This feature about the Minshall family of Oswestry – which continues next week – has been written by reader Chris Jones.
Chris says: “Most of the information has been gleaned from articles in the Advertizer, books which can be found in Oswestry Library and other ancestral site records.
“In addition, communication with other interested relatives of the Minshall family, in particular Mr Norman Home of London, has been of great help in compiling this information.”
Descendents of the Minshall family have lived in Oswestry for over 200 years. Indeed, descendents of the Minshall family still live here today, if not with the Minshall surname. In the main they were a religious and respectable family but occasionally some would stray.
They had family connections; some possibly exaggerated, with many notable people including John Milton, Neville Chamberlain and Samuel Llewellyn Kenrick, the founder of the Welsh FA.
This included a spy who worked with Ian Fleming in the Second World War – and whose mother worked for John Buchan, author of The 39 Steps – and drove in the Monte Carlo Rally and is believed to be one of the inspirations for James Bond.
There was also a Congregational Minister’s son, who lived a second life with a mother and child (possibly his) in Birmingham, while married and living in Oswestry.
The Minshalls were a Nonconformist family who had lived in the Hanmer area for many years. They are mentioned in Roger Whitley’s Diary from the late 17th century, which is kept at the Bodleian Library.
Extracts from this diary, which can be viewed on the internet, show the same family names moving in the same circles in the 17th century as some 200 years later.
Nathaniel Minshall was baptised on November 17, 1780 at Ellesmere Parish Church, and was the son of Thomas Minshall and Margaret (Bartlam) from Gadlice.
It is known, from books on Oswestry, that Nathaniel had lived at Dudleston Heath in his childhood. It is believed this was Gadlas and either an old spelling or misspelling. Nathaniel’s father, Thomas Minshall, had worked in Dudleston Heath before buying his own farm in Hanmer.
Nathaniel married Sarah Roberts on September 8, 1803, in Ellesmere. Sarah, the daughter of Mr. Joseph Roberts and Sarah Bickerton, had lived at Earleshill, Pontesbury and Dudleston in her childhood. Sarah’s parents, Joseph and Sarah, married on October 10, 1779, at Marchwiel.
According to Thomas Minshall, Nathaniel’s eldest son, Nathaniel moved to Oswestry with only £5 in his pocket. His uncles Nathaniel and John had a farm at Preeshenlle, near Gobowen, which Nathaniel would visit.
Nathaniel started a printer, stationary and bookbinders shop at 6 The Cross, Oswestry. In the records of the Shropshire Quarter Sessions of 1809, there was ‘notice from Nathaniel Minshall that he has a printing press which he proposes to use for printing in Oswestry.’
Nathaniel moved to 11 Church Street and carried on his business as a printer and bookseller. At the same time he was an articled pupil of solicitor Thomas Longueville Jones, where after passing the usual examinations he was admitted a solicitor and began practice in 1819.
Nathaniel’s brother, Luke Minshall was also an articled pupil at this time and also became a solicitor before moving to Bromsgrove. One brother, Samuel Minshall, became a minister and teacher at Prees, near Whitchurch, and another, Thomas Minshall, a teacher, emigrated to America.
As an articled pupil, Nathaniel attended the Dudleston Riots with Thomas Longueville Jones following a dispute. An article in the Salopian Journal of November 1, 1809, claimed that ‘so outrageous and obstinate was the conduct of the deluded persons, that it was deemed necessary to send for the Oswestry Rangers. Seven of the ringleaders have been committed to our county gaol. One woman, we understand, lost her life on the occasion.’
A week later, in the same newspaper, the death of this woman was declared an error.
The essence of the dispute seems to have been the right of Lord Powys, as Lord of the Manor, to enclose the Common at Dudleston. Many of the cottagers deemed the Heath to be ‘a lawless place’ on which they were justified putting up dwellings.
Now a solicitor in Oswestry, Nathaniel’s printing business was transferred to his brother-in-law Samuel Roberts and eventually led to the birth of the Advertizer.
Samuel moved to 38 Bailey Street in 1832 where he introduced an ‘Albion’ printing press. Samuel called his premises the Albion Printing Office and this led to the naming of Albion Hill, the short street that connects Beatrice Street with the Bailey Head.
Following Samuel’s retirement, his two sons John Askew Roberts and William Whitridge Roberts carried on the printing business and started publishing a magazine called Oswald‘s Well in the 1840s. This developed and eventually resulted in the production of the first publication of the Advertizer newspaper.
As a memorial to John Askew Roberts, a clock was provided by public subscription and in 1889 it was placed outside the-then Post Office in Church Street. This clock is still in Church Street today, although the original brass plaque has since been replaced with a slate plaque.
William Whitridge Roberts emigrated to Australia and started his own newspaper.
Descendents of the Minshall family were involved in the running of the Advertizer for many years to come.
Nathaniel Minshall had 10 children; Thomas Minshall, 1809, became a solicitor in the family practice along with his brothers Nathaniel and Charles.
John Minshall, in 1814, started his ironmongers business in Bailey Street which ran for many years, and he was followed by his son, also called John. Samuel Minshall was a clerk in the practice and was involved with the running of Oswestry Library for many years.
Thomas Minshall married Maria Thomas on February 24, 1835. On this page is part of Thomas’s letter to Maria’s father, David Thomas, written on September 19, 1833, requesting permission to marry his daughter.
Maria’s brother was Alderman Wynne Thomas, who was Mayor of Oswestry in 1862.
Thomas and Maria lived at Castle View, which they had built in 1841 and which became their residence for the remainder of their married life.
Thomas entered into the town council in 1844 and 10 years later became Alderman. In 1851 he served as Mayor, the first Nonconformist in the town elected under the Municipals Reform Act. He was senior Alderman when he died in 1890.
In 1880, Thomas attained the position of town mayor for a second time. A painting of Thomas in his Mayoral robes can be viewed on the internet and is one of two at Oswestry’s Guildhall.
Thomas was a member of Christ Church, Oswestry, for 65 years and was a deacon for many of those. He succeeded his father, Nathaniel, in the office of Superintendent Registrar in 1848 and held that office until 1888.
He was involved in the building of the new Christ Church at the top of Arthur Street.
Frances Minshall, the wife of John Minshall the ironmonger, was the first to be received into membership at Christ Church. Christ Church opened for public worship on Friday, October 18, 1872.
Thomas received a portrait of himself from the Good Templar Society in 1873 – and this is his second portrait at the Guildhall.
The Advertizer’s obituary for Thomas Minshall in 1890 mentions his relationship with Elizabeth Minshall, the third wife of the poet John Milton.
In Thomas Minshall’s will of 1890, he left £20,000 – in today’s money, about £2,360,000.
Thomas and Maria Minshall’s eldest son was Thomas Edward Minshall.
Thomas Edward married Sarah Savage Kenrick on July 18, 1866.
Sarah was the only daughter of William Kenrick Esq. of Wynn Hall, Ruabon, the ancestral home of the Wynn Kenricks.
The Kenrick family is also mentioned in Roger Whitley’s Diary and they owned the room where the first Nonconformist service was held in Wrexham area. They were members of the same Nonconformist meeting houses as the Minshall family for several centuries.
A branch of the Kenrick family from Ruabon moved to Birmingham. Florence Kenrick, wife of Arthur Neville Chamberlain, was the mother of Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister.
The National Library of Wales informs us this branch of the Kenrick family can trace their descent back to Cynwrig ap Rhiwallon (d. 1074), and claimed the Lordship of Bromfield (Maelor Gymraeg) after the Welsh re-conquest of the 11th century.
Sarah’s brother, Samuel Llewellyn Kenrick, was a solicitor and a founder of the Football Association of Wales.
In 1876 Llewellyn, as he preferred to be known, organised the first Welsh international football match, which was against Scotland. Llewellyn played at left back and as such he became known as the ‘Father of Welsh football’.
Next week: The amazing secret double life of the Advertizer editor
See full story in the Advertizer