William Morris of Milford

One of Ari’s 4x great-grandfathers was William Morris, born in Milford, Derbyshire, in 1845.


He was the second son of foundry watchman John Morris and cotton spinner Ann Beresford. I have just discovered a third son, Jacob, who was born when William was five and died at eighteen months. Jacob was baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Milford (this was built in 1842 and closed in 1949 – see this page for a photo).

The 1851 census shows that William was aged five, and at school. The family was living at No. 8, Hopping Hill, West Terrace, Milford.

Milford – view to Hopping Hill and West Terrace
These houses appear to be 2 storeys on Hopping Hill, but are 4 storeys when viewed from Derby Road below.

These houses were built by the Strutt family for mill workers. A conservation document drawn up in 2007 provides some interesting details. Built between 1813 and 1820, the back-to-back cottages were designed with care on a challengingly steep site, and each had its own yard and garden. The cottages did not have running water until 1897.

In the 1861 census, the Morris family were at No. 5. A photo of the unaltered interior can be seen in this document. William (15), his brother George, and their father John were all listed as cotton spinners.

William married Caroline Dawson on 28 Dec 1868. By this time he was a foundry labourer living at Russell Street, Litchurch, in Derby.

Their first child, John Henry, was born the following year, and the 1871 census shows them living with William’s parents at 69 Russell Street. Another three children were born before the next census: Elizabeth Ann (Lizzie) in 1873, Charlotte Ellen (Nellie) in 1875, and Annie in 1880. William started work as an agent for an insurance company, and the family moved to No. 6 Harrington St. In the 1891 census William was still at the same address.

By 1901, William had become a gas fitter. The family were now at 38 Nelson Road in Normanton, Derby. The 1911 census shows that William was working as a gas fitter for Midlands Railway. The Derby Daily Telegraph of 22 November 1904 highlighted the dangers of the job:

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William died on 28 Dec 1914 at 100 Dale Road, Derby. He was described as a gas fitter’s labourer, Railway Works, and the cause of death was asthma, bronchitis and cardiac failure. He was sixty-nine. His daughter Annie was present. I have not found out where William was buried, and he did not leave a will.

Ari, this is how you are related to William:

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John Morris, watchman

One of Ari’s 5x great-grandfathers was John Morris, born in 1817 in Draycott, Derbyshire. His baptism took place on 3 August 1817 at the church in Wilne, which we visited in April 2018.


His parents were James Morris – a cotton spinner – and Alice Castledine. John was their third child.

John lost two baby sisters when he was young – Ann, who died at a few days old in 1828, and Alice, who died nearly two in 1829. Then the following year, John’s mother Alice died at 37.

In the 1841 census we can see John with his father and stepmother:

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1841 census, Ancestry.co.uk

He is living at Hazlewood Place in Milford and working as a cotton spinner.

On 14 April 1843, John married another cotton spinner, Ann Beresford. The wedding took place in Pentrich, site of the Pentrich Revolution in 1817.


By the time of the next census, John and Ann have two boys, George and William, and are living at No. 8 Hopping Hill in Milford.

John was not yet working as a watchman, but there was a connection. In August 1859, this appeared in the newspaper:

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Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, Findmypast.co.uk

In 1861 the family are at No. 5 West Terrace, and in 1871 they have moved to Derby and are at 69 Russell St, Litchurch.

John is now 53 and working as a watchman. Their son William, daughter-in-law Caroline, and one-year-old grandson John Henry are living with them.

The company Eastwood, Swingler & Co. produced ironwork for railways. “The vast capabilities of this establishment may be easily recognised by the fact that Messrs Eastwood Swingler and Co have carried out contracts for roofing the Customs Houses at Port Louis, Mauritius; built bridges in Trinidad, Dominica and St Vincent, West Indies; the large market hall in Singapore; bridges for the Peruvian and Australian Governments, including the beautiful bridge over Morphett Street in Adelaide; the mole at Valparaiso. … Their work can be seen on the Japanese and Swedish Railways, in St Petersburg, Romania, Turkey, Chile, Central and South America, in the Argentine Republic, and, in addition, on all the railways in India, including the new station at Kurrachee – one contract alone for the Indian Government consisting of an order of 235 bridges of various spans for the Kandahar Reserve Railway.” (See https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Eastwood,_Swingler_and_Co.)

John joined the firm in 1863, so he may have taken part in this dinner:

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Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 13 March 1863, Findmypast.co.uk

In 1878, this happened:

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Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, Findmypast.co.uk

In 1876 Ann died, and John married Grace Brooks. In the 1881 census they were living at No. 34 Graham Street in Litchurch. In 1891 John was still working at the age of 73, as a porter at the ironworks, now living at 54 Russell St.

He died on 3 September 1894 at 6 Harrington St, Derby, of “cerebral softening”. He was described as a foundry watchman.

john morris death DM 189 sep 1894
Derby Mercury, 19 September 1894, Findmypast.co.uk
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England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995, Ancestry.co.uk

I have a copy of his will:

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Ari, this is how you are related to John:

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Caroline Dawson of Derby (and the Hot Dog King)

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Caroline Dawson was Ari’s 4x great-grandmother, the mother of Annie Morris (whose story is told in this post). Yesterday we visited Dale Road in Derby, where she lived, and found this Sikh gurdwara.

The house is still there, but is now a little shop, Oceans Travel:


Caroline was born in 1844 in Duffield, Derbyshire. In 1851 she can be seen in the census, aged six, living at Upper Green. Her father, Henry Dawson, was a silk glove maker and framework knitter, and her older brother William was a silk winder. Her grandparents (Henry’s parents, Francis and Martha) were also living with them at the time of the census.

The local newspapers at this time were full of articles discussing the depressed state of the hosiery industry. This is from the Derby Mercury on 24 September 1851:

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By the time that she was sixteen, Caroline was working as a silk glove seamer. In 1864 Caroline’s father died, and on 28 December 1868 she married William Morris, a foundry labourer, at the Register Office in Derby. The 1871 census shows Caroline living with William in the house of his parents, no. 69 Russell Street, Litchurch.

This is the street where Harry M. Stevens, inventor of the hot dog, once lived. He also worked at a local foundry before emigrating to the US. Other ideas of his included improved baseball scorecards for spectators, and selling soda with a straw so you could drink without missing the game.

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Derby Daily Telegraph 12 October 1940

Litchurch is described on Wikipedia as “originally an obscure locality on the edge of Derby” but “rapid urbanisation and population growth in the 19th century led to it briefly existing as a separately governed local authority between 1860 and 1888, prior to once again being absorbed by its neighbour”.

By 1881 Caroline and William were living at 6 Harrington Street in Derby (the house isn’t there any more). Caroline had now had a son, John Henry, who was born in 1869 but sadly died at the age of twelve, and three daughters: Elizabeth Ann (Lizzie) in 1873; Charlotte Ellen (Nellie) in 1875 and Annie in 1880.

In 1891 they are at the same address. Elizabeth and Charlotte are both working (as assistant dressmaker and assistant milliner), and Caroline’s fifteen-year-old nephew, William Frank Dawson, is living with them too.

By 1901 they have moved to 38 Nelson Road, Normanton. Caroline is now fifty-six. No occupation is given for her. William is now working as a gas fitter, and daughters Charlotte and Annie are both milliners.

The 1911 census shows Caroline at 100 Dale Road, Derby, listed as “House Wife”. She died on 21 December 1914.

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Derby Daily Telegraph 21 December 1915

I have not found out where she is buried, and she did not leave a will.

Ari, this is how you are related to Caroline:

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Finding Grandma’s birth family

Ari’s great-great grandmother Winifred (Nigel’s Grandma) was adopted as a baby, and this has always been the most solid brick wall in our family tree.


Yesterday, I was thinking about putting her story on the blog in case anyone could help solve the mystery. I started by looking at her birth certificate, which shows that she was born Edith Winifred Morris on 22 Jul 1903, to Annie Morris, a milliner, residing at The Fleet, Belper (no house number given).

I had read recently that it is a good idea to check the birth address in case it was a nursing home or institution that might have some adoption records, but with no house number this wasn’t so easy. While I was looking at the certificate and thinking about this, it occurred to me that it might be possible to see if another child had been born at the same address, i.e. a sibling of Winifred’s.

Now that we can use the GRO website to check for births without having to order the birth certificate, it is a bit easier. I started by looking for a male or female baby with the surname Morris and mother’s maiden name blank in 1901, but nothing came up as a match. Then I tried 1905 and found a Frederick Hargreaves Morris born in 1904 and an Ida Morris born in 1905.

So the next step was to check these two children in the 1911 census. I could rule out Frederick as I found a baptism with a mother Agnes. But I got very excited as I looked for Ida! It didn’t come up on Ancestry immediately as it had been transcribed as Jda, but this is what I saw:

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As I clicked on the link to the census page, I was thinking “Please be a milliner!”

And look what I found:

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The family are living at 100 Dale Rd in Derby, but Annie’s parents were both born in Belper. So it seems likely that this is Winifred’s mother Annie, with another child Ida, living at home with her parents, William and Caroline.

Of course, this raises almost as many questions as it answers. Why did she keep Ida but give Winifred up for adoption? Did the two girls have the same father? Did Winifred know that she had a sister? Did Annie and Ida ever go and see her or keep in touch? Who was the friend or relation in The Fleet, Belper, with whom Annie stayed to have the baby? There is much still to discover. There was a story that Annie had gone off to America, but I had never managed to trace her (especially as I had guessed her age to be younger and hadn’t thought to extend the search to Derby).

Winifred worked as a hosiery mender at Brettles Factory, and married Harry Spencer on 7 Apr 1928 at the Salem Chapel in Belper. She had six children, three of whom are still living in Belper.

I have now ordered the birth certificate for Annie and the marriage certificate for her parents William Morris and Caroline Dawson. I am hoping that having Annie’s exact birth date will allow me to find out what happened to her and to Ida, but in the meantime there are plenty of cousins to find, and maybe Nigel’s DNA matches will provide evidence for this new connection.

Henry Winifred

Postscript 21 Aug 2017: I now have the birth certificates for Annie and Ida, but still can’t track them down! Annie was born on 14 May 1880 at 6 Harrington Street in Derby. Ida was born on 25 Jul 1905 at Swainsley Court, Milford, Belper. This has now been demolished but was apparently a building where single mill-workers lived. The birth certificate supports my view that this is the right family though, because Ida’s mother is also Annie Morris, a milliner.

Ari, this shows how you are related to Winifred:

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