Rebecca Culliford (1850-1918) – my wife’s GGM
Rebecca married my wife’s great grandfather William Charles Allen on 21 May 1871 and they had thirteen children together across the next twenty years.
On 10 Oct 1873 at twenty-three years of age Rebecca is recorded as receiving a two-month jail sentence in Shepton Mallet gaol for at Bath on 3 October stealing an umbrella worth ten shillings and sixpence, the property of Matilda Slade. Her sentence would expire on 12Dec 1873.
The gaol register recording this sentence shows that she could read and write ‘well’ but also adds her ‘priors’. In June 1867 Rebecca was given six months in jail for stealing a dress and an umbrella. In July 1868 she was convicted of obtaining a dress worth ten shillings by false pretences from Sophia Wallace, and separately endeavouring to obtain a dress from Ann Webb. For this she was sentenced to nine months and a day. On this second offence her occupation was shown as ‘servant’.
It is easy to dismiss these as trivial thefts by a child and reflect on the harsh regime applied to someone who was clearly very poor but the prior offences were made while she was single and living at home. A few years after these first two offences the 1871 census shows her occupation as ‘laundry’. She was aged twenty-one, living at home with her 54-year-old labourer father, her 50-year-old charwoman mother and her 70-year-old grandmother who was also doing laundry work. However, the later 1873 offence was when she was married to William Charles Allen and her first child Ada Louisa was just thirty months old.
At the time of the 1881 census William and Rebecca lived at 24 Bathwick Place in Bath. William was a ‘draper’s porter’, Rebecca was still a laundress and they had four children living at home. I found no subsequent records of any misdemeanours.
John Punshon Denton (1800-1871)
Worth a mention, just to prove that not all 19thcentury Dentons were downtrodden. His connection to us is currently elusive, but the story was just too good to leave out!
There was a ship called the SS Denton built in Hartlepool in 1864 for the Khedive Ismail of Egypt (the equivalent of a Viceroy). The ship famously transported the 220-ton obelisk Cleopatra’s Needle from Egypt to New York City. This necessitated a hole being cut into its starboard bow. The Cleopatra is just a populist name; in fact the obelisk is from Luxor and dates to the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Hatshepsut. One of a pair, the other is beside the Thames in London. Cleopatra VII lived a thousand years after the obelisk was fabricated.
The original name SS Denton is not that surprising as Hartlepool was where a John Punshon Denton operated as a shipbuilder, initially with his own Denton’s Yard in the Middleton district of Hartlepool. In 1863 Denton went into a 55:45 partnership with William Gray who was running a successful local drapery business. They formed Denton, Gray & Co to build iron ships which were just beginning to replace wooden ones. With this injection of capital Denton’s yard was extended and their first ship was launched on 23 January 1864. This was the Dalhousie, later renamed the Sepia. It was Denton, Gray & Co that then built the SS Denton.
The obelisk was a gift from the Khedive and set sail on 12 June 1880. The voyage was not without event. The propeller shaft broke and she proceeded under sail while a spare was fitted. It arrived in Manhattan on 20 July 1880. The ship was later renamed as the SS Desouk for an Egyptian town near Alexandria and operated for the Egyptian postal service.
The sailing was not the end of the journey. A local report took up the saga, The obelisk and its 50-ton pedestal arrived at the Quarantine Station in New York in July 1880. It took 32 horses hitched in 16 pairs to drag the pedestal alone through the streets of the city. Once the pedestal was in place on the summit of the Graywacke Knoll in Central Park, the obelisk was then hauled through Manhattan. It travelled at the rate of 97 feet a day, taking 112 days to arrive at the knoll. The shaft was raised in January 1881 before more than 10,000 jubilant New Yorkers.