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Huxley family - domestic drama

In March of 1898 Mary Huxley brought two of her sons to be baptised at the Church of St John the Baptist, Wickhamford. She did this on separate days, the 8th and 29th, and in the Baptismal Register there is no father’s name and, against both entries, is recorded “Married woman living apart from her husband”. The first child was given the name “Albert Huxley” and the second was entered as “Richard Hardiman Huxley”. A check of the Birth Registers shows that Richard Hardiman Huxley was registered in the December Quarter of 1892 and Albert was registered as “Albert Hardiman” in the September Quarter of 1895. Both births occurred in the Evesham Registration District.

The Huxley Family

Mary Sharp married Edmund Huxley in Badsey on 20th September 1870. She lived in Badsey, but her father’s name was not recorded in the Marriage Register. Edmund came from Broughton, near Pershore and his father’s name was also Edmund and he was deceased. In the 1871 census, the couple were living in Broughton, where he was an agricultural labourer and they had a 12-month-old daughter, Rose E. The baby died soon after the census.

By the time of the 1881 census the Huxleys were living at Old Well Cottage, Childswickham together with four children. These had been born in a variety of locations so the family had moved around the area during the decade since Rose’s death. Edmund (9) had been born in Didcott, Dumbelton; James (7) was born in Norton; Henry (5) in Northfield and Elizabeth (2) in ‘Daytes Bank’, Worcestershire (probably Daylesford, now in Gloucestershire, a village south of Blockley). It was after this time that things seemed to have gone wrong in the family, for in the 1891 census, Edmund is missing.

In 1891 Mary and five children were living in a cottage in Manor Road, Wickhamford (the site of Hody’s Place). Her son, Edmund, and daughter, Elizabeth, was not there, but Henry and William now had younger siblings. There were Ernest Albert (7), Frederick George (5) and Rosa Ellen (8 months), presumably named in memory of her deceased first-born. All of the younger children had been born in Wickhamford and baptised in the Church, with Edmund and Mary registered as the parents. The Head of the household was Richard Hardiman, a 22-year-old agricultural labourer.

The Lodger

Richard Hardiman had been born in Bourton-on-the-Hill, the son of Charles and Susanna Hardiman. In 1881 his family were living in the vicinity of Whitfurrows, Wickhamford in the “Cider Mill Shed”. He was one of seven siblings living there.

By 1901, after the birth of Richard and Albert, described at the start of this article, Mary, by now 47 and with the occupation of field worker, was living in Walkers Lane, Whittington. She had with her, Frederick, Rose, Richard and Albert…..and a lodger – Richard Hardiman (spelled ‘Hardman’ in the census return). He was a carter on a farm.

The Huxley’s, together with their ‘lodger’, were back in Badsey in 1911. They were renting the recently built 1 Bowers Hill Cottages. Mary filled in the census return in a good hand and listed five sons – Henry, William, Frederick, Richard and Albert – all working as labourers. She said that she had had ten children and that nine were still living. (A count of the children from the previous censuses actually comes to eleven.) Also still living with the Huxley family was the ‘lodger’, labourer Richard Hardiman. The property at Bowers Hill is listed in the Valuation Survey of 1912 but in this document the tenant is down as ‘R. Hardiman’.

Mary Huxley died in the spring of 1913, aged 60, and was buried in Badsey Churchyard on 18th March. In the 1924 Electoral Register, Richard Hardiman was listed as living in a hut on the Willersey Road. He died under strange circumstances in 1935, as reported in the Gloucestershire Echo of 12th February.

The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental drowning after 68-year-old Richard Hardiman slipped down a bank into a Badsey Brook. He was a market gardener’s labourer and he had obtained leave of absence from the Evesham Public Assistance Institution, where he had been living.

Horsebridge, on the Evesham to Bretforton road.  This structure was built in 1934, replacing an older bridge.

Horsebridge, on the Evesham to Bretforton road.

This structure was built in 1934, replacing an older bridge.

Alfred Bell had seen Hardiman walking on Horsebridge towards Evesham on Saturday afternoon (Horsebridge crosses Badsey Brook on the Evesham to Bretforton road, near the turn to Aldington). He was walking unsteadily in the roadway and Bell advised him to get on the footpath. P.C. Haines, who said he went to Horsebridge and climbed over a stile on the Evesham side, described the discovery of Hardiman’s body. On the embankment was a man’s overcoat and marks indicating that someone had slipped into the water. After dragging under the arch of the bridge, in water about 8 feet deep, he found a body. He applied artificial respiration for about 20 minutes, without effect. The body had been in the water about and hour and a quarter and there were no signs of violence.

P.C. Haines had known Hardiman for years and he considered him to be of intemperate habits and had seen him under the influence of drink on several occasions and at the time of his death, his body smelt strongly of cider. Evidence of identification was given by Richard Hardiman Huxley, aged 43, of Bowers Hill, Badsey, “a son of the dead man”. He said his father was a widower and had lived for some considerable time at Wickhamford, but had latterly been spending the winter at the Institution. He said that his father was fond of cider.

This is confirmation that Richard Hardiman Huxley, acknowledged Richard Hardiman as his father and that thought that his parents were married.

Evesham Public Assistance Institution, where Richard Hardiman lived at the time of his death.

Evesham Public Assistance Institution, where Richard Hardiman lived at the time of his death.

Now the site of Evesham Hospital, the main buildings in the centre of the photograph have been demolished and this area is now the car park. Even after its change of use locals referred to the place as ‘The Workhouse’.

What became of Edmund Huxley ?

Edmund Huxley cannot be located in the 1891 census, but soon after he appears in court. In September 1893 he was summoned by F.E. Stallard, farmer of Donnington, for leaving his work without notice on the 12th, for which £1 was claimed as damages. Huxley had been a waggoner for Stallard since April and said that after bringing some horses home from work he had been told to go home to his wife. Another person corroborated this and the case was dismissed. The matter did not end there, for in October, Edmund claimed that Francis E. Stannard, farmer, owed him £2 0s 6d for dismissal without notice. He won the case and Stannard was ordered to pay £1 8s 4d and costs.

By the time of the 1901 census, in Drakes Broughton, Edmund was living with his widowed mother Elizabeth. She was recorded as being 78 years of age, but he was incorrectly recorded as being 42 (he was actually 52). He was a farm labourer. By 1911 Edmund Huxley was living in Cropthorne, as a lodger with the Hall family, and working as a market gardener’s labourer.

Edmund appeared in the local newspaper in 1899 and 1900. The Worcestershire Chronicle of 9th September 1899 reported that the Pershore Board of Guardians made an order on Edmund Huxley, labourer of Drakes Broughton, to contribute 2s a week towards the support of the child of Ellen Hooper, an inmate of the Workhouse. The same journal of 25th August 1900 reported that Edmund Huxley was brought up on a warrant and charged with disobeying a bastardy order. He owed £4 15s by that time, saying that he had been ill and offering to pay the outstanding amount at 5s a week. The magistrate agreed to this but said that if he did not pay the first 5s within the next fortnight, he would have to go to prison for 14 days. There is no report of such an outcome, so presumably he paid up.

Part of Pershore Union Workhouse in 1895, home to Ellen Hooper and her four children.

Part of Pershore Union Workhouse in 1895, home to Ellen Hooper and her four children.

Unmarried Ellen Hooper, aged 48 years, was recorded as a pauper inmate of the Union Workhouse, Pershore in the 1901 census, together with four children – Thomas (10, Amelia (8), Annie (5) and the appropriately named Edmund (1). She worked in the fields as a labourer. Ellen was still in the workhouse in 1911, when her age was given as 49, so the 1901 age was incorrect. She had no children with her at this time and died in Pershore in 1913. The only record of an Edmund Hooper of the right age in the 1911 census is a boy in the Great Warford Home for the Feebleminded, Cheshire. There were over 200 children there, all ’feebleminded’ (very low intelligence) and none had a place of birth entered on the census return of 1911. The catchment area of the Home was mainly Lancashire and Cheshire, but children from other parts of England were also sent there.

Nothing else is heard of Edmund Huxley, until his death is registered, at the age of 77, in the Evesham District, in the December Quarter of 1925.

The Huxley sons in the Great War

Three of Mary’s sons served in the Army. Private Richard Hardiman Huxley (1892-1951) enlisted in the 8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regt on 22nd September 1909 and was discharged on 22nd September 1915 having completed the 6 years of service for which he signed up. Private Frederick George Huxley (1886-1943 ?) enlisted in the 13th Gloucestershire Regiment on 8th March 1915. He went to France on 3rd March 1916 and was wounded in the left knee on 30th June that year. Sent home for treatment, he returned to France on 26th October 1916. In November 1917 we was wounded again, this time in the leg and hand and was sent back to England on the 16th November. He was discharged from the Army on 17th August 1918. On enlistment he stated that his next of kin was his father, ‘Edward’ Huxley, but that his whereabouts were unknown.

Lance Corporal Albert Huxley (1895-1917) served in the 2/8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regt. The Badsey Parish Magazines of late 1917 reported that he was wounded in the neck and shoulder and in hospital in France, but that he had recovered and visited his home. He was killed soon after, on 21st November 1917, whilst on sentry duty. He is buried in Fampoux Cemetery, France, and his name appears on the Roll of Honour in Badsey School. A Memorial Service was held for him in Badsey Church on 5th December 1917.

L/Corporal Albert Huxley

L/Corporal Albert Huxley

A few more details of the Huxley brother’s War service are given in the article Wickhamford Goes to War.

Conclusion

The lives of Edmund and Mary Huxley, Richard Hardiman and Ellen Hooper were intertwined for many years and give an interesting insight into one family’s life in Worcestershire in the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century. Whether Edmund deserted his family and Richard moved in to take his place, or Mary’s affections switched, causing a breakdown of the marriage, will never be known.

Appendix

It is a pity that no photographs have been found of any of the participants in the story of the Huxley family, apart from Albert’s picture that appeared in the Evesham Journal after he was killed in 1917.

The picture below, from ‘Heads and Tales – A History of Badsey Schools’, by Maureen Spinks, is of a class in Badsey School in about 1890. At that time the Huxley family were living in a now-demolished cottage near the Manor in Wickhamford. Seven of the Huxley children attended Badsey School. Maureen Spinks has transcribed the admittance books for 1890-1909 and in most cases the dates of birth of the younger Huxley children are recorded – William (23rd April 1881), Ernest (23rd March 1884), Frederick (1st April 1886), Rose Ellen (3rd August 1890, Richard (20th or 21st October 1892) and Albert (11th July 1895). Elizabeth also attended, but her date of birth is not recorded. The Huxley entries for 1890 to 1894 give Edmund Huxley as the ‘parent or guardian’. From 1896 to 1902, Mary Huxley or Richard Hardiman is recorded in that role. Further information is given in the Badsey School section of the web site.

A class at Badsey School in about 1890.

A class at Badsey School in about 1890.

The children appear to range in age from about 3 or 4 years old to 8 or 9, and may include Elizabeth, William, Ernest and Frederick Huxley.

 

Tom Locke – February 2014