Thursday, 6 August 2020

Lister Beckett - Part 1 - father of Sidney Beckett Sokell a First World War soldier from Concrete Cottages

The saga of Lister Beckett has taken me four sessions to write, and has become more complicated than I ever imagined. Further questions became apparent during the writing requiring additional research. As a consequence I am going to split his story into more than one post. I am not as able to concentrate as I used to be, which is why I don't post very often any more, and now I have my wonderful academic studies to fill up my time as well, but researching this story presented some intriguing puzzles and has been very satsifying to write.

Part 1 - this post - Lister Beckett's birth and his parents

Those of you who have read my blogs before will not be surprised to learn that I have managed to link Lister Beckett to my husband and have, in the process, added the potential for connecting to many more First World War soldiers. According to my 'Family Historian' software: Nigel R. CROFT (my OH) is the great (x5) great-nephew of Charles HAWCROFT and Charles HAWCROFT was the husband of the great-aunt of the wife of Lister BECKETT.

This is a story of a man who had two 'wives'. Charged with deserting his first wife in Dewsbury, he was caught by the authorities playing cricket but claimed in court to be 'under the doctor' and thus unable to pay any maintenance! Lister's second family lived in Concrete Cottages in Wombwell after his death and his son Sidney served in the First World War and is remembered on the Brampton Parish Hall Roll of Honour, hence my initial interest.

Sydney Beckett named on the Brampton Parish Hall Roll of Honour
(photo by Andrew Taylor)

One of the main things that intrigued me about this story is the difference in social class between Lister's first wife, daughter of an apparently comfortably off woollen manufacturer, and his second 'wife', daughter of a coal miner. None of my research has (as yet) supplied any answers to my questions about why Lister deserted one for the other ... and why this appears to have been socially accepted not only by the working class and cricketing communities in Barnsley but also by his family. It may be that our ancestors had a much more relaxed view of illegitimacy and unmarried cohibitation than we tend to imagine. This could have been because divorce was very difficult and very expensive before 1938, after which the new grounds of desertion were accepted and the number of divorces per year almost doubled. (See Rebecca Probert's 2015 guide to marital breakdown for family historians, which is listed in my references below for more information).

Lister Beckett's family has a well referenced page on WikiTree ( The author is aware of the irregularity in Lister's marriages, but has not used (or had access to) the newspaper sources and local history resources that I have used to fill in more details of the background to his story.

Part 1: Lister Beckett's birth and his parents

On 22 January 1860 a boy was baptised Lister Beckett in St Mary's church in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. His parents were Adam Beckett, a clothier and Anne, his wife. They lived in Newthorp, Dewsbury.  Lister had been born on 7 July 1859. Six months seems a long time to wait to baptise a child, but looking down the pages of the baptism register he was not the only child of a similar age or even older. The vicar of St Mary's Mirfield seemed to have had a lot of late baptisms in his parish.

I can also see the baptisms of two potential siblings for Lister in the Ancestry West Yorkshire Parish records. Joseph Thackrah Beckett, was baptised on 28 June 1857 (born 13 April 1857) in the parish of Dewsbury, father Adam a clothier and living in Mirfield, and Jane Ann Beckett, was baptised on 17 May 1884 in the parish of St Phillip's, Dewsbury, father Adam a gentleman, living at Eightlands Cottage, Dewsbury.

Adam Beckett had married Ann (no 'e') Lister in Q1 1856 in the Dewsbury Registration District (RD) according to 'FreeBMD'.  I was able to find this marriage on Ancestry in the West Yorkshire records. It had taken place in the Parish Church in Dewsbury on 6 March 1856. Where the name of Adam's father should have appeared there was a remark: 'Declined to Answer'.  Both Adam and Ann's father, Isaac Lister, were recorded as clothiers. It seems safe to assume that Lister Beckett was named in acknowledgement of his mother's maiden name.

There is a tree on Ancestry for Adam's family. I am not in the habit of accepting the information in an online tree as fact, however I am happy to consult them in case they have spotted a connection I have missed. I always seek confirmation of the information by looking for primary sources such as parish records and/or census returns.

In this case the online tree showed that the reason for Adam not declaring his father at his marriage probably was because he was born in 1827 prior to his mother, Tallis Beckett (baptised Beckitt), marrying Joseph Thackrah in 1829. This would explain where Lister's older brother Joseph obtained his unusual middle name of Thackrah, he was named after Adam's step-father. Giving children surnames as middle names was not uncommon in the 19th century - I have several examples in my own family tree. I was able to confirm these circumstances by accessing (via Ancestry) Adam's baptism record from Dewsbury Parish Church on 25 July 1827 which only records his mother's name, Tallis Beckett, and the marriage register entry for Joseph Thackray and Alice Beckett, in Dewsbury All Saints (which is the parish church) on 12 January 1829. Neither Joseph nor Alice could write their names - both had signed the register with a X - so they would have been unable to check the way in which the minister had written their names. The only explanation of the name 'Tallis' I can find is that it is a habitation related surname meaning 'a clearing in woodland', so maybe Tallis Beckett was also named for a relative or ancestor's surname.

With the help of the above online tree I was able to find 1841 and 1851 census returns for Joseph Thackrah and his family. Although there was an interval of more than two years between Adam's conception and Tallis' marriage Joseph Thackrah appears to have accepted Adam into his family giving him his name and in 1851 recording him as his son. In this census return Adam's occupation was woollen spinner and Joseph Thackrah was a publican (I do love a pub connection!) at Daw Green, just to the south west of Dewsbury. Adam obviously knew that Joseph was NOT his father, otherwise he would have declared him when he married and not used his mother's maiden name. We have found an example of illegitimacy being socially accepted in shape of Lister Beckett's own father.

In the 1861 census returns Adam and Ann Beckett were living at the 'Albion Hotel' on Wormalds Row or Pattison Square in Mirfield with three children, Joseph aged 3, Lister aged 1 and Susan aged 2 months. Adam is 34 years old and an inn keeper rather than a clothier, possibly following in his step-father's footsteps. He has one live-in servant and a vistor on census night. The street names, Row and Square, suggested to me that neither place would still exist; in Barnsley names like that are indicators of 19th century close packed terraces and courts which were redeveloped in the early 20th cenury - but I checked on the maps.  There is an Albion Street on the 1893 map of Ravensthope near Mirfield which appears to lie in the correct area, between Raven House and Tanhouse (hint: page backwards and forwards from the census return showing the family of interest and note the street names either side of the one where your family lives). The 1889 'town plan' (1:500) shows an Albion Hotel at the corner of Albion Street on the main road (Huddersfield Road). This could have been the Beckett home in 1861. It no longer exists.

1889 1:500 Town Plan of Ravensthorpe, showing the Albion Hotel (Old Maps)

In the same census Joseph and Tallis Thackrah, Adam's step-father and mother, were living at 294 Middle Road, Daw Green, Dewsbury. This was the Saville's Arms public house. It could be the same place as the unnamed pub which Joseph Thackrah was running in the 1851 census. A study of trade directories or rate books might be able to prove if this was the case. It appears to have been a substantial building in the centre of a densely packed area, which had been, according to a 1837 trade directory entry on Genuki, a 'detached hamlet' as recently as 20 years previously (ie 1817).

1852 1;1,056 Town Plan of Dewsbury showing Saville Arms (Old Maps)

In this map snip from 1852 the Saville's Arms is in the centre of the image, just above and to the right of the 'N' ending the place name DAW GREEN coming in from the left. On a larger map the shapes of the roads it sits between are visibly more irregular than the surrounding geometrical blocks of back to back houses and names like High Street (the upper road), Middle Road and Lower Road suggest an original village core. If this is the orginal Daw Green hamlet the Saville's Arms could have been there before the town expanded around it. It had a long history  - the pub building could still be identified 100 years later on 1950s maps on the Old Maps site - although it had gone by the 1960s.

Joseph Thackrah had been widowed and was retired by the time of the 1871 census and was living on Barber Street near Eightlands with two adult children.

In 1871 Adam and Ann Beckett were living at the Railway Hotel on Bradford Road in Dewsbury. They now had seven children, Joseph Thackrah aged 13, Lister aged 11, John aged 7, Susan aged 9, Charles Henry aged 5, Tom aged 3 and Jane Ann aged 10 months. Adam had continued in the pub trade but moved to a larger establishement. He had one servant living in.  This location lay near the start of Northgate (using the paging back and forth method again) so I think I have located it on the 1890 town plan of Dewsbury. The Railway Hotel no longer exists, although the building behind it, the Cloth Hall Mills, is still visible on Google Maps (

1890 1:500 Town Plan of Dewsbury, showing Railway Hotel (Old Maps)

In 1881 Adam and Ann Beckett still were living at the Railway Hotel, Northgate. Six of the children listed in the 1871 census are at home with their parents. Adam is the inn keeper, with Joseph T, his eldest son, as inn keeper's assistant. The next two sons are both jeweller's assistants. One servant is living in. Lister Beckett has left home - his story continues in the second part of this lengthy blog.

At some point between 1881 and 1891, Adam and Ann moved to Eightland's Cottage. Their last child, Jane Ann, was baptised in 1884, at the age of 14 years, from that address. I can only assume they had retired from the pub trade and had used the money they had made to live in some comfort in their retirement. This is supported by the fact that Adam gave his occupation at Jane Ann's baptism as gentleman. It is not immediately obvious on a map but this location is up a steep hill from the town centre and is above the railway station. The house still exists and helpfully has its name on the gate post which can be clearly read on Google Maps.

1890 1:500 Town Plan of Dewsbury showing Eightlands Road (Old Maps)

Eightland's Cottage is the first house off Eightlands Road at the top right of the map. It appears to be divided into two houses, though (as you will see) it had been built to look like one large house. As the gateway with the post bearing its name is at the side with the triangular lawn I assume it is the second house, with the large lintel over the door. This sizable house (compare it to the back to backs further up the road to the left on the map) has good views across the town. I assume that being to the north the wind would have generally blown the smoke and dirt of the town centre in the opposite direction. This location of more expensive housing to the north and west of an industrial town can be observed in other places in Yorkshire like Sheffield and Barnsley.

The front of Eightland's Cottage on Google Maps

Joseph Thackrah, Adam Beckett's step-father, had also chosen to live at Eightlands after his retirement. In 1871 we found him on Barber Street which was the road on the second right up Eightlands Road beyond Eightland's Cottage.  He was still living there in 1881. It is possible that Adam chose to move to the area to support his step-father in his old age. Joseph Thackrah died in 1886 at the age of 79 years.

By 1891 Adam and Ann Beckett were living at 9 Crackenedge Terrace which was not far from Eightland's Cottage, directly north of Dewsbury's centre. Adam was 64 years old by now and 'living on his own means', in other words a pension or sufficient savings or investments to provide an income. Jane Ann, their daughter, who was 20 years old, was living with them. The houses in that area appear to have been extensively redeveloped now.

Adam and Ann Beckett moved again between 1891 and his death in 1895. Adam's funeral was reported in the Batley Reporter and Guardian on 22 June 1895, four years after the census return discussed above. Note that Lister Beckett attended the funeral.

Yesterday, the remains of Mr. Adam Beckett, aged sixty-eight years, of Victoria Crescent, Birkdale Road, were interred at the Dewsbury Cemetery, in the presence of a large number of people. Deceased, who owned the Railway Hotel, in Bradford Road, retired from business many years ago, and resided for some time at Eightlands. He was of a quiet disposition, and highly respected by all who knew him. He died from the effects of an operation performed upon him. The chief mourners were Messrs. Joe Beckett (the present landlord of the Railway Hotel), Lister Beckett, John Beckett, Charles Beckett, and Tom Beckett (sons of the deceased). Joe Thackrah (Heckmondwike), C. Fearnsides, Ellis Greenwood, T. Exley, F. Bould, Joe Thackrah (Boothroyd Lane), Wm. Tunnicliffe, Walter Tunnicliffe, Harry Tunnicliffe, Fred Sykes, Herbert Walker and Dr. Hall. Beautiful wreaths and crosses were sent by Mrs. Joe Beckett, Mrs Greenwood, Miss Earnshaw, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Thackrah, Mr. and Mrs. Fearnsides, Mr. and Mrs. Tunnicliffe, Mr. Herbert Walker, Mr. and Mrs. S. Lyles, Mr. C. Thornes and friends, Mr. J. Whittles and family, and the Licensed Victuallers' Association. [...] Deceased leaves a widow and seven children, five sons and two daughters, to mourn their loss.

This appears to have been the funeral of a well known and well respected gentleman.  The houses on Victoria Crescent can still be seen today on Google Maps and are bay-windowed terraced houses of varying sizes surrounding a little grassy central area with mature trees. (

1894 1:10,560 map of Dewsbury showing Victoria Crescent (Old Maps)

There is a reference in the newspaper report to Adam Beckett having lived at Eightlands for some time, which which tallies with the address given at his daughter Jane Ann's baptism in 1884. This is jumping back chronologically a little but the extra information to allowed me to track Adam and Ann's movements.  Note too that Adam's son Joseph was, at the time of Adam's death, the landlord of the Railway Inn, so he may have taken over from his father on his retirement.  In the Probate Calendar Indexes on Ancestry I noted that Adam Beckett left effects of £7076 12s 11d, this is worth roughly half a million pounds today.

So far I have demonstrated that Lister Beckett came from a line of publicans who were able to retire to live in comfortable circumstances in their old age. The report from Adam Beckett's funeral notes he was well respected with no suggestion of his own illegitimate birth. Lister's step-grandfather Joseph Thackrah had given Adam a home and his name, although Adam chose to revert to his baptismal surname of Beckett when he married.  The next section will look at how Lister appeared to settle into this comfortable class by marrying the daughter of a well off wool manufacturer.

Ancestry - for census returns, parish records, probate records and electoral registers
Find My Past - much the same as Ancestry plus newspapers covering the whole country, but with parish records for the more eastern parts of Yorkshire
FreeBMD - a free index to births, marriages and deaths from 1837
Genuki - Dewsbury: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1837.
GRO Online Index - as FreeBMD but you have to create an account and helpfully shows mother's maiden names all the way back to 1837 unlike the FreeBMD index.
Index of English and Welsh Registration Districts - on the UK BMD site - a downloadable resource
The National Archives - Currency Converter - gives value of money in history by its purchasing power
Old Maps - very good map site with a variety of dates and scales. I hope adding links to the snips I have used covers me for copyright! My blog has no commercial links.
Probert, R. Divorced, Bigamist, Bereaved? (Kenilworth: Takeaway (Publishing), 2015).

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