John Griffiths – Nantwich to 1914


Ann Griffiths (nee Williamson) and son Samuel

Ann Griffiths (nee Williamson) and son Samuel - possibly about 1891 (courtesy Philip Griffiths)

By March 1891, some of my Griffiths relatives had moved into Nantwich, where they were living in a four-roomed house described as 16 Vauxhall. In the census of that year, only great-great grandmother Ann and her middle son, Samuel, were living there, with the other two sons, John and young James living on a farm at Wades Green, Church Minshull, where they worked.

This farm was run by Charles Charlesworth, who was only 29 himself. Charlesworth, his wife and 1 year old daughter lived there, and they employed three farm servants – John Price, 25 years old, working as a horseman; my great-grandfather John, then 22 and working as a cowman and his brother James, then aged 16. All three are farm servants, rather than farm labourers, which means that they lived on the farm and had been hired for the year. This hiring was usually done at a hiring fair, which took place at Martinmas (the end of November) simply because this was the end of the farming year. Farmers and prospective farm servants all gathered at these fairs and the servants were not shy about warning one another about which employers to avoid. Many lads would start by hiring on at a farm close to their home but gradually move on each year. And when the business of the day was concluded, there would usually be a funfair – most of which had a reputation for rowdiness. The only hiring fair I can find in this area of Cheshire at this time was one at Sandbach, which was on 28 December by 1902, but there may have been others.

The 1891 census is the last time that the Maddocks name will appear in an official document, for that was the name John and James are recorded under – brother Samuel and his mother Ann, in the same census, used the name Griffiths, which is partly why I suspect it was Ann who stuck to the name she was married under and none of this nonsense that her husband had indulged in.

John Griffiths as a young man

Great-grandfather John Griffiths as a young man (courtesy Philip Griffiths)

But the important bit on this census is not the farm but the houses in Vauxhall. Just four doors along, lives a 60 year old shoemaker named James Purcell, his wife Emily and their 20 year old daughter, Elizabeth Frances Purcell. Quite clearly John must have returned from the farm in Church Minshull on several occasions because, on 24 November 1892, Elizabeth Purcell and John Griffiths were married at Nantwich Register office. The two witnesses for the ceremony were Elizabeth and William Pridding – John’s elder sister and her husband, William Pridding, who had married back in June 1877.