Untold lives blog

25 March 2021

Eliza Armstrong’s husband

Since 2012 we have been sharing stories which try to piece together the later life of Eliza Armstrong, the child bought for £5.  This post focuses on Eliza’s husband Henry George West.

Henry George West’s birth was registered in Shoreditch in the first quarter of 1857.  He was the son of Henry West and his wife Elizabeth née Wetenhall.  His parents had three children born in East London and then moved their family to Newcastle-upon-Tyne where five more were born.  Henry senior was a boot and shoe maker, then a traveller in the boot trade, and finally the manager of a shoe warehouse.  Elizabeth was a dressmaker.

In January 1879 Henry George West, 22, married Sarah Turnbull, 19, at St Peter's Church Newcastle and his profession in given as barman.  However the 1881 census describes him as a plumber and gasfitter. 

Interior of a music hall 1873 focusing on the audience‘London sketches - at a music hall’ from The Graphic 5 April 1873 p. 329. Copyright British Library Images Online

Sarah’s father William Turnbull was said to be a wine merchant on her marriage certificate.  William appears in local newspapers in 1885-1886 as landlord of the George Tavern in King Street, North Shields, and proprietor of the Gaiety Theatre in the same street.  The business manager for Turnbull’s Gaiety Theatre in 1886 was Mr H. G. West.

 

Advert for Turnbull's Gaiety Theatre Shields Daily News 1 October 1886Advert for Turnbull's Gaiety Theatre from Shields Daily News 1 October 1886 British Newspaper Archive

Tragedy struck the family in December 1886.  Sarah West, aged just 27, was found dead in bed by her servant Mary Cooper at home in Marine Terrace, North Shields.  The inquest found that Sarah had a weak heart.

By February 1887, the Gaiety Theatre had passed into the ownership of George Duncan, a Tyneside comedian.  In January 1888, Henry George West was landlord of the Lord Byron Inn in North Shields.  He was summoned for allowing drinking after hours.  The police could hear men’s voices and drinks being ordered.  PC King covered the back door whilst Sergeant Clarke knocked at the front.  Three men were let out the back but retreated indoors when they saw Clarke.  West claimed that the men were friends being privately entertained.  He had only been at the pub at short while and was planning to leave because it didn’t pay.  The bench fined West £1 plus costs.  The other men were each fined 2s 6d plus costs.

The report of the case in the Shields Daily Gazette stated that West’s sister Florence, who kept house for him, had given evidence in his defence.  Henry wrote to the newspaper pointing out that his sister Florence was not involved and the name given should have been Audrey West.

Henry did not have a sister Audrey.  In the 1891 census, he was again working as a plumber and living in Jarrow with the family of Albert Overton, a barman born in  Aylesham, Norfolk.  Audrey West from Aylesham is with him and the couple are listed as Albert’s brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

Two and a half years later, Henry George West married Eliza Armstrong in Newcastle upon Tyne on 24 October 1893 and appears to have continued working as a plumber from that time.  Audrey (Audy) Overton, born in Norfolk, was living in Jarrow with her sister in 1901.

When West’s father Henry died in July 1890, the obituaries spoke of his long years of work as a temperance reformer in Newcastle.  I wonder what Henry thought of his son’s pub work?

Obituary for Henry West Newcastle Daily Chronicle 5 July 1890Obituary for Henry West Newcastle Daily Chronicle 5 July 1890 British Newspaper Archive

Henry George West died of heart disease on 17 February 1906 at home in Hebburn, leaving Eliza alone with five young children.

Margaret Makepeace
Lead Curator, East India Company Records

Further reading:
Whatever happened to Eliza Armstrong?
Eliza Armstrong – still elusive!
Eliza Armstrong – Another Piece of the Puzzle
Eliza Armstrong’s children

British Newspaper Archive also available via Findmypast e.g. Shields Daily News 1886 for William Turnbull and the Gaiety Theatre; Shields Daily News 27 December 1886 for Sarah West’s death; Shields Daily Gazette 13 & 25 January 1888 for the court case involving Henry George West; Newcastle Daily Chronicle 5 July 1890 & Newcastle Chronicle 12 July 1890 for obituaries of Henry West.

 

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