James Eyles Keating and Jane Slater were my great-great grandparents. Born and brought up in Woolwich, both were the children of long-serving gunners in the Royal Artillery. James worked as a tailor or tailor’s cutter; Jane as a seamstress or dressmaker. Their stories are told in this PDF.
Roger and John were father and son. Both served for decades in the Royal Artillery. Roger is my great-great-great-grandfather (which is a lot of greats), and John is my great-great-great-grandfather. Their life stories are told in this PDF.[Top]
Here is a write up of the life stories of Benjamin Grassby and Mary Ann Taffs as far as I have been able to research them. Benjamin and Mary Ann (sometimes Marianne were my great-great-grandparents. Their story is told in this PDF.[Top]
Friend Knight and Mary Manser were two of my great-great-grandparents. Both spent almost their entire lives in Tonbridge, Kent, rising through their own efforts and the incoming tide of late Victorian prosperity from poor childhoods to some level of respectability.
Their story is told in this PDF, and more briefly below…
Friend was born in 1833, and grew up in one of the slum cottages along the High Street that in 1849 saw an outbreak of cholera. It may have been this that killed his father, Edward Knight, a labourer, that year.
The 1851 census shows his mother to be a ‘pauper’, and Friend working as an agricultural labourer. A public health inquiry into sanitary conditions in the town said of the area: ‘The dirtiest, idlest, and therefore the poorest, part of the population are located here.’ It says the sewerage arrangements had until recently consisted of an open drain, but that this had now been closed over – though it was only washed out by slops from the cottages. The opening into the river was in a ‘stagnant, filthy state’, with the obligatory dead dogs floating in it. From this stretch of river came water for washing and food preparation.
Friend and Mary, also from Tonbridge and a year younger, married in April 1859 and their first son, Edward, was born that August. Baptisms, weddings and funerals were all held at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul just off the high street. There were to be seven more children, of whom Ethel Amy, born 1877, was the youngest.
By 1861 Friend had risen a little in the world, and was working as a painter (decorator) and grainer. The family had moved from the High Street, though the house is no longer standing. It may have been one of the ‘wooden houses’ bulldozed as unfit for human habitation in the 1950s (though a hundred years earlier it was probably considerably better than Friend’s childhood home).
They would move again in 1885 to St Stephen’s Street. By this time Friend was advertising his services every week in the Tonbridge Free Press as a painter, glazier and plumber (and the 1891 census shows him to be an employer). There is a picture below of 9 St Stephen’s Street where they lived. He also owned number 7, next door, and let it to his son. It must have been quite a squeeze for the younger Knight, his wife and eleven children, including two sets of twins. The pub at number 11 was then called the Gardeners Arms. Number 9 was Ethel’s childhood home, and she would live there until she married Algernon Grassby and moved to Dorchester in 1902.
As Friend became established in his trade he took on other responsibilities, serving for 38 years from 1865 to 1903 as secretary of the Ancient Order of Foresters; this was a friendly society providing important sickness, unemployment and burial payments to its members. It also organised social events, including trips to Eastbourne for members’ families, and in 1887 joined forces with other friendly societies in the town to stage a fete to mark Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee. The society met fortnightly at the Red Lion Hotel at the top of the High Street, and was much given to Masonic-style robes, regalia and ceremonials, marching behind their lodge banners on key dates in the calendar.
Friend was also a founder member of the Tonbridge Working Men’s Liberal Association. In buying the two properties in St Stephen’s Street in 1885, Friend (though not Mary) gained the right to vote in parliamentary elections, and his name appears on electoral registers from that date.
Friend died in 1909; Mary two years later in 1911. After her death, the two houses were sold as a single lot for £325.[Top]
Way back in late 1981, when I was first working as a junior reporter on the Eastern Daily Press, Fenner Brockway came to Norwich to speak at an anti-nuclear meeting in (I think) the Theatre Royal.
Norwich has a fine radical tradition and at this stage had been a Labour stronghold for many years. But it was something of a left-wing island in the Tory sea of Norfolk – and the sympathies of the EDP and its senior staff were rural and conservative. (more…)[Top]
I am most decidedly not an academic or professional historian. I shy away from describing myself as a historian at all – preferring to think of myself as a writer with an interest in certain aspects of history.
But I have always enjoyed support and encouragement from real historians and have learned a lot from them. Chartist Ancestors would not be what it is without their generous help.
So many thanks to Digital Victorians (@DigiVics) and Helen Rogers (@HelenRogers19c) for this on Twitter…[Top]
Here’s a new blog post on Henry William Street. As a young man, he took part in the Chartist “monster meeting” on Kennington Common on 10 April 1848 which was to have preceded a march on Parliament to present the third great petition calling for the Charter to be implemented.
The post originated with an email from Henry’s great granddaughter Jennie Street, who learned of the site when she met doctoral student and Chartist enthusiast Vic Jane Clarke…
Last week I stayed in an airbnb whose owner knew her of Chartist ancestors! Here they are: https://t.co/GXF5kepuw2
— Vic Jane Clarke (@vjc_torianist) January 12, 2017
Jennie was kind enough to share her family records and photograph with me and to allow me to share them with the wider world.[Top]