William Sewell of Woolwich
from Diana Kennedy
This article was originally published in the April 2007 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
I first came across William Sewell several years ago while researching my own family and although I knew this was not the William I was looking for; over the intervening years I have been able to build up a family tree for our Society records. Researching the Woolwich Royal Arsenal (WRA) where several of my Sewell ancestors were employed I found a William Sewell had been employed by the Royal Arsenal as a Labourer in 1840. As such he would have been earning about 2s 4d a day (about 12p) and under 30yrs old. William was one of six labourers appointed on 10th July 1840 to fill the vacancies caused by Ďthe removal of labourers no longer able to do a good days work in the Storekeepers departmentí. (The Royal Arsenal by Brigadier O.F.G. Hogg, pg 1209, 1963 LUP)
While eliminating William from my tree I had already built up several details on his family from the Woolwich censuses. William lived with his wife and children in the Plumstead area of Woolwich, Kent and was employed throughout his working life at the WRA. In 1861 he had risen to be foreman and by 1891 was a superannuated pensioner.
William and Anne had three sons and two daughters; their eldest child was Thomas William who was baptised 15th November 1840 at St Mary Magdaleneís church in Woolwich, Kent. Thomas unlike his father and younger brothers did not go to work at the WRA but became a traveller in confectionery. He married Fanny M Bourner from Tenterden, Kent and they had one son Thomas William born in 1874 and also baptised at St Mary Magdaleneís on 12th July 1874. Thomas William senior died in 1883. After her husbands death Fanny worked like many a widow before her as a laundress, while her son Thomas William junior in 1901 was working as a circular sawyer, possibly for his uncle Thomas Nash.
The second son of William and Anne was William Caleb born in 1844 in Woolwich. William Caleb became a Machine worker at the WRA. He married Mary Nash on 22nd October 1876 at St Thomasí Woolwich. Mary a dressmaker, from Pimlico, Mdx, was the daughter of Thomas Nash a timber dealer. William and Mary had several children. The first was Rachel Ann born in 1877 who in 1901 was a school board teacher and died in Woolwich in 1928. Their second child was John Thomas born in 1879 who became a plumber. The third child, Frederick William was born in 1881 was a house decorator, he died in 1936. The fourth child was William Caleb born in 1886. An engineer, he married Lillian Charlotte Boorer on 3rd January 1914 in Plumstead, Kent. They had one son Caleb Knock born in 1888 in Plumstead and died in 1948 in Woolwich. William Caleb died 21st December 1917 and left in his Will, made in 1895, just under £400 to his widow Mary.
The third son of William and Anne was Caleb Young, born in 1847 in Plumstead. Caleb also worked in the WRA and was in 1881 an overlooker fuse maker. He married Susan Paine in 1872 in West Bromwich. They do not appear to have lived very long in West Bromwich as their children were born in Islington and Hornsey. Their first child was Fanny Elizabeth born 1876, then Arthur Edward born 1878, Ernest Alfred born 1881, Susan born 1884 and finally Eleanor born 1886. The only information I have so far is that Arthur Edward in 1901 was a turner metal fitter.
The two daughters of William and Anne were Phyllis Elizabeth born in 1849 and Fanny born in 1855. Both girls remained unmarried and after the death of her mother (before 1881) Phyllis is described in the censuses as a housekeeper for her father. While her sister Fanny was a dressmaker.
I hadnít found Williamís marriage to Anne and came to a halt until the 1841 census became available on line and I decided to take another look at the family. I finally found William as a labourer aged twenty with Anne living in Woolwich. By a stroke of luck living with them in the same household was John and Lydia Sewell, which I thought it was safe to assume were his parents. According to the census, John was aged 55years and born in Kent and also a labourer, his wife Lydia was given as aged 60yrs.
This led me to look again for the marriage of William and Anne. I knew from the censuses that Anne was born in Barking, Ess, and it seemed likely they had married in Essex. However there were no marriages in Essex for William in late 1830ís but there was a marriage in Dartford registration area that is just a few miles from Woolwich, so I took a chance and purchased it. It was worth it as William a machinist married Anne Knock a dressmaker, on 2nd December 1839 at East Wickham in the Parish Church. Her father Samuel was a lighterman. While Williamís father Johnís occupation was given as a painter. It also tied in with the name Knock being given to her great grandson. Also married at East Wickham, a brother to William was John Sewell, a baker, to Sarah Margaret East, on 23rd February 1840, father John Sewell, painter. John and Sarah Margaret had one daughter Lydia born 1845 who died aged 5months from pneumonia.
The final piece came when I found in the IGI, William baptised 25th October 1826, parents John and Lydia at St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich. Although from census records he was probably born as early as 1820. William died 28th June 1892 at Woolwich, while Anne had died in 1874. His father John died on 1st October 1847 of general exhaustion, while living in Woolwich, and his mother Lydia died in 1845.
There is still much more to find out about this family and maybe one day I will find someone also looking for them and they will join the Sole Society.
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