Text Updated 1995, 20020114

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The Skirrows of Baildon - My Skirrow family tree


Thomas Skirrow was born in Idle, Yorks, in 1782. His wife Sarah was also born in Idle a year later. That much can be deduced from the 1851 census, the first to show place of birth and true age. They settled in Baildon before 1841, with children John (30), Ruth (22), Judy (20), and Sarah (15), and Thomas (59) was a 'stuff weaver'. Twelve pages earlier, another Skirrow family appears; George (70), an agricultural labourer with wife Elizabeth. They are not old enough to be Thomas's parents, but George could be an older brother.

By 1851, still in Charlestown, Thomas and Sarah have Ruth, 32, unmarried and a powerloom weaver, but the others have left home. Now several other Skirrow families can be found: William Skirrow (36) and Martha (30) have children Sarah and John. Benjamin Skirrow (12), and Joseph Skirrow both appear in a family of Smiths as 'sons in law', which obviously didn't mean then what it does now!

John Skirrow (40) now lives five doors away from Thomas, with wife Lydia, and sons David and William Wright. Midway between them live John and Rebecca Morton, and children John (4), Thomas (10), and Sarah (6 months). Interestingly, Thomas is named Skirrow-Morton, the age gap suggesting that his mother, a first wife now dead, was a Skirrow. A few streets away are William Skirrow (37), wife Esther, and children George Hannah, Elizabeth and John. Further away John Yeadon (61) lives with wife Susannah, unmarried daughter Isabella (20), and grandaughter Anne Skirrow (8). The most likely explanation for this is that an older daughter married a Skirrow and then died, leaving Anne with her parents. Finally we find John Skirrow (32), a shopkeeper, with wife Mary and children Benjamin (9), William (6), Jane (4), Christopher (1), and also Hannah, a Servant. This family must have been doing well!

The 1961 census is interesting in referring to a group of eight adjacent houses in Charlestown as Skirrow Houses. Perhaps they were owned by a Skirrow who owned the mill and rented them to his relatives. John Skirrow (50) is still there, but now has wife Martha (36), born in Blackburn Lancs., his first wife having probably died. Children David, Wright, John, and Sarah are shown. As John never appears again, but Joshua, of the same age, does, we may assume that John was a nickname. Next door lives Johns sister Ruth (42), unmarried, and next but one the Mortons, John and Rebecca (Skirrow?), still with Thomas, (20). Next door on the other side live Joseph (39) and Sarah Morton (36), with children David, Alfred, and Albert, and interestingly Sarah is the right age to be Sarah Skirrow, Johns sister. Thomas's children Rebecca, Ruth, John and Sarah are thus living in four adjacent houses, three of them with families.

The Skirrow Houses, are no longer referred to in the 1871 census, this street having been named Ada Row. John (60 and retired) and Martha live at number 6, and the family has now grown to include David, Wright, Joshua, Sarah, Mary (7), Martha, (6), and John Thomas,(2). Joseph and Ruth Morton are still next door at number 7.

David has left home by 1881, (married elsewhere in Baildon), and so has Joshua, who from information supplied by Cora Lee Alred, his greatgrandaughter now in Wyoming USA, is known to have married, moved to Shipley, and then emigrated to America, where he worked in the weaving industry right up until his death at age 78 in the village of Celeron, New York State. Father, John, (70), seems to be working again, and the Mortons have moved away, number 7 now being taken over by William Wright, (31), married with son John Edmund K Skirrow, but his wife is not listed. In fact, his first wife, Elizabeth Garth, is known to have died, and his second wife, Elizabeth Hardaker already has a son, Albert Ernest who would then have been four, so she may have been staying away, or even in labour. She too is known to have died around this time.

Our final look at Baildon, in 1891, shows drastic times. John and Martha can both be assume to have died, and Sarah Emsley, 33 and a widow, appears as the head of what is now 5 Ada Street. The fact that Martha is listed as her sister tells us that she was, after all, Sarah Skirrow, and John Emsley has died, but she brings with her a daughter Clara, (11), and son John Skirrow-Emsley, (10). Next door, William Wright, (41), is now a widower, and has left the wool industry to become a life assurance agent. This probably has something to do with the fact that in 1871 a James Abott, presumably Martha Abbotts brother, lived with them after losing his wife, and was called an annuitant. Ernest, (13), is working as a bobbin pegger. David Skirrow, (44) is married to Jane, from Horsforth, and living at 29 Low Baildon, with daughter Lydia, (8), and lodger, William Skirrow, (b.1858, age 33), a woolcomber, also born in Horsforth, and no doubt some relation.

What else is known was summed up by Fred Skirrow, who at 79 is the son of John E K Skirrow, and a fellow descendant of William Wright. My dad had spoken of knowing him as a youth, but didn't know if he was still alive. By chance, knowing the Baildon story, I decided to phone one of the three Skirrows currently listed in the telephone directory for Baildon: it turned out to be Fred, and he told me that although he knows little of the story his dad did tell him "a story to make you cry". His dad, John Edmund K, was apparently left an orphan at 18, the oldest in the house, with Ernest, (13), and Mary Elizabeth, (Called Cissy) (10). Next door, John Thomas, though of the prevous generation, was still only 22, as the eight brothers and sisters had spanned no less than 25 years! My grandad, Ernest, was brought up by an aunt, but which one is not known. Quite likely it was Sarah, but it could have been Martha. Fred also said that his dad did speak of Wright, who apparently did quite well, but said that by the time he died little money was left; so it seems likely that Sarah and Martha might have had to move away though shortage of money.

Who lived at 5 and 6 Ada St in 1901? We have nine years to wait, before a visit to Chancery lane in 2001 will tell us!


What can we deduce about these people? As Mill workers they probably worked long hours and lived fairly poorly. Many people in those days couldn't read or write, but William Wright clearly could, from his neat signature in the front of his book, though his wife Elizabeth Hardaker had to make her mark on Ernest's birth certificate.

One other thing is certain: they were god-fearing Methodists. One book in my possession bears a fancy inscription 'Charlestown Wesleyan S S - Awarded to A E Skirrow'. Another is from the 'Charlestown Home and Foreign Missionary Society', and another, was 'Presented to Albert E Skirrow for Improvement in Writing (at age 7) from Baildon Woodbottom School.

The little book that belonged to Wright is called 'Memoirs of the Reverend David Stoner'. Written by this man's friends after his early and upleasant death aged 32, it tells of a man who, at the age of twelve in 1806 was so stunned by the loss of his mother and friends in a great epidemic that he spent the rest of his life in preaching, praying and fasting in an effort to atone for the sins he felt he must have commited. This of course was just after the time of John Wesley, who founded Methodism in the North of England, and the book mentions Stoner's fanatical preaching in Bradford, and at Low Moor, Horsforth, Horton and other places around Baildon.

That the young 21 year old William Wright should have had such a book not only tells us something of the times, but suggests that perhaps his father knew the preacher, and one wonders whether Wright, with his own experiences of loss, felt a need to emulate Stoner.

Ernest, too had suffered hard times, losing his mother when he was 3, and his father at 14. His first wife, Annie Smith, died a year after their marriage, from a 'white leg' (septicaemia), after childbirth, and for the next seven years he brought up Annie on his own. His marriage to Florence was followed by the outbreak of the Great War, followed by the depression, a flue epidemic, and the second world war. No wonder that, as Fred put it, " he withdrew into his shell". By the time he came to stay with us for a while in the sixties, faced with television, Beatlemania, and the pop culture, it is perhaps not surprising that he had little to say!

© P J Skirrow 1995