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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Isa and Charlie – Double Tragedy

This week’s 50 Marriage Mondays post concerns my maternal grandmother, Isa, and her first husband, Charlie.  As all her surviving descendants are from her second marriage, this marriage has been little discussed.

Marriage Certificate - Charles Henry Brown & Isabelle Frances

Marriage Certificate – Charles Henry Brown & Isabelle Frances Rebecca Jones

Bride: Isabelle Frances Rebecca Jones, a Typist
Groom: Charles Henry Brown, a Motor Mechanic
Date: 18 August 1928
Location: Christ Church, Sparkbrook, Birmingham
Bride’s father: Charles Bertram Jones
Groom’s father: George Brown, deceased
Witnesses: Charles Percival Fleming Jones, Sarah Jane Brown

Charlie & Isa's wedding

Charlie & Isa’s wedding

All of the people named on the marriage certificate, except the groom’s deceased father, appear on this photo of the core wedding party: bride, groom, parents, probable best man and bridesmaids.  The person missing is the groom’s mother.  Only one of the bride’s three then living brothers, Charles Percival Fleming Jones, who served as a witness is included, so I think he may have also served as best man.  The other witness was the bridesmaid seated next to the bride, Sarah Jane Brown, the groom’s sister.  The two younger bridesmaids standing at either side are Doris and Gwendoline Brown, nieces of the groom, but I am not sure which is which.  The fourth bridesmaid is Muriel Simms, the bride’s maternal first cousin.  The older couple are the bride’s parents, Charles Bertram and Mary Louisa Jones.

Charlie and Isa both grew up in Sparkbrook, Birmingham and were recorded at their parental homes on the 1911 census, the same addresses as on the marriage certificate.  By that time, Charlie’s father, George Brown, had died and his mother, Alice had taken in a lodger named Alfred Dean.  The connection of Alfred Dean with the Brown family was long term as he proved Alice Brown’s will in 1942, more than 30 years later (National Probate Calendar 1942, p. 611):

BROWN Alice of 45 White-road Sparkbrook Birmingham 11 widow died 10 May 1942 Probate Birmingham 8 July to Alfred Dean motor driver.  Effect £138 13s 4d.

As Charlie was only about 6 when Alfred joined the household, it is likely that Alfred influenced Charlie’s development as a motor mechanic.

Charlie & Isa with car

Charlie & Isa with car

Charlie’s Death

Sadly, the marriage only lasted 2 years and 3 days, cut short by Charlie’s untimely death.  His death certificate provides the details:

Date: 22 August 1930
Location: I.D. Raddle Barn Road, Selly Oak [Selly Oak Hospital]
Cause of death: I(a) Actinomycosis of Liver  (b) Abscess of Groin (Laparotomy 4.7.30)  No P.M.
Residence: 45 White Road, Sparkbrook [The couple lived with Charlie’s mother, Alice]

The cause of death was a slow and unpleasant one.  Actinomycosis, caused by the bacteria Actinomyces israelii, is usually an infection of mouth, digestive tract, or respiratory system, which typically results in inflammation and abscesses.  Only a small proportion of cases involve the liver, so Charlie’s case was unusual.  Diagnosis is difficult because the bacterium requires anaerobic culture conditions.  Family anecdote suggests that several conditions were considered, including psittacosis as Alice had a pet parrot.  The laparotomy, a surgical opening of the abdominal cavity, probably confirmed diagnosis but lead to spread of the infection to the groin.  Consequently, a post mortem was unnecessary.

The condition would be treated with penicillin today.  In 1930, penicillin was a very recent discovery that did not become widely available until methods of mass production were developed in the 1940s.

Baby Peter

Isa’s daughters know that Isa and Charlie had a baby boy named Peter, who died shortly after birth.  However, official records of the birth and death have proved elusive.  Even a stillborn child should have been registered as stipulated in the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1926, but there is no good match in the online birth registration index.  It is thought that Peter was born a few months after Charlie’s death at Isa parent’s home, where she returned after Charlie’s death.

Special thanks to Isa’s daughters for sharing the certificates and photos.

© Sue Adams 2013


Engagement Evidence – The Diamond Ring

An engagement is generally a much more informal event than the marriage that may follow.   A couple may become engaged long before any legal formal notice is given in the form of banns or civil alternative.  I know about the marriage of my grand uncle and grand aunt from their marriage certificate:

Bride: Evelyn Victoria Griffin
Groom: Charles Percival Fleming Jones (known as Percy)
Date: 13 July 1929
Location: St Michaels, Handsworth, Stafford

Some couples announced their plan to marry to their social circle through a newspaper personal column or other equivalent of today’s social media.  Some held a celebratory party.  Others simply started preparing for their wedding with no announcement or celebration.  The abiding symbol of an engagement is the engagement ring.  Thanks to Percy and Evelyn’s daughter, I have a document that records the purchase of Evelyn’s engagement ring.

Engagement Ring receipt

Engagement Ring receipt

The receipt, clearly torn along the perforation from a carbon duplicate book, is filled in by two people with different handwriting.  The first records:

Date: July 4 1928
Purchaser: Mr Nelson 184 Warstone Lane, Bham
Item: Diamond Ring
Price: £15/-/-

It is not obvious what “WO/137” and “MH” refer to.

The second hand records, some of it overwriting the 2 one penny revenue stamps:

Payment: Received Cash £15/0/0
Signature: SolleN? elson
Date: 6/7/1928

I think the signature is Mr Nelson’s, who received payment, presumably from Percy.

It seems quite obvious that Nathan Brothers were jewellery manufacturers, but who was Mr Nelson?  The 1921 and 1932 editions of Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham confirm that Nathan Brothers were jewellery manufacturers based at 120 Vyse Street[1].  I did not find a Mr Nelson, but two businesses operated at the address given, 184 Warstone Lane: Joseph Wainwright, a manufacturing jeweller and Sechaud A. & Co., precious stone dealers[2].   Both Vyse Street and Warstone Lane are in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.  The involvement of two businesses might indicate a custom-made ring.  I suspect Mr Nelson worked for Sechaud & Co. and that they supplied the diamond for the ring made by Nathan Brothers.

From this receipt, we can estimate that the couple became engaged about a year before the marriage.  What I do not know is whether Percy bought the ring before or after his proposal of marriage (assuming he did the traditional thing).  It would also be nice to add the story of Percy and Evelyn’s courtship, so dear relatives, what tales can you add?

© Sue Adams 2013


[1] Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham, and the counties of Stafford, Warwick and Worcester 1921. Kelly’s Directories Ltd: London. p. 355. digital image. Ancestry (accessed ancestry.co.uk 8 July 2013), UK, Midlands and Various UK Trade Directories 1770-1941. Birmingham. 1921 Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham. image no. 397.

Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham, and the counties of Stafford, Warwick and Worcester 1932. Kelly’s Directories Ltd: London. p.441. digital image. Ancestry (accessed ancestry.co.uk 8 July 2013), UK, Midlands and Various UK Trade Directories 1770-1941. Birmingham. 1932 Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham. image no. 506.

[2] Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham, and the counties of Stafford, Warwick and Worcester 1921. Kelly’s Directories Ltd: London. p. 358. digital image. Ancestry (accessed ancestry.co.uk 8 July 2013), UK, Midlands and Various UK Trade Directories 1770-1941. Birmingham. 1921 Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham. image no. 400.

Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham, and the counties of Stafford, Warwick and Worcester 1932. Kelly’s Directories Ltd: London. p.445. digital image. Ancestry (accessed ancestry.co.uk 8 July 2013), UK, Midlands and Various UK Trade Directories 1770-1941. Birmingham. 1932 Kelly’s Directory of Birmingham. image no. 510.