5 Nov 2011

Part 12: Thomas settles down?

1191 Islington Street from the railway line
and off Barberry Lane
We have now returned from our three week and 2,500 mile drive around NE America and into Canada. Having found and visited both the house and grave of Thomas Swinfield, I now had a better idea of his life in Portsmouth during the 40 years that he lived in that delightful town.

The deeds of Rockingham County show that he had purchased the land, where the houses on Islington Street still stand, in the early 1870s. The other boundaries of the site, set out in a document of 1874, were what is now Barberry Lane to the east and the Concord & Portsmouth Railway (later the Boston & Maine Railway) to the rear. There he built the first house which he was to leave to his daughter and grandson in his will. The second house constructed on the land was to become the residence of William Warburton and his family by 1920. It is a pity that no-one was at home at 1207 Islington when we visited. I must contact the current residents to see if they can send me images of its interior to see where he lived. The lady, who now lives at no. 1191, knew little about its early history and no. 1205 is now occupied by high school students.

City directories record Thomas G. Swinfield as a pedlar at what was then numbered 71 Islington from as early as 1861. He later appeared consistently as a resident in that road, sometimes called “Creek” as that is where it leads, working as a farmer to his death in 1893. I still have no idea what became of his “second” wife Amy. 
Divorce of Thomas
and Chrlotte Swinfield 1887
By 1886, his “third” marriage appears to have broken down as his wife Charlotte was boarding away from the marital home at 48 Pleasant Street near the middle of town. In fact, Thomas divorced her in January 1887 on the grounds of “abandonment” (the pot calling the kettle black?). This discovery was made in the NEHGS Library in Boston. Sincere thanks to David Dearborn for his tour of its extensive collections.    

1900 census of Pleasant Street, Portsmouth, showing Charlotte Fraser

Charlotte Swinfield was no longer listed after 1892, reverting to her previous surname of Fraser. At the 1900 census, she was 85 and still lived at that address with her son by her first marriage and her daughter-in-law. They had left Canada in 1850.  

Morley Button Factory,
Islington Street, Portsmouth















Whilst buying flowers to put on the grave, at a florist just off Islington Street, we were intrigued by a large building now converted into a studio for artists. On enquiring what it had been used for, we were told that it was the old button factory. Amazingly, both William John and Edwin Swinfield Warburton, Thomas’s grandsons, worked at Morley Button Factory and William died on the premises in 1930!  Another fortuitous and great discovery!

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