Many of us have wondered about our roots, our families and relatives and some have tried to build an accurate record showing who went before us, maybe even trying to see what kind of people they were, and what part they played in the communities in which they found themselves. One of these is Richard Brierley, no longer from these parts, born and brought up in Coventry in the mid 1900s and with family ties extending to Fazeley.
Richard has traced his own family tree to show his descent from a Lancashire man, Joshua Brierley and his son Ezekiel Brierley, one of six brothers and sisters descended from Joshua and his wife Mary Ann. Here is the family tree...
and here the Brierleys of Fazeley, as descended from Ezekiel.
History shows Ezekiel to have been a prominent member of the Fazeley community of the second
half of the 19th century and early 20th century. Richard, (who provided this information for the Fazeley.info web site)
is his Grandson.
This photo the Brierley family was taken at Ezekiel's son Arthur's house in Coventry in the mid 1920s. It shows
Ezekiel in the centre, his daughter Alice in the rear, son Arthur on the right, daughter in law Emily
(nee Stubbs) on the left, grandson Arthur (Richard's father) on the front right, great grand-daughter Peg, front centre.
The records show that Ezekiel was a 21 year old man when he married Emma Langley in Fazeley on Christmas day in 1871. At this stage in his life he is described as a labourer, and his father Joshua was a bleacher. Fazeley is known to have had bleach works associated with the milling that took place here at that time and it is likely that Joshua moved to Fazeley from the Lancashire Mills where he would have first learned his bleaching skills. These skills would have been in much demand in the preparation of cotton for the Fazeley mills.
Since, at this early stage in his life, Ezekiel is described as a 'labourer', it is reasonable
to assume that he was not born into a wealthy family and that his future personal success
and broader contribution to the Fazeley community result from the kind of person that he was.
In 1896 Kelly's directory has an entry describing Ezekiela Brieley's activities as;
In 15 short years Ezekiel Brierley has grown from being a labourer to become an influential business man in Fazeley. As well as being a well established Fazeley businessman Ezekiel Brierley served the community on the board of trustees of the Fazeley Free Methodist Church. Richard Brierley has found a chain of letters from November 1920 and December 1920, exchanged between the Birmingham Canal Company and Ezekiel Brieley (acting on behalf of the Methodist church). In these letters we find that Ezekiel Brierley represented the Free Methodist Church in Fazeley in some negotiations with the Birmingham Canal Company, over a strip of land between the Methodist Church building and the Birmingham Fazeley Canal. The canal company were inviting the church to pay an annual charge for the rent of the strip of land and including light to 6 windows, the light coming from over the canal, and the right to have the water from the building downspouts drain into the canal. The strip of land in question is clearly visible today from the canal road bridge. The letters show that they agreed an annual charge of 6/-, which in 2017 equates to 30p!
Some of the documents and photographs give rise to a mystery, and that is the location of the Steam Corn Mill owned by Ezekiel Brierley. Richard Brierley sent us a copy of a receipt from Ezekiels Brierley's Steam Corn Mill (date 191?) and that clearly establishes the presence of a Steam Corn Mill,
and the photograph that Richard sent shows corn sacks on a horse drawn cart, the sacks bearing the wording “E Brierley, Steam Corn Mill, Fazeley”. The cart appears to be at a mill and the mill itself on a wharf, all of which would make good sense.
However we have no evidence on any maps, or in other memoires, of there being a Steam Corn Mill. We feel that the written and photographic record is so strong that there must have been a Steam Corn Mill and that it was owned and run by Ezekiel Brierley, but until someone can throw more light on the issue, the exact location of the mill will remain a mystery.
Ezekiel's granddaughter, Gladys May Brierley (aunt of Richard Brierley) was a much loved
teacher in Fazeley and several people who write of their past in Fazeley tell spontaneously of
Miss Brierley being their favourite teacher at Fazeley school. We are fortunate in that we have
some photographs in which she features. In the first of these photographs she is pictured with her
Fazeley School class of 1946/47.
And this is a picture taken to commemorate her retirement after a lifetime
dedicated to teaching the children of Fazeley.