WANDERING BACK TO WOLVERHAMPTON
– or the Churm ghosts of Christmas past-
The cradle of the Industrial Revolution was in Shropshire, England, as it was for the baby boy, born and baptised RICHARD CHURM in October 1753 in a little hamlet called Childs Ercall. Another baby boy called JOHN BROTHWOOD was also born near The Wrekin at Wrockwardine. Both lads were to grow up and father a long line of COAL MINERS and be great great great great great grandfathers to Roy and Julie(who would meet and marry up in Australia 200 years later, not fully realising how much they had in common!).
RICHARD CHURM and his wife ANN NOCK crossed the border into Staffordshire, so that their son THOMAS CHURM was born in 1789 where he would work, marry and be buried, along with his wife ANN BAKER to the ripe old age of 82years. It must have been the rural setting; Bushbury and Essington townships two miles North of Wolverhampton was a district of "scattered houses, partly occupied by colliers" but by 1851 the coal mines were exhausted.
Going to where the next working coal mine is may not have been far to us, but in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a family was wealthy if they had a horse and cart. Their son, SAMUEL CHURM, Roy’s , great grandfather was born in 1817 closer in to the Cannock seam, at Cheslyn Hay. MARY ANN POOLE was born in the next suburb of Willenhall in 1818 and they met and married on 31 March 1841.
The children they produced were JAMES(1842), WILLIAM(1843), SAMUEL(1845), PHOEBE(1846), EMMA(1848), JOSEPH(1850), SARAH ANN(1852) and LUCY(1856). It is with the birth of JOSEPH CHURM we are to follow, as this man marries another Wolverhampton worker called BETSY COOPER and in 1873 she gives birth to Roy’s grandad, JAMES at Bilston, Wolverhampton.
My mother-in-law Nancy and her sister Joyce who emigrated to Melbourne, Australia in 1964 from Leeds, Yorkshire, didn’t know much of their father’s background or family, although when I first visited Roys folks house in Highett and Nancy asked where I was originally from she gasped: Birmingham, she said, was where she thought the fairies were from, as they were the stories her dad would tell when she was a little girl!
Most likely those tales from the West Midlands were passed on to JAMES from his father JOSEPH, and mother BETSY who decided to leave Wolverhampton in 1875 to a Yorkshire coal mine when James was two years old.
The parents were in their mid-twenties. With two sons, Joseph and James and according to the 1881 Census, Betsy’s mother, ELIZABETH COOPER 66years old and a widow, travels with them. Although the coming of the railways and passenger train services could be found at Wolverhampton by 1837, for many working or unemployed folk walking, horse and cart would have been likely. However long the journney, they find accommodation at 47 Terry’s Row, Castleford, Whitwood, nr Pontefract, Yorkshire.
Ten years later at the next Census of 1891, the mother-in-law must have passed on, but the family has grown and moved up to more suitable premises at 56 Terry’s Lane…..JOSEPH AND BETSY CHURM have turned 40years. They have seven sons and four daughters: Joseph age 20, JAMES 18, William, 16, and Samuel 14. They are working with their father at the coal mine, the younger ones as drivers of the coal carts to the coal hewers; "Coal miners Pony Driver Underground".
The younger ones are getting some school work in, AMELIA age 13, ELIZABETH 11yrs, THOMAS 9, and the twins, DAVID & ISAAC are six. MARY ANN who is 3 years and MINNIE who is 1 stay with Mum!
As they lived in four rooms there would have had to be a lot of negotiation, compromise and planning…..and electricity a distant dream. To accommodate the changes in the family, by 1901 they have moved to 12 back of Lumley St.
JAMES CHURM is 29years and still living at home. His younger brother William has married and moved next door with his wife HELEN ELIZABETH and their daughter LUCY who is three and new baby WILLIAM MARTIN CHURM.
Bringing the coal up from underground fed our families and the Industrial Revolution for 200 years. For JAMES, an enforced job change would come when the son of the mine-owner took charge and looking round for men to sack, saw fortysomething JAMES with a bald head and said he was obviously too old to go down pit anymore. Maybe the Union wasn’t too strong there, but either way it made the ex-coalminer go to the big smoke of LEEDS, marry SARAH ELIZABETH ROBSON and bear him three hard-working lassies, BESSIE, NANCY & JOYCE CHURM.
He was unemployed for a long time says Auntie Joyce, but by the start of WW11 he had found a job as a Nightwatchman, and was present at his daughter Nancy’s wedding to Archibald McNeill in 1943, but not to Joyces in 1948.
"Our dad was deaf in one ear and so didn’t hear the truck backing out of the driveway he was crossing", said Roys mum(1923-2004).
Though my husband didn’t know his Grandad Churm there is a pride in knowing you come from a Coal Miners family, and now I have learned that the nice working-class lad who I married 22 years ago had a branch of Churms who were down pit at the same time as a branch of Brothwoods from my Grandmothers side… digging, and wandering around Wolverhampton, and likely having a jar or two in a local inn together!
Julie McNeill(nee Higgins)
Christmas Eve 2006
Summary to date
JAMES CHURM, born Bilston, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire 1873. Died Leeds, Yorkshire c.1944 Occupation: Coal Miner/Nightwatchman – married to Sarah Elizabeth Robson born June 1884 Yorkshire.
JOSEPH CHURM, born Bilston, Wolverhampton, Staff. 1850. Died Castleford, Whitwood, Yorkshire Occupation: Coal Miner – married to Bestsy Cooper born 1851 Willenhall, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire
SAMUEL CHURM, born Cheslyn Hay, Cannock, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire 1817. Died 1855 Willenhall, Staff. Occupation: Coal Miner – married to Mary Ann Poole born 1818 Willenhall, Wolverhampton, Staff.
THOMAS CHURM, born 1789 Essington, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire. Died 1871 Bushbury, Wolverhampton, Staff. Occupation: Labourer – married to Ann Baker born 1787 Highworks, Berkshire.
RICHARD CHURM born 1753 Childs Ercall, Shropshire. Died 1836 Essingtonwood, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire – Occupation – Labourer – married to Ann Nock.