My Family

Posts about my family

Black Sheep Sunday – John Britliff (The Killing Field)

John Britliff is my wife’s 3x great grandfather. His name appears in records under various spellings – Britliff, Britliffe and Britcliffe. There are also numerous transcription interpretations from the census returns on both Ancestry and Find My Past. This certainly makes finding and following the family a bit tricky sometimes.

John was born about 1800 in or around Bonby, North Lincolnshire. I have his mother as Mary Britliff but have not been able to find a record of who his father might be.

On 26 November 1821 John married Sarah Rack in North Kelsey, Lincolnshire. They had at least ten children between 1824 and 1840.

In the 1841 census the family are living at North Owersby, Lincolnshire and John is working as an agricultural labourer. There are eight children at home.

Lincolnshire Chronicle Dec 1842

About twenty months later tragedy occurred as reported in the Lincolnshire Chronicle on Friday 2 December 1842.

A Wife killed by her Husband – On Sunday last, a tragical event took place at North Gullum farm, in the parish of North Owersby, near Market Rasen. A labourer of the name of John Britcliffe had some angry words with his wife, when in the moment of passion, he first beat her with a leathern belt, and then brutally kicked her on the lower part of the body. The unfortunate woman, who was far advanced in pregnancy, survived this ill-treatment but a few hours. An inquest was held on the deceased on Monday, before Mr. Marris, coroner, and a post mortem examination of the body by Mr. Smith and Mr. Hutchinson, of Caistor, surgeons, and after a long and patient investigation, the jury returned a verdict of manslaughter, and Britcliffe has been committed under the coroner’s warrant for trial at the next assizes. A family of nine children are left to mourn the loss of both parents.

We can never know what happened between John and Sarah to cause this terrible tragedy but certainly the lives of all the family were changed for ever.

In January 1843 a report in the Lincolnshire Chronicle says that “the seven children of John Britliffe, late of North Owersby, at present a prisoner in Lincoln Castle, on a charge of manslaughter, chargeable to the parish of North Owersby, were ordered to be removed to Nettleton, being their last legal settlement”.

The children are likely to have been taken to the Caistor Workhouse.

John next appears in court on Wednesday 8 March 1843. The report of the hearing is in the Lincolnshire Chronicle of Friday 10 March 1843.

Manslaughter at North Owersby

John Britcliffe, 42, pleaded guilty to an indictment charging him with the manslaughter of his wife, Sarah Britcliffe. The prisoner received a good character from Mr. Brooks, a farmer at Croxby. 10 year’s transportation.

He was held in Lincoln Castle until the beginning of April 1843 when he was removed for transportation together with a number of other prisoners as the following report from the Lincoln Chronicle of Friday 7 April 1843 says.

TRANSPORTS – On Friday last, Lieut. Nicholson, governor of Lincoln castle, removed from thence the first portion of convicts sentenced to transportation at the last assizes, viz: to the Warrior hulk, Woolwich, John Nicholson, John Sims, John North, Edwd. Copeland, and John Butting for life; John Britcliffe, Leonard Boyall, and Ambrose Brown for ten years; David Dickenson and James Smith for seven years; to Pentonville model prison, William Potts and Hy. Scott.

There are various sets of records about convicts and transportation on family history and other websites. However I have not yet been able to find John Britcliffe in any of these. So  I don’t know where he was transported to – I am guessing Australia or Tasmania.

I really wanted to try and find out what happened after his transportation because eight years later John appears to be back in Lincolnshire. I have him in the 1851 census living at Hayes Farm in Redbourn and working as a shepherd.

This raises a whole host of questions for me, for example:-

  • Did he really get transported?
  • If he did get transported for 10 years how come he is back in England after 8 years?
  • Did he get a “certificate of freedom” for good behaviour after serving part of his sentence?
  • How did he afford the fare back to England?

Also in the 1851 census two of his children – Joseph (b 1840) and William (b 1839) are still at the Union Workhouse in Caistor.

The story becomes more interesting when this article about the Lindsey court sessions of 4 & 5 July appears in the Stamford Mercury on Friday 11 July 1851.

Stamford Mercury Jul 1851

John Britliff, 50, who had been three times before in custody, was brought up, having been committed as “an incorrigible rogue and vagabond” for refusing to maintain his children. It appeared that the prisoner had left his family a burthen to the parish, which had spent £250 in their maintenance; but since he had been in prison he had paid  £5, and as he now promised to do his duty to the children, he was liberated upon the promise, being warned that if he neglected to carry it out he would be liable to be committed again.

In 1857 John married Esther Smith at Caistor. And in the 1861 census they are living at Town Street, Waddingham, Lincolnshire. Also living with them is John’s unmarried daughter Jane Britcliffe (b1839) and her daughter Sarah C Britcliffe (b1859).

John died sometime in the September quarter of 1862 – almost twenty years after killing his wife.

There is so much more to this story that I wish I could discover.

Workday Wednesday – Israel Gawthrop (1840-1906)

Israel Gawthrop is my 2x great uncle – he is the brother of my 2x great grandmother Ellen Gawthrop and the son of Martin Gawthrop and Ann Kighley.

Israel was born in Cowling, West Yorkshire. His first occupations in the census returns are

1851 – farmers son employed on farm

1861 – cotton carder

1871 – cotton carder

In 1881 he is recorded as “manager of cotton mill” – and I believe this is a position he held until his death in 1906.

There are numerous references to Israel in the local newspapers of the time. I have picked the article below because I think it reflects a man who had respect for the workforce in the mill he managed and that the “hands” as they are described in the article respected him as a boss. When you imagine what working conditions must have been like in the Victorian mills of Lancashire and elsewhere then to have management and the workers all pulling together must have been good for everyone – or at least a better place to work than some.

SABDEN

TREAT AND PRESENTATION

On Saturday last, the senior employees of Jas. Suttard and Sons met at Mrs. Badger’s Commercial Hotel, to partake of a treat supplied chiefly at the expense of the firms who have replenished the mill with new machinery.

The dinner was of a most recherche character, and reflected the greatest credit upon the worthy hostess. The juvenile portion (or half-timers) did justice to a substantial tea provided for them in the Oddfellows’ Hall, where the senior portion afterwards adjourned, and participated in the subsequent proceedings.

Mr. Israel Gawthrop (manager) was elected as chairman, and Mr. James Proctor (book-keeper) as vice-chairman.

In opening the proceedings the Chairman said, – If there was one thing that affected him more than another in coming to Sabden, it was the fear of having an uncultivated lot of hands to contend with. The putting in of new machinery was Israel Gawthrop Jul 1873very trifling as compared to it. But, to his great surprise, he met with a very decent set of hands to conduct (hear, hear). When they came to have a class of hands who wanted nothing but right, and a master who wanted nothing more, it was a very easy task to stand between them; he was very glad to be able to say that, both as regarded the masters and operatives, for he had never heard any of the workpeople say “I won’t” when he asked them to do anything (hear, hear). He did not know that he ever met with a firm more urgent to get on than those under whom they worked. The masters had been very diligent in their business habits, and their concern at Sabden had required a great deal – the machinery

putting in, and all the other things to attend to – but he was very happy to tell them that it had not affected the masters, and they need not be frightened that anyone would come and say “You must stop work” (applause). They had met with some energetic and upright masters, who were worthy of a good class of hands, so he hoped they would do their best, and he was sure the masters would do the same to them (applause).

The Vice-chairman next called upon several gentlemen, who spoke in eulogistic terms of Mr. Gawthrop’s past conduct, after which – Mr. S Hartley (card-master) presented the souvenirs, which consisted of a handsome timepiece of black Parian marble, with a brass plate placed under the dial, which bore the following inscription tersely engraved: “Presented to Mr. Israel Gawthrop, manager at the Victoria Mill, Sabden, by the workpeople, as a token of respect and esteem, July 19th 1873.” There was also a beautiful work-box presented to his wife. The combined presents amounted to near £10.

In returning thanks for the testimonial Mr. Gawthrop said that so far as he was aware, he had done nothing to merit the present. His object in coming to the place was to try to collect as good a class of hands as he could, and having collected them, he had tried to do justice both to them and his masters. He hoped the good feeling that existed between them that night might be of lasting duration (hear, hear). Whenever the present stood before him it would remind him of their respect and kindness, and act as a stimulant to do what was right and just (hear, hear) – and he assured them it would be handed down to his children, hoping it would have the same effect upon them (hear, hear). In conclusion, he recapitulated his thanks, and said he would try to do justice to all parties, if he did not do right his conscience pricked him, and he accepted the present as given in that feeling (loud applause).

The rest of the evening was spent in singing, games, etc. Mr. R Laycock presided most efficiently at the piano.

Votes of thanks were given to all those who had in any degree contributed to the dinner or entertainment.

The National Anthem terminated the proceedings of the evening.

Black Sheep Sunday – Harrison Musgrove (Part 6)

The final post in this series about my 2x great grandfather is from the Kendal Mercury of Saturday 29 October 1864.

Here he is charged with several other men with loitering.

The transcript is here:-

Kendal Mercury Oct 1864

John Bousfield, William Barnes, James Fisher, Thomas Jameson, John Thompson, Harrison Musgrove and James Rigg, all of Kendal, were summoned by the police for loitering in Highgate, at the bottom of All Hallows’ Lane, on Monday the 17th instant. They were dismissed with a caution, the Mayor remarking that he hoped they would not render themselves liable to be brought up again for a similar offence, as the Council was determined to put the bye-laws in force in this matter.

Black Sheep Sunday – Harrison Musgrove (Part 5)

On Saturday 1 August 1863 Harrison and his brother George were mentioned in the Kendal Mercury as part of a report of the Kendal Magistrates meeting.

It seems that the brothers had gone away to Carlisle leaving their wives and families to seek help from the Kendal Union. According to the newspaper article this wasn’t the first time either.

The transcript is here:-

Saturday 25 July Kendal Mercury Aug 1863

Before J J Wilson and Wm. Longmire, Esqrs.

Harrison Musgrove and G Musgrove, two sawyers, were apprehended at Carlisle on a charge of leaving their wives and families chargeable to the Kendal Union. As they had been committed before on a similar charge they were sent for two months to the House of Correction with hard labour.

Black Sheep Sunday – Harrison Musgrove (Part 4)

Time has moved on – almost twenty years to 1863. Harrison Musgrove had married Jane Rooking on 11 April 1853 and by now they had at least five children.

However Harrison makes the local news again in the Westmorland Gazette on Saturday 31 January 1863. This time with two other men he is accused of night poaching.

Here’s the transcript:-

THURSDAY JAN. 29 (Before W H Wakefield, W Wilson and E Harrison, Esqs.)  Westmorland Gazette Jan 1863

NIGHT POACHING AND ASSAULT

William Backhouse, Harrison Musgrove, and John Thompson, were charged with night poaching in the township of Strickland Roger, upon land belonging to MR G A Gelderd, in the occupation of Mr Anthony Barnes. Backhouse was also charged with assaulting the gamekeeper, and this charge was first entered upon.

Wm. Gardener, gamekeeper, in the service of G A Gelderd, Esq., said that on Tuesday night, 27th inst., as he was out watching he came upon Backhouse, whom he saw in a crouching position about six or eight yards off. The prisoner got up and threw a large stone at him, which hit him on the breast and stunned him for a moment. He, however, on recovering himself seized hold of the prisoner and secured him.

The stone was produced and was of formidable size.

The prisoner, who did not deny the truth of the statement, was then charged with his companions with the offence of night poaching.

The gamekeeper, Gardener, stated that on Tuesday night he heard the three men, and waited until they came to a place where they knew there was game. They then began blocking up the “smoots” where the hares run, and he saw one man setting nets and another had a dog. It was a little before twelve o’clock, but the moon was not down. Witness afterwards heard a dog run, and came upon that man (Backhouse), who then threw the stone at him, as he had stated. There were three nets set, and if he had not interrupted them there would soon have been three hares in them.

The Bench sentenced all the defendants to three months imprisonment with hard labour for night poaching, and Backhouse in addition to a month’s imprisonment for the assault.

The prisoners will also have to find securities of 10l. each, upon the termination of the imprisonment for night poaching, or will be re-committed for six months.

Black Sheep Sunday – Harrison Musgrove (Part 3)

Two years have gone by since Harrison Musgrove (my 2x great grandfather) last appeared in the newspaper. It’s now Saturday 2 December 1843 and Harrison and his brother William have made the news again in the Westmorland Gazette – this time for allegedly stealing milk they are described as “rogues and vagabonds” and sent to the Kendal House of Correction.

Here’s the transcript:-

CAUTION TO VENDORS OF MILK – For several mornings previous to Friday in last week, Mrs Lamb, from Natland Mill Beck, who attends every morning with milk, missed several gallons, when about Capper Lane end. It appears that Mrs Lamb has to leave her cart at that place, while she proceeds down Pepper Corn Lane, to serve some customers there. During her absence there is little doubt that the milk had been feloniously drawn from the churns, and carried off. Information was given to Police-Sergeant Hutchinson, who disguised himself on the morning of the day in question, and took his station so as to be able to watch who should approach the cart. He was not long in suspense, for a number of young scamps made their appearance as soon as Mrs Lamb had disappeared, among whom were two boys of the names of William and Harrison Musgrove, who first filled a tea-kettle with the milk, but before the officer could secure them, they threw the kettle and its contents to the ground, and made off. However, he eventually secured them and brought them before John Wakefield, Esq. at the Town Hall, who, for want of sufficient evidence to convict them of felony, committed them to the Kendal House of Correction for two months each as rogues and vagabonds.

Westmorland Gazette Dec 1843

Wedding Wednesday – Annie Gawthrop & Thomas Luther Anderton

Annie Gawthrop is my 1st cousin 3x removed. She is the daughter of Israel Gawthrop and Mary Ann Hargreaves.

Here’s a report form the Burnley Express of the wedding that took place on 1 February 1902.

MARRIAGE – On Saturday, at the Wesleyan Chapel, Grange-over-Sands, the marriage took place of Miss Annie Gawthrope, fourth daughter of Mr. Israel Gawthrope, of Sabden, and Mr. T. L. Anderton, son of Mr. Thomas Anderton, of Sabden, and of the firm of Messrs. Bell and Anderton, Accrington. The bride was attended by her sister, Miss Bertha Gawthrope, and Mrs. Haworth, while Mr. John Anderton, brother of the bridegroom, was the best man. She was given away by her brother, Mr. Isaac Gawthrope, of Padiham. The wedding was a pretty, though quiet one. The newly-married couple will, after the honeymoon, take up their residence at Accrington. There were many presents.

Black Sheep Sunday – Harrison Musgrove (Part 2)

Well I’m sure you’ve all been wondering what happened to Harrison, his brother William and their friend James Thompson since Part 1 last week.

Thompson decided to plead not guilty and a report of his trial is in the Kendal Mercury of Saturday 23 October 1841.

To cut a long story short William Musgrove was called as a witness. He stated:-

“When I went away, Thompson was standing at the window, and that was the last I saw of him. What happened after that I did not see. I positively swear that when I went home, I left Thompson standing at the window. I was not to have part of the ginger bread. I knew where they were going. I was watching for nothing. When I was watching, I knew they were going to steal. If they had got anything, I was not to have any. I went from the bottom of Hallow Lane to the other side of the street. I don’t know my brother will get off easier if Thompson is brought in. I know he will get easier off if Thompson is to blame.”

The jury were instructed to consider how reliable William Musgrove’s evidence was. Perhaps he was trying to put more blame on Thompson when actually it was he and Harrison who were the real culprits.

In the end the jury found Thompson not guilty.

Harrison pleaded guilty – after all he was caught red handed by Mr Court with “three biscuits under his coat, and ginger bread and sugar in his hand”.

The report of Harrison’s conviction is in the Kendal Mercury of Saturday 30 October 1841. The transcript is as follows:-

Harrison Musgrove, who pleaded guilty of stealing from the shop of Mr Court, confectioner, Kendal, was sentenced to three days imprisonment, and to be, during that time, once privately whipped. The court remarked that he appeared to be Kendal Mercury Oct 1841only nine years of age, and that he had commenced a course which, if persevered in, would send him out of the country. It was lamentable to see so young a boy begin an evil course, and it was very questionable whether his parents had done their duty in bringing him up as they ought.

Wedding Wednesday – Ellen Gawthrop & John James Pilkington

Ellen Gawthrop is my 1st cousin 3x removed.  She married John James Pilkington on 27 September 1900 at the Wesleyan Chapel in Sabden, Lancashire.

I recently found this report of the wedding in the Burnley Express and couldn’t resist sharing it.  I can’t believe that the report actually includes what appears to be a full list of all the presents!!!

Certainly the happy couple were not going to be short of the odd silver tea spoon.  And perhaps Mr. & Mrs. Bamber were a bit embarrassed by their gift and felt the need to describe the size – a “massive flower stand”.

Ellen Gawthrop wedding 1900

Interesting Wedding – At two o’clock on Thursday afternoon, the Wesleyan Chapel at Sabden, was the scene of a wedding, the bride being Miss Ellen Gawthrop, Sabden, the third daughter of Mr. Israel Gawthrop, the esteemed manager of the  firm of Messrs. James Stuttard and Sons, Sabden, and the bridegroom, Mr. John James Pilkington, of Blackburn, but formerly of Sabden, and son of the late Mr. John Pilkington, Sabden.  Unusual interest was evinced in the wedding by the villagers, and the interesting ceremony, which was performed by the Rev. J. H. Wilkinson, Wesleyan minister, of Padiham, was witnessed by a very large company of friends.  The interior of the chapel had been decorated with choice flowers, etc., and the ceremony was altogether an imposing one.  The bride, who was given away by her father, Mr. Israel Gawthrop, looked exceedingly charming in a rich dress of white alpaca, trimmed with lace, with hat to match.  She was attended by Miss Annie Gawthrop and Miss Bertha Gawthrop, sisters, who were attired in dresses of heliotrope, with grey felt hats, and Miss May Jackson, Padiham, and Miss Clarris Entwistle (nieces), who wore dresses of cream alpaca, with whitehats and shoes to match.  Mr. Frank Entwistle, brother-in-law to the bridegroom, acted as best man.  After the ceremony the wedding party, to the number of about 50, had a drive to Higher Hodder Bridge, where they were entertained to a sumptuous repast.  Mr. and Mrs. Pilkington left in the afternoon, amidst the heartiest good wishes of all, for Scarborough, where they intend to spend the honeymoon.

The following is the list of presents:- Mr. and Mrs. Gawthrop, cheque; Mr. and Mrs. I Gawthrop, dinner service; Mr. and Mrs. Jackson (Padiham), eider down quilt; Mr. and Mrs. Haworth, two door mats; Mr. and Mrs. Wilkinson, silver spirit kettle; Mr. and Mrs. Entwistle, toilet set; Mr. and Mrs. Pilkington, silver coffee pot and cruet; Miss A. Gawthrop and Mr. T. L. Anderton, marble timepiece; Miss B. Gawthrop and Mr. R. Anderton, tea service; Miss Gregson, silver salts in case; Miss Birtwistle and Mr. Dixon (Padiham), one dozen silver tea spoons, Miss Webster, silver cake knife; Mr. and Mrs. Ayrey, oak barometer; Miss Whittles, bedroom slippers and salts; Mrs. Bailey, cushion; Miss Foulds and Miss Birtwell, silk head-rest and tea cosy; Miss McLachlan, hall brushes with mirror; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Ingham (Blackburn), half a dozen silver desert spoons and forks; Miss Mary and Master Harry Jackson (Padiham), cheese dish and pickle jar; Mr. and Mrs. Stuttard (Read Hall), travelling clock and cheque; Miss Haworth, one dozen silver tea spoons; Miss Brotherton, brass paper rack; Miss Nuttall, plaques; Mrs. Duerden, set of jugs; Mrs. Fish, one dozen silver tea spoons in case; Mr. and Mrs. Hopkinson, cheque; Mrs. Townsend (Manchester), silver cake basket; Miss Burton, silver cruet and jam spoons; Miss Bradshaw, d’oyleys; Mr. Burton (Fence), timepiece; Mr. and Mrs. Kay (Darwen), mirror in brass frame; Mr. Harry Pilkington (America), silver sugar sifter; Mr. and Mrs. E. Standing, brass photo frame; Mr. and Mrs. H. Barnes (Darwen), picture; Mrs. Harwood (Darwen), silver cake knife; Mr. and Mrs. Bamber, massive flower stand; Miss Whittaker, fruit dish; Mr. and Mrs. Bradshaw (Southport), half a dozen silver tea spoons and tray cloth; Miss Anderton; trinket set; Miss Standing, brass stand; Mr. Rigby (Swinton), half a dozen tea, desert, and table spoons; Miss Gawthrop, drawing-room chair; the Misses Rowland (Blackpool), Dresden vase and afternoon tray cloth; Mrs. Foulds, plaques; Mrs. Roberts, bread-board, knife, etc.

Black Sheep Sunday – Harrison Musgrove (Part 1)

I have recently started using the British Newspaper archive on Find My Past. I decided to begin with my ancestors from Kendal and surrounding areas as I have some family names that might be fairly easy to trace if they appear in the local papers.

As I suspected I found some stories pretty quickly.

In fact my 2x great grandfather, Harrison Musgrove, appears several times during a period of over twenty years.

So for my first foray into “black sheep’ territory I have decided to serialise Harrison Musgrove’s exploits over the next few weeks.

The first story comes from the Kendal Mercury on Saturday 11 September 1841 and is transcribed below:-

Police Office, Wednesday – (Before John Wakefield, Esquire). – Three boys, named Harrison Musgrove, William Musgrove, and James Thompson, were placed at the Bar by PC’s Hodgson and Brunskill, charged with stealing from the shop of Mr Court, confectioner, Highgate, a quantity of biscuits, loaf sugar, etc. It appeared that Thompson, who is the eldest, opened the shop door and let in Harrison Musgrove, who was without shoes, whilst he himself watched through the window ready to sound a retreat should Mr Court come into the shop, and William Musgrove waited on the other side of the street to give the signal should any policeman make his appearance. Unluckily for the young thieves Mr Court stepped into the shop and caught Harrison behind the counter; the others fled, but were subsequently taken. Harrison Musgrove and Thompson were committed for trial at the sessions, and William Musgrove admitted as evidence.

Well it seems to me that poor Harrison was badly let down here on three counts.

  • Firstly – James Thompson didn’t do a very good job as a “look out” and failed to sound  the retreat quickly enough.
  • Secondly – the other two accomplices scarpered at the first sign of trouble.
  • Thirdly – his brother William (about six years older) is going to give evidence as a witness.

Next week – a report of the trial. Guilty or not guilty – punishment or no punishment. You’ll just have to wait and see.

Kendal Mercury Sep 1841