Wednesday, 16 April 2014

The Hanging Hales

This is an adaptation of a presentation I made to the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa (BIFHSGO) on February 11th, 2012.  I've made rather a lot of discoveries about the Hales in the intervening two years and have adjusted this post accordingly.

This intro appeared in the BIFHSGO newsletter and web site:  There is no such thing as a boring family.  If you haven't found something fascinating, scandalous, or downright embarrassing in your family research, you aren't looking hard enough!  Some families, though, seem to have more than their share of triumphs and downfalls.  Join Gail Roger as she tackles the following questions concerning an engrossing and rather eccentric branch of her family:  How is she related to a well-known designer and a goddaughter of the Prince of Wales?  Did her great-grandfather once hide under Charles Dickens' chair -- while Dickens was sitting in it?  Why did this same great-grandfather refuse to wear a collar, even at weddings?  What is a clinker and how do you make a fortune out of it?  And finally, why was her great-great-great-grandmother hell-bent on seeing half a dozen men hanged?

Some of you may have been watching the American version of the television series Who Do You Think You Are?.  I'm a big fan of the British version which is, after all, the original version.

We have a universal DVD player, so I regularly get DVDs of the various British seasons for birthdays and Christmas.  What I love about the British version is its refusal to treat "slebs" with kid gloves.  So, whereas in the American version of Who Do You Think You Are?, most of their famous guests seem to have royalty, innovators, and "heeeerohs" as ancestors, the British celebrities have had a healthy mixed background of the great, the obscure, and the embarrassing.

One notable exception was the television presenter and talk-show host Michael Parkinson.  I think he’s really only well-known in Britain, kind of a cross between Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett.  He's known to the British viewing audience as "Parky" and he talks like he's got a particularly delicious caramel in his mouth.

Parky was scheduled to be in Who Do You Think You Are? but withdrew. He said afterwards: "My story was so boring they had to cancel the entire project. I was gutted."

I have a gut reaction, too. 
Do you think they actually found something a bit too interesting?  

This is because I firmly believe there's no such thing as a boring family.  Take mine, or my husband's, for example.  Now I'm not saying I'm a tedious person, nor casting any aspersions on how fascinating my husband is.  He's quite interesting to me, but I notice people aren't clamouring to get to know us.  We're pretty pedestrian, and that's not just because we don't own a car.

But look back in either of our family histories and you'll find several -- uh -- vague wedding dates, a handful of suicides -- um --someone locked up in a home for inebriate women, someone else with three birthplaces (and there was a reason for that), a woman with three maiden names (there was a reason for that, too), a living arrangement that was not bigamy...


I won't be discussing any of that because while most of this happened many years ago, there are still people living who remember the people involved or affected.  That's something we always have to keep in mind as family historians.  Just who might get hurt or ticked off by our telling a family story, no matter how riveting.

Now, one of my stories might, or might not, show a couple of my ancestors in a less-than-sympathetic light.  However, since they're my great-great-great-grandparents, I hope you won't hold it against me.  Although, if you find me more interesting as a result, I won't mind.

The branch of my family under scrutiny this morning includes the forebears of my paternal grandmother:  the Hales family.  I've said there's no such thing as a boring family, but some families are a wee bit more intriguing.  I'm not sure if "eccentric" is the word I'm looking for.  But it might be.

The Hales family has, so far, provided me with my one tenuous link to the Royal family.  Here is a snap of my fifth cousin.
No, not her.
Not him either.  
See the teenager who looks like she'd rather be somewhere else?  That's India Hicks.  She's one of Prince Charles' army of godchildren.  She's also, the last time I checked, 678th in line to the throne of the United Kingdom.  And she's my fifth cousin.

Be assured that I sense how very impressed you are, therefore I know that you will be appalled to learn that this piece of information has so far failed to get me preferential treatment anywhere.  I don't get great seating in restaurants; no one whisks me through security at airports.  And I know what you're thinking:  Can she prove that she's a fifth cousin to someone who's 678th in line to the throne?  Yes, I can,  and I will show you -- later.  

In the meantime, I want to talk about collars, clinkers, Charles Dickens, public houses, freedom of the city, the gallows at Newgate Prison and the Old Bailey.  Not necessarily in that order.

The key, of course, is the Hales family, and the way Who Do You Think You Are? deals with helping viewers through the tangled jungle of the pedigree is by using a simplified version as a visual.

Now, when I began getting serious about family history, all I knew about my great grandfather Alexander Hales were two things: 
1. He was wealthy. 
(1a – I didn’t inherit any of it); 
2.  He ran a company called Hales Klinker.

My mother, who got this information from my dad, had seen Hales Klinker trucks when she was young, and assumed (this word will keep turning up)  that Hales-Klinker was a removal company, that is, moving vans.  I, in turn, assumed that the Hales were in the moving business with some people called Klinker, probably Dutch, right?

Every time I tried googling "Hales Klinker", nothing would come up.

One recent summer, out of the blue, I got an email with an attachment as long as both my arms outstretched. A grandson-in-law of my first-cousin-once-removed had heard from other family members that I was researching and sent me a collection of family stories that this first-cousin-once-removed (who has recently died) had pulled together over several years.  It was so lovely, so rich with detail that ----- I failed to answer this fellow for two or three months.

Part of the problem was that I wasn’t actually in Ottawa when I received this goldmine and my elder daughter was going to university for the first time….blah-blah-blah.  But also, when you get that much information, you need to go through it and check it, don’t you?
Well, don’t you?

I did find two or three questionable items in this report, because the lovely lady was an amateur just like me, but I also found descriptions, anecdotes, personal details.  Stuff you don’t find in documents.  Plus, the explanation of "Hales’ Clinkers"!

From a return address on an envelope

See, it’s “Hales” + apostrophe.  Clinkers with a “c”, belonging to Hales!

My great-grandfather, according to this late cousin’s report, saw the possibilities of selling clinker produced by the gas and electricity works, to builders developing the North London suburbs that were springing up from 1898. She said that the firm was one of the first to install telephones.  At the time she wrote the report (I think about 10 or 20 years ago), Alexander Hales’ great-grandsons were still working for the firm then known as Hales Containers the largest dry waste contractors in the UK.

With my new understanding of the spelling of “clinkers”, I did some googling and …

A Hales' Clinkers truck in the late 1920s
Would this be more like the trucks my mother remembered seeing?
Then, I googled “Hales Containers”  and…

How many of you have a Matchbox Toy named after your ancestor?   Ha!  I thought not….

So this collection of anecdotes filled me in on the circumstances of my great-grandfather Alexander Hales.  He tended to start businesses, and leave the management of them to others – usually relatives who benefited considerably.  He was intensely religious; he built meeting houses and his wife and five surviving daughters spent most of their “free” time doing good works. Heavy Protestant work ethic, as you can see here:
My great-grandparents Elizabeth and Alexander Hales with their five daughters, five sons-in-law and assorted grandchildren circa 1926.  This would be either in North London, or West Mersea, Essex.
When I finally did the courteous thing and responded to the grandson-in-law who had forwarded me this marvelous attachment, he sent me pictures.  (So I guess he forgave me for my long, inexcusable silence.)  It turns out he’s a talented photographer and has made glorious crystal-clear copies of various Hales family photos and artifacts. 

My husband looked over my shoulder when this one first came in, clocked the sign on the wall, and said:  “Oh ho!…High Beer…”
I said:  “That’s ‘hath been’.  ‘The Lord hath been mindful of us.’  They were teetotalers, darling…”

Apparently, Alexander had been quite the drinker as a young man, but took the pledge as a prerequisite for marrying my great-grandmother Elizabeth Ellis.

My grandmother is the lady with the half-closed eyes and my grandfather is behind her with the knitted vest, standing with the other sons-in-law; there were no Hales sons.  My father is present too, but not visible; he was born at the end of the year.  Take a good look at Alexander Hales, then compare him in this next shot, taken at the 1918 wedding of Gertrude, the third of his daughters. His youngest daughter, my grandmother, is standing directly behind my great-grandmother who is seated next to the bride. I think my grandmother in this picture is the spitting image of my elder daughter who we always thought resembled my husband’s side of the family.  I can’t show you a picture for comparison because my daughter is living – and I wouldn’t be.  (She'd probably hotly contest the resemblance.)
18 July 1918 - Marriage of Gertrude Jessie Ellis to Sydney Bartlett Swan in the district of Edmonton, North London

It’s a pretty fancy wedding, isn’t it?  And there’s my great-grandfather – without a collar.  He refused to wear one – ever.  Not to church, not for business.   He caught a burglar in his house, threw him out the window and in the subsequent court case, was threatened with contempt if he did not put on a tie.  He refused and got away with it.  Personally, I want to find a transcript of this court case because I don’t know what happened to the burglar, nor from which floor he got tossed.  Burglars didn’t fare well with this family, as you will find out.

Why did Alexander refuse to wear a collar?  I gather he was a man who did not like to be told what to do.

This may have been because he was the youngest of thirteen children (that I know of).  Of the seven Hales brothers in that generation, only three made it to adulthood.  His father, William King Hales, printer and publisher of The Daily News, was determined that his sons should go into the newspaper business as reporters.  So of course, Alexander went into the building trade, starting as a cabinet maker.

As a result, when his father died in 1886, with a personal estate of £31,442 7s. 6d, Alexander didn’t get his share for another ten years, even though he was one of the executors! (£31,000 is a helluva lot of money and this was 1886.  Today, even a conservative estimate would put that at least 2 million pounds, which would be more than 3 million current Canadian dollars. Again, none of it came down to me.  No wonder no one finds me interesting…)

My father only knew his family tree back to Alexander Hales, so my first encounter with my great-great-grandfather William King Hales came about probably the way a lot of new family researchers discover an ancestor:  in the 1881 census (freely available through FamilySearch) which was one of the first sources I learned to consult when I first began serious family research.

1881 census - Cavendish Street, Hoxton, St Leonard Shoreditch, Middlesex
So here’s the Hales family living in Hoxton, which is the part of Shoreditch to the north-west of St Leonard Shoreditch, if you’re familiar with London. At this point, most of the Hales children had married and moved out, except for the two youngest.  Rose Annie (or Annie Rose) had married but not moved out, and Alexander would marry two years later and his bride-to-be Elizabeth Ellis is over the page in this folio – she was almost literally the girl next door!

Now, when I was first looking at this, which would have been about 2002, what do you think my first thought was?  (Hint: far-right column….)

That’s right --  “Oh gosh, my great-great-grandfather was a loonie!!  There it is, written down!  It must be true!” 

Being not that swift on the uptake, it wasn’t until I’d spent a few more years studying other censuses and looking at other documents that the next thought occurred to me:  Look at the birthplaces recorded for this family:  William King Hales – England; his wife Mary “NK” – “Not Known” (She was born in St Neots, Huntingdonshire, according to other censuses.)  Alexander, his married sister and her daughter are recorded as being born in Shoreditch, but Rose Annie husband’s birthplace is “Not Known”. (Bermondsey, actually.)

I have to ask:  Who on earth was talking to the enumerator?  Someone who didn’t know -- or didn’t want to say -- where the senior members of the family were born, nor where the in-law of the household was born, but was able to say where everyone else was born?

And who told the enumerator that William King Hales was a lunatic?  (Or did the enumerator decide this for himself?)   I could cast a suspicious eye at Alexander “You’re Not the Boss of Me” Hales, except that we’ve been warned at BIFHSGO about the dangers of speculation in family research.

However, this would be shortly after Alexander was at loggerheads with his father about not becoming a newspaper reporter. If I could take a time machine and go back in history, one of the places I’d like to be is within earshot of 30 Cavendish Street the day the 1881 census was taken.

The marriage of my great-grandparents Alexander Hales and Elizabeth Ellis - 1883

Another place I’d like to be is the Shoreditch Register Office two years after the 1881 census. Here’s Alexander Hales marrying the girl next door (note her address), the woman for whom he swore off alcohol: Elizabeth Ellis.  And look who’s witnessing the marriage:  William King Hales.  Would you ask a lunatic to sign as a witness to your wedding?

Now, if we look for the occupation of William King Hales (which was left blank in the 1881 census), we find:  “Formerly Publisher of the Daily News”.  This matches up with the 1851, 1861, and 1871 censuses where he declares himself as either “Printer of the Daily News” or “Publisher of the Daily News”.

It took me a few years to figure out what The Daily News was; I assumed (there’s that word again) that it was a small neighbourhood paper!
This is what it looked like in 1858, when my great-great-grandfather was the printer and publisher, well… I hope it would have been a bit less yellow and worn at the time.  Also considerably more legible. 

A few years back, I was at one of our annual BIFHSGO conferences and took advantage of the computers set up to access historical articles from The Times.  The only reference I found for William King Hales was an account of an 1858 court case (the same vintage as that paper) in which The Daily News was accused of libel in printing a report about the questionable practices of a physician.  My great-great-grandfather, as proprietor of the paper, was the defendant.  I never discovered the outcome of this case; no search engine has produced it! Yet.

About fifteen years later, William King Hales was also hauled up, along with the printer of The Times, to the bar of the House of Commons to answer charges of improperly printing a sensitive diplomatic letter.
Hansard's Parliamentary Debates 1873

I know about it because it takes up several, largely incomprehensible pages of Hansard.  Benjamin Disraeli was Prime Minister at the time, and he and Sir William Harcourt and others spend pages discussing not whether or not the printers of both newspapers should be brought before the House of Commons, but who should make the motion and how the motion should be worded, complete with witty and flowery comments evidently meant to make other members look foolish. (Some things never change, do they?)  I didn’t find out what the outcome of all this was, either. I only know it was in the 1870s, not long before William King Hales retired. 

Furthermore, Disraeli got my great-great-grandfather’s name wrong.  I don’t know what Queen Victoria saw in him.

William King Hales is not mentioned in any articles about The Daily News, but it is important to remember that he was not the editor.  The editor was John Forster who also served, ironically enough, on the Lunacy Commission. (I hope that’s just a coincidence.)  Forster was the second editor the newspaper had had.  Here’s the first editor:
Charles Dickens from an oil painting by William
Powell Frith, 1859. The portrait was commissioned
in 1854 by John Forster, editor of The Daily News 
when my great-great-grandfather was the publisher.

Charles Dickens founded The Daily News in 1846, with the idea of providing a radical liberal alternative to more conservative papers.  As editor he lasted something like ten weeks before passing it on to John Forster, who was one of his very closest friends, as well as his financial advisor and official biographer.

According to that first-cousin-once-removed, William King Hales purchased The Daily News from publishers Bradbury and Evans in 1856, although in the 1851 census, he’s already calling himself “Publisher of the Daily News”.  The family report also says that my great-grandfather worked for Bradbury and Evans in the 1840s, presumably as a clerk or as a printer – both professions appear on the christening records of his elder children.

Who were Bradbury and Evans?  They started out as printers, then became publishers, and they were the publishers for Charles Dickens between 1844 and 1856.

About a year and a half after I made this presentation, I discovered more:  At the web site for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (, in the entry for printer and publisher William Bradbury (of Bradbury and Evans), my great-great-grandfather is mentioned in the paragraph concerning The Daily News.  After Dickens lost interest in editing the newspaper, the article says that Dilke (Charles Wentworth Dilke) editor of The Athenaeum, took control of the the finances from April 1846, and within a year the newspaper had been transferred to William King Hales of 8 Lombard Street. I presume that 8 Lombard Street was where WKH's printing offices were; I know from other documents that he was living at 30 Cavendish Street by this time.

From out of all this comes the most charming family legend of all.

The story goes that Charles Dickens visited William King Hales and his family and that my great-grandfather Alexander Hales hid beneath the table because he was in trouble with his mother.  Apparently, Mr Dickens gave the little boy a gentle kick to warn him not to come out just yet.  I have no way of proving that this story is true. If it is, then Charles Dickens would have been near the end of his life, a bit older then you see him here – he died in 1870 and Alexander Hales, the young scamp, was born in 1860.

Now, before I take you back another generation into the shadow of the Newgate gallows, I’m going to touch on something that may seem off-topic, but isn’t – as you will see, if you read to the end. 

The marriage of my great-great-grandparents William King Hales and Mary Rose at St Botolph Aldgate.
Clicking on this image will enlarge it.

Remember when my great-grandfather was crouching by Charles Dickens’ knees out of sight of his wrathful mother?  That was my great-great-grandmother Mary Rose (Rose was her maiden name) and she married William King Hales in 1838.  Luckily for me, that was just after Civil Registration was introduced, so their marriage certificate answered two long-standing questions for me – the names of this young couple’s respective fathers, and in the grand tradition of family historical documents, presented yet another mystery.

Two men witnessed the marriage:  one is my great-great-great-grandfather Richard Hales; the other is Thomas Nightingale.  I wouldn’t have paid much attention to Thomas, except that I knew that William and Mary’s first son was named Thomas Nightingale Hales.  Furthermore, there were two more Thomas Nightingale Hales, born within ten years of this one – in other branches of the Hales family.  Plus a Thomas Nightingale Iles.  That’s I-L-E-S.  Now, this information helped me enormously in tracking other branches of the Hales family, but it took me years to figure out the identity of Thomas Nightingale.  For now, I’d just like you to remember his name, although I will give you a hint:  he has a connection to my own tenuous link to the British throne.

Here are my great-great-great-grandparents Richard Hales and Virtue King.  Virtue was clearly proud of her family; each of her seven children was called “King Hales” which makes them very easy to track down.

For the longest time, I was at a dead-end with Richard.  All I really knew about him was that he was a compositor/printer.
A small section of my time-line for Richard Hales at Ancestry.
He first reports being a compositor as early as 1815, two years after his marriage to Virtue, in the christening record of his eldest child Mary King Hales, and for every subsequent child’s christening (he had a total of thirteen children, over two marriages), and for every census, he is recorded as a printer, a compositor, or a printer-compositor.

So you can imagine how confused I was when I stumbled upon this in early 2006.

It’s a Richard Hales, all right, giving testimony at a trial in 1816, but he’s a publican, not a compositor.  My Richard Hales was a compositor in 1815 when his first child was christened in Shoreditch and in 1817 when William King Hales was born. Furthermore, he isn’t at all in the part of the city I expected.  Then I scrolled down and saw his wife’s name.

Okay, there might be plenty of men named Richard Hales in London in 1816 (more than twenty, by my count), but how many with a wife named Virtue?  If you pay attention over the next bit, there’s another big clue that confirms that these are my ancestors.  From what I can piece together from what the witnesses relate -- in a somewhat contradictory fashion -- Richard and Virtue Hales were accusing five men of stealing several items from an upstairs bedroom in their public house.

Old Bailey Online, by the way, has a search option, and so far I have found half-a-dozen trials connected with my family. 
All as plaintiffs. 
So far.
But you know it’s only a matter of time….

Virtue Hales’ testimony is particularly -- arresting.
from Rudolf Ackermann's Microcosm of London
 - hand-coloured aquatint plate by Charles Augustus Pugin and Thomas Rowlandson

This cartoon shows the Old Bailey in session in 1809, seven years before my great-great-great-grandparents had their day in court.  There appears to be a line-up behind a young woman in white who has flung out her right arm in a rather dramatic gesture.  The prisoner at the bar is certainly listening very carefully and with some alarm.  I like this picture because it gives me an idea of how things might have looked that day, although the fashions would be different by 1816 and fewer of the male onlookers would be wearing wigs.  I can imagine my great-great-great-grandmother standing where the young lady is standing and telling her tale. Hold on to your hats; this is directly from the court transcript:

 I had a full opportunity of seeing that. They were near enough to hear me say I was ruined, I was ruined. When my husband was in the bar, I saw the men by the bar door in the passage, I took hold of my husband's arm, and begged him to let the man go, for we should all be murdered. There was then a number of others rushing in at two other doors beside. I knew them by seeing them before on other days and that day also. Thatcher then rushed into the bar, and siezed (sic) hold of me by my handkercheif (sic), and pulled me away from my husband. There was a carving knife that laid on the table close by the bar door, he took it up, and said, she can swear to her property, let us do for her. I said for god's sake, spare my life, for the sake of my baby. Baxter then come (sic) on my right hand side, and got his hand into my pocket. I struggled very much with them, and they cried pinion her hands; Jem Welch , Bill Morgan , Thatcher, Baxter, and Harry Phillips , were surrounding me at that time; one took one wrist, and one another. I looked up to Harry Phillips , and said oh, Harry, little did I think to be served so. He immediately swore at me and took the broom which was by the shutters, and gave me a blow at the back of my neck, and my head sunk (sic). The knife had fallen out of their hands, and there was a brick to keep back the kitchen door; Thatcher took it up, and said this will do it, and some persons at a distance said, don't, pray don't; and immediately he threw it from him; I fell at that time from a blow on my head.

She certainly has a flair and an eye for detail, doesn’t she? Certain living members of my family have been accused of being melodramatic from time to time.  Maybe it’s genetic.  Of the four officers giving evidence (this was, of course in the days before the London Bobbies), one ward officer says: 

I saw Mrs. Hales in a little trouble; she did not make any charge at that time, she was very much flurried and in a great deal of agitation . . . . and another one reports: . . she was very much frightened, and very much alarmed, but by no means in liquor.

Well, thank goodness for that.

Things get even more entertaining when the defense witnesses have their say.  Among the four witnesses speaking for the prisoners was the wife of the man who owned the buildings around the public house, one Ann Stevens.  She said, among many other things:

(Mrs Hales) was in a very violent passion, and raved very much; when I went into her, she was laying (sic) on the bench, and kicking; I thought she would go into fits. There was one woman in the room. From the time she went into the room until I went away, there was not one man in the room. There was (sic) no men knocking her down, or putting a knife to her throat, or putting their hands into her pocket; if that had been so. I think I must have seen it. I assisted to recover her. She told me she was in the family way, and I was much afraid of her. . . .

Does she mean “afraid “of her”? or “afraid for her”?  Not sure.  She went on:

Field shewed me a half pint pot, which he said, they had thrown at him; I took it out of his hand, and told him it was not meant for him, and therefore not to make such a noise about it. During the whole time, there was no man in the back parlour put a knife to Mrs. Hales' throat, or rided her pockets. On my being served with a subpoena, I went to Mrs. Hales, and told her I had been so served. I told her as my husband was out of Town, to ask her solicitor, Mr. Burgess, whether I was bound to attend; she said, that my own sense ought to have told me better, for I had no business to accept the subpoena. I am positive that I never told her that my evidence would hang the men, or any thing to that effect.

It gets better!  Henry Jonas, a watchmaker, had this bombshell: 

I asked her what she had lost; and she said, a row of beads and ear-rings, and she set such store by them, that she had been offered three pounds for them, and would not take it. They knew me very well, because they have a public-house in Petticoat-lane. She said, it is very fortunate that the man did not get to my middle drawer where all my property layed (sic). She said to me, it is immaterial, for she knew two of the men, and they should suffer if ever two men suffered on the new drop, should it cost every bit of property she had left . . . .

Whoa!  Is this man dissing my great-great-great-gran?  Of course, the most unsettling reported remark is that about suffering on the new drop.  The New Drop was the gallows just outside Newgate Prison. 
The "New Drop" gallows set up outside the Debtors' Door at Newgate Prison
Late eighteenth century
It had been in use for more than thirty years by that time, but it was new in that it was portable, so it could be set up outside the Debtor’s Gate at the appointed time, and that it used a “drop” method that was supposed to be more merciful, but wasn’t really because the drop wasn’t long enough. I’ll spare you the details and the images, because I’m really quite squeamish, unlike the enthusiastic crowds who showed up on hanging days.  Charles Dickens was sometimes among them, he witnessed several executions including at least one at Newgate.  For research purposes, of course.

My question is: had my great-great-great-grandmother ever witnessed a Newgate hanging?  It was certainly in her neighbourhood.

Here’s a map of that area in present-day London.  I’ve marked about where the Bridgewater Arms would have been (A) and about where the gallows at Newgate were (B), and chosen the walking option.  (I doubt Virtue had a carriage.)  This gives me an estimate of a 16-minute walk, and that’s even when being forced to walk north to get to a main thoroughfare and Virtue wouldn’t have had that obstacle in 1816.
From William Darton's "New Plan of the Cities of London & Westminster, & Borough of
Southwark, 1817" - courtesy of the wonderful web site
 (Thumb-tacks not in original.)

Here’s the neighbourhood in 1817, thanks to a magnificent site called Mapco. If you have ancestors in London, this site is indispensable for pinpointing where they lived and worked.

Anyway, I’ve used rather clumsy thumbtacks to show Bridgewater Square and Newgate Prison.  As you can see, Virtue could have strolled down to Barbican, turned left on to Aldersgate Street, continued south through St Martin’s Le Grand, before hanging a left - sorry, a bit of gallows humour there – on Newgate to partake of what, in those days, passed for family entertainment.  Now, she had one small child and an inn to run, so she may not have had the time, but, if we are to believe the testimony of Henry Jonas, she was certainly familiar with the concept of the New Drop.

Also in Henry Jonas’ testimony is one seemingly throw-away comment that I didn’t notice until years later:  They knew me very well, because they have a public-house in Petticoat-lane.

This is because when I first read this in 2006, I had few clues to Richard Hales’ father due to assumptions I had made.  Assumptions such as: “I don’t really need to know about Richard Hales’ second wife because I’m descended from his first wife.”

Except it didn’t occur to me that Richard married his second wife in 1847, so his marriage record would give me two things that the parish record of his 1813 marriage would not: 

Parish register, St Mary Haggerston, Middlesex

 The name of his father and his father’s occupation.  I am ashamed to admit that I have made this mistake more than once.

All of a sudden, it makes sense that Richard the compositor would have taken up inn-keeping –he was the son of an innkeeper! Furthermore, I now knew that Richard Hales and my great-great-great-great-grandfather William Hales were likely to have been Freemen of the City of London.  Some of you may have guessed why.

Here’s that 1817 map again which roughly shows the borders of the City (capital C). You can see a piece of the Thames in the lower left-hand corner and St Paul’s  a little further above, near a red thumb-tack to show where the Old Bailey was and is.  I knew that Richard was born in Aldgate on the eastern border of the ancient City of London. (Blue thumb-tack to your right.)  I also knew that the Bridgewater Arms was just within the northern border of London City.  (Blue thumb-tack near the top.) You couldn’t be a publican in the City of London without the Freedom of the City.  Now, I’m really not here to explain the Freedom of the City; I just want to show you how the admission papers - which just became available at Ancestry a few months before my presentation - helped me with details of this story. 

I have admission to the Freedom of the City papers for four generations of my Hales ancestors.  So I worked my way backwards:

Here’s my great-grandfather Alexander Hales being admitted in 1887, one year after his father died. By the way, it’s really important to look at the original document, not the Ancestry description, which is very misleading. 

This tells me that Alexander was born at 30 Cavendish Street in 1860 and gives me the admission date of his father which tells me one other important thing:  Alexander would be the only child of William King Hales to be admitted by patrimony, even though there were at least five other surviving Hales children at the time. (Incidentally, women could be admitted to the freedom of the city, but it was rare and up until 1926, only single women and widows were eligible.)

Admission by patrimony means, of course, that your father was a freeman, but you could only be admitted by patrimony if you were a legitimate child born after your father’s admission.  William’s other children, legitimate but born before his admission, could have been admitted, but only if they were sponsored by being apprenticed to a freeman, or if they paid a fee.  I have no evidence that they did either.

So my great-great-grandfather William King Hales was also admitted by patrimony in 1859, just before his youngest child Alexander was born. 

I get some vital information here too, and something to think about:  This tells me that Richard Hales received his admission to the Freedom of the City on February 1st, 1815, when he was about 22.  (You had to be 21 to be admitted.)  When Richard’s eldest child Mary King Hales was christened in Shoreditch five months later, he gave his occupation as “compositor”, so he may have been planning to take up inn-keeping, but hadn’t done it yet.

I also am given an address for William King Hales’ birth in 1817.  Remember that all we got was “England” in the 1881 census?  Well, in one other census, William said he was born in Cripplegate, and the Bridgewater Arms was in the Cripplegate ward. This document says that William King Hales was born without the city of London (that is, outside the City with a capital C) in Hackney Road, Middlesex.  That’s a fair bit east of Cripplegate which is within the city.  I’ll tell you why I think that was important later.

Looking at Richard Hales’ admission paper, I’m very grateful that his admission date was included on his son’s admission paper, because most of this form was  barely filled out – I think someone got weary and careless, filling in piles of forms!

However, it tells me two important things: the year of his father William Hales’ admission to the freedom of the City (1790) and, something very key:  Richard Hales’ own birth year.  

Since I knew from the censuses that Richard was born in Aldgate, I was finally able to track down Richard’s christening record. The Ancestry transcribers, bless their cotton socks, had written him down as "Richard Holes".

Parish register of baptisms at St Botolph Aldgate, City of London, 1753-1797

 Remember the testimony of Henry Jonas?
 They knew me very well, because they have a public-house in Petticoat-lane. 

I found the christenings of three brothers and one sister for Richard, all born in Petticoat Lane (also known as Middlesex Street), along the western edge of the City of London, and all born, I think, in the public house which their father William Hales was legally able to run, having the freedom of the city.

Before I return to the court case, I can’t resist showing you two more documents.

This came while searching the Freedom of the City admission papers at Ancestry last fall.  This is my great-great-great-great-grandfather’s apprenticeship document.  I had known for some time that the Hales freeman status came through the Merchant Tailors, one of the ancient guilds of London, but I didn’t know why.  In 1769, William Hales was apprenticed to Starr Fitchett “Citizen and Merchant Taylor of London”.  Most apprentices began their service at age thirteen or fourteen, so this gives me at least an idea of William Hales’ birth year, something I never had.

But, glory be!  Look at the top -- William Hales is the son of Richard Hales “Gentleman”.

I’ve learned through my experience with family history that “gentleman” is a nebulous term, it could change; sometimes the fellow in question ran short on funds and had to go back to work. 

But I now have the name of my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather!

Now, you could get admission to the freedom of the City by apprenticeship, by patrimony, or you could pay.   This was called admission by redemption.

Do you recognize this fellow?

This is the Thomas Nightingale who witnessed the marriage of William King Hales to Mary Rose in 1838 and who has so many children named for him.

Here he’s paid a fee to be admitted to the freedom of the city through one of the city livery companies, in this case the Company of Innholders.

This also tells me that in 1808, Thomas Nightingale was a Victualler and gives the name of his inn very faintly at the bottom – The Gun and Star on --- Petticoat Lane!

Now there’s a web site called Dead, and from that I learned that there were at least four public houses on Petticoat Lane (also known as Middlesex Street). Since making this presentation, a distant cousin has informed me that the Gun & Star was, indeed, William Hales' pub. (She hasn't presented the documentation yet, but I live in hope.)  It seems that Thomas Nightingale took over the Gun & Star not long after the death of William Hales.

The name of the inn led me to an 1809 Old Bailey court transcript where Thomas Nightingale charged two men with breaking into his place – one was whipped, the other transported for seven years.  

Burglars didn’t fare well with this family.

The family tree is about to get a bit snarled, so bear with me.

Written sideways, Thomas’s father’s name appears:  William Nightingale of St Neots, Huntingdonshire – another of my great-great-great-great-grandfathers. William King Hales’ wife Mary Rose, you may recall, was also born in St Neots and Thomas Nightingale is, in fact, her maternal uncle (William Nightingale is her maternal grandfather) -- in addition to being Richard Hale's brother-in-law -- so Thomas is Mary Rose's uncle-by-blood and her husband William King Hales' uncle-by-marriage by virtue of Thomas Nightingale's marriage to William's aunt Isabella Elizabeth Snow Hales, as I discovered a year after this 2012 presentation.  Thomas Nightingale had taken over the Gun & Star after the death of William Hales -- his father-in-law.

Confused? I'll try to explain later, because I have to take you back to Richard and Virtue Hales at the Old Bailey in May of 1816.

As you may have gathered, the witnesses for the defense clearly did not want to see these men hanged.  Richard and Virtue knew these men, and I’m sure they were also known to the neighbours.  This was 1816.  Picking your nose wouldn’t get you hanged, but nearly everything else could result in the death penalty.  There were 200 capital offenses. 180 of these were abolished within the next decade.  The testimony of four defense witnesses apparently worked; all five men were acquitted.  My great-great-great-grandparents may not have been pleased, but I breathed a sigh of relief, and thought little more about it, until the spring of 2011.

I have a distant cousin who is descended from Richard and Virtue’s fourth child, Richard King Hales.  That’s a story in itself, believe me!   I don’t have time to go into it, but it does involve acrobats. (Seriously.)  Now, either this cousin or his wife has been in touch with me several times over the years.  I’m never sure exactly who is corresponding with me; they sign their messages with both names, but they are always unfailingly polite.  In 2011, they posted the trial transcript (which I'd already found in 2006) at their family tree at Ancestry, but they also posted a second trial transcript for a trial that took place a few months later, in October of 1816.

You may click on any image in this post to enlarge it, if you wish to take a closer look:
This is also from .

So here’s apparently what happened.  After the five men were acquitted in May 1816, some sort of wanted poster went up for a sixth man named Samuel Bailey, and five months after the burglary, an officer (again, this was before the time of the Metropolitan Police, so I assume this was a ward officer or a parish constable) recognized Samuel Bailey walking in the Strand and brought him in.  At the May trial there were ten witnesses: six for the prosecution; four for the defense.  This time, in October 1816, there were only three witnesses, my great-great-great-grandparents (giving much the same testimony as before but with Bailey worked in) and the arresting officer. It was a much shorter trial. You can see the verdict at the bottom.

I had a momentary feeling of queasiness, and then I set out to find out what happened to Samuel Bailey.  I had two reasons for doing this. 

First, I am finally understanding that a document is never the deciding factor.  

Second, I follow John Reid’s blog Anglo-CelticConnections (if you don’t follow his blog --- you should), and as a result, I’ve been listening to podcasts from The National Archives on the bus, and from them I’ve been learning, among other things, about the death penalty in England at this time.
After a bit of online checking, I got in touch with this distant cousin, thanking them for posting this second transcript, and inquiring whether he or she had found out what happened to Samuel Bailey.  He or she responded with this, which they called “Samuel Bailey’s final decision”.

England and Wales Criminal Registers 1791-1892

It does look very final, doesn’t it? However, a document really is never the last word – even if that word is “Death”.   I chose my next words carefully, as these are clearly very nice people, as indeed all my relatives are. 

So I typed, very gingerly:  Keep in mind that between 1770 and 1830, 35,000 death sentences were handed down in England and Wales, but only 7,000 executions were carried out.  In other words, only one in five death sentences actually wound up at the gallows.

A mere twelve hours after I sent this message, my cousin (or cousins) came through:
Australian Convict Transportation Registers 1791-1868

Samuel Bailey had indeed had his death sentence commuted to Life and transportation.

From that, I was able to locate this:

 New South Wales and Tasmania, Australian Convict Pardons and Tickets of Leave, 1834-1859
Remember that clicking on an image will enlarge it! (Archives Authority New South Wales)
Isn't collaboration between family researchers a fine thing? Twenty years after the kerfuffle at the Bridgewater Arms, Samuel Bailey was pardoned.  He was by then forty-five years old and according to this document:  “little” and “pock-pitted”.  There was a protocol for pardons set up Down Under, even for Life prisoners.  If you weren’t a pain in the rear, you could earn increasing privileges and freedoms, and many pardoned prisoners either settled in Australia or made the long voyage home.  I’m not sure which Samuel Bailey did, but I’m rather glad he survived.

So no one appears to have died, in spite of my great-great-great-grandparents’ best efforts, but I can’t imagine that all this courtroom drama made Richard and Virtue popular with the neighbours.  It seems clear that when my great-great-grandfather William King Hales was born a year later, not only had Richard completely given up on inn-keeping, but he and Virtue had moved a safe distance, back to their old address off Hackney Road outside of London City.  They remained there for the births of two more children, then moved into the Smithfield area of the City about ten years after the unpleasant events in Cripplegate -- Richard remaining a compositor/printer.

I still wondered, though:  why were they out for the blood of these six men?  Let’s look at the list of stolen items.  It’s exactly the same for both trials:

This works out to about £10 worth of goods. However, this was in 1816.  There are sites to help you work out historical financial equivalents and according to these, a conservative equivalent of £10 in 1816 to today’s money is £571 which is roughly 900 dollars in Canadian money.  This might explain why my great-great-great-grandmother was exclaiming “We were ruined!  Ruined!!”  Two hundred years later, it’s difficult to imagine hanging people for stealing, let alone if it’s your own ancestors screaming for blood, but in 1816, as I’ve said, 200 crimes carried the death penalty. I imagine it was accepted as reasonable justice.

However, I think there may have been another more private reason for the fury that Richard and Virtue felt, and the clues are in the testimony from the first trial.  Virtue spoke of pleading with the men to spare her life for the sake of the baby.  She could have been referring to her one-year-old, Mary King Hales, but you might also remember that Ann Stevens, the lady who was furious about the subpoena, told the court that Virtue told her she was “in the family way”.  My great-great-grandfather William King Hales was born May 29th, 1817, more than thirteen months after the incident.

This is speculation, but it seems possible that Virtue lost a pregnancy, and if she believed it was the fault of the men who manhandled her that night, that would only add to her rage about the lost property.  A possible explanation, not an excuse, but we have to remember the words of LP Hartley:  “The past is a different country.”  Nineteenth century people saw things in a different perspective than we do.

I promised to show you how I’m the fifth cousin of the 678th person in line to the throne of the United Kingdom.  Are you still interested?  Were you ever interested?

Okay, my 4xgreat-grandfather William Hales, the publican on Petticoat Lane, had seven children that I know of -- I only knew of five when I made this presentation in 2012 -- including Henry Hales in red.  Henry had twelve children, including my fourth cousin once removed Isabella Hales.

1851 census with my member-updates at, Mile End Old Town, Middlesex

In 1851, Isabella was living with Thomas and Isabella Nightingale.  She had lived with them for more than ten years. Isabella is described as a “niece” in this census, and it took me years to discover whose niece she was.  I discovered in the winter of 2013 that Isabella Nightingale (born Isabella Elizabeth Snow Hales) was the second eldest daughter of my 4xgreat-grandparents William Hales and Mary Snow, so Henry Hales (Isabella Hales' father) was one of the younger brothers of Isabella Nightingale, and my own 3xgreat-grandfather Richard Hales was another younger brother. Mary Iles, the next name down, was a daughter of Mary Hales, eldest child of William Hales and Mary Snow.  (One of Mary Iles' brothers was the Thomas Nightingale Iles that I mentioned earlier.) 

Thomas Nightingales’ wife was a young widow when she married my great-great-great-uncle, so I didn’t know for years that Isabella Nightingale’s maiden name was Hales.

When Isabella and Thomas died, having left no descendants, Isabella-Hales-the-daughter-of-Henry-Hales got a rather large legacy, as did her elder sister, yet another Mary Hales, who had also lived with Isabella and Thomas for a time.

Isabella had married Thomas William Platten (who was an executor for Thomas Nightingale’s will) and had five children.  Notice she named one of them for the couple who had taken her in for so long, although she was not a Nightingale by descent.  (I am, through Thomas Nightingales' sister Elizabeth, who is my 3xgreat-grandmother and whose daughter Mary Rose -- my great-great-grandmother -- married William King Hales, the nephew of Isabella Elizabeth Snow Nightingale née Hales.  Got that?  Good.)
David Nightingale Hicks - portrait by John Gay

Her middle child, Herbert Henry Platten had two daughters and the younger, Iris Elsie, married a Herbert Hicks.

The New York Times described Iris as a frustrated actress who toured the countryside for charity dressed as the Virgin Queen in a sort of mobile tableau.  This unflattering description appeared in her son’s 1998 obituary.  For years, her son was down in my family tree as “David Hicks”.

He was, in fact, David Nightingale Hicks, and this photo is from the National Portrait Gallery.  He was a well-known designer and the same New York Times obituary said that he was, even his most forgiving friends admitted, a snob of Olympian proportions. 

I bet he would have been thrilled to have discovered he was my fourth cousin once removed, especially if he saw my house decor, which has been wedged inexorably between "Late Student" and "Early Parenthood" for years.

David married well.

13 January 1960 - Wedding of Lady Pamela Mountbatten to David Nightingale Hicks - portrait by Madame Yevonde

That’s Lady Pamela Mountbatten the younger daughter of Lord Louis Mountbatten.  I strongly doubt that any of the bridesmaids to the left are my relatives, but the bridesmaid to the right definitely isn’t.  Do you recognize her?

That’s nine-year-old Princess Anne. I understand this was the first occasion to which Prince Charles was allowed to wear long trousers.

David and Lady Pamela had three children:  Edwina, Ashley (another famous designer), and
India Hicks who, in this photo, was the ABC Royal Correspondent for the Royal Wedding of 2011 – because she had been a bridesmaid at another famous Royal Wedding thirty years before.

And she’s my fifth cousin.

In short, I have positively labyrinthine connections to the echelons of the noble and accomplished, and direct connections to the very human and flawed.

If you’re finding your family history too quiet and too boring (although, frankly, I think succeeding in keeping your children alive so they can grow up and reproduce is heroic in itself), take note that I very nearly missed several elements of this rather too fascinating story, by making assumptions and not noticing details.

And I’m discovering that the key to noticing details is re-visiting documents, even when I think I know what’s in them.  I’m finding out time and again, it’s not what I know that that’s the trouble, it’s what I think I know that can block me from some of the most interesting aspects of my family history.  At least, I hope you found this interesting.  

Some day, when I get the courage, I'll write a post explaining how husband and wife Richard and Virtue, "The Hanging Hales", were also step-siblings.....