Month: November 2010

Amanuensis Monday – John Dawson (1768-1832)

Today I want to tell you about my 4xgreat grandfather John Dawson. He is the earliest Dawson relation I have found in Cowling, West Yorkshire. For a long time I believed that John was a local chap although I hadn’t been able to find any clues as to his birth or his parents.

More recently I have discovered via other researchers that it is highly likely that John actually comes from Clitheroe in Lancashire. Now for someone who believed that his roots were firmly set in Yorkshire the idea that I might orginate from Lancashire has been hard to take. But it may well be an opportunity for a later post when I have looked at the information available for the Dawson’s of Clitheroe in the future.

But for now I want to concentrate on John’s life in Cowling.

According to the IGI John Dawson married Ann Watson on 3rd May 1792 in Kildwick, West Yorkshire. I have an IGI burial record for John dated 16th October 1832 at Kildwick Parish Church.

On the 1841 census I found Ann indexed under the name of Davson. The IGI shows her burial also at Kildwick Parish Church on 9th July 1846.

John and Ann had nine children – Priscilla (1793); John (1795); James (1797); Thomas (1799); Alice (c1802); Elizabeth (c1804); William (c1806); Watson (c1808) and John (c1812).

The first John born on 31st May 1795 died the following year in July 1796.

The village of Cowling has had a number of textile mills over the years and this could be the subject of a post all on it’s own. However I want to talk about Ickornshaw Mill which was built in 1791. There is a very interesting story about John Dawson in connection with this mill. The following extract is from a book called Cowling A Moorland Parish written by the Cowling Local History Society and published in 1980.

Ickornshaw Mill

Ickornshaw Mill is the oldest mill still in use in Cowling, being built in 1791, on land bought by John Dehane of Kildwick from Hugh Smith, a yeoman farmer of Cowling who owned Upper Summer House Farm.

The mill was built in three months and a waterwheel was installed by Mr Dawson of Clitheroe who lodged at the public house in Ickornshaw. Here he fell in love with the barmaid whom he married, but as his family disinherited him, he stayed on in Cowling and acted as “engine tenter”, blacksmith and mill mechanic. His son and grandson followed in his footsteps tending the wheel for one hundred and ten years. The wheel was capable of 50-60 horse power, running 150-180 looms with the engine completely stopped. In 1910 the wheel was overhauled, after 119 years free of any major repairs, a fine testimony to the quality and craftmannship.

The mill whistle had to be blown at 5.30am to rouse the workers, and as the engine tenter thought this was an unearthly hour to get up, Mr Dawson having an inventive mind, built a contraption from old clocks, picking bands, a weaver’s beam, pieces of wire and a few loom weights which would perform the duty for him whilst he slumbered a little longer. He tried out his invention several times, but always being on hand in case it failed, and at last decided that there was no point in him having his “brainchild” working and being present himself. So, the following morning he decided to listen to his invention operating on its own. It started off at the correct time, but Mr Dawson quickly realised that it was not going to stop. However, it did bring the hands to work earlier that morning, anxious to see what all the noise was about. The contraption worked well for some considerable time, and was only terminated when Messrs. John Binns and Son took over the responsibility of rousing the neighbourhood with their own much louder whistle.

I really like this story and have a great fondness for John Dawson.

As mentioned in the extract above his son, John, took over from him. In the 1851 census this John Dawson’s occupation is shown as “mechanic”. In 1861 and 1871 he is described as “engine tenter”.

This John Dawson’s son…..also called John, took over from his father and continued to look after the wheel and the engine. I have found him on the 1871, 1881 and 1891 census records described as “engine tenter” – but so far I haven’t been able to find him in 1901. In 1881 and 1891 this John was living in Nelson and Barrowford respectively – about nine miles from Cowling – so he had a bit of journey in those days to get to the mill.

I am not the only Dawson to have found the story and the history really interesting. Here is a letter from Jas Dawson dated 3rd December 1937 published in the Craven Herald & Pioneer and reproduced here by Cowling Moonrakers. Jas seems to be the son of the last John Dawson to look after the wheel and engine. The letter was written shortly after the waterwheel had been dismanted and gives more history and information.


Ten loom weavers

This Sunday, 28th November is my mother’s 80th birthday.  So I thought I would take a look back to a time when she was 17 year’s old and working as a weaver in one of the local mills in Clitheroe, Lancashire.

Here is a newspaper article about changes to working practices recommended in a Cotton Manufacturers Commission report and Government White Paper.

The report and White Paper recommended a 20% increase in production mainly by weavers operating more looms.  The tradition was for weavers to operate 4 looms and the new plan was for them to operate 10 looms.

The article tells the story of “Mrs Lucy Eccles (53), weaver since she was nine years old, moved on to 10 looms a months ago.” and my mother Alice Musgrove.

“What it took Mrs Eccles 44 years to reach, 17 year old Alice Musgrove did it in 18 months.  Then she was training as a weaver with two looms.  Now she has 10 and is the champion wage earner among the younger weavers with £6 10s a week.”

Happy birthday mum – I hope you’ve saved up your wages to pay for lunch on Sunday.

Luckiest man alive?

All the torrential rain and flooding in Cornwall recently prompted me to dig out the newspaper clipping below.  This is an extract from the local paper in Clitheroe (Lancashire) published in 2000.  This particular piece looks back 50 years to 1950.  My dad, Graham Dawson (1930-2008) gets a mention – perhaps his first claim to fame.

To say my dad was a bit accident prone is perhaps an understatement.  Mind you the accidents were not always his fault.  However, enough for now – I will post again about my dad and mishaps.

Military Monday – Frederick Espley (1881-1916)

Frederick Espley was born c1881 in Biddulph, Staffordshire (England). His parents were Frederick Espley and Frances Espley (nee Owen) – my wife’s great grandparents.

Frederick served in the 2nd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. His service number was 9965 and he achieved the rank of Sergeant Major.

He was killed in action on 28 November 1916 serving in India.

Frederick is commemorated on the Madras 1914-1918 War Memorial at Chennai, India.  He is also commemorated on the war memorial in Tadcaster (Yorkshire, England). I believe that Frederick had moved to the Tadcaster area sometime after he married.

Chennai War Memorial

The memorial is in the Madras War Cemetery. It bears the names of more than 1000 servicemen who died during the First World War and lie in many civil and cantonment cemeteries in various parts of India where it is not possible to maintain their graves in perpetuity.

The Madras War Cemetery was created to receive Second World War graves from many civil and cantonment cemeteries in the south and east of India where their permanent maintenance could not be assured. The cemetery contains 856 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. (Information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website)

Married 88 years ago today

On 14 November 1922 my paternal grandparents were married at the Parish Church of Cononley in Yorkshire.

St John's Church, Cononley, North Yorkshire

Joseph Dawson was 19 and Alice Hurtley was 22.

Joseph’s occupation is listed as “engine cleaner”. His father James Dawson (see photograph in my gallery) was a “warp dresser”. There is no occupation shown for Alice and her father, James Hurtley is shown as a “farmer”.

The witnesses were James Dawson (Joseph’s brother) and Maggie Hurtley (Alice’s sister).

Joseph and Alice had two sons – Harry and Graham (my dad).

Grandad Joe and his work mates

As far as I know Joseph (or Joe as he was known) spent all his working life on the railway. As the marriage certificate shows he was an “engine cleaner” which is probably how he started. He worked on the railway during the golden age of steam and I know he was a fireman and a driver.

In the photograph Joe is standing up with his arms folded.  I don’t know when, where or why this photograph was taken – but I like it.

At some point Joe and Alice moved away from the Keighley area of West Yorkshire to Rotherham in South Yorkshire. That’s where my dad was born. They moved there because of Joe’s work on the railway. He worked for the London Midland & Scottish Railway company and then for British Rail after the railway was nationalised at the end of 1947.

Eventually Joe and Alice moved back to West Yorkshire and lived in Leeds.

Joe retired from the railway in the late 1960’s. I haven’t been able to track down his employment records yet – that’s on my “to do list”.

I’m not too sure about Alice’s working life. I do remember that she worked in the local newsagents / post office for many years on the estate where they lived in Leeds.

After retirement from the railway Joe had a part time job working sweeping up in the cloth room of the John Collier factory in Leeds. At that time in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s John Collier was still a big name in the clothing industry of West Yorkshire and was famous for made to measure men’s suits.

My first job after leaving school in 1969 was working in that same cloth room with my grandad. My job at the tender age of sixteen was hauling the rolls of cloth from the shelves and taking them to the “cutters” to cut out the suit lengths and taking the roll of cloth back to the storage shelves.

Joe passed away in July 1978 and Alice in May 1987.

Happy anniversary Joe and Alice.

Tied the knot 130 years ago today

St James Church, Clitheroe

Today in 1880 my great grandparents married in the Parish Church of St. James in Clitheroe, Lancashire.

Thomas Ainsworth Musgrove was 20 and Ellen Stowell was 19.

Thomas was a bachelor and worked as a spinner. Ellen was a spinster and her occupation is described as a carder. At the time of their marriage they were both living in Clitheroe, although Thomas was born in Darwen (about 16 miles away) and Ellen was born in Burnley (about 11 eleven miles away).

The two witnesses at the marriage were John Simeon Lord and Sarah Ellen Aspin. I don’t know anything about these two people. They don’t appear in my family tree so I am guessing that they were either friends or relatives that I haven’t traced yet.

In the 1891 census they were living at 79 Moor Lane, Clitheroe. Thomas was working as a cotton cloth marker and Ellen still as a cotton carder. In 1901 they were living at 62 Moor Lane, Clitheroe and Tomas was a cotton spinner.

Thomas and Ellen had seven children

Ellen 1881-1961

Mary Alice 1886-1952

Harry 1889-1976

Annie 1895-1989

Fred Ainsworth Stowell 1898-1975 – my grandfather

Robert 1885

Joseph Ainsworth Stowell 1888

 Happy anniversary Thomas and Ellen.

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy – Challenge #45 – Family History Resources

Craven’s Part In The Great War

I’ve just discovered this great website when I was looking for stories and information about my relatives who were in the Great War. The website is “respectfully and humbly dedicated to the memories of the men and women from the Craven district who gave their lives for king and country in the First World War, 1914 -1919”.

The site has lots of information and photographs of monuments.

Keighley & District Family History Society

This is the FHS that covers the area where my Dawson ancestors are from.

Keighley and District Family History Society was created in 1986 by a small group of individuals interested in researching Family History. They have a wide network of members from all around the globe and communicate with them regularly via the Journal, the Internet and the Exchange Journals we receive from other Societies. Family history is the focus of the society research, helping members to find out details of their own families.

A fantastic resource.

Wharfedale Family History Group

This is another useful family history group covering some of the area of Yorkshire that I am interested in researching. The group was founded in 1980 and is open to anyone interested in tracing their ancestry.

Craven Indexes

I have purchased copies of the Craven Indexes from this site. They have proved extremely helpful in my research. Definitely check this out if you have roots in the Craven district of Yorkshire and Lancashire.


Cowling Web is a free website dedicated to Cowling Village, it’s inhabitants, history and the surrounding area known as Cowling Parish. This is the home of my Dawson ancestors and this website is my favourite resource for information about the local area.

There is current news and information but most important for genealogists and local historians there is a huge amount of information, stories and photographs.

Cowling Moonrakers

Another great website run by a group of friends interested in local history.