5 August 2008

Now What's John James Britton Doing with That Baby's Head?

The splendid photo below contains a great deal of detail, the most remarkable of course being a stern John James Britton's futile attempts to hold the baby's head in the long exposure. It's very unlikely that a professional photographer would have allowed this error to see the light of day, so we can only speculate about the identity of the person behind the camera.

More certain, though, are the names of the characters in the photo, and I leave Robert Hughes – who, along with Sandie Coomber, I thank for making possible the publication of this picture – to give the details:

'The house was almost certainly 2 Drayton Terrace, Melton Rd, Belgrave, [Leicester]; or alternatively 12 Melton Rd (according to the 1891 census).

I have found that street numbering sometimes followed small groups of properties such as terraces, and sometimes followed a larger scheme such as a whole street, but there is no reason to suppose that these addresses were anything other than one and the same.

On the left is Herbert Eyres Britton (1883–1940), later a published writer and poet.

Seated is Maud May Britton, formerly Coward (c.1858–1946), said to be the daughter of James Eyres Coward, ship's surgeon. She was John James Britton's second wife.

On her lap is Elizabeth Hilda Dorothy Britton (1889–1966), later Dorothy Viner or Dension-Viner or some variation of this spelling.

The child with the spinning head has to be Reginald Ernest James Britton (1887–1981), later to be a canon in Canada after service in the Navy.

Below right is Ruth Elise May Britton (1885–1925), who became a health visitor in Birmingham.

Right is Ethel Alice Britton (1860–1936), the elder daughter from John James Britton's first marriage (to Catherine Erskine Smith). She married Thomas Perkins (1893–1907), vicar of Turnworth, Dorset, and friend of Thomas Hardy.

To the rear, of course, is the man himself: John James Britton (c. 1832–1913), Solicitor of the Supreme Court and self-proclaimed "literary man" (1891 census).

John James was the father of Richard Britton, who died tragically young, and the (paternal) grandfather of Lionel Britton the playwright and novelist, whom family tradition held to have spoken 22 languages.

The date of this photograph is almost undoubtedly 1890.'

The photo below was taken in July 2009, showing the facade of 12 Melton Road, Leicester.


Snatch51 said...

We now know that Dorothy, (Elizabeth Hilda Dorothy Britton according to her birth certificate), married Litten Densham Leslie Viner in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Their son was Clifford David Viner, (d 2000 at Bathurst), and his son is Litten F D Viner who builds game lodges.

James Eyres Coward lived for some years in Middleburg, in the Eastern Cape, where at least one and almost certainly two of his children were born.

His wife, Lucy Pick North, was part of an extended family with a number of connections now coming to light; and she died in South Africa in 1866.

James Eyres Coward married again, to Elizabeth, whose death certificate in 1914 appears to record her as Elizabeth Denshaw Coward, and census records show she was born in Bath. It seems fairly likely that this was actually Elizabeth Densham Coward, but what was her maiden name? Her marriage record would most likely be in a church in Middleburg if anywhere, and the South African records are not online.

On the other hand, an excellent site:-
has revealed a huge amount of information, and we now have a death record for James Eyres Coward, (whom we know died in Huddersfield in 1879), deposited in Graaf-Reinet in 1895. This is signed by his nephew, none other than H G Viner, almost certainly Henry Godwin Viner, the father of Litten Densham Leslie Viner!

The Viners were obviously connected to the Brittons well in advance of Dorothy's marriage. Was Henry Godwin a nephew by virtue of his aunt's marriage to Uncle James Eyres Coward?

Snatch51 said...

There is new information in a death notice for Lucy Pick Coward, née North, from South Africa. She died in the family home in Church St, Middelburg, in the Eastern Cape, on July 5th 1866.

This was signed by James Eyres Coward and listed six children, almost certainly in order of their ages.

They were:
Frank Augustus
Edith Julia
Maud May
James Townroe
Ernest George
Herbert Charles.

James Townroe Coward will have returned to England with the family, and is recorded on the 1881 census as a railway clerk in Whitehaven, Cumberland, where he very likely met his future wife Martha. There were three children of this marriage.

Later he went into Holy Orders and was the presiding minister at the wedding of Ethel Alice Britton and Thomas Perkins in Leicester in 1891.

Herbert Charles is unlikely to have survived, because a death notice of 1895 posted in South Africa mentions the other children but omits him. It would be interesting to hear evidence to the contrary!

It is also now clear that James Eyres Coward's second wife was Elizabeth Densham Viner, whose birthdate we do not know, but she was christened on 14th February 1834 in the parish of Walcot in Somerset, which is now part of Bath. Her father was William Litton Viner, a noted organist and (according to the 1851 census) a piano manufacturer. He is on record as having published at least one book.

Dorothy Britton's marriage to Litten Densham Viner was not some random encounter then: they were connected families by virtue of Elizabeth's marriage to James Eyres Coward, (Dorothy's grandfather), if nothing else.

Snatch51 said...

William Litton Viner is recorded in Westfield Massachusetts on the 1860 US Federal census, as a 'gentleman'. His sons Frederick and Charles were both organ-builders, and at least in the case of Charles we know that his son Charles B Viner followed him in the business.
William Litton Viner himself is recorded on the International Genealogical Index as born on 17 May 1790, but this may in fact have been a christening date. His death is recorded as 24 Jul 1867, (with no place given), but this matches a Massachusetts state record for a William L Viner in 1867, in Westfield.
He married Emma Densham in Butleigh, Somerset, on 13 Jun 1822. She came from Heavitree, in Devon; now a suburb of Exeter.

Jenny said...

This may or may not be of interest, or relevance, but I'm wondering if it's possible that the James Eyres Coward about whom you're talking could have been a son of James Eyres Coward who married Sarah Snelling on the 11th of July 1818 at St Davids, Exeter, and who died at about 70 years of age in 1869 in Tiverton, Devon? They had a son, George Gale Snelling Coward, who along with a James Eyres Coward, were medical practitioners in Middleburg.

Sarah Snelling was a sister of my gx3 grandmother, Catherine Snelling who married Thomas Street, surgeon, in Exeter on the 1st of June 1803. They had two sons, Charles Drew Street (my gx2 grandfather) who worked his way to Australia as the ship's surgeon on the whaling ship "Normuhul" arriving in 1832, and Francis Gale Snelling Street who worked as a surgeon in the Maitland/Hinton area of NSW.

Charles Drew Street's son, Snelling Francis Street (my great grandfather) named one of his sons Charles Coward Street, however this chap died at the age of 21 and never married. As far as I know, no-one in our family carries the Coward name.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Thanks very much for this, Jenny. I've just consulted the database of the family tree of Robert (who's related to John James Britton), and all the people you mention in your first paragraph are there.

However, the Streets you mention aren't there, although Samuel Street and Edmund Heath Street are. I've no idea if the name is coincidence or not, but Robert is the one who should know. At the moment he's in the depths of Cormwall with his family for half-term, and I believe he has no access to the internet there. But no doubt he'll be back sometime this weekend, by which time he'll find an email of this link waiting for him, and I'm certain he'll be eager to reply to you.

Again, many thanks for this.

Snatch51 said...

Hi Jenny,

Your post is most certainly both interesting and relevant!

The medical practitioner in Middelburg was the younger James Eyres Coward, who died in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, on 14 Sep 1879; aged 54.

His daughter Maud May Coward was the second wife of my great-great-grandfather John James Britton, as you see above, and her descendants are very numerous.

The younger James Eyres Coward's first wife was Lucy Pick North, whose sister Mary Crespin North married Samuel Street in Renhold, Bedfordshire, in 1833. I have Samuel as born in Renhold, so perhaps the family originated there. Renhold was also the stronghold of the Norths.

The Snellings were a well-established family in the parish of St David's, according to an e-mail I received from a local source. How much do you have on the earlier generations?

This will be of great interest to a number of my Britton cousins who are descended from James Eyres Coward, as well as other contacts who have done a lot of work on the Norths.

You could e-mail me for a longer discussion, (Snatch51@btopenworld.com), but it would also be very welcome to have more facts posted here.

ericstreet said...

Hi, my name is Eric Street living in South Africa and have been busy with my family tree for about 8 months now. My tree consists mainly of Scully, Street, Gunn and Kemper. My Gx3 Grandfather was Samuel Street who married Mary Crespin North. I have most of their descendants in my family tree on MyHeritage web site - http://www.myheritage.com/site-136580691/sa-streetscullygunndewar-family-tree. I have not been able to find any of Samuels ascendants which is now taking a lot of research.

Snatch51 said...

Hi Eric,

It seems very unlikely that the Samuel Street who married Mary Crespin North was totally unrelated to the Thomas Street who married Catherine Snelling.

It may not be possible to find the necessary proof, but you should correspond with Jenny Grant in Australia, and if you could contact me by e-mail:
I will try to put you in touch. She has a large detailed tree on Ancestry.com although it does not provide a link to Samuel, yet.

Good luck!

Robert Hughes.

ericstreet said...

I have just found Samuels travel records to South Africa which has reference to his parents and children, one of which was my GGG grandfather (Sidney Alan)- Thomas Street who was married to Sarah but unfortunately no maiden name.
Any help?

ericstreet said...

Furthermore, Samuel was born in 1804 which could make Thomas's birth date at about 1780

Snatch51 said...

Hi Eric,

Congratulations on finding those shipping records, where on earth did you locate them?

It is not entirely clear if you mean Thomas was Samuel's hitherto elusive father.

The Thomas who married Catherine Snelling was baptised at Chulmleigh, Devon, 1782; died 1828. On the face of it he is not the same guy as he married Catherine 1Jun 1803, (not Sarah). So are we talking a cousin here, or is there something else?


ericstreet said...

Hi Robert,
Thomas and Sarah were Samuels parents which I found on a website of South African Settlers: http://www.southafricansettlers.com/?s=street
I have also just found Sarah's maiden name which at the moment I think is Duncombe. Thomas was born in Blunham (or Renhold), Bedford, England and was married to Sarah on June 21, 1796.
I f I could find a bit more information on Sarah or Thomas I reckon I would be able to link them to the many Street trees available