June 1998

In June 1998 the Royal Wolverhampton School held an open day, to which a member of Keystone Masonic Lodge was invited. At that time I was away on holiday so it was decided that of the Senior Past Masters, Stanley Nelmes, would attend the function. I asked him if he would be kind enough to make enquiries for me to ascertain if what I had been told was correct.

On our return from holiday I was advised that in 1897 John Rollings presented a peel of bells for the chapel at the School to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. They were a set of 8 tubular bells, manufactured by Harrington & Latham of Earsldon, Coventry; the cost was £800. The bells were dedicated by the Bishop of Shrewsbury on the 19th June 1897.

This old postcard is the clearest picture I have seen which shows the bell tower on the school Royal School chapel
In 1933 the Bell Tower was dismantled due to one of the bells being cracked and the Tower itself being unsafe. The bells were disposed of to a local scrap merchant.

I understand that this was to the great joy of the local residents, who had suffered the nuisance of the incessant bell ringing of incompetent pupils.

John Rollings was a Vice President and Governor of the School.

My next move was to ascertain if John Rollings was a Freemason. I wrote to the Provincial Grand Lodge of Staffordshire who advised me that he was initiated into Victoria Lodge on the 29th June 1901, was passed on 23rd November and raised on 28th December in that year. I was further advised that he passed away on 17th October 1909 and that he lived at the Pines, Penn Road, Wolverhampton.

One Saturday morning in September I decided to try to find the Pines. I walked both sides of the Road but could not find the residence. However, whilst in the area, I paid a brief visit to the Chapel at the School. Inside I found a brass plaque that commemorated John Rollings' donation of the bells.

The brass tablet inside the Royal School chapel. It reads:

To the Glory of God and in commemoration of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria.

The Bells in this Tower were presented by John Rollings of Wolverhampton. June 1897

I then wrote to David Moore, Secretary of Victoria Lodge, who was most helpful. He sent me copies of the following:

the Lodge History from 1901-1951.
copies of the original Summons and the Present day ones.
copies of Extracts from the Lodge Minutes relating to John Rollings.
a copy of his Declaration Form.

October 1998

My son Steven and I were invited to attend a meeting of Victoria Lodge on Saturday 10th October 1998. A very warm welcome was extended to us. I had the privilege of responding to the Visitors Toast. Whilst at this meeting we were advised by Stan Potts that he thought that the Pines was part of the Goldthorn Hotel site. The existing Victorian house on the site is not the one in the picture we have in our possession - although we cannot be sure that the picture we have is of the house of John Rollings.

At this point I decided to seek the assistance of a good friend of mine, David Muddiman, who has considerable experience in this type of research. After he had made a few visits to the Library the whole thing started to move in a different direction. He established that John Rollings was my Great Uncle and not my Great Grandfather as was originally thought. Benjamin Davis Rollings, his elder brother, was my Great Grandfather.

Benjamin Davis Rollings

It the middle of the last century the family lived on the Coalfields, at the back of Eagle Works, which were situated somewhere in a square bounded by Eagle Street, Steelhouse Lane, Cable Street and Bilston Street, Wolverhampton.

The family lived there with Joseph Rollings, their father, a chartermaster employing 32 men. (A chartermaster is a person who is responsible for extracting coal from a section of a mine, being responsible for the men's safety and welfare, and for the maintenance of the workings etc.). And with their mother Jane Davis.

In about 1890 the family moved to Powlett Street, where Jane Rollings, my great great grandmother, lived at No. 59 with Elizabeth Lisle (her granddaughter), Edward Lisle (her son-in-law), Sarah Ann Lisle (her married daughter) and her sons Edward Lisle (junior) and Joseph Lisle.

At No. 60 lived Benjamin Rollings with his children Joseph, George, John, Henry and Kate. His housekeeper was his sister-in-law, Mary Holding, who later became his second wife. Benjamin's first marriage was to Catherine Williams, who was my great grand mother. After Mary's death Benjamin was married yet again, this time to Amelia Iveson, in September 1908.

At this stage I thought that Edward Lisle sounded quite interesting. An "engine maker" it said on the census form. More about that later.

When we received a copy of Benjamin's will, we established that he was a Master Builder. Regrettably we cannot find any details of his business but we did find that he lived from about 1900, up to his demise in 1913, at Marlborough House, Balfour Crescent, off Tettenhall Road. I wrote to the occupiers, a Mr. and Mrs. Brian Wooley, who kindly permitted Sylvia, my wife, and me to have a look round. It was furnished in the Victorian style and was rather like going back in time. The original Victorian fireplaces were still in position in every room. It really was quite splendid inside. The will and probate papers also revealed that Benjamin had left the sum of just over £6,000. In the will was a provision for the children of my Grandfather, Henry. Regrettably the boys never received a penny.

Winter 1998

In early December a copy of the will of John Rollings arrived. We had established previously that he had left the sum of approximately £13,000. In the 1891 Census his occupation was described as a railway clerk, which on the assumption that he had not been left any money, did not tie up with this wealth. The will revealed that, on his death in 1909 he was a director of The Star Cycle Co. in Wolverhampton, which later became the Star Engineering Company.

I noticed that one of the witnesses to the will was Mr. Horace Scotthron George, of 28 Oaklands Road, Wolverhampton, who was a tailor. Sylvia's mother used to visit a Miss George who lived in the bungalow on the corner of Oaklands Road and Penn Road. It would seem that he was this lady's father.

The will also told me that John Rollings was buried in the church yard at Penn Fields. On the 6th November 1998 I visited St Philip's Church in Church Road, Penn Fields. At the side of the church was a small graveyard; in the fourth row down to the left of the path are two graves, one being that of John Rollings and the other that of Benjamin Davis Rollings.

The family graves in St. Philip's churchyard, Wolverhampton.


"Annihilating all that's made
To a green thought in a green shade"
(Andrew Marvel)

The inscription on the left hand stone reads:

"In loving memory of Mary beloved wife of Benjamin Rollings who died August 25th, 1908 aged 66 years.

Also of the above Benjamin Rollings who died April 27th, 1913 aged 68 years. Thy will be done. Also of John Rollings who died November 21st, 1908 aged 37 years. Interred at Bromsgrove"

The inscription on the right hand stone reads:

"In loving memory of John Rollings who departed this life October 17th 1909 aged 59 years. Thy will be done.

Also Lucy the beloved wife of the above. John Rollings who died Dec 1st, 1926 aged 71 years. Also of Ann Swindley who died Dec 19th, 1909 aged 91 years"

On the same day I tried to find the house to which John Rolling's widow Lucy had moved: Cutherston, Stubbs Road. But without success.

A close-up view of the left-hand gravestone.

In March 2014 an interesting email was received from Amanda Hamlyn (Family name Wain) advising me that she had read my Family History, and found it most interesting. Further to this, she advised that she was also related to Joseph Rollings, being a descendant of my Gt. Gt. Grandfather's sister Jane, making us third cousins. Even more interesting, her early school days were spent in Great Barr Birmingham, we found that we both attended the same school though some 18 years apart. Amanda sent the photograph of the graves below, which are in Memory Lane Cemetery, Wednesfield. The photograph is courtesy of Deborah Day, a descendant of Jane Rollings.
The inscriptions are as follows:

Grave No. 1




Grave No. 2


Jane Rollings was Joseph Rollings' wife.

The founder of the Star Cycle Company was Edward Lisle, who was my great aunt Sarah Ann's husband. Star was one of the early pioneers in the motor industry. The company produced its first motor car in 1898. This was a modified version of the German Daimler Benz. It was called the Star Benz. They quickly developed many other motor cars and were actively involved in motor racing. The company became a public company just before the turn of the century. In the early days they had some very stormy Annual General Meetings. It would appear that they were not paying a dividend and were using the profits, which came mainly from cycle manufacture, to finance the development of their motor cars.

Edward Lisle married Elizabeth Rollings. They had two children, Elizabeth and Yorath - who cannot be traced. His second wife was Elizabeth's sister, Sara Ann Rollings (Sadie), and they had a total of 13 children.

In early December the will of Lucy Rollings, the wife of John Rollings, arrived. The bulk of the estate was left to Walter Hamblett, the Bursar of the Royal Wolverhampton School. A provision was also made for a stained glass window to be put in the school chapel in memory of her late husband, John Rollings.

We established from the records that Peter Lisle, the grandson of Edward, was still alive and living in Albrighton, Wolverhampton. After speaking to him on the telephone I went to visit him just before Christmas. At our meeting he kindly provided me with all the family information he had, including the Lisle family tree. Also, he owned a 1931 Star Comet 4 Seater Tourer 18/50 motor car, which he has up for sale. This is because of his poor health in recent years. On January 5th, 1999 I am going over to see the car, with the view of trying to purchase it.

Peter is a very interesting man. He was an engineer and had a furnace designing and manufacturing company. He has been very involved with researching the history of the Star. It has been my good fortune to be allowed to copy his papers. He now spends his spare time painting and the Queen Mother has agreed to sit for him to paint her portrait in early 1999, which, when completed, will be hung at the Royal Wolverhampton School. After the death of his father he and his elder brother were sent to the school in 1937. In those days, he said, it was a very hard life there and he would have rather been the poorest kid in the street than be there.

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