William of Wales

Canal Boat Carrying CoalAt the end of the last millennium I hired a narrowboat and did the Four County Ring in the Midlands. Part of the canal route I followed was from Chester to Stoke-on-Trent. I didn’t know it at the time but, I may have been retracing the path my great-grandfather took when he left home in Hawarden in the 1870s on his way to Stoke. Flints and Staffs were both centres of coal mining and pottery-making and there was likely constant movement of people and goods back and forth between the two counties. As a Welsh coal miner in Victorian times his career options would have been few, so perhaps he was just looking for a job and hitched a ride on a coal barge to the Potteries. Being single, in his thirties and still living with his parents may have been motivation enough to finally strike out on his own. Whether his motivation was economic or biologic I’ll never know; census enumerators didn’t ask those kinds of questions.

My father’s father’s father, William Peers was born at Ewloe Green in the Parish of Hawarden, Flintshire, Wales in 1841. Like the Staffordshire Potteries, the area around Hawarden was known for its pottery production and coal mining. William’s father, was called Stephen Peers. Both Stephen and his wife, Mary Shone were born about 1810 in the Parish of Hawarden. William was the second of six children born to Mary and Stephen. His siblings were: Charlotte (b1840), Frances (b1843), Samuel (b1845), Mary (b1849) and Emma (b1852).

William Peers Birth Certificate 1841

The 1841 Wales Census lists 6 people in the household at Ewloe Green. They were: William (b1841), his father Stephen (b1810), his mother Mary (b1810), and his sister Charlotte (b1840, incorrectly transcribed as Charles?) . Also in the dwelling and listed as the Head of the Household was, John Peers (b1779) who was likely Stephen’s (b1810) father and William’s grandfather. In addition there was Edward Shone (b1821). Edward was probably his mother’s brother and therefore William’s uncle. Both John and Stephen’s occupations were listed as “collier.”

Ewloe Town Wales Census 1841

Ewloe Town Wales Census 1841 Three-month old William is on Page 15, Line 15

Following is an interesting sideline to the narrative that further connects the Peers family to the Hawarden area. According to the 1841 census there was another Peers family living in the same building as “our” William. The head of this second household was another “collier” also called William Peers (b1770). This William was likely John Peers’ brother and therefore would have been William’s granduncle. Also in William’s (b1770) household were his probable son, Samuel and and daughter-in-law Catherine and their four young children. The relationships described here are speculative on my part.

The 1851 census shows 10-year-old William lived in Ewloe along with his parents and four siblings. Censuses for 1861 and 1871 record that William still lived with his parents and siblings in Hawarden and worked as a “collier.” At some point over the next ten years, William moved away from the family home in Wales to the coal mining and pottery region of Staffordshire, England. What happened to William when he got to Stoke? You’ll have to wait for another post to find out but it involves the married landlady of the boarding house where he was a “lodger”.

Meanwhile the Peers connection to Wales continues…

At the 1881 census Stephen (b1810) and Mary continued to live at Ewloe Green. Their oldest daughter, Charlotte, also remained in the family home as did the younger of her two daughters, Mary (b1869). There were still Peers living next door, including another William, who was probably Stephen’s (b1810) grand nephew. This William was also a coal miner.

Stephen (b1810), was still alive at the time of the 1891 census which took place in April. Mary his wife had died at some unknown date during the previous ten years. Stephen’s occupation at this time was recorded as “retired brickmaker.” Also in the household were Charlotte, Stephen’s daughter and his 3-year-old great grandson, Frederick. Frederick was the son of Charlotte’s oldest daughter, Hannah (b1867) who was not in the household on census night. Stephen’s grand nephew William and his family continued to live next door in the residence which was listed as Brook Side (Smithy House) Ewloe Green. Stephen (b.1810) died late in 1891.

In 1901 Charlotte Peers, age 61, now lived “on her own account” at Ewloe Green with her two grandsons, Frederick and 6-year-old, Stephen Edward. Frederick, age 13 was employed as a “brick trimmer.” They lived on Smithy Lane, Ewloe Green, Hawarden. Charlotte Peers died in the spring of 1904.

In 1911 Frederick and his brother, Stephen Edward lived with their mother, Hannah at Ewloe Green. Hannah’s marital status was recorded as “single.” Frederick was a “tile maker” at Davison Brickworks and his 16-year-old brother, Stephen Edward was a “pottery labourer” employed by Jones & Gerrad Pottery.

Hannah died in 1931. Her oldest son, Frederick, apparently unmarried, died in 1975 in northeast Wales near where he was born. In 1927 Stephen Edward married Annie Violet Humphries at Hooton, Cheshire, England, just up the road from Hawarden. Stephen Edward and Annie had two sons, Stephen G. (b1928) and Clive E. (b 1933), both born in Birkenhead, Cheshire. Stephen Edward Peers died in 1983, also in Birkenhead.

Beyond this point are the living; people I don’t know and will never meet. Nonetheless we are connected, distant cousins descended from Welsh coal miners and pottery workers.

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One Response to William of Wales

  1. James McGeachy says:

    Thanks mate, interesting reading. I am descended from the ‘next door’ Peers – William’s granduncle William (b1770) was my great great great great great grandfather 😉
    From Wales to Tasmania Australia 🙂
    My mother maiden name is Sarah Peers and we emigrated in the ’90s.

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