Thomas Henry James (formerly Davison)


Information from various sources including a book kept by Thomas James and his adoptive parents William and Margaret.


In the book it states that Thomas Henry James was born Thomas Henry Davison on 13th July 1868. (But - according to his Birth Certificate it was 13th August 1868)


His mother, Margaretta, sometimes referred to as Margaret, was widowed at the time of his birth but it is believed that his father may be James Littler who Margaret Davidson (Nee Charlton) later married in October 1870. (However, his Daughter Dorothy James, always told us about the possibility that his father could have been a Spanish Sea Captain)


Her previous husband, George Davison, who I believe she married in 1863, died in an accident in Hartlepool in 1866, a month after the birth of Thomasís elder sister Maria. I believe George Davison had been her second husband. Her first husband may have been George Knox, who she married in 1853. She may have had a Daughter Margaret Ann with this first husband.

Thomasís elder sister Maria was born not long after the family moved to Hartlepool from South Shields:-

Maria Davison was born on 4th March 1866 and her father died in a tragic accident in April 1866, leaving Margaret Ann and Maria without a father and Margaretta without a husband.


By the time of the 1871 Census Thomas Henry James is living with Margaret and Joseph Littler and his two sisters Maria and Margaret Ann in South Shields.


The two girls are described on the census form as Step Daughters, but Thomas is described as a Son, not a Step-son.


Thomasís Mother, Margaretta Davison (Now Mrs Margaret Littler) died of Heart Disease and Dropsy on 7th January 1873 and left 3 children. Thomas was just 5 years old.


Thomas Henry Davison was sent to stay with Mr & Mrs James in Seaham Harbour and they later adopted him so he took their surname ĎJamesí. I believe Margaret James (Nee Close) was related to Thomasís mother Margaret Charlton.


Mrs Margaret James (nee Close) had a boarding house for seamen next door to the Parrot, which was a public house in the bottlehouse area. She was described in the book as being a heavy faced woman, very much like Queen Victoria in her old age.


Her first Husband was James Gustard, born North Shields on 28th November 1814.


He was an able seaman, height 5í7Ē, brown hair, fresh complexion, blue eyes. (From Register of Seaman London 7th Jan 1845),


He was lost at Sea in 1854.


Margaret remarried, to William James, in the last quarter of 1855. By 1861 they were living in Seaham Harbour where William James worked at the Bottleworks.


On the 1881 Census Thomas is listed, living with the James family but they have still listed him as Thomas H Davi(d)son, an adopted son. Mrs James also took in Lodgers to give them an extra income.


Our book tells us that Thomas Henry James started work at the Londonderry Railway Works, Seaham on October 5th 1882 at the age of 14.


In 1885 Thomas, now 17, lost a leg in an accident on the railway on 15th Jan 1885. This was reported in the Sunderland Daily Echo on Jan 16th 1885:


Once he was well enough, he was fitted with a wooden leg and Thomas started work again at the Wagon Shops of the railway works on 28th September 1885 as a general labourer. According to notes in the book he had also lost part of his hand at some time, in an accident at the North Eastern Engineering works at Wallsend.


in 1890 Thomasís adoptive Mother, Margaret James, died and the 1891 Census shows that he is living with his father William James at 5 Adolphus Street Seaham Harbour. He is now as Thomas James. He is now 22 years of age and still single. Their house is in a street of multi occupancy tenement buildings.


We note that next door but one, at 7 Adolphus Street are the Marshall Family, including twin Girls Margaret and Catherine age 14 and Margaretís younger sister Mary Ann.


Thomas must have got to know this family, including the daughter Margaret and her younger sister Mary Anne, who we will meet again later.


Around July 1897 Thomasís adoptive Father, William James died, leaving Thomas living on his own. I believe, from reading newspaper articles, that Margaret Marshall, who lived two doors away started to come round to help Thomas keep his house clean.


In October 1897, Margaret Marshall, aged 18, was due to marry someone (I donít know who) on October 23rd, but must have had second thoughts, as on the day before the wedding she ran away (eloped) with Thomas, without informing her family or husband to be and this was widely reported in the local and national press:

(I will add links to the press reports later)


Thomas Henry James and Margaret Marshall eloped on the 22nd October 1897 from Seaham Harbour, She was due to have married someone else on the 23rd October!


Extract from a local paper, possibly the Sunderland Echo


A missing Bride:


Some excitement has been caused in New Seaham by the disappearance of a young woman who was to have been married at Christ Church, New Seaham this morning. She came to Sunderland yesterday to make purchases but did not return.



Another newspaper cutting possibly from a Seaham Harbour paper


Alleged elopement from Seaham Harbour


Some sensation was created in Seaham Harbour on Saturday owing to the disappearance of a young woman who was to have been married to an artisan. Numerous friends who had been invited to the ceremony arrived at the church and the bridegroom was duly in attendance but although the service was postponed the bride failed to put in a appearance. It was ascertained that she left the town on friday and it is suspected that she eloped to America with a young photographer who was known to have left the town at the same time. A correspondent says the prospective bride went to Sunderland on Friday Afternoon ostensibly to buy her trousseau. Later in the day a good looking young fellow who was well known as a photographer and who has a wooden leg also disappeared it was well known however that his destination was America. It is concluded that the pair have gone to America.†††††††



Typical of the press, they were embellishing the story somewhat by suggesting the couple had eloped to America, but where they got that idea from I do not know, unless the couple themselves started that rumour to throw everyone off the scent.

A final report on the elopement from Lloyds, a National Newspaper, confirms that the Groom was obviously not too upset as he and the guests abandoned the wedding and continued with the wedding breakfast.†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††


Thomas and Margaret did not go to America, but only 10 miles up the coast to Earsdon, Northumberland, where they married on November 8th 1897. Margaretís twin Sister Katherine ( Kate) was one of the witnesses at the ceremony.


After their Marriage they returned to Seaham Harbour where Thomas was by now a painter at the railway works. He had also started working as a photographer (at Adolphus Street, Seaham Harbour) and a reporter for the local newspaper They also started a bakery business at 3 Maria St.


Margaret, his new wife, may already have been pregnant by the time they returned to Seaham as she was to have her first child (My Grandmother, Dorothy James) on July 1st 1898.


Here is one of Thomas Henry Jamesís pictures of his daughter, my grandma, in one of his own photo frames.


Dorothy James:-


By the time of the 1901 census they had a second daughter Esther Ann.



After 1901 they had five further children (seven in total) before Margaret died in November 1908.


Isabelb born 1902, Possibly died same year

William, b 1904

Hilda, b 1905

Margaretta, b 1906 possibly died in 1907

Harry b c 1908


Around 18 months after the death of his first wife, Thomas Henry married Mary Ann Marshall (the younger sister of his first wife, Margaret) on July 25th 1910.


The final Census record for Thomas Henry James is the 1911 Seaham Harbour Census. On here he is living in Adolphus Street and gives his occupation as a baker/confectioner. He has a shop at 1 Maria Street, and I have a picture of him in the doorway of his shop


In the next 5 years after the 1911 census, with his second wife, he was to have three more children.


Margaret James b 26/7/1911 (d 16/1/1973)

Sarah James b 12/5/1913

Thomas James b 22/7/1915 (d 4/5/1963)


Thomas Henry James died June 16th 1916 aged 48.


The END ----------------------------------------- Created by Bob Tame (