The Sons and Daughters of John Turner of Caversham
Author’s note: all of the information reported here has documentation supporting it. Citations are forthcoming.
John and Lydia had seven children together. I don’t know a lot about their children other than that there were five sons and, typical of the Turners, if they didn’t work with bread or meats then they apprenticed during their teen years and became talented craftsman. John’s sons were bricklayers and carpenters. Daughter Sarah married into the Tabor family and Louisa married David Snow. Lydia died in 1870, still in her fifties. John was 67 when he died in 1883.
Our ancestor Charles was John and Mary’s second son, followed two years later by Alfred who was baptized in May 1821. Alfred was a bit of a puzzle as he kept showing up in census records and as a witness to weddings, but I couldn’t find his birth record anywhere. Well it turns out the clerk who recorded his baptism in the parish register wrote in the father’s name “John” instead of “Alfred”. I’d been a little suspect of the second John anyway, because I knew the first John hadn’t died. But to eliminate any doubt, I ordered a copy of the certificate for Alfred’s marriage to Ann Whalin in 1845 and sure enough, Alfred’s father is clearly “John, a baker”. ] Mystery solved…Just goes to show that it’s not always transcription errors that throw us off— sometimes the original record is erroneous.
And so Alfred, son of John the Baker, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a baker too. He and Ann lived next door to John and Lydia on Surley Row.
Reprinted with permission from Margaret Ormonde, Chairperson of the Emmer Green Residents’ Association.
Alfred and Ann had eleven children together. According to the church records and the 1851 census, Alfred was a baker, but at some point in the 1850s, very likely around the time of his father’s death, he gave up baking and became a cordwainer. This eventually led to a long career as a shoemaker and boot maker. Alfred died in 1879, leaving a widowed Ann to care for their son George who suffered in 1881 from “softening of the brain”, a term used then to mean a stroke or brain hemorage. George recovered enough to eventually marry just a couple of months before Ann’s death in 1897. George was enumerated with his wife Mary Susanna in 1901 when he was reportedly working as a gardener. They also appeared on the 1911 census, still living in Emmer Green.
Alfred and Ann’s son David, born about 1846, became a very successful blacksmith in Emmer Green. He married Martha Green when he was 25, although the marriage produced no children. His smithy was on Kidmore End Road.
David was still in operation as of the 1911 census. He died in 1919. Alfred’s younger son Jesse, born in 1858, was also a blacksmith and I imagine he worked at Daniel’s forge.
The main smithy, next to the White Horse Inn.
Used with permission from Margaret Ormonde.
It took a bit of searching to figure out Jesse’s story: in 1881 he appeared on the Woolwich, London census as a private in the Royal Engineers at the Woolwich Arsenal. It was probably while stationed in London that he met Eliza Ann Wyer, whom he married in Caversham in 1885. She was born in Strand, London. Jesse and Eliza Ann lived on Gosbrook Street in 1891, with their three year old daughter Lillian Emily (who never appears again in another census). Eliza Ann still lived on Gosbrook Street in 1901, with four children: Jesse, Kathleen Dorothy, David, and Alfred John. Strangly absent are Lillian and another daughter named Annie Lucy who was baptized in at St Peter’s in 1890. Also missing is the man himself: Jesse was once again serving in the military. This time stationed at the same base as Frederick Turner, Leonard’s brother – Aldershot, Hampshire. Jesse was a Shoeing Smith for the Royal Engineers Mounted and Yeoman Infantry. What became of Jesse, Eliza Ann, and their children is a mystery to me. Not a single one of them appears on the 1911 England Census, but I don’t see any burial records in Caversham either….
Somewhat surprisingly, none of Alfred’s sons became a baker nor did any join him at the boot shop. Henry married Lydia Burton and they lived in Grove Cottages, Caversham. They had four children and Henry worked as a general laborer.
John, born in 1856, and Frank, Alfred and Ann’s youngest child, both became butchers. Frank married a woman named Minnie and they baptized one child in Caversham, then I’m not quite sure where they went. John married Mary Ann Wise of Stains, Middlesex and they had thirteen children together. I found this picture of John and Mary Ann on someone’s public family tree at Ancestry.com, no doubt from a family member descended directly from that couple.
As for Alfred’s daughters? Louisa, Emma, and Matilda all married craftsmen from respectable Caversham families, but poor Lucy is a different story. She was their youngest daughter, baptized at St Peter’s on 16 June 1861. In 1881 she was living in Reading St Mary, on Minster Street in what seems to have been a sort of complex of residences occupied by dozens of draper’s assistants. Lucy was employed as a domestic servant. Three years later, Lucy was dead. She died at the age of 23, giving birth to a base born son, James Henry Turner, who was baptized by family members at St Peter’s Caversham on 20 June 1884, four days after his mother’s burial. I haven’t been able to find any more information on the fate of James Henry. There is no record of his birth in the GRO index, and he doesn’t appear in any census under that name. There was a former nurse living on nearby at that same time who later became known as the “Ogress of Reading” – the notorious Amelia Dyer, executed in 1896 for murdering babies and throwing them into the Thames from the Clappers bridge in Caversham. She was a baby “farmer”, meaning she took children of unwed mothers in exchange for money, promising to place them in good homes or under the pretext of adopting them herself. In her early years or farming, she’d pocket the money and let the babies die of starvation or neglect, but it eventually became her practise to strangle or poison the babies then and drop them into the river when the smell in her home got too bad. Although only three of her young victims were ever indentified, it is supposed that she killed many children over 15 or 20 years. Of course it is completely conjecture, but what if Lucy’s family fatefully answered one of Amelia’s ad for the adoption of James Henry and placed him unknowingly in the hands of a murderess?
If there was a skeleton in John and Mary’s closet, it most likely had something to do with their firstborn daughter Mary Ann. She was baptized at St Peter’s on 17 April 1814, which is how I know she even existed, because I’ve yet to find her on a single census report. The only other appearance she made in the St Peter’s register was as the unwed mother of Ellen Louisa Turner, baptized in 1840 at the age of three. Ellen looked like just another of John and Mary’s children on the 1841 census, but in 1851 she was recorded as their granddaughter Ellen “Rivers”. Sadly, Ellen died at a few years later at the age of 14 from consumption.  The Coroner noted on the death certificate that she’d been sick for nine months. I could also see from the certificate that Mary Ann had by then married a Rivers. There were a couple of Mary Ann Rivers born in Caversham living in Berkshire in the 50s and 60s, but whether they are her or not and why, if she was alive and married to Ellen’s father, was Ellen still living with her grandparents, are questions we may never be able to answer.
John and Mary’s other daughters all married well and lived seemingly respectible lives. Marina, born in 1818, married Thomas Stockbridge, a shoemaker who was actually the son of William Stockbridge and Hannah Turner, Marina’s Aunt. Thomas and Marina lived in Hurley Berks for a while and had five children. Throughout her life time she worked on and off as a dressmaker which was a good thing as Thomas died before 1861, leaving her to provide for their children. I found her on the 1861 Caversham census, living in Kidmore End with her sons John, a farmer, and George, who at just 14 years of age was already employed as a tile maker. Eighty year old, widowed, mother-in-law Hannah was also living with them….. Marina appeared on the 1881 census, with her widowed son George and his three children in Reading St Lawrence. George was at that time out of work, but his two young sons both had jobs at the biscuit factory. She died in 1891 at the age of 73.
Caroline, born in 1828, married Edward Gale of Clyffe Pypard, Wiltshire. They lived in Swindon Wilts in the early years of their marriage but eventually moved Prospect Street in Caversham, where Edward worked as a tailor and later on also doubled as the town’s postmaster. Edward was the son of Thomas Gale, a schoolmaster in Crickdale. He and Caroline never had any children, and she is described on the 1891 census as being an “imbecile”, which I take to mean she’d either had a stroke or was suffering from dimentia. Her sister Marina was living with them at that time, probably as Caroline’s caregiver. Caroline died in 1893 and Edward a few years later in 1902. Although the funerals were held at St Peter’s Church, the churchyard had been closed to new burial plots since 1885, so they were buried about a half mile away in a new cemetary on Hamdean Road.
Penelope, who was a year older than Caroline, married a Welshman from Bridgend, Glamorgan named Jenkin Thomas in the Autumn of 1853. They lived for a while in Newington Surrey, where their six children were born and later in Camberwell London where Jenkin was an engineer journeyman. Their son Daniel was a silversmith. Penelope died in 1883 at the age of 56.
Lucy lived at home and worked as a dressmaker until 1867 when she married the widower William James Moss at the relatively late age of 35. William was a printer and compositer working in Hackney, London, which is where the couple lived until Lucy’s death in 1886. John and Mary’s youngest daughter, Emily, also worked from home as a dressmaker until her marriage in 1865 to a dairyman from Northleigh, named David Cox. They settled into Ivy Cottage on Grosbrook Street and had four children. By the 1891 census, they’d moved from Ivy Cottage to Ferndale House next door at number 181 Gosbrook. They were still living there as of the 1911 census, and David was still working as a dairyman, employing two men. Emily, one of the longest living of Turner girls, was 81 when she died in 1913. Following her death, their daughter put Ferndale house up for sale, so evidently the dairy business was a profitable one.
Probably the best match made by any of John and Mary’s children was Louisa’s marriage to John Stevens in 1843. John was a gentleman, described on the 1851 census as a “landed proprietor, and was 41 when he married 19 year old Louisa. According to the Post Office Directory of 1847, they were living in Emmer Green, and John was listed under “Gentry.” Their 10 year marriage produced 3 children before John’s death in 1851, although their oldest son died at age three. The widowed Louisa appeared on the 1861 census as a “landed proprietress”, but disappeared after that, so I suspect she married again.
Matilda, born in 1823, has the most interesting story of all of John and Mary’s daughters. She wasn’t living at home on the 1841 census, but in 1851 she was back with her parents in Emmer Green and was working as a school mistress. She married William Crook Gale in Cricklade, Wiltshire in February 1852. William, born in 1832, was the younger brother of Caroline’s future husband Edward and was described on the marriage certificate as being a 19 year old laborer, meaning he needed parental permission to marry 28 year old Matilda. I found him on the 1851 Headington census living with his Aunt Sarah in 1851. Sarah and her husband Thomas New had lived in Caversham the year before and it’s possible the Turners had met the Gale brothers through Sarah. Also, could Matilda have been in Wiltshire training to be a teacher in 1841 and met schoolmaster Thomas Gale’s family then? Very shortly after the wedding, William and Matilda sailed from Plymouth aboard the Lady McDonald, a 676 ton ship captained by William Gold, which arrived in Hobson Bay, Melbourne Australia on July 13, 1852 with 286 government migrants all hoping to strike gold and make their fortunes. The Victorian Gold Rush had begun the year before and Melbourne was a boomtown. The couple settled in Collingwood and Matilda delivered a son around May of 1853. Whether William struck gold isn’t clear, but Matilda probably never saw any as she died 0n 17 August 1853, shortly after giving birth. The coroner reported she’d suffered from dysentary for 90 days. Sadly baby Robert McWilliam survived his mother by only two months. They were both buried in the New Melbourne Cemetary. William stayed in Australia and went on to marry a widow named Ann Croom. A descendent of this second marriage was able to shed a little light on William’s life after Matilda’s death:
‘…I do know that William Crook Gale spent time on the Goldfields and that when he and his second wife Ann Duckworth Croom married on the 12 November 1857 in Tarrengower, Maldon she had had four children to her first husband William Alison Duckworth, who died 28 April 1856. 1 daughter died in Castlemaine 7 October 1853 at about 2yrs and 1 son died from drowning in 1861 at about 7yrs. The youngest was born in 1856 in the Loddon, near to Tarrangower Maldon. I am not sure that William found his fortune on the goldfields but my Grandmother said that Ann was always VERY grateful to him for marrying her and taking on her family. I also know there was a great deal of pride in that they had the only tent on the goldfields which could boast a carpet on the floor!!! They went on to have 9 children and only one died early at 15 months. I understand that William went on to work as a prison warden at the Castlemaine Gaol, and died on 14 October 1900 at Prahran a suburb of Melbourne.’
From what I understand, the Gales prospered in Australia and many of William’s descendants are still alive today.
 Reading, Berkshire, marriage certificate for Alfred Turner & Ann Whalen, 1845; given at GRO, citing Reading (1837-1974), Jan-Feb-Mar, Vol. 6: 300.
“1851 England Census,”, database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 June 2009), entry for Alfred Turner Henley, Caversham; citing TNA Microfilm: HO107; Piece: 1725; Folio: 388; Page: 2.
 Henley, Berkshire, death certificate for Ellen Louisa Turner, 1851; given at GRO, citing Henley, Jul-Aug-Sep, Vol. 16: 48.