A puzzling postcard from Waters Upton

A little while ago I bought a postcard which bears a Waters Upton postmark. It does not add to my limited collection of village views – the scene on the rather grubby front of the card depicts Edgbaston Old Church, Birmingham. But it was probably posted by someone living in Waters Upton, or at least close enough for their mail to be franked there, someone named Elizabeth. Who was she?

“Dear Master David” wrote Elizabeth, “Many thanks for P.C how splendid to hear you are in the top form I hope to meet you next time through [= though?] if possible I was so disappointed Much love to you”. The postcard was franked on 11 May 1908.

The recipient

At least the identity of the postcard’s recipient was fairly easy to establish. The card was addressed to Master D. G. Loveday, care of W. Deedes Esq, Mill Mead, Shrewsbury. At the top of the list of results when searching the 1901 census at Findmypast for D* G* Loveday is 4-year-old David G Loveday. He was living at the Manor House in Williamscote, in the Oxfordshire parish in which he was born: Cropredy.

The birth of David Goodwin Loveday, mother’s maiden name Cheape, was registered in the second quarter of 1896 in Banbury registration district. Googling David’s full name generates results from Wikipedia and other websites, showing that he was born on 13 April 1896, was educated at Shrewsbury School, and was an Anglican bishop who died 7 April 1985.

I decided to find out more about David Loveday and his family in the hope that this might help to reveal the identity of Elizabeth. David’s father was John Edward Taylor Loveday. John was born in the first half of 1845 at East Ilsley in Berkshire, where his father (as per the censuses of 1851 and 1861) was Rector. He seems to be best known for printing, “with an Introduction and an Itinerary”, his great grandfather John Loveday’s manuscript Diary of a Tour in 1732 through parts of England, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. (This tour was probably number 23 in a list of 126 Tours by John Loveday compiled by some of his descendants.) He was educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where he matriculated on 11 June 1862, aged 17.

John Edward Taylor Loveday married Edinburgh-born Margaret Cheape on 15 Oct 1874 at Cameron, in Fife, Scotland. The couple made their home at Williamscote House (the above-mentioned ‘Manor House’), where they were enumerated with their first five children in 1881. John was described as a “Landed Proprietor & Magistrate for Counties of Oxford & Warwick”. They had five more children over the course of the next 15 years, of whom David Goodwin Loveday was the youngest.

It turns out that David was not the first of the Loveday children to spend time in Shrewsbury. The 1901 census records his brother Henry Dodington Loveday, then aged 20 and an articled clerk to a solicitor, lodging with the family of clergyman William Leeke at the Abbey Foregate Vicarage. Another brother, Alexander, was also living in Shrewsbury when the 1901 census was taken. Aged 12, he was boarding at the school his brother David would later attend, Mill Mead, a private establishment under the headmastership of Wyndham Deedes.

Elizabeth . . . who?

The Lovedays’ connections with Shrewsbury might explain how the mysterious Elizabeth became a friend of the family. Was there a lady of that name living in Waters Upton in the early 1900s who looks like a suitable candidate? Of the several Elizabeths on the 1901 and 1911 census returns for the parish, one stands out: Elizabeth Yonge.

Elizabeth Mary Hombersley Yonge, née Groucock, was the wife of the Rev Lyttleton Vernon Yonge. Rev Yonge was a son of Vernon George Yonge, also a clergyman, and part of a prominent Staffordshire family which had its seat at Charnes Hall. Lyttleton was born at the Rectory in Great Bolas, received his education at Cambridge, and although he resided at Waters Upton he was vicar of Rowton, in Ercall Magna parish. Elizabeth, who was also from the parish of Bolas Magna, was a daughter of Thomas Groucock (a farmer of 180 acres in 1881), and of Elizabeth Groucock née Dickin, who was descended on her mother’s side from the Wase family of Waters Upton Hall.

The social standing of the Yonges (and perhaps also the subject of the postcard’s picture) makes Elizabeth my top ‘suspect’ in a case which is not so much a ‘whodunnit’ as a ‘whopostedit’. All I am lacking is any direct evidence that the Yonges and the Lovedays actually knew each other!

The front of the postcard sent to Master D G Loveday by Elizabeth.

Maybe one day I will find that David Goodwin Loveday’s early education, before he went to Shrewsbury School, was as a pupil boarding either with Lyttleton Vernon Yonge or with his fellow clergyman and Waters Upton resident, John Bayley Davies? Or perhaps I will find a document written (or least signed) by Elizabeth, so that I can compare it with the writing on the postcard at the centre of this mystery. Her signature should appear in the Waters Upton marriage register, but the register begun in 1837 is still in use and has not been deposited at Shropshire Archives. The probate copy of her will, a digitised version of which I have obtained from HMCTS via the Gov.UK website, is typewritten and bears no signature.

So is this the end of my investigation? Not quite. Because while looking at the other Elizabeths of Waters Upton, I found another line of enquiry.

Coincidence or connection?

The Elizabeth who piqued my interest was Elizabeth Emma Ball. She was a daughter of William Abraham Richard Ball and his wife Sarah, née Cureton. This Elizabeth spent the early part of her adult life working as a servant before moving back to Waters Upton between 1901 and 1911. There is nothing to suggest that she met the Lovedays unless perhaps she worked for one or more of them as a servant, but if that was the case the development a postcard-exchanging relationship with David Goodwin Loveday seems unlikely. However, if she didn’t know the Lovedays personally, Elizabeth may have known of them, through her younger sister…

Mary Ann Ball was born at Waters Upton on 13 February 1877. By 1891, when she was 14, she was in service, working as a nurse for the family of John Bayley Davies at Waters Upton Rectory. A decade later she was in Shrewsbury, living and working as a housemaid at a house in Belle Vue Road. Then, in 1909, she married Thomas Henry Kimnell.

Thomas was born at Wardington in Oxfordshire on 25 August 1878 and was enumerated there with his family on the censuses of 1881, 1891, and 1901. When the latter census was taken, Thomas was 22 and, like his father, he was an agricultural labourer. Whether his fortunes changed before or after his marriage is unclear, but change they most certainly did. The 1911 census recorded him not as a labourer but as a farmer, working on his own account. With wife Mary Ann and daughter Eva Mary (born 14 March 1910) he was living at Williamscote in Wardington parish.

A second daughter, Helen Elizabeth, was born at Williamscote on 22 February 1914, but the Kimnells’ third and last child, Alice, was born at the end of 1917 or in the first quarter of 1918 on the other side of the River Cherwell in the parish of Bourton. Almost certainly the family was living there when the Banbury Guardian of 5 Jul 1917 reported on a military tribunal at which Thomas, a farmer of 107 acres, successful claimed exemption. From the 1921 census and National Identity Register of 1939 it appears that the family remained there for more than 20 years, at Pewet / Peewit Farm (highlighted on the map above).

Thomas Henry Kimnell of Williamscote died on 16 June 1965 at Woodford Halse in Northamptonshire; his estate was valued at £4531. Mary was also of Williamscote at the time of her death on 17 February 1969; given that her death was registered at Daventry she too may have died at Woodford.

Did the references to Williamscote in the preceding paragraphs cause you to think back to the earlier part of this story, relating to the Loveday family? The hamlet of Williamscote, although lying in the parish of Wardington, is a stones-throw from Williamscote House in neighbouring Cropredy parish (the boundary is shown in purple on the map below). The 1911 Kelly’s Directory of Oxfordshire lists Thomas H Kimnell right after John Edward Taylor Loveday under Williamscote! Coincidence? Quite possibly, but I think there’s a good chance that it isn’t.

William Ball was well known in Waters Upton so both the Davies family and the Yonges would have been familiar with his daughters, all the more so in the case of Mary Ann given her employment at the Rectory. If, as I have theorised, Elizabeth Yonge was a friend of the Lovedays, this might mean that she was in a position to help bring about the union of Thomas Henry Kimnell (who the Lovedays may have known, perhaps as an employee?) and Mary Ann Ball.

Ultimately, this is speculation and does not prove anything conclusively. The puzzle of the postcard’s sender remains officially unsolved – a one-place study ‘X File’. At least for now. One further possibility for acquiring a sample of Elizabeth Yonge’s handwriting and/or signature remains. Dave Annal recently reported on Twitter that he managed to obtain a copy of an original will from HMCTS, although he did have to wait 16 months!

Picture credits: Front and back of postcard, author’s own images. Extract from Ordnance Survey 25 Inch mapping (1892-1914) showing Williamscot House reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence. Extract from Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 mapping (1937-61) showing Great Bourton, Pewet Farm and Williamscot reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence. Extract from Ordnance Survey 6 Inch mapping (1888-1913) showing Williamscot House and Williamscot reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence.

Coronation celebrations at Waters Upton in 1902

“The celebration of the Coronation of the King was observed in several places in Shropshire and the district, but the proceedings were of course shorn of many attractions, and were mostly confined to Intercessory services in the various places of worship, and the treating of old people and children.”Wellington Journal, 28 June 1901, page 11.

Non-Coronation celebrations

The coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra was originally scheduled to take place on 26 June 1902. Elaborate preparations had been made and foreign dignitaries had gathered, but a last-minute medical emergency forced the pomp and pageantry to be postponed. Just two days before the big event, Edward ended up on a table in Buckingham Palace’s Music Room, where surgeon Sir Frederick Treves performed an operation to drain his Majesty’s abdominal cyst.

Although the coronation itself could not proceed as planned, Edward insisted that this should not prevent regional celebrations (and the serving of special dinners to 500,000 of London’s poor) from going ahead. It was in these circumstances that somewhat muted celebrations took place in Shropshire. Let’s return to the Wellington Journal of 28 June 1901:

WATERS UPTON. This little village was not behind in its demonstrations of loyalty, as the proceedings on Thursday fully testified, although the jubilation was naturally not so intense in the circumstances of the King’s illness.
The following admirably carried out the arrangements:—The Rev. L. V. Yonge (rector of Rowton, chairman), the Rev. J. B. Davies (rector of Waters Upton), Mrs. Yonge, Messrs. W. Jervis, B. Needham, J. Shakeshaft, R. Allen, H. J. Jones, A. H. James, A. Ridgway, S. T. Bennett, S. Woolley, and W. A. R. Ball (secretary and treasurer).
At 2-15 p.m. a large procession was formed in the School Yard, and, headed by the Waters Upton Brass Band (conducted by Mr. J. Davies), marched to the Parish Church, where Divine service was held. This being concluded, the village, which was gaily decorated, was paraded, the procession eventually moving to the residence the Rev. L. V. Yonge.
During the afternoon every inhabitant of the village was regaled with a plentiful supply of meat, together with three pints of ale for each adult male, whilst ample provision was made for abstainers. For the women an excellent and abundant tea was provided.
All having feasted to their hearts’ content, a capital programme of sports and amusements was carried out and much enjoyed until seven o’clock, when dancing was spiritedly indulged in and kept up till half-past 10, at which time all joined in singing with loyal heartiness “God save the King”, fervent hopes being expressed for his Majesty’s speedy recovery.
The proceedings were brought to a close with ringing cheers for all who had taken part in promoting the festivities of the day. Mrs. Rider of Crescent House, Wellington, with her usual generosity, presented each child in the parish with a Coronation medal, and Mrs. Yonge liberally supplied the men with tobacco and cigars.

Committee members, music, and medals

What a great line-up of local talent on the organising committee for these celebrations! Two clergymen (Lyttleton Vernon Yonge and John Bayley Davies), a clergyman’s wife (Elizabeth Mary Hombersley Yonge, née Groucock), five farmers (William Jervis, Bernard Morrison Needham, John Shakeshaft – who was also a corn and coal merchant, Richard Allen, and Henry James Jones), a butcher (Alfred Henry James), a carpenter and wheelwright (Alfred Ridgway), a shoemaker (Samuel Thomas Bennett), a railway platelayer (Samuel Woolley), and a former tailor who became the local relieving officer and registrar of births and deaths (William Abraham Richard Ball). All were enumerated at Waters Upton on the census of 1901 – I have hyperlinked each of their names to their household’s entry on my abstract of that census.

As for the Waters Upton Brass Band, how I wish I could find out more about it. I think it likely that the band’s musicians were drawn not just from Waters Upton but also from neighbouring villages and hamlets too. The band leader, for example, was almost certainly the John Davies who was master of Crudgington School from around 1880. The earliest mention of the band I have found so far was in the Wellington Journal of 8 June 1889. The paper reported that “The Waters Upton Brass Band, under the able leadership of Mr. John Davies,” marched as part of a procession celebrating the anniversary of the Waters Upton lodge of Oddfellows.

Almost certainly this was “the Tibberton and Waters Upton Brass Band” which headed a similar procession four years later (Shrewsbury Chronicle, 16 June 1893) and “the Cold Hatton brass band, which played selections on the ground, Mr. J. Davies conducting” at a parish church bazaar held at Waters Upton in 1901 (Shrewsbury Chronicle, 7 June 1901). After playing at the Coronation celebrations in 1902, and leading another Oddfellows’ procession to Waters Upton church the following year (Shrewsbury Chronicle, 19 June 1903), the last reported ‘gig’ for the Waters Upton Brass Band, conducted by Mr Davies, appears to have been a fund-raising event for parochial work at Crudgington in 1904 (Shrewsbury Chronicle, 24 June 1904). The John Davies whose death at the age of 62 was registered in the first quarter of 1906 at Wellington, was very likely our band leader.

Something else I’d love to know is whether any of the Coronation medals issued to the children of Waters Upton have survived, perhaps in the possession of their descendants? (An example of a Coronation medal – not necessarily representative of those issued at Waters Upton as designs varied – is shown here.) Mrs. Rider of Crescent House, Wellington, who supplied the medals, did not live in the village but through her late husband Dr John Rider – a descendant of the Wase family of Waters Upton Hall, had connections to it. Both Mr and Mrs Rider were buried in Waters Upton churchyard.

A second celebration

This story of Coronation celebrations at Waters Upton in 1902 is not quite over. The King and Queen were finally crowned, following Edward’s recovery, on the ninth of August – and his subjects could mark the occasion with unmuted merriment.

The fact that the reconvened Coronation was scheduled for a Saturday was not entirely welcome. The editor of the Wellington Journal opined in his newspaper on August 2nd, that “It would be difficult, we fancy, to imagine a more awkward time to celebrate the King’s Coronation than on a Saturday, for in nearly every town in England this is a very busy day, and one on which shopkeepers are apt to rely in making up for a probably cash deficiency on the other days of the week, and when the working classes do most of their shopping.”

The parishioners of Waters Upton responded to the potential problems of a Saturday celebration by holding their second Coronation ‘do’ on the following Tuesday. The Reverend Yonge once again chaired the organising committee and made his grounds available, and William Ball reprised his role as “the energetic hon. secretary and treasurer.” The day’s events were similar to those of the original Coronation celebrations, with some elements missing but others added – and with a note of sadness regarding the health of the Rector, as the Wellington Journal of 16 August reported:

The children of the Day and Sunday Schools met in the school yard at three o’clock, and were marshalled in processional order to the grounds, where they partook of an excellent tea. At 4-15 the adults were also entertained to tea. Sports were afterwards provided for the youngsters, and each child received prize, whilst additional prizes were awarded to those making the best attendances in the Sunday School.
Dancing commenced at six, and was kept up till 11 o’clock, to the strains of the Waters Upton Band, conducted by Mr. J. Davies. Subsequently the Rev. Mr. Bardell proposed, and Mr. E. B. [actually, J. B.] Davies seconded, a vote of thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Yonge for their kindness in placing their charming grounds at the disposal of the committee, and also for their hearty and liberal assistance. This was carried with ringing cheers.
Mr. Yonge returned thanks, and made some very touching remarks respecting the illness of the worthy rector of the parish, the Rev. J. B. Davies. At the close all sang lustily the National Anthem. In addition to a donation from the Duke of Sutherland, Mrs. Yonge provided prizes for the whole of the Sunday and Day School children; Mr. Needham and Mr. W. A. R. Ball, sweets and prizes; and Miss M. E. Minor, prizes various kinds.

Picture credits: Edward VII and Alexandra, adapted from a public domain image at Wikimedia Commons. Tuba from Etienne Mahler at Flickr, public domain image. Coronation medal from Wikimedia Commons contributor Helensq; used under a Creative Commons licence. Coronation of Edward VII in Westminster Abbey from Library of Congress via getarchives.net; no known copyright restrictions.

Waters Upton’s first amateur entertainments (Part 3)

< Back to Part 2.

What an interesting evening this is turning out to be – I must travel back to Waters Upton in the late 1860s more often! ‘Local talent’ performing along with accomplished amateur vocalists and musicians from a little further afield is proving to be a great combination. Speaking of those who have come from beyond the immediate locality, here comes Mr Palmer again.

Duet, ‘Come where my love lies dreaming,’ Mr Palmer and friend.

There are murmurs of approval in the schoolroom at the sight of Moses Palmer preparing to deliver his third song this evening. Rightly so, as Mr Palmer’s musical talents are well known in north-east Shropshire – and not just as a singer.

Local papers show that Moses Palmer was conductor of the Oakengates Choral Society from the mid-1850s (Newport & Market Drayton Advertiser, 1 June 1855; Shrewsbury Chronicle, 2 November 1855), provided guidance to St George’s Choral Society when it was formed in 1859 (Wellington Journal, 7 May 1859; Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 11 May 1859), and played a leading part in the formation of the Coalpit Bank Choral Society the following year (Shrewsbury Chronicle, 9 March 1860).

Several of the concerts put on by those choral societies with Moses Palmer’s involvement were for charitable purposes. I think it’s quite likely that Mr Palmer is here tonight because the man for whom money is being raised by this event, John Preece, lives in the same part of Shropshire.

A hush is now descending, and the performance is beginning; here are the words (from The Guiding Star Songster, published a couple of years ago in 1865) if you’d like to follow along. If you haven’t jumped back in time with me to witness this live performance, I’ve also found an audio recording of a much later rendition, which although delivered by different artists (and a larger number of them) will give you a good idea of what we’re listening to, here in 1867.

Come where my love lies dreaming,
Dreaming the happy hours away,
In visions bright redeeming
The fleeting joys of day;
Dreaming the happy hours,
Dreaming the happy hours away,
Come where my love lies dreaming,
Is sweetly dreaming the happy hours away.

Come where my love lies dreaming,
Is sweetly dreaming, her beauty beaming;
Come where my love lies dreaming,
Is sweetly dreaming the happy hours away.
Come with a lute, come with a lay,
My own love is sweetly dreaming, her beauty beaming;
Come where my love lies dreaming,
Is sweetly dreaming the happy hours away.

Soft is her slumber, thoughts bright and free
Dance through her dreams like gushing melody;
Light is her young heart, light may it be,
Come where my love lies dreaming,
Dreaming the happy hours,
Dreaming the happy hours away;
Come where my love lies dreaming,
Is sweetly dreaming the happy hours away.


Time travel does not always go smoothly, unfortunately –sometimes it’s as if we lose our internet connection during an online presentation and then we’re ‘back in the room’. I’m not really au fait with the mechanics behind at all, but it might be a problem with the flux capacitor, or a random burst of chroniton particles causing a kind of ‘time burp’, or maybe even eddies in the space-time continuum. Whatever the cause, in being whipped out of time and then plonked back exactly where, but not exactly when we were, we have missed four performances.

The newspaper report of this evening’s event gives us some idea of what happened in our absence, but some elements remain a mystery. “Beatrice (pianoforte and organ flutina), Miss Titley and Mr T. Hughes.” What was performed here? Quite possibly it was an air from the tragic opera Beatrice di Tenda. Mr T Hughes was presumably not the Mr Hughes we have already heard from (and who performed the next number). Miss Titley was very likely one of Waters Upton’s own, Mary Jane Titley, daughter of Thomas Titley, a butcher, and his wife Elizabeth, née Icke. If so, she was, like Miss Shakeshaft who we met earlier, another young performer.

Song, ‘The Village Blacksmith,’ Mr. Hughes.” What a shame we missed this! The words of the song can however be found woven into my article Blacksmiths in Waters Upton. And you can listen to a more recent performance of it on YouTube. Next came “Song, ‘Poor old Joe,’ Mr. Palmer.” Now, this is a ‘plantation song’ and as such, contains terminology which isn’t really acceptable in the 21st century, so I’m going to skip past it.

Grand valse, Miss S. J .Shakeshaft.” This might have been one of any number of tunes with ‘Grand Valse’ in their titles, played on the pianoforte – possibly René Favarger’s Grande Valse de Salon, published in 1860. The performer I’m much more certain about: Sarah Jane Shakeshaft of Cold Hatton, daughter of farmer Joseph Shakeshaft and his wife Martha, née Wright. She must be about 18 right now, and I think that’s her over there looking suitably pleased having acquitted herself well in what was probably her first performance in front such an audience. We are back in the schoolroom, and the next song is about to be delivered.

Song, ‘A Motto for Every Man,’ a Friend.

The vocalist here is, I think, one of the friends brought over by Moses Palmer. The song was written by Harry Clifton (pictured below) and is also known as “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel.” Once again, I’ve found the words – in Songs for English Workmen to Sing, published this very year (1867)! Plus, in case the words alone make the song sound rather dull, there’s a fabulous recording of it being sung by Stanley Holloway.

Some people you’ve met in your time, no doubt,
Who never look happy or gay:
I’ll tell you the way to get jolly and stout,
If you will listen awhile to my lay.
I’ve come here to tell you a bit of my mind,
And please with the same if I can:
Advice in my song you will certainly find,
And “a motto for every man.”

So we will sing, and banish melancholy;
Trouble may come, we’ll do the best we can
To drive care away, for grieving is a folly;
“Put your shoulder to the wheel,” is “a motto for every man.”

We cannot all fight in this “battle of life,”
The weak must go to the wall,
So do to each other the thing that is right,
For there’s room in this world for us all.
“Credit refuse,” if you’ve “money to pay,”
You’ll find it the wiser plan;
“And a penny lay by for a rainy day,”
Is “a motto for every man.”

A coward gives in at the first repulse;
A brave man struggles again,
With a resolute eye, and a bounding pulse,
To battle his way amongst men;
For he knows he has one chance in his time
To better himself if he can;
“So make your hay while the sun doth shine!”
That’s “a motto for every man.”

Economy study, but don’t be mean:
A penny may lose a pound:
Through this world a conscience clean
Will carry you safe and sound.
It’s all very well to be free, I will own,
To do a good turn when you can;
But “charity always commences at home,”—
That’s “a motto for every man.”

To be continued.

Picture credits. Extract from sheet music for Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming: Image from University of Texas Arlington Libraries website, and used under a Creative Commons licence. The Village Blacksmith, sheet music cover: Public domain image from Picryl. Harry Clifton (1863): Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Waters Upton’s first amateur entertainments (Part 2)

< Back to Part 1.

It’s Wednesday 20 January 1867 and we’re sat in the school room at Waters Upton, trying our best not to be noticed. Luckily the assembled audience, containing many of the neighbourhood’s farming folk and others of a similar social standing, are focussed on the Reverend Halke. As it happens, he is delivering the next ‘act’. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll continue.

Reading, ‘Mrs. Gamp’s Tea Party,’ J. T. Halke.

For those unfamiliar with the works of Charles Dickens (in our present company, surely not many!), the Reverend Halke explains that the passage he will read is from The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. A hush falls over the room as those around us, many of whom are used to hearing the cleric reading on Sundays from an altogether different book, await this new experience.

“And quite a family it is to make tea for,” said Mrs. Gamp; “and wot a happiness to do it! My good young ‘ooman”—to the servant-girl—“p’raps somebody would like to try a new-laid egg or two, not biled too hard. Likeways, a few rounds o’ buttered toast, first cuttin’ off the crust, in consequence of tender teeth, and not too many of ‘em; which Gamp himself, Mrs. Chuzzlewit, at one blow, being in liquor, struck out four, two single, and two double, as was took by Mrs. Harris for a keepsake, and is carried in her pocket at this present hour, along with two cramp-bones, a bit o’ ginger, and a grater like a blessed infant’s shoe, in tin, with a little heel to put the nutmeg in; as many times I’ve seen and said, and used for caudle when required, within the month.”

As the privileges of the side-table—besides including the small prerogatives of sitting next the toast, and taking two cups of tea to other people’s one, and always taking them at a crisis, that is to say, before putting fresh water into the tea-pot, and after it had been standing for some time; also comprehended a full view of the company, and an opportunity of addressing them as from a rostrum, Mrs. Gamp discharged the functions entrusted to her with extreme good-humour and affability. Sometimes, resting her saucer on the palm of her outspread hand, and supporting her elbow on the table, she stopped between her sips of tea to favour the circle with a smile, a wink, a roll of the head, or some other mark of notice; and at those periods her countenance was lighted up with a degree of intelligence and vivacity, which it was almost impossible to separate from the benignant influence of distilled waters.

But for Mrs. Gamp, it would have been a curiously silent party. Miss Pecksniff only spoke to her Augustus, and to him in whispers. Augustus spoke to nobody, but sighed for every one, and occasionally gave himself such a sounding slap upon the forehead as would make Mrs. Todgers, who was rather nervous, start in her chair with an involuntary exclamation. Mrs. Todgers was occupied in knitting, and seldom spoke. Poor Merry held the hand of cheerful little Ruth between her own, and listening with evident pleasure to all she said, but rarely speaking herself, sometimes smiled, and sometimes kissed her on the cheek, and sometimes turned aside to hide the tears that trembled in her eyes. Tom felt this change in her so much, and was so glad to see how tenderly Ruth dealt with her, and how she knew and answered to it, that he had not the heart to make any movement towards their departure, although he had long since given utterance to all he came to say.

The old clerk, subsiding into his usual state, remained profoundly silent, while the rest of the little assembly were thus occupied, intent upon the dreams, whatever they might be, which hardly seemed to stir the surface of his sluggish thoughts.

Duet, ‘The Minute Gun at Sea,’ Mr. Palmer and friend.

Now Mr Palmer returns to the spotlight. Last time he was part of a quartet (performing The Village Choristers), now he’s about to sing a duet from Up All Night or The Smuggler’s Cave, a comic opera written way back in 1809 by Samuel James Arnold, with music by Matthew Peter King. I took the liberty of stopping off in 1870 on my way here to pick up a copy of Diprose’s Standard Song Book and Reciter, which has the following version of the song (showing which parts are sung by each character). A minute gun, incidentally, is a cannon or gun fired at one-minute intervals as a sign of distress.

Juliana: Let him who sighs in sadness here,
Rejoice, and know a friend is near.

Heartwell: What heavenly sounds are those I hear?
What being comes the gloom to cheer?

1st: When in the storm on Albion’s coast,
The night watch guards his weary post
From thoughts of danger free,
He marks some vessel’s dusky form,
And hears amid the howling storm,
The minute gun at sea,

2nd: The minute gun at sea;

Both: And hears amid the howling storm,
The minute gun at sea.

2nd: Swift on the shore a hardy few
The life-boat man with a gallant crew,
And dare the dang’rous wave;
Through the wild surf they cleave their way,
Lost in the foam, nor know dismay—
For they go the crew to save,

1st: For they go the crew to save.

Both: Lost in the foam, nor know dismay—
For they go the crew to save.

1st: But O, what rapture fills each breast

2nd: Of the hopeless crew of the ship distressed.

Both: Then landed safe, what joys to tell
Of all the dangers that befell!—

1st: Then is heard no more,

2nd: By the watch on the shore,

Both: Then is heard no more, by the watch on the shore,

Both: Then is heard no more, by the watch on the shore,
The minute gun at sea.

Song, ‘The Fidgety Man,’ Mr. Hughes.

Now Mr Hughes is taking his second turn, but I need to pop back to 1870 to find a copy of his song even though it means missing his performance. (I think I’ve found it in Sharp’s New London Songster, but if this is it – and it’s the only song of this title I can find – it’s a strange choice for man to sing! Have a look and make your own mind up.)

Reading, ‘The Boy and the Beads,’ Mr. Weaving.

Edward Weaving is the Master of the Industrial School in the former workhouse buildings just beyond the parish boundary, near Cold Hatton. He and Mrs Weaving started there in 1860 and although they don’t yet know it, next year (1868) Mr Weaving will become the Master of the Drayton Union Workhouse. (Shhh, don’t tell – spoilers!) In the here and now, he’s going to read from Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. I wonder if he also recites this passage to his inmates?

“By the bye, Bob,” said Hopkins, with a scarcely perceptible glance at Mr. Pickwick’s attentive face, “we had a curious accident last night. A child was brought in, who had swallowed a necklace.”

“Swallowed what, Sir?” interrupted Mr. Pickwick.

“A necklace,” replied Jack Hopkins. “Not all at once—you know that would be too much; you couldn’t swallow that, if the child did—eh, Mr. Pickwick? ha! ha!”—Mr. Hopkins appeared highly gratified with his own pleasantry; and continued—”No, the way was this;—child’s parents were poor people who lived in a court. Child’s eldest sister bought a necklace—common necklace, made of large black wooden beads. Child being fond of toys, cribbed the necklace, hid it, played with it, cut the string, and swallowed a bead. Child thought it capital fun, went back next day, and swallowed another bead.”

“Bless my heart,” said Mr. Pickwick, “what a dreadful thing! I beg your pardon, Sir. Go on.”

“Next day, child swallowed two beads; the day after that, he treated himself to three, and so on, till, in a week’s time, he had got through the necklace, five-and-twenty beads in all. The sister, who was an industrious girl, and seldom treated herself to a bit of finery, cried her eyes out, at the loss of the necklace; looked high and low for it; but, I needn’t say, didn’t find it. A few days afterward, the family were at dinner—baked shoulder of mutton, and potatoes under it—the child, who wasn’t hungry, was playing about the room, when suddenly there was heard a singular noise, like a small hailstorm. ‘Don’t do that, my boy,’ said the father. “I ain’t a doin’ nothing,’ said the child. ‘Well, don’t do it again,’ said the father. There was a short silence, and then the noise began again, worse than ever. ‘If you don’t mind what I say, my boy,’ said the father, ‘you’ll find yourself in bed, in something less than a pig’s whisper.’ He gave the child a shake to make him obedient, and such a rattling ensued as nobody ever heard before. ‘Why, it’s in the child!’ said the father: ‘he’s got the croup in the wrong place!’ ‘No, I haven’t, father,’ said the child, beginning to cry, ‘it’s the necklace; I swallowed it, father.’—The father caught the child up, and ran with him to the hospital—the beads in the boy’s stomach rattling all the way with the jolting; and the people looking up in the air, and down in the cellars, to see where the unusual sound came from. He’s in the hospital now,” said Jack Hopkins, “and he makes such a strange noise when he walks about, that they’re obliged to muffle him in a watchman’s coat, for fear he should wake the patients!”

“That’s the most extraordinary case I ever heard of,” said Mr. Pickwick, with an emphatic blow on the table.

“Oh, that’s nothing,” said Jack Hopkins. “Is it, Bob?”

“Certainly not,” replied Mr. Bob Sawyer.

“Very singular things occur in our profession, I can assure you, Sir,” said Hopkins.

“So I should be disposed to imagine,” replied Mr. Pickwick.

> On to Part 3.

Picture credits. Mrs. Gamp Makes Tea: Sketch by ‘Phiz’ (Hablot K Browne), scanned by Philip V Allingham and taken from The Victorian Web. Extract from sheet music for The Minute Gun At Sea: Original image from Trove; out of copyright. Mr Pickwick: Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Waters Upton’s first amateur entertainments (Part 1)

Amateur Entertainments.—An entertainment for the benefit of John Preece was given in the Schoolroom on the evening of Wednesday week. As this was the first thing of the kind ever attempted in the locality, considerable interest was manifested in its success, and the room was filled with by a respectable audience. The following programme was given in a satisfactory manner, the Rev. J. T. Halke occupying the chair […]

What a joy to find (in the Wellington Journal, 2 March 1867) details of the first amateur entertainments performed in Waters Upton! And what a joy it must have been for those who witnessed those events too. No doubt songs were sung and tales were told regularly on an informal basis in both of the village inns, and of course entertainments could be attended in Wellington (and possibly in other, larger villages in the district). Never before however had anything quite like this happened in Waters Upton itself.

Behind the joy was a tale of tragedy, and heroism (the full story of which I have written for the Railway Work, Life and Death project). On 29 December 1866 John Preece, a railway porter and gate keeper at Wombridge in Shropshire, had saved the life of a child who strayed onto the railway tracks as a train was approaching. The cost to John was a terrible one – struck by the engine, he was left with injuries so severe that he was taken to the Salop Infirmary in Shrewsbury. There, it was found necessary to amputate John’s right foot and hand, and the whole of his left arm below the shoulder. A subscription was set up “to alleviate the suffering incurred in this act of courage and humanity” (Eddowes’s Shrewsbury Journal, 16 January 1867).

The entertainments at Waters Upton were arranged to contribute to the funds being raised for the gallant Mr Preece and his family (he had a wife and two children). The first was held on Wednesday 20 January and the second, “given for the amusement of the working classes” on the following Friday (Wellington Journal, 2 March 1867).

The man occupying the chair at the entertainments, the Reverend J T Halke, was the subject of my first post to this blog: John Thomas Halke and the Church of Waters Upton. As you will soon see, he also contributed readings to the proceedings (and was clearly one of Charles Dickens’ many fans). Few if any of the other performers were Waters Upton residents, but several lived close by on the eastern side of Ercall Magna parish and others came from further afield.

Rather than simply give you the names of those who played, sang and read, and of the pieces they performed, as listed in the report from the Wellington Journal which I have quoted from above, I am going to try something a little different. Put on your most old-fashioned formal wear and prepare to step back in time, as I attempt to recreate an evening of songs, music, and readings in mid-Victorian rural Shropshire.

Grand march (pianoforte and organ flutina), Miss Humphreys and Mr. Hughes.

Unfortunately we have arrived just after the opening number, but that does mean we can make an unobtrusive entrance during the applause and take our seats at the back. The newspaper report of this evening’s programme tells us that a ‘grand march’ was just played, but there are several ‘grand marches’ so there’s no telling which one this was. I’m not sure who Miss Humphreys is. Mr Hughes on the other hand I believe have read about in the Shropshire papers, appearing at concerts as a member of the Shrewsbury Vocal Union. Have you ever seen a flutina before? It’s a type of accordion. Ah, we’re almost ready for the second item.

Glee, ‘The Village Choristers,’ Mr. Palmer and friends.

I’ve not seen him before, but I’m pretty sure this is Moses Palmer of Redlake, over in Wellington. He’s given quite a few songs and recitations, sometimes accompanied by friends as now, and also by his son and daughter (I read about that in the Shrewsbury Chronicle of 8 January 1864). Would you believe he’s actually a mining agent / engineer? This is a glee for four voices, which should be interesting; here is one version of the words (which I found in a programme for the Wells Harmonic Society’s 1848-9 season) if you’d like to follow along:

Come, Brothers, tune the Lay,
For all who can must sing to-day.
Ye jovial Sons of Song!
Here at Pleasure’s summons throng.
Now pray let all be Harmony,
Beware, beware,
Now pray let all be Harmony,
Take care, take care,
That all who hear may praise the strain,
Again, and yet again.
Tra, la, la, &c.

Now I with PRIMO start,
I’ll take the {SECOND / BASSO} part,
The rest will try their choral art.
Now you, Sir, mind what you’re about,
Keep Time, or else you’ll all be out.
Now pray let all be Harmony,
Take care, take care,
That all who hear may praise the strain,
Again, and yet again.
Tra, la, la, &c.

So far there’s nothing wrong.
For ever live the Soul of Song!
Let all the burthen share,
And Music’s glorious praise declare.
Bravissimo! what Harmony:
Aha! aha!
Sweet Harmony, brave Harmony:
Aha! aha!
It is indeed a noble strain,
We’ll have it yet again.
Tra, la, la, &c.

Song, ‘Let us all speak our minds,’ Miss Shakeshaft.

Now, if I’m not mistaken this is young Charlotte Emma Shakeshaft, daughter of William and Sarah at Cold Hatton, just north of here in Ercall Magna. She doesn’t know it yet but she’s going to marry William Henry Atcherley from the Moortown, a little west of us and also in Ercall Magna. He’s her second cousin on their mothers’ sides (they have shared Icke ancestry) – and also my first cousin four generations removed. So many things we have to keep quiet about when we go back in time! Anyway, for those unfortunate enough not to have travelled back to 1867 with me, here are the words and a rendition of the song on YouTube:

Men tell us ‘tis fit that wives should submit
To their husbands, submissively, weakly,
Tho’ whatever they say their wives should obey,
Unquestioning, stupidly, meekly.
Our husbands would make us their own dictum take
Without ever a wherefore or why for it.
But I don’t and I can’t, and I won’t and I shan’t!
No, I will speak my mind if I die for it.

For we know it’s all fudge to say man’s the best judge
Of what should be, and shouldn’t, and so on,
That woman should bow, nor attempt to say how
She considers that matters should go on.
I never yet gave up myself thus a slave,
However my husband might try for it.
For I can’t and I won’t, and I shan’t and I don’t,
But I will speak my mind if I die for it.

And all ladies I hope who’ve with husbands to cope,
With the rights of the sex will not trifle,
We all, if we choose our tongues but to use,
Can all opposition soon stifle.
Let man if he will then bid us be still,
And silent, a price he’ll pay high for it.
For we won’t and we can’t, and we don’t and we shan’t,
Let us all speak our minds if we die for it.

This song was only published four years ago in 1863. It sound like an early feminist statement, but it might not be all that it appears. It was written by a man (William Brough), is intended as a comedic if not a satirical song, and at least one performer of the piece in the music halls sings it as “Mrs Naggit”. Mark my words though, in time the ladies will turn the tables and adopt this as a suffrage song!

> On to Part 2.

Picture credits.Musical notes: Public domain image from Pixabay. Flutina: Modified from a photo by Wikimedia Commons contributor Bpierreb; used under a Creative Commons licence. Sheet music for Let us all speak our minds: From 8notes.com; used under a Creative Commons licence.

Waters Upton Tragedies: The Death of William Lloyd

Shocking Discovery at Eyton-On-The-Wild-Moors
On Sunday considerable excitement was created in the town of Wellington and the district of Eyton by a report that the mutilated remains of a man had been found in a haystack at Eyton-on-the-Wild-Moors. The statement proved to be true, but the idea that a brutal murder had been committed was soon dispelled. Deputy Chief-constable Ivins, as soon as the information reached him, took the investigation under his own personal direction.

So began a particularly sad story which appeared in the Shrewsbury Chronicle on 29 June 1883. A slightly sensationalised story too, I think, for not only was the deceased not murdered, his body had not been mutilated. What were the circumstances of the body’s discovery? Who was the unfortunate man? And, since I’m telling his story here, how was he connected to Waters Upton? Let’s return to the Chronicle’s report (to which I have made one small correction).

The stack, under which the body was found, is on the farm of Mr. E. W. Bromley, Eyton House Farm, and situate at some distance from the farm-house or any road, but is easy of access from a footpath and the towing-path of the canal, which runs parallel with the field in which the stack is. When found the body was dressed and partially covered with hay. Owing to the advanced state of decomposition in which the body was the features were unrecognisable, and Mr Ivins, with a view to finding out who the man was, issued a notice which he had extensively circulated in the district. The following is a copy of the same:—
“County Constabulary Office, Wellington, D Division, 24th June, 1883. Found dead on the 24th inst. by a hay stack in a field on the Eyton Moors, parish of Eyton, by two lads, a tramp, about 50 years of age, 5ft. 6 or 7 inches high, dark whiskers and moustache going grey; dressed in old brown hard hat, dark round pilot jacket, blue guernsey, old cord trousers, old lace-up boots, all very much worn and very shabby, had no shirt or stockings on. Supposed to have been dead about a month as he was seen in the same place on the 27th May, and complained of being ill.”
This notice was seen by a man named Joseph Rogers, in the employ of Messrs Barber and Son, Wellington, who recognised it as the description of a man named William Lloyd, about 50 years of age, a native of Waters Upton […]

Poor William! How did he end up living, and dying, in such wretched circumstances?

Map of Eyton upon the Weald Moors (or Wild Moors). Circled: The possible location of the shed (and haystack) where William Lloyd was found dead. Underlined: Eyton House, a.k.a. Eyton Farm House, where the inquest took place.

A native of Waters Upton

Piecing together the story of William Lloyd’s origins and early years is not straightforward, so bear with me while I assemble all the evidence – or skip to the next section if you wish! If, as Joseph Rogers stated, William was about 50 at the time of his death, he would have been born around 1833. I believe that Joseph’s estimate of William’s age was a ‘rounding up’ and that William was the 5-year-old William Lloyd who was enumerated on the 1841 census, at Waters Upton, with John and Ann Williams (ages rounded down to 50 and 40 respectively), Joseph Lloyd (12), and Elizabeth Lloyd (7).

Unfortunately the 1841 census did not record the relationships between household members so this record provides fairly limited information about William and those he shared a home with. There’s no baptism record for him that I can find either, nor does there appear to be one for Elizabeth Lloyd. Joseph Lloyd however was baptised at Waters Upton on 22 June 1828, his parents were William Lloyd (a labourer) and Ann, whose abode was in the parish. Were these two also the parents of Elizabeth and of the younger William Lloyd?

The most likely marriage for Joseph’s parents was that which took place at Wellington on 3 February 1827. The parish register described the couple as “William Lloyd of this Parish and Anne Taylor of this Parish”. It appears that Ann’s husband William later died (I desperately need to see the post-1815 burial register for Waters Upton!) and that Ann then remarried. The Waters Upton marriage register for 1837 onward is still with the church, but FamilySearch has indexed the wedding, on 1 June 1840 in that parish, of John Williams and Ann Lloyd.

The 1851 census shows John and Ann Williams as husband and wife, but with none of the Lloyd children from 1841 living under their roof. John, aged 63 and an agricultural labourer (as he had been in 1841), was born in Waters Upton; the relevant baptism is likely that of John, son of William and Mary Williams, “in ye Sch: Room” on 1 June 1789. Ann, 51, was born in Cherrington; I believe she was “Anne Daur of James & Anne Taylor, Cherrington” baptised at Tibberton on 21 April 1799.

William Lloyd too was living in Waters Upton in 1851. Aged 15, he was a hostler residing with and working for publican William Matthews. The pub is not named on the census schedule but there is little doubt that it was the Lion, as the Swan Inn – the only other hostelry in the village – was identified by the enumerator elsewhere.

The census of 1861 adds to the evidence relating to William Lloyd’s family, as well as providing an update on his fortunes. Household schedule 42 recorded agricultural labourer John Williams, 72, with his wife Ann, 61, and two sons (actually, stepsons), Joseph and William Lloyd. Joseph, aged 32 and unmarried, was by this time working as a gardener. William, 25, also unmarried, was an ‘ag lab’ like his stepfather.

Elizabeth Lloyd had married by this time, and the record of that event – naming her father as William Lloyd – adds further evidence to back the theory that she, Joseph, and William Lloyd junior were siblings. She wed James Tomkinson on 6 November 1854, probably at Chetwynd where she had been enumerated as a servant on the 1851 census (name transcribed as Mary Hary by FamilySearch!!). She and James spent the rest of their days in nearby Newport, where they had 11 children.

John Williams of Waters Upton died on 26 November 1864, aged 75. The death of Ann Williams, formerly Lloyd, née Taylor, was registered at Wellington, in the last quarter of 1886; she was 87 but her age was recorded as 86. Joseph Lloyd’s story, which involve duck stealing, I will continue another time. That leaves William Lloyd, whose story I will now conclude.

A vagrant life

William Lloyd’s next appearance on a census, in 1871, seems to have been his last. He had left Waters Upton by this time, and was once more working, this time as a labourer, for an inn keeper: James Brown of the Green Dragon at Hadley. At some point over the next ten years however, something happened which changed William’s way of life – he became homeless. I have not found him on the 1881 census, but I can’t rule out the possibility that was enumerated as a nameless tramp found sheltering under a hedge or in a barn or outbuilding.

The report from the Shrewsbury Chronicle, part of which I quoted at the beginning of this story, was one of several arising from the inquest into William Lloyd’s death; others appeared in the Shrewsbury Journal, 27 June 1883, and the Wellington Journal, 30 June 1883. Together, they provide snippets of information which taken together give us a feel for how William spent his last years, and in particular his final months. It was said that William “had led a vagrant life for some years, sleeping in outbuildings and picking up a living as best he could.” Joseph Rogers, who “had known the deceased from a lad”, also stated that for a long time William “had been going about the country labouring with thrashing machines, and was formerly in the employ of Mr Price, of The Lees, near Walcot.” He was not married, and “had been in the habit of sleeping out.” I can only guess that at some point in the 1870s a spell of unemployment left William without the means to pay for accommodation and led to him taking advantage of whatever shelter and odd jobs he could find, whenever and wherever he was able to. Returning to the Shrewsbury Chronicle:

Rogers states that about a month ago the deceased called at his lodgings, and he had a conversation with him, when Lloyd complained of being ill, and he advised him to go to the Workhouse. He said he would, but Rogers had since ascertained that he did not do so. William Phillips, of the Ercall Hotel, also recognised the body as that of Lloyd, and states that about a month ago he engaged him to do some gardening, but Lloyd never came to do it, and he had not seen him since. A man named Beech, residing at Kynnersley, also saw the deceased about a month ago, and said that he complained of being unwell.

Another witness was John Thomas, described by one paper as a waggoner and by another as a cowman. He worked for Mr Bromley, at whose house the inquest was heldOn Sunday, the 27 May 1883, Mr Thomas saw William Lloyd lying down “on the top of an old stack bottom” with “some hay partially thrown over him.”

A drain on Eyton Moor

The two men had a conversation, in which William said that he had gone to the place where John found him “on the Saturday night, that he lay in the shed, and that he had come out to sun himself. He said he had been very poorly for some time, suffering from bronchitis”, and as a result of that illness “he had a bad cough”. William also said that “he had been following machines belonging to Mr. Nicholls and Mr. Powell, of Shrewsbury” and that “most of his food had consisted of water.”

A most melancholy case

John Thomas was probably the last person to see William Lloyd alive – and the last person to see him at all for several weeks. There was no public road where William had settled, although the canal and a path leading to Kynnersley were not far away. With the hay in which William slept not being needed at that time, no one went near the stack until Sunday 24 June 1883.

William Lloyd’s body was found that day by two boys. One of them, Walter Ruscoe, lived at Sidney (or Sydney) in the parish of Kynnersley (or Kinnersley) and was, like John Thomas, employed by Mr Bromley. On the day in question he took a bull down to the weald moors, and on his return he found the body by the haystack, half covered with hay. He quickly gave the alarm which led to the police becoming involved, and an inquest taking place the next day.

Eyton House, home of farmer Edward William Bromley and location of the inquest into the death of William Lloyd in 1883

At that inquest the jury gave a verdict of “Found dead” or, according to the Wellington Journal, “Death from natural causes.” The Coroner said “that it was a most melancholy case; but there was no ground whatever to suppose that deceased had met with any violence. He had apparently laid down and been overcome. It was a matter of regret that deceased had not taken the advice of one of the witnesses, and gone to the Workhouse.”

Picture credits. Map: Extract from Ordnance Survey Six Inch map Sheet XXXVI.NW published 1902; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA) licence.Family tree diagram: By the author. Drain on Eyton Moor: Photo © Copyright Richard Law; taken from Geograph and modified, used and made available for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence. Eyton House: Photo © Copyright Chris Downer; taken from Geograph and modified, used and made available for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence.

Waters Upton Landmarks – Part 2

So far (in part 1 of this article) I have looked at rivers, bridges and inns as landmarks which would have been familiar and significant to people living in, visiting, or passing through Waters Upton. There were of course other buildings besides the pubs which could be considered landmarks, contributing to the unique character and identity of the village, including the church of St Michael’s and the Hall, set in its centre. I have written about the construction of modern-day St Michael’s in John Thomas Halke and the Church of Waters Upton; the church will feature again in future stories here, along with other buildings in Waters Upton. The landmark I am going to focus on now however, is one which lies several miles away from the parish.

View to a Hill

Head south out of Waters Upton on the A422 and almost immediately you will see a hill in the far distance. (Note: If you’re driving when you do this, keep a close eye on the road as well!) It doesn’t look like much from this distance, and to be fair, it’s not even in the top twenty of the highest Shropshire hills. Size isn’t everything however, and this landmark’s stature belies its significance within and even beyond the county. Say hello to the Wrekin.

The Wrekin has been described as “our best known hill and an iconic landmark for miles around” (see link above). On learning that the hill is only 407 meters (1,335 feet) above sea level, you might wonder why it is regarded with such affection. Roly Smith, writing in the Guardian in 2000, explains: “the Wrekin, which always proudly and significantly carries the definite article, is undoubtedly a hill with a presence. It rises so sharply and unexpectedly from the pastoral Severn Plain that it forces you to notice it.” He then added, “There are few mountains in Britain, let alone hills, that have exerted the same powerful influence or sense of place on its surrounding communities.”

The Wrekin stands out. It is not a mountain, but a drop of over 150 metres on all sides gives the Wrekin a certain prominence, especially in a landscape which is otherwise relatively flat – and also qualifies it as a ‘Marilyn’. The Wrekin’s nearest Marilyn neighbours, Caer Caradoc and Brown Clee, are respectively about 20 and 30 kilometres away in Shropshire’s much hillier south.

This prominence means that the Wrekin can be seen for many miles around, particularly from the north and east. As people travel into Shropshire from that latter compass point, on the M54 for example, the Wrekin stands a welcoming beacon. It calls for people to climb to its summit, and those who do are rewarded with outstanding views.

Dead Poets Society

The Rev Richard Corfield, Vicar of Waters Upton from 1822 to 1865 (he was also Rector of Pitchford, where he spent much of his time), was one of many Shropshire souls familiar with the sights to be seen from the top of the Wrekin. He was also one of several authors who have set out their appreciation of the Wrekin in verse, albeit with a little poetic licence. The poem (dated 14 February 1833) can be read in full in Shropshire Notes and Queries; the following is an abridged version:

From Wrekin’s summit cast the eye around,
To view the objects which th’ Horizon bound;
O’er Salop’s plains with beauteous verdure drest,
The Cambrian Mountains stretch along the West.
The darksome Berwyn scowls with aspect drear,
Till Dinas Bran, and Moel Pam’ appear.
Turn to the North, and Hawkstone hills you see,
With Cheshire prospects reaching to the Dee.
When to the East, you bend th’ admiring gaze,
The barren Peak your startl’d thoughts amaze!
More Eastward still, you ken in distant view
Edge-Hill, where Charles his faithful follow’rs drew.
But dwell not here on scenes of discord past,
Look tow’rds the South, the prospect brightens fast;
The far fam’d Malvern breaks upon the eye,
And balmy breezes waft from Southern sky.
This fairy circle let us onward trace,
O’er Brecons beacons, Radnor’s forest chase;
And whilst on Caerdoc’s sister hills we stop,
In distant outline, lo! Plinlimmon’s top.
May then this mountain, fair Salopia’s pride,
Attract our footsteps to its summits side;
The summit gain’d, the weary toil’s repaid,
By prospects varied, mountain, wood, and glade;
And as the outline may be further known,
So past its limits may our love be shewn—
Love to our County—and to all held dear
By ties of kindred, friendship’s off’ring bear—
Love to our Country—and, to all friends round
The Wrekin’s circle, may our love resound—
Such wishes these all Shropshire hearts inspire,
In social converse round the Winter’s fire.

School of Rock

Waters Uptonians were as familiar with the Wrekin as any Salopians. We have already seen the hill can be seen from the road just south of the village, and in John Morgan, surgeon and apothecary of Waters Upton – Part 1 I included a notice advertising the availability of a “genteel residence” within the village which had “a commanding view of the Wrekin and surrounding country.” Such was the lure of this landmark that many made the journey to become more personally acquainted with it, including the children of the parish, for whom excursions to the Wrekin were arranged as an annual treat in the latter part of the 1800s.

The earliest reference to such visits that I have found so far actually relates to the children of the ‘Union School’ just beyond the Waters Upton parish boundary; a report published in the Shrewsbury Chronicle on 7 September 1860 noted: “At the last guardians meeting it was unanimously resolved on the motion of Mr. Minor, vice chairman, to give the children of the Industrial School, at Waters Upton, holiday to visit the Wrekin.” Almost thirty years on from that, a delightfully detailed description of a trip laid on for the village’s own children appeared in the Wellington Journal of 17 August 1889:

School Treat.—The children attending Waters Upton Parish School, accompanied by many of their parents and friends from the village, had their annual treat at the Wrekin on Friday, the 9th inst. Waggons and horses were kindly lent for the purpose by Messrs. Groucock, Cornes, Percival, Owen, Shakeshaft, and W. Rider. The waggons were tastefully decorated with wreaths of evergreens and flowers, given by friends the village, Miss L. Groucock and Miss Amos.
A start was made at 10 o’clock from the Rectory in fine weather, and the children seemed to enjoy the drive immensely from the merry noise they made on the journey and through the town of Wellington until the foot of the Wrekin was reached, when the party of about 120 had to unload and commence the walk up the hill. A rest was taken at the Upper Cottage for lunch, and then the whole party proceeded to the top of the hill, which was unfortunately clouded over with a thick mist. Afterwards the weather changed, and when the party had assembled at the Cottage for tea, which was supplied by Mr. S. Tudor, Post Office, Waters Upton, in the hospitable tents adjoining the Cottage, a severe thunderstorm came on, and the rain fell heavily, making the party thankful that they were under shelter.
At length, after enjoying an excellent tea and other good things, the presents of friends accompanying the excursion, a start was made for home about six o’clock. The return journey was made in most unfavourable weather, but, although nearly all the party got a thorough wetting, no ill effects have happened, and all are looking forward to an excursion another year under more favourable circumstances.
The children in the waggons were accompanied the Rector (the Rev. J. B. Davies), Mrs. Davies and family, Miss S. Groucock, Miss Amos, Misses Minor (Meeson), Mrs. J. Shakeshaft and family, Mr. and Mrs. James Tudor, Mr. and Mrs. A. Ridgway, and many others, and were joined on the hill by Mr. and Mrs. Percival, Mrs. Cornes and party, Mr. and Mrs. Owen and friends.

You will be pleased to know that better conditions blessed at least one subsequent school outing to the Wrekin. In July 1896, when 78 children and 40 accompanying friends headed for the hill in waggons “lent by Mr. H. F. Percival, Mr. S. Dickin, and Mr. W. Jerman”, they were “favoured with fine weather” and S (Samuel) Tudor once again provided tea. Several of those named in these reports will be familiar if you have read Late Victorian Christmases in Waters Upton; the others I will have to introduce you to in future articles.

This is the end

In my conclusion to part 1 of this article, I mentioned “the usual loyal and patriotic toasts” which were honoured in Waters Upton’s Swan Inn, in 1896. These would almost certainly have included one which the Rev Richard Corfield slipped in to his poem of 1833, namely “To all friends round the Wrekin”. (This should not to be confused with the saying “all around the Wrekin”, which has a similar meaning to “all round the houses” – or in other words, taking a longer route than necessary!)

The oldest appearance I have found in print of “all friends round the Wrekin” dates back to around 1706, when playwright George Farquhar used it to open the published version of his Shropshire-based comedy The Recruiting Officer (the image above is from Google’s electronic version of this long out of copyright work). Clearly it was well-established even then. I have found many later references to this toast in Shropshire newspapers – it appears that the tradition was to make it the final toast after all the others had been offered and drunk to, by way of recognising the special bond between those connected by their county’s most revered landmark. Although I have not yet found any specific references to its use in Waters Upton, I have no doubt that it was spoken there, often, and with feeling.

Picture credits. View of the Wrekin from Waters Upton: Embedded from Google Maps. The Wrekin hill: From the electronic version of The History and Antiquities of Shrewsbury, volume II (published about 1837 and therefore out of copyright) at Google Books. View from the Wrekin: Photo by Wikimedia Commons contributor Northerner, modified and used under a Creative Commons licence. View of the Wrekin: From a postcard postmarked 1906, out of copyright. To all friends round the Wrekin: From the electronic version of The Recruiting Officer (published about 1706 and therefore out of copyright) at Google Books (link in text above).

Waters Upton Landmarks – Part 1

The first of this year’s monthly blogging prompts from the Society for One-Place Studies is ‘Landmarks’ (social media hashtag #OnePlaceLandmarks). Just in the nick of time, here is my contribution. I hope you will enjoy learning about Waters Upton’s landmarks – and playing ‘spot the film title’ too!

A Sense of Place

What were (or are) the landmarks of Waters Upton? Before I identify and write about some of them, maybe I should first ask a more fundamental question – what is a landmark? According to Wikipedia (which isn’t the last word on the subject but is, with some modifications, absolutely fine for my purposes):

In old English the word landmearc […] was used to describe an “object set up to mark the boundaries of a kingdom, estate, etc”. Starting from approx. 1560, this understanding of landmark was replaced by a more general one. A landmark became a “conspicuous object in a landscape”. A landmark literally meant a geographic feature used by explorers and others to find their way back or through an area. […]
In modern usage, a landmark includes anything that is easily recognisable, such as a monument, building, or other structure. In American English it is the main term used to designate places that might be of interest to tourists due to notable physical features or historical significance. Landmarks in the British English sense are often used for casual navigation, such as giving directions. This is done in American English as well.
In urban studies as well as in geography, a landmark is furthermore defined as an external point of reference that helps orienting in a familiar or unfamiliar environment. Landmarks are often used in verbal route instructions and as such an object of study by linguists as well as in other fields of study.

So, landmarks are man-made or natural features (categories which in reality can merge) which stand out visually through their size, their distinctive appearance, or a combination of these characteristics. They are also features which, by enabling people to identify where they are and where they are going, make their mark on us.

A River Runs Through It

Actually, two rivers run through the modern day parish of Waters Upton. And before its expansion to Bolas Magna and part of Ercall Magna, those rivers ran around parts of the parish boundary. The Tern formed the western perimeter of Waters Upton, and the northern edge of the parish followed the Meese, one of the Tern’s tributaries. While they are not objects which were ‘set up’ to mark land boundaries, these watercourses delineated an extensive part of the historic parish border.

Travellers heading south from Cold Hatton Heath on the road from Market Drayton to Wellington would have known, on seeing the Tern to their left, that they were nearing Waters Upton. A little further on, crossing another landmark – the bridge carrying the road over the Tern – took them into the parish proper. A welcome sight no doubt to those for whom Waters Upton was home.

Map showing Waters Upton, the River Tern to the west, the River Meese joining the Tern from the east (both rivers in blue), and those parts of the historic Waters Upton parish boundary not following rivers, to the east and south (red dashed line).

Bridge Over the River . . . Tern

Not everyone crossed the bridge over the river Tern without incident, as this report from the Lancashire Evening Post of 20 September 1906 shows:


An alarming motor car accident occurred at Waters Upton, a village situated between Wellington and Market Drayton, Salop, yesterday afternoon. A party from Keele Hall, Staffordshire, the residence of the Grand Duke Michael, consisting of Mr. Reid (Morecambe), Mr. Cooke (Keele), the Grand Duke’s Michael’s steward, the chauffeur, and a Mr. Shakeshaft were motoring from Keele on a visit to a relative of Mr. Shakeshaft’s at Waters Upton. All went well until a quarter of a mile from the village. The car was proceeding round a sharp corner down a slope at the bottom of which a narrow bridge crosses the river Tern. The driver saw that the car was going for the parapet of the bridge, and the vehicle skidded. The car turned almost round on the bridge, knocking down the parapet, and all the occupants were thrown, the steward landing in the river below, the water being four or five feet deep at this spot. The villagers soon came to the assistance of the party, and it was found that the steward was not seriously injured.
Dr. Hawthorn, of Wellington, was summoned, and the injured people carried into the village inn. Mr. Shakeshaft has a broken leg and slight concussion of the brain, the head and neck being cut; Mr. Cooke has nasty cuts on the hands and face; and the driver is also badly injured, his forehead being severely cut. Two of the injured were detained.
The road is narrow where the accident happened, and after the bend there is a steep decline to the bridge, which is hardly wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other.

Other newspapers gave slightly different accounts, which help to fill in some of the gaps in the one above while also adding one or two elements of confusion. To give one example, the Wellington Journal (22 September 1906) stated that Mr Shakeshaft “sustained a broken ankle” rather than a broken leg, but on the plus side it also identified him as “Mr. John Shakeshaft of Morecambe (cousin of Mr. John Shakeshaft, Waters Upton)”.

Another paper, the Burnley Gazette (also 22 September 1906), noted that the injured Mr Shakeshaft kept the Dog and Partridge Hotel in Morcambe and had married “a daughter of Mr. Tattersall Wilkinson, of Roggerham” (near Burnley). Google led me to a page for this John Shakeshaft on the Halsted/Halstead One-Name Study Narratives website, and switching from there to Ancestry and Findmypast eventually enabled me to work out how he was related to his namesake at Waters Upton.

The two John Shakeshafts were first cousins one generation removed. John of Waters Upton, who was about 59 years of age in 1906, was the John Shakeshaft who I referred to as an occupant of The Beeches in my recent story A Waters Upton postcard. The location of The Beeches meant that this John Shakeshaft was just a short walk away from his 46-year-old cousin of the same name while the latter was recuperating in the Swan Inn.

The Tern bridge had most likely been rebuilt and repaired on a number of occasions by 1906, but its age at the time of the accident eludes me. What I do know is that the bridge now in place is not an ancient structure. The Kington Times of 8 November 1930 reported on several schemes which had just been adopted by Salop County Council, including one for “erecting a new bridge and improving the approaches to it over the River Tern at Waters Upton”.

Bolas bridge.

Rather more ancient is the bridge crossing the Meese just beyond the historic boundary of Waters Upton. Known as Bolas Bridge, it was built in 1795 by one Richard Madeley – and (according to the record of its Grade II Listed status) it has the inscription to prove it! Anyone travelling between the villages of Great Bolas and Meeson, or between either of those places and Waters Upton, crosses (or crossed) that bridge, making it (and the adjacent turn to Waters Upton on the Bolas – Meeson road) another landmark.

Ring of Bright Water?

The Tern and the Meese were more than just landscape features defining parts of Waters Upton’s boundary – they were a part of people’s lives and local folk interacted with them in a variety ways. Here, I am going to look at one of those riverine activities, one which I find utterly abhorrent, but which is part of the history of my Place: otter hunting.

I have found several newspaper reports from the 1880s and ‘90s relating to otter hunts taking place along the Tern, the Meece, or both, in the vicinity of Waters Upton. On Tuesday 10 May 1887 for example (according to the Wellington Journal of 14 May 1887), the Hon. Geoffrey Hill’s Otter Hounds met at the village. From there, the hounds moved downstream and picked up the scent “scarcely 100 yards from Waters Upton”. Two otters were bolted from a well-known holt; one was a cub who soon met its end in the jaws of a hound named ‘Sportsman’, “but the other afforded a capital hunt of some 45 minutes.”

This otter, a small female who was most likely the cub’s mother, spent most of the last 45 minutes of her life evading the hounds or fighting them off when they got too close. Towards the end, when she took refuge beneath the roots of a tree, she was pursued by a terrier (‘Frank’) and fought him off too. After she was caught and killed, “it was seen that poor Frank, who had suffered severely in his conflict with the otter, was in bad case in the river, his head covered with blood and himself exhausted and half drowned.” The rescue of the terrier from the river meant that “the call to lunch […] could be attended to without any regret.” After lunch the dogs were transported back to the starting point and then along the Meese as far as Bolas before the hunt was abandoned. There were no further kills.

I do not know whether any Waters Upton residents took part in these hunts or followed on foot. The Swan Inn did very well out of the hunts’ visits however. When Captain Foster and his hounds visited Crudgington in July 1894, the hunt went downstream in the morning, then headed back upstream as far as Peplow Hall. “Acting thus,” reported the Wellington Journal on 28 July 1894, “gave pedestrians an opportunity to warm up a little, and the carriage-folk a nice run round the road to Waters Upton Bridge, and storm the good cheer provided by genial Host Owen the Swan, the well-known old sporting house […]”. No otters were seen that day.

The Tern – and the Swan – played host to fishing enthusiasts too. When a club from Crewe visited in January 1896 for a nine-aside fishing match, its members and their guests ended the day with “a capital supper, provided Mr. and Mrs. Owen, of the Swan Inn”, after which (in the words of the Wellington Journal, 1 February 1896) “the usual loyal and patriotic toasts were honoured” and songs were sung.

Further reports of fishing in the Tern at Waters Upton can be found in digitised newspapers through the 20th century. Otter hunting, thank goodness, became illegal in 1978 after the otter population in England crashed; the species is now doing well in Shropshire (including the area around Waters Upton) and elsewhere. As for the toasts honoured in the Swan and other pubs in Shropshire, one of them forms the subject of the second part of this story…

Picture credits. One-place landmarks blogging prompt graphic: By the author, for use by the Society for One-Place Studies and anyone taking part in the blogging challenge. Map: Extract from Ordnance Survey One Inch map Sheet 138 published 1899; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland and used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-SA) licence. Bolas bridge: Photo © Copyright Richard Law; taken from Geograph and modified, used and made available for reuse under a Creative Commons Licence. Otter: Public domain image from Pixabay.

Late Victorian Christmases in Waters Upton – Part 2

Christmas carols (and other entertainments)

Pleasant Evenings with the Children.—On Wednesday and Thursday evenings, a miscellaneous entertainment was provided by the children attending Waters Upton School, consisting of duets, dialogues, musical drills, songs, in character, &c. The Rev. J. B. Davies, rector of the parish, presided each evening. The whole of the children acquitted themselves admirably, and gave much credit to Miss Taplin’s careful training. On the proposition of the Rector, hearty votes of thanks were accorded to Miss Taplin (head-teacher), Miss Union [actually Miss M Minor] for presiding at the pianoforte, and to the children for their entertainments, which were heartily applauded. The proceeds are for providing prizes for the children. — Wellington Journal, 23 December 1893.

Miss Taplin was not enumerated at Waters Upton on any of the censuses, but the entry for Waters Upton in the 1895 Kelly’s Directory includes “Miss Sarah Ann Taplin, mistress”. She had embarked on a teaching career early on, the 1881 census showing Banbury-born Sarah at the age of 19 as an Assistant Schoolmistress lodging, with two other young women of the same profession, in the Hinckley, Leicestershire household of Schoolmaster and Schoolmistress Alfred and Fanny Webb. Ten years later in 1891, Sarah was (along with another School Mistress) a visitor in a household at Wivenhoe in Essex. Her short spell at the National School in Waters Upton followed.

The newspaper report from 1893 quoted above does not explicitly connect the entertainments provided by the schoolchildren with Christmas. The timing of the events makes the association fairly clear however, and this account for the 1894 (published on 5 Jan 1895) leaves us in no doubt: “The Christmas Season has been kept in this village in the usual way. Before the Christmas holidays began the children of the Parish School gave two evenings’ entertainments of amusing songs and dialogues, in which they were well instructed by their teacher, Miss Taplin.”

I have not yet established exactly when Sarah Taplin left Waters Upton, but by 1901 she was living and teaching at Shilton in her native county of Oxfordshire. The following year she was married, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, to London & North West Railway worker William Meers. This did of course mean that her 20 year teaching career was over – but it also meant that Sarah was able to have children of her own.

The Wellington Journal’s summary of the seasonal celebrations of 1894 in Waters Upton continued by noting the beautiful decorations in the church “for the Christmas services by Mrs. L. V. Yonge, Mrs. Percival, and Miss M. Minor.” The offertories from these services were given to the Salop Infirmary, an institution I have written a partial history of (in four parts, so far) on my Atcherley family history website. The Journal’s report concluded:

At the end of the Christmas week there was also held a most successful entertainment in the Parish School. The room was well filled, and the proceeds, which realised over £5, went to pay for new church gates at the entrance to the churchyard. The programme was as follows:—Piano duet, Misses Annie and Alice Davies; song, Miss M. Minor (encored); song, Mr. Crewe; song (encored), Miss Lucy Rider; song (encored), Mr. Crewe; song (encored), Miss Sutton; piano solo, Miss Crewe; song (encored), Mr. Percival; song (encored), Miss Sutton (in place of Miss Nock, who was unable to be present). During the interval the rector (Rev. J. B. Davies) gave a short reading, and afterwards a very amusing piece was performed by four ladies and three gentlemen, the acting in which was of the highest character and was greatly appreciated. The performers were Rev. W. P. Nock, Dr. White, Mr. Ernest Rider, Mrs. L. V. Yonge, Miss Taylor, Miss Lucy Rider, and Miss Emmeline Heatley. At the conclusion the Rector proposed a hearty vote of thanks to all who had so ably taken part in the entertainment.

A whole cast of characters there, and what festive fun they had! Six of them (the Rev Davies and his daughters Annie and Alice, Mrs Yonge née Groucock, Miss Margaret Minor, and Miss Taylor) we have already met, in Part 1 of this story. Of the others, there are some I cannot identify with certainty: Doctor White, and Mr and Miss Crewe, may reveal themselves with further research. As was the case with some of their fellow celebrants, they may not have been Waters Upton residents. Emmeline Heatley appears from the 1901 census to have been from nearby Eaton upon Tern (upstream from Waters Upton), where she was born around 1875, while the 1891 and 1901 censuses show that the Rev William P Nock (born around 1861) was Rector of Longdon upon Tern (downstream from Waters Upton).

Lucy Catherine Rider was from Wellington. She was a daughter of surgeon John Rider and his wife Mary, née Tennant. Although it does not appear that the family ever lived in Waters Upton parish, John was born at nearby Crudgington and he, and his wife, were both buried at Waters Upton (in 1887 and 1919 respectively, see Memorial Inscriptions: Rider). Ernest Rider, from Shawbury parish, was Lucy’s first cousin, his father being John Rider’s brother Thomas.

A Holmes / St Michael’s Church / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Modified

That leaves Mr Percival, and also his wife (who helped to decorate the church). Herbert France Percival was born, surprisingly enough, in France (at Pau, now in Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Nouvelle-Aquitaine), on 7 March 1863 according to the Visitation of England and Wales (Volume 2) published in 1894. Mary Jane Cornes was born at Longsight in Lancashire on 26 August 1859 and baptised at Manchester Cathedral one month later. After a series of moves the Cornes family finally relocated to Crudgington where, on 3 August 1887, Mary Jane was married to Herbert Percival at Waters Upton. The couple settled (and Herbert farmed) in the parish where they wed, were enumerated there on the 1891 census, and their first two children (Geoffrey James France Percival and Sybil Mary France Percival) were born there in 1890 and 1892 respectively.

Herbert France Percival was included in the entry for the Waters Upton in the 1895 Kelly’s Directory, but he and Mary Jane had moved to Crudgington by the time their third and last child, Arthur Stanley France Percival, was born on 21 November that year. Possibly they had moved in with Mary Jane’s parents (Joseph Cornes, Mary’s father, died on 4 July 1897 and was buried at Waters Upton; see Memorial Inscriptions: Cornes).

Although the Christmas of 1894 was the last one the Percivals spent as residents of Waters Upton, it was not the last time they participated in the parish’s celebrations. The Wellington Journal of 1 January 1898 tells us this about an event which took place at Waters Upton on 29 December 1897:

Entertainment.—A concert was given in the school room, on Wednesday evening, by the church choir, assisted by a few friends. The performances were highly appreciated by a large audience, and credit is due to Miss M. Minor, the organist at the church, who had trained many of the choir to sing in public for the first time. The following took part:—The Choir, Miss A. Minor, Mr. P. Minor, Rev. L. V. Yonge, Mr. George Hall, Mr. Sam Dickin, Mr. Percival, the Misses Davies, Mr. W. A. R. Ball, Mr. Crewe, Willie Bennett, Mr. Tom Madeley, Mr. Tom Bennett.

The Percivals were still living at Crudgington in 1901, but by 1911 had moved (with Mary Jane’s widowed mother) to Towyn in Merionethshire. As for the other performers besides Mr Percival, we have already met Margaret Minor, the Rev Yonge and the Misses Davies. How wonderful to see so many other names, of people from within and outwith the parish! In the latter category were A and P Minor (relatives of Margaret of Meeson no doubt, though I have yet to identify them), and Tom (Thomas) Madeley (probably the one born about 1872 at Crudgington, a farmer’s son who was still living there in 1901 when he was a butcher).

George Hall was born in the neighbouring parish of Ercall Magna in 1878 but was probably by 1897 a resident of Waters Upton; certainly he was recorded there on the 1901 census when he was working as a sawyer. Samuel Robert Dickin was born a little further away at Little Ness, in 1875; he too must have moved to Waters Upton by 1897, and the 1901 census enumerated him there as a farmer, living with his sister Annie who was his housekeeper.

Brothers Willie (William) and Tom (Thomas) Bennett were both born at Waters Upton, in 1885 and 1880 respectively. They were sons of shoemaker Samuel Thomas Bennett and his wife Alice, née Lucas. Both were with their parents when the 1891 census was taken, and while William had moved on by 1901, Thomas remained (pursuing his father’s – and grandfather’s – profession, and appearing on the censuses of 1901 and 1911, and on the 1939 Register, at Waters Upton). Now there’s a man who saw a lot of Waters Upton Christmases!

All I want for Christmas is . . . a servant

WANTED, at Christmas, a General Servant, to do plain cooking, and make butter.—Apply, Mrs. J. B. Davies, Waters Upton Rectory, Wellington, Salop. (Wellington Journal, 17 November 1883.)

While searching for stories of Christmas at Waters Upton, I came across advertisements for servants wanted “at Christmas” or “for Christmas”. The “most wonderful time of the year” (as Christmas was christened in the well-known song penned in 1963) was also one of the busiest times, especially for servants. More relevant to the phenomenon of yuletide recruitment however is the fact that Christmas Day was one of the four Quarter Days in England and Wales, when rents were due – and servants were hired.

So as we have seen, at the end of 1883 the Rector’s wife Mrs John Bayley Davies (Susan Anslow Davies, née Juckes) was looking for a general servant who would cook, and make butter. The source of the milk for that butter was most likely cows kept on glebe land associated with the rectory.

In the Wellington Journal of 18 December 1886, two more ladies with Waters Upton addresses sought servants for Christmas. I was puzzled at first by Mrs Hoole, who was looking for a “trustworthy Servant” for “milking (two cows), attention to poultry, and plain cooking” for a family of two (“wages about £12”). Further research in the newspapers and then the censuses showed that Mr and Mrs Hoole were in fact living at Wood Farm, around 2 miles or so North of Waters Upton, in the parish of Stanton on Hine Heath. Presumably their post went through Waters Upton.

Mrs Shepherd, on the other hand, who wanted a “Servant Girl, at Christmas, age 15 to 16, who can milk or willing to learn” was definitely a Waters Upton resident. Jane Shepherd, née Rider, was recorded there on the 1891 census along with her husband Hugh, a farmer. The census shows that Hugh Shepherd was born at Old Deer (Aberdeenshire) in Scotland and that he was 15 years younger than his wife, who was born at Tattenhall in Cheshire. Baptism records for Hugh (in 1823) and Jane (at Harthill in 1803, the register giving the family’s abode as Broxton and a birth date for Jane of 8 December 1802) show that the age gap between the two was actually more than 20 years. When they married on 12 Jan 1857 at Acton in Cheshire (by which time Hugh was already resident in Shropshire), both stated that they were of full age. Hugh was 33 and Jane was 54.

The 1891 census reveals something else about Jane – she was blind. This fact had also been recorded in 1881 (when the Shepherds were living at Wrockwardine), but not on censuses from previous years. Presumably she lost her sight through an age-related condition such as macular degeneration or cataracts. Whatever the cause, it is clear that Jane’s inability to see did not prevent her from running household affairs. In these matters she may have been assisted by her niece Mary Lewis, who was enumerated with her at Waters Upton in 1891 as a “Ladies Companion”. Jane Shepherd died, and was buried at Waters Upton, in 1894 (see Death notices etc. and Wills & probate after 1858).

It appears that the word ‘servant’ was accidentally omitted from the notice placed in the Wellington Journal by Miss Walker of Waters Upton: “WANTED, Girl, between 14 and 16, as General, either now or at Christmas; character required.” This I found in the edition dated 20 December 1890, but given the closeness to Christmas it seems likely that the notice had been running since November or thereabouts. Was it also placed in papers further afield, and did it result in the hiring of Sarah Ann Wilkes, the 16-yer-old Lancastrian who appears on the 1891 census as a general servant in the Waters Upton household of Sarah Ann Walker? I have found no other records for Sarah Wilkes, but Sarah Walker ran a private school in Waters Upton for more than 30 years and so saw many Waters Upton Christmases. I will write about her in more detail another time.

All uncredited images from the British Library Flickr photostream; no known copyright restrictions.

Late Victorian Christmases in Waters Upton – Part 1

The Children’s Christmas

There’s gladness and loud animation
In cottage and palace to-day;
And the children, in warmest elation,
Trill their songs, bright, merry and gay.
The floodgates of joy are now open—
Old Christmas gives out his best store;
For the season of mirth the children
Returns with its hight, hallowed lore.

The star of the far distant ages
Still gleams like a diadem rare;
Still songs of both shepherds and sages
Tell the story of Bethlehem fair.
The children ‘mid innocent pleasure
Re-echo the joyous refrain.
And, swelling the old gladsome measure,
Tell Yuletide’s sweet tale once again.

—“J. T.”, Shrewsbury. Published in the Wellington Journal, 20 December 1890.


During the 1800s, and particularly over the course of Victoria’s reign, the celebration of Christmas in Britain evolved and was enriched by innovations and importations. As a result, towards the end of the century the traditions of the ‘Victorian Christmas’ were all in place – cards, carols and crackers, decorations and dinners, a red-robed, full-figured Father Christmas / Santa Claus, and a somewhat incongruous combination of commercialism and Christian values.(The image here is from a book published in 1888. Taken from the British Library Flickr photostream; no known copyright restrictions.)

From the newspapers of the time we can learn what late Victorian Christmases were like in towns and villages across the country, and gain glimpses of the ways in which the season was celebrated in Waters Upton.

Decking the halls (and churches)

The holly berries all aglow
Are wreathed in wonted Christmas brightness
Aloft is hung the mistletoe
In all its pearly whiteness.

—“Olive,” The Children’s Visitor. Published in the Wellington Journal, 22 December 1888.

By longstanding tradition, homes were decorated with Christmas greenery: holly, mistletoe, garlands of fir, kissing boughs, with wreaths or ‘welcome rings’ hung on front doors. From newspaper reports viewed at the British Newspaper Archive it seems that flowers too were an element of Christmas decorations, at least in public institutions such as infirmaries, workhouses and churches (such reports are easier to come by for those establishments than for private homes). Thus we learn from the Wellington Journal of 26 December 1885 that:

The Parish Church [of Waters Upton] was very tastefully decorated for Christmas, the work being executed as follows:—Pulpit, lectern, and candlesticks, Miss F. Minor; chancel text, “Behold thy King cometh;” Miss F. Minor; banners and wall decorations, Miss E. Taylor and Miss L. Groucock; font, Mrs. Davies and Miss L. Groucock; windows, school children. Mr. J. B. Davies, rector, preached at both morning and evening services.

John Bayley Davies was educated at Shrewsbury School and became Rector of Waters Upton in 1866. Mrs Davies, formerly Susan Anslow Juckes, was married to the Rev Davies in 1875. If I have correctly worked out who the above-mentioned Misses E Taylor and L Groucock were – Edith Clayton Taylor and Elizabeth (a.k.a. Lizzie?) Mary Hombersley Groucock, the Rev J B Davies was related to both of them (first cousin and first cousin once removed, respectively). The family (Christmas) tree shown here illustrates how the three were related.

The Groucock family was originally of Meeson in the neighbouring parish of Bolas Magna, but by 1881 the widowed Thomas Groucock had moved to Waters Upton along with his sister. Mary Emma Groucock née Taylor was born at Burleigh Villa in Bolas Magna, where her father Thomas was still living (see Kelly’s Directory 1891).

I have not identified Miss F Minor, but members of family with that surname were resident at Meeson at this time – and we will shortly meet Miss M Minor, almost certainly Margaret Elizabeth Minor of that place. Another demonstration of the links between Meeson and Waters Upton came in 1897.

Christmas at the latter village that year was “observed at the Parish Church in the usual way” according to the New Year’s Day edition of the Wellington Journal in 1898. Celebrations of Holy Communion took place at 8.30am and 11am, with a shortened evening service at 6.30pm at which “the choir sang several carols.” “The church was prettily decorated by the ladies of the congregation, beautiful lilies and camelias being sent from Meeson Hall for the chancel decoration.”

Four years later in 1901, the year of Queen Victoria’s death, the Wellington Journal stated on 28 December that “Christmas in the churches has been kept this year with a heartiness which has probably never been surpassed, notwithstanding those who contend that its celebrations are falling into disuse.” It went on to say that “the decorations have been exceedingly appropriate and ornate, reflecting great credit the busy and untiring efforts of those responsible for the work.” With regard to Waters Upton:

The decorations in this church were, as usual, tastefully arranged. The pulpit and lectern were decorated by Mrs. L. V. Yonge, the east end windows by Miss M. Minor, and the font and nave by the Misses Davies, assisted by Miss Tompkin, Daisy Pritchard, Dolly Austin, Dorothy Tompkin, and S. H. and R. W. Davies. The choir sang carols at the morning and evening services, and the sermons were preached by the rector, the Rev. J. B. Davies.

Mrs L V Yonge was the above-mentioned Elizabeth Mary Hombersley Groucock, now married. Elizabeth had ‘tied the knot’ with the Rev Lyttleton Vernon Yonge, vicar of nearby Rowton in Ercall Magna parish, in 1892 and the couple resided at Waters Upton. I have yet to work out who Dolly Austin was, but Daisy Pritchard was enumerated on the census of 1901 at nearby Cold Hatton in Ercall Magna parish. Then aged 13, she was the daughter of agricultural labourer Edward Pritchard and his second wife Ellen, née Gough. At first I thought Daisy had no connections with Waters Upton, but her father Edward, although born in Wolverhampton, had Shropshire ancestry and was enumerated at Waters Upton with his parents in the censuses of 1871 and 1881.

The Tompkin girls were most likely Dorothy and Maggie (born 1891 and 1894 respectively), daughters of Robert Tompkin and Mary Margaret Sutton (née Barlow) Tompkin. The Tompkins had not been in Waters Upton for very long at this point, having been enumerated on the census back in April in their native county of Staffordshire. The family was still living in Waters Upton in 1911. That year’s census shows that Robert was a farm bailiff – Kelly’s Directory for 1909 shows that he was working in that capacity for the Rev L V Yonge. Sadly, Robert passed away at the age of 42 on 29 June 1911; he was buried at Waters Upton (see Memorial Inscriptions: Tompkin).

The Misses Davies would have been the Rev John and Mrs Susan Davies’ daughters Annie May (born 1879) and Alice Elizabeth (1880); with the two Davies boys “S. H. and R. W.” being Stephen Harris (1883) and Reginald Wynard (1885) – all of them were recorded on the 1901 census at Waters Upton. I will be devoting several future stories to this family, in which I will explore their lives in and beyond Waters Upton in more depth. But, as you are about to find out, that doesn’t mean they won’t get any further mentions in this one.

Adapted from a Public Domain image at Wikimedia Commons.

Rev John Bayley Davies saves Christmas

I freely admit to over-egging the (Christmas) pudding a little with that heading. However the Rev Davies, in his capacity as a member of the Wellington Poor Law Union’s Board of Guardians, did help to ‘save Christmas’ for the inmates of the Union Workhouse in Wellington in 1882.

John was present at the fortnightly meeting of the Board which took place on Thursday 14 December that year, at which the subject of “the paupers’ Christmas dinner” arose…

Mr. Lawrence said that as the master’s book was now before them, he was going to ask the Board to allow Mr. Minor to put on the book instructions that the inmates of the House should have their usual Christmas treat. It was done in all the gaols and workhouses in the country, and he did not see why their Board should set aside a custom which had been honoured in the observance ever since the Board was established. He moved that the inmates have the same treat they had last year. (Wellington Journal, 16 December 1882.)

The Clerk of the Board then “read from the minute book the allowance of beef and pudding sanctioned by the Board for the last Christmas dinner”, after which further conversation took place. I imagine, but can’t say for certain, that the Rev John Bayley Davies of Waters Upton contributed to that exchange of views, supporting the principles of Christian charity which had become a part of the Victorian Christmas. I don’t doubt at all that he was heartily pleased when Mr Lawrence’s proposition was, eventually, carried.

From a Public Domain image at Picryl. This is probably not an accurate depiction of the pudding served to the Wellington Union Workhouse inmates at Christmas, nor of the manner in which it was served to them…..

On to Late Victorian Christmases in Waters Upton – Part 2 >