Beginning the New Year with the first in a series of posts about my 4th great grandfather Benjamin Legge who had a number of new beginnings during his lifetime.
In the early autumn of 1851 Benjamin left his wife Mary and their family home in Leamington and headed to Greenwich where he was to be admitted into the care of the Royal Seamans Hospital on the banks of the River Thames.
Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich, the river front vista, with the Queens’ House and Royal Observatory in the distance: many people walking about. Engraving by J. Newton after T. Lancey. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY
The magnificent baroque building, (now known as the Old Royal Naval College and part of Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site) designed by Sir Christopher Wren was established under the Royal Charter of William and Mary dated 25 Oct 1694 for:
“The reliefe and support of seamen serving on board the shipps or vessells belonging to the Navy Royall who by reason of Age, Wounds or other disabilities shall be uncapable of further service at sea and being unable to maintain themselves. And for the Sustentation of the Widows and the Maintenance and Education of the Children of seamen happening to be slain or disabled. Also for the further reliefe and Encouragement of seamen and Improvement of Navigation”
At the age of 73 Benjamin was presumably admitted due to old age frailty. He appeared to be fit and working at the time of the 1851 census but perhaps the competition had become too great (he was one of 18 White and Locksmiths listed in the 1850 Whites trade directory) and he found himself unable to earn enough money. He could have claimed an out-pension and remained with Mary but for reasons unknown it was decided he would become an in-pensioner while his children took care of their Mother.
On his arrival at the hospital on 19th September, Benjamin who was described in the records as being 5 feet 9 and without any wounds or injuries was issued with the hospitals traditional uniform of blue frock coat and tricorn hat.
He would also have been allocated a cabin in one of the hospitals accommodation wings and received an allowance of between one and three shillings a week.
“The Greenwich Pensioner” engraved by J.Jenkins after a picture by M.W.Sharp, publihsed in Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrap Book, 1850. Image courtesy of ancestryimages.com’
In addition to the accommodation wings, the palatial hospital buildings housed the spectacular Painted Hall where Nelson was laid in state following his death at the Battle of Trafalgar.
As it is today the Painted Hall, described as the “UK’s Cistine Chapel” was a popular tourist attraction and Benjamin could have earned additional income by acting as a tour guide for the many visitors.
A Greenwich Pensioner showing the Thornhill decorations in the Painted Hall to a family of visitors. Coloured etching by T. Rowlandson after [J. N.] Esq, 1807. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY
During his time at the hospital Benjamin would have had to follow a regimented routine and adhere to a strict code of conduct. Had he broken the rules or behaved badly he would have been disciplined. Punishments included fines, being confined to the hospital, a diet of bread and water and the dreaded “Canary” where he would have had to wear a yellow coat for a period of time.
Pensioners outside the chapel at Greenwich (‘An Old Tar doing Penance for his devotion to Jolly Bacchus’) (BHC1816). Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London.
For men only recently discharged from the navy, this regime may have been reassuring but for Benjamin who had been a civilian for over thirty years, it must have felt quite restricting.
The “Greenwich Geese” as the Pensioners were called by the locals did however have plenty of free time and were a regular sight on the streets surrounding the hospital and in the local taverns.
It was during one such outing on 3 June 1853 that Benjamin suddenly collapsed and died in Bridge Street, (now Creek Road) the main thoroughfare leading from Greenwich Market out towards Deptford.
An inquest was held to establish cause of death but as yet no records or reports have been found.
He was buried a week later, on 10 June in the hospitals’ burial ground, leaving his wife Mary, seven children and fifteen grandchildren.
I’ve not been keeping up with the #52ancestor challenge but for the week 29 prompt, “newsworthy”, I thought I would share this recent find from the British Newspaper Archive at findmypast
John Kilburn Howe, older brother of my 2nd great grandmother Margaret Howe was in the news following the shocking death of four year old John Harbottle in Bishop Auckland, County Durham during the summer of 1841.
The August 27th edition of the Newcastle Courant reported on the child’s inquest where it was stated that John Kilburn Howe had given him a “cup of rum”
The alcohol was thought to have caused the boy to have convulsions which resulted in his death and “the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter”
John Kilburn Howe and the child’s mother Elizabeth Harbottle, “a woman of loose character” were committed for trial at the County Assizes Court in Durham.
Born in 1816, John Kilburn Howe had grown up in the Bishop Auckland area where a few months prior to the inquest, he had been recorded on the 1841 census, still living with his parents John Howe and Margaret Kilburn and younger siblings, Edward and Mary
Also living with the family was a Margaret Howe believed to be John Kilburn’s wife Margaret Liddle whom he had married in 1836.
The fact that John Kilburn was a twenty five year old married man with a steady job working as a Blacksmith alongside his father makes me wonder what he was doing visiting the house of a single mother in the early hours after a nights drinking!
Was he a dubious character, or was it a case of alcohol impairing his judgement, resulting in a tragic loss of life as sadly still happens today?
John Kilburn Howe and Elizabeth Harbottle had to wait, presumably in Durham gaol, six months for their case to be heard as the Assizes Court only sat twice a year in August and February.
There was very little reported in the newspapers about the trial as it seems the case was dismissed quite quickly by the jury and the pair were discharged on 21 February 1842.
I assume there was not enough evidence to prove it was the alcohol that cased the death of poor young John Harbottle and today I imagine John Kilburn and Elizabeth would have been charged with other offences under the child protection laws which were sadly non-existent in Victorian England.
Move to Newcastle
What John Kilburn did immediately after his court appearance is not known, but by 1851, the entire Howe family, including my great grandmother Margaret who had married in Auckland during 1846, had moved to the Elswick area of Newcastle, Northumberland.
John Kilburn’s wife Margaret seems to have stood by her errant husband and the pair were recorded on the 1851 census as living together on the same street (East Elswick Terrace) as my 2nd and 3rd great grandparents.
Six years later on 18 Oct 1857, John Kilburn died suddenly at the home of his father who registered the death.
He was just 41 years old and cause of death was recorded as “apoplexy” indicating a sudden loss of consciousness perhaps caused by a stroke.
Margaret did not have any children with John Kilburn and it is not know what happened to her after her husbands death.
Week 25 of the #52ancestors challenge and the theme is “unexpected“
Like all genealogists and family historians I have made a fair few unexpected discoveries over the years, but my most recent was finding out my Cornish 3rd great grandmother Keturah Blight had emigrated to the United States in her late sixties.
Keturah Blight (1816 – 1895)
Keturah Blight was the sixth of fifteen children born to my 4th great grandparents, William Blight and Ann Knight in the village of Illogan on the West Coast of Cornwall.
Photo taken by Frederick Arcall from J. E. Palmer, Photographer, High Cross, Truro (Photoshopped to remove marks from original)
From the private collection of LF, Keturah’s 2nd Great granddaughter.
Born less than twelve months after Napoleon was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo, and in the same year as author Charlotte Bronte, Keturah was baptised in the parish church of St Illogan, Cornwall on 2nd March 1816.
Cornwall was the worlds biggest producer of copper and tin at the time of Keturah’s birth and the village of Illogan, where she lived with her siblings and parents, William and Ann sits on the edge of the Camborne and Redruth, mining district which is now part of a group of World Heritage sites celebrating Cornwall’s rich mining history.
Keturah’s father William was a cordwainer (shoemaker) but her grandfather William and many others in the extended Blight family worked in the mines, surrounding Illogan.
“Mining was frequently a family affair. In the early 1800s, women and children were working in the mines as well. Young women took work as bal maidens, dressing ore at surface. Using special hammers, they would carefully select and crush the ore to a manageable size before further processing”.
Her younger brother William was recorded on the 1841 census as a miner at the age of 14 and she may even have worked in the industry herself as a child or young woman before her marriage.
The decline of Cornish mining
By the time Keturah married my 3rd great grandfather in 1840, Cornish mining was beginning to decline due to increasing competition from other parts of the world.
This led increasing numbers of young Cornish men and women to seek out opportunities in other areas of the British Isles or overseas.
Amongst those to leave the ports of Falmouth and Plymouth for a new life abroad in the 1840’s were five of Keturahs siblings:
Ann and her husband James Chegwin left for Canada with their two young sons.
Catherine went to Wisconsin in the United States with her husband William Wallis and young family.
Mary, William and Joseph all separately headed to Australia.
The Next Generation
Keturah and her husband James Williams who was Sexton of the parish church chose to remain in Illogan after their marriage, settling in the Churchtown area where they raised a family of six including my 2nd Great Grandmother Mary Ann.
They remained living in the Churchtown area for thirty eight years until James died in 1878, but once old enough their children decided to follow in the footsteps of their Aunts and Uncles and leave the village for new lives elsewhere.
William Blight headed to Canada, settling in Wentworth, Ontario where his Aunt Ann Chegwin was living.
Philip, Elizabeth, and John Blight together with his wife Grace and child all found their way to Michigan in United States.
My Great grandmother Mary Ann stayed in the British Isles, but moved to Surrey.
James, I am a little unsure about but he may have moved to Durham.
Keturah Goes Missing
Keturah was still living in Illogan with her two youngest children three years after the death of her husband James but after that she goes missing.
She did not appear on the 1891 census and I could not find a death record for her anywhere.
I attempted to find her on numerous occasions over the years without success and wondered if I would ever find out what happened to her.
Then one day while randomy searching the British Newspaper archive I made that unexpected discovery.
Williams – at Ishpheming, Marquette County, Michigan, USA, Sept 11, Keturah, relict of James Williams (parish Sexton) of Illogan Churchtown, aged 79
I have come across this challenge started by Amy Johnson Crow on a number of family history blogs and thought I would give it a try.
The idea is to write about 52 ancestors in a year using a weekly prompt provided by Amy.
I am starting at week 25, but first I thought I would go back to week 23 when the topic was ‘Wedding’ and share this wonderful group photo.
The Wedding of Margaret Sophia Cashford and Charles Roddis
The photo was sent to me by a Granddaughter of the happy couple Margaret Sophia Cashford and Charles Roddis who married in Canterbury, Kent during the summer of 1911.
I am not related to either family but the gentleman seated on the bottom far left of the photo is believed to be Henry Thomas Legge, step-father of Margaret Sophia and a younger brother of my 2nd great grandfather Alfred Legge.
Henry Thomas Legge (1853 – 1939)
Margaret Sophia was just eleven years old when her twice widowed mother Maria married Henry Thomas in 1899, so he must have been an influential figure in her life and possibly the only father she would remember and he certainly looks proud to be at his step daughters wedding.
Henry Thomas, the fourth child of my 3rd great grandparent’s Benjamin Legge and Ann Taylor was born in Canterbury in 1853. He was also a widow with three grown up children when he married Maria, having lost his first wife Sarah three years previously.
Following the family trade
Like his father, grandfather, my ancestor Alfred, his uncles and many cousins, Henry Thomas was a Whitesmith by trade, forging and finishing items in white metal. He started out working for his father as an apprentice (1871 Census) before specialising as a Locksmith (1891 Census).
The Oddfellows Club and Rising Sun Inn
In later life Henry Thomas became a Publican. He was recorded on the 1901 census as living with Maria, and two of her children, Margaret and Rose at the Oddfellows Club, in Canterbury, and then ten years later he was recorded on the 1911 census as the Licensee of the Rising Sun Inn.
As Margaret Sophia’s wedding was just a few months after the 1911 census, the photo may have been taken in the garden of the Rising Sun.
Move to Derbyshire
Henry Thomas was still the licensee of the Rising Sun in 1913, but he and Maria moved at some point to Derbyshire where they died in 1932 (Maria) and 1939 (Henry Thomas).
‘Margaret S Cashford & Charles Roddis (1911) Marriage England and Wales Civil RegistrationIndexesGRO: Q3 Canterbury 2a 2103 (1911). Indexed at https://www.freebmd.org.uk/
‘Henry Thomas Legge’ (1857) Baptised Henry Thomas son of Benjamin & Anne Legge, Smith, Blackfriars, 31 May 1857, Born 21 May 1853. St Alphege Parish Church Canterbury Baptisms. Accessed at Canterbury Archives (2004) and available at https://www.findmypast.co.uk/
‘Henry Ths Legge’ (1861) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG9/520, folio 137, p. 7 (1861). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk
Henry Legge’ (1871) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG10/1969, folio 7, p. 7 (1871). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk
Henry Legge’ (1881) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG11/959, folio 81, p. 25 (1881). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk
‘Henry T Legge’ (1891) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG12/706, folio 9, p. 12 (1891). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk
‘Henry T Legge’ (1901) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG13/794, folio 60, p. 13 (1901). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk
‘Henry T Legge’ (1911) Census return for Canterbury, Kent. Public Record Office: PRO RG13/794, folio 60, p. 13 (1911). Available at: http://www.ancestry.co.uk
Richard is most likely the son of Francis and Beatrice Leg who was baptised in the neighbouring parish of Much Wenlock on 1 April 1627, and I wonder if the unusually named daughter Bettredge was actually Beatrice and her name incorrectly recorded in the parish registers. Alternatively the name could be a clue to the identity of Jane who I know nothing about.
Broseley was well known as a centre of excellence for the manufacture of clay tobacco pipes and Richard and his sons are documented to be amongst the first producers of the famous “Broseley”
As my Broseley ancestors were also known to be pipemakers, it is likely that I am related to Richard and Jane and I suspect they may have been my 8th great grandparents but have yet to find the evidence to prove it.
Manufacturing in the 17th century was a cottage industry with individuals working at home and Richard most likely had his own clay moulds and a kiln to fire his pipes. He would also have stamped them with a unique mark to identify himself as the producer.
Remnants of pipes bearing the mark of a number of different Legge pipemakers can be found in the Broseley pipework museum. Amongst them are pipemarks bearing the name of two or three Benjamin Legges who I believe to be my ancestors.
My brother and I visited the village a few years back and found the museum on Legges Hill, but unfortunately it was closed.
Hopefully, I will get back there one day for a visit when it is open.
The name Benjamin Legge is recorded in the Broseley parish registers for the first time on 3 March 1702/03 when Benjamin Leg and his wife Mary baptise a baby boy also called Benjamin.
This father and son, I believe are my 6th and 7th Great Grandfathers but more evidence is probably needed before I can be absolutely certain.
Although I have seen many on-line trees where Benjamin the first is recorded as a son of our original Broseley Legges, I have not found a baptism for him or any other real evidence to prove or indeed disprove his parents were Richard and Jane.
He could possibly have been born between Richard and Janes last two children in 1772, which would make him 30 when his son was born. This seems a little late for what appears to be a first child, but as I do not know where or when he married there may have been other children.
Assuming Jane was twenty one when her first child was born she would have been in her forties when her last two children were born so the gap in her children’s births could equally be due to a miscarriage or still birth. Janes assumed age also makes it unlikely although not impossible that Benjamin was born after her youngest recorded child.
Do family naming patterns provide a clue?
Our early ancestors tended to use the same names generation after generation and it was common practice to name a first born son and daughter after their paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother, but it was not a hard and fast rule and many of my ancestors like countless other families chose to name their first born after themselves and subsequent children after their parents.
Benjamin would go on to name two of his children Richard and Jane but whether they were named after their grandparents we may never know.
First though came two daughters named Mary presumably after their mother. The first was born in 1705 but sadly died before her second birthday in 1707.
With high infant mortality in the 1700’s and a limited pool of names to choose from, couples often gave more than one child the same name as Benjamin and Mary did when they baptised their third child Mary in 1708.
Three years after giving birth to her daughter, Mary died, leaving Benjamin a widow with two young children to care for.
As was often the case with widowed fathers it appears Benjamin re-married as within 17 months of Mary’s death a Benjamin and Eliza were recorded in the parish registers as the parents of Richard who was baptised in St Leonards Church in 1712.
Two burials on the same day
Benjamin and Elizabeth welcomed a second son named William in 1714, but their joy was short lived as both boys died a year later and were buried together on 1 Aug 1715.
Another Benjamin or an error in the registers and a mystery William.
Following the burials of Richard and William in 1715, there were a couple of entries in the registers that caused some confusion. First a Benjamin and Mary baptised a son Richard in 1716 and then William a son of Benjamin and Elizabeth was buried in 1728.
I can’t be sure but I think the name Mary was probably written in error and Richard was another child of Benjamin and Elizabeth as was William who may have been baptised in the nearby parish of Bridgnorth in 1720.
In addition to the four boys, Benjamin and Elizabeth had two daughters, Sarah in 1723 and Jane in 1726.
Elizabeth died in 1731 leaving Benjamin once again on his own with a young family. This time however he does not appear to have re-married, and may have enlisted the help of his elder children to look after their young siblings.
Benjamin lived for another seventeen years and was buried in the parish church of St Leonards in 1748.
He was survived by at least two of his nine children (Benjamin and Sarah) and four grandchildren.
2. Benjamin son of Benjamin and Mary
His grandchildren were the offspring of his son Benjamin who had married Sarah Powis in 1726.
Heartbreakingly, Benjamin and Mary had to bury three of their young family during the course of five days in 1751.
Nine year old Benjamin was laid to rest on 28 May, while Susanna aged 13 and John aged four were both buried on the 1 June.
4. Benjamin son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Griffiths
There are some on-line records that indicate the child Benjamin who died in 1751 was the son of Benjamin and Elizabeth who was baptised the day prior to the burial on 27 May, rather than the son of Benjamin and Mary.
Unfortunately as neither the mothers name or child’s age were recorded on the burial record, I cannot fully disprove this theory, but I believe that Benjamin and Elizabeth’s son survived into adulthood and went onto marry my 5th Great Grandmother Susanna Taylor in 1779.
Why do I think this?
Firstly there are the notations “aff m 4 Jun” on Benjamin’s burial record and “Aff m 4” on the records of Susanna and John, which indicate a close family member of the three children swore an affidavit on 4 June confirming they were all buried in wool as required by the law of the time.
A coincidence maybe, but the Benjamin who married Susanna Taylor had a child in 1787 who he named Michael Griffiths Legge, making it more likely that it was the son of Benjamin and Elizabeth Griffiths who survived.
Benjamin and Susanna had five other children baptised in Broseley between 1780 and 1790 .
Sadly, like some of our other Legge families Benjamin and Susanna had to endure the loss of two of their young sons (Thomas and Michael) who were buried within a few days of each other in November 1787.
The surviving siblings would grow up in a fast changing world as the industrial revolution gathered pace and England moved from producing goods on a small scale in rural cottage industries to mass production in factories and mills. This led to migration away from small towns like Broseley to the rapidly expanding industrial centres of the Midlands and Lancashire.
The move to Gloucestershire
While other Broseley residents migrated to the Midlands Benjamin and Susanna chose to move their young family to Gloucester, possibly travelling by barge along the river Severn which was an extremely busy trade route at the time.
Why the couple chose to move is not clear but as a maker of the world renowned Broseley pipe he is likely to have used the Severn trade route to distribute his goods and may have felt basing himself in Gloucester would be better for his business.
There is also strong evidence to suggest they had two other children, Benjamin, my 4th Great Grandfather and Susanna who do not appear in either the Broseley or Gloucester parish records.
Benjamin Legge Pipe Maker of Gloucester
Benjamin lost his wife Elizabeth in 1813 and then…
On the 8 Sept 1822, shortly before his death and burial in Gloucester St Nicholas on 26 Sept, “Benjamin Legge, of the city of Gloucester, Pipe Maker” wrote his last will and testament in which he made bequests to his daughters Isabella and Susan, and his sons Paul and Benjamin of Cheltenham.
How do we know this is the Benjamin who moved from Broseley to Gloucester?
A year after his fathers death Paul signed the Gloucester St Nicholas parish register as a witness to the marriage of his sister Susanna.
Later in 1841 he can be found on the census living in Gloucester with his sister Isabella, and at the same address ten years later he is recorded as having been born in Broseley.
5. Benjamin Legge son of Benjamin and Susanna
It is also well documented (1851 census and naval records) that my 4th great grandfather Benjamin was born in Broseley around the same time as the world famous Iron Bridge was being constructed less than a mile away in the late 1770’s.
We also know from naval records that his mother was called Susanna and that she was living in Gloucester in 1807 when she received part of her sons wage.
Later records relating to his children also prove he was living in Cheltenham when his father died in 1822.
Benjamin’s Naval Career and Family Life
I will be writing about my 4th Great Grandfathers life in more detail in future posts, so do visit again or follow the blog for stories about his naval medals and life as a Greenwich Pensioner amongst others.
Sources and Citations
In the mean time check out the Legge Family tree where you will find links to the sources and citations for the records referred to in this post.
The Legges were the first family I began researching some twenty years ago. I knew my grandfather Horace Herbert was born in Leatherhead, Surrey in 1908, so I expected the family roots to be firmly planted in the Surrey countryside.
Oh how wrong I was! While many of my other families did remain in the same area for many generations my Legge ancestors moved quite frequently.
Following the ancestor paper trail
With the help of BMDs, parish registers, census returns, historical directories, military records and wills, I followed the family back in time from Leatherhead to the small town of Broseley on the banks of the river Severn.
Stops along the trail included the cathedral cities of Canterbury, Oxford, and Gloucester and the spa towns of Leamington and Cheltenham.
There were also overseas trips along the way as three of my ancestors joined the military services.