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© David Hallam - 2020

The Hudston Families of Ockbrook, Derbyshire -

Hudston BibleAlthough, as we have seen most of the Hudston families in the East Midlands were originally clustered in south-east Derbyshire, it appears that there were none in Ockbrook, a village in that area, before the 1830s - although, again as we have seen, the first to settle in Beeston - James and his wife Mary - had married in Risley, closer to Ockbrook than Beeston, in 1809.

Otherwise, the first to settle there and, from whom all Ockbrook Hudstons apparently descend, was James and Mary's second surviving son, William Hudston, born in Beeston in 1816 1, who married Jane Dowman, the ninth of eleven children of Ockbrook blacksmith Thomas Dowman and his wife Elizabeth (née Wild) 2. William appears to have arrived in Ockbrook in about 1830 3, aged 14, to serve an apprenticeship there, in his trade as a shoemaker - rather, it seems, than to learn the trade with his shoemaker father in Beeston. The couple appear to have been attracted to one another some time before they were in a position to marry, at Ockbrook Parish Church on 6th June 1838 4.

The couple were to make their home where William traded as a shoemaker and where they raised their family and were to live out their entire lives, in a cottage - later named Ivy Lodge - opposite to Jane's father's smithy and family home on Church Street, Ockbrook. It is a location that can be easily identified today, just below what was the National School and is now the Parish Hall.

Probably as a young man starting out on his own in life, William had been given a Bible by his father which was inscribed :
Willm Hudston - My son if sinners entice thee consent them not - Prov(erbs) 10 5 - The gift of your Father - JH.
This Bible has survived and is now in the possession of the author 6. It provides this contemporary record of William and Jane's eleven children, faithfully inscribed inside the back cover (see right) 7. Our account will follow their lives - some of them with particularly surprising stories - which collectively comprise the basis of all Ockbrook Hudstons.

Henry Hudston - was born on March 5 1838 in Ockbrook, some four months before his parent's marriage. Although we do not know the reason why the marriage was delayed, the child's birth certificate does show that both parents acknowled parentage as, unusually, Henry was registered with his father's surname and with his mother's maiden name 6. But, to add to the confusion of the circumstance, within about two years, Henry was moved to Beeston to live with his grandparents, John and Mary Hudston 7. He was to remain there for perhaps around twenty years, during which he served an apprenticeship with his shoemaker grandfather 8. By 1861, however, he had moved back to Ockbrook to work with his father 9 but appears to have moved on shortly after that with no trace of him found from that date.

Ann Rebecca Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 24 January 1840. After her school years in Ockbrook, she worked in domestic service as a cook - in 1861 she was working in a household in Nottingham's fashionable Park District 10 and, in 1871, she was part of the domestic staff of five serving the Rector of Norbury cum Snelston, Derbyshire, just over the border in Staffordshire at Basford Hall 11. But, by the mid 1870s, it appears that she had moved once more as, on 14 July 1877 she married Thomas Edward Dennis at the Parish church in Heanor, Derbyshire 12 following which they made their home in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire 13. Thomas had been working as a platelayer for the Great Northern Railway and continued to so so for the remainder of his working life - eventually becoming a foreman. He was born in Horsington, Lincolnshire in 1849 14, part of a family which had toiled on the land for many generations and his move to work on the railways was typical of young man looking for more secure employment away from the land - and the GNR, being his local railway was to eventually bring him into the Midlands. Remarkably, Thomas's older brother, William Dennis, was to stay on the land and change dramatically the fortunes of himself and his family as well as the that of those in his Lincolnshire community. It appears that William, and later his sons, remained in touch with Thomas and his family - particularly, as we will see later - in the 1920s. It is therefore fitting to include an outline of William's life and his remarkable achievements.

William Dennis - 'The Potato King'

Dennis statue William Dennis was born in Horsington, Lincolnshire on 8 September 1841, the third child, second son of William & Harriett (née Major). Like his father before him and generations of others in this area he started work on the land. In William's case, as a lad, he riddled potatoes for just a few shillings in wages while always retaining the ambition for a better life - something that can only have intensified with the increased responsibilities of his marrage, in 1864, to Sarah Ann Whitworth, the daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth (née Roberts). They went on to have nine children, with the seven surviving into adulthood going on to become important contributors to their father's eventual enormous success.

William, unlike the majority of local farmers at the time, believed in the humble potato as a route to success and saw the intensive cultivation of them, using the rich Lincolnshire soil, as the route to success. Land ownership was the key and by 1870 he had been able to acquire a modest three acre holding in Kirton, Lincolnshire. Although the first year crop was not a success, he persevered and, within ten years, his holdings in the village had grown to thirteen acres and the level of output had enabled him to open a wholesale business in London. By 1900 he had progressed further, holding 3000 acres and, in 1902, he was in a position to donate 250 tons of potatoes towards the dinners provided by King Edward VII for the London poor on the occasion of his Coronation.

By this time, William's five sons were fully engaged in the business - indeed some had been directly responsible for establishing and developing the family's operations in Kings Cross and Covent Garden in London and even in New York. Such was the extent and complexity of the business that, in 1907, it became a private limited liability company with William as the Managing Director and his sons as shareholders. And, expansion continued apace with the acreage reaching 6000 by 1914 and increasing be a further 2240 during that year. By then the farming operation was being carried on an industrial scale with iniatitive ideas and an efficient workforce making it all work. As well as the latest farm machinery and in-house facilities, the company was an innovator in the use of railways laid throughout the fields to move the product efficiently to the rail network and, no doubt with William's memories of his own early hand-to-mouth early in his working life, pioneering and generous profit-sharing schemes for the employees were introduced.

In 1920, in what was then the largest agricultural transfer the country had ever seen, the company - which by then was farming over 10,000 acres - was sold to a City firm for a sum reputed to be around £2 million.

William and his family had made their home at Kirton House in the village of Kirton, Lincolnshire and it was here that he died on 21st June 1924. In his lifetime he had served the local community well, as a Justice of the Peace, was an Alderman of Holland County Council and the Boston Guardians and Rural District Council and was a immensely significant benefactor in the area. He provided the Wesleyan Church in Kirton and, in 1911 to commemorate the Coronation of King George V. he gave a town hall to Kirton and later added two adjacent plots of land for community use. Following his death, an oil painting depicting him was placed in the Town Hall and, in 1930, a statue (shown above) was erected in front of the hall.

His funeral was attended by a huge number of people from far and wide and from all walks of life, all anxious to pay their respects to a great man. His coffin was conveyed on a farm cart, drawn by a pair of black horses and a large procession of motor cars followed carrying the mourners, between Kirton House to the Wesleyan Chapel and then to the cemetery in Kirton. A procession of his employees, school-children and others, in all about half-a-mile long, followed.

It was a fitting set-off for a man who had truly earned the title that was widely attributed to him at the time - "The Potato King". He had transformed the rural economy in his area, he had built a fortune from nothing while serving those around him and earning their absolute respect. He was a truly remarkable man.

This summary of the life of William Dennis is derived mainly from the large number of newspaper stories featuring him over the years.

Annie Eliza Dennis Thomas and Ann Rebecca had one child, Annie Eliza Dennis who was born in Eastwood in July 1879 15. She never married but was to move to Ockbrook where she lived for the remainder of her life, as a housekeeper - aspects of her life which we will explore later on this page. Thomas and Ann Rebecca appear to have continued their connections with Heanor Parish Church during the whole of their life together and it was there, in 1898, that Annie Eliza was confirmed (The photo on the right is believed to be of her on that occasion 16) and, by 1901 they had moved to live at Bailey Grove in nearby Langley Mill 17 where they took lodgers to help with the household budget. They were still there in 1911 18 but later moved to Elnor Street in the town and it was there that AnnRebecca died in August 1922 and was buried in Heanor Cemetery 19. Her husband also died there in June 1924 and was buried with his late wife 20. Up to his death, in his last illness, as surviving letters show 21, his brother William wrote regularly from Kirton, asking after his brother (referred to as "Tommie") despite the sad fact that he himself was not well. In the event William died three days after his brother with the letter advising him of Thomas's death arriving on the same day, when he was too ill to take in the sad news.

Eliza Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 23 July 1842. The family Bible records that she died on 28 September 1861 when she was aged 19 22.

Mary Elizabeth Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 24 March 1845. As a young woman she worked as a servant in the household of Samuel Wilson, the Minister and school director in the Moravian Settlement in Ockbrook 23. Later she took a position of cook in a household in Sneinton, Nottingham 24. In June 1876, in Ockbrook, she married William Richardson who was born in Emberton, Buckinghamshire in 1854 25. Although the circumstances are not clear, it appears that he had moved to Ockbrook within the previous few years and was working in the area as a labourer. The couple were to make their home in Derby from where William took several jobs as a groom and gardener and they where they were joined by William's widowed mother and other Richardson family members 26. The couple were to have four children, two of whom survived - Mary Jane Richardson, born in August 1876 and Samuel Hudston Richardson, born towards the end of 1880 27. Both were taken back to Ockbrook for baptism 28. Mary Elizabeth died in February 1913 in Derby and was buried in the Nottingham Road Cemetery. William died in 1924 29. Mary Jane Richardson married William Henry Blanksby in May 1896 30 and they went on to have seven children. By 1911, they made their home at 64 Darley Street, Derby when William was working as a brake repairer at the Midland Railway carriage and wagon works 31. Later in their lives they appear to have moved to 78 Darley Street from where William found work as the caretaker of a licenced club 32. He died in 1952 followed, in 1966, by his widow 33. Samuel was working as a millwright and living with his parents in 1911. He appears not to have married.

The Moravian Community in Ockbrook

Moravian Settlement The Moravian Church has its origins in Moravia, whish is nowadays part of the Czech Republic. By the early 18th century, refugees from Moravia who had settled in Saxony, near the Polish border, began to travel to various parts of the world to spread the Gospel, expecting to form societies within existing established churches, While in London, en-route to North America, they were treated with such enthusiasm by local Christians that they established a chapel on Fetter Lane, near Fleet Street. At first the Society included John and Charles Wesley but, after disagreements developed, the Wesleys went their own way while The Society continued the establish its own standing - including amicable relations with the then Archbishop of Canterbury. The Society had become an important part of the evangelical revival that was a feature of 18th Century England. An important factor in its success in this environmanet was its focus on greater spiritual depth in religious life, based solidly on the Scriptures, while existing side-by-side with, while challenging, the Church of England, It was time to take the word beyond London.

In 1739, Isaac Frearson, an Ockbrook man, came across Rev Jacob Rogers, a Bedford curate who had been influenced by the Moravians, who was preaching in the Market Place in Nottingham. Impressed by what he heard, Frearson invited Rogers to Ockbrook where he preached in a barn and inspired many of the villagers such that, over the next ten years, many of them developed the wish to form a local Church. Although this was against its origional principles of working with, rather than separate from, the Established Church, permission was eventually granted and a local congregation of the Moravian Church was formed on 24th September 1750. Isaac Frearson's estate was acquired and a church was built in 1751-2 which formed the basis of the community which, led by its energetic Minister John Ockerschausen became well establised as a focus for followers in a wide local area. By the end of the 18th Century, assisted by its central location, Ockbrook had become the focal point of the Moravian Church in England and in 1825 it moved its Administrative Headquarters to Ockbrook - where it stayed until 1875. By 1777 the Ockbrook community was living by a agreed moral code which applied in all matters, spiritual and secular.

The Settlement, with the church as its centre, developed strongly over the next several decades. A Brethren's House was built in 1757 followed by a Sister's House two years later. These provided training in trade skills - such as shoemaking, framework knitting and needle crafts - for unmarried members of the community. Cottages were built for married couples and a girls' school was opened in 1799 which now operates as an independant private school. Later, in 1831, a Sunday School/Lecture Hall was provided - which was used by the Red Cross as a hospital for recovering soldiers during the 1914-18 war. Much of the development was financed by devoted followers, such as one Elizabeth Bates who paid for many of the buidings that were built in the second and third decades of the 19th Century and left the Minister's house to the community in her will.

The Burial Ground - often referred to as 'God's Acre' - was consecrated in 1752 and has recently, in 2018, been extended, is an area of peace and tranquility. The simple, uniform headstones with inscription, set into the grass rather than the usual vertical stones. are a reminder that all are equal in death

The church continues to appeal to an active membership in an attactive and welcoming environment.

The Settlement lies to the north-west of the village and may be accessed from Bare Lane, near to the Cross Keys pub.

Photograph by Garth Newton from his website which may be seen here.
The image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

James HudstonJames Hudston - shown right - was born in Ockbrook on 25 July 1847. As a boy he would have learned his trade as a shoemaker from his father and, as a young man, he is to be found working in that trade, at home with his father and older brother 34. In 1870, aged 22, he married Mary Ann Currington at the Parish Church in Ockbrook 35 and they set up their own home on Church Street. It was about this time that he began to supplement is shoemaking business by working as the local postman, an occupation he was to continue for the remainder of his working life. By 1881, with a growing family, the couple moved to live on Borrowash Road, Ockbrook 36 and, having embraced the Moravian faith. they then moved to live in the Ockbrook Moravian Settlement 37 - described above - that was, by then a notable feature and influence in the village.

The couple had ten children:
Charles John Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 29 August 1870. For a while, after leaving school, he assisted his father with his postal duties but, like many other in the area and, indeed, within the wider family he later found work with the railway, in the case of Charles in the Midland Railway carriage workshops in Derby as a blacksmith 38. In 1901 he married Margaret Roberts 39 and set up home with his wife in the Moravian Settlement in Ockbrook, where they went on to have four children. Later in their lives, the couple to The Ridings in Ockbrook with Charles having taken employment as a chemical worker 40. Charles died in 1957, followed in 1961 by his widow. Both were cremated and their remains scattered in the Parish churchyard in Ockbrook 41.

Jeanetta Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 13 May 1872. After school she worked as a domestic servant, at first while living at home with her parents and siblings and later taking positions away from the village - by 1901, for example, as a housemaid in a household in Leicester 42. Her husband to be, Henry Plant 43, had also spent much of his young life in domestic servant and, by 1901 was employed as a butler to the Rector of Weston on Trent in Derbyshire 44. The Plants shop location Despite this separation, they would both have been able to look back on their earlier years when they would have met as occasional neighbours in Litchurch, Derbyshire, where Henry's parents had moved to and where Jeanetta's mother's elder brother lived next door 45. By April 1902, when the couple married at Ockbrook Parish Church 46, Henry was aged almost 31, and Jeanetta aged nearly 30 so it is likely that, after many years of domestic service, they each looked forward to a more independent life together. In the event, they were able to do this very successfully, raising four daughters and operating a successful grocery business on Church Street, Ockbrook - on the corner of New Street - where Henry, later succeeded by his daughters, traded for a total of more than seventy years 47. Although the shop is now entirely in residential use, its location can be readily identified by its distinctive shape in the photograph 48 shown here . After a while, certainly after Jeanetta's father's retirement as postman, the shop also served as the village post office with some of the family continuing to deliver the mail within the village. By the late 1930s, Henry had retired and he and his wife and youngest daughter moved to Cole Lane, Ockbrook 49 where Henry and Jeanetta continue to live up their respective deaths, Henry in November 1951 and Jeanetta in May 1958 50.

Sabina Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 10 February 1874. As a young woman, living at home, she worked as an assistant to her father in his letter-carrying rounds. Later she left home to live-in as a domestic nurse, notable serving the family of Edward and Beatrice Smythe, probably first in Derby and, following Edward's early death in 1900, in Eastbourne after his widow took their two young children to live with her widowed mother-in-law there 51. The circumstances and detail of what happened in the years immediately prior to 1911 is unclear but, by that date, Sabina had returned to Derby, was employed as the manager of a neighbourhood sweet shop at 292 Abbey Street, Derby (owned by Arthur Stapleford, her brother-in-law), had a daughter - Mary Gwendoline Cordell, aged 2½ - and Sabina herself was recorded as a married woman, Mrs Cordell 52. While her daughter, Mary Gwendoline Cordell was living with her and continued to do so, it has not been possible to confirm the other elements of the story. Subsequently, it is clear that, by 1920, Sabina had moved to Beeston, Notts with her daughter and was operating a sweet shop and living at 25 Wollaton Road, using the Cordell name. Here she was to live out her life and bring up her daughter 53. Sadly, her daughter died at the beginning of 1937, aged only 28 54. Sabina, however, lived to be 84 and died in Darley Abbey, having left her Beeston address only in her final days 55.

Arthur Peter Hudston - was born in Ockbrook early in 1876 and was baptised at the Parish church there on 9 July 1876. Sadly he died soon afterwards and was buried n the churchyard there on 2 September 1876 56.

Baxter HudstonBaxter Hudston - shown left, was born in Ockbrook in the first half of 1877 57 and appears to have been named after his maternal grandmother (Maria Currington née Baxter, 1813-1863) and her family. He resided all his life, both when living with his parents and with his own family, within the MoravianSettlement at Ockbrook 58. He was particularly well respected locally and served the Moravian church as a steward and the wider community generally. In his working life he provided very useful services - as a plumber and painter - and he was often entrusted with installing and maintaining local services - such as street lighting 59. In 1902 he married Clara Brearley, the daughter of Amos and Elizabeth (née Cooper) Brearley, at The Moravian Church 60. They went on to have eight children. After suffering ill-health for some time, he died in January 1933 at the comparatively young age of 55 61. His widow was to live on for a further 45 years and died in January 1978 at the age of 99 62. Both were laid to rest in the Ockbrook Moravian Burial Ground.

Members of Baxter & Clara's family, together with other Hudston family members, may be seen in a photograph of a Moravian Church outing in 1960 shown HERE

Members of Baxter & Clara's family with other Hudston family members, may be seen in a photograph of an outing to Trentham Gardens in 1950 shown HERE

Alfred Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 24 August 1879. He was to follow his father in the shoemaking trade for all of his career 63. In the Spring of 1907, he married Ockbrook-born Ellen Wheatley, the daughter of Mary & Hannah Wheatley 64 and they set up home on Green Lane 65, just outside the Moravian Settlement but continuing their affiliation with that community. They had just one child - a son, Frank Alfred, born in 1908. Ellen died in July 1963, aged 78 followed in the following month by Alfred, aged 83 66. Both are buried in the Moravian Burial Ground.

Arthur Stapleford & Fanny Hudston Fanny Maria Hudston - was born in Ockbrook in the summer of 1881 and was baptised at the Parish Church there on Christmas day of that year 67. In the summer of 1908, she married Arthur Stapleford 68 (see image. right) who was a commercial traveler for a confectionary company who also appears to have run a number of small neighbourhood sweet shops - including the one at the their first home at 36 Wellington Street,Derby, managed by his wife 69 and another at 292 Abbey Street, Derby, managed by his sister-in-law, Sabina Cordell 70. The couple had two children, a son - who served with the RAF Voluntary Reserve during World War 2 as a Aircraftsman and died in Egypt in 1943 71- and a daughter. Sadly, Fanny Maria died in 1920, aged only 39 72. Arthur went on to marry again - to Ellen Gladys Collins 73 - and they eventually retired to live in Wakefield, West Yorkshire 74. He died in 1977, aged 93 75.

James Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 19 March 1884 and baptised at the Parish Church there on 30 July 1893 along with his younger sister Mary Ann 76. After school, he become a railway telegraph clerk 77 and was eventually posted to Birmingham where he was boarding in 1911 78 when he returned to Ockbrook to marry Lydia Lindsay, who was born in Draycott in 1885 79. They returned to Birmingham together where James continued his career and together they set up home at 2 Sandbourne Road in the Saltly area of that city 80. By the time that James enlisted with the Railway Operating Division of the Royal Engineers on 13 Nov 1917, two daughters had been born to the couple. During his service in the Army, he was stationed in Kantara as a supervising telegraphist on the Palestine Military Railway and attained the rank of Sergeant 81. Following his demobilised on 27 Jan 1920 and return to every day life and his regular employment with the railway in Birmingham, the couple completed their family with a third daughter, born in the following year. Later in their lives they moved to 2 Stuarts Road, Birmingham 8, where they were living when they died less than a month apart in 1952, James on 22 July and Lydia on 20 August 82.

Mary Ann Hudston - was born in Ockbrook on 5 April 1886 and baptised at the Parish Church there on 30 July 1893, along with her older brother James 83. Having previously stayed at home with her aging parents, perhaps in the traditional role of the youngest daughter, Mary Ann married Harold Selby in the Spring of 1915 84. Born in Milford, Derbyshire in 1884, Harold had moved to Ockbrook sometime between 1901 and 1911 to live with his widowed aunt and to work as a boot maker 85 although later in his life he worked as a painter 86. The couple made their home in the Moravian Settlement and were active in that community. They went on to have two daughters, born in 1920 and 1923 respectively, presumably after Harold had returned from war service 87. Both Harold and Mary Ann died in 1965, within a few months of each other 88.

In November 1912, James Hudston retired from his position as letter carrier after 50 years service. At a public meeting attended by civic and Post Office dignituries as well as many local inhabitants and family members, there were many tributes to his faithful and diligent service to the community - during which long time it was estimated that he had covered over a quarter of a million miles. Community generosity and appreciation of his work and service over such a long time was demonstrated by the presentation to him of a purse of gold, containing 20 guineas, subscribed to by 73 inhabitants. The presentation also included an illuminated address, signed by the 73 subscribers and framed in oak. A testimonial, signed by the Postmaster-General was also received 89.

Mary Ann died on 7 December 1916, age 70 90 and James on 26 December 1930, aged 83 91. Both are buried in the Moravian Burial Ground in Ockbrook.

The stories of William & Jane's other children and their descendants will be continued here shortly.

Click to read about Hudstons in Other Areas

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