Icelandic volcanoes, snow and poverty in eighteenth century Arncliffe

Snow on Greenhow Hill – March 2023. If this is your photo, please let me know so I can credit you!

We’ve been sharing snowy pictures on the family whatsapp this week – one of my sister’s even shared a picture of some drifts which had formed at Greenhow Hill – a sign that some element of these stories is being absorbed. There was a bit of grumbling about school closures and disrupted travel plans but mostly it was delight in the white wonderland outside the window.

We, however, have solid, insulated, centrally heated homes, warm clothes and, even if tomatoes are scare, a functioning food system. Our 18th century ancestors had none of these things. The poorest amongst them were living in shabbily built huts where the cold wind whistled through both open spaces for light and gaps in the walls, roofs and doors. Clothing was limited and threadbare, food dependent on what a daily wage would provide. Winters, a daily struggle to survive.

It might well have been snowing when Sarah (Dickinson) & John Windsor married at St Oswald’s in Arncliffe on 15 January 1771 but there would have been comfort in hearing the old bell, already 400 years old, pealing out loud and clear down Skirfare valley. In their first few years of married life Sarah & John made regular, happy, trips to the church to see their children christened. Mary (our 4x great grandmother) was the first to arrive, baptised on 23 February 1773. She was followed by Jane (ch. 24 July 1774), Issabella (ch. 7 July 1776), John (ch. 9 November 1777) and Sarah (ch. 7 May 1780). Sadly Sarah survived only a few weeks and was buried on 10 June 1780. Still four children out of five surviving infancy was pretty good odds in the late eighteen century.

St Oswald’s church, Arncliffe, courtesy of an ex-colleague Steve Roecliffe.

In the church baptism records John is listed as John Junior, recognising another, older, John Windsor who was also producing children at this time. However, it also tells us that John Junior did not have another distinguishing factor such as a trade or a farm tenancy. The family’s ability to survive would have depended on both John & Sarah working every day that work was available.

When baby William was baptised on 6 July 1783, news of the violent eruption of the Laki volcano in Iceland may not even have reached Arncliffe. Arncliffe was a bit of a backwater – it was still using the Gregorian calendar to record baptisms and burials thirty years after we officially adopted the Julian one. The sulphur dioxide gas smothered Europe, blocking ports and increasing deaths amongst outdoor workers. It was disastrous for Iceland, some 20 – 25% of the population were to die as a result of both the immediate explosions and the following famine.  But in Arncliffe, far from the sea and protected by hills? The understanding of a volcanic winter is a new one.

Temperatures dropped by an average of 1OC and the winter of 1783 – 1784 was especially severe. In the UK alone it is estimated to have caused an additional 8,000 deaths. Based on Sarah & John’s experience, and that of the parish of Arncliffe as a whole, it seems this number could be significantly understated.

Extract from “The Registers of the Ancient Parish of Arncliffe including those of Halton Gill and Hubberholme 1663 – 1812” transcribed and edited by William Arthur Shuffrey M. A. 1910 for 1783/4.

Burials in Arncliffe for the year 1783 (meaning 25 March 1783 to 24 March 1784) were approximately double those in the preceding five years. Amongst them were John (bu. 10 January 1783/4, aged six), William (bu. 16 January 1783/4, not yet one) and Jane (bu. 21 January 1783/4, aged eight), all children of John Windsor, now described as “a poor man.”

When families faced starvation in the eighteenth century, food for was prioritised for the workers to ensure they could keep earning. John, as the adult male, would have been first, Sarah, as an adult female, second. Mary, the eldest child, would have been eleven and she too, would have been contributing financially, and, presumably, fed. Assuming all three were out looking for any available work that would have left eight year old Sarah in charge of three shivering, starving children. Records don’t show whether it was starvation or sickness which killed the three children in just two weeks, but I am sure it was Laki.

After that long, cold winter life improved for the Windsors, at least as far as the next generation were concerned. Sarah & John had three more children: James (ch. 13 November 1784). Barnabas (ch. 23 July 1786) and finally Betty (ch. 21 October 1792) who was likely younger than her niece Jenny, Mary’s oldest child. Whilst I haven’t yet been able to trace what happened to Isabella & Betty, James & Barnabas both moved to Leeds, learnt trades, had families and lived long lives. Mary married Richard (2) Wellock and became part of my Wellock story. Together they re-established the Wellock family link to High Garnshaw and went on to have around fifty grandchildren including our own great great grandfather Richard Wellock. I am the legacy of the hard choices which Sarah & John faced during that bleak winter of 1783 and I am grateful for them.

What surnames can add to the knowledge of our beginnings

We begin our family history journey at the end. There are many logical reasons for this, for after all, what would be the beginning? The generationally oldest ancestors? I believe I know something about eighteen 12x great grandparents who lived in the 1500s but far from enough to make their life interesting and what about the other 8,174 of them (endogamy aside)? DNA? Mine simply supports what I already know – my ancestors are mostly from Yorkshire. However, there is one other angle, that of surnames which can provide an insight into ancestors much further back than we will ever be able to prove.

In this article, the numbers born refer to the period from the start of civil registration, currently transcribed on freebmd (1837 – 1992 approx). The counts for the first seven surnames were taken on 3 August 2022, for more distant ancestors on 29 November 2022.


Jesse Houseman (Grandma’s Dad)’s signature at the end of a letter to his landlord. 1920. Own collection.

Born a Houseman, like my Grandma, I plan to die as one. Although I’m resorting to changing my name back by deed poll whilst my Grandma just married a Houseman. As the subtitle to my website notes “it’s who I am.” It is, though, only my second favourite surname. Largely, I think, because it’s already been well-researched and I am forever grateful to Gary Houseman who proved the link between my two paternal grandparents.

Whilst this surname is believed to originate from an occupation, from someone working at or associated with the local “great” house, it is relatively uncommon and highly geographically concentrated. 43% of the 2,651 Housemans born in England & Wales between 1837 and 1992 (as counted on 3 August 2022) were born in Yorkshire counties and of these there is only one branch who are not directly related. I was delighted to find that the one family in Yorkshire who are not related by blood can still be connected into my tree as William Shaw Houseman (b. 1848) who’s father, Robert, was born in London, married Hannah Smith, who’s mother was a Houseman!


Grandpy’s entry in my autograph book. 1985. Own collection.

By contrast, I’ve never felt the same connection to my mother’s maiden name. It crops up too often for me to be sure I’ve found the right family. There’s even a shoe store which carries the name. Our Barretts had the audacity to originate from Gloucestershire and it’s Norman in origin. Sorry Grandpy, I love you, but it’s not a surname that holds my attention.


Nana’s Booth signature at the front of her own autograph book. c. 1939. Own collection.

Nana’s birth name.

Many years ago I spotted a beautiful seventeenth century wooden tray painted with the names of a Booth family. £400 was an awful lot of money but I was severely tempted, convinced the family would be related somehow. Whilst I still hold a slight sense of regret the chances that the tray family were in anyway related is slim to non-existent for there were nearly 50x as many Booths born as Housemans.

Booth is considered to be a northern name (over a quarter of those registered births were in Yorkshire) originating from the old Danish word “bōth” meaning a temporary shelter such as a cattle-herdsman’s hut. We were cattle keepers, probably the most appropriate of our surnames throughout my paper history. It also accounts for the 2% of Swedish & Danish ancestry in my Mum’s DNA profile.

Booth is also one of the two surnames I planned to use if I was ever to write under a pen name, which leads me onto….


Ernest Moody (Nana’s grandfather)’s autograph from Nana’s book. 1939. Own collection.

Nana’s mother’s birth name and the other pen name I would choose.

From the Middle English mody meaning ‘proud, haughty, angry, fierce, bold, brave, or rash’ not grumpy as it is now.

I broke freebmd trying to work out what percentage of people had been born in Yorkshire, but in the 2021 census, Yorkshire was home to about 9% of the population of England & Wales so essentially anything over 10% represents a northern bias and Moody, at 14% is no exception.

But as for Moodys being proud & haughty? This was the most unassuming branch of our family tree. We’d obviously not inherited those genes.


Mary (Pollie) Wellock, Grandpy’s mother. From her date book. 1907. Own collection.

Grandpy’s mother’s birth name.

I love the Wellock surname. Most recently it’s enabled a wonderful Canadian adventure. Every Wellock alive today can be traced back to just two men. They are either descendants of Henry (born in the late 1500s in Kirby Malham) or of Robert (b. c. 1546 in Linton in Craven). The two are undoubtably related but I am always disappointed when a Wellock is descended from Henry.

Common thinking is that Wellock is a derivation of de Wheelock suggesting Norman ancestry, but given that the Wellock (or Walock) name is only held by those from Craven, Yorkshire, my interest stops there.


John Scott (Grandma’s grandfather) from his will dated 1920. Own collection.

Grandma’s mother’s birth name.

Ultimately it’s a man from Scotland. Which could mean anything. Weirdly, my Mum’s DNA contains a lot of unexplained Scottish DNA whilst my paternal Uncle’s contains none. It’s also the most common surname amongst my great grandparents. Combine it with John and you’ve got a genealogical nightmare. So I just feel grateful that I’ve been able to trace this line as far back as my 6x great grandfather, John Scott, born in the early to mid 1700s in Branton Green, North Yorkshire.


Martha (Handley) Clapham (Grandad’s grandmother)’s signature from the 1911 census. Own collection.

Grandad’s mother’s birth name.

The last of my great grandparents surnames is slowly gaining my attention. Growing up there were a lot of Claphams and I thought it must be a common name. But there were under 10,000 of them born between 1837 and 1992 and of those, over 40% were born in Yorkshire. Which explains why there were a lot of them about when I was growing up.

More interestingly (for me), I have Claphams on my maternal side too – my 5x great grandmother, Elizabeth Clapham was born in Lawkland about three miles from the village of Clapham.

Given that Clapham is believed to originate from the name of a village that could suggest a connection for whilst there are Clapham villages and (different) family branches originating as far away as Bedfordshire, Surrey, Sussex and even Devon, my Grandad’s mother’s family had been slowly tracking south and east away from the original Clapham village. 

Could this be the elusive connection between my Mum & my Dad’s family trees?

Earlier generations

Going back to my 3xG grandparents adds a further twenty-four surnames. It seems I’m unlikely to ever find a familial connection to my friends Sarah Walker & Helen Cooper (being the two most popular surnames in my tree with over 300,000 of each of them born). There were fullers and coopers in almost every village from which these surnames derive.

There are some though which will be worthy of further exploration.

  • Stansfield, Furniss and Hinchcliffe are all relatively rare. They are locational surnames recognising people from Stansfield (near Todmorden), Furness (Cumberland) and Hinchliff (near Holmfirth) so it is not surprising that around 50% of these births were in Yorkshire. Each one might give me a hint as to where the families originated from. Each also has a number of different variants and the exact spelling could be useful in tracing my line.
  • I grew up surrounded by Beecrofts and they pop up on both sides of my tree so was surprised to learn how uncommon the name was both generally and in Yorkshire. It’s a locational name based on an apparently “lost” village named “beo-croft” meaning bee farm. Tracing potential locations in the region could help me bring together the two sides of my family.
  • Down to those names with fewer than 5,000 children born. Teal has my favourite origin story, as it is thought to be a nickname, meaning like a water-bird. One of my distant ancestors must have been graceful in their deportment. The Teal variant of the name is also strongly associated with Yorkshire with over half those born being from Yorkshire.
  • There were fewer Reynards born than Housemans. Reynard does not in fact mean fox-like, but rather a popular medieval story book fox character was given this name and it stuck. It’s a surname with a number of variants, but 64% of the people born carrying the surname in this form were from Yorkshire meaning I stand a good chance of bringing them together in one tree.  
  • And finally, my favourite 3xG Grandmother, Hannah Demaine, keeps on giving. Surprisingly, given it means someone from the ancient French province of Maine, it’s a surname even more rare than Wellock and just as heavily concentrated in Yorkshire. The variant Demain, which I have also seen, only adds a few hundred births. This family of agricultural labourers are about as far from a Norman knight as it is possible to be and has whetted my appetite to research further.

There are a few more ancient names I should mention as being gateway surnames that have enabled me to reach back much further than I would otherwise have done: Wigglesworth, Hebden and Swale are all locational from Yorkshire. Pettyt leads me to a cousin, William, appointed Keeper of the Records in the Tower of London in 1689, who invented a wonderful family history claiming descent from King Arthur and might provide a connection to my oldest friend, Andrea (nee Petty). Finally, there’s Inglesant is a rare example of a surname derived from a woman demonstrating the strength of my female ancestry right back into the medieval ages.   

And so it is that my beginnings reflect the end. It’s an (almost) Yorkshire story.

With much gratitude to Natalie Pithers for her two prompts, beginnings & surnames, which led to this blog and to all my ancient ancestors for picking such wonderful surnames.

What the 1921 census told me that I didn’t know

I’ve been cautious about the 1921 census. £3.50 for each page. Half the price of a GRO certificate, double that of a will. And unlike both of those I know that it will be available within a standard subscription at some point in the future. (I am still considering taking out a premium subscription for findmypast – had they made this clear a couple of years ago I was ready to transfer my allegiance from ancestry, but since then I’ve invested even more in building my family tree on that platform, so it’ll be even more of an effort to transfer over).

I also had to manage my own expectations about what I would find. It wasn’t a helpful year for our family. Grandpy was a few months old, but none of my other grandparents had been born. Grandad arrived just five days later and Grandma the following month. Nana’s parents were not yet even married. All my great grandparents were around, but I knew where they were. Four of my great great grandparents would be missing, being four of the least well researched. I am grateful that the general strike which postponed this census did not affect the possibility of seeing the last of my great, great, great grandparents in the census as Martha (Handley) Clapham died on 29 March 1921. In other words, this census, unlike previous censuses, only really covered three generations about whom I already knew quite a lot.

I narrowed my purchases down to just the ten relating to direct ancestors alive at the time. One grandparent, eight great grandparents and twelve great great grandparents. Twenty one in total which is kind of apt.

Richard Walker, Mary (Wellock) & George Thomas Barrett

1921 census from findmypast including Richard Walker, Mary (Wellock) & George Thomas Barrett

Grandpy (Richard Walker Barrett) was always going to be the first person I searched for. And yes, it was super cute to see him recorded for posterity aged just three months. It also allowed me to tick off his parents Mary (Wellock) and George Thomas Barrett. But I already knew they had lived at Scalebar Farm in Gargrave when Grandpy was born and it wasn’t either Toft Gate, Greenhow Hill nor Upper West End Farm, Stainburn the two farms with which this family is most closely associated. I didn’t know that Uncle Henry had been born at Greenhow Hill which gives me a possible date for when they might have taken on the tenancy of Scalebar, but the rest of the data on this page is all well documented elsewhere.

Mary (Walker) & Richard Wellock

1921 census from findmypast including Mary (Walker) & Richard Wellock

Possibly the least interesting was that relating to my Wellock great great grandparents. I could have filled in this entire form myself.

Jane (Brooks) & Henry Barrett

1921 census from findmypast including Jane (Brooks) & Henry Barrett

Whilst there was nothing new to be learnt about Grandpy’s Barrett grandparents, Jane (Brooks) & Henry Barrett, it was lovely to see a reference to William Henry Barrett. William served his country during WW1. It was only a couple of years ago that I learnt of his existence for he died from tuberculosis in 1924 and may have disappeared were it not for census records.

Then there are visitors. Amy, a niece of Henry’s went on to marry her fellow visitor, Henry M Chambers, thirty-four years her senior, but not until 1930, by which time, Henry was 74 and Amy had been his domestic help for at least twenty years. Amy suddenly made it onto my list of sibling & cousin stories to explore.

Marion, Annie (Bentley) & Ernest Moody

1921 census from findmypast including Marion, Annie (Bentley) & Ernest William Moody.

Unlike our other grandparents, Nana wasn’t even a twinkle in 1921. Her parents weren’t even to marry for another four years.

The Moody family (Nana’s maternal side) was the second census I looked for, mainly to check out the lodger. There’s a family rumour that the youngest son, George, may not have been Ernest’s and whilst I have a different interpretation it was rather satisfying to find the same Tom Atkinson, who was with the family in 1911, still living with the family on Lodge Terrace. George was born in between the two censuses so if a lodger was the father, then this was certainly he.

Edith Moody at work. Colourised using myheritage. Own collection.

More excitingly still (and that which I consider to be “the” finding of the 1921 census) was the listing of Aunty Edie’s occupation and workplace as blanket weaver for Clayton Brothers, Coxley, Netherton. Finally, I was able to put some context to the photo I had inherited. These were factory girls.

Arthur, Sarah (Cooper) & Thomas (Butterworth) Booth

1921 census from findmypast including Arthur, Sarah (Cooper) & Thomas (Butterworth) Booth

On to Nana’s father’s family, the Booths. Whilst there is very little here which I didn’t know, it was good to have further confirmation of certain details such as Sarah’s birthplace where I had previously considered different options. However, Arthur’s workplace on a nearby farm is new and something worth doing further work around. Scales Farm clearly couldn’t support the whole family. I have an intriguing photo of Arthur as a young man together with a group of men of varying ages. As much as I would love this to be of Arthur, Thomas & other relatives, it is just as likely to relate to his 1921 employer.

Mary Abigail (Clapham) & George Houseman, Mary Ann (Wilkinson) & Samuel Clapham

Figure 52: 1921 census from findmypast including Mary Abigail (Clapham) & George Houseman

Switching sides to my Dad’s parents.

I perhaps shouldn’t have such low expectations of Grandad’s family given that it is through Grandad that I have found both a proven link to women’s suffrage through Martha Clapham (aka Maria Greevz) and a rather more spurious link to royalty but the 1921 census did nothing to help change my opinion. If only Grandad had been born five days earlier.

Mary Abigail (Clapham) & George Houseman (Grandad’s parents) are to be found at Fairfield Farm with their children. George was the oldest of my great grandparents by some fifteen years, so it is no surprise that both his parents had died more than a decade earlier. Mary Abigail was the next youngest and her parents Mary Ann (Wilkinson) and Samuel Clapham are both to be found farming at North Rigton.

1921 census from findmypast including Mary Ann (Wilkinson) & Samuel Clapham

Hilda Mary (Scott) & Jesse Houseman

1921 census from findmypast including Hilda Mary (Scott) & Jesse Houseman

Grandma was born just over a month after the census was taken. I do rather smile at her mother, the rather smart Hilda Mary, being caught on paper at eight months pregnant – I feel certain she would never have allowed herself to be photographed at this stage. But rather more importantly are the birthplaces of Grandma’s older sisters, Muriel (born in Thirsk, home of Hilda’s parents) & Jessie (born in Birstwith) plus the actual recorded address (Park Head, Norwood). There’s potentially more movement in Hilda & Jesse’s early married years than Grandma either knew or properly recorded.

Maria (Reynard) Scott

Figure 55: 1921 census from findmypast including Maria (Reynard) Scott

Of all my great, great grandparents, Maria (Reynard) & John Scott were the only pair who came close to being upper middle class. Remember this was the generation who were born twenty years into Queen Victoria’s reign, class mattered, and Maria epitomised this age. It is from her I have inherited the classic middle-class Victorian photo album (for which I am very grateful!). Hilda, her daughter, though always smart, was also quoted, by my Grandma, to have “married down”. Here, in 1921, we see Maria in her element. She’s my only female ancestor to head a household in this census, proudly describing herself as “head” and “farmer” and her son as only “farm manager” working for “Mrs Scott.” Her husband, John, had been dead for a year and there was no sense of handing over control here.   

This census also neatly links in the Housemans. Whilst I already know that Maria’s daughter, Laura, married her sister’s husband’s uncle, future generations may not and the 1921 neatly demonstrates a sister who is also an aunt.

Amelia (Bradbury) Houseman

1921 census from findmypast including Amelia (Bradbury) Houseman

I am pretty certain that Grandma inherited her matriarchal tendencies from both her Grandmothers but Amelia (Bradbury) Houseman’s appearance in the 1921 census completely cloaks this.

I end this tour with the most unfairly represented of all my ancestors in the 1921 census. Amelia was rightly recorded as retired and living with her daughter and son-in-law, at Lime Street in Harrogate, where she was to live for the remainder of her life. The census says nothing of the thirty years following her husband’s death during which she continued to run the family farm both alone and in partnership with one or more of her sons. It is also silent of her fight against the 1920 rent increases which ultimately forced her to retire and left her, as a woman, disenfranchised in the 1922 election, the first in which women could vote.  

Are the 1921 censuses worth the money? I can only speak to someone who knew a lot about her twenty-one ancestors who were living at the time.  Two (Maria (Reynard) Scott & Amelia (Bradbury) Houseman) reinforced the impression I have held, that the women in our family have always been matriarchs. Two (Hilda Mary (Scott) & Jesse Houseman and Arthur Booth) will lead me to better map the places my ancestors lived and worked). One (that of Jane (Brooks) & Henry Barrett containing Amy Barrett) leads me to an intriguing story, albeit of a cousin, and one (that of the Moodys) was pure gold – helping both confirm the lodger of family legend and explain an intriguing photo.  

With much gratitude to Natalie Pithers who runs the Curious Descendants for setting twenty-one as today’s challenge.

Isabella Preston (1814 – 1886) & Thomas Wellock (1810 – 1885)

“Isabella” Thomas cried out and, not for the first time, the woman laid by his side wondered whether he called, not for her, but for his first wife.

Why did so many of my male ancestors choose to marry two women with the same name? Whether it was a subconscious act, a natural affinity due to the love of a first spouse or pure coincidence it often serves to further obscure the second wife from view. It would make more sense if the name were Mary (41,397, or roughly 17%, of all girls born in 1840, had a name that started with Mary), Elizabeth (11%), Sarah (9%) or Ann (8% including Anne & Annie) but Isabella? There were only 1,881 of those.

Fortunately for me Thomas Wellock’s first wife, Isabella Ward, was one of only two brick walls amongst my great, great, great grandparents. (The other, Elizabeth Dean, was illegitimate, married far from her home town and died after only one census making her much more difficult, although ultimately possible, to trace). Continuing to search for any clue as to her parents might be, I re-checked my research against a much wider range of websites and, thanks to Wharfegen, discovered the existence of Isabella Preston, Thomas’s second wife and my great, great, great grandmother.

Our Isabella was born c. 1814 (baptised on 11 September 1814) in Stainforth, which sits within the parish of Horton in Ribblesdale, the daughter of Agnes Sidgewick & John Preston. She was christened at Horton in Ribblesdale on 11 September 1814, the youngest of at least five children – Agnes & John were 41 & 43 at the time of her birth. Agnes & John were farm servants, agricultural labourers, and survived on the slenderest of margins.

I know little about Isabella’s early life or that of her siblings. Unusually the girls are the only ones I’ve been able to trace post their initial arrival into the world. The eldest, Dorothy (born in 1798) died, aged just sixteen. The youngest, Margaret, seems to have left more of a mark. Whilst she was married & widowed prior to civil records, she was the one who registered the deaths of both parents and must have nursed both in their final days. Then, after acting as housekeeper for her brother-in-law, Isaac Garnett, she went on to help him run the Queen’s Arms in Litton, possibly taking over when Isaac died.

Thomas’s upbringing was less precarious. Born in 1810, the ninth of eleven children of Mary Windsor & Richard Wellock. His father farmed 40 acres at High Garnshaw in Linton – not wealthy by any stretch, but comfortable enough and whilst Thomas did not inherit this particularly farm tenancy his upbringing was his apprenticeship for future.

Thomas and his first wife, Isabella (Ward) were married on 2 June 1836 in Consitone. Two children quickly followed. A little too quickly in the case of Jeffrey who was born either late in 1836 or early in 1837 in Starbotton and then Helen followed in nearby Calton in late 1837/early 1838. By the time of the 1841, the couple were both living in Gargrave although not in the same property. I would guess that Thomas, as an agricultural labourer, was living on a farm and Isabella was living in the village with their two children possibly as a result of Isabella’s health, for she was to die of consumption, aged just 26 on 10 June 1842 (by which time the family appear to have moved to Arncliffe).

Whilst the villages of Conistone, Starbotton, Calton, Gargrave and Arncliffe are all broadly in the same area, they different addresses suggest that Thomas was moving around struggling to secure a stable appointment.

1841 census from Conistone showing Isabella Preston, her parents Agnes & John as well as George Wellock, brother to Thomas. From ancestry.

They also constitute an intriguing link to our Isabella. For in 1841, our Isabella, is living in Conistone with her father who is described as an invalid. Her mother, aged 68, was still working, living a couple of doors away. Isabella’s sister, Margaret, was living in Arncliffe which was where Isabella’s parents had started life before moving to nearby Conistone. Could the two Isabellas have been friends? Also, on the same page in the 1841 census as the Preston family was a 40-year-old farmer, George Wellock, brother to none other than our Thomas. Conceivably, Thomas could have started working in Conistone and met both Isabellas there, choosing to marry the younger first and returning for the older later.  Or alternatively, Isabella and her sister may have returned to Arncliffe to live with her sister Margaret, after Isabella’s father, John, died.

For Thomas didn’t wait around and just over a year after the first Isabella died, on 25 November 1843 at St Oswald’s in Arncliffe (again) our 3xg grandparents were married. Their first child, Richard (our ancestor), was born in Halton Gill in 1844 but their second child, Agnes, (born on 10 October 1846) was baptised in Burnsall and signalled the start of a new chapter for the Wellock family.

The different birthplaces of Richard & Agnes allow us to date Thomas’s appointment as farm manager for Captain Henry Blake of Manor Farm, Rylstone to between 7 April 1844 and 10 October 1846. This was to be an important appointment. Benjamin Wellock (Thomas & Isabella’s grandson through their son, Richard) wrote the following in his family memoirs. “After his [Thomas] marriage to a woman named Isabella Preston, he continued in farm work as a married man at Rylstone, his employer being one Captain Blake, an aristocratic gentleman farmer at that time. I have a photograph of Captain Blake and my grandfather holding a cow, taken at Rylstone in 1858.” Just this month, I randomly typed Wellock into The Museum of English Rural Life’s search engine and up popped an entry “Thomas Wellock and Captain Blake at Rylstone, Skipton, Yorkshire, with letter.” Bless him, great, great Uncle Benjamin had submitted the photo for publication in the Farmers Weekly as part of a series called Country Cavalcade ensuring it’s longevity. It becomes only the second 3x great grandparent for whom I have a picture. I only wish I knew who had inherited the original.

The family most probably moved into Manor Cottage. Built in the mid-17th century, Manor Cottage is a large solid house, believed to be the original manor before Manor Farm was built. This is possibly why, in addition to Thomas & Isabella’s growing family, it was also home to several boarders including, in 1861, a young woman named Nancy Serjeanston. Nancy, deaf & dumb from birth was to continue to live with the Wellock family until her death in 1891. Two more children were to arrive whilst the family lived at Rylstone, Benjamin Preston in 1851 and David in 1853.

Rylstone was to be home for over 15 years until, in 1861, Thomas took over the lease of Toft Gate, a 150 acre farm at Greenhow Hill where Thomas & Isabella were to live out their lives.

Prize winning chickens at the third annual Christmas Show in Pateley Bridge – Richmond & Ripon chronicle, 30 December 1882, downloaded from

They were well respected members of the community with Thomas being elected as the Bewerley representative on the local board of Guardians of the Poor. But it was the prizes for best chickens at the local agricultural show with a special gold medal prize for Thomas’s Cochin Chinas which made me smile – rearing chickens and entering shows being a family tradition that has continued down the generations.

Their time at Toft Gate wasn’t without heartache. Thomas & Isabella’s youngest son, David, suffered from a congenital heart defect and died aged just 17 in 1871. Their grandson, Richard died, aged four, in 1872. Richard (son of Richard) had lived with his grandparents for a period of time in 1871 and the family still lived close by.

A decade later, on 3 December 1883, came the accidental death of their son, Benjamin Preston, leaving a widow and five children. Benjamin was farming with his father at the time. I feel that this tragedy may have caused Thomas & Isabella’s final declined. For just over a year later, on 28 January 1885, Thomas died, aged 75, of pneumonia. Isabella followed just over a year later on 1 May 1886, aged 72 of “senility”. They are buried together in St Mary’s churchyard, Greenhow Hill.

Thomas Wellock’s death notice – Knaresborough Post, 31 January 1885, from

There is one final part to Thomas & Isabella’s story which the couple could not have known at the time they died and that is one of emigration. At least six of their shared grandchildren and one of their great-grandchildren were to emigrate (mainly to Canada but one went to Australia and one to the US). This in turn became part of the reason I was so interested in family history and ultimately led to this blog being written!

Isabella & Thomas are my 3xg grandparents through their son, Richard, father of Mary, mother of Grandpy. With much gratitude to this couple, for somehow instilling a sense of adventure in their children, to Benjamin Wellock for ensuring Thomas’s photo was published in the farmers weekly back in 1952 thus ensuring its survival and to the Rylstone History Project for their wonderful mapping of the buildings (and inhabitants) of Rylstone.

A Wellock divorce in 1899

Reader warning: what follows is a story of domestic cruelty and may be upsetting to some people. Domestic abuse still happens today. Any woman (or man) who experiences this deserves all our support. The citizens advice bureau provides an excellent list of those who you can contact for help whether you are male, female, straight, gay, young or old. Please reach out.

This story has also been published on A Few Forgotten Women.

The first page of the court minutes pertaining to the divorce of Ellen & George Wellock. All court records have been taken from an collection.

This is the story of how a young woman from Yorkshire, Ellen Richmond, succeeded in divorcing her violent, abusive, adulterous husband, George Wellock, in 1900.

George Wellock was guilty of habitual cruelty…through his continued cruelty your Petitioner had a miscarriage on two occasions….seized your Petitioner by her neck, knocked her against the wall and threatened to jump on her and deprive her of her life and at the same time he struck her violently on the face and arms several times…apprehended…on a charge of committing indecent assault upon a young girl named Pollard

Thus reads the 1899 petition for divorce by Ellen (Richmond) Wellock. Yet these horrific descriptions of domestic abuse were insufficient support on their own for Ellen to obtain a divorce without also providing evidence of the husband’s adultery, proof that George was to inadvertently provide through his own defence in the trial for the “indecent assault upon a young girl named Pollard”.

A brief history of divorce

First a brief canter through the history of divorce. Prior to the Matrimonial Clauses Act of 1857 divorce could only be granted by way of an Act of Parliament, passed by both houses. Unsurprisingly it was both rare and hugely scandalous. It was also almost always brought about by the man. Just four of the 324 cases of divorce granted prior to 1857 were requested by women, none of which resulted in a happy outcome. (It’s well worth reading this piece by Amanda Foreman).

Post 1857, women gained the right to petition for divorce through to do so, unlike men, they needed to prove not only adultery but some other fault such as cruelty, rape or incest. They also had to have the necessary resources to travel to London to attend court, stood an extremely high likelihood of losing custody of any children and of course, as women were deemed to be chattels, left the marriage without any assets. The annual number of divorces stood at something under 300 at this point.

The Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 & 1882 were important staging posts. Proving divorce was still as arduous, but at least the woman stood a chance of obtaining custody of children and holding onto some of the assets she may have brought to the marriage. By the late 1890s the annual number of divorces had crept above 500, 40% of them brought by women.

According to the office of national statistics, 512 divorces were granted in 1900 of which 209 were brought before to court by women. One of these courageous, ground-breaking, women, Ellen Richmond, was somehow connected to our Wellock family, not once, but twice.

The cousins

Diagram showing the relationship between Ellen Richmond, George Wellock and our own Wellock branch. Own picture produced on miro.

The story starts with three cousins. The role of my own great, great grandfather, Richard Wellock, is simply to provide a connection to the other two cousins through his father, Thomas, the ninth child of my 4x great grandparents, Richard Wellock (1765 – 1849) and Mary Windsor (1772 – 1844). Richard & Mary had eleven children over a twenty-eight-year period (as an aside Mary really deserves a medal). Benjamin (1802 – 1867), the sixth, was father to the above-named George Wellock, Robert (1817 – 1902), the youngest child, was father to Richard, stepfather (and possible biological father) to one Ellen Richmond.

My 4x great grandparents, Richard & Mary, faced a bit of an embarrassment of riches. Of their seven sons, at least six survived to adulthood and had children of their own (as did two of their daughters). Blame the healthy Craven air. In this instance it seems that the family farm at High Garnshaw passed from Richard to his youngest son, Robert, and then onto Robert’s youngest son by his second wife, Jenkinson Wellock. Benjamin & Thomas had to make their own way, as did their nephew Richard (Ellen’s stepfather) but whilst Thomas found a farm high up in the dales, Benjamin made his way closer to Bradford via Calverley, setting the scene for what followed.

Benjamin married late, aged 38, to Margaret Calvert, a woman seventeen years younger than he. George was the baby of the family, born in 1860, when his father was already 58. Whilst he had sisters closer in age, his youngest brother was eleven years older than he which I expect made him a coddled baby. That was until his father died in 1867. Whilst Margaret kept the farm running through the 1871 & 1881 censuses (no doubt with the help of George) life would have undoubtedly become harder. I can speak from my own experience of the impact losing a father before you are ten can have although thankfully none of us has chosen violence as an outlet.

Let’s get back to Ellen. She’s not without her own “family history.” Born on 28 February 1866 in Ramsgill, it wasn’t until several months later that her mother, Jane Richmond, married Richard Wellock (the cousin). Whilst Richard always treated Ellen as his own daughter (she is described as such in the 1871 & 1881 censuses) the gap between birth and marriage would suggest he wasn’t the biological father as does the lack of any further children. (Childless marriages in the 1800s always intrigue me and Jane herself had already proved fertile leading me to presume the infertility was down to Richard). Ellen was a special only child.

Ellen & George would have met at a family gathering. She, the protected, impressionable (and possibly spoilt) woman charmed by an elder cousin who had a way with women & already knew the ways of the impossibly metropolitan city of Bradford. Was it years of dancing at family parties or a short whirlwind romance? Who knows. Whatever the circumstances, Ellen was smitten, and they married at the beautiful ancient St Andrews of Kildwick on 12 November 1889.

The copy of Ellen & George’s 1889 marriage certificate included within the divorce papers.

Which, according to Ellen’s petition, was the day on which her life as the only beautiful, protected daughter came to a violent, abrupt halt.

The couple’s first baby, Edith Ellen Richmond Wellock, arrived safely on 17 January 1891 and was duly baptised on 27 January 1891 at Laisterdyke in Bradford, her parents living at 31 Thornhill Terrace, George working as butcher. Ellen then suffered two miscarriages as a result of George’s violence, before the arrival of Mabel Jane on 7 February 1894. Mabel Jane is baptised at Eccleshill on 28 March, the baptism record noting the family’s place of residence as 99 Killinghall Road a few minutes’ walk from Thornhill Terrace.

The cycle of violence, pregnancy, violence and miscarriage may well have continued had George not also been a serial adulterer.

Late in 1894, George flirted with a young woman called Clarissa Crossland in his butchers shop, followed her home and didn’t return for a week. Next George met a woman called Pollard with whom he frequently cohabited between the end of 1895 & 1896.

By July 1896 the violence was escalating. Ellen had been forced to flee from the house to the relative safety of a neighbour and on 30 July, George threatened to kill her with a carving knife.

The following day George left, perhaps realising he had gone too far. He moved to Colne, changed his name to George Calvert (using his mother’s maiden name) and took up with a woman named Lizzie Stansfield. Ellen took her two daughters back to the safety of her parents’ home at Cragg Top Farm in Silsden.

This might have been the end of the matter had George not assaulted a young woman called Mary Elizabeth Pollard in February 1899. Mary was the daughter of the woman George had previously cohabited with. This time he was arrested (at the house of Lizzie Stansfield) and charged with indecent assault. He was eventually convicted of “just” common assault (of an underaged girl) and sentenced to six weeks imprisonment, the judge noting that he was “not strong enough to put to hard labour.”

Bradford Daily Telegraph – 23 February 1899. From the British Newspaper archive.

During the trial George had chosen to defend himself. I had thought this was down to money, but Anna Maxwell Martin’s recent WDYTA show suggested that a man might choose to do this simply to continue his cruelty – forcing the woman to submit to angry, manipulative questioning. George claimed the charge was a “put up job” because he had been cohabiting with Mrs Pollard. Suddenly Ellen had the evidence she needed to demonstrate adultery.

Albert Victor Hammond was an influential solicitor in Bradford, the founding partner of the law firm Hammond Suddards (now part of the international firm Squire Patton Boggs) against whom, co-incidentally, my sister & I used to play football in the late 1990s/early 2000s. Together with Wynne Baxter & Keeble of 9 Laurence Pountney Hill, London, they took Ellen’s case to court.

Yet even the trial was to test Ellen’s courage as in 1899 divorce cases were all held at what is now the Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand in London.

First Ellen faced a trip to London. By 1900 London was home to 5 million people, the capital of an empire. Even today I often provide a bit of advice for rural friends daunted by their first visit to the capital on where to stay, what to eat and how to get around. Ellen was unlikely to have known anyone.

Second there’s the court itself. Again, I know from personal experience how intimidating this place can feel with it’s grand entrance packed full of barristers dashing through with arms full of papers. Even with current signage it took me a while to find the room where the appeal in relation to my husband’s death was being held. I was glad not to be on my own.

John Gorrell Barnes, 1st Baron Gorell (‘Judges. No. 39’) by Sir Leslie Ward. Chromolithograph, published in Vanity Fair, 18 February 1893. NPG D44634 (c) National Portrait Gallery, London

Finally, there was the judge, Sir John Gorrell Barnes, who presided over the case. In his wig and gown, peering down from the judge’s chair, he would have terrified all but the most worldly and privileged of petitioners.

Yet the thought of gaining her freedom from a violent, abusive husband, must have sustained Ellen throughout.

George chose not to turn up and so the decree nisi was granted on 20 July 1899.

Of course, this was not the end of the ordeal for Ellen. Divorces were rare and still made the papers. Not just one paper, in Ellen’s case, but four, ensuring full coverage across both Yorkshire & Lancashire with the news being published even before Ellen had returned to Yorkshire. What’s more the papers mentioned only desertion and adultery as if the violence Ellen had suffered was unimportant. Such were the views of the time that many people would have thought Ellen to blame for not being able to keep her husband satisfied.

Newspaper article concerning the divorce published in the Yorkshire Evening Post on 20 July 1899 and repeated in the Burnley Express, Bradford Daily Telegraph and Lancashire Evening Post. From

The following year, on 5 February 1900, the decree absolute was granted and Ellen was finally free.

The other woman

George too, was free, and just six weeks later on 19 March 1900, he married the aforementioned Elizabeth Stansfield, calling himself a bachelor and not a divorcee.

Lizzie Stansfield has her own back story. An illegitimate child, her mother went on to a childless marriage to a Martin Stuttard, then travelled to America, had another illegitimate child Lewis Pratt, before returning to England to live with her daughter. George & Elizabeth had one son together and also appear to have raised Lewis who worked as a butcher’s assistant and died in WW1.  I hope Lizzie fared better than Ellen for, unlike Ellen, she did not have a family to support her.

Ellen’s remaining story

Ellen became a housekeeper before marrying a younger man from Scotland, James Neish Nielsen, in 1903.

The two daughters too fared well. Edith, the elder, married locally and had two sons and whilst the second of these died as an infant in 1932, the first went onto to have a family of his own. Mabel became a schoolteacher and a renowned educationalist, travelling the world to learn and to speak, eventually dying, unmarried, at the age of 81 in London.

Ellen’s gravestone with the description “dear wife.” Photo from findagrave.

Whilst the second half of Ellen’s life was not without further tragedy (James & Ellen’s second son, Richard, born in 1906, died in infancy and their first son died in 1937 aged 33) the relationship at least seemed a much happier one captured in the description “dear wife” on her memorial stone when she died aged 86 in 1952.

I think Ellen deserves more appreciation for the courage she showed over the course of her first marriage and divorce in part paving the way for others to hold abusive partners to account. I hope this blog goes some way to recognising this. With much gratitude to Ellen & her parents.

Whilst this is a story of Ellen’s courage, as much as it is of George’s violence, I understand that the content could be disturbing for living descendants. From online research I believe that both Ellen & George have living great grandchildren, but none who carry the Wellock surname and I have not used any of those newer surnames to avoid anyone making the connection. However, if you are a descendant and wish me to redact any part of this story, please do get in touch.

Nancy Serjeanston (1839 – 1891)

Rural Yorkshire is anything but silent. The birds arrive first, singing out as dawn approaches, then the cattle join in lowing gently ready to be milked. In winter the wind howls down the moors and if living on a village street there would be the creak of waggon wheels and welcoming words when passing a neighbour. For Nancy, though, there was only silence.

Extract from the 1861 census for Rilston showing the Wellock household including Nancy Serjeanston.

Nancy piqued my interest. I was rounding out the census details for Thomas and Isabella (nee Preston) Wellock by adding in all household members even the supposedly unrelated ones in case there was a connection I had missed. In these parts of Yorkshire, the so-called servants were often nieces, nephews or cousins. I wondered what “kept by subscription” meant?

Then I realised that the Nancy with the illegible name in the 1871 and 1881 Wellock family censuses was the same person and right at the end of the forms was the gold. “Deaf and dumb from birth.”

It appears that Nancy was “adopted” by my 3x great grandparents Thomas and Isabella Wellock and continued to live with the Wellocks for the remainder of her adult life. To begin with she was supported through parish contributions, but I can only presume from later records that she came to be considered part of the family.

I imagined that Nancy’s parents must have died when she was a child, but that was not to prove the case. Nancy (born in 1838) was the first of five girls both to Alice Litton and William Serjeanston of Skeld Gate, an area on the edge of Rylstone. Whilst Alice had died in 1854, William lived into his 80s. The feeling I had that these weren’t good parents was compounded by the 1851 and 1861 censuses. In 1851, eleven-year-old sister Mary was living with her uncle Silvester and in 1861 (by which time Nancy was living with the Wellocks) sister Alice was living with a different Uncle (and went on to marry his son, her cousin), sister Ann had died, and now it was sister Grace was working for Silvester’s son, William. But when faced with nothing but unrelenting rural poverty and a daughter who was deaf and dumb it is not fair to judge.

Nancy was in fact fortunate to be born when she was, for attitudes towards deaf children were changing. The first public school for deaf children had been established in Bermondsey in 1792 and in 1809, the first book of sign language for hearing children “Invited Alphabet: Or, an address of A to B” had been published by RR.

the school “mission” taken from The History of The Yorkshire Residential School for the Deaf 1829 – 1979 by Anthony J Boyce sourced from

The Yorkshire Residential School for the Deaf, Doncaster, became the sixth such school in existence when it was founded by the Rev. William Carr Fenton 1829. The first headmaster, Charles Baker, was to lead the school for 45 years and became hugely influential in the development of education for deaf children. This included, in 1834, persuading the Earl of Harewood to endeavour to include provision for the education of deaf children in the 1834 “Poor Law Amendment Act.” The Earl was not fully successful but did manage to get a clause included to allow Boards of Guardians to contribute towards the maintenance of the blind and the deaf.

This was Nancy Serjeanston came to be one of Charles Baker’s many pupils for a period including the 1851 census.

The school focused primarily on teaching the children to read and write, supplemented by signing. There was much less effort expending teaching deaf children to speak. Whilst Nancy’s whole world must have opened up at this point in her life the lack of speech would have remained an impediment for many people at that time could not read (including Thomas Wellock at the time of his marriage).

It appears that Nancy was not as successful as other pupils in finding independent employment after school as she was kept by subscription on her return. The only document to list her as having an occupation was the 1881 census where she was noted as being a domestic servant. But what is written about women is never the full story. As part of the Wellock farming household, Nancy would have had to work as hard as the rest of the family.

The 1880s weren’t a happy time for the Wellock family. Benjamin Preston, son of Thomas & Isabella died aged just 32 in a tragic accident in 1883 leaving a widow (Mary) and five children under the age of ten. Benjamin’s widow, Mary, moved to back to Wilsill near her own family and by 1891 Nancy had joined her. This may have been immediately after Benjamin died but I like to think it was after Nancy had nursed the elderly Thomas & Isabella who died in 1885 & 1886 respectively returning the love and support, the couple had given her. Nancy continued to live with Mary until her death from chronic pneumonia on 27 December 1891.

Nancy’s death certificate. Her death was registered by Mary (Bell) Wellock with whom she was living at the time.

Nancy has not been easy to research. Within the censuses her surname is variously recorded as Sergeanston, Serjeanston, Sangeson, Sorgson and Scrpanlton and only in the first, in 1841, is she living with her own family. Without direct descendants of her own, no-one is really looking that hard for her. It is only thanks to her long association with my own ancestors, Isabella & Thomas, who took her into their household, that I found and pulled on the tiny thread “kept by subscription.” Those with physical disabilities often feel invisible and it is a pleasure to write this short blog in the hope that it helps bring Nancy out of silence.

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.

Preserving through use

My broken engagement glass preserved through new uses.

When I broke the fifth of my eight engagement wineglasses, I was cross for a moment. But it broke cleanly. The bowl might make a beautiful flower display. More, those glasses have been used, a lot. They’ve been part of my life for nearly twenty-five years. The crossness I felt dissipated in a minute. The joy I feel in their use is with me every day.

Nana had a wedding china and an everyday crockery. When her arthritis got too bad to handle the “everyday” the Denby Arabesque came to me. I, too, use it every day. Except when my sister-in-law is here because she doesn’t like the scrape of cutlery against the crockery. I don’t even remember what Nana’s wedding china looks like.

A flyer for Denby Arabesque (Nana’s everyday crockery) taken from Denby Pottery pinterest site.

As the family heritage keeper, I have spent a fortune on proper archive materials along side weeks of time scanning and labelling. I don’t regret a moment.  And yet I know that photos in a box may not survive much longer than I. Instead, I rely on stories & connections to preserve our family heritage.

I preserve through stories. One sister confessed that she was only really interested in those she knew but then loved learning about our great, great grandfather’s political leanings. Another sister said she’d felt better to know about a pioneering divorce in 1899 (longest story that I tell a lot and will get written….). In their own ways my sisters had told me that stories were the way forward to preserve what I knew. Then I learnt that a printed version of this blog was making its way around my Dad’s cousins and I discovered the truth in this.

I preserve through connections with those who are connected to the things I wish to preserve. I’ve sent photos and other documents to those for whom they have meant more (my favourite is the Kings – friends of my great grandparents, Mary Wellock & George Thomas Barrett) but I had no idea how beautiful this could be until I reached out to my Canada “cousins”. I had a preserved image of their life here and of how their descendants would be. Some has proved to be true, much hasn’t – even the surname Wellock sounds different. In mingling our histories we created a new shared narrative rather than preserved the old and it has ensured that knowledge of our shared ancestors is recounted in future.

The Wellock homestead has disappeared, but in its place a new memory of distant relatives meeting to be preserved for future.

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.

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.