The Hickling Forse Connections and Beyond

Last updated on 20 September 2019

The Hickling Forse Connections and Beyond

Much intrigue surrounds Tollerton Hall and those who lived or worked here; It is always interesting therefore to receive new information about the Hall and Estate and its residents as well as confirmation of associated happenings that were mentioned in our book ‘Tollerton: A Village History’.

The Hicklings

In recent months the history group has had contact with Hazel the great, great grand-daughter of William Hickling who lived in Tollerton in the mid-1800s through to 1909. William was born in Keyworth in 1836, son of Ann and Thomas Hickling. In 1851 Thomas, born 1810 in Cotgrave, was the carpenter at Tollerton Hall and his son, William, was a groom at the Hall.

In 1853 William joined the Grenadier Guards and was involved in the Crimean War that took place between October 1853 and February 1856. This war, also known as the Russian War, will be remembered for events such as the Charge of the Light Brigade, people such as Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole who nursed and cared for the wounded soldiers and the first introduction of the Victoria Cross by Queen Victoria in 1856 to honour acts of valour during this war.

William and Emma Hickling in Tollerton
William and Emma Hickling in Tollerton

William served his country for 10 years and became the only member of the Nottinghamshire Crimean War & Indian Mutiny Veteran’s Association living in Tollerton. He died in February, 1909 and was buried with full military honours in the village. Items relating to William’s military funeral at Tollerton appear in the ‘Wars’ section of our web site, do have a look at these items as individually and collectively they are fascinating and capture an important part of the village’s history.

A press article published on 31 August 1855 lists Private William Hickling (6616) of the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards as being slightly injured during action on 16 August that year.  He was not the only family member to serve during the Crimean War for his cousin Joseph Pike of Keyworth also enlisted with the Grenadier Guards in 1853 and served with them for over 11 years. Joseph Pike also died in 1909 and was the sole surviving veteran of the Crimean War living in Keyworth. William Hickling’s mother was a Pike prior to marriage

The Forse Family

In 1864 William Hickling was discharged and presumably made his life thereafter in Tollerton. He married Emma Forse in 1868 and in the 1871 Census is listed at Lodge Gates, Tollerton with Emma, his wife, and two children – Henry born 1869 and Sarah born 1870. By 1881 they had a further son, Thomas born 1878, and three more daughters – Ellen born 1872, Jane born 1874 and Anne born 1876. Later William and Emma also had Clara born 1885. Sadly two of their daughters predeceased William and Emma.

The Forse family are mentioned in our book ‘Tollerton: A Village History’ as they lived at Hall Farm, Tollerton and had connections with Tollerton Hall and its occupants. Emma Forse, born 1841, was the third child of Sarah and William Forse. Through our initial research about the Forse family we had a number of outstanding queries but the valuable contact with Hazel, Emma’s great, great grand-daughter, has now explained much.

Previously we could not understand why in  1841 Emma’s sister, Catherine aged 3 years, was in the Tollerton Hall household with Pendock Barry Barry, the Lord of the Manor, and Susannah Davies his housekeeper. and not with her parents.  Furthermore, Catherine was still at the Hall in 1861 working as a housemaid along with her youngest sister Louisa (also listed as a housemaid) at the time when Susannah Davies was Lady of the Manor. Equally it was surprising that Sarah Forse, mother of Emma, Catherine, Louisa and also Arthur, was born in St Martin in Shropshire the same village that Susannah Davies had been born at. Coincidence or what?

Valuable family information from Hazel has explained a lot. It appears that Sarah Forse was indeed Susannah Davies’ second cousin with Sarah’s father, Philip, and Susannah’s mother, Catherine, both from the Cash family. Sarah and Susannah were very close and it was said in the family that they were kindred spirits.   Sarah Cash wanted to marry a man at least 11 years her junior which was unheard of in 1835. A ‘toy boy’ would have been a scandal in the small village where she was born in Shropshire. Sarah therefore went to London, the family home of her husband-to-be, and they married at St. Pancras in April 1835. At that time St Pancras was like Gretna Green; it was a no questions asked venue where you only needed to live in the area for 3 weeks and could then be married. Their first child, Arthur, appears to have been born in Middlesex in 1835 so Sarah may have been pregnant when she married William Forse.

William Forse along with Sarah, his wife, and two children – Arthur and Emma – are listed in Tollerton in the 1841 Census which was the year that Emma was born so perhaps Susannah Davies at the Hall was looking after Catherine Forse (Sarah and William’s second child then aged 3 years) on the night of the Census, particularly since she was a relative.

In the 1851 Census and beyond William Forse does not appear to be in Tollerton and it is thought that he might have returned to London being dissatisfied with rural life in Tollerton.  Later evidence from 1863 relating to Louisa, William and Sarah’s youngest child born in 1843, indicates that William was still alive and in London.  It is thought that he died in London in 1870. When Sarah Forse died in 1868, her age was given as 66 years which is interesting in itself as she appears to have been fairly flexible about her birth year during her lifetime. Perhaps this was her way of concealing the age difference between herself and her husband?

The death certificate for Sarah Forse (below) also shows that Mary Hull of Tollerton was the informant, again a very well-known name in Tollerton.

Death Certificate of Sarah Forse
Death Certificate of Sarah Forse

The Forse Children

Arthur Forse, the eldest child of Sarah and William, died in 1874 at the age of 38 years in Nottingham. Initially he was at Hall Farm with his parents and siblings. In 1851 at the age of 15 years he was in Tollerton and was listed as an ‘apprentice’, living with two of his younger sisters, his mother and two agricultural labourers.

Arthur Forse
Arthur Forse

Correspondence between Hazel and her second cousin (Marion) back in 1988 indicates that Arthur was a book-keeper in a bank and “was caught up in the American Civil War and returned to England in rags, having lost his wife and child in the war”.  It appears that Arthur enlisted in Savannah with Company D Light Battery 1st Regiment Georgia Regulars on 5 August, 1861. The following details appear on a military website:

“A W Force (or Forse) Private August 5 1861. Appointed Musician, Corporal, Sergeant. Transferred to Maxwell’s Battery GA Light Artillery August 1862. Deserted to enemy’s gun boats at Ossabaw Sound, Georgia July 19 1864. Went into enemy’s lines at Fort Pulaski , Georgia July 17 1864. Took oath of allegiance to U.S. Govt and sent to New York 17 July 1864.”

As yet, we have not been able to determine exactly when he returned to England and who his wife and child might have been. He died in 1874 at the General Hospital in Nottingham at the age of 38 years. His sole beneficiary was his sister Louisa.

Catherine Forse, the first daughter of Sarah and William Forse born 1838, worked at Tollerton Hall in 1851 and 1861 as a maid. She married in 1864 in London and became Catherine Turner. Her husband, who was about 5 years younger, was from Westmorland in North West England so just how they came to meet is unclear.  After her marriage she and the family remained in the London area and by 1891 she was widowed.  She appears to have had about 5 children one of whom was called Susannah. Presumably she might have selected this name because of her connections with Susannah Davies?

Like her mother, Catherine was also fairly flexible about her birth year when providing information for the Census.  In 1911 Catherine was living in Chelsea with two of her daughters and by then had reverted to her ‘correct’ birth year.

Emma Forse born 1841 was also sometimes known as Elizabeth and it is in 1851 that we find her by this name in the Census in Tollerton. Prior to her marriage in 1864 to William Hickling she worked as a servant for the Lambert family in Nottingham and clearly lived in. The Lambert’s were lace dyers and dressers. She settled in Tollerton after her marriage and died here in 1913.

Louisa Forse
Louisa Forse

Louisa Forse, the youngest child was born in 1843. In 1861 she was a servant at Tollerton Hall when Susannah Davies was Lady of the Manor.  Sometime late in 1861 she was seduced by one of the workers at Hall Farm and fell pregnant.  It is thought in the family that Susannah Davies of Tollerton Hall  arranged for the subsequent care of this child by a family known to her in the London area.

Unfortunately Louisa’s misfortunes did not end there. A press article in 1863 shows that, after the birth of this child, she was indecently assaulted in London.

Soon after this Louisa must have returned to Tollerton for on 22 August, 1864 she was married here to Valentine Fisher from Shelford, Nottinghamshire. Valentine was only 16 years of age when they married and Louisa was then 23 years old.  In 1851, prior to his marriage, he was a carters boy and servant to the Pilgrim family in Radcliffe on Trent. After their marriage they must have settled in Tollerton as the 1871 Census shows them living on the Tollerton Hall Estate with three children but by 1901 they had moved to Shardlow in Derbyshire and had a total of six children. Louisa died at Shardlow in 1915 and Valentine died the following year.

Susannah Davies
Susannah Davies

Susannah Davies  In sharing information about the Hicklings and Forse family Hazel has also passed on further information about Susannah Davies of Tollerton Hall. One such item is a photograph of Susannah from Hazel’s family photograph album. It was said within Hazel’s family that Susannah was a well organised person and quite formidable as well though she did have dementia in her latter years. When she first came to Tollerton Hall she was listed as Pendock Barry Barry’s ‘housekeeper’ but expert research reveals that this was not always a domestic role in the 1800s but a term used to describe a person who was a partner. Susannah was not Barry’s mistress though as it is thought that he was gay. In the following picture Susannah certainly looks like a very refined lady.

Furthermore, it appears that Susannah had personal wealth and this may have come from her husband who was an officer in the Army. It is said that she kept this wealth separate from the Tollerton Hall Estate which was in arrears when she died. It is thought that she was used to entertaining prior to coming to Tollerton Hall and therefore would have enjoyed accompanying Pendock Barry Barry to social events and the associated wining and dining. Essentially it was a relationship that suited them both.

The thing that bedevils us still is who was Susannah’s husband? In 1861 she is listed as a widow but no status given in the 1851 or 1841 Census. So perhaps her husband died before she came to Tollerton. No record of her marriage has yet been found.

Susannah certainly was a Davies when she was born in 1784. Her death certificate (see below) in 1872 indicates that she was the widow of Thomas Davies. So perhaps Susannah Davies did marry a Davies and therefore retained the same surname after marriage.

Susannah Davies' death certificate
Susannah Davies’ death certificate

I am sure sometime in the future we will unravel this mystery further and find out more about Susannah since she was clearly a very influential person in the village.  If you can help please do contact us.

The following family tree visually shows the links between the Forse, Hickling families and others in Tollerton.  Click here to view this tree.


Our sincere thanks go to Hazel Vallier for sharing all this new information and the associated images in recent months. This has also helped us to piece together previously disparate snippets of information and to make stronger connections between these families.