Home > Sharnford Holliers
By Harry Duckworth
Additional data from Kerry Ann Hollier and Peter Walker
The history of the Hollier family which came to Canada just after 1900, and settled in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, has been traced as far as a man named William Hollier who died in the village of Sharnford, Leicestershire, England, in the year 1852. He had lived in Sharnford for almost fifty years, but was not baptised there, and the only indication of is origins is a statement obtained by the taker of the Census of 1851. According to the Census record, William Hollier was then seventy-seven years old, and had been born in Warwickshire, in the parish of ‘Church Bricknell’. There is no English village of this name, and William Hollier must have meant Church Bickenhill, now called simply Bickenhill, a parish located just beyond the outskirts of Birmingham, and still retaining the feel of a quiet rural village. The history of William Hollier’s family cannot be taken back further without more and more speculation. There is no baptism of a William Hollier in the parish register of Bickenhill(1) during the last half of the eighteenth century, but only one family of Holliers had children baptised at Bickenhill in the 1770s and 1780s, that of Thomas and Ann Hollier, so William was probably a further child of this couple. Three children of theirs were baptised there, according to the Bickenhill parish register: John in 1773, Ann in 1774, and Thomas in 1785. The birth of William, if he was their son, would have occurred around 1774 (or perhaps a bit later, assuming some vagueness about his age), and he may have been baptised in some other parish, or else not baptised at all.
In favour of the idea that William Hollier was the son of Thomas and Ann Hollier of Bickenhill is the pattern of names of William’s children. At this period, it was common for parents to name their first two sons and daughters after the grandparents - often the first son after the father’s father, and the first daughter after the mother’s mother, but sometimes the other way round. William’s first three sons were Edward, Thomas and William, perhaps named for the mother’s father (Edward Tew), father’s father (Thomas Hollier?), and the father. His daughters were Ann and Elizabeth, perhaps named for the father’s mother (Ann Hollier?) and the mother’s mother (Elizabeth Tew, née Limber). If Thomas and Ann Hollier had followed the same pattern in naming their children, Thomas’s father and mother would have been called William and Ann, and Ann (Bilson) Hollier’s father would have been called John. Thomas Hollier and Ann Bilson were married at Bickenhill by license on February 2, 1773; both were said to have belonged to the parish. The license is still preserved in the Diocesan records of the Bishop of Lichfield, whose agent issued the license at Coleshill, a market town close to Bickenhill, on the day of the marriage. Thomas Hollier swore an oath that he was 21 years old, and a bachelor, and that he knew of no impediment to the marriage; he signed the bond with an X. Both parties had lived in Bickenhill for at least four weeks. Thomas’s occupation is given as husbandman, and co-surety was one William Barfield of Bickenhill, yeoman.
Other records show that William Barfield was one of the more prosperous inhabitants of Bickenhill, and unlikely to have been a friend or relation of Thomas Hollier. The normal practice for marriage at this period was that the banns be called, and use of an expensive marriage license was unusual, especially for poor people. In this case, the license must have been obtained for reasons of haste, for Ann Bilson was soon to give birth to a child. What was probably going on can be understood from the procedures described fully in the diary of a Sussex shopkeeper of the mid 18th century, Thomas Turner(2), who had responsibilities as Overseer of the Poor in his parish.
Several times Turner and his fellow parish officials had to deal with the problem of a parish woman who had become pregnant out of wedlock. If an illegitimate child was born in the parish, the parish was responsible for its maintenance, which over the course of its childhood would be considerable. In these cases, then, the Overseers of the Poor would try to get the woman to swear to the identity of the father, and then obtain a warrant to arrest the father whom they would try to force to marry the mother before the child was born. Often a significant amount of money was spent to achieve this marriage - apart from the cost of the license (so that the marriage could be celebrated as soon as possible, allowing no time for second thoughts by the father), the expenses of the priest, a marriage portion for the bride, and a wedding feast might all be paid by the parish. It is likely that this is exactly what was going on in the case of Thomas Hollier and Ann Bilson, and that William Barfield was not a relation but was acting as a parish representative, enabling the license to be obtained quickly(3).
As already noted, the marriage was celebrated at Bickenhill the same day. John Hollier, the couple’s child, was baptised at Bickenhill on February 17, fifteen days after his parents’ marriage, but died soon after, and was buried there four days later. If this explanation of the events is correct, then Ann Bilson certainly, and Thomas Hollier perhaps was a native of Bickenhill parish. The baptism of neither of them appears in the Bickenhill register. Other Hollier entries do appear, however, which dovetail with entries in the registers of some neighbouring parishes, and it is likely, though not certain, that Thomas Hollier was a member of a local family. Tentatively it may be suggested that he was a son of William Hollier and Elizabeth Wheeler, who were married at Bickenhill in 1728, and had four sons baptised at Yardley and Solihull, adjacent parishes to Bickenhill, between 1731 and 1746. Elizabeth, their mother, was probably the Elizabeth Hollier who received poor relief in Bickenhill parish between 1769 and 1787 and was buried at parish expense in the latter years(4).
The known and presumed children of Thomas Hollier and Ann (née Bilson) were:
Thomas Hollier, the father, first appears in the account Books for the Bickenhill Overseers of the Poor on September 6, 1784, when his rent for six months, (£11/1/-) was paid to Mr. Thornley, one of the substantial landowners in the parish.
It is possible that Thomas and his family had been living in the parish all along, but they may have been elsewhere until 1784, fell on hard times, and were required to return to Bickenhill, their native place, in accordance with the Poor Law, once they became a charge on the parish. The rent payments from Bickenhill parish to the Hollier’s landlord Mr.Thornley, at an annual rate of £2/2/- continued until 1791, when Thomas Hollier died. His burial at Bickenhill, for which the parish paid £1/6/-, is recorded in the parish register on April 11, 1791. Other payments on behalf of Thomas, for “coals” and “necessity”, also appear in the Overseers’ Accounts during this period. During the last two years of his life, Thomas was receiving 4 shillings per week from the parish in addition to his rent and coal. Perhaps this was a supplement to meagre labourer’s wages but Thomas Hollier’s early death may mean that he was too ill to work. After Thomas’s death, the parish books show that his widow, Ann, was supported until she died. The payments made to her, which were never more than 2 shillings per week until the very end of her life, plus rent and specific items for clothes and shoes, and coal in the winter, are too small for her to have lived on without supplement. One payment in 1792, for “fencing Widow Holliar’s garden” suggests that she was able to grow her own food. Her youngest son Thomas was kept in shirts, breeches and shoes by the parish, and was put out as an apprentice to one Mr. Bilson, perhaps a relation of his mother, in December 1799 when he was 14 years old. In November 1791, when Ann Hollier’s daughter Ann gave birth to a daughter (baptised Elizabeth at Bickenhill on February 12, 1792), the parish paid for “Child bed linen” and later for a midwife. Ann Hollier, the elder, died late in the summer of 1810, for the parish paid one pound towards her funeral on September 2 of that year. Her burial, like the burials of some other poor people of this parish at the time, was not entered in the Bickenhill register(5).
It is not clear why Ann Hollier’s burial is not in the Bickenhill register, or the Bishop’s Transcript of it at Lichfield. Perhaps the curate at the period was particularly insistent on receiving payment for making entries in the register, or perhaps Ann, and other poor of Bickenhill, were buried in some other parish as part of some cooperative arrangement for the poor. Research into the Hollier family at Bickenhill is slightly complicated by the fact that there was a second Thomas Hollier living in the parish from 1788 till after 1810. This was evidently a more prosperous man, who served as an Overseer of the Poor himself, and there is no indication that he was related to the family we are tracing(6).
If William Hollier, the presumed son of Thomas Hollier of Bickenhill, was born in the mid-1770s, he would have been of working age when his father died, and there is no mention of him in the poor records of the parish. He made his way to the stocking-weaving towns of west Leicestershire, and in 1802, when he married Sarah Tew in the parish of Lutterworth, he was called a native of that parish. They were married, after publication of the banns, on February 8, 1803, both signing the register with an X, and soon moved to Sarah’s home parish of Sharnford, a few miles away, where their first child, Edward Hollier, was baptised in 1804.
It is likely that Elizabeth Hollier, William’s niece, the illegitimate daughter of his sister Ann, came to live with him in Sharnford, for an Elizabeth Hollier married James Arnold, a local boy, at Sharnford on August 3, 1812(7). In 1812, in his daughter Elizabeth’s baptismal entry, William Hollier is called a ‘stockiner’, that is, a framework knitter, but by 1841, he was describing himself to the Census taker as an agricultural labourer. By then his wife was dead and his children had married. He died in his house at Sharnford, where he had been living alone since before 1841, on May 28, 1852.
William and Sarah Hollier had the following children, all baptised at Sharnford:
Edward and Thomas Hollier, the brothers, married sisters, Sarah and Mary Elkington, natives of the east Warwickshire parish of Harborough Magna, a few miles from Sharnford(8). Edward married Sarah at Harborough Magna, by banns, on November 20, 1828, the witnesses being Thomas Hollier (his brother) and Nancy Elkington (perhaps Sarah’s Aunt Ann). Both Edward and Sarah signed their names in the register, while Thomas marked with an X.
Thomas Hollier married Mary Elkington at Sharnford, his parish, by banns on October 18, 1830, the witnesses being William Hollier (his father) and Elizabeth Hollier (his sister). By now Thomas could sign his name, as did his bride; William and Elizabeth Hollier both marked. Mary, like Thomas, was described in this marriage entry as belonging to the parish of Sharnford and she may have moved there from Harborough after her sister Sarah was married.
Thomas Hollier seems to have remained in Sharnford all his life. In 1841 the Census called him a gardener, but by 1851 he and his wife were publicans in Sharnford, in a public house soon to be called the New Inn. They continued here until their deaths. Thomas Hollier died at Sharnford on December 5, 1874; in his will he was described as a butcher and victualler. Mary Hollier died there on June 20, 1885. They had a total of 13 children, of whom all but three survived infancy. No serious attempt has been made to trace their descendants, some of whom probably still live in the Leicester area.
The movements of Edward and Sarah Hollier may be traced, to some extent, by information in the Census entries about the birthplaces of their children. Edward farmed in Sharnford during the 1830s, and until 1843 at least, when his daughter Maria was born. By 1846, when Martha was born, the family was at Wigston, another Leicestershire parish. By 1851, Edward and Sarah were operating the Three Pots Inn, a long-established public house on the Warwickshire-Leicestershire border, where they remained for the rest of their lives(9).
Edward Hollier died there on October 12, 1867, and Sarah continued to operate the inn until her death on November 21, 1879. Both left wills, which are preserved at Somerset House, London. Edward’s estate, valued at “under £600”, was left to his wife. Sarah’s, valued at under “£800”, was divided equally among her children, except for a couple of small bequests.
Edward and Sarah had the following children:
William Hollier, the sixth child and second son of Edward and Sarah Hollier, was born at Sharnford on September 17, 1840. Nothing is known of his life between 1851, when he was living with his parents at the Three Pots Inn, and November 3, 1859, when he married Elizabeth Stevenson, a native of the parish of Ratcliffe-on-the-Wreake, Leicestershire, in the church of St. Margaret’s, Leicester. The witnesses to the marriage were George Stevenson, Elizabeth’s brother, and Mary Ann Wells, who is unidentified. Both William and Elizabeth claimed to be residents of the city of Leicester, and since their native villages are on the opposite sides of Leicester, it was probably in the city that they had met.
Directly following their marriage the couple returned to William’s home parish of Burbage, where Harry Hollier, their eldest son, was born before the end of the year. On the marriage certificate, William Hollier had falsely given his age as twenty-one, no doubt to avoid the delay of obtaining his parents’ consent as he was under age. At the time of the Census of 1861 William and Elizabeth Hollier were living at a farm called Sketchley Hill House in Burbage parish, where he was described as a farmer of fourteen acres. There was also a lodger in the house, one Joseph Walker, aged 87, a “Chelsea pensioner”, originally from Staffordshire - it is not known whether there was any relationship between him and the Holliers.
After 1861 the Holliers’ movements may be traced to some extent from the birthplaces of their twelve children, and from the Census records of 1871 and 1881. They were at Burbage till 1863 at least, but by 1865 they were at Frolesworth, on the other side of Sharnford, where they remained until at least 1868. At the time of the 1871 Census they were at Peatling Parva, a few miles east of Frolesworth, living in a lodge in the village, and farming 79 acres; they had been in the village since at least the previous summer. They remained at Peatling Parva until the end of 1875 or later, and by the autumn of 1877 were at Lowesby, a small village in eastern Leicestershire, not far from the area where Elizabeth had grown up.
At first they lived in a lodge in the village, but by the time of the 1881 Census, they were tenants of Streethill Farm 185 acres, to the north of the village. Both at Peatling Parva and at Lowesby, William Hollier was described as a farmer and grazier. According to his mother’s will, William had borrowed £48 from her, perhaps to buy livestock, and this was still owing when she died. Between 1885 and 1890, according to the County Directories, the family remained at Streethill Farm, but by 1904 they had moved to the city of Leicester. William Hollier’s grandsons in Canada had heard stories that he had lost many sheep through disease, but also that he was capable of losing £50 on a single game of billiards. Elizabeth died in Leicester in 1905. William made a living carting coal in Leicester and lived until 1917. According to his grandsons, he had left a public house one night arguing with a crony, and next morning was found drowned in a canal.
William and Elizabeth Hollier had the following children:
Vincent Oswald Hollier was born at Lowesby Lodge, Lowesby, on September 15, 1877. He married Sarah Ann Bamford (née Fowell) of Leicester about 1900. Vincent emigrated to Oak Lake, Manitoba, Canada in March 1907, and his wife and children followed in July of the same year, together with Sarah Ann’s brothers Herbert and Frederick Fowell, with their wives, and Sarah Ann’s parents. The family settled near Oak Lake, Manitoba, where the later children were born. Vincent Hollier first worked as a hired hand for the Banister family (who gave him the nickname “Bill”), then, beginning in 1910, for Ian Williams. The Holliers settled in the town of Oak Lake in 1912, where Vincent Hollier worked as a mill hand for Leitch Brothers Flour Mill. He tried to homestead near Eriksdale, Manitoba, his family living there for at least three summers from 1915 to 1917, but the land was too stony for grain farming and the family returned to Oak Lake for good in 1918.
There Vincent Hollier bought grain, first for the North West Milling Company, then for Ogilvie Mills and finally, for almost 30 years, for the Manitoba Pool Elevators. He retired in 1946 and he and his wife lived in Winnipeg with their eldest daughter and son-in-law, Nellie and Tom Chapman. Vincent Hollier died of a heart attack on March 29, 1949, while visiting his daughter Ivy Moody at Routledge, Manitoba; he is buried in the Virden Cemetery. His widow, Sarah Ann, lived briefly in Winnipeg, then lived with the Moodys at Routledge until her death on July 17, 1964. She is also buried at Virden.
As well as writing this article on his Hollier ancestry, Harry has also carried out a substantial amount of research on the early Holliers in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire. This material has proved to be an invaluable source of information for the One-Name Study.Back to top