My great grandfather, Terence John Millington was born on 19th June 1881 at 9 Court Wharf Street (USD) in the sub-district of St Thomas’s, Lee Bank. He was therefore the sixth child of John and Alice Millington, if we are to include Katy and John. On Terence’s birth certificate, his father John is recorded as an edge tool maker, the same profession he was in eleven years earlier at the time of his marriage to Alice in 1870.
A modern day view of Gas Street Basin. In the 19th century the Millington, O'Hagan and Adderley families all lived close by for several decades
Wharf Street was right next to the canal in the centre of Birmingham, very close to Granville Street and in close proximity to Gas Street basin. On the modern day street map, part of the old Wharf Street has been renamed The Wharf.
On an old map of 1820, Wharf Street is very clearly distinguishable, running along the same route as the present day Holliday Street, from Suffolk Street to Gas Street. Some of the small streets to the south of Wharf Street had disappeared completely by a later map of the early 1900s to make way for a huge railway goods yard owned by the Midland Rail Company, which was entered by an underground tunnel coming from the direction of Five Ways along the route of the canal.
This land was later taken over by Birmingham’s central post office and is now the site of The Mail Box shopping centre.
So Terence Millington would have been born into an area of intensive industrial activity and development. In 1881 the canal would have been at the heart of Birmingham’s transport system with the new railway system also being constructed close by. The centre of Birmingham, in the area around Gas Street basin, was a hive of industry with local working class families packed into the back-to-back court style slums which were typical of the Victorian period.
Fortuitously, Terence John Millington was born in the year of the 1881 census. The Wharf Street address on his birth certificate gives us a convenient link to the census record of his entire family.
In the 1881 census the Millington family are recorded at House 5 Court 9 Wharf Street, in the district of St Thomas’s, Lee Bank. John Millington was listed as a 39 year old General Labourer from Wellington. Alice (nee. O’Hagan) was 34 years old and puts her place of birth as Bromsgrove. The couple only had two children listed in the 1881 census: William was aged 5 and is recorded as a scholar, whilst their daughter Alice was 2 years old.
We can speculate that Terence had not been born at the time of the census, however, the absence of their oldest daughter Annie from the census is intriguing.
The 1891 census
The 1891 Census records the Millington family again in the Lee Bank area, this time at 6 Court 1 House, William Street. John Millington is recorded as a 50 year old Jobbing Labourer, Alice was 44. William was 15 in 1891 and without an occupation, 12 year old Alice and 10 year old Terence were both ‘scholars‘, whilst the youngest Millington child, Harry was 2 years old. Once again there is no record of their oldest child, Annie, in the 1891 census and we must therefore conclude that she may not have lived with her own immediate family.