Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mary Ann Cragg

When Mary Ann Cragg married “the boy next door”, John Ward, she was twenty years old and he was 22. Her parents, Matthew and Esther Cragg had moved to Walton le Dale sometime between 1851 and 1861 and took up residence as neighbours to the widowed Richard Ward and his son John in Mansleys Row. Both Mary and her father worked in the cotton mills, he as a block printer and she as a cotton loom weaver. The marriage entry in the church register lists her as 'Mary Craig' daughter of Matthew Craig, but this is almost certainly an error. The mother's maiden name for their children, where it is recorded, is Cragg.
Radcliffe Bridge about 1854
Photo taken by William Smith
Mary Ann was born in Radcliffe, near Bury in Lancashire, on December 21, 1843. She had two older brothers, William (born 1835) and Richard (born 1839). Tragically, both boys died within a few days of each other in February 1847. Perhaps they were victims of the typhus epidemic which swept through Britain that year, hitting Lancashire particularly hard, with nearly 10,000 deaths recorded in the Northwest. If so, three year old Mary was very fortunate to have survived. Perhaps it is an indication of her strong constitution.

Following her brothers' deaths, Mary Ann seems to have remained the only child of Matthew and Esther.  But she was not always alone with them. The 1851 census shows that Matthew, Esther and Mary were still living in Radcliffe, though they had moved from Cabbage Row to Radcliffe Hall. Living with them were a nephew and niece, William and Mary Newsham. They were much older than Mary, and were already working.

By 1861 they had left, but a 9 year old child named Nancy Heap was living with Matthew, Esther and Mary. She is described as a niece, but as far as I can tell she was probably the daughter of Mary Newsham. (More of these connections in a later post).

Lower Newlands, Rastrick, Yorkshire
Photo  copyright Humphry Bolton under a CC license
After her marriage to John Ward in June 1864, Mary Ann continued to work as a cotton weaver, even after the birth of John Willie, Matthew and Esther. According to the 1911 census, she and John went on to have 10 children in all, 7 of whom lived into adulthood. The family moved from Walton le Dale to Brighouse near Calderbrook before 1881, then to Rastrick in Yorkshire, and finally by 1901 to Clifton Street in Milnrow, Lancashire. Later in life, after John’s death in 1905, she continued his business as a boot and shoe retailer until her own death in 1916.


  1. Re Cabbage Row, Radcliffe Hall - I used to lived at the end house (No. 70 Bury Street) of the row of 9 houses in Radcliffe Hall from 1948 to 1961 and then at No. 68 until 1965. The row was demolished under a slum clearance scheme in 1970.
    Cabbage Row started life around 1820-1830 and was probably built by Hutchinson for his workers at the local bleach works. The 1841 census lists 13 persons employed in bleaching, dyeing, finishing and allied trades living in 10 houses in the row. These were originally numbered 6 Bury Street to 24 Bury Street. Matthew Cragg and family appears to be living in the next lot of houses going towards Radcliffe town centre, where in my day there was a greengrocers shop (No. 4 Bury Street) and a Herbalist shop (No. 2) standing together at the corner of Sandford Street. Sometime between 1851 and 1861 nos. 14 and 16 were knocked into one property and eventually became the Radcliffe Hall Inn. It was a Chip shop in the 1940s-60s.
    Between 1891 and 1901 Chapel Street, which ran from the Top o' Cross to Sandford Street, disappeared and was renamed Bury Street and the street was renumbered with Nos. 1 and 2 at the Top o' Cross end. The house where Matthew Cragg used to live was number 52 Bury Street up to 1970. Cabbage Row was part of Radcliffe Hall, not a separate location.

  2. Thanks for clarifying that Cabbage Row was part of Radcliffe Hall, not a different address as I had thought. Thanks too for taking the time to provide its history. It's always good to hear from someone who knows a place from living there.
    Since I wrote this article I've also discovered that Matthew and Esther Cragg had another child, Richard, born in 1837, who died in 1838 before the other Richard was born.