Three Widows

On the 5th of November 1852, Flamborough men John BAILEY, John MAJOR and George STEPHENSON went to sea “in pursuit of their calling”. Their fishing coble was turned over by the waves and all three drowned, “each leaving a widow to lament their bereavement”.

John Major’s body was soon recovered and laid to rest on the 7th. Jane, his widow, wasn’t a stranger to the graveyard.

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Photo courtesy Ann Davies

On his last day, John could not have known he would become a father again. His daughter, Jane, was born the following year, in July.

Widow Jane had been a minor when she married but signed the register with a neat hand (after a false start).

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In 1861 she is living in Ship Inn Yard, Flamborough, with three children – Ann (12), William (10) and Jane (7). At the same address ten years later, young Jane is absent on census night, and William, now 20, is supporting the family by fishing. He marries two years later and sets up his own household. The enumerator in 1881 finds Jane in South Dalton, about thirty miles from Flamborough, working as a housekeeper to Henry Llewellyn CHOWEN, a single man, aged 38, and a land agent. He also employs Jane ELLERBY, widow Jane’s 14-year-old granddaughter as a servant. Jane the Elder is still Henry’s housekeeper in 1891. I don’t know if she stayed in post until his death in 1900 but at census the following year she is back in Flamborough with son William, a fish merchant now and a widower. It must have been a comfortable home because William’s three unmarried sons are all working and his daughter, yet another Jane, keeps house.

Widow Jane dies aged 87 in the winter of 1908. Find her on the Shared Tree.

The bodies of John Major’s drowned companions are not recovered for a week or more. John BAILEY is buried on 16 November and George STEPHENSON  two days later.

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John married Frances HUNTER in 1849 and the couple had one son before death intervened. Frances is with 10-year-old William Hunter Bailey in Mosey’s Yard, Filey in 1861 but she dies before the next census, aged 50. She is buried somewhere in St Oswald’s churchyard but her headstone has been relocated to the north wall. You can find a photo of it as a memory on the Shared Tree.

Alice COCKCROFT married George in 1850 and only had time to have one child with him, a daughter, Mary. Shortly before she buried her husband she had seen her two sisters laid to rest, Esther in August aged 17 and Hannah in September aged 26. Alice and Hannah’s husband George BIELBY, bereft and both with infant daughters to raise, moved in together. They didn’t marry and it is nobody’s business whether the arrangement ever had a romantic dimension. Six successive census enumerators from 1861 to 1911 noted Alice’s status as George’s housekeeper – and their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Find Alice on the Shared Tree.

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Alice and Her Sisters

Alice COCKCROFT was one of the three widows left to “lament their bereavement” following the deaths of their husbands in November 1852. She was well practised in lamentation.

On the 29th August that year, her younger sister Esther had been laid to rest, aged 17. Ten days later, her elder sister Hannah was buried.

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Alice’s daughter Mary was about 9 months old at this time and her niece, Sarah Ann BIELBY, had recently celebrated her first birthday. There may not have been much discussion before the bereft man and woman, each with an infant to raise, chose to live together. (They would be inseparable for about fifty years.)

The 1861 census found Alice keeping house for George Bielby and Sarah  Ann in Foxroyd Yard, Flamborough. (Mary was with grandmother Sarah Cockroft in South Street.) Ten years later the two girls, now 19, were in Front Street, Flamborough, with their “single parents”.

Mary Stephenson flew the unusual but practical nest first, in 1874, to marry William Joseph GARDINER. The couple moved to Hull and lived in Terry Street for about forty years – without the “blessing” of children.

Sarah Ann married Richard Acklam BAYES in September 1876 and had four children, three girls and a boy who would play cricket for Yorkshire.

George William Bayes, as an amateur in a summer sport, would almost certainly not have given up his job as a fish buyer, or his home in Flamborough. In 1933 he made a short film of fishermen at North Landing and “the climmers” on the headland. You can watch it here. George William was not related by blood to George Stephenson but it would be surprising if he hadn’t been told stories about his “granduncle”.

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Screengrab from George William’s film.

I have made some connections on the FamilySearchTree that help to form a picture of the future denied to George Stephenson. I am unable to present his forebears because there are problems to be resolved.

I have found Flamborough Fishing Families to be a reliable online resource but in this instance, it doesn’t agree with FST.

FFF indicates that George’s parents are George and Mary née CHADWICK. I think this is correct.

FST marries George, son of George and Mary, to a “Mrs Stephenson”, with daughters born in 1857 and 1862. I think Mrs S is Jane DANBY, of North Frodingham. She married George there and they raised their family in Roos. Just to confuse matters further, FFF has the George who went to Roos marrying “Elizabeth”.

Of the three men who drowned in 1852, two families (Bailey and Major) have representatives buried or remembered in Filey St Oswald’s churchyard. If I find Flamborough Stephenson connections to Filey I may return to the difficulties with George senior and junior.

Fathers, Lost

William Hunter BAILEY was two years old when his father failed to return home.

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John BAILEY was 28-years old, George STEPHENSON 27 and John MAJOR 35. Their bodies must have been recovered because their deaths were registered locally, but I have only found a burial record for John Major.

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William and his mother moved the few miles to Filey, where Frances died in August 1870. A few months later William married Elizabeth CRAWFORD. At the 1871 census, the couple was enumerated in Mosey’s Yard and ten years later in Providence Place, having been joined by two children, John William and Sarah Ann.

William, undaunted by his father’s fate, worked as a fisherman. Like his dad, he didn’t make old bones but I have been unable to find the cause of his death at age 34.

His headstone in Filey St Oswald’s churchyard has been moved from his grave to the north wall.

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In remembrance of FRANCES, wife of JOHN BAILEY, who died Aug 14th 1870, aged 51 years.

‘Farewell dear son, do thou earth’s days employ

To fit thee for our Father’s home of joy

Sleep on dear Mother and take thy rest

God took thee when he thought it best.’

Also, WILLIAM HUNTER BAILEY, son of the above and the beloved husband of ELIZABETH, died 16th Sep. 1884 aged 34 years.

Find the three drowned fishermen on FamilySearch Tree: John Bailey, George Stephenson and John Major.

Today’s Image

I walked along the beach to Reighton this morning as a way of remembering the solar eclipse.

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