The Life of George Burgess
GEORGE BURGESS, the 3rd son of John & Jane Burgess was born at 1am on 12th June 1829, in an old house above the railway tunnel near what is now known as Acacia Road, Staple Hill, Bristol, he was christened on the 7th July. Here is an Artist impression, based on photographs of Staple Hill tunnel in the mid 1960's - by Tom Maloney© - The old line is now used as a cycle track.
George Burgess was born in a house with 1 acre and 8 perches of garden and orchards; 1.05 acres. This was set behind another house with gardens that was near the edge of the tunnel entrance. In 1844, when the council survey was started the house and grounds were referred to as `Plot 879' and was owned by his father John Burgess (a collier). His father also owned `Plot 859' a house and gardens situated nearby at the end of what is now Acacia Road, by Staple Hill High Street. However, before the survey was completed, John Burgess had died and the name of ownership was transferred to his eldest child Ann Sperring, under her maiden name of Burgess (although she had already been married for about five years). At this time (1845) `Plot 879' would have been occupied by Jane Burgess, Housekeeper (mother and widow); her three children; son-in-law George Sperring; and grandchildren.
When George Burgess was about 16 his brother-in-law (George Sperring) persuaded him to go to Baltimore, Maryland, in America (a `Slave State') to continue their apprenticeship in stone cutting - George Burgess finished his apprenticeship in Philadelphia, a `Free State', bordering Maryland. By the age of 20 he had developed most of his religious and personal views, like abstaining from alcoholic drink, and probably his political views - while there he started a scrapbook of newspaper cuttings that he maintained for life. He stuck in articles of interest to him e.g. poetry; religion; science; humour, and teetotalism/drink. For many years he hand copied articles, which interested him, such as `Mary Sewell's' `Mothers Last Words'. Later in life he did a lot of his own writings, religious thoughts; diary and poems.
George Burgess made many friends in America, including Mrs C M Middleton born c1838 (Maggie Middleton). George and Maggie stayed good friends and kept in touch for the rest of their lives. After he returned to England she sent him a photograph of herself, and her husband Dick Middleton (Richard Middleton) who served as a Captain in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861-1865).
George Burgess named his 2nd daughter Catherine Middleton Burgess (born 1872) after Mrs C M Middleton, and in 1884 dedicated a poem to her entitled `The Days Gone Bye'.
To my dear friend Mrs C M Middleton, aged 66,
The days gone bye, will come no more -
Until you reach the Glory-land -
Then - days gone bye, need come no more -
George Burgess 1894
Click Here for further information on the Middleton Family
George Burgess returned to England three times to see his mother, the third and last time being Christmas 1857 - When he vowed not to return to America while she was alive. He never did return and ever regretted it.
On 8th March 1858 he married Mary Crouch, who was about 21/22 years old. He was happy with his wife, but her mother and sister (Annie) bought only sorrow into the family and was cruel to his aged mother. The following year, they had a son (George William Burgess) who died at 10 months old and was buried in Manchester on the 21st July 1859. Only four years after their marriage, his wife died, and was buried on 27th July in the Downend/Mangotsfield parish.
George Burgess never once mentioned his second son (Samuel Edward Burgess) in any of his writings, even though Eddy (as he was called by the family) lived with the family for many years. However Samuel Burgess (known as Eddie) appears in the census records and the family bible in Australia, and his sister-in-law Gertrude Burgess talked about him at great length to her granddaughter (Grace Baglin), as part of the many family stories about her life that she passed down. One such story told to Grace by Gertrude is that while working in Bristol, George had his hat stolen. Apparently he followed the offender until he caught up with him, and confronted him. George is meant to have said, "If you need that had so badly that you have to steal it, you need it more than I do", with that George turned and walked away.
Above: SAMUEL EDWARD BURGESS, 2nd son of GEORGE BURGESS
In January 1861 George Burgess set himself up as a Phrenologist in the Shopping Arcades in Bristol. According to the Bristol Directory of that time his business addresses are as shown in the follow table. Only the Lower Arcade survives, and is part of a modern and flourishing inner city shopping centre - The Upper Arcade being destroyed in the Blitz during the 2nd World War.
George Burgess was a widower for nine years, and then on 28th June 1870, just after his 41st birthday, he married Eliza Knight, of Weston-Super-Mare. When his first two daughters were born, between the spring of 1871 and the end of 1872 they were living at Elicar Villa, Berkely Road, Horfield, Bristol. According to the census records of 1871 they had a servant, Hannah Bickley, unmarried, aged 24 years, and from Ireland. By the time his fourth daughter was born, at the end of 1875, they were living at South View, Latteridge, near Iron Action, Gloucester. His second wife died at Yatton, Somerset, on 2nd December 1878. Left is a photo of ELIZA KNIGHT.
While his daughters were growing up they stayed at Latteridge. However, in 1900, he moved back to 106 Egerton Road, Horfield. The following year he had to retire from his profession because of his deafness - which had been plaguing him since the age of 42. In 1902, he moved back to Latteridge, but by 1903 was trying to move nearer to Bristol again. During the whole of his life he never once saw a doctor - in his scrapbook are newspaper articles about doctors doing more harm than good - He died at age 76 in 1905.