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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.

2

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.

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