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Not Brentford

May News

The following items have been extracted from the British Newspaper Archive accessible through Findmypast.

Thanks to Angela for forwarding the following item from 1878:

17 May 1878

An inquiry was held at Brentford on Saturday, before Dr. Diplock, into the circumstances attending the deaths of two men named George Pizzey and Thomas Edmunds, aged respectively twenty-five and thirty-three, who were buried alive in an excavation to drain some new houses at The Butts, Old Brentford.

The two men were employed to make an excavation in front of new houses being built for Mr. James Bignell. Mr. W.J. Ball was forman of the works. A distance of 230 ft. had to be excavated and 50 ft. of this had been trenched to a depth of about 10 ft., there being a width of from 2 ft. to 3 ft. along it. The greater part of the earth excavated was gravel, but there was loose earth, and a vein of sand about 2 ft. down. There was some conversation about putting in timber supports or struts, and this had actually been begun.

While the men were at dinner some of the loose earth fell, which the witness thought amounted to about two barrow loads. When the men returned from dinner, one of them began to hammer the wooden strut, when about two tons of earth gave way on one side of the excavation. and entombed Edmunds and Pizzey. Assistance was sent for, and on the men being extracted, one was found to be dead, and the other died soon after. Mr. W.J. Ball, foreman of the works, said neither he nor Edmunds had had any experience of excavation of this description, but the man having been employed in building work satisfactorily, it was though safe to trust the deceased, who was a very sober steady man. In reply to a juryman, witness said he told Edmunds to be sure and let him know if any loose earth gave way. Immediately after the accident, he had more struts.

The jury expressed themselves as of opinion that at a depth of 10 ft. the excavations ought to have been properly protected by timber struts. A verdict of accidental death was returned.


Research notes

In the second quarter of 1878 the death of George Pizzy age 24 was registered at Brentford. In the 1871 census taken around seven years before his death he was living at Town Meadow, age 16, 'out of employ (Laborer)' with his father William, a carter aged 51, Brentford-born, and mother Ann age 52, born Hereford. Ten years previously the family lived at Mill Bridge, Isleworth and William, 40, a labourer, gave his birthplace as Alperton, Ann's as Langley, and George's, Chiswick. A younger son William, 18 months old, was born in Isleworth.

George Pizzy was buried at South Ealing Cemetery on May 14th, his age this time recorded as 23. Buried in the same grave prior to him were William Pizzey, 31 Jan 1869 age 26; later Jane Pizzy, age one and a half, 20 Jan 1880. (Also buried in the same grave, but later - 1889, 1890 and 1891 - three people named WARD). Returning to the Pizz(e)y burials, as they shared a grave they must have been related - but how?

William Pizzey who died in 1869, was born around 1842/3 and there is a good match in the 1851 census at The Ham, age 9, born New Brentford. His parents William and Ann Pizzy, who were 31 and 30, were also New Brentford-born and William senior was a labourer. This fits, in most respects the family found in 1861 and 1871, although birthplaces vary from census to census. However no death registration was made at Brentford in this name, the best match being a William Pizzey at Lambeth, aged 25. Perhaps he was working there but his parents buried him in their local cemetery.

The new GRO search facility shows a William Pizzy birth registered at Brentford in the second quarter of 1842, his mother formerly FREEMAN. A search for George Pizzy found an entry from the last quarter of 1854, mother also Freeman - so William was the elder brother to George. The marriage of Ann Freeman to William Percy registered at Brentford in the first quarter of 1842, not many months before son William was born, fits - perhaps William could not write and 'Percy' was the best the clerk could come up with when he heard 'Pizzey'.

This leaves a minor niggle: the 1861 census included William Pizzey, age 18 months. Did the couple name a second son William even though he was still alive? Or did the census enumerator record 18 months instead of 18 years? A check on the ancestry website shows a note by this entry suggesting Ms Logan has concluded William's age should be 18 years not months.

As for Jane Pizzy who was buried in 1880 - the GRO index shows her birth was registered in the last quarter of 1878 and that her mother was formerly WEST. Further searches showed the marriage of George Pizzy to Jane West took place at Fulham in the last quarter of 1875 and the ancestry website includes further details: his father was William Pizzy and they married at St Paul's Hammersmith on Boxing Day. Jane was the daughter of Richard West. The birth of their first child, William George Pizzy, took place in the third quarter of 1876.

So when George died in May 1878 he left a young widow Jane who was pregnant, a son William George under 2 (and another child - see later). In such circumstances a remarriage was likely and this is what happened - Jane Pizzy married Thomas WARD on 19 January 1879 at Fulham. This explains the presence of the three Ward burials in the Pizzy grave at South Ealing Cemetery.

The 1881 census shows Thomas and Jane Ward living at 18 New North Road, Old Brentford. Thomas was a stoker age 22 born Brentford and Jane was 24, born Acton, with children Ann Pizzey, age 6, William Pizzey 5, and Ellen Ward age 1. Ann Pizzey may have been born before her parents George and Jane married. I have not checked later censuses to find out what subsequently happened to the couple.

Locating Thomas Edmunds proved more of a challenge. There was no death in this name registered at Brentford in the second quarter of 1878 and a search for any Thomas Edmunds who died in 1878 found only a couple in Middlesex; but on examination these deaths were recorded in the January-March quarter, before the accident.

However as George's burial took place on May 14th at the South Ealing Cemetery it seemed possible that Thomas Edmunds was also buried there - and this was the case. A William Edmonds, age 33, was buried in the unconsecrated area, also on May 14th. There is a death registration at Brentford that exactly matches this name and age - so either he was known as Thomas or the newspaper report got his forename wrong.

Mr James Bignell, owner of the new houses, may be related to councillor Robert Richard Bignell.

The foreman, Mr W.J. Ball could be William J Ball, recorded as a builder, aged 36 living in The Butts in 1881. He was born in Southwark and he and wife Melah had six children aged from one month to 12 years old, showing the family moved from Wimbledon to Walburton in Sussex, then back to Wimbledon, then to Chiswick and finally to Brentford. They had a nurse for the new baby - Sarah Green, 52, born Stamford Hill - and a locally-born servant girl of 16 Annie Collett.

The Coroners' Inquest appears in several newspaper and the Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser published on May 18th includes the witness's name : John POWELL. The reports focus on the circumstances of the men's deaths and do not mention their family circumstances; perhaps a local paper has more details.

As an aside, a search for Dr DIPLOCK, the coroner, found a book titled The seven secrets by William le Queux, first published in 1903 - 'a timeless whodunit' available to read free online. It has one chapter set in Brentford, which notes 'we walked together into the narrow, rather dirty High Street of Brentford, the county town of Middlesex' - probably worth further investigation!


Morning Post - Friday 15 May 1885

- This bill, which yesterday passed the Committee stage of
the House of Commons without opposition, incorporates a
company to construct additional tramways from Kew
Bridge, passing along High Street, Brentford, the London
Road, Bath Road and Staines Road to Isleworth and
Twickenham and to Hounslow and Hounslow Barracks.

Although the bill was passed the plans were not implemented until 15 years later. Janet McNamara's 'History from Roman to Modern Times' has more details, see a photo of the works at the Half Acre / High Street junction, ca 1899 and a local newspaper article about the work.

Gillian Clegg's 'Brentford Past' notes 'trams ran first from Shepherds Bush to Kew Bridge in April 1901, with an extension to Brentford and Hounslow opening in July of that year'.

There are several postcards featuring trams on this site (search for 'tram', top right on the home page), also a photo of a Brentford tram which was undergoing restoration at Crich Tramway Museum in 2010, hopefully it is in use by now.


Published May 2012; updated February 2017