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The Plumb family

John Plumb was born in Newbury, Berkshire in 1843 to George and Sarah. George was a master carpenter and after working as first a blacksmith and then an engine fitter John also become a carpenter. Potentially following employment opportunities John moved to Kentish Town and it was here that he married his first wife Emma Miles on 26 December 1870 at St. George the Martyr, Southwark. Their happiness was short lived as Emma died in the middle of 1871. On 13 May 1873 John married his second wife Jane. When they married they were both resident in Hampsted.  Although born in Thorpe, Norfolk Jane was in domestic service in Hampstead in the household of Andrew Drysdale a Scottish distiller. Jane was pregnant when they married as their eldest son Charles’s baptism was on 5 October 1873 just 6 months after their marriage.

John and Jane’s first son Charles was born in Kentish Town but their next three children George, Thomas and Edmund were all born in Fletton. The railway arrived in Fletton in 1843 with the Blisworth to Peterborough line which terminated at the ‘East Station’ in Fletton. This prompted waves of migration as the railways grew and developed to include not only those directly involved such as: drivers, guards, stokers, firemen and porters but also those who worked in the numerous workshops including fitters, carpenters and blacksmiths.  These employment opportunities attracted many family migrants looking for work, not only for the male head of household but their sons and daughters as well. John’s skill as an engine fitter, blacksmith and carpenter enabled him to work as a railway wagon repairer (Midland Wagon Works). The family lived at 8 Park Street, New Fletton where a railway community had grown up due to its proximity to the East Station and its plentiful supply of housing for rent.

The family must have found the Fletton community welcoming as they and their children stayed. In 1891 they had been joined by another son Ernest. They had moved a few doors away to 18 Park Street and John was still recorded as a carpenter. Their second son George had also joined the railways as a railway wagon manufacturer and eldest son Charles had found employment as a hotel porter. As passenger traffic grew on the railways the hospitality industry, providing travellers with rest and refreshment, flourished.

Unfortunately John died on 24 January 1900 aged 56 and he was buried in St. Margarets graveyard on 29 January 1900. John must have been well thought of as his headstone was erected by his companions as a token. (left) As a widow Jane remained with her family, partially perhaps due to her failing health. In 1901 Jane was supported by her sister Elizabeth and three of her sons: Charles, Thomas and Ernest who were all recorded as carpenters working in the wagon works. By 1911 the family had moved to 20 Queens Road, Old Fletton and Thomas and Edmund were recorded as railway wagon repairers.

Jane was admitted twice to the Three Counties Asylum in Stotfold, Hitchin, Bedfordshire. The first admission was on 2 December 1903. Her sister Elizabeth reported that Jane could not be induced to go to bed at night or accept nourishment unless by force, confirmed perhaps by the fact that on admittance Jane had many bruises and a black eye. The official medical statement reported Jane was suffering senility and melancholy- the term used at the time for depression. After a stay of more than 2 years, Jane was discharged on 28 February 1904 with ‘fairly good health’. Jane was again admitted approximately 9 years later on 10 July 1913 aged 67. Jane was suffering with dementia and failing eye sight. Jane appeared to be struggling to cope with her impending sight loss and after a stay of 18 months passed away on 31 December 1914.

The lives of John and Jane’s sons are dealt with sequentially.

In 1911 eldest son Charles was a lodger in the household of Robert Sykes in Rawmarsh, West Riding, Yorkshire. They were both recorded as wagon builders in the colliery.  

Son George married Laura in 1898 in Boston, Lincs. George was also a carpenter and they settled at Nelson Cottages, Queens Road, Fletton, just a few doors away from Jane.


Thomas married Edith Amy Dodson in 1915 at St. Margarets, Fletton. Unfortunately their happiness was short lived as Thomas died in 1919. Thomas was buried in Fletton Cemetery on 1 February 1919.  

Edmund was accidentally killed on 15 December 1916 aged 37. He is commemorated in St Margarets church and on the war memorial in the Fletton ex-Servicemns Club.

Arthur Ernest (or Ernest Arthur on many documents) married Amy Gilby in 1909. The newlyweds moved to start a new life in Derby. Arthur was a railway wagon builder and he had migrated to Derby ahead of their wedding to procure employment and housing. This was something that many prospective grooms did in order to establish a life for their new brides and Derby was a perfect choice as it was the centre of the Midland Railway carriage and wagon works. Their first son Charles Philip was born in Derby in 1910. But their stay was only a short one. Although their second son Philip was born in Derby on 21 July 1911 by 1912 baby Charles had died and his death was recorded in Peterborough. Thomas was born at the end of October 1912 and both Philip and Thomas were baptized on 18 October 1912 at St. Margarets. This was followed by the baptism of Arthur Ernest on 26 February 1914.  Arthur must have returned briefly to work in Derby as baby Jane’s birth and death were recorded there in 1915. Tragedy struck in 1916 when Arthur Ernest Snr died. He was buried in Fletton cemetery on 2 June 1916, although no headstone marks the grave. This is no surprise as Amy’s attentions were elsewhere. A pregnant widow Amy had three small children under 5 to care for and at the end of 1916 gave birth to Avis who was named after her sister. Unfortunately Avis also died the following year. Amy re-married Ernest Edward Butler at St. Margarets on 1 August 1921.

Whilst researching this extended family the bride’s father’s names on the marriage register leapt out. Edith Dodson’s (Thomas’s wife) father was John Gilby and Amy Gilby’s (Arthur’s wife) father was Philip Brown Gilby. Mere co-incidence!!! After a little detective work it was discovered that John Gilby was Philip Brown Gilby’s father which meant that Edith was Amy’s aunt and they married brothers Thomas and Arthur. Philip, like his father, was employed on the railways. He had moved to New Fletton from his home in Swavesey, Cambridgeshire and was employed as a goods guard with the G.E.R. In 1901 his sister Edith was living with him and his family at 16 Park Street neighbours to John and Jane Plumb.  Marriage to Thomas was Edith’s second marriage. She had previously married Charles Dodson in 1901. Edith would also marry again at St. Margarets, in 1920, to Arthur Curtis Smith

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John Plumb buried St. Margarets Church                                       Thomas Dodson buried Fletton cemetery

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                                                           A postcard of 'The Three Counties Lunatic Asylum', postmarked 1913.

     Special thanks to Rich creator of 'The Three Counties Lunatic Asylum' website  who kindly allowed use of this postcard image.

                                       For information about the website see the contacts page where there is a link to the website.

                 The Bedfordshire Archives hold records from the Three Counties. see the contacts page where there is a link to their website.

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