Penny Farthing Thoughts

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George Toyn COLLEY is a first cousin once removed to Anne Elizabeth GRAINGER (Wednesday’s post), and the only one of George Colley and Sarah TOYN’s children to live longer than five weeks.

The photograph, kindly supplied by Alan Hardcastle, (George Toyn’s great-grandson), is undated but was probably taken in Wandsworth or Lambeth in the mid to late 1880s. Reaching the age of 21 in 1883, George had received a bequest from his father and used the money to start a bicycle business in London. High wheelers were all the rage in that decade but, as you can easily imagine, were somewhat dangerous to ride in competitive races. The introduction of “safety bicycles” in the 90s saw the penny-farthing go out of fashion.

George apprenticed in Beverley as a bricklayer. The 1881 census caught him there aged 19, living with cousin Robert PAPE. Ten years later he is a married man in Wandsworth with two infant children – and working as a bricklayer. His bicycle business had failed.

Considering his reasons for leaving a steady trade to speculate in a new-fangled and fast-moving business (sorry, couldn’t resist), I thought of Filey’s World Champion racing cyclist, Herbert Liddell CORTIS. He was “at his zenith” in the years 1878 to 1880, riding in 128 races, winning over half, and amassing trophies valued at £1500 (about £140,000 today). On the 2nd of August 1882, aged 25, he had his last race, breaking several distance records on the way to becoming the first man to ride twenty miles in an hour.

Did Herbert’s renown encourage the Filey born bricklayer to sell bicycles? For a short time, the Colley and Cortis families had been near neighbours in Filey, the one at Cliff Terrace and later 6 North Street, the other on the corner of North and John Streets. George was only three when his father died, and four when he was orphaned. Soon after, the Papes in Beverley took him in as one of their own. Herbert was five years older and the two may never have met but news of the champ would surely have reached George by the early 80s, and perhaps influenced his move to London and the career change.

George reached his majority on 17 August 1883. Two weeks earlier, and the day after his Final Race, Herbert had married Mary BRUCE. Four days after George’s 21st, Herbert and Mary set sail for Australia on the Carlisle Castle. Herbert died just over three years later in Carcoar, New South Wales.

George Toyn married on 26 December 1885 and had four children with Charlotte WARLEY. The “Spanish ‘flu” took Charlotte in 1918 and George died in Croydon in July 1940.

You can find George and Herbert on the Shared Tree. Herbert has a blue plaque on the Evron Centre wall in Filey.

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The Last Words of Bridget Driscoll

Bridget was the first woman to be killed by a motor car in England, on this day 1896. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of accidental death but one of the vehicle’s passengers and several witnesses presented evidence at the inquest that damned the driver more than faintly. A few months short of his twentieth birthday, and with only a few hours driving experience, Arthur James had a name that would raise its ugly head in the motoring world sixty years or so later – EDSELL.

The BBC, well-known these days for its patchy and biased reporting of current affairs, is mostly beyond reproach when it deals with old news.

BridgetDRISCOLL2This family photograph of Bridget and Michael DRISCOLL and their children is in the public domain (via Wikimedia Commons). If it has been correctly attributed it must have been taken before 1891 when daughter Mary was 14, John 12 and James 9 (census source).

Mary was called “May” in newspaper reports of the Inquest. She testified that the car was proceeding on a zigzag course, that there were few people about, and there was plenty of room for the vehicle to have passed without hitting her mother. Two other cars had gone by a few moments before the tragic collision and Bridget had said, “What queer things they are.” A doctor said that Bridget had died instantly from a blow that sliced open her skull, exposing the brain.

I have not had time to do a thorough investigation on FamilySearch but I don’t think any of the dramatis personae of this sad tale are represented on the World Tree.

In 1901 the census found John Driscoll in Stanley Road, Croydon, with wife Albina nee O’LEARY and their newborn child, Mary. Also in the household were widower Michael, 56, and his other son, James, aged 19 and working as an Engineer’s Clerk.

Fox Hunt

Dr. George Sheeran (Bradford University) appealed to the readers of the Dorset Echo last November for information about the FOX-HAWES sisters who had been the main beneficiaries of Elinor Clarke’s will in 1905. I’m sure he hoped that a photograph of Elinor might be flushed from cover. I doubt anyone in Filey today knows what the wealthiest resident at the turn of the last but one century looked like.

I’d hardly begun my online search when I picked up the scent – and received a major surprise. Not that her sister Eliza had borne six children but that she had married William Fox HAWES at St Oswald’s Filey – and the Reverend William ALDERSON had officiated.

(All of William and Eliza’s children were given Fox as a middle name but most of the official records I found today gave their last name as HAWES – so I have decided not to add the hyphen.)

Circumstantial evidence suggests that William was introduced to Eliza by her brother Robert Dennison CLARKE. Robert was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 1865. William had been called by Lincoln’s Inn three years earlier. They both took their first degrees at Cambridge and William stayed on to take an M.A., which he received in October 1866. One of his ways of celebrating was to go up to Filey a short time later and, on the 1st of November, marry Eliza.

Eliza gave birth to four sons – William, Robert, Edward and John. Caroline was first born and Elinor fourth to arrive. Eliza died in 1878 aged 39  when John was just a year old. William Senior married Margaret Annie SIMPSON in 1884. She was in her mid- twenties but there are no signs in the Census or GRO of her having any children. Twenty years William’s junior she outlived him by 26; she died aged 78 in 1936 and William in 1910 at 72.

What of the fortunate nieces? Caroline, who does have a the FOX-HAWES name in her marriage registration, was wife to Raoul Hyppolite C. ROBICHON for only nine years. He died aged 43 in Croydon in 1908. I looked for children but didn’t find any. (The information that I was given some years ago that the couple had married in 1865 isn’t correct.) Elinor died a FOX-HAWES aged 82 in 1956 in Bournemouth (Poole Registration District).

The Terence Edward mentioned in the Dorset Echo is a plain HAWES in his birth registration, mother’s maiden surname DRISCOLL.

I wonder if Northcliffe family photographs of Elinor, Eliza and Robert Dennison Junior. The fourth Clarke child, Mary Anne, did not survive infancy. There is a Chorlton death registration for a 3-year-old in March 1844 which fits reasonably well with a June Quarter birth in 1841 in the same place. The wee mite didn’t make it to Strawberry Cottage in 1851.

 

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The Elinor Clarke memorial window in St Oswald’s, Filey; photo courtesy Ray Kilsby

Update 19 August

Elinor’s window, all of it, snapped this morning.

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