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Magazine Articles

The Family Tree Forum Online Magazine was written and put together by the members of The Family Tree Forum. As one of the editors, I was able to twist some arms and  the following articles were originally written for the Family Tree Forum Online Magazine.

A wide variety of topics were covered in the magazine. Most articles were drawn from the authors’ own research into interesting relatives who they have come across, others inspired by questions posed in the forums. Alongside these, you will find in depth articles giving an historical context to our ancestors’ way of life. Some of the issues looked at specific occupations and related trades. 

Generally the magazine followed a loose theme in each issue, but there were also two series of special features, ‘My Kind of Town’ where members focus on a specific location, and ‘Family Treasures’ where members describe objects which have been passed down to them.

Magazine Articles

The Family Tree Forum Online Magazine was written and put together by the members of The Family Tree Forum. As one of the editors, I was able to twist some arms and  the following articles were originally written for the Family Tree Forum Online Magazine. A wide...

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The Gillett Spoons

My parents had a motley collection of cutlery with various monograms, which had been passed down to my mother. This includes two incomplete sets of rather worn silver plated spoons, which are used every day. One set is monogrammed GAG, the other JSG but we weren’t...

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Summer Holiday 1930s

Summer Holiday 1930s

  What happened to the railway carriages in which Herbert and his family travelled to Ramsgate in the 1880s? As the new carriages became fitted up with upholstered seats and lavatories the old ones were sold off for sheds and chicken house. (Some of which are...

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Wartime Memories

Wartime Memories

. I remember it was a lovely sunny Sunday morning the day war broke out.. We listened to Mr Chamberlain’s speech on the wireless in the kitchen, the only wireless we had, and my parents were very serious and shooshed us when we, my two younger sisters and I started to speak, not really understanding what it was all about. My father took us across to the air raid shelter he had made in an old underground farm slurry tank and said that we would have to go into this dark, damp and smelly room if there was an air raid.

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The Preacher

  Some thirty years ago while house-hunting we went to see what the agent said was a small chapel ‘ripe for conversion’ in the village of West Wickham in Cambridgeshire. The chapel was tiny and needed far too much done to it for us to afford to make it habitable...

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Schooldays

The de Fraine, Tompkins and Gillett families often sent both their sons and daughters away from home for a few years of education, and I have several times spotted familiar surnames on lists of pupils, which when I have tracked them through other census returns and through birth registrations have turned out to be related to the name I was originally looking for.

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Auctioneer of Reading

Robert Tompkins, a resident of Reading, Berkshire, was the second son of Robert Tompkins and Ann Osborn and seemed to have  led an interesting life. While browsing through some 19th Century newspapers recently, looking for a different surname entirely, I vaguely...

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Dear Sir

Dear Sir

It used to be extremely disconcerting to walk into a bank in the early 70s and to be asked by the teller if you were related to “the Lewcock who wrote those books”, with the emphasis on those. At that time Francis James Lewcock’s books on banking were still required reading for banking exams. All I really knew about him was that he had written the books, but when I came across the Times Online, I found that there was far more to his life than that.

Francis James (Frank) was born on the 17th July 1897, the son of James Austin and Amy Lewcock née Reed. James was a clerk/accountant and was the eldest son of a printer. Presumably through the printing connections, Frank was educated at the Stationer’s Company School in Hornsey as was his father and then his own older sons. He was obviously bright, winning a school prize in 1907. Tucked inside the book which he won are copies of the examinations which he took – I can’t imagine even the brightest 10 year olds I have taught getting very far with them these days!  In 1911 the family were living in Stanhope Gardens, Haringey, and James was working as a municipal accountant for Tottenham Urban District Council. When Frank left school he went to work as a clerk for the London and Provincial Bank, which was later to become part of Barclays Bank.

Frank and Alice Lewcock

At the age of 17 years and three months, in November 1914, he enlisted as a private in the London Scottish (Reserve Battalion) of the 14th London Regiment; interestingly his Medical Inspection Report gives his ‘Apparent age’ as 19 years and three months. He was transferred for Officer Training to the Inns of Court Officers Training Corps in May 1915. He was discharged from there, on appointment to a commission as a 2ndLieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery with the 1st Northumbrian Brigade, in the following October. He was promoted to Lieutenant in June 1916 when he was sent to the front. When the war was over, he joined the Disposal Board of the Ministry of Munitions in Cologne. He was disembodied [sic] in May 1920 but continued to work for the Ministry as a civilian for a short time.

While in Cologne, he met his wife, Alice Bradley, who was working for the Ministry of Munitions as a secretary, and they were married late in 1920.

After his discharge from the army he returned to work for Barclays. In October 1920, the first reference to him appears in ‘The Times’ in a legal case entitled ‘The Extent Of A House Agent’s Authority’. There are also references in The Times Archives to him giving at least two radio broadcasts, a 20 minute talk on ‘Finance’ on LEEDS-BRADFORD in May, 1926 and in 1928 he gave two broadcasts to Secondary Schools: ‘How industry is financed’ and ‘How they raise permanent money’. He also lectured to the Institute of Bankers.

By 1926 he was working at a branch of Barclays Bank in Otley Road, Leeds. In February 1927 the first of many letters to The Times appears. He wrote on a variety of topics, not always financial, including the length of BBC programmes, who finances the British film industry, the dirge like manner of poetry recitations on the BBC, how to pay Customs and Excise the duty on celluloid dolls (that one is very funny), getting telephones installed, bank architecture and so on throughout the 1930s. There must be many more as there are replies and responses to his letters which don’t come up on the search. I wonder if he wrote to the newspaper continually and these are just a selection of what was published.

In 1930 he became a member of the Chartered Institute of Secretaries. In 1931, Frank published the first of those two books on banking, ‘The Securities Clerk in a Branch Bank’ and in 1934‘The organization and management of a branch bank’. They were both published by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Limited and were in print in several editions for many years.

Frank was obviously not content with just being a bank clerk and had aspirations to be a writer. He started up several newsletters, not always successfully, which could well have been the cause of him being made bankrupt. In December 1933, The Gazette reports “That Banking Publications Limited … be voluntarily be wound by the Members; and that Mr F. R. Tufft …. be and is hereby appointed liquidator” F. Lewcock, Chairman. Francis filed for bankruptcy that month and the family, by then they had five children, moved back down south to the London area. The bankruptcy case must then have dragged on for a long time, as there are still references to it in The Gazette in 1937 with tiny payments of as little as a halfpenny still being demanded by the Official Receiver. He was editing ‘Branch Banking’ in 1936 and in 1939, the Gazette reports that The Watergate Publishing Company Ltd. was wound up in January 1939 by F. Lewcock, Chairman.

Later, he started publishing ‘Background’ a newsletter which he describes as “A private survey of industrial and financial affairs of political significance”. This newsletter was the cause of him being sued for libel, in 1946, by Brendan Bracken and the Financial Times, which was covered in The Times. He lost the case.

In 1937 he became a member of the Institute of Journalists and in 1938 he describes himself as a financial journalist. Also in 1937, The Times carried an announcement that Mr. Francis Lewcock had been appointed Secretary of the Unit Trusts Association. On the masthead of ‘The Background’ he also lists himself as holding the Silver Medal in Banking, The Royal Society of Arts and as being Prizeman in Stock Exchange Practice, London Chamber of Commerce.

From his letters one can get a very good idea of his political leanings. I am told that he was very much a supporter of Churchill and very definitely not a Socialist. In fact my brother has recently found him on Google Books, so he is planning a trip to The British Library to see if he is just quoted in the book, ‘Fellow travellers of the Right: British enthusiasts for Nazi Germany, 1933-9’ by Richard Griffiths, or has written an article.

The topics in the letters change slightly in the later 1930s and reflect what was going in politically and financially at the time e.g. ‘Farming Credit’, ‘Working-Class Savings’, ‘Firms And Slumps: The Downward Spiral’, ‘BBC Accounts’, ‘Standard Of Living In Germany: Working-Class Prosperity’ – this one generated some argument in the column. Then in August 1939, he wrote about ‘The Lost Apostrophe’ on a road sign. In September of that year he was complaining about The Great White Rabbit:Cost Of The Ministry Of Information’

In 1937, he took his wife and two oldest sons on a visit to Germany about which he duly wrote in the Letters column on their return. I have been contacted by somebody whose mother had found a postcard album. This eventually turned out to be one which Frank and Alice had sent to their youngest children while they were in Germany – I am looking forward to receiving that.

In his army records there is correspondence from 1936 about him offering to re-enlist in the Territorial Army suggesting that he could still do it, “even at thirty nine years old”. During the war he was part of the Home Guard, manning an anti aircraft battery in Hyde Park.

Francis died in January 1949 before I was born, so I never met him. I was always interested in what little I knew about him especially as I was often told I looked like him, although I always thought that was a bit odd as a small child, as he had no hair in the few pictures I saw around. Being able to follow much of his life through The Times Digital Archive has been fascinating and I have been able to discover a surprising amount about a fascinating person.

SOURCES

Family recollections and memorabilia

The National Archives for Army Officer Records

The Times Digital Archive (West Sussex Library Online Resources)

The London Gazette

Week 16: Air

Flying, civilian pilots and air crew, RAF & Fleet Air Arm, ornithologists, fresh air .... When I saw this week's prompt I wasn't sure I had anything to really write about and was intending to write about fresh air as most of the world including me are under...

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Magazine Articles

The Family Tree Forum Online Magazine was written and put together by the members of The Family Tree Forum. As one of the editors, I was able to twist some arms and  the following articles were originally written for the Family Tree Forum Online Magazine. A wide...

read more

Lewcocks (and Lucocks) who served in WW1

  Lives of the First World War - WW1 Digital MemorialFrancis James Lewcock and his mother, Amy Elizabeth, are two of the Lewcocks who are remembered on this website.Amy Elizabeth LewcockLieutenant Francis James LewcockThere are other Lewcocks and Lucocks who...

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Bradley Gallery

  These photographs all seem to have been taken at the same time. We can recognise Kate and William Bradley, Frank and Alma Bradley and Alice and Frank Lewcock. Who are the other people? Where were the pictures taken? What was the occasion? We think it might have...

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Dear Sir

Dear Sir

It used to be extremely disconcerting to walk into a bank in the early 70s and to be asked by the teller if you were related to “the Lewcock who wrote those books”, with the emphasis on those. At that time Francis James Lewcock’s books on banking were still required...

read more
Printer and entomologist

Printer and entomologist

George Albert Lewcock was born in 1841 in Farnham in Surrey, the son of James who was a baker and confectioner, continuing the family business started by his father Samuel.James died in 1848, leaving a young family and his wife, Jessamine remarried the following year...

read more
Skeleton by marriage?

Skeleton by marriage?

When I registered for the 1911 census, I was really only expecting to confirm what I already knew, to see if some of my ancestors were still alive to narrow down dates for searching for their deaths and perhaps bring some of the distant twigs up to date. What I didn’t...

read more
Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

A cause of curiosity to all and horror to some, I have a battered glass case in my living room containing a stuffed sparrow hawk with her bullfinch prey.  This is a macabre memorial to the collecting activities of the Lewcocks.

read more

Printer and entomologist

Printer and entomologist

George Albert Lewcock was born in 1841 in Farnham in Surrey, the son of James who was a baker and confectioner, continuing the family business started by his father Samuel.

James died in 1848, leaving a young family and his wife, Jessamine remarried the following year and continued the business. Her second husband, who was 18 years her junior, died in 1853. Jessamine was still a confectioner in Farnham in 1861 but by 1871 had retired and moved to Kingston Upon Thames with her three younger children. None of her children seemed to have followed her into the business, indeed the two oldest boys vanish altogether by 1861. In 1861, George is living in the house of Richard Taylor, a printer, in Chatham, Kent and is one of two apprentice compositors living in the household. He married Lucy Usher in 1864 in Islington and gives his profession as a compositor. I had no idea who he might have worked for following his apprenticeship until I came across a newspaper report earlier this year:

THE SPOTTISWOODE INSTITUTE. – A conversazione at the Holborn Town-hall last evening under the auspices of the Spottiswoode Institute brought into more extended notice than the fact has hitherto received the existence of a pleasant literary and social institution among the employés [sic] of the Queen’s printers (Eyre and Spottiswoode) and the allied firm of Spottiswoode and Co. The Messrs. Spottiswoode are patrons of the institution; and last evening contributed materials for the scientific and artistic demonstrations of the evening. Mr. Austin Leigh showed old needlework which had been done by Jane Austen, the novelist; Mr. Crouch and Mr. Browning lent microscopes and spetroscopes, and Mr. Lewcock and Mr. H. Cripps displayed an interesting collection of British insects…… ….

Daily News (London, England), Thursday, November 24, 1881; Issue 11110

Although no initials are given I was fairly sure that this had to be George. ‘Googling’ his surname throws up many many references to George and his interest in insects and beetles in particular (this interest may well form the basis of an article later on as my brother has been doing extensive research into this area of his life). I came across another reference in my newspaper searches to George playing Draughts for the Spottiswoode Institute where his initials were given.

A more important find, on Google Books, were a partial listing in the “Entomologist’s Annual For 1855” and another in the “Entomologist’s Weekly Intelligencer for 1856”, both of which gave his address:

“Page 23
 which I should be glad to exchange for C. Davus, T. Pruni, T. W-album or L.
Sibylla.— G. LEWCOCK, 69, High Street, Chatham”

(NOTE: these appear to be species of butterflies)

The address is the same as in the census for 1861 and when he would have been aged 14 years old. It looks as though he will have served his seven year apprenticeship in Chatham and then moved to London. Why he didn’t go into the baking business and why he went to Chatham to serve his apprenticeship, we will probably never know. I need to visit the Archives and Library at Stationer’s Hall to see if there are any records of his apprenticeship held there.

Thus far I haven’t been able to follow George’s career as a working printer but I have recently discovered that the papers for Spottiswoode Ballantyne, are now held in the Essex Record Office, so following this up may well give me more information or at least leads to follow.

It was a casual comment during our weekly Skype call with my parents that led me to the Stationer’s School in Hornsey and from that, finding out about the importance of the Stationer’s Company to the world of printing. My grandfather, his two eldest sons and his father and uncles all attended the school and on the schools’ website I can see that PF Lewcock of 1.(Alpha) received a Special prize at the School Prizegiving in December 1935 at Stationer’s Hall, Ludgate Hill, when the prizes were presented by H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Master of the Company.

Only one of George’s direct descendants followed him into printing although his grandson Francis was involved in publishing. His eldest great grandson was a compositor for many years with The Evening Standard. He had begun his apprenticeship just before WWII and following his enlistment immediately war was declared, he served throughout the war, but still had to complete his seven years, so strict were the rules.

Magazine Articles

The Family Tree Forum Online Magazine was written and put together by the members of The Family Tree Forum. As one of the editors, I was able to twist some arms and  the following articles were originally written for the Family Tree Forum Online Magazine. A wide...

read more
Dear Sir

Dear Sir

It used to be extremely disconcerting to walk into a bank in the early 70s and to be asked by the teller if you were related to “the Lewcock who wrote those books”, with the emphasis on those. At that time Francis James Lewcock’s books on banking were still required...

read more
Printer and entomologist

Printer and entomologist

George Albert Lewcock was born in 1841 in Farnham in Surrey, the son of James who was a baker and confectioner, continuing the family business started by his father Samuel.James died in 1848, leaving a young family and his wife, Jessamine remarried the following year...

read more
Skeleton by marriage?

Skeleton by marriage?

When I registered for the 1911 census, I was really only expecting to confirm what I already knew, to see if some of my ancestors were still alive to narrow down dates for searching for their deaths and perhaps bring some of the distant twigs up to date. What I didn’t...

read more
Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

A cause of curiosity to all and horror to some, I have a battered glass case in my living room containing a stuffed sparrow hawk with her bullfinch prey.  This is a macabre memorial to the collecting activities of the Lewcocks.

read more

Skeleton by marriage?

Skeleton by marriage?

When I registered for the 1911 census, I was really only expecting to confirm what I already knew, to see if some of my ancestors were still alive to narrow down dates for searching for their deaths and perhaps bring some of the distant twigs up to date. What I didn’t expect was an intriguing puzzle.

As my great great grandmother Lucy Lewcock née Usher had died in 1905, I expected to find her husband George Lewcock in 1911 living alone, or perhaps staying with one of his children, but imagine my surprise when I found that he had acquired a second wife and a twelve year old stepson.

George Albert Lewcock, born in Farnham, Surrey in 1842, occupation printer and compositor, was living at 54 Solon Road, Brixton.  Location of Solon Road.  His new wife was Annie Norrish Lewcock aged 51, born in Kennington Park Road. (Newington).  Her son was named Albert Edward Withyman aged 12 and had been born in Weiner, Texas, U.S.A.

A quick search of UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1878-1960 brought up their arrival in the U.K. George Withyman, a labourer, aged 52, together with his wife Annie aged 40, and son Albert aged 3, travelled from New York on the ‘Carthaginian’ arriving in Glasgow on the 29th April 1902.

So far I thought that this was just interesting and decided that I would send for the marriage certificate and leave it at that. Luckily Lewcock is a fairly unusual name so I found the reference on FreeBMD easily but then found another surprise – she was married as Annie Norrish Stone and not as Withyman.

Feeling 99% certain that this was going to be the correct marriage, while I waited for the marriage certificate to arrive I decided to see if I could find a death for George Withyman and/or Unknown Stone – I found nothing for either of them in England so had a look around to see whether George Withyman had gone back to the U.S.A. and died there.

I came across a Geo Withyman of the same age travelling back to the U.S.A. in January 1903 on New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. All looked normal until I scrolled right across the page. In the right hand column was stated:  In charge of Detective McCarthy.

Geo Withyman was listed as a married labourer aged 55 on the passenger manifest for the ‘Lucania’. Able to read and write, he was British and his last residence was Texas. His final destination was to be Chicago. His passage was paid by ‘U.S. Detective’ and he had no money. He had previously been in Chicago from 1893 to 1902.

This was intriguing so off I went to Google to search for George Withyman and had yet another surprise!

From The New York Times of January 18 1903:

Alleged Murderer Brought Back

George Stone, alias George Withyman, after having been a fugitive from justice for nine years, will land at New York this morning from the Cunarder, Lucania and be taken to face a charge of murder committed in 1893. He is alleged to have killed a negro [sic].  He was located in England a few months ago. His extradition was granted in the Bow Street Police Court Dec 20 last. He is in charge of Police Sergeant McCarthy of Chicago

The following day, The New York Times carried a report of the ship’s arrival in New York:

The liner brought over George Stone, who was on the second cabin passenger list as George Withyman. He is under indictment for the murder of a negro in Chicago nine years ago. Detective Sergeant Arthur McCarthy of Chicago went to London with extradition papers and returned with him. He took his prisoner to Police Headquarters and will start for Chicago today.
Other happenings listed in the article for what must have been an eventful crossing included that a steward was washed overboard, an Armenian had stowed away and among the passengers was the explorer, Henry de Windt, who advocated a Paris-New York railroad via a bridge.

In the 20th February 1903, The New York Times reported briefly on the court case:
PRISONER PRAYS IN COURT

George Stone, Being Tried for Murder in Chicago, asks for Divine Aid.

CHICAGO, Feb 19. – “I am relying for justice on the One above,” said George Stone to-day, who is on trial for murder in Judge Horton’s court, and with tears streaming down his cheeks, he dropped on his knees, bowed his head, and prayed for five minutes. When he had ended his prayer he resumed his seat with his head in his hands, and cried.

Stone is on trial for the murder of Robert Nelson who was a colored chef at the Turner Hotel, and who, it is charged was shot and killed by Stone about ten years ago. Stone escaped, and was but recently arrested in London. He is a British subject, and the Royal Society of St. George is interested in his defense.

Exploring a little more, I found the case recorded in the Chicago Police Department Homicide Record Index, 1870–1930:

NAME OF DECEASED: NELSON, ROBERT
VOLUME: 1
PAGE:   116A 
EVENT DATE:  7/6/1893      
OTHER PERSONS INVOLVED: STONE, GEORGE
The online database Homicide In Chicago 1870-1930 gives more detail about the case. On the 6th July 1893, Robert Nelson, aged 30 years old, was shot dead at Turner House located on the junction of 33rd Street and Wabash Avenue.  Death occurred at the crime scene. The type of death was homicide and the type of homicide was intentional murder. George Stone, alias Withyman was arrested in London, England and brought to Chicago on January 21st 1903, and turned over to the Sheriff under indictment. He was sentenced by Judge Horton on the 20th February 1903 to thirty five years in Joliet Penitentiary.  The database also records that the crime was related to Prohibition and that there were no allegations of police corruption.

To see if I can find out more detail about his arrest and extradition, I really should take a look at the Extradition Records of the Bow Street Magistrates Court, which are held at the London Metropolitan Archives. The Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group are in the process of transcribing the Convict Registers for Joliet Penitentiary which hold a lot of data about the prisoners and I shall be keeping an eye on their progress to find out when George died and from that to hopefully find out more about his family.

While double checking my research for this article, I came across another newspaper report from the Chicago Tribune, on www.footnote.com which gives a little more detail. It reads as follows:-

HELD FOR MURDER IN CHICAGO

Negro Arrested in London Accused of Killing Man in this City During 1893.

[BY CABLE TO THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE]

London: Nov. 22 – George Stone was arrested this afternoon on the nominal charge of murdering a negro in Chicago in 1893. It is believed Stone’s real name is George Withyman and it is understood that he is suspected of having been connected with several murders in Texas.

Stone was arrested in a low cook shop in Blackwall called the “Tunnel coffee house”, where he has been employed. He has been in London since last March. The police believe that there will be sensational developments through Stone’s arrest, as it is thought he has been connected with several murders in the United States, especially in Galveston, Tex., where he worked on the railroad.

When Stone was arrested by inspector Froest of Scotland yard on the charge of murder he asked: “Is it for a nigger or a white man?”
When the inspector told him it was for the murder of a negro he appeared to be relieved. He said the negro referred to had reviled him. Then the negro drew a knife and Stone ran upstairs for his “gun.” The negro followed, and then, Stone says, he shot him.

Stone is a middle aged man, muscular and well developed. He has fair hair and a mustache. He wears a medal of the Perax [sic] expedition [see sources] which shows he has been in the British Navy.

The TNA does not have him listed as George Withyman in the Registers of Seamen’s Services, but of course it may not have been his own medal or he had enlisted under a different name (there are several George Stones from Kent listed).

The Ancestry database of U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 not only enabled me to discover more about Albert and what he knew, or had been told, about his parents and their background, it also gave me details of his marriage to a French woman. This reminded me that about five years ago, I was contacted by somebody on Genes Connected, as it was then, who was looking for an Albert Lewcock who had connections with France. At the time, I couldn’t help her but she was still in my contacts list and it looked as though I may finally have found a connection after so long!!

I have been in touch with this contact and since our original correspondence, she had been successful in finding more about Albert and his descendants. She now knows that she is the daughter of Albert’s second wife’s second husband so it is a very distant connection but it is satisfying that we have managed to join the dots after so long. There is far more to this part of the story than I can retell here as other descendants of Albert, who seems to be just as mysterious as his father, are still alive.

There is a great deal more to follow up in this puzzle of name changes and aliases. Annie married George Lewcock as Annie Norrish Stone in 1906.The marriage certificate for George and Annie gives her father’s name as George Nix, baker. I think I have found her in 1861 and 1881 at home in England with her parents.  I think I have her with son Albert in 1900 in Texas as Annie Withyman, listed as married for 20 years, but no sign of George. The article in the Chicago Tribune says he had been working in Galveston on the railways. This fits with her location in 1900, and Albert’s birthplace in 1899.

She stated in 1900 that she was born in Ireland but if this is her, this is not borne out in 1911. An Ann Nix married a George Stone in London in the last quarter of 1881 – was this them or a first marriage for her? Did she actually marry George Withyman? Did he take the identity of her first husband? She states in 1900 that she arrived in the USA in 1884 so where were they in 1890? In his passport applications, Albert states that his father was born in Sydenham, Kent and a George Withyman was indeed born there at about the right time to fit the age as given on their arrival at Glasgow in 1902. A George Stone of about the right age appears in the 1910 US Federal Census in Joliet Penitentiary – did she commit bigamy?

I have been able to track down many references as I currently have full subscriptions to Ancestry and findmypast, but this is a case of buying certificates, letter writing and visiting archives to get any sort of definitive proof as to whether my great great grandfather married the wife of a murderer.   

It may well be that in fact George Withyman aka Stone is actually nothing to do with my great grandfather’s second wife, but even if he isn’t, I had fun following the trail, and will carry on my detective work to find out one way or the other not only for my own satisfaction but also for Albert’s descendants.


SOURCES and FURTHER READING

SOURCES:

 

FURTHER READING:

JOLIET PENITENTIARY

The Ghosts of Joliet

The Joliet Prison Post 1914

Library Catalogue of Illinois State Penitentiary 1902

Limestone Quarry near Joliet Penitentiary

Joliet State Prison: Joliet, Illinois

USA PRISON RECORDS

Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group: Convict Registers

Genealogical Prison Records & Jail Records

Magazine Articles

The Family Tree Forum Online Magazine was written and put together by the members of The Family Tree Forum. As one of the editors, I was able to twist some arms and  the following articles were originally written for the Family Tree Forum Online Magazine. A wide...

read more
Dear Sir

Dear Sir

It used to be extremely disconcerting to walk into a bank in the early 70s and to be asked by the teller if you were related to “the Lewcock who wrote those books”, with the emphasis on those. At that time Francis James Lewcock’s books on banking were still required...

read more
Printer and entomologist

Printer and entomologist

George Albert Lewcock was born in 1841 in Farnham in Surrey, the son of James who was a baker and confectioner, continuing the family business started by his father Samuel.James died in 1848, leaving a young family and his wife, Jessamine remarried the following year...

read more
Skeleton by marriage?

Skeleton by marriage?

When I registered for the 1911 census, I was really only expecting to confirm what I already knew, to see if some of my ancestors were still alive to narrow down dates for searching for their deaths and perhaps bring some of the distant twigs up to date. What I didn’t...

read more
Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

A cause of curiosity to all and horror to some, I have a battered glass case in my living room containing a stuffed sparrow hawk with her bullfinch prey.  This is a macabre memorial to the collecting activities of the Lewcocks.

read more

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

Of Sparrow Hawk and Ladybirds

The unusual display

A cause of curiosity to all and horror to some, I have a battered glass case in my living room containing a stuffed sparrow hawk with her bullfinch prey.  Their theatrical heathland backdrop has been torn apart to reveal layers of Victorian small ads for, for instance, “two useful cart mares” and a Woking bakery flour bag.  Despite these indignities the hawk’s bright glass eyes retain their fierceness.  This is a macabre memorial to the collecting activities of the Lewcocks.

In an Edwardian nature memoir, Mrs Caldwell Crofton(1)refers rather bluntly to Mr J Lewcock as “a bird stuffer at Farnham” and his observations of crossbills in the nearby Alice Holt Forest in the late 1830s. Dr Jeffrey Wheatley, the Bird Recorder for Surrey, published in 2007 a definitive (and beautifully produced) volume on Surrey birding records and history (2). In this he describes the early collectors or observers of birds in the county.

James Lewcock was one of a circle of local naturalists including Edward Newman, Thomas Mansell, Waring Kidd, J D Salmon and William Stafford.  Newman started a periodical The Zoologist  in 1843 and this has numerous reports from James on his observations of birdlife around Farnham.  Newman was also author of “The Letters of Rusticius on the Natural History of Godalming” – which brought together much of the work of this group.  Wheatley calls it “…the earliest avifauna to be devoted to Surrey or any part of it.”  James is described in The Letters in 1849 as “the late James Lewcock” and, indeed, my great great great grandfather died in 1848 aged only 37.

In an email exchange Dr Wheatley draws attention to Bucknill’s 1901 Survey of Surrey Birds (3) where he writes.  “Mr James Lewcock was an energetic naturalist living at Farnham; he carried on the business of a tradesman at that place and was a very skilled taxidermist.  Mr Thomas Whitburn, the President of the Guildford Natural History and Microscopic Society, to whom I am indebted for the particulars of his life, tells me that he was about forty years of age when he died unexpectedly, in 1850 [sic]

Unfortunately he left no records or papers relating to his many naturalistic rambles, in some of which Mr Whitburn was his comrade, but he contributed several notes to the Zoologist on the Brambling, Crossbill, Ring-Ousel, Peregrine, Great Grey Shrike and other species; and apparently compiled for Rusticius and his coadjutors a list of Farnham birds which was freely quoted in their subsequent work …”

James shows up in a Mirror Magazine nationwide list of independent scientific societies of 1848 as the “active” Honorary Secretary of the Farnham Mechanics Institute (4).  “This well-regulated and well-constituted institution … boasts able lecturers and as zealous patrons.” Doubtless the active Hon. Sec. was the one who submitted this well-spun information!  Unfortunately the Mechanic’s Institute disappears after James’s death – perhaps evolving into the Working Men’s Institute which was created later?  However, the Reverend William Moss, a migrant from Farnham, used it as his inspiration in founding a Mechanics Institute in Prahran, Melbourne in 1854 (5). This continues today.

Coccinella septempunctata

Family history research of the Lewcocks had already placed James in our family tree. He was a baker who died in 1848 of scarlatina leaving his wife Jessamine with seven children, including George Albert aged 8 and Henry aged 6. James’s mother-in-law was a Mansell and it looks as if Thomas Mansell from Tilford (just outside Farnham) was his cousin. Thomas was also a baker – up the road in Guildford. Bucknill remarks that Mr T Mansell was “a taxidermist and naturalist of more than local reputation”.

Neville Lewcock draws attention to a lecture by William Stroud (1857-1942), a former master at Farnham Grammar, where he advises that “when Lewcock had found a rare bird he took it to his friend Mansell to be stuffed.” Easy then to imagine James, having completed the early morning shift baking his neighbours’ daily bread, collecting his dogs and setting off for a day’s bird observation and shooting to Frensham Pond. One of James’s reports to Newman reads: “On 24th October an uncommon looking bird was noticed by the person who rents the pond, wading in the shallow water. He succeeded in shooting it … and it proved to be a common spoonbill, a young bird … the crest being wanting. It is now in the possession of Mr Mansell, and in beautiful preservation.” Thomas survived James by many years. Stroud claims that he took a first prize for taxidermy at the Great Exhibition in 1851 and Thomas is recorded in the Farnham Herald in July 1868 as winning a prize of £1.11s.6d in the natural history section at the Farnham Working Men’s Institute 3rd Exhibition of Art and Industry for a display including “stuffed birds etc”.

Rather than birding, James’s younger sons George Albert and Henry got into bugs and beetles.  I recently asked Alan Price, an entomologist and the former natural history curator at Oldham Museum, how he had got the bug-collecting bug.  It seems Alan’s father had been an artisan baker (!) and they had a vegetable garden and orchard.  Alan and his brother had had to pick the weevils out of the flour and the bugs off the plants.  Perhaps that was also how George Albert and Henry, having to help their mother carry on the bakery after their father’s early death, but still too young to go off birding and shooting, got started?

Henry may not have been a very active bug-hunter.  Nevertheless he wrote to the Entomologist Weekly Intelligencer (another of Newman’s publishing ventures) in 1858 aged 16 to report the capture of a specimen of sphinx convuvuli (a hawkmoth) “It was taken in a grocer’s shop, perhaps attracted there by the light.”

Great great grandfather, George Albert, on the other hand looks to have been obsessed with bugs as only a serious Victorian collector could be.  He left Farnham at quite an early age.  In 1851 he is found as a 19 year old apprentice compositor in Rochester, Kent, from where he moved to Islington to marry and raise a family.  He made a series of contributions to the debates of the City of London Entomological Society in the late 1800s.  He was also on the committee of the Society.  In his discourses (they haven’t all been found or studied in any depth) he draws on collecting experience over 50 years, mostly in the home counties.  He perhaps took advantage of the new and rapidly growing suburban rail network around London.  He did, however, travel more widely and may, for instance, have been in Ireland in 1861 before his marriage in 1863.

Alan Price, Curator of Oldham Museum

In a talk given on the Donacia (water beetles) in December 1890 he refers to specimens he had taken in Walthamstow, Sunbury, Shepperton, Farnham, Wanstead, Hackney Marshes and Black Pond Esher.  He advises of D Dentata  “… some are brilliant grassy green and others of indigo-blue … The specimens [were]taken by me at Basingstoke canal in June 1887 … and by getting into the large patch [of pondweed]floating on the water I captured some fifty or sixty during the afternoon.”   Must have made an entertaining sight.  Middle-aged gent (46 at the time) up to his waist in the canal, picking jewel-like beetles off the reeds. No worries about Viles disease in those days!  Another – “well received” – paper was a thorough survey of the Coccinellidae – nice to find you have an ancestor who was an expert in both water beetles and ladybirds!

So, two (or three) ancestors diligently collecting and recording birds or bugs.  Victorian collectors could be astonishingly meticulous and it seemed reasonable to think that somewhere there might be catalogues and even specimens from the Lewcock collections of bugs, beetles and birds.  Nothing has been kept in the family.  Where to start?

The core national collections of bird and insect specimens were based on those of Lord Rothschild’s and are now held by the Natural History Museum (NHM) at his former home in Tring.  Unfortunately his lordship’s wallabies, ostriches and other exotic creatures no longer roam Tring Park.  However, the public galleries still have atmospheric tableaux of stuffed creatures from whales to tiny mites in glazed and beeswax polished wood cabinets.  Well worth the visit.  NHM also has all necessary modern research and educational facilities.  Although they don’t have any Lewcock records themselves, their archivist, Lisa di Tommaso, kindly passed on my request for information to their ornithological and entomological experts (for example Dr Wheatley) and suggested other directions to look.

Progress was fastest in hunting the bug-hunting.  In the course of half a century collecting, George Albert would have exchanged many specimens with fellow enthusiasts.  The NHM entomologist was able to flag up an 1896 auction of George Albert’s insect collections.  It was usual at that time for a purchased collection to be broken up, any complementary specimens being kept by the purchaser and others sold on.  Googling had already discovered scattered Lewcock bug or beetle specimens in the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff (6) which were acquired from the collection of W Chaney and The Tullie House Museum in Carlisle (7).  The latter has a longhorn beetle taken by GA in Walthamstow in 1892.  Frank Balfour-Browne writing in the Irish Naturalist (8) in 1912 suggests that when George Albert’s collections were sold the water beetles were “purchased by a collector on the Continent.”

Display of beetles in Oldham

In 1924 Oldham Museum bought the collection of C G Hall of Deal which included some of George Albert’s specimens.  Email exchanges with Curator Alan Price confirmed that they did have the Hall Collection and that the catalogue did indeed list some of George Lewcock’s specimens.  An inspection visit was agreed!  Oldham Museum has recently had a new extension and the older parts of the building are waiting refurbishment and refitting (and further funding!) for, amongst other things, the natural history collections.  Alan escorted me to the basement where the natural history collection is stored temporarily.  Amongst a wonderful organised “jumble” of stuffed creatures – including parrots and a magnificent golden eagle – mousetraps, silverfish traps and the smell of camphor and other preservatives he showed me two glossy redwood twelve drawer cabinets with brass fittings.  These were the Hall collection, including 5000 or so bugs and beetles ranging from great stag beetles to almost invisible mites, all equally carefully pinned and preserved.  Alan set me up with a table, a mug of coffee and the catalogue.  There were in all about twenty Lewcock specimens, very clearly listed and including several ladybirds!  From his hand-written notes it looks as if Hall had obtained some specimens directly from George Albert.  So, some tangible contact with an ancestor!

The birds were more difficult, doubtless because that collection would have been fifty years older.  Email contact was made with the several museums around Farnham including Haslemere, Farnham itself, Godalming and Guildford, with the County Archivist in Hampshire and the Surrey History Centre. Also Charterhouse School, Godalming which has a large collection of bird specimens.  All made a rapid response and if they couldn’t do other they made helpful suggestions.  Some possible contacts, like the large private collections now held in some National Trust houses, I still have to follow up.

One of James’s circle, J D Salmon, had joined the Botanical Society – later combined in the Linnaean Society – after he left Farnham for London in 1851.  Ann Laver, Research Coordinator at Godalming Museum drew attention to a note in the Zoologist of 1901 about Salmon’s egg collection having been auctioned in 1860 – “some went to Norwich”. Norwich Museums Service and the Linnaean Society were, however, unable to help.

The Sparrowhawk

The Hampshire Senior Keeper of Natural Sciences, Christine Taylor, happened to have carried out some research on early taxidermists in Hampshire – based mainly on trade directories – but hadn’t come across James.  However “Will keep a look out – am intrigued as [he] would be one of the earliest known taxidermists in Hampshire.”  An interest echoed by Martin Dunne of the British Historical Taxidermy Society.

Duncan Myrilees, a Heritage Team Leader at the Surrey History Centre advised: “Many years ago, possibly about 25, I was assisting in clearing (or, more properly searching) the attic at Godalming Library in search of historical material.  Amongst the collected junk were a number of stuffed animals and birds.  In fact, on opening the loft lid a stuffed squirrel threw itself at my colleague, who acquired a nasty rash as a result.  The collection was later cleared from the attic by Godalming Museum staff…”

Back then to Ann Laver who found a record of the incident and confirmed that they had had a sparrow hawk, song thrush and two red squirrels.  They had no information where the specimens had come from. Not being a natural history museum, they had sent the specimens on to Dr Pat Morris, an expert in historical taxidermy in case he could make use of them.  Contacting Dr Morris, he had inspected the sparrow hawk but it wasn’t a valuable specimen and wasn’t in great condition.  He had passed the bird to a colleague for possible use in demonstrations of smaller birds mobbing a bird of prey.  He had however taken a photo of some of the display stuffing including a flour bag from a Woking bakery!  He had also kept the display case. The Woking bakery sounded like a very hopeful sign!!  Dr Morris agreed to retrieve the bird so that I could come and see if it was worth keeping.

Visiting Dr Morris to inspect the sparrow hawk I was also able to see some of his finely restored displays of stuffed birds.  They were extraordinarily vivid and colourful and you could see how they must have brightened up a Victorian or Edwardian parlour.

We discussed how sad it is that so many museums have ditched or put into store their collections of stuffed creatures which – whilst we should regret the mass slaughter of which they are the result – still provide an educational resource and important reservoir of scientific information about changes in animal populations – not least through the DNA they contain.

We agreed that as a (possible) family relic it would probably be better for the sparrow hawk and its prey to be held by myself rather than being torn apart by sparrows!  Home in triumph with a sparrow hawk (and bullfinch).  However …!

The birds had originally been placed against a painted scene and on a raised ground formed of crumpled paper (including the flour bag) and gummed moss and lichen to simulate a heathland setting.  The other packing was newspaper.  Spreading this out I discovered reports of events in 1887!!  Some forty years after James Lewcock had died!  So these are most unlikely to be his birds!

The trail hasn’t run cold yet.  I still have to follow up the other collectors James was associated with and, as more and more information – from past auctions, private catalogues etc. comes online, it is likely that something new will turn up.  In the meantime (history cannot be wiped like a tape-recording) the sparrow hawk and bullfinch have now become a small part of my own story.

Future Lewcocks may wish to shake their heads over this tangible evidence of another form of obsessive eccentricity – genealogy research!

 C P Lewcock

© C P Lewcock 2010


SOURCES and FURTHER READING

 

1. Milman H 1900 Outside the Garden The Bodley Head. London

2. Wheatley J J 2007 Birds of Surrey Surrey Bird Club

3. Bucknill J 1901 The Birds of Surrey

4. The Mirror Monthly Magazine Vol. IV July-to December 1948 Kent and Richards, London

5. Victorian History Library: Prahran Mechanics Institute

6. Kirk-Spriggs A H and Mendel H 1994 A Catalogue of British Elateroidea (Coleoptera) in the National Museum of Wales: Entomology Series Number 3

7. Tullie House Museum Virtual Fauna Website: Collections

8. The Irish Naturalist Volume XXI 1912 pp1,2

The British Library

Google Books: The Letters of Rusticius on the Natural History of Godalming

Natural History Museum at Tring

National Museum of Wales

Gallery Oldham

Haslemere Educational Museum

Museum of Farnham

Godalming Museum

Guildford Museum

Hampshire Museums Service

Surrey History Centre

Charterhouse

Norfolk Museums and Archeology Service

Hantsweb: Taxidermy Collections

The British Historical Taxidermy Society

Personal communication (emails) September 2009

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