Buried Alive

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Holly Bank Colliery, Essington

One good thing about researching family with an uncommon name is that it can make trawling through newspapers a bit easier.  Such was the case, when I did a blanket search for EBBANS in the British Newspaper Archive.  Among the genealogical gems found (more on those in later posts), was a coal mining accident that killed a relative in 1909.

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ESSINGTON MINER BURIED ALIVE.-An inquiry was held by Mr. T. A. Stokes (County Coroner) at Newtown, on Wednesday afternoon, concerning the death of Thomas Ebbans (31), lately residing at Walsall Road, Newtown, Essington, who was accidentally killed at Holly Bank Colliery on Monday, owing to a sudden fall of coal. – Mr. Felton, Deputy-Inspector of Mines, was present; and Mr. H. H. Jackson (Messrs. Stanley and Jackson) represented the widow. Mr. J. C. Forrest, manager of the colliery company was also present. – William Mitton, a miner, engaged at the colliery, said he was working with the deceased man when the accident occurred. He was loading, and deceased was working on the face of the coal. Deceased put a hole in the face in proparation [sic] for a shot to be fired, and then asked for a “sprag” to put into the coal. Before witness could hand over the “sprag” some tons of coal fell, and the man was buried. Witness had to jump away to save his life. An alarm was raised, and Ebbans was got out. Replying to the Coroner, witness said it was customary to undermine the coal in the way described. Everything was done in the usual way. – Questioned by the Deputy-Inspector of Mines, witness said he could not account for a pick which was found on the ground immediately after the accident. He did not see the deceased using a pick. -Edwin Thomas, night fireman, said he examined the district between five and six o’clock on Monday morning, and found everything in order. So far as his observations went the coal was then safe. -Police-constable Albert Buckham, stationed at Essington, said he examined the body after the accident, and found that the man’s right thigh and ribs were fractured, and the neck apparently dislocated. -The Coroner remarked that the deceased appeared to have taken every precaution. – “Accidental death” was the verdict returned.

Walsall AdvertiserSaturday 29 May 1909, p11

sprag
A sprag – a prop to support a mine roof.

As if the event wasn’t tragic enough, a little bit of research showed that his wife was left with at least one young child, possibly two, under 4 years of age. They had only been married 5 years.
The 1911 census had her and her young child staying with her parents.  Interesting to note that it says she had 3 children born alive – 2 still living. Had she been pregnant at the time of the accident?

Sarah EBBANS Dutton
1911 Census – Sarah EBBANS (widow of Thomas EBBANS)

I’m interested in what happened to Sarah Jane (nee DUTTON) and other wives who found themselves in similar tragic situations.  Did the coal companies look after them in any way?  Was the fact that Thomas’ widow had a solicitor usual in these cases?  Unfortunately, the fantastic ‘Coalmining History Resource Centre‘ didn’t seem to list this particular accident – although I may have searched it ‘incorrectly’ as the search function seemed a bit limited.  If you have coalmining ancestors, I recommend you give the site a look.  And if you know of any resources that might help me, please let me know.

Holly Bank brick
Holly Bank Colliery brick
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West Midlands Division Map 119 A & B

Looking for Lovell

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A GIPSY ENCAMPMENT IN ESSEX” c.1889

Carnation LOVELL was born into her gypsy family in Willenhall, 1889. Finding her family has led me on a bit of a run around over the years and I have decided I need to find some solid records and check my information is correct so far (a previous post can be found here).
She appears on the 1891 census with her parents (Matthew and Maria LOVELL), and elder brother Chandos, living in a gypsy tent in Darlaston, Staffordshire.

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1891 Census – Lovells

She reappears on the 1901 census, living in a caravan on Sneyd Lane, Bloxwich, as Carnation FLETCHER with brother Chandos, younger sister Elizabeth and what appears to be her mother listed as married to Eli FLETCHER.  All the children and Maria now carry the name, FLETCHER.

1901Fletchers
1901 Census – Fletchers/Lovells

I started to wonder if this was the same Carnation.  Carnation’s birth certificate cites her mother’s former name as Maria ANSLOW.  Her marriage entry to Eli (7 years after their appearance as a family unit on the census) also records her as Maria ANSLOW, spinster.  So, this is clearly the same woman.  This also indicates that Carnation’s parents were never legally married.  This makes me curious about gypsy marriage customs – was this usual?  Was Eli a gypsy or not?
I am yet to find Carnation in the 1911 census. I’m presuming her name was mistranscribed but all the variants I’ve come up with so far have given me no joy.
Instead, I have decided to gather more family records and information about gypsy life paint a clearer picture of Carnation’s life in my mind.

Next Steps:
  • Find Carnation in the 1911 census
  • Research gypsy ancestors

Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves

My first post of this blog mentioned that there were gypsies in the family. The gypsies are part of my husband’s maternal side and there’s been a bit of a breakthrough.

Carnation LOVELL was the daughter of Maria ANSLOW and Matthew LOVELL. She can be found on the 1891 census as a baby in a gypsy tent under Porkus Bridge (probably Porkets or Portius Bridge), Darlaston. They appeared to be travelling with 3 other families, all with the surname, Smith.

By 1901, Maria had taken up with a new man, Eli FLETCHER (whom she eventually wed legally in 1908). It has been very difficult to find other records of Carnation’s father, Matthew.

Matthew died in Bloxwich, 1896 and the earliest record I have with him, is his son’s birth certificate in 1883. I have not been able to locate him on any other censuses. Part of the problem appears to be the interchangeability of gypsy names. However, a wall may about to be broken down. I received an email from a fellow researcher (my mother-in-law’s cousin) saying that an author has contacted her about a book he has written concerning Matthew’s great grandparents. I can’t wait!

Peg made by Carnation