William Hopkins 1832 – 1891

I have been giving some thought to how I want to structure this blog, and I’ve decided for the moment to feature various ancestors – tell their stories – in individual posts.  I have a family tree on Ancestry so if you are reading this and think we have a common ancestor, do leave a comment and let me know.

William Hopkins was one of my maternal great great grandfathers.  He was born on 5 September 1832 in Shelton, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire and baptised on 06 Jan 1833 in Bethesda Chapel, Albion Street, Shelton (now part of Hanley).  Bethesda Chapel, according to www.thepotteries.org “became the central place of worship of the Methodist New Connexion. The chapel was rebuilt in 1820 to seat 3,000 people and became known as "The Cathedral of the Potteries," a name it has kept to this day.   William’s brothers, however, seem to have been baptised in the local parish churches (Hanley and Stoke) so obviously his parents, Charles and Mary (nee Astbury), were not regular worshippers there.

William must have had a sad childhood.  His father, Charles, died suddenly in 1840 aged only about 30.  So suddenly that the Coroner described it as a Visitation of God.  He was a potter’s ovenman, which meant that he loaded the pottery kilns with the pottery for firing (in large containers called saggars) and emptied them again afterwards.  He had three brothers that we know about, including one who died before he was born; his brother George appears in the 1841 census but died in 1845 aged 10.  His remaining brother, Ephraim, was with him in the 1851 census but we haven’t been able to find any trace of him since.  

In the 1841 census, William is aged 9 living in Back Street, Shelton with his mother and brothers George and Ephraim, his father’s brothers Isaac Hopkins recorded as aged 20, an ironstone miner and Thomas Hopkins aged 20, a pottery slipmaker, plus two lodgers, Henry Halfpenny and Samuel Holland both recorded as aged 20.  In 1843 his mother married the lodger Henry Halfpenny and they had a daughter, Mary Ann, but Mary herself died in 1847.  

In 1851 we find William, aged 19, now a potter’s ovenman himself, and his brother Ephraim, aged 13, who is a potter’s mouldrunner.  According to the potteries website, this consisted of running in all weathers from one building to another and placing the newly made ware in rows near a stove for hardening.   They are lodging with their mother’s sister Jane Tinsley, her husband William and their 4 children, Thomas, William, Joseph and Harriet, in Tinker’s Clough, an area of Shelton near Etruria, where the Wedgwood factory was located at that time.

On 28 December 1857, William married Hannah Barlow in St Mark’s, Shelton.  Their witnesses were Josiah Barlow, Hannah’s sister, and Jane Matthews, William’s paternal aunt.  Hannah also came from a family of potters, though she grew up in Fenton, one of the other six towns of the Potteries.  She herself was listed as a potter’s stilt maker in the 1861 census (stilt makers die pressed tall supports for ware after dipping).  In 1858, on the birth of their son Charles, they were still living in Hanley but by the time their daughter Martha Ellen was born in 1860, they had moved to Fenton.  In the 1861 census they were living at 5 High Street, Fenton (north side).  William was listed as aged 27 and a potter’s biscuit oven placer (biscuit is pottery on its first firing, before glazing). 

If you want to know more about the process of firing and the potteries in general, this page is very informative.

However, William and Hannah did not remain in the pottery industry.  In the next decade, their lives changed drastically….

To be continued.

Spitalfields Life Blog

I must make it a New Year’s resolution to get this blog underway properly. In the meantime, I recommend that you check out Spitalfields Life blog, especially if you have ancestors from London. It is a brilliant read every day, featuring very poignant portraits of local characters of the Spitalfields area of London.

The writer introduces his blog in the following terms:

Over the coming days, weeks, months and years, I am going to write every single day and tell you about my life here in Spitalfields at the heart of London. How can I ever describe the exuberant richness and multiplicity of culture in this place to you? This is both my task and my delight.

and fulfils it admirably. It is of particular interest to genealogists as some days he talks about crimes committed in the past, bringing the history of the area to life very vividly with anecdotes and old photographs. It is a blog definitely worth following every day. I haven’t got many London ancestors but I lived there for about 6 years in the 1980s and I love it.

A few angels

I posted this on my textile art blog, but thought I would post it here too as it might prove useful to someone looking for their relatives in Newport, Monmouthshire, UK.  If your relative is one of them, post a comment or email me and I’ll send you the full size photo.  If you happen to know that one of your ancestors are buried in this cemetery, providing you know roughly where it is, I would be happy to go and photograph it for you.

On the way to Belle Vue Park, I walked through St Woollos Cemetery, which has some gorgeous Victorian angels on tombstones.  I decided to take photos of a few of them with a view to using them as inspiration.  And, of course, being a family historian, I have to post photos of the memorial inscriptions too, in case someone should be searching for their long lost ancestor and happen to google their name.

angel in St Woollos cemetery, Newport in

I do love some of the sweet, pensive expressions on their faces.  I forgot to take a photo of this one’s inscription.

Victorian angel

memorial inscription, St Woollos Cemetery, Newport, Monmouthshire, UK

This one says ‘In loving memory of Jacob, the beloved husband of Jane BUTLIN who departed this life at Pontnewydd, Mon, July 20th 1913 aged 57 years.’

angel on tombstone

This one says ‘In loving memory of John Davies, Amusement Caterer, who died March 30th 1915, aged 30 years ‘while yet in love with life and raptured with the world: he passed to silence and pathetic dust’’.

angel with cross

memorial inscription

This is ‘In loving remembrance of Henry C Clark, of ‘Royston’, Bassaleg Road, Newport, late of Hughesofka, South Russia, who departed this life May 9th 1910 aged 73 years, also of Maria, wife of the above, died July 2nd 1915 aged 81 years. 

angel relief

This one below isn’t Newport: it is an angel on the wall of the new Coventry Cathedral.  Last week my eldest son started as a student at Warwick University and we spent time in Coventry in the afternoon.

angel on side of Coventry Cathedral

Using Twitter for Genealogy

I follow a few family history twitterers, and today one of them alerted me to a great post by Shauna Hicks, a genealogist blogging in Australia – Using Twitter for Genealogy. So now I follow several more! I’m glad of the link, because Shauna’s other blog posts are well worth reading so I’ve subscribed to her blog in Google Reader.

Up to now, I have mostly followed quilters and artists on Twitter so I’ve organised my followers into what Twitter calls Lists and now use a web based site called Seismic to read them. I was using a Firefox addon called Echofon (which used to be Twitterfox) but that doesn’t seem to allow you to read tweets from individual lists (unless I’ve missed something here).

Hello and welcome….

… to my new genealogy blog.  I decided to use this as a way to connect with other people researching the same ancestors as myself.

I am fairly new to family history but my family tree isn’t.  My aunt started researching our family tree back in the 60s or 70s, and my parents and brother have continued; I only got bitten by the family detective bug a couple of years ago but am making up for it with enthusiasm!

I live in South Wales, but nearly all my ancestors lived in Staffordshire, the West Midlands or Cheshire, with a few cousins moving to Yorkshire or Lancashire or even to the US or Australia.  But most of my focus is on the Midlands of the UK.

I’m not quite sure at present which direction this blog will take but I hope it will find an interested audience in the blogoshere!