GeneaBloggers

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

More on George Hearson



My previous article briefly focused on George Hearson, one of the three men hanged in 1832 for allegedly taking part in the Nottingham riots following the rejection of the Reform Bill by the House of Lords. At the time, I found no conclusive evidence for his parentage, but I hate loose ends so I’ve examined more evidence and want to make a good case for who they were.

Depiction of the hanging on 1 Feb 1832 as appearing in a handbill
Figure 1 – Depiction of the hanging on 1 Feb 1832 as appearing in a handbill.[1]

Online Trees

I had criticised the few online trees where I had seen George Hearson because they were un-sourced, and because the details looked suspect.

They declared George’s parents to be Thomas Hearson and Francis [sic] King, and their children to be:

William, 1792/3 (Southwell) –
Mary, 1797 (Arnold) –
Jane, 9 Nov 1802 (Arnold) –
Margaret, Jul 1804 (Arnold) –
Sara [sic], Sep 1807 (Arnold) –
George, 1810 – 1 Feb 1832 (Nottingham)
Francis [sic], Mar 1812 (Radford) –
John, 12 Aug 1814 (Radford) – 1880 (Nottingham)

The problems here include:

  • The use of baptism dates as birth dates
  • The use of baptism parish names as a places of birth
  • Southwell was an outlier, which I will show to be incorrect
  • There were more children after John
  • There was no Thomas, a name much quoted in my evidence
Parents

Let’s start by assuming that Thomas Hearson and Frances King really were George’s parents. They were married on 12 May 1793 at Arnold St. Mary.[2] Following the children in the parish records should give a map and timeline for the family’s movements, but we have to consider possible name variations, and this was the main reason for the existing trees being incorrect. Frances is sometimes (incorrectly) written as the male Francis, and was often abbreviated at that time to the diminutive Fanny. Thomas may have been abbreviated to Thos. or Tho. (with or without the trailing period), or even to Tom.

The trick to finding all the alternative combinations in a clean sweep is to use wildcards, which in the case of the NottsFHS databases are executed painfully slowly due to software design issues. The following baptisms can all be linked to this couple:


Baptism
Given name
Parents
Occupation
Abode
Parish
9 Feb 1794
Thomas
Thos.& Fanny


Arnold St Mary
28 Sep 1795
William
Thomas & Fanny


Arnold St Mary
12 Nov 1797
Mary
Thomas & Frances


Arnold St Mary
13 Jul 1800
Thomas
Thomas & Frances


Arnold St Mary
9 Nov 1802
Jane
Thos. & Frances


Arnold St Mary
26 Jul 1804
Margaret
Thos. & Frances


Arnold St Mary
21 Aug 1806
John
Thos. & Frances


Arnold St Mary
1 Sep 1807
Sarah
Thos. & Frances


Arnold St Mary
1 Mar 1812
Frances
Thomas & Frances


Radford St Peter
28 Apr 1816
Jane
Thomas & Fanny
FWK
Radford
Radford St Peter
15 Aug 1819
Henry
Thomas & Frances
FWK
Radford
Radford St Peter
14 May 1821
Mary Ann
Thomas & Frances
FWK
Parliament St
Nottingham St Mary
Table 1 – Bapisms for children of Thomas and Frances Hearson.[3]

So how do we know these are for the same couple? Well, there is continuity with the date of the wedding, with the parish of the wedding, with the sequencing of the baptisms, with a geographical progression from Arnold to the Nottingham town centre, and with the end of Frances’s child-bearing years. Also, where there is an occupation, it is a consistent one; FWK is a Frame Work Knitter. Note that this occupation is also consistent with the hosiery occupations mentioned in the previous article.

Note that we now have an entry consistent with what we know of George’s brother, Thomas, but still no George.

Another thing to note is that the name of the last child (Mary Ann) was also used by George and Charlotte for their short-lived and only daughter, and by Thomas and Harriet for their daughter — not proof, but indirect evidence.

The next step is to look at each of those parishes for children who died prematurely. These are typically harder to identify since fewer details are available for the correlation.


Burial
Given name
Abode
Notes
20 Jan 1799
Thomas
Arnold
Son of Thomas & Fanny
12 Feb 1805
Jane
Arnold
Dau of Thos. & Frances
31 Aug 1806
John
Arnold
Son of Thos. & Frances
15 Mar 1809
William
Arnold
Son of Tho. & Frances
Table 2 – Thomas/Frances Hearson burials in Arnold St. Mary.[4]

This parish had annotated the relevant entries which made them much easier to confirm.

Burial
Given name
Abode
Notes
14 Feb 1820
Henry
Radford
Aged 9 months
Table 3 – Thomas/Frances Hearson burials in Radford St. Peter.[5]

Burial
Given name
Abode
Notes
19 Oct 1819
Mary
Radford
Aged 23
14 Jan 1824
Mary Ann
Stone Court [off parliament St]
Aged 2
10 Apr 1836
Thomas
Charlotte St
Aged 36
Table 4 – Thomas/Frances Hearson burials in Nottingham St. Mary.[6]

There is no doubt that this is one family, with the exception of the final Thomas entry (George’s brother), but without an entry for George (or some reason why one is not present) then we haven’t shown that it’s George’s family.

Note that Stone Court was between Dove Yard and Stanley’s Passage, on the north side of Parliament Street, only 250 yards to the west of Mount East Street. Hence, there’s a connection between this family and both of the brothers George and Thomas through their geographical proximity.

If we combine these baptisms and burials, and match-up the respective entries, then we can see that there was a high degree of mortality in the family.

Given name
Baptism
Burial
Thomas
9 Feb 1794
Arnold St Mary
20 Jan 1799
Arnold St Mary
William
28 Sep 1795
Arnold St Mary
15 Mar 1809
Arnold St Mary
Mary
12 Nov 1797
Arnold St Mary
19 Oct 1819
Nottingham St Mary
Thomas
13 Jul 1800
Arnold St Mary
10 Apr 1836
Nottingham St Mary
Jane
9 Nov 1802
Arnold St Mary
12 Feb 1805
Arnold St Mary
Margaret
26 Jul 1804
Arnold St Mary


John
21 Aug 1806
Arnold St Mary
31 Aug 1806
Arnold St Mary
Sarah
1 Sep 1807
Arnold St Mary


George
[c1809]

6 Feb 1832
Nottingham St Mary
Frances
1 Mar 1812
Radford St Peter


Jane
28 Apr 1816
Radford St Peter


Henry
15 Aug 1819
Radford St Peter
14 Feb 1820
Radford St Peter
Mary Ann
14 May 1821
Nottingham St Mary
4 Jan 1824
Nottingham St Mary
Table 5 – Combined baptisms and burials for children of Thomas/Frances Hearson.

Note that William was not born in Southwell (as suggested in online trees), and he was not born before his parents’ marriage. He was baptised in the Arnold St. Mary parish, died aged 14, and was buried in the same parish. This may upset the owners of those trees as it probably means that they’re not related to George Hearson at all.

We can see that only four children are unaccounted for: Margaret, Sarah, Frances, and Jane — all daughters. Also, although we have no entry for George, his estimated date of birth/baptism fits perfectly into the sequence.

Margaret married John Metheringham on 12 Oct 1822 at Nottingham St. Mary,[7] and this is confirmed by her details in the 1851 census at 29 Pipe St, Southwell Rd.[8] Frances married Charles Wilkinson on 15 Nov 1830 at Nottingham St. Mary,[9] and this is also confirmed by her details in the 1851 census at Lomas Yd, Bellar Gate.[10]

This leaves just Sarah and Jane, and so we might expect to see them staying with their mother in the 1841 census. Well, they were there, but under the surname “Earson” (Nottingham is renowned for dropping its aitches).

Name
Sex
Age
Birth year
Occupation
Place of birth
Frances
F
65
1776
Wid[ow]
Nottinghamshire
Sarah
F
30
1811

Nottinghamshire
Jane
F
25
1816

Nottinghamshire
Table 6 – 1841, family of Frances Hearson. Rice Place, off Barker Gate.[11]

Now we’re getting somewhere because Barker Gate was not only the last resting place of George, but it was also the address of Thomas’s daughter, Mary Ann, when she died in 1851. In fact, Rice Place was just over the wall from George’s burial ground. This provides the link between Frances, George, and the Thomas who was the brother of George.

We can now determine that Frances died aged 73, and was buried on 5 Mar 1848 at Nottingham St. Mary,[12] implying that she was born c1775. A newspaper report gives the date of her death as 2 Mar 1848: “On the 2d instant, in Riste-place, Barker-gate, aged 73 years, Mrs. Frances Hearson, widow".[13] By coincidence, I had previously shown that Riste Place was a later name for Rice Place.[14]

The 1841 census indicates that her husband, Thomas, had died before then (i.e. before 6 Jun 1841). The previous article presented evidence that George’s father died almost a year before his own death (i.e. in 1831). The best candidate for this is the Thomas of Nottingham who died aged 65 and was buried at Arnold St. Mary on 10 Apr 1831,[15] implying that he was born c1766. This entry is almost certainly the right one for the husband of Frances because he was living in Nottingham, and yet was buried in Arnold (4 miles north of the town) where his family would have been interred.

Thomas Hearson

In the previous article, I had established that George’s brother, Thomas, of Charlotte Street, had died aged 36, and was buried on 10 Apr 1836 at St. Mary. There was no obvious record of his widow’s burial in that parish, or in any other, and so I wanted to establish why. I had only tracked his widow, Harriet, to the 1851 census, but it wasn’t hard to find her in the 1861 census:

Name
Role
Status
Sex
Age
Birth year
Occupation
Place of birth
Harriett
Head
Widow
F
58
1803
Lace Mender
Lenton, Nottinghamshire
Harriett
Daughter
Single
F
37
1824
ditto
St Mary, Nottingham
Table 7 – 1861, family of Harriet Hearson. 12 Birkin Terrace, off St. Ann’s Well Rd.[16]

There was a suggestion in the GRO index of civil registrations that Harriet had died late in 1861, not long after the above census. The reason why her burial was not in any parish registers was that she was buried in Nottingham’s privately-run General Cemetery. The following is a list of people interred in the same plot:

Name
Burial
Death
Annie Clarke
03 Jun 1915
Unrecorded
James A. Dicks
11 Jun 1913
Unrecorded
John Toone
20 Feb 1870
Unrecorded
Harriet Hearson
11 Nov 1861
08 Nov 1861
Frank Hearson
02 Jul 1861
29 Jun 1861
Ann Toone
25 Jan 1855
22 Jan 1855
Table 8 – Burial register details for Harriet Hearson.[17]

This cemetery was very close to the parish of Lenton, where Harriet was born. The Frank Hearson is currently unidentified, but note the surname Toone. In the previous article, I indicated that one of the sons of Thomas/Harriet, John Thomas Hearson, married a Mary Ann Toone in 1849, thus suggesting a strong family connection with this burial plot.

As a final note, I came across an 1829 report in the London Gazette that Thomas’s work as a commission agent ran into trouble, and that he became insolvent: “Thomas Hearson, formerly of Nile-Street, Bobbin and Carriage-Maker, and Commission-Agent, and late George-Street, all in the Town of Nottingham, Commission-Agent”.[18] In 1831, a few months before the riots, a partnership was also dissolved: “Sneath William, Sneath Walter, and Hearson Thomas, Nottingham, twist net lace and thread commission agents”.[19]

George Hearson

Caricatures of the hanged men, as appearing in a handbill from 

1832
Figure 2 – Caricatures of the hanged men, as appearing in a handbill from 1832.[20]

The Nottingham Castle Museum currently has a Riot Gallery that exhibits details and artefacts associated with the 1831 riots and the 1832 executions. One of these is a handbill or pamphlet that was published shortly after the executions, selling for twopence (two pence, pronounced tuppence), and which included a copy of Hearson’s final letter to his wife and mother. The handbill is undated but it is likely that the newspaper versions of his letter were derivatives of this copy, and that would place its publication before 10 Feb 1832. Both the museum and Richard Gaunt — Associate Professor in the history department of Nottingham University — have been kind enough to share images of this with me, and allow me to present it in this article.
Handbill detailing the executions, 1832
Figure 3 – Handbill detailing the executions, 1832.[21]

At the bottom of the image of the burning castle, there’s a barely-legible inscription of “E. WILD, DEL. &SC. NOTTM”. E. Wild was a local printer and a self-taught artist in wood engraving. The final letters are associated with printmaking: “del.” meaning “drawn by” and “sc.” meaning “engraved by”.

The previous article mentioned that George was involved in bare-knuckle boxing using the name “Curley Hearson”, and a number of newspaper reports were found that placed these bouts between 1828 and 1831.[22]

Conclusion

There are undeniable links that indicate George was the son of Thomas and Frances Hearson, and no conflicting evidence, but what we do not have is either a baptism or a burial record.

We know that the family moved from the parish of Arnold St. Mary to Radford St. Peter between March 1809 and March 1812, and then to Nottingham St. Mary around 1820; however, Radford St. Peter was demolished in 1811 and rebuilt in 1812.[23] Although some events were still being recorded during that time, they might have been just for existing parishioners. In other words, it may be that George fell between the chairs as far as being baptised.

Although Hearson was born in Nottingham, Beck was from Wollaton, and Armstrong from Pleasely, near Mansfield. Beck’s funeral was recorded on 2 Feb 1832 at Wollaton St. Leonard (in a coffin was provided by Lord Middleton of Wollaton Hall[24]), but no burial is recorded in a parish register for Hearson or Armstrong. Armstrong was actually buried in the “old burial ground, Barker Gate” of St. Mary in the afternoon of the execution,[25] and we have already established that Hearson was buried in burial ground no. 2 of St. Mary on 6 Feb 1832. Does this mean that they were abandoned by their parish?

A check of the original registers confirmed that there were no misspellings, erasures, or missing entries (as when a page is torn out).

Not all of Hearson’s funeral requests, as expressed in his letter, were complied with:

Funeral of George Hearson -- It was the request of Geo. Hearson that his body should remain till Sunday, the 5th of February, namely, four days after his execution. It was also his request it will be perceived by the letter in the upper column, that laurel should be worn on the breasts of those who followed him, in addition to white ribbons. This request could not be complied with, owing to the convulsed state of the town, and the multitude which it was likely to congregate. The order of the Sheriff, therefore, was that the body should not be interred on Sunday, but must be consigned to its mother earth before 12 o'clock on Monday. This peremptory order was complied with, and accordingly, at 25 minutes past 11, the procession moved towards the burial-ground of St. Mary's Church, in Barker-gate, where the remains of this unfortunate young man was interred, in the presence of at least 15,000 spectators, who all deplored the cause of his premature death. His followers and bearers were dressed most respectably, and the solemn scene was one that will never be forgotten in Nottingham.[26]

Also, one of the funeral aspects that I previously reported was later retracted by the newspaper:

We are requested to state that "the choir of singers" belonging to the Wesleyan Methodists was not present at Hearson's funeral, as erroneously stated in our last; -- and the hymn sung on that occasion was without the concurrence of the Rev. R. Pilter, who (with the Rev. T. Harris) left the ground immediately after he had closed his address.[27]

Robert Pilter (born in Sunderland, 4 Jan 1784) and Thomas Harris (born Morton-Corbet, Salop, 30 May 1791) were both preachers in the Wesleyan Methodist Church. We can see that neither George nor his parents were of this church given their Church-of-England parishes, and hence my previous suggestion of this being cause for the missing records does not hold water.

The Wesleyan ministers were providing more comfort to all the condemned men than their respective parish ministers:

After the condemnation of the five unhappy men, several gentlemen of the Wesleyan Methodist persuasion were assiduously kind, in endeavouring the impart religious instruction, and to prepare them, so far as the aid of prayers and human agency can do, for the awful change they were about to undergo.[28]

Although from 1752, the bodies of executed murderers were not returned to their relatives for burial, and the government did not want their bodies to have a full funeral or be buried in consecrated ground, for other crimes (up to 1832) the body could be claimed by friends or relatives for burial, which could then take place in consecrated ground. The Anatomy Act of August 1832 (very close date) removed dissection from the statute book, but it also directed that the bodies of all executed criminals belonged to the Crown and were then to be buried in the prison grounds in unmarked graves.[29]

My conclusion, therefore, is that the parish of St. Mary deliberately failed to record the interment of both Armstrong and Hearson, despite the huge public show of sympathy for them.

It is also my belief is that there was some government influence in this matter. The government were insistent on having their executions, no matter how weak or suspect the evidence, since they needed to set an example; they needed a deterrent against any such rebellious acts in the future.



[1] [Anonymous], “The Nottingham Tragedy ! ! !”, handbill (Nottingham, 2 Park Row: J. Thompson, printer, [1832]); Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, accession no. NCM 1929-3; image displayed with their courtesy; this image heavily-cropped but full image appearing below; online digital image, Richard Gaunt, “Emotive Objects at Nottingham Castle: Part 3”, Nottingham University, A View from the Arts, 2 Feb 2016 (http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/arts/2016/02/02/emotive-objects-at-nottingham-castle -3/ : accessed 18 Oct 2016); handbill hereinafter cited as Executions-handbill. Nottinghamshire Archives has an independent original, ref. no. DD/1725/3, accession no. 4390.
[2] Nottinghamshire Family History Society (NottsFHS), Parish Registers Marriage Index, CD-ROM, database (Nottingham, 1 Jan 2013), database version 3.0, entry for Thomas Hearson and Francis King, using quoted details; CD hereinafter cited as NottsFHS-Marriages.
[3] NottsFHS, Parish Registers Baptism Transcriptions, CD-ROM, database (Nottingham, 1 Jan 2013), database version 6.0, entries for tho%s% he%son and f%an% between 1793 and 1825; CD hereinafter cited as NottsFHS-Baptisms.
[4] NottsFHS, Parish Registers Burial Transcriptions, CD-ROM, database (Nottingham, 1 Jan 2013), database version 6.0, entries for Arnold St. Mary parish and quoted details; CD hereinafter cited as NottsFHS-Burials.
[5] NottsFHS-Burials, entries for Radford St. Peter parish and quoted details.
[6] NottsFHS-Burials, entries for Nottingham St. Mary parish and quoted details.
[7] NottsFHS-Marriages, entry for quoted details.
[8] "1851 England Census", database, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 Oct 2016), household of John Metheringham (age 49); citing HO 107/2132, folio 482, page 28; The National Archives of the UK (TNA).
[9] NottsFHS-Marriages, entry for quoted details.
[10] "1851 England Census", database, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 17 Oct 2016), household of Charles Wilkinson (age 38); citing HO 107/2131, folio 370, page 17; TNA.
[11] "1841 England Census", database, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 Oct 2016), household of Frances Earson [Hearson] (age 65), name mis-transcribed as “Easton”; citing HO 107/869, book 2, folio 13, page 20; TNA.
[12] NottsFHS-Burials, entry for quoted details.
[13] "Died", Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties (10 Mar 1848): p.4, col.3; paper hereinafter cited as Nottm-Review.
[14] Tony Proctor, “Cemetery Road, Nottingham”, RootsWeb, NOTTSGEN-L Archives, 5 May 2013 (http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/NOTTSGEN/2013-05/1367749329 : accessed 18 Oct 2016).
[15] NottsFHS-Burials, entry for quoted details.
[16] "1861 England Census", database, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 Oct 2016), household of Harriett Hearson (age 58), name mis-transcribed as “Heurson”; citing RG 9/2462, folio 63, page 35; TNA.
[17] “The central database for UK burials and cremations”, database with images, deceased online (https://www.deceasedonline.com : accessed 18 Oct 2016), entries for grave for Harriet Hearson, 1861, Nottingham General Cemetery, grave ref: /11455.
[18] "The Court for Relief of Insolvent Debtors: …appointed to be heard    at the Court-House ... 9th day of October 1829 ...", London Gazette, issue 18612 (18 Sep 1829): p.1747.
[19] "Partnerships Dissolved", Nottm-Review (22 Jul 1831): p.2, col.5; citing “from Tuesday's London Gazette”.
[20] Executions-handbill; this image heavily-cropped but full image appearing below.
[21] Executions-handbill; full image.
[22] "The Fancy", Nottm-Review (19 Dec 1828): p.3, col.3 (bottom). "Nottingham Fancy", Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (9 May 1830): p.3, col.2. "Nottingham Fancy", Bell's Life in London and Sporting Chronicle (29 May 1831): p.3, col.2.
[23] "Radford St. Peter: History", Southwell & Nottingham Church History Project (http://southwellchurches.nottingham.ac.uk/radford-st-peter/hhistory.php : accessed 19 Oct 2016).
[24] "EXECUTION of Beck, Hearson, and Armstrong", Nottm-Review (3 Feb 1832): p.3, col.7.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Executions-handbill, bottom-left panel.
[27] Nottm-Review (17 Feb 1832): p.3, col.4.
[28] "EXECUTION of Beck, Hearson, and Armstrong", Nottm-Review (3 Feb 1832): p.3, col.5.
[29] “The history of judicial hanging in Britain 1735 – 1964”, capitalpunishmentuk.org (http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/hanging1.html#after  : accessed 19 Oct 2016), under “Burial”.