Wednesday, 21 August 2013

"King" of the stage ... with a "thunderous voice"

Tucked away in the Churchyard at St John Baptist Church, Claines, Worcester is a memorial cross to T C King.

Thomas Charles King was born on 24 April 1818 in Twyning and died in October 1893 in Kings Heath but was buried in Claines, this is his story...

It was thought that as a young man Tom King had contact with some amateur actors and in 1840 his illustrious career began when he joined the company of Alexander Lee (who later became the manager of Drury Lane), and he then worked in Cheltenham, Worcester, Warwick and Leamington.

His career built up, as in 1843 he was on stage in Birmingham, in 1847 in York, in 1848 Edinburgh, then in 1850 he was in London.  In the 1850’s he played a part in As you like it and performed in front of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, at Windsor Castle.

Tom was a family man – he had married Eliza who came from Somerset and they had three children Harry born in 1850, but who sadly died at the age of 20, Kathleen Olive known as Katty, who was born in 1851 and Elizabeth, known as Bessie born in 1856.  Tom even changed his second name from Charles to Chiswell, his wife’s maiden name. His own life though was not without tragedy – his wife died in January 1878, aged only 55 and his daughter Katty died in 1891, aged just 40.  Tom had performed on stage with Bessie and Katty – but it was Katty who married the well known Musical Hall artist Arthur Lloyd and her career too was as a very famous Music Hall artiste.

In 1896 T C King was starring on stage with his daughter Bessie at Drury Lane and in the 1870s played great Shakespearean roles such as Hamlet, Othello and Iago and also the role of Quasimodo; performing in London, New York and Canada.

Meanwhile in Worcester in November 1877, tragedy struck there too, when the Theatre Royal caught fire, as reported in the Berrow’s Journal:

"Shortly before half-past 7 o'clock on November 23, the fire had raged so furiously in its destructive work that it had caused the roof to fall in with a tremendous crash, which was followed by immense clouds of sparks rising into the air, and with awful grandeur illuminating the heavens."

The owners were determined to rebuild it as quickly as possible and in October 1878 it reopened.  Perhaps after his wife’s death in January 1878 Tom King was looking for a new direction, but certainly he took over as lessee (lease holder) and manager for a couple of years.  Sadly though it was not really profitable!  During this time he lived at Firland Lodge, Fernhill Heath.

He then went back to touring, and even played in Manchester in 1890, before retiring to Kings Heath.  His daughter Katty had died in 1891 and he died on 28 October 1893, having been looked after by his daughter Bessie.  Tom King had been an amazing tragedian and Shakespearian actor.

It seems very apt that a man, who was also a great ornithologist and had a great love of flowers, should have been buried at Claines.  We are also thrilled that the Music Hall Guild of Great Britain and America have contacted us recently and hope to visit Claines soon, with a view to restoring Tom King’s memorial.

Rachel Cramp

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Lest we forget ... Alfred Edward Newport 1878-1918

Alfred Edward Newport died of wounds received in action on 27 August 1918

Alfred Edward's story is not an unusual one, he was a warehouse porter, living in Enfield, at the start of the war.  He had been married 12 years; his wife was Louisa Ricketts, they had met and married at St Andrew's Church, Kensington on 21 September 1902.


They were a lovely little family, Louisa Annie was born on 31 March 1903, Annie on 24 September 1904, Rose Doreen on 18 November 1906 and after a little gap, a longed for son, also Alfred Edward born on the 18 July 1909.  But war was looming and even though Alfred was in his mid thirties, in 1915 he enlisted at Mill Hill and was attested on 8 December 1915 and initially put into the reserve.  However on 10 November 1916 he was mobilized and left Enfield to join the 21st Battalion of the Notts and Derby Regiment on 11 November 1916 Service number 7206 - to think, two years in the future would be Armistice Day, but Alfred Edward was never to see that.

He was an every day man - 5' 8 3/4" tall, weighing 160 lbs, with a girth of 40".  He had slight flat feet, but hopefully that didn't cause him problems.

Whilst in London on leave in 1917, it is noted he overstayed his pass from 11 p.m. on 24 April to 10.30 p.m. on 30th April, for that he was "admonished" and forfeited 2 days pay - was he desperate to spend more time with Louisa and the children?

Throughout his war, Alfred Edward was a simple Private, like so many - however on 15 February 1918 he became a Rifleman transferring to the 25th Reserve Garrison Battalion Rifle Brigade and then on to the 1/23 London Regiment of the East Surreys changing his service number to 39462.

On 6 April 1918 Alfred Edward was under orders to go overseas yet again.  Did he need to see Louisa and the children, did he feel that it would be for the last time?  He broke out of camp, after tatoo roll call and "remained absent 'till surrendering himself to the Railway Transport Officer at Paddington Station" on 8 April.  For that he was given 14 days detention on 11 April 1918 and had to forfeit 3 days pay.  Interestingly his senior officer at the time was Colonel F Kayser, who was the first shareholder in the Austin Motor Company!

On the 22 April he was part of the BEF. The final months of the war were underway but sadly Alfred Edward  was wounded  in action on 22 August - he had gun shot wounds in his back and left leg.  On the 21 August the 1/23 London Regiment had been East of Heilly, it is reported that they bathed in the River Ancre.  On the 22nd, Zero Hour was 4.45a.m.  Battalion HQ was established in Happy Valley.  Fighting continued and "casualties were moderately heavy":12 officers and 261 other ranks (including Alfred Edward).  He was taken on the long journey, to a hospital at Rouen, but died of his wounds on 27 August, aged 40 years. 


In memory of all the soldiers buried at St Sever

The story almost ends there, except for a few poignant points.  On 11 January 1919 Louisa received Alfred Edward's few personal belongings: photos, 3 knives, a note book, mirror, belt, ring and pencil case - bless her, on the form she had to sign accepting receipt, she wrote: "Thanks for prompt attention".  Then in September 1921 she also received his Victory Medal and British War Medal.

Louisa brought up the four children alone, the young Alf being just 9 years old when his father died.  She became quite a formidable women in her old age, but then all the war widows had such a lot  with which to cope!

(The young Alfred Edward joined the RAF, as a Sergeant, serving both before, during and after the Second World War, including service at RAF Cranwell and RAF Riyan, Aden.  He had two sons and three daughters, one sadly dying at 14 months, the rest living today in Watford, Bath and Worcester.)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The sad story of Mary Ann

Mary Ann's story to follow shortly

Bassingbourn/Royston Workhouse

Therfield St Mary's Church - did Mary Ann walk these lanes?

Monday, 11 April 2011

Shrub Hill Station, Worcester ... a sad story

Shrub Hill Station was designed by Edward Wilson in 1865.  Orginally the railway to this area had been narrow gauge, 15 years before in 1850.  The station is Georgian in style, with classical pilasters and parts covered with majolica ceramic tiles.  This was the era when Worcester was famous for glove making, for example the Fownes Glove Factory.

In 1881, just a few years later, at 5 Belmont Road, Worcester lived a little family: William Merriman, his 24 year old wife Edna and their son John William, just one year old.  They had taken in Edna's brother George W Davis, as his father John a wheelsmith, had died aged just 57 in 1879 and his mother died just a year later, also aged 57.  Living next door was James Goodal 37, an Engine driver, his family and mother in law Mary Presdee, still a glover at 80!!

It was 7 March 1883 that disaster struck this family, when William, now 24,  was killed in an accident at Shrub Hill Station. He is buried with his in-laws at St John Baptist Church, Claines.  By 1891 Edna still a widow had moved to Bridge Street, Sturminster, Dorset, where she found work as a glover - perhaps Mary Presdee had passed on her skills.  Most moving of all, is that her son's names have been switched around and he is now known as William John, after his father...!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

The Mug House Claines of only two pubs in England on consecrated ground

The Mug House, Claines, Worcester

The Mug House, Claines, Worcester - sits in the confines of St John the Baptist Church and is one of only two English pubs residing in a churchyard, so on consecrated ground - the other is the Ring O'Bells, in Kendall.


It is just a moment's walk through the lych gate of St John the Baptist Church, to the door of the Mug!  In fact it is said a ley line runs from the pub to the church and it is suggested a tunnel once existed between the church and the pub cellar.  One section of the 15th Century, timber framed, wattle and daub construction is visible, at the front of the building.

Originally the Mug was the church brew house, and its history goes back to the Plantagenets and the House of Lancaster.

"Brew houses were at one time an essential form of income for the church, for with some 75 feast days to celebrate, it meant money in the coffers of the church."

It is known that Puritans closed most of the ale houses locally because of the drunken and lewd behaviour of the populace at the time but the Mug survived.  In 1638, the Constable of Claines had closed six filthy public houses in Claines, in an attempt to quell the plague, but again not the Mug House!
"Our poor are provided for, the highways repaired, riot we know none, gamesters we know none, drunkeness none."

By the time of the early censuses, the early innkeepers were women: in 1841 Ann Mansill aged 60 and living with her, Henry Mansill, 40, possibly her son, who was a merchant.  By 1851 Ann is still there, listed as a victualler, now in her early 70s and has the support of Sarah Russell from Hartlebury who was a house servant.

Around 1855 Sarah Williams (29) took over as victualler and in 1861 she was living there with her brother Elijah R Williams, who was a clerk at the Post Office.  Earlier Elijah had lived at home with his parents James and Elizabeth who were the schoolmaster and schoolmistress at the National School House, Claines.

Then men took over: firstly Joseph Knott in 1871, he is listed as Innkeeper aged 62, from Astley, Worcestershire, and his wife Mary, 54, from Watford in Hertfordshire, but by 1879 and through to the 1881 census, Frank Evans (29) and his wife Mary Jane (30) ran the Mug and lived there with their baby Amy.

By the 1891 census, Charles Daniels (28) and his wife Florence (25) had taken over.  Interestingly Charles who had been born in Bourton on the Water, had previously worked as a footman at Brockhampton Park, good training for a licensed victualler!  Florence also had a good background, as her father John and mother Ann were Innkeepers at the Fox and Hounds Beer House, at Stogursey, a small village in Somerset, near Bridgwater.

There was a Somerset link too, in 1901 when John Minton (40) from Hereford and his wife Bessie (36) from Yeovil in Somerset took over, but by 1905 Albert Beck was in charge and then in 1911 George Hobbs.

George and his wife Mary had lived in Coachmaris House, in Minto, Roxburghshire.  Mary herself was from Kinlock in Perthshire, though George was originally from St Johns, Worcester.  In 1901 they had two sons George and Cameron and father George was a coachman.  Being in service, was probably good training to run a pub!  In 1911, son George (24) was living at the Mug and working as an Engine Fitter, whilst George was listed as the Licensed Vitualler aged 53 and Mary his wife was 49.

In 1947 renovations were taking place at the Mug and within a wall, the silver head of a medieval bishop's crook, a crosier, was discovered.  It is thought it had once belonged to the Bishop of Worcester.  It is now used every year by the Claines Boy Bishop, but it is still a mystery as to why it was secreted away!

In the 1950s the vicar told the publican of the Mug:
"You fill my church and I'll fill your pub" !!
And today, the older children of the Church meet at the Mug, every Sunday, they are "God's Own Pub Club"!!

Thanks to:
Geoff Sansome and Claines Friends
To contact The Mug - call Judy or Russell on 01905 456649

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lifeboat "Louisa" - Lynmouth Station ... the story began on 1st April 1887

A reconstruction of the Lifeboat "Louisa" at Lynmouth

In 1869 the lifeboat station at Lynmouth, North Devon, opened "on the urgent representation of the local residents".  Its first lifeboat was Henry which was a gift from a lady from Yorkshire, in memory of her brother.  It was launched three times and saved six lives; interestingly it cost £234.  A year later a lifeboat house was built on the west side of the harbour, on land granted by the  Lord of the Manor, Robert Roe at a cost of £292.

On 1st April 1887 a new lifeboat was installed, the Louisa.  It was a 34 foot 3 inch self righting boat, with 10 round oars, a 10 foot sliding steel keel, 2 masts, standing lugs and jib with a No. 2 rig.  It was built by Messrs Woolfe & Son, no. W210, at a cost of £298. 14 s and 0d.  It was met by a donation from the Revd Thomas Littleton Wheeler of Worcester.

By 1894 it was off service for alterations, improvements and updates at the builders yard and five years later a roadway was made through the bolders on the beach, to enable the lifeboat to go out at all states of the tide.  This had to be widened and straightened many times to facilitate launches.

The Louisa was launched a total of 14 times between 1887 and 1906 and saved 24 lives, but one of the most remarkable launches in record was to the ship Forrest Hall on 12 January 1899, when the Lynmouth rescued 15.

To read the full story of the rescue, go to: - or read the summary below...

At 16, Andrew Richards's father was the youngest crew member of the original rescue mission. He was presented with a watch in recognition of his bravery and it is now a treasured family heirloom. Mr Richards said of his father: "I think he found it difficult to talk about it. He'd rather talk about the amusing aspects of it than the serious side."

The following extract taken from is from Tom Richards recordings:

"Post Office had a telephone message from Porlock saying that there was a ship in distress, blowing a gale. Maroons set up to call the crew down to the lifeboat house. It was impossible to launch the lifeboat. Dad, Jack Crowcombe and Mr. Peter went back to the PO to decide what to do. Decided to take the lifeboat over to Porlock. People had gathered outside the PO from curiosity; they thought it was foolish to launch from Porlock. A fellow was sent to Lynton for 18 horses, quite an industry up there, and they were tied up to the lifeboat. All the women and kids and men hauled the boat up Countisbury Hill; stopped for refreshments at the Blue Ball Pub at the top of the hill. Women were told to go home and the few men left carried on. Had to break down hedges to get the carriage through. Took 7 foot wide skids with them, pulled the lifeboat over the top of those. Terrible job getting down Porlock Hill. Took part of a woman’s garden wall down; still dark but when she realised it was a lifeboat, she helped them down to Porlock Weir. There they launched the lifeboat. Towed the carriage back to Lynmouth. Went alongside the Forest Hall schooner. Got aboard and helped the crew and landed up in Barry for the night. Sailed back next day; a steamer leaving Barry harbour gave them a tow back to Lynmouth. No lives lost. "

The Louisa was overhauled and stored on 10 August 1906, but was later found to be defective and was broken up on 31 October 1906.  The final lifeboat at the station was Richard Frederick Gainer, which saved 41 lives.  Sadly Lynmouth Station was closed in 1944 and the Lifeboat house was swept away in the great floods on 15 August 1952, when three former crew lost their lives.

So why was the lifeboat named "Louisa"? 
And who was the Revd Thomas Littleton Wheeler?

The Wheelers were an interesting Worcestershire family, including three generations of clergymen.  Allen Wheeler, from Kidderminster and Decima Green were married on 6 January 1769 and had two sons Allen born in 1775 and Thomas Littleton in 1777.   Allen was educated at Wadham College, Oxford achieving a BA in 1798 and was created a Minor Canon at Worcester Cathedral on 19 November 1799 and served there until 1855. He achieved a  BD in 1810 and was Headmaster at the College School (Kings) Worcester from 1820 to 1832.  In addition he was the Precentor at the Cathedral from 1820-1851 and was also Rector of Broadwas in 1821.  When he retired from the Cathedral in 1851, he became Vicar at Old Sodbury, Gloucestershire, until his death on Christmas Day, 1855.

At the East End of Worcester Cathedral a 3 light window commemorates Allen and his son Thomas Littleton Wheeler, who paid for the Louisa.

"To the Glory of God and in memory of Allen Wheeler BD born November 20 1775 and died December 25 1855, Minor Canon 1799-1851, Precentor 1820-1851.  And of Thomas Littleton Wheeler MA born February 22 1806, died April 8 1892 Minor Canon 1833-1877, Precentor 1854-1887."

Allen had married Sarah Harvard in June 1801 and had four children: Allen, Margaret Ann, George Augustus and Thomas Littleton and they were baptised at the Cathedral.

Thomas Littleton himself was Rector of Sedgeberrow in 1851 but by 1861 had moved to St Martins, Worcester.  It was in the 1861 census that Thomas and his wife Ann (Bate) had two visitors staying with them, Elizabeth Loscombe who was 30 and her sister Louisa Clifton Loscombe, who had been born in 1814, in Exmouth , Devon!!  These women had their own monies, and were listed as "fundholders"  and later settled in Worcester.  The women both lived in the College Yard Precinct (near the Cathedral) in 1881 and later in life, in the Bull Ring, St Johns, Worcester, where Louisa died in 1892, aged 78 ... , but was this the Louisa of lifeboat fame?

And to finish the story of the three generations of clergymen, Thomas Littleton had a son Thomas Littleton, who himself was a Canon!

With thanks to:
Barry Cox - Honorary Librarian
West Quay Road
BH15 1HZ
... for help researching the Louisa

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Henry Haylett of the Norfolk police ... the story of Henry and his father Robert, also a policeman!

Henry Haylett, wife Elizabeth nee Harding and family
Cuckoo Lodge, Holkham Estate

The photograph of the family at Cuckoo Lodge shows Edward, Jane and Alfred, wife Elizabeth, Henry and the dog! and four girls who are likely to be Charlotte, Clara, Rachel and Maria ( in 1901 Clara and Maria were both housemaids, not at Holkham Hall, but somewhere locally) - it is very likely the photograph was taken at the turn of the century.


When Henry was born, on 24 February 1850, father Robert was a Police Officer and in 1851 the family lived in Beachamwell, Norfolk, just outside Swaffham.  Robert was 34, his wife Charlotte was just 27 and the Haylett girls: Charlotte 7, Jane 5, Rachel 3 and Maria 2 were the elder sisters of baby Henry.

At this time there was a serious poaching problem in rural areas.  On Monday 1 December 1851, Superintendent Parker, with a dozen rural policemen left Swaffham and went to Letton Park; Robert was one of the men.  The neighbourhood was "infested with gangs of poachers" and the police were hoping to help catch them.  They secreted themselves for many nights, until Saturday 6 December, a bright moonlit night, when they heard shots and moved into the woods.  The poachers fired and severely injured Superintendent Parker and also injured Constable Greenacre. Robert  chased two poachers and he shot at them, he thought he had at least injured them, then he turned back to help Superintendent Parker.  The police were in fact criticised for being involved in this way, but three men were later transported for ten years and another three were imprisoned for two years with hard labour.

Ten years later, in 1861, the family had moved to Fincham and lived on the Main Street and by 1871 Henry had moved out of the family home, Robert was a Sergeant of Police living in Town Street, Upwell and by 1891 Robert was living in Victoria Street, Littleport on his police pension.

In his early years Henry was a gamekeeper, before joining the policeforce in 1868 in the Isle of Ely, when the Chief Constable was Mr Foster, it is amazing to think Henry was just 18.

On 4 July 1870 Henry moved to the Norfolk Constabulary.  His examination documents show how he was 5 feet 11 inches tall, with a swarthy complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.  His figure was described as "proportionate"!

His career in the police force progressed well:
  • He was raised to 2nd Class on 17 July 1871
  • To 1st Class on 13 January 1873
  • On 24th June 1878 his salary rose to 24 shillings
  • On 5th July 1880 it went up to 25 shillings and then on 19th July 1880 up to 26 shillings.
It was good that he had these increases in salary.  He married Elizabeth (Harding) and when he joined the Norfolk Constabulary he already had a son, Henry Harding Haylett, and by 1881 he had other children: Charlotte, Robert Harding (who later became a Prison Warder at Portland, Dorset), John Macdonald, William, Clara, Rachel (my adoptive maternal Grandmother) and George.  The family were living at Back Street Cottage, Horsham St Faith.

On 27th July 1885 Henry was "raised" to 1st Class Sergeant and by 1891 the family had moved to Wells next the Sea and Charles, Maria, Edward, Alfred and Jane had been born.  Then in 1892, on 1st August Henry became a 2nd Class Inspector, a 1st Class Inspector on 4 December 1893 and a 3rd Class Superintendent on 3rd October 1898.  It was in 1898 that he retired on a pension.

Henry had actually been known to the Holkham Estate Office at Holkham Hall since at least 1889, when he had been a police sergeant in Wells-Next-the Sea.  On his retirement he had moved into Cuckoo Lodge, shortly after building work had been undertaken there - in fact the date 1898 is on the house.  At this point he appeared in the accounts as an employee of the estate.  In the 1901 and 1911 censuses, Henry is reported as being a Private Inspector, working for the Earl of Leicester of Holkham Hall and was living in Cuckoo Lodge, Wells.  The 1911 census states the family included 13 children, all were living.  In fact he was listed in the 'Park and Demesne' section of the accounts until 1913 and was listed as 'Inspector Haylett', on an annual wage of £60.  His rent at Cuckoo Lodge was £2. 7 shillings per annum.

In the mid 1890s when Henry was Sergeant Haylett, he had been asked to keep an eye on goods awaiting transport to Holkham, that were stored on Freeman Street in Wells and to arrange for police to be on duty at an unspecified event.  After his appointment as an estate employee in 1898, he appears to have been responsible for such matters as closure of the park gates on special occasions; prosecuting poachers and cautioning men for shooting in the wrong area; serving notices to quit on cottage tenants and collecting  minor payments due to the estate.

His police background must have been useful.  On one occasion, in February 1913, when a car had run into one of the park gates at night, the agent sent a note to Henry the next morning:
         "Please go at once & see what evidence you can get from the ground & make enquiries as to what cars were in Wells last evening.  Try the Fleece as there were several there".

Fleece Inn, Wells Next the Sea

Henry lived at Cuckoo Lodge, rent free for the last few years, until 1912, when he moved to another estate house in Wells, until June 1917.  Holkham Hall found what is thought to be their last letter to him in Wells in 1924, he had continued to work for the estate until his death later that year.

On 13 June, the Holkham agent, Arthur Tower, wrote to Robert Haylett (Henry's son), in Norwich:
            " I am very sorry indeed to hear that your father has passed away and you have my sincere sympathy in your bereavement.  Your father served this estate for many years in a most satisfactory manner and we shall all feel his loss in many ways."

Cuckoo Lodge was probably built in the 1860s, for its name appears in the 1871 census for Wells.  It still stands in an isolated position just outside the south-east corner of Holkham Park.

With thanks to the Holkham Hall archive
- Copy out-letter books 1889 et seq
- Cottage Rental books 1889 et seq
- Estate Accounts A/280 1898
- Cash Book 1898-99

This photograph shows Henry's sons: Charles, William, Robert with Henry
and Robert's wife Lily, Aunt Lil, daughter Jane and her mother Elizabeth
It is most likely this was taken just after 1911

What an interesting insight into the Police and this particular family!