Peace is the beauty of life.
It is sunshine.
It is the smile of a child,
the love of a mother,
the joy of a father,
the togetherness of a family.
Ever since I saw this photograph of my four maternal Great-Grandparents, Reginald George Wilfred Willats, Jesse Edward Townsend, Bessie Eva Annie Sweet and Eileen May O’Connor, I’ve had this unexplainable pull to Jesse Townsend.
I can’t explain what it is about him, but my heart overflows with love for him.
How can you love someone you have never met, is beyond me but Jesse has gotten under my skin and into my heart, he makes me smile every time I see a photograph of him.
Although I’ve wanted to write about him for the very beginning of this challenge, I’ve kept putting it off, as I find it very daunting because as he still has living Children and Grandchildren, that still remember him, love him and miss him, I don’t want to get anything wrong or upset anyone.
I’ve also got to be careful because of the 100 year law.
With that in mind this weeks blog will be a little different.
I will of course share what I can, in the line of official documentation. But more so I want to share the memories of his family with you.
To me, this is just if not more important than the records available on-line.
The words of his family, be it through blood or marriage, are what makes a person live on, when the bodies can not do so.
It’s the personal accounts that will get lost or twisted over time, I would hate for those precious memories to fade away, to be forgotten. So I’ve done my best at gathering as many personal and heartfelt memories as I can about my Great-Grandfather, Jesse Edward Townsend.
Before I share with you those wonderful memories, let’s look a little into our family name, Townsend.
The ancestry of the name Townsend dates from the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture of Britain. It comes from when the family lived on the outskirts of a village. The surname Townsend literally refers to a dweller “at the town’s end.” The name belongs to the class of topographic surnames, which were given to people who resided near physical features such as hills, streams, churches, or types of trees.
The surname Townsend was first found in Norfolk, at Snoring Magna (Great Snoring) where one of the first records of the name was found there in 1377. “In 1398, John Townshend settled at Rainham, which according to some accounts accrued to them by the heiress of Havile. ”
Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
Another source confirms this noble family’s status. “In 1398, the ancestor of the Marquis Townshend was at Rainham, the present seat of the family.”
Spelling variations in names were a common occurrence before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago. In the Middle Ages, even the literate spelled their names differently as the English language incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other European languages. Many variations of the name Townsend have been found, including Townsend, Townshend and others.
The Townsend family name was found in the USA, the UK, Canada, and Scotland between 1840 and 1920. The most Townsend families were found in the USA in 1880. In 1891 there were 2,152 Townsend families living in London. This was about 16% of all the recorded Townsend’s in the UK. London had the highest population of Townsend families in 1891.
In 1881, Agricultural Labourer, Labourer and Farmer were the top 3 reported jobs worked by Townsend. The most common Townsend occupation in the UK was Agricultural Labourer. 5% of Townsend’s were Agricultural Labourers. A less common occupation for the Townsend family was Coal Miner.
Contemporary Notables of the name Townsend (post 1700)
• John Rowe Townsend (b. 1922), British children’s author
• Peter Michael Paul Townsend (b. 1946), English professional golfer
• Susan Lillian “Sue” Townsend FRSL (1946-2014), English novelist and playwright, best known for her Adrian Mole books
• Ben Townsend (b. 1982), English football player
• Winnie Townsend, American Democrat politician, Presidential Elector for Kentucky, 1996
• Willis L. Townsend (b. 1858), American politician, Delegate to Michigan State Constitutional Convention 29th District, 1907-08
• Mrs. Willis Townsend, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Arkansas, 1964
• William L. Townsend, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Missouri, 1928
• William K. Townsend, American politician, Member of Connecticut State House of Representatives from East Haven, 1837-38
• William H. Townsend, American politician, Member of Minnesota State House of Representatives 23rd District, 1857-58
Townsend Coat of Arms
There seem to be two main Coat of arms, one Red and one blue.
The red coat of arms meaning –
Red : Warrior, Martyr, Military Strength
Black: Constancy, Grief
Silver or White: Sincerity, Peace
Shield: Cross, Christian, one who had served in the Crusades
Helmet: Wise defence
Cross: Of Christian significance. May also refer to families who engaged in the Crusades.
And the blue –
Shall we get back to the life of Jesse.
On the 28, January 1906, Charles Frederick Joseph Townsend and Rosa Alice Freak, welcomed a new baby boy into their family of 4/6, (2 Daughters/Sisters have passed.)
They named him, Jesse Edward Townsend, my Great-Grandfather.
He was born at 197 Radcliffe Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Charles Frederick was working as a Joiners Labourer.
Rosa Alice, registered Jesse’s birth on the, 6th March 1906.
Jesse soon gained a baby Brother and the Townsend’s, welcomed Alfred Leonard Townsend into the family.
Alfred was born on the 17th October 1908 in Southampton, Hampshire, at Number 59, Lower Alfred Street, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Charles Frederick was working as a Butcher Journeyman.
Rosa Alice, registered Alfred’s birth on the 26th November 1908.
Jesse’s, Sister was born, on the 5th January, 1910.
They named her, Hilda Rosa Townsend.
Hilda Rosa Townsend, was born at Number 30, Empress Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England, Rosa Alice, was 32, and Charles Frederick Joseph Townsend, was 34. Charles was working as a, Butcher Journeyman. Rosa Alice Townsend Nee Freak, registered Hilda’s birth on the 10th February 1910.
On the 2nd April 1911, the census was taken.
Jesse, his Father Charles Frederick, his Mother, Rosa Alice, and siblings, Frederick William, Lily, Alfred and Hilda were still living at 30 Empress Road, Southampton. They are occupying 4 rooms.
Charles Frederick, was working at a, Joinery works.
Their son Frederick William was working as a, Butchers Porter.
Rosa and Charles, had been married 16 years, they have had 7 children, 5 were still living and 2 had died. Bless their tiny souls.
Jesse’s parents, Charles Frederick and Rosa Alice, had another baby boy, on the, 21st July, 1911.
They named him, Henry Charles Townsend.
Henry was born at Number 30, Empress Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Charles Frederick was working as a Joiners Labourer. He gave his name as Frederick Charles Townsend. Rosa Alice, registered Henry Townsend’s birth, on the 28th August 1911.
And on the 23rd March 1913, Jesse’s Brother, George Robert Townsend, was born, at Number 30, Empress Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Charles Frederick was working as a Sawyer’s Labourer. He once again gave his name as Frederick Charles Townsend. Rosa registered George Robert Townsend’s birth, on the 21st April 1913.
Jesse’s Sister, Louisa Florence Eliza Townsend, was born on the 23rd November 1914.
She was born at, Number 30, Empress Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Charles Frederick was working as a Shipbuilder Labourer.
Rosa Alice, registered, Louisa Florence Eliza Townsend’s birth, on the 21st December 1914.
And another Brother, Charles and a Rosa’s 6th Son, Leslie James Townsend, was born on the, 25th June, 1917, at Number 30, Empress Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Charles Frederick was working as a Sawyer’s Labourer.
Rosa Alice registered Leslie James Townsend, birth, on the, 16th July, 1917.
Jumping forward a few years to, October 19, 1928, Jesse married, Bessie Eva Annie Sweet, Daughter of George Frederick Sweet and Elizabeth Grace Gibbs Porter. They tied the knot at, St Michael’s, Swanmore, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England.
Jesse, was a 22-year-old bachelor and Bessie Eva, was a 19-year-old spinster.
Jesse’s occupation was given as a Woodwork Machinist and Bessie, was a, Domestic Servant.
Jesse was residing at Number 30, Empress Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Bessie was residing at Number 11, Lower Betterworth Road, Ryde, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, England.
Their fathers, occupation were given as a Labourer for, Charles Frederick Townsend and Fruitseller.
Their witnesses were, John Henry Skinner and Louisa Grace Leach Nee Sweet.
If you do your math, Bessie who was known as Eva, was already in the family way when they wed.
She gave birth to my Grandad, George Frederick Townsend, on January 9, 1929, at Number 22, Empress Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Jesse was working as a Woodcutting Machinist.
Bessie, registered his birth, on the 4th February, 1929.
The registrar was, H. R. Hardy.
I’m sorry to say I can not share his birth certificate with you, due to the 100 year law but you can also order your own at, the GRO site here, with the following information.
I plan to tell you all about him and his life, over the upcoming weeks, as part of a new series I’m planning on doing.
What I can tell you at the moment, is he married my wonderful Nan, Doreen June Willats and they had 3 beautiful (inside and out) Children.
Jesse and Eva’s, second Son, my Great-Uncle, Raymond John Townsend, was born on the, 28th February, 1934, at East Park Terrace, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Jesse, was working as a Woodcutting Machinist.
Eva, registered Raymond’s birth on, April 5th, 1934.
They were residing at, Number 74, Earls Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
I’m sorry to say I can not share his birth certificate with you, due to the 100 year law but you can also order your own at, the GRO site here, with the following information.
Ray would later marry, Evelyn Lillian Orman and have two children. He lived through heartbreak and loss but still he managed to smile the brightest smile and warmed the souls of all that knew him.
My Great-Uncle Ray was a pretty incredible man. He is missed greatly.
Jesse Edward Townsend, was no doubt shocked to hear the King formally abdicate his throne to marry American, Wallis Simpson. With the death of King George V of England, the new king, Edward VIII was in a quandary. Although he enjoyed great popularity among his subjects, his mistress, American socialite and divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson, did not. Even so, the King was more than willing to risk his family’s anger when he announced he wanted to marry Simpson. No amount of bargaining or arguing could change the King’s mind, even as he proposed a number of possible resolutions. Still, the scandal continued to build as the King, his ministers, and Parliament argued. By December 1936, with a scheduled coronation being planned for May 1937, King Edward VIII renounced his claim to the throne. On December 11, the King took to the airwaves, announcing his intention to abdicate so that he could be with “the woman I love.” His dramatic announcement left listeners stunned. The following June, the former king and Wallis Simpson wed.
A few years later, on November 5th, 1938, Jesse and Eva, welcomed their first Daughter, into the world.
They named her, Joyce Madeleine Townsend.
I’m sorry I can’t tell you any more than that as, my Great-Auntie Joy, is alive and kicking and enjoying life in Scotland with her Husband.
The 1939 Register was taken on 29 September 1939, which shows, Jesse, Eva and their Children residing at, Number 71, Earls Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Jesse’s date of birth was given as, 28/1/06. He was listed as Widowed, which is incorrect as he was married to Eva (Bessie)
Jesse’s occupation was listed as a Wood Machinist.
Eva was a, Unpaid Domestic.
On September 23, 1941, Jesse’s Brother, Frederick William Townsend, died at, The Borough Hospital, Shirley, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
He was a 46 years old, Wood Machinist, residing at, Number 133, Laundry Road.
He died from, Carcinoma of Oesophagus.
His Daughter Gladys E Townsend, registered his death on the, 24th September, 1941.
Jesse and his family, laid Frederick to rest at Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton, Hampshire, England, in plot L12 Grave 249.
Thankfully a little joy followed, when Jesse and Eva, gave birth to Kenneth Townsend on the, 11th April, 1946 at, Number 11, Milton Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
Jesse was working as a Woodcutting Machinist.
Eva registered his birth on the 26 April 1946.
Heartbreakingly Kenneth, only lived for one month. He died on the, 24th May, 1946, at The Borough Hospital.
He died from, Inanition (Exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment) and Prematurity. G Sherlock was the informant.
It states on his death certificate under, Signature, Description and Residence of informant, G.Sherlock, causing the body to be buried, 98 Milton Road, Southampton.
Jesse, Eva and family, laid baby Kenneth, to rest at, South Stoneham Cemetery, Mansbridge Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England, in Plot O3 – Grave 66.
I’m sure life was especially hard over the next few years. Grief is impossibly hard at the best of times, but when it’s a baby, it has to be a trillion times worse. Even though infant death was common, it couldn’t have made it any easier. You’ve loved your baby from conception, you’ve felt him or her kick, have the hiccups, and welcomed him/her into the world with an overpowering love in your heart. You created the most perfect life and your mind is flooded with all these dreams of what life could hold.
To have that taken away, is beyond your worst nightmares, it’s soul destroying and it breaks you, leaving a humongous hole in my heart and soul.
How do you even begin to get over that.
And then to find you are expecting another, fear would run deeper, heavier than you’ve ever experienced.
So when Eva fall pregnant, emotions must have been running rings around them.
The joy of growing a new life, and the fear of loosing that life, must have been bittersweet. Unbearable at times.
Eva somehow got through 9 months of every emotion possible and gave birth to a healthy baby girl whom they called, Lynn Townsend on the 22 January 1950, in Southampton.
Once again, I can’t share with you more details, as Auntie Lyn, is still enjoying life to the full, with her 3 Children and grandchildren.
Jesse and Eva, faced more heartbreak, when Eva, fall pregnant with a Daughter. From what I can gather she was either born stillborn or died shortly after birth. There is no record of her birth, death or burial, so I presume she was stillborn.
They named her Heather Townsend.
Sadly that is all I can tell you. I know no dates or any other information apart from Jesse and Eva were devastated.😭
I’m sure Heather’s and Kenneth’s, deaths played a massive part in what was to follow.
Jesse was faced with even more heartbreak when Eva left him around the year 1952. Not only did she walk out on her Husband but her Children to, leaving Jesse to bring up his two daughters, Joyce and Lynn and their Son, Ray.
My Grandad, George was already married, left home and was serving in Germany.
Jesse was beyond heartbroken.
I can’t tell you the ins and outs as no one knows what goes on behind closed doors but Jesse loved her until his dying day.
Jumping forward to the year 1965, Jesse’s world once again crumbled, when his Mum Rosa, heart failed and heartbreakingly passed away at 5 Waterhouse Lane, Southampton, Hampshire, on the 28th January 1965 at the grand age of 87.
Rosa cause of death was from,
Jesse’s Auntie Hilda Compton Nee Townsend, registered his Mother, Rosa Alice Townsend nee Freak, death on the 29th January 1965.
Jesse and his family laid Rosa to rest, at the, Southampton Old Cemetery, Southampton, Hampshire, England, on February 1st, 1965, in grave number P135/282.
You can read all about Rosa Alice Townsend Nee Freak, life here.
Later the year, on November 20 1965, at Number 100, Milton Road, Southampton, Hampshire. England.
Jesse was feeling unwell and was supposed to be going to the pub to meet with his friend Tiny, while Lynn, was suppose to be going to Joyce’s. As her dad Jesse, was feeling under the weather, Lynn said she would stay with him but he refused as didn’t want to let his friend down. They both went out as planned.
Lynn returned home before Jesse and he was late getting home, it was 1am ish and she was waiting in the road for him.
Jesse staggered into the house and sat in his chair, still feeling unwell. His chest hurt so Lynn rubbed vics on he’s chest, trying to make him feel better and ease the pain. sadly it didn’t help. He was then sick and Lynn ran to get a bucket but he had stopped breathing and died in the chair in front of her. Lynn was crying and screaming, “Dad” and ran out and knocked on the neighbours door but no one answered, so she ran to her Uncle Alf’s and Aunt Madeline and they kept her there while Uncle Alf, Jesse’s Brother, went to Jesse’s home. Upon his arrival, nothing could be done. 😢
A post-mortem was held without inquest.
My Grandfather George Frederick Townsend, Jesse’s Son, registered his death on the 24th November 1965.
Jesse, was laid to rest at, South Stoneham Cemetery, Mansbridge Road, Southampton, Hampshire, England.
I’m not sure what date it was but he was buried with his baby boy Kenneth, in Plot O3, Grave 66.
We always believed that he was buried at, South Stoneham, my Nan remembers the day clearly, but we were unsure of the location within the cemetery. My good friend Bruce, came to the rescue again and after pulling in a favour or two, he managed to locate Jesse’s grave, which confirmed that he was indeed buried with his Son.
It was such a pleasure to be able to pass the information on to Jesse’s Daughter Lynn, through my cousin, Lynn’s Daughter Natasha.
Funny enough Natasha, lives opposite the cemetery so she darted over and located their grave.
With in hours, she had cleaned up the plot and made a cross for them.
Finally after all those years, Jesse and Kenneth can be visited.
Natasha did just that and took Lynn to visit her Dad’s resting place.
Without the amazing kindhearted ways, of my dear friend Bruce, this wouldn’t have been possible. I thank him from the bottom of my heart and will forever be indebted to him.
My Nan told me that, Jesse had a friend he used to go to the pub with at weekends, he came to see George (Jesse’s Son) after Jesse passed to say how sorry he was about Jesse. He also said, they were saving money together and Jess kept it at his house, he thought it was about two hundred pounds. He was a nice man and George had not reason to doubt him, especially as George had found, two hundred pound in his Dad’s wardrobe. But he only found one lot of money. Of course we were in a quandary, and didn’t know what to do. Uncle Alf, said “Don’t pay it to him as he had no proof that Dad had the money.”
We went round to Milton Road a few nights later, we looked everywhere for the money but couldn’t find it. Then George said he had heard his Dads voice and it told him to take the wooden surround from the fireplace in the front room.
He took it out and there was the two hundred pounds.
We would never have found it, if George hadn’t heard Jesse’s voice.
I asked my cousin Natasha, Daughter of Lynn Townsend, Jesse’s youngest Daughter, if she could ask her Mum, if she had any memories of her Dad. Even though Lynn was very young when she lost her father, she still remembers him and has kindly shared a few of them with us.
Natasha wrote –
So this is some of the things my mum (Lynn Townsend), told me about her Dad Jesse.
He worked in Howard’s timber yard (we think that is what it was called) in Northam. He would walk to and back from work every day from Milton Road.
Sometimes he would bring wood back and make fruit bowls and candle sticks on his lathe spinner. (Would be lovely to see some of his work).
He also once brought tins of wood back to make a parquet flooring in their front room!! Must have been a very strong man to carry so much all that way.
She said he also made wooden tables.
He often walked to the Edinburgh pub near the fire station in St Mary’s to meet his friends. One name was called ‘Tiny’ although he was a large bloke!
Jesse would often take my mum/Lynn, although she would be left outside in the garden as she was not allowed in, with a drink and packet of crisps! (In all-weather 🙁)
He had two lady friends called Bridget and Betty, that would come for Sunday tea, my mum liked these ladies, they were nice to her and sometimes took her to the Lido in Southampton.
She also said Jesse would take her to the beach.
He also had a friend called Jack. Jesse always moaned that his vest looked dirty and made him take it off so that he could wash it for him.
Mum said he use to show how strong he was by letting her sit on his arm 💪🏼.
When my mum was older she had a friend that use to visit her grandparents near them, who encouraged my mum to have parties when Jesse would go off to the pub. They always made sure they were chucked out before he returned but unfortunately
one of the neighbours complained and they had the police round.
That really is as much as my mum could tell me.
My Nan, Jesse’s Daughter In-Law, sent me an email, with her memories also.
She said –
I am going to try to tell you what I know about my late Father-in-law which isn’t a great deal, he was a very quiet shy man rather hard to get to know.
Jesse was hard-working, he worked with wood for “Tagart, Morgan & Coles”, a steam sawyer and timber merchant based at Cross House Wharf, over at Woolston, Southampton.
He walked there and back to work every day. Dad could tell what tree wood came from just by looking at it. One thing I do believe is that, he loved Eva, very much, for he never legally separated from her although she left him after twenty-five years of marriage. As you know, Eva left him with a two-year old child who had just had a serious thyroid operation, and who cried and cried for her Mother. But Jess would have taken her back, even though she was set up with Reg by then. In spite of Lynne and Joyce she never came back. I was home from Germany when Eva left and Dad (Jesse) wanted me to stay and look after the family but my George wanted me back home with him.
Jess had a series of housekeepers but none of them worked out.
He was very close to his brother Alf and his wife Maudie, they helped him a lot with Lynne And Joyce.
He had a workshop in the garden, where he made lovely wooden fruit bowls, egg cups, ash trays, table lamps etc. He was very clever with his hands.
Dad/Jesse made me a powder bowl, it is in the bathroom, I use it every day ,he told me it was made of green heart oak a very hard wood. Over the last 50 odd years, the powder has got ingrained into the wood.
Jesse also made George and I, a fruit bowl. I stood a plant in it on a saucer but must I have over watered it and it spilled into the wood and it went mouldy, I was very upset.
He was a good-looking Man. George and Ray looked a bit like him, Ray more so.
He worked hard and he liked a pint at the weekend.
Dad/Jesse had a very serious motor bike accident when he was about nineteen, one of his legs was shorter than the other he was unable to kneel down so couldn’t join the forces during the war.
I think Dads eyes were blue the same as my George’s, He was quite tall about 5 ft Ten I would guess. He prided himself that his hair was not grey, it was really dark, but after he died George found the hair dye he had been using, we had a laugh about it, so he was a bit vain about his appearance and why not he was a good-looking man. His Brother Alf called him “Splinter”, it was his nickname for him, I don’t know why probably because he worked with wood.
Jesse’s death at fifty-nine, was a terrible shock to us.
He didn’t deserve all that unhappiness.
My Mum, also shared her memories, she wrote –
I don’t remember him hardly at all. I do recall I stayed the night at Milton Road, just once and his toilet was in the garden.
When Lynn and I went to bed, he came in with a bucket and said to me if you are taken short in the night use this gal.
I was horrified, we had an indoor bathroom. I’d never used a bucket in my life.
When I left the next day he gave me a tiny book about 1 inch square. It has a blue leather cover and the print is so small. I still have it and treasure it.
I remember him as a lovely man who didn’t talk much but was very kind.
That’s all I remember of him, sad isn’t it to never really know your Grandad.
To read these special memories is an absolute joy, not only do they bring his spirit alive, they preserve his life and soul.
It’s those little memories, snippets into his life and character, that to me are so important to document.
All the census’s, certificates and legal documentation are fascinating but hearing or reading, personal accounts of an ancestors history and memories are what really make family research a joy.
I’m a very strong believer in documentation, documenting your own life, you own dreams and goals, your own achievements, your loves, your hates and most importantly your personality. Because when we become dust in the wind, it’s only memories that keep us all alive.
So ask questions, be as nosy as you can be, without upsetting the apple cart and document even the smallest of details. Because those what we call insignificant details, are the most important ones. They will become lost, if we don’t persevere them and cherish them.
Hopefully in years to come, his descendants will read all about him and smile as their minds draw their own picture of the man who’s dna runs through their blood.
May he rest peacefully, knowing I’ve done my up most to paint a picture of our one and only, Jesse Edward Townsend.
May he never be forgotten!
Jesse Edward Townsend
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Please do not download or use them without my permission.