Over the last nine months we have continued to gain more information about the Wyng family. We first came across Margaret Wyng when we found an article in the Hull Daily Mail which reported on her wedding to ‘African Chief’ Ben Simmons. Further research revealed even more about Margaret and her family as well as their fascinating history in Hull. Thus, in March we released an extended story by guest writer Audrey Dewjee about the Wyngs. We believed this was as far as we could go with their story, however last month, Stuart Bell contacted us after stumbling across our website while researching his family history. He informed us that his father, Barrie was the son of Venus Ivy Wyng and thus he was her grandson. Subsequently, we have conducted an oral history with Barrie, who has shared additional information about his mother and her branch of the Wyng family.
Venus Ivy Wyng was the second daughter of African American James Emmanuel Wyng and Margaret Elizabeth Catchpole.
Venus was born on 29 September 1900 in Hull and baptised on 13 November the same year at the Seaman’s and Fisherman’s bethel on Hessle Road.
When Venus was born her parents lived at 44 Harrow Street, West Hull but when she was around four years old, the Wyng family moved to the Fylde district in Lancashire - most probably so James, her father could find work. However, tragedy struck in 1905 when James died, leaving Margaret with four young children to raise.
Shortly after James’ death, Margaret moved back to Hull with her children. In 1909 she married John Henry Dale and the couple had a child together. Sadly, John died a couple of months after the birth of his son, Arnold. This was most probably a devastating period for Margaret with the absence of a husband, father figure for her five children and a bread winner. However, the following year she suffered another devastating blow when her son Arnold died before his first birthday.
By 1911 Margaret and her children were living with her third husband Sidney J. Bell at 19 Tyne Street, Sculcoates. The census shows that ten-year-old Venus was residing at this address with her stepfather, a fisherman from Grimsby, her mother Margaret, eight-year-old brother William, six-year-old brother Mark and Gertrude Dyke who was described as a general domestic servant from Suffolk. At this time, Venus’ sister Margaret was living with her Aunt Lily Boulton’s family at 10 Rugby Street, Sculcoates.
In their late teens, Venus and her sister Margaret were dance teachers. In 1919, they performed with their pupils at the peace celebrations marking the end of World War One in Gipsyville, Hull. The sisters also performed at the Hessle Road Bethel in February 1920. Venus’ dancing and teaching abilities were well respected, and she became the principle of Hessle Common Juvenile School of Dancing the same year. Venus and Margaret continued to perform together throughout the 1920s.
In December 1920, Venus married her stepfather's nephew, Sidney S. Bell in Hull. The couple had three children together, James Noland Bell on 23 December 1923, Juanita (Nita) Jacqueline Sylvanie Bell on 2 April 1930 and Barrie on 17 December 1939.
By the time Barrie was born, Venus had left her position of principle at Hessle Common Juvenile School of Dancing. It is believed that in the 1920s, she sustained a very bad injury (possibly ligament damage) which prevented her from dancing again. This must have been a terrible loss for Venus who had enjoyed performing for many years. Barrie remembers that the injury affected her walking in later life. Despite her entertainment background Barrie cannot remember his mother singing or dancing around the house. However, he has seen some of the posters for the shows she featured in when she was young.
In 1943 Sidney, Venus and their children moved from Hull to Birmingham. It remains unknown as to why the family relocated, perhaps it was due to better prospects of work in preparation for the end of the war or, so Venus could be closer to stepsister Lily who had already moved to Birmingham.
During World War Two, Venus’ husband and son were called up to contribute to the war effort. Sidney worked in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a Lieutenant Commander, and James who had been employed by Ideal Stelrad joined the Fleet Air Arm. Thankfully, James survived the conflict and after he was demobilised he moved to Birmingham for work and to be with his family. He met his future wife Patricia during the war while she worked as part of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WREN).
Sadly, Sidney died in service in 1945 leaving Venus with three children. His obituary in the Hull Daily Mail read ‘Bell- At Birmingham, Nov. 4th Sidney Samuel, aged 43, dearly beloved husband of Venus (nee Wyng) and loving father of Noland, Nita and Barry [sic]. In ever loving memory of a dear nephew and son in law. – Mr and Mrs S. J. Bell. Peace after much suffering. Loving thoughts Sid, Majorie, Sunny, Harry, Russell, Eileen, and families.’  Despite her husband’s untimely death, Barrie recalls that his mother looked after the him, James and Nita very well.
Although she remained in Birmingham, Barrie remembers his mother taking him to visit, his father’s family in Newcastle and back to Hull to spend time with her sister Margaret. After Ben Simmons, Margaret went on to marry James T. Newman in Liverpool.
It is believed that he died at sea during active service. Thus, Margaret left Liverpool, spent a short time in Manchester but eventually settled back in Hull. By the time Venus and Barrie visited her in Hull, it is likely that their brother Billy and his wife, Gertrude Nita Graham had moved Sheffield where they performed for many years as a double act. Venus’ other brother Mark (Jimmy) was likely still in Hull. He had married Ivy Whitfield had five children. Sadly, one of Jimmy’s sons, James William Wyng died in a fishing accident at sea.
Eventually, Barrie’s brother James, his wife Patricia and their two daughters moved from Birmingham to Cheltenham with Smith's Industries where two more daughters completed their family. James as an engineer with Smith's went on to make instruments specifically for the Concorde aircraft. He died in 1995 in Cheltenham.
Nita met her future husband Gordon while they both worked for the same company and married on 19th December 1953. They had two daughters. Nita inherited the Wyng entertainment gene. Singing in three choirs, also solo at wedding ceremonies in her local church. She passed away on 9th June 2017.
Barrie married Valerie on 1 June 1963 in Birmingham. They had two sons together, Matthew and Stuart. Matthew enjoyed dancing and Stuart is employed as an ice skating coach. Thus, both of Barrie’s sons appear to have inherited the Wyng entertainment genes. Recently, Barrie has had his DNA analysed and has found that his genetic makeup comes mainly from people of Scandinavian and West African descent. However, he also has a small amount of Native American DNA which he believes comes from James Emanuel Wyng.
- Hull Daily Mail, 6 November 1945, p. 2.
Exhibition now on!
The Our Histories Revealed exhibition at East Riding Treasure House, Beverley is now on. The exhibition runs from Saturday 5 May until Saturday 30 June and is completely free.