A Grocer and His Servant

Alfred Burley TOWSE was born on 12 September 1866. I planned to mark his 152nd birthday last Wednesday with a short post but his family proved to be rather demanding. I have done a few hours work on them each day and have a way to go before I have his birth family all present and correct on FamilySearch Tree.

Alfred didn’t cause any problems, for me at least. He married Annie Maud JENNINGS in Grimsby when he was 25 but their three children were born in Filey. He described himself at the 1891 census as a Grocer’s Assistant, presumably working for his father. Samuel Towse was a Grocer and Sub Post Master in Filey.

In 1893 he got on the wrong side of Constable HARRISON.


In today’s money, 21 shillings is about £95.

Eight years later he was a Grocer’s Manager living at 11 Union Street. Samuel was clearly still “the boss”, and would remain so until shortly before his death in 1916.

Before the next census, Alfred had moved south, crossed the River Humber and changed trades. In Scunthorpe in 1911, he is described as a Tobacconist Manager.  With him at 74 High Street were Annie Maud and two of their children, Eric Alfred (17) and Ethel Mary (16). Annie Maud was a Lincolnshire lass and that may be the only reason for the family’s move.

During the next 28 years, Alfred changed his occupation again. In the 1939 Register, at 63 East Street, Grimsby, he is listed as a retired House Agent.

Alfred and Annie made what seems to be a sensible decision, forsaking the fishing port for  Louth, some miles inland. Alfred died there at the beginning of 1954 aged 87 and Annie followed him into the good night a year later.

You can find them on FamilySearch Tree.

Turning the clock back to 1901 finds the couple in their mid-thirties and their children aged 6, 7, and 8. They have a live-in servant, a young widow, Mary Jane HANSON, 32.

I expected to find that Mary Jane’s husband had been a fisherman, but no, he worked as a joiner, not a particularly dangerous trade.

There are only twenty Hansons in Filey Genealogy & Connections and of those, I only had death information for eleven of them. Two boys and a girl didn’t reach their first birthday and only one of each sex passed three score and ten. It is a small sample so nothing can really be read into the average lifespan of those born a Hanson: men 35 years and women 34. I recalled adult, gossipy conversations throughout my childhood during which my mother would say, “Oh, they’re not long-livers.”

Widow Hanson didn’t marry again and died aged 81 in January 1950. There are a lot of Filey Cowlings and calculating their average span will have to wait.


In loving memory of FRANCIS E. HANSON, the beloved husband of MARY JANE HANSON (of Filey), who died July 29th 1894, aged 31 years.

‘His end was peace’

Also of the above MARY JANE HANSON, who died Jan 31st 1950, aged 81 years.


Find Mary Jane on FamilySearch Tree. Her pedigree is more extensive on Filey Genealogy & Connections.

FV ‘Chilian’

The Grimsby registered steam trawler Chilian ran onto the rocks of Filey Brigg about three o’clock in the morning of Sunday, 8th April 1894. She was a new vessel, having made her first fishing trip a couple of months earlier. The Investigation into the accident towards the end of April found the skipper, Joseph William LITTLE, culpable and withdrew his captain’s license. Such had been his previous conduct, this was only for 9 months, and he was allowed to continue working as a Second hand. A number of people, the surviving Chilian crew, Filey coastguards, and fishermen, gave evidence that the Bell Buoy wasn’t working as it should at the time of the accident. Joseph was adamant that his vessel would not have run aground had the bell been heard. Chilian ­had been traveling at full speed until about 1 am when fog closed in and “Dead Slow” was telegraphed to the engine room.

There was, however, a strong sea and the vessel hit the Brigg with great force and “full astern” couldn’t drag her off. Chilian began to break up almost immediately and the skipper ordered his crew to climb the rigging, Some thought they could launch the small boat but the vessel slipped off the rocks while they were doing so, causing them to be thrown into the sea. Five men drowned and one was crushed by a falling spar. The captain found himself in the water at one point but managed to get back onboard and climb the funnel. He and the four crewmen atop the rigging held on for about five hours until rescued by Hercules, another Grimsby trawler that had been keeping company with Chilian on the way home. A local coble brought Joseph Little to Filey to face the music, while the other rescued were taken by Hercules to their home port.

The body of one of the drowned was picked up during the morning of the 9th and taken to Scarborough, where an inquest on the body of Thomas WEEDON was held in the evening.

The Shields Daily News, 10 April, named the deceased:-

First Engineer B. LEEMAN, 32, of 36 Guildford Street, Grimsby, married, three children.

Fourth hand T. F. WEEDON, 25,  of 32 Guildford Street, married, a native of Hertford.

BARKER, 23, single, 22 Phelps Street, a native of Scarborough.

Steward W. CLARK, 23, who lodged at 108 Park Street, a native of Retford.

Trimmer C. TRIPLER, 31, single, 22 Orwell Street, a native of Copenhagen.

Trimmer T. E. LOFTUS, 19, single, Queen Street, a native of Grimsby.

And the saved:-

Captain J. LITTLE, 108 Park Street.

Second hand T. BARKER, 22 Phelps Street.

Third hand W. WEEKS, 87 Victor Street, a native of Bristol.

J. JONES, 29 Stanley Street.

George LEEMAN, 36 Guildford Street.


This painting by an unknown artist is in Filey Museum and doesn’t seem to fit the published narrative of the wrecking too well. The waves covered the vessel almost to the top of the funnel during that terrible night, according to Joseph Little’s testimony.

There is information about Chilian at Wreck Site and you can download a PDF of the formal Investigation here. (Search ‘Chilian’; click PDF number 16400.)

Today’s Image – The possibly culpable Bell Buoy is the faintest of grey specks beyond the end of Filey Brigg (near high tide). If the wind and sea are right you can sometimes hear it tolling from the promenade.

Syria won’t go away. I felt a little uncomfortable a few days ago saying that the BBC seemed to prefer bringing on “useful idiots” to analyze events. I’m somewhat comforted that BoJo the Clown has since used this term as a descriptor for Jeremy Corbyn, (who has come out of the wretched Skripal Affair with at least some credit). I switched on the radio this morning and heard the last few minutes of the Thoughts of Bob Seeley, MP for the Isle of Wight. You can listen to his Five Live wisdom on Twitter. Judge for yourself, but I thought this was idiotic:-

What you can do is recognize that the Syrian regime is criminal, you can recognize that what the Russians are doing is significant war crimes, both there and they’ve done the same in Eastern Ukraine as well. And you can record this for posterity. I know that doesn’t sound much but recording the truth is important and then you can try bringing people to justice, even if they’re not there, even if they never serve a term, you can find people guilty for action and record it.

Yes, sir. Blair, Clintons, Obama, Bush Senior, Bush Junior, Netanyahu… The New Axis of Evil delivers an endless list of the guilty-as-charged and thus-far-unpunished. TheresaMay has just pronounced that Russia should be held accountable for the brutality of the Assad regime. Perhaps she has forgotten. We (the British) didn’t “rule the world” by being nice. In our post-imperial phase, who should be held responsible for bombing Libya into failed-state misery? Shall we, the guilty UK,  just blame the French?

Selective amnesia, willful blindness, hypocrisy and dual standards rule the state-supported airwaves almost everywhere.

AB George Lewis

The headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard that remembers George LEWIS ( 1846 – 1918) and his wife Mary Jane née COWLING also asks us to think of…

…their beloved grandson, drowned in Falmouth Harbour while serving his King and Country, March 10 1918, aged 20 years.


Another seaman, Deckhand William CUTHBERTSON, drowned with young George but I have been unable to determine exactly how they died. The Lewis family headstone gives the wrong year for whatever accident befell them. The war was over; it was 1919.

One report says they were found floating in Falmouth Harbour, having fallen from their ship, HMT Emmanuel Camelaire, or perhaps from the dockside.

Emmanuel Camelaire
Photographer unknown, no date, Imperial War Museum

George was a “Trimmer Cook” – two clearly separate jobs. The first required him to get his hands dirty in the boiler room, and the second to keep them reasonably clean in the galley. I don’t know how long he had served in the Royal Naval Reserve but Lives of the First World War gives his birth date as 14 October 1896. His birth was registered in Scarborough, December Quarter 1898, so perhaps he was too young to join the service and lied about his age. He was fifteen when the war began.

He left a widow at their home in Grimsby, Christiana, four months pregnant with their first child. Annie LEWIS was born on the 9th of August and I photographed her stone in the churchyard this morning.


The LEWIS family is a work in progress on FST.