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James Lewis Wright, 1852-1933

James Lewis Wright

Ernest Gundry


James 'Lewis' Wright*

The first photo is clearly a posed photograph typical of the late Victorian/Early Edwardian era. Perhaps on the back of the photo is the name of the photographer and the studio where it was taken. James is resting his right arm on a small table upon which sits a small book, perhaps a bible to show his supposed devotion (but more likely placed to keep his arm in the same position), a classical work or a mere prop. Because of the long exposure times of film at this time this would explain why he has been posed as in this position the photographer has tried to make the shot interesting but at the same time easy for James to keep still. It is far easier to remain still while seated than standing up, he is also leaning one arm on the table which also will help the subject to remain still. There is a stylised background behind him of what looks to be a Greek, Roman or Etruscan scene. You can clearly see that this is a hanging curtain. Photographs of this era were very rare and very costly, particularly to a Coal Miner. This is typical of the very formal style of photography, it is more of a statement than an everyday snapshot. This may have been taken by a travelling photographer perhaps at the Town Moor as photographers of the time travelled the country with shows and fairs.

James appears to be of typical Durham miner stature, I'd estimate he isn't taller than 6' tall and probably between 5'7" and 5'11". The shoes could be his own and as the jacket looks too big for him perhaps that too was a prop.

The second photo came to courtesy of Elizabeth Ince, who was unsure who it is. All we can say is that he is a corporal in the Royal Artillery wearing a bandolier for Lee Enfield bullet clips. I suspect it is a WWI photo rather than a 2nd Boer war one. The photo is actually a postcard of the type typically issued to front line troops in France/Belgium. The photo of Charles Lewis Wright is also a postcard so I have to assume that it is almost certainly a WWI photo.... but of whom? Liz has confirmed that it is in fact Ernest Gundry brother of Jessie Kate Gundry who married Herbert Wright, James's son.

* So far I haven't found any corroboration for James having a middle name

James and the Anglo-Boer war

Maureen claims that James fought in the Boer War and had a collection of items from that conflict. However, she doesn't say WHICH Boer war, there were two. The first war (The Boers name it as the first war of independence) was fought between the Transvaalers and the British forces in South Africa in 1880-1. In 1880 James would have been 26 years old, He would have had a 2 year old daughter and quite possibly another one on the way, Alice was 1 in 1881. It is just conceivable that James joined the army when he was 18 which is why he doesn't appear on the 1871 census. Maureen identifies the second photo as James. The person looks to be the right age of 26/27. He is a Corporal in the Royal Artillery. Originally, the Royal Artillery had Corporals (but not Lance-Corporals) and a Bombardier was junior to a Corporal and wore a single chevron Unlike a Lance-Corporal, a Bombardier held full non-commissioned rank and not an acting appointment. The rank was equivalent to Second Corporal in the Royal Engineers and Army Ordnance Corps.

In 1920, Corporals were abolished in the Royal Artillery and Bombardiers became the equivalent and acquired the normal two chevrons. Artillerymen wore blue jackets to distinguish them from the red-coated infantry. The vestigial 'slow match' on 'James's' left shoulder is a uniform throwback to when guns were lit with such implements. Now to become a Corporal James must have been in the artillery more than a few months and shown some sort of leadership qualities and be trustworthy. These are not traits spotted as soon as you walk into the recruiting office. It may well be that James joined up for financial reasons.

 The British troops suffered a series of setbacks at Laings Nek (1881 Jan. 28), Schuinshoogte/Ingogo (1881 Feb. 8) and the disaster at Majuba Hill (1881 Feb. 26-27) (See Chronology) where their C in C General Colley (a very brave but also disorganised man) was mortally wounded. A ceasefire was hastily agreed and within days the war was over, very much to the Army's chagrin that had hoped to gather reinforcements and avenge their setbacks. Indeed General Roberts was already on his way to Natal from India and re-enforcements from England also reached as far as Newcastle

The might of the British Empire had been defeated, or at least checked, by a small infant republic with no standing army. The victory at Majuba became enshrined in Boer folk history. Alongside the Great Trek it served as a great source of inspiration and a symbol of unity for the next generations. For the British, this humiliating defeat continued to rankle; when 18 years later war with the Boers broke out again, the British Army went into battle burning with the desire for revenge and with the cry 'Remember Majuba!' on their lips. On 27 February 1900, the 19th anniversary of the battle, Lord Roberts forced the surrender of the Boer general Piet Cronje and 4,000 of his men at Paardeberg. Roberts had been urged to make the final telling attack on this day by General Hector MacDonald, survivor of Majuba. At the surrender, Cronje is reported to have lamented: 'You have even taken our Majuba day away from us.'

Why did the British lose? The British soldiers had only just successfully put down Cetewayo (again after a series of reverses particularly the defeat at Isandhlwana) and were not only war weary but couldn't justify the expenditure of yet another South African war. Gold and Diamonds hadn't been discovered in the Transvaal, as they were later as justification for the massive expenditure of the Second Boer War. The army was badly equipped for the new type of warfare that the Boers invented. Guerrilla warfare on the Veldt and defence of entrenched positions. Bright Red uniforms were no disadvantage against Ceteswayos native forces as they fought their enemies head on in pitched battles. Cetewayo's downfall was that his Impis (Regiments) ignored his orders NOT to attack entrenched British soldiers but to meet them in the open with the element of surprise. That was the tactic they used to such great effect at Isandhlwana but was ignored at Rourkes Drift and the other encounters in the Zulu war culminating in the final defeat at Ulundi where his warriors were shot down in droves attacking the entrenched British 'Rectangle'. The Zulu way of fighting was to close with their enemy quickly and fight him toe to toe while encircling the flanks with their Horns of the buffalo formation. A Rifle and bayonet is not as wieldy in close quarter combat as an Assegai and knobkerrie. 

Even as late as the 1880's the British still marched into battle as they had done at Waterloo in their bright red tunics with white belts and straps. These were uniforms dating from the age of the musket, gunpowder and ball not the relatively smokeless battles of the age of the rifle with it's low emission ammunition. The emphasis was now on NOT being seen. A complete turnaround from the Napoleonic era. Officers were even more conspicuous and made ideal targets for the sharp-shooting Boers. The death of Colley at Majuba was a major blow and the constant picking off of officers caused confusion, low morale and poor or non-existent leadership. The British hadn't faced an enemy like the Boers before, the Zulus had merely charged at their massed volleys and conveniently continued to do so. With the Boers the roles were reversed. Although Queen Victoria herself was keen for the war to continue Gladstone wisely thought the conflict was not worth another British soldiers life and instructed General Evelyn Wood to begin peace talks. Would the British have been successful anyway? Not without a change of tactics and vast expenditure. Some of the lessons of the first Boer war were still unlearned in 1914! At least by the second Boer war the British troops had adopted Khaki uniforms and attacked in loose formation. The Boer farmers hardened to life on the Veldt and shooting game (and Zulus) at an early age, however, were able to demoralise the British by picking off the officers who still wore different uniforms.

In order to have fought in the first Boer war James would have to have been born in 1862 or earlier, we know he was 49 in 1901 and we know he was actually born in 1852 so he would indeed have been of prime military age of about 27.

The second Boer War

The North-East has a large number of Boer war memorials as testimony to the pride in it's armed forces, as opposed to the shame the nation felt over the concentration camps. A huge colonial power had managed to finally beat a couple of small nations of farmers and even then it took 3 years. The Boers themselves didn't regard the Peace Of Vereeniging as a 'surrender' but more of a settlement. The British held a different view. Victory parades were held even in Prudhoe and Stocksfield to welcome back the war veterans so we can assume James took part in one of them, probably in Co. Durham

If indeed he fought in this war then James (and bear in mind he would have been aged 47 in 1899) would have been embarked for South Africa between the 3rd and 18th January in the newly formed 7th Division or between 12th March and 18th April 1900 in the 8th division. These embarkations exhausted the UK of regular troops leaving just the militias. Of these 35 militia battalions were asked to volunteer for service and all but 3 did so. The Yeomanry also volunteered for service. If James wasn't in the regular army then he was certainly in the militia or yeomanry. Charles Lewis was born in August 1900 which means of course that he was conceived just a few weeks before the regular army was embarked for cape town. To conclude then I find it extremely unlikely that James served in the 2nd Boer War.

While the troops were away fighting in the Boer war back home Newcastle United were thriving after being elected to the second division of the Football league (North). In 1898 they were promoted to the First Division. In 1905 they won the league for the first time and did so again in 1907 and 1909 including a couple of losing FA Cup finals at the Crystal Palace stadium. However, by 1911 Newcastle had collected more trophies than they had bridges across the Tyne and James would have been around to see or read about it. Maureen recalls that James was a high ranking member of the local Labour Party (whether this was in Birtley, Gateshead or Newcastle we don't know) but she is sure he was a Chairman and wore some chains of office which would mean he was perhaps an Alderman? Maybe he had his hands on the FA Cup at the reception!

James and the Census records

1911 James and family at 358 Sunderland Road

1901 James and family at 1 Emily Street, Gateshead.

1891 James and family at Heworth

1881 James and family at Framwellgate Moor, Co. Durham

1871 Still trying to locate James on this census if indeed he was registered at all. He could of course have been in the army.

1861 James at Chowdean, Lamesley (Aged 8)

Maureen says that she was 4 years old when James died which would mean circa 1934 and that is indeed the case. She also recalls that there was a large photo of the Family outside their grocers shop on the Sunderland road in Gateshead near Blacks Music hall (1 Emily Street is where they lived in the 1901 census). Sunderland Road is near the Gateshead stadium Metro station. The shop sold groceries and fruit and vegetables. Sunderland Road is very close to Jackson Street where Hannah Davison's sister (Nellie?) lived. 

The 1911 Census
Name Relation to Head Age Sex Occupation Place of Birth
James Wright Father 59 M Coal Miner, Shifter Durham
Jane Elizabeth Mother 56 F   Cockfield, Barnard Castle
James Arthur Son 29 M Labourer Durham
Eva Louisa Daughter 27 F Dress Maker Durham
Clara Jane Daughter 25 F Out of work domestic Durham
Donald Robin Son 16 M Clerk Gateshead
Charles Lewis Son 12 M Scholar Gateshead

Listed as living at 358 Sunderland road which may well be 1 Emily street where they were previously living. No mention of Stella who would have been 32 and married. Eva was about to marry George Osborne. Herbert has gone missing, he would have been 23. Alice is missing presumed deceased and no sign of her 13 year old son. John William must have died recently.

In the 1901 census the Wrights live at No. 1 Emily Street which is off the Sunderland Road, presumably on the corner of the two streets. I have extrapolated the details here:

The 1901 Census
Name Relation to head of family Age last birthday Profession Employer or worker Place of birth
James Wright Head 49 Coal Miner, Hewer Worker Durham, Co.Durham
Jane Elizabeth Wright (Nee Booth) Wife 46     Durham, Co.Durham
Stella Clarissa Dau. 22 Cook, Restaurant Worker Durham, Co.Durham
Alice Warner. Dau. 21 General Servant, Son David 3 Worker Durham, Co.Durham
James Arthur Son 19 Cook, Restaurant Worker Durham, Co.Durham
Eva Louisa Dau. 17 Dressmaker Worker Durham, Co.Durham
Jane Clara Dau. 15     Durham, Co.Durham
Herbert Orlando Son 13     Durham, Co.Durham
John William Son 9     Low Fell, Co. Durham
Donald Robin Son 5     Gateshead, Co. Durham
Charles Lewis Son 2     Gateshead, Co.Durham

James is on RG13/4758 Folio 13 page 17 to be precise while the rest are on page 18 so he was born between 1st April 1851 and 31st march 1852

The census took place on 31st March 1901.

By 'hewer' that meant he lay on his side (often in 6 inches of water) hacking away at a coal face.

The eldest child is Stella Clarissa who is aged 22. That means she was born when he was about 27. The first Boer war was 1880-81 so he would have been around 27 then. Stella could have been born after or during that war but probably not before. She was born in 1878, or at least registered in the first quarter of that year

Alice Warner Wright was registered between Jan-Feb-Mar in 1880.

Herbert was 13 in 1901 and was born in Durham while John/Jack was 9 and born in Low Fell so sometime in those 4 years they moved from Durham to there. Donald and Charlie were both born in Gateshead so they must have spent a few years in Low Fell before moving to Emily St. If, as indeed is stated, Charles was 2 on 2nd April he must have been born in 1899, which indeed he was. Jenny would have been 44 when she gave birth to Charlie. Donald was registered as Donald ROBIN in 1895 between Jan, Feb and Mar:

John William was registered between Jul, Aug and Sep 1890

The 1891 census took place on 5th April  . The Wrights had moved to 10 St Mary's Terrace in Heworth, Gateshead. Heworth is very close to Emily Street. The church in Heworth is St Mary's so was St Mary's Terrace very close to it? There are some wonderful old photos of Heworth here 

Note that on this census Eva L is down as Louisa. Also Clara appears on the 1891 census but becomes Jane C. in the 1901 one . Note also that James A. has become Arthur in the 1891 census. The change of name depends on whether a child chooses a name for himself/herself or the pedantry or laziness of the census taker. We know Jane Booth wasn't actually born in Barnard Castle but in Cockfield, which of course is close by.

The 1891 Census

Name Relationship Age last birthday Occupation Place of birth
James Head 39 Coal Miner Pittington, Co. Durham
Jane   36   Barnard Castle
Stella C.   13   Durham
Alice W.   11   Durham
Arthur   9   Durham
Louisa   7   Durham
Clara   5   Durham
Herbert   3   Durham
John W.   9 months   Durham

In 1881 James was living in Framwellgate Moor, a town on the outskirts of Durham city. The 1881 census took place on the night of the 3rd of April. I have written an extensive word document on Framwellgate and the Wright connection here.

Note that James is listed as being born in Pittington. Pittington is between Durham and Hetton-Le-Hole. Note also the lodger James Todd who turns out to be Jane's uncle, her mothers brother.

The 1881 Census

Name Relation to head of family Age last birthday Occupation Where born
James Head 28 Coal Miner Durham
Jane E. Wife 27 Ho. Wife Durham, Cockfield
Stella C. Daughter 3   Durham, Framwellgate Moor
Alice W. Daughter 1   Durham, Framwellgate Moor
James Todd Boarder 63 Pensioner, from Army Worcester

The 1871 census took place on 2nd April. James would then have been aged 17 or more likely 18, as yet I cannot find his record if he was indeed registered.

Here is the entry in the register of births for the ONLY James Wright registered in Durham between  1851 and 1853 apart from a James Ralph Wright born in 1851 who would be just too old. This entry is for JLY-AUG-SEP 1852

James would have been between 81 and 83 when he died. This James Wright was registered as died at Chester-Le-Street  in the records for OCT-NOV-DEC 1933. Birtley is halfway between Gateshead and Chester-Le Street.. Note that he is aged 81 which is the correct age.

Thomas Wright c1826-

The 1841 Census

There are two possible Thomas Wrights on the 1841 (completed on the 6th June) census.

Thomas (1)

Location Piercebridge (Near Darlington) Co. Durham. Notice that Thomas has a twin sister.

Name Age Profession
Hugh Wright 45 Agricultural Labourer
Elizabeth 40  
Thomas 15 Blacksmiths apprentice
Ann 15  
Hugh 10  
Elizabeth Arnell 80 Independent

The Elizabeth Arnell is surely Elizabeth Wrights mother and is either living in the house or visiting. Looking at the census page all the men seem to be employed as agricultural labourers and Thomas is not the only blacksmiths apprentice.

Next door interestingly is this family

Name Age Profession
Thomas Wright 75 Agricultural labourer
Ann 75  
Mary 35  

Notice that not only does the head of the house share the same name, he is easily old enough to be Hugh's father (and Thomas's grandfather) and is married to an Ann Wright. Thomas and Ann are the names of Hugh's twins surely this is NOT a coincidence. Next door to this older Thomas lives a licensed victualler, then a postmistress, a butcher and a saddler so it seems they were living very close to some shops. I can't find a spinster called Mary Wright on the 1851 census if indeed she was a spinster in 1841, she may have been visiting her parents on the night of the 1841 census of course and the census taker simply put her down as a Wright and you can see he had started writing Wr...

  Thomas (2)

This Thomas appears in Westoe, South Shields/Jarrow

Name Age Profession
William Wright 20 Pitman
Catherine/Catheran 45  
Benjamin 20 Pitman
Jane 15  
Thomas 15 Mason
John 6  

again this Thomas is a twin and it looks like the head of the house, William,  also is a twin to Benjamin Wright.


How do you figure out who is the correct ancestor? Thomas(2) comes from a mining family and we know James was a miner however, this Thomas(2) is in South Shields whereas James was born nearer to Durham than Jarrow. We know that the Thomas we definitely know is James father claims to have been born in Chester-Le-Street on the 1861 census. The Westoe Thomas(2) is still alive on the 1871 census and you just can't be two people at the same time. Thomas (1) is happily (hopefully) living in Chowdean. I think that conclusively proves that Thomas(1) is our Thomas. 

The 1851 census

Hugh and Elizabeth are still together but now on their own in 1851 in Piercebridge. It states that Hugh was born in Staindrop Co.Durham and Elizabeth in Denton (also Co. Durham). It also seems to state that both Hugh and Elizabeth are Agricultural labourers. Notice they are now 8 years apart in age whereas in 1841 they were 5 years apart. Curious. Staindrop is very close to Cockfield and not far from Piercebridge either. Denton is also closer to Staindrop than Piercebridge.


Thomas would have been aged 25 in 1851. There is a Thomas (listed as being born in Old Durham) of the correct age listed as an Agricultural Labourer living as a Farmers servant (the farmer is called William Gibson) in Pollards Lands in Auckland St Andrew in Durham. 

There is another of the same age living as a lodger in Bishopwearmouth but he is listed as being born in Nettleston which is in Northumberland. No one else seems to fit the correct profile in 1851 so I'll have to assume he missed the census that year. This isn't uncommon. Bear in mind he was a father to his son also Thomas by 1854 and his wife was from Scotland, perhaps he wandered over the border?

The !861 Census

Hugh and Elizabeth are still alive in 1861. Here he is listed as a Roadman (labourer) aged 71 and Elizabeth is now 65.

The 1871 Census

Elizabeth is still alive and living on her own so I assume Hugh had died between 1861 and 1871. Does it say she's 'farming acres grassland' as is the woman living next door aged 67, so whatever it is they are doing they are both doing it. It also looks like Piercebridge is a collection of houses in a small village.

I have found a Hugh Wright aged 35 born in Piercebridge. He is working as a Cutter/Grinder in an engineering factory and living as a Lodger in Hartlepool with a family called Anderson. Perhaps he is a relative.

Back to James Wright

James was the eldest son of Thomas Wright according to the 1861 census and barring any further evidence appearing to dispute this then this is what I will go with.

The 1861 Census
Name Position Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
Thomas Head M 35 Coal Miner Chester-Le-Street
Jane Wife M 35   Lamesley
James Son   8 Scholar Durham
John Son   3   Lamesley
Margaret Daughter   1   Lamesley
William Son   0 (1 month)   Lamesley

RG number:RG09  Piece: 3763 Folio:52 Page:7 

Registration District: Chester-le-street Sub District:2 Harraton 

Enumeration District:10 Ecclesiastical District:

Parish: Lamesley City/Municipal Borough:
Address:  Chowdean, Chowdean 

I am fairly convinced this is the correct family. James' brother Thomas would have been 6 on this census yet he doesn't appear, remember you have to actually be in the house at the time when the census is collected. He may well have been recorded but not at this address. That would be an interesting line of research.

John Wright 1857-

The only John Wright born in Chester-Le-Street between 1857 and 1858 is this one from Oct-Nov-Dec 1857. Lamesley is just as close to Gateshead as Chester-Le-Street but there are no John Wrights registered at Gateshead in that period. Chester-Le-Street is also the registration area for Lamesley on the 1861 census so that surely indicates that this is where births, marriages and deaths would have had to be registered. 

Margaret Wright 1859-

Here is the birth registration for Margaret dated APR-MAY-JUN 1859 with the place of registration listed as Chester-Le-Street.

William Wright 1861-

William was born the same year as the census and here is the entry for Jan-Feb-Mar 1861 which is indisputably the baby Williams registration. The census was taken in April so William must have been born in March or perhaps February.

In 1871 they were easy to find (living in Chowdean, Lamesley) even if the enumerator did call the family 'Write' and not Wright. Note also that Thomas Jnr is missing from the 1861 census but pops up here but with a different place of birth to the others. James also has Durham not Lamesley as his birthplace so perhaps they lived in Durham, then Urpeth and then settled in Lamesley in between the births of Thomas and John. Urpeth and Lamesley are not far from each other anyway (in fact Lamesley, Urpeth and Birtley are all very close). Urpeth has a brickworks so presumably had a pit to go with it.

The 1871 Census
Name Position to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
Thomas Head M 46 Coal Miner Chester-Le-Street
Jane Wife M 45   Chowdean, Lamesley
Thomas Son   16 Coal Miner Urpeth
John Son   13 Coal Miner Chowdean, Lamesley
Margaret Daughter   11 Scholar Chowdean, Lamesley
William Son   10 Scholar Chowdean, Lamesley
Mary Daughter   7 Scholar Chowdean, Lamesley
George Son   5 Scholar Chowdean, Lamesley
Jane Daughter   2 Scholar Chowdean, Lamesley

Mary 1864 -

There are two Marys registered in Gateshead in Jan-Feb-Mar 1864. There are no others between 1863 and 1865 registered in Gateshead or Chester-Le-Street.

The 1881 Census

By 1881 Thomas and Jane had moved on to Chester Moor, Chester-Le-Street. Note that there is no sign of Jane on this record (she would have been 12) and surely young William Cooper is the son of Margaret (who would have been aged 21 by then and must have lived nearby). Note also that everyone has changed their birthplaces to Chester-Le-Street, apart from Thomas who we know was born there. Perhaps the census taker was in a rush and wrote this down later.
Name Position to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
Thomas Head M 56 Coal Miner Chester-Le-St
Jane Wife M 56   Chester-Le-St
Mary Daughter U 17   Chester-Le-St
George Son U 16 Coal Miner Chester-Le-St
William Cooper Grandson U 2   Chester-Le-St

As yet I can find no sign of Thomas or Jane on the 1891 census.

Thomas Wright Jnr 1854-

The 1891 Census

In 1891 Thomas was living in the parish of St Helens, Gateshead. Note that Thomas states he was born in LOW Urpeth rather than the larger nearby village of Urpeth.
Name Position to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
Thomas  Head M 36   Low Urpeth
Kate Wife M 31   Carluke, Scotland
Ellen Daughter U 12   Lamesley
William Son U 3   Chester Moor?, Durham.

The 1901 Census

In 1901 Thomas Jnr is still living in the St Helens district of Gateshead and still has just the two children Ellen and William, as they are now 46 and 42 respectively we can surmise that Thomas and Kate didn't have any more children.

John Wright 1858 -

The 1881 Census shows John and Family are in Allendale Cottages, Medomsley, Co. Durham. He seems to have taken in some lodgers who may or may not be related, how did the two Coulson children end up here?
Name Position to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
John Head M 24 Coal Miner Gateshead
Catherine Wife M 21   Throckley, Nthbld
Mary Jane Daughter U 1   Elswick, Ncle upon Tyne
Thomas Bainbridge Boarder U 19 Coal Miner Prudhoe, Nthbld
James Bainbridge Boarder U 16 Coal Miner Walbottle
Ann Bainbridge Boarder U 12   Scotswood
Isabella Coulson Boarder U 7   Medomsley
William Coulson Boarder U 5   Medomsley
George Bainbridge Boarder U 8   Medomsley

In 1891 they were still in Medomsley (145 Allendale Gdns?), Catherine's place of birth has changed to Prudhoe and there are two sons John and William.

Name Position to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
John Head M 35 Coal Miner Gateshead
Catherine Wife M 31   Prudhoe, Northumberland
Mary Jane Daughter U 11 Scholar Elswick, Newcastle Upon Tyne
John Son U 6 Scholar Medomsley, Co. Durham
William Son U 2 Scholar Medomsley, Co. Durham
George Bainbridge Wife's Brother U 19 Coal Miner Medomsley, Co. Durham
Isabella Coulson Neice U 16   Medomsley, Co. Durham
William Coulson Nephew U 15 Coal Miner Medomsley, Co. Durham

So this tells us that one of Johns sisters married someone called Coulson and that Catherine's surname was originally Bainbridge. So now we know why the Bainbridges and the Coulsons ended up with John Wright. Note that in 1881 Catherines brother Thomas was born in Prudhoe, her brother James in Walbottle and her sister Ann in Scotswood.

William Wright 1861 -

The 1881 census

William was living in Park Road, Gateshead. There are several other William Wrights born around the same time but this is the best match.
Name Relation to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
William Head M 21 Chemical Labourer Gateshead
Mary Jane Wife M 21   Gateshead
Jane Ann Daughter U 3 months   Gateshead

George Wright 1866 - 

For the 1881 census George was still living with his parents. I have found two possible Georges on the 1891 census:

Possibility A:
Name Position to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
George Head M 25   Gateshead Fell
Elizabeth Wife M 26   Bishop Auckland
Sarah-Jane Daughter   3   Chester-Le Street
Thomas Son   1   West Pelham

Possibility B:
Name Position to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace
George Head M 25   Gateshead
Elizabeth Wife M 26   Newcastle
John T. Son   3   Gateshead
George Son   5 months   Gateshead
Mary A. Lamb Mother-in-law W 66   Gateshead

From all this census data I have managed to create this tree


Jane Elizabeth Booth Wright c. 1854-1946, James' wife. The photo below is much later than the one above. Maureen recalls that her nieces always wore black and came from Scotland. They may well have come DOWN from there but Jane was most certainly born in Co. Durham. Jane's nieces apparently attended university (Edinburgh?) which was almost unheard of before the 30's. True to tradition Jane is wearing a black outfit. Is this photo taken outside the aged miners cottage (in Birtley) where she was burned to death? In 1946 (allegedly) Jane's night dress caught fire on an electric fire in the cottage, Donald 'Adair' burned his arms trying to put out the fire. Sadly Jane Booth died in the ambulance of her burns, she would have been an elderly woman by then (92 years old) which would account for that. Jane Booth died in 1946 and that Donald died almost 2 years later actually in 1948. Bear in mind Charles Lewis also died in 1946 so it was a very bad couple of years for the Wrights. Also in the photo are Clifford and Jinny Clara.

Clifford, 'Jinny' and Grandma Jenny Booth Wright

This death registration is dated quarter Oct-Nov-Dec 1946. Note that both Donald and Jane were registered at Durham N. which I assume is Gateshead.

Jane on the 1871 census

I finally found Jane on the 1971 census in Scotland, 43 Maryfield Place, Midlothian, Edinburgh. They were in the Edinburgh Greenside parish. The 1871 Census for Scotland was taken on the night of 2/3 April 1871
Name Position Age Occupation Where born
William Booth Head 43 Fish and Egg merchant England, Longridge
Elizabeth Booth (Nee Todd) Wife 42   England, Wollwick
Jane Elizabeth Booth Dau 16   Co. Durham (we know this to be Cockfield)
Alice Dau 14   Barnard Castle
Margaret Ann Dau 12   Station? (New)Castle on tyne
John William Son 10   Station? (New)Castle on tyne
Clara Jane Dau 7   Station? (New)Castle on tyne
Thomas S Son 6   Castle, castle on Tyne
Arthur A T Son 3   Blaydon
Eva L Dau 1 mon   Edinburgh
James Todd Brother-in-law 53 Fish and Egg merchant Worcester

Longridge is in Lancashire. But the biggest revelation here is the presence of James Todd who would be the elder brother of Williams wife Elizabeth. This is the same James Todd described as a retired soldier when he is living with James Wright and Jane when they have Stella and Alice in Framwellgate Moor. Perhaps there was no room for him in Edinburgh and he moved in with his niece.

Now CURIOUSLY there is a Chelsea pensioner called James Todd in Chelsea Hospital aged 73 in the 1891 census born in Worcester with the correct year of birth. Isn’t THAT odd.

Perhaps when he became too old for James and Jane to look after and they were filling the house up with kids he ended up in Chelsea Hospital? His sister Elizabeth (Jane's mother) was born in Woolwich so perhaps he had relatives in London? The Zulu war was in 1879, First Boer war was 1881. James Todd was born in 1818 he would clearly have been too old to have fought in those wars. However the Indian mutiny was in 1857 when he'd have been 39. The Crimean war was 18541856). James Todd would have been 36 at the outbreak of that conflict.

It is possible that he could have taken part in the First Anglo-Afghan War (1839-1842) when he would have been in prime military age of 21 to 24. He could have taken part in the 6th and 7th Xhosa wars which were fought between 1834 and 1836 and 1846. In fact it is feasible he fought in all 3 wars across 2 continents.

I have found a 43 year old James Todd born in 'Woolarsh', Kent who is in Sandhurst barracks in what looks like the 15th Hussars in 1861. Now you could imaginatively say that yes, this is our James as Woolarsh is more than likely Woolwich, he is the right age and he's a military man.

Jane on the 1861 census

Back to England and county Durham, Stainton Village. Stainton is a village outside Barnard Castle and is close to Cockfield and not far from Piercebridge either.

Name Position Age Occupation Where born
William Booth Head 33 Quarryman Longridge, Lancs
Elizabeth S Booth Wife 32   Woolwich, Kent
Nancy Dau 10   Halifax, Yorkshire
Jane Elizabeth Dau 6   Cockfield
Alice Dau 4   Barnard Castle
Margaret Dau 2   Stainton, Co. Durham
John William Son  mths   Stainton, Co. Durham
John Booth Brother 23 Quarryman Longridge, Lancs

So now we have more clarity. Station is actually Stainton in Co. Durham near Barnard CASTLE.

The 1851 census

William and Elizabeth were living with Williams parents during this census. They are living in Dilworth Village near Longridge. William doesn't actually appear on the census but Elizabeth and their daughter Nancy do. Notice that Thomas Jnr, Alice and John are all working in a cotton mill. We finally get to see where Elizabeth Todd was born, Woolwich in London, yet her brother was born in Worcester.

Name Position Age Occupation Where born
Thomas Booth Head 48 Labourer in Stone Quarry Dilworth, Lancs
Nancy Booth Wife 44   Dilworth, Lancs
Thomas Son 18 Cotton Weaver Dilworth, Lancs
Alice Dau 16 Cotton Weaver Dilworth, Lancs
John Son 13 Cotton Weaver Dilworth, Lancs
Robert Son 11 Scholar Dilworth, Lancs
Stout Son 11 Scholar Dilworth, Lancs
Elizabeth Dau 9 Scholar Dilworth, Lancs
Margaret Dau 6 Scholar Dilworth, Lancs
Elizabeth Daughter in law 23 Wife of Quarryman Woolwich, Middx
Nancy Grandaughter 9 months   Halifax, Yorks

2 doors away are a William Booth (born in Bowland, West Yorkshire) aged 74 and a John Booth aged 46 who could conceivably be Thomas' Father and younger brother. John Booth is also working in a stone quarry. Gloria Potter  has also come to this conclusion and gone back one more generation from there with another William Booth born in 1735 in 'Bowland' West Yorkshire. This is curious as near Longridge is the Forest of Bowland as well as various small towns with Bowland in the name such as Bolton-by-Bowland. There is a defunct district council of Bowland in West Yorks around the Ribble valley and that is literally just across the border and not at all far from Longridge.

John Booth the (13 year old cotton weaver) married a Sarah Leybourne and moved to West Hartlepool setting up a grocers business at which he became very successful. His descendants are still there including Gloria who now lives in Australia. John had 3 children, Thomas, Eva and Amelia. Thomas had 10 children and Gloria is the daughter of the tenth child Annie Booth b. 1911 so Thomas Booth b. 1803 is our common ancestor.

James Wright's descendants

The Wrights

The family were Herbert, James Arthur/Artie, Donald 'Adair', Charles and Jack/John. Jack died aged 17 (c. 1907) from meningitis. The girls were Stella Clarissa, Eva Louise, Jenny/Jane, and Alice. 

Stella Clarissa b. 1878

Eldest child of James and Jane. Apparently married a Mr Johnson and produced a daughter called Joan. I believe they moved to London.

Alice Warner b. 1880

Allegedly Alice died of child bed fever aged 21, presumably the child then grew up with it's grand parents if it survived? Looking at the census it appears she had a 3 year old called David she is listed as single and aged 21 in 1901. There was a visitor to the house when the census was taken called Robert Simpson aged 21, was he Alice's boyfriend? He was a machinist and engineer. If Alice died aged 21 then it can't have been much longer after the 1901 census was taken. I couldn't find a death record (so far) in 1901, 1902 or 1903 with the name of Alice Wright. Perhaps she married this Simpson bloke and changed her name. David was born before his uncle Charles Lewis. Perhaps Jane and Alice were pregnant at the same time. I believe this is David registered for the quarter JUL-AUG-SEP 1898 which makes him probably a year older than Charles. This is really the only suitable candidate from the birth records unless he was registered with a different surname.

James Arthur b. 1882

(a.k.a Artie) went blind when he grew older. If he was alive in 1960 then he would have been 79 years old. Alan visited them in Birtley. Arthur was still alive and Olive was there with her son Peter. Olive never married. I have found a registration for Olive Wright dated JUL-AUG-SEP 1904.

I've also found 2 others registered in Gateshead  in 1902 JAN-FEB-MAR, Olive May Wright and Olive Newby Wright

He had 6 children according to Maureen named Dolly (Dorothy?), Connie (Constance?), Clarence and Laurence/Lawrence (who were twins), Charles and Olive. The twins were nicknamed 'Pip and Squeak' even though they well over 6 foot tall perhaps as tall as 7'. Dolly and Connie apparently also went to London. Dolly and Connie were theatricals who sang and danced, both apparently had white blonde hair and were exceptionally pretty. Georgia Grace has white blonde hair which may be inherited as does my son Alex and my daughter Olivia! Blonde hair is very common amongst the Wrights.

Herbert's son Herbert Jnr was also blonde (but may well have dyed his hair according to Maud).

Eva Louise b. 1884

Apparently they lived in London and were quite well off. Louise married a Mr Osbourne/Osborne and lived at Low Fell they apparently had a son called Peter? I've found an Eva Wright marriage registered in Chester-Le-St Oct-Nov-Dec 1910. But in 1911 (last quarter again) Eva L Wright has registered a marriage in GATESHEAD.

and on the same page 1726 same volume William B Osborne. Surely that is the couple we are looking for.

Jenny/Jane/Jinny Clara b. 1886

Jane lso was a music hall entertainer and allegedly a bit of a stunner. According to Maud she had an affair with George H. Elliott and got with child by him which was a bit of a scandal. Elliott was known as 'The Chocolate coloured coon',  I wasn't aware of there being any other colours? Elliott made at least 2 phonograph recordings in 1912 and was performing at the Islington Empire in 1932. Searching the web he certainly seems to appear on a lot of postcards. Again I rate this one as dubious. Maureen says that Ginny was a bit of a recluse and had a stillborn child by a Belgian soldier or refugee (which ties us back to Birtley again!). If we take both stories or even one of them as read then as an unmarried mother she would indeed be a recluse. This also confirms that they moved from Gateshead/Heworth to Birtley some time between 1901 and 1914. 

See photo of Jenny with her mother and young Clifford above.

Herbert/Herbie Orlando 1888-1968

ALLEGEDLY 'was a double' for Victor McClaughlan and (bottle) blonde haired Herbert Junior for Donald Houston in the Blue Lagoon with Jean Simmons no less.  Herbie went to Canada with his family and joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Presumably a previous military career would have helped with this application. There may well have been a shortage of manpower after the first world war.  Another anecdote relates that Herbert was wanted for murder and returned to the UK which would be at odds with his (alleged) Police career somewhat. This is under dispute. At any rate Herbert came back to the UK.

Herbert's medal record. There are 2 Herbert Wrights who served in the Coldstream Guards in WWI. The first one arrived in France in 1914 and seems to have served out the entire campaign. We know Herbert was pensioned out of the army and was married in 1917 so I believe that this is Herbert's medal record showing the service number 24453. The card shows that like Charlie Herbert received the Victory medal as well as the British Army medal.

Herbert married Jessie Kate Gundry on 19th October 1917. They already had a daughter called Gwendoline who was born at the end of 1916. The marriage certificate from Lambeth Registry office states that Herbert was a former Private in the Coldstream Guards and was now a military pensioner aged 29. In order to be pensioned out of the army you would have had to have been wounded and put out of action for the rest of the war. The PRO has the records of all WWI army pensioners stating their wounds and other information. Jessie was 23. Both of them lived in Brixton. Herbert at 67 Stockwell Park Road and Jessie at 33 Lorn Road. Both roads share a street corner. Curiously Gwendoline was registered at Chester-Le-St which is the registration centre for Birtley. By 1920 they had another daughter called Alma and she was registered in Northallerton. Alma had a son called Barry.  Finally  Elsie Lillian Mary Wright was born in Stockwell in 1922, a mere stones throw from Brixton. Bearing in mind that Eva, Stella, Dolly and Connie were all in London Herbert wouldn't have been short of a place to stay there and apparently he was a frequent visitor. Herbert died on 13th September 1968  and this was registered in Hampstead, London..

As all of these relatives are theatricals working in London is it too far fetched to suggest that he met Jessie Kate via one of them?

Back again to the elusive Herbert Jnr. When Herbert died a 'relative' had to register the death. An H.G. Wright showed up giving his home address as

1,York Road, Hew Estate, Birtley

According to Maud....

Herbert Jnr lived with Arthur's family. At some point Herbert lived there too but Herbert had disowned his father. Or vice versa. Herbert Jnr dyed his hair blonde and was a great swimmer. I can only assume that Herbert was a child from Herbert's liaison with a woman he took to Canada with him. It is also suspected that Herbert Snr had more children in Canada. Herbert Jnr had a house in Barley Mow which is part of Birtley.

There is a Herbert Wright aged 45 and an Agnes who sailed on the Ship Georgic in 1935 to USA/Canada. Surely he'd have been 46/47? This could be Herbert. The date is ok as we know that Jessie Kate had married again and produced a son called David on 10TH November 1934. At some point then Herbert returned to England as he was certainly in Birtley soon after Charles Lewis died in 1946 as he arranged the sale of Charlies tools.

Gloria discovered this...

  I have found a birth for Arthur Hermann T.Booth,@ Newcastle on Tyne 10b 37- 2Q 1867.  I am presuming this is ours because Arthur H.T.Booth seems an unusual combination of  names.   I have got all the census and maybe its a coincidence but the 1891 census has him living as a boarder at 3 West St,Littlebourne, N.E. Kent, UK age 23 and a Primitive Methodist Minister born N/on/Tyne.   The co-incidence is that his father's brother John (my was also training to be a minister in the same religion but had to leave when he got married as that wasn't allowed until they had been ordained, and all his  children were brought up as such

And Liz writes:

Herbert arrived in Canada in August 1923 a little earlier than I thought, he was heading to Lanigan, Saskatchewan to his uncle, A. Booth. A being Arthur H.T. Booth.


Here is Herbert's marriage certificate very kindly forwarded to me by Elizabeth Ince.


Jessie Kate Gundry  1894 -

Jessie Kate : Little Red Riding Hood


On the back of the photo it said Banister Hovrail or Howard Company, Red Riding Hood, Theatre Royal. This is the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London. On Jan 9th 1929 she married David's father.



Charles, Agnes and Donald

Donald Robin 'Adair/Adare' 1895-1948 (on the right holding the Jack Russell) performed at the Newcastle Music halls and the Theatre Royal as a comedian, singer and allegedly female impersonator hence his penchant to 'borrow' Maureen's make up. He lived out his days in the aged miners cottage in Birtley with his mother. The girl in the photo is called Agnes apparently (or Aggy for short) and died when she was about 22 of consumption. Maureen said that Donald was always 'immaculate'. He certainly looks the dapper gent in this photo. Note that Donald is indeed listed as 'Donald R.' in the 1901 census. He was baptised as Donald Robin Wright. Donald also may have died of consumption. Now who took the photo? Herbie?

Here is his registration of death for the quarter of Jul-Aug-Sep 1948 2 years after the death of his mother.



First Anglo-Boer War 1881
12 April Britain annexes the Transvaal
Jan -Jul Anglo-Zulu War
3 March Sir Owen Lanyon appointed Transvaal Administrator
23 June Sir Garnet Wolseley arrives to take up post as High Commissioner
April Wolseley returns to England and is replaced by Sir George Pomeroy-Colley
11 Nov  The Bezuidenhout affair
16 Dec Transvaal formally declares independence
16 Dec Shots fired at Potchefstroom
20 Dec The action at Bronkhorstspruit
22 Dec-6 Jan British garrisons in Transvaal become besieged
1 Jan Boers form a laager at Coldstream just inside the Natal border
19 Jan Natal Field Force (NFF) assembles at Newcastle
25 Jan First British reinforcements arrive at Durban
26 Jan NFF forms camp at Mount Prospect
26 Jan Boers establish themselves on Laing's Nek
28 Jan Battle of Laing's Nek
8 Feb Battle of Schuinshoogte (Ingogo)
17 Feb Evelyn Wood arrives at Newcastle with first reinforcements (Indian Column)
23 Feb Indian Column arrives at Mount Prospect
27 Feb Battle of Majuba
6 March Truce agreed
23 March Formal peace agreement signed

Regiments that fought in the first Boer War

At the conclusion of the Zulu War in July 1879 15 regular infantry battalions and two cavalry regiments available for service in Natal and Zululand. On the eve of war, 17 months later, this number had dwindled to four battalions distributed throughout Natal and the Transvaal and no cavalry support.
The six 9-pdr RML guns of N Battery, 5th Brigade, Royal Artillery were also available, but these too were distributed, four in the Transvaal and two in Natal.
The four imperial battalions were: 
2nd Battalion 21st Regiment;  
58th Regiment; 3rd Battalion,  
60th Rifles; and  
94th Regiment.  
All four had fought in the latter stages of the Zulu War, and both the 2/21st and the 94th regiments had taken part in the second campaign against Sekhukhune, late in 1879. However, for the rest of their posting in Africa the tedious periods of garrison duty in isolated posts which followed had had a bad effect on morale, and cases of desertion had been increasing. 
The line infantry regiments were still equipped as they had been during the Zulu War. Scarlet tunics (either the dress tunic or undress serge frock) were worn with the regimental colour displayed on a small tab at the front of the collar and on a cuff patch. The regiment's number was displayed on the shoulder strap and a badge was worn on the coloured collar tab. Dark blue trousers with a red welt down the outside seam completed the basic uniform. The exception to this was the 3/60th. As a rifle regiment they wore dark green (almost black) uniforms with black leather equipment replacing the buff leather type used by line regiments. (For more details see Osprey: Elite 32 British Forces in Zululand 1879). 

 Head wear was the white foreign service 'Pith' helmet (which had been worn in India), but this had proved highly conspicuous during the Zulu War, and the practice of dying the helmet to give it a more natural look continued throughout the war with the Transvaal. The standard infantry weapon was the single-shot breech loading Mark II Martini-Henry rifle, Which had proved effective against the Zulus in 1879. 

To supplement this meagre force and cover his deficiency in cavalry, Colley organised a scratch mounted squadron. The core of this unit was to be 35 dismounted members of the 1st King's Dragoon Guard, who were awaiting transport back to England. They were joined by 25 members of No. 7 Company, Army Service Corps and 60 men drawn from the 58th Regiment and 3/60th. The men were quickly given mounts, and this unlikely combination was sent off to the front. In addition 70 men of the quasi-military Natal Mounted Police were placed under Colley's command. 

 When it became obvious that war was unavoidable, efforts were made to improve the quantity of artillery available. Two 9-pdrs were released from stores in Natal and 10/7 Battery sent some men from garrison duty in Cape Town to man them. Additionally, two 7-pdr guns were also discovered in stores, but in the absence of any artillery men to man them, volunteers were drawn from the 3/60th. 

 The above image of the smart British soldier soon disappeared once on campaign. Taking the 94th Regiment as an example of a typical unit, they had embarked from England in February 1879, and had worn the same tunics and trousers from then right through the Zulu War and the campaign against Sekhukhune. It seems that new tunics and trousers were received sometime in 1880, but a description by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Philip Anstruther, 94th Regiment, of his men prior to the arrival of this consignment conjures up a vivid picture of a regiment in the field: 'Their coats and trousers are all colours -cords, blue serge, red ditto, any mufti they can lay their hands on patched all over with sacking, skin or anything.' It seems that their equipment also suffered from fatigue, and helmets had not been replaced prior to the outbreak of war. The white helmets that had looked so pristine and smart when the 94th left England were now hardly recognisable as head wear. Some crumpled examples survived, but many men wore anything they could buy, find or make from skins. 

Last update 20/3/07