Archive for the ‘Rainbows’ Category
William Rainbow, non-conformist?
Posted on: June 23rd, 2013 by pj

If you’ve been here before you’ll know that I’m forever going on about my ‘brick wall’ William Rainbow.

I know that he married Phoebe Taylor in 1736 and he worked in Cotesbach, Leicestershire.  His name also appears in the account books of Cotesbach Estate (held by the Cotesbach Educational Trust) as a tenant farmer and he is also recorded as being Overseer of the Poor and Constable of the parish. On his daughter’s birth record it states William Rainbow of Shawell (the next village to Cotesbach) so I can only assume that he was born there. I have no knowledge of his birth date or parentage.

Recently I was fortunate to see scans of the original parish records of Shawell, dating back to 1558. I was excited. If William was born in Shawell then surely his birth would be recorded? Nope. The only record is of his marriage to Phoebe. If he definitely came from Shawell then why wasn’t he in the records? I knew John Rainbow, William’s son had been a founder member of the non-conformist church in Lutterworth so maybe the non-conformism had its roots further back in the family. If there was no established church though, how would I be able to find out?

I came across a paper by R.H. Evans Nonconformists in Leicestershire in 1669.  He refers to an inquiry about conventicles which was ordered by the Archbishop to examine all parishes and record if any unauthorised religious meetings were held there along with the names of the ‘heads and teachers’.     I didn’t expect to find any mention of Shawell so I was surprised to see this:

“Shawell: An unlawfully assembly held in the afternoone in the said parish church without my knowledge about two monthes since to the number of 40 or thereaboute this by Mr Campian as I heare and ejected minister of the meaner sort.  William Astell Rr of Shawell”

40 people seems a respectably sized meeting considering that Shawell is a small village.  So I’m assuming that the Rainbows were part of this rebellion in Shawell (how cheeky to hold their meeting in the CHURCH!) – it would certainly explain their non-appearance in the parish records.  More research needed.

Rainbow One Name Study
Posted on: March 8th, 2013 by pj

I’ve just registered the surname Rainbow with The Guild of One-Name Studies.  Not exactly sure what I’m letting myself in for but first off I’m researching ways to display current and future data, probably on a separate website.

Walks Thro Coventry
Posted on: January 16th, 2012 by pj

Walks Thro Coventry – Edwin Rainbow


by Paula Jeffery

I never met Edwin Rainbow but I knew a man who did.

Edwin was the beloved grandfather of my own lovely grandfather, Leonard Rainbow.  Len was 12 years old in 1918 when Edwin died suddenly at the age of 66.   He had been close to Edwin – the extended family had lived in the same house –  and the shock of his early death affected Len deeply.  He spoke with affection about his grandfather and how Edwin would take him into Coventry and what an impressive sight he was with his top hat and pocket watch on a gold chain.

Len died in 2000, aged 94 and I wish I’d asked him more about Edwin.  Although I’ve found out about many aspects of my great, great grandfather’s life, probably much more than Len knew about him, I know few personal details.

He was born in 1851 in High Street, Coventry the son of silk weavers.  By the time he was ten the city was hit by hard times as the silk weaving industry began a rapid and dramatic decline.  Such was the devastation that a national fund was organised to send relief and many people left the area or emigrated.

Edwin’s parents, James and Sarah stayed however and Edwin attended Bablake School, leaving at 15 to train as a printer’s apprentice.   He went on to work for several Coventry newspapers and became a journalist.  He later became Registrar for Births and Deaths in the city and was involved, as Secretary, in numerous local institutions including the Coventry School of Art and the Coventry Technical Institute.

Towards the end of his life he developed a passion for Bohemia and wrote articles for national newspapers describing his trips.  The freedom of Prague was conferred upon him in recognition of his services in disseminating information concerning that country .  However, he didn’t neglect his own country and home town.  He wrote the official guides for the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Golden and Diamond Jubilees and this book, Walks Thro’ Coventry was published in 1916.

It would appear that this version was based on an 1888 book published by Caldicott and rewritten by Edwin.  Much of the material relates to the changes that had taken place in Coventry in the preceding twenty five years.

As Edwin gives us a tour of the city centre, road by road mentioning the benefactors and businesses along the way we are reminded of gracious tree lined avenues and sparse traffic in a time before Coventry was decimated by the Blitz, when all its historic grandeur remained largely intact.

Walks Thro’ Coventry gives a unique insight into a city at the turn of the centruy with Edwin exploring the past but also expounding on the progress the city had made and its hopes for the future.

I have been researching the Rainbow family tree for more than 25 years and have always been on the lookout for any of Edwin’s written works.  I’m releasing this guide as free ebook in his memory and, knowing of his passion for technological advancements, further education and free libraries, in the knowledge that he would almost certainly approve.

Click here to download the free Kindle book – Walks Thro Coventry.

October 1841
Posted on: October 1st, 2011 by pj

170 years ago this month Jabez Rainbow lost it.

He had taken a room at The Boot public house in St. Albans, Herts, England for a night with his girlfriend, Jane Pearce.   Jabez was a soldier and stationed in the town working as part of a recruitment team.  He was billeted at another pub a couple of streets away but occasionally took a room at The Boot to be with Jane.  On the morning of 3rd October 1841 while Jane was sleeping he took his shaving razor and calmly sliced her throat.  Needless to say this woke Jane who, at first, appeared not to feel pain but rather a choking sensation and as she put her hands to her throat felt them “go right in” to her neck.  A violent  struggle ensued with Jabez straddling Jane who silently (her vocal chords had been severed) kicked and hit out at Jabez gaining more wounds to her hands, arms and legs.  It was over as quickly as it started with Jabez suddenly releasing her, running to the door of their room and calling down to the landlord, “Murder” and “Come take me.”

There are several surprising elements to this story.  One is that Jane survived her injuries, thanks to the prompt attention of a surgeon who lived nearby and another is that she appeared to express no anger towards Jabez at his trial.   The case itself caused a sensation in the town with crowds gathering,  all eager to see the victim as she arrived in a carriage, escorted by the police and her doctor.

Jabez escaped the capital indictment and was ordered to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) for 15 years for the offence of wounding.  Although the case was widely reported in the press there are many questions that arise from reading the articles for example, why did his friends and Jane all say they had never seen him drunk and yet on his convict record he states that he had been drinking for several days?

I don’t have any photos of Jabez but the image below is an impression of what he may have looked like based on photos of other family members and a comprehensive written physical description on his convict record, eg nose – broad, mouth – large, etc.


Jabez is my 3rd great grand-uncle. His background, trial and life in Tasmania form part of my book ‘Chasing Rainbows’.


Wordless Wednesday
Posted on: September 28th, 2011 by pj

Hilda Margaret Wilkins (1906-1992) , my grandmother.  Taken in 1931, the year before she married my grandfather, Leonard Rainbow.


Cotesbach Heritage Open Days 2011
Posted on: September 18th, 2011 by pj

It’s twelve months since I first became involved with Cotesbach Educational Trust based at Cotesbach Hall in the leafy lanes of  Leicestershire, UK.  I blogged about it at the time and since then I have been ensnared volunteered to help digitise some of the archives, specifically boxes of 200 year old sermons.  Most Wednesday afternoons estate manager, Sophy Newton and I can be found poring over these dusty documents – Sophy reading out details of dates, places and first lines as I type them into the database.

Sophy Newton, estate manager and acting director of Cotesbach Educational Trust with visitors outside Cotesbach Hall

The author of some of the sermons and Sophy’s direct ancestor was the Rev. Robert Marriott, estate owner and Rector of  St. Mary’s in Cotesbach.  My ancestors, William Rainbow and his son John, lived in the village during the same period.  William Rainbow was Overseer of the Poor and both William and John were Constables of the parish.  Their signatures appear in the estate account books, claiming expenses for their work and on lease agreements for farmland.   What is extraordinary for me is the realisation that it is very likely that this business would have taken place in the same room where Sophy and I work on the sermons, recreating a family connection over 200 years later.

The coachhouse at Cotesbach Hall, soon to be restored and extended to house archives.

Cotesbach Educational Trust was formed to restore three dilapidated buildings in the Estate grounds.  An 18th century schoolroom is to be used as an educational resource and in addition a milking parlour and coachhouse will become a cafe, meeting area and housing for the archival material that has been discovered at the Hall, dating from the 16th century.

An old fashioned sermon

Last weekend the Estate was open to the public as part of the national Heritage Open Days project and I did a couple of stints of greeting people in the schoolroom which was fun.  There was a re-enactment of a 200 year old sermon in St. Mary’s church, across the road from the Hall and guided tours around the house and gardens. I met several people who knew the Lutterworth Rainbows and had memories of their bakery which was fascinating and I even sold a couple of books !  Photos taken by my husband Graham.

Sophy and visitors talk about some of the archives on display


Wordless Wednesday – Snowflake
Posted on: September 7th, 2011 by pj


Restoring this photo was a labour of love, the only photo I have of my Nan as a child, Hilda Margaret Rainbow (nee Wilkins) taken around 1914. She was dressed as a snowflake for some kind of Christmas pageant.

Czech connections
Posted on: July 16th, 2011 by pj

Edwin Rainbow (1851 - 1918)

Edwin Rainbow, my great, great grandfather, was a newspaper employee who definitely didn’t hack into mobile phones! Born 1851 in Coventry, England he served an apprenticeship as a printer before becoming a journalist, employed by several Coventry newspapers.

I discovered that during the first decade of the twentieth century he developed a passion for Bohemia (nowadays part of the Czech Republic). In between journalism and his duties as Registrar of Births and Deaths in Coventry he made frequent visits to Prague, financing his trips by writing travel and political articles for both local and national newspapers, including, I believe, The Manchester Guardian. His obituary relates that he was awarded a medal and Freedom of the City of Prague for his journalistic services, apparently helping to improve the image of Bohemia when it was receiving bad press at the time, particularly from Germany.

I have been aware that he had written several books, a tour guide of Coventry and both the official souvenir guides of Queen Victoria’s Silver and Golden Jubilees. Recently I discovered that in 1906 he co-authored a book with Jindérich Malây, about the life of Vojta Náprstek – Vojta Náprstek: A Memoir. Náprstek was a philanthropist, patriot and politician, as well as a pioneering Czech language journalist in the United States.

Vojta Naprstek

I have very little additional information about Edwin’s time in Prague except that he became friends with a man called Mr Musek who visited him in Coventry on several occasions. I would love to find more out about his trips and articles and have a feeling this will be my next ‘dog with a bone’ foray.