Frederick’s father John was born in 1811 at Barton under Needwood, in Staffordshire. He married Sarah Oatway in 1840 at the parish church of Mary le Port in Bristol. Her father Jeremiah, a labourer, lived in Long Ashton Somerset. John’s parents were Robert Shorthouse and Mary Henson. Robert was a gardener living in Barton.

The Henson family were from Burton on Trent and the Shorthouse family were from South Derbyshire (Eggington, Hartshorne and Sutton on the Hill). These communities are in fairly close proximity to one another.

John and Sarah were living with Jeremiah Oatway in Long Ashton at the time of the 1841 census. The 1851 census shows them at Llansamlet, Cadoxton, Glamorgan with children Frederick age 5, William Henry age 4 and George age 1. They had two children that were born in Bedminster that died as infants, John (1841 – 1841) and John (May 1842 – March 1843). Robert was the last child they had, born 1851 in Swansea, died 1928 in Bedwelty. Robert was a coal miner hewer who married Jane Webb in 1872 and had a large family.

The records show that John was a railway labourer working on excavation. The 1840’s heralded the biggest decade of railway growth in British Isles and we presume he left the rural setting of Barton looking for work. In 1840 he was in Somerset, 1849 in Gloucester and 1851 Glamorgan. The 1861 Census, Kenfig Hill, Pyle, Bridgend, shows John at 44, widower, platelayer. Frederick 14, William 13, George 11 and Robert 7 at home with housekeeper, Elizabeth Williams.

We have not found any record of John in the 1871 or the 1881 censuses, nor of John’s death in the BMD indexes. Sarah’s death certificate shows that she died at Swansea in 1853, at the age of 32 from chronic bronchitis, many years’ childbirth and congestion of lungs (six days collapse).

We do not know how the family lived after Sarah’s death in 1853; John had four young children to look after. Frederick would be about 7, William 6, George 3 and Robert about 18 months.  We have to presume that they went to school as least up to the age of ten. The Mines Act of 1842 tried to prohibit employment of children under the age of 10 from working underground. Pit ponies were introduced to replace some of the work done by children, but reports suggest that mines in Wales generally ignored the Act.

For whatever reason, we have not been able to find any references to John’s children in 1871 Census, except that Robert was lodging with a family in Ebbw Vale in 1871. 

What we did find out was that George, Robert and Frederick led a violent life and each spent time in prison. We have reproduced several newspaper articles written about these incidents. Drunkenness and pub brawls have always existed in the mining communities; it seemed to be the way of life for some people.


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