John Winchurch's Pages

The Tenby Years

I first set foot in Pembrokeshire aged about seven or eight in 1950 or 1951, I cannot remember exactly which year it was, but I went with my Grandfather, Percy Winchurch.

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Percy with a rather scared looking John at Sutton Amusement Park about 1948

Percy, who with his brother Roland, had built up a very successful motor business,Winchurch Brothers Limited, in the West Midlands, was planning partial retirement to Saundersfoot.

He had bought a small caravan ( a Berkeley Messenger ) which he proposed to site on a field belonging to Mrs Howells at Dun Cow Hill at Wisemans Bridge, grandmother of TTT member Sue Griffiths who is still a good friend – many decades later !

 

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An Austin 16 and Berkeley Messenger Caravan similar to Percy’s

I travelled with him that summer to stay as Bed and Breakfast guests of Mr and Mrs Watts next to one of the entrances to Hean Castle Estate between Wisemans Bridge and Saundersfoot..

I remember little of the detail of that first visit, but I formed a childhood bond with South Pembrokeshire that has never gone away

The emerging business plan was that Percy would sell his share of Winchurch Brothers and buy out or go into partnership with Vic Morris, proprietor of St Brides Garage in Saundersfoot. As a child, I knew little or nothing of the detail, but viewed the beaches, the rock pools and the sea with growing delight.

Subsequent visits to Wisemans bridge introduced me to the tunnels connecting it via the coast to Saundersfoot and the excitement of the summer fair, at that time sited on the harbour car park (there weren’t many cars to park in the early nineteen fifties!)

My father, Vic Winchurch was to be involved in a new venture building small boats to meet the demands of a growing leisure activity and carry the family forward into the second half of the twentieth century.

With characteristic drive and commitment, Percy sited his small caravan to act as a base in Pembrokeshire whilst preparations for a permanent move were under way.

The Coronation of 1953 seemed to be an omen of new beginnings, but three months later everything changed

My Grandfather suffered a massive stroke on 12 September 1953 and died within few hours, ironically, (in the year of the Queen’s Coronation) in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Selly Oak.

I will never forget the shock and sorrow on my father’s face when he came to my bedroom that night, with tears in his eyes, to tell me the news.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, my parents faced major decisions with long term implications for us all.

I passed my eleven plus examination the following year, 1954, and spent a few weeks at King Edward VI Grammar School in Stourbridge before transferring to Greenhill Grammar School in Tenby in November 1954. David moved from Hagley primary school to the Council school in Tenby, then, in turn passed his eleven plus to join me at Greenhill three years later. I felt very conspicuous in my dark green Stourbridge blazer and cap and was very relieved when it was replaced a few weeks later by the blue Greenhill uniform.

Vic had made the decision to go ahead with the move to Pembrokeshire, but the motor trade was dropped in favour of the boat building venture. The new company was to be known as ‘Saundersfoot Marine Company Ltd’.

We moved to Greengate, St John’s Hill, Tenby on the 9th of November 1954. Vic and Margaret (my mother) bought the house from the Dale family, who had recently opened a music shop in the High Street.

Two days after we arrived, Tenby was hit by a tremendous storm, which caused massive damage along the whole of the west side of Britain. A few months later, a large section of the North Cliff collapsed, crushing a shelter on the North Walk below and killing two young people. Our neighbour, Crofton John, who was a foreman with the town council, dug out the bodies of Beth Daniels and her friend. Beth had also lived in St John’s Hill and was only twenty one.

The form master of Class 1 Alpha in 1954-55 was Ken Lee, who also taught Maths,Geography and English in later years. I still remember the warm greeting I received from both Ken and my thirty or so new classmates, many of whom became friends. It was for me a huge relief to be in a relaxed co educational atmosphere after the stricter and more formal regime at the boys only school that I had left, (although, to be fair, I was only at Stourbridge for a few weeks).

Graham Gibson was the headmaster in 1954 and Margaret Bowen the headmistress. Maggie (as she was almost universally known) became one of my favourite teachers. I never found her particularly stern, although she was certainly strict, but she had a lively sense of humour and a warmth to which I responded.

I think in that first year though I was taught French by Stefano Court before he moved across Greenhill Road to the Council School to succeed Ossie Morgan as headmaster there.

Other teachers from that first year were the characterful H.J. Williams (John Willie) who taught science and the rather more serious Yorkshireman, Wilfred Harrison, who I think we had for ‘Social Science’ – a mix of local history and geography.

Interestingly, in view of later trends, we were given a choice of modern languages between French and Welsh. The majority of my year had chosen French and it was much later in my life that I learned the smattering of the Welsh language that I carried into adult life. We could however mostly sing ‘Mae hen wlad fy nhadau’ as enthusiastically as the rest!

Latin, from the first form to my successful pass at GCE was in the safe and enthusiastic hands of Ella Ellis (“now then – what is it children ? – for empha ……..SIS !)

Sport was not a favourite of mine in those early years, in fact I think that along with many other boys (I’m not sure if the girls did better, but I suspect they did) things only improved dramatically with the arrival of Denzil Thomas in 1958 (more about Denzil later)

As I progressed through the school in the mid 1950s I was taught by two more exceptional teachers, Arthur Richards for Physics and William (Bill) Davies for maths. Both had a knack of holding one’s interest and encouraging thought and I retain an enormous respect for both of them . Bill Davies had been a Major in the British Army ( possibly the Royal Engineers ) in the fight against the Japanese in Burma. He had occasional periods of absence due to sickness, recurrent bouts of Malaria a legacy of those appalling conditions. I was delighted to find that he was still alive and present at a Greenhill Grammar School reunion organised by John Griffiths in the late 1990s. It was a privilege and pleasure to shake Bill by the hand and thank him for the years of dedicated teaching he undertook.

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October 1955 Back row L – R Wilfred Harrison, Bill Davies, Arthur Richards, L.J. Williams, Alan Nicholas, J.A.Jones . T.K. Edmonds, Ken Lee.  Middle row : Heinz (Hugh) Holland, Colin Boilieau, Philip Nunn, John Winchurch, Geoffrey Titterton, ?, Brian Rees  Front row: Michael Edwards, Kenneth James ? ? Geoffrey Torkington.

 

Vic’s involvement with Saundersfoot Marine was, sadly, not a great success. However, it did provide both David and myself a grounding in boat craft and general woodworking skills that we carried forward into later life. We were encouraged to both build and sail boats. We joined Tenby Sea Cadets and had the harbour and town as our playground. Despite the hardships, we were the lucky children of the nineteen fifties.

With my father’s help and enthusiasm, David and I constructed our first boat in the garage at the top of the steep garden in St John’s Hill. Tools and materials were expensive and hard to get. I remember a long frustrating wait to get lengths of mahogany from a merchant somewhere in the south of England , Cousland and Brown, which had to come by rail. It was all a good lesson in both patience and improvisation though. Old cupboards were recycled to become seats and floorboards and we learned a lot about softening timber with steam and the properties of a various types of wood adhesive (and I don’t mean ‘glue sniffing’ !)

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John in the Yachting World pram dinghy which we built in Tenby in 1956

 

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Building the Torch sailing dinghy in the garage of Greengate, St John’s Hill in 1960. Photo taken by David Winchurch

In 1956 Vic made his exit from Saundersfoot Marine and in the absence of a suitable job in Pembrokeshire, made a move to get work in the Midlands.

Margaret, David and I stayed in Tenby, with Vic adding the long drive to and from the Midlands to Tenby to his weekly total – often several thousand miles. My Dad accepted his new situation without bitterness or rancour and I never heard him complain. He even managed to teach me to drive and pass my driving test in Haverfordwest in 1960.

At the age of twelve I joined Tenby Sea Cadets, an organisation with links to the Royal Navy which encouraged an interest in everything to do with the sea and ships. The commanding officer was Freddie Bennet Roberts with George Philpin Stubbs as his deputy. Under their guidance we learned everything from knots to drill and rifle shooting, although the latter had to be done courtesy of the Territorial Army in the Norton. I went on several extended periods on Royal Navy warships too, notably two weeks on HMS Hogue based at Devonport. I was just thiteen then and spent most of the time being homesick or seasick – often both ! Tenby Sea Cadets  met on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in the Sea Cadet building, at that time single story, alongside the sluice, with a break for hot Oxo drinks followed by lessons on knots, navigation, in fact everything to do with naval life, in a house on the slope leading down to the quay. It was often bitterly cold in the middle of winter and I remember sliding on ice covering the surface of Crackwell Street one January night.

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John Winchurch – middle row, second from right David Winchurch – bottom row, third from right

After GCE O levels in 1959, I entered form six science at Greenhill to study Pure and Applied Maths, Physics and Chemistry at A level. In addition to Bill Davies for maths and Arthur Richards for physics, I was taught by Bill Howells for applied maths and Mr Coates for Chemistry, although he left suddenly in my final year and the remainder of the time until the exam I was taught by the headmaster, Graham Gibson.

There were only two of us from Greenhill who took the A level Chemistry exam in 1961 and Rosamund Smith and I had to travel to Bush Grammar School at Pembroke to take the practical exam.

A notable addition to the teaching staff at Greenhill was Denzil Thomas, former Welsh Rugby cap who joined the school as sports and games master in 1958. Denzil could be a hard task master, but he was also kind and encouraging and even managed to light a spark on enthusiasm in me for Rugby. I was saddened to hear of his death in 2014 after a life which hit the heights, but also had episodes of deep tragedy.

Graham Gibson shook me by the hand and wished me well as I left the ‘Old Greenhill’ in July 1961. It was the end of an era, since the next school year opened at the much larger comprehensive school in Heywood Lane.

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The last official photo at the old Greenhill – 1959 with John, third row down, eighth from right. David, top row, sixth from right Many familiar faces for tagging – feel free !

 

In a sense, I was the last pupil there, being the final alphabetical surname on the register of those who had travelled the journey from first year to upper sixth form.

Sadly, Graham Gibson had only a few years at the new school, before his sudden death in 1964.

I obtained sufficiently high grades at A level in 1961 to gain entry to University College Cardiff, from where I graduated with a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering in 1964.

My years in Tenby were some of the happiest of my life and distant links with the town have continued right up to the present time.

The creation of the Facebook page ‘Tenby through time’ has been an invaluable addition for those of us with fond memories and links to ‘Our school by the Silvery Sea’ and my grateful thanks go to Niki Favorido, Katrina Lidster and the many others who have made this possible.

 

John Winchurch

Cornwall

July 2017

03/07/2017 Posted by | Family History, Tenby | 1 Comment

my first bog

31/08/2015 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

Who was Thomas Plucknett ?

Over twenty years ago, my late father, Francis Victor Winchurch, an experienced Family Historian, was struggling to solve the mystery of just who Thomas Plucknett was.

Stories of the Plucknetts of Thorverton had been told through the generations. I have a treasured photograph of my great grandmother Alice PLUCKNETT Sternberg holding me as a toddler.

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Alice was then almost ninety and her middle name carried Plucknetts to my generation and beyond. I still have her wooden travelling trunk, carefully restored by my brother some years ago, with the intials “A.P.S.” on its lid.

There is little doubt about the validity of the family line back from Alice, who was born in Bristol in 1856, the daughter of Elizabeth (nee Plucknett) Sternberg.

Elizabeth Plucknett was born in Exeter in 1829, the eldest daughter of Thomas Loaring Plucknett, baker of Thorverton.

Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875

Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875

and his first wife Harriet (nee Tootell)

Thomas Loaring Plucknett was the eldest son of Thomas Plucknett, born (according to the 1851 census) in Great Torrington. Thomas had a successful life in Thorverton. After joining the Royal Marines at the age of (about) fifteen in Plymouth in 1795, he became a drummer and was discharged (unfit) in 1802.

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Thomas Plucknett, recruited into the Royal Marines on 22 June 1795 aged 15. Occupation- Labourer, Complexion – Fair, Eyes – Hazel, Hair – Dark brown. Discharged – Deemed unfit – 10 May 1802.

Thomas married Elizabeth Loaring (notice the continuity of Christian names) on 18 August 1800 and the couple settled in Thorverton, where the Loarings had lived for two generations.

Thomas and Elizabeth had two children in addition to Thomas Loaring, Sarah (1803) and James (1814)

Thomas was landlord of the Bell Inn in Thorverton and also a pig dealer. In addition he was active in both the Nonconformist and Anglican churches at various times and held property in the village.

There is, I understand, on the wall of the Exeter Inn, Thorverton, a list of the sittings allocated to parishioners in 1840. Thos Plucknett senior is listed as a pig dealer, while Thos Plucknett junior was a baker. Their families shared Pew No 41.

He died at the age of seventy eight in 1860 and is buried in Thorverton churchyard. His gravestone gives his date of death as 1 February 1860 and age at death as 75, although his death certificate , says 78. The latter is more likely.

This leads us to the “tricky bit”.

The only Thomas Plucknett birth record that fits, is an entry in Exeter St Sidwells for 24 February 1781 recording the birth of Thomas Plucknett BASE BORN (my capitals and emphasis) son of Margaret Plucknett.

That is it – no hint where Margaret was from and, of course no indication of the father’s name.

This birth occurred, of course, several decades before civil registration and birth certificates.

The next logical step for any family historian is to search parish records for a Margaret Plucknett who might fit in terms of age and proximity to Exeter.

There is really only one obvious candidate and that was and is Margaret Plucknett, then aged about thirty and from Great Torrington. My father and several other researchers noted this but discrepancies were soon obvious and the puzzle has, as far a I am aware, been left unsolved for the past twenty years.

A quick look at the archives reveals that there have been and still are Plucknetts in and around Great Torrington since about 1600. This is including records from Black Torrington, Sheepwash, Shebbear, Bideford, Ilfracombe, as well as Great Torrington itself.

At this point I should acknowledge the comparative ease of doing  genealogical research from the comfort of one’s own laptop, with increasingly comprehensive transcriptions and, more satisfyingly images, of parish and other records. I doubt that I would have had the patience to piece together this story if it had involved journeys  to distant registry offices.

Starting with supposition that Thomas’s belief that he was born in Great Torrington was correct, I looked firstly for a Thomas Plucknett born or baptised around 1778 to 1782. Thomas was unlikely to have been born after that and been accepted into the Royal Marines in 1795, although you never know !

Perhaps not surprisingly, I found no such record, but what I did find was the baptism in Great Torrington in January 1781 of Richard Plucknett

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Add to this the Anglican Marriage of Richard Plucknett (father) and Margaret Perkin at Great Torrington on 19 Apr 1775 and the likelihood of this Margaret Plucknett being Thomas’s mother begins to recede.

Richard and Margaret also had a daughter, another Margaret Plucknett, born three years previously in 1778. It might be this Margaret who gave birth to Robert Plucknet ‘base born’ in Bideford in 1793.

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Tragedy struck this family in several ways during the next few years.

In 1787 Margaret died. Her record confirms that her husband was Richard and still alive, but worse was to come.

Richard senior was convicted of the theft of oak planks at Exeter Assizes in 1791 and sentenced to transportation to Australia for fourteen years. He arrived in New South Wales in 1792, but I have failed to find any further news about him. I can only assume that he died in Australia. One online family tree gives his death date as 1794, but the Richard who died that year was sadly his son, Richard Plucknutt Junr (sic) at the age of thirteen.

There seems to be no Margaret Plucknett around in 1780 – 81 who is likely to have been the mother of Thomas.

BUT, I found a reference online to a burial of Margaret Plucknett in 1833 in Great Torrington at the age of 81, so born around 1751. A good fit. I have yet to find a Margaret Plucknet (ett) (ott) (utt) and variations, either married or unmarried who fits the bill.

One of the many interesting aspects of this mystery is the choice of the name Thomas for the baby, so I began to look for Plucknett daughters born around 1750 who had Thomas as a father and I found just one candidate. Grace Plucknett baptised in Great Torrington on 7 January 1751. Shortly after the birth of Thomas in January 1781, the banns were called beginning on the 25th of March for the marriage  of Grace Plucknett and Richard Cudmore. Since this was only a few weeks after the birth of Thomas, my theory is this:

Grace was the first, and it appears only child of Thomas Plucknett and Mary Rawleigh. They had married seven months before on 1 June 1750 in Great Torrington, when Thomas was twenty. Mary Plucknett was buried on 17 September 1751 when her daughter, Grace, was only eight months old. So Grace Plucknett was herself ‘conceived out of wedlock’ and probably only too aware of the stigma attached to that tag two hundred and thirty years ago.

I believe that Grace travelled from Great Torrington to Exeter for the birth of Thomas. She may have been helped by members of her late mother’s family, the Rawleighs, of whom there were several at that time in both Great Torrington and Exeter.

In some respects this story seems unlikely, but, in the absence of more information I leave it to posterity with the hope that more pieces of the jigsaw (perhaps DNA) will be found. At present there is no way of knowing if Richard Cudmore was my 5G Grandfather. What is more certain is that my family’s Plucknett line goes back to their arrival in North Devon around 1580 or earlier. Before that, the Somerset Villages of Haselbury Plucknett and Preston Plucknett suggest an origin for the anglicised version of the French ‘Plugenet’  To quote Wikipedia “Preston Plucknett is a suburb of Yeovil in Somerset, England. It was once a small village, and a separate civil parish until 1930, when it was absorbed into the neighbouring parishes of Yeovil, Brympton and West Coker.[1] It was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as “Preston” (Old English: preost tun, “priest farm/settlement”) when its lord was Ansger of Montacute (Alfward before 1066). In the 13th century, Alan de Plugenet was lord of the manor and added his surname to Preston.

See Wikipedia

Alan de Plugenet

If you read this account it points out that the second Alan de Plugenet died in 1319 without issue. It would seem likely that Plucknetts in more recent centuries were named after their village of origin, rather than because they were descendants of the Norman barons, as some have suggested.

The fate of Richard Plucknett and fellow transported convicts

I was shocked whilst researching this post by the astounding inhumanity meted out to men and women in the late 18th and early 19th century by courts throughout Britain and Ireland with regard to transportation to ‘the colonies’, for what were often relatively minor offences. It was bad enough to send Richard Plucknett to Australia for fourteen years for stealing wood, but the conditions of passage and the hard labour they were forced to do on arrival amounted to a de facto death sentence in many cases. Quoting Wikipedia again  ” Between 1788 and 1868, approximately 162,000 convicts were transported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government.

Richard Plucknett is listed amongst the convicts who left Yarmouth Roads, Norfolk, in June 1791 on the East India Company ship Pitt He arrived in New South Wales in 1792. What became of him in Australia remains a mystery.

The 'Pitt' (circa 1787) near Dover returning from China 1787

The ‘Pitt’ (circa 1787) near Dover returning from China 1787

See Wikipedia

Convicts in Australia

John Winchurch

August 2015

14/08/2015 Posted by | Devon, Family History, Great Torrington, Plucknett | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vic Winchurch : 5 February 1914 – 30 July 1997

Francis Victor Winchurch, (known for most of his life as ‘Vic’), was born on 5 February 1914 at 12, Waterloo Road, Smethwick Birmingham.

Marion and Vic Spring 1914

Marion with her infant son Vic
Spring 1914

Pictured here with Marion in the garden of Pargeter Road, as the horror that became the First World War began in the summer of 1914.

He was the first child of Percy Walter Winchurch, an established garage proprietor and Marion (nee Brown), who had owned her own millinery business in Birmingham. The family lived in Pargeter Road in Smethwick, within walking distance of what Marion always referred to as ‘the Place’ – Winchurch Brothers Motors, in Sandon Road.

The business had been established in 1905, by Percy and Roland, his younger brother,  in Ladypool Road, Moseley and moved to new premises in Bearwood around 1912. By the time Vic was born, the business was thriving and both Percy and Roland seem to have prospered during the war years. One episode of note is that Percy appeared at Kings Heath Police Court on 21 November 1916 charged with  ‘not obscuring headlights’ on 29 October 1916, for which he was fined 10 shillings. This was, of course at the height of the Great War, but how much real risk ‘not obscuring headlights’ caused is a matter of speculation !

Percy and his family seem to have managed to have some leisure time during the war. Vic is pictured here on the beach (possibly Weston Super Mare) with his maternal grandfather, Henry Ambrose Brown

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Vic looking up at his grandfather in the summer of 1915

I do not recall which school Vic attended up to the age of eleven but from that age he was educated at King Edward the Sixth Grammar School, Five Ways, Birmingham. He was not happy with his primary education, which I do know was in the private rather than state sector. This experience was, at least partly, the reason behind both my brother David and myself being entirely state educated.

Winchurch Brothers Limited played an important role in all our lives, especially my father’s.

Vic’s sister Jeanne Marion Winchurch arrived in the world in 1919, the year after the armistice and became an adored member of the family from the beginning.

Marion, Jeanne and Vic Torquay 1925 (click to enlarge)

Marion, Jeanne and Vic
Torquay 1925
(click to enlarge)

Here she is with Vic and their mother around 1925 at Torquay, when Jeanne was seven and Vic twelve.

In the nineteen twenties and thirties Percy, Marion, Vic and Jeanne, often accompanied by Marion’s mother, Alice Brown, travelled frequently to Devon and Cornwall.

Vic became a keen photographer, developing and printing his own photographs. This is the inscription in album made for his grandmother Alice in 1931, mostly containing photos from a previous summer’s visit to Cornwall.

Alice

Alice Plucknett Brown (nee Sternberg)

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Vic left school at sixteen, in 1930 and trained as a Weights and Measures Inspector (now known as a Trading Standards Officer) with Smethwick Borough Council. I know from conversations with him in later life that his heart was never in that job. He had inherited a love of music, particularly musicals and opera from Marion’s side of the family and perhaps something closer to that interest would have suited him better.

I do know that Percy had misgivings about his abilities, both in practical and managerial roles, with particular regard to a future in Winchurch brothers. A letter from Roland to Percy in 1935 makes this clear :

On 24th March 1936 Roland writes:

” I understand that you have no wish for either your son or my son to take any part in the business with the view to carrying on after we are both deceased”

A fairly chilling remark, which was not refuted in Percy’s reply.

His growing interest in music led to the beginnings of a record collection, first seventy eights, then vinyl and lastly CDs and DVDs towards the end of his life.

In 1935 he became the proud owner of a Marconi Radiogram, a twenty first birthday present from Percy and Marion. This had a rather chequered life in terms of reliability, but played no small part in my own future interest in sound reproduction and electronics, not to mention music and opera.

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Vic also bought book and record cabinets made by Minty of Oxford. I still have some of these, along with the cabinet from the Radiogram, but, alas the working parts from the latter were scrapped many years ago !

Undoubtedly, one of the additional attractions of record browsing was the fact that the local music shop in Smethwick belonged to the Woodhouse family. Record sleeves with the Woodhouse name printed on them were common in his collection. Mr and Mrs Woodhouse had three attractive daughters, Mabel, Nina and Dora, plus a son, Ken. That Vic found Nina particularly appealing was frequently alluded to in later years by Margaret, my mother, who also happened to be Nina’s childhood friend from the age of five. One of Vic’s colleagues, also a personal friend, was a young man named Harold Chidlow. Harold seems to have won the race for Nina’s affections, because they were married in 1940.

Vic was a keen cyclist and went out on solo and group outings.

Here he is at Polperro, on a tour of Devon and Cornwall in the early 1930’s.  Vic is at the top of the group and I believe his companions were from Smethwick Council, but cannot put names to other faces.

Polperro ? August 1932

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Vic on the left with cycling friends in Cornwall.

In October 1938 Vic left Smethwick to work in Northallerton as an Additional Inspector of Weights and measures for North Riding of Yorkshire Council. He was there when war broke out in September 1939, but left in December 1940 to move back to his parents’ home.

To quote from a letter of application to Buckinghamshire County Council dated 30 January 1941

“I resigned voluntarily owing to unsatisfactory service conditions”.

Now my father was generally a tolerant, loyal and uncomplaining man, so I can only conclude that things in Northallerton must have been really bad for him to leave and return south without a job!

In the same letter and in a similar letter of application to Dorset he notes that he is “twenty seven and single…I am of course liable for military service, but as far as I can ascertain it is not likely that I shall be called up for some time to come….”

Within two weeks of writing this he was married and had joined the Royal Navy !

Vic Winchurch married Margaret Downing, who worked as a typist for the engineering firm Bellis and Morcom in Birmingham on 8 February 1941.

Francis Victor Winchurch, Margaret Downing, Wedding

Marion, Percy, Nina Woodhouse, Bill Marsh, Vic. Margaret, Jeanne, Albert Downing (Margaret’s uncle), Annie Downing (Margaret’s mother)

I think that it is fair to say that up to this point in his life Vic had had a fairly privileged and easy life. He bought a motor boat in the late 1930s which was moored on the River Severn at Stourport, but seems to have lost interest and abandoned it.

His next experience of life afloat was very much harder and character forming though.

Vic quickly gravitated to the newly developed technology known as Radar. He became a Radar Petty Officer by the end of the Second World War , serving on, amongst others, a converted merchant ship, HMS Maplin and the battle ship HMS Valiant on convoy duties to South Africa. One of his best friends and a colleague at Smethwick, Den Brotheridge, was the first Allied serviceman to die in the D day landings.

In the middle of that war, on 27 September 1942, I was born in South Road Smethwick, the elder of Vic and Margaret’s two sons. David followed shortly after Vic was ‘demobbed’, born on 13 December 1946 in Handsworth.

Vic had, of course, seen very little of me during the first three years of my life and my memory is that he was hesitant and had trouble dealing with a young son.

For my part, I had undoubtedly grown up surrounded by adoring grandparents, who to a large extent had taken over the role of my father. Taking into account the hardships and deprivations of the war and post war years, I was probably a difficult and rather spoilt child.

I think the immediate post war period was extremely difficult for both Vic and Margaret.

Perhaps despite Percy’s misgivings, Vic was given various jobs at Winchurch Brothers. I remember him mostly serving petrol and acting as storeman. He certainly didn’t take on any managerial role as far as I am aware.

We moved into a house in Handsworth in 1946, in Thornhill Road, to be precise. Number 97 had been owned by a Miss Allday with whom my mother had worked, appropriately enough at Margaret Street Library in the centre of Birmingham.

Unusually for the location and time, the house had central heating, a gravity system powered by a coke guzzling stove in the kitchen.

It also had a strange electricity supply, It was a DC (Direct Current) system which survived in parts of Birmingham into the post war years. It meant that many household appliances, including the treasured radiogram, could not be used at Thornhill Road.

In the summer of 1949 Jeanne took her own life, after discovering that Peter, the former German prisoner of war who she had met and planned to marry, had secretly married another girl in Germany . This devastating event had repercussions for the whole of Vic’s family for many years to come.

Very soon afterwards the decision was made to leave Handsworth. Margaret hated the house and the area, so it was with a feeling of relief all round that we moved twelve miles out of Birmingham to West Hagley in Worcestershire in the summer of 1950.

Vic commuted to and from work at Winchurch Motors using the company van, painted in bright green livery. I remember travelling with Dad along the ‘Hagley Mile’ dual carriageway that dropped the A456 from the plateau upon which Birmingham was built to the lower, softer fields to the west. On one particular occasion, when I was a passenger, he persuaded the Austin A40 van to hit the dizzy speed of sixty miles per hour !

Percy was now making plans for at least a partial retirement. I believe that previous ideas of a move to Devon, or more likely Cornwall, were abandoned because of so many poignant memories of holidays there with Jeanne. Percy turned to another county that he had visited briefly with Marion, just before the war began in 1939.

Pembrokeshire.

The emerging plan in 1950 was that Percy would sell his share of Winchurch Brothers and buy out or go into partnership with Vic Morris proprietor of St Brides Garage in Saundersfoot.

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Vic was to be involved in a new venture building small boats to meet the demands of a growing leisure activity and carry the family forward into the second half of the twentieth century.

With characteristic drive and commitment, Percy bought a small caravan to act as a base in Pembrokeshire whilst preparations for a permanent move were under way.

The Coronation of 1953 seemed to be an omen of new beginnings, but three months later everything changed

Percy Winchurch suffered a massive stroke and died within few hours, ironically, in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Selly Oak.

I will never forget the shock and sorrow on my father’s face when he came to my bedroom that night, with tears in his eyes, to tell me the news.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, Vic faced major decisions with long term implications for us all.

I passed my eleven plus examination the following year and spent a few weeks at King Edward VI Grammar School in Stourbridge before transferring to Greenhill Grammar School in Tenby in November 1954. David moved from Hagley primary school to the Council school in Tenby, then, in turn passed his eleven plus to join me at Greenhill.

Vic had made the decision to go ahead with the move to Pembrokeshire, but the motor trade was dropped in favour of the boat building venture. The new company was known as ‘Saundersfoot Marine Company Ltd’.

Vic moved to Tenby in the summer of 1954, having overseen the sale of Percy’s share of Winchurch Brothers to Roland (who in turn sold the business on to a larger midlands motor business before his own death in 1955)

We moved to Greengate, St John’s Hill, Tenby on the ninth of November 1954. Vic and Margaret bought the house from the Dale family, who had a music shop in the High Street and whose son Laurie still operates the business.

Two days after we arrived, Tenby was hit by a tremendous storm, which caused huge damage along the whole of the west side of Britain. A few months later a large section of the North Cliff collapsed, crushing a shelter on the North Walk below and killing two young people. Our neighbour, Crofton John, who was a foreman with the town council, dug out the body of Beth Daniels, who had also lived in St John’s Hill. She was only twenty one.

Vic’s involvement with Saundersfoot Marine was, sadly, not a great success. However, it did provide both David and myself a grounding in boatcraft and general woodworking skills that we carried forward into later life. We were encouraged to both build and sail boats. We joined Tenby Sea Cadets and had the harbour and town as our playground. Despite the hardships, we were the lucky children of the nineteen fifties.

In 1956 Vic made his exit from Saundersfoot Marine and made a move to get work delivering new cars from the Austin factory at Longbridge.

Margaret, David and I stayed in Tenby until 1961, with Vic adding the long drive to and from the Midlands to Tenby to his weekly total – often several thousand miles. He accepted his new situation without bitterness or rancour and I never heard him complain. Dad even managed to teach me to drive and pass my driving test in 1960.

During this time he found a new passion in his life, family history.

Starting with the Winchurch family bible he delved back into the nineteenth century, then the eighteenth and ultimately as far into the past as the fifteenth century with the male line. He then branched out onto other lines and produced much of the material that eventually found its way onto this website.

He joined Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry, rising in its administration to Vice President and received the honour of being granted Fellowship of the Royal Genealogical Society.

His regular trips to London facilitated visits to Somerset House and the other archive institutions located in the capital.

Vic retired in 1976,when he was sixty two and he, Margaret and his mother Marion moved to Ledbury in Herefordshire. His trips to London were now more organised, being free from the constraints of work and he drove there well into his eighties. His sons and grandchildren were now scattered as far as Cumbria, but he relished the journeys to visit and take part in family life. This was in spite of increasing problems with the health of Marion ( who died in 1982), Margaret, whom he lost in 1993 and himself. Towards the end of his life, Vic was receiving treatment for prostate and later bone cancer. He quite happily travelled to the Royal Marsden Hospital for pioneering treatment, Despite this, he flew unaccompanied to Australia for a Family History conference and stayed with Helen and Malcolm Swaine, distant cousins and genealogy correspondents.

He found a new interest in his later years in the form of home video end retained to the last an addiction to ‘The Archers’

Vic drove from Ledbury to Cumbria to visit me, just a few months before he died in Ledbury Cottage Hospital on 30 July 1997, with David and myself at his bedside

He was generous and uncomplaining to the last and I still miss his interest and companionship.

19961225-0001

Francis Victor Winchurch
Christmas Day 1996
Talking about Gustav Mahler

19970500-0001

My last photograph of Francis Victor Winchurch in May 1997
Two months before his death

 

04/02/2014 Posted by | Family History, Winchurch | 10 Comments

Ann Brooks – later Shakespear – later Winchurch

The Four Stones on Clent Hills in Winter

Ann was my great great grandmother, born in Dudley in 1793, died in Aston, Birmingham in 1875.

Almost a hundred years after her death, in 1973, my father, Francis Victor Winchurch was in correspondence with a fellow genealogist researching Shakespeare families and noted that:
“The following entries appear to be relevant to my problem:”
TIPTON
Thomas Winchurch married Ann Shakespeare at Tipton on 25 March 1820. He was 33, she was 27.
Both of them had been married before, since Thomas appears in the register as widr, Ann as widw.

DUDLEY
Baptism 10 Feb 1815 – Lucy d. of Joseph and Ann Shakespear (sic) of Netherton, Nailor
Burial 18 Aug 1816 – Lucy Shakespear, Dudley. 2 yrs.
Burial 11 Feb 1818 – Joseph Shakespear, Dudley. 31

He goes on to say that he has been unable to locate the marriage of Joseph and Ann.

So, who was Ann and when and where did she marry Joseph Shakespeare ?
Dad had clearly done a lot of searching without success, but fifteen years or so after he died I found something in the International Genealogical Index (which was published online by the Mormon church, but has now been superseded by a more general search engine):

Joseph Shakespear married Ann Brook at Clent on 24 Nov 1812

Could this be my great great grandmother at the age of nineteen? My first reaction was one of dismissal, since Clent is even now a small village about eight miles from Dudley, where Ann was born (she listed Dudley as her birthplace in several census returns) and a similar distance from Netherton and Rowley Regis.
It took me some time to solve the mystery and provide a reasonably convincing argument for the marriage being the one for which both I and my father before me had been searching.

It seems that until the early nineteenth century, Rowley Regis church was a chapel of ease belonging to the parish of Clent. The distance between the two (some six miles) gave rise to much inconvenience, particularly with the growth in the population of Rowley. They were separated by a Private Act of Parliament in 1841.
Until that time, the Vicar at Clent frequently insisted that Rowley parishioners went to St Leonard’s church at Clent for a marriage rather than going to Rowley himself to perform the service. Particularly during the incumbency of the Rev. Lyttelton Perry (1780 to 1817) a great number of Rowley people travelled to Clent to be married, presumably because the vicar preferred that couples should come to him at Clent than he should journey to Rowley. However, in 1841 an Act of Parliament was obtained severing Rowley Regis from Clent and creating it into a separate parish. The preamble to the Act states that the vicarage of Clent was six miles from Rowley and that while Clent was an agricultural parish with a population of 900, Rowley Regis was a mining district with a population of 10,000.

The marriage of Ann Brook and Joseph Shakespeare on 24 November 1812 was towards the end of the period when Lyttelton Perry was Vicar of Clent.
Perry, it seems, was not popular with many of his parishioners. Many entries in the Parish Registers were missing during his incumbency. Thankfully, some of these were retrieved from the copies known as the ‘Bishop’s transcripts’ held in Worcester. He followed his father John Perry as vicar of St Leonards from 1780-1817 and appears to have been particularly keen to improve his image for although he was baptised Littleton and used this spelling in his early years at Clent, he subsequently changed the spelling to Lyttelton, perhaps to create an impression of a connection with the Lyttelton family of Hagley Hall close by.
Hardly a man of the people !

Joseph Shakespear and Ann Brooks had their marriage banns called twice, first in 1810, when Ann was seventeen and Joseph twenty four :

entry 531: Joseph Shakespeare otpo Rowley Regis and Ann Brook ots 9,16. 23 Dec 1810.
otpo = of the parish of
ots = of the same (parish)

A marriage after the calling of banns must be solemnized within three months of the last occasion on which banns were called.
This would have put their earliest wedding date at 24 December 1810. It seems that it did not happen. One can only guess at the reason. Having to travel twelve miles on foot in the middle of winter might be a likely explanation.

St Leonards Church Clent in winter
Photo by kind permission of Jeremy on Flickr

In view of Ann’s age (seventeen) there might equally have been family opposition.

As a matter of interest there is a record of another Shakespear(e) Brook(s) calling of banns without a subsequent marriage in 1810

Benjamin Shakespeare otpo Rowley Regis and Mary Brook ots
entry 492: Banns 29April, 6 & 13 May

The second occasion on which Joseph and Ann’s banns were called was late in 1812

entry 632: Joseph Shakespear ba otpo Rowley Regis and Ann Brook wid ots 8, 15, 22 November 1812
They were married two days after the last calling on Tuesday 24 November 1812.

Joseph Shakespeare (signed Shakespear) ba, otp with Rowly Regis and Ann Brook (signed Brooks) wid, ots, by banns. Wit: Phoebe (X) Craddock, Louisa Perry.

These last entries raise a few interesting points.
I have not seen the originals, nor indeed photo copies, but am relying on the CD ROM transcripts produced by the Staffordshire Parish Registers Society. These contain more detail that the basic information on the Mormon website. In particular the fact that both Joseph and Ann are recorded as having signed their names rather than making a mark as many did in the Clent registers.
It is also puzzling that Ann Brook (who I believe was just nineteen in 1812) is recorded as a widow, whereas the same Ann Brook (presumably) was not thus recorded in 1810. The most likely explanation is the notoriously variability of Lyttelton Perry’s register entries. It does seem highly unlikely that seventeen year old Ann Brooks had become nineteen year old Ann Brooks (widow) within the space of two years.

Ann and Joseph’s daughter Lucy was christened at St Thomas, Dudley in February 1815 when Ann was still only twenty one.

Baptism 10 Feb 1815 – Lucy d. of Joseph and Ann Shakespear (sic) of Netherton, Nailor

The fact this and subsequent parish register entries are in Dudley and not Rowley (or Clent) perhaps gives credence to the idea that there had been family opposition to their marriage. This may have been the reason for the lack of a marriage ceremony following the calling of banns in 1810. There seems to be no further reference to Joseph or Ann in Clent Parish after 1812.

Sadly, Lucy died at the age of two and was buried in Dudley on 18 August 1816. Her father, Joseph survived her by only five months and was also buried in Dudley on 11 February 1818. There was a severe winter in Britain in 1814 and additionally, 1816 was known as the ‘year without a summer. Smallpox, diphtheria and typhus were common during these years, so it could have been disease, starvation, or a combination of both that led to their deaths. Life was very hard for poor people in the nineteenth century. Joseph was a nailor (or ‘nailer’). There is a rebuilt Nail Shop at the Black Country Museum in Dudley and as its website explains :

“Nail making was a well-established trade in the Black Country; at its peak around 1820 there were over 50,000 nailers at work in the area.
Principle centres were Sedgley, Gornal, the Lye, Halesowen, Oldhill and Dudley. It was essentially a cottage industry, the nailers worked for middlemen known as ‘foggers’, or as outworkers for larger firms.
Conditions tended to be harder than in the chain making industry with many more women and children employed.”
Ann was left childless and a widow probably continuing to work as a nail maker (but there is no record of that )

A brief note here about Ann’s possible origins. It is brief because these thin threads are all I have !
Ann (Nancy) Brooks was christened at St Thomas, Dudley on 25 Aug 1793, the daughter of John and Sarah Brooks. This is the only baptism entry for Dudley that fits with Ann’s birthplace and year.
John and Sarah might be the John Brookes and Sarah Troman who married in Halesowen on 9 January 1793.

Thomas Winchurch and Ann Shakespear may have known one another before 1819. It seems to be too much of a coincidence that Thomas’s first cousin, George Winchurch married Fanny Brookes within a year of and in the same church in Tipton as Thomas Winchurch and Ann (Brooks). Admittedly Fanny was born in Madeley Wood, Shropshire and Ann in Dudley, but the populations of the coal and iron areas of the Black country and the industrial centre of Ironbridge and surroundings appear to have been very fluid in terms of movement. Both had links with Abraham Darby (and successors) for example, who was born near Dudley and died at Madeley. Transport between the two would have been relatively easy (for the time) via the River Severn. I am also disregarding the difference between ‘Brookes’ and ‘Brooks’ as being typical variants. My suspicion is that Ann and Fanny were cousins, possibly first cousins like Thomas and George Winchurch. There is a further coincidence in that George and Fanny called their youngest daughter ‘Lucy’, the name of Ann’s dead child.
In any event Thomas Winchurch and Ann Shakespear were married in Tipton on 25 March 1820. It is likely that nine year old Sarah Winchurch, Thomas’s daughter from his first marriage was present because she seems to have been close to her father and stepmother throughout their lives.

Thomas Winchurch – Ann Shakespear
marriage certificate from Tipton

Interestingly, both Thomas and Ann made ‘marks’ rather than signing the marriage register. This may, however, have been the result of the curate John Howells either assuming that his parishioners could not sign their names or making the entries this way for speed.

On 20 June 1820 Hannah Winchurch daughter of Thomas and Ann was christened at St Thomas Dudley. (Note that there was less than three months between those two events ).

St James the Less (Birmingham) from Bishops Transcripts
Hannah d of Thomas and Ann Winchurch, Love Lane buried 30 Dec1821 1½ years

Sadly, Hannah was the second of Ann’s daughters to die as a toddler.
Sometime between June 1820 and December 1821, Thomas and Ann had moved to Birmingham, to Love Lane in Aston to be precise, which was the home at which their next five children were born. Thomas was a glass blower, like his father, Paul and glass making was spreading eastwards from Dudley to Birmingham. In all probability they travelled on a barge on the newly constructed canal system between the Black Country and Birmingham. The same means of transport also helped Birmingham and particularly Aston to grow into a busy centre of industry and technology away from the basics of mining and forging that had nurtured Dudley and it surroundings for centuries. Aston was the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the early nineteenth century. Metalworking of all kinds flourished in the town. Artefacts made in Aston included buckles for shoes, blades, pins, nails, screws, bolts and buttons. Some craftsmen made brass fittings such as handles for coffins. There were also many gunsmiths, leather workers and some locksmiths. In the late 18th century glass making boomed in Stourbridge, Brierley Hill, Birmingham and Aston and continued in those areas well into the twentieth century.
Thomas and Ann had five children born at Love Lane :

Thomas bapt 31 Dec 1821at St Philips Birmingham (must have died in infancy. Name reused, as was common)
Thomas bapt 30 Aug 1823 at St Philips Birmingham
Ann bapt 23 Jul 1825 at St Philips Birmingham
William bapt 2 Aug 1828 at St Philips Birmingham
(William) bapt 1 Jan 1830 at St Philips Birmingham

BUT that last entry is from the bishop’s transcripts and has to be wrong. Benjamin (my great grandfather) was born on 3 December 1829 (so the date fits for his christening) and the first William was still alive.

By the time of the 1841 census the family was living at 1 Lord Street and now consisted of:
Thomas Winchurch, 50, Glass Maker, Not in county, (ie not born in Warwickshire ..Dudley was in Worcestershire)
Ann Winchurch, 50 ,Not in county,
Thomas Winchurch,19, Glass Maker,WAR,
Ann Winchurch 15 WAR,
William Winchurch,13, WAR,
Benjamin Winchurch,11, WAR,

So, all the ages are approximately right. Ann senior’s date of birth as entered in documents such as censuses varied a lot through her lifetime but tellingly finished as eighty two on her death certificate in 1875, where her cause of death is listed as ‘old age’. This finally confirms her year of birth in Dudley as 1793.
Notice that the ‘second’ William has become Benjamin, aged 11 in 1841, which agrees with Benjamin’s birth date of  3 December 1829.

In the 1851 census they had moved to 3 Lord Street
ref. HO 107/2061
Aston 395/2/12
(note transcribed MINCHURCD by Find My Past – disputed twice by JW)
3 Lord Street Aston Birmingham

Thomas Winchurch Head 62 Glassmaker Warwickshire Warwick
Ann Winchurch Wife 47
Ann Winchurch Daughter 25 Dressmaker Birmingham
Benjamin Son 21 Glassblower Birmingham
Thomas Nephew 3 Birmingham

Thomas died on 27 February 1856 at the Cross Keys in Aston. Ann continued to run the pub after his death. There is a record of a robbery from the Birmingham Gazette: Saturday 29 September 1860:

On Monday night, the house of Mrs Winchurch, Cross Keys, Lower Windsor Street, was entered by forcing the cellar grating and several boxes of cigars, £5 in gold and silver and a till containing a small sum in farthings and postage stamps were stolen; four boxes of cigars and the till were afterwards found at a short distance from the house.’

Benjamin had his own personalised tankard with his name and the Cross Keys logo engraved on it.

Benjamin Winchurch’s tankard
Cross Keys 1860

1861
ref RG9 Reel 3

Cross Keys 45 Upper Windsor Street

Ann Winchurch Head Wid 68 Lic Vic Worcs Dudley
Ann Winchurch Dau UM 34 Dressmaker Birmingham
Benjamin Winchurch Son UM 31 Glassmaker Birmingham
Caroline Wain Serv UM 17 House servant Derby

By the time of the 1871 census, Ann was living with her daughter, also named Ann, who had married William John Hicken in 1865 when she was forty.

1871 census
Front Of Brearley Street, Birmingham
HICKIN, Wm, Head, M 36 1835, Maltster, Warwickshire
HICKIN, Ann, Wife, F 40 1831, Warwickshire
WINCHURCH, Ann, Mother, F, 79, 1792, Licensed Victualler, Dudley, Worcestershire

Notice that she is still registered as a Licensed Victualler, but by this time a new landlord had taken over the Cross Keys. It is possible that ownership was still in the hands of the Winchurch family, but I have no evidence either way.

Ann died of  ‘old age’ Ladywood Birmingham on 19 April 1875, aged 82 – confirming her year of birth as 1793. Her daughter Ann Hicken was present at her death.

Ann and Thomas had at least sixteen grandchildren, one of whom was Percy Walter Winchurch, my grandfather. Percy often spoke of his Black Country roots. I believe that Ann Brooks was an important influence on the Winchurch family in terms of survival and prosperity.

Winter picture by Elizabeth Harper

Two hundred years after her long walks to and from Netherton to Clent  ‘in the bleak midwinter’, I salute her memory.

John Winchurch

November 2012

18/11/2012 Posted by | Brooks, Clent, Dudley, Family History, Rowley Regis, Winchurch | , | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Benjamin Winchurch 1829 – 1891

Benjamin Winchurch was my great grandfather. He was born at 3, Lord Street Birmingham on 3 December 1829, married Ellen Eliza Tester in London in 1862 and died at 120, King Edwards Road, Birmingham on 7 April 1891.

His parents were Thomas and Ann Winchurch, who for part of their lives were landlords of the Cross Keys Inn at 45, Upper Windsor Street, Aston, Birmingham.

Benjamin was a glassmaker by trade and I believe that he was the ‘B Winchurch’ cosignatory on the plea from about 1875

To the Worshipful the mayor the Aldermen and Members of the Town Council of the borough of Birmingham.

GENTLEMEN ,

WE, the undersigned Artizan GLASS MKERS residing in the Borough of Birmingham, having associated ourselves into a working Committee, for the purpose of founding an INDUSTRIAL MUSEUM, which it is intended shall represent the working of one of the staple Trades of this great Town, Pray your Honourable council : .

I To give your countenance, both individually and collectively, to the exertions of your Memorialsts.

2. To provide a room, either in Aston Hall or in some other public building belonging to the corporation, and have therein suitable arrangements made for the reception of such articles as may be contributed.

3. To use your influence with the science and Art Department of the Government to obtain from South Kensington a special Loan of Glass Articles having skill or artistic Merit displayed in them.

4. To consider if a grant could be made by the Town towards furthering the object your Memorialists have in view, in accordance with the expressed desire of the government that Industrial Museums shall be founded in large towns.

5. The great advantages of Industrial Museums to a manufacturing population have long been admitted, and it would be superfluous for us to repeat the arguments that may be used in favour of establishing them.

Your Memorialists urge the following reasons in support of their prayer

FIRST That the industry which your Memorialists represent would be peculiarly benefited by the establishment of such a Museum. The fact is probably within the knowledge of all the members of your honourable Council, that the ancient city of Venice fortunately possesses an Industrial Museum which, containing records of ancient Manufacturing skills has recently had a most important influence in reviving the art of Glass Making in that city. Other and similar examples might be mentioned, but we think one good illustration will be sufficient.

SECOND It appears to us that the duty of founding Industrial Museums does not devolve upon any special individual, or body of individuals. Your Memorialists therefore hope that the steps they are now taking, may be followed by persons engaged in other trades, and that the countenance And assistance of your honourable body, to our proposals, may in time be the means of establishing a central Museum for Birmingham, which shall contain some records of all the industries of the town.

THIRD That there is growing feeling in the public mind in favour of Industrial Museums , and your Memorialists hope that by gaining. your countenance the project, it may be the means of inducing; the richer inhabitants of town to present or lend valuable works of Art Manufacture, or that they may be induced to subscribe funds for the purchase of the same

FOURTH That though your memorialists consider that Aston Hall is not the most suitable place for an industrial Museum, yet there are many rooms in that building at present unoccupied which might be fitted up, at trifling expense, sufficient to answer every purpose for the present. At the same time your Memorialists cannot help expressing a hope that it may not be long before a great Industrial Museum may be established, centrally situated in the town of Birmingham, for (be use the whole of this manufacturing district.

FIFTH That the Government officials at South Kensington having hitherto expressed their willingness to lend to the Artisans of the town of Birmingham any articles that might be considered useful as models, your Memorialists believe that if representations were made from the right quarter, there would be no difficulty in getting loans for the use of special industries.

LASTLY That the government having expressed a desire to deal question of industrial Museums by conferring the power upon the corporations of large towns to raise money under the “Free libraries and Museums Act” for that purpose , your Memorialists respectfully suggest that your honourable Council might reasonably take into consideration the granting of a sum of money for establishing a central Industrial Museums for the town and district generally.

Your Memorialists will ever pray, & c &c &c

Names of Committee

T.J.WILKINSON

B. WINCHURCH

S. SANDERS

JOHN COOKE

A. HADDLETON

JOHN GRIFFIN, Hon. Sec.

T. C. BARNES, president.

C1875


12/03/2011 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Thomas Winchurch 1787 – 1856

When I asked my father, Francis Victor Winchurch, about the handwritten entries in our nineteenth century Winchurch family bible, I had no idea of the research that I would be setting in motion over the following fifty years or so !

One of the most interesting entries is this one:

At this stage, we knew that my grandfather, Percy Walter Winchurch, had been born in Aston and that he was the second youngest of Benjamin and Eliza Winchurch’s eight children.

Percy had also referred to the Winchurchs as coming from the ‘Black Country’ (the industrial area centred around Dudley in north Worcestershire) and we knew that the family had kept a public house, the Cross Keys at 45 Upper Windsor Street in Aston. There was also a family history of glass making, from the 1780s, continuing through four generations  to Frederick, one of Percy’s elder brothers, who was a glass blower until his retirement in the nineteen thirties.

Dad set out to find more about the Winchurch family and that task expanded to occupy much of his time until his death in 1997.

One of the first searches was to find out more about Thomas and Ann, Benjamin’s parents. Thomas’s birth was relatively easy, knowing his age at death (from his death certificate)

The birth of a Thomas Winchurch, son of Paul and Sarah Winchurch baptised at St Thomas, Dudley on 6 May 1787 fitted very well.

It was a source of surprise to me that a few generations could take one back so far in history. I remembered Percy vividly up to his death in 1953, when I was ten years old. The idea that HIS grandfather was born in 1787 was a bit of a shock.

When Dad moved on to find out more about Thomas and Ann, things became a little more difficult. The only marriage record that seemed to fit, was that of Thomas Winchurch and Ann Shakespeare in Tipton on 25 March 1820. The complicating factor was that they were described on the marriage certificate as ‘widower’ and ‘widow’ respectively.

There was, however, a record of a marriage between Thomas Winchurch and Mary Holt in Dudley on 8 May 1808, when Thomas would have been 21. Thomas and Mary had a daughter, Sarah, who was baptised on 24 July 1808, but who subsequently died in Dudley in 1810.

Another Sarah was born to them and baptised at St Thomas, Dudley on 24 March 1811 (it was common practice at this time of high infant mortality to re-use names in this way).

At this point, Dad found no more records of Thomas and family in Dudley.

The assumption that Mary died and widower Thomas was the one who married Ann Shakespeare (widow) in Tipton in 1820 was rather a leap of faith at the time, but has formed the basis of his and my subsequent research.

A couple of days ago, following up on a question from Elizabeth, my wife, about details of my mother’s death in 1993 I was looking at copies of the family death certificates that I have and glanced at that of Thomas Winchurch (who died in 1856). For some reason I noticed the name of the person reporting his death; Sarah Littleford, who was present when he died. Wondering why it had not been a member of his extended family, a thought struck me;

Sarah WAS a family member  !

click to enlarge

On line, I very soon found a Sarah Winchurch marrying James Littleford on 6 April 1828 at St Martin’s in Birmingham.

Sarah and James had four children, Henry and John, born in the 1830s and two daughters born in the 1840s, Mary Ann and Eliza.

Mary Ann was the only child to have two first names and they are the names of her mother, Mary and stepmother, Ann !

So, after all these years, it looks as though I have found confirmation of Dad’s research.

I only wish he was around to share the discovery.

The Timeline

Thomas Winchurch was born in 1787. The son of Paul Winchurch and Sarah (nee Shaw). Paul was a glassmaker and his eldest son Thomas followed into the trade in Dudley.

He was twenty-one when he married Mary Holt at St Thomas’s Dudley. Mary was probably about twenty and their daughter Sarah was born only two months later and baptised at St Thomas on 24 July 1808.

Sadly Sarah did not reach her second birthday and was buried at St Thomas on 30 May 1810.

Another Sarah was baptised in the same church on 24 March 1811 and she appears to be the only child who survived from their marriage. Her mother, Mary died in November 1812, when Sarah was only eighteen months old.

In the meantime, Ann Brooks (or Brook) had been born in Dudley in 1793. The date and place are certain from census returns, but the maiden name of the Ann who married Thomas Winchurch in 1820 is less so.

The only Shakespeare marriage to an Ann that fits is that of Joseph Shakespeare to Ann Brook at Clent on 24 November 1812. Ann would have been about 19 and Joseph about 26.

The probable reason for the marriage of a couple from the Black Country at Clent church is interesting.

Until the 19th century, Rowley church was a chapel of ease belonging to the parish of Clent. The distance between the two (some 5 miles or 9 kilometres) gave rise to much inconvenience, particularly with the growth in the population of Rowley.( They were eventually separated by a Private Act of Parliament in 1841). The Vicar at Clent had a habit of insisting that Rowley couples went to him at Clent for a marriage rather than him going to Rowley to perform the service. Clent was a long walk away and some people chose to “live” in Halesowen parish and get married there rather than go to Clent.

If this is indeed how Ann came to be Shakespeare, her life was full of sad events during the next few years, as the following records indicate

DUDLEY

Baptism 10 Feb 1815 – Lucy d. of Joseph and Ann Shakespear (sic) of Netherton, Nailor

Burial     18 Aug 1816 – Lucy Shakespear, Dudley. 2 yrs.

Burial     11 Feb 1818 – Joseph Shakespear, Dudley. 31

Two years later on 25 March 1820 Ann Shakespeare and Thomas Winchurch married at Tipton with Henry and John Horton as witnesses. Presumably nine year old Sarah was present to see her father marry Ann

On 20 June 1820 Hannah Winchurch daughter of Thomas and Ann was baptised at St Thomas Dudley.

Sometime between June 1820 and December 1821, they moved to Birmingham, almost certainly making use of the growing canal network between the Black Country and Birmingham which also helped the glass making industry to move east to Aston. Although glass making in the West Midlands is mainly associated with the Stourbridge area, it was an important Birmingham industry as well. Eighteen glass works were established in Birmingham in 18th and 19th centuries, mostly alongside canals, which were ideally suited to carry the bulky fuels and raw materials required by this industry and its heavy and fragile products.

St James the Less (Birmingham) from Bishops Transcripts

Hannah d of Thomas and Ann Winchurch, Love Lane, buried  30 Dec 1821 1½  years

So, Thomas, his wife Ann and (presumably) daughter Sarah (now ten years old) were living at Love lane where five children were born between 1821 and 1829. The youngest, as the family bible entry records was Benjamin, born on 3 December 1829.

Lord Street and Love Lane led into one another, so were in effect the same street

The year before, seventeen year old Sarah Winchurch seems to have decided it is time to leave, because she married James Littleford on 6 April 1828 at St Martins in Birmingham.

In so doing she removed herself from easy access by family history researchers.

Until today !

11 March 2011

This story has a sad ending. James died in 1887 and the only death record I could find that closely matched was Sarah Littleford aged 70 (our Sarah was 78) in 1889.

Her death certificate reveals that she died from ‘senility and bronchitis’ in the Workhouse Western Road Birmingham on 20 August 1889.

I am guessing that Sarah was incapable of remembering her age accurately.

06/03/2011 Posted by | Family History, Winchurch | Leave a comment

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11/05/2010 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Elizabeth Prosser Sternberg 1854 – 1918

19060000-0100

Elizabeth Prosser Williams with two of her sons, possibly William and Sydney and the family maid (Clara Brittle?) at Kings Norton about 1905

Elizabeth Prosser Sternberg was the eldest daughter of Francis George Sternberg and Elizabeth (née Plucknett). Her second christian name, Prosser came from her great Aunt, another Elizabeth Sternberg, who married Frederick Prosser and was referred to by her family as  ‘Aunt Prosser’

Elzabeth Prosser Sternberg was born in Bristol, like her sister, my great grandmother, Alice Plucknett Sternberg, but spent most of her life in Birmingham. Her father died when she was fifteen, leaving a family of three boys and five girls. I know that Alice had to leave school at fourteen to help to support the family and I assume that Elizabeth did the same.

Six years later, in 1875 Elizabeth married John James Williams, a tailor from Corwen in North Wales and they had three sons

Francis John Williams, born in 1876

William Victor Williams, born in 1877 and

Sydney Sternberg Williams, born in 1879

John Williams is missing in the 1881 census and I think I have located him in Birmingham General Hospital as a patient. In any event, he died in the 1890s, leaving Elizabeth widowed with the three sons who all  joined the family trade of tailoring and it appears to have been a profitable business, since they lived in some style in Kings Norton, an expensive residential area of Birmingham in Victorian and Edwardian England.

Elizabeth Prosser Williams, reclining with a blanket over her legs, with her brother Alfred, his wife Caroline and possibly, two of their children. Marion Sternberg is on the right and the women at the back on the left may be Rosa, widow of William Sternberg, who had died in 1894. This photo taken about 1896

Elizabeth Prosser Williams, reclining with a blanket over her legs, with her brother Alfred, his wife Caroline and possibly, two of their children. Marion Sternberg is on the right and the women at the back on the left may be Rosa, widow of William Sternberg, who had died in 1894. This photo taken about 1896

There is a record of a patent granted in 1905 to Francis John Williams and Sydney Sternberg Williams for a tailoring design to improve the fit of clothing. See the web entry here

Williams patent 1905. Click to enlarge

Williams patent 1905. Click to enlarge

WilliamsTailorsPatentOrig051905_Page_5I do not, as yet, know much more about this branch of the family, partly because Williams is a common surname and produces lots of choices.

I would be grateful for more information about what happened to Francis, William and Sydney. There is a family rumour that one of them went to Egypt and disappeared !

16 July 2009

After some research, I now have some futher information about William Victor and Elizabeth.

WV was petitioned for divorce by his wife May (née Oldbury) in 1924. They had married in 1911.when she was 24. A son Arthur Oldbury Williams was born in 1911 in Kings Norton.

Elizabeth died from ovarian cancer on 3 June 1918 in Edgbaston, she was 63 and still a widow.

It seems that the Williams brothers were very keen on patents.

This one is from an application by William V Williams of 76, Bunbury Road Kings Norton in 1919 (the same address as that given for his mother on her death certificate)

GB Patent 155036

Publication Date: 1920-12-13

Abstract of GB155036 155,036. Williams, W. V. Sept. 13, 1919. Beer pumps.-The lever of a beer or like pump is connected to the piston-rod F of an air-pump A pivoted on an arm B, so that, when the lever is depressed to draw off beer &c., a jet of air is delivered by a flexible pipe D and nozzle C on to the surface of the beer. Where a number of beer pumps are in use the pump A may be replaced by a compressed-air main connected to the nozzles C and provided with taps actuated by the beer engines.

Improvements in and connected with apparatus for drawing beer and the like – GB Patent 155036 Drawing

 

William Victor Williams patent diagram 1919

William Victor Williams patent diagram 1919

07/07/2009 Posted by | Family History, Kings Norton, Sternberg, Williams, Winchurch | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Michael John Bench

Michael John Bench was born in Birmingham in February 1926 and died in the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro on 18 June 2009.

My earliest memory of Michael is of a visit with my parents and brother to my great aunt Millie and her husband Horace (Michael’s parents) at their home between the church and golf club at Harbourne, a suburb of Birmingham, in about 1950. Michael was always warm, friendly and welcoming in common with all of the Bench family.

I can remember, vividly, David and myself being taken by Michael to the large garage to see his pride and joy – a wooden clinker built sailing dinghy, which later knowledge tells me was probably a National 14.

It was the first boat that I had seen at close quarters and it instilled in me an excitement that I have always felt and still feel for small craft.

Michael at St Kew Inn - 13 June 2009

Michael at St Kew Inn - 13 June 2009

Michael had an infectious enthusiasm which characterised the whole of his life.

He was, at that point in his life, an architectural student in his early twenties and his subsequent career carried him up the ladder of the buildings department of the NHS to become its assistant head at the time of his retirement.

Much of his spare time was filled with a passion for the architectural and cultural heritage of Hampstead and Highgate, where he spent most of his life.

On Thursday 11 June 2009, Michael and his sister Mary, both well into their eighties, shared the driving of Mary’s car to Polzeath in their beloved north Cornwall. This was a journey of both nostalgia and reunion, since they met up with myself and Elizabeth and one of my daughters, plus my brother with one of his daughters and her boyfriend.

We had planned a meal at St Kew Inn for Saturday night, to be followed by a barbeque at Blisland and possible sailing at Falmouth.

The first of these, dinner at St Kew was a hugely enjoyable event and Michael was the life and soul of the evening, sitting next to Elizabeth and regaling us all with stories and reminiscences. We left the inn that night looking forward to meeting again during the next few days.

Elizabeth has written her own account of the happenings at this time here.

Sadly, that evening was Michael’s last social event.

The next day, after a late lunch, he and Mary took the car the short distance to Polzeath beach, where Michael had decided he was going for a dip in the sea.

He put on his bathing trunks and leaving Mary sitting on the rocks he set out on the long walk across the tide exposed sand to the water.

No one is quite sure what happened next, but gradually Mary became aware of lifeguard activity, including a four wheel drive vehicle speeding across the sand.

As the minutes ticked by and Michael did not reappear, she had a sinking feeling that he must be the one in trouble.

By the time Mary got to the waters edge, a crowd had gathered and there was all the activity of people coping with an emergency.

A lady approached her and asked if she was possibly the wife of a man in blue swimming trunks. Having established that Michael was actually Mary’s brother, she was helped to be near him as the lady’s husband, a local GP carried out CPR.

Cornwall Air Ambulance, Polzeath Beach

Cornwall Air Ambulance, Polzeath Beach

The Cornwall Air Ambulance circled and landed on a cleared spot on the beach nearby and lifeguards, paramedics and the GP moved Michael swiftly and carefully into the body of the helicopter.

As the aircraft took off for Truro, Mary was assisted back to her car and the kind lady who provided so much help drove her to the hotel.

In the meantime, Mary had alerted my brother, daughter and myself and we set off to meet up at the Royal Cornwall Hospital. A & E.

The prognosis was not good, Michael’s brain had been starved of its supply of blood for about fifteen minutes. Even in someone considerably younger than his eighty three years, that would be serious.

He was breathing uncomfortably when we first saw him and showed no signs of being aware either of his surroundings or his family at his bedside.

The medical staff at Treliske continued the detailed and caring treatment that Michael received right from the time of his collapse to his death. At all stages every effort was made to keep those of us awaiting news updated and informed, both of the progress and prognosis as the night developed.

Michael was taken for a brain scan which confirmed the suspicion that serious damage had taken place.

At this stage I would like to offer praise and thanks to the air ambulance crew and all those who played a part in Michael’s rescue and treatment.

He was given the best possible chance to survive and recover, albeit at an age and in circumstances that made those two things extremely difficult.

I would also like to mention that both the RNLI Lifeguards and the Cornwall Air Ambulance are supported by voluntary donations and I believe that it would be a fitting memorial to Michael if his friends and family contributed generously to both charities.

20/06/2009 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

THE FACES OF HISTORY

NEW     Who was Thomas Plucknett

 

Francis Victor Winchurch – born 5 February 1914

 

The faces of history – Introduction

 

Winchurch Family History

The faces of history – Benjamin Winchurch 1829 – 1891

The faces of history – Thomas Winchurch 1787 – 1856

The faces of history – Ann Brooks, later Shakespear, later Winchurch

The faces of history – Percy Walter Winchurch 1882 – 1953

The Story of Winchurch Brothers Limited

The English Sternbergs

The German Sternbergs

The faces of history – Francis George Sternberg – 1761 – 1828

The faces of history – George Sternberg – 1798 – 1858

The faces of history – Francis George Sternberg – 1829 – 1869

The faces of history – Alice Plucknett Sternberg – 1856 – 1944

The faces of history – Elizabeth Prosser Sternberg – 1854 – 1918

The faces of history – Marion Brown – 1882 – 1982

The faces of history – Jeanne Marion Winchurch – 1919 – 1949

The faces of history – Francis Victor Winchurch – 1914 – 1997

The faces of history – Richard and Mary Ellen Brown

The faces of history – Elizabeth Plucknett – 1829 – 1888

The faces of history – Thomas Loaring Plucknett – 1809 – 1880

The faces of history – Norah Alice Brown – 1879 – 1965

The faces of history – Elizabeth Gadsby – 1861 – 1948

The faces of history – Arthur Smith – 1860 – 1949  and George Arthur Gadesby Smith his son 

The faces of history – Margaret Downing – 1916 – 1993

The faces of history – Annie Elizabeth Smith – 1883 – 1958

27/05/2009 Posted by | Family History, Plucknett, Sternberg, Winchurch | Leave a comment

The English Sternbergs

Royal Horse Guards uniform (1806)

Royal Horse Guards uniform (1806)

I have written already about the ancestry and descendants of Francis George Sternberg who was born in Lüneburg in 1761 and was my 4G Grandfather. This post will be more about those Sternbergs who are not my direct ancestors, but about whose  lives and relationships I have information and indeed continue to learn, mainly through contacts via the internet. This, I believe, is a growing and important way of exchanging history and background. It is so much faster and responsive than traditional library research and communication. With this in mind, I am eager to hear from anyone who has information about the Sternbergs and related families. I should mention that by ‘the Sternbergs’ I mean those connected with Francis George and his descendants who branched out from Northampton area in the nineteenth century. Many Sternberg families, particularly those in the USA are the result of migration from Eastern Europe and Russia and appear to have no link apart from the same name.

On which note: where does the name ‘Sternberg’ come from ?

1) German – habitational name from any of various places so named all over Germany.

2) Jewish (Ashkenazic): ornamental name from German Stern ‘star’ + Berg ‘mountain’, ‘hill’.

The first of these seems to fit, There is for example a village called  ‘Sternberg am See’ (Sternberg on Sea/Lake) about 80Km east of Lüneburg on the shore of the ‘Grosser Sternberger See’ and there are many more examples of the place name in North Germany.

Whatever the origins of the name, the Sternberg family was established in Lüneburg with strong musical connections from at least 1716 when Heinrich Sternberg is first recorded. Heinrich was Musician at the Monastery School in Lüneburg from 1716 to 1734 and Town Musician (Ratsmusikant) from 1734 to 1757. He married Anna Catharina Otzmann on 14 November 1719 in St Michael’s Church, Lüneburg. This is now the focus of a Bach Festival, since Johan Sebastian Bach studied at St Michaels Monastery school from 1700 to1702 as a choirboy and later played the church organ. It is quite possible that Bach and Heinrich Sternberg were acquainted. Furthermore, when Heinrich’s daughter, Hinrietta was baptised at St Michaels on 3 December 1733, one of her Godparents was “Capellmeister Telemann”, the famous composer. Heinrich’s second son, Hartwig Sternberg succeded him as Town Musician in 1757.

Hartwig Sternberg had one daughter, who died young and one son Franz Georg Sternberg, anglicised to Francis George

He is my ancestor who came to England and enrolled as a trumpeter in the Royal Horse Guards Regiment in 1786 and established the branch of what I refer to as ‘The English Sternbergs’.

Since the marriage certificate of his son George refers to his father as  ‘George Sternberg, Professor of music’, it is fair to assume that George was the name by which he was commonly known.

Frances Furnivall was the daughter of  Sergeant Major Thomas Furnivall of the Bedfordshire Militia.

Thomas Furnivall - about 1790

Thomas Furnivall – about 1790

He was appointed Sergeant in the Leighton Buzzard Company when the county militia was raised in March 1760 during the Seven Year’s War, and was promoted Sergeant Major in April 1779 during the war with America. He died in Bedford in March 1800.

So it seems likely that Francis George Sternberg the young musician was befriended by (or billeted with) Thomas Furnivall, his wife Elizabeth and their family in Bedford in 1788 and that a relationship between FGS and Frances led to marriage in October 1789. FGS is recorded as a ‘widower’ on his marriage register entry at St Mary’s Church, Bedford, but no record has yet been found of his first marriage or indeed the name of his first wife.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FGS and Frances had ten or eleven children. This tree shows how I am descended from them.

click to enlarge

click to enlarge

It is, of necessity, simplified since many branches had lots of children !

Not shown on this tree is William Sternberg. William is a bit of a mystery, since no record of his birth has yet been found. It is possible (and I believe, likely) that he was FGS’s son from his first marriage. He appears in the records only after 1820. William’s business, as a gilder, was located at Bradshaw Street, Northampton in 1823-4. Bearing in mind that my 3G Grandfather George Sternberg (FGS’s son b 1798) was a carver and gilder, it seems highly probable that William was related. I have, for the time being, left William out of the main tree until more is known about his parentage. Another pointer to William not being the son of Frances (Furnivall) is that Thomas Furnivall Sternberg, born in 1791 was clearly named after her father and that would suggest that Thomas was her eldest son. Following the child’s presumed early death, their next son was also baptised Thomas in 1794. What is more, Eizabeth Furnivall Sternberg, born in 1793 was given the name Furnivall too, so it seems unlikely that William really was a Furnivall grandson.

The known ‘sightings’ of a William Sternberg during the early part of the nineteenth century are mainly taken from the International Genealogical Index (IGI), which records the marriage of William Sternberg and Elizabeth Redmayne at Lancaster on 23 October 1834 and the baptism of an (Emily) Amelia Elizabeth Redmayne Sternberg to a William and Elizabeth Sternberg on 12 May 1837 at Leek, Staffordshire, This could be the same William  (His possible ‘little sister’ Amelia died in 1810 at the age of five, so perhaps William’s daughter was named after her)

In the 1861 census Elizabeth Sternberg widow, mantle maker, is living in Barnstaple with daughter Amelia E.R. age 24 Elizabeth’s birthplace given as Yorkshire. Amelia is a milliner, born at Bolton le Moors, Lancashire.

In the 1871 and 1881 censuses, Elizabeth Sternberg is, sadly, a patient in the Devon County Lunatic Asylum at Exminster. She died in 1884.

Amelia married Stephen Henry Wadham in 1876.  Stephen was a widower and he and Amelia were living in Barnstaple at the time of the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses. They do not appear to have had any children, this is, perhaps not surprising, considering the fact that Amelia was almost forty when they married. The couple did however have a reducing number of Stephen’s children living with them as the decades progressed.

The IGI records the baptism of an (Emily) Amelia Elizabeth Redmayne Sternberg to a William and Elizabeth Sternberg on 12 May 1837 at Leek, Stafford – could this be the same William? (His possible ‘little sister’ Amelia died in 1820 at the age of 5 – was William’s daughter named after her ?)
Redmayne is a northern english name
See 1861 census Elizabeth Sternberg widow, mantle maker, living in Barnstaple with daughter Amelia E.R.(24) Elizabeth’s birthplace given as
Yorkshire. Amelia is a milliner.
Occupation: Gilder
1881 Elizabeth Sternberg in Devon County Lunatic Asylum Exminster
Daughter married Stephen Henry Wadham 1876. Living Barnstaple 1881 census
William Sternberg Tree

William Sternberg Tree

In between the two Thomases were born Elizabeth and Rosina.

Elizabeth Furnivall Sternberg was born in 1792. In 1837, Elizabeth Sternberg, whose marriage certificate gives her (deceased?) father as ‘George Sternberg, Musician’ married William Rose, a printer, who was a widower and son of James Rose, gentleman. Elizabeth was therefore forty five at the time of her marriage. They seem to have moved from Newport Pagnell to Portland Place area of London in both 1851 and 1861, but Elizabeth has changed her place of birth to Birmingham.

George, Frances, Frederick, Amelia, Caroline and Samuel Hartway (an anglicised version of Hartwig, the name of FGS’s father ?)  followed between 1798  and 1809, but Amelia died at the age of five in 1810 and Samuel lived for less than three months. There is no further record of a Caroline Sternberg, so she may have died in infancy.

Rosina Sarah Sternberg was born on 11 June 1793 in Northampton. She was baptised on 30 June 1793 in the church of  St John, Bedford. A second baptism took place on 22 January 1794 at St Giles, Northampton.

On 28 July 1842 Rosina married William Amerson, a tailor, at All Saints Church in Northampton. They appear to have had no children.

In the 1841 census she is living at Woolmonger Street, Northampton which was also occupied by eighty year old James Rose, presumably the father of her brother in law, William Rose.

Rosina’s brother George was living with the Amersons both before and after his marriage to Lydia Bird. (See entry on George Sternberg)

Frances Maria Sternberg was born in 1800 and clearly followed in the musical tradition of her family She taught Italian and English Singing and the Pianoforte, being described in the Northampton Mercury in January 1827 as a pupil of Ferrari, Knyvett & Beale

She was married in September 1826 to George Carver Cuffley, in the presence of Francis George Sternberg and John Wright. Frances and George do not appear to have had children.

Sophia Sternberg was born 1 December 1801 in Northampton, and died 15 June 1874 in 8 Heaton Road, Peckham, Surrey. She married Alexader Viner, who was described as a Wine Merchant and Gentleman on 15 December 1825 in St Margaret, Leicester. He was born 1802 in Oxford, and died 24 September 1862 in Walthamstow. Essex.

Thomas Sternberg, born in 1794 was, I originally thought, the likely author of  ‘The Dialect and Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire’, published in 1851. I had no definite proof that the author was the same Thomas Sternberg, but the combination of the name, plus the unlikely coincidence of there being two Thomas Sternbergs of the right age and background in Northamptonshire in 1851 pointed decisively to that conclusion.

However, recent correspondence with Stephen Miller, an expert on Folklore writing, has revised this assumption. There was a second edition of  ‘The Dialect and Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire’ also published in 1851. The author’s name on this publication is Vincent Thomas Sternberg, Thomas’s son, born in London in December 1831 (see more below). Vincent would have been only nineteen in 1851, so clearly  displayed a precocious literary talent at an early age .

I am grateful to Stephen Miller for his input into this story. His article on the book was published in Folklore magazine on 25 Jun 2012

The volume is famous for being the first book to use the word ‘Folklore’

To quote from the introduction

“Folklore is a word with a short but turbulent history. An Englishman named William John Thoms coined it in 1846, to replace the cumbersome ‘popular antiquities’ then in vogue to designate the loving study of old customs, usages and superstitions. Five years later (in 1851) the first book appeared with ‘Folklore’ in its title, ‘The dialect and Folk-Lore of Northamptonshire’, by Thomas Sternberg”

I am pleased to say the I have obtained a copy of the book, which I believe is out of print. There is, disappointingly, no reference to Sternberg’s family, but he alludes to German and Scandinavian influences at many points, commenting that one particular story is almost word  for word the same as the German version by the brothers Grimm. This suggests that Thomas had a detailed knowledge of the German language, which would fit well with having a German born father.

Thomas was a wine and spirit merchant, although he did take over his father’s music business for a time. His  ventures seem to have resulted in bankruptcy, however Thomas’ business (wine and spirit merchant) was located at Abington Street, Northampton, in 1830; and at Parade, Northampton, In 1841,

Took over his father’s Pianoforte Selling and Tuning business in 1828, but disposed of his pianoforte tuning to a Mr Klitz in August 1841 .

He and his wife were married ‘in the presence of John Whitton Scriven, Edward Pretty, Elizabeth ?; they lived at 65 Abington Street in 1851.

Bankruptcy recorded in ‘Times’ of 2 August 1856 (cf. 24 May 1848).

Address given as 20 Abington Street in cutting from Northampton Mercury on 18 September 1858.

A later correspondent says they occupied a house on the site of the present Post Office (N I? Chronicle, 25 August 1900).

Thomas and Elizabeth (née Scriven Kirby) produced a line of no less than four Vincent Sternbergs.

thossternberg01

The first of these Vincents, Vincent Thomas Sternberg was born in London in 1831 and became Librarian of Leeds Library until his death in 1880.

Vincent Thomas was believed by some to have haunted the library after his death. For an account click – Vincent Thomas Sternberg and the haunting of Leeds Library

Vincent W. B. Sternberg (William or Bill) became a journalist and was London and political editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

The arrival in England of Francis George Sternberg in 1786 has led to some seventy five people being christened with the surname ‘STERNBERG’ plus many more who have adopted the name upon marriage.

As far as I am aware, the last of these ‘English Sternbergs’ was born in 1954 and the last person to die still using the surname was Ella Marion Sternberg, born in Birmingham in 1894 and died in Felixstowe in 1985 at the age of ninety. Many have lived well into their eighties and nineties.

 

Ella Marion Sternberg 1973

I was fortunate enough to meet ‘Aunt Ella’ a few years before she died. Her father was the third Francis George Sternberg.

It is fascinating to reflect that all of us have this family history because of one man’s journey across the North Sea.

FRANCIS GEORGE STERNBERG

In memoriam

19/05/2009 Posted by | Family History, Sternberg, Winchurch | 6 Comments

The Story of Winchurch Brothers Limited

THE HISTORY OF WINCHURCH BROTHERS LIMITED

By John Victor Winchurch
latest update 29 October 2007
In 1905 two young brothers established Winchurch Brothers Limited.
Initially trading as Cycle Dealers, they recognised the growing importance of the motor car in the Edwardian era and eventually built a substantial garage business in Sandon Road, Bearwood.
Percy Walter and Roland Victor Winchurch were respectively twenty three and twenty two years old at the time.
Background
Benjamin Winchurch, the boys’ father was born in Lord Street Birmingham on 3 December 1829 and christened at St Phillip’s Birmingham on 1 January 1830. There appears to be an error in the Bishop’s transcript of this christening, since his name appears as William (an elder brother of that name was stillliving).
His parents were Thomas and Ann (nee Shakespeare).
Despite Ann’s famous surname, it is very unlikely that she was related to the Bard of Stratford. In fact both Thomas and Ann had been married before ( they are described as ‘widow’ and ‘widower’ when they married in Tipton in March 1820)
For more on the Shakespeare family name and branches see
Both Thomas and Ann were born in Dudley, in 1787 and 1793 respectively. The Winchurch / Winchurst family origins are recorded in that area back into the seventeenth century.
From the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution the family members were nailmakers and glassmakers and the grime and horrors that gave rise to the description ‘Black Country’, plus the rise of Birmingham in importance as a centre of manufacture of a wide range of products probably led to the move eastwards to Aston.
Thomas and Ann had four children between 1821 and 1829, the youngest being Benjamin. They are recorded,with their children, (including
Benjamin) in the 1841 census at 1, Lord Street Birmingham.
Thomas died in Upper Windsor Street, Aston, in 1856 and is described on his death certificate as a ‘publican’.
The year before he appears in Post Office Directory of Birmingham at the Cross Keys at 45, Upper Windsor Street.
In the Business Directory of Birmingham, published by J. S. C. Morris in 1862, Ann has become the publican of the Cross Keys. She died in 1875 at the age of 82.
It may have been at this point that Benjamin and Eliza took over as landlords, although this is not clear.
Benjamin’s mug, whuch has the Cross Keys symbol on the back and the date 1860 (Notice ‘Windsor’ spelt incorrectly !)
Benjamin married Ellen Eliza Tester on 15 November 1862 in London (East London Register Office).
Eliza (as she was known) was the daughter of Edward Tester a whip maker and his wife Ellen (nee Hawkesford)
Although she was born in Birmingham, her origins were in London and her family (the Testers) came from Sussex.
According to Marion, my grandmother; she had a ‘Cockney accent’
Benjamin and Eliza had eight children (click on tree to enlarge)
Benjamin was a glassmaker like his father and brother Thomas. Examples of Benjamin’s work survive and he was followed in this trade, by at least one of his sons, Fred (b1868).
In White’s directory for Birmingham of 1873, there is listed ‘Mrs Eliza Winchurch, milliner’ at 177 Great Lister Street (which intersects with Windsor Street). Hers is the only Winchurch entry in that directory.
In Kelly’s directory of 1880 Benjamin is listed as a shopkeeper at 83 King Edwards Rd, the address at which Percy
was born two years later.
Interestingly, there is no mention of the Cross Keys, but Percy’s lifelong abstinence from alcohol was, he said the result of seeing drunkenness all around him being raised in a pub as a child..
Also in the 1880 Kelly’s directory, Thomas Winchurch is listed as a glass maker in Phillip Street; surrounded by gun manufacturers and finishers.This is almost certainly Benjamin’s older brother.
The proliferation of new businesses and technologies in this area must have made it the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the late nineteenth century.
Benjamin died in 1891 at the age of sixty two, around the time of Percy’s ninth and Roland’s eighth birthdays.
Possibly Eliza had to leave the Cross Keys at this time, although Fred is the last of her children to be recorded as born there in 1868; the following four all being born at different addresses around the north city centre/Aston districts of Birmingham.
Later, Eliza had a grocer’s shop. In the 1901 census she is described as a widow aged 58, Head of household. Shopkeeper Grocer ‘on own account’ (i.e. supporting herself) ‘at home’ at 64/65 Wheeleys Road Birmingham.
At the same address were:
Percy aged 18, an Engineer fitter, Roland aged 17, a Machine Tool Maker and Lizzie Smith aged 15, a servant
How difficult life was financially at this time is difficult to judge, but Eliza was certainly concerned about money, or at least the mysterious ‘Tester fortune’.
I heard as a child my Grandfather (Percy) joke about being ‘descended from a German Baron’.
He was not alone in the family to have heard of an ‘unclaimed will’ originating from the early 1800s.
There survives correspondence between Eliza, her youngest sister Clara and their cousin Maria about the existence of a will and their mutual cousin Betsy’s attempts to lay claim to any proceeds.
(Copies attached)
Eliza wrote to Maria on 6 Feb 1897 from Iron House, Moor Street, Birmingham
‘Clara seems to think there is a lot of underhanding work going on and that she (Betsy) don’t intend us to know’
In the same letter she says: ‘I know the will was made 90 years ago.
A letter from Clara to Maria says ‘ Are you aware that our Grandfather was a baron and did you ever hear of any estates in Brighton’
There seems to have been no substance to this case. It was a ‘Bleak House’ type of longing for unclaimed riches.
Eliza refers also in 1897 to ‘upset with her family’. Being a widow with three children in their teens, it is easy to imagine that life was hard.
Her son Harry Edgar Winchurch married in 1896 and is described on the marriage certificate as a ‘cycle maker’
A pioneering cycle manufacturer ‘Guest and Barrow’ was established in Philip Street, Aston at this time, so Harry may have been employed there.
Guest and Barrow bicycle c1897
This background suggest the origins of the ‘Winchurch Brothers cycle shop’ that preceded the garage.
How many of the brothers were involved in addition to Roland and Percy, I don’t know, but it is fair to assume that the cycle business prospered, because in 1905 Percy and Roland set up ‘Winchurch Brothers Limited ‘. The business was initially at 152a Ladypool Road (Kelly 1907 and 1908)
By 1912, no less than four cycle shops are listed by Kelly at Ladypool Road, Moseley,Waterloo Road in Smethwick and at 134 Sandon Road in Bearwood.
Percy about 1907. Photo from Jeremy Ward
At some point after 1912 ‘Edgbaston Garage’ in Sandon Road Bearwood was opened. The premises eventually occupied numbers 102 – 120 involving the demolition of several houses as it expanded.
Certainly the earliest driving licence I have for Percy, dated 20 October 1914, lists Sandon Road as his business address.
The selection of the name ‘Edgbaston Garage’ is in itself interesting since, as anyone familiar with districts of Birmingham will be aware, Edgbaston is (even now) very much more ‘upmarket’ than Aston.
This seems to have been part of a shrewd move by Percy and Roland to target a wealthy section of the population who were about to lead the country into a long lasting love affair with the motor car.
In the same year as Winchurch Brothers’ foundation, Herbert Austin formed the Austin Motor Company and began production at Longbridge in 1906.
There are gaps in my knowledge of many aspects of Winchurch Brothers in the early years, from 1905 until my Father’s earliest memories from around 1918.
Percy’s surviving driving licences from 1914 to 1919 include an endorsement ordered by Kings Heath Police Court on 21 November 1916 for ‘not obscuring headlights’ on 29 October 1916, for which he was fined 10 shillings. This was, of course at the height of the Great War, but how much real risk ‘not obscuring headlights’ caused is a matter of speculation !
Percy Walter Winchurch married Marion Brown, the daughter of Henry Ambrose Brown, a tailor, and Alice Plucknett Brown (nee Sternberg) on 18 April 1911.
Percy was 29 and Marion 28.
Back row: Marion Sternberg, Henry Ambrose Brown (Marion’s father), Roland Winchurch, Percy, another Winchurch brother (Harry?) with wife ?
Middle: Alice Brown (Marion’s mother) Mildred Brown, Marion, Employee (French ?), Eliza Winchurch (Percy’s mother)
Front: Harry Brown and Edith, his wife.
On their marriage certificate Percy’s address is 11 Newton Road and his occupation is ‘Cycle Dealer’, underlining the fact that the motor side of the business was less important than bike sales in the early years.
Their first child, Francis Victor Winchurch, known for most of his eighty three years as ‘Vic’ was born on 5 February 1914 at 12,Waterloo Road in Bearwood not far from the garage.
Interestingly, Percy is described on Vic’s birth certificate as a ‘Motor Engineer’. So only three years later,the motor side of the business had presumably become the more important.
His birthplace was the family home where Percy, Marion and Vic lived until the move to Pargeter Road (I think in around 1918).
Jeanne Marion Winchurch was born on 5 July 1919.
The business clearly prospered during the 1920s since photographs show Percy and his family in increasingly comfortable surroundings and on holiday in Devon and later Cornwall.
The children both had private educations at primary level.
There was always a car somewhere in the pictures, as in this one taken in what looks like the Welsh border country; a popular destination for Midlanders on a ‘Sunday day out’
Jeanne Marion and Percy about 1926
The car, I think, is a Morris Oxford ‘flatnose’
Winchurch Brothers in the early 1920s. Notice the predominance of lock up garages
Roland meanwhile had Married Alice Wood in 1914.
They had four children, Barry, Betty, Molly and Pat between 1915 and 1927.
The brothers bought houses in the newly expanding suburb of Quinton. Roland, with his larger family, probably moved from Galton Road to 757 Hagley Road West in 1931, with Percy following to 755 a year later.
A high wooden fence separated the back gardens !
The brothers also owned the semi detached ‘other half’ of Percy’s house 753, which was rented to a childless couple from London called Perrott. Hugh Perrott was a travelling salesman for a childrens clothing manufacturer.
In February 1930, Vic was 16 and a pupil at King Edward VI Grammar School at Five Ways. He took his School Certificate examination that year and in January 1931 he began trainingwith Smethwick Borough Council as a weights and Measures inspector.
Clearly a decision had to be taken in the long term with regard to his involvement, if any, in Winchurch Brothers. Correspondence between Roland and Percy in 1936 touches on this subject and the parallel matter of Roland’s son, Barry.
On 24th March 1936 Roland writes:
” I understand that you have no wish for either your son or my son to take
any part in the business with the view to carrying on after we are both deceased”
In the event Vic was not involved in the business until after World War 2 and
Barry never worked there.
Roland begins his letter:
“We have now been running together in a more or less amicable partnership for 30 years
and obviously we cannot expect to run a great number of years more before one or both
of us are incapacitated or depart from this troublesome world for good and all.
As far as I am concerned I quite anticipate that I shall be booked in for another operation
in the not too distant future”.
I do not know what the nature of Roland’s illness was, but he was a heavy smoker and eventually died of cancer. Percy too smoked cigarettes, but gave up around 1950 after warnings from his doctor.
Roland’s letter continues:
…… it appears to me that it is up to us to anticipate the future and plan accordingly the
ultimate destiny of the business and property.
Also there is the question of Fred’s interest in the business to be dealt with when the time comes.
One has to face facts.
Fred (Frederick William Winchurch) was born at the Cross Keys in 1868, the third of Benjamin and Eliza’s children. My own childhood memory him is as a jovial and outgoing man, know to much of the family as ‘Uncle Fred’.I don’t think he was involved in Winchurch Brothers until after his retirement from glass manufacture, but he wasclearly there in 1936 and up to about 1950, when I remember him working in the Billiard Hall(of which more later). He is not mentioned in company reports and in the absence of any other information, he was an employee rather than in any way a driving force in the company.
A notable aspect of Roland’s letter of 1936 is the fluency with which it was written. It has to be remembered that the brothers were raised at a time during which there must have been considerably hardship for the family and as far as I know, neither Percy or Roland had an extended education.
It is a lasting tribute to their drive and foresight that they succeeded in building up a successful and prospering business.
Nevertheless, Roland clearly felt he was not benefitting in the way that he and his family should:
As regards my share of the Partnership I suppose you will not dispute that I am entitled to share
equally with yourself in our assets and liabilities and I want to know if you have any objection
to me drawing any money to be charged against my capital account and/or raising a loan
on my portion.
You see it takes me all my time to carry on. I have no clothes and my children
are of no material help as yet.I should like to Re Furbish as the few sticks I have are worn out
after 23 years.Also I should like to help the children to get a decent living as the amount
I should be able to leave them will not be of too much use when it is divided.
You of course will not have the same problems to face, as far as I can see, your dependents should
be adequately provided for.(subject of course to the vicissitudes of life)
As you are aware my boy Barry is very unhappy in his work and can only see a life of clerical
drudgery in front of him if he stays on.
He feels that he has wasted 3 of the most valuable years of his life and after long consideration
I have told him he had better give in his notice.
I only mention this by the way as I know you have no regard for him or my other children or
for the matter of that anyone else’s children to the best of my knowledge
but you may appreciate that it adds to my personal problems.
Roland then turns to their working relationship, which had by this time clearly become soured. It remained that way for the next seventeen years:
Now as far as our personal relationship is concerned, I frequently wonder whether you consider
I pull my weight in the business, as your manner towards me more particularly dating back to your
2nd period of association with the Paytons, has been even less cordial than in the past.
In fact your everyday attitude makes me wonder if you desire to be rid of me.
If this is the case, we had again better face facts and try to come to an equitable arrangement
to terminate our active partnership.
On the other hand, should I be in error as regard above remarks I certainly think we should
make some effort to work together more in Harmony and Cheerfulness
and by so doing make life more pleasant for all concerned.
The Paytons, Fred and Beattie, were friends of Percy and Marion who used to accompany them on holidays. Vic referred to them as ‘Uncle Fred and Auntie Beattie’, but they were not related.
Fred Payton worked at Winchurch Brothers, but I suspect that was a result of their ‘association’ rather than the other way round.
Perhaps the most barbed comments in his letter comes next::
Holidays
Your suggestions as regards a Holiday Rota would be appreciated.
The holiday period has always been rather a nightmare to me, when I have had the whole lot
to manage with a depleted staff at the worst time of the year with usually no office assistance
Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion’s younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown.
About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.
Percy and family took regular summer holidays, usually in Devon or Cornwall at this time. but as far as I know for two weeks. The real point about this is ‘usually no office assistance’
Percy’s secretary (she would be referred to as a ‘p.a.’ now) was Olive Parr, who joined the company in 1920. Percy and Olive had a close relationship, certainly in the post WW2 years and Roland would have had plenty of ammunition by then, since Olive regularly accompanied Percy, (sometimes with Marion and a host of friends too), on weekend outings and holidays.
This relationship is probably in Roland’s mind as he concludes the letter.
In conclusion, I would remark that I have written this letter because I never have any opportunity
to talk to you privately and if you had agreed to my suggestion of a monthly conference I need
not have written a great deal. Further no other person is acquainted with the contents,
so if you so desire you may treat the subject matter as strictly private between our two selves.
I leave it to your judgment anyhow. I write with no ill feeling out rancour
And Sign myself
Your somewhat weary brother
Roland
Anger and irritation are evident in Percy’s reply. The version I have is clearly a draft, with numerous crossings out, probably destined for typing by Olive before being sent ‘next door’. The irony is that Roland and Percy worked within feet of one another as well as living next door to one another in Hagley Road West.
.
I include the text in full:
Dear Roland,
I propose taking your letter in paragraph order.
1. I have expressed the opinion, several times, that we should be better apart, always
with this qualifying remark – ‘unless pleasant business relationships can be arrived at’
– this is definitely up to you.
Life is much too short to spend needless time going into trivialities. Also, your remarks
about myself which no doubt are intended to come back to me from time to time,
although I do not say anything, are very hurtful.
2. The business relationship could be a quite agreeable one if you cut this kind of
thing out and left the general business decisions to me, being answerable only to you.
This practice would relieve you of a lot of trouble I think, or alternatively you could
take on that position yourself.
Referring to your remarks re your conversation with a keen business man in property
and business, I am fully alive to all this, but if you desire to terminate your partnership
with me and find conditions impossible, you would have to agree to sell out altogether
or come to some reasonable arrangement with me to let me carry on the business.
I cannot and will not keep on working without some agreement on the future of this
business as I have repeatedly told you
If I cannot come to some arrangement with you, I should buy another business
elsewhere.
If you will carry your mind back over the last 10 years you have repeatedly passed
the (impression?) that you are semi retired, but I shall point out that you have drawn a
very good income during those years, so that I cannot see any cause to complain.
As far as Fred and Jinnie are concerned, they are no doubt able to look after
themselves.
As far as the B Hall is concerned, last year is definitely not a year to take as criterion
and will no doubt revert to normality again.
As far as the future is concerned, you are not in a position to forecast and I myself
face the future with quiet confidence and in conclusion, instead of asking other people
things, you should ask the people concerned, in a pleasant and brief manner you
would get on much better.
You are at perfect liberty to show this letter to whoever you like, there is no sarcasm
intended and I loathe and detest Cheap Sarcasm from you.
I have always tried to do my best for this Firm and while I am with the Firm I shall
continue to do so.
I remain
Sincerely Yours
Percy
The Billiard Hall, or to give it its full name ‘The Regent Billiard Hall’ was situated adjacent to the garage fronting onto Bearwood High Street. It features in Kelly’s 1933 trade index to Birmingham and judging by references to its profitability in 1936, it had only been running for a few years. My guess is 1932.
I remember Fred Winchurch and Fred Payton serving behind the bar in the late 1940s. That bar, however served only non alcoholic drinks, a legacy of the aversion to alcohol that Percy had throughout his life, resulting from his upbringing as a publican’s son.
The Regent Billiard Hall Bar c1947. Note the soft drinks, cigarettes, ice cream and marshmallows !
The Regent Billiard Hall c1947. Note the adjustable height fluorescent lighting !
Fred Payton at back left.
On leaving school, Vic worked in the Weights and Measures Department of Smethwick County Borough Council from January 1931, just before his seventeenth birthday until 1938. He was initially an unqualified assistant, but obtained the necessary qualifications to become a fully-fledged Weights and Measures Inspector in January 1936, when he was almost twenty two.
In October 1938 he left Smethwick to work in Northallerton as an Additional Inspector of Weights and measures for North Riding of Yorkshire Council. He was there when war broke out in September 1939, but left in December 1940 to move back to his parents’ home.
To quote from a letter of application to Buckinghamshire County Council dated 30 January 1941
“I resigned voluntarily owing to unsatisfactory service conditions”. Now my father was generally a tolerant, loyal and uncomplaining man, so I can only conclude that things in Northallerton must have been really bad for him to leave a return south without a job!
In the same letter and in a similar letter of application to Dorset he notes that he is “twenty seven and single…I am of course liable for military service, but as far as I can ascertain it is not likely that I shall be called up for some time to come….”
Within two weeks of writing this he was married and had joined the Royal Navy !
Vic Winchurch married Margaret Downing, who worked as a typist for the engineering firm Bellis and Morcom in Birmingham on 8 February 1941.
Margaret lived with he widowed mother Annie Elizabeth Downing (nee Smith) in Topsham Road, Smethwick. Her father, Arthur Lionel Downing, who worked as a signalman for Great Western Railways, had died in 1937 from angina. Margaret had been present at his death and told me that he begged her not to call a doctor because having heart trouble would mean that he lost his job. Just twenty years old, Margaret walked to the doctor’s home during the night, although Arthur was obviously dead. The doctor refused to attend, but simply and contemptuously, threw the death certificate to her from his upstairs window.
Unsurprisingly, that event left its mark on her attitudes, particularly towards poverty,
Vic and Margaret were married at St Paul’s Church Smethwick on 8 February 1941.
Marion, Percy, Nina Woodhouse, Bill Marsh, Vic, Margaret, Jeanne, Albert Downing. Annie Downing
The years during the war cannot have been easy. Car production ceased and fuel was rationed.
Vic joined the Royal Navy in January 1941 and became an operator of the new equipment known as Radar.
Percy, along with a large part of the population on Britain, ‘dug for victory’ growing vegetables and keeping hens.
He slept at Sandon Road on fire watch on a regular basis in a concrete ‘Pill Box’ next to the showroom.
Birmingham was bombed by the Luftwaffe on several occasions between August 1940 and May 1941.
Bearwood Road School was hit, fortunately at night and there were no casualties. I don’t know how much fuel was stored at the garage at this time, but it can’t have been a comfortable place to be. I still have Percy’s wooden and canvas camp bed from this time. It became my bed for
several years when I was a child.
A letter to Vic just after I was born in 1942 offers a glimpse of life at that time:
This is the photo Percy refers to:
‘Brotheridge’ was Denham (Den) Brotheridge, a friend and colleague of Vic from the Weights and Measures Department of Smethwick Borough Council. His name became well know a few years later for a very tragic reason.
Den Brotheridge was the first Allied Serviceman killed in the D Day landings.
Two days later on 20 October 1942, Jeanne wrote to Vic :
In addition to not being old enough to go visiting I had a near fatal dose of gastro enteritis according to my mother ! To be honest, I think the contact between Percy and Margaret was minimal due a mutual dislike. I was certainly aware of this as a child. It seemed to centre on Margaret’s view that she was getting little support and Percy’s view that Margaret had married for money….but I could be over simplifying !
The ‘Jimmy’ referred to is Payton’s wire haired terrier, the brother of Percy and Marion’s ‘Jack’. Another indication of the the two families’ close association, alluded to by Roland.
Jeanne was avid supporter of West Bromwich Albion Football Club, whilst Percy remained true to his roots as a season ticket holder and shareholder in Aston Villa.
It is interesting that he was persuaded to cycle to the Hawthorns (WBA’s home ground). This was much nearer to their home in Quinton than Aston Villa and Percy was now sixty years old. It is a clear indication that even he could not get enough petrol for even short journeys during the bleakest period of World War Two.
Jeanne finally got her wish early in 1943 and joined the WRNS.
Following the revelations about the Enigma decoding process, involving literally hundreds of WRNS acting, in effect, as a human computer in an operation led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park in Bedfordshire, it seemed very likely to me that her rapid recruitment happened because of her mathematics and accountancy qualifications.
I was surprised to find from Jeanne’s service record that she spent the early part of her wartime service at HMS Pembroke, nominally the supply department, based at Chatham, but there is no doubt that her recruitment corresponded with this surge of WRNS personnel with Maths qualifications.
By the spring of 1943 she was on leave at Quinton in her new uniform
Jeanne Margaret Vic with John, Spring 1943
Vic’s car; a Standard Twelve, I think, was used by Percy during the war and might have been in general use at the garage.Certainly at a directors’ meeting at the Offices of Flint and Thompson at 63 Temple Row Birmingham on 3 April 1947, Roland proposed that Vic be paid £30 for the use of his car during the year, This was not seconded !
This meeting was probably the turning point in the affairs of Winchurch Brothers and certainly the events of the following six years had a profound effect on all our lives.
In the post war years, the business prospered. Restrictions on prices meant that second hand cars with low mileage were more valuable than new ones. Consequently, Percy and to a lesser extent, I think, Roland had a succession of new cars often for no more than six months. I can remember well the excitement of being collected in the latest of ‘Grandpa’s new cars’
My brother David Christopher Winchurch had been born a few months earlier on 13 December 1946 and I can now understand how Percy must have felt at this point that he was laying a path for all of us for the future.
Vic had been added to the payroll of Winchurch Brothers after demobilisation from the Navy in 1946. I don’t think his employment did anything to remove Percy’s earlier misgivings about his involvement in the business. After a spell in the workshop, which I believe was not a great success, he was moved to the stores ! My pleasure as a result of this was derived from having a typewriter to play with when I called there. David
remembers that too and additionally a narrow passageway between the back of the line of timber buildings and a brick wall behind. We both think used engine oil was stored there before being burned as fuel in the heating system.
The minutes of this meeting and the associated financial report reveal that Winchurch Brothers Limited was on a sound financial footing. Percy proposed that the directors’ fees be increased to £520 per annum from 1 October 1946, This was carried.
Some £1500 was paid out in dividends that year and I believe that at this point only Percy and Roland were shareholders.
Percy made a move in 1947 to appoint three extra directors, Horace Bench, his brother in law through Millie, Marion’s sister plus Vic and Frank Angel, the company secretary, of whom I know very little, but he seems to have had a legal background since he was asked to produce a report on the operation of the company if these appointments took place and also in the light of a further proposal by Percy to issue shares to Vic, Jeanne, Betty, Molly and Pat ( but excluding Barry, who seems to have left the family behind him by this time – he eventually died in Rochdale in 1975)
This is quite clearly marks the intention, on Percy’s part to marginalise Roland and lead to a breakup, or takeover, of Winchurch Brothers.
In the same year, 1947, Percy staged a dinner and concert at the Red Cow Hotel in Smethwick
‘To commemorate the completion of 25 years service of Miss O. Parr with Messrs Winchurch Brothers Limited’
It is noticeable that it was Percy who sent out the invitations although Roland does seem to have been present to perform the presentation to Olive. He is, however totally absent from photos I have from that evening.
About this time, Millie Bench reported with some amusement that Roland had sidled up to her, cigarette in mouth and in his broad Birmingham accent enquired :
‘D’yow think as ower Percy’s susceptible to flattery’ ?
Whatever form Percy and Olive’s relationship took at this time ( he was now 65 and Olive 46 ) there was no attempt to conceal it. Olive acted as chauffeuse on family outings as well as business and her family, particularly her sister Hilda Martin, husband Harold and children Denise and Roddy, were part of a large circle that Percy gathered around them.
This behaviour earned the vociferous contempt of Margaret, my mother, particularly when Olive went on holiday with Percy, Marion and entourage.
Percy however had no evident signs of the received morality of a late Victorian childhood !
He was equally contemptuous about organised religion. I remember how, towards the end of his life, on a trip to Pembrokeshire with Marion, Jenny, (Fred’s widow) and myself in the car, he replied to Jenny’s favourable comments about the picturesque appearance and setting of St Issels church at Saundersfoot with the remark :
‘Yes Olive and Midge went there one Sunday. God knows why. Some time when they were feeling extra religious, I suppose.’
I can still hear those words today, over fifty years later and to me as a ten year old, such deliciously daring blasphemy both amused and horrified me.
I don’t think I ever told my mother !
Jeanne Winchurch
Jeanne had joined the WRNS in March 1943 and clearly had a succesful three years to demobilisation in March 1946. She was by then a Wren Petty Officer and her service record notes that her character was ‘Very Good throughout service’.
Vic had risen to Petty Officer too, but only in an acting capacity. It is of course understandable that being parted from his wife and new son must have dampened his enthusiasm for the service, particularly towards the end of the war.
Very soon after demob, Jeanne took up the post of Secretary to the Birmingham branch of the International Friendship League.
This organisation had been set up before the war to promote interaction between young people, primarily within Europe
I quote from the IFL website (still in existence in 2007 ) :
In August 1931 30 students from Berlin University spent a holiday at the bungalow of
Noel Ede at Peacehaven in Sussex and with British students built an extension to
the overcrowded home.
On 26 September, with three friends Noel Ede inaugurated the IFL.
Reading those lines now there is a double irony.
Firstly, the name ‘Peacehaven’ at a time when Nazism was beginning to take hold in Germany. A peace so violently shattered.
Secondly, Jeanne’s own ‘European relationship’, which was to end so tragically a few years later.
She seems to have been very enthusiastic about her role, there are photos of a visit to Holland and she bought back souveniers: for example a wooden miniature clog with a slotted metal plate to use as a money box . This was for me and I still have it.
Jeanne accompanied us on outings and holidays too. Here is a photo from about 1946 or 47 taken at Weston – Super – Mare
John, Margaret, Jeanne, Annie Downing, Judith and Marie Price (friend of Margaret from schooldays)
Early in 1948, Jeanne met a German ex prisoner of war called Peter. She was by now in her late twenties and I don’t think she had had a long term boyfriend before this.
The relationship developed and Peter was taken to meet Percy and Marion.
This can’t have been easy for Percy, in particular, because he had very strong anti German views and he must have been worried about Jeanne’s association with a young man who was basically homeless and without a job.
Towards the end of 1948, Peter returned to Germany to look for work. He seems to have gone to stay with relatives in Wiesloch in South Germay, but left to travel to the ‘British sector’ early in 1949.
From this point onwards, Jeanne apparently lost touch with him, but cotinued to write to him via his sister in law in Wiesloch.
Then in June 1949, Jeanne’s world fell apart.
The sister in law wrote telling Jeanne that Peter was about to get married.
Percy and Marion were away at the time ( I think in Torquay ). Jeanne’s friend Muriel Fletcher was so concerned abut Jeanne’s state of mind that she stayed with her for the night after she received the letter.
But. the next day, Sunday 20 June 1949, Jeanne killed herself by putting her head in the gas oven.
Percy found her when he returned home,
The Birmingham Post reported the inquest:
HEARD GERMAN WAS MARRIED
EX-WREN’S SUICIDE AFTER LETTER
SUFFERED “GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT “
When an inquest was held in Birmingham to-day on the secre­tary of an International Friend­ship League centre,
the City Coroner (Dr .W. H. Davison) was told that the girl, an ex-Wren petty officer, Jeanne Marion Winchurch
(aged 29), had suffered a great disappointment in an attachment with a former German prisoner-of-war.
The girl’s father, Percy Walter Winchurch, with whom she lived at 755, Hagley Road West, Quinton,
said he found his daughter lying with her head on a cushion in a gas-oven in the house.
The cause of death was given as asphyxia due to gas poisoning.
Witness told the Coroner that his daughter had recently com­pleted the final of an extremely difficult accountancy
examina­tion and that the suspense of waiting for the result had been very worrying for her.
” About 18 months ago,” he said, “Jeanne met a German prisoner of war. I met him once at our house
when he came to tea.” The man returned to Germany last Christmas, and Jeanne, he believed, was expect­ing to
renew the association and marry him.
Very Depressed
Muriel Ann Fletcher, who worked with Miss Winchurch, said that Jeanne collected a letter from the International
Centre on Saturday, which told her that her German boy friend was married.
She believed the letter had been written by the man’s sister-in-law.
Because she could see that her friend was very depressed as a result of this news, she stayed the night with her.
The girl was left alone in the house on the Sunday night.
Returning a verdict of “Suicide while the balance of the mind was disturbed,” the Coroner said her death was
due to an accumulation of various disturbances.
The disappointment of her German friend in not co-operat­ing as she intended and the worry of the examination
had had a cumulative effect, resulting in a strong feeling of depression and melancholy.
The effect on the whole of our family of this tragic event was profound and lasts to some extent even today, almost sixty years later.
I can still remember walking home from school along Thornhill Road in Handsworth. It was a Wednesday and a custom had grown up that Marion, my Grandmother came over from Quinton for tea. She would look out of the window for me as I walked the three hundred yards or so from St Michaels Primary School, which stood on the junction of Thornhill Road and Soho Road.
That day, I knew from quite a distance that she wasn’t there.
I beleive that Jeanne had asked to come away on holiday with us that summer to Friog, near Barmouth, but that my mother had refused because the cottage was too small. I know she regretted that decision to the end of her life.
Contact was made with Peter’s family the following month (July 1949), but I don’t think there was ever any direct correspondence. Marion seems to have written to the sister in law who had broken the news of Peter’s marriage, because I have the reply, written from Wiesloch. This letter is written in German, but to the best of my knowledge, Marion neither spoke or understood the language, so I assume that she had sent the basic details in English.
The reply begins :
Wiesloch
30/7/49
Dear Mrs Winchurch
I am very distressed by the sad news about your beloved daughter,
Jeanne, which I could almost not believe. When I received your letter
I felt such deep pain that I was not able to reply immediately.
First I would like to send you and your whole family my heartfelt sympathy
on your deeply felt suffering over your unforgettable daughter.
The pain is especially unbearable for a mother.
My whole family and I are so sad at the sad news.
I feel so sorry for Jeanne and feel the pain as deeply as if she had been my own sister.
I got to know and get on with Jeanne so well through our exchange of letters.
I would like so much to been able to send her more news about Peter
but unfortunately he only ever wrote very little to us too.
We are all appalled at Peter that he has a human soul on his conscience,
that he was so cowardly towards your daughter, Jeanne,
and that after he left us he did not ever write to her again………………..
……………
Peter left us at the beginning of January und first went to visit his sick mother in Spiterl??
And from there then went to friends in the English zone to look for work there and said
to me when he left us that I should accept all post from Jeanne and as soon as he found
work he would write to Jeanne and if he didn’t find work then he would come back to us
and I kept comforting Jeanne with these words.
And throughout this whole time we heard very little from him.
At Easter he wrote to us that he would come to us after Easter.
We waited eagerly for him and unfortunately he didn’t come.
And at Whitsun the news came from him that he was about to get married.
We were all horrified by the news. And so I felt that I had to write to Jeanne with this news
if he was so cowardly and hadn’t written to her. But believe me, dear Mrs Winchurch,
how heavy my heart was to write this news to Jeanne. Believe me that as his sister in law
I can never forget how Peter treated Jeanne and that he brought her to her death, it will
and can never bring Peter any happiness because I feel so deeply that if fate had handed
out the same to me as to Jeanne I would have arrived at the same point.
Because one person takes their life more easily and another person less easily.
We would very much like to have got to know Jeanne because from her letter she seemed
such a good person. But unfortunately fate did not want that.
May God give Jeanne eternal peace because she passed through difficult times.
I would still like to be able to hear more about how Jeanne died.
With sincere good wishes from our whole family.
I don’t know if Marion or Percy ever had this letter translated, but I doubt it.
It’s contents have remained unknown for almost sixty years.
As part of this project, Jane Monti kindly offered to translate it for me and I am very grateful to her.
I know the letter, its contents and the story moved her, especially as she had recently visited Berlin.
As Jane puts it :
“..I can’t help wondering how many thousands of individual tragedies like this must have
been brought about directly and indirectly as a result of the war and all the events leading
up to and surrounding it.”
Jeanne had sat the finals examination for the Chartered Institute of Secretaries in Birningham in May 1949.
A cutting from the Birmingham Post records that she passed, but this result came after the death of one of the most talented Winchurchs of her generation.
The aftermath of Jeanne’s death
With characteristic single mindedness Percy moved on.
Jeanne was rarely mentioned by anyone in the family in my experience. I think this is probably a common way of dealing with a suicide, especially sixty years ago, but it has never corresponded with my own feelings.
I think that her relatively short life is worth commemorating for so many reasons.
Jeanne was in many ways the essence of a ‘modern woman’. Intelligent, articulate, determined and passionate. She was in the vanguard of the post war process of reconciliation and reconstruction. In a way she paid the price of that.
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Winchurch Brothers Limited, Sandon Road, Bearwood. About 1950

Winchurch Brothers Limited, Sandon Road, Bearwood. About 1950

In 1905 two young brothers established Winchurch Brothers Limited. Initially trading as Cycle Dealers, they recognised the growing importance of the motor car in the Edwardian era and eventually built a substantial garage business in Sandon Road, Bearwood, selling and maintaining Austin, Morris, Standard and Triumph cars

Percy Walter and Roland Victor Winchurch were respectively only twenty three and twenty two years old at the time.

Background

Benjamin Winchurch, the boys’ father was born in Lord Street Birmingham on 3 December 1829 and christened at St Phillip’s Birmingham on 1 January 1830. There appears to be an error in the Bishop’s transcript of this christening, since his name appears as William (an elder brother of that name was still living). His parents were Thomas and Ann (Shakespeare – at the time of her marraige to Thomas).  Despite Ann’s famous surname, it is very unlikely that she was related to the Bard of Stratford. In fact both Thomas and Ann had been married before (they are described as ‘widow’ and ‘widower’ when they married in Tipton in March 1820) Ann was probably the Ann (or diminutive, Nancy) Brooks born in Dudley in 1793, who married Joseph Shakespeare at Clent in 1812.

Thomas too was born in Dudley, in 1787. The Winchurch / Winchurst family origins are recorded in that area back into the seventeenth century. Percy was well aware of his ‘Black Country’ antecedents, he often adopted their sing-song accent and used dialect expressions and words such as ‘youm’ for ‘you am’ (are).

From the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution the family members were nailmakers and glassmakers and the grime and horrors that gave rise to the description ‘Black Country‘, plus the rise of Birmingham in importance as a centre of manufacture of a wide range of products probably led to the move eastwards to Aston.

Thomas and Ann had four children between 1821 and 1829, the youngest being Benjamin. They are recorded,with their children, (including Benjamin) in the 1841 census at 1, Lord Street Birmingham. Thomas died in Upper Windsor Street, Aston, in 1856 and is described on his death certificate as a ‘publican’. The year before he appears in Post Office Directory of Birmingham at the Cross Keys at 45, Upper Windsor Street.

In the Business Directory of Birmingham, published by J. S. C. Morris in 1862, Ann has become the publican of the Cross Keys. She died in 1875 at the age of 82. It may have been at this point that Benjamin and Eliza took over as landlords, although this is not clear.

Benjamin Winchurch's two pint mug with the Cross Keys log dated 1860 and 'Windsor' incorrectly spelt !

Benjamin Winchurch's two pint mug, dated 1860 with 'Windsor' incorrectly spelt !

Benjamin married Ellen Eliza Tester on 15 November 1862 in London (East London Register Office). Eliza (as she was known) was the daughter of Edward Tester a whip maker and his wife Ellen (nee Hawkesford). Although she was born in Birmingham, her origins were in London and her family (the Testers) came from Sussex. According to Marion, my grandmother, she had a ‘Cockney accent’

Benjamin and Eliza had eight children (click on tree to enlarge)

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Benjamin was a glassmaker like his father and brother Thomas. Examples of Benjamin’s work survive and he was followed in this trade, by at least one of his sons, Fred (b1868). In White’s directory for Birmingham of 1873, there is listed ‘Mrs Eliza Winchurch, milliner’ at 177 Great Lister Street (which intersects with Windsor Street). Hers is the only Winchurch entry in that directory.

In Kelly’s directory of 1880 Benjamin is listed as a shopkeeper at 83 King Edwards Rd, the address at which Percy was born two years later.

Interestingly, there is no mention of the Cross Keys, but Percy’s lifelong abstinence from alcohol was, he said the result of seeing drunkenness all around him being raised in a pub as a child..

Also in the 1880 Kelly’s directory, Thomas Winchurch is listed as a glass maker in Phillip Street; surrounded by gun manufacturers and finishers.This is almost certainly Benjamin’s older brother. The proliferation of new businesses and technologies in this area must have made it the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the late nineteenth century.

Benjamin died in 1891 at the age of sixty two, around the time of Percy’s ninth and Roland’s eighth birthdays.

Possibly Eliza had to leave the Cross Keys at this time, although Fred is the last of her children to be recorded as born there in 1868; the following four all being born at different addresses around the north city centre/Aston districts of Birmingham. Later, Eliza had a grocer’s shop. In the 1901 census she is described as a widow aged 58, Head of household. Shopkeeper Grocer ‘on own account’ (i.e. supporting herself) ‘at home’ at 64/65 Wheeleys Road Birmingham.

At the same address were:

Percy aged 18, an Engineer fitter, Roland aged 17, a Machine Tool Maker and Lizzie Smith aged 15, a servant

How difficult life was financially at this time is difficult to judge, but Eliza was certainly concerned about money, or at least the mysterious ‘Tester fortune’.

I heard as a child my Grandfather (Percy) joke about being ‘descended from a German Baron’. He was not alone in the family to have heard of an ‘unclaimed will’ originating from the early 1800s. There survives correspondence between Eliza, her youngest sister Clara and their cousin Maria about the existence of a will and their mutual cousin Betsy’s attempts to lay claim to any proceeds.

Eliza wrote to Maria on 6 Feb 1897 from Iron House, Moor Street, Birmingham

‘Clara seems to think there is a lot of underhanding work going on and that she (Betsy) don’t intend us to know’

In the same letter she says: ‘I know the will was made 90 years ago.

A letter from Clara to Maria says ‘ Are you aware that our Grandfather was a baron and did you ever hear of any estates in Brighton’

There seems to have been no substance to this case. It was a ‘Bleak House’ type of longing for unclaimed riches. Eliza refers also in 1897 to ‘upset with her family’. Being a widow with three children in their teens, it is easy to imagine that life was hard. Her son Harry Edgar Winchurch married in 1896 and is described on the marriage certificate as a ‘cycle maker’. A pioneering cycle manufacturer ‘Guest and Barrow’ was established in Philip Street, Aston at this time, so Harry may have been employed there.

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Guest and Barrow bicycle c1897

This background suggest the origins of the ‘Winchurch Brothers cycle shop’ that preceded the garage.

How many of the brothers were involved in addition to Roland and Percy, I don’t know, but it is fair to assume that the cycle business prospered, because in 1905 Percy and Roland set up ‘Winchurch Brothers Limited ‘. The business was initially at 152a Ladypool Road (Kelly 1907 and 1908)

By 1912, no less than four cycle shops are listed by Kelly at Ladypool Road, Moseley, Waterloo Road in Smethwick and at 134 Sandon Road in Bearwood.

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Percy about 1907. Photo from Jeremy Ward

At some point after 1912 ‘Edgbaston Garage’ in Sandon Road Bearwood was opened. The premises eventually occupied numbers 102 – 120 involving the demolition of several houses as it expanded. Certainly the earliest driving licence I have for Percy, dated 20 October 1914, lists Sandon Road as his business address.

The selection of the name ‘Edgbaston Garage’ is in itself interesting since, as anyone familiar with districts of Birmingham will be aware, Edgbaston is (even now) very much more ‘upmarket’ than Aston. This seems to have been part of a shrewd move by Percy and Roland to target a wealthy section of the population who were about to lead the country into a long lasting love affair with the motor car.

In the same year as Winchurch Brothers’ foundation, Herbert Austin formed the Austin Motor Company and began production at Longbridge in 1906.

There are gaps in my knowledge of many aspects of Winchurch Brothers in the early years, from 1905 until my Father’s earliest memories from around 1918.

Percy’s surviving driving licences from 1914 to 1919 include an endorsement ordered by Kings Heath Police Court on 21 November 1916 for ‘not obscuring headlights’ on 29 October 1916, for which he was fined 10 shillings. This was, of course at the height of the Great War, but how much real risk ‘not obscuring headlights’ caused is a matter of speculation !

Roland (with dog), Percy and construction workers - about 1910

Roland (with dog), Percy and construction workers - about 1910

Back row: Marion Sternberg, Henry Ambrose Brown (Marion's father), Roland Winchurch, Percy, another Winchurch brother (Harry?) with wife ? Middle: Alice Brown (Marion's mother) Mildred Brown, Marion, Employee (French ?), Eliza Winchurch (Percy's mother) Front: Harry Brown and Edith, his wife.

Back row: Marion Sternberg, Henry Ambrose Brown (Marion's father), Roland Winchurch, Percy, another Winchurch brother (Harry?) with wife ? Middle: Alice Brown (Marion's mother) Mildred Brown, Marion, Employee (French ?), Eliza Winchurch (Percy's mother) Front: Harry Brown and Edith, his wife.

Percy Walter Winchurch married Marion Brown, the daughter of Henry Ambrose Brown, a tailor, and Alice Plucknett Brown (nee Sternberg) on 18 April 1911. Percy was 29 and Marion 28.

On their marriage certificate Percy’s address is 11 Newton Road and his occupation is ‘Cycle Dealer’, underlining the fact that the motor side of the business was less important than bike sales in the early years.

Their first child, Francis Victor Winchurch, known for most of his eighty three years as ‘Vic’ was born on 5 February 1914 at 12,Waterloo Road in Bearwood not far from the garage. Interestingly, Percy is described on Vic’s birth certificate as a ‘Motor Engineer’. So only three years later,the motor side of the business had presumably become the more important. His birthplace was the family home where Percy, Marion and Vic lived until the move to Pargeter Road (I think in around 1918).

Jeanne Marion Winchurch was born on 5 July 1919.

The business clearly prospered during the 1920s since photographs show Percy and his family in increasingly comfortable surroundings and on holiday in Devon and later Cornwall moreover, the children both had private educations at primary level.

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Jeanne Marion and Percy about 1926

There was always a car somewhere in the pictures, as in this one taken in what looks like the Welsh border country; a popular destination for Midlanders on a ‘Sunday day out’. The car, I think, is a Morris Oxford ‘flatnose’

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Winchurch Brothers in the early 1920s. Notice the predominance of lock up garages

Roland meanwhile had Married Alice Wood in 1914. They had four children, Barry, Betty, Molly and Pat between 1915 and 1927. The brothers bought houses in the newly expanding suburb of Quinton. Roland, with his larger family, probably moved from Galton Road to 757 Hagley Road West in 1931, with Percy following to 755 a year later. A high wooden fence separated the back gardens ! The brothers also owned the semi detached ‘other half’ of Percy’s house 753, which was rented to a childless couple from London called Perrott. Hugh Perrott was a travelling salesman for a childrens clothing manufacturer.

In February 1930, Vic was 16 and a pupil at King Edward VI Grammar School at Five Ways. He took his School Certificate examination that year and in January 1931 he began training with Smethwick Borough Council as a weights and Measures inspector.

Clearly a decision had to be taken in the long term with regard to his involvement, if any, in Winchurch Brothers. Correspondence between Roland and Percy in 1936 touches on this subject and the parallel matter of Roland’s son, Barry.

On 24th March 1936 Roland writes:

” I understand that you have no wish for either your son or my son to take any part in the business with the view to carrying on after we are both deceased”

In the event Vic was not involved in the business until after World War 2 and Barry never worked there.

Roland begins his letter:

“We have now been running together in a more or less amicable partnership for 30 years and obviously we cannot expect to run a great number of years more before one or both of us are incapacitated or depart from this troublesome world for good and all. As far as I am concerned I quite anticipate that I shall be booked in for another operation in the not too distant future”.

I do not know what the nature of Roland’s illness was, but he was a heavy smoker and eventually died of cancer. Percy too smoked cigarettes, but gave up around 1950 after warnings from his doctor.

Roland’s letter continues:

…… it appears to me that it is up to us to anticipate the future and plan accordingly the ultimate destiny of the business and property. Also there is the question of Fred’s interest in the business to be dealt with when the time comes. One has to face facts.

Fred (Frederick William Winchurch) was born at the Cross Keys in 1868, the third of Benjamin and Eliza’s children. My own childhood memory him is as a jovial and outgoing man, know to much of the family as ‘Uncle Fred’.I don’t think he was involved in Winchurch Brothers until after his retirement from glass manufacture, but he wasclearly there in 1936 and up to about 1950, when I remember him working in the Billiard Hall(of which more later). He is not mentioned in company reports and in the absence of any other information, he was an employee rather than in any way a driving force in the company.

A notable aspect of Roland’s letter of 1936 is the fluency with which it was written. It has to be remembered that the brothers were raised at a time during which there must have been considerably hardship for the family and as far as I know, neither Percy or Roland had an extended education. It is a lasting tribute to their drive and foresight that they succeeded in building up a successful and prospering business. Nevertheless, Roland clearly felt he was not benefitting in the way that he and his family should:

As regards my share of the Partnership I suppose you will not dispute that I am entitled to share equally with yourself in our assets and liabilities and I want to know if you have any objection to me drawing any money to be charged against my capital account and/or raising a loan on my portion.

You see it takes me all my time to carry on. I have no clothes and my children are of no material help as yet.I should like to Re Furbish as the few sticks I have are worn out after 23 years.Also I should like to help the children to get a decent living as the amount I should be able to leave them will not be of too much use when it is divided. You of course will not have the same problems to face, as far as I can see, your dependents should be adequately provided for.(subject of course to the vicissitudes of life)

As you are aware my boy Barry is very unhappy in his work and can only see a life of clerical drudgery in front of him if he stays on. He feels that he has wasted 3 of the most valuable years of his life and after long consideration I have told him he had better give in his notice.

I only mention this by the way as I know you have no regard for him or my other children or for the matter of that anyone else’s children to the best of my knowledge but you may appreciate that it adds to my personal problems.

Roland then turns to their working relationship, which had by this time clearly become soured. It remained that way for the next seventeen years:

Now as far as our personal relationship is concerned, I frequently wonder whether you consider I pull my weight in the business, as your manner towards me more particularly dating back to your 2nd period of association with the Paytons, has been even less cordial than in the past. In fact your everyday attitude makes me wonder if you desire to be rid of me. If this is the case, we had again better face facts and try to come to an equitable arrangement to terminate our active partnership. On the other hand, should I be in error as regard above remarks I certainly think we should make some effort to work together more in Harmony and Cheerfulness and by so doing make life more pleasant for all concerned.

The Paytons, Fred and Beattie, were friends of Percy and Marion who used to accompany them on holidays. Vic referred to them as ‘Uncle Fred and Auntie Beattie’, but they were not related. Fred Payton worked at Winchurch Brothers, but I suspect that was a result of their ‘association’ rather than the other way round.

Perhaps the most barbed comments in his letter comes next::

Holidays

Your suggestions as regards a Holiday Rota would be appreciated.

The holiday period has always been rather a nightmare to me, when I have had the whole lot to manage with a depleted staff at the worst time of the year with usually no office assistance

Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion's younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown (Marion's mother). About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.

Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion's younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown (Marion's mother). About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.

Percy and family took regular summer holidays, usually in Devon or Cornwall at this time. but as far as I know for two weeks. The real point about this is ‘usually no office assistance’

Percy’s secretary (she would be referred to as a ‘p.a.’ now) was Olive Parr, who joined the company in 1920. Percy and Olive had a close relationship, certainly in the post WW2 years and Roland would have had plenty of ammunition by then, since Olive regularly accompanied Percy, (sometimes with Marion and a host of friends too), on weekend outings and holidays.

This relationship is probably in Roland’s mind as he concludes the letter.

In conclusion, I would remark that I have written this letter because I never have any opportunity to talk to you privately and if you had agreed to my suggestion of a monthly conference I need not have written a great deal. Further no other person is acquainted with the contents, so if you so desire you may treat the subject matter as strictly private between our two selves.

I leave it to your judgment anyhow. I write with no ill feeling out rancour

And Sign myself

Your somewhat weary brother

Roland

Anger and irritation are evident in Percy’s reply. The version I have is clearly a draft, with numerous crossings out, probably destined for typing by Olive before being sent ‘next door’. The irony is that Roland and Percy worked within feet of one another as well as living next door to one another in Hagley Road West.

I include the text in full:

Dear Roland,


I propose taking your letter in paragraph order.


1. I have expressed the opinion, several times, that we should be better apart, always with this qualifying remark – ‘unless pleasant business relationships can be arrived at’ – this is definitely up to you. Life is much too short to spend needless time going into trivialities. Also, your remarks about myself which no doubt are intended to come back to me from time to time, although I do not say anything, are very hurtful.

2. The business relationship could be a quite agreeable one if you cut this kind of thing out and left the general business decisions to me, being answerable only to you. This practice would relieve you of a lot of trouble I think, or alternatively you could take on that position yourself.

Referring to your remarks re your conversation with a keen business man in property and business, I am fully alive to all this, but if you desire to terminate your partnership with me and find conditions impossible, you would have to agree to sell out altogether or come to some reasonable arrangement with me to let me carry on the business. I cannot and will not keep on working without some agreement on the future of this business as I have repeatedly told you If I cannot come to some arrangement with you, I should buy another business elsewhere.

If you will carry your mind back over the last 10 years you have repeatedly passed the (impression?) that you are semi retired, but I shall point out that you have drawn a very good income during those years, so that I cannot see any cause to complain.

As far as Fred and Jinnie are concerned, they are no doubt able to look after themselves.

As far as the B Hall is concerned, last year is definitely not a year to take as criterion and will no doubt revert to normality again.

As far as the future is concerned, you are not in a position to forecast and I myself face the future with quiet confidence and in conclusion, instead of asking other people things, you should ask the people concerned, in a pleasant and brief manner you would get on much better.

You are at perfect liberty to show this letter to whoever you like, there is no sarcasm intended and I loathe and detest Cheap Sarcasm from you.

I have always tried to do my best for this Firm and while I am with the Firm I shall continue to do so.

I remain

Sincerely Yours

Percy

The Billiard Hall, or to give it its full name ‘The Regent Billiard Hall’ was situated adjacent to the garage fronting onto Bearwood High Street. It features in Kelly’s 1933 trade index to Birmingham and judging by references to its profitability in 1936, it had only been running for a few years. My guess is 1932.

I remember Fred Winchurch and Fred Payton serving behind the bar in the late 1940s. That bar, however served only non alcoholic drinks, a legacy of the aversion to alcohol that Percy had throughout his life, resulting from his upbringing as a publican’s son.

The Regent Billiard Hall about 1947. Notice the newly installed fluorescent lights - a pioneering feature.

The Regent Billiard Hall about 1947. Notice the newly installed fluorescent lights - a pioneering feature.

Fred Payton at back left.

Winchurch Bros about 1948. The poster in the window of the showroom calls for the abolition of the basic petrol ration - still in force after WW2

Winchurch Bros about 1948. The poster in the window of the showroom calls for the abolition of the basic petrol ration - still in force after WW2

On leaving school, Vic worked in the Weights and Measures Department of Smethwick County Borough Council from January 1931, just before his seventeenth birthday until 1938. He was initially an unqualified assistant, but obtained the necessary qualifications to become a fully-fledged Weights and Measures Inspector in January 1936, when he was almost twenty two.

In October 1938 he left Smethwick to work in Northallerton as an Additional Inspector of Weights and measures for North Riding of Yorkshire Council. He was there when war broke out in September 1939, but left in December 1940 to move back to his parents’ home.

To quote from a letter of application to Buckinghamshire County Council dated 30 January 1941

“I resigned voluntarily owing to unsatisfactory service conditions”. Now my father was generally a tolerant, loyal and uncomplaining man, so I can only conclude that things in Northallerton must have been really bad for him to leave a return south without a job!

In the same letter and in a similar letter of application to Dorset he notes that he is “twenty seven and single…I am of course liable for military service, but as far as I can ascertain it is not likely that I shall be called up for some time to come….”

Within two weeks of writing this he was married and had joined the Royal Navy !

Vic Winchurch married Margaret Downing, who worked as a typist for the engineering firm Bellis and Morcom in Birmingham on 8 February 1941.

Margaret lived with her widowed mother Annie Elizabeth Downing (nee Smith) in Topsham Road, Smethwick. Her father, Arthur Lionel Downing, who worked as a signalman for Great Western Railways, had died in 1937 from angina. Margaret had been present at his death and told me that he begged her not to call a doctor because having health problems associated with his heart  would mean that he would, almost certainly, lose his job. Just twenty years old, Margaret walked to the doctor’s home during the night, although Arthur was obviously dead. The doctor refused to attend, but simply and contemptuously, threw the death certificate to her from his upstairs window. Unsurprisingly, that event left its mark on her attitudes, particularly towards poverty,

Vic and Margaret were married at St Paul’s Church Smethwick on 8 February 1941.

Marion, Percy, Nina Woodhouse, Bill Marsh, Vic, Margaret, Jeanne, Albert Downing. Annie Downing

Marion, Percy, Nina Woodhouse, Bill Marsh, Vic, Margaret, Jeanne, Albert Downing. Annie Downing

The years during the war cannot have been easy. Car production ceased and fuel was rationed.

Vic joined the Royal Navy in January 1941 and became an operator of the new equipment known as Radar.

Percy, along with a large part of the population on Britain, ‘dug for victory’ growing vegetables and keeping hens. He slept at Sandon Road on fire watch on a regular basis in a concrete ‘Pill Box’ next to the showroom. Birmingham was bombed by the Luftwaffe on several occasions between August 1940 and May 1941. Bearwood Road School was hit, fortunately at night and there were no casualties. I don’t know how much fuel was stored at the garage at this time, but it can’t have been a comfortable place to be. I still have Percy’s wooden and canvas camp bed from this time. It became my bed for several years when I was a child.

A letter to Vic just after I was born in 1942 offers a glimpse of life at that time:

Letter from Percy to Vic 19 October 1942

Letter from Percy to Vic 19 October 1942

‘Brotheridge’ was Denham (Den) Brotheridge, a friend and colleague of Vic from the Weights and Measures Department of Smethwick Borough Council. His name became well know a few years later for a very tragic reason.

Den Brotheridge was the first Allied Serviceman killed in the D Day landings.

(see Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Den_Brotheridge)

This is the newspaper photo of HMS Valiant – The Royal Navy ship on which Vic was serving as a leading seaman in 1942

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Two days later on 20 October 1942, Jeanne wrote to Vic :

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..and again just after Christmas 1942. Possibly the worst time to be in Britain in the second world war.

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In addition to not being old enough to go visiting I had a near fatal dose of gastro enteritis according to my mother ! To be honest, I think the contact between Percy and Margaret was minimal due a mutual dislike. I was certainly aware of this as a child. It seemed to centre on Margaret’s view that she was getting little support and Percy’s view that Margaret had married for money….but I could be over simplifying !

The ‘Jimmy’ referred to is Payton’s wire haired terrier, the brother of Percy and Marion’s ‘Jack’. Another indication of the the two families’ close association, alluded to by Roland.

Jeanne was avid supporter of West Bromwich Albion Football Club, whilst Percy remained true to his roots as a season ticket holder and shareholder in Aston Villa.

It is interesting that he was persuaded to cycle to the Hawthorns (WBA’s home ground). This was much nearer to their home in Quinton than Aston Villa and Percy was now sixty years old. It is a clear indication that even he could not get enough petrol for even short journeys during the bleakest period of World War Two.

Jeanne finally got her wish early in 1943 and joined the WRNS.

Following the revelations about the Enigma decoding process, involving literally hundreds of WRNS acting, in effect, as a human computer in an operation led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park in Bedfordshire, it seemed very likely to me that her rapid recruitment happened because of her mathematics and accountancy qualifications.

I was surprised to find from Jeanne’s service record that she spent the early part of her wartime service at HMS Pembroke, nominally the supply department, based at Chatham, but there is no doubt that her recruitment corresponded with this surge of WRNS personnel with Maths qualifications.

By the spring of 1943 she was on leave at Quinton in her new uniform

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Jeanne Margaret Vic with John, Spring 1943

Vic’s car; a Standard Twelve, I think, was used by Percy during the war and might have been in general use at the garage.Certainly at a directors’ meeting at the Offices of Flint and Thompson at 63 Temple Row Birmingham on 3 April 1947, Roland proposed that Vic be paid £30 for the use of his car during the year, This was not seconded !

This meeting was probably the turning point in the affairs of Winchurch Brothers and certainly the events of the following six years had a profound effect on all our lives.

In the post war years, the business prospered. Restrictions on prices meant that second hand cars with low mileage were more valuable than new ones. Consequently, Percy and to a lesser extent, I think, Roland had a succession of new cars often for no more than six months. I can remember well the excitement of being collected in the latest of ‘Grandpa’s new cars’

My brother David Christopher Winchurch had been born a few months earlier on 13 December 1946 and I can now understand how Percy must have felt at this point that he was laying a path for all of us for the future.

Vic had been added to the payroll of Winchurch Brothers after demobilisation from the Navy in 1946. I don’t think his employment did anything to remove Percy’s earlier misgivings about his involvement in the business. After a spell in the workshop, which I believe was not a great success, he was moved to the stores ! My pleasure as a result of this was derived from having a typewriter to play with when I called there. David

remembers that too and additionally a narrow passageway between the back of the line of timber buildings and a brick wall behind. We both think used engine oil was stored there before being burned as fuel in the heating system.

The minutes of this meeting and the associated financial report reveal that Winchurch Brothers Limited was on a sound financial footing. Percy proposed that the directors’ fees be increased to £520 per annum from 1 October 1946, This was carried.

Some £1500 was paid out in dividends that year and I believe that at this point only Percy and Roland were shareholders.

Percy made a move in 1947 to appoint three extra directors, Horace Bench, his brother in law through Millie, Marion’s sister plus Vic and Frank Angel, the company secretary, of whom I know very little, but he seems to have had a legal background since he was asked to produce a report on the operation of the company if these appointments took place and also in the light of a further proposal by Percy to issue shares to Vic, Jeanne, Betty, Molly and Pat ( but excluding Barry, who seems to have left the family behind him by this time – he eventually died in Rochdale in 1975)

This is quite clearly marks the intention, on Percy’s part to marginalise Roland and lead to a breakup, or takeover, of Winchurch Brothers.

In the same year, 1947, Percy staged a dinner and concert at the Red Cow Hotel in Smethwick

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‘To commemorate the completion of 25 years service of Miss O. Parr with Messrs Winchurch Brothers Limited’

It is noticeable that it was Percy who sent out the invitations although Roland does seem to have been present to perform the presentation to Olive. He is, however totally absent from photos I have from that evening.

About this time, Millie Bench reported with some amusement that Roland had sidled up to her, cigarette in mouth and in his broad Birmingham accent enquired :

‘D’yow think as ower Percy’s susceptible to flattery’ ?

Whatever form Percy and Olive’s relationship took at this time (he was now 65 and Olive 46) there was no attempt to conceal it. Olive acted as chauffeuse on family outings as well as business and her family, particularly her sister Hilda Martin, husband Harold and children Denise and Roddy, were part of a large circle that Percy gathered around himself.

Olive Parr, Percy, Marion and Vic (my father) on the extreme right. 28 October 1947

Olive Parr, Percy, Marion and Vic (my father) on the extreme right. 28 October 1947

This behaviour earned the vociferous contempt of Margaret, my mother, particularly when Olive went on holiday with Percy, Marion and entourage. Percy however had no evident signs of the received morality of a late Victorian childhood ! He was equally contemptuous about organised religion. I remember how, towards the end of his life, on a trip to Pembrokeshire with Marion, Jenny, (Fred’s widow) and myself in the car, he replied to Jenny’s favourable comments about the picturesque appearance and setting of St Issels church at Saundersfoot with the remark :

‘Yes Olive and Midge went there one Sunday. God knows why. Some time when they were feeling extra religious, I suppose.’

I can still hear those words today, over fifty years later and to me as a ten year old, such deliciously daring blasphemy both amused and horrified me.

I don’t think I ever told my mother !

The final years

In June 1949, Jeanne commited suicide, as I have reported on the pages that I have written about her here

The plans that Percy Winchurch made in the four years after Jeanne’s death were far reaching and profoundly affected my life and the lives of many members of my family.

In 1939 Percy, Marion and the Paytons (Fred and Beattie) had gone to Pembrokeshire instead of the more customary West Country. I think this might have been on the recommendation of Frank Collins, who was a Winchurch Bros employee and who later retired to Penally, I believe.

After Jeanne death, Percy and Marion immediately put the house in Hagley Road West on the market and they moved to Stennels Avenue in Halesowen within months. Devon and Cornwall would have brought back painful memories, I guess and Percy’s thoughts must have turned to alternative holiday destinations. Pembrokeshire quickly moved to prime position and he began to make retirement plans. These included roles for my father and David and me (his grandsons). I don’t know whose idea boatbuilding was, but it clearly had links with my father’s wartime service in the Royal Navy.

Percy entered into negotiations with Vic Morris, who owned St Brides Garage in Saundersfoot, to either purchase the business outright or go into partnership. I don’t know how the formula was arrived at, but plans were drawn up to add a boatbuilding venture to the motor business, to be known as ‘Saundersfoot Marine Company Limited’.

In January 1953, Percy, as Chairman of the Birmingham branch of the Motor Agents Association, hosted a lavish dinner at the Botanic Gardens in Edgbaston. His health was beginning to fail and he can be seen falling asleep at one point. As I have mentioned, Percy was a teetotaller, so the fatigue was not due to Alcohol.

Anyone who was anyone in the motor trade in the West Midlands was at that dinner

Click on the picture below for photos from that night:

January 1953 Motor Agents Association Dinner

January 1953 Motor Agents Association Dinner

A few months later, Winchurch Brothers was bedecked with flags and bunting for the coronation in June 1953

Winchurch Brothers with flags and bunting flying for the 1953 Coronation, three months before Percy died

Winchurch Brothers with flags and bunting flying for the 1953 Coronation, three months before Percy died

Then, early in September 1953, Percy suffered a major stroke. He was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, but never regained consciousness and was dead within twenty four hours on 9 September 1953.

Report of Percy's death - September 1953

Report of Percy's death - September 1953

Suddenly, Francis Victor Winchurch, was thrust into the limelight. A decision had to be made about Vic’s involvement in Winchurch Brothers. I remember vividly being taken out for a drive in the green company van that my father habitually drove (Percy and Roland had cars – Percy’s an Austin A70 and Roland’s a more modest A40 Devon at the time of Percy’s death). My parents involved me in the discussion about the possibility of a move to Tenby, which I viewed with unrestrained glee. For one thing, I was in my final year at Hagley County Primary School and was expected to pass my eleven plus exam the following year and transfer to King Edward VI School in Stourbridge, a prospect which filled me with something considerably less than enthusiasm.

Vic was to move to Pembrokeshire in advance and set up the boat building business and look for a house for us to move to.

In the meantime, negotiations took place for the sale of Percy’s share of Winchurch Brothers to Roland.

Percy’s estate was left in trust to my grandmother Marion, so she and the trustees were parties to the sale. As far as I know, agreement was amicable and went smoothly. Roland had been heartbroken at his brother’s funeral, showing a deeper affection than the grumpy indifference (and sometimes direct hostility) that had marred the last twenty years or so of their working relationship.

Roland’s own health was deteriorating rapidly and it was only two years before the business passed out of the ownership of any members of the Winchurch family.

01/05/2009 Posted by | Family History, Winchurch | Leave a comment

Winchurch Family History

JOHN WINCHURCH WEBSITE

FAMILY HISTORY

I have compiled a table of known Winchurch/Winchurst births, baptisms, marriages and deaths from 1549 – 2007

Pre Civil Registration (1837) list here Pre1837
Please contact me at johnvwinchurch(  )btinternet.com for more information

The following mostly refers to the male (Winchurch) line of my family.
I also have extensive material on other branches, particularly that of my maternal Grandmother, Marion Brown including, (in
addition to the Browns) – Sternberg, Plucknett and other related families in Devon and Northampton.
Much of the material used here was originally researched by my father, the late Francis Victor Winchurch.

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Francis Victor Winchurch 1914-1997

Thanks also to Jeremy Ward and Sheila Williams for their assistance and input to this project.

A word of caution at the outset.
I have tried to verify information and check sources as exhaustively as is practicable. However, as with any Family History project, guesswork plays a part. The blind certainties of some documents and sites must be viewed with caution. There is also an increasing risk, with greater use of the internet, that mistakes and possibilities purporting to be facts will simply be carried from one site to another. I shall endeavour to present guesswork as simply that, but hopefully with reasons that make it ‘informed’
I maintain an open mind with regard to all information not directly verifiable and welcome any new input or corrections from any reader or source.
John Winchurch

The Origins
The name Winchurch, or Winchurst, or Winsthurst is believed to be Saxon in origin. Until about 1740 ‘Winchurst’ was the most common spelling by far.
By the time of the 1911 census ‘Winchurch’ predominated, returning 142 names, with only 23 for ‘Winchurst’

The earliest records are from Dudley, Rowley Regis and Walsall in the West Midlands of England and some around Stepney in London, although the latter are almost certainly those of families who moved across the country manufacturing and selling iron goods, produced initially around Dudley.

The Winchurchs were involved in the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, in what became known as the ‘Black Country’, to the North West of Birmingham.
The family members’ primary occupation up to the late eighteenth century was nailmaking.
They moved to glass manufacture and coal mining in the early eighteen hundreds with my great great grandfather, Thomas Winchurch, a glassblower, moving from Dudley to Aston, North Birmingham in 1821. In all probability the newly constructed canal system through the Midlands played a major part in this.

My own branch of the family lived and worked with Birmingham as a hub until about thirty years ago. In fact I worked within walking distance of Aston whilst based at the ATV Television studios in the 1970s.

The Fifteenth, Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries

6 Aril 1434

Hearings regarding land ownership involving ELIZABETH, DAUGHTER OF RICHARD HANKEFORD, KNIGHT

STAFFORDSHIRE. Inquisition. Lichfield. 6 April 1434. [Coton].

Jurors: Clement Jurdan ; John Spyser ; Robert Chaumbour ; Richard Granger ; John Bocher ; Thomas Thomyns ; William Wynneshurst ; John Hardewyk ; William Cooke ; John Jonis of Pattingham; Thomas Yong ; and Richard Byr

These records from C1430 – 1460 Suggest that William Wynneshurst was at least a ‘gentleman’, but the connection with my family is purely circumstantial. It is however the first record I have so far of anything like the name Winchurch/Winchurst at this early date
(and in the right geographic location)

(A court case brought a month after Easter Day in the 37th year of Henry 6th’s reign, which I believe dates it as 1459 )

No. 63. At a month from Easter Day.37 Hen. VI.

Between Thomas Everdon and John Tylney, complainants, and William Wynneshurst, the elder, and Katherine his wife, deforciants of three messuages, two tofts, 140 acres of land, and nine acres of meadow in Bisshebury.

William and Katherine acknowledged the said tenements to be the right of the complainants, for which they granted them to William and Katherine for their lives, with remainder to William Wynneshurst, the younger, and his issue; and failing such issue to John Wynneshurst, brother of William and his issue, and failing such issue to Richard Wynneshurst, brother of John, and his issue, and failing such issue, to the right heirs of Katherine for ever.

31 Jan. 1462/3
Gift by Richard Normon of Duddeley and Alice his wife to William Wynneshurst and Agnes his wife of a messuage in le Smythylone, parish of Dudley, St.Thomas
I have copies of both this document, in Latin, and an associated document transferring a ‘parcel of land’ in Smythylone.
A ‘Messuage’ was a dwelling.

The very helpful notes supplied with the copies by Dudley Archive and Local History Service and written by N.W.Alcock, add that a medieval ‘Gift’ is not as we understand it today, but was in effect a ‘sale’ although the sum involved was often (as in this case) not specified.
This entry records the family name with the ‘-hurst’ ending, not recorded again for a hundred years and raises some interesting questions. For example:
Duddeley is derived, it is believed, from ‘Dudda’s Leah’ (a Leah being a clearing in a wood). Wood was vital to iron smelting until Dud Dudley, Abraham Darby etc developed the coke process. The insatiable demand for wood and resulting large scale felling over a number of centuries led directly to their experiments.

Staff. William Wynneshurst and Isabella, his wife, sued Thomas
Nothale for a third of a messuage and virgate of land in Bisshebury, which
they claimed as dower of Isabella of the dotation of Thomas Pyry her
former husband. Thomas Nothale did not appear, and the Sheriff was
ordered to take the dower claimed into the king’s hands, and to summon
him for three weeks from Easter Day. A postscript shews that the Sheriff
bad made no return to the writ up to Easter term, 29 H. VI. m. 347.

If Dudda had a Leah, it seems very likely that Wyn(ne) could have had a ‘Hurst’ or clump of trees.
‘Wynne’s Hurst’
And taking this wild speculation a step further, the last Saxon Lord of Duddeley ( when it was still a village, remember) was Edwin…..
Edwynnes hurst ?

After Eadwin, the Earl of Mercia, was killed in the revolt against William his castle and lands at Dudley were given to William’s Norman followers

Maybe ‘EadWinsHurst’ was where Edwin settled when evicted from the site of the future Dudley Castle by his Norman successor.

It is likely that the Winchursts arrived in the Dudley area when the Saxons arrived from North Germany around 700 AD.

Since I first wrote the above, I have read Stephen Oppenheimer’s fascinating book ‘The Origins of the British’ and am now convinced that the ‘Saxon Invasion’ is a Victorian myth. My Winchurst ancestors were almost certainly in England before the Romans came. ‘More on that story later’ as Kirsty Wark might say !

For a very comprehensive history of Dudley online see British History Online – Dudley

DUDLEY CASTLE – A BRIEF HISTORY

The first mention of a castle at Dudley comes with the arrival of “a great and powerful prince of the Kingdom of Mercia” called Dudd, Dodo or Dudo circa 700 A.D. “who raised a strong fortress here, which remained until the Conquest.” Add the suffix “ley” or “lea” (which means land) to the man’s name and you get the likely origin of the area’s name. There is also a claim that someone called Athelstan (not the king of that name) might have been responsible for the castle, but the weight of preference lies with Dudd.

When William the Conqueror crossed the English Channel and defeated Harold in 1066, he distributed the spoils of victory among those who had supported him. One of these was Ansculf from a village near Amiens, who was assigned a barony of more than 80 manors scattered across several counties. This fragmentation was William’s deliberate policy to prevent his gifts being turned into mini-states to continue the pattern of feuding then found in France. In his collection, Ansculf was awarded Dudley and recognised that its hilltop site was ideal for Norman-style fortifications. At that point the Saxon fortress was held by Edwin, possibly a grandson of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, but the Conquest meant that Ansculf could simply dispossess him.

taken from Dudley Mall with thanks
for a full version and other aspects of Dudley life visit http://www.dudleymall.co.uk

Moving forward a hundred and forty years ( it is unusual to have any records from this period, due amongst other things to the dissolution of the monasteries.)
Dudley, Saint Edmund’s Parish register:
1605 Humphrey Winsthurst buryd October the XXIIjth
This burial was followed by a Grant of Administration :
England: Canterbury – Administrations in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, 1596-1608
Index to Acts of Administration in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1596 – 1608
County: General
Country: England

Winch als. Winchurst, Humphrey, Dudley, Worcs. To Geo. W. als. W., k., dur. min. Jn., Isabel & Cath. W. als. W., chn., Nov 1605 , p. 23.

Folio 23

November 1605:

Humphrey Winch alias Winshurst; Worcestershire:
On the 26th day there was issued a commission to George Winch alias Winshurst, kinsman of Humphrey Winch alias Winshurst, late of Dudley in the county of Worcestershire, deceased, having, etc, having been sworn to administer the goods, rights and credits of the said deceased well, etc, during the minority of John, Isabel and Catherine Winch alias Winshurst, children of the said deceased.

To Isabel W. als. W., rel. (by Decree), Jul 1606 , p. 46.

Folio 46

July 1606

Humphrey Wynche alias Winchurst; Worcestershire:

On the first day there was issued a commission to Isabel Winche alias Winchurste, relict of Humphrey Winche alias Winchurste of Dudly in the county of Worcestershire, deceased, having, etc, having been sworn to administer the goods, rights and credits of the said deceased well, etc.

Margins:

February 1606 [a decree] is taken for the portions of the children. There is interposed a decree concerning the distribution of the goods.

The interesting reference is to ‘Winch als. Winchurst’ Als is the abbreviation in these documents for ‘Alias’

So, it seems that earlier records in Dudley of ‘Winsts’ may be the same family. Why ?
My own guess was that there is some connection with ‘Hurst Hill’ in Dudley and that Humphrey Winst added his place of residence to his surname, however with the discovery of the earlier references to ‘Wynneshurst’ noted above the story may be more complicated!
If indeed, the earlier records of Winsts are relevant, then the earliest is that of ‘Thomas, son of Jhon’ (sic) Winst baptised on 21 September 1549 at St Thomas Dudley.

Thomas died soon after in infancy, being buried on 3 October at the same church.
‘Jhon’ then has five further children between 1553 and 1562 with baptisms sometimes at St Thomas, sometimes St Edmunds. The spelling of his Christian name changes to the more familiar ‘John’ for some of these entries.

Perhaps most significant for the purpose of this history is the following entry from Dudley St Edmunds for 17 September 1559 :
‘ Homforri sonne to Jhon Winst baptized September xvij th ‘
This may well be the ‘Humphrey Winchurst, alias Winch’ mentioned above, who died in 1605. His age would have been 45 and this would fit with having ‘minor’ children.

In 1608, John Winchurst married Christian Bate at Rowley Regis and a fairly solid Winchurst line emerges ( being recorded as the spelling variant ‘Winchurch’ at times during the 1700s, but almost exclusively so after about 1790 ). One of John and Christian’s grandchildren was also Christian (m Thomas Freeman)
Christian Winchurst (née Bate) was almost certainly the burial described in Dudley St Thomas register in March 1664 as being that of  ‘Old Widow Winchurst’

I like that !..somehow it turns a name into a real person.

The Winchurst family, with all its spelling variants, was deeply involved in the iron founding which had started in Dudley in the thirteenth century. Initially, charcoal was used for the smelting process, but stripping of the native woodlands hastened the search for an alternative process. The use of coal for this is well documented see, for example http://www.blackcountrysociety.co.uk/articles/duddudley.htm , one of the Black Country Society’s  many interesting features on the history of the area. William Wynneshurst’s location in Smythylone (Smithy Lane) also suggests connections with iron as early as the 1460s.

George Winchurst’s will 1647:

George Winchurst, Yeoman
Will 7 March 1647 Codecil undated Probate 3 July
Eldest son William, son Robert dau Susanna Dalton w of James.
Dalton children – Thomas Joseph & Mary
dau Margery Winchurst
brother Humphrey Winchurst 40/-
Grandchild Elizabeth Gosling dau of Richard Gosling
Edward and Sarah Lullidge children of dau Elizabeth Lullidge wid.
Children of dau Elizabeth w of Henry Haden viz Thos, Eliz, Mary & Henry
Grandchild Mary w of Henry Fewtrill
Son George Winchurst
Brother Jeffrey Winchurst 40/-
Sister Mary w of Thomas Lowe
Sister Elinor Horne

The London connection

The Winchursts were probably making nails before the 1600s and an interesting link was forged with Stepney on the Thames in the heart of London’s expanding docklands.

There is a registered burial of  ‘Winchurst J” at St Walbroke in 1588. I have not yet managed to link this with any birth, either in London or the Midlands. It might be an infant son of John Winchurst, but that is only a guess.

It looks as though the Winchursts were taking iron goods (probably nails) as the Tudor ship building expansion took place in London.
Jeffrey Winchurst, set up a smithying business which specialised in the manufacture of anchors – an Anchorsmith. Jeffrey seems to have prospered and maintained his links with the Black Country, presumably at least in part because of his need of a ready source of iron and coal. He was named as an executor of the will of Robert Winchurst of Stourbridge, an Ironmonger, who died in 1661 and several legal cases arising out of the contents of that will. I do not have all of the archive records yet, but my father transcribed some and listed the PRO – now National Archive references. Six Chancery Proceedings resulting from the will of Robert Winchurst indicate that the acquisition of wealth by this branch of the family was not without its problems !

The National Record Office has the will of Jeffery Winchurst, Anchorsmith of Ratcliffe London.

Jeffery was born in about 1611, probably in Rowley Regis or Dudley. I haven’t yet found a record of a birth anywhere that corresponds. I have a suspicion, in view of his date of birth, that he might have been the son of John Winchurst, who married Christian Bate in Rowley Regis in 1608.

The parish records of Saint Giles Cripplegate, London have an entry for the birth of Tho, son of Tho Winchurst, baptised on 14 NOV 1650. This is transcribed in the International Genealogical Index (IGI), but as so often happens with the IGI’s transcriptions, an important snippet is not included.
Fortunately Francis Victor Winchurch added the significant occupation – NAILER.

This Thomas might well be the son of Jeffrey, baptised in Rowley Regis in 1625. Notice the recurrence of christian names in the Midlands and London.

There is also a record online of

‘Inhabitants of London in 1638: St. Peter, Cornhill’, The inhabitants of London in 1638 (1931), pp. 176-178. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=32064

The Warehouses for the Lorreners and sellers of ironware above stairs on the east side of the said Yard:

John Winchurst one chamber Rent £4

In the same row of buildings : Richard Folly for a warehouse £4.

Is this Richard FOLEY, mentioned below? It seems likely and further links the Winchursts and Foleys with Dudley and London

Is this John Winchurst  Jeffrey’s father? (perhaps most likely, John would have been in his fifties) or brother. There is John Winchurst who is possibly my direct ancestor (and that of most Winchurchs), buried in Dudley in 1653, who married Christian Bate in Rowley Regis in 1608.

Jefffery Winchurst (1611-1674) married first Miriam around 1635, with whom he had six children
At the age of fifty seven, Jeffery married again, this time his wife was Elizabeth Harris. Perhaps unsurprisingly this union produced no children, but Elizabeth already had a son Charles, of whom mention is made in Jeffery’s will if 1674
Jeffery’s will also confirms the status of John Winchurst as his eldest son, who took over the business of Anchorsmith. Again, this suggests the continuation of a family name, albeit a common one.
Extract from Jeffery Winchurst’s will of 1674 to show the style of legal documents in the seventeenth century. Click to see in full

Will of Jeffery Winchurst

Will of Jeffery Winc hurst

Jeffery’s family relationships are extracted as follows:
I give and bequeath unto my dear and wellbeloved wife Elizabeth Winchurst forty pounds in lawfull money of England and twenty pounds in household goods …I give and bequeath unto my said wife Elizabeth Winchurst the upper rooms or chamber in my dwelling house or Tenement wherein I usually ? to have and to hold the same and enjoy the free use and benefitt thereof without any impediment for the space of one whole year after my decease

.. I give and bequeath unto my oldest Sonne John Winchurst the lease of the messuage or tenement shopp and premises now in my occupation situat lying and being in Ratcliff aforesaid provided that my said sonne John Winchurst does not and shall not bargain, sell or assign over the lease or ? or of the said messuage tenement or shoppe….and shall not take partners without the consent of my executors (paraphrased)
I give and bequeath unto my said sonne John Winchurst my shop tools and utensils or working instruments
I give and bequeath unto my sonn Jeffery Winchurst the sum of ten pounds
I give and bequeath unto my sonn Charles Winchurst the sum of four pounds
I give and bequeath unto my sons in law Edward Walker, George Tyte and Anthony Foster twenty shillings a piece to buy each of them a fine item.
I give and bequeath unto my wife’s sonn Charles Harris to buy him a fine item.
I give and bequeath unto my daughters Susanna Walker and Miriam Foster the sum of five pounds apiece.
I give and bequeath unto my sister Elizabeth Perry? widow the sum of five pounds
I give and bequeath unto Mary Robbinson ? the ???which I ???the sum of five pounds.
And ????I the said Jeffery Winchurst am possessed and ? of a ? mesuage or tenement called Brambles (?) with Lands and premises to the same belonging, lying or being in the parish of Upminster in the County of Essex, now or late in the ? of Thomas Thomson (?) which I formerly ? upon my loving wife Elizabeth Winchurst by way of ? for and during her natural life and after her decease to the issue of her body to be begotten by me the said Jeffrey Winchurst Now in default of such issue I doe hereby will order and appoint that the said messuage ? lands and premises called Brambles(?) with the ? named(?) shal be granted ? and sold for the best advantage with the most ???? after my wifes decease And I do name make and appoint my loving friends John Cooper of Ratcliff. Merchant and John Bradley of Wapping , Anchorsmith to be trustees for the sale and disposal of the said messuage or tenement and lands

..absolutely give will … and bequeath to my grandchildren
Jeffery Winchurst, Elizabeth Winchurst, Sarah Winchurst, Thomas Winchurst, Mary Winchurst, Isaack Walker, Thomas Tyte, Sarah Foster and Elizabeth Foster…

By contrast, when Jeffery’s widow Elizabeth made her will in 1688, there was no mention of the Winchursts. A large part of the administration and proceeds went to Elizabeth’s maid !
I am not yet sure about the details of what seems to be two families in London at this time, Jeffery’s above and Thomas’s who was contemporary and probably a cousin.
A Naval record in the National Archives provides another clue :
Folio 117.
Covering dates1674 Sept. 3
Thomas Winchurst. Details concerning Robert Foley’s supply of ironmongery to Chatham. Foley will keep on his own hands all such produced but not contracted for.
Gives a list of this.

The Foleys were based in the Midlands and built up an Iron empire
The principal members were Richard Foley (1588 – 1657) (see connection with John Winchurst, above), Thomas Foley (1616 – 1677), Robert Foley (1627 – 1677) Paul Foley (1650 – 1699) and Philip Foley (1653 – 1716).
Stourbridge was the centre of the iron manufacture in the Midlands and Richard Foley worked in one of the numerous branches of this trade – nail-making
This provides more evidence of the continued link that the Winchursts maintained with their Black Country roots.

For an interesting account of the connection between Robert Foley and developments in glass making technique in Stourbridge, see http://www.tyzack.net/chap11.pdf This also mentions Humphry Jeston, son in law of Robert Winchurst (see below)

It is fascinating to reflect that these people were living and working in a place and time which saw the rise of England’s naval power and later the Great Fire of London and the Plague of 1666.

John Winchurst, who continued the Anchorsmith tradition started by Jeffery, had married Frances Vavasor on 28 June 1664.
Frances seems to have come from a landowning family in Yorkshire. There is a record of one of John and Frances’s children being christened as ‘Maior Winchurst’ which seems to have been a traditional name in her family. There are also records of Vavasor involvement in the Civil War on the parliamentary side, which may be why the family moved to London.

After Frances’s death, John married Rachel Doorset on 16 June 1680, but there is no record of children from this marriage.

Whilst Jeffery continued the iron founding tradition of the Winchursts as an Anchorsmith, Thomas began trading as a draper in addition to his ironmongery and evidently did well.

National Archives:

Item reference ADM 106/323/551:

Robert Foley. Having been warranted to deliver ironwork to all dockyards except Portsmouth, having taken over his late father’s business, he appoints Thomas Winchurst to look after his business in his absence. Witnesses Wm. Warren, W. Barbour and Dennis Lyddall.

A will of Thomas Winchurst junr prepared in 1699 anticipated what seems to have been an early death in 1701. Thomas junr was about to depart on a journey to India with goods to the value of three hundred pounds, but he appears not to have returned from this voyage.
He left a widow Phebe and children, Thomas, Jane and Phebe.

A little more is known about the fate of these three children:
Thomas was apprenticed George North of London Gent, for £107-10s by his uncle William Winshurst of London, marriner in 1712.
Jane Winchurst dau of Thomas of St Giles Cripplegate was apprenticed to Thos Chamberlain of London for £20 in 1712.
Phebe, dau of Thomas Winchurst late of London (Gent) was apprenticed to Walter Griffiths, cit and salt (?) for £40 in 1714

However, the eldest child, Thomas came to a sticky end as the Court proceedings of the Old Bailey reveal

Johnson Burdet, Thomas Winchurst, Killing – murder, 11th January 1717

Johnson Burdet , and Thomas Winchurst , of the Parish of St. Giles in the Fields , Gentlemen , were indicted, the former for an Assault and Murder committed on the Body of Robert Faulkner , Esq ; on the 30th of December last, by giving him a Mortal Wound with a Sword value 5 s. on the Right side of his Body, near the Right Pap, of the Breadth of half an Inch and the Depth of 12 Inches, of which he instantly died: And the latter for an Assault and Aiding and Abetting in that Murder .

See account online at  http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t17170111-21&div=t17170111-21&terms=winchurst#highlight

Thomas Winchurst was hanged at Tyburn on 2 February 1717.

Thomas Winchurst of London (the grandfather) had died in 1701 or, to be more accurate, his will was proved on 2 June 1701. He left goods and money to his son William Winchurst and to three grandchildren, including the ill fated Thomas.
William, in turn died in 1707 and much of the proceeds of his estate passed to Thomas too.
No wonder he was described as ‘gent’ at his trial. Assuming that he was born about 1695, he was 22 when he was hanged and Thomas Winchurst’s male line seems to have ended, leaving Jeffery’s sons viz John, Jeffery and Charles to provide future Winchursts in and around London.

The link between maritime London and the Midlands
George Winchurst’s will of 1647 provides one of the clues to how his branch of the family prospered :

Summary of Will of George Winchurst, Yeoman, 7 March 1647
Probate granted 3 July 1647
Eldest Son William
Son Robert
Son George Winchurst
Dau Susanna Dalton w of James Dalton. Children Thomas James & Mary Dalton
Dau Margery Winchurst
Brother Humphrey Winchurst 40/=
Brother Jeffery Winchurst 40/=
Sister Mary, w of Thomas Lowe
Sister Elinor Horne
Grandchild Elizabeth Gosling dau of Richard Gosling
Edward and Sarah Lullidge children of dau Isabell Lullidge wid
Children of dau Elizabeth w of Henry Haden viz Thomas, Elizabeth, Mary and Henry Haden
Grandchild Mary, w of Henry Fewtrill

Anchorsmith Jeffery was George’s brother and Robert’s uncle (and later his executor).
George’s youngest son George settled in Abingdon. He opened ironmongers shops in Oxford, Abingdon, Henley on Thames, Windsor and Guildford.
I suspect Robert, Jeffery and George arranged deliveries of pig iron and goods across country and then via the Thames. This route is an obvious choice  if one looks at a map of southern England and the removes the roads !

The following document confirms a George Winchurst as an established ironmonger in Abingdon in 1663

E115/427/66

Certificate of Residence

To the Comrs for the County of Oxon named and appointed in a late Act of Parliament intitled in an Act for granting to the King’s Majesty ffoure subsidies.

Wee whose names are hereunto subscribed Commrs (amongst others) for the said County of Berks doe certify that we have rated and assessed George Winchurst in the said County of Berks, Ironmonger, two first of the said ffour subsidies as well as for his estate Culsham in the said county of Oxon to the value of twenty pounds paid.

As also for his estate in Abingdon aforesaid (being the place of his habitation) according to the said Act whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seals the eighth day of October 1663

(signed) Will ? Mayor of Abingdon

Tho. Southby

and others

George Winchurst Abingdon 1663

George of Abingdon prospered too and apparently became mayor of the ancient town.

His son John, born in 1653, entered Pembroke College Oxford on 17 December 1669 at the age of 16. Gaining his BA in 1673, he became a Fellow and his M. A. followed in 1676. After short period in Devon he became Vicar of Radley in Oxfordshire until his early death in 1682 at the age of 29.
John was buried in Radley church on 14 September 1682.

Quote from: Athenae Oxonienses : an exact history of all the writers and bishops who have had their education in the University of Oxford : to which are added the Fasti, or Annals of the said University”:

Saturday at night (14 September 1682) died at Radley Mr. John Winchurst, M. A. and fellow of Pern. coll. and vicar of , at Radley buried in the church 14, a good scholar, of a subtil head, a good mathematician, bom at Abcndon, his father was a malster and mayor.

Robert and William in Stourbridge and Oldswinford

Robert Winchurst and his brother William built up iron based manufacturing and trading around Stourbridge. Both brothers made considerable fortunes as a result and the wills of both were the subject of bitter court cases when distribution of money and goods were contested.
As previously mentioned, ‘Jeffery Winchurst of London’ was an executor of the will of Robert Winchurst and is named in the ensuing court case between Robert’s daughter and her mother!
In another proceeding in the Court of Chancery in 1670, Jeffery of Ratcliffe’s (London) daughter, Susanna and her husband Edward Walker and others were in dispute with Robert’s widow Joan about his will. By this time Jeffery was dead as well as Robert, so the Stourbridge – London link continued, in the courts at least !

The following document is important since it clarifies the link between The Winchursts of Stourbridge area with London:

Muchall, Andrew & Mary, his wife  Versus  Winchurst, George. Jeston, Humphry. Walden, Joyce & Winchurst, Joan

26th October 1669

To the right Honourable Sir Orlando Bridgeman.

Knight and Baron, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England.

Humbly complaining, sheweth to your good Lordship your dayly Orator and Oratrix

Andrew Muchall of Stourbridge in the County of Worcester, Ironmonger and Mary, his wife one of the daughters of Robert Winchurst, late of Stourbridge in the County of Worcester, Ironmonger, now deceased.

That wheras the said Robert Winchurst in his lifetime was possessed of and in a very great personall (?) estate consisting in ready money, goods, wares, merchandizes, household stuff and other things of divers sorts and kindes to the value of two thousand and five hundred pounds and upwards and being so possessed he, the said Robert Winchurst made his last will and testament in writing, bearing date on or about the eighteenth day of  March in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and sixty (1660) and by his said will did declare that forasmuch as he had bestowed three hundred pounds at the least, in the new building and replacing of the mesuage, lands and tenements in Stourbridge aforesaid, which were the inheritance of Joan his wife and thereby had much improved the yearly value thereof he did thereby desire that she would accept thereof with such additions as were thereby bequeathed for her livelyhood and that she should permitt the same after her decease to descend to the heirs of his body, of the body of his said wife, begotten and to be begotten and that she within sixteen weeks most after his decease should suffer a fine to be acknowledged of all the said mesuages, lands and tenements to the (heirs?) aforesaid and that she should not do, commit or suffer anything to alter. change. discontinue or divert the same which if she should not do (but ?…………) then and not otherwise he bequeathed his estate to his said wife during her widowhood only, the sum of six pounds yearly to be paid her by his executors by the lease or interest of one hundred pounds to be raised out of his personal estate and to be set for that purpose to that purpose. And thereby appointed that such goods of Amy Baker late mother of his said wife which were by her given or bequeathed to his children should be delivered and disposed of accordingly and her will in that behalf duely performed and willed that his said wife should have the use of all the rest of his household goods during her life and after her death he bequeathed the same to be equally divided amongst all his children or to such of them as his said wife should in her life or by her last will and testament give and bequeath the same and further thereby appointed that within six months next after his decease his executors should make or cause to be made a tree (?) & summary indented of all his goods, chattels, debts , personal estate whatsoever, which should any way come to their hands, possession or knowledge and of the values thereof and should deliver one part thereof to the overseers of his said will or one of them and should manage, employ and dispose of the same for payment of his debts and legacies and otherwise as was therby expressed, that is to say just care of his personal estate ?????? increase ?????????should yearly pay for or towards(?) ??????of his three daughters the sum of ten pounds (?) until their several and respective marriages or age of one and twenty years which should first happen and that his said wife should have the education of his said daughters during(?) her widowhood and have and receive ten pounds ?????or towards the same. And that after her decease or marriage with any other husband the said daughters should be educated and maintained by such person or persons as his executors should appoint and find most fitting and convenient. And after his debts should be fully paid and his legacies satisfied he bequeathed the residue of his estate to his three daughters your Oratrix Mary and Joane and Sarah Winchurst by equal portions and willed that the portions paid to your Oratrix and his said other daughters should be paid unto them as they should personally and respectively accomplish their ages of one and twenty years or be married with the consent of his said wife and executors or the major part of them under their hands and seals testifying the same and if any or either of his said daughters shall decease before they receive their said legacies, having no children that then the legacies or portion so to her or to them bequeathed or so much thereof as should remain unpaid shall be paid or distributed to the other surviving and in the said will there is a clause to this effect that if any of his said daughters should marry without such consent that his said executors should ? and keep? the portion of her and them so marrying without such consent and of her and their children as his executors should find most fitting and convenient and made his BROTHER George Winchurst and his BROTHERS IN LAW Humphrey Jeston, Richard Walden and Jeffrey Winchurst of London his executors of his said will whom he required once in every year after his decease to give and make to his overseers or one of them a full and true account in writing under their hands of all their receipts disbursements and charges expenses and payments in any sort touching or concerning his estate or the execution of his said will and appointed that his executors should be repaid their charges and expenses and travel which they should be put unto by reason of his said will out of his said estate and give his said executors fourty shillings apiece and appointed Joshua Newborough (see also ‘Charities’ on http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=43093)and Nicholas Bradley of London Anchor Smith to be overseers of his said will and to receive of his said Executors one part of the said inventory and the accounts of his said Executors and give unto each of his said overseers forty shillings desiring their assistance to his said executors towards the due execution of the said will as cause should require and by his said will further appointed that if his said three daughters or any or either of them should have need or occasion for any manner of decent clothing and apparel or in respect of their respective marriage or marriages that his said executors should have authority to buy and provide the same for them and the money disbursed to be defaulted out of their portions and appointed his said executors to pay to his said wife fifteen pounds within a week next after his decease towards the maintainence of the said children in part of the yearly sum of ten pounds apiece thereby appointed for the education of his said three children as in and by the said will if your Orator and Oratrix had the same to produce more fully would appeare and your Orator and Oratrix further show unto your good Lordship that shortly after the making of the said will the said Robert Winchurch dyed possessed of such personal estate to the value of two thousand and five hundred pounds as aforesaid after whose death the said George Winchurst and Humfrey Jeston and Robert (Richard?) Waldron three of the executors named in the said will proved the said will of the said Robert Winchurst and tooke upon then the burthen of the execution thereof and by virtue thereof possessed themselves of all and singular the personal estate of the said Testator to the value aforesaid but the said Jeffery Winchurst the other executor named in the will refused to make probate thereof or to intermeddle (?) therewith and your said Orator and Oratrix further show unto your Lordship that upon the two and twentieth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and sixty eight (1668) a marriage was had and solemnised between your said Orator and Oratrix according to the ecclesiastical laws of this land and that your said Oratrix Mary attained her full age of one and twenty years on the twentieth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and sixty nine (1669) by means whereof your said Orator and Oratrix are entitled to have and receive one full third part of all the personal estate of Robert Winchurst after his debts and his other legacies are satisfied and your Orators do further show that one Amy Baker widow, the late grandmother of your Oratrix on or about the tenth day of May Anno Dom one thousand six hundred and fifty three (1653) made her last will and testament in writing of which will she made your Oratrix , her said late father and Joane Winchurst her mother executors and amongst other things did thereby give unto your Oratrix the sume of one hundred pounds to be paid unto her at her age of one and twenty years which said sume of one hundred pounds the said Robert Winchurst then had in his custody for the use of your Oratrix said father and mother and hath promised to pay since her death and further your Oratrix said grandmother did give unto your Oratrix by the said will the agreed (?) bedstead, feather bolters, bed clothes, curtains, pillows which stood and were in  the Chamber or Sollar over the hall wherein she had which goods she did by her will appoint to be delivered unto your Oratrix when she should accomplish the age of one and twenty years and shortly afterwards your Oratrix said Grandmother died and her will was proved by your Oratrix’s said mother since her father’s death and your Oratix is entitled to have and receive as well the one hundred pounds as the said goods from your Oratrix’s mother for that your Oratrix hath atteyned her age of one and twenty years But now soe it is may it please your that the said George Winchurst and Humphry Jeston combining and confederating themselves together with Joyce the late wife and relict and Executrix or Administratrix of the said Richard Walden late one of the executors of the said Robert Winchurst which said Joyce hath gotten a great part of the estate of the said Robert Winchurst into her hands and custody and with the said Joane Winchurst your Oratrix mother the said confederates do now utterly refuse and deny to come to any accompt with your said Orator and Oratrix for that part of Robert Winchurch’s personal estate which belongs to your said Oratrix Mary and to deliver the same to your said Orator and Oratrix and doe alsoe deny and refuse to pay them the said hundred pounds and deliver the said goods soe bequeathed to your Oratrix by the said Amy Baker her Grandmother and which were also appointed to your Oratrix by her late father’s personal estate which your Oratrix as alsoe those goods which were given to her by her Grandmother and soe appointed to her by her late father .And your Oratrix her said mother pretends(?) that the Executors of her husband are possessed of all his estate and all the said goods of Amy Baker and that they ought to deliver them and to pay the one hundred pounds and the said executors refuse to doe it sometimes pretending that the debts and other legacies of the said Robert Winchurst are not yet satisfied and that they have noe assets of the said Robert Winchurst’s personal estate to satisfy the same at other times pretending that in regard to your said Orator and Oratrix did intermarry together without the consent of Robert Winchurst his Executors under their hands and seals your said Orator and Oratrix have not right or title to any part of the said Robert Winchurst’s personal estate at other times also pretending that they cannot safely part with any part of the said Robert Winchurst’s personal estate to your said Orator and Oratrix or dispose thereof for their benefit and advantage without the decree of this Honourable Court for their indemnity therein, whereas your Orator or his father on his behalfe is and will be ready to convey and make over lands for the benefit of your Orator and his wife and children of value answerable to the portion whereby the intention of the will of the Testator will be fully complied with howbeit they doe refuse to harken to the same or in any sort to performe the trust in them reposed all which doeing of the same confederates and contrary to right, equity and  good conscience and to the great wrong and prejudice (?) of your said Orator and Oratrix In tender consideracion whereof and for that your said Orator and Oratrix have noe remedy at or by the rules of the Common Lawes of this Kingdom to be relieved in the promises (?) or to compel the said confederates to come to any accompt with your said Orator and Oratix for the said estate or to enforce them to pay and deliver the same to your said Orator and Oratrix to dispose thereof for their benefit and advantage but your said Orator and Oratrix are onely and proply to be relieved in equity before your Lordship in this Honourable Court .

To this end therefore that the said Confederates may sett forth and declare upon their corporall Oathes whether the Robert Winchurst and Amy Baker did not make their severall last wills and testaments in such a manner and to such effect as is herein before sett forth and may alsoe sett forth by their answer a true and perfect inventory of all the said Robert Winchurst’s personal estate and the exact particulars and true values thereof and in whose hands the same or any and what thereof is or hath been disposed of and to whom by name and by whom and for what and may alsoe answer all and singular other the promises and that all the confederates may come to an accompt with your said Orator and Oratix for such part of the said Testators personal estate as belongs to them and alsoe may pay the legacie given by Amy Baker’s will and deliver the said goods and your said Orator and Oratrix may be relieved in all and singular the promises according to equity and good conscience.

May it please your Lordship the promises considered be granted unto your said Orator and Oratrix, his Majesties most gracious writ of subpoena be directed to the said

George Winchurst, Humfry Jeston, Joyce Walden, Joane Winchurst

Typed and saved as rtf document

From handwritten notes of

F V Winchurch from C 1960

By John Winchurch

12 October 2007

Joseph Winchurch at the Battle of Trafalgar 1805

The link with the Navy was renewed in Nelson’s time, as Andrew McCumiskey has pointed out. A Joseph Winchurch served on HMS Neptune during the Battle of Trafalgar.

To quote Andrew, “70 Black country lads volunteered and sailed with the fleet. I have been down to Kew and have copies of the ships log (he survived uninjured).”

Joseph Winchurch.

Ship: HMS Neptune
Rank/Rating: Private, Marine
Service details
Comments: From: Plymouth HQs
HMS Neptune
Ship’s pay book number: (ML 281)
30 July 1805

Back to Dudley

Leaving the ‘London connection’ and returning to the main area where Winchursts were to be found around Dudley, we find that by the end of the seventeenth century occupations are often included in Parish Register entries
e.g.: 1698 15 January, Humphrey, the son of Thomas Winchurst, naylor and Elizabeth his wife.

The working of iron in the Dudley area made it an important place for the manufacture of items such as nails and later chains, especially in Cradley Heath. (Chains for the Titanic were made there in a later century)

A will which is almost certainly that of my direct ancestor, and namesake (give or take a spelling variant !), John Winchurst dates from 1700

Will of John Winchurst of Dudley, Naylor 1700
Wife Jane to hold during her life all that messuage etc where I now dwell
and all that dwelling house where Richard Holmes (Holmer?) does now dwell
situate in Castle St otherwise called the New Horse Fair in Dudley
between the house and land late of Roger Bolton and the house and land of William Winchurst.
After her decease my house etc where I now dwell to my s Thomas W and the heirs male etc.
and for want of such to my s John and heirs male
and for want of such to my s John and heirs for ever.
Thos within 12m of wifes decease to pay John £5
within 18m ditto to pay to dau Christina Southall, w of William Southall 50/=
House where Richard Holmer dwells to wife to be sold for payment of debts.
1st June 1700
Witnesses
William Winchurst sen
Joseph Bolton
Joseph Cardale
Thos Oliver Pro Reg
Note1: John was buried on 5 June 1700

Note 2: There is an anomaly here, since John’s only recorded marriage was to Ann Freeman. Jane may have been his second wife. Enlightenment sought !

Another useful document from the point of view of lineage dates from 1718 :-

INDENTURE MADE 26th APRIL 1718
Between William Winchurst of Dudley in the County of Worcester
s & heir of Wm W late of D aforesaid Nailor decd
who was one of the sons of Humphrey W formerly of Dudley aforesaid Nailor decd.
and John Carcles (?) of Birmingham in the County of Warwick Ironmonger of the other part
for £30
All that Messuage, Burgage Tenament or Dwelling House in Dudley between the house and lands late of John Winchurst decd
and the houses and land now or late of Oliver Shaw
the land of Joseph Bolton
and the street called Castle Street
or all some or most parts thereof
all of which said premises are now in the posssesion tenure or occupation of the said W.W.

(In law, the term messuage equates to a dwelling-house and includes outbuildings, orchard, curtilage or court-yard and garden)
(The property (“burgage tenament”) usually, and distinctly, consisted of a house on a long and narrow plot of land, with the narrow end facing the street. Rental payment (“tenure”) was usually in the form of money, but each “burgage tenure” arrangement was unique, and could include services. As populations grew, “burgage plots” could be split into smaller additional units. Burgage tenures were usually monetary based, in contrast to rural tenures which were usually services based. In Saxon times the rent was called a landgable or hawgable).

So, taking the threads of evidence and drawing them together into a simplified family tree, my Winchurch / Winchurst ancestors and wives look something like this :

John Winchurch – male line

click to enlarge

It is worth remembering that this tree simply tracks the Winchurch line with wife named.
My total of ancestors for around the year 1550 would be in excess of FOUR THOUSAND, even allowing for some inbreeding !
…and that is going back less than five hundred years, a relatively short period of human history.

Back to the Winchursts (and Winchurchs as they had mostly become by 1780) –

One of the outstanding question marks in the above tree is the Thomas born in 1708

The line is fairly robust until we get back to Thomas (b1734), who married Phebe Jewkes in 1756


This is their marriage certificate, with thanks to Sheila Williams whose Winchurch branch and mine separate at this point
Notice that Thomas signed his name. This is the earliest ancestral signature that I have seen so far.
Notice also that he was Thomas WINCHURCH not Winchurst. The spelling varies for the rest of the century before settling as the ‘church’ form

Now we have a problem, because although several trees seem to agree back to this point, Thomas 1734 was probably the son of Thomas and Hanah Benson. But when and where was Thomas Snr born? 1708 (19 June ‘Thomas, son to Thomas Winchurst Naylor and Elizabeth his wife).seems the most likely, since by this time Thomas and Hanah had had a Thomas, who died the following year –
(Thomas Winchurst b 1705 died in 1706 ‘A child of Thomas Winchurst’)
(All from Dudley St Thomas parish registers or transcripts)

Our Thomas could be the unnamed male birth July 1697 to William Winchurst and Mary (IGI), but this is more likely to be William who survived and married Mary and whose birth.as ‘William’ is not recorded. (A son, Samuel was born in 1731 to ‘William and Mary’)

The most problematic entry is – ‘18 Feb 1715 Thomas a childe of Thomas Winchurch buried’ (FVW has note of 10/3/1965 that he has checked this against Bishop’s transcript)
Most likely this ‘childe’ was not Thomas son of Thomas, but possibly a child of Joseph. Joseph also had a wife called Elizabeth, so at a time of high infant mortality, maybe an error was made in the parish Register and thus copied to the Bishop’s Transcript.
1715 was in any case fairly late for Thomas and Elizabeth to have had a child ( they married in 1694 and there is no record of births to them after 1708) and the fact that the burial is of ‘a childe’ rather than ‘son of’ suggests the death of an infant (as was the case in 1706).

In 1734, Thomas Winchurch SENIOR was buried, implying that he had a living son called Thomas.
Anyway this Thomas and Hanah produced nine children between 1731 and 1742, so he must have existed !

I did wonder if one of the ‘London Winchursts’ might have returned to Dudley, but Thomas Winchurst b c 1695, the most likely candidate, was the one who was executed !

So, 1708 seems the most likely birth year for the Thomas Winchurst who married Hanah Benson.

Thomas and Hannah’s third child, Thomas, born in 1734, married Phebe Jewkes in Dudley in October 1756.

It is from this union that most present day Winchurchs descend.

Thomas Winchurch 1834 Descendants – Click to enlarge

By the time we reach 1780, the facts become clearer:

On 9th July 1780, Paul Winchurch (b 1759) married Sarah Shaw. They had eight children, five boys and three girls.
The eldest son, Thomas, born in 1787, married Mary Holt in Dudley 1808 and they had two daughters, both called Sarah (the first Sarah dying in infancy) Mary died in 1812 and eight years later, widower Thomas took as his second wife widow Ann Shakespeare.
Ann had been married to Joseph Shakespeare, so this was not her maiden name, which was possibly Brooks.
Joseph Shakespear married Ann Brook at Clent on 24 Nov 1812 Could this be her aged 19 ?

Why Clent ? It is even now a small village ( about 10 kilometres SW of Dudley )

Until the 19th century, Rowley church was a chapel of ease belonging to the parish of Clent. The distance between the two (some 9 kilometres) gave rise to much inconvenience, particularly with the growth in the population of Rowley. They were separated by a Private Act of Parliament in 1841. Before this the Vicar at Clent was prone to insist that Rowley people went to him at Clent for a marriage rather than him going to Rowley to perform the service. Clent was a good long walk away and some people chose to “live” in Halesowen parish and get married there rather than go to Clent.
All of this points to Ann being Brook(s) who married Joseph Shakepear and then as a widow married my GGGrandfather Thomas Winchurch at Tipton on 25 March 1820.

This union produced four children, Thomas, William, Ann and Benjamin and it is at this point that registry entries start to become part of family memory, because Benjamin was my Great Grandfather.

Benjamin Winchurch about 1880

Benjamin Winchurch about 1880

Benjamin Winchurch's two pint mug with the Cross Keys log dated 1860 and 'Windsor' incorrectly spelt !

Benjamin Winchurch’s two pint mug with the Cross Keys logo, dated 1860 and ‘Windsor’ incorrectly spelt !

Benjamin's mug -Cross Keys

Benjamin’s mug -Cross Keys

click for larger pictures

He was born in Birmingham in 1829 and christened on 1 January 1830 at St Philip’s Birmingham.
In 1861 he married Ellen Eliza Tester in London.

Ellen Eliza Winchurch née Tester 1911

Ellen Eliza Winchurch née Tester 1911

(pictured here at Percy and Marion’s marriage in 1911)
A glassblower by trade, Benjamin and Eliza lived at the Cross Keys in Upper Windsor Street in Aston. The landlord of this public house was firstly Thomas Winchurch. Benjamin’s father and when he died in 1856 Ann, Benjamin’s mother became landlady until her death, of ‘Old Age’ (she was 82) in 1875.
Percy, my Grandfather, their second youngest of eight children became a life long teetotaller because of witnessing as a child, the effect that alcohol could have on the way people behaved.

img068

Roland is at the bottom; then Percy; Charles; Benjamin and Harry. The elder two brothers, Frederick and Albert are not in the picture, nor is Alice Ann Winchurch – the only girl.

Family photo of the Winchurch brothers; dated 1886.
(Thanks to Jeremy Ward, Roland’s grandson, for copy of original photo)

Benjamin and Eliza’s children were:
1 ) Albert Edward b. 26 March 1865 d.3 March 1902 He had three sons and one daughter

2 ) Alice Ann b. 9 January 1867 d.in 1949. Alice married Frederick George Shaw. They had one son and one daughter

3 ) Frederick William b.12 March 1868 died 1950. He married Jennie Twist. They had two sons and three daughters.

4 ) Harry Edgar b.11 June 1870. Married Clara Elizabeth Goodyear on 5 July 1896.They had one daughter.

5 ) Benjamin Ernest b.18 December 1873. He married Lizzie Eastwood and they had one son and three daughters

6 ) Charles Herbert b. 23 November 1879 and died in 1909. He married Amy Eastwood ( Lizzie’s sister ). They had two sons.

7 ) Percy Walter b.15 April 1882 d. 9 September 1953. He and Marion Brown married 10 April 1911. They had one son Francis Victor and one daughter Jeanne Marion.

8 ) Roland Victor b. 14 April 1883 d.1955. He married Alice Wood . They had one son and three daughters.

The two youngest brothers, my grandfather Percy and Roland founded the motor engineering business ‘Winchurch Brothers Limited‘, which is where this story continues

Last updated 1 May 2009

27/04/2009 Posted by | Family History, Winchurch | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Thomas Plucknett’s will 1860

Linked with The Faces of History – Thomas Loaring Plucknett

Will of Thomas Plucknett of Thorverton

16 January 1860

THIS is the last Will and Testament of me THOMAS PLUCKNETT of Thorverton in the County of Devon, Gentleman.

I appoint my son James Summers Plucknett of Honiton in the County of Devon Miller Executor and Trustee of this my will.

I give to the said James Summers Plucknett his heirs executors and administrators all mortgaged and trust estates vested in me subject to and upon the equities and trusts affecting the same respectively,

I give my six large silver teaspoons to my said son James Summers Plucknett for his own use and benefit.

I give my leasehold houses orchard garden and premises at Thorverton aforesaid part of Halls Tenement held under the Dean and Chapter of Exeter as part of the Manor of Thorverton and all my freehold and leasehold estates moneys securities for money household furniture and effects and other my real and personal estate whatsoever unto my said son James Summers Plucknett his heirs executors administrators and assignsu pon trust as soon as conveniently may be after my decease to sell and convert the whole of my real and personal estate into money and to make such sales either at one or more time or times and either by public auction or private contract and either subject or not to any special or other conditions as to title evidence of title or otherwise with full power to buy in and afterwards resell all or any part or parts thereof and to give effectual receipts for the purchase money of my lands and leaseholds which receipts I declare shall discharge the persons taking the same from all responsibility as to the application of the monies therein expressed to be received

And I declare that the said James Summers Plucknett his heirs executors and administrators shall stand possessed of the monies to arise from such sale or sales as aforesaid or otherwise coming to their hands by virtue of this will upon trust thereout in the first place to pay all my just debts and my funeral and testementary expenses and the expenses of and incidental to the execution of the trusts and powers thereby created

And then upon trust to divide the net residue of my estate into three equal parts and to retain one of such three parts for his the said James Summers Plucknett’s own use and to pay one other of such third parts unto my eldest son Thomas Loaring Plucknett for his own use and to stand possessed of the remaining one third part upon trust for such of the children of my late daughter Sarah Loaring Coombe as shall be living at my death and shall either then have attained or shall thereafter attain the age of twenty-one years equally to be divided between them as tenants in common.

And I declare that notwithstanding the trusts aforesaid it shall be lawful for the said James Summers Plucknett his executors or administrators in their or his own absolute discretion to delay the sale of my leasehold property held under the Dean and Chapter of Exeter for any time not exceeding seven years from my death and to effect one renewal of the lease under which I hold the same if he or they shall think fit and retain sufficient money for the purpose of paying the fine and all expenses of and incidental to such renewal out of my residuary estate

And I declare the appointment of the said James Summers Plucknett as executor shall not extinguish any debt or debts that may be due from him to me at my death but the same shall be dealt with as part of my residuary estate.

And I declare that the said James Summers Plucknett his heirs executors or administrators shall not be answerable for any losses except such as shall arise from his own wilful acts and not for mere default only.

Witness by hand this sixteenth day of January one thousand eight hundred and sixty— Thomas Plucknett Senr Signed and declared by the said Thomas Plucknett the testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us present at the same time who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as

witnesses ———

Spencer M Cox Solicitor Honiton

Emily Harriet Plucknett

ON the 19th. day of November 1860 the Will of Thomas Plucknett late of Thorverton in the County of Devon Gentleman deceased was proved by the Oath of James Summers Plucknett Miller son of the deceased and the sole Executor, having been first sworn duly to administer,

Effects under £450

Extracted by S. M. Cox, Solicitor, Honiton

09/03/2009 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Elizabeth Plucknett

Elizabeth Plucknett, my great great grandmother was born in Devon in 1829 and died in Birmingham in 1888

Elizabeth Sternberg née Plucknett about 1880

Elizabeth Sternberg née Plucknett about 1880

Elizabeth Plucknett was the daughter of Thomas Loaring Plucknett and Harriet (née Tootell). She may have been born in Thorverton, but her mother Harriet was from Exeter and Elizabeth’s address at the time of her christening was Cowick Street, Exeter, in the parish of St Thomas the Apostle. She spent her early years in Thorverton, but her mother, Harriet died when Elizabeth was 12. Harriet had at least six children, but only Elizabeth and Emma (b 1832) survived beyond childhood.

Her father Thomas remarried a few months after Harriet’s death. His second wife was Emma Babbage and they had three further children. It may be that the relationship between the two older girls and their stepmother was not easy, since both Elizabeth and Emma left Thorverton. In 1851, Emma was in Bridgewater and Elizabeth in Bristol, living at 56 Wine Street, (Christ Church Parish) along with 11 other shop assistants; described as draper’s assistant, aged 21.

In the same year she met Francis George Sternberg, who wrote the Valentines day poem to his ‘Fairest Lizzy’.

They were married in Bristol Register Office on 6 February 1853. Her address at time of marriage was Peter Street, Bristol (Hospital Workhouse). Note that the marriage did not take place at Thorverton and that Lizzy’s father Thomas seems to have been absent, although a month later,when her sister Emma married William Clout in Thorverton, Thomas was a witness.

Franis George Sternberg's poem to 'Fairest Lizzy' 1851

Francis George Sternberg's poem to 'Fairest Lizzy' 1851

Francis George and Lizzy had no less than ten children between 1854 and 1870, but two died in infancy.

In 1860 the family was at Bradley Terrace in Wandsworth. Let my father’s words from 1993 tell a bit more of that story.

Another thread in the story concerns my gt.grandmother Elizabeth. She was married in Bristol in 1853 and four children (one of them my grandmother) were born there, but only two of them appeared in the 1861 census. There was a death in Bristol that tallied for one of them, but
the only name that fitted for the other was in 1860, in Wandsworth. My recent research on Thomas Loaring P. led me to think that this was not, after all, impossible, so I sent for the death certificate, and sure enough, there he was, son of  Francis George and Elizabeth Sternberg – at
1, Bradley Terrace! So all the family seem to have been together in 1860, (In the 1861 census the Sternbergs were in Birmingham, where their next son, then 2 months old, was born, and where they lived for the rest of their lives)

Sadly the rest of Francis George’s life was not that long, since he died in 1869 at the age of 40 at 155, Sherlock Street, Birmingham, leaving Lizzy pregnant with their tenth child, Charles.
Causes of death on FGS certificate are given as Alcohol and ‘Brain disease

By the time of the 1881 Census, Lizzy was in Summer Road, 2 Terrace,  Edgbaston (Birmingham), Warwickshire. A widow, living with four of her children. Her second daughter (my great grandmother) Alice was by this time married,  so Lizzy had several grandchildren. In fact, by the time she died she had nineteen,

Lizzy died at 175, Great Colmore Street, Birmingham in 1888;

Her death Certificate records that:

‘Death Certificate was received from H. Hawker, Coroner for Birmingham. Inquest, held 8th May 1888’. Coroner’s enquiry reveals (on the testimony of her daughter, Marion) that she had had a stroke nine years previously ‘which took the use of her left side, but she was able to get about the house daily and eat and drink well’. On Sunday 29th April she fell downstairs while on her way to bed. Her son, Francis George Sternberg, who had just retired to bed ‘ran downstairs and picked her up’. Dr Johnstone of Bath Row was sent for, came and attended to her until her death.

She died on Friday 4th May 1888.

Lizzy died intestate and a Grant of Administrationwas made on 20 June 1888. The value of her personal estate was £75, to William Sternberg, son.

Photo album dedication to Marion Sternberg from Lizzy about 1887

Photo album dedication to Marion Sternberg from Lizzy about 1887 "To My darling Marion, with her loving mothers prayers for her happiness, here and hereafter"

This is the dedication from Lizzy to her daughter Marion, probably for her 21st birthday in 1887.

Lizzy died the following year. It is from this lovingly compiled photo album that I copied many of the portraits that I have used in the ‘Faces of History’ series.

As an amateur family historian, I acknowledge with gratitude and thanks my Great Great Grandmother’s efforts.

15/02/2009 Posted by | Family History, Plucknett, Sternberg, Winchurch | Leave a comment

The Faces of History-The German Sternbergs. Contributed by Stan Bruce.

Rathaus (Town Hall) Luneburg

Rathaus (Town Hall) Lüneburg (Photo S and G Bruce)

Stan and Gill Bruce have done a lot of original research on the Sternberg family and its connection with Lüneburg. I gratefully acknowledge this and thank Stan for his contribution to these pages.

There was a general assumption by those of us descended from the Sternbergs that the name was probably Jewish and that our ancestor had come to Britain as a refugee. Research by my father some years ago began to cast doubt on this theory and the subsequent discoveries by the Bruces, David Oulton and Basil Wood have established that the Sternbergs were rooted in the Christian faith three hundred years ago. I now believe that the origin of the name is derived from a place (cf  Sternberg and Lüneburg), but maybe future studies will reveal more.

John Winchurch

Family Tree - Heinrich to Francis George - Luneburg to Northampton

Family Tree - Heinrich to Francis George - Luneburg to Northampton

Hinrich (Heinrich) Frantz Sternberg

Hinrich was Musician at the Monastery School in Lüneburg from 1716 to 1734, and Town Musician (Ratsmusikant) from 1734 to 1757. J.S. Bach had been a choirboy at the Monastery School, enrolling in 1700, and graduating in 1702 after receiving a comprehensive musical education there. The Bach Week is staged in Lüneburg in his honour during the summer of each year, featuring performances of many of his works.

St Michaels Church Luneburg

St Michaels Church Lüneburg

Dr. Uta Reinhardt of the Lüneburg Town Archives says this: “In our archives…Hinrich Frantz Sternberg…was employed at St. Michael’s [Church] in Lüneburg from 1722 and became attached to the ‘Stadtmusikant’, Johann Ulrich Voigt, in 1728. In 1732 he followed him as musician of the Council, but from 1734 to 1749 incessantly quarrelled with his former colleagues at St. Michaelis about their rights (StadtA Lbg, AA M 1, Nr. 5 u. 6). In 1741 he tried to get additional employment as a watchman on the tower of St. Lamberti [Church] but was refused. In January 1757 he asked the Council for the appointment of his eldest son to help him with his task as musician. He argued that he was old and had bad eyes. We do not know anything about his life and whereabouts after 1757.”

Dr. Reinhardt explains the role of the Town Musician: “In Lüneburg, the Town Musician(s) had to be at the Council’s service. He or they were employed to make music when the Council arranged public or private celebrations, e.g. during the visit of the sovereign, at municipal festivities or the reception of legations of Hanse towns.”

We don’t as yet know where Hinrich was born, but Dr. Reinhardt says “As a register from St. Michaelis tells us (StadtA Lbg, Mich., R II, Nr. 66), he came from Hamburg. It is possible that he not only worked there before, but that he was born in this town”.

Marriage of Heirich Frantz Sternberg and Anna Catherina Otzmann

Marriage of Heirich Frantz Sternberg and Anna Catherina Otzmann

He married Anna Catharina Otzmann in St. Michael’s Church, Lüneburg on 14 November 1719. The marriage record tells us that she was a widow, having been previously married to Johann Müller. Hinrich and Anna had two sons and two daughters: Ernst Wilhelm, born 30 March 1721; Hartwig, born 7 February 1722/23; Sophia Amalia, born 17 March 1731/32; and Johanna Hinrietta Philippina, born 2 December 1733. One of Hinrietta’s godfathers named at her baptism in St Michael’s Church, Lüneburg on 3 December 1733 was “Capellmeister Telemann”, the famous composer.

Property records reveal that Hinrich bought No. 8  Kleine Backerstrasse from his father-in-law, Johann Otzmann, grain-seller, in 1720, and sold it in 1722. He bought No. 4  Stintmarkt, in the harbour by the fishmarket in 1735 and sold it in 1741.

Hartwig Sternberg

Hartwig was named after Hartwig von Toebing, Burgermeister who appears as his godfather at his baptism in St Michael’s Church on 7 February 1722/23. He succeeded his father as Town Musician in Lüneburg in 1757, a position which he held until his death on 11 June 1771, by which time he had become associated with St. John’s Church in Lüneburg, a Gothic church noted for its magnificent organ and its superb Baroque screen. At the time of his appointment as Town Musician, Hartwig was ‘hautboist’ [flautist] in the ‘Zandreische Infanterie-Regiment’.

St Johns Church Luneburg

St Johns Church Lüneburg

Hartwig married Dorothea Ilsabe Kurtzbauer (Spelling unclear – could be Kurtzhauern or Kurtzhauer) who died 30 May 1769. We have not been able to find a record of the marriage so far. They had only two children as far as we can tell: Rahel Sophie, born March 1760; and Francis George born 29 August 1761 and baptised in St. John’s Church, Lüneburg on 1 September 1761.

Baptism ofFrancis George Sternberg, Luneburg 1761

Baptism of Francis George Sternberg, Luneburg 1761

Footnote by John Winchurch

In 1961, at the age of eighteen, between school and university, a school friend and I cycled from the Hook of Holland across the Netherlands and North Germany to stay with his grandmother who had lived in the old part of Lüneburg since the end of the second world war. Germany was rising from the ashes of that war in 1961 and the new president of the USA, John F Kennedy was featured on TV and in newspapers. Two years later, Kennedy gave his famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech.

Little did I know at this point of my life that I could say, with some historic justification ‘Ich bin ein Lüneburger’ !

08/02/2009 Posted by | Family History | 2 Comments

The Faces of History-Percy and Roland Winchurch. Letters, 1936

On 24th March 1936 Roland writes:

” I understand that you have no wish for either your son or my son to take any part in the business with the view to carrying on after we are both deceased”

In the event Vic was not involved in the business until after World War 2 and Barry never worked there.

Roland begins his letter:

“We have now been running together in a more or less amicable partnership for 30 years and obviously we cannot expect to run a great number of years more before one or both of us are incapacitated or depart from this troublesome world for good and all.
As far as I am concerned I quite anticipate that I shall be booked in for another operation in the not too distant future”.

I do not know what the nature of Roland’s illness was, but he was a heavy smoker and eventually died of cancer. Percy too smoked cigarettes, but gave up around 1950 after warnings from his doctor.

Roland’s letter continues:

…… it appears to me that it is up to us to anticipate the future and plan accordingly the ultimate destiny of the business and property.
Also there is the question of Fred’s interest in the business to be dealt with when the time comes. One has to face facts.

Fred (Frederick William Winchurch) was born at the Cross Keys in 1868, the third of Benjamin and Eliza’s children. My own childhood memory him is as a jovial and outgoing man, know to much of the family as ‘Uncle Fred’.I don’t think he was involved in Winchurch Brothers until after his retirement from glass manufacture, but he wasclearly there in 1936 and up to about 1950, when I remember him working in the Billiard Hall(of which more later). He is not mentioned in company reports and in the absence of any other information, he was an employee rather than in any way a driving force in the company.

A notable aspect of Roland’s letter of 1936 is the fluency with which it was written. It has to be remembered that the brothers were raised at a time during which there must have been considerably hardship for the family and as far as I know, neither Percy or Roland had an extended education.
It is a lasting tribute to their drive and foresight that they succeeded in building up a successful and prospering business.

Nevertheless, Roland clearly felt he was not benefitting in the way that he and his family should:

As regards my share of the Partnership I suppose you will not dispute that I am entitled to share equally with yourself in our assets and liabilities and I want to know if you have any objection to me drawing any money to be charged against my capital account and/or raising a loan on my portion.
You see it takes me all my time to carry on. I have no clothes and my children are of no material help as yet.I should like to Re Furbish as the few sticks I have are worn out after 23 years.Also I should like to help the hildren to get a decent living as the amount I should be able to leave them will not be of too much use when it is divided.
You of course will not have the same problems to face, as far as I can see, your dependents should be adequately provided for.(subject of course to the vicissitudes of life)
As you are aware my boy Barry is very unhappy in his work and can only see a life of clerical drudgery in front of him if he stays on.
He feels that he has wasted 3 of the most valuable years of his life and after long consideration I have told him he had better give in his notice. I only mention this by the way as I know you have no regard for him or my other children or for the matter of that anyone else’s children to the best of my knowledge but you may appreciate that it adds to my personal problems.

Roland then turns to their working relationship, which had by this time clearly become soured. It remained that way for the next seventeen years:

Now as far as our personal relationship is concerned, I frequently wonder whether you consider I pull my weight in the business, as your manner towards me more particularly dating back to your 2nd period of association with the Paytons, has been even less cordial than in the past. In fact your everyday attitude makes me wonder if you desire to be rid of me. If this is the case, we had again better face facts and try to come to an equitable arrangement to terminate our active partnership. On the other hand, should I be in error as regard above remarks I certainly think we should make some effort to work together more in Harmony and Cheerfulness
and by so doing make life more pleasant for all concerned.

The Paytons, Fred and Beattie, were friends of Percy and Marion who used to accompany them on holidays. Vic referred to them as ‘Uncle Fred and Auntie Beattie’, but they were not related.
Fred Payton worked at Winchurch Brothers, but I suspect that was a result of their ‘association’ rather than the other way round.

Perhaps the most barbed comments in his letter comes next::

Holidays
Your suggestions as regards a Holiday Rota would be appreciated. The holiday period has always been rather a nightmare to me, when I have had the whole lot to manage with a depleted staff at the worst time of the year with usually no office assistance

Percy and family took regular summer holidays, usually in Devon or Cornwall at this time. but as far as I know for two weeks. The real point about this is ‘usually no office assistance’
Percy’s secretary (she would be referred to as a ‘p.a.’ now) was Olive Parr, who joined the company in 1920. Percy and Olive had a close relationship, certainly in the post WW2 years and Roland would have had plenty of ammunition by then, since Olive regularly accompanied Percy, (sometimes with Marion and a host of friends too), on weekend outings and holidays.
This relationship is probably in Roland’s mind as he concludes the letter.

In conclusion, I would remark that I have written this letter because I never have any opportunity to talk to you privately and if you had agreed to my suggestion of a monthly conference I need not have written a great deal. Further no other person is acquainted with the contents, so if you so desire you may treat the subject matter as strictly private between our two selves.
I leave it to your judgment anyhow. I write with no ill feeling out rancour

And  Sign myself

Your somewhat weary brother

Roland

Anger and irritation are evident in Percy’s reply. The version I have is clearly a draft, with numerous crossings out, probably destined for typing by Olive before being sent ‘next door’. The irony is that Roland and Percy worked within feet of one another as well as living next door to one another in Hagley Road West.
I include the text in full:

Dear Roland,

I propose taking your letter in paragraph order.

1. I have expressed the opinion, several times, that we should be better apart, always with this qualifying remark – ‘unless pleasant business relationships can be arrived at’ – this is definitely up to you. Life is much too short to spend needless time going into trivialities. Also, your remarks about myself which no doubt are intended to come back to me from time to time, although I do not say anything, are very hurtful.

2. The business relationship could be a quite agreeable one if you cut this kind of thing out and left the general business decisions to me, being answerable only to you. This practice would relieve you of a lot of trouble I think, or alternatively you could take on that position yourself.

Referring to your remarks re your conversation with a keen business man in property and business, I am fully alive to all this, but if you desire to terminate your partnership with me and find conditions impossible, you would have to agree to sell out altogether or come to some reasonable arrangement with me to let me carry on the business.
I cannot and will not keep on working without some agreement on the future of this
business as I have repeatedly told you

If I cannot come to some arrangement with you, I should buy another business elsewhere.
If you will carry your mind back over the last 10 years you have repeatedly passed the (impression?) that you are semi retired, but I shall point out that you have drawn a very good income during those years, so that I cannot see any cause to complain.

As far as Fred and Jinnie are concerned, they are no doubt able to look after themselves.

As far as the B Hall is concerned, last year is definitely not a year to take as criterion and will no doubt revert to normality again.

As far as the future is concerned, you are not in a position to forecast and I myself face the future with quiet confidence and in conclusion, instead of asking other people
things, you should ask the people concerned, in a pleasant and brief manner you would get on much better.

You are at perfect liberty to show this letter to whoever you like, there is no sarcasm intended and I loathe and detest Cheap Sarcasm from you.
I have always tried to do my best for this Firm and while I am with the Firm I shall continue to do so.

I remain
Sincerely Yours
Percy

The Billiard Hall, or to give it its full name ‘The Regent Billiard Hall’ was situated adjacent to the garage fronting onto Bearwood High Street. It features in Kelly’s 1933 trade index to Birmingham and judging by references to its profitability in 1936, it had only been running for a few years. My guess is 1932.
I remember Fred Winchurch and Fred Payton serving behind the bar in the late 1940s. That bar, however served only non alcoholic drinks, a legacy of the aversion to alcohol that Percy had throughout his life, resulting from his upbringing as a publican’s son.

19/01/2009 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Percy Walter Winchurch

My grandfather, Percy Walter Winchurch, was a major figure in my childhood and had a massive influence on all of those around him.

As a child, I adored him. As an adult, my respect and affection for him has not diminished and I want this to be a lasting tribute to the man and his achievements.

Percy - about 1939

Percy - about 1939

Percy was born on 15 April 1882 at 83, King Edward Street Birmingham. He was the seventh child of Benjamin Winchurch and Eliza (née Tester). Benjamin was a glassblower and at times publican of the Cross Keys public house in Upper Windsor Street, Aston. Percy’s grandparents, Thomas and Ann Winchurch had kept the Cross Keys since about 1855.

Percy was therefore well acquainted as a child with the effects of too much alcohol on those around him and cited this as the reason for his lifelong teetotallism.

In Kelly’s directory of 1880 Benjamin is listed as a shopkeeper at 83 King Edwards Rd, the address at which Percy was born two years later.

Eliza with her younger sons. Percy and Roland have hats

Eliza with her younger sons. Percy and Roland have hats

In the 1880 Kelly’s directory of Birmingham, Thomas Winchurch (almost certainly Benjamin’s older brother) is listed as a glass maker in Phillip Street; surrounded by gun manufacturers and finishers.

The proliferation of new businesses and technologies in this area must have made it the ‘Silicon Valley’ of the late nineteenth century.

Benjamin died in 1891 at the age of sixty two, around the time of Percy’s ninth birthday.

Later, Eliza had a grocer’s shop. In the 1901 census she is described as a widow aged 58, Head of household. Shopkeeper Grocer ‘on own account’ (i.e. supporting herself) ‘at home’ at 64/65 Wheeleys Road Birmingham.

At the same address were:
Percy aged 18, an Engineer fitter, Roland aged 17, a Machine Tool Maker and Lizzie Smith aged 15, a servant

How difficult life was financially at this time is difficult to judge, but Eliza was certainly concerned about money, or at least the mysterious ‘Tester fortune’. I heard as a child Percy joke about being ‘descended from a German Baron’. He was not alone in the family to have heard of an ‘unclaimed will’ originating from the early 1800s. I have copies of the letters between Eliza, her youngest sister Clara and their cousin Maria about the existence of a will and their mutual cousin Betsy’s attempts to lay claim to any proceeds.

I believe that Eliza was a driving force behind her sons’ successes. My grandmother, Marion described her as a formidable lady and she was not given to exaggeration.

Several of the Winchurch boys became keen cyclists as this photo of Percy with a cycling club about 1901 indicates. (Click to enlarge)

Birmingham cycling group about 1901

Birmingham cycling group, with Percy highlighted. About 1901

Winchurch Brothers cycle shop preceded the garage started by Percy and his younger brother, Roland.

How many of the brothers were involved in addition to Roland and Percy, I don’t know, but it is fair to assume that the cycle business prospered, because in 1905 Percy and Roland set up ‘Winchurch Brothers Limited ‘. The business was initially at 152a Ladypool Road  (Kelly 1907 and 1908 )

By 1912, no less than four cycle shops are listed by Kelly at Ladypool Road, Moseley, Waterloo Road in Smethwick and at 134 Sandon Road in Bearwood.

img070

Percy outside the cycle shop in Ladypool Road. 1904

At some point after 1912 ‘Edgbaston Garage’ in Sandon Road Bearwood was opened. The premises eventually occupied numbers 102 – 120 involving the demolition of several houses as it expanded. Certainly the earliest driving licence I have for Percy, dated 20 October 1914, lists Sandon Road as his business address.

The selection of the name ‘Edgbaston Garage’ is in itself interesting since, as anyone familiar with districts of Birmingham will be aware, Edgbaston is (even now) very much more ‘upmarket’ than Aston.

This seems to have been part of a shrewd move by Percy and Roland to target a wealthy section of the population who were about to lead the country into a long lasting love affair with the motor car. In the same year as Winchurch Brothers’ foundation, Herbert Austin formed the Austin Motor Company and began production at Longbridge in 1906.

There are gaps in my knowledge of many aspects of Winchurch Brothers in the early years, from 1905 until my father’s earliest memories from around 1918. Percy’s surviving driving licences from 1914 to 1919 include an endorsement ordered by Kings Heath Police Court on 21 November 1916 for ‘not obscuring headlights’ on 29 October 1916, for which he was fined 10 shillings. This was, of course at the height of the Great War, but how much real risk ‘not obscuring headlights’ caused is a matter of speculation !

Percy Walter Winchurch married Marion Brown, the daughter of Henry Ambrose Brown, a tailor, and Alice Plucknett Brown (nee Sternberg) on 18 April 1911.

Harry Brown and Edith, his wife.

Back row: Marion Sternberg, Henry Ambrose Brown (Marion's father), Roland Winchurch, Percy, another Winchurch brother (Harry?) with wife ? Middle: Alice Brown (Marion's mother) Mildred Brown, Marion, Employee (French ?), Eliza Winchurch (Percy's mother) Front: Harry Brown and Edith, his wife.

Percy was 29 and Marion 28.

On their marriage certificate Percy’s address is 11 Newton Road and his occupation is ‘Cycle Dealer’, underlining the fact that the motor side of the business was less important than bike sales in the early years.

Their first child, Francis Victor Winchurch, known for most of his eighty three years as ‘Vic’ was born on 5 February 1914 at 12,Waterloo Road in Bearwood not far from the garage. His birthplace was the family home where Percy, Marion and Vic lived until the move to Pargeter Road (I think in around 1918). Interestingly, Percy is described on Vic’s birth certificate as a ‘Motor Engineer’. So only three years later, the motor side of the business had presumably become the more important.

Jeanne Marion Winchurch was born on 5 July 1919.

The business clearly prospered during the 1920s since photographs show Percy and his family in increasingly comfortable surroundings and on holiday in Devon and later Cornwall. The children both had private educations and  lifestyles befitting the rising generation of a ‘well off’ family

Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion's younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown (Marion's mother). About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.

Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion's younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown (Marion's mother). About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.

Roland meanwhile had Married Alice Wood in 1914. They had four children, Barry, Betty, Molly and Pat between 1915 and 1927.
The brothers bought houses in the newly expanding suburb of Quinton. Roland, with his larger family, probably moved from Galton Road to 757 Hagley Road West in 1931, with Percy following to 755 a year later. A high wooden fence separated the back gardens !
The brothers also owned the semi detached ‘other half’ of Percy’s house 753, which was rented to a childless couple from London called Perrott. Hugh Perrott was a travelling salesman for a childrens clothing manufacturer.

In February 1930, Vic was 16 and a pupil at King Edward VI Grammar School at Five Ways. He took his School Certificate examination that year and in January 1931 he began training with Smethwick Borough Council as a weights and Measures inspector.
Clearly a decision had to be taken in the long term with regard to his involvement, if any, in Winchurch Brothers. Correspondence between Roland and Percy in 1936 touches on this subject and the parallel matter of Roland’s son, Barry.

The Regent Billiard Hall about 1947. Notice the newly installed fluorescent lights - a pioneering feature.

The Regent Billiard Hall about 1947. Notice the newly installed fluorescent lights - a pioneering feature.

The Billiard Hall referred to in these letters, (or to give it its full name ‘The Regent Billiard Hall’) was situated adjacent to the garage fronting onto Bearwood High Street. It features in Kelly’s 1933 trade index to Birmingham and judging by references to its profitability in 1936, it had only been running for a few years. My guess is 1932.
I remember Fred Winchurch and Fred Payton serving behind the bar in the late 1940s. That bar, however served only non alcoholic drinks, a legacy of the aversion to alcohol that Percy had throughout his life, resulting from his upbringing as a publican’s son.

The years during the war cannot have been easy. Car production ceased and fuel was rationed.Vic joined the Royal Navy in January 1941 and became an operator of the new equipment known as Radar.

Percy, along with a large part of the population on Britain, ‘dug for victory’ growing vegetables and keeping hens.He slept at Sandon Road on fire watch on a regular basis in a concrete ‘Pill Box’ next to the showroom.

Birmingham was bombed by the Luftwaffe on several occasions between August 1940 and May 1941 and Bearwood Road School was hit, fortunately at night and there were no casualties. I don’t know how much fuel was stored at the garage at this time, but it can’t have been a comfortable place to be. I still have Percy’s wooden and canvas camp bed from this time. It became my bed for several years when I was a child.
In the post war years, the business prospered. Restrictions on prices meant that second hand cars with low mileage were more valuable than new ones. Consequently, Percy and to a lesser extent, I think, Roland had a succession of new cars often for no more than six months. I can remember well the excitement of being collected in the latest of ‘Grandpa’s new cars’

My brother David Christopher Winchurch had been born a few months earlier on 13 December 1946 and I can now understand how Percy must have felt at this point that he was laying a path for all of us for the future.

Vic had been added to the payroll of Winchurch Brothers after demobilisation from the Navy in 1946. I don’t think his employment did anything to remove Percy’s earlier misgivings about his involvement in the business. After a spell in the workshop, which I believe was not a great success, he was moved to the stores ! My pleasure as a result of this was derived from having a typewriter to play with when I called there. David remembers that too and additionally a narrow passageway between the back of the line of timber buildings and a brick wall behind. We both think used engine oil was stored there before being burned as fuel in the heating system.

The minutes of a meeting and the associated financial report from 1947 reveal that Winchurch Brothers Limited was on a sound financial footing. Percy proposed that the directors’ fees be increased to £520 per annum from 1 October 1946, This was carried.

Some £1500 was paid out in dividends that year and I believe that at this point only Percy and Roland were shareholders.

Percy made a move in 1947 to appoint three extra directors, Horace Bench, his brother in law through Millie, Marion’s sister plus Vic and Frank Angel, the company secretary, of whom I know very little, but he seems to have had a legal background since he was asked to produce a report on the operation of the company if these appointments took place and also in the light of a further proposal by Percy to issue shares to Vic, Jeanne, Betty, Molly and Pat ( but excluding Barry, who seems to have left the family behind him by this time – he eventually died in Rochdale in 1975)

This is quite clearly marks the intention, on Percy’s part to marginalise Roland and lead to a breakup, or takeover, of Winchurch Brothers.

In the same year, 1947, Percy staged a dinner and concert at the Red Cow Hotel in Smethwick

‘To commemorate the completion of 25 years service of Miss O. Parr with Messrs Winchurch Brothers Limited’

It is noticeable that it was Percy who sent out the invitations although Roland does seem to have been present to perform the presentation to Olive. He is, however totally absent from photos I have from that evening.

About this time, Millie Bench reported with some amusement that Roland had sidled up to her, cigarette in mouth and in his broad Birmingham accent enquired :
‘D’yow think as ower Percy’s susceptible to flattery’ ? Her reply was ‘Yes Roland, I think  he probably is’. Millie had a wry sense of humour.

Whatever form Percy and Olive’s relationship took at this time ( he was now 65 and Olive 46 ) there was no attempt to conceal it. Olive acted as chauffeuse on family outings as well as business and her family, particularly her sister Hilda Martin, husband Harold and children Denise and Roddy, were part of a large circle that Percy gathered around them.

This behaviour earned the vociferous contempt of Margaret, my mother, particularly when Olive went on holiday with Percy, Marion and entourage.

Percy however had no evident signs of acceptance the received morality of a late Victorian childhood !

He was equally contemptuous about organised religion. I remember how, towards the end of his life, on a trip to Pembrokeshire with Marion, Jenny, (Fred’s widow) and myself in the car, he replied to Jenny’s favourable comments about the picturesque appearance and setting of St Issels church at Saundersfoot with the remark :

‘Yes Olive and Midge went there one Sunday. God knows why. Some time when they were feeling extra religious, I suppose.’

I can still hear those words today, over fifty years later and to me as a ten year old, such deliciously daring blasphemy both amused and horrified me.

I don’t think I ever told my mother !

Life with Percy was fun. I often sat on his lap in the front passenger seat of the car up to the age of about six. There were, of course, no seat belts in cars before the late 1950’s. Percy would often sing along with the car radio as Olive drove us to Wales, Malvern, or in this case, Sutton Park :

Percy with a rather scared looking John at Sutton Amusement Park  about 1948

Percy with a rather scared looking John at Sutton Amusement Park about 1948

John Winchurch, Denise and Roddy Martin. Sand Bay (?) about 1948

John Winchurch, Denise and Roddy Martin. Sand Bay (?) about 1948

Winchurch Brothers with flags and bunting flying for the 1953 Coronation, three months before Percy died

Winchurch Brothers with flags and bunting flying for the 1953 Coronation, three months before Percy died

In June 1949, Jeanne commited suicide, as I have reported on the pages that I have written about her here

The plans that Percy Winchurch made in the four years after Jeanne’s death were far reaching and profoundly affected my life and the lives of many members of my family.

In 1939 Percy, Marion and the Paytons (Fred and Beattie) had gone to Pembrokeshire instead of the more customary West Country. I think this might have been on the recommendation of Frank Collins, who was a Winchurch Bros employee and who later retired to Penally, I believe.

After Jeanne died in June 1949, Percy and Marion immediately put the house in Hagley Road West on the market and they moved to Stennels Avenue in Halesowen within months. Devon and Cornwall would have brought back painful memories, I guess and Percy’s thoughts must have turned to alternative holiday destinations. Pembrokeshire quickly moved to prime position and he began to make retirement plans. These included roles for my father and David and me (his grandsons). I don’t know whose idea boatbuilding was, but it clearly had links with my father’s wartime service in the Royal Navy.

Percy entered into negotiations with Vic Morris, who owned St Brides Garage in Saundersfoot, to either purchase the business outright or go into partnership. I don’t know how the formula was arrived at, but plans were drawn up to add a boatbuilding venture to the motor business, to be known as ‘Saundersfoot Marine Company Limited’.

Then, early in September 1953, Percy suffered a major stroke. He was taken to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, but never regained consciousness and was dead within twenty four hours on 9 September 1953.

Suddenly, Francis Victor Winchurch, was thrust into the limelight.

11/01/2009 Posted by | Family History | 2 Comments

The faces of history – Jeanne Marion Winchurch

Jeanne - about 1939

Jeanne - about 1939

Jeanne Marion Winchurch was born on 5 July 1919. By this time Percy Walter Winchurch, her father (he was also my grandfather) was well established as a businessman. He clearly prospered during the 1920s since photographs show Percy and his family in increasingly comfortable surroundings and on holiday in Devon and later Cornwall. The children both had private educations.

Jeanne Marion and Percy about 1926 The car, I think, is a Morris Oxford 'flatnose'

Jeanne Marion and Percy about 1926 The car, I think, is a Morris Oxford 'flatnose'

There was always a car somewhere in the pictures, as in this one taken in what looks like the Welsh border country; a popular destination for Midlanders on a ‘Sunday day out’

Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion's younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown. About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.

Percy, Jeanne,Vic, Horace Bench (husband of Millie, Marion's younger sister), Millie, Mary Bench, Alice Brown. About 1925 at Meadfoot Beach, Torquay.

Jeanne loved the water

Jeanne loved the water

Marie, Jeanne and Vic Winchurch - about 1925

Marie, Jeanne and Vic Winchurch - about 1925

19270700-148

19250700-110

Jeanne was successful at school, excelling at languages and mathematics. She was also a strong swimmer and an avid supporter of West Bromwich Albion Football Club. This led to a friendly rivalry with Percy whose loyalties always were directed towards Aston Villa. He was a season ticket holder and shareholder.

At the start of the Second World War, Jeanne’s life moved into a new direction.  Vic my father, had joined the Royal Navy in 1941 and Jeanne, who by this time was doing well with a firm of accountants, desperately wanted to enlist in the WRNS (Women’s Royal Naval Service).

Early in 1943, she finally got her wish

Following the revelations about the Enigma decoding process, involving literally hundreds of WRNS acting, in effect, as a human computer in an operation led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park in Bedfordshire, it seemed very likely to me that her rapid recruitment happened because of her mathematics and accountancy qualifications.

I was surprised to find from Jeanne’s service record that she spent the early part of her wartime service at HMS Pembroke, nominally the supply department, based at Chatham, but there is no doubt that her recruitment corresponded with this surge of WRNS personnel with Maths qualifications.

By the spring of 1943 she was on leave at Quinton in her new uniform

Jeanne Margaret Vic with John, Spring 1943

Jeanne Margaret Vic with John, Spring 1943

Jeanne clearly had a succesful three years to demobilisation in March 1946. She was by then a Wren Petty Officer and her service record notes that her character was ‘Very Good throughout service’.

Vic had risen to Petty Officer too, but only in an acting capacity. It is of course understandable that being parted from his wife and new son must have dampened his enthusiasm for the service, particularly towards the end of the war.

Jeanne and John - 1945

Jeanne and John - 1945

Very soon after demob, Jeanne took up the post of Secretary to the Birmingham branch of the International Friendship League.

This organisation had been set up before the war to promote interaction between young people, primarily within Europe

I quote from the IFL website (still in existence in 2007 ) :

In August 1931 30 students from Berlin University spent a holiday at the bungalow of Noel Ede at Peacehaven in Sussex and with British students built an extension to the overcrowded home.
On 26 September, with three friends Noel Ede inaugurated the IFL.

Reading those lines now there is a double irony.

Firstly, the name ‘Peacehaven’ at a time when Nazism was beginning to take hold in Germany. A peace so violently shattered.

Secondly, Jeanne’s own ‘European relationship’, which was to end so tragically a few years later.

She seems to have been very enthusiastic about her role, there are photos of a visit to Holland and she bought back souveniers: for example a wooden miniature clog with a slotted metal plate to use as a money box .

This was for me and I still have it.

Jeanne accompanied us on outings and holidays too. Here is a photo from about 1946 or 47 taken at Weston – Super – Mare

John, Margaret, Jeanne, Annie Downing, Judith and Marie Price (friend of Margaret from schooldays)

John, Margaret, Jeanne, Annie Downing, Judith and Marie Price (friend of Margaret from schooldays)

Jeanne’s suicide in June 1949

1948, Jeanne met a German ex prisoner of war called Peter. She was by now in her late twenties and I don’t think she had had a long term boyfriend before this. The relationship developed and Peter was taken to meet Percy and Marion. This can’t have been easy for Percy, in particular, because he had very strong anti German views and he must have been worried about Jeanne’s association with a young man who was basically homeless and without a job.

Towards the end of 1948, Peter returned to Germany to look for work. He seems to have gone to stay with relatives in Wiesloch in South Germay, but left to travel to the ‘British sector’ early in 1949. From this point onwards, Jeanne apparently lost touch with him, but continued to write to him via his sister in law in Wiesloch.

Then in June 1949, Jeanne’s world fell apart.

The sister in law wrote telling Jeanne that Peter was about to get married.

Percy and Marion were away at the time ( I think in Torquay ). Jeanne’s friend Muriel Fletcher was so concerned abut Jeanne’s state of mind that she stayed with her for the night after she received the letter.

But the next day, Sunday 20 June 1949, Jeanne killed herself by putting her head in the gas oven. Percy found her when he returned home,

The Birmingham Post reported the inquest:

HEARD GERMAN WAS MARRIED
EX-WREN’S SUICIDE AFTER LETTER
SUFFERED “GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT ”

When an inquest was held in Birmingham today on the secretary of an International Friendship League centre, the City Coroner (Dr .W. H. Davison) was told that the girl, an ex-Wren petty officer, Jeanne Marion Winchurch (aged 29), had suffered a great disappointment in an attachment with a former German prisoner-of-war.
The girl’s father, Percy Walter Winchurch, with whom she lived at 755, Hagley Road West, Quinton, said he found his daughter lying with her head on a cushion in a gas-oven in the house.
The cause of death was given as asphyxia due to gas poisoning.
Witness told the Coroner that his daughter had recently completed the final of an extremely difficult accountancy examination and that the suspense of waiting for the result had been very worrying for her.
” About 18 months ago,” he said, “Jeanne met a German prisoner of war. I met him once at our house when he came to tea.” The man returned to Germany last Christmas, and Jeanne, he believed, was expecting to renew the association and marry him.
Very Depressed
Muriel Ann Fletcher, who worked with Miss Winchurch, said that Jeanne collected a letter from the International Centre on Saturday, which told her that her German boy friend was married. She believed the letter had been written by the man’s sister-in-law.

Because she could see that her friend was very depressed as a result of this news she stayed the night with her.
The girl was left alone in the house on the Sunday night.

Returning a verdict of  “Suicide while the balance of the mind was disturbed,” the Coroner said her death was due to an accumulation of various disturbances.
The disappointment of her German friend in not cooperating as she intended and the worry of the examination had had a cumulative effect, resulting in a strong feeling of depression and melancholy.

The effect on the whole of our family of this tragic event was profound and lasts to some extent even today, over sixty years later.

I can still remember walking home from school along Thornhill Road in Handsworth. It was a Wednesday and a custom had grown up that Marion, my Grandmother came over from Quinton for tea. She would look out of the window for me as I walked the three hundred yards or so from St Michaels Primary School, which stood on the junction of Thornhill Road and Soho Road.

That day, I knew from quite a distance that she wasn’t there.

I believe that Jeanne had asked to come away on holiday with us that summer to Friog, near Barmouth, but that my mother had refused because the cottage was too small. I know she regretted that decision to the end of her life.

Contact was made with Peter’s family the following month (July 1949), but I don’t think there was ever any direct correspondence. Marion seems to have written to the sister in law who had broken the news of Peter’s marriage, because I have the reply, written from Wiesloch. This letter is written in German, but to the best of my knowledge, Marion neither spoke or understood the language, so I assume that she had sent the basic details in English.

The reply begins :

Wiesloch

30/7/49

Dear Mrs Winchurch

I am very distressed by the sad news about your beloved daughter,Jeanne, which I could almost not believe. When I received your letter
I felt such deep pain that I was not able to reply immediately.
First I would like to send you and your whole family my heartfelt sympathy on your deeply felt suffering over your unforgettable daughter.
The pain is especially unbearable for a mother. My whole family and I are so sad at the sad news.
I feel so sorry for Jeanne and feel the pain as deeply as if she had been my own sister.
I got to know and get on with Jeanne so well through our exchange of letters.
I would like so much to been able to send her more news about Peter but unfortunately he only ever wrote very little to us too.
We are all appalled at Peter that he has a human soul on his conscience, that he was so cowardly towards your daughter, Jeanne, and that after he left us he did not ever write to her again………………..
Peter left us at the beginning of January und first went to visit his sick mother in Spiterl?? and from there then went to friends in the English zone to look for work there and said to me when he left us that I should accept all post from Jeanne and as soon as he found work he would write to Jeanne and if he didn’t find work then he would come back to us and I kept comforting Jeanne with these words.
And throughout this whole time we heard very little from him. At Easter he wrote to us that he would come to us after Easter. We waited eagerly for him and unfortunately he didn’t come.
And at Whitsun the news came from him that he was about to get married. We were all horrified by the news. And so I felt that I had to write to Jeanne with this news if he was so cowardly and hadn’t written to her. But believe me, dear Mrs Winchurch, how heavy my heart was to write this news to Jeanne. Believe me that as his sister in law I can never forget how Peter treated Jeanne and that he brought her to her death, it will and can never bring Peter any happiness because I feel so deeply that if fate had handed out the same to me as to Jeanne I would have arrived at the same point. Because one person takes their life more easily and another person less easily.
We would very much like to have got to know Jeanne because from her letter she seemed such a good person. But unfortunately fate did not want that.
May God give Jeanne eternal peace because she passed through difficult times.
I would still like to be able to hear more about how Jeanne died.
With sincere good wishes from our whole family.

I don’t know if Marion or Percy ever had this letter translated, but I doubt it.

As far as I know, its contents have remained unknown for almost sixty years.

As part of this project, Jane Monti kindly offered to translate it for me and I am very grateful to her.

I know the letter, its contents and the story moved her, especially as a visit to Berlin with David, my brother, shortly before she did the translation had sharpened her awareness of the effects of the war.

As Jane puts it :

“..I can’t help wondering how many thousands of individual tragedies like this must have been brought about directly and indirectly as a result of the war and all the events leading up to and surrounding it.”

Very sadly, Jane herself died not long after this act of kindness.

Jeanne had sat the finals examination for the Chartered Institute of Secretaries in Birmingham in May 1949. A cutting from the Birmingham Post records that she passed, but this result came after her death.

Jeanne was undoubtedly of one of the most talented Winchurchs of her generation.

The aftermath of Jeanne’s death

With characteristic single mindedness Percy moved on. Jeanne was rarely mentioned by anyone in the family in my experience. I think this is probably a common way of dealing with a suicide, especially sixty years ago, but it has never corresponded with my own feelings.

I think that her relatively short life is worth commemorating for so many reasons.

Jeanne was  the essence of a ‘modern woman’ – intelligent, articulate, determined and passionate.

She was in the vanguard of the post war process of reconciliation and reconstruction in Europe.

It is a tragedy that in so taking part Jeanne paid such a terrible price and those of us who were left suffered such a profound loss.

John Winchurch

Cornwall

21 December 2008

Laurence Binyon's memorial plaque, Pentire Head, Cornwall

Laurence Binyon's memorial plaque, Pentire Head, Cornwall

Laurence Binyon's memorial plaque, Pentire Head, Cornwall

Laurence Binyon's memorial plaque, Pentire Head, Cornwall

20/12/2008 Posted by | Family History | 5 Comments

The faces of history – Margaret Downing

Margaret Downing, my mother, was born at 7, Victor Street, Stone, Staffordshire on 20 December 1916 and died in Hereford General Hospital on 24 March 1993

Margaret Downing 1916 - 1993

Margaret Downing about 1941

20/12/2008 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Francis George Sternberg 1829 – 1869

Francis George Sterberg 1829-1869

Francis George Sterberg 1829-1869

FGS was the grandson of another Francis George Sternberg, who came from Lüneburg in North Germany as a trumpeter in the  Royal Horse Guards Regiment. He was one of many soldiers to migrate across the North Sea during the Hanoverian period and arrived in England about 1790. He subsequently settled in Northampton with his English wife Frances Furnivall and the Sternbergs became well established in the town, with a music shop and a singing and instrumental tuition business.

One of their sons was George Sternberg a carver and gilder and it was he who married Mary Leach Mumford and was the father of Francis George born in 1829.

Lizzie Plucknett was born at Thorverton in Devon in the same year, 1829, the daughter of Thomas Loaring Plucknett from his first marriage to Harriet (née Tootel). Francis and Lizzie  married in Bristol in 1853

Their relationship had got off to a good start.

Francis wrote this poem to ‘fairest Lizzy’ for Valentine’s Day 1851, when they were both 21 years old.

fgsvalentinetolizorigreduc

When fresher than the dew wet rose,
My lovely Lizzy smiles on me,
And in her blue eyes gently glows,
The light of heartless gaity
A nature seems with her to shine,
Far banished every dreary pain,
Its ills forsake the earth awhile,
And joy and gladness only reigns.
When pity melts my Lizzys soul,
and glistens in her eye the tear,
That meek affliction bid to call,
Ah! how much more is Lizzy dear
An angels sweetness then descends,
And softening every feature’s grace,
a more than human beauty lends
to Lizzys ever lovely face
Thus still whatever passion reigns
Whatever feeling moves her heart
My own an equal share sustains
Nor can resist her guileless art
And dear the chain that binds me so
A chain for life I would not break
For Oh! that life itself to me
Is only dear for Lizzys sake

February 13th.1851

F. G. S.

(to) Miss Plucknett

(c/o) Mr.Totills (Lizzy’s uncle, living in Bristol)

This romantic start continued after their marriage in 1853 with the birth of no less than ten children, eight of whom survived beyond infancy, one of whom was another Francis George Sternberg. In fact the name Francis has been given to a boy descendent of the Sternbergs in every generation since 1761. The current ‘title holder’ is fifteen at the time of writing.

Sadly Francis George, the poet, died of ‘alcohol poisoning and brain disease’ at the age of forty, leaving Lizzy pregnant with her youngest child Charles in 1869.

I have the original of this poem, sadly kept by Lizzy in a black banded mourning envelope.

fgsvalentinetolizorigred2

In 1860 the Sternbergs had moved to Birmingham and Elizabeth and her eight children survived remarkably well. Thanks for this were largely due to the Mumford family (Lizzy’s inlaws), I suspect.

19/12/2008 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Introduction

One of the things that I have found after several years of sorting through family history details is that it is very easy to overlook or even forget important items. There have been several instances where I have ‘discovered’ information, only to find that my father had already recorded it years before.

Part of the problem is trying to find a format to make family history both readable and informative, but also accessible.

With this in mind, this a more personal view of the faces, people and events from my earliest years, plus an attempt to revisit previous generations in a way that gives some insight into the lives, thoughts, hardships and successes of the people whose very existence led to my own and that of other members of my family.

The internet has provided a ready medium for this in a way that has not been possible before.

As I record each individual, I find that the very act of doing so makes me look more closely at details and often link together pieces of information from my own and other people’s investigations.

The surnames of my ancestors that I know of so far (without most spelling variations included) are, in alphabetical order :

Barrow, Bate, Brady, Bright, Brook, Brown, Burton, Callender, Downing, Freeman, Furnivall, Gadsby, Gornall, Gritten, Grove, Heath, Hussey, Jewkes, Kellan, Kurtzbauer, Leach, Loaring, Merricks, Mumford, Otzmann, Plucknett, Pugh, Reeve, Shaw, Smith, Squire, Sternberg, Sutton, Taylor, Tester, Thornton, Tootel (Tothill), Webb, Winchurch.

This is therefore a fluid and expanding narrative, likely to be altered and added to as facts emerge and style and content change. Please keep reading, commenting and revisiting.

It was a conversation between my grandmother and her sister in 1961 that was an early inspiration for both me and my father to look into family history more. Dad began straight away, my research had to wait a few decades. Click here to listen to a recording I made that Christmas in 1961

When I was born on Sunday 27 September 1942, much of the ‘civilised’ world was at war. The Battle of Britain was more than two years in the past.

The Americans had entered the war after the Japanese had been stupid enough to attack them at Pearl Harbor and the Soviet Union was engaged with Hitler’s Army in a war of bloody attrition at Stalingrad, with results that would influence not only the world at large, but more personally, my life and political thought as the decades followed.

At the time that I was born, My father Francis Victor Winchurch ( Vic ) had been in the Royal Navy for eighteen months and did not see his first born son until Christmas of 1942, when I was three months old.

Three of my four grandparents were living, all within the ’30 year generation norm’. In other words they were within a year or so of their sixtieth birthdays in 1942. I will return to each of them later

Unusually, I also had three great grandparents to dote on this new arrival into war torn Britain.

Alice

Alice

Alice Brown, neé Sternberg, my father’s mother’s mother

Alice holding John 1943

Alice holding John 1943

On my mother’s side of the family, living in Stone, Staffordshire were her grandparents:

Arthur

Arthur

Arthur Smith, my mother’s mother’s father

and

Lizzie

Lizzie

Elizabeth (Lizzie) Smith neé Gadsby, my mother’s mother’s mother.

These three were, although I was not aware of it until years later, members of the generation that had been born at the pinnacle of the power and glory of Victorian England which about to be followed by an extended period of change lasting well into the twentieth century.

It occured to me only a few years ago, that my grandfather, Percy Winchurch was in most respects a ‘modern man’.

He had at the time of his death in 1953, his own business, car, house with gadgets including a vacuum cleaner and TV.

By contrast, his grandfather, Thomas Winchurch was born in 1787 and had few belongings throughout his life.

The lives of those four generations, including my own, represent a phenominal change in industrial society in general and Britain in particular.

19/12/2008 Posted by | Family History, Plucknett, Sternberg, Winchurch | 1 Comment

The faces of history – Thomas Loaring Plucknett

Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875

Thomas Loaring Plucknett about 1875

Thomas Loaring Plucknett born in 1809 at Thorverton in Devon was my great great great grandfather. For those of you who have been following this series (thank you) he was the father of Lizzy Plucknett (the recipient of the Valentine’s Day poem and future bride of Francis George Sternberg).

I think it is my favourite ‘ancestor’ photo. Somehow the man’s strength of character and determination stand out over the years. It is also the oldest direct ancestor photograph that I possess, albeit a copy of the original.

My father spent a lot of time researching the Plucknetts and TLP in particular. This is an extract from a letter he wrote to a very helpful local historian in Devon in 1993.

…My gt.grandmother was Elizabeth Plucknett, baptised at St. Paul’s, Exeter…… Her grandfather, Thomas Plucknett married Elizabeth Loaring at St. Sidwell, Exeter, and, unusually for that time, the marriage register gives his occupation – Drummer in the Marines, Plymouth Division. I followed this up in Admiralty records, and found that he enrolled in 1796 and was discharged, unfit, in 1803, which was when he came to live in Thorverton. His baptism was given as 1791 (sic) at St. Sidwells. Presumably he settled in Thorverton because it was his wife’s home, but I have not yet done a great deal of work on the Loarings.
I was greatly puzzled for many years because I could not find his son, Thomas (Loaring) Plucknett in the 1861 census. Two attempts, with a 20 year interval, failed. Recently, without going into details, I found him in London……. Before he left Thorverton, his second daughter married a William Henry Clout, a butcher of Kennington. W. H Clout was also a witness at the marriages of the next two daughters, Sarah and Lucy in 1870 and 1871 (both at Clapham). He was evidently quite important in the family and I am wondering if he originally went to Devon to buy stock and later persuaded his father-in law that it would be a good move to go to London. This, of course, is only supposition and probably quite wrong.

Much as I respect my Dad’s research on the above and so many details of our family history, I can’t help feeling that he rather misinterpreted TLP being in London in the 1861 census. It seems to me that he was either staying close to the Clouts’ home in Bradley Terrace, Lambeth, or that TLP and his wife had a London base of their own – in other words he was only visiting London. I do think though, that his guess at W. H. Clout’s reason for visiting Thorverton  makes sense. The arrival of the railways in Victorian Britain saw the end of traditional cattle droving, with a rise in live meat and dairy transport to Smithfield and other markets in London.

He is described as what I think is a ‘Butterman (Master)’ in the 1861 census – the handwritten version is difficult to decipher and gave Dad trouble – but this would tie in with his description in 1878 as a ‘dairyman’. I think Dad was quite right about William Henry Clout’s influence though with regard to trading in London.

thomaslplucknettlambeth1861click to enlarge

He was living in Thorverton in 1871 and died there in 1880, at the age of 70.

Dad continues in the same letter –

The other matter that interests me is the mill. Edward Coombe married Thomas Plucknett’s daughter, at Thorverton, in 1823, and is described in the marriage licence bond as a miller. He ran the mill at Feniton until he died in 1840 and then his sons Thomas Loaring and James Coombe ran it successively. They had another brother, Edwin, and I am wondering if it was he who later took over Thorverton Mill. Thomas Plucknett’ younger son, James Summers Plucknett. was also a miller, first at Tipton St. Johns and then at Honiton.

My grandmother had a story that her grandfather (Thomas Loaring P) defended his mill with a pitchfork single-handed against anti-corn law rioters, but as he was never a miller this cannot be true. But I have found out that there were food riots in the Honiton area in the 1840s, so it could have been one of the other members of the family.

TLP's bread-baking ovens. Exposed during renovations at the Bury, Thorverton

TLP's bread-baking ovens. Exposed during renovations at the Bury, Thorverton

TLP was a forceful character, well illustrated by this extract from the Western Times, 01 Jun 1869.

“Thomas Plucknett, of Thorverton, was summoned by Mr T. Hutchings, lessee of the Cattle Market (at Exeter), with an assault. Complainant stated that on the 21st he was standing inside the market gate counting some sheep that were being driven in, when defendant came up with twelve pigs which he tried to mix up with the sheep. There are double gates, but one of these was locked at the time in order that complainant might count the sheep. Defendant then asked for the key of a gate at the higher end of the market, and on complainant refusing to let him have it he pushed the closed gate as hard as he could and knocked complainant violently. The defence was that as the pigs were likely to be hurt by a waggon passing at the time, defendant merely pushed the gate open to prevent the pigs being killed. The Bench said that this did not justify the assault and fined defendant £5 and expenses.”

TLP seems to have had a rather defiant nature all of his life. When he married Harriet Tootell in April 1829, they were both under 21 and therefore needed parents’ permission. Bearing in mind the fact that their daughter Lizzy was born in July 1829, it is easy to imagine that the teenage Thomas had left Thorverton and gone to the ‘big city’ of Exeter where life was less restrictive than that in a small village. His father Thomas was by this time well established in Thorveton and within a couple of years of his marriage, TLP was back establishing his bakery business in the Bury. Lizzy and her sister Emma left Thorverton at a young age and TLP seems to have tried his hand a several ventures from baking bread to cattle dealing.

In 1854,Thomas Kingdon (cider manufacturer) of Netherexe took Thomas Loaring Plucknett, baker, to court over the latter’s manuring (or not manuring)  two meadows he leased from the former and his seeding out (or not seeding out) an orchard. Through his solicitor, Plucknett insisted that he had manured and seeded out the land in accordance with the terms of his agreement in a proper husbandman-like manner.
The Judge’s decision seems to have been that he was guilty, but not by much. He awarded the plaintiff not the £10 demanded but merely 7s 1d.

He was not an exucutor of Thomas Plucknett’s final will made in 1860, shortly before his death and only a week after the death of his daughter, Sarah Coombe. The sole executor was James, TLP’s younger brother by five years and whilst all of Thomas’s three children, (or heirs), were beneficiaries, James had authority to make decisions about retention and disposal of property. This was perhaps  strange, since TLP was the eldest son.

Maybe, just maybe, Thomas senior did not trust the judgement and business acumen of his first-born.

Thomas senior’s will seems to have led to futher negotiation with TLP’s niece Elizabeth (née Coombe) and her husband John Beard, three years later in 1863 –

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

August 3rd 1863

In consideration of the sum of nineteen pounds sterling paid by me this day by Thomas Loaring Plucknett of No. 15 Bradley Terrace in the Parish of Lambeth, Surrey, I assign unto the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett my one twenty first share in the estate of the late Thomas Plucknett of Thorverton, Devon to which my Wife Elizabeth Beard is entitled under the will of the said Thomas Plucknett and hereby agree that all monies and proceeds to arise out of the sale of the said —- Leasehold and personal property being 1/21 st share thereof unto the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett and the said Thomas Loaring Plucknett hereby agrees to free the said John Beard from all or any liability that may arise in reference to the settlement of the said estate

John Beard
Elizabeth Beard
Thomas Plucknett
Solicitor’s signature.

The one twenty first share is interesting, since it presumably is calculated as one seventh of one third share. Edward Coombe and his wife (née Sarah Loaring Plucknett – TLP’s sister) had seven children, so they must all have lived beyond childhood (Edward died in 1840 – the year of his youngest son’s birth) and been living in 1863. This was an unusually high survival rate for a Victorian family.

thorvertonaerial

The Bury (Berry in older documents) leads from the church, left to Bullen Street running vertically.

The Dolphin Hotel (now Thorverton Arms) is the long building at the T junction between The Bury and Bullen Street

The Church and churchyard where several of my ancestors – Loarings and Plucknetts – are buried is to the right and slightly below centre.

Plucknett graves in Thorverton churchyard

Plucknett graves in Thorverton churchyard

The small tombstone in the centre has the inscription:

Thomas Loaring Plucknett, late of Thorverton, born 9th Sep. 1809, died 22nd July 1880
also Emma, wife of the above, died 6th Oct. 1885 in her 74th year.

Harriet, Thomas’s first wife and my 3Ggrandmother, has her memorial on the stone next but one to the right, which is that of Thomas senr and Sarah (née Loaring)

Loaring tombstone reads - Sarah Loaring died July 3rd 1785 aged 36 also Nathaniel Loaring died June 27th 1806 aged 36 ……………………………. also Joseph Loaring died October 14th 1827 aged 51 also Thomas Loaring

Loaring tombstone reads - Sarah Loaring died July 3rd 1785 aged 36 also Nathaniel Loaring died June 27th 1806 aged 36 ……………………………. also Joseph Loaring died October 14th 1827 aged 51 also Thomas Loaring

Although Thomas Loaring P’s children were baptised in the Anglican church, he was not a docile parishioner. He objected to an increased church rate in 1865 (DWT 2 Jun): … The Vicar resisted the amendment proposed by a non-churchgoer (at which) “Mr Plucknett said he didn’t go to church because he had been turned out of his seat, and he wasn’t coming to church, for nobody could benefit or learn anything from the reverend gentleman (laughter)”.

The reference is to a new seating plan of 1864, from which his name is absent.

I am descended from TLP and his first wife Harriet (Tootell). Sadly, no photo of Harriet exists to my knowledge. TLP’s maternal grandmother was Sarah Tothill Summers, probably the daughter of Sarah Kellan and her first husband Thomas Tothill (on his death she married Simon Summers), It seems likely that Tootell is simply a variant of Tothill, so that Harriet had roots, or at least relatives in Thorverton. In fact there are  records of Tothills being baptised in the village church going back to around 1640.

So the Plucknetts, Loarings and Tothills were very much families of that part of Devon for two or three centuries.

c1865thomasplucknettandwife

Thomas Loaring Plucknett and his second wife Emma. The handwritten description is by Elizabeth Plucknett, TLP's daughter, Emma's stepdaughter.

His second marriage to Emma Babbage (whose photo is entitled ‘His Wife’ by Lizzy) produced two daughters, Sarah Babbage Plucknett (b1844), Lucy Harriet Plucknett (b1845)  and a son, Tom Babbage Plucknett (b1849)

Charlie Thomas Plucknett and Eva about1930

Charlie Thomas Plucknett and Eva about1930

Tom’s son, Charlie Thomas Plucknett married Eva Price and their daughters Dora and May were the last Plucknetts to live in Thorverton. The sisters ran the Dairy, Thorverton’s shop, which finally closed in 2007. May died in 1992 but Dora had almost reached her hundredth birthday when she died at Crediton in 2006.

Dora and May Plucknett, about 1914

Dora and May Plucknett, about 1914

My father met Dora Plucknett (his half second cousin once removed !)  in Thorverton in 1996, adding another ‘face’ to these pages of history.

Lucy Harriet’s descendants live in Australia from where both Dad and I have exchanged information with Helen Swaine.

Sarah Babbage Plucknett spent most of her life at East Molesey in Surrey – more details to follow from Rosemary Binnie as mentioned in her comment, below.

My thanks to Ian Stoyle of Thorverton for his help with so many details.

John Winchurch

18/12/2008 Posted by | Family History, Plucknett | 12 Comments

The faces of history – George Sternberg

George Sternberg 1798 - 1878

George Sternberg 1798 - 1878

I am not certain that this is photo of George Sternberg, my great great great grandfather, but I am certain that George was born in Northampton in 1798. The photo is from a family album which contains several serious looking people not yet positively identified. The balance of probability though, is that this one is of  George.

He was the sixth child of Francis George and Frances (née Furnivall) Sternberg. Unusually for the family, George was not given a middle name. He was a carver and gilder, which were trades followed by a number of the Sternberg family members who were not directly involved in music.

He was also the father of another Francis George Sternberg, my great great grandfather, a child of George’s marriage to Mary Mumford. There was only one other child born to Mary and George, namely Elizabeth Sternberg, who lived until 1905.

Mary died in 1848 and in 1851, at the age of 53, George married Lydia May Bird, a spinster and housekeeper, in Northampton.

I do not know what became of Lydia, since ten years later in 1861, the census return shows George as a widower living alone and in the 1871 census, George Sternberg, 73, Gilder, living with sister Rosina (75) and her husband William Amerson  (64) in All Saints Northampton. There is a Lydia Sternberg recorded a few years later in New York, but I haven’t yet followed up on that report.
George was described as  ‘Sexton of All Saints’ on his first wife’s death certificate in 1848.

George Sternberg died of ‘fever’ at the age of eighty in 1878

12/12/2008 Posted by | Family History | 1 Comment

The faces of history – Francis George Sternberg – 1761- 1828

Francis George Sternberg signature 1789

Francis George Sternberg signature 1789

For this entry, I do not have a photo, only a description of my great great great great grandfather, whom I suspect had a huge influence over subsequent generations.

Height 5’5″, born Luneburg, Germany. Hair, eyes and complexion brown; Musician by trade

The love of music is a clear trait that I inherited from my father, grandmother and I believe goes back to Francis George and beyond. On the marriage certificate of his son George to Lydia Bird in 1851, he is referred to as ‘George Sternberg,  Professor of Music’ and I assume that ‘George’ was the name he used throughout his life.

Francis George was from a family of musicians from Lüneburg in north Germany. See Stan Bruce’s account of the German Sternbergs for more information.

Ironically, I stayed in Lüneburg when I was eighteen, cycling across Holland , Germany and Denmark with a school friend whose grandmother lived there. At that point in my life, I knew nothing of my Lüneburg ancestors, but I fell in love with the ancient town.

But I digress.

Francis George Sternberg was born in Lüneburg on 29 August 1761  and baptised in St. John’s Church, Lüneburg with his original German names, Frantz Georg Sternberg on 1 September 1761. His godfather at baptism was  Frantz Georg Brown. More coincidence here, since his great grandaughter married Henry Brown. His mother died when Francis George was only seven, in May 1769. He became a trumpeter in the Royal Horse Guards Regiment in 1786. George III who was King of Britain at this time was also elector of Hanover and it was not uncommon for soldiers from North Germany to enlist in British regiments.

Details of his service with the Royal Horse Guards can be found in the following regimental records :

Royal Horse Guards Nominal Roll, Book 1 (click to see original)

RHG Officers Succession; and Rank and File Services, 1750-1890 at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, gives the following information
Age at enlistment 22 (this does not quite tie in with birth date – he should be 24 or 25 !), Height 5’5″, born Luneburg, Germany.

Hair, eyes and complexion brown; Musician by trade; date of service: 5 March 1786, Troop H.

End of service: trumpeter, 30th May 1797, own request; character good.

Trumpeter with Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (Blues) under Rt Hon Gen Henry Seymour Conway (1762 -1792) and under His Grace the Duke of Richmond ( 1793 – 1798 )

He was enlisted on 18 March 1786 and was present at the following musters :

PERIOD TROOP PLACE / DATE COMMENT
25 Dec 1785 – 24 June 86 Cptn Lewis Buckle Leicester 30 Sept 1786 On Party
25 Jun 1786 – 24 Dec 86 Cptn Robert Shaw Milnes Colney 18 April 1787
25 Dec 1786 – 24 Jun 87 Cptn Robert Shaw Milnes Hertford 3 Sept 1787
25 June 1787 – 24 Dec 87 Cptn Robert Shaw Milnes Hertford 1 April 1788
25 Dec 1787 – 24 Jun 88 Cptn Robert Jefferson St Albans 23 August 1788
25 June 1788 – 24 Dec 88 Cptn Robert Jefferson St Albans 30 April 1789
25 Dec 1788 – 24 Jun 89 Cptn Robert Jefferson Bedford 22 Aug 1789
25 Jun 1789 – 24 Dec 89 Cptn Robert Jefferson Black Heath 5 April 1790
25 Dec 1789 – 24 Jun 90 Cptn Robert Jefferson Peterborough 2 Sept 1790
25 Jun 1790 – 24 Dec 90 Cptn Robert Jefferson Black Heath 12 April 1791
25 Dec 1790 – 24 Jun 91 Cptn Robert Jefferson Birmingham 20 August 1791
25 Jun 1791 – 24 Dec 91 Cptn Robert Jefferson Birmingham 23 April 1792
25 Dec 1791 -24 Jun 92 Cptn Robert Jefferson Birmingham 27 Aug 1792
25 Jun 1792 – 24 Dec 92 Cptn Robert Jefferson Northampton 27 May 1793
25 Dec 1792 – 24 Jun 93 No Records surviving
25 Jun 1793 – 24 Dec 93 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Lutterworth 11 April 1794 On detachment at Northampton
25 Dec 1793 – 24 Jun 94 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Leicester 1 Sept 1794 On detachment
25 Jun 1794 – 24 Dec 94 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Leicester 24 April 1795 On command
25 Dec 1794 – 24 Jun 95 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Leicester August 1795 On duty at Northampton
25 Jun 1795 – 24 Dec 95 Major/ Cptn Gustavus Belford Leicester 24 March 1796 On duty at Northampton
25 Dec 1795 – 24 Jun 96 Cptn Henry Wave Brighton Barracks 30 Aug 96
25 Jun 1796 – 24 Dec 96 Cptn Henry Wave Ipswich Barracks 3 April 97
25 Dec 1796 – 24 Jun 97 Cptn Henry Wave Camp nr Weymouth 21 Aug 97

Discharged 13 June 1797
Source PRO records WO/12 55-57

In many of the above musters his name is recorded as ‘Stanburg’ or ‘Stanberg’ . Also present at several of these musters was Nicholas Doring, trumpet Major, enlisted 25 May 1777. Could this be where his son Francis Doering Sternberg got his name from?

There is another fascinating cause for speculation in that last posting. His future namesake grandson, Francis George Sternberg born in Northampton in 1829, married Lizzie Plucknett. Her grandfather, Thomas Plucknett was a drummer with the Royal Marines. Did the two men meet in Weymouth and form a family friendship that was to survive to their grandchildren ?

Weymouth was a favourite resort of George III and I am sure that his Hanoverian soldiers, including FGS, were made to feel at home there.

“From 1789 on, George III suffered from mental-health problems which could not be concealed, and his re-appearance at Weymouth in the summer of 1789 to take the waters was a welcome sight, for the situation in France prompted a fear the English monarchy could also collapse. Watched by a puzzled and fascinated crowd, the King entered the sea from a bathing machine for his royal dip while a band played God Save The King. It was the King’s regular public dips at Weymouth through the 1790s that helped popularise the new “spa” idea of salt-water sea-bathing had curative properties.”

Notice also that on Christmas day 1788, the young FGS was posted to Bedford. It is very likely that shortly aferwards he met twenty year old Frances Robina Furnivall who was born in that town in 1768.

Frances and Francis George were married on 13 October 1789 at St Mary’s church in Bedford (see register entry). They had eight or nine children between 1790 and 1805. However, FGS was a widower when he married (see licence) and it is possible that his eldest son, William was born in Germany to FGS’s  first wife. No record of William’s birth has been found in England and he seems to have moved away from Northampton early in his life. The International Genealogical Index records the baptism of an (Emily) Amelia Elizabeth Redmayne Sternberg to a William and Elizabeth Sternberg on 12 May 1837 at Leek, Stafford – could this be the same William? ( His possible ‘little – (half?) sister’ the first Amelia died in 1810 at the age of 5 – so maybe William named his daughter after her ?)
In the 1861 census Elizabeth Sternberg widow, mantle maker, living in Barnstaple with daughter Amelia E.R.(24) Elizabeth’s birthplace given as Yorkshire. Amelia is a milliner, born Bolton, Lancashire (1837). Sadly, ten years later, Elizabeth is recorded in the 1871 census as a patient in Devon County Lunatic Asylum at Exminster. Amelia Sternberg married Stephen Henry Wadham about 1868 and was living Barnstaple at the time of the 1881 census.

Francis George and Frances had a son Thomas Furnivall Sternberg (notice use of mother’s maiden name – common practice at this time) however he almost certainly died in infancy since another Thomas was baptised in 1794. This Thomas is the likely author of  ‘The dialect and Folk Lore of Northamptonshire’ published in 1851. In turn his son, Vincent Thomas Sternberg was librarian of Leeds ‘Old Library’ from 1857-1880 and is said to have haunted the library after his death. I have a copy of Thomas’s book.

The other Sternberg baptisms in Northampton are:

Elizabeth Furnivall Sternberg 1792

Rosina Sarah Sternberg 1793

George Sternberg (my 3G grandfather) 1798

Frances Maria Sternberg 1800

Frederick Doering Sternberg 1804

Amelia Sternberg 1805. Amelia died in 1810

Eight years after his marriage, Francis George sought discharge from the army and settled with his family in Northampton. In all they had nine children and were a well known family in Northampton by the start of the nineteenth century.

In Northampton Mercury cutting of 22 July 1826 he is described as a ‘Teacher of Pianoforte, Violin, Tenor, Violincello, Guitar, Spanish and Harp Guitar, Lyre Lute etc at College Street, Northampton.

Their daughter Frances Maria Sternberg taught Italian and English Singing and the Pianoforte (Cutting in Northampton Mercury for 9 September 1826).
Described as a pupil of Ferrari, Knyvett & Beale (cutting from Northampton Mercury for 20 January 1827).

On 29 Sept 1826 a cutting announced that he had moved to a house adjoining the Stag’s Head Inn in Abington Street.

Francis’s address at death was given as Abington Street, Northampton. His age at death given as 67 (may be 63?) and he was buried on 3 April 1828 at St Giles Northampton

The Northampton Mercury reported on 5 April 1828 :

‘Death. On Monday last, deeply lamented by his family, Mr Sternberg of this town, aged 67. He was a good husband and a kind parent’

Occupation : Professor of Music

Much of the information contained above was researched by Stan and Gillian Bruce. Gillian is a descendant of William Mumford Sternberg my great grandmother Alice Plucknett Sternberg’ s brother. Stan has added a chapter to ‘Faces of History’ on the ‘German’  Sternbergs and associated families.

09/12/2008 Posted by | Family History | 6 Comments

The faces of history – Norah Alice Brown

Norah Alice Brown was born in Cannock, Staffordshire on 14 December 1879.
Norah and Marie

Norah and Marie

Norah was my great aunt and her sister Marie my grandmother. They are pictured above about 1903.

It was a conversation between Norah and Marie in 1961 that was an early inspiration for both me and my father to look into family history more. Dad began straight away, my research had to wait a few decades.

At this point, at the age of eighteen, I was fascinated by sound recording and had just built my second tape recorder. My family provided the material for testing its capabilities.

This is one short excerpt that I am particularly glad I captured.

Norah talks about ‘mother’s father’s father’ being a ‘wonderful violinist’ and ‘coming over with a German band’

Listen here to forty seconds of history

She was almost right, Francis George Sternberg was actually a generation further back and was a trumpeter with the Royal Horse Guards. He settled in Northampton, married Frances Furnivall and established himself and his family in a music retail and education business.

At the time of this recording in 1961, it was two hundred years since Francis’s birth.

It is an interesting example of how family information can be passed down the generations.

04/12/2008 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Alice Plucknett Sternberg

Alice Plucknett Sternberg coloured photo from about 1880

Alice Plucknett Sternberg coloured photo from about 1880

Alice Plucknett Sternberg, my great grandmother was born in Bristol in 1856 and died in Birmingham in 1944. She was alive when I was born, but sadly I have no memory of her. I do, however have some of her belongings, such as photos and a black travel trunk with the intials A.P.S. (Alice Plucknett Sternberg) in studs.

Alice Plucknett Sternberg. Initialled Travel trunk - about 1880

Alice Plucknett Sternberg. Initialled Travel trunk - about 1880

Alice with her great grandson, John, in 1943

Alice with her great grandson, John, in 1943

Alice was the daughter of Francis George Sternberg and Elizabeth (née Plucknett). She grew up in Birmingham and at the age of twenty two she married twenty one year old Henry Ambrose Brown, whose parents I wrote about in ‘Richard and Mary Ellen

Henry Ambrose with Marionon the left and blonde haired Vic (my father) facing away from the camera. The other toddler is, I think, Jack Brown.

Henry Ambrose with Marion on the left and blonde haired Vic (my father) facing away from the camera. The other toddler is I think, Vic's cousin, Jack Brown.

02/12/2008 Posted by | Family History | 1 Comment

The faces of history – Annie Elizabeth Smith

Annie Elizabeth Smith, my mother’s mother, was born in Alexandra Street, Stone, Staffordshire on 30 September 1883 and died in Tenby, Pembrokeshire on 6 July 1958.

For the last few years of her life, Annie suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and the memory of that time is in many ways painful for me and inevitably obscures a broader view of her life.

Annie with her parents, Lizzie and Arthur Smith. About 1935

Annie with her parents, Lizzie and Arthur Smith. About 1935

Annie was her parents’ eldest child and the only girl.

Four younger brothers followed

George (1885), Thomas (1889), William (1894) and Frederick (1899)

George died a month before the Great War armistice in October 1918 in Syria.

The remaining three were all involved in the war, but survived and lived within half a mile of their parents. I remember all three of them.

Annie was the only child to move away from Stone. She married her first cousin once removed Arthur Lionel Downing on 21 September 1914, a week before her thirty first birthday. The couple had met at a family wedding in Kidderminster in 1906, when Arthur’s brother, Albert Downing married Nellie Slater. I have no idea why the ‘courtship’ lasted for eight years, but Arthur was a signalman with Great Western Railways so would have been able to travel freely to Stone.

The couple made their home at 49, Topsham Road in Smethwick, but my mother, Margaret Downing, was born at 7, Victor Street in Stone, the home of her grandparents.

Annie and Arthur’s marriage was not a happy one, by the accounts that Margaret gave. Arthur drank heavily and was apparently abusive and violent. Paradoxically, he produced beautiful oak carved furniture by hand at woodwork classes organised by the GWR. Maybe there he found relief from the pent up frustrations of a life of poverty. Like the homes of previous generations of workers, number 49 had no bathroom and an outside toilet.

Margaret with her father Arthur at Llandudno - about 1930

Margaret with her father Arthur at Llandudno - about 1930

Arthur died at fifty seven on the floor of his home. He died in agony, during a severe angina attack at which twenty one year old Margaret was present. He refused to allow her to call the company doctor, since a confirmed diagnosis of heart disease would have cost him his job. Signalmen could not put the travelling public at risk by dying in their boxes !

When Margaret finally reached the doctor’s house it was the middle of the night and the annoyed GP callously threw a death certificate from his bedroom window to the distraught girl in the cold gaslit street below.

Her father’s death in such tragic circumstances affected Margaret greatly, but to my personal frustration as an adolescent attracted by the fairness of socialism, she never voted for the Labour Party with its revolutionary National Health Scheme, but turned instead to a personal attempt to ensure that she always had sufficient funds to avoid poverty. It was a difference of opinion between us that lasted until her death.

Annie was left a widow in Smethwick in 1938 and at the outbreak of war in 1939 became an air raid warden. I think that in a strange way this was probably the most self fulfilled period of her life.

So it was that I arrived in the world, after most of the bombing had finished, with a ‘gas proof’ cot with a hand air pump fitted and later a Mickey Mouse gas mask. These were ready to accompany me and my mother and a good part of the population of Topsham Road, from what I gathered, in the descent to the galvanised steel ‘Anderson Shelter’ which lay half buried at the end of the small garden. I don’t think any of the equipment was used seriously after I was born, but it made a scary, damp, dark playground for me, David and friends as we grew up and was dug out by my father and turned into an impromptu garden shed in 1950, when we and it moved to the rural heaven of Hagley.

Despite being thirty miles away, it was always Annie who was summoned when her ageing parents were unwell. This gave rise to much resentment by my mother, Margaret and in fairness, Annies health was not good as she progressed through her sixties. I can remenber a telegram from Stone arriving from some member of her family which read, quite simply, ‘Annie come at once’

Following my birth in 1942, I had a bout of gastroenteritis and Margaret attributed my very survival to the loving attention that Annie gave me during that time of great deprivation in Britain. The second world war was only just beginning to turn towards eventual victory by the Allies and food and material shortages were acute.

Annie was a very selfless and uncomplaining person. She moved in with us when we went first to Hagley and then to the Wild West of Pembrokeshire in 1954 and sadly declined in health until her death four years later.

26/11/2008 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Marion Brown

Marion Brown at 21 in 1903

Marion Brown at 21 in 1903

My grandmother Marion Brown was born on 9 August 1882 at Cannock in Staffordshire. She was the third child of Henry Ambrose Brown and Alice Plucknett Brown (neé Sternberg). She married Percy Winchurch in 1911.

Marion (or Marie, with the stress on the first syllable rather than the French pronunciation) had an elder sister Norah (b1879), brother Harry (b1881)

Harry

Harry

and a younger sister Millicent (Millie) (b1891).

Millie

Millie

Marie was perhaps the most introverted of the four. There was an underlying sense of humour within the family, which delighted me as a small boy. Life with the Browns was fun !

I am lucky to have known and loved all of them in their different ways as my childhood years overlapped with the later years of their respective lives.

Norah and Marie

Norah and Marie

It was a conversation between Norah and Marie 1n 1963 that was an early inspiration to look into family history more.

Norah talks about ‘mother’s father’s father’ being a ‘wonderful musician’ and ‘coming over with a German band’

Listen here to forty seconds of history

She was almost right, Francis George Sternberg was actually a generation further back and was a trumpeter with the Royals and Blues Regiment. He settled in Northampton, married Frances Furnivall and established himself and his family in a music retail and education business.

At the time of this recording in 1963, it was two hundred years since Francis’s birth. It is an interesting example of how family information can be passed down the generations.

If I count my granddaughter, we have nine generations here.

When Marion died in 1982, she was just four months short of her hundredth birthday.

As far as I know, she is the longest living ancestor that I have. That is quite a thought if you project back into prehistory.

20/11/2008 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Richard and Mary Ellen Brown

Two days ago, I stood in the former Bavarian Chapel in Soho, close to the spot where my great great grandparents Richard Brown and Mary Ellen Gornall were married almost 160 years ago on 16 April 1849.

MaryEllenGornallC1900

Mary Ellen Gornall – about 1900

It is to this day an active Catholic place of worship and the heady scent of incense greets you as you open the inner swing doors, to enter a place of peace and tranquility, which is, amazingly, so close to Piccadilly Circus.

20081111_40051

John outside the ‘Bavarian Chapel’ in Soho, London

 

The Return

There is something very humbling about standing on the spot where an event that took place there, resulted eventually in your own existence as the person you are and with the history that you have.

I wondered about the life of the person in the photograph – a smart and dignified old lady. married at twenty, with her life in front of her as she stood before the alter in the small chapel. Were there family members and friends sitting in pews on the railed gallery ? Or was it a quiet family affair, as she married Richard Brown, himself only twenty two. A young tailor, born in Liverpool, of a family of tailors, the profession he was to pass on to their son, my great grandfather, Henry Ambrose Brown.

henryambrosebrownc1880

Henry Ambrose Brown C1880

13/11/2008 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Elizabeth Gadsby

Elizabeth Smith (neé Gadsby) 1910

Elizabeth Smith (neé Gadsby) 1910

My great grandmother, Elizabeth (Lizzie) Smith (neé Gadsby – or sometimes, Gadsbey) was born in Stone 1n 1861. She was the second daughter of James and Martha Gadsby.

Martha Gadsby (neé Downing)

Martha Gadsby (neé Downing)

Martha was also a first cousin of my maternal grandfather, Arthur Downing.

To put this another way, my mother’s parents were first cousins once removed.

Although Lizzie was alive until I was about six years old, I have few strong memories of her. She had a reputation within the family for being rather outspoken and forbidding, but this might have only been in her later years She lived to be 87.

I do remember a regular custom when we visited Victor Street though. This was usually on a Sunday afternoon, having driven north from Birmingham via Stafford – with the fascination of its milk bottling plant – with large plate glass windows making the machinery visible from the road as my brother and I sat perched on cushions in the back of Winchurch Brothers’ green livery painted Austin A40 van.

After we had parked outside in the narrow road which was arrow straight between the leaded steps of the terraced houses, we passed down the arched ‘entry’ to the yard and turned left for the back door to number 7.

One of Lizzie’s first questions was invariably to ask if we boys would like a biscuit and this affirmed she would pull open a drawer in a huge red wooden chest of drawers, which dominated one side of the small living room and take out a packet of Lincoln Cream biscuits.

They were always Lincoln Creams and I loved them !

At this time food, and especially ‘luxury food’ was severely rationed in post war Britain, so this gesture was particularly generous

I think Lizzie and Arthur lived in their small, rented, terraced house for all of their married life. My mother, Margaret Downing was born there in 1916 and I think her mother, Annie Elizabeth Smith was born there in 1883. ( I have sent for a copy of Annie’s birth certificte to confirm this). The family, with the exception of Annie, was certainly there at the time of the 1901 census.

A large portrait of ‘Mr Gladstone’ dominated the chimney breast in the living room. This was, I believe, a reflection of Lizzie’s political leanings rather than Arthur’s, who I suspect, from family comments, was a little frightened of her !

The house had no electricity even in the late 1940s. There was no bathroom and the only water tap was a cold one over the brown porcelain kitchen sink. This supply had replaced water drawn from a well sited in the pantry under the stairs, which I believe had served not only number 7 but several other houses in Victor Street until the 1920s. Lighting, as in many Victorian terraced houses was by town gas.

Add to all of the above hardships two of the bloodiest wars in history, poverty and illness.

Lizzie’s life was certainly not an easy one and it is a tribute to her determination and that of so many like her that she survived as a formidable figure, into her late eighties, surrounded by children, grandchildren and great granchildren.

10/11/2008 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment

The faces of history – Arthur Smith and George Arthur Gadesby Smith

Arthur - about 1943

Arthur – about 1943

My great grandfather, Arthur Smith, was the son of Thomas and Jane Smith of of Stone, Staffordshire, where he was born on 13 November 1860.

Thomas Smith about 1900

Thomas Smith about 1895

Jane Smith (neé Burton) about 1890

Jane Smith (neé Burton) about 1895

His branch of the Smith family had a long connection with the town, which lies midway between Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent.

Arthur began work at the age of just ten closing the uppers on men’s shoes for a Mr G Allen. He was paid 2s 6d a week (12.5p).

Boot and shoe making was a major industry in Stone and continued to be well into the second half of the twentieth century with the Lotus Factory being an important employer in the town.

Arthur went on to work with his father, Thomas to produce hand made shoes for Edwin Bostock, examples of which were used as exhibition pieces as far away as Australia. Later he became foreman of a mechanised shoe making workshop and in 1882, married Lizzie Gadsby, who was employed there.

Arthur was an agent for the Prudential Assurance Company for over twenty years, until ill health forced his retirement in 1924.

His shoemaking tools including lasts, hammers and moulds were laid out when I visited Stone as a small child in the 1940’s and it was a special, if rather scary treat to be allowed to climb up the steep open wooden stairway to the bare unheated room above the kitchen to see his disused workshop and what I now realise was a piece of industrial history.

Visits to Stone were a regular part of the lives of my brother and myself up to 1949 when Arthur died on the day before his eighty ninth birthday and the house where he and Lizzie had lived for most of their married life was emptied.

Arthur and Lizzie were tenents of their little terraced house in Stone, not owners and it had few facilities that would now be considered the norm. There was only one tap in the house, providing cold water in the kitchen. The toilet was an outbuilding in the yard with a large wooden seat. By the nineteen forties, a flushing cistern had been added, but I remember being fascinated by reports that the abandoned dark shed at the bottom of the small garden was the original earth closet. A giant cast iron clothes mangle stood opposite the door from the back yard under the wooden stairway that I referred to above.

Arthur and Elizabeth Smith. Golden Wedding 1932

Arthur and Elizabeth Smith. Golden Wedding 1932

7, Victor Street shared its back yard with number 9 next door which was occupied by Lizzie’s brother Fred and his wife Polly. She was wizened and withdrawn by the time I knew her and known to the family as ‘little Aunt Polly’ as opposed to ‘big Aunt Polly’, who was the wife of Albert, another brother. Fred would smile at my tenuous ventures to the bottom of the garden, where he would help me to climb onto the brick wall which had been built by the London Midland and Scottish Railway Company to separate the terrace from the grass lined cutting, which lay some 20 ft below.

Express trains bound to and from Manchester would thunder through at regular intervals, belching smoke with a very characteristic sulphurous smell, steam and sparks, which in the summer caused grass fires and the smoke from the tinder dry banks added a sweet scent that spilled in clouds across the rhubarb and  vegetables growing in Fred’s lovingly kept garden.

My great grandparents’ side of the path was, by this time, sadly overgrown and unproductive.

‘Well done John’ Fred would say with a smile as I returned rather shyly to the house. I was never sure what I had done well, but the praise from this thin kindly old man was sweet.

Arthur’s life was, in different aspects, typical of a poor working man but at the same time remarkable.

In January 1877 he volunteered to serve with the Stone Company of Volunteers and only missed one parade in thirty nine years – to attend his own wedding in 1882.

The Uniform Jacket of Colour Sergeant Arthur Smith

The Uniform Jacket of Colour Sergeant Arthur Smith

In 1902 he succeeded his brother Henry as Colour Sergeant and at the outbreak of the First World War he mobilised with the 5th North Staffordshire Regiment. Because of his age (Arthur was then 54) he was not sent to France.

However the slaughter of that conflict did not escape him personally. Three sons, Thomas, William and his eldest son George served in the army and sadly, George died in Syria in 1918.

It is perhaps a measure of how remote active service was from the normality of home life that George was believed by his family to have  died in Egypt. It was only within the past few years that I found out online that in fact it was Syria.

George Arthur Gadsby Smith lies buried an a small British Commonwealth war cemetery in Damascus.

In Memory of
Lance Bombardier GEORGE ARTHUR GADESBY SMITH

610134, 20th Bde. Ammunition Col., Royal Horse Artillery
who died age 33
on 14 October 1918
Husband of A.M.Matthew (formerly Smith), of 189, Spadina Avenue, Toronto, Canada.
Remembered with honour
DAMASCUS COMMONWEALTH WAR CEMETERY

(from The Commonwealth War Graves Commision website)

George Arthur Gadsby Smith

George Arthur Gadsby Smith

The reverse side of George's photograph

The reverse side of George’s photograph

George's grave stone at Damascus
George’s grave stone at Damascus

The following is an account of the final months of the British advance on Damascus. George must have been in the thick of this. The article points out that many soldiers died of disease rather than injuries. I know that this was George’s fate and that as a result his name did not appear on the original War Memorial in Stone. It was corrected later and was there a few years ago when I stopped in Stone to look for it.

From Wikipedia:

Battle of Megiddo

Main article: Battle of Megiddo (1918)

General Allenby finally launched his long-delayed attack on September 19, 1918. The campaign has been called the Battle of Megiddo (which is a transliteration of the Hebrew name of an ancient town known in the west as Armageddon). Again, the British spent a great deal of effort to deceive the Turks as to their actual intended target of operations. This effort was, again, successful and the Turks were taken by surprise when the British attacked Meggido in a sudden storm. The Turkish troops started a full scale retreat, the British bombed the fleeing columns of men from the air and within a week, the Turkish army in Palestine had ceased to exist as a military force.

From there it was decided to march off to Damascus. Two separate Allied columns marched towards Damascus. The first approached from Galilee composed of mainly cavalry, both Indian and Australian while the other column travelled along the Hejaz Railway northwards composed of Indian Cavalry and the ad hoc militia following T.E. Lawrence. Australian Light Horse troops marched unopposed into Damascus on October 1, 1918, despite there being some 12,000 Turkish soldiers at Baramke Barracks. Major Olden of the Australian 10th Light Horse Regiment received the Official Surrender of the City at 7 am at the Serai. Later that day, T.E. Lawrence and his ad hoc Arab militia entered Damascus to claim full credit for its capture. The war in Palestine was over but in Syria lasted for a further month. The Turkish government was quite prepared to sacrifice these non-Turkish provinces without surrendering. Indeed, while this battle was raging, the Turks sent an expeditionary force into Russia to enlarge the ethnic Turkish elements of the empire. It was only after the surrender of Bulgaria which put Turkey into a vulnerable position for invasion that the Turkish government compelled to sign an armistice on October 28, 1918 and outright surrendered two days later. 600 years of Ottoman rule over the Middle East had come to an end.

The British lost a total of 550,000 casualties: more than 90% of these were not due to battle but instead due to disease, heat and other secondary causes. Total Turkish losses are unknown but almost certainly larger. They lost an entire army in the fighting and the Turks poured a vast number of troops into the front over the three years of combat.

Even so, the historical consequences of this campaign are hard to overestimate. The British conquest of Palestine led directly to the British mandate over Palestine and Trans-Jordan which, in turn, paved the way for the creation of the states of Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria

The years following the end of the Great War cannot have been pleasant for Arthur and Lizzie.

As well the grief from the loss of George, Arthur’s health declined. He was eventually diagnosed as having cancer of the colon. A few years earlier this would have been untreatable and Arthur would almost certainly not have lived to sixty. Pioneering surgery had taken place in the field of colostomy however and Arthur was operated on (I think in London) some time around 1930. This must have been a risky and painful procedure at the time, but happily Arthur survived to reach not only his sixtieth birthday, but very nearly, his ninetieth !

The mechanics of redirecting to bowel outlet to the side of his body were briefly outlined to me as a child. For one thing , Arthur needed privacy to clear out the leather pouch on the side of his body. He did this at regular intervals in the ‘front room’ with it’s leather sofa, net curtains and red leaded front step (the front door opened directly onto the pavement of Victor Street). This room was kept very firmly ‘for best’ by Lizzie, as was the case in many Victorian households and although Victoria had been dead for over forty years by the time I was born, this was very definitely a hang-over from that period.

As might be expected in a small house which had been home to seven people with only two rooms upstairs and no bathroom, there was a very distinctive smell about it. The dominant aroma was (perhaps mercifully) that of ‘Old Shag’ pipe tobacco which Arthur smoked right to the end of his life and which permeated the house in curling blue swirls.

A very happy memory I have of Arthur Smith is walking with him to the public park only a few yards from the house in Victor Street. He walked with a walking stick and at the age of five, I insisted on having a stick too.

As we passed the neatly tended beds of summer flowers, a group of Arthur’s friends – old men with hats, sitting on a park bench nearby, greeted him.

“Good Morning Arthur, is that your young grandson?”

“No” he replied, with evident pride, “John is my GREAT grandson”

Arthur was bedridden for the last year of his life.

Lizzie died in 1948, but his daughter, my grandmother, Annie, looked after him lovingly until his death on 12 November 1949.

02/11/2008 Posted by | Family History | Leave a comment