The son of Peter and Ann Martin, George was baptised in Minehead in 1820. When his parents moved to Gloucester, he went with them and by 7 June 1841, the day of the census, he was a plumber, still living at home with his parents, his sister Catherine and younger brother Henry.
Twenty days later, on 27 June 1841 George married Mary Cowley at their local parish church of St Nicholas, Gloucester. He was 21 and she was 20. George’s older brother Whitfield and sister in-law Mary were witnesses.
Mary Cowley was a milliner and her father was Nathaniel, a clothier. He was married to Mary Griffin in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, where their daughter Mary was born in c1821. There seems to be quite a large Cowley family in the Stonehouse, Eastington, Cam and Stroud area at the time.
Instituted in 1839, Gloucestershire was the second oldest County Police force in the UK.
The City and two boroughs had their own police force until 1859, so the Gloucestershire Constabulary was to cover the rural areas. Initially, it was not to exceed 250 men. They were to be under 40 years of age, at least 5 feet 7 inches tall without shoes. The constables were to be able to read and write, to be free of any bodily complaint, of strong constitution and generally intelligent.
The pay was to not less than 15/- or more than £1.1 shilling (between £33 and £46 in today’s money). Each constable was supplied with a uniform and a truncheon.
George joined the Gloucestershire Constabulary on 1 December 1842. The rural constabulary register describes George as being aged 22, 5′ 8 and a half inches tall and a plumber.
Unfortunately, within a short time, George, warrant number 537, was dismissed for drunkenness. He was by no means the first Gloucestershire policeman to be dismissed for being drunk on duty nor was it just a problem in Gloucestershire. Drunkenness seems to have been an occupational hazard for police constables in towns where their job involved patrolling the local pubs.
In 1829 the Home Secretary, Robert Peel, had set up the first police force, in London, after the passing of the Metropolitan Act of 1829. They were known as ‘Peelers’ or ‘Bobbies’ and the police are still known as ‘bobbies’ today.
I wonder how he felt when the first policeman ever, who had been given the number ‘one’, lasted just four hours in the job before being sacked for drunkenness!
George rejoined the constabulary on 1 February 1843, with warrant number 543 but was later discharged with ill health.
Unfortunately, the police records in the Gloucestershire Archives have no more details to offer us about George and his service and so it’s not known where George served his first period but George and Mary’s son, George Cowley Martin, was baptised in Tetbury in April 1843 and so we assume that he was serving there in 1843.
However, after George was discharged, his health worsened and they moved back to Gloucester where George died in 1844. He was buried in St Nicholas church on 18 August 1844, the same church where he and Mary had married just over three years earlier. Mary was left with a 16 month old son to raise.
A year later Mary married John Geves (July – September 1844) in Gloucester. By 1851 Mary, a dressmaker, was 29 and John was 27, a labourer. They lived in Barton St Mary, with their daughter Mary, son Hodewen and Mary’s son George, who was 8. On the census, George is described as John Geves’ son in law, which was a term often used to mean step son.
George Cowley Martin
Although George Cowley Martin was baptised in Tetbury in April 1843, it seems that he wasn’t born there as there is no birth registration for him in the area. However, there is a birth for a George Martin in Gloucester in the first quarter of 1843, certificate not yet obtained.
By 1861 George Martin junior was 18, a servant at the Pilot Inn, Bristol Road, South Hamlet, Gloucester. Either he was unclear where he was born or the person providing the information made a mistake as his birth place was noted as Stonehouse, which is where his mother was from.
[Ten years later George’s birthplace was noted as Tewkesbury, and in 1901 it was Gloucester, all of which confused this family historian for a while. However, I know from experience that people didn’t always know where they were born, or the person giving the information may have been mistaken in what they thought they knew.]
On 13 September 1866, George married Mary Ann Bowcott at St James church, Tredworth. George was said to be ‘off full age’ and Mary was a ‘minor’ ie under 21. George was a sawyer and is noted on all the censuses from 1871 to 1911 as a sawyer.
Mary’s parents were James Bowcott and Sarah Brothers, who had married in Dursley in 1844. Formerly a brickmaker in Dursley, by 1861 James was a stoker in a gas works. At the time of his daughter’s wedding, James was a last maker.
Between 1868 and 1890, George and Mary had twelve children. As the family grew, so they moved to new (and presumably larger) homes, all within the Barton and Tredworth districts. All the children were baptised at St James church, where George and Mary were married.
Although their second child was named George Coaley Martin in December 1868, it wasn’t until the 1901 census that George himself started using the middle initial ‘C’ and in the 1911 census his name was fully given as George Cowley Martin.
George C Martin died in 1914 and Mary died in 1917. George’s age was given as 63 but he was 73. From sad and difficult beginnings it seems he and Mary built a stable life for themselves and their family.
Next: Sidney Herbert Martin
Gloucestershire Archives Police Records 1842: http://ww3.gloucestershire.gov.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=Q%2f7%2f1%2f1%2f2384&pos=1273
Gloucestershire Archives Police Records 1843: http://ww3.gloucestershire.gov.uk/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=Q%2f7%2f1%2f1%2f2385&pos=1274
Old Police Cells Museum: www.oldpoliccellsmuseum.org.uk