Jarratts Buildings - The People

The Booth Family- One Hundred Years of Jarratts Life

I estimate that over 200 families lived at Jarratts Building. The Booths are one of the few who lived there from beginning to end. Three generations were tenants, though not in the same house.

Their story begins in 1844 when 23-year-old Susannah Winder married John Booth, a slater by trade, at St Mary's Church, Worsborough. A couple of years later they moved to nearby Mexborough, presumably to work. It is unclear when John Booth died but by 1850 the widowed Susannah had returned to Worsborough with son Arthur and daughter Ann. In 1850 she married 21-year-old William Christopher, a Lancashire lad who, like many other young men of the time, had been attracted across the Pennines to the Yorkshire coalfields. Susannah was a pregnant bride and she cannot be located on the 1851 census, two months after giving birth to John. Meanwhile William lived next door to her father and was looking after Arthur and Ann as well as his own baby. Susannah appears to have had other children but typically for the time, not all survived. Mary Christopher died in 1854 and Ann Booth in 1856. Walter Christopher, who was born in 1854 died in 1856.

A tenancy would probably not have been given to a woman when Jarratts was built in the 1850s, so It seems likely that William and Susannah were together when they moved into No 18. Birth and death entries in the Worsborough Parish registers indicate that this happened between 1854-1856. The 1861 census enumerated Susannah, the head of the household, as a married woman. At this point she may have been supported by her sons, Arthur and John, who worked at the colliery. William Christopher has not been located in 1861 or subsequently and it is possible that the couple had separated. If Susannah's second marriage was a difficult one, her young husband must have found the situation intimidating. She was from a large, local family and two of her brothers and a married sister also lived at Jarratts in their own households. There are indications that members of the Winder family had dominating personalities.

John Christopher died on 13th June 1864 aged thirteen. A report in British Miner and General Newsman indicates that Susannah, a single mother, had no income at that point as Arthur and John had been locked out of the Oaks Colliery, along with other workers in a bitter industrial dispute. She had gone for help to a credit stores run by the Miners Committee, looking very careworn. A chair was given to her and she explained that her son had died that morning, having never rallied since he escaped from Edmunds Main after the explosion in December 1862. Her “wailing cry for her boy would have melted a heart of stone. None could offer her a word of comfort; but the silent sympathy of all went with her, as with a sad and heavy heart she left the office.”

In 1871, Susannah, now recorded as a widow, was living at No 9 and landlady to five young male lodgers who were miners. Arthur also earned a living underground. Providing board and lodgings for all these people would have given Susannah a reasonable income.


Arthur Booth was fond of racing dogs, for which he nearly paid a high price in 1866 when he was prosecuted for trying to poach game from local landowner Richard Micklethwaite. As the only evidence offered was that he was sitting on a fence whilst his dog ran in a field, the case was dismissed by the magistrates without hearing his defence.

In 1874, Arthur married Mary Thompson. The family seems to have experienced a modicum of prosperity because in 1881 they were living on High Street in a house which was adjacent to the Jarratts site. This suggests that Arthur may have been working as a pit deputy as there were some houses for foremen in this vicinity.

Arthur and his mother saved a Jarratts child from drowning in March 1888. Ten-year-old William Prescott slipped into the colliery yard to slide on a frozen pond. By chance, Susannah was walking past the gate and heard William's frightened screams when the ice gave way beneath him. She hurried 200 metres back to their home to fetch Arthur. He ran barefoot to the pond, smashed through the ice with his limbs and managed to pull an exhausted William out. Arthur's body was badly lacerated in the process. He received fulsome praise from the colliery owner, William Batty, and other officials who had witnessed the rescue, which begs the question of why they stood watching instead of attempting to help the drowning boy themselves.

By 1891, Arthur, his wife, mother and large family were back at Jarratts, squashed into No 25 which was on Step Row. The reason for the move was probably Arthur's deteriorating health. By 1901, he was being supported by his elder sons and the only work he could manage was to go round houses early in the morning to rouse the workers. His health problems were most probably caused by working as a miner.

Arthur and Mary had eleven children and theirs was one of the largest families on the site. Walter was born before their marriage and was known as Thompson. The others were Albert, John, Harry, Ann, Alice, Tom, Nellie, Lizzie, Ernest and Lucy. Tragedy struck the family unexpectedly in 1903 when Mary was killed in a carriage accident, leaving an elderly Susannah to care for the family, assisted by Alice who had given up her job as a housemaid and returned to the family home by 1911. Arthur Booth died in 1912. He was 68. His doughty mother died the following year, aged 88. From c1900 members of the Booth family drifted away from Jarratts though most remained in the area. This may be typical of many other families who lived there. I have not located information about them in newspapers, again typical of most families that had neither a hero nor a black sheep.

The future lives of Arthur and Mary's children appear as follows:

Walter, a miner, married Alice Smith and then Gertrude Willets. He had children with both wives.

Albert, a miner, remained at No 25 and died in 1952. He was a bachelor.

John, a builder's labourer, married Emily Swift in 1901 and had a family. In 1939 he was living at No 25 as a single man. He died in 1944.

Harry, a miner, served in the Great War and was killed at Mespotamia in 1916.

Ann, no information located after 1891.

Alice took over the tenancy of No 25 in 1912 from her father and died unmarried in 1955. I do not know whether she accepted an offer of rehousing in the 1950s or whether she lived at Jarratts until her death.

Tom, a miner, married Gertrude Winter and had several children.

Nellie worked as a domestic servant and died unmarried in 1941.

Lizzie married James Sutton and had several children. They lived at 29 Jarratts early in their marriage

Ernest married Frances Allen in 1922 and had a couple of children.

Lucy married John Harper from 51 Jarratts in 1912. They had a very large family.

Compiled by Denise Bates from census and BMD information and newspapers from the British Newspaper Archive.

Ann Earnshaw - An Embarrassing Incident

Ann Earnshaw was widowed in July 1853 when her husband George was killed in an accident at Field and Cooper’s pit at Worsborough. He was hit in the face by a large lump of coal which had worked loose, probably the result of supporting posts not having been put in properly. Injured, he was taken home and died shortly afterwards. Aged 28, Ann was left with five children to bring up, one who was just a baby.

Ann who lived at No 12, went to Barnsley on the afternoon of 30th December 1861 to shop in the market. She returned to the site around 9.30pm in a dishevelled state and sent for Ellen Wilcox who lived at No 17. Ellen found Ann nursing a badly bruised arm and eye. She helped her to wash, made her a cup of tea and settled the children down for the night. Ann explained that she had been in a fight in the cutting between Barnsley and Worsborough.

On Wednesday 1st January 1862, the body of John Rock, a married beer house keeper was found in a local quarry. His skull was fractured and he had sustained other injuries which were consistent with a fall. Some of his clothing was disturbed, but more mysteriously, alongside his body were packets of sugar and coffee, a bottle of hair oil and a box of brown cerate, a wax preparation used on the skin. It was felt that the articles did not belong to Rock and the police began enquiries.

It soon came to light that Rock had been drinking with a widow named Earnshaw in Barnsley on the Monday evening, and also that she had bought groceries, hair oil and cerate in Barnsley that day. Further investigation in the quarry found hair similar to Ann’s. Interviewed by the police, Ann denied any association with Rock, other than that she had had a glass of gin with him and other neighbours at a public house in Barnsley. She explained her own injuries as the result of being knocked down and robbed in the Worsborough Dale cutting, which had left her lying unconscious on the road for some time.

The inquest into Rock’s death heard evidence that he had fallen into the quarry, probably in a drunken state. Called to give evidence, Ann said that she scarcely knew Rock but acknowledged having a drink at Buckley’s tap room in Barnsley before returning to Worsborough, alone. Asked why her shopping was found in the quarry next to Rock’s body, she stated that she had been robbed on her way home, but had not reported it to the police. Nor could she explain why the thief had not taken her basket, just all the goods in it. She categorically denied suggestions that she had also fallen into the quarry.

All the jurors were sceptical of her account and thought it more likely that she and Rock had gone to the quarry for an immoral purpose whilst intoxicated, missed the path and fell in. No-one thought that Ann had caused Rock’s death and all but one juror wanted to return an open verdict, ‘found dead in a quarry, but how, or by what means he came there, the jury have no means of ascertaining.’

One juror requested an adjournment, demanding that Ann Earnshaw should be compelled to tell the truth. Perhaps with a degree of reluctance, the coroner agreed to adjourn the inquest for a fortnight and the police undertook to investigate further. Two weeks later, further witnesses appeared in court. One had seen the pair walking together in a drunken state towards Worsborough, directly contradicting Ann’s assertion that she had returned from Barnsley alone. Ellen Wilcox stated that Ann was not drunk when she went to help with her injuries.

Although it seemed that Ann could have given more help to the inquest, the coroner took a lenient line. He said there was no evidence that Ann had been to the quarry. Even if she had she might have seen Rock fall, gone to investigate and, finding him dead, been too distressed to know what she was doing. She might then have slipped on her way home and sustained injuries which were consistent with a fall.

The coroner steered the jury to the open verdict they had considered before, but one juror persisted in wanting Ann Earnshaw recalled and cross-examined. The coroner refused, saying it was not right to compel Ann to give evidence which might incriminate her, should the police re-open their investigation. After assurances that an open verdict did not preclude the police from continuing to make enquiries, the recalcitrant juror deferred to the view of his colleagues and an open verdict was returned.

Reputation preserved, Ann Earnshaw may have breathed a sigh of relief but her embarrassing predicament was probably discussed widely by her neighbours at Jarratts.

Sourced from reports in the Barnsley Chronicle, accessed via the British Newspaper Archive.

James McQuillan - An unreliable witness

In May 1863 John Wildsmith was landlord of the Keel Inn at Worsbrough Dale. One of his customers was James McQuillan who lived at Jarratts and who was courting the landlord's daughter Catherine. With several public houses in the locality custom was thinly spread and John experienced months of cash-flow problems, paying creditors on an ad hoc basis with any money to hand as distraints on his assets poured in.

John overstretched himself when he ordered meat from local pork butcher George Bailey. He took delivery knowing that he could not pay, and had possibly placed the order with the intention of leaving the butcher out of pocket. Not long after accepting the meat he declared himself bankrupt and applied to court for protection from his creditors whilst he tried to come to an arrangement to pay what he could.

keel inn
The Keel Inn

To obtain protection John had to present the court with a schedule of his debts and assets and to answer questions. If he expected the court to rubber stamp his application he had reckoned without the butcher. When he went to court in June for the final examination of his schedule of his finances his petition was strenuously opposed by his creditors, who alleged that John had fraudulently concealed some of his assets to avoid paying his debts.

John had tried to hide assets in two ways. He had sold a carthorse for £11 two days before declaring himself bankrupt. This did not feature in his schedule, nor did the debt it was alleged to have settled. More significantly Bailey had obtained a search warrant and found 'a number of valuable household goods belonging to the bankrupt in the houses of various parties in Worsbrough Dale', including the McQuillans. The items included a bedstead, two chests, a dressing table, a mahogany table and six chairs, cushions and a small amount of the pub's stock. The movement of furniture would hardly go unobserved and the three-roomed house of the McQuillans at 49 Jarratts Buildings could not easily conceal bulky pieces of furniture. Nothing was found at two other houses searched and it is possible that smaller items and stock had been hidden successfully.

Faced with the objection made by the creditors the hearing was adjourned to allow John to produce evidence that the goods had been lawfully disposed of. When it resumed on 9th July witnesses in whose homes goods had been found made a sterling effort to convince the judge that the articles no longer belonged to to John. John's sister-in-law, Ann Garner swore that a chest of drawers and dressing table had been given to her by the bankrupt's wife to repay a loan of a sovereign and £2 for other unspecified services. According to Mrs Garner, John's wife had carried bedroom furniture from one house to the other without assistance stating that she had no other means of settling the debt.

The second witness was James McQuillan who had several brushes with the law around this time. Assisted by Mary Garner and Catherine Wildsmith he had carried away the dining room furniture and 'a large bottle containing something but he did not know what. He had heard it was peppermint'. He said that he had paid £7 for the lot in January and produced a receipt to this effect. He had only collected them some months later to prevent them being seized to settle the publican's debts.

Unsurprisingly Judge Marshall who heard the case was not convinced. He considered that 'as concerned the concealment of goods it was a case of very strong suspicion' and he had 'no hesitation in saying that he did not believe the evidence of Mrs Wildsmith's sister or that of the young man McQuillan who was courting Wildsmith's daughter'. Although he had said that if a misdemeanour were proved he would send the case for trial at the Assizes, an able speech by John's lawyer convinced him to adjourn the bankruptcy petition for six months, during which time John was at the mercy of his creditors.

They took advantage of the opportunity. On 14th August, at the request of George Bailey, John was committed to Halifax Gaol for twenty days as he was considered able to pay for the meat he had obtained but refused to do so. It seems that he then settled the debt to avoid imprisonment.

In February 1864 the bankruptcy petition was discharged. By 1871 John was living in another part of town and employed as a Linen Warehouseman. In 1881 he was again running a pub, this time in Horbury, West Yorkshire. Helping her grandfather was one of James and Catherine McQuillan's teenage daughters who had been brought up in Jarratts.

This story has been compiled from reports in Barnsley Newspapers held at Barnsley Archives.

Esther Bower - A Grave Question

In the hillside church yard of St Thomas's, Worsbrough Dale, and from where the site of their former home can just be seen in the distance, is the grave of the Bower family. It reads

bower family grave

It is not known whether the gravestone was erected after Wright's death or whether it was carved after the Swaithe Main disaster and subsequently updated. If it was commissioned by a widowed Esther it seems to place a disproportionate emphasis on events that occurred over two decades earlier and pays very little attention to what would have been the most enduring relationship in her life.

Wright Bower was born in Wakefield around 1840, the son of a shoemaker, and his wife Esther Kendal, a miner's daughter, was born in Middleton, Lancashire a few months earlier. By 1841 her family were living at Thurlstone near Barnsley. They subsequently moved to Dewsbury where in 1851, twelve year old Esther was working in a cloth mill in Dewsbury as a burler. In view of her age she would only have been allowed to work restricted hours. The role of a burler was to remove the small knots that form on the surface of woollen fabrics, a relatively unskilled job that would have been within the competence of such a young worker.

Following the family occupation, Wright became a shoemaker and presumably Esther was still a mill worker when the couple met. They married in Dewsbury in 1860 when the bride would have been noticeably pregnant. By the time the 1861 census was taken they were the parents of Alfred and living with Esther's widowed mother. Edwin was born at Wakefield in 1863. They moved from Wakefield around 1865 as daughter Elizabeth was born in Barnsley. This was probably the point at which Wright abandoned shoemaking and became a coal miner, a more dangerous occupation but one where a strong, skilled man could earn a reasonable living. Another daughter, Hannah, was born at Barugh, a villiage near Barnsley in 1870, suggesting that the family had probably only been at No 7 Jarratts for a few weeks when the 1871 census was taken.

The 1870s were a difficult decade for this couple. A son Fred was born in 1873, around the time when Elizabeth died. Wright himself had had at least one brush with death underground. In 1874, his assistant Thomas Winter, a teenager who lived at 17 Jarratts in 1871 was killed after being hit on the head by falling coal as the pair worked together.

December 1875 brought perhaps the darkest day for the family when Alfred and Edwin who were pony drivers died in a massive explosion at the Swaithe Main colliery. Child death was so normal in the nineteenth century that many parents would have understood the loss of a child to illness. Colliery accidents were much less common and comparatively few parents would have known what Esther and Wright must have gone through in trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of two healthy boys and wondering how much they had suffered. The headstone indicates that religious belief may have been some comfort.

The process of grieving would have been tempered by the practicalities of looking after a young family. Esther was more than seven months pregnant with daughter Louisa at the time of the disaster. Another daughter, Elizabeth, joined the family in 1878, only to die in 1880.

During the decade the family also moved to No 38 Jarratts, which was their home for many years . Esther and two of her children were living there in 1901, less than two years before her death.

The 1880s appear to have been a more settled period. Their last son, George was born in 1881 and Hannah, Fred, Louisa and George grew towards adulthood. Hannah became a dressmaker, married in 1893 and quickly became the mother of Charles, Esther and Alice. As a young married woman she lived at No 46 and apparently spent her time running her home as there is no record of her working in later censuses. Fred married in 1896, just a few months before Wright's death in January 1897. His first son was named Wright and by the time of her own death in 1903 Esther was also the grandmother to Edwin and Harry. She was buried in 1903, by Coroner's order, at St Thomas's, presumably in the same grave as her husband and sons. A small, blank space at the bottom of the headstone suggests this may have been her intention.

The gravestone in St Thomas's churchyard is interesting because of the questions it raises. Wright was not 52 when he died, he was 57, so was a mistake made by the stonemason, or was he given wrong information? Who were the three children who died in infancy? The 1871 census shows there was a four year gap between Elizabeth and Hannah which could indicate that there had been another child born towards the end of the 1860s who had died young. There are also discrepancies around the age at which Elizabeth died that raise questions about whether two short-lived girls successively bore this name. Wright and Esther certainly seem keen on it given that they definitely used it again in 1878.

Five years after the birth of George, records show that Wright and Esther had another daughter, Emma, who was born in 1886 and buried in 1889. Or did they? Esther was forty-six at the time and her daughter Hannah was sixteen. It was not unknown for parents to claim a daughter's illegitimate child as their own to preserve the girl's reputation and this could have happened.

One reading of the inscription is that it refers to Elizabeth born 1865, Elizabeth born 1878, and Emma born 1886. However, the records of this family are not entirely straightforward and it could be that the family history was slightly different from what appeared on the surface.

Compiled from censuses, birth and death records, accounts in the British Newspaper Archive and the gravestone inscription.

Job Siddons - Serial Offender

Job Siddons lived at No 36 Jarratts in 1861. He may not have been able to remember his father, James, who had been killed in an explosion at Darley Colliery in 1849. Two years later, his mother Harriet remarried. Her second husband was William Lomas, (sometimes known as Mayo). Job married Mary Hoyland in 1865.The 1871 census reveals that he, Mary and daughter Isabella lived at No 3 Jarratts. Job and Mary had seven children, but three died in childhood. The family had moved to nearby Grove Street by 1881, but Job was regularly found with other men from Jarratts for many years.

On 5th January 1909 Siddons was convicted of being drunk and disorderly following a little Christmas jollification. The presiding magistrate remarked that Siddons had only just served a month in jail for a similar offence and asked if he had anything to say before sentence was passed.

This was the 45th time that Siddons had pleaded or been found guilty in court. Siddons pointed out that none of his previous offences had been serious ones and promised not to touch alcohol again in 1909 if the bench would be a bit lenient with him given that it had been Christmas. Clearly amused by what was described as a 'heart-rending appeal' the magistrates imposed a fine of 10s and costs and said they would hold him to his promise not to come before the court again in 1909 for drunkenness.

Siddons' brushes with the law had begun by 1866 and as the earlier offences included assault and theft, they were more serious than his many convictions for drunkenness or sleeping rough. I have located details of 39 convictions, and they show that his criminality changed from violence and theft into incidents that were nuisances rather than ones that harmed other people. Noticeably absent from the list is bad language. This was prevalent in Worsborough Dale and although many Jarratts occupants found themselves in court for swearing, no-one accused Job of this until 1912 and it was an accusation he denied, unlike the convictions for drunkenness, which he acknowledged.

October 1864 - Had to pay court costs for obstructing a footpath.

October 1866 - Jailed for a month for theft on the public highway.

December 1866 - Fined 8s for being drunk and riotous.

April 1867 - Had to pay costs after admitting being drunk but not riotous. He was distracted after his wife left home with the furniture but not the baby.

November 1867 - Jailed for 1 month for assaulting Mrs Maria Girling.

November 1867 - Jailed for 1 month for assaulting Mrs Harriet Gaunt.

November 1867 - Jailed for 1 month for assaulting William Gee.

August 1868 - Jailed for 14 days for stealing clothes at Worsborough Feast.

July 1871 - Fined 1s for trespass and damaging property belonging to Farmer Nicholson.

June 1874 - Jailed for 2 months with hard labour for assaulting PC Austwick in a drunken brawl.

May 1878 - Fined 10s for assaulting Richard Pickering, a workmate at Edmunds Main Colliery.

July 1883 - Jailed for 40 days for non-payment of a debt.

May 1885 - Fined 2s 6d for breaking a window, and had to pay costs of repairing it. He did not pay and spent 14 days in jail instead.

March 1886 - Jailed for 40 days for non-payment of a debt.

September 1890 - Jailed for 14 days for being drunk and disorderly.

January 1893 - Jailed for 10 days for being drunk.

August 1894 - Jailed for 14 days for being a rogue and vagabond. He had probably been sleeping in a coke oven.

April 1895 - Jailed for 14 days for sleeping in a coke oven.

August 1895 - Jailed for 14 days for sleeping out.

November 1895 - Jailed for one month for sleeping in a coke oven.

April 1896 - Jailed for one month for being a rogue and vagabond.

February 1898 - Fined 5s for being drunk and disorderly.

September 1898 - Jailed for 14 days for being drunk and disorderly.

January 1899 - Fined 10s for playing pitch and toss.He served a month in jail instead of paying the fine.

September 1899 - Fined 20s for playing pitch and toss. He served a month in jail instead of paying the fine.

March 1900 - Jailed for 14 days for being drunk and disorderly.

November 1900 - Jailed for 7 days for sleeping out.

January 1901 - Jailed for 14 days for being drunk.

April 1902 - Jailed for 14 days for vagrancy.

November 1902 - Jailed for 21 days for sleeping in a coke oven.

August 1903 - Fined 7s 6d for being drunk and disorderly.

March 1904 - Jailed for 21 days for vagrancy.

May 1904 - Jailed for one month for sleeping in a cabin.

March 1905 - Jailed for 14 days for being drunk and disorderly.

January 1906 - Jailed for 10 days for sleeping in a coke oven.

January 1908 - Jailed for 14 days for sleeping in a coke oven.

November 1908 - Jailed for a month for drunkenness

January 1909 - Fined 10s for being drunk.

Sleeping in a coke oven indicates that Siddons did not have a permanent roof over his head and the fact that he cannot be located on the 1901 census suggests that homelessness was a on-going issue for him. He seems to have given up occupying his own home after his wife, Mary, died in 1883. The 1891 census reveals that Job was lodging near Leeds. His daughters Isabella and Hannah were married. Two young sons, Herbert and Samuel, were living with Job's sister and her husband. The couple had fostered them since 1884. As the two boys were working, it seems unlikely that Job was giving them any financial help. In 1911, Job was lodging at 4 Pinders Yard, which is close to Jarratts Site, with Charles Wilcock. Aged 68, Job was apparently working as a skilled miner.

Despite his good intentions, Job had problems controlling his alcohol consumption, a fact which he acknowledged in several court appearances. He did appear before the court again for drunkenness in 1909 and served further prison sentences.

November 1909 - Jailed for 14 days for drunkenness.

November 1911 - Jailed for 10 days for drunkenness.

May 1912 - Jailed for 10 days for being drunk and disorderly.

August 1912 - Jailed for 14 days for using obscene language.

August 1912 - Jailed for 14 days for being drunk.

The prison sentences were served at Wakefield Jail, where Job's name regularly appears in the admissions register. Several of the jail sentences were imposed because Job did not pay the fines which had been imposed for his transgressions. He may not have had the money to do so, or he may have found that short periods of prison life were tolerable and at least gave him a roof over his head.

Siddons appears to have had no difficulty in finding work in the mining industry, where he worked as a trammer, moving hewn coal from the face to the surface. prison records show that he bore scars from working underground on his face and his back As addresses can be found for him in the 1890s, he may have chosen to pay for lodgings when it suited him and slept outside if he preferred to spend his money in the pub or gambling at pitch and toss. The coke ovens he was found in belonged to the various pits in Worsborough and Job was not the only man who appeared in court for sleeping in them, especially in colder weather. Coke ovens were used by collieries for processing coal into coke probably for use in the Sheffield steel industry. Having to clear rough sleepers from the coke ovens before they could use them would have been an inconvenience for colliery officials and the sentences indicate the severity with which people who impeded economic activity could be treated.

Whilst these few glimpses of Job reveal a man who would have been considered feckless by the middle-class norms of the day, there was a different side to his character. In 1897, he received an award for bravery from the Royal Humane Society. The society recognises those who have been involved in saving a life. I have not yet been able to locate any information about what Siddons did, but it may relate to an incident in the mine.

Like many other fathers of his age, Job experienced the loss of adult children in the Great War. Samuel died of wounds at Boulogne in May 1915. Two months later in July 1915, Herbert was killed on active service, also at Boulogne. Job himself died aged 79 in 1922, survived by only one of his children.

Compiled from information from a descendent, on-line BMD and census returns and newspapers from the British Newspaper Archive on-line prison registers from Ancestry and records in Barnsley Archives.

Joseph Beevers - A Mysterious Death

Like many working class people of the time, little is known about Joseph Beevers. Yet the few glimpses that have been left by records pose intriguing questions, even though answers are unlikely ever to be found. Joseph was born in 1843, the son of coal miner Daniel Beevers and his wife, Elizabeth Clary. His siblings were Samuel, Mary and William. Tragedy hit the young family in August 1847 when Daniel was caught in an explosion at Ardsley Main Colliery. He was rescued but died shortly afterwards from severe burns. He was buried on 1st September, the same day that young Mary and William were baptised. Whether this was a spontaneous request by Elizabeth, or whether a clergyman had taken advantage of her distressed state to get two more children to the font is unknown.

One piece of information about Joseph’s childhood which survived as oral history until his death, was that he was kicked on his head by a horse. This suggests that on occasions Joseph behaved in an unusual manner. It may be that he had sustained a brain injury which sometimes affected his behaviour, or he may have had a mental health issue that was unrelated to the blow. Physically, he was a strong and healthy man who earned his living as an underground labourer.

In 1867 he married Hannah Silverwood and in 1871 Joseph, Hannah and two young sons Daniel and Henry were living at Jarratts, apparently having taken on the tenancy of No 15 when his stepfather, Benjamin Fitton, moved to nearby Measborough. By Autumn 1877 the family, which now also included John, Walter and baby Annie Elizabeth had moved off-site, possibly to the nearby home of Hannah’s father, Charles Silverwood. A labourer would not have earned much as a coal hewer and Joseph was having problems with making ends meet. Moving in with a relative may have been a way to reduce the family’s outgoings.

Joseph was last seen alive on Wednesday 24th October 1877 shortly after 10.00pm. This was turning out time at the Dearne Grove Inn, Hoyle Mill, where he had been having a drink with his elder brother, Samuel as the pair made their way back from Barnsley. They were about two miles from home. Samuel lived at Jarrratts and Joseph’s house was about forty yards away from the site. The brothers appear to have been good friends and saw each other every day. Joseph was probably in a morose mood. He confided to Samuel that he was expecting trouble about arrears of pay which were due to an 11 year old child. It is possible this was money owed to Joseph’s eldest son, but it seems more likely that Joseph owed the money. Possibly he had informally engaged someone else’s lad to assist him at the pit, or hired a girl to help at home and now owed money to that child’s father. He was so dismayed about the situation that he was considering going to Scotland and getting work at the Blantyre Colliery.

Almost as soon as the pair got into the fresh night air, Joseph became affected by the beer he had drunk. Alone in the street and perhaps finding Joseph difficult to deal with, Samuel turned off the main road and into Yews Lane which was the most direct route home. Joseph said that he would walk on Oaks Lane which was not a logical route.

Joseph never arrived home and, even if his family thought that he was on the way to Scotland, his absence must have caused some consternation. Without his wage Hannah and the children would have had no money to live on. After ten anxious days part of the riddle was solved. On Friday 9th November, at 1.00pm, Charles Russell was in a boat at a quiet spot on the Dearne and Dove Canal, when he spotted a body in the water under the railway viaduct. It was almost upright with just the top of his head visible. By 3.00pm the body had been recovered, identified as Joseph, and taken to his home on a dray.

The following day an inquest was held at the Keel Inn, Worsborough Dale, at which Samuel Beevers, Charles Russell and Jane Briggs (sometimes known as Howson) gave evidence. Jane lived at Jarratts and had helped to lay out the body. She observed no marks of injury, though the flesh was swollen, suggesting that he had been in the water for some days.

The jury brought in a verdict of ‘found drowned’, which does not explain what happened after Joseph and Samuel took their different routes home. It is implausible is that Samuel’s evidence about the parting at Yews Lane was not the truth and it also seems unlikely that Joseph accidentally toppled into the canal whilst drunk. It was too far from Oaks Lane for him to have wandered there without being aware of where he was. There was also a bright moon so visibility would not have been an issue.

There are two other possibilities which deserve to be considered. It may be that when Joseph separated from his brother, to walk along Oaks Lane, he had already decided to end his life by throwing himself off the tall railway viaduct. The Inquest does not appear to have explicitly considered suicide, but if anyone suspected this was the case, not referring to it would have spared the family considerable stigma and raised no issues about burying Joseph’s body in a churchyard.

A different scenario might arise from the arrears of pay. This was clearly on Joseph’s mind that evening. Had he set out impulsively to try and negotiate a way out of his difficulties, or perhaps he was keeping a prearranged appointment? Is it possible that an argument took place and, faced with the threat of physical violence, perhaps from more than one aggressor, Joseph ran to the viaduct and tried to escape by jumping into the water?

Whatever happened that night, if anyone did see Joseph after he set off along Oaks Lane, they kept the information close to their chest.

Compiled from BMD and Parish records, inquest reports and newspaper reports and information from a member of the family.

Benjamin Fitton - Salt of the Earth

Benjamin Fitton and his brother Francis (also known as Frank) were born in Kirkburton, West Yorkshire, about twelve miles from Worsborough. Benjamin moved there in 1849 and it is thought that Francis arrived slightly earlier. They demonstrate that one family’s tragedy could be another man’s opportunity. Worsborough had recently been badly affected two mining tragedies. There was a serious explosion at the Oaks colliery in 1847 which killed 70, and in January 1849 a further disaster at Darley Main, in which 75 men and boys lost their lives. The supply of labour for the local pits was substantially reduced, which meant that men from further away would be welcomed as workers.

The 1851 census reveals that Benjamin was lodging in Worsborough, three houses away from a young widow, Elizabeth Beevers (nee Clary). Elizabeth’s husband Daniel had died in yet another pit accident in 1847 and her household contained their surviving children, as well as one year old Tom, whose age makes it impossible that he was Daniel’s son.

Elizabeth had already given birth to another illegitimate child, Benjamin, before she became Mrs Fitton in 1853. It is not known whether Jarratts required their tenants to be respectably married rather than ‘living in sin’ at the point when a house was let, but Benjamin and Elizabeth are not the only couple who married after the birth of several of their children, which hints that the landlord may have had a view on the matter. This may have been moral, or it could have been practical. If a mining widow remarried, she would no longer be eligible for financial support from a relief fund.

Elizabeth died in 1854, probably as a result of giving birth to John. The baby was sent to Kirkburton where Benjamin’s parents, Charles and Mary bought him up. It seems that he never lived with his father. It is possible that Benjamin found it difficult to be with a child whose birth had led to his mother’s death, but the decision to send him away might only reflect the fact that it was impractical for a widower with other young children, to cope with a baby as well. By the time Benjamin married Mary Ann Knowles in 1857, it may have been thought undesirable to uproot a three year old from the home of his grandparents to live with in a crowded house with people who would have been strangers to him.

In all other respects, Benjamin seems to have been a responsible family man. In 1861, he and Mary Ann were living at No 15 with a family that comprised Samuel, Joseph and Mary, three of Elizabeth’s children by Daniel Beevers, Tom and Benjamin, children of Benjamin and Elizabeth and Henry, Emma and baby Martha, Benjamin’s children with his second wife. At Jarratts it was not unusual to have half-siblings and step-siblings living as part of a single family unit.

Living at No 47, the top end of the Jarratts site, and possibly able to provide some practical support with the young ones, was Benjamin’s elder brother Francis and his wife Sarah. They shared the house with a couple of lodgers, including the young Lancashire miner who later married Francis’s daughter, Mary.

By 1871, Francis, now a widower, remained at No 47. Benjamin and Mary Ann, who had three more daughters, Elizabeth, Annie and Achsah, had moved away from Jarratts’s around 1869. His stepsons, Samuel (No 26) and Joseph (No 15) remained at Jarratts with their own young families. Benjamin and his teenage son Benjamin were employed at Pindar Oaks, a pit that was run by the same company that ran Darley Main, where Benjamin first worked when he arrived in Worsborough. They were probably living at Measborough Dyke Terrace.

On Saturday 24th November 1877, Benjamin was killed by an accident at work. He was crushed to death by a roof fall whilst working in a group with his son and with James Parr, a young assistant. They had started work at 5.00am and were installing wooden pit props to prevent the roof falling in as a new area of the mine was worked. The procedure was always a risky one but there had been no problems and nothing to make the three of them suspect imminent danger.

Around 11.00am young Benjamin left the area to fetch some more props. When he returned three minutes later he heard Parr shouting and saw that his lower body was imprisoned by rubble. Benjamin fetched help and Parr was quickly set free, shocked but with just a few bruises. The rescuers then concentrated on trying to find Benjamin who had been completely covered by the debris which had suddenly fallen from the roof. It took an hour to release his body.

Two days later an inquest was held at the Pindar Oaks Hotel. Parr’s evidence was detailed. At the point when the roof collapsed Benjamin had just picked up a riddle (large sieve) and had started to shake it to separate out the coal dust. This meant that he would have been leaning forward. When the debris hit him it knocked his head forward and into the 'smudge’ in the riddle. The ‘rattling noise’ which Parr mentioned, was probably Benjamin breathing in coal dust. He then appears to have fallen forward under the weight of the rubble and been buried by it.

Benjamin Fitton was extremely unlucky. It is possible that, if he had been standing upright, he would only have been partially covered by the roof fall, and, like Parr, been pulled out alive. The inquest jury decided that Benjamin had been “accidentally killed by a fall of roof”.

His funeral took place the next day and the Barnsley Chronicle included an unusually detailed description, which appears to indicate the universal respect that everyone had for Benjamin Fitton. There were many mourners, including his immediate family but not his brother Francis who had had died four years earlier. Pit official, Thomas Beevers, whose relationship to Benjamin would not have been known to the reporter, was noted to have been present in an official capacity and it is likely that other members of the Beevers family were also there.

It was reported that almost all of the workforce from Pindar Oaks and Darley Main were present as well as Mr Batty, managing partner of the firm and Mr Walton the certified manager, who took their place alongside Mr Watson, Secretary to the Miners Permanent Relief Fund. According to the journalist who observed the funeral, “It was a relief to the great sorrow felt to see such a sight as the joining together of employers, officials and workspeople to pay their last tribute of esteem to a hard working, quiet, inoffensive man, in such a respectable way.”

The officiating minister, a Mr Lawson, thought the occasion more than usually solemn and stepped out of his normal way to offer words of warning and comfort at the end of the service to the mourners. Reflecting the values of the times, this included a heartfelt plea for them to make their peace with God, to be ready for whenever the summons came for them. Lawson concluded by pointing all to “that home in heaven where there shall be no sorrow, no tears and no parting, and where they might spend eternity together with their departed and dear friends in the presence of God and his angels.”

An incongruous observation in the report of the funeral was the statement that Benjamin’s widow and four youngest children would be eligible to receive a payment of 13 shillings a week as the fruits of his prudently laying by 3d a week to insure against death at work. It is unclear what Mary Ann did after 1881 when the census recorded her as a 50 year old widow being supported by her daughters. The next record of her is in 1898 when she lived in Rich Lane Barnsley and was a householder eligible to vote in County and Parish elections. She is missing from records after 1899 until her death in 1905 in Barnsley aged 74. She would have lost some of her support as her younger children became old enough to work, but Benjamin’s decision to put aside 3d a week clearly gave his widow a little financial security.

Compiled from BMD records, census information, details from a family historian and a report in the Barnsley Chronicle.

Ann Beevers - The Price of Coal

Women were the backbone of a working family, carrying out a range of tasks that enabled the men in the household to concentrate on earning a living. Many of these women have left no mark beyond a few entries in birth, marriage and death records and in some censuses. Ann Beevers is one such woman, and her life reveals something of the real cost of coal to a miner’s wife, daughter, sister and mother.

The first record of Ann is her baptism at Barnsley in 1822. At this point she was called Nancy but seems to have been known as Ann for most of her life. Nancy was often used as a nickname for Ann. As she was recorded as a servant in the 1841 census it may be that an employer’s view about suitable names was responsible for the change.

In November 1841 Ann married her first husband, miner George Taylor, at Worsborough. This was a short marriage. George died in Summer 1844, leaving his young widow with a son, John.

Ann soon took another husband, John Winder, a member of a large family which lived in Worsborough Dale. They married in 1845, about a year after George’s death. Ann was pregnant and gave birth to Ben later that year. Subsequently she had William in 1846, Henry in 1848 and Sarah Ann in 1849. The family would have been hurt by the death of Ann’s brother Daniel Beevers in a pit accident in August 1847. He was badly burnt in an explosion at the Darley Main colliery. He was rescued alive but died shortly afterwords from injuries which were reported to be severe.

Further tragedy followed in January 1849 when Ann’s husband John and her father, also John, were amongst the 75 miners killed in a large explosion at the Darley Main Colliery. His daughter Sarah Ann was born posthumously.

Ann’s second widowhood was much longer than her first, though it was eventful. In 1851, she gave birth to a daughter Elizabeth, whose baptism record names her father as Richard Robinson of Barnsley and her mother as Ann Winder, widow. By 1854 she was in another relationship. Miner Thomas Pashley was a bachelor and five years younger, who had come to Worsborough from nearby Chapeltown. He may initially have been her lodger, as letting off a room was one of the few ways a widow had to make some income and she was recorded as a landlady in the 1851 census. The couple had a large family. Thomas was born in 1854, Joseph in 1856, George in 1857 and Samuel in 1859. Baptism records for some of these children state that the parents were Thomas Pashley and Ann Winder.

One possible reason for their unwed status is that Pashley could not be persuaded to do what would have been regarded as the decent thing by Ann. It may be though, that Ann herself did not want a trip to the altar. A relief fund had been organised for widows and fatherless children of the Darley Main explosion. If Ann was receiving a regular widow’s pension, the new family may have been better off if she did not remarry. Ann and Thomas eventually became husband and wife on 10th March 1861.

It may be significant that in 1871 the couple were living at No 52 Jarratts. The house was empty on census night 1861. It was accommodation for pit deputies and, if the colliery was not prepared to rent houses at Jarratts to cohabiting couples, Ann and Thomas would have needed to balance the value of any relief that she may still have been entitled to, against the superior standard of accommodation that Jarratts offered. There is no evidence that Thomas and Ann did become the tenants of No 52 in 1861 but it is a possibility.

Throughout the 1860’s Ann continued with her frequent pregnancies. Charlotte arrived in 1861, Charles in 1863, Ellen in 1864 and Fred in 1867. If she was living in Jarratts at this point she would have benefited from family support. Her brother Thomas and his wife Sarah lived next door at No 53 with their own young family. Her brother, Joseph, also lived on the site, as did several siblings of her second husband.

What Thomas was like as a husband is not known, though he may have caused his wife some anxiety. There are newspaper reports throughout his time in Worsborough Dale of his being taken to court and fined for various offences, including drunkenness, assault and poaching.

For Ann, the year 1870 must have been her own ‘annus horibilis’. The year opened with the arrest and trial of several men from Worsborough Dale for rioting at the Thorncliffe Colliery. Amongst them were two of her now adult sons. John was convicted as a leader of the riot and sentenced to five years penal servitude and William was sentenced to fifteen months imprisonment. It is now clear that these convictions were miscarriages of justice, but it must have been hurtful to Ann that the alibi which her sister-in-law and neighbour, Sarah Beevers, gave for John was disbelieved.

To compound the misery at this time, youngest son Fred died, aged just two years. Three months later in June, Ellen also died. She was five. They seem to have been the only children of hers who died before becoming adults.

In Spring 1872, Ann may have felt that life had taken a turn for the better. William had already served his sentence and returned home when John was released early after a petition signed by over 7,000 local people was sent to the Home Secretary.

The mines had not yet dealt Ann their last blow. In December 1875, there was a major explosion at the Swaithe Main Pit in which 146 men and boys died. Amongst them was Ann’s son Joseph, aged 20, who was recorded as Victim 125. It was over a week before his body was discovered huddled in Bank No 6 along with four other men and a thirteen year old boy. These must have been a very difficult days for Ann.

Yet another heartache came in November 1877, when her brother, Joseph, died in mysterious circumstances. Days later, Benjamin Fitton, who had married the widow of her brother Daniel, was crushed to death by a fall of coal in the pit where he was working. It is clear from reports of his funeral that members of the Beevers family respected him.

The last years of Ann’s life may have been less traumatic. Some of her children married and had children of their own. William married in 1872, John, now a widower, remarried in 1879 and Charlotte became Mrs Leach in 1881.

Ann died in 1885, aged 62. At that time she would have been regarded as elderly. Thomas died 18 months later towards the end of 1886. This is the last reference to the Pashley family living at Jarratts.

The life of Ann Beevers demonstrates just how much coal mining affected women. She lost her brother, father, and second husband in mining disasters in the 1840s. In the 1870s a son died underground and her two eldest sons served prison sentences for their alleged part in a colliery riot. It was part of the human cost of the coal that fuelled Britain’s industrial greatness. Whether or not Ann thought this price was too high is not known to history.

Compiled from BMD and census records, and newspaper reports. Ann’s elder sons were known at different times by her four surnames, (Beevers, Taylor, Winder, Pashley) and I am grateful to a family historian who worked out that Thorncliffe Rioters John and William Beevers were members of this branch of the family.