The Holmes Ancestors

The Holmes

This page tells the story of the Holmes line of the family. If you want to see a detailed diagram of the Holmes ancestors, then click Holmes Tree. This will open in a new tab so that you can flip between this page and the diagram.

These are the ancestors on the paternal line of Grandma Mary Wragg. There are several theories about the origin of the surname Holmes. One suggestion is it denotes a person who lived near a holly tree, derived from the Middle English word for holly, ‘holm’. Alternately, it may have derived from the Old English word ‘holm’ or Old Norse ‘holmr’, meaning an island in a river, and hence referred to a person who lived on an island. The main geographical concentration of the name is in the north and the midlands of England.

The Holmes in our family came Leicestershire. They them moved to Clay Cross Derbyshire and later Sutton-in-Ashfield Nottinghamshire. The earliest reference I have found to the Homes ancestors was in 1700, so the story starts from there.

William Holmes

The earliest reference was when William Holmes christened his son William Holmes in 1700 in Loughborough in Leicestershire. The parish records do not give the mother’s name, so I have not been able to identify his wife.

Loughborough began as a Saxon village and developed into a market town. From the late 17th century, framework knitting became one of the main trades.

William Holmes

This is the William christened in 1700 in Loughborough. When his children were christened, they didn’t record the mother’s name. As well, I have not been able to find his marriage in the parish records so I have not been able to identify his wife.

William Holmes and Dorothy Knowles

Yet another William in the Holmes line who was a son of the William above. He was christened in 1738 in Loughborough. He then married Dorothy Knowles in 1760 in Hathern which is just north of Loughborough. They had 4 children.

Dorothy was christened in 1737 in Shepshed Leicestershire. Her family came from Shepshed which is a town about four miles west of Loughborough. The area was settled by the Anglo-Saxons and the village was known as Sheepshed because it was an historic centre for the wool trade.

Thomas Holmes and Hannah

Thomas was a son of William and Dorothy and was christened in 1768 in Loughborough. His wife was Hannah, but I have not been able to trace their marriage. They had 9 children. At some point they moved to Ibstock in Leicestershire as their eldest daughter Mary was born in Ibstock in 1791.

Some of the main occupations in Ibstock were farming, coal mining and framework knitting. Thomas worked as a framework knitter. There is more about framework knitting on the Framework Knitting page. Thomas died in 1842 and Hannah died in 1831.

Thomas Holmes and Elizabeth

Thomas was a son of Thomas and Elizabeth and was christened in 1811 in Ibstock. His wife was Elizabeth but I have not been able to trace their marriage. They had 5 children. He initially worked as an agricultural labourer, but later became a coal miner. He died in 1886 and Elizabeth died in 1882.

Simon Holmes and Emma Sandlant

Simon was a son of Thomas and Elizabeth and was christened in 1835 in Ibstock. He then married Emma Sandlant in 1857. They had 6 children. Emma was christened in 1840 in Ashby-de-la-Zouch. Emma father was a butcher in Ashby-de-la-Zouche, but she had a notorious grandfather who was William Sandlant. William was convicted for various thefts and sentenced to transportation for life in Tasmania. You can find his story on my page about Transportation.

Then around 1860, Simon and Emma moved to Staveley and later to Clay Cross Derbyshire. It was probably to get work in the mining industry. In June 1868, he was involved in an accident. An extract from the newspaper report describes what happened.
‘It appears that previous to the accident, the deceased John Finney, Simon and Thomas Holmes had been intimate friends and the latter had promised they would lend Finney a coal pick. Finney got some work at the pit and on Tues 7th June he went to the house of Simon and John Holmes who had been to Ashover feast and who were going to do half an hour working the pit. They agreed that Finney should go with them to the pit and go down the pit and have the pick. They went with that intension. One of the brothers named Holmes went to the machine house and asked if the coal was cleared out for him to work and the manager told him it was not as the day was a general holiday. The man said no more and left and the manager thought they had left the works. They however went on to the pit top about quarter to ten o’clock and asked the engineman to let them down the pit. He replied “Nay you must not go down there today as there is no-one at work in the pit or anything to do.” A man in the next pit signalled by shouting that he wanted to come up and then Simon and John Holmes got in and as Finney had got one foot on, the rope broke and they went to the bottom of the pit, a distance of 34 yards. They were got out and Finney was dead, the others were removed to Clay Cross hospital and were attended by Dr Wilson. John Holmes has since moved to Chesterfield Hospital and Simon Holmes remains in Clay Cross Colliery Hospital and receives every requisite aid and attention. The deceased and the others are deeply pitied, especially John Holmes who was a favourite of all through his good and amiable manner, quaint sayings and excellent character. All of them we understand have families. The affair has thrown a gloom over most colliers. There is no blame attached to anyone that we are aware of. A thorough investigation of the matter will be made. The proprietors of the colliery messes Smith and Sheppard have stopped the pit since the accident occurred and do not intend working again till they have got the rules.’

The full newspaper reports are available here.

Simon and John recovered, but Simon was unable to walk so would not be able to continue working as a miner. Simon initially had to live on his ‘club money’ which was 8s 6d a week (equivalent to about £50 in 2019). This only lasted one year, so the Friendly Society had a collection for him and he used the money to start a small shop in New Street Clay Cross (now King Street). His was listed in a local trade directory in 1897 as a rag, bone and earthenware dealer. He also bought a horse and carriage so that he could get about. His son John recorded that ‘his father would go around Clay Cross, Clay Lane and other villages buying rags and bones, old brass, old iron and rabbit skins’.

Simon Holmes with his horse and carriage
Simon’s horse and carriage
Simon Holmes outside his shop
Simon outside his shop

Life would not have been easy, but it appears to have been made worse by his son Thomas. The following report about Thomas appeared in the Derbyshire Times in 1875.
‘Serious Charge – Thomas Holmes, a notorious young scamp aged 11 years, was brought up in custody of police constable Weekes, charged with stealing £1 4s 8d on the 26th instant, the property of his father Simon Holmes who is a cripple and resides at Clay Cross. It appears from the statement of his father that about seven in the morning in question, the prisoner went to the drawer where he knew where the money was kept, took the above sum and made off with it. Shortly afterwards information was given to the police who apprehended the young prisoner in Clay Cross when it was found that he had spent 4s of the money.’
I think Simon must have been at the end of his tether with Thomas to resort to reporting him to the police.

Despite all his troubles, Simon still took on the extra responsibility of adopting Emma Davis in 1883 when her mother died leaving her an orphan. (I have covered Emma’s story on the Davis page)

Simon joined the Reorganised Church of Jesus Christ (now called Community of Christ) in Clay Cross. He became a lay minister and later the pastor of the Clay Cross church. His son John recalls that he would go out into the streets and villages preaching. He continued to live in New Street and had been living there about 40 years when he died in 1903. His wife Emma died a few years earlier in 1900.

John Holmes and Elizabeth Cowlishaw

John was a son of Simon and Emma and was christened in 1867 in Clay Cross. He then married Elizabeth Cowlishaw in 1889. They had 8 children. Elizabeth was christened in Crich Derbyshire in 1871. There is more about her family on the Cowlishaw page.

In the census records, John’s occupation was a hawker selling pots. Because of this, he acquired the nickname ‘Pot Jack’. He would have travelled round the local area selling his pots. I’m assuming that is how he met his wife Elizabeth Cowlishaw who lived in Crich.

They moved to Sutton-in-Ashfield in 1905 and lived in Sandlant House, Glen Street, from where he ran his business. John became a minister in the Reorganized Church like his father and was a founder member of the Sutton-in-Ashfield branch. He died in 1946 and Elizabeth died in 1938.

John and Elizabeth are the parents of grandmother Mary Wragg so I have come to the end of the Holmes ancestors.

The Holmes family
The Holmes family – Simon, John with Mary, Fanny, Elizabeth with Effie, Emily
John Holmes
John Holmes
John and Elizabeth Holmes
John and Elizabeth