Richard Morgan & Maria Woodley

Richard Morgan (1868-1898) and Maria Woodley, Birmingham

 (L:R Richard Morgan, Richard Morgan, Gwenllian Morgan  source: family photograph) 

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 (he was born in 1868).  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 difficult to find.  He is possibly the Richard Morgan, Railway Porter, found below 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.

1891 Census for England and Wales: Swansea

St Thomas’ station, Swansea, around 1910.  This is 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. Source: WalesOnline

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.

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”.  At the moment I believe Maria Morgan recorded, mistakenly, her own father’s occupation (Alfred Woodley: variously a dealer, “Coster” and publican), instead of Richard’s.  Certainly, Maria was no stranger to the licensed trade and she went on to remarry a Richard White and by 1911 they can be seen running the Coachmakers’ Arms in nearby Saltley.  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.


Children of Richard Morgan and Maria Woodley:

Violet Cecily Morgan (1898-) married Arnold Fryer (1900-54), West Bromwich

This couple married in 1929 at West Bromwich, Birmingham.  Arnold Fryer appears to have died in an industrial accident in Birmingham.  For much of their married life, they lived in Antrobus Road in the Handworth area of Birmingham.  They are shown there on the 1939 register and on later electoral registers.  In the mid to late 1950s, Violet is shown there on electoral registers alone with her daughter, her husband Arnold having died in 1954.


© (the written content and authorial photographs) Gareth Jones 2015-20