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

Margaret Grange (1728 – 1816) & George Houseman (1727 – 1815) – a founding family

Most people have sixty-four sets of great great geat great great grandparents. I, however, have sixty-three, for Margaret Grange & George Houseman were the ancestors of both my Grandma (Mary Houseman) and my Grandad (George Houseman). Houseman is my birth surname, doubly inherited and it is through this couple that I connect to almost all the Housemans in Yorkshire (where the majority of Housemans in England still reside). It is also where my fascination with family history started. (See Is Grandma related to Grandad?). Although I can trace back further, Margaret & George are, for me, our founding family and, as we will see at the end, the foundation of a multi-generational connection between Housemans and the Yorkshire village of Darley.

So who were Margaret Grange and George Houseman?

Margaret was likely the sixth of seven children born to John Grange of Porch House, Pateley Bridge in c. 1728. It is difficult to be certain of this as I have been unable to find a baptism record, but her birth fits into the pattern of the siblings one of whom was called Joseph and who was likely the Joseph Grange who stood as witness at her wedding. Margaret’s year of birth is derived from the age of death listed on her burial record.

George’s heritage is clearer. Baptised at St Marys, Pateley Bridge, on 3 March 1727, his parents were Margaret Wilks & George Houseman. George had one half sibling, John (b. c. 1719), son of George senior and his first wife, Mary Jackson, and three full siblings Elizabeth (b. c. 1724), Michael (b. c. 1731) and Thomas (b. c. 1732). John seems to disappear from the records and, given he was the oldest son, I suspect this means he died young. Thomas died as an infant and Elizabeth too died, unmarried, in 1745. This left just the two brothers, George & Michael, who remained close, both starting work as linen & flax weavers and both acting as witnesses at each other’s weddings. Michael will continue to feature through this blog.

Margaret & George were married on 14 June 1759 at St Jude’s church, Hartwith with their wedding witnessed by their two brothers as mentioned above. Margaret was living in this parish at the time, George in the nearby parish of Pateley Bridge.

Home was “The Holme” at the east end of Darley. Holme Hall, dating from 1667, still exists today, beautifully restored and grade two listed. I like to imagine this was where they lived although it is entirely possible they were living in a mean little cottage close by which has long since disappeared…..

rom wwwHolme Hall, extracted from, taken by J Simpson

Seven children arrived in quick succession: Thomas (b. c. 1760), Elizabeth (b. c. 1761), George junior (b. c. 1763), William (b. c. 1765), Benjamin (b. c. 1767), John (b. c. 1769) and Margaret junior (b. c. 1775). Margaret junior was likely a bit of a surprise arriving so long after the rest when Margaret herself would have been in her late forties. By contrast, George’s brother Michael had just one child, a son, Michael, in 1761, nine years after he had married.  

They were a healthy family. All seven children survived to adulthood, married and had children of their own. Sadly Elizabeth, George and Margaret were to die before their parents, but the other four children lived much longer with Thomas even reaching the grand old age of ninety-eight.

George continued to describe himself as a weaver on his children’s baptism records but at some point started to rent land in the local area. Both George & brother his Michael were ultimately to describe themselves as yeomen, as farmers. It is possible they inherited money from George senior during this time which enabled them to prosper. Michael died relatively young in 1785 and whilst the majority of his estate went to his sole heir, Michael junior, there were specific bequests for his nephews & nieces, George & Margaret’s children.

George lived much longer, dying in 1815 at the grand old age of 88 and was buried on 15 July at Pateley Bridge. Margaret died less than a year later, also, apparently, aged 88. However, oddly, Margaret was buried on 9 May 1816 at Hampsthwaite and not with her husband. This only thing I can think to explain this is perhaps she had moved to live with one of her children following the death of her husband the previous year.

Fortunately for us, George left a will which helped validate much of what I have written above. Thomas, as eldest son, was appointed executor and tasked with taking care of his mother. Thomas’s daughter, Margaret, was given a specific bequest of £5 which makes me think she had been the one taking care of her grandparents in their old age. The rest of the will is pretty equitable. Following Margaret’s death, the furniture was to be sold “by fare and open sale” and this, together with bills, bonds and all other security (totally just under £200 or nearly four years wages for a skilled tradesman at the time) was to be split equally between all the children, or, if deceased, their children, with one exception. Hannah, wife of the late George junior, was to receive just five shillings. This is amount was designed to prevent her contesting the will. There’s no indication in the will as to why she was left out but it’s possible there were questions as to her “character”. George junior & Hannah Furness were married by licence rather than banns on 14 October 1794 and their first daughter, Mary, was baptised just two weeks later. Hannah was to go on to marry again in 1817 and perhaps she had already been “seen” with her future second husband Thomas Akers.

Michael was to appear in the family’s life one last time, or rather his son, Michael did, for Michael junior died without children of his own. He left a substantial bequest to his cousins and, following the death of his wife, Margaret, in 1831, the cousins were to split nearly £1,000 between them. This was wealth indeed although somehow it seemed to dissipate over the generations between then & now!

The two branches of Margaret Grange & George Houseman connecting back to us as drawn out by Grandma. Own collection.

Margaret & George’s real legacy was not money, but rather the founding of a multi-generational connection between Housemans and Darley, a connection which continues to the present day. Thomas was the great great grandfather of my Grandma, Mary Houseman (born in Haverah Park, just a few miles from Darley). John was the great great grandfather of my Grandad, George Houseman (born at Fairfield Farm, Darley where his nephew still farms). George junior had only daughters and although Benjamin had two sons, one died young and the other had just one (illegitimate) daughter so no Houseman legacy from either. However, William (who incidentally married Catherine Downs, daughter of Alice Moon & John Downs who are also my 5x great grandparents) had one son, John. His descendants form the third branch of Housemans in Darley to which I used to think I wasn’t related. Every Houseman in Darley, and there are still a number, descends from either Thomas, John or William and hence from Margaret & George, truly a founding family.

With much gratitude to Gary Houseman at for all his work untangling the various Houseman lines and to Amy Johnson Crow for her continuing #52ancestors series.

An almost Yorkshire story – the podcast version

Writing this blog is principally about bringing our ancestors to life in an engaging and accessible way with the hope that their stories get shared and remembered now and in the future. That’s my primary goal, but it’s not my only one. It’s also about me learning to be a better writer, storyteller & communicator. So when Tina offered me the chance to record a podcast interview for waffle-free family stories, I took it.

We talk about her grandmother’s role in getting her hooked on family trees, how she’s giving life to the women in her story, the horrible accident that led to one child shooting another, and right at the end, she gives you THE BEST conversation ice-breaker you’ll ever know.

In between all that chat, she talks about the tools and techniques she uses to get as close to the real story as possible, and how she plugs the gaps”

I’d say that our family history really is all about wonderful women and that I haven’t quite lost my Yorkshire accent! Avid readers of this blog may notice the odd mix-up I had with names but don’t let that distract from the storytelling.

Here are the links to where you can find out more about the women (and men) I talk about.

How I started

Mary Ann Gill

Elizabeth Furniss & George Downs

Elsie Moody including the photo I used to resemble

Elizabeth Dean and the Butterworth connection

Hannah Demaine, the woman who married twice

Widow paupers including “Wid Swinden”

The Wellocks

Walter Scott, the boy who was shot by his friend

With much gratitude to Tina Konstant, for giving me space on her podcast, and also to Natalie Pithers, who runs the Curious Descendents Club which is how I met Tina & is also where I am learning to write better stories.

Elizabeth Furniss (1817 – 1911) & George Downs (1809 – 1868)

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

I turned to Elizabeth & George as part of a plan to ensure I’d fully captured all relevant documents for each of my great, great, great grandparents. A Darley farming couple, I didn’t expect this to be more than a short biography but when I looked into those documents I found a wonderful story of a woman who really came into her own upon the death of her husband. 

Darley-cum-Menwith is a typical Yorkshire farming village. Today it is a sought after country location close to Harrogate, commutable to Leeds and right on the borders of the Yorkshire Dales. In the mid-nineteenth century it was a thriving village. The 1841 census lists 725 people living in around 150 households who worked in agriculture or as shoemakers, linen weavers and wheelwrights. There was a church, two methodist chapels and a friends meeting house, a school, grocers and public houses. It was a self-contained village – even the arrival of a railway station in the 1860s meant you took a day trip to Harrogate, it didn’t mean you married out of the area.

The Great British Agricultural Depression was yet to hit and Darley was thriving. 

So let’s meet Elizabeth & George at the time of the railways and specifically in the year 1866. Elizabeth was 49, George eight years older. Elizabeth was born in Darley in 1817, the daughter of a local farming couple, Mary Pullan & Joseph Furniss, and she married George Downs, on 2 November 1836 at the age of nineteen. George, aged twenty-seven when they married, was the third son of another local farming family, Mary Beecroft & John Downes. The couple spent their early married life living with George’s parents no doubt whilst they were searching for a suitable tenancy. Such was the life of a third son and those they married. 

Thornthwaite church (c) Calverleyinfo

By 1866 they’d made it – 30 acres of land on Craike Lane and six surviving children, Mary (b. 1836), Salina (b. 1839), George (b. 1841), Elizabeth (b. 1847), John (b. 1852) and Ann (b. 1858). There’s a reason for choosing 1866 and it’s not just about the railway. On 22 September of that year, Elizabeth & George’s eldest daughter, Mary, married Thomas Houseman, another local farmer, and that union ultimately led to me. I can imagine that wedding at the beautiful Thornthwaite church with the trees turning their autumn colour. There would have been the traditional seating complications as Elizabeth’s brother, John, had married the groom’s sister, Mary, but at least that likely ensured family presence. The date was no doubt chosen to be post harvest and it wouldn’t surprise me if the ceremony was scheduled to allow for milking time. Elizabeth & George could be proud of the family they had brought up. 

Then, just over a year later, on 7 December 1867, George wrote a will. Maybe he was already ill or maybe he was approaching 60 and conscious of his young family. Whatever the reason, it was timely, he died a few months later, on 21 May 1868.

It was a precarious time. Elizabeth, aged 51, was left to raise a family the majority of whom were female and under age. The eldest son, George, had married, the younger son, John was just sixteen. Farm tenancies didn’t pass automatically to women or underaged boys. The Great Agricultural Depression was just starting and farming was becoming less viable. It would have been very easy for the family to progress to the workhouse.

It is the will that suggests that Elizabeth had this under control. Written months before he died it suggests a confidence in her ability and the likelihood of a couple who had discussed and prepared for George’s death.

Extract from will of George Downs

George asks that Elizabeth “remain tenant and manager of the farm occupied by me if permitted to do so by the proprietor.” He orders that the “remain of my personal estate shall be equally divided among my son George and my other surviving children share and share alike” and directs that “before this division there be an auction sale of my personal effects such as farming stock implements household furniture etc”

The normal practice is for fathers to leave the bulk of their estate to their eldest son to ensure a viable farm is passed on. The only exception being where an eldest son is already fully set up in business or they have fallen out, and as the son George is named as an executor that doesn’t appear to have been the case. George didn’t do this – he intended for his wife to remain in charge, split his estate equally and specified that everything should be sold before the estate was split. My personal experience is it’s incredibly difficult to properly value everything in a farm business and incredibly expensive to set up from scratch. If you want to ensure equal inheritance this is the way to do it, but it runs the very real risk that none of the sons inherit sufficient to set up on their own.

What all of this (together with other evidence) suggests is that Elizabeth was very much a partner in this farm and that George cared deeply about his wife and all his young family.

Elizabeth took on the tenancy of the farm and by 1881, at the age of 64, had doubled the acreage. Her remaining children went on to marry well and all lived long fulfilling lives. Ten years later, in 1891, aged 74 she was living with her daughter, Ann, but was described as living by independent means. Ditto 1901 and 1911. Finally, at the age of 94, Elizabeth died on 31 July 1911. She lived almost half her life as a widow and had thrived. 


There are missing pieces to this story. I am sure there are documents concerning the passing of the tenancy and I know there’s a lot more I could write about the life of farmers at this time. However, the big gap for me is that I have no photo of Elizabeth. Despite this competent and, quite possibly, formidable woman reaching the grand old age of 94, I’ve found no trace of an obituary, her story or any photos. This blog is the start of a journey to rectify that.

With much gratitude to Nathalie Pithers for running the excellent Curious Descendants Club at which Tina Konstant ran such an inspiring story telling session that I spent the rest of the evening writing this blog and, of course, to Elizabeth Furniss & George Downs, my great, great, great grandparents through my paternal Grandad, for leaving me such a wonderful story to write.

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.

Postscript: it is through Sarah Stansfield that we “could” be descended from royalty.

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.