My first traceable ancestor would seem to be Marmaduke Hodgson, who baptised children at Thirsk from 1566 to 1585. Being so very distant, we know nothing about him for sure, except that he had at least seven sons and two daughters, one of whom, Mary, married Richard Spence and thus became part of the Spence/Sanders/ /Pattison/Megson dynasty. There is some reason for believing, however, that we may be able to go back a further generation, if the James Hogeson(sic) of Thirsk who made a will (which I believe is difficult to decipher) in 1572, months before his death, naming "my son Marmaduke Hodgson", was our ancestor. Marmaduke was not, Mark informs me, an unusual name in Yorkshire at that time for all classes, perhaps particularly in the Thirsk area, but on the other hand he couldn't find another Marmaduke Hodgson born in the 1570s in the parish registers. If this James Hogeson is "one of ours" he was married to a Janet (or Jennet), is likely on internal evidence to have been born around 1510, and would have been Mary Hodgson's grandfather. (Mary did call a son Marmaduke, and if she was not in fact James's grand-daughter through her father being Marmaduke, she could from internal evidence have been his grand-daughter through her father being his son Thomas!).
Evidence for the Hodgsons cannot be considered indisputable, because it is so very early. However, 1510 is certainly a very satisfactory date to have on one's tree!
In the parish of Thirsk, on 1st October 1615, Mary Hodgson married Richard Spence I. The couple had five children, of whom only two survived. Richard died ten years after his marriage, being buried at Thirsk on 12th April 1625. This is really all we know for sure about these distant ancestors.
Their fourth child, John, who had been baptised on 19th May 1620, married at Thirsk on 23rd November 1647 a local girl Jane Belwood, the daughter of John Belwood and Dorothie Richmond, who had also been baptised in 1620. It seems likely, though of course is not certain as we don't have their dates of birth, that both were twenty-seven when they married, (but see below!).
It will be rarely that national figures are mentioned in these pages, but one wonders if John and Jane were aware, six months before their marriage, that Charles I, still at that time king, dined at Topcliffe, near to Thirsk, on his way North for his ill-fated attempt to recruit the Scots to his cause.(1) The manor of Topcliffe belonged to the Percys at the time. In Thirsk's old Toll Booth an old oak table was subsequently preserved "on which tradition (probably incorrectly) asserts that the `ransom' of Charles I was paid to the Scots." (2) This was the £200,00 paid by Parliament for the release of the King into their hands, prior to his being taken back to London to face trial. Communications being what they were at that time, perhaps the young couple knew nothing of these momentous events.
John and Jane had two sons and a daughter, and as these sons were both labourers, perhaps their father was also. Agricultural labourers, or ag.labs. as they are known in the trade, are in the majority in many people's family histories prior to the nineteenth century. John's life cannot have been easy, but he did not die till 1689, at the age of at least sixty-nine, which at that time was a really good age. Not only the Spences, but their wives too seem to have been long-lived - maybe it was something in the Thirsk air. Jane survived her husband and fell upon very hard times. In 1694, five years after her husband's death, she was petitioning the overseers of the Thirsk poor as follows:
These are to certifie that I am (?a powe) lame decepted woman of fower score and eight yeares of age, And not able for to take any paines at for to earne one penney, I have threepence a weeke alowed me that is all that I have for to live by on, therefore my humble request is to you that you will be pleased to grant me so Much Money as will pay my house rent otherwayes I Must lye out of dowers And (? stave), therefore good srs consider my distressed condition And I shall ever pray for yor health And happiness.
She may have been exaggerating a little - it seems unlikely that she was eighty-eight, but in such dire straits who can blame her; she may not have known her true age anyway. The overseers were ordered to pay her sixpence per week and, in whatever sorry state, she survived for a further four years, dying at seventy-eight - or ninety-two?
Her eldest son, who had been baptised Richard after his grandfather on 3rd October 1652, was probably thirty-four when he married Mary Wilson on 14th April 1686. They had no children - perhaps Mary was not very robust, for she died in February 1692. Within six months to the day of her funeral Richard II married Ellen Milner, on 11th August 1692. He was already turned forty, perhaps he particularly wished for children. His wish was granted, for Ellen had three daughters and two sons, and Richard II lived to see three of his grandchildren before dying in 1730, most probably at seventy-seven.
His elder son, yet another Richard, who had been baptised on 1st May 1695, managed to evade the labouring trade by becoming a comber. His wife Frances bore him six sons and a daughter. My ancestor was the middle son Thomas, baptised 16th February 1734, who married almost exactly twenty-five years later Elizabeth Mennol or Meynell from Dalton. They were not married at Thirsk, as their forebears had been, but ventured as far as Topcliffe. Thomas was a shoemaker. Elizabeth may have been a few years older than her husband, but outlived him, having borne him four sons, one of whom died in infancy. She died in 1802 at about seventy-three.
Their eldest son William I, who had been baptised on 1st June 1764, followed in his father's footsteps by becoming a shoemaker. He was married in something of a hurry on Christmas Day 1789, his wife Elizabeth Pickman being already pregnant. William II was born on 27th March 1790, though they didn't rush to have a public baptism; that didn't take place till 6th June. Elizabeth later gave birth to two daughters. It would seem they may have modestly prospered, for William was describing himself as a farmer at the time of the 1841 census, when the old couple were living in Piper Lane; he was then seventy-five. Elizabeth died two years later, at about seventy-seven. However, William I was still living in Piper Lane ten years later when the 1851 census was taken, by which time he was being described as a former cordwainer (i.e. shoemaker). So perhaps the farming was only a minor interlude towards the end of his life, and it seems likely that it was in association with his son. The old man died at eighty-eight, having lived to see at least eight of his great-grandchildren. There is a William Spence listed in Baines's Directory of Yorkshire, 1823, and as William II was already describing himself as a farmer in 1819 it seems likely that this may have been William I, even though he was listed under "Shopkeepers" and not "Shoemakers".
William II, as mentioned above, became a farmer. The first evidence we have of this is in 1819. Now perhaps he'd graduated from the family shoemaking trade by his own efforts, or perhaps it is significant that on 17th November 1818 he married Ellen Parvin, who was thirty-nine or forty, at least eleven years his senior. Could it be that she belonged to a farming family, bringing contacts or a little bit of money into the Spence family? She was still of child-bearing age and the following year had a daughter, baptised 7th November 1819, and named Ellen after her mother, (a favourite name through generations of Pattisons and Spences, and one which has come down to me), and later a son. Interestingly, the baby baptised on 26th April 1780 at Knayton whom we are taking to be our Ellen, the daughter of Thomas and Hannah Parvin, is recorded as Eleanor. Perhaps she preferred Ellen, or perhaps - as records are not always exact, and clerks were fallible - he misheard or misrecorded the name. The Spences were penny-plain in their names, making ample use of Richard, Thomas, William and John, Mary, Jane and Elizabeth. In the 1841 census the family was living in Long Street, aptly named, as it is a wide and straggling street, though prior to 1679 it was called Micklegate. William II is described as a farmer and Ellen is prepared to admit to being five years older than her husband, though it seems likely it should have been eleven. Thomas their son was, at fifteen, still at home, though daughter Ellen was already married and had left home - though she had gone no further than another part of Long Street. The family also included a ten year old "manservant". They were still resident in Long Street in the 1851 census, Ellen was prepared to admit to seven years seniority and son Thomas was still unmarried at twenty-four and living at home. William II was described as farming thirty-six acres. At home in Long Street on the day of the 1861 census were William II, seventy-one and still a farmer, Ellen now admitting to being eleven years his senior (by the time you get to eighty-two perhaps you start adding rather than subtracting?), Thomas was still unmarried at thirty-eight and living at home - his description, in this and the 1861 census was, interestingly, not farmer nor farm labourer but farmer's son - a rather nice distinction for a census-taker to make. Also living with them, at least on that particular night, was their fifteen year old grandson Michael Sanders. His parents, elsewhere in the street, had a very full house (see below). William II died in 1864; we don't know when Ellen died.
However, my line continues through the female line of, William II and Ellen's daughter, another Ellen, baptised in 1819. She married into the SANDERS, so that is the next line to investigate.
(1) Slingsby, Memoirs , ed. 1806
(2) Victoria Counties of England, Yorkshire, North Riding, vol.2, 1923
The Sanders (or Saunders as it is sometimes spelt in earlier records) came from the Guisborough area, and we must go back some years for the first one we know about, Michael Sanders I, a farmer who died in 1769. He had five children; my ancestor, Samuel Sanders I, the third son, was also described as farmer, or on occasion as husbandman. He married Elizabeth Hull in 1770 and they also had five children, my ancestor Samuel II being the third child, baptised 21st November 1777.
We know a little more about this Samuel than others of the line. He married Mary Hudson at Loftus on 12th April 1802, when he was twenty-five and she was probably nineteen. Mary's parents were John Hudson and Mary Cuthbert(1751-1789), who had been married on 22nd October 1780. Mary Cuthbert was the daughter of Robert Cuthbert and Mary Stonehouse (died 1754) who were married on 13th November 1744. We may assume that Samuel Sanders II was a farmer like his father, certainly in 1814 he was described as a farmer of Moorsholm, near Loftus, Cleveland, parish of Skelton. However, four years later, in 1818, when he was living at Handall, he was described as "labourer" and so he was in 1820 when he was living at Lofthouse. Was this decline due to the normal vagaries and uncertainties of life on the land? Was there some financial or personal disaster? Whatever the cause, Samuel II and Mary must have found life hard, as by 1820 Mary at thirty-seven had just borne her eighth child. However, things were about to take a turn for the better, for in 1821 or soon after the family moved to Thirsk, where Samuel II was to become gamekeeper to J. Bell, Esq. of Thirsk Hall.
The Bell family had acquired the manor of Thirsk in 1723, and owned large parts of Thirsk, Carlton Minniott and Sand Hutton. The ownership remained in the Bell family into the present century, by dint of some changes of name by successive heirs, nephews and the like, (oddly enough, one heiress was a Mrs. Jane Sanders, but not one of ours, I fear!).
The children's ages would have ranged from one to twenty years old in 1821, when Samuel II took up his new gamekeeping job, so at least the younger ones must have moved to Thirsk with their mother and father, where one hopes that they were able to enjoy some happy family times over the next fourteen years.
Though a gamekeeper's life may have included some privileges, it was not without its dangers. Yorkshire papers last century report scuffles and struggles that sometimes resulted in fatalities. Poaching was widespread, not surprisingly in view of rural poverty, and gamekeepers could find themselves involved in sinister encounters with guns or knives in the dark. However, in later years more typical cases reported seemed to be "trespassing with a lurcher dog in pursuit of game" for which the fine was £2 plus costs "or in default one month", and "setting three snares", fined 5s and costs. Though even gathering blackberries could result in coming up before the magistrate, as was reported in a Yorkshire paper when three women were each fined 5s.2d. for damaging some young fir trees belonging to a local landowner, while brambling.
Mary, having known the ups and downs of her husband's fortunes, died in 1835 and Samuel II in 1840. Their gravestone, which is near the footpath on the North of Norbi church, near Thirsk, is inscribed:
In memory of Mary Sanders who died March 11, 1835, aged 52 years. Also Samuel Sanders, husband of the above and who for 17 years was gamekeeper to J. Bell, Esq., and who died on January 10, 1840, aged 63 years.
Michael Sanders II was the sixth child of Mary and Samuel II, born at Moorsholm and baptised 19th February 1814 at Skelton parish church. Michael, a cartwright, and his bride were much the same ages as his parents had been at their wedding, for he was twenty-three or twenty-four when on 20th December 1838 he married Ellen Spence, who was nineteen, at Thirsk parish church. The witnesses were Mary Hudson, possibly a cousin or aunt of Michael, and Henry Atkinson. The young couple settled down in Long Street, near to Ellen's parents; they were to remain there throughout their married life. In the 1841 census they have a fifteen year old apprentice living with them. In the 1851 census, in their thirties, they have seven young children. By the 1861 census, when Ellen and Michael II are in their forties, their eldest son has left home and another of their sons is staying with his grandparents, but as there have meanwhile been three newcomers, there are now eight children at home. Two of the boys are following in father's footsteps and one is a saddler and harness maker. Maria Spence Sanders, who became my ancestor, is the eldest daughter and has been given her mother's maiden name as her middle one. At thirteen she is described as a servant, though apparently still at home. By 1871 she had left home, as had most of the older children; we know that she left to get married. However, with another addition there are still four children at home. In case you've lost count, Michael II and Ellen had eleven children altogether (and of course in these cases we never know how many miscarriages there may have been as well, nor can we be absolutely sure that we have traced all the births). It has only been possible to trace the baptism of the eldest child, as none of the others are in the parish records, which leads one to suppose that the Sanders were most likely nonconformists. There was no dearth of chapels in Thirsk; the Methodists had rebuilt their chapel on St. James's Green in 1816, the Independents had built one in 1802 and no doubt there were others as the century progressed. By 1881, when Michael II, now described as a "weelwright", is sixty-seven and Ellen sixty-one, they are still living in Long Street and still have an unmarried son of nineteen, who is also a weelwright, and an unmarried daughter of twenty-five living with them. We don't know when either Michael or Ellen died, but one wonders whether they ever had any time over more than forty years of marriage when they were alone together!
Maria Spence Sanders was born on 11th July 1847, the eldest daughter of Michael II and Ellen, though she had five older brothers. Though she is listed as a servant at thirteen in the 1861 census, I sometimes wonder if this was a mistake. She was still living at home, so wasn't out to service, none of her sisters were listed as servants at similar ages and beyond, and on her marriage certificate she isn't given a description apart from "spinster". She married William Pattison, a member of a well-known local family, at Thirsk parish church, by licence, on 5th Nov 1865, when she was nineteen and he was (possibly) twenty-one. The witnesses were John Sanders (John was a well-used Sanders name - this one could have been her elder brother, her cousin or her uncle, all Johns) and Robert Easby. Which brings us to the PATTISONS.
(all baptisms, marriages and burials are at Thirk, unless stated otherwise)
The Pattisons were a large and philoprogenitive Thirsk clan, centred for many years around St. James' Green. In no nineteenth-century censuses that we have available are there less than three carpentering or coach-building Pattison households on the Green. Many of them, women as well as men in later years, appear under their trade heading in nineteenth-century directories of Thirsk. Their favourite names included William, James and Francis, Hannah, Mary and Ellen.
Though St. James' Green now has quite a busy road going through it, with a little imagination one can still catch the flavour of what it once was. The houses - I suppose there could be seventy to a hundred - are of many divergent styles, basic red-brick cottages, small early-Victorian bay-windowed villas, quite extensive flat-fronted cottages incorporating large side "barn-doors" which would once have lead to yards or workshops, and two elegant substantial 18th or early 19th century houses. There is an old inn, The Lord Nelson, and a nonconformist chapel. The Lord Nelson is listed as being on the Green in Baines's 1823 Yorkshire directory, along with four other inns. The houses still circle the remains of a green; turning inwards, they give a feeling of a small self-contained community. Adjoining, to one side, is the much smaller green which I presume is Little Green; one side of this has been demolished.
St. James' Green has quite a history. There may have been a chapel of St. James there from before 1145 to the Dissolution. Traditionally the 4th Earl of Northumberland was murdered in 1489 beside an ancient oak on the Green, apparently by an irate populace incensed at his having enforced a particularly resented tax. It is thought that the Green was probably an old market, and it was still used as a cattle market in 1859.
My first known ancestor in this line is James Pattison I, who was born in 1759 or 1760. Did his mother take him as a toddler to hear John Wesley preaching in Thirsk market place? There was a new chapel which had just been built on the Green itself, but apparently the great preacher thought little of it, so they would have had to walk over to the market place to hear him. On Christmas Eve 1789 James I married, at Doncaster Parish Church, Hannah Sco(l)field. From 1791 through to 1804 he was variously described as wright, carpenter and cartwright. They had two daughters and three sons. James died at seventy-two or seventy-three.
His middle son Francis was born on New Year's Day 1795, and was baptised on 7th April. He followed in his father's footsteps as a carpenter and on 15th March 1817 married Elizabeth Young, who was three years his junior. If the young couple set up their first home on St. James's Green, they may have had a ringside seat when Bonfire Night got out of hand in 1818 and the famous old elm tree that had seen the 15th century nobleman murdered was burnt down. This made quite a local stir, and the local landowners the Bell family commemorated the event by preserving the old elmwood in two armchairs. Certainly by 1841 Francis and Elizabeth were living on St. James' Green with five children. Their youngest daughter had not then been born, and the eldest son James II, my ancestor, had already married and left home.
The census for St. James' Green for 1851 is remarkable. There they all are, Pattison cousins, brothers, uncles and aunts, twenty-three of them altogether, in four households, from sixty years to eight months old, including three Jameses, three Francises and three Anns. My Francis and Elizabeth are still there, into middle-age now with a single son following in his father's footsteps and two daughters still at school. Next door he has a married son, David, who's a painter. Francis's elder brother nearby (another James) is a carpenter too, but his family don't seem to be following the family tradition, for he has a son who's a tailor and a daughter who's a dressmaker living at home, while living nearby is his eldest married son (another Francis), who's a post-office messenger. Also on the Green is my ancestor James II, the eldest son of Francis and Elizabeth, of whom more below.
Ten years later, in 1861, Francis and Elizabeth are still on the Green and one of the two unmarried daughters living with them is a dressmaker. Francis died in 1869, and his widow Elizabeth remained on the Green. Two years later, in the 1871 census, we find her described as "annuitant", so let's hope she had a reasonably comfortable old age. Her daughters are no longer with her - perhaps they'd married, like their brothers, or perhaps they were just away from home at the time of the census. However, Elizabeth's seventeen year old granddaughter Ellen Pattison was there with her. She had two granddaughters of this name, but James II's daughter was already twenty-two and was anyway listed in her father's house, so it must have been the other Ellen, her cousin. Elizabeth died in 1876 (buried 19th July), aged seventy-eight. I believe there may be a gravestone in Thirsk churchyard.
James II had been baptised on 28th August 1818 and on 14th January 1839 had married Jane Naylor, the daughter of a Bagby farmer. James II had three children by this first wife, who died in June 1847 aged twenty-seven, when my ancestor William Naylor Pattison was probably not yet a year old. James II lost no time in finding a new wife to help look after his young family, and by the time of the 1851 census they already had two more children. Dinah, this second wife, was one of twins baptised at Old Byland on 19th July 1818, daughters of Ann and John Barker, farmer of Weathercote. Dinah's twin Ursula seems to have married James II's cousin Francis, the post-office messenger, so there she is in the bosom of the family on St. James' Green too. The 1851 census shows James II at thirty-two apparently doing rather well. He's a coach builder employing four men and three apprentices, one of whom lives in, and Dinah has a young woman house-servant to help with her children and step-children, three of whom were at school and two of whom were still infants. There are today still a few houses, with space for a joiner's yard, on St. James' Green, which one could imagine as the home of what one hopes was this happy family. Perhaps times were prosperous in Thirsk. Certainly in the Yorkshire Gazette for August 29th 1857 there were reports that harvests were good, and that in the Thirsk neighbourhood "crops were seldom known to be better than this year....the wheat is being rapidly got in, and the condition is excellent." Dinah and Ursula were from a farming family, who presumably were doing well, and good harvests and agricultural prosperity would mean more work for joiners, cartwrights, coach builders and painters.
By the 1861 census the family address is given as Little Green. Perhaps they'd moved a little way to bigger premises for the business, but they would still be well within the Pattison family orbit. Altogether there are eight children at home, little Walter being only three months old. My ancestor William and his elder brother, in their teens, are listed as coach makers, and the rest are schoolchildren or infants. The eldest daughter is absent, perhaps having got married or being away in service. There is a young woman servant of nineteen.
Ten years later the address is given as Little St. James' Green, which I think will be the same address, and the business is employing five men and two boys. Dinah, with four unmarried daughters - Ellen, Elizabeth, Henrietta (Hetty) and Harriet (Hatty) - at home, no longer has, or probably needs, a living-in servant. As "occupations" aren't noted in this entry, we don't know whether any of the daughters had trades other than helping at home. The two boys left at home are probably still at school. So James II and his Dinah live on for another ten years to 1881, both now sixty-three, living on Little Green. James II is described as a master coachbuilder employing six men. There are still three unmarried children at home, Hatty (now twenty-seven) and the two youngest boys, one being a coachbuilder but the other described as a "coal agent".
Now let us turn to James II's second son by his first wife Jane Naylor. This is William Naylor Pattison, my ancestor. He was baptised on 27th December 1846, though at his marriage he claimed to be twenty-one, which would have given him 1844 as a likely birth date. Perhaps his baptism was long delayed. Or perhaps he was in reality only nineteen when he married - his age given in the 1881 census would seem to support this. Many people don't tell their true age on their marriage certificate. Had he been a minor he'd have needed parental permission - perhaps he didn't have it. He was married by licence, so there were no public banns, and neither of the fathers acted as witnesses, though this was not uncommon. Telling against any family rift would seem to be the fact that the young couple remained well in the family fold, within a few years being settled - where else? - in their own place on Little St. James' Green. Perhaps the families, if they had been in conflict, had been reconciled. William's nineteen year old bride was Maria Spence Sanders (see THE SANDERS above), and the young couple were married on Bonfire Night, 1865.
At his wedding William was described as a coach builder and as a coach painter when the 1871 census was taken five years later. By then the young couple had their own home on Little St. James' Green with their one year old daughter, who had been christened Ellen Sanders. By the 1881 census the growing family had moved to Millgate, in the centre of Thirsk, and the couple, now both admitting to thirty-four, had six children, the youngest just four months old. There was to be one more daughter. In this census entry William's occupation is described in the rather bizarre terms "painter and pork butcher". Perhaps this explains the move to Millgate, perhaps he had a small shop there? I'm sure he wouldn't get into the same sort of trouble as a local miller from nearby Balk, who was brought up at Thirsk Petty Sessions, according to "The Evening Press" in October 1882, and fined ten shillings for adding a piece of loose lead to one side of his scales! How long William's butchery business lasted we don't know. His granddaughter certainly remembered him as a coach painter.
William Pattison is a member of the first generation of whom we have eye-witness descriptions, for my mother, his granddaughter Lily Megson, remembered him well. She spoke of the pride in the coach-building tradition within the Pattison family, and used to say that William was noted for the accuracy of his free-hand lines painted on wagons and coaches. She said that he was not only a craftsman, but that he also "painted pictures, and took in pupils". He was tall and thin and, by the early twenties when my father remembered him, was a patriarch with a white beard. I think he may have married for a second time lateish in life, this second wife being a confectioner, but I have no record of where this idea came from. It would seem he probably lived into his eighties.
Others of this generation that my mother remembered were her great-aunts Hetty and Hatty, two of her grandfather William's step-sisters, whom I am fairly sure remained unmarried. As a little girl she was obviously fond of them and used to visit them (possibly still in the family house on Little Green) and was allowed to try on what she considered their enviable finery - a feather boa was particularly mentioned, and hats skewered with massive lethal hat-pins This would be about 1910, when she would be nine and they in their lateish fifties. One of the female Pattisons is said to have had her name engraved upon a Thirsk church bell, in honour of 50 years service as a Sunday school teacher; I rather think it was Hatty or Hetty.
However, it is through one of William and Maria's daughters, in fact their eldest child, Ellen Sanders Pattison, who married into the Megsons, that my line continues.
(N.B. In research done by Mark into census returns and parish registers it was found that Megson dates of birth and ages, as well as places of birth, were often completely contradictory. So none of those quoted can be taken as definitive.)
The Megsons were a family of farm labourers living in a cluster of villages some few miles outside Scarborough, later moving further inland and becoming a railway family. (Curiously, at each generation they tended to move a few miles further along the Scarborough-Thirsk road, till George Ward Megson took a twenty-five-mile leap and settled in Thirsk.)
The first member of this family we know of is John Megson I, the son of Robert and Mary Megson, who was born 16th May 1794 and baptised at Seamer on 2nd July 1794. At his marriage at Wykeham on 25th November 1818 his parish was given as the neighbouring one of Ruston. His bride was Elizabeth Hanson, who came from Brompton. The witnesses were Peter Watson and William Coultas.
Though we know little of the Megsons' lives, we can be sure that life in the country was subject, then as now, to the vagaries of the weather, and some houses offered little security. In 1857 The Yorkshire Gazette reported a great storm in the Scarborough area when bridges were washed away, "the mill at Newby was washed down, and the family escaped to the village... At Scalby, Mrs. Carlisle escaped with her children not a minute before the house fell. Mrs. Carlisle also had her house and furniture washed away... Mr. S. Stonehouse had the contents of his garden, pigstye and pig washed away; the pig was, however, recovered."
John I and Elizabeth had three children, John II (baptised November 1828), Isabella and Thomas. At the 1841 census John I's age was given as forty and John II's as twelve. At the 1851 census the family was living in Wykeham; John, a farm labourer, was now owning to fifty-six and Elizabeth fifty, while John II, at twenty, was unmarried and a farm servant and Isabella was fourteen. Ten years later, at the 1861 census, John II, a farm labourer, was still unmarried, though claiming to have only aged five years and to be twenty-five. Ten years later again, by 1871, John II was prepared to admit to thirty-seven, when it seems likely he was forty-two.
Looking at these discrepancies, one must always keep open the faint possibility that there were two John Megsons of around the same age in the same area, or two brothers of the same name. However, searches of relevant parishes and circumstantial census evidence seem to make this unlikely. One must remember that official birth registration only became obligatory in 1837 and before that time, unless records were kept in a family bible, people had no written record of their date of birth, and possibly no particular interest in it.
On 24th March 1866 John II married Hannah Ward of Hutton Buschell (the spelling of the place has varied over the years) at Scarborough Registry Office, both giving their ages as thirty-three, she a spinster dressmaker, giving her father as George Ward, cooper, and he a bachelor agricultural labourer. The witnesses were Mary Megson and William Haynes. By 1871 they were living in Brompton, Hannah at thirty-seven having a three year old daughter Elizabeth Harrison Megson and a one year old son George Ward Megson, both of whom had been born at Brompton. Also with them was Tom Mason Ward, at seven years old described as "son, born at Hutton Buschell". Now, even with Megson arithmetic the most likely thing seemed to be that this Tom was the son of John II and Hannah, born out of wedlock. However, family tradition is somewhat against this, as my mother was under the impression that Tom Mason Ward was a step-brother of her father George Ward Megson, and it would have seemed more than likely that if John II had been Tom's father, he would not only have taken him into the family but would have changed his name (not necessarily officially), to Megson. From Mark's extensive searches of local records it seems more likely that this was Hannah's son from a former encounter.
Hannah Ward's story, though hypothetical and not proved fact, is nevertheless interesting. Hannah was baptised on 27th July 1834 as "Anna, illegitimate daughter of Mary Ward, widow, of Hutton Buschell." (She was known as Hannah throughout her life, and it seems likely that the parson or clerk got the name wrong. Corrobarative evidence seems to make it clear that this Anna is our Hannah.) In 1841 this 6 year old Hannah is living at Hutton Buschell with her mother Mary, thirty-seven, (described as a widow, though this is then crossed out! The census-taker may have been confused - perhaps Mary was too.). There are three older siblings of Hannah. Mary was in fact a widow, having been married to Francis (Frank) Ward, by whom she had three children. However, after his death she had had two illegitimate children, of whom Hannah was one. Frank's father, and hence Hannah's sort-of grandfather, was George Ward, a cooper of East Ayton, who was still alive at the 1841 census, living with his wife Ann. By 1851 our Hannah is, at seventeen, a house servant in the household of John Fisher of Brompton. By 1861 she has become a dressmaker and is living at East Ayton, with Ann Ward, an eighty-three year old widow and charwoman, who is described as her grandmother. It seems practically certain that this is George Ward the cooper's widow, who though not Hannah's grandmother by blood, may well have been so in effect, as it would seem that Mary's illegitimate children were absorbed into the family. At the age of thirty or thirty-one Hannah herself has an illegitimate child, who is christened on 13th May 1864 at St. Matthew's, Hutton Buschell, as Tom Mason Ward. Now it was not unusual for an illegitimate child, not acknowledged by the father, to be given the father's surname as a middle name. It presumably gave the mother some satisfaction to name him semi-publically within a village community and it may also have been a "marker" in hopes of some form of later negotiation, whether marital or monetary. The only Mason within the sixty-one and seventy-one censuses for the Hutton Buschell district who seems remotely likely is Thomas Mason, an unmarried blacksmith working for John Myers, the blacksmith at Brompton. When Tom Mason Ward was born this Thomas Mason would have been about twenty-five. He disappears from our story. Hannah presumably cared for her son and brought him up on her dressmaking money for two years before she married John Megson II.
Now, can faithful readers cast their minds back to that marriage? From the evidence of nineteenth-century memoirs it seems to have been not too unusual for people getting married, especially working-class people, to have grasped in a sort of panic at any name as that of their father, if they weren't entirely sure of their family history. Official registration had not been in force for very long, and there seems to have been a fear of being thought not respectable, or even not "eligible", if one couldn't produce a father's name. The stigma of being a bastard was, of course, very real, though attitudes varied at different periods from area to area and from class to class. Though it might be smoothed over in the community by the odd white lie, it was not however something to be put down in writing on an official document. It would seem that Hannah Ward, faced with the need to produce a father, volunteered the name of her "grandfather" - in fact the father of her mother's husband. With such tripwires is searching for one's ancestors set. (Another oddity is the fact that though born in Hutton Buschell, in later censuses Hannah gave nearby Scalby as her birthplace, though there was in fact no Hannah or Anna Ward born in Scalby at an appropriate time!).
I have the feeling that Hannah may have been a strong woman in every sense of the word. Perhaps by her early thirties she felt that life was passing her by, and took a chance on Thomas Mason, the young blacksmith. Left "holding the baby" she cared for little Tom (though presumably family disapproval was hardly a problem, in view of her mother's history). She took the baby with her into a lateish marriage, and bore three more children. When her husband John II died she married again, someone called Fairburn, and either had some more (very late) daughters or took on some step-daughters. In old age, around the first decade of the twentieth century, widowed again, she used to live with each of her sons in turn, sometimes with the railwayman George Ward Megson, his wife Ellen and their young family at Railway Cottages, Thirsk, (where it must have been a tight squeeze), and sometimes with Tom Mason Ward, his wife and daughter Laura at Craddock Rope Works, Wakefield. My mother, as a child at Railway Cottages, remembers her grandmother spending her time knitting for the children. One can imagine her tucked into whatever space was offered in the small kitchen where everyone lived (the parlour was for highdays and holidays only) looking back over her long, hard, eventful life while her needles clicked and the banked-up fire glowed red in the high black-leaded grate.
George Ward Megson, son of Hannah and John II, was born at Brompton on 30th November 1869 but according to a later newspaper clipping "spent his schooldays at Dalton, near Thirsk", so it seems likely that the family moved to Dalton during his childhood. By his early twenties, a tall upstanding fellow with thick black hair, he had turned his back on the family tradition of farm work and taken his place in a more up-to-date industry by becoming a railway porter, living at Sowerby, Thirsk.
He was entering a workforce which was already showing in embryo the community spirit and concern for its members which was eventually to result in the Trade Union movement. In 1882, when George was only thirteen, The Yorkshire Evening Press reported a meeting of "railway servants" in Darlington at which the progress of a memorandum on wages and working hours which they had sent to the directors of the North Eastern Railway was discussed. The directors "saw nothing unreasonable in the memorial" but appeared to be a little tardy in getting round to doing anything about it. "A resolution was passed that a levy should be made of one shilling each on the drivers and sixpence on the guards and firemen, to defray the current expenses of the movement". The thirteen-year old George may have seen such reports in the local papers, as Mechanics' Institutes and Reading Rooms where newspapers were available were already a feature of Yorkshire towns and villages; one had been built in Thirsk in 1848.
In any event one hopes that George may have already benefited from these negotiations to strengthen the position of railway employees when on 25th June 1892, after the calling of banns, he married Ellen Sanders Pattison, the coachpainter's eldest daughter from St. James' Green, at Thirsk Parish Church. Both bride and groom were twenty-two, and must have made an appealing couple, he tall and erect, dark and serious, she petite, gentle and sweet-natured (though a capable young woman, nonetheless), her waist-length hair coiled up on her head, her tiny waist shown off to advantage by the style of the day, (a style which, to tell the truth, she scarcely diverged from over the next fifty years or so). They were married by the Rev. W. Teesdale-Mackintosh, the witnesses were the bride's father (or brother) William, her sister Edith and Eleanor Norris; no doubt the Pattison clan turned out in force for the wedding.(1)
George's bride is not given any occupation on her marriage certificate, but from listening to my mother talk about her mother I have a picture of her as a young woman which is somewhat at odds with the rather timid, diffident woman whom I remember when she was in her sixties. Having grown up within the Pattison coach-building and -painting business she gained the confidence and facility to handle the reins and act as a driver and general factotum for her father. She would drive his men to work and pick them up at the end of the day, capably wielding a whip as she reined in horse or pony, travelling around the local countryside in a phaethon. She also did the same sort of work for Edwin Johnson, of Castle Garth, who may have been a relative. As the eldest of a family of seven she probably also had plenty of work at home to keep her occupied.
Upon her marriage, at twenty-two, she remained in Thirsk, perhaps not too far away from the village atmosphere of St. James' Green and Little Green, with the supportive Pattison households. The first boy they named George after his father. Then came two more babies, but they died in infancy. It was a joy when the next little girl, born on 29th May 1901, small and dainty like her mother, was a healthy child. They called her Lily Edith after two of her young aunts, and she was baptised at St.Oswald's Church, Sowerby, on 15th July 1901 by the Rev. W. C. Bell. Soon the family moved to Thirsk Junction, about a mile outside the town.
The young couple were able to rent a little red-brick house in a short terrace standing alone beside the railway line, among fields. What if the trains shunted under the windows of No.2 Railway Cottages till late at night, clanging and clattering, and the engine smuts made it difficult to keep the curtains clean, Ellen was not afraid of hard work. Though there was no piped water, there was a neighbourhood pump. A porter's wage wasn't very great, but George became a shunter, which brought a little more money in, and beyond the back yard which housed the wash-house and the earth-closet there was a long garden, where George grew their fruit and vegetables, and where Ellen kept hens; eggs could always bring in a little profit. She was a railwayman's wife, but they both had country skills that would stand them in good stead as the family grew.
The next daughter was christened Dora Sanders. The house was small for the growing family and there was no money for extras, but they were content. The kitchen was always warm and cosy with a fire banked up in the grate, a kettle on the hob, and the smell of bread and teacakes coming from the side oven. George would come in from work some nights wet-through, his heavy serge uniform steaming in the warmth. There was no doubt who was head of the household, quietly though he might assert that authority, and the children knew better than to cause any upset when father came home, but soon he'd be sitting down to a boiled egg, and it wouldn't be long before the children were competing for the prize of being given the top of it! For them there might be bread and dripping or, when they were very young, bread and milk, known as "pobbies". There was only one chair slightly more comfortable than the rest and that, of course, was father's. The children settled where they could - an old trimmed tree stump by the grate which was used as a tuffet was a favourite seat, if a hard one. Any toys had usually been sent from relatives as special Christmas treats. Rarely were they intact, but Lily loved her doll, even if it didn't have the normal number of arms and legs. Books had usually been received as Sunday school prizes; Lily at eight years old was given The Romance of Primitive Methodism; Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard was a rather more exciting school prize.
On Sundays, even these few toys, along with all games or playing cards, were entirely forbidden. The children went to Sunday school at the Primitive Methodist chapel, and for Sunday tea might be allowed into the front parlour, where Ellen kept proudly spick and span her shiny black horsehair sofa, the table with its thick chenille cloth, the cherished harmonium (which George, the eldest boy, already eyed enviously) and the chiffonier with the prized pieces of blue and pink glass.
Ellen felt secure in her stable marriage with her growing family and with the supportive Pattison family network not far away. George was hoping to be promoted to be a guard soon; being serious and responsible he was well-regarded by the LNER. They could do with the extra money, and it would be good if George "got on", and they could keep up with Ellen's brother who was doing well as a butcher in West Hartlepool, her sister Edith who had married Cliff Anderson - a rather well-off second-hand dealer from Norbi - not to mention her other two sisters who had married into the upper reaches of local LNER staff, having wed two brothers who were sons of the local stationmaster, Mr. Welch, a commanding figure much revered in the district in his official top-hat. Nevertheless Ellen privately hoped that any promotion George might get wouldn't mean their leaving Thirsk, where she'd always lived.
It seems likely that Ellen's circumstances were poorer than those of her siblings. But it also seems likely that her heart was warmer. For Mr. Welch, the respected stationmaster, had a daughter Dora who had brought disgrace on the Welch family by having an illegitimate baby. The whole affair had been hushed up, the baby was now three weeks old, and the stationmaster had given his daughter an ultimatum - under no circumstances could the child be brought up within the family. It would be the workhouse - perhaps for mother and baby both, certainly for the child. The news came along the family grapevine to Ellen. She quietly put on her shawl and went out, and when she returned she carried another baby, Harold, to join her growing family. He was brought up as a Megson, indeed he lived the rest of his life at 2 Railway Cottages. As a child he played with the others around the railway crossing, climbing and scrambling on the gates till an angry stationmaster came out and tetchily cleared all the urchins away, never acknowledging by the blink of an eye that one of the miscreants was his own grandson.
Another son, Clifford James, was born to Ellen and later a daughter Olive who didn't survive, so now there were five children at home. The little row of cottages had its own neighbourhood life. The children played "on the back" or in the fields. Sometimes one of them would acquire by some magic a broken-down bike or one roller-skate, and all would crowd round for a turn. Then there was the dreadful day when Dora, reaching up onto the high mantelshelf for a box of "checks" - a favourite playground version of five-stones, I think - slipped into the fire and was burnt. It took her a long time to recover, but they squeezed her bed into the little kitchen so she didn't miss her share of family life - and so Ellen was saved too many journeys up the steep stairs. There were happier times - one day Lily went down to the end of her father's flourishing back garden and planted two "conkers" - thirty years later a gnarled but flourishing tree was still there. There was the day when father brought home the latest technological marvel - a wind-up gramophone with a pink trumpet-shaped horn, and one or two records. What a treat that was - and one, strangely, which was countenanced on Sundays. Perhaps the records were hymns? Or perhaps the gramophone was so awesomely new as to command an almost religious respect?
There were the "hirings", fair-days in Thirsk when local farm-workers were hired for the year to come, and special days to be commemorated, among them Royal Oak Day, 29th May. All the children knew the rhyme
Royal Oak Day, 29th of May,
If you don't give us a holiday we'll all run away
The trouble was that 29th May was Lily's birthday, so everyone tried to persuade her that she should be the one to make this perfectly reasonable demand of the teacher. She never did - but she remembered the rhyme all her life. Then there were the chapel "anniversaries", large annual gatherings when all the children sang, starched to within an inch of their lives in their Sunday best, and many gave individual recitations of pious or sentimental poems, or sang solos to an audience of proud parents. Then everyone had tea and buns. When the crowds were expected to be too great for the chapel, these major events were held on Thirsk station. Were there even fewer Sunday trains then than now? Did sacred needs take precedence over secular ones? Or was the timing finely judged to avoid interruption by a puffing monster or a snake of rattling trucks? I don't know.
Ellen had the use of a pony and trap, probably borrowed from her family, to take her eggs to market on occasion. She probably took some of George's surplus crops too in season, for the garden was large and he was devoted to it. However, most journeys were on foot. The children had a long walk to school, and in addition, should milk or yeast be needed from a shop, one of them could be sent off to Thirsk to fetch it, a matter of nearly two miles there and back, before setting out for school.
Lily enjoyed visiting her aunts and great-aunts. Henrietta Welch's husband had given up ticket-collecting and had taken a pub, St. Peter's Vault, in Warmgate at York. (Later he became a County Court bailiff). Lily stayed at the pub on a visit (perhaps her father had free, or reduced tickets on the railway?) After the stolid pace of life in Thirsk, the old walled city was fascinating with its towering Minster, its bustling streets with their odd old names - Whipmawopmagate and Coney Street.
Around 1914 George became a goods guard, a solid and imposing figure now when setting off for work in his heavy uniform with his peaked cap, his lamp and flags in his hand. Then he was offered further promotion, as a stationmaster. This was exciting, and the family were all set to move to Gascoine Wood, near Selby, but at the last moment Ellen, the least assertive of women, couldn't hide her pain at leaving her home, and - with how much regret we don't know - the plans were scrapped and they stayed in their cramped little red-brick cottage and settled back into their close family life.
Young George was musical and some evenings would play the harmonium in the parlour while Lily listened, entranced. Before long he was teaching his younger sister how to play. She was quick to acquire skills, though not inclined to bother with theory. She never learnt to read music but for the rest of her life could "vamp" a popular tune whenever needed - a great asset in later life for her childrens' party games. Poor George died while still a young man.
The First World War was raging and many of the local boys left home; some of them came back in khaki, some never came back at all. When Lily left school she knew what she wanted to do, she wanted to follow the family's railway tradition and become a telegraphist. But she couldn't become even a "learner" till she was sixteen, so there was nothing for it but to go into making munitions at a local factory. It was hard and tiring work for a young girl, with a long mile's walk along unlit country roads at the end of a day's shift. She would come home and sit down on the old tree stump that still served as a seat by the kitchen fire and fall fast asleep with exhaustion before she could eat her supper.
But she was resilient. There were village dances to go to and local boys to meet. There were hobbies too. Lily not only took photographs, but developed them herself in the cupboard under the stairs with her father's red guard's lantern - a handy asset in a dark-room. Dora became apprenticed to a local Thirsk milliner and Lily was rather envious of her younger sister, working among pretty things and "latest fashions", she particularly fancied having scissors on a ribbon dangling from one's belt. However, it was a family joke that though Dora was the milliner, Lily made the hats. She could do marvels with a "shape" and a few yards of ribbon and tulle. She was working at Thirsk station now, learning how to use the Morse needle to pick out the letters so messages could be sent quickly up the line; messages about train movements, about emergencies, nowadays about troop movements. She was a quick learner, and she loved the work, responsible though it could be. One of her abiding memories was of the troop-trains halting at the station, and of the young soldiers, some of them illiterate, coming in and asking if she'd send their families a telegram. (It must have been a service the staff were allowed to give if the lines were free). So in her teens she was making up messages for these inarticulate boys, knowing where they were going, and that they might not come back. When the troop trains stopped for long tedious halts, the soldiers, either going out to the front or coming back, would sing - not only the popular hits of the day but the songs that they sang in the trenches, with unofficial words. I knew all the songs that were later to be revived in "Oh What a Lovely War" because my mother used to sing them around the house when I was a child (though always shorn of any even faintly improper language, for I never heard her use even the mildest swear-word).
Peace came. Lily was caught by the terrible influenza epidemic. She was dreadfully ill and lost all her hair; she made herself a little velvet cap to hide the fact. But she recovered her soft dark hair, along with her gaiety and zest for life. Dora and Lily were still in their teens. They couldn't afford new clothes very often, but Dolly dyes, or "tints" were on the market, and their father would come home to find to his disgust that there was no room for the kettle on the hob because a cauldron that bubbled pink or blue couldn't be moved till the frocks inside had reached the required shade. Dora was a quiet girl, Lily rather more flighty and stylish Her dark hair was now bobbed, and she was never without lipstick, Ponds vanishing cream and powder. She was already addicted to the ear-rings, pearl stud or dangling drop, which she was rarely without for the rest of her life. George was a stern father and there was no doubt what time the girls were expected home - the tall imposing figure would be looming in the darkness by the back door, and a voice would rumble forth - "Come along now, let's be having you." I believe the strap was mentioned, but only as a threat. I don't think he would ever have hurt his children; like many men of his generation he'd no need to, as his word was law in his own house.
However, like many fathers he probably found his authority gradually being undermined as his children grew older and more sophisticated. Within a few years Lily had been transferred to York station, a very large terminus, where the telegraphic work was even more responsible. She lodged in the city during the week and came home at weekends. Soon there was more incentive than the pleasures of home to bring her back at weekends, for she had met a young man, a rather dashing stranger who had come to the district as a newspaper reporter. He was tall and dark, with fashionable horn-rimmed glasses that gave him a rather intellectual look. He was a man from the city, a great contrast to the local boys she knew, and when she'd first met him at a local dance he'd worn lemon-coloured gloves! What an impression that had made. His name was Douglas Errington, and he was a local correspondent for a Yorkshire paper, covering the countryside around Thirsk.
It wasn't only Lily who was impressed. When he was invited home he won instant approval from George and Ellen, with his serious air, nice manners, and it seemed likely a family background superior to theirs. My mother always used to joke that it would have been no use her going home to mother, because her mother always said, "I'm sure Douglas knows best." Douglas would get over to York when he could to see Lily during the week. At weekends they'd be at Thirsk, exploring the surrounding countryside - the Hambledon Hills, Riveaux Abbey, Coxwold so Doug could see where Laurence Sterne was once vicar, for Tristram Shandy was among his favourite books. Lily's reading didn't get much further than her mother's Peg's Paper and lightweight novels, but she liked to hear Douglas's knowledgeable talk. He was never averse throughout his long life to showing off his erudition! They both loved walking in the countryside, as long as it wasn't too exerting, and both were enthusiastic dancers who enjoyed dressing up, stepping out and generally having as good a time as their limited resources allowed. Doug had no manual skills and no particular liking for gardening or odd-jobbing; neither had Lily shown any great interest in domestic skills apart from keeping her wardrobe up-to-date, but when did such mundane matters ever trouble a couple in love? For there was no doubt that in love they were, and on 17th June 1924 at Carlton Minniott Parish Church they were married. Lily's sister Dora and Douglas's three sisters were bridesmaids; Reg, Douglas's twin, was best man. Lily wore a suit of dove grey, with white hat and gloves and black double-bar shoes, her bouquet tied with a long white ribbon.
Their further life will be covered later in THE ERRINGTONS. Now we need to go back to the earliest information we have on the lines that make up my father's family.
(1) Some of the events in this section are not exact as to date, I have heard that they happened but not when. Similarly I know something of the lives of Ellen Sanders Pattison's siblings but have no dates.
I should preface the account of these lines with a doubt which has only recently occurred to me, that just possibly these may not be Ann Kidall's relatives. The problem lies in the use of the spellings Kidall and Kiddle. I notice that while the only references we have to Ann show her as a Kidall, references to other members of this family use either spelling. On the other hand, we have minor supplementary evidence in the use of the name Rosina within this family, a name which Ann's son William Henry Monson, used for his daughter.
John Kidall (or Kiddle) was born in 1782 or 83 and on 14th October 1805 married Charlotte Ann Verinder at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, London. Both were of the parish of St. Botolph's and their witnesses were William Flint and John Cutler. They had nine children, two of whom probably died young. In 1809 they were living in Essex Street, Hackney and in 1814 in Blossom(Bloxom?) Street, when John was described as a plumber. Charlotte Ann died on the 4th December 1837 at Fleur de Lis Street, Norton Folgate, Whitechapel, and John died at the same address on 18th March 1839, when he was described as plumber and glazier. We know little about this London family, except that John and Charlotte Ann's elder son John, who became a painter and decorator, had ten children and when he died in 1884 his estate was £7,325.1.7, so apparently he prospered.
My ancestor was the third daughter of John and Charlotte Ann - or so we think. Even here we are not entirely positive because the mother's name of Ann was given to three or four of the daughters, which makes things difficult. It's just possible that my ancestor could have been the eldest, Rachel Ann, but as in later life she was always referred to as just Ann, we think the probability is that "ours" is the third daughter, the only one not to have an another name added to Ann! Ann was born on 23rd August 1809 and baptised on 24th September 1809 at St. Leonard's, Shoreditch, so she would have been only a few months over sixteen when she married the thirty-two year old Henry Monson at St. Pancras Old Church. However, Victorian memoires show that so young a bride was not all that unusual at the time. Ann, a shadowy figure to us, reputedly came from Swaffham in Norfolk and, as Kiddle/Kidall seems to be quite a common name in that county, it may be that her father moved to London from Norfolk.
The Monson line starts in Yorkshire, moves to London, then to New Zealand for some twenty years, then back to England again. The best documented period is that in New Zealand. I was for some time in correspondence with Mrs. Elsie Locke of Christchurch, New Zealand, author of The Gaoler, a book about Henry Monson, and have latterly been in touch with Mr. Alan Monson, a descendant of John Robert Monson. I would like to acknowledge my debt to them, and to P. Wistrand, author of a document on Henry Monson which was sent to me via Alan Monson. Could I make the point, however, that these narratives, scholarly though they are, contain a certain amount of supposition which is not necessarily authenticated by direct genealogical evidence.
Our first known Monson was Bernard, who lived in Cawood, near Selby, Yorkshire. There were Monsons at Featherstone, about ten miles from Selby, throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but no link has been found to Bernard. There is, of course, a titled Monson family in Lincolnshire which included distinguished and notorious members, but regretably again no link has been found. Indeed, Bernard was described as a labourer when, on 15th September 1793, he and his wife Ann baptised their son Henry, who had been born on 25th August. They had had a daughter Susannah the previous year who had died at eight months, and had another daughter Maria who was to marry Thomas Sykes, a painter, at Selby in 1831. We know nothing of Henry's childhood, but presume that while still at home he became a carpenter or joiner, as he was to retain these skills throughout his life.
He was to follow the path from the country to the town taken by so many in the early years of the nineteenth century as the Industrial Revolution developed, and in his case it was a long road, for our next sighting of him is in London, when, at the age of thirty-two, he married Ann Kidall on 3rd November 1825 at St.Pancras Old Church. Ann was either a very young bride, at sixteen, or was possibly nineteen (see THE VERINDERS AND KIDALLS above). At St. Pancras Old Church they baptised a son William Henry (my ancestor) on 21st March 1827, then three further sons, John Robert (baptised 20th February 1829), Frederic Kidall (baptised 10th September 1832) and Edmund Sykes (23rd October 1835) and a daughter Ellen Maria (27th January 1841). (The use of family names is useful supplementary evidence throughout the Monson line.)
In directories of the thirties Henry is described as a carpenter, living at 61 George Street, Hampstead Road (Sometimes referred to as 61 George Street, Euston Square. I believe this is now the part of Gower Street north of Euston Road, where some attractive terrace houses of this period still survive.), and he is so described in the 1841 census. The 1841 census rounded down adults' ages to the nearest five years, so it shows us Henry as forty-five and his wife Ann as thirty, though in fact Henry would be nearly forty-nine and Ann nearly thirty-two. Children's ages were correctly given, however, and here we have young Henry fourteen, John twelve, Frederick eight, Edmund five and baby Ellen five months. Prior to this census, in 1840, Henry is described as carpenter and builder, and it is apparent that for the next seven years it is as a builder that he is operating. The forties were a bad time economically throughout the country, with the Irish potato famine, bad harvests and the notorious unregulated market in railway shares. The building industry suffered a financial crisis in 1847, when on the Stock Exchange "the sound of the hammer declaring defaulters was heard with disastrous frequency day after day....many innocent men liable for calls had to flee the country, as if they had committed some crime." Henry was caught in this general upheaval. Builders in London at that time tended to be predominately small scale, large contractors being rare, and from the only domestic evidence we have, i.e. the 1841 census, it would seem that Henry's wife Ann did not have at that time the benefit of a living-in servant, though she had five children to look after. However, relatively speaking we may perhaps take it that Henry had been "in a big way", as later mentioned in the diary of a fellow-passenger on the boat to New Zealand. When in February 1847 disaster struck and he found himself bankrupt, he wrote, "...if the Ladbroke Squ. property had not become so disastrous a case now of litigation and of doubtful issue Through Bill filed in Chancery involving my property with others to a large amount. I have laid out £8000 on the ground of that Estate in nine First Rate Class houses and now the Ground is not mine at least an other claimant has come forward. Nearly £4000 is my own money if this claim can be mentioned (maintained?) I and many others will lose the whole laid out. To carry out and complete this property I have sold property that produced me £150 a year so that I have little left(?) of value more than two houses in Sussex St and East St premises."(1) There seems no reason to doubt his claim that "we have always been in private matters very great economists never allowed ourselves any indulgence in any way or ever spent a penny on any personal enjoyment our object was to retire from bussiness as soon as possible and which we would have done very soon."(2) His style is rather more orotund than grammatical, as one might expect from a self-made man.
Henry is described in notes from later descendants as having been an architect and builder, but though his son William Henry did aspire to architectural status, there is no evidence of Henry having done so.
However, as to personal character, there seems no doubt that he was a humane, upright and socially responsible man. He was a stalwart Methodist, and though his children were all baptised within the Church of England, this was not unusual in the relatively early days of nonconformism. (Certainly dissenters could not be married in their own chapels until 1837.) He was actively engaged in philanthropic work, "having often had a class of young men under my care and also been much employed in forming Ragged Schools and Sunday Schools".(3) On a later occasion he wrote "although there was a time when I had the admiration and thanks of Nobles, in England for my conduct and qualifications for organizing and manageing one of the largest Ragged Schools in London of which I had the honour of being Superintendent."
A historian gives the background: "The rude habits, filthy condition and their want of shoes and stockings often excluded these unfortunate (children) from admission to the denominational schools. The Ragged Schools, largely promoted by the evangelicals, were solely for the children of the very poor and the destitute and their function was rehabilitation rather than education, many of their pupils passing on to the denominational schools for instruction in the three Rs. In 1844 the Ragged School Union came into being under the aegis of Lord Ashley (better known by his future title of Lord Shaftsbury)...a report states that in 1851 there were seventy-four Ragged Schools in London."(4) A note from a later descendant claims that Henry "was on the Earl of Shaftesbury's first London philanthropic committee and was a personal friend of his" though no direct evidence has been found to support this.
There seems little doubt, then, that up to the point when disaster struck, the Monsons had flourished and Henry had every reason to be proud of the progress he had made (as far as we know completely by his own efforts), equally in business, in family life and in the undertaking of his religious and social duties. At some time between 1841 and 1847 the family had moved to 30 East Street, Manchester Square, (now called Chiltern Street) about a mile and a half from their former address; perhaps they needed a larger house to accommodate children who were growing up.
The elder boys were all trained "at the bench" in their father's business, according to Henry; by 1847 the eldest, William Henry, had moved on into an architect and surveyor's office, John Robert was in the navy, (he served on the Vengeance and the Victory) and there was talk of Frederic Kidall having "fixed his mind to go to sea" too, though we don't know whether he did so. The two younger children were still at school. Then disaster struck, and suddenly it seemed that they were almost penniless. It was a time for family conferences, for decisions had to be made. Perhaps Ann's relatives were called in to give advice - possibly they even managed to provide a little financial help.
Eventually it was decided that Henry and the two elder boys should try their luck in a new country, in hopes of amassing some little capital. Ann was to stay on in London, with the three younger children. In a letter of October 1850 the New Zealand Company's agent wrote "Mr. Monson stated on leaving England that his wife had remained at home to look after some claim upon his bankrupt estate, and that he expected her to follow with some property, which however has not been heard of."
According to P. Wistrand, in the paper Henry Monson, your ancestor, the Monsons were influenced in their choice of country by letters received by John Robert from Mary Ann Roebuck, a friend who had emigrated to New Zealand with her parents in 1842. The Roebucks were early settlers and suffered real privation, making their own way among the Maoris; they were determined and hardy and they survived. If letters were exchanged between the two families, no doubt the accounts of life in this beautiful land were exciting to the young Monsons. However, Henry Monson himself wrote "a gentleman at Exeter has written me word that no place will suit me so well as New Zealand both for age and business, so that my inclination is fixed for that place. I have been to the Secretary of the New Zealand Company and also to the Ship Owners."
Fairly recent legislation had led to dissention in Scotland, and the newly formed Free Church of Scotland under Rev. Thomas Burns, considering itself persecuted, had tried to organise a communal emigration. This had fallen through, but eventually the emerging Lay Association of the Free Church of Scotland, in partnership with the New Zealand Company, had decided to try for an emigration plan which would allow others to join them and thus, hopefully, realise the scheme. One of the leading movers of the new scheme was Captain Cargill. Eventually, after surveys had been made, in 1844 Otago on Centre Island of New Zealand was bought from the Maoris, 420,000 acres in all, for £2,400. Here they planned to build the New Edinburgh. In summer 1847 they advertised the plan in the London papers, where P. Wistrand presumes that Henry saw it and contacted the agent to find out more. Mrs. Elsie Locke, in her book The Gaoler, The Dunmore Press Ltd., 1978, writes that "no choice was offered of ship or of exact destination". Both writers agree, however, on the help that Henry received from Charles Babbage, as it is well documented.
In August 1847 Henry wrote to the eminent mathematician and philanthropist Charles Babbage, who happened also to be a neighbour, seeking help, (see Monson Appendix 1). East Street, near Manchester Square, where the Monsons lived, was crossed by Dorset Street, where Babbage lived at No.1. Though there has been some demolition and rebuilding, there are nearby terraces of neat, modestly-sized early Victorian houses which probably resemble Henry Monson's. I have seen a drawing of Babbage's house, which was a substantial double-fronted building. He described Henry as "a builder in a respectable line, and whose premises adjoin my garden". It was in this garden that Babbage had his workshops where for years he conducted experiments that resulted in his Difference Engine No.2 and planned for his Analytical Engine, the forerunners of the modern computer. (An unexpected disciple in this project was Ada, Countess of Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron, who was also a mathematician).
Babbage was well-connected, and his evening parties were attended by Charles Darwin, George Herschel the astronomer, engineers George Stephenson and Isumbard Kingdom Brunel, along with Charles Dickens. (The Circumlocution Office in Little Dorrit is said to have been suggested by Babbage's difficulties with the government over the development of his Engines). Wellington supported him, however, and is reported to have visited No.1 Dorset Street also, as is Lord Melbourne. Did Henry and Ann Monson, one wonders, peep over their garden wall from time to time to catch a glimpse of these notables? Some very impressive carriages must have been seen rolling up to Babbage's front door, though as one Edinburgh professor wrote that he had such a delightful time that he didn't leave till two in the morning, who can say, perhaps Babbage wasn't an ideal neighbour!
Babbage was a founder-member of the Statistical Society and as such was involved in the efforts of the Victorians to cope with their bulging, overcrowded, insanitary towns and cities. He favoured emigration as one means of coping with over-population. So Henry sat down and wrote to Mr. Babbage, in his rather flowery prose, setting out his situation and asking for much-needed help. Though Henry's sons William Henry and John Robert, as young, unmarried, healthy tradesmen, were eligible immigrants, Henry was sixteen years past the usual age-limit. However, Babbage used his influence and contacted the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Earl Grey. As a result of his neighbour's intervention Henry was offered a passage on one of the two ships sailing for the New Edinburgh, the John Wickliffe, on payment of £31.10.0 to the New Zealand Company, the balance of £15.15.0 to be paid within twelve months of his arrival in Otago. The two boys would travel free.
The Philip Laing, carrying The Rev. Thomas Burns with two hundred and forty-six others, was to sail from the Clyde, while the John Wickliffe, with Captain Cargill in charge, was to sail from London, carrying all the stores needed for ninety-seven people for more than a hundred days at sea, as well as bricks, slates, prepared timber and tools - at least some of the things they would need on arrival.
When they set sail on 22nd November 1847 Henry carried not only what personal provisions he and the boys could muster, but also a precious trust, a parcel of books by Babbage which he was to present as a gift from the author to the Governor of New Zealand, Sir George Grey. Babbage and Grey had been long acquainted, the young George Grey having named an island Babbage Island in honour of the scholar years before, when exploring Western Australia. Henry was also given his own copies of these diverse treatises, which ranged from The Economy of Machinery and Manufacturers to a book about the Temple of Serapis near Naples. Babbage, whose interest in mathematics extended to machine technology, also gave him a lathe - perhaps a more useful present in the circumstances. Henry, in all gratitude, was determined, as he wrote to Babbage, that the books should be "promptly and properly presented to the Governor of New Zealand." Henry stuck to this determination through the vicissitudes of the new life towards which he was sailing.
On the ship, crowded and chaotic as it was, "careful provision was made for the health of the emigrants - the surgeons were each to receive a gratuity of £25, less £1 in respect of each death which took place on the voyage".(5) Though "those who sailed on the John Wickliffe were very largely Church of England people"(6), there were other Methodists on board, including Tom Ferens, who became a good friend of Henry Monson, and who kept a diary. Also among the passengers, interestingly enough, was Tom Arnold, younger son of the famous headmaster of Rugby and brother of the poet and schools inspector Matthew. Tom was something of a grey sheep of the family, who after a few years became an inspector of schools in Tasmania. Later he was to return to England, and eventually become a Professor of English; he also became a friend of Edward Elgar and figures as one of the "friends pictured within" in the Enigma Variations. In spite of his educational background, however, Mr. Arnold doesn't appear to have taken much interest in the children on board the John Wickliffe, that was left to the small Methodist contingent who eventually put up impromptu desks and set up a school for twenty-four children from the steerage and six from the cabin class. Tom Ferens wrote "This afternoon we collected the children to school on deck, read them a short lesson and catechised them a little. Mr. Monson has a most pleasing and interesting manner of managing and keeping in good order of the little ones....We finished by singing Come to Jesus which attracted the children's attention in a very particular manner." We may be sure that young John Robert, quite evidently the steady, reliable member of the family, also played his part in helping his fellow-passengers, while his elder brother, a ladies' man, was making use of the leisure afforded by the voyage to become friendly with Elizabeth Wild Bachelor. She was the niece of Captain Cargill's groom and gardener, Henry Blatch, who with his wife and children was emigrating with his employer. The Monson and Blatch families were to become long-standing friends.
The ship reached Otago Harbour on 23rd March 1848, the pilot boat came out, and the pilot and the New Zealand Company's surveyor, who had been engaged in preparing for the immigrants' arrival, went below. When the Maori oarsmen proved willing to take some of the men fishing, what a relief it must have been to contemplate fresh fish after the dried and salted food they'd had for so long. Tom Ferens wrote "Mr. Monson, his son John and I went in a boat with three Maoris for baracoota." Though the news that the surveyor had brought was bad - there were as yet no houses ready for the immigrants - spirits must have been high with the excitement of having reached the safety of land at last, after three months at sea. Tom Ferens and the two Monson boys couldn't wait to feel dry land under their feet again. With some other younger men they were rowed out by the Maoris to explore the tracks beaten out by the surveyor and his men. The bush was dense, and soon they were all lost and benighted, though they managed to meet up in time for a good breakfast next morning at the rather grandly named McKay's Hotel.
Now the John Wickliffe could enter harbour, which was just as well, as it was as yet the only accommodation available for the party. Obviously building was the first priority, and the men moved off over the hill from the port, through the bush to Dunedin, the new Edinburgh, which, because of miscalculations and mismanagement, as yet bore little enough resemblance to the old one.
Building didn't start immediately. It was time for the first industrial dispute. However, after some discussion, wage rates and food rations were eventually settled to everyone's satisfaction. The surveyor and one or two others had timber houses in Dunedin, otherwise it was Maori-style rush huts, which the workers were glad enough to share; the main imperative was to get some houses up quickly. The Monsons were active in this work, and in putting up the barracks for the women and children, with bunks made from the timber brought in the ship. Then came the jetty and a storehouse. All these were primitive tree-trunk buildings, thatched with rushes and flax.
One Sunday the Rev. Charles Creed, a Methodist missionary from a Maori settlement thirty miles away arrived. Tom Ferens notes "a memorable day for Mr. Monson and myself......Met Mr. Creed with Mr. H. Monson on our way from dinner to work...He was anxious to hold a service. Capt. Cargill's permission was obtained, after which we strolled away into the bush and had prayer together. This may be called the first Methodist prayer meeting - for we all prayed - and felt it a time of great blessing."
Indeed it was a great blessing that they had arrived safe and well and had found a beautiful green land. The sister ship Philip Laing had now arrived safely too. A house for the Rev. Burns was now a priority, and the Monsons built it from the materials brought on the boat. Then came the excitement of the ballot for land. Henry leased a section at the Water of Leith, on the edge of the bay, near Dunedin, at £4 per year rental. With the money earned for adding a kitchen and other refinements to the Rev. Burns' house Henry could manage to begin building his own more humble dwelling; his house would be wattle and daub, as were those of most of the settlers. His cost £7.7.0, and they moved in on 22nd June 1848.
In spite of the soaking wet weather, things were progressing, and next the Monsons built a better house for Captain Cargill and one for lawyer David Garrick. As that was about as far as "houses for the gentry" could go at that stage, the Monsons followed this up by securing the contract for building the first church, which was to be used as a school on weekdays. Completion date was thirty-three days after the signing of the contract. Two hundred people arrived for the dedication. Soon, with the arrival of more ships, the congregation had grown to four hundred, and additions were needed.
But work was becoming short. John Robert, ever resourceful, went off with another young man cutting timber at a marginal profit at Sawyers' Bay, Port Chalmers; they lived off the land. William Henry had married his Elizabeth and they were living in Dunedin, with a daughter who had been born on 2nd August 1849, and baptised as Ellen Maria Martha Mary Ann by the Rev Creed on 19th August. As Tom Ferens had gone back with the Rev. Creed to his Maori mission station, Henry was alone in his little cottage. Tom Ferens recorded his pleasure when Henry visited him at the mission. "Mr. Monson came to school and I got him to examine the children. He wonderfully interested the European and Maori children, told them many anecdotes, thus drew them out before he tasked their minds." At the mission there were discussions of Maori language and traditions with Tom and the Rev Creed; more practically Henry put up a couple of desks for them in the school.
At some time between 1849 and 1852 William Henry and his family left New Zealand and returned to England We don't know whether there had been a family quarrel, if he was disenchanted with his new country, if he had hopes of picking up again his architectural studies, or if he wanted to take his young wife and daughter to see his mother and his younger siblings at home in England. We don't know where he found the money for the trip.
In Dunedin local politics had begun to fester. With an increase in settlers, strains and jealousies between the Scots and the English factions developed. There was no supportive system for society's unfortunates except the possibility of haphazard charity, and there seemed to be little initiative on anyone's part to improve the town with at least some form of drainage or sewerage. Henry hadn't been able to repay the £15.15 he owed on his passage money. A deal he had made with Captain Cargill and which he hoped would be profitable, had disappointed him. Worse was to follow. On 26th January 1850 an accident occurred which was reported in The Otaga News:
Fire: A temporary habitation near the Water of Leith, belonging to Mr. Monson, by some accidental cause caught fire on Sunday night last, and was almost completely destroyed before assistance could be procured. Mr. Monson ...on returning, found nothing but a ruin; his clothes and all his moveable property sharing the same fate. Mr. Monson by the unfortunate accident is considerably reduced in circumstances, and we hear it is intended to raise a subscription for him amongst his fellow settlers, which we doubt not will be cordially responded to by the benevolent in so far as their funds will allow them.
They responded to the tune of £13.15.0, which presumably did not go far, in the middle of winter. Some things lost were, of course, irreplaceable, among them the books entrusted to his care by Charles Babbage, which Henry had clung to in hopes of making a personal delivery to the Governor, Sir George Gray. In a letter in 1852, Gray tells Babbage about this. "...you told me that you had sent out to me copies of some of your works which you had entrusted to the care of Mr. Monson. I put off answering your letter until I should receive these, but he would not send the books to me, as he wished to have the pleasure of delivering them personally. After a long interval of time I was able to go to Otago, where I found that the poor fellow's house had been destroyed by fire, with nearly all of his own property, and with my books, which I would not have lost for a great deal, as I should for your sake have valued them very highly."
Mrs. Locke, in The Gaoler, thinks that Henry, in 1850, after the fire and probably at his lowest financial and emotional ebb, wrote again to Babbage asking for his help in securing a municipal post. He may have done so, or it may be that Gray appointed him merely because he remembered that the unfortunate and destitute man was a Babbage protege. Certain it is that the Governor wrote to his Colonial Secretary on 18th June 1851, eighteen months after the fire, instructing him, "Write to Mr. Strode authorizing him to appoint temporarily a Gaoler at Otago, at the same rate of pay for the present as is given to a Corporal in the Police, telling him that if a Mr. Monson of Otago, who was recommended to me by Mr. Babbage as in all respects a most respectable man, and who has suffered great losses at Otago from the destruction of his house and property by fire should be willing, the appointment is to be offered to him." Mr. Strode, the Resident Magistrate, had his own appointee in mind, and was not best pleased, but could hardly argue with the Governor. Henry took up his duties, at £70 a year, on 1st September 1851.
The goal, which was quite centrally placed, was small and offered Henry very little private space, what's more it was in a very bad state of repair, dirty and scarcely even equipped with necessities. Henry was supplied with a journal to record events, and it is from this, as reported in Elsie Locke's The Gaoler, that the quotations and much of the information which follows are taken. Henry received little cooperation from the resentful Mr. Strode and though provided with rules and regulations, was left to deal with his prisoners as best he might, with no help and no experience to guide him. Within three months he was faced with the dilemma of an obviously sick and possibly dying prisoner who demanded bail and a doctor's care. Henry eventually drew up a bail bond, with the help of the only policeman left in town, got it signed, and despatched the prisoner to see the doctor. However, the patient didn't get past the hotel, where he was assured that "his best doctor was a glass or two of brandy". Things went from bad to worse and by the time he appeared before the Magistrate (ironically, a doctor) next morning the man was well and truly intoxicated. Henry was hauled over the coals by Mr. Strode for meddling with bail bonds,"you have no business to do such a thing, rather let them die in their Cell than do it again." It was only the first of such encounters. Henry wrote in his journal, which Strode had authority to read at any time, "such is the haughtiness of Office, and such I felt it. It was no instruction, it was no reproof, it was sore and ill feeling, a nettled irritated mind, devoid of common sense, and a sense of duty to both himself and me."
Most of Henry's guests were there because of being drunk and disorderly or for thieving, some were seamen from trading ships, occasionally mutineers. From time to time Henry was also called on to lock up some poor, mad, disruptive soul, until some form of better treatment could be found. Because of the dilapidated state and minimal staffing of the gaol, escapes could hardly be avoided, but as the escapers could only really wander into uninhabited and inhospitable bush, this was not the problem it might have been.
Conditions in the gaol were primitive, water had to be brought from a well, and firewood gathered for heating. Time and again Henry's problem was that he had no-one to send on any such errand, apart from an unwilling policeman on occasion or a prisoner kept under his sight. Prisoners were sent out on hard labour, but had only their own clothing, such as it was. Scarcely any had a comb or a towel, and Henry had to provide them at his own cost sometimes "or have the place over run with vermin". When the police station needed long-drawn-out repairs, the sergeant and three of his men were billeted on Henry and the atmosphere became tense in the cramped conditions, for the constables were as fond of drinking and fighting as the prisoners. Mr. Strode tried to shift the entire responsibility for the police force onto Henry by giving him a warrant of authority, though omitting to give him any means of enforcing it. In less than a year Henry wrote "let those who ought to care and bear the responsibility, take it and the blame, come what may."
The fighting within the Otago community was political, but physical too on occasion. The campaigning editor of the local paper was attacked and a roughhouse developed, some ending in gaol and the editor's attackers being charged with assault and battery. It was thought that Mr. Strode the magistrate had contributed to the fund to pay the attackers' fines.
The editor, undeterred, did not blanch at hitting out at the highest. He deplored "His Excellency's total waste of the revenue of the colony on sinecures....a system of nominees and place-beggars disgraceful to the last degree." There can be no doubt that Henry was one such, however lowly, but one who, having secured his place, filled it in an upright manner and acted often beyond the strict call of duty. In 1852 news came that the anticipated new constitution had been passed, whereby each of the six colonies, including Otago, would be a self-governing Province. Mr. Strode's somewhat biased ideas on civic rights and his autocratic administration of justice were due for an overhaul. In Dunedin bells were rung, guns were fired, they lit a bonfire on the hill above the town and danced Scots reels to a fiddler down on the jetty.
The new administration scrapped the armed police force and appointed a Chief Constable with a force of part-timers on retainer. The gaol was inspected and some improvements were even begun. In 1854 Henry applied for an increase in salary, and though it took some time for the new administration to sort out who was responsible for paying him, his pay was increased to £100, Mr. Strode's objections to Henry continuing in his post having been dismissed as personal malice.
There can be no doubt that Henry's Christian beliefs ruled his life; he strove to carry out his duties in a manner which was not only Christian, but surprisingly liberal and humane for his time. Here is an extract from a report which he wrote about this time, detailing his methods:
"The general treatment which has been practically carried out in this Gaol has been, that of treating every one as a human being, as a man, and as a christian, whatever may have been his offence against Society. Though all men differ in some degree, some very much as to mental condition, and moral expression; yet the method in use is calculated to meet this difference, it generally breaks in upon both habit and feeling, however base. When the general spirit of the men is inclined towards good conduct, then it is difficult indeed for one person to continue in any kind of bad habit, in the front of every condemnation. The punishment of vengeance or anything else which is calculated to embitter the life of a Prisoner; beyond that of Barrs and Fence; I most strenuously condemn such a principle. A Criminal of any `Class' cannot be improved by any mode of severity, he may, and generally will be, by an enlightened spirit of humanity."
Henry went on to object strongly to the more conventional opinions of Mr. Strode "that a severe punishment is the best", going on to complain that "there has never been one helping hand, no Visiting Magistrate... I have never been inspected or advised on any occasion," and that though he had at times had fourteen prisoners at one time to deal with, nevertheless "I find it better to act alone, than to depend on those of untrained, adverse minds. Unless a person by nature and by observance is skilled in the grand Rules of analictical knowledge of men, they cannot perform the task." When, in 1855, one of a group of mutinous sailors fell ill and died within the gaol, at last there was an inspection by Visiting Justices. They reported, what Henry had been reporting for years, that the buildings were "utterly inefficient and inadequate for the purpose of a prison". Their report on Henry was flattering - "Mr. Monson the Gaoler appears to have stood nearly alone in all efforts hitherto to improve the moral status of the prisoners. He has single-handed provided the only literary `pabulum' they have caught sight of, and he would gladly hail the time when a more extensive supply of books suited to the circumstances should be confided to him. It is but a just tribute of praise to say that he has evinced great zeal, and that his system of `moral suasion' coupled with firmness appears to have succeeded where, perhaps, under the circumstances, no other would."
It took some months before repairs to the gaol were started, and they were not completed when, due to the unfortunate combination of glowing embers being thrown into a cesspool to sweeten it, and a strong wind, the building was set alight. The only resident prisoner worked bravely, suffering burns, to rescue his own and Henry's belongings (and was pardoned on that account). The authorities quickly bought the Immigration Barracks from its private owner and fitted it up as a gaol, though it was unfortunately almost as small, cramped and inadequate as its predecessor.
Around this time an event occurred which survived - however inaccurately - as a local legend. The eighth anniversary celebrations of the Otago Settlement were to be celebrated at Dunedin with races and a cricket match, and Henry wanted to attend the cricket, as his younger son John Robert, now married to his sweetheart Mary Ann Roebuck, and following a solid career in the Customs service, was to be in the team. Fortunately, the day was to be a general holiday, and as the Chief Constable sent a message to Henry that the prisoners needn't go out on their road-mending that day, but could also have a holiday, Henry chose to construe this rather literally. He arranged to let two groups of prisoners, each within the care of a constable, go to the races, while he attended the cricket match. It was a great day out for all. However, it seems that one thing led to another, a dram was taken and there was a certain amount of fighting and rowdiness - though perhaps no more than Dunedin saw quite often. True, the constables rather lost sight of some of their charges, and there were a few stragglers to be gathered in, but eventually everyone was safely back in gaol and the gate was locked.
Mr. Strode lost no time in protesting and an enquiry was set up. As a result everyone, including Strode himself, the Chief Constable and Henry, received a reprimand and it was decided that the prisoners from then on were to wear broad arrows on their clothes. But the story was too good to let go, and featured colourfully in some later publications, including Lays of the Old Identities, 1889, by John Blair. (Old Identities were, I presume, original settlers).
You've heard of the Tower of London
That was built by the Norman Duke,
You've heard of the Norman Bastile,
If not, read Carlyle's book.
You've heard of the old Toll-booth,
You remember the Porteous tale;
But have you heard of Monson
And the first Dunedin jail? ........
...in the olden times
Our prisoners were but few,
And chiefly of that kind
Who imbibe the mountain dew.
The jail was built of wood,
The cells were rather small;
The way they kept the prisoners
Was by being kind to all.
This led to pleasant scenes
With Monson and his crew,
Some even felt regret
To bid the jail adieu.
They sometimes took an airing
And were told (it was no joke)
That if they stayed beyond the time,
Monson would turn the lock. ....
Peace to the shade of Monson
Who captained our first jail,
And kept the crew together
Going under easy sail,
And here's to the good old times,
No B---rs then had we;
Their greatest crime was drinking
Too much of the barley bree.
The songs of The Inimitable Charles Thatcher, who entertained incoming Otago goldminers in the sixties, also included The Great Customs Seizure, one verse of which ran:
Mister Monson in the Customs
Is a most efficient chap;
His Dad's an Old Identity -
I once gave him a rap;
For he used to let the prisoners out
In the evening for a spree,
And if not home by ten, locked out
He told them they would be.
It was not only the day at the races that lent some credence to this jolly folklore, for as Henry was often left in sole charge of the gaol, with essential duties to attend to and practical tasks to carry out, there probably were times when the prisoners were left to their own devices.
But as a writer in the Otago Daily Times remarked in 1923: "I knew Mr. Monson well, the keeper of the old gaol. A kindly, genial warm-hearted old gentleman he was, but he appeared to me too shrewd to do any of those things." James Barr wrote in The Old Identities, "Mr. Monson was a good and worthy man, and made the most of circumstances, and of the ricketty shanty erected for the convenience of the two or three male topers and female randies of the place, with occasionally some runaway sailors....They went out by day to work, and every evening were present at Mr. Monson's family worship. Saturday afternoons were given to cultivation of a little vegetable garden...."
It is perhaps salutory to turn from this rather idyllic view and the jokey notoriety that preceded it to a letter written by Henry to Strode in 1857, where all the old bitter complaints about the state of the buildings and his lonely responsibilities were once again aired. "there are no class of men under confinement worse to manage than a Sailor; his every thought and whole mind is bent on liberty and freedom...many of them value neither life nor limb, are self willed, fearless and desperate, deceitful and manoeuvering, cheating and pilfering to the lowest degree, and glory in the deed......Should anything go wrong, all the blame is mine, when everything is right, others have all the merit of it!!"
In 1856 Henry wrote, when asking for the lease of the land adjoining the old gaol, that his purpose was "to build a house upon it, for the reception of Mrs. Monson who is expected out to Otago." Later, in 1859 he was hoping to return to England "owing to matters of importance to my interests requiring my presence there". He asked for a year's leave of absence, but was told that it would be unpaid, and this he couldn't possibly afford. Does this mean that Ann was still alive up to 1859, looking after her husband's interests in England? We don't know. We only know that she never did arrive in New Zealand. After 1847 she disappears without trace; by the 1851 census she had left her London address, 30 East Street. Where she lived, and what her means were, for whatever remained of her life we don't know.
We do know that sometime before September 1857 Henry's eldest son, William Henry, returned to Otago from England with his wife Elizabeth and their two children. Had he visited his mother in England? In a letter to Charles Babbage dated 16th January 1857 John Robert wrote"(my father's) chief desire and object being to secure a comfortable home and provision for himself and my mother, who we hope to see here in a few months," so we know that Ann was presumably still alive at that time. Perhaps William Henry had looked up his Kidall relations in London. (He had a cousin Rosina Kidall, and later he was to christen one of his daughters Rosina.) If old Henry is to be believed, his eldest was in charge of a large business while in England, but as happens rather frequently with William Henry, we are left questioning - if he was doing so well, why did he return to New Zealand? In any event, presumably he had enough funds to pay his family's passage.
In 1857 he was advertising as an architect and builder, and he submitted plans for the new Free Church in Dunedin. Subsequent to this his father wrote to the local paper, the Otago Witness, to strongly deny rumours that the plans had been drawn up by him, Henry, and that his son was not capable of executing such plans. Henry protested that not only had William Henry when young been "articled some time in an architect's office of extensive practice" but that during his most recent stay in England he had "had the management of a very large business". He further praised his son's abilities in no small way, but unfortunately this paternal support cut no ice. William Henry's design was unsuccessful, though he did secure the contract for building the church, a wooden building seating five hundred and seventy eight people, and he went on to build the Princess Theatre and the Courthouse, as Dunedin grew. In July 1858 Frederic Kidall Monson arrived with his wife Elizabeth to join his elder brothers and his father in Otago, and by 1859 the two brothers were advertising a partnership.
Unfortunately, this was something of a false start, and marks the beginning of a fair amount of inter-family acrimony. Mrs. Locke, in The Gaoler, is of the opinion that, though Henry could not get to England, his affairs were eventually sorted out and that he received some assets. Some change in his fortunes seems likely, as by the time of his death he owned quite a lot of property in Dunedin. Unfortunately for him, some of his money went into his sons' business. Things did not go well and in January 1860 William Henry was gaoled for fourteen days as a debtor in his father's gaol. In view of the still primitive financial state of Otago, businessmen found themselves in difficulties fairly often. Henry sued for the recovery of £750 but lost. Then Frederick was charged with using threatening language towards William Henry, but the case was withdrawn.
In 1859 Dunedin gaol was still insecure, and allegedly lax in discipline, so much so that an official enquiry was held. The result was that Henry was exonerated from all blame, and by 1860 at last he was invited to lay the foundation stone of a new gaol. In the meantime, though he now had the help of a turnkey, conditions had scarcely improved and he was finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the stresses and strains of the job. He was now sixty-nine.
In 1861, by a bizarre turn of fate, he was called upon to be gaoler to his own superior, Superintendent McAndrew, who was imprisoned for very large debts. This gentleman didn't care for the goal, and in his official capacity declared his own house to be a prison and appointed his own gaoler. Henry was piggy in the middle, warned that should the prisoner escape the blame would be his, and given no help or advice. He felt that if he had an assistant gaoler his situation might be easier, and in the end his son Frederick was appointed. Eventually the Superitendent was removed from office, and from his own home-prison, and moved into the partially-built new prison. (He conducted his campaign for re-election from this goal, came second in the poll, some years later was successful, and ended up a revered M.P. and Father of the House!)
Henry hoped to become official Governor of the new prison, but his years and state of health were against him, and conditions within Otago were felt to call for a younger, and stricter man.
In his official report written in 1861 Henry expressed some of his views. A short extract:
"With me the practical maxim has been to treat all, and every class of prisoners, as human beings susceptible of new impressions and refinement, to teach them that they are men, of rational endowment, conferred upon them for the great end of fitting them serviceably and morally for the duties of this life; and preparing them for heaven, whatever may have been their offence against society.......All tesimony goes to prove, that the great scene of battle is with ignorance, generally; nay, mere education will not stay the tide of moral defection....Mere education changes the character of crime, it gives increased power to the dishonest, for planning schemes of robbery, and then of concealment, and escape from justice....prison statistics indicate the existence of a much larger deficiency of religious training, than of secular knowledge. Moral ignorance then is the crime-producting agent. Poverty may lead to reluctant crime, when moral ignorance will lead to habitual crime.......Prisoners should be constantly encouraged to reformation; hence certain indulgences should be allowed them, on the grounds of emulating them to industry...A reward of one penny in the shilling, of all labour done properly, would answer that end, with the use of a good library. In close confinement, a prisoner is apt to brood over a depraved and vitiated imagination, to prevent which he should have some selected books, which would check and divert the mind. To build a prison at a vast expense as this province has done and then to make it a simple system of reformatory is to erect an asylum for felons who learn only to dupe the Magistrates."
Later in 1861, at the age of seventy-one, Henry was persuaded to resign, and received £300 in recognition of his long service. He did his best to secure his son Frederick's future as the next gaoler, but he was only appointed to the post of Chief Warder, and stayed only a few months longer. The following year, when Frederick's wife died of consumption, they were living in a house owned by Henry in Great King Street, Dunedin; it is thought that after her death he may have gone to America. The new gaoler brought in flogging. He was sacked after two years' service.
In 1862 William Henry's wife Elizabeth also died of consumption, leaving him with the two children, thirteen year old Ellen Maria and William Frederick, now ten, in Stuart Street, Dunedin, where they lived till 1865. Early in the year following his wife's death William Henry remarried. No doubt he felt the need of a mother for his children, though one suspects, William Henry was susceptible and inclined to be impulsive where women were concerned. He had, after all, met Elizabeth on the boat coming over to New Zealand and within sixteen months of landing their daughter Ellen Maria was baptised in August 1849. John Robert, in contrast, didn't marry till 1856, when he had made his own way and was already a pillar of the Port Chalmers community. I think we may also assume that there was a fair amount of vanity in William Henry, for he was entirely inconsistent when giving his age, and deemed it prudent to deduct anything up to four years when marrying a younger bride. On 26th February 1863 in the Roman Catholic Chapel, Dunedin, he married the twenty-three year old Mary Jane Ward, optimistically giving his age as thirty-four. At this time he was a partner in a firm of architects and surveyors, Monson and Vahland, in Princes St. North, though by 1864-65 he is listed on his own as an architect in Lower Stuart Street. William Henry and Jane had a daughter, Rosina.
Henry had a further five years in retirement. On 5th December 1866, while staying at Wycliffe Cottage, West Taieri, the home of his friends the Blatches, he made his will. Perhaps, as he is described as "late of Port Chalmers", he lived with John Robert and his wife during his later years? It is clear from this will that Henry, despite his varying fortunes, had managed to acquire a sizeable amount of property. Perhaps those dragged-out negotiations back in England did eventually produce something substantial from the wreckage of his business? The chief people to benefit by specific legacies were William Henry's wife Jane, and the children from both William Henry's marriages, who were left their family home and the means to pay off its mortgage, along with other property. Henry would seem to have wanted to provide some security for his daughter-in-law and for his grandchildren, and one wonders whether the marriage between William Henry and Jane was obviously under strain. Though William Henry probably continued living in the family home at Great King Street (now the property of his wife and daughters) for a short time after his father's death, by the following year he had returned alone to England. He received, however, along with his brother Frederick, a share in some land, (it was actually 18 acres each) while Henry's youngest son, John Robert, the most stable and reliable member of the family, is understandably appointed executor and receives the remainder of the estate, of which we don't know the value. There is no mention of Henry's wife Ann, which would lead us to believe that she may have died in England, but neither is there mention of his two youngest children, left in England with her. Can they have died too, or had there latterly been a rift between the English and New Zealand branches of the family?
Five days later, on 9th December 1866, Henry died of "general debility and natural decay" at the age of seventy-six. The carpenter who had made his way from Yorkshire to London, who had flourished, developed his own building business and raised a family, who had engaged in good works and become a solid citizen, only to find it all slipping away in the financial crash of 1847. The man who had then said goodbye to the wife he was never to see again and had sailed into the unknown with his two eldest sons to face deprivation in an as yet untamed land. Who, hanging on to his faith and his principles under conditions of severe stress, had entered into what we would now call "a second career" at the age of fifty-eight and had made a success of it, till age and infirmity had proved too much for him. He died among friends, and left his mark upon the community.
I must admit to having grown rather fond of Henry Monson, a humanitarian, a man in many ways before his time, and the most engaging ancestor I have as yet discovered.
His son, William Henry, was a very different character, and one not as thoroughly documented, so we do not really know him well. It is tempting to see him as something of a black sheep, but not knowing the real man perhaps we should not so judge. Certainly on his final return to England in 1867, he left behind his wife and family. Certainly on 1st December of that year he married, at Dunstable Parish Church, twenty-seven year old Eliza Liberty Smith, and there seems no doubt that the marriage was bigamous. In fact, at the time this was not too unusual. As recently as 1856 a divorce had required a private Act of Parliament, an enterprise only available to the extremely wealthy. It is believed that very many ordinary people at this period reorganised their marital arrangements without bothering about legal niceties. On his marriage certificate William Henry described himself as a widower and carpenter who was thirty-seven years old, whereas he was in fact a married man of forty or forty-one. However, he had been a carpenter and this was how he made his living when back in England, leaving behind in Otago his status as a builder and aspiring architect. In later life William Henry reputedly drank; does this partly account for his see-saw career? Perhaps he lacked the sterling qualities which strengthened his father's character and which helped his brother John to succeed in establishing a solid dynasty in a foreign land.
By 14th February 1870, when their daughter Ann Eliza was born, William Henry and Eliza were living at 28 St. Vincent Street, Ladywood, Birmingham. (Reputedly they also had a son who died in childhood and was buried in Dunstable church). The area from which Eliza Liberty hailed was a straw-hat manufacturing area, in a period when the straw boater was becoming an almost universal summer headgear. In the census of 1871 Eliza Liberty is described as a straw hat maker, and one presumes this would be work that would be done in the home. William Henry, as his daughter grew up, sometimes worked away from home, and seems to have taken an interest in her education, for the letters which she wrote to him would be returned, carefully corrected - one hopes, and presumes, with a loving note to soften the blow! William Henry was a good carpenter; my aunt possessed an attractive chest hand-carved by him.
Time passed, and William Henry was growing old. On 14th July 1895 he made a will passing on his share of the property of forty acres in Otago to Ann Eliza, described as "youngest daughter". A fortnight later, on 28th July 1895, William Henry died. As his estate is valued in the records previously at Somerset House as £25, presumably this land had little worth (unless there is some question of legal formalities of which I know nothing). In any event, his wife and daughter followed up the details of the legacy but never benefited from it; the supposition is that upon investigation they discovered the truth of their illegitimate position.
Perhaps we might diverge here into the history of Eliza Liberty Smith, William Henry's third wife, though we don't actually know very much about her. James Smith who had been born about 1769 in Kensworth, Herts, was a whiting manufacturer living in Dunstable, his wife was called Elizabeth. Their son Thomas was baptised on 20th July 1810; he married Eliza Roome, who had been born about 1818. Their daughter Eliza Liberty was born at Dunstable on 26th March 1839, when they already had a son and two daughters, and baptised on 10th November 1839. Eliza registered the birth within nineteen days; she made her mark on the certificate, not being able to write. Censuses show the family living at High Street, Dunstable, Thomas as a carpenter and Eliza as a bonnet maker or bonnet sewer (hats being the staple industry of the Dunstable area) and by 1851 they had eight children.
As we know so little of the Smiths, we don't know where the name Liberty comes from. I used to imagine that perhaps Eliza's father was a Chartist and we might find other children christened Equality and Fraternity, but it in fact transpired that at least two other of Thomas Smith's children had Liberty as their middle name. We have not been able to track this down.
In later life Eliza Liberty lived with her daughter Ann Eliza and family in Bradford, and my father used to tell a story of visitors to the house in search of a piece of Liberty furniture, a tallboy which had been relegated to the attic and in which his brother Reg kept white mice. This tallboy, though not at its best, was carried away. However, as Ann Eliza traded in antiques which were shipped to America, and as I have no very firm grasp of the story, whether there actually was a Liberty link is difficult to say. Though the Smiths settled in Dunstable, Eliza Liberty's grandfather James's birthplace was Kensworth, then in Herts, now Beds. In the 1851 census there was a John Liberty in Kensworth who had been born there and was more or less contemporaneous with James Smith. Arthur Lazenby Liberty, who founded the famous Regent Street store, was born in Chesham, Bucks, a matter of some ten or fifteen miles away. Whether or not the link was one of blood, Thomas Smith must have had quite a strong loyalty to the name of Liberty, for him to have given it to three of his children.
Eliza Liberty would be fifty-six in 1895 when her husband William Henry died. At some time the family had moved back into straw-hat country, and now she and her twenty-five year old daughter Ann Eliza were living at 46, Hastings Street, Luton. When prospects of acquiring some little capital from the New Zealand "legacy" had been cruelly dashed, the two women must have realised that they had only themselves to rely on - though perhaps William Henry had never been too firm a rock to lean upon. It seems likely that Eliza Liberty had continued working as a straw hat maker, presumably at home, from time to time during her marriage, and was prepared to carry on. As for Ann Eliza, she was a woman of great energy and determination. A handsome young woman, tall and statuesque, she had already at twenty-six found her own career path within the straw hat industry as a travelling saleswoman - reputedly only the second in the country. Within a year of her father's death she had married James Taylor Errington, but this was no question of finding a safe haven in domesticity. A remarkable woman, she maintained her role as businesswoman along with those of wife and mother for many years. To see what sort of family she had married into, we must turn to the Erringtons.
1,2,3Henry Monson's letter to Charles Babbage
4 The History of London - London 1808-1870, Sheppard, Secker & Warburg, 1971
5,6 The Scots Overseas, Gordon Donaldson, Robert Hale, 1966
For this branch of the family we move to the county of Westmorland. Joseph Thompson was born in 1734 or 35; he became a labourer living at Brampton (the one near Appleby, not the one near Carlisle) and married Ann Gregson of Brampton at Long Marton parish church nearby on 12th November 1765, their witnesses being William Lowes and John Richardson. Their fourth child Thomas was just one year old when Joseph died and was buried at Long Marton on 23rd July 1773. Thomas became a shoemaker, and is very likely to have been the fifteen year old living in the household of shoemaker John Harrison in Long Marton in 1787. On 21st February 1796 (or just possibly 15th June 1796 - conflicting evidence) Thomas married Hannah Whitfield, in the presence of Mary Brunskill and John Tuer. Thompson is a very common name in Westmorland at this time, especially around Kirkby Stephen, and though Whitfield is nowhere near as common, there is a Hannah baptised at Kirkby Stephen on 29th March 1769, daughter of Andrew; she could well be ours, but there is no confirmatory evidence. They baptised their first daughter Elizabeth on 21st May 1797 at Long Marton, but by the time of their second daughter Ann's baptism on 24th February 1799 they had moved from Brampton to the county town of Westmorland, Appleby.
Appleby had been a very prosperous town in the fourteenth century, but it suffered badly at the hands of Scots raiders, and by this time its population was around 1,600. It must, nevertheless, have been a characterful and charming town, and quite a metropolis after Long Marton. Long Marton, of which Brampton was a part, had a population of 432. Appleby's broad central street Boroughgate stretched down from the Castle at the top to the Cloisters and ancient St. Lawrence's Church at the bottom, with tradesmen's premises and inns between. Markets for corn and provisions were held on Saturdays around the Cloisters, with a cattle market at the top of Boroughgate on alternate Saturdays, and a large annual cattle and livestock fair in Bongate on Gallows Hill on a Wednesday in June. There were fairs on St. Lawrence's Day and at Whit, King James II's fair in April and Hirings fairs for the hiring of servants on Whit Monday and at Martinmas.
There were two adjoining parishes in the town, St. Lawrence's and St. Michael's commonly known as Bongate ("where the bondsmen inhabited" in the tenth century). St. Michael's is no longer used. Thomas and Hannah's third daughter Mary, my ancestor, was baptised on 12th October 1800 at St. Lawrence's. It was a lovely autumn Sunday - or at least it was so about twenty miles away at Grasmere, where Dorothy Wordsworth noted in her journal "Beautiful day....we walked before tea by Bainriggs to observe the many coloured foliage the oaks dark green with yellow leaves, the birches generally still green, some near the water yellowish. The Sycamore crimson and crimson-tufted, the mountain ash a deep orange, the common ash Lemon colour but many ashes still fresh in their summer green." Thomas and Hannah baptised another daughter (who died in infancy) and four sons at St. Lawrence's.
We know that later in life their address was Low Wiend, as Thomas appears in local directories. This street lies at the bottom of the town, and if Thomas and Hannah settled there from the first, then St. Lawrence's was very handy. Some solid terrace houses remain on one side of this street - likely homes for a steady workman and his young family. The house and garden which used to belong to the headmaster of the noted Grammar School around the corner have been demolished. As we shall see, Mary was probably to live in Low Wiend for the major part of her life. When she was eleven the old Cloisters where the markets were held, just around the corner from Low Wiend, were pulled down and rebuilt by the corporation - and people said it cost £1,000. Then in her later teens they rebuilt the Low Cross at one end of Boroughgate and the High Cross at the other. Appleby was smartening itself up and becoming bigger. Its population in 1821 was 2,661.
There were not a few Erringtons scattered around Westmorland in the eighteenth century, and indeed there were Erringtons who were farmers and innkeepers in Knock, near Appleby. However, most frustratingly, we have never found it possible to link our line into the Erringtons of Knock. Both families are full of Thomases, Marys, Hannahs, Johns, Josephs and Elizabeths. The first Errington we can be sure of as ours is Thomas, whom we first glimpse as a witness to the wedding of John Foster and Mary Steel at St. Michael's, Appleby, in January 1819. Thomas Errington had been born in the winter of 1794/95, but where he was born we have been unable, in spite of many attempts, to find out. Perhaps he came down to Westmorland from the Scottish borders. There is a hamlet of Errington on the border, with a pub The Errington Arms, and the old ballad tells us that "young Jock is Lord of Errington". (We do have a record of a Thomas being born to the Knock Erringtons - see above - in 1804 and have no sighting of him in later life BUT this Thomas would have been fourteen at the time that our Thomas was getting married supposedly at twenty-four. I know that instances of people giving false ages at their weddings are legion, but this really seems to be stretching things beyond the realms of the credible. Another outside possibility could be that the Knock Erringtons had two Thomases, the elder of whom was born somewhere outside the Appleby area, but parents only usually used the same name for children born quite close together, if it was thought that one was so weakly that he might not survive, not for children born ten years apart.
So, we must view our Thomas as an incomer to Appleby, who by 1819 was settled there as a carpenter and had won the heart of eighteen year old Mary Thompson. Being a minor she had to have the consent of her father to her getting married, and before a licence could be given a bond had to be entered into, of which we have a record. The guarantor of this bond was James Thompson. We don't know of a James in Mary's immediate family; though he could have been an uncle or cousin, or just one of the many Thompsons around. In any event he too was a carpenter; perhaps it was through him that Mary met Thomas? In a later directory there are two James Thompsons, carpenters, in Boroughgate. The young couple were married by Rev. Harrison Stow at St. Michael's Church by licence on 15th February 1819, when Mary was described as of St. Michael's parish (so perhaps the Thompsons didn't move to Low Wiend till later, perhaps at this time they lived in Bongate). Thomas is described as of St. Lawrence's parish. The witnesses were Anthony Cowper and Elizabeth Thompson, either Mary's elder sister or her aunt. (Curiously, though the marriage bond only mentions Mary as being a minor, and says "Thomas Thompson, of Appleby, shoemaker, is her father and consents", the entry in the register says "by licence with the consent of their parents"; this looks like a mistake; we don't suppose Thomas to have been under age.)
So Mary settled down with Thomas. Though the first sure date we have for them living in Low Wiend is 1829, perhaps we could assume that they settled here from the start. Mary's mother and father were probably then in Low Wiend too, with young eight year old Thomas and nine year old George still at home, though Joseph, Ann and Elizabeth may well have been out in service.
Just over a year after their wedding, on 21st March 1820, Mary and Thomas were baptising their first child, Thomas. Over the following nineteen years Mary bore another nine children, and it has been possible to gather quite a lot of information about the fortunes of the members of this family, who would seem to have been fairly typical of their time. Little Thomas would be about two years old at the christening of his sister, named Hannah for her grandmother, then two years later came James Thompson, three years after that Ann, two years after that Rebecca, another two and Joseph Thompson is baptised, so there were now six youngsters, nicely spaced it would seem (though of course there may well have been miscarriages inbetween), playing around the house and running up the street to grandma's kitchen or grandad's shoemaker's shop or workroom. Mary's next pregnancies were not so happy - not only did their next baby William die at one week old, the little girl Elizabeth who followed just over a year later died at one week too. But barely a year later a healthy little boy John, who was to be my ancestor, brought happiness again to the family. He was baptised on 30th November 1836 at St. Michael's by the vicar, Rev. Thomas Bellas, who baptised his own daughter Sarah there the following month.
A few years later when Mary was well into her next pregnancy, in the winter of 1839 came the sad news that her father Thomas, an asthma sufferer, had suffered a fatal attack while out on the highway in the nearby village of Sandford. The death certificate gives the informant as the coroner, so presumably an inquest was held. Thomas was sixty-six, still described as a shoemaker so perhaps still working, maybe on an errand taking or collecting boots when he died out on the cold February road.
Perhaps we might pause here to look at the Erringtons surroundings. We can fill in some background from the Mannix directory for Westmorland which, though dated 1851 (republished 1978) gives some retrospective details; we may also safely assume little change in some things over a period of twelve years.
A curious thing that strikes one is that Low Wiend seems to have been a rather unusual address for a tradesman, most of the tradesmen and shopkeepers being on the broad main street, Boroughgate, or High Wiend. The nobility, gentry, clergy and partners in firms appear to live at Battle Barrow or Bongate, clustering around the Castle, with a few in the bigger houses on Boroughgate. Most of Low Wiend was taken up by the distinguished (though presumably small) grammar school, dating at least from Elizabethan times, described as "a neat edifice in the Low Wiend, rebuilt in 1826" and the house of the headmaster, Rev. John Richardson, M.A. He was appointed from Queen's College, Oxford, where the Appleby scholars had the chance of taking up exhibitions endowed by local gentry. The Post Office was there, and the vicarage for the incumbent of St. Lawrence's, the Rev. Joseph Milner, was in Low Wiend too, and an attorney lived there, but apart from a tailor,the only tradesman appeared to be Thomas Errington, listed as weelwright and joiner, (and before him, his father-in-law Thomas Thompson, though he is, of course, not included in this directory).
The Rev. John Richardson, the grammar school headmaster, must have been quite a preacher, for the Kendal Mercury reported him preaching at a music festival at Dufton, a nearby village, on 24th August 1838. "Two most eloquent and impressive sermons were preached by the Rev. John Richardson, Master of the Free Grammar School, Appleby, to a most numerous congregation, for the seats were so crowded that the pressure became almost insupportable, and members were standing outside who could not gain admittance."
Earlier in 1838 the Kendal Mercury had more disturbing, though intriguing news, which must have caused some local excitement when "the barn of Mr. Joseph Bland of Knock (near Appleby) was broken into and a quantity of straw was taken from it. Two days after it was again entered and some hay carried off. The plunderer has not been discovered, though he was tracked for some distance and the very singular impression made by his clog was noted." Cue for an early Westmorland Sherlock here, surely.
1838 was a particularly hard winter, and on 3rd March 1838 there is a report of a twelve year old Appleby boy, son of a local draper, being drowned while sliding upon the river Eden, in spite of a courageous attempt to save him by a local young man. One can imagine Thomas and Mary warning the children at home severely about the dangers of going on the ice, especially as they'd probably all heard that Derwentwater was frozen over and people were skating there, while on Bassenthwaite a sheep had been roasted on the ice and they'd held a cricket match, as Cockermouth Brass Band entertained the crowds!
Mary's last child, Mark, was christened in July 1839, five months after old Thomas's death. Mary's mother Hannah, already seventy, survived for a further four years. She didn't move to live with Mary and Thomas and their large family, though she may, of course, have gone to live with one of her other children or grandchildren. When she died of old age in the early morning of 4th December 1843 there was a John Barnes present at the death, but whether he was a relative, doctor or neighbour we don't know.
So, we arrive at 1841, when the first detailed census covering all households was made, and can see who in the family of Mary and Thomas were at home on that evening of 7th June when the census taker called. Thomas is given as a forty-five year old joiner and Mary as forty. (There's a Y under the column for "born in same county" for all the family, including Thomas, but this can sometimes be just a census-taker's carelessness, especially in the early days). Young Thomas is given as j. joiner (journeyman joiner?), nineteen-year old Hannah is there and sixteen year old James, described as joiner. The younger children, Ann, Rebecca, Joseph, down to four year old John and the one year old baby Mark are there too. It would seem likely that the older boys were working with their father and that Hannah was at home helping her mother with the younger children. Later in life the girls didn't stray far in search of employment, and there is evidence of sisterly and brotherly support and affection which seems to imply a strong family bond. At this time it seems reasonable to think of the Erringtons as a united family, perhaps quite prosperous. We really have no evidence of the size of their home, but it is pleasant to consider the house in Low Wiend, whether cramped and overflowing or large and comfortable, as a warm family home knowing its share of laughter and tears.
A year later, a twenty-one year old single woman in nearby Dufton, Rebecca Coates, had a baby boy who was baptised Thomas on 26th June 1842, and in the following February - after who knows what family discussions - when Rebecca and Thomas Errington Jnr were married at Dufton it must have seemed that all might be well. But the young couple's story was to be brief and sad. Four months after the wedding the baby Thomas died, and though just over a year later, on 11th April 1844, a daughter Mary Jane was baptised, her father Thomas Jnr only lived another eighteen months. On 8th March 1846 he was buried at Dufton, and three years later his wife Rebecca died also.
Another year passed and twenty-three year old Ann was married at St. Lawrence's to John Lawson, a cabinet maker, on 1st Jully 1850. In December, six months later, their daughter Mary was born in Penrith, (perhaps Ann had the baby away from home because it came so soon after the wedding, or it may have been that John Lawson was a Penrith man, though the young family later lived in Appleby).
In that same month, December 1850, came the sad event that was to break up the Appleby Erringtons and eventually see most of them taking the road to Bradford or to Manchester. The Westmorland Gazette of 21st December 1850 announced the death "on the 14th at Appleby, Mr. Thos. Errington, carpenter, aged 55". What a miserable Christmas that must have been in Low Wiend, after the funeral at St. Lawrence's on 16th December. What worried family discussions, what anxious talk and doubtfully framed plans. Though Mary's elder unmarried children were of an age to be independent, we have no evidence that they had in fact left home, and indeed it seems likely that James and Joseph had been working alongside their father, while the youngsters John and Mark were only thirteen and eleven.
However, by the time the census was taken on 31st March 1851, three months after Thomas's death, the family home on Low Wiend had been vacated. Apparently the decision had been taken that the family business could not, or at least would not, be carried on by Joseph and James. The spirit of the times was away from the country and towards the growing towns and cities. Perhaps the Errington sons had been champing at the bit before the crisis of their father's death, or perhaps financial considerations meant that they had no choice but to leave. We don't know.
We do know that by 1851 the two unmarried daughters, Hannah in her late twenties and Rebecca, at twenty-one or twenty-two, had found secure positions. We don't know how long they'd been working, or whether they'd been forced to find living-in situations on the breakup of the family home, but we do know that they hadn't moved far from home, as Hannah was now cook and Rebecca housemaid to the Rev John Richardson, the headmaster of the Grammar School just down the street. Moreover John, at fourteen years old, was also now in service, in the household of Richard B. Yeats, practising surgeon in the Market Place. The only married sister, Ann, was back in Appleby, living in Doomgate with her husband John and baby daughter. We lose sight of the fifty year old widowed Mary and her youngest child Mark for a time now, except to be sure that they didn't remain in Appleby when James and Joseph set off to make their own way in the world. It's possible that Mary and young Mark accompanied one of the two older boys, though it seems unlikely..
The only other Errington in the Appleby district in 1851 was Mary Jane, the rather forlorn orphaned seven year old daughter of Thomas Jnr, now living in Dufton with the forty-three year old widow and "landed proprietress" Nancy Furness.
So, what became of the two older Errington boys, James and Joseph?
Three years after the split-up of the family we know that James was living in Bradford, for from 12 Cropper Lane, Westgate, on 12th September 1853 he took out "letters of tuition" for his niece Mary Jane, undertaking to be her "curator, tutor and guardian" and presumably taking her into his home, as we know she lived with him later. In 1857 a Miss Hannah Errington is listed as a shopkeeper at 17 Brick Lane, Bradford, and in 1858 she married. Whether this was our Hannah who had given up her cook's post at Appleby Grammar School and followed brother James to Bradford we're not sure. (At some point James married a Hannah from Penrith, which adds to the confusion here.) However, by 1858 James had moved from Bradford to Lower Broughton Road, Manchester, where he was a beer retailer and provision dealer.
In 1859 we again catch sight of Joseph at twenty-six, marrying Mary Mason, the daughter of a Bempton cordwainer, at Scarborough. The baby of the family, Mark, also married around this time, a Sarah born in Huddersfield, for now we have reached 1861, and the census returns again come to our aid.
Whether mother Mary and the child Mark made their home with James in the travels that took him from Appleby to Bradford we don't know, but by 1861, when James had moved on from Bradford to Manchester, Mark, his young twenty year old wife Sarah and Mary, a widow of sixty, are living at 5 Gaynor St, Bradford. James was by then a man of many parts, for the 1861 census showed him as butcher, beer retailer, joiner and builder, living at 1 Whitfield Terrace, Lower Broughton Road, Manchester. One presumes that not only were there opportunities for small builders as Manchester spread and the people pouring in needed houses, but that these thousands of workers likewise always needed groceries, meat and beer. At James's house were his wife Hannah; three young children, Mary, Whitfield and John; James's niece Jane (a sixteen year old dressmaker) to whom he is guardian; and an eighteen year old house servant. In Union Street nearby lived William Thompson, a cordwainer and foreman, with his children, and though we don't know who he was, he could well have been a relative of James's mother Mary, nee Thompson, for he was born in Appleby.
Oral tradition within the family is that the Errington brothers settled in Manchester and built some streets of houses during this time of civic expansion,and this is where we have the evidence. The names of the streets where James was living in 1861 tell the story. He was in Whitfield Terrace (you will recall that his grandmother was Hannah Whitfield), and he looked out onto Errington View. (I believe these streets are no longer standing, though Errington Street and Errington View survived beyond 1900.) By 1865 James had two addresses in Whitfield Terrace, presumably home and business.
By 1861 it would seem that almost all the Erringtons had left Appleby. Rebecca was no longer there, unless under a married name that we don't know, Ann and her husband were no longer in Doomgate, perhaps having moved to Penrith; John too had left.
We don't know at what point between 1851 and 1866 John left Appleby and went to Bradford to join his mother and brother, but family tradition is that he walked the entire way.
In 1863 Mary died. The Bradford Review for 4th June 1863 records "May 27th, aged sixty-two years, Mary, widow of Thomas Errington, joiner, 45 Raven Street." (Raven Street is near Cropper Street, where James was living in 1858.) Mary was buried back in her home town of Appleby, alongside her Thomas. A handsome gravestone with a weeping willow at its head, in memory of Thomas and Mary, now scarcely legible, stands to the right of the path in St. Lawrence's churchyard.
In 1866 we have a definite sighting of John, who had reverted to the family trade of joiner and was living at 1 Whiteley Street, Bradford. Just before Christmas, on 21st December 1866, he married Jean Wilson Taylor at Sion Baptist Church, Bridge Street, Bradford. He was thirty; she was thirty-two and came from Scotland. Their witnesses were James B. Watson and Charlesworth Prince.
Let us digress at this point and leave the Erringtons, to go back and look at the family from which Jean Wilson Taylor came.
(I am indebted for much of the information on the Taylors to another great-grandaughter of Jean Wilson Taylor, and to my son Mark particularly for information on the Haighs and Princes)
The Taylors came from Scotland; of that there has never been any doubt, though many other interesting oral traditions relating to Jean Wilson Taylor have been tantalisingly difficult to substantiate.
James Taylor I was a weaver, who at the time of his marriage was said to be of Alloa. He married on 4th July 1790 Charlotte Ramage (occasionally given as Ramsay) at Fossoway, Clackmannan. Charlotte may well have been the daughter of James Ramage, workman in Blaringone (Fossoway), who may have been son of John Ramage, collier of Blaringone. James II married Elisabeth Burn, who was one of a family of at least seven children baptised by Alexander Burn and his wife Jean, nee Wilson, in Blaringone from the 1780s to the early 1800s. Elisabeth was baptised on 17th September 1798. Alexander, who had been baptised on 12th January 1755, may have been the son of James Burn and Helen nee Miller.
One of the enduring family traditions attached to Jean Wilson Taylor is that she was a family connection of the poet Robert Burns. Sadly, no documented connection has ever been traced - which is not to say that there may not be one. Her mother's maiden name was certainly Burn. There would seem to be no link through the poet's direct descendants, as according to the family tree on sale at his house in Dumfries none of his sons had surviving sons; whether there was a link further back through his ancestors will probably never be authenticated. The poet's father was, of course, called Burnes, a spelling which is apparently used at least back to his grandfather in the Clochnahill parish register. Burnes was changed to Burns by agreement between the poet and his brother in 1786, though one would have to say that the further back one goes, the less importance people placed on the spelling of names. Parish clerks and clergymen often recorded as they heard. Jean Wilson Taylor christened her son Ernest Burns and her grandson was christened Reginald Burns. Unfortunately this is retrospective, and is only evidence of the fact that there was a wish to perpetuate the idea, not that there was factual evidence for it. As devil's advocate one could say that someone coming from that part of Scotland with a Burn as her mother might well have dearly wished that such a link existed and felt that such circumstances made it extremely probable. I'm sure that Jean Wright and myself both wish no less fervently that we could find some evidence. Perhaps, some day .....
Jean Wilson Taylor was born 30th October 1834 At the time of the 1841 census we see her living in Blairingone with her mother and father, Elisabeth and James II and her brothers and sisters. Though at his death fourteen years later James was described as a labourer, in 1841 he is called merchant. Perhaps the family fortunes took a downward turn? There can be no doubt that the census and the death refer to the same man, as the names and ages of his children tally, (one has to be very careful; James Taylors in Scotland, even in Blairingone, are thick on the ground). Living with James and Elisabeth in 1841 are their children Charlotte nine, Jane (our Jean) seven, Elisabeth five, James three and Alexander one.
By 1851 James II is described as an agricultural labourer and a widower, so Elisabeth has died. Three of his younger children, including the youngest, eight year old Margaret, are still with him, but Jean is not there. Next door is Margaret Taylor, a widow of fifty-six - perhaps a sister or cousin of James II who helped her widowed younger brother with the housekeeping and children? . On 27th March 1855 James II died of pleuritis at the age of fifty-four. Perhaps his death finally dispersed the family, as Thomas Errington's death had broken up the Erringtons of Appleby five years before. On 10th April 1857 Jean's elder sister Charlotte, a domestic servant, married James Dougall, a brickmaker, at Coalsnaughton, Tillicountry, Clackmannan, when both Elisabeth and James were noted as deceased, and James's trade was given as grocer.
By the 1861 census Jean Wilson Taylor was living at 3 Oak Lane, Manningham, as cook to the Haigh family. William Roulston Haigh was a stuff merchant living during the 1850s at Oakfield or Oak Place, Manningham. He appears to have been the manager, possibly managing director of A. & S. Henry and Co, stuff merchants on Leeds Road, and to have kept quite a large household. At the 1851 census, before Jean Wilson Taylor had joined the household, William Haigh's house contained his young daughter, a twenty-four year old visitor (who interestingly enough, is still resident ten years later but is listed as governess) and two house servants. William Haigh's wife, Ellen or Helen, is given as being born in Scotland.
Ten years later, at the time of the 1861 census, Mr. and Mrs. Haigh are not at home, their young daughter has the company of a young visitor along with her governess, and twenty-six year old "Jane" Taylor is cook, with a Yorkshire-born serving maid and a housemaid born in Scotland. It seems clear that Mrs. Haigh often preferred her servants to come from her home country.
Which brings us to another line of search as far as Jean Wilson Taylor is concerned. There is oral evidence that she had some sort of link with the Paton family of Alloa, whose business developed into Paton and Baldwins, the knitting yarn firm; that perhaps she lived with a member of the Paton family after her mother's death. Again, efforts by Jean Wright have led nowhere on this one. The finger seemed to point to Mrs. Ellen Haigh, from Alloa, who had married well and who liked her servants to come from her old home. However, this led nowhere when research showed that she was not a Paton, but was born Helen Roy, daughter of Alexander Roy and Helen nee Macfarlane.
While Jean Wilson Taylor, in her mid-twenties, was employed as cook in Manningham, she must have met and got to know the joiner John Errington, slightly younger than herself. Perhaps they had reached an understanding by 1865 or 1866 when the Haigh family moved to Dudmanstone, Berry Brow, Almondbury, Huddersfield, and Jean perforce moved too. Perhaps - who knows - the enforced parting brought John to a realisation of how much he cared? The wedding was arranged, and as we have seen, John and Jean were married just before Christmas in 1866. (Incidentally, Mrs. Haigh continued to enrol her house servants from Scotland as well as from Yorkshire for the next twenty years.)
Readers who have been paying attention will recall that one of the witnesses at the wedding of John and Jean was Charlesworth Prince. Oral evidence was that this was quite a wealthy and influential man, who among other things donated a drinking fountain to a Manningham neighbourhood. As a young man of twenty at the 1861 census we find him as a woolsorter, along with his fourteen year old schoolboy brother, boarding with a master butcher in 61 Barkerend Road. In 1864 he married Margaret, shown in censuses as having been born at Blairingone. Yes, this is indeed Jean's younger sister Margaret Taylor. The wedding was at the parish church, Calverley near Bradford, the groom's family home, when Charlesworth was described as bookkeeper and Margaret at twenty-one is not given any occupation. Witnesses were James Margerison and John Craven. How Margaret met Charlesworth, we don't know. Perhaps she came down to visit her sister Jean, though this doesn't seem terribly likely if Jean was living-in as a cook. However, it's by no means impossible. As we have no sighting of Jean between 1841 and 1861 or Margaret between 1851 and 1864, they may well have been together after their father's death, say from 1855 to 1860, perhaps staying with this elusive Paton relative or friend in Bradford.
It seems doubtful if Margaret had married into affluence, for the 1881 census shows Charlesworth at forty as a wool salesman at 90 Tennyson Place and Margaret, at thirty-eight, with five children and no servant, as a stapler. (She called her first daughter Jean). By 1887 however Charlesworth is listed in directories as wool merchant, 30 Millergate and 4 Oakroyd villas, and in 1893 as wool, noil and top merchant, 24-30 Millergate, 49 & 59 Sunbridge Road, 4 Oakroyd villas. By 1903 the business is listed as Charlesworth Prince and Sons with several addresses. There don't appear to be any Princes in the wool trade shown in local directories before Charlesworth, so it seems very likely that he was a self-made man, and one hopes that Margaret enjoyed a comfortable life too.
John Errington and Jean Wilson, nee Taylor, set up house at 1 Alexandra Street, Horton, Bradford, and almost exactly a year after their marriage, a son was born to them on Christmas Eve 1867. He was christened James Taylor, and became my grandfather. Jean's name is given as Jane on the birth certificate, which I took to be an error, till later we discovered that she seemed to use either Jane or Jean. An error was, however, made on the certificate, for James's birth was registered as being on 24th December 1868 and was later, on 9th May 1868, endorsed by the registrar in the presence of both parents "for 1868 substitute 1867" - rather an unusual occurence. John was described as a journeyman joiner.
By 1870 John and Jean had moved to 132 Garnett Street. I believe that in later life James Taylor used to say that one of his first memories was of being carried on his father's shoulders when they were moving house; it was election time and he remembered passing the hustings at Shearbridge. I suppose he would have been about three at the time. By 1870 John was described as shopkeeper, though a little later he was given as joiner and grocer, so presumably he followed the family tradition of keeping more than one iron in the fire, though after 1875 he is always listed in directories as grocer or shopkeeper. I believe that in later life he owned property, and could have added landlord to his description.
In Manchester, John's brother James in Whitfield Terrace had died in the mid-sixties. His widow Hannah was given under various addresses very near to each other from 1868 to 1874: Whitfield Terrace, Lower Broughton Road and Brazil Street. The 1871 census showed her as a widow and umbrella maker. Daughter Mary was an umbrella maker too and sons Whitfield and John were (surprise!) joiners. They had an unemployed warehouseman as boarder.
Though James had died, his brother Joseph remained active. Sometime between 1868 and 1871 he moved to 5 Brazil Street, Lower Broughton, and set up as a builder. In 1871, living with his Yorkshire-born wife Mary, he is described as a joiner. However, he would appear to have been an active builder in 1873/74, when Errington Street was built off Sussex Street, Lower Broughton. We have no trace of him beyond 1876, when he is living at 24 Brazil Street. In 1876 there is a joiner John R. Errington living at 32 Brazil Street, possibly Joseph's son or nephew, but by 1877 there are no Erringtons in Manchester directories.
In Bradford John and Jean continued to live at 132 Garnett Street, and did so for the remainder of John's life. They had another son, named Ernest Burns and in 1876 a daughter Mary Elizabeth. At around this time the Taylors from Blairingone and the Erringtons from Appleby would seem to have had quite a family network centred in Bradford. In the mid-seventies John's younger brother Mark and his wife Sarah with their children Joseph, Thomas, Mary and John were at 50 Skinhouse Street, Little Horton. (Mark's children were named almost entirely with family names - only Jane the youngest not having an Appleby echo). Jean's younger sister Margaret and her husband Charlesworth Prince, presumably still struggling to make ends meet, were in Tennyson Place with their young family, Arthur, Walter and baby Jean. So James Taylor and Ernest Burns, later with baby Elizabeth, may have had plenty of cousins visiting them at the house behind the grocery shop at 132 Garnett Street.
From 1880 Mark lived at 22 Skinhouse Street, Little Horton. We see him at the 1881 census as a forty-one year old joiner with his wife Sarah, his eldest son Joseph, eighteen, a woolcomber, his next son, sixteen year old Thomas, a staff-spinner, the four younger children still "scholars". Margaret and Charlesworth by the 1881 census had five young children. It's possible that Joseph Errington, the builder, moved to Bradford from Manchester in the eighties too, to be near his brothers Mark and John, for by 1908 a Joseph Errington was living at 35 Marshall Street, Bradford; whether this was our Joseph we don't know.. My aunt Lilian remembered a "cousin Joe", presumably around the late twenties and this may have been Mark's eldest son; this may be the same poor man she also remembered later throwing himself under a train.
James Taylor and Ernest Burns went to the first Bradford High School in Feversham Street, which afterwards became Hanson School. When it was time for James to start work, he went to a local warehouse, which I believe was that of A. & S. Henry & Co, the firm managed by William Haigh, his mother's former employer, now retired. Presumably Jean had kept up her contact with the Haigh family; she may even have accompanied her son to his job interview - it happened in the next generation! However, James didn't stay long with Henry's, but soon moved to the firm of George Richardson, where he was to remain for the rest of his working life.
Ernest Burns was to keep a shop, and I presume helped his father in his early years. Their sister Mary Elizabeth trained as a domestic science teacher.
In the spring of 1891 they were all at home in 132 Garnett Street when the census taker called. John, now fifty-six, was described as grocer, Jean was fifty-six, James Taylor at twenty-three was warehouseman and Ernest Burns, nineteen, grocer's assistant, while Mary Elizabeth was at fourteen still a schoolgirl. Also resident was John's unmarried niece of twenty-two, Mary, given as "no occupation" and born in Leeds. Whether she was living with the family or was visiting isn't clear. She would be the right age to be Mark's daughter Mary, though according to a former census she was born in Bradford, like all her siblings.
When James Taylor met the young travelling saleslady Ann Eliza Monson I don't know, but they were married on 15th September 1896 at Bradford's Holy Trinity Church, when he was twenty-eight, giving his occupation as clerk, and she was twenty-six, given as saleswoman. The witnesses were his father, brother and sister, and Mary Elizabeth White, a friend of the bride's. They spent their honeymoon in Douglas, Isle of Man (after which resort they named one of their sons).
I imagine it must have been around this time that James's sister Mary Elizabeth (known as Lizzie in my childhood) married Frederick William Ellicott. They had two sons, both of whom went on to successful business careers, the younger son John having four daughters.
I don't know when Ernest married. His wife was Mary, known as Polly, and I believe she was an orphan who worked hard to get her brothers and sisters out of the orphanage.
I don't know where James and Ann Eliza lived when they were first married, it may have been somewhere more modest than 2 Cunliffe Villas in the Manningham area of Bradford, the comfortable family house which they were living in by 1908 and for years thereafter. Their first son was christened John Monson and on 17th April 1902 the twins Douglas Monson (my father) and Reginald Burns were born, later followed by the first daughter, Dorothy Jean. Doug remembered attending Miss Scales's School as an infant, a school where at the year end "everyone has done well and everyone shall have prizes". He also remembered his grandmother Eliza Liberty Monson living with them; the children called her "Eliza Liberty, flibberty-gibberty". As a widow, perhaps she moved from Luton to live with her daughter in Bradford upon her marriage.
On 14th March 1908 John Errington died, aged seventy-one, at 132 Garnett Street, and was buried four days later at Undercliffe Cemetery. I don't know whether Jean, now aged about seventy-four, stayed on at Garnett Street, but have an idea she may have gone to live with her daughter Mary Elizabeth Ellicott. By this time her son Ernest had a shop at 162 Hall Lane, off Wakefield Road. James, described as a manager, and Ann Eliza were at 2 Cunliffe Villas, with the children. Directories show that "Mrs. Annie Errington" was in a millinery partnership at 7 Royal Arcade, Manningham Lane and 29 Westgate, Shipley. The millinery shops traded under the name "Valentines", because Annie's birthday was Valentine's Day. Mary Elizabeth White who witnessed Annie's marriage remained a friend and may have been her business partner, but I am not sure. There can be no doubt that Annie was a remarkable woman, running a millinery business with two or three outlets, dabbling in antiques for American contacts, while bringing up a family of six (daughters Constance Mary and Lilian Margaret were later additions). Her children always spoke of her in later years with the utmost affection and admiration. Indeed, her son Reg called her The Duchess, after hearing a stallholder call out to his assistant, "Come on, I've a duchess here waiting to be served."
On 11th January 1910 James's mother Jean died at 72 George Street, Saltaire, and two or three years later Eliza, Annie's mother, died too.
The Errington family lived a comfortable middle-class life with two or three servants in their grey stone house with its large garden, 2 Cunliffe Villas. Annie was ambitious, a natural enterpreneur, and would have liked James to set up in business for himself, but he was cautious and contented with his own particular niche in the wool trade, though his firm Richardsons were "Eastern shippers", so during the 1914-18 war their markets were cut off and business was not as secure. There were family outings, sometimes in a horse-drawn wagonette, and the boys went to Scout camps at Hawksworth and Bolton Abbey, where later the family "camped" too. Lying in the undergrowth at Bolton Abbey when a large stag leapt over him was an abiding memory for Doug. Best of the outings, because they lasted weeks and months, were to the family's primitive moorland cottage near Sconce, where they would settle for the summer holidays. James, the pater familias, would walk over the moors to the nearest tram terminus to go to work each day, sometimes accompanied by the elder children going to school. Did the younger children have a nursemaid sharing the cramped cottage? Obviously these were times of freedom and enjoyment for the boys, who didn't care about the primitive sanitary and household arrangements. One oft-told tale was of a broken pantry window (Reg was the culprit, of course, according to Doug) and the boys being sent off to treck to the nearest village to find some replacement glass. They found this difficult - but the resourceful Reg acquired a glass photographic negative, which was carried back, puttied in, and remained, projecting a ghostly image of unknown strangers into the pantry for years.
Doug attended Belle Vue High School, along with his twin Reg; their elder brother Jack went to Bradford Grammar School. The twins, nicknamed Bummer and Lazarus, were chalk and cheese, and quiet cautious Doug often found himself in hot water because of impetuous reckless Reg - or so he later maintained! In the Belle Vue Scout Troop band Douglas played the triangle and "sweated through a scout yarn" at a concert. I wonder if he wrote the yarn himself - surely these were early signs of his pleasure in music and his addiction to the written word.
Doug's only interest at school was English composition, (undiagnosed poor sight may well have held him back). He wrote stories and read voraciously, boys' classics, comics, penny dreadfuls, setting the pattern for his life-long compulsive and wide-ranging reading. The only thing he wanted to do was write. However, when they left school, around 1918, the twins were placed with the eminently solid Bradford Dyers - the next best thing to going into wool! Reg went into the warehouse and Doug into the lab, where he was deeply unhappy, never having had any interest or aptitude for things scientific. Their father offered to pay for their indentures but neither of them anticipated remaining there. Reg was to move in a couple of years into the newly-formed R.A.F. and later to become a sales rep for various well-known firms, including Hartleys, a job which suited his gregarious temperament.
Doug endured the lab work for six months only, when he persuaded his parents to let him apply for a job as a copyholder on the Yorkshire Observer. He was about seventeen, and his mother accompanied him to the interview. Within months he had graduated to the reporters' room. Though it wasn't particularly well-paid, the hours were irregular, and he was going to have to develop a thicker skin than was perhaps natural to him, he knew this was what he wanted to do and he never wavered from that certainty. Throughout the rest of his life he enjoyed the camaraderie with other newsmen, the pints, the rushed meals and barely-caught deadlines, and the constant telephoning. Not so much did he enjoy, in those early days, cycling through rain and dark across inhospitable country to gather news of whist drives, weddings, funerals and football matches. For by his early twenties he was a district reporter, taking jobs in Woking and Barrow and then back to Yorkshire, covering a large agricultural area for various county and local papers from a base in Thirsk. There, when he was twenty-one, he met a petite, pretty, dark-haired, smart young woman called Lily Megson
By this time the Erringtons had moved from Cunliffe Villas to 7 Fairmount. John (Jack) had married Sarah Atkinson and was in business; Dorothy Jean (Dolly) was to go into a local government office; Constance (Connie) was to take an English degree and become a teacher, while Lillian (Lil) was to be a domestic science teacher, following the example of her Aunt Lizzie.
Doug and Lily Edith Megson were married on 17th June 1924 and settled down in Thirsk. Lily gave up her job as a railway telegraphist, which she had so much enjoyed, and began to learn to be a journalist's wife. She was soon to realise that when that journalist was a young, hard-pressed, area correspondent, she would be taking on the job not only of wife but of newsgatherer, proof-reader, copyholder, and in emergencies interviewer. She couldn't write the copy but she wasn't shy in approaching people, she had a good eye for spotting faults and - very valuable this - an almost faultless ability to spell correctly, which was strange as, unlike her husband, she read very little in hard covers. Their first child was a daughter, the second a son.
During the next few years Doug worked for various Yorkshire papers or combines. and the family moved to Norton near Malton, where I was born in 1931 at Ness House, a stone terraced house which is still standing, though the tiny summerhouse in its garden has now gone. On walks my father always used to point this tiny wooden ivy-covered cabin out to me and assure me that was where I'd been born. I almost half-believed him. Later we moved to Pear Tree Cottage at Swinton, a village near Malton.
Just after Christmas on 27th December 1933 my grandmother Annie Eliza Errington died at 7 Fairmount, aged sixty-three. She had had bad arthritis for some time. Douglas remembered that she had special shoes made, like soft kid slippers. She had been taken to specialists in Harrogate and elsewhere to seek relief, but died of cancer after much suffering. I had never known her, a fact I much regret.
When I was about three our family moved to 5a Wheelgate, Malton, where I was to spend my childhood. This was a two-storied flat above a grocer's shop in the main street of the small market town. Malton was quite a good place to spend one's childhood, small enough for most people to know each other, large enough to have busy market-days, a variety of shops, a county library branch, two small cinemas and a public hall for dances and events.
Soon after the end of World War II our family moved from Malton across to the other side of the country, to Lancaster, as father had obtained a post on the Morecambe Visitor.
In 1952 I married Ted English, an industrial chemist from North Shields, and we enjoyed thirty-five years of very happy married life. He died in 1987. Our sons David and Mark still flourish.
French house house
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