#52ancestors (Wk18): Pets – Charles and James Watts

Horses loomed large as I considered Week 18’s #52Ancestors theme of ‘Pets’. The animals are not really what you would consider as a domestic pet, like a dog or a cat, but equally, they are not your typical farm animal. The bonds between a human and any horses they have in their lives are deep. I have seen it at close quarters with my cousin’s daughter Holly, her Mum Jo, and the horses they care for and ride locally (particularly in Bramshill Forest), and the shows they attend as horse enthusiasts. The definitions say that while horses might not really be called ‘pets’, and ‘livestock’ doesn’t always cut it, ‘companion animals’ is more often a suitable way of describing that deep relationship.

Horses and the Watts family:

Horses have played a large part in the lives of many ancestors on my Mum’s Dad’s side of the family. It’s not something I’d considered much before I’d embarked on my family tree. I will use this opportunity to focus on my 3x great grandfather, James Watts (1843-1907) and his Dad, my 4x great grandfather, Charles Watts (1812-1871). For the most part, James’ occupation was listed as a blacksmith, so horses will have played a large part in his life. His Dad’s occupation was variously listed as a harness-maker, and as a saddler, so specifically related to horses.

My 4x great grandfather Charles Watts was born on 15 January, 1812 in Odiham, Hampshire (England), to James Watts and Sarah Brinton. He was baptised in the Independent, nonconformist tradition on 16 February, 1812.

Charles married Sarah Wooldridge (1812-1895) from a nearby hamlet called Whitehall, in Odiham late in 1842. Sarah already had two children by this point, but in the 1841 Census, Charles Watts and Sarah Wooldridge were living together at an address in The Bury, Odiham in the year before their marriage, the two children apparently taking her name – Charles Wooldridge (born 1837) and Sarah Wooldridge (born 1839). The son would go on to take both their surnames, while the daughter would take his name, Watts. Charles was listed as a harness-maker – someone who cuts, assembles and joins leather and other parts of harnesses specifically for horses, and in particular, so they could pull carriages.

The couple had four more children: my 3x great grandfather, James Watts (born 1843); Benjamin Thomas Watts (born 1845); Frances Watts (born 1848); and Mary Amelia Watts (born 1857). By the time of the 1861 Census, Charles was being listed as a saddler – making an array of leather items for a broader range of riders of horses (not just working horses) including bridles, saddles and harnesses.

Charles died on 30 January, 1871. His wife Sarah lived until early 1895, remaining in the centre of Odiham.

Two of Charles’ children continued that link with horses in their professional lives. The first born, Charles Wooldridge Watts went on to become a blacksmith, as did James Watts, my 3x great grandfather. One of the main jobs a blacksmith would have undertaken in such a rural location would have been making and fitting horseshoes.

Watts Junior – the blacksmith:

James was born in early 1843, and baptised on 2 April, 1843, by now in the Church of England in Odiham, Hampshire, England. However, by the time he married, it was again in the Independent tradition, in Odiham Chapel. They married in a leap year – 1868 – on 29 February. His wife was Patience Wyeth (1844-1911) who came from Rotherwick, Hampshire. She will have a post to herself in a week later in the year, suffice to say I have remained enchanted by her name. James’ occupation is given as blacksmith on the marriage certificate.

James and Patience went on to have a total of nine children. First born Harry Watts (born 1868) did not survive more than a couple of months. Then came James Watts (born 1869); my 2x great grandmother Kate Watts (1871-1943); Albert Watts (born 1873); Charles Frederick Watts (1876-1948); Alice Amelia Watts (1879-1929); Tom Watts (born 1881); George Watts (1884-1952) and the youngest, Walter Watts (1886-1918). Kate’s story features in a future week.

The family moved around throughout the period, but remained in Odiham. In the 1871 Census, the couple lived in King Street, Odiham, with just one child, James. By the 1881 Census, they are living on the Alton Road, Odiham, James as a Blacksmith’s Labourer, and his wife Patience as a washerwoman. Five children are living in the family home – James (11); Kate (9); Albert (7); Charles (4) and Alice (2).

By the time of the 1891 Census, the family are still living on the Alton Road, but at a well-known local landmark, the Chalk Pit (see link). James is now a general labourer. Living at home with them now are Albert (17), an errand boy; Alice (11); Tom (9); George (7); and Walter (4). By this time, James, Kate and interestingly young Charles (15) have already flown the nest. He is living and working as a servant to a baker on the High Street.

The Chalk Pit on the Alton Road remains the family residence by the time of the 1901 Census. James Watts (58) is by a bill poster – someone who puts up advertising posters in public places – working under his own account. Five children remain at home, working in a real variety of occupations: Albert (27) is a coachman groom maintaining the horse theme; Alice (21) is a laundress; Tom (19) is a postman; George (17) is an omnibus driver; and Walter (14), like his older brother Charles before, is a baker. What a household!

My 3x great grandfather James Watts died in June 1907. His wife Patience died in September 1911.

Horses have a name on my Mum’s Dad’s side of the family:

A Horse With No Name‘ – America.
Old black and white photo of three men posing in front of an old lorry, parked up next to a dilapidated shed building.
An early photo of my grandfather Frank Holland (centre), posing in front of one of the smaller lorries he drove.

It wasn’t just the Watts that were associated with horses. My Mum’s Dad himself, my grandfather Frank Holland (1921-2014) at one point drove lorries for a local firm which transported livestock. One of the tasks this included was delivering horses to the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh in 1970. His full story follows in a future week.

Five of a fleet of lorries used to transport livestock, parked up in their open garage building. Beautiful brown and light blue effect to the image. Must have been taken some time in the early Seventies.
The fleet of lorries, one of which would have been used by my grandfather to transport horses to the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh. The fleet belonged to Grays who were based in Finchampstead.

Frank’s grandfather, my 2x great grandfather Joseph Holland (1850-1914) had an occupation listed as coachman groom. I think it meant he had duties on the stagecoaches, but it could have been more broad. Ironically, the cause of his death was being knocked down and killed in an accident with a horse and cart near where he was living in Shooter’s Hill, South East London. His story also follows in a future week.

The final tangible equine link is that of my 3x great grandfather, Thomas Sawyer (1837-1867), originally from Hull, Yorkshire. His full story follows in a future week, particularly as it unearths colonial links with India and Ireland that I had not been expecting to discover. The horse link is that he served in the 6th Dragoon Guards – a cavalry or ‘regiment of horse’. He was Kate Watts’ father-in-law, and died while serving with the British Army in Clonmel, Ireland.

Pet subject:

This week’s theme of ‘Pets’ has proved a valuable starting point for reflection. I decided early on that it would be difficult sourcing much information on any ancestor’s pets beyond the more immediate generations, so I wanted to consider what constitutes a pet.

Looking at the role horses played in the lives of my 3x and 4x great grandfathers, James and Charles Watts, as well as the string of other ancestors on my Mum’s Dad’s side of the family through their working lives, I can indeed concur that horses are NOT pets, but they have played, and continue to play a huge role in many people’s lives, and do often stray beyond the description of livestock into ‘companion animals’. A strong bond. In some ways, a relationship of equals – personality and intelligence – but above all, there must be love.

Thank you for reading this week’s post. If you can shed any light on anything, correct anything I have written, or have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me. As the name of the fast stagecoach between London and Birmingham put it, operated by Sarah Ann Mountain from 1823, “Tally-ho”!


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