52 Ancestors – #12 Robert Butterworth

Flower from Cloudehill

Flower from Cloudehill

I’ve decided not to concentrate on weeks but rather numbers. We’ll see how long it takes me to record 52 biographies of my ancestors. So here I go with Robert Butterworth of Manchester, England.

Robert Butterworth was the son of John Butterworth and Catherine Brookes. He was born in Manchester before 26 Jan 1800, the day he was christened. His father, John, was a smallwares weaver according to his marriage certificate.

In 1819, Robert married Ellen Laverey at Manchester Cathedral. His father witnessed the marriage. It is noted that Robert was a smallwares weaver like his father. When I googled   smallwares weaver I found that they made ribbons, tapes and braids.

In the 1841 census, there are 8 children listed as living with Robert and Ellen. Jane (20), Mary (15), John (15), Ellen (13), Catherine (10), Robert (8), Sarah (5), and Thomas (3). Robert and Ellen are listed as weavers, Jane and Mary as winders and John an umbrella maker.

By the 1851 census, Robert is listed as a painter as his 14 year old son, Thomas (who I am descended through). Ellen is employed in domestic duties and their daughters, Ellen & Sarah, are silk binders. They have two younger children who have been added to the brood: Edward who is 8 and Mary Ann, 6 months.

In the 1861 census, Robert and Ellen are living in Crown Court with two boarders. Robert is listed as a house painter.

This is the information that I am sure of. However, between 1819 and 1941, there are 20 years unaccounted for. I have begun to determine where the family was situated by the birth records of their children. Although this is somewhat fraught as the names Robert, Ellen and Butterworth are quite popular in Manchester during this period. Word to the wise: there is another Butterworth family of weavers living in Rochdale that are not this family.

In 1820, their daughter, Jane is baptised at Manchester Cathedral. There is no record of where the family are living or Robert’s profession.

Their son, John is baptised in 1825 at the Holy Trinity Church in Shaw, Greater Manchester. It appears that Shaw is located between Oldham and Rochdale and that the family have moved out of Manchester. Their abode is listed as Sandhole. Quick researching on the net reveals that Shaw was the town Shaw and Compton which was a major town in the cotton industry trade in the 1800’s and was the home of many large factories. Wikipedia tells me that Luddites rioted here in 1826 in protest as the standard of living dropped. Hand weavers were competing against mechanised machinery and were unable to keep apace. It would be interesting to know how involved Robert and Ellen were.

Mary was born around 1826 (although I am struggling to find a record outside the 1841 census).

Catherine was baptised in 1833. Catherine is baptised at Manchester Cathedral and the family are listed as living in Manchester. Catherine was born in November 1829.

Ellen is listed in the census as being born around 1829 in Manchester. I am still searching for a record for her. Robert William was baptised in in 1833 in the Manchester Cathedral.

Sarah, who also appears in the census, is born around 1835 and Thomas in 1837. However, I can not find either of these records. Nor can I find Edward who was born c1843 or Mary Ann c1850.

It is difficult to imagine what life was like for the Butterworths during this period. I have researched mining in the north of England and in Lanarkshire, Scotland. I’ve researched Victorian London. From what I can see at a glance, Manchester during this time was similar for the people working in the cotton mills. An article in Wikipedia states that there were 25 mills in Lancashire in 1841 employing approx 1000 people. By 1860, there were 2650 mills employing approx 440,000 people. These figures demonstrate that cotton industry grew quite significantly during a 20 year period. A cotton famine from 1860-65 (due to the American Civil War and a drop in the availability of cotton) may be the reason for Robert’s change in occupation.

I have attempted to find where exactly the family lived in the 1841 census. The census states that they were living in Nicholas St near Old Mount St in Salford. Nicholas St is now Naples St and in the vicinity of St Michael’s Church and Angel Meadow.

From Friends of Angel Meadow

From Friends of Angel Meadow

The Friends of Angel Meadow have documented the history of the area (there is even a You Tube clip) and make reference to Friedrich Engels (Karl Marx’s co-writer of the Communist Manifesto) who was appalled by the conditions of the working class in Manchester. In his book, The Condition of the Working in England in 1844, he writes about Angel Meadow:

“Such is the Old Town of Manchester, and on re-reading my description, I am forced to admit that instead of being exaggerated, it is far from black enough to convey a true impression of the filth, ruin, and uninhabitableness, the defiance of all considerations of cleanliness, ventilation, and health which characterise the construction of this single district, containing at least twenty to thirty thousand inhabitants. And such a district exists in the heart of the second city of England, the first manufacturing city of the world.

If any one wishes to see in how little space a human being can move, how little air — and such air! — he can breathe, how little of civilisation he may share and yet live, it is only necessary to travel hither. True, this is the Old Town, and the people of Manchester emphasise the fact whenever any one mentions to them the frightful condition of this Hell upon Earth; but what does that prove? Everything which here arouses horror and indignation is of recent origin, belongs to the industrial epoch.”

From what I can gather, the family lived in this area, or near enough to it, until the death of Robert and Ellen.


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