Ruscoe Chronicles – vol. 04/1

November 2004 (published June 2005)

Whatever happened to my good intentions? I meant to keep on sending out Chronicles from time to time, but other things have been keeping me busy. The local Bedfordshire Family History Society is consuming quite a lot of my time, as I am now Project Coordinator. Also the family naturally makes demands. September 2003 saw the wedding of our only child, Hazel to Mike Johnson, and that involved a good deal of work! However, I have been keeping in touch with a number of people, and others have come to light through GenesReunited as it is now called. There are two families descended from two Ruscoe brothers: Abraham and James who settled in Little Hulton, Lancashire. When the second contacted me, I was able to put them in touch. The ancestors were both born at Prees, shown in the 1881 census as “Priest, Salop”. However, they do not belong to our immediate family at that stage – perhaps further back.

The following is a article that I was prompted to write for the Shropshire FHS journal, and I have left it unaltered. Perhaps a little background would be useful. In June there were two articles of interest: one man asking why his ancestor went to sea when Shropshire is so far inland, the other containing details of a cottage hospital run by the Lilleshall Company in the Shropshire coalfields – the area that is now mostly absorbed into Telford. The writer happened to mention a couple of car accidents, the second of which caught my eye: “William Ruscoe a chauffeur at New Yard was knocked down by a motor car and subsequently died. Did he perhaps forget to engage his hand brake?

This man I recognised as Terry’s grandfather, in his spare time an entertainer and magician. When we managed to meet up with Terry and Peggy for an enjoyable evening in Cornwall (despite the World Cup match that was being shown on TV in the bar) I mentioned this to him, and suggested he might like to defend his grandfather’s competence. The result was a short article and several good pictures in the September issue. There was also another article about Naval ancestors. So I thought I would respond with a bit about my great grandfather, who went to sea, and thought I might summarise what happened to his brothers and one sister. As I was checking up the facts from various emails and census entries, I realised that several of the men became bricklayers, while William senior became a sawyer on the estate at Peplow. Here his sons went into service, and William junior became a chauffeur. So the article grew a bit, and covers both aspects. It did not appear in the December journal and I thought I would send it to you.

I should also say that I intend to write a bit more about the parents George and Ann Blackhurst, his parents Daniel and Sarah, and his parents George and Mary Jones who seem to have lived in Malpas parish, just over the Cheshire border. I have suspected for some time that this area is the home of the Ruscoe families, but have not yet searched the registers beyond George and Mary’s family. Cheshire is poorly covered by the IGI, though there is a marriage index, which shows quite a lot in the Southwest of the county. I have just tried something that proved very interesting, and confirms there were Ruscoes in the area certainly from about 1659. I looked at the Access to Archives web site, which is the English site that integrates the catalogues of record offices throughout the country. As each one types up their catalogue entries, they are added to the site and the whole is searchable. I looked for Ruscoe and found 33 entries. These are separate collections deposited, most at Cheshire Archives, many at Shropshire and the others here and there.

The Cheshire entries included several from the estate records of Cholmondeley (an ancient family, castle and village). This forms one of the 24 townships or manors within the parish of Malpas (most Cheshire parishes consist of several townships, some having their own church but most being villages or hamlets). It is adjacent to Bickley township, where George & Mary lived for many of their child-bearing years, and to Norbury which is a township within the adjoining Marbury parish. There are altogether 77 Cholmondeley documents, mostly relating to leases of land belonging to the estate, that involve Ruscoe names, either as lessee or tenant of a property. Although a number of these relate to the same events, there are still a great many people named, sometimes giving their wives’ and sons’ names as well. So although the concentration of events in this area is partly because the estate records have been deposited, there must have been quite a number of Ruscoe families there. I know that Terry has been looking at the Marbury parish records, so I hope we may be able to relate these, and see if any of them account for the origin of our earliest George. By the way, there were amongst the Ruscoes: a butcher in Malpas, a wheelwright in Norbury, and several millers of Norbury but holding mills in Bickley and Cholmondeley. One of these had to mortgage the property and eventually surrender it as he failed to pay his rent. So that may be how they came to be farm labourers!

Anyway, more of that some time. For now here is a bit about the family of George and Ann (1803 onwards).


Another Naval Salopian

Published by Shropshire Family History Journal, Volume 26 Part 2 (June 2005), Page 71
“Naval Grandfather, Another Naval Salopian”

At the risk of introducing too many Ruscoe items in the Journal, I thought I must comment on two articles in the last edition (September 2004). I have to admit that A Double Tragedy by Terry Ruscoe was written partly at my suggestion. During our summer holiday in Cornwall, to visit Heligan and Eden, we also contrived to meet up with Terry. When Terry first published his interests in the edition of September 2002, I had contacted him only to find that his great grandparents were William and Susannah Ruscoe of Peplow. This was clearly “Uncle Bill from Peplow”, as my grandfather used to call him. He was the youngest brother of my great grandfather: Chief Petty Officer George Ruscoe RN. Hence my interest in More Naval Matters by Leonard Burden, also in the last issue.

Terry and I share great great grandparents and are therefore third cousins. I was able to tell him their names: GEORGE RUSCOE baptised 22 May 1803 at Moreton Say and ANN BLACKHURST baptised 19 June 1808 at Audlem, Cheshire. By 1817 her family had moved (down the canal, perhaps?) to Cheswardine in North Shropshire. George and Ann married at Cheswardine, 5 July 1830, but seem to have had their family in Prees parish (adjacent to Moreton Say). Later census entries confirm their places of birth. From the census George was a Gardener’s Labourer, and is believed to have worked at one time at Hawkstone Hall (according to a press cutting). His ancestors seem to have been farm labourers, but several of his children made the effort to better themselves.

Eldest son JOHN (1831-1892 and married to Catherine), a labourer in 1851, was a police sergeant at Prees by 1881, with no known offspring. SARAH (1835-1935) went into service and had a son John Edwin Ruscoe (born in Manchester in 1858, father unknown), but distinguished herself by living to be 100 at Crewe. She is the subject of an earlier article (Great Aunt Sarah - Only 99! June 1998). Her great great granddaughter Christine Ruscoe was production designer for the recent Rosemary and Thyme series on ITV.

GEORGE (1837-1897) decided to run away to sea by walking the fifty miles to Manchester. Next day he went down to the docks and got a job; later he joined the Royal Navy. ABRAHAM (1839-) also went to Manchester, where he was a bricklayer by 1881 (and misspelled Roscoe), but we know little more about him.

GEORGE RUSCOE (1837-1897) GEORGE RUSCOE (1837-1897)
GEORGE RUSCOE (1837-1897)
(Click the images for larger versions)

JAMES (1844-1927) married JANE CLAY, also from Prees, where her father was a blacksmith. But they married in Manchester in 1868, and one witness was Sarah Ruscoe (no doubt James’ older sister). James was also a bricklayer. After the birth of their first child, Ada, they returned to Norton in Hales in Shropshire, where he became an Estate Bricklayer. He was widowed and later remarried; he and both wives are recorded on a stone in Adderley churchyard, along with son James (Shropshire Regiment) who died of wounds in South Africa in 1900. Out of the blue I had an email from Anne, a descendent of James and Jane, now living in Australia, who had seen my connection from the SFHS members’ interests. I am now in touch with her and her sister, who were brought up (like me) in the Manchester area, but emigrated in 1955.

THOMAS (1848-1921) moved to Eccles, also in the Manchester area, where in 1872 he married MARY ELLEN LOMAX. He was a bricklayer, later described as a Mine bricklayer. I found his great great granddaughter Liz on GenesReunited.

WILLIAM, finally, became a sawyer on the estate at Peplow, and eventually Terry became his descendent. Incidentally, William and Susan married at Stoke on Trent in 1874, where their first child was born at Hanley, before they returned to Prees.

It has been very rewarding to make contact with the offspring of five of the ten children of George and Ann (there were also girls who married and changed their names). Also interesting to see how so many migrated to the Manchester area, even if they returned, and how many became bricklayers or trained for other trades.

It may be significant that the parents of George (b.1803) were Daniel and Sarah. The only marriage that can be found for them took place 28 June 1802 at the Collegiate Church, Manchester (now the cathedral), where DANIEL RUSCOW married SARAH WITTINGHAM. They then settled in Moreton Say, where his older brother John was living, and raised a family. Daniel was born at Wirswall which is in Cheshire, but in Whitchurch parish; John and others over the border in the large Malpas parish. We can only speculate where Sarah came from, and why they married in Manchester. However, if they did and talked about how they ran away to Manchester to get work and marry, it would affect their grandchildren. Sarah, George, Abraham, James and Thomas all followed this path. William went to the nearer Potteries, but like James, returned.

As to the cause, it could be rural unemployment and recession around 1860, as suggested by Leonard in his article and by the editor in comment. I have no evidence as to why my ancestor George, went to sea – I suspect he just didn’t want to become an “ag. lab.” He does not seem to appear in the 1851 census in Shropshire, when he would have been 14. However, he did not join the Royal Navy until 30 September 1862. Then 25, he gave his year of birth as 1838, not 1837, and had clearly forgotten; he stuck to this most of his life, although he had a copy of his baptismal record for 1837 with his papers. He served as a Stoker second class on HMS Asia, eventually being promoted to Stoker on 8 January 1864. He then transferred to the Hector but on 6 February 1865 he went on the run.

On 20 March 1867, he rejoined the Asia as a stoker and then served on the Waterwitch and Lapwing. He obtained a testimonial from Jones & Williams of Dean St Tube & Brass Foundry Works, Birmingham dated 19 June 1868, and stating that he had been in their employ for “over two years” and was “honest, steady and industrious and well up to his work.” He evidently developed his skill as a mechanic in this period. He also had a copy of his baptismal entry obtained 22 June 1868. These papers were evidently obtained in preparation for a review, for he was “Restored to first class” and in October 1868 he was “Rated” and became a Leading Stoker. He is later described as Lead Stoker and Stoker Mechanic. He became a Chief Petty Officer.

In 1871, he married a young nurse EDITH BUNDAY, born at Bosham, Sussex in 1851 but working in Portsmouth where he was also based. A daughter ADA was born in February 1874, and a son GEORGE (my grandfather) on 29 April 1876. However, from 21 April, he was aboard the Kestrel and bound for the China Seas, not being paid off until 23 February 1880. He did not see his son until the age of three, and his family had no news of him for three years. However, from 28 June 1874 he started to keep a notebook, and he recorded the details of the journey from England through the Suez canal and on to Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Yokohama, a distance of 11235 miles. He also gave an account of pirate villages on the islands and the fever that struck some of the crew. It makes good reading.

On the night of the 1881 census he was recorded on HMS Asia in Portsmouth harbour, but also at 2 Gladstone Street, with his family. On 11 July 1882 he was present at the Bombardment of Alexandria and received the bronze star and a grant. He was shore pensioned 20 March 1887 after twenty years service (from his return after desertion).

For a while he worked on the chain ferry between Gosport and Portsmouth, but then, probably in 1890, decided to return to his roots in Prees, taking his wife and two children, who had rarely left the south coast, to this strange countryside. On 4 April 1891 his mother (widowed in 1872) died aged 83; in June 1892 his brother John gave him a family bible, then sadly John died, aged 61, in November.

In view of various injuries received George was entitled to send his son to the Royal Naval School at Greenwich. George junior had attended the school at Prees Lower Heath from 9 May 1890, but on 26 October 1891 he left to go to Greenwich. However, he said that in his year at Lower Heath with Robert Taylor he learnt more than in all his time at the Naval College. He was not interested in a life at sea, and in due course he left to become – guess what? A bricklayer! In 1910 he became an estate bricklayer on the Hawkstone Estate. Incidentally, his nephew, GEORGE HESKETH did join the Navy.

His father died 20 April 1897, still under 60 years of age. There was some disagreement about the funeral at Fauls Green church; George junior fell out with the Church of England and joined the Methodist chapel where he met his wife POLLY THOMAS. They married in 1902 and in due course my father was born.

So that is the story of another sailor who was born in Shropshire, and how his brothers and one sister were influenced to leave the land and find other work, mainly in the growing industrial centres. Don’t let anybody tell you that your ancestors didn’t move about much! Even if they were baptised and buried in the same village, you never know where they got to in between.