Family Tree

Ann Bremner

The following research was undertaken some 18 years ago, and recently updated, in order to see whether the FOX of FOX's Biscuits was related to my FOX ancestors - David FOX (1784-1850), Shoemaker of Batley, his father Phineas FOX (1755-1845), Clothier of Soothill, Dewsbury and those who went before. The answer is probably yes, because one trail leads eventually to Thomas FOX and Mary BURNLEY, who were my 9 x great grandparents.

Ancestry of Fred Ellis FOX

Fred Ellis FOX, born on 5 September 1871, was the eldest son of Henry FOX, a Rag Merchant, and his wife Emma ELLIS of Wellington Street, Batley. In 1891 the 19-year old Fred Ellis was living with his parents and 6 brothers and sisters in Fox's Yard (off Wellington Street). Interestingly he was very specific about his occupation, describing himself as 'Snap Maker'. His brother John William aged 18 was an 'Oyster Dealer' - perhaps following in the footsteps of Alfred BECKITT, whose widow Hannah nee SPEDDING was soon to become his sister -in-law.

Henry FOX (born 1848/9) was the second of the 4 children of John FOX, and his wife lsabella. John FOX also lived in Wellington Street and was a Rag Merchant, at one time employing 6 women; he came from a large family of S boys and 5 girls, being the 6th, baptised in 1817. His parents, David FOX and Rebeckah HALL were married in Batley parish Church in 1806.

David FOX, born in Soothill in 1785, was a Cloth Fuller and lived in Carlinghow and Nussey's Yard, Batley; he was 85 when he died in 1870. He too came from a large family - of 11 - but the boys outnumbered the girls 8 to 3. David was the 4th child to be born to Benjamin FOX and Margaret ROBINSON, who were married in Dewsbury Parish Church in 1776.

Benjamin FOX, baptised in Dewsbury in 1755, was the second son of Benjamin FOX and his wife Betty LISTER, who married in Batley in 1752. This last named Benjamin was the first FOX to bear the name, he was baptised in Dewsbury Parish Church in 1729 the son of Joseph FOX and his wife, who was probably Elizabeth SENIOR, married in 1724. (Joseph FOX was GtGtGtGtGt Grandfather of Michael Anthony Fox).

Joseph was not the first FOX of that name, and it is therefore difficult to be sure of his direct ancestry, as the way is littered with either/or possibilities, which have produced a family tree as complex as any wiring diagram- Fortunately all paths lead to the same great grandparents - Thomas FOX and Mary BURNLEY, who were married in Dewsbury in 1627; but here again there are problems, is it Thomas baptised in Dewsbury in 1602 son of Godfrey FOX, of whom the only other traces are the baptisms of 2 further children and the burial of one of them, or Thomas baptised in Dewsbury in 1605 son of Thomas FOX and Agnes HEMINGWAY (married Dewsbury 1589)?

Founding of the Firm – Michael SPEDDING

Established in 1853 the sign says, but nowhere in Batley at that period could I find a FOX who was a baker. There was David FOX of Up Lane, who was a Provision Dealer and his sister Martha NETTLETON, who would have worked in her husband Harry's Grocer s shop, but did the smell of the bake-house waft from their doors? No, the founder of the firm, known at one time as SPEDDING & FOX, then F.E FOX and later F.E.FOX & Sons Ltd, which was to become FOX's Biscuits, was Michael SPEDDING, who married Susan FOX though whether she or their son-in-law Fred Ellis FOX was the FOX in SPEDDING & FOX, I do not know.

Michael SPEDDING, who was born on 28 February 1834, always recorded that he was born in Huddersfield, but so far his baptism has not been found. He was the son of Robert SPEDDING, Butcher. It is interesting that his father was a Butcher like several of the numerous Batley and Soothill/Dewsbury SPEDDINGs, among whom the names Robert and Michael were common - could there have been a family connection, I wondered, and this has proved to be the case.

Michael was the 4 th of the 6 sons of Robert SPEDDING and Betty/Elizabeth HUDSON who were married in 1827 in Halifax. Elizabeth was probably the daughter of William HUDSON and Ann JUBB married in Dewsbury in 1791- Michael SPEDDING's mother was said to be the niece of Joseph JUBB senior, a prominent mill owner in Batley.

Robert was baptised in Dewsbury in 1803, the last of the II children of Robert SPEDDING, inevitably a Butcher, and Ann/Nancy KNOWLES, who were married in Dewsbury in 1785. Robert SPEDDING junior and his wife seem to have led a fairly nomadic life - they were living in Stain land when they married, their eldest son was born in Batley in 1827, Michael in Huddersfield and the youngest in Outwood in the Parish of Alverthorpe-with-Thornes in 1839, by which time Robert was a Cloth Weaver. By 1841 they had moved to West Ardsley, where Robert died. when he was described as a Cloth Dealer, although his gravestone in Dewsbury Churchyard says Butcher. The widowed Elizabeth and her 6 sons were at Upper Green in West Ardsley 3 months later when the Census was taken.

It is said that young Michael went to Batley to work on the building of the railway between Leeds and Mirfield (which was apparently in 1846-47) - he would have been in his early teens then. I was unable to find Michael SPEDDING in the Batley and district Census Returns for 1851. Could he have gone back to Huddersfield after his work on the Leeds-Mirfield railway was complete. I wondered, and I was right, for I found him described as a visitor with Mary ELLIS, a 60-year old widow and her 2 sons, at Stone Pit Hill in Paddock. Huddersfield. Michael, who was a Cloth Dresser. was 16, although when he married 2 years later he said he was 21. A little distance away at Heaton Fold was William HUDSON, a Farmer, and his family, and living with them was George SPEDDING, nephew aged 14, an Agricultural Labourer, who was Michael's brother (William HUDSON was presumably Elizabeth HUDSON’s brother).

Michael SPEDDING married Susan FOX in Batley Parish Church on 28 March 1853 (see below for Susan FOX's antecedents). In 1861 Michael and Susan SPEDDING were living in Field Hill, Batley with 2 children; at this time Michael was a Cloth Finisher, and in 1865 when his daughter Hannah was born, he was living in Up Lane and described as a Huckster. The first possible sniff of a brandy snap was in 1871 when, living with his wife and young daughter Hannah (the only one of their 9 children to survive infancy) in Spring Gardens, Batley, which runs into East Street, Michael's occupation was given as Confectioner - obviously more than a sideline by then, because boarding with them was 19-year old Robert AINSWORTH from Leeds, Confectioner's Assistant.

Personal recollections from the son of one--time neighbours of the SPEDDINGs in their pre--factory (biscuit) days, indicate that it was Susan (FOX) who vas the source of expertise in the making of brandy-snap and ginger biscuits - a skill she had leaned somewhere in the south of England, though when this might have been is difficult to determine because in 1851 as a 16-year old she was living with her parents in Batley, and 2 years later she married Michael SPEDDING.

By 1881 they had moved yet again and were living in Field Lane, and in addition to Baker. Michael SPEDDING was now describing himself as Bone Setter (he took over from his father- in-law Joseph FOX in 1877) and was advertising as such in the Batley section of the 1878 Dewsbury Trade Directory, in Commercial Street, West End. Boarding with Susan and Michael SPEDDING in 1881 were Alfred BECKITT of Dewsbury aged 22 and John Thomas REGAN of Leeds aged 17, both Bakers. Their daughter Hannah married Alfred BECKITT in 1884, but the marriage was not to be a long one for Alfred, who became an Oyster Dealer, died in 1888.

In 1891 Michael and Susan SPEDDING were living at 17 Whitaker Street, Batley, Michael described as Bone Setter and Susan as Book Keepers Assistant. Their widowed daughter Hannah BECKITT (Annie), was described as Assistant. They had 2 young servants - a 14-year old Stable Boy and a 15-year old General Domestic Servant.

The widowed Hannah BECKITT, aged 27, married Fred Ellis FOX (see below), who was 21, in 1893, and they had 5 children -Michael Spedding, Fred, Spedding, Alfred Henry and Susan Spedding.

Susan SPEDDING died in 1895, and the next year Michael married Eliza, the widow of George BLAKELEY (Cloth Finisher), in Dewsbury Registry Office. Eliza, who was born in Ossett, Dewsbury in 1840, was the daughter of John and Elizabeth PICKLES.

Michael SPEDDING lived to be 93, dying on 29 September 1927 at Upper Albion Street, Batley. When he wrote his Will 2 years earlier, in which he described himself as 'retired bonesetter' not baker/confectioner/biscuit manufacturer- he was living at Balm Cottage, Geldard Road, Birstall.

Ancestry of Susan SPEDDING nee FOX

Susan FOX was born on 1 May 1834 and baptised in Batley Parish Church 2 months later, she was one of the 8 (or 9) children of Joseph FOX (Clothier) and his wife Elizabeth (Betty) FARR ~ who were married in Batley in 1826.

Joseph FOX was born in Batley in 1804, one of 9 children. His parents, James FOX, Clothier, and Jane CASTLE (baptised in Dewsbury in 1775, daughter of Joseph CASTLE and Sarah nee HEY) must have moved from Soothill in Dewsbury parish, where they were married in 1795 and where their first 3 children were baptised, round about the turn of the century. James FOX was baptised in Dewsbury Parish Church in 1777, the second of 9 children of Martin and Sarah FOX of Soothill. James FOX does not appear anywhere else in the Dewsbury or Batley records, unless he is the 74-year old widower, born in Soothill, living at 171 J. Wards Hill with lodgers Isaac FARRAR; widower aged 31, and John FARRAR aged 17, in the 1851 Batley Census.

Martin FOX (aged 22) married Sarah PICKLES (aged 25) by licence in Dewsbury in 1775. Sarah was possibly the daughter of James PICKLES and Martha HARGREAVE, baptised in Dewsbury in 1748, but Martin FOX's baptism has not been found in Dewsbury. Sarah, wife of Martin FOX of Soothill, was buried in Dewsbury on 3 December 1816 aged 68.

(This document was optically scanned (OCR) and scanning errors corrected. The paragraph order has been changed, from Ann’s original, to match this web site).


Ancestors of Fox’s Biscuits - Family Tree