The School Master and Seed Cake

Aunt Sis, as she was known to her grand-nieces, is remembered for her seed cake and her marriage to a schoolmaster at King Edward’s school.  It isn’t clear how Lucy Charlotte Jones acquired her nickname, but the story of her marriage is true:

Marriage Certificate-James Turner & Lucy Charlotte Jones

Marriage Certificate-James Turner & Lucy Charlotte Jones

Bride: Lucy Charlotte Jones, 34, spinster
Groom: James Turner, 61, widower, school master
Date: 26 August 1903
Location: St James church, Edgbaston, Birmingham
Witnesses: William Taylor Jones [bride’s father], Ronald Turner

The School Master’s career

James Turner was indeed a school master at King Edward VI School in Birmingham.  Alison Wheatley, archivist for the school, kindly responded to my enquiry and provided details of James Turner’s career:

Year Position Age Annual Salary School
1854 Pupil monitor 12 Gem Street Elementary School
1859 Assistant Master 17 £25
1866 Writing Master 24 £80 King Edward’s Classical School
after 1866 Assistant English Master
1875 Took drawing classes in addition to other duties 33 £20 extra
1911 resigned due to ill health 69 £196 pension

Throughout James’ time at King Edward VI School, it was based at New Street in the centre of Birmingham.  The impressive school building was demolished in 1938 when the school moved to it current location in Edgbaston.  The old school building features in two short films which explain its architectural importance and memories of past pupils.

The First Family

Prior to his marriage to Lucy, James had raised a family of 5 children, born between ca. 1871 and ca. 1891, with his first wife, Elizabeth Fanny Pursall.  The family resided at Spooner Street, Aston (1871 & 1881 census), and Kingswood Road, Kings Norton (1891 & 1901 census). Elizabeth died in 1899.

At the time of James and Lucy’s marriage, James’ youngest child, Gladys Fanny was aged about 12.  The older children may have left home prior to 1903, but Gladys resided with James and Lucy at 55 Church Road, Moseley in 1911.

The Marital Home

James was included in the electoral register in 1868 (Spooner Street) and 1912 (55 Church Road).  Consequently, I can conclude the properties he occupied were rated above the minimum value, which suggests a comfortable economic position.  55 Church Road is a semi-detached house.  The adjoining semi, no 57, was described as a spacious 5 bedroom property with 3 reception rooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen and cellar when offered for rental in 2011.  Both James and Lucy appear on the 1920 spring electoral register, published on 15 May, as occupiers of 55 Church Road.  The death of James Turner, aged 78, was registered in the July-September quarter of 1920 (Kings Norton district, Vol. 6d, page 38).

A Long Widowhood

The degree to which Lucy was supported by James’ pension after his death is unknown.  Having married a man 27 her senior, it is not surprising that she faced a long widowhood from the age of 41.  According to family hearsay, Lucy became a lady’s companion after James’ death and later lived with her brother Charles Bertram Jones.

The 1930 electoral register shows her living the household of Ewart Vane Parsons, with 5 adult women sharing the Parsons surname, at 106 Woodlands Road, Sparkbrook.  In 1911, Ewart Parsons and his sisters, aged between 22 and 38, lived with their mother Isabella Parsons, aged 64.  Lucy’s residence in the Parson household is consistent with the lady’s companion story.

The 1950 electoral register confirms that Lucy C Turner and Charles B Jones resided at 4 Torquay Terrace, Sparkbrook.  Charles had been widowed in 1946 and his children had all married and left home.  Lucy’s death was registered in the July-September quarter of 1952 (Birmingham district, Vol 9c, page 420).  Lucy’s grand-nieces, who sadly remember the seed cake she baked as dry and unpalatable, were no older than 12 or 14 when they last tasted the recipe on a visit to their ‘Grampy Jones’, Charles.

© Sue Adams 2013

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20th Century sources – Electoral rolls, Google Maps and Land Registry

One relative told me about this marriage and another told me this couple lived near Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham.

Bride: Emily Olive Pee
Groom: Mathew Lancelot Wilson
Date: 6 May 1913

If you have been following the 50 Marriage Mondays series, you will have seen a few examples of verifying such information using civil registration and census returns.  Sure enough, the marriage index confirms the marriage was registered in the King’s Norton district (part of Birmingham) in the  April-June quarter of 1913 (Vol 6d, page 181).  The 1911 census places 26 year old Emily in her parent’s home at 86 Wenman Street, Balsall Heath, and 24 year old Matthew in his cousin George Herbert Simms’ household at 214 Station Road, King’s Heath.  Census records for 1921 and later are closed for 100 years, so I can’t use them to verify the couple’s residence.

Fortunately, electoral registers are an alternative source, which reveal three residential addresses for Matthew and Emily.  Searching Ancestry’s “All Midlands, England, Electoral Registers, 1832-1955” collection yielded the results below:

Name Year Street Address
Matthew Lancelot Wilson – absent voter, regiment no 123360, Pte, R.A.F.

1918

175 Edward Road
Matthew Lancelot Wilson – absent voter, regiment no 123360, Pte, R.A.F.

1919

Matthew Lancelot Wilson

1920

Emily Wilson

1920

Matthew Lancelot Wilson

1922

Emily Wilson

1923

George Pee

1925

Matthew Wilson

1925

97 Oakfield Road
Emily Olive Wilson

1925

Matthew Wilson

1927

Emily Olive Wilson

1927

Emilie Olive Wilson

1930

Matthew Wilson

1930

Matthew Wilson

1935

Emilie Olive Wilson

1935

Emilie Olive Wilson

1935

Matthew Lancelot Wilson

1939

3 Beaconsfield Crescent
Emily Wilson

1939

John Simms Wilson

1939

Matthew L Wilson

1945

Emily Wilson

1945

Matthew L Wilson

1950

Emily Wilson

1950

Matthew L Wilson

1955

Emily Wilson

1955

Franchise

The Representation of the People Act, 1918 removed property requirements for qualification to vote, which extended the franchise to men aged 21 resident in the constituency; and introduced voting rights for some women aged over 30, who met property criteria in their own right, or as the co-resident wife of a man registered to vote.  Emily was aged about 33 in 1918, so she met the age criteria, but may not have qualified because Matthew was an absent voter.  From 1920 to 1927, she qualified to vote through her husband’s qualification.  The Representation of the People Act, 1928 equalised the franchise for men and women, so from 1930 onwards, Emily qualified to vote by being a resident in the constituency.

By 1939, John Simms Wilson, son of the couple, had come of age, so joined them on the electoral roll.  In 1925, when Matthew and Emily had moved to Oakfield Road, George Pee was the elector at 175 Edward Road.  Could he be Emily’s brother, recorded on the 1911 census, aged 20?

All three of the electoral roll addresses are close to Cannon Hill Park, so that piece of folklore is accurate.  On a virtual stroll along the streets of residence using Google maps, I found two of the houses.  I did not find 175 Edward Road as the area where it should be has been re-developed.  Oakfield Road has a variety of styles of terraced houses. No 97 is the house with the white door on the right, assuming the street has not been re-numbered.

Beaconsfield Crecent, tucked in off Beaconsfield Road, is a terrace of 5 houses, so my guess is that no 3 is the centre one.

Home Owner?

Did Emily and Matthew own any of the houses they lived in?  Land Registry records property transactions, but registration on sale has only been compulsory in Birmingham since 1966. Voluntary registration could potentially take the title history back to 1862.

Matthew died in 1969 (1969 Jan-Mar quarter, Birmingham, Vol 9c, page 590) and Emily’s death is recorded in the July-September quarter of 1973 (Birmingham, Vol 9c, page 577).  No 3 Oakfield Crescent, the central house in the terrace, was first registered on 8 January 1974, shortly after John Simms Wilson sold the property on 17 December 1973 (Title no WK226049, Register Extract, Coventry Office, Land Registry), having inherited it after his mother’s death.  The property had not been sold between 1966 and 1973, so we know that Matthew and Emily bought it sometime before then.  Although they moved in between 1935 and 1939, we do not know if they bought the house at that time.

© Sue Adams 2013