Text below is provided by Kenny Marshall who did a considerable amount of research into James Forrester.
Our story begins in 1836 with the inquest into the death of Thomas Forrister, Hugh Grant Forrester’s great grandfather. Thomas had been to Market Drayton and was returning to his 100+ acre farm in Cheswardine. Naturally, he had had a few pints. He met a ‘very tipsy’ person in a gig. According to the inquest, held in the local pub, as the gig passed him the noise of the whip lash and call startled him and he fell against the wheel. It was said that he was not seriously injured but afterwards he took cold and died of inflammation of the lungs. The jury concluded that the gig accident had nothing to do with his death. Could it be that the tipsy gig driver was local gentry whom the jury did not want to offend?
Next in Grandad’s line was James Forrester, Thomas’s eldest surviving son. He seems to have had a bit of a temper, a trait that Grandad inherited. As the eldest lad, James probably expected to inherit the farm, as was the custom of the time, but it was not to be. The 1841 census shows Thomas’s widow Jane (nee Plumb, born in London) as Head of the household, and his older, bachelor brother Joseph as Farmer. Then come the three surviving children, Deborah, the eldest, James and George, the youngest, and, finally, three male servants and two females, so they were quite affluent. But trouble had reared it’s ugly head before that. In 1839 James had an altercation with his Uncle Joe which resulted in him being taken before the beak and bound over to keep the peace. The surety was posted at £30, which was a lot of money in those days, so Jim and his mate must have given old Joe a right pasting. Not a nice thing to do considering that he was only 32 whilst Joe was 63. What exactly James had done to fall out of favour in the first place we don’t know. We know nothing more until the eventful year of 1849. A Matthew Whilton had come on to the scene and was courting Debbie. At the beginning of July James got married. Then a few weeks later Matthew married Debbie – and got the lease of the farm transferred to him as her husband. Debbie was 46 at the time, which suggests that the marriage was very much an arranged one rather than a love match. Perhaps old Jane/ Joe, getting a bit long in the tooth by the standards of the day, wanted to pass the lease of the farm to Debbie but the landlord was not too happy about it, given that there were eligible sons available and women’s property rights were not too attractive. However, when she married, her property would automatically pass to her husband so – bingo – the problem was solved.
Not surprisingly, James was not too pleased with this development and decided to show it in his customary manner – with his fists. So he was taken before the beak and bound over again. This time the surety was only £10 each for him and Thomas Lockley, his wife’s grandfather, to keep away from Matthew Whilton, so it appears that he had not thumped Matthew as hard as he had thumped Uncle Joe. By the time of the 1851 census Matthew was shown as Head of the household at the farm, although Jane, his mum-in-law, and old Joe were still there. Meanwhile, James and his family, including his wife’s gran, Mary Lockley, had moved to another village. He was described as a ‘sheppard’. He moved on from there to Hanley, in the Black Country, and got work in the coal industry. He was a labourer in 1853 but had become a ‘pit banksman’ (looking after the movement of tubs on and off the cage) by 1861. All a bit of a comedown for someone who had expected to be an affluent farmer by then. Old Joe died in 1855. In his will he left a fiver a year to George and the rest of the family property to Debbie, including a couple of houses and gardens. Nothing to James. However, our Jim was having none of that so he contested the will. We lose contact with him and his family from 1861 to 1871, by which time James had ‘gone to a better place’. We can’t find any death records for him, but Joe’s will was finally proved in 1867 so it’s likely that Jim died at about that time.
James had married Mary Ann Martin. She had been born in Wellington to William and Ann (nee Lockley). Her Mum was so proud of her maiden name that she passed it on to her son – Thomas Lockley Martin. They lived nobbut a brisk walk from Sherwood Forest, where Robin Hood had hung out. Robin’s square moniker was Robin of Locksley. so, who knows, we might be related to Robin Hood! When Mary Ann was 10 she was living with her grandparents, Thomas Lockley and Mary (nee Joy). Thomas was a publican, keeping the Forrester’s local. Mary Ann was described as a Servant. Quite normal in those days. Children younger than her were still working in coal mines and dark, satanic mills. She was 18 when she married James. He was 42. They had a couple of daughters whilst they were still in Cheswardine, then a son followed by another couple of daughters whilst they were in Hanley. Mary Ann seems to have been very unlucky with her daughters. Only one appears to have survived to adulthood and she was born deaf and dumb. She eventually became Grandad’s Mum.