Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Thomas Edwin Cruwys of Tiverton

My friend Chris Gibbins in Devon has been searching through some of the old newspaper cuttings at the Devon and Exeter Institution and she has sent me a most interesting story about the golden wedding anniversary of Thomas Edwin Cruwys and Edith Baker. The article was originally published in the Tiverton Gazette on 4th October 1960 with the heading "Worked on a farm for shilling a week – memories of life in the early 1900s".
While farm workers discussed their 9s. a week pay rise, Mr. Thomas Edwin Cruwys, of 56, Council Gardens, Tiverton, was looking back over 50 years of married life, and recalling the days when he worked on a farm for 1s a week.

Mr. Cruwys, who was 72 this month, was talking to a "Gazette" reporter on Wednesday, his golden wedding anniversary. He and his wife, who was 73 on Friday, were married at St. Peter’s Church, Tiverton, by the late Rev. G. G. Hall.

Born at Witheridge, Mr. Cruwys started his working days at the age of 11, and for nearly a year he worked just for his food and lodging at Higher Withleigh Farm. Later, at Nethercleaye Farm, Withleigh, he earned 1s a week and recalls the time the farmer was taken ill and he was paid an extra sixpence a week for the additional work he had to do. When he gave up farm work his weekly wage was 5s. 6d.

For 46 years Mr. Cruwys was employed at Tiverton Cemetery, retiring as caretaker seven years ago.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Cruwys come from large families. Mrs. Cruwys, whose father was the late Mr. John Baker, sexton at Creacombe Church for about 50 years, was one of two girls and 11 boys. Three of her brothers went to Canada, where they took up market gardening, and are now living at Catarqui, Ontario. Two other brothers live at Tiverton and Bradninch.

Mr. Cruwys came from a family of six boys and five girls. His father, the late Mr. John Cruwys, was a mason.

During the First World War, Mr. Cruwys spent over four years in the Army, after volunteering in November, 1914. He served in Africa, where he contracted malaria, France, and Germany, and spent 13 months in hospital with two broken legs after he had been knocked down by a motorcycle combination.

Mr. and Mrs. Cruwys have had six children, five of whom survive, and nine grandchildren. During the Second Wold War all six sons were in the Forces at the same time, three in the Devons, and the others in the R.A.F., A.C.C., and R.A.M.C. Two were prisoners-of-war – the eldest, Mr. Tom Cruwys of Exeter, for two years, and the youngest, Mr. Sidney Cruwys, of London, for two weeks.

Their other sons are Messrs. Vic. Cruwys (Manchester), Charles Cruwys (Tiverton), and E. Cruwys, who lives with his parents.

Mr. Cruwys is a Roll of Honour member of Ye Twyford Lodge, R.A.O.B. [Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes], and the couple received a telegram of good wishes from the lodge on their anniversary. They also received flowers from Tiverton Aged People's Association.

A party given by their family at Exeter on the previous Saturday was a well-kept secret until Mr. and Mrs. Cruwys entered the room, where about 20 of their relatives were waiting for them.

One of Mr. and Mrs. Cruwys's most treasured possessions is a 42-piece tea-set which was one of their wedding presents 50 years ago, and which is still complete.
Since receiving the article I have done some further research on this family. Thomas Edwin Cruwys was born in 1888 in Witheridge, Devon. He belongs to the Witheridge Cruwys family which can be traced back to William Cruwys and Sarah Taylor who married on 2nd February 1820 in Witheridge. Thomas was the son of John Cruwys, a mason, and Sarah Quant née Chown. His mother was previously married to John Henry Quant, by whom she had three children, two boys and a girl. She was widowed in 1881 and married Thomas's father the following year. I have so far found a record of six children born to John and Sarah Cruwys, three boys and three girls. Further children were probably born after the 1901 census.

Tragedy struck the family on 29th March 1891 when Thomas’s older brother, George Herbert Cruwys, died in a house fire. A transcription of the newspaper reports about the incident can be read here. Thomas was only two years old at the time and probably had no memory of the accident.

Thomas's recollections of his early working life are confirmed by the 1901 census. Thomas, then aged 12, was a farmer's servant at Nethercliffe Farm in Withleigh, where he was working for Fred Phillips, 41, a farmer.

Thomas did not live to celebrate another birthday after his golden wedding anniversary. He died in 1961 aged 72 years and Edith died three years later in 1965 aged 78. All six of their sons have now passed away, though there are many living descendants. I wonder if the prized tea-set is still in the family.

The transcription of the article from the Tiverton Gazette is reproduced by kind permission of the Editor.

No comments: