George Jennings Collis Writing Family History

George Jennings Collis: coastal walks and the curate’s egg at Embleton (1897-1905)

After three years service in Berwick Upon Tweed, George moves 40 miles or so southwards along the Northumbrian coastline, to settle as curate of Holy Trinity Church in Embleton village.

Holy Trinity Embleton in late Victorian times

He’s following in the footsteps of many notable and literary incumbents in the parish. Most famous of all was the Rev Mandell Creighton, the vicar of Embleton in 1875-1884 who later became Bishop of London. It was whilst at Embleton that Creighton wrote his History of the Papacy, The Life of Sir George Grey, and collected material for the Northumberland County History, of which he was one of the founders.

Creighton’s daily routine provides an insight into the life of a late Victorian clergyman. Each weekday morning, he spends four hours reading in the vicarage library. In the afternoons,  he visits – with his wife, when possible – the homes of their parishioners, listening to them, giving advice, offering prayers, conducting services for the housebound, and, on occasion, handing out home-made medical remedies.

George Jennings Collis Writing Family History

George Jennings Collis: from Boston to Berwick-upon-Tweed (1894-97)

Sunday 16th December 1894. It’s a chill winter’s day in Newcastle. George Jennings Collis is preparing for his ordination at the Cathedral. It’s a big move, in a grand building, yet George is certain this is the pathway determined for him; he’s rock steady in his Christian faith.


The Bishop of Newcastle – Ernest Wilberforce – officiates at the proceedings. Having taken holy orders, George is ready to start his new life as a curate in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland. Prayers are said to bless him in his work. George’s fiancé Florence Ingamells smiles over to him from the front pew. The choir sings heartily as the procession parades out of the Cathedral.

Being a curate is not George’s first job after graduating from Clare College; two newspaper snippets from the Stamford Mercury reveal that he’d spent some time – a couple of years – as a master at Boston Grammar School. A cutting from November 1894 records his move from the school:

1894 George J Collis as master at Boston Grammar School passes divinity exam and is appointed Berwick curate, Stamford Mercury, 30 Nov 1894

Trading Stories, Working Lives

Trading Stories, Working Lives: Joseph Taylor, lime worker

Sometimes in family history research you discover a document or an object that hints at an intriguing story; something that compels you to investigate further. Such was the case when I discovered a gravestone at Barrow Upon Soar, inscribed with:

“Two fellow workmen in this grave do lie

Both in a well at Barley Hill did die

The unwholesome damp the fatal stroke did give”

Here was a gravestone with a story: Joseph Taylor and his workmate Henry Barsby had been buried together after perishing in a well on 11th June 1824, both aged 25 years.

Many of us have labourers amongst our ancestors – men who grafted in the fields or on the roads. Despite long years of toil, labourers generally leave a sparse paper trail; theirs were not jobs that brought about apprenticeship records, trade directory listings or wills. It can be tricky to get more than a general sense of their working lives. So here – starting with the gravestone inscription – was an opportunity to find out rather more than usual.

Joseph Taylor’s life as a lime worker is the focus in our latest article in the Trading Stories, Working Lives series: click to download

As well as uncovering Taylor’s tragic story, the article suggests ways in which you might enrich your own ancestral research by drawing upon newspaper snippets, trade directories, industrial histories and local studies. Which of your ancestors might have a working history to investigate further?

1841 Advert for Barrow lime at Webb & Austin, Leicester Journal 21 May 1841

Take a look too at the other articles in our Trading Stories, Working Lives series:

John and George Firn, monumental masons

Polkey boatmen of Loughborough

The Harrisons: gardeners, nurserymen and seeds merchants

George Robinson, Victorian letter carrier

George Jennings Collis Writing Family History

George Jennings Collis: going up to Cambridge (1889-92)

We last saw George Jennings Collis in the summer of 1889, being cheered by his fellow pupils at Wyggeston School prize day for gaining a place to study at Cambridge. And so it is, on a Saturday in autumn of that year, that he goes up to Clare College at the start of Michaelmas term. Having taken a train from Leicester, he arrives at Clare with his trunk of books, clothes and other belongings. He stands in Trinity Hall Lane, with the chapel towering above to the right. A few steps on and he’s through the gatehouse into the central quad, the Old Court.

Clare College floorplan

Established in 1326, Clare is the second oldest college in Cambridge. It’s a prestigious place for George to have earned a scholarship. A few students stride purposefully through the courtyard – freshmen like him, settling into their new life – but otherwise it’s a hushed enclave, a home of learning for the bookish, bright and privileged.