Picture of part of Jarratts Buildings

The People

1881 - 1900


Jarratts Buildings - The People

Uriah Baker - A Strange Occupation

Individual censuses do not necessarily provide an accurate snapshot of someone's life. The 1881 census shows that 68 year-old Uriah Baker and his wife Elizabeth, who was the same age, were living at No 17 Jarratts. Uriah described himself as a ship's carpenter, an unusual occupation given that Worsbrough is located about as far away from any coast as is possible in England.

Uriah was born in Exton, Rutland around 1814, though little of his early years can be identified. In 1836 he married Eliza Jukes, a girl from Hoylandswaine near Barnsley. The marriage took place at Ashton-under-Lyne, a mill town on the opposite side of the Pennines. At this time many families moved between West Yorkshire and the area now known as Tameside to the East of Manchester. Whether Uriah and Eliza met in Yorkshire or in Manchester is unknown. As a carpenter, Uriah would have readily found work building or repairing the many vessels that used the Manchester Ship Canal bringing raw materials directly to the cotton factories for which Manchester was renowned.

I have not identified the young family in the 1841 census, but the 1851 census shows that they moved around the country for several years after their wedding. Julia had been born in Barnsley before the couple married and they had returned there when daughter Ruth was born in 1839. Rachel and George were subsequently born in Grantham whilst William was born in Barnsley in 1848. Mary Ann was the most recent addition to the family who now lived at Worsbrough.

Hannah soon followed and then the family moved into Barnsley again before Caroline was born. By 1861 Uriah had returned to Worsbrough where he earned his living as a boat builder. At this time the Dearne and Dove Canal served Worsbrough transporting local coal and glass to the major industrial centres, and bringing in wood and general merchandise for the community. For a skilled craftsman the canal network would have provided a steady living in the mid-nineteenth century.

By 1871 several members of the family were married and none were living with their parents when the census was taken. Uriah and Eliza were alone except for a granddaughter and a lodger.

There is no indication of when the Bakers moved into Jarratts, but the fact that they did so shows that Uriah swapped employment with the canal for a job at the mine. Carpenters were an integral part of a large-scale mining operation, helping to prop up tunnel roofs with wood. By the 1870s the canal had passed its heyday. The railways moved goods much more rapidly and cheaply than the waterways and the need for boats was disappearing. In censuses until 1871 Uriah had described himself as a carpenter. Stating his occupation as ship's carpenter in 1881 suggests that he was not happy with his new role. Even in the nineteenth century workers had to move with the times but some resented the enforced change. Sometimes censuses or death certificates record a person's occupation as different to the employment they held at that time, especially if the stated occupation was more skilled or involved craftsmanship. It indicates that there was a gap between how society perceived a person and how they perceived themselves.

In their old age the Bakers made a second income from taking in lodgers. In 1881 four Irish miners were living with them. By 1891 the couple lived alone and described themselves as being of independent means. Uriah had enjoyed a reasonable earning capacity as a carpenter. If they had been prudent with money, modest savings would have afforded them independence when they no longer felt up to sharing their home with comparative strangers or providing a level of housekeeping for them. Uriah may also have been ill by this time. He died in June 1891 just a few weeks after the census was taken and was buried at Darfield. Eliza was also buried at Darfield when she died eight years later.

The 1851 census reveals a five year age gap between George and William, suggesting there may have been another child. The story of Thomas is briefly recorded in a few newspapers in 1846 when his death, aged 17 months, became the subject of an inquest. He had been playing out in the street when a cart laden with turnips ran over his head and killed him instantly.

A cart also features in a snippet of information about Eliza which was provided by a descendant. One of her sisters became a Mormon and emigrated to America. When the rail road west ended in Iowa she and her fellow travellers piled all of their belongings onto a window cleaner's cart and pulled it around 1,300 miles to Utah. The emigration movement became known as handcarts to Zion. It is strange that in one family the same item of transport should have such a positive and a negative effect.

Compiled from censuses, BMD records, reports in the British Newspaper Archive and information from a descendant of the family.

Joseph Baxter - A double identity

During the 1880s, the Baxter family, consisting of Joseph, Mary, and children Frank, Joseph, James, Henry, Sarah and Elizabeth lived at No 4 Jarratts. On the surface they appeared a typical mining family. In 1888, 18 year old Henry had a minor skirmish with the law when he was fined 10 shillings for gambling, along with three other Jarratts youths. A few months earlier, his father Joseph had appeared as a witness for the prosecution when he had witnessed a stabbing in a nearby street.

But who exactly were the Baxters? An exchange on a Genes Reunited bulletin board, apparently between two descendants, reveals an unexpected twist.

Joseph Baxter and his family are documented in Worsbrough censuses from 1861 - 1901, but never feature in any birth, baptism, marriage or death records. In all official records is a family headed by Jeremiah Smith and his wife Mary, who never appear in any censuses. Birth and baptism records for Jeremiah Smith's children correspond exactly with the names and birth dates of the Baxter children as recorded in the censuses. The birth of Jeremiah Smith, who is identical in age to Joseph Baxter, has been traced to Lancashire, the birth place recorded for Joseph on censuses. Combined with the fact that one of the descendants knew that an ancestor was nicknamed Stiffy Baxter, the conclusion was that Jeremiah Smith and Joseph Baxter were one and the same. No reason has been put forward for the double life. Victorian society did not require identity checks and it is not unheard of for a person to adopt an entirely new name when moving from one part of the country to another. Anyone who wanted to escape a criminal past or a miserable marriage had an understandable reason for the deception.

Joseph Baxter's case is unusual in that the original name was never abandoned and could not have been kept a secret from everyone. He was lodging with Francis and Sarah Fitton on the 1861 census at 47 Jarratts. His wife Mary was the daughter of Francis and Sarah, born before they married and registered as Jenkinson, her mother's maiden name. It seems scarcely credible that they would not have queried why their lodger planned to marry their daughter using a different name. Nor, in the relatively small community that was Worsbrough at that time, is it feasible that the couple could have had several children baptised under a different name without anyone realising. In 1902, the death of Jeremiah Smith aged 60 was registered at Barnsley. Whoever registered the death was fully aware of Joseph's use of two names.

Some corroboration of the thesis that Joseph Baxter and Jeremiah Smith were the same person occurs in 1911. When a sudden death occurred at Jarratts that year, a youth named Herbert Baxter of 12 Jarratts was called to give evidence to the coroner's inquest. The 1911 census reveals that householder of 12 Jarratts was the same Henry who had been fined for gambling in 1888. He was now a married man with a large family of his own, and the family name was Smith.

This story has been compiled from a Genes Reunited bulletin board, the 1911 census and reports in the British Newspaper Archive.

Lucy Bell - A Child's Tragedy

Lucy Bell belonged to an exceptionally large family by late-Victorian standards. Her parents Jonas and Elizabeth (nee Glover) who lived at Jarratts for many years had 15 children over a 25 year period. Lucy, born in 1882, was one of the middle ones. At that time few families escaped the death of a child and Lucy would have been aware that Sam and then Emma joined the family for a few months. She may have known that her elder sister and brother, Jane and Charley, bore the names of siblings who had died in infancy.

By Wednesday 27th March 1889 the Bells were living at Taylor Terrace, a few yards from the Jarratts site, possibly because Jonas had taken a job at the Swaithe colliery. The day may have started like many others. Elizabeth rose at 7.00am to see Jonas and unmarried son Edwin off to work at the pit, probably making them breakfast and filling the 'snap' tins which contained food for a miner to eat underground during his shift. Elizabeth though had something on her mind. One of her sons was truanting. It is unclear whether the school attendance officer had visited or whether Elizabeth learnt of the truancy unofficially from one of her other children or a neighbour. She decided to follow the boy to check where he went.

There were three young girls in the family, including Lucy who should have been going to school herself that morning. Elizabeth would have found it hard to pursue her son and possibly force a truculent boy to school whilst also dealing with a baby and toddler. She was also worried about taking 5-month old Ada outside as the baby, who had been sickly from birth, had bronchitis. Elizabeth kept 6-year old Lucy at home to look after 2-year-old Selina and nurse Ada whilst she was out. To make sure that Lucy did not take the poorly baby outside she locked the three young girls in the house.

In the nineteenth century a working-class house was heated by a coal or wood fire that burnt in an open grate. Unless a moveable fire-guard was in place the flames were unprotected. Anything that wafted too close to them could easily ignite and occasionally sparks or embers flew spontaneously out of the grate. Elizabeth told the inquest that Lucy had put the baby down as soon as she left home, picked up a skipping rope and was jumping near the fire when the back of her skirt touched the flames.This account had allegedly been obtained from Selina, though it seems very detailed and mature for such a young witness.

It is clear that Lucy's skirt had caught fire first and she managed to pull it off and drop it onto the kitchen floor before realising that her other clothing was also alight. The safety advice of the age must have been drummed into her as she clearly knew that the best way to quell the flames was to roll in a rug or blanket to cut off the oxygen supply from the air. In a terrifying situation, she seems to have kept calm as she managed to get upstairs and rolled on the bed as she trying to wrap some bedding around her. What must have been going through her mind when the sheets also caught fire and she leapt from the bed to the window and then rolled on the floor can only be imagined.

A passer-by, Lucy Sharp, was the first person to realise that the house was on fire. She spotted a human silhouette against an upstairs window, framed by flames. She ran for a neighbour, William Sagar and between them they broke the door down to find material smouldering on the kitchen floor and Ada and Selina coughing from the effects of smoke. Hearing a noise, Sagar raced upstairs where he saw fire blazing in the smoke-filled bedroom. He crawled towards the bed and found Lucy lying on the floor. By now all her clothing had been burned off and lay as a pile of ash around her except for her stockings and shoes. Sagar carried her downstairs where she died a few moments later.

This is the most upsetting incident relating to a Jarratts family that I have yet discovered and Elizabeth's decision to leave a young child and a sick baby in the care of a 6-year old is hard to understand. Her parents and an uncle lived on the nearby Jarratts site as did her childless sister. She was also surrounded by neighbours. Was this a one-off action or did she regularly leave her children without adult supervision? Had the truanting son played up that morning, unexpectedly forcing her to make sure that he went to school, perhaps to avoid being fined for non-attendance? Was she too ashamed about the truanting to ask for help from her extended family? As four babies had already died in infancy, she was clearly worried about losing Ada too if she was taken outside. Did she understand that she was taking a risk by locking three young children in the house, even for a short time? Whatever made Elizabeth act as she did that morning points to the dilemmas faced by a working-class woman trying to bring up a large family and run a home.

The inquest into Lucy's death concluded that it was accidental. Preventing certain types of cruelty to children was becoming important in 1880s Britain but leaving a 6-year old in charge of younger ones was not regarded as neglectful. Lucy's death was noted in several papers as a shocking accident rather than with any criticism levelled at her mother.

This tragedy may have cast a shadow over several lives. Elizabeth probably never forgave herself for locking the door. The truant may have felt a lifetime's guilt for causing his mother to leave the house. If Selina and Ada were told of the fire both must have realised that they could also have perished if Lucy had not fled upstairs. How did it affect Jonas to return from work and discover the circumstances in which another daughter had died and did it have any repercussions for the relationship between husband and wife?

Lucy Bell was not unusual in being left to look after young children whilst she was only a child herself. Nor was it unusual for a child to burn to death when their clothes caught fire in the family home. Yet it took several more years before the public mood saw immature child-carers and infant death in the home not as 'one of those things', but something that could and should be prevented. In the meantime, if Lucy's story was passed down in the Bell or Glover families as oral history, it would be illuminating to know exactly what was said.

Compiled from census and BMD records and newspapers in the British Newspaper Archive.

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