Guest post: Chris Ramsbottom talks about the Canadian Wheways

I thought it might be nice from time to time to have a guest writer, just to mix it up a bit. This post is from Chris Ramsbottom. I ‘met’ Chris via a Facebook page for the Wheway family, which are also a branch of my ancestors.

This post from Chris shows how family histories can provide a wealth of plot twists. This is not my branch, so this information was new to me. I can see, however, that there may be a story here from me down the track ……..

This WHEWAY story begins with Charles Hastings WHEWAY, born 1822 in Birmingham, who married Sarah Ann CAMPTON, born 1823 in Birmingham. They had 9 children, of which we shall meet their first son, Charles Henry Hastings, born 1854 in Smethwick: their 3rd son, George Frederick, born in 1858 or 9, and Joseph James, born 1861. All their children were born in Grove Lane, Smethwick, and as we shall see, the WHEWAYs were to play a large role in the life of that area for over 100 years.

George WHEWAY and his wife Mary Ann Hephzibah DANCER, were married in 1880. Mary’s father was Cornelius DANCER, also of Grove Lane, who was a Druggist and Postmaster. DANCERs were to continue in their father’s footsteps until after the Great War. At this time, George and Mary were mine hosts of the Grove Tavern, 130 – 131 Grove Lane, Smethwick. They had taken the pub over from George’s father, Charles, who had retired to Yardley, then in Worcestershire. The pub was in WHEWAY hands for over 50 years, passing to Joseph James by 1891, who kept it for over thirty years! Their daughter, Mary Ann, was born in 1881: she is my great-grandmother. In the 1901 Census, they were living at 3 Wheways Terrace, a small run of 6 houses off Wills Street, which itself was off Grove Lane.

While researching this line, I got sidetracked into his brother’s family, which is understandable as for some time I couldn’t separate the two Charles WHEWAYs! Let us introduce the younger Charles and his family: he married Eliza GREGORY, who was born in 1856 in Golds Hill, West Bromwich. Their children were: Charles, born 1876 in Edgbaston: Sarah, born 1878: Louisa, born 1881 in Smethwick: Abraham, born 1878, Smethwick: Florence, born 1885, Smethwick: Frederick, born 1887, as was Daisy: another baby as listed on the 1891 Census as being 14 weeks old: and, as we shall see, one born in 1894. In the 1881 Census, they are living at Dial Lane, West Bromwich: by 1891 they had moved to Reynold Street, which was off Grove Lane and where by that time Charles’s mother and father were living.

At this point tragedy struck. Eliza died in 1895 aged 44, and it seems that this broke Charles’s heart completely. The transcripts of the Middlemore Homes record and the newspaper cutting bear witness to the awful circumstances they had fallen into by 1896. Charles junior was a miner in South Wales: Sarah was in service, and the youngest children had to survive as best they could. Imagine - a kindly woman taking pity on the youngest baby and walking off with her! (That’s one for the family historians among us – how on earth do we trace that one?)

I find it so awful that, within a two-mile radius of these poor wretched children, there were almost FIFTY blood relatives living at this time, including their grandparents who were literally a few doors down: what a family tragedy this was and yet people they should have been able to rely on did nothing.

However, having traced the British Home Children in their new lives in Canada, I have happier news of most of them. Louisa settled down nicely and got married, and below is a quote from a newspaper about her wedding:

The Press Newspaper April 29, 1907

A Grafton Wedding

A very pretty marriage occurred at the residence of Mr and Mrs George Clark, Grafton, at ten thirty a.m. on Wednesday when their son Hollie Clark was united in marriage to Miss Louisa Wheway of Woodstock. The bride was dressed in white silk and carried a boquet of white carnations. She received many costly and handsome presents.  We all join in wishing them a long and happy life.

Nine months later she had a little girl, Christina.

Florence also did well for herself, marrying Thomas Stewart in 1901, and as her letters show, adopted a British Home Child of her own later. She had three children: Thomas Cecil, Mary Viola and Ethel Louise.

Daisy was not quite so fortunate and died in 1905 of consumption at her sister Florence’s home.

Frederick raised enough money to make a trip home for one summer, but came back to Canada and married Rosie COLLINS in 1908.

George is the only one I have found no record of in Canada after completing his farm apprenticeship, but from the records he seems to have settled down admirably.

What became of Charles? Well, he moved in with his mother and sister by the 1901 Census, and died in 1905 in Solihull.

My grandmother, Dorothy, was born to Mary WHEWAY and Francis FELLOWS in 1902. She married Joseph Benjamin BARRATT, a widower with two children from his first marriage, and gave birth to my father in 1922. Joseph died in 1951, and Dorothy remarried in 1954 to Joseph TAYLOR. Smethwick people would know him: he was the demolition contractor who knocked down old Smethwick – including the Grove Tavern. At the time, he demolished the pub, Dorothy was totally unaware that that pub had been in her family’s hands for over 100 years.

As with all family searches, I haven’t finished yet and I’m still looking for WHEWAYs in Smethwick. I’d like to know who built Wheway’s Terrace and why was it named after my family! I’d like to know more about George and Mary WHEWAY, who after all are my great, great grandparents. I’d also like to know more about the DANCER family. But the one great question I will never be able to answer: why did their family desert these poor children in their time of need?

© Chris RAMSBOTTOM 2016

Chris discovered she was descended from Wheways when she started researching her family tree in the late 1990s. She found she was descended from some amazing people, and some scoundrels and rascals too! She grew up in Smethwick and the Black Country, and now lives just outside Coventry in Warwickshire, where she runs a holistic therapy centre. She is married with 3 cats.

The Amethyst Centre, Ball Hill, Coventry CV2 4ED

NYR Organic UK

Telephone: 024 7644 0186

Map above is Map of Grove Lane, Smethwick, England B66 2, United Kingdom

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