Monday, May 26, 2014

Thomas Brown Orton 1842-1918

By a strange quirk of fate, my paternal great grandfather John Ward and my maternal great great grandfather, Thomas Brown Orton, were both born within weeks of each other in early 1842, the one in Walton le Dale in Lancashire, the other in Husbands Bosworth in Leicestershire. The disparity in the "greats" comes about because John Ward's youngest son, my grandfather Thomas Henry Ward, married relatively late in life.

Thomas Brown Orton was the first son of John Orton and Mary Ann Brown, arriving 6 months after their marriage in August 1841. John Orton was a carpenter, and it's likely that he travelled here and there, wherever work was available. At the time of their marriage he and Mary Ann were living in Great Hampton Row in Birmingham, so possibly John had found work on the nearby building of St Chad's Cathedral, which was begun in 1839 and completed in 1841.

Husbands Bosworth
(image from Wikimedia
Thomas' birth was registered in Market Harborough in Leicestershire, but from later census information it seems he was actually born in Husbands Bosworth, Leicestershire, a small town right in the centre of England. (In case you are wondering, the strange name came about because there was a need to distinguish the town from the nearby Market Bosworth. Husbands Bosworth was the place of husbandry, ie it was a farming community.)

Thomas and his younger siblings William (born 1843) and Lucy Ann Brown (born 1845) were all baptised at All Saints Church in Husbands Bosworth on the same day, 18 May 1845, another clue that perhaps John led a fairly mobile existence. There was another batch of christenings of John and Mary Ann's children in March 1862, when Alfred (1850) Fanny (1853) Mary Jane (1854) and Agnes (1862) were baptised.

Leicestershire, England 
The Orton family were in Husbands Bosworth at the time of the 1851 census, with two of Mary Ann's sisters and a niece present as visitors on census night. At the 1861 census the 18 year old Thomas was living with the family of Joseph Harvey in Leicester and working for Joseph as a grocer's assistant.

Thomas married Sarah Gregory, a girl from Leicester, early in 1865. They seem to have carried on the family tradition of marrying in haste and giving their first son his mother's maiden name as a middle name. Percy Gregory Orton was born in the second quarter of 1865. Albert Edwin followed in 1867, then Ernest Frank in 1869 and John Sydney in 1870.

The Bell Inn, High St, Husbands Bosworth
image: Ian Rob
The 1871 census shows Thomas employed as a police constable in Leicester. Another young police constable, Henry Muddimer was lodging with the family in Great Holme Street.

More children came along in the years that followed - Augusta Eleanor in 1873, Charles Walter in 1875 and Bertha Annie in 1876. Thomas' father John Orton died in 1880.

The Ortons move to Lancashire

Sometime between the birth of Bertha in 1876 and the census in 1881 the family moved from Leicester to Wynford St, Pendlebury, in Salford, Lancashire. On the census record, Thomas was looking for work as a grocer but was unemployed. However, Percy was now working as a hairdresser.

This move must have been a major event for the family. The Ortons had lived in Leicestershire for several generations. Perhaps Thomas and Sarah were following a general trend, looking for work in the cities as rural areas declined. The population of Husbands Bosworth had decreased from 1002 in 1851 to 831 in 1881.

The Ortons moved again before the next census in 1891 to Hyde Rd in Ardwick, Manchester. By now Percy had married and left home and Thomas was working again as a shop keeper. Another grocer, a local named William Robinson, was with the family on census night, along with Frank Beesley, an enameller and future son in law. Many of the residents of Hyde Rd were shopkeepers or tradespeople of various kinds.

Market St, Droylsden
Photo: Gene Hunt
By 1901 Thomas, now 59 years old, was working as a warehouseman. He and Sarah had moved to Medlock Street in Droylsden, a few miles east of Manchester city centre. Here their neighbours were predominantly mill workers, and other labourers. None of the children were still at home, although all were still living except for Percy, who had died in 1891.

Thomas continued working into his old age and was employed as a general labourer in a foundry in 1911. Three cotton mill workers, William Haydock and his two sons, were boarding with the Ortons in the house in Droylsden, and a cousin, Gladys Sharp, was recorded as a visitor on the census. Their house had 4 rooms including the kitchen, so it must have been fairly crowded.

In 1918, at the age of 76, Thomas died. Sarah continued on until 1923, when she died at the age of 82. Their lives seem fairly typical of many of their generation. Perhaps their most remarkable achievement was in raising 7 children to adulthood, and a marriage spanning more than 50 years.

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