Sunday, August 26, 2012

David Whybrew's military career - part 1.

David Whybrew joined the Essex Rifles as a volunteer in November 1856, just a few months after the end of the Crimean War (October 1853 – February 1856). By the 30th December of that year he had applied, and been granted leave, to transfer to the 50th (Queen's Own) Regiment. At the time he was said to be 21 years old, although he was probably closer to 18. The record of his transfer describes him as 5' 4'' (163cm), with grey eyes and a fresh complexion. 

Soldier of the 50th regiment
 in the  1740's
Incidently, the military records, available on, are indexed under his original militia regiment rather than the 50th. It was only recently, after I searched for his name without listing his regiment, that I discovered them. 

David enlisted at a time when conditions in the army were beginning to improve. During the Crimean War, eye witness accounts of the appalling conditions on and around the battle fields were reported in the British newspapers for the first time, aided by the introduction of the telegraph and photography. Florence Nightingale was one of those who responded to the reports. Medical care for soldiers began to be taken seriously. The government also set up a number of enquiries into the running of the army which led to improvements over the next 50 years.

David's first posting outside England was to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1857. His medical records show he suffered from tropical ulcers and a 'febrile inter[?]' (presumably malaria) which was treated with quinine. From there his regiment sailed to New Zealand, where they were involved in the Maori Wars of 1863. He seems to have come through that unscathed. 

In 1866 they went on to Australia, and travelled via Norfolk Island, Van Diemen's Land and Sydney to arrive in Adelaide on the 16th August 1867. Several British regiments were stationed in South Australia to act as law-enforcers, as well as to protect the colony from potential attackers. (Apparently some seriously thought the Russians would like to take the colony.) The commander of the 50th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Hamley, became Acting Governor during their stay, and he was well respected. 

However, the conduct of the lower ranks of the Red Coats was not always exemplary, as the writer of this letter to the editor of the South Australian Register complains. Drunkenness, stealing, and disorderly conduct seem to have been quite common, and David Whybrew was certainly not the only member of the regiment to find himself in the local police court during this time. In his defence, his commanding officer, Lieutenant Fleury, is reported as saying that "Corporal Whybrew had been in the force 12 years. His conduct had been very good. He had two badges for it."

When the regiment left South Australia in April 1869, David was not with them. He is mentioned in the South Australian Police Gazette on April 28 among those soldiers who had deserted. His name appears again on May 19 after he and another soldier, John Love, gave themselves up. 

He must have been dealt with quite leniently, because a few days later, on May 28 he and Susan Mason were married at St Luke's church. I haven't discovered when they returned to England, but it must have been after Eliza's birth in December 1869. His military records show he was in Bristol in 1870 and at the time of the English census of 1871 David was with the regiment in the barracks in Aldershot. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thomas Ward - a hole in the wall

One of my long-standing "brick walls" has been Thomas Ward, the husband of Frances Dickinson. I knew that he and Frances married in Standish in 1802, and that she was a widow by 1818. His name didn't appear in the Walton Le Dale parish records for burials between 1809 (when his youngest son Richard was born) and 1818, but there was a tantalising gap in the records on the Lancashire Online Parish Clerks site between 1813 and 1814, and I couldn't find the records anywhere else.

Being able to narrow down his date of death to a two year period might seem more than adequate, but I was hoping to find his burial record to see if it gave me a clue to when he was born. Without a date of birth I couldn't go back any further.

Yesterday I finally found the 1813-1814 records on (or to be more accurate, the Bishop's Transcripts of the parish records). So now I know not only that Thomas Warde (sic) was buried in September 1813, but also that he was born about 1779 and worked as a joiner. Hooray!

A bit more searching on and produced a possible father and mother for Thomas - Cuthbert and Ellen Ward (nee Catteral). They had a son, Thomas, in Kirkham, Lancashire, in 1779, and then two daughters born in Kirkham, in 1781 and 1783. After that they vanish from the Kirkham records, but a Cuthbert and Ellen Ward appear in Walton Le Dale, with the birth of another daughter in 1785. Several more children were born in Walton Le Dale. Cuthbert died there in 1799 and his occupation at his burial was recorded as 'joiner'.

So it all seems to fit together nicely. I need to do a bit more research before claiming Cuthbert as 'one of ours'. Still, finding a way over or through walls is what makes the research so rewarding (and addictive.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

David Whybrew's childhood

Stanway 'Spike', the workhouse where David Whybrew
was an inmate in 1851
  © Copyright Glyn Baker and licensed for reuse
under this Creative Commons Licence
Anyone who has read Charles Dicken's novels would know that 'the workhouse' in 19th century England was synonymous with humiliating poverty and deprivation. Conditions in the workhouses were deliberately intended to deter any able-bodied person from seeking help.

According to Peter Higginbotham on his website 'The Workhouse', parishes were responsible for caring for anyone unable to care for themselves. They did this by levying a tax, the poor rate, on local property owners. Most of this was dispensed as 'out relief', enabling people to remain in their own homes by providing food, clothing, tools for work and so on.

Workhouses generally took in those who could  not work - orphans, the elderly without family, unmarried mothers and the disabled. However, parishes did have the option of restricting relief to those willing to enter the workhouse, as a deterrent to those who were capable of supporting themselves. In this situation, those fit enough to work were expected to work without pay in return for their board.

Conditions in the workhouses were generally spartan, cheerless and degrading. Despite this, there was often a perception that 'poor relief' was seen as an easy option for those who didn't want to work. (Does that sound familiar?) In 1832, at a time of growing unrest and spiralling costs, the British Government set up a Royal Commission to look into the running of poor relief. This resulted in the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which was intended to abolish the 'out relief' system altogether. Only residents of the workhouses would be given poor relief, and if a man couldn't support his family, the whole family had to move into the workhouse.

Under the act, local parish relief systems were combined into Poor Law Unions. Many large new Union workhouses were pupose-built at this time, including the one at Stanway, in Essex, run by the Lexden and Winstree Union, which could hold up to 330 people. This was where David Whybrew was living when the census was taken in 1851.

We can only guess at how David came to be there. After his mother Sarah's death (probably in 1841) the family seem to have moved from Wormingford to Wakes Colne, a few miles away. I say this on the basis that James Whybrew died there in 1848, and whoever completed the census at the Stanway Workhouse assumed that David was born there. All three of David's sisters also eventually married men associated with Wakes Colne or the adjacent White Colne.

When James died, David would have been about 10 years old, still too young to find work or care for himself.  Sophia had married, and Harriet and Eliza were probably working as servants. (Unfortunately I can't find either of them on the 1851 census.) Jeremiah, still single, seems to have gone off to North America before 1851. Apparently no-one in the extended family was able to take David in. He may even have moved into the workhouse before James death, if James was unable to support him.

It's unlikely that David received much emotional support or personal attention as an inmate of the workhouse. It might have been some comfort and encouragement to have so many other children around him who were in the same situation. One of these was Alfred Duncombe, brother of Sophia's husband Charles, who had been there most of his life.

There were some benefits to being in the workhouse. He would at least have a roof over his head, regular meals and an education. In an article from 1850 quoted by History House on poverty among Essex labourers, the writer says  "It is one of the anomalies of the poor-law, that the pauper is better fed, better clothed and better lodged than the labourer." Not well fed, but at least better fed.

In fact the pauper may have been better educated than his future employers. The writer recounts a conversation with a local farmer:
"I am," said he, "one of the guardians of our union, and I just happened to go into the school-room and there if the master wasn't telling the boys to point out with a stick, on some big maps that were hanging up, where South Amerikey was, and France, and a lot of other places, and they did it, too. Well, when I went home, I told my son of it, and asked him if he could tell me where them places was; and he couldn't. Now, is it right that these here pauper children should know more than the person who will have to employ them?"
Perhaps the names on the big maps and the institutional life of the workhouse were what inspired David to join the army as soon as he was old enough.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Update on Sarah Baldwin (Whybrew)

Since my last post I've been able to trace both a parish record and an entry in the GRO (General Registry Office) index for a Sarah Wybrow* who died in 1841. Her death was registered in the July-September quarter at Lexden, Essex, and her burial is recorded on 11 July 1841 at St Mary's church, Bures St Mary, Suffolk.

The parish record, (a transcription from the Suffolk Family History Society, provided on a commercial family history site), gives Sarah's date of birth at 1806. This would certainly fit with the dates for Sarah Baldwin. It wouldn't be unknown for someone to be buried in a place they were strongly associated with, rather than in their local parish church, especially since Wormingford and Bures St Mary are so close.

It would also explain why Sarah had no children after David's birth, despite being so young. From the parish records it looks as though the Sarah Whybrew whose death is registered in Lexden in 1847 was born in 1770, which helps to exclude this date.

 *The names Whybrew, Whybrow, Wybrow, Wibrow etc seem to be used interchangeably at this time, so the difference in spelling of Sarah's name is not of great concern.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sarah Baldwin

Name:Sarah BALDWIN
Individual Facts
Birthabt 1811 (1806?)outside Essex 1
Deathbefore 1851 (1841?)Essex? 
1. James WHYBREW (c1801-c1848)
ChildrenSophia WHYBREW (1826-1905)
Jeremiah WHYBREW (1830-1878)
Eliza WHYBREW (1832- 1908 )
Harriet WHYBREW (1833- 1893 )
David WHYBREW (1838-1917)

1. 1841 UK census

Sarah Baldwin - a short life

St Mary's Bures, Suffolk*
Sarah Baldwin was probably still a teenager when she married the widowed James Whybrew in St Mary's Bures in 1826. If her date of birth is calculated from the 1841 census, she was only 15 when she married, but the ages of adults were rounded down to the nearest 5 in that census, so she is likely to have been born sometime between 1807 and 1811.

Unfortunately the 1841 census is the only information we have about Sarah's date and place of birth, and it only tells us that she was born outside of Essex. Perhaps since she married James in St Mary's Bures, in Suffolk, she also came from somewhere in Suffolk.

At the time of their marriage, James' children by his first marriage would have been quite young - James about 7, Louisa 5 and Jeremiah 3. As mentioned before, it appears that Jeremiah died that same year, just before the wedding took place.

Sarah's first child, Sophia, was born at Bures and baptised at the end of 1826. Jeremiah (the second Jeremiah born to James) followed in 1830, and by now the family were living in Essex. Eliza was born about 1832, Harriet in 1833 and David in 1838, when Sarah was still in her late twenties.

At the time of the 1841 census James and Sarah had the five youngest children living with them at Wormingford. I haven't discovered (yet!) where James and Loiusa were in 1841. James appears to have married Lydia Stevens in Lambeth, London in 1845 and Louisa married Richard Springett in Colchester in the same year.

Then in 1846 Sarah's daughter Sophia married Charles Duncombe, who came from a large and interesting family (more of that some day). Did Sarah live to see her grand-daughter Mary Ann Duncombe, born in late 1847?  Was she still alive when Jeremiah went off to America in 1850? All we can say is that she almost certainly died sometime before 1851, when she would have been in her early forties. (One family tree online says she died in 1841, but no source is provided.)

*Photo attribution: Bob Jones [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

see also An update on Sarah Baldwin