By Brenda Nicholson
In the 1851 census returns for Southampton, Henry O’Farrell states that he was born in Sligo, Ireland. From his age at the time of this and other documents, he was born around 1818. However, on the 1871 census returns, just before his death, he states his place of birth as Meath, Ireland.
According to his marriage certificate, Henry’s father was George, a Captain in the Sligo Militia. There was no evidence to support this, not in the Sligo Militia Muster Rolls, (Mr Nicholson, a descendant of Henry’s and others had thoroughly searched these), nor according to any records actually held in Sligo. According to the Sligo Family Research Society, the O’Farrells were never in Sligo – or IF they ever were, for such a short time that no record bearing the name of O’Farrell was ever made.
If ever the O’Farrells visited Sligo (albeit for a short time), there are several theories as to why no records exist.
Around the time of Henry’s birth, there were two famines in Ireland – one in 1817, and the other in 1822. Records of baptisms were probably not kept very accurately.
It was possible that the ‘Sligo Militia’ that Henry’s father, George, was a member of, was a part time organisation. This could mean that George O’Farrell was anything from a farmer to a spud-digger!
In 1822, cholera hit Sligo town – just supposing that George died then – not only would burial records not be kept, it was so bad that there were not enough graves to bury the dead. The population of Sligo was reduced from 15,000 to 12,000. Business was completely suspended, nearly all the houses being closed, and the people were dying daily in their hundreds. The Courthouse was converted into a carpenter’s shop, but as the twenty available carpenters were unable to cope with the demand for coffins, many of the those stricken down had to be buried in ‘pitched sheets’. Four of the local doctors died, as did one visiting from Dublin, but the clergy all escaped.
Henry’s mother was Mary, and she was born in Ireland (1851 census) in c 1785. She gave birth to Henry when she was about 33 years old.
She eventually settled in this country and lived in 1841 in Blue Anchor Court with her then husband, George Wilson, who was a mariner. She was aged about 56 at the time, and her husband was 55.
In the 1851 census when Mary and George lived in Blue Anchor Court, they lived next door to several Italian musicians, including a harp player from Naples. On the night of the 1851 census, Mary and George had visitors; they were William Bailey, born in Cork, Elizabeth Belcher, born in Bath, Thomas and Mary Heath, both born in Portsmouth.
George Wilson died of Dropsy in Blue Anchor Yard on the 17th June 1854. The informant was Richard Armstrong who made his mark. George Wilson was then 68 years old. He was buried on the 22nd June 1854.
N.B. There is no documentary evidence that the George Wilson that I have details on is THE George Wilson who was married to Mary Wilson, Henry’s mother. However, All the indications are that he probably was the right one. This is the evidence that I have; so judge for yourself:
It is written in the Cemeteries Department that Mary Wilson was the widow of George Wilson, a seaman. George Wilson died in 1854, and Mary died in 1866, so she could have been his widow. Also George Wilson’s profession in the 1851 census returns is stated as that of a seaman.
Their ages were similar, and fitted in with Mary’s age when she died.
Mary died in St John’s Court; Mary and George Wilson lived in Blue Anchor Court, so they lived in the same type of accommodation.
According to the 1851 census, Mary Wilson was born in Ireland, which again would tie up with Henry’s supposed origin.
Blue Anchor Court was in West Quay, situated close to ‘Tudor House Museum’ – the road that runs parallel to it is called Blue Anchor Lane. All the Courts appear to have been slum dwellings, and were condemned in 1890 in the Simnel Street improvement plan. In those days a genteel visitor to Southampton would have no idea of the slums lurking behind the fine ‘old walls’.
“Blue Anchor Court has an entrance through the Old Town Walls from West Quay, this blind Court consisting of seven unhealthy houses, dark and dilapidated. They are all without ground floor ventilation. The dimensions of the Court are 57 x 32 feet. The houses, moreover, are without through ventilation, and have no backyards. They are mostly damp and dark. The free circulation of air in and out the house is impossible. The Court is without an ashpit, the water supply is from a common tap in the Court. Sanitary conveniences are also situated in the Court. Population 24.”
“A Wooden Tenement” The property is practically a wooden shed, now closed by an order of the Magistrates as unfit for habitation. It really forms part of the risk of its temporary inhabitants.”
Where Mary lived from 1851 until her death in 1866 is unknown. When she died, she was living at St John’s Court, Southampton. The cause of death was ‘natural decay’. The information was given by Caroline Broomer, also of St John’s Court. Caroline made her mark, and since she was both apparently illiterate and unrelated, perhaps she may be forgiven for getting Mary’s age widely wrong, for it was given as 70 years. She was buried on 3rd September 1866, and was aged between 81 and 84 years old. She is buried with her son Henry, and his wife Betsy in Hill Lane Cemetery. The inscription on the headstone reads ‘In memory of Mary Wilson who died September 3rd 1866 aged 83 years. Also her son Henry O’Farrell for many years in the service of the South Western Steam Packet Company who died September 6th aged 51 years. His end was peace. Also Elizabeth O’Farrell (Betsy) wife of the above who died September 21st 1885 aged 65 years. She fell asleep in Jesus.”
Henry O’Farrell was a mariner, and at the time of his marriage in 1838, lived at West Quay. He married Betsy Penford, born 5.12.1820, in Eling, Marchwood, daughter of a labourer, George Penford and Frances (nee Phillips). They were married on 17th June 1838. The banns were called out at St Michaels Parish. The witnesses were Sarah Jupe and Richard Penny. (There is also a Richard Penny living at 1 Cushens Court, French Street in 1861, in Oxford Street in 1871, and also in the I.G.I. Register, Esther O’Farrell married John Penny at Portsea on the 26th February 1804).
Betsy Penford was a live-in servant at Orchard Lane at the time of her marriage.
In the 1841 census returns, Henry and Betsy lived together in Cushens Court, French Street, Southampton. They had a son Henry, aged 2, (baptized on 14th July 1839) and a daughter Betsy, who was aged over a year. There is no mention of little Betsy in the 1851 census (she would have been aged 10 by then), and they had another daughter in 1845 who was also called Betsy, so it seems the first Betsy must have died in infancy. There is no mention of the first Betsy in the births or burials.
Infant mortalities must have been commonplace ion these hovels knows as the ‘Courts’, which were buildings in the backyards of houses. William Ranger, a sanitary engineer was designated as inspector by the Board of Public Health in 1848 to make a report in conditions in Southampton. There was a cholera epidemic in Britain in 1848-9, and there were fears of it reaching Southampton (which it did). An interim report stresses “the filthy state of the streets”, where “from want of regular scavengers, heaps of rubbish, containing vegetable refuse, entrails of fish and various other animal matter, remained for days and weeks unheeded”, and listing a long catalogue of nuisances from unemptied privies, cesspools, imperfect drains running under houses, pigsties, manure heaps, and other accumulations of filth. The report urged immediate steps to remove these. And a committee was set up; the only action it appeared to take was to issue 3,000 handbills telling people what to do.
The cholera came; the first case reported on 17th June 1849. The mortality of the disease was mainly congregated on the slums of the old town, notably Simnel Street, Back-of-the-Walls, and the foul and narrow courts behind the High Street.
Witnesses, including several doctors, and other people, including Le Feuvre and Laishley, reported on the “filthy nuisances” made by the towns 20 or so slaughterhouses. Most butchers kept pigs on their premises, workmen kept pigs in courts and alleys. In addition there were overflowing middens and filthy privies, “saturating the ground and impregnating the air with foul gas”. Some of the privies in Charlotte Place had not been emptied for fifteen years. There was as many as 44 and in one case 74 people using one privy.
The relatively respectable area of the pond at Padwell Cross had been used as a repository in which the bodies of unwanted infants were deposited, and unwanted dogs and cats were drowned and subsequently became exposed in a putrid state.
For a large majority of the people living in the courts, the only water supply was by means of a standpipe, which could have been about 200 yards away, “a serious inconvenience and discomfort to the working class.... perhaps in cold, rain or snow. Returning home late at night from hard toil, they prefer to remain dirty.”
Dr Cooper, one of the doctors who were witnesses as mentioned above, wrote to Ranger to add to his report.
“I have seen and visited paupers in their illness who have lain in hovels fit for pigs and where pigs would infallibly have died for want of air. More than once I have been compelled in the depth of winter and at midnight to stand in the street or walk to and from till my assistance has been required, not being able to breathe the air of the apartment where the wretched sufferer lay.... Some have declared to me when I was inspecting their houses that they have never been well since they lived in them, and yet they paid as much as 3/6, 4/- and 4/6 a week rental. On my asking them why they did not leave a place where they were constantly unwell, they replied, “Where can we go? It’s all the same for the poor.” On asking them why they did not complain to their landlord, they said, “We have complained till we are tired,” and others said they were afraid.”
Another factor contributing to disease was the fact that people were burying their dead in All Saints burial-ground, which was situated in the heart of the town. They refused to use the new cemetery at the Common, which cost more.
There were also fifteen registered lodging houses, mostly in Blue Anchor lane, Simnel Street, West Street, and St Michaels Square. These between them could accommodate 376 persons, two to a bed, at three pence a night. They had become the resort of not only vagrants and prostitutes, but also the “ordinary” poor.
In September and October 1865 there were forty-one fatal cases of cholera, one of the victims being the devoted Dr Cooper. Although Henry and his family had moved away from such places by about 1844/1845, he must have been living in these awful conditions when he and Betsy were first married, and had their first four children, one of whom died, as mentioned before. Cushens Court was also condemned in 1890, and the following is a description:
The Court is blocked at its entrance by two old houses in French Street, and contains houses that are unhealthy by reasons of dampness, want of light and air. Population 59. A narrow blind Court, 124 x 11 ft, leading from the west side of French Street, containing 14 houses arranged on either side. Except one house, all are without through ventilation and the admission of air to the Court is greatly impeded by Ref Nos 93 & 94 which are high buildings, partly in the Court and partly in French Street. In the Court itself five of the houses are reported as obstructive. The backs of the houses on the south side at the time of my visit were saturated with water from top to bottom. The property is bad. The Court also contains covered ashpit and sanitary conveniences. The houses, except in 1 or 2 cases, are without ground floor ventilation.
Henry junior later married Arabella, and he became a mercantile clerk. In 1871 census, he lived with his wife at 11 Oxford Street, Southampton when he was 31 and she was 29. She replaced May Moody, a servant, born in Lymington, who was 19 in 1851. Annie later married Henry Charles Johnson when he was 22 and she was 21. Henry Johnson was an engineer, and was the son of an engineer, Joseph Johnson. They both lived at 47 Oxford Street at the time of their marriage. They married on 23 rd February 1864 at St James Docks by license, and the witnesses were John Bessant and Betsy O’Farrell. Henry and Betsy’s next child, Elizabeth Jane (known as Betsy) was baptized on 27th July 1846, whilst they were living at St George’s Place, Southampton. St George’s Place was just below Bernard Street (about where Pouparts and British Telecom buildings now are), and was definitely more ‘up-market’ than Cushens Court.
Henry and his
family moved to Oxford Street after this time; the houses in this street were
all newly built. The properties were built from about 1842 onwards by a developer,
George Laishley, who held a long lease from Queen’s College, Oxford, who
had owned Oxford Street from an early date. In the 1846 Kelly’s Directory,
Henry’s address was 45 Oxford Street, and on the 1851 census returns,
his address was 47 Oxford Street. It would appear, therefore, that Henry must
have rented a block of houses from Mr Laishley.
It is possible that Henry and Besty came into some money at around 1845/1846, as they moved from Cushens Court to St George’s Place, and then to Oxford Street, and were able to afford a servant by 1851.
Henry and Betsy’s next two children were daughters, Louisa, baptized 5th December 1847, and Emily, baptized 22nd July 1849.
Their next child, a son, Alfred, was baptized on 3rd November 1850. He was married to Selina Blore, born c 1853, on 5th November 1876, who later became a milliner at 22 Onslow Road, Southampton (1911 Kellys). They had the Juniper Berry, Upper Bugle Street, Southampton. Upper Bugle Street was then known as Castle Square, and in 1806 to 1809, Jane Austen and her family had a house on the same spot as the Juniper Berry. Alfred and Selina appear to be only managers, as the pub was in the name of Matilda Blore (1898 Kellys). Selina’s mother?
The Juniper Berry was reputed to be haunted. A girl in a white shift would appear, chains would rattle. The family dog would refuse to go down the cellar steps and his hair would stand on end. In the 1960s, the Juniper Berry had a very bad reputation as the meeting place for homosexuals – the present tenants have now called it The Castle Tavern, and it is a respectable family pub.
Alfred and Selina had 6 children. Horace Alfred Patrick Blore Benedict was the second child, first son. He married Louisa Gertrude Watson. Horace was born on the 23rd August 1882. Louisa was born on the 6th February 1878. Horace had a van and was a well-known trader in Southampton. They lived at York Street, Northam, Southampton. He started his business with a small shop (Messrs H. O’Farrel & Sons) and his van called weekly in almost every district in the Borough from about 1923. He started the business in 1921, and specialized in the selling of oil for house-hold purposes. His wife ran a small general store in Lodge Road until 1933. Horace was nick-named ‘Crockery Joe’ by some of the local lads. One of Horace’s sons, Desmond, accompanied his father on the round.
On 24th December 1934, Horace and Louisa were returning home after a Christmas Eve Party at Southampton’s Ex-Servicemens’ club in Archers Road. They were crossing Rockstone Lane from the direction of the Inner Avenue at about 11.45pm when they were struck by a large green saloon car driven by George Byford of Wilton Road, Shirley. Mrs O’Farrell died before she was admitted to the Royal South Hants Hospital. She was 56 years old.
Horace never fully recovered from the accident, and as a result was unable to work properly. Two of his children, Desmond and Patricia, who were the only unmarried ones out of his 4 children, were ‘means-tested’ in order to support their father. The children discovered that although they were supporting him, he was hoarding £1 notes!
Patricia had to sleep in a pram until she was 7 years old. Desmond was very close to his mother. She called him her “Faithful and True”. It was Desmond’s job to lock up. Horace called his wife ‘Lou’. Apparently, Horace was a bit of an ogre.
Horace and Louisa had 4 children, Terence Alfred Edward, Denis Ede, Desmond Horace, and Patricia. Terence married Daisy Cook, and they had 3 children. Terence died in 1980. Denis married Alma Shepherd, and they had 3 children. Denis died in 1981 of cirrhosis of the liver. Desmond married Bessie Colbourne first, after a fall at home. Patricia married Bert Mealor, and they had three children. They made their home in Merseyside.
Henry and Betsy’s last three children were Alexander, born 2nd June 1853, Isabella, born 18th December 1854, and Matilda, born 13th November 1856. Alexander Married Mary, and they had a son Reginald Alexander on 16th November 1881. Isabella married William Charles Lipscomb, born 31st December 1854, and married on 16th February 1879. They had 4 children. Matilda married Zaphyrus Joseph Hudson in 1879.
Henry states he is a mariner in the 1841 and 1851 returns, a ship steward in the 1861 census returns, and a hotel keeper in the 1871 census returns.
Although a search has been made through the alphabetical index of Seamens’ tickets in the Public Records Office at Kew, no record of Henry was found there. However, from information received from the Guildhall Library in London on the names of ships owned by the South-Western Steam Packet Company, Henry’s name was found on the crew-list (held by Southampton Record Office at the Civic Centre) of the paddle steamer ‘Wonder;’ in 1863. He was then aged 43 and was a steward. He still states his place of birth as Sligo! On the crew-list for 1864, Henry took his son Alfred, then 15, on the Wonder with him. He was employed as a third steward. The Wonder was travelling from Southampton to Jersey at this time, and Henry and Alfred stayed in Jersey between trips (about a 10 day break).
Also sailing on the ‘Wonder’ was engineer Joseph Johnson, born in Truro, aged 54 years. This must have been the same Joseph Johnson, engineer, whose son, Henry Charles Johnson married Annie (one of Henry’s daughters) on 23rd February 1864.
The P.S. ‘Wonder’ was put on the Southampton-Havre route in 1845, when it was about one year old. She was registered in Southampton in 1855 (No 13,825) weight 137 tons. In 1863 she was owned by the London & Southwest Railway Company (E.K. Corke), and her master was E.B. Clement of Freemantle, Southampton (later Jersey). She was an iron paddler, had engines of Seawards ‘atmospheric’ condensing type giving a speed of 14 knots. The cylinders (of which there were three) were placed vertically and had open tops, the downward stroke of the pistons being due to atmospheric pressure acting on the top of the pistons and the vacuum at the bottom, hence the name. In 1854 she was transferred to the Weymouth-Channel Islands station, 1863 and 1864 Southampton, Channel Islands, St Malo 1867-1869 between Jersey and St Malo, and was scrapped in 1874.
Employees of the Steam Packet Companies were exempted from paying toll money to use the Itchen Bridge Ferry (up to 1868), and their families only had to pay half-toll. This contributed to the company running the ferry to get into serious financial difficulties.
He died on 6th September 1871, aged about 52, of cirrhosis of the liver. He was buried on the 11th September at 1.30 in the afternoon. The informant was W O’Farrell, who was present at the time of death, and gave his address as 11 Oxford Street (Henry junior’s address) – there is no indication of the relationship of this W O’Farrell. (There was however a William Farrell, an officer in the army in Sligo on 5th February 1852).
Henry O’Farrell left a very complicated will, dated 15th April 1854, and left most of his estate to his wife Betsy (but only if she didn’t remarry). Betsy was directed to pay for his children’s upbringing and education by means of the income of his Trust property. He left amounts of £30 to his children to be applied to his or her advancement if they had reached the age of 21, but not to his daughters if they had married.
Unfortunately Henry gave no indication in his will what if any property he owned. He only mentioned his ‘trust property’. From a Bill of Sale, dated 20th August 1886, we know he had leasehold the of 47 Oxford Street, for many years known as O’Farrell’s Private Hotel and Boarding House, and also the freehold of the Baltic Tavern in Standford Street, Chapel, Southampton, and two six-roomed houses with gardens, being 31 and 32 Standford Street.
Betsy died on the 24th September 1886, and as she left no will, the Probate was granted to her son Alexander, who lived at Clifford Crescent, Southampton. Henry O’Farrell’s personal estate was £238/6/6, including leaseholds. His solicitor was W. Hickman, Southampton, his trustee was William James Le Fuevre, Esquire, of Southampton. William Le Feuvre, who was of Channel Islands origin, was a leading figure in Southampton’s business and political (Conservative) circles. He was once Mayor of Southampton, and the proprietor of several steamers, so was probably Henry’s ‘boss’.
So, Henry O’Farrell died in 1871 never really knowing where he had was born. As with the rest of us, there was always the romance that he had come from Sligo, Ireland, when in fact, according to the records of that time, he had never been there, and anyway, he, like the majority of the O’Farrells (though some have moved away), spent most of his life in Southampton.
Christie (nee O’Farrell) 21st April 1991 (census day).
Further research needed.
Contained in the letter from the Guildhall library, it was suggested that Southampton Maritime Museum may have further details of ships owned by South Western Steam Packet Company. On telephoning the museum, I was given the name of Mr Alastair Forsythe, Maritime Researcher; I telephoned Mr Forsythe and he informed me that there was a stained glass window of the ‘Wonder’, which had come from a local Southampton pub. I made an appointment to see the stained glass window. I went on 15th May 1991, accompanied by my husband, at 2.30pm.
Mr Forsythe showed me the stained glass window, which was quite wonderful, and in good condition. He didn’t know the name of the pub it came from, only that it was a pub in Northam, Southampton. The Baltic Tavern (once owned by Henry O’Farrell), was in Chapel, which is very close to the Northam area. Mr Forsythe was interested in the family connection with the ‘Wonder’, ie Henry, his son Alfred, Joseph Johnson (Henry’s daughter Annie’s father-in-law), and he asked me to write a report, just outlining some of the details to do with the ‘Wonder’. He also asked for a copy of the Bill of Sale of the Baltic Tavern.
In a book entitled “Southampton Blitz” by Brodie in Southampton Lending Library in the Local History Section, there is a picture of the Baltic Tavern after it had been damaged by enemy action on the 26th September 1940. The picture is courtesy of Southern Newspapers. I contacted the Southern Evening Echo, but they were unable to help me, saying that they suffered quite heavy bomb damage during the war, and a great deal of their material was destroyed. However, a member of staff suggested I contact the publishers of the book to see if they know how to get a copy of the photograph. If I had a transparency perhaps I could have the photograph enlarged, and would be able to see if there is any evidence of a stained glass window.
In an 1865 electoral roll, there was a James O’Farrell living in Cliff Terrace, Bevois Valley. None of Henry’s sons were called James, so this could be another branch of the O’Farrell family.
I have checked various addresses in Southampton in the 1861 census returns, trying to find the whereabout of Mary Wilson in that year, in order to hopefully establish whether or not the Mary Wilson of Blue Anchor Court is indeed Henry’s mother. I haven’t tried Oxford Street yet, but as she died in St John’s Court, it’s doubtful she would have moved from the luxury of Oxford Street, back to the squalor of St John’s Court (unless there was a family rift). When she died, Henry must have asked for the grave to be reserved for himself and his wife. The South-Western Steam Packet Company must have commissioned the gravestone.
To get any more information about Henry’s descendants from other generations I must go to St Catherine’s House in London.