In my recent post about Sarah Swinfield Raven I
mentioned Sarah's great-great-granddaughter, Colleen Swinfield, who
had sent us copies of some family photos. I chose her photo of
Sarah's oldest son, William, to illustrate what I wrote about Sarah's
life. Among those pictures was another which caught my eye, after I
had written about Sarah. It showed an elderly couple in the front
garden of a house and was described by Colleen as, "William
Swinfield 1841 photo believed to have been taken near Angel Yard,
Earl Shilton about 1900".
This got us very excited as the only William Swinfield born in 1841 was Sarah Raven's brother who was also Geoff's great-grandfather. William has figured in a number of blog posts over the years, especially A Life in the Queen's Service and The End of an Eventful Life, written back in 2011. We know a quite a lot about William's life and death but until now we had no photograph of him. He died in 1905 when his only surviving son, Arthur, was a young and still unmarried man and the only family photos which we have were taken after Arthur's marriage and the birth of his son, Reg in 1925.
We had to contact Colleen to ask if she had any more information about this photo. She quickly replied that the photo was of William and his sister, presumably Sarah. Colleen had been given the photo by her Aunt Emma, who was the sister of her grandfather. Sarah's granddaughter, Emma, told Colleen that the families all lived "hand to mouth" and that most of the children wore shoes which had been thrown out by the shoe factories where their parents worked. It should be noticed that Sarah's shoes in the photograph are beautifully shiny!
We have no idea where Angel Yard might have been in Earl Shilton. Can anyone help us here? The photo was taken outside a house which has a front garden and looks rather more up-market. Was this Highfield Road? Does anyone recognise it?
All of this fits very well with what we know about William's life around 1900. He had settled in Camberley, Surrey, after a long career in the Army and his wife, Elizabeth, had died in the local Workhouse at Farnham in November of that year. By the time the 1901 census was taken at the beginning of April, William and Arthur were living with Sarah Raven at Highfield Street, Earl Shilton. This must have been rather more than a short visit as Arthur, aged 18, had found work as a shoe hand. Geoff's dad, Reg, also remembers his father, Arthur, being good at repairing shoes. It seems quite logical that the couple in the photograph were brother and sister, William Swinfield and Sarah Raven, both recently widowed.
Back in 2011, one of the very first articles Geoff
wrote for this blog was about his 2x great aunt, Jane Swinfield. Regular readers may remember reading about her incarceration
in Millbank Prison and how she narrowly escaped transportation to
Australia. Jane was the oldest child and probably the only legitimate
daughter of Thomas Swinfield and Sarah (nee Hewitt) of Earl Shilton
in Leicestershire. She had seven brothers and sisters, the youngest
of whom was Sarah, born in 1845.
By the time Sarah was born, her
mother had long since given up the pretence that her children were
also those of her husband. She was living with Thomas Brown and it is
likely that all seven of her younger children were his. The three
youngest were certainly listed as his children in the 1851 census
when they lived at High Street, Earl Shilton.
By 1871 Sarah had two illegitimate children of her
own, William and Isaac, and was still living at home with her father,
Thomas Brown. Her mother had died in 1862.
had two more children, Mary Ann and Charles, in 1872 and 1874 but soon afterwards she found
a husband. The General Register Office marriage index tells us that
Sarah married William Raven in 1875.
When the next census was taken in 1881, Sarah was
still living at her father's house in Wood Street and her four
illegitimate children had been joined by two little Raven siblings, Emma and Thomas.
Sarah was listed as a Swinfield, presumably a
mistake by the census enumerator. What was not a mistake, however,
was the fact that William Raven was not in the house on the night of
Where was he? Working away perhaps or temporarily
staying elsewhere? Well, Sarah's husband was actually living very
nearby in neighbouring Mount Pleasant, with his own three sons. William was in fact a much older man: his
son, Alfred, was six years older than Sarah!
The 1891 census tells the same story, with Sarah
remaining in Wood Street with her father and children while William
Raven lived elsewhere. Of course, this arrangement may have served
the couple perfectly well. Sarah had an elderly father and a growing
family to take care of. She eventually had a total of four Raven children, with Ada and Gertrude being born in 1881 and 1885, as
well as the four she gave birth to before she married, so her husband
was obviously around sometimes! We only have a snapshot of their living
arrangements every ten years through the census.
What of William Raven's earlier life? He had older
children and so had probably been married before. Indeed, eagle-eyed
readers may already have spotted him way back in 1851. He was then
next door neighbour to the Brown and Swinfield household in the High
Street! As a young man of 31, he lived there with his wife, Ann (nee Bent) and
their three small children. After having an eventual total of nine
children, Ann Raven died in 1871, aged only 45. The younger children were still
very small, Sarah Swinfield also had four apparently fatherless
children. Despite the 26 year gap in their ages, the marriage must
have had its advantages in an age before social security benefits and with the
ever-present threat of the Workhouse for families who could not take
care of their own. We have no clue at present who might have fathered
Sarah's four older children.
William Raven died at the age of 79 in 1899.
Thomas Brown had also lived well into old age, dying in 1893 at the
age of 84. Sarah was the informant of her father's death.
We do however have one further clue which sheds
some light on the marriage of William and Sarah Raven. This article
in the Leicester Chronicle and Mercury on the 18th November 1876
paints a picture of a marriage which was far from ideal and tells of
domestic violence which the Hinckley Petty Sessions apparently found
Sarah did not re-marry after William's death. She
remained a widow in Earl Shilton until her death in 1921 at the age
Colleen Swinfield, a member of the Facebook
Swinfield Genealogy & DNA Group, is the great-granddaughter of
Sarah's oldest son William (1867-1931) and has kindly shared some of
her own family photos with us. This one shows William at the grave of
his son, Clarence Isaac, who was killed in France in 1916.
So did Sarah have a better life than her oldest
sister, Jane? Probably. She had eight children, four of whom outlived
her. She always stayed close to her wider family and never left the
town of her birth, living to the age of 75, a comparatively long life
for those times.
She seems to have been a dutiful daughter, taking care
of a father who was never able to officially marry the woman who bore
seven children with him. It is unwise to judge our ancestors in terms of our own, hopefully more enlightened, attitude to women's rights. Perhaps her marriage to a man old enough to
be her father, who occasionally hit her when he thought she was
neglecting her wifely duties, was a small price to pay for the relative security that it provided.
Four weeks ago today, I had the great honour to
marry Di, my wonderful partner of the last ten years. In summer 2014,
we decided that it was time to "tie the knot". As we both
have relatives who live in many different parts of England and even
on the other side of the World, we decided to get married whilst on
holiday. Having had our first holiday together on the lovely island
of St Lucia, that was chosen as the venue.
No-one knew that it had happened until we
announced the wedding through social media and by e-mail to family
and friends. How communication has changed in the past ten years!
Many thanks to all who sent us so many good wishes for our future
It was expected that we could record the marriage
within the separate overseas events registered in England and Wales.
That way, anyone could find out where we had "made it official"
and obtain a copy of the certificate.
On checking the regulations,
that proved not to be possible. Unless they know where and when we
got married, how will future genealogists verify that a ceremony took place in such an idyllic place on 9th
Having changed her name, Di is now officially a
Swinfield and will continue to be very actively involved in furthering our knowledge of those who have this very rare surname.
We are delighted to announce that another Swinfield Gathering has been arranged for September 2015. Almost two years after the first opportunity to
meet “our cousins”, there is another chance for you to participate in
what was a most enjoyable and informative event. I know that there
were people who wished to attend the first one held at Appleby Magna, Derbyshire, on 22nd May 2013 but could not come for some reason. By
letting you know the date and venue seven months before it happens,
you will have plenty of notice and can add it to your diary for this
Anyone who is or was named Swinfield, by birth or marriage, is
very welcome to come along to meet others of the surname, who will be
your cousins both close and rather more distant. You will be able
find yourself on the pedigrees, which will be displayed, for all known
branches of the family. We will make it possible for you to introduce
yourselves to others there who are on the same family trees and
explain just how you are related. There will also be a wide variety
of documents and photographs for you to look at. This time, I will also be giving an illustrated talk
about the Genealogy and DNA of the Swinfields.
Whether or not you were at the first Gathering,
you will be very welcome to come to this year's event. Let's see if we can wrest back the record from our Australian cousins who had 43 at their Gathering in Sydney in May 2014. Spread the news to all
your Swinfield relatives now so that they keep that date free too.
The more attendees, the better! Please let me know that you are coming, and who you will
be bringing with you, as soon as you know that you expect to be there. We want to see as many of you as possible in September.
11th January 2015, family and friends gathered in the West Abbey Care Centre in Yeovil, Somerset, to celebrate the life and 90th birthday of
Reg Swinfield, my father.
at Bagshot, Surrey, he was the only child
of Arthur Swinfield (1883-1956) and Edith Elizabeth nee Worsfold
(1884-1976), born 11 years after their marriage. In his early years,
he suffered from ill health having measles, whooping cough and double
pneumonia in quick succession, leaving him needing to be in a
pushchair until he was five years old! His father was then working as
a butler at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
In April 1930, Reg started his education at Yorktown School. His
strength gradually improved and at age of eight, he joined the
Frimley and Camberley Cadet Corps and eventually was promoted to be
commander of Yorktown Platoon. He won several medals for both
physical and athletic achievements. A very keen sportsman throughout
his life, he played football and cricket for his junior school and in
1938 was selected to play football for Farnham Schools when they won
the Wood Cup, the Surrey Schools Competition for under 12s.
Having not been successful in the examination at 11 to attend the
local grammar school, he passed the 13+ examination to attend
Guildford Junior Technical School from 1938 to 1940. In his first
term, he played football for Guildford Schools who won the Hood
Shield for all Surrey Schools in March 1939.
Leaving school in May 1940, he became an engineering apprentice at
the world-renowned Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough,
Hampshire, where he trained until 1946, obtaining his Ordinary and
Higher National Certificates. At the age of 17, in Jan 1942, he
joined the Home Guard during WWII and served alongside his father
until it was disbanded in 1944.
In August 1946, Reg joined Fairey Aviation Company at Hayes in
Middlesex as a junior stressman, commuting four hours by train and
bus each day, for the princely weekly wage of £5-19-6d. He worked on
the Firefly Mk5 for six months and was then transferred to the team
involved in the design of the new Gannet anti-submarine aircraft.
During the football season 1947/8, he captained the Camberley
Reserves when they won the Surrey Senior Reserve Section Challenge
On New Years Eve 1947, at a dance in Camberley, he met Evelyn May Bird (1924-2008). They became engaged on Evelyn’s 24th
birthday and were married in St Peter’s Church, Frimley, Surrey, on
16th July 1949. Geoffrey Mark, their only child, was born on 2nd
In his lifelong career, he was promoted to Assistant Chief Stressman
and was made a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a Chartered Engineer. When Fairey Aviation was taken over by Westland Helicopters
in 1960, the Rotodyne project was cancelled and he was transferred to
the Scout and Wasp helicopters. By 1966, he was promoted to Deputy
Chief Structural Engineer and spent some time at Cowes on the Isle of
Wight developing the SRN4 hovercraft and later the Lynx helicopter.
From 1950 to 1972, he was a stalwart all-rounder for Bagshot Cricket Club, captaining the First XI for many seasons, scoring thousands of
runs and taking well over 1000 wickets. Also a keen golfer, at one time playing to a handicap of 14, he was still playing in his early 80s.
Evelyn and Reg moved to Sherborne in Dorset in August 1972 with the
closure of the Hayes factory by Westland and its transfer to Yeovil.
Appointed its Chief Structural Designer and later the Chief
Structural Engineer, he finally retired in May 1986 after 26 years
with that company. In
early 1987, they embarked on an eight-week round-the-world tour with
their friends, David and Madge Hollely, visiting Honolulu, Fiji, New Zealand,
Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong.
They have three grandchildren, Thomas William born in 1984, Benjamin
Alan 1985 and Samuel John in 1988. His great-granddaughter, Lexia
Lou, was born in September 2013.
10th November 2014, one of our most senior Swinfields passed away at
the age of 92.
William Swinfield was born on 23rd July 1922. A native and lifelong
resident of Sydney, New South Wales, he was the son of a builder,
John Andrew Swinfield (1897-1964) and Jessie Isabella nee Mitchell
(1893/4-1971) who married in the Granville area of the city in 1918.
As such, John William was the great-great-grandson of William
Swinfield (1804-1876), the tailor who left Hartshill, Warwickshire in
England for Australia in 1848 with his second wife Sarah (Williamson)
and their family of four children. Those included his 10 year-old
son, John, who was to become John William's great-grandfather.
Enfield Primary School and Belmore Technical College, he left formal
education when he was just over 14, during the depression of late
1936, to try to find a job. He first delivered milk, making two runs
a day for 12s-6d per week! Later he became a delivery boy for a
grocer's shop at Hill Street in Leichhardt before gaining employment
with the firm of Brico at Camperdown, which made piston ring and
cylinder liners. By 1939, he was with Amalgamated Wireless in
Ashfield as a fitter and turner in its machine shop.
WWII, he served as a fitter and engineer with the Royal Australian
Air Force, posted to Coomalia Creek Airstrip in Northern Territory
(which was bombed three times!) and then in Northern Queensland.
After the War, John sailed as second engineer on a trading vessel to
Papua New Guinea where he lived for a couple of years. Returning to
NSW in 1947, he found his first long-term position from 1950 to 1970
with Michael Nain & Co, makers of floor coverings at Auburn.
Shortly afterwards in 1954, he married Joan Patricia (Boyne) and they
had four children, John Andrew in 1957, Helen Jessica 1959, Pamela
May in 1960 and Linda Jane 1963.
the last ten years of his working life, he was a purchasing officer
for the NSW Returned and Services League (RSL), of which he was an
active member and President of its Burwood Club for 15 years. He took
early retirement at 58 in 1980.
William Swinfield became an expert on antique firearms and
co-authored Australian Antique Arms & History published in
2009. He was President of the Antique Arms Collectors Society of
Australia for many years.