Wednesday, 23 December 2009

The Finn Family in the 1901 Census

The Finn family are recorded in the 1901 census, living at 19 St Georges Street in Birmingham (St Georges Parish). Head of the household was 56 year old Thomas, a bricklayer laborer born in Ireland.

With Thomas in the house was 22 year old daughter Nellie, a cycle driller and 12 year old Thomas. The only other person recorded at 19 St Georges Street was Thomas’s sister in law, Mariah Flynn, aged 40, a bedstead polisher born in Ireland.

Mary Finn's sisters and her brother

As mentioned earlier in this history, my great grandparents, Mary Helen Finn and William Clayton married in Duddeston on 18th April 1892. Mary was of course the oldest child of the Finn family and the anecdotal evidence I have from members of my father's generation, Kath Robinson and Nance Bourne in particular, indicates that all of Mary's four sisters and her one brother married local people and remained all of their lives in the city of Birmingham.

Mary's closest sister in age, Annie, married a cavalry soldier named Bill Green and they lived in Buckingham Street, which I believe was in the Newtown area. Kathleen Robinson told me that all of Annie's three children, Annie, Margaret and Bill, had red hair which they had probably inherited from their Irish ancestors. Annie herself is said to have died at an early age. A record in the Birmingham polling registers of 1920 shows that someone named William Green was living at number 31, 3 Court 3 Buckingham Street but no wife was recorded. This may have been Bill Green the cavalry soldier, by that time a widower. Unfortunately, unlike census records, the polling register does not record entries for children, only those above voting age.

Mary's next sister in age was Margaret Finn, who was better known as Maggie. She is said to have married a man with the surname Reeves and they ran a 2nd hand furniture shop in Icknield Street. My Aunty Nance filled me in with a colorful description of the shop:

"Margaret married the man with the shop in Icknield Street. They used to sell a lot of fishing tackle as I recall, and lots of books. Now don't get me wrong, they weren't dirty books like you get today, they were steamy romance stories."

Once again, the polling registers of the early part of the 20th century provide factual evidence to back-up the memories we have of Maggie Finn and her husband. There are records of Thomas and Margaret Reeves living at 106 Icknield Street from 1918 to at least 1929. In business directories for 1918 and 1920 the shop is recorded as being a Furniture Broker.

Mary's third sister in line was Ellen Finn, known as Aunt Nell, who is said to have married Arthur Taylor and lived in George Road in Erdington.

Ellen had a little girl named Nellie and at least two sons, one of whom died in an industrial accident at Lucas's, whilst the other one was named Percy. These children were cousins of my grandmother Florence Clayton. One of my own aunts had very good memories of Ellen's family, Kathleen Robinson recalled how as a youth her son Percy Taylor held a torch for Kath’s older sister Nance:

"Ellen's son, Percy Taylor, was very amorous. He fancied our Nance but she didn't return his affections - after all, he would have been a second cousin to us. One day he left his cap at our house just so he could come back and see our Nance. But Nance saw through that and she sent me up with the cap!"

Mary's youngest sister, Julia Finn, by most accounts seems to have had the best fortune in her life in terms of her material well-being. We have already heard that Aunt Julie was known as the posh one of the five sisters, largely due to her marriage to Percy Judd, who was a chauffeur for a wealthy family named Baines, who owned the Baines' Bread Company.

Like her sister Ellen, Julia is remembered as being a very attractive and smart woman who was proud of her connections to the wealthy Baines family of Handsworth Wood. During the 1940s Julia worked as a clippie on the trams.

Julia and Percy Judd lived in Friary Road in Handsworth Wood. One of the qualities that Percy is remembered for was being a “skilled carver of meat at mealtimes”. The couple had two daughters of their own, Olive and Vera. It is recalled that one or both of these daughters ran a ladies’ garment shop on Harborne High Street during the 1960s or 1970s. It is thought Julia Finn may have had a third daughter named Hilda.

Nance Bourne told me more about the life of Aunt Jule and Uncle Perc:

“Uncle Perc was a lovely man, everyone thought he was a nice, decent chap. When I first met Ted’s mother up at their house in Hockley, she said, “Oh do you really know that nice Percy Judd personally?”. And I replied to her “Do I know Percy Judd personally? I’m related to him!” But he was a very nice man was Uncle Perc. He worked for Baines’s Bread Company, they were the Wimbush’s of their day and old man Baines and his family lived in a mansion up in Handsworth Wood, where all the very rich people lived in those days, and I mean a mansion”.

The old Friary in Handsworth was built in 1658 and demolished in 1937. I am told that this was the home of George Baines, who owned the popular bakery as well as being a local councillor and a farmer.

“Uncle Perc and Aunty Jule lived in the gate house at the bottom of the Baines’s drive and they used to look after the mansion house. One day, when the Baines’s were away on holiday, Uncle Perc said “come on, do you want to go and have a look around inside the Baines’s house?” Oh, it was grand inside! Aunt Jule used to act as if it was her own house. She put on a few airs and she liked people to think that she was Mrs. Baines!”

Kath Robinson told me that Baines’s Friary Road estate had a ghost in the kitchens:

“The land that the estate was built on was the site of an old friary. There was the ghost of an old monk in there who walked the sculleries!”


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