The purpose for my first visit to the new Library of Birmingham in January was to try and find out who some of the mysterious Swadlings were who had come to the Birmingham area to get married. I had checked two websites, FreeBMD – a project in which volunteers are in the process of transcribing the Birth, Marriages and Deaths entries of the Civil Registration indexes and Family Search – a service provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that is also transcribing parish registers and census details.
The first marriage I wanted to find was for George Swadling who had married in the Aston registration district in 1887. According to Family Search he had married Clara Gamson at St Andrew’s Church Bordesley. A member of the library staff sorted out a “Digital Fiche and Mircoform Reader” for me to use and I was ready to begin my search. I now had to check the roll of film that the parish register for 1887 had been copied onto. It didn’t take me long to find the marriage details I was looking for. The certificate stated that George and Clara were both living in Small Heath at the time of their marriage and George’s father was called William. George and William were both employed as Railway servants.
I was fortunate enough to be able to search for other information about George using the Library version of Ancestry.com. I checked the 1891 census and found him and Clara living on the Gobowen Road in Gobowen, three miles north of Oswestry. George was 29 and was born in Leamington. His occupation was a goods guard on the railway. Clara was 27 and was born in Worcester. Their son Ernest Stephen was 3 and was born in Birmingham.
I checked the 1881 census and found George living at 25 St. George’s Road in Leamington with his parents William and Elizabeth and three brothers, Alfred, Arthur and Albert Henry. William’s birthplace was listed as Inkpen. It was at this point that I realised that George’s father was in fact one of the older brothers of my great grandfather James and Elizabeth was not George’s mother but his stepmother. Over the years I have visited several records offices in different counties and I had collected some information on George.
George Swadling was born on the 26th December 1861 at Priory Street Leamington and baptised at St John the Baptist parish church on the 4th March 1862. His mother Elizabeth died of Tuberculosis four months later and his father remarried in 1863. William and his new wife Elizabeth had four children during the course of the next thirteen years. George’s half brother Albert Henry died in 1872 at the age of five.
George followed in his father’s footsteps and joined Great Western Railway in Leamington in December 1876 as a Railway Number Taker for a salary of 8 shillings a week. His job description required utmost accuracy when reporting the movement of every waggon and carriage what passed through the station including where it had come from and where it was going. He was promoted to Railway Shunter in April 1882 with a salary of 18 shillings a week. He also had to move away from home to the small railway station of Bordesley that was located between Birmingham Moor Street and Small Heath Stations. At the time Bordesley was a main line station between London (Paddington) and Birkenhead (Woodside). The railway line itself was built over the Coventry Road on a viaduct. The job of a Shunter was extremely dangerous, as George would most likely have needed to get between the rolling stock to fasten or unfasten the couplings that held the waggons or carriages together.
George worked as a Shunter for over two years before being promoted to Railway Brakesman in December 1884. This time his salary only rose by 2 shillings a week. The job of a Brakesman was to apply the brakes of the train and also make sure that the brakes were set before the train went up or down a steep hill.
George met and married Clara while he was still working as a Brakesman at Bordesley and their first son Ernest Stephen was born within six months of their marriage while they were still living in Small Heath in Birmingham. He was still employed as a Brakesman when they moved to Gobowen, three miles north of Oswestry, in July 1890. According to Wikipedia – the free encyclopedia, “The population of Gobowen grew up around the railway. The mainline route between Chester and Shrewsbury was diverted through Gobowen after permission was denied to route the railway through the local historic town of Oswestry.
A second son Leonard William G was born in the autumn of 1892. Although George stated that he was a Goods Guard on the railway on the 1891 census he wasn’t actually promoted until October 1893 when the family moved to Chester. The job of the Goods Guard was still the same as a Brakesman except now George rode in the Guards van at the back of the train and not only looked after the train but the goods that had been left in his care for delivery at stations further up or down the line.
While in Chester another son Arthur Henry was born in December 1896. The family stayed in Chester for four and a half years before moving to Wolverhampton in the spring of 1898. Another son Albert Edward was born there in the summer of 1901. Five years later Leonard William G died at the age of fourteen.
George and Clara were living at 72 Lowe Street in Wolverhampton when the 1911 census was taken in April of that year. In the November George was promoted again. This time he became an Assistant Yard Inspector and moved to the Stourbridge Junction Railway Station. He was almost 50 years old and his salary was now 35 shillings a week.
In 1911 Ernest Stephen also became a railway man but he became an employee of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway. He worked as a porter at Priestfield Station from May until October 1911 and then moved to Wolverhampton Guards Station or Wolverhampton Low Level on Sun Street in Springfield, Wolverhampton and spent another three months as a Railway Shunter. In December 1911 he secured a job with Great Western Railway working as a Brakesman at Oxley Sidings and spent nearly two years working in the large service shed helping with the maintenance of goods, shunting and locomotives. He married Alice M Durant in Dudley in 1915. Ernest Stephen died in 1924 at the age of 36 while they were living in the Banbury area.
On the 1911 census Arthur Henry was still living at home and was an apprentice at an Electrical Manufacturers. When the First World War broke out Arthur decided it was his patriotic duty to leave his home at 149 Stourbridge Road and join the 9th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment and fight for his country. The 9th Battalion was formed in 1914 and Arthur joined all the other new recruits for training on Salisbury Plain in May 1915. The 9th Battalion left for overseas and arrived in the Gallipoli Peninsula in western Turkey in July where the soldiers were involved in fighting at Gully Beach. The 9th Battalion participated in training in the summer and autumn of 1916 on the Greek Island of Lemnos in preparation for the fighting that was to begin on the Hai Salient in Mesopotamia. By the 21st January 1917 new trenches had been built within 300 yards of the enemy’s lines. The planned attack was postponed from the 22nd until the 25th of January and at 9.00 that morning the troops began their attack. Private Arthur Henry Swadling, Army number 24620, died during the battle and was buried in the Amara War Cemetery in Iraq. He was only twenty years old.
George died in 1943 at the age of 81 and Clara died in 1949 at the age of 85. They are buried together in the Lye/Wollescote Cemetery.
Only George and Clara’s youngest son Albert Edward survived them. He married Mary Maria Southall in 1926 and their only son was born several years later. Albert Edward became the publican of the Bird in the Hand public house on the Stourbridge Road in Oldswinford, Worcestershire. He died on the 31st march 1964 at the age of 62. Mary Maria died in 1977 at the age of 72.