Eleanor Postlethwaite was born about 1861 in Leicester, the
daughter of George Postlethwaite of Market Harborough and Eliza
Postlethwaite of Leicester. George's occupation is noted as
a mechanical engineer although Eleanor describes him on her
wedding certificate of 1901 as an inventor.
George and his family relocated to Birmingham some time between
1861 and 1864 as did many at the time, as Birmingham's growth
accelerated throughout the nineteenth century.
The 1871 census records them living in Ladywood, Icknield
Port Road, a suburb of Edgbaston with eight of their children,
Eleanor being the youngest daughter of two and with six brothers,
all but two older than her. The address being out of the town
centre suggests a family of some means commensurate with his
By 1881, the family had moved from Birmingham to 124 Park
Aston at that time did not constitute part of Birmingham
and was very much at the heart of the industrial centre of the
region and consisted primarily of low quality housing, terraces,
courtyards etc, and workshops in Aston Manor.
Park Road, however, fronted what is today Aston Park with
its stately home, Aston Hall. In 1881 it had a bandstand, manicured
gardens and was home to what was known as Aston Lower Grounds,
a pleasure park where exhibitions and the like would have been
The 1881 census does not record an occupation for Eleanor
and given the size and status of the family it was likely she
had stayed at home to perform the duties of a housekeeper with
her mother. By 1881, only Eleanor and her two younger brothers,
Walter and Frank, and her parents were living in the family
Eleanor married in 1884 to Francis Arthur Bate. Francis's
family were of a similar standing to Eleanor's and the 1881
census gives an address of 31George Street, Aston which is located
adjacent to the jewellery quarter in Birmingham. It was a large
family consisting of four boys and three girls with domestic
servants in attendance. Francis's father is described as a 'manager
at a lamp works' and Francis's occupation is given as a warehouseman.
However, that occupation is subsequently replaced in future
records and by 1884 he appears in the Kelly directory as a shopkeeper
in William Street, off Islington Row. By 1890 he has an ironmonger's
shop in Johnston Street, Birchfield and by 1892 a tailors shop
in Wheeler Street, Lozells. He remained in the tailors and outfitters
business for the rest of his working life describing himself
as a 'master tailor' by 1896.
The 1891 census gives an address for Eleanor and Francis
of Stamford Road which is in Handsworth, then a leafy suburb
in Staffordshire before its eventual absorption into Birmingham.
Handsworth was an area where the people of Aston aspired to,
and a clear indication that Francis was making a success of
his business ventures and that he and Eleanor were aware of
their social standing.
They had two children, Frederick C born in 1887 and Elsie
Violet born in 1889.
However, by 1893 the marriage was in difficulties for whatever
reason and Francis filed for divorce citing a William Jeffs
Busby as the third party. A divorce in those days was most unusual
and the sole preserve of those wealthy enough to afford it.
William Jeffs Busby was an 18 year old carpenter living in the
adjacent road to Eleanor and Francis.
Whatever the real reasons for the divorce, they are likely
to ever remain a mystery. We do know that for Eleanor the divorce
meant both the loss of custody of her children, and the family
Francis re-married in 1896 to Elizabeth Rosie Murrelle and
had another daughter, Doris Ethel, in 1900. He temporarily re-located
back to Aston after the divorce but later returned to Stamford
Road with his new wife. He disappeared from the commercial directory
for both Wheeler Street and Stamford Road in 1919.
For Eleanor, the years immediately following the divorce
remain a mystery. Tragedy befell her in 1898 with the death
of her daughter Elsie Violet. The young girl, then aged 9, died
from 'burns of face, neck, chest, back and arms' after her clothes
were ignited following an accident in the Bate's family home.
A coroner's inquest was held and a verdict of accidental death
was recorded. Local newspapers reported the story.
We can only speculate as to the effect the death of her daughter
had on Eleanor. What we do know, however, is that in the 1901
census Eleanor is recorded as an inmate in the Aston Union Workhouse
in Erdington. Eleanor has become 'Nellie' and is described as
a 'domestic scullery maid'. What the precise circumstances were
that lead to her 'incarceration' have yet to be established
but given her background, it would likely have been a traumatic
experience for her. The date of her admission and length of
stay in the Workhouse have not as yet been established and the
reception and discharge papers no longer exist.
That she was in the Aston Workhouse and not the Birmingham
Workhouse which was closer to her marital home in Handsworth
suggests she may have re-located back to Aston after the divorce.
Her parents occupied the family home in Park Road up to 1896.
However, that is their last recorded entry before the 1901 census
by which time they had relocated to Derbyshire.
Some eight weeks after the 1901 census 'Nellie' married Charles
Sturch who was a widower with seven children, the youngest William
being only two years of age. Charles's wife Annie had died shortly
after the birth of her youngest son. The family at the time
were living in Station Road, Aston Manor as was his brother
James and his father Charles.
Charles worked in the gun trade as a gun barrel borer all
his working life as did his father before him. The Sturch family
roots however, lay not in Aston but the more idyllic surrounds
of Shipston on Stour, then part of Worcestershire. Charles (jnr)
was born in Aston and never moved out of the Manor. He was by
all accounts the archetypal Aston working man, his background
very different to that of 'Nellies' which had been formed from
a more genteel lifestyle.
They had three children, Louisa the eldest born in 1902,
Ada and Alec. By all accounts the three children inherited Nellie's
quiet disposition which was in contrast to that of Charles's
children from his first marriage.
Some time after the marriage, the family was extended when
young Clarence William joined. Precisely who Clarence was has
yet to be unravelled but there is little doubt that Charles
took him on as a surrogate son with Clarence taking the Sturch
name. Whether Clarence was Nellie's son from an earlier relationship,
a member of her extended family or simply someone she had befriended
has to remain as conjecture for the time being. However, given
what we know from personal testimony, it's likely that Clarence
would have spent much of his early life away from the Sturch
family home possibly as a boarder whilst receiving education.
Clarence spent some time in London before enlisting with
The Royal Fusiliers. He saw service in World War 1 and was demobbed
in 1918. He married Rose Wearing in 1918 and emigrated to New
Zealand before taking up residency in Canada where he spent
the rest of his life.
Nellie's character is described as genteel; very much a lady
of her day and her and Charles's respective background would
have been in sharp contrast. Charles had been brought up in
the tough environment that the terraces of Victorian Aston created;
working hard and living hard, enjoying the simple pleasures
of life. Nevertheless, they spent the rest of their lives together
moving from Station Road to Manor Road, still in Charles's beloved
Aston Manor, and they both eventually died in the mid 1920's.