Friday, 17 February 2017

On St Johns Street with a story that crosses continents

Now the way a story comes to light can be as fascinating and revealing as the actual story. 

St John Street showing the home of the Painter family, 2008
So it was when Julie picked up on a post about St Johns Street with the comment that “My great grandfather was David Arthur Keneally. I think it was actually 19 he lived at.” 

And that was how it began.

St John Street dates back to the late 18th century and remains a street of elegant houses which by the late 19th century had become the consulting rooms of fashionable doctors, surgeons and eye specialists.

A few were residents but most lived elsewhere.

Their rooms were on the ground floor and the remaining parts of the houses were let out to a mix of tenants who made their living from a range of occupations from service industries to clerical and industrial enterprises and quite a few working for the nearby railway companies.

There was even a blacksmith and a policeman, which is where our story begins.

Police Constable, Kenally, date unknown
This is Mr Keneally.

I don’t have a date for the picture but given that he joined the Manchester Police Force in the October of 1895 and he has two stripes I would have put the date sometime into the early 20th century.

Those service records also show that he was born in Cape Town in 1868 and had been in the Cheshire Regiment.

And that is a good starting point because although I can’t find any reference to him before 1891 I do know that in the April of that year he was in Salford Barracks on Regent Road.

The army seems to have been a natural career choice given that he was born in King William’s Town and that his father was in the 99th Foot Regiment which served in South Africa from 1865 till 1868 and again in 1878.

All of which explains why he appears to be missing from the records.

Looking down St Johns Street, circa 1900
But those records do throw up a few odd hiccups.  So while his birth was registered as 1866 his police records have him born in 1868 and those same police records describe him as single, when he had married the year before.

The marriage took place in St John’s Church on January 24 and the parish record  is a revealing document.

Mr Keneally was living at number 19 St Johns Street and gave his occupation as "musician" and that of his father as a clerk, while his bride was living two doors down the road at number 23.

She was Mary Ann Cross who was from Ireland and her father is given as James Painter and that of course puzzled me.  But according to Julie Mary Ann’s mother had remarried on the death of her father. “Sarah Myles married William Cross (he was in the Kerry Militia) and they had Marianne (Mary Anne / Marion?).  

Mary Ann Painter gets a present, 1885
William Cross died and Sarah married James Painter who was in the British Army and she came back to England with him.”

And that made the connection with St Johns Street because in 1891 Mr Painter was the caretaker in the Royal Eye Hospital which was situated at number 24, and there too was Mary Ann described as "house keeper.”

Mary Ann appears to have adopted her step father's surname by 1885 when she received a gift from her work colleagues, but gave her name at the wedding as Cross.

Now that will help in the search for her story.

In the meantime the romantic in me likes the idea of David and Mary Ann seeing each other regularly on the street and discovering that they were attracted to each other.

After their marriage they stayed on St Johns Street where they still were in 1901 living at number 23.  By then they had a son and employed young Minnie Day as a servant.

A decade later and they had swapped the imposing house on St Johns Street for the more modest 41 Carleton Street in Rusholme which was a a 4 roomed property close to Claremont Road.

Mr and Mrs Painter with John and Percy circa 1907
And what I like is that both homes are still standing.

There will be lots more research to do.

I know that Mr Keneally died in 1921 and Mrs Keneally in 1937 and  both were buried together in Southern Cemetery, but for now that is enough.

And this was pretty much the end of the story but then having discovered that Mr and Mrs Keneally were buried in Southern Cemetery I asked my friend David to visit the rave and take a picture.

They were interred block U and it is fitting I think to close the story with his picture of their headstone.

Location; Manchester

Additional research Julie Smith

Pictures; St John Street in 2008 from the collection of Andrew Simpson, St John Street circa 1900, m04502, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council,  the headstone of Mr and Mrs Keneally 2016 from the collection of David Harrop, and family images from the collection of Julie Smith

Headstone of Mr and Mrs Keanilly

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