About Me

My photo
This blog will be a record of stuff I find interesting, discover or write. Interested in family & local history, cemeteries, reading & libraries, old stuff, research & writing, photography, wine and fine dining plus lots more! Immersed in local history, fascinated by technology and social media and would like more time to spend doing the things I love!

Friday, 25 April 2014

Aunty Amy

My great grandmother’s sister, who is affectionately known in the family as “Aunty Amy” was born in England and migrated to Australia in the 1920s. Following a shipboard romance she married and for a time lived in New Zealand, and then spent the last years of her life at Cronulla NSW.  This is some of Amy’s story. 

Amy’s father was William Richardson, born 1832 in Newcastle on Tyne, England. William’s occupation is recorded as Decorator and sometimes Painter. An oral story passed on, notes he worked on decorating the interior of churches but this has not been confirmed. Her mother was Mary Potts whilst they were both living in Chester, England. William and Mary married on the 30 January 1862  in the Parish Church at Poynton in Chester and sometime following their marriage they moved to London. William was 10 years older than Mary and their union produced eight known daughters, the eldest Mary born in 1863 the youngest Kathleen born in 1886. This story concerns Amy born 24 July 1878, the sister of our Great Grandmother, Annie both of whom were born in Acton on the outskirts of London.

Following the birth of Annie in 1882, Mary aged 40, was warned not to have any further pregnancies due to ill health. However she had another daughter, Kathleen in 1886 but eventually succumbed to her illness and passed away in 1888. The cause of death was listed as Uterine cancer, or Cancer of the womb. There were gaps between the births of her children, and this may be because Mary endured more than one miscarriage or stillborn children. Annie told members of her family that when her mother died her father was left with eight daughters to rear, however the eldest Mary, was 26 years old and capable to care for her younger siblings. Apparently William met a lady who promised to care for his daughters, “like her own”. She had 2-3 daughters of her own. Following the marriage in 1889 she sent William's younger daughters to various relatives. Some of the girls were not happy in the homes they were sent.  

It is not known who cared for Amy after her father remarried but when she completed her schooling, she entered the workforce as a servant. By 1891 as a young teenager, she was employed as a Domestic Servant in Kensington for the Westaway family. By 1901 she was employed by Percy Livingstone Parker a journalist/author and his wife at Muswell Hill. This couple became life-long friends of Amy and treated her as family and Amy was left a large bequest when Percy passed away. 

Amy photographed with friends from work, possibly prior to her marriage in 1908.

By 1908 Amy was listed as a draper's assistant and living at Crouch's End. Aged in their 20s, Amy met John James Porter. Known as Jack, he was born in 1882 at Grantham in Lincoln and was a few years younger than Amy. Jack was the son of John Henry and Frances Porter, a handsome tall young man he had trained as a schoolteacher. 

'Jack' Porter - a handsome young man from Grantham.

By 1908 was an Assistant schoolmaster at St. James School House in Fortis Green Road at Muswell Hill North. They married at the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Muswell Hill North on the 16 April 1908. Long time friend Percy Livingstone Parker, sister Helena Richardson and W. H. Tindall, witnessed the marriage. 

Marriage certificate of Amy Richardson and Jack Porter

The couple were obviously devoted and Amy fondly refers to her husband as "My Jack". From 1911 Jack was the Headmaster at Gosberton Clough School at Spalding, Lincolnshire.

Household listing from 1911 Census RG14PN7248RG78PN354

Amy and Jack Porter

When hostilities in Europe resulted in World War 1 in 1914, many single young men joined up. Jack, although married was only in his early 30s and he enlisted in the London-Scottish on the 13 February 1915 and departed for France following his training on the 21 June 1915. 

His number was 511051 in "B" Coy, 2nd/14th Battalion. He was appointed to the rank of Sgt-Major and miraculously managed to survive the horrendous circumstances of the war to the final stages but was unfortunately “Killed in Action” in Belgium on the 21 August 1918 aged 36 years. He is buried at site A.8 at the Locre No. 10 Cemetery at Heuvelland, West-Vlaandereb in Belgium.  Following his death Amy is listed as living at 161 High Street, Watford. Amy was heartbroken with the death of her husband. She records in her diary on the 4 December 1918, "left home for business, alone and sad."

Jack enlisted in the London-Scottish "B" Coy, 2nd/14th Battalion in 1915 

Following her mourning for her beloved husband Amy made a decision to travel to Australia to visit her sister Annie. She travelled by boat and arrived in Australia via Fremantle in WA. Whilst onboard she made friends with people from New Zealand, including a chap called Edward William Sheeran, who was known as Ted. She stayed with Annie, brother in law Ern and nephew Will, for a while. Sometime later Ted and Amy decided to marry and tied the knot in November 1925 at the Methodist Church in Windsor. 

'Ted' Sheeran and Amy possibly on their wedding day in 1925.

Ted had also been previously married and was a widower and he had a grown up family in New Zealand, nephew Geoff recalls that Ted said he had 12 sons in New Zealand, although this has not been confirmed!! Amy & Ted travelled overseas several times as there are photographs of Amy with various relatives in England after their 1925 marriage. In 1929, Amy visited Jack’s grave at Locre Cemetery  in Belgium.

Following their marriage the Sheerhans lived for a while in Huntley, New Zealand and then moved back to Australia, making their home in Parramatta. Then moved to 26 Gosport Street in Cronulla. They joined the Cronulla Methodist Church and worshipped regularly. The family remember that they had a very fine home with a lovely garden.  Ted and Amy often visited their relations in Riverstone and travelled by train for the day. Amy showered her nephew Bill and his family with thoughtful gifts. 

Ted died on the 21 September 1952 and Amy continued on at Cronulla following his death. She remained a faithful parishioner at the Methodist Church where she had many friends. Amy died on the 18 November 1956 and was cremated & interred on the 8 January 1957 at Woronora Gardens. (Location no.32 of Rose Bed 20AA) Like her sister Annie, Amy was remembered by her family as a kind and generous soul. She had a certain “sadness” about her and even though her life had dealt her several tragedies, she had an inner peace that let her get on with life. At the time of her death, Amy had  reasonably large estate. She left her furniture, jewellery and personal effects to her sister Annie and £250 to her sister Helena who was still alive in London. Her nephew William Robert Nichols was the executor of her estate and she also left him £500. She left £100 to the Cronulla Methodist Church. Her house was sold and the proceeds were divided between her surviving stepchildren in New Zealand.  Some of the stepchildren were listed and their names were Hazel Sheeran, widow of Fonce; Bill, Kattie, Tui and Daphne. No further information is known of the Sheeran family in New Zealand.  

Amy left, with Ern, Flo and Annie Nichols at Pitt Street Riverstone

Amy did not have any children of her own, yet her memory lives on through her sister Annie's descendants. Her legacy remains as she was concerned about her heritage and took pains to care to pass on stories, photographs and objects that have helped piece together her story.

Aunty Amy

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Charles Jennings' wooden leg - Trove Tuesday

My father, Ernest Charles Nichols 1932-2004, often spoke about his mother's father, Charles Robert Jennings 1867-1936. One of the stories he told was about his Grandfather's wooden leg.
Helena and Charles Jennings, Nichols family archive
In the early 1920s, Charles Jennings was sent from Wyong where he lived with his wife, Helena and family, to Richmond. He was to assist with the establishment of the Sawmill located near Richmond Railway Station. His family followed soon arriving in Richmond in August 1921 and they settled into March Street, Richmond. Family knew that Charles was involved in an accident and was rushed to Windsor Hospital. His leg was amputated and it was a miracle his other leg was saved. He wore a wooden leg for the remainder of his life. However no-one in the family knew the exact details until recently that is.

Some keen searching on Trove, the digitised newspapers revealed a small article about the circumstances and also provide a date. The article from the Hawkesbury Herald 1 December 1921 states: The unfortunate accident which happened at Goldsmith Bros & James'
saw mill, resulted in Mr Jennings losing
his foot. 

It also mentions that this was not his first accident,apparently Charles was most unfortunate in the following of mill work, having lost a thumb, and a couple of fingers. Another article in the Hawkesbury Herald (same issue) confirms that Charles had his left foot amputated at the ankle.  

After his recuperation the family decided to move to Riverstone and a property of 6 ¼ acres was purchased in Hamilton Road. There the family established a poultry farm and had about 500 hens which were sold to the Egg board. The family also had about four or five pigs, a couple of cows for milk, cockerels and fruit trees. Charles died 26 August 1936 and Helena died 24 March 1943. Both are buried in the Church of England (Anglican) section of Riverstone Cemetery.
Charles Robert Jennings 1867-1936, was the son of Robert Jennings 1844-1885 & Lucy Jessie nee Havens 1845-1913. If you want to find out more about Charles, you can check him out in the family tree.

  • Charles Robert Jennings - Local and General. (1921, December 1). Hawkesbury Herald (Windsor, NSW : 1902 - 1945), p. 2. Retrieved January 4, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66367248
  • District Illnesses. (1921, December 1). Hawkesbury Herald(Windsor, NSW : 1902 - 1945), p. 2. Retrieved January 4, 2014, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66367261
  • Interviews with Florence Nichols nee Jennings, Ernest Charles Nichols & Geoffrey Alan Nichols
  • Death certificate of Charles Robert Jennings and Helena Bridget Jennings

Monday, 6 January 2014

Annie Nichols nee Richardson (1882-1958)

Annie, young Bill and Ern at Tilba, Nichols family archives

My great-grandmother, Annie Richardson was born on the 25 October 1882 at Avenue Road Acton in Middlesex. She was the daughter of William and Mary Richardson. Annie's mother, Mary nee Potts died in 1888 aged 46. The cause of death was Uterine cancer. Annie was only five years old. She was recorded in the 1891 census living with Robert Faircloth (1833-1917) who along with wife Helena (1832-1909) reared Annie. In the 1901 Census Annie is listed as their adopted daughter. Family stories allege they were her Aunt and Uncle but to date no family connection has been found. 

Annie Richardson's birth certificate, Nichols Family archives

By the early 1900s Annie was living in Finchley with her Aunt and Uncle whilst working as a waitress. Around this time Annie met Ernest Nichols and after seeing each other for a while, they decided to marry. Ern was a baker and was born on 28 February 1875 at 7 Hornsey Street Islington, the son of William Nichols (1848-1926) a Police Sergeant and Jane Eliza nee Tucker (1843-1914). At the time of their marriage Annie was almost 20 years old whilst Ern was seven years her senior at 27. The couple married 22 September 1902 at St. Phillip's, Dalston MDX. The witnesses of the marriage were Robert N. F. Richardson and Amy Richardson. Amy was Annie's sister. Robert apparently reared Annie. 

It is not known where Ern and Annie resided immediately after their marriage but eventually they lived at "Lucerne" in Dale Grove, North Finchley. (Ern’s parents William and Jane Nichols also lived in North Finchley). From the 1890s, Ern was employed as a baker by Henry Purvis who ran the “North Finchley Hygienic Bakery” at 81 High Street. Purvis was a high class cook and confectioner although he died on the 18 February 1908 aged 71 years, Ernest stayed on and worked for the Executors of the Purvis' estate. 

The only surviving child of Ernest and Annie was William Robert, born 2 July 1903 in London. Sadly for the couple they were destined to only have one child although Annie apparently suffered numerous miscarriages. They appeared to have a close bond. Once Annie and son Bill went on a trip to Brighton and in a postcard, Annie wrote: ......shall be so glad to be back with you dear! Love and kisses from Sonny and myself, your loving wife, Annie.

Annie's postcard to her husband, Nichols Family archives 

Following a decade of marriage Ern and Annie made the decision that would change both of their lives irrevocably. They resolved to migrate to Australia. There are several family stories passed down giving the reason behind this choice; firstly to put as much distance as possible between Ern and his interfering mother; secondly the warmer climate would better suit Ern's asthma. Whether there is any truth behind these rumours, is not known, but tickets were purchased and trunks packed. It would have been a difficult decision, to leave all that was familiar, friends, family, birthplace to travel half way around the world to the strange and exotic destination of Australia. The Manager of the Purvis Company supplied Ern with an excellent Reference. The Manager stated that Ern was leaving us entirely of his own accord, to try his fortune in a new country and they were very sorry and very reluctant to lose his services. They had no hesitation in recommending him for any position suited to his abilities and capacity. They considered him absolutely trustworthy and hard working and found him to take an intelligent interest in anything he had in hand.   

Ern's handwritten Recipe Book has survived and in it is recorded seven varieties of Yeast, recipes for Queen cakes, Madeira cake, Cornflour Cream Buns, Coconut Mac's, Cheese curd etc.

Apparently Ern could not purchase tickets for the family on the same ship, so he went on his own, the plan being for him to establish a starting place. He departed on the 27 October 1912 from London on the Zicten. The ticket cost £17 and was for an Open berth, for males only.  Ern was listed on the Passenger List as Ernest Nicholos (sic) and his occupation was 'butcher' to the clerk recording these details, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, probably did not concern him a great deal. Never realising that years later people would be researching family history and be sent into a quandary about conflicting information! Ern possibly did not know anyone when he arrived in Sydney and would have been most definitely missing his family, particular as it was the festive season of Christmas. It must have come as a shock celebrating Christmas in the heat of summer rather than the cold winter season he was used to.

Bill with Annie on the Scharnhorst which arrived in Sydney in 1913, Nichols family archives

Annie and young William travelled later on the Scharnhorst. They left England on the 22 December 1912 and 47 days later arrived in Sydney, on the 7 February 1913. The Scharnhorst carried a total 211 crew and 478 passengers on the journey they travelled with the Reverend Ellis and family. Annie was very appreciative of the family's concern and always spoke very kindly of the Ellis family. Annie's grandson Warren Ellis was named after the Reverend and other family throughout the years have also been given the name.

On arrival the family spent time looking for a suitable climate for Ern's asthma, they travelled north to Coolangatta before spending time in Tilba and so began their life in Australia.

  • Reference for Ernest Nichols from H. Purvis business, North Finchley 22 Oct 1912
  • Inwards Passengers List  28 Jan-15 Mar 1913,  SR Reel 2070
  • Recipe Book, compiled by Ern Nichols, Nichols family archives
  • 1891 Census, 1901 Census

Sunday, 5 January 2014

First post

This blog will be a record of stuff I find interesting, discover or write. Interested in libraries, cemeteries, reading, old stuff, photography, wine and fine dining plus lots more! Immersed in local history, fascinated by technology and social media and would like more time to spend researching my family history.