Call me romantic or call me nosey, I often find myself wondering how my ancestral couples met – how any two strands of my family tree bumped into each other and became one. In the case of two of my great grandparents for example, what connection was there between William Salter the London-based employee of Gurney & Co, shorthand writers to the Houses of Parliament, and Jane Reyner the daughter of a Midlands cotton mill magnate?
Jane Salter née Reyner, and
William Henry Gurney Salter,
in 1920, 50 years after they got married
The answer, I thought, was the old boy network. I found out that William Salter had exactly the same education as his future brother-in-law, Frederick Reyner. They were both at Amersham Hall, an “Academy for the Sons of Liberal Gentlemen” (by which they meant non-conformist gentlemen); and then both at University College London, the university established by non-conformist gentlemen to give their sons the further education they were barred from at England’s other universities. (William’s grandfather, and perhaps Frederick’s too, had bought shares in its foundation.) Naturally I put two and two together and assumed they were classroom friends.
Unfortunately William was Frederick’s senior by fourteen years. When Frederick was graduating at UCL in June 1869, William had been working at Gurneys for nine years. He and Jane were probably already engaged – they got married the following year – but if William did meet Jane through Frederick, it wasn’t as school or university chums. (Jane, two years older than Frederick, was still twelve years younger than William.)
William’s path at Gurney’s was mapped out. In 1872 he would become head of the firm, following his uncle, grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather in the position. Frederick’s future too was assured. Reyner’s Mill in Ashton under Lyne was a large concern, employing (in 1871) 1319 men and women. Frederick’s father took control of the business in 1871 (following the death of Frederick’s uncles), and Frederick and his brother Joseph helped with the running. They ran it together after their father’s death in 1877; and when Joseph died at the age of only 49 in 1891, Frederick was left in sole charge.
The Ashton-under-Lyne Working Men’s Co-operative Society
founded in 1857 by a group of overlookers and weavers
at Reyner’s Mill (pic from Tameside.gov.uk)
Their first joint purchase was a chest of tea
which was sold among the members.
Frederick, an important local employer, was in due course invited to sit on the bench as a magistrate, where he discharged his responsibilities as a pillar of the community. With such a large workforce, he must have known some of the defendants brought before him. Some of his sittings are recorded in issues of the Ashton Reporter newspaper, and some of the cases are more serious than others. Here’s one from the edition of Saturday 10th October 1903:
THE TRIALS OF A LODGING-HOUSE. — Before the Ashton County Court Justices on Wednesday, Matilda Barlow was charged with being drunk and disorderly at Bardsley on the 18th of September. Matilda, in a confidential tone, told the magistrates that “she had gone down a bit in the world, you know, and she wanted to rise, but she was now living in a lodging-house, and — well, their worships knew what life in a lodging-house was.” — (Laughter.) “Now,” she said in a wheedling tone, “will your worships treat me leniently? You can bind me over for as much as you like.” — (Laughter.)
The Magistrates’ Clerk: You do not seem to know what being bound over means. You have been up before. Mrs Holt, the court missionary, stated that prisoner had a bit of money, but seemed to spend it all in drink. — A constable: She has a bit of property that brings in about 7s a week. — Prisoner, who had been reciting her troubles to Superintendent Hewitt during the evidence, vehemently broke in saying that she would attend chapel while she was in a lodging-house. — (Laughter.) — She was fined 5s 6d for costs.
Thanks to the Rhodes Family for their painstaking work of transcribing the Ashton Reporter.