Betts and Thompson families of Harrold, Bedfordshire

The family of Betts and Thompson from Harrold, Bedfordshire has been an interesting one to research. I have just these two particular items, a CDV of a gravestone for Henry Betts and a Bible Class certificate for Jesse Thompson I got from a friend Sheila, who found these a few years ago at an antique fair.

So first we must begin with the research into Henry Betts 1840-1877 he was the son of Thomas Betts 1807-1888 and Elizabeth Line 1806-1887 his death was reported In the Luton Times and Advertiser – Friday 31 August 1877 unfortunately with no more details. Thomas and Elizabeth had

Looking at this gravestone photo it’s very likely that he wasn’t married and I haven’t found any marriage records for him. In the 1861 and 1871 census, his occupation is described as a Chimney Sweep. In the 1861 census, there is also a John Bonfield living at the family home aged 13 and described as a Servant and occupation a Sweep, so likely working with Henry. In the 1871 census, there is a Henry Wright living with Henry Betts and his family, described as a Boarder aged 16 and a Chimney Sweep, so likely an assistant once again for Henry Betts.

While searching through the British Newspaper Archives online, I put in different search words and struck lucky when I put in Henry Betts Chimney Sweep! This is the first article that came up on the Bedfordshire Mercury – Saturday 19 November 1864………..’ Breach of Chimney Sweepers’ Act. —Thomas Betts, of Carlton, chimney sweeper, was charged by Superintendent Carruthers with knowingly allowing a lad, named Henry Carter, under the age l6 years, to be upon the premises of a certain house Shambrook on the 9th instant, during the time Henry Betts was sweeping a chimney. The now act which was passed in June (1864) last, and came into operation on the 1st of the present month (1st November), prohibits any chimney sweeper employing a child under the age of ten years to do or assist in doing any work or thing in or about the trade or business of such chimney sweeper, elsewhere than within the house or place of business of such chimney sweeper, or the yard or buildings (if any) connected therewith, and section 7 says it shall not be lawful for any chimney sweeper on any occasion of his entering a house or building for the purpose of sweeping, cleaning, or curing a chimney or flue therein or belonging thereto, or for extinguishing a fire in any such chimney or flue, to cause or knowing allow a person under the age of 16 years in his employment or under his control to enter before, with, or after him, into any part of such house or building, or to be’therein for any part of the time during which such chimney sweeper himself continues therein for any such purpose as aforesaid. Penalty for every such offence not exceeding £lO. The Bench considered this case was of great importance to chimney sweepers, and ought to be made public, and as it had only been in operation a fortnight they let the defendant off with paying 4s. 6d. costs‘. More details here about the act on the excellent Education England website:

Two years previously Thomas, Henry’s father had been advertising for an ‘active lad’, obviously to help his son Henry in the Chimney Sweeping business.

But this third article I read is even more interesting!

So looking for Caroline Hilton I found a young lady born in 1845/6 in Carlton with her parents Joseph (a Mason/Builder in the census)and Caroline (Cripps) I have also sadly found a very likely death for Caroline, age 22. If the Hilton’s are your family you would definitely need certificates to verify the details of Caroline. I have found a likely child Arthur, born Arthur Betts then maybe changed to Hilton after his parents’ deaths (his Mother in 1867 and Father in 1877). On the same birth record (Vol/Page no is the same) via Ancestry, it actually says that Arthur is called Arthur Betts Hilton. Different to the GRO which doesn’t mention Hilton on its record although it’s the same volume/page number: BETTS, ARTHUR BETTS – GRO Reference: 1863 D Quarter in BEDFORD Volume 03B Page 320. So glad I looked up both records!

I’m sure now that the child mentioned in the court case is Arthur, as after searching through the GRO records and also then through both sides of the family I found a lad that is with Caroline’s brother Samuel and his fairly new wife Mary Ann (Woodford) in the 1871 census and his name is Arthur Hilton aged 7 described as a nephew of Samuel, head of household. In the 1881 census, Arthur was an Apprentice Carpenter living with the family of Rudd, head of the family Charles was a Carpenter/Beer Seller so likely well known by Arthur’s uncle Samuel as Samuel’s occupation in the 1871 census was a Builder/Publican, so he had obviously steered Arthur to trade after his schooling to give him a good start in life. After this date, I cannot be sure of confirming any records to Arthur as there are several possibilities with the surname Betts or Hilton. I do hope he had a happy life, of course, if he is on your family tree or one of your Ancestors I would love to know more about Henry and Caroline’s son Arthur!

Jesse Joseph Thompson was born in 1885, he was one of two children born to parents William Thompson 1842-1933 (a Watchmaker)and Mary Ann (Betts) 1845-1932, who was a sister of Henry Betts (above) and daughter of Thomas Betts 1807-1888 and Elizabeth Line 1806-1887. Jesse married Annie (Middleton) known as Hetty Anne on 28 Aug 1911 and they had two children Harold William 1912-1998 and Beatrice Maud 1914-1989. Then World War 1 happened and this family like thousands of others were hugely affected. Jesse and his family were living at 5 Edmund Street, Kettering, he had signed up on 11th Dec 1915 (Corporal 86116, 290th Siege Bty. Royal Garrison Artillery) He was reported in the newspaper as coming home on leave in 1918 for 14 days:

Then he was discharged in Jan 1919 but just five weeks later on the 22 Feb 1919, he died aged 34. I have searched but am unable to find his cause of death, was it due to wounds he sustained during the war? Or another cause? Or did he take his own life? I cannot seem to find out through the records or through the British Newspaper Archive. You would have to send for his death certificate to find out. Here below is just a couple of the pages of notes on his WW1 records I found on Ancestry. Always worth checking every page as you never know what you might find, among these records I found a letter from Hetty Ann Knight, his widow now remarried, that she wrote in December 1924, almost five years after Jesse’s death, very sad.

Hetty says she had no help from the government at all following his death when she was left a widow with two children. I think I may have been a lot angrier than she was that she was not entitled to more help back then, it must have been so tough for families who had lost loved ones. Jesse and Hetty‘s son Harold William 1912-1998 married in 1937 to Mary Priscilla Randall (1911–1999)and I believe they had one child. Jesse and Hetty‘s daughter Beatrice Maud 1914-1989 also married in 1943 to Francis Wardrope and I believe they also had one child.

Hetty remarried in 1920 a year after Jesse’s death to Samuel S Knight a Leather Trimmer, they had a son Bertram later in 1920. All three were living in Harrold, Bedfordshire in the 1939 register. Bertram went on to marry Esme M Burton in 1944 and as far as I can see the couple had six children.

Jesse’s sister Amy Kate Thompson 1883-Sep 1970 married in 1911 to John Thompson Mason 1878-Aug 1970, the couple had two sons Ernest John 1916-1998 and Eric Edward 1920-2012.

Something I did discover while researching these families was that Hetty’s brother Bertram Middleton also died in World War 1, he was in France and died on 11 Aug 1918 at the Somme, Picardie, France. Private Bertram Middleton, service no 15223 he was in the 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. He was aged just 26. Their mother Martha got a war gratuity of £23 after his death with his effects. Hetty named her third child Bertram Knight after him.

There is such a huge amount of information on the excellent website for Bedfordshire Archives, a wonderful resource especially if you have Bedfordshire Ancestors. They have lots of information including the Rolls of Honour, see below:

On a different subject I found William Thompson (Jesse’s father) mentioned: “The valuer visiting 118 High Street [DV1/C70/59] (in 1927) noted that William Thompson was both owner and occupier, he was a watch and clock repairer and the premises comprised a shop (“clocks”) a living room and a pantry downstairs; there were two bedrooms upstairs. Outside stood a “good” store barn, and a “small” garden; water came from a well. The valuer remarked: “Very poor” and “shop very dark”. Link to the archives here:

William Thompson’s death reported in the newspaper 1933.

St Peter’s Church in Harrold, Bedford.

A quick pop back to Thomas Betts and his wife Elizabeth (Line). They had six children that I have found John b1831, Thomas b1836, Charles b1838, Henry b1840, Fanny b1842 and Mary Ann born in 1844. When Fanny got married to Charles Clark on 10 Jun 1867 Thomas Betts occupation on the marriage certificate was A Vermin Destroyer! Not an occupation I’ve seen before on my research families. On the various census records through the years he is described as a Rat Catcher, Vermin Catcher, A Destroyer of Vermin & a Sweep.

Here’s an image of Queen Victoria’s famous Rat Catcher Jack Black. Photo via Wikipedia: “Jack Black, her majesty’s ratcatcher, 1851” ===Source=== Mayhew, H. (1851). ‘London Labour and the London poor’, Volume 3, pg. 11

This is the Betts/Thompson Family Tree I have compiled on Ancestry, a public tree as always:

Till next time then……….


  1. Hi Lynn
    I have just bought a fusse wall clock and it has an inscription on the face Harold Bedfordshire
    Above Harold there is a faint inscription W Thompson I don’t know why it would have been removed. The clock dates I think from the late 18 to early 19c. Almost certainly the man in your research. I bought it from a man in Bath I don’t know if there is a connection.

    Liked by 1 person

    • How fascinating Graham. I would think that your item probably came originally from a house clearance. A usual occurrence & then all the contents get split far & wide…sad really isn’t it. Glad you found my blog, nice to have more information about an item. Kind Regards Lynn


  2. Hi Lynn

    really enjoyed reading this. The Thompsons are part of my husbands family. We have a barormeter which has been passed down through the years and has the name Thompson and Harrold inside the glass on the front.Some of the information on the family was new to me so thanks for writing this blog. Glad I found it.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Catherine.
      I’m really glad my Blog was helpful to you, thanks for reading.
      How wonderful to have a family heirloom that is treasured.
      Is your husband a descendant of these particular members of the family?
      Happy New Year. Kind Regards Lynn


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