Neal relations at Cuckoos Cup, The Wrekin

Bottling it in Besthorpe Giving the Howes line a home

Of all the ancestral home towns and villages, that of the direct Howes line, namely Besthorpe in Norfolk, has been the most neglected to date. This stands alongside the minimal details held on the last known family member to spend all his life there, 3x great grandfather James Howes. The direct line can be quite easily traced back to him, born in the village at the turn of the 19th century {1}.

This article seeks to establish a greater understanding of the Besthorpe area as well as filling out the personal details for James. Do skip the places section if you want, though.

A changing village

Besthorpe is a village south west of Norwich, close to Attleborough. According to an 1854 directory {2}, Besthorpe was “a parish with 134 scattered houses”, although the then population of 614 was an increase on 536 noted in the 1845 edition.

The dispersed nature makes it harder to track the route the census enumerator took – this can help to get an idea of the location of mentioned roads or buildings. In 1841 in particular the route is difficult to fathom.

Note: a specific Besthorpe page has been added to our Norfolk and Norwich section.

1841 census

The description for Besthorpe enumeration district (transcribed from the first image of a set of thirteen – double – pages on Ancestry):

All that part of the parish of Besthorpe lying to the South & East of a road called the Besthorpe Lane leading from Attleborough Street past the Old Workhouse in Besthorpe unto the Turnpike road to Norwich near the 13th Mile Stone.

1841 census, District 1 Attleborough, Wayland, Norfolk

At 1841 “ag lab” James is with his son Charles at Bottle House. After five pages full of households in The Carr, ‘near Old Workhouse’ and other places, the census revisits Bottle House, adding William and Rosette Witherly (aged 45 and 50), plus the Corston family with 5 children, seemingly at the end of this district enumeration. Then another half dozen pages are tacked on, bearing no street or building names but perhaps of the ‘heart’ of the village where all the trades are carried out – originally enumerated along with another district?

There’s another entry for Bottle Houses 5 pages before James, too – John and Ann Warnes and family. Rather a messy set of census records, but then it was the first full exercise as such.

1851 census

The 1851 enumeration district description is: “The whole of the Parish of Besthorpe, comprising Sluts Hole Lane, The Carr, The Old Hall, Compasses Road, Mill Lane, King Street, Rockery (or Rookery?) Farm, Rose Lane and Silver Street.”

1861 census

Enumeration district description: “The whole of the Parish of Besthorpe, comprising Silver Street, White House Lane, Burgh Farm, Compasses Road, The Hall, Vicarage House, Church Lane, Old Hall Cottage, Carlton Road, Bottle Cottages, Black Car, Long Road, Sluts Hall Lane, King Street, Rockery Farm, Turnpike Road, Mill Lane, and the remaining part of Silver Street.”

In practice, on the census forms Bottle Cottage is preceded by Long Road and followed by Black Car Farm then The Car. Note the changes relative to 1851: to Sluts ‘Hall’ Lane, the appearance of Turnpike Road and departure of Rose Lane.

1871 census

Description: “The whole of the Parish of Besthorpe comprising Silver Street, White House Lane, Compasses Road, The Hall, King Street, Vicarage House, Black Car, Sluts Hall Lane, Rockery Farm, Turnpike Road and Mill Lane.”

The places

Neither Bottle House (1841) or Bottle Cottage (1861) have been spotted on any map. However, they must be the same place.

The ‘Old Workhouse’ and Parsonage House are listed close by in 1841 – perhaps the latter is Parsonage Farm on the 1838 map (see below). There seems to be virtually no online reference to the old Besthorpe workhouse other than a comment from 1988 on Norfolk Mills website’s page looking at Besthorpe Tower Mill: “The Workhouse at Besthorpe is of Clay Lump” (as is the mill). This sounds like the building still existed a few decades ago. Anyone have any further knowledge?

The 1851 has ‘The Hall’ immediately following the entry for James Howes (at The Carr). The Hall is occupied by the Limmer family {3}, head of the household is Jane, a widow but still recorded as “farmers wife”, while her son Edward at just 17 is the manager of 500 acres and 17 people. The Edward Limmer mentioned in 1845 Whites directory extract on genUKI must surely be her husband though.

The next census entry to The Hall is Compasses Road, which presumably encompassed (haha) the pub of the same name (see below).

Carr movements

The Carr doesn’t appear on modern maps either. An 1838 map on Vision of Britain (extract above) however does have ‘The Car’ – in the same place as later maps show Carr Lane, near the slightly notoriously named ‘Sluts Hole Lane’. Also a possibility is ‘Black Car’ to the east. Then there is Besthorpe Carr, the current name for the road around Black Carr – connecting with Black Car Farm and The Car, right after Bottle Cottage in the 1861 census?

Only a little further along in both 1841 and 1851 censuses is ‘The Compasses’ pub. Could The Carr/ Carr Lane have extended further south than the latter does now (i.e. beyond the railway line and along ‘Rose Lane’)? See the area on Ordnance Survey 25 inch map from 1880s (extract below).

There must be a better map somewhere to locate Turnpike Road, Long Road, Compasses Road, etc.!

Update: Tony Bradstreet tells us “Bottle Corner is at grid reference TM 09073 95569, at the very eastern end of Bunwell Road (the road that heads past the church). In earlier times (before the Enclosure), there was a Leather Bottle Common here.” Very close to Black Carr hamlet.

The people

Also in Bottle House at 1841, alongside James (aged 35) and Charles Howes (11), is another Charles Howes just 3 years younger plus presumably his mother Mary, a weaver about 30 years old. It would appear that these are two separate families, based on how they are grouped and perhaps the coinciding names of the children {4}.

The elder Charles is a ‘journeyman tailor’ by 1851, lodging in the adjacent village of Attleborough (Meer Street). With Howes a fairly common local name the 1851 census for James hadn’t been pinned down before now. A further search has identified the best fit as a household in The Carr, Besthorpe, headed by himself, a widower and ag. lab. age 48, along with the Laws family. Mary Laws is 43 and an unmarried housekeeper (servant) born in ‘Carlton’ (presumably Carleton Rode), Charles age 17 is an ag. lab. plus a young William age 3. Both the lads are ‘lodgers’.

Laws unto themselves

There is an odd similarity between Mary Howes and presumed son Charles in 1841, and Mary Laws with presumed son Charles ten years later. The ages fit, taking rounding into account, and there is the elephant in the room of how an ag. lab. could afford a servant housekeeper. Perhaps she was a lodger like her children, paying her rent in kind, but it seems more likely that this was a disguised cohabitation.

Following this train of thought, Ancestry Norfolk records can be found for Besthorpe baptisms of Charles Laws in June 1832 and William Bernard Laws in May 1855 with a birth date of April 1847 (why the delay?). Both with mother Mary Laws and no father listed.

A couple of family trees on Ancestry indicate that Charles Laws emigrated to Australia. This tallies with a death registered in 1918 (Shepparton, Victoria per Australia Death Index records) which states his parents as John Laws and Mary Howes! {5}

Not a lot else can be found in UK genealogy databases for any of the Laws individuals. This increases the likelihood that the enumerator in 1841 could have misread his notes and mistook Laws for Howes, but does leave a lot of loose ends. Nevertheless, Mary/Charles Laws and Mary/Charles Howes could well be one and the same in my books.

A late observation: after James’ mother Elizabeth dies in 1805, his father Meshach Howes remarries to Susanna Lawes in 1810. She dies June 1832.

Death by dropsy

Your editor has just obtained the likely death certificate for James Howes, for 11 April 1857 in Besthorpe – unfortunately no more detailed address. This matches a burial record for 16th April, and confirms he was an agricultural labourer (the other local with the same name and similar age was a farmer/ constable/ publican). Cause of death “Dropsy, 9 weeks” – according to various websites, this is “Edema (swelling), often caused by kidney or heart disease”. The slight problem here is the recorded age of 58, but accuracy does depend on the knowledge of the informant, in this case Mary Barnard.

One Mary Barnard was at Bottle Cottage in 1861, with husband William and family. Although there are other Barnard families around, the familiar address indicates she could be a close neighbour and/or acquaintance.

It would be nice to think that Elizabeth Carter, a 90-year old widow in the same household, is somehow connected to James’ daughter-in-law Apollonia Carter. She would be a good fit to grandmother Elizabeth Barcoes/ Backhouse!

Pursuing a marriage for William and Mary Barnard is complicated by a lack of birth certificate for William junior (which would give Mary’s maiden name) {6}. However, James’s half sister Elizabeth (born 1812) married a John Barnard in 1833. It looks like William could be John’s brother, baptised 1st November 1807 in Besthorpe. John and William baptism records both only show the mother, with the latter having the added description of ‘base child’.

So informant Mary Barnard is the wife of the half-sister’s brother-in-law. Probably. {8}

Births and marriages

The censuses and death records for James Howes imply a range for his birth from 1798/99 (age 58 at April 1857) to 1806 (1841 census). However the 1851 census is likely to give the most accurate information, with an 1802/03 birth. This tallies with a baptism on 4th June 1803 at Besthorpe, parents Mesach and Elizabeth, which was already the preferred choice {7}.

James married Ann Lane in Besthorpe on 8th November 1825 (source: Norfolk records, Ancestry). Two other children, Elizabeth and Robert, died in infancy, and Ann(e) is buried July 1833 (Ancestry Norfolk records again).

Tree time

You can find James Howes in the One Name Study at and trace their research on the Howes line back to the 1400s. One of the sources quoted is the ‘Howes of Besthorpe’ genealogy research (“family pedigree”) held by Norfolk Family History Society.

Of course those who have access to the HowesWatkinsNealScott tree on Ancestry can also find him there, but the earlier centuries appear on a separate JamesHowes public tree (originally derived from

Your comments and suggestions welcome via any route, as always.


This is the first post on Cutlock & Co using the ‘new’ WordPress block editor. It has worked quite well, except: the sub-title facility isn’t compatible, no show for ‘most used’ tags, post preview can auto-update in an annoying manner.

  1. See Cutlock & Co Howes family page for information going backwards to Arthur AB Howes (1858 – 1918). His father was Charles Henry Howes (1829 – 1877, tailor), in turn the son of James Howes, as above.
  2. The 1854 Whites directory entry has been added to our new Besthorpe page.
  3. Is ‘The Hall’ actually Old Hall or New Hall as per Wikipedia page on the village? A further look at 1841 census shows that Edward Limmer, farmer age 50 with children but no wife shown, is at ‘New Hall’, a page before the first occurrence of Bottle House. New Hall then.
  4. Note that the 1841 census doesn’t include any relationship information, and the rule was to round down adult ages to the nearest 5 years.
  5. Another mystery immediately unfolds around Charles Laws, as the likely ‘Victoria Australia … Passenger Lists’, with arrival in Melbourne late December 1857, has Mary A Laws age 23 accompanying him (age 25). There is no sign of a Norfolk marriage or Oz death for her, and Charles later marries Catherine Carlyon in Victoria (1871?).
  6. Update: The conclusion on the Barnard connection was amended a few hours after initial publication. The closest birth registration found for son William (3 at 1851) is June quarter 1846 Forehoe 13/141, mother Minns – but the Barnard/ Minns marriage in 1845 Morley St Peter (Ancestry Norfolk collection) shows Mary Ann Minns as a minor. It could also just be coincidence that a William Laws marries a Martha Barnard in the district in 1884.
  7. The alternative 17 March 1799 Besthorpe baptism for James, with parents William and Sarah, works better for James Howes farmer & parish constable in Bunwell (at 1851, age 52).
  8. Is it just coincidence that the witnesses to the 1837 Besthorpe wedding of John Howes, half brother to James, are William Barnard and Mary Laws? (Source: NORS)



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