Work and marriage: into and out of the Audley area
In the past, a detailed knowledge of the family tree was especially important for the well-to-do: Jane Austen’s Persuasion opens with a description of "Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall in Somersetshire ... a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage." A vain and foolish man! These days, most people who take up the hobby are searching out the history of those who never had an entry in the Baronetage and mostly couldn’t read or write.
Some people are satisfied with just a family tree, going back for several generations, and containing nothing much more than names and dates. But others are drawn towards some understanding of the past. They need to know about the census and civil registration, wills and parish records and so on; they act as historians when using original records in county record offices. And questions arise all the time: what did they do? What were they like? Did they feel the same as we would when a child died in an epidemic, or was it just another unavoidable hardship? Why did they move? And a more irritating question, where did they move?
Professional historians are also increasingly interested in the lives of ordinary people, using the same resources, but painting the larger picture. For example the study of surnames, their distribution, and changes in that distribution over time, shows a great deal about migration throughout the country, often at a times when there are few records to use. Clearly, in this example, family historians can benefit from the work of academic researchers, but equally, academic researchers can benefit from ours. This recognition of a common interest is behind the Cambridge University Study which is gathering and collating the works of individual family histories, and a sudden rush of new books. In fact, one excellent series of four books provide the resource material for an Open University course called "Studying family and community history."
This article looks at the reasons for the original and surprising move of a recently-married couple, from near Aberystwyth, into the Audley area towards the end of the last century, and then the gradual outward movement of later generations. It ends by trying to link my findings with those broader patterns mentioned above: how far is my family’s history compatible with the findings of research into kinship ties and into migration?
The next stage is to compare my family history with that of others, and I hope that this is only the first of a series, as readers contribute their own family histories to future editions of the journal. In this way, good quality information about the history of this area can accumulate, not just about Audley, but the surrounding villages as well.
Arrivals from Wales: Evan (1853-1923) & Elizabeth Edwards (1853-1937)
Most migration in the nineteenth century was over a short distance. Why then would this couple travel from a small village near Aberystwyth to a coal-mining village in North Staffordshire - not even to the large urban area of the Potteries and Newcastle?
Their daughter, Susannah, interviewed just over 100 years later (!), had an opinion:
There was no work there, in Tal-y-bont. Well, there isn’t now. I’ve been to it. Me father and mother come to Silverdale with another family, named Hughes, and they got to Betley and they had two or three sons and two daughters, I think it was.
Well, they did come to Silverdale, where Susan was born, but it wasn’t quite so simple a process as she thought.
The couple had their origins in the small villages to the north and west of Aberystwyth. If we take Evan Edwards first, it seems that his mother (he was illegitimate) was born about two miles from his birthplace, and he was living about three miles from there when he married in 1878. No great tradition of migration there! However, there is a family story that his father was a sheep drover from, or passing through, Machynlleth (note the place, it’s significant). He went to America, promising to send for her, but not doing so. It’s hard to verify that story now, but it may be a small factor in subsequent events.
Elizabeth James was born in the same year, 1853. Her father had been born locally, but the interesting thing about him is that he changed his occupation from farrier to lead miner some time between then and 1870. Elizabeth’s mother, Susannah (nee Paull), was born in a copper mining area of Devon, Mary Tavy, and moved with her parents to the lead mining area near Cardiganshire in the 1840s. But Elizabeth’s brother, James, had moved to a lead mining area in Durham by 1851. Clearly, the Paull family followed the mining industry and in a managerial capacity: they frequently appear in censuses in the Aberystwyth area as "mine agent".
So when Susan Chadwick said there was no work in Tal-y-bont, it’s not entirely clear whether she was right or not. The area was heavily mined, mainly for lead, with a "period of comparative prosperity ... from the 1830s to the 1880s." Production was relatively static in the
late 1870s, though it dipped from 6,801 tons to 5,080 tons in 1878 and 1879. It picked up again in 1880, before starting a long and terminal decline in 1881. But Evan and Elizabeth had left by then anyway. As we don’t know exactly where they lived after marriage, or exactly what Evan did for a living and where he did it, we can’t now know the specific reason for leaving the area. It’s interesting that they came to a coal-mining area, rather than using family connections and moving to an area where the Paulls had influence. And, of course, it’s intriguing to wonder why they ended up in Talke - if that is really where they landed first in North Staffordshire.
They were married in December 1878 near Aberystwyth. Evan’s occupation at the time was "engine driver" but where is not known. Within two years they had moved to Talke Pitts, where their first (known) child, John Thomas, was born in 1880. They were there at the time of the 1881 census and Evan’s occupation was given as "Engine driver".
What about my grandmother’s belief that they came with the Hughes family? The 1881 census for Talke is interesting because the Hughes family and the Edwards family both appear in Talke Pits, apparently living close together on consecutive pages of the census - maybe just down the street! There is a problem, though, with the idea that they came together. Their third child, aged 6 was born in Red St, and the fourth, aged 4 was born in Talk o’th’ Hill, so they were in this area by about 1885, but the Edwards were still living near Aberystwyth at the time of their marriage in 1878. So they didn’t move north together. This is confirmed by descendants of the Hughes who still live in Betley. Their family story is that they walked from Wales, with their children, searching for work. (The 1881 census shows that they had three children born in Wales who might have done the walk.) Maybe they just met in Talke and remained friends.
But the story is worth pursuing a bit more for what it may say about the mechanisms of migration: how did people decide where to move to? Why did they not go to the South Wales coalfield? Why Talke? So far I haven’t stated where the John and Elizabeth Hughes came from. Their birthplace according to the census was Llanbrynmair - about 20 miles by road from the Tal-y-bont area near Aberystwyth where my ancestors came from. Just coincidence then? Maybe not: their three children were born at Pennal according the hard-to-read column in the census. This is a tiny village near Machynlleth, which in turn is about 9 miles from Tal-y-bont. This might be a big distance in the Potteries, but from Machynlleth there is only one road south, to Aberystwyth, and Tal-y-bont is half-way between the two places, with NO other significant population centres in the area. So trips to Machynlleth would not be uncommon (though a trip from Tunstall to Longton would be!). Both families were very religious, so this might have been a means of their meeting. So it is still possible that there was a connection between the two couples in Wales and that the Hugheses were instrumental in bringing the Edwardses to Talke.
Talke itself is interesting. A mining community, the population grew from 1,200 in 1841 to between 4-5,000 in 1881. The 1881 census shows a great diversity in the origins of its people. There are people from Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Anglesey, Somerset and Devon, Northumberland and down the east coast to Hertfordshire in the south-east and then Hampshire on the south coast. Then there are two from the USA, one from Bombay and one from Madras. I hesitate to use the term cosmopolitan for Talke, but it does suggest that further study would be worthwhile on the nature of its population. Anyway, there are only a couple more people from Cardiganshire: there does not seem to be a stream of people from the area but people do move in from all parts for work in the pits.
After the initial long-distance migration there were several other moves, but all over short distances. By 1886 they had gone to Leycett, where the second child, William David was born, and then to Silverdale where their last child, Susannah Anne (Susan as she preferred to be called) was born 1888.
Nor was this the final move. Some time around 1900, they were off again. According to Susan,
He didn’t have to go, but we went from Silverdale to Halmerend because there WERE pit houses... There was no pit houses in Silverdale... We went from Silverdale to Podmore Terrace. Pit houses they were, a row, and they were big houses. We walked there, me and him... stick in one hand and my hand in th’other. We always used to go out together, me and me dad, never me mother.
(She hadn’t officially left school in Silverdale, but never attended in Halmerend - "They never come after me." The school-leaving age had been raised to 11 in 1893). After that, there were moves to Mellard Street, Audley and to Miles Green, but not out of the area: they both died in Miles Green, Evan in 1923 and Elizabeth in 1937.
But it was always the pits. The move from Leycett to Silverdale may have been for work at Kent’s Lane, since Susannah says he worked there.
Evan Edwards was working at the Burley Pit in Apedale by 1906 because the formidable Susan went down it when she was about 18:
I went down there... when me dad was in the engine house.... They called them dips and fireman went and fired the coal - I’ve seen it done at Burley. The fireman goes... "Stand back you two girls... Stand back now, you’re near the coal rip."
So after the first major step, by a young and childless married couple, subsequent moves were all of a few miles: Talke, Leycett, Silverdale, Halmerend, Audley, Miles Green.
Is any similar pattern to be found with their children? The rest of the article will focus on the three of them, with a brief account of subsequent generations as they fan out through North Staffs and beyond.
The children of Evan & Elizabeth Edwards:
First child: John Thomas (Jack) Edwards (1880- about 1970)
Jack was born at Talke, but most of his life was spent away from North Staffordshire. According to his sister, Susannah, he said, "I’m not going to spoil my complexion down the pit." He enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment at Nantwich on March 15th 1898 and served 7 years and 282 days with the colours, including service in South Africa during the Boer War, followed by 9 years and 308 days in the Army Reserve. But when he married on 9th October, 1905 he was living in Mount St, Hanley and his occupation was tramcar conductor! His wife, Rose Dyde, was also living in Hanley at the time of their marriage. His second daughter, Doris, told me that she was born in Lees, near Oldham, where her father was working on tramcars between Manchester and Oldham. Jack did not avoid the pits altogether, though: his third daughter’s (Susie’s), birth certificate, dated June 1912, shows the family back in Audley (9 Mellard St), and his occupation as ‘coal miner’. This may have been the Rookery, as Doris has a memory of being taken to the pit between Audley and Chesterton. Certainly he served in the army during the First World War, but at least part of this time was training soldiers at Aldershot, with a transfer to the Royal Flying Corps near the end of the war. (The details of this later service are unclear.) He apparently left the forces in 1922, having attained the rank of Regimental Sergeant-Major. A couple of surviving postcards from 1918 are addressed to his family at 9 Mellard St, which was also where his parents lived. However, life was not easy. His daughter Susie left a short autobiography describing these years:
In 1922 dad came home for good, and after a long time, found a job as a steward in the working men’s club in the village. Mum had to help, as a stewardess. I remember that soon after that I had a pair of NEW shoes that fitted... Then dad lost his job. He used to disappear for weeks, tramping the country looking for work. [Eventually he] got work as steward at the Conservative club in Golborne, Lancashire.
Jack had finally left Audley in his 40s after a highly nomadic life. This was followed by surprising stability and he remained in Golborne until his death around 1970.
From this base in Lancashire a similar pattern recurrs in the lives of his own children. Of his four daughters, one, Marian, was born and died in Golborne, a second, Doris, became and nurse and left Golborne, travelling quite a lot before marrying and settling down in Nuneaton, where she still lives. Clarice, the oldest, moved to Manchester after her marriage and died in Loughborough around 1992. The last one, though, Susie, is interesting. She married a relation, Ted Smith, from the Potteries in the 1940s and thus came back to North Staffordshire. Of her two children, one, Gillian (and her two children) remains in the area, while the other, Philip (and his family) have moved to Cannock.
So this branch of the Evan & Elizabeth family have generally been mobile, migrating over considerable distances.
Second child: William David (Bill) Edwards (1886-about 1950)
Bill was quite a different character. A miner for most of his working life, he started in the Podmore Hall Colliery, but then went to Hanley. He was married in December, 1912 and was living at the time in the same street that Jack had been when he was married seven years earlier: Mound (Mount) St, Hanley, or Northwood to be more precise. Did he move to Hanley at Jack’s instigation? Did Jack find him a job? As far as his daughter, Lily, can remember, he always worked at Hanley Deep Pit. Before the First World War he was attached to a chapel in Northwood, and was secretary of Hanley Rovers FC in 1913. During the war he was a soldier, enlisting in October 1914, serving two years as a prisoner of war in Germany and being demobilised in 1919. That was the extent of his travelling, even though the inter-war years were not easy. According to Ivy, his other daughter, he was sacked for being awkward, "bolshie", at the pit around the time of the depression, having no further work in the pit until the war. So the 1930s were a struggle, with his wife, Agnes, working at various jobs but not telling the dole office. Ivy went to stay for a while with her Uncle Jack’s family in Golborne as a means of easing the hardship. It seems, though, that Bill, unlike his brother, never left the Potteries for work.
Bill had two daughters and a son who died in infancy. They both still live in Northwood, in the same street. Ivy had two children: her son now lives in Worcester, where he part-owns a factory, and her daughter remains local, at Werrington, Stoke-on-Trent.
Third child: Susannah Edwards (1888-1983)
Spent almost all her life within a very few miles of Audley. She was born in Silverdale and moved with her parents to Halmerend, as noted above. Almost nothing is known about the next few years - she may have been in service while living at home. Then she married, at nineteen, on December 24th, 1906, in the parish church at Audley. In later life, when introducing herself to strangers, she would often explain that she’d had "a good Christian upbringing" and she had a lifelong affection for the Salvation Army. Her marriage to an Audley collier, George Smith, who was fond of a drink, was a mistake and she never mentioned this marriage to her family. It is said that her father would not attend the wedding, and certainly he did not act as a witness, her brother Jack signing the register instead. At any rate, the marriage lasted for almost seven years, until he died in October 1914, aged 33 years.
After this she went with a friend to work for a while in Birmingham, at a munitions factory owned by BSA. At least, she was there long enough to buy "a spon-new bicycle" but she didn’t settle. She came back to the area and married again, to another collier, Jack Hulse. They were married on 31st December, 1916. Her address is given as 9 Mellard St, Audley, which seems to be where her parents were living and also her brother Jack Edwards’ family. If this is so, it must have been quite crowded, but it shows the strength of the family ties.
This marriage was a great success, but tragically short because Jack Hulse was killed in the Minnie Pit disaster on January 12th 1918. With the compensation she bought a house and stayed in Miles Green, where she and Jack Hulse had lived.
In March 1921 she was married for the third time - to a third miner, Charles Chadwick of Fenton. How they met is not known, but they were both active members of the Salvation Army. She was accustomed to walking long distances, attending camp meetings at Mow Cop at the age of 15 or 16, Like Jack Hulse, he was a widower, but this time with five children. It is interesting that he moved from the Potteries to Miles Green where there was likely to be less employment. Why this happened is again something of a mystery, though it may be
linked to a variety of factors: her closeness to her parents; the fact that she owned her house in Miles Green; or his preference for Audley, which he liked, over Fenton. At any rate, they remained there until his death in 1960. He had various jobs, including a failed greengrocer’s business, working in footrills and finally for the council. On his death she moved to Longport to be close to her daughter and finally, completing the circle, to Silverdale, where she was living at the time of her death 95 years after she had been born there.
Charles and Susannah has two children of their own, Bessie and Roy, so that the Chadwick’s had seven children in Miles Green. What happened to them?
The oldest, Charles, never really settled in Audley. An accident in the pit finished his mining career and he lived a largely nomadic life afterwards.
Bramwell, the next, worked as a miner at Podmore Hall Colliery until 1928 when short time persuaded him to join the army. He married a Londoner and remained there until his death in the early 1990s.
Next came two sisters, Lillian and Miriam. They too moved out of Audley, going into service in Hanley and later to Congleton. They both married Congleton men and remained there, their two sons still living in Congleton.
The last of Charles’ children, Wilfred, spent his working life in local pits, first at Leycett until his marriage in the early 1940s after which he moved to Chesterton, where he still lives, and worked at Holditch.
Finally there are the two children of Charles and Susannah, Bessie and Roy. Roy spent the first half of his working life as a miner in local footrills and lived for a while in Bradwell before returning to Audley, where he now lives. His two children live in Audley and Cross Heath. Bessie lived for a while in Miles Green after marriage, then owned small businesses with her husband in Dimsdale, Longport and finally Silverdale. They now live in Endon and their three sons all live in North Staffordshire, one just outside the Potteries conurbation, near Leek.
For a long time some connections were maintained with the Audley nucleus. When Jack Edwards finally moved with his family from Audley to Golborne he was about 43 years old. His daughter, Doris, would visit her Aunt Susannah in Miles Green and similarly the daughters of Bill Edwards would visit his sister Susannah at Miles Green before their marriage, though Susannah would only rarely (if ever) make the trip over to Northwood. I mentioned earlier that Bill’s daughter, Ivy, went to stay with his brother Jack in Golborne at a time of financial hardship for her family. So visits and financial assistance were exchanged by the three family units, in Miles Green, Northwood and Golborne.
Remember also that there was a sizable group living in Mellard St during the period of World War 1: Evan and Betsy Edwards, their son Jack Edwards’ wife and children, and their daughter Susannah Edwards. Evan and Betsy were both living with Susannah when they died, in 1923 and 1937 respectively. However, I have not heard of any significant connections between Evan and Betsy and their relations in Wales. It is interesting, too, that some of Charles Chadwick’s brothers came over from the Potteries to Miles Green quite regularly:
Uncle Bill and Uncle Jim, they always used come our house. Everybody come our house.
It seems, then, that the Chadwick household in Miles Green was very much an open house and relatives (and a variety of other folk, by all accounts) used to make their way there from far and near.
Are there any conclusions to be drawn about patterns of migration, given the variety of experiences mentioned above?
Personality makes a difference. Bill Edwards stayed in Hanley after his move from Miles Green, despite the hardships of unemployment in the 1930s. His brother, Jack, joined the army at around 18 and moved into different areas quite often. Coming forward a generation, to the children who came with Charles Chadwick from Fenton when he married Susannah, Bram joined the army in 1928 and never came back; his older brother led an unsettled life, while younger brother Wilfred still lives in Chesterton, just over the hill. I think it’s worth emphasizing that some of the people who stayed put had seen something of the world: Bill Edwards did, after all, join the army within weeks of the outbreak of war and spent time as a prisoner in Germany; Susannah Edwards did have the initiative to go and work in Birmingham: it wasn’t just that they knew nothing else.
Is age significant? Yes. There is a
now widely accepted principle that migrants are predominantly adolescents and young adults, between the ages of 15 and 35.
This is clearly illustrated throughout this study, from the original migration of newly-married and childless Evan and Elizabeth Edwards, through Jack’s joining the army and Bill’s move to Hanley, both as single men, and then in the next generation, Charles Chadwick’s daughters going to work in Hanley, his son Bram joining the army and so on. Even the highly mobile Jack Edwards, moving his family about as well, finally came to rest in one area after the move to Golborne at the age of 43.
Is sex significant? It has been suggested that women were more migratory than men within their country of origin in the nineteenth century, though this difference seems to have gone now. The reasons
would seem to be the lack of employment opportunities in rural areas, urban demand for domestic servants, and the fact that it was normally women who moved at marriage.
It’s hard to see this pattern here: the numbers involved are small and marriages tend to take place between people living close together. There are more examples of men going to live where their wives come from than vice versa, but the key point is that in many cases marriage follows migration: young people move to a new area and then find someone to marry. However, there are two interesting examples of women moving out of Audley to go into domestic service: two daughters of Charles Chadwick, Lilian and Miriam, did this, going first to Hanley and then to Congleton, where they later married and settled.
How far do people move? It is well established that most migration is over short distances and this is clear from the evidence here, the most interesting example being that of the original couple, Evan and Elizabeth Edwards, who, after their initial giant step, moved from Talke to Leycett to Silverdale to Halmerend to Audley and finally Miles Green. There are also the distance movers as well, as has been noted, but most of the people here have proceeded by short steps.
How important are economic factors? Finally, it is tempting to see movement into the area and then outwards again as directly linked to economic growth and decline. People move for work or for better wages, in other words. Evan and Elizabeth came to Talke along with people from all over the country. It would be a bit surprising if it was the beauty of Talke Pits that attracted them from their part of Wales.
The mining villages expanded greatly during the nineteenth century. Talke in particular has already been mentioned, but Audley district also grew dramatically in population, reaching its peak at 13,918 in 1901. In his article in this journal, Bob Speake says that
After 1911 Audley’s population began to decline and following 1921 the fall became pronounced. During the 1930s Audley district experienced a ... los through outmigration of 2,531 or 16.9%. This coincided with the closure of the coalmines and represents the highest proportion of people moving out of any district in Staffordshire during this period.
So, of course, economic factors directly influenced people’s behaviour. It is still interesting, though, that even a miner like Bill Edwards had left Audley at least as early as 1912, the date of his marriage, in favour of the Potteries. His older brother, Jack, left in 1898 for the army - not necessarily an economic motive. Charles Chadwick’s son Bram left to join the army in 1928, when his pit went on short time, though that may have been the opportunity for someone wanting a different life rather than more just more money. And remember Charles Chadwick himself moving into Audley from the Potteries in 1921 and staying there through the years of sharp decline. Economic factors are important but the behaviour of individuals can’t always be linked to them in a simple and direct way.
I’ve tried the patience of the following relatives who they deserve recognition for their contribution to this article:
Mrs Bessie Bailey
Mrs Gillian Bailey
Mrs Lilian Bourne
Mr Roy Chadwick
Mr Wilf Chadwick
Mr Leonard Horton
Mrs Ivy Shaw
Mr Phillip Smith
Mrs Doris Wilson
Next: Miles Green memories