Tag Archives: henry wright

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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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.

Joseph and Hannah LAY: an update

14 Jan

Following the discovery of a likely baptism record for my 3x great-grandmother Sarah LAY (the wife of Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT) I have been poking around looking for more details on her parents Joseph and Hannah LAY.

Things have not been quite as straightforward as I had hoped. I have found a likely couple in the 1841 census, in fact I think they are the only couple of that name in the 1841. The problem is that they are living in Reigate, Surrey with no obvious connection to Deptford, Kent (where Sarah was baptised).

This is not as neat as I would have liked, it doesn’t rule them out, but makes my life a lot harder trying to prove they are the correct parents. This hypothesis ignores the fact that one or both of the parents may have died before 1841. However Deptford and Reigate are only about 20 miles apart, so it is not that long a journey and not completely inconceivable.

The other fly in the ointment is that Joseph and Hannah were married in Reigate in 1824, two years after Sarah’s baptism. Again this doesn’t rule them out and may actually explain why Sarah wasn’t baptised in Reigate. The Vicar at Reigate would presumably known that her parent’s weren’t married.

Joseph and Hannah had several other children in Reigate after they were married. Hannah appears to have died between 1841 and 1851, and Joseph remarried between 1851 and 1861. Joseph’s second marriage could be useful because it was after the start of civil registration, so his marriage certificate should have his father’s name on it, where the parish register recording the first marriage probably won’t.

What I really need to find now is a record that links the Reigate LAYs to Sarah. That might be a witness on a marriage certificate or an informant on a death certificate. It seems unlikely that Joseph or either of his wives would have left a will, but it is worth checking that as well. I certainly need to check the 1841 census for Reigate very carefully just in case Henry and Sarah SHORNDEN/WRIGHT is hiding in there.

Staying up late with Sarah LAY

11 Jan

Why is it that so many of my most important genealogical discoveries happen late at night, when I should be going to bed? Last night it was the turn of Sarah LAY, the wife of Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT (and my 3x great-grandmother) to keep me up half the night.

Like her husband Henry I know quite a bit about her already and many of the same questions that apply to Henry also apply to Sarah. One important difference (other than not going to prison) is that I was missing Sarah’s baptism, but I believe that mystery has now been solved.

Although I had a rough idea of her year of birth and her father’s name (from her marriage certificate) what I was missing was a place. Sarah is one of those people whose place of birth changes between every census:

  • 1851 – Harrow, Middlesex
  • 1861 – Alton, Hampshire
  • 1871 – Lincolnshire [at least that is the best I can make out]
  • 1881 – Deptford, Kent

Then of course there could be Ospringe, Kent (where Henry was baptised) or Milton next Gravesend, Kent (where the couple married). To be honest Sarah could have been born/baptised almost anywhere in the country, but most likely within the South-East of England.

I had a quick search of the new FamilySearch.org website, which came up with a hit for Deptford, Kent. The father’s name was correct and the date was about right, in fact there was nothing about it that gives me cause to doubt it is the right one.

Knowing that Deptford is now part of London (in the borough of Lewisham) I wondered why it hadn’t come up when I had searched the London, England, Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906 on Ancestry.co.uk, but when I browsed the baptism register for St. Paul’s Deptford it soon became obvious why it hadn’t come up.

The transcription had been mangled, although it wasn’t really Ancestry’s fault, the Rector who had filled in the original register had transposed the surname and abode boxes. It didn’t help that their address was quite unusual, “Loving Edwards Lane”, so their names ended up well and truly mangled.

Instead of Sarah being the daughter of Joseph and Hannah LAY she was transcribed as Sarah daughter of Joseph Louis and Hannah Jane Edwards. All quite straight forward to untangle once you know what you are looking for.

This is an important lead in the search to find out more about Henry SHORNDEN/WRIGHT as I now have another set of relatives to track down which might in turn lead me to Henry and his family in the 1841 census.

Also this means I now have another direct ancestor on my family tree, Sarah’s mother Hannah, my 4x great-grandmother. All I need to do now is find out what her maiden name was and hopefully I can also push both the branches of my tree back a few more generations.

However that will have to wait, I have promised myself that I will try to get an early night tonight!

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?

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