The subject of the Royal Echange pub in Walsall Wood, and the families who were connected with it, continues to be the subject of much local historical study – in fact, I don’t think any other pub or building, apart from perhaps The Shire Oak Pub that has generated so much local historical interest.
Susan sent me an absolutely fascinating and remarkably thorough history of the Clews and Jackson families, and had this to say:
I’m sending you a long rigmarole on the above from my research on my family history. I was highly delighted today to find Ann Cross’s articles and other people’s research on the subject. I was about to ask if anyone would like to do some further research, and there it all was!
I don’t know whether they’ll be interested in my details…
I hope I’ll get to visit Walsall one of these days!
Best wishes to you all,
Chens sur Léman, 74140, France (Haute Savoie, 3 kms from frontier with Geneva)
Well, we’re all very interested Susan, I can assure you, and thanks for sharing. I’ve split the piece in two, because it’s very long, and will feature the remainder in a few days.
It’s a pleasure and an honour to feature here such a thorough piece of research – I’m sure Ann, David and others will have plenty to say on the matter.
The story of the Clews and Jackson Families and The Royal Exchange pub in Walsall
Firstly, thank you for publishing my letter about Goblins Pit several months ago.
I’m taking the liberty of sending you another letter from France. This time it’s the story of my ancestor William Clews who married into the Jackson family who were connected for generations with the Royal Exchange pub in Lichfield Road, Walsall. I’ve followed this family online through the censuses, the International Genealogical Index and the General Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths (BMD) and I think the research illustrates a saga every bit as intricate as a modern day soap. And blow me, while reading through your blog I’ve just found that a descendant of this family, Ann Cross, has written two articles on the pub, a great discovery… Plus photos!
This is my version, seen mostly from the viewpoint of the Clews family and written before reading Ann’s family history. I regret that I have never been to Walsall but I visited Stonnall and Shenstone very briefly (an hour or two!) in 2007.
Mary Ann, William Clew’s wife, was the daughter of Richard Jackson who in 1851 was landlord of a pub in Innfield Road, Walsall Wood, name not given in the census. He was the son of Henry and Rachel Jackson, and was born in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, and baptized there in 1811. He married Maria Melsum, who was baptized in St.Matthew’s church in Walsall, also in 1811, daughter of Thomas Melsum and Mary Cragg.
It’s interesting to note that the spelling of the name Melsum varies from Milssam to Milsom and Milsome, according to each record. Very few people could read and write at the beginning of the 19th century and the clergy who were responsible for recording the population had to interpret the spoken versions of their names. The people of Staffordshire seem to have a strong accent and even a dialect, particularly in the Potteries area of North Staffordshire (according to sites on Internet, as I don’t know Staffordshire at all well). This family was from South Staffordshire but their pronunciation would have been quite distinct. For instance one member of the family who migrated to Northumberland is recorded on a census as having been born in Worsell which must have been how she pronounced Walsall. Maybe that’s how it’s pronounced today? Recently I had great difficulty in understanding the speech of a hotel receptionist in Manchester. I thought it was because of my long absence from England until she admitted that she came from Stoke on Trent and ‘we do have a rather particular accent’.
Richard and Maria lost four daughters in infancy but in 1851 still had a large family of four girls and two boys. Their daughter Mary Ann, who married William Clews was 16 in 1851 and was working in the pub together with her 14 year old sister Priscilla. The other children were John 9, Richard 7, Isabella 4 and Ann Maria 2 years old. Maria’s mother, Mary Inger who had remarried in 1838, was recorded as a midwife and also lived with them, plus a lodger named John Wright who worked in a coal mine. Altogether it must have been a very lively household!
William and Mary Ann married in 1853 at St. Matthew’s church in Wolverhampton. In 1861 they were living in Walsall Wood Road in Walsall Wood and William was employed as a coal miner. He gave Mill Green as his birthplace which seems to be a hamlet near Stonnall? (He was baptised in Shenstone in 1821). They already had five children: Joseph 7, Charles 5, Priscilla 4, Mary Ann 2 and baby Richard 3 months old. William’s widowed father William aged 70 was also living with them.
Between 1861 and 1871 William and his family moved from Walsall Wood to Ogley Hay near Norton Canes where there were also coal mines.
But tragedy had begun to strike the two families. Mary Ann’s father Richard Jackson died in 1854 aged only 43. He and Maria had left the pub in Innfield Road to manage The Royal Exchange in Lichfield Road, Walsall Wood, and in 1861 the widowed Maria was head of a large household consisting of her two sons, 19 year old John and 16 year old Richard both employed as coalminers, her two daughters Isabella 14 and Sarah Jane 10, Elizabeth York an 18 year old servant, and a 36 year old lodger named Charles Bagley, who was a tile maker from Trentham.
Mary Ann died in 1868, not long after her father-in-law, aged only 34, leaving William Clews with seven young children.
By 1871 her mother Maria Jackson had left the pub and had gone to live with William in Ogley Hey to take care of William’s by now 7 children. The oldest, Joseph and Charles, were already employed as coalminers.
The same census of 1871 shows that William’s brother in law John Jackson had moved to Northumberland and one of his sisters, Sarah Jane Jackson, was visiting him, but the other one, Isabella Jackson, was nowhere to be found on the census. His brother Richard Jackson, coalminer, was perhaps living at the Royal Exchange. It’s not clear from the census whether he was at the pub or next to it, for it records a Richard Steadman, coalminer living at the Royal Exchange with his wife, a servant and a niece, followed by Richard Jackson with his wife and two babies, and then another two families, before giving the next address as the School House. None of the people are recorded as publican or licensed victualler. Perhaps the Royal Exchange was not functioning as a pub at that time? The following year, 1872, Isabella married William Cross who was probably a miner as he died in 1877 aged only 34, leaving Isabella with two small children, Sarah 5 and William 3.
In 1881 Maria Jackson, by then 64, was back at the Royal Exchange. The family had suffered yet more tragedies and the household was larger than ever. Two of William Clews’ children were living in the pub with Maria their grandmother and their aunt Isabella. Richard Clews aged 20 was a coalminer and Emma Clews aged 18 was helping in the pub. There were also three young Jackson relatives, Priscilla Jackson aged 16 helping in the pub with Emma, and Isabella Jackson aged 12 and Henry Tuck aged 7 who were both at school. It took me a lot of research to discover exactly how these three were related to the family and the explanation needs quite a flashback!
It transpires that in the 1860s, John Jackson, Isabella’s brother, left Walsall to work in the coal mines in Northumberland, as already mentioned, where the pay was no doubt better than in the South Staffordshire mines. Indeed the Walsall Wood Colliery only began operations in 1864 and before then the local coal mines were small scale. In 1863 he married a Northumbrian widow from Whitley Bay called Ruth Robson née Maughan who already had four children, and by 1871 together they had a large family of six boys and two girls.
Sarah Jane Jackson, his youngest sister, as we’ve already seen came to visit him in 1871 and she met and married in 1872 a local young man called Robert Tuck who of course was a miner and worked in the mine at Old Newsham, Northumberland. They had a son in 1873 and named him Henry. Unfortunately Robert died in 1878 aged only 27, probably in a mining accident at Burradon Colliery. Sarah Jane was pregnant at the time and in the autumn of 1878 gave birth to a little girl whom she named Mary Ann (perhaps after her dead eldest sister, William Clews’ wife). She herself then died in the spring of 1879, also aged 27.
Further research revealed that John Jackson’s wife Ruth died between July and September 1874 at only 44, and four of their eight children were still under eleven years old. He naturally returned from Northumberland to his family in Walsall Wood, and remarried towards the end of 1874. His new wife was Hannah Eliza Preston. So many of these women died young….