What Killed the Sellers Boys?

Life has always been a lottery. That isn’t going to change but the odds of surviving to a good age have improved somewhat since unwise apes began to shuffle around on two feet.

At the beginning of the 19th century in Britain, one child in three died before their fifth birthday. It took around 70 years for this figure to improve to one in four, and, about another 80 years before 19 out of 20 children could party, aged five.

The mortality story is well-told online, offering tables and graphs that can be downloaded.

One of the Office of National Statistics interactive graphs shows the “survivability” of individuals at all ages from 0 to 110, from 1850 to 2010. This enables the deaths of the Sellers Boys to be put into a context of sorts.

Robert SELLERS and Sarah WILSON had eight children between 1851 and 1870, five girls and three boys. I haven’t yet discovered when Robert, the youngest boy, died. A headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard remembers the other two brothers.

George, 15, and William, 17, both died in 1872, fifteen days apart. When the census was taken the previous year, William was at home with the family, working as a Shop Boy. George was “living-in” not far away in Scarborough Road, a servant to farmer John RICHARDSON.

The survivability graph mentioned above has precise figures at 25-year intervals but, roughly, William and George had 67 chances in a hundred of reaching their next birthday in 1873. Reasonable odds, but they were two of the 33 in a hundred who didn’t make it.

If we had the certificates, we would know what the attending Filey doctor thought was the death of them. (Charles Waters SCRIVENER was the town’s medical officer, but two other doctors were resident in Filey in 1871, and presumably in practice – Brooke CROMPTON and Richard ALDERSON.) Without the certificates, we can only surmise.

That the boys died within a couple of weeks of each other suggests an infectious disease could be the culprit, most likely consumption, aka tuberculosis or TB. This bacterial infection was so common it would not have raised the eyebrows of a newspaper editor. An outbreak of cholera, typhus, scarlet fever or smallpox in the town would surely have been reported.

It is possible, of course, that the timing of the brother’s deaths was coincidental, and each was taken by a different cause. A wonderful online resource gives the causes of death of most people buried in Leeds General Cemetery. I browsed the first couple of hundred records, noting the causes of death of males aged 15 to 17. (I didn’t note the calendar years in which the deaths occurred.)

The modal cause of death was, not surprisingly, consumption with 14 instances. Bronchitis was a distant second with four; accident and fever with 3. (Had the Sellers boys died on the same day I would immediately have thought “accident” – drowning whilst fishing – if I hadn’t already known their occupations.)

There were two instances each of these causes – typhus, general decline, abscess, and inflammation of lungs.

Single instances – asthma, inflammation, temporary insanity, affection of brain, erysipelas, pleurisy, congestion of lungs, congestion of brain, scarlet fever, hernia, hip disease, inflammation of bladder, liver complaint, heart disease, general debility, tumour, diarrhoea and rupture of blood vessel.

It is interesting to note that heart disease is now the leading cause of death for English males; dementia and Alzheimer’s disease for females. These causes swap to take second place for each sex. (Figures don’t seem to be available for the myriad other sexes of choice available now.)

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In loving memory of SARAH, the beloved wife of ROBERT SELLERS, who died July 23rd, 1908, aged 84 years.

Thy will be done

Also, the above ROBERT SELLERS, who died Jan 3rd, 1909, aged 83 years.

Peace perfect peace

Also, two sons of the above; GEORGE who died June 6th, 1872, aged 15 years, and WILLIAM who died June 21st, 1872, aged 17 years.

Gone but not forgotten

This is currently a two-generation family on FamilySearch and extending it seems to be a daunting task

A Family Resemblance?

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Even though their placement is out of step with St Oswald’s east windows, I have always liked these stones. Fondness at first sight.

Foster, Harland and Spink don’t shout “kinship” but surely all those who lie beneath are related somehow. Three people are named on each stone and they are not all connected yet on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. I’ll attempt to link them up tomorrow. (If you are British, or more particularly Northern Irish, you may immediately associate Harland with Wolff. Start here…)

Newbiggin

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This telephoto view down the slope of Madge Hill takes in most of the hamlet of Newbiggin.

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Ordnance Survey, 1929. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.

Glaves Foster was caught here by the census enumerator in 1851 and 1871, probably occupying the house with two whitewashed gables and four chimneys. In 1861 he was at the Little Britain farm on census night but perhaps not resident there. In 1881, Newbiggin was being run by Glaves’ widow, Mary, assisted by two of her “middle” sons, Thomas Francis and Charles. Both men married in 1886, two years before their mother’s death and it would appear that Newbiggin was bequeathed to Henry, the youngest son. In 1891 Thomas was farming at Sewerby and Charles at Harton, near York.

As mentioned in an earlier post, Henry was living at 1, The Crescent in Filey in 1901 and 1911. Perhaps the farmhouse at Newbiggin was occupied by a hind. Though giving his occupation as “farmer” at these censuses, Henry was playing a significant part in public life. This morning I went to St Oswald’s to photograph his memorial tablet in the church. It took some finding, being hidden by a banner indicating the south transept is a place for quiet prayer.

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The eldest of the FOSTER brothers, William Stilborn, was 20 years old in 1871 and with his parents (and brothers) at Newbiggin. He married Mary Ann RALEY in 1875 and in 1881 he was farming Muston Grange. He died a few months before his mother in 1888, so the question of his inheriting Newbiggin didn’t arise. He has an impressive stone in St Oswald’s churchyard but it is currently on its back. The inscription on the polished red granite is difficult to decipher in the best of lights.

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In loving memory of WILLIAM S. FOSTER of Muston Grange, who died June 27 1888, aged 37years.

‘Not my will but Thine be done’

Also ANNIE, the beloved daughter of the above, who died at Beacon House, Flamboro’, August 8th 1904, aged 26 years.

‘Peace perfect peace’

Also of MARY ANN, widow of the above, who died Sept 14th 1930, aged 81 years.

‘The Lord is my shepherd’

I will add to William’s details on the FamilySearch Tree over the next few days.

Little Britain

Last Wednesday I wrote about Glaves FOSTER and mentioned he was farming 225 acres at Little Britain, Gristhorpe, in 1861. His father, aged 79, was enumerated at the same address that year, managing 95 acres with the help of his wife Ellis, youngest son Francis Robert, a male farm servant, a dairymaid and an errand boy.

In 1929 a farm at Little Britain could be found on the Ordnance Survey 6 inch map.

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Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland: Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) licence.

A large chunk of the farm was taken after this date and the unlovely Dale Electric factory built upon it. The factory closed a few years ago and has now been demolished. The Google Earth satellite view shows some buildings still standing. A more recent pass by a Bing satellite shows the scar of the cleared site, now awaiting the building of about forty houses.

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Francis and Ellis are buried at St Oswald’s. Their headstone has been moved from the gravesite to the north wall of the churchyard.

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Filey Genealogy & Connections reveals that four of their five children married and lists 18 grandchildren. Most of this information has yet to find its way onto the FamilySearch Shared Tree.

 

Glaves

Unusual family names are sometimes given to children. Glaves FOSTER’s mother was Ellis Glaves, born Cayton in 1791. In Filey Genealogy & Connections Ellis is often bracketed with Alice, but on FG&C Mrs Foster is plain Ellis.

Labouring the point perhaps, Ellis’s Father is Nesfield GLAVES, a son of Ellis (Alice) NESFIELD.

Glaves Foster’s maternal great grandfather, the husband of Ellis (Alice), was born in Seamer but the family moved a few miles to Cayton and then took another step to Gristhorpe.

Glaves was born in Gristhorpe in 1819 and died in “Newbeggin”. Now “Newbiggin”, there are quite a few places in the British Isles sharing the name. In Scotland, “biggin” or “bigging” means “a building, a house, a cluster of houses; a hamlet”. (Source: Scots Words and Place-Names). In England, the meaning is the same.

In 1861, Glaves was farming 225 acres at Little Britain, Gristhorpe but was at one of the Newbiggin farms by 1871. He died in 1875 and at the 1881 census his widow Mary was working their 320 acres with two unmarried sons and five Farm servants.

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Erected to the memory of GLAVES FOSTER of Newbeggin, who died March 11th 1875, aged 56 years

‘Watch therefore for ye know not

What hour your Lord doth come’

Also of MARY FOSTER, the beloved wife of the above, who died Nov 2nd 1885, aged 62 years.

‘The Lord my pasture shall prepare

And feed me with a shepherd’s care’

Find Glaves on FamilySearch.

Little Maggie and Her Great Aunt Richard

I have not been able to find Maggie in public records. Perhaps the only evidence of her short stay on earth is the inscription on a St Oswald’s gravestone.

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Her parents, William ALDEN and Mary Elizabeth AGARS, had four children together. The last, Lilian Wilhelmina, was born after her father’s death. Mary Elizabeth, four years a widow, wrote on the 1911 census form that she had been married for fourteen years and had given birth to four living children. Two had subsequently died.

The births of four children can be found in the GRO Index. For a reason that probably nobody knows, first-born Hester may have been remembered after her death as Maggie.

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In loving memory of WILLIAM EDWIN, the dearly loved child of WILLIAM and MARY E. ALDEN of Gristhorpe, who died Aug 8th 1901 aged 13 months.

Also MAGGIE their little child who died in infancy.

‘Suffer little children to come unto Me’

Also of WILLIAM ALDEN, dearly beloved husband of MARY E. ALDEN

of Gristhorpe, died Sep 12th 1906, aged 37 years.

‘Gone from memory to…’

The AGARS are well represented on the FamilySearch Tree but I had to add Mary Elizabeth to the six children of William and Mary. She lived below the census radar, being with her grandparents in 1871 and working ten years later in the service of Registered Physician and Surgeon Alexander BREDON.

Little Richard appears in the Find My Past transcription of the 1851 household of gardener John AGARS.

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Any consternation is quickly dispelled (?) by the page image –

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A foul but no harm is done, though one occasionally finds someone on the Shared Tree for whom the only evidence is just one census household of uncertain veracity.

We know what Maggie’s great aunt Rachel looked like. She was 45-years-old when Maggie made her brief appearance, I wonder if they met.

If, dear reader, the name Alden rings a bell – I posted four times about the family in May. The past rolls up like a carpet behind me. I’d forgotten!

24 The Impossible Wife, 27 Cant, 28 A Missing Marriage, 29 Just Williams.

 

The Station Master

The 1861 census for Filey Parish shows that John SIGSWORTH is stationmaster at Gristhorpe, married to Mary. He is fifty years old, his wife 39 and there are no children still at home. Given Mary’s age, it would be a simple matter to find children in the GRO Index, but I haven’t located a record of their marriage. John Sigsworth is a surprisingly common name in the area of Yorkshire around Easingwold and several men with that name married a Mary. But not this one, it seems.

A John Sigsworth born in November 1811 and baptised in Stillington could be the future station master but I am going with the John born to John and Alice née JACKSON.

“Our John” may be the 30-year-old male servant to Innkeeper Henry KIMBERLEY at Barton Hill, near Malton. Four years later the York to Scarborough railway would pass through the village, and a station built there. Maybe the romance of the railways made an impression on this John

I have failed to find the 1851 census so I can’t even hazard a guess at when John became a railway servant. But in 1861 he was here:-

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W. ARTHUR, the author of this photograph taken in 2006, 47 years after the station closed, has generously put the image into the public domain, so I have taken the liberty of making it somewhat brighter than the downloaded version. There’s a photo on Geograph offering a perspective that includes the railway line, which is still open.

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In 1871 the census enumerator found John at Gristhorpe Station still, but married to Emma, 22 years his junior and a native of Oxfordshire. (A later source gives her birthplace as the town itself.)

Mary had died on 29 June 1862 and is buried in St Oswald’s churchyard. Her stone has been moved to the north wall, by the church.

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John may have intended his passing to be recorded on the stone’s open space but Emma put paid to that idea. There’s a death registration in 1877 that fits him perfectly (aged 66) but I can’t support this with a burial record. That Emma, born in Oxford, is a widow in the 1881 census would seem to be confirmation but, rather than being 48 years old, the page image clearly shows her aged ‘67’. In 1891 she is the second wife of William SKIPSEY, a retired gardener, and a more reasonable 61-year-old. She wasn’t finished with misinforming enumerators. In 1901 she has aged considerably when compared with her husband and, rather than being 7 years his junior, is now ten years older than him. William, 80 in the census, died at the end of the year at 84 according to the GRO Index. Emma followed him into the unknown five years later, registered as 75 rather than 95!

William Skipsey has descendants on FST from his first marriage to Elizabeth ARMSTRONG. I don’t think John had any children at all. His life seems to have been uneventful, which is surprising, given his occupations. Inns see a fair bit of action and the railway has its moments. As one of John’s namesakes in the Easingwold area sadly demonstrated. He was one of the Raskelf Sigsworths. The village is just three miles from Easingwold and a John four years younger than our subject, and a railway labourer, married and raised a number of children born there to his wife Rachel WHORLTON. They named one of the boys John. About the same time in Raskelf, farmer James Sigsworth also had a son called John who worked as a potato dealer. In July 1881, a coroner’s inquest into this young man’s death, aged 32, heard that he…

 …met his father with some pigs in a cart at Brafferton. His father left there for Boroughbridge, and the deceased promised to follow. In this, however, he failed, and the last that was seen of him alive was at 10.30 on Tuesday night on the road between Helperby and Raskelf, where he passed a brickmaker named William Baines, of Raskelf, and said “Good night.” The deceased then appeared to be sober, and had on his arm an overcoat. A few hours after he was found lying on the four-foot way of the North-Eastern line, a little more than a mile from Raskelf. He was dead, and his legs were lying apart from the rest of the body more than a yard away, he being frightfully mutilated. A train had evidently passed over him…On Wednesday morning, about four o’clock, the driver of a goods train…stopped at Raskelf station and left the information that the body of a man was lying on the line about half-way between the railway bridge at Raskelf and the signal cabin. On going to the place indicated, the officials found the body of Mr. John Sigsworth, of Raskelf, potato dealer, quite dead, his legs being entirely severed from the body, which was laid in the four-foot. The body was conveyed to the house of his father, with whom he resided. The deceased had been to Helperby Feast on Tuesday, and it is believed he left that village about 11 p.m. on foot, and on crossing the railway had been run over by an express train. The deceased was not married.

Leeds Mercury, 22 July 1881

In early March 1888, another Raskelf boy called John Sigsworth died, aged twenty minutes. Life is a lottery.