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My Harris family has been traced back to the early 1800’s and lived for many years in Bedfordshire. They spent many years in a small village in Bedfordshire called Shillington, before moving to North London in the early 1890’s.

For most of my research they were to be found in Shillington, which occupies an attractive area of countryside but is close enough to many towns to enjoy their facilities and within easy reach of London. Shillington grew around a small hill where a Church has stood for a thousand years or more. The village has a distinct shape and is based on several clusters of houses, or ‘ends’, and hamlets. It is near the North Eastern end of the Chiltern Hills and part of the Parish lies within the Chiltern's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Shillington Map

Shillington Parish Church stands in majestic splendour upon a large knoll, which rises out of the vale of Mid-Bedfordshire.

Shillington Church

There is the following interesting item of local folklore from a man called Aiden in Ireland who once lived in the shadow of this church.

The story says that originally, the foundations had been dug on a small mound at that is now called "Church Panel" at the back of Bury Road. Every morning after the builders had started construction, they would arrive to find that the materials, stone, tools, everything needed to build a church, were gone and could be located on top of the hill where the church now stands. This went on for weeks, so the builders gave up carting everything back down to Church Panel and built the church where it was obviously destined to be... whether moved there by man or the Hand of God. Below is a view of the Church at Night from neigbouring Meppershall

View of Church from Meppershall

The earliests I can go back at the moment is late 1700's. I have a birth certificate for Thomas Harris, which shows parents William Harris and Mary Simmons. From census records later on I know William was born in 1804 in Shillington and currently there is only one Christening of William Harris in 1804 in Shillington and the parents were John Harris and Mary.

So I am assuming thi sto be correct so my oldest direct Harris ancestor is a John Harris who married Mary.

There are no records found of John’s marriage, so I had to find some other way of making a link. Searching the IGI again, and using the common family names, the Shillington area, and the approximate dates, I found 4 children Mary, William, John and James who are the same family and parents John Harris and Mary in Shillington. I also knew that my 3rd great grandfather was called William, and there were no other Williams, which met the criteria, so I am fairly certain that this is my family, but remember the IGI is not complete and sometimes inaccurate.

Whilst this is the weakest link so far, there are no other records of a John Harris’s born in Shillington around this time with a son called William.

So it has been assumed that our ancestors come from John Harris, christened 10th September 1775, in Shillington and that he married a female called Mary. As I mentioned earlier, I have found 4 children born to this couple, one of which William, was my 3rd great grandfather.

I had earlier thought that John's parents were John Harris and Grace Bull, but an email from Ralph Harris in Canada in Feb 2010 put me right on that one. That line of Harris 's are still connected to me but it is through the Simmons line which is a seperate page and mentioned further below.

Family Group Sheet

Subject* John HARRIS (714)
Birth* __ ___ 1775 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 10 Sep 1775 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* after __ ___ 1791

Spouse* Mary (--?--) (715)
Six Known Children
F Ann HARRIS (897)
Birth* __ ___ 1798 Shillington, Bedford.
Christning: 2 Sep 1798 Shillington, Bedford.
Marriage* 26 Dec 1820 Thomas ANSELL (906) (b. 1799, ); Meppershall, Bedford.
Daughter: __ ___ 1833 Susannah ANSELL (908); Shillington, Bedford.
Son: __ ___ 1839 Mathew ANSELL (907); Meppershall, Bedford.
F Mary HARRIS (716)
Birth* __ ___ 1801 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 16 May 1801 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 24 Apr 1822 William WALLER (717); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
M William HARRIS (647)
Birth* __ ___ 1804 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 5 Apr 1804 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 13 Sep 1826 Mary SIMONS (648) (b. 1806, d. before 1881), daughter of Len SIMONS (727) and Mary HARRIS (726); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1827 Mary HARRIS (713); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1829 William HARRIS (712); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1832 James HARRIS (711); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1835 Ann HARRIS (771)
Son: __ ___ 1837 Charles HARRIS (710); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1839 Sarah HARRIS (772)
Son: 12 May 1843 Thomas HARRIS (191); Bury End, Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 11 Jun 1843 Christning; Thomas HARRIS (191); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Death* between 1881 and 1891
M John HARRIS (718)
Birth* __ ___ 1806 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 28 Nov 1806 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 10 Oct 1830 Mary SMITH (719) (b. 1807, d. 2 Sep 1874); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1831 Elizabeth HARRIS (720); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1832 Mary HARRIS (721); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1835 James HARRIS (775)
Daughter: __ ___ 1837 Louisa HARRIS (776)
Son: __ ___ 1839 Charles HARRIS (722); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1840 Emma HARRIS (777)
Death* before __ ___ 1881
M James HARRIS (723)
Birth* __ ___ 1810 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 22 Apr 1810 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
F Sarah HARRIS (894)
Birth* __ ___ 1812 Shillington, Bedford.
Christning: 12 Dec 1812 Shillington, Bedford.
Marriage* after __ ___ 1827 William LUDFORD (905) (b. 1809, )

So we finally break from the John’s with my ancestry coming from William, born 1st April 1804, followed in his father’s footsteps and also married a female named Mary. For a long time I had assumed her surname to be Lemons. I had found the marriage on the IGI and when I received a birth certificate of one of their children, I convinced myself that the maiden name was shown as Lemons.

However on the 2nd October 2003, Ted Harris, who is related through another Harris line, sent me an email containing details he had taken down of all Harris in the Parish Records for Shillington. On here he showed the marriage as William Harris and Mary Simons. On closer investigation of the birth certificate and comparing it to other letters I am now sure it is Simons.

I learnt another very important lesson. Don’t make assumptions because it makes the information fit. I did this on this occasion because I had found a Mary Lemons and convinced myself that it said Lemons.

So now that I am sure that it is Simons, and it is through her father Len Simmons, who married Mary Harris daughter of John Harris and Grace Bull, who I had originally thought we were descended from .

With so many John’s and assumptions being made click on the link below to show the family tree as it is so far.

John Harris Family Tree 4 Generations

Hopefully in time some of these assumptions can be turned into fact, but at last we can now move into areas which I know to be true and correct. My great great Grandfather, Thomas Harris was born 12th May 1843, to William Harris and Mary Simons.

Through the Census information of 1841 and 1851 I have found that William Harris and Mary Simons had, at least 7 children. They were all christened in Shillington.

Family Group Sheet

Subject* William HARRIS (647)

Birth* __ ___ 1804 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 5 Apr 1804 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 13 Sep 1826 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 11 Jun 1843 Christning; Thomas HARRIS (191); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Death* between 1881 and 1891
Father* John HARRIS (714) (b. 1775, )
Mother* Mary (--?--) (715)
Spouse* Mary SIMONS (648)
Birth* __ ___ 1806 Shillington, Bedford.
Christning: 1 Feb 1807 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 11 Jun 1843 Christning; Thomas HARRIS (191); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Death* before __ ___ 1881
Father* Len SIMONS (727)
Mother* Mary HARRIS (726) (b. 1777, )
Seven Known Children
F Mary HARRIS (713)
Birth* __ ___ 1827 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 4 Mar 1827 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
M William HARRIS (712)
Birth* __ ___ 1829 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 6 Sep 1829 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Burial* 23 Nov 1831 Shillington, Bedford.
M James HARRIS (711)
Birth* __ ___ 1832 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 20 May 1832 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* after __ ___ 1851 Hannah (--?--) (842) (b. 1835, )
Son: __ ___ 1858 George HARRIS (843); Shillington, Bedford.
Daughter: __ ___ 1868 Sarah Ann HARRIS (844); Shillington, Bedford.
Daughter: __ ___ 1871 Adalgisa HARRIS (845); Shillington, Bedford.
F Ann HARRIS (771)
Birth* __ ___ 1835
Christning: 8 Mar 1835 Shillington, Bedford.
M Charles HARRIS (710)
Birth* __ ___ 1837 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 30 Jul 1837 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Death* before __ ___ 1841
F Sarah HARRIS (772)
Birth* __ ___ 1839
Christning: 15 Sep 1839 Shillington, Bedford.
Daughter: __ ___ 1860 Mary Ann GRUNDON (1142); Shillington, Bedfordhire.
Marriage* __ ___ ____ Jas GRUNDON (1141) (b. 1829, )
M Thomas HARRIS (191)
Birth* 12 May 1843 Bury End, Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 11 Jun 1843 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 18 Nov 1865 Hannah HARRIS (192) (b. 26 Mar 1844, ), daughter of Isaac HARRIS (645) and Mary HALFHEAD (646); Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1866 Sarah HARRIS (376); Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Son: circa __ ___ 1869 Fred HARRIS (553); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: circa __ ___ 1872 Harriet Geraldine HARRIS (554); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: 27 Sep 1874 Harry HARRIS (29); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 30 May 1875 Christning; Harry HARRIS (29); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1876 Jonah HARRIS (642); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 27 Feb 1877 Christning; Jonah HARRIS (642); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: circa __ ___ 1879 Annie HARRIS (643); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1883 Laura HARRIS (674); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1891 Rose HARRIS (675); Friern Barnet.

This Thomas born on 11th June 1843, is my great great grandfather.

The family is shown on the 1841 Census living in Bury End in Shillington, William aged 35 is an agricultural labourer and at home with him is Mary, his wife, Mary daughter aged 15, James aged 10, Ann aged 6 and newly born Sarah aged 1. No sign yet of Thomas who would not be born for another couple of years. There is another occupant, a gentlemen aged 60, called Len Simmons, who I mentioned earlier. It shows him as a lodger but I think this is William’s uncle and father in law, who had married Mary Harris 18th September 1802. I can only assume that Mary must have passed away. At this time it must be assumed that William and Mary’s third son Charles had also passed away. He is not shown on the census and would have only been 4 years old. Details of the census are shown below, as it is too big to insert the actual copy.

Dwelling: Bury End Census Place: Shillington, Bedford, England
Source: PRO Ref HO107 Piece 3/10 Folio 15 Page 24

Name     St     Age     Sex     Occ
William HARRIS     M     35    M     Agg Labourer
Mary HARRIS     M     35     F
Mary HARRIS     U     15     M
James HARRIS     U     10     F
Ann HARRIS     U     6     M,
Sarah HARRIS     U     1     F
Leonard SIMMONS     L     60     M     Agg Labourer

So another 10 years past and we find the family on the 1851 census still living in Shillington. William is still the head aged 47, so only added 7 years since last census 10 years earlier, Mary is there as well aged 41, so only 6 years addition for her. I think the ages on the 1841 census are incorrect for both of them. James is next listed aged 18, then Ann aged 16, Sarah 11 and Thomas has now arrived, aged 7. Still with the family is William’s uncle, Len Simmons now aged 76. So in the last 10 years only Mary has left home, if still alive she would be 25 now. Details of 1851 census are shown below.

Dwelling: Woodmore End
Census Place: Shillington, Bedford, England
Source: PRO Ref HO107 Piece 1754 Folio 40 Page 36

Name                         St     Age    Sex    Birthplace    Rel    Occ
William HARRIS         M    47     M    Shillington, Bedford, England,     Head, Labourer
Mary HARRIS             M     41     F    Shillington, Bedford, England,     Wife,
James HARRIS            U      18     M     Shillington, Bedford, England       Son,     Labourer
Ann HARRIS               U    16         F     Shillington, Bedford, England,     Daur     Straw Plaiter
Sarah HARRIS             U     11          F     Shillington, Bedford, England,     Daur
Thomas HARRIS         U      7         M     Shillington, Bedford, England,     Son
Len SIMMONS           U     70        M     Shillington, Bedford, England,     Lodg     Labourer

For some reason I could not find the family on the 1861 census they were not shown at Woodmore End. Thomas I found living with his sister Sarah and her husband Jas Grundon at Bury End.

Some confusion arose when Thomas’s marriage was identified as being 18thNovember 1865. There was no other records of Thomas Harris marrying a Hannah, the only one found was Thomas Harris marriage to Hannah Harris 18th Nov 1865, Meppershall, Bedford, with Hannah’s surname as Harris, at first I thought that the recorder on the IGI did not know Hannah’s surname and had put down her married name. However when I finally tracked down and received a copy of the birth certificate for one of Thomas's son's Harry. It revealed that his mother was indeed from another Harris family in the nearby town of Meppershall. Her family is covered under the Harris from Meppershall link, but it did cause some problems in confirming some of the research.

At the age of about 23, Thomas Harris married Hannah Harris in Meppershall. Over the years they were to have at least nine children.

Family Group Sheet

Subject* Thomas HARRIS (191)
Birth* 12 May 1843 Bury End, Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 11 Jun 1843 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 18 Nov 1865 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 30 May 1875 Christning; Harry HARRIS (29); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 27 Feb 1877 Christning; Jonah HARRIS (642); Shillington, Bedfordshire
Father* William HARRIS (647) (b. 1804, d. between 1881 and 1891)
Mother* Mary SIMONS (648) (b. 1806, d. before 1881)

Spouse* Hannah HARRIS (192)
Birth* 26 Mar 1844 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 1 Sep 1844
Witness: 30 May 1875 Christning; Harry HARRIS (29); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Witness: 27 Feb 1877 Christning; Jonah HARRIS (642); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Father* Isaac HARRIS (645) (b. 1808, d. 8 Mar 1887)
Mother* Mary HALFHEAD (646) (b. 1818, d. 26 Feb 1894)
Eight Known Children
F Sarah Elizabeth HARRIS (376)
Birth* __ ___ 1866 Meppershall, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1885 George HARRIS (676); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* __ ___ 1888 James MARSHALL (1366) (b. 1865, ); Biggleswade, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1888 Thomas HARRIS (677); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1890 Frederick HARRIS (678); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1891 Fred MARSHALL (1369); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Daughter: __ ___ 1893 Rose MARSHALL (1370); Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Son: __ ___ 1897 Frank MARSHALL (1367); Shillington.
Daughter: __ ___ 1900 Annie L MARSHALL (1368); St Pancras, London.
M Fred HARRIS (553)
Birth* circa __ ___ 1869 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* __ ___ 1892 Annie PARKER (847) (b. 1872, )
Daughter: __ ___ 1894 Annie HARRIS (1365); Newark.
Son: __ ___ 1900 Charles F HARRIS (1364); Grantham.
F Harriet Geraldine HARRIS (554)
Birth* circa __ ___ 1872 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* after __ ___ 1888 (--?--) CARTER (888)
M Harry HARRIS (29)
Name-Var: __ ___ ____ Clanger
Birth* 27 Sep 1874 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 30 May 1875 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Marriage* 3 Jun 1895 Laura Emily GOULD (30) (b. 29 Aug 1875, d. 1933), daughter of William GOULD (195) and Laura Hope FARRALL (196); St James Church, Friern Barnet.
Son: circa __ ___ 1896 Charlie HARRIS (33); Southgate.
Daughter: 14 Feb 1898 Florence HARRIS (36); Southgate.
Son: __ ___ 1899 Frederick HARRIS (35)
Son: 17 Feb 1901 William Thomas HARRIS (32); Southgate.
Daughter: after __ ___ 1901 Rose HARRIS (641)
Son: 14 Apr 1907 Ernest Walter HARRIS (31); 2 Palace Terrace, Friern Barnet.
Daughter: 8 Nov 1916 Hilda Louvain HARRIS (37)
Son: 21 Jun 1919 Roy HARRIS (218)
Son: after __ ___ 1919 Frank HARRIS (34)
Witness: 23 Feb 1933 Death; Laura Hope FARRALL (196); North Middlesex Hospital, Edmonton.
Witness: circa __ ___ 1941 Marriage; Roy HARRIS (218) and Joyce RAYMOND (303)
Death* 26 Jun 1953 North Middlesex Hospital, Edmonton.
M Jonah HARRIS (642)
Birth* __ ___ 1876 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
Christning: 27 Feb 1877 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
F Annie HARRIS (643)
Birth* circa __ ___ 1879 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
F Laura HARRIS (674)
Birth* __ ___ 1883 Shillington, Bedfordshire.
F Rose HARRIS (675)
Birth* __ ___ 1891 Friern Barnet.

Hannah’s first child, Walter William Harris was born in Meppershall on 7th December 1863, and he was christened on 6th March 1864, but Thomas is not listed as the father, only Hannah as the mother so it could be that Hannah’s first child was with another man. On receipt of Walter’s birth certificate this is also indicated, as Thomas is not named. It may just have been left off, another man’s name there would have been more conclusive.

The next child to arrive was Sarah, born sometime in 1865, no birth or christening record has been found but age, 25, is taken from 1881 census, so Sarah would have been born between April 1865 and March 1866. Therefore could have been born before or just after the wedding of the 18th November 1865.

Sometime between the wedding in November 1865 and 1869 Thomas and family, moved back to Shillington, there is no obvious reason for this, but it maybe had something to do with the development of the Coprolite industry. It had reached Shillington by about 1862 and really taken off during the late 1860’s, providing the area with much employment. On Chibley Farm to the Northeast of the Village workers were digging trenches down the hill through the chalk marl which overlay the Cambridgeshire Greensand and into the gault clay. In doing so they exposed a seam of Coprolites not far from the surface.

Coprolite is the fossilized dung of prehistoric sauirans, huge ponderous creatures. Following their discovery in the early 1800’s tests showed they had a high phosphate content and manure manufactures could not get enough of it. As it turns out there was a rich vein of them which stretched, eventually, from Tring in the South West, to Cambridge and beyond in the North East, a belt of some 50 miles long and from three to seven miles wide.

Coprolite Diggers

When Coprolite was discovered in Shillington, it brought to the village a thriving industry and with it, employment for many people, most of who were from out of town. There is a good chance therefore that this is what brought Thomas back to the village and indeed Harry, his 4th child’s birth certificate shows that Thomas’s profession was as a Coprolite digger. Thomas seemed to like digging for a living, as later on he was to become a gravedigger. It is quite likely that Thomas attended a function held by the employers of the time, Lawes Chemical Manure Company. It is written that a Joseph Weston acted as the company representative, and with the company keen to win friends and influence people they held a Horkey for the workers after the Harvest in 1872. An extract from Beaver, op.cit.p.98a states " On Thursday 10th October 1872 the men engaged on the coprolite works at Shillington (about 500 in number) are given a supper at the Marquis Hill.

The reason that we know the family moved back to the village between 1865 and 1869 was because on the 1881 census, the birth of their 3rd child, Fred is shown to be in Shillington around 1869. Three years later, 1872, and at the age of 29 Thomas became the father of Harriet, again born in Shillington. She could be Harriet Geraldine as this was the only one found on Free BMD, birth registered in Ampthill, as her next brother Harry would be. For now I will assume this is her, born July, August or September of 1872. Then in 1874 arrives their 5th child, Harry Harris, born 27th September 1874, again in Shillington. Harry as mentioned earlier is my great granddad. On the birth certificate his fathers trade is shown as Coporlite Digger.

Harry was christened in Shillington on 30th May 1875. Finding Harry was quite a chore. For a long time I was looking for him in North London. Then I was looking through some old papers and found a note which John Nicholson, my uncle had written down. It said Harry Harris (died 79) Bedford. For a long time I had taken this to mean he had died in Bedford, but then it clicked, was this where he was born?

John Nicholson Letter

I asked my cousin, Karen Steel, who had the 1881 census to see if she could find a Harry born in Bedford of the right age. She did and there he was in Shillington, Bedford, right on the doorstep of Cousin Shirley Gardiner who had also been trying to find him for me. Shirley’s husband Ron, still refers to "that Harry Harris".

It would be a couple of years before the next child would arrive, another boy, Jonah, who was born in 1876, sometime between September to December. His christening is recorded as 27th February 1877 in Shillington. Annie arrived next, who, according to the 1881 census, was born about 1879.

The 1881 census shows the following information for the family and that they are back at Woodmore End.

Dwelling: Woodmore End
Census Place: Shillington, Bedford, England
Source: FHL Film 1341390 PRO Ref RG11 Piece 1633 Folio 20 Page 33

Name                 St    Age    Sex    Birthplace    Rel     Occ
Thomas HARRIS    M     37         M    Shillington, Bedford, England,     Head, Labourer
Hannah HARRIS    M    37          F     Meppershall, Bedford, England,  Wife, Straw Plaiter
Walter HARRIS    U    17          M   Meppershall, Bedford, England   Son, Labourer
Sarah HARRIS    U    15           F    Meppershall, Bedford, England,  Daur, Straw Plaiter
Fred HARRIS     U    11          M    Shillington, Bedford, England,    Son, Labourer
Harriet HARRIS    U      8           F     Shillington, Bedford, England,   Daur, Scholar
Harry HARRIS    U      6          M    Shillington, Bedford, England,   Son, Scholar
Jonah HARRIS     U     4           M   Shillington, Bedford, England,    Son, Scholar
Annie HARRIS     U      1            F   Shillington, Bedford, England,     Daur

It must be assumed that for all of the above occupations the labourers were probably Coprolite diggers. As you can see the females of the family worked as Straw Plaiters, this seemed to be the industry for local women along with lace making.

Also at this time Thomas’s father is still alive and living in Shillington. He is now 77 years and is shown on the census below living at Bury End. He is shown, correctly, as a Widower.

Dwelling: Bury End
Census Place: Shillington, Bedford, England
Source: FHL Film 1341390 PRO Ref RG11 Piece 1633 Folio 20 Page 40

Name                         St   Age   Sex      Birthplace                                         Rel     Occ
William HARRIS      M    77      M       Shillington, Bedford, England,     Head, Pauper

The next child to appear was Laura, I think in about 1883 given by the age shown on the 1891 census. Thomas and Hannah would both be about 40 years old now and they probably thought this would be their last child. However another child is born to them in 1891, but there is some uncertainty whether this was their child or not. This will be looked into further on.

Sometime between 1883 and 1891 the family or most of them moved from Shillington to Friern Barnet in the North of London, some 30 miles away. The reason for this was most probably due entirely to work opportunities. The Coprolite industry was at its decline during the later 1880’s mainly due to cheaper imports arriving from the US, work would have been difficult to find in Shillington, particularly with the increased number of people now living in the village. So by the time the census was taken in 1891 Thomas Harris and some of his family occupied the residence at 8 Holly Park Road, Friern Barnet.

Map of Friern Barnet

The above map shows the area of New Southgate around 1900. In the top left hand corner you can just make out Holly Park Road. In the bottom left hand corner the last road going up and down is Palmers Road. At the bottom of which, and on the left of it, is Park Cottages. Through the middle runs the railway; to the left of this is where the mental hospital was situated. The Gas works is displayed at the very bottom right hand corner, where Harry Harris would end up working.

By this time as well, and to my surprise, another baby appears, a girl this time named Rose. As mentioned earlier there is some doubt as to whether this child is theirs or not. She is listed on the census as daughter of Thomas but Thomas and Hannah are now 47 years of age, and there is an 8-year gap between the last baby. The birth would be either early 1891 or late 1890 as she is shown as 4 months old on the 1891 census.

Some thoughts around this are that maybe it could be Harriet’s child. Two theories here based on the fact that she does not appear on the 1891 census. Both are based on the theory that she fell pregnant outside of marriage, the first being that she died during childbirth, the second being that she was banished from the family because of the disgrace. It was not uncommon for the grandmother to take on the mother’s mantle in situations like this. Of course it might be as straightforward that it was Thomas and Hannah’s child. I need to get a copy of Rose’s birth certificate and find out what happened to Harriet. We might never truly know, although she may have stayed in Shillington as there are some clues found on the 1901 census, which we will cover shortly.

The 1891 census shows the following information for the family:

Dwelling: 8 Holly Park Road
Census Place: Friern Barnet, England

Name                        St   Age    Sex    Birthplace     Rel      Occ
Thomas HARRIS    M      47       M   Shillingham    Head, Labourer
Anna                        M      47       F    Mabershall      Wife
Walter                               27       M   Mabershall       Son
Harry                                 16      M    Shillingham     Son
Jonah                                 14      M    Shillingham     Son
Mary A.                             11      F     Shillingham     Daur
Laura                                    8      F    Shillingham     Daur
Rose                                     4m   F    Friern Barnet   Daur

As you can see Rose is born in Friern Barnet so the move was made sometime before the end of 1890. You can also see from the above how the people who recorded the census information spelt only what they heard. Hannah is shown as Anna, Shillington as Shillingham and Meppershall as Mabershall.

The census also shows that Thomas’s children Sarah, Fred and possibly Harriet did not travel south with the family. They would have been 25, 21 and 18 respectively.

Sarah is shown on the 1891 census for Shillington as head of the family with 3 sons George 6, Thomas 3, and Fred 8 months. I have found her marriage to James Marshall in 1888, and also further children after 1891, Rose, Frank and Annie. Also there are 2 other children pre 1891 James and Frederick. So I am not sure where these and father James were in 1891.but she remained in the village still working as a straw plaiter, before moving to London, St Pancras with husband James by the time of the 1901 census.

For Harriet I thought I would search on her first name and age in case she was married. I found a 29 year old Harriet on the 1901 census, born in Shillington and still living there. Her surname is Carter. Maybe Harriet married and stayed in Shillington. Unfortunately this was proven to be wroing as in Nov 2011 my friend Peter Gilbert, friend from Northampton Exiles Cricket club but not family related, got the details of the said Harriet Carter and she is the unmarried daughter of Zachariah and Mary Carter.

As for Fred I have found him later on the 1901 census living in Grantham and working as a Railway Ticket collector, but when he moved there after 1881 census I do not yet know.

1891 Census
Dwelling: Woodmore End
Census Place: Shillington, Bedfordshire, England

Name                                St     Age      Sex     Birthplace                                     Rel     Occ
Sarah HARRIS                            25         F      Shillington                                   Head, Straw Plaiter
George                                           6         M     Shillington                                   Son
Thomas                                          3        M     Shillington                                   Son
Fred                                              8m       M     Shillington                                    Son

Sometime between the 1891 census and 1895 Thomas and family moved from 8 Holly Park Road to 96 Holly Park Road. Two pieces of evidence confirm this, the first is the letter below from the history section at Palmers Green Library who checked the Kelly’s Directory for this period and confirmed a Thomas Harris at this address between 1895 and 1900. This only gives us the name of the person who is registered as the head of the household, so we do not know who else is living there. Another question, which remains unanswered so far, is how long he resided there.

Letter from Graham Dalling

The next piece of evidence comes from Thomas’s son Harry’s marriage certificate. Harry Harris, my great grandfather, married on 3rd June 1895. The marriage certificate shows that both Harry and his new wife, Laura Emily Gould, resided at 96 Holly Park Road. Laura was born around 1875 in the New Southgate area, and descended from the Gould’s who lived in Enfield. The Gould’s are covered later. Pictured below is Harry and Laura.

Photo of Harry Harris        Photo Laura Emily Gould

One of the witnesses shown on the certificate, is Laura’s uncle, Samuel Whitney who married into the family when he wed Emma Phoebe Dickens Farrall. Laura’s mum was Laura Hope Farrall and Emma was her sister. You can see that in Emma’s name this mysterious link to the Dickens family is shown, as Emma and Laura Hope’s mum was Emma Dickens. Many stories have been told and handed down about a possible link to Charles Dickens, and my theories on this are covered towards the end of this book, which covers the Dickens connection.

The other witness is Laura’s sister in law, Adelaide Tester, who married Laura’s brother William Gould. I have also subsequently found out that the Parish Church referenced is in fact St James, and this was confirmed by the Barnet Registrar in 2001.

Quite what work Harry and his father did at this time is currently unknown. The certificate above shows them both to be labourers and they could have quite easily worked on any number of developments in the area at the time, the local mental hospital provided employment for many, maybe they worked as labourers in there. They could also have worked on the construction of the underground tube network. In fact my uncle, Ernie Harris, is almost certain that Harry did but is not sure if Thomas did as well, and of course we have no dates for this.

Between 1895 and 1901 Harry and Laura had 4 children. First was Charles Henry, born around 1896, then daughter Florence Laura about 1898, then Frederick Alfred 1899 and William Thomas a month before the 1901 census, which was March 1901.  

Also at some point between 1895 and 1897 Harry and Laura moved into 18 Palmers Green Road, this is documented on the 1897 street directory for the area at this time, a copy of which is shown below. Palmers Green Road is now just called Palmers Road, and the family is shown to be there on the 1901 census.

1897 Street Directory for New Southgate

Friern Barnet Street Directory

The 1901 census for Southgate shows the following details for the family.

Dwelling: 18 Palmers Green Road
Census Place: Southgate, England
Source: PRO Ref RG13 Piece 1267 Folio 67 Page 21

Name                      St      Age    Sex     Birthplace                                        Rel      Occ
Harry HARRIS     M         26       M      Shillingham                                    Head,  Gen Labourer
Laura                     M         25        F       Southgate                                      Wife
Charles                               27       M      Southgate                                      Son
Frederick                             2        M      Southgate                                      Son
Florence                              3        M      Southgate                                      Daur
William                                1m     F        Southgate                                      Son

Interesting that next door, at number 16 on the census are the Gould family, Laura’s brother William is head of the household, with his wife Adelaide, daughter Ethel, and William’s brother George

Harry’s father and mother are still at 96 Holly Park Road at the time of the 1901 census. Thomas now 56 is working as a gravedigger, continuing on from his days as a coprolite digger. Seemed to like a shovel in his hands.

The 1901 census also reveals that Harry’s sister Laura, now aged 19, has left home. She is found working as a servant in St Pancras for I think the Symond’s family. The surname is not very clear on the copy.

The next child that I know to be born was my grandfather, Ernest Walter Harris, who was born14th April 1907. At this point I have also assumed a change of address to 2 Palace Terrace, which is in Friern Barnet somewhere but I have not found it yet. The reason for this is that this address is shown to be the birthplace of Ernest Walter Harris.

It maybe of course that Laura happened to be at that address at the time or stayed there to give birth with someone she knew. Maybe we will never know because later Harry is found back in Park Cottages, just off Palmers Green Road.

Next child is Rose born 3 months before the 1911 census. There is a story that she was a twin who was a still born and that Rose herself died very young, in fact I think she dies at the end of the same year. Found an entry below on FreeBMD

Deaths Dec 1911   (>99%)
Harris     Rose     0     Holborn     1b    676     
Harris     Rose H     0     Barnet     3a    349

Rose was mentioned originally to me by Valerie Burdett (Martin) whose Grandfather was Frederick Harris, born in 1899. Valerie remembers her grandma, saying that they were going to name Valerie's mother Rose, in memory of Frederick’s sister who died young, but in the end they did not. Rose had the middle name Hope, after her great grandmother Laura Hope Farrall, so the above Rose H Harris looks like it is correct.

So the family are shown on the 1911 census living at 70 The Avenue, Barnet. So another move has taken place.

Head of house is Harry aged 36, Laura Emily is 35. This census also shows how long married and it states 16 years. With them is Charles Henry 15, a butcher, Floremce Laura 13, Frederick Alfred 12, William Thomas 10,  Ernest Walter 4 and Rose Hope 3 month.

Thomas and Hannah are also still alive in 1911. Still living at 96 Holly Park Road with two of their children Jonah and Rose still with them. Thomas is 67 and still a grave digger, Hannah is 64. The census shows they have been married 42 years. Jonah is single and works as a brick layers labourer aged 34 and Rose is single, aged 20 and working as a Dressmakers Machinist.

Five years later and at the age of 42 Harry became a father again. On the 8th November 1916 when Hilda Louvain was born, but this was not to be the last child as three years later in the summer of 1919 Roy Harris was born. 21st June to be exact and this would be the last of the children for Harry and Laura. This year also saw the marriage of his 3rd son Frederick. Although I know that his first son William married Doll, I do not have details. Frederick however I do know about.

Fred had signed up for the Army in 1915, and in 1917 he was employed as a Wood Sawyer’s mate, he married Ellen Gilbey on 30th November 1918. Fred, unfortunately died a few years later in 1926.

I think 1918 saw the passing of Thomas and Hannah's last child Rose. There is an entry on FreeBMD below which matches the age and also gives a clue that this Rose also maybe had the middle name Hope.

Deaths Dec 1918   (>99%)
Harris     Rose     38     Prescot     8b    1555      
Harris     Rose     39     Nottingham     7b    635      
Harris     Rose     40     Whitechapel     1c    496      
Harris     Rose     0     Woodbridge     4a    2240      
Harris     Rose A     3     St.Olave     1d    343      
Harris     Rose A     36     Romford     4a    1181      
Harris     Rose F     0     Bethnal G.     1c    350      
Harris     Rose H     27     Barnet         3a    819      

There was one other son born to Harry and Laura, his name was Frank, as yet I do not know when he was born but it was after 1901, and my father thinks that Frank was the youngest, so his birth would be after 1920. Frank married Florence, again we do not know the year but my dad also thinks he married late in life. On a Sunday in February 2005, my father talked about Frank. He said that he was probably closer to this uncle than any other. Frank was a keen all round sportsman who excelled at Football and Cricket. During the Second World War, he thinks that Frank made Sargent, possibly in the Royal Artillery.

In November 2011,  Peter Gilbert kindly did some searching and came up with the following about Frank.

"The Free BMD site indicates that there is a birth certificate in Edmonton district for Frank Harris, with a mother whose maiden name was Gould. However, this is for the September 1915 quarter. If you look at John Nicholson's note, it seems to show a date of birth for Frank as 15 June (by analogy with Ernest and Hilda Louvain) and possibly that Frank was born before Hilda and Roy. It's quite possible that his birth wasn't registered until after 30 June. However, the ancestry site, which holds all deaths in England and Wales up to and including 2005, doesn't have a record of the death of a Frank Harris born on 15 June 1915."

Having now also spoken to my father again he is not too sure of the order of birth for the last 3 children, so I think we can assume that Frank was born in 1915.

So back to Harry. I still know little of Harry’s employment throughout this period, but I do know that in 1925 he commenced employment with the Southgate Gas Company, in New Southgate. Harry’s job with the Gas Company was listed as a Coal Shoveller, which I am told was to shovel coal into the Retro.

The next significant event, for me, was the marriage of my grandfather, Ernie to Amelia Emily Doris Boatwright at St. Pauls Church, New Southgate on 30th January 1932. Pictured below is the wedding party, the older bridesmaids were Amelia’s sister Sue Boatwright, Ernie’s sister Hilda, and his nieces, Barbara Harris and Phyllis Harris. The picture is taken in the back yard of Amelia’s mum and dad’s house. The houses behind the group are some of the Park Cottages, Ernest dad’s house would be to the left of the picture as we look, and Ernie and his new bride would move in next door. Whether they had moved there at this point we do not know.

Ernest Harris Wedding Photo

By 1933 they were definitely living in Park Cottages, number 5, this is on my father'a birth certificate. Next door, was Ernest’s father Harry, how long he and Ernest had lived in the cottages before this I do not know, but Harry would have been there without his wife Laura who had passed away early in the first quarter of 1933.

From memory my father sketched the cottages and the surrounding area for his mum and dads Diamond Anniversary in 1992. In November 2002 I asked him to get it from his loft so I could include in here. You can see where Harry and Ernest lived. You will also note that my great Granddad Thomas Boatwright’s house is shown as well, on the end, by itself opposite the Gas holder.

Sketch of Park Cottages

Earlier in this chapter I mentioned the birth of Harry’s Uncle Charles. I had assumed Charles had died young, as he was shown to be born in 1837 but did not appear on 1841 census. When I search the 1881 for Charles Harris born 1837 +/- 5 years – born in Bedford, I got 4 matches but one in particular caught the eye. Charles Harris aged 40 born Spillington, ( transcribed or spelt incorrectly ) Bedford. Our Charles would have been 44 but ages are not always correct. Now assume one of the following:

1. Christening record of 1837 is incorrect and birth is actually 1841, which is why he does not appear on the 1841 census.
2. 1841 census has missed him off and 1881 census age is wrong.

If either of the above is correct then this Charles on the 1881 census could be the uncle of Harry. I only record this information now, subjective though it is, because of one other interesting piece of information on this census return, and that is the dwelling, Park Cottages, Finchley. Are these the same Park Cottages mentioned above where my dad and his family were born. If so it means a member of our family had lived in the cottages some 50 years before my great granddad Harry was found there.

On further investigation the Park Cottages Finchley is different to the Park Cottages in New Southgate. I proved this by finding the entry on the 1881 census and moving forward and backwards to other houses and streets. Park Cottages was near to Ballards Lane, which I know is Finchley and not New Southgate. However it is only a couple of miles away and may be the reason why my great great granddad Thomas moved to the area from Shillington in 1891 along with Harry.

Ernest and Amelia had 6 children, Kenneth, Sheila, Roy, Joyce, Ernie and Allen, between 1930's and the end of the 2nd World War.

1940 also saw the retirement of Harry Harris from the Southgate Coal Company after 15 years service. Evidence of this is shown below in an extract from the Tottenham and District Gas Company – Co Partners’ Magazine in New Year of 1940.

Gas Works Mag cover

Gas Works mag inside cover

1941 saw the marriage of Roy Harris to Joyce Raymond. The photo shows the wedding party underneath a large cedar tree, with the names of those I have identified above and below it. You can see that kneeling in the center bottom, is my granddad Ernest Harris in army uniform. He served in the Home Guard during the Second World War.

Wedding Party

The second to last child born to Ernest and Amelia was Ernie. He was born whilst the family had been evacuated to the Northeast.

My Dad recalled those months away during a conversation on 8th June 2003. He said that it was almost like an extended holiday, no school was attended, much to the dismay of their school teachers on their return. He remembers an old yard with loads of old cars and buses, which had been dumped. The kids naturally had hours of fun here. The large house where they stayed was close to a farm, the produce of which was regularly taken by the children, but not with the farmers blessing. They stayed in what Ken remembers as a very large house, of which they had one room on the ground floor where they ate and slept. There were no curtains and because it was on the ground floor they apparently hung up loads of nappies to give some privacy. Ken remembers returning to London just as the doodlebugs started to fall.

The family moved away from Park Cottages around 1946 and moved into a house in Crawford Gardens, Palmers Green. I do not know why the reason they moved it may have been lack of space in the cottage or it could be to do with paying the rent.

They were on the move again, a few years later, when they found a place in Tottenhall Road, Palmers Green, number 209. This would be their final move and both would end their days in this house.

In 1953 Harry Harris passed away at North Middlesex Hospital. He died on 26th June 1953 of Bronchopneumonia aged 78. He was, I am told, nicknamed Clanger, so far I have been unable to find out why. Another story is told by Bunny Gould in a letter written 2001, that Harry would dig over local allotments, his payment would be bottles of beer. This could be the same beer that my dad told me about. Quite often Harry would ask his grandson, Kenneth, to take a couple of bottles of Beer to a lady who lived nearby.

Ken Harris wedding Photo

The wedding photo shown previously of Kenneth Harris to Avis Tarling hides one interesting point. Most of the wedding party had very bad colds some even had flu. It was touch and go as to whether the wedding would take place, and apparently, Ron Phillips made a couple of trips to the vicar with the message that it was off, then on again.

Ernest Harris and Amelia Boatwright were married for 60 years and celebrated their Diamond Anniversary as a cutting from the local newspaper shows below.

Newspaper Cutting

Unfortunately at this time Ernest was fighting throat cancer. He lost the fight on 17th May 1992 when he passed away at his home 209 Tottenhall Road. He had worked for many years as a Painter and Decorator, but spent most of his spare time in many of the local pubs, particularly the John Lawrence and the Beehive whilst in New Southgate, and then the Bird in Hand in Tottenhall Road. He was known to be a very fine darts player, and represented the pubs on many occasions. His wife, Amelia, was to survive him for another 6 years before she passed away in North Middlesex Hospital on 23rd October 1998.

Ernie Harris Gravestone

The next photo is taken of the family at a party sometime in the early 80’s. 

Harris Party

To view a descendants chart for John Harris 1673 click on the link below

John Harris Descendants Chart

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