It is at this point, between 1861 and 1871, that we enter the realm of speculation and family stories…
The family story is that William went to America to build a better life for himself and his family (the pottery industry being in a slump at this time), but came back because he missed the children. In the meantime, in order to make ends meet, Hannah started a greengrocers business from their front room.
I haven’t been able to find any concrete evidence for William’s trip to America, although there are several William Hopkins in passenger records of around the right age. None are listed as potters though. If it happened, it must be sometime between 1861 and 1871 because by the 1871 census, they are living at 35 High Street, Fenton, and Hannah is listed as a greengrocer. The column for occupation is blank by William’s name, although in subsequent censuses it is he who is listed as greengrocer. However, there is a line running from William’s name to ‘greengrocer’ as if the enumerator realised he had made a mistake and was correcting it.
If he did go, it must have been a fairly short visit because William and Hannah had children regularly every 2 years during that period – Elizabeth in 1863, Hannah in 1865, William in 1867, Mary Matilda in 1869 and my great grandfather, Ephraim Edward in 1871. I suppose I could narrow down the dates at least to pin down the change of occupation by sending for all the birth certificates but at nearly £10 each it is a bit of a pricey operation! I did wonder whether, if the America story is true, William’s brother Ephraim went there earlier and he went to look for him or visit him. Maybe one day we will find out the truth. He is not listed as a fruiterer/greengrocer in the 1868 Post Office Directory for Staffordshire, although his cousin Charles is listed as a shopkeeper in Well Street, Hanley.
Anyway, the end result was a change of career and a very successful one at that. William and Hannah had 12 children in total, of whom 2 died in childhood, plus several greengrocers shops in Stoke. Most of their children ended up running shops of their own or marrying traders of other descriptions.
In the 1881 census they are still at 35 High Street, Fenton; William is 48, a greengrocer. In Kelly’s Directory he is listed in 1876 and 1884 as trading at 35 High Street and also 221/223 High Street west, Fenton. In 1889 he is described as a potato dealer on his daughter Hannah’s marriage certificate. In 1891 they are at 60 Market Street and William is aged 58, fruiterer/greengrocer.
Their son Charles John was running a greengrocers shop at 7 London Road, Stoke in 1901. Their daughter Martha Ellen married Samuel Willding in 1889 and in 1891 they were running a greengrocers in Howard Place, Shelton. By 1911 Samuel is listed as a fruiterer, book dealer and general dealer! In 1884 their daughter Elizabeth married Thomas Moseley, a butcher in Fenton, then Hanley then Smallthorne. Their daughter Hannah married John Broad, a farmer from Cheshire. Their son William became a greengrocer in Liverpool Road, Stoke. Their daughter Mary Matilda helped in the family business and then married Edward Parsons, and in 1911 they were running the Old Eagle Inn in Whitchurch, Shropshire. My great grandfather Ephraim married Minnie Simpson and they ran a greengrocers in High Street, Fenton. Their daughter Asenath married John Thomas Davies in 1901 and they ran a shop in Stoke. Their daughter Matilda Rose married Samuel Higgins, a coal dealer. And their youngest son George Henry was a fruit dealer in Shelton in 1901, married to Selina Hargreaves, but in 1906 got a ship to New Zealand without her, married someone else and settled in Australia…
William died on 13 December 1891, aged 59. He left £227 5sh and 2d plus several properties to his wife Hannah provided she did not remarry. Hannah lived to be 83 and died in 1923, leaving £2,560.