The death of a farmer

It was late one evening in early December when the farmer left his local pub. He’d been there a little while and a pint or two had been consumed. Living next door to his parents, he worked hard to make sure their shared farm was profitable enough to support three generations. He earned the odd evening for himself. Married at the age of 22, he was now in his early thirties and his thoughts turned to his growing family. The four girls were wonderful of course, but a farmer needs a son and heir to run the farm and continue the name. A legacy. The arrival of his fifth child, a boy, earlier that year, made him beam with delight.

The farmer was not to see his son grow up, nor even see him celebrate his first birthday. For the man was to die that very night in a tragic accident just a short distance from home, declared dead the following day.

Those of you who know our family will by now be thinking of my Dad to whom all of the facts in the above tale apply. He’d been with friends in the Sun Inn at Norwood on Sunday, 9 December 1984 and was being driven home by a (completely sober) friend when a man (who had “only” had a pint in each of the four pubs he and his friends had visited that evening) drove straight into their car. Dad was pronounced dead in the early hours of the following morning. My brother, the only boy in a family of five, was just three months old.

Newspaper article describing the inquest of Benjamin Wellock, Pateley Bridge & Nidderdale Herald, Saturday, December 8th 1883. From

I was truly spooked when I read the newspaper article above for it was written one hundred and one years before my father died. This is in fact the story of my great, great, great Uncle, Benjamin Preston Wellock, son of my 3x great grandparents, Isabella (Preston) and Thomas Wellock.

Benjamin headed off to the Miner’s Arms in Greenhow Hill around 3pm on Monday, 3 December 1883. (In my Dad’s case it was Sunday, 9 December 1984) to see the landlord about a calf. As he hadn’t left the pub until around 10pm that evening, I rather assumed he’d had a pint or two as it was a rather longer stay than might have been required to negotiate a livestock purchase.

Ever the hardworking farmer, Benjamin stopped to feed the few cattle housed in their barn at Partridge Garth. He had climbed the ladder into the hayloft when a beam broke beneath him throwing Benjamin nine feet down onto the hard barn floor. Whether his was death was instant or he survived a few hours is not known for his father was not to find him until early the following morning.

Photo of a similar hayloft courtesy of one of my oldest friends, Georgina Beecroft.

The family survived. Mary, his wife, lived to the ripe old age of 84 outliving Annie (who died sometime before 1930), Isabella (who died in 1929) and Agnes (who died in 1890) and Benjamin had at least seventeen grandchildren although not all were to survive infancy. Then there was his son and heir. Just eight months old when his father died, John was to emigrate to Canada, around the same time as his cousins, David & Major. Unlike his cousins, he then crossed the border into Washington state and with him he took his father’s legacy, a son named Benjamin Preston Wellock.

As for us. We didn’t just survive, we thrived and whilst there is no George Christopher Houseman, Dad lives on in all of us.

My sister is also my aunt

Atticus: Double first cousin. Scout: How can that be? Atticus: Two sisters married two brothers.” (From To Kill a Mockingbird).

Eric Houseman (the young boy in the photo) is both my Grandma’s cousin (Laura, his mother, being Grandma’s mother’s sister) and my Grandma’s first cousin once removed (John Taylor, his father, being Grandma’s father’s nephew). Own collection.

It’s the stuff of fairy (or scary) tales – pairs of siblings marrying either together in a double wedding or perhaps with the second relationship arising as a result of the first union.  

Whilst we have at least one example of this classic tale in our tree – the marriage of Elizabeth Furniss & George Downs (3 x great grandparents) in 1866 followed on from that of their siblings Mary Downs & John Furniss in 1859 – I’ve just this week come across a third example of a different double relationship – two sisters marrying an uncle & a nephew.

It’s not as strange as it seems. Mothers frequently bore children for up to twenty years meaning uncle and nephew could be much closer in age than the uncle was to his own sibling. In larger families, children would often go to work as farm servants on their relatives’ farms. And in remote villages there wasn’t always a great deal of choice of partner….. Add to the mix a deceased or otherwise missing father and which requires elder siblings to look after their younger ones and I am only surprised I haven’t found more cases of these dual relationships where one man is both uncle and brother-in-law to another.

Here are the stories of those three double relationships.

Elizabeth Hornby & Robert Walker

I am currently researching our 3x great grandparents Elizabeth & Robert’s story. They are Grandpy‘s mother’s mother’s parents. In short, Robert’s father died when he was just twelve. By 1841 he was living at West Side House, Malham Moor with his maternal grandfather, uncles and his Uncle William Pratt’s new wife, Margery. In this instance, Robert was over twenty years younger than his Uncle, but then so was William’s new wife – generationally Margery & Robert were very similar.

Malham Moor is a bleak remote place but fortunately Margery had only moved a mile up the road from her family home and she likely saw a lot of her younger sister Elizabeth which means Robert probably saw a lot of her too. They married in 1844.

The Bentley girls and the Greenwood boys

A slightly more complex set of relationships underpins not just two, but three linked marriages between the Bentleys & the Greenwoods.

The Bentley side is straightforward: Abigail (b. 1882), Ada (b. 1883) and Florence (b. 1886) Bentley were all sisters of my great great grandmother (Nana‘s mother’s mother), Annie. Abigail was the first of the three sisters to marry a Greenwood (Richard, b. 1879) in 1908. Florence was next in 1909 marrying Richard’s brother, John (b. 1881) at which point Florence and Abigail became both sisters and sisters-in-law.

It was the third Bentley – Greenwood marriage in 1910, between Ada and Hanson (b. 1883), which left me stumped. The Bentley family and the two Greenwood brothers all lived in the same parish, Sitlington so their marriages made sense. Hanson, however, came from Wadsworth some thirty miles away and past the major urban centre of Halifax. There had to be some sort of family connection.

1891 census showing the Greenwood clan. Charles with his second wife Alice, mother to Richard & John (Richard is missing from this census) and his grandson Hanson. From

The 1891 census furnished a vital clue as Hanson was living with his grandfather, Charles Greenwood and Charles’s son, John, who’s vital statistics matched those of Florence’s Greenwood husband. After a lengthy bit of research I discovered that Alice, mother of John & Richard, was Charles’s second wife. They had a much half sibling, Mary Ann (b. 1862) who had an illegitimate child named Hanson! Whilst I haven’t been able to discover much about Mary Ann, Hanson appears to have grown up with his uncles and this no doubt led to him meeting Ada. This makes Abigail & Florence both sister & aunt to Ada as well as sister & sister-in-law to each other!

Hilda Mary Scott & Jesse Houseman

Hilda & Jesse are my Grandma‘s parents and as such I know a lot more about them and their relationships including that Hilda’s sister Laura married Jesse’s nephew, Jack.

Hilda (b. 1891) had a particularly close relationship with her younger sister Laura (b. 1895) as these two photos clearly demonstrate.

What intrigued me more was Jesse’s relationship with his nephew John Taylor “Jack” Houseman (b. 1894), son of Jesse’s oldest brother, Robert.  Three of Jesse & Robert’s middle siblings had died from scarlatina in 1882 and I believe this had almost created two generations within the one family: Robert (b. 1867), Thomas Bradbury (b. 1869), Betsy Jane (b. 1871) and John Charles (b. 1873) being the first and then Alice (b. 1882), Jesse (b. 1885), Beatrice Maud (b. 1888) and Emma (b. 1892) being the second. This would have been more pronounced after the death of Robert & Jesse’s father, Michael, in 1892 when Jesse was just seven. It would have been natural for Robert, as eldest brother and with three children of his own of similar age to the younger group, to have stepped in.

These WW1 postcards from “Jack” to his Uncle Jesse give a glimpse of the warm relationship between the two.

Hilda & Jesse were the first to marry on 28 September 1915. Five years later Laura married Jack. I wonder if Hilda & Jesse were responsible for setting the pair up?

This was not only the marriage of two sisters to an uncle & nephew but the marriage between two sets of close friends which is perhaps why the relationship between the two couples and then their children stayed strong. Aunty Laura became Grandma’s godmother for example. However, the final, sweetest tribute to this double relationship was to come at the end. Both Hilda & Laura died relatively young, Hilda aged 62 in 1954 and Laura aged 61 in 1956. On can only assume that Jesse & Jack took comfort from each other as they chose to bury their wives in next door plots. Both Jesse & Jack outlived their wives by almost 30 years with Jesse dying aged 91 in 1977 and Jack was the last to die aged 87 in 1982 bringing to an end this incredible dual relationship.

The twin gravestones of Hilda Scott & Jesse Houseman (right) and Laura Scott and John Taylor “Jack” Houseman (Left) at Otley Cemetery. Own photo

A road trip to Estevan

In 1907 two brothers from Greenhow Hill, Yorkshire packed up their belongings (together with one spouse and two children), said goodbye to their parents and sailed for the flat-land Canadian prairies.

115 years later, inspired by tales of my Grandpy’s cousins, I finally made it to Canada with one must see destination: Estevan, Saskatchewan.

Yep, you read that right. The stunning scenery of the Rocky Mountains, Niagara Falls and Cape Breton, the metropolitan highlights of Toronto and Vancouver and the long-distance sleeper trains were all much lesser priorities than a road trip to rural south Saskatchewan.

Why? Because David & Major Preston (the two aforementioned brothers) also said goodbye (and “please stay in touch”) to their seven siblings including their youngest sister Mary, my great grandmother and true to that promise they did.

David Wellock with his wife Martha (Clark) and their three children, Hornby (1905 – 1982), Lillie (1908 – 1989) and Leonard (1913 – 1981). Hornby had two sons, Keith & Lloyd. Keith & his daughter Chantelle took me on this road trip to Estevan. Keith Wellock’s collection.

It is here I must express my enormous gratitude to Chantelle & Keith, my third & second-once-removed cousins. Despite never having met they offered to pick me up from Lake Louise, show me around Estevan and drop me off at Saskatoon, a road trip of close on 2,000 km of driving. And along the way offered me an insight into David’s life & family over here in Canada.

All road trips start somewhere and for me this was when Keith brought out the photo albums and started to tell the story of David & Major’s families here in Canada spotting similarities and handing me a few more puzzles to solve. Such a treasure trove and will no doubt feature in many future Wellock blogs.

Imagine my delight when I turned the page to spot Nana & Grandpy during a visit Hornby made to Yorkshire.

Keith also had two large books entitled “A tale that is told.” in part authored by his mother, covering Estevan’s history from 1890 to 1980.  What a wonderful archive.

From here I learnt a little more about how the brothers ended up in Estevan. David’s wife, Martha Clark, had a sister called Sarah who, together with her husband, Joe Philips, had emigrated to Estevan in 1901. The history book notes that: “About 1905 or 1906 he returned to England under the sponsorship of the CPR and recruited 250 – 300 new settlers for the West.” He clearly persuaded his brothers-in-law that here was a land of opportunity. Although there was also a suggestion that Major and/or David may or may not have pushed their father into a horse trough full of water which may or may not have precipitated the move! (There’s more about their earlier life at Toft Gate here).

A page from the Estevan history book “A tale that is told” describing David & Martha’s life. The photo on the bottom right is a copy of one I also have and must have been sent to my great-grandmother. Own photo.

The next day we drove the 900km to Estevan. For much of the time we were following the single train tracks. In 1907, the train was the only option. In 2022 it’s not even possible to travel to Estevan by train. The time spent driving meant many more stories shared and gave an incredible sense of scale.

Finally, we reached Estevan. Less than 20 km north of the border, it’s as much an oil & mining town now as it is a farming one. It doesn’t really look much like the town it was then, but with Keith’s help (and that of “A tale that is told”) we were able to uncover so many of the early places. We visited the graveyards first. The majority of the family are buried in the original Estevan City Cemetery although Hornby (David’s son & Keith’s father) is buried in the newer Souris Valley Memorial Cemetery. I took a stone from David & Martha’s grave which I hope to place on that of my great grandmother to re-connect the family.

Major Preston & Violet Eleanor (Boothman) Wellock together with their son, John Preston & his wife Hazel (Rae).

In town we found a wonderful memorial to the Estevan Collegiate Institute, the main high school in the time from 1921 to 1969. The memorial also listed staff and we spotted Hornby Wellock who had taken a janitorial job there in 1957. Homesteading just did not pay enough to keep a family.

The Estevan Collegiate Institute memorial. Such a wonderful collection of family names. Own photo.
Estevan collegiate institute memorial. Lillian was the daughter of David, Keith & Lloyd the sons of Hornby & Amy the daughter of John. As to who Audrey & Juanita were – well that’s another puzzle for me to solve!

We visited some of the land owned by the Wellock family. Major’s son, Johnny, had sold some of his ranch to allow a power plant to be built – a reflection of the changing industry here.

John Wellock’s land, now the site of a power plant. Own photo.

David (and then Hornby)’s homestead had been absorbed into another larger farm – the only way to make agriculture pay. Standing at the edge of the land gave me a real sense of how different the farms are here to back at home. No walls, no fences, no hills, no green grass. No sheep – Grandpy would not have been content!

Site of David & then Hornby Wellock’s homestead from 190[7] to 1968. with Keith, Hornby’s son, looking on. Keith is standing on what was the lane, the house was just over to the right.

The local farm school of Albany had long since disappeared, closing whilst Keith was a child, but we found a lovely sign marking the spot. It reminded me of my Mum’s primary school where she was also one of seven. It too closed, but unlike the Albany farm school, it was made a stone and the building still stands.

Location of Albany farm school. Own photo.

Basking in the September sun with prairie fields as far as the eye could see, it was hard to imagine the children needing a sled to get to school.  

School friends standing outside the school building with their school winter transport in front. Keith Wellock’s collection.

And finally, one last treat – a whole road named for the Wellocks, possibly the only one in the entire world!

Stood in front of the sign for Wellock Road, Estevan. Own photo.

At the end of the road trip I have such wonderful memories, many more family photos and stories and above all, lost relatives who have become found friends.

With much gratitude to Keith & Chantelle for the road trip to Estevan, to my Great Grandmother Mary for caring so much of her brothers and for the David & Major Preston Wellock, the brothers who emigrated to Canada and were the encouragement and inspiration of this wonderful road trip. Thanks too, to Amy Johnson Crow, the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge hint this week of road trip was particularly apt.

Remembering Queen Elizabeth II

A tapestry I made as a child, found as I dug out my royal memories.

“Monday, Lord Chamberlain’s address in BP. This was fabulous. Walking in the main gate + across the central square, the state apartments. Then listening to Start as part of the main address. Then the reception. The state apartments are so sumptuous. We were about to move rooms & then saw them coming towards us. We quickly realised we’d get Prince Philip which was cool in its own right. He asked us all one by one where we were for Christmas with no real interest in the answer. But he does look younger in person than he does on film for his 89 years. + then one of her majesty’s aides lined us up + we were introduced to the Queen! She was lovely (although more interested in royal collection marble than PoW ‘Start.’ So grandma like + gracious. Although her hands were less glam than expected. She spoke about dodgy marble + I said how lovely. I went home singing + told stories”.

Verbatim from my diary, written on 16 December 2011 about the day I became the only person in my family to meet the Queen in person and perhaps the only one to have met a reigning monarch. (Sisters-in-law excluded).

Here follow’s a swift roundup of our family’s love of & connection to the Queen in memory of a beloved monarch. May she rest in peace.

Scarf from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. Belonging to either Nana or her mother, Marian Moody. Now proudly owned by my Mum.

Nana (Mary Booth) was an ardent Queenie fan. So much so that when her only daughter, my mother, was born in 1952 there was only one name she could call her, Elizabeth. Aunty Christine (Dad’s elder sister) was equally as devoted. Although we no longer have the scrapbooks that both faithfully collected, they passed on their love of the Queen to us, their family.

Mum and Uncle Richard were born more than ten years after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II’s father, King George VI yet she still has these momentoes scratched with the initials RB & AB to ensure they knew who’s was who’s

Farnley Hall held an estate wide celebration for the Silver Jubilee in 1977. My sister & I were presented with gifts. Mum had to win hers….

Next up was the Royal Wedding of The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer on the 29 July 1981. By then I had started school.

We now take a 30 year interlude. Yes, we were excited about the birth of Prince Harry and the marriage of HRH The Prince Andrew & Miss Sarah Ferguson (how little did we know) and there was the frequently told story of how Mum cut the head of HRH The Princess Anne (in a photo of her presenting the 1st prize trophy in the NFYFC fashion competition to my sister, Helen), but the Royals did somewhat pass us by while we were growing up.

Until, on 15 February 2011, I started work in Clarence House as the project manager for Start, an initiative of HRH Prince of Wales charities.

It was here I really realised the pulling power of the palace. I have particular memories of sitting next to Sir Stuart Rose, talking about Yorkshire, hours after I had heard him on Radio 4 talking of his resignation as Executive Chairman of Marks & Spencer.

It was this role that led to the most remarkable series of Christmas parties. Clarence House, carols at The Queen’s Chapel and Buckingham Palace and the reflections with which I started this blog.

Unfortunately, I’d left just too soon to secure any sort of special access or insight into William & Kate’s wedding the following year. Already anxious that May Day Bank Holiday Monday was being moved to the Friday (it being my day of remembrance for Paul) I am not quite sure why I thought I could attend a celebration party where people were encouraged to where wedding dress for free entry. I pleaded widowhood and then later in the day changed my mind, cycling down to join the celebrations in Green Park.

Picked up in Green Park at a party I was initially reluctant to join.

Just as the Queen failed to head my edict that she had to live long enough to become the longest reigning monarch (damn Louis XVI for succeeding to the throne when he was four years old and ensuring the French will forever retain this title) Grandpy & Grandma both failed in my request that they live to 100 to receive their birthday card from the Queen. Fortunately Aunty Muriel (Grandma’s oldest sister) took up the mantle.

Aunty Muriel’s card from the Queen, October 2016

In a final ode to the Queen, Sharon & I decided to bid for a chance to join The Patron’s Lunch on The Mall to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. Sharon is, I think, the staunchest Queenie fan in our generation and torrential rain was not about to spoil the most wonderful day.

In these next few hours, days and weeks many will remember the Queen. This is our story. Rest in peace Queenie. You have our family’s love.

(By strange coincidence, the last blog I wrote set out our purported relationship to King John. He “may” be our 25th great grandfather which makes Queenie our “cousin.” So be nice, we just lost a family member…..

Once upon a time – how we “could” be descended from royalty

Image from

You are of royal descent, because everyone is. You are of Viking descent, because everyone is. You are of Saracen, Roman, Goth, Hun, Jewish descent, because, well, you get the idea. All Europeans are descended from exactly the same people, and not that long ago. Everyone alive in the tenth century who left descendants is the ancestor of every living European today, including Charlemagne, and his children Drogo, Pippin, and, of course, not forgetting Hugh. If you’re broadly eastern Asian, you’re almost certain to have Genghis Kahn sitting atop your tree somewhere in the same manner, as is often claimed. If you’re a human being on Earth, you almost certainly have Nefertiti, Confucius, or anyone we can actually name from ancient history in your tree, if they left children. The further back we go, the more the certainty of ancestry increases, though the knowledge of our ancestors decreases. It is simultaneously wonderful, trivial, meaningless, and fun[1]”.

Proving the connection of course is much, much, much more difficult. The following chain was taken from in February 2022. The first ten generations starting from my Grandad are from my research, the very earliest agreed by historians. The bit in the middle is likely simple guesswork. When I went back to family search just a few weeks later the middle bit had been disconnected, so we are likely just descended from the peasantry (which would better ensure our Yorkshire roots so suits me). Nonetheless this “could” be how we are descended from King John and from there to both William the Conqueror and Alfred the Great. Not sure it’s the king I would choose……

  1. George Houseman (1921 – 1987) (Grandad)
  2. George Houseman (1868 – 1937)
  3. Thomas Houseman (1834 – 1908)
  4. Sarah Stansfield (1804 – 1885)
  5. Catherine Andrews (1778 – 1836)
  6. William Andrew (1728 – 1809)
  7. William Andrew (1696 – 1761)
  8. Ellen Inglesant (1663 – ?)
  9. Elionar Holme (1632 – ?)
  10. Ann Sympson (1595 – 1671)
  11. William Sympson (1567 – )
  12. Thome Sympson
  13. Thomas Simpson (1501 – 1545)
  14. William Simpson (1480 – 1524)
  15. Thomas Sampson (1439 – 1539)
  16. George Sampson (1422 – 1458)
  17. Margery Felbrigg (1407 – 1476)
  18. Sir John Bigod Felbrigg (1390 – 1475)
  19. Margaret Margery de Aspale (1356 – 1419)
  20. John de Aspall (1332 – 1377)
  21. Mirabella Wake (1310 – 1355)
  22. Hugh Wake (1272 – 1315)
  23. Lady Hawise de Quincy of Steventon (1250 – 1285)
  24. Elen (the Elder) ferch Llywelyn (1207 – 1253)
  25. Joan, Lady of Wales (1188 – 1237)
  26. King John of England (1166 – 1216)

[1] A brief history of everyone who ever lived. Adam Rutherford. Quoting from Joseph Chang’s mathematical paper.

Mary Houseman a nature explorer

Natasha & Andrea Petty with their 8th prize plaques in the YFC National Final Country Spotter Competition, 1989. Coordinating colours completely accidental! Own photo.

Country spotters was a new competition for the national federation of young farmers. Who would sign up? With Aunty Christine as club leader, I was often volunteered for the non-obvious classes. And who better to join me in the two-person team than my oldest friend, Andrea Petty (see also Swinsty Hall). Somehow, we flew through the county round and were headed for Stoneleigh and the national finals. I remember thinking I should revise (I was a reasonably conscientious teenage) but honestly a competition that could require identification of anything from cows through weather to rock formations doesn’t allow for last minute cramming.

Fortunately, Grandma (Mary Houseman) was a nature explorer. Encouraged in her studies by Norwood School teacher, Miss Heaton, Grandma eventually spotted and recorded 150 species of wildflowers in our local area. (Almost, I should add, as keen eyed may notice the odd duplication in the list). Local really does mean local to within a few miles of her home at Prospect Farm, Lindley. Grandma was not an explorer in the conventional sense as she almost never left the Washburn valley.

Together, aged six and sixty, we walked, explored, picked and pressed local wildflowers. Those of a certain age may remember the heavy thump of a telephone directory through the letterbox or more likely the postman knocking on the door because it wouldn’t fit through. Living on the boundary of several districts the towering pile of directories formed a perfect flower press. Two scrapbooks remain a beautiful reminder of that time.

The knowledge I had gained from those walks, together with Andrea’s own, led us to, if not quite to a victory, at least to an unexpected 8th place in the national finals.

Thirty years on I realise the most valuable thing is not the prize, nor is it my enduring knowledge. Rather, with both climate & biodiversity in crisis, it is the record of a list of wildflowers growing in the Washburn valley in the 1930s and a scrapbook of the same for the 1980s.

Cricket – a Houseman obsession

Watching test cricket at Lords has been on my bucket list for years. I can’t quite remember when or why it was added, possibly after watching the Olympics archery back in 2012, re-enforced every time I travelled past the grounds on a 274 bus. Mostly I suspect it being down to long distant memories of cricket being a Houseman “thing.” So, when the recent rain strikes prevented a friend of a friend from attending England v South Africa I jumped at the chance and whilst it wasn’t England’s best game (South Africa won without going into bat a second time) it did give me an opportunity to write about Housemans and cricket.

There is or rather was one “first class” Houseman cricketer, Ian, who played for Yorkshire between 1989 & 1991. Knowing I was a double Houseman with family from Darley, people would assume we were related. This being a Houseman from Yorkshire we are of course, but it took me many years to work out the relationship, 6th cousins, as Ian forms part of the third branch of Darley Housemans.

Playing cricket near Mikindani, Mtwara, Tanzania, 2006. Own collection.

I certainly didn’t inherit the gene. Cricket as a child involved watching the men play from the side lines whilst the women organised sandwiches and cakes as Dad played in young farmers advisory v members matches. I do have fond memories of making up numbers when working in Mikindani, Tanzania in 2006. Essentially if you put a South African in charge of a remote farm, mix in a public school educated English person or two, hot weather, sundowners and a need to avoid mosquitos by dusk, cricket seemed the obvious entertainment.

This blog is about family history though and not my own and there were two cricket obsessed men in our family, Grandad (Dad’s Dad, George Houseman) and Grandma’s Dad, Jesse Houseman.

George Houseman, Grandad, is in the forefront at the left. Own collection.

Grandad joined Farnley Estate club after the war and then moved to play for Darley as they were in a league and he felt they were more competitive. He was to remain a player and then staunch support of Darley for the rest of his life. Six club members were to be bearers at his funeral. On summer weekends George would throw his kit in the boot and travel round Yorkshire hoping that the team might be a man down and he would get a game. Saturday evenings would see him sat by the phone waiting for people to ring him to recount a match or to find out the result of a game they had missed.

I know little about Jesse Houseman’s cricketing career beyond two wonderful photos with which I will end this blog. The first is a postcard from Jesse to his sisters Beatrice, Alice & Emma, the second as a seemingly proud batsman. I think it’s meant to indicate a batting score of 131, which is just about as many as the whole England team scored in their second innings against South Africa!

Jesse Houseman. Own collection
Jesse Houseman. Own collection

The Wellocks of High Garnshaw, Hebden in Craven

The trees tell you all you need to know about the weather, strategically placed to counter the wind, rain and snow blowing off Mire Ridge to the west. The substantial stone walls bordering Tinkers (historically Tinklers) Lane carry their own story, of an ancient thoroughfare now forbidding to all but the most substantial vehicle. This is High Garnshaw, Hebden, home to several generations of our ancestors and Wellock cousins spanning 250 years.

The Wellocks have been linked to Linton in Craven ever since William Walok paid 4d of poll tax in 1379. (Incidentally this reference led me to researching the Peasants Revolt of 1381 and from there to a reference to Linton & Rylestone participants in the 1569 Northern Rebellion….but that will need to be a subject of another blog). Hebden was historically part of Linton-in-Craven parish but sufficiently different to be noted in the records.

Records from here on variously refer to Garnshaw, High Garnshaw, Tinkler’s Lane or even just Hebden. Whilst it’s hard to be certain these all refer to the same place (particularly as there is both a High Garnshaw and a Garnshaw house in close proximity), I take heart from Harry Speight, who in 1900 wrote the following about Linton “There are still resident in the parish several worthy families, descendants of the old yeoman class, who have lived on the land held by their forefathers for generations and even centuries.” Whilst the ever-present Harry neglects to make any mention of the Wallocke or Wellock families in his book “Upper Wharfedale” he was not alone in this characterisation of the people who lived in the parish of Linton for Rev. Thomas Dunham Whitaker wrote thus “the tenantry lived in so much plenty and security, the tenements descended so regularly from father to son” in his book “The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven, in the County of York” published in 1818.

An extract of an ordnance survey map showing High Garnshaw House and its relationship to Grassington. Hebden and Linton-in-Craven are just off the bottom of the map.

Here follows a timeline showing the evidence of our connection to Garnshaw.

1651 – “John & Mary Twins of James Symson of Garneshaw bapt. 11o of May.”

The very first mention of Garnshaw belongs to our 9xG Grandfather, James Symson. James married Isabell Ramell in 1639 and by the time the twins were born had already baptized three children. It is entirely possibly James himself was born and brought up on the same farm. Sadly this baptism was not a happy occaision. Isabell likely died in childbirth (being buried on 4 May 1651 and the twins were to follow on 7 December the same year). Agnes, (b. 31 December 1653) James’s daughter with his second wife, Mary, was to marry George Wellock in 1674 and thus begin the connection between the Wellocks & Garnshaw.

1674“Robert son of George Wallocke [was] borne at Garneshaw bapt. 16to Augusti [1674]” followed swiftly on from “George Wallocke & Agnes Symson both of this Parish were married 28th day of April [1674]” suggesting that the newly married George had moved in with his father-in-law James.  

1685 – “Willm son of George Wallocke Garneshaw bapt. 18th day of October.” George & Agnes were to have three further children including our 7x G Grandfather, William.

1702 – “Robert Wellock of Garnshaw burd ye 18 day of June.” Robert’s untimely death in 1702 (he would have been just 28) brought to an end this first period of connection to Garnshaw. William (our direct ancestor) (1685 – 1758) would have been too young to take over the property and clearly struggled to find a permanent tenancy, moving from Grassington to Threshfield to Coniston Cold all within a few miles of Garnshaw. William’s son William (6x G Grandfather) (1726 – 1813) was to establish a base at Upper Cow House in Winterburn where his son William (5x G Grandfather) (1748 – 1813) was born.

There is then a 50 year and three generation gap before we return to High Garnshaw.

1795 – “Richd. son of Richd. Wellock Tinkler lane Bapd. [June] 28th” – it was William’s son Richard (4 x G Grandfather) (1765 – 1849) who was to re-establish the Wellock connection to High Garnshaw. Richard married Mary Windsor at Arncliffe in 1789. Their first child, Jenny, was also baptized at the church there. By the time their son William arrived in 1792 the couple were described as living “near Hebden” and then in 1795 as “Tinkler Lane.” Whilst there would have been other dwellings on Tinkler Lane, the evidence of subsequent family connection to this specific property causes me to believe that they were now living at High Garnshaw house itself.

1810 – “Thomas son of Richard Wellack Tinkler lane, Farmer, Bapd. [June] 24th” – our 3 x G Grandfather, Thomas, was the eighth of Richard & Mary’s eleven children. Thomas was to establish another multi-generational tenancy at Toft Gate at Greenhow Hill. However, it was Thomas’s youngest sibling, Robert, who was to continue the connection the Wellock to High Garnshaw.

1846 title map showing an outline of the fields occupied by Richard Wellock.

1846 – thanks to a translation of the 1842 tithe assessment we can see the exact fields which made up the farm of High Garnshaw: Old House Field, Little Field, Low Laithe Field, Garth, Cow Garth, Far Field x 2, Strip, Intake, Paddock & Wogan Meadows plus the house itself were all occupied by Richard Wellock. The distinctive curve of Intake field (bottom left) can still be seen on modern photos.

1862 report of the alleged sexual assualt of Mary Wellock at High Garnshaw

1860 – Mary, Robert’s eldest daughter, went to work for a nearby farmer. In 1860, Mary alleged that a Mr Constantine “went into the room of the plaintiff, and committed an assault on her.” Mary moved back in with her family to have the baby and is recorded as living at High Garnshaw, together with her 4 day old daughter Fanny, in the 1861 census. Whilst at the time the case was judged to be nonsuited (meaning dismissed for lack of evidence) it is very hard to imagine a farmer’s daughter in the 1860s choosing to go to court to pursue a false allegation.

1865 – Robert’s youngest son, Jenkinson Wellock, was born. Jenkinson married Ellen Moore in 1888 and they had five children together.

1897John William Wellock, Jenkinson’s middle child, was born in 1897. John served in the West Riding regiment in WW1 and was killed in action on 8 September 1918. Although the family had moved out by the time of the war, John is remembered on the Hebdenhistory website.

The 1901 census is the last census showing Wellocks at High Garnshaw. Jenkinson heads the household, together with his wife, four of their children and his father, Robert.

1903 – John’s sister, Ellen, was the last Wellock child to be born at High Garnshaw on 21 February 1903.

By the time of the 1911 census, the Wellocks had moved out of High Garnshaw. Jenkinson, was boarding separately from his family with a woman he later went on to marry.

Ellen was my great grandmother (Mary Wellock)’s cousin and the 6x great grandchild of James Symson with whom we started our story.

In tracing our Wellock ancestry I owe a deep gratitude to my sister’s friend, Hazel Ratcliffe, whose daughter happened to have a child with a Wellock third cousin of ours and who kindly shared her research into our shared Wellock ancestry. I also am grateful to the Rev. F.A.C. Share M.A., Rector of Linton, who patiently transcribed the parish registers for St Michaels and All Angels Church, Linton in Craven for the Yorkshire Parish Register Society. These were published in 1900 (available on and are the source for everything I quote in italics above. My final thanks go to the author of for making the census and other research so much swifter.

Finding Agnes Symson (1653 – 1702)

There are so many reasons to be proud and grateful for being born a Yorkshire lass and whilst I suspect that there aren’t many people who would put the Yorkshire Parish Register Society on that list they have proved absolute gold dust in helping evidence the depth of our Yorkshire roots.

Founded in 1899 the aim of the Yorkshire Parish Register Society was to transcribe and publish at least one volume of an original parish register every year (complete with indices, an absolute godsend). It came as no surprise to discover that the first volume concerned St Michael-Le-Belfrey, possible the primary church in York (minster excluded). As the introduction explains:

The City of York is rich in Churches, and consequently in Parish Registers also. These cannot fail to be interesting to a large number of Yorkshiremen, because many of our County families sprang from amongst its citizens, and many of the junior members of other families of distinction, in the country, were brought up and followed their professions or callings here. As the capital of the north, also, York was the resort of many persons in the highest stations of life, from all parts of the Kingdom, so there can be no town in the county, and perhaps in the Kingdom, London excepted, in which the Parish Registers can equal, in interest, those of York”. Yet these parish registers are the most egalitarian of history books recording rich & poor, men, women & infants alike (almost, as mothers are for more rarely referenced) allowing us to trace, recognise and amplify our ancestors whatever their station and gender. The single mention in a parish register of of “Wid Swinden, pauper”, my 7x great grandmother even inspired a poem. Given our ancestors were agricultural labourers, tenants of a few acres or a yeoman at best there is little evidence of their existence. We were rarely poor enough to require a record of relief and never wealthy enough to for others to write about. Yet the parish registers have enabled me to trace several lines deep into the 17th & even 16th centuries.

St Michaels & All Angels Church, Linton-in-Craven. Own photo. The church dates back to the twelfth century. It’s hard to explain the surety of place that those of us with deep roots in rural Yorkshire parishes can feel. I can be fairly certain my ancestors saw this church being built.

Volume V (published 1900) & XVIII (published 1903) concerned the parish of St Michael’s & All Angels Church, Linton in Craven, faithfully transcribed in two parts by the Rev. F. A. C. Share. M. A. then rector of Linton. Thanks to the Rev. Share (and at least one other Wellock descendent) I have long since been able to trace my Wellock line back 450 years to one Robert Wellock, father of William Wellock, who was baptised his son in this very church in 1574.

This is where Agnes Symson, our 8xg grandmother crops up, apparently apparating into the parish of Linton-in-Craven, just in time for her marriage to George Wellock (Wallocke) on 28 April 1674. Whilst the Wellocks are well documented, their wives haven’t been accorded the same attention. In reviewing the original record, I was struck by one simple phrase “both of this parish.”

The hunt was on.

the first appearance of Agnes Symson in the Yorkshire Parish Register Society transcripts of the Linton-in-Craven parish registers.

Reviewing the registers suggested two possible candidates for her father, James “of Garneshaw” and Robert “of Hebden Moor.” Fortunately Robert was quickly eliminated as “Agnes the Dau : of Robert Symson of Hebden Moor side baptized the same day, viz: 6to March [1663/1664]” would not have been old enough to marry in 1674 and ensured that Robert would not have had an older Agnes, at least not one who survived childhood. (As an aside, I am reasonably confident that Robert & James must have been brothers with a mother named Agnes as it was not that common a name.)

I also knew that Agnes & George were also described as “of Garneshaw” in their children’s baptisms. This was looking promising.

James appears numerous times in the register: in 1639 when he married Isabel Rathmell and in 1651 when Isabel is buried, in the baptisms of Margaret (1640), William (1645), Ann (1646), Thomas (1656) and Mary (1662), in the burials of William (1646), John & Mary (twins buried in 1651) and John (1661) (where he is named as father) and of his second wife Mary (1681) as well as his own burial on 18 November 1684. If James was such a regular attender of church (at least so far as baptisms, marriages and burials were concerned) why why was there no baptism for Agnes?

This is where I am again grateful to Rev. Share[1] for his commitment to the task at hand extracting every last detail he could where records were in poor condition. I was struck by the following two entries.

…ghter of James Symson……in ye townshippe….borne ye last day of December, baptized ye 80 of January following [1653/1654]

[here follow. fragments of about a dozen baptisms ; only these Christian names are left, viz. : Margret, Elizabeth, Thomas, Agnes, Henry, and Isabell.] Wm Perte of Griston Hall yeat b…..d day of March. A……of….Knight…..rneshaw was borne the ….day of March 55 [sic]………[follows on from 4 October] [1655/1656]

Despite the obvious connection between “Agnes” and “rneshaw” I felt confident in ruling out the second entry as James’s son Thomas was born on 4 June 1656. Which left me with “…ghter of James Symson.” This had to be Agnes.  

Here then, courtesy of Rev Share and the Yorkshire Parish Register Society, is Agnes’s story.

Agnes Symson was born on 31 December 1653, a non-momentous day for most in that age, as the calendar was not to change for another century. Momentous though for her mother, Mary, being the safe delivery of her first child. James, on the other hand, was doubtless hoping for a boy. Isabel, his first wife, had given birth to five children, Margaret (b. 1640), William (b. 1646), Ann (b. 1646) and then twins, John & Mary in 1651, but William & the twins had died as infants, the birth of the twins likely resulting in the death of their mother (Isabel was buried on 4 May, the twins were baptised on 11 May and buried on 17 December the same year).

Husbandry in these parts was not without challenges as these wonderful two entries illustrate: “Robert Holdgate of Garneshaw who was lost by a tempest of snow that fell the 3 day of January att night was found the 10th and buried the 11th day of the said January [1659/1660]” and “Septembr 17th 1673 happened a great fflood wch overflowing the Banke in the lower end of the Churchyard covered the most pt thereof below the Church. Burnesall bridge & Bolton Bridge & many more were driven downe by the violence of said fflood”. I’ve written before about Yorkshire snow, this can be a bleak and unforgiving landscape.  

By 1674, James was getting on in life, likely in his late fifties or early sixties. Thomas, the only son James had not seen buried as a child, was still only 18, too young to take over the land. Agnes, then 20, may have been anxious when she shared the news of her forthcoming pregnancy, but, in reality, this must have been seen as a blessing. George Wellock, 26, was the third son of a local farmer, trained from birth to run a similarly placed smallholding but without a tenancy to inherit.

So it was that Agnes & George started a Wellock connection with Garnshaw which, with some gaps, was to last over 200 years.

Agnes & George had four children: Robert (b. 1674) (Robert was baptised in August 1674, four months after the couple were married), Isabella (b. 1676) (named after James’s first wife?), Anne (b. 1683) and William (b. 1685) (our ancestor). The couple must have felt secure. Sadly, this was not to prove the case. George died in November 1694, leaving Agnes with four children aged between 9 & 20. It looks like Robert, then 20, may have been the one to take on the tenancy. Possible, not easy. Possible that is, until Robert, then aged 28, died in 1702, buried on 18 June in St Michael’s & All Angels churchyard. Agnes, then living nearby in Grassington, may well have come to tend her eldest son through illness, for she died and was buried just three days after Robert thus ending Agnes’s tale.

the last appearance of Agnes in the Yorkshire Parish Register Society transcripts of the Linton-in-Craven parish registers

[1] Harry Speight in his book Upper Wharfedale, describes the Rev Share thus “Of Mr Share’s labours in the parish little now need be said. He is a hard and zealous worker, and I believe has never missed preaching a single Sunday since his induction to the living in October 1891. The industrious rector appears quite content with the 13,000 and odd acres of ground within his parish, and has sought no holiday nor other means of recreation than what this large expanse of mountain, moor, and pasture afford. He has lately copied for publication by the Yorkshire Parish Register Society, the important but ill-kept and in places much tattered registers of his parish, a work requiring the closes scrutiny and painstaking transcription”.

Are we a political party? Yes we are!

I couldn’t resist a postscript to the blog I wrote a few months ago where I asked whether we were a political family. Or rather, I needed something to keep me busy whilst waiting for Sharon’s result today as I hope, exactly 100 years after my great, great grandmother lost her right to vote, we can prove that we are.

Just one hundred years ago, women were voting in a general election here in the UK for the second time. Well, some women were, those aged over 30 who were also registered property occupiers (or married to a registered property occupier) of land or premises with a rateable value greater than £5 or of a dwelling-house. Two thirds of women who would have met the male requirement were still denied the right to vote.

Three of my great grandmothers met the age requirement and possibly could. The fourth, Marion Moody was just twenty and so wouldn’t have been able to vote even if she had been born male.

Five of my great, great grandmothers were still alive in 1922. Whilst it’s difficult to judge whether they would have met the property requirement, I know that one, Amelia Bradbury (wife of Michael Houseman who I talk about in the first blog) would have been disenfranchised just the previous year. When Michael died in 1892, Amelia had taken over the lease on Long Liberty Farm in Haverah Park together with her son, my great grandfather, Jesse Houseman. Unfortunately, she was not able to agree to a proposed increase in rent (to £165-0-0) and had moved in with her daughter and son-in-law in 1921. Without property Jesse could vote, Amelia was no longer entitled to take part in the democratic process.

Yet here we one hundred years later, the women in our family working together to get the first woman in our family elected.

Mum’s daily step count regularly passed the 20,000-mark, Sharon’s hair gained a yellow streak, Helen & Anna joined the delivery team, my eleven-year-old niece coached me on how to approach a doorstep conversation and I talked to more people in two weeks than I have done in the last two years. It was Leeds council election time.

On the campaign trail.

Weetwood was one of two Labour target wards in Leeds and it was going to be close. A local left-leaning website suggested that residents were being “bombarded” with literature but everyone I spoke to was delighted they might have the chance to vote for such a hardworking councillor and (often) a woman as well.

By this point you can probably guess that I am still waiting for the result.

And waiting

And still waiting

And, gutted. Despite increasing her vote when the overall vote decreased, Sharon was pipped again. How can someone take 4,458 votes across two council elections and still not have a seat?

Next time. For, we are (the women at least) a political force.