The Bednall Archive

Last updated 16/06/2012

Charles Bednall of Hanbury, Staffordshire 1809 to 1883   

Charles Bednall was a grandson of William Bednall of Hanbury, Staffordshire and his wife Martha, nee Hawkesworth. He was thus one of the great, great, great, grandchildren of William (1627-1700) and Sarah Badnall of Hanbury and Uttoxeter, the common ancestors of the Bednalls of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and elsewhere, including Australia.  The first 10 to 20 years of his life were characterised by poverty, the break up of the family home following the death of his father and a hard working apprenticeship in the foundry industry. This was followed by an adventurous career in the 61st & 33rd Regiments of Foot, during which he saw service in Ceylon, Ireland and England before retiring as a Chelsea Pensioner in 1846.  Unlike his older brother Samuel, Charles Bednall married while serving in Ireland and leaving the army eventually set up home in Lancashire. While his family was not numerous there are, nevertheless, many of his descendants living today (2012) including some members of the Anderson-Rae family of Nebraska. The following article is a brief account of his life.

The Early Years: Hanbury

Charles Bednal was born on 14th November 1809 at Hanbury in Staffordshire, "a small but pleasant village, upon a lofty eminence, overlooking the vale of the Dove, seven miles NW by W of Burton-upon-Trent, and the same distance SE by E of Uttoxeter [i],  [ii].  He was the 8th child and 6th son of John Bednal and his wife Sarah, nee Godwin.  His father was an agricultural labourer, working for neighbouring farmers and tending his own small plot to support his growing family. He may also have earned a little extra to tide them over bad times and improve their standard of living in good, by making and repairing shoes or other by-employment.  John was occasionally able to earn a few shillings now and then by killing birds, “urchins” and other animals that the farmers considered to be pests. [iii]   Like other villagers, John & Sarah, made use of the commons and wastes of Hanbury to provide food for their cow and/or a pig, fuel for the fire and berries and nuts, etc, in due season.  In 1811, however, 9640 acres of wastes and commons in Hanbury and adjacent townships were enclosed and although the effect of this on the family is uncertain, it almost certainly made daily life more difficult for them and for many of their neighbours.

Life had been far from easy for the Bednall family for many years before the wastes were enclosed and when Charles grandmother Martha fell ill, the Hanbury Overseer of the Poor  paid a local woman to nurse her.[iv]  When Martha died in 1785, her husband William Bednall, had difficulty paying his £1-15s annual rent and so every Lady Day, for three of four years, the Overseer of the Poor paid this for him.  After a while, things seem to have improved a little for Charles’ grandfather William and he made no further demands upon the Overseer until he was in his 70s and began to need and receive assistance from the Overseer to support his family. Initially, he only needed this “support“ (2s 6d to 3s a week) for between 11 and 24 weeks a year but gradually, William became more and more dependent on these payments and in 1810 the Overseer recorded 50 weekly payments of 2s 6d to him, totalling £6–10s.  The following year was no better for William and as winter drew near, the Overseer made additional payments towards the cost of the coals the family needed to heat their home and cook their food. [v]. 

The break-up of the family

By November 1811, the situation in Hanbury was so bad that William’s son John and his family also had to apply for parish relief. Their situation did not improve with the New Year and the fact that the Hanbury constable increased payments to the family from 7s 6d to 10s a week suggests it may have worsened.  On the 11th January 1812, the constable paid George Hanson 10 shillings to take Thomas Bednall, John and Sarah’s 11-year-old son, as an apprentice and thus save the parish the cost of supporting the boy. Given the business Thomas later established, Hanson was probably a cordwainer or shoemaker. [vi]  By then John Bednall himself was seriously ill and to help him recover, the parish constable agreed to pay for a “bottle of spirits to rub him with” and a little later, bought a bottle of brandy for him. Sadly neither the rub nor the brandy had the desired effect and on the 27th January, John died leaving his widow with 7 children, aged between 2 and 16 years, to look after. [vii]   A £1 from the Overseer was sufficient to cover John Bednall’s funeral expences. [viii] 

 Charles was just over 2 years old when his father died and would not have been aware, until many years later, of brought many changes his father’s death brought to the family. Their circumstances, which had been fairly desperate for a number of years, grew worse and would have become intolerable but for the continued support provided by the parish. Thus the parish officer not only made weekly payments to “Widow Bednall” and to some of her older children but also bought clothes for two of them, Samuel and John, who, like their siblings, were growing rapidly.  Subsequently the constable paid one John Wilkes 5 guineas to take widow Sarah’s son Samuel as an apprentice but the details are unknown. On 26 January 1813, a year after John’s death, Sarah took the obvious step (possibly encouraged by the parish officers) and married 24-year-old Rupert Wardle of Foston, Derbyshire. [ix] 

She and her new husband continued to live in Hanbury for a while and their family grew, in August 1813, with birth of a daughter, Maria. [x]  What happened then is uncertain because that year the Overseer only recorded payments to “William Bednall and 4 children -47 weeks at 10s 0d” and later “Bednall’s 3 children 4 at 7s 6d - £1- 10s” [xi].
  How happy the family were with their step-father is unclear but the relationship may have been an unhappy one for he appears to have been a violent man, certainly outside the home because in March 1816, he was committed to the Staffordshire Assizes charged with assaulting and abusing one Robert Pearce at Burton-on-Trent.  Regrettably, neither the outcome of the case nor its  effect on the family is known.   Some of the children, however, began to make their own decisions about their futures. In November 1816, four years after her father’s death, Sarah Bednal junior married Richard Large, neither bride nor groom could write. [xii]  In 1819, Sarah’s brother John married Mary Woolley [xiii] and in 1821 her 18-year-old brother, Joseph, created something of a local sensation by marrying a 60 year old widow, Mary Coltman in Hanbury and setting off immediately to the Tutbury Statutes (annual fair) “where they kept their wedding and spent the evening with the greatest conviviality". [xiv]  Mary outlasted her young husband who died just under 8 years later and a second “Widow Bednall” began receiving assistance from the Overseer and local charities. [xv]  

Charles Bednall’s younger sister Jane, was not able to marry a man of her choice, until April 1826 when she married a Macclesfield born, former soldier from Chatham in Kent, Peter Swindells, by license. [xvi] As for James, there is as yet no indication of exactly when he left Hanbury but in 1829 he married Susannah Scott, in Stockport and so must have moved there previously, perhaps with his mother.  Sometime before 1841, James and his family moved to Liverpool and only many years later moved to Manchester where his brother Thomas had a boot and shoemaker’s business. [xvii]. It is possible that James, who was also a shoemaker, worked for his brother at some time. [xviii]  However, Thomas and James’ younger sister, Jane had to wait until 1826 before she was able to marry the man of her choice, a 41 years old, Macclesfield born, former soldier from Chatham in Kent, Peter Swindells, and leave Hanbury. [xix]

Life In The Army

When his father died, Charles Bednal was less than 3 years old and nothing is yet known about his life during the following 19 years.  The years prior to his 12th or 13th birthday may have been unhappy ones, assuming he was living with his violent step-father, subsequently, however, it seems likely that he, like his brothers, was put out as a parish apprentice in or about 1822 for by 1831 he was a brass founder in Wolverhampton.  However, having completed his apprenticeship, Charles decided he’d had enough of foundries and on the 12th January 1831, enlisted in the 61st Regiment of Foot and received his “Bounty” of £3.  He was just 4 months short of his 21st birthday and according to his army records, 5’ 6¾” tall, with black hair, black eyes and a dark complexion. In the declaration he signed on joining up, he stated that he was not married, ruptured or lame and was free from any other disorders that might make him unfit for ordinary labour. The surgeon’s report confirmed that he was healthy and free from any disability, disease or disorder. 

 As a soldier of the 61st Regiment of Foot, Charles Bednal would have worn the “redcoat uniform” of fully-laced & buttoned, red woollen coat, a flannel shirt, duck overalls and an 1812 pattern cap or shako (on parade): at other times he would have worn a forage cap.  Over his coat he would have strapped a 60 round, cartridge pouch on its whitened leather belt and a regimental pattern, whitened leather, cross belt bearing a brass belt plate carrying regimental markings, to which the scabbard for his bayonet was attached. He would have carried, at least, a Brown Bess musket, a haversack containing brushes, various cleaning items, a mess tin, hand towel, razor, soap etc, spare shirts and other items.  One very important item that he would have always had with him was his water bottle with its carrying strap.

A year after becoming a soldier and some basic training, No. 1835, Private Charlie Bednall joined the regiment in Colombo, Ceylon where they and he, remained until 1834 when the regiment moved to Trincomalee. Private Charles Bednall seems to have taken to the life for after 4 years service he was promoted to Corporal with an appropriate increase in pay. [xx] 

 In July 1837, the regiment returned to Columbo, moving on in the following month to Kandy[xxi]. All continued to go reasonably well for Charley until September 1837 when he was heard using “improper expressions to a fellow Corporal” and on the 12th of September, imprisoned awaiting a Regimental Court Martial.  Two days later he was found guilty, sentenced to be reduced to private and returned to prison.  However, some new evidence must have come to light for he was pardoned and released on the 16th. For the next couple of years his behaviour brought no complaints and he continued to enjoy his non-commissioned officer’s rank and pay.

Return to England

In February 1839 the Regiment marched to Columbo again and remained there for 8 months prior to embarking on HMS Jupiter for the journey home. [xxii]   The 61st regiment landed in Southampton on the 12th of March 1840 and remained in England until April 1843. During this time the regiment was, amongst other things, called out to suppress a civil riot in Halifax, in August 1842.  The so-called “civil riot” was the result of the government’s response to mass meetings of workers during Britain’s first general strike.  The strike involved half a million workers and hit factories, mills and coal mines over a very wide area stretching from Dundee, through Lancashire and Staffordshire to South Wales and Cornwall.  Wage cuts, that accompanied a downturn in trade followed by a slump in the cotton and other industries, linked to the chartist struggle for a charter of rights, triggered the strike, which began following a mass meetings of Lancashire workers. It spread rapidly in Manchester and all the cotton and silk manufacturing towns around it. As strike became much more widespread, and workers from other industries joined in, the government mobilised the military and when mass meetings took place, the police and troops were sent to disperse them. Halifax was one of several places where troops fired on unarmed crowds of workers to disperse them. [xxiii]

Court martial and marriage

Just two months after the 61st’s return to England, Corporal Charles Bednall got drunk while on escort duty and once again faced a Regimental Court Martial. He was tried for this offence on the 20th of May 1840, found guilty and sentenced “to be reduced”.    Generally, however, his conduct as a soldier must have been good, certainly after September 1842 if not before, for he was awarded a good conduct medal and good conduct pay. Charles married Frances Hannah Sutcliffe of Stainland, Yorkshire in 1843, not long before the regiment moved to Dublin in Ireland and continued to receive a penny a day good conduct pay until he transferred to the 33rd Regiment of Foot (later known as the Duke of Wellington's Regiment) in August 1844[xxiv].  Why he transferred is not stated but it may have been due, in part, to the fact that he had married and started a family and didn’t want to either leave them behind or expose them to all the risks and discomforts of going with him, when the regiment was posted abroad again: it was posted to India in July the following year. [xxv]. Another possible reason could have been that he was already unfit for service overseas. 

At the time of his transfer to the 33rd, the 61st Regiment of Foot was in Ireland having been posted to Dublin in April 1843 and later moving to Limerick.  The regiment was one of several ordered to Ireland by Prime Minister Robert Peel because of fears of rebellion. In 1843, Daniel O’Connell had organised a large meeting at Tara in favour of the repeal of the Act of Union and planned a “monster meeting” at Clontarf, calling for a million Irish to attend.  The authorities banned the meeting and O’Connell, who opposed the use of violence advocated by some of his young, radical, Irish supporters, called off the meeting.  Despite O’Connell’s action, he and some of his supporters were subsequently tried and convicted for “seditious conspiracy”. [xxvi]   What did all this mean for Charles and the other soldiers sent their to keep the peace and suppress, using canon if necessary, rioters?   One thing it meant was fewer opportunities to meet and mix with local people and probably, to enjoy local leave because the Government, worried about the effects of O’Connell’s speeches and chartist ideas on their loyalty, ordered that regiments should be moved from barracks to barracks to avoid fraternisation with civilians.  It was not, however, possible for them to be totally successful in this and perhaps Charles was one of those soldiers deployed at a meeting, where O’Connell praised the soldiers and called on the crowd to give three cheers for the military! [xxvii]

 Although Charles Bednal may not have been called upon to actually fight the Irish chartists, he and his comrades would have been deployed to police meetings, guard public buildings and to escort rate collectors.  His period of service in Ireland was, for the Irish, one of increasingly severe unemployment and food shortages followed by famine and starvation, all of which would have been only too evident Charles and other soldiers. [xxviii]. [xxix]

 Unfit for service

During this period in Ireland, Charles Bednall’s conduct remained good and on 20th January 1845, while serving with the 33rd, he was awarded a second good conduct medal and another penny a day.  Sometime prior to May 1846 the Regiment must have moved to Clonmel in Tipperary, for it was there, on the 2nd of that month, that Charlie was discharged from army as “unfit for further service".  

A medical examination carried out to determine his eligibility for a “Chelsea” pension, took place in Dublin on the 22nd of June and subsequently J. L. Dempster, Assistant Surgeon to the 33rd Regiment, reported to the medical Board that No. 1835 Private Charles Bednell   suffered from “chronic rheumatism of long standing, caused by severe wetting on the Line of March in 1840, and not the result of indulgence in intoxicating liquors or other vices”.  As a final note the surgeon added, “whilst in hospital his conduct was good”.   As a result the Medical Board recommended his discharge as “unfit for further service” and the subsequent Regimental Board, after assessing his service record, recorded his service as 15 years 161 days of which 7 years 103 days had been served abroad. Based on this, and his generally good service record, he was awarded a pension.


The Failsworth Family Man:

Charles was discharged from the army on the 2nd of May 1846 at Clonmel and sometime before May 1848 when the couple’s second daughter Jane was born, he and his family returned to England.  Initially they settled in Failsworth, near Oldham, in Lancashire but later moved to Frances’ birthplace, Stainland in Yorkshire and there, in November 1850, their first son, Joseph, was born. Although he was a Chelsea pensioner his pension was not enough to support his growing family and thus Charles supplemented it by working, first as a watchman and later as a railway labourer.  The move to Stainland was not a permanent one and by 1853 they had returned to Failsworth where they remained until Charles died in 1883.

 During this time there were more additions to Charles and Frances’ family with the births of Charles junior in 1853, Sarah H. in 1860. Despite having these extra mouths to feed, Charles and Hannah’s standard of living improved, for by 1861, their three eldest children, Frances M, Jane and Joseph, were working in the local cotton industry and bringing money into the home on Dob Lane. Three years later, 48 year old, Hannah gave birth to another son, John W, who in due course found a job in the cotton industry. When their elder children married and left home, Charles and Hannah Bednall took in lodgers and were thus able to maintain their income despite Charles’ rheumatism and other disabilities that caused him to give up work in his 60s.


FAILSWORTH, a township, a chapelry, and a sub-district, in Manchester parish and district, Lancashire. The township lies on the Rochdale canal, and near the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway, 4½ miles NE by E of Manchester; and has a post office under Manchester. Acres, 1,064. Real property, £16,052; of which £450 are in gas-works. Population in 1851, 4,433; in 1861, 5,113. Houses, 1,054. The increase of population arose from the erection of cotton mills and manufactories, the enlargement of a foundry, and the facilities afforded for traffic by canal. The chapelry is conterminate with the township; and was constituted in 1844. The living is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Manchester. Value, £211.  Patron, alternately the Crown and the Bishop. The church was built in 1846. There are four dissenting chapels, a Roman Catholic chapel, and national schools. The sub-district includes Moston township. Population, 8,312.

John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)


 It may have been while they were living in Failsworth in the late 1840s, that Charles Bednall made contact with his brother Samuel again.  Whether or not they had been in contact before, since the family split up in the period after their father’s death, is not known. Charles couldn’t write though Samuel and others could, of course, write on his behalf.  

Charles brother Samuel had been convicted of theft in 1826 and subsequently transported to Tasmania. [xxx], [xxxi].   On his return to England, sometime between 1848 and 1851, he first went to lodge with his stepsister  in Stockport but later moved back to his birthplace, Hanbury, where he remained for the rest of his life. [xxxii].  How and when the brothers resumed contact is unknown but by 1871, Samuel seems to have been acting on his brother’s behalf with regard to Charles’ claim for an increased pension or payment.. This claim was turned down on 28th April 1871, on the grounds that the increased disability for which Charles had claimed had occurred following his discharge from the army. However, a fortnight later they awarded him an extra 9d “on attaining the age of 60”.  In Charles’ army record, dated 11/5/1871, the “age” award mentions his brother Samuel and is accompanied by the note “Ac etc care of S. Bednall”.  A similar note dated 8/4/1875 states “Ac etc to Rev. J. Barnes” who may have been the local vicar. Quite how Samuel and Charles arranged these things, given that one lived in Hanbury, Staffordshire and the other in Failsworth, Lancashire, is unclear.

Charles may have also been in touch with other members of his family for his brother Thomas lived in the Hulme area until his death in 1858 and their brother, James, who was also a cordwainer or shoemaker and had moved to Manchester in or about 1848, lived there until his death in 1892.  Furthermore, prior to her death in 1855, their mother may have lived in Stockport -did they ever all meet again?

Despite the deprivation he experienced early in life, his hard life in the army and its legacy of poor health, Charles Bednal lived until 1883, raising, with his wife Frances, at least eight children whose present descendants are his living memorials. [xxxiii]


Charles’ and Frances’ daughter Jane, who married a Samuel Johnson in 1866, emigrated to the USA in the 1890s and her descendants, members of the Anderson-Rae family of Nebraska, still live there today.


[i] Staffordshire Record Office D1528/1/4 Hanbury Parish Registers, Baptisms & Burials 1777-1812 

[ii] “The parish of Hanbury is a very extensive district, being upwards of five miles square, and including the north end of Needwood Forest, and ten villages and hamlets, divided into five townships, viz, Hanbury, Newborough, Marchington, Marchington-Woodlands, and Draycott-in-the-Clay. The whole parish comprises 2483 inhabitants, and about 13,600 acres of land. History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire, William White, Sheffield, 1851 

[iii] Staffordshire Record Office D/1528/5/3 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1805-1827: 30 November 1811: Hedgehogs. 

[iv] Staffordshire Record Office D1528/5/2 Hanbury Overseers’ Accounts 1780-1805: 2nd & 14th February 3rd March and 15th April 1782-83. 

[v] Staffordshire Record Office D/1528/5/3 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1805-1827: particularly 1808-1813. 

[vi] Samuel Bednall's eldest brother -Thomas- was the most successful member of the family for he set himself up in business as a shoemaker and by 1851 was employing 2 men, one of whom was his brother James.  Thomas's sons (Thomas and Samuel) were even more successful than their father, establishing a printing and stationery business with, in 1871, substantial premises at 128 Market Street, Manchester and a factory nearby at 54 Tib Street.  Local trade directories describe the brothers as "Printers, Stationers & Pattern Card Makers" and the firm was still occupying these premises in 1905. However, by 1910 they had moved to Piccadilly and subsequently to 2 Moseley Street, Manchester though the works remained in Tib Street. Sometime in the 1920s they moved to 30 Dale Street, Oldham Street, Miles Platting and appear to have still been in business there in 1945.  What finally became of the firm after this date is not known but one of its owners -Arthur Bednal died in 1945 and this event may have led to the company being wound up. Incidentally the first mention of Bednal Street, Miles Platting that I have so far found occurs in directories of the 1890s: how it got its name I don't know but it probably relates to this firm. 

[vii] Staffordshire Record Office D1528/1/4 Hanbury Parish Registers, Baptisms & Burials 1777-1812. 

[viii] Staffordshire Record Office D/1528/5/3 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1805-1827: In particular (but not only) 25th January, 5th March and 25 April 1812-13. 

[ix] SRO D1528/1/8 Marriages 1803- 18 Rupert Wardle of Foston Derbyshire and Sarah Bednal widow of Hanbury married by licence 16 January 1813 

[x] Staffordshire Record Office D1528/1/5 Hanbury Parish Registers, Baptisms 1813-1864 

[xi] Staffordshire Record Office D1528/5/3 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1805-1827: 25th April 1812-13; 24th May, 15th October and 1st April  1813-14;  1814-15. 

[xii] SRO D1528/1/12 Marriages 1813-1837, Richard Large and Sarah Badnall of Hanbury married by banns 25 November 1816. 

[xiii] Staffordshire Record Office D Parish Registers of Barton under Needwood, Staffordshire: Marriages 1813-1837

[xiv] Staffordshire Advertiser 27 October 1821-Marriages. 

[xv] SRO D1528/5/4 Hanbury Overseers of the Poor Accounts 1829-1831.See also SRO D1528/9/5 Hanbury Charities Account Book 1841-1925.  

[xvi] National Archives (UK) WO97/503 Peter Swindells Alias Peter Swindels. Born Macclesfield, Cheshire Served in 31st Foot Regiment. Discharged aged 40   Covering dates 1825-1847. 

[xvii] Pigot's Directory 1824 re 45 Golden Street, Manchester 

[xviii] National Archives (UK) Census Returns for England & Wales 1841:  HO107/559/16 : Fol.39   Page.53. Back Johnson Street, Liverpool.  See also National Archives (UK) Census Returns for England & Wales 1861: RG9 Piece 2961, Fol. 13. Page 16. re 36 Silk Street, St. Michael’s Parish, Manchester. 

[xix] British National Archives WO97/503 Peter Swindells Alias Peter Swindels Born Macclesfield, Cheshire Served in 31st Foot Regiment. Discharged aged 40   Covering dates 1825-1847 

[xx] British National Archives: Wo 97/510/41 Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers Service Documents - 1760-1913:  Charles Bednell 1831-1846. 

[xxi]  61st Regiment of Foot “South Gloucestershire”.  

[xxii] HMS Jupiter was a 50-gun fourth rate launched in 1813. She was used as a troopship from 1837 and as a coal hulk from 1846. She was broken up in 1870. see also 

[xxiii] The General Strike of 1842 (Lawrence & Wishart, London 1980) 

[xxiv] The 33rd Regiment of Foot,   See also 

[xxv] Had Charles not transferred he might have gone with the regiment to India and died as his Company Commander did at Cawnpore in 1846. 

[xxvi] The Nation And The Monster Meetings (1842-1844) 

[xxvii] “A Military History of Ireland” Edited by Thomas Bartlett & Keith Geoffrey, CUP 1996  ISBN 0-521-62989-6, page 346  See also “ The Irish Through British Eyes”  by Edward G. Lengel,  2002  Page 59. 

[xxviii]  The Irish Famine: 1845-9 by Marjie Bloy, Ph. D. 

[xxix] See also Hansard HC Deb 10 August 1843 vol 71 cc532-5 532   On the motion, that the Chelsea Hospital Out-Pensioners Bill be read a second time.  

[xxx] Conviction of Samuel Bednall alias Pye aged 18 for theft from a house in Stockport. Report of the Assizes at Chester  April 1826; page 14,  Cheshire Ancestor Vol.30, June 2000 Issue 4. 

[xxxi] Convicts and Convict Ships sent to Tasmania  (& Victoria, Norfolk Island & NSW) 1812-1853. The convict ships, 1787-1868, by Charles Bateson. 2nd ed. 1974.  

[xxxii] A Return of all ships or Vessels hired for the conveyance of Convicts from Great Britain and Ireland, between the 1st January 1839 and the 30th June 1846 stating the Ships' Names, Tonnage, Owner's Name, Broker's or Agent's Name, Class of Ship, Rate of Freight, and when the same commenced, Number of Convicts taken on Board, when Sailed, when Arrived, Amount of Demurrage (if any), and whether engaged by Public Tender or otherwise-(in continuation of Parliamentary Paper, No. 244, of Session 1839). British Parliamentary Papers (BPP) LXV (573). 


© A.W.Bednall, Macclesfield UK 2000-2012