Two families, one community & a spurious link to Bonfire Night

Taken on Farnley Estate in the 1950s. Two families, one community. Own collection.

On a quiet Friday evening with nothing else planned I pulled out a few photos from the little leather suitcase determined to make a bit more progress on scanning & labelling the contents. Studying photos of my Nana & Grandpy (Mum’s parents) always puts a smile on my face and my wonderful Mum is always willing to share what she knows as I try to place the time, place and people.

At first glance I didn’t think it particularly special, some 1950s event at Farnley Hall where key community members, including my Nana, were invited. Whilst I love trying to make sense of these formal black & white photos, which may or may not have been published in the local newspaper, they don’t tend to offer anything more than a simple family snapshot does.

Then I studied the photo more closely and realised it featured not just one set of grandparents but two together with several more relatives including my Great Grandfather, Jesse Houseman.

Every living adult ancestor we had at the time was on this photo, taken together as one community, long before the two families were united in marriage.

A little bit of greaseproof paper & bad drawing may help, or may not! 1) Nana 2) Grandpy 3) Grandma 4) Grandad 5) Jesse Houseman (my great grandad) 6) Jessie Houseman 7) JB Liddle 8) Nicholas Horton-Fawkes 9) Reg Snailham 10) Clarice Snailham 11) Marian Barrett, 12) Robbie Trotter 13) Gilbert Trotter

Nana is fourth from the left on the front row, handbag on her left arm. Left of Nana are Clarice & Reg Snailham, neighbours from Stainburn, right of Nana is Marian Barrett, wife of Grandpy’s brother, Henry. Grandpy is stood behind Nana, face half hidden. Whether Nana was shy or (as I remember) someone who always put others first, you only have to look at the front row of shoes to know she wasn’t one who fought for limelight.

Then look along the front row and spot the woman peeping over the suited man’s shoulder. That’s my Grandma, my Dad’s Mum. She was not an attention seeker, but she also wasn’t a woman you would overlook. Grandad is at the back, bang in the middle, by far the tallest of my Grandparents so that placing makes sense. To his left is my Grandma’s Dad, my Great Grandfather, Jesse Houseman. This dates the photo to post 1954 when his wife, my Great Grandmother, had died.

The woman to the left of Jesse is Jessie, his daughter & my Grandma’s sister and to the right of her, her husband, JB Liddle. Grandma had one other sister, Muriel. Muriel’s brother-in-law Gilbert is right at the back left, face half hidden. Robbie Trotter, another of Muriel’s brother-in-laws (who according to my Mum was “allowed to go out” with my Grandpy & his brother because they were sensible and didn’t drink & drive) is prominent centre second row pushing Grandpy out of the way…

Two families, one community, long before marriage brought my two branches together.

And the spurious link to bonfire night? Guy Fawkes is believed to be a descendent of the Fawkes of Farnley. The man front left of this photo holding some papers is one Nicholas Horton-Fawkes, at the time, local landlord and owner of Farnley Hall, where this photo was taken.

With much gratitude to my Mum, who is always there when I want to ask questions about photos, to my Nana & Grandpy for keeping this amazing photo and to Grandma, Grandad & Great Grandfather Jesse for all being present on this day.

Me, car, YFC: Dad in three words

My Dad’s plastic wallet. Own collection. Although I may have decided that preserving the contents was more important than the preserving the wallet.

The plastic wallet may be dirty, cracked and held together by Sellotape but the contents almost perfectly sum up what was important to my Dad (George Christopher Houseman aka Bob) as a young man. As my Mum put it when I asked her about the wallet “Me, car, yfc were intertwined.”

My Dad’s driving licence. Underneath the full licence is a provisional one dated from 1 September 1967. Own collection

First there is the driving licence. The provisional licence was issued on 1 September 1967, the day after my Dad’s 17th birthday. I am a little surprised that it took him until six months to obtain the full one as it took less than four to get mine…..

Farnley Estate YFC programmes from September 1962 to August 1971. Own collection.

Then there are the Farnley Estate YFC programmes spanning the years from September 1961 to August 1973, missing only the year 1971 – 1972. Comparative to the rest of the family Dad was a late joiner of the YFC in 1961 at the grand old age of eleven, because, as my Grandma wrote “he could not stand late nights.” These programmes track the lives of both sides of my family. In 1961 my Grandad, Mr G Houseman, was an advisory member, my aunt Christine, Miss C Houseman, the notice and scrapbook secretary. By 1969 my Mum & her brother Richard start to make an appearance. Whilst Mr & Mrs G Houseman are both now part of the advisory committee and Miss C Houseman has been promoted to treasurer, Mr R Barrett has been appointed as vice chairman and Miss A Barrett as minute secretary. My Dad just scrapes in as regional rep alongside both Christine & Richard. Richard is elected as chair in 1969, my Dad in 1970, Richard again in 1971 – did the two friends stand against each other or agree to take it in turns? And the one missing programme tells its own sad story, as it’s the year my Uncle Richard died. The heart went out of the club that year.

Elizabeth Ann Barrett on the doorstep of Upper West End Farm, kept in my Dad’s wallet. It’s a pink ribbed top and the outfit would have been made either by my Mum or my Nana. Own collection.

Last is the photo of my Mum, stood on the back doorstep of Upper West End Farm, Stainburn in a dress she likely sewed herself. The fact that it is folded, creased and torn is testament to the order of “Me, car, YFC” – it was a love story until its end.

My life as a Yorkshire hill farmer: written by an eleven year old in 1987

All photos are taken from my school geography book. The images were all clipped from magazines and stuck in a school exercise book back in 1987 and as such i don’t know who to credit. If they happen to be yours do let me know.

This week’s #52ancestors hint of “on the farm” had me flummoxed. When your father, both grandfathers, all four great grandfathers and many, many generations before them were all Yorkshire hill farmers, life on the farm is woven into at least half of what I write. How can I either synthesise all of that history into one blog or even pick just one story to tell?

Then I thought of the geography homework I was set in my first year at secondary school when I was eleven years old. We were tasked with writing about a year in the life of a hill farmer in the Pennines. I remember writing this sat in my Grandma’s kitchen at Prospect Farm. The open fire with an old oven was by my side, installed (I believe) when my great grandparents moved in, and now used only to keep orphan lambs warm. My Grandma & Aunt were ready waiting to answer questions and there was a pile nearby of Farmers Weekly and other magazines to cut pictures out of to help illustrate the story. The words flowed and it was no surprise that writing about the life I knew earned me a special commendation.

This story was nothing less than a year in the life of my Dad, my Grandparents and likely my Great Grandparents too. This was life as a Yorkshire hill farmer in the 1980s and as such I have transcribed rather than edited. (Including putting aside the slight geographical liberty in the first line – the Pennines don’t quite continue as far as Harrogate). The added benefit is just a hint of how we spoke which even now (after so many years away from Yorkshire and from farming) causes people to guess where I am from.

There’s also a bonus story. Apparently an eleven year old me had figured out how to solve the financial problems of a hill farmer and it just made me laugh.

My life as a hill farmer, 13 February 1987

Our Farm

My Farm is in the Pennines somewhere near the town of Harrogate. As I have mainly sheep, I only need one farm help, his name is Andrew. The farm buildings are quite ancient as most farm buildings are. My family have lived in it for years on end. During the early summer months there is not much work to do and my son comes over so Andrew is not needed. Late summer he is needed though because of the Haymaking. Other times as well are busy such as Lambing time and winter.


January isn’t that bad a time, so it just starts off the new year. The cattle are in the barns and yards so they have not far to go to get to the milking parlour. The snow is still quite bad though, and the shaeep have to be brought down to be sorted, to see which ones need to go to the market. The sheepdog came in handy with these.

How I wish it wasn’t so snowy round here about half a mile down the road they’ve never seen this snow, this January.


The lambing season is well under way, we started early enough – beginning of January, but they are coming thick and fast now. We’ve had quite a lot of calves too, but as they come all year round, to make milk, it’s nothing new.

We rolled the hayfields this month ready for fertiliser, and manure that the cows have made in winter. We let the cows out into the pasture, but took them in at night as it is still very cold and damp.

No pet lambs so far all the orphan and triplet lambs have been fostered, thank goodness.


I was glad to put the cows out this month. They’ve eaten too much hay, because the winter has been so bad. Some of the bullocks were sold this month in the market, I think I bought too much as well, The sheep have all finished lambing except for one old ewe, she’s probably saving it for April. Still never mind all the others have finished. It was tillaging time, because I put the manure on, in February. The hay has just got to grow now and it’ll be ready for July – August time. One problem with the cows out is that you have to fetch them further for milking.


The lambs and sheep are back on grass upomn the hills. We needn’t worry about them for a while.

There’s plenty of showers in April so for a while the sheep flock down in the valley and near the fences, as they are normally indoors for lambing, The old ewe lambed on the 1st second in April. I knew she’d do that, she likes to lamb in April but she couldn’t last any longer. We had some more calves this month and a bit more milk, too much in fact, I was over quota, oh dear!


Three more calves were born this month and that’s it for now, til about September.

We had to round the sheep up for shearing, because the shearers have come, the sheep-dogs didn’t let us down today. They didn’t get all the sheep done in one day in took 5 days in all to clip 5000 seep, and only one man was clipping at once, because we only have one clipper, while the others were eating tea or having a drink.


Dipping, silaging and checking the hay what a busy month. The dipping was soon done after the clipping and the sheepdogs were definitely needed as they deep don’t like going in the dip. Mind you I wouldn’t either. The hay is nearly ready for haymaking. Maybe in July we’ll harvest it, because this month it’s first cut silage. There was a lot so Andrew had to stay on and help us otherwise we wouldn’t get it all done. The sheep are now going high up in the hills, so high in fact that I have to go up at least once a week to check them, The cattle have been confined to a small space for the moment so there is enough grass for hay and silage. We do keep a few hens and they are really laying now, if we could find the nests.


Haytiming has come, and all the preparing hasn’t gone to waste, it is a lovely harvest which should keep the cows through the winter. It was a busy time throughout from 5 o’clock to 10 o’clock at night. Just as the last load came in it started to rain. We were lucky. Unlike our neighbours who had two fields left when it started. Just like we were last year. The sheep have disappeared over the top so we have to go and count them everyday and by it is windy over there. We’ve let the cows in to the hay field so there’s a bit more room now and are making a bit more milk, thank goodness.


Haytiming over, and a short second cut silage maybe, but the weather has been so bad. Andrew says down town its nice and dry with maybe two showers at the most, here it’s raining every second.

Maybe I’ll have to sacrifice the second cut silage for the cows. Later on I did just that, sacrificed the second stage for the cows, and next day it cleared up fine. Why did I do that. The cows are lucky though, they get a lot more grass and are producing more richer milk. I just hope I don’t go over quota, I have been three times this year. The sheep are doing alright though. Some of them have come back over the hill which means it must be getting colder.


Raining again, when will it stop raining, It’s always bad weather up here. My best dog Lassie has had pups so she’s now out of action so I have only Laddie and Bill to round up the sheep for counting. I’d rather be an arable farmer because all their work is nearly done and can have a rest during winter. I have to carry on all through the winter counting sheep and milking cows. The cows are still producing milk, but one or tow of them are going to have calves in the next month or so,


It’s nice to see some new calves but it’s such bad weather, I’ll have to keep them inside and some of the cows have to go in at night, more will in time I suppose. The sheep are sheltering by the fences for warmth. I’ll take the rest of the cows in next month early on though because it started snowing in November last year. I’ll probably have to buy some feed in this year because I didn’t get enough silage to feed all the cows. That will be more expense I suppose.


More calves, I’ll have to take some to the market with some bullocks and some cows because I can’t possibly keep them all on so little food. The sheep dippers came last month. When we rounded up the sheep they were eager to come down because they thought they were going inside. What a surprise met them when they had to go in a cold bat instead. Poor things I wouldn’t make them if I didn’t have to. The cows are staying inside now it will be a bit warmer at least, and I have got quite a few calves. Just at the end of November it snowed. Thank goodness I’ve got all the cows in, but it was only a small shower, a small part of what is due to come.


Last month of the year, but the snowiest one yet.

What an end. The sheep need feeding every day now and the hay is going down, I wish I hadn’t sacrificed the silage early on. The cows are producing calves and milk and to do that they need more food. I’ll definitely have to buy some in. But, still there will be plenty of calves for next year. No Christmas for me this year, some of the sheep are going to have lambs soon and they have to be looked after, maybe on New Years even we can go out, or maybe we will be snowed in.

Bonus story: financial problems of a hill farmer

Written on 17 February 1987

A Hill Farmer needs to make money to survive and to feed his family. There are some ways of doing this

  1. Don’t buy in as much food
  2. Keep as many cows as possible
  3. Don’t go over quota
  4. Unless the sheep can’t get to grass don’t feed them
  5. Make enough silage and hay to last the winter and keep it dry
  6. Get orphan lambs another mother
  7. Do your own walling
  8. Grow something like turnips seep eat the stubble ones
  9. Find a job in town

Sometimes Farmers decide to move to town. There can be several reasons for this:

  1. The weather, snow rain and wind
  2. Farmers have to rise early
  3. They don’t often go out because they need to go to bed early
  4. They are often in isolated places
  5. They are busy all day long
  6. The animals might have got a disease eg foot rot or even foot and mouth
  7. The hay might be ruined
  8. Milk might go well over quota
  9. The bank might be in the red.

The earnest advice of an eleven year old!

With much gratitude to all my farming ancestors and particularly to my Grandma & my Aunt who were there by my side when I wrote this story and to my geography teacher of the time, Mrs Swales, who set the assignment.

Sarah Stansfield (1804 – 1885) & John Houseman (1805 – 1884)

This is part of a series of brief biographies of earlier ancestors.

Sarah Stansfield & John Houseman are the parents of Thomas Houseman, father of George Houseman, father of George Houseman, my Grandad, and hence are my paternal great, great, great grandparents.

Sarah was born on 8 December 1804 in Strangford, Idle to Methodist parents. It seems my family were fairly early Methodists and thanks to a dual registration I know Sarah’s birth, baptism, parents, her father’s father and where they lived. Unless of course there were two Sarah Stansfield’s born on the exact same date……

Baptism record of Sarah Stansfield – Upper Chapel, Idle, Yorkshire – 1805
Record of birth of Sarah Stansfield – St Wilfred’s church, Idle – 1805

Of John, all we know is that he was baptised in Hampsthwaite on 15 April 1805 so was maybe just a few months older.

Sarah & John married on 13 October 1830 in Hampsthwaite. At the time Sarah could write, John was illiterate. Another legacy of the Methodist tradition? By the time of their marriage Sarah was living in Hampsthwaite, perhaps with some of her mother’s family and I suspect Methodism was how they met – at least the family continued to hold the same faith for several generations.

The couple quickly settled in Tunnel Bank, Darley, close to John’s family, perhaps even taking over a family farm, where they lived for the remainder of their lives. With 64 acres to their name, the couple would have been a respected part of the Darley community.

Four children followed at regular intervals: John (ch. 1832), Thomas (my ancestor) (ch. 1834), William (ch. 1836) and Mary (ch. 1838). All seemed like the perfect, respectable, farming family. Yet, William died aged in 1844 aged just eight, John never married and Mary married a widow twelve years her senior and had just two children of her own. It was left to Thomas to carry on the family name. I was reminded about a comment my Grandma apparently made that “there wasn’t much choice.” Did this respectable family, with strong Methodist links, a focus on literacy and a family that came from 16 miles distant somehow struggle with the Darley community of the time?

Nonetheless the Methodist temperate life likely led to the last facts we know of the couple, that they lived long lives. John died on 13 November 1884 aged 79, Sarah just six months later on 4 May 1885 aged 80. Both are buried in Birstwith. Long lives, that I think, were well lived.

Four generations

Christine Mary Houseman, Mary Houseman, Hilda Mary Scott & Maria Reynard

From young to old: Christine Mary Houseman, Mary Houseman, Hilda Mary Scott & Maria Reynard. Own collection

It was Christmas 2002. Grandma (my Dad’s Mum) was known for mostly standard presents, with an occasional inspirational one dropped, unexpectedly, into the mix. This year, it looked like a box of chocolates. I was gracious in my thanks and then I realised it wasn’t in a cellophane wrapper. I opened it up and inside was a photo album working backwards through my life and beyond, from that very summer to the 1940s. Right at the back was photo you see here.

I don’t know exactly why Grandma decided to do this. My best guess is that I was her eldest grandchild and was two years married. I think, perhaps, she was looking to inspire a new generation.

I have loved this photo since I have first seen it. It is August 1947 outside Prospect Farm, Lindley. My Aunt Christine is the baby, her mother, my Grandma, her mother, Hilda Mary nee Scott, Grandma’s mother, my great grandmother and finally Maria nee Reynard, Hilda’s mother and my great, great grandmother. A fellow family story blogger shared their three Grandma photo and story last week and made me want to share this story. It’s a super brief summary of four “mothers” that I plan to share much longer stories about.

Christine Mary Houseman, the baby in the photo, is a very special person in my life. She was born on 13 June 1947. Her older brother, George Christopher, lived just two and a half days, so she was de-facto oldest child. I always got the sense she was encouraged to stay at home, the daughter who would look after her parents. Whether this is true or not, Christine never married. She was a farmer, a caterer, a WI produce judge and a Sunday School teacher at Norwood Bottom Methodist Chapel. Her twin loves that I witnessed were Young Farmers and us, her nieces & nephews. When my Dad, her brother, died in 1984, she was a constant support. The best epitaph for me, though, came many years later when talking to some ex-Young Farmer friends, who said “We still ask ourselves what Christine would have said” – she was as important in their lives as she was in ours. Sadly, Aunty Christine lost her battle with cancer on 1 April 1999.

Mary Houseman, the new mother, my Grandma, was born in 1921. This being the 100 year anniversary of her birth I plan to write a more fulsome story. She married my Grandad, George Houseman, in 1945. This photo, though, tells something of her life. It’s taken on the front doorsteps of Prospect Farm, Lindley. Grandma moved here when she was a young child. She left, briefly, when she married and had returned by the time of this photo. As she writes it

One Monday when Thomas [Grandad’s brother] and George [my Grandad] went to Otley auction they had been talking to my Dad and he told them that George Baxter had got other work as an apprentice joiner in Otley. That just left Dad, Mother and George Barker to start hay time. Would we consider coming back home and taking over the farm? They would find somewhere else to live as soon as they heard of something near and suitable (what a decision for us to make). It was coming back home for me BUT I was now married and felt that I could not please both my husband and Dad. It was harder for George to leave home where he was born and Thomas at the face of hay time. What had we to do? Mother told me that Dad had been so sad and lost without me at home. He was not the only one. Meg my little dog from being a pup just whined and wouldn’t do anything for anybody else. Thomas and George had been to look at other farms previous over the past but never found anything that they liked. So we decided it was an opportunity not to be missed. We came back home to live here at the beginning of July.”

We have photos of Grandma and her own great grandchildren on her 90th birthday just a few steps away from this photo. Grandma didn’t leave Prospect Farm until she was too ill to live without full time specialist nursing care. She died on 31 March 2020 aged 98.

Hilda Mary Scott is stood to the right of the photo. Hilda was born on 31 August 1891 and grew up in Pickhill near Thirsk. She was a beautiful young woman who knew her own worth. She married Jesse Houseman on 28 September 1915 and moved, originally to Haverah Park and then to Prospect Farm. Everything I have read suggests this was a love match, like the postcard from Jesse to Hilda that reads simply “Dear Hilda, hope you are keeping alright, it seems very queer without you. Love from Jesse.” Hilda & Jesse had three daughters, Muriel born in 1916, Jessie in 1918 and my Grandma, Mary, in 1921. She was a champion butter-maker, competing and winning in a number of local shows. Her death on 9 August 1954, of cancer, left her family heartbroken.

Maria Reynard sits at the front of the photo. Maria was born on 16 December 1861, daughter of Mary Ann Gill & William Reynard. She married John Scott in 1885 and together they had eight children, Hilda Mary being the third child and first daughter. The family prospered moving into a detached property, Prospect House in Pickhill, that John had built. By the time this photo was taken, Maria, 85, was already a great grandmother several times over and yet she still looks delighted to be holding baby Christine in her arms. You can read more about Maria’s family photo album and her son, Walter Scott.

Four generations captured together in love and motherhood.

With much gratitude to my Aunt Christine, my Grandma, Mary, my great grandmother, Hilda and my Great Great Grandmother, Maria, in who’s arms the generations have been nurtured, to Joan Weise who’s three Grandma’s blog inspired this one and to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

St Oswald’s church, Leathley – a place of family joy and sadness

St Oswald’s, Leathley

Religious centres witness our beginning and our end, moments of intense joy and of deepest sadness almost always in the presence of our dearest family and friends. Even for those of us without strong faith they have so much more meaning than just the stone or brick from which they are built. St Oswalds church, Leathley has become that special place for me.

The picturesque village of Leathley is bounded by the river Washburn, a river which features heavily in my family history. It is an old settlement, established in the Anglo Saxon period, more sheltered than many of the surrounding villages. St Oswald’s Church occupies a piece of rising ground in the centre of the village, across the road from the village green, parish rooms and the almshouses. The tower dates from the Norman period and was enlarged in 1472. It is a simple, serene church surrounded by a peaceful graveyard.

Looking south from the village green next to St Oswalds. This is the road I walked to my wedding. Photo © Mark Anderson (cc-by-sa/2.0)

St Oswald’s played an important role in our family for several decades prior to us moving to the village of Leathley in 1988 – this blog brings together some of those stories.

The story starts with my great grandparents, Mary & George Thomas Barrett. When Mary & George Thomas retired in 1948 (passing the tenancy of the family farm in nearby Stainburn onto their son, my Grandpy) they moved to Little London Cottage in Leathley. Sadly their retirement was not to last long. George Thomas died in 1951 and Mary followed in 1954. They were buried, together, at St Oswald’s.

Fast forward nearly twenty years. My Nana & Grandpy, Mary & Walker Barrett watched their two children, Richard & Ann, grow to adulthood. Nana was an active member of Leathley WI and would often have been in and around the church. Then tragedy struck, Richard was killed aged just 22. His funeral was held at St Oswald’s and Richard’s remains buried with his grandparents, no doubt in the hope they would be together. 

Headstone for Richard Arthur Barrett, my uncle

It is then that our connection takes a more joyful turn – the wedding of Ann (my Mum) & George Christopher Houseman, otherwise known as Bob, (my Dad) on 9 June 1973. Although Stainburn has its own beautiful church, weddings were no longer being held there. Instead the wedding should have taken place at North Rigton. It was St Oswald’s though, that held a special place for the family and so Ann moved in with family friends (Dot & Dennis Beecroft) to be technically within Leathley parish for the three weeks whilst the banns were read. One must assume that this was with the blessing of the vicar!

It was a glorious, joyful, special occasion, a time to put aside the family sadness and celebrate the coming together of two very special people. Mum wore “a dress of palest blue chiffon with ribbon lace bodice and scallop-edged flowing skirt appliqued by flowers” made by Nana. The Young Farmers provided a guard of honour with forks and the tradition of lifting the bride over the lychgate was upheld.

Mum & Dad’s wedding

Then it was time for christenings, my own in 1975, and those of my three sisters in following years. It’s a beautiful old font topped by a carved wooden triangular canopy but, no matter how beautiful, the shock of the cold water was still making some of us cry!

My christening at St Oswalds. Left to right: George Christopher Houseman (my Dad), Jesse Houseman (my greatgrandad), me, Mary Houseman (my Grandma) and behind Joseph Ross (Godfather) & Tracey Ross.

Then in December 1984, my Dad was tragically killed in another road traffic accident. Someday I’ll feel able to write fuller stories of my Dad. But it was to St Oswald’s we turned for the solace provided by a final resting place. My brother’s christening, held early the following year at St Oswald’s, was bittersweet.

Although Nana & Grandpy had retired to Otley, it was to St Oswald’s we turned when Nana died in 1999 and she was buried close to her son. The church was overflowing, those planning perhaps not quite understanding how much she meant to so many people. It became Grandpy’s final resting place too, many years later.

Again the cycle turned. When I got engaged to Paul there were all the usual decisions to be made – location for the reception, wedding outfits, photographer, band, but there was only one place I wanted the ceremony to be held – St Oswald’s. I chose to walk to the church through the village providing a strange spectacle no doubt for the cars speeding past. Our wedding was witnessed by friends & family, there was a guard of honour from the Young Farmers (this time with shepherds’ crooks) and, although a little red-faced, Paul continued the tradition of lifting the bride over the lychgate. In amongst all the celebration there was time to visit my Dad’s grave and it helped to know that he was there in the churchyard with us.

My wedding, 9 September 2000, inside St Oswald’s
The lychgate at St Oswalds

Mum, too, chose St Oswald’s when she married six months later – in the church records there is only one other wedding between mine & Mum’s. One of my sister’s, too, chose St Oswald’s for her wedding.

My Mum signing the register at Leathley for her second marriage to Joe Ross.

I moved to Leeds and Mum moved to live with her new husband near York. We still visited Leathley regularly but were no longer living in the parish. Then our third family tragedy. On 3 May 2004 my husband Paul was killed, aged just thirty, in yet another road traffic accident. The vicar had changed since we were married and initially questioned why Paul’s funeral should be held at Leathley when we no longer lived in the village. It didn’t take long for someone to share the importance of St Oswald’s to our family. Paul has a small square stone close the second entrance. He’s safe there with my Dad, my Nana & Grandpy, my Uncle and his Grandparents. My family take wreaths at Christmas and bluebells in the spring.

Gravestone of George Christopher “Bob” Houseman with a wreath at Christmas.

It is the joy and the sadness that makes St Oswald’s hold a very special place in my heart.

You can read more about Grandpy’s life and the early part of Mary Wellock’s life at Toft Gate.  

With much gratitude to St Oswald’s of Leathley, to the many clergy who supported us through these times and to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

Darley Silver Band – a Houseman musical tradition

George Houseman in the uniform of the Darley Silver Band, own collection

We are not exactly what I would call a musical family. One of my sisters played the guitar for a while at middle school and another learned the cornet for a year and that was about it. Even mandatory recorder lessors were a trial for me, and I suspect they were even more of an ordeal for those forced to listen as I practiced……So it’s almost a surprise that the Houseman family was a core part of the musical scene in Darley, Yorkshire for at least a couple of generations. This is their story.

Our known family association starts with the Darley Temperance Band which was formed in 1901 as a successor to the original Darley String Band.

My paternal Great Grandfather, George Houseman (b. 1868) and his two brothers Fred (b. 1876) and Willie (b. 1870) were regular players, with George playing the cornet. The three are pictured on this 1911 photo, George is the one player not in uniform on the back row, Fred is stood on his right. Willie is named as being in the photo, but not identified and I don’t have a photo to compare.

Photo of Darley Temperance Band, 1911, featuring my Great Grandfather George and his two brothers, own collection.

The Darley Temperance Band quickly became popular in the area, with a particular favourite being the “Hospital Sunday” concerts where the band played at services and led the march between the two chapels and the church to help raise funds for the sick and destitute to pay their medical bills.

The band eventually became the known as the Darley Silver Band and by the 1930’s, my great, great Uncle Fred and his sons John Robert, William, Charlie & Ted were all stalwart members. My Great Grandfather, George, appears to have retired, replaced by his eldest sons Thomas & William.

My Grandad, also George, was the youngest of George’s Houseman’s children, born when Great Grandfather George was 52. Although Grandad was just fifteen when his father died there must have been plenty of time for musical education before then as at some point my Grandad, cornet in hand, joined his brothers in the band.

The Darley Silver Band continued to take part in the main festivities and ceremonial occasions in the village through the forties and fifties and headed up the fancy dress parade as part of Darley Thanksgiving Week at the end of the second world war.

Photo from own collection of a Darley Silver Band parade

Perhaps it was the trim blue, red & gold uniforms that appealed to my Grandma. In any event the band continued to be an important part of my Grandad’s life even after they married. As my Grandma wrote in her memoirs:

George often went back to Darley to the band practice and other occasions. I liked to go and hear the band play they all had uniform trimmed with red and gold braid which looked very smart. George played a cornet, but not quite as good as Thomas and Arthur”.

That quote helps to demonstrate quite how much of a family affair the band was, with Thomas being George’s eldest brother and Arthur being his brother-in-law, married to George’s sister, Hilda. His cousins, John Robert & George Edwin rounded out the Houseman contribution to Darley’s musical life.

Photo from Summerbridge & Dacre Silver Band collection featuring (seated): my Grandad, George (second from the right), Arthur, husband of my Great Aunt (fourth from the right) and Thomas, my Great Uncle (fifth from the right).

Sadly, I have no memories of my Grandad playing. He was 54 when I was born and had long since ceased to play with the band. Darley Silver Band was disbanded in 1959 and although many members joined the Summerbridge and Dacre Silver Band this may have been when Grandad hung up his cornet. It was his love of cricket that I remembered him for. He died in 1987, when I was twelve, following two years of illness which left him bed bound for much of the time. Yet, who knows, through photos and stories maybe the musical tradition just might live on in our next generation.

With much gratitude to George Houseman (my paternal Grandad) and his father, George for their musical pursuits. Thanks also to the Summerbridge and Dacre Silver Band for their history page that enabled me to learn much more about my family and to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

Two and a half days

Receipt from Staffa nursing home for the birth of George Christopher Houseman

Two and a half days is such a short period of time. Sixty hours. 3,600 minutes. Take a moment. Think back over the last two days or even the last week – what did you do, think, learn or feel? I’ve been content in lock down winter to treat each day as a new one, to let the hours and days flow past waiting for the year to start. I barely notice one day after the next.

George Christopher Houseman lived just two and a half days.

He was the first son of Mary & George Houseman. Born in Staffa nursing home in Harrogate on 25 February 1946. (Incidentally only seven months after Mary & George were married). He died two and a half days later.

Grandma (Mary Houseman) was the family story keeper. Being of Yorkshire heritage she wasn’t one to shy away from plain speaking. So, the facts she told were – George Christopher existed, he was born and a few days later he died, but she didn’t seem to want to share more – it was a sad memory.

That could have been the end of his story. It wasn’t.

Mary & George had a wonderful daughter, Christine Mary, born in 1947 and then a second son in 1950 who they also named George Christopher. This same named child was my father. The first George Christopher my Uncle.

I have a fascination with the siblings of my ancestors who remain unwed, or who married and didn’t have children. Without any descendants they tend to be less well researched, somewhat ethereal and in danger of being forgotten. Yet they often have fascinating stories much more likely to pop up on censuses with other relatives and have wills that help connect. I want George Christopher to be more than a memory (mine) of another’s memory (my Grandma’s) and so this blog is written.

George Christopher now exists for me in three documents: a receipt, my Grandma’s autobiography and his death certificate.

I found the receipt for the nursing home stay carefully folded up in a small wallet when I inherited Grandma’s papers. Staffa nursing home was popular with mothers in the 1940s in the years before the NHS came into existence and was where my own father was born too. It was the only document she had of her life.

My Grandma’s autobiography, the Changing Years, tells us more about the love she bore for her first son.


We have had so much sadness in our lives that I find it hard writing about it in detail but I can not overlook it as I spend many sad hours thinking about so many of my family that I loved so much and meant so much to me during my life. We were both heart broken when we lost our first baby, a little boy that we had very much looked forward to having in our family. I know that Dad and Mother were so pleased to have a little Grandson in the Houseman family. He was born on the 25th of February 1946 and only lived two and a half days and is buried at Dacre Top Cemetery. It took an awful lot of courage after a long three days in labour for me to get over it. But I was very well looked after at the Staffa Nursing Home in Harrogate and was soon able to come home and get back into my routine. The doctor told me that the only way I would get over it was to look forward to having another baby.

And finally, I ordered his death certificate. George Christopher died on 27 February 1946 at Harrogate General Hospital of purpura neonatorum, blood spots and discolouration of the skin resulting from coagulation in the small blood vessels. I have no way of knowing if he was a premature honeymoon baby or a pre-marriage full term. There doesn’t seem to be a particular increased incidence of purpura in premature babies but I can imagine a seven month pregnancy resulting in a weaker child much more than I can Grandma being pregnant when she married!

Two and a half days may not seem like a very long time but I hope this blog demonstrates it’s long enough to leave a legacy.  

With much gratitude to George Christopher Houseman (1946 – 1946), and thanks also to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

Folk ask why girls wear mini skirts?

Card sent from my Grandad, George Houseman to his wife, Mary Houseman, the author of the poem.

I’ve found tantalising glimpses of love in my family history research. One of my favourite documents is the will of my 4 x great grandfather John Booth. Written in 1860, John refers to his “dear wife” (Jane Lund) three times in just a few short lines.

Valentines – stories of romance and courtship – are more difficult to spot in formal records. It’s impossible to tell whether the marriage between neighbours was a story of childhood sweethearts or just one of proximity and convenience. Even John & Jane’s love is more likely a result of a long, shared life than of hearts & flowers.

Instead, I’m turning a poem written by my Grandma, Mary Houseman.

Grandma’s poems and scripts reflected the local countryside and farming life. They were written to celebrate a birthday, to be recited at a Sunday School anniversary or performed in Young Farmers entertainment competition. The writing is perhaps not of the highest artistic merit. It is definitely of its era and spelling and punctuation are best described idiosyncratic.  (My Grandma & I may have attended the same school, Norwood County Primary, but education in the 1920s & 30s was distinctly different to that in the 1980s). Nonetheless her writing evokes an era and a place. It is also, frequently, funny, and consequently well-loved by those who have the opportunity either to read the poems or watch scripts performed.

So here it is, my Grandma’s reflections on courting.

Folk ask why girls wear mini skirts?

Its obvious to me

They’re on the marriage market

To let the buyers see. That.

The body work is neat and clean

And the boot is firm and round

The chassis well upholstered

And the moving parts are sound

The modern man. He has a choice

Not like in younger days

They took them at face value

Long skirts and whale bone stays

And many a Grandpa’s I’ll be bound

Felt sad that they’d been caught

When in the bridal chamber

They viewed – what they had bought

So modern men – remember this

Now. When you make your bid

You’ll not be caught, with a pig in a poke

The way your Grandpa’s did.

With much gratitude to my Grandma, Mary Houseman (1921 – 2020), who also features in in an earlier blog “Is Grandma related to Grandad?” and thanks also to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge encouraged me to publish this series of stories.

Is Grandma related to Grandad?

Or how a family legend turned out to be true.

My Grandma was a Houseman before she married a Houseman”. This used to be my answer to that dreaded icebreaker conversation “share something about yourself that we might not know.”

Once past the weird questions like “do you have webbed feet” the most frequent question was the one that was also the subject of many family musings “were they related before they married?” To which my answer had been, I didn’t think so, but I’d love to know for sure.

My Grandma, Mary Houseman (born in 1921), was a family historian before family history was a thing. She knew three generations worth of ancestors for both her & her husband (George Houseman, also born in 1921) and she could, and frequently did, tell me how I was related to almost everyone within the local area (essentially Washburn, Wharfedale & Nidderdale valleys north and west of Harrogate). In my childhood we documented the family history together on long pieces of wallpaper lining which I am grateful to still own but as far as we knew there were three separate Houseman families in the neighbourhood and I was related, separately, to two of them.

Fast forward ten or fifteen years and a man called Gary Houseman (no apparent relation) contacted my Grandma. Gary was one of those dedicated genealogists who takes the time to map out a single name, in this case, Houseman. Gary & Grandma had a lot of conversations – it was always his research, but I like to think Grandma helped.

This time instead of wallpaper it was a paper bag from “Vera fashions”, carefully cut down one edge and across the bottom to give a wide enough piece of paper. On that piece of paper was the answer to the family question – Mary & George Houseman were indeed related with the same 3 x great grandparents, one Margaret Grange (born c. 1728) & George Houseman (born c. 1727).

Of course, Grandma being Grandma it wasn’t all black & white. There were the additions in red to note grandparents, great grandparents and even great, great grandparents of people I grew up who were closer relations than Mary & George had ever been!

So yes, Grandma was related to Grandad, but a lot less closely than I now know some of my other ancestors to be (and no doubt your own too)…. but that’s another story!

Biographical detail

Margaret Grange (b. c. 1728) and George Houseman (b. c. 1727) had 8 children. Their oldest child, Thomas (b. c. 1760) marred Mary Akers and had 15 children. Their 13th child, Robert (b. c. 1806), married Elizabeth (Betty) Beecroft and had seven children. Their fourth child, Michael (b. 1842) married Amelia Bradbury and had eleven children. Their 9th child, Jesse (b. 1885) married Amelia Bradbury and had three girls, the youngest of whom was my Grandma, Mary Houseman.  

Margaret Grange & George Houseman’s 6th child, John (b. c. 1769) married Mary Steel and they had five children. Their youngest child, John (b. c. 1832), married Sarah Stansfield and had four children. Their second child, Thomas (b. c. 1834) married Mary Downs and they had five children. George (b. 1868) was their second child. He married Mary Abigail Clapham and they had six children, the youngest of whom was my Grandad, George.

With much gratitude to my Grandma, Mary Houseman, to Mary Grange & George Houseman born in the 1720s, to Gary Houseman and also to Amy Johnson Crow whose 52 ancestors in 52 weeks encouraged me to publish this story.