The Craxford Family Magazine Red Pages

{$text['mgr_red1']} Finedon 1


by Alan D. Craxford, Judi Wood and Paula Jackson
with contributions from Mick Britton, Malcolm Peet and Carolyn Smith

Introduction: The mystery of the broken memorial

In a quiet corner of a now closed cemetery alongside a busy main road in coastal Essex, there lies a flat marble slab on the side of which is the dedication to a soldier lost at the end of the First World War. This memorial presents a conundrum on two counts. Firstly it is obvious that the edifice is in disrepair and has fallen apart. The marble is only the base of what was a much grander edifice. Its upper surface is scarred with what appears to be old cement, in the middle of which is the pilot hole which would have held the superstructure in place. Secondly the soldier buried in the grave may well not have been who the inscription maintains. This article will seek to present at least a partial answer to the first point and examine the far wider ramifications unearthed in the study of the family history behind the second.

Claypoles of antiquity

Claypole (and its derivative spellings) is a common enough surname in Northamptonshire and many branches claim descendency from the union of Sir John Claypole and Elizabeth Cromwell (daughter of Oliver Cromwell) or from one of Sir John's brothers in 1646. The lineage of the Claypole family in this article has been traced back to the middle of the seventeenth century when Robert lived in the village of Medbourne in Leicestershire. Nearly a century later, descendents of his, the brothers William and Thomas Claypole, moved to the neighbouring village of Great Easton which stands on the border with Northamptonshire. John, the son of William Claypole and his wife Mary Sharpe, was born in the village in 1773 and became the progenitor of this story. As a young man, he learned the skills of a cordwainer and spent his life in the village in this pursuit. Traditionally, these artisans were shoemakers who made new shoes from new leather as opposed to cobblers who repaired shoes. Their trade was governed by a guild "The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers" (1) an organisation dating back to 1272 who determined who could practice what activity, where and the level of skills required to do it. The name originated from the use of goatskin leather from Cordoba, Spain, in the making of shoes.

John Claypole married Sarah Ashby, who was 19 years of age at the time of the wedding, at the Church of St Andrew on May 16th 1796. Over the next twenty years Sarah gave birth to nine children, although two girls died in infancy. Two of their sons: William (born 1802) and Thomas (born 1819) have a direct bearing on this saga, whilst a third, John (born 1816) laid the foundation of the Claypole dynasty in Cottingham and Middleton in Northamptonshire. Sarah died in May 1855 and predesceased her husband by three years.

Claypole comes to Finedon - 1

St Andrews
St Marys

Left: St Andrews, Great Easton (2); Right: St Mary's, Higham Ferrers (3)

Thomas Claypole was born in Great Easton and baptised at the Parish Church of St Andrew on October 10th 1819. He was the youngest of the sons of John Claypole and Sarah Ashby. He followed his father into the shoe trade. By the end of his teenage years he had moved 20 miles south into Northamptonshire to the village of Higham Ferrers which stands on the banks of the River Nene. He was living with cordwainer Mark Smith and working as a shoe man in Hind Stile, a narrow side street adjacent to the Market Square. Within a year, he was married - to Elizabeth, the 19 year old daughter of Thomas Packwood who was a tailor in neighbouring Rushden, Northamptonshire. The marriage took place at the Parish Church on September 18th 1842 with her brother John acting as a witness. Elizabeth was already occupied in the trade as a shoe binder. The couple made their home in Spring Gardens about 100 yards from Hind Stile with Thomas working as a cordwainer in his own right. It was in Spring Gardens that their first three children were born, although first daughter Eliza died in June 1846 aged 3 years.

In the early months of the 1850s Thomas moved his young family 4 miles north west to Finedon. They took up residence in Pytchley Row (4), a terrace of eight striking houses in Church Street which had been built in 1847 by William Harcourt Mackworth-Dolben, a local worthy and son of the 3rd Baronet Mackworth of Gnoll, Glamorgan. Two more children, a son and a daughter, were born during the decade. During the decade, too, Thomas' enterprise had grown to the extent of him describing his business as a shoe manufacturer. He is described in the Kelly's Post Office Directory 1854 as a Shoe Factor. Towards the end of 1860, Elizabeth found herself to be pregnant for the sixth time. At the census of 1861, she and Thomas had their four surviving children with them. A double tragedy was just around the corner. At the beginning of the year, Thomas began suffering from muscle weakness and poor health. This became progrssively worse into the Summer amd Thomas died on June 25th. The registered diagnosis simply stated "paralysis". Whether this was the result of a stroke, an infection or an accident is not known. Barely ten days later, Elizabeth went into labour and a little girl she baptised Emily was born on July 4th 1861. Emily was never strong and she succumbed after three months on October 31st 1861. Father and daughter were interred at St Mary the Virgin Church, Finedon.

After Thomas' death, Elizabeth continued to work in the industry as a machine closer. This involved stitching together the prepared upper parts of the shoe together with any linings and stiffening. She was still living in Pytchley Row at the time of the census of 1871 together with her daughter, Mary. Her recently married son George had taken the house next door. By 1881 Elizabeth had moved to Whit Cottage (now Mulso Cottage) which stood at the far end of North West Street (Church Street) adjoining a row of Widows Alms Houses and next to the Girls' Infant School. She had taken in three lodgers, all of whom were working at the shoe factory. She was also in a position managing eight other girls. She was still at work as she approached her 70th year. By the census of 1891 she had a small apartment in the same house on Church Street which now belonging to agricultural labourer William Cooper and his family. Elizabeth died in the spring of 1899

George Frederick Claypole: Shoe manufacturer

George Frederick was the first of the sons of Thomas Claypole and Elizabeth Packwood. He was born on July 9th 1846 only a month after the death of their first child, Eliza, and whilst the couple where still living in Higham Ferrers. He was baptised at the Church of St Mary the Virgin on Christmas Day the same year. From childhood he was profoundly deaf. When the family moved to Finedon, 15 year old George Frederick was employed as an assistant in his father's boot and shoe warehouse. After his father died, George gradually took over the running of the business in support of his mother.

George married Sarah, the daughter of Samuel Wright who ran a drapery and grocery business in the town, in the Summer of 1869. The couple settled into a dwelling in Pytchley Row next door to his mother. Their first child, a daughter they named Frances Emily, was born in the winter months of 1870. The little girl sadly died on September 16th 1873. Over the next thirteen years Sarah gave birth to six more children: four boys (Harry, born 1872; Arthur, born 1876; Frank, born 1877 and George Frederick, born 1882) and two daughters (Emily Beatrice, born 1879 and Annie born 1885).

Claypole in Dolben Square

Claypole's factory (5). The white building on the left is the butcher's shop. The factory is the building behind it.

Claypole's factory stood on the corner of Dolben Square and Well Street behind the premises of Dunkley and Gibson (later Frank Cooper's), butchers (5). By 1874, George Frederick Claypole was listed as one of four Boot and Shoes Manufacturers in Finedon (along with John Parker, Job Tompkins and Charles Wright) (6). His business continued to expand and by the end of the decade he had acquired a contract to supply the Army with footware. The census of 1881 notes him to be the employer of 58 men, 4 boys and 14 girls. George himself became increasingly prosperous. His business interests continued to flourish and its portfolio increased to include 46 cottages, 3 warehouses and one retail shop (7). Midway through the decade he turned his hand to farming taking the tenancy of a smallholding which supported 100 acres of corn. During those years, the streets in the village were renamed: North East Street becoming High Street. Presumably in honour of his achievement in providing work for the villagers a terrace of seven houses in the High Street were named Claypole Row. Also midway through the 1880s George and Sarah moved the family to a cottage called "Woodfield" which stood on Wellingborough Road close to the junction with Bell Hill. Curiously, the property next door, the home of agricultural worker Charles Freeman and his family, had been named Claypole Lodge.

Things started to go wrong for the business at the beginning of the 1890s. By this time he had been running the business as a personal concern for over fifteen years. It is also probable that he had overextended himself and was reliant on others for the day to day running of the concern. Liquidity in the company began to tighten as the smaller shoe traders began to rationalise into larger concerns and Army contracts became more difficult to obtain and maintain. Banks gave notice to foreclose on loans. In April 1892 he turned the business into a public company under the title "Claypole and Company, Limited" and he was appointed the Company's first managing director. Pressure from creditors and the banks increased through the summer and by October 1892 the company was in receivership. In Court the company reported liabilities of £1729 10s 10d with no available assets (8). By the end of the year, the winding up formalities were underway. For a few years, the Claypole name lived on in the village as a boot and shoe manufacturer under the direction of George's wife, Sarah. However, that operation also failed through cash flow problems. A meeting of creditors, which included George's brother, John, was held in Northampton in March 1897 to wind up this concern also (9).

Pastures new

George had spread his activities outside of Northamptonshire. As early as 1884 he had rented a workshop in Manchester in the premises of a Mrs Mills (10) with three other individuals. A trade directory of 1886, lists him as bootmaker at 155 City Road, Hulme (11). He continued with this second activity until 1892, presumably leaving his younger brother John Thomas as factory manager in Finedon. After the dust had settled from the failure and winding up of his business, George and Sarah had moved to Manchester by the turn of the century taking their four younger children with thm. They set up home at 5 Graeme Street (now called Westerling Way) in the Moss Side district of the city. George found work as a commission agent (a salesman who derived his pay entirely from commissions) in the boot and shoe trade. His three sons joined him in this pursuit.

In the early years of the new century, sons Arthur and George Frederick junior formed a partnership as "Claypole Brothers: Boot and Shoe Manufacturers" which was based at 49 Lancaster Avenue, Manchester. The partnership lasted until it was dissolved on December 31st 1907 (12). Sarah died in Manchester in the Autumn of 1907. Shortly afterwards, George Frederick returned to Finedon, taking up residence in Albert Road. The 1911 census shows him to be living on his own. He died on July 17th the following year. He was buried in the Station Road Cemetery, his headstone also bearing a dedication to his wife, Sarah.

Mary Elizabeth and Arthur Nutt

Although the Nutt family had lived in Higham Ferrers for many generations and both his parents had been born there, John Nutt (born 1777) and Mary Barwick (born 1776) had moved to the hamlet of Fleet in Lincolnshire where they were married on May 26th 1800 and John worked as a labourer. James was the youngest of their offspring, born in Fleet in 1815. The family moved back to Northamptonshire sometime in the 1830s. John died in 1839; Mary died in 1851. James Nutt married Hannah Parker at the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Higham Ferrers on August 19th 1839. In total they were to have four sons although two (Charles, born 1842 and Frederick, born 1847) died in infancy. James followed his trade as a shoe maker and leather cutter. By 1851 the couple, with their other son Charles Parker Nutt, were living in the Corporation Buildings, a tenament which stood on the west side of Spring Gardens directly across from the house of Thomas and Elizabeth Claypole. The two men almost certainly worked in the same premises. Arthur was born on September 2nd 1852 and was baptised in the Church of St Mary the Virgin on Christmas Day the same year.

Charles Parker Nutt was born in 1844 and became a leather cutter in his teenage years. He married Ann Sutton, a girl from Frolesworth a village in south west Leicestershire near the border with Warwickshire. The wedding took place in Lutterworth in 1865. They settled in Raglan Street Leicester, a road which lay between Havelock Street and New Bridge Street in the lee of the Infirmary. Over 18 years, Ann presented Charles with 10 children (3 boys and 7 girls). Their first two (Hannah in 1866 and Alfred in 1867) died in infancy. The family stayed in the area and moved to Upper Brown Street in the 1870s. Charles had set up his own shoe making business employing 8 women, 5 boys and 3 girls. In 1883, daughter Kate had emigrated to Idaho in the United States of America. Charles died from severe haemorrhage due to enteric (typhoid) fever at the relatively young age of 44 years in the Leicester Infirmary on April 24th 1888. His death was registered by his brother. Then their daughter Elizabeth died aged 13 in 1893. After Elizabeth's death, Ann took the remaining children to Idaho in 1895 where they settled in Paris in the County of Bear Lake. None of them returned to England. Charles Parker and his three dead children were all buried in plot 1440 of Section E of Welford Road Cemetery.

Arthur Nutt was almost certainly conceived on the same street and in the same time frame as his future wife although by the time he was born her family had left Higham Ferrers. He was the fourth and youngest male child to be born to James Nutt and Hannah Parker. When he was old enough, Arthur joined the shoe business as a clicker, a job he was to continue for over 20 years. The task involved cutting the uppers for boots and shoes from new leather. It was a skilled trade as the clicker was responsible for getting the maximum number of quality pieces from a given piece of skin (13). He remained at home with his parents into his twenties. It is probable that James Nutt had remained in contact with the Claypole family after they had left the village and would have been aware of his neighbour's early death. Perhaps to further his own career prospects, Arthur left the village during the 1870s and travelled to Finedon, presumably with the intention of working for George Frederick Claypole. His parents remained in Higham Ferrers for the rest of their lives (James until 1891; Hannah until 1907)


Church Street, Finedon. The Nutts lived in the house with the bay window after their marriage.

Mary Elizabeth was the fourth child born to Thomas Claypole and Elizabeth Packwood. She was born in Finedon on June 15th 1852, shortly after the family had arrived in the village, and was baptised on December 27th 1852. Whilst still a teenager she took her place in the factory as a shoe upper machinist. By the time she was 20 years old she was in charge of 8 girls and a boy in her section. It was inevitable that Mary Elizabeth would meet Arthur Nutt. They became a couple and were married in Finedon on August 28th 1879, her brother George Frederick acting as a witness. There is a family belief, as yet unsubstantiated, that Mary Elizabeth fell from a horse whilst on honeymoon and broke her back. She was rendered disabled for the rest of her life and this is given as an explanation as to why she had no children. Arthur and Mary made their first home in North West Street (now Church Street) on the edge of Calico Yard.

Arthur continued to work his way up in the business. By 1890 he had been promoted to the position of foreman clicker. Then the crash came. Within twelve months, Arthur had decided to branch out on his own. He may have benefitted from the plentiful workforce who suddenly found themselves without employment and would probably have received ongoing encouragement from his wife's family who stayed in the village. He built a factory on land alongside Wellingborough Road close to its junction with Ivy Lane. Early into the new century the premises underwent large scale extensions taking the building around the corner into Laws Lane. Arthur was active in the community. He became honorary secretary to the Hospital Week Fund in 1892 (14). He was also active with the Church of England Temperance Society in the village, training and leading the Drum and Fife Band [Further Reading A]. At home, an indication of his wife Mary's disability may be deduced from the presence of a trained nurse, 29 year old Annie Sutton, and a general domestic servant, 20 year old Annie Miller, living in the house at the time of 1901 census. The following year in 1902, Mary advertised for another "general servant who could do plain cooking" (15). Mary died on April 7th 1905, the cause of death registered as chronic rheumatism and heart disease. There was no reference to an old spinal injury. A paragraph in the local newspaper described how her "coffin of oak with massive fittings, a breastplate bearing the inscription 'Mary Elizabeth Nutt, aged 52 years' was conveyed from the residence of Mr Nutt by six of the employees". (16).

George Frederick headstone
Nutt headstone

Headstones in Station Road Cemetery. Left: George Frederick Claypole; Right: Mary Elizabeth Nutt

Claypole comes to Finedon - 2

Wiliam, the second son of John Claypole and Sarah Ashby, was born in Great Easton on January 1st 1802 and was baptised two weeks later. Like his father before him, he learned the trade as a shoe maker although for a time around the census of 1851 he worked as a butcher. He married Elizabeth Shaw, a girl from Leicester, on July 4th 1822. Over the next 20 years, they were to have 10 children: six boys and 4 girls. Two of these sons spent time in Finedon. Elizabeth died in the village in December 1854. William remarried in 1861 to Elizabeth Baker from Lyddington, Rutland. He died in Great Easton in 1875.

William Ashby Claypole

William was the fourth son of John Claypole and Elizabeth Shaw, born in 1833. In his teenage years he learned the trade as a cordwainer apprenticed to his older brother John. In the early 1850s he moved to Finedon to take up work as a shoe maker. There he met Elizabeth, the daughter of farm worker John Shipley and his wife Letitia. They were married in the village in the Summer of 1855 and made their home in South West Street. In the next four years Elizabeth bore him three sons (William Alfred, 1856; John Thomas, 1858 and George Frederick, 1860). In the early 1860s William moved the family to Arthur Street in the Kingsthorpe district of Northampton. He contracted smallpox, which had been rife in the town that year (17), where he died after suffering from the disease for five days on April 17 1865. He was just 32 years old. His death was notified by Elizabeth's younger brother, Eli Shipley.

Thomas Claypole

St Mary's Finedon

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Finedon (18)

Thomas was the fifth son of William Claypole and Elizabeth Shaw. He was William Ashby Claypole's junior by three years. He was baptised in Great Easton on February 7th 1836. He too started out following the family trade. On September 28th 1855, he married Hannah Tomkins, the daughter of shoemaker John Tomkins of Finedon. The banns for their wedding were read just one week after those for his brother and Elizabeth Shipley. The marriage took place in Great Easton but almost immediately, Thomas and Hannah set up home in Finedon. Almost immediately too Hannah became pregnant. A little girl was born on April 14th 1856. She was gravely ill from the outset and was baptised Harriett the next day. She died "of convulsions" 48 hours later. In the Summer of 1856, Hannah began to feel unwell with a cough and shortness of breath. Despite this, by the Autumn, she had become pregnant again. Although her health continued to deteriorate through the year, she carried her pregnancy until another little girl was born on June 18th 1857. The birth was very difficult and Hannah succumbed three weeks after the delivery on July 7th 1857. The cause of death was given as pulmonary tuberculosis. Tragically, Thomas saw the local church three times in the next three weeks. On July 10th his daughter, already very poorly, was baptised Mary Elizabeth. He returned three days later to bury his wife. Mary Elizabeth survived until August 1st 1857 and was buried on August 4th. She was declared to be suffering from atrophy (an archaic term for failure to thrive often associated with the inability either to obtain sufficient suitable milk or to absorb it once ingested).

Thomas remarried on April 25th 1859. His new bride was Matilda, the daughter of sawyer George Abbott and Sarah Miller. The following year, their first daughter was born. They made their home in Church Street, a few doors west of Mulso Square. By this time, Thomas had given up the shoemaking business and had turned his hand to farm labouring. Matilda spent many years as a lace maker working from home. During the course of the 1860s Matilda presented Thomas with three more daughters (Mary Ellen, born 1863; Hannah, born 1866 and Priscilla, born 1868) and one son, George Wlliam who died shortly after birth in 1865. By 1871, Thomas had moved the family to Grove Cottage on Bell Hill just two doors down from the Bell Inn. The following decade two more daughters (Henrietta, born in 1871 amd Emily Gertrude, born in 1875) and two sons (Alfred Ernest, born 1876 and John Thomas, born 1879) arrived. All eight surviving children spent their early adulthood in the shoe factory.

As the 1870s drew to a close, Thomas and Matilda moved south the Milton Ernest, a village about 5 miles north west of the town of Bedford, taking their younger two children with them. Thomas found work as a gardener whilst Matilda supplemeted the family income with her lace making. Three more children were born in Bedfordshire: Emily Gertrude (1875), Alfred Ernest (1876) and John Thomas (1879). As the decade drew to a close, the family made the return trip to Finedon. In the last decade of the century, Thomas and Matilda found a new home in Mulso Road at the eastern end of the village. Thomas Claypole died in January, Matilda died in the Summer of 1911

Sarah Elizabeth and Albert Ivett

Sarah Elizabeth was the first born child (of nine: three boys and six girls) of Thomas Claypole and his second wife Matilda Abbot. She was born on October 7th and baptised on November 11th 1860. Little is known of her childhood save that she grew up surrounded by an increasing number of junior siblings. In the late 1870s the three oldest girls (Sarah Elizabeth, Mary Ellen and Hannah) were sent into service. Sarah Elizabeth, with her younger sister Hannah, joined the household of Jane C Howorth, a widow from Madras in India, who lived at 7 Park Road in Bedford. Sarah Elizabeth was employed as a cook; Hannah was a housemaid. Confusing on the 1881 census which followed, Sarah was entered as Sarah E Maud Maypole (the first time in documents her third or alternative given name was recorded). Mary Ellen became one of four domestic servants working for Reverend Albert Foster at the Vicarage, Town Street in the village of Wootton, Bedfordshire. In late 1888 Mary Ellen found herself pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter, Frances Mary Foster Claypole, on June 6th 1889. Although no father was named on the birth certificate, Mary Ellen was awarded an Affiliation Order at Wellingborough Petty Sessions on July 14th 1889 against Frederick Foster, the vicar's son, for the payment of two shillings a week towards the maintenance of the illegitimate child (19). Mary Ellen did ultimately marry - to grocer and fish merchant James Loakes - in a double marriage ceremony with younger sister Henrietta Frances (and her spouse shoe clicker George Thomas Pearson) at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Finedon, on June 4th 1895.

Sarah Elizabeth did not return with the family to Finedon. Although it is not certain when they met, she had formed a relationship with Albert Edward Ivett. At the beginning of the 1880s he was living with the family of tailor Isaac Moore in Well Street Bedford to whom he was apprenticed. Albert had been born in 1865 in the village of Clapham, Bedfordshire, the son of Ephraim Ivett and Phoebe White Cox. By the time Sarah Elizabeth and Albert were together, the Ivett family were suffering from financial hardship. Phoebe and her younger son Arthur were living with her widower brother in law Ebenezer Jordan who owned a blacksmith shop. Phoebe was acting as his housekeeper (a position she maintained until her death in 1892) and the 15 year old Arthur was working as a groom. The circumstances were unclear at the time but Ephraim was a potter by trade and came from a family who were staunchly Wesleyan Methodist. In 1861 he had a business employing 20 men and 6 boys and the following year he invested in a new venture, The Temperance Hotel in Bedfordshire. Unfortunately these businesses both failed and he went bankrupt. Ephraim and Phoebe separated and sometime in the next decade he left for America. He settled in Ohio and it was understood by the children that he had been killed by Indians.

Phoebe's daughter Elizabeth married George Cawkwell in 1881 and they moved to Nottingham, taking up residence in Raleigh Street, just west of The Arboretum. Phoebe's younger son Arthur trained as a plumber, possibly influenced by George Cawkwell, and moved to Nottingham, first to the northern district of Basford, and then more centrally to Northumberland Street in the city. Arthur married Mary Hannah Footitt in Nottingham in 1888. They subsequently had three children. By the turn of the century both Arthur and George were working as water inspectors.

St Stephen

St Stephen's Church, Hulme

Sarah Elizabeth (now calling herself Elizabeth Maude) and Albert Ivett were married at St Stephen's Church which stood on City Road, Hulme, Manchester on November 9th 1884. They had taken temporary residence in nearby Ogden Street and Wood Street respectively. The reason why this venue was chosen was probably because the church was only a stone's throw away from where George Frederick Claypole had established his bootmaking workshop about eighteen months before. Over the next ten years, Sarah Elizabeth had five children. After the ceremony, the couple had made their first home in Robson Street, a short street of back to back houses between Vine Street and Junction Street in Hulme. Next door to their house was a yard and stables (20) Their first son was born there at the beginning of October but was unwell from the start. Named Herbert Francis, he died five weeks later on November 18th 1885: the cause of his death being registered as convulsions.

Albert continued to work as a tailor and by 1885 was employed as a foreman. The following year, the couple moved a few hundred yards south east to another house in Ridley Grove. Sarah Elizabeth became pregnant again and delivered a second son, Albert Harry, on September 7th 1886. By the time of the 1891 Census, the couple had settled into Walmer Street, about a mile and a half due east from where George Frederick Claypole had made his own home. Two daughters, Beatrice Margaret and Henrietta May, followed in 1891 and 1892. The next three years were filled with sadness. First, 7 year old Albert Harry became increasingly ill with weight loss and breathing problems. A diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis was made. A commonly held medical belief in the late Victorian era was that sea air was beneficial in the management of this condition (21). It seems likely that on this recommendation, the family moved to the coast and took a house in Oak Street, Southport. This was to no avail and the lad died on September 12th 1893. Towards the end of 1894, Sarah Elizabeth became pregnant for the fifth time. During the year, Albert himself had become increasingly unwell. As his condition deteriorated, he decided to move the family closer to his brother and sisters who were now living in Nottingham. They moved into a house in Colville Terrace close to the north eastern corner of Nottingham Arboretum. Sarah Elizabeth went into labour on June 27th 1895 when daughter Edith Elizabeth was born. Albert was diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis from which he died on February 26th 1896.

Continued in column 2...

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Added: February 9th 2017
Last update: May 4th 2018

Abandoned, flight and a new household

Sarah Elizabeth did not stay alone for long. On April 19th 1897, she married Albert Edward Peet at St Stephen's Church in the Sneinton district of Nottingham. It is not known for certain the circumstances of their meeting. He was the son of lacemaker Thomas Whittle Peet and his wife Elizabeth Godfrey. The family lived in Union Cottages, a row of houses on Union Road in the city. At the census of 1891 Albert Edward was described as a coal labourer but he entered his occupation as confectioner on the marriage register. Albert Edward had an older sister, Lucy Emily, who was troubled by mental illness and spent time as a young adult in the Borough Lunatic Asylum. Albert Edward's older brother, Joseph Albert Whittle Peet, was a sometime wine merchant.

Within three to four months of the date of the marriage Sarah Elizabeth was pregnant. The following year, she returned to Finedon where she gave birth to a baby boy on June 14th 1898 she named Thomas Alfred Edward Peet. By the turn of the century she was pregnant again. She moved the two miles east from Finedon to the neighbouring village of Irthlingborough taking her three daughters and young son with her. She set up home in Line Street where she took in work as an boot closer. This was a domicially occupation carried out by many of the wives in the area and involved stitching the prepared uppers to Army boots. It was here that she gave birth to a second son who she named Arthur Harry Peet on February 9th 1901. This baby completed the family she entered on the 1901 England Census which was taken just two months later. Her husband Albert Edward Peet was not mentioned. It would appear that Sarah Elizabeth was never to see him again.

Nutt's factory

Nutt's Factory, Finedon

Meanwhile, back in Finedon, Arthur Nutt's Boot and Shoe Manufacturing Business was growing from strength to strength, taking on more staff and undergoing further major expansion. In 1908, Arthur decided turned the business into a private limited company with himself and and a colleague Thomas Holley being the principal shareholders. Thomas Holley was appointed Managing Director. Almost immediately, Arthur retired from active participation in the running of the business and left the district. Thomas Holley continued to manage the business under the Arthur Nutt name. A further expansion occurred in the early months of 1914 with production geared to satisfy its Government contracts for boots for the Army during the First World War. The factory was taken over by the Coles Shoe Company of Burton Latimer in 1956 although it continued to be known as Arthur Nutt's until it finally closed in the late 1980s. The original building has now been converted into residential apartments.

The clue to the convergence of these two storylines emerges from the 1911 census return for Bedford. Living at 136 Hurst Grove, an end terrace house on the corner of Winifred Road, was 48 year old Sarah Elizabeth with her three Ivett daughters and two Peet sons. Boarding with them was Arthur Nutt. Sarah declared herself married for 13 years; Arthur, a widower and boot manufacturer. By the start of the First World War, the family had moved again, this time to Stonebridge House, Little Wakering, Essex

Edward's War

Sarah Elizabeth's older son, Thomas Alfred Edward, initially trained as a fitter. As a young man he measured 5 feet 8 inches tall and had brown eyes, black hair and a dark complexion. After the outbreak of the war, he enlisted with the Army at Coventry on April 15th 1915 for a four year term declaring his name to be Edward Nutt and that he was 19 years 6 months old. (In fact he was 16 years and 10 months old - Ed). He also gave his father's name as A Nutt. He was enrolled as Gunner 840626, Royal Field Artillery (Gunner was the Royal Artillery equivalent of private). He was sent for six weeks basic training and then placed on the Reserve List. He was mobilised in 1916 and embarked with the Expeditionary Force at Southampton on May 21st bound for Le Havre, France. He was transferred through several Royal Field Artillery units in the field (including the 33rd Brigade) that year. After a furlough in England and a short spell in hospital with laryngitis at the beginning of 1917, he was posted back to France and joined "C" Battery of the 155th Army Brigade, Royal Field Artillery on February 16th.

18 pounder

An 18-pounder as used near Ypres, 1917 (23)

In 1917, an Army Field Brigade had a fairly uniform establishment consisting of 23 officers and 772 men. As well as its Headquarters Company, it would be comprised of 4 batteries; 3 batteries (designated A, B and C) each with 6 18-pounder guns and 1 battery (designated D) with 6 4½ inch howitzers. Each battery had a complement of 198 men consisting of a Major in command, a Captain, 3 Subalterns each in charge of a two-gun section, a Battery Sergeant Major, a Battery Quartermaster Sergeant, a Farrier-Sergeant, 7 Sergeants, 4 Shoe Smiths, 2 Saddlers, 2 Fitters, 2 Trumpeters, 7 Corporals, 11 Bombardiers, 75 Gunners, 71 Drivers and 10 Batmen (22). The artillery, properly called the Ordnance QF (quick firing)18-pounder, was the standard field gun of the First World War being used by both British and Empire Armies. Throughout the war the field gun was moved from place to place by a team of horses and each battery had between 200 and 250 of these animals. The later versions of the weapon had a range of between 6525 and 9300 yards (over 5¼ miles). A variety of projectiles weighing about 18½ pounds each could be fired at a rate of up to 20 rounds per minute. These included armour-piercing, smoke, gas, incendiary and sharpnel shells. (23)

War Hospital
Bradninch Hall

Left: Old Postcard of Bradninch Hall as No 5 War Hospital, Exeter (24); Right: Bradninch Hall (25)

At the end of May the brigade was moved from France to Flanders, Belgium and by early August they were stationed on the northern bank of the Ypres-Yser canal to the north of the town of Ypres (26). In the Autumn of that year, Edward became unwell with what was initially suspected to be an episode of dysentery. He was seen at the Essex Farm Casualty Clearing Station (27) and when his symptoms did not settle he was transferred on September 27th 1917 to the No 3 General Hospital at Rouen. From there he was repatriated to England and admitted to the No 5 War Hospital in Exeter, Devon. When war broke out, this hospital unit had been established in Bradninch Hall, a Georgian house in Castle Street built in 1772, which was being used as a women student's hostel for the Royal Albert Memorial College, Exeter (24). Towards the end of October, a sigmoidoscopy proceedure was carried out which revealed a "tumour the size of a tangerine orange in the descending colon". The tumour was inoperable and a palliative colostomy was carried out. Upon discharge from hospital he was noted to be very weak and anaemic. He was sent for convalescence.

He was seen by an Army Medical Board where his condition was considered to be "hereditary but aggravated by service during the present war". He was deemed unfit for further service and declared 100% disabled. He was discharged from the service on January 4th 1918 with an Army pension of £1 7s 6d a week. He was also awarded a Silver War badge. He returned home to Arthur and his mother who were now residing at 15 Tintern Avenue, Westcliffe on Sea, Essex. He died on June 7th 1919, the diagnosis confirmed as carcinoma of the colon. He was buried in plot AA.6 of the London Road Cemetery, Leigh-on-Sea. He was also commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as Gunner Edward Nutt. Although the Commission has a presence in the cemetery with 31 named soldiers, Edward Nutt does not have one of its headstones as the relevant records are marked as "private grave and private memorial".

The end of an era

Four years after Edward's death, his younger brother Arthur Harry Peet married Iris May Castle at St Mary's Church, South Benfleet, Essex. Sarah Elizabeth and Arthur Nutt were present and signed as witnesses. Over the next few years, Arthur became increasingly frail. He entered the Westcliffe Nursing Home in neighbouring Westcliffe on Sea where he died on March 19th 1928. Sarah Elizabeth lived on until 1942. Her oldest daughter Beatrice Margaret married Albert Outten, a bricklayer, in 1913. They still lived in the Southend on Sea area at the start of the Second World War. Second daughter Henrietta May married Albert Johnson who was running a market garden at Rucking Farm in Barling Magna in Essex in 1939. Sarah Elizabeth was staying with the couple on the farm when the 1939 Directory for England and Wales was being compiled. Youngest daughter Edith Elizabeth married John Ayres in 1918. They made their home in Southall, London which was from where Sarah Elizabeth was admitted to the Harley Nursing Home in Norwood, London towards the end of 1941. She died there on January 22nd 1942.

What happened to Mr Whittle Peet?

The circumstances surrounding the whereabouts of Albert Edward Peet remain something of a mystery. It is not even clear how long he was actually with Sarah Elizabeth Claypole. That they were married is confirmed by the documentary evidence of their 1897 marriage certificate. However, there is also strong evidence, supported by another certificate, that Albert married for a second time, in the event bigamously, in St Mary's Church, Peterborough on March 4th 1900 under the name Edward Patrick O'Brien Whittle. His bride was 21 year old Alice Emily Middleton, the daughter of baker John Middleton. Albert declared himself to be a baker too. Alice was already in mid pregnancy at the time of the wedding. She duly delivered a son, they named John Edward O'Brien Whittle, in July 1900 but died on the 25th of that month from complications of the birth. The little boy survived only until September 7th that same year.

By April 1901, Albert Edward was back in Nottingham, declared on the census return as a railway goods labourer. However he was entered on the birth certificates of Sarah Elizabeth's sons as "master baker" and "journeyman baker", and apparently registered the birth of the first in person. Next, Albert Edward travelled south to London where he set up house with previously married (at that stage) 30 year old Bessie Budgen. Their first son together, who they named John Edward Whittle, was born in 1904. Over the next 10 years another four sons and a daughter followed. The census of 1911 shows them at home at 3 Weston Street, Finsbury as 8 years married couple Edward and Bessie Whittle with two of her children and three of their own. The compelling evidence for these three events is presented by comparison of the signatures on these three documents. They do appear to have been written by the same hand.

No evidence has been found to show that Albert Edward did marry Bessie Budgen in 1903. However that event did come to pass in Finsbury in the Spring of 1935. In the marriage indexes Albert Edward is entered twice both as Peet and as Whittle. Whatever the status of his previous marriages, this event too was bigamous. Albert Edward died in the Summer of 1939.

Joining the dots, squaring the circles ...

Is it now possible to answer the questions posed at the beginning of this article? Taking the second point first, is it possible to say who the father of Edward Nutt was? In order to answer this it is important to re-examine the longterm relationship between the Claypole and Nutt families. Taken in isolation events which may be considered circumstantial, when taken together and placed into the context of the various family members' surroundings reveals an ever increasing level of evidence which becomes compelling. It is clear that the fathers of both George Frederick Claypole and Arthur Nutt were long term neighbours in the same street in Higham Ferrers and most probably work colleagues. Thomas Claypole started making shoes in Finedon when he moved there and on his untimely death his activities were taken over and expanded by his eldest son, George Frederick. In his book "Finedon Otherwise Thingdon" village historian John L.H. Bailey comments: "The factory behind [Gibson's butcher's premises] dates from the mid-nineteenth century and seems to have been built by one of Finedon's pioneer shoe manufacturers, George Frederick Claypole" [Further Reading A]. Study of the Victorian census returns show that at least three branches of the Claypole family were employed in the shoe trade in various capacities over the years. It is inconceivable that they would not have been working in and for the family firm. Both George Frederick's mother and sister appeared to be section heads, having girls working under them. It should also be remembered that George Frederick had been profoundly deaf from childhood and so may well have required considerable support in the running of the business. Arthur Nutt married George Frederick's sister. At the time she was already overseeing other girls whereas Arthur was just a newly appointed clicker. His rise through the company was meteoric. However although he was a foreman clicker in 1891 he had become an independant factory owner and manufacturer in 1892. Perhaps it was Arthur's good luck and fortune that the Claypole business had gone bankrupt just at the right time and that he would have had a captive but unemployed workforce ready to move in. Then there is the noted discrepancy in the valuation of George Frederick's business holdings so it seems more likely that there was Claypole backing for this new venture.

It is obvious that George Frederick knew Sarah Elizabeth Claypole. They were first cousins (once removed) living in the same village. Again it is inconceivable that Sarah Elizabeth and Albert Ivett got married in a church nearly 150 miles distant from Finedon but just a couple of hundred yards away from George Frederick's subsidiary workshop unless it had been prearranged. It is a Claypole tragedy that Sarah Elizabeth lost her husband and two sons and found herself in Nottingham with her three young daughters. It is a tragedy too that for whatever reason Mary Elizabeth Claypole became an invalid leaving Arthur Nutt childless. By the time of Mary Elizabeth's demise, Sarah Elizabeth had had two more sons and returned to Irthlingborough via Finedon from Nottingham and George Frederick had returned to Finedon from Manchester. At about the same time, Arthur Nutt turned his business into a private limited company leaving it in the hands of his managing director.

It is clear that Sarah Elizabeth with her entourage and Arthur Nutt left Finedon whether separately or together at about the same time, never to return. By the outbreak of the First World War they were living together as man and wife in the Southend on Sea area. There is no evidence that they ever married, but from that time onwards they were always referred to as Nutt. It is curious that the Army Board, when determining Edward's discharge and eligibility for a pension, declared that his condition "was hereditary but aggravated by service in the Army". The Army only ever knew him as Nutt, so they must have received a family history from Edward himself. If so, who was Edward referring to? That has not, so far, been discovered. It is somewhat confusing that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemoration only quotes Edward Nutt's name and rank, not giving any reference to his family. This is said to be because the family had not wished his death and burial to be made public and that his grave site and the memorial were private ones. However, when younger brother Arthur Harry married, he did so in the name of Nutt and Sarah Elizabeth signed the register as Elizabeth Nutt. When Arthur Nutt's will was published in April 1928, he left the Tintern Avenue house to his wife Elizabeth Nutt. He acknowledged Sarah Elizabeth's girls as his three step-daughters but named Arthur Harry as his son.

So how does Albert Peet fit into this timeline? Did he ever intend to stay with Sarah Elizabeth? Why did he marry again in Peterborough so soon? What would have happened if Alice Middleton had not died? Was he ever a visitor to Finedon? Why did he not marry Bessie Budgen until 1935 shortly before he died? Is it possible that Sarah Elizabeth and Arthur Nutt had been having an affair even before the turn of the century? It had been said around the village in the past that "Arthur Nutt had an eye for the ladies".

The implications of DNA (J.W.)

Nutt headstone

Gunner Edward Nutt © TWGPP (The War Graves Photographic Project): Reproduced with permission

The Ivett daughters always understood that Sarah Elizabeth had had three husbands, all of whom were well off financially and all of whom died before she did. Similarly we always believed that her third daughter Edith Elizabeth (my grandmother) was Albert Ivett's child. This view changed recently when I submitted a DNA test to the Ancestry company The report came back showing I had two possible surname matches, one of which was the name Nutt. The Company also provides a facility where you can view your matches against other members' family trees if they a tree registered with them. In one of these trees I found Arthur Nutt's brother, Charles Parker Nutt with his family. I shared DNA with the descendant of one of Charles Parker Nutt's daughters, Kate. Another tree matched me another descendant of Charles Parker Nutt's daughters, Alice Nutt. Both matches share enough DNA with me to give virtually 100% certainty that we all have common ancestors: these being James Nutt and Hannah Parker - Arthur Nutt's parents.

We also have further anecdotal evidence. Edith Elizabeth died in 1973 of cancer of the rectum. We have also had confirmation of a very significant family history of malignant disease in three generations of descendants of Arthur Nutt's brother Charles Parker Nutt (including bowel, stomach and cervical cancers). When I first saw the photograph of Arthur Nutt reproduced on this page I noticed the strong resemblance of him to my father. The hairline and the look to the eyes is so similar. My mother also tells me that she once saw a photograph of Edward Nutt who shared this same appearance. If this is the case, is it not possible that Sarah Elizabeth's subsequent children were also Arthur Nutt's and that Edward was using his proper name?

The memorial explained

The answer to what happened to the memorial in the London Road cemetery, Leigh-on-Sea is probably easier to explain but is still only a partial one. It has been confirmed by the cemetery offices that Edward Nutt is buried in the grave with his mother, Sarah Elizabeth Claypole and Arthur Nutt. As recently as 1973 the memorial consisted of the three marble bases, a superstructure in the shape of a cross and two vases when an application was made to remove surrounding kerbing. In the interim, it appears that the superstructure has been taken down (perhaps because it became unstable and was unsafe) and now lies flat against the marble base. The side of the base which contains Edward Nutt's commemoration is clearly visible but that still leaves a conundrum. The side of the base next to Edward's contains an incomplete dedication which starts with the words "Wife of Arthur Nutt". Sarah Elizabeth's name does appear on one face of the base of the fallen cross. It does not appear that there is anything legible on the other two sides. Consequently there is probably no lasting memorial to Arthur Nutt either in Southend on Sea or in Finedon. Reference to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website confirms that it does not have an actual photograph of London Road Cemetery. What is displayed in its page is a photograph of a cemetery in Belgium.

Footnote: September 30th 2017

After we had completed our research for this article, I decided to investigate the possibility of renovating the Nutt memorial. I approached a local stonemason in Leigh on Sea who agreed to undertake with the work. It became clear that the base of the monument was the third slab which had subsided to ground level. The slabs were excavated and all were cleaned. When complete we were surprised and pleased to find that there was indeed an inscription commemorating Arthur Nutt. The refurbished memorial can be seen on the accompanying photograph.

This saga continues to provoke some incredulity amongst our family members. A cousin just did not believe the story and had been convinced that Arthur Nutt was not our great grandfather. It took the results of the DNA test to prove it to her. - [J.W.]

Further Reading

Finedon Otherwise Thongdon
Finedon Revealed
Look at Finedon

The covers

Local historian and long term Finedon resident, the late John L.H. Bailey, spent many years collecting records, memories and photographs of the town. The following three volumes present a comprehensive and fully illustrated history of the town and its surroundings.

A.: Finedon Otherwise Thingdon Published by the author at "Plackett House", High Street, Finedon 1975 ISBN 0 9504250-0-1. Bailey paints a sweeping canvas of the settlement which became Finedon from the days of the Celts and Roman Invasion. He explains the origin of its name from the Danelaw Tingdene through Thingdon to Finedon. He recounts the contributions made by the Mulso, Dolben and Mackworth families before embarking on a narrative walking tour around the village.
B.: Finedon Revealed Published by the author as above. 1987 ISBN 0 9504250-1-X This volume presents a collection of 245 photographs of people and places in the village taken between the middle of the nineteenth century and the middle of the twentienth century. Each image is supported by an explanatory caption.
C.: Look At Finedon Published by the author as above 2004. ISBN 0 9504250-2-8. This a second volume of old photographs of Finedon. This collection contains 309 images of which, the author admits, only 3 occur in both books.

A Vote of Thanks

The authors would like to express their thanks for the help, comments and suggestions from the following in the construction of this article: Malcolm R Duncan and Julie Wilson for their photographs of the Nutt grave in the London Road Cemetery; Dr Julia Neville at The Exeter War Hospital Project; Clare Pryke at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council; Steve Rogers at The War Graves Photographic Project; Eileen Wright at Past Remains; Contributors to the Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire Forums (including Sandy Hall) at RootsChat.Com; Ron Clifton, clk, David Porter and TTracer44 at The Great War Forum.


Alan Craxford is first cousin (three times removed) to George Frederick Claypole and second cousin (twice removed) to Sarah Elizabeth Claypole. His great grandmother, Sarah Anne Claypole (whose own tragic story is told in the article Death For Threeha'p'orth of suckers), was the daughter of the John Claypole who moved to Middleton, mentioned in the opening paragraph. Judi Wood is the granddaughter of Sarah Elizabeth Claypole's daughter Edith Elizabeth Ivett. Albert Edward Peet was the great great uncle of Paula Jackson

Malcom Peet (Chairman), Mick Britton (Secretary) and Carolyn Smith are members of the Finedon Local History Society for which we are grateful for permission to use the archive photographs of Finedon. Malcolm has written a number of books on facets of the village's history including "Finedon's Yards" published in 2005. He confirms that he has no relationship with the Peet family of Nottingham. Carolyn and Mick co-researched and co-wrote "From Finedon to Van Diemen's Land - The Transportation of 19th Century Convicts".


1. The Worshipful Company of Cordwainers website.
2. Photograph: Great Easton, Leicestershire: St Andrews Church: © Kate Jewell, and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
3. Photograph: Higham Ferrers, Northamptonshire: St Mary's Church: © Andrew Abbott, and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
4. Pytchley Row, Finedon Northamptonshire: British Listed Buildings
5. "Well Street from Dolben Square": Photograph 184. in Finedon Revealed: John L.H. Bailey
6. Boot and Shoe Manufacturers: Finedon or Thingdon Parish. in Northamptonshire, History, Topography & Directory 1874. Page 753 © Eneclann at
7. "G.F. Claypole" Northampton Bankruptcy Court: Northampton Mercury November 11th 1892. The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
8. "Another Company Matter": Shoe Trade Failures in Northampton Bankruptcy Court October 18th 1892: Northampton Mercury October 21st 1892 The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
9. "Shoe Trade Finance" Meeting of creditors in Northampton presided over by Mrs Sarah Claypole (JTC owed £ 42). Northampton Mercury: Friday March 19th 1897 The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
10. St George's Ward District Hulme 1883: Progressive numbers 3741 - 3744: Manchester Rate Books 1706 - 1900: at
11. Boot & Shoe Makers: Pages 28 & 62 Slater's Directory of Manchester & Salford (part 2: Trades, Institutions and Streets etc) Historical Directories and England & Wales Special Collections Online. University of Leicester
12. Partnership Dissolved: London Gazette Issue 28111 Page 1232 February 21st 1908
13. Boot and shoe clicker Wikipedia
14. Hospital Week Fund: Northampton and District News: Northampton Mercury Friday July 1st 1892. The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
15. Places Vacant (General Servant): Stamford Mercury Friday September 5th 1902 The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
16. Finedon Funeral: Northampton Mercury Friday 21st April 1905 The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
17. Report of a smallpox outbreak in January 1865: Chapter 6: Dr Edwin Wing St Andrews Hospital, Northampton: The First 150 Years: Page 118 Google Books
18. Photograph: Finedon, Northamptonshire: The Church of St Mary the Virgin: © Christopher French, and licenced for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence at Wikimedia Commons
19. Affiliation Order: Wellingborough Petty Sessions July 14th 1889: Stamford Mercuty Friday July 19th 1889.The British Newspaper Archive; © The British Library Board.
20. To be sold, pursuant to an Order of the High Court of Justice: 4 messuages numbered 11 to 17 Robson Street, Hulme: The London Gazette Page 3696 June 26th 1894
21: Mastrangelo T.D., Masters Thesis Life in the Open Air: The Persistence of Outdoor Air Treatment for Pulmonary Tuberculosis Patients in America from the Industrial Revolution to the 1950s. James Madison University The Graduate Schjool Spring 2011
22. What was an artillery brigade? The Long, Long Trail
23. Ordnance QF 18-pounder wikipedia; The Free Encyclopedia
24. The Exeter War Hospital Project at Devon Remembers: The First World War 1914 - 1918
25. Bradninch Hall at Past Remains. © Eileen Wright. Reproduced with permission
26. The War Diary 1917 Mar - 1919 April: 155 Army Field Artillery Brigade. The National Archives WO 95/204/1
27. Essex Farm in World War One Battlefields

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