John Smith of Melmerby (1815-1884) and his family

There are a lot of John Smiths in the family – I know of seven and there may be more – so it is sometimes hard to keep them straight. This particular John Smith was born in 1815 in Hesket, which is about 6 miles (10 km) from Melmerby in Cumberland. He was the eldest son of William Smith and Mary Longrigg. William and Mary Smith were living in Hesket before William inherited the Melmerby farm from his father (another John Smith). I have already written a set of four posts about William Smith and his family and about his younger children. I put John Smith aside until now because he was the next in line to inherit the Smith farm and other freehold property in Melmerby.

John is part of the Smith family who stayed in the Eden Valley of Cumberland and continued to farm in Melmerby and Gamblesby, unlike my Smith line who migrated to Ireland in the early 1850s.

The Eden Valley is east of the Lake District and west of the Pennines. The Eden River flows north-west to Carlisle and the sea. The principal town in this agricultural area was, and still is, Penrith.

I have already written briefly about the Melmerby Smiths after 1821 in an earlier post.

John Smith was a first cousin of my great-grandfather Lancelot Smith of Corballis (1824-1899). So, John’s children were second cousins of my grandfather William Smith of Blackhall.

John Smith married Mary Hardy of Park Head in 1849. Park Head (or Parkhead) is near Kirkoswald – about halfway between Kirkoswald and Renwick – and only about 3 miles (5 km) north-west of Melmerby. Mary’s parents were Christopher and Eleanor Hardy. She was born at Huddlesceugh and baptized in the Parish Church of Kirkoswald in April 1822.

In their early married life, John and Mary lived in Gamblesby while his father William continued to farm at Melmerby. The places I have mentioned here are all very close together in the upper reaches of the Eden Valley.

In the 1851 census, John and his wife Mary with their young son William, aged 1, were living in Gamblesby where John was farming 60 acres. This farmland was freehold property belonging to John’s father William Smith.

John’s father William Smith died in June 1857 after which he (John) inherited the Melmerby freehold property then known as Churn, later called Churnside. On inheriting the freehold property in Melmerby, John Smith would then be described as a yeoman farmer. Owning freehold property conveyed both economic status as well as social status in a rural community.

Under William’s will, John shared the residue of his father’s estate with his younger brother William Smith of Gamblesby (I have already written about this William Smith in the post titled The Islington Families).

John and Mary had eight children, four sons and four daughters. The eldest son William was born in Park Head, the next four children were born in Gamblesby and the three youngest in Melmerby. The youngest daughter Eleanor died as an infant; seven children survived to adulthood.

The naming of the children is interesting because it did not follow the usual pattern. While the eldest son was named after his paternal grandfather William Smith, the second son was not named Christopher after his maternal grandfather Christopher Hardy of Park Head. Indeed, the name George is very unusual in this Smith family – I don’t know of any other. Mary Smith had a brother George Hardy who died in 1850 at the age of 21 and that may have been why the name was chosen. Giving the boy a middle name was also unusual at that time in Cumberland. Most children received only one baptismal name.

When it came to naming their daughters, John and Mary chose to call their eldest daughter Mary Ann although it would have been customary to name her after her maternal grandmother Eleanor Hardy. Again unusually, they gave her two baptismal names. Their second daughter should have been named after her paternal grandmother but that name – Mary – was already used and the second daughter was called Agnes. Only later were the names of the Hardy grandparents given to the two youngest children.

John Smith and his family lived in Melmerby from about 1858 until his death over 25 years later.

In 1861, John and Mary Smith were living in Melmerby with five children: William, George H., Agnes, Hannah and John. Their oldest daughter Mary Ann, aged 6, was living with her Hardy grandparents Christopher and Eleanor at Low Huddlesceugh, Park Head. Also in the Hardy household were three of Mary Ann’s uncles and her aunt Eleanor. In the 1861 census, John Smith is described as a yeoman and farmer of 100 acres employing one labourer. Christopher Hardy was also a yeoman farming 100 acres.

In 1871, John and Mary Smith were living in Melmerby with five children: George H, aged 18; Agnes, 14; Hannah, 12; John, 10; and Christopher, aged 5. Mary Ann Smith was still living with the Hardys in Park Head. The eldest son William was living in Penrith with his aunt Agnes Scott and her husband Francis. William was described as a draper’s assistant.

In the 1881 census, John and his wife Mary were living at Churn in Melmerby with four of their children: William, Agnes, John and Christopher. Mary Ann was still living with the Hardys in Park Head although by this date her grandparents had both died. She was living with three Hardy uncles and her aunt Eleanor.  In the same 1881 census, George Hardy Smith was living in Stainmore, Westmorland, farming there on 90 acres. He and his wife Mary had a one-year-old daughter Sarah A Smith living with them and Mary’s mother Sarah Jackson. John and Mary’s daughter Hannah  was living in Penrith in the house of her aunt Agnes Scott and looking after her niece Ellinor (actually Eleanor) Smith, George Hardy Smith’s older daughter, aged 2. (We can assume that George’s daughter Eleanor was simply visiting Penrith at the time of the census.)

John Smith died in April 1884, aged 68, and he left a will that provides some interesting information about his family. The will was signed in March 1883 and proved at Carlisle in July 1884.

He appointed as his executors his second son George Hardy Smith and his brother William Smith of Gamblesby. Why not his eldest son, you may wonder? His eldest son William died at the age of 35 in July 1884 – only a few months after his father died – so I believe it was already apparent in 1883 that William would not survive long.

The will provides for the usual bequest of household goods to his widow Mary Smith; whatever goods she did not want were then to be divided between his three daughters, Mary Ann, Agnes and Hannah. His son Christopher got special mention with a bequest of a fell allotment. His widow got, in addition to the household goods, an annuity of £30 “as long as she shall continue my widow”. Perhaps he thought she might re-marry; she was over 60 years old in 1884.

To his eldest son William, he left an annuity of £15 during his life, the amount to be paid half-yearly with the first payment to be made six months after John’s death. (I assume this sum was never paid because William died before October 1884.)

The will goes on to provide legacies to his two younger sons John and Christopher and to his daughter Hannah in the sum of £400 each. His two other daughters, Mary Ann and Agnes, were given the sum of £200 each. It was quite common at that time for sons to receive more money than daughters. But I wonder: why did Hannah get better treatment than her two sisters? A legacy of £400 in 1884 would be worth about £38,270 today in terms of standard of living.

John’s will specifies that the annuities and legacies were to be charged against the real estate he owned and that all the real property was bequeathed to his son George Hardy Smith, the heir to the Melmerby farm. This meant that George had to either sell some of his newly acquired property to pay the legacies and annuities or he had to borrow the money on the value of the property. I assume he did the latter and could re-pay the loans later from farm revenues.

The remainder of John’s personal estate and effects were to be divided between all his children equally. In 1884, John’s personal estate was valued at £781 and 14 shillings.

In today’s currency, £781 and 14 shillings would be equal to about £75,000 in terms of the standard of living. I think it is safe to say that John Smith of Melmerby was a wealthy man when he died in 1884. His principal wealth was in his real estate property (the freehold farm in Melmerby and other pieces of land that he owned or leased). The personal estate was a minor part of his wealth. And he was able to give significant legacies to most of his children. However, a general depression in agriculture in England was looming and had already had serious effects in south-eastern counties during the 1870s and early 1880s. Tougher times for Cumberland farmers were likely ahead for John’s successor, George Hardy Smith.

In another post, I will write about John Smith’s three daughters Mary Ann, Agnes and Hannah. They all lived in Penrith in their later years and all left wills, which is very helpful to family historians.

Another upcoming post will tell you what I know about John Smith’s two younger sons John and Christopher and their later lives farming in the Park Head area, where their Hardy grandfather and uncles had lived and worked.

Posted in Families, Gamblesby, Hardy, Kirkoswald, Melmerby, Park Head, Places, Smith | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Islington Families

This is the fourth in a series of four posts about the children of William Smith of Melmerby (1781-1857) and his wife Mary Longrigg.

The three Smiths I am writing about in this post are William, Elizabeth and Lancelot – the three youngest children in the family. They were first cousins of my great-grandfather Lancelot Smith of Corballis (1824-1899). There are several Lancelots in this story as well as several Williams and Elizabeths so I will try to make it clear which one I am writing about as I go along.

Although writing about three people in one post has made it rather long, I have found it necessary to write about all three of them together because there are significant inter-connections between these Smiths and the Harrisons of Gamblesby and with the Borough of Islington in London.

The three Smiths were:
William Smith (1825-1905);
Elizabeth Smith (1831-1900); and
Lancelot Smith (1833-1889).

William Smith (1825-1905) was the second surviving son in the Melmerby family. In late 1857, William married Elizabeth Harrison from Gamblesby and around the same time in 1857 (I don’t have the exact dates), William’s younger sister Elizabeth Smith married William Harrison. So, a Smith brother and sister married a Harrison sister and brother. Having two same forenames and two same surnames can lead to confusion but it helps a bit that William Smith and his wife Elizabeth (Harrison) stayed in Cumberland whereas William Harrison and his wife Elizabeth (Smith) went to live in London, specifically in Islington.

William Smith inherited freehold property in Gamblesby following the death of his father in June 1857 although he apparently did not take possession of the farming property right away. William and Elizabeth were living in Great Broughton, Cumberland when their son William was born in December 1859. They were still in Great Broughton at the time of the 1961 census. By 1871, they were living in Gamblesby with a farm of 80 acres and by 1881 William was farming 130 acres.

Below are photographs that I believe show William Smith of Gamblesby and his wife Elizabeth Smith (formerly Elizabeth Harrison).










William and Elizabeth lived in Gamblesby for the rest of their lives. However, their son William did not – even though he would have been the heir to the freehold property of his father. Perhaps farming did not appeal to him.

Their son William seems to have been overlooked in the 1871 census when he would have been 11 years old. He re-appears in the 1881 census, by which time he was living with his uncle Lancelot Smith in Islington. From then on, William stayed in Islington and worked in business with his two uncles – Lancelot Smith and William Harrison. (More about this younger William Smith later.)

Meantime, William Smith and his wife Elizabeth continued living in Gamblesby. In the 1881 census, nearby neighbours were Sarah Cowen and her husband Joseph. Sarah was a younger sister of Lancelot Smith of Corballis. She had moved to Ireland in the 1850s with her family but she returned to live in Gamblesby after the death of her father in 1871 and married Joseph Cowen in 1875. Sarah was born in Gamblesby in 1829 and would have known the Smiths, Harrisons and Bensons in Gamblesby. William Smith was her first cousin.

In 1884, William Smith was co-executor and trustee of his brother John’s will (the other co-executor and co-trustee was John’s son George Hardy Smith of Melmerby). I will be writing a post about John Smith and about his son George Hardy Smith later.

William Smith died in June 1905 at the age of 79 and was buried in the churchyard of Melmerby Parish Church.

In her husband William’s will, Elizabeth was to get a legacy of £20 to be paid within two months of his death (he died in June 1905).  She also got all household effects and an annuity of £60 per year and the use of Brook House and its adjoining garden during her lifetime. All of William Smith’s property was bequeathed to their son William after Elizabeth’s death.  Sadly, Elizabeth did not live long enough to benefit from all these bequests because she died in September 1905, only three months after her husband. She too was buried at Melmerby Parish Church. In 1928, a memorial tablet was installed in the Church by their son, then known as William Harrison-Smith.

Elizabeth Smith (1831-1900) and Lancelot Smith (1833-1889) were the two youngest children in the Smith family of Melmerby. Elizabeth was born in early 1831 and Lancelot in early 1833.  Their lives were so intertwined that I have found it best to describe them together.

In 1851, Elizabeth was still living at home, aged 20, while Lancelot, aged 17, had gone to live in Penrith with two of his older sisters, Mary and Agnes. Lancelot’s occupation in the 1851 census is given as draper’s apprentice. (I have written about Mary and Agnes in a previous post titled The Two Milliners.)

Elizabeth’s father William died in June 1857, after which she received £140 in his will. That legacy would be worth about £12,260 today. Lancelot inherited a house and some property (Croft Bowen) in Gamblesby in the same will.  I do not know what happened to this property but Lancelot did not choose to live there and I assume he sold it, possibly to his brother William.

In late 1857, Elizabeth Smith married William Harrison from Gamblesby. William Harrison was born in 1828 and baptized in Addingham Parish Church in October of that year.  William was a younger son of William Harrison and Mary Benson; his older brother John Harrison inherited the family property, a farm of 120 acres in Gamblesby. As well as being a farmer, John Harrison was a local Methodist preacher.

As a younger son, William Harrison would have had to earn his living in some way other than farming. It is interesting to see that, in 1851, William was living as a boarder in Brampton (east of Carlisle), aged 21 and a student. Another student boarding in the same household was Joseph Falder, also 21 and also from Gamblesby. The household they were staying in included a teacher “at the academy” aged 24 and a pupil-teacher at the academy aged 16 – as well as William Harrison and Joseph Falder. It seems likely that the four young men were all involved in the same academy in Brampton. It is possible the census record is incorrect and William was actually a student-teacher at the academy. The academy referred to was most likely Croft House Academy (also called Croft House School), a boarding school for about 80 boys aged between about 11 and 15. The school was run for many years by Joseph Coulthard and appears to have taught a traditional grammar school curriculum as well as some commercial subjects.

I have not found where William Harrison and Lancelot Smith were between 1851 and 1861. At some time in that decade they moved separately or together to London. In the 1861 census, we can find William Harrison, his wife Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s brother Lancelot Smith all in one household at 73 Upper Street, Islington. William Harrison was the head of household, aged 33, and Lancelot Smith was a boarder, aged 28. William’s occupation is given as lace manufacturer and his brother-in-law is described as partner in the business employing 50 people.

The 1861 household also included two interesting visitors: Mary Smith, annuitant, aged 67 and a widow (this was Elizabeth’s and Lancelot’s mother) and Mary Smith, retired milliner, aged 32 and unmarried (this was Elizabeth’s and Lancelot’s older sister).

Photographs of Lancelot Smith, William Harrison and his wife Elizabeth (nee Smith) have kindly been shared with me by another family historian so this is what they looked like in later life. This is Lancelot Smith:










And here are William Harrison and his wife Elizabeth (formerly Elizabeth Smith):










It would be fascinating to learn how William Harrison and Lancelot Smith managed to establish and develop a lace manufacturing business. As far as I know, there was no tradition of running this type of business in either of their families. I can only assume that they had both learned enough about the business and, for some reason, found it worthwhile to move to London – rather than, say, Manchester or Birmingham – to develop their business there.

Post Office directories for London from 1865 onwards show that William Harrison and Lancelot Smith were partners in a lace manufacturing business called Harrison & Smith (later called Harrison, Smith & Co.). The company also manufactured hair nets, ruches, trimmings, head-dresses and – a bit surprising to me – umbrellas and parasols. In the city directories and later censuses, William and Lancelot are variously described as lace manufacturers, lace merchants, warehousemen and merchants. In this context, warehousemen were businessmen who owned warehouses and dealt in the buying and selling of goods manufactured by other businesses as well as in the selling of their own products.

The business addresses changed over time from 5 Angel Street to 15 King Edward Street, and then to 28-29 Hamsell Street. All these places were in the City of London, in an area of warehouses near St. Giles Church in Cripplegate; this area has been completely rebuilt since the Second World War and is now occupied by the Barbican Centre and many newer buildings. (Hamsell Street was about half-way between what is now the Museum of London and the Barbican Theatre.)

The business continued in operation until at least 1925 although neither William Harrison nor Lancelot Smith were involved after 1888. In early 1889, their nephew William Smith took over the business and ran it from then on, possibly with new partners. I believe it was at that time the business name changed to Harrison, Smith & Co. A catastrophic fire in the Cripplegate area in 1897 destroyed many buildings on Hamsell Street and several neighbouring streets but my understanding is that the warehouses and factories were re-built and Harrison, Smith & Co. continued at the same address on Hamsell Street thereafter. A fascinating newspaper account of the fire and its effect on the businesses in the area can be found on the website Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History.

Although I am interested in following Lancelot Smith’s and William Harrison’s business career, I do not want to lose sight of William’s wife Elizabeth Harrison (nee Smith). Elizabeth had seven children of whom four daughters survived to adulthood. William and Elizabeth had only one son and he died as an infant. The 1861 census record for the Harrison household (mentioned above) is especially interesting not only for who was there but who was soon to arrive. The census took place on the 7th of April, 1861 and Elizabeth gave birth to twin girls on the 16th of April. The imminence of the births could explain why Elizabeth’s mother and sister were in the household that month.

Elizabeth and William Harrison’s four surviving daughters were:
Ada Mary Harrison, born 16 April 1861;
Elizabeth Maude Harrison, born 16 April 1861;
Mabel Gertrude Harrison, born 3 June 1867; and
Clara Wilhelmina Harrison, born 5 September 1870.

Meantime, in 1864 in Islington, Lancelot Smith married Eleanor Jane Morrison, who was born around 1840 in Gateshead, Durham. They had two sons: Lancelot Smith, born in 1865 and Horace Smith, born in early 1867. Both boys were born in Islington. The Smiths were living at 7 Highbury Park North in 1865. Their home address in 1870 was Newport House, Quadrant Road North, Highbury New Park. They continued living in the same house although the address changed to Quadrant Road Inner Circle Highbury in 1871 and to 14 Highbury Quadrant in 1881. Also in the 1881 household was William Smith, his nephew from Gamblesby, aged 21, and a warehouseman. During these years from 1871 to 1881, Lancelot’s occupation changed from warehouseman to merchant. In each census, the Smith household had two or three domestic servants.

By 1870, the Harrisons had moved to Addingham House, 11 Quadrant Road, Highbury. I think it was a nice touch that William Harrison named his house in Highbury after his home parish in Cumberland. In the 1871 census, the Harrison household was listed as living at Quadrant Road South Side and by 1881 this was 23 Highbury Quadrant – still the same house, I believe. As with Lancelot Smith, William Harrison’s occupation also evolved from warehouseman to merchant. His household also enjoyed the benefits of having several domestic servants.

This is what Highbury Quadrant looked like in 1885 in an excerpt from a map of London. The map excerpt below shows the area known as Highbury Ward, within the Borough of Islington. Highbury Quadrant is in the upper right hand corner.

The smaller map below is a closer look at Highbury Quadrant.

Below is another map, this time from Charles Booth’s London poverty maps dated from 1898-99. The colour coding refers to the level of wealth (or poverty) of people living in London at that time. Yellow represented “Upper-middle and upper classes. Wealthy.” while bright red represented: “Middle class. Well-to-do.” As you can see, the residents of Highbury Quadrant and the adjacent north-south street called Highbury New Park were assessed as either well-to-do or wealthy.

Living on the same street in the Highbury Park area for decades and working together in the lace manufacturing and warehousing business in the City even longer shows the very close personal relationship between Lancelot Smith and William Harrison. I imagine that the two families spent a lot of time together as well. Probably their nephew William Smith did too.

Unfortunately, this harmonious state of affairs suffered a serious blow in 1889. On the 3rd of June, Lancelot Smith died at 14 Highbury Quadrant at the early age of 56. Probate for his estate shows that his executors were his two sons, the Rev. Lancelot Smith and Horace Smith, a student at Cambridge University. The probate record states that his business was at 28 Hamsell Street, St. Giles-without-Cripplegate in the City of London (this information would have been from his will, which could have been written some years before.). The estate effects were £58,709 6s. The value of this estate in today’s currency would be about £6 million.

In 1891, Eleanor J. Smith, Lancelot’s widow, was living with or visiting her son the Rev. Lancelot Smith who was then an Anglican curate in Fakenham, Norfolk. Eleanor’s younger son Horace was a medical student at Cambridge University and living in lodgings.  In the same 1891 census, the Harrison family was staying in Newton Abbot, Devon – probably on a spring holiday in Torquay. They seem to have been staying in rented accommodation with no servants of their own. William Harrison’s occupation was given as Justice of the Peace for the County of London. The only person of interest who was in Islington in the 1891 census was William Smith, who was living in lodgings and working as a lace merchant.

In 1894, the Rev. Lancelot Smith married Florence Worsley Gibson in Cowes, Isle of Wight, where he was then the vicar of St. Mary’s Church. They had four children over the next 12 years. The family moved to various parishes in Southern England over the next three decades.

In 1897, the Harrison household started to change as the daughters were married. The first one to marry was the youngest of the four: Clara Wilhelmina. She married her cousin Horace Smith, in Islington. By 1897, Horace was a medical doctor. Clara and Horace had no children.

Two more Harrison marriages followed in 1900: Ada Mary married Elisha Fowler and Mabel Gertrude married Philip Stanley Oswald. Elisha Fowler was an inspector of insurance agents. Philip Oswald was then a barrister, who later became an Anglican clergyman. The Fowlers had one son; the Oswalds had seven children.

In November 1900, Elizabeth Harrison died in Islington. In early 1901, William Harrison was at 23 Highbury Quadrant living with his only unmarried daughter Elizabeth Maude (known as Maude), aged 39. Also there on census day were Ada Mary and Elisha Fowler and a visitor, Ella Oswald, who was probably a sister of Philip Oswald. In the same census, William Smith was still living in Islington although in different lodgings and his occupation was described as lace maker. By this time he was 41 years old and unmarried.

Lancelot’s Smith’s widow Eleanor was at 14 Highbury Quadrant in 1901, with one of her widowed sisters, while her son Horace Smith and his wife Clara were living in Bournemouth. Horace was a practicing physician (although he retired from his practice before 1911). Also visiting the Bournemouth household in 1901 was Horace’s brother the Rev. Lancelot Smith, his wife Florence and two children: Marjorie E. W. Smith and Lancelot E. Smith.

William Harrison died in November 1907, aged 79. His estate was valued at £48,318 14s 7d (which today would be worth nearly £4.7 million). His executors were his daughter Maude and two of his nephews, William Smith, merchant, and Horace Smith, MD.

In June 1909, Elizabeth Maude Harrison married her double first cousin William Smith. The couple adopted the name of Harrison-Smith. They had no children. William and Maude Harrison-Smith lived at 23 Highbury Quadrant until about 1930 when they moved to Bournemouth, where Horace and Clara were already living.

Perhaps a modified family tree chart here may help to explain the complex inter-relationships that had developed between the Smiths and the Harrisons.

This is an adapted version of the usual family tree structure. Reading from left to right, in the first column are William Smith and Mary Longrigg who were the parents of  William Smith, Elizabeth Smith and Lancelot Smith. At the same level (and unusually in this type of chart) I have added William Harrison and Mary Benson, who were the parents of Elizabeth Harrison and William Harrison. Having a brother and sister who married a sister and brother in another family is probably not particularly unusual but genealogy software for chart creation does not seem to allow for that possibility so I have had to improvise.

On the right hand side are the children in the next generation. Again, I have had to improvise. Usually, those children would be coloured the same as each other because they are of the same generation but I have chosen to colour some differently to illustrate that several of the cousins married each other. William Smith (coloured bright yellow) married his double first cousin Elizabeth Maude Harrison (also coloured bright yellow) and changed his name to William Harrison-Smith. Clara Wilhelmina Harrison (coloured green) married her cousin Horace Smith (also green).


Final Comments
The lives of the three Smiths (William, Elizabeth and Lancelot) were quite closely entwined in marriage, business and living together in Islington. The lace-making business that William Harrison and Lancelot Smith established in London was successful and provided considerable wealth for both families and later also for their nephew William Harrison-Smith. The interconnections were made even closer by the marriages of several of their children.

This all occurred very far away from the Cumberland farming communities where the Smiths and Harrisons were born.

Posted in Families, Gamblesby, Harrison, Islington, London, Melmerby, Photographs, Places, Smith | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Two Milliners

This is the third in a series of four posts about the family of William Smith of Melmerby (1781-1857) and his wife Mary Longrigg.

The two milliners are two of William Smith’s four daughters: Mary Sutton and Agnes Scott.  Mary and Agnes were first cousins of my great-grandfather Lancelot Smith of Corballis (1824-1899).

Mary and Agnes did not marry farmers – unlike their older sister Ann and probably most of their aunts and great-aunts before them. Instead, their lives took a different, more urban, path.

Mary Sutton (1821-1882?)
Mary was the sixth child in the William Smith family of 11 children. She was baptized on the 30th of May 1821 in Melmerby Parish Church. Mary appears in the 1841 census as Mary Smith, living in Penrith with her younger sister Agnes Smith. Mary’s occupation was listed as milliner. Her age was given as 20 but this is not necessarily reliable because in this first full census people were asked to round their age down to the nearest 5 or 0. Actually, Mary would have been just 20 years old when the census was taken on 6 June. In the same household, Agnes was listed as aged 15 when she would actually have been 17 years old. It is not clear from the census record if Agnes had an occupation but I expect she was also a milliner or learning to be one. There was also a third girl living with them called Ann Errington; she too was listed as being 15 years old.

When I first saw this census record, I felt badly for the two sisters having to leave their family home in Melmerby and go to live in Penrith, about 9 miles away (15 km). Presumably their income from the making or selling of ladies’ hats was small.

In the following census of 1851, Mary Smith was still living in Penrith as a milliner, with her sister Agnes and now with her youngest brother Lancelot. He was aged 17, working as a draper’s apprentice. Both sisters were milliners. The census record says Mary was aged 27 (actually 29 or 30), and Agnes was 24 (actually 27). I felt even worse having found the three siblings living together in 1851 and thought their prospects were dim.

In 1857, when Mary’s father William died, she received a legacy of £140 in his will. Mary was still unmarried at that time. The legacy would be worth about £12,260 in today’s currency.

In the 1861 census I was interested to find Mary was visiting family members in Islington, London. She was recorded in the household of her youngest sister Elizabeth, who had married William Harrison (more on them in a later post). This particular census record was especially interesting because it listed in the same household: William Harrison, lace manufacturer employing 50 persons, aged 33; Elizabeth Harrison his wife, aged 30; Lancelot Smith, unmarried, partner (in above business), aged 28; Mary Smith, widow, aged 67 (Elizabeth’s widowed mother), annuitant; Mary Smith, unmarried, aged 32, retired milliner; and a house servant. So by this time, Mary was able to retire from millinery (on the strength of her legacy?) and her brother Lancelot was in business with his brother-in-law – a business that was clearly an impressive size. I no longer needed to picture Mary eking out a miserable living in a small Penrith house!

In 1871, Mary was recorded in the household of her brother Lancelot Smith in Islington. From this record, it seems that Mary was by then living with Lancelot and his family (a wife and two sons) with three domestic servants.

Then, in November 1873, Mary Smith married James Henry Driver Sutton in St. Augustine’s Church Highbury in the Parish of Islington. Her husband (known as Henry at this time) was a widower. Witnesses at the wedding were Lancelot Smith (Mary’s brother) and Maude Harrison.

This marriage was quite a surprising discovery because Mary was 52 at the time. Her husband Henry was about six years younger than her. I wonder how Mary met Henry Sutton. He was living in Islington at the time of the 1871 census but mere propinquity would not likely have been enough. I think they may have met through Methodist social circles. The Smiths were Wesleyan Methodists of long standing and, in the 1881 census, Henry was identified as a local Methodist preacher in Reigate. However, the Wesleyan connection is speculation on my part.

In the 1881 census, Mary was recorded as Mary Sutton, living with her husband Henry  in Reigate, Surrey. Henry Sutton was listed as a printer and stationer  and also a Methodist preacher. He had been born in Gosport, Hampshire. The 1881 census record is also helpful regarding Mary’s sister younger Agnes who was visiting her. Agnes was listed as Agnes Scott, widow. At this point, I thought I knew who Agnes had married but nothing else about her after 1857 when she was mentioned in her father’s will.

I believe that Mary Sutton died in early 1882 in Reigate. She would have been about 60 years old. I have not found a will or probate record for her or her husband Henry.

Henry continued to live in Reigate and, in the 1891 census, he can be found living there with his son Bertram Henry Daniel Sutton (listed simply as B Sutton), who was also a printer. Looking into the story behind Bertram, I have found that he was born in late 1866 and that his mother Elizabeth Monk died in that same quarter so I assume she died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. In 1901, Henry was living with his widowed sister Matilda Jones and her two daughters in Bracknell, Berkshire, but after that I have lost sight of him.

Agnes Scott (1823-1898)
Agnes was the seventh child in the family of 11 Smith children. She was baptized in Melmerby Parish Church on the 27th of August 1823. In describing Mary Smith, above, I referred to the fact that Agnes was living with her in Penrith in 1841 and 1851, according to the census records. Agnes was two years younger than Mary.

In her father William’s will of 1857, Agnes – like her three sisters – was given a legacy of £140. When she was mentioned in the will, she was referred to as being the wife of Joseph Scott. Actually his name was Francis Scott.

Agnes married Francis Scott in 1856 in Penrith District (which could mean in the Parish of Melmerby or the town of Penrith). Francis was born in Kendal, Westmoreland, in 1829. He was a linen draper in Penrith, where his business was at Long Front, Penrith.

In the 1861 census records, Agnes and her husband can be found living at 23 Arthur Street in Penrith. No children are listed.

In the 1871 census, Agnes and Francis were still living in Penrith; this time they were living at Ashley House, Union Street. Also living with them was William Smith, a draper’s assistant, aged 20. I think this William Smith was the eldest son of Agnes’s older brother John Smith of Melmerby. I assume that William was working for his uncle and learning the drapery business. (This work may have been short-lived because William Smith was back in Melmerby at the time of the 1881 census.)

Francis Scott died in late 1880 in Penrith. For his widow, he left what I think was a considerable estate of close to £4,000. The sum of £4,000 at that time would be worth around £360,000 in terms of today’s standard of living.  It would be safe to say that Agnes Scott was then comfortably well-off as a widow in Penrith.

As already mentioned above in my comments about Mary, in the 1881 census Agnes Scott (widowed) was staying with her sister Mary and Mary’s husband Henry Sutton in Reigate, Surrey. This was a temporary visit, perhaps following on the death of Agnes’s husband Francis Scott in late 1880. I say this because, in the 1891 census, Agnes was again living at Ashley House, Union Street. This time she was living with her niece Hannah Smith (one of the daughters of John Smith of Melmerby). Agnes was “living on own means”; Hannah had no stated occupation or means of support. Possibly she was living as a companion to her aunt.

(Meantime, when Agnes was in Reigate in early 1881, her house in Penrith called Ashley House was occupied by Agnes’s niece Hannah Smith with Hannah’s own niece Elinor Smith (George Hardy Smith’s daughter), aged 2. Clearly, there were strong connections between various members of the Smith family.)

Agnes Scott died in 1898. Hannah Smith was the executor of her will. Effects as stated in the probate record were £2,270 15s. That would be worth about £232,100 in today’s currency. I wonder if Agnes bequeathed her house and other assets to her niece Hannah.

There are three other children in William Smith’s family to be described but I will leave them for the final post in this series of four posts. They are: William, Elizabeth and Lancelot.

Posted in Families, Islington, Melmerby, Penrith, Reigate, Scott, Smith, Sutton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Elusive Dobsons

This is the second of four posts about William Smith of Melmerby (1781-1857) and his family. In a previous post I said that William and his wife Mary Longrigg had seven surviving adult children:

John Smith (1815-1884)
Ann Dobson (1819-    )
Mary Sutton (1821-1882?)
Agnes Scott (1823-1898)
William Smith (1825-1905)
Elizabeth Harrison (1831-1900)
Lancelot Smith (1833-1889)

The oldest surviving son John inherited his father’s freehold property in Melmerby when William died in 1857. I will write about John Smith and his family later.

This particular post will be about Ann, who was a first cousin of my great-grandfather Lancelot Smith of Corballis.

Unfortunately, I know less about Ann and the family she married into – the Dobsons – than about any of her siblings. Actually, I have more questions than answers about her life. If any of my readers knows more, I would be pleased to get additional information or be advised of incorrect information or assumptions I have used here.

Ann Dobson (1819-????)
Ann was actually the fifth child but the second surviving child and eldest surviving daughter of William Smith and Mary Longrigg. In 1841 Ann was listed in the census records as living at home in Melmerby with her parents William and Mary Smith and five other siblings: John, William, Jane, Elizabeth and Lancelot. Ann would have been 21 years old at that time.

In July 1847, Ann married Benjamin Dobson in Melmerby Parish Church. Benjamin had a small farm of 11.5 acres; I think the farm was in Patterdale, Westmorland, although that is not certain. (Curiously, he was born in Southwark, London although his parents lived in the West Ward of Westmorland both before and after he was born.) Although Patterdale is in Westmorland, it is quite close to Penrith and, therefore, to Melmerby.

In this map, Penrith is in the upper right hand corner. The red line is the border between Cumberland to the north and Westmorland to the south. Patterdale is at the south end of Ullswater, one of the famous lakes in the Lake District.

In the 1851 census, Ann with her husband Benjamin Dobson and two young daughters (Margaret aged 2 and Mary aged 5 months) were visiting the Smith family in Melmerby. In the same census of 1851, Benjamin’s brothers Lancelot and Hiram, sister Caroline and his mother Margaret Dobson were all recorded as living in Patterdale. (Benjamin’s mother Margaret and her husband Lancelot Dobson had about eight children, some born in Southwark, London, and others in Westmorland).

In 1857, Ann was given £140 in her father’s Will of 1857. (Each of  her sisters received the same legacy.) This was a significant amount of money then. One estimate is it would be worth about £12,260 in terms of today’s standard of living. I imagine this money was very helpful to Ann.

The first big question I have is: where were Benjamin, Ann, Margaret and Mary in 1861? In the census for that year, they were not in Patterdale although Benjamin’s siblings Lancelot, Hiram and Caroline, as well as his mother Margaret, were still there.

The second question:  when (or where) Ann or Benjamin did die? Dobson was quite a common name in mid- to late-nineteenth century Northern England – particularly in Yorkshire and Durham  but also in Westmorland – and there are too many Ann Dobsons and Benjamin Dobsons in the civil registration records for reliable identification. I thought Benjamin had died in 1866 but now I am unsure. Possibly the Dobson family was not in Northern England, in which case their identification in the English civil registration lists is even more difficult.

Information I have been given (but have not fully verified) is that Ann and Benjamin had four children: Margaret (born September 1848), William (born May 1849), Mary (born October 1850) and Jane (born August 1855). I believe all the children were born in Patterdale.

Having searched diligently for any of the Dobson family members in the 1861, 1871 and 1881 censuses in England, I found none of them – which is odd. Further searches for Benjamin, Ann, Margaret and Mary Dobson in other records (e.g., emigration records, US and Canadian censuses and civil registration records in Ireland and Scotland) have all proved fruitless. So, where were the Dobsons?

What is even odder is that I think Ann’s daughter Mary Dobson re-appeared later. She was a small baby when visiting her grandparents in Melmerby in March 1851. But the next time I can maybe identify her is in 1891, when she was 40 years old. This raises another question: where was Mary living for the previous four decades? The most likely answer is: living in another country. But where?

In 1891, there was a Mary Dobson, born in Patterdale, who was unmarried and living with an aunt and uncle, Rebecca and Joseph Alcock in Threlkeld, which is west of Penrith and in Cumberland. Joseph Alcock was a master shoemaker and his wife Rebecca was a younger sister of Benjamin Dobson. So, unless Rebecca had two nieces called Mary Dobson, both born in or around 1850 in Patterdale, I think this Mary must be the daughter of Benjamin and Ann Dobson.

Rebecca Alcock died in Threlkeld in 1897 at the age of  80. In the 1901 census, Mary was still living in Threlkeld with her uncle Joseph, by then a retired shoemaker. Joseph died in 1904, aged 87. Mary stayed in Threlkeld and appears in the 1911 census living on private means, aged 60 and unmarried. So I assume she inherited the house and some money from her uncle Joseph. Mary died in 1922, aged 72, in Penrith civil registration district (which would include Threlkeld).

This is a very incomplete story about Ann Dobson, her husband Benjamin and her daughters Margaret and Mary. I hope I can improve it over time. More records may become publicly available. I do not believe Ann had any direct descendants but possibly someone better acquainted with the Dobsons than I am can add more information to this story.

Posted in Dobson, Families, Melmerby, Patterdale, Penrith, Places, Smith, Threlkeld, Westmorland | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

William Smith of Melmerby (1781-1857) and his family

This is the first of four posts I am writing about William Smith and his family even though they are not direct ancestors of mine (William was my great-great-grandfather’s older brother). I am doing this because I have found some interesting information about this family that I want to share.

I have tended to picture the Smiths of Melmerby as preferring to stay put in the Cumberland village where they owned freehold property, sometimes living in nearby communities in the Upper Eden valley such as Gamblesby, and only reluctantly leaving there to go to live somewhere else. This may be only partly true. Certainly, by the nineteenth century, other possible ways of making a living were opening up following the industrial revolution.

Upper Eden Valley, Cumberland

So far I have found that, rather than leave the land and go to work in a Lancashire cotton mill, a coal mine or other industrial enterprise, the Smiths either moved to the nearest market town of Penrith or in some cases they ventured further afield, including to London. (My own line of Melmerby Smiths stuck to farming and went to Ireland to continue farming there on a scale that was impossible for them in Cumberland.)

When I started researching the male line of Smiths going back from my grandfather William Smith of Blackhall, I was focused on tracing the eldest sons in order to get back as far as possible in Cumberland. While doing so, I did often wonder what happened to the younger sons and to the daughters. In the earliest generations, information about those sons and daughters was very scarce indeed. However, by the nineteenth century, the available sources of information had expanded.

Those sources are now increasingly available on-line so it is possible to learn much more about all the members of the family fairly easily. The principal sources I have used here are: church baptisms, census records, probate records and wills (when available), and civil registration of births, marriages and deaths.

The William Smith I am writing about in this post was the oldest surviving son of John Smith of Melmerby so he inherited the family farm in Melmerby (see his father John Smith Jr.’s will, probated in 1821).

William  also inherited freehold property in Gamblesby (Parish of Addingham) under his mother Hannah Smith’s will of 1832.  Hannah Huddart came from Gamblesby where her father William Huddart was a yeoman farmer. I believe that Hannah was an only child and inherited her father’s property. Gamblesby is about a mile and a half (2.5 km) north-west of Melmerby.

William had an older brother John who died in 1802, aged 24, in Jamaica. There is a gravestone in Melmerby parish churchyard commemorating his death. I have no information on why he went to Jamaica.

In February 1812, William married Mary Longrigg in Kirkoswald Parish Church.  (Her birthplace in census records is always given as Kirkoswald.) Mary was under age when she married, with her parents’ permission. She was baptised in Kirkoswald Parish Church on November 3rd 1793 so she was eighteen when she married William Smith, who was 31.

In their early years of marriage, William and Mary lived in Hesket, which is north-west of Kirkoswald and about 12 miles (20 km) from Melmerby. Hesket is where their first three children were born. The other children were born in Melmerby.

William and Mary had 11 children, of whom four died young. (Thomas was an infant, Isaac was aged 7, Jane died when she was 16 or 17 and the eldest daughter Hannah died when she was 25.) There were four surviving daughters and three surviving sons.

William’s three adult sons were: John, William and Lancelot. John inherited the Melmerby farm and other freehold property; William inherited freehold land in Gamblesby and farmed there; and Lancelot inherited a small freehold property in Gamblesby but he went to London (more later on him and his surprising career). Both John and William were yeoman farmers in their respective communities.

William had four adult daughters: Ann, Mary, Agnes and Elizabeth. Each of them received £140 in William Smith’s will of 1857.

Tracing females in public records is somewhat more difficult than searching for males but I have identified all the daughters’ married names and have been able to follow a bit of their lives, as described in later posts. They were: Ann Dobson, Mary Sutton, Agnes Scott and Elizabeth Harrison.

William lived in Melmerby until his death in 1857. His will provided for generous support to his widow Mary, who continued to live in Melmerby until she died in 1868. Both of them were buried in the churchyard of Melmerby Parish Church.

William’s successor on the Melmerby property was his son John Smith. I will be writing about John later when I describe his family. Before I do that, I want to write about William’s other children. The next post will be about William’s oldest daughter, Ann Dobson.

Posted in Families, Gamblesby, Melmerby, Smith | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

More Branches and Twigs on the Family Tree

In my original quest for information about my Smith ancestors – starting from my grandfather William Smith of Blackhall – I was most interested in tracing back the male line to the origins of the Smith family in the small village of Melmerby. For much of its existence, Melmerby was in the county of Cumberland in north-west England; in 1974, the county was absorbed into the bigger county of Cumbria.

Melmerby and the Fells: from photograph by Val Corbett

I have written numerous posts and pages on this blog about the Smith family line and do not expect to find out much more about them through traditional genealogical research. For example, in the case of two of my direct male ancestors in Melmerby – John Smith (1712-1795) and William Smith (1640-1720) – I cannot identify their wives other than by their forename. Maiden surnames were not considered important to record in parish marriage registers of the time. Maybe through DNA tests and genetic matching, I will be able to find out more about these unknown female ancestors… I would also be interested to learn more – if I could – about the younger sons and the daughters in each Smith family that I have explored.

Recently I have spent time researching the 19th-century branches of the Smith family in Cumberland who are related to my Smiths in Ireland through cousin-ship. Records for this more recent century are much better, particularly with the establishment of the census system every ten years starting in 1841 but also with civil registration of births, marriages and deaths after 1837 and the publication of probate records for wills (which were becoming more common in the family).

Much earlier on this blog, I wrote a brief post about the Melmerby Smiths after 1821 but they were not a major focus for me at that time and I did not know much about them.

The following chart shows when the Smith family lines diverged from my perspective. Both lines go back to John Smith and Hannah Huddart. (In my genealogy charts and pages I have called him John Smith Jr. to distinguish him from his father of the same name.)

While it is very nice that the Smith families of Melmerby continued – with rare exceptions – to use the forenames familiar to them, this has often made it difficult to know which William Smith, John Smith or Thomas Smith is being documented. It is also a challenge when writing about them. Although Lancelot Smiths abound in the larger family tree, they were not – in the Melmerby line – the eldest sons. Common names for the Melmerby Smith daughters were Mary, Agnes and Hannah.

My great-great-grandfather Lancelot Smith (1785-1871) was a younger son of John Smith of Melmerby and his wife Hannah Huddart of Gamblesby. Lancelot’s older brother William Smith (1781-1857) inherited the freehold farm property in Melmerby from his father while Lancelot had a small freehold property in Gamblesby as well as a small freehold property in Melmerby (inherited from his uncle Thomas). I imagine it was difficult for him to support his wife and family of eight children on the property he could farm. In the 1850s, this Lancelot Smith and most of his family, including two of his sons – Lancelot and Thomas – moved to Ireland to farm as tenants in County Tipperary. This might have been seen as a step down from being a yeoman farmer in Cumberland but I believe it represented a significant economic opportunity to manage much larger farms and, ultimately, to own them after the Irish Land Acts of the late 19th century were implemented.

After William Smith died in Melmerby in 1857, his son John Smith (1815-1884) settled into the Melmerby property. He was a first cousin of my great-grandfather, Lancelot Smith of Corballis (Corballis was the name of the farm in County Dublin where he lived for many years from the early 1870s).

John Smith died in 1884 and his heir to the Melmerby property was George Hardy Smith (1852-1928). George and his siblings were second cousins to my grandfather William Smith of Blackhall.

Having now collected more information about the 19th-century Melmerby Smiths, I will be writing several posts about them soon. The first posts will be about William Smith of Melmerby (1781-1857) and his family of eleven children.

That will be followed by a few posts about his son John Smith (1815-1884) and his family, with some focus on John’s daughters – the Misses Smith of Penrith – as well as his younger sons John and Christopher. Related to these posts will be one about the Hardys of Park Head.

Posted in Families, Gamblesby, Hardy, Huddart, Melmerby, Smith, Tipperary | Tagged , , ,

Mystery Photographs from Penrith

I have several old photographs that are a bit of a mystery. They were taken in Penrith, Cumberland, in formal studio settings.  The photographs have come to me via a cousin, who was given a photograph album belonging to a distant cousin in the Smith family. Most of the people in the album can be identified as Smiths or relations of Smiths.

However, there is a set of photographs containing people whom I cannot identify. These are the “mystery photographs”. I hope by adding them to my blog that someone will have an idea of their identity.

The photographs in the album are wonderfully clear even though they are only 4″ by 2.5″ (about 10 cm by 6 cm) in size.  Most of them were taken by the same photographer; on the backs of these particular photographs, it says “T H S Melt, Photographer, 26 Arthur Street, Penrith”.  Because the photographs were taken in Penrith, the people portrayed may be Smiths from Melmerby. (I wrote an earlier post about the Melmerby Smiths after 1821 on this blog.)

Judging by the clothes the people are wearing, the photographs were probably taken in the early to mid-1870s.  If I choose the date of 1875 and then find the Melmerby Smiths who were adults in that year, I might get close to finding out who these people are.  But I recognize this is only a guess.

I would welcome any ideas you have about the people portrayed as well as when the pictures were taken.  If you know anything about the photographer “T H S Melt”, that would be helpful as well. I could not find him in any on-line listing of 19th century photographers.

In 1875, the head of the Smith family in Melmerby was John Smith who was 60 years old at that time; his wife Mary Smith (nee Hardy) was 53.  Their children at that date were:

  • William Smith, aged 26
  • George Hardy Smith, aged 23
  • Mary Ann Smith, aged 21
  • Agnes Smith, aged 19
  • Hannah Smith, aged 17
  • John Smith, aged 14
  • Christopher Smith, aged 10

Penrith group 1873This is the family group picture.  There are also individual portraits of some of the people in this group.

The arrangement of people in such formal portraits is usually significant.  I think the man seated in the centre is the head of the family.  The focus of the picture appears to be on the young woman seated at the front with a young man beside her.  Was this photograph taken on the occasion of a betrothal?  The woman standing behind the head of the family is a widow, based on the black dress and the small black head-dress she is wearing.  The older woman seated on the left also seems to be a widow.

Well, who are they? Here is my guess.

The man seated in the centre is John Smith.

The bearded man standing on the right bears some resemblance to the head of the family (and it is not just the whiskers); I think they could be brothers.  John’s younger brother William Smith and his wife Elizabeth Smith (nee Harrison) lived in Gamblesby and they were both 50 years old in 1875.  I think it is William and his wife who are standing together on the right of the picture.

The young man standing at the back on the left has his arm around the shoulders of the older woman next to him; she is wearing a striped dress. I think this is George Hardy Smith and his mother Mary Smith (nee Hardy).

The young woman seated at the right bears a strong resemblance  to George Hardy Smith so is probably one of his three sisters. Maybe it is Mary Ann Smith although it could be his second sister Agnes Smith.  (I suggest the latter possibility because Mary Ann was living with the Hardys in Park Head at the time.)

The widow standing behind the head of the family could be John Smith’s sister Ann Dobson, who was married to Benjamin Dobson; he had died in 1866.

I do not have any idea who is the older woman seated on the left.  It is not John Smith’s mother because she died in 1868. Nor is it Mary Smith’s mother, Eleanor Hardy, who died in 1864. Possibly she is related to the young woman seated at the front?

The couple at the front of the group is the biggest puzzle of all.

Is the young man William Smith, John and May Smith’s eldest son? If so, is the young woman his fiancee? And what is her name?

An alternative is that the young woman is a Smith but it is unlikely to be one of John Smith’s daughters; none of his three surviving daughters ever married. Another possibility: is the young woman the daughter of Ann Dobson? She had an older daughter Margaret who never married. There was a second daughter Mary but I have no information about her life.

Definitely a mystery.

Below are individual portraits of four of the people in the group picture. I have no idea why only these few portraits were in the photograph album. It might have been expected there would be portraits of the two people at the front of the group but I do not have those. In any case, the following images help to show more clearly four of the people in the group photograph.

Penrith 1

Penrith 2

Penrith 5


Posted in Dobson, Families, Gamblesby, Hardy, Harrison, Melmerby, Penrith, Photographs, Smith | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,