3 December 2007

John James Britton (1832—1913), Poet and Solicitor

I had envisaged a rather boring drive to Burton on Trent Public Library to consult a copy of Staffordshire Poets by Russell Markland and Charles Henry Poole (Ling, 1928). However, although they didn't have the copy mentioned in their catalogue anyway, Stafford Public Library did, and, over the phone, one of the Local Studies staff very kindly read me the passage which interested me. It was a piece about Lionel Britton's paternal grandfather John James Britton, written by John James's son Herbert Eyres Britton, and much of the information was new to me. I learned, for instance, that John James lived for some time in the 1860s in Newcastle on Tyne, very briefly lived in a house in Maidenhead, and then lived in Normandy for some years before moving back to England. Lionel Britton's father would have been with him then, showing that his stay in Paris in later life was not the first occasion that he had lived in that country, and adding further detail to the very strong French connection between the Britton and the Thomas families (Richard married Irza Vivian Geraldine Thomas in 1885).

Significantly, Herbert Eyres Britton (born in Alcester in 1883) took after his father and published three books of poetry between 1912 and 1922.


Snatch51 said...

John James Britton appears to have been the child of James Britton, a leathercutter, and Ruth Catherine Britton.
However, the census record of 1851poses a problem.
Here he is described as being born in Sheffield, Yorkshire.
Could this have been true? If so, he may not have been James Britton's son, but might for example have been a child of Ruth Catherine's by an earlier marriage. He could even have been adopted of course.
There is no record of other children, but they may have grown up and moved away from home before any of the available censuses were taken. James was about 43 when John James was born, and Ruth 33.
What is certain is that they made sure he had a good education, and he was no narrow swot either: His son, Herbert Eyres Britton, testifies to him being unfailingly good company, and he managed to marry two wives, one of whom being 25 years his junior, and to produce at least nine children.
The question is, were any of them Brittons?

Dr Tony Shaw said...

But John James's marriage certificate, his son Herbert Eyres's write-up of his father in the Staffordshire poets book, and a number of other sources say he was born in Handsworth. Could it just be that the enumerator, who lists Ruth Catherine as being born in Handsworth, just transposed the two places in error? Maybe he'd visited the local beerhouse shortly before, or perhaps was just suffering from the effects of such a visit the night before?

Snatch51 said...

The location in Normandy where John James Britton lived between approx. 1879 and 1882 would have been somewhere near Vire.
A record of Cambridge graduates records that Arthur Henry Britton, (1863-1919), was schooled at "Maidenhead, and College of Vire, Normandy".