Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Robert and Fanny Priestley's children - How Many?! - A sad indictment of condtions in 19th century Barnsley

As I wrote the previous post about tracking Robert Priestley's movements around a small area of Barnsley from 1888 to 1901 I was focusing out other elements of his family's life.  This is of course no way to write family history ... within two minutes of publishing the blog I was having to amend a comment towards the end about the size of his family.  I can only blame my scatterbrainedness on not being very well.  Sorry.

I had looked again at his children in my Family Historian program.  The total number that I know anything about is thirteen, however the family never had more a few of their children alive at any one time.  The best way to show this is with a timeline.
A time line showing Robert Priestley's children's lives.

 The above image was produced with the program Genelines.  

Robert Priestley married Fanny Kellet in Retford, Nottinghamshire on 31 Oct 1870.  This means that Charles Henry Priestley b.1868 in Retford, listed in the 1871 and 1881 census returns as their son may actually not be Robert's, but let's not quibble about that at the moment.  The little family moves to Barnsley shortly after the marriage as in 1871 they are living at 8 Cope Street, sharing the house with another young family.  As the houses currently numbered 4 to 16 weren't built until 1902 (date stone on the end of the block and map evidence) the street must have been renumbered at some point.  Number 8 was probably the current number 24 which would fit a house big enough to share as they are large for the area with offshot kitchens.
1874 baptism of Robert son of Robert and Fanny Priestley, at St Mary's, Barnsley (from Ancestry)

Robert and Fanny's next (first?) child Robert is born at the beginning of 1874 and was baptised at St Mary's church in Barnsley. Unfortunately for me their abode is merely recorded as Barnsley.  

Further children follow in the baptism records, nine in all in the West Yorkshire Parish Records on Ancestry that I can find.  Addresses are recorded against the six in St John's Church and the last one at St Peter's.

Robert Priestley b. Q1 1974 bap. 11 Jun 1874 at St Mary's
William Priestley b. Q4 1876 bap. 26 Apr 1877 at St Mary's
Benjamin Priestley b. Q3 1881 bap. 11 Oct 1881  Abode 10 Providence Street died Q4 1881 at 10 Providence Street buried aged 2 months.
Fergus Priestley b. Q4 1882 bap. 22 Nov 1883 Abode John Street died Q1 1884 at 3 John Street buried aged 13 months
Mary Jane Priestley b. 15 Aug 1884 bap. 7 Sep 1884 Abode 3 John Street
Effie Priestley b. Q4 1886 bap. 21 Aug 1887 Abode 28 Albion Terrace
Frances Mabel Priestley b. Q3 1888 bap. 16 Sep 1888  Abode 28 Albion Terrace
Ann Eliza Priestley b. Q1 1891 bap. 6 Mar 1891 Abode 40 Waltham Street died Q1 1891 at 40 Waltham Street buried aged 3 months
Ada Priestley b. Q4 1893 bap. 21 Jun 1894 Abode 40 Waltham Street died Q3 1895 at 40 Waltham Street buried aged 22 months

Only the highlighted children survive to adulthood and go on to marry.  I need to mention that Charles Henry, the son born before the marriage also dies young, in Q3 1884 at 3 John Street and is buried aged 15 years.

HOWEVER as you can see from the timeline I included to begin with I am also aware of two more short lived children between William and Benjamin and a final son all of whom appear not to have been baptised, not in a Church of England church at any rate.

John Priestley b. Q3 1878 died Q2 1881 at 7 Park Row buried aged 2 years 6 months
Richard Priestley b. Q2 1880 died Q1 1881 at 7 Park Row buried aged 11 months

John and Richard were picked up in the burial records of Barnsley Cemetery, they are in the same grave as each other, N623.  William, John and Richard are names of Robert Priestley's brothers.  It seems likely he named his sons after them.  

The final son, Walter Clark Priestley was born Q4 1896 and after enlisting as a soldier in World War One was killed on 15 Apr 1918 in France aged 22 years.

What was it that caused so many of Robert and Fanny's children to die young?  Genetic factors, something in their family? or environmental factors, the place where they lived?

The Buckley Street area of Barnsley in 1939 (from Yococo)

The aerial photograph above centres on the Buckley Street Methodist Church, the tall double spired building facing the distinctive row of Buckley Street's houses.  You can compare this to the map on my last blog post, if you spin your point of view around.  Duke Street is at the bottom of this photo and Waltham Street up at the top left.  Albion Terrace is the first long row that runs through the block to the right of the Methodist Church.  You can click on the image to see at a larger scale.

1889 map snip of Buckley and Grace Street area
(from Old Maps)

The houses are very closely packed and although they are not back to backs or arranged in courts or yards (mostly) there is not much space between the rows.

This map snip shows Albion Terrace, the long row between Buckley Street and Grace Street nearest to the Church.  Opposite it is Wright's Terrace.  If those little boxes at the bottom of the yards are privies then six are being shared between nine houses. Of course they might not be privies, they could just be coal or ash stores, but let's try to be positive. In fact Albion Terrace, at this point, might be a bit healthier than some other rows, as there appear to be large gardens in front of the Grace Terrace houses.  Later another row of houses fills that gap.  Robert and Fanny lived on Albion Terrace from 1886 to 1890 (or thereabouts!).
1889 map snip of Park Row and John Street
(from Old Maps)

I think that two Priestley children, John and Richard, were born and died on Park Row between 1878 and early 1881.  The houses on Park Row were much smaller and included some back to backs.  The family also lived on John Street, just below Park Row, around 1882 to 1884.  These houses are not standard terraces like the ones on Albion Terrace and Buckley Street.  They are much older, and lie within the area known as Wilson's Piece which I have written about in the past.  The area was developed in the late 18th century as part of the linen industry. One hundred years later the houses would have been very dilapidated.  In late 1881, in between the two, the family lived on Providence Street, which took a bit of finding, but turned out to be on the very edge of the area, backing onto a marshy bank, with a stream and large pond and the Agnes Colliery yard (roughly where Pond Street is now), all of which means that it doesn't look like a very pleasant place to live despite being on the edge of the main housing area.

It must have been a step up for them to move to Albion Terrace.  Robert would have been 39 years old in 1886, he wasn't getting any younger, but maybe he was in a good steady job.  They had three children alive, Robert, William and Mary Jane, with Effie on the way.  Both Effie, born in late 1886 and Frances born in mid 1888 survive to adulthood, again suggesting that Albion Terrace might have given them a good start in life.  Of course the older two boys are beginning to be old enough to start contributing to the family's income, Robert jnr would have been 16 years old in 1886.  In the 1891 census he is listed as a Labourer like his father. 
1889 map snip of Waltham Street, off Sheffield Road
(from Old Maps)

Unfortunately the family's troubles were not over. The move to 45 Waltham Street in 1890 and across the road to number 40 a year or so later was not a good one for them.  Despite the rather nice houses at the top of the street and the large gardens in front of the even numbers (no.40 is the second house up from the passageway through to the back yard) the houses are of an older style again and may have lacked facilities. The privies for the odd numbers, just four between ten or more houses are right at the back of that big yard behind (no.45 is the third one of the long row, between the L and T of Waltham). Robert and Fanny lose both their next two children very young.

Of course these were Fanny's eleventh and twelfth children that I am aware of, and she herself was now around 40 years old.  Even so it must have been a nasty shock after successfully getting Mary Jane, Effie and Frances through their danger years.

I don't know where their final child Walter Clarke Priestley (named I think after an uncle, as Robert's mother's maiden name was Clarke) was born and he appears to have missed out on being baptised as I mention above.  His birth must have co-incided with their move to number 9 Duke Street in 1896, where the family stay until almost living memory.  
1911 census for 9 Duke Street, showing the Priestley family (from Ancestry)

One final point - in the census snip above, from 1911 Robert declares that he and Fanny have been married for 40 years, have had sixteen children (!) and that ten of them have died.  So that's another three somewhere that I haven't found yet ...

My mother-in-law once told me that her grandmother (Mary Jane Priestley b.1884) told her that she had had many misadventures, which my mum-in-law took to mean miscarriages.  If her own mum was similarly afflicted that might explain the missing three children - they were stillborn or miscarried and thus were not officially born or buried. 

It is impossible to say why Fanny and Robert were so unlucky with their children - a mixture of poor housing and poor health will no doubt have contributed to their early deaths, but what is even more sad is that Robert and Fanny's story is not that unusual in the history of Barnsley.  The 1911 census has opened our eyes to the sadness of our ancestor's lives.  I can't even imagine sixteen children, it's like the Monty Python Meaning of Life sketch where another keeps popping out every few hours.  And of those to lose all but five - well, six.  Fanny dies at the end of 1911 and so doesn't know that her youngest, who is still at home in the census snip above, dies a soldier aged just twenty-two.  Robert jnr and William also serve, I have the service records of all three men and will write their stories one day.  Robert snr continues, still at 9 Duke Street, until his death in 1928 when he is 82 years old.  I wonder if the Dead Man's Penny they sent for Walter (which my mum-in-law still has) was any comfort. 

In 1930 in the Register of Electors I found that 9 Duke Street was occupied by Robert's son Robert jnr, who having married quite late in 1926 to a widow, had by then two children, one born in 1927 just before his grandfather died and named after him. There are lots and lots of other grandchildren too ... the three surviving daughters each married at around nineteen years old. Fanny would have known many of them, maybe they made up, in part, for the children she had lost.

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