Tag Archives: Perkins

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.

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