FENN : Bilston, Short Heath and Wolverhampton

My earliest traceable ancestor on this line was Robert Fenn, born c.1750, probably son of Robert Fenn “of the Lanes” living at Ettingshall, just south-west of Bilston.  The younger Robert married Hannah Croft at St Peter’s, Wolverhampton, on 16 November 1770. Their children baptised here were Thomas (20 May 1771), Mary (11 April 1773), William (24 June 1775), Elizabeth (10 Nov 1777), Sally (6 Mar 1780), Betty (20 May 1782, buried 30 Dec 1783), Robert (12 July 1784, died in infancy), John (7 May 1786), Benjamin (24 Aug 1788), Joseph (25 Apr 1791) and my direct forebear Robert (5 May 1794).

Hannah Croft had been baptised at St Leonard’s, Bilston, on 17 Dec 1752, daughter of William and Hannah Croft. She died at Bilston aged 61 and was buried on 25 December 1813; and her husband Robert Fenn was buried on 21 October 1824, aged 74.  The parish register records abode as Ettingshall lanes (sic).

Robert, the youngest son of their family, worked as a collier. He married Mary Sheldon at Sedgley, Staffordshire, on 15 April 1816 (his brother William was a witness) and they lived at Ettingshall Lane, Bilston. Their children, baptised at St Peter’s, included my great-great-grandfather Samuel (30 Sept 1816), Joseph (25 June 1820, died aged 26), Hannah (4 May 1823), Robert (12 June 1825), William (23 Jan 1828), Ellen (31 May 1830), Enoch (13 Dec 1832) and Jane (20 Sept 1835).

In 1841 the family was recorded at Ettingshall Lane:
Robert Fenn, aged 45, coal miner
Mary Fenn, aged 45
Hannah aged 15, coal miner
Robert, aged 14, coal miner
William, aged 12, coal miner
Ellen, aged 10
Enoch, aged 8
Jane, aged 6.

By 1851 the family had moved, and the census shows them living at Snapes Lodge, adjacent to Pool Hayes in the parish of Holy Trinity, Willenhall:
Robert Fenn, head, aged 57, coal miner, born Bilston
Mary Fenn, wife, aged 55, born Weatonaston (sic)
William, son, aged 21, coal miner, born Bilston
Ellen, daughter, aged 20, milner (milliner), born Bilston
Enoch, son, aged 18, coal miner, born Bilston
Jane, daughter, aged 15, born Bilston
*Joseph, son, aged 6, scholar, born Bilston (grandson)
Joseph Chadwick, servant, aged 20, coal miner, born Wolverhampton
William Marlow, servant, aged 16, coal miner, born Wolverhampton
Charles Chadwick, servant, aged 10, coal miner, born Penn.

*this Joseph was a grandson, born in November 1844, son of Joseph who married Hannah Yarsley at West Bromwich on 13 July 1841, and died five years later.  Young Joseph remained with his grandmother Mary Fenn until her death and is recorded with her on later censuses as ‘grandson’.

By the time of the 1861 census all but the youngest of the family had left home, and the parents were now living at 40 New Cross, Wednesfield:
Robert Fenn, aged 67, coal miner, born Bilston
Mary, wife, aged 65, born Wheaton Aston
Joseph, son, aged 16, coal miner, born Bilston (grandson).

Robert Fenn was buried on 14 March 1869 at the parish church of Wednesfield Heath, aged 75.  His abode was recorded in the register as New Cross.  On the 1871 census his widow Mary was living at 45 New Cross, Wednesfield, with her grandson Joseph Fenn, and married daughter Jane Clifft and Jane’s children Thomas (14) and Ellen (10).  

Mary Fenn died here at New Cross on 18 March 1883, aged 87.

Her eldest son, my great-great-grandfather Samuel, married Jane Bratt at Tipton parish church on Monday, 27 January 1840. The marriage certificate shows him to be full age, a miner, living at Bilston, son of Robert Fenn, a miner; and Jane, a spinster under 21, living at Bilston, daughter of Thomas Bratt, buckle maker. Their witnesses were Samuel Evans and Mary Mann.

Samuel Fenn, coalmaster, 1816-1879

Their children included Samuel (bp 9 May 1841), Thomas (13 Aug 1843), Enoch (27 Oct 1845), Hannah (1847), Mary Jane (24 Feb 1850), William Robert (7 Mar 1852), my great-grandmother Ellen (5 Nov 1854), Joseph (5 Apr 1857), James (21 Aug 1859), Sarah (7 Apr 1861) and John (1 Mar 1863).

On the 1841 census Samuel and Jane were living near their parents at Ettingshall Lane, Bilston:
Samuel Fenn, aged 20, stone miner
Jane, aged 20
Samuel, aged 6 weeks.

A few doors along were Jane’s mother, Jane Bratt, aged 65, two of her brothers, Thomas and William Bratt, and three of her Fereday cousins, Samuel, Thomas and John.

The 1851 census shows the family living at 40 Rough Hills, Wolverhampton:
Samuel Fenn, head, aged 34, mine agent, born Bilston
Jane Fenn, wife, aged 29, born Bilston
Samuel, son, aged 9, scholar, born Bilston
Thomas, son, aged 7, scholar, born Bilston
Enoch, son, aged 5, scholar, born Bilston
Hannah, daughter, aged 3, born Willenhall
Mary Jane, daughter, aged 1, born Willenhall
Harriett Butler, unmarried servant, aged 12, born Walsall

The family Bible records that my great-grandmother Ellen was “born on September 27 1854 Tuesday morning at ½ past 6 o’clock at Rough Hills near Wolverhampton”.

In 1859 the family was at Fryer Street, Wolverhampton, and Samuel Fenn was described as ‘coal master’ in St Peter’s baptismal register.

On the 1861 census the family was at Lane Head Road, Willenhall:
Samuel Fenn, head, aged 44, mine agent, born Bilston
Jane, wife, aged 39, born Bilston
Samuel, son, aged 19, clerk, born Bilston
Thomas, son, aged 17, miner, born Bilston
Enoch, son, aged 15, miner, born Bilston
Hannah, daughter, aged 13, born Willenhall
Mary, daughter, aged 11, scholar born Willenhall
William, son, aged 9, scholar, born Willenhall
Joseph, son, aged 4, scholar, born Willenhall
James, son, aged 1, born Walsall
Sarah, daughter, aged 1 month, born Lane Head
Martha Jobber, general servant, aged 18, born Willenhall.

On the 1861 census, my six-year-old great-grandmother Ellen was staying at 14 George Street, Ettingshall. Head of the house was her uncle, William Bratt, aged 45, an unmarried machine clerk born at Bilston, living with his widowed sister, Elizabeth Mann, aged 60, housekeeper, likewise born at Bilston. There was also a house servant, Sarah Peplow, aged 23.

Ten years later, in 1871, the Fenn family was at Pool Hayes, Willenhall:
Samuel Fenn, head, aged 54, coal master employing 30 men and 4 boys
Jane, wife, aged 49, born Bilston
Enoch, son, aged 25, machine man at colliery, born Bilston
Hannah, daughter, aged 23, housekeeper, born Willenhall
William Robert, son, aged 19, engine fitter, born Willenhall
Ellen, daughter, aged 16, scholar, born Wolverhampton
Joseph, son, aged 14, scholar, born Wolverhampton
James, son, aged 11, scholar, born Walsall
Sarah, daughter, aged 10, scholar, born Willenhall
John, son, aged 8, scholar, born Willenhall.

In May 1872 a mortgage was taken out on pieces of land at Rough Hills, namely the Green Lane piece, Pountneys Field, Evans piece, Cockshuts piece and Colliery ground. Those named on the mortgage document were 1. William Fenn and Enoch Fenn of Wolverhampton, coal merchants, and 2. Samuel Fenn, coalmaster.

After Samuel Fenn’s death, in October 1879 the mortgage on these pieces of land was transferred. This time those named were 1. Samuel Fenn of the Priory Hotel, Walsall, licensed victualler; Thomas Fenn of Lane Head, Short Heath, mining engineer; Enoch Fenn of Pool Hayes, Willenhall, colliery proprietor; William Robert Fenn of Pool Hayes, colliery proprietor (trustees of the Will of Samuel Fenn), 2. William Fenn of Wolverhampton, coal merchant, and 3. Joseph Crowther Smith of Newbridge House, esquire.

Jane (Bratt) Fenn died aged 53 on 17 November 1874 at Pool Hayes, Willenhall. Cause of death was heart disease, with anasarca (diffused dropsy) of 4 months. Samuel remarried on 9 August 1875 at Sedgley to Rhoda Poole. He himself died at Pool Hayes Farm on 6 July 1878 aged 61, of phthisis (a type of TB) in the presence of his son, Thomas, leaving a personal estate less than £7,000 (of which £50 went to his widow, the rest to his four sons – see his Will below). The death certificate describes him as a coal master.

On the 1881 census Rhoda Fenn is shown as a widow aged 75 in receipt of an annuity living on Goldthorn Hill, Wolverhampton, with her widowed sister Hannah Rollason, aged 66, ‘no occupation, dependent on help of friends’. Both were born at Sedgley. Rhoda Fenn died aged 82 in 1889.

Ellen Fenn married my great-grandfather John Thomas Glover at St Matthew’s Walsall on 31 May 1881, when she was 26 and her bridegroom 23. Their witnesses were Enoch Fenn and Elizabeth Moss (bridegroom’s married sister). The marriage certificate shows her father as Samuel Fenn, colliery proprietor.

A few months before Ellen’s marriage, the 1881 census recorded her living at home with her unmarried brothers and sisters at Pool Hayes Farm, Willenhall, Staffordshire:

Samuel Fenn, aged 39, unmarried, born Ettingshall, near Bilston; partner in colliery & farmer employing 5 men and one boy
*Enoch Fenn, brother, aged 35, unmarried, born Ettingshall, near Bilston; partner in colliery & farmer employing 5 men and one boy
Ellen Fenn, sister, aged 26, unmarried, born Rough Hills, Wolverhampton; housekeeper (domestic)
James Fenn, brother, aged 21, unmarried, born Walsall; colliery clerk
Sarah Fenn, sister, aged 20, unmarried, born Lane Head;
assistant housekeeper
John Fenn, brother, aged 18, unmarried, born Lane Head; merchant’s apprentice
John Fereday, cousin (lodger), aged 53, unmarried, born Wolverhampton; partner in colliery & farm worker.

*Enoch was born on 27 October 1845 at Ettingshall Lane, Bilston. On his birth certificate his father is described as a miner.

Another of the family, William Robert Fenn, a 29 year old partner in the colliery and ‘farm muggles’, was living at 74 Lane Head, Willenhall, with his 21 year old wife Mary Eliza. William Robert had been born on 22 January 1852 at Rough Hills. His birth certificate gives his father Samuel’s occupation as a ground bailiff. Between 1889-1891 William & Eliza migrated to Australia, where their descendants still live.

The 1881 census shows my great-great-grandmother, Mary (Shelton) Fenn as a widowed grandmother of 84, born at Wheaton Aston, Staffs, living at New Cross, Wednesfield, with her unmarried grandson Joseph, aged 37, born Ettingshall Road, a stock taker (general dealer). Mary Fenn died on 18 March 1883 aged 87. The death certificate gives her address as New Cross, Heath Town, and cause of death as senile decay. Present was her son, Robert.

The 1881 census also shows Samuel’s brother, Robert Fenn, (bp 12 June 1825) as a widower of 55, born Bilston, landlord of the Rose & Crown Inn at Wednesfield. With him were his son William and daughter-in-law Hannah, both 33 and born at Willenhall.

Another of Samuel’s brothers, William (bp 23 Jan 1828) is recorded living with his family at 5, Milton Villas, Upper Penn, Wolverhampton:
William Fenn, aged 53, born Bilston; colliery proprietor
Sarah, wife, aged 56, born Bedworth, Warwickshire
Clara A., daughter, aged 26, born Lane Head
*Dorcas E., daughter, aged 24, born Wednesfield
Roland W., son, aged 22, born Wednesfield
Patty, daughter, aged 20, born Wednesfield.
*Dorcas Ellen was baptised at Wednesfield 29 March 1857. Another daughter, Martha Edwards Fenn (was this Patty?) was baptised at Wednesfield 7 April 1861.

My great-grandmother, Ellen Fenn Glover, died on 3 June 1928, aged 73.

Fenn family group about 1890

Pool Hayes Farm was very old: in July 1660 William Whittaker of Princes St, Covent Garden, Middlesex, made a ‘discharge to Thomas Foley for sale of wood from farm called Pool Hayes in Wolverhampton.’

In July 1885 the partnership between Samuel, Enoch and William Robert Fenn and their cousin John Fereday was dissolved and the business wound up. The lease of Pool Hayes farm and colliery was sold to W.Bickley, of Short Heath, who was still the owner in 1896, employing 104 men below ground and 26 men above. The manager was G.Povey.

In 1918 Old Pool Hayes colliery was owned by Archibald Fenn, of the Bridge Tavern, Short Heath. It had nine men below ground and four above. Archibald Fenn was born c1877 in Willenhall, the son of Thomas & Rachael (née Smith) who had married in 1868. On the 1881 census Thomas Fenn, a son of Samuel, was employed as a rate collector and nuisance inspector. He and his wife Rachel are buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Short Heath, Willenhall, close to the grave of Samuel and Jane Fenn.

The site of Pool Hayes Farm, between Pool Hayes Lane and Pool Hayes Bridge, is now occupied by a small housing estate. Road names include The Hayes, Colliers Close, and Fenn Rise.

Samuel Fenn’s Will, 1878:

This is the last Will and Testament of me Samuel Fenn of Pool Hayes Willenhall in the County of Stafford Coal Master and Farmer. I hereby revoke all Wills and other testamentary dispositions heretofore made by me And declare this to be my last Will and Testament whereof I appoint my four sons, namely Samuel Fenn the younger Thomas Fenn Enoch Fenn and William Robert Fenn to be Executors.

I devise and bequeath all my share estate property right and interest in the Colliery a business called The Pool Hayes Colliery carried on by me in Co-partnership with John Fereday at Pool Hayes aforesaid and in the Colliery plant Estate stock (chattels?) and other property chattels and effects used in the said business And all my share Estate property right and interest in the Farm called the Pool Hayes Farm and in the Farming stock estate property goods chattels and effects used in carrying on the same And also all my messuages lands hereditaments and real Estate of every description and wheresoever situate of which I can dispose by Will and also all my wearing apparel linen consumables stores household furniture and other effects in and about my dwelling house and premises at my death and all my ready money money at any Bank or on any security and all and singular other my Personal Estate and effects of every description unto and to the use and behoof of the said Samuel Fenn the younger Thomas Fenn Enoch Fenn and William Robert Fenn their heirs executors administrators and assigns Upon trust that they the said Samuel Fenn the younger Thomas Fenn Enoch Fenn and William Robert Fenn or the survivors or survivor of them or the executors administrators or assigns of the last survivor of them or other the trustees or trustee for the time being of this my Will (which several persons are hereinafter designated my trustees or trustee) do and shall as soon as conveniently may be after my decease collect get in sell dispose of and convert into money the whole of my said real and Personal Estates and effects hereintofore devised and bequeathed which shall be outstanding or of a saleable nature and out of the money thence arising and out of my ready money do and shall pay unto my present wife Rhoda Fenn the sum of fifty pounds and then shall pay my funeral and testamentary expenses and debts and the cash charges and expenses of executing the trusts of this my (Will) And shall hold the residue of the said moneys upon trust for and to pay and divide the same to and between all my children living at my death in equal shares and proportions their several respective executors administrators and assigns I declare that my present wife Rhoda Fenn shall not be entitled to dower in or out of my Real Estate or any part thereof I devise all Estates vested in me by any trust or by way of mortgage unto the said Samuel Fenn the younger Thomas Fenn Enoch Fenn and William Robert Fenn their heirs and assigns as joint tenants upon the trusts and subject to the equities affecting the same I declare that the legacy share estate and interest to which any female shall become entitled under this my Will shall be for the sole and separate use of such female free from the debts control or engagements of any husband and the receipt of such female alone for any moneys payable to her under this my Will shall be a sufficient discharge.

In witness whereof I the said Samuel Fenn have hereto set my hand this twenty sixth day of June one thousand eight hundred and seventy eight – Samuel Fenn – signed and declared by the said Samuel Fenn and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us present at the same time who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have have hereunto subscribed our name as witnesses- John Mann Willenhall Coal Master – Jno. Riley Solicitor Wolverhampton.

Proved at London 26th August 1878 by the oaths of Samuel Fenn the younger Thomas Fenn Enoch Fenn and William Robert Fenn the sons the Executors to whom Admin was granted.

On the 26th day of August 1878 the Will of Samuel Fenn lately of Pool Hayes in the township of Willenhall in the County of Stafford Coal Master and Farmer deceased, who died on the 6th day of July 1878 at Pool Hayes aforesaid was proved in the Principal Registry of the Probate Division of the High Court of Justice, by the Oath of Samuel Fenn the younger of Walsall in the said County Licensed Victualler and Thomas Fenn Enoch Fenn and William Robert Fenn all of Pool Hayes aforesaid Coal Masters and Farmers the sons executors named in the Will.

Effects under £3000 leaseholds
Resworn October 1879 under £7000.