Three Kings Came Riding From Far Away #Epiphany

Three Kings came riding from far away,
Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large and clear,
That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
Through the dusk of the night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast,
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
With the people they met at some wayside well.

"Of the child that is born," said Baltasar,
"Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
To find and worship the King of the Jews."

And the people answered, "You ask in vain;
We know of no King but Herod the Great!"
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
Like riders in haste, who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, "Go down unto Bethlehem,
And bring me tidings of this new king."

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
The only one in the grey of morn;
Yes, it stopped --it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
The city of David, where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
Of a kingdom not human, but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odour sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
The myrrh for the body's burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
And sat as still as a statue of stone,
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
Of an endless reign and of David's throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
And returned to their homes by another way.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Since childhood I have loved this account of the story of the three Kings.  Of course there is no count of three for the wise men in the Bible and they were undoubtable philosophers or astrologers rather than Kings but the description of them in Longfellow’s poem, with their sumptuous costumes contrasts so effectively with the simple stable setting.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an unusual poet, in that he was incredibly popular in his own lifetime, both in America and overseas.  Even Queen Victoria enjoyed his musical lyrical verses and they were translated into Italian, French and German.  Born in 1807 in Portland, Maine he studied in Europe before taking up the post of Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard.  He was able to speak eight languages and read even more and in 1839 he published his first collection of poems.  He was an astute businessman and was able to give up the academic life and live on his earnings as a poet.

In 1831 Longfellow married Mary Potter, whom he had known since childhood.  In 1835, when the couple were in Amsterdam, Mary had a miscarriage and died the following day.  Henry had her body embalmed and took her home in a lead coffin.  Four years later, while in Switzerland, he met Frances Appleton, a young lady from Boston.  Back home, he courted Frances for seven years until she finally agreed to marry him in 1843.  They had 6 children and a very happy life until Frances had an unfortunate accident in 1861 when her dress caught fire.  Longfellow was badly burned trying to save Frances but he was unsuccessful.

Longfellow is probably best known for his poem The Song of Hiawatha but he was not acclaimed by the critics who derided him for his popularity with children and ordinary people.  Despite his classical allusions and love of folklore and myth, the accessibility of his poetry undermined any literary credit.

During the 1860s Longfellow supported the abolition of slavery and he espoused reconciliation between the northern and southern states of America.  His seventieth birthday in 1877 was greeted with nationwide celebration.  When he died in 1882 he was buried next to both his wives at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For a critique of Longfellow’s poem I heard the bells on Christmas Day please go to

The Old Red Lion by the Fleet Ditch

The front of the Red Lion and two pictures of the Fleet at the back of the Tavern

Flowing beneath the streets of London between Hampstead Heath and Blackfriars Bridge is the hidden river Fleet.  Its upper reaches once gave the name to Holborn or Hol (hollow) bourne but by the 18th century it was better described as the Fleet Ditch, a sluggish, dirty stream.   Next to this unhealthy spot stood the Red Lion Tavern or Lodging House, a den of iniquity.

Possibly dating from the mid-16th century, this rambling building stood in Chick Lane (also called West Street) near Saffron Hill in West Smithfield, an overcrowded area known for criminals and prostitutes. 
The Tavern provided accommodation for coin counterfeiters and contained a private still.  It was full of sliding doors and secret cupboards.

In the garret there was access to the rooftop for a quick escape and a handy plank could be used from a window as a bridge to cross the Fleet to the house opposite.  The authorities often pursued thieves into the building but rarely captured them.

Walter Thornbury in his second volume of, “ Old and New London,” tells of a chimney sweep called Jones who having escaped Newgate prison, hid in the Red Lion for 6 weeks although the building was searched several times by the police.  Eventually they imprisoned another tenant until he revealed the hiding place.  Jones was concealed behind a brick wall in the cellar 9 foot by 4 foot with a small hole near the ceiling through which food had been delivered.

There is a tale of a sailor who was robbed at the Red Lion, stripped naked and thrown into the Fleet but a woman and 2 men were arrested for the crime and later transported.  One criminal discovered in a bedroom, crawled under the bed and disappeared.  He was found to have used a trap door but he broke his leg and was arrested.

Jerry Abershawe, a highwayman on the Portsmouth Road, and the notorious criminal, Jack Sheppard, were said to frequent the Red Lion but its alternative name was Jonathan Wild’s house.  Jonathan Wild came from Wolverhampton but he was drawn to the crowded metropolis to seek his fortune.  Unfortunately he was soon put into a debtor’s prison where he met a prostitute who introduced him to the criminal fraternity.  He came up with a seemingly faultless plan.  He and his soon assembled gang stole items then later produced them for the original owners for a reward saying that they had discovered the thieves.  When the newspapers reported his heroic efforts he became popular.  He called himself Thieftaker General, although he even stooped to blackmail when wealthy gentlemen were robbed in inappropriate surroundings.

But he went too far when he betrayed fellow thief Jack Sheppard.  He became identified with the unpopular authorities and found himself in court accused of two robberies.  Although acquitted of one, he was condemned to death for the other.  Fearing an unpleasant death, he took laudanum so was scarcely conscious when taken to the noose.  Ironically the hangman had been a guest at Jonathan’s marriage to Elizabeth Mann.  Although buried in St Pancras Old Churchyard he was exhumed three days later for dissection by the Royal College of Surgeons.

In 1844 the Red Lion was demolished.  As well as the many secret hiding places, a skull and several bones were found in the cellar.

British Home Children

In April I wrote about the first children sent to Canada by the Board of Guardians of Guildford Union Workhouse

Since then I have been researching another small group of emigrants sent from Guildford to Canada.

On June 18th 1887 a group of 115 children arrived in Quebec aboard the SS Lake Ontario bound for the Guthrie Receiving Home in London, Ontario.  They had been sent from the Children’s Emigration Home in Birmingham by John T Middlemore, boarding the ship in Liverpool, but the children had originally lived in several different parts of England.
Mr Middlemore's Book in Birmingham
Seven of the girls came from Guildford Union Workhouse sponsored by Miss Ada Spottiswoode, the only woman on the Guildford Board of Guardians.  The youngest child was 5 year old Ada Walker, whose brother and sister had been sent to Canada two years previously despite the fact that their Uncle Frederick Walker and Aunt Jane Mercer had shown willingness to look after them.  The other girls were two groups of sisters, Margaret Cheeter aged 12, Edith Cheeter aged 11, Louisa Cheeter aged 7 and Eliza Hebburn aged 11, Ellen Hebburn aged 12 and Rose Hebburn aged 18.

The Hebburn family had their name spelt Hebborn or Hebbourne on different documents.  In 1871 William Hebburn, Labourer, was living with his wife Emma (Becks) and his daughter Rose Alma in Woodbridge Hill, Stoke, Guildford but by 1881 Rose, her 8 year old brother George and her younger sisters Ellen and Eliza were inmates at Guildford Union Workhouse after the death of their mother in Bellefields in 1877.  George remained in England and can be found as a farm labourer in Littlefield Common, Worplesdon in 1891.

It was difficult to find the Cheeter girls in England until I realised their surname was Chewter.  Margaret Ellen, Edith Mary and Louisa were born in Pirbright, Surrey the daughters of James Chewter and his wife Sarah.  James was a farm labourer but he and his wife appear to be missing from the records after 1880.
St Mary the Virgin, Worplesdon
In fact all three families were originally from the neighbouring villages of Worplesdon and Pirbright just to the north of Guildford and as agricultural labouring opportunities declined they moved closer into Guildford so that the fathers could find casual labouring jobs.  They managed to eke out a living until one parent died and then it was impossible to provide for the family and look after the children.

Thanks to Jim Littlewood, a descendent, we know that Rose was contracted to a Mr A N C Black of PO Dutton, Elgin County. The contract is signed on behalf of Middlemore by H. Gibbons.  As she was 18, Rose was only committed to working under this contract for 3 years so it is perhaps not surprising that in 1890 she married James Collins in Tonawanda, New York.  By 1892 the New York census shows the couple with 1 year old daughter, Frances, living in Wheatfield, Niagara County NY.

By 1905 Rose’s life had changed dramatically.  She had 5 children, James, Rose, Frances, Lilly and Veronica but they are listed in the New York census of Inmates in Alms-houses and Poorhouses. The reason given was "father’s desertion".  They were transferred the same day as they arrived to "homes for the friendless".

Thankfully life improved for the family.  James Collins must have died, as in the 1910 census Rose is listed married to a Mr. John A. Clarkson.  Living with them are the 5 Collins children and 3 year old Edna Clarkson, daughter of Rose and her new husband.  Rose Hebburn Collins Clarkson died on 14th October 1944 at Buffalo, Erie NY.

Meanwhile, 12 year old Ellen Hebburn had been assigned to John H Elliott of Wilton Grove at Concession 6 of Westminster on 28th June 1887 and later moved to E Adams of Chatham Kent Co. on 22nd August 1888.  In an incident report dated February 3rd 1892 it is stated, “Ellen writes to say she has left Mrs Ritchie because the wages were not high enough.  She is now earning $5.00 per month. She did not receive the letter and papers at Christmas so Mrs Ritchie kept them.  She is anxious to have her sister’s address."

The last mention of Ellen is from another Visitor’s Report on September 5th 1893:- "Ellen went to a Mrs Osborn from Mrs Brill then to Mrs Griffiths and finally left for her sister in Buffalo. She suffered a good deal from sore feet and was not able to do much for some time before she left."

It was arranged for 10 year old Eliza Hebburn to go to a merchant, Mr S E Hooper of Clandeboye, on 23th June 1887, on 7th May 1888 to George Dodge of Aardoc Strathroy, then to Robert McGregor of Huntley, Lanark County (Almonte) on 5th December 1888 and finally to Harry H Cowan of Wellington Street, Richmond Road, Ottawa on 7th June 1889.

After five different employers in two years it is perhaps not surprising that tragically Eliza shows up on the 1891 Canada census in St. George’s Ward of Toronto.  She is listed as an inmate at Mercer Reformatory and Industrial Refuge at the tender age of 14 years.

These were just a few girls from over a hundred thousand children sent to Canada as indentured workers from all over Great Britain between the 1860s and the 1940s.

With thanks to Jim Littlewood for sharing his family research
And to Judy Neville of Ontario for her expertise and research advice
Other sources
Census & birth records from


Thanks to Marion Crawford of the Middlemore Atlantic society in Canada I now have more information about the other girls.

In 1887 when she arrived in Canada five year old Ada Walker was placed with a family in Parry Sound.  She was described as, “a bright little girl, doing well.”

The Chewter/ Cheeter girls were now given the surname Chuter.  Edith was placed in three different locations, the final one being at Belmont, Ontario, Louisa, age 7, was placed with Francis Davis at Adelaide Street, London, Ontario and Margaret, age 12 went to David Phillips of Durham, Oxford Co. Ontario.

Another family split by emigration and misfortune can be found here


Thanks to the research of Pirbright historian, Shirley Foster, we now have more evidence of the Chuter family.  According to the death records registered in Guildford, Sarah Chuter, mother of the three girls sent to Canada, died at the Royal Surrey Hospital in 1884 aged 38, so it must have been very difficult for their father James to look after them on his own while continuing to work.

The tragic story of Mrs Lindsay and her daughters

I have been trying to discover more about life for a 19th century soldier’s wife and children to fill out the account of my great-grandfather in Gibraltar, Nova Scotia and Barbados, so I recently read, “On the Strength” by Veronica Bamfield, who was a soldier’s daughter and a soldier’s wife.  Both Veronica’s life and her book, which describes military families from the 17th century to the 1940s, are fascinating but what most caught my attention were the testimonies about the Lindsay family in Cawnpore in 1857.
Northern India
Recently on “Who do you think you are,” Billy Connolly discovered that his ancestor John O’Brien served with the First Madras Fusiliers when they discovered the massacre of women and children in Cawnpore.  These included Mrs Catherine Jemima Lindsay and her 3 daughters, Caroline, Alice and Frances.  Mrs Lindsay, whose family called her Kate, was the widow of George Lindsay who had been a senior civil servant in Benares and was appointed a Judge in Delhi before he retired to Rochester in Kent.  Kate Lindsay had thoroughly enjoyed her life in India and found Kent rather humdrum so after the death of her husband she was keen to return to India where she planned to stay with her brother-in-law Major William Lindsay who was married to Kate’s sister Lilly.  Despite objections raised by her family, Mrs Lindsay took her youngest child, Fanny, out of school and travelled out to India in 1856 with her protesting daughters.  She also hoped to be reunited with her son, George Lindsay, who was an Ensign in Cawnpore.

Most of what we now know of the family comes from the long letters which Caroline wrote to her relatives at home.  In November 1856 she wrote of meeting her Lindsay cousins in Barrackpore, Calcutta.  She mentioned the, “very nice house,” and a ball given for them by the officers, “the room hung with flowers and the colours of the regiment; two bands and supper laid out in a tent.”  They didn't retire until 2.30 am but were up at 9 to catch the train to Ramnagar, 130 miles away.

On the following day they set out at 5 pm by carriages to a river.  As there were no boats the carriages were pulled across by coolies which took 2 hours in the moonlight.  They were relieved to reach a Dak bungalow at 9 pm to spend the night.  Dak bungalows were provided every 15 miles along the main roads.  But their problems were not over.  The new horses provided had not been in harness before so they reared and bolted.  The weary girls and their mother climbed back into the carriages and set off again.   By now they had been joined by brother George but once again a horse bolted and one of the gharris (carriages) was upset.  The family crossed three more rivers, this time dragged through low water and sand by 8 bullocks.  Finally they arrived at Cawnpore, an important garrison town for the East India Company lying both on the Grand Trunk Road and the River Ganges.

On November 11th they gratefully arrived in Benares where they rested for four days.  Colonel Cotton, an old friend of Mrs Lindsay, arranged, “a very nice dance,” for the girls but George, “would not go.”  They travelled on to Mirzapur, where they stayed for three days, going to dinner parties, dances and the races.  Alice was looking forward to reaching Cawnpore. “I shall be very glad to be settled for some time, for moving about and stopping first at one place and then another is not pleasant.”
The Lindsay sisters  a) Caroline  b) Fanny  c) Alice

The winter in Cawnpore passed with parties, dancing and concerts.  It is easy to see why Kate Lindsay found it more stimulating than Rochester and there were plenty of young officers as beaux for Caroline, Alice and Fanny.  But as it grew warmer rumours reached them of unrest among the native sepoys and of mutiny and murder in Meerut.  Although Mrs Lindsay wanted to send her daughters to a safer place, she wished to stay with her son George.  Colonel William Lindsay insisted that she and his wife Lilly should also depart, at least for Calcutta, but in fact they all stayed in Cawnpore.

In a letter of May 19th to her sister Mary Jane Droge, wife of the vicar of St Mary’s Rochester, Kate wrote over nine pages of horrifying events in the vicinity, including her friend, Mrs Chalmers, murdered “by a butcher.  If our three native corps were to rise, which I pray to God to avert, we must all I am afraid perish.”  She was relieved to hear that Queen’s Troops were marching on Cawnpore which, “gave us a more cheering feeling and we all went to church at half past 6 in the evening and I think we all felt our minds sustained and comforted and trusted that God would not quite forsake us.”

On May 31st all the women and children moved to the barracks at 2.30 am along with all the other British women.  Caroline wrote, “You may imagine we were all in a fright, the scene of confusion and fright everybody was in was past description.” They had to share a room with seven other women, which was cooled slightly by the well watered tatties (grass curtains) and punkahs (fans) going.  Their food was still cooked at home then delivered by the servants. “We are still quite in an uncertain state of mind as to what is to be our fate, we only hope and trust we may be defended from all evil,” wrote Alice.  
General Hugh Wheeler
General Hugh Wheeler, Commander of the garrison believed that his sepoys would be loyal so when two companies of the 84th battalion arrived on June 2nd he dispatched one of the companies to the besieged town of Lucknow.  But Wheeler had not allowed for the disaffection for the British felt by a man known as Nana Sahib, the adopted son of former local Prince, Baji Rao.  The generous pension and honours awarded by the East India Company to Baji Rao, were denied to his adopted son, on his death.
Nana Sahib
Mutiny began from among the 2nd Bengal cavalry by Indian soldiers who already believed that they were about to be killed by the British while on parade.  After the first shots were fired on June 6th, sepoys who remained loyal were also fired upon so they all fled.  During the confusion, Nana Sahib entered the garrison and assumed leadership of the mutineers.  He caught up with those who had fled and persuaded them to besiege the city on behalf of the Mughal Empire.

In the increasing heat, the British under siege began to succumb to dysentery, smallpox and cholera.  There was news that Major General Havelock was advancing from Allahabad but how long would it take him?  On June 25th June, against the wishes of General Wheeler the garrison accepted an offer from Nana Sahib of a safe passage for the women and children to Allahabad by boat along the Ganges. 

Either by misunderstanding or planning, a great many of the party were shot in the boats or drowned when they capsized and the remaining women or children were taken to the Bibighar (Ladies’ House) in Cawnpore where they were supervised by a prostitute called Begum Hussaini Khanum.

When Nana Sahib heard that the approaching British soldiers were indulging in violence towards Indian villagers, he was advised to execute the British women.  The women of his own household protested against this and went on hunger strike but to no avail.  On July 15th an order went out that all the British women and children should be murdered.  Nana Sahib had left the town.  The women tied the door handles of their room with clothing and at first many of the rebel sepoys fired into the air.  Begum Hussaini Khanum called them cowards, and butchers were hired to murder the captives with cleavers.  Next morning the bodies were thrown down a well including 3 women and 3 children who were still alive.

The last testimony from the Lindsay family was a scrap of paper found in a long low building in which the women were later imprisoned by the mutineers.  It was in Caroline’s handwriting.
Entered the barracks May 31st
Cavalry left June 5th
First shot fired June 6th
Aunt Lilly died June 17th
Uncle Willy died June 18th
Left Barracks June 27th
George died June 27th
Alice died July 9th
Mam died July 12th
Caroline and Fanny must have perished in the Bibighar between 4 pm on July 15th and 9 am on July 16th.  The news was sent to Mrs Mary Jane Drage, the sister of Mrs Kate Lindsay and Mrs Lilly Lindsay by Captain Moorsom of the 52nd Regiment, a friend, who had come with the force which had arrived too late.  Mary Jane and her husband Rev. William Drage were already looking after Lilly’s 3 young children and they now had considerable difficulty proving that the orphans were the only living relatives of Major William Lindsay and entitled to the Bengal Military Orphans Fund.

In Cawnpore a memorial was erected over the well but after Independence in 1948 this was moved to an enclosure to the east of All Souls Church.

"On the Strength" by Veronica Bamfield

Clan Lindsay Society

Building Thames barges

My interest in family history was sparked by the stories my Grandma told me of the forest of masts she could see over the roofs when she grew up in Rotherhithe in the 1890s.  She was very proud of her father and brothers who built barges and lighters but she also told me more about how the family first started this occupation in Berkshire in the 18th century.

Every descendent of Robert Talbot has been told the story of how he and his brothers brought the family barge building business up to London from Berkshire on a stage coach.  Certainly there was a stagecoach route from Thatcham to London along the Bath Road and some time before 1799 Robert and Richard moved to London, as they were both married there in 1799.  There is no evidence of any other living brother accompanying them.  As Richard and his wife Elizabeth Jenkins do not appear to have had any children, Robert Talbot is seen as the founder of the barge building dynasty.

Robert and Richard were born in the beautiful village of Pangbourne, on the river Thames in Berkshire, the sons of John Talbot and Mary Ivey.  Their other brother Edward died in 1792 and their sisters married in Pangbourne.  Although there is no proof that John Talbot was a barge builder, there were other Talbots who built barges in Pangbourne at that time.  As yet no family connection to these other Talbots has been made.  After the death of Mary Ivey in 1795, John Talbot married Mary Kirton and had seven more children before his death in 1837 at the age of 92.

Robert Talbot married Ann Proud at St Andrew by the Wardrobe, near St Paul’s cathedral in 1799.  At first they lived in Shadwell, a crowded dock area between Limehouse and Wapping, but by the time of the birth of their second child, Thomas Talbot in 1804 they were living by the Thames in Fore Street, Lambeth.  Fore Street, as its name signifies lay on the foreshore of the river Thames.  It was a very busy area of boat builders, whiting works and potteries including Doultons, later Royal Doulton. 

By 1839 Robert had moved his barge building business to the up and coming boat building area of Rotherhithe Street.  It is probable that all their premises were rented.  Leaving Fore Street was wise, as by 1866 it was disappearing beneath the Albert Embankment.                               

Robert and Ann Proud had 8 children, before Ann’s death in 1830.  Robert married again twice; to Ann Richards, a widow, in 1833 and to Cricey Finley in 1848, the year before his death of Asiatic cholera.  Robert Talbot was buried in a graveyard on Lambeth High Street, near St Mary at Lambeth (The Garden Museum).  The stones were moved against the walls by 1950 and have since eroded but it is a peaceful park with a children’s playground.

Four of Robert’s sons, Thomas, Robert, Richard and Edward followed their father, becoming barge builders while Charles became a stationer and printer, with premises in Tooley Street. 

The barge building sons undertook 7 year apprenticeships with the Worshipful company of Watermen and Lightermen, and 16 members of the extended family became important officials of the Shipwrights company, including Edward James who was a liveryman of the Shipwrights company and a Freeman of the river Thames.  His uncle Edward L. Talbot was Master of the Shipwrights company in 1869, as was John William Talbot in 1880.
Lucy Talbot and Sons 1866
Rotherhithe in Victorian times, was a vibrant part of the Pool of London, teeming with Irish labourers, boat builders and sea captains.  The “Fighting Temeraire” sailed into port to be broken up here in 1838 and the Mayflower had set sail from Rotherhithe in 1620.  There were rope makers, sail makers and oar makers like George Henry Leggett.  Large quantities of timber were unloaded here.  Grain was unloaded into the flat-bottomed lighters made by the Talbots and other barge builders.  The wife of Edward James Talbot, Elizabeth Palmer Hopkins came from several generations of lightermen.

Later Richard Talbot (b. 1813) moved his barge building business to Caversham in Reading, returning to Berkshire where his wife had been born.  It was said that this was because so many of his children died in the unhealthy atmosphere of Rotherhithe.  Robert Talbot (b. 1828) based his business at Strand on the Green and Percy Sutton Talbot established his at Wood wharf, Greenwich.

This article first appeared in  in September2013.

Tunnelling inside the Rock of Gibraltar in 1782

During the mid-1970s my parents lived in Gibraltar.  The house in which they resided was called Ince’s Farm, a name with a fascinating history.  If you have been to Gibraltar you will surely have visited St Michael’s Cave, a network of natural limestone caves displaying stalactites and stalagmites within the rock.  But there are also miles of tunnels, some of which were excavated in the late 18th century.

Ince's Farm by L. Sanguinetti 1977
In 1779 Spanish and French armies laid siege to Gibraltar, hoping to starve the British army and citizens into giving up ownership of the Rock and its small town.  This was to become the longest siege ever endured by a British Garrison.  The townspeople had to abandon their homes which were bombarded by the French and Spanish and settle in tents and roughly made huts to the south.  Lack of fresh produce caused them to suffer from scurvy and living so closely together, smallpox, yellow fever and influenza quickly spread amongst the population.

By May 1782 the Governor of Gibraltar, George Augustus Elliott, was desperate for a means of attacking the foreign troops who were advancing slowly in ever extending trenches along the isthmus which connected Gibraltar to Spain, but they were out of view beyond the rock face.

It was at this point that he came into conversation with Sergeant Major Henry Ince.  Henry Ince had been a Cornish miner before joining the Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment and in 1772 had been transferred, along with other, “mechanics,” to the newly formed Company of Artificers, a forerunner of the Royal Engineers.  Sergeant Major Ince suggested that he should begin tunnelling through the rock to the Notch, a ledge on the sheer North face.  He was appointed Overseer of Mines and, with the aid of 12 men, began to clear a way through the rock using gunpowder, quicklime and water and pick-axes. There was an immediate need for ventilation so small openings were blasted in the cliff face.  These proved to be in good firing positions and so began the Upper Gallery for 4 guns.  There was a problem in the sharp downwards angle required for firing but this was solved by Lieut. Koehler who mounted the large guns on, “depressing carriages”.  He was aided by the ammunition developed by Lieut. Shrapnel.
Gibraltar by L. Sanguinetti 1977
The siege ended in 1783 when it became evident that the British would not need to give up. After the ceasefire, the Duc de Crillion, commander of the opposing troops, visited the tunnels, exclaiming, “These works are worthy of the Romans.”

As a reward for his invaluable work, Henry Ince was granted a large plot of land on Queens Road, half way up the rock, on which he established “Ince’s Farm”.  One day, Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, came upon Henry, riding his old horse.  The Duke said that the sergeant major should have a finer horse, “more in keeping with your worth and duties,” but the horse he gave to Henry was too strong and spirited so the Duke suggested that Henry should sell it.

Henry Ince remained in Gibraltar for 36 years and despite some local opposition he established the Methodist church there, being one the prime Methodist lay preachers.  He wrote letters to John Wesley whom he had probably met while he was a soldier in Ireland around 1760.  Henry had at least 2 wives and 6 surviving children, Joseph, William, Robert, Harriet, Henry and George, who were listed as beneficiaries in Henry’s will.  Returning to England in 1804, he died in Gittisham, Devon in 1808, at the age of 72.  On his tombstone behind the tower of St Michael's church his tunnels in Gibraltar are described as, "lasting testimony to his skill, industry and zeal."

Letters to America

While researching my Hamilton family from Lanarkshire and Ayrshire I discovered online a series of letters written by the Young and Shields families in Scotland to their relation, Alexander Shields, who had emigrated to America.  Three of the letters were written by my Hamilton ancestors who were intermarried with the other two families.  The letters cover the period from 1829 till 1853 and not only contain family news but also details of politics, religion, health and everyday economics.

In Robert Shields’ letter of 1829 to his brother Alexander in Vermont he soon expresses his Presbyterian feelings by complaining that the, “Roman Cathlicks have got their Clawes granted to them in Parliment,”  He next reflects on the decline in the handloom weaving industry, saying that, “The weavers here are in a very poore state.”

Writing to his brother-in-law Alex Shields in 1832 Rev. Hugh Young informs him that Cholera Morbis has appeared in nearby Falkirk, with 14 deaths out of 27 cases.  He observes that “temperate” people are usually not affected. (Maybe they did not drink whisky with water?)  But 3 years later, Rev. Young writes, “with a heavy heart and with eyes streaming with tears,” of how he has committed to the grave, Anna Carslaw, age 5 and Jane age 7, both victims of measles.  Luckily in 1841, his daughter Mary recovered from scarlet fever.

When William Hamilton wrote to Alexander Shields in 1839, he was more philosophical,

We have got a new Queen as you will see stamped Victoria on the head of this sheet, but what good she may do in her reign is unknown for prophets is forbidden to enter our Land...  But I have no doubt to say that there will be some events in her reign that will fill up the pages of History and be a blessing to one class in this realm and a scourge unto another.”

In his news of “Auld Scotland,” he reports that, “There is a very great emigration from Scotland to America, to Australia and Van Deimon's Land.”  He talks of an Iron Works newly erected in Galston but two years later we read that, “ it has brought a number of strangers to the town, but has made no improvement in the morals of the people, as drinking, swearing, and Sabbath profanation is carried on to an alarming degree.”  In 1843 Rev. Young talks of the depressed state of trade and commerce with the result that, “many thousands in England and Scotland,” were unable to obtain employment.

During several years the letter writers mentioned failed crops and hardship.  In 1836 a combination of cold, rain and frost meant that the crops, “did not come to maturity.”  A cold, wet summer in 1841 caused grain costs to be high, and in 1846 Rev. Hugh Young reported that potatoes had been lost over the whole country.  “They had a fine appearance till harvest, when a disease (for which no one seems able satisfactorily to account) came upon them, and rendered them unfit for use, and at present it is doubtful if seed can be procured.  Great distress is anticipated in Ireland and it is reported that Famine has already broken out in some districts of that unhappy country. The newspapers at the same time state that Government has already forwarded to several Irish ports a very large supply of Indian corn and other provisions of a cheap kind, that as far as possible the evil may be remedied.”

On the positive side, we read in 1832 of ploughing matches between 30 ploughs, a sign of prosperity and leisure time.   The younger members of the family have enjoyed sea-bathing, probably because of the new railway built in 1840 connecting Glasgow and Ayr round the coast.  Gas works established in Galston gave the residents gas in their homes and they found it cheaper for lighting than oil or candles.   The penny post was welcomed and even 8 pence for a letter to be taken to America was felt to be fair. 

In 1844 there were talks in the Free Kirk of giving females a right to vote for a Minister, but it was felt that the men would not accept the result.  However many of the daughters of the families received a good education, studying Reading, English Grammar, Arithmetic, Geography and Botany.

As the replies to this collection of letters do not seem to have been kept, we hear little of the lives of the family in America, except for one reference to a younger Alexander in Vermont who has asked,

“Is there a probability that I could get a good, braw, rich, active, young woman for a wife?”  Rev. Young believed his daughters could provide every one of those qualities except riches!

Dr Thomas Jenner Sells investigates a murder

Among the eminent families in 19th century Guildford the Sells family had a significant impact. 

Thomas Jenner Sells was born on February 25th 1811 in Clarendon, Jamaica, the son of William Sells, Practitioner of Medicine, and his wife, Euphemia.   William Sells was a surgeon in Jamaica for several years. In November 1826 he and his family left Jamaica and by 1841 he was living in Kingston-upon-Thames where he died in September.

Thomas Jenner Sells decided to follow his father into medicine and after completing his medical training, he settled in Guildford, Surrey in about 1840.  On July 19th 1842 Thomas married Charlotte, the daughter of Rev. John Stedman and they settled at 109 High Street.  In 1846 and again in 1851, Thomas was elected Mayor of Guildford.  In addition to his everyday medical duties, Thomas took over the private lunatic asylum at Leapale House. 

In 1852 Thomas Jenner Sells participated in the investigation into the horrific murder of a 3 year old child in Albury.  John Keene and his wife Jane were accused of drowning her illegitimate child, Charlie Broomer, in a well in February 1851.   Mrs Keene’s mother, Ann Broomer, had reported her fears to Police Superintendent Josiah Hawkins Radley stationed at Guildford and he took a well-digger to Warren Well near Albury Heath.  On finding remains, they summoned Dr Sells.  Thomas Sells testified that the body had been in the well for at least a year and he produced the skull, which he had put back together, to show to the Court.

Other testimonies included that of Mr Ames, Master of Guildford Union Workhouse, who reported that Jane Keene had been admitted to the Workhouse after dark on January 10th 1851 accompanied by two children, 3 year old Charlie Broomer and a baby born a few weeks before to Jane and her husband John.  She had left the Workhouse with her children on February 6th.  On 16th February she returned to the Workhouse with her husband John and her youngest child, saying that Charlie was with her mother in Albury.  In spite of the fact that all the evidence was hearsay, at the end of the trial Jane Keene was acquitted but her husband was condemned to death for murder.

One of the other cases involving Thomas occurred in 1864 when there was a quarrel between two boys from a gypsy encampment on Whitmoor Common.  One boy, John Stacey, was stabbed.  Dr Sells dressed his wound and then sent the boy to the Workhouse although his assailant had escaped towards Woking. 

 In 1862 Thomas Jenner Sells purchased a large plot of land at the south-eastern end of Guildford with the intention of building many houses.  Thomas Sells worked with Henry Peak, the town's first Borough surveyor, and the design for one of the first housing estates in the town took shape. Thomas Sells named the area after his wife, Charlotte, and many of the roads were named after famous physicians.  Charlotteville, one of the earliest planned suburbs in Britain, was planned to have a social mix, with large villas to purchase and small terraced cottages to rent.  The gradual building of this, “urban village,” continued after the death of T. J. Sells, but in 1867 at an anniversary dinner for the local Forresters’ Lodge, Thomas commented that, “He hoped he had shown his fellow townsmen the best way to spend their money.  Every mechanic should live in his own home.”

You can read more about Charlotteville at


Diaries of Henry Peak edited by Roger Nicholas
Census and Parish records from
British Newspapers Archive 
Times Digital Archive


I've been nominated for the ONE LOVELY BLOG award by talented author and stimulating blogger Terry Tyler. You can find her post here 

Here are the rules for the One Lovely Blog Award:

• Thank the person that nominated you and link back to that blog. 
• Share seven things about yourself – see below.
• Nominate 15 bloggers you admire – also listed below.
• Contact your bloggers to let them know you've tagged them for the ONE LOVELY BLOG AWARD 
If I've nominated your blog, please don't feel under any obligation to join in.  I am just pleased to recommend your blog here.

So at the risk of boring you, here are 7 things about me:-

I have always been a book worm and after over 30 years running a junior school library I am especially fond of authors like Rosemary Sutcliff, Joan Aiken and Philip Reeve. These days I am actually moving from Young Adult books into adult books but I may revert! 

 History has always been very important to me. I taught Tudor history for many years but my particular interest is Victorian London, where my barge building and lightermen ancestors lived.

 I am a volunteer researcher for St Luke’s Hospital Heritage Project and we have established an exhibition and a bank of artefacts and digital resources in the old Casual Ward of Guildford Workhouse.  I love finding out about the lives of individual workhouse inmates, nurses in the War Hospital and what happened to the workhouse children who were sent to a new life in Canada. You can read about our project here:-

 I have been researching my family history since 1998.  While searching for ancestors in Scotland, Ireland, East Anglia, Berkshire and south London I have discovered distant cousins in the United States, Canada, Australia and South Africa, some of whom have become good friends.

The Far East is a special place for me.  I lived in Singapore for 3 years in my late teens and have revisited twice in recent years.  The changes have been dramatic but it is still a place of sunshine and flowers with a blend of customs from many cultures.  I first visited Hong Kong in 1967 and returned several times when my husband was working there.  It really is the city that never sleeps and is so exciting and vibrant.

Sunshine and the sea are a necessary part of life so my husband and I travel to the Algarve for a few days most months.  We have started Portuguese lessons and although reading with understanding is becoming much easier, speaking and understanding spoken Portuguese is much more difficult!


My guilty secret is my daily dose of Home & Away.  I would love to visit Summer Bay and meet those River Boys.

Here are my 15 blog recommendations:-

My book reviews are moving to new site.  You will find them at Lizannelloyd lost in a good book  You can reach it by pressing the tab above.

Eaten by Cannibals

The story of John Williams, missionary

Yesterday a photo of the ship halfpenny, used in Britain from 1937 until 1969, was posted on Twitter. As soon as I saw it I was back in my Sunday school class in the late 1950s putting my ha’pennies into the collection box for the John Williams VI missionary ship.

As you might expect John Williams VI was the sixth ship of that name, but who was John Williams?  John Williams was born in Tottenham in 1796 and he became an apprentice to an ironmonger where he worked in the foundry and as a mechanic. Originally brought up as a Baptist, he joined the Congregational Church and in 1816 knew that he wanted to be a missionary.  He was commissioned by the London Missionary Society at the circular Surrey Chapel in Blackfriars Road, Southwark.  The LMS had been set up to, “Spread the knowledge of Christ among the heathen and other unenlightened nations.”

John Williams

In 1817 John and his wife Mary set out for the Society Islands, an archipelago which includes Tahiti. They were accompanied by William Ellis, another missionary, and his wife. After a long voyage via Australia and New Zealand they arrived at the island of Raiatea where John and Mary Williams established a missionary post, from where John could visit several other Polynesian island chains.  This included the undiscovered island of Rarotonga, covered in dense jungle on a mountain of orange soil surrounded by a coral reef and a turquoise lagoon.

In 1821 John revisited Sydney where he preached and addressed public meetings.  He was influential in the later establishment of the Aboriginal Protection Society.  He bought a ship to trade between Raiatea and Sydney and employed Thomas Scott to instruct the Raiatean people in growing tobacco and sugar cane.

John and Mary had 10 children and they were the first mission family to visit Samoa.  By 1834 Mary was quite unwell so she and John returned to England.  They were accompanied by Leota from Samoa, who wished to live as a Christian in London.  When he died he was buried in Abney Park Cemetery.  John published his, “Narrative of Missionary Enterprise.” Appealing to the public, he raised £4000 to purchase a ship, the Camden, and he also supervised the printing of a New Testament in the Rarotongan language.
In 1837 John and Mary returned to the Polynesian Islands to continue their mission.  In Tahiti, John built a boat, “Messenger of Peace,” and later another, “Olive Branch.”

Sadly in 1839 when John Williams visited the island of Erromango in the New Hebrides, accompanied by fellow missionary James Harris, they were clubbed to death and eaten by cannibals.  In December 2009 descendants of John Williams travelled to Erromango to accept the apologies of descendants of the cannibals at a ceremony of reconciliation.

John Williams VI

The London Missionary Society were able to purchase a new ship to continue John’s work using money raised by “Juvenile Friends,” a fund collected by children in the Congregational Church.  The ship “John William” was launched in 1844 and set sail from Gravesend with new missionaries.  Over the years there were seven John Williams ships, the last “John Williams VII” being decommissioned in the 1970s.

To read more about John Williams please go to:-

Merry-Go-Rounds and Velocipedes

I have always been fascinated by fairground horses ever since I inherited my grandfather's rocking horse which was made by Savage's in King's Lynn, who usually only made fairground horses.

Savage Carousel at the Thursford Collection in Norfolk
Frederick Savage, a renowned manufacturer of Carousels and Agricultural Machinery in the second half of the 19th Century might have made his equipment in Australia rather than in England, if only his mother had agreed to join her husband in Tasmania.

His father William Savage was a hand-loom weaver in Hevingham, Norfolk, who owned a small farm and six cottages, but with the introduction of power looms and decline in demand after the end of the Napoleonic War, William was forced to sell his property and take to poaching for survival.  As a result of the threats he made to a local gamekeeper one night, he was sentenced to 14 years penal servitude.  Young Frederick was only 18 months old and had a new born brother, when his father was transported to Tasmania in December 1829.

After 7 years William Savage was released and he asked his wife Susan to join him but she declined and remained in Norfolk.  Within a year she had given birth to a son, followed by two more children within the next 6 years, all out of wedlock.  William lived his remaining years alone in Australia.

Despite growing up in poverty, Frederick Savage worked hard for several employers in Norwich and King's Lynn, learning how to make agricultural implements, to work iron and as a wheelwright.  This basis in engineering enabled him, at the age of 25, to obtain premises to set up a forge. Starting with forks, he moved on to producing threshing machines.  In the 1870s he purchased several acres of land in Kings Lynn to build St Nicholas’ Ironworks.  There he produced a patent cultivating system, powered by a 10 horse traction engine.

In the early 1880s Savage turned to fairground rides.  These included a circular velocipede of 24 linked bicycles, “Sea on Land” and the “Galloping Horses” which are familiar to any Merry-Go-Round rider.  It was his use of steam power which made more sophisticated fairground rides, such as the Razzle-Dazzle and Steam Yachts, possible.
Statue of Frederick Savage in Kings Lynn
In 1883 Frederick Savage became a local councillor and he held his seat in Lynn for 10 years before being elected an alderman.  He was chosen as Mayor in 1889 and as a consequence of his prodigious fund raising for the local hospital, a statue of Frederick was erected in the town.

For more information and photographs of Savage's fairground rides

Glimpses of Fiddaman's Lynn by Rosemary & Stan Rodliffe
"Frederick Savage, I presume" by Brian Morgan in "Merry-G-Roundup" Summer 2014 official publication of the National Carousel Association 

Caleb Lovejoy

I can never resist an unusual name and this interesting character, still has a commemoration service held every year, over 400 years since he was born.  Caleb Lovejoy was baptised at St Nicholas’ Church in Guildford on May 8th 1603, the son of Phillip Lovejoy.  He was an intelligent boy who was given a free education at the Royal Grammar School before being moved to Southwark by his parents at the age of 14.

In London, Caleb was very successful.  He was a member of the Merchant Taylors’ Company, one of the Great Twelve Livery Companies, which gave him the freedom of the City of London.  He owned the Walnut Tree Inn and other property in Southwark and became a wealthy merchant who supplied wagons to Oliver Cromwell’s army, during the Civil War  His support for the Parliamentary cause was further demonstrated when he ejected the King’s tenants in Walnut Tree Alley.

But Caleb Lovejoy is primarily remembered in Guildford, as a benefactor.  In his will of 1676 he bequeathed property under lease in Southwark to form a charity for the benefit of the poor in Guildford.  He appointed three Guardians as Trustees.  Six pounds per annum was to be provided for, “teaching of poor people’s children their letters until they could read their Testament.”  The teaching to be undertaken, “by some honest poor woman.”  After 45 years four almshouses should be built in the parish of St Nicholas as accommodation for four poor persons of good character.

However it was not until 1839, after the sale of Caleb’s estate, that land was purchased in Bury Street Guildford to build the four almshouses.  The eligible old people were required either to have been born in the parish or have lived there for 50 years.  They were given an allowance and must wear the uniform of a blue home-made gown with a badge of red cloth bearing the letters CL.  The houses were built as a low terrace of sandstone blocks with grey/brown brick dressing.  Attractive wavy-edged bargeboards were put along the bottom of the roof.

Also in his last will and testament, Caleb directed that he should be buried in St Nicholas’ churchyard and that the priest should be paid for a yearly sermon in commemoration of Mr Lovejoy.  There are two brass plates in the church; one giving details of Caleb Lovejoy’s legacy and his death and burial in February 1676 at the age of 74; the other bears the following verse which is said to have been composed by Caleb:

Caleb Lovejoy, here I lye, yet not I,
My body being dead
My soul is fled unto Eternitye
There to injoye that everlasting Bliss
Which Jesus Christ, my Lord
Who’s gon before, prepared hath for his;-
Wherefore my Body rest in hope till then
When he shall joyne thee to thy soul agen
And bring thee unto that most glorious vision
There to enjoye thy God in full Fruition.

N. Chadwick via
St Luke's Parish magazine
British History online
"Rambles Around Guildford" by W C Smith