John Thomas Ashworth was my great grandfather. I wrote about him for my On This Day Project on the occasion of the anniversary of his marriage to my great grandmother, Emma Jane Gooding, in 1891.
By the time of the 1911 census John Thomas was employed as a butcher's shop manager by The River Plate Fresh Meat Company.
The River Plate Fresh Meat Company was founded in Argentina in 1883 by Mr G. W. Drabble for the purpose of freezing mutton, shipping it to England and then selling it on to consumers. The company also started to freeze, export and retail beef and it expanded rapidly. The main works were at Campana, about sixty miles from Buenos Aires, and could process 800 cattle and 3000 sheep each day. By 1910, the company was shipping 50,000 tons of meat each year to Britain and selling it through a chain of retail and wholesale outlets.
The shop John Thomas managed was in Normanton, near Wakefield in Yorkshire. It would probably have looked similar to this shop in Wales.
This postcard from 1905 is Market Street in Normanton with the shop sign visible on the right.
In 1914 The River Plate Fresh Meat Company amalgamated with James Nelson and Company, a large-scale importer of meat from New Zealand. Between them the two companies dominated the frozen imported meat trade but were under increasing threat from American companies that were trying to break into their market by under-cutting them.
Somewhere along the way I think I've read that the River Plate Meat Company morphed into Dewhurst's, the High Street Butchers, that I guess every town in the UK had until the mid-1990s.
Unfortunately John Thomas didn't continue working as a Shop Manager. By 1927, when his youngest son Horace was married, he was working as a night-watchman which must have been a bit of a come-down. Family recollections seem to suggest that he might have had a gambling problem.
I found this nice little story about the River Plate Meat Company in 1910 on the British Newspaper Archives website.
It's seems odd that even though the meat had been frozen, they called it the fresh meat company. I don't suppose the River Plate De-frosted and probably gone off Meat Company would have sounded so good.
If you need something to put you off meat eating, try this story from 1905.
My grandfather, the previously mentioned Horace, actually enjoyed eating tripe. In case you don't know this is the dish made from a cow's stomach. My grandmother cooked it in milk with onions. It looked disgusting and smelled even worse but Grandad loved it!
I haven't any photographs of John Thomas but this is me with Horace and my mum. The old lady is Emma Jane, the wife of John Thomas. She died in 1957 when she was 86 years old. John Thomas died in 1931 so maybe the story of him losing his job through gambling isn't true; perhaps he was ill and couldn't cope with the shop manager's responsibility any longer.
I wrote this review for my bookblog a few weeks ago but thought that readers of this blog might also enjoy The Indelible Stain by Wendy Percival.
I read Wendy Percival's first novel Blood-Tied at the start of the year and enjoyed the combination of mystery story and family history. The author writes a fascinating family history blog and I've enjoyed reading the stories of her ancestors. Blood-Tied introduces Esme Quentin, a successful researcher and family historian, who puts her skills to good use to find out the secrets of her sister's past. The Indelible Stain is the second Esme Quentin mystery and I've enjoyed reading it even more than the first.
In this new novel Esme goes on a working holiday in Devon to assist with sorting out and organising the archives of a local charity. In a dramatic opening chapter, Esme discovers an almost lifeless body on the beach and the mystery begins as Esme listens to the stranger's dying words and finds an old photograph nearby. The dead woman is soon identified as Bella Shaw but the local police consider the death to have been accidental and Esme's concerns arouse little interest. After Esme has met Bella's daughter, Neave, her suspicions are confirmed and she is soon pursuing leads and trying to make sense of the course of events.
The author has made good use of her own knowledge of family history and research methods to devise a clever and well-constructed plot full of unexpected twists and turns. The reader quickly gets a good idea of where the plot is going and who has been the likely wrong-doer until the author changes direction, confounds the reader and forces a re-appraisal again, and again, and again.
The plot gets added complexity from the genealogical mystery that is integral to the main story-line but is a fascinating, stand-alone tale in itself. Meticulously researched, the story of Sarah Baker, convicted of theft and transported to Australia in 1837, gives the novel an enthralling extra dimension. As the novel unfolds, over a hundred years of family history are revealed and Bella's is not the only suspicious ending.
Right until the final pages the reader is guessing who is responsible for Bella's death and all the associated misdemeanours. A strong cast support Esme in pursuit of the truth including childhood friends and various locals ranging from the eccentric to the corrupt and back to the genuinely good-hearted. However, this is pre-dominantly Esme's story. She is an unconventional sleuth whose qualities of tenacity, persistence and resilience are as essential for her day-job as they are for crime solving. She is a determined seeker of the truth which combined with her kindliness and concern for others makes her an attractive and appealing detective.
The Indelible Stain is a highly readable, well written and engaging novel which keeps the reader guessing right to the end. On page 156 author Wendy Percival writes: "It was frustrating and exhausting to gather bits of disconnected information without understanding how it all fitted together." She really understands the mind-set of family history researchers!
Check out the author's website for links to the book or sample and download in the Amazon Kindle Store.
I was tidying up some files and folders on my computer the other day when I found the 1841 census entry for my great x 4 grandfather George Hall (1774 - 1855).
His occupation was recorded on the census as a clog and patten maker.
I know what clogs were but had never heard of pattens. I assumed they must have something to do with footwear and this has proved to be correct as pattens were a form of clog. They were an overshoe worn to raise the wearer above the mud and manure of the street in a time when paving was minimal.
The height varied but could be as much as 10 cms. The base fastened over the ordinary shoe with leather straps and was made of wood and later wood and metal. Pattens had largely gone out of use by the end of the nineteenth century. They were worn by women more than men who had the alternative of riding boots. Pattens were removed along with coats and hats when going indoors and always removed at the porch in church.
There's a good image of a patten dated 1780 - 1820 on the V&A website which I suppose would be like the pattens made by George Hall. There are some nice pictures of pattens being worn at the Jane Austen's World website especially this one.
I found the picture below on WikiCommons. Apparently it's a maid wearing her pattens while she gets on with her work in 1773. I think this must be a contemporary joke about the fashions of the day. How could she possibly have done the sweeping without falling over in those heels?