Monday, May 19, 2014

What about the clippers?

The 'clogs' of this blog's title refers to the three generations of cloggers and bootmakers on my father's side of the family - Thomas Henry Ward, John Ward and Richard Ward. I've written quite a bit about them. But what of the 'clippers', the gentlemen's hairdressers on my mother's side of the family? Who were they?

The first to take up hairdressing seems to have been my Grandfather's uncle, Percy Gregory Orton. Born in 1865 in Leicestershire, he was the eldest son of Thomas Brown Orton, a grocer, and Sarah Gregory, the daughter of an engine driver. Percy was listed as a hairdresser on the 1881 census, at the age of 16. Where and how he learned his trade isn't known. The Orton family moved to Manchester sometime between 1877 and 1881, so perhaps he did his apprenticeship in the Manchester area. 

Percy married Mary Jones in Salford in 1886 and by 1891 they were living at 28 Hankinson Street, Pendleton, a four roomed dwelling which was to remain in the family for some time. It had previously been used as a "refreshment house". When Percy and Mary lived there, one room on the ground floor was used as a  barber's shop. The other three were used to accommodate the family.

In the 1891 census Percy's 24 year old brother Albert Edwin also gave his occupation as "Barber, hair", although he was unemployed at the time of the census, so it seems he wasn't working with Percy. After his marriage to Sarah Jane St Ledger, Albert lived at 21 Hankinson Street for several years. 

Percy died late in 1891. His widow, Mary, continued living at 28 Hankinson Street and the address was listed as a hairdresser's business in her name in the 1895 Kelly's directory of Manchester. After Mary remarried and left Pendleton, Albert and Sarah Jane moved into number 28.

Albert was recorded as a hairdresser working 'on own account' in the 1911 census. He died in 1919. His property went to his widow, Sarah Jane. However his sons Harold (1898) and Albert Edwin (born 1903) carried on the hairdressing business. In the 1929 Kelly's directory of Manchester and Salford, Albert Orton, hairdresser is listed at both Hankinson Street, Pendleton and Kenyon Lane, Moston. For some reason, despite being the older of the two, Harold isn't mentioned, and I only have word-of-mouth evidence from family members that he was in fact a hairdresser.

I'm also told by family members that when Albert (junior) developed tuberculosis in the late 1930's and had to have treatment in a sanitorium, his mother Sarah Jane refused to let his wife and daughters stay on in the house in Hankinson Street. They moved into one room in the home of a friend nearby. Harold apparently refused to work in his mother's premises as a mark of solidarity, and the rift with Sarah was never mended.

Albert eventually recovered and he and his family moved to Yarborough Street. The outbreak of World War II resulted in the family being divided again as the younger children and their mother were evacuated to various places considered safer than Manchester. Eventually they all came together again in the village of Crawshawbooth, Lancashire. Albert died of cancer in 1946 and Harold in 1947, bringing to an end the hairdressing business.

Why Gentlemen's Hairdressers rather than Barbers?

When I was a child my mother always referred to her father as a barber. The term 'barber' was in general use then to describe someone who cut men's hair, while 'hairdresser' usually referred to someone who cut and styled women's hair (and the words are still used that way, though less so now.) However on the various records of their occupations, Percy and the two Alberts almost always referred to themselves as 'hairdresser' or 'gentlemans hairdresser'. Only once, in 1891, Albert senior referred to himself as 'barber, hair'.

The word 'barber' comes from the Latin word for 'beard' and traditionally barbers not only trimmed men's beards and hair, but also used their skills with the razor to act as surgeons and dentists. Over time the surgical side of their occupation disappeared as it was taken over by the medical profession. 

Albert Orton, my grandfather, certainly trimmed beards - my mother has childhood recollections of being asked to lather up men's faces in preparation for them being shaved, a job she didn't relish but she liked the few pennies she was paid for doing it. But perhaps Albert and his father and uncle preferred to emphasise a different aspect of their profession, one less associated with the cut-throat razor. 

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