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Having researched the 1851 and later censuses on the Island I found that quite a few of the Garrison courted local girls, married and settled in the Plymouth area. One was a young Richard Routledge who was born in Carlisle, Cumberland in 1832. 16 years later he enlisted in the Royal Regiment of Artillery as a Gunner and Driver and by the time of the 1851 Census he was a 19 year old Acting Bombardier in the 1st Company, 12th Battalion on the Island who were providing part of the Artillery detachment. I thought it may be interesting to follow Richard through his marriage and family alongside the Island and Plymouth and watch how they grew and changed over the years. I’ve decided to do it in 10 year chunks up to 1921 as we have the census data for both the Island and family every 10 years up to that point so I will be covering the Island Garrison at each census in each blog. The censuses after 1921 aren’t yet public but there was a 1939 register taken just prior to World War II and there are other records around to trace people throughout the years. A number of Richard’s male descendants married and stayed in the Plymouth area whilst some of the female descendants married into the Maynard, Mounstephen, Blackler, Hodgkinson and Dyke families amongst others some of which also stayed in the Plymouth area. So the Blogs won’t just cover the Routledge family, Richard fathered 12 children and his eldest William fathered 13 children so the family becomes extended very quickly but what I wanted to do this week is to set the scene in 1851.

The 1851 Census. The entry for Richard Routledge is the 6th row from the top.

The world was a very different place back then. In the UK our borders are defined by our shoreline but mainland Europe was different and borders were constantly shifting and over the centuries countries had risen and fallen. In 1851 Germany was not yet a country but a loose confederation of 39 sovereign states ranging from the Prussian and Austrian Empires down to independent City States such as Hamburg and Frankfurt with the Austrian Emperor as a permanent President. Italy was not yet a country as we understand it. The North had been part of the French Empire under Napoleon, Sicily was independent and the country was still undergoing a reunification which wouldn’t end until 1861. Poland had ceased to exist in 1772 when it was partitioned between Prussia, Austria and Russia. The United States of the Ionian Islands (now part of Greece) was a British Protectorate, the Ottoman Empire (later Turkey) occupied a lot of the Balkans including modern day Romania and Bulgaria amongst others. A number of other small nations eventually swallowed up larger Empires also existed such as Piedmont and Sardinia and the Avar Khanate. In the UK Ireland did not have Home Rule and was entirely under British rule. The UK was not involved in any major wars but did have some very limited involvement in areas which affected British Interests. Although the weakening of the Ottoman Empire and expansion of the Russian Empire was sowing the seeds of the Crimean War a few years later,

The Map of Europe in 1850. The foreign policy of Great Britain was to control the seas which were the links to our Empire and form alliances so no single country or Empire could dominate Europe.

Socially Britain was different there was no welfare state, charitable organisations or the Church provided free schooling supported by Government grants but there was no national requirement for children to receive an education and many didn’t. The Military had its own schools for the education not only of the soldiers and sailors many of whom had trouble reading or writing but also the children of those serving and orphans. By 1858 there were over 11000 students in Military Schools being taught by a Corps of School Masters and Mistresses. The Poor Law provided some relief for those unable to sustain themselves or their families. Workhouses were operated by local authorities and paid for by local ratepayers to house those unable to find or couldn’t work. The Workhouses themselves set up their own businesses which used the unpaid inmates as labour. Any children finding themselves incarcerated would have received an education from the Teachers employed by the Workhouse. In 1851 only 1 in 7 men had the right to vote and women were explicitly barred from voting. The population was split almost 50/50 between rural and urban areas although more people would gravitate towards urban areas as time passed.

Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport were separate towns with populations of around 53,000, 12,000 and 38,000 respectively. The towns were overcrowded and there were on average 10 people living in each house which was double the national average of 5. Many families often only had a room or two within a house shared with other families. Electricity wasn’t yet developed, any street lighting was gas lit and kindling wood or coal was used to heat homes. Drains and sewers were a haphazard affair in the expanding towns adding to the problems of overcrowding.

A Map a few years before 1850 showing the three towns of Devonport, Stonehouse and Plymouth from Left to Right

There were 3 newspapers for those that were literate, the Plymouth Herald, the Plymouth Journal and Plymouth Times. The first railway line had arrived in Plymouth in 1848 built by Great Western Railway. It was an extension from Exeter and Plymouth’s first Station was completed at Millbay a year later.

Millbay Station, Plymouth’s first station as the rail line was extended from Exeter

There was a horse worked railway, the Plymouth Dartmoor line, which was used to bring granite in from the quarries to Sutton Pool. Locally there were some horse drawn buses. Stores were moved by horse drawn carriage although the Military had constructed some wooden rails for horse drawn carriages within their own garrisons. Industry was centred on Military and Civilian dockyards and their suppliers as well as the transport industry as the railways arrived and gradually expanded. Local services such as tailors, upholsterers, milliners to provide domestic and industry services were also sources of employment as was being a domestic servant. As had been the case since the earliest times there was a large fishing industry. Pilchards, Eels, Crab and Lobster were all fished in the Sound and larger boats fished further along the coast and on the open seas. Royal William Yard and the Breakwater were complete though the Breakwater Fort hadn’t yet been designed let alone constructed.

Plymouth Breakwater prior to the Breakwater Fort being built.

At Devonport Naval Base the Keyham Steam Dockyard or North Dock hadn’t yet been completed though had begun in 1844 the same year the civilian Millbay Dock had been completed. The Palmerston Fort building programme hadn’t yet been envisaged so on the Island the casemates and subterranean magazines weren’t built neither had a number of the defences around Plymouth such as Fort Picklecombe, the Mount Edgecomb Garden Battery along with much of the land based northern line of forts and gun batteries.

The Sound showing the Island around 1850

The Naval Engineering College hadn’t yet been built either. Artillery was still smooth bore with heated cannon balls or shot being used as ammunition. Warships were still built from wood although a number were being converted to and some already were powered by steam. Sports wise Argyle hadn’t yet been founded nor had Plymouth Albion although there was a Plymouth Cricket Club but there were no local leagues, games were played on a challenge basis and overarm bowling was not yet legal. Most military units played sports and had their own teams so it is quite possible the local military units would have had their own cricket teams although with the class divide they may have been separate officer and other rank teams.

As we trace Richard and when he marries his family and descendants through the next couple of centuries it provides something of an insight in the social history of a typical working class family and their descendants in Plymouth. As I cover the story of Richard and his descendants over the next blogs just a word or two of caution. Whilst I am sure I have the right family lineage please be aware there may be the odd error, records aren’t always correct especially when they are self declarations. After the last available census in 1921 I am also trying to connect the dots over a number of decades. I have used second names and initials when they are known as sons and daughters were frequently named after fathers and mothers or other relatives so the same name will crop up a lot. Finally the censuses just give an age so birth years could be one year out though I have done my best to trace the actual year. The next Blog will cover from 1851 to 1861, Richard marrying Mary Ann Rowett and starting a family and settling in Devonport, the changes to the three towns and finishing with the 1861 Island census.