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Monday, 3 September 2012

The Dew Family of Chester


Whilst checking a baptism entry in the Chester St Mary parish register, an unusual name stood out from all others on the page. ‘Evening Dew’ was baptised on 24th February 1884 to parents Henry and Ellen Dew of 36 Pyecroft Street in Chester. Such an unusual name prompted the question...’what if they have a family member called Morning Dew?’ This was too interesting to ignore! So follows the story of the Dew family of Chester...



Henry, a stone mason by trade, and Rose Ellen King were married in Clerkenwell, Middlesex in 1868. They went on to have six children, five of which survived into adulthood. The first child to be born was named Rosina Dew in 1869, born in Farnham, Essex, followed by Henry Dew born in Lymm, Warrington in 1873. These two children were baptised in Chester St Mary in 1874, prompting the conclusion that Henry senior and Rose Ellen moved from Clerkenwell to Lymm and then Chester, all within in the years 1868 and 1874.


Along with Rosina and Henry junior, their younger brother ‘Morning Dew’ was baptised in Chester St Mary on 25th May 1874. We did a few double takes, but the name is definitely right and the question which prompted this search was answered. Evening Dew did indeed have a sibling called Morning Dew!


This was not the end of the discovery of unique names in the Dew family legacy. Henry and Rose Ellen went on to have another daughter, Rose Ellen King Dew baptised at Chester St Mary in 1879. This was however, after the birth of the couple’s third son, Mynott King Hercules Dew! Mynott was baptised in Chester St Mary on 5th June 1876.


All of the Dew children bar one went on to marry in Chester. Unfortunately Evening Dew died aged 8 months in 1884. Even more unfortunate was the discovery of the death of Henry senior in 1883 aged just 39 years. Both father and child are buried together in Overleigh cemetery, although the evidence suggests that neither met in life and were only united after their deaths. Rose Ellen Dew (nee King) was still alive aged 60 in the 1911 census living with her daughter Rose Ellen King Turner and her family. She is listed as a widow, so it appears Rose Ellen never re married after Henry’s death.



Although an abrupt and sad end to Henry senior and his young child Evening’s lives, he did leave a family whose names definitely do not go unnoticed! I wonder whether they started a family tradition and continued using such curious names?



Friday, 13 July 2012

Olympic Records

As the London Olympics draw closer, and in honour of our ‘It’s a Record Event’ on the 20th July, we thought we would delve into our collections to see if we could find any Cheshire connections to the previous two London games. In doing so, we came across the story of Wilfred Edwards; world class swimmer at the 1908 London Olympics. Born on the 23rd October 1889, to Robert and Elizabeth Edwards, Wilfred was baptised ‘Charles Wilfred Edwards’ on the 20th November 1889 at St John the Baptist, Chester. Wilfred lived on 5 Newgate Street in the city and was admitted to the Chester College School on the 21st September 1903.

The Cheshire Collection available with Find my Past allows you to search indexes of marriages, baptisms and burials. You can view Wilfred's baptism entry if you have a subscription (or for free at the Record Office and some Cheshire libraries).
A keen swimmer from an early age, he honed his skills as a part of the Chester Swimming Club and took part in the opening gala of the Corporation Swimming Baths in. The Chester Chronicle reported on the Mayor’s speech at the opening ceremony in September 1901:

‘… [it is] fervently hoped that in those baths, in the immediate future and for many generations to come, that noble art of swimming might be learnt, more especially by the young’


Ground floor plan of Chester Corporation Public Baths
(Cheshire Archives and Local Studies Reference: ZDB/30)
These words were certainly fulfilled by Wilfred. At the age of just 18 he successfully competed in the Olympic trials and earned his place on the Great Britain team. The Chester Chronicle reported in the run up to the games:

‘One is glad that Chester’s champion swimmer, Edwards, has qualified in his trials to meet the picked men of the world ’

In the heats for the 100m freestyle, Edwards matched the world record time of 1:05:8. Unfortunately, Wilfred failed to repeat the performance in the semi-final and did not make it through to the final event. A new world record of 1:05:6 was set in the final by the gold medal winner - Charles Daniels of the USA. The times for silver and bronze, however, failed to match Edwards’ earlier time in the heats.

Wilfred served in the Veterinary Corps during World War One and continued to live in Chester for the rest of his life.  He died aged 60 on the 15th July 1950.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Titanic: how the story unfolds in Cheshire

This week marks 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic and the tragic deaths of 1,514 people on board. In the days after the sinking, as details about the accident emerged, the story was pieced together for Cheshire residents through the local papers. Before the scale of the disaster was realised, the Chester Courant reported on 17th April that,
‘... immediately after the collision wireless messages were broadcast, the operator signal “S.O.S”, the urgent call for assistance. There was no panic on board, and the liners Baltic, Virginian and Carpathia ultimately arrived on scene and transferred passengers. Nothing but the watertight compartments and the invaluable wireless telegraphy, however, prevented the most appalling disaster, for the collision was a severe one, and to an ordinary vessel would have been immediately disastrous’.
As later telegrams were received, the true extent of the accident was revealed and further additions to the article present the bleaker outcome of the collision. The latest telegram reported that: ‘At two o’clock this afternoon...there is no information as to the remaining 1,300 persons on board, and unofficially it is feared that the latter have perished’. By the 20th April the Chester Chronicle recorded, ‘... the Titanic sank at 2.20 on Monday morning, that is to say about four hours after the collision. Of those on board, numbering about 2,200, by far the larger portion perished’.

Of those who died, a number had Cheshire connections. Mr Austin Aloysius Ashcroft aged 26, a ship’s clerk from Seacombe, died as did Charles Frederick Morgan, a ship’s storekeeper from Birkenhead. The Chester Chronicle reported on ‘Cheshire Victims’ and recorded that a Mr William Henry Parr, an electrical engineer, was unaccounted for after the accident – it later emerged he had not survived. His wife was from Northwich and the couple had been married there only twenty months earlier.

Others were luckier. The Chester Chronicle reported on 20th April that the whereabouts of Mr Joseph Thomas Wheat, Ship Steward, of Rock Ferry, were unknown. However, passenger lists show that he survived and was taken to New York aboard the Carpathia. Further survivors included Sarah Agnes Stap, aged 46, a Ship’s Matron, who told her story to the Birkenhead News on 4 May 1912. We found her in the 1911 census residing at 41 Bidston Avenue in Birkenhead. The census information reveals the extent of her seafaring life, her father was a retired Master Mariner and Sarah is listed as being ‘born at sea’.

Friday, 23 March 2012

'Come lasses and lads ...' R. Caldecott, a Chester-born artist

Randolph Caldecott is remembered for his delightful drawings of rosy cheeked damsels, rural scenes and animals in children’s books. He co-wrote and illustrated these stories at a time when publishing attractive, inexpensive books for children was in its infancy.

Born in Chester on 22nd March 1846, his family lived at 150 Bridge Street (now number 16) on the Rows. As a child Randolph spent much of his time outdoors enjoying the countryside around Chester, drawing and modelling animals. Leaving King’s School at age 15 he went to work as a bank employee. Banking was not for him, however, and he continued to draw and paint scenes of life in Victorian society, many of them humorous. In 1861 he had his first drawing published: a sketch of the disastrous fire at the Queen Railway Hotel in Chester which appeared in the Illustrated London News together with his account of the blaze.

After moving to London in 1872 at the age of 26 he developed a good reputation drawing cartoons of London society people but it wasn’t until he began illustrating children’s stories in 1877 that he became internationally famous. By 1884 he had sold over 800,000 copies of illustrated nursery rhymes and exhibited sculptures and paintings at the Royal Academy. Randolph died whilst on holiday in Florida in February 1886, just over a month before his 40th birthday. He is commemorated in Chester with a blue plaque outside his old home in Bridge Street and a memorial inscription lies in the north transept of Chester Cathedral.

Cheshire Archives and Local Studies hold a collection of his personal papers (collection reference number D7651). Among the collection are sketches, letters, newspaper cuttings and tiny notebooks of drawings. Chester Library is also home to a superb collection of his books ranging from children’s picture books to biographies and travelogues.

Visit our 'Caldecott of Chester' exhibition - now online!

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Charles Dickens: the Cheshire connection!

To celebrate Charles Dickens' bicentenary year CALS staff delved into the Local Studies collections to search for Cheshire connections.



His paternal grandparents William and Elizabeth were employed by the Crewe family as steward and housekeeper at Crewe Hall in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. According to Annabella Crewe (daughter of the second Baron Crewe) Elizabeth Dickens was a wonderful storyteller, and on his visits Charles would sit in the housekeeper’s room listening to tales full of imagination and humour. Elizabeth left a great impression on the author and may have been immortalised in the characters Mrs Rouncewell in Bleak House and Mrs Nickleby in Nicholas Nickleby.


As an established author, Charles returned to Cheshire to give a public reading of his works. Visiting Chester on 22nd January 1867 during bitterly cold weather he remarked in a letter to his daughter Mary 'I have seldom seen a place look more hopelessly frozen up than this place does. The hall [the Music Hall] is like a Methodist Chapel in low spirits, and with a cold in its head. A few blue people shiver at the corners of the streets'. However, he did enjoy an enthusiastic reception and later wrote that it was a 'tremendous night'. A review of his performance in the Chester Courant newspaper of January 30th 1867 cites his 'sparkling eye and fine voice' and his 'talent for dramatic representation'. The reporter for the Chester Chronicle, initially unconvinced of his acting talents, went on to say that Dickens 'fairly convulsed the audience with laughter' and the reading concluded 'amid loud applause' (January 26th 1867).

Other connections include a professional relationship with Knutsford’s Elizabeth Gaskell, river trips to Birkenhead and New Brighton on the Wirral, and visits to Cheadle Hall and Stanthorpe Lodge near Middlewich. There is speculation regarding a Cheshire experience being the inspiration for Miss Havisham’s untouched wedding breakfast in Great Expectations, and that characters from the story ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’ were based on a Northwich family, although this remains unproven … 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

At rest in Overleigh 'Mary Jonas, beloved wife and mother of 33 children'

This intriguing inscription on a tombstone in Overleigh Cemetery leads to the story of multiple twin births, a 52 year marriage, and a growing business in Chester.
The Overleigh Cemetery database online includes details from the cemetery registers 1850-1950.
Mary Thomas and John Jonas were married at Chester, St John the Baptist, on the 17th June 1839. Their first children, twins Joseph and Sarah, were baptised later that same year. After the births of Joseph and Sarah followed 31 more children – including 12 further sets of twins!
The Cheshire Collection available with Find my Past allows you to search indexes of Marriages, Baptisms and Burials. You can view the actual record if you have a subscription (or for free at the Record Office and some Cheshire libraries). Search for the surname 'Jonas' and place 'Chester' between 1839 and 1898 in all three indexes to find their marriage, multiple baptisms and burials, using just the indexes two baptisms in the same year can indicate Jonas twins.
Whilst looking after this growing brood John and Mary found the time to set up a furniture business. John, who on the 1841 census was listed as a chair maker, had, by the 1860s, set up his own cabinet making business on Foregate Street. He is listed in the 1864 ‘Morris and Co Trade Directory’ as a Furniture Broker and is recorded as a Master, employing two workers, on the 1871 census.
Selected Cheshire trade directories are available to browse and search online.
Sadly, many of the children did not survive into adulthood. Those that did were recognised in John’s will equally, with each of his children holding the same shares in his property after his death in 1892.

Cheshire wills, already indexed and available to view in the searchroom or order copies from, will appear as part of The Cheshire Collection in early Spring 2012.
Mary survived her husband, her final contribution to the Chester, St John parish records comes in 1898 where the priest notes 'The mother of 33 children by one husband'.


Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Cataloguing a century of community service

It is the New Year and our opportunity as Archives students at the University of Liverpool to experience new things at the Cheshire Record Office. We are part way through the Archives course and this is our chance to put theory into practice with a two week cataloguing placement.

The Warrington Council for Voluntary Service (WCVS) supported and enhanced the work of local voluntary and community organisations in Warrington for 102 years; however, by September 2011 it had closed, and their office at The Gateway, Sankey Street needed to be cleared. As part of Cheshire Archives’ work in looking after archives for Warrington, an archivist had visited the premises and identified records of historical value. WCVS staff had brought in additional material of potential interest, and a considerable quantity and variety of boxes and binders had arrived at the Record Office.

This was the collection we would catalogue from start to finish. We began our task by unpacking and looking through all the records to give ourselves an overview of the collection, to see how things had worked and how to arrange them. Records included minutes of the various committees, reports, newsletters, advice registers and some photographs. It became apparent that the majority of the records were from the WCVS, but there were also a small number of records from related and affiliated organisations, for example ‘Learning Together Cheshire and Warrington’ and the Thewlis charities.


Coming across this photograph was an unexpected surprise as the majority of the records that we had been looking through had been administrative in nature. It brings to life the Shaw Thewlis charity’s donations of clothing and blankets to people in need.

The records told us the history of the organisation and it became apparent, as we traced many name changes, that our task of description is very important. These descriptions, once entered into the database that delivers the online catalogue, are what will allow users to search, find and have access to this part of the history of charitable support in Warrington.

We hope that our catalogue tells the story accurately and that the collection as a whole will help remember the important work that the WCVS did within the Warrington community and its impact over the past century.

With thanks for this guest post and work on the WCVS collection (D 8214) that is now available in our online catalogue.

Friday, 13 January 2012

'Restoration Man' starring Congleton Water Tower

We celebrate the starring role of the Congleton Water Tower in Channel 4's 'Restoration Man' with selected highlights of the 250 lines composed (and recited) by the Congleton Borough Treasurer W. H. Krinks on the occasion of the inauguration of the Congleton Water Works on 27th October, 1881!

To us, a rock in Horeb riven,
Has BEALES PURE WATER flowing given,
From sources searched for far and wide,
Nor left one likely source untried,
Till hill and dale had told their tale
Of fountains that could never fail -
Twin Giants, Gravity and Steam,
Together yoked, a matchless team,
To carry to each cottage door,
A beautiful, perennial store,
From elevated Corda Well,
Of pureness without parallel ...

A page, famed in our history, will
This day's great ceremonial fill;
And as ten years ago, the Park,
An epoch in our annals mark -
Another and long wished for move
In the right Sanitary groove,
To make our public health compare
Well with returns shewn any where.

This day to see the MAYOR elate
With great delight, inaugurate
Our WATER WORKS, proclaiming them
This ANCIENT BOROUGH'S diadem -
Each sparkling drop, a precious gem,
Of greatly more intrinsic worth,
Than all the jewels upon the earth;
And thus addressing the great crowd,
To hear each word in silence bowed,
And all of this grand fete day proud,
In language, terse, brief, clear and loud:
YE BURGESSES, my word assures
These WATER WORKS to you and yours,
A heritage, while time endures.
What would your ancestors have given
For such a blessing sent from heaven?

But I forbear more wearying rhyme
Which now but wastes your precious time.
Pray with your censure of this jingle,
Let this old kindness freely mingle,
And I'll this rhapsody conclude
With feelings of deep gratitude.

Just 30 lines as a taster - and while it makes us smile, it must reflect an appetite to celebrate the contribution of science and Victorian engineering to public health. Not to mention, of course, the miracle of running water.

(We enjoy it here, of course, because it reminds us of the joys of council collections!)