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Moulbery sisters and their husbands, George Brotherton, Charles Halford, George Pitts

In 1913, only nine days apart, two sisters by the name of Moulbery were married in Wickhamford Church. An older sister had been married in the Evesham area in 1906, and all three were to live in the village for some time. Researching the background of this family has been difficult due to numerous alternative spellings of the surname over the period 1825 to 1915. In this article, for simplicity, the spelling MOULBERY will be used throughout, but with the version used at the time in parentheses.

Family Background

The Moulbery sister’s paternal grandfather was Thomas Moulbery, who was baptised in Powick on 28th November 1824 (as Mowbrey), the son of John and Hannah. In the first census to give individual names, in 1841, Thomas (Mowburry) was an agricultural labourer in Powick working for James Woodyatt. He married Ann Lloyd in 1852 and the couple had their first two children in Powick – William (Mowbray) in 1853 and Charles (Mowbray) in 1856. The family moved to Badsey in about 1858 and were living in the High Street for the 1861 census. Thomas (Mowbray) was still an agricultural labourer and apart from wife, Anne, and the two sons, a daughter, aged 2, was recorded as born in Badsey. In this census her name was given as Hannah, but no record of the registration of her birth has been located. In the 1871 census the girl’s name was recorded as Christiana, aged 12, but no birth record under this name has been found either. She died in 1874, aged 15, and was buried in Badsey on 24th May. In 1871 the family were living in a cottage at the silk mill; Thomas and his son William (17) were agricultural labourers and Charles (14) was recorded as a general servant. Thomas, Anne and Charles (Mowbray) were still in Badsey in 1881, but William had moved to Middlesex by then and he was to be the father of the three sisters who are the basis of this article.

William Moulbery in Middlesex

The marriage took place between William Moulbery (as Moulbrey) and Sarah Taylor in the Fulham District in 1882. No record has been found of William in the 1881 census. Three daughters were born in the nearby Brentford District of Middlesex – Sarah Ann (as Mulberry) in 1883, Edith Florence (as Moulbrey) in 1886 and Beatrice Emily (as Moulbrey) in 1889. William and Sarah (Moulbrey), together with the younger two daughters, were recorded in the 1891 census as living at 34 Distillery Road, Ealing, Brentford – a street now demolished. The whereabouts of the eldest sister in this census is not known. William was employed as and ostler and groom and Sarah’s birthplace was recorded as Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire. By the time of the 1901 census the family were dispersed.

Family Whereabouts in 1901-1911

William and Sarah (as Moulbry) were living, in 1901, with the youngest daughter, Emily, (11) back in Silk Mill Cottages, Badsey. William had reverted to being a farm labourer. His eldest daughter was working as a kitchen maid in the household of Selina Copley at 2 The Leas, Folkestone, Kent. Mrs Copley would have given her details on the census form and she is recorded as Sarah Mulberry, born in Twickenham, Middx. The other daughter, Edith (Moulberry), aged 15, was employed as a domestic servant in the household of plumber Richard Mills at Violet Villa, Pershore. In 1911, Beatrice Emily Moulbery (21), was a servant in the Swan Hotel, Port Street, Evesham.

The Sisters’ Marriages

The first sister to wed was Sarah Ann Moulbery in late 1906, in the Evesham District. She married George Harcourt Edward Brotherton. In 1913, in Wickhamford, Edith Florence Moulbery married Charles William Halford on 9th October. Beatrice Emily Moulbery, who married George Henry Pitts, followed her down the aisle on 18th October.

The three Moulbery sisters and their husbands, probably pictured in October 1913.
The three Moulbery sisters and their husbands, probably pictured in October 1913.

From the left, they are Charles William Halford, Edith Florence Halford nee Moulbery, Sarah Ann Brotherton nee Moulbery, George Harcourt Edward Brotherton, Beatrice Emily Pitts nee Moulbery and George Henry Pitts. The young girl is Beatrice May Brotherton (b. 1909). The family are pictured outside of the house of George Brotherton, one of a terrace of four demolished in the 1930s for the construction of “Hody’s Place” in Manor Road, Wickhamford.

The Next Generation

George and Sarah Brotherton had four children – Beatrice Florence May (pictured above) in 1909, Ernest George W. in 1914, Hilda I. in 1919 and Cecil E. in 1924. Charles and Edith Halford also had four children – George in 1914, Daisy in 1916, Sidney in 1918 and Vera in 1924. George and Beatrice Pitts were childless. One final twist in the spelling of the Moulbery name is found in the birth registers, as the maiden name of Hilda’s mother is in the records as ‘Molberry’ !

All three families are recorded in Wickhamford in the 1924 Electoral Register. The Halfords were living on Pitchers Hill at the present no. 71. The Pitts were at ‘4 Council Cottages’, now 11 Pitchers Hill, and the Brothertons were still in the terraced house mentioned above in Manor Road, although they later moved to Pitchers Hill.

The Husbands’ Lives

George Pitts was born in Fulbrook, near Witney, Oxfordshire, in 1878, a son of Henry and Phoebe nee Hicks. His father was a general labourer in 1891 and George lived in Childswickham in 1911, as a market gardener’s labourer. George Pitts appeared before a Military Tribunal in 1916 and was instructed to join the Volunteer Training Corps – the Great War equivalent of the Home Guard in World War Two. He appeared before the Tribunal again in early 1917 and was told to enlist (possibly as he was childless), but given exemption from doing so until 1st April. He joined the Worcestershire Regt later that year, aged nearly forty, and served in Italy, winning the Military Medal. At the time of the 1930 Sale he was market gardening in a field known as ‘Withy Dean’ (see map below).

In this group of men, George Pitts is thought to be on the left. (Charles Mason is on the right, the name of the other man is unknown.)
In this group of men, George Pitts is thought to be on the left. (Charles Mason is on the right, the name of the other man is unknown.)

Charles Halford was born in Offenham in about 1884, one of ten children of Samuel and Rebecca nee Halford. He married Elizabeth Maud Winnett in late 1906 or early 1907, but she died in the spring of 1909 and was buried in Wickhamford on 22nd April. There was a son by this marriage, Charles Samuel being born in 1907. In the 1911 census, Charles Halford was back living with his parents and working as a market gardener. When a Valuation Survey was carried out in 1912 he was living in what later became know as ‘Robin Cottage’ in Manor Road, Wickhamford.

There is no record of him serving in the Great War. His name appears in the list of tenants recorded in a sale document for the Wickhamford Estate in 1930 when he was living in the village and market gardening land in two fields – ‘Middle Field’ and ‘Pitchers Hill Close’ (see map below). When the Ministry of Agriculture conducted a survey of farms in 1941 his returns show that he had two acres of orchards and two and a half acres of vegetables – Brussels sprouts, green peas and asparagus.

Charles Halford pictured on Pitchers Hill, with the Council Houses in the background.
Charles Halford pictured on Pitchers Hill, with the
Council Houses in the background.
Charles Halford, with son, George, and daughter, Vera, with a neighbour, Ernie Cox, on the right.
Charles Halford, with son, George, and daughter, Vera, with a
neighbour, Ernie Cox, on the right.

George Brotherton was born in Evesham in 1882, one of five sons of James and Ellen nee Harcourt. In 1901 he was a market gardener’s labourer and at the 1911 census, after his marriage, his father-in-law, William Moulbery (54) was living in his household and working as coal merchant’s carter. William was a widower, his wife, Sarah having died in 1905. There is no record of George Brotherton serving in the Great War. In the 1930 Sale document, the Brothertons were living on Pitchers Hill and George was market gardening on ‘How Acre’ and ‘Pitchers Hill Close’ (see map below).

Map of part of the village accompanying the 1930 Wickhamford Estate sale particulars.
Map of part of the village accompanying the 1930 Wickhamford Estate sale particulars. The details below show when the Halford, Pitts and Brotherton men market gardened and lived at that time.

Lots 51 & 52 = Pitchers Hill Close (where Brotherton and Halford market gardened)
Lot 54 = Cottages on main road to the SE of Lot 56 (where Halford lived)
Lot 66 = Houses on opposite side of main road to Lot 49 (where the Brotherton family lived)
Lot 67 = Withy Dean (where Pitts market gardened)
Lot 69 = How Acre (where Brotherton market gardened)
Lot 75 = The Middle Field (where Halford market gardened)
The Pitts family lived in the Council Cottages by the main road next to Lot 49.

Family Deaths

Sarah Moulbery died in 1905, aged 40, and is buried in Badsey churchyard, but there is no headstone.

William Moulbery, died in 1919, aged 61.

George Brotherton died in 1931, aged only 48 and is buried in Wickhamford churchyard, but there is no headstone.

Sarah Ann Brotherton died in 1955, aged 72.

Charles Halford died in 1958, aged 76.

George Pitts died in 1961, aged 82.

Edith Florence Halford died in 1965, aged 79.

Beatrice Emily Pitts died in 1977, aged 88

(Apparently, all three of the Moulbery sisters were commonly referred to by their second Christian names during their lifetimes.)

Appendix – Eight Variations in Surname Spelling

In summary, the family surname has been spelled in the following ways (with date when first mentioned in this article) :-

MOWBREY (1824)
MOWBURRY (1841)
MOWBRAY (1853)
MOULBREY (1882)
MULBERRY (1883)
MOULBRY (1901)
MOULBERRY (1901
MOLBERRY (1919)


Tom Locke – November 2014