My 3x Great Grandfather Thomas May seems to have had an eventful life.
Born in Hinckley, Leicestershire in 1819 Thomas was the fourth child of William May & Catherine Townsend.
William was working as a tailor in Castle Street at the time of Thomas’s birth, he later became a master tailor & draper and hosiery manufacturer. He was also a publican and an agent for Royal Exchange Assurance.
In the 1841 census Thomas was working as a warehouseman, previously he had been in a partnership with his father as an insurance agent for Fire & Life.
By 1843 Thomas had followed his father into the hosiery business in Hinckley and had also married Sophia Lapworth, the daughter of John Lapworth and Mary Ann Hunt, in Coventry.
During the next ten years Thomas is noted in the local trade directories as a hosier; by the 1851 census he is a master hosier employing forty men, so obviously doing quite well for himself and his family. At this point he and Sophia have three children; William, Alice and Mary Ann.
Their eldest son, William, was born in Manchester in 1844, which seemed odd, so I researched a little further to find a reason for this. I found that Thomas’s older sister, Elizabeth, had married John Evans in 1833. In the following years John had many varied occupations in different parts of the country, railway porter, inspector of police (I find that a little difficult to believe!), sawyer, labourer and publican. In 1843, Elizabeth and John had a daughter, Catharine, in Manchester, so it’s possible that Thomas and Sophia were with them around this time.
Between the years 1846 and 1854, according to the local directories,Thomas May was also a publican; he had the Star at Stockwell Head in Hinckley.
|Stockwell Head, Hinckley
In 1854 Thomas and Sophia had twins, Louisa and Richard Henry, both baptised on the 29th June at St. Mary’s Hinckley. Thomas’s occupation is noted here as hosier and grocer. Sadly, Richard died on the 4th December the same year and was buried at St. Mary’s.
Following this there is no further trace of Thomas in Hinckley. The Star’s landlord in 1855 is John Huston. There is a mention of a Thomas May as a landlord of The Grapes in Leicester in March 1856, but there’s no proof that this is the same man. if it is him, he’s running a disorderly house!
The proof of where Thomas & his family ended up is in the 1861 census. They were living in Dale Street, Sneinton, Nottingham. Thomas was employed as a warehouse man and there was a new addition to the family, a daughter, Julia, born in Nottingham in February 1857. So they must have been in Nottingham by early 1857.
I found a possible mention of Thomas in the newspaper court reports of 1858. It appears that Thomas had bought some shop fixtures from a Mr Slingsby in 1856 that were not actually his to sell. Thomas ended up paying the shop landlord for the items and was attempting to reclaim his money from Slingsby. Thomas lost this case, which may have been quite a blow to the family finances.
If this is the right man then he must have arrived in Nottingham sometime in 1856. I’m reasonably confident that it is him; there are other Thomas Mays living in Nottingham in both the 1851 and 1861 census but none of their occupations fit and my Thomas was working in a warehouse in 1861. He may have been trying to set himself back up in business in his new city.
In 1862, his wife Sophia died aged 42 of a malignant disease of the womb and was buried at St Stephens in Sneinton.
Thomas was an executor of his Uncle Richard May’s will in 1869, he swore an oath in Leicestershire and was described as a hosier living in Belgrave.
In the 1871 census 52 year old Thomas was recorded as a visitor at the Pump Tavern in Aston, Birmingham. His older sister Elizabeth & her husband John Evans were the keepers of the pub.
Thomas’s son, William, had married Emma Carr; they spent a few years in Nottingham and later moved back to Leicestershire. His daughters Alice, Mary Ann, Louisa and Julia remained in Nottingham and were living together in 1871 at High Pavement.
In September of 1871, Thomas married Sophia Staples, a widow, nee Sault, at St Pauls in Aston. John & Elizabeth Evans were the witnesses.
I have been unable to find much information about Thomas’s life after this time. In 1873 his daughter Alice married William Oldknow Oldham in Nottingham and gave her father’s occupation as publican.
Thomas died aged 55 on the 9th August 1874 at the home of his sister, Elizabeth in Belgrave, Leicestershire. Her husband John Evans was present at his death and was the informant. Thomas was buried at St Peters church, Belgrave.
The cause of death was hepatic dropsy; related to the liver and possibly cirrhosis.
I’ve been unable to find out why Thomas & Sophia left Hinckley in 1854/5. It seems quite a fall in status from an employer of 40 men in 1851 to a warehouse man in 1861. The May family did have money; they were landowners in Sutton Cheney, Leicestershire. Thomas’s father, William, had been described as gentry in one local directory, and he owned his own house in Hinckley. Thomas was the eldest surviving son so it would be usual for him to have inherited the majority of his parent’s estate.
I suspect that alcohol may have been part of it exacerbated by his run of bad luck beginning with the death of his infant son in 1854, his loss in status, loss of money in Nottingham and then the death of his wife. His lifelong proximity to alcohol is obvious and the cause of his death most likely alcohol related.