Justus Reitze – German immigrant bakes his way to success

My Great, Great, Great, Grandfather, Justus Reitze was born in Germany around 1800. The information  I have about him is rather sketchy, for example I do not know where in Germany he came from, or when he came to Britain.
The early 19th Century was an unstable time in Germany. In 1805 during the War of the Third Coalition Napoleon’s armies were fighting in most of the area between Munich and Frankfurt, mostly against Austrian armies. Even Hanover, the historic home of the royal family of the time (George III was also Elector of Hanover), was occupied by Napoleon’s forces. The war would have been very disruptive for the civilian population and many people must have been displaced.
Even after the formation of the German Confederation in 1815, bringing a respite from wars, there were other reasons to move.  Germany was experiencing its own demographic  transition, and the population grew 60% from 1815 to 1865. As I wrote about in the post about Amazing Love,  Demographics and Mass migrations this also leads to emigration, in Germany, 1.2 million emigrated in the 1850s.
Whatever his reason, Justus Reitze came to England at some point and set up as a baker, which is shown as his occupation on his marriage certificate. This is the  earliest document I have about him.
Justus married Elizabeth Kleinhen at St Matthews, Bethnal Green on 15th of  February 1826. He would have been about 26. She was younger – I do not have a birth certificate, but the 1841 Census gives his age as 40 and hers as 30, (but ages were rounded down to the nearest 5 years)  so she would have been between 16 and 21. The Marriage Act of 1753 required the consent of the parents for participants under 21,  however the witnesses  were Adam and Caroline Kleinhen, presumably her parents. I have not found a birth record for her, but the 1841 Census shows her as born in the same  County.  Adam Kleinhen may have been from Baden.
Elizabeth gave birth to a son, Henry, on 21st Jaunary 1827, and he was baptised at St Matthews on 11th March. Fortunately  St Matthews is one of the places which adds the date of birth to the baptism register.
On 26th August 1828 Elizabeth Reitze, my Great Great Grandmother, was born, and she was baptised on 12th October 1828.
On 25th September 1830 another son, John, was born, and baptised on 7th November.
By the 1841 Census Justus, his wife Elizabeth, and children Henry, Elizabeth and John were living in a house in Bethnal Green. I think they have a 50-55 year old shopman, John Peters (who might have been employed to deliver bread) and Eliza Hagis, a 15-20 year old housemaid as well.
A court case, heard at the Old Bailey  on 1st March 1847, gives some interesting insights.
Click the image, or here, for a transcript.
Charles Gibson, the accused, was living in the house with Justus, as apparently was Justus’s sister – I have no idea who she was and I think this is the only reference to her.
On 2nd June 1846 his daughter Elizabeth married William Webster at St Stephen, Coleman Street.  William Webster (1823-1888) was a  Pastry Cook in the 1851 Census, so he and Elizabeth probably met via baking.
I can not find Justus (or Elizabeth) in the 1851 Census, but he does appear in the 1851 Register of Electors. This shows his address as 6, Baden Place, Bethnal Green, and that he owns two freehold houses, shown as “Thurlow-place,Green-street and Globe-street, Patch and Lemay tenants”. The 1832 Reform Act extended the vote to adult males owning land worth more than £10. Baden  Place no longer exists but it led off Andrews Road (OSM).
Around October 1853 Justus’s wife, Elizabeth died, after 27 years of marriage.
In the 1856 Post Office Directory he was listed as a Baker at 49, Green Street, Bethnal Green.

Green Street, Bethnal Green

Green Street no longer exists, but click the map, or this link, for more infomation about its history. This would be one of the properties  he owned on his voter registration.
Also listed as a baker in the 1856 directory was John Reitze, presumably his son, as he was at 24, Globe Terrace, Globe Road, Mile End (OSM). This was probably the other property he owned.
By the 1861 Census Justus was living at 9, Adelphi Terrace, Old Ford Road, Bethnal Green, with a 46 year old housekeeper.  Alelphi  Terrace no longer exists but it led off Old Ford Road (OSM) which still does. According to British History Online “terraces were built fronting northward on Old Ford Road from 1845: George’s Place and Adelphi Terrace west of the junction with Bonner Lane, and Park Terrace to the east.” (not to be confused with the other Adelphi Terrace).
He moved some time after that to 46, Sewardstone Road (OSM), where he died on the 13th December 1890. His will was proved by Joseph Eglese of Cornhill in the City of London, Silversmith, and William Webster of Gracechurch Street, now a Confectioner, and Justus’s daughter,  now Elizabeth Webster. His effects  were under £1,500 . Using the calculator at www.measuringworth.com this would be worth from £129,000 (Retail Price Index) to £2,640,000 (share of GDP) in 2015 term. Not bad for an immigrant baker.

The Apprentice

This article is not about the British television show, nor the American one, but about my Grandfather, George Lines, who was an apprentice at Clayton and Shuttleworth – a four year apprenticeship, ending in December 1911.
Clayton and Shuttleworth were a Lincoln based engineering company, mainly focussed, before WW1, on agricultural machinery.
On the 4th July 1907 Commercial Motor carried an article about a new scheme of apprenticeship adopted at Clayton and Shuttleworth, Lincolnshire.
Amongst the benefits were the that apprenticeship would be for 4 years, rather than 7, and would take apprentices between 15 and 22, hoping for boys (the concept of girls as apprentices was not considered) who has been to school beyond 14.

The hours of work are: 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., 8.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., 1.30 p.m. to 5 p.m., on all week-days except Fridays and Saturdays; on Fridays the works close at 5.30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m., and on Saturdays at 12.30 p.m. Time• keeping of apprentices will be most carefully watched.
I am not sure where my Grandfather stayed at first, but by the 1911 Census he was living at 69 Carholme Road, Lincoln (OSM) which is now the Brancaster Guest House.

In the 1911 Census it was occupied by

  • Mary Jane Woodhead, head of the household, aged 50 and widowed
  • Harold Edgar Woodhead, son, 18, and an engineers apprentice in the field of Agricultural Engineering
  • Ethel Mary Woodhead, daugher, 21, no occupation
  • George Edward Lines, Boarder, 23, an engineers apprentice in the field of Agricultural Engineering
  • Alice Cook, 19, Servant
  • Deborah Daisy Turner, 21, Visitor

I assume my Grandfather boarded here through being a fellow apprentice with Harold.
I do not know further details of my Grandfather’s apprenticeship, but he clearly picked up skills that would serve him well in the Royal Engineers in WW1, and later working for Lines Brothers.

Harold Woodhead’s War.

Harold signed up for the Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment.
His sister Ethel Mary married someone called Chase around September 1912 in Lincoln, and his mother Mary possibly died in Mansfield around June 1915.
Harold died on the 14th October 1915, age 22, and is buried, along with many others, at the Commonwealth War Commission cemetery at Loos.


Harwell Apprentices

When I started work at Harwell it still had an apprentice school, and the apprentices, and after they had graduated from the school, the on-site engineers could produce almost anything from scratch. As in those days Harwell was doing a lot of leading edge research their skills were often required. Many local businesses also benefited from the graduates of the Apprentice Training School.
Many of the roads on Harwell site are named after famous scientists, such as Fermi Avenue, but the small stub road in front of the building in which I worked was unnamed, until one April First, a sign appeared, labelling it as “Dyer Straits”. Ron Dyer was one of the Group Leaders in Material Physics Division, main occupants of the building. The sign was such a good facsimile of the other road signs on site that it remained, and next time the site was surveyed it was transferred to the official site map, and the name remains to this day, as can be seen on Google Maps

Birthday wishes from Margaret Webster to Ada Webster.

Ada Webster, born on the 30th November 1861, was my Great Grandmother. She married my Great Grandfather, John Box in  1884. Her sister, Margaret Elizabeth Webster, born 23rd November 1851, wrote to her on the 29th November 1867, to wish her a happy 6th birthday. My sister has the letter.

Here is the transcription

42 West Derby Street
                                                                                            November 29th 1867
Dear little Ada
Tomorrow will be your birthday so I write to wish you many happy returns of the day. I hope you will always try to be a good girl and not make Papa and Mamma angry with you. If you love God and pray to Him He will always take care of you for he love all good children. I suppose when I reach home again I shall be able to hear you read, for Mamma told me you had been getting on very nicely. I have sent you a little valentine, I think it is pretty, I hope you will like it. You must kiss Percy, Janet, Edith and Arthur for me and give my love to ——- all and tell them I hope I shall see them soon.
I often think of my little bed-fellow at house and wonder if she misses me. I must say Goodbye to you now because I am going to write Mama _________ So I send you much love and many kisses from
Your loving sister

At the time Margaret (Maggie), would have just celebrated her 16th birthday, and she was presumably living at 42, West Derby Street, which is probably in Liverpool, L7 3EA.  She might have been writing to Ada at 5, Gracechurch Street, where their father, William, mother Elizabeth (daughter of Justus and Elizabeth Reitze), and siblings Arthur and Edith (and six servants) were living in the 1861 Census, six years earlier, or more likely at 124, Albion Road, where their parents, and siblings William Justus, Janet and Alice were living (and two servants) were living in the 1871 Census, four years later.


Margaret Elizabeth Webster

Born 23rd November 1851 (almost exactly 10 years before Ada), and baptised 25th December 1851 at St Stephen, Coleman Street, London. This was Christmas Day, but remembering A Christmas Carol, it would appear that much ordinary business still happened on the day. As she was born after the 1851 Census she does not appear in it, and she is not with the rest of the family in the 1861 Census either. Her elder brother William Justus Webster is also elsewhere in the 1861 Census, and as he is not mentioned in this letter he is presumably still away in 1867. He signed up as an apprentice Cook in 1865, and was back living with the family as a Cook’s Apprentice in 1871.
Presumably Margaret was away from home in 1861, when she would have been 9, possibly at boarding school, or living with relatives to broaden her education, and was also away, for similar reasons in 1867.
In the 1861 Census there is a Margarate Webster, aged 9 and born in London, living at (something) School House, Eddington, Kent, where she is a pupil. There was a school (or seminary) run by Jane and Mary Baskerville,  and called Pear Tree House. As well as the Baskerville sisters there was a French Governess, a Music Governess, 14 female scholars aged from 9 to 15 and a cook, housemaid and under housemaid (who was only 15). This could well be the same Margaret Webster, who may have boarded there until about 1866.
She died on 26th March 1868, at the family home  at Albion Road, 4 months after writing the letter, and was buried on 31st March at St James in Swain’s Lane, St Pancras. This is Highgate Cemetery. Her burial number is 34044.

Ada Webster

Born at Gracechurch Street on 30th November 1861, and baptised 1st January 1862.
Married John Box on 6th February 1844, at Highgate Rise Church.
She died 8 September 1944 – Lynwood, Horndean Road, Emsworth, Hampshire aged 82.

Percival John Webster (Percy)

Born in 1865, and baptised on 21st February 1865, so would have been two years old.
Married Edith Amy Day around August 1894, and they has two children, Kathleen Edith Webster (born about 1895), and William John Webster (known as Jack, and born about May 1897)
He died  on 17th January 1904, aged 38, when Jack would have been six.

There is more of the story of Percival and Jack in the post William John Webster – Anthem for a Doomed Youth.

Janet Webster

Born 8th August 1863 and baptised 9th September 1863 at at St Stephen, Coleman Street, London, like Margaret. She would have been four.
She married Thomas Henry Austin in 1900
She died 28th October 1941.

Edith Reitze Webster

Born in 1860, and baptised on 20th March 1860, so she would have been seven.
She married Frederick Braund Box , younger brother of John Box, in 1887.
She died on 20th January 1951.

Arthur Reuben Webster

Born in 1858, and baptised 18th June 1858, so would have been nine.
He was a pupil, aged 12, at College House school in Edmonton in the 1871 Census. According to British History Online

The largest boarding-school was College House in Upper Fore Street, next to the Bell inn, which was attended by 93 boys and run by the White family from before 1840 until 1887 when it moved to Eastbourne.

He as apprenticed to Richard Aldridge on 1st October 1873, as a confectioner.
He was a confectioner and baker, and married Bessie Hamilton in 1882. They had two children, both born in 1884, so presumably twins. Amy Margaret Webster (who shows up in the 1911 Census, living with her Uncle, Frederick Braund Box, at 8 Coleridge Road Crouch End N, Hornsey, Middlesex, England  (OSM)), and Arthur Frederick William Webster, who died aged nine, on March 26th 1892.

Arthur Reuben Webster died 27th January 1936, although his widow was Martha Helen Frances Webster, as he married Martha Ellenor Frances Enstone Wilson (1873-) on 17th Feburary 1901.



42, West Derby Street

This house was in the Municipal Ward of West Derby in district 27f.
I am not sure who was living at 42, West Derby Street (OSM) in 1867, but it could have been a relative. Margaret and Ada’s great grandfather was General Webster, from a military family, who travelled a lot, so could have relatives all over the country.
In 1861 James Jeffreys, born about 1812 in Scotland  and some form of manufacturer, was living with his wife Mary Eliza Smith Jeffreys, born about 1819 in the West Indies, St Croix, and 2 daughters, two sons, two widowed sisters  and a cook, a housemaid and a nurse. The house must have been reasonably substantial  to house so many.  By the 1871 Census Mary Eliza Jeffreys is living, as a widow with Isabella Cuffin, one of the widowed sisters at Waterloo, Great Crosby, so that family must have moved out of 42, West Derby Street by 1871. James Jeffreys may have died in the last quarter of 1866.

In 1870, according to  “Wealth and Notoriety: the extraordinary families of William Levy and Charles Lewis of London“, a man called Edward Laurence Levy, calling himself Edward Linden, was arrested at 42, West Derby Street for deception and forgery (most carried out in London some years earlier, but he had been living abroad).

In the 1871 Census the house is occupied by John Langsdale, born about 1839, in Liverpool. His occupation is unclear on the census form, although when he was 22 in the 1861 Census he was a Timber Merchant’s Clerk. Also his sister, Mary White, born about 1845, and – I think a widow. His son, who I think is Lionel John Langsdale, born about 1866 is also living there, but no wife, suggesting that John is as widower. I think John was a Catholic, born 19 Aug 1838, and baptised 23 Aug 1838 and he married Bridget Carroll  on 31 May 1864. They are being visisted by Sarah Ellen Fowles (aged 30), and have a servant, Francis Jones aged 19. There is no obvious Webster connection.

In the 1901 Census (over 30 years later) Alfred Harold Tweed was living at 42, West Derby Street with his wife and son. Interestingly the Howes family tree contains a number of Websters, but I have not found any which match the ones in my family tree.

5, Gracechurch Street

The family were living at 5, Gracechurch Street (OSM) in 1861. It is now  a very large and imposing building, but I am not sure when the current one was built. Pod is at number 3, but in 1861 it was Hugh Vendon, ironmonger. Ede & Ravenscroft, robemakers to the Queen, are at number 2 now, but might not have been in 1861.
Leading off Gracechurch Steet is Bell Inn Yard, where I think my Grandfather used to work as a solicitor, which I suspect is just an interesting co-incidence.
The Science Museum has a Stoneware drug jar, by Wayte, 5 Gracechurch Street in their collection, made 1822-1884. From another site this is probably described as “STONEWARE DRUG JAR. 8ins tall, off white glaze, raised coat of arms to front with ‘WAYTE NO5 GRACECHURCH ST’ in raised lettering to fancy scroll above.”

124, Albion Road

By 26th March 1868, when Margaret Webster died, the family had moved to 124, Albion Road (OSM), as this is the address recorded on her burial registration.

Where is everybody – The Fermi Paradox, Self replicating spacecraft and computer system reliability

In 1950 the physicist Enrico Fermi asked the question “Where is everybody ?“, by which he meant – given the size of the universe, the diversity of life on earth, occupying every ecological niche, and the fact that the Solar System is a fairly average star system; why do we not see signs of extra terrestrial life ?

The size of the universe

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”
Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Scientists have to resort to analogies to describe the size of the universe – the article linked above says that if the sun was the size of an orange then the next nearest star, Alpha Centauri, would be 2,300 kilometres away – about the same as the distance from London to Odessa in Ukraine. All the space in between is effectively empty. As stellar distances go, this is quite tiny ! Thus the huge number of stars in the universe –  about 30 billion trillion, is balanced by the huge spaces between them. Surely, with so many worlds, there has to be other life out there ?

Quantifying E.T. – the Drake equation

In 1961 Frank Drake formalised the question of the number of intelligent life forms in the universe into the Drake Equation (spelt out in full in the Wikipedia article).
As a brief summary it multiplies the number of stars by the chances of a star having habitable planets, and then considers how many of those go on to develop life, and from those what chance that life will develop intelligence. Finally it considers the chances of us detecting that intelligent life. Since 1961 we have better data for some of the parts of the equation – for example we now have direct(ish) observation of planets in other solar systems.
I am not going to go into all the factors in detail, but I have had personal interest in some of them.

Millers experiment

When I did Sixth Year Studies biology, you had to perform and write up an experiment, and I re-created – as best I could in a school biology lab, Millers experiment.  This was an experiment which showed that the more complex chemicals needed for life (amino acids) can arise spontaneously from the chemicals expected to be in the atmosphere of an early earth (or earth-. This involved explosive chemicals, sparks, Bunsen burners and other potentially exciting items, so in those days I was allowed a free hand to set this up, and it did produce some result – although in a school environment it is difficult to be sure this was not the result of contamination. Also not as dramatic as I had hoped !

Frankenstein’s monster

Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

If you use some reasonable assumptions into the Drake Equation (there are a number of calculators on the internet where you can try out different factors, such as one provided by the BBC) you find there could be quite a lot of civilisations in our galaxy, let alone the whole universe. The great distances alluded to earlier might explain why they have not dropped in on us, but might we be able to detect their presence in the sky ?
This process of using (mostly) our radio telescopes to listen for signs of intelligent life is known as SETI, and has been undertaken since at least the 1960’s, but so far has (mostly) not found anything.
This lack of demonstrable contact with other beings, in the context of the numbers of civilisations there could be out there is known as the Fermi Paradox. The Wikipedia article gives several possible explanations, one of which being that Civilizations broadcast detectable radio signals only for a brief period of time.

Listening to the radio

When I was at school we made what was essentially a crystal radio, by dropping a long piece of wire out of the physics laboratory window (which was on the second floor), and using a diode to demodulate the signal – that is to extract the sound signal from the Amplitude Modulated  (AM) radio waves, and an earpiece to listen to Radio One.  There was no amplification, and the tuning came mostly from the length of the aerial being around a quarter of the Radio One wavelength.
I also build a Sinclair matchbox radio, which was not a lot more complicated than that crude crystal radio.

Frequency Modulated (FM) radio is more complex to decode, but can be built from general purpose components by an electronics enthusiast, and if we on earth detected FM signals from some alien source we would recognise them as containing information, even if we were unable to decode the language.
Even a television receiver, in the days before Digital Television, could be built by a hobbyist and the signal was quite recognisable .
With digital radio and digital television the signal is much more complex, and used Data Compression to carry many channels in the space which used to just carry one. The flip side of this is that all the regularities in the signal, which might give a clue to its contents, are eliminated. Unless you know where to start then decoding a digital TV signal is very hard.
In addition any signals, of any kind, which are sent out into space are – from the point of view of the broadcaster, a waste of energy.
Many of the signals are now travelling through wires, or optical fibres, rather than being broadcast, thus increasing proportions of TV are watched over the Internet rather than over the airwaves.
This drive towards communication efficiency is likely to mean that the radio (or electromagnetic) output from an advanced civilisation may not be detectable even with our sensitive instruments.

Space Probes

An alternative route to contacting other civilisations, would be to send a small robotic space ship. This would be take a long time to arrive, given the distances involved, and even at the speed of light, and there are many hazards which will deplete the number which can be expected to arrive.
This can be looked at from two directions – if we sent a number of space probes from earth, what are the chances of them returning information about an alien civilisation, and – if an alien civilisation had send a space probe to us and it arrived, what are the chances we would know it was there ?
A calculation, similar to the Drake Equation, may give us an idea of whether the answer to the lack of known probes from space is due to this being harder than it may appear.

Computer Systems Reliability

In the early days of my career at Harwell I was working on Computer system Reliability. This gave me some insights into the many and varied ways that computers can go wrong. Colleagues were investigating the effects on silicon chips of being bombarded with nuclear particles, as would be required for space hardening, as we had access to nuclear reactors.
The on board computers for any form of interstellar probe will have to function for centuries, in an environment which is much harsher than on earth, where the atmosphere shields us from cosmic rays.

Mean Time Between Failures

When we calculate the percentage of failure of our space probes due to equipment malfunction we will be using concept of Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), i.e. how long, average are they expected to operate. For example a Cisco PIX firewall has an MTBF of over 11 years. While there is some pressure to develop and market devices with an MTBF of, say 20 years, this is mostly so that the expected failure rate within, say 5 years, will be very low. Manufacturers have no interest in developing equipment which will last significantly beyond the time that it becomes obsolete. We have little real experience of items in use for over 100 years, the Centennial Light being a rare exception, and even its story provides a useful lesson in how tricky reliability can be, as in 2013 it appeared to have burnt out, but it turned out that the Uninterruptible Power Supply which powered it had failed.

Modulated Launch Laser

If the laser system used to push the probes was modulated to carry a signal, it would not reduce its efficiency greatly, but would be an additional signalling method, which would help with the Fermi Paradox issue that everyone could be listening, but nobody is sending.
(what to send – thought experiment  – show message to ant colony, dolphin, chimpanzee, octopus, primitive tribesman …)

Explorers and colonists

Another possibility for reaching the stars is to go there ourselves (or for another civilisation from another star to come here). Much as I would like there to be Faster Than Light travel of some form, as is the staple of much science fiction, I take the lack of any evidence of alien visits to be a sign that this is impossible.
That leaves the slow route. There are many proposed solutions for this, but they are all huge projects, which will require the explorers and colonists to spend many lifetimes in space, in a Generation ship, before reaching their destination. Our rate of progress into space seems to have slowed – I was very disappointed when by the year 2001 there was not an almost routine, airline like, space flight.
Unlike the expectations of science fiction we do not have colonies on the moon, miners in the asteroid belt, and although there is talk of a manned expedition to Mars, I would say that a permanent population somewhere else in the solar system was a prerequisite to an attempt to reach another star.
Many of our ideas of the colonisation of space are influenced by the colonisation of America, however, as I described in Amazing Love, Demographics and Mass migrations, one of the reasons the people of Europe were willing to go to such risk and expense to undertake such a hazardous journey was that they were being pushed by population pressure at home. The parts of the world which have the capacity for a mass migration into the Solar system, let alone the stars, have already undergone a demographic transition, and a stable, mature populations lacks the incentive to emigrate to a less comfortable life.

Micro Colonists

Brian Cox, in his book Human Universe, suggests that the reason we do not see other civilisations due to the improbability of two of the steps on the route to complex lifeforms required for intelligent life in the Drake Equation. The two steps are the evolution of oxygenic photosynthesis, which created the oxygen levels we have in our atmosphere today, and the evolution of eukaryotes (cells with nuclei and other complex cell structures).
If this is the case then the universe may be awash with planets which are stuck at the single celled life stage, and seeding them with the right organisms could bootstrap their Cambrian Explosion, and possibly leading to civilisations  to converse with.

William John Webster – Anthem for a Doomed Youth

I was in the Weston Library last week, where they had on display, as part of their exhibition of “Treasures of the Bodlian“, the original draft of Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est“.
It was another of his great war poems which came to mind when I thought about William John Webster – his “Anthem for Doomed Youth“.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.

My Great, Great Grandmother, Ada Webster, who married John Robert Box, had  a brother, Percival John Webster, born in 1865.  Percival was an Apprentice Confectioner in 1881, living at   Brockfield House in St Pancras, Pancras, London, with his parents, elder brother Arthur, elder sisters Edith, Ada and Janet, and 2 servants.
In the 1891 Census Percival is living on his own at 332, Harrow Road, Paddington, and he is a Stationer.
Around August 1894 Percival married Edith Amy Day, and they had a daughter, Kathleen Edith Webster – born about 1895 – and a son William John Webster – born about May 1897.

In the 1901 Census he is living at 7, Kestrel Avenue, Lambeth, London, England, with Edith, Kathleen E (aged 5), William J (aged 3), and a boarder and 2 servants. He is a Commercial Traveller (Stationary).

7, Kestrel Avenue

In 1904 Percival died, leaving Edith to bring up the children, who would have been 9 and 7, on her own.
By the 1911 Census Edith and Kathleen, have moved to 93, Walm Lane, Cricklewood N W, Willesden, Middlesex, England, where they live with two boarders.  William John Webster does not seem to be in the 1911 Census, but the 93, Walm Lane address is the one he uses on his sign-up papers.
(Unfortunately I can not post the sign-up papers as there is a fee of £48 to post TNA documents on a public web site)

On 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany. At the time William John Webster would have been 17,  but on the 3rd September 1914 he declares his age to be 18 years and 3 months, and signs up.
This was some time before “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, and he would have been thinking more of “Your King and Country Want You” and other popular songs of the time

Oh! we don’t want to lose you but we think you ought to go
For your King and Country both need you so;
We shall want you and miss you but with all our might and main
We shall cheer you, thank you, kiss you When you come back again.

William John Webster was one of the many who did not return. He died on 2nd March 1916, and is buried at Loos, in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.
He has a rather sparse record at the Lives of the First World War website.

Reprieved (temporarily)

It appears that reports of his death were exagerated. One of the family trees I inherited had a note saying ‘Died WW1’.  Another, however has a nickname of Jack associated with him. My sister has a Memorial Card for him, showing that he died on 30th July 1922.
The Deceased Online website shows that he was buried on 2nd August 1922.
A comparison of his Army Number 761788, from his Statement as to Disability, with the William John Websters at Lives of the First World War shows that our William John Webster was in fact this one, who ended the war as a Sergeant Instructor – an important role.  This also explains his jump in age on his Statement as to Disability. Although the only date on the form is when he joined, this was signed when he was released, to show that he was not going to claim for any injuries created during the war – which lasted 4 years, during which he aged 3 years !
I have not been able to track down what Jack Webster did between 1918 and 1922, but his death at the age of 25 is still tragically early, and I am leaving the William Owen references in honour of the 92 William John Websters who died during World War One and are commemorated at the Commonwealth War Graves site.

Amazing Love, Demographics and Mass migrations

Amazing Love

On the 18th and 19th of February 2017 I will be taking part in the world premiere of Amazing Love, a musical based on the lives of John and Charles Wesley.  The musical is written by Jack Godfrey, who also wrote “The Pharaoh’s High Magicians” for the musical Moses, (in which I took part and wrote some lyrics).
The musical will be performed at Wesley Memorial Church, in Oxford, and is part of a tradition of locally written musicals. I will be part of the ensemble, so will be a neighbour during a fire, a boozy pub goer, a sailor on a voyage to Georgia, a colonist and a Londoner.  I would like to be able to say that this shows the talent and flexibility of the ensemble, however the principals have more words and songs to learn, and still join us in chorus rehearsals to help us learn our songs. Amazing to be surrounded by such talented people !
The musical has now been performed, and Oxford Phab went to see Amazing Love on the 18th February 2017.


Although Amazing Love focusses on John and Charles Wesley, and their parents, Samuel and Susanna, the Wesleys were quite a large family. John was the fifteenth child, and Charles the eighteenth child of the family. In all they had 19 children, nine of whom died in infancy. Three boys and seven girls survived.
Susanna, who educated all of the children, taught sons and daughters alike a range of subjects including Latin and Greek, was herself the 25th of 25 children.
Although I can not trace my own family back as far as 1622, when Samuel Wesley was born, some of the earlier families were larger than is usual today.
William Braund (1766-1840) had ten children, born between 1793 and 1815, and at least six of the children married and had children.
Joseph May (1828-?) had ten children, and his son Samuel (1867-?) had seven, however his daughter, Elizabeth (1865-?) only had two children.
Abel Lines (1807-1877) had eight children, one of them being Joseph Lines, who also had eight children. Abel’s occupations had been Fur Skin Dresser, Smith, Steel Worker, Porter – reflecting the need to keep adapting to the rapid changes in employment needs of the time.
William Cansdale (1814-1891) had ten children, and was an agricultural labourer, and in 1851 a railway labourer.  One of his children, William, was a Rook Scarer, aged 9 in the 1851 Census.
Although these families were large, though not as large as the Wesleys, a little over a century earlier, there is a big difference in the Infant Mortality rate, probably caused by improved standards of hygiene, better sanitation, cleaner water and a generally healthier population. The same thing would have applied in the time of the Wesleys, leading to an expanding population, with a lower age profile than we are used to today.
At the same time improvements in agricultural efficiency  were allowing more food to be grown with fewer workers. James Harden Champion (1821-1895) was farming 165 acres of Somerset in 1861, with 7 labourers and 2 boys. In 1881 he was farming 190 acres with 4 men, 1 woman and 1 boy.

Mass migrations

In 1735 John and Charles Wesley sailed to Savannah, Georgia, at the request of James Oglethorpe, to minister to the new colony. This voyage features in Amazing Love – but with singing and dancing.
By 1790 the population of Georgia was 82, 548 – which would have been largely driven by the demographic changes in Britain. By 1980 over 1.5 million Georgians claimed English ancestry.
My family tree shows mostly internal migration, mostly from the country to living in towns. George Cansdale moved from Copford in Essex to Bethnal Green. William Braund Box (1815-1891) moved from Cornwall to Edmonton in London. It is even possible that his ancestors came from Germany to Cornwall, and may have been Büchs originally. It is interesting to note how much of the housing in London, and other British cities, was being built in this period of migration, so that Northampton Square, where William Braund Box moved to, was built in 1814, so it would have still been quite new when he moved in.
Although in Britain the movement of people from country to town has slowed, lack of opportunities and cost of housing are still causing younger people in villages to move to cities. In other parts of the world this rural to urban migration is still happening, so cities in China, for example, are expanding rapidly, even though the Chinese population growth rate is now only 0.47%
In Syria the movement off the land is exacerbated by their water crisis, which, even without a war (or possibly one of the causes of the war), is reducing the arable productivity. It is ironic that a contributing factor in the water crisis is climate change, causing a shift in rainfall patterns (widening Hadley Cell), and that there is (probably) a scientific consensus that CO2 emissions contribute to climate change – although this is disputed by Donald Trump, who wishes simultaneously to remove the brakes on CO2 emissions and to make life as hard as possible for the migrants it causes.

Postcard from Roger – 9th April 1934

My father, Roger Lines, would have been 7 when he wrote this postcard, postmarked Sutton, on the 9th April 1934 (which was a Monday).

We are just sitting on the loggia. The rooks are cawing loudly, I wish you could see them.
I think we are having the rail way out this afternoon  Tudy is just washing and we are just going to have 11’s rather late we’ve just had dinner must catch the post love from Roger.

My Grandparents seem to have both been at Cheam, but Tudy (my Grandmother’s sister) seems to have been with my father. The address is written in my Grandmother’s handwriting, so my father was probably given this card to send home some while he was away. I suspect it was written in stages, covering the highlights (elevenses and dinner) and missing out any activities in between.
Tudy was living at Chipstead in 1934, according to my aunt, and would have been married for a year by then.
Easter Sunday in 1934 was April 1st, so my father could have been staying with Tudy and Tom Keeley for the Easter Holidays, and if he failed to catch the post then the card could have ended up being posted (or collected from a postbox) in Sutton on Monday 9th.

Michael, Roger and Tim write to Anne Boleyn's Walk.

In this letter my Uncle Michael, my father, Roger and my Uncle Tim (who must have been quite young at the time, write to their mother (my Grandmother) at Anne Boleyn’s Walk. My Uncle Jeremy was with my Grandmother. They could have been writing to, or from Anne Boleyn’s Walk.

The letters are on a single sheet of paper, with Michael writing on one side, and Roger and Tim sharing the other side.

The Cottage

55, Anne Boleyn’s Walk

Cheam, Surrey

Tel: Sutton 3081

Dear Mummy,

What have you been doing ?

Did you go the the zoo like you said you might in your letter ?

You wouldn’t say the weather was too nice if you were here ! Always raining when we’re outside !

Daddy has had my bike mended and the brakes are so good that I’m sure I shall go over the handlebars by putting them on too fast “

It has been quite good at school and very easy.

Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of love for Jeremy and you

From Michael xxx


and from Roger

Dear mummy I liked the first day at school I have easy homework the only had 1 difficult word and that was active love from Roger.

From Tim

LOVE and

Auntie Frankie and the Coastguard's Cottage at Birling Gap.

Auntie Frankie was an honorary auntie, who met my Grandmother, Doris Stevens at the time, at boarding school at Port Eynon in about 1914. I have not yet been able to track down the name of the school.
She was born Frances Mildred Young, in 1898, in Highgate. Her Father was Thomas Young, born in 1861 in Londesborough, Yorkshire. He married Alice Wimbush in May 1894 in Barnet, Middlesex.
In the 1901 Census he was  living at 2, Blenheim Road, Barnet, South Mimms-Urban (OSM), with wife Alice, and daughter, Doris (born 1896), son Ernest (born 1897), Frankie, a younger son, Malcolm (born 1899) and newborn daughter Evelyn (born 1901). They also had Letita, a cook aged 27, Katherine, a housemaid aged 19, Flora, a nurse aged 23, and Gertrude, a nursmaid aged 15. They were also being visited by Clare Carruthers, aged 23 and living on her own means.

By the 1911 Census the family had moved to Rockfield House Woolacombe, Mortehoe, Devon (OSM). Frankie’s elder siblings, Doris and Ernest were no longer in the household, but as they would have been 15 and 14 they could have be away at boarding school. Frankie was now 13, and presumably about to be sent off to school too.  Malcolm, who would have been 12, was also not there, and Frankie had two new younger sisters, Winifred and Mary, born in 1904 and 1907, both in Woolacombe. They were reduced to three servants, Maud, a nurse aged 29, Lizzie, a cook aged 32 and Louisa, a cook aged 36.

Frankies father was very religious. Granny and Frankie used to giggle at the sight of the housemaids, during morning prayers, kneeling down with their bottoms in the air.  Granny and Frankie may have known each other before going to the boarding school, possibly through the Freemans, and Granny may have gone there because Frankie was going.

Essex Convalescent Home, Clacton-on-Sea

My father, Roger, and uncle Michael stayed with her at Clacton-on-Sea when they were young, and they wrote this letter home.

Essex Convalescent Home


Dear Mummy and Daddy,

We are having a lovely time here. I hope everyone at home is quite well. Yesterday we went out with Nurse and enjoyed it very much. We played about and afterwards had tea out in little café.

To-day we had breakfast in bed, and when we had finished Auntie Frankie asked us if we would like to go on a charabanc trip, with people mostly from the home.

Of course we replied that we should, and were soon on our way. The driver was very funny, and made a lot of jokes, in one of which he pointed out a letter-box which he said was cleared every Good Friday.

After a while we came to Weeley woods.

Weeley is a little village quite in the country. There were a lot of primroses there, so the driver let us out to pick some. (That is how we got these.) While we were picking them, a grass snake glided by a few feet away.  Then we went through some very pretty country, until we stopped at an inn, where we ate our refreshments that Frankie had given us, and a kind lady gave us some lemonade. We then went back to Clacton (on-Sea) an that’s where we are now.

A few days ago Frankie took us on a pony a little one called Susan, who is very good-tempered. It was jolly good fun.

With love from

Michael and Roger.

From the primroses this was presumably spring, and may be related to the time, when they were about 7 or 8 when Michael and Roger had (possibly Scarlett Fever) and went to Champneys to convalesce. They could have gone on from there to Clacton-on-Sea, or they could have been staying there for a Easter holiday.  Speaking to my Aunt, she thinks it was probably an Easter Holiday.
The address on the page with the picture of a head (probably written by my Grandmother) is “Josephine Avenue, Lower Kingwood” (OSM), which is the road where Ann Minnion and her family used to live. Ann later married my Uncle Tim, but there there was no connection between the families at the time, and I do not know who Mrs Yarley was. It is a small world !
Essex Convalescent Home was build in 1884, on what would become Coppins Road, to the design of the architect Fred Chancellor . Essex Record Office has 10,000 plans from his office, which they are in the process of cleaning up. Some of his other buildings can be found at Archiseek. It was a Hospital during WW1 (this link to the GreatWarHomeHospitals site has a huge amount of information about that period)
There is a good history of the building at Archseek, which says that

Accommodation had increased to 30 beds for each sex by 1937. Annual patient numbers rose steadily in the earlier 20th century, from 475 in 1907 to 569 in 1913, reaching a peak of 884 in 1938. There were 365 patients in 1955.

This would presumably be the period when Frankie was running the home.

Essex Convalescent Home, Clacton on Sea, Essex, c.1930's - click here to see the image
Essex Convalescent Home, Clacton on Sea, Essex, c.1930’s

This is a picture of the home in the 1930’s at http://www.history-in-pictures.co.uk/store/index.php?_a=viewProd&productId=5227.
Essex - Clacton On Sea, Essex Convalescent Home
Essex – Clacton On Sea, Essex Convalescent Home

Clacton-on-Sea, Essex Convalescent Home
Clacton-on-Sea, Essex Convalescent Home


In 1937 my Auntie Jennifer went with –  at least – my father, Roger and uncle Tim (and I assume Michael and Jeremy, – not sure about my Grandparents) on holiday with Auntie Frankie to Happisburgh in Norfolk. Like Birling Gap, this is an area subject to coastal erosion, despite various attempts at sea defences.
There is a cine film of my father, Roger at the top of a wooden pole, like a look-out point  with toothed steps. Various siblings, but not uncle Tim, are lower down. It was quite high and probably long since barred on health and safety grounds.
There was a lovely pool at high tide under the cliffs where Auntie Jennifer leant to swim.

Godstone, Surrey

From my Mothers address book Frankie lived at (OSM)

Miss F Young  (Mrs F Snell)
Church Lane

Godstone is quite close to Warlingham, and so this could be the place where Auntie Frankie ran a Nursing Home. She took in Hungarian refugees after the 1956 revolt was quashed.
She was probably living there when, in 1962, she attended the funeral of John Keeley (the son of my Aunt Tudy, sister of her school-friend – my Grandmother). She told Claire, who is now my aunt, that life in digs was not good for my Uncle Jeremy (who was off work, sick, at the time). Some time after they they did indeed get married.

The Coastguard Cottage at Birling Gap

Coastguard Cottages at Birling Gap
Coastguard Cottages at Birling Gap

She owned one of the Coastguard Cottages at Birling Gap, No. 3 or 4, which was very comfortably furnished, and generously lent out to various friends, including my Uncle Tim. and Michael and Fanny, who stayed in it for Easter 1956, and came back for my parent’s wedding.
The National Trust bought cottages 5,6 & 7 in 1982. The others are privately owned. The cottages are well know as examples of the effects of coastal erosion.
No. 3 has now gone, but No. 4 is still there (just) in 2016.
Auntie Jennifer remembers staying there in September with Jean Brinley (who went to college with Jennifer and my Mother), and the cliffs being full of mushrooms.
I was at the cottage at Birling Gap with by brother, Chris, and my Aunts Jennifer and Fanny, and my mother and possibly others, in June 1959.
John Lines on the beach at Birling Gap

Chris on the beach at Birling Gap with Jane (our mother)

Aunt Fanny holding Chris outside the Coastguard Cottage at Birling Gap

Later notable occupants of the coastguard cottages

Number 3 was occupied in 1994 by Joyce Betts, the widow of Jimmy Betts, the brother of Barbara Castle. Her mother-in-law, Annie Betts, known as Muvey, so several other cottages were occupied, for holidays, by people with Labour Party connections.
In 1994 number 4 was owned by Jean Fawbert. She still owned and occupied it in 2000, having inherited it in 1990 from her mother, who knew Muvey’s family and friends in Pontefract. Her mother bought it in 1970, so could have bought it from Frankie,who would have been 72 – if this one was Frankies cottage. Jean was the last of the owner occupiers – the other 2 privately owned are by 2000, rented
In 1994 number 5 was owned by Lord Howie of Troon, another Labour Peer.

Retirement and Marriage

My sisters went to visit her in  a Nursing Home near Lyme Regis (where the French Lieutenant’s Woman was filmed). There are two nursing homes in Axminster – a couple of miles from Lyme Regis, in my mother’s address book.

Tudor Cottage
South Street


Silver Street

She married Jack (John W) Snell when she was in one of these Nursing Homes, in the 4th quarter of 1980. Apparently they got together over games of chess.  Jeremy and Claire visited her a few times in Axminster when returning from holidays with Peggy Lines in Instow. They remember her infectious laugh and when she told them that once married to Jack they would have a sitting room and a bedroom in the home. Jack had beautiful hands.
Frankie was in Honiton Hospital, Honiton, Devon, when she died on19th March 1985. Probate Bristol 29 April  – left £56,770

George Lines – new digs in Switzerland

I have an incomplete letter written by my Grandfather, George Lines, probably in late 1913 or early 1914, as he is just about to start work, presumably at the Schweizerische Lokomotiv- und Maschinenfabrik. The house is probably near Winterthur.
Chronologically it must come before the letter from Bellagio, and after the letter from Cologne.
The piece I have appears to start at page 5, but none of the other pages are numbered. They are written on both sides of a single A4 sheet of paper, folded in half.


he consulted his Frau, as to the possibility of taking me into their place, and so offered to take me if the place would suit me so I straightway went & inspected the rooms & being favourably impressed decided to take them. I have a bedroom, rather small, but I shall do my exercises in the corridor (its not as large as Mouse’s bedroom) and for meals & etc I use their rooms.

They have no family, but have a piano which doesn’t appear to be used much so I must ?sub up any 5 finger exercise. It is very pleasantly (not the piano, – the house) situated in the middle of

continued on the next page…

a garden with fruit trees & plants all round, so it does not jar on my aesthetic sense. In fact all the houses here are sweetly pretty & the surrounding country is also very beautiful, natürlich.
Have been for some walks with Herr Rhienhold in the neighbouring forests, and today through a vineyard & stole some grapes – but were rather sour. He speaks fair English, but his Frau does not so you can imagine our conversations are rather comic. However I try and speak always German.
You would scream to see the sort of stuff Chief the vegetarian is putting down

The Swiss grape season is about October, so this could be September 1913, i.e. too early for the grapes to be ripe, or they could be after the grape season, when only the grapes which did not ripen were left.
It is interesting to see Grandpa being a vegetarian at this stage, as he ate turkey at Christmas dinner with most of the rest of the family – apart from my Uncle Michael and his wife, who were vegetarians back when this was unusual. I remember he was also fond of mustard on his roast beef, and my parents had bought him a large jar of it the year that he announced that he was a vegetarian. He would tell us “If you want to be fit and active in your 90’s – become a vegetarian”. My grandmother would point out that the secret was to be fit and active into your late 80’s, and then become a vegetarian !
I think there is a jump here

am sure I shall be sick at meals soon, as they will press you to eat some more when you are quite full.
I think you would love the country round here.
Tomorrow, Wednesday I start work & expect it will be rather comic at first. I think we start work in the winter at 8.0 am – 12.  12 – 2 Dinner  2 – 6.15 work then come home & have a meal abt. 7 o’c & then read, walk or autre chose.
Here they speak a German Dialect which is rather difficult to understand.

The reference to winter suggests that this is late 1913, or early 1914.
Here is the last page

I think I shall be pretty comfortable here. Herr and Frau Rhienhold are quite unconventional, and it is rather decent having someone to talk to at meal times.
They have a proper bath, but it is situated in the kitchen so one must arrange matters accordingly.
I will write again when I have got into harness if I haven’t forgotten all my English by then !
Bite a little piece out of Pudding’s neck & send it to me and tell Pete I’ll write him a letter in German soon as he seemed very interested in that mysterious language, at Stope.

Love to all


Once again we have a reference to Stope, also mentioned in his letter from Bellagio, and his letter about Spring Cleaning and Mountain Climbing.