Coalmen, Firemen & Fitters
There are a number of men recorded in Ashchurch as part of a career progression which seems to run as engine cleaner - fitter - coalman/fireman - engine driver. They have not been found in the railway records, but are known from censuses and certain local documents. As such, there may be others who were in Ashchurch for a short term and not captured in the censuses. They presumably worked for the railways Loco Department. All who can be fully identified were local men spending their working lives in Gloucestershire. Bearing in mind that Ashchurch was not a terminus station on the main line it may be that these men operated trains on the branch lines, and perhaps in the shunting yard. They are not the same as the men described as stationary-engine drivers, who worked in the Provender Stores at Ashchurch station and who are detailed in the section dealing with Provender Stores workers.
Biographical details are given below. The following table summarises their stay in Ashchurch in context.
|Cornelius Cuff||1871 Malvern|
|Edward Harris||1891 (Gloucester)|
|1908-11 engine driver||1919 ?Gloucester|
|George William Luker||1891 coalman|
|Daniel Mulcuck||1886 Gloucester|
not in railway
|1887-91 engine fireman||1903 Gloucester|
|Frank James Slatter||1891 engine fitter|
|John Smith||1871 Tewkesbury|
|1901-11 engine driver|
There are also two men (Thomas Prew and William Knight) who described themselves as engine drivers but only in 1891. Both had a background in agriculture, Prew a labourer before this and a farmer subsequently, Knight a labourer throughout. In neither case is there any reference to the railway, perhaps they were drivers of some kind of farm engine, and they are thus not further considered here.
Cornelius Cuff spent at least two years in Ashchurch working as an engine coalman. He would go on to become a railway engine driver in Gloucester. He was born in Hasfield, between Tewkesbury and Gloucester, in 1843, his father a labourer. In 1861 he was still in Hasfield, "boy of all work" at a local butcher's. Ten years later he was an engine cleaner in Great Malvern, Worcestershire, then an engine coalman in Ashchurch in 1881, where children were born in 1879 and 1881 and where he was probably living in one of the railway cottages; finally in Gloucester, engine fireman in 1901 and railway pensioner in 1911. He died in Gloucester in 1932 at the age of 90. Two of his sons took up employment with the railways as fitter in the locomotive sheds, but this was after the family had left Ashchurch.
Edward Harris was a M[idland] Railway engine driver from at least 1893 to at least 1919, in Ashchurch in the early 1900s. He was born in Gloucester in about 1867 and is probably the man of that name living at home there at the Stroud Road Railway Crossing in 1881 and the Farm Road [Railway] Crossing in 1891, his father John a railway policeman presumably in charge of the crossing. He himself was a sawyer on the first occasion, a fireman on the second.
He was in Ashchurch between 1908 and 1911. On the latter date he was living at Marconi Cottages in the Ashchurch Road, a widower with four sons between the ages of 7 and 17, all born in various parishes in Gloucester. He was not seen there after that; an Edward John Harris registered there in 1912-1914 is presumably his eldest son. Edward died in Gloucester in 1928 at the age of 61.
Evidence for his occupation as a Midland Railway engine driver is from the records of the baptism of his first son in 1893 and the latter's marriage in December 1919, both ceremonies in Gloucester; also from the census in Ashchurch in 1911. The railway employment records show an E Harris in Ashchurch. He is unlikely to be the same man but details are given here for the record. He was an assistant porter at Great Malvern from November to October 1902, then a parcel porter at Ashchurch until his resignation in March probably of 1903.
George William Luker may be part of this group, albeit there is little information on him. He, his wife and two small sons were boarding with railway fireman Daniel Mulcuck (see next entry) in one of the railway cottages at Ashchurch in 1891. He described himself as a coalman on the railways. However, very little more has been found on him. He was born in Avening in Gloucestershire in about 1861, was living in Minchinhampton, also Gloucestershire, when he married in Somerset in 1887. His children were born in the Stroud, Gloucestershire district, William Henry in Hosley in 1888 and Alfred Charles in Nailsworth in 1890. Wife and children had moved to Newport in Monmouthshire by 1901, but he is not listed with them They may have remained there, but there is yet nothing further on George.
Daniel Mulcuck worked as a railway firemen in Ashchurch for some five years. Otherwise he was born, lived and died in Gloucester. He was born in1864 and was at home in the city in 1871, his father, also Daniel, a fitter, and 1881, his father a blacksmith and himself a lath render. He was still thus and his father still a blacksmith when he married in 1886. A daughter was born in Gloucester. He then moved to Ashchurch, where children were born in 1887 and 1889. In 1891 he was living in one of the railway cottages and working as an engine fireman. He was back in Gloucester by 1892, with the birth of a child there. He then remained in the city, still working as a fireman until at least 1903. By 1911 he was an engine driver there. He continued to live in Gloucester until his death in 1951 at the age of 86.
Frank James Slatter was born in Fiddington, Ashchurch, in 1870, his father a platelayer for the railway. In 1891 he is described as an engine fitter, a fireman when he married in 1896, and an engine fireman in 1901. He is then lost from the record. He may be the Frank J Slatter whose death was registered in Evesham, Worcestershire in 1915 at the age of 44.
John Smith was born and baptised in Churchdown near Gloucester in 1848. He has then not been found until 1871 when he was living in Tewkesbury, married, and working as an engine fireman. Ten years later he was in Bristol, now an engine driver, an occupation which he would then continue to follow. In 1891 he was back in Tewkesbury, he and his wife living with a relative. He had moved to Ashchurch by 1901 and would remain there until his death. In both 1901 and 1911 he was living not in one of the railway cottages at the station but at an address in the Ashchurch Road. In the electoral register he was listed among the standard householders in the first few years but from 1908 as an ownership voter. He was still in the Ashchurch Road, with wife Emma, after the war, alone from 1925, and his death was registered in the Tewkesbury district in 1930 at the age of 82. There were no children.
This data has been researched and produced by Brian Harringman. Comments, additions, and especially corrections would be gratefully received.