Tag Archives: mail guard

Finding some details on Thomas and Margaret KINGHORN

24 May

Before my visit to the London Family History Centre (LFHC) on Saturday, I had very little hard information on Thomas KINGHORN, my 4x great grandfather. I knew he married Margaret SEWELL in Carlisle on the 5th May 1803 and they had six children between then and 1817. He worked as a guard on a mail coach, and was involved in an accident in 1808, when he narrowly escaped death. I also knew from his son’s marriage certificate that he had died before 1850.

What I really wanted to find out at the LFHC was when he died and how old he was when he died, so I could work out roughly when he was born. I had identified two possible short cuts to this information:

  1. A list of monumental inscriptions for the parish church of St Cuthbert, Carlisle, where he was married and his children subsequently baptised.
  2. An index to wills and administrations from 1800 to 1858 for the Diocese of Carlisle.

Unfortunately the only copy of the first one I knew of locally was at the Society of Genealogist’s library across the city, not at the LFHC, so that was a complete non-starter.

The second one was available on microfilm at the LFHC, but unfortunately there were no entries for Thomas or Margaret KINGHORN, in fact there were no KINGHORNs at all.

The only option left was to take the long route and search through the burial records in the bishops transcript’s for the parish of St Cuthbert’s, Carlisle, Cumberland. Starting in 1817 when their youngest child was baptised I went through year by year.

I finally found Thomas KINGHORN in 1833, except his name was spelt KINGHORNE (close enough for me), he was buried on the 4th May. His age was given as 52 years, which means he was born around 1781. His abode was given as Crosby Street. Compared to what I knew before that one record has probably doubled my knowledge of Thomas KINGHORN in one hit.

I continued to see if the were any other KINGHORN burials but there weren’t until the 15th May 1850 when, his wife Margaret was buried, she was aged 73 years and her address was South Street. So Margaret was around four years older than Thomas being born around 1777.

Although it seems likely that these two are my 4x great grandparents there is nothing that conclusively says they are. The lack of a will (or wills) doesn’t help, but perhaps a monumental inscription will at least show if they were buried together.

I already had the GRO death index entry for Margaret, so I need to order the death certificate and see if that holds any further information, like the fact that she was the widow of Thomas KINGHORN.

I can also now plan to visit the British Library Newspaper Library and check the Carlisle newspapers around those dates, and see if either of them got a mention. If Thomas died in the course of his duty as mail guard then that would be sure to be mentioned, but I doubt I will be that lucky.

Also I now have some more details to take with me to the British Postal Museum and Archive, to see if they have anything that might shed light on his service.

So lots more avenues to explore now, and a couple of streets to visit when I finally get up Carlisle.

The Science Museum Mail Coach

24 May

The Science Museum is like a giant treasure chest, full of a range of exhibitions for almost all ages and interests, and best of all you can get free admission to most of it!

I had never imagined that I would be visiting the Science Museum in the course of my family history research, but when I learnt they had a mail coach on display I knew I had to go and have a look.

The Science Museum Mail Coach

The Science Museum Mail Coach

Everything I learn about the mail coach service reinforces my belief that the mail guards were quite remarkable men. Viewing the mail coach was no exception, it convinces me even more that I should be proud of Thomas KINGHORN and his choice of occupation.

Looking at the guard’s seat on the back of the coach it seems so fragile (and looks so uncomfortable), as if it would snap off at the slightest knock. It is hard enough for me to imagine how one would get up there, let alone stay up there once the coach started bouncing along the road. Then throw in the freezing cold wind and rain and you must surely have one of the most challenging jobs at that time.

The problem with Thomas KINGHORN

30 Apr

Despite discovering more about Thomas KINGHORNs occupation as mail guard, I still have very little hard information about the man himself.

Thomas KINGHORN married Margaret SEWELL on the 5th May 1803 in St Cuthbert’s Church, Carlisle, Cumberland. They had six children, all baptised in St Cuthbert’s:

1. John KINGHORN (baptised 30 Oct 1803)
2. Mary KINGHORN (baptised 03 Aug 1806)
3. Thomas KINGHORN (baptised 13 Mar 1808)
4. Abraham KINGHORN (baptised 10 Jun 1810)
5. Elizabeth KINGHORN (baptised 19 Mar 1815)
6. George KINGHORN (baptised 11 May 1817)

In all the entries Thomas is shown as a mail guard. The entries for John, Mary and Thomas don’t show a residence, but the entries for Abraham, Elizabeth and George have the residence as Moffat (of North Britain) and Abraham’s entry states the parents are late of Carlisle.

On the 25th October 1808, Thomas was involved in a mail coach accident in which he was injured, “severely cut about the head”.

Thomas had died by the time his son Thomas was married (for the second time) in London in June 1850, as he is shown as deceased on the certificate. I have been unable to find him in the 1841 census and there doesn’t appear to be a death entry for him in the civil registration indexes, so he probably died before July 1837.

So not really a lot to go on, he was alive definitely alive between 1803 and 1817, he worked as a guard on the mail coach and had six children with his wife Margaret.

The key fact I would like to establish is where and when he died. This will hopefully give me a clue to his age and year of birth. Given his occupation, his death could have occurred almost anywhere in the country, and his place of birth may not have even been in the north but he may just have been working there and meet a local girl.

To try and find the man himself, I am going to have to make my next step to try and establish what happened to the rest of the family, I think I have found his wife in the 1841 census (back in Carlisle), which is a good start as I should be able to find her death certificate which may provide some clues, such as where to look for a burial record for both of them.

Why I am proud to say that Thomas KINGHORN was a mail guard

29 Apr

I appear to have been neglecting my Thomas KINGHORN research recently, I think the problem is that I have very little information to go on, there is very little I can do online and it is almost completely new territory to me.

I have however not been completely idle, I am in the middle of reading The Mail-Coach Men of the late Eighteenth Century1 which I have borrowed from my local library, although I think I am going to have to buy a copy for my own bookshelf.

There is some wonderful detail on the origins of the mail coach service, and the people involved in setting it up and running it. There is also some great general information on mail guards such as:

… the key-men were the mail-guards. Everything depended on their integrity, their loyalty, their tireless zeal in the discharge of their arduous duties, their hardihood of body as well as of mind.

There was also something else which might give me another place to search in the records:

The pay was 10s. 6d. a week; in addition, there were regular tips, seldom withheld by the public and not discouraged by the Post Office. There was provision for sick-benefit and retirement pension and a contribution of two guineas towards the funeral expenses of a guard.

I don’t think Thomas lived long enough to gain a retirement pension, but maybe his widow received some form of pension, and probably the two guineas towards his funeral.

It appears that the mail guard was not just responsible for the safety of the mail, but was in charge of pretty much every aspect of the operation:

He was responsible for giving the word to go, for the maintenance of speed, the conduct and sobriety of the coachman, and for taking action when breakdowns and other mishaps occurred.

On this final point the author also notes that:

It was part of his training to go through the shops of the factory at Millbank and carried a considerable kit of tools and spares to effect roadside repairs.

What I am seeing is a picture of a man who had to be resourceful, honest, reliable, strong, intelligent, courageous and loyal (amongst other things). It makes me proud to say that my 4x great grandfather was a mail guard.

1 Vale, Edmund. The Mail-Coach Men of the late Eighteenth Century. Newton Abbot, Devon: David & Charles (Publishers) Ltd, 1967

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