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Ephraim Hopkins – my family history journey continued

Time to talk a bit about my family history….

Since I wrote my  blog posts about William Hopkins I think I have discovered what happened to his brother Ephraim. I searched in the Find My Past Worldwide Army Index for 1861 and found an Ephraim Hopkins who was a private in the 94th foot regiment stationed at Mean Meer, East Indies. I couldn’t find any more about him including any army records so I went to the National Archives in Kew and looked up the Muster Rolls for the regiment. I discovered that he had joined up in the late 1850s. He seems to have embarked for India almost immediately and he seems to have spent about 5 or 6 years there until, sadly, the last entry I found was: 9 April 1865 Died at Chundegurh en route to Kussowlie. Disease ‘bronchitis chi?’ or sri. (or chr for chronic?)

I ran out of time while I was trying to trace him forwards in the records to see if there was confirmation that he joined up in Stoke on Trent so I don’t have definite proof that it was our Ephraim Hopkins. However, the only other Ephraim I can find either in birth registrations or in the censuses of the right age lived in Worthing and that one died in 1858. But next time I am at TNA I will look up the relevant muster rolls to see if I can find him immediately he enlisted, and also try and find his enlistment papers but probably the fact that he died in India explains why I couldn’t find his army records on FMP, as they are records of soldiers who were discharged to pension. But at least it probably ties up another loose end. I wonder how long it took for William to discover his fate?

UPDATE: on my next visit to Kew I looked up the previous muster rolls for the regiment but could not see any entries for him under new recruits, so I don’t know exactly where he joined up or any more information – does anyone have any idea where I can go from here or whether there are likely to be any more records of him in any archives?

First posted in my family history blog Entwined Roots.

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Family history 2 – Charles Hopkins 1810 to 1840

Before I continue with my brief biography of William Hopkins, my 2x great grandfather, this is a short note about Charles, his father. I mentioned briefly that Charles died suddenly aged 30 (in his burial record it says aged 28) and that the coroner recorded it as a ‘Visitation of God’ which is the wording they used when they didn’t actually know what caused such sudden demise. But when I wrote the post I didn’t know any other details of his death, apart from the fact that he had died in Newcastle under Lyme, a few miles from his home in Shelton, Stoke on Trent.

Until the British Newspaper Archive digitized the relevant issue of the local newspaper for 1840.

SUDDEN DEATH AT NEWCASTLE – on Thursday morning, as Charles Hopkins, an out-door pauper of the Spittals Workhouse, was assisting to draw a hand-cart, containing bread, from that place to Stoke, when passing along the Back Marsh, on their way through Newcastle to the latter place, he said – “Let’s rest a bit, for the cart goes heavy; the wheels want greasing;” which words he had scarcely uttered when he immediately fell down senseless. A medical gentleman was promptly on the spot, when it was found that life was quite extinct. The deceased, up to the time of his using the above words, had not complained of indisposition. He was about thirty-five years of age, and resided at Tinker’s Clough, in the township of Shelton, and was by trade a slip-maker. He has left a wife and four children to lament his untimely death. An inquest was held on the body on the same day, before F. Stanier, Esq., coroner, and a verdict returned “died by the visitation of God.”  (Staffordshire Advertiser, Saturday October 10th, 1840.)

So that answered a few of my questions, and posed a few more. The Spittals Workhouse was the workhouse for Stoke on Trent but was very close to the border with Newcastle under Lyme (when I was a teenager I used to walk past there – now a hospital – on my way to the shops in Newcastle from our home in Penkhull). So that explains why he died in Newcastle.  An outdoor pauper apparently was one who received support but didn’t live in the workhouse.  I knew he was a slipmaker in the pottery industry and that it was a pretty unhealthy job but I suppose he must have been out of work at the time since he needed relief from the workhouse.  Apparently around 1840 was a period of high unemployment in the Potteries and lots of people travelled to America then in the hope of building a better life for themselves, and it was around then that the Chartist movement was so strong.

So William’s poor mother Mary was left to bring up 3 (or four, if the newspaper was correct and there was another child we haven’t found yet) on her own.

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William Hopkins, my great great grandfather

This is an occasional post about my family history, originally posted in my genealogy blog.

Here is a photo of William Hopkins, one of my maternal great great grandfathers.

William Hopkins

William Hopkins 1832-1891

 

He was born on 5 September 1832 in Shelton, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire and baptised on 06 Jan 1833 in Bethesda Chapel, Albion Street, Shelton (now part of Hanley).  Bethesda Chapel, according to www.thepotteries.org “became the central place of worship of the Methodist New Connexion. The chapel was rebuilt in 1820 to seat 3,000 people and became known as “The Cathedral of the Potteries,” a name it has kept to this day.”   William’s brothers, however, seem to have been baptised in the local parish churches (Hanley and Stoke) so obviously his parents, Charles and Mary (nee Astbury), were not regular worshippers there.

William must have had a sad childhood.  His father, Charles, died suddenly in 1840 aged only about 30.  So suddenly that the Coroner described it as a Visitation of God.  He was a potter’s ovenman, which meant that he loaded the pottery kilns with the pottery for firing (in large containers called saggars) and emptied them again afterwards.  William had three brothers that we know about, including one who died before he was born; his brother George appears in the 1841 census but died in 1845 aged 10.  His remaining brother, Ephraim, was with him in the 1851 census – more about him in a subsequent post.

In the 1841 census, William is aged 9 living in Back Street, Shelton with his mother and brothers George and Ephraim, his father’s brothers Isaac Hopkins recorded as aged 20, an ironstone miner and Thomas Hopkins aged 20, a pottery slipmaker, plus two lodgers, Henry Halfpenny and Samuel Holland both recorded as aged 20.  In 1843 his mother married the lodger Henry Halfpenny and they had a daughter, Mary Ann, but Mary herself died in 1847.

In 1851 we find William, aged 19, now a potter’s ovenman himself, and his brother Ephraim, aged 13, who is a potter’s mouldrunner.  According to the potteries website, this consisted of running in all weathers from one building to another and placing the newly made ware in rows near a stove for hardening.   They are lodging with their aunt, (their mother’s sister Jane Tinsley), her husband William and their 4 children, Thomas, William, Joseph and Harriet, in Tinker’s Clough, an area of Shelton near Etruria, where the Wedgwood factory was located at that time.

On 28 December 1857, William married Hannah Barlow in St Mark’s, Shelton.  Their witnesses were Josiah Barlow, Hannah’s sister, and Jane Matthews, William’s paternal aunt.  Hannah also came from a family of potters, though she grew up in Fenton, one of the other six towns of the Potteries.  She herself was listed as a potter’s stilt maker in the 1861 census (stilt makers die pressed tall supports for ware after dipping).  In 1858, on the birth of their first son Charles, they were still living in Hanley but by the time their daughter Martha Ellen was born in 1860, they had moved to Fenton.  In the 1861 census they were living at 5 High Street, Fenton (north side).  William was listed as aged 27 and a potter’s biscuit oven placer (biscuit is pottery on its first firing, before glazing).

If you want to know more about the process of firing and the potteries in general, this page is very informative.

However, William and Hannah did not remain in the pottery industry.  In the next decade, their lives changed drastically….

To be continued.

Art Plus Family History

Before the new year, I participated in a couple of online courses about blogging, and one thing that I seemed to take away from both of them was the fact that it’s okay to incorporate lots of things about your life into your blog, and that you don’t have to stick to one topic.  Then today, just as I was feeling guilty about not posting here for a couple of weeks,  I read Abby Glassenberg’s post on her blog entitled ‘How to keep blogging when you don’t really feel like it’.  One of the things she said was

“Or maybe you were only going to blog about polymer clay, but you’re also passionate about science fiction and find yourself wishing you could write about that as well? Just do it.”

Basically she said, go ahead, write about whatever you want to….

You may know that as well as art, I am keen on family history and have a genealogy blog as well as this one.  Recently I’ve been struggling to keep up both of them, so I’ve decided to incorporate the family history into this blog – after all, it’s about my life and background as well as my art.  It’s all story and narrative and I hope you find it interesting.  My aim is to build up a picture of some of my ancestors from what I know about them in the records so I’ll start by reworking some of my earlier genealogy blog posts  so that it makes sense in the context of this blog.

Meanwhile, in art news … I’ve been busy stitching together rows of train tickets and it’s looking pretty good!  We are hanging the exhibition on Wednesday – lots of shinning up ladders and getting tangled up in fishing wire I expect… The exhibition itself starts on 8 April when the Riverfront arts centre is opening after the Easter weekend and we are holding a Meet the Artists event from 2pm to 4pm on the following Saturday 11 April – if you are in the area, you are welcome to come along.  If you leave a comment that you’re hoping to come, I’ll look out for you.

Here are some of the rows of train tickets all stitched together, a sneak preview!

Here are some of the rows of train tickets all stitched together, a sneak preview!

Here is the poster about the exhibition; more information is on the Diverse Manners Facebook page.  Hope to see some of you there!

poster showing Beneath the Surface Exhibition, the Riverfront Arts Centre, Newport starting on 8 April.

Beneath the Surface Exhibition, the Riverfront Arts Centre, Newport starting on 8 April.

I’ve been Google Street-Viewed!

Google Street View has just come out for the whole of Britain rather than just several of the largest cities, and DS1 discovered that I am on it, crossing the road probably going shopping.    It must have been last summer from the clothes I’m wearing.  And thankfully they have blurred out my face!

I have also had a happy few evenings virtually walking round Stoke on Trent, where I grew up, and finding the streets (and possibly the actual houses) various ancestors lived in, with the help of the census records and a website which converts old street names in Stoke to their new equivalents.  In the 1950s lots of them were changed because the six towns which made up the city of Stoke on Trent had grown up independently and there were lots of duplicate street names, with resultant confusion.  Lots of High Streets, Albert Streets, Church Streets, etc!

Here are a few of the streets in Fenton, not far from where I lived until I was 11.  Fenton is the town that the 19th century novelist Arnold Bennett, in his novels about the Potteries, missed out, and who never forgave him for the omission.

This is Berdmore Street where my great grandmother, Minnie Simpson, was living before she was married:

simpsonminnieberdmorestreet

John Swetnam, my 1st cousin 4x removed, lived somewhere in this street in 1871:

swetnamjohngeorgestreet

The husband of the half sister of my great great grandmother, Sarah Swetnam, lived in this house in Heron Street in 1901 (sadly Sarah died in 1883 but several of my first cousins 3x removed were there.)

leighsgeorge14heronstreetwhitedoor

William Brown, my second cousins 3x removed, lived in this street in 1891; then it was Peel Street, now Ramsey Street.  He was a mineral water carter.

brownannie21peelstreet

Hope you enjoyed this little tour round one of the Potteries towns!

Vintage textiles and family heirlooms

Over the last year, I have been doing a lot of family history research.  I’ve been lucky in that first my Aunt, then my parents and my brother, have built up a huge family tree and I’ve been adding to it and looking into it more.  I have also been given various family treasures by family members over the years and I decided recently to photograph them and put them all together rather than scattered all over the house!

I’d love to find out more about this handkerchief.  It was given to my Nan by my Grandad during the Second World War.  I think it is silk, but the edges have been cut in a scallop pattern and outlined in pen, and the heart decoration is a sort of raised embellishment.  The writing is also in pen and there is no stitching on it at all.  Apparently while my Grandad was in the army, one of the things he was involved in was running a prisoner of war camp so I wonder if this was made by one of the prisoners?

world war 2 belgian handkerchief

My Nan wore this hat at my parents’ wedding in 1959. 

1950s flower hat

My Mum’s cousin (who was a lot younger than her because she was the daughter of my Grandad’s oldest brother… I had to look that up on the family tree!) was a house servant when she was young and she gave me her maid’s uniform – this is the cap and one of the cuffs she wore.  I’ve got the apron and collar as well but the apron is too rumpled to photograph at present and I don’t want to risk it picking up all the gunk on the iron (wonder how that got there?!).

maid's head dress early 20th century

maid's cuff

I took this photo the other day of the reflection on our bedroom ceiling and thought it fitted in well with a post about vintage textiles.  Doesn’t it look lacy?  (I think that is a reflection on the state of the windows but the less said about that the better.).

lacy ceiling reflections

Black Country Museum

Golly, where does the time go?  I can’t believe it’s 2 weeks since my visit to the West Midlands, where the Black Country Museum is based.    It’s called the Black Country in that area because of all the mines and industry which abounded in the 19th century. 

This is the house which my great great great grandparents, Benjamin and Elizabeth Meredith, lived in in the latter half of the 1800s.  It is called the Tilted Cottage because of the effects of the subsidence caused by mining in the area!   Apparently the Museum took great care to rebuild it that way when they moved it brick by brick to its new home.

Tilted cottage, Black Country Museum

Benjamin was a bricklayer but I don’t know if he built this house.  Most of my other ancestors were coal miners, potters and farmers, though the butt filers listed on several of the census returns amused the kids!  Typical male teenage humour…

The main part of the museum consisted of a reconstructed village – here are the ‘back to back’ terraced houses typical of a lot of Victorian workers’ buildings.    They are two houses put together only one room wide.  I used to live in a terraced house till I was 11 and it felt strangely familiar, although it wasn’t a ‘back to back’ type.  Click on the link if you are unclear what I mean – I was a bit vague about it and looked it up on Wikipedia!

back to back houses

I liked it because you could wander around all the back gardens and yards and see exactly what was there, the washrooms and coal houses and chicken coops…

The museum also links up with the canal system and going down there I saw these geese with their goslings:

geese and gloslings

It reminded me of the train journey up there, where the train driver stopped for some geese and their young family who were crossing the railway track!

This was the view from my cafe table when I was eating my lunch:

Black Country Museum

You could also go down a mine but I passed on that as I’ve been down several already and preferred to stay in the warm sunny outdoors!

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