David Cann's fascinating research into C19 emigrants from Crediton to Australia, the Nickels. Amongst other things, it found a surplus of butchers.

We recently had a visitor from Australia, Sarah Nickels, in the Research Corner, to research some specific Crediton ancestry. She contacted us a month in advance and sent a copy of the existing Pedigree Chart prepared by a late cousin and included a census return for 1841.

This census return for William Nickels was for the alleged ancestor and his wife Elizabeth and children, living in Kenton as a Butcher. The Chart showed that he was from Crediton born 1806 and that this gentleman and family moved to Australia, probably prior to the 1851 census as he is not traced in that or later census and nor are the children. It included his death date of 1885 in Mount Pleasant, South Australia. It also showed his ancestry, to be confirmed, and a son, James Nickels but no dates or places for him.

Starting with William, the Crediton parish records show a 23 September 1806 baptism and unusually in the margin a birth date of 21 March 1805, the son of William and Elizabeth Nickels. His presumed sister baptised the same day didn’t have her birthday recorded. His marriage entry for 18 September 1832 at Holy Cross, Crediton shows he married Elizabeth Hamlin, both could sign their own names.

The 1841 census for Crediton has William senior (born 1776) as a farmer living in Park Street with his wife Elizabeth and two remaining daughters. Still in Park street in the 1851 census he is a widow, with a live-in servant and describes himself as a Yeoman born in Crediton.

There is a baptism for William senior, 19 March 1776 at Holy Cross, son of Thomas Nickells and Ann. Their marriage had been in 1773, Thomas to Ann Brice. William senior married Elizabeth Stevens 2 February 1800, both generations in Holy Cross.

Although the Pedigree Chart has many generations back from Thomas, confirmation of that will take more work.

Working forward, what of the leap to Australia and who remained in Crediton.

William junior is recorded as having eight children, the eldest three are recorded in the 1841 census. Crucially there is a civil registration for James Stephen Nickels for 1844 in the St. Thomas District of which Kenton was part and a death in Australia of a James Stephen Nickels for 27 Sep 1936. It would be useful but expensive to get all the birth certificates for the children as no baptisms have yet been found. The last child with a civil registration is Samuel Hamlin Nickels in 1849, the next child Thomas Richard Nickels was born in Adelaide, Australia in 1854. A local newspaper provides a clue on the departure date, from the Western Times 19 February 1848:

‘To be SOLD by Auction at ST. ANDREWS COTTAGE, KENTON by Mr. Nickels, Wednesday, March 1st… HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE, &C., The property of a gentleman about to leave the neighbourhood.’

Among the items listed are four beds with bedding, two wardrobes, 14 mahogany chairs, two sofas, three fenders and fire setts and “a few Australian stuffed bird skins”.

Left in Crediton were various brothers and sisters of William junior. The eldest of which, Thomas Nickels was a butcher living in North Street in 1841. He is recorded as a butcher in London in 1851 with the three sons that were working being butchers or butcher’s assistants. Ultimately the five surviving sons became butchers.

The Exeter Flying Post from 20 August 1846 to 22 March 1849 has reports of the stock the Nickels of Crediton bought from Exeter cattle market and the amount paid. The 1st October 1846 references “Mr Nickels, of Kenton, butcher”, who would later leave for Australia, as buying stock at Exeter Market. On 12 January 1854 the paper reports ‘Riot at Crediton’ “Mr Nickels, butcher, was struck by a stone, which made a deep gash in his head,”. This would appear to be John Nickels.

It isn’t just the census that gave information on their occupation.

William senior gave an occupation of Butcher at his marriage to Elizabeth Stevens in 1800 even though it wasn’t then required information. His brother Richard Brice Nickels gave his occupation as Butcher at his first marriage in 1815. For his second marriage in 1855, aged 68 to a woman 45 years younger than him, he gives his father’s occupation as Farmer and himself as Gentleman. For both the baptism and marriage of Emma Nickels, 1824 and 1848, William senior is recorded as being a butcher.

William’s younger brother John is also a butcher. As a family in 1844 they were two of the three recorded butchers for Crediton in Pigot & Co.’s ‘Directory Of Devonshire. 1844 Crediton With The Village Of Sandford And Neighbourhoods’, John in High Street and Thomas in Parliament Street.

John’s son Frederick also became a butcher as was his son Wilfred. The census is frustrating as it is not until 1871 that we can match John Nickels to a particular property number in High Street. In 1881 Frederick has taken over. By 1891 he had taken his family to Islington, London but was still a butcher. By 1901 Wilfred had his own shop and in 1911 with his wife, had two staff at home, a companion and a domestic servant. His aunts Lucy and Emily remained in Crediton and shared a home on Western Road until they died. Wilfred had married in 1903 and the Western Times report states he is “the only son of Mr. W. Nickels, of London (late of Crediton)”. He retired back to Devon in Winkleigh, the town he married in. The report of his death was in three Devon newspapers in 1937 and a later report of the will gives a gross value of £3,680, substantial for the time.

After Sarah's visit to the Research Corner we met in High Street, counting down to number 23 - a shop which until recently we think had been Packers the butchers. (Can anyone confirm this? In the 1935 and 1939 Kelly's directories it was also a butcher's shop, occupied by William Leonard Ellaway)

There is just one gravestone in the churchyard for the Nickels, that of John (buried 27th April 1876) and Sarah (buried 19th September 1899). A little worn but in general good order. See photos below.




David Cann

September 28th 2017


30 September 2017