Photographs can give amazing insight into the lives of the people of the past. At Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, cataloguing part of the glass plate negative collection unearthed a number of such images. These images are glass plate negatives depicting American life in the early 1880s. The only question was, why had we accepted items relating to an area so outside our collection policy? A theory arose that perhaps these people had links to Cheshire but had left to discover a new life in America.
|New York Garden- c11607 on Cheshire Image Bank|
Upon inspection of the various boxes, it was found that some in fact were of areas around Audlem in Cheshire. The same hand had written the captions for both New York and Audlem; creating a link between the images and reinforcing the glass plates’ original grouping as a set.
We decided to research some of the names shown in the captions. Our Local Studies manager started on the trail of Brettel Gullen. She found out that his place of birth was listed as Brooklyn, America in October of 1884.
After some further research, we came up with a discovery. Brettel’s parents had married in the Parish of Audlem the year before his birth (1883), and the newly married couple travelled to Brettel’s father’s home town of Brooklyn, USA where they began their lives together. Later records show that by 1894 three daughters had been added to the family- Margaret Emily; Agnes May and Edith Fernley Gullen.
|1883 Marriage certificate of William Gullen and Emily Fernley from Find My Past|
Jesse Fernley is Brettel’s maternal grandfather and is listed on his daughter’s marriage certificate. In 1883 he is a school master, and Brettel’s mother (Emily Willoughby) plus two of her sisters followed in Jesse’s footsteps, becoming school mistresses.
“At this time,[1870-80s] Jessie Fearnley [sic] was the interesting headmaster of the C. of E. School, who lived at Moss Villa...” Marjorie Burton, Nineteenth Century Audlem.
Jesse stayed at Moss Villa until his death in 1924.
|Moss Hall- copy from original by Jesse Fernley- c11618 on Cheshire Image Bank|
The images we hold of Audlem in this collection are attributed to J.F (presumably Jesse Fernley) in 1875, copied onto glass plates by his son-in-law 17 years later.
William Frederich Gullen (Brettel’s father) had copied these plates of Audlem, possibly to help his wife stave off homesickness. However, a mere two years afterwards she would be making her way back to the UK with her four children. The ship passenger list states that she is now a ‘widow’. Her husband had died close to his 40th birthday. Brettel was now the head of the family, aged 9.
|1894 Passenger List Montreal to Liverpool from Ancestry|
Regardless of this setback, the remaining family’s fortune seemed to remain good over the next few years.
As Brettel grew up, he studied in both Leeds and London as a railway carriage draftsman and continued in his work with the railway throughout his life. Multiple passenger lists show him going between Southampton and Buenos Aires repeatedly. A lot of British companies were buying up Argentinian rail networks around this time which could explain Brettel’s presence there.
|1933 Passenger list Buenos Aires to Southampton from Ancestry|
All the family except Brettel show up in the 1911 Wales census, with an address in Cardiff. It shows us that the daughters have all followed in their mother’s and grandfather’s footsteps and become teachers. The address here and the address found 22 years later on Brettel’s passenger list (above) are under a 45 minute walk from each other. We don’t know if Brettel moved away or they all moved and continued to live together not far down the road.
|1911 Wales Census from Ancestry|
|The whole Gullen family (inc. a 5th child who died in infancy) with pet bird- c11613 on Cheshire Image Bank|