Benjamin Guy, bookbinder


Benjamin and Hannah Guy, about 1860

Benjamin Guy was my great-great grandfather and he was a bookbinder by trade. He was born in 1810 in London and was baptised on 19th August at St Andrew, Holborn. His parents were Benjamin and Sarah Guy (nee Monger) and Benjamin senior was a haberdasher with premises in Cross Street, Hatton Garden.  Continue reading “Benjamin Guy, bookbinder”

The Harrison sisters

Alice Guy Harrison & daughters

Back L-R Gertie, Nancy, Margaret, Helena. Middle L-R Alice, Alice, Lottie. Front – Winnie. About 1912 (my best guess).

This photo shows my great grandmother Alice Harrison (nee Guy) sitting in the centre, with her five daughters, her sister Nancy and a family friend (Gertie) around her. I’ve posted this photo before but I haven’t said much about the lives of some of the Harrison girls so this post aims to fill that gap.  Continue reading “The Harrison sisters”

Joseph Stickley 1877-1922

Joseph Stickley was born in North Moreton, Berkshire, in 1877 and was baptised at the village church on 20th November. His mother was Martha Stickley but there was no father’s name in the baptism register, meaning that Joseph was born illegitimately. However we know that his father was a North Moreton man called Joseph Warwick because it was reported in the local newspaper that Warwick was ordered to pay 1s 6d per week towards his son’s support. 

The 1881 census shows that by the time Joseph was 4 years old he was living in Wallingford Union Workhouse with his mother and older sister Elizabeth. By the time of the next census in 1891 they were living apart; Joseph’s sister Elizabeth was still in the workhouse and had an illegitimate child of her own; their mother Martha had married and moved out of the workhouse; and Joseph had been sent to the training ship Formidable at Portishead.


HMS Formidable

Training ships took boys aged 12 – 17 years of age who were deemed to be paupers and gave them basic training for the navy. It was used as a kind of overspill from the workhouse and although it was not an easy life, contemporary reports indicate that most boys thought it was preferable to the workhouse. Some boys were sent to training ships by magistrates so it is possible that Joseph had been involved in some kind of petty crime or it could just have been because he was a pauper. It must have been tough for boys like Joseph who were sent  some distance from their home. The regime was strict and Joseph would not have seen his mother or sister for long periods of time.

By 1901 Joseph was 24 years old and had become a Private in the Royal Berkshire Regiment. At the time of the census he was visiting his step-sister and her family (the Whitehorns) in St John’s Road, Wallingford. Joseph stayed with the Royal Berks Regiment for 12 years. During his time with the regiment some units were deployed to Gibraltar, South Africa (for the 2nd Boer War) and Egypt so it is possible that Joseph went to one or more of these places. 


Cap badge of the Royal Berkshire Regiment

When he left the army Joseph worked as a labourer and in 1911 he married Ada Emmons and settled in Goring (about 6 miles from Wallingford). Ada’s family came from Goring and she already had a young daughter when they married. 

In the spring of 1915 Joseph enlisted in the army to fight in the First World War. He was 37 years old and was put in the Labour Corps which suggests that he wasn’t fit enough to join a front line unit. Some parts of the Labour Corps were sent to the various theatres of war where the chance of death or injury was high. Other Labour Corps units provided support services in the UK. Joseph was demobilised in January 1919 and returned to his wife and step-daughter in Goring. 

Sadly, Joseph didn’t have long with his family after the war and he died in March 1922 of pulmonary tuberculosis. He died at a hospital in Worcester and his death certificate notes that he was an army pensioner so it is possible that this was a military hospital and the army was paying for his treatment there. Joseph’s body was returned to Goring and he was buried there on 14 March.  He was 45 years old when he died and I think he’d had a tough life. 


The village of Goring on Thames


Naval training ships

Picture credits

Royal Berkshire Regiment cap badge by Dormskirk [CC BY-SA 3.0 (

HMS Formidable By Captain George Pechell Mends –, CC BY-SA 4.0,

View of Goring on Thames – by Timo Newton-Syms from Helsinki, Finland & Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK – Goring on Thames, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

Martha Stickley and the workhouse

Pauper_Memorial_West Bromwich

Paupers memorial, West Bromwich. ‘This memorial stands in recognition of the people who passed through the workhouse system and to the memory of all those buried unmarked in paupers graves.’

Martha Stickley was one of many cousins of my great-great grandmother Elizabeth Stickley (who married Henry Shayler in 1858). Both Martha and Elizabeth were born in North Moreton, Berkshire, and grew up in the village where most of their relations worked as agricultural labourers.

Martha was baptised on 22 July 1855 at All Saints in North Moreton, and was the oldest child of Charles and Ann Stickley (nee Wing). She appears in the census of 1861 (aged 6) and again in 1871 (aged 15) with her parents and by 1871 she had four younger siblings. Martha’s father was a carter on one of the local farms so he would not have earned very much and they would not have had many material comforts.   

In the summer of 1872 when Martha was 15 going on 16, she gave birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, who was baptised at All Saints church. The parish register gives no indication as to who Elizabeth’s father was. Five years later Martha’s son  Joseph was born. He was also baptised at the village church in November 1877 and once again no father is named in the register of baptisms. However on 12th January 1878, a small item was reported in the Berkshire Chronicle: 

‘Joseph Warwick of North Moreton was ordered to pay 1s 6d per week for sixteen years towards the support of the illegitimate child of Martha Stickley, of the same place’. 

So it seems that Joseph Warwick was baby Joseph’s father and Martha must have been able to provide sufficient evidence of paternity for the magistrates to make this order. These affiliation orders were the only way most women could make the father take responsibility for illegitimate children. It wasn’t easy for women in Martha’s situation to provide enough evidence to convince the magistrates and even if an order was made it was often difficult to get the money. We just have to hope that Joseph Warwick paid at least some money towards his son’s support. Joseph’s other option was to marry Martha but he clearly didn’t want to do that and a few years later he married someone else.  

Things did not go well for Martha after Joseph’s birth and by 1881 she and her two children were living in the Wallingford Union Workhouse, about 3 miles from North Moreton. At this time, Martha was 25 years old, her daughter Elizabeth was 10 and Joseph was 3 years old. It seems likely that Martha’s parents decided they couldn’t support her and her children in the family home and she had no choice but to go to the nearest workhouse. 

Wfd workhouse foundation stone

An inscribed stone from Wallingford Union Workhouse, now in Wallingford Museum. ‘Erected at the expence of the united parishes of St Mary the More, St Peter and St Leonard in the borough of Wallingford An: Dom: 1807’

For those who know Wallingford, the workhouse was situated to the west of the town on the Wantage Road. It later became St Mary’s hospital which was eventually knocked down and replaced with houses on streets now called Atwell Close and McMullan Close. You can read more about the history of Wallingford workhouse at  

Life in the workhouse was not designed to be fun and it was a place of last resort for those who could not support themselves and their families. You wore a uniform and had few if any of your own possessions. You were given work to do, and men, women and children were kept in separate buildings, so children were often separated from their parents at a very young age. Workhouses were run on very regimented lines, but you did at least have a roof over your head and regular meals. I’m sure Martha would not have gone there if she’d had any choice. 

In 1886 Martha was still living in the workhouse when she gave birth to her third child, who was christened Martha Amelia Stickley at St Mary’s church in Wallingford on 16th May. And three years later, on 1st January 1889, Martha’s fourth child Thomas was born. Interestingly, Thomas was registered as Thomas Stickley on his birth certificate but he was baptised (at Cholsey church) as Thomas Lane, son of Martha and William. 

Later in the same year, when she was 33 years old, Martha married William Lane, a widower 20 years her senior who was already the father of five children before they met. Next time, I’ll write about Martha and William’s life together from 1889 onwards.   


More about workhouses at

Wallingford museum has lots of interesting exhibits covering a broad range of historical periods –


Photo of pauper memorial – Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK [CC BY 2.0 (] 


Shaylers in the papers

It is amazing what you can find out about your ancestors by searching old newspaper archives. I had a look for Shaylers in the Wallingford / North Moreton area and came up with a few gems, such as this small advert from the Berks and Oxon Advertiser in 1937 for my Grandad’s taxi / car hire company. 

Advert B&O advertiser 19 Feb 1937
The family lived at 10 Station Road for years. The house is still there, opposite what was then Wallingford Grammar School and next to the Fire Station. I don’t know where Harris’ Garage was though.

A couple of years later in January 1939 my grandparents are mentioned again in the paper, as mourners at the funeral of Thomas Henry Shayler, my grandad’s uncle.

Capture funeral 1939According to the Reading Mercury, Thomas had worked for the Great Western Railway for 51 years and had retired 12 years earlier. Other mourners included Thomas’s two sisters Elizabeth and Mary (known as Bessie and Polly – read more about Bessie here), and various other nephews, nieces, cousins, ex-colleagues and acquaintances from Northbourne (where he lived) and North Moreton (where he was born). It is quite a long piece which suggests to me that Thomas was well respected in the community. He had done well to reach the age of 79 and survived all three of his younger brothers. He also outlived two wives but didn’t have any children.  

Much earlier than this, in 1880, Charles Shayler (a cousin of my 2 x great grandfather Henry Shayler) moved his family from North Moreton to the USA and this advert from the Oxford Journal shows what he wanted to sell before they left. 

Capture 1880 C Shayler sale of goods

They sailed from Liverpool a few weeks later, arriving in New York on 12th July 1880. After a short time in New York, the Shayler family settled in Columbus, Ohio, where Charles became a policeman. His son Ernest Shayler became Bishop of Nebraska in 1919 and in 1943 he wrote about his early life in England.  Ernest also attended Wallingford Grammar School but had to walk there and back from North Moreton most days, about 3 and a half miles in each direction. I expect he’d have preferred to live across the road at no 10 Station Road!

The old Wallingford Grammar School, now converted into housing

Photo of Wallingford Grammar School by Bill Nicholls, CC BY-SA 2.0,


God’s Wonderful Railway


The Railway Station by William Powell Frith (Paddington station)

This week’s 52 ancestors theme is ‘transport’ so I’m focusing on two families who worked for the Great Western Railway – or God’s Wonderful Railway as it was known to some. This theme also ties in nicely with an online course I’ve recently completed called Working lives on Britain’s railways – highly recommended!   Continue reading “God’s Wonderful Railway”