Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Searching in Birmingham

I knew from the Census returns that my great-grandmother Sarah Ann Hodgetts came from Birmingham. She married my great-grandfather Thomas Edwards on 14th February 1875 in Newhall, near Burton-on-Trent. I've always wondered why both she and her brother Robert moved from Birmingham to Newhall. I expect as with most people then it was for work; there were two other brothers John Scott and Joseph who seemed to stay in Birmingham although I've never been able to find any trace of Joseph after the 1861 census.

Sarah Ann was the daughter of Robert Scott Hodgetts and Mary Ann Bennett. I recently sent for Sarah's birth certificate so that I could confirm the maiden name of her mother. Sarah was born in the St Paul's District of Birmingham and at the time of her birth the family were living at No 13 Court, Little Charles Street. By the 1861 Census the family had moved to the St Martin's District of Birmingham and are living at House 3, Court 10, Alleston Street. I think the St Paul's district is around the Jewellery Quarter and St Martin's is the area around the Bull Ring.

I was fascinated to learn this because in October 2004 we had visited the newly opened 'Back to Backs' not far from St Martin's Church and the Bullring. This is a restored courtyard of houses each one showing how the houses would have been lived in through the 19th and 20th centuries.

One of the earlier houses showed how people lived and worked in the same house doing small jobs for the larger industries around. In 1861 the Hodgetts family were all working (except the two younger children) in different industries and I expect some of them would do this work within the home.

The elder Robert, aged 37, was a gun implement maker and Mary his wife was a brass hitcher. Eldest son John was a cork cutter whilst the younger Robert was an umbrella ferrule maker. Perhaps they lived and worked in just such a courtyard as the one above. No cycles in 1861 of course and I expect it would have been a lot shabbier and dirtier but you can get the idea from the photos. The work would have been hard and the hours long. Sanitation in these courtyards would have been minimal and diseases like Cholera and TB were rife.

By 1871 both Robert (the elder) and Mary had died and Sarah is working as a domestic servant in the house of an architect in Ladywood in Birmingham. By 1875 she had made her move to Newhall and was married to my great-grandfather.

Sarah died in February 1939 aged 84 and is buried in the churchyard of St John's Church, Newhall, Derbyshire.


  1. Hello,
    I found your blog through Michela.
    I enjoyed reading through it. It's given me a bit more hope!I too, am researching my roots hope I get as far as you.

  2. Hi Lesley, thanks for leaving a comment - glad you've enjoyed reading - good luck with your research:)