Sunday, December 9, 2012

Phoebe Sanderson of the Royal Oak Inn

Phoebe Sanderson 1941
(photo courtesy of Shirley M. of the  U..K.)

When I first started my family history work last year, and I was researching my maternal grandfather's line, I came across his and his family's Canada Ocean Arrivals forms on Ancestry. All of them, except for the mother, listed "Phoebe Sanderson" as their "Nearest relative in country from which you came". Her address was listed as "Royal Oak Inn" in "Helpston near Peterborough". I realized that Phoebe was my great grandfather Herbert Sanderson's mother, and naturally assumed that she was renting rooms at the inn. One day much later, I was randomly Googling names from my family lines, and entered something like "Mark and Phoebe Sanderson", Mark being her husband, and my great great grandfather. A website popped up with a story about them, describing them as the proprietors of the Royal Oak Inn: I was amazed at my good luck. On the heels of this discovery came an article from the Village Tribune website, called Where have all Helpston's pubs gone? by Tony Henthorn, with more information about my great great grandparents: Both sites gave Shirley, my distant, and yet unknown to me, cousin, as a source. I was eventually able to contact her, and then through her, another cousin, Ann. It even turned out that one of my great uncles who had come to Canada with my grandfather actually had visited Shirley's family during World War II, and the end of the seventies; and Ann's father had accompanied my grandfather's family to Canada! I am grateful to Shirley and Ann for the wealth of information they have provided me about the Sanderson and Johnson families. My email relationship with them has been one of the joys of my family history journey to date. I had always felt some sadness about the loss of connection with our English families, and it was wonderful to be reconnected.

I was amazed to receive the above photo of Phoebe from Shirley. I had never expected ever to see a picture of her. I was even more amazed to see her hands--they were identical to the hands of  her grandson, my grandfather, William Sanderson, in the last years of his life. They both must have had the same form of arthritis, and perhaps susceptibility to it runs in the family.

Phoebe Johnson was born on November 26, 1846 in Guyhirn, Wisbech St. Mary, Cambridgeshire, England. She was baptised on January 3, 1847 in Wisbech St. Mary. Her parents were John Johnson, who was a blacksmith, and Jane Leverington. She was the youngest of a family of eight children, the others being Sarah Anne, Harriet, Mary Jane, Eliza, Alice, John Leverington, and William. She was married to Mark Sanderson on October 22, 1867 at the Wisbech St. Mary parish church. Mark was born on February 28, 1839 in Sutton St. Edmund, Lincolnshire, and was baptised in the Sutton St. Edmund parish church on April 7, 1839. His surname at birth was "Sanders", and his baptismal record gives it as "Saunders". His father was Thomas Sanders and his mother was Catharine Plowright. The family started using "Sanderson" as the surname later, sometime between 1841 and 1851. The Sanders and the Plowright families had originally come from Gretton, Northamptonshire before Thomas and Catharine relocated to Lincolnshire and then to Cambridgeshire. Mark was the eighth of nine children, the others being John, George, Ann Plowright, Elizabeth, William, Baines, Catherine, and James. Phoebe and Mark had eight children themselves: William James, Benjamin, Herbert John, Mark, Charles Walter, Abraham, Alice Maud, and George Henry.

Mark and Phoebe are said to have kept a smallholding (a holding of agricultural land smaller than a small farm) in Guyhirn, before renting another on the Norwood Side in the town of March, Cambridgeshire, in 1893. This one was in a very run down state, according to their son Abraham, and it took them about five years to get it up and running and to "get on their feet", which they were apparently able to do because of an inheritance of Phoebe's, possibly from her mother, Jane Johnson. The house was put up for sale in 1898, but by then Mark and Phoebe had no money left to buy it. They continued to farm in the area until at least 1901. By 1904, Mark was a beer retailer at the Chestnut Horse Inn, Church Street, Deeping St. James, in Lincolnshire. It was an established inn, dating back to the middle of the nineteenth century.

The Railway Hotel
(photo courtesy of Shirley M. of the U.K.)

In 1908, Mark became the proprietor of the Railway Hotel, in Helpston near Peterborough. While living there, they kept a white horse for ploughing the land and for pulling their truck. They also had a dog, Vic, who was a whippet. Later, after the family moved to the Royal Oak, their son George took him back to Peterborough with him, but Vic found his way back home the next day. The story is that Mark was "strict" in how he ran the inn, and would not serve patrons whom he thought had had too much to drink. A later resident reported that the Railway Hotel had no electricity or gas, and that it was lighted with oil and paraffin lamps and candles. He described it was a "lovely big house with lots of rooms". He also reported that railway and mill workers lived there. Mark Sanderson died at the age of seventy-five of liver cancer on December 7, 1914 in Helpston , and was buried in the Helpston Cemetery.

The Royal Oak Inn with Alice Maud Martin and Phoebe Sanderson
(photo courtesy of Shirley M. of the U.K.)

Phoebe Sanderson took over the license of the Royal Oak Inn, which likely dates from the mid 1600's, in Helpston after Mark's death. (The date "1654" or "1659" was found inscribed in the adjoining cottage).  There was no bar in the inn, and the family utilized the living room for this purpose while they lived in the kitchen. They would bring the beer up from the cellar. On special occasions, or when ladies were present, they used the front room for patrons. The pub was often crowded on Helpston feast days. Phoebe operated it until 1929, when the inn was closed as a pub, as the clientele had dropped off considerably. With the financial help of her son, William, who was retiring, she then purchased the Royal Oak from the brewery for  £150. Her daughter, Alice Maud  Martin, continued to live there with her whole family. She had lived at the Railway Hotel with her husband Charles Martin, whom she had married in 1912, and then at the Royal Oak Inn. Their first two children were born at the former, and the last three had been born at the latter.

Phoebe died at the Royal Oak Cottage (no longer referred to as an "inn" now that it was no longer a public house) on March 1, 1946, at the age of ninety-nine years, of old age, and was buried at the Helpston Cemetery. She had been bedridden due to ill health for about a year, and was cared for by her daughter Alice Maud. Alice's husband Charles died in 1948, and Alice and her daughter Violet continued to live at the Royal Oak until Violet's death in 1967, when Alice sold the cottage.


No comments: