THE GRAHAM FAMILY
Matthew Graham was born about 1834 in Scotland, and by 1871 he was living in New Ferry, Bebingon where he was working as a coachman. His wife was Helen Connell who also was Scottish, by this time they had children Isabella 11, Agnes 9, Joseph 4 and little Margaret just 4 months old.
By 1881 the family had moved to Bronwylfa, close to Ruabon. Mathew was employed by Edward Evans Esq, who had been a JP for Denbighshire. They now had more daughters, Mary Ellen 8, Edith Sophia 5 and Lilian aged 4. When Elizabeth, the daughter of Edward Evans married in 1883 the reports in the papers stated “The wedding presents were exceedingly numerous and costly, and included a handsome cruet stand presented by Mr and Mrs Graham (The Lodge), and a prettily embroidered table cloth by Miss Isabella Graham”
Mathew left Bronwyfla and was now working as a carrier; the family were living in Swan Street, Ruabon. Two of his daughters were assistant schoolmistresses and the younger ones were often mentioned in the newspapers for winning Church School prizes.
Helen died at Johnstown in May 1899 she was 63. Just two months later Mathew was killed in terrible circumstances.
A shocking accident occurred on Friday on Acton Hill, a steep incline near Wrexham. It appears that as a pair of horses and brake containing a party from Chester-street Baptist Chapel, Wrexham, were going up the hill a trace broke and the horses swerved round. The driver, Matthew Graham, jumped off to stop them, and by some means became entangled in harness. He was dragged along the road, was kicked on the head, and his skull fractured. Deceased was well known in the district, having been for over thirty year’s coachman to Mr. Edward Evans, of Bronwylfa. Mr. Coroner Wynn Evans held an inquest, on Saturday, when a verdict of accidental death” was returned. The church and Sunday school of Chester-street expressed the deepest sympathy with deceased’s relatives, and their regret for the accident, which cast a gloom over the party. This expression was endorsed by the coroner and jury.Llangollen Advertiser 28 July 1899
The South Wales News gave a rather more gruesome version.
A TERRIBLE DEATH. On Saturday Mr Wynne Evans, East Denbighshire, coroner, held an inquiry at the County Hall, Wrexham, respecting the death of Matthew Graham who was killed near Acton Park, Wrexham. Deceased was driving a brake, containing a Sunday-school party, when a trace broke. The party alighted, and whilst the deceased was examining the trace the horses swerved and bolted. Deceased tried to stop them, was knocked down, and his brains were dashed out.South Wales News
Mathew was buried with Helen.
Their daughter Isabella was employed as a servant in the Wrexham workhouse but later was given a better position. The master was George Stewart Bessell who was from Bristol. Isabella was mentioned a few times in the papers.
THE NEW LABOUR MISTRESS. The Visiting Committee, to whom the task was assigned of appointing a labor mistress, reported upon the subject. The candidates were Miss S. Annie Thomas, Wellington-road, Wrexham, Mrs Elizabeth Hill, Felin Puleston; Miss E. M. Jones Carlton, Sutton, near Chester; Mrs J. Beattie, Cottage Homes, Fazakerley, Liverpool, and Miss Isabella Graham, Bromfield House, Rhos. The Committee invited Mrs Hill and Miss Graham to attend a special meeting, and this having been done; they recommended the appointment of Miss Graham. The Guardians interviewed both ladies, and on the motion of the Chairman seconded by Mr E. Roberts, Miss Graham was elected.Wrexham Advertiser 3 January 1891.
Later that year she was attacked while doing her job.
INSUBORDINATION AT THE WORKHOUSE. Flora Manuel, was brought up in custody, charged with assaulting Isabella Graham, the labour mistress at the Workhouse, on Monday. The prisoner, who had been before the Court several times previously for a similar offence, was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment with hard labour.Wrexham Advertiser 9th May 1891
28 November 1891
A VIOLENT WOMAN. Flora Manuel, an inmate of the Union Workhouse, was charged with refusing to work and with threatening the labour mistress, Miss Isabella Graham. As Miss Graham entered the Court the prisoner rushed up to her, and before anyone could interfere, struck her a violent blow on the head. Miss Graham stated that the prisoner refused to do her work when ordered on Saturday, and used threatening language to her. She said she would not strike her with her fists, but would use a weapon to her. She added that whenever she could catch her alone she would do for her.” She was a dangerous woman, and continually refused to do her work, and when witness spoke to her she threatened her. Mr Bessell, the workhouse master, stated that the conduct of the prisoner was insufferable, and her language was dreadful. She had been placed in the refractory ward time after time, and several times sent to prison, but nothing seemed to improve her. She had also been before the Visiting Committee and talked to, but without any favorable result. She refused to obey the matron or anybody else, and it was impossible to put up with her conduct any longer. The prisoner admitted that she threatened to take a weapon to Miss Graham, but she was sorry for having struck her in Court. The Bench sentenced the prisoner to a months’ imprisonment, and Mr Thomas appealed to her to endeavour to restrain her temper in the future, and the prisoner promised to try to do so.
In January 1892, following on from that case, another report was printed.
ASSAULT ON A WORKHOUSE OFFICIAL. On Monday, at the Borough Police Court, Flora Manuel, an inmate of Wrexham Workhouse, was charged with assaulting Isabella Graham, labour mistress at the workhouse. Prisoner was recently charged before the county police court with insubordination. Prisoner was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment.
By 1908 Isabella was a cook, but she was accused of theft, as there had been other incidents at the workhouse perhaps Isabella was used as an example and punished. It did seem a petty incident and she was a respectable woman from a good family.
THE COOK’S RATIONS There have been several scandals at Wrexham Workhouse recently, and today the cook, Isabella Graham, appeared before the magistrate charged with stealing rations, which, she said, she had, sent her sister at Birkenhead, who had five children. In defence it was urged that the prisoner had saved the rations out off her own allowance, and considered she was entitled to give them away. The magistrates sentenced her to a month imprisonment. The prisoner had been in the guardians’ service seventeen years.Evening Express 21st January 1908
In 1911 Isabella was at 1 Victoria Road, Wrexham, she was now 51 and her occupation was domestic duties. The head of the house was George Stewart Bessell who was her old master at the workhouse. His wife had died, he had retired and was living with his two children. This says a lot about how highly he thought of Isabella.
Isabella lived to the age of 76, she died in November 1936 and was buried with her parents.
Joseph Graham who seems to have been the only son, left home before 1891, he has not been traced for sure, but he died in August 1923 in Croesnewydd Hospital aged 53. He was buried with his sister and their parents.
Just as a matter of interest, who was Flora Manuel? Flora was born about 1845.
In 1871 Flora was already an inmate in the Workhouse, she was classed as a pauper and an imbecile. She was still there in every census up until 1911 when she was aged 66 and unmarried. There`s no mention of a disability, but she had the occupation of domestic servant. It`s doubtful that she worked out of the workhouse.
She had trouble controlling her temper and this report from August 1885 shows.
A REFRACTORY INMATE —STRIKING A WITNESS. Flora Manuel, an inmate at the Union Workhouse, was charged with having refused to do the work allotted her on the previous day. The prisoner was sentenced to seven days” imprisonment with hard labour, and as she was being removed to the cells, she struck Miss Griffiths, who had given evidence in the case. For this assault she was ordered to be imprisoned for another term of seven days.
In September 1895 she was in trouble again,
LATE COMERS. Mr. Buchanan Taylor called the attention of the Board to the case of a young person named Hopley and Flora Manuel. Both were out on Saturday, Hopley having her baby and being accompanied by her mother. The mother and the baby came to the house at 8.30 p.m. but the younger Hopley, and Manuel did not return until 11.30. Mr Taylor thought this was much too late for inmates to return home, and he thought the proper place for them would have been the vagrant wards. The Chairman said no doubt the hour was very late, but the officers would incur a great responsibility if they refused to admit them. At the request of Mr Taylor, the Chairman admonished Manuel and Hopley.
Flora remained in the workhouse until her death in 1919 aged 74; she had been there for at least 48 years. She was buried with 5 other people who died within 12 months of her.
Researched by Annette Edwards. February 2019. Gravestone photographs Graham Lloyd.
Grave ref: Wrexham Cemetery J-02765