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W G Grace letter led me to trace family back to 1700s

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: July 20, 2014

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I WROTE a letter in The Bugle (March 6 edition) entitled My great grandfather (Philip Alfred Millward) bowled out W.G. Grace, in the hope that it would help me to trace members of my extended family.

I received one response from a reader who sent me a photograph of the old family home and a copy of the entries for the family in the 1911 Census.

Unfortunately, the reader in question didn't include a covering letter, so I was unable to thank him or her. If he or she happens to read this letter, I should, therefore, like to take this opportunity to do so.

The information sent me on a path of discovery that has enabled me to trace my family back into the 17th century in Oldswinford.

It hasn't yet been established, but the family may have been related to the Millwards of Wollescote Hall, a wealthy and influential family who owed their wealth principally to the fireclay deposits beneath their lands. The last member of the family to hold the family name was Thomas, who died in 1782, leaving the estate to his daughter, Prudence, a favourite of George III, who summoned her to court on the birth of his son, the Prince Regent and later George IV.

Prudence's son, Edward Oliver, became a gambler, whose addiction led to the demise of the family fortunes in the early 1800's, when he was forced to flee his creditors to the Isle of Man.

While it is as yet uncertain whether my family is descended from the Wollescote Millwards, it appears pretty certain that it was the bankruptcy of the Wollescote estate that led to my forebear, Joseph Millward, and his family leaving Oldswinford in search of employment in the coal mines and iron foundries, notably in Wednesbury.

One interesting fact to have emerged is that my great grandfather's sister, Ada Florence, married William Henry Hawthorne, the grandson of Edward Sheldon, who founded what was later to become The Cannon Iron Foundries Ltd in Bilston in 1826. The family continued to hold an interest in the company until 1994.

As many of your readers will know, the Bilston works, a 26-acre site employing 1,000 workers at the time of its centenary in 1926, didn't fare well under the new management which, on assuming control, proceeded to asset-strip the Bilston works and ultimately close down production.

William and Ada Hawthorne came from Coseley and had four sons, Herbert Sheldon, William Edgar, Harold Millward and Douglas Noel and a daughter May Constance, who married Arthur J. Longhurst in 1920. If any of their descendants are interested in the family history of their forebear, Ada Florence Hawthorne (née Millward – 1860-1931), they are welcome to contact me.

Richard Millward,

17 The Pastures, Blakeney,

Holt, Norfolk.

01263 740807

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