The Shut End Primitive Methodist Chapel. Part 3 – Ministers and families

Part 2 of this post can be found here.

The Baptismal Register gives details of those ministers who baptized the children. These can be expected to be in two categories – members of the church who held a position of authority of some form and conducted services – perhaps stewards or trustees; and preachers from the local Primitive Methodist Circuit. In total 151 baptising ministers are listed  (although the variable forms of the names may mean this is an overestimate), with most officiating at just a few baptisms.  The five most common baptizing ministers are shown in table 6 below.

Table 6 Baptising ministers

The census returns in principle allow a little more information to be gleaned for these ministers. For one of them – Robert Bowen – there is however no obvious candidate in the census record.  Of the others, William Dudley was born in 1817 in Oldswinford and in 1861 he is listed as a tailor and draper in Kingswinford. Samuel Kendrick was born in 1811 in Ketley in Shropshire, lived in the Smithy Lane area and is listed as a miner.  Abraham Dodd was born in 1844 in Oak Farm and worked as a miner. He was the son of another Abraham, a miner from Wombridge in Shropshire. There are a number of Joseph Homer’s in the census record, born around 1835 to 1845, so it is not possible to be precise concerning his birth or residence, although all of the possible Joseph’s were either miners or labourers. 

The longevity of the ministry of all in table 6 would suggest that they were all members of the congregation itself – indeed in the case of Sam Kendrick and Abraham Dodd, their families can be traced in the baptismal entries themselves. It is likely that many of the others who performed just a few baptisms were circuit ministers. Only two such can be identified with confidence by their appellation – Rev R Brewen in 1861 and the Rv J Hawkins from 1881 to 1884. Dood (1883) draws attention to another possibility – Henry Higginson – and says that he was nicknamed the Roving Ranter. Unfortunately the census records reveal no more about him, which is the greatest of pities, as the name suggests there are stories to be told.

Two further points arise – firstly the ministers in the local congregation all shared the same background as those to whom they ministered, as manual workers or small shopkeepers. Secondly the link with the Shropshire coal field is obvious. In KMAP I described the society in Pensnett in the 19thcentury as a migrant society, with a considerable population influx, particularly from the Shropshire area. 

To fully describe all the families and individuals mentioned in the register is of course not possible, and its primary use in this regard will be by those researching family histories. The approach I take here is to consider in some detail just three families, who between them were involved in 46 baptisms over the course of the 42 years of the register. These are the Astons, the Cottons, and the Shukers. The family connections for these three families are shown in figures 3, 4 and 5 below. In these figures the following conventions have been adopted.

  • Those individuals with no shading on their entry appear directly in the register either as parents of as the child being baptized.
  • Those shaded in green indicate membership of families that appear elsewhere in the register.
  • Those shaded in blue indicate individuals who have been identified through census / BMD searches, usually from generations earlier than those in the register, that connect some of the register entries together. 
  • Those shaded in yellow indicate linkages between the three families.

Note that these trees only show the names of individuals in the register or those who link the various individuals together.  Many of the families in these figures can be shown through census records to have other children who do not appear in the register for one reason or another.

Figure 3. The Aston Tree

First consider the Aston tree shown in figure 3. Three generations of the family appear in the register. Those in the first generation – John (1822) and Richard (1830) were probably brothers, but their parents are elusive in the record. The earlier generation comes from the Dudley area, and the later generations lived in the Tansey Green and Commonside areas. Without exception all those in the register were manual workers throughout their lives. Richard (1830) married Maria Shuker (1832), the first of the inter-family connections that we can identify.

Figure 4 The Cotton Tree

The Cotton tree in figure 4 covers four generations. George (1792) (not in the register) came from the Wombridge area of Shropshire (near Oakengates and Wellington), and the two distinct families of the Cottons were his descendants, migrating to the Kingswinford area in the early 19thcentury. James (1818) and Hannah Bird (1822) also come from the same area. Hannah is the second of the family interconnections – see below. After the family moved to the Pensnett area, they all lived around Shut End / Coopers Bank / Tansey Green. Without exception, all the males mentioned in the register were miners. 

Figure 5 The Shuker Tree

The third tree in figure 5 is that of the Shukers. Here 5 generations are shown, with the latter three appearing in the register. The early generations were again from the Wombridge area. Samuel Shuker (1806) married Ann Bird (1809), the elder sister of Hannah in figure 4. The Bird family was again from Wombridge.  One of their children, Maria (1832) married into the Aston family (figure 3). The later generations lived in the Shut End / Tansey Green / Commonside area and were mainly labourers, but one or two were skilled manual workers.

These three trees can only of course represent a snapshot of a small section of the register, yet they do show the interconnectedness between the families and other families who attended the Chapel, and their common roots. Other families could of course be considered – such as the Dodds from Shut End and Tansey Green (12 baptisms), or the Greenaways from Coopers Bank (19 Baptisms), both of which had those in leadership positions in the church – Abraham Dodd (mentioned above) baptizing in the 1870s and 1880s, and Christopher Greenaway baptising in the 1880s. The significant point remains the same however – the lack of social and occupational mobility for such families. 

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