Friday, May 31, 2013

Nottingham day trip

On Saturday our family took my parents on a day trip to Nottingham. We were keen to retrace the steps of Joseph Woodward, my great-great-great-grandfather, who was transported for incendiarism for his part in the 1831 Nottingham Riots. He set fire to a stack of beans and a hovel.

We had considered doing a walk using two short youtube clips of a guided tour called 'To the Castle', designed to retrace the steps of the rioters, but decided it wouldn't work on the day. So we watched it online the night before - you can watch it here and here.

It worked out well doing it that way, because when we arrived in Nottingham we were all set to head straight to the castle, which the rioters burned in 1831. It was wonderful to visit and get some context for this part of our family history and it was quite an interesting castle to visit in its own right. As well as seeing the exhibitions about the history of Nottingham and walking around the grounds, we went on a caves tour, which was a guided tour through the underground cave system at the castle. That was fascinating.

After we had seen the castle, we walked down through St Peter's Square where the riots began in 1831. There was a demonstration happening as we walked through, which helped set the scene!

We then headed to the old gaol and court house which is now the Galleries of Justice museum. This is where Joseph Woodward was tried and gaoled until he was transported. It was set up as a guided tour with actors (in part as criminals) showing us through.

It was amazing to be there, where he had been sentenced to death (before his sentence was changed to transportation) and to see the cells where he would have been held and the exercise yard in which he would have spent so many of his days. I also found the conditions of the gaol quite disturbing, knowing that Joseph Wooward had been there.

At the end of the day, we headed back for Cambridge via Normanton-on-the-Wolds, where his crime (arson) was committed. We found the little village and what we think was the house and the general area where he set fire to the stack of beans and hovel. It was so quiet and a fair way from town. It's still not clear to me how he ended up involved in the riots, or even if he was at the burning of castle or was just swept up with the excitement that something like this was happening and decided to do his own protesting. I'll have to keep tracking down the court transcripts and see if something comes to light!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Baptists in Kent

Here is an article (go to page 10 and you'll find it) about Baptist history in Kent which features Richard Kingsnorth.

Kent day trip

Last Thursday I drove my mum, dad and the four children to Kent to do some family history exploring. We were looking for sites which related to the Kingsnorths and Pullens.


First stop was Headcorn where Harriet's birth is recorded (along with the rest of her siblings') at Headcorn Baptist. She was born in 1796, but I think the births were all registered at the same time in the early 19th century. They are all recorded together and the words "The above list was given to me Esq. Love by John Kingsnorth for mention in this register" were included at the end. I had arranged to meet with the church secretary of Headcorn Baptist in order to look through their archives. I was hoping to find some more records, ideally a minute book or similar so I could learn a little more about the Kingsnorths and their involvement in the church. I know that there was some controversy associated with the church's theology about this time (the church ended up becoming unitarian by 1819), and I also think that by the time Sarah and John died they were Wesleyan Methodists. There is registration of death for a John Kingsnorth (1822) and Sarah Kingsnorth (1826) with the Maidstone Circuit of the Wesleyan Methodist church which makes me suspect they were no longer Baptists by this stage.

Headcorn Baptist
The secretary of Headcorn Baptist was so friendly and helpful, but unfortunately there were no records going back that far in their archives. Still, it was wonderful to even see the minute books from the late 19th century, and to meet the Bible study group meeting there that morning! It was wonderful to think that the same church my ancestors were once part of still meet together to read God's word together. Another highlight was when the church secretary told them that I was looking for information on a Kingsnorth relative and immediately most of the people in the room recognised the name and knew people with that name in the area - quite possibly distant relatives!

While we were in Headcorn we also looked at the Methodist church burial ground in the hope of finding John and Sarah Kingsnorth's graves, but the earliest graves there seem to be from the 1830s when that chapel was built.

Headcorn Methodist burial ground

Headcorn Methodist
On our way out from Headcorn, we went to find the site of Headcorn Baptist church in the early 1800s. The current one (pictured above) was built in 1819 so I don't think my ancestors would have attended church there. There was an earlier meeting place - in Love Lane, just out of town. There the church met on a property called Bounty Farm. We also knew that there was a burial ground there which is probably where Harriet's brother was buried as a young child. It was quite a beautiful place in many ways - a tiny plot of land fenced off next to a quiet lane. We couldn't get inside the fence to look closely, but did take some photos from the side of the road.


Our second stop was Staplehurst, where John and Sarah Kingsnorth were married. John's family had been living there for at least two hundred years before that as well. It seems he was from a family of Baptists, one of whom (Richard Kingsnorth) led and hosted the church in his own home, Spilshill Court.

We went to look at All Saints Staplehurst, where many of the Kingsnorths were buried and married (not christened!!). The weather was pretty average at this stage - in fact I think it was hailing!

Mum with the font

Inside All Saints

Sheltering from hail!
On our last trip to Staplehurst, we had managed to find Spilshill Court, but did it by driving up a private road and speaking to the owner (but not before snarled at by a threatening looking dog!). This time, I was keen to try and retrace the way the members of the church would have walked to church each Sunday. I had read that there had been a footpath leading from Chapel Lane up to Spilshill, so I thought we should see if it still existed as a public right of way. I was delighted to discover that it did! Admittedly, it seemed like it hadn't been used for at least a hundred years and was very muddy - but it was there. At first we walked straight past it, but as we walked back (feeling a little disappointed and silly for getting muddy for nothing!) I recognised it. It was very exciting.

Walking along the public footpath
A glimpse of Spilshill


The last place we visited was Chilham, where Jesse Pullen (Harriet Kingsnorth's husband) came from. It is about half an hour's drive from Staplehurst through some beautiful countryside which probably looks much the same as it did with its oast houses and barns and tudor buildings scattered through the countryside. On this particular day it was sleeting as we drove for a lot of the journey, but it was still beautiful.

At Chilham we visited St Mary's church again and showed mum and dad the Pullen graves we had discovered last time. Jacob and I spent some time working out what the gravestones said (more on that in another post). We saw the pub where Jesse Pullen's brother had been the publican in the 19th century and had a cup of coffee in one of the houses on the square and which of our relatives had visited this house (or even lived there).

font at St Mary's Chilham

Mum and me in the square - the pub (where Thomas Pullen was publican) is behind.

Finally, we went looking for Hurst Hill Farm which was where some of Jesse Pullen's family had lived (possibly Jesse himself), but it was too far up a private road to be able to see it.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Joseph Woodward sentence

Here is a newspaper article I have transcribed from the Leicester Journal, Friday 23 March 1832
detailing Joseph Woodward's appeal at Nottingham assizes.

The business of these Assizes commenced on Monday the 12th instant, in the Crown Court, before Mr. Baron Bayley.

Joseph Woodward, who was convicted at the late Special Assize, of wilfully setting fire to a  bean stack, the property of Mr Norman Cole of Normanton-on-the-Wolds, was then placed at the bar, to hear the decision of the Judges on the point reserved for their opinion, upon the objection taken to the indictment by Mr Hill, Counsel for the prisoner.

His Lordship said, it turned out upon the evidence, that there was no such place as the parish of Normanton-on-the-Wolds, as described in the indictment. Normanton was a hamlet belonging the parish of Plumtree, and the objection has been raised upon this point. The question therefore, was, whether conviction ought to be sustained? In considering that question, the Judges, (thirteen of them having met for the purpose) were unanimous in their opinion, that the conviction might be sustained under the third count of the indictment. This count charges with setting fire to a stack of beans, which were moveable. The indictment merely states, that the prisoner unlawfully, maliciously, and feloniously did set fire to a certain stack of beans and upon this the Judges were all of opinion, that the proof of the place where the offence was committed being in the county was sufficient. But if the prisoner's defence had been good, he would not have escaped, as he would have been indicted in novo. The Judges also took into consideration, whether they were bound to consider a stack of beans a stack of pulse. Under the 7th and 8th of Geo. IV. cap 30, sec 17, they were unanimously of the opinion, that beans came under the denomination of grain, or pulse. The words of the statute were grain, corn and pulse. It does not speak of wheat, barley, and oats, and yet the Judges were bound to consider these as corn, and that beans were also grain, or pulse. The Judges were all unanimously of the opinion, that the prisoner was liable to be found guilty, and that he was properly convicted upon the third count in the indictment.


Tuesday, March 13

Joseph Woodward was then placed at the bar, when Mr Baron Bayley, having placed the black cap on his head, addressed him to the following effect:- "Joseph Woodward, you have been convicted on evidence that was perfectly satisfactory to the Jury who tried you, and to the Learned Judge before whom you were tried, and having read over his notes of the evidence, I am fully satisfied of your guilt; it therefore becomes my painful duty to pass upon you that sentence which the law awards. The offence of which have been convicted is that of setting fire to a stack of beans, the property of Mr Cole, of Normanton, situated in a yard in which you were servant, being servant to mr Hickson. There had been a fire on the premises shortly before that of which you have been convicted, and in the interval between the two, you intimated that you should have no objection to see the residue also on fire. On the night on which you committed this offence, you acted with a considerable degree of artfulness; it was your duty to pass through the yard, in which the stack was situated, with a lighted candle in the lantern, you communicated a light to the rick, by which it was consumed. This is a great and serious offence; it is the duty of a servant to endeavor to protect the property of his master, and to interfere to prevent it from being destroyed, instead of being the cause of its destruction. This is a crime which it is very easy to commit, and exceedingly difficult of detection. What could be your motive for it? It is impossible for me to tell; you appear to have had no feeling of malevolence against the prosecutor; in your confession, you state that you did it from a spirit of wanton mischief. It could do you no good to deprive this property of its value. How can a farmer pay his labourers and maintain his family, if the produce of his industry is destroyed in this manner? You stand in the predicament of a servant who has betrayed his duty. This offence is not difficult of perpetration and it is much more easy for a servant to effect than any othrs; it is, therefore, the more necessary that the law should have its full course. In this case there could not be the ordinary precaution against the incendiary, for if there is a dog upon the premises, the dog knows the tread of the servant and gives no alarm; but if a stranger comes, then the dog gives the alarm. Servants feel no apprehension when they see one whom they know; but the appearance of a strangers would put them on their guard. The case of a servant, therefore, is abundantly worse than that of any other person. This is a crime very difficult of detection; many crimes are brought to light by the providence of God, though there have been no witnesses of their perpetration; the providence of God so worked in you, that you were unable to confine your secret in your breast, and could not refrain from disclosing the crime which you had committed. Let me not detract from the merit of that confession - it is of benefit to society; but I cannot help thinking that it was not contrition - it was not repentance, which operated upon you - but you felt an incapability of retaining your secret. This is one of the ways in which Providence acts to bring to light the hidden works of darkness. The Learned Judge by whom this case was tried, detailed the particulars to me, and left it in charge for me to pass upon you the sentence of the law. He did that which a Judge of his humanity might be expected to do - he authorised me to enquire into circumstances which might be in your favour. Let it not be though that a Judge can dispense arbitrarily with the penalty of the law; the awful responsibility attached to him as to whom he shall recommend as fit objects for his Majesty's mercy. If the like is again committed, at whose door does the guilt lie? At his door who improperly recommended the accused to mercy. I cannot in the circumstances of this case, see any thing which should induce me to recommend you to mercy at the foot of the throne. You are young, but I am sorry to observe with your youth a degree of craft in the commission of this crime, and it is an offence of which youth is equally as capable as a person of maturer age. A considerable interval has elapsed since the period of conviction; the Judges had to consider an important point of law in connection with your case; and now they have done so, no one of them entertains the least degree of doubt as to the propriety of your conviction. the delay has created in you an anxious hope and expectation that your life would be spared; if the Judge before whom you were tried had passed then the sentence of the law, it would in all probability have been carried into effect ere now, and you would no longer have been in the land of the living. The circumstance that weighs most powerfully on my mind in your case, is, that the example should speedily follow the conviction; the end of capital punishment is for the example it affords, and the prevention of future crime. In this place much good has been done by the recent example which was made, and I shall be satisfied if that example has been sufficient. I cannot properly hold out to you any expectation of mercy being extended to you; I therefore exhort you to make peace with Him who is full of compassion and mercy, and who, if he finds you truly repentant, will blot out your offences. It is my painful duty to inform you, that the sentence awarded to you is, that you, Joseph Woodward , be taken hence to the place of execution, and that you there be hanged by the neck until you are dead - and may God have mercy on your soul." During the passing of the sentence, the unhappy youth wept bitterly.

Staplehurst Parish register

The Staplehurst Parish register has provided me with some of my best information for the Kingsnorth family.  I've been fortunate that this particular register has been transcribed and made available for free online.

I can see from the parish records that the Kingsnorth family were a dissenting 'Anabaptist' family from about 1645. The entries from 1645 onwards tend to list them as 'born', which distinguishes them from those on the register who were christened in the church. In many of the burial records there is a note saying that they were 'interred' and were 'dissenters'.

From 1665 onwards there is only one more Kingsnorth births registered and that is a 'baseborn' daughter of Elisabeth Kingsnorth in 1748. We know they were still in the parish, however, as there are burials and marriages for Kingsnorths in this period. At this point it seems that they were still dissenters and there is a new minister in Staplehurst who is not prepared to register 'births' of non-Anglican families. I am hoping that I will find some records of births in the Staplehurst Baptist records later this year for that time.

The records of Kingsnorth marriages in All Saints Staplehurst continue until 1786 (John and Sarah Kingsnorth). According to Breed in 'My Ancestors were Baptists', it was law between 1753 and 1837 that marriages had to be registered in the Anglican Church, so that explains why I can still find the marriage records at this point.

The Kingsnorth burials also seem to stop on the Staplehurst register soon after, in 1799. I suspect that a new member of clergy put a stop to dissenting burials at this point too, but that's just a hunch at this stage. At the same time, dissenter's were beginning to have their own burial grounds so maybe there was no need to bury in the local parish church any more.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nottingham Riots

One of my ancestors, Joseph Woodward was a convict who was sent out to Australia for 'incendiarism' in 1832 as a result of his part in the Nottingham riots of 1831

I came across this little clip which talks about the riots which is quite interesting (especially for family members!).

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

More on Jesse and Harriet

Following up on my questions about Jesse and Harriet's marriage date, I did a search on the 'findmypast' website. It's a site I've discovered where you can access all sorts of documents which are useful for family tree research. You can often view the original document as well (for a fee).

I searched for Jesse Pullen and again came up with more than one marriage record. This time, the third one was missing, and I am more confident now that my original hunch was right about that record being a transcription error.

But there were still two - which is curious! And when I looked at the originals, I did find out some new information and realised some of my assumptions were wrong.

The first marriage date was 11 October and was in Chartham, Kent. The banns had been read on the three consecutive Sundays - 27 Sept / 4 Oct / 11 Oct. This was in line with the other information I had found. I was also right that Harriet Kingsnorth was most definitely NOT a Kingsworth on the record (it's interesting that this has been such a common error!). What was more interesting is that Harriet was listed as being the one from the parish of Chartham. I had assumed it was Jesse since my other record for Harriet was her birth record from Headcorn. I wonder why she was living in Chartham? Jesse, on the other hand, was listed as being from the parish of St John's Margate. That's also a surprise, since he was from Chilham, Kent (just down the road from Chartham).

The second marriage date was two weeks later on 28 October (no mention of banns, just a record of marriage and the signatures of both). It was at St John's Margate.

I did a bit of research into marriage banns in England at the time, and the rule was that you needed to have the banns read in both parishes if the parties came from different parishes (you only needed to live in a parish for three weeks to be 'of this parish', so sometimes the groom would live with friends for three weeks to avoid that). It seems that in this case Jesse stayed living in Margate (I'm think he probably worked there) and they did in fact get married in Margate, but that the banns needed to be read at Chartham in advance.

I would still love to know why she was in Chartham - I'll keep digging!