Dulais Higher                    Family Histories

Dulais Higher

Richard Morgan (1868-98) & Maria Woodley, Birmingham 

Richard Morgan (1828-1903) and Gwenllian Walters (1827-1918)

Richard Morgan (1868-98) & Maria Woodley (1877-), Birmingham 

Violet Cecily Morgan & Arnold Fryer

One issue in investigating family history, in the absence of letters, oral accounts or any other actual testimony, is that we try to deduce – and sometimes embellish - people’s motives and aspirations from the rather stark biographical and residential data available.  The life of Richard Morgan – youngest son to Richard and Gwenllian Morgan – shows how we must be careful in not trying to assume too much – while still being tempted to try and tell a story.  

The young Richard Morgan is shown here with his parents, in his railway porter’s uniform, most likely in the early 1880s.  This photograph might have been taken to celebrate his first job.  He was certainly still resident at Coelbren House in 1881 (aged 13) but by the  1891 census he is harder to find.  Picture source: family photograph.

He is most probably the Richard Morgan, Railway Porter, recorded as a Boarder in Swansea, in the St Thomas area, which would have been a very different environment to the one in which he was brought up. However, perhaps the most telling aspect is that Richard, like his father, did not go into the mines.

Richard is one of three boarders in the modest terraced home of James and Martha Bowles at 92, Pentreguinea Road, St Thomas, Swansea.  All three young men are barely into their early twenties and all work on the railway - two as porters, one as a shunter.  

Swansea St Thomas station was a minute’s walk away from the men’s lodgings.  It was run by the Midland Railway Company from 1876.   Closed to passenger traffic in 1950 it was demolished in the 1960s, its site now part of Swansea’s ever evolving inner city area.

This was where the Midland line terminated in South Wales.  Most of the traffic between here and the Midlands was goods (freight)  - particularly processed metals to feed the Midlands industries - and livestock.  At one point it was said there were up to eight goods trains a day between Swansea and Birmingham.  The Midland ran their trains over the Neath and Brecon line, using Coelbren Junction. 

Picture source: Wales Online

Richard almost certainly worked on the Midland railway line and perhaps this meant him travelling directly back and forth between Swansea and Birmingham – via the Coelbren Junction created for that very purpose.  So instead of leaving home definitively, as it initially appears, his lodging in Swansea – close to the main station there - might have been entirely pragmatic and he may well have dropped in to see his parents quite often, en route.  However, the next official record we have for him is his marriage to Maria Woodley, on the 7th November 1897, in Aston (an inner-city district of Birmingham).  For his marriage certificate, he gave his occupation as Railway Goods Guard and the address of Duddeston Mill Road was again conveniently very close to a large railway depot. 

Unfortunately, Richard and Maria’s marriage was to last barely three months: Richard’s death through diabetic coma is recorded on 15 February 1898, aged 29.  His occupation is still “Railway Goods Guard”. What is possibly more poignant is that at this time, his wife Maria was pregnant with their daughter.  The discovery of insulin as a hormone able to regulate blood sugar levels was not made until the 1920s and until then diabetics had very short life expectancies and mainly relied on self-management of their condition through diet.

Violet Morgan was born in Aston on the 29th August 1898.  Here we have a conundrum, as on her birth certificate (and also baptismal record), “Father’s” occupation is now recorded as “Publican”. Probably, Maria Morgan mistakenly recorded her own father’s occupation (Alfred Woodley: variously a dealer, “Coster” and publican), instead of her husband Richard’s.  

Certainly, Maria was no stranger to the licensed trade and she went on to marry a Richard White in 1901.  By 1911 they can be seen running the Coachmakers’ Arms in nearby Saltley.  Tragically, her death is recorded later that year - from Enteric Fever (Typhoid) - even in the twentieth century, this was a common enough occurrence in poor and unhygienic built-up areas like inner-city Birmingham.

The young Violet Morgan appears to have had a difficult start in life; with no father, she is found in her grandparents’ house in 1901 (with mother recorded as a bar-maid) and cannot so far be found anywhere in the 1911 census – she is not with her parents at the Coachmakers’ Arms.

Below: Coelbren junction signal box, 1950s. Source: WT Davies, Now and Then series.

Violet Cecily Morgan (1898-)

Date    Event                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Source

1898     Birth: Aston, Birmingham                                                                                                                                                                          Birth record

1901     Residence: Pilot Inn,  Northumberland Street Aston.  With mother, Maria Morgan and grandparents 

                 Woodley)                                                                                                                                                                                                              Census

1911.    Cannot be found in census

1921    Residence: 83 Duddeston Mill Road, Birmingham.  Occupation: Viewer, aluminium stampings, at the 

                 large London Aluminium works at Witton,  Shown aged 22 resident with widowed aunt Susan Cox

                 née Woodley.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Census

1929    Residence: 37 Antrobus Road, Sandwell.  With Marden family, probably lodger                                                     Electoral register

1929    Marriage:  to Arnold Fryer, West Bromwich, Staffs.    Q2 (Apr-May-Jun)                                                                      Marriage record

1932    Birth:  of daughter, Joyce C. Fryer, 7 June, West Bromwich, Staffs.                                                                                   Birth record

1939    Residence: 37 Antrobus Road.  Living with Mr Marden, now widowed, and husband Arnold.                         1939 register

1945    Residence: 37 Antrobus Road, with husband Arnold.                                                                                                               Electoral register

1954    Death of husband, Arnold, 22 March at work.  The business was in copper rolling producing tubing         Probate records

                and wiring.  In 1939, Arnold was recorded as a copperman.

Violet Cecily Morgan (1898-)

Date    Event                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Source

1956    Residence: 37 Antrobus Road, Birmingham, together with presumed daughter Joyce C.                                 Electoral register

1985.   Death: possibly at 38 Feckenham Road, Astwood Bank, Redditch, Worcs.                                                                   Probate




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Copyright © the text and authorial photographs Gareth Jones 2015-23