My Campbell family history.
My Campbell line can be traced back to Thomas Campbell, who was born about 1756, although we don’t know where, and was married to Sarah Beach in St Mary’s parish church, Old Swinford near Stourbridge in Worcestershire on 31 May 1818. His signature may still be seen in the marriage register of Old Swinford parish church, now stored at Worcestershire County Archives.
The marriage was witnessed by Thomas and Ann Beach, presumably Sarah’s parents (no sign of Thomas’s relatives). The parish records also show that he died there and was buried on 24 July 1836 aged 40. No gravestone has been found, although many of the headstones have worn away and are not readable.
No Scottish connection has been found and it is not even certain that Thomas comes from a Campbell line. The parish registers in Shropshire show the spelling ‘Camball’ and ‘Cambel’ and one cannot discount a connection with ‘Camel’.
Thomas seems to have been for most of his life a servant, groom or coachman to gentry in the Stourbridge district. At the baptisms of his sons William and John, he described himself as a ‘servant’, while when his daughter Sarah was born (1831) he is described as ‘coachman of Quarry, Pedmore’. Bentley’s Directory for 1841 shows that The Quarry was occupied in that year by solicitor Charles Roberts, who had an office in Stourbridge. When his son John (my ancestor) was married, he described his father as a ‘groom’. So it seems certain that Thomas was employed as groom and coachman by Charles Roberts, perhaps regularly driving him back and forth between Stourbridge and his house, The Quarry, which still exists. I assume that he and his family were given accommodation in the house or its outbuildings and that his wife performed some service in the house itself.
After Thomas died, Sarah was forced to leave The Quarry and in the 1841 census we find her employed as an assistant in John Ganshem’s grocer's shop in Stourbridge High Street, declaring that she was not born in Worcestershire (Stourbridge is on the border of Worcestershire and Shropshire, so she may have come from Shropshire). She died on 27 Jan 1842 aged 46 at Gig Mill Heath, Stourbridge.
Thomas, her eldest son, born in Stourbridge, married Eliza Hudson at Kingswinford Parish Church in 1845. He was a sawyer by trade and after living for a few years in Stourbridge took his family to live at Quatford near Bridgenorth (his wife had been born at Quatt). After his wife's death he went to live in Bridgenorth at 18 Railway Street, where he died. He was buried next to his wife at Quatford Churchyard, where their common tomb may still be seen. Of his children little is known except the information recorded in the 'Tree'.
Of course much more is known of Sarah's third son John, from whom I and many others are descended. He was born in Stourbridge, his baptism being recorded in the Old Swinford parish Registers (at this time Stourbridge was not an independent parish). His life seems to have been closely linked with that of his father-in-law from very early times. Benjamin and Phoebe Rose were in fact married at Old Swinford Church. I presume that John worked with Benjamin (who was also a forge man) somewhere in Cradley and that he 'set his cap' at his daughter Mary, for Mary gave birth to Mira out of wedlock in 1851. This seems to have brought about a 'shotgun wedding' which took place the following year at St Martin's Parish Church, Birmingham. Benjamin and phoebe were present as witnesses and this visit to Birmingham seems to have been only for the marriage, presumably to avoid undue publicity.
From that time John and Mary moved from place to place where John's work as a forge man took him. They were living at Round's Green, Oldbury, when Sarah was born, at Two Gates, Cradely, when Thomas was born and at Belbroughton when Alice and Mary were born. Belbroughton at this time seems to have been the centre of the scythe-making industry, and I believe John learnt this trade here.
By 1860 when Rhoda was born they had returned to Stourbridge, living in Bowling Green Lane, the same street that his brother Thomas had lived in before leaving for Quatford. There are to this day several spade works in this road and I presume he found employment at one of these.
In 1863, when my grandfather John was born they had moved a little way to Withy Bank, Wollaston, which is not many hundred yards from Bowling Green Lane. 1865 saw them back in Stourbridge, at Prescott Street, when George HJ was born, and by 1869, when George died of scarlet fever, they had moved to 8 Market Street, which may still be seen. I presume that all this time John was a journeyman forge-worker moving from one iron works to another. It appears that about 1870, when he was 43 years of age, he moved to Kinver and ran an edge-tool works of his own. It has not been established that he owned this works, but at least he seems to have had full control, producing all kinds of edge-tools such as hatchets, choppers, axes, scythes, spades, etc. It is said that he found a new method of forming the spade handle tube and that this technique was copied by others without credit to the inventor. The location of this works seems to have been near Stewponey and indeed there was a forge at The Hyde on the bank of the Stour near the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal which, though derelict, still exists today.
Competition from 'modern' factories was steadily increasing in these years and John would have found his living getting harder all the time. When one day a piece of metal pierced and blinded an eye he lost all interest in the work and retired to Kidderminster about 1882. His two sons, Thomas and John, who for some years had been helping their father in the works, both joined the Police Forces. In his retirement John seems to have taken an active interest in religion preaching from time to time though this is not understood to indicate any official position. He is remembered for his goodness. He lived in Kidderminster near his married daughter Alice and was connected with St John's Parish Church on the Bewdley Road. He died at 89 Park Street aged 71 and is buried in St John’s Churchyard, though his grave has not yet been found. His wife Mary survived him by many years dying at the age of 90 in Puxton Lane, Kidderminster, where Alice was then living. Both the houses mentioned above still stand.
Little is known of his daughter Mira, except that she and her husband emigrated to Australia in 1873, where he remained. She returned to England and died during 1913 in Birmingham. Nothing is known of his daughter Sarah.
Thomas, his elder son, joined the Worcestershire Police, serving for 5 years on the Kidderminster Borough Force. He died early aged 34 and is buried with his father at St John’s Parish Church. Of Thomas' children, George was a boot and shoe repairer and died in Birmingham, while William was a baker at the Co-operative Wholesale Stores in Kidderminster. Nothing is known of any descendants of this branch of the family.
Alice lived all her life in Kidderminster, being well known in the area. She was very active and had exceptional wit dying about 90 years of age. Of her family, her son Harold was a conjuror, ventriloquist and Member of the Magic Circle. His widow lived in Stourport-on-Severn and his son Harold Ellis Lord lived with his family in Burton-on-Trent. Peggy lived with her mother in Stourport. Alice’s elder daughter held the BEM for unknown service and lived in Kidderminster. Alice's younger daughter Gertie lived in Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex, her second husband being afloat much of the time. Alice also brought up another child, one Percy Spinks, who later took the surname Lord and is understood to be a nurse at Rubery Hospital, Birmingham. Mary was John's fifth child and very little is known about her family. They used to live in Dudley but Belle has long since moved on.
Rhoda Rebecca was my grandfather's favourite sister and married an itinerant Scots draper from Dumfriesshire. I understand she was in service at Rugby when she met Adam Bell, but they were married in Adam's half-sisters house at Racks Village, Torthorwald, Dumfriesshire in 1888. They went to live at Netherhall, Kirkmahoe for a short time, then moved to Mansfield square, Hawick in Roxburghshire. About 1894 they moved to Palace, Jedburgh where Rhoda died five years after her daughter Grace. They are both buried at Crailing Churchyard, Jedburgh. Adam returned with his family to his native Dumfries where he died at the age of 73 being buried in St Michael’s Cemetery. Adam and Rhoda’s son John died of war wounds in No 1 Canadian General Hospital, Etaples, France during the First World War and is buried in the Military Cemetery in Etaples. Their daughters lived on at Cresswell Hill, Dumfries, two of whom I met in 1964.
My grandfather was educated first in Kinver and later in Stourbridge. After some four or five years at work in his father's forge he joined the Staffordshire County Constabulary at the age of 19 years and 9 months on 30 January 1882. After a period of training at Stafford, he was sent as a constable to Tettenhall, where he met and married my grandmother. Her father owned and kept (or perhaps he was just the manager) the ‘Sir Tatton Sykes' hotel in Wolverhampton, which still stands. After their marriage at Tettenhall Parish Church in 1887, John was posted to Ipstones near Leek until 1896 when they returned to Stafford. There he was promoted to sergeant and became clerk to the Deputy Chief Constable, gaining much valuable experience. From 1897 to 1902 he was stationed at Penkridge, where the laying of the railway line from Littleton colliery to the Wolverhampton Road brought many hundreds of navvies to the area, and his position required much tact. In 1902 he was promoted to the rank of inspector and transferred to Cannock. While at Cannock he was caught up in the sensational Edalji case, more properly called The Great Wyrley maiming outrages. This case, which was world famous in its time and attracted the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, began in 1903 and lasted, a nightmare for the police, until after 1913. [see link to the Edalji page]
In 1909 he was again promoted this time to superintendent and put in charge of the newly created Handsworth Division. Here he had to unravel the mystery of the death of a young woman at Perry Barr Cricket Field. When, in 1911, the Greater Birmingham scheme absorbed Handsworth, he declined transfer to the City Police and chose to remain in Staffordshire. He returned to Cannock, taking charge of a new division until 1913. I understand that he was awarded a medal in King George's Coronation year (1911), being presented with it by the King at Buckingham Palace. It is said that his regard for royalty was lowered by seeing the small stature of the King.
In 1913 he was given charge of the Smethwick Division until his retirement. While at Smethwick he had several notable cases to his credit. The sensational arrest of Bioletti at the Hawthorns football ground concluded the Jesse Pennington bribery case, and a sensational fire in Holly Lane is recorded as being a most remarkable episode. During the First World War, he had to investigate a case where charges were made of trading with the enemy. Almost his last case was where he saved the Avery Weighing Machine Co by patient and thorough photography. His widespread and simultaneous arrest of the manager and others over Birmingham created a sensation and was widely reported. His whole career was probably unique for the number of mysteries and sensational cases, and he was renowned for his tact and sound judgement. He retired on 20 July 1920, being then in residence at the Police Station House at 12 Crocketts Lane, Smethwick.
Before the First World War, he started a coal merchant business at 380 Oldbury Road, Smethwick under the name of S Campbell & Co. Though he owned this business it was operated at first by his son Sydney and later by Colin, Frederick and Albert. It was later taken over by the three latter under the name of J Campbell & Sons Ltd at The Wharfe, Rolfe Street/Brldge Street, Smethwick.
After his retirement, John, my grandmother and my father first moved to 161 Crocketts Lane and then to 111 St Pauls Road, Smethwlck. Eventually they moved to 217 Walmley Road, Sutton Coldfield, where he had a stroke (this is the house in which I was brought up). This partially paralysed him and took away his speech. After various moves during his illness, he died at 156 Moor End Lane, Erdington and was subsequently buried in Erdington Parish Churchyard. His wife, who survived him by 16 years, is also buried there.
Like his eldest brother Arthur, my father (Roy Francis) was employed in the electrical supply industry (generation). He was first employed by The Birmingham Electricity Co, which was under municipal control until it was absorbed into the nationalised industry in 1948. Mostly a shift engineer, a reserved occupation during the Second World War, he was promoted to superintendant of a power station (Ocker Hill) and eventually became Personnel Officer for the West Midlands Division of the Central Electricity Generation Board. He retired first to Colwall near Malvern and lastly to York to be near my brother.
View my Campbell family photo archive
2015 Mar 23