Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Whites In Birmingham.

The Family in Birmingham

  Let us now leave Shotteswell behind us, although we will return one more time to see the effect of the Second World War on the family there. We return to Birmingham to see how Harriet and her two sons are faring after the death of Richard. Soon after Richard's death, Harriet had moved to a pleasant terraced house in Bearwood, close to the park, and in the 1891 census she is recorded. then aged 60, as living at no. 6 Ethel Street, off Wyndham Road with John Henry, her younger son, aged 22, who was working as a groom, probably for one of the large houses in Edgbaston. Living next door, at no. 5, was her elder son, Oliver, aged 27, who was still a gardener and his wife, Mary, and their two children, Henry Albert, whose birth had been registered in Kings Norton in the fourth quarter of 1887 and Ethel Mary, then 1 year old and born in Smethwick. Mary Ann Bennett, Oliver's wife, had been born in Milton, Adderbury in Banbury in the third quarter of 1855. The place of Mary's birth is of great interest since it shows that Richard White had remained in contact with his family in the Banbury area for long enough so that his grown-up son met and married a woman from the area about 25 to 30 years after Richard White had left Shotteswell and moved to Birmingham. Indeed their wedding had been registered at Banbury in the first quarter of 1886.
  Harriet died on 6 March 1894, the death certificate recording that the cause of death was "Cirrhosis of liver some years, jaundice - 7 days, acute bronchitis - 3 days Certified by Hedley Tomlinson M.R.C.P." The death was registered by Oliver who recorded his address then as 365 Hagley Road, Edgbaston and the registration took place on 7 March 1895. Harriet had died in the Kings Norton Union Workhouse which would become known as Selly Oak Hospital and with which many of Harriet's descendants would have dealings in the future. The Workhouse had been opened in 1870 and offered hospital facilities for the poor of Kings Norton Parish; a dedicated infirmary was built there in 1897. Clearly Harriet had become too ill to be nursed at home and admission to the Workhouse for medical care was the only option open to Oliver and John. Harriet's diagnosis - that of cirrhosis - could, of course, have been attributable to chronic excessive alcohol consumption or possibly chronic liver disease following infective hepatitis some years before, but the doctor's emphasis on jaundice and Harriet's age make me wonder if she was suffering from a condition called primary biliary cirrhosis, an autoimmune condition particularly affecting women in her age group, and the mention of "acute bronchitis" suggests to me that she had suffered a rapidly developing liver failure with pneumonia proving to be the terminal event.
  Later in the census year of 1891, in the final quarter, John had married Anne Maria Langford, the marriage being registered at West Bromwich. Anne Maria had been born in Worcester, her birth being registered in the first quarter of 1867. We can trace the Langford family back to the 1841 census where Anne Maria's grandfather, John Langford (born in Ludbury in Shropshire in 1803) and his wife Maria (born in 1811 in Oswestry), are to be found living in Ludbury where John was working as a coal merchant. In 1841, the couple had one son, Thomas, then 8 years old, and they later had two more boys. George, born 1844, and William, who was born in 1846. Thomas had actually been born in Welshpool in Montgomeryshire but the two younger boys were born in Staffordshire. Thomas and William became boiler makers and George is recorded as being a "pearl button maker. Thomas moved to Birmingham and married Ann Leech who had been born in Handsworth in 1838.  In addition to Anne Maria, they had three children:- Harriet, born in West Bromwich in 1868 and twins born in Handsworth in 1875 - Thomas and Laura.

Laura and Anne Maria Langford as children.

  In the 1881 census, Anne Maria was living at 73 Finch Road in Handsworth in what was then a rather upmarket area of Birmingham to judge by the occupations of the other residents of the street (draughtsmen, managers and so on) and she was working as a "nurse girl", at the age of fourteen, for the family of Anthony Cassera, a cabinet maker. The Cassera family had a newly born daughter at the time, Gertrude. By the 1891 census Thomas Senior was widowed and was still working as a boiler maker. Harriet, Thomas and Laura were still living at home (no. 40 Brewery Street, Handsworth) with their father. Harriet was working as a dressmaker, Laura as a domestic servant and Thomas as a clerk. Thomas Senior's death was registered in West Bromwich in the second quarter of 1894. By the 1901 census, Laura was working as a house maid for Jane Parker, a 72 year old widow, who was recorded as "living on her own means" at 77 Holyhead Road in Handsworth. Mrs. Parker also employed a 70 year old cook named Elizabeth Ray. In the 1911 census, Laura was the senior servant of Mrs. Parker, then 82 years old, and was described as a "parlour maid". She was assisted by a younger woman, 28 year old Charlotte Smith, described simply as a "servant". Mrs. Parker died on 1 September 1916 leaving the main part of her estate, which totaled £3241 9s 4d, to friends and family but she bequeathed Laura a comfortable amount which meant that Laura did not have to work again.
  The birth of the first child of John Henry and Anne Maria, Elsie, was registered in the second quarter of 1892 in Birmingham and their subsequent children were:- Thomas Harold, birth registered in the third quarter of 1896 in Kings Norton, Richard, born 4 December 1897 in Smethwick, Constance Langford, birth registered in the second quarter of 1904 and Marjorie, birth registered in 1908 in Birmingham. The 1911 census reveals that the couple had had a further four children but tragically they had all died at an early age and we do not know their names. In the 1901 census the family is recorded as living in a comfortable terraced house at 84 Gladys Road in Bearwood and John was employed as a coachman at a livery stable. His brother, Oliver, was living with his family in another terraced house in the area, at 138 Milcote Road in Smethwick, close to the park and was still employed as a gardener. He and Mary had had a third child, Walter George, who was 8 years old by then. They had some interesting neighbours in Milcote Road including a police inspector, a journalist and author, two grooms and an orchestral clarinetist. 
  The 1911 census records that Oliver and Mary had then moved to 5 Anderson Road in Smethwick and they still had Ethel and Walter living with them. Ethel was a clerk typist and Walter worked as a weighing machinist. Henry, employed as a milkman, was living as a boarder at 73 Church Hill in Northfield, next to the railway bridge at Northfield Station (the house is now a hairdresser's shop) with William and Clara Pheasie and two other boarders, Leonard Harding and Charles Dudley. Meanwhile, John and Anne Maria had moved to a very quiet and pleasant street in Bearwood, Drayton Road, where they lived at no. 19 which was still to be their home when both of them died many years later. John had given up his work with horses, perhaps because automobile transport was taking over from horse-drawn vehicles, and was working as a maltster at Mitchell and Butler's Brewery, a job which involved preparing grain to produce malt as part of the process of making beer. It seems that if the Whites were not selling ale, they were busy making it! Fourteen year old Tom was employed at the brewery as a bottle labeller and Elsie was working at The Midland Rubber Works carrying out "mechanical work". Richard, age 13, and still at school is also recorded as a "news boy", no doubt making his own contribution to the family finances and Constance, then aged 6, had started her education at George Street West School. Constance was disabled with a palsied left arm as well as being educationally subnormal (these problems sound as though they occurred as the result of birth trauma) and the school provided special education for children in her situation.

No. 19 Drayton Road, Bearwood in 2011 (the Whites did not have a satellite dish).

  The family of George Henry White

  John Henry's uncle, George Henry White, may well have accompanied, or followed shortly after, his older brother Richard and his wife, Harrieta, to Birmingham since he features in the 1861 census probably as the George White, born in Banbury and of the correct age, who was living in Ladywood as his brother and sister-in-law were doing. In 1870, he married Jane Peplow, born in 1839 in West Bromwich, in the second quarter of 1870 in her home town. The 1871 census finds them living in back-to-back housing at no. 6, 2 Court in Sherborne Street in Ladywood. George's occupation is described as "daily labourer" and living with the couple are their sons, Samuel, whose age is recorded as 5 years and Thomas, age 3, both of whom appearing to have been born illegitimately, and 5 month old William Henry. The birth place of all the children is recorded as Birmingham. Subsequently, the couple had three more children who are recorded in the 1881 census:- Elizabeth, then aged 7, Joseph, aged 4 and John, aged 14 months. They continue to live at the same address in Sherborne Street and, as well as their six children, they also have three boarders living with them:- John Dolphin, aged 29, a bedstead maker, and his wife, Amelia, aged 31 and their 2 month old child, Francis. George's occupation in that census is recorded as a "hawker". Jane died in the final quarter of 1898 and in the 1901 census George is to be found recorded as a "retired grocer", living with his son, William, then aged 30 who appears to have taken over the family business and is employed as a "grocer and shopkeeper". 
  In the final quarter of 1896 William had married Rosina Elizabeth King, who had born in Birmingham in the first quarter of 1877, who appears to have had an illegitimate child, George William, probably born in the first quarter of 1896. The fact that the child was given both William's own as well his father's Christian names suggests that William believed young George to be his child and the boy is recorded in the 1901 census as "George White", "son" of William White. However, in the 1911 census, George, then aged 15, is recorded as "George King", stepson of William White, and the form also records that Rosina had had four live-born children but that all 4 had died. The form, which had been completed by William himself, clearly ignored that George was still a living offspring and chose to identify the four  children of the marriage - that is - his own children, as being of relevance to the census and to exclude young George from the officially recognised family circle. Clearly between the 1901 and 1911 censuses an event had occurred which made William doubt his paternity as regards young George and he had become harshly determined not to identify the boy as his own son. Thus William himself had no living children from the marriage.
  Old George Henry White died in the third quarter of 1905 in Birmingham. In the 1911 census, William was described as a "hawker of greengrocery" while Rosina was working from home as a "sweet shopkeeper". William' s brother, Samuel, is to be found in the 1901 census, then aged 35 and working as a brass founder, still living at Sherborne Road, at the same address as the Dolphins, then numbering nine individuals and, boarding with them, a further eight individuals including William H. Durious, a 28 year old carpenter born in Birmingham, and his wife Elizabeth, who was in fact George Henry's daughter. At that time, they had two daughters, Elizabeth, aged 5, and Ada, age 1. They later had two other children:- Harry (1906 - 1985) and Elsie (born 1908). We must also note that included in the Dolphin household then was George White, nephew, aged 16, a tube drawer born in Birmingham. The Dolphin family came from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire and there was also a family of Whites living there at the time but there appears to be no connection between the Whites of Bromsgrove and our own family and so the fact that the Dolphins boarded at the home of George Henry and also had relatives called White would appear to be pure coincidence.

  Richard White Goes To War

  Great Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914. A wave of patriotic fervour swept over England and very soon, young men along the length of the country were volunteering to fight against the Germans. Richard White, the son of John Henry and Anne Maria White, volunteered to join the army with a group of his friends, although his falsified his age, pretending he was older than he was, to do so. When young he seems to have always been somewhat headstrong and bold, it appears that when he was a young boy moving up to a senior school he decided that George Dixon School was the best place for him to go but he was placed at another school, so he went to George Dixon School and presented himself to the authorities and convinced them to admit him to the school of his choice - an impressive piece of persuasion from an 11 year old.
  Richard (we shall call him Dick, as that was the name that he preferred to be known by and usually was) was sent to France in early 1915, at the age of 17, and first served there on 1 April 1915 with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His regimental number was 1518 and he, of course, initially served at the rank of private. The Royal Warwickshire Regiment was involved in the Second Battle of Ypres which began with the engagement at Gravenstafel on 22 April 1915 and it was there that the Germans first used gas as a weapon of war against the Allied forces. I certainly remember as a boy, my grandfather mentioning Ypres although he did not talk about his war experiences to any great extent. Rather, he would enjoy singing me songs from the period - I particularly recall "Madamoiselle D'Armentieres, Parlez vous?...." (it sounds as though it should have been rather risque and probably was when sung by the troops!). Other battles followed and he was in France, in the front  line for much of it, until he was discharged on 26 November 1917 due to injuries caused by severe frost bite which affected his feet after exposure to the cold while in the trenches. He had served about two and half years of active service although, following his injuries he had been transferred to The Labour Corps where his Regimental number was 287181 and this body provided labour to support the combat troops often under fire. Such work would include transport duties, grave digging, depot work, trench building and so on.

Dick White in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment uniform, 1915.

  While Dick was in France, so my grandmother told me, through an act of bravery, he saved the life of one of his comrades but the credit for this act was claimed by a superior officer and Dick received no official recognition which went to the officer. However, he was awarded the following medals after the war was over:- the 1914/15 Star, awarded to those individuals who saw service in France and Flanders from 23 November 1914 to 31 December 1915, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and The Silver War Badge which bore the legend "For King and Empire - Services Rendered" surrounding the cypher of King George V, which was awarded to all those military personnel who were discharged as a result of sickness or wounds contracted or received during the war. Also. during the course of his service he had achieved promotion to the rank of corporal. 

A leaner and older Dick White from later in the war.

No comments:

Post a Comment