Perhaps it is just as well that it was not until Sunday that I discovered that FindMyPast were having a free weekend! I might have got far too distracted otherwise…
As it was, with limited time, I decided to search some specific record collections, including Crime and Punishment. Searching for the surname Buckingham in Oxfordshire, I came across William Buckingham, plasterer of Chipping Norton, who, in 1925, was sentenced to two months in prison for “shop breaking”.
I was particulary interested in the amount of physical description given: I learnt that William was 5’ 9” with dark hair and brown eyes. He had distinguising marks of a ‘heart, hand and sword’ on his right forearm (presumably a tatoo) and ‘clasped hands’ on his right wrist. The description also noted “right foot deformed”.
I felt that, unfortunately, William was very likely to be one of ‘mine’, since I have Buckinghams who moved from the parish of Eynsham to Chipping Norton. However, I couldn’t track him down on my tree, so I decided to do a bit of family reconstruction.
Working backwards I quickly discovered that he was the son of James and Mary Buckingham. In 1911 and 1901 James is shown as a Brewery Maltster’s labourer in Chipping Norton. The 1911 census was particularly revealing: not only did it show that James and Mary had 15 children (!), but someone had also added in the ‘disability’ column for William “club foot from birth”. Very helpful for verifying that I had the right person. James had been born in Eynsham. I went on to discover, working my way backwards, that James’ parents were William and Eliza Buckingham, with William having been born around 1810 in Combe, just north of Eynsham. That was about as far as I was able to go with online records, but infuriatingly I cannot link these Buckinghams to mine, although they lived in the same places. At some point, with more time, I must look carefully at the parish records.
Going back to the detailed 1911 census, however, I was intrigued to see that William’s brother and sister were both involved in tweed manufacturing, one as a ‘wool feeder’ and the other as a ‘wool steamer’. Suddenly I realised that I had probably found the answer to a question raised in my mind every time we drive through Chipping Norton on our way to the Cotswolds. A quick Google search confirmed it: as you drive out of Chipping Norton on the A44 heading towards Moreton-in-Marsh, you cannot fail to see a large building which almost looks like a stately home, except for the extremely tall chimney. It seems that this was the Bliss Tweed Mill, built in 1872 to process locally produced wool. The chimney was for the furnace which powered the steam machinery used in the mill. According to Wikipedia the mill did not close until 1980 and has now been converted into apartments.
Well, William it would seem chose not to follow his siblings into work at the mill but to learn the trade of a plasterer – a trade that he declared the intention of continuing in Oxford on his release from prison at the end of November 1925. I hope you then went straight, William!