St Giles, Uley c1830
I have previously mentioned my ancestor George Mitchell/Witchell and his antecedents (here), and his granddaughter, Mary Ann has also appeared as the wife of William Gibbs (here). This article aims to fill in as many gaps as possible. George Mitchell and his family have, without doubt, been the most difficult of all my lines to research. Like the Gibbs family whom they married into, they moved between Bristol and Bath, finally ending up in Bristol, and with several marriage irregularities and some missing records, they are often hard to pin down. George’s use of both Mitchell and Witchell also causes problems in the early period but most of the records concerning the family in the nineteenth century use Mitchell so I shall continue with that.
George was a tailor, born in Wotton-under-Edge in 1794, and who married Harriet Moore at Uley in 1816. Their first child, Elizabeth was baptised at Uley in the following year. Thereafter I can find no record of any other baptisms for the couple, who had eight children, with the exception of a final son, Walter who was baptised at Bath Abbey on July 1st 1836. The father’s address was given as Ladymead, now part of Walcot Street. Five years later in the 1841 Census the Mitchells are to be found at Galloways Buildings (later North Parade Buildings) just to the south of the Abbey. George’s occupation is still given as tailor (as he is in all records) but Harriet is not with the family. It may that she had died, but I have not found a record of any death or burial. Living with George are Sarah (20) William (15) George (12) Emma (8) Richard (6) and Walter (4). I have not been able to find any further trace of the two girls and although Walter is living near his father in 1851, he disappers thereafter. Also missing are Elizabeth and the eldest son, Henry. The latter in the Census’ from 1851 on gives his place of birth as either Uley or Wotton, and on his marriage certificate names George Mitchell, a tailor, as his father.
Henry, being my ancestor, is my main concern and I shall return to him later. Of his four brothers, there are again, gaps in any records that I can find. William and Richard were both french polishers (as was Henry) and both moved to Fulham in London, although Richard returned to the West Country and was living in Weston Super Mare in 1891. William was living at the interesting address (at least for football lovers) of 1 Craven Cottages, Fulham in 1881 before moving to Hammersmith. George (who gives his place of birth as Wotton under Edge, rather than Bath like his elder brother, William) was a warehouseman and lived in Bristol, at least until 1861 after which he disappears. All three of the brothers married but it seems only William had a child – Rosina Martha, who was born in 1848.
The Dix family in 1841
It was with some difficulty that I finally found Henry Mitchell in the 1841 Census. Although impossible to prove, I am sure he is the “Henery” listed as living at Snow Hill, Walcot. The household consisted of Elizabeth aged 50, Hanah (20), Thomas (11), Rosena (1) and “Henery” also aged 20. The surname is spelt Dixs by the enumerator and after Elizabeth, just the abbreviation “Do” for ditto is given. Of course, in the 1841 census no relationships are shown, but it is strange that, were Henry part of the Dix family he is not shown in age order as was the rule, but is added at the end. I think the enumerator may have assumed he was a Dix. The birth certificate of little Rosina proves, I think, my assumption. It shows that Rosina was born on September 5th, 1839 at Upper Dover Street (a turning off Snow Hill) and is the daughter of Henry Mitchell, a french polisher, and Hannah Dix. A second daughter, Mary Ann was born in March 1842 by which time the family had moved to Claremont Buildings, also in Walcot. The details of parentage are the same as on Rosina’s certificate. In September of that year banns were called at St Saviours Church, Bath for the marriage of Henry and Hannah, but no wedding seems to have taken place; there is no entry in the register nor a certificate issued. Henry and Hannah were at a different Walcot address again in 1844 when their eldest son, Henry was born, and the mother still given as Hannah Dix. Thereafter, starting with the birth of a second son, George Dix Mitchell in Bristol in 1847, Hannah appears as Hannah Mitchell on her childrens’ birth certificates, and also on the 1851 Census.
Popes Parade in relation to Merchant Street
The Mitchell family had moved to Bristol at some point in 1846/7 and their address there was Pope’s Parade which was a short terrace of five houses in the lane connecting Merchant Street and Quakers Friars. It is now a pedestrian way into the recently developed Cabot Circus shopping area, although the old houses have since disappeared. Rosina Mitchell had died in Bath in May 1846, aged 8 with her abode given as “Workhouse” but this could mean she died in the Workhouse Infirmary, which was the only source of health care for the poorer classes; but it does raise the possibility that the family had fallen on hard times. Their son, George Dix Mitchell, born in Pope’s Parade died within a year but a third daughter, Miranda, was born there in 1849. She proved to be the longest living family member, not dying until 1923. The living conditions in Pope’s Parade must have been cramped. From a map of the later 19th century, the houses do not appear very large and yet they were home to multiple households – five at No1 where the Mitchells were lodging – a total of sixteen people. No 4 was even more crowded with twenty-one inhabitants. In the same rank, lodging at Nos 5 and 3 respectively were Henry’s father George and younger brother, Walter who was described as an errand boy, aged 17, though his true age was 14.
By 1855 the Mitchells had returned to Bath. Hannah gave birth to another daughter, Jeanette in that year and three years later a fourth daughter, Jessie arrived. Jessie only lived for a few months, yet in early 1859 a final child, Hannah Harriet was born; she too died within two months and her mother Hannah followed her to the grave in December of that year. The cause of Hannah’s death is stated on the certificate as Phthisis, the medical term for Tuberculosis; she had been suffering from it for nine months and died at the age of 42.
The 1861 Census finds Henry Mitchell and his three surviving children back in Bristol, living at 11 Water Street, St Pauls. Little Jeanette had died shortly before the Census was taken, so only Mary Ann, Henry and Miranda (whose name obviously caused problems for the enumerator – he wrote “Emma”) were in the household. The house was shared (as we have seen here) with Ellen Cornwall, her son John and three lodgers, among whom was William Gibbs, the future husband of Mary Ann, whom he was to marry later in the year. By then Henry had moved to adjoining Milk Street, which he gave as his address on the occasion of his own marriage to Louisa Jane Bult. The two witnesses at the marriage were George and Elizabeth Mitchell. The former could be Henry’s father, but I am more inclined to think it was his brother. George Mitchell junior had married Elizabeth Watson in 1848 and they appear in the 1851 and 1861 Censuses living in the St Pauls area, although I cannot find them afterwards. They do not seem to have any children.
The area to the north of Frogmore Street (at bottom) showing Hope Place and Jessamine Cottages ( aka Dennis Place)
In 1861 George senior was living in Hope Place, near Frogmore Street, in the parish of St Augustines, and at some time around 1869 Henry moved his family to the same area, being listed at Dennis Place in the 1871 Census. The area to the north of Frogmore Street, rising up the hill to Park Row had a very unsavoury reputation in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and again it probably indicates the level of poverty in which the Mitchell family appears to have subsisted. The children of Henry and Hannah had all moved away from home by this time. Henry junior, a french polisher like his father married Ann Gilham in 1866, and Miranda (this time spelt Mineda) was a live-in waitress at the Adam & Eve Tavern in St Mary-le-Port Street; she was to marry William Lloyd in 1878. It seems as if Henry and Louisa had moved to Burnham on Sea (Louisa’s birthplace) around 1867/8 as one of their children, Margaret Emma had been born there, but by the time the next child was born in 1870 they were settled in St Augustines. In all Henry and Louisa had six children, the two youngest dying in early childhood.
Returning to George Mitchell senior in 1861, his household as recorded in the Census consists of himself aged 66, a tailor, his wife Belinda aged 33, born in Ireland and a daughter, Hellen aged 5 and born in St Pauls, Bristol. I have been unable to find a marriage or the birth of Hellen, who may not of course, have been registered as Mitchell. There is a Belinda Coffy, born in Ireland about the correct age, living as a servant in a household in Clifton in 1851, and this may be her, but I cannot find a birth for a daughter named Coffy either. To confuse matters further the 1871 Census shows George living with a wife, Ellen (born in Cashel, Ireland) aged 49, and no sign of a daughter. I’m inclined to believe that Belinda/Ellen are one and the same, perhaps giving a false age in 1861 and deciding to change names; but we shall never know. George died in August 1871 of “Old age and Dropsy” and the informant was wife “Hellena” Mitchell. The confusion continues in the later Censuses – in 1881 Ellen Mitchell, widow is living with a daughter Ellen (unmarried), and two grandchildren, Florence (5) and Edward (3); in 1891 Helen Mitchell, widow is with daughter Helen (widow) and granddaughter Lily (9). I can find all three grandchildren in the birth index (Florence and Edward both have a second name, Horrell, perhaps pointing to parentage) but they all appear to be illegitimate.
Henry Mitchell continued living at Dennis Place (also called Jessamine Cottages – a row of four small houses on Stoney Hill) until his death in January 1885. The cause of his death is given as “Fatty degeneration of the liver”, which was possibly caused by the inhalation of methylated spirits used in french polishing, but may also be a symptom of alcoholism or diabetes. One other late record is his signature as a witness on the will drawn up by his son-in-law, William Lloyd, the husband of Miranda in 1883. I have not seen this, but someone who has assures me that the signature plainly appears as “Witchell” so perhaps we have come full circle.