Friday, May 24, 2013

The Dawes Dynasty - From humble labourers to a prominent Brighton builder

I wrote this story for entry in the Sussex FHS "Write your Family History" Competition and thought it would also be of use in this blog.

My DAWES ancestors were humble folk, mostly labourers from Sussex, except for one who broke the mold.  This is his story.

And, they were all named Thomas.

As early as I can ascertain, the first Thomas DAWS was born in Uckfield about 1769 based on his age of 75 at his death in 1843.  He died of atrophy which was registered by his neighbour, Mary Darby.  Fortunately for me, he just made it into the 1841 census.  Thomas was a labourer on all the records that track his life.

Now I am going to leave the story for a moment and engage in a little genealogical speculation.  I believe that his father was Thomas DAW born about 1746 in Lewes who married Mary Hilton in 1768 Willingdon.  I also believe that his grandparents were Joseph DAW born about 1710 in Lewes and Ann EARL born about 1714 also in Lewes and married in Framfield.  His great-grandparents might have been James DAW born about 1684 in Warbleton but died in Lewes and Mary CHANNEL who also died in Lewes.  These three generations could be all fluff and are my current challenge to prove.

So back to Thomas the Labourer.  Both he and Elizabeth are also found on the 1831 census for Uckfield as transcribed by PJN Publications in 1988.

Elizabeth was born as Elizabeth Whitebread in 1785 Hadlow, Kent.  Thomas married her in Tudley & Capel in 1804 and they settled in Hadlow for a while where they had five children there between 1805 and 1811.  A Poor Law Removal Order was issued 9 Aug. 1809 ordering them back to Uckfield correctly naming three of the five children and their ages.  Two more children, Thomas (b. 1809) and Sarah (b. 1810) were born in Hadlow before they actually moved but then only a short distance to East Peckham where they had four more children. They stayed in East Peckham until 1821 as George was baptised there in that year.  Their last child was Harriet who was baptised in Uckfield in 1829.  However, I wonder if Harriet might be a grand-daughter as there were eight years between her and George with Elizabeth being 44 at the time of her birth although Harriet's marriage certificate does show her father as Thomas DAWES (Labourer).

By a long and circuitous route, Thomas-the-Labourer has finally returned to his birth place of Uckfield where we pick up the story of the next Thomas who was born in 1809, just about the time of the removal order, and became a bricklayer in Uckfield.  In 1834, Thomas-the-Bricklayer married Ann LANGRIDGE in Lewes.  She is descended from the Horsted Keynes Langridge's.  They had five children between 1835 and 1846 with only Joseph, the first, escaping vital registration.  They were all born and baptised in Uckfield with the final Thomas of this tale being the middle child born in 1840.

Thomas-the-Bricklayer died of cancer at age 42 in 1851.  It is also noted on his death certificate that he had a hernia which is not surpizing considering his occupation.  His wife, Ann, was now widowed with five children between five and sixteen.  Because Thomas died in a census year it is hard to determine how Ann managed over the next ten years although there were many Dawes relatives living in Uckfield so she was probably taken in by one of them.  Her own Langridge siblings also lived in Uckfield so hopefully she would have had lots of support.
Ann remarries, in 1856, to James Gallop in Uckfield.  I suspect that they had to get married because shortly afterward they registered the birth of a daughter, Caroline.  By 1861, she and James are living in Brighton with Caroline and her son, Thomas, who is a wheelwright.  Thomas was probably there first because of this snippet from a letter written by one of his grandchildren, Reg Barnes, to another cousin.
At the age of 14 he walked to Brighton in a pair of his father's old boots to seek employment, and by sheer grit and perserverance became in course of time one of Brighton's leading builders.
This would mean that Thomas-the-Builder traveled to Brighton in 1854.

Through the course of the census records between 1861 and 1911, Thomas-the-Builder is a wheelwright, painter, and builder.  It is estimated that he built well over 100 houses in Brighton and played a major role in the building of the Florence Road Baptist Church.  This again is taken from the memoires of Reg Barnes which I have transcribed and placed in the SFHG library.

His mother, Ann, died in 1874 at age 62 from heart disease and asthma, an affliction which I have inherited.  Two years later, in 1876, Thomas-the-Builder marries Sarah BOXALL who was born in Brighton in 1841.  Thomas and Sarah proceeded to have nine children of which one died young in 1870 and a spinster daughter died at age 32.  The remaining seven all married but only produced eleven grandchildren with half of the their lines dying out in the next generation.  Not a very prolific family!

Sarah, his wife, died in 1890 from leukemia.  Thomas-the-Builder remarried in 1894 to Sarah Roust and had one more child with her.  Finally, another Thomas.  Of his nine children with Sarah BOXALL, none of the boys were named Thomas although one was christened Tom, my grandfather.  He completely broke the traditional naming convention which the family had used in all previous generations by using Walter, Ernest, Tom and Albert.  His last son, I will call Thomas-the-Organist, because he carried the letters A.R.C.O., F.R.C.O and F.T.C.L. after his name and was sought after to play many church recitals and as a church organist.  He was also the "cousin" who kept in touch with his relatives and managed the affairs for several.  Unfortunately, he and his wife, Grace WOODING, had no offspring.

Thomas-the-Builder ran his building business, Dawes & Son, from 54 Springfield Road.  He is famous for tearing down the Cutress & Son windmill at the top of Roundhill Road and using the the materials to build the terrace houses on Belton Road.  When he died, in 1925, he left 22 houses to his children and grandchildren of which my grandfather inherited three specifically, 40 & 48 Belton Road and 94 Chester Terrace.  
Unfortunately, my widowed grandmother had to sell these off before WWII, otherwise, I would be living in Brighton today!

That's my rags to riches story of how a humble family of labourers became one of Brighton's prominent families.  Within this family history are a hundred more little stories that have revealed themselves as I have rooted through the family's past and been carried off on tangents.  My grandfather, Tom Dawes, became a carpenter and emigrated to Canada in 1906.  Family lore has it that he wanted to be a teacher rather than follow his father in to the building business and that's why he left.  My grandmother, Caroline GARDNER, followed him a year later and they married the day after she arrived in Montreal.  It's a shame that they never went back nor did any of their family ever visit them.  I have inherited his original tool chest which is like a 100 year old time capsule of the Brighton building trades.