History 4 All
how to trace YOUR family tree.
Newsletter No. 21
- August 2008.
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Featured Article –
The Hoccoms of Wolverhampton
By: Jay Brookes
Next month’s article.
Finding Missing Relations and Living
Relatives in Britain
Fitzgerald, Professional Genealogist
Here we are with the August
newsletter and what a relief! I honestly did not think I would be around
to write it.
Last Monday was the longest day
of my life...and I thought it would be my last...
Yes I've heard all the jokes
...I had 'MAN FLU' someone said
Well whatever it was, and yes
it was flu, it left me reeling in agony, suffering from hallucinations and
at one point actually praying that I would see my new grand daughter (who
is in fact due today as I write).
No I'm not looking for sympathy
BUT i would like to suggest that if you haven't had a flu shot (jab) then
get one quick. I would hate to think anyone else would have to suffer what
I've been through this week.
Thankfully I'm on the mend
although I'm having to take a tonic as it has left me feeling very week.
Enough from me... Enjoy the
The Hoccoms of Wolverhampton -
By: Jay Brookes
The Hoccom family probably obtained their name from
the hamlet of Hoccum which is in Shropshire around twenty miles from
Wolverhampton. The first mention of a possible Hoccom (Hoccum) family
member is Roger de Hoccums who appears in the 1272 Lay Subsidy roll for
Worfield parish. He is followed by Roger de Hoccum who appears in 1292 &
1327. There are Hoccoms living in the Parish of Worfield and listed in the
parish registers from the late 1500s onwards.
Edward Hoccom was born in 1764, the son of John Hoccom “a Gentleman” of
Hoccom in the Parish of Worfield in Shropshire. In 1787 The Hoccum house
and lands appear to have been sold and sometime before 1790 Edward Hoccom
moved from the hamlet of Hoccom to Wolverhampton.
We know that his wife was called Charlotte; however her surname and the
details of their marriage are as yet unknown to us. The Hoccoms had five
children who were christened at St Peters Church – still the principal
church in Wolverhampton today.
The five children were: John christened on 21st November 1790, William
christened 10th July 1793, Benjamin christened on 28th December 1795
Edward christened on 18th March 1798, and Mary christened on 11th July
The difference between the rural life in the Parish of Worfield and the
growing industrial town of Wolverhampton must have been hard to adjust to.
Hoccom is a tiny hamlet in Shropshire which currently consists of about
four houses, and as far as can be told it has never been much larger. It
is very isolated, being around three to five miles from the Parish church
Even in the late 1700’s Wolverhampton was growing industrial town with a
population of approximately 10,000 people. The increasing population was
bringing problems as the streets were unpaved, uncleared and unlit, drains
or sewers, other than open ditches, did not exist and the water supply was
inadequate. It was also developing slum areas that within
By the end of the 18th century Commissioners had been appointed to run the
town and they made a number of improvements. Street lighting was provided
in the form of an oil lamp at every street corner and over the doorway of
every inn. Householders had to clean the street in front of their houses
every Thursday and Saturday (helped by paupers from the poor house). All
of the streets had been named and had a board which was black board, six
inches high and had white lettering on it. The water supply was improved
by the sinking of ten new wells and the provision of a great water tank in
the market place, although there were no improvements to the drains and
sewers. This would have major consequences later.
This unhealthy atmosphere may have contributed to Charlotte Hoccom’s early
death; she died in 1804 and was buried in St. Peters graveyard – which is
now under the Wolverhampton ring road! Edward married again on 14th
February 1809 – marrying Ann Sollory, this marriage was by affidavit
(licence). This was a document which required him to state that there was
no impediment to the marriage – & agree a bond of £500 if the marriage was
subsequently declared invalid for any reason. As a £500 pound bond would
be an astronomical sum (a house maid might earn around £7 per year)
getting married by Banns would have been a much cheaper option. The only
obvious reasons for this are if Easter was early & therefore this was Lent
(no Banns can be called in Lent) or if for some reason speed or secrecy
were required. Unfortunately as Easter was late that year and as yet I
have no interesting information to support any need for secrecy we can
only speculate on the reasons. There are no known children of this
It is interesting that they decided to marry on Valentines day - In Great
Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the
seventeenth century and by the middle of the eighteenth century, it was
common for friends and lovers in all social classes to exchange small
tokens of affection or handwritten notes. It would have been a romantic
gesture even then to marry on St. Valentine’s Day.
One of the witnesses to this second marriage was John Hoccom, he may be
Edward’s older brother or he may be his son from his first marriage who
would by then be aged nineteen this son died the following year.
Most industry in Wolverhampton at this time was based on mining, iron
work, lock making and Japanning (enamelling metal items). In contrast to
the huge factories & mills that dominated skylines and the lives of
workers in Lancashire, most Wolverhampton and Black Country industry was
based in relatively small workshops and factories in which the skilled
workers often rented space and controlled their own activities. The only
occupational information we have for Edward is from his 2nd marriage when
he gave his occupation as a labourer. He may have worked in a workshop or
mine but it is more likely that his work was as general labourer – the
canals had come to Wolverhampton by the mid 1770’s and there would have
been a need for unskilled work loading and unloading as well as in
The canal networks were developed to carry coal to the furnaces of the
Black Country. By 1790 the metal industries of the area alone consumed
845,000 tons of coal and the ironmaster John "Iron Mad" Wilkinson of
Bilston was using 800 tons of coal each week.
In 1825 Edward’s youngest son by Charlotte, also called Edward was
married, at St. Peters Church, to Martha Hill of Bilston.
Bilston is a Black Country town approximately five miles from
Wolverhampton whose modern form is almost entirely a product of the
industrial revolution. Historically is a harsh deprived area with a
largely blue collar population.
Industrialisation brought about a rapid increase in Bilston’s population,
from 3,000 in 1780 to 7,000 in 1801 and 24,000 by 1851, leading to
overcrowding, bad housing and in sanitary conditions. These conditions
gave an ideal breeding ground for cholera and there was an epidemic of
1832, which killed one in twenty of the population of the town in seven
weeks. There are a number of people surnamed Hill who died in that
outbreak and it is likely that some of these are Martha’s family although
this is not yet proven. This cholera outbreak also struck Wolverhampton
although less severely, only 198 people died.
At this time facility for public health was the Dispensary in Queen
Street. However, its services were very limited and tended to cost money
it is unlikely that Edward and his family could afford to use these
facilities. An advance was made in 1831 with the opening of a Medical Hall
and Vapour Bath Establishment. The advertisements for this stated that it
was "intended for the relief of the poor as well as for the accommodation
of families and the public generally". There were operations every Friday
morning, which were free for the poor if they could produce a note from a
respectable person saying that they couldn't pay – I’m not sure what
defines a respectable person.
Martha and Edward are known to have lived in Blossoms Fold off North
Street in central Wolverhampton from 1841. They had at least five
children: Mary Ann, Jane, John, Ellen and Harriet, this would have been an
average sized family for the time.
Blossoms Fold is a short distance from the town’s then market square High
Green. The picture below shows High Green in 1822. This was the market
place until 1853; the forty foot gas light pillar commemorated the
lighting of the town by gas in 1821, one year prior to this drawing.
Apparently the pillar was an inefficient light source and was described as
a “big candlestick” by the locals; it was finally removed in 1840 to save
the £36 of gas it used each year.
Edward Hoccom mostly worked as a labourer although in 1826 he described
himself as coal carrier. As Wolverhampton had inadequate water supplies it
can safely be assumed he would not be to pleasant to sit next to. Washing
was very difficult and not particularly effective; there was a bath house,
but it was too expensive for all but the rich. The poor made do with the
canals and gravel pits.
In autumn 1843 Mary Ann Hoccom married and John Hoccom was married in
autumn 1847 the details of which are not yet known for either of them.
On the 28th of October 1848 Ellen Hoccom gave birth to an illegitimate
daughter Emma. Emma was baptised in a private ceremony on 30th of October
1848. At the time of Emma’s birth Ellen Hoccom gave her occupation as a
servant and it is possible that Emma was the result of a liaison with
either another servant or a family member of her employers – this latter
theory is supported by the private christening. The other possibility is
that Emma’s intended died in another Cholera outbreak or similar. By the
time of the 1851 census Ellen was working as a laundress but still lived
with Edward and Martha at Blossoms Fold.
If Emma was lucky enough she would probably have attended St Peters
National School which was established in 1847. National Schools were
founded in 1811 by an Anglican clergyman, Andrew Bell. At these schools a
small number of teachers in each school relied on `monitors` (older
children) who were instructed in the basics by the teacher, then passed
this on `parrot fashion` to the pupils, children were thus taught the
The National School was located on St Peter’s Walk approximately five
minutes from Blossoms Fold. It is more likely that as the illegitimate
daughter of a single mother Emma had to work from a very young age and got
any meagre education at a Sunday school.
In 1850 the first real public baths in Wolverhampton were built by public
subscription in Bath Road about half a mile from where the Hoccoms lived.
This is unlikely to have had much of an impact on them as they were still
expensive, but they were more affordable than the previous facility. The
new baths were criticised because "from their Arabian Nights style of
architecture to the drooping chain that forms the handrail round the bath,
offend against every canon of what modern baths should be. " Presumably,
the Byzantine influenced design of the building was not thought to be
restrained enough or poor people should have ugly buildings! The baths
were not noticeably healthier than the canals to begin with. There was a
complaint in 1851 that the water was only changed once a month, and when
the council took the baths over in 1875 it was found that the water was
still only changed weekly and that by the end of the week the water was
"of a nature to discourage users."
Edward and Martha continued to live in Blossoms Fold until their deaths.
Edward died of “old age” in July 1864 & was buried in Merridale Cemetery
in a common grave. Martha remained in Blossoms Fold working as a laundress
until her death around January 1872. She too was buried in Merridale
Cemetery in a common grave but the cause of death is not known. Merridale
Cemetery is located on what was then called Cemetery Lane and is now
called Jeffcock Road.
Emma Hoccom married John George Dark in the summer of 1869. He was a
twenty two year old house painter who came from Bromsgrove in Worcester.
In the 1870s the Dark Family John, Emma and their sons John, William &
Edward moved to 32 Sidney Street on the Southwest side of town. In 1878
they had a daughter Eva Emma Dark. The family remained in Sidney Street
until sometime in the 1880s when they can no longer be found in the
A look at life in England in the 19th Century for
one family. The Hoccoms were displaced country people who were forced to
relocate to a rapidly growing town.
Jay Brookes is an experienced genealogical
researcher who also produces family packs for:
ANCESTRY.CO.UK NEW PACKAGES – August 2008
What are the new membership packages all about?
As Ancestry’s UK and international record collections have grown by
over 100% in the past year, the need has arisen to create record packages
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and/or other international records.
From the 13th of August 2008, the Ancestry Packages will be:
Essentials - designed for beginners. This package
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Essentials membership price
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Premium - designed for more experienced users who wish
to dig far deeper into their UK roots using not only Essential records,
but also parish and probate, immigration and Irish records, and also
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How existing Ancestry members will be affected
Customers may be worried that all new content will only be made
available to Premium members – this is not the case. The general rule is
that Essentials will not have access to anything that predates 1837 or any
content that is a little more niche in terms of advanced family history
Next month’s article.
Finding Missing Relations and Living
Relatives in Britain
Fitzgerald, Professional Genealogist
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