Kemshall/Kemshaw Family History -Walter Kemshaw

The mystery of who was Walter Kemshaw.

Walter Kemshaw was my great-grandfather and first appears in 1871 when he married Lydia Parker on the 29th January in Bridport, Dorset, England. 

On the marriage certificate his occupation is given as "Shoemaker" and his father was given as "William Kemshaw, Lacemaker".

He appears on subsequent censuses (1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 & 1911) and died in 1924 in Bristol. Before that there appears to be no trace of any candidate of that name nor of his father. He gives his place of birth as Radford, St Marys, Nottingham and from the ages given in the censuses was born about 1844 to 1846. From his age on his gravestone (76) he would have been born in 1848.

Anecdotal evidence based on conversations with my mother and her sister Ethel (both of whom remembered him) recall that he was "educated beyond his station", very well spoken and very dapper - spats (shoes), malacca cane etc and that my grandmother did not much care for him as he came round on the scrounge as it were. They both said that either his name was made up or that he was adopted and took the name of the person who adopted him. 

Research in Nottingham by David Taylor (www.lookingback.org.uk) has come up with a likely candidate, Walter Beardsley, born in Radford, Nottingham in 1843.  His mother was Caroline Kemshall (sometimes spelt Kemshaw) who married William Beardsley on the 23rd May 1831. However William died on the 18 Oct 1835 aged 48 years, 8 years before Walter was born. There is no father given on the birth certificate. Walter appears on the 1851 and 1861 censuses but after that there is no trace.

Walter Beardsley was the illegitimate son of Caroline Beardsley nee Kemshall born on the 1st July 1843, and was living with his mother in North Row, Radford, Nottingham in 1861. His occupation was a framework knitter (lace machiner knitter). Caroline was buried on 11 Oct 1861, and there is no record of Walter on the 1871 census returns for Nottinghamshire nor subsequently.

I think that he took his mothers maiden name, after all his father was not William Beardsley and that somehow he turns up in Bridport and marries Lydia Parker in 1871. The names all fit and the location and dates and the name and occupation of his “father” (William and Framework Knitter - Lacemaker). The occupation of “shoemaker" and the “posh" manner do not. I can only presume that he reinvented his background somewhat and, of course, there was plenty of time in the 10 years between him being in Nottingham and marrying in Bridport.

I also think that I have a photo of him. This is my grandparents wedding group in Halmore near Berkeley in Gloucestershire. My grandparents, Frederick Henry Kemshaw and Elizabeth Davis Smith are on the left at the front along with mother Emma Davis Smith (nee Phelps) and Eliizabth’s younger sister, Ethel Davis Smith. On the back at the left are Thomas Davis Smith and father James Davis Smith. On the back right are two unknown people but with the likeness to Fred, I am guessing that this is Walter Kemshaw and that the younger man could be Arthur Rowe, their best man. I have extensive photos of the rest of the family and these are the only occurrences of these two men. However, they must have been close to appear on a wedding group. Lydia Kemshaw nee Parker (Freds mother) had died in 1901.


Frederick Henry Kemshaw & Elizabeth Davis Smith Wedding, Halmore, Berkeley, Gloucestershire.  18th October 1902

From Left to right: 

Back Row: Thomas Davis Smith, James Davis Smith, Walter Kemshaw?, Arthur Rowe? (best man).  

Front Row: Frederick Kemshaw, Elizabeth Davis Smith, Emma Davis Smith nee Phelps, Ethel Davis Smith.


Walter Beardsley/Kemshall Family

His mother Caroline Beardsley nee Kemshall was one of seven children born to Richard Kemshall and Ann Darker.  Richard Kemshall and Ann Darker were married on the 19 February 1795 at Nottingham St Mary.  Their ages were given as 21.

Mary Ann Kemshall baptised 16th May 1796 (married James King)

Elizabeth Kemshall baptised 5th February 1798 (married Samuel Diggle)

William Benjamin baptised 15th September 1800

Benjamin baptised 14th February 1803

Benjamin baptised 20th November 1804

Caroline baptised 20th April 1807

Walter baptised 16th February 1810 - buried 9th August 1810


Ann Darker Family

Ann Darkers parents were Benjamin Darker and Elizabeth Walden who were married on the 19th June 1761.  Ann was one of seven children.

Richard Kemshall Family.

According to the 1851 census Richard Kemshall was born in Blyth Yorkshire in about 1774.  Blyth however has always been in Nottinghamshire. No trace can be found of a Richard Kemshall being born there.  There was a lot of Kemshall activity in the Elkesley St. Giles parish register during the years 1766-1786: Elkesley is about eight miles from Blyth.  The only Richard born in Blyth in the right period was Richard Cuthil in 1774.

Ann must have died by the time of the 1841 census as Richard and Caroline are living with the King family. Mary Ann Kemshall married James King on the 9th October 1833.  They are still there with Caroline’s son Walter Beardsley in 1851. Richard Kemshall died in 1852 and was buried 11th January 1852. In 1861 Caroline (widow) and son Walter (Bedsley) are living in North Row, Radford, Nottingham. Caroline died later that year and was buried 11th October 1861.


Benjamin (bapt. 20 Nov 1804) married Mary Hellenor 26 Jul 1830.  The family went to Calais about 1838 and were part of the “Lacemakers of Calais” and following the “Revolution of 1848” they emigrated to Australia in 1848 aboard the Agincourt.  Their family is well documented in family trees.


1819 People desirous of emigrating to the Cape of Good Hope.

Richard, Elizabeth, Benjamin, Caroline and William were on a list of people wishing to emigrate.  However in 1820 the list of settlers does not include Richard Kemshaw and his family. They either decided against emigrating or were refused permission to emigrate.The link below gives details of the families application to emigrate

http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/NOTTSGEN/2006-08/1156285748



© Barclay Barrell 2014