Saturday, 26 December 2020

Our Ancestors Didn't Have It Easy - what with Pit Disasters and the First World War

About five years ago I wrote the story of one Barnsley born man, William Malkin, who emigrated to Australia in 1909. He left behind his wife and child behind (I don't know why) and made a new life for himself over there which caused some problems for his wife in Barnsley after he was killed on 28 September 1916 whilst serving in the Australian armed forces.

Pte. William Malkin, whose parents live at Ward Green, Worsbro' Dale, and who emigrated to Australia seven years ago, has fallen on active service with the "Anzacs". (Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 28 October 1916, p.10.)

His wife's story was quite inspiring for me - she was Barnsley's First Health Visitor and remarried after the war to an ex-serviceman with his own problems. 

From the Barnsley Chronicle 26 Dec 1914
with thanks to Barnsley Archives

Click the links above to read those two stories - or carry on reading here - I will try to make this post stand alone but there will be more detail about William and Frances' stories in the posts above.

Firstly I'll mention the Swaithe Main Colliery Disaster which is how I linked these stories to family trees that I am researching. The above is a link to a dedicated website with full details of the events of 6 December 1875 and a list of names of the 143 men killed that day.  I discovered that my OH (other half) and one of his friends have family links to several of the men who lost their lives and, in an unhappy co-incidence, to the soldier, William Malkin, mentioned above.

One of the men killed down Swaithe Main that day was William Greenbank, aged 27, from Lancashire. He had married a Barnsley girl, Hannah Crank, in Lancaster on 13 November 1871 and moved to Worsborough (the second 'o' in Worsbrough comes and goes over the years before finally vanishing in the mid twentieth century). Hannah's father William Crank (sorry about all the Williams in this story - it was obviously a popular family name) was from Ulverston in Lancashire but had somehow moved to Barnsley before 1850 where he married Rachel Sedgwick that year at St Mary's in the town centre. Here's a snip of a section of their family tree to help you sort it out. 

William Crank b.1823 in Ulverston,
and some of his descendants

William and Rachel had six children in all, the first three were born in Barnsley and the last three in Ulverston. As the two places are 109 miles apart by the most direct route I can see on Google Maps, it fascinates me that the family moved back and forth so much. 

Their moves must have been driven by the availability of work. In Ulverston the main occupation appears to have been Iron Ore mining, and in Barnsley before 1850 it was weaving. In 1851 when William and Rachel were living at Croft Ends in Barnsley town centre (roughly where New Street and Wellington Street meet at the top of the hill nowadays) William was listed on the census return as a Weaver as were both his and Rachel's fathers on their marriage register entry in 1850. The linen trade had brought hundreds of men and their families to Barnsley from across Britain - from Ireland and Lancashire where they had experience in weaving linen and from North and West Yorkshire where men had experience in weaving wool.

But hand loom linen weaving as a well paid job for men in Barnsley was coming to an end by the mid 1850s with the introduction of power looms, which could be more cheaply worked by women, and William Crank may have decided to take his new Barnsley family home to Ulverston where there was better paid work in the Iron Ore mines.

Sadly, as indicated on my snip by a little explosion symbol, William Crank was killed in a mining accident. On 25th November 1868 William and another man were drilling in the No.41 Pit at Lindal Moor, near Ulverston, to make a hole ready for blasting. The second man walked away to attend to some other work and a few minutes later 'he heard a tremendous explosion' and when he ran back he found William had been killed on the spot. An inquest late returned a verdict of 'Accidental death caused by a blast of gunpowder'. (Details from Soulby's Ulverston Advertiser and General Intelligencer 3 December 1868 p.5 available via Find My Past or the British Newspaper Archive.)

William's widow Rachel and some of her surviving children returned to Barnsley between 1871 and 1875. This was within a few years of William's death and Rachel may have been seeking support from her own family in Barnsley. One son, John Crank, who was already married and employed as a Iron Ore miner, remained in Ulverston at that time, though he too eventually came to Barnsley. Another son, George Crank, had met a girl in Lancashire, but they had both arrived in Barnsley by 1879 when they married at St Mary's church in Worsborough village. Rachel's eldest daughter Hannah is the Barnsley born girl who had married William Greenbank in Lancaster in 1871 and they appear to have travelled to Barnsley with or soon after Rachel's return.  Hannah had been born some months before her parents' marriage but William appears to have always considered her his daughter when completing the census returns and she names him as her father when she marries. 

William Greenbank and Hannah Crank's 1871 marriage entry (from Ancestry)

William and Hannah Greenbank were living at Kingwell, Worsborough Dale, in the widowed Rachel Crank's household in 1875. They had one daughter, Mary Alice Greenbank, born in 1872, possibly in Ulverston (although later census returns mention various places in Cheshire). I know about William's living arrangements because Rachel, his mother-in-law, was a witness at the inquest after the Swaithe Main Disaster.  Images of the Coroner's Notebooks are available on Ancestry.

RACHEL CRANK of King Well in Worsbrough aforesaid, Widow, on her oath says, The deceased Wm Greenbank was 28 years old & a Colliery underground labourer. He was my son in law & lived with me. He set off to his work about a quarter past 5 o'clock on the 6th inst: & I saw his dead body the same day at Swaith Main Colliery. His right foot was off & and he was much bruised all over his body. He was in a club.

We also know that William Greenbank was buried at St Thomas's, Worsborough Dale, as the funerals of the men killed in the disaster were reported in the Barnsley Chronicle. From the details in the report I calculate that William's funeral took place on 11 December. Other funerals took place across Barnsley in the following week and all were reported in a very long article on 18 December 1875.

No fewer than twenty interments took place at St. Thomas's burial ground, Worsbro' Dale, on Saturday afternoon. The names of the deceased were: Charles Henry Vine (20), Whitecross Farm, Swaithe; William Hudson (38), Worsbro' Dale; Joseph Robinson Mowbray (19), Worsbro' Common; Benjamin Bennett (26), the Row, Worsbro' Dale; Leonard Galloway (16), Worsbro' Common; Tom Kilburn (49), Swaithe; Charles Goodman (19), Swaithe; William Laughton (17), Whitecross Farm, Swaithe; Joseph Harrison (20), Worsbro' Common; Alfred Hoyland (29), Ward Green, Worsbro'; John Semley (17), Swaithe; Charles Harrison (13), John Henry Gilbert (20), and George Beresford (53), all from one house in Swaithe; William Greenbank (27), King Well, Worsbro'; William Balmforth (22), Worsbro' Dale; John Dawber (24), Worsbro' Dale: John Thomas Smith (18), King Well; and the boy who was not identified. 

The full article takes up several columns in the broadsheet newspaper. 

The Crank/Greenbank family had suffered the loss of a second male breadwinner in just over seven years. 

Hannah had to seek work to support herself and her little daughter and in the 1881 census I found her working as a Housemaid in the household of Samuel Joshua Cooper of Mount Vernon - famous in Barnsley as the founder of the Cooper Art Galley. I wondered how the daughter and widow of miners had the experience to be a Housemaid in a wealthy household, but on investigation in earlier census returns I discovered that she had worked in 'service' before her marriage. She may also have been charitably viewed by the Cooper family as the widow of a man killed in the course of his work. While Hannah was working her little daughter Mary Alice Greenbank was boarded out to an elderly couple in the Ward Green area (again according to the 1881 census returns).

Hannah remarried on 1 October 1881 in Darfield All Saints to William Malkin who was four years her junior. She gave her occupation as Servant at her marrige, and note that she signed the register with a X, William Malkin was a miner but he could write his own name.

William Malkin and Hannah Greenbank's 1881 marriage register entry (from Find My Past)

As a point of interest it is worth noting that parish records for Barnsley can be found online in two separate places - due to the different Diocesan archives where the completed registers from the churches were deposited. The records for churches in Barnsley town centre and places to the north and west can be found in Barnsley Archives and the West Yorkshire Archives in Wakefield and have been published online by Ancestry. The registers for churches to the south, including Worsbrough, Wombwell and Darfield, are in Sheffield Archives and have been published online by Find My Past. Depending on where you live one or the other of these two websites will probably be free to access in your local library. It is worth making enquiries (after the current Covid crisis has passed of course) before you visit to find out what your library has and whether you need to book a computer in advance.

After their marriage Hannah and William Malkin lived at Ward Green and had three children. William Malkin (jnr) who was the young man who married and then emigrated to Australia, and two daughters, Ethel and Florence. Mary Alice Greenbank was also living with William and Hannah in 1901, but not for long as she married Thomas White on 7 April that year. 

Hannah Malkin became a widow again in 1913 with the death of her second husband. She lived until 1920 so she also knew about the death of her solder son William Malkin jnr 1916. William and his wife Frances had one son, Clifton Trevor Malkin who had been living with Hannah in 1911 whilst his mother was working as a Health Visitor. I thought that spoke well of Hannah, caring for her grandson so her daughter-in-law could work, especially after her son had gone to Australia without them. It suggests to me that there was no (or little) ill feeling between the women of the family.

Mary Alice's husband, Thomas White joined the Barnsley Pals (13th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment) on 26 September 1914 and remained in service without incident until the end of the war. His Service Records are available online. They do not appear to have had any children of their own, although the 1911 census shows that they adopted a little girl.

Hannah's daughter Ethel Malkin married Herbert Simmons on 21 December 1912 and had one daughter, Florence, before the war, and a second, Ruby, on 31 August 1916. Their sons Cyril, Herbert jnr and Joseph were born after the war.  Herbert was a soldier in the Reserve from early 1915 but I am not yet sure whether he served overseas or whether his occupation as a miner kept him at home. He also noted, in his discharge papers, that he had suffered from rheumatism for twelve years and fits (epilepsy?) since he was a child, so he may never have been fit enough to serve overseas.

Hannah's daughter Florence Malkin married Allen Edgar Scales in 1929. She would have been 37 years old by this time so I'd be interested to know what caused her to marry relatively late in life. Allen Scales had also enlisted in the First World War but was discharged shortly afterwards as unfit to serve due to poor vision. Florence and Allen had one daughter, Margaret, born in 1931.

The more I learn about the history of Barnsley the more events and people connect with each other. If I had not already researched Barnsley's First World War soldiers I wouldn't have spotted the significance of  Hannah's second marriage so quickly.  Was her experience unusual for the time? She lost a father and husband in mining accidents and a son in the Great War ... only further research will tell. 

Thank you for reading.


Dedication on the Swaithe Main Memorial in Worsbrough, from the WayMarking website where you can find other pictures of the memorial.

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