Friday, 7 August 2020

Lister Beckett - Part 2 - His marriage to Elizabeth Haigh

This is the second post in a series of four about the life 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.

Websites and books used for reference are listed at the end of each blog post.

Part 2 - His marriage to Elizabeth Haigh

Lister Beckett's father Adam had a been a publican like his own step-father, and Lister's step-grandfather, Joseph Thackrah. Both men had eventually retired to comfortable houses in the cleaner northern part of the town, above the smoke and dirt. Lister's elder brother Joseph Thackrah Beckett was his father's assistant in the Railway Hotel in Dewsbury in 1871 and had taken over the pub by the time of his father's death in 1895. Lister Beckett, the second son, had to find another career.

Lister Beckett had married by the 1881 census and was living in Batley at Cross Mount Street with his wife Elizabeth A. aged 21 and daughter Edith aged 3 months. His occupation is listed as painter. The houses on Cross Mount Street are small back to back terraced houses with an additional upstairs room over passageways leading to the next street which probably also served let some light into the rear rooms of the houses. On the 1890 map of the area the houses are surrounded by yet to be developed plots suggesting they are fairly new. This is not the kind of accommodation where I would have expected to find Lister and his new wife.
1890 1:500 map of Batley showing Cross Mount Street (Old Maps)

As I cropped and labelled the image above I noticed that the street below Cross Mount Street is called Beckett Street. Coincidence? Speculative builders would have sought investment and may have named streets after their investors. Could Adam Beckett have invested money in this development?
The houses in the development above are of a number of different sizes - the garden at the top belongs to a large house 'Rock Villa', one of two on the site, then there are the terraced houses on the right which have no particular distinguishing features and facing them the terraced houses on the other side of the road with offshot extensions at the back. The map makes it clear that the houses on Cross Mount Street are actually back to backs ... although I expect by today they may have been knocked through and made into houses with access at front and back (a search of Zoopla and other estate agent websites informed me that I was wrong! These houses are still back to backs - in the 21st century!) At the bottom of the image is a brewery and a skating rink. This is a very odd juxtaposition of classes of housing mixed with industry and leisure. Off the map to the right was the Batley sewerage works ... not very pleasant to live near I imagine in the 19th century.  Yet off the map to the north are a cricket ground, a football ground and a bowling green. We do know Lister Beckett played cricket, maybe this was an attraction!

The marriage of Lister Beckett and Elizabeth Ann Haigh took place in the Dewsbury Registration District (RD) in Q4 of 1880 according to FreeBMD, but I can't find the marriage in the parish records on Ancestry, suggesting they married in the Register Office or in a Non-Conformist place of worship. Edith's birth was registered in Q1 of 1881 in the Dewsbury Registration District - but the 1881 census says she was born in Batley. (Was Batley in the Dewsbury RD? Yes, it was until 1939 and then it was in Spen Valley. The UK BMD downloadable place name list for RDs is very useful for queries like this.)

Even if Lister and Elizabeth married in October 1880 (Q4 covers October, November and December) as Edith was 3 months old on 3 April 1881 (the date of the census return) she was conceived before their marriage. Was this a 'shotgun' wedding or the West Yorkshire equivalent at least? Had the marriage between the woollen manufacturer's daughter and a painter only been sanctioned because Elizabeth had fallen pregnant? Or was the son of the landlord of a large public house in the town an equivalent social status? Maybe they got sent packing to a back to back in Batley to get them out of the way? *sigh* So many questions!

My estimation of William Haigh's status is based on his declared occupations in the census returns from 1891 onwards and the size and location of the houses in which he lived. However taking a step backwards to the beginning of his career and as a bridegroom we can see that in the 1861 census his occupation was woollen spinner, which does not sound as middle class as woollen manufacturer although I know weaving was a more profitable trade before the introduction of power driven machinery. He had apparently been born in Stalybridge in about 1836 and had married Mary Exley in All Saints church in Dewsbury on 29 June 1856 (marriage register entry in the West Yorkshire parish records on Ancestry). His occupation at the time had been a clothier (which seems to cover a lot of different of cloth related processes) and his father John Haigh was a tailor. Mary's father Abraham was also a clothier.

By 1871 William and Mary had three children. The eldest was Abraham aged 13, who had been away from home for the 1861 census, probably visiting Mary's sister Ann. Then came Elizabeth, who had been shown as 1 year old in 1861 and finally William H. aged 4. Abraham was already working in the Woollen Mill, possibly for his father, who was now an overlooker and something else I can't read in a Woollen Mill. Edit: After putting out an appeal on Twitter one suggestion for the mystery word was Partner - which might make sense given what we see 10 years later (I was also offered Postman, Printer or Picker).

Can you read the last word on the top row? The first word is Overlooker.

Something important must have occurred between 1871 and 1881 because by the 1881 census William Haigh's status has improved considerably. His occupation is given as a woollen manufacturer employing 7 men, 4 boys and 35 women. His son Abraham, now aged 23 was also listed as a woollen manufacturer and son William Henry Haigh aged 14 was the office boy. Elizabeth was of course living with Lister Beckett at this time. The family are living on Camden Terrace off West Park Street in Dewsbury. This is immediately adjacent to Trafalgar Terrace  and Claremont Road in the enumerator's listing. That information allowed me to locate a Trafalgar Road on the 1890 map and I spotted Camden Terrace actually on West Park Road not far away.

1890 1:500 Town Plan of Dewsbury showing Camden Terrace and Trafalgar Road (Old Maps)

There was something irregular about Lister Beckett and Elizabeth's marriage by the time of the 1891 census. Elizabeth Ann Beckett had moved back to her father William Haigh's house at 12 Trafalgar Terrace, Dewsbury, which I think is the uppermost house on Trafalgar Road as only the even numbers, 2 to 12, of Trafalgar Terrace are listed on the census return. William was a woollen manufacturer aged 55 and his wife Mary aged 61 years was present. Elizabeth had her two daughters living with her, Edith aged 10 and Freda aged 8.  Freda's birth was registered in Q4 1882 in the Dewsbury RD, the census return also says she was born in Dewsbury.  Elizabeth's elder brother Abraham was now a woollen mill manager and her younger brother William was a woollen salesman. The other houses on Trafalgar Terrace were occupied by a Land Surveyor & Insurance Agent, a Retired Schoolmaster, a Solicitor, and a Woollen Cloth Merchant. It appeared to have been an area for the professional and business classes. These houses are still existence (

I have just noticed, while searching for the right maps to illustrate this section, that Victoria Crescent and Trafalgar Terrace are not very far apart. In the 1890 map (above) the area where Victoria Crescent would be was empty, and it looked a bit like a quarry. But by 1894 the space had been filled with two attractive crescents of medium sized and large housing.

1894 1:2,500 map of Dewsbury showing Victoria Crescent and Trafalgar Road (Old Maps)

What is the relevance of this? Well, Lister Beckett's father Adam Beckett died in 1895 while living in Victoria Crescent (report of his funeral in a local newspaper, see the first blog of this series) - he had previously lived a little further to the east in Eightlands.  This means that it was very likely that at around the same time Elizabeth Beckett was living with her father in Trafalgar Terrace (i.e. 1891 and onwards) her missing husband's father was only living a few hundred yards away. I wonder if the families knew this? Or was this side of town with all its new houses the place to be in the 1890s?

Where was Lister Beckett in 1891?  Fortunately as I had been working backwards from Sydney Beckett (a First World War soldier remembered on the Brampton Roll of Honour) I already knew the answer to this.  In 1891 Lister Beckett was a visitor at 74 Blythe Street, Wombwell in the household of George and Ann Siddall and their daughter Edith Sokell.  Her surname was different because Edith was Ann's daughter from a previous relationship (this was made clear on the 1911 census when she is referred to as George's step-daughter). I would have included a snip of this information from the census images but the household runs over two pages so here's a transcription with expanded detail instead.

1891 Census for Wombwell in the County of York, in Barnsley. Parish of St Mary's Wombwell
74 Blythe Street. Four roomed property.
George Siddall    Head    Married    30 years old     Coal Miner, Worker     Born Holmesfield, Derbyshire
Ann Siddall        Wife    Married    38 years old                                       Born Worsborough, Yorkshire
Edith Sokell        Daughter Single   18 years old    Dressmaker's Apprentice Born Wombwell, Yorkshire
Lister Beckett     Visitor    Single    26 years old    Painter                        Born Ravensthorpe, Yorkshire

Note that Lister Beckett is recorded as Single and has knocked five years off his age! Of course this could have been a mistake by the census enumerator ... or not.

So far so good, no evidence of impropriety so far. Lister Beckett may have been working away from home in 1891 and lodging with the Siddalls to be near the job and Elizabeth had returned to her father's house for company and assistance with the children. 

However ... in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 1 September 1891 there is a short article of interest. (All newspaper articles referenced in my blog posts are from Find My Past, though I do find the search on the British Newspaper Archive a lot better, I already have a subscription for FMP. I sometimes search on the BNA and then look the items up on FMP.)

At the Dewsbury Police Court to-day Lister Beckett, formerly a prominent member of the Spen Victoria Cricket Club, and a native of Dewsbury, was charged with neglecting to maintain his wife and two children. Mr. Moore, the relieving officer, said the Guardians allowed the prisoner's wife 6s a week, and the amount due to the Guardians was £3 12s. Mr Hinchliffe (the chairman) said the prisoner appeared to be a strong looking fellow, and thought he was well able to maintain his wife and family. The fact of the matter was prisoner would not pay for the maintenance of his family. Mr Moore said the prisoner was playing at Wombwell, near Barnsley, at cricket on Saturday when he was apprehended. The chairman remarked that Beckett would evidently play cricket or anything else if his wife were dying of starvation. He would be committed one month in default of making a satisfactory arrangment with Mr. Moore.

There is another report of the same case in the Huddersfield Daily Examiner on 2 September 1891 which adds a little more detail. Lister apparently pleaded guilty but said in court, that "if his friends would not pay for him he couldn't" and that he had been "under a doctor for seven weeks" to which the chairman made the reply stated above but it words it slightly differently "he would play at cricket or anything else, if his wife was dying; anything before work" which is a bit harsh if he had been off work sick. The sentence of one month mentioned would have been in the House of Correction with hard labour if Lister made no satisfactory arrangement.

As we know Elizabeth's father was quite comfortable financially I think suggesting she was about to starve to death is a bit of an exaggeration, but the article does confirm that Lister had been living away from her for some considerable time. My pre-decimal maths is not too good but running up a debt of £3 12s[hillings] at a rate of only 6s a week comes to twelve weeks. The Huddersfield Daily Examiner report confirms my calculation. So it appears that Lister had not been supporting Elizabeth since April or May. What happened in May 1891?

There is no mention in the article about Lister's father's funeral in 1895 in my last post of Lister's wife Elizabeth, and she is not listed amongst the people sending a wreath although Lister's brother Joe's wife is. 
In 1901 Elizabeth Ann Beckett is still living with her father William but now at 3 Oxford Road in Dewsbury. Both her daughters Edith and Hilda (who was surely Freda in the last census?) are recorded as Assistant Elementary School Teachers. William Haigh is now 65 and is a widower, is recorded as a Woollen Manufacturer and the category of Employer has been selected (as opposed to a worker). That was a new question in 1901 and was also seen in the 1911 census. Oxford Road is another street of large houses and number 3 is a large bay windowed terraced house with long gardens front and back. The property can still be seen on Google maps ( There is no sign that the Haigh family is living in reduced circumstances so Elizabeth's claim for support from the Guardians must have been a matter of form rather than a necessary appeal for money. 
The authorities continued to try to get Lister to pay up the maintenance for his wife. 

From the Yorkshire Evening Post on 13 January 1903.

At Dewsbury today, Lister Beckett, who is respectably connected in Dewsbury, and who is in business at Mexborough as a painter and paper-hanger, was charged with deserting his wife.
Mr Nicholson, who appeared for Mrs. Beckett, said Mr. Beckett left his wife 18 years ago, and since then had been in business in Wombwell and Mexborough. He was also in receipt of £1 a week left by his father. He asked for an order for 10s per week.
Mrs. Beckett said she had been receiving 6s a week from the Guardians.
Defendant denied having deserted his wife.
The Bench made an order for 10s per week.

So my earlier estimate for the date Lister left Elizabeth, based on Elizabeth having been paid by the Guardians for 12 weeks in 1891, was quite wrong. Apparently he 'abandoned' her in 1885 although he denied deserting her! That was less than three years after his daughter Freda's birth (towards the end of 1882). By the time he appears in Wombwell living with the Siddalls he had already been making his way independently of his family for about six years. In the circumstances I don't see how he can deny deserting Elizabeth, but maybe deserting her is not the same as leaving her - it could hinge around making financial provision for her. This is the last notice I can find in the newspapers about the case. 10 shillings in 1903 would be equivalent to around £60 today - so not a huge amount, but more than double the value (nowdays) of 6s in 1891. If Elizabeth had been receiving the same 6s a week for 18 years had her payment been hit by inflation so she was, by 1903, in need of more money? I don't know enough about the economy at the turn of the century to say. But again I stress that she was not destitute - her father was still alive. 
The final item of note from this report is that Adam Beckett had left Lister £1 a week which wasn't a great deal of money (equivalent to 3 days wages for a skilled man in 1890) from a man who left effects of over £7000 (see my previous post) when he died in 1895. I assume Adam had either given Lister money prior to his death or had left him an amount in trust to provide this income because he didn't trust Lister not to spend his interitance all in one go!
Lister Beckett may have heard about the marriage of one of his Dewsbury daughters, he may even have attended her wedding. Freda Beckett, aged 23, was married in Dewsbury parish church on 25 May 1906 to Frederick W M Clive, a theatrical manager. Her home address was given as Oxford Road, which as we have seen was her grandfather's home in 1901. She clearly states that her father was Lister Beckett and his occupation was decorator.
Elizabeth was still living with her father in 1911, but now describing herself as head of the household and a widow (Lister Beckett had died before this date - but see the fourth part of this series of posts for more details). They had moved to 7 Thornville Place, Huddersfield Road, Dewsbury since Freda's wedding. They were the only people in the household so I assume Edith Beckett had also married. There are just too many Edith Becketts in Dewsbury to trace Lister and Elizabeth's other daughter's marriage from the index alone. I didn't have any hits on the West Yorkshire marriage records on Ancestry so she may have married in a Register Office or a non-conformist place of worship.  
Rather than tabbing through the 1911 returns to try to find Thornhill Place I used the 1911 Census Summary books. Fall Lane is before Thornhill Place and Ravenfield Road is after it in these lists. I had to go to a map from 1922 to find the houses - they were not present on the 1907 map. 

1922 1:2,500 map of Dewsbury showing Thornhill Place (Old Maps)

The houses on these short streets are all small terraces and are still in existence today. (See Google Maps They are a lot smaller than the houses William and his family had lived in before but maybe this was because there was only him and Elizabeth so they only needed a few rooms. Maybe William had left his larger house to his son (in 1911 Abraham Haigh, retired woollen manufacturer, and the correct age, is living on Oxford Road in Dewsbury) or downsized to enable him to give his family some of their inheritance before his death. The five little Thornhill themed streets must have been very new. It looks as if it was a nice area with a large house and garden on the other side of the main road and presumably trees and grass between them and the railway line. Number 7 was four houses down on the left. 

Thornhill Place, Dewsbury from Google Maps

I was surprised to not find a newspaper report of William Haigh's death in the local newspapers as he had seemed to be a man of means before his retirement, but it may have appeared in a paper that hasn't yet been digitised. There were a large number of deaths of men named William Haigh in the Dewsbury RD in the years after 1911, of these the two which best fit Lister's father-in-law, who gave his age as 75 in the 1911 census, are Q3 1917 aged 82 or Q1 1919 aged 83. Elizabeth Beckett's death was indexed in Dewsbury in Q3 1932 age 73. I did find a probate calendar entry for her on Ancestry which shows that she was still living at Thornhill Place at her death.

National Probate Calendar entry for Elizabeth Ann Beckett (Ancestry)
The £2013 6s 3d that Elizabeth left in effects would be worth about £92,000 today - so I don't think she really needed Lister Beckett's 10s a week. Although we don't know why Lister left her it seems that there must have been a reason that was more important than her money.

A search of local parish burial records or cemetery records might eventually help find a gravestone or burial record which gives more information about William Haigh and his daughter who stayed with him until his death.

Ancestry - for census returns, parish 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.
UK BMD - Index of Places in England and Wales - for use with Registration Districts 1837-1974

No comments: