This blog is designed to record the findings of our family history, mainly for the benefit of the family, and to document the dead ends, the breakthroughs and the journey.
I’ll post the family stories as I’ve written them to now, and I’ll be grateful to anyone who can add further information or pictures, or point out errors.
Particular thanks to my sister Julia and my cousin Mandy who between them have done much more of the work than I have.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Billingham Story

My mother was a Billingham so it makes sense to do the Billinghams next.

The Name

Billingham is a very common name around Quarry Bank and Cradley. The 1911 census shows 173 people with the surname Billingham in Quarry Bank and I found 19 of them in Birch Coppice alone, where many of our ancestors lived. The other key roads for us in Quarry Bank are Victoria Road, Vine Terrace and Saltwells.  Obviously there has been some dispersal in 100 years but the name is still firmly rooted in the West Midlands, especially in the Black Country. According to the Guild of One Name Studies Billingham is chiefly found in the Black County, particularly between Stourbridge and Dudley (37%); Birmingham, West Bromwich, Walsall (12%); Northamptonshire (25%); Lancashire (9%); Gloucestershire & south Wales (7%); Yorkshire (4%); London (3%).  There is a genealogy website called The Billinghams of Cradley Heath, which traces the surname back to 1538 in the area. I haven’t got that far yet.

According to Ancestry the meaning of the name is an habitational name from a place called Billingham. There is one such place in Stockton on Tees (formerly in County Durham), which probably derives its name from Old English Billingaham ‘homestead (Old English ham) of the people of Bill(a)’. However, in the British Isles the surname is found chiefly in the Midlands (Staffordshire), and the distribution, together with evidence from other names, suggests that it may be derived from a lost place in Staffordshire or nearby. Again according to the Guild of One Name Studies the name is thought to originated from the Billas tribe, and the old English word 'hame' meaning home, hence home of the Billas tribe

Our Billinghams seem to have led very ordinary working class lives. I’ve found no scandal, no criminals, no heroes, and most of them did not stray far from Quarry Bank.

The People

Frank Billingham, our grandfather (1889-1976)

Frank William Billingham was born on 6th November 1889 at Salt Wells Coppice Quarry Bank. The birth was registered by his mother Mary Ann (nee Jasper) who was illiterate and made her mark. Frank’s father was Thomas Billingham who was an iron puddler. Two years later by the 1891 census the family was living at 57 Vine Street Quarry Bank, to the north. By 1901 they were at 32 Victoria Street, Quarry Bank and remained there in 1911. By this time Frank was 21 and an iron bundler, working for Noah Hingley & Sons. His job description changes in subsequent censuses to iron bar weigher (rolling mills). After his retirement he worked part time at the Taylor & Law Tala works near his home.

Frank married Annie Elizabeth Morris in 1914. She was pregnant with their first child Jack. There is a family story that they had married earlier in secret, but there is no evidence for this

Frank and Annie’s children were
Jack                                 1914
Frank S (Syd)                  1916
Jessie B                           1918
Dorothy E (Betty)             1921
Joyce                               1923
Mary Gwendolyn (Gwen) 1927

Frank died in 1976. At that time he was living with his daughter Joyce and her husband Harry Chance, at 40 Barn Close Stourbridge.

Thomas Billingham (1853-1913)

Thomas was born on 31st October 1853 at Saltwells in Quarry Bank. His parents were Benjamin Billingham and Harriet (nee Easthope). The 1861 census shows the family living at Salt Well Coppice Quarry Bank. Thomas is 7. By 1871 the family had moved to Birch Coppice, still in Quarry Bank.

The 1881 census shows a great change. By this time Thomas had married Mary Ann Jasper on Christmas Day in 1876. Their eldest daughter Sarah was born in Quarry Bank in 1880, but by 1881 the family had moved to Middlesborough, where there was presumably work for iron puddlers in the Teeside shipbuilding industry. Their address was 45 Hatherley Street, Linthorpe, which seems to no longer exist, (and which is only four miles from the town of Billingham).

However by 1891 they were back in Quarry Bank living at 57 Vine Street. Two children were born in Middlesborough, Joseph in 1882 and Maria in 1884. Three more children were born after their return to Quarry Bank; Hannah in 1886, Frank in 1890, and Annie in 1893. At this time they also had lodgers, Reuben Bloomer a coal miner, his wife Violet and their infant daughter Sophia.

1901 saw them on the move again, but this time only as far as 6 Victoria Road Quarry Bank, and a further child Harriet was born in 1896. Sarah was working as a domestic servant and Joseph as a bucket factory saucepan maker.

In the 1911 census the family has moved along the road to 32 Victoria Street, and of the children, only Frank and Harriet were still living at home.

Thomas died on 5th March 1913, at home, aged 61 of bronchitis.

Benjamin Billingham (1808-1883)

Benjamin Billingham was born in Kingswinford in 1808. The first reference we find to him is in the 1841 census where he is 35 and living in Edwards Row, Cradley. He was a nailer. His wife’s name is illegible. The transcript has her as Sarah, but it could just as easily be Harriet, which the name his wife has in the 1851 census.

I haven’t found a marriage date, and their first child was born in 1841 IGI shows a Benjamin Billingham marrying a Harriet Hestop on 28th November 1831, and despite the gap before any known children are born, this does seem most likely.

By 1851 the couple had four children Hannah, John, Sarah and George. 10 year old Hannah and 7 year old John were already working as nailers, along with both their parents. They lived at Saltwells in Quarry Bank, and living with them were Benjamin’s widowed father John aged 81, also formerly a nailer, and 15 year old Joseph Easthope a chain maker. We know from Thomas’ birth certificate that Harriet’s maiden name is Easthope, (pretty close to Hestop) so this is probably a relation.

In 1861, still in Saltwell Coppice the lodgers have gone, but the family has grown. Hannah is longer at home, but the others are John aged 15, Sarah aged 14 (now also a nailer), George aged 12, Eli aged 10 and Thomas (our ancestor) aged 7. Interestingly the younger children are no longer working, so perhaps the family was a little more prosperous.

We find a much smaller family living in Birch Coppice Quarry Bank by 1871. Benjamin and his wife (called Ann H in this census) are both nailers still. Only the two youngest children are at home, Eli aged 19 and Thomas aged 17. Both work as iron puddlers. And by 1881, still at Birch Coppice Benjamin and Harriet are living with lodger Edward Weaver aged 20 a chainmaker.

Benjamin died on 3rd October 1883, at home, aged 71, again of bronchitis.

Samuel and Alice had both died in 1861 after the census was taken.

Mirah died in 1885 and in 1891 William married Emily Collins, a woman of his own age also from Quarry Bank with a son George and his wife Martha who was from Glasgow, and they have moved to Sheffield Street Quarry Bank.

John Billingham (born 1770)

I first learned of the existence of John when the 1851 census shows him as an 81 year old widower living with his son Benjamin. He was also formerly a nailer, born in 1770. The 1841 census shows him living in Swinford Wood Kingswinford with his wife Sarah born 1776 and daughter Mary. Sarah died aged 76 on 8th June1848 of “old age”. I haven’t found a death date for John, but he does not appear on the 1861 census, at which point he would have been over 90. IGI suggests that John and Sarah were married on 25th April 1791 in Brierley Hill, and that her maiden name was Timmins. One future task is to see whether this is the same Timmins family as our grandmother Lily Gertrude Hamilton (nee Timmins), although like Billingham Timmins is a name common in the Black Country and rare elsewhere’

IGI doesn’t suggest a birth/christening for John, so I have been unable to find his parents so far.


  1. Dear Diana

    My name is Mike (Michael Hall). I am the grandson of Harriet (Addie) Cartwright nee Billingham, who was Frank’s sister. My mother was Edith Cartwright and she lived at 32 Victoria Road with her parents and her sisters Nancy and Iris until she married. I can remember “Uncle Frank”. I also remember Joyce and Harry Chance, when they lived across New Farm.

    I was a regular visitor to 32 Victoria Road from when I was born until a few years ago when my auntie Iris died.

    I started tracing my family tree, on my mother’s side a few years ago, but haven’t done much with it of late.

    I have learn a few things from your website that I didn’t know and may have a few things that you didn’t know

    I was born in Lye and now live in Stourbridge

    Best wishes


  2. Mike

    I don't think I ever replied to your post. I sort of dropped the family history stuff after my father died last year and have only just taken it up again. It was so nice to read your comments and to find out that you knew my granddad. We know nothing about the Billinghams. My mother never talked about them and I have no recollection of meeting any of them, although my sister remembers an "aunt Sarah" who lived in Perry Barr quite near us. They are very difficult to research going back because there are so many of them in such a small area, and I have no family stories to go on, unlike the Morrises of whom my mother talked incessantly.

  3. Hi Diana,
    Have found that Benjamin and Harriet were actually living at Swinford Wood in 1841, close to his parents John & Sarah.
    regards Gary Billingham

  4. Hi again, also can confirm that Benjamin was born 17 Nov 1809, bapt(x) 12 July 1810 at Brierley Hill. I think there were 8 other children, Richard (b1791), Mary (x1793), John (x1795), Diana (x1802), Hannah (x1806), Selina (x1806), Joseph (b1812), and Sarah (x1814). I also think that their parents baptised some of the children twice at different churchs, (Brierley Hill & Cradley) which makes it difficult to be sure exactly how many children they actually had. Looking at a possible baptism for John, there is one at Brierley Hill, St Michaels on 19 May 1771, to John & Elizabeth Billingham. This is the earliest event for a Billingham at this church. I am conducting a one name study into Billingham, so will welcome any inquiries! regards, Gary Billingham, Perth, Western Australia

  5. Hi there we have moved in 32 Victoria Street in Jan 2017 we just love the house the vibes the history behind it I feel the warmth it also been bless as I heart a vicor use to live here.just lovely it to here move about the billingham history .taa