My father's family seemed to be firmly rooted
in London so it was surprising to find that his
grandmother, Letitia Povey, was a Reading woman
born at Ball Court, 144 Friar Street on May 2,
1855. She married my great-grandfather Alfred
Charles France of Kensington on Sunday November
25, 1877 at St. Maiy's Church, Reading. Her
parents were John Povey, of Chieveley, baptised
in 1819 and Hannah Havell and they married at St.
Lawrence Church, Reading in 1847. I found John
plus two children in the 1851 census at 13 Abbey
Wall, but no Hannah.
By 1861 Hannah was at 59 Friar Street, a
laundress, widowed, with several small children
and two lodgers. My curiosity was immediately
aroused so I looked for John's death certificate.
I was saddened to find he had suffered an
untimely, early death in unusual circumstances at
the South Eastern Railway Station, Reading.
It is always worth looking through a local
newspaper when an accident like this occurred so
it was with more than a little hope that I looked
at The Berkshire Chronicle. The issue for
March lo revealed the full sad story. A South
Western train arrived at the station at 8.35 in
the evening; once the passengers had left the
carriages were run back to the facing points.
William Pyke, a porter at the station gave
evidence to the inquest:
'The engine was uncoupled from the
carriages. A rope is then attached to the engine,
which steams on about 12 yards, and the towrope
being then unhitched, the points are opened, and
the carriages towed into a siding. This was done
by deceased and myself, the former having command
of the rope, and generally ran by the side of the
train to unhook the rope. I was holding the
facing points for the train to run into the
siding. Newton, the driver and Slater, the
fireman, had charge of the engine. After the
train had rum into the siding. I went into the
parcel office and about three minutes afterwards
Slater came in and said, 'Bring the lamps'!
Here's Jack Povey or somebody else got under the
train.' The ticket collector and myself went out
with a lamp, and we found the deceased lying
across the rails on his back between the
carriages, of which there were four, and it
appeared that two of them had passed over his
In the same issue of the Chronicle is an
appeal for his widow. Hannah had six children,
the youngest an infant of seven months.
'A few charitable individuals have commenced
a subscription, to supply the immediate
wants of the poor widow, and they trust, by
the generous aid of a sympathising public, to
obtain sufficient to provide her with the
means of supporting at least in part, her helpless
children, only one of whom, a boy of
twelve years, is at present off her hands.
She has been accustomed to mangling, and
it is desired to purchase for her a good and
efficient mangle, and to aid her in such
other ways as may appear desirable.'
Letitia, my great-grandmother, was almost five
at the time. How did Hannah manage to support her
young family? Was she the recipient of a splendid
new mangle? In fact, what happened to her? I
cannot find her in 1871 or 1881, although two of
her now adult sons lived at 27 Chatham Street,
the address Letitia gave on her marriage. One can
only hope that a mangle was forthcoming.
There was one final link between the
generations. John Povey was called Jack by his
workmates. My father, John France, his
greatgrandson, was also always known as Jack.