teen wedding dresses

Some of the 1900 wedding fashions on display here will probably be of interest...

My great grandparents, Thomas Hall (later police-sergeant Hall of Sedgley) and Pollie Hancox, were the first couple to marry at Roseville Wesleyan Methodist Church, Coseley, on 11 August 1900. This chapel had stood just off Roseville Square at the entrance to Bayer Street since the 1850’s, but it wasn’t licensed for marriages until 1900. This information was included in E. A. Underhill’s book ‘The Story of the Ancient Manor of Sedgley’ – of which Coseley once formed a part.

Talking to an elderly cousin of my grandad’s in the 1990's, I learned that a photograph of the happy occasion was known to have existed – he remembered it hanging on the wall in his father’s house – but it had not been seen for many years and was presumed lost.

Around 2005 a young lad from Coseley started coming to me in Stourbridge for piano lessons, and he happened to mention that he was going to perform one of the pieces he'd been learning at his local church that Sunday. When I asked which church, I was pleasantly surprised when he said "Roseville Methodist" - the newer one, which had replaced the original that was demolished in 1980 - so I told him about my great grandparents marrying there all those years ago. Talking to his dad later, we got to mentioning surnames of people still connected with Roseville Chapel, one of which was Hawkins.

I knew that in the early 1890’s my great grandmother's sister, Matilda Hancox (known as Tilly) had married Walter Rowlatt Hawkins, who was works manager of Cannon Iron Foundry and a Methodist lay preacher on the Tipton circuit (which included Coseley). He was also the executor of the wills of two of my Hall and Hancox great-great grandfathers. Although my pupil’s surname wasn’t Hawkins, it transpired that his dad was distantly related to Walter, which we thought was quite a coincidence... but left it at that.

At the beginning of his piano lesson the following week my pupil unexpectedly handed me a plastic carrier bag but when I asked what was inside, he shrugged his shoulders and just said he thought it was a photo. Imagine my amazement then when I opened the bag and saw the faces of my great grandparents, their parents, and so many more family members all staring back at me… as the photo inside was a hardbacked original copy of the wedding picture I thought I’d never see! Not only that, but also in the bag was a small album of Victorian portrait photos of the family which I’d never seen before either.

After his piano playing at the chapel, word had got around and an older member, who proved to be a relative of both my pupil and myself, had dug out the photographs for him to bring and let me scan. They had belonged to her mother Gladys Carter (nee Hall), the little girl who appears in the wedding photo as the bridesmaid wearing the darker coloured dress. She was the daughter of Thomas’s brother Benjamin, and had been born at the old Hop and Barleycorn pub in Mason Street (Ben had married the licensee’s daughter) but they were living away in King’s Sutton, Northants, at the time, and it had not been possible to obtain a dress for her to match those of the other three bridesmaids. Gladys’s daughter had later also married into the Hawkins family – proof if ever any was needed that families living close together, and associated with a thriving church or chapel community often intermarried through the generations, and continued to do so well into the 20th century or even up to the present day. Gladys celebrated her 100th birthday in 1996! teen wedding dresses

Following this strange quirk of fate, some years later still, I was searching in Dudley Archives’ online catalogue and stumbled across what I at first took to be another copy of the same wedding photo (though it had been mis-attributed to Providence Baptist Chapel) but then I realised it was a completely different picture taken at the same wedding, showing just Thomas’s family – his parents and nine of his ten brothers and sisters all together, outside the chapel. Checking with the Archives I discovered this had been deposited by a descendant of one of the other brothers, John Hall (known as Jack) who had joined the Royal Horse Artillery, and who appears in uniform on this second photo.

I now suspect there would have been a similar photograph taken of just my great grandmother Pollie’s side of the family too – she had six brothers and sisters – but if such a picture still exists somewhere, it has yet to surface!

The wedding took place almost five years after Thomas had joined Staffordshire Constabulary, and he was already stationed at Smethwick, however his parents Joseph and Catherine Hall, and three younger siblings Eliza, David and Harry were still living in Ivyhouse Lane. Thomas must have met Pollie some years before, through attending Roseville Chapel and they had become engaged.

Pollie’s family lived nearby in Green Street, where her mother Mary Ann (nee Jeavons) had a tailoring business in workrooms behind the house, employing several women and girls as seamstresses. It is highly likely that she and her small workforce would have been busy in the run up to Pollie’s wedding, making the outfits for the mothers of the bride and groom, maids of honour and young bridesmaids pictured, as well as Pollie’s own outfit. They may also have had a hand in putting the finishing touches to the gentlemen’s wedding suits.

Pollie’s father Abiathar Hancox (sometimes shortened to ‘Byar’) had worked most of his life as an iron puddler at Cannon Foundry, but from around 1900 he was able to retire and set up as a ‘wardrobe dealer’ to assist with his wife’s business. The enumerator of the 1901 census must have been confused by this, as he recorded Abiathar as a ‘tailoress’ together with his wife! He also owned several properties around Roseville, which he rented out, including to several relatives and their families. E. A. Underhill also records in his book that there was a memorial window to Mr and Mrs Abiathar Hancox in Roseville Chapel (one of several such – another window was for William Wardell snr. of Wardell’s 'pop factory' and his wife Phoebe, who was Mary Ann Hancox’s sister).

Several of Pollie’s siblings later moved into Ivyhouse Lane, including Tilly and Walter Hawkins’ family. Many of both Pollie’s and Thomas’s siblings were employed at ‘the Cannon’ and with so many family living down the hill in Coseley, it would have become much easier for Thomas and Pollie to keep in close contact with them again after Thomas’s transfer to Sedgley as police sergeant in 1910.

Picture 1 (Copyright Mrs Judith Hawkins) standing left to right; David Hall (groom’s brother), Joseph Hall (groom’s father), Arthur A. Southerns (minister), Abraham Hancox (bride’s brother & best man), Thomas Hall (groom), Pollie Hancox (bride), Thomas Hancox (bride’s brother), Abiathar Hancox (bride’s father)
Seated on chairs left to right; Catherine Hall (nee Edwards, groom’s mother), Eliza Hall (groom’s sister), Esther Hall (groom’s sister), Mary Ann Hancox (nee Jeavons, bride’s mother)
Sitting at front; poss. Florence Hall? (groom’s niece, daughter of Joseph Hall jnr. of Tunstall), Gladys Hall (groom’s niece, daughter of Benjamin Hall, celebrated her 100th birthday in 1996), poss. Ellen Hawkins? & poss. Florence Hawkins? (bride’s nieces, daughters of Walter and Tilly Hawkins)

Picture 2 (Copyright Mrs A. Cooper and Dudley archives) standing left to right; Benjamin Hall (brother, rope splicer in King’s Sutton and later a radial driller at a boiler works in Coseley), Job Hall (brother, school master in Netherton, Dudley), John 'Jack' Hall (brother, in Royal Horse Artillery, later clerk at Cannon Foundry), Hannah Maria Hall (sister, nurse and workhouse attendant, married Walter Tweedale, Rochdale), Thomas Hall (groom, police constable – later sergeant at Sedgley), Joseph Hall jnr. (eldest brother, police inspector, later chief inspector at Tunstall – he married Pollie’s cousin Mary Ann Jeavons, at Christ Church, Coseley, earlier in 1900), Harry Hall (youngest brother, commercial clerk at Cannon Foundry, also served in ‘Dardanelles’ campaign).
Seated; David Hall (brother, commercial clerk at Cannon Foundry), Eliza Hall (youngest sister, married another of Pollie’s cousins, William Wardell jnr, Coseley mineral water manufacturer), Joseph Hall snr. (father, furnace man and manufacturer’s clerk at Alfred Hickman’s Springvale Works), Catherine Hall (mother, nee Edwards), Esther Hall (sister, psychiatric nurse, married Samuel Holden, botanical beer manufacturer, Preston).

The only sibling of thomas Hall not present was his eldest sister Mary Ann who was married to a saddler named Edward Plevey and living with her family in Birmingham.