The Zimapanners

 

 

 

 

                                                

 

The Miller's Daughter from 'Blue Mills'

Biography 
 
Jessie Staniland Dixon (1865-1933)
 
 
Milling and farming heritage
Jessie Staniland Dixon was born on 26 January 1865 in Blue Mills1, a mill house on the edge of the village of Witham, Essex. She was the eldest of four daughters of Thomas Butler DixonFT (1836-1905) who was born in Wickham Bishops, Essex. Her father was a master miller and farmer of 89 acres. Jessie's father took over the corn milling and farming businesses from his corn-dealer father Robert Walker Dixon 1st in 1858, and by 1881 was employing 14 men and three boys.2 Jessie's mother, Sarah Hannah Stocks, was born in Leeds in 1839 and at 24 married her father in 1863 in Selby.

To find out what Witham was like, click Witham in 1851.

Blue Mills, Witham (1865-1880)
Jessie lived in Blue Mills, a water mill opposite Benton Hall, a nearby manor, until around 1880, and she would have attended either the National & Infant Schools in Witham or possibly the British School there. Blue Mills, or Blue Mill as it was called in the Domesday Book of 1086, was one of five water mills (aka Machins Mill), and still exists today on the same spot. It is situated on the River Blackwater half a mile downstream from the point where the River Brain meets the River Blackwater.
 

Sketch of 'Blue Mill', Essex

Sketch of Blue Mill(s),1979

Blue Mill, or Blue Mills as it became to be known more recently, is thought to have belonged to one of the two local manors, Blunts Hall or Benton Hall, at Domesday.3 At that time, the water mills were retained by the lord of the manor, who would have taken a percentage of the income made from grinding corn.4 "The mill is one of the Blackwater's handsomest, with its weather-boarded building standing on a two-arched bridge beside an elegant Georgian mill house. The mill was last worked in 1895.5 The building is now Grade-II* listed.

Wickham Bishops (1881)
Jessie's father's businesses prospered and he eventually moved the family out of Witham and into The Mill House, 4 Mill Road in Wickham Bishops, another small Essex hamlet about three miles east of Blue Mills. By then, Jessie had three younger sisters: Hannah Mary Dixon (b. 1868), Harriet Dora Dixon (b. 1871) and eleven-month-old Lucy Kathleen Dixon (b. 1880). The household was run by one general domestic servant.

Wickham Bishops (1891)
By the time of the England Census of 5 April 1891, Jessie's upwardly mobile and successful father had moved his family to yet another new home, this time into a house next door to Wickham Place, called The Chase, a former water mill dating from C18 or earlier, and situated three miles south of Witham. Jessie was now 26 and still single, her father and mother were 55 and 52, respectively, while her sisters Hannah, Harriet and little Lucy were 23, 20 and 10, respectively, and all unmarried. Jessie's grandmother, Hannah Mary Staniland, a 78-year-old widow, had moved in with her daughter and son-in-law. The seven-strong household was being run by an 18-year-old general domestic servant, Lucy Fuller. The building, which later became known later as Chase House, is now Grade-II* listed.
 
Neighbours (1891)
Two houses up the road at The Place, 2 Mill Road, Wickham Bishops were living Jessie's uncle, Robert Walker Dixon 2nd (47) and his wife Susan Goodman (50) and their family of three children Harold (21), a Cambridge University medical student, Hugh (19), Cambridge undergraduate, and Rolls (18) a trainee gardener. Jessie's uncle farmed 130 acres and employed 6 men.

Jessie Staniland Dixon

Jessie Staniland Dixon
Photo: Madeleine Swithenbank 

 
Chapel-Allerton, Leeds (1898)
By 1898, Jessie had moved to Norfolk House, Chapel-Allerton, Leeds, Yorkshire, where she lived prior to her marriage to James Swithenbank 4thFT (1863-1910), a cloth manufacturer like his father6, from Ossett, Yorkshire. By 1881, James's father was employing 175 people in his cloth manufacturing business which was clearly a female-dominated industry judging from the workforce, which comprised 19 boys, 37 men and 119 women. James Swithenbank's pre-marriage address was 11 Westfield Terrace, Chapel-Allerton.

'Blue Mills' girl weds owner of 'Bank Low Mills' (1898)
Jessie Dixon (33), the girl from Blue Mills married James Swithenbank 4th (35) of Bank Low Mills in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Chapel-Allerton on 13 September 1898, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Wesleyan Methodists, and in the presence of Edward Coborn Martin, the Methodist Minister who also officiated at their wedding, and Margaret Wilson.

"Grandma married James Swithenbank for some unknown reason; I think she was the 'dark horse' of the family. Granddad was a cloth manufacturer and also a Methodist Minister".7

Jessie Staniland Dixon ca. 1909
Jessie Staniland Dixon (ca. 1909)
Photo: Madeleine Swithenbank

 James Swithenbank 4th 
James Swithenbank 4th
Photo: Madeleine Swithenbank 
  
Wesleyan Chapel, Chapel Allerton
Photo: Wesleyan Chapel, Chapel-Allerton, Leeds
(built Dec 1884, demolished late 1970s) 
 
Ossett's clothing and rag trade
For further details about the clothing and rag trade industry, click Ossett's Clothing and Rag Trade 1800-1899, a website compiled by Stephen Wilson.

Chapel-Allerton, Leeds (1901)
In 1901, Jessie and James Swithenbank were living at 9 Slainbeck Lane, Chapel-Allerton, Leeds, with a 26-year-old domestic servant called Theresa Jackson running the household for them. James was an employer in the clothing industry and almost certainly took over father's manufacturing business at Bank Low Mills after his father died in March 1899 until at least 1907.
 
Second marriage, Cornwall (1926)
Sixteen years after James Swithenbank 4th passed away aged 47, 61-year-old Jessie married 50-year-old bachelor Charles Marshall Thomas, an optician from Penryn. The couple were married in St Nonna Parish Church, Altarnun, Launceston, Cornwall, on 18 September 1926, according to the rites and ceremonies of the Anglican (illegible) Church. Jessie's father, Thomas Butler Dixon, had died in 1905 and John Marshall Thomas had died in March of the preceding year (1925) aged 76 at Market Street, Penryn, so neither father were at Jessie's second wedding.

Death of first son 
1926 was also the year in which Jessie saw the tragic loss of her first-born child, James Staniland Swithenbank, by her first marriage. He died of a brain tumour at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital in Exeter on 4 October 1926, in the prime of his life aged just 25. His profession was "motor lorry driver". His brother Kenneth Swithenbank, of Browfoot, Staveley, Kendal, Westmorland, was present. James's last address was 6 Carmarthen Terrace, Camborne.
 
Scorrier & Falmouth (1929-1933)
Jessie Staniland Marshall-Thomas9, as she had now become, was living in a house called Reen in Scorrier in 1929.10 Concurrently, Jessie and Charles had a second house in Falmouth called Condora in Gyllyngvase Terrace, Falmouth, close to Gyllyngvase Beach.
 
Children
Jessie gave birth to James Staniland Swithenbank in Leeds, Yorkshire in September 1901 and later to Kenneth Butler Swithenbank on 31 May 1905 in Roundhay, Leeds.
 

James Staniland SwithenbankKenneth B. Swithenbank

James Swithenbank (L) and Kenneth Swithenbank
Photos: Madeleine Swithenbank 
 
Park View Crescent, Roundhay (1905-1907)
James Swithenbank's private address (and therefore Jessie's) is given as Park View Crescent, Roundhay, Leeds, from 1905 until 1907, in the British Phone Books (1880-1984), telephone no. Roundhay 156, which records also confirm that he was a 'woollen manufacturer'.

Jessie's life after 1909
The following list shows that Jessie and James Swithenbank moved several times and even had two addresses concurrently, one in Leeds and one in Falmouth. Clearly, the move to Falmouth took place around 1910 contemporaneous with her husband's retirement.
1910: Ladywood Road, Roundhay, Leeds (Roundhay 119); note same digits as Falmouth
1910: 'Wickham', Falmouth (Tel: Falmouth 119); named after 'Wickham Bishops', near Jessie's birthplace perhaps?
1911: 8 Gyllyngvase Terrace, Falmouth (Tel: Falmouth 119)
1912: Mrs James Swithenbank, 'Wickham' Falmouth (Tel: Falmouth 119)

 
Marriage of first son (1924) 
Jessie's first son, James Staniland Swithenbank, a 24-year-old a motor-car driver, married 26-year-old Harriett Williams, the daughter of a Cornish miner, on 22 November 1924 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Camborne, Redruth, Cornwall. They married by certificate according to the rites and ceremonies of the Wesleyan Methodists. The bride and bridegroom's fathers were both deceased.
Charles Marshall-Thomas was one of three witnesses to the marriage, which means that Jessie and Charles Marshall-Thomas would have known one another at least two years before they married. James and Harriett lived at 6 Carmarthen Road, Camborne [MC].
 
Travel and hobbies (1910-1926)
James Swithenbank died on 5 November 1910, aged 47, from chronic nephritis, at 'Wickham', Gyllyngvase Terrace, Falmouth (which later became Condora), in the presence of Jessie. After his death, "Jessie travelled quite extensively, I believe, with Aunty Stocks (Lucy). Jessie also liked to paint, although unfortunately I haven't any of her paintings".8 No evidence of her travels has yet been found in the genealogical records. Nevertheless, her husband James almost certainly left her with more than sufficient funds to enable her to remain a lady of independent means for the next 16 years.  

Zimapan, Scorrier (1930-1932)
On 20 August 1930, Jessie and Charles Marshall-Thomas bought another house, this time Zimapan Villa, from Walter Parsons Thomas who was selling up and returning to live in Holyhead, Anglesey, north Wales, to be near his children and grandchildren. The couple's telephone entries for their other house in Scorrier, Reen, were discontinued after 1929, so it can be safely assumed that they had sold off Reen, probably using the revenue from the sale as part payment of the purchase price of Zimapan Villa. Alternatively, they may have returned Reen to its landlord if they had been renting the house while looking around for a suitable property to buy.

Little is known about what Jessie and Charles did in the two years (23 months) they owned Zimapan Villa, or who they invited down to visit or holiday there with them.

Mortgage (1930)
Jessie and Charles paid former accountant, Walter Parsons Thomas, £500 for the house and land. To cover the cost, they took out a mortgage of £350 on the property, borrowing from the Abbey Road Building Society. Variously described as "joint owners in trust", "estate owners of the property", and "joint tenants beneficially" of Zimapan Villa, they invested £150 of their own capital in the house.11   

Jessie's correspondence (1930)
However, some inkling is given in one of her letters written five months before they bought Zimapan Villa. On 25 March 1930, Jessie wrote to her son Kenneth and her daughter-in-law Florence Helen Long, addressing him as "My dear Boy" (although he was 25 years old!), describing renovation work they were carrying out in Condora, Falmouth. Apparently the wallpaper that Jessie had put up herself years ago had become "shabby...after all those years", suggesting that the house had been in her possession before her marriage to Charles.

Convalescing in Altarnun (1930) 
She also wrote that she was recovering from an illness at a farm in Altarnun, 50 miles from Falmouth (the distance was spot on), the village where she and Charles had married four years earlier, and that she still needed 15 hours sleep a night. She proposed meeting her son and daughter-in-law, Kenneth and Florence, "somewhere between Cornwall and Lancaster" [ed. 404 miles] as a compromise, as travelling was an issue for Jessie given her recent illness and incomplete recovery, although she felt she could manage four days of travelling at 50 miles per day.
 

Transcript of letter No. 1
From: Jessie
To: Mr and Mrs K. Swithenbank
59 Lune Road
Lancaster

Altarnun
March 25 1930

My dear Boy,
I write you both in this letter (p.1) & hope you will be able to make it out written in pencil, but I am having a rest at the lovely farm where I was married or rather near the church. I don't get up until 11 A.M. and go to bed at 8, but am very much better. Auntie Stocks wants me to go to Leeds, but am not equal to the journey. This place is 50 miles from Falmouth & I was not overtired & return home tomorrow. A new calf arrived here last night and a hen was set the first one (?). It has been a long winter, but not cold. No doubt your busy time will be coming on at the garage at Easter. Would it be possible for you both to meet us somewhere on the way from Cornwall to Lancaster, that is if you can ('t) spare time to come all the way down. Wells, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet are all on the way & Bristol. Let us know for I could manage say 50 miles a day & come 200 miles. Lancaster is not so far north as Windermere, is it? We are rubbing along as usual. There was a heap to do to Condora (p. 2) as you may imagine after all the years and the same wallpapers were on that I had put up. Shabby was not the word for them. There were jobs to do but of course (?), no buses, char-a-bancs or cars, farm carts, woodpeckers & birds of all sorts. Do you remember Mrs Hoare? I do not know if they are alive or not. Now I must close.
Much Love as ever to both,
Mother X X X X X X X X

Letter courtesy of Madeleine Swithenbank.

 

Jessie's writes from Zimapan (Christmas 1930)
By the end of 1930, it appears from Jessie's letter Christmas letter written from Zimapan that Kenneth and Florence Swithenbank were planning to move to Cornwall from Lancaster, so that they could be near to Jessie, probably out of concern for her recent illness that March. However, the couple had not moved by Christmas, possibly on account of the bad weather to which Jessie alludes.


Transcript of letter No. 2
From: Jessie
To: Mr & Mrs K. Swithenbank
59 Lune Road
Lancaster

Zimapan
Scorrier
Xmas 1930

My dear Children,12
We have been anticipating for a long time to hear that you were coming to Cornwall. Evidently the weather has prevented you and it will be very delightful when Spring comes. So far we have had no snow, frost or [word illegible]. It is just possible that we may be going North13 early in the year and when everything is fixed will let you know. It will certainly not be during the first week in January. Weather, roads and other things [ed. have to be] considering. How are you both? Kenneth14 always expects to receive a calendar from Mother. Mrs Thomas15 is very poorly, so that may prevent our early departure. And we have to be within calling [ed. distance] when she is ill. 8 miles.
Many ... [word illegible] wishes & love
X X X X X X X X X From Mother

Letter courtesy of Madeleine Swithenbank.

 
 
Jessie and Charles sell Zimapan (1932)
On 19 July 1932, Jessie and Charles Marshall-Thomas sold the jointly-owned house and garden known as Zimapan to Lena and William Fairhurst for £550, giving them a £50 profit before conveyancing and mortgage-related costs. See also The 1932 Conveyance.

Jessie's last days (1932-1933)
Jessie and Charles moved back into their principal residence, Condora in Falmouth. Eleven months later, Jessie died at her home in Falmouth on 11 June 1933 aged 68, of a mediastinal tumour (probably sarcoma) and valvular disease of the heart, as certified by the J. M. Blarney M.D. Her husband Charles was present when she passed away. No post-mortem.16 
 
Charles returns to Penryn 
After Jessie died, Charles Marshall-Thomas sold Condora and returned to the town of his birth to live his last years in 80 Helston Road, Penryn. Charles Marshall-Thomas died in Dolvean Nursing Home in Falmouth, on 28 August 1935, of carcinoma of the pancreas, just three years following Jessie. Charles's stepson, Kenneth Butler Swithenbank, notified the authorities of Charles's death and a Lamanova Budock was in attendance.17 
 

Footnotes
1. BC 10 Feb 1865, Witham. Referred to in older documents as Blue Mill.
2. The 1881 England Census.
3. Janet Gyford, Domesday Witham, 1985.
4. Janet Gyford, Domesday Witham, 1985.
5. From Down the Chelmer and up the Blackwater, by Vernon and Joan Clarke of the Foxearth and District Local History Society, 1979.
6. Marriage certificate of JSD and JS.
7. Madeleine Swithenbank, granddaughter of James Swithenbank 4th. 2010.
8. Madeleine Swithenbank.
9. The words Marshall and Thomas were originally unhyphenated; hyphenation sometimes added later, presumably because a double-barrelled name added a certain prestige to the family name.
10. British Phone Books, 1929.
11. Abstract of the Title of Mrs Daisy May Aberdeen to freehold property known as Zimapan Villa, Tregullow, Scorrier, Redruth in the County of Cornwall 2 September 1944. Document with author.
12. "Jessie was writing to my parents, Kenneth Butler Swithenbank and his wife Florence Helen Long". Madeleine Swithenbank, 2010.
13. Probably to see Aunty Stocks in Leeds. Madeleine Swithenbank, Jul 2010.
14. Jessie's son (KBS) by her first marriage to James Swithenbank 4th.
15. Charles Marshall-Thomas's mother, Emma Sly.
16. Death certificate, 12 June 1933, Falmouth, Cornwall.
17. Death certificate, 29 August 1935, Falmouth, Cornwall.