Monday, 20 October 2008

Sydney and Alice Spurdle

Sydney Spurdle died aged 51 years on 22nd December 1918 - and with him the family links to Dorset seemed to die too, pretty much forgotten until some descendents started to take an interest in genealogy about 60 years later. The cause of death was given as pneumonia. I don't know whether this was the result of the awful flu epidemic that killed millions of people 1918-19. His second wife Alice (Millington) was left with 6 children, the eldest of which was only 11 years old. Poor Alice, things must have looked so bleak when she was widowed with such a young family. 

I don't know much about Alice, I haven't got any photographs of her when she was young but I do have a couple when she was a old lady - her eldest child Sid (my grandad) had a great facial resemblance to her when he himself was older. Sid became a miner too - but at what age? I am sure he would have wanted to start work as soon as possible so that he could help to support the family. 

Sydney Spurdle married Alice Millington in 1904. I am pretty certain that her parents were William (also a miner) and Martha Millington from Buckley. I haven't got my hands on her birth or wedding certificates as yet, but I think she was born approx 1881 so would have been 23 when she married. Sydney would have been about 37 years old, a widower for just over 10 years, and the father of Herbert aged 15 years and Sarah Ann aged approx 11. Quite a lot for a young woman to take on.

Their first son William was born in June 1905 but died 3 months later in September. My grandad Sidney was born a couple of years later. This was followed by another 2 boys and 3 girls. I wish I had asked by grandad what it was like growing up without a father. How did they get by? When did he start work? I don't recall him talking about his childhood at all. I want to find out more about what it would have been like growing up in Rhosrobin at that time, and I'm also going to try to find out more about the Millingtons. I've just realised I don't even know if Alice married again - I need to find out more!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

1740 Henry Spurdle witness for the prosecution

There is a new (ish) website called Old Bailey Online which covers all the proceedings from from the Old Bailey covering the period 1674-1913. Of course I couldn't resist typing in Spurdle to see if a Spurdle had ever been tried there - I didn't expect that there would be one, usually when I search for Spurdles on online databases I get zero results. But there was a Spurdle - a witness in a case against James Watmore in 1740. His name was Henry Spurdle and he seemed a man of few words!

When Mr Findon detected the Prisoner, he called me over to his House, and I saw the Quartern Loaf taken out of his Breeches, and then I was call'd home.

Henry Spurdle, 9th July 1740

Unfortunately there's no more about Henry. He seems to have been living in St Mary Hill in London.

James Watmore was sentenced to transportation for theft. Transportation - isn't it crazy to think how people could just be removed in that way? I won't write anymore about the case as if you're interested you should look at the Old Bailey Online website - it is a fantastic resource.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Sarah Ann Spurdle (Dorothy / Dot) and her move to the USA

I have always been interested in Sydney's daughter Sarah Ann Spurdle because other than the fact that she emigrated to the United States I know nothing about her. Confusingly she was known in the family as Dorothy or Dot but they were both one and the same people. I have always been very impressed by the fact that she emigrated alone - she must have had some guts to take that leap into the unknown.

I have been trying to find out more and have managed to track her down to the SS Cedric that sailed from Liverpool to New York on October 3rd 1925 and arrived on October 13th.  She is listed as Sarah Ann Spurdle aged 30, a cook who was living in Leeds. So evidently she had already left North Wales behind before she moved abroad. Her final destination was listed as San Francisco, so once in New York she faced a long trek to California. What I also found interesting was the name and address of her nearest relative - her father Sydney had died in 1918 and her grandmother Sarah Start (formerly Wetherell) had died in 1913, but I believe she still had her older brother Herbert and half-brothers and half-sisters, the oldest of which would have been Sid aged 18 years old. And yet she names Simon Start as her nearest relative even though he is not a blood relative. Simon was the second husband of Sarah Wetherell and it would seem that Sarah Ann Spurdle had a close relationship with him - he must have seemed like her own grandfather. His address is interesting too - he's back in Axmouth, Devon where he came from. He must have moved back after his wife Sarah died.

I wonder if Sarah Ann Spurdle was feeling very much alone in the world with the death of her father and grandmother, the move to Axmouth by her step-grandfather and the marraige of her brother Herbert in 1913? He had started a family and she was still single - and of course there was a shortage of young men after the first world war, so as she got older the likelihood of her landing a husband might have seemed slim.  Her half-brothers and half-sisters were a lot younger than her so I don't know how close she was to them, particularly if she was living in Leeds while they were growing up. But I think there is also ways pull factors as well as push factors when you emigrate, and the USA must have seemed a great adventure. I think that the picture I have of her is taken in America, and the dress and hair date the picture to the 1920s and seem to show that she was very much into fashion.

I have looked for her in San Francisco but I am not sure if I have found her. There is an Ann Spurdle on the 1930 USA census living in San Francisco in Assembly District 24. She is aged 34, which would be about right, and she is working in a factory. I can't read the squiggle that says what her job is but I think the last word is operator. She is down as the head of the family and seems to be living alone. Of course this may not be her, but I have a feeling it is. I can't find any other mention of her, I've tried looking for Sarah Ann, Sarah, Ann and Dorothy/Dot  Spurdle. I think I remember - long, long ago - my grandmother telling me that Sarah Ann had married but that she had no children, and she thought she was living in Florida up to the early 1970s.  A few years ago her half-sister Caroline, now sadly deceased, said she remembered her as a very smart, fashionable woman. She also believed that she had married but had no children. It seems very sad that my family lost touch with Sarah Ann. I wonder if she maintained better contact with her Wetherell /Start relatives?

I know it is much longer trek from the UK to the USA than from Dorset to North Wales, but her parents move across the country might have inspired her to take this chance, and/or perhaps North Wales never really felt like home even though she was born there. I hope she had a great life in the United States, she deserved it for taking the brave step of moving there and beginning a new life.


Friday, 25 July 2008

Sydney Spurdle - Gwersyllt Colliery

I've just realised that I've got it wrong saying that Sydney Spurdle moved to North Wales to work at Gresford Colliery as work to develop Gresford coal mine didn't begin until 1907. This took four years - work to extract the coal began in 1911. He must have actually have worked at Gwersyllt Colliery or a nearby colliery when he first arrived. I have to be honest and say I didn't even know Gwersyllt had a colliery! Apparently it was in operation by 1881, which would tie in with the arrival of Sydney in Gwersyllt.

It could be that he also worked at Gresford Colliery - I wish my grandad Sid Spurdle (Sydney's son) was still around to ask.  However, there were big gaps in my grandad's knowledge of Sydney, perhaps because Sid would have only have been about 11 years old when Sydney died in 1918 aged 51 years old. When you think about it, without knowing Spurdle aunts, uncles and grandparents etc it is no wonder that our family have always known so little about our Spurdle relatives and ancestors.

I have always been interested in the Spurdle name as I have had a life time of people saying 'Spurdle - that's an unusal name' to me. And also being brought up in Wales it also stands out as being a very un-Welsh name! I have never met a Spurdle that I am not closely related to - until the days of the internet I wasn't even sure whether there were any other Spurdles out there! My grandad and his four sons had black hair and dark complexions - an almost Mediterranean look that has always made we wonder whether these 'dark' looks are in the Spurdles genes?

The Spurdle name

It is great to hear from a distant Spurdle relative, and to know that this blog has been read by at least one person! It would be good if some of the Spurdles out there would share their thoughts on the origin of the Spurdle name.

I always thought that it was the Spur in the name that was important and like Spurrier it meant a maker of spurs. However, according to the name Spurrell, which seems quite close to Spurdle to me, 'comes from a habitational name for Spirewell in Devon or some other similiar place name' - so the fact that they both start with Spur doesn't necessarily mean they have the same origin. I have read on a cooking blog that a Spurdle is a Scottish porridge stick but to be honest I think that's completely rubbush! I don't think there's any Scottish origins in the Spurdle name.

Many years ago now there was a story in the Guardian about how Chardstock in Devon was bringing back the ancient game of 'churdling the spurdle'. According to this story the spurdle was a stuffed pig's bladder. I definitely don't want my name to mean pig's bladder but I have my suspicions about whether the 'revived' game was based on historical fact or was the product of one too many drinks in the local pub, possibly with a regular called Spurdle! I still have the clipping but unfortunately I didn't write the date on it - I would guess it was about 1984/5. I can't find any reference to the ancient game now on the web, perhaps I need to visit Chardstock to sift through the parish records myself!

Here is the text from the story in full:
Churdle an olde porker's spurdle by Michael Prestage

The ancient game of churdling the spurdle is being revived nearly a century after it last brought mirth to the village of Chardstock.

Today teams of locals will be balancing pigs' bladders on their heads and taking part in the two-mile race around the Devon village to win a live pig.

The fine details of the ritual is lost in the mists of time, but villagers have improvised in the name of charity. Originally the bladders would have been filled with lard. Now raspberry jelly is being used.

According to the Rev Geoffrey Walsh references to churdling the spurdle can be found in parish records. And there are still ancients in the village who can remember tales of the game.

As Mr Bob Potter, landlord of the 14th century George Inn, said as he emerged from the difficult task of stuffing pigs' bladders; 'Who on earth in his right mind would invent a game like this?'.

According to tradition the little-heard-of game of churdling the spurdle was played by farm labourers after a hard day's work.

Researcher Ken Smith said: 'It was little more than an excuse for a booze-up' - a tradition the village is only too happy to rediscover.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

A big more digging on Start / Wetherell

I don't know why I've got so interested in Sarah Wetherell and Simeon Start, they're not related to me as I am descended from Sydney's 2nd wife Alice Millington. I am convinced that Sarah did marry a man many years younger than her, but I'd had to get my hands on the marraige certificate to prove it! I believe that Simeon Start and Sarah Wetherell married in 1885 in Beaminster, Dorset.

I've found a Simeon Start living in Axmouth, Devon in the 1861 census, 1871 census and 1881 census. I'm not a 100% that they are all the same Simeon as I don't know how common the Start name was in Axmouth, and his father's name is John which is very common. However all of them seem seem to tie in with him being born about 1861 - which would link him in with Simeon Start aged 41 living with his wife Sarah and lodger Sydney Spurdle in 1901. How do I account for him being 59 in the 1891 census? Simple, I think it should read 29!

If it was the Simeon Start born approx 1861 that married Sarah in 1885 then he would have been about 24 and Sarah would have been 48. Of course this wouldn't be a first, sometimes younger men do marry older women - on my mother's side her grandmother married a man 20 years or more younger than her. But of couse this is a lot of guesswork, so I could be getting it all wrong! I can't find out when Simeon Start died but Sarah Start died in Wrexham aged approx 77 in June 1913. Sarah would have been a grandmother to Sydney Spurdle's children Herbert and Sarah, but I wonder whether she had any kind of relationship with Sydney's later children with his second wife?

Until relatively recently two of Sydney and Alice Spurdle's children were still living in the Gwersyllt area and I was able to quiz them about their memories. They knew that Sydney Spurdle has been married before but they didn't know her name and they believed that she had died before Sydney moved to to North Wales. They didn't know of any family connections with anyone with the name Wetherell - I didn't know that Sarah Wetherell had married Simeon Start so I didn't get a chance to ask them if they knew of any Starts. It could be that when Sarah Start died in 1913 all connections with the Wetherell family were lost.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Sydney Spurdle's in-laws - Wetherell / Start

Since I wrote yesterday I decided to look into whether Sydney's wife's family had already moved to the Gresford area before she died. The answer is yes - they can be found on the 1891 census living in Bryn Issa, Gwersyllt. Caroline Spurdle's mother Sarah Wetherell seems to have been widowed at some point and married Simon Start.

Sarah and Simon and Sarah's girls Annie Wetherell and Ellen Wetherell can be found living with Edward and Elizabeth Hughes and family. Simon is described as father-in-law and Sarah as mother-in-law, but I don't know whether Elizabeth is Sarah's daugher (in which case her maiden name would be Wetherell) or Simon Start's daughter. Elizabeth's birthplace is stated as being Sturminster, Somerset on the web but the original record shows it actually says Ilminster, Somerset (it was worth paying Ancestry to look at the original myself). This means that she is almost certainly Sarah's daughter as all of her eldest children were born here. On the 1881 census for Drimpton, Dorset Sarah Wetherell is living with 6 children - Herbert aged 15, Caroline aged 12 and William aged 11 were all born in Ilminster, Somerset. Benjamin aged 9 was born in Chillington, Somerset and Fred aged 5 and Annie aged 1 were both born in Drimpton, Dorset.

Edward and Elizabeth Hughes are both 29 and they have three children: John Hughes aged 7, Ellen Hughes aged 5 and Richard Hughes aged 1. Edward seemes to be relatively local - born in Denbighshire - but I can't work out the Welsh placename. It could be Llanrydod but unless it has been misspelt that doesn't seem to exist. He speaks Welsh and English. I wonder how he met Elizabeth? Perhaps she first moved to Wales as a servant? Edward Hughes and Simon Start are both Coal Hewers. This was hard, dangerous work and not particularly well paid and yet it seems to have drawn people from all over the country to work. And perhaps the area around Gresford wasn't a bad place to live - it has never been built up with houses and industry the way that South Wales was. Locals were never far from open fields.

I never realised that people left as extended families and communities to go and settle in other areas of the country. I suppose I should have really as I know of the large number of Spurdles that travelled together to settle in New Zealand in the mid-19th century. I know it was still awful for Sydney when his wife dies so young, but I am glad to know that he did have her family around him to share his grief and help him to raise his two young children.

I am really confused about Sarah and Simon Start. In the 1891 census Sarah is aged 55 and husband Simon is 59. As I have already mentioned, on the 1901 census Sarah is 65 and Simeon/Simon is shown as being 41. On the 1901 census Simeon/Simon is shown as being the Head and Sarah his wife. Perhaps his date of birth was recorded wrongly as there is 28 years difference in age! I am going to try to solve that one.

Do you think Caroline's sister Elizabeth wrote to Caroline and encouraged her to move to North Wales with Sydney? Her three children were born in North Wales showing that she had been there longer than Caroline. The chance of work, the meeting up with family, it must have been very tempting especially as times were tough in Dorset. No other Spurdles seemed to head to North Wales - all the ones that live there now seem to be descended from Sydney!