Percy Mears: The Butchers and the Butchered

Having spent a lot of time recently trying to turn some of my articles on the Walsall Coroner tales into a book, I thought I would take a break and return to my current master project – Great Wyrley’s fallen from World War One. For those reading the blog for the first time, the project was born out of a need to prove to the Parish Council the actual names of the fallen; this is because the name plaques on the memorial gates contain a number of errors and this may be the last opportunity to get them rectified.

With few left, the soldier that I chose for this article, who happens to be the last that I needed to write-up on the second plaque, is Percy Mears. Mears is one of the more unusual names in that it appears to be his full name rather than an initial; saying that, with the track record of errors on the gates, I needed to prove to my own satisfaction that the person we were looking for was indeed a Percy Mears.

Wilfred North on the Wyrley Gates, one of the few names that appears in full. 2014.

Percy Mears on the Wyrley Gates, one of the few names that appears in full. 2014.

I set about cross-checking with my other memorial sources. Interestingly, Mears is not on the Wyrley Methodist plaque of 1928 and so I then checked was the Staffordshire Roll of Honour: this was compiled in February 1926 by the Staffordshire War Memorials Committee and contains all the Staffordshire war memorials and the names upon them. This roll had a Mears, P on it, whom, according to the roll, was a soldier of private rank but without a listed regiment. I do check other local entries in case there is some cross-over and it is interesting to note that while Cheslyn Hay has nothing for a P Mears there is an entry on the Cannock war memorial for a Percy F Mears – could this be just coincidence?

The 1927 Roll of Honour

The 1926 Staffordshire Roll of Honour for Gt Wyrley – showing a Pte Percy Mears. (Walsall Local History Centre)

I was convinced that the surname of Mears was at least correct, after all there were four other ‘Mears’ boys that were on the plaques on the Wyrley gates for those that served and the family as a whole are known throughout Great Wyrley and Cheslyn Hay as they still have a transport business and a butcher’s shop on the Walsall Road.

The four surviving 'Mears' boys that serves in WWI. 2015.

The four surviving Mears boys who served in WWI. 2015.

Just to confirm the Percy element, I nipped and checked his few surviving War records on-line. He has no surviving service record, but his casualty and grave records did give him as ‘Percy’. Everything seemed to add-up until I looked for his birth record and found that there wasn’t one. The clue came from the small obituary write-up in the Cannock Advertiser, which had him as ‘Percy F Mears’, and sure enough a Frederick Percy Mears was christened at St Mark’s Church in Great Wyrley on 25 October 1891; 25 October is the anniversary of the battles of Agincourt and Balaclava (the charge of the Light Brigade), ironic as he would later die in war.

So it seems that Percy Mears comes into that category as an error only in the eyes of the purists. He was born Frederick Percy, which I suppose a century after his death could cause some confusion to those looking for him, however, clearly for those that knew him, Percy would be the name that made far more sense.

The Task
As it turned out neither Percy or the other Mears lads turned out to have much in the way of surviving war records, so in order to make an article I decided to try and fit them all into their family context and understand their relationship – assuming there was one. Further, I also wondered if there was a connection between any of them and the butcher’s business in Great Wyrley and it turned out that not only was there a wider family connection to the Great War, but there was to butchery as well.

In order to set my findings into context I would need to go back a little further than I would normally go, branch out a little wider, follow the principal characters at least until the period just after the War and then, as there were a number of people involved, write them up a little more superficially than I normally would. In the end I ended up going back to Percy’s grandparents; Percy was the son of Frederick and Alice Mears and Frederick was the son of a Thomas Mears…

Thomas Mears: The Patriarch
Thomas Mears was born in Brewood sometime around 1835. In such an agricultural area it isn’t surprising that he becomes a groom at a large farm in that parish. He marries Elizabeth, also a Mears, in 1858 and by 1861 the couple have moved to Abbot’s Bromley where they are ‘living in’ with a farmer. Thomas is still employed as a groom and Elizabeth may well have been pregnant at the time the census was undertaken as their first child, Thomas William, sometimes just called William, was born soon after. Not long after his birth, the couple moved; indeed, his birth may have prompted it.

The family relocated to Shenstone, near Lichfield. They remained there for a couple of years and crucially for our story they had two more boys, Albert and Frederick, while living there. The couple then made their final move, when around 1866 they came to Great Wyrley. Annie was born in Wyrley at that time and would be followed by Selina in 1868 and Charles in 1870. We know that by 1871 Thomas was earning his living as a gardener, as it is recorded on the census; we don’t know where he worked, but it was lucrative enough to pay for his eldest four children to go to school before it was legally compulsory.

The Moat House (436) and the old medieval moat (434) in 1840. (Lichfield Record Office)

The Moat House (436) and the old medieval moat (434) in 1840. (Lichfield Record Office)

What is equally as interesting is that the family settled down at Moat House. The Moat House was a large building and must have been expensive to rent/purchase presumably. It was once, in my opinion, the closest Wyrley had to a manor house and the remains of an earlier (medieval) moat adjacent to the Walsall Road/Norton Lane junction suggests the location of what was once  the centre of the then Great Wyrley. In 1840 three sides of this moat were still visible, but by the 1950s only ‘two sides of a rectangular moat are still in existence’. According to the Victoria County History, in the 1950s: ‘the farmhouse is a T-shaped brick building dating from c. 1700; an outhouse carries a keystone inscribed with the name Thos. Lycett and the date 1758.’ The Moat House was demolished not long after.

The Moat House, the once home of the Mears family (GWLHS)

The Moat House, the once home of the Mears family (GWLHS)

The family continued to grow over the next few years, with Lizzie arriving in 1872 and the last child, Julia, in 1873. Thomas remains a gardener, while Thomas William has become a forge man, Albert a warehouseman and Frederick a groom. The other children are all at school, even to the age of 14. By 1891, the family has started to drift apart as the siblings marry and find their own way in life. Thomas described himself as a farmer at this time.

In 1901, Thomas and Elizabeth are still at Moat house; as are they in 1911, although the farmer is in fact daughter Annie. At this stage, Thomas is described as a retired gardener. Annie had married Edward Doughty in 1888, although it may well be that they separate soon after, as they are never together on any census and she never has any children. As such, at this point, she leaves our story.

Selina Mears married solicitor George Greensill in 1893. The couple were living at Orchard Place in Great Wyrley in 1901 with their two daughters, Constance and Doris. Their son, the 5 year old George, was in fact at Moat House on that census. Selina too exits the story, along with Lizzie; the one-time dress maker eventually moved to become a nurse to a family in Harborne by 1911.

Thomas would pass away in 1913, spared the deaths of two of his grand-children in the War; Elizabeth passed away in 1920 and, as such, was not.

First of the Fallen: Ernest Mears, Thomas William’s son.
Thomas William, the eldest of the children, left his life as a forge man and the family home at the Moat House sometime around 1883. He met and married Eliza Caroline Pursehouse (often just called Caroline) that year; she was herself a Wyrleyite and around 4 years younger then he. In 1891 they were living in Essington, in the home of a Charles Rochelle. Thomas has become a coal miner, like Rochelle. The couple have three children at this stage: Ada, Elizabeth and Annie.

The family moved to Churchbridge around 1893, where their eldest boy, Dick, was born. They then moved to Bridgtown, where in 1895 Ernest was born. He was followed by Howard in 1897 and Elsie in 1900. In 1901 the family were living on Watling Street and two more children follow, Reginald and William, although both pass away before they are more than a year old. In 1905, Ada left to marry George Whitehouse; the couple would remain in Bridgtown.

Further tragedy stuck in 1906, when Caroline died and the family started to break-up. William was living in the front room of number 25 Longford Road, which he rented from widow Sarah Bayliss. Elsie was with him, whereas Dick was living with sister Ada at 32 North Street and Ernest was living just a few doors from his father. Howard, interestingly, was living with his aunt Julia in Cheslyn Hay; he was an assistant in their butcher’s shop on Cross Street.

Ernest Mears (Walsall Local History Centre)

Ernest Mears (Walsall Local History Centre)

Ernest was a grinder in an edge-tool plant in 1911, possibly at Gilpin’s at Churchbridge. He was lodging at 21 Longford Road at that time. He was to change profession and by 1914 he was a working as a miner in the East Cannock Colliery. Around 1911 he was to join one of the new territorial battalions that had started forming after 1908; he chose the 5th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, becoming the 1/5th when the War opened. By the time the War came around he had served three years with the Territorial Force and was now old enough to serve overseas; he must have signed the agreement to do so (which was not compulsory) when he was mustered in the August. He would move off to camp and a little later his father, Thomas William, would marry the Sarah Bayliss that he had been lodging with back in 1911.

Ernest became a signaller in the Battalion. His war records do not survive, but we know that he landed at Le Havre in France on 5 March 1915. He would find himself in the Ypres sector for a few months before being moved into France, where he joined the Battle of Loos. Loos had been raging for a couple of weeks and during the battle the Hohenzollern Redoubt had been captured and then lost. On 13 October the British were going to assault it again using troops from the Staffordshire regiments, they eventually failed and took heavy casualties. Ernest was in the first wave of the assault and was wounded severely; he died a few hours later in the company of his friend. He was to join many other local men that died that day.

The Bridgtown war memorial, Ernest is represented. 2015.

The Bridgtown war memorial where Ernest is represented. 2015.

I believe Dick Mears went on to fight in the 8th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment; I am not clear if Howard served. While in general this branch of the family were miners one at least, Howard, was a butcher’s assistant – but more on that interesting connection later. Thomas William Mears died in 1948.

Albert’s Boys on the Plaques
Albert had married Emma Jane Bowen in 1886 and certainly by 1891 the couple are living with Albert’s parents at the Moat House with their child, Gertrude. Albert was then a warehouse clerk. The couple remained in Great Wyrley until around 1899, having Albert Oswald in 1893 and William Thomas in 1897; a third son, Douglas, sadly died. In 1901 the family are in Cross Street, Bridgtown, and Albert was working in an edge tool factory as a machine clerk. The family had grown, with Jesse Mears being born in 1899. These three lads were to go to war.

The family returned to Great Wyrley before 1905, as Frederick was born in Wyrley then. By 1911 the family are living on the Walsall Road, very close to the Moat House and Whitehouse Farm. Albert is, forgive the pun, still grinding away in his warehouse at the edge tool factory and one wonders if William is in the same warehouse, as he is now a warehouse boy at an edge tool factory. Frederick and Jesse are still at home in 1911, whereas Gertrude and Oswald have left – well, they are both working at the Moat House as domestic and farm help.

Oswald has no surviving war records but he has an entry in the Walsall and District Roll of the Great War, so we know that he had become a miner by January 1914. He also had a love of gaming, as we also know from the local newspapers that in both January and the August of 1914 he was before the Cannock Petty Sessions for gambling in Love Lane, Great Wyrley.

Imperial Camel Corps, in which Albert Oswald Mears served. (Dorset Echo)

Imperial Camel Corps, in which Albert Oswald Mears served. (Dorset Echo)

In October 1914, he joined the War. He was in the Staffordshire Yeomanry, so he may well have been a territorial prior to the War. After training at Diss, Norfolk, he embarked for Egypt on 10 November 1915. He later describes himself as being in the Imperial Camel Corps, which was raised from December 1916 onward, so I assume he transfers at this stage. He lists the places he saw action: Elbasra, Damascus, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Jericho, Bethlehem, Suez Canal and Cairo. He contracted Malaria in 1917 and stayed at headquarters until he returned to England in July 1919. Oswald returned to live in Idris Villas in Great Wyrley; he married Edith Heminsley in 1923 and died in 1969.

William and Jesse have no war records and no entry in the Walsall roll and as such are more problematic, William more so because of the commonality of the name. I suspect he served in the South Staffords, but cannot be sure. He married Lily Dawes in 1927 and had a family. I suspect that he died in Coventry in 1957, with Lily passing away there in 1992.

Jesse, I strongly believe, went into the Machine Gun Corps and likely would have got to the War in the dark days of 1918. He returned to Orchard Place, Great Wyrley, becoming a ‘van man’. Unmarried, he headed to London where on 23 May 1923 he boarded the ‘Diogenes’ and sailed to Brisbane, Australia, and a new life. I cannot track him any further.

The Diognes, on which Jesse sailed to Australia in 1923. (

The Diognes, on which Jesse sailed to Australia in 1923. (

Frederick the Butcher: Percy the Butchered
At this stage there appeared to be just two names left to follow, although my investingation into Jesse and William were far from satisfactory. We left Frederick Mears in 1881, when he was working as a groom and living in the Moat House. His life would be completely changed by the end of 1891.

Firstly, he had met Alice Corbett at some stage but the couple married at St Mark’s Church in Great Wyrley on 5 January 1891. Alice was originally from Shropshire, but her mining family moved to Cannock by 1881 and then, I believe, to run the Wheatsheaf pub on the Walsall Road in Great Wyrley. The couple relocated to North Street in Bridgtown, which is where they can be found on the census of that year. Frederick has also become a butcher.

The couple had their first child, Frederick Percy Mears, straight away. Bertram Victor was born and died in 1893, but thankfully, Marion Sadie followed in 1894. Frederick is clearly running a business in North Street by 1901; he is employing a Joseph Baker as a journeyman butcher and a Harry Corbett as an apprentice. Strangely, Percy isn’t at home in 1901; he can be found living on the Penkridge Road in Cannock with his aunt on his mother’s side, Selina, and her husband William Morgan. Morgan was a retired grocer at the age of 45 – good for him 🙂 .

Percy Mears at the home of his aunt Selina Morgan in 1901. (National Archives)

Percy Mears at the home of his aunt Selina Morgan in 1901. (National Archives)

Frederick continued to operate his business until December 1908, when the slaughterhouse licence was transferred from himself to brother Charles. Frederick too would settle down to retirement at an early age. In 1911, the family are actually staying at Manstey Farm; the farm is located between Cannock and Penkridge. The farm, at that time, belonged to a Joseph William Adderley; he lived with three workers and the Mears family. Interestingly, Percy is described at a grocer’s apprentice, so he must have learnt something from his time at the Morgans.

The Mears family together in 1911, at Manstey Farm. (National Archives)

The Mears family together in 1911, at Manstey Farm. (National Archives)

We now enter a period of confusion and ultimately one of sadness, as events seem to shift between the Great Wyrley area and Liverpool. I know, Marion Sadie Mears married Edward Heath in the Cannock area in 1915. Their first child, Reginald, was also born in the area the following year. I suspect a second child, Sadie, was born in 1918, but in Liverpool. Norton turned out to be a pharmacist and clearly made a good living, as in 1920 the couple went to America and Canada. What is interesting is that Marion put down on her entry record into Canada that her next of kin was a Mrs Mears, whose address was 41 Penny Lane, Liverpool. Marion sadly died in Liverpool a few years later.

Now, Percy. There is nothing really reported about him locally in the newspapers and I initially thought that this was because his parents may have moved to Liverpool. He joins up at some stage and although we don’t know when, we do know where and that was at Cannock. I assumed that he had gone into a training Battalion and was allotted to the 1/8th Battalion Liverpool Regiment- originally a territorial force drawn from the Irish in Liverpool, however, after discovering the Liverpool connection, I am now unsure. Whatever the truth, Percy’s medal card suggests that he does not get out to the War before 1916 as there is no ‘star’ medal awarded to him for earlier service.

Normally I would write up an account of a soldier’s movements and experiences before his death, but as I don’t actually know when Percy reached the front, I thought in this case I would give an account of the waste of Percy’s life and those of over 100 other men. The account is taken from the 1/8th Battalion’s war diary.

Percy spent the night of the 19 November 1917 in the front line trenches between Lempire and Bony in France. He was opposite Gillemont Farm and a small hill beside it called the Knoll. The following day the Battalion had been ordered to take the farm and the trenches opposite (named Willow, Knoll and Lone Tree). An order had been drafted, which included what to do with all the prisoners taken and that they would need to take carrier-pigeons with them for communication. It was a pointless document in the end.

At 2.37 am on the 20 November the Battalion was assembled in the trenches, their own wire had been cut to allow access and ladders were placed to aid ‘going over the top’. Nervously, the troops were to wait for hours before the assault commenced. At 5 am a salvo of shells were dropped on the British trenches by the Germans, which caused some casualties; an exercise that was repeated again just after 6 am. At ‘zero hour’ a British barrage on the enemy positions was met with a heavy barrage in return, killing some more of the men before they went over the top at zero plus 24 minutes as agreed.

Machine guns started up on the and by the time they reached half way across no-man’s-land they encountered an enfilade machine gun barrage (fired from the flanks) and snipers were picking off the leading men in each section. The first wave approached the German wire to find it wholly uncut by the artillery barrage and themselves therefore marooned in an exposed position. Wire cutters were sent for and covering fire from Lewis machine guns used to ‘keep the enemy’s head down’. Eventually, as more machine guns opened up and ‘bombs and grenades’ were used on them, the hopelessness of their situation dawned and the men fell back. 9 Officers and 119 other ranks were reported killed or wounded in this absolutely futile action.

The Morgans likely informed the Cannock Advertiser of Percy's death. (Cannock Library)

The Morgans likely informed the Cannock Advertiser of Percy’s death. (Cannock Library)

Percy Mears disappeared that day. His mother wrote vainly for news though the Liverpool newspapers from anyone that would listen in the July of 1918. Eventually, Captain Ball would write to her confirming Percy’s pointless death. His body was never recovered. His medals, I assume, were sent out. I could trace no effects or payment made to the family. The Morgans placed an article in the local paper to inform those in the Cannock and Wyrley area. His name went onto the Thiepval monument, but locally the Morgans had him put on the Cannock memorial.

I assume Frederick had Percy entered onto the Wyrley Roll of Honour and so onto the gates. The Kelly’s Directory for 1916 places him at Moat House as the farmer. Frederick Mears died in 1940, leaving his estate to his wife and Reginald Heath.

Charles Mears: 
We left Charles Mears at the Moat House in 1881. The next that I can track of him is when he marries Ellen Smith in Uppingham, Leicestershire, in 1894. I suspect they simply return to her native parish to get married, as there is an Ellen Smith from Uppingham working at a farm in Dunston in 1891 and Charles is described as being a farmer from Wyrley in 1894. We know the couple are living in Hednesford in 1897, as Frederick Bertram – the name on the plaque – was born there then. Cicely followed in 1899. Charles had, by 1901, become a butcher at a shop in Market Place, Hednesford. Charles is described as a worker not an employer (as with the shop next door), so I assume he ‘lives in’ and works at someone else’s business.

Things would change. Leonard, the third child, was born in 1904 and he was followed in 1906 by Wilfred. The family may well have remained in Hednesford until December 1908, when they took over brother Frederick’s business in North Street, Bridgtown. We know it is Charles’ business as he is described as an employer; indeed, he is employing son Frederick, called ‘Berty’ on the 1911 census, and a 14 year-old servant, May Sambrook.

The business seemed lucrative; we know he had a horse and trap as it was damaged outside the Swan Inn, Great Wyrley, by a madly driven Pat Collins fair vehicle in July 1909. It also appears, unless there were more than one Charles Mears in Bridgtown, that he was a member of the Anglesey Arms (now the Stumble Inn) Bowling Club and was held in some affection by them, as when he left the club he was presented with a pipe in a case and a tobacco pouch as a ‘mark of respect’.

He left the club around 28 June 1913; he left the because he changed his business and moved to Clayhanger. Charles had actually took over the lease of the George & Dragon Inn, Church St, Clayhanger, in June 1912; he was made a member of the Licensed Victuallers’ Society in the August. The presentation was made the following June but he may already have left, if he hadn’t, within weeks of his arrival the pub was put up for auction with a number of items of furniture.

Mears Butchers celebrated 100 years of local butchering in 2014 and this would tie in date-wise with a move from Clayhanger. The first that I can trace of them is in the Kelly’s Directory for 1920, when they seem to have two premises: one being in Great Wyrley and the other in Little Wood (on the edge of Cheslyn Hay). Charles operated the business until his death in 1951.

Charles Mears outside his butcher's shop in Wyrley. (GWLHS)

Charles Mears outside his butcher’s shop in Wyrley, 1931. (GWLHS)

Frederick Bertram Mears, like pretty much all of the Mears boys, has no surviving war records. We know from his entry for the Great Wyrley Roll of Honour that he was simply a ‘driver’ in rank. There is only one medal card for a Frederick B Mears and he too was a ‘driver’, being in the Royal Field Artillery, so I assume it was him. It seems that he signed-up after 1916, as he was not entitled to a ‘star’ medal for earlier service. We do not know, however, when he reached the War or, other than he was a driver, what he did. A driver would look after a couple of the horses used to move the guns and a harness. He returned after the War and, I believe, in 1920 he was operating a taxi as he was fined for not displaying the ‘Hackney Carriage’ plates correctly.  

Julia: Heart to Hart
At the start of this article I said I wanted to find what I could not only on the soldiers, but also the butchers within the family and it would be through the butcher angle that for me one of the more interesting asides are to be found. The youngest of Thomas’ children, Julia, was a butcher’s assistant in 1891. On 14 October 1900 she married Cheslyn Hay butcher, John England Hart, which is a name that rang a bell in connection with Wyrley’s most notorious event.

Throughout 1903 Great Wyrley was plagued by a series of animal maiming; it is a story is familiar to most. The police set their eyes upon George Edalji and he was, rightly or wrongly, convicted. This isn’t the place to argue the merits of the case, but there is something disturbing over the conduct of the trial in my opinion. Arthur Conan Doyle later sprang to Edalji’s defence and countered by accusing a Royden Sharp of the said crimes; his evidence, to me, seemingly as vague as that that had convicted Edalji. Sharp had had some butchery experience and was friendly with John England Hart.

In his book  ‘Conan Doyle and the Parson’s Son: The  George Edalji Case’, Gordon Weaver cites evidence from a letter written in 1907 by Captain Anson, Chief of the Staffordshire Police Force, to Stanley Blackwell at the Home Office, in which Anson notes that both Sharp and England Hart had come to the minds of the local constabulary and that he, Anson, believed they were involved in some way in the maiming.

For his part, Hart offered a horse breaking service locally; showing that he had skill with butchery and in dealing with horses. I checked the local press and although I found a a few Petty Session fines for moving animals without a licence and one for excessive use of a whip on a pony, nothing else appears to have been reported locally about this. Many students of the case today would suggest that having the suspicions of Anson fall on you are the actually the best proof of exoneration.

In 1911, Julia’s nephew and the son of Thomas William Mears, Howard, was working for her as an assistant. I believe Julia died in 1950.

The Mysterious Harry Mears
One Wyrley Mears that served but you wont find on the gates is the mysterious Harry Mears. If one takes his birth date from his attestation papers, then Harry was born around 2 February 1895. He appears on the 1891 census as living at the Moat House; he was 6 year old at the time and described as both a grandson to Thomas and as being born in Wyrley, however, I am yet to trace  a local birth or baptism for him. Irrespective of which Mears branch he was from, Harry is still at Moat House a decade later when he is described as being a farm servant.

If the early years were mysterious, the next phase of his life is equally as puzzling. According to his attestation and the 1911 census it seems the following happens over the next few years: he marries a lady called Ada Foster around 1907, which I also can’t actually locate (not marrying each other anyhow!); he has a child named Victor in 1909 while in Wyrley, whom I can trace; he, Ada and Victor move to Mansfield by 1911, and finally he has a son in 1913 named William Graham.

Things now become a little clearer. Harry doesn’t sign-up, maybe his new job as a miner gives him protected status for a while. Tragedy struck in 1916, when Ada died at the age of 27. I don’t believe the couple had had any further children. Harry moved in with a Gertrude Battesby at 37 Duke Street, Mansfield and it is from this address he attests in February 1917. Gertrude is described as his next of kin on his attestation papers, but qualified by the statement as being the ‘guardian’ of his child.

Harry joined-up and was placed into a training battalion, but was immediately struck down with an illness that hospitalised him for a few months. He eventually recovered and made his way to France in April 1918. He was placed into the 2/5th Battalion, before transferring in the August to the 1/5th Sherwood Foresters. Harry was now involved in the great allied push and on 14 October, while in the area around the River Selle, Harry was gassed and somehow ‘sprained’ his right knee – and his war would be over.

Lord Derby Hospital (County Asylum) where Harry was treated. (

Lord Derby Hospital (County Asylum) where Harry was treated. (

He was treated for a few months in France and then he was compulsorily transferred to a Labour Corps, as he was no longer fit for active service. The Labour Corps meant good pay and accruing benefits for his length of service While the War was now over, there were lots of labour, salvage and other tasks that needed to be done and so he remained in France until January 1919, after which he returned to England and to hospital at Warrington where he was operated on for a displaced cartilage.

After, Harry returned to the Labour Corps, however, he was now to be stationed at Ripon. A new chapter started for him in Ripon, as while there the widower met and married Edith Crossland. He would be medically retired from the army the following year due to his knee and the effects of gassing in the War; he received a pension of 8s per week.

With Harry comes a close to this brief, superficial story of the Mears butchers and, more importantly for me, the two lads butchered in futile attacks on 13 October 1915 and 20 November 1917. It is likely that the family know this already, but if not I hope any reading it found some interest and, if they want to contribute photos or further knowledge to make it more complete (or corrected!), I would be grateful.

In memory of local historian and lecturer, Chris Upton.

With thanks to:
Walsall Local History Centre
Great Wyrley Local History Centre

Lichfield Record Office
Dorset Echo
National Archives
Cannock Library

  1. […] Percy Mears: The Butchers and the Butchered […]

  2. Denise Eagleton says:

    I am the granddaughter of Harry Mears and found this very interesting although not quite accurate. Harry was the first child of Thomas William Mears and Caroline Eliza Purshouse born out of wedlock on 24/06/1883. His parents later married but was raised by his grandparents at Moat Farm. His first wife Ada died in 1916. He married my Grandmother Edith Crossland at Ripon cathedral in Oct 1919 and she raised his 2 sons Victor and William Graham. My Mum Megan was born in 1929. Harry died in 1958.

    • wyrleyblog says:

      Hi Denise,
      Thank you so much for adding a little more. I guessed he was born out of wedlock, but as I do all this (and Percy was the main focus) for general interest for people, I don’t buy all the certificates or I would be broke! I love it when family come forward and add something, it makes my basic efforts worth while. Cheers!

      • Denise Eagleton says:

        I am putting together a family tree and was contacted this week by the Great Granddaughter of Dick Mears In America so will send all this info to her. The details of Harry’s Service record were really interesting as I had no idea he had been shot in the knee. This is such a surprise considering what an active sportsman he was even playing football for Scarborough in the 1920’s. I have actually been going through letters written to the parents of a fallen soldier from the front line in September 1918. Where did you get the info re a son born in 1903? His son Graham was born in 1913 could it be him? He also had a daughter Gwen who died . My Grandma Edith thought Ada died at the same time in 1916 giving birth but I have not checked this yet. The other strange fact is that Harrys mother Caroline Eliza Purshouse was born in Pembroke Wales although the family seem to originate from Staffordshire. Julie Mears who worked in the Butchers shop had a false finger made from Silver and used to rest this on the scales when weighing the meat. The customers were therefore always overcharged by the weight of the finger. My sister is named after her. Harry took my Mum to see the family in 1937 and I have a photo of my Mum outside Uncle Charlie’s butchers shop. Also Connie Greensill married Lord Courtney and kept in touch with Harry. My Grandma showed me a newspaper cutting from 1938 Daily Herald showing Lord and Lady Courtney on an official tour of Baghdad. Thanks again for all your efforts it has helped me fill in some gaps.

      • wyrleyblog says:

        I cant trace a marriage between an Ada Foster and Harry, but you are right about the 1913 birth – it looks like 1903 on his war record, but is listed after Victor – so i cross checked the birth certificates and you are right!! There may have been a Sadie, born and passed away in 1914. Harry suffered gas poisoning and a displaced cartilage – which finished his active was in the RFA

  3. Denise Eagleton says:

    Thanks again for the info. I have found a marriage of Ada Foster and Harry Mears in Loughborough in 1907. You also may be correct about Sadie but Harry told my Grandma Edith that the babies name was Gwen. This came to light when Victor called his first child Gwen.

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