THE U.K CONTINGENT
Research project - Arthur Bickerstaffe Woods
Hi Bruce! Have just seen your interesting and informative home page and wanted to share an unusual aspect of this family saga with you and the other Bickerstaff/Bickerstaffes.
I'm writing a biography of a 1930s British film director named Arthur Bickerstaffe Woods, whose promising career ended tragically when he was killed in World War II at the age of only 39. At the bottom of this message, I've attached a little bio I've written which will be appearing soon in the Internet Movie database. Any Bickerstaff/Bickerstaffes who are interested in seeing the list of his films can find this info on the Web at http://www.imdb.com (although it is not entirely complete and accurate at this point -- the Thief of Bagdad credit is bogus).
Woods' most famous film is an outstanding thriller, "They Drive By Night" (1938), which has been called the first British film noir. It was shown at the National Film Theatre in London just last week, for the umpteenth time in recent years. Woods' last film, "Busman's Honeymoon," which he directed for M-G-M in the spring of 1940, was shown on the Turner Movie Channel just a few weeks ago. In recent years, Woods' movies have been featured at international film festivals in London, Paris, Edinburgh, Lisbon and New York (as part of the Museum of Modern Art's tribute to British film).
Woods' mother' was a Bickerstaffe, which accounts for his middle name. However, I'm having a tough time tracing them.
In a rather interesting twist Woods was the product of a marriage with a deceased wife's sister (which was officially prohibited in England until 1907). His father, Arthur Robert Thomas Woods, married Helen Roseanna Bickerstaffe in West Derby, Lancs. on 13 August 1895. However, she died on 10 March 1898 in Great Crosby, Lancs. after giving birth to their second daughter. On February 10 1902 he married her sister Annie Bickerstaffe in Great Crosby and their son, the future film director, was born on 17 August 1904 at West Derby.
I've been to St. Catherine's House as well as Somerset House many times to try to find records on the Bickerstaffes. All I can find is Helen's birth certificate (Liverpool 1865) -- no record of Annie's birth, other siblings, or marriage or death certificates for the parents of Annie and Helen, who are listed in the marriage certificates as James and Annie (Boyle) Bickerstaffe.
However, I have a clue about why I can't find the records. In an interview with Film Pictorial magazine in 1934, Woods was described as "half-Scottish" which I first thought was a mistake. Now I think the Bickerstaffes may have settled in Scotland, which would explain why there seem to be no records, wills, etc. in London. James Bickerstaffe was described in one marriage certificate as a gentleman, and in the other as a glass dealer. In any case, I believe the family was quite well off.
Why Helen was born in Liverpool, I don't know but it may be that the family was temporarily in that city for some reason but their permanent residence might have been Scotland. Where in Scotland -- I have no idea. Another clue is that in his will, Woods left some property in St. Helens to one of his sisters. St. Helens is not in Ormskirk (at least I don't think it is) but it has long been a center of the glass manufacturing industry.
When I first got started I thought my film director might have been related to the Bickerstaffes of Blackpool (Sir John and his brother, who built the famous Tower.) However, that turned out to be incorrect.
Lastly, the Woods family were all devout Roman Catholics (in fact, Arthur's eldest sister was a nun in the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton). I believe the Bickerstaffes were Catholic, too, but am not absolutely sure.
BTW, Arthur died a bachelor and both sisters also died unmarried. The only living relatives are cousins on the Woods side, which is why it's been so hard to find useful information. Any help would be much appreciated!! Thanks!
29 August 1996
Arthur Bickerstaffe Woods - A Brief Biography
Arthur Bickerstaffe Woods was regarded as one of Britain's most promising young film directors in the late 1930s. However his career was cut tragically short by his death in World War II at the age of 39. He was the only British director to serve in combat and to be decorated for valor.
Born at Liverpool in 1904, Woods was the only son of Arthur R. T. Woods, managing director of the Nelson Line, and his second wife, Annie Bickerstaffe. He was educated at Downside School and Christ's College, Cambridge. A talented artist and musician, Woods gave up his medical studies at Cambridge to join the Festival Repertory Theatre, where he gained a reputation for scenic design. This led to a job in the film industry as an editor and art director for British Instructional Films.
When the company merged with British International Pictures, Woods moved to screenwriting and in 1933 became the studio's youngest director. After undertaking some of BIP's biggest productions (including "Drake of England" and "Radio Parade of 1935," the first British sound film to include color sequences), Woods moved to Warner Brothers' studio at Teddington, where he directed a wide array of films, ranging from comedies and musicals to thrillers.
Woods' last films, including the celebrated "They Drive By Night," won widespread critical acclaim and a major international career seemed assured, particularly after MGM selected him to direct "Busman's Honeymoon." However, at the outbreak of World War II, Woods -- an experienced pilot who flew his own movie stunts -- volunteered for service in the Royal Air Force. He was killed in early 1944 while serving as a night fighter pilot with 85 Squadron.
To contact Leslie, write to missz (at) aol.com
Ian Bickerstaffe and family
A quick sign in to let you know of the Leyland, Lancashire branch of the Bickerstaffes, ex-St.Helens.
Ian, that's me, siblings are Anne, Paul and Nigel.
Married to Susan, nee Humble, seems I collect oddities of surnames!
Children - Rachael and Jack
More info soon
To contact Ian, write to ianbick (at) airtime.co.uk
Date: Fri, 31 Jul 1998
Bruce, I live at 24 Grosvenor Road , Maghull, Merseyside L31 5NN. which is approximately 4 miles from the Parishes of Ormskirk and Bickerstaffe in Lancashire. My grandmother was born Ellen Eliza Bickerstaff in Liverpool in 1877 and married my grandfather George Marsden at St Nicholas Church, Pier Head, Liverpool 8 July 1900. Her siblings were Mary born 1879, Georgina born 1881, William born 1882, Margaret born 1884, Frances Bickerstaff born 1886 and Jane born 1891. Their parents were George Pollard Bickerstaff and Margaret Ann Shallcross who married in Everton District, Liverpool in October 1876. George Pollard's siblings were William born 1851, Harriet born 1856, James born 1858, John born 1861, Mary born 1864 and Elizabeth born 1868. Their parents were William Bickerstaff born in Liverpool in 1830 and Mary (nee Adams) born Chester in 1825. They married in Liverpool in 1850.
William Bickerstaff's parents appear on the 1841 Census as William Bickersteth and Jane Bickersteth both born in Lancashire, William approximately 1786 and Jane 1791. George Pollard Bickerstaff, his brother William and their father William were all bricklayers.
It was great to come across your web page.
To contact Marie, write to borland (at) cableinet.co.uk
Sat Feb 6, 1999
I thought I'd send you some information about my branch of the Bickerstaffe family here in the North of England.
My name is Carol Purdham (nee Bickerstaffe) daughter of Arthur and the late June Bickertsaffe of Barrowford, Nelson in Lancashire. My father's parents were Arthur and Alice (both now deceased) and he has a sister called Dorothy and a brother called Vernon - all still living in East Lancashire.
I have a brother called Ian - still in Lancashire, and a sister called Jane (now Floyd) - living in South Wales.
There are two male cousins called Robert and John who again live in Lancashire, but have not been able to produce a male heir between them - neither has my brother (to date!) so this line of the family could be on it's way out!!
I am just beginning to put together a family history but don't be able to find the time to put a lot of effort into it at the moment. I am hoping to move back to Lancashire from Yorkshire later this year and that should give me more time to talk to the remaining elderly relatives. Once I have more geneaology(?) I'll pass it on to you.
Please withhold my Email address as I only have access to the net via work and I don't think they'd be too impressed here if I started getting loads of messages. I'm hoping to connect shortly at home and I'll let you know if I do.
Regards from a very windy England.
Tue Feb 9, 1999
It's a funny old world isn't it? Here I am, 5am, can't sleep 'cos my body's still on night duty from last week. So, I thought, I'll see if I can find anything useful for my new genealogy website.
I'm in the process of putting a genealogy website together about my wife's ARNOLD ancestors in the Ormskirk area. So, I typed a few local villages into the search engine and I stumbled across your site.
Browsing through, I found references to Cumnock, Ayrshire. Interesting I thought, my wife's paternal ancestors are from Cumnock. And, when I had a look in my database, I found that I have Bickerstaffs and Howatsons in my records from there.
When I'm not rambling incoherently, I'll put together what I have and send you another mail.
As noted, my main surname interests are ARNOLD in the Ormskirk area and McCrae in Ayrshire. If either of those names appear anywhere in your records I would be pleased to hear about them.
Finally, I am about to embark on a small project, photographing local churches, buildings etc. in Ormskirk and the surrounding area. If anyone would like to make any requests, I would be happy to assist those who cannot get to this area to do their own research. For those unfamiliar with the area I will initially plan to visit places within a 10 mile radius of Ormskirk, including. Any subjects/places will be considered. If you are not sure of the location, please ask. If it's out of my range I will say so. This is not a business offer. I am primarily doing it for myself combining two hobbies, and costs would be between minimal and nil!
Oh, yes. One more thing. I'm in Lathom and I can almost see the village of Bickerstaffe out of my window.
Ken.Lees (at) Tesco.net
Thu, 3 Jun 1999
I read the Bickerstaff page and thought I would introduce my self. I am Alasdair Bickerstaff, I am 18 and live in Shropshire, England. My dad, Ian.K.Bickerstaff is 50 and is a surgeon in Shropshire. He is married to Linda Bickerstaff (n้ Penman). My Grandfather lives in Ilkley, Yorkshire. My brother Craig Bickerstaff is 20 and is studdying automotive engineering at Loughbourgh Uni.
I have just finished school and am going to Birmingham University to study Geology.
Nice speaking to you.
Email: abicky (at) yahoo.com
Thu Aug 3, 2000
It was with some hefty astonishment that I stumbled upon your web site today. I had been attempting to start a little genealogical research for my parents as a surprise on their 52nd wedding anniversary, had no luck with the generic sites, and punched in "bickerstaffe family tree" into Yahoo! Had anyone suggested a "Bicks only" site I would have laughed at them.
Well, anyway, er... here's us.
Simon Bickerstaffe (always proud of the "e" - can't think why), born 22nd Feb 1958 to John and Rose Bickerstaffe (nee Staggall - not that that's relevant) and currently living in Surbiton, Surrey. Fourth of five kids, rest all girls so the name's gone for a Burton with them. Father came from Hull, Yorkshire, England (now lives in Milton Keynes, Bucks) and had three brothers, Edmund, Joseph and Anthony, and two sisters, Marie and Marguerita. His father was called Ernest Archibald Bickerstaffe would you believe, who lived and worked in Hull all his life as a Shipwright. My dad had a cousin called Wilfrid.
I don't know much about old Wilfrid, but of his immediate family only my dad had kids who shared the name. Edmund died in the war very young, Anthony and Joseph both became Catholic priests. So the name was dangerously close to disappearing down our line. However my wife Suzanne has done the decent thing and given birth to 2 sons, Maximilian (6) and Alexander (3), such that there are now 5 male Bicks still breathing: my dad (John), my uncle Tony, Max, Alex and me.
We have known about the town in Lancashire for ages but haven't managed to forge any obvious links. Browsing through the UK Bicks there was someone I'm sure that was living in Yorkshire so I'll bash him off a line and see if he knows any more. One last thing; one of my sisters, Josephine, now lives in Towcester, Northants, just one street away from Bickerstaffes Road.
Wed, 08 Nov 2000
Nice to see a few other souls out there with our (nearly the same ) name, never really heard of many others over here except for quite a high ranking MP over here.
I myself am 21 at university in sheffield studying biology, im affraid my knowledge of my family tree is pretty limited, just that i think my grandfather may have originated from the liverpool area.
Unfortunately me nore my family are ridiculusly wealthy allthough I have bought a lottery ticket for tonight and im feeling lucky.
yours sincerly Mark Bickerstaffe Sheffield England
Email: Mark.Bickerstaffe (at) student.shu.ac.uk
Peter John Bickerstaffe
I have been sitting at my computer while I try to digest my Christmas meals (too much as usual) and visited your pages with interest. I shall send you some details of my family tree if you are interested but cannot find any link with those in your pages. I was born in Bold, Lancashire where my parents and grand parents resided. My father informs me that our family came from the areas of Freckleton and Preston. It's a bit too late to go in to more detail but will be contacting you again in the near future. Good luck with the pages it has been very interesting.
Peter John Bickerstaffe
Date: Mon, 5 Jun 2000
It is a while since I last spoke to you. I hope you are well.
You have me listed as living in the USA, but I actually live in the UK. I originate from St. Helens in Lancashire but now live in Little Haywood, Stafford (www.thehaywoods.co.uk). If you have anyone wishing to research anything to do with Staffordshire I work as a volunteer with The Community Council for Staffordshire. I have developed a web site for them at www.staffs.org.uk this site is linked to 90 villages at present. My father has now been introduced to the internet may be I can get him to drop you a line. Well I can always hope.
Work email: peter (at) avdec.co.uk
Personal email: peter.b (at) virgin.net
Tue, 28 Nov 2000
My name is Gary BICKERSTAFFE and i am 16 years old. I have just been reading the bickerstaffe web site and just thought i'd let you know that my family (bickerstaffe family)live in stretford, manchester (ENGLAND).
My grandad was called NORMAN BICKERSTAFFE and Nanna was called HILDA BICKERSTAFFE,i think they had 2 kids, My dad DAVID BICKERSTAFFE and My Auntie- pat who i don't see anymore.
My Grandad was in both wars and i think his name used to be verne, (i'll find out). My Nanna was from scarborough and met my Grandad in the war. They have brothers and sisters but i never met them and don't know their names.
I would really like this to be put out on the web- site so if anyone has information for me, it would be more than great. I would really like you to reply to this message so i know you got it and if there is any information you might need in the future i would be more than happy to help.
IF ANYONE HAS INFORMATION FOR ME, E-mail me any time at gbickerstaffe2002 (at) yahoo.co.uk
See ya later
GARY ROBERT BICKERSTAFFE
Tue, 6 Feb 2001
Allow me to introduce myself, i am adrian james bickerstaff, aged 27 on the 27th of feb 2001 and i have a daughter aged 8. i am currently sitting at my pc in glasgow, scotland. i am originally from glencoe in the highlands and islands of scotland. after reading your page it is quite difficult for me to rationalise how we ever managed to get this far up north. being a proud scot i also find it difficult to digest that my family name is english-fair enough i have known this for some time. i found your story of 'bickerstaff' very interesting and obviously well researched. i would be obliged if you would e-mail me explaining the title of your page 'name of the millenium' i apologise if i have this wrong. anyway it was interesting finding you and hopefully i will hear from you soon. yours adrian bickerstaff.
ps. could you please ensure that my address does not become advertised as junk e-mail is not enjoyable. i also can provide you with a list of other bickerstaff's in scotland after asking their approval. your life has been enlightened by god himself
Email: a.j.bickerstaff (at) genie.co.uk
To go back to the WW Bickerstaff web site entry page
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Last updated December 2012