? = ?
? = ?
? = Emma Dennis Beck
Reuben Beck = Louisa Jarvis
| ↳ other children
Reuben Alexander Beck = Ruth Elizabeth Baggs
Reuben Alexander Beck was born on the 9th October 1887, at the Marine Barracks, Chatham, Kent. He was baptised at the Royal Dockyard Church on the 30th of that month. At the time of the 1891 census he was living with his family at 4 Chatham Place, Walmer, Kent, described as a scholar. At the next census, in 1901, he was living with his family at 59 Salisbury Road, Chatham. Up to the age of 14 he went to the Wesleyan Elementary School in Arden Street, Gillingham, after which, having passed the entrance examination, he went on to the Chatham Dockyard School. He entered Chatham Dockyard as an apprentice shipwright on the 10th July 1902; the apprenticeship was for six years.1
Reuben, or Reub, as he was known, was a very keen sportsman before he married, playing a very good game as goalkeeper for the Dockyard Apprentices football team; on one occasion, playing away at Herne Bay, he came onto the pitch carrying a winger under each arm, to the amusement of the crowd. He was a supporter of Gillingham Football Club, and would always attend home games on Saturday afternoons. Until his final illness he was a keen cricket enthusiast, and supported the Medway Towns Cricket Club, of which two of his sons became members. He was also an active follower of the Kent Cricket Club, and visited every ground in the county to watch the county team play. In his youth, he was a familiar sight as anchorman in the Dockyard tug-of-war team. He also swam, having learned the hard way by being taken to a large raft moored in the Medway off Chatham Pier and pushed in!2
On the 6th June 1910 he married [E1] Ruth Elizabeth Baggs, at St Mark's parish church, New Brompton, Kent. At the time he was living in New Brompton. In the 1911 census he is recorded as a shipwright, Govt Dockyard, worker, living with his wife in two rooms at 433 Canterbury St, Gillingham.3
Soon after the marriage the couple moved to 31 Marlborough Road, Gillingham, Kent—a very large, rented, family house, where he lived for most of the remainder of his life (the house was later renumbered to 225). Their children were: Alexander William (1911–1969), Reuben Percival (1913–1989), [A1] Sidney John Thomas (1915–1998), William Arthur (1917–1991), Gladys Ruth May (1918–2001), and Edgar Robert (1921–1944).4
He worked as a shipwright for most of his working life. After the battle of Jutland in 1916 he was sent up to work for a time at Rosyth, in Scotland. He spent much of his time building submarines, but he also helped on cruisers and other ships; among ships he worked on was the cruiser HMS Kent, launched in 1926. The first submarine built at Chatham—the C17—had been built in 1908, but Reuben is not thought to have worked on it. It is not known if he worked on the Warren, the only destroyer built at Chatham, in 1918—but if he did, he would certainly have worked on the keel. In October 1917 he applied for Establishment as a shipwright, and secured this appointment (without competition) on the 24th of April 1918. The 1921 census records him as a shipwright employed by the Admiralty, working at H.M. Dockyard, Chatham, and living with his family in seven rooms at 31 Marlborough Road, Gillingham, together with his father-in-law Walter Baggs. In the late 1920s to early '30s his pay was about £3 per week.5
His work often involved crawling down pipes deep in the bowels of ships; on one occasion, wearing a jacket because it was a particularly cold day, he got stuck in a U-bend, and only escaped by wriggling out of his jacket.6
On Wednesday the 6th April 1933, when working in dry dock, he fell off a platform onto another platform a little way below. An upright iron post stopped him from falling 100 feet to the bottom of the dock. He reported to the doctor at the yard, who said he was O.K. He walked all the way home—about a mile and a half—arriving there pale and shaken, where he broke down—the only occasion on which he was seen to cry; it was not so much his injuries—for on calling the doctor out to him he was transferred the following day to the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham, and found to have four broken ribs (nos 9, 10, 11 and 12)—as the shock of how bad the fall could have been. He had to stay in hospital a whole month, leaving hospital on Wednesday the 3rd May, and resuming work the day after.7
Reuben and Ruth Beck, 1937
For a long time he refused promotion to shipwright's chargeman, because he didn't want to distance himself from his workmates. When he finally agreed to be a chargeman (some time in the 1930s) he regretted he had not accepted the post earlier. In the years before the Second World War he may have earned £18-20 a week, as a chargeman. His new responsibilities involved being in charge of a gang working on piece rates, which meant much worry for him in assessing what each man in the gang should be paid. His gang was allocated a sum of money to complete a job, and as chargeman he had to allocate and pace the work, to get the job done for the sum allocated; a good chargeman could obtain a bonus for each man over and above the standard rate of pay for other gangs. The 1939 Register found him as a shipwright heavy worker, living with his family at 225 Marlborough Road.8
225 Marlborough Road, 1941
During the war shipbuilding was repetitive work, working to standard plans. But in the repair of war-damaged ships Reuben was obliged to undertake many horrible jobs. One particularly unpleasant instance, which always stayed with him, was when he worked on a ship where an explosion had gone off in the ship's galley; men working there had been thrown against the hot ovens, which had tipped over, their tops rolling back like springs and wrapping their bodies; when the ship returned to the yard, it was Reuben's job to retrieve their remains. The ship concerned was probably the Pelican, returning from Dunkirk. Some of the repair work undertaken during the war was carried out from a floating dock, moored off Sheerness, to which Reuben and other shipwrights were ferried every day.9
Sidney Beck's Mass-Observation diary gives a glimpse of Reuben in July 1942: he told them "how all the creeks and inlets on the Thames & Medway were crowded with [invasion?] barges and that in the Dockyard they had been practising running tanks in & out of the barges."10
In October 1944 he was granted, at Llandudno, the administration of the estate of his son Edgar, who had been killed on active service in the Mediterranean.11
He retired on Friday the 10th October 1947, at the age of 60. This was the upper age limit, and at that time there was no provision for additional pension if you extended your service. On his certificate of service under the Admiralty, he is described as an Established Shipwright (permanent chargeman), having served as a Shipwright apprentice from 18.7.02 to 17.7.08, and then as a shipwright in the Constructive Department of Chatham Dockyard from 18.7.08 to 10.10.47; both his conduct, and the quality of service he rendered, are described as Very good. On the certificate of his entitlement to pension, he is described as 6 ft tall, with grey hair and brown eyes; following 12 yrs 197 days of hired time, and 29 yrs 170 days of established service, he was entitled to a pension of £152.16.7d per annum. Soon after his retirement, on 21st November 1947, he received the Imperial Service Medal.12
In 1953, a widower since 1949, he went to live at 211 Marlborough Road.13
Standing 6 ft 6 in tall (in Sidney's memory, at least), he was a very large man, very muscular and strong (as he demonstrated in Herne Bay!); but he was very gentle, in his way. He was very good as a father, not only doing a lot of domestic chores, but also playing with the children—helping to educate them, playing card games and spelling games, and playing football and cricket with them, on the field in front of their house, when he could.14
He took pleasure in singing, particularly music-hall songs—he had a good strong voice. In common with many, he enjoyed a Friday night drink in the pub (the Napier Arms). And on a Saturday he and Ruth often visited Barnard's Palace of Varieties—the in place in those days—where he certainly saw Marie Lloyd, and possibly Gracie Fields, perform.15
He was not much of a churchgoer—he might visit St Mark's on special occasions, but not very often. Conversely, he was very politically minded. A Labour voter, he often discussed current affairs at home; he had, for instance, strong views on the abdication of Edward VIII, supporting Stanley Baldwin's line.16
For three days over Christmas 1955 he stayed with the St Albans Beck family. On Friday the 2nd November 1956, Reuben suffered a stroke. He died at 11:20 a.m., on Wednesday the 14th November 1956, at home, at 211 Marlborough Road, of cerebral haemorrhage, hypertension, and arteriosclerosis. His body was cremated at Charing on Monday the 19th. Subsequently a burial was recorded on 4th December at grave 4177, section CH, Woodlands Road Cemetery, Gillingham.17
Reuben Alexander Beck was the fifth child, and second son, of [A3] Reuben and [C1] Louisa Beck.18
1 birth certificate; interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; transcript by BSB; Reuben A. Beck's diary/birthday book, formerly possessed by Gladys Mills; obituary of R.A. Beck, from unknown Gillingham newspaper, in my possession; R.A. Beck: Articles of Apprenticeship, in my possession; census returns; The National Archives (TNA): RG 13/728; Kent baptisms
2 information from Sidney Beck; interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; Ms Memoirs, Sidney Beck; obituary of R.A. Beck, from unknown Gillingham newspaper
3 marriage certificate; TNA: RG14PN3952 RG78PN150 RD47 SD2 ED23 SN26; parish register
4 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; information from Sidney Beck; interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986
5 marriage certificate; son's birth certificate; interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; information from Sidney Beck; father's letters of administration; letters to me from Sidney & Ruth Beck; letter from Bill Beck to Sidney Beck 8 Aug 1989; R.A. Beck: memorandum notifying establishment, in my possession; London Gazette 30668 1918-05-03; RG 15/4087 RD47 SD2 ED17
6 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells
7 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; Reuben A. Beck's diary/birthday book
8 letters to me from Sidney & Ruth Beck; 1939 England and Wales Register (RG 101)
9 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; letters to me from Sidney & Ruth Beck; letter from Bill Beck to Sidney Beck 8 Aug 1989
10 Sidney Beck's Mass-Observation diary (D 5021)
11 National Probate Calendar; son's death certificate
12 Reuben A. Beck's diary/birthday book; information from Sidney Beck; wife's death certificate; obituary of R.A. Beck, from unknown Gillingham newspaper; R.A. Beck's notice of discharge & certificate of service under the Admiralty, in my possession; R.A. Beck: certificate of discharge and entitlement to pension, in my possession; Sidney Beck said he retired at 65, but this is clearly an error; London Gazette 30668, 1947-11-21
13 Sidney Beck: Ms Diary; S.J. & R. Beck, Visitors' Book
14 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986; Ms Memoirs, Sidney Beck
15 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986; letter from Bill Beck to Sidney Beck 8 Aug 1989; letters to me from Sidney & Ruth Beck; letter to me from Gladys Mills; Sidney Beck: Ms Diary. Sidney remembered his father entertaining his family with a rendition of 'The Galloping Major', while sitting the wrong way round on a chair as he bumped it around the floor to the 'bumpity bump' refrain.
16 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; information from Sidney Beck
17 death certificate; Sidney Beck: Ms Diary; Diaries of Mary S.W. Pollard; S.J. & R. Beck, Visitors' Book; interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986; obituary of R.A. Beck, from unknown Gillingham newspaper; Kent burials
18 birth certificate; information from Sidney Beck
Reuben Beck was born on the 25th November 1854 in the Cookham Union workhouse, Berkshire, and baptised on the 15th April 1855 at Burnham, Buckinghamshire.1
He remained in the workhouse 29 days after his birth, and it is clear that by 1860 he had returned to the workhouse; he is described there as illegitimate, a labourer's child, Church (of England). He was living there at the time of the 1861 census, which described him as a scholar, and a pauper. He lived permanently in the workhouse till 1867, for almost all this time separated from his family, until his mother returned to the workhouse in his final year there, to die.2
On the 2nd October 1871, apparently falsifying his birth date, he enlisted in the Royal Marines, at Burnham. He was described as a labourer, Church of England, 5 ft 5¾ in, fresh complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes, with no marks, wounds or scars.3
Until June 1875 he was a private, based at Chatham. From December 1873 to July 1874 he served on board the ships Malabar, Hibernia, and Swiftsure. The latter two ships were stationed in the Mediterranean, the Hibernia—flagship of the Admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard—being specifically stationed at Malta. During this period his character was described as V. Good.4
In 1875 he obtained a 2nd class school certificate, and was promoted to corporal, which he remained until February 1879, based at Chatham, his character now Excellent.5
On the 16th September 1876 he married [C1] Louisa Jarvis, at St Paul's Church, New-road, Chatham, after banns. The couple's first child was born in December that year, at 17 Regent Place, New Road, Chatham; "Charles Reuben" is described on his son's birth certificate as corporal R.M., 41st cpy, of 17 Regent Place. Their children were: Charles Ernest (1876–1878), Angela Louisa (1878–1962), Eleanor Matilda (1880–1954), Maud Emily (1881–1945), [A2] Reuben Alexander (1887–1956), Ethel Alice (1889–1947), Edgar Percival (1890–1917), Dorothy Catherine (1891–1939), Hilda May (1894–1978), and Elsie Florence (1896–1987). In April 1878 the family were living at 5 Mount, New Road, Chatham. Reuben was present at his son's death there at the end of May.6
From February 1879 to June 1884 he was a sergeant, based at Chatham, his character Ex., or V. Good. For just over a year, around 1879/80, he served as recruiting sergeant. In January 1880 the family were living at Whittakers Place, New Road, Chatham. He was re-engaged in August 1880, having by then grown to 5 ft 8 in.7
From February 1881 to March 1884 he served with the Flora, in South Africa. The 1881 census finds him stationed with the Flora—but not on board ship; the Flora at anchor in Saviours Bay, Cape of Good Hope, a fourth class receiving ship, under Commander Henry Townley Wright. Reuben reengaged on the 28th October that year; his physical description was unchanged. In 1881 he received a good conduct medal: a notice was published in The Times on 20 December that "Sergt. Reuben Beck, R.M., of the Flora" had been awarded the "medal for long service and good conduct". He served as hospital sergeant at Simons Town, just outside Cape Town. In 1883 he became a Freemason, joining the Royal Alfred Lodge (420) at Simons Town, Cape of Good Hope (and by the time of his golden wedding anniversary in 1926 he was one of the oldest Freemasons in the Medway towns). In February 1884 he was discharged from his ship, and given mail steamer passage to England. He had apparently been involved in the war with the Zulus—he returned to England with a Zulu assagai and shield.8
After June 1884 every commanding officer he had recommended him for a gratuity. From June 1884 to September 1891 he was a colour sergeant, based at Chatham, his character V.G. He was also appointed company sergeant (equivalent in rank to company sergeant-major), a position he retained for three years. In October 1887 the Beck family were living at the Royal Marine Barracks in Chatham. Reuben last passed the sea service gunnery drill in January 1888. In March 1888 he was raised to the rank of acting quartermaster-sergeant, R.M. Depot, Deal, being confirmed in that rank at the Chatham Division in August 1891, and remaining there until October 1892. From 1889 to 1890 the family were living in A. House, N. Barracks, Walmer Depot. By January 1889 he was a Color-Sergeant in the RMLI. In the 1891 census Reuben is shown as employed as a Color Sergeant Royal Marines, living with his family at 4 Chatham Place, Walmer, Kent. In August that year the family resided at No 2 Cambell Road, Walmer.9
From September 1891 to October 1892 he was a quarter-master sergeant at Chatham, living in the Marine Barracks, his character described as V.G. On the 7th October 1892 he was discharged on the ground of length of service; by this time he had grown to 5 ft 9½ in, and his complexion had become dark; he possessed five good conduct badges (first class) at discharge, at which time he was living at 24 Clover St, Chatham; he lived there until 1894.10
From February 1893 to the end of 1897 he was timekeeper for the Naval Ordnance Department, at the Gunwharf in Chatham, having successfully passed the exam for the appointment. It may be, though, that he was the R. Beck, storeman, recorded as a passenger on the Garth Castle, departing Southampton for the Cape on 14th April 1894. From 1895–8 he lived at 88 New Road, Chatham. At the end of 1897 he was appointed foreman of the stores. From 1898 to 1907 he lived at 59 Salisbury Road, Chatham. The 1901 census finds him there, a foreman and recorder of labour at the Gun Wharf, Chatham, living with his wife and eight children. At his daughter's marriage in 1902 he is again described as a foreman recorder. By 1909 he had moved to 2 Thorold Road, Chatham, where he lived till at least 1917. In that year he was present at the early death, aged 27, of his son Edgar Percival, at their home.11
After 23 years service in the stores he was superannuated, obtaining a gratuity and pension, but even then he still felt fit for work, and secured a position at the Rochester Recruiting Office, which he retained until the staff was reduced. Shortly afterwards he became a writer or clerk in the R.E. Record Office, and continued in that position until May 1919, thus completing 46½ years in one or other branch of the services.12
In 1909 he had been a founder of the Army and Navy Veterans' Club, Clover-street, Chatham, of which he was Secretary in 1913 (the club then at 16 Clover Street); he also founded the Gillingham branch of the National Association of Navy and Army Pensioners, of which by 1932 he was Chairman.13
In 1911 he was recorded as a pensioner, R. Marines, storehouseman naval ordnance; general work under govert; worker; living with his family in seven rooms at 2 Thorold Road, Luton, Chatham; he witnessed his daughter Ethel's wedding that year, describing himself as a foreman of government stores. At his daughter Dorothy's wedding in 1913 he was described as a quarter master sergeant R.M.L.I., and at Hilda's in 1914 a timekeeper at the Gunwharf.14
2 Thorold Road, photographed in 1985
By 1920 he had moved to 21 Malvern Road, Gillingham, where he lived until at least 1924. The census found him there in 1921, recorded as retired, having been employed by Government, now living with his wife, his daughter Dorothy and granddaughter Dorothy, in five rooms. By 1926 he had gone to live with his daughter Angela at 68 Watling Street, Gillingham. In that year he and Louisa celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, the occasion being covered by the local paper; the couple received a telegram of congratulations from Gillingham's MP, Sir Gerald F. Hohler.15
A non-smoker, his principal recreation was gardening, and in his retirement he could be found any morning on his allotment in First-avenue.16
He was remembered by his grandson Sidney Beck as quite impressively severe-looking, with a thick moustache—a medium-sized heavily-built man, strong, and always a bit severe. He ruled the family with a rod of iron—he would sometimes beat his son Reuben with the buckle end of his great leather uniform belt.17
He died on the 30th October 1932, at the Royal Naval Hospital, Chatham, after a few hours' illness; a post mortem showed that he died of acute peptic ulcers to the stomach, and haemorrhage. He was buried on the 2nd November, in Maidstone Road and Palmerston Road Cemetery, Chatham: 8ft deep, the third interment in grave 35 (C), Section W. His effects at his death were valued at £55.2.5d. (£1872 at 2005 values).18
Reuben Beck was the only child known of [A4] ____ ____ and [B1] Emma Beck.19
1 details as given by birth certificate and parish register, which seem the most reliable. TNA: ADM 159/36/451, gives date of birth as 3 Oct 1853; his own hand recorded it as 25 Nov 1853 in the family Bible, though his son recorded it as 25 Nov 1854 in the same source. The family Bible gives his name as Charles Reuben Beck. ADM 159/36/451, and 1861, 1881 and 1891 census returns give place of birth as Burnham, in Buckinghamshire/Berkshire.
2 Maidenhead Guardians records, Berkshire RO/2-6; census return. Census return gives his surname as 'Becks'.
3 ADM 159/36/451
4 ADM 159/36/451; c11—source reference corrupted; Navy List
5 ADM 159/36/451
6 marriage certificate; information from family Bible; son's birth and death certificate; daughters' birth certificates; information from Sidney Beck; parish register
7 ADM 159/36/451; letter and enclosures to Sidney Beck, from his uncle Harry Harding; information from family Bible; daughter's birth certificate
8 census returns; ADM 159/36/451; interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck and Debbie Wells; transcript by BSB; letter and enclosures to Sidney Beck, from his uncle Harry Harding; The Times 20 Dec 1881; The Standard 19 Dec 1881. ADM 159/36/451 records details of his discharge in a column headed 'Wounded', but here and in 1881/91 a comparison with letter and enclosures to Sidney Beck, from his uncle Harry Harding suggests that the column was being used for other purposes, and the 'wounded' reference should be disregarded. According to 'Petty Officer Tom', a poster on the 1879 Zulu War discussion forum, "The closest he could have been to the Zulu war is if he was a member of the Marine Battalion that was sent out on HMS Jumna, and then held at Simon's Bay until Garnet Wolesley decided that the war was coming to a close and ordered them home."
9 ADM 159/36/451; son's birth certificate; letter and enclosures to Sidney Beck, from his uncle Harry Harding; census returns; Royal Marines register of baptisms; information from family Bible (his daughter's 1891 birth certificate describes him as a Quarter Master Sergeant R.M., with her birth being at 4 Chatham Place, Walmer)
10 ADM 159/36/451; Kelly's Directory; information from family Bible; daughter's birth certificate
11 Kelly's Directory; son's and mother-in-law's death certificates; obituary Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham Observer 4 Nov 1932; letter and enclosures to Sidney Beck, from his uncle Harry Harding; information from family Bible; TNA: RG 13/728; parish register; passenger lists living UK
12-13 obituary Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham Observer 4 Nov 1932; Kelly's Directory, 1913; letter and enclosures to Sidney Beck, from his uncle Harry Harding
14 RG14PN3917 RG78PN149 RD47 SD1 ED33 SN203; Christchurch, Luton, parish register
15 Kelly's Directory; letter and enclosures to Sidney Beck, from his uncle Harry Harding; wife's death certificate; RG 15/4096 RD47 SD2 ED26
16 letter and enclosures to Sidney Beck, from his uncle Harry Harding
17 interview with Sidney Beck, conducted by Benjamin Beck & Debbie Wells; information from Sidney Beck
18 Notice of Death Chatham, Rochester & Gillingham Observer 4 Nov 1932; death certificate; interview with Sidney Beck, begun Easter 1986; letters of administration; Kent burials; British Army and Navy birth, marriage and death records
19 birth certificate; parish register
Who was Reuben's father?
The first answer to this vital question is, and looks like remaining, we simply don't know. He isn't named in any contemporary record whatsoever, including all possible poor law, court, and church records, which are almost deafening in their muteness on the matter. One single, later, record gives a name for Reuben's father, namely Reuben's own marriage certificate, which gives his father's name as William Beck, and his father's occupation as porter. However, too much reliance shouldn't be placed on this, as it wasn't unusual, in cases where spouses wished to conceal their illegitimacy or ignorance of paternity, for them to disguise the fact by naming their grandfather; it seems likely that this is what happened in the present case; against this, however, is the occupation of porter, as there's no evidence that William Beck ever was one. Either, then, Reuben made this up out of the back of his head, or there was some substance of truth in the statement that his father was a porter.
How can the situation have arisen, that all relevant authorities remained ignorant of the identity of the baby's father? It seems that there are only two possible explanations: either it was deliberately concealed, or Emma herself didn't know. The second explanation is the less flattering, but that doesn't exclude it from consideration. The first raises the further problem of motive for concealment—though speculation here would be possible, it could only be on the basis of no hard fact whatsoever, so ultimately of little worth. Whether or not Emma knew who the father was, there is at least no doubt that the infant did have only one. Here one can enter a little more justifiably into speculation, as at least there are a number of possible candidates known. I must preface any further comment by saying that of course the father may have been someone completely different from any name I put forward. My speculation covers three general scenarios1:
1. George Hensey. In the 1851 census return, the Beck family had a lodger, George Hensey, a 39-year-old farm labourer, from Wheldin in Hampshire. This man is not traced in any of the later censuses, though the GRO index and the National Probate Calendar both record the death of a George Hensey of Tottenham in 1888, said to have been 83. But it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that he was still with the Beck household in 1854, and that he had ample opportunity, should he so wish it, to press his attentions on the teenage daughter of the house.
2. Seduction. A contemporary authority, Dr William Acton, wrote in 1857:
It cannot be denied by anyone acquainted with rural life, that the seduction of girls is a sport and habit with vast numbers of men, married and single, placed above the ranks of labour . . . The "keeping company" of the labouring classes, accompanied by illicit intercourse, as often as not leads to marriage; but not so that of the farmer's son, farmer, first or second or third class squire. The union house is now often enough the home of the deserted mother and the infant bastard.2
Apparently, too, publicans were "notoriously fathers of bastards".3
From the 1851 census no individual in Littlewick can readily be identified as even a third class squire. The three farmers were all in their 50s, perhaps old enough to allow for their exclusion from consideration (but perhaps not, if the 1888 George Hensey is in the frame). This would leave the following possible seducers, from the categories stated above4:
A. Thomas Windsor. A 27-year old single farmer's son, at Feenes Farm. Thomas married in 1852, in Reading RD, and by 1861 he was a farmer in Hurley in his own right, with three children. In 1871 he was farming at Chalkpit Farm, Hurley, his family makeup unchanged. He died at Knowl Hill in October 1878.
B. William Windsor. His 25-year old single brother. By 1861 William was still living with his now widowed mother, at Feenes Farm; still single, by 1871 he and a general servant were the only residents of 'Feen's' Farm. By 1881 he had moved to Putney, where he was living with his ironmonger brother Henry; he was still living there with his brother in 1891, now just living on his own means. By 1901 he was living in Esher, a retired farmer, one of three boarders with a restaurant keeper in the High Street; in 1911 he was a boarder in Roehampton; his death was registered in Wandsworth RD later that month. He had never married.
C. Revd Francis William Peel. The 28-year old unmarried curate of White Waltham and Shottesbrook, an MA of Worcester College, Oxford, originally from Caenby, Lincolnshire, and great-nephew of the former prime minister Sir Robert Peel. Francis married in 1852, in Wycombe RD, and by 1861 he was living with his wife and four children, with four servants, as rector of Burghwallis, Yorkshire. He was still rector at Burghwallis in 1871, now with six children, six servants, and a governess; by 1881, still in the same post, the household had expanded to eleven children, seven servants, and a governess. In 1891 he was described as both rector and farmer at Burghwallis, four family members still at home. He died at Burghwallis in 1895.
D. Charles Hibbert. A 28-year old married man, blacksmith and beer shop keeper in Littlewick, originally from Ilsley, Berkshire; he had a one year old daughter, and a son was born later that year. He died young, his death being registered in Cookham RD in the last quarter of 1853. Given that Reuben was born in November 1854, Charles Hibbert can definitely be ruled out as his father.
E. William Low(e). The married 34-year old victualler and cordwainer, of the Wheatsheaf public house, originally from Watlington, Oxfordshire; there were two small children in the family, and two lodgers, one of whom was 26. The Wheatsheaf was the next address visited by the enumerator after Emma's great-uncle Thomas Beck. He was still the publican there in 1861, now with seven children, and one servant, together with six male lodgers, all labourers; William was recorded as "cordwinder, publican or victualler". In 1871 he was still in Littlewick with his wife, five children, and a lodger; he was now apparently employed as a cordwinder only. By 1871 he was listed as a bootmaker in Hurley, living with his wife and two sons, both also bootmakers. By 1881 he was a self-employed dairyman in Littlewick, living with his wife, a nephew, and a lodger. He died in Cookham RD towards the end of 1894.
F. William Cozens. William Cozens was a 26-year-old farm labourer, lodging at the Wheatsheaf in 1851. His subsequent history has proved elusive.
3. The eligible young men in Littlewick. Once again, three years intervene between the census year and the year of Emma's pregnancy, in which many changes could have happened. But in 1851, the young men aged within two years either side of Emma, with whom she might have formed a liaison, were as follows5:
A. William Austen. William was a hired farm servant at Chalk Pits Farm, from Ruscombe in Berkshire, the same age as Emma. He married at Ruscombe in 1861, by that time working as a footman there, in the same household where his wife worked as a housemaid. By 1871 he had become a railway porter, and was living in Reading with his wife and two children. The family, now with five children, was still in Reading in 1881, William's occupation given as a railway checker. His wife died in 1898, and he remarried in 1900. He and his wife were recorded in Reading in 1911, at which time he was recorded as pensioned (another hand has added 'Army', which seems doubtful). He died in Reading RD in 1915.
B. James Huse/Hughes. James was an agricultural labourer, from Iver, Buckinghamshire, two years younger than Emma. He married in Cookham in 1858, and in 1861 was an ag. lab., living in Littlewick Green with his wife and one year old daughter. By 1871 the family had moved to Hackney, where James was still a labourer, living with his wife and daughter, but also a 25 year old step-son. In 1881 James and his wife were at a different address, but still in Hackney, a 9 year old nephew also present; James was working as a bricklayer's labourer; the household—including the nephew—was essentially unchanged in 1891. Still at the same address in 1901, James was still working as a bricklayer's labourer, but his wife had died, and his widowed daughter had moved in, with her own two children. This was essentially the household makeup in 1911, though by then James was working for the borough council as a night watchman. He died at home in October 1914.
C. Richard Huse/Hughes. Richard was James's elder brother, also an agricultural labourer, of the same age as Emma. By 1857, when he married, he had moved to Southall, where he was working as a labourer. In 1861 he and his wife were still in Southall, where James was working as a hay binder. In 1871, now with a family including four children, he was a farm labourer in Southall. The family had moved to Hanwell by 1881, now with nine children at home; James was still a farm labourer. By 1891—James once again described as a hay binder—only four of the children were still at home. Richard and his wife had moved back to Cookham by 1901, where they were living on their own in two rooms. Richard died of cancer, at Hanwell, on Christmas Day 1909.
D. Thomas Neighbour. Thomas was Littlewick's local errand boy, of Emma's own age. According to Ancestry trees, he had three children in the early 1860s, apparently out of wedlock, as no marriage has been found, and the children all took their mother's names. Neither can Thomas be located in the 1861 census, although the eldest child and her mother are living in Littlewick with the mother's parents. He died in Cookham in early 1866.
E. James Street. James was a house servant, a local lad of Emma's age. In 1861 he was living alone in Bray, working as a gardener; that year he got married in Sevenoaks, but in 1871 the couple were living in White Waltham, now with three children. By 1881 there were five children of the marriage, living in Bray. In 1891 the family was in Cookham, now only three children still at home. Widowed by 1901, he was living in Maidenhead with the family of one of his sons. He had remarried by 1911, when he was living with his wife in Maidenhead. Throughout his life he had worked as a gardener. He died in Maidenhead in the summer of 1921.
F. George Fred Wallis. George was a local lad of Emma's age, with no occupation stated. In 1861 he was still living in his parents' family in Hurley, now working as a joiner. His subsequent history has proved elusive.
G. Charles Wells. Charles was a local boy, working as a hired farm servant, at Chalk Pits Farm, of Emma's age. He was married in 1856, in Cookham RD. By 1861 he was working as a lime-burner, and living in Bisham, Berkshire, with his wife and a two year old son. His subsequent history is not clear, although it's possible he was the Charles Wells whose death was recorded in Reading RD in 1862; the 12 year old son was recorded as nephew, living with an aunt and uncle in Hurley, in 1871.
H. George Wells. George was a local agricultural labourer, a year older than Emma. He was married in 1856, in Cookham RD. By 1861 he was a journeyman blacksmith in Hambledon, Buckinghamshire, a visitor in the household of John Williams, blacksmith. In 1871 he was a carter in Hambledon, living with his wife and two children; and in 1881 an ag. lab. there, with his wife and two younger children. In 1891 he was an ag. lab. in Horton, Buckinghamshire, living in four rooms with his wife and a grown-up son. He died in Cookham RD in early 1893.
I. James Wells. James was a year younger than Emma, apprenticed to his wheelwright father. Having finished his apprenticeship by 1861, he was still living with his parents and working for his father. In 1871, though recorded as married, he was lodging on his own with a labourer's family in Littlewick Green, working as a wheelwright. In 1872 and 1878 the deaths were recorded in Cookham RD of two men named James Wells, each with a calculated birth year of 1836.
J. James Wells. Another local boy of the same name and age, working as a carter's boy at his employer's farm. By 1861, now apparently married (marriage registration not found), he was living in Clewer, Berkshire, with his wife and four year old daughter, and a boarder; he was working as a railway porter. In 1871, though still recorded as married, he was living on his own in Basingstoke, working as a baker. In 1872 and 1878 the deaths were recorded in Cookham RD of two men named James Wells, each with a calculated birth year of 1836; public member trees on Ancestry prefer this James for the 1872 death.
K. John Wells. Son of John and Elizabeth Wells. John was a tailor, two years older than Emma, a local boy. Conceivably, though perhaps improbably, he was the John Wells, recorded as a private soldier at St George's barracks, Charing Cross, in 1861; the birthplace is given as White Waltham, but the calculated birth year is 1837, which doesn't fit. A John Wells died in Cookham RD in the second quarter of 1864.
The stronger candidates among these twelve, on the grounds that she had probably known them a long time, were the Littlewick local lads, Thomas Neighbour, James Street, George Fred Wallis, Charles Wells, George Wells, James Wells, James Wells, and John Wells. Among these eight those engaged directly in farm labouring (or farm work more generally), like Emma herself, and thus perhaps with opportunity, were Charles Wells, George Wells, and the second James Wells. To these final two, I am inclined to add George Fred Wallis, who seems to have had time on his hands, and Thomas Neighbour, who could doubtless have found time. The 1861 occupation of the second James Wells—railway porter6—could be significant given that Reuben's birth certificate gives his father's occupation as porter.
At this distance in time it may be futile to speculate further. But if, on the one hand, we take seriously the father's occupation as stated on Reuben's birth certificate (discounting the father's name stated there) the only candidate that fits is the second James Wells; while on the other hand, given that in later life Reuben used an additional forename, Charles, this could have been a nod in the direction of his elusive father, in which case the only candidate would be Charles Wells (Charles Sawyer himself, Chairman of the Board of Guardians, and the local JP, would have been 67 in 18547, so is surely to be ruled out).
To summarise: in my highly subjective judgement the likeliest candidates from each scenario are:
William Low(e), and potentially William Cozens
Charles Wells, James Wells, Thomas Neighbour, and potentially George Fred Wallis
1 Other conceivable scenarios include rape and incest. Few rape cases involving girls older than 16 went to court, and those that did received veiled coverage, at best, in the press (David Philips (1977) Crime and Authority in Victorian England, London: p. 269); there is no evidence in existence that supports this scenario. There is no evidence, either, to support the incest scenario, where surely incest resulting in pregnancy could not have been kept out of the papers, at least.
2 Quoted in Norman Longmate (1974) The Workhouse, London: pp. 160-1
3 K.D.M. Snell (1985) Annals of the Labouring Poor, Cambridge: p. 362
4 TNA: HO 107/1694
5 HO 107/11 and HO 107/1694
6 TNA: RG 9/761 f25 p3
7 Maidenhead Advertiser, 1876-06-07
My brother and I—direct male line descendants—have each had our Y-chromosomal DNA tested, at separate dates, and by two separate companies. The conclusions of these are as follows:
Oxford Ancestors reported that the Y chromosome was "of probable Celtic Origin", with the following markers:
|DYS 19||DYS 388||DYS 390||DYS 391||DYS392||DYS 393||DYS 389i||DYS 389ii-i||DYS 425||DYS 426|
EthnoAncestry determined that the haplotype group is R1b1b2, referred to in Oppenheimer's terminology as Rox, described as "the main male gene cluster that moved into the British Isles after the last Ice Age over 15,000 years ago."
|DYS 19||DYS 383||DYS 388||DYS 390||DYS 391||DYS392|
Both tests were taken some years ago, and clearly were in need of greater refinement, given how few markers were used.
In 2017 I took the Family Tree DNA Y-DNA67 test, upgraded in 2021 to the Y-DNA111 test, giving the following markers:
This represents haplogroup R-M269, formerly known as R1b1a1a2 (and previously known as R1b1b2). This is the most common European haplogroup, which arose near the beginning of the Neolithic Revolution, about 10,000 years ago. At the present time no matches have been found at any level higher than 25 markers.
In 2022 I upgraded the Family Tree DNA test to the Big Y700. This confirmed my haplogroup as R-FT254717, which branched off from R-S1026, itself a branch of R-M269. So far I am the only person who has test-confirmed descent from this group, and I have no DNA matches.
This is just about as close to a brick wall as it's possible to get in family history. I don't think anything further can be discovered without another male-line descendant of Reuben Beck taking a Big Y700 DNA test, and of course even that may not take us much further forward, not least because I have no male-line second cousins, and my male-line first cousins may be too close a match to help.
That said, if a male-line descendant of Reuben's grandfather William Beck were to take a Big Y700 test it would at least enable us to determine whether or not we could conclusively rule him out as Reuben's father. As far as I know the only male-line descendants of William Beck are those carrying the Beck surname in New Zealand, descended from Leonard James Beck (1883–1968).
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