Card posted from Leeds to Mr H J Hardy, Walsall House, Lingfield, Surrey 1906

30 July 1906

Dear Sir

I arrived quite safely about 6 o’clock this morning. Been round the town, very fine place. Going to some sports? this afternoon. Bert

Posted to Mr H J Hardy, Walsall House, Godstone Road, Lingfield, Surrey.

In the 1901 census, Henry Joseph Hardy was living in Godstone Road, Lingfield, age 27, along with his wife. He was a harness and saddle manufacturer.

1851 Letter Messrs Howcliffe & Son, Stogumber, Taunton

7 November 1851

To Mrs Tripp?

Dear Madam

We are much obliged by your favour of the 5th visit and greatly regret that W Rowcliffe must go to London on Monday, and will be engaged there all that week and part of the next. WCER? will however be most happy to wait on you on Monday, if that will be agreeable to you. Unless we hear from you to the contrary by return of post, he hopes to be at the Hele? Station by the train which arrives there at 12.27. But should there be no immediate necessity for seeing one of us WR —— will not fail to go to you the first moment his business will permit him to leave London. We beg to thank you for your very kind visit —- with best compliments of ——

Ps we will beg for the favour of an —- at all events by return says —- WCER shall go to you on Monday or WR as soon as he can get away from London.

Miss Annie Lavender 1911 Leeds, Yorkshire

Postcard of Whitmore Bay, Barry posted on 2nd February 1911 from Barry.

Dorisbrook, Barry 2.2.1911

Dear Annie

I got the pen, papers and also your nice P.C. Come over here and bring Alice & Annie & Eva. You could do a nice paddle here, better than the River Aire. Next address c/o Grand Canary Coal Co, Las Palmas. Canary Islands. We should get there in 10 days time and stay there 10 days. Well love to all and be good. Hope to see you all in summer if I don’t stay in NY. Stevie

Posted to Miss A Lavender, 29 Grove Hall Drive, Beeston, Leeds, Yorks

Miss Annie Lavender appears in the 1911 census with her family at the same address on Grovehall Drive. The property is described as having 6 rooms.

Annie Clarice Lavender, born 20th Feb 1884 in Worcester, was the eldest daughter of Joseph and Prudence Lavender. Joseph was a shoemaker and later an Engineer’s Timekeeper. The family had moved up to Leeds from the Midlands, living at 15 Beverley Avenue, Beeston before the move to Grovehall Parade.

Other children for Joseph and Prudence includes: William Miles Lavender, born c1886, Harold born c 1888, Joseph H, born c1889 and Evelyn.

Annie died, unmarried, in 1975.

Miss Emma Walker, 1882, Linthwaite, Yorkshire

Schedule III School District of Linthwaite, West Yorkshire – Labour Certificate for Emma WALKER, residing at Whiteley Bottom, Milnsbridge (near Huddersfield) and dated 10 November 1894.

I believe this is Emma WALKER born 19 Sep 1882, daughter of Sam and Elizabeth Walker. Emma married on 29 Oct 1910 in Milnsbridge to James Harry WHITELEY.

Let’s get this one back home too 😍

Summons to George Bestwick of Leek, 1876

Summons to George BESTWICK of Regent Street in Leek in the county of Stafford, Silk Manufacturer

“………………..did employ in a certain factory in your occupation a certain child named Joseph Shenton for more than seven working days without having obtained a surgical certificate for the said child.

These are therefore to command you in Her Majesty’s Name to be and appear on Monday the seventeenth day of July, 1876, at eleven o’clock in the forenoon at the Magistrate’s Clerk’s Office in Leek……….and you are hereby required to produce your registers and age certification book. ”

Constable Charles Haywood

George Bestwick was a silk manufacturer and factory owner, born in 1828 in Leek. He married Harriett Brassington in 1851 and in the 1871 census, they had seven children with the three eldest Robert, 19, Charles, 17 and Maria, 12, all working in their father’s factory, Robert as a silk twister and Charles and Maria as silk pickers. George died in 1895 leaving effects to the value of £110.

I believe that the child mentioned in this summons, Joseph Shenton, was a local lad, aged just 11 and the son of James and Mary Ann Shenton. He didn’t always work for George Bestwick in his factory, he became a courier before 1891. He died in 1935.

Constable Charles Heywood was promoted to Police Sergeant by 1881.

Grandma’s Legacy – Blanche Mary Fleet, 1898 Leeds, Yorkshire

Letter written by Marion Fleet (nee Kemp)

4 Silsbury Street,

Kirkland Street,

Beeston Road,


May 16th 1898

Messrs Wright & Brown


My daughter Blanche Mary Fleet will attain her twenty first year on the twenty fifth of June next – she wishes me to say she shall be glad to receive her share of money left by her Grandmother (the late Sarah Fleet) at your earliest convenience as she is in very ill health and has been for some time.

Trusting this will meet your approval.

I remain Gentlemen, Yours obediently

M Fleet

To Messrs Wright & Brown

There are some handwritten notes obviously made after the letter reached its recipients and most likely by the clerk who was dealing with the matter. The notes say £50 on attaining 21 then there are some calculations … 4 years and 3 months at 4%. £58 10 0

Blanche Mary Fleet was the third of 8 daughters, she was born on 25th June 1877 to Horatio Nelson Collingwood Fleet and his wife Marion (nee Kemp). Poor Marion – her husband was a commercial traveller so was hardly ever at home and she had 8 children under 7 (aged 7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and 8 months) in the 1881 census! Horatio did well for himself and was recorded as a Civil Engineer in the next census ten years later although he still worked away from home.

Whatever ill health was troubling poor Blanche at the time her mother wrote that letter, she appeared to make a good recovery and she appears in the 1901 census at 4 Silsbury Street, Leeds, along with mother Marion, Marion’s parents and brother, and Marion’s other daughters Daisy Marion, Mabel Isobel and Maggie. Marion, 40, was a laundress, Daisy, 16, was a French Ruler Stationer, Blanche aged 13 at that time was a nursemaid whilst Mabel was at school and baby Maggie was just 3 years old.

Here is a photo of Silsbury Street at the junction of Kirkland Street, off Beeston Hill in Leeds. These houses were back to back “two up, two down” houses – two rooms upstairs and two rooms downstairs so you can imagine how cramped the living conditions were for the 8 of them (and this would be 9 when Blanche’s father, Horatio, came home every now and again.

For those wondering, £58 back in 1898 would be worth roughly £5,270 today however it didn’t appear to change Blanche’s life at all.

In the 1911 census, Blanche was 32, single and still living with her parents at 10 Buckley Avenue, in Leeds – another house with four rooms. Her occupation was listed as a book sewer (binder, stationer’s assistant).

Blanche did get married – but not until she was 44. The wedding took place at St Luke’s Church in Beeston on 9th April 1923, her new husband was a chauffeur named Frank Charles Knight, aged 38, and Blanche’s mother Marion, by then aged around 72, was a witness, signing the marriage register.

At some point over the next 16 years, Blanche and Frank moved to London and can be seen in the 1939 register – Blanche was still a stationery book sewer and also a general cook. Frank was a motor mechanic but incapacitated at the time.

From the records available to me, I believe that Blanche died in London in 1969 aged 92. Rest in peace Blanche, I’ve enjoyed getting to know your story after finding your mother’s letter.

Whilst we know that Blanche didn’t have any direct descendants, we do know that Marion and Horatio had several surviving daughters and I’d be delighted to pass on Marion’s letter to any of their descendants. Please get in touch if you’re reading this.

The Rector’s Wife’s Letter Mary A Haines, Kirkby Stephen, 1884

Great Musgrave,

Kirkby Stephen

July 31st 1884

Dear Mr Brown

Having casually heard “that Mr Bradburn has been to Carlisle and taken away all deeds and papers and that they are now in his possession” I write to let you know what I have heard, trusting that you will excuse my letter, but I cannot help feeling uncomfortable about it — although resting on your kind province to me that you “would look after my interests and write when there was anything to tell me”.

Being aware how very busy you have been I did not care to trouble you with even a letter but I know positively nothing about matters.

My husband has not been to Carlisle or he would have called upon you.

With kind regards, believe me

Yours sincerely

Mary A Haines

This letter is edged in black which means that Mary Haines was in mourning for the loss of somebody within the family. This could have been up to twelve months prior to writing the letter.

After carrying out some research, it is my belief that Mary A Haines was the wife of the Rector of Great Musgrave, Mr Stafford A Haines. He was born in Bombay, East India in 1839 but can be found in the local censuses for Kirkby Stephen. His wife, Mary A, was born in Dalston, Cumberland circa 1843.

The million dollar questions of course are who was Mr Bradburn and was he up to no good? My guess is that he deeds and papers were connected to Mary’s bereavement. Perhaps an expected inheritance?

Would love to send this letter to one of Mary’s descendants. Any takers out there?

When time travelling is possible…

How it began….

I’ve been hooked on family history since I was 13 when we were set a school project to research our family history. I won the prize (thanks Mrs Beale) which was a Mars bar and a packet of ready salted crisps – seriously guys, back in 1985 this was a big deal!

My curiosity about my ancestors was hugely piqued by my paternal grandfather, pictured above with my lovely grandmother. I called him up that evening and asked him what he knew about our family, where they had come from.  He promised he would post me a note through my letterbox on his way to work the next day with whatever he knew about them. Lo and behold at 7.30am the next morning, there was an envelope on the doormat. Although the envelope had no contents, it had been sealed and there was some handwritten notes on the outside telling me that I had an ancestor who shared my own father’s name but that this ancestor had been born exactly 100 years before my father. This blew my tiny mind. How could this be? What an absolutely amazingly awesome coincidence! Those four words written on that envelope had opened up a plethora of questions for me. Who was he? What did he do? Was he famous? Is this the reason why my dad was called what he was? What about his wife? His family? Where did he live? What kind of house?  I made a pinky-promise to myself to go and find out how to find out about this elusive and mysterious ancestor of mine who had shared my father’s full name exactly one hundred years previously.

So off I trundled to the Central Library in Leeds. There was no internet back then, no online records and certainly no computers as we know them today. I spoke to a wonderful gentleman who kindly showed me the ropes of microfiche and we laughed when he asked me what surname I was researching. You’ll be very relieved it’s so close to the top of the alphabet, he said. I found out why when some microfiches ran from A-L and the only way to get to the next letter was to sit winding the fiche. Which I did, for hours on end, sometimes even days until I reached that magical aha moment when the much sought after birth, marriage, death or census record was right in front of my eyes.  I would scribble the reference number down and run over to the Registrar’s Office across town to order the certificate. I will never forget how walking out of that place with the certificate in my hand, sitting down on the bench outside and seeing the details of my ancestors for the first time, their signatures, their addresses, their occupations and their relationships, it always felt like I had won a million pounds.

I did this in my spare time for a couple of years building up a lovely, heart-warming picture of my paternal ancestors through the first world war and back through the Victoria era. I discovered that Leeds was loyally placed in the centre of my ancestors’ hearts and we had not moved around much over the years. I painstakingly reached as far back as the 1851 census keeping the thought of Mr Baldwin the First fresh in my mind, all the while becoming more and more excited about finally discovering him.

It took me around 5 years of on and off research (by this time I had left school and college and was making my way in the world of work) when it finally dawned on me that my lovely grandad had indeed played a trick on me. There was no Mr Baldwin the First – no matter how hard I looked or how hard I thought out of the box, he just didn’t exist. I could hardly believe it but it didn’t really matter by that point as I was hooked on genealogy and it’s been a lifelong passion of mine ever since.  My grandfather died just five years later. I can’t say for certain whether or not I would have started that journey without sight of that envelope on the doormat but I’m very grateful for it.

Thank you, Grandad. Your legacy lives on.