The Life of James Honeyman BULL

James Honeyman BULL lived one of the most interesting and enigmatic lives amongst our ancestors. His life included being convicted of embezzlement, moving with a job on the railways before settling in Camberwell. He died in Surrey Lunatic Asylum at the relatively young age of 49 after what appears to be a debilitating stroke.

About Oct 1829 Born, probably in Westminster, the son of James and Mary Ann BULL. The age can be most closely estimated from his baptism which says his age was ‘above 1 1/2 yr’ on his baptism. The dates of birth that one can reconstruct from ages given on official documents are: census 30 Mar 1851 aged 23 (1828), arrest on 1 Sep 1852 aged 24 (1828), marriage 23 Apr 1855 aged 28 (1827), census 2 Apr 1871 aged 42 (1829), death on 23 Apr 1878 aged 46 (1832). Ages in adulthood can often be a year or so out.

1 May 1831 Baptised St. James Piccadilly, with an address given as 6 Eden [Eaton] Lane, Pimlico. His father James BULL was a leather dresser.

Early 1840s Educated at a school (could read and write in later life)

[Cannot be identified confidently on the 1841 census]

Nov 1848 Took up a Job with Thomas FELTHOUSE as a clerk, because the previous incumbent, Joseph PATRICK, absconded with his Master’s money.

30 Mar 1851 On 1851 census at 122 West Orchard, Coventry. lodging with William and John ORAM, and described as a ‘Book Keeper’. We can infer he was working for Thomas FELTHOUSE in Coventry.

1 Sep 1851 As a merchant’s Clerk, he stole £21 from Felthouse in Coventry and then absconded

Early Jun 1852 Arrested in Northampton for the theft of Felthouse’s money and conveyed back to Coventry.

17 Jun 1852  Charged with theft at Warwickshire Assizes. Convicted 30 Jun 1852 and given 12 months hard labour. As a class 3 prisoner, he would receive one meal a day, either soup and bread or potato and bread with 3 oz of meat on Tuesdays, except for Sunday when they got breakfast of a pint of gruel and 6 oz of bread.

Jun 1853 Presumably released from Coventry Goal after having served his sentence. Then re-employed by Thomas FELTHOUSE, living at Felthouse’s premises

3 Mar 1854 Joseph PATRICK was arrested and brought to court in Coventry for stealing from Thomas FELTHOUSE.

23 Apr 1855 Married Martha Eaves at Coventry registry office, whilst living in West Orchard, Coventry.

18 May 1855 Witness in a paternity case between Thomas FELTHOUSE and one of his maidservants (Eliza DUNN) who accused him of being the father of a child. At the enquiry, he was described as being Felthouse’s Merchant’s Clerk.

20 Jan 1856 Thomas FELTHOUSE died apparently leaving James Honeyman BULL out of work in Coventry.

24 Feb 1856 First Child Martha Honeyman BULL born in Radford, near Coventry; the birth is entered as Martha HONEYMAN. James Honeyman BULL described as a Merchant’s Clerk.

22 Apr 1857 Harriett Chilwell Honeyman BULL born at Radford. Harriet CHILWELL was the name of the child’s grandmother. James Honeyman Bull is described as a Book Keeper.

11 Sep 1858 William James HONEYMAN-BULL born in Shipston on Stour, and James is now described as a Railway Clerk, presumably working for London and North Western Railways which oversaw the line between Coventry and Shipston on Stour.

14 Jun 1860 Mary Ann Honeyman BULL born at Oddington, at which time James Honeyman BULL is described as a Station master.

7 Apr 1861 Not found on the Census. Children Martha and Harriet are with their grandparents, William and Harriet EAVES.

Late 1861/Early 1862 Moved to Camberwell.

1 Jan 1862 Started working for the London and North Western Railway as a Clerk. Worked from ‘Broad Street’ after 1865 and then ceased employment around 1872.

18 Jun 1862 Clara Louisa Honeyman BULL born at 4 Woodland Terrace, Commercial Road, Camberwell at which time James is described as a ‘Railway Clerk’.

5 Apr 1866 Florence Julia Honeyman BULL born at 4 Woodland Terrace, James Street, Commercial Road, Peckham – undoubtedly the same address as where they lived when Clara was born, but described differently. James is still identified as a ‘Railway Clerk’.

20 Jan 1868 Final child, James Walter Honeyman BULL, born at 4 Woodland Terrace, Cator Street, Camberwell and James the father is still described as a Railway Clerk.

2 Apr 1871 Appears on the 1871 Census living at 130 Cator Street, Camberwell.

1872 Ceased employment with the London and North Western Railway.

25 Jun 1874 Wife Martha Honeyman BULL died at 130 Cator Street, Camberwell. By now James is described as a ‘Parcel Deliverer (Carman)’.

29 Dec 1877 Admitted to Surrey Lunatic Asylum after having had a debilitating seizure which had interfered with his speech. Appears subsequently in day-books.

23 Apr 1878 Died at the Surrey Lunatic Asylum.

30 Apr 1878 Buried at Nunhead Cemetery, South London.

James’s death left the family without a head and a form of income. The eldest child, Martha, was 22 when she took over responsibility for the whole family. Within a few weeks, Florence Julia, the youngest daughter, was sent to a parish boarding school, indicating that the parish authorities quickly became involved in overseeing the future of the children. William James joined the Navy and the youngest son, James Walter, joined the army as soon as he was old enough.

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