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The Hall family

Hall 4.jpg

James Hall and his wife Emma, see photo on left, nee Smith, made their lives in Fletton. James was a local migrant attracted to Fletton by the lure of secure employment in the brickyards. In this piece we trace their journey to Fletton through their families.


Emma’s grandparents were John and Elizabeth Rimes nee Lowe, of Farcet. In 1851 John and Elizabeth were the parents of eight children under 13 years old; Emma, William, James, Sarah, John, Ann, Martin and Mary. The youngest Mary was just 4 and a half months old. Life for John, an agricultural labourer and Elizabeth would have been one of hard physical labour; John working on the fields and Mary caring for her children and the house whilst recovering from her recent confinement. There would have also been the ever present worry about John’s employment as work on the land was seasonal and never guaranteed. 

Just a few months later John’s world changed forever when his wife of 15 years died at just 38 years of age. Elizabeth’s funeral must have been a tragic sight in St. Marys church yard, Farcet on the 30th March 1852. Elizabeth’s husband John now faced the world alone together with seven young children to care and provide for. In the days long before state benefits it was normal in such a situation to re-marry quickly, to provide a mother for the children. John did not choose this option, instead depending on his daughter Emma, just 14, to assume the role of mother caring for her younger siblings.  Luckily for John he had the support of family in Farcet.

John Pindard Rimes was baptised on 31st May 1812. His parents were Francis and Amy Rimes nee Pindard. In 1851 Thomas Pindard a shoemaker by trade, most probably Amy’s brother, was living just a few doors away from John and Elizabeth. By 1861 widower John was living at 16 Church Street, Farcet and his occupation was shoemaker. Thomas was living at 16 Back Lane and he was recorded as being a parish clerk. It would appear that Thomas had passed his trade onto his nephew, who with young children to support needed a secure occupation. This proved a wise move as Thomas died at the end of 1861.

Why Thomas passed his trade to his nephew and not to his sons is not known but John was evidently hard working and aspirational, and Thomas may have seen this. By 1871 John had moved again to the Toll House, near to the Black Swan public house and he was the toll keeper. His daughter Sarah was now caring for the family and son Martin and grandson Clement were both agricultural labourers. John died in 1878.


James and Mary Smith nee Rimes were Emma’s parents. Left motherless at just a year old John and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter was Mary Rimes. 1871 was an important year for Mary, on the 11th September aged 21, she married James Smith a labourer from Stanground. As a newly married couple Mary and James must have been filled with optimism for the future. As is typical of labourers the newly married couple lived a mobile existence as John would have moved to follow employment. Their first two children Emma and Thomas were born in Stanground, Florence was born in Farcet and Mary, James and Elizabeth were all born in Whittlesey.  The ever present threat of unemployment and constant moving must have been wearing. It is no surprise that where possible individuals tried to seek secure employment.

James was no different. In 1891 the family were recorded as living at Broadalls Drove, Ramsey. The move occurred sometime after 1885. James had chosen the life of a farmer. Although still of an uncertain nature James appears to be doing well as he is also recorded as being an employer. Towards the end of the century, with the advent of the railways, there was an expansion of market gardening in the fenland area. The London market increasingly demanded fresh produce on it’s dinner table and the fen area, with it’s excellent rail links, was ideally placed to meet these demands and James may have been involved in this.

No doubt Mary would be relieved that the family was now settled. What she did not know was that together they would see out their days at Broadall’s Drove. James’s farm seems to have continued to prosper and by 1901 his sons, Thomas and James, also worked on the farm. As a farmer, employing men, James and the family would have been respected and well known in the local community. The 1911 census shows that Mary and James had celebrated 40 years of marriage which produced 8 children 6 of whom had survived-an achievement for any family at that time.

James died in 1926 at the great age of 80 and Mary in 1932 at 81.


Emma Smith was the eldest daughter of James and Mary Smith. Although born in Stanground James and Mary’s hearts belonged in Farcet and this is where Emma was baptised on 29th September 1872. In 1902 Emma married James Hall.

James Hall was born in Great Staughton, St Neots in 1876 and his parents were Jacob and Ursula Flanders Hall nee Bull. Jacob was an agricultural labourer and James would have witnessed firsthand what a hard uncertain life this was. North of St. Neots in Fletton a revolution in brick making was taking place in J. C. Hill’s brickyards. Following the opening of the brickyards in 1887 the 1900s saw a second wave of expansion in the brick industry and strong hardened workers were required urgently. Local agricultural labourers, used to the hardships of outdoor labour, were targeted as ideal recruits for this employment. Young men and families from the local area were drawn to Fletton by the security of working in the brickyards and so there was an influx of migrant workers. Hill built many new houses for his workers and it was to one of these newly built houses that James moved to, in time to be recorded on the 1901 census. James was boarding in the household of Ellen Browning at 1 Victoria Cottages, Queens Road.

James had a companion Arthur Jackson, an engine fitter, who also boarded with Ellen. The boarders must have found a sense of community from living with other men who had made the same migration journey from their families to an unfamiliar place seeking work and a new way of life.

There are many instances where migrant men married soon after moving to a new place and a new occupation, but their bride was not local. This appears to be the case for James and Emma. James made the initial move to seek employment, find accommodation and settle into the community before returning to marry his bride.  

James and Emma (see photo bottom left wearing check coat) started their married life at 37 Queens Road, Old Fletton. By 1911 they had had five children, they would have eight children in total: James, Maud, the unusually named Mary Ursula Flanders (after her paternal grandmother), Emmie and Dorothy. James had progressed and was now a clay miner; a hard, back breaking and dangerous task.

James and Emma must have become very settled in Old Fletton and in the 1939 Nation

al Registration Return they were still living at 37 Queens Road. Living with them were their youngest two sons Arthur and John.

James died aged 75 in 1951 and Emma was 81 when she died in 1953. They lay together in Fletton cemetery (see photo bottom right).


James and Emma’s eldest son was James Reginald Hall. James was born in Old Fletton on 11th December 1902. James married Ethel Mabel on 27th March 1931 in March registry office. This was Ethel’s second marriage. Her first husband Herbert Kenneth Spence Morris had died in 1929. They had a son together Frederick Morris.


On the 1939 National Register James and Ethel were living at 37 Deerfield Road, March. They also had a son together James Peter Hall who had been born on 30th September 1934. James Snr was employed by the L. N. E. R. as a locomotive fireman.  Working on the railways was an ideal occupation to transfer around the country and it would have been an easy matter to transfer from Peterborough to March when James married.


Unfortunately for James tragedy struck in 1953. Not only did his mother Emma die but his wife Ethel also died at just 55 years old. Just three years later James also died on 20th February 1956, at just 53 years of age, in Doddington hospital.



Although young men it must have been difficult for James Jnr Hall and his brother Frederick Morris to lose both their mother and father at such a young age. James had been baptised at St. Margaret’s Church on 28th October 1934. James had two marriages, first to Ann Hall and then on the 8th October 1977 to Susan Mary Tucker.


At 18 James would have received a letter from the Queen ‘inviting’ him to do National Service, the calling up of young men of military age, peacetime conscription. National Service was needed after the Second World War to maintain peace and to keep Great Britain’s presence abroad.  During the Korean War (1950-1953) the duration of National Service was increased from 18 months to 2 years. Once James completed his training at Cranbrook, he would have then received his posting.


Once James had completed his National Service, he followed his father’s occupation and became a railway worker.


James died young on the 16th August 1991 aged 56.

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