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Twiggs Family Topics

© David Hallam - 2019


The Twiggs Families of Beeston -


William Twiggs had originally moved to Nottingham, as a young man, to join the police force there and, in 1871, he was boarding on Sims Street, in the St Anns area of the town, while so employed. At the same time, his wife-to-be, then Mary Ann Bywater, was boarding with her married sister's family in Arthur Place, in the Queens Road area of The Meadows, Nottingham, and working as a hosiery mender. At some point over the next three years, they became attracted to one another and were married on Christmas Day 1874 at St John's Church in the Leenside district of Nottingham. Possibly be this time and certainly by the following year, when their first child was born, William had left the Police Force and was working as a 'sinker' - most probably working at nearby Clifton Colliery which had opened on Clifton 16 June 1870. Although the main shaft had, of course, been sunk by that date - the image (right) shows the sinking in progress in 1868 - it is likely that he had found employment on similar work in the colliery's early days - perhaps working on a secondary shaft.

Around the time of their marriage, Mary Ann's sister, Elizabeth and her husband Frederick Thornhill moved to Long Eaton to live. Although, for a while, Mary Ann and William continued to live in the Leanside area of Nottingham, they clearly valued the ties that existed within the families and, after Frederick Thornhill was killed in a terrible accident in July 1876, William and Mary Ann made the decision - certainly by September 1877, perhaps before - to move to Beeston where they would be nearer Mary Ann's family.

At first, William continued to work as a miner - presumably at Clifton Colliery - but, in 1879, he found employment with the Beeston Local Board as lamplighter at a wage of 16 shillings a week - with the cost of window leathers and matches at his own expense! It was significant that he was chosen unanimously by the Board from several candidates who had applied for the job. That trust was certainly proved to be well placed, as his employment was to continue, in various roles, for almost fifty years and was to earn him great respect for his versatility, hard work and dedication, both from his employer and the community as a whole. Indeed, in these early days with the Board, his job took in other specific but specialised roles. As pinder he was responsible for impounding any stray cattle found in the village. using the pinfold that had stood at the western end of what is now The Square, since ancient times, and which later became the site for the first Public Offices. He also served as the part-time Captain of the fire brigade in the years prior to the establishment of a more adequately equipped brigade by Beeston Urban District Council. And, as town crier, he was occasionally called on to make public announcements, using the bell that continued to play a part at town occasions up to comparatively recent times.

When, in 1886, following the closure of the Churchyard to new burials, the cemetery was opened towards the northern end of what is now Wollaton Road, it was William who was entrusted with the role of sexton - a position he was to hold for twenty years both with his original employers, the Local Board and with Beeston Urban District Council after it took over from the Board in 1894.

When the family first moved to Beeston - or soon afterwards - they are known to have lived in Union Street with Mary Ann's widowed mother and her now deceased sister's nine-year-old orphaned daughter, Mary Ann Thornhill. Other Bywater family members lived nearby - a further indication of the close relationships that were maintained within the Bywater/Thornhill/Twiggs families which, as we will see continued into the future. By 1891, William and his family had moved to live at 24 Chapel Street, Beeston, apparently a cottage associated with the adjacent school and Wesleyan chapel where William served as a caretaker in addition to his job with the Council. Later, certainly by 1901, they moved to 42 Chapel Street probably following the closure of the school and the chapel's pending move to their new premises in Chilwell Road which opened in 1902.

William Twiggs After about twenty years carrying out the duties of sexton, William had relinquished the role but continued to work for the Council in various roles. In particular he became a popular figure as the keeper at the Dovecote Road recreation ground in Beeston, after it opened in 1908. The image on the right shows him in that role.

By 1911, the family had moved to 18 Clifton Street, Beeston but moved to 8 Hampton Street, Beeston after the war, to live with their daughter, Mary Ann, and her children after the tragic death of Mary Ann's husband, Arthur Matthew Smedley, on 7 June 1917, in France, while serving with the Sherwood Foresters. In December 1924, just two weeks before he and his wife celebrated their Golden Wedding, William retired from his employment with the Council. For his faithful service over 46 years, a grateful Council found him 'very light work' for which he was paid 1 a week until his death towards the end of the following year, aged 75. He was buried in Beeston Cemetery, which he himself had cared for over many years. Sadly, no memorial survives.

Mary Ann, his widow, lived on for almost ten years before her death in 1935, aged 84.

William had served Beeston well and had been loyally and ably supported by his wife Mary Ann. Together they had raised a fine family, as is clearly shown in the family group photographs which follow. Also below, are details of this family, something about the lives that they led and their own families.


Twiggs 2

The above family group, taken in a local photographer's studio, shows William and Mary Ann with their young family in about 1887. Standing at the back, between his parents, is their eldest child, William Edward (b. 1875). Standing on the left is James (Jim), born in 1877. Sitting at the front, between his parents, is Ernest (b. 1881). Their eldest daughter, sitting with her father, is Mary Ann (b. 1884, while baby Harriett Francis (b. 1887) is on her mother's knee.



Twiggs 1

This family group, taken in about 1901, shows William and Mary Ann with their family in the backyard of their then home at Chapel Street, Beeston. Standing at the back are their two eldest sons, William Edward, then aged about 26, on the right and James (Jim), aged about 24, on the left. Standing on the left is their eldest daughter, Mary Ann, aged about 17, and their daughter Harriett, aged about 14, is standing on the right. In front is John, aged about 9 and Lily, aged about 7.



In total, William and Mary Ann had nine children although, as we will see, sadly not all were to survive beyond infancy.
William Edward Twiggs - was born on 7 November 1875 in Nottingham where his parents were then living, following their marriage almost a year earlier. On 14 May 1875, he was taken to be baptised at St John's Church in Leenside, Nottingham, where his parents had married. He was aged about 2 when the family moved to Beeston and would have attended school there, probably at the British School associated with the Wesleyan Chapel on Chapel Street. After leaving school, he started work in the lace trade in the traditional way, as a threader but, by 1901, he was working as a railway policeman in London and was boarding in Islington, London. However, in 1902, he married his cousin, Annie Maria Thornhill, another orphaned daughter of William Edward's sister Elizabeth, who William Edward would have known all his life.

As we see when we look in detail at the her wider family, her mother's death in 1883 severally disrupted the lives of her five young children by her first husband. Two of then were taken in by the wider family and two of them were placed as domestic servants as soon as they were old enough for the role. Remarkably, when she was only ten years of age, Annie Maria was placed with Alfred and Jane Bell who were then keeping the Lord Nelson public house on Mitchell Street, Radford, Nottingham. Annie Marie stayed there for about three years and was required to assist with the household chores including - as she remembered almost sixty years later - regularly navigating 42 steps into the cellar to fetch beer balm for customers. After that, she worked as a domestic servant, including some time in the household of Joe and Alice Ellis at Ireton Villas. Station Road, Beeston. In 1896, she was the second of three siblings who left to make their home in America, working as a cook in the household of Anna and Lemuel Ellsworth in Simsbury, Connecticut. Significantly, it was in Tariffville, part of Simsbury, that the Beeston lace manufacturer, Frank Wilkinson, had set up his American factory in 1890 and, as this had attracted a good number of Beeston lace makers, it is very likely that Annie Maria and her siblings would have known some of these and had their encouragement and assistance to make the move. But after four years, in July 1901, it was from there that she returned to Beeston to marry William Edward in June 1902.

It wasn't until 1907 that the couple had their first child - William Edward - born in Beeston but sadly dying there, aged only about six months later. However, before that, they had adopted a daughter Evelyn Alice Sumner, born to a mother in Manchester in December 1903, who had given her up for adoption. She was later to take on the name Twiggs and stayed close to her parents for the rest of her life. In April 1909, William Edward left for America on the Baltic, out of Liverpool. For some reason, his wife and their adopted daughter traveled separately, following a few days later. Their subsequent life in Simsbury, Connecticut will be described in the section on the American connections in the families.

James (Jim) Twiggs - was born in Beeston in September 1877 and was baptised at the Parish Church there later that month. After school he started work at one of the local nursery gardens. Sadly, he died of consumption in 1900, in Beeston, aged 23.

John Joseph Twiggs - was born in Beeston, probably in August 1880 and was baptised at the Parish Church there on 13 August. Sadly, he lived just a few weeks, and died before the end of that year.

Ernest Twiggs - was born in Beeston shortly before his baptism in Nottingham, on 19 October 1881. After school he worked as a porter on the railway and, by 1901, he was stationed in Sheffield where he was boarding with a number of other young men. At some point over the next few years, he became a constable with the Sheffield City Police and, in 1907, married Harriett Ann Fearnehaugh who had been working as a children's nurse in a household in nearby Dore. Their only child, Alice Francis Mary, was born in the following year and. by 1911, they were living at 15 Hyde Road, Heeley, Sheffield. During his career with the police, he rose to the rank of Sergeant. He died in Sheffield in 1933, at the comparatively young age of 52. His widow and daughter moved to Beeston where they lived out much of their lives at 36 Dennison Street. Alice, their daughter, who never married, worked in a drapery store. Harriett died in 1941 in Beeston and Alice in April 1995 in Bramcote Nursing Home.

Ernest's baptism in Nottingham - in contrast to his older siblings' baptisms at the Parish Church - probably marks a turning point in his parents' religious affiliation as the same location is recorded for several of their subsequent children's baptisms. Our source is not specific as to the actual church/chapel but we believe it is likely that the register involved was one used for a Circuit - probably that of the local Wesleyan Methodist Church, given the family's ongoing connection with its chapel on Chapel Street, Beeston and its successor on Chilwell Road, Beeston. Strangely, there are no Twiggs baptism recorded in the local registers for those chapels - but the baptism of at least two of Mary Ann Bywater's siblings, then Chilwell residents, are recorded there.

Mary Ann Twiggs - was born in Beeston on 16 April 1884 and baptised in Nottingham, on 11 June 1884. After leaving school, she worked as a lace mender before marrying Arthur Matthew Smedley in 1906. Arthur was the son of William, a well known hairdresser and postman in Beeston, and his wife Emma (née Lowe) and had worked in the silk mill as a young boy, had then started in the lace trade and was working as a curtain lace maker in 1911. In the early days of their marriage, the couple lived at Draycott, Derbyshire where Arthur was probably working at the local lace factory and Smedley Family it was here that their daughter Lily was born in 1908. By 1911 they had moved to 17 Imperial Road, Beeston but later moved to 8 Hampton Street, Beeston which continued as their family home and eventually became a home for members of the wider family. It was a happy family life but, when war came in 1914, everything changed. Arthur was 34 when the war started and, as a relatively old married man, he was not expected to be amongst those who rushed to enlist. But after conscription was introduced in 1916, and extended to married men in May of that year, service was a requirement for men of his age and he is believed to have enlisted towards the end of 1916 with the Sherwood Foresters, becoming part of the 11th (Service) Battalion. Sadly, he was required to leave his family so soon after the birth of the second child, William Arthur, who had been born on 17 July 1916. The poignant image (right) shows Arthur at the time of his Army training, in the autumn of 1916, standing proudly with his family. Tragically, soon after this training he was killed during the Battle of Messines on 7th June 1917, after arriving in Belgium just a few weeks earlier. With no known grave, he is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres, Belgium. Locally, he is remembered on the memorials in the Parish Church and Chilwell Road Methodist Church.

Life as a widow with two young children would have been difficult but, at least Mary Ann had the support of the family and her local Methodist Church friends. Her elderly parents moved to live with her at Hampton Street (later known as Hampton Grove), up to their deaths in 1925 and 1935 respectively. Mary Ann remained a widow for the remainder of her life, and stayed close to the family. In 1939, she was living at 11 Hampton Grove, Beeston with her daughter, who was working as a sorting clerk and telephonist, and her sister Harriett. Her recently widowed cousin, Mary Ann Hudston (née Thornhill) was staying with them. Mary Ann was to die there on 6 April 1958, aged 74. Lily remained single and died on 21 September 2009, aged 101. William Arthur was employed all his working life with Beeston Boiler Company, starting as a 14 year old office boy in 1930, being the type of promising and deserving young men whom the Pearson family tended to employ. He went on to become the company's Sales Director, served the company well until its final closure in 1985 and, in addition, was an active and popular figure within the wider Beeston community. He married Dorothy Sansom in 1940 and the couple had one daughter. William Arthur died in on March 1994, aged 77; Dorothy died on 2 April 2002, aged 86.

Harriett Frances Twiggs - was born in Beeston on 15 April 1884 and baptised in Nottingham, on 11 June 1884. She remained unmarried throughout her life, living with her parents and then with her siblings and, for much of this time, working as a lace mender. She died on 12 February 1981, aged 93.

Horace Twiggs - was born in Beeston early in 1890 and baptised in Nottingham, on 26 July 1884 but sadly died early in 1893.

John Twiggs - was born in Beeston on 1 March 1892. For the whole of his working life, he was employed in the grocery trade with the Co-operative Society, first as an assistant in the Beeston store and later in more senior positions. Although, he is believed that took him beyond Beeston at some time - to Cardiff, it is believed, at the time of his father's death in 1925 - Beeston remained his home for most of his life. In 1919, he married Louise Lawrence, the daughter of Henry Lawrence, a lace maker, and his wife Louisa (née Fisher). At first, the couple appear to have lived at 18 Clifton Street, Beeston with the Twiggs. Their only child, Ralph, was born towards the end of 1924 but died after only a short life, at the beginning of 1925. After their apparent move to Cardiff, they were living at 43 Middleton Street, Beeston by 1930 and at 29 Warwick Avenue, Beeston by 1929. In retirement, in 1957, John and Louise visited America and Canada. By then, the couple had move to 6 Hampton Grove, Beeston, where John died on 5 September 1975. Louise died on 9 July 1977 having moved to sheltered accommodation at 5 Bexhill Court, Beeston.

Lily Twiggs - was born in Beeston in 1894 and had a brief life, blighted by consumption, before her death, aged 9, in 1903.

In 1927, William Edward Twiggs visited from America and the opportunity was taken to photograph the whole family, in the garden at 11 Hampton Grove, Beeston :


Twiggs 4

Standing, left to right, are Lily Smedley, Leonard Hudston, Louise Twiggs, Ernest Twiggs, Harriett Ann (Fearnehough) Twiggs, William Edward Twiggs, Harriett Frances Twiggs, John Twiggs, Alice. Seated : Mary Ann (Twiggs) Smedley. Mary Ann (Bywater) Twiggs, May Ann 'Polly' (Thornhill) Hudston. In front is William Arthur Smedley

We are extremely grateful to Christine Smedley for making available her Twiggs family album and other family information.

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15By the time he enlisted, he is known to have been working for Robert Paling who operated a lace factory in what had been the Humber Works (Obituary, Beeston Gazette, 28 July 1917).


More notes and images will be added shortly



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