Abel Rooker, surgeon in Darlaston (1787-1867) Part 3 Abel’s sons

The executors appointed by Abel in his will were two of his sons, one from each marriage. Interestingly these sons were Rev James Yates Rooker of Lower Gornal and Rev John Rooker of Islington, both of them Anglican clergymen. Another son, William Yates Rooker, had also been a clergyman and his wife, Mary Jemima Rooker, took out a complaint against James Yates Rooker over her husband’s estate.

James Yates Rooker led a remarkable life. As a curate at Bamford near Hathersage in Derbyshire he caught the attention of Ellen Nussey who was a lifelong correspondent of Charlotte Bronte’s. Ellen and Charlotte met at Roe Head school in Mirfield in 1831 and Charlotte visited Ellen when she lived with her brother Henry Nussey, who was vicar of Hathersage. He is believed to have proposed to Charlotte in 1839 but was rejected. Ellen and Charlotte’s letters show them indulging in some amusing girl talk about the local curate James Yates Rooker and Charlotte is moved in a letter dated 31 July 1845 to issue a gentle warning to her friend to be on her guard against James’ attractions (perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek). Charlotte’s visits to Hathersage are understood to have provided background material for her novel Jane Eyre.

James went on to become the vicar of Lower Gornal in Staffordshire and was joined there by his father after Abel’s second wife Frances died and Abel retired as a surgeon. Abel died in 1867 but some years later in 1879 James became the victim of a murderous attack by one of his parishioners. The incident is ably set out on the Sedgley manor website (http://www.sedgleymanor.com/stories/stories.html).

James survived the murder attempt and went on to serve the parish until his death in 1887.

Advertisements

Abel Rooker, surgeon in Darlaston (1787-1867) Part 2 Non-conformist antecedents

Abel was baptised into a dissenting family in Walsall in Feb 1788. His parents James and Mary Rooker apprenticed him to a Walsall surgeon, Francis Weaver, who was a member of the same dissenting congregation. Such an apprenticeship would not have been cheap but it would open up opportunities for a professional career that did not require a university degree, which Abel would not have been eligible for (at least in England) with his non-conformist background.

Abel’s non-conformist family background was a distinguished one. His great grandfather Samuel Rooker (c.1694-1768) was a cooper from West Bromwich and a member of a dissenting congregation that met at Bank Court in Walsall (on the north side of High Street). Samuel and his son Samuel junior, also a cooper, were among several people keen to secede from this congregation on doctrinal grounds. In 1751 they built a small chapel (approximately 10 ½ feet by 9 feet) on land at Hill Top in Walsall (actually more like West Bromwich). This building was registered for religious worship on 17 May 1751 and just a week later was attacked by a mob and destroyed. It was not until 1763 that the discontented group were able to secede, when twenty-eight members and two deacons began to meet in a new building erected in Dudley Street, Walsall. This congregation flourished until 1790 when, on finding that their premises were too small, laid plans to erect a new chapel in Bridge Street. This opened in September 1791 at a cost of £2, 125 13s, with all debts on the building cleared by 1795. Abel’s baptism is recorded in the Bridge Street chapel register but, as it took place in Feb 1788, it is most likely the ceremony actually happened in the Dudley Street premises.

Samuel senior had another son James who showed a vocation for church leadership and he was sent to study at the dissenting academy in Bedworth, Warwickshire under John Kirkpatrick. James was invited by a dissenting congregation in Bridport, Dorset to become their first minister in 1751. In 1764 the dissenting academy at Ottery St Mary (founded by Rev John Lavington in 1752-54) moved to Bridport, following Lavington’s death in December that year, to continue under Rev James Rooker’s tutelage. James built a house (Bridge House at the far end of East Street) in 1765 to accommodate both his family and the students. This became a hotel in the 1980s. James continued at Bridport until shortly before his death in 1780. The history of the Bridport congregation mirrored that of the Walsall one with a group seceding from the established Presbyterian congregation in the town in 1742, which went on to build a chapel at Barrack Street in 1746. It was not until 1750 that they issued an invitation to James Rooker to become their minister. He was ordained on 16 October 1751 after serving a fairly lengthy apprenticeship (a common practice followed by dissenting congregations of this type).

Links between the Rooker family in the Black Country and the West Country continued after the Rev James’ departure for the south-west as evidenced in probate and property documents well recorded in a paper by Alan Sell. One link not mentioned by Sell was the baptism of Samuel junior’s son James Rooker by his uncle Rev James at Bridport in 1757. The baby’s parents were recorded as Samuel and Joanna Rooker of West Bromwich.

Sources

A P F Sell, The Walsall riots, the Rooker family and eighteenth century dissent, Transactions of the South Staffordshire Archaeological Society (1983-4), 25, pp. 50-71.

Abel Rooker, surgeon in Darlaston (1787-1867) Part 1

Among the Darlaston Poor Law vouchers are detailed bills submitted by the surgeon Abel Rooker. Unlike those for parishes previously worked on, these give much more precise information on what Mr Rooker was supplying in terms of treatments and medicines. Surgeons from earlier parishes in the project generally were retained for a fixed half-yearly fee and then sought additional re-imbursement for lengthy involvements or unusual items. Mr Rooker does not appear to receive an agreed retainer until somewhat later (certainly by 1822).

When undertaking biographical research into individuals of interest who emerge from this project it is surprising where this leads. In the case of Abel Rooker this proved to involve 18th century developments in the non-conformist tradition that became Congregationalism and links between Walsall and Bridport in Dorset, an attempted murder in Lower Gornal and female chit-chat between Charlotte Bronte and her friend Ellen Nussey.

Abel Rooker was born in Walsall on 18 October 1787, the son of James and Mary Rooker and baptised in the independent chapel in Walsall on 20 Feb 1788. He developed his skills under the Walsall surgeon Francis Watkin Weaver, who paid apprentice tax for Abel on 26 January 1803, when Abel would have been 16 years old.  Abel went on to marry Susanna Brevitt, the daughter of a Darlaston butcher, Thomas Brevitt and his wife Sarah, by licence at Darlaston St Lawrence church on 9 May 1811. Even if Abel had retained his parents’ non-conformist views the marriage would have had to take place in an Anglican church in this period before civil registration was introduced in 1837. Susanna was only 20 years old when they married.

Abel and Susanna had 4 children (James Yates Rooker, Harriet Mary Rooker, William Yates Rooker and Susanna Rooker) before they produced a son Abel who died as a baby (he was buried on 1 September 1818). Sadly Susanna had already passed away on 23 June that year. It is distressing to realise that at the time that Abel was ministering to the medical needs of the Darlaston poor, his skills could not save his own wife and son. It is interesting that Abel sought letters of administration on his wife’s estate on 5 Sep 1818. At this period, a wife’s property was considered to belong automatically at marriage to her husband.

Abel married again in 1821, by licence, on 22 May at Handsworth. His bride was Frances Fletcher, a glass maker’s daughter from Wednesbury, with whom he had 6 children (Maria, William, Ann Alice, Abel, John and Thomas Fletcher).

Frances died on 5 October 1853 and again Abel sought letters of administration in order to deal with his wife’s estate.  He retired as surgeon on 1 Oct 1854 when his partnership with Thomas William was dissolved. Abel then moved to live in Lower Gornal and the 1861 census shows him living in Church Street with his unmarried daughter Ann Alice. He died in Lower Gornal on 18 April 1867 and two of his sons acted as executors of his will (probate granted at Lichfield on 13 June 1867).

 

Sources

Baptismal, marriage, death, apprenticeship, census and probate information accessed at Ancestry www.ancestry.co.uk/ and Find my Past www.findmypast.co.uk/

Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser, 4 October 1854

Swan pinner

Stramshall had a swan pinner. In 1831 William Allsop sought reimbursement for taking his oath as constable and for John Ward taking his oath as swan pinner.

This poses several questions. Did the role involve what its title suggests? Were swans a particular nuisance in Stramshall? Was it an honorific title – a legacy of former times? Did other places have swan pinners?

Early research has drawn a blank so far….

John and Ann Chatterton hightail it out of Uttoxeter

By 1851 John & Ann Chatterton had left Uttoxeter for Burton upon Trent and were living in Bridge Street. John was a pawnbroker and Chelsea pensioner, born in Lichfield.  Ann was 25 years younger and originally from Atherstone. They had married in Uttoxeter in 1847 following the death of Jane Chatterton, John’s previous wife, in 1845. Jane had been matron of the Union workhouse in 1841, while John was governor there. Ann had known John for some time as she had been governess at the workhouse in 1841 under her maiden  name of Ann Wootton.

John and Ann continued to live in Burton moving to Union Street by 1861. They died in 1861 and 1871, respectively, both leaving wills. He left his estate to her. Her will is somewhat lengthier and includes reference to 2 cottages on the Heath in Uttoxeter.

Did life in Uttoxeter become too hot for them?

Another Thomas Norris!

The 1841 census listed another Thomas Norris in Uttoxeter besides the one who was a relieving officer. This second Thomas was a printer and bookseller living in the Market Place and was somewhat younger, having been born in 1809. He was at this stage unmarried and living with his mother Ann and sister Jane. He married Ann Caroline Fowler of Leominster in 1845 and went on to be steward of the Wesleyan Methodist church in Uttoxeter. His sister Jane married a Wesleyan minister (John Peaviour Johnson) in 1844.

However, it is their mother Ann who is the most intriguing figure. She was born Ann Schofield and married Thomas & Jane’s father John Norris at Leek in 1806. Sometime after Thomas’s birth in 1809 and that of Jane in 1814 the family decamped to Pentwyn in Llanfair Kilgeddin, Monmouthshire. John Norris had been a baker but became a farmer in Wales. By 1834 Ann was a widow and was living in Uttoxeter again. In May of that year she requested to register a printing press and thus the firm of A. Norris & Son of Uttoxeter was born. This must have been quite a departure from her life as the wife of a baker then farmer. What happened in those 20 years between 1814 and 1834 remains to be uncovered.

Ann died in Uttoxeter in December 1848 aged 72. Her son continued the business in the name of A. Norris & Son until the 1860s when it hit the rocks financially.

Thomas Norris (1787-1848)

Thomas was baptised in Uttoxeter in 1787 (7 March or 30 May), the son of Thomas and Ann Norris. His father was a farmer. He married Charlotte Kiernan Collins at Stone by licence on 26 May 1821. In 1836 he advertised his intention in local newspapers to stand as candidate for Relieving Officer to the Uttoxeter Poor Law Union. He had had considerable experience of the old pre-1834 Poor Law system as his signature appears on many of the receipts among the Overseers  Accounts for Uttoxeter parish in the late 1820s and early 1830s. He was successful in his candidature as the 1841 census shows his occupation as Relieving Officer. His wife Charlotte listed her occupation as dressmaker, which proved important as she would need to support herself and her children after Thomas died in October 1848.

Thomas and Charlotte had 6 children: daughter Charlotte became a dressmaker, too, Ann and Mary became milliners and Elizabeth became a governess at Blore Hall and at Croxden Abbey. Son Henry eventually became a station master. Their other son, Thomas Henry, died aged 17 months in 1830. Henry became head of the family, gathering his womenfolk in his home at Dove Bank, including his aunt Harriet, Thomas’s sister, who had been a witness at Thomas and Charlotte’s wedding in Stone.

Thomas’s widow Charlotte died in Uttoxeter in September 1872 at the age of 82.

Return to Uttoxeter

It seems that George Haslehurst was determined to return to Uttoxeter following his removal to Eckington. We can see from the 1851 census that he was living with his wife Fanny in Buntings Yard off the High Street in Uttoxeter. With them was Fanny’s son Enoch Overton aged 18. George had married Fanny Overton nee Baker on 28 March 1846 at St Oswald’s church in Ashbourne. He continues to be a nail maker by trade.

Elizabeth Wetton

These two printed receipts amongst the Uttoxeter overseers accounts show payments made to Elizabeth Wetton for printing handbills and supplying haberdashery items. The later one for 1832 (on the left) indicates she was a draper in the Market Place. The earlier one for 1830 (on the right) shows she was operating quite a multi-purpose business.

At this time Elizabeth was a widow in her 70s who had carried on her husband’s business (printer and mercer) after his death in 1800 as she had several young children to raise and educate. The receipts are signed by her son-in-law William Smith, who took over the business in January 1834. Elizabeth died in May 1834 at the age of 80.

Elizabeth emerges as a determined lady, keen to soldier on when widowed and to continue to run the business until very shortly before her death at the grand age of 80.

 

Dispatched to New York

We found this receipt amongst the Uttoxeter overseers accounts which shows that they paid £20 for the Erams family for passage from Liverpool to New York on the ship Glasgow. This was an American ship making its first return voyage to the US. It came into Liverpool in May 1832 with a cargo of cotton bales. The Glasgow left Liverpool on 18 June and arrived in New York on 30 July 1832. Passage in steerage cost £2 per head, so the family may have comprised as many as 10 persons. No wonder the Uttoxeter overseers were keen to dispatch them so far away! Reports of arrivals in American newspapers estimate the number of steerage passengers on the Glasgow at 160, which must have made the family’s 6-week journey a rather crowded one.

Bernard ticket