Thursday, 26 November 2015


By Penny Ward, Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings

In May 1805 a 12 year-old-girl called Ann Adams was indentured as a Parish Apprentice to the Flaxmill to the age of 18. She had been born in Birmingham, and her father was William Adams, of the Warwickshire Militia.  Her mother, who was dead, had presumably come from Shrewsbury.  

On the 21st of September, 1814, at the age of 21, Ann married Robert France, who had been born near Wem in 1791, but whose parents, Robert and Alice had moved to Shrewsbury by 1800, when his younger brother Jeremiah was born. Both Robert, Ann’s Husband, and Jeremiah, and several of their children, had a long association with the Flaxmill.

In March 1815 (6 months after their marriage) Robert and Ann’s first child, Jeremiah, was born. They were living in Castle Foregate and Robert is described as a Labourer. Three months later, Robert’s father Robert died. He had been living at the “Old Factory”, and probably had been working there as well.

*Sarah France, a great niece of Ann Adams 

The Church Rate books indicate that Robert and Ann went on to live in the “Houses near the Old Factory”, later called “Spring Gardens” from 1816 until the gap in the run of Church Rate Books after 1836.

During those years they had more children: Robert, in October 1816, George in July 1821, Eliza in September 1823, Henry in March 1829 and Emma in August 1831. In all their baptism records, except that for George, Robert’s occupation is given as “Dyer”.

In the 1834 to 1835 Church Rate books, which unusually record occupations, Robert is described as an Overlooker at the “OM” (Old Mill).

In 1837 Robert and Ann’s first born, Jeremiah, died aged 22. He was a Dyer and had been living in Spring Gardens, presumably with his parents, as in the 1841 Census, all his siblings are still at home. The now eldest son, Robert, aged 25, is described as a Clerk, and his father’s occupation is confirmed as an Overlooker.

Their son George married a girl called Martha in 1845, when he was only 16. In the 1851 cencus George and Martha are running the Engine and Tender public house in Castle Foregate, and have two young sons. His siblings, Robert and George, are still living with their parents in No 21, Spring Gardens. They appear to have a 14 year-old-servant girl living with them. Robert senior is a Dyer of Thread, Robert Jnr is a Writing Clerk and George is an Overlooker. Eliza is married to Henry Howard and living in Simpson’s Square.

In September of 1851 Robert and Ann’s son Robert married Elizabeth Birch. His father’s occupation is given as Overlooker and his own as Accountant. All this suggests that Robert and Ann and their family are going up in the world.  When Robert and Elizabeth baptised their first child, Alice Ann, in August 1852, Robert’s link to the Flaxmill is confirmed when he is described as Clerk in Factory.

Ann’s husband Robert died in 1860. Ann aged 68 is, therefore, a widow in the 1861 Census, still living in Spring Gardens and apparently earning a living as a Beer House keeper. She is the head of the household comprising her unmarried son George, who is a Factory operative, and a 21 year old female servant and her 9-year-old grandson Robert Howard, aged 9.

Ten years later, in 1871, Ann is still living in number 21, Spring Gardens, aged 78, and an Annuitant. 

She has a housekeeper, and also living with or visiting her at that time is her 8-year-old granddaughter Mary Ann Trentham.

In the 1881 Census, Ann is still living in Spring Gardens, and is living off “Income from Land”. 
Aerial view of Shrewsbury Flaxmill Maltings and surrounding area including Spring Gardens

Her granddaughters by her son Robert, Frances and Mary France, aged 24 and 21 respectively, are living with her as her companions.   An entry for Ann France of Shrewsbury in the Index to the Death Duty Registers for 1886  not only suggests that she lived to the great age of 93, but also that she died as a woman of some substance.

* We have found a direct descendant of Ann. Ann was the great aunt of Sarah France [pictured above]. Sarah's great great granddaughter, Sue Barker, is still living in Shrewsbury today. And if you haven't worked it out yet  - that makes Ann the x 5 great Aunt of Sue.  See our Facebook posting for Sue's story.

Penny Ward is a Trustee for the Friends of the Flaxmill Maltings and Historic Environment Records Officer for Shropshire Council.

1 comment:

  1. I have just found your fascinating website and blog and I am so excited to report that I am a great great granddaughter of the Jane France (born 1825) listed in your family tree! I have photos of her taken in 1890 in Salt Lake City, UTAH, USA. Jane's husband, Henry Reeves, also worked at the mill as a young boy. I'm excited to learn more about these families and the work at the mill.
    Thank you for all your hard work at researching these good people!