The Bread and Butter of Genealogy

The bread and butter of genealogy is what is often referred to as hatched, matched and dispatched, that is birth, marriages and deaths. These three events announce a person’s arrival into the world, the creation of a new family and our departure.

The parish registers play a key role in the recording of vital events, especially prior to civil registration in 1837. The parish registers record baptisms, which we must remember do not always immediately follow a birth, the reading of banns and of marriage and burial. Beyond the recording of the event itself which will provide key information such names, relationships, occupations, and place of residence a thoughtful incumbent or parish clerk may also add valuable nuggets of additional information. These additional comments may note the personal thoughts of the incumbent or parish clerk such as ‘bastard born son/ daughter of…’ or may be a legal requirement such as ‘buried in woollen’.

But much additional information can be found out about an individual, and their family, by looking at the gravestones that surround the church, or are in the cemetery. Information that is rarely recorded in the burial register itself, or if it is may be separate and unconnected.

For example, when I was researching the Plumb family, in Fletton, the entry in the burial register records simply:

1900 Jan 29 Plumb John Charles 56

However, in the St. Margaret’s churchyard there is a gravestone which reveals far more than John’s date of death. The gravestone for John Charles Plumb, shows a carved image of clasped hands. The inscription around the top edge of the gravestone reads:

‘Erected as a token of esteem by his companions’

By referring to the census of 1891 I discovered that John was a railway wagon repairer with the Midland Wagon Works. So, the companions mentioned, who very generously erected the gravestone, could be his work colleagues at the Midland Wagon Works.

After researching the family, I knew that John and his wife Jane had five sons.  Their fourth son Edmund died on the 15th December 1916 by a gunshot to the head. Although his death was reported as ‘accidental’ to the family the inquest determined that Edmund had committed suicide by ‘a rifle shot fired by his own hand’. Edmund was buried in the Albert Communal Cemetery Extension, which was beautifully designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. He is also remembered on the St. Margaret’s World War 1 war memorial in the church.

When I visited the grave of John Charles Plumb another surprise awaited me which was unexpected. Hidden in the tangle of ivy and decaying leaves, at the foot of his father’s gravestone is a memorial to Edmund, it reads:

In Memoriam

Edmund, son of

John Charles and Jane Plumb

Who died in France

Dec 15 1916

Aged 38

At rest

Beneath the memorial to Edmund lies another stone, unfortunately the writing on that is illegible. Without visiting the grave of John, I would never have discovered the memorial to Edmund, as he is not buried there it is unrecorded in the parish burial register.

Up until now the genealogist has had to rely on the tireless efforts of Family and Local History Societies to photograph and transcribe gravestones. But the Church of England has launched a major project to digitally survey 19,000 churchyards and create a free digital map of every feature and gravestone in every churchyard in the country. The project will take seven years to complete but the website is being launched in Spring 2022. More information can be found at https://www.churchofengland.org/media-and-news/press-releases/nationwide-digital-churchyard-mapping. As well as gravestones the project will also capture biodiversity, including ancient trees and plant life, in our churchyards. 

What an exciting and valuable venture.

Edmund Plumb
Midland Wagon Works
Burial entry

Coincidence or something else?

I was transcribing the marriage registers for Fletton, Huntingdonshire recently and came across two intriguing entries.

On 6th September 1902 John Fossey married Emma Sawthorp/Gawthrop. Both their residences at the time of their marriage was 15 Park Street, Fletton.

On the next day, the 7th September 1902, their neighbours got married. Thomas Beighton married Ethel Aistrup and their residence at the time of their marriage was 14 Park Street, Fletton.

Was this just a co-incidence? maybe, more research is required.

Whatever the circumstances Park Street certainly had something to celebrate that weekend.

Charles Dack

Museum curator and folklorist, Kesteven Lunatic Asylum and the Rembrandt connection.

Mr C Dack’s fascinating paper on local customs

Although your ancestor may not have recorded any of their major life events in a parish, such as birth, marriage or death, that does not mean they did not leave a mark on that community. St. Margarets, in Fletton, did not witness any of Charles Dack’s vital events, yet he lived the majority of his life in Fletton. As a resident of Fletton he had influence as a member of the Parochial Church Council. But as we shall see through his many interests, his influence extended to Peterborough and beyond. A biographical sketch of Charles records ‘there is little worth knowing that he does not know’ and yet we know remarkably little about Charles the man. This article owes much to Dr Francis Young and his book Peterborough Folklore. It is brief in it’s coverage and if anyone can add more information this would be greatly appreciated

Charles was the son of Johnathan Dack and Mary Ann Leak. Johnathan, a walking postmaster, and Mary were married in 1847 and Charles was born a short while later in East Dereham, Norfolk. Johnathan died whilst Charles was still young. Mary subsequently married James Norton, a railway station master. As with so many other railway workers it was his employment that brought the family to Fletton. In 1871 the family were living at 1 Station Yard and Charles was employed as a railway clerk. Mary died just four years later in 1875 aged 56. Charles never married, he lived at either Station Yard or 4 Nene View throughout the remaining census years and he remained employed by the railways.

Charles was an antiquary and collector, he was an amateur authority on ceramics, a speciality in old glass and as a hobby was absorbed by tokens and coins. He was also interested in local topography and prints. He was an accomplished musician, speaker and writer and a collector of cuttings and stories about local folklore. He raised £2,500 for the restoration of the west front of the cathedral and was amongst other roles, assistant secretary and subsequently honorary curator of Peterborough Museum from 1880.

Charles was a pupil of John Speechley the famous Cathedral organist, he was also secretary to the famous Cathedral oratorios. Until 1880 he was organist at Reverend Murray’s Chapel in Westgate, Peterborough, although the presentation recorded below was reported by The Northampton Mercury on 1 May 1875.

‘At the Westgate Congregational Church, on Monday, a handsome chased silver inkstand, silver pen-holder, and gold pen, also a silver pencil case to match, was presnted to Mr. Charles Dack, organist, as an acknowledgement of his gratuitous services as organist’.

In addition Charles’ appointment as the Honorary Local Representative at the Peterborough centre for the Associated Board of the Royal Academy of Music and Royal College of Music for Local Examinations in Music, was announced in The Lincoln, Rutland and Stamford Mercury on Friday 17th December,  1897.

There is evidence of how far afield Charles Dack’s interests took him in The Scotsman on Tuesday 9th October 1888. At The Glasgow International Exhibition there were on display ‘Relics of Mary Queen of Scots. These include three items exhibited by Charles: a portrait of Mary, a bed quilt finished by the Queen while captive at Hardwicke and a set of books relating to Mary. Also exhibiting a drawing of her execution was another instrumental figure in Peterborough history Dr. T. J. Walker’.

Charles’ interest in Mary Queen of Scots, was further reported in the Northampton Mercury on 11th January 1890 when it was recorded that, ‘[Charles Dack] who is well known in the realm of antiquarian lore’ published a ‘pretty brochure’ accounting the The Death of Mary the Queen of Skottes, which was based on a compilation of original documents. The list of subscribers extended to six pages. Headed by the Queen it included the most well known antiquarians, historians and book lovers of the day.

As mentioned Charles was involved in the Peterborough Museum before it was known as such. The Peterborough Natural History Society and Field Club was founded in 1871 to promote interest in local natural history. Members included the surgeon at the hospital, Dr. T. J. Walker, and local chemist Mr. Bodger. Within a decade, the Society had widened its interest and laid the foundation of a museum and a library. It became the Natural History, Scientific and Archaeological Society and in 1947 took its modern title of the Peterborough Museum Society. When the Society began assembling the museum collections, the first collection was kept in a cardboard box under a member’s bed! Various buildings have housed the collection during its history, including a house on Park Road and a former chapel in the Cathedral Precincts. A permanent home was found when the former infirmary building was acquired by Sir Percy Malcolm Stewart, Chair of the London Brick Company, who donated it to the Museum Society. It was opened as a museum in 1931, with the art gallery added in 1939.

In 1899 Charles wrote a paper for the British Archaeological Association titled ‘Old Peterborough Customs and their Survival’. In 1905 he delivered an associated lecture ‘Curious Local Customs’ to the Royal Archaeological Society in London.

By the 1911 census Charles had retired and this release from occupation perhaps allowed him to persue his interests more ardently. In 1911 he published Weather and Folklore of Peterborough and District.

Charles’ recording of local folklore gives an intriguing insight into customs now forgotten. For example he records that at the turn of the century the ‘Catherine Procession’ held in honour of Katherine of Aragon and Catherine of Alexandria, on 25th November, had been replaced by a special dinner for the women and girls of the workhouse. According to The Peterborough Standard of 22nd Ocotber 1948 he was also attributed with collecting ‘16 varieties in the spelling of the City’s name…from Peeterborow…to…Peterbvrg’.

Charles died on 2nd April 1923, aged 75, at the Kesteven County Asylum. He was was buried with his mother, in the Broadway Cemetery, on 7th April 1923. What little we do know about Charles comes mainly from his personal papers. Mysteriously these were purchased by the Cambridge University Library from a bookseller Gustave David on 18th February 1921, two years prior to his death.

Dr Francis Young, quite rightly, says that more should be known about Charles Dack. Peterborough Museum does not hold a portrait of him, unlike their other early curators, nor does it hold any of his papers. Due to his lower social background Charles lacked the financial backing of other amateur folklorists of the day, and yet it was he who in his papers recognised the significance of John Clare in the study of folklore.

An article appeared in The Daily Mirror on March 13th 1922 and The Peterborough and Hunts Standard which would be worthy of a place in Charles’ own collection of folklore.  It tells of a bricklayer, Mr. Alfred Rippon of Fengate, Peterborough. Alfred attended a public auction of Charles Dack’s personal effects. The sale attracted a national audience as Charles had been a collector of ‘art treasures’ for many years.  Alfred was successful in purchasing a large canvas ‘in a massive gilt frame’. In the catalogue the artist was recorded as ‘unknown’ and it was the ‘fine frame’ that had attracted Alfred’s attention. It was only when Alfred cleaned the painting with ‘warm water and a sponge’ that the artist’s name was revealed ‘Rembrandt’. The purchaser, understandably stunned by the discovery, was ‘negotiating with prospective purchasers’. If the painting was indeed proved a genuine Rembrandt it would be from his most finest period referred to as ‘the time’. It would be fascinating to know what happened to the painting, if it was indeed a Rembrandt and if Charles had known about the provenance of the painting.

A case of ‘fake or fortune’!

Fake or fortune
Peterborough museum

A servant’s life

When researching your ancestor, wherever they lived or whatever occupation they were engaged in, it is important to place them in the context of the area in which they lived. In this blog I will look at three girls, Fanny Brewin, Mary Pooler and Nympha Johnson, who were engaged in domestic service in Fletton, Huntingdonshire.

The two industries which were most influential in attracting male migrants to Fletton were the railways and the brickyards. For females the most influential employment was domestic service. This remained the case until the early 1900s when Farrows Canning factory and Symingtons corset factory opened and began to compete for the female workers. The appeal of working in these new factories, with improved working conditions, challenged the traditional employment of domestic service.

Domestic service as an occupational category is difficult to define as the definition changed over time. It was once a term that would mean any person in the household under the head’s authority. This definition changed during the Victorian era to mean those employed by the household such as domestic or groom and by the end of the era there were even more specific titles such as parlour maid, cook and ladies maid.

When looking at Crickowell, a market town in Wales, R. Gant observed, that ‘Domestic servants formed an essential part of nineteenth century society’. In fact, L. Schwarz calculated, that when considering the broadest definition of domestic service, in 1851 servants accounted nationally for 7.1% of the total labour force rising to 8.8% in 1871 before falling to 7% in 1891. The comparative female percentages being 12.6%, 15.5% and 12.8%. Although not directly comparable to Fletton, in Gant’s Crickowell study, the percentage of females employed in domestic service for these years was higher than the national figures at 21.3% in 1851, 20.3% in 1871 and 23.3% in 1891. A more similar situation to Fletton was the railway town of Crewe. In her study of Crewe, D. Drummond found that in 1881 30.9% of females were employed in domestic service.

By comparison the percentage of females engaged in domestic service in Fletton was phenomenal. Of all employed female migrants in 1851-1861, that is those females who had arrived in Fletton since the last census was taken, 55.8% were employed in domestic service. For those who had lived in Fletton since before the last census was taken, the stayers, this was 44.8%. By 1901-1911 the numbers of females in domestic service were in decline, especially for stayers at only 14.2%, as other opportunities beckoned. However, it still remained an attractive prospect for female migrants at 35.5%.

Fletton was a developing area and consequently an attractive destination to those seeking a position in domestic service. The ability to employ a domestic servant was seen, by some, to be an indicator of wealth and imply a higher social scale. However, M. Drake has commented that this was not necessarily the case as a family with an income of £100 could afford a servant. Even the wives of masons and carpenters could afford to pay a ‘sixpence to clean knives’. This meant that employing a domestic servant could be within reach of office clerks, government employees and skilled manual workers. Fletton born Frederick Wright, whose father was a baker and shopkeeper on High Street, recalls fondly in his memoir, Tales of My Childhood, ‘the servant’ his family employed would gather them all together ’round a roaring fire’ and tell ‘us tales’.

Predictably, in Fletton, the age at which the majority of females were in service was between 15 and 29, as marriage usually brought to an end life in service. There was an increase in the numbers of females being engaged in domestic service between 40 and 54. Perhaps this increase, in later life, co-incided with either widowhood and the necessity to earn a wage, or children becoming self-reliant and allowing the mother to return to employment.

With so many females employed in domestic service, and consequently so many women finding themselves in charge of a domestic servant for the first time it is not surprising that there were many books produced on the subject. Three such publications are Cassell’s Household Guide, The Young Ladies Treasure Book, and of course Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. The Young Ladies Treasure Book offers the mistress of the house invaluable advice regarding all manner of domestic duties to help her ensure that the servant does not negate her duties. These include, amongst many others, instructions on sweeping ‘the stairs down’ which include ‘begin with the top step, and brush it carefully and thoroughly, holding the pan so it may receive all the dust.’ The advice concludes that ‘There are many minor matters of which the young housewife should have sufficient knowledge to direct, and, if necessary, teach, those in her service.’

By creating biographical narratives, we can compare the lives of three young girls employed in domestic service in Fletton, Fanny Brewin, Mary Pooler and Nympha Johnson.  Although they lived very close together their lives were very different.

Fanny, at only 14, was employed by John Ashpool, a brickyard foreman, and in the household at Ash Lea, Fletton Avenue, were his wife Susannah, son Arthur, an insurance salesman, and three unmarried male boarders, a bricklayer, carpenter and brickyard labourer. With a family of six to look after, including men engaged in manual occupations, Fanny’s daily routine was an arduous one, rising early to light fires and prepare the house and retiring late after all the chores were completed.

Fanny was born in Thorney in 1887. When she was young her father, John, was an agricultural labourer which meant that migration for work was common and in 1891 the family were living in Holme, Huntingdonshire. Employment on the land is notoriously precarious and it was perhaps in search of job security that by 1901 John had moved to Stanground to work in the brickyards as a labourer. John remained in Stanground living in South Street. Fanny married George Henry Booty on 1st February 1916 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Farcet, Huntingdonshire, see photo. They had two children before Fanny died in 1932 at just 45.

Mary lived next door at Annan Dale, and was employed by Thomas and Margaret Miles, school master and mistress. With a household of two to provide for Mary’s duties may have been less demanding and in 1901 she had the luxury of her sister Ellen visiting.

Mary was born in Crowland in 1877. In 1881 her father Phillip is recorded as being a ‘higgler’ an itinerant trader dealing in butter, cheese, poultry, eggs and fish. Seeking a more secure occupation, by 1891 Phillip had moved his family to Henson Street in Peterborough and was employed in a boiler shop. As Peterborough was a centre for the railways Phillip was most likely employed by either one of the numerous railway companies or wagon manufacturers that were based in Peterborough. By 1901 Mary had made the move to Fletton. She must have been very settled in her employment as she was still working for Thomas and Margaret in 1911 but had now gained the title of housekeeper.

Nympha was one of two, 17 year old domestic servants employed by the Reverend Charles Dowman at the Fletton Rectory. Nympha is recorded as a cook and Lily Holmes is recorded as a housemaid and domestic. With three adults and a five year old to care for, in a house consisting of 17 rooms, their lives were busy ones.

Nympha was born in Peterborough in 1894 and her father, William, was a builder’s clerk. By 1911 Nympha had entered service in Charles Dowman’s household. It does not appear that Nympha stayed in Fletton for very long as banns were read for her forthcoming marriage, to Sydney Walter Stamper, at Belper church, in Derbyshire between the 1st and 15th December 1914. Sydney was a cabinet maker and in 1911 he too was living in Fletton at 19 Oundle Road. Their first born, Horace, was born in 1916 in Huntingdonshire

Life in service was not an easy one. It would be nice to think that there was perhaps a camaraderie amongst these young domestic servants, all away from home for the first time having similar life experiences.

Nympha Stamper, in later life

Death Cometh as a Thief in the Night

Memorial in St. Margaret’s church

For this month’s blog we will take a look at what an amazing amount of information you can glean from a memorial inside a church when you look at the wider context. We will go inside St. Margaret’s church, Fletton and take a look at two memorials which commemorate father and son Henry William and Edward Elgie Page.


Henry William Page was Station Master at the Great Eastern Station from 1884/5 to 1900 and churchwarden at St. Margaret’s from 1889 to 1900. His memorial, which was erected by the staff at the G. E. R Station as a tribute of their ‘esteem and respect’, reads:

‘To the glory of God and in memory of

Henry William Page

was Station Master G. E.R. Peterborough

1884-1900 Churchwarden of this parish 1889-1900.

Born 14 Dec 1839. Died 9 Jan 1900.

This tablet was erected by the staff of the G. E. R. Station

Peterborough as a tribute of esteem and respect.’

Little is known about Henry’s early life except that he was born on the 14th December 1839 in Springfield, Essex and spent his early years living with his grandmother Sarah.

Henry married Sarah Georgiana Elgie on 23rd May 1859 in Whitechapel, London, at St. Mary’s, London and at this time Henry, like his father James, was a builder. However, the diverse occupation opportunities and job security that the railways offered were strong. By 1861, when their first child Herbert was born, Henry and Sarah were living in Newport, Essex and Henry was a railway signalman.

Henry was ambitious and by the 1871 census he had achieved promotion to Railway Station Master in Linton, Cambridgeshire. Henry and Sarah had six children and by looking at their birthplaces you can see that the family had already moved several times in the eastern counties, perhaps to aid this promotion: Herbert was born in 1861 in Newport, Emily 1863 in Wisbech, Helen 1865 in Stonea, William 1866, Edward Elgie 1867, and Laura 1870 all in Linton. Henry and Sarah would have two more children, again with varying birthplaces: Fred 1872 in Linton and Walter 1873 in Chatteris.

Unfortunately, in 1875 Sarah died leaving Henry with the care of eight children under 14, a daunting prospect for anyone. It is perhaps unsurprising that Henry married Elizabeth Carter in 1876.  It was not long before the family were once more on the move to March where Henry and Elizabeth would have four children: John was born in 1877, Edith in 1878, Leonard in 1882 and Mina in 1885.

With such a large family under one roof the older children made their own way. In the 1881 census 15 year old Edward Elgie is lodging at 3 Butts Row, Cambridge working as a boiler smith’s labourer while the rest of the family are living at the March railway station where Henry is Station Master.

Henry gained promotion and was appointed Station Master at G. E. R. Peterborough in 1884. He was held in high regard at the March railway station, where he had served for 11 years, and was given ‘a purse of money’ by the inhabitants of March as ‘a mark of appreciation, not only of your official merits, but of the uniform courtesy you have shown the public’.

As Station Master the family lived in the Peterborough Station Yard, which was situated between Peterborough football ground and the river Nene.  Henry became involved in the local community and from 1889 to 1900 was churchwarden at St. Margaret’s.

Henry died in service on 9th January 1900 while living at 1 Nene View, Great Eastern Station Road, Fletton. He was buried in St. Margaret’s churchyard on 12th January 1900. The funeral, conducted by Reverend Dowman was a spectacular affair. ‘A large number attended to pay a tribute of respect to the memory of the deceased’ including family, friends and 100 ‘local railway staff in uniform’ who ‘lined the path to the porch’. Unfortunately, the exact location of the burial plot is currently unknown, but on the day ‘the edge of the grave had been outlined with moss and white chrysanthemums’.

Following her husband’s death Elizabeth remained in Fletton, moving to The Yews on what is now Fletton Avenue, by the time of the 1901 census. Living with her were sons John and Leonard who both followed their father into the railways, working as locomotive firemen.


The memorial to Edward Elgie Page is perhaps one of the more intriguing and striking ones in the church. The memorial is a brass shield topped with a cross, mounted on black slate. The engraved letters are in black and red.  The maker was T. Pratt and Sons, Tavistock Street, London and it reads:

‘In loving memory of

Edward Elgie Page

Of her Majesty’s Royal Marines.

Son of Henry William Page

Churchwarden of this Parish

Who was murdered by a

Band of Roumanian soldiers

At Kustenjeh Roumania

March 10th 1890

Age 22 years

Death cometh as a thief

in the night’

Many visitors have wondered what the circumstances were that surrounded Edward’s ‘murder’.

As we have seen above, Edward was born in Linton, in 1867, to Henry William and Sarah Georgina Page nee Elgie. Aged 17 Edward enlisted into the Royal Marine Light Infantry on 11th July 1884 at Chatham. It would appear that Edward served mainly on HMS Cockatrice.

On 10th March 1890 Edward had shore leave in Romania and on his return was stabbed in the back three times by three local soldiers. The men were court marshalled and acquitted. There were questions asked in Parliament in June 1890 by Mr. Broadhurst, MP for Nottingham West. He enquired: ‘I beg to ask the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs what action the Government proposes to take with regard to the case of the Marine, named Page, belonging to Her Majesty’s Ship Cockatrice, who was recently murdered by some Roumanian soldiers?’ Following this the men were re-arrested. They were sentenced to 65 days imprisonment for being out of barracks without permission. The whole incident was widely reported in both national and local newspapers.

Edward’s father Henry received £198.00 from the Romanian government as compensation for his son’s death. It can only be presumed that part of this payment was used for the distinctive memorial plaque.

https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/68089 (Accessed 17/5/2021)

Peterborough Standard, 31st March 1900.

Cambridge Independent Press, 3rd January 1885.

The Peterborough Advertiser, Wednesday, January 17,1900.

The Census and Fletton

I hope that you completed your census return last March! The census is an important document to record your family at a given point in time for the future. But in many ways, I found it a hollow experience. As I entered my family’s details, on my laptop, I knew that in generations to come a descendent would not experience the same thrill of seeing their ancestor’s handwriting for the first time, as I have done.

With the exception of 1841, a census has been taken every 10 years since 1801 and the censuses from 1841 to 1921 have now all been released online.  (M. Wollard, ‘Census Date’ https://www.histpop.org (Accessed 9/7/2013)).  The 1921 census will be the last census release until 2051 as the 1931 census was destroyed by fire in WW2 and due to the war the 1941 census was not carried out. For the period 1931 to 1941 we have an excellent resource in the 1939 National Register, which records the personal details of every civilian in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Although less than 100 years old this is now available online, although the information of anyone alive has been redacted.  This redacted information can be revealed if proof of death can be submitted.

Although the statistics drawn from the census records 1801-1831 are useful for general purposes it is the census records from 1841-1921 which family and local historians turn to for their research. These censuses contain comparative detailed household information and the amount of information available increases with each census.  The most comprehensive is the 1911 census, which includes information about occupation, years married, number of children born, how many survived and number of habitable rooms in the house. Unlike in previous decades where the schedules were destroyed, the 1911 forms were retained, so allows us to see the householder’s handwriting. 

As with all primary sources, when using the census for research it has its limitations both in its original creation and subsequent transcription, such as those used by FamilySearch, Ancestry and FindMyPast. The census was taken on the following nights: 6 June 1841, 30 March 1851, 7 April 1861, 2 April 1871, 3 April 1881, 5 April 1891, 31 March 1901, 2nd April 1911 and 19th June 1921. With exception of 1841 these were always a Sunday. The date that the census was taken ensured that enumerators both had maximum daylight to complete their task and that the majority of the population would be at home, any later and the Registrar General feared that individuals would have ‘left their homes…and are sleeping in outhouses and fields’ due to farming practice. The enumerators themselves were not ‘particularly well paid’ and had to handwrite often inaccurate information that was given to them in a multitude of dialects that they were not always familiar with. (E. Higgs, ‘General Errors’, https:// www.histpop.org (Accessed 9/7/2013)). Consequently, the original documents make transcription a hazardous process. The handwriting is often difficult to read, faded and scored through and the transcribers do not always have the benefit of adequate training or local knowledge. For example, in the 1841 census Fletton has been inaccurately transcribed as being in Hertfordshire not Huntingdonshire. However, P. M. Tillot’s comprehensive review of the census as a source has demonstrated that provided the researcher is aware of common errors and reporting anomalies the census records provide a remarkably accurate source. (P. M. Tillott, ‘Sources of inaccuracy in the 1851 and 1861 censuses’, in E. A. Wrigley (ed.), Nineteenth-century society, (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 82-133.)

Considering a small section of the census, for an area, can reveal a lot in terms of occupation and industry. In 1861 Fletton was divided into three enumeration districts. There were 97 households and a population of 1,449, comprising 692 males and 757 females. The district analysed here is district 6 which included, ‘Part of the Parish of Fletton comprising Wyman’s Lodge and houses near railway bridge, Fletton Village including houses near Fletton Spring and houses on Stanground Road.’ This district is what we would now call Old Fletton around St. Margaret’s church. The enumerator was Rob Hurney who started his walk at William Wyman’s house, at Fletton Lodge, and ended at Arthur Hardy’s house in Fletton Spring. The population of district 6  was 299, consisting of 140 males and 159 females.

The occupations recorded by individuals in the district were divided into groups for ease of comparison. These groupings are relevant not just for the 1861 census but for later censuses as well. These are agriculture, railway, brick industry, other occupations such as clerks, wheelwright, police officer and female occupations such as house servant, laundress and slipper maker.

Agriculture:34. Railway:18. Brick industry:4. Other occupations:32. Female occupations:33

The first railway line arrived in Peterborough from Blisworth, at the East Station, which was situated in Fletton, in June 1845.  Looking at the spread of occupation in the district shows that the arrival of the railways certainly had an impact and yet Fletton was still rooted in agriculture. Brick making, which was to become so important in the area later in the century, was in 1861, a small seasonal operation.

A closer analysis of the occupational groupings provides even more information about the district.

Agriculture including farmer, farmer’s boy, groom, ag lab and shepherd. This district of Fletton had three main farms and they employed the largest percentage of the labour force, 34 men and boys, showing how important agricultural work was to the economy and how labour intensive it was at this time. William Wyman farmed 600 acres and employed 13 men and 5 boys, Thomas Richardson had 200 acres and employed 5 men and 3 boys and Samuel Marriott had 22o acres and employed 6 men and 2 boys. Employment in agriculture started young and in this district boys were employed from as young as 10; Joyner Stokes aged 12, John Thomas Clarke aged 11 and George Abbott aged 10.  

Railway including shunter, driver, hammerman, clerk, engine cleaner, carman, guard and platelayer. By 1861 the railway had been in Fletton for 16 years and this was reflected in the range of railway occupations that men were involved in. Men were laying tracks as new lines were built and existing lines extended. Men worked in the engine sheds making and repairing wagons. There were drivers, shunters and guards moving the numerous freight wagons around the station and sidings and operating the passenger services. Then there were clerks dealing with administration, parcels and ticket sales.

Brick industry including tile maker, labourer and brickmaker. Fletton was yet to experience the growth in the brickmaking industry that would start in the early 1880s by the Hempsted brothers from Grantham and continue with the arrival of John Cathles Hill in 1887. In the 1860s brick making was a seasonal affair operating locally when demand required. The tile maker, two labourers and brick maker listed in the 1861 census may have lived in Fletton but worked in nearby Stanground where brickyards were more prolific at this time.

Other occupations including boot and shoemaker, under ostler and ostler, inn keeper, banker, merchant and solicitor’s clerk, blacksmith, wheelwright, police officer, rector and baptist minister, civil engineer, telegraph time keeper, plumber and glazier and corn merchant. Due to the arrival of the railways Fletton was experiencing rapid population growth. In 1841 the entire parish of Fletton had 57 households with a population of 256. As we have seen above, by 1861 Fletton had 97 households with a population of 1,449. Such a growth in people and industry required services and this is reflected in the diverse range of occupations recorded in this one district of Fletton. There were the all important boot and shoemakers who, as well as manufacturing, were kept busy with repairs. The under ostler and ostler looked after the horses as travellers stopped at the inn. The five blacksmiths recorded were busy with work from the railways, local industry, farms and domestic needs.  Religion in the area saw an increase in non-Conformity alongside St. Margaret’s church. In addition there were other occupations which signalled a growing economy including clerks , engineers, merchants and police officers.

Female occuaptions including laundress, domestic servant, housekeeper, cook, dressmaker, charwomen, slipper maker, milliner, glove and feather cleaner and school mistress. It is clear that women’s work was vital to the economy of the district and married women as well as single women were able to find employment. Fletton attracted families who could afford to employ servants and this is reflected in the statistics. Of the 33 women who were employed 20 were domestic servants, housekeepers or cooks. In addition providing a laundry service was another important source of income with 4 women employed as laundresses, often within their own homes. With the growth in population there was also demand for women’s clothing and Fletton had 4 dressmakers, a milliner,  slipper maker and a glove and feather cleaner.

As we have seen, a brief exploration of just one small census district, at a given point in time, can provide a window into what life was like in that district. Have a look at your local district and see what you can find!

Mrs. Agnes Loomes JP Welfare Pioneer

Every community throughout the country has unsung female heroes who should be celebrated. I am sure that you have a female ‘hero’ in your family tree.  Whether she helped in the war effort, brought her children up as a widow, worked as a teacher or governess, every woman has a story to tell.

I want to share the story of Mrs Agnes Marshall Loomes JP who, alongside many other women, worked tirelessly to improve the health of mothers and babies in Fletton at the dawn of the twentieth century.

At this time Fletton had the dubious position of having one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. But Fletton also had a pioneer in Agnes. She was determined to tackle the issue of infant and mother welfare and it was through her initiative that Great Britain’s first voluntary District Infant Welfare and Mothercraft Centre was established.

A committee was formed in November 1915 which consisted of like- minded and influential figures in the district, such as Gertrude Colman, wife of Herbert Colman, owner of the mill by the River Nene Cadge and Colmans.

By 1916 Baby Welfare Consultations were being held from various houses in Fletton. But this was not a satisfactory arrangement. Over the next 15 years efforts were made to provide a dedicated District Infant Welfare and Mothercraft Centre.

The countries first model voluntary District Infant Welfare and Mothercraft centre opened on London Road, Fletton in October 1926. A pamphlet exists, in the Peterborough Archives, which shows an artist’s impression of the welfare centre and its internal lay out. It looks very familiar to modern clinics with consultation rooms, nurses’ room and waiting rooms. There is even an outdoor space for the prams.

The newspaper cutting titled ‘Fletton Welafre babies and their Mothers at Shortacres’, dated 10th July 1925, records a reunion of some of the mothers who had taken advantage of the Fletton Welfare Clinic. The clinic nurse, Nurse Hoy, sat centrally by ‘universal choice’. It also appeals for the remaining £400 so that Welfare Premises in Fletton can be completed. The newspaper cutting titled ‘Laying of the Stone of the District Welfare at Fletton’ dated May 7th 1926, shows the stone being laid at the District Welfare Clinic. Local dignatories were in attendance including Dr. Paterson, Ald Whitsed, Rev Powell, Mr. Wilson (architect), Mr. Loomes, Mr. Hawkins (builder), Dr. Allan and Mr. Hayward.

A medical report in the 1950s stated that the population of the Fletton district was 8,205 and ‘the general health of the district remains good’. The live birth rate, in Fletton, was 15.5 per 1,000 and still births were 40.3 per 1,000 births. For comparison in 2017 the live birth rate was 11.4 per 1,000 and 4.6 still births per 1,000 births.

It was reported in the Rugby Advertiser on Friday 3rd July 1931 that 125 subscribers had contributed ‘a purse of one hundred pounds’ in recognition of Mrs Agnes Marshall Loomes JP tireless work for Child Welfare. Lady Sandwich, who could not attend the presentation sent a letter in which she wrote ‘Mrs. Loomes has been generosity itself in enthusiasm, work, and in countless ways towards Chid Welfare and Mothercraft’. At the presentation it was reported that Agnes ‘as honorary secretary and joint organiser’ had experienced ‘years of anxious labour and personal sacrifice’ which was ‘untiredly and ungrudgingly given’. In reply Agnes said that she was ‘merely a unit in a wonderful band and felt ashamed to be singled out’.


Agnes Loomes (Pettit) nee Gray was born on 28th February 1877 to James and Isabella in Cumbernauld, Scotland. James was a farmer of 130 acres at West Forest Farm. In 1881 the family were still living on the farm but by 1891 they had moved to another farm at Bourton-on-Dunsmore, Rugby. Agnes aged 14 is stubbornly absent from the 1891 census records. It may well be that she was away at school or visiting relatives. James died in 1896 leaving the farm in the hands of his wife.

 In 1901 24 year old Agnes was boarding at 5 Orchard Street, Fletton in the household of Charles Cooke and his wife Francis. Charles was the school caretaker and Agnes was recorded as an elementary school teacher. Fletton is a long way from Rugby. Whether she had relatives in the area or whether she gained the employment from an advertisement is unknown.  Agnes found love in Fletton. In 1904 Agnes married William Pettit in Bourton-on-Dunsmore.  William aged 44 had been lodging at 2. Spring Villas, Fletton and was a clerk to guardians and superintendent in the registration district. Unfortunately, the union was not along one and Agnes was left a widow, just five years later, at the age of 32. William died on 5th November 1909 aged 53. He had provided well for Agnes is his will leaving her £2,953. William was buried in Paston but the service was conducted by the St. Margaret’s vicar Reverend Dowman.

With no children Agnes returned to her pre-marriage occupation. On the 1911 census she was living at 46 Fletton Ave and was recorded as an assistant elementary school teacher. Also boarding, but at 31 Broadway, Peterborough was Whittlesea born 47 year old Frank Loomes, the editor of the Peterborough Advertiser. Agnes married Frank in 1911.

Agnes and Frank had two children; Mary was born on the 8th August 1912 and Elizabeth on the 20th February 1915. Having two young children did not hinder Agnes in her conviction to help other young mothers. Or perhaps it actually highlighted to her what a precarious business both childbirth and infanthood were, especially to mothers who were not as fortunate as she was in terms of financial support and knowledge.

Unfortunately, by the 1939 National Register Agnes had once again been widowed. Frank had died aged 74 in 1936. Both daughters had followed their mother’s example and on the 1939 National Register they were recorded as elementary school teachers. Mary was also an ARP warden. Living next door to Agnes was Frank’s brother Daniel and family. Daniel was a retired mechanical engineer previously employed by the Peterborough Corporation Drainage Works.

Both Agnes’s daughters married. Mary married Arthur J Bernard in 1941 and Elizabeth married George F Good in 1943. Agnes herself died on 6th February 1973 at the grand age of 96.

Fletton Welfare Babies and their Mothers
Laying the foundation stone
Frank Loome’s gravestone

Marriage Bonds and Allegations

I always find it fascinating how much information can be found in a single source, how it can add to what we already know about an individual and the time in which they lived.

The source I am going to concentrate on for this blog is the ‘London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations. 1597-1921, which can be found in the London Metropolitan Archives.

I will explore what they can tell us and how they can be used in conjunction with census records and the marriage certificate.

Before Civil Registration began in 1837 most people married by banns or license, as was required by law. As part of the process for requesting a license a written allegation had to be provided. This stated the couple’s intent to marry and that there were no legal obstacles to prevent the marriage taking place. Between 1604 and 1823 the allegation was made sure by a bond. Two witnesses, one usually the groom, swore to the bond. If the claims of the allegation proved to be false, then the bond would be forfeit. After 1823 marriage bonds were no longer made.

The Marriage Bonds and Allegations often exist as they remained with the authority who issued it, whereas the license was given to a member of the wedding party to give to the officiant at the ceremony. Although it must be remembered that the existence of the marriage allegation only means that a license was applied for it does not guarantee that the marriage took place.

On 8th June 1881 Arthur George Dilley married Elizabeth Jane Ashton in St. James parish church Westminster. On the marriage certificate it states that Arthur was of full age (21) and Elizabeth was a minor. Arthur was actually 27 and Elizabeth was 20. At the time of their marriage both of their fathers were deceased. The marriage certificate states that the groom’s place of residence when he married was the parish of St. James, whilst Elizabeth’s parish of residence was St. Mary’s, Huntingdon.  The witnesses at the wedding were Arthur Ashton and James Ashton. Evidence in the 1861 census indicates that they may be Elizabeth’s brothers.

The marriage allegation was sworn on the 7th June 1881. I have extracted the main points from the document, and these are summarised below.  

Arthur George Dilley ‘appeared personally’.

He declared he was ‘a bachelor of the age of twenty- one years and upwards’ and he ‘prayed a License for the solemnization of matrimony in the said parish church of Saint James, Piccadilly between him and Elizabeth Jane Ashton’.

The allegation states her place of residence as ‘St. Mary’s Huntingdon’ she was a ‘spinster minor of the age of twenty years and upwards but under the age of twenty- one years’.

Arthur also ‘made oath that he believeth that there is no impediment of kindred or alliance, or of any other lawful causes, nor any Suit commenced in any Ecclesiastical Court to bar or hinder the Proceeding of the said Matrimony, according to the tenor of such Licence’.

Arthur went on to confirm that he ‘hath had his usual Place of abode within the said Parish of Saint James Piccadilly for the space of Fifteen days last past’.

Arthur also swore that he had ‘the consent of Margaret Ashton widow’ who was ‘the natural and lawful mother of the said minor and the trustworthy Guardian’.

He further swore that Margaret had been so appointed in the ‘last will and testament of James Ashton deceased’. Whilst he had been living, he was the ‘natural and lawful father of the said minor’ and permission ‘hath been obtained to the said intended marriage’.  

Although the marriage allegation and marriage certificate reveal a lot of valuable information about the families, as detailed, they also pose an important question.

On his father’s death Arthur had continued running the family auction business, Dilley and Son, in Huntingdon. In the 1881 census, only a few months prior to the marriage allegation, Arthur was recorded as living in the Market Place, Huntingdon with his mother, Martha. Elizabeth was also recorded as living with her mother, Margaret, in The Walks, Huntingdon. Her late father, James, had been a respected businessman in Huntingdon, just as Arthur’s father, James had.

So, I wonder why they married by license in London? Was St. James, Piccadilly, Westminster, a more fashionable place to marry? If their marriage had taken place in Huntingdon, it certainly would have attracted a lot of local attention, as the groom and his bride came from well-known and respected families. Perhaps we shall never know!

The Marriage Bonds and Allegations used here came from ‘London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations. 1597-1921, LMA’

Arthur George Dilley and Elizabeth Jane Ashton Marriage Certificate
Arthur George Dilley

The Secret Button

Princes Road, Fletton

At Genealogy Lantern my aim is not just to put leaves on family trees and to build a big a tree as possible. My aim is to place those individual leaves into a broader national and local context. In other words, my aim is to give each individual a narrative that reflects their place in the world.

A perfect place to start is to build a picture of the geography of the place, or places, in which your ancestor lived, worked and built their life.

The 1911 census, on Ancestry and FindMyPast, has a ‘Secret Button’, which makes this an easy thing to do.

In Ancestry, when you have searched for your ancestor in the 1911 census, opt for ‘view image’. Then at the bottom of the image page click on the camera reel icon on the left – hand side. This opens up a film strip of thumb nail images of that enumeration district. You can then easily scroll through the records to see who else lived in the street or area, what their employment was and the type of houses they lived in.

I looked at the entry for John William Upex, aged 57, and his wife, Emma Upex, aged 55. John was a burner in a brick field in the brick producing area of Fletton, Huntingdonshire. They lived at 13 Princes Road, and it records that the house had 6 rooms.

By hitting the secret button, I can easily scroll though the other houses that have been enumerated on the street and view their occupations. This is a predominantly brick producing area and the heads of the households are dominated by this industry, recording occupations such as brickyard labourer, brick burner, blacksmith, and brickyard foreman. Nearby was the Fletton East railway station and this is also reflected in the occupations.

At the beginning of the film strip that I looked at for RG14/8670, there was a copy of the ‘Instruction to the enumerator page’, which told me that Princes Road was in the Parish of St.  Margaret’s, Fletton and the enumerator was Mr. Charles Butters.

The secret button on FindMyPast can again be located from the image page, on the right – hand side, towards the bottom. On FindMyPast it is called ’All Pages’. If you click on that button three additional buttons appear: ‘Record pages’ brings up thumb nails along the bottom of the screen of all the census images, ‘Linked transcripts’ brings up linked individuals to the ancestor you searched for and ‘Related materials’ gives you a range of additional material you can opt to view.

For our purposes it is the ‘Related materials’ which will provide a wealth of data about this enumeration area and three pages in particular are useful, the ‘Description’ page, ‘List’ page and ‘Totals’ page.

The ‘Description’ page gives us details about the enumeration area itself. For this area, where the Upex family lived, the boundaries of the enumeration area are, ‘north of Fletton Spring, east by middle of Fletton Ave, south by middle of High Street and west by railway line.’ The contents of the enumeration district gives a more in depth flavour of the area covered, ‘Commence at Low’s house Fletton Spring, South West side of Fletton Avenue to Fletton Corner, High Street all houses on North East side of High Street to Railway Bridge all houses in Prince’s Road, Duke Street, Milton Road and Fellowes Road and Farrow’s factory.’

There is also a ‘List;’ page which provides a summary of the individual’s responses. This includes a summary of the dwellings and the number of individuals living in them. For example, 130 High Street was occupied by the Rimes family, which consisted of 11 males and 5 females, and only 2 of these were under 10 years of age. This large family lived in just 6 rooms. The occupations the family were engaged in reflected the Fletton parish and the industries available of brickmaking, a canning factory – Farrows, and a corset maker – Symingtons.

Finally of interest is the ‘Totals’ sheet. The ‘Totals’ sheet summarises the enumeration district. We learn that there were 203 inhabited houses, 22 uninhabited houses and 3 buildings that were not dwellings. We can also see that living in the enumeration district there were 464 men and 450 women making a population total of 914.

I hope this additional information will encourage you to build a picture of the area where your ancestor lived, the community they called home, and to make the most of your family history subscription.