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Berkshire Family Historian
September 2001

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Berkshire Family Historian
Main Page, September 2001 Contents

An appeal for a mangle

Pauline Houldey

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 body.'

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.


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updated 25th February 2002