men involved in  craft trades had to serve  an apprenticeship of 7 years from the age of 14 to 21. This involved a payment  from the father to the Master. Once this term of service was met, the second stage was to work as a Journeyman. He was paid by the day while he worked for a Master. Usually a new Master tradesman had to wait for 5 years after the apprenticeship before he himself  could take on an apprentice.


1881 Census        John Thomas Perkins (17)  Smith and machinist

1891  Census       John Thomas Perkins (27) Blacksmith  Claybrooke  Magna

Walter Joseph Perkins (26) Blacksmith  Rugby

1901   Census      John Thomas Perkins (37) Blacksmith Claybrooke Magna

Walter Joseph  Perkins (36) Blacksmith  Rugby

1916       Walter Joseph Perkins still village Blacksmith

 JohnThomas Perkins moved his family into Leicester after his mother, Clara Benford Perkins died in 1910. He lived at #51 Walton Street and worked at an Iron Foundry as a Blacksmith. When his father-in-law, George Sleath, died in 1912, John Thomas was free to emigrate to Canada at age 49. This would have been a difficult decision but things in England were difficult and he felt that there would be more opportunity for him and his son in Canada. They arrived in  July 1913 and settled in the Ritchie District of Edmonton, Alberta. John Thomas first worked as a Blacksmith for Ribchester’s and then for the Hudson Bay Company as a clerk. I suspect he was employed in the Hardware Department. John Thomas, his wifr Sarah Jane and son Tertius in Canada circa 1929

The photo shows John Thomas, his wife Sarah Jane and son Tertius Bernard outside their home in Ritchie. circa 1929. Tertius was working for the CPR Telegraphs and obviously earned enough to buy himself a car.

John Thomas Perkins died in 1936 and was buried in Red Deer, Alberta, alongside his Brother-in-law Jack Sleath and his wife Clara Shotton Sleath.

My Grandmother’s Wedding Shoes

19 Sep

A Victorian Woman

My Grandmother’s Wedding Shoes!

Sarah Jane Sleath was the only girl in a family of six boys including twins. She was born at Outwoods, Staffordshire in 1869. She lived with us when I was growing up in Edmonton. All I really remember was a tiny, old woman in a bed, and I was taken in to visit her once a day. By the time I was four, she had been moved to a long term care hospital. My Dad and I visited her at the hospital, but on one visit, after my dad let a nurse carry me off to a ward, thinking I was a new admission, I was never allowed to go again. Who knows what my dad was thinking that day? My mother was very angry with him.  I vividly remember a long room with beds along both sides filled with children. Then my dad and another nurse came rushing up to retrieve me!

Sarah Jane died in 1954 and I recall seeing her coffin in the boxcar on the train while we waited at the CPR station. We were going to Red Deer for her funeral and burial in the cemetery next to her husband John Thomas Perkins. Not sure why they were buried there. Her brother, Jack Sleath and his wife Clara Annie Shotton, were buried there as well, but they had lived there.

Over the years, I heard comments from different people. They all recalled that Sarah Jane had quite the temper and wondered how my grandfather dealt with it. She was a little bit of a thing, standing about 4 feet 10 inches, at least that’s what she looked like in pictures. Some say I look like her. Perhaps my temper is justly inherited.

Who was this woman I barely knew? While searching some of the trunks kept in our cellar, I came across a beautifully decorated box. In it were white shoes and a wedding veil. I had seen pictures of my grandparents wedding and knew they must belong to Sarah Jane. She married John Thomas Perkins May 5, 1901 at St. Peter’s Church, Claybrooke Magna, Leicestershire, England. Prior to that she had worked as a Parlor Maid at Claybrooke Hall.  Her employer was Miss Simpson. I often wondered what life was like for domestic help in Victorian times.

The 1901 Census shows the following:

Louise Simpson 78       Born Foston, York

Charlotte Hillyar 71     Born Stoke Bramel, Devon        Companion

Bessie Tyers 47              Born Shenstone, Staffordshire   Nurse Attendant

Sarah Jane Sleath 30   Born Outwoods, Staffordshire   Parlor Maid

Sarah Heywood 24       Born Chilcote Lei                              House Maid

Ethel Crisp 17                 Born Claybrooke, Lei                     Kitchen Maid

Janet Taylor 32              Born Blackfordy, Lei                       Nurse

Hetty Williams 32          Born Greenwich, London              Cook

What would she have done as a parlourmaid? Quoting from “Women’s Lives” a book on social history from 1800 – 1930 by Jennifer Newby , “parlour and housemaids’ duties were often interchangeable. The main division was that parlourmaids answered the door, served tea and did the lighter cleaning. Housemaids undertook the heavier work, rising at dawn to light the kitchen fire, heating water, beating rugs and other heavy cleaning.”   Both types of  Maids would also make beds, clean rooms, do sewing and mending and keep the fires going  throughout the day. Days off were few and far between, but Sarah Jane managed to meet JohnThomas Perkins the village Blacksmith. Perhaps it was at church, as servants often accompanied their employers to services and in this instance, St. Peter’s Church was just across the road from The Hall.

In Sarah’s wedding photo, Bessie Tyers is pictured with the family, so I assume that Sarah and Bessie had developed a relationship while working long hours at The Hall. There is  one unidentified woman who could also be from The Hall, perhaps Janet Taylor, the nurse.

My grandmother’s life would  change when she married. In just a few short years, she, her husband John Thomas and son Tertius, would leave England to make a better life for themselves in Canada. The city she moved to was just getting its start in 1913 and was rough and rugged. Her house in the Ritchie District had a barn for her cows and chickens and a big garden to grow vegetables. She had brought all her furniture including a piano and a grandfather clock, fine china, pictures and a mangle. Container shipping isn’t a new thing!

Sarah Jane had seen dramatic changes in her lifetime. Wish I had been able to hear her story firsthand.

“Old Pictures of Claybrooke Magna, Claybrooke Parva and Ullesthorpe”…….and Why I Joined Facebook!

1 Sep

I have always asked myself “Why would I ever join Facebook?” Now I have my answer. It is so I can connect with all the others who live in, have lived in or have ancestors who have lived in “The Claybrookes and Ullesthorpe” in Leicestershire. YES, I have finally come into the 21st Century…..from my Red Phone to my Smart Phone, from my Underwood Typewriter to a Laptop Computer, from hand written letters to postings on Facebook! Who would have thought such a thing possible? Well maybe my Dad, after all, he was a telegrapher and the fastest typist I knew and he had a Ham Radio back in the 50’s and 60’s and he would “chat”, albeit in a somewhat different manner with others around the world. How he would have loved Facebook!
It all began earlier this summer, when someone responded to a post I had placed on the Leicestershire Village Website in 2009 asking for help in locating any living Perkins in the Claybrooke Magna/Parva area. Over the July 1st Long Weekend, someone responded that they thought they knew of a connection and would get back to me. I think they gathered in the Pig in Muck, the local, to solve the problem. Soon I had an email from a living Perkins, a descendant of Walter Joseph Perkins, brother to my grandfather, John Thomas Perkins. Emails and pictures went back and forth across the Atlantic as we caught up on 100 years of family history. You see, my grandfather, John Thomas had left England in 1913 to come to Canada. Once here, there was minimal contact with those back in the village. My Dad made only one trip to the Old Country in 1932.
It wasn’t long after this happened that I had an email from someone saying that, if on Facebook, I should check out this group who was posting info and pictures related to The Claybrookes. I did and I’m hooked!!! Can’t believe what I have discovered about the villages and their inhabitants going back into the 1800’s. The pictures are absolutely marvelous!!! And the memories they engender are wonderful to hear. Young and old alike have been sharing what they have dug out of trunks and other storage boxes. So far the group has 158 members, not bad for only being in existence for 3 weeks. Who knows who will find us in the future!
Summer here is almost over and it has been quite the summer. It began in London at the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations for the Queen with a spur of the moment trip and ended here in Edmonton with The International Fringe Theatre Festival -Village of the Fringed. In between, there was a multitude of Festivals…..Jazz, Blues, Symphony, Folk, Rock, Street Performers, Open Doors for History and Heritage Days….the choices were yours.
Time now to get ready for fall and my trip to China. No, I will not be looking for any ancestors. This is the trip that I have always dreamed of doing….when I return there will be plenty of time to look for ancestors.

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