"Each has his own tree of ancestors, but at the top of all sits Probably Arboreal." - Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, 14 December 2012

From looking at old photographs: 3. Mystery Wedding

Mystery number three is more recent. I came across a lovely photograph of my dad’s parents, John Newby and Fay Rayner, with my grandfather’s parents, the mysterious Walter Newby and Margaret Thompson, pictured outside the front door of what appears to be a church. I then found another photograph clearly taken at the same event: the same church appears, and all four are wearing the exact same outfits, down to the headband/fascinator worn by Fay.
The event in question is a wedding. The second photograph quite possibly pictures all of the wedding guests; it is a very large group photo. Given that two generations of the family are in attendance, and that the photograph was kept for such a long time, it seems likely that it’s the wedding of a family member or a very close family friend. Of course, I’m now determined to come up with a probably identity for the bride and groom, so let’s look at the evidence:
No date is given, but I can fairly easily deduct that it was most likely taken some time in the late 1950s. My grandparents married in the summer of 1956, and separated when my dad (b. 1963) was aged two or three, so it couldn’t have been much later than 1965-ish. To my (admittedly clueless) eye, the fashions look more fifties or early sixties, so I’m leaning towards earlier rather than later in the period 1956–66
On their marriage, my grandmother was only seventeen, though my granddad was older at twenty-four, and I’m under the impression that it all happened fairly quickly. With that in mind, I think it’s unlikely that this photograph was taken before their marriage. My dad’s oldest sister was born around a year later in June 1957. The next child, a daughter, was born in October 1958, her third child, a son, in the summer of 1960, and finally my dad in August 1963.
Given the young age of my grandmother in this photograph, I would assume it was taken within a couple of years of their wedding. As she’s not visibly pregnant in the photograph, I would be inclined to rule out the periods of early 1957, mid- to late 1958, and early 1960. So, we’re looking at either the first half of 1956, the July 1957 to spring 1958, or any time during 1959.
I think it’s doubtful from their ages in the photograph that it was taken much later than that, but as I can’t be sure, I have to consider the possibility that it was taken some time from late 1960 to the end of 1962, or even after the birth of my dad, into the mid-sixties.  However, I’d still guess earlier rather than later.
The next thing is location. Now, ordinarily identifying a church on the basis of an image of its front door, given that it could be taken almost anywhere in the country, might be rather tricky. The church has a sort of triangular shaped ‘porch’, with the church sign (too small to read, even with my trust magnifying glass) affixed to it. However, we’re helped somewhat by the presence of a pub with a clearly legible sign in the background: The New Inn. One of the photographs is taken from a slightly different angle, and we can also see the side of a building, probably a house, alongside the pub.
I’ve started with the likelihood that the church was fairly local to my grandparents, somewhere in the Wakefield area. It can’t be proven of course, but I needed a starting point for investigation and close to home seems sensible, especially as the families in question had all been fairly local for a couple of generations by now as far as I know.
I asked my dad about local pubs by this name, and one suggestion was at Durkar, roughly five miles from my home town of Horbury, where John and Fay were living at Sunroyd Hill in the early years of their marriage. Google informs me that the New Inn at Durkar is located on Denby Dale Road East. A search for churches in the vicinity reveals the Primitive Methodist church a short way down the road. The nearest C of E church is too far away. However, this brick building doesn’t look right – I would have said it was stone (bearing in mind I don’t have access to the photograph and I’m doing this from memory) – and I can’t see the triangular-shaped entrance porch. Also, studying  the relative locations of pub and church on both Google Maps and Geograph convinced me that the church was too far from the pub for its sign to have been visible in the photograph – indeed, I’m not convinced that the pub would be visible at all from the church. Also, looking the pub, it doesn’t quite look right.
So, I tried a generic search for pubs called the New Inn located in West Yorkshire, and then scanned the images and locations for likely candidates. And, by Jove, I think I’ve got it! There is a pub called the New Inn on Shay Lane in Walton, roughly 6½ miles from Horbury. And, whitin the first few Google images, I found this image With the caption: The Methodist Church, view towards the New Inn, Shay Lane. There is the stone building with triangular porch and a sign affixed to the wall. And there is the pub, clearly visible in the background – at least from this angle. The pub does look sort of right, if my memory serves me. I am a little concerned that this pub is still a bit too far away. The foliage beyond the front door, in the middle distance between the two, wasn’t there (the tree might have been), but that could have been planted later.
However, I’m not sure whether there’s enough space between the door and the wall and railings for my photograph to have been taken there, unless they are also later additions. This is possible, though they do look quite old. I haven’t been able to find any older photographs of the church to check this. I suppose an older local person might remember, or I might have to try a local publication. I could even contact the church and ask if they know when they were added.
Overall, I’m about 90% confident I’ve found the right church. My dad knows the entire area very well, as he drives around it for work, so I intend to ask him what he thinks – he might even be able to take the photograph with him on his travels and do the comparison for me.
I’m very intrigued by the fact that this was a Methodist church. Though my home town has quite a strong Methodist tradition, the only evidence I have of any kind of Methodist leanings in my family is that my dad’s older sister got married in the recently demolished Methodist church in Horbury in the late seventies. I wonder if there was a hint of Methodism on my dad’s side after all – after all, I’ve only scratched the surface on his grandfather Walter’s side. And, given the presence of Walter and his wife, it seems likely that this wedding was on his side of the family. However, Margaret and Walter married in an Anglican church.
So, who got married at Walton Methodist church in the 1950s? I'll certainly be checking out Ancestry's Yorkshire non-conformist records, though I'm not sure how up-to-date they come.
It’s definitely not the marriage of Fay’s brother Leslie Gordon Rayner, as his wife was an Italian Catholic. Plus, I would definitely recognise them.
It could possibly be the marriage of John’s brother Trevor Newby, who married Brenda Hartley in the first quarter of 1958. It fits into my schedule of likely dates. However, I think my dad would have recognised them in the image. On the other hand, Walton falls under the Lower Agbrigg registration district in which their marriage was registered, so perhaps I’ll get him to take another look.
Alternatively, it could be a cousin. Walter had, I believe, four brothers: (you can find out more about this on Another Piece of the Puzzle), while Margaret was one of twelve children?. I think I need to devote some time to chasing down the marriages of the various siblings and see if I can figure out who it could be!
L x

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