Tag Archives: alton

Making the News: Henry Wright of Alton, Hampshire – Postscript

8 May

Yesterday I shared a newspaper article about the fortunate discovery made by my 3x great-grandfather Henry Wright of Alton, Hampshire. The article suggested that his wife had hidden away some money (totalling £260) which was only discovered after her death in 1889.

I suspect there is probably more to the story than meets the eye. There is a possibility that Henry in his younger days (back in 1838) served twelve months in prison for larceny, so I can’t help wonder if this money could be the result of some nefarious deed. However any secrets probably went to the grave with Henry.

That thought got me thinking. Henry died six years after his wife and I have a copy of his will and the grant of probate and I wondered just how much of this “windfall” had survived until Henry’s death.

The entry for Henry in the National Probate Calendar (on Ancestry.co.uk) reads:

WRIGHT Henry of Model villa West-street Alton Hants died 1 August 1895 Probate Winchester 4 November to William Wright builder and contractor Effects £127 9s.

So it looks like in those six years Henry had managed to get rid of half of the money that he had “discovered”, assuming that he didn’t have much to start with, because he was having to sell some furniture in the first place.

I wonder what he did with that money in those six years? The 1891 census shows him (aged 80) living with his son William (the executor named above) and his family and quite appropriately he is described as “Living on his own means”.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Making the News: Henry Wright of Alton, Hampshire

7 May

You never know what you are going to find when you start delving into newspapers. The article below, from the Hampshire Advertiser of Saturday 23rd March 1889, has to one of the most bizarre that I have come across in my searches.

ALTON, MARCH 23.

A PROVIDENT WIFE.-A man named Henry Wright, formerly a chimney sweeper at Alton, has made a fortunate discovery. His wife died a few days ago, and preparatory to selling his furniture to a local dealer he inspected an old chest of drawers, when, to his surprise, he discovered, concealed behind a piece of board let into one of the drawers, two purses, one of which contained £200, and the other £60 in gold. At one time Wright kept a lodging-house, and it is supposed that his wife accumulated the money then.

Henry Wright and his “provident” wife were my 3x great-grandparents, all the facts fit with what I know. He was at one time a lodging-house keeper and later on a chimney sweep and his wife Sarah died in Alton in 1889.

Quite why Sarah should have felt the need to hide £260 from Henry is a mystery, unless she was frightened he would drink or gamble it all away. Perhaps the rainy day that she was waiting for never arrived?

I can see that it might have been hidden for safe-keeping (perhaps a distrust of banks), but could you really forget that you had put away that sort of money? Based the retail price index £260 in 1889 would be worth £22,400 today, not the sort of money that would be easy to forget.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
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Ancestral Profile: Harriet WRIGHT (c1840-1925)

20 Jan

Harriet WRIGHT was my 2x great-grandmother and her exact date and place of birth (along with the details of her baptism) are bound up within the mystery surrounding the early years of her father Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT.

It is quite possible that her birth was registered under the surname SHORNDEN, and it seems likely that she was born not long after her parents marriage in 1840, all census information points to a birth around that year. The place of her birth is not quite so clear, with conflicting information given

  • 1851 – Ospringe, Kent
  • 1861 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1871 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1881 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1891 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1901 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1911 – Cowfold, Kent [there is a Cowfold in Sussex, but I haven't found one in Kent]

At the time of the 1851 census Harriet was living with her parents and siblings in Alton, Hampshire and in theory this means the information was given by Henry and ought to be most reliable. From 1861 to 1901 she is living with her husband William Henry MITCHELL, who obvious wouldn’t have known first-hand where she was born. In 1911 she is widowed and living with one of her married daughters, so again not first hand knowledge of her mother’s birth.

Returning to the 1851 census we find an eleven year old Harriet with her parents and siblings (Mary Ann, Henry, Emma, William and George) in Normandy Street in Alton, Hampshire. Her father is described as a cutler and lodging house keeper.

On the 4th February 1860 Harriet married William Henry MITCHELL at the parish church in the small village of Exton, Hampshire. Both were living in Exton at the time, which is where William Henry’s parents spent their married life together. [It is also conveniently situated on the South Downs Way so I was able to pay it a brief visit last year]

Together Harriet and William Henry MITCHELL had a total of thirteen children:

  1. Mary Ann MITCHELL (baptised 26 February 1860)
  2. Henry James MITCHELL (baptised 3 November 1861)
  3. Robert Charles MITCHELL (baptised 25 January 1863)
  4. James MITCHELL (baptised 18 December 1864)
  5. Sarah Ann MITCHELL (baptised 10 May 1866)
  6. William MITCHELL (baptised 22 December 1867)
  7. Emma Louisa MITCHELL (baptised 11 July 1869)
  8. Elizabeth MITCHELL (baptised 9 April 1871)
  9. George MITCHELL (baptised 25 May 1873) [my great-grandfather]
  10. Alfred MITCHELL (baptised 12 September 1875)
  11. Albert MITCHELL (baptised 5 May 1878)
  12. Harriet Ellen MITCHELL (baptised 21 December 1879)
  13. Frederick MITCHELL (baptised 5 February 1882)

These children were born and baptised in a range of villages across Hampshire and Sussex, as the family moved their way across the counties, presumably travelling wherever it was necessary for William Henry to find work. Many months ago I put this information on a Google Map to show the places that the family passed through.

The couple eventually ended up in Sussex, by 1901 their children had all left home and they were looking after one of their grandchildren in Funtington, Sussex. William Henry died in 1908 (aged 74 years) and was buried at Funtington on the 1st October 1908.

In the 1911 census Harriet is living in Portsmouth, Hampshire with one of her now married daughters (Harriet Ellen HUTFIELD with a husband in the navy). Harriet herself died in 1925 (aged 85 years) and was also buried in Funtington on the 12th September 1925.

Did Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT spend time in Canterbury?

19 Jan

A few months ago I ordered a copy of the will of Henry WRIGHT (as he was known when he died), it wasn’t particularly detailed and didn’t contain any major revelations or death-bed confessions, just the usual stuff you would expect to find.

From a genealogical point of view the helpful feature of the will was a list of all his children, which gave the married names of his daughters. This is a great help if you are trying to piece together a family tree and don’t have copies of marriage certificates or access to the relevant parish registers.

Most interesting to me was Henry’s eldest daughter Mary Ann because she (like my 2x great-grandmother Harriet) was born before the family moved to Alton, Hampshire. Knowing that Mary Ann had married Henry William TRIMMER has led to a couple of interesting discoveries:

1.  When she married her name was recorded as Mary Ann LAY – LAY was Mary Ann’s mother’s maiden name, suggesting that Mary Ann was born before Henry SHORNDEN and Sarah LAY were married, and thus raising the question of whether she was actually Henry’s daughter. I need to get the full marriage certificate to see who she named as her father.

2. Mary Ann claimed to have been born in Canterbury, Kent – Knowing Mary Ann’s married name has enabled me to trace her in the census and the information about her place of birth is pretty consistent. Whether Canterbury actually means the city itself or whether it means somewhere nearby remains to be discovered.

Although at first glance the Henry’s will didn’t look particularly helpful (or to be honest particularly interesting) it has provided a lead to some potentially useful information, which I may not have found easily because I wouldn’t have looked for a marriage of Mary Ann LAY.

Picture Postcard Parade: St. Lawrence Parish Church, Alton, Hampshire

18 Jan

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that this is the only historic postcard I have of Alton, Hampshire. I shall probably remedy this in the future, but for now you will have to make do with just this one.

This is the church in Alton, Hampshire where Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT and his wife Sarah had most of their children baptised and where both Henry and Sarah were buried. The postcard has not been used, but probably dates from between 1905 and 1910. The blank space in the top right-hand corner being used to write your message in if your were going to send the card abroad, when all of the back was needed for the address.

The back of the card also bears the name of the publisher/photographer, W.P. Varney of West End Studio, Alton. A bit of time spent in the trade directories for Hampshire would probably enable me to find out when W.P. Varney was trading.

I hope to get back to Alton this year and spend a bit more time exploring the area. I did pay the town a very brief visit last year when I took the photo below of St. Lawrence Parish Church as it looks now.

Why Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT?

10 Jan

I know I don’t really need to justify why I should be interested in finding out about a particular ancestor (after all that is what family history is all about). This is in part as a way of establishing what it is that I want to find out and thinking about how I am going to achieve it.

I already know a fair bit about Henry. I know who his parents were and where he was baptised. I know where and when he was married and to whom. I know where and when most of his children were born and baptised. I know where Henry spent most of his adult life, what he did for a living and where he died and was buried.

At first glance there seems very few basic facts (eg census, BMDs and parish registers) left to find out, in fact it is really just a question of finding Henry (and family) in the 1841 census and identifying where his first two children (Mary Ann and Harriet) were born and baptised. Given that Harriet is my 2x great-grandmother, I am quite keen to find out where she was born.

These few simple missing facts are indicators of a much more complicated situation with many unanswered questions and life changing events in a relatively short space of time. There is a five-year period (roughly speaking 1837 to 1842) where Henry’s life changed dramatically and it is these five years that I am really interested in.

In those five years the following events happened in Henry’s life and I would really like to find out more about them and the reasons behind what happened:

  1. In 1838 he was tried and convicted of larceny for which he served 12 months in prison.
  2. In 1840 he married Sarah LAY in Milton Next Gravesend, Kent.
  3. At some time between 1837 and 1840 Henry and Sarah had two children, one possibly before they married.
  4. At some time between 1840 and 1842 the family moved from Kent to Alton, Hampshire.

I would really like to get an accurate timeline of events and try to establish what were the reasons behind these events and whether there was any cause and effect between the events.

I would also like to find out as much as I can about Henry’s life in Alton and to some extent that of his children as well. One aspect that I really want to clarify is Henry’s occupation(s). At various times in his life Henry seems to have been employed as a chimney sweep, cutler and lodging house keeper and I would like to find out more about these, especially the lodging house keeper. What was the lodging house called? Was he there for long? Did he own the lodging house?

I can feel a research plan coming on

8 Jan

I am not quite sure why, but I am gravitating towards a full-blown research project on Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT, my 3x great-grandfather from Kent and Hampshire. I have written about Henry many times but there are still many unanswered questions. I feel it might be time to answer some of those questions.

It all started with me cancelling my plan (not that is was really anything more than an idea) to visit Carlisle, Cumbria in the next couple of months, because they haven’t finished re-building their record office yet. Carlisle can wait, what is more pressing is my need to use up the few days holiday that I still have left, before I lose them.

Instead of taking a trip to the other end of the country I hope to take several shorter trips that can be completed in a day, mainly to archives and libraries but also to a church and cemetery or two.

The key destination will be Alton, Hampshire because this was where Henry WRIGHT (as he was then) spent most of his life. As well as exploring the town further, visiting the church and cemetery I also want to take advantage of the family history resources at The Curtis Museum. I might also need to fit in a visit to the Hampshire Record Office in Winchester, Hampshire.

The other destination will be Kent, probably both of the archives in Maidstone and Canterbury, and maybe a visit to Ospringe where Henry SHORNDEN (as he was then) was born, although the latter is probably not quite so important.

Now I need to start putting together a proper research plan, check the availability of resources, check travel arrangements and decide what I actually want to find out. Before I go anywhere though I need to sit down and update my family history database with as much information as possible from the sources I already have at hand, namely Henry’s will and whatever else I can find online.

Expect to hear lots more about Henry and his family over the coming weeks …

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