Frederick William Yearsley (maternal side): Railway man

I have often wondered if my interest in all things Great Western Railway and all things narrow gauge railway came from someone (or people) in my ancestral lines. And now I know.

Frederick William Yearsley was the father-in-law of a brother of a 1st cousin twice removed and he was a Goods Train Guard on the Great Western Railway !!

The actual lineage is as follows:

  • Frederick William Yearsley (1865 - 1947) - father-in-law of brother of 1st cousin 2x removed
  • Edith Esther Yearsley (1884 - 1951) - daughter of Frederick William Yearsley
  • Arthur Sheward (1885 - 1916) - husband of Edith Esther Yearsley
  • Ann Tolley (1851 - 1944) - mother of Arthur Sheward
  • Kate Eliza Sheward (1887 - ) - daughter of Ann Tolley
  • William Sheward (1859 - 1906) - father of Kate Eliza Sheward
  • Richard Sheward (1817 - 1870) - father of William Sheward
  • Herbert Sheward (1843 - 1906) - son of Richard Sheward - my maternal great grandfather
  • Mary Louisa Sheward (1880 - 1967) - daughter of Herbert Sheward - my maternal grandmother
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Mary Louisa Sheward - my mother
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

Frederick William Yearsley was born 7 August 1865 in Cookley, Wolverley, Worcestershire. His father, John Yearsley (1833 - 1911) was also born in Cookley and died in Wolverley, Worcestershire. John was a Forgeman at the Caledonian Tinplate Works. Frederick's mother, Mary, was born in 1832 in Wolverley, Worcestershire and died during January 1900 in Kidderminster, Worcestershire.

Frederick William Yearsley was married to Jane Jones, of St George (near Oakengates), Shropshire in January 1884 at Kidderminster, Worcestershire. They initially lived in Kidderminster and had 3 daughters:

  • Edith Esther Yearsley (1884 – 1951)
  • Ethel Mary Yearsley (1888 – )
  • Ruby Amy Yearsley (1897 – 1919)

Prior to joining the railway, Frederick William also worked at the Caledonian Tinplate Works owned by John Knight & Co.

In 1901 Frederick and his family had moved to 121 Chester St, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire because of his job with the Great Western Railway. And in 1911 they had moved again to 33 Sherwood Street, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire.

Frederick's last home was at 3 Croft Lane Wolverhampton, Staffordshire although he actually died at 376 Wolverhampton Road Heath Town, Wolverhampton.

Frederick left and estate of £2383 19s 6d jointly to Edith Esther Sheward (wife of Arthur Sheward) & Ethel May Poole (widow).


Initially, at age 15, Frederick William Yearsley went to work at the Caledonian Tinplate Works owned by John Knight & Co, probably as an assistant to his father  who was a Forgeman at the same place.

Cookley TinPlate Industry

The mill at Cookley was originally a corn-mill, erected in the time of Elizabeth 1st. It was still a corn-mill in 1649, when it and a slitting-mill were held by Sir Edward Sebright. It had been converted into an iron-mill before 1706. These mills were subsequently leased and held by the Knight family. Edward Knight owned these mills about 1750–80, in which latter year he died, and the last of this family connected with these works was Sir Frederic Winn Knight.

The Cookley Ironworks were founded towards the end of the 17th century, and from that time Cookley became a centre of the iron and tinplate industry. Joseph Piper, a native of this village, invented and perfected the patent tinning process.

On the death of Sir Frederic Winn Knight in 1897 the Wolverley estates passed to his nephew Eric Ayshford Knight of Wolverley. The industry gradually declined in the 19th century, owing to lack of railway communication, and in 1886 the entire works were removed to the neighbourhood of Brierley Hill in the Staffordshire coalfields.

Great Western Railway

Frederick William Yearsley left the TinPlate Works the year after his marriage to Jane Jones and went to work for the Great Western Railway, initially as a Porter at Kidderminster Goods Depot, Station Road, Kidderminster, Worcestershire. His wage upon joining Gods Wonderful Railway (as the GWR wascalled) was 17 shillings per week. He remained a Porter at Kidderminster Goods Depot until 1890 when he was promoted to Brakesman. He must have had a reasonable career as a Porter because he got a raises in:

  • 1887 to 18 shillings per week
  • 1889 to 19 shillings per week
  • 1890 to 22 shillings per week

Not everything was rosey though for on the 26th October 1894 Frederick was charged with "causing wagons to be damaged". He was fined but given a warning not to do it again.

Merthyr Tydfil, Glamorgan, Wales
In 1890 Frederick went to Merthyr as Brakesman. There were extensive goods yard in Merthyr where goods trains from the GWR met the Taff Vale, Brecon & Merthyr,  Rhymney Railway & London & North Western Railways.

Frederick went alone to Merthyr and took lodgings, leaving Jane and the kids back home in Kiddermister. However, the family soon joined him and they stayed in South Wales until 1901 when they moved to Wolverhampton.

Frederick's GWR employment record shows that he was a Brakesman at Merthyr between 1890 - 1895 and during that time his wages went up:

  • 1891 to 23 shillings per week
  • 1892 to 24 shillings per week

However on the 9th April 1895 he was charged with having "wagons off road", was fined 10 shillings and did not receive a pay increase that year (no doubt because of the accident).

Newport Dock, Monmouthshire, Wales
In 1896 Frederick moved to Newport Dock and was promoted to the position of Goods Guard (travelling in the brake van on the end of goods trains). When he was promoted his wages increased to 26 shillings per week. He got another wage increase in April 1897 to 27 shillings per week. He remained rostered at Newport Dock until the end of 1897.

In January 1898 Frederick was transferred to Wolverhampton (still as a Goods Guard) and he got another wage rise in April 1898 to 28 shillings per week.

Frederick and the family moved to 121 Chester St, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England in 1901. Presumably, Frederick was lodging somewhere during the 1899 - 1901 period until he bought the Chester St home.

Wolverhampton was Frederick's last "home" yard and he remained there until he retired from the railways in 1931 at the age of 65.

Frederick received wage increases at various times, while at Wolverhampton:

  • 1899 to 29 shillings per week
  • 1900 to 30 shillings per week
  • 1905 to 31 shillings per week
  • 1906 to 32 shillings per week
  • 1912 to 33 shillings per week

The records also show that on 12 July 1901 he was in trouble again for "not being available as Spare man at Oxley (Wolverhampton) sidings when ordered".

Although he remained with the gwr until he retired, his GWR records end in 1912.