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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

George Tucker 1802-1886 - a man with no luck

Hamptworth and Landford in George's time
My 3rd great grandfather, yet another George, is the ancestor for whom I feel sorriest.  The poor man was born in the wrong county, at the wrong time, and at the wrong end of his family.

George Tucker, born on 27th November 1802 and baptised at Landford on 12th December.  He was the ninth child and youngest son of William Tucker and Mary Rice, who married on 23rd April, 1788 in St Laurence Church, Downton.  He had two brothers, William (1788-1861) and John (1797- ) and eight sisters, at least five of whom lived to adulthood.  At least one sibling died in infancy.  All the children were born in Hamptworth, which was a small rural settlement within walking distance of both Downton and Landford.

George's siblings married into local families - Pratt, Moody, Eldridge, Cooper and Harrison families.  Although they were all baptised in Landford, they preferred to marry in Downton.  This was probably due to the dilapidated state of the Landford church, which was rebuilt in 1858.

A church school was not opened until 1848, although a dame school had been operating since about 1818.  So George and his siblings did not have the opportunity for schooling.  (Note: Older brother William must have had some opportunity for education since he was a churchwarden at St Andrews, Landford later in life.)  By 1851, some of the children in Hamptworth were described as scholars, but most children over 10 were working with their fathers.  Lace making was a common home industry for the women and girls during this time.

On 31st August 1825, George married Hannah Isaac from Rockbourne in Hampshire.  She was the daughter of George Isaac and Sarah Biddlecombe.  Rockbourne is located on the western side of the New Forest, within walking distance of Downton.  I wonder if George and Hannah met each other at the annual Market Fair?  (Farmers and other employers often engaged labourers and domestic servants at the annual fair in those days.)

A research paper 
Agricultural labourers early 19th century

contains one of many accounts of the poverty and hunger being felt in Wiltshire during the late 1820s, 30s and later, the very time that my 3rd great grandfather was establishing a family.  In the late 20s, the crops failed and the Enclosure acts resulted in many rural workers losing the right to grow their own produce and  graze their animals on common land.  Additionally, with larger land holdings, the landowners engaged fewer permanent workers, and men such as George Tucker who in earlier times could rely on their yeoman and copyhold farming relatives for work were forced to take on casual employment.  This meant that for long periods during the winter months they were unable to find work.  And with mechanisation of farming methods, wages were reduced - Wiltshire wages were much lower than in the north.

From the early 30s to the 50s, there were mass migrations of Wiltshire labourers and their families, not only to the cities but also to Canada and Australia.

Mid 19th century farm workers
But for whatever reason, this George stayed put.  The 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 census showed him remaining in Hamptworth, even though his sons George (b 1832) and William (b 1834) had moved to Southampton and London long before.  In the 1851 census, a daughter Mary Tucker aged 10, a scholar is listed, but her survival or whereabouts in later years is unknown.

Doorway to the Cuckoo Inn at Hamptworth near Downton
I visited Hamptworth in 2008 and found it a rural area with scattered cottages.  The most obvious building is the Cuckoo Inn, where we had lunch.  I was invited to pull a beer with the landlord, after I explained that my great great great grandfather probably sat in the same room.  The pub is over 200 years old.

George's wife Hannah died of "decay of iodine" on 1st May 1872 in Downton.  Her husband George was described on her death certificate as a (general) labourer, suggesting that he may have retired from farmwork.

Union Workhouse at Britford near Salisbury
By 1881, George Tucker was a resident of the Alderbury Union Workhouse at Britford, just outside Salisbury.  He died on 14th February 1886, aged 83 of senile decay.  He was described as a domestic gardener - everyone who was able had to work, probably engaged very cheaply by local residents.
In 1869, an official reported on the Workhouse:
 Inmates.— The paupers are classified according to the order, and are divided into nine classes. The men wear coats, trousers, and waistcoats, of army cloth or fustian; the women, chambray and print cotton gowns, and all have the proper under clothing, stockings, &c. The men work at the pump, the will, gypsum pounding, and garden work.

For more information, see the following web link:

And so ends my Tucker links with Wiltshire.  From the 1880s, none of my close ancestors lived in Hamptworth, Landford or Downton - they were engulfed by the industrial revolution and had moved to Southampton and London.

The only exception was George's daughter Ann (1829-1882), who married George Dibden of Nomansland, near Hamptworth.  It is understood Dibdens still live around that area.

Monday, November 21, 2011

George Tucker 1832-1914 - from agricultural Wiltshire to industrial Southampton

Linda and Margaret outside St Laurence's Downton

Great-great grandfather, George Tucker (1832-1914) brings alive a period of English history where great changes took place. By the time he was ready for work, the economic life of the nation was centred around great advances in transport and manufacturing rather than agriculture.

Downton during the Cuckoo Fair, May 2008

George Tucker, grandfather of Sydney George (1883-1919) and Albert Arthur William Tucker (1885-1964) was born in Hamptworth, Downton, Wiltshire in 1832, in a period of great turmoil. His parents were George Tucker (1802-1886) and Hannah Isaac (1800-1872).

Downton, eight miles south of the cathedral city of Salisbury and on the northern border of the New Forest, is a very pretty place – still just a small market town - which I visited in May 2008, together with my new found cousin Linda, the grand-daughter of “Bert” Tucker.

However in 1832 when George was born, Downton was a place of misery for many of its inhabitants, especially for the agricultural labourers such as George Tucker senior (b 1802) and his family, wife Mary and sons and daughter Ann, George and William.

Swing riots - contemporary etching
In the 1830’s Wiltshire was in the grip of a severe depression, caused mostly by the enclosure of common land – causing loss of farming rights of villagers; poor harvests between 1828 and 1830; and the introduction of farm machinery, which took away the jobs of many farm labourers.

Burning a hayrick
Riots spread to Downton, with machinery attacked. These riots were just some of the “Swing Riots”, which commenced in Kent and spread across to Wiltshire and further west. They were widespread in Wiltshire. The government response was harsh, and many of the rioters were sentenced to transportation to Australia, although later pardoned. Although some of those transported to Australia came from Downton, the Tucker family was not amongst them, nor amongst those convicted.

But living conditions must have been hard for the Tuckers. According to George junior’s marriage certificate, his father was a woodsman. Wages for Wiltshire farm labourers were 8/- per week, much lower than elsewhere in the country.

Many families were on parish relief at the time, and in 1835 a small group of families left for Canada. They wrote with enthusiasm to their families and neighbours back in Downton.
The parish vestry members were concerned about the high levels of relief being paid by the Downton parish to families. At this time, about 50-100 family men were permanently out of work. They saw emigration as a solution to their problems.

The following notice was published:
Downton February 28th 1836
Notice is hereby given, that all Fathers of Families, and all single persons, who wish to emigrate to Canada, are to attend a meeting of the vestry, tomorrow at three o'clock in the afternoon, at the vestry room ,at the church, for the purpose of securing their passage and other necessary arrangements
By order of the Select Vestry.

About 220 people from Downton took up the parish offer to go to Canada. This represented 1 in 10 of the population.

However, again the Tucker family was not represented amongst the emigrants.

In 1841 , the Tucker family was split into two households. George Tucker senior and his widowed mother Mary (nee Rice, a pauper), his sons George (9) and William (6) and niece Caroline (16) were living at Hamptworth, a hamlet between Downton and Landford where George senior had been baptized.

Meanwhile, his wife Hannah Tucker (nee Isaac) was living at Landford Lodge with her daughters Ann (11) and Mary (1). Daughter Mary (born in 1840) disappears without trace in later census records.

The household was back living together in 1851. George junior was listed in the 1851 census as an agricultural labourer, living with his parents and sister Ann, who married the following year. However, work cannot have been plentiful because when he married in Southampton in 1854, he was living at 29 Union Street, Southampton and described himself as a labourer.

In 1852, George’s sister Ann Tucker (b 1829) married George Dibden at Downton, and by 1881 was living at Nomansland, just to the south of Landford. She had five children. There are still Dibdens in the area.

Brother William became a servant with a distant relative at West Wellow, and by 1857 had moved to London to become a fireman. He died in West Ham, Essex in 1881, having fathered two daughters to his wife Emma (nee Arden, formally Garbett) - Alice (1867) and Ellen Elizabeth (1869).

George married Sophia Jefferis, a 20 year old from Fordingbridge, Hampshire in the Southampton registry office on 6th June, 1854. She too was living in Southampton at 85 James Street. She gave no occupation. Two of her siblings were her witnesses.

High Street, Southampton in 19th century
In 1858, Sophia gave birth to George William, the first of three children and the only boy. He was our great-grandfather. Kate Louisa followed in 1862 and Ellen Jane in 1869. Ellen was known as Nellie as an adult.

By 1861, the family was living at 9 The Back of the Walls, and George was a “shopman”. He then became a coal porter, an occupation he gave in every census from 1871 to 1901. On his death certificate he was described as a “retired stevedore” so it is likely he worked as a coal porter on the docks.

Needless to say, George was a man who personified the industrial revolution, seeing great changes in both his lifestyle and his occupation over the second half of the eighteenth century.

Coal porters in London at same time
He appears to have been a very stable man, living in the same house at 9 Bell Street, Southampton until his death in 1914. Unadventurous maybe? His wife Sophia lived there until her death in 1922. My father vaguely remembers visiting his great-grandmother there, probably not long before she died.
George's Bible, 1879
Sophia presented him with a bible in 1879, for his 47th birthday. She describes herself as his affectionate wife. So in all probability, they had a good marriage. The birthdates of their children were also listed.

They had plenty of sadness though. Their elder daughter Kate Louisa died at age 17, and Sophia lived to see her younger daughter Nellie die before her in 1918. Their daughter-in-law Agnes Mary Tucker also died before them in 1912.

Her son-in-law Donald McInnes (Nellie’s widower) was present at her death. Maybe he lived with the old lady. My father Bob remembers him, prior to Bob’s departure for Australia in 1925. He left Edith Annie Tucker (Bob’s mother) his few possessions. Certainly, Nellie (Ellen Jane) was living with her parents in 1901, probably whilst Don, a seaman was away. She was also living there in 1911 , with her employment listed as a fruiter’s assistant.

George Tucker died at home on 6th November, 1914 of chronic bronchitis. His daughter Nellie McInnes was present at his death.

During his lifetime he would have seen the movement of the population from village to industrial towns, the growth of the railways and the sea ports, the devastation from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and the beginning of the Great War. He lived through the reign of three monarchs – Victoria, Edward VII and George V. Even though he was a general labourer (as described on his wife’s death certificate in 1922) and probably lived very simply in poor housing, his living standards would have increased significantly since his childhood in Hamptworth, Wiltshire.

In common with most towns in the early 19th century Southampton was dreadfully unsanitary. The improvement commissioners only paved and cleaned the main streets and the back streets were very dirty. Out of 230 streets in the 1840's 145 were without sewers. In one case 77 people shared one toilet. Not surprisingly in 1849 there was a cholera epidemic in Southampton, which killed 240 people. 
Life in Victorian Southampton gradually improved. After 1850 the town council took over the duties of the improvement commissioners. From then on all streets were cleaned and sewers were enlarged and improved. Nevertheless there was another epidemic of cholera in Southampton in 1865, which killed 151 people. At first poor people obtained their water from conduits, wells or pumps but in 1888 a new water works opened at Otterbourne. By that time most people had piped water.  Quoted from:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

George William Tucker - 1856-1924 - a foolish old man?

Born on 24th October 1856 to George and Sophia Tucker at 15 Manchester St, Southampton, Hampshire, George William Tucker was the first of our Tucker ancestors to be born in that thriving port city.  Two more generations of Tuckers were to do so.  George William Tucker was our father Bob Tucker’s grandfather.  He is the common ancestor to our recently discovered second cousin Linda (nee Tucker) of Sussex, UK.

George William’s mother Sophia (nee Jefferis) hailed from nearby Fordingbridge, but was working as a servant in Southampton.  Father George started life as an agricultural labourer in Hamptworth, Wiltshire but moved to Southampton in about 1850 to obtain a job as a stevedore in the port.  George and Sophia lived at 9 Bell Street, around the corner from their son’s music shop for almost 60 years.


George William Tucker was the first of our Tuckers in the nineteenth century to become somewhat prosperous, working his way up from being a pawnbroker at age 18 to a music shop dealer by the eighteen nineties. Ten years later in 1901 he had acquired two properties at 67-69 Waterloo Rd, Freemantle, a suburb of Southampton, whilst his sons Sydney George (aged 18) and Albert Arthur William (aged 16) lived above the shop in 10 Canal Walk. Sydney was his father’s assistant whilst Albert (Bert) was still at school. He sent both boys to the Taunton’s School in Southampton, where they excelled in sports – football and cricket.

George William was a sergeant in the Hampshire Regiment Volunteer Battalion.  He entered many a rifle competition in the 1880s and 90s.   Dad remembered a portrait of George William in his scarlet uniform.   I have not been able to determine if he served during any conflict.  Certainly by the outbreak of the Great War, he was too old to do so.

George William also did his bit for the community by making pianos and other instruments available for charitable events. There are a few mentions of him in the Hampshire Advertiser.


George William had married Agnes Hardy (1858-1912) on 14th April 1881 in the parish church of All Saints.  Agnes was a school teacher, born in Southampton to Aaron Hardy a mariner and his wife Amelia Mary Billet.  Both of them came from Dorset.  However, Agnes died suddenly of heart disease in 1912.

In 1916, George William decided to remarry, and he chose a woman 38 years younger than himself. He was 60. Her name was Edith Eliza Hainsworth, born in Guernsey in the Channel Islands in 1894.  However, she grew up in Southampton.

Later life

George William and Edith continued to live at 69 Waterloo Road, where first wife Agnes had died.

Meanwhile, Sydney George and his family lived next door in number 67, rent free in return for a low wage. In 1915 Sydney went off to war. The monetary situation was to have severe repercussions after Sydney’s death in 1919 since the government only recognized Sydney’s low wage when calculating the value of a civilian widow’s pension. (It was years before our Granny Tucker was able to claim a war widow’s pension due to Sydney George committing suicide in hospital three days after he was demobilized.)

George William’s second wife Edith gained a reputation as a “gold-digger” being so much younger than her husband (isn’t that always the way) and being heard to scream at George William to change his will.  He did so, and the whole estate was left to Edith, although it is understood that younger son Bert did contest it on his own behalf.

After the war, Edith must have worked with George William in the music shop, since she inherited it and ran it until it was destroyed during the bombing of Southampton in 1940.
He died at the Old Manor (mental hospital) in Salisbury of "softening of the brain". He had been there about seven months. In the 1920s and 30s, the Old Manor Hospital was said to be the largest private mental hospital in Europe. His estate of £2551 18s 6d was granted to his widow Edith Tucker.

A finale to this is that although Edith buried him next to his first wife Agnes, she inherited the grave of my grand-father Sydney George Tucker, who had pre-deceased his father in 1919, and she then buried all her relatives (mother, step-father, cousin, second husband Tom Chester Herring) in Sydney’s grave.  Her ashes – she died in Droxford, Hampshire in 1983 - are also spread there.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering my grandfather Sydney George Tucker 1882-1919

On Remembrance Day, it seems an apt time to honour my grandfather in this first post about my Tucker ancestors.

Sydney George Tucker was born in on 30th May,1882 at 15 Manchester Street, in the civil and ecclesiastical parish of All Saints, Southampton, Hampshire UK.  His father (George William Tucker, 1858-1924) was originally a pawnbroker (so described in 1881) and then a music shop owner (by 1891).  His mother (Agnes Mary Hardy, b 1858) had been a teacher when she married George in 1881.

In 1891, Sydney, aged 8[1], a scholar, was living with his father George William, mother and brother Albert aged 6 at 10 Upper Canal Walk, Southampton.

Sydney and his brother Bert[2] attended Taunton Trade School in Southampton in the 1890s, Sydney from 1896-1900 and Bert from 1897-1901.  Both were keen sportsmen, playing cricket and football.  H. Spooner’s “A history of Taunton’s School (1967) referred to Fred Carmichael and the two Tuckers – “They played in any position between 1899 and 1901 – SG even played as goalkeeper when needed.” (p 98).  Page 101 refers to AAW (Bert)’s fame in Taunton cricketing history – he was the first boy to score a century (102 not out) in a school match.  He was by all accounts a demon bowler.”

The School Journal of April 1963 records the death of AAW on 26th April, 1963, aged 78, and refers to the early death of SG in 1919. 

Tucker's music dealership at 10 Upper Canal Walk
In 1901, Sydney, aged 18[3] (described wrongly as Sidney G. Tucker) was living at 10 Canal Walk, Southampton, above the music shop owned by his father with his brother Albert, aged 16.  Sydney’s occupation was music salesman.  Albert would have still been at school.  At that time, his parents George William and Agnes Mary (nee Hardy) were living at 67 Waterloo Road, Freemantle[4].

Bob Tucker remembers that his father’s nickname was Stovepipe Syd, referring to his thin build.

Syd, second left in the Volunteer Corps
From March 1900 to March 1908, Sydney was a cyclist in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment.  He was often away on exercises.  We have a silver spoon inscribed South Africa 1900-02, Hampshire Regiment, 5th Battalion.  So did he go to the Boer War?  At this stage, we do not know.

Outside his father's musical instruments shop
Sydney married Edith Annie Reed, aged 23 of 76 London Road, Southampton on August 31st, 1907 in Bovey Tracey, Devon.  It is a bit of a mystery why they married in Bovey Tracey - maybe because Edith's uncle William Reed lived nearby, and we know Syd wrote to "Ede" at an address nearby.  His occupation was music dealer and he lived at 67 Waterloo Road, Freemantle, Southampton

Edith and Sydney shared an interest in music, with Sydney playing the violin and Edith playing the piano.  Her daughter Cecily later said she could play “any piece of music put in front of her”.

As well as sharing musical interests, they came from similar backgrounds, with families resident in Southampton for at least 40 years, and both fathers being small businessmen.  Like Sydney’s mother before her, Edith’s oldest sister was also a teacher.

In 1908 when their older daughter Jessie was born, they lived at 35 Park Road, Southampton.

They subsequently had two more children, Cecily Mary (b 10th January, 1910) and Robert Sydney George (b 30th June, 1914).  By 1911, they were living rent-free at 67 Waterloo Rd, with Sydney's parents living next door at 69.  The two houses were attached.

Jessie, Syd, Robert, Edith and Cecily c Dec 1915

On 11th November, 1915 he enlisted in the army and was Gunner no 138159 in the 53rd Infantry Company, Royal Garrison Artillery.  He served in France.

The following year, his mother having died suddenly in 1912, his father married again.  His new step-mother, Edith Elizabeth Hainsworth was 22, 10 years younger than Sydney.

Sent from France in 1917
In 1917, he made his will, leaving everything to his wife Edith Annie.   She was then living at 67 Waterloo Road.  George W. was living at No 69, and owned both houses.

On 31st March, 1919 he was ‘disembodied” from the army with a conditional pension for 12 months, due to rheumatism.  He had been gassed and suffered from shell-shock according to our grandmother Edith Annie, but this was not mentioned on the papers.

It is unclear whether he was in hospital on the date he was discharged.  The paperwork was still being attended to two months later.  He would not have lived to see his pension.

Sydney George Tucker died aged 36, on 3rd April, 1919 at the University War Hospital, Southampton, from a haemorrhage, the result of “cutting his throat whilst of temporary unsound mind”, according to an inquest held on April 4th.  He had been residing at 67 Waterloo Road, Freemantle with his wife Edith and children Jessie 11, Cecily 9 and Robert 4¾, and was a musical instrument salesman at his father’s shop.

Probate was granted on 29th July 1919.  His estate amounted to £234.11.6[5] 

His son, Bob Tucker wrote in 1993, aged 79:

“All I remember of my father was watching him wind up his long khaki putties from ankle to knee with his foot on a couch, and later his coffin being taken away on a handcart from our home at 67 Waterloo Road, Freemantle, Southampton.

“That’s all – I’ve only seen photos of his face and heard my mother talking of him.

“I have found out that the reason I don’t remember him was that before I was born until he was sent to France in 1915 he served in the voluntary army and won cups for rifle shooting for his regiment and he was probably rarely home.

“He died I think, a few months before my 5th birthday, a victim of the 1914-1918 war.  I just remember crossing from Southampton to the military hospital on the Island of Wight[6] (Cowes) but I don’t remember seeing him.  Mum said he had severe war wounds and was a nervous wreck, so much so he put an end to his troubles himself in 1919.”

Sydney George Tucker was buried in the Old Southampton Cemetery on April 8th, 1919 in a plot separate from and near his parent’s grave.  The plot was purchased by his father, George William Tucker and subsequently passed into the possession of George W.’s second wife, another Edith Tucker.  She then buried her relatives, including her second husband (Tom Chester Herring), mother (Edith Louisa) and step-father (Frank Renouf) in this grave.

Sydney’s family had migrated to Australia soon after George William died in July 1924.

Sydney George Tucker's grave in the Southampton Old Cemetry
In February 2007, my newly discovered second cousin Linda Harrison (nee Tucker) visited the grave and placed a bouquet of chrysanthemums on the grave. 

It was such a lovely thing to do.

In June 2008, I visited the grave myself.

[1] 1891 UK Census, RG    , Piece 1017, Fiche 1, Folio 47
[2] Linda Harrison (nee Tucker)’s grandfather
[3] 1901 UK Census, RG13, Piece 1058, Folio10, page 11, schedule no 56.
[4] 1901 UK Census RG13, Piece 1073, Folio 177, page 37
[5] Noted in PGO (Effects)  Regents Park N.W.1  15/10/19

[6] In fact, I think the Military Hospital was at Netley.  It too was reached by water.  (Editor)