John Screen was born in Oldbury on Severn and baptised at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury on 7th July 1861. He was the son of Oliver Screen, a labourer and his wife, Lucy. He became a farm labourer living with his parents at Upper Bath Road until he married at the age of 39. Click here to read about Oliver & Lucy Screen
In 1886, there is an article in the Bristol Mercury which reports that John Screen and George Harris of Thornbury were charged with stealing a tame duck and 13 eggs, the property of Major General Mundy of Thornbury House. They were accused on passing along a field near the ornamental pond of Major General Mundy and noticed a duck sitting on its nest of eggs which they took. They were sentenced to 21 days hard labour.
On 26th December 1898 John married Sarah Ann Ball who was a widowed charwoman aged 39 living in Crossways. Sarah Ann was baptised on 27th May 1860 in Berkeley, the daughter of John Fryer, a labourer and his wife, Sarah who lived in Halmore. Sarah Ann had married Joseph Ball in 1879, and in 1881 they were living in Portishead where Joseph was a farm labourer. We have seen a newspaper article dated 6th January 1882 that refers to a case of assault on Sarah Ann Ball at her cottage in Thornbury. It describes her as a married woman. We know of no other likely person so it would seem that the couple, or at least Sarah, returned to Thornbury for a time. Albert Parker who assaulted Sarah Ann was sentenced to a month’s hard labour. By 1891 they had moved again and were living in Lawrence Weston, and by then they had 3 children, William G aged 6, Charles aged 4, both born in Thornbury and Tom aged 1 born in Hallen. Joseph died in 1897 aged 36.
In 1901 John and Sarah Ann were living in 17 Horseshoe Lane. Living there were John Screen, a general labourer aged 41, his wife, Sarah Ann aged 40 from Halmore near Berkeley and Charles Ball, stepson, an errand boy aged 14 and Ann Louise Ball, a stepdaughter aged 3 from Winterbourne.
John and Sarah had a son, John Screen, born on 11th June 1901. In 1902 John (Snr) was charged with being drunk and disorderly and assaulting a police man whilst in the execution of his duty. He was sentenced to 14 days hard labour for being drunk and disorderly and 42 days for the assault.
John and Sarah seemed to move about it and they may have spent some time apart. When their son, John (now referred to as Jack) and his half sister Annie Louise started at the National School in 1909 Sarah was given as their parent and they were transferred from Rudgeway School. Sarah’s address at that time was given as Morton. In 1910 when John transferred to the Council Upper School, his father, John Screen, was recorded as his parent and his address was Chapel Street. The 1911 Census appears to indicate that John and Sarah Ann were living in the house later known as 15 Rock Street. John seems to be employed as a labourer, but the occupation is written against his son, John. Sarah appears to be a charwoman. They were living in the house with their son, John aged 9 their daughter Annie Ball aged 13 and daughter-in-law, Frances Ball aged 25 born in Wapley, near Chipping Sodbury.
A Gazette newspaper report of September 6th 1913 shows that Sarah Ann was involved in a serious domestic incident with one of her neighbours, Ellen Higgs. As a result Ellen broke her leg and had to spend nine weeks in the Workhouse Infirmary. There was a court case which Ellen had to attend in a bathchair and it was said that she ‘could not move out the chair for anything and that she was likely to be a cripple for the rest of her life’. Sarah Ann was found guilty of common assault and fined 10 shillings with 11 shillings costs.
John was listed as living in Rock Street in the 1914 and 1915 Prewett’s Directory. By the time of the 1916 Prewett’s Directory he was living in St Mary Street. When their son, John (Jnr) enlisted for military service in 1919 the family were living in St Mary Street and they are listed there in the 1921 Electoral Register. They carried on living in the house which later became known as 29 St Mary Street. Sarah Ann and her son, John (Jnr) and his wife, Minnie carry on living in the St Mary Street house and John (Snr) moves to live in the lodging house run at Leonard Smith in Rock Street. Sarah Ann died aged 75 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 9th November 1935. John died aged 75 and was buried in Thornbury Cemetery on 4th March 1936. Their home at the time was still in St Mary Street.
John Screen (Jnr) – we know a great deal about John from his army service records which are now available on the Internet. In spite of his very short length of service, his records show a great deal about him and his family.
On 3rd March 1919 he enlisted in 14th Kings Hussars in Bristol. He gave his age as 18 years 9 months, although he was actually only 17 years 9 months. He also said ‘yes’ to the question “have you ever been rejected as unfit” but against the question asking on what grounds he was rejected he stated ‘could not say’. On enlistment John was 5ft 5.25 inches, 127 lbs, 36 inch chest when expanded with 4 inch range, fresh complexion, blue eyes, fair hair and Wesleyan religion. He was found fit on 3rd March 1919 and posted to the 20th Hussars at Colchester. We know from his army records that he was in Tidworth in April where he was in trouble for being absent from stables duty and a foot parade, at Devizes in June where he was absent for an evening and at Colchester later in June where he was missing for two and half days and was later in trouble for smoking on parade. It seemed that he did not take to army life and its rules. He was also injured in April 1919 during his training at riding school. He received bruises on his abdomen whilst mounting a horse.
In July John embarked on A.T. Teutonic at Devonport to Port Said and based in Tel el Kabir. At Tel el Kabir he was in trouble in July for missing another parade. Within 3 months he was transferred back to the UK on the same ship. The reason for his transfer was that they had discovered that he was under age and although the records show that they had considered sending him back to Palestine when he was old enough, he was discharged.
John’s mother had written various letters on his behalf. In one letter she received the support of Dr E. M. Grace who said she was suffering from varix and fatty degeneration of the heart and was unable to follow her occupation. The Pearl Assurance Company confirmed she had signed on as sick and was in receipt of benefit and was unlikely to ‘carry her livelihood’. Another letter was sent by Tytherington Stone Company who wanted to employ him at one shilling and three pence per hour. Sarah also sent a letter pleading that she needed John home because “she depends on him”. She explained she “was a cripple with her legs and could not get out to work and she has taken to her bed, …… and if you cant release him can we buy him out”. On June 9th she wrote that she had tried to get him out of the army before he had been in for 3 months and had borrowed £10 from her friend but could not manage £2 more. On 14th June 1920 she sent £10 to buy him out and asked “if there is a problem in achieving this could he be transferred from the Horse Regiment and transferred into the Gloucester Regiment.” The Army replied that because the application for discharge was not made within 3 months of enlistment the price was £35. A memo explained that the earlier application had been rejected because the information provided by Mrs Screen was confused and the parson was asked to confirm the situation.
So, John was discharged on 13th October 1920 after one year and 225 days service. In spite of his record his discharge papers said John was of good conduct, was sober, honest and free from any vice, but was slack and inclined to be idle, possibly due to ill-health
John had been hospitalised for 13 days in March and April 1919 for treatment and rest following a fall from a horse whilst being instructed on how to mount a horse in riding school. He suffered headaches shortly after and was sent to a convalescence hospital for 26 days, and was seen by an eye specialist who diagnosed a defunct refracture and prescribed spectacles. In March 1920 he was sick for 8 days with tonsillitis.
There are even more details about John’s brief army career and family background. Anyone who wishes to read the full details should contact us using the email address given near the bottom of the Home page.
On 13th February 1926 John (Jnr) married Minnie Ella Sansum at the Thornbury Register Office. We understand Minnie was born on 23rd December 1907, the daughter of James Sansum and his wife, Emily Edith (nee Iles). They had 4 children: Ronald James born on 14th May 1926 and baptised on 6th June 1926, Edward Oliver born on 24th December 1927, Julia born on 24th August 1931 and Albert John born on 25th March 1936. John and Minnie carried on living in the house at 29 St Mary Street until it was demolished in the early 60’s. They then moved to 78 Streamleaze. John died on 20th November 1975 aged 74 and Minnie died on 15th February 2000 aged 92.