My connection to Clay Cross
by Isobel Fearn

My Great Grandfather George Henry Fearn was born in Clay Cross in 1859. His father was also called George and his Mother Elizabeth formally Cooper. On his birth certificate, his father’s occupation is farm labourer.

I have been unable to find any record of them in the 1861 census they next appear in the 1871 census living in Guildford Lane, Clay Cross. George Henry’s mother Elizabeth died in 1863 so his father George must have remarried as on the census his wife is listed as Mary. George Henry also had a brother William born 1857. Both their occupations are listed as coal loaders.

In the 1881 Census George Henry is 21 years old and occupations as a miner and he is lodging with Joseph Dunn who later died in the Park House Pit Disaster. George would later marry Joseph’s sister.

In 1886 George Henry Fearn married Margaret Chantry formally Dunn. Margaret’s parents were William and Barbara Dunn from Easington, Co. Durham. William Dunn was a Deputy Manager of No 3 pit Clay Cross.

George and Margaret had four children William born 1887, Elizabeth born 1889, Margaret born 1892 and George Henry Jr. born 1893 [I have put Jr. to save confusion].

In the 1891 census, George Henry and Margaret are living at 216 Danesmoor next-door to Margaret’s parents.

William Dunn Margaret’s father was killed in an accident at No.3 Pit in December 1892. William Dunn was the underground manager he had been employed by the Clay Cross Company for nearly thirty years. His brothers George and Thomas were also underground managers.

Certificate of Service [Second Class Certificate as an Under Manager of Mines granted under the Coal Mines Regulations Act 1877
Name District in which examined No and class of certificate Date
Dunn, George Clay Cross No. 7 [Mr. Stokes] 2nd 250 24th January 1888
Dunn, Thomas Clay Cross No. 5 [Mr. Stokes] 2nd 728 24th January 1888
Dunn, William Clay Cross No. 3 [Mr. Stokes] 2nd 725 24th January 1888

An inquest was held at the New Inn Market Street. Four other men were working at the time of the accident in No. 42 stall belonging to Mr T. Wood. At about 9.15a.m. A ton of roof fell on top of William he died very shortly after. He was 66 years old. Mr. Wood said no one had notice any fault having examined the stall earlier. The jury returned a verdict of Accidental death.

Williams widow Barbara received a gratuity from the CXC of £15 “he being the under viewer whilst on duty, but no precedent be thereby established”.

William had lost his brother and two nephews in the Park House Pit Disaster 10 years before.

George Henry Jr. Fearn enlisted in the sixth Reserve Battalion Sherwood Foresters on 23rd October 1914 he was private 3259. 139 Machine Gun Corps His address when enlisting was Bushy Park Farm, Pilsley. His father then moved to Oaklea Villas, Thanet Street.

In July 1917, he was transferred to the Royal Engineers [L. signal].

In 1924, George Henry Sr. collapsed in his allotment and later died ages 65 years old. George Henry was a keen gardener and won prizes for his violas and pansies he was a judge at local shows.

There was an inquest because a few weeks before George had suffered a fall of coal on his head while at work as Deputy Manager at Park House Pit. Since the accident, he had complained of severe headaches over his right eye both to his wife and fellow workmates but no official report had been made at the time of the accident. His wife told the inquest “he had a black eye but she did not know much about it as he was not the kind of man to tell you a deal about pit work”.

A witness at the time of the accident Mr. John Turvey a deputy at the same pit said that neither he nor the deceased considered the accident serious at the time and it was not reported. The witness had told George Henry to go to the doctor but he replied, “I have nothing to show if I go”.

At the inquest, a verdict of Accidental death was concluded even though he had suffered a large hemorrhage on the right side of the brain. Apparently, the blow received six weeks before so the conclusion was he had died of natural causes did not cause this.

It was also brought to the coroner’s attention that there was no mortuary in Clay Cross and the post-mortem had been carried out in the victims home not very nice for his family. It was suggested that the council should find suitable facilities for a mortuary.

At the funeral, all the Deputies acted as bearers. Representatives included Bestwood Club, Egstow Working Men’s Club and The Allotment Association.

George Henry’s son George Henry Jr. went on to become an electrician and later married Ethel Mary Harris on 9th October 1920 at Zion Chapel Church Street Clay Cross. Ethel’s parents were Silas and Sarah Jane formally Flavell. Sarah-Jane’s parents were Job and Mary-Ann Flavell.

Ethel Harris was educated at Chesterfield High School and there she earned her teaching certificate and taught at Dolea Primary School when she got married she had to leave her teaching job as married women were not employed at the time.

Silas Harris and the Flavell Families had come from Sedgley Staffordshire in the 1880’s. Silas had started as a miner but in ten years had become a grocer. Job Flavell also started as miners but had become a butcher. Silas and Sarah-Jane had eleven children although twins died in 1891.

George Henry Jr. died in 1946. Ethel lived into her nineties and lived in Thanet Street. My Grandmother Ethel was a fantastic person, she told me many stories about her early life helping her dad in the grocer’s store and her early life. Perhaps this was the start of my interest in family history. George and Ethel had two children my dad George Harris and Mary.

My dad went to Clay Cross primary and then to Chesterfield Technical Collage to train as a mining surveyor. At the beginning of the war, he wanted to join the RAF but became a reluctant Bevin boy working at Holmwood, Temple Normanton and Williamthorpe. He enjoyed Youth Hostelling and was a Scout Leader. He married my Mum Joan Wright from Hasland Chesterfield. They went on to have six children, moved around a bit due to my dads work, and finished in Gloucestershire.

© Neil Wilson 2012 -
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