Sunday 25 August 2013

Census Sunday - Occupations in the Cotton Industry in the Census returns

Hopefully you didn't notice, but I've been away for a couple of weeks.  Cleverly (well in my opinion anyway) I wrote some blog posts before I went and released them at paced intervals whilst I was otherwise occupied at the Great British Beer Festival in Olympia, London.  It was my last year there due to continuing ill health, but it was nice (and a bit sad) to see all my beery friends for one last time.  They had a whip round and got me some lovely presents, gift vouchers and flowers and it was wonderful.  I only cried a bit.  
Group shot of nine people at Olympia raising a glass (or tankard) to my leaving.
That's me in blue, being held up by my beer festival children,
the people I've seen grow up over the past 21 years!

I have been home for a few days now and have just about caught up with the backlog of gardening, washing and emails so I thought I'd try to get back in the blogging mood by using a prompt from Geneabloggers, Census Sunday. 

I have worked in the office at GBBF for the past seven years, since I became ill and unable to participate on the busy floor of the hall serving and doing cellar work.  Each summer for the past four years I've been 'doing' a bit of family history with one of the ladies I work with in our quiet moments - we don't get many of them, but towards the end of the fortnight as the festival draws to a close we do manage a few hours of searching on the census for her ancestors.  I have been under strict instructions not to 'do' anything on her tree outside the time I spend with her at the festival but now I'm not going back I need to prepare all the items we've downloaded over the past few years and send them on to her to follow up in her own time.  I will be entering the data  from the various census returns into Family Historian and sending her a gedcom file in the next couple of weeks.  I believe her partner has now caught the bug and wants to investigate his family history so hopefully they will find the information I send a good free starter.
Radcliffe in the 1850s (from Old Maps)
A small map snip showing the parish church of St Mary's Radcliffe and some surrounding streets.
A close up of Radcliffe, Lancashire around 1910 (from Old Maps)
This summer we traced her maternal grandmother's line - the Baines family from Radcliffe near Bury.  Most of their occupations on the census returns were related to the cotton industry and looking at maps of the town it is easy to see why - from the earliest maps in the 1850s up to relatively recently the whole area was dominated by reservoirs and waterways serving cotton mills, bleachworks and printing works.  From the census returns we know they lived in Ryder Street, at the bottom left of the 1910 map and later Norman Street, upper centre of the map.  The parish church was right on their doorstep and we were lucky enough to find transcriptions of many Baines family events on the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk site at St Mary's church, which is to the right of my map snip.

My friend's ancestors featured on census pages dotted with cryptic job titles such as bowker (a person who dips cotton in a solution of lye to bleach it), stitcher (the person who joins together pieces of cloth so the process of putting them through the bleach is continuous) and quilter (not making quilts but rather to do with cotton winding spindles which were apparently called quills).  And of course there were cotton spinners, cotton winders, loom tenders, cloth pleaters, cloth stampers, crofters in the bleachworks, carters in the cotton mill and so on and so forth. 

I am grateful to Andy Alston's Repository and the Weaste Cemetery Heritage Trail for information which helped makes sense of these occupations. 

The Baines name was very uncommon in the parish records suggesting recent incoming and sure enough we soon found evidence that Thomas Baines had actually been born Thomas Brains or Braines in Orton Longueville near Peterborough in about 1845.  His father Robert Branes or Brains was an Agricultural Labourer and Thomas had been following in his footsteps until he moved to Lancashire sometime before 1875.  We couldn't find him in the 1871 census, but in 1875 he married the Radcliffe born Margaret Yates, at St Mary's church.  They were sadly only married for a few years, as Margaret died in 1883 suspiciously close to the death of an infant named Herbert Baines.  We can only assume she died of complications following childbirth.  Thomas did not remarry, but instead relied upon his sisters to housekeep for him and care for his surviving four children.  In each census from 1891 onwards he has a different sister living in - all readily identifiable by their shared birthplace in Orton Longueville.  Thomas eventually died in 1923 aged 78 and was buried in St Mary's churchyard. 
Hairy Bikers Si and Dave at Masson Mills (from the Masson Mills website)
Part of my post GBBF viewing this weekend has been the last couple of episodes of the Channel 4 drama 'The Mill' which features the Quarry Bank Mill at Styal.  You can really get the feel for working in a cotton mill in this programme although the time period is much earlier, around 1842.  Plus the Hairy Bikers visited a cotton mill to help restore a spinning mule, which was the first time I'd actually got an idea of how those huge complicated machines really worked.

I don't have any cotton workers in my own family tree, though the OH has linen workers, so it was very interesting to research this particular occupation for a change. 

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