Monday, 28 April 2014

52 Ancestors - Ephraim Womersley and his brushes with the Grim Reaper

As someone who is fairly new to this genealogy lark, I'm still finding my way around how to flesh out the story behind a few dates and census entries.  But I am getting the distinct impression that my 3 x great grandfather Ephraim Womersley was a bit of a character. 

For this is a man who diced with death not just once but twice, and who, after a fight outside his house, sued a man - and quite possibly the wrong man! - for breaking his ankle.  There are some who said he was drunk at the time - surely not....

None of this really shows through his "normal" record.  The various censuses show him as starting his working life as a weaver before finding what seems to have been his niche in the brewery industry.  He worked his way up from labourer at a brewery to a brewers' agent, and then brewer, and it seems he ran at least a couple of pubs or inns along the way as well.  I must admit to being somewhat puzzled by his apparent move to tea dealing for a while before going back to brewing - maybe he thought it would be more lucrative?

Ephraim was born in Kirkburton, Yorkshire, in 1821, married Ann (nee Spivey) in 1840, and had two sons Henry and Ephraim, and five daughters - Martha, Ann, Ellen, Ada, and my great great grandmother Sarah.

It seems that at one point he ran the Bull's Head at Fulstone, and perhaps another in Bay Hall, Huddersfield. He almost certainly worked at New Mill Brewery - the brewery gate, through which I expect Ephraim passed many, many times, is pictured below.

It was the records from the Huddersfield Chronicle that helped give me an insight into the man behind the facts.  in 1856, the paper reported his first brush with death. I love the language used in newspapers back then, so different from journalism today:

"Accident - Yesterday week a sad occurence befell a man in the employ of Messrs Bentley and Shaw, brewers, of New Mill, called Ephraim Womersley, innkeeper.  The poor fellow was driving a horse and cart from the brewery and had got to Lydgate, when the animal became restive and ungovernable; and in the attempt to master the unruly horse, the driver got sadly crushed in the chest, having been forced between a wall and the wheel of the cart.  He was conveyed home and medical aid procured, doubts being entertained of his life.  We are glad to say he is now progressing toward recovery."

Fourteen years later in September 1870 he was travelling in a gig which "came violently into collision" with a cart. He and his fellow traveller were "precipitated over the back of the vehicle to the ground".  While his friend escaped pretty much unhurt, Ephraim was "removed to the inn in a state of unconciousness, and it is feared he is suffering from concussion of the brain, and is in a dangerous state."  Since he lived for another 23 years, I think it's fair to say he probably recovered from his concussion.

As for that fight - well, that really is a twisted tale.  The short version is that clearly Ephraim and his wife Ann got into a bit of a scuffle outside their house in Bay Hall, Huddersfield.  This was because someone had either kicked their dog for no reason, or the dog - a "large bull and retriever" had tried to bite someone and got kicked in self-defence.  In defending the dog the wife was kicked, in defending the wife the husband was kicked!  The kick broke Ephraim's ankle - which the report notes was only covered by a stocking - and he was out of action for eight weeks.

I say "someone" kicked the dog because the person originally taken to court for this swore it was someone else, and the case was re-opened. Ephraim still won the case but the report was unclear as to which defendant the judge decided was to blame.  Ephraim's compensation was £12, about £550 in today's money.

Despite his various brushes with death and injury, Ephraim outlived both of his wives and died in October 1893, aged 70.

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