The portraits of the Weston Worthies give some idea of the people who lived and worked in Weston in the 19th century. In the last edition of Buckets and Spades I mentioned Samuel NORVILL who was the father-in-law of a James PALMER and promised more about him – so here goes.
Samuel NORVILL – whose surname occasionally has an additional “E” - lived in Weston during the first half of the 19th century when the town grew and developed into the place we know today. He was an interesting character christened in Uphill in February 1777, the second son of Samuel & Love NORVILL (née LOVELL). From the parish records it appears that as a boy he lost his father when he was 2 and his mother died when he was only 4. Both parents were buried in Uphill Churchyard on the top of the hill.
We know very little about his childhood except that presumably he remained in Uphill as he married Elizabeth KINGTON there in 1798. Their first 4 sons were born in Uphill and then the family moved into Weston-super-Mare in about 1807, the year that the foundation stone was laid for the very first hotel in Weston.
It was reported by an elderly inhabitant that he had been a shoemaker and dealer in tea, coffee, tobacco and snuff. His 2nd son, Samuel (christened Thomas) who was born in Uphill in 1800 was later interviewed by Ernest E Baker and related that his mother used to take in washing in a cottage situated near the corner of Waterloo Street and the High Street.
He also described a withy bed situated next to the High Street where surplus fish was dumped. The rotting fish were next to a ditch where water cress grew which as a child he picked and ate. You can almost smell the history of Weston!
It is likely that like other Weston menfolk, Samuel Senior did some fishing – his son certainly did. Samuel Junior recounted that fishing for salmon took place on the west side of Knightstone Island with nets set in the mud. This was before the causeway was built and on high tide you could sail right round the island. Each year the first salmon caught in the season was taken to the Squire who lived at Brockley. One year, he carried the largest one ever caught in Weston - 32¼lbs – on horseback to Brockley and the Squire (at that time Rev Wadham Pigott) gave him a three-shilling piece. Later catches, which were considerably smaller, were sold for half-a-crown a pound.
Samuel Junior also told the tale of a West Indiaman ship called the Rebecca and owned by Bristol Mariners, which was wrecked off Steep Holm in about 1812.
The Rebecca was carrying barrels of rum which were washed up on Weston beach and “liberated” by several local men. He named George PARSONS, Richard JONES, George GILL, George COOMBES and John HARVEY as well as himself as being involved. According to Samuel Junior, who would only have been about 12 at the time, one barrel was rolled to the back of the London Inn where the villagers brought vessels such as jugs, saucepans and pots and farmers brought milk pails to carry away their share of the rum. The volunteer coastguard force at that time consisted of 3 men, a farmer, a barber and a shoemaker and it is stated that “they were not very strict!”.
The Weston Enclosure Act of 1810 initiated some improvements to the roads in Weston and enabled the gradual development of the town, by selling off land for building and thereby increasing the population.
Samuel and Elizabeth NORVILL had 7 children and the youngest, Harriet, was married in 1834 to James PALMER. Elizabeth NORVILL died in 1836 and was buried at St John’s Church, Weston-super-Mare, leaving Samuel a widower at 59.
In the Baptismal Register of St John’s appears this entry:
1st Jan 1840 Charles NORVILLE, base-born son of Samuel NORVILLE and Mary Ann HERDITCH [sic], servant.
Samuel NORVILLE and Mary Ann HURDITCH were married later that year, at St John’s Church with Samuel described as a cordwainer. Sadly their son, Charles, died just before the 1841 Census.
1841 Census - Cooks Cottage, High Street, Weston Super Mare
|First name(s)||Last name||Age||Occupation||Birth place|
On the census he was again said to be a cordwainer (shoemaker). His occupation was given as “Yeoman” – small farmer - when later children were christened to him and Mary Ann who you will see was considerably younger. The female servant, Anna, was actually Mary Ann’s sister Hannah HURDITCH.
1841 also saw the railway arriving at Weston encouraging holiday traffic to and from the town and led to a rapid increase in the resident population – between 1841 and 1851 it rose from 2103 to 4034, having been only a little over 100 in 1801. By the 1851 census Samuel NORVILL and his young wife were now settled in what is now Meadow Street and it can be seen that they, like many other couples in Weston, offered accommodation to lodgers and visitors with Samuel listed as a Gardener.
1851 Census - Meadow Lane, Weston Super Mare
|First name||Last name||Relation||Age||Occupation||Birth place|
|Laura J||Norvill||Daug||1||At Home||W-s-M|
The increase in the population had led to a problem finding room for burials and a new Cemetery between Milton Road and Bristol Road was built administered by a Burial Board with plots available for all denominations including non-conformist. It opened in 1856 but not soon enough for Samuel NORVILL.
Samuel & Mary Ann NORVILL had a further son, Charles Albert, in 1853 and the Bristol Mercury announced Samuel’s death in their edition of 1st April 1854:
DEATHS – March 29th  in Meadow Street, Weston-super-Mare, Samuel Norvill, an old resident of that town.
He was buried in the churchyard of the Parish Church of St John the Baptist on the 3rd April 1854. That churchyard was closed to new burials when the Cemetery opened and from that date most people who died in Weston-super-Mare were buried in the Cemetery. Records of all burials and memorials in the Milton Road Cemetery are held by this society.
Samuel’s young widow married again on Christmas Day 1856 at St John’s Church to a printer and compositor, Thomas WILLIAMS from Cornwall and they had 2 sons. Thomas WILLIAMS died in 1878.
Of Samuel NORVILL’S 12 children from his 2 marriages – 11 lived to be adults. His 4th son, George NORVILL, born in 1805, was the Postmaster in Weston in 1841 and this photograph shows George & his wife Hannah.
It was one of their sons – another George – born in 1835 who emigrated to Australia in 1858 and established an Antipodean NORVILLE dynasty. His rather odd obituary in the Muswellbrook Chronicle of the 13th July 1901 reads as follows:
An old resident of Blandford, in the person of Mr. George Norvil, sen., died on Tuesday night. By industry and perseverance he built up a comfortable competency, although heavily handicapped by want of education.
Australian, Peter Norville, ggg-grandson of Samuel NORVILL has researched his ancestry in detail and contacted our society some years ago for further information. You can read more about their life in Australia on this web site.