29 April 2009

Chatteris born

So . . two birthday boys today: firstly William Henry Wing, my first cousin twice removed, was born today in 1872 in the small Cambridgeshire town of Chatteris, the son of William & Emma (nee Bigley).  In the 1881 census the family was in the North Witchford Union workhouse in Doddington, all marked "pauper".  Clearly, though, they were able to work their way out because by 1891 they're in Nottingham, albeit without the head of the family - Emma is listed as a widow and is working as a deputy lodging house keeper.  William jnr, the sixth of nine children, is employed in the local trade and gives his occupation as lace worker.  And I know no more about him but will go back to the family as and when I have the opportunity.

And then there's the other birthday boy - John Hatch Bent, also born in Chatteris, this time in 1806.  The son of John & Martha, I know only that he was christened two months later.  

Apart from a general lack of information, the major puzzle here is his mother's maiden name.  She was my great-great-great-grandmother - went on to marry Benjamin Langford and begat the dynasty.

But she remains an obstinate brick wall.  

One day . . . . 

More soon.

27 April 2009


Yesterday, whilst I was off enjoying myself in the great metropolis, I missed the 127th wedding anniversary of Henry Orpwood and Ann Webb. The latter was my g-g-aunt and she & Henry tied the knot at the Parish church in Landbeach in 1882.

Henry had been brought up in a pub (the Prince of Wales in Histon Road, Chesterton) but sought gainful employment away from the licenced trade by becoming a prison warder. Although he spend a fair amount of time in Cambridge, he also seems to have been transferred to a prison near Shepton Mallet (1901 census) and his entry in the 1911 census lists him as a "pensioner from HM Prison Leeds". I hope that didn't mean he changed sides . . . . !! By this time, the family had returned to Chesterton, living in Victoria Road, just round the corner from Henry's childhood home.

Ann was housekeeper in the Victoria Tavern, Chesterton in 1881 so there's no real mystery about how he and Henry met, I guess. They produced four children: Ethel, Percival, Albert and Rose, and three survived to adulthood. By 1911 only Rose is still living with her parents, the other two (Ethel & Albert) were living in the village of Burwell with their uncle George Webb.

The two daughters both married in 1912 - Ethel to Herbert Long and Rose to Owen Brown - and Albert married two years later to Janet Gealy.

That's about all I know about them - not a bad bit of info really. Henry was buried in Histon Road Cemetery (after his death, obviously) in 1945. Ann died in 1916 but I don't know where she's buried.

More soon.

23 April 2009

It's 23rd April . .

So, today I thought I'd bring out George. I found 176 Georges in my database and somehow I doubt that any of them was a saint. I have Georges of many occupations, from railway engine driver to ag lab but I've selected just two for the blog treatment.

Firstly, meet George Barnett Culpin, my second cousin three times removed. He was born on 11 November 1898 in West Ham, the son of Henry & Alice (nee Ball) and grew up in the same area. I say "grew up" but, alas, the Great War intervened and George joined the Royal Navy. On 31 May 1916, he was on HMS Defence at the Battle of Jutland; sadly, Defence went down at 6.15 in the evening with all hands.

Boy Telegraphist George Culpin was just 17 years old. He is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

And then there's my second George of the day - George William Newell, born 14 August 1866, in Godmanchester, to William & Elizabeth (nee Pratt). By 1881, he was living in Gwydir Street in Cambridge and any local readers will probably be able to guess at the head of the family's occupation . . . yep, he worked on the railways.

In 1889 George married my great-great-aunt Florence Webb and she settled into the life of a Station Master's wife. They were in Great Chesterford, Essex, in 1901 and Histon, Cambs, in 1911. Florence died in 1913 in St Ives and I think George stayed in the small town. He died in the County Hospital, Huntingdon, on 28 April 1942 and was buried in St Ives six days later.

However, the manner of his death caused a "Death Riddle for Coroner" according to the Hunts Post, who headed the article "Accident - or Natural Causes?".

"What connection – if any – there was between a fall sustained by a retired St Ives stationmaster when walking along the railway line on March 29th and his death in Huntingdon County Hospital a month later from a form of diabetes, provided a problem for the County Coroner (Mr Lionel Abraham), when he held an inquest at the hospital on Saturday.

The inquiry concerned the death of Mr George William Newell, aged 75, who lodged with Mrs Gates, at 6 The Wilderness, St Ives, and who was formerly station master at St Ives. Detective Sergeant C. M. Gibbs of the L and N.E.R. police, was present and Sergeant A Gilbert was coroner's officer.

Mrs Gertrude Louisa Gates told the coroner that Mr Newell had lodged with her for 19 years, and was a widower. He retired from the position of station master about 10 years ago. When he first came to witness' house he was in very good health, but for some time he had suffered from fainting fits, both indoors and out. Recently these had become more frequent - about once a month - and Dr Grove had twice brought him home after he had collapsed in the street. He was not, however, consulting a doctor about these attacks.

On Sunday, March 29th, witness went on, he went out for his usual walk after lunch. He always walked along the railway line to the viaduct, in the direction of Swavesey. About 4.30 one of the porters came to witness’ home and said Mr Newell was ill on the line. Witness went to the spot and found deceased standing on the viaduct.

He was on the railway track, and when witness asked what had happened, he pointed to a gap between the rails and an iron girder, and said "I fell through that". There was room for a man to fall through, said witness, and she believed that deceased had done so. The distance to the ground was about 10 ft., and deceased was bleeding from cuts on his head.

He was able to walk home - the distance of about a mile - however, with assistance from witness.

In reply to the coroner, witness could not suggest how deceased got back onto the line if he had actually fallen through the hole. She said that a train driver had seen him, and reported the matter to a signal box which phoned back to St Ives station.

Dr N. Schwarts, house surgeon at the County Hospital, said deceased had no cuts on his head when admitted, but several large bruises. His left knee was much swollen and was x-rayed for a possible fracture. He was concussed, but had no bone injuries.

Symptoms of diabetes developed, added witness, and he was given insulin, although he had no history of diabetes. Gangrene also set in and death resulted from diabetic gangrene and hardening of the arteries. Witness thought the injuries Mr Newell received in the accident would have no bearing on his death, except that as a result of them he was compelled to stay in bed and gangrene set in.

The coroner said he was rather sceptical as to whether deceased actually fell through the gap on the viaduct, but whatever happened he may have had a nasty fall. It was not very easy for anyone to walk along a railway line, and it was no wonder, with an old gentleman suffering from attacks of giddiness, that something happened. He was satisfied that no one was responsible but deceased and there was no suggestion that had thrown himself in front of a train or anything like that."

"I find a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence" said the coroner. "This man died from arterial sclerosis and diabetic gangrene, and he would not have developed the gangrene if he had not had to stay in bed. I had to hold an inquest to satisfy myself that the accident really was an accident. Deceased died from natural causes, the accident having contributed to some extent to the gangrene.”

It's the final bit of the newspaper report which makes today's entry a bit of a triple-whammy . . . . . . .

"Mr Newell was a native of Godmanchester. He was a popular station master and will be remembered by many people for his striking resemblance to King George V. He retired 12 years ago."

Happy St George's Day!!

More soon . . .

22 April 2009

Nothing in particular . . .

Just to say that I've been away - and now I'm back.

I'll try to put an entry up tomorrow.

12 April 2009

Distant relative

Today I have a choice between two: Charles Freeman (2nd cousin 5 times removed) was born today in 1836 in Tuddenham St Mary, the son of George & Martha (nee Hobbs). With all due respect to him, he didn't exactly set the world on fire - he was an ag lab who lived, worked and died in the village of his birth.

The other anniversary today is the one I was going to pass by for lack of information; but then I checked the relationship calculator and changed my mind. How often do you get a 1st cousin 10 times removed? My attention duly attracted, I did a bit of research with my trusty Stretham parish registers cd.

Anne Langford, said 1st cos 10x removed, married Thomas Johnson today in 1640 at St James' church in Stretham and they duly begat a son, Nicholas. Of course, being in the old calendar, not only does it look as though Nicholas appeared before his parents' wedding, it also looks as though he was christened before he was born!

And then it's quite sad - I was looking forward to a few more children of Thomas & Ann but it seems as though one was more than enough as, two days after Nicholas's christening, his mother was buried at the very same church.

More soon.

11 April 2009

Hunt the Teapot

George Staden, my great-great-grandfather, was born this morning at 3am. In 1843. The fourth son of John and Salomey (nee Ongley) he came into the world at 7 Tay Fen Road, Bury St Edmunds and, for a while I thought he was a twin (because the time was specified on his birth certificate) but I've never found any proof.

By 1861 he was a telegraph clerk in March (the small market town in Cambridgeshire) where he probably met his future wife. He married Sarah Carter at the Lion Baptist Chapel in Whittlesey on 12th August 1867 and they next appear in St Ives for the birth of their first child two years later. In all they begat four children before Sarah's death from TB in 1873.

Sooooo . . . . with four young children to care for, what's a man to do but to marry his late wife's sister. Such a union was frowned upon by Canon Law at the time so George and Fanny nipped down to Islington to tie the knot. They had one daughter, also Fanny.

George remained in St Ives, with his family, until his death in 1928 and his Will sent me into the "Hunt the Teapot" mode of the title. He specifically bequeaths "my silver teapot" to his wife for her lifetime and then to daughter Fanny.

Fanny junior, in her will of 1948, then passes "all articles of sentimental value belonging to my father and mother" to her brother John, so I guess that's where I must look next!

More soon.

10 April 2009


So, three birthdays and a wedding today. First up is William Sparkes (second cousin five times removed), born today in Tuddenham St Mary in 1821. The son of John & Mary (nee Freeman) he became an engineer (of what, I don't know) and married Eliza Sexton in 1850. They had seven children and William married again to Mary Ann Marrow in 1868; I assume that Eliza died but I haven't proved that to my satisfaction yet! William died, in Tuddenham, in 1877.

Next up, we have a buy-one-get-one-free offer - twins Nina Alexandra and Victor Albert Alexander Watts, born in Cambridge in 1902 and christened at St Barnabas, my computer tells me that they are my 3rd cousins twice removed. And that's all I know about them.

And now to the main event: the wedding today in 1842 of my great-great-great-grandparents. Richard Fordham and Naomi Bullard tied the knot at St James', Hemingford Grey; he was "of this parish" (Hemingford Grey born & bred), she came from across the fen in Earith and they went on to begat three daughters and a son before Richard's early death at the age of just 31. Alas, I then lose track of Naomi - I can find nothing about her after the 1851 census, no matter which name I search on. She just disappears. Her two surviving children are still around - Naomi, who went on to marry Millice Campbell Culpin, was in St Ives as a housemaid in 1861 and James was still in the village as "nephew" to a family whose name I can't find anywhere in my records! He married, eventually came to the great metropolis of Cambridge and joined the staff of Queens' College (punctuation correct - it's named after two Queens!)

More soon.

9 April 2009

Relative accounting

I thought I'd start today with some numbers:- my 2nd cousin 4 times removed would have been married for 160 years today. She and her husband had 10 children, 33 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren (that I know of).

France Wolf, for t'is she, married John Watson today in Girton, near Cambridge, in 1849. They stayed in the village for all their married life and Frances died in 1900. Of their ten children, one moved to Cambridge, one to Histon and one to Grantchester (of Rupert Brooke fame). A fair number of the various descendants worked on the land and some worked for Chivers (Jam/Marmalade) in the orchards or factories. As far as I can tell, only one of the men fell during the Great War.

I could be really, really boring and find some more facts and figures about this family . . . but I won't.

I could also add that the only other marriage in the diary today is that of Robert Langford and Jane Hazell, 377 years ago, in Stretham; but I know very little more about them.

I'll try to find something good for tomorrow!

7 April 2009

A Slight Obsession . . .

So I'm taking you back to the village of Stretham, in Cambridgeshire, the home of so many of my maternal ancestors, for the birth of Joe Stubbins on 5th April 1890. Now this chap is not directly related to me, being the son of my great-uncle's wife, but I kept finding stuff about him and, well, you know how it is - you just get hooked.

Joseph William Stubbins, to give him his correct name, son of Sarah Kate, was christened on 4 May 1890 at St James' Church in the village. In the 1891 census he and his mother were living, with her parents, at The Crown Inn in Reads Street. By 1901, his mother had married Edward Reeve but they all remained at The Crown. Similarly, there they all are in the 1911 census, by which time Joseph was a 20 year old blacksmith. So far, so very ordinary.

On 6th April 1911, four days after the census, he sailed on the "Tunisian" from Liverpool, destination Halifax, Nova Scotia.

When the Great War broke out he joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force, naming Uncle Bill as his next of kin. On 26th May 1916 the Ely Standard (newspaper) carried the following article:-

Wounded soldier
The mother of Pte JW Stubbins, 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles, has received the news from the front that her son has been wounded in the left eye. The following letter has been received from the Chaplain:- Dear Mrs Langford. Your son JW Stubbins is in hospital and is getting on splendidly. He is quite well except for one eye, which was injured by a splinter from a rifle grenade. He cannot write himself, as both eyes have to be bandaged to prevent strain. There is no cause for anxiety except for his eye. The specialist cannot yet know whether the sight is injured permanently or not. Yours faithfully RW Ridgeway, Chaplain.

Just one week later, there was another story to catch my attention:-

Wounded in action
Pte JW Stubbins, Canadian Mounted Rifles, who was reported wounded last week, has had his left eye removed as a result of the wound received in action.

One must assume that he was then invalided out. He married Elsie Kilminster in 1917 in London and I leave the next bit of the story to the late Beatrice Stevens in her book "Stretham - A Feast of Memories"

Joseph Stubbins was a tall, dignified man who had emigrated from our village to Canada until patriotism brought him back to fight in the First World War. He and his London-born wife intended to return to Canada at the end of the war, but family illness intervened and they settled in our little village. They called their house "Canuck". Joe Stubbins' workshop was attached to the house in Back Street, but he didn't make cobbling a life-time job, but became a fruit-famer and agent.

I don't know for certain but I believe that he lived until the 1970s. Hopefully this has given you some idea why I had to find out more . . . !

4 April 2009

Two birthday boys

So, two birthday boys today: Isaac Moore, born in 1807 in Aldwinckle (honest) in Northamptonshire, who married Mary Culpin in the village in 1827. Up to until about three hours ago that was all I knew, other than the year he died; now, after a bit of a furkle about on t'internet, I have found that they had nine children and stayed in the village for the rest of their lives. More about them all another time, I'll be bound.

And our second birthday boy is another link to the Culpin family. Albert, aka Dick, was born today in 1875 in St Ives. He broke from family tradition - being the fourth son, there were probably few opportunities for more blacksmiths - and became a grocer/provision merchant in the town.

The best way to do credit to him is to quote from the Hunts Post of 14 February 1946:-


Death of Mr "Dick" Culpin

Prominent St Ives grocer and former Town Councillor, Mr Albert "Dick" Culpin, 4 East St, passed away on Wednesday after a prolonged illness at the age of 70.

A native of St Ives and fourth son of the late Mr E [sic] Culpin, blacksmith of the Quadrant, he did not follow his father's business but was apprenticed to the grocery trade with the late Mr J Johnson. Later he started to trade on his own account and successfully conducted the business for the past 40 years.

At the request of many townspeople, Mr Culpin offered himself as a Ratepayers' Association Candidate for the Town Council Election of 1933, when controversy raged over the purchase of "Stanley House" as a town hall. He was elected and did invaluable work as Chairman of the Park Committee amongst other duties. On medical advice however, he did not contest the 1938 election.

Mr Culpin was the Hon. Sec. for the Addenbrooke's Hospital Scheme at St Ives for several years and as a younger man was in the forefront of any effort for the Hunts and Cambridge Hospitals. Many will remember the popular "6d Pops" which the late Mr Dick Turner ran when Mayor and in which Mr Culpin took such a big lead. He was a prominent Odd Fellow and a former trustee of the St Ives Lodge.

He was married to Miss Florence Measures at St Ives Parish Church in 1898, and is survived by his widow and three daughters. As a churchman, few worked harder than he for the Restoration of the church after one of our own aeroplanes crashed into the steeple in 1918, a disaster which meant the raising of some thousands of pounds in addition to the Government grant. During the 1914-18 war he served with the L.D.V. and as far as health would permit did service during the World War II as a member of the Observer Corps.

He loved all forms of sport, especially football. He was a Town Club player as a young man.

There was also a photo but it's a very bad reproduction so I'll resist the temptation to put it up.

More tomorrow, methinks.

1 April 2009

No fools here

A very brief entry today before I go and watch the football!

The only birthday I can give you is Ann Wiltshire, born in 1815 in Ramsey, Huntingdonshire, to John & Jane . . . and the only other info I have on her is when she was christened. There's another whole area to research!

Oh, and the banns were read today in 1923 for Beatrice Staden and Charles Brignell at St Barnabas in Cambridge.

And it's my godson's 21st birthday today . . .

That's it.

More soon.