Our Wells Ancestors

My mother’s mother and father were Jessie Pook and William Maurice Wells. My mother was their second child and born in London’s Hammersmith, near Shepherd’s Bush. Her older brother William John (Jack) had also been born in London.

William and Jessie moved to the North East and had three more children but what their growing family did not know is that they were not married. In fact they did not get married until 1934, two years before William died. That marriage was at the Durham Registry office and witnessed by strangers, which suggests that William and Jessie did not want the family to know.

Dad carried the stigma of being born out of wedlock all of his life. Mother was unaware that she was also born out of wedlock.

Maurice William Wells had been a telegraphist before the age of 18. He had then signed on for 12 years with the Household Cavalry at their Hyde Park Barracks where he was assigned to the Royal Horse Guards, otherwise known as the “Blues”.

His rank was that of Trooper which unlike lowest ranks in other services was seen as that of a gentleman. No rank of sergeant (servant) in the “blues”.

Nearly three years later Queen Victoria granted permission for members of her Cavalry to fight in the Boer War. So, for 14 months Maurice was fighting in South Africa against the Boers (descendants of Dutch settlers). The Boers were non uniformed farmers resisting British control of their Transvaal state. They had grown up with rifles and horses and so were proficient marksmen and horsemen and did not use conventional war tactics. Not only were the troops fighting the Boers but they were poorly fed and in conditions where high numbers succumbed to disease.

After the war and back in London Trooper Wells would have been on parade at Queen Victoria’s funeral early 1901. Later that same year he was discharged from the Horse Guards and we can only guess that he worked in the electrical industry because 12 to 13 years later he is describing himself as an electrician.

Back in the 1861 census, Jessie Pook’s father to be John Francis Pook, was at 13 years of age apprenticed to a green grocer. He was a lodger at a green grocers in Bath. His father was a Butler in a house at Bath and his mother was a resident in the Bath Workhouse. At 22 years of age John Francis is in London and working as a green grocer assistant when he marries a grocer’s daughter Eliza Dennis. By the time of Jessie’s birth he has become an oilman, selling lamp oils, etc and employing others. When Jessie is 7 he dies aged a mere 37.

Though left with children Eliza would manage because her father and brothers were nearby to give support. Eliza’s dad Reuben Dennis had kept cows near Marylebone, now near the heart of London. The Dennis family later owned multiple properties including green grocers, master butchers, an oil business, tailors, a fruiterers for the gentry and several top class hotels including the Rose at Hatton Garden that they rebuilt. One of Eliza’s brothers was Mayor of Marylebone, another a building society director.

When Jessie was 11 her mother married a tailor’s shop-man and widower James Hemming, who had children of his own to support. A tailoring business followed in which the older children participated. Later the now Hemmings owned a 12 bedroom “Prince of Wales” pub in St Pancras,
shown in the photograph as a Japanese restaurant. Jessie at the age of 23 worked as a barmaid in that pub.

Jessie and her two older sisters moved in high society. Her oldest sister married a barrister to be. Her slightly older sister Nora married a Septimus Sydney Wilkins Horncastle and had three children by him Harold, Sydney and John. Jessie must have been close to Nora because two of Jessie’s later family were named after these boys.

Septimus, aided by family, seems to have done a runner to America under the name of Jack Williams. Nora followed by boat giving her name as a Mrs Jack Williams. She gave incorrect ages for her sons but correctly listed her mother Eliza as her next of kin. She says she is bound for Elmendorf Farm racing stables at Lexington in Kentucky. I speculate that they were not going there and that Septimus had fled to America, as he was being threatened for gambling debts. At this time Jessie is 32, has left the pub and is at Bexhill on sea, near Hastings, where other Pooks reside. Here she is working in a care home for the well off.

When nearly 37 years old Jessie has a son to Maurice William Wells at Kensington. They call him John William (Jack) and just over a year later in the April of 1915 they have a daughter and our mother to be Ruby Gladys at North Hammersmith, London.

In 1916 war conscription started and although William, aged 37 and married, was a low priority he would know that he could be called up. He was all too aware of the realities of war. and I suspect his move north to Gateshead to work as an electrician in William Armstrong’s essential armaments factory at Elswick was his way of avoiding conscription.

Maurice William, with Ruby (left) and Maude (right) at Office Street, Browney Colliery.

When Jessie is nearly 40 a son Sydney is born near Lobley Hill, Gateshead. A year later Maude is born near the Swallwell Road and a year after that a James is born at Newcastle

At Newcastle, William probably no longer worked in armaments. He and Jessie would have 5 children and John William (Jack), the oldest of them, would be just over 5 years old.

Next the family moved to Browney Colliery near Durham where they resided in Office Street and where William worked as a Foreman Electrician. There, in 1932 when mother was just 17 her youngest brother James died. He was just 13.

We can trace our Pook ancestry back to 1822 at Tiverton in Devon, our Dennis/Pook ancestry back to 1799 at St. Pancras, our Wells ancestry back to 1815 at East Meon in Hampshire and our Gibson (William Wells mother) ancestry back to 1816 at Mortlake in Surrey.