The Family of Henry and Sarah Peapell

Henry and Sarah Peapell


I have to thank Sean Barrett for some extra information on this post. I also spent some time at Wiltshire History Centre in Chippenham looking up information on the Zion Chapel  and was interested in all its strife. The book by R A Beck – Highworth United Reform Church was particularly helpful but I need to spend more time looking at the original records that they hold including minutes of meetings etc.   Apparently some pages from the 1860′s were removed as they were derogatory to some members of the church.

I have a one name guild meeting to attend this weekend near Cheltenham and then the next week I am giving a talk on Rootsmagic and documenting sources to the Devizes branch of the Wiltshire Family History Society. Its a busy times with lots to do before the canoeing season starts.

The Family of Henry and Sarah Peapell

For some reason most of Henry and Sarah Peapell’s sons became bakers at one point or another in their lives. Henry James in Highworth, London and Fairford, John Crook in Swindon, South Marston and Stratton St Margarets, William Webb in Highworth, Frank,  Ambrose and James were bakers in Highworth. Charles Smith was the exception with no record of him ever being a baker but along with Ambrose and Jim he became a mat maker in Highworth.

Their eldest child Louise was known as “Lou”. She married Jim Powell and lived at Reading. They only had one child Harry. Louise was very careful with her clothes, and Harry always said that she wore an apron to keep her dress clean, an apron over that to keep the first apron clean, and a “rough” apron over that for housework to keep the second one clean.

William John their second child died after only a few days and was buried in Highworth cemetery on 1st December 1861.

Henry James was a Bakers assistant in Highworth probably the first of the family to take up the baking trade. He then worked as a baker and bakers vanman in London where he married his masters daughter Charlotte Grace Chanin. He returned to Fairford as a baker. Something went wrong with the business and he wanted to borrow money from the family but they refused. He seems to have fallen out with them and set up as a confectioner in Bournemouth where he died in 1942. His only child May Peapell died in 1981 and that started off the Peapell one name study.

John Crook was known as “Jack”. He became an assistant baker in Swindon. It is said that when the baker decided to retire he offered John Crook the business. He may have had to pay him, but from then on he described himself as a master baker even if the only people he employed were his family. He supplied bread to the local workhouse for a while.

It is likely that John Crook delivered bread to some of the local hotels as that is probably how he met his wife, Fanny Richards. She was working at the Goddard Arms in the High Street, Swindon. The Goddard Arms was (and is) one of the long established and more expensive hotels in Swindon.  We do not how long she was there, she is said to have worked for a family as a ladies maid and even went to America with them, but we do not know how much of that is true, or how she came from Newport, Monmouth to Swindon. She gave her place of birth as Newport in the census but even that is not proved and called herself at various times Fanny, Alice and Alice Fanny.

When John Crook and Fanny were married in January 1890 they  both gave their address as 8 King William Street, Swindon. This was the home of John’s uncle (and Sarah his mother her brother), William Crook.

William Webb was a bread baker and lived in Highworth. He had two children with his wife Elizabeth Poole.

Charles Smith also stayed in Highworth as a Mat maker and when Henry died in 1926 he was the informant to the authorities. His middle name “Smith” is not obviously from anyone in the family but Thomas Angel Smith and his wife joined the Independents at the Zion Chapel fellowship in April 1870. He seems to have brought with him several families of weavers and set up the Oriental Fibre Mat and Matting Company at the Vorda Works. This may be where Charles Smith Peapell worked in the 1911 Census as a fibre Mat maker. Was he given the middle name “Smith” due to association through the Zion Chapel with Thomas Angle Smith?

Leah was known as “Lil”. After 1887 Henry was described variously as a Contractor, Road Contractor, Road Foreman and Roadman. This was enough for the family to look down on their daughter Leah marrying an Agricultural labourer (Albert Edward Giddings)

She married Albert Giddings in the Church of England but when her children were old enough to attend services, her husband took the boys to their local parish church and Leah took the girls to the chapel – and then they all met for a walk after service.

Soon after her marriage, she asked her mother to help her make shirts for her husband, but Sarah who was said to be very hard told her to unpick an old one and find out that way. If anyone was ill in the family and they needed help they were not too proud to call Leah back home.

Sarah Ann was known as Top or Topsy. In 1897 she had a child out of wedlock. Henry and Sarah would not allow her to stay at home so she went to her brother John Crook Peapell and Fanny her sister in law. Her son Walter died with-in a few months. Sarah married George Cook in 1898 and had four more children.

George and Sarah’s eldest daughter was Winifred known as Dolly. Dolly’s husband Ted Richards was a traveller (known as an outrider in those days) for Ushers, the brewers at Trowbridge. Ted was murdered on Christmas Eve in 1925 leaving Dolly with a small daughter, who married a GI in the Second World War, and went to live in the US. Dolly went to live with them where she died in 1991.

Ambrose was known as “Brush”. He worked first as a baker and later by 1911 as a fibre Mat maker in the Cocoa Mat Factory in Highworth.  James, the youngest of the family, was known as “Jim”. He also worked first as a baker but when he died, sadly young,  at the age of 20 in 1904 was working as a mat maker. They probably obtained their employment as mat makers through their elder brother Charles Smith or because of contacts through the Zion Chapel with the “Smiths” the owners of the Mat factory

Stories have been told that the brothers often played tricks on one another and on one occasion they had a bet on who was the heaviest. John Crook won by putting weights in his pockets.

Kevin Hurley- March 2012


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