Who poisoned whom?

Tettenhall parish officers clearly purchased their stationary from tradesmen who stocked a variety of exercise books, decorated or illustrated in different ways.  Most of these feature apparently anodyne and uncontroversial scenes of rural life or of stock characters.  An earlier blog entry addresses the now forgotten ‘Gilpin’s Ride’.  But a recent find on the cover of a book containing accounts from the 1810s and 1820s surprised me.


This image clearly relates to recent history, given the costumes of the two most prominent figures, and seems to depict Napoleon’s north African campaign of 1798-9 if the crude sphinx on the left of the image is indicative.  What is not clear is who has poisoned whom.  The sick languish on the right of the frame, but they are drawn so generically as to offer few clues.  There were some accounts of local African people poisoning wells at the French army’s approach, but the European figure in the doorway is sufficiently furtive to suggest that the origins of the poison may have been closer to home.

Even given the enmity between the French and the British in the early nineteenth century, this seems a particularly bitter choice of picture for the front cover of an exercise book.


Ellen Underhill (Apprentice) 1816 – 1899.

Ellen was most probably baptised Eleanor at St. Michael’s, Tettenhall Regis, on 1st Sept 1816 and was the daughter of Thomas and Hannah Underhill of Tettenhall. Thomas was a Locksmith.

Thomas Underhill was probably buried at St. Peter’s Wolverhampton on 7th Jan 1825 and Ellen’s mother Hannah was probably buried on 19 Nov 1828 again at St. Peter’s, Wolverhampton.

This would have left Ellen / Eleanor an orphan at the age of 12 with a 6 year old sister and so far I have only identified the one sibling who was Mary baptised 20 Oct 1822 at Tettenhall.

Presumably Ellen was apprenticed out by the Overseers of the Poor of Tettenhall as the Poor Law vouchers at Stafford Record Office contain a letter[i] to the Overseers dated 24 April 1833. It was a “Notice of re-assignment”. This was to Re- assign Ellen Underhill, Apprentice, from John Williams, Liquor merchant to John Bingham, Gardener, of Tettenhall. This was “Objected” at the Vestry meeting 25 April 1833.  Unfortunately there does not appear to be any Vestry Minutes for that year in Stafford Record Office.

Whites 1834 Directory lists John Williams as a Baker and flour dealer in King St. Wolverhampton which may not be the same man.

In 1841[ii] Ellen was working as a female servant for Samuel Marston a victualler in Canal St. Wolverhampton. Whites 1834 Directory lists Samuel Marston at the Dog and Partridge, Canal St.

Ellen’s sister Mary was also in Wolverhampton in 1841 working for Samuel Whitehouse, a Publican, and his family in Bilston St.

Ellen was married on 4 Aug 1842 at St. Peter’s Wolverhampton, to William Fulford aged 19 a puddler, father B. Fulford, a locksmith. Ellen was of full-age and named her Father as T. Underhill, dead. Both William and Ellen signed X.

Mary married on 15 Aug 1842 again at St. Peter’s, Wolverhampton to William Tuckley of Wednesfield, of full age, Locksmith, and his father was also William and a Locksmith.  Mary names her father as Thos. Underhill, Deceased. Again both William and Mary sign X.

According to St. James’ parish records, Wolverhampton, Ellen and William Fulford had a daughter Ann baptised on 12 Oct1845 giving an abode of Wolverhampton and St. Peter’s Wolverhampton records Lucy baptised on 12 Aug 1847 when they lived in Walsall Street.

The 1851 census[iii] records them in East Street, Wolverhampton, as does the 1861 Census[iv].

By 1871[v] Ellen had moved to Pearson Street to live with her daughter Lucy and Lucy’s husband Joseph Beech a japanner, together with their children. Although Ellen is recorded as married there is no sign of William who appears to die in 1872 aged 49.[vi] Ellen’s daughter Ann is also with them having married Arthur Dolphin, a soldier[vii] in 1864. There is no sign of Arthur either but Ann has a son James Dolphin born 1867.

The 1881 Census[viii] shows that Ellen has moved again and is in 15 Steven’s Gate now recorded as a widow and she has her daughter Ann living with her also recorded as a widow.  Ann Dolphin is working as a boot fitter and her son James Dolphin age 14 is working as a brass dresser.

At St. John’s, Wolverhampton on 27 April 1890 Ann Dolphin, widow, married Henry Drickwater also a widower who was a Shoe maker Both signed.  Ann Died in Wolverhampton in Dec quarter 1908.[ix]

The 1891 Census[x] reveals that Ellen was being supported by her grandson James Dolphin who was a horse keeper and they were again living in Pearson St. Wolverhampton. On this census she is named as Eleanor Fulford.

Ellen Fulford died in 1899[xi] aged 82.

The various census entries reveal that Ellen’s daughter Lucy married Joseph Beech a Japanner and they had 8 children – William, Joseph, Lucy, Alice, Caroline, Thomas, Frank and Colin. By 1901 the family had moved to Birmingham and Lucy was widowed by 1911  and she died in Birmingham in the March quarter 1924[xii]

[i] D571/A/PO/70/80

[ii] HO107/999/4folio 49

[iii] HO107/2019 folio 462

[iv] RG9/1995 folio 51

[v] RG10/2931 folio 97

[vi] FreeBMD.org.uk

[vii] FreeBMD.org.uk

[viii] RG11/2794 folio 15

[ix] FreeBMD.org.uk

[x] RG12/2227 folio 70

[xi] FreeBMD.org.uk

[xii] FreeBMD.org.uk