The Starkey family are probably best known or heard of in connection with Pelsall Hall Colliery disaster, however, their connection with Pelsall runs far deeper.
Back in 2012 at my Charles Family and Pelsall Hall book launch at Pelsall Hall I met Mr Kevan Done who is a direct descendant of the Starkey family. Very kindly he was able to share with me an abundance of information about Pelsall Hall Colliery disaster, some of which I used when publishing Pelsall's Black Gold Pelsall Hall Colliery Disaster The History, the Unsolved mysteries and the Lasting Legacy.
To mark the anniversary of Pelsall Hall Colliery disaster, I contacted Mr Done to ask him if he would be interested in an article about the Starkey family being published on the Pelsall Times website.
When Mr Done wrote back to me he very kindly offered to loan me a range of ephemera to use regarding the Starkey family which I am sure readers will find fascinating.
The following is written in by Mr Kevan Done.
Thomas Starkey (Mr Done's Great Grandfather) was born in the village of Rushall near Walsall on 7th November 1850. Thomas was the son of a coal miner, William Starkey who had been born in Warton, Warwickshire, but had lived for quite some time in Rushall. The 1851 census shows the family consisting of William, his wife Mary Ann and baby Thomas, only 5 months were staying with Sarah Bradbury, 36 years of age, a laundress who was living at St James Street, Rushall. This became the residence of Mary Ann at the time of William and Mary’s marriage. William was living at Cannon Street, Ryecroft. This area, especially Ryecroft was growing in popularity mainly because of the number of coal mining pits, increasing the inhabitants of Rushall. William probably came to this area in search of work.
By 1861 the family had moved to Norton Road, Pelsall, another village about a couple of miles away and within a decade, the Starkey family had grown and Thomas now had four brothers, Richard, William, Charles, John and a sister called Elizabeth.
Thomas married Mary Ann Wainwright on April 18th 1870 at St Michaels Church in the parish of Rushall. This was the same Church that his parents, William and Mary Ann had been married in just 20 years earlier. The two witnesses were Matilda Llewellyn nee Wainwright and Thomas Wainwright, the brother and sister of Mary Ann.
It is interesting to note that when asked to sign the marriage certificate, only Thomas Wainwright could write his name. The others could only put their mark. In these times it was not considered unusual for a vast majority of the people, especially commoners, working classes, the poor and underprivileged in the 19th century England, not to be able to read or write.
Strange as it may seem, Thomas was said to be a lay preacher, probably Methodist. Training as a local preacher was one of the ways that intelligent people who had little chance of formal schooling acquired an education and an ability at public speaking. It may well have been that Thomas took the opportunity to improve himself with a need to spread spiritual healing amongst the working class, giving them satisfaction and belief in their work, their families and the strength to endure the every day live within an industrial cloud.
Thomas was not only a coal miner/hewer but he also worked in a grocery shop, which he may well have owned with his father, William.
In 1891 Mary Ann gave birth to her last child, and unfortunately, two years later at the age of forty three, she passed away.
Thomas befriended a girl called Sarah James, born in Handsworth, Birmingham in 1852, whose job was that of a domestic. On the 1901 census it shows a girl called Sarah, listed as Thomas’ wife, all living at Green Lane , Bloxwich. A marriage is also recorded between a Thomas and Sarah during the year 1894 in the same area. It seems a short time after the death of Mary Ann that Thomas should remarry, and we can speculate as to why he married Sarah so soon, but with five of his children being under thirteen, perhaps she was more of a companion to him as well as a stepmother to his children.
Over the next ten years, the children started to leave the family home, and even though most of them stayed within the Staffordshire area, the eldest son, Charles William moved back to where he was born, Yorkshire, and another Walter Major was married in Doncaster. Thomas and Sarah did move up to Yorkshire, and it was here in the district of Doncaster, that both of them ended their days. Great Grandfather Thomas Starkey died in 1911 and Sarah Starkey died twenty years later in 1930.