Tag Archives: Bridlington

Triplets and Two Sets of Twins – Combining Newspapers and Parish Registers

In 1834 Susan Gibson (née Rylah) made the news across England. The Leeds Times of 20 October 1834 typified reporting when it wrote:

RARE NEWS FOR MALTHUS!! – A woman named Susan Gibson, of Earlsheaton, was brought to bed of three children on Wednesday last, who with mother are all doing well – she has born twins twice before.

The children, Joseph, Rachel and Leah, arrived in the world on 17 September 1834. Their father was clothier Thomas Gibson. Soothill was the family abode given in the parish register, though Susan (sometimes referred to as Susy or Susannah) was born in Earlsheaton and the family did eventually move there.

The infant newsmakers were baptised at All Saints Dewsbury Parish Church on 12 October 1834, along with December 1831-born sister, Elizabeth. This was the same church in which their parents married on 22 July 1821.

‘Triplets, shown in the uterus: illustration showing the position of the foetuses in a plural position. Colour lithograph, 1850/1910?’ . Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

The headline’s Malthus referred to the influential, but controversial, English economist Thomas Malthus. His population growth theories centred round the argument that increases in population would diminish the ability of the world to feed itself and there would be insufficient land for crops. Citing Malthus was a recurring theme in reporting unusual birth stories during this period.

Interestingly, at the same time as the press reported the birth of the Gibson trio, they were also reporting the birth of Bridlington’s Thompson triplets. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the sons of Bridlington Quay stone mason Robert Thompson and his wife Ann. They were described as being ‘all well and likely to live’. The Bridlington St Mary (Priory) parish register recorded the baptism of Robert Thompson’s ‘thrine sons‘ on 22 September 1834, all under the same entry (No 649) in the baptism register, rather than under their own individual entries.

Neither set of triplets added to the population pressure though. Despite the hopeful press outlook at the time of their birth they all failed to thrive. The Thompson trio lingered longest. Jacob was buried on 16 November 1834; Abraham 22 January 1835; and finally Isaac on 17 March 1835.

The demise of the Gibson babies was far swifter. Less than three weeks after their baptism all were dead. A 12-day period in late October/early November 1834 saw a series of Gibson funerals at the parish church. Rachael (as her name was recorded in the burial register) was buried first, on 26 October. Before the month was out Leah died too, her burial taking place on 31 October. The final triplet, Joseph, was interred on 6 November.

As it is pre-July 1837, there is no civil registration. We’re relying on parish registers, and it is not possible from these entries to identify the earlier sets of twins born to Susan. Birth dates are an exception in the baptism register. It’s usually just a baptism date which is given. And, as indicated when the triplets were baptised alongside their almost three-year-old sister, the family were not always prompt in initiating their offspring into the church. It appears some of the Gibson children died before baptism. But burials are inconclusive too. These give father’s name – but there are three clothiers named Thomas Gibson in the Soothill area to muddy the burial entries. And some of the entries simply indicate S.B.C. (abbreviation for stillborn child) or an unbaptized [sic] child with the name of a parent (father, unless illegitimate). So without the newspaper reports we may never have known about Susan’s tendency towards multiple births.

The census provides no clues. In 1841 the family lived at Town Green, Soothill and in addition to Thomas and Susan the household includes Sarah (20), Martha (15), Elizabeth (9), Jane (5), William (3) and Ann (1) – but bear in mind the age of those over 15 was supposed to be rounded down to the nearest multiple of five, and relationship details are absent in this census. However it is clear there are no common ages.

Similarly the 1851 census has no indication of multiple births either. In terms of the couple’s children, Jane (15), William (incorrectly entered as 18 – he was born in 1837) and Ellen (9) are recorded. However, it appears from the GRO Birth Indexes that Ellen was a twin too. Her birth is registered in the same quarter at Dewsbury as an Eliza Gibson, mother’s maiden name Rylah.

Eliza Gibson’s burial is recorded on 21 February 1842 at Dewsbury All Saints, father Thomas.

And Susan Gibson comes nowhere near earning the accolade of most prolific mother ever. That dubious honour goes to the wife of a Russian peasant, as detailed by Guinness World Records:

The greatest officially recorded number of children born to one mother is 69, to the wife of Feodor Vassilyev (b. 1707–c.1782), a peasant from Shuya, Russia. In 27 confinements she gave birth to 16 pairs of twins, seven sets of triplets and four sets of quadruplets

Sources:

  • Leeds Times. 20 October 1834 via FindMyPast
  • John Bull. 13 October 1834 via FindMyPast
  • Dewsbury All Saints Baptism Register. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference WDP9/11, via Ancestry.co.uk
  • Dewsbury All Saints Burial Register. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference WDP9/50, via Ancestry.co.uk
  • Ibid, Reference WDP9/51
  • Dewsbury All Saints Marriage Register. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Reference WDP9/21, via Ancestry.co.uk
  • Bridlington St Mary (Priory), Parish Register of Baptisms 1830-1847. East Riding Archives and Local Studies Service, Reference PE153/11
  • Bridlington St Mary (Priory), Parish Register of Baptisms 1813-1838. East Riding Archives and Local Studies Service, Reference PE153/38
  • 1841 Census. TNA, Reference HO107/1268/14/7/7, via Ancestry.co.uk
  • 1851 Census. TNA. Reference HO107/2325/133/11, via Ancestry.co.uk
  • GRO Birth Indexes, William Gibson. December Quarter 1837, Dewsbury, Vol 22, Page 52 via the General Register Office website, https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/
  • GRO Birth Indexes, Ellen and Eliza Gibson. March Quarter 1842, Dewsbury, Vol 22, Page 55 via the General Register Office Website, https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/
  • Most Prolific Mother Ever. Guinness World Records. http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/most-prolific-mother-ever

All websites accessed 26 September 2018

Advertisements

The Mysterious Wartime Disappearance of Sweethearts in Bridlington & the Batley Cemetery Link

An intriguing inscription on a Batley cemetery headstone led me to discover the story behind Lottie Oddy and her fiancé James Purdy.

Born in around 1892 Charlotte Emma Oddy, known as Lottie, was the daughter of butcher George Henry Oddy and his wife Emma (neé Popplewell). They lived at Staincliffe Road, Dewsbury. Lottie worked as a sewing machinist making blouses at Carrbrooke Manufacturing Co. She left her employers during the war to take over the book keeping and clerical duties at Oddy and Fox rag merchants based at Common Road, Staincliffe. This change was caused by the absence of her brother, Spedding. A partner in the firm, he was away serving in as a despatch rider in the Royal Tank Corps.

Lottie’s fiancé, James Purdy was born on 13 August 1890. He was one of four sons of Batley Carr residents Walter and Susanna Purdy (nee Raspin). James’ father worked as a foreman rag grinder at Messers Thomas Purdy and Sons, a mungo and shoddy manufacturer located on Bradford Road, Batley Carr. Initially James also worked in the rag and shoddy warehouse but he found manual labour a struggle due to his delicate health. He therefore established his own rag merchants business in around 1913 which, according to newspapers, was flourishing. His delicate health meant he was exempt from military service, although this was due for review in January 1919.

The sweethearts were from the nonconformist tradition. James was connected with the Batley Carr Primitive Methodist Chapel; Lottie with the Staincliffe Wesleyan Church. Described as a devoted couple, they had known each other for a number of years and, according to some newspapers, had been engaged for about five or six.[1]

On 7 September 1918 they joined Lottie’s widowed mother[2] and her sister, Gertie, for a two week holiday to Bridlington. The Oddy family were frequent visitors to the town, holidaying in the resort for several years.

On the afternoon of Friday 13 September Lottie and James went out for a walk but promised to join Gertie and some friends later that afternoon on the sea front. They failed to turn up. There then followed a frantic search involving police from Bridlington and Batley Carr, the harbour master, boatmen and friends and family of the couple, including James’ father who travelled to Bridlington to assist.

Their mysterious disappearance was covered nationwide. They had no known worries; their engagement had family approval; they did not boat, and indeed investigations had found no craft missing; their baggage remained in their Horsforth Avenue apartments; and they normally stayed around the area of the sea front, occasionally walking towards Flamborough. An accident was always recognised as a distinct possibility. Fears of a landslide due to the recent wet weather formed one suggested line of investigation. But even this direction had proved fruitless. They had in effect vanished without trace from a busy seaside town.

The hope remained that they would turn up alive and well, although James’ father did say that he felt as though his son was calling to him for help.

Police issued their descriptions. 5’2” Lottie was brown-haired, blue-eyed, fresh complexioned and of robust appearance. When she left her apartment she wore a gold and brown woollen sports coat, grey mixture frieze skirt, white blouse, black stockings, black shoes, black felt hat and a raincoat. She carried a black moiré bag and had a diamond ring. She also left the apartments with a book.

James stood at 5’1”[3]. Of medium build, he had a slight stoop, a pale complexion and was clean-shaven with rich brown hair. He wore a grey suit, black tie with a gold pin in it, brown mackintosh, light cap and black boots. He had a gold signet ring on his left hand.

No sign of the couple could be found and their disappearance remained a mystery until Saturday 21 September. First thing that morning a retired farmer, Arthur Mason, took a stroll along the South Sands. It was a route he walked regularly. Over recent days he had noticed a cliff fall. The day before his latest walk the sea had been rough with a higher tide than in previous days, reaching right up to the cliffs. Mr Mason noticed it had washed away part of the clay from the fall, exposing a man’s blood-covered head and shoulders. He immediately notified the authorities. Soldiers and police extracted the couple’s bodies from the clay in which they were entombed.

The inquest later that day concluded Lottie and James had been sitting beneath the cliff on James’ coat, when 10-12 tons of overhanging clay broke free and fell on them. James apparently heard something and was in the process of getting up in an effort to protect his fiancée. He had his hand outstretched towards Lottie. She had been sitting on the coat reading her book. Her right hand reached out towards James, and beside her left hand was the open book. This was Alice and Claude Askew’s “The Tocsin: A Romance of the Great War”.[4]

This stretch of beach had been the scene of a previous accident in September 1904, when a Bridlington Grammar School junior master and pupil died as the result of a cliff fall whilst out fossil hunting[5]. A noticeboard erected warning people about the danger of sitting under the cliffs had been washed away several years ago and never replaced.

The Coroner, Mr Herbert Brown, recorded a verdict of accidental death due to a fall of the cliff. This caused the suffocation of Lottie and James. He said he would call the authorities about the necessity of erecting warning signs.

Lottie Oddy's Batley cemetery headstone -

Lottie Oddy’s Batley cemetery headstone – “who met her death by the fall of the cliffs at Bridlington”

James’ funeral took place on 24 September and Lottie’s the following day. They are buried in family graves in separate areas of Batley cemetery.

Ironically at the beginning of October 1918 the papers reported yet another Bridlington cliff tragedy, with the death of 22 year old Bradford woman Ethel Keal. She fell over the cliffs at Sewerby.

Sources:

  • Ancestry.co.uk: Baptism and Marriage Records (West Yorkshire Non-Conformist records) http://home.ancestry.co.uk/
  • Batley Cemetery Burial Register
  • Batley News 21 and 28 September 1918
  • Batley Reporter and Guardian 20 and 27 September 1918
  • FindMyPast: BMD and Census record, plus newspapers ( Hull Daily Mail 16 September 1918, 21 September 1918, 23 September 1918, Yorkshire Evening Post 20 September 1918, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 23 September 1918, Driffield Times 28 September 1918), http://www.findmypast.co.uk/

[1] One report indicates an eight year engagement.
[2] Lottie’s father, George, died in 1916.
[3] Again newspapers varied, some stating 5’3”
[4] Alice and Claude Askew were extremely popular husband and wife authors. Associated with the Serbian Campaign, the couple drowned in October 1917 when the boat they were sailing in from Italy to Corfu sank following German submarine torpedo attack.
[5] Mr A Graham Allen and Jack Broomhead. Another pupil, Joseph Baker, escaped.

Copyright

© Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jane Roberts and PastToPresentGenealogy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.