Saturday, 9 June 2018

TWO BROTHERS FROM NUNEATON- The Story of John and William Gadsby



If they lived in Warwickshire today, brothers Billy and John Gadsby would have played football for the "the Nuns" or  "Boro" and would have been well known around the small towns of Nuneaton or Attleborough. This episode traces back to the earliest known stories about the Gadsbys in Nuneaton.  John (b1770) and William Gadsby (b1773) were the 8th and 9th children of the Gadsby family from  Attleborough in the county of Warwickshire.


Lets face it, John Gadsby senior (b1720) had enough children to form his own footy team! John my 4x Great grandfather had outlived his first wife Elizabeth Cope who died after producing his first 7 children. On 26/6/1770 after the reading of Banns at the Chilvers Coton Church the fifty year old John married for a second time to Martha Lingard who went on to produce at least 7 more children.




John was a road worker on the Attleborough/Nuneaton Road. Being poorly paid plus having a sizeable family saw the Gadsbys scrapping together and living in relative poverty. Nevertheless John Gadsby lived to the ripe old age of 96, dying in 1816 in Abbey Street Nuneaton.  He had fathered 14 children and outlived Martha by 8 years.

Amazingly, for a poor road worker many details of his life and the antics of his young family are known. It seems his youngest daughter Nancy was critical in providing information which was documented in a Memoir written by his grandson John (Son of William) upon the occasion of William’s death. Then aged about 60 and still living in the Nuneaton area, Nancy was able to provide information to William’s son about the family, children and  Attleborough in the early years.  This is the story of two brothers and the Memoir provided a starting point. 

John, their father, is said to have been a quiet man were as his wife Martha their mother was to have a reputation of being much louder as most mothers of seven children would be.   Presumably there were children still at home from John's first marriage to Elizabeth. (Eleanor, Elizabeth and Sarah plus 4 others)  Martha produced three boys John, William and Thomas (names which will be duplicated several times in future Gadsby generations) and a string of girls Anne, Fanny, Elizabeth and Nancy. Thomas the third son lived only a couple of months as was often the case in those times. 

John Gadsby born late 1770 is the ancestor/patriarch of our line. His christening records show him as John GADGBY baptised on 20/1/1771.   Gadgby is the provincial pronunciation of the name. His brother William Gadgby was baptised three years later on 17/1/1773.

As is often the case in large families, the boys were feeding and nursing babies as soon as they were able to sit up themselves. Their parents were so poor, education was out of the question.  The children were left to run about the village bare footed and in ragged clothes until they were old enough to work. It is known William received a meagre education -learning to read but not write at the Nuneaton Church School. Attendance was for perhaps 2-3 days per week.

The townships of Nuneaton and Attleborough were well known for their cottage industry of ribbon weaving the industry which was  introduced by French Protestant refugees. Weaving was mainly done in the homes of the workers.  Most probably Martha was supplementing the family income by operating a loom from home. While the children ran around the streets the people of Nuneaton worked on their looms beside long windows in the upper story of their homes. This allowed for maximum light and a good view of the children in the streets below.
A sketch from Ramsbottom's book of the Gadsby's Attleborough Home

Having plenty of time on their hands the two brothers Billy and John repeatedly got up to all sorts of mischief and pranks.  On a later visit to the village William told how they often they plagued  the life out of two prim and elderly ladies who lived in a cottage nearby. Eventually the ladies got their own back by drenching William with a bucket of water.


There is one story documented in the memoir about the two boys. It was during the time of the Nuneaton Fair around 1890. "We'll cut across this field to miss the crowds,” said John who was about 20 years old about this time. When they reached Attleborough he suggested that they call into the Three Crowns Public house to partake of some "Queen's cordial".  This is apparently no drink for the faint hearted. The recipe goes "take six quarts of Cherry Brandy, 2 quarts of sherry 3 pints of brandy, rum etc”. To this is added various herbs and spices.  Curious to try it young William bought 3 half pennies worth. Basically they did what brothers do and got horribly drunk together. By the end of the night William was begging the landlady for a bed. "No" she said, "I'll not have some drunken fellows here!" William never forgot that night. Apparently William did not drink liqueur very much forever more. He was so mortified he prayed all night for God's pardon.

About that same time John enlisted in the Warwickshire Militia and served in the regiment for nearly 28 years. The Militia had been established in 1757 as a type of home guard during the years of the Napoleonic Wars. As insufficient volunteers would come forward, a form of conscription was introduced in which each parish would make lists of adult males in the parish and hold ballots to choose men for “compulsory” service. All men in the parish aged 18-45 were included in the lists. “Drawn men” who were unwilling to serve in the militia had to find substitutes to serve instead of them.

It is unknown whether John was a willing volunteer, a drawn man or a willing substitute but Military service was probably seen as a stable income for a man from such a large and poor family.   The Warwickshire Militia was therefore a type of reserve army. At the time John enlisted (1889) most men only served for 5 years. There was widespread dissatisfaction with the balloting of young men. John served for a total of 25 years- his long service shows he clearly enjoyed the benefits of being a Militia man. John rose through the ranks of Private after nearly 9 years to Corporal for just over 4 years and to Sergeant for a further 11 years.


John Gadsby's militia service
In tracing the history of the militia it seems most likely that men lived at home during peacetime and that they would have spent time away from home only when on training camp.  During the Napoleonic War 1813-14 however men were placed on permanent duty. At this time his Militia records indicate he was a “Sargeant”. Military websites indicate Militia men did not serve overseas. However parish records show that while men were on permanent duty wives and families were paid allowances.  

Therefore John was a Militia man when he married his first wife Elizabeth Smith on 20/11/1897. The marriage lasted a short 6 years as Elizabeth died in 1803. There are no records of offspring from this marriage in the surrounding Nuneaton parishes. A little over a year later when he had been promoted to Sargent he married Mary Brown in December 1804.  This may have involved being involved in training of younger recruits or even relocation with Mary to another Parish. His longer absences away from home may explain the lack of children recorded in the local Nuneaton Parish records.



By 1814 John had left the Militia as a consequence of age and infirmity to return solely to his trade of ribbon weaver. At the time of his discharge his Militia papers describe him as grey haired with grey eyes and sallow complexion. He was a reasonably tall man at 5 feet 9 ¾ inches. 



The only recorded offspring of his marriage to Mary was Damaris who was born some while later in 1817. Unfortunately the life of Mary Brown came to an end 5 months after the birth of her daughter. In what seems to be a bit of a tradition with Johns in the Gadsby family he married again.  Within 6 months the banns were being read for the marriage of 24 year old Elizabeth Harris and John Gadsby. In June 1818 they were married. John was still ribbon-weaving most likely from a room in his home. At the height of demand for these highly decorative ribbons, ribbon weaving was the town’s main industry and weavers could earn good money.  


John and Elizabeth went on to have 5 children, four of whom (2 x Rebecca, William and Martha) died in infancy. The only surviving child was our John who was born in 1826. He is first recorded in official documents in the 1841 census as “Jno” living in Hall Row with his half sister Damaris and her family.  He was working in the family trade of ribbon weaving.


John and Damaris’ father, John the Militia man had died in 1833 when John was seven. His mother Elizabeth appears to have married a widower from the nearby Chilvers Coton, a hamlet of Attleborough. She and Thomas Clews had a couple of short years together. They married in 1836 and the 1841 census shows her living by herself as a ribbon weaver in Freer’s Row, Nuneaton not far from where John and Damaris were living. Freer’s Row was a narrow and very short street. Her neighbours were the Freer family a family of ribbon-weavers after whom the street was named. Her death is recorded as 1842.
John lives with Damaris and family in 1841 while his mother lives in a nearby street.

So John, the thrice-married Militia man,  and ribbon weaver lived to approximately 63 years old. What became of his only brother William? Why did his son see fit to write about William and the Gadsbys in a memoir which has survived until this time?

Life must have been hard for the growing Gadsby family. Plenty of time on their hands, little education meant they could get up to mischief but this was matched by a weekly dose of wrath and condemnation from the local clergy. William had serious thoughts about sins and God while still at school. Racked with guilt about stealing turnips from the field or his swearing and pranks , he would be regularly determined to reform and to be a good boy.  On one occasion he decided to run away from home. Feeling sorry for himself he disguised himself by stuffing old rags and straw down his back to look like a hunchback. An anxious John and Martha dismissed the sightings of a hunchback boy of similar age saying “O No, that could not be our boy.” 

As soon as children were old enough they began working on looms. At the age of 13, William was apprenticed for 5 years as a ribbon weaver to a Mr Copson. He was allowed to keep half of what he would earn from weaving.  Even then he still got up to all manner of sin and folly and it bothered his conscience. However, Ramsbottom in his book on William Gadsby, 2003, describes him as “a born leader, friendly, humorous and popular”. In the workshop he would hold forth for an hour at a time on an old tub to fellow workers making them roar with laughter. Once when he tried to leave the employment of Mr Copson his fellow workers complained so bitterly that he returned to work there.

He attended the Independent Church with his parents and later he attended a church at Bedworth.  He spent so much time trudging backwards and forwards to Bedworth that he and his mother Martha quarrelled. “O Billy, “she would say “You’re off again!” It wasn’t the fact that he was off to church so much as he only had one pair of shoes and his mother worried that unless he went barefoot his shoes would get worn out.  “Never mind, mother” he would say, “I shall be able to keep you yet.”

He eventually joined the Baptists at Coventry and was baptised in late 1893. Mr Aston who baptised him said “he could see something in the young man, although so illiterate and uncouth, that seemed blessedly to prove that he would some time or other be made useful to God’s dear family.” He trudged 8 miles each way to attend the Sunday services. It was during this walk that he composed the “8 Mile Hymn” one of his many. The experience of the drunken night with his brother John and witnessing a hanging of three young men in Coventry had profound effects on William when he would eventually become a preacher.

After meeting a girl named Elizabeth Marvin she persuaded him to give up ribbon weaving and take up stocking weaving in the nearby town of Hinkley.  They married on 16th May 1896 when he was twenty-three and she was twenty-five.  Having set up home in Hinkley the first of his children Rachael, Sarah and Phoebe were born. Here he became a preacher using the old barn at Hinkley and then building the Hinkley Chapel.
Church built by Gadsby  at Hinckley c 1803

Later he moved his young family to Manchester where his other children Ebenezer, John and William were born.


Here, he was a Minister for 38 years, widely known and respected as a remarkable and passionate preacher who had “a gracious effect in the hearts of men and women.” He championed the cause of the poor, especially over the Corn Laws. He is well known for the many hymns that he wrote some of which are still in use today.  His influence also came from his publication of the Gospel Standard magazine that he set up and which is still published today. He was the founder of  many churches, which spawned the term “Gadsbyites” in the 1820s.  A.C.Underwood in the “History of the English Baptists” described him as “a pulpit genius” and his great friend J.C.Philpot  said of him “he spoke with such power and authority that it seemed almost as if he had been in the third heaven.”

William Gadsby (npg.org.uk)

This great son, father, husband and preacher did not return to Nuneaton very often due to his commitments to his many Churches in Manchester and surrounds. It is known that he took the funeral sermon at Attleborough for his mother who died in 1808. When his father John died at the age of 96, he penned a poem of 15 verses “On the Death of the Author’s Father” (Nazarene’s Songs No 175) in hope that all was well with him in the hereafter. 

It is documented that he was always a little stretched for funds for his preaching and good works but that the Lord always provided. He was used to being poor and with his family of 6 children he had many providential difficulties as his income did not support his family let alone other projects.  Gadsby always believed that “My every need He richly will supply.”  Later when he received funds in praising God he would preach  “He has heard my prayer and helped me, and I will trust Him as long as I live.”

William's son John documented his life in"A Memoir of the Late Mr William Gadsby" 1844 
William died in 1844 in Manchester. His wife, Elizabeth died  in 1851 having suffered from debilitating mental afflictions for over 30 years.  His children Phoebe and William immigrated to the USA. Sarah, Rachael and Ebenezer married and stayed around Manchester having 17 children between them. John in (what appears to be a trend amongst Johns) married three times and continued his father’s good works by editing, authoring and publishing religious works. He wrote the “Memoir of William Gadsby” upon his father’s death in 1844 and as a result of this we have been able to  picture our Attleborough roots .   

A treasured copy of Gadsby's Hymns 

One little lasting memory of our relationship with the famous preacher occurred when Thomas our great grandfather came to Australia in 1912. His brother John gave him a Gadsby Hymn book when he was leaving- a lasting reminder of our Nuneaton history. Thomas who told the story of bringing it to Australia to his children and grandchildren treasured this hymnbook and reminder of home. He, having little else to give passed it on to his oldest grand-daughter, Betty for safe keeping and our heritage has been in her safe hands ever since.    
I like to think this street in Nuneaton is named for us all.

There are two streets in Nuneaton visible from the train. William Street and Gadsby Street both named in honour of their famous ex-resident, William the preacher. I like to think that William Gadsby shares the honour with those who lived there too and the generations who came after  – the humble, honest townsfolk who went about their business worked  hard and  served their country. They also bore the “famous” Gadsby name.

Acknowledgement:
I have received much help from complete strangers in researching this part of the history of our family. BA Ramsbottom’s book was invaluable and he has tried to put me in touch with others researching Gadsby relatives. He is still heavily involved with the Gospel Standard originally set up by William. Some of the pictures have been supplied by him.

Peter Lee from the North Warwickshire Family  History Society has also been of assistance. He lives in Attleborough and has volunteered to take me on a tour of the town hopefully sooner rather than later. His family developed some properties on the famous Gadsby Street.  Peter provided me with the first article on William the preacher when  I enquired about Gadsbys living in Nuneaton in 2010.
We have befriended Chet Gadsby in the USA who has numerous records of Gadsby births, deaths and marriages- he claims their purchase of them as religious tax deductions! Thanks Chet.
My partner in crime , Leane Lawrence has been a great  little researcher sifting  through Parish records and keeping me posted on her many finds in the family tree.  

For more information on Gadsby’s hymn’s there are  free copies  in e- book format  or PDF on the internet. John Gadsby’s Memoirs of William Gadsby and  some of his own writings are also available  as PDF or e- book for free.

If you search William Gadsby on Youtube you will get a couple of his famous hymns set to modern music. Here's one  Gadsby Hymn

At first glance we thought we had nothing to go on except a hope that we might find someone famous in our tree and that we might be related to this preacher whose hymn book we had and who had the same name.

So in answering   “Who do you think you are?”  I think we came from pretty hard working and honest working class people- something to aim for.

Should you find any more information or if you have any questions please email me 

#52 Ancestors "Going to the Chapel"

Monday, 28 May 2018

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cheers Robyn in Australia

Sunday, 20 May 2018

In search of the French Canadian……. A Story of Joseph and Emily Hudson nee Purcell

Joseph and Emily Hudson nee Purcell


Reflection ........
Ethel Ford was my husband's grandmother- daughter of Joseph and Emily.
In a letter written in 1970, Albert Higgins recalls the occasion when he came to farewell a young Ethel Ford as she began her journey on SS Hobsons Bay to Australia in 1913. The then 21 year old Ethel Hudson had married a 26 year old merchant sailor, Sidney Ford several months earlier in April 1913 and was beginning a new life in Australia.  Sid had gone on ahead and Ethel who was then several months pregnant was joining him in Sydney.
Brother-in-law Albert was writing to Sidney Ford after the death of dear wife Ethel in that year. 57 years had passed but Ethel and Sid’s families still maintained the some contact with their relatives they had left behind in the mother country.
By all accounts Ethel and Sid made a good life of themselves in Gladesville, Sydney. After travelling to Australia several times Sid made his last journey with the Merchant Marines on the Makarini where he left their employ in Melbourne in June 1913. He commenced work plying the Parramatta River with Sydney Ferries in August 1913. Ethel was to arrive in Australia in December 1913 on the Hobsons Bay but was forced to leave the ship in Melbourne due to the imminent birth of their first child, Alice Ethel Ford who was born on 11/1/1914.
For a man working the harbour these were interesting times. Sydney still a fairly infant city  was welcoming the newly formed Royal Australian Navy fleet in 1913 as it steamed its way through Sydney Heads for the first time. By 1914 the prospect of a war with Germany was looming. Within a year Australia would be at war and within 2 years their family of three children would be complete. Alice was named after Sid’s mother Alice, the second child Patrick Sidney George Ford was named after Sid's father and himself and their third child Joseph Hudson Ford was named after Ethel's father Joseph Hudson.  
They settled in Gladesville, a riverside town originally serviced by water transport through the bushland along the Parramatta River. Gladesville is located 9 kilometres north-west of the Sydney. As it expanded tramway and roads brought with it further growth and expansion.


Ethel and Sid in the early days



Ethel Hudson b: 08 Sep 1892 in Heald Green Northern Etchells England, d: 20 Mar 1970 in Sydney Australia

...... + Sidney Edward Ford b: 15 Jan 1887 in Donegal Arran Island , Ireland, m: 05 Apr 1913 in Croydon, London, d: 12 Aug 1970 in Sydney

......... Alice Ethel Ford b: 11 Jan 1914 in Melbourne?, d: 27 Jul 2010 in Western Australia

.........   + Arnold Francis (Mick) Fishburn b: 1898 in Inverell, NSW, m: 1938 in Sydney, d: 1972

........ Patrick SidneyGeorge (Paddy) Ford b: 16 Jun 1915, d: 30 Jun 1985 in Sydney

.........   + Rose May Laver m: 1939, d: 31 Aug 1981 in Ryde

......... Joseph Hudson Ford b: 07 Aug 1916, d: 23 Jul 2007 in Sydney

.........   + Winifred Cassidy m: 10 Jun 1944 in St Michaels, Meadowbank

When Ethel arrived in Australia she was making her home a long way from her own extended family.  In all Ethel Ford's Australian family was quite small compared to the big family she and Sid had come from back in England. Sid was one of nine and Ethel had 10 siblings: 4 sisters, a brother and 5 stepsiblings.

Ethel's family history 

Each of Ethel's parents had married twice. This is the story of Ethel Hudson, her siblings and her parents, Emily and Joseph Hudson. There is talk of a mysterious French Canadian who may or may not have fathered some of the children.

Joseph Hudson (1826 -- 1896) had married Elizabeth Leigh in 1846 and fathered five children. Joseph was a long-term Heald Green resident as was his father before him. He variously worked as an agricultural labourer or a Gardener. 

Joseph Hudson and family 1841 census

He came from Northen Etchells which in 1870-72, John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described as a township in Northen parish, Cheshire; adjacent to Stockport-Etchells and to the river Mersey. It’s 5 miles West by South of Stockport with a population of 721 and 153 houses.

Joseph Hudson b: 1826 in Cheshire Long Lane Cheadle, Manchester, d: 16 Jan 1896 in Heald Green, Northern Etchells

... + Elizabeth Leigh b: 1823 in Cheshire Wilmiston, Manchester, m: 25 Oct 1846 in    Manchester Cathedral, d: 1884 in Altrincham

..... Eliza Hudson b: Abt. 1849 in Cheshire Moss Nook, Manchester

..... Ann Hudson b: Abt. 1850 in Cheshire Northern Etchelles, Manchester

..... Henry Hudson b: Abt. 1853 in Northern Etchells , Gatley Cheshire

..... Hannah Hudson b: Abt. 1860

..... Emily Hudson b: Abt. 1864 in Nthn Etchells, d: 1944


Prior to his  wife's death in 1884 Joseph appears in the 1851, 1861,1871 and 1881 census living in Heald Green with Elizabeth. After Elizabeth died in 1884 Joseph lived alone for a few years. The 1891 census shows him living with his granddaughter Mary as housekeeper.  

On the whole Joseph and Elizabeth’s children remained in the area, marrying and having families. (Eliza is difficult to trace.) It seems a family trait that the male son, husbands or grandchildren seem to work as gardeners or gardener’s labourers. A green thumb seems to run in the family!  it is important to note that two of Joseph's daughters from this marriage have matching DNA to my husband.

Six months after Elizabeth’s death Joseph married a very much younger Emily Purcell in a Church of England ceremony at Northenden in August 1891.

Emily’s background is mysterious. Is she hiding something? She constantly changes her details and age and the fact that she doesn’t appear in previous census provides much difficulty with tracing her birth records.

Emily has been  working in an Industrial School for Girls at Sale as she is an assistant laundress at Northenden in the 1891 census just months before her marriage to Joseph. Here she claims her place of birth is Chester, Chester and her age at last birthday is 24. The school is located on Northenden Rd. Northenden is the location of the Church of England Church where they are married.



Soon after this 1891 census is taken at approximately 68 years of age Joseph is married to Emily who has increased her age up to a more respectable 30. Joseph on his wedding certificate claims he is 56. Our Joseph makes his mark (x) on the certificate. It is understandable that he may have confused his numbers and therefore his real age but it is more likely to cover for the fact that he has a range of children from 27 to 42 already and he’s marrying a woman younger than his children.    


Joseph with Emily proceeds to father Ethel in 1892, Joseph Jr in 1894, Amelia in 1895 and possibly Jessie in 1896 just prior to his death. There are some claims Jessie has a Spanish father. Joseph is attributed as the father when later Doris and Mabel are born and christened years after his death and they are given the Hudson name. My husband has a strong DNA match with a relative of Joseph Jr too. 

Joseph Hudson b: 1826 in Cheshire Long Lane Cheadle, Manchester, d: 16 Jan 1896 in Heald Green, Northern Etchells

... + Emily Purcell b: 1871??, m: 03 Aug 1891 in Parish Church Northenden, Chester, d: 13 Jun 1927 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......Ethel Hudson b: 08 Sep 1892 in Heald Green Northern Etchells  England, d: 20 Mar 1970 in Sydney Australia

...... Joseph Hudson b: 25 Feb 1894 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester; christening 28/4/1895, d: Mar 1968 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......Amelia Hudson b: 05 Apr 1895 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester; christening 28/4/1895 (probably died 1918)

......Jessie Annie Hudson b: 22 Jun 1896 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester, d: 17 Dec 1971 

......Doris Hudson b: 23 Dec 1900 in Ches Rock Ferry England, d: 03 Oct 1986 in Cheltenham Gloucester

...... Mabel Alexandra Hudson b: 1902 in RockFerry; 16/7/1902 christening Tranmere, Cheshire, d: 1959 in Paddington, London


A family story goes that Ethel had some French-Canadian blood and that her father was killed in a farming accident.  Younger sister, Jessie, claimed to have Spanish blood. So we go in search of the French-Canadian/Spanish man who supposedly dies in a farming accident. Certainly there can still be doubt about who fathered Amelia, Doris and Mabel and there is still a possibility that Jessie was fathered by the doctor attending Joseph. Another family rumour. The one who signed the death certificate was definitely English (but single).

Joseph’s 1896 death certificate names the cause of death as “apoplexy”. In modern-day terms this is a sudden and marked loss of bodily function due to a rupture of a blood vessel. Certainly a sudden death while Joseph was working as an agricultural labourer could be described as a farming accident. Perhaps he was pulling a plough or using some farming equipment when this event occurred but Joseph, a long-term Northern Etchells resident as verified by census was no French-Canadian. Where does the rumour come from?  Remember that there is now a DNA connection between Joseph and Ethel (and at least her brother).

Perhaps it stems from Emily whose background is so mysterious and records so fanciful. On her marriage certificate she names her father as John Purcell, a deceased blacksmith. Little is known of Emily’s past or her parentage.  Mystery surrounds whether she came from Liverpool, Lancashire, Manchester or Chester. Her father John is recorded as deceased in both wedding documents firstly as a blacksmith and secondly as a labourer.

Having a surname Purcell everything points to an Irish background. The explanation of the surname Purcell has it deriving from Puirseil (the French pourcel, meaning little pig) is an Anglo Norman name much used in Ireland (Tipperary). Their families distinguished themselves in the wars of the 17th century and as "Wild Geese" the term is used for Irish exiles in Europe.  Not really French Canadian but there could be a Spanish connection here.

Emily’s previous life with John her father has not been established. Even the witnesses at her marriage to Joseph are quite mysterious. John Pearson can be found in the Moss Nook area from census records and is probably well known to Joseph and his family. Marion Bracken however is only six months earlier living at Gorton  Lancashire having been born in 1860 in York.

It seems Joseph left his wife quite well off. Emily inherited Joseph’s effects of £288 after his death in 1896 as recorded in the probate notice. Surely Emily’s arrival in their father’s life, her subsequent brood and her inheritance would not have gone over too well with the Hudson children from the previous marriage to Elizabeth Leigh. This is a sizeable sum for those days. It is not surprising that Emily took the tribe off to live in Tranmere which is a suburb of Birkenhead.

Emily Hudson

Emily next appears aged 36 in the 1901 census in her widowed status with no occupation and living with her 5 children Ethel, Joseph, Amelia, Jessie and Doris. Someone has been warming her bed because Doris is just 3 month old baby. Enter Patrick Qualters, single and aged 40. Patrick is present as a "visitor" on 1901 census night.

Is he the mysterious French-Canadian? I think not. Patrick Qualters was born in Flint, Wales which is actually within a short distance across the water from where they are living. He appears to have had a rather sad life first appearing in the 1871 census as a small boy with his parents and brother living in Wales. In a subsequent census has he and his brother are living his step father and mother and working in a chemical factory. The subsequent census in1891 has him working again as a chemical labourer in Wales near Holywell. This time round he is a boarder. When he is recorded as a visitor to Emily on Census night 1901 he is noted as a labourer who is blind in one eye. Perhaps an accident at the chemical factory?


Anyway this lad from Flintshire, Wales with Irish parents is hardly our French-Canadian although I rather suspect that possibly he or another gentleman friend that Emily had as a “visitor” in 1900-01 may have been Doris or Mabel's father. Doris is just three months old on census night and Mabel was born just a little over a year after the census was taken! I considered another possibility regarding Patrick-- that he left the English shores and emigrated to MontrĂ©al/Quebec. However, records show his life seems to have ended not far from where he originated with him dying in St Asaph near Flintshire in 1913.

By July 1906 Emily had met and married Harry Hall, a rag and bone man born and bred in Cheshire. He was living on an army pension having served in the militia. Even if he had been around to father the children he was surely not the French Canadian. Having met a younger man Emily changes her date of birth again. Now her 25 July 1906 marriage certificate states her age as 38 when she marries Harry Hall, a Hawker in a church wedding at St Nicholas Church in Liverpool.


Emily marries Harry Hall

With the new marital arrangements Emily obviously has not been able to accommodate a growing clan and 1911 census shows the family was separated across different addresses. Ethel, the oldest daughter had left home sometime before to become a domestic servant to the Blackburn family in Ferndale St Waterloo, Liverpool. Arthur Blackburn the head of the household was a mining engineer and superintendent and his family was originally from Birkenhead.

Amelia appears as a 17-year-old in training for domestic service at St Edmunds Convent and House of Mercy Blandford Square Marylebone. Little 8 year old Mabel is recorded as being adopted by Annie Munt and living in Stroud. Doris had been dispatched to live with the Smith family in Stroud, Gloucester and is attending a school nearby. Both Mabel and Doris's situations appear curious with Gloucester being miles away and there appears to be no family connection.

So when the 1911 census was taken only Joseph and Jessie were living with Emily and Harry. All were boarders with the Astle Family in Wilson Street Birkenhead. Joseph had picked up a job as a general labourer at the local shipyard. Jessie was now 12 or 15 with no occupation given but is listed as a 2 year old. Harry gives his age as 38 and appears to be working as a milk dealer as well as collecting his army pension. Emily's age is curiously inconsistent yet again with her age stated as 40. Even more curiously her length of marriage to Harry is noted as 11 years!

Emily, Harry, Joseph and Jessie in the 1911 census

Emily's marriage to Harry was not all that successful. The children did not like the way Harry treated their mother and did not particularly likely a stepfather who drank. Things deteriorated for Emily after that 1911 census. Clearly the inheritance had run out.  Court records see Harry fined or jailed for six days in 1916 for being drunk and a few weeks later fined and/or jailed again for non-payment of £15 to the industrial school.  Presumably this was for the education of Mabel and/or Doris. Harry died in 20th July 1917 and was buried in a pauper's grave in Flaybrick Cemetery. 

In the next few years Emily had several bouts of illness and was hospitalized. She spent much time with her daughter Jessie and her own growing family of seven grandchildren. Emily lamented the fact that Ethel had left her and that Amelia had died also around that time. Her other daughters had no children.

Sadly Emily died a painful death on 13 June 1927. Having fallen down the cellar stairs at the house she lived in on June 7, the coroner determined she died of shock, heart failure, head, arm and leg injuries. She too was buried in a pauper's grave at Flaybrick Cemetery. It seems that her children were not able to provide for her. Today her great-grandchildren in Australia are surprised by this state of affairs as a block of land next door to their grandmother Ethel Ford at Gladesville had been purchased in order for Emily to come and  live in Sydney. No doubt a burial took place before arrangements or contact could be made with the extended family in Australia.

Emily’s death certificate

Jessie had claimed that Joseph Hudson was not her father and had hinted that there was a Spanish background. Tony Martin remembers “My Nan said that her father was not Joseph Hudson and that Amelia looked just like her. Both were fair haired just like Doris, and Mabel.”


Jessie Anne Martin with her mother and grandchildren
Jessie married John Henry Martin in 1917 and having fallen pregnant with 7 children there was some strain on the marriage with John leaving. In 1949 she married Thomas Stewart at Birkenhead but it too ended in divorce.

Jessie Annie Hudson b: 22 Jun 1896 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester, d: 17 Dec 1971 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......   + John Henry Martin b: 1895, m: 16 Jul 1917

……  + Thomas Stewart b: 1906, m: 29 Jul 1949 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......... Jessie Martin b: 28 Feb 1925, d: 06 Mar 1983 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

.........   + Albert S Rule

......... John (Jack) William Martin b: 30 Dec 1917, d: 2012

.........   + Marion Ebdon b: 1921, m: 1941, d: 1998

......... Albert Henry Martin b: 26 Jan 1919, d: 16 Jan 1970

......... Joseph Martin b: 26 Jan 1920, d: 1990 in Thameside Manchester

.........   + Mary Dalton m: 1941

......... George Martin b: 17 Feb 1922, d: 16 Jul 1990 in Charing Cross London

.........   + Violet Fryer b: 1925, m: 19 Jul 1947, d: 2005

......... Thomas Martin b: 30 May 1926, d: 31 Jul 2000 in Wallasey, Cheshire, England

.........   + Margaret E Nuttall b: 1936, m: 14 Jul 1954, d: 2009

......... James Martin b: 30 Jun 1923, d: 2006 in Dover , Kent

........   + Norah S Platten b: 1920



Emily with her Grandson Jack in 1918
Today two of Jessie’s great granddaughters have jobs in Manchester and they live just a few miles from where the Hudsons were born. The place is now the runway for Manchester.

To Jessie, Emily had expressed sadness that she had lost two of her daughters at the same time: Ethel to Australia and Amelia. Ethel left for Australia in 1913.

Amelia, it is reported, died after being killed by a bull. Reputedly she may have been 15 although this doesn’t tie in with other records and events. It doesn’t appear that her sisters and especially Jessie were present for funeral Details seem sketchy about Amelia’s whereabouts and events since 1901.  A record showing a girl of her age training for domestic service at St Edmonds Convent and House of Mercy at Blandford Sq shows up in the census of  1911.It is probable Amelia died in Billericay Registration  district in 1918 at age 22. An Amelia Hudson had been placed in the electoral roll for 23 Chapel house Mintern St Shoreditch in 1818.This narrows the “loss” of the two daughters to a relatively short space of 3-4 years.

Despite their separation the siblings remained in contact until their deaths. Mabel and Doris became nurses and kept in contact. Despite her separation by “adoption” Mabel left her personal effects of £324 to her sister Doris when she died in 1959. Both the girls had become nurses. Mabel eventually married Bertrand Alfred Annison. It appears he may have been married elsewhere and for this reason he and Mabel lived as man and wife in a de facto relationship in London from about 1929 to 1940 when they officially married. She died in St Luke's Hospital having lived in Islington. Her probate shows her as a widow aged 63 as Bertram died the year before.

   Mabel Alexandra Hudson b: 1902 in RockFerry; 16/7/1902 christening Tranmere, Cheshire, d: 1959 in Paddington , London

......   + Bertram Alfred Annison b: 06 May 1890, m: 1940 in Islington London


Doris married Leslie Saxton in 1939 at Wandsworth and sadly they remained childless. On the passing of her sister Ethel in 1970 she wrote …



Excerpt from a letter by Doris on the passing of Ethel


She and Leslie saw out their days in “a pleasant little maisonette with a nice little garden” in Cheltenham  after selling up their place in Lincoln.  She was the last of Emily’s children to die in 1986.

..... Doris Hudson b: 23 Dec 1900 in Rock Ferry England, d: 03 Oct 1986 in Cheltenham Gloucester

......   + Leslie James Saxton m: 1939 in Wandsworth


Joseph and Doris
Joseph Jr died in 1968 in Birkenhead.  Doris reported that Joseph had died at Birkenhead two years previously when she wrote to Wynne Ford  in 1970 after the death of Ethel.  He had lived to a good age of 73. Having married a lovely woman, Annie Dunn in 1931 they had had 3 children and a step daughter Lilly Dunn who is still alive and living in Manchester today.  Joseph kept in touch with his sisters Ethel, Jessie and Doris. Little Emily married the boxer, Gordon H Heayns dying only recently had a precious locket which had a picture of Doris. Jessie’s grandson Tony remembers visiting the family at their flat in Birkenhead and still visits Joseph’s step daughter Lilly. All of Joseph’s children have died in recent years.

Joseph Hudson b: 25 Feb 1894 in Cheshire Cheadle, Manchester; christening 28/4/1895, d: Mar 1968 in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England

......   + Annie Dunn m: 1931 in Birkenhead, Cheshire

.........Joseph Hudson

........ James Hudson

........ Emily Hudson

For Ethel, her family grew up, married and moved on. At last count there were 8 grandchildren (including one nun), 17 great grandchildren plus copious great great children living all across Australia. She was proud of her son Joseph who went to serve in WWII. Alice mostly lived in southern NSW. After she was widowed she moved from Wollongong to the Gladesville family home where she lived for another 30 years until she moved to Western Australia to be with her daughter’s family.



I asked around for some memories of Ethel from those who grew up around her. Her Granddaughter remembers the “Double block, plenty of rocks on the land too. I used to love running around the gardens, rocks and up and down the steps. They did have a lovely garden and a huge passion fruit vine going across the block.” 

Steve Ford recalls “At the side of the house there were a number of very tall palm trees – a bit out of character with the old house. A Sunday routine was to visit, be served special biscuits & wander about the back yard.  We would all sit in the lounge room and eat the treats then after a respectable amount of time we could explore the veggie garden, Pop’s shed full of interesting tools, a sulky  and the tidal mangrove area at the bottom of their street where there was a wreck of an old rotten timber boat.”

Chris Ford remembers “Mum Ford as a fairly strong and dogmatic character. She had little time for authority, banks, doctors etc. She loved the Americans and didn’t appreciate my comments on the Vietnam (War).”

“Mum Ford taught herself to drive (Pop never held a Licence). During the war, she was in the auxiliary and drove Army vehicles.” “I remember there was a photograph of her at the start/finish of the first Melbourne-Sydney road race.” Fay lived with her for a time and being musical played the piano at the house .

Chris’ last memory of Ethel is seeing her off in an ambulance after finding her unwell. Pop Ford was in hospital at the time. She died of pneumonia on 20th March 1970. Her husband of 57 years died a few months later of complications after an operation for cancer. Alice went to live in the family home. After it was sold up in 2000 it was demolished to make way for something more salubrious in the popular Sydney suburb.  


Ethel and Sidney Ford- proud parents at the wedding of her youngest son Joe and Wynne Cassidy 1944


A rare get together of some of the Ford family 1996.

 “The Hudsons” result from the love and hard work of those who stuck around not the missing Spaniard or elusive French Canadian. Emily send us a sign if there really was a French Canadian or a Spaniard and give us a hint as to your past.  

To my way of thinking, I like the idea of the hard working old gardener, Joseph Hudson, a salt of the earth long term Brit from Heald Green, Chester and I think he’d be chuffed. 



Cheers to the Hudsons… to Emily and Joseph and all the rest of us!!