National newspapers are, by and large, full of rubbish, half truths and well, good old fantasy these days.
But, for family historians, local newspapers are one of the most valuable sources of information around. Most family historians today can easily go back in time to the 1870s and find all manner of information they simply couldn’t find elsewhere.
The article below was found, quite by chance, one evening, as I was browsing the British Newspaper Archives. The find was so unexpected that I almost discounted it. There is absolutely no other way that I would ever have discovered the most unusual events surrounding the death of my great 4x grandfather if it had not been reported by the Morning Post on Saturday 25 January 1890 in Woolwich.
Just so that you know who exactly the article is referring to :
‘young man named Dillon‘ is my 3x great grandfather, James Wallace Dillon, and;
‘Dillon’s father‘ is my great 4x grandfather, Peter Dillon formerly of Kendal and Dublin
ALLEGED DETENTION OF A CORPSE AND COFFIN
‘At Woolwich Police-court, yesterday, Mr. Farman, solicitor, accompanied by a young man named Dillon, applied to Mr. Marsham for his assistance in obtaining the dead body of Dillon’s father, who died on Monday last. He stated that the deceased had lodged for some years with a Mr. and Mrs. Bailey, at 68, Raglan road, Plumstead, and when he died they did not trouble themselves to acquaint his son, who lived at No. 51 in the same road ; but when the son went to the office of Mr. Vincent, the registrar, in order to register the death, he found the Bailey’s there about the same business.
The registrar preferred to take the information from the son, and, notwithstanding Mr. Bailey’s objections, gave the son the order for the burial. The son, thereupon, went to Mr. Messent, undertaker, and made arrangements for the funeral. A coffin was sent to the house, and the undertaker’s men were about to remove the body to the son’s house when Mr. and Mrs. Bailey refused to part with it, claiming a right to bury it themselves, although they knew that the son had the burial order.
The young man then applied to the police, and a sergeant and constable called upon Mr. Bailey, who stated that he and his wife had befriended the dead man, who had left them a small insurance, and that they meant to see him buried. He offered, however to give upon the corpse and coffin if young Dillon would sign an I O U for some claim which he set upon, but ultimately used violent and defiant language and slammed the door in the face of the police and the undertakers.
It seemed that before the son heard of the death Bailey had reported it to the parish relieving officer, who communicated with the young man, but there was just a possibility, unless the Court interposed, that he would be buried as a pauper after all.
Mr. Marsham said the law imposed the duty of burial upon the nearest relative, and the registrar had acted rightly in giving the order to the son, whatever claims others might have. He would send one of the officers of the Court to Mr. Bailey warning him that if he persisted in his illegal course he would be served with a summons.
Subsequently the officer informed the magistrate that Bailey had consented to give upon the corpse and coffin, and Mr. Marsham directed him to be present and see the removal peacefully conducted.’
A few years ago I received a photograph from my cousin and friend Bill Heasman, written on the back was the following :-
“This is my mother’s and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Jeal. They lived in a cottage by the ‘Brewery Tap’ in Lakedale Road, Plumstead. I used to go and see them and meet my mother there when I came from school and we would walk home together. My mother died suddenly of a heart attach when I was 13. I was in the Ext 7th and left school then. My sisters Dolly then 17 and Kate 14 were mother’s helps.” Lizzie Heasman
You would think that would be enough to work out who the couple were, wouldn’t you? Wrong!!!
The Jeal family are not an easy one to track down – they need to be teased out rather than tracked down in 10 minutes (metaphorically speaking).
Their name can be spelt on a variety of ways Gel, Geal, Heal etc. Add into this mix the name Jewiss and you’ve got a minefield – Huss, Jervis you get the picture [but that's for later].
I don’t find the London aspect of my family history very easy to get my head around – I have never been to Plumstead or walked its streets and acquainted myself with its finer points – this connection I feel is important to us, ‘the seekers’.
His descriptions are frank and to the point with none of the rose-tinting that one might get from memories.
“… all the houses practically brothels, used by sailors, loafers, waterside labourers and by the lowest grade soldiers … “ “
“… All these roads are 2st [storey], clean, fairly broad, built about 40 years ago : poor : have the look of tenants who earn money but don’t spend it well. Clyne gives them all a bad character for drink …”
A thought suddenly occurred to me and I went off at a tangent and posted an ‘APB’ on a RootsChat forum and lo and behold an angel answered my call and it transpired that perhaps this wasn’t Mr. and Mrs. Jeal after all.
To be honest try as I might I’ve never be able to slot this photo into the Jeal / Heasman timeline – they are either dead; not born; not old enough for school; or simply in the wrong part of town.
With Rog’s help (of RootsChat) I started to think perhaps Lizzie had got it slightly wrong yes, the couple were her mother’s aunt and uncle but could it be one of her mother’s married aunts instead of a married uncle? Only one could fit the bill – Elizabeth born 1826, three years older than her sister Emma (Lizzie’s grandmother, my 4x grandmother).
Elizabeth and her husband John lived on Cage Lane/Lakedale Road for much of their married lives and they didn’t die before Lizzie reached school age – hurray!
All in all I think ‘Rog’ cracked it for me, a fresh pair of eyes – thanks Rog.
So here is the photo in all its glory, I give you Elizabeth and John Jewiss.