|The Rayners -
origins of the name
|The name Rayner is
Germanic, which means it has come down to us through our Saxon
ancestors. The word "Ar" means eagle (so the
name Arthur meant "Thor's Eagle") and "Ragn" means
battle, so among the Vikings, Ragnar meant
meant "The Eagle of Battle". From this came Rainer.
In quo certamine et filius Raedwaldi vocabulo Raegnheri occisus est
In this battle (617A.D.), the son of Raedwald (King of the East Angles), called Rainer was killed
Bede: Ecclesiastical History of the English People
Raner tenuit Smedetun per Comite
Raner holds Smeetham (Hall) for the Count (Eustace)
Doomsday Book 1087Smeetham is in Essex, the heartland of the Rayners.
|The Rayners of
Essex and County Durham
|Much of the material
regarding the Rayner family was
researched by my friend (and distant relative) Carol Ravenhall. I am
extremely indebted to her and highly
impressed by her accuracy and determination. In particular it was Carol
linked the Rayners of County Durham to Jospeph Rayner, a baker, from
Essex, and it was there I began my search. Many thanks also to
Bruce Rayner for his encouragement and for the two short latin
John Rayner of Bocking, Essex, grew up in the 1640's, the era of the English Civil War, of Puritanism, and of a world turned upside down by the printing press. In those years baptisms were stopped and the church records gave the date of birth instead of the date of baptism.
Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Bocking
The parish church of St. Mary the
Virgin, Bocking, has records of
Rayners back to before 1640, many available on-line through Essex
Mary daughter of Thomas Rayner 14th June 1690
John son of Thomas Rayner 22April 1691 ( died 1693 buried 3rd April)
Edward son of Thomas Rayner 9th March 1695
Sarah daughter of Thomas Rayner born 5 march bapt 25 May 1697
Joseph son of Thomas Rayner 12th march 1699 (died 1701 buried 29th April)
Thomas Rayner born on Christmas Day 1701.
Thomas Rayner (1701) married Martha Ellis in June 1719. The church record describes them as “both of this parish, single persons”.
Thomas and Martha Rayner had a son called John, who was born 25 March and baptised on April 7th 1735.
John Rayner (1735) married Sarah as given in the birth record of their son Joseph Rayner born 1771
Joseph Rayner the Braintree Baker
Rayner was a
common name in the area. It seems that
Essex was teeming with Rayners
at that time and many with the same name can be found in Bocking,
Halstead and surrounding villages. Joseph was born in the 1770’s long before the
start of national records of births deaths and marriages,
so it was necessary for me to study the
parish records of the local churches. My starting point was the 1851
where Joseph states that he was born in Bocking, but
there is no baptism record for a Joseph
Rayner of his exact age. One of his
children is listed as having been born in the next town, Halstead, the
Bocking, so clearly he was making an
effort to be accurate in his answers. Therefore
I accept that he was born in Bocking. I
believe the man we seek was baptised in
November 1771. If we allow that his
birthday came late in the year, then his age on the 1851 census should
79. He gives his age as 78.
I am prepared to allow that a man going on 80
might get it a year out. There is no
other Joseph baptised for 8 or 9 years either side of him.
Based on that criteria I am confident we have the right
man . My research is
based my own Transcripts of parish
records from Bocking – St Mary the Virgin now held in the Essex record
and available on line (D/P 268/1/3. )
Thomas Rayner - The Wandering Baker
If Joseph Rayner stayed settled all his life in Essex, and if his young wife marched him off to the methodist Church on Sundays, I suspect his son Thomas had inherited less of the puritan ethic, and might even have found his way to the "White Harte" at some stage.
It was Thomas (1831) who went out to seek his fortune and ended up in Sunderland, spreading the Rayner name across the North East of England. From this point onwards the Rayners are an immense source of both fun and frustration, moving around the country, wheeling & dealing, on board ship, in and out of prison, womanising and worse. One thing never changes however. For over a hundred years, if the occupation says confectioner you probably have the right Rayner.
The White Harte Hotel
The 1851 census shows 21 year old Thomas was in London – visiting a married woman called Eliza BARRY in Charles Street, Deptford. His name is mis-spelt “Rainer” . In 1852 Thomas married Mary Ann Natt in Bermondsey, just 4 miles away from Deptford and very much part of the docks. Their first child, Mary Ann Rayner was born 16th July 1853 but died when she was a mere 18 months old. Her death certificate names Mary Ann’s Mother as Elizabeth Natt. In 1861 Thomas Rayner and Mary Ann were still living in Deptford, where he was listed in the census as a “General Dealer” The children of Thomas Rayner and Mary Ann Natt were:
I found that Thomas Rayner's wife, Mary Anne Natt had a brother called Thomas Natt, born 1830. He was a sailor working out of the London docks. One of the major sailing routes of those days was the short coastal haul taking coals from Sunderland and Newcastle down to London. In 1851, Rebecca Young was a single girl working as a domestic servant (or barmaid) for William Jolly, in a pub in Monkwearmouth High Street , Sunderland, just a short walk from the docks, on the north side of the river. In 1855 Thomas Natt the sailor from London married Rebecca Young in her home town of Shields, just 8 miles North of Sunderland. So Thomas Natt settled in Sunderland and his sister then followed.
As a result of this family connection Thomas Rayner and Mary Ann Natt moved to Sunderland around 1862 . This was where their children grew up, the 1871 census lists them at 21 Howick St Monkwearmouth. The area has been demolished and redeveloped, but from the census we can see that his neighbours were a butcher, a grocer, and a master shoemaker. This would suggest the street was a row of shops and that Thomas carried on his business, as a baker / confectioner, from this address.
When Mary Ann Rayner, died aged 43 (Easington, County Durham first quarter of 1879 10a 234) Thomas Rayner left Sunderland and returned South. On the 1881 census there was an entry for Thomas RAYNER. He was in Lodger in the household of Richard MAY. Thomas claimed he was aged 43 years – (his true age was 50) His occupation was given as ‘ Confectioner’ as always and he came from Essex. He was also noted to be a widower. On the 1891 census return this was for Thomas RAYNER Snr and Thomas RAYNER Jnr. They were living in London. Thomas Jnr was aged 18 and born in Sunderland. But, surprisingly Thomas was married again. This time to a lady called Alice Hayward. On the 1881 census Alice had actually been living in the house next door to where Thomas was boarding in Tunnel Road, Tunbridge Wells. In 1901 Thomas RAYNER and Alice are living at 64, High Street in Deptford. Thomas was aged 61 years and still a Confectioner. He was also an employer. He states that he comes from Braintree in Essex. Alice was aged 61 and comes from Sommer Town ? (possibly Silvertown) in London. Thomas had a Grandson called Albert aged 6 years and he was from Sunderland with him. Also his own son Thomas RAYNER aged 18 and also from Sunderland.
Carol Ravenhall researched much of this information, and her written account has much more detail on Thomas, particularly in his later years. The key point for us to note is that Thomas Rayner went back down south when his wife died, but most of his children did not seem to be with him. In fact he had become separated from them and they were locked up in a workhouse near Aldershot. We will return to them later. But one had stayed in Sunderland and he was John Rayner, the second son.
Wearmouth Colliery and the Sunderland Docks
Three families and a Scottish Connection
The seams of coal which lay under the
sea could not be exploited
before the engineering techniques of the 19th century made deep mining
possible. When Monkwearmouth Colliery was sunk in the 1830's it
the deepest mine in Europe. This is where Thomas Natt would
docked his ship, and it was here that the Rayner children
grew up, James-George,
Mary Ann, Thomas, and William.
Sunderland, at the time, was essentially a seagoing community, where ships were built and coal exported. Sailors families moved around and came to know one another as they served together on ships. This led me to a set of interconnections which may seem complicated on paper, but were far more complicated when I first started searching in the dark !Alexander Anderson, a Scottish Sailor (b1827) had married a Sunderland girl, Sarah, around 1855 and settled in the town. Anderson’s sisters, still at home in Scotland both married sailors from the Wheatley family, Mesach Wheatley and Abednago Wheatley in 1861 and 1869 respectively. Thus, by 1870 there would have been regular contact between the Andersons in Sunderland, and the Wheatley's, who were sailors from Sunderland married to Anderson girls in Scotland. John Rayner was drawn into this, his marriage certificate shows he had gone to sea.
Then in 1874 Alexander’s Andersons daughter Sarah Anderson, married James-George Rayner, one of the sons of Thomas and Mary Ann. So the Rayners in Sunderland would have known the Wheatleys from Scotland who were Sarah's uncles by marriage. As a result of this relationship George Wheatley, the one legged whisky salesman, moved down from Scotland to set up a new business in County Durham - a sweet factory on Easington which brought together the Rayner's confectionary skills and his own dynamic energy. The bond was strengthened further when John Rayner went back up to Scotland and married George’s daughter, Ann Wylie Wheatley in 1877, amazingly in the same church where my parents married 80 years later. The same year (1877) James-George Rayner and Sarah Anderson had a daugher, Priscilla .
Sunderland docks in the 1870s
Sadly, hard times were now to overtake the Rayner family which became dispersed about the country with some members very difficult to trace. When
Mary Ann Rayner (nee. Natt) died in 1879 Thomas Rayner decided to return to London. All of his children went with him except John. Now married to his Scottish wife Anne Wheatley, John remained in Sunderland running a confectioners shop at 172 High Street.
By the time of the 1881 census James George Rayner was back in Southwark, more or less where the family had originated, but Thomas Rayner had become separated from his children and was living alone in Tunbridge Wells. His younger children , (Annie 10, Thomas 7 and William 5) were in an orphanage in Farnborough, Hampshire, how had this come about, we shall never know for certain. There is only one small clue:
It is possible that some mishap overtook the family or that James George had fallen out with his father on the journey and that Thomas Rayner was unable to care for the children on his own. Or it might simply have been poverty. In any case, the family was in crisis, the younger children were in the orphanage and the older boys went off on very different tracks.
I found the research both frustrating and fascinating. In particular the contrasts between different family members became quite stark as they struggled with events. Thomas Rayner took his children back down south but then coulnt care for them. James-George Rayner, his oldest son was a slippery confectioner who ended up as a convict. Then there was John Rayner, the ex-sailor, a tough guy who could be quite frightening but somehow managed to keep the family together.
|James George Rayner:
Gambling, Guns and Chocolate biscuits
James George Rayner (b1856) seems to have decided that London was not the place for him and he returned to Sunderland at some time in the 1880s setting up a confectioners shop, probably with a bit of help from various family members. Despite being married with a child he ended up living with a girlfriend called Mary Emily Rowell, but in 1889 he was arested for selling "Prize Packets" effectively an illegal lottery. As he wouldn't or couldn't pay his £5 fine he was sentenced to a month in jail and when he got out Emily Rowell refused to move back in with him. On October 1st 1889 he attempted to kill her, firing four shots at her in Mowbray Park, one of which hit her in the shoulder. He appeared in court the next day and was eventually sentenced to 5 years in Dartmoor prison for shooting with intent to kill. All this was reported in The Newcastle Weekly Courant (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England), Saturday, October 5, 1889; Issue 11203.
His time in prison did little to reform James and not long after his release he was back in court on forgery charges - Friday January 12, 1894. His wife Sarah A. Rayner was also charged. Her sister Jane Brown and also her daughter testified on her behalf that her husband had threatened to shoot her if she ran away. She was discharged. At Durham Assizes March 1894 - he was convicted of "forging requests for orders, with intent to defraud biscuit and chocolate manufacturers at Sunderland in October and December last" - sentenced to four years' penal servitude. However the 1901 census shows him as 46 yr old confectioner - now in Jail in Bristol which suggests another charge.
Meanwhile his daughter Sarah Priscilla had married and was living in Long Road East in Chopwell, Blaydon, Chester-Le-Street. Her husband’s name was Robert McGUINNESS and he was aged 26 years and was a ‘Coal Hewer’ from Penrith in Cumberland. They had a daughter named Mary Priscilla aged 2 and another daughter called Edith aged 10 months.
John Rayner: Jack of all trades
When I began to trace my family tree it
easy at first.
I had the old family bible to get me started, and some wonderful people
helped me on-line. Then I encountered John Rayner (b1857) my own
Grandfather. Here it was clear there was
something wrong. The name of his wife, according to the census, was not
same as the name of his wife on his son’s birth certificate. In fact
the people mentioned did not exist at all. It was a wonderful
realisation that an ordinary fellow like myself could have the
solve a genuine historical mystery, however small, and put the right
on paper for future generations.
1881 CensusThe 1881 census has John Rayner living in a shop in Sunderland, (172 High Street ) He is aged 25 and married to a wife called "Mary" aged 20 born in Scotland. There is also a 12 year old daughter called Mary Ann and a 15 year old sister called Tilley Rayner.
Clearly the enumerator was confused. Mary Ann could not possibly be John’s daughter, unless he had been a father when he was 13 and his wife was 8 !!!
Of course Mary Ann, like Matilda, is one of John’s sisters. These were the older children who had not gone down south with their father Thomas. It seems John Rayner had stayed in Sunderland and kept the family business going.
But what about Mary ? The so called wife never appears in any other documents. I searched the records for her wedding and there was nothing. She does not appear in the next census nor in any future death record.
It would be easy enough to explain how the enumerator might become confused. John Rayner had a sister called Mary Ann, and his mother was called Mary Ann, and in a busy shop who had time to care of the details got confused. Clearly he made a mistake in listing Mary Ann as a daughter. If he asked her what her mothers name was she would quite correctly reply Mary. It seemed like a simple mistake and yet, no other reference existed that would show John Rayner had ever been married. In the census before and the census after there is only him. And yet there had to be a wife, because by 1891 he has two sons, Arthur and Frederick, but the real wife never appears in any other census.
According to his wedding certificate John Rayner (born 1857) had worked as a merchant seaman and would have been well acquainted with the Andersons and the Wheatleys. He undoubtedly met Anne Wylie Wheatley through this web of friends and relations, probably whenever his ship docked in Angus, Scotland. Her uncles, the Wheatleys, were also the uncles by marriage to Sarah Anderson, the wife of George-James Rayner. To be more exact, Ann’s Wheatley’s uncles, Mesach and Abednago were married to Sarah Anderson’s Aunts Maria and Ann, and Sarah was married to John’s brother.
Somewhere between 1874 and 1876 Ann Wheatley’s father,
Wheatley, moved down to County Durham, almost certainly to set up a new
confectionary business with the Rayner family .
Ann was left in
Scotland and went into domestic service
in Glasgow. In 1877 John Rayner travelled up to Glasgow and married Ann Wheatley, then brought
her back to England. By
remarkable chance they seem to have been
married in the same church as my own mother and father, three quarters
of a century
Somewhere between the 1881 census and the 1891 census John arranged for his younger siblings to get out of the orphanage and rejoin him in Sunderland - he also had children of his own. John and Ann had two sons, Frederick Augustus and Arthur. Both of the birth certificates list the mother as Ann Rayner, formerly Wheatley, of 172 High Street Sunderland.
|The Bakers Shop
The shop was at 172 Sunderland High Street, a very good position in its time. I have tried to find it in old pictures of Sunderland , but without success. The following is as close as I can get at this time:
the 1891 census John RAYNER was still living on the High Street in
was his younger sister Matilda aged 24 described as a shop General
There was also a Frederick aged 10 years and an Arthur aged 7 years
been born in Sunderland and described as the sons of John RAYNER. There
also William RAYNER aged 16 employed as a shopboy. William was in fact
brother of Tilly and John Rayner, one of the
younger children who had been left in the workhouse in Hampshire.
Clearly John Rayner had somehow managed to get the family back
Anne Rayner (Born Wheatley) died in the third quarter of 1894, she was aged only 33 years old. Her sons were aged 13 and 10. Her husband John being only 36 he returned to Scotland with his 10 year old son Arthur. His older son, Frederick Augusts became a lodger in Bell Street Sunderland.John is listed in the 1901 census of Scotland as living in Edinburgh, of independent means. His son Arthur is following the family trade of confectioner. He may have worked with a circus for some years as his grand-daughter (my grand-mother) Jenny Rayner has referred to him working with elephants ! She regarded him as a rather dark and frightening figure, very fond of his drink, she said he always had a spare bottle hidden away somewhere. Later he went to Leeds, to live with Arthur’s family and here he died in 1917 aged 59 years old. His death certificate reveals that he had an inflammation of the spine leading to paralysis and paraplegia.
In 1978 the shop which he had managed at 172 High Street East, Sunderland, was redeveloped as a frozen food depot and apartment block.
Thomas Rayner, the youngerThomas Rayner (Junior) had gone down to London with his father but later returned to Sunderland. He married Harriet Fox in 1916. Carol Ravenhall has researched this branch of the Rayner family to which she is closely related.
William Rayner settled in Hartlepool and had a family , the Rayners of Hartlepool are descended from him.
The Sunderland Bridges
Frederick and Arthur, the tragic brothers
In the era of the
First World War many families lost a son, and some lost more than one.
How tragic that the Rayner brothers should survive the war only to
perish as the results of their own actions.
In the era of the
First World War many families lost a son, and some lost more than one.
How tragic that the Rayner brothers should survive the war only to
perish as the results of their own actions.
Frederick Augustus Rayner
his wife’s death John Rayner moved back to Scotland an lived for a
Edinburgh. His older son, Frederick
Augustus remained in Sunderland and became a lodger in Bell Street
Sunderland. His hosts were his
future wife Mary Sproston
and her mother Dorothy. They had at
least 2 children, Dori Annie (1908) and Frederick Augustus (1910). Frederick kept a shop, following in the
family tradition of confectionery. He was conscripted into the army in
World War One and by the time he
returned both his brother and his father were dead. It seems he may
also have had business problems; his confectioners shop had been left
hands of his wife whilst he was away fighting, she had given credit to
friends and regular customers and the business had gotten into debt. In those days people had little understanding of
depression and certainly no way of treating it. Imagine
the possibilty of post traumatic depression caused
by watime experiences, coupled with bereavement, debt, conflicts
in the marriage and a failing business.
His death in 1928 was caused by inhalation of household gas . The death certificate states this was “self inflicted whilst the balance of his mind was disturbed”. I have had some correspondance with a family member who still lives in Sunderland. I am sure we all feel a sense of loss.
Born 172 High Street Sunderland. After
his mother died in
1894 he went back to Scotland with his father John, both are listed in
census in Edinburgh, but Arthur returned to England soon after
- probably living in
Hartlepool as his brother was there.
Their children were Jenny, born 1908 in Monkwearmouth, although the birth record is hard to trace, it appears to have been wrongly transcribed as Dorris, not Jenny
The family moved to Leeds in 1909/1910 where Arthur ran a stall in the market selling bottled sweets - possibly from the Wheatleys factory.
Arthur Rayner died aged 32 in January 1918 in hospital in Sheffield after a long illness. The cause of death is given on his death certificate.
My grandmother used to say that he had been involved in an industrial accident in a munitions factory during the war which involved inhaling gas and died from the after effects of in 1928. In that, of course, she had confused her father with her uncle Fred. As a child she had shared a house with two terminally ill men, her paralysed grandather who died in 1917 and her terminally ill father who died in 1918. All this before her 12th birthday.
The little Rayners: Margaret, Arthur, John and Jenny with their mother Jane Isobella around 1914
Jenny Rayner born 1908 was destined to be my Grand Mother.Born in Sunderland she had moved to Leeds as a child and by the age of 12 she had seen both her father and her grandfather terminally ill. The family then returned to Seaham Harbour in County Durham. Her childhood cannot have been easy. She told me that the Wheatley’s had offered to set her mother up with a sweet shop to help her pay her way, but she was too proud and wouldn’t have any of it. Instead both Jane and Jenny, mother and daughter, had worked in the bakery in Seaham. One worked dayshift and one worked nightshift. They met in the street outside to hand over the white overall. Having finished her nightshift she would then go onto the “blast” beach, south of the harbour , to pick up seacoal which had drifted in on the tide. If she managed to sell a sack of the coal she would use the money to get breakfast for the younger children.
She once told me how she had met my Grandfather, Bill Johnson (1903) and how when the marriage was planned, the other coal-pickers had teased her “Oh, you’ll be alright now married to him”
“Well” she said “I told them they didn't know what they were on about. Bill was no better off than me. He had nowt either.” They Married Jan 8th Witnessed by Bill’s brother John Thomas Johnson and Amelia Johnson, his wife. Jenny brought up 11 children and lived to see at least 40 of her grandchildren. Sometime around 1970 she gave me the old family bible which led me to take an interest in the family tree.
Margaret Rayner was born Sunderland first ¼ 1909 10 n 713, She was my dad's aunty Margaret. I think I remember seeing her playing bowls at Dawdon Colliery Welfare playing fields when I was a child.
Arthur Rayner born Easington 1910 – 10a 492 grew up to be a professional soldier in the Green Howards Regiment, I never met him.
John Rayner 1912 ( Little Uncle John) had a happy life in London working for British Rail. He loved "gadgets" and used to have a marvellous little slide viewer so we could look at his holiday slides in 3D.
Jenny and Margaret Rayner
I would date this picture as around 1918
They are wearing Austrian army hats which had probably been brought back as trophis at the end of World War One and had then ended up as props in a photographers studio.