Friday, 19 August 2011

The Bottom Obelisk? A ginormous grave, at any rate!

Just had a text from a dear friend. He says he and his wife are standing in the huge churchyard attached to St Thomas's Parish Church, Kimberworth, Rotherham, at the foot of "The Bottom Tower".

Don't bother looking it up on Google maps! You won't find it!

I texted back joking that maybe English Heritage should rename the monument referred to, as "The Bottom Obelisk" or something equally grand, and start charging! Though maybe not in the current economic climate!

Knowing my obsession with family history, my friends had found their way, on my vague instructions, to one of my ancestor's graves. I explained that they could hardly miss it. It's the biggest, tallest monument in the whole graveyard!

John Bottom's inscription on monument in his memory

It was built to commemorate and mark the position of the remains of the family of my great great granduncle John Bottom, formerly a local Labour councillor in the Rotherham (Masborough) constituency back in the 1880s, and a prominent local small businessman and publican.

He was the middle brother of three, the sons of William Bottom of Hatfield Woodhouse, a cobbler, and Hannah Huddleston. 

The eldest boy, also William, b 1835, married my great great grandmother Charlotte Barrass in 1861. If he had done so a few years earlier, before the birth of her son Thomas in 1857, who I have many reasons to believe was actually William's son, my own family name would have been 'Bottom'. I am thankful for small mercies, even though my own surname 'Barrass' causes more complications of spelling with the double consonants and the vowel possibilities than 'Bottom' would, though possibly less hilarity!

William Bottom was the closest thing to a father figure my great grandfather Thomas knew, and I count him as my ancestor on those terms. John was the middle boy and moved away from the tiny village of Hatfield Woodhouse where brother William was a farmer, yeast and bacon dealer.

The wrought iron railing round the foot of the Bottom family monument

John and his youngest brother Francis set up a shop on the corner of Providence Street on Masborough Road at Kimberworth. By the size of this grave, his will and the fact he found his way onto the council, he seems to have been relatively successful. John must have been the business brains, the name over the shop, while Francis was the one who made deliveries round the town and liaised with customers, from what I see on census returns.

John worked his way from very humble beginnings as a farm labourer. He married his first wife Frances Earnshaw of Cliff House in the shadow of nearby Conisborough Castle, in 1866, and by 1871 was starting his business as an egg and butter trader while running the Royal Standard pub in Masborough. He then started the shop with Francis, and in 1880 was elected Rotherham Councillor in the Masborough Ward. His will shows that by the time of his death his effects came to £6755 16s 10d.  He also had shares in property on Moorgate, Rotherham, and owned a ring in the form of a snake with a diamond for an eye!

Words commemorating John's first wife Frances and their two infant sons
Sadly, his personal life was shot through with tragedy. He and Frances lost both their sons, Arthur and John before either boy reached his first birthday. Frances followed her babies to the grave in 1889. You can see their names on the Bottom monument.

John remarried, to Annie Moore from Misson over the border in Nottinghamshire, in 1891. They had also had two sons, another John, who died at the Second Battle of Ypres in WW1 in 1915, a Lance Corporal in 18th (Queen Mary's Own) Hussars, and Stuart, who died a few months after his first birthday.

Annie, who was 26 years John's junior, died in 1896. John himself passed away two years later, aged 60, on 2nd January 1898.

The 1901 census shows that his only surviving son John was living with his Uncle Frank at the shop, which carried on trading into the 20th century. Frank and his second wife Annie Elizabeth Wordsworth, a local Kimberworth lass, both survived to see their nephew John lost in the Great War, and the death of his elder brother, my great great grandfather William in 1917, back in their home village.

Frank and Annie's grave is a great deal more humble and modest than John's. They lie in the little cemetery in Masborough itself:

John's younger brother Frank and his wife and son lie in peace in a nearby cemetery

Frank had gone from being porter and assistant to his brother John, to inheriting the business. He is listed on the 1911 census as "Wholesale and Retail Provision Merchant" at the old address, 136, Masbro Street, Kimberworth. No room at "The Obelisk" for him, though after the War!

St Thomas's Parish Church at Kimberworth, South Yorkshire, UK

1 comment:

  1. I am the great grand daughter of John Bottom and still live in Rotherham. Being a "Bottom" never did me any harm - character building I think