The Symons family: Part two- The Wandering Symons

Today’s post continues the story of the Symons family of Somerset brickmakers. Last time we found out how everything began, with William Symons of Stogursey who joined Thomas Colthurst to form Colthurst, Symons & Co. in 1857. We also discovered how the Bridgwater area was perfect for brick and tile making due to an abundance of raw materials. This instalment follows William’s eldest son (also named William) on his journey.

William Symons junior

From what I have discovered about William junior, he seems to have been quite a transient person. Unlike other ancestors I have found who settled and stayed in the same area for a great deal of their lives, William moved around a lot. He began life in Bridgwater and was baptised there on the 07 March 1827 at St. Mary’s Church.[1] As a 14 year old, he lived with his parents William and Ann and siblings James, John, Clifford and Ellen in Hamp, near Bridgwater.[2] But three years later (1844) is when things get a bit more interesting. 1844 is the birth year of William junior’s eldest son, confusingly also called William! The interesting thing is that William did not marry wife Sophia until 1849.[3] If you do the maths on this, then it shows that William was 17 in 1844, which would have been below the age he was allowed to marry without parental consent. It seems he had an illegitimate child with Sophia and she baptised the child under her name of ‘Duddridge.’[4] This William’s birth certificate is however, filed under Symons. Sophia Dudridge is named as the mother, but William Symons is named as the father. As Sophia is only named by her maiden name this indicates that they were likely unmarried at the time.[5]

The legislation requiring both parents of an illegitimate child to be present at the registration didn’t come in until 1874, so William may or may not have given his consent to be named. Perhaps though, this did show the couple’s intentions as they did marry later. This William seemed to live with his grandparents (Sophia’s parents) and not his parents.[6] [7] This illegitimacy would have been fairly scandalous at the time- who knows, perhaps it had a bearing on William senior’s involvement (or lack of) in his father’s brickmaking business. Maybe he had another career in mind, as on both his first son’s birth certificate and his marriage certificate, he says that he is a baker.

The Symons family, Part two_Shersca Genealogy_Descendant Chart for William Symons
Family Tree for William Symons junior (1827-1911). © Shersca Genealogy, 2020.

William’s next move

Who knows, perhaps the stigma was so great that this was the reason that William had moved to Neath, near Swansea in Wales by 1851. His wife Sophia and their next son James were with him and William was recorded as being a brickmaker. There are of course, other reasons why William could have gone to Wales. He may have tried to find work- there were various brickworks in Neath and the surrounding areas.[8] It is unclear how he became a brickmaker (maybe baking wasn’t working out for him), but perhaps unsurprising because of the growing popularity of the trade in the area where he grew up.

Perhaps you might think that William settled down in Wales after joining a Welsh brickmaker? No he did not. His son John was born back in Bridgwater (abt. 1852) and his daughters Mary Ann and Clara were born in North Petherton in abt. 1853 and 1855 respectively. Then yet again, the family were off in 1861 and were living in Eaton Hastings in Berkshire.[9] William’s occupation is pretty vague and only says ‘contractor,’ but by this time, his father was involved with Colthurst, Symons & Co. Perhaps William was sent to investigate business opportunities in the area? According to the Eaton Hastings entry in the Victoria County History, there are disused clay-pits in the vicinity and clay is what you need to make bricks.[10]

The brickyard manager

The next chapter in William’s history is the one which has interested me most because it sees the entry of a particular house. This house is called Midway House and it is located in Burnham on Sea, Somerset. Midway House becomes an important part of the story of my ancestors, but only makes a fleeting appearance in William’s story. He, his wife Sophia and children John, Mary Ann and Clara lived there in 1871, but had left by 1875.[11] This time around, William is the manager of a brickyard and this speaks to the purpose of the house he lived in. The residents of Midway House are inextricably linked with the purpose of the land around the house. Each head of household that I have found on the UK census records was recorded as a brickyard manager, most likely for the adjoining brickworks owned by Colthurst, Symons & Co.[12] The next occupant appeared in 1875,[13] but more about him next time.

The Symons family, Part two_Shersca Genealogy_Colthurst, Symons catalogue
Part of promotional material for Colthurst, Symons & Co, showing their brickyards. Passed down through my family.

Meanwhile, William had moved again, but into Bridgwater this time. Perhaps he moved closer to the main hub of the family business. Sadly, his address can be found on his wife Sophia’s death certificate. She died on the 28 June 1876, at 48 Wellington Road, Bridgwater.[14] I can’t imagine how hard that must have been for William and his family, especially as Sophia was only 49. It seems that she died from liver and kidney problems and excess fluid in the kidneys (dropsy). At this time William was still a tile manufacturer, but perhaps Sophia’s death prompted the complete change in occupation and yet another move.

The Gloucester years

William’s second marriage took place on the 18 July 1878 to Charlotte Ford (neé Smith) at the Register Office in the Aston District of Warwickshire.[15] Both had been married before and seemingly lost spouses to premature deaths. But yet again, does William settle in Warwickshire? No, he moves with Charlotte and the children from her previous marriage to Gloucestershire. Even more surprising, is the fact that he becomes a publican! He was a merchant and Inn Keeper of the Goat Inn on Llanthony Road, South Hamlet, Gloucester.[16] There may have been more to this move that it being purely random. In the previous post, remember that William’s younger brother John was living in South Hamlet in 1861.[17] But even this change of William’s doesn’t seem to last long. From 1891 until his death, William seems to be moving around Gloucester and ‘living on his own means’ with no discernible occupation. 1891 sees him living at 17 Weston Road,[18] 1901 at 2 Tudor Street (but as a boarder not a head of household)[19] and 1911 at 104 Linden Road with daughters Mary Ann (Marian) and Clara.[20]

The address at Weston Road was unfortunately where William’s second wife, Charlotte died on the 20 July 1895 from heart disease and associated syncope.[21] She was only 67. William himself died on the 29 August 1911 at 104 Linden Road, aged 84. It is perhaps some comfort to see that his daughter Clara was present when he died.[22]

Conclusions

William is a very obvious case to remind us that our ancestors could have moved around much more than we think. There are ten years between each census entry after all. A lot can happen in that time, especially as movement became easier in the 19th century. William’s story does give me the impression of someone who had not quite found where they belonged in life. With several changes of occupation and many changes of location over the years, perhaps William was struggling to find his place. Although we may never know for sure.

Stay tuned for part three of the Symons story, with the addition of the Peirces and a certain house in Burnham on Sea!

Copyright © 2020 Shersca Genealogy


[1] Baptisms (PR) England. Bridgwater (St. Mary), Somerset. 07 March 1827. SYMONS, William. Collection: Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1531-1812. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[2] Census. 1841. England. Hamp, Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: HO107/971. FL 48. BN 2. ED 4. p. 39. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[3] Marriages (CR) England. Register Office, Axbridge Union, Somerset. 04 April 1849. SYMONS, William and DUDRIDGE, Sophia. Entry no. 158.

[4] Baptisms (PR) England. Bridgwater (St. Mary), Somerset. 22 September 1844. DUDDRIDGE, William. Collection: Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, 1813-1914. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[5] Births (CR) England. Hamp, Bridgwater, Somerset. 31 July 1844. SYMONS, William. Entry no. 445.

[6] Census. 1841. England. Hamp, Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: HO107/1925. FL 118. ED 1d. p. 51. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[7] Census. 1861. England. Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: RG9/1624. FL 18. SN 156. ED 1. p. 30. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[8] Jenkins, Phil. The Brickworks of West Glamorgan: Neath and the Nedd Valley. http://www.industrialgwent.co.uk/g41-westglam/index.htm#neath : accessed 07 July 2020.

[9] Census. 1861. England. Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: RG9/728. FL 86. SN 22. ED 5c. p. 17. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[10] [Author unknown] (1924) ‘Eaton Hastings.’ In: Page, William, and Ditchfield, P. H. eds. A History of the County of Berkshire: Volume 4. London: Victoria County History. pp. 528-531. https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/berks/vol4/pp528-531 : accessed 07 July 2020.

[11] Census. 1871. England. Burnham, Somerset. PN: RG10/2457. FL 27. SN 58. ED 9. p. 11. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 23 January 2018.

[12] Murless, Brian J. (2000) Somerset Brick & Tile Manufacturers: A Brief History & Gazetteer. [Place unknown]: Somerset Industrial Archaeological Society. p. 12.

[13] Directories. England. (1875) The Post Office Directory of Somersetshire. London: Kelly And Co. p. 345.

[14] Deaths (CR) England. Bridgwater, Somerset. 20 June 1876. SYMONS, Sophia. Entry no. 123.

[15] Marriages (CR) England. Register Office, Aston District, Warwickshire. 18 July 1878. SYMONS, William and FORD, Charlotte. Entry no. 63.

[16] Census. 1881. England. South Hamlet, Gloucester, Gloucestershre. PN: RG11/2536. FL 41. ED 9. p. 24. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[17] Census. 1861. England. South Hamlet, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. PN: RG9/1767. FL 109. SN 97. ED 7. p. 19. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[18] Census. 1891. England. South Hamlet, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. PN: RG12/2016. FL 4. ED 11. p. 2. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[19] Census. 1901. England. South Hamlet, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. PN: RG13/2431. FL 195. SN 141. ED 33. p. 23. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[20] Census. 1911. England. Gloucester Southern, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, 325. PN: RG14/15304. ED 10. SN 169. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 07 July 2020.

[21] Deaths (CR) England. South Hamlet, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. 20 July 1895. SYMONS, Charlotte. Entry no. 334.

[22] Deaths (CR) England. Gloucester Southern, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. 29 August 1911. SYMONS, William. Entry no. 123.

The Symons family: Part one- Humble beginnings

Welcome to the first in a series of posts about my Somerset Brickmaking family. This has been a long time in coming but I am very excited to share this with you all now.

In a previous post about family heirlooms, I talked about a family tapestry and a roof tile that I was given. Both of these heirlooms come from (or relate to) the Symons family of Bridgwater, Somerset and their descendants. This story begins with the story of a family, but soon becomes the story of a business and a house as well.

The very beginning…

This story starts on the 26 December 1805 with the baptism of William Symons, at St. Andrew’s church in Stogursey, Somerset.[1] He was the final and ninth child of James Symons and his wife Hannah. It is very possible that his father James died in 1807, when William was only two years old.[2] I have not yet tracked down all of William’s siblings, but it is quite likely that Hannah then had many of her children left to look after. It may have been that William’s early life was quite hard with the death of his father and the death of the family’s main provider. I can’t wait to get back into the Somerset Heritage Centre to try to discover more about William and his parents! Stogursey itself was not only rural, but local place names contain allusions to the use of clay (‘Claypits’), sand (‘Sandpits’) and brickmaking. There was a field named ‘Brick Yard’ in the nearby hamlet of Knighton.[3] This may or may not have been an area in which James Symons worked, but it was certainly an important theme in his son’s future.

Jumping forward a few years, William married Ann Cook on the 09 January 1826 at St. Mary, Redcliffe, Bristol.[4] Banns were also recorded at St. Mary, Bridgwater for the couple in August of 1825.[5] Over the years, they had eight children: William, James, John, Mary Ann, Clifford, Ellen, Adelaide and Orlando. The last two sadly died very young. It also seems that William was not involved in the Brickmaking trade straight away, as the 1841 census records his occupation as that of an agricultural labourer living in Hamp, near Bridgwater.[6] By 1851, William has moved with his family to the nearby settlement of Huntworth, but is now the master of a brickyard.[7] Slater’s Directory of Somerset for 1852-1853 records three separate brick and tile makers in Bridgwater: Browne & Co. (The Quay), John B Hammill (Saltland Cottage) and John Sealy (The Quay).[8] It is possible that William worked for one of these three before creating his own company with Thomas Colthurst in 1857.[9]

The Symons family, Part one_Shersca Genealogy_Descendant Chart for James Symons
Family tree for William Symons (1805-1876) © Shersca Genealogy 2020.

The Growth of an Industry

The Bridgwater area became renowned for making bricks and tiles in the 19th century. The industry had grown popular both due to the natural deposits of clay in the River Parrett[10] and the invention of more cost-effective production techniques.[11] The growth of the rail network in Somerset meant that bricks and tiles could be transported out of the area.[12] This led to a myriad of companies plying their trade throughout what is now the Sedgemoor district. One of these companies was Colthurst, Symons & Co., which owned at least seven brick and tile works around the Bridgwater area at the height of their production.[13]

Up until William’s death in 1876, he lived in various residences in Bridgwater, re-marrying after the death of his wife Ann in 1868.[14] Confusingly, his second wife was called Annie[15] and they had a daughter named Hannah Nancy Symons (b. 1872).[16] William died on the 03 January 1876 in Bridgwater and by this time was a merchant.[17] That is quite a step up from agricultural labourer! His son Clifford was one of the executors of his will and from Census records, William’s sons James, John and Clifford were all involved in the brick and tile making business in some capacity.

William’s sons

James was a potter, first in Bishop’s Hull[18] and then at the Symons Brickyard in Bristol Road, Bridgwater.[19] By 1871, he was living in Castle Villa, Castle Fields and had graduated to Brickyard Manager.[20] Ten years later, he was residing at 6, Symons Buildings and the foreman of a brickworks.[21]

The next brother, John, happened to be living in Bishop’s Hull next door to brother James in 1851. He was a Brick and Tile Merchant. There seems to be a bit of a connection in the family to South Hamlet in Gloucester, as John (a brickmaker) was living there in 1861.[22] The other connection is with his older brother William, but more about that next time. John had moved to North Petherton (Crossway House) to run the Tile Works there by 1871[23] and moved again by 1881, into Bridgwater.[24] He lived on Salmon Lane (later Salmon Parade) and was again the manager of a brick works. He lived at no. 16 until his death in 1917.[25]

Youngest brother Clifford was also a brick merchant and lived in Bridgwater for most of the Census records found.[26] [27]

William senior’s other children William and Mary Ann will be the subjects of other posts. That leaves Ellen. Now Ellen wasn’t really involved in the business (being a daughter and not a son) and her husband was not involved either. I would like to mention Ellen and her husband though, because her husband’s will has a very interesting paragraph which gives an indication of the state of the family relationships.

A curious statement

The Symons family, Part one_Shersca Genealogy_Colthurst & Symons roof tile
The Colthurst, Symons & Co. roof tile that was given to me by a fellow historian. © Shersca Genealogy, 2020

Ellen’s husband was James Cook[28] and the couple had moved from Bridgwater to Weston Super Mare by 1901.[29] From James’ will,[30] it seems that not only was he a solicitor, but a former Justice of the Peace and Town Clerk for Bridgwater. He asks that a stained glass window be provided by his trustees in the Eastern Wall of the South Chapel of St. Mary’s Church in Bridgwater. There was to be a brass plaque underneath declaring that “This window was given by James Cook J P and for nine years Town Clerk of Bridgwater in memory of his parents.” He also gave an oil painting of himself to the Corporation of Bridgwater and a photograph of himself in his official Town Clerk robes.

This certainly gives an indication of James’ status and also the status of Ellen’s family, in the fact that they married at all. But as the saying goes, you can’t choose your family. It certainly seems that James loved his wife, but not her family. In his will, he says, ‘…I am not indebted to the extent of one shilling to any Member of the Symons family some of whom have treated me badly for many years…’ I haven’t yet acquired all of the wills for the family- there were so many children in each generation that it will be quite a task. Perhaps they will make just as interesting reading!

The Symons Brickmaking dynasty had quite humble origins, but seemed to hit upon the right business, in the right place, at the right time. It was very much a family affair and continued to be for about the next 100 years. Next time, the transient life of William senior’s eldest son William…

Copyright © 2020 Shersca Genealogy


[1] Baptisms (PR) England. Stogursey, Somerset. 26 December 1805. SYMONS, William. Collection: Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1531-1812. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[2] Burials (PR) England. Stogursey, Somerset. 15 June 1807. SYMONS, James. Collection: Somerset, England, Church of England Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials, 1531-1812. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[3] Baggs, A. P. and Siraut, M. C. (1992) ‘Stogursey.’ In: Dunning, R. W. and Elrington, C. R. eds. A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 6, Andersfield, Cannington, and North Petherton Hundreds (Bridgwater and Neighbouring Parishes). London: Victoria County History. pp. 130-136. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/som/vol6/pp130-136 : accessed 06 July 2020.

[4] Marriages (PR) England. St. Mary, Redcliffe, Bristol. 09 January 1826. SYMONS, William and COOK, Ann. Collection: Bristol, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1935. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[5] Marriage Banns (PR) England. St. Mary, Bridgwater, Somerset. 07, 14, 21 August 1825. SYMONS, William and COOK, Ann. Collection: Somerset, England, Marriage Registers, Bonds and Allegations, 1754-1914. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[6] Census. 1841. England. Hamp, Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: HO107/971. FL 48. BN 2. ED 4. p. 39. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[7] Census. 1851. England. Huntworth Basan, North Petherton, Somerset. PN: HO107/1924. FL 278. SN 73. ED 6c. p. 19. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 06 July 2020.

[8] Directories. England. (1852-1853)               

Slater’s Royal National and Commercial Directory and Topography of the counties of Berkshire, Cornwall, Devonshire, Dorsetshire, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Somersetshire, Wiltshire, and South Wales, 1852-53. Manchester and London: Isaac Slater. p. 52 [761] https://cdm16445.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16445coll4/id/100626/rec/7 : accessed 06 July 2020.

[9] Tweedie, Andrew. Colthurst, Symons and Co. https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Colthurst,_Symons_and_Co : accessed 06 July 2020.

[10] Smedley, B. (1986) The Bridgwater Brickyard Strike of 1896. [Unknown]: Sheep Worrying Books. p. 7.

[11] Porter, E. (c.1970) Bridgwater Industries Past and Present. Bridgwater: Porter. p. 15.

[12] Burnham-on-sea.com. Burnham-on-sea History Pages. http://www.burnham-on-sea.com/history.shtml : accessed 05 February 2018.

[13] Capture Highbridge. BRICK AND TILE PRODUCTION. https://capturehighbridge.wordpress.com/industry/brick-and-tile-production/ : accessed 05 February 2018.

[14] Deaths index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Axbridge, Somerset. 3rd Q., 1868. SYMONS, Ann. Vol. 5c. p. 368. http://www.freebmd.org.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[15] Marriages (CR) England. Congregational Chapel, Bridgwater, Somerset. 16 August 1869. SYMONS, William and BOWDEN, Annie. Entry no. 62.

[16] Births index (CR) England & Wales. RD: Bridgwater, Somerset. 3rd Q., 1872. SYMONS, Hannah. Vol. 5c. p. 411. http://www.freebmd.org.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[17] Testamentary records. England. 02 February 1876. SYMONS, William. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the grants of probate. p. 285. Collection: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[18] Census. 1851. England. Bishop’s Hull, Taunton, Somerset. PN: HO107/1923. FL 189. SN 55. ED 2b. p. 16. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[19] Census. 1861. England. Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: RG9/1625. FL 27. SN 269. ED 9. p. 47. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[20] Census. 1871. England. Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: RG10/2387. FL 28. SN 276. ED 9. p. 48. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[21] Census. 1881. England. Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: RG11/2375. FL 47. ED 9. p. 30. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[22] Census. 1861. England. South Hamlet, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. PN: RG9/1767. FL 109. SN 97. ED 7. p. 19. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[23] Census. 1871. England. North Petherton, Somerset. PN: RG10/2381. FL 22. SN 81. ED 2. p. 16. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[24] Census. 1881. England. Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: RG11/2375. FL 107. ED 11. p. 26. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[25] Testamentary records. England. 12 January 1918. SYMONS, John Rodamond. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the grants of probate. p. 415. Collection: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[26] Census. 1871. England. Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: RG10/2385. FL 82. SN 116. ED 3. p. 21. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[27] Census. 1891. England. Bridgwater, Somerset. PN: RG12/1883. FL 97. ED 6. p. 21. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[28] Marriages (CR) England. Christ Church Chapel, Bridgwater, Somerset. 15 April 1858. COOK, James and SYMONS, Ellen. Entry no. 188.

[29] Census. 1901. England. Weston Super Mare, Somerset. PN: RG13/2326. FL 54. SN 10. ED 21. p. 2. http://www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 09 July 2020.

[30] Testamentary records. England. 14 March 1912. COOK, James. Will. Found in family documents held by Rhiannon Lloyd.