19 Hitcham Volunteers

A century ago, on 6 November 1914, Richard Preece, the headmaster of Hitcham School wrote in the school log:

“19 recruits started off from the school gate to join the 5th Suffolk Regiment at Bury St Edmunds. They went away in three motors. A good many parishioners mustered outside and the children gave them a hearty send off. All but one are old scholars.”

Local historian David Turner reported that a photograph of the 19 volunteers with the school master was taken outside the school [1], and confirmed that photograph in my possession is a copy of it [2].

Hitcham Volunteers

19 Hitcham volunteers at School House. Taken 6 November 1914, unknown photographer.

It is a lovely story, but can the claim that this photograph was taken to commemorate the event be corroborated?

First, I located the former school building, named School House and matched the spot.

School House, Hitcham

School House, Causeway, Hitcham, Suffolk, England. Photos taken 9 September 2010 by Sue Adams.

The 1914 photo closely fits the area indicated by the red frame. The doorway is a distinctive shape and the level of the guttering relative to the door is the same in both photos. Although the building is now rendered, a patch of plaster had come off revealing the brickwork underneath, so the construction materials and architectural details match up. The 1872 date stone suggests the building was standing in 1914.

My photograph was inherited from Raymond Walter Coulson (1922-1997), son of Albert Walter Coulson (1888-1956). From other photographs in Raymond’s collection, I recognise Albert Walter Coulson and his brother Arthur Coulson as the two men standing at the right hand end of the second row. Facial recognition is not entirely reliable, so is not strong enough evidence by itself.

Arthur’s attestation paper, found in the National Archives’ collection of service pension records, gives his date of enlistment as 6 November 1914 [3]. No service or pension records were found for Albert, but these record sets are known to be incomplete. Albert recorded his date of enlistment as 6 November 1914 in his Platoon Roll and Note Book, which was inherited with the photograph. Matching the dates of enlistment to the school log book entry is compelling evidence supporting the claim that the photo was taken on the 6 November 1914.

enlistment date

Evidence for enlistment dates

The recruits were initially assigned to the 2/5 Suffolk Regiment for training and re-assigned to other regiments later. These 19 recruits were only a proportion of Hitcham men who served during World War I.

Do you recognise any of the other recruits? Did your ancestor volunteer on the same date? I would really like to identify all 19, so please do let me know.

[1] Turner, David. (1999). Hitcham in the Wars. Memories from the twentieth century. Booklet no. 4. Discovering Historical Hitcham. [no publication details, distributed at Hitcham parish church]. p. 1.
[2] Turner, David. (29 January 2002). Letter to Sue Adams.
[3] Territorial Force Attestation (Army Form E 501). (6 November 1914). No. 2642, Arthur Coulson, 5th Suffolk; Digital image. British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920. C>Co>Cou. image no 13989 of 20031. Ancestry (www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 6 November 2104); citing The National Archives. (n.d.). Coulam, Ernest – Coult, George. War Office: Soldiers’ Documents from Pension Claims, First World War (Microfilm Copies). The National Archives, Kew. WO 364/815; citing Genealogical Society of Utah. (1990-1995) microfilm no 1735807.
[4] Coulson, Albert Walter. ca 1917-1918. Platoon Roll and Note Book. [Inherited from son Albert Walter Coulson, Raymond Walter Coulson.] Sue Adams private collection. RWC/4/1.

© Sue Adams 2014

Religious Affiliation and Who’s the mom?

When I examined the original parish register at the Bury St Edmunds branch of Suffolk Record Office, back in 2002, the name of this bride’s father stood out.  As I was following my Coulson relatives, I did not investigate further at the time.

Bride: Lily May Smith, age 20
Groom: George William Coulson, age 27
Date: 23 June 1905
Location: All Saints, Hitcham
Father of Bride: Alice Jane Smith (deceased)
Father of Groom: John Coulson (deceased)

Alice Jane Smith does not sound like a man’s name, so why would a woman be recorded as a ‘father’?  Could Lily May have been the illegitimate daughter of Alice Jane Smith?  My first step in pursuing this question was to verify the marriage entry from an independent source.  A gravestone at the Wattisham Strict Baptist chapel commemorates this couple and confirms their approximate dates of birth.  The Baptist chapel at Cross Green in Hitcham was a satellite of the Wattisham chapel.  In my experience, people who are missing from the established Church of England registers for All Saints, Hitcham, often turn up in the Baptist records.  George was baptised at All Saints.  The couple could have married in the Baptist chapel at this date.  As there is a long history of non-conformists marrying in the established Church of England, we can’t assume that this couple’s choice indicates their religious affiliation.

Lily & George W Coulson gravestone

Lily & George W Coulson gravestone
Wattisham Strict Baptist Chapel, Suffolk, England

In loving memory of
beloved wife of
died 9th Dec 1958
in her 73rd year
safe in the arms of Jesus
also of
died 31st July 1959
aged 8[1] years
for ever with the Lord

George and Lily appear on the 1911 census at Brettenham Road, Hitcham, with daughter, Violet; brother-in-law, William Smith, aged 61; and mother-in-law, Susannah Smith, a widow aged 72.  The mother-in-law relationship to George suggests Susannah was Lily’s mother, but her age is too old for that to be likely.  I found no reasonable match for Alice Jane Smith, which is consistent with her deceased status on the 1905 marriage register.

In 1901, Lily was living and working as a servant in the household of a farmer in neighbouring Bildeston, so we can glean no helpful relationships from that record.  Susannah (aged 65) is recorded on the Hitcham census with husband Robert Smith (aged 79) and two adult un-married daughters, Alice (aged 35) and Elizabeth (aged 21).  The 1891 Hitcham census is even more helpful as Robert Smith’s household contained wife Susan (aged 50), daughter Alice (aged 23) and granddaughter Lily M (aged 5).  It does not identify Alice as Lily’s mother, but I will be surprised if the civil birth registration for Lily (1886, Jan-Mar quarter Cosford district, vol. 4a, p. 691) does not confirm my suspicions.  The evidence so far clearly suggests Lily May was raised with the support of her grandparents, Robert and Susannah Smith.

© Sue Adams 2013

Marriage Banns and Putting Faces to Names

This week’s entry in the 50 Marriage Mondays series took place on a Saturday and the banns were read on Tuesdays.

Bride: Julia Ann Coulson, known as Jue
Groom: Albert Herbert William Proctor, known as Billy
Date: 2 January 1909
Location: All Saints church, Hitcham
Witnesses: Albert Walter Coulson, Lizzie Coulson

The Marriage Act 1753, commonly called Lord Hardwick’s Act stipulated that a marriage would be void if it had not been preceded by the reading of banns or the issue of a licence. Public notice of an intended marriage gave objectors the opportunity to make their case against it.  The act further stated that the banns should be published on three consecutive Sundays.  The banns for this marriage were published on the 6th, 13th and 20th October 1908, three consecutive Tuesdays.  However, this would not invalidate the marriage.  Although the law made publishing of banns mandatory, it only gave directives on the details of the procedure.

The Marriage Act 1823 simplified procedures, only requiring the parties to give their true names and abode to the clergyman, but introduced a time limit of three months after which banns would have to be republished[1].  This marriage, solemnised 2 months and 27 days after the publication of the first bann, was just in time.

I do not have a wedding photograph of Jue and Billy, but do have some later photographs.

Billy & Jue

Top: extracts from photo of wedding guests of Albert Walter Coulson and Mabel Maud Blanche Hilda Knock 29 Oct 1913.
Middle: undated and unlabeled photo in Mabel Coulson’s collection, the couple are clearly Billy and Jue in middle age
Bottom: extract of photo dating from WWII of Billy, Jue and their children, see earlier post (A Wartime Wedding) for the full picture, photo in collection of Raymond Coulson

The witnesses, Albert Walter Coulson and Lizzie Coulson were siblings of Jue.

Relationship of Julia Ann Coulson & Albert Herbert Willie Proctor to the witnesses of thier marriage

Relationship of Julia Ann Coulson & Albert Herbert Willie Proctor to the witnesses of thier marriage.

Photographs in collections of several family members feature people that have been identified as Jue, Billy and the two witnesses.

[1] Probert, Rebecca (2012) Marriage Laws for Genealogists. Takeaway: Kenilworth.  p. 87.

© Sue Adams 2012