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Heathfolk Revisited

Chapter 6
Mary Alice & Thomas Henry Heath

The Double Connection to the Powell Family

The Powells played an important part in the history of the Heaths, and it is therefore not unreasonable to devote a short chapter to the connections between the two families.

Thomas Powell Senior & Junior

Thomas Powell senior was a farmer (‘one of the Yeoman stock’, according to his eldest son’s obituary 1) in the Golden Valley of Herefordshire; this obituary also tells us that

he was a man of natural gifts, and exercised them as a Methodist local preacher for a period of over 50 years.

Thomas senior was married to Elizabeth Watkins 2, and their eldest son Thomas junior was born at St Margaret’s, Hereford, in 1841.  He was followed by five more sons and two daughters 3. Again quoting from his obituary, we read that

in early life [Thomas junior] identified himself with the church of his father, and when 20 years of age entered the ministry of the Primitive Methodist connection, and for seven years occupied a position of great usefulness as a minister of that denomination.

Mary Alice Heath’s Marriage

From 1866 to 1868, Thomas was stationed in the Nantwich circuit.  Here he met Mary Alice Heath, and they were married at the Wedgwood chapel in Heath Street, Crewe on 13 July 1868, Thomas giving his address as Market Street, Monks Coppenhall, which was presumably where his manse was situated.  The bridegroom was 27 and Mary Alice was 19; she gave her address as ‘West View’, where she lived with her father and step-mother.  Her brother Thomas Henry was one of the witnesses.

Shortly after his marriage, Thomas was stationed for a short while in Knighton, but due to ill health he retired from the ministry in 1869 and ‘went into business’ 4This ‘business’ appears to have been farming.  The census of 1881 for Abbey Dore in Herefordshire (the county of his birth) shows Thomas to be a farmer at ‘The Cwm’ with four children: Samuel Thomas (b Dilwyn 1870), John Henry (b Dilwyn 1872), Mary Elizabeth Alice (b Pembridge 1876) and Beatrice Gertrude (b Abbey Dore 1879).  They also had a servant and a farm labourer.  A further daughter, Mabel Heath Powell, was born in 1882.  (See the family tree below.)

William Powell

Thomas’s younger brother William also entered the Primitive Methodist ministry.  His obituary 5 says:

Before he was 20 years of age Mr Powell was appointed as an assistant in the Southampton circuit, and later he was in London.  Prior to leaving England [for Australia] in 1874 he was Superintendent of the Bedford circuit.

In Australia, William was based firstly in Rockhampton, where he was responsible for inaugurating several new churches. He was later positioned in Bundaberg and Ipswich, where many more churches were opened.  He became the President of the Primitive Methodist Church (in Australia), and played an important role when that church united with the Wesleyan Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Australasia.

One of William’s interests was the welfare of prisoners.  He was a visiting chaplain 6 to various jails, and prepared the way for the establishment of a home for the care of prisoners after they had served their sentences.  He argued that a self-supporting home for released prisoners, until useful work could be found for them, would be an asset to the State.

William married twice; his first wife was Elizabeth Jones of Turnastone, the daughter of a corn merchant, who he married in Preston-on-Wye on 8 July 1869.  She bore him four daughters and one son, but she died in 1882 a few days after bearing another daughter who did not survive.  William’s second wife was Mary Ellen Zillmann, the daughter of German missionaries, who he married in Rockhampton on 5 September 1883.  They had a further three children: two boys and a girl.  Mary Ellen died on 6 February 1902.

In 1913, William returned to England with two of his daughters for a short visit.  There is photographic evidence of his visiting Samuel II, John and Florence Maria Heath and their two daughters at Castleton.

William’s obituary continues:

His great work was on the pastoral side, in which he was always regarded as a torrent of almost inexhaustible force. . . . His was a splendid record – nearly sixty years of ministry of tireless and unselfish work.

Thomas and Mary Alice Powell in Australia

After twelve years of farming, Thomas recovered his health, and was re-admitted to the active ministry.  He left England with Mary Alice and their family for Australia, and met up with his brother in Ipswich, Queensland, on 23 December 1881. He was later stationed at various towns along the east coast of Queensland, including Brisbane, Ipswich, Caboolture, Toowoomba, Rockhampton, Gympie, Isis, Mackay, Pine Rivers, Beenleigh and Cooktown.  His last posting, as a supernumary, was to Corinda.

Unlike his younger brother, Thomas took ‘but little part in the higher courts’ (of the Primitive Methodist church).  However, he was highly esteemed for his ‘originality and freshness as a preacher’ 7His obituary, recorded in the Conference Minutes of the Methodist Church of Australasia (15th Annual Conference, 1915) said:

As a man he was distinguished by traits of character of the highest order.  He generated an atmosphere of holiness. Humility was no pose to him; it was the adornment of his singularly unselfish nature.  He was a man in whom was no guile.  He was exceedingly companiable, and greatly esteemed the friendship of his brethren.

Thomas died on 28 July 1915 in ‘one of the private hospitals to which he had been removed from his home in Corinda’, and was buried at Toowong cemetery the next day 8His brother William notified the registrar of the death, but his name does not appear amongst the mourners at the funeral.  According to the death certificate, Thomas’s living children were Samuel Thomas (45), John Henry (43), Mary Elizabeth Alice (38) and Mabel Heath (32).  Beatrice Gertrude had died when she was only six years old.

Mary Alice, who was renowned for her beautiful singing voice, died on 10 August 1912 in the New Zealand town of Timaru, where she was buried.  Her death certificate makes it clear that she had lived there for some three years, near to her son Samuel Thomas, whose wife Frances Lillian (dying in Sydney, Australia, in 1933) is also commemorated on the headstone of Mary Alice’s grave.  Why Mary Alice chose to leave her husband in 1909, when he was still an active minister in Australia, is another unsolved mystery 9Thanks to the provisions of her father’s will, she was probably a woman of independent means.

Samuel Thomas (Tom) married the widow Frances Lillian Tate (née Gumley).  At the time of her death, she had six surviving children from her first marriage, although there were no children from her union with Samuel Thomas.  It is strange that she died in Sydney, when his home was in New Zealand.  To complicate matters further, her death certificate makes no mention of a second marriage, and it may be that she and Samuel Thomas were not legally married.  Samuel Thomas was killed in a road accident in his home town of Albury, 30 miles from Timaru, on 13 June 1947 10He was buried in a war veterans’ plot in Timaru cemetery 11.

John Henry married Elizabeth Grace Durrant of Gympie, Queensland.  They had eight children: Jay Heath (b circa 1898); Lytton Redvers Baden (b circa 1900, d 1957); Linda Vera Mary Grace (b circa 1902); Edna Ivy Myra (b circa 1903); Audrey Claire (b circa 1906, d 1993); William Henry (b circa 1909); Dagmar Myrtle (b circa 1912) and Wilfred Ian Kitchener (b 1 March 1916).  Most of these married and had children of their own, and grandchildren.

Mary Elizabeth Alice (‘Cissie’) married Charles Arthur Bradford (1876 – 1946); they had three sons: Arthur (1907 – 1958), Leslie (1909 – 1977) and John (1913 – 1917).  They also had a daughter, Marjory (1910 – 1917) 12Cissie is said to have never recovered from the deaths of John and Marjory, and she spent her later years in a mental institution.

Arthur Bradford married Mary Scott (1904 – 1989) in Rockhampton, Queensland in 1935.  They had one daughter: Elizabeth (b 1937).  Leslie Bradford married Irene Sarah Edgar in 1936.  They had two children: Beryl (b 1939) and Gordon (b 1947).  Elizabeth and her cousin Gordon remained single, but Beryl married John Nespolo (b 1932) in Brisbane in 1963; they had a daughter Sarah Ann (b 1974).

There is no record of a marriage of Mabel Heath Powell (‘Dot’), but she is said to have been the common-law wife of a Mr Collins.  She died in 1966, and her body was cremated in Brisbane.

Thomas Henry Heath and his Family

Thomas Henry Heath married Elizabeth Esther Powell (the sister of Thomas and William) in 1875.  The marriages of Thomas and Elizabeth Esther to Mary Alice and Thomas Henry thus provided a double bond 13 between the Heaths and the Powells.  This bond was further strengthened by William Powell Heath, Thomas Henry’s second son, who adopted the surname ‘Powell Heath’ by deed poll in 1946 14.

One cannot help wondering if Elizabeth acted as housekeeper to her bachelor brother Thomas when he was first ordained to the ministry.  It will be recalled that Thomas Henry remained in Crewe after his father left.  Elizabeth would thus have met Thomas Henry regularly at the Heath Street chapel, where both would be members.  Soon after their wedding, when Samuel II (who had been living with his family at West View since his father’s retirement to Audlem) vacated the old family home, the newly-weds moved in.

Thomas Henry and Elizabeth Esther had six children: Mabel, Percy Melville, William Powell, Gladys Winifred, Walter Ewart and Dorothy.  The four youngest children can be seen at West View with their parents, together with two servants, in the 1891 census.  Mabel and Percy were probably away at school 15.  An old photograph shows some of the family on the steps of West View.

Percy was the most distinguished of the children; he became Town Clerk of Manchester, but died when he was only 49 16Walter Ewart was a mechanical engineer in Tredegar, and William Powell, living in Kegworth, Leicestershire, became a local director of Barclays Bank; he it was who asked Beddow to research the family history.

Mabel married Francis Henry (Frank) Russell of Hereford, and bore him three children: Mary, John and Margaret.  John was killed in action in World War II, leaving a wife (Jean) and daughter (Sally).  Percy married Marie Brown; they had one daughter, Winifred (born 1916).

In June 1925, William Powell married Isabel Martha Collier, who he met whilst he was recovering from pneumonia in Colwyn Bay; she was on holiday with her parents.  William and Isabel had four sons: John Martin (born&nbep;26 July 1926), Edward Timothy Collier (born 18 June 1928), Richard Michael Mullins (born 25 September 1930) and Jocelyn Thomas (born 21 November 1933).  All four boys were born at the home of their maternal grandmother in Liverpool.  John Martin died in 1967, Richard and Jocelyn both died in 2000, and Edward died in 2011.  None of the four married.

Gladys Winifred visited her American relations in 1914 – 1915, as a photograph of her on the steps of John Heath’s home in Fond du Lac bears witness.  She may also be seen taking a photograph of Frank Heath with his wife Hazel.  Gladys later married George Sheriff Hussey, who was a captain in the British Army during World War I.  They had one daughter: Pamela Sheriff (born 1918).  George’s small launch was among the fleet of ships which ferried British troops back to England from the Dunkirk beaches in World War II.

Dorothy married Hugh Shearer Rowan.  Hugh’s family were from Glasgow and he was involved in the family business Rowan & Boden which furnished and decorated the liners built on the Clyde including the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth.  He and Dorothy were first class passengers on the maiden voyage of the Queen Mary in 1936.

Hugh served in the Royal Garrison Artillery in France during the 1914-18 War, being awarded the Military Cross.  He also saw active service in World War II.

Hugh and Dorothy had one daughter, Elizabeth Gordon, born in 1920.  She married John Evelyn Pasmore in 1952.  They subsequently divorced, and Elizabeth married Lt Col Miles Charlton Speer in 1969.  Elizabeth died in Chippenham in 1987.

After Dorothy's death in 1951, Hugh remarried in 1952.  In 1955 he was appointed honorary consultant to the Director of Naval Construction at the Admiralty to advise on the furnishing and decoration of the living quarters in warships.  He died in 1956.

Walter Ewart married Kathleen Barnes; they had two sons: Peter John (1920 – 1980), who was a regular soldier (a Major in the Sherwood Foresters), and William Anthony (Tony) (born 1925).  Tony served in the Armoured Corps during World War II, being wounded in action near Bremen in April 1945.  After living in London for a while after the war, he settled in Brecon, Powys.

Thomas Henry’s Death

Following a bout of influenza coupled with severe head pains and depression about the state of his business affairs, Thomas Henry committed suicide by hanging 17 in a disused stable at West View in July 1900.  Beddow tells us that his financial worries were unfounded, and his ‘competent and able widow nursed his business and his estate and considerably improved the position.’

Thomas Henry’s obituary 18 says:

He was a man of exceptional ability, and full of restless energy.  After the completion of his education he commenced business as a builder’s merchant and also as a brickmaker, and acquired an extensive business connection, employing many hands.  The name of Heath will be inseparably associated with the Heath-street Primitive Methodist Church, of which he was one of the trust committee for a considerable period.  In politics he was a Liberal, and worked hard for the Liberal cause in Parliamentary and municipal contests.  In early life he displayed a desire to serve his fellow ratepayers on the governing body of the town, and after one or two unsuccessful attempts he got on the council . . . on the death of the late Mr T Latham the aldermancy was conferred on Mr Heath.  He gave up a considerable amount of time to the work of the town, and showed great interest in all departments of public work. His tragic death in the prime of life has caused universal regret.

With the death of Thomas Henry, Crewe lost its last link with Samuel I and his ancestors.  Elizabeth Esther died in 1923 at the home of her daughter Gladys Winifred Hussey in Trentham, but we do not know how long she remained in Crewe after her husband’s death.

Further Sections:



Chapter 1: Early Days (1321 – 1790)

Chapter 2: Samuel Heath I (1816 – 1882)

Chapter 3: Martin Heath (1810 – 1887)

Chapter 4: Samuel Heath II (1837 – 1922)

Chapter 5: The Heath Family in America

Chapter 7: William Henry Heath (1862 – 1943)

Chapter 8: Samuel Percy Heath (1893 – 1977)

Chapter 9: William Geoffrey Heath (b 1924)

Appendix: The Will of Thomas Heath



1  The Brisbane Courier, 30 July 1915.  Back

2  According to Thomas junior’s death certificate.  Back

3  The author is indebted to Mrs Glennis Powell of Abbeydore, Hereford, Tony Powell of Brecon, Powys, and ‘Kitch’ Powell of Queensland, Australia, for details of the Powell family.  Back

4  Primitive Methodist Ministers (William Leary, 1981).  A copy is held in the John Rylands Library, Manchester.  Back

5  The Brisbane Courier, 3 August 1922.  Back

6  Beddow, who never missed an opportunity to have a sly dig at the Methodists, wrote: ‘Mary Alice married the chaplain of HM Prison in Queensland – surely a Clergyman of the Established Church, and I wonder what Samuel [her father – a staunch nonconformist] thought of that!’  However, Beddow paired the wrong brother with Mary Alice; in his family tree, he labelled her as the wife of William Powell, who was indeed a prison chaplain.  Beddow compounded his error by assuming that a Primitive Methodist could not hold such an office!  Back

7  The Brisbane Courier, 30 July 1915.  Back

8  The Methodist Leader [of Queensland], 6 August 1915; The Brisbane Courier, 30 July 1915; and Thomas’s death certificate.  Back

9  The History of Fond du Lac County (1912), listing the siblings of John Heath, includes ‘Mary Alice, who is the wife of Rev Thomas Powell, of Timaru, New Zealand.’ This entry caused the author to assume (wrongly) that Thomas was based in Timaru.  Thomas’s obituary says: ‘He suffered much pain during recent years.’ Was this a reference to his mental anguish after his wife deserted him?  Back

10  Timaru Herald, 14 & 16 June 1947.  Back

11  Although his death took place on 13 June, his tombstone has the date as 26 August.  The Timaru Herald gives his age as 75; the tombstone as 72.  In fact, he was 77.  Back

12  Much of the information about this family was supplied by Elizabeth Bradford, a grand-daughter of Cissie.  Back

13  Surprisingly, Beddow seems to have been unaware of this interesting relationship.  Back

14  Heathfolk, p 33.  Back

15  Much of the information about Thomas Henry’s descendants is taken from Heathfolk, augmented by private communications from Richard Powell Heath and Tony Heath.  Back

16  The Manchester Guardian, 28 April 1928.  Back

17  The Crewe & Nantwich Chronicle, 7 July 1900.  Back

18  Ibid.  Back