Chapter 2

William's Sons; Redditch to 1840

William the papermaker was buried at Beoley (1810) as was his wife Martha (1809). They had seven offspring - five sons and two daughters. The eldest son was named William and, like his father, was a papermaker, but there is no record of his apprenticeship or details of where he worked; indeed no record has yet been found of his death. He married Mary Bate at Beoley in 1790.
See Family Tree B.

Mary was from a well-established Beoley family, but was apparently not christened as an infant - she was baptised in 1821 as an adult aged 57. Some families were in the habit of only baptising infants considered unlikely to survive, others did not consider it necessary, or waited to have the whole family baptised at one ceremony. It is interesting to speculate why Mary requested baptism relatively late in life. Mary was perhaps unusual for her generation. She had her first child at the age of 26 and her last (Sarah Maria) when she was 47. She lived until the ripe old age of 91, despite being classed as "a pauper" in her widowhood.

William and Mary had six children (at least, six that can be traced) though none of their sons apparently took up papermaking. However, it is unusual that no son was named William after his father / grandfather (although the two daughters were dutifully named Martha and Mary). The latter Mary was christened at Ipsley, the neighbouring parish, and perhaps there is a son William still to be found (Ref 1). This reference gives details of Dr Taylor's Lists of Women Delivered.

The second son of William and Martha, Edward, was also a papermaker, but again there are no details of his employment. He died in 1829 and was buried at Beoley, but noted as "from Ipsley". This is misleading, as Ipsley parish covered a wide area, including parts of Redditch, but it does show that he had moved away from Beoley.

Edward married 'Mary' and if this was Mary Hubbard, then their marriage took place at St Martin's church in the centre of Birmingham in June 1797. If this is the case then this is a much earlier connection with Birmingham than had previously been suspected. They spent their married life in the Beoley area, (judging by the births / baptisms of their children) but when Edward died, Mary moved (back?) to Birmingham to stay with her sons. It is interesting that two of their sons set up home in Redditch, but the other three moved to Birmingham, where there were many opportunities for employment.

We can only speculate that Joseph was the third son of William and Martha, as records of his baptism have yet to be found (see also, Ref 7 of Chapter 1). We are, however, fortunate to have his Indenture papers for his apprenticeship as a papermaker. Also, his fascinating naval career is outlined in Chapter 3.

The fourth son of William and Martha, James, "of Holt End" (Beoley) was a widower when he married widow Rachel Harder in 1815, but no details have yet been found about his first wife, or of any children. He was buried at Beoley in 1828.

The only daughter, Martha, was christened at Beoley in 1775, but nothing else is yet known of her.

The youngest son, Charles, remained a bachelor and is found on the 1851 census as a clerk, boarding in Beoley Lane. He died in 1853.

There are, therefore, two main branches of the Chapter 1 family of William and Martha - the descendants of their eldest son William and his wife Mary (nee Bate), and the descendants of their second son Edward and his wife Mary, she of the Birmingham connection. See family trees A - C. It is from Edward and Mary that the author's branch of the family descends.

Chapter 1 and its Annex explains that Redditch was in the process of growing from a hamlet to a township during the early years of the nineteenth century; the population at the time of the census of 1801 being over 1,000. The growth in population was of course linked to the concentration of the needle industry in the town and much has been written on the subject. Suffice to say that the complex skills required for the making of needles in bulk were practised in several communities, among them Long Crendon in Buckinghamshire, as well as villages near to Redditch such as Studley, Feckenham, Alcester, Sambourne, Coughton, and Astwood Bank, but needlemaking was largely a "cottage industry" (Ref 2). For full details of the needle industry see The Forge Mill Museum and Bordesley Abbey Visitor Centre

The following shows the rapid growth in the population of Redditch through the 19th and into the early 20th century, although it is not always clear exactly which areas are included in the count:



















To support the increase in output from the new factories other tradesmen such as bellows makers, builders and carpenters were required, to say nothing of the "support services" providing and transporting raw materials and general supplies. As Redditch became something of a "boom town" a new growth industry emerged - a plethora of shops.

A description of life in the town may be gleaned from a poem of about 1820, written by John Hollis of Tardebigge (Ref 3), which concludes "A finer village was never made."

Pigots Directory of 1822 (Ref 4) informs the reader that Redditch was "A very respectable and thriving hamlet in the parish of Tardebigge, ..." but this contrasts starkly with the offering by E.Elliot, of about the same date (Ref 5), which charts the short life of a needle-pointer: "old at two-and-thirty, meets his doom."

It appears that the poet Walter Savage Landor (1775 - 1864) who was born at Ipsley Court, was of a similar opinion (Ref 6). In 1830 he wrote: "Never was an habitation more thoroughly odious - red soil, mince-pie woods, and black and greasy needleworkers."

In 1832 Redditch was caught up in the world wide epidemic of cholera, a severe bacterial infection of the gut (Ref 7). It appears that there were three local physicians, John Taylor, Alexander Pratt (whom William Avery referred to as "Young Dr Pratt"), and a Mr C. Royston. At a meeting of the Local Board of Health on September 30th it was decided that it was "highly necessary" that every patient attacked by the cholera should be visited by each of the medical practitioners at the earliest notice, and arrangements were in place to burn clothing, beds and bedding when a death took place. The very poor were to be compensated for the loss of beds and clothing, which they could ill afford to lose e.g. "John Aston to be paid the sum of £4.16s (£4.80p), the value of articles destroyed with the recommendation of the Board and belonging to the late widow Aston who died of cholera." (Ref 8).

Treatment devised for cholera victims was poor by modern medical standards (Ref 9) but, despite this, of the (on average) two new cases every two days, only one resulted in death. This can be seen from analysis of the records meticulously kept by the Redditch Board of Health over the period September 8th to November 9th . An average of a 50% recovery rate followed the national trend. It was not known at the time that this was due to a genetic resistance factor, dependent on blood type. Modern research has shown that blood group types react to this sort of bacterial infection in different ways - half the population would be fairly susceptible, a little less than half were somewhat resistant (and would survive if they had some appropriate medical treatment), while those with type AB (5% of the population) were virtually immune.

This was not the last epidemic to visit the town. Just six years later in 1838 there was an outbreak of smallpox and once again the young were especially vulnerable. Avery reported that the landlord of The Horse and Jockey buried five children in the space of three weeks and William and Ann Webb (relationship to "our" Webbs not yet established) buried four of their children in a fortnight.

The year 1838 was not completely given over to suffering. On Thursday June 28th the nation celebrated the coronation of Queen Victoria and the Victorian era began. Those who were glad to have a new Queen could not have imagined that her reign would be so long or significant for them all. During her reign Britain became a world power and a world leader in manufacturing and trade. The Coronation celebrations in Redditch (Ref 10) can be compared with the Jubilee celebrations held in 1887 (celebrating 50 years since her accession to the throne) described in Chapter 9.

In the next chapter we leave Redditch for a while and take a look at the fascinating naval career of Joseph, the third son of William and Martha.