Wood Family History

George Clarke


George Clarke, b. abt 1848 in Foleshill, WAR, ENG, (son of Nathaniel Clarke and Mary Draycott). He married Emma Chatwin, married 24th Nov 1867 in Registry Office Foleshill, b. abt 1847 in Longford, Foleshill, WAR, ENG, (daughter of Joseph Chatwin and Mary Webster).



George Clarke seemed to have a new job every time it was listed, either on certificates or census pages.

See more info on the Clarke census data page


George Clarke is the maternal grandfather of George Stanley Wood, and great-grandfather of Eddie, Dot, Les, Betty, Barbara, John and Margaret.

George Clarke came from the parish of Foleshill in Warwickshire, England, located just to the north of Coventry (of Lady Godiva fame). His father Nathaniel grew up in Foleshill, while his mother Mary Draycott was possibly born in Ireland. His parents Nathaniel and Mary married in 1837 in Coventry, and they both worked in the local mills as weavers. They had six children, with George being the fifth. His siblings were Elizabeth (Betsy), Harriet, Edwin, Harry and the youngest Nathaniel.

In the 1840s there were about 7000 people in Foleshill, and it was not a very desirable place to live. In 1841, the following unflattering account of life in the parish was written: “The mass of the people, with the exception of a few young men, are brutally ignorant, and the intelligence which is to be found in the exceptions has manifested itself only within the last half-dozen years. It is not the population which has gone down into ignorance: it has never emerged from it. This is not surprising, for there is not an efficient school in the parish … The people are as ignorant as ever, and, in proportion to their numbers, more immoral. There is more profanity, more Sabbath breaking and more immorality than formerly. Their language is awfully depraved … At any little holiday time, the public houses will be thronged with girls ready for the lowest excesses. Both sexes are great drinkers, chiefly of ale. The place is also notorious for poaching, and robberies”.

It is during these debaucherous times that George was born, sometime in 1847. Considering the town and era that he was born, it is assumed that he had limited education and was sent off the work at a young age. The census records from these times give an insight into their lives. In 1851, when he was three, his oldest sister Betsy was ten years old and already working as a hand loom weaver at the mill. In 1861, aged 14, George was working in the mill as a ribbon weaver, the same occupation as his parents and siblings. There was not much of a career choice in Foleshill - in that year, of the 8,140 people in the parish, 78% depended on the ribbon trade. From that time onwards in Foleshill and surrounding districts, the weaving trade was in decline, starting when the weavers went on strike. Foreign ribbons flooded the market and many people went hungry and emigrated. By 1871 the population had decreased by nearly 2,000.

In 1867, George married a local girl Emma Chatwin at the registry office in Foleshill. They were both about 20 years old. The first two of their eight children, Mary Elizabeth and Edwin Harry, were born in Foleshill. Their eldest Mary Elizabeth Clarke is our ancestor, and would later marry Joseph Wood, the subject of the previous ‘Meet Your Ancestors’.

In 1870, about three years after George and Emma married, the family including their two children moved about 60 km away from Foleshill to the town of Whittington in the neighbouring County Derby. George had possibly come here looking for work following the previously mentioned decline of the ribbon trade in Foleshill. On the night of the English census in 1871 they were staying with George’s eldest sister Elizabeth and her family. George is listed as a labourer at the Iron Works, which would have been in nearby Staveley where his brother-in-law worked as a coal miner. The family stayed around this area for a while as their next two children were born locally - Nathaniel in Whittington and Emma in Staveley.

Sometime between 1878 and 1880 the family moved from Derby to Yorkshire, this time a move of about 100 km. At the time of the 1881 census, George was living with his family in Bolton In Bradford, Yorkshire. Their children Matilda and George were born there. This time he was working with the railway as a Foreman - Engine Cleaner — another job change!

At some time between 1883 and 1885 they again moved, though only a short distance to Saltaire, a village close to Shipley. George and some of the members of his family were possibly working at the Saltaire Mill, as the Saltaire village was for designed to accommodate the workers at the mill. This model village built by philanthropist Sir Titus Salt had running water and piped gas to the houses, and public wash rooms and no pubs — very advanced for that time and a big change from George’s early days in Foleshill.

George’s youngest two children, Lilly and Nelly were born in Saltaire. In 1891 his occupation is listed as Blacksmith’s Striker. This occupation involved swinging the sledgehammer to strike for the blacksmith, attending fires and generally assisting the blacksmith. It is a tough job and such workers are usually strong hard working fellows. This was one of the most undesirable jobs in the workshop. Ten years later, in 1901, the family was still living in the same area. George had changed jobs again, this time he was working with his son George as a Fish Merchant. Even at 53 years old, he was hard at work. No record of his death have been found.

From these snippets of the life of George Clarke we get the impression of a hard working family man, who grew up in tough times often doing labour intensive jobs, who was prepared to move his family around in order to find work and feed his ever growing family.