During the summer of 1870, my great-great-great-great-grandparents Frederick and Ann Vickress welcomed their tenth (and last) child, a son whom they had baptised on 21 August in the local church of Lyonshall (Herefordshire), where Frederick worked as a humble carpenter and joiner.
The arrival of Charles Henry, as the little boy was christened, was undoubtedly a happy occasion. Five years earlier, Ann had given birth to a boy who only lived 49 days. Eight children, five girls and three boys, had preceded him in the Vickresses’ nursery, of whom three also died young.
The household was surely dominated by little Charles Henry’s elder siblings; his parents were after all quite old (by the time the census was taken a year later, Frederick was 56 and Ann was 47), and the elder girls would marry before long. The family was by then composed of 8 month-old Charles Henry, his parents, his sister Diana (a 19 year-old farm servant) and his two brothers William and Thomas, who were attending school. My own great-great-great-grandmother (his sister Elizabeth) was a general servant in Huyton and Roby, Lancashire and may not even have known her youngest brother during his first few months of life.
The Vickress family lived relatively peacefully for several more years in Lyonshall. However, by 1881 they had moved to nearby Pembridge, where many of Ann Vickress’s relatives, the Tippins family, lived. As Charles Henry grew up, his elder brothers began working the land while their father continued his business in carpentry. The little boy most probably indulged in fun and games with the neighbours’ children, like the Leakes and the Hughes families.
On 2 April 1891, Charles Henry’s father Frederick died aged 76 of an “abscess of the prostate gland” (perhaps a sign of cancer). Only three days later the 1891 census was taken, and so Ann Vickress was described as a widow for the first time ever. She was kept company by her two youngest sons, Thomas Frederick (a hatter who had married a few years before and was by then living in Rainow, Cheshire) and Charles Henry (an agricultural labourer, still living at home). It would be years before Charles Henry left the family home – he was still with his mother in 1901 when the next census was taken.
By then Charles Henry had changed jobs, moving from an agricultural to a mason’s labourer. Only a year later he married Elizabeth Postians (or Postings) at the local church in Pembridge. Elizabeth was about five years older than Charles Henry, and although the marriage seems to have been blessed with the birth of a daughter in 1904, the couple appears to have drifted appart: in 1911 Charles Henry, by now a builder’s labourer, was lodging in Caerphilly (Glamorgan) at 14 Bradford Street, the house of 70 year-old widowed Rebecca Knight and her family, the Broughtons, some of whom worked in the local colliery. It was probably through them, or thanks to them, that Charles Henry managed to secure a position as a miner, while his wife remained in Pembridge (living near her mother-in-law) with her little daughter Daisy Elizabeth by her side.
By about the time Charles Henry turned 44 in 1914, the country had plunged into a war. In view of his age, Charles Henry would have been only slightly older than the required age to be called up. Interestingly, while many men saw the war as an opportunity to escape the dangers and drudgery of working down the mines, Charles Henry seems to have taken the opposite view, and with mining considered an essential part of the war-work (with coal in great need), he would not have been pressed to go to the front. Charles Henry therefore remained in Wales, working as a mine banksman, not just far from his own family but also from the young men who had gone to fight.
By August 1915 the war had been raging for a year, and Charles Henry may well have wondered if he would be conscripted before long. Tragically, his question would never be answered, as on 28 August he was violently struck on the shoulders and body by a descending pit-cage at the Navigation Colliery in Crumlin, where he worked. The unfortunate man suffered for seven agonising hours, but eventually succumbed to his injuries.
News of his death surely reached his wife and daughter before long. Elizabeth does not appear to have remarried, and she passed away in 1945, at the end of another global war. Their daughter Daisy Elizabeth went on to marry a Michael Sutton, but the couple don’t seem to have had children, thus bringing Charles Henry’s line to an end.
Charles Henry was, however, honoured by his elder (and probably closest) brother Thomas Frederick, who had moved to Cheshire when Charles Henry was still living at home. Thomas Frederick named his youngest son Charles Henry; the younger Charles Henry emigrated to Australia with his parents and sisters in the early 1900’s and would in fact go on to join the Australian army, seeing military action during WWI and receiving a medal for his services. It seems that where one Charles Henry failed to take an active part, the other shone with distinction.