Richard Ward must have been less than 4 years old when his father, Thomas, died in 1813. He was the youngest of four children. His mother, Frances, seems to have remarried in 1829, when Richard would have been in his teens and probably already supporting himself. Nothing more is known about him until he married Mary Baines on 26 June 1831 at St Leonard’s in Walton Le Dale.
The marriage entry in the parish register records that Richard was a bachelor, and Mary a spinster of the parish of Preston, but gives no details about their age, their parents, or Richard’s occupation. We know from the 1851 census that Mary was born in Kirkby Lonsdale in Westmorland, so it would be interesting to know when she moved to Lancashire, and how she and Richard met, but that too is a mystery. We do know that they continued to live in Walton Le Dale, in fact Richard remained there for the rest of his life.
By the time of the 1841 census, Richard and Mary had four living children – Thomas (c 1832), Ann (c 1833), James (1837) and Richard (1839). Another child, William (1835), had died in infancy. Richard senior recorded his occupation as shoe maker. It was a trade he passed on to his youngest son, John (born 1842), who in turn passed it on to his youngest son Thomas Henry.
Further children were born in the following 10 years – John (1842), Frances (1844), Margaret (1845) and Mary(1850). Frances survived only 8 weeks old, and Margaret only 5 weeks.
By the time of the 1851 census the eldest son Thomas, now 18, was working as a joiner’s apprentice, a trade followed by his grandfather and his uncle John (Richard’s oldest brother). Ann was working in one of the local cotton mills and James, at 14, was a tailor’s apprentice. For some reason Richard himself was employed as a gardener at this time.
Sadly Mary, his wife, died in 1852 at the age of 38. Further tragedy followed with the death in 1859 of Richard’s youngest daughter Mary, at the age of 9. Of nine children born to Richard and Mary, only five survived into adulthood. Yet such statistics were not uncommon amongst the working class at the time.
Only John, now aged 18, was left at home with Richard when the 1861 census was taken. Richard was working as a shoe maker again, and John as a clogger's apprentice. Walton Le Dale had more than one shoe maker at this time, and the census doesn't record who John was apprenticed to. Did Richard teach him his trade, or someone else?
In July 1861, with all his surviving children grown up, Richard re-married. His wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) Gardner was several years younger than him, having been born in 1827 in Kirkland, near Garstang, in Lancashire. Richard’s daughter Ann had married a Thomas Gardner, also from Kirkland, in May 1860. It seems likely that Betsy and Thomas were sister and brother, since Stephen Gardner is recorded as the name of the father on both marriage records. If so, it must have been strange at family gatherings with Ann having her sister-in-law as her step-mother, while Richard’s son-in-law was also his brother-in-law.
Richard and Betsy had a son, Robert, in 1866 and they continued to live in Walton Le Dale. Ann and John both lived in Walton Le Dale with their spouses and produced several grandchildren who would have been of a similar age to Robert.
By 1871 Richard had returned to working as a gardener. By the time of 1881 census Richard was 72 years old and almost blind. He could no longer work, although with no pension scheme to fall back on, most men his age were still employed. Betsy found work as a washerwoman and Robert, now 14, was employed as a cotton weaver in one of the mills.
Richard died some time before 1890. (When Robert married his father was already deceased). The most likely date seems to be late in 1881 and he was probably buried in the church yard at Walton Le Dale.