To Somerset and Beyond
My great great grandfather, Joseph Nixey, is first found in the Kelly’s Directory for Bath in 1871, and is recorded as a Tailor. Details for these directories were collected a year or so prior to when they were published, so it seems most likely that the family moved to Somerset around 1870. The address given in this directory is 11 Albion Place, Twerton, which was a sizeable Georgian town house situated on Upper Bristol road, about half a mile west of Bath city centre, and close to a suspension bridge which crossed the river Avon. Unfortunately, the original number 11 was so badly damaged by a bomb during World War II, that a new house was built on the site at some point after the war had ended.
When the 1871 census was taken on the night of Sunday 2nd April, the family were living just a little distance away at Twerton House, and Joseph’s occupation was again recorded as Tailor. With him were his wife Martha, and children Elizabeth, Arthur, Emma, Joseph, John, and Edward, along with their granddaughter Fanny, who is recorded as their daughter. Twerton House was a 3-storey Georgian building on the northern side of Lower Bristol Road, and in the mid 1880’s was renamed 7 Charlton Buildings. Despite having been given a Grade II listed status, Charlton Buildings had become derelict, and a number of attempts were made to have numbers 6, 7 and 8 demolished. They were rescued by Charles Ware in 1994 who restored them and used them as the headquarters of his famous Morris Minor centre.
Their daughter Mary Ann had also moved to Somerset, and was working as a Servant for Thomas Short, a retired Farmer and Minister of the Gospel in the Society of Friends, who was living at 22 Kingsmead Terrace, Walcot, Bath. So far I've been unsuccessful in finding their son Alfred in this Census, but their eldest son, William, along with his wife Mary and their first child William are found at Middle Hill, Egham, in Berkshire.
Joseph’s mental health had evidently been taking a turn for the worse, because on Tuesday 4th July 1871 he was admitted to the Wells Lunatic Asylum, about seventeen miles from Bath. He had only been there a little over a week when he died on Wednesday 12th July. According to his death certificate, an inquest was carried out 2 days later, and Samuel Crocker, the coroner, recorded that the cause of death was an effusion of blood on the brain. Both the asylum’s admission books and the death certificate gave his occupation as a “Pauper”, not a Tailor, and his age was given as sixty-seven, whereas in fact he was fifty-seven. The coroner’s inquest was reported on in the Shepton Mallet Journal in its issue dated Friday 21st July 1871:
Inquest. – On Friday an inquest was held at the County Lunatic Asylum, by S. Craddock, Esq., coroner for this district, on the body of Joseph Nixey, a native of Bath. Mr. W. C. Vonberg was foreman of the jury. Edmund Pearce said he was a night nurse at the Asylum, and deceased was in his ward. He last saw him alive on Wednesday morning at about quarter to 4 o’clock. (He) witness did not speak to him. Deceased was in bed, but awake and lying on his right side. About 5 minutes past six one of the attendants called to him to go to deceased and he did so. He found him lying on his face, quite dead but warm. His health had been pretty fair since he had been in the asylum. Up to the previous day he was employed in the tailor’s shop, where he regularly worked. C. M. Meddlicott, Esq., M.D., medical superintendent of the asylum, said that the deceased was admitted into the asylum on the 4th July last. In the order of admission it was not stated that he was subject to fits. He had made a post mortem examination, and found a large quantity of blood on the brain. His death must have been very sudden. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence to the effect that death was caused by the effusion of blood on the brain.
Joseph was buried at St John the Evangelist, East Horrington on 18th July 1871.
In the Kelly’s directory of 1872-3, Martha is recorded as “Mrs Nixey”, and she is still living at Twerton House. The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of 20th March 1873 reported on an incident involving her son, Alfred, the article showing that he arrived at Twerton a few years later than the rest of his family:
A youth, named Alfred Nixey, was summoned for being drunk and riotous at Twerton on the 9th inst. The defendant said he had been in Bath only about three months, and the Bath beer did not agree with him (a laugh). He was fined 10s. and costs, or a week’s imprisonment.
The second of their children to be married was Arthur, his bride being Jemima Butt. They were married at the Bath register Office in 1877. Jemima was born at Winsley, Wiltshire in 1844, and was the daughter of George Butt and Hannah née Kettlety. Their family soon began to grow with the birth of their son William George on 15th May 1877, who was baptised on 29th July the same year at Winsley, and two more sons, Albert Edward in 1878 who died at the age of two years, and Edward Charles in 1880.
Another marriage took place at the Bath Register Office in 1878, this time it was the wedding of John Nixey and Elizabeth Florence Grimshaw. Elizabeth was born in 1853 at Langley Burrell near Chippenham in Wiltshire, and was the daughter of Thomas Grimshaw, and his wife Dinah née Ealy who was also known as Ann. John and Elizabeth soon moved to Sheffield, Yorkshire where he worked as a Railway Signalman. It was while they were living there that their first child was born, a daughter who they named Alice. Very sadly she died aged nine weeks, and was buried on 28th November 1880 at St Thomas’, Brightside. It’s most likely that Alice was named after Elizabeth’s younger sister who had died in 1875 aged nineteen.
In Kelly’s directories covering the years 1876-1887, as well as the Census taken on 3rd april 1881, Martha Nixey is recorded as a Dressmaker living at 15 Percy Terrace, East Twerton. Percy Terrace is no longer in existence, but was situated alongside the Somerset railway, and just across the suspension bridge from Albion Place. The area is where the Stothert and Pitt engineering works were later built, but is now wasteland awaiting redevelopment. Also living with her in that census were her grown-up children Elizabeth who was a Dressmaker, her sons Alfred, Joseph and Edward, all of whom were Plasterers, and her granddaughter Fanny who was a Scholar. Her daughter Emma was working as a Servant for Emma Annie Pratt at 2 Lynwid Villas, Bath, and so far I've been unable to find her other daughter Mary Ann.
Elsewhere around the country in that Census were Martha’s two sons, William and John. William along with his wife Mary and son Thomas were living at 1 Alexander Cottages, Boston Road, Hanwell, Middlesex where William worked as a House Painter. Their twelve year old son, William Charles, is recorded as a Juvenile Offender Under Detention at the Farm School for Boys, which was a reformatory school at Redhill in Surrey. Records of the Royal Philanthropic Society School, held at the Surrey History Centre show that he was admitted on 22nd January 1881, and was discharged by warrant because of a diseased hip. Meanwhile, John and Elizabeth are found living at Blackburn Road, Sheffield, Yorkshire.
The following year, John and Elizabeth’s second child, a son who they named William George, was born on 3rd February 1882 at Brightside, Sheffield.
Martha’s son, Joseph, was living at 1 Upper Vale, Entry Hill, and working as a Plasterer when he married twenty-three year old Louisa Hucklebridge of Hatfield Buildings on 30 Oct 1886 at St Thomas a Beckett, Widcombe. The witnesses to their wedding were R. Hornsby and Mary Love, and their fathers, Joseph Nixey and John Hucklebridge were both recorded as deceased, their occupations being given as Tailor and House Painter respectively. Louisa was born at Bath in 1862 and was the daughter of John Hucklebridge and Matilda née Spragg.
During 1888, Martha’s son Arthur got himself into some trouble, as reported on in the Bath Chronicle. The first occasion appeared in the issue dated 19th April:
Arthur Nixey, of Percy-terrace, Twerton, plasterer, was charged with stealing two shirts, value 1s. 6d., the property of Harriet Marsh. The prosecutrix said she gave the prisoner two shirts to pawn, promising him a pint of beer for his trouble. The next day he came into her house, produced a pawn ticket, and said he would make the other allright the next day. However, he did not. W. Squires, pawnbroker’s assistant, stated that the defendant got 1s. 6d. on the shirts which he pledged in his own name. Nixey admitted the offence. Sergt. Edwards said the defendant was a drunkard. Sent to gaol for seven days.
The following week, the same newspaper in the issue dated 26th April reported on another theft committed by Arthur:
Arthur Nixey, plasterer, of Vernon-terrace, Twerton, was charged with stealing a pair of boots, value 5s., the property of William Sartain, at Batheaston, on the 13th inst. The prisoner, who was last week convicted of stealing a couple of shirts, went into Sartain’s house and asked if he might sit down as he was tired. He was left in the kitchen for a few minutes, and the boots which were in the room, were missed two days afterwards. It appeared that he offered them in pawn at Mr. Reynolds’s, Westgate-street, but the assistant being suspicious refused to take them. The prisoner sold the boots for 8d.* to a shoemaker named Stott, who pledged them at Mr. Young’s, Bath-street, for 2s. 6d. Nixey said he had been to an asylum twice and was not accountable for his actions when he took the boots. The Clerk: I hear you’re sane enough to know a pint of beer when you see it. Prisoner: I have not had one for a fortnight. The Bench sent Nixey to gaol for a month, and commended Mr. Reynolds’s assistant for his behaviour which they said was very creditable.
The Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of Thursday 11th July 1889 reported on another incident involving Arthur. An obvious error is found in the article though, where Arthur is described as “the deceased”!
Arthur Nixey (38), plasterer, of Twerton, was brought up supposed to be of unsound mind having been found wandering in the Lower Bristol-road, on the 9th inst. – Mr. Hopkins thought the deceased had been affected by the heat, and was not fit to be at large. Nixey’s wife stated that he had been peculiar lately. – Sent to the Workhouse for a fortnight.
Martha Nixey died on 21st February 1891, her age being given as sixty-eight. She was buried in Twerton Cemetery on 25th February, the plot reference being U.X.15.
The first of Joseph and Martha’s children to die in Somerset was Alfred, who passed away at the Royal United Hospital on September 1st 1902 at the age of forty-nine. Following his burial which took place at St Swithin’s, Locksbrook, Walcot on 6th September, the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of Thursday 11th September, under the heading “Death of an Avon-street Man” published the following article on the Coroner’s inquest:
The City Coroner (Mr. B. A. Dyer) held an inquest on Friday at the Guildhall, touching the death of Alfred Nixey, aged 49, plasterer, of 23 Avon-street, who died at the Royal United Hospital on September 1. Joseph Nixey, living at 4, West Avenue, Twerton, a plasterer, brother of deceased, said his brother’s name was Alfred, but he was often called Charles. He last saw him alive in May. He got his living by doing odd jobs, but some years ago he followed the trade of plasterer.
A man was called in, but his condition was such that he was unable to give evidence, and the Coroner at once ordered him to leave the Court.
Ernest Rose, of 23, Avon-street, labourer, said he knew deceased and occupied the same room with him. On Sunday night, about half-past eleven, deceased fell out of bed in a fit. Witness, with another man sleeping in the same room, got deceased back into bed, and he came round. About three-quarters of an hour afterwards he fell out again in another fit. They got him back, and a policeman was sent for, who on arrival sent for a doctor. Deceased had a third fit, and this resulted in his eye being cut. No one struck him. Soon afterwards he was taken to the Hospital. He had been drinking heavily for about three weeks or a month. Deceased was sober on the Sunday night. He seemed alright when he went to bed.
James Potter, of 36, Avon-street, said he last saw deceased on Friday morning. He came down to his door and asked if he could fetch him some coke. Witness said he could get 3cwt. Deceased did so, and he paid him. Witness told him to fetch a second 3cwt, and this he did. When witness went home about five o’clock he saw deceased drunk in Avon-street. He went to catch hold of the lamp post, after asking witness for some more beer, and he fell “back’ards”. Deceased got up and walked away, and he had not seen him since. He had had no quarrel with deceased. The Coroner: It has been suggested that you struck him; is there any truth in that? – No, sir.
Joseph Fowler, of 29, Avon-street, said he saw deceased on Friday evening. He was drunk. He heard the last witness call him over the coals about some coke. When witness turned round he saw the man on the ground. He then went away and saw no more. The Coroner: Did you see how he came on the ground? – No, sir. Was he near Potter? – Oh, yes, he was near Potter. Witness caused some amusement by the answers he gave to several questions. Witness said deceased caught hold of the lamp post, and having a drop of beer, fell. The Coroner: Oh, good gracious! that is what the last witness says. Addressing witness again, the Coroner asked if he had told anybody that Potter struck him. – Yes, he did strike him. What did he strike him with? – His fist. Which one? – The right. Where did he strike him? – In the nose. Did he fall more than once? – Only once. Did he fall because Potter struck him? – No, no, no, sir, replied witness. Why did Potter strike him? – It was over some coke or something. Witness to a further question replied that a “little blood squashed out” from his nose. Mr. Bray (a juryman): How far away were you from him when he fell? – Witness: About five yards – (and paused) – Oh! say six.
Potter denied striking deceased.
P.S. Baker gave evidence of removing deceased to the Hospital on the ambulance.
Mary Ann Bowyer, of 27, Avon-street, and manageress of 23, Avon-street, stated deceased had been staying off and on at No. 23, for the last eighteen months. She had not known him have fits before Sunday night, though she heard the men say that he had had fits before.
Mr. Clifford John Taylor, acting Resident Medical Officer at the Royal United Hospital, said he was called early on Monday morning to 23, Avon-street. The man was unconscious and foaming at the mouth. He had a wound over the left eye. The landlady told him that deceased had had a drinking bout. He ordered his removal to the Hospital. After admission in that institution he had three more fits, and he died subsequently. The injury to the eye was quite superficial. He died from exhaustion following a succession of epileptic fits, which were accelerated by excessive drinking. The Coroner having summed up, the jury returned a verdict attributing death to epileptic fits.
Joseph Nixey and Martha née Blincoe, Twerton, Somerset: RG10 piece 2474 folio 43 page 24.
William Nixey and Mary née Blackwell, Egham, Berkshire: RG10 piece 1297 folio 79 page 6.
Mary Ann Nixey, Walcot, Somerset: RG10 piece 2491 folio 61 page 38.
Unless otherwise stated, all newspaper articles can be found at the British Newspaper Archive.
The photograph of Charlton Buildings, Lower Bristol Road, Twerton, was taken in May 2016 and appears by kind permission of John Branston.