Names are shown in italics for emphasis. Those also in bold are in my direct line of descent.
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the moment our story starts on 17 March 1811, when a young servant girl, Sarah Powell
brings her illegitimate son to Leysters (also written Laysters) Parish Church
in Herefordshire, about 4 miles south-west of Tenbury Wells, for him to be baptised
John Powell. Illegitimacy was not uncommon at this time,
being around 6-7% of all births. Servant girls in rural areas were often away
from parental control and denied the normal formalities of courtship. A search
of the Leysters parish registers for up to 40 years earlier suggests that Sarah
probably come from outside the parish, although very likely from not too far
away. At that time population movement was generally limited to a 20-mile radius,
the most mobile being young unmarrieds over 15 years of age. A possible Sarah
was baptised by John & Sarah Powell in 1786 at Little Hereford, 3 miles
west of Tenbury. The only slight link with ‘our’ Sarah’s is her choice of name
for her (presumed) first-born - that of her father being a likely choice. Whoever
she was, Sarah was born towards the end of the 18th century, during the reign
of George III.
Click on the image at left to show a map of Laysters & surrounding area.
Sarah later brought two more illegitimate children to Leysters Parish church for baptism, a son Thomas Powell on 3 November 1816, and a daughter Mary Powell on 17 May 1820. At these times Sarah was living at Pole Lane, Leysters.
The birth of Mary seems to have given Sarah a sense of responsibility, because five months later she marries John Davidson at Leysters (the spelling of his surname may not be quite right, the letter in the middle that I have taken as a ‘d’ is written with quite a flourish). He is described as a widower of the neighbouring parish of Pudleston. The witnesses are William Powell and one Samuel Lines, a name that crops up again. William is possibly her father (which conflicts with the Little Hereford origin above), but he could be a brother or uncle.
I have not yet been able to follow Sarah into her new life, although I have found in the Pudleston records that John Davidson married Mary Mapp on 17 June 1818 (she was a widow), and that Mary Davi(d)son, aged 42, was buried on 13 January 1819. Both these events are entirely consistent with Sarah’s husband’s widower status.
So the next chapter of our story opens 20 years later, on 7 May 1840, with the marriage at Leysters Parish Church of John Powell and Elisabeth Handley, a spinster, daughter of James Handley. John is described as a labourer, living at Gorse, and Elizabeth is a servant living at Pole Lane in the parish. No father’s name is given for John, support for the fact that he was illegitimate. He was ‘of full age’, i.e. over 21, and she a ‘minor’, under 21. Other evidence suggests that he was 29 and she 19 or 20. James Handley, almost certainly her father, but possibly a brother or uncle, witnessed the wedding, together with the aforementioned Samuel Lines, another link between John and Sarah.
John & Elizabeth lost no time in starting a family. On 18 November 1841 a son, William Powell is baptised at Leysters. John is still a labourer, living at the Gorse. A possible hint of the tragedy to come occurs in the minister’s margin notes - the baptism was ‘in private’ and William was ‘received into the church on 19 December ’. Only a few weeks after the birth Elizabeth dies, whether as a result of complications with the birth we do not know. She was buried at Leysters on 9 December 1841, Elizabeth Powell of the Gorse, aged 21 years. Six months later, baby William also dies and is buried at Leysters on 15 June 1842, William Powell, an infant of Pole Lane.
The Gorse is not far from the church at Leysters, where there is a farm. On tithe maps it is also spelled other ways, including The Ghorst. One of my father’s first cousins, Betty Harris (née Giles) remembers living on that very farm as a small child. Her brother (Billy Giles) also went on to work the farm for most of his life. I wonder if they knew that their ancestor had lived and work at the same place?
John found solace within a few years. He married again at Leysters on 1 June 1848. The parish registers show John Powell, widower of the parish marrying Charlotte Griffiths, spinster of the parish. The actual marriage certificate shows his father as ‘unknown’ (further proof of his illegitimacy) and her father is given as John Griffiths, labourer, ‘once a soldier’. The witnesses are Edward Griffiths, probably a brother or uncle, and, once again, Samuel Lines.
The marriage certificate of John Powell & Charlotte Griffiths (modern copy).
It should be mentioned that Samuel Lines may not be a friend/relative that provides a positive link between these three marriages (Sarah’s and John’s two). He could be a ‘professional’ witness, someone such as a churchwarden who is around at the time, literate (he always signs his name), and regularly undertaking this duty. An initial check of 35 weddings at Leysters between 1826 and 1846 shows him witnessing just 3 weddings (including John’s first), so the odds are that he was a friend of the family.
A year after marrying, on 22 July 1849, John and Charlotte were baptising a daughter, Mary Ann Powell at Leysters from their home in Pole Lane. We know what happened to Mary Ann, thanks to her great-granddaughter, Caroline Whorton. Mary Ann married Henry Pitt at Stoke Bliss in 1869 and had 10 children between 1870 and 1892. She died in 1935 and is buried in Castle Frome.
The 1851 census (the night of 30 March) shows the family living at Little York (?), Leysters - probably near the present Duke of York public house. John is the head of the family, a farm labourer, born at Leysters. His age then was 41, in pretty good agreement with a birth date of March 1811. Charlotte, his wife, was 29 years, born somewhere in Herefordshire, not Leysters, but difficult to decipher. It could be Bockleton, Pudleston or Mid[d]leton. With them are daughters Elizabeth Powell, age six and Mary Ann, aged 1. Elizabeth is almost certainly Charlotte’s illegitimate daughter, who was christened at Bockleton on 7 July 1844, and probably took John’s surname after the marriage.
Later in 1851 a son is born, baptised John Powell on 21 December 1851, and on 12 February 1854, a second son, William Powell is christened, both at Leysters Parish Church. The family is living at Leysters Pole.
A third son, George Powell arrives some time in 1855. According to all the census returns from 1861 to 1891 he was born at Eastham, like his younger brothers. Eastham is in Worcestershire, but only 5 miles east of Tenbury and just 8 miles from Leysters. Then on 17 January 1858 we know that James Powell is born - my great-grandfather (he had the same birthday as me). However, on 15 February that year, John and Charlotte baptise two sons at Eastham, James and Charles. Charles was not a twin since he was not registered at the same time as James - there is also a faint margin note (missed on my first viewing) in the register 'different ages'. The most likely Charles was registered in Ludlow district in the June quarter of 1856. However, Charles must have died young because he does not appear in later census returns, and a later son (the youngest) is given the same name. Re-using names was not an uncommon practice at a time of relatively high child mortality.
The birth certificate of James Powell (modern photocopy from original).
George was christened at Eastham on 5 June 1859, at the age of about four. Why he wasn't 'done' with James & Charles in February 1858 we can only guess at.
Then Thomas Powell was born in early 1861, so by the time of the 1861 Census, (7 April) we find the following family at March End, Eastham:-
John Powell, head, age 45, Ag. Labourer
Charlotte Powell, wife, age 35
Mary A. Powell, daughter, age 12
John Powell, son, age 10
William Powell, son, age 7
George Powell, son, age 5
James Powell, son, age 3
Thomas Powell, son, age 2 weeks/months
The two adults appear to have aged only four and six years in the 10 years since the 1851 census. Maybe they were still using the custom from earlier censuses to round adult ages down to the nearest 5 years, but it was also not uncommon for people over 30 to understate their age in the censuses.
Thomas was christened at Eastham shortly after the census on 9 June 1861, followed by Charles Powell - named after his deceased elder brother - on 11 March 1866.
Anyway, come the 1871 Census, the family are living on the Herefordshire/ Worcestershire border at Westbrook, Berrington, just a couple of miles west of Tenbury Wells on the south side of the River Teme. The older ones have flown the nest, leaving:-
John Powell, head, age 55, Ag. Labourer
Charlotte Powell, wife, age 40
George Powell, son, age 16
James Powell, son, age 14
Thomas Powell, son, age 12
Charles Powell, son, age 10
Once again the adults have understated their ages - Charlotte has added only 11 years in the 20 years since the 1851 census! In practice they are more like 60 and 49. The four boys are all given the occupation of farmer’s boy, so were presumably working for their living, even at as young as 10 years. In fact, his christening date and later censuses suggest that Charles was not yet five!
Just about a mile south of Westbrook, was the village of Upton. At the same 1871 census, in a residence known as Dog Kennel, another family was living:-
William Faulkner, age 31, Farm Labourer (picture at right)
Mary Ann Faulkner, wife, age 34
Annie E. Faulkner, daughter, age 9
William Faulkner, son, age 7
Richard (Dick) Faulkner, son, age 4
Harriet Faulkner, daughter, age 2.
William and Mary Ann had been married 11 years before, on 2 May 1860 at Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire, about 7 miles north-east of Tenbury. According to their marriage certificate he was 20 and she was 24, in exact agreement with the 1871 census above. He was a farm labourer, she a servant, both living in Cleobury Mortimer at different addresses. His father’s name was also William Faulkner, a farm labourer again. Mary Ann’s father’s name was left blank, an indication that she was illegitimate, especially since the adjacent marriage certificate in the register does give the name of the bride’s father. Her full maiden name was Mary Ann Breakwell, and she appears to have signed her name. So although probably illegitimate, she was apparently not illiterate!. The witnesses to the marriage were Samuel Brown (not Lines this time!) and Mary Williams.
The origins of Mary Ann (pictured left) were similar to John Powell’s. On 5 July 1835, a young servant girl, Prudence Breakwell took her illegitimate daughter to Cleobury Mortimer Parish Church to be christened Mary Ann. Two years later on 21 May 1837 she brings another illegitimate daughter, Elizabeth Breakwell, to be baptised. Then on 18 January 1846 a Sarah Matthews is baptised by Prudence Brakewell at Cleobury Mortimer. Two years later - 11 April 1848 - Prudence marries William Dovey. Both are of the parish of Cleobury Mortimer, both ‘of full age’, he a labourer, she a servant. Both sign (rather than mark) the register. His father’s name is also William Dovey, her father’s name is John Breakwell. The witnesses were Laurence (?) and Sarah Bradley.
The 1851 census for Neen Savage (Dawson's Cottage) shows William & Prudence Dovey, aged 32 and 36 respectively, with children May Ann (15), Sarah (5) and a son James (2). May Ann is just the right age to be a mis-transcribed Mary Ann, and Sarah is exactly the right age to be the Sarah Matthews baptised in early 1846. Elizabeth is not to be seen (she may have died, or, even at the age of about 14, gone into service already). James is presumably William & Prudence's own - such a baptism is recorded on 11 March 1848 in Neen Savage, one month to the day before the wedding in Cleobury Mortimer!. The census records both William and Prudence born in Neen Savage, and the parish records there show a William Dovey baptised on 24 December 1821 (so, unless baptised late, he is probably nearer 29 than 32). His parents were William & Elizabeth Dovey. The only Prudence baptised in Neen Savage at that time was to John & Mary Blakewell - probably close enough - on 11 July 1813. So she was probably more like 37 than 36 - it is understandable, with her being so much older, that they would want to adjust each so that their ages appeared closer.
Coming back to William and Mary Ann Faulkner, I haven’t been able to track down where they were at the time of the 1861 census, but Annie Eliza Faulkner was christened on 26 January 1862 at Shelsley Beauchamp in Worcestershire, about 10 miles south-east of Tenbury. The family then appeared to move to Little Hereford, about two miles west of Tenbury on the north side of the River Teme. There I have found the baptisms of William Faulkner (25 May 1864), and Richard (Dick) Faulkner (31 Jan 1867), though not Harriet who would have been born in about 1868 or 1869. At the time of these baptisms the family was living at a place called Nutsholl or Nutshed.
Whether James Powell (13 years old at the time of the 1871 census - (pictured right in 1914 at the age of 56)) and the 9-year old Annie Eliza Faulkner actually knew each other as children, we can only surmise.
In the years between 1871 and 1881 John Powell dies (in 1874, age 63) and the Faulkner family produce two more daughters, Sarah Elizabeth Faulkner (baptised on 5 Feb. 1873 at Little Hereford, when the family were still living at the Dog Kennel) and Emily Faulkner, in about 1878.
At the 1881 census, (3 April), in the village of Berrington, about a mile-and-a-half west of Tenbury we find the widowed Charlotte living with her son George, still unmarried at the stated age of 23, at Hays Cottage. Going by the earlier ages given, George should be nearer 25 or 26. Also living there is the youngest son, Charles, age now given as a more correct 15. Charlotte’s age is now 58, 18 years more than the census 10 years before, but in good agreement with the age of 29 given 30 years earlier. A final resident on census night is John Powell, aged 30, born at Leysters. He is described as a ‘visitor’, but he is almost certainly the oldest son.
Four entries before Hays Cottage in the census return, at Brickbarn Cottage, we find William Powell, aged 26 and born at Leysters, almost certainly Charlotte & John’s second son. Families had a tendency to live close to each other. William has a wife, Mary A. Powell, aged 24, born in Pencombe, Herefordshire, and two daughters, Eliza Powell, aged 2 and born in Little Hereford and Harriet Powell, age 1, born in Tenbury.
Four entries after Hays Cottage in the census return we find the Faulkner family at Bridge Cottage. The boys, William and Richard, by now aged about 17 and 14 appear to have left home, but the three girls are there, Annie Eliza (pictured left in 1916 at the age of 54), Harriet A. and Emily. But also there on census night, described as a ‘boarder’, is one James Powell, born in Eastham! He understated his age by 3 years, but this has to be ‘our’ James Powell.
A few weeks later, in the summer of 1881, James and Annie Eliza are married. Their first child, Elizabeth Annie, came quite soon, the 1891 census shows her age as 9, born in Tenbury, Worcs. The next three children, Catherine (Kate) and the twins William (Bill) and James (Jim) are recorded as born in Little Hereford. The baptisms of these four have not yet been discovered, but the younger children from Charles Ernest (Ernest) (1890) to Florence Ellen (Flossie) (1902) were all baptised at Burford Parish Church.
At the time of the 1891 Census, James, Annie Eliza and family are living at Lockyers Cottage, Burford, near the schoolhouse, rectory and Burford House. In another part of the building lived a family named Heath, including a son, William, aged 11. Someone of the name Bill Heath appears on family photos, described as a cousin. This could be him.
James’ mother, Charlotte, appears in the 1891 census, living now with her youngest son Charles (aged 26, which is about right) at Hatch Bank Cottage, Little Hereford. She is still not letting time catch up with her since she gives her age as 60 whereas it is more like 68. Hatch Bank is the location where the Parish Registers record James and Annie Eliza living at the time when all their children from 1896 (Henry Bernard, Harry) to 1902 (Flossie) are baptised
Also at the 1891 census, not far away in Little Hereford, at Brown’s Cottage, James’ older brother, George (pictured right) is living with his wife of 5 years, Mary Ann Cownley, and two daughters, Alice E. Powell and Charlote E. Powell. George’s younger daughter, Elizabeth Lily, born in 1892, known as Bessie, married Jack Humphries and is the mother of Keith and Bolton Humphries. Bolton still lives in Ashford Carbonel and my dad and I visited him in the summer of 1998. In 2003, I also made contact with a younger brother, Les Humphries & wife Margaret & have more information from them on that branch of the family.
James and Annie Eliza had a long and fruitful marriage, producing the following children:-
* William Powell is my grandfather. He is pictured on the left
with my grandmother, Ethel May Gwatkin,
when they were working together at Easton Court, near Burford, where they met.
They are in their early 20's. For more Gwatkin family history click
** Edith May is probably the one whom family sources say died young in tragic circumstances involving a fire, but I have no documentary evidence as yet. She does not appear in the 1901 census, when she would have been about 8 years old.
Some time between 1902 and 1914 James and Annie Eliza move to Home Farm, Ashford Carbonel, Shropshire. The farm was rented from Ashford Court. James worked the farm mostly on his own, raising sheep, cows and pigs, probably with help from the family. He also had apple orchards running behind the parish hall/war memorial, and made cider, probably commercially.
Family history had said that Mary Ann Faulkner (née Breakwell), Annie Eliza’s mother, lived into her 90’s at no. 17 Ashford Carbonel. The death registrations suggest that she died towards the end of 1917, age 82, in Tenbury district.
George Powell (James’ older brother) appears in the Ashford Carbonel parish registers as being buried on 3 May 1935 at age 79, whilst living at 18 Ashford Carbonel (where his grandson Bolton Humphries still lives).
Annie Eliza died on 23 October 1933, aged 72 and James died two years later on 28 November 1935, aged 77. They are buried together in the churchyard at Ashford Carbonel, not many yards from Home Farm.
In the Probate Index (of wills) one finds the following:
"Powell, James, of the Home Farm, Ashford Carbonel, Ludlow, Salop, died 28 November 1935. Administration (with will) Shrewsbury, 2 March 1936, to William Powell gardener and Charles Ernest Powell farmer. Effects £99 4s 6d."
At the Shrewsbury Record Office, the transcript of the will itself tells us no more about the estate, but speaks volumes about literacy in the first half of the 20th century:-
"This is the will off James Powell He wishes all his bellonings too bee eaquilley devided between his son’s and daughters signed Caroline Francis Thomas F Langslow.
James Powell X"
great-great-grandson of John Powell.
21 November 1999
(Published on web 23 April 2000)
Minor updates 26 November 2000 & 8 June 2003
Information gleaned from family sources, Census Returns, the General Register Office Index, the International Genealogical Index (of the Mormon Church), Parish Registers and Bishop’s Transcripts at the Family Records Centre, London, and the Berkshire, Hereford, Shrewsbury and Worcester Record Offices.
My Dad, William George James (Bill) Powell (1913 - 2003) in 1999.
Me as a baby in 1941, Mum [Annie Hoten] on left with her parents [George Hoten and Harriet Ann Dykes] behind, Dad on the right with his parents [Ethel May Gwatkin and William Powell]. I am on the knee of my Dad's mother's father, George Gwatkin.