Surname Saturday – The Flower family

Surname Saturday – This week it’s the turn of the FLOWER family of Cambridgeshire – an unusual surname, that took on a harrowing battle at home.

The Flower family appear in my maternal ancestry – with its most recent name bearer being my 7x Great Grandmother, Frances Flower.

Frances was born in 1731, and was the oldest of five daughters born to William Flower and his second wife Phillipa Thorpe, who had married the previous year at Wicken parish church, Cambridgeshire, England.

St Laurence's church, Wicken. Photo: Steve Day via Creative Commons.
St. Laurence’s church, Wicken, Cambridgeshire, would have been a familiar sight for the Flower family. Photo: Steve Day via CreativeCommons.

William’s first marriage to Jane Diss on 3rd November 1715 at Wicken, had produced six children – the last, Thomas, born not long before Jane’s death in 1728.

  • Jane Flower b.c.1716
  • Mary Flower b.c.1718
  • Elizabeth Flower b.c.1719
  • Frances Flower b.c.1722 d.1726
  • William Flower b.c.1724
  • Thomas Flower b.c.1727 d.1748

Jane’s death left William with five young children, all under the age of 12 years old. Having re-married to Phillipa in 1730, the couple settled down to raise five children.

  • Frances Flower b.1731
  • Rose Flower b.c.1732
  • Anne Flower b.c.1734 d.1735
  • Anne Flower b.c.1737 d.1742
  • Elizabeth Flower d.1737

Frances was baptised at Wicken on 13th June 1731.

Frances married at about the age of 21, on 30th March 1752, to widower Richard Bayley, who also lived in Wicken.

The couple settled down and had nine children.

A danger strikes a fatal blow

Frances’ parents, lived until their 50s/60s, but the Wicken burial register notes ‘coll’ as the cause of death. I’m pretty convinced that this note, which appears alongside several other entries, suggests that there was an outbreak of Cholera in the village.

There are eight recorded ‘coll’ victims in Wicken in 1785-1786, and five of these were in the Bayley family – suggesting a contagious disease, which my other initial thought of ‘Colick’ is not (obviously, I am no doctor).

Both Frances and her husband, their son and daughter-in-law, and another married daughter, all died as a result of ‘coll’ within the space of five weeks.

Millions of people still die from cholera each year, but unlike those in the 18th Century, we can now treat the disease to help reduce that figure.

Cholera in Wicken might suggest that there was poor water sanitation in the village, or that the Bayley family had low food hygiene standards.

It is sometimes linked to poverty.

William Bailey ‘Died by the visitation of God’

William Bailey died whilst cutting oats in a field in Wicken in 1861. The inquest’s verdict was ‘died by visitation of God’.

William Bailey - killed 'by God'

Newspaper report from page 5 of the Cambridge Chronicle, dated 31st August 1861, details the sudden death of labourer William Bailey of Wicken. After an inquest took place, the cause of death was noted as ‘Died by the visitation of God’.

Needless to say, the culprit was subsequently not brought to justice.

Book: ‘Soham & Wicken Through Time’

Book Review: “Soham & Wicken Through Time” by Michael Rouse and Anthony Day (ISBN:978-1-84868-667-0), published by Amberley Publishing Plc.

‘Soham and Wicken Through Time’ by Michael Rouse and Anthony Day is a collection of images from the history of Soham town and the neighbouring village of Wicken in Cambridgeshire.

"Soham & Wicken Through Time" by Michael Rouse & Anthony Day
"Soham & Wicken Through Time" by Michael Rouse & Anthony Day

This book contains a real range of photographs, chronicling the changes that both places have undergone from the late 19th century right through to the modern day. Care has been taken to try to take modern photographs of street scenes from the same position as the older image. This is achieved in most cases and really gives the reader a greater means of comparison.

The book is split into two parts – Soham (by Michael Rouse) leads the first part half of the book, with (the more familiar to me) Wicken (by Anthony Day) taking the second half.

Each page comes with two photographs and a well-researched caption, often including specific names of the people appearing in them – giving this book an extra significance in that it documents not just the places, but also the inhabitants. Unlike several of the ‘then and now’ books, it includes the village postman, the paper delivery boy, and the amateur dramatics group from both the late 19th century/early 20th century and also from when the book was compiled.

The book is both fascinating as a measure of social history, as it is for a genealogist with interests in these two Cambridgeshire places.

My only note, and maybe this is just me, is that the book would have benefited from including a basic map of each location, so that the reader could get a better sense of the location of the street scenes.

Buy it today:

“Soham & Wicken Through Time” by Michael Rouse and Anthony Day is published by Amberley Publishing Plc, ISBN: 978-1-84868-667-0.

Buy from – supporting this blog.

I got my copy (signed by Michael Rouse) from Topping and Company Booksellers of Ely – they may have some signed copies left!

Surname Saturday: BISHOP

 Bishop is the 201st most common surname in the UK, a fall of almost 30 places from the 1880s. According to John Ayto (Encyclopedia of Surnames), the surname of Bishop originates from a person who was a servant in the house of a Bishop or from someone whose appearance or demeanour was similar to that of a Bishop.

I’ve managed to trace my Bishop ancestors back to the 1700s with the help of fellow researcher and distant relative Gerard Kelly.

My most recent Bishop ancestor was my Gt Gt Grandmother, Adelaide Bishop (born in 1877, pictured). She was the fourteenth child of a total of eighteen children of a James Simpson Bishop and his wife Ann (née Bowers) of Wicken, Cambridgeshire. With this many children it’s a wonder how the name has declined at all, but in this family alone daughters were most common.

James Simpson Bishop was born in 1842 in Soham, a place that unfortunately needs little introduction. However, for the 1851 census the family had moved to a farm at Twineham in West Sussex – an unusual move considering that very few families at the time moved much further than the next village. I can only assume that James’ parents took the family there for work – perhaps as tenant farmers. By 1858 the family had returned to Cambridgeshire and are living close to Soham in the village of Fordham, before moving again to Wicken.

The family remained around this area with many children marrying and starting their own families.

Wicken Windmill

This weekend is National Mills Weekend in the UK, and so I decided to head off to one of the few working mills left in Cambridgeshire, in a village called Wicken.

Wicken was once home to my Bishop family during the 1800s, and it is most likely that they regularly looked at Wicken Mill, which stopped being used commercially in the 1930s. In the 1800s, it was cutting edge. Harnessing the power of wind to grind corn into different grades of flour.

Today, our guide showed us how a team of enthusiasts have managed to restore the mill to a working condition where they make (and sell) plain and wholemeal flour.

Climbing up through the levels, I arrived at the grinding level, where two large grindstones sit. Through an engineering feat, corn or wheat is steadily fed to the grindstones. The sails fly past the windows at a regular and fast pace. The stones were not grinding when I visited, but the corn that is hoisted up from the ground floor through trapdoors is fed to the hoppers above the grindstones.

The ground corn, then drops down chutes to the level below, where it drops into sacks.

The windmill, with its sails spinning round in the windy wet fens, felt like a machine charging up a tremendous power. Its wheels and pulleys working together, would have been the hadron collider of the day, but one that helped put money in pockets and bread on the tables of the entire village.

A couple of years ago, and only a few miles away, I visited The Great Mill of Haddenham. That mill is not a working mill but like many is steadily being restored.

Both are beautiful machines, harnessing an incredible power. I hope that the remaining mills of Cambridgeshire can be restored once again to full working order.

A life consumed

The ‘White Plague’, ‘Consumption’, ‘T.B’, Tuberculosis.

If you’ve been researching your family tree, you’re bound to have stumbled across some of these phrases as causes of death (i’d only not seen the ‘white plague’ term before, but I’ve seen the others too many times).

Although it wasn’t notifiable until 1912, Tuberculosis was probably the cause of one-third of disease caused deaths in the nineteenth century. That’s quite a claim.

Environments with poor ventilation, overcrowding and people with poor nutrition (including the drinking of infected cows milk) were all susceptible to the disease. However, improvements in housing and nutrition halved the number of deaths by the end of the century.

Within my own family, I have found cases where it has claimed my ancestor’s lives: a 35yr old Henry Bowers of Wicken, leaving his young wife with a hungry family of eight young children; two children both under the age of 1 year of James and Mary Martin of Little Downham – (another daughter died aged 9yrs from Scarlet Fever, and James himself was killed by a train not far from his house).

If you’re interested in reading more about poverty and disease (such a jolly topic i know!), i recommend getting hold of a copy of Rosemary Rees’ Poverty and Public Health : 1815-1948 (Heinemann Advanced History S.)

More on Tuberculosis at Wikipedia