Burial register ID: 4637
First name: JOSEPH
Middle names:
Gender: Male
Age: 54 Years
Cause of death: Unknown
Burial type:
Date of death: 10-Mar-1886
Date of burial: 12-Mar-1886

Block: 97
Plot: 35

Bio contributor: Richard Armishaw

Joseph Armishaw, 1831-1886

Joseph Armishaw was a soldier, Presbyterian Missionary, temperance campaigner and father to a large family. To New Zealanders bearing the Armishaw surname he was a most important figure because all, barring one or two exceptions, are descended from him. Despite coming from a family that at one time was relatively wealthy his circumstances became dire in the 1870s. He, his second wife and younger children emigrated to New Zealand in 1876 hoping for a better life. However, many tragedies befell them on-board the ship and after their arrival in their new homeland. Within 10 years he was dead at the age of 54.

Armishaws had lived in Staffordshire for many generations. Joseph’s great great grandfather, John (born May 1691, Alton) was a farmer at Creighton Park and could have been relatively well off. John and his wife Elizabeth had 6 children. Their third child, John (born May 1723), married Margaret Turner (1) at Croxden in 1758 and had 6 sons and 3 daughters between 1759 and 1775. John, like his father, was a farmer and had land at Quixall. Joseph, their seventh child, was born at Rocester in 1770.

In the 1790s Joseph married Ann Illsley and the couple lived in Birmingham where 9 children (Joseph, Margaret, John, Ann, George, Pamela, another Joseph, Elizabeth and Jane) were born between 1799 and 1817. Joseph was a surveyor and land steward at Aston Hall. A book about Aston Hall ‘The Grand Mansion’ refers to Joseph as a ‘lawyer’. He became quite wealthy and in 1815 acquired a 21 year lease on land at Aston Hall, which included a small lake (Note 1). Joseph died in 1817 and his will listed assets of about £3000, a large sum at the time. For some reason his family rapidly became impoverished 22.

John, Joseph and Ann’s third child, was baptised at St Peters (Aston Juxta) Birmingham on 13 March 1803 (2,4). John lived in Birmingham till at least his mid teens and at some stage shifted south to London. His early occupations included articled law clerk, trainee surveyor and soldier. He was indentured to a lawyer but didn’t like that so ran away. He was found and then indentured to surveyor but ran away again and finally joined the army.

He met Hannah Winter some time in the 1820s and the couple were married at St James Church, Paddington, London on 20 April 1829 (3). Hannah was born just to the west of London in Uxbridge, Berkshire in 1811(4). Married on the same day was a Harriet Winter who could have been Hannah’s sister or cousin. Each groom signed the register as a witness to the other couples’ ceremony. It was likely that Hannah could not write as she signed the register with a cross only.

Joseph, John and Hannah’s first child, was born in London on 8 May 1831. At the time they resided in Charles Street, which ran between Horse Guards Parade and Whitehall and was two streets south of Downing Street where the Prime Minister, just as now, had his official residence. Joseph was baptised on 12 June 1831 at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, which stands in the grounds of Westminster Abbey (5). He was registered with the name John, after his father, but throughout his adult life he was known as Joseph. One of his younger brothers was later named John, which suggests that his name may have been changed officially.

Joseph’s father joined the Metropolitan Police Force on 6 January 1831 as Warrant No. 5700(6). He was one of the early “Peelers”, as the Force had only recently been established by Robert Peel under the Metropolitan Police Act of 1829. This Force was responsible for policing all of existing Metropolitan London within seven miles of Charing Cross, excluding the one square mile of the old City which had its own police force. There were 17 Divisions and John was most likely assigned to the Westminster Division. After a relatively short period as a Constable he was promoted to the rank of Divisional Clerical Sergeant on 19 September 1831(6). However, for reasons unknown, after only one month he was reduced in rank to Constable. Six months later, on 2 May 1832, he regained his earlier position.

It is fair to assume that as a clerical sergeant he would have been desk-bound and hence would have had little experience on the beat. Such a position would have required a reasonable level of literacy and indicates that he must have received at least a basic education as a child.

Conditions of entry to the force included being of good character. Many officers clearly did not measure up in practice to this taxing requirement judging by the high dismissal rate (approximately 30%) in those early days of the force. The major reason for dismissal was drunkenness whilst on duty. Some of the more interesting reasons include 7):

” … asleep in a privy with another man.”

” … was in a brothel and allowed a prostitute to take his truncheon.”

John’s continuing service until his resignation in 1835 suggests that he was competent in his position and either met the criteria for being of good character, or was smart enough not to be caught.

John and Hannah’s second son George was born on 23 January 1833. They later moved one street north to Crown Street where their first daughter, Hannah, was born on 3 February 1834. Crown Street no longer exists and a large Government building that houses the Foreign Office now occupies the site. Despite its proximity to Downing Street, Crown and Charles Street in the 1830s would not have been a fashionable address if a police sergeant could have afforded to live there.

George and Hannah were also baptised at St Margaret’s Church. The church was then, as it still is today, a “Society” church reserved for the influential and wealthy. It is also one of a small number of “Royal Perculiar” churches which means it is directly under the control of the Monarch and not under the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Samuel Pepys and Winston Churchill were just two of the many famous people who were married there and today it is much sought after for Society weddings. The lower classes who might have lived in the parish were not normally members of the congregation. However, members of the police force and staff from the nearby Houses of Parliament could be married or have their children baptised there.

John resigned from the Metropolitan Police Force on 13 September 1835 and took up a position with the Montgomery County Police Force as the first policeman in Welshpool (Wales) where he remained until about 1847.. Reference to his duties as a constable was made in two contemporary publications in relation to the part he played in the 1839 Llandiloes riots(8).

From Montgomery Collections Vol 6201 – Welshpool Library:

Tues 30 April 1839 at Llandiloe

Constable B Clarkson, Brieze of New Town and Armishaw of Welshpool helped keep the peace.
He was injured as a special constable from Welshpool helping to quell the riots. Thomas Powell, one of the Charterists Leaders told the crowd not to hurt Armishaw as he was a friend of his. They helped him to the Red Lion Public House where he was put to bed. Powell got him a chaise and went with him for 2 miles.

From Shrewsbury Chronicles:

July 1839

The trial of Thomas Powell was held at the Summer Assizes at Welshpool on 1 July 1839 at the Town Hall. Prosecution witness Armishaw. The injured Welshpool policeman John Armishaw told how Powell had helped him from the crowd.

John Armishaw was also an Enumerator for the Welshpool census of 1841 and his signature appears on the census.

During this 12-year period his family grew from three to ten children, not an unusually large number by the standards of the day. William Illesley was baptised in the parish church in July 1836, John in August 1838, Margaret in April 1840, Charles in June 1841 and Ann in September 1842 (9). The IGI lists no baptismal record for Elizabeth born 1843 and Jesse born 1845 but their names appear in the civil register for births(10).

By 1848 the family had moved back to the Birmingham area. John continued with the police force as a Superintendent. The Daily Star 1 May 1851 describes how Superintendent Armishaw , his son (Joseph ??) and two police officers apprehended two burglars. In the struggle Armishaw in self-defence struck one burglar on the head. (10a)

….when the prisoner Smith, who had a large stick in his hand, struck at the officer twice, who in self defence inflicted a blow on the prisoner’s head with his cutlass and knocked him down…… While at gaol he was attended by the surgeon, until the 17th inst., when he died………. A post mortem examination had been made by Mr Hughes, surgeon, who after detailing the nature and extent of the wound, stated that he had no doubt the cause of death resulted from the fracture of his skull. ………. the jury returned a verdict of “justifiable homicide”.

In the five years following 1848 four more sons were born. Edward, was born in 1848 and later baptised at St James the Less in Ashted (Aston?), Warwick (2,10). Herbert was baptised in 1852 at St Matthews, Walsall (1,10) and finally twins Thomas and James were born in Cheslyn Hay in November 1853 (4,10,11).

John spent a time as Chief Constable of Wallsal but by 1856 his occupation was described as “Inspector of Collieries” (12) and in 1868, when he would have been about 65 years old, he was a “clerk” (13). Whether he had been responsible for a number of mines as a government official or was an employee of a mining company is at present open to conjecture.

On the night of the 1871 census (4) John and Hannah were living at 76 Sandy Wood Lane, Little Wryley which is about 10 km north of Birmingham and just to the south east of Cheslyn Hay. John, although he was aged 68, was working as a watchman. Living with them at that time, permanently or temporarily, was daughter Ann (37), sons William (35), John (33), Herbert (20), Thomas (18) and James (18) and grandchildren Isabella (19), Robert (14) and Elizabeth Ann (3). Isabella and Robert may have been Ann’s children while Elizabeth Ann was the daughter of William and his recently deceased wife, Rosannah Biddlestone. Joseph, the eldest son was not present on census night as he was recorded at Birkenhead Cheshire with his own family (14).

Joseph Armishaw joined the British Army on 20 September 1852 at the age 21 after having worked for a period as a clerk. He was assigned to the First LifeGuards Regiment of the Household Cavalry as a “trooper” (private) on pay of 1 shilling 11 pence per day, which was approximately 35 pound per year (15). Joseph’s brother William was also a soldier in the 11th Hussars and he spent time at Balaclava in the Crimea just after the Charge of the Life Brigade.

The LifeGuards were the Queens official bodyguard and ranked highest in prestige amongst all regiments of the army. Joseph never saw active service overseas but would have spent extended periods stationed in London and at Windsor performing guard and ceremonial duties. As a single man he would have been housed in barracks. Nowadays, the LifeGuards can be seen on alternate days on duty on horseback outside Horseguards in Whitehall and during the annual Trooping the Colour at the head of the parade. Their uniform is little changed from that worn in the 1850s; a red tunic and gold helmet with a white plume.

Joseph met Amelia Stacey from South Warnborough, a small village in Hampshire. She was the daughter of George Stacey who was either a farmer or, more likely, a farm labourer. They were married in St Leonards Church, Shoreditch, London on 8 April 1856 (12). This marriage took place without the consent of his commanding officer, permission being refused most likely because he was under the age of 25 (17). Marriage under these circumstances was not forbidden but the soldier was then not eligible for the privileges and conditions available to a married man. These included:

* an allowance for wife and children,

* provisions were made for the children’s education,

* accommodation was arranged for the family either in a house or at the barracks,

* payment of removal expenses for wife and children when moving from one posting to another.

Why Joseph and Amelia got married only 4 weeks before his 25th birthday and consequently forfeited the right to these allowances, must remain a mystery. The only rational explanation for their haste was that Amelia was already three months pregnant at the time of the marriage. Although pregnancy before marriage was not rare in Victorian England it would have caused considerably more embarrassment than it does today.

Joseph and Amelia’s first son Joseph was born either at Amelia’s parents’ home in South Warnborough or in London. Four further children appeared at regular intervals; John (1858), Lilly Ada (Leilla ?) (March 1860), William Charles (November 1861) and Amelia (August 1863). The birth certificate of each child carried a different West London residential address thus illustrating the transitory lifestyle of a soldier’s family. No civil registration of John’s birth has been found.

On 20 September 1864, Joseph resigned from the LifeGuards after completing what was called “limited service” of 12 years. As he had completed only half the requisite 24 years service he received no entitlement to a pension on discharge. His daily pay was still 1 shilling 11 pence (inflation hadn’t been invented) with a further 2 pence Good Conduct Pay. His service record described him as having “..fair complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair” (17). He was quite tall at 6 foot 0 inches. His character was described as being “very good”.

On 14 November of that same year, tragedy struck with the death of his wife, Amelia. Just before his discharge from the army, Joseph had been on furlough for 6 weeks. It is likely that this long period of leave was to either nurse his sick wife or to attend to the needs of his five young children. Perhaps also, his wife’s illness was a major reason for him to leave the army. Anticipating the prospect of being a widower with five children Joseph might have realised that a soldier’s life was no longer appropriate.

With five children under 9 years old to support, Joseph must have found life in the next few years rather difficult. His entry in the front of the family bible gives some insight into his feelings of loss and also his religious faith at that time (18).

Amelia Armishaw 14th November 1864, whose remains were interred in South Warnborough Church Hampshire, Her native village.

She died happy In full assurance of the resurrection Life. A loss to him that she has left to mourn . A most loving wife. A fond and Affectionate Mother. These are inscribed by her sorrowing husband, for the knowledge of his dear children, In years to come.

Sometime during the next 4 years, Joseph became involved with the church, most probably one of the many non-conformist (non-Anglican) groups that were growing in number. In 1868, while resident in St Pancras, London, he described his occupation as a “city missionary”.

On 4 June 1868 he married Elizabeth Palmer at her parish church in Yardley, Worchester, just south of Birmingham. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of William Palmer who was variously described as a butcher or pork butcher, and Elizabeth Hunt. She was born in Spiceal St, Birmingham and was baptised a short while later on 7 June at St Martins Church. Her parents had been married 20 months earlier at St Philips Church, Birmingham on 12 August 1839.

William Palmer’s father was Robert Palmer, a saddler by trade. His mother was possibly a Susannah Rowley, who had married a Robert Palmer on 4 January 1796 at St Marys Church, Warwick. Their son, William, presumably Elizabeth’s father, was baptised at St Mary’s

Joseph Armishaw
Source: Richard Armishaw

There are 1 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
ARMISHAW JOSEPH 54 Years 10-Mar-1886 12-Mar-1886