Thomas and Eleanor (Henry’s great grandparents)

Thomas and Eleanor were Henry’s great grandparents. The 1841 one census shows Thomas aged 55 and Eleanor aged 36, living with their children Anne, Eleanor, Frank, Edward, Elizabeth and Mary in Stockton. On the 1851 census Eleanor, aged 46, can be found living at High Street, Stockton, Durham, England with daughters Elizabeth, Mary, Emma and Caroline. She is described as a widow and her occupation is given as Annuitant. In 1871 Eleanor is recorded as a widow aged 66, still living in Stockton with her daughters Mary Grey Faber and Caroline Grey Faber. On the 1881 census, Eleanor can again be found, now living only with her daughter Caroline.

The ages I have gathered from searches of census returns I have undertaken, do do correspond with the information from the Hamilton Stanley Faber papers, so this page is a work in progress.

Images of Thomas and Eleanor Faber.
Family tree showing Eleanor Grey married to Thomas henry Faber.

Henry Grey Faber (Henry’s grandfather)

Henry’s grandfather was also called  Henry Grey Faber. Henry was the first son of Thomas Henry and Eleanor Faber, born 30 November 1829 and baptised on 1 December 1829.

Henry can be found on the 1841 census, aged 11, at Shincliffe, St Oswald, Durham and Lanchester, Durham, England which appears to be a school. In 1851 aged 21 Henry can be found lodging in the household of George and Hannah Harrision at Church Street, Guisborough, Yorkshire & Yorkshire (North Riding), England and employed as a Solicitor’s Articled Clerk.  In 1871 he can be found aged 41 residing with the Moore family.

Further information can be found in the papers of Hamilton Stanley Faber in which the family are referred to as ‘Branch 1 – The Stockton (Eeles) branch of the Grey Fabers’ and in which Eleanor is recorded as the daughter of John Grey Esq of Norton.

Thomas Faber (Henry’s father)

Henry’s father was Thomas H Faber, born 1861. Thomas can be found on the 1871 census at Middleton One Row, Middleton St George, Darlington, Durham, England, aged 10, with his parents Henry Grey Faber, aged 41 (born 1830 in Durham) and Elizabeth Faber, aged 38 (born 1833 in Durham). Also four brothers and two sisters – Eleanor J Faber, Elizabeth S Faber, Frank S Faber, Charles E Faber, Frederic William Faber and John G Faber. The Faber family are recorded as visitors to Sarah Moore aged 75 and her daughter Mary A Moore aged 37.

On the 1891 census, Thomas, aged 30, is recorded as living with his wife Ada C Faber and his sons Henry G Faber and Frank S Faber. Thomas is recorded as a solicitor. On the 1901 census, Thomas and Ada can again be found.  They have five daughters named Ada, Helen, Lorna, Culeen and Olive. And in 1911 the family can be found at 100 High Street, Norton On Tees. Henry Grey Faber, aged 24, is again living with them and father and son are both recorded as solicitors.

This information is also corroborated in the Hamilton Stanley Faber papers, which displays a family tree in which the family are referred to as Branch 1 – The Stockton (Eeles) branch of the Grey Fabers.)

Family tree showing the Stockton (Eeles) branch of the grey Fabers.
Family tree showing the Stockton (Eeles) branch of the grey Fabers.

Dorothy and Henry

Dorothy Faber or aunt Dorothy as I knew her was my great aunt (my grandmother’s sister on my fathers side). In 1960 she married Henry (Hal) Grey Faber. Dorothy was Henry’s second wife and the couple were married at  Holy Trinity Church, Micklegate, York in 1960.

Dorothy and Hal lived in the village of Husthwaite in Yorkshire which is situated about 17 miles north of York. Husthwaite is an ancient settlement, one of the oldest buildings being St Nicholas’ Parish Church dating from the twelfth century, which, with the village green, forms the centre of the village. The village is a designated conservation area and is adjacent to the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.

They lived in a house called Little Worsall, situated between the Methodist Chapel, a newer house and The Manor House which was once a farm.  However, until I came to write this piece I never knew the name of the property or the house number.  Letters were addressed simply to Mrs D M Faber,  Husthwaite, York.  ‘The postman knows the house’, my parents were told.

Dorothy and Hal lived at Little Worsall for six years. Henry died in 1966 before I was born but Dorothy continued to live there, with her sister Molly until 1994, then alone until her own death in 1998.

Dorothy and Molly.

Worsall Grange

The 1939 register records Henry living at Worsall Grange, Stokesley, Yorkshire (North Riding), England, working as a solicitor and living with his wife Ellen G Faber and daughter Elizabeth H F Faber. Living with them are two domestic servants, Bridget Dowd and Madelaine Nugent

Copy of the 1939 register showing Henry Faber.

Today Worsall Grange is a listed building, described in estate agent particulars as a delightful grade II listed detached country house set in 2.44 acres approx, between the villages of Low Worsall and Kirklevington, well placed for the thriving market town of Yarm and with a small paddock laid to grass that extends to 18 acres.

The Cleveland and Teeside History Society record the place name Low Worsall as ‘Modern English low + place-name Wercesal, Wirceshel, Werchesal(e) 1086 Wi- Wyrkesale 1285-1367, Wirsal (1316) 16th, 1369, Parva Worsall“Little Worsall” 1483.’

Little Worsall

It seems that when Henry moved to Husthwaite, his new home was named after Worsall Grange.  The Husthwaite History Society records the following information about Little Worsall.

In the seventeenth century the property described here had 4½ acres at the back, stretching down to Elphin Lane. Later this tract was farmed as part of the Manor House land and by 1841 some rearrangement of boundaries had taken place. The tenants of the early eighteenth century were called Wood and survival of the fieldnames Wood Garths suggests a reconstruction.  This leads to the conclusion that the frontage of the old tenement would have extended from Little Worsall to Colton House.

Several facts about this property in the early seventeenth century suggest that it was of importance in the management of the manor. It lay alongside the Hall and Hall Garths. It belonged to the family who held the lease and hence lordship of the manor. It had a dovecote (the only one known in Husthwaite), a privilege of manorial lords.

Little Worsall
Image of Little Worsall and information about the people who lived there.

Little Worsall

Dorothy

Dorothy Margaret Clarke was born in Northamptonshire in 1904. She was the daughter of Louisa Jane Shortland and  Albert Edward William Clarke,  a police sergeant in the Northamptonshire Constabulary. She had one brother named Edward Alexander and three sisters, Cecily Mary (known as Molly who lived with her at Little Worsall from 1966 – 1994), Kitty Alexandra and my grandmother Delia Eileen.

Louisa Jane Clarke (nee Shortland) and daughters.

The 1939 register shows Dorothy, working as a school teacher, living in the Morrison household at Faceby Manor, Faceby, Stokesley R.D., Yorkshire (North Riding), England. Today Faceby Manor Lodge is a Grade II listed building.

1939 register entry showing Dorothy Clarke.

It also appears that Dorothy worked as a governess. One of the most interesting things Dorothy sent to me was the letter below from a Miss Lennox-Carr of Piccadilly (according to the biography of the historical novelist Georgette Heyer, Miss Lennox-Carr ran a registry office for governesses), recommending Dorothy for the post of governess to the young King of Iraq. I don’t believe that Dorothy took up the offer but nevertheless it is a lovely piece of family history.

governess-1

governess-2
In January 2022 I was contacted by Tony Walker who had seen this blog. He had come across a document for Miss Carr’s agency when sorting through some some historical papers and asked if I would like a copy. The document can be viewed below.

Terms and conditions for Miss Lennox-Carr's Ladies' Employment and School Agency.

The things I remember about Dorothy are firstly her two dogs, Otter and Toby – sausage dogs, one smooth haired and one wired haired.  The second, the incredible view from her garden of the Kilburn white horse, one of the most famous landmarks in North Yorkshire and one of the most northerly turf-cut figures in Britain. Dating from 1857, the outline of the horse was marked out by the Kilburn village schoolmaster and his pupils. Finally, the way she encouraged my interest in my family from a young age, with letters, stories and photos. Dorothy is hugely responsible for my love of history today..

Henry in uniform.

Henry G Faber in uniform.

Hal

Henry Grey Faber was a solicitor. His occupation is recorded in census returns and I have also found mentions of Henry’s legal career in the Gazette newspaper.

The 1891 census shows a Henry  G Faber was born in Durham in 1887, to Thomas Faber, aged 30 (born 1861 in Durham) and Ada Faber  aged 29 (born 1862 in Wimbledon, Surrey). A younger brother and sister, Frank S and Ada L are recorded too.  Aged 14 in 1901, Henry appears to have been a boarder at a school in Harrogate and in 1911, aged 24, he is recorded as being a solicitor, living again with his parents Thomas and Ada and with more sisters and a brother.

The North Yorkshire history website records Henry as ‘Admitted Oct 1911.  Member of Faber, Fawcett & Faber, of Stockton-on-Tees.  Mobilised Aug 1914 as Capt., 5th Batt. Durham Light Infantry, promoted Major June 1916.  Once mentioned in Dispatches.  Served at Home and in Flanders and France.  Wounded May 24, 1915.’

I believe Henry married his first wife Ellen Holberton in Totnes, Devon in 1916. Their daughter Elizabeth was born in Knaresborough in 1917 and in 1939 her  occupation is shown as VAD, which I have learned stands for Voluntary Aid Detachment, a voluntary unit of civilians providing nursing care for military personnel in the United Kingdom and various other countries in the British Empire. Searching for Henry Grey Faber on the Find My past website, I found details of his service, medals and awards and his first world war record.  Ellen it seems also served in the army as a staff nurse.

Thomas Faber (Henry’s father)

Henry’s father was Thomas H Faber, born 1861, He can be found on the 1871 census at Middleton One Row, Middleton St George, Darlington, Durham, England, aged 10, with his parents Henry Grey Faber, aged 41 (born 1830 in Durham) and Elizabeth Faber, aged 38 (born 1833 in Durham). Also four brothers and two sisters – Eleanor J Faber, Elizabeth S Faber, Frank S Faber, Charles E Faber, Frederic William Faber and John G Faber. The Faber family are all recorded as visitors to Sarah Moore aged 75 and her daughter Mary A Moore aged 37.

On the 1891 census, Thomas, aged 30, is recorded as living with his wife Ada C Faber and his sons Henry G Faber and Frank S Faber. Thomas is recorded as a solicitor. On the 1901 census, Thomas and Ada can again be found.  They have five daughters named Ada, Helen, Lorna, Culeen and Olive. And in 1911 the family can be found at 100 High Street, Norton On Tees. Henry Grey Faber, aged 24, is again living with them and father and son are both recorded as solicitors.

This information is also confirmed in the documents of Hamilton Stanley Faber in which the family are referred to as ‘Branch 1 – The Stockton (Eeles) branch of the Grey Fabers.)

Henry Faber (Henry’s grandfather)

Henry’s grandfather was also called  Henry Grey Faber. He was the first son of Thomas Henry and Eleanor Faber and was baptised on 1 December 1829 in Durham.  This information is again confirmed in the documents of Hamilton Stanley Faber in which the family are referred to as ‘Branch 1 – The Stockton (Eeles) branch of the Grey Fabers and in which Eleanor is recorded as the daughter of John Grey Esq of Norton.

Henry can be found on the 1841 census, aged 11, at Shincliffe, St Oswald, Durham and Lanchester, Durham, England which appears to be a school. In 1851 aged 21 Henry can be found lodging in the household of George and Hannah Harrision at Church Street, Guisborough, Yorkshire & Yorkshire (North Riding), England and employed as a Solicitor’s Articled Clerk.  In 1871 he can be found aged 41 residing with the Moore family as described above.

The papers of Hamilton Stanley Faber advise the following about Henry.

Henry Grey Faber Esq was a solicitor and town clerk of Stockton. Eldest son of Thomas Henry Faber Esq of Stockton. Born at Stockton 30 November 1829. Baptised by the Rev: Jno: Cundell next day. Christened by the Rev: Geo: Stanley Faber at Stockton church 11 October 1830.

He was educated at Rugby and matriculated at University College Oxon 29 March 1848 at 18. He married at Holy Trinity Stockton-on-Tees 15 December 1859 Elizabeth Eeles daughter of John Eeles, Mayor of Stockton 1847/8/9 (by Elizabeth Colpitts. his wife. cousin of Colpitts Grainger Esq sometime MP for Durham) and grandfather of Jeremiah Eeles of Stockton-on-Tees.

Mr H G Faber did 5 February 1885 was was buried at the Stockton cemetery. He left issue:

1. Thomas Henry Faber of Norton

Solicitor born 18 September 1860, educated at Malvern College and married 1885 Ada Cotton daughter of Alfred Giles of Cosford, Surrey Esq. MP for Southampton and Jane Emily Coppard his wife.

Mr T H Faber had issue.

  • Henry Grey Faber born 1886.
  • Frank Stanley Faber born 1887/1888.
  • Ada Mary Faber born 1890.
  • Helen Margaret Faber born 1891.
  • Lorna Kathleen Fabert born 1894.
  • Aileen Coppard born 1895.
  • Olive Faber born 1899.

2. Frank Stanley Faber

Born 14 May 1864. Died unmarried in the USA of typhoid fever in 1890.

3. Charles Edward Faber

Egglescliffe Yam-on-Tees, solicitor partner with his brother in the firm of Faber Fawcetts and Faber of Stockton-on-Tees. Born 12 January 1855.

Origin of the names Faber and Grey

Information about the origin of the Faber and Grey surnames can be found on the Ancestry.co.uk website.

I am interested to learn more about the surnames Faber and Grey, as the name Grey appears to have been used as a middle name by many people with the surname Faber, both male and female, including Henry and Edward, largely in Stockton on Tees. However, I have also found the name connected to  Dorset, London, Middlesex and Essex and would very much like to know more about this.

Further information and sources

The footman and the wharfinger

Please note: This page is a work in progress – if you can help write this story, please get in touch
 
This story came about after researching William Thompson, the father of my great grandfathers second wife. In researching William I came to learn about John Humphrey and his family and I wanted to record what I found.

John was born in St Olave’s Southwark in 1825. On the 1851 census, aged 24, he is living at 5, Cavendish Terrace, Clapham, Wandsworth, London and Surrey, England with his wife Emma. His occupation is given as Wharfinger (the term means keeper or owner of a wharf and is pronounced wor-fin-jer). Ten years later on the 1861, John and Emma can be found at the same address, now with eight children (Edmund, Mary, Henry, Ernest, Francis, Herbert, Stanley and Constance) and five servants, including a William Thompson, born in Dallington, Northamptonshire, (who I believe is possibly the father of my great grandfathers first wife), employed as a footman.

 
 
John Humphery and William Thompson on the 1861 census.
 

Baptised on 6 January 1826, in Bermondsey, St Olave, Southwark, John was the son of John and Mary Humphery who were living at Dean Street. On the baptism certificate the occupation of John’s father is given as Wharfinger too.

 
Baptism certificate of John Humphery.
 

On 5 October 1847
John married Emma Cubitt at St Leonard, Streatham, Lambeth, England. John’s profession is given as Squire, John’s father is named as John Humphrey, Alderman of London and Emma’s father is named as William Cubitt, Sheriff of London.
 
Marriage certificate for John Humphrey to Emma Cubbit.
 
After John’s death, it is possible to continue tracing Emma’s life via census returns. The 1871 census shows her aged 41, now the head of the family, living in Kensington with eight children. The 1881 census shows her living  in the Borough of Westminster at 63 Princes Gate with six children and nine servants and her living arrangements with a large number of servants remain similar in 1891 and 1901 too.
 

The Tallow Chandlers Association

On learning about John Humphery I contacted the Tallow Chandlers Association to see what more I could learn and they advised me as follows.

Between around 1760 and 1938 there were at least four John Humphery’s two of whom were Alderman. The first was John Humphery, a soap boiler from Shadwell and the first of the Humphery’s to become a member of the Tallow Chandlers’ Company – his father, William Humphery, was also in the tallow trade importing oil and fats to Hay’s Wharf in the 1960s.

The second John Humphery was the famous Alderman Sir John Humphery (1794 – 1863) who was MP for Southwark from 1832 to 1852, Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1832, and Alderman for Aldgate in 1836. He was also Master of the Tallow Chandlers’ Company in 1838 and 1858. This John was in control of Hay’s Wharf from 1840 and commissioned William Cubitt (the father-in-law of two of his sons – John Humphery and Sir William Henry Humphery), to design and build new warehouses in 1856.

The third John Humphery (1825 – 1868) was one of six sons (that are have listed on the database) of Alderman Sir John Humphery and was known as John Humphery the younger on our records.

The fourth John was Lt. Col. Alderman Sir John Humphery (1872 – 1938). He was born to James Arthur Humphery (son of Alderman Sir John Humphery (1794 -1863) and brother of John Humphery the younger (1825 – 1868). Among his many accomplishments, this John was Sheriff of London in 1913, Alderman for Tower Ward and Master of the Tallow Chandlers’ Company in 1919 and 1926. He fought in the First World War and according to a comment on his record – was temporarily appointed Town-Mayor of Ypres when his regiment was divided into several independent squadrons and had no one left to command. He was also awarded various medals as a result of his service

British History Online

John Humphery and William Cubbitt are both recorded on the British History Online website as  aldermen in an entry about 1851 which reads: 
 
‘William Cubitt. An eminent builder and contractor, younger brother of Thomas Cubitt, the builder of South Belgravia. He was re-elected to the Mayoralty at the close of his first year of office, partly as a consolation for his defeat in the contest for the parliamentary representation of the City on the retirement of Lord John Russell. He started the Mansion House Lancashire Relief Fund while Lord Mayor. His son-in-law, Sir William Humphery (son of John Humphery, Lord Mayor 1842-3) succeeded him as M.P. for Andover. His re-election to the Presidency of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital after his resignation of his Aldermanry gave rise to litigation, which was not judicially decided till after his death, the office having hitherto been regarded as tenable only by an Alderman of London.’

Port of London Study Group

An article about Hay’s Wharf by Gillian Barton on the Port of London Study Group website writes about the the Humphery and Cubitt families too, stating:

In 1840 the wharf came under the control of John Humphrey Junior, an Alderman for the City of London, Master of the Tallow Chandler’s Company, Lord Mayor of London in 1842, MP for Southwark 1832-52 and proprietor of Hay’s wharf from 1838 – 1862. In 1856 he commissioned William Cubitt to design and build new warehouse accommodation. He created a small inland dock so barges could gain access from the river, with a five storey warehouse on each side of the new dock. Business was good, until the Great Fire of Tooley Street in 1861. Described as ‘the greatest spectacle since the Great Fire of 1666’, it destroyed the “best warehouses in the kingdom”. The fire started at Cotton’s Wharf, destroying 11 acres of land. London Bridge railway station also caught fire in the blaze. Most of the wharves were rebuilt in the late 1800s as a result of Humphrey’s partnership with Smith and Magniac (whose company later became Jardine Matheson).’

Other information

On 17 July 1846 John Humphery was awarded The Freedom of the City.  
 
 
Freedom of City document.
Freedom of the City Admission document for John Humphery.
 
John Clark from the group Historic Southwark: Camberwell, Southwark and Bermondsey explained ‘Originally you couldn’t carry on a trade or business in the City of London unless you were a ‘freeman’ of the City – that is, a ‘citizen’. Three main ways of becoming a freeman – apprenticeship (through one of the livery companies/trade guilds) (not very common these days); ‘redemption’ (paying a fee); or ‘patrimony’ (if your father was already a freeman when you were born).’
 
‘John’s freedom certificate shows it was by patrimony. His father the MP was ‘citizen and tallow chandler’ and the witnesses confirm that John Junior was his legitimate son.  A few hundred years earlier this would have meant that John Senior was a tallow chandler by trade, making candles out of tallow – but by the 19th century many of the livery companies had lost their links with the actual crafts and trades. But to become a freeman/citizen of London you had first to be a member (freeman) of one of the companies – so no obvious reason why John Senior opted for the tallow chandlers when making his first step to power and influence’.
 
The graves of two John Humphery’s can be found in Battersea Rise Cemetery and photos of these can be found on the Find a Grave website below.
 

The will of the second John Humphery recorded by the Tallow Chandlers Association was proved on 11 December 1868.

Will of John Humphrey.

Sources

John, Martha and Elizabeth Peach

I learned about John and Elizabeth Peach while researching the Thompson family, with their names appearing on the 1871 census together and with Lucy Munn’s described as Mother in Law. Elizabeth Peach also appears on the 1901 census, where she has a 21 year old servant named Lucy Thompson working 25 Margaret Street, Northampton. Elizabeth is described as a widow and ‘living on own means’.

1851

In 1851 John Peach, aged 34 is recorded as a market gardener with one employee. Married to Martha, they are living at Gold Street, Northampton.

1861

In 1861 John and Martha can be found living at 17 Gold Street. They have a six year old visitor called Selina Starmer and one servant.

1871

In 1871 John and Martha are living alone at Billing Road, St Giles, Northampton. Aged 54 John is described as a retired market gardener.

1881

Aged 64, John can now be found living at 8, Billing Road, Northampton. Again he is described as a retired market gardener but he is now married to Elizabeth Peach and Lucy Munns, described as mother in law, is living with them.

1885

John Peach died in 1885 leaving a personal estate of £2.200.

Details of the will of John Peach.

1886

The Northampton Mercury reported the auction of three highly desirable properties at Gold Street, Victoria Street and Billing Road Northampton.

George and Lucy Munns

I learned about George and Lucy Munns while researching the Thompson family. Lucy Munn’s name appeared on the 1871 and 1881 census returns along with William and Harriett Thompson.

1841

George and Lucy Munns, both aged 35 can be found on the 1841 census, living at Todds Lane Johnsons Square, St Sepulchre, Northampton.

1851

In 1851 George and Lucy are living at 1, Nelson Street Square, St Sepulchre Northampton, Both described as shoemakers, they have four daughters, including a daughter Harriett aged seven.

1861

In 1861 George and Lucy are living at 27, Vernon Street, Priory of St Andrew, Northampton. Harriett aged 17 is employed as a shoe machine worker.

1871

In 1871 a Lucy Manns is recorded as living with William and Harriett Thompson at Russell Street, Northampton. William is employed as a riveter, Harriett as a machinist and Lucy as a laundress.

1881

In 1881 Lucy Munns is again recorded as living with William and Harriett, living at 42 Great Russell Street, Northampton. Interestingly though, Lucy Munns, a widow also aged 75 and described as Mother in Law can be found recorded at 8 Billing Road Northampton, living with John Peach (a retired Market Gardener) and his wife too.*

* The 1901 census shows Lucy Thompson aged 21, working as a servant for a widow, aged 73, named Elizabeth Peach, at 25 Margaret Street, Northampton. Elizabeth is described as ‘living on own means’.

William and Harriett Thompson

William and Harriett Thompson were the parents of Lucy Thompson, who was the first wife of my great grandfather Joseph Charles Abram.

1841

The 1841 census shows William aged three living in Dallington, Northampton, with his parents William and Mary and six brothers and sisters – George, John, Mary, Sarah, Richard and Elizabeth.

1861

In 1861, William aged 23, can be found living in the home of John and Emma Humphrey at 5, Cavendish Terrace, Clapham, Wandsworth. John and Emma have eight children and five servants including William. William’s occupation is given as a footman and John’s occupation is given as wharfinger, which is the owner or keeper of a wharf.

1871

In 1871 William is back in Northampton, living at Russell Street. He is now married to Harriett. Living with them are two other women, Lucy Manns aged 65 and Harriett Clarke aged seven.

1881

In 1881 William and Harriett are living at 42 Great Russell Street, Northampton. They have four daughters including Lucy aged one. Lucy Munns is living with them, aged 75 and she is described as Mother in Law. Interestingly though, Lucy Munns, a widow also aged 75 and described as Mother in Law can also be found recorded at 8 Billing Road Northampton, living with John Peach (a retired Market Gardener) and his wife too.*

1891

In 1891 William and Harriett are living at Great Russell Street. Lucy is now aged 11. William is described as a gentlemen’s gardener.

1901

In 1901 still at Great Russell Street, William’s occupation is now given as a market gardener and Harriett is recorded as a greengrocer shop keeper. **

1911

In 1911 William and Harriett are living at 18 Burns Street, Northampton.*** Living with them is a Mrs Peach, a boarder and a widow aged 83, with a personal description of ‘independent means’.

* The 1901 census shows Lucy Thompson aged 21, working as a servant for a widow, aged 73, named Elizabeth Peach, at 25 Margaret Street, Northampton. Elizabeth is described as ‘living on own means’.

** The 1890 Kellys directory has William listed as the greengrocer.

*** At the time of Lucy’s marriage to Joseph she was living at 35 Burns Street, Northampton.

Ickwell May Queen

May Day is a traditional event that dates back to ancient times when Romans celebrated the festival of Flora, the goddess of flowers and spring and when Celtic people celebrated the festival of Beltane to mark the halfway point between spring and summer. May Day customs include  Morris dancing and dancing around the maypole.

In Ickwell, Bedfordshire, the first documented account of celebrating May Day in the Parish of Northill can be found in the Church Wardens’ Accounts of c1565.   Payments are listed for the purchase of shoes for the dancers, of bells for the shoes, food and drink.  Payments were also made to various people for their paynes (efforts) and to mysnstrells.  

Ickwell May Queen, 1951

In 1951, my mum’s cousin Pat Smith was Ickwell May Queen. Her picture appeared in the Biggleswade Chronicle, where it was written she had been chosen to be May Queen by her school friends.

Biggleswade Chronicle 11 May 1951.
Biggleswade Chronicle, 11 May 1951.

A further article appeared in the Biggleswade Chronicle on 25 May 1951. It describes the murmur of the crowds, the steady beat of the drums and the sound of bugles in the distance, the humming bees and the fragrant horse chestnut trees and the sound of leather hitting the willow as spectators watched a cricket match.  It was reported that apple trees laden with blossom, against a backdrop of old world cottages, provided a perfect setting for May Day activities. 

The Queen led by her loyal subjects was led by the band of the Corps of Drums and as a company of the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment arrived, the Queen surrounded by her attendants, sat on a flower bedecked throne drawn by a gaily decorated tractor.  The traditional song ‘Oh lovely, lovely, May’ was sung and hand bells were rung by Mr W Wagstaff. Then the ceremony of crowning the Queen was performed by Betty Lloyd, the previous years Queen, who placed a crown of flowers on the new Queens head and presentations of a garland of flowers and a sceptre were made.

As music struck up, girls dressed as may flowers, skipped over the buttercup-studded grass to the may pole, curtsied to the Queen and then formed a Guard of Honour.  Later the Queen, with  her Pages and Maids of Honour holding her long gold and green train, paraded around the arena before the Queen returned to her throne to graciously watch the proceedings. 

Modern day Ickwell

While May Day is still celebrated across Britain, what may well be unique to Ickwell is that they have a team of adults, ‘the Old Scholars’, who dance around the maypole too.  Almost without exception they are former pupils of the village school and some of them have children and even grandchildren also performing on the day. And in May 2020, fifty former May Queens attended Ickwell May Day celebrations.  The presentation of the locket to the May Queen 2000, Stephanie Turner was made by Mrs Vera Randall (nee Wagstaff), who had been May Queen in 1920.  

Further information 

Walter Abram

Walter Abram was born in  1896 in Northamptonshire. The 1891 census shows him living at 75, Lower Hester Street, Northampton, Kingsthorpe and the 1901 census, aged 14 at Station Road, Earl’s Barton. His occupation is shown as a shoe machine operative.

Northampton Mercury: 21 July 1916

In July 1916 a piece appeared in the Northampton Mercury which records that Walter had written to my great great grandparents advising he was in hospital at Didsbury suffering from shell shock, having enlisted in in 1914 and going to France in 1915.  

Walter and Mabel.

I believe that Walter married his wife Mabel in 1920 and on the 1939 register they can be found living together at Rusholme Northampton Road, Earl’s Barton. Walter’s occupation is recorded as a puller over in the boot trade.