Researched and contributed by Mr R.P. Hancock
[This article was written , in the summer of 2001 by the late Philip Hancock, whose sad death is reported elsewhere in this issue. Ed]
The Civic Society’s most recent project, in conjunction with the Borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, was the re-siteing of the Queen Victoria Monument in the Queen’s Gardens. Much time and effort was put into this venture by members of the Society, which donated a considerable sum of money to this end.
This donation was made possible by the magnificent bequest of the late Mrs Edith Shufflebotham. She had obviously had a great love of Newcastle, and expressed this in her will.
Mrs Shufflebotham had a very interesting family history. They came originally from Bristol in 1842. Thus she was the great granddaughter of Morgan and Mary Ann Davies. Morgan Davies was a last maker for the shoe industry. He had been offered a new job – the making of shoe moulds in Newcastle. His problem was transport, especially as his wife Mary Ann was heavily pregnant. The problem was resolved by walking all the way from Bristol. Mary Ann gave birth the day after arrival at Newcastle and this baby girl was the grandmother of Edith Shufflebotham.
Some two years after their arrival in Newcastle, Mary Ann died from cholera, a disease which had been increasing since an outbreak in 1832 and continued to increase as the population increased. The main causes of the spread were a contaminated water supply and totally inadequate sanitation and drainage. The outbreak reached epidemic proportions in 1829 when 234 cases were recorded in Newcastle to give a death rate of 5.2% in nine weeks. This could no longer be tolerated and effective action was taken. Thus in 1847 the Staffordshire Potteries Water Board was set up to deal with the problem.
This, of course, would be of slight consolation to Morgan Davies, who had lost his wife. To some extent he may have found some solace in his Unitarian faith, in which his family had worshipped for a hundred and fifty years. Mrs Shufflebotham was a regular attender at the Unitarian church in Newcastle.
In her younger days Edith played the piano in the era of silent movies. Mr Jim Wain remembers her still in those early days of the cinema. With the advent of Al Jolson in the first of the “talkies” the need for a cinema pianist was over. Edith Shufflebothaam, however, continued to play on, not in the cinema but at her home in Thistleberry, where she played hymns on her harmonium.
It seems fitting that her bequest should have been instrumental in helping to re-site the Queen Victoria Monument in the Queen’s Gardens, when one reflects that it was in the reign of Queen Victoria that her great grandparents had come to
Newcastle from Bristol and the family connection with Newcastle-under-Lyme was established.
A cousin of Mrs Edith Shufflebotham, Mr Eric France, was a founder member of Newcastle Civic Society.
May her generosity and benevolence long be remembered by members of the Civic Society