A Woman Scorned

I gave my undernourished Churchyard Index some attention yesterday and, while looking for information about the death of Thomas SWIFT, happened upon a murder mystery.

Thomas is curiously connected to Filey. His first wife, Dinah SAMPSON, was born in Lincolnshire but the family later crossed the river and her mother is buried in St Oswald’s churchyard. Mary Alice, the Swift’s firstborn  opened her eyes in Prescot, Lancashire, and closed them forever 15 months later in Filey. She is remembered on the headstone of her great uncle, John OAKDEN, who had died the previous year. The birth of her brother, John Oakden Swift, was registered in Prescot the following year.

Findmypast offered three hints for Thomas Swift’s death in Lancashire and rather than guess, I turned to newspapers. Several reports of his sudden death in Liverpool in 1899, at the age of 66, agreed that he was a man of exceptional ability, well-known in Liverpool and St Helens and held in the highest esteem. As a solicitor he was particularly expert in licensing law but after being called to the bar in 1882 he acted as counsel in some high profile cases. In 1889 he was involved in the prosecution of Florence Elizabeth MAYBRICK for the murder of her husband, James.

The case against Florence was weak but the judge successfully persuaded the jury to find her guilty. She became the first American citizen to be sentenced in Britain to hang. A public that gleefully trashed her character at the beginning of the trial, had doubts about the fairness of the verdict at the end. Following an appeal, Queen Victoria reluctantly commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

In 1891 Florence was in Knaphill, Woking, the first purpose-built female convict prison. When it closed in 1895, the inmates were transferred to the new female prison in Aylesbury. Florence was enumerated there in 1901, given age 37.

She served fifteen years for a crime for which she hadn’t been tried. At some time between 1889 and 1904 she had been cleared of murder but not re-tried on a lesser charge.

On release from prison she made plans to return to the United States. Her son James was then 22 years-old but had changed his surname to FULLER. He would die in Canada seven years later after drinking cyanide, thinking it was water. Daughter Gladys Evelyn would marry Frederick CORBYN in 1912 and die, childless it seems, in Haverfordwest in 1971. One source says that Florence “never saw her children again” after the trial.

You can see Florence’s application for a United States passport here. She did, as promised, undertake literary work. You can download her Memoir – My Fifteen Wasted Years ­from the Gutenburg Project at no charge. How she came to find work on Henrietta Banwell’s chicken farm in Gaylordsville, Connecticut remains a mystery. But she lived in poverty there in a small bungalow – described by some as “a shack” – with a lot of cats. Reverting to her maiden name, it seems that nobody in South Kent knew of her notoriety until after her death from acute myocarditis on 23 October 1941, aged 79 years, one month and 22 days, according to her death certificate.

There is a lot of information online about Florence. If you are curious…

There is a photograph of her grave and a short biography here. On the FamilySearch Shared Tree she awaits the sad gift of her children. Her husband’s five children by just one of his mistresses are also not yet recorded.

Tree 59 · Country Park

A Woman of Deeping

The clerk at St James’ Church in Market Deeping gave her the name Lavina Jane.

Her first name is “Lavinah” on the monument in St Oswald’s churchyard.

Just because a name or date is carved in stone, (or set with letters cast in lead), it doesn’t mean the information is correct, but I think Lavinah is the form she preferred. It is offered in other sources, though some latter day transcriber/digitizers who can’t believe their eyes have gone for “Lavinia”. What does it matter? The three versions all spring from the same Latin root. In Roman mythology, Lavinia is the last wife of Aeneas. Her name means “Woman of Rome”.

A local newspaperannounced that the marriage of “Lavina Jane” to Alfred SAWDEN, a Liverpool chemist, had taken place at the Bishop Street Chapel, Leicester on 8 September 1880. We know from Thursday’s post that Alfred had been born in Sherburn in Hartford Lythe and so, roughly calculated, his journey to the altar had been one of at least 210 crow-flown miles. Lavinah had not travelled as far. It is about 35 aerial miles from Deeping St James to Leicester but, for a fair comparison, one must add double the distance from Leicester to Uttoxeter, giving a total of 105 miles. In the 1871 Census, “Lavinah Jane Hainsworth” is listed as a 27-year-old servant in the household of Edwin Peter MINORS, a Uttoxeter Silk Mercer and Draper. Lavinah was working for him as a “Milliner Assistant”.

As is always the case, I would like to know the circumstances of her first meeting with Alfred.

After the Leicester wedding, the couple set up home in Lark Lane, Toxteth Park, and they owned a property there to the end of their lives. They do not appear to have had children but in 1891 Harry Edward, Alfred’s youngest brother, is in residence, working as an apprentice pharmacist. (The enumerator has changed Alfred’s given name to Andrew. RG12 2940 f98 p8.) Ten years later Alfred’s assistant is Percy W. BOUGHEN (RG13 3441 f110 p6).

Alfred died at 28 Lark Lane in February 1910, aged 58. By this time, the Sawdens had purchased a second home in Filey and Arthur was brought to St Oswald’s for burial. Probate was granted to Lavinah and her brother in law Arthur Jabez.

The current value of Alfred’s effects is about one and a quarter million pounds.

Lavinah died six years later at the Filey house, leaving effects valued now at around £109,000 for her nephew to deal with.

To the ever dear memory of ALFRED SAWDEN, died February 9th 1910, aged 58 years.

Also LAVINAH JANE, wife of ALFRED SAWDEN, died January 5th 1916, aged 73 years

‘The memory of the just is blessed’

I searched newspapers for reports of Arthur and Lavinah’s exploits but didn’t find anything noteworthy. There was however, this sad event in 1885.

Tree 55 · Church Ravine

“A close up of a tree.” Google gets it right this time. (I think it is a beech.)

A Shropshire Lass

In loving memory of EDMUND SAMUEL, the beloved husband of MARY ELIZA YOXON (Postmistress of Filey), who died October 15th 1904 aged 48 years.

‘Thy will be done’

Also MARY ELIZA, wife of the above, who died May 13th 1905, aged 45 years, interred at Whitchurch, Shropshire.

‘Peace perfect peace’

The inscription on the headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard tells us that Mary was a widow for seven months – but not that she had been married for only two years.

Mary Eliza was the first of eight daughters born to William RUSCOE, a Shrophire builder, and  Sarah CATO. The births of all the girls were registered in Whitchurch and the stone suggests it was Mary’s wish to be buried in her home town. She did not, however, die in Shropshire. I think she may have fallen ill in Filey, where she was listed as Postmistress in the 1905 Directory, and travelled to Herefordshire to be nursed by her mother. Sarah Ruscoe was then approaching seventy years of age and would live on for fifteen years after Mary’s death. Mary’s final journey, then, was from Ledbury in Herefordshire to Whitchurch, a distance of about 80 miles.

Her life journey from Shropshire to Filey is something of a mystery. In 1881, at the age of 21, she was working as a clerk, living in Great Howard Street (Liverpool), in the household of widow Mary CUNNINGHAM, a flour dealer from Scotland. Five years later she signs the register as a witness to the marriage of sister Clara Annie to Arthur WALKER.

This looks like the autograph of a determined and efficient young woman, the undotted ‘i’ notwithstanding.

I haven’t been able to find her whereabouts in 1891 but in 1901 she is enumerated at 4 Cliff Terrace in Filey, aged 41, single and the town’s ‘Sub Postmistress’. The Post Office was then situated in Union Street. I discovered the address this morning and went to record the property’s current occupant.

How did Mary meet her husband? In 1901 a census enumerator found him in Welsh Row, Nantwich, boarding with widow Susannah BRAMHILL. Edmund Samuel seems to have spent most of his working life in the Merchant Marine. In 1881 he was Second Mate on the vessel Woodburn, docked at Holyhead. Six years later he married Constance LEWIN in Liverpool. Their only child, Esther Eleanor, was born in the autumn of 1891 but died within a few days or weeks. The death of Constance was registered the following quarter. Edmund was not a stranger to such losses. He was three years old when his father died.

Somehow, the fates brought Edmund and Mary together and they were married at St Oswald’s on 6 October 1902. I have not found a newspaper notice or report of his death two years later.

I was pleased to find Mary Eliza on the FamilySearch Shared Tree – it saves me a lot of work – but had to add Edmund to his birth family. You will notice that his youngest brother was born after father Mark’s death.

Given the wayward nature of the Shared Tree, it would have been disappointing not to see a genealogical howler. I can understand these things occurring (we all make mistakes), but not them being allowed to persist. Mary Eliza’s younger sister Sarah Cato RUSCOE died aged two, but in a parallel universe married and had a couple of children. In this instance the FamilySearch ‘system’ flags the nonsense, so far to no avail. As the real Mrs Preece had children I will leave it to possible descendants to put this right.

Mark of Man 52 · St Oswald’s

We, the sheeple, need you more than ever. Plagues of locusts, the flooding of Godless countries and the near-complete melting of Arctic ice are not waking up enough of us. The descendants of those implicated in your death have just nuked Beirut. Enough is enough, surely. The video evidence of a tactical nuclear missile hitting the dockside warehouse supposedly containing fertiliser and fireworks has been taken down this afternoon by YouKnowWho because it contravenes “community guidelines”. (What does nuking a city contravene?) Material may survive a while longer on Seemorerocks. Steven Ben-Nun at Israeli News Live is always worth listening to whenever human wickedness blossoms (despite Luciferian attempts to dress it up as something else). If this link doesn’t work please do your own research. (I haven’t watched all of TruNews’ Wednesday bulletin yet but I expect the team to be attentive to every detail of the story. Look here, starting 12 minutes in.)

Dying in Harness, Drowning in the Med

I have been doing more research into the three wives of William MOORE. In passing, I had noticed some references to a Nurse Catherine NICHOLSON who had served with some distinction in hospitals on the Western Front. I imagined William’s third wife undertaking those terrible duties. There seemed to be a couple of Nurse Catherines but they were, I think, Home Counties or Scots women.

William’s Catherine was the fifth of ten children born to Edward NICHOLSON and Annie McCORMICK between 1870 and 1889. By the time the 1911 Census was taken, five of the children had died. About a year after she married William, Catherine’s younger brother lost his life while serving with the 1st/4th Bn, Cheshire Regiment. I was initially puzzled that he died at sea but a look down the list of fatalities on 4 May 1917 provided a partial answer.

85734 Private JOHN PERCY MULLINEUX      Royal Army Medical Corps

TF/202635 Private GEORGE NAYLOR MUMBY   4th Bn. Royal Sussex Regiment

55989 Private PATRICK MURPHY    Royal Army Medical Corps

M/273823 Private CHARLES WILLIAM MURRELL        906th M.T. Coy. Army Service Corps

Captain RICHARD OWEN NELSON     Army Service Corps

36336 Private JOHN HENRY NICHOLSON      1st/4th Bn. Cheshire Regiment  

63192 Private JOHN NISBET       Royal Army Medical Corps

Second Lieutenant CLAUD NORIE-MILLER    Army Service Corps

53628 Serjeant WILLIAM HENRY NORMAN     Royal Army Medical Corps

48050 Private CHRISTMAS GEORGE NORTHAM  1st/5th Bn. Welsh Regiment

70481 Private JOHN NOUTCH       Royal Army Medical Corps


There are 274 men who died this day and are remembered on the Savona Memorial in Italy. The bodies of a further 82 were recovered and are buried in the Savona Town Cemetery. They were not all fighting men. In the cemetery lies Barber THOMAS BONAR CHERRY of the S.S. Transylvania Mercantile Marine Reserve.


They were bound for Salonika, or onward to Egypt, and their grand troopship was sunk by torpedo off the Italian coast near Genoa. About four hundred drowned but over 2,000 were rescued, the majority by two (allied) Japanese destroyers.

One of those rescued, Walter Edward WILLIAMS of Weston super Mare,, was interviewed many years later and he tells his story of the sinking on Reel 2 (of 5) here. Searching for SS Transylvania online will raise more accounts of this event.

From the Nicholsons, I moved on to the family of William’s first wife, Annie Elizabeth COWAN. Tracing the origins of her father proved to be an engaging and enjoyable challenge. Thomas Albert began his life as a COWIN in Lonan Parish on the Isle of Man but ended it as a COWAN in Dalton in Furness, Lancashire 74 or 75 years later.

1911 Census Form

His record on FamilySearch Tree has a link to an obituary published in Manx Quarterly #20. Here is an extract: –

The Barrow Guardian of December 9th had the following reference to the death of Councillor Cowan:-“Died in harness! This expression was never more fully realised locally than by the passing away of Councillor Thomas Albert Cowan, of Dalton, a man full of years and honour. At the time he was attacked by a sudden illness he was on his way to Barrow to fulfil a promised preaching appointment for a minister who was ill. It is quite true and appropriate to repeat what a friend of Mr Cowan’s said to me on Sunday evening: ‘He was taken when doing his Master’s work.’ And he was never happier than when performing some religious duty; it was ingrained in him. He had spent over 50 years as a local preacher and religious teacher; then for more than 25 years he was associated with the local Board and Urban Council, for 21 years a member of the Gas Committee, some years on the Education Authority and Burial Board, and one of the trustees of the Billincoat Charity. Truly he was a marvellous man. If he could do a good turn to anybody he was only too willing to give his services. As a speaker he was fearless, impassioned and convincing, hence his success in the early days of Nonconformity in the Furness district, when he fought tenaciously for the rights and privileges of his fellow dissenting citizens. I repeat he was a wonderful character, and could turn his hand to many things besides mining, religious work and temperance work. Where he will be most missed, however, next to his own home, will be in the Primitive Methodist Church, for here he was ever first and foremost, and none will ever know what he did and what he gave to his loved Bethel. We mourn the loss to-day of one of God’s noblemen.”

Another Killer Gale


John William was buried just four days after his death, so he must have been almost home. The Register of Deceased Passengers held at The National Archives and available to view online via Find My Past gives the name of the ship and its approximate location when John expired.

Marcotis was almost certainly bound for its home port and 51º10’ N, 6º 40 W places her in the Irish Sea, south-west of the Pembrokeshire coast and about 280 miles from Liverpool. Innocuous as degrees and minutes, the coordinates are fiendish when converted to decimals.


The inscription on John’s red granite memorial in St Oswald’s churchyard tells us he “died in a gale at sea”, a description that paints a fuzzy, uncertain, picture of his final moments. The Register provides shocking clarity, giving the cause of death as “Hemorrhage of the Lungs”.


John’s grave is just a few yards from that of his older brother, Edwin, after whom the southernmost Filey Ravine is named. The 1881 Census reveals that Edwin, age 32, was a “Woollen Manufacturer of Martins Sons Employing 930 people”. Ten years later he has passed the running of the factory to John. Perhaps it was too great a burden for the younger brother.

In 1881 John had married Lily, daughter of Benjamin HANSON, another Huddersfield Woollen Manufacturer, employing 372 hands in 1871. John and Lily had two children, Kenneth born 1883 and Gwynneth  Adrienne in 1888. After her husband’s death, Lily moved with the children to Eastbourne on the south coast. In 1911 Gwynneth remained single but Kenneth, 29, “Company Director, Financial Corporation (Private Means)”, was married to Clarisse Lillian nee MELLIER and they had two boys, Patrick Kenneth and Jack Mellier.

For all their wealth and social standing, the Martins were poorly represented on FST. I put in a shift today but there is a lot more still to do.

Mrs. Nicholson Does Good

District Intelligence: Filey

School Treat

[Last] Saturday afternoon the children of the Church day and Sunday schools had their annual treat. A substantial tea was provided, and in the evening prizes were distributed to about three hundred. They were given by Mrs. Nicholson, of the Crescent, who last week gave a tea to twenty-nine little girls, whom she teaches sewing. She also has provided a soup kitchen in Hope-street, and distributes soup to the poor twice a week.

Scarborough Mercury, 14 January 1882

Annie NICHOLSON was 34 years old in 1882, a mother of three girls and engaged in the kind of good works you might expect from an older woman whose children have flown the nest. But she’d met her husband at the age of thirteen (perhaps earlier) and buried him at 29 so perhaps she was old beyond her years. (She would die in 1902, aged 54.)

For the second half of her life, she lived at 11, The Crescent, Filey – the photograph below was taken this morning, her front door just visible in the twin portico.


Her husband, Walter NICHOLSON, was the fifth of thirteen children born to the wealthy and ennobled Leeds Magistrate and Landed Proprietor, William Nicholson NICHOLSON, and Martha née RHODES. (William had changed his birth name, from William Nicholson PHILIPS, so that he could inherit the Nicholson estate at Roundhay Park.)

Walter led a busy and financially rewarding life as a manufacturer and farmer yet still found time to be a Guardian for the Wharfedale Union. He left Annie well provided for when he died aged 37, in 1877. No. 11 The Crescent had five servants in 1881, 3 in 1891, and 4 in 1901.

Annie WHITAKER was born in Liverpool in 1848 but the Census snapshot of 1861 captures her visiting the home of William FISON in Burley in Wharfedale. He was a manufacturer who employed over 400 workers. Another visitor that Census night was 21-year-old Walter NICHOLSON. The couple must have made a great impression on each other, and married seven years later at St George’s church in Everton.

The Nicholsons of Roundhay Park are well represented on the FamilySearch Tree – and two of Walter’s brothers threaten to draw attention from the dutiful Annie. The colourful story of Rhodes Tudor and Albert Henry can be found in this PDF. It complements the NICHOLSON and Nga (Wha Wha) RITAKA pedigrees on FST.

When I first looked at his pedigree, this morning, Walter was lacking a wife. Annie was on the Tree with her parents so I united her with her six siblings, joined her unto Walter and gave them their three girls. The youngest, Maude, married the 40-year-old vicar of Filey when she was just 21. Arthur Nevile COOPER is still talked about today as “The Walking Parson”. (He would leave his Filey flock untended for months on end to ramble across Europe, once to Rome, another time to Florence.)  For all his elevated position in the community and long life, I couldn’t find him on FST. He has a presence now but there’s work to be done to give him some forebears.