Apr 032018

Our members are participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge for 2018 with the theme People of My Place. Today's entry is from Richard Ewing.

William Conway was born in Handsacre in Staffordshire and lived there all his life. He had five brothers and two sisters, and his father was a blacksmith. Like most families at that time not all of his siblings survived childhood - one of his brothers and one of his sisters died young. He was the eldest son and trained as a blacksmith – his father had a forge and a shop in Handsacre. When he was 17 though his father became insolvent and the blacksmith’s shop was confiscated and sold on. His two younger brothers, Abraham and Isaac, never had the chance to become blacksmiths.

Abraham and Isaac were frequently in trouble and, in 1849, Isaac got caught with a gang of poachers who included Abraham Key, whose sister Abraham (Conway) was courting - and eventually married - which was perhaps why he wasn’t caught with the gang at the same time. The gang attacked a gamekeeper and three policemen one night who found them poaching and seven (of supposedly 16) were identified. During the trial Abraham Conway stated that Abraham Key had in fact been with him on the night in question. His perjury does not seem to have been a problem for him, but Abraham Key’s sentence was increased from 18 months to 24 months and hard labour was added on whilst Isaac was sentenced to 18 months. In between the first hearing and the actual trial Isaac Conway got married to Jane Sophia Best.

But William carried on as before, an unmarried middle-aged man working in a village as a blacksmith. Then, in 1858, Jane’s younger sister, Patience Best at just 20, married William who was twice her age. They went on to have eleven children amongst whom were Shadrach, Meshac and Abednego.

William was charged with manslaughter in June 1862. He was drinking with his friend Richard Green and others in the Crown Inn at Handsacre one night when Richard accused a navvy of stealing his purse. On leaving the pub the argument continued and William punched him once, knocking him down. The navvy, William Dew of Brewood, went to his lodgings with cuts and bruises to his face and when they got worse over the next few days applied butter to the cuts. After about 5 days he became delirious and died about two weeks after the punch.

During the trial, William’s character was supported by the two biggest farmers in the village and also by the Clerk to the Magistrates of Rugeley, a Mr. Crabb, who called him "a quiet, inoffensive man". The jury decided that death was due to improper treatment of the cuts and not from the blow and William was found Not Guilty.

So, Abraham and Isaac are not remembered today for their attacks on the police or for their perjury whilst the quiet, inoffensive William is remembered… for killing a man with one punch!

  2 Responses to “C is for William Conway of Handsacre Staffordshire”

  1. Hello,
    These men are my family. Abraham Conway is my 3x Ggrandfather and although i knew about almost all of what you have written, i was surprised he was frequently in trouble.Also on his marriage certificate he says he is a blacksmith. Abraham and Cathrine went on to have 13 children, the third child Rebecca being my 2xG grandmother.I have been researching my family history for a long time and although i have a copy of the Newspaper story about the poachers i don’t know the full details of the trial, so this has put more substance to my family members will have to dig deeper.
    Thank you

  2. Hi Yvonne,
    Then your 4 Gt grandfather is William who was both a blacksmith and kept the Red Lion ,(now the Old Peculiar), in Handsacre. At Stafford Record Office there is a file, Ref D603//X/6/4, on what is stated as being Armitage Brickworks and it shows an invoice from William to Thomas Bond at Armitage Pottery. I have put the information in my book, A History of Armitage Potbank, which has some other Conway information in. It’s available from the Ridware History Society at http://ridwarehistory.yolasite.com/

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