Edwin’s family was typical of the period. Three of his elder siblings did not survive childhood and one of his younger brothers died of “disease of the heart” at just 9 years old. When Edwin married Sarah Mather in 1876 and settled near Glossop he left his siblings in Lancashire and assimilated with Sarah’s family and friends. His siblings were even further away once Edwin and his family moved to Australia.
However, Edwin was kept abreast of family news by his sister Sarah. I have copies of two letters written to Edwin in Australia from his sister Sarah Eccleston in Lancashire.
Sarah was the second surviving daughter of John Williams and Susannah Jones. She was born in July 1846 (the exact day is not known and as is stated in one of the letters, Sarah herself does not know her exact date of birth). Sarah was born about a year after the death of her brother, Benjamin, who was nine months old when he died. John and Susannah had four other children before Sarah, three girls followed by Benjamin. Of the three girls, only the second called Anne, survived past their first birthday.
Anne was seven years older than Sarah and was married by the time their mother, Susannah, died in 1868 and the family subsequently moved from Wrehxam in North Wales to Manchester. I would guess that Sarah was obliged to look after her father and three younger brothers (Edwin, Charles and Samuel) after the death of her mother. Father John died in June 1872 and Sarah married Roger Eccleston a few months later on 2nd November 1872 in Withington, Lancashire 1.
Sarah and Roger had seven children, five boys followed by two girls. Their second son, Arthur, died when he was 9 years old. The first letter to Edwin was dated 12th December 1889 just after the birth of Sarah’s youngest child and not long after the death of Edwin’s wife, Sarah, in January 1889. The letter contains the following news of brother Charlie, sister Anne and eldest son, Frederick:
“Brother Charlie was here about six weeks ago out of work. I don’t know what would become of them if his wife did not go out to work, they have two children girls. I have never heard anything of sister Annie. I think it was Victoria Street that they lived in Cleckheaton. It is strange we never hear anything of them. I am glad to hear you are doing so nicely. We should like to see you all. We have 2 girls and 4 boys. Freddie was over last week and is looking very well. Freddie has joined the choir of St John’s Church Higher Broughton. It is near where his auntie lives. Roger has the first chance at the gas works at Manchester as soon as there is a vacancy he understands the electric light. That is what he is doing at present at Pilkingtons. Manchester is going to be lit up with electric lights instead of gas. I prefer Manchester to here by a long way and then we should have Freddie at home. He does not like St Helens.”
The second letter is dated 27th June 1893. In her earlier letter Sarah had mentioned that she had not heard from her sister Annie. This new letter starts off as follows:
“You will wonder what I have been doing all this time that I have not written to you but I kept putting it off from time to time expecting to hear something of Annie. I have been making inquiries through the newspapers I had an answer to say that he (Annie’s husband Mark Russell) had left Cleckheaton and they did not know his whereabouts. I left it quite a bit and then I wrote again and then I wrote again and had an answer to say that for information of Mark Russell, I must write to: Mrs Ann Russell, 5 Duke St, Blackburn.
I wrote at once and had an answer from Annie to say that Mark was in America and they had not heard from him for 7 years.”
I don’t think Annie’s husband, Mark, was actually in America. The expression was probably a euphemism for the fact that he had left her and their five children. Sarah’s letter goes on to mention the eldest two children, Polly and Edwin:
“Polly came here last Thursday and stayed with us until Monday. She is a very nice sensible girl, different to what I expected, she is 28 years old. Polly says none of them likes Blackburn and Roger he will do his best to get Edwin a place at Pilkington in the warehouse if he likes to come so I cannot say at present what conclusion they come to until I have a letter from them.”
Sarah makes some further comments:
“I think I will slip over to Blackburn and see how they are doing. I don’t know what Annie has been doing not to make excuses about him. I would have found him out before now if he is living.”
Annie and her children were indeed living at 5 Duke St, Blackburn for the 1891 census 2. It is interesting to note that Annie is listed as a widow. The three eldest children were all working so that must be how the family managed to survive. Annie and her youngest child, James, were living with her son Edwin and family in 1901 at 22 Dickens Street, Pendleton 3. When Annie died in 1910 she was buried with her father in St Lukes Cemetery, Cheetham Hill (I was wondering why she wasn’t buried with her husband, but now we know why). The burial record states her address as 20 Dickens Street, Weaste 4(I am not sure if this is the same Dickens Street as in the 1910 census) which is where son Edwin and family are listed as living in the 1911 census 5.
Brother Charles is also mentioned in the second letter and it sounds like he is still not doing very well:
“ I had a letter from Charlie to say that he was coming to see us last Saturday but he did not come. He wants to know when you are coming to England and if you would send him your old clothes. He says he feels as if he had no one belonging to him because no one writes to him.”
Charles married Annie Harrison on 1st October 1884 at St Benedict, Ardwick, Lancashire 6. The two girls mentioned in Sarah’s first letter were Annie, who was born in May 1884 (before they were married) and Edith, who was born in December 1887. Both girls were baptized together on 14th December, 1887 at St Clement, Salford, Lancashire 7. The family was living at 8 Lorne St, Pendleton in 1891 8 and there was now a third daughter, called Elizabeth. Two sons were added to the family whilst living at Lorne Street, Charles Edwin in 1895 and Albert in 1895.
Unfortunately I don’t know what happened to Charles or his daughters after this. Annie and the two boys had fallen on very hard times by 1901 9and were living at the Salford Union Workhouse. However, according to the 1911 Census 10, Annie was living in Southport, Lancashire with her “husband”, William Middleton, their daughter Rose Ann (born 1905) and Annie’s youngest son, Albert. Records show that William and Annie didn’t actually get married to William until 1919.
- Marriages (PR). England. St Pauls Withington, Lancashire. 2 November 1872. ECCLESTON, Roger and WILLIAMS, Sarah. Ancestry image. Collection: Manchester, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 18 May 2013.
- Census. 1891. Engalnd. Blackburn, Lancashire. RG12/3399/139/31. http://ancestry.co.uk : accessed 23 June 2014.
- Census. 1901. England. Salford, Lancashire. RG13/3716/15/22. FindMyPast transcription. http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 25 July 2016.
- Burials (PR) England. St Luke, Cheetham Hill, Lancashire. 23 July 1910. RUSSELL, Anne. Page 390 No. 3119. Ancestry image. Collection: England, Select Deaths and Burials 1538-1991. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 2 October 2015
- Census. 1911. England. Salford, Lancashire. RG14/465/42/235. FindMyPast transcription. http://www.findmypast.co.uk : accessed 25 July 2016
- Marriages (PR). England. St Benedict, Ardwick, Lancashire. 1 October 1884. WILLIAMS, Charles and HARRISON, Annie. Ancestry image. Collection: Manchester, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1930. www.ancestry.co.uk : accessed 27 July 2016
- Baptisms (PR). England. St Clement, Ordsall, Lancashire. 14 December 1887. WILLIAMS, Annie. Transcription. Lancashire Online Parish Clerks. http://www.lan-opc.org.uk/ : accessed 12 January 2017
- Census 1891. England, Lancashire, Salford. RG12/3204/91/7. FindMyPast transcription and image. http://findmypast.co.uk : accessed 8 May 2014
- Census 1901. England, Lancashire, Southport. RG13/3739/F? (pages 343-367). The Genealogist transcription and image. https://www.thegenealogist.com/ : accessed 3 February 2017.
- Census 1911. England, Lancashire, Southport. RG14/457/54/6/22920. FindMyPast transcription and image. http://findmypast.co.uk : accessed 30 January 2017