Family trees: Richard John Bishop ancestors
Steven Bishop descendants (from 1672)

Eliza Hotchkiss’ first marriage was to Richard John Bishop in 1913. Their first son Jack was born in Froncysyllte in Wales, where there is the most magnificent aqueduct stretching across the valley.

Jack & Sam Bishop

Jack & Sam Bishop

Richard’s mother was Mary Jane Cheshire and her father was born in Upton Magna, a tiny village through which Richard made his way to the brick works daily, according to Jack. While he lay dying of TB, Richard instructed his cousin Samuel Cheshire to look after his family after he was gone.

Richard’s father was John Bishop, born in 1813 in Berriew, Montgomeryshire. He married Elizabeth Clay in 1839 and they had ten children. Following her marriage at the time of the 1841 census, it appeared that Elizabeth was living with her mother Isabella Clay in Spring Gardens, Shrewsbury along with two of her children, Ann and Charlotte. Meanwhile, John Bishop was living with his widowed mother and siblings close by in Canal Buildings Shrewsbury. By 1851, John was a railway labourer and the family were living together.

It seems that the move from Berriew was made by John’s parents John and Catherine. She was born in Welshpool in 1784 and married John of Walesbird in 1813 in Berriew.There were many tragedies amongst John and Catherine’s ten children – Evan Bishop was killed in India, Thomas was caught in machinery and literally torn to pieces, Samuel was drowned in the River Severn and two girls, both named Elizabeth, died young. John felt responsible for the loss of his favourite son Samuel and he died aged 56. When his wife Catherine died 10 years later, their daughter Mary Jane worked as a laundress to provide for her four brothers. Following their conversion by Mormon missionaries, Mary took James and William with her to America. Mary married sailor Edward Price whom she met on the journey. Mary Jane Price’s granddaughter Nettie Price Obray wrote Mary’s story which can be found on the Leaves on a Tree website which also contains letters sent between America and England.

The generation before John and Catherine, another John Bishop born in Welshpool married Nancy Sarah Larton of Shrewsbury. Three of their children were born in Shrewsbury before the move to Berriew, where four other children were born.

Thanks to Alan Bishop and Rhiannon Hordley for photos and information on the Bishop family.

Richard John Bishop

Each Remembrance Day, I am reminded that as well as the ‘lions led by donkeys’ who were killed in action, there were many brave men who joined up with the intention of serving their country only to die of the diseases they contracted.

Cheshires & Bishops

Bishop family: We think Richard John Bishop is back row right
next to Eliza, aka Frances, née Hotchkiss

Richard John Bishop joined the Shropshire Light Infantry at the age of 20. He was 5’ 4½” tall, had a 33” chest, fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair and was pronounced fit for military service on 14 Apr 1903.

For the first year or so he served at home, probably training, polishing his kit and no doubt square-bashing. On 28 Nov 1904, he was transferred to India for six months, where he spent some time in Fyzabad and attained a 3rd class certificate of education in Kasauli Hill Station. He also passed classes of instruction in stretcher drill.

Kasauli Hill Station India

Kasauli Hill Station, India

In addition to the British Army stationed in India, Great Britain maintained a large locally recruited force, the Indian Army, made up of three armies brought together as a single army in the reforms which began in 1903. The 7th Bengal Cavalry were based in Fyzabad and presumably the contingent from the Shropshire Light Infantry was brought in to help with the reformation.

According to his army records, Richard appears to have been a bit of a rogue – he was docked some pay on a couple of occasions. With his consent, he was transferred to the Army reserve in Mar 1911. On 4 Nov 1911, he was ‘In Civil Custody, convicted and sentenced by the Civil Power to 3 months hard labour for a misdemeanour’.

Richard was posted several times with the Medical Expeditionary Force in France in 1914-1915 between intervals back home. By Nov 1915, he had been appointed an unpaid lieutenant corporal and by Dec 1915 he was being paid in that post. However on 17 Apr 1916 he was deprived of the Lieutenant stripe; in May he had suffered 3 days of haemoptysis (coughing up blood) and on 10 Jul 1916 he was pronounced no longer physically fit for war service.

Richard John Bishop grave

Richard John Bishop war grave

Richard died in 1917 and his indomitable wife Eliza fought to have his name remembered on the Chirk War Memorial. He may not have died on the battle field, but in her eyes, he was still a hero. Richard left the care of his family in the capable hands of his cousin Samuel Cheshire.

The last of the line for my family

Three families toiling mostly on the land, all striving to survive through deprivations and wars; the children making their way in the world as best they could (two of the Cheshires forced into emigration to uncertain and frightening futures); but not a single person will carry on the branches of Cheshire, Hotchkiss or Bishop. Most of them, poor as church mice, lived in the glorious countryside of Shropshire and the borders and only a handful of descendants continue in that fair county.