Winward: of Old English origin, 'winn' meaning meadow or wine and 'geard' an enclosure [1]


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Part 1: Robert Winward (c1795 - 1863)


Robert Winward was born c1795 in Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire, England ('Bolton-le-Moors' being the original name of Bolton). He was a weaver and never learnt to read or write. Bolton was known for its cotton spinning industry rather than weaving, which was generally undertaken in northern Lancashire. However, the weaving that was done in Bolton was of a wide variety. Although there were some cotton mills in the early 19th century they were not very big. It would not be until the latter half of the 19th century that there would be the large mills synonymous with the north-west textile industry. Robert was known to be a handloom weaver (and before he died worked as a muslin weaver), which had been a lucrative job in the late 18th century when there was plenty of mechanised spun cotton and no comparable mechanised weaving. The in-demand weavers could earn 1 10s a week (about 84 today). [2]

It is difficult to put a relative value on the money earned. The price of bread could be a useful indicator, being the staple fare of many in the labouring classes. However in the 1790s, the price of wheat rose dramatically which affected the price of bread. On the other hand, beer prices were more consistent. Water was not safe to drink at the time so people tended to drink beer or tea (where the water had been boiled). Two pints of beer (about 1 litre) would have cost about 3 pence at the time (and with 12 pence in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound, these weavers could afford a lot of beer!). [3]

Mechanisation of the weaving process was not far off and the high wages the weavers could demand plummeted as cheap labour flooded the industry with the rise of Irish immigration. Trade had been affected by the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) and this impacted on demand and then wages. There were calls for a minimum wage which ended up being rejected by Parliament. Violent protests and acts of destruction towards mills were swiftly followed by punitive reprisals, often in the form of transportation or capital punishment.

By 1832 handloom weavers' wages had fallen to 5-7 shillings a week (12-17) [4] and beer had risen to 5 pence for two pints. Life for Robert and his family would have been very difficult. The nearest comparison that could be made would be to a family living in Manchester in 1844 which consisted of a father working as a cotton spinner, a mother and five children, only one of whom was old enough to work and help supplement her father's income. The total income each week was 25 shillings (about 60-70). Rent was 3-4 shillings, coal 1-2 shillings and food (consisting of potatoes, milk, butter, tea, sugar, flour to make bread, and some fresh meat on Sundays) was 12 shillings. That amounted to almost three-quarters of the wage. What was left was spent on beer, clothing, dealing with illness etc... [5] 

Robert, his wife and any children old enough to work might have managed to earn enough to get by. The houses where they lived from the 1830s-1860s have long been torn down but judging by the census returns, it seems those streets had one family per house. They were comparatively lucky: poverty-stricken families would cram into one dark room, in a house with many families and poor sanitation, for a cheaper rent of 1 shilling a week.

During Robert's working lifetime, he would see the number of handloom weavers in England fall from their peak of about 240,000 in 1820 to 7,000 by 1861. The powerloom, which had gradually replaced these weavers, numbered some 14,000 in 1820. By 1861 there were 400,000. In that year's census, Robert was described as a 'cotton hand loom weaver' so he was one of the few left labouring long hours for a pittance that did not go far to look after the family. He may have worked from home (rather than in a mill) and would have had to rent his loom. A powerloom could be operated by children and women so they had the potential to earn more money than their skilled father and husband, which was probably quite galling to some men. [6]

Robert married Mary Taylor 02 June 1819 at Saint Peter's Church, which is located in Churchgate, not far from Bolton train station. Mary was born c1795. Almost nothing is known of her family except a handful of names who could be close relatives: James Taylor witnessed her marriage, William Taylor (living in Howell Croft) registered her death and Elizabeth (Betty) Heelis (nee Taylor) registered the death of one of Mary's children. 

They had eight known children: John, Sarah, Nancy, Thomas, Margaret, Thomas, Mary Ann and Elizabeth. In early 1839 tragedy struck the family as first baby Elizabeth died, then the day after she was buried, Mary died of typhus fever at 10:30 pm. The following month, Mary Ann died of typhus, too. They were all buried at St Peter's within days of their deaths. There was a typhus epidemic in England during 1837-1839 when tens of thousands of people died. Typhus is spread by lice or fleas and occurs where hygiene is poor. The largest number of deaths during the epidemic (outside of London) occurred in Liverpool and Manchester. The next largest numbers of death were in Birmingham, Bolton and other big towns. In Lancashire 1343 people died from typhus in 1839, including Elizabeth and Mary Ann.

The family were living at Howell Croft, the centre of civic Bolton nowadays, not far from St Peter's. Two years later, by the time of the 1841 census, they were living in Water Street, overlooked by St Peter's. Robert was now living with Alice Astley who was a weaver. No marriage record has been found so far for them but they were listed as married on census and death records. 

Alice was born in Blackburn c1793 and had been married twice before and had four children. She first married soldier Thomas Bunyan in St Peter's Church 01 May 1815. Neither of them could read or write and they had three known children: Mary, Hannah and Selina. Thomas was described as a 'bricklayer' in Hannah's baptism record but nothing else is known of Thomas and he probably died between 1826 and 1831. Alice remarried Christopher Jackson 21 March 1831, also in St Peter's. Christopher could sign his name and had been widowed. They had one child, Sarah and on her marriage record he was described as a 'tallow chandler'. That is all that is known of him. It is likely Alice was left widowed again sometime in the 1830s. Alice's two legal husbands were probably spoken of within the family but her daughter Hannah seemed to mix the two of them up and on her marriage record stated her father was 'Christopher Bunyan'! 

Also living with Robert and Alice was Eli Winward who might have been Robert's brother. Eli had been born c1795 and married the widowed Esther Draper (maiden name unknown) 04 December 1833, possibly at St Peter's. Eli could sign his name but Esther could not. She probably died before 1837. Eli worked as a warehouseman but died in the Union Workhouse Bolton 11 March 1848, aged 62, of morbus cordis (heart disease). After 1834, parishes were discouraged from giving relief, as they had done for centuries.  The destitute, elderly and infirm had to rely on their family to support them or face the ignominy of going to the workhouse, where conditions were deliberately awful to discourage all but the most desperate. In the later half of the nineteenth century, the workhouse allowed non-inmates who were too poor to afford private medical attention to be treated in its own (rudimentary) infirmaries. (Some workhouse infirmaries became National Health Service (NHS) hospitals after 1948.) In Eli's case, however, he had probably entered the workhouse because he had no other means of support. He was buried two days after his death, possibly at St Peter's.

It is not known where Robert was on the night of the 1851 census, unlike Alice (described as a 'servant') who was at 30 Water Street. Living on the same street were some of their children and their families. By 1861, Robert, Alice and her grand-daughter Jane were living at 15 Bengal Square North. That street has long since disappeared and in fact does not appear on many old maps. It was apparently located off Moor Lane near Gas Street, much further away from St Peter's. They were not long there and moved some 500m north to the area known as 'Little Bolton'. They either lived with, or very near to, Alice's daughter Mary in Back Lane, off St George's Road. It was here that Robert died 30 April 1863, aged 62. The cause of death was listed as 'unknown - no medical attendant'. Alice died the following year, 07 November 1864, aged 74. She had been suffering for years from bronchitis asthma which may have been caused by poor working conditions or a damp or smoky environment where she lived.  

More information about John Winward (c1821 - 1902) appears in Part 2.

Sarah Winward (c1825 - 1890) was baptised 24 April 1825 at St Peter's Church. She worked as a weaver as a teenager and appeared to have had some schooling as she signed her name when she married John Aspinall, 25 November 1849 at St Peter's. John had had no schooling and worked as a roller turner (someone who carded yarn into rolls before the spinning process). They had no children and her sister Nancy's family lodged with them for a time. John died in 1852, aged 29, and was buried 19 May at St Peter's. Sarah married widower Joseph Chamberlain (who was also illiterate) 01 August 1853. His first wife Mary White had died within a year of their marriage. Joseph worked as a labourer in an iron foundry and he and Sarah had three sons: William, Robert and John.  Joseph died in 1879, aged 55. Sarah died 11 May 1890, aged 65, after contracting pneumonia.

No baptism record has been found so far for Nancy Winward (c1827 - 1851). She worked as a weaver and married John Ross 05 June 1846 at St Peter's Church. Unlike her older sister, Nancy appeared to have had no schooling as she could not sign her name. Nor could her husband. John was a grinder (someone who maintained a carding machine in a mill) but by 1851 worked as a bleacher and the family were lodging with her sister Sarah. They had one son, Thomas, born in 1848 and baptised 30 July at St Peter's Church. Nancy died 08 July 1851 and was buried at St Peter's 12 July, aged only 24. She had had tuberculosis for four months and had also spent the last three weeks of her life suffering from enteritis, an intestinal inflammation usually caused by contaminated food or water. She died at the home of her brother John where she was probably being cared for. Her husband John remarried Agnes Moon in 1852 and they had two sons: Henry and James. The boys were baptised together 17 September 1854 at St Peter's Church. Sadly James died the following year and was buried 10 April 1855 at St Peter's. It is not known what happened to John, Agnes, Thomas or Henry after 1861.

Thomas Winward (c1830 - 1830) was baptised 04 July 1830 at St Peter's Church but sadly died two months later, aged seven months. He was buried 18 September at St Peter's Church.

Margaret Winward (1831 - 1831) was baptised 28 August 1831 at St Peter's Church but she too sadly died in infancy, when she was five months old. She was buried 12 December 1831 at St Mary the Virgin Church, which is located abut three kilometres from where St Peter's Church. It is not known why she came to be buried there but there may have been family living in the area. 

Thomas Winward (c1832 - ?) was baptised 30 December 1832 at St Peter's Church. There is no confirmed record of him after 1841 but it is fairly likely that he emigrated to the United States in 1850. He settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but it is not known why Thomas chose to emigrate there. There were no specific emigration schemes at the time but perhaps Thomas saw his prospects for employment were better in America and he may have been an adventure-seeking young adult. Philadelphia at the time was a booming industrial city with a large textile industry and it attracted many Irish and Germans emigrants. The port of Liverpool, where many Irish departed from (and most likely Thomas, too), had recently established an Emigrants' Friend Society to help those going to Philadelphia find suitable accommodation and adjust to their new life. A newspaper article on p5 of the English 'Morning Chronicle' 23 December 1850 wrote of the demand for skilled glass workers in Pittsburg and Philadelphia and no doubt there was a corresponding demand for other skilled labourers. Thomas worked as a machinist, which involved making metal parts with machine tools. He married Mary Ann Brooks 17 October 1853 at the First Presbyterian Church in Kensington, Philadelphia. The fee was apparently $2.50 (about US $70 today)! Mary Ann had been born in Philadelphia c1834, most likely to English-born parents. Thomas and Mary Ann had nine children: Robert (c1853 - 1932), George (c1858 - 1897), John (1861 - 1915) who later changed his surname to 'Hamilton', Annie (1863 - 1938), Elizabeth (c1865 - ?), Thomas (1875 - ?) and three children who probably died in infancy. Many of their descendants still live in Pennsylvania or Delaware. In July 1858, Thomas returned to Philadelphia from Liverpool on board the 'Saranak' but it is not known why he had made the voyage back to England. Two years later it appears Thomas became a naturalised American citizen. He and his family frequently moved house in Philadelphia, sometimes living with their adult children. Mary Ann died 16 March 1905, aged 71, and Thomas 05 March 1915, aged 82 partly from broncho-pneumonia (the main cause of death is illegible on the death certificate). They were buried in Fernwood Cemetery, Yeadon, in plot 85/39/7.

Mary Ann Winward (c1835 - 1839 was baptised 13 September 1835 at St Peter's Church. She died 23 February 1839, aged either 3 or 4, during a typhus epidemic and was buried two days later at St Peter's Church. The name recorded was 'Nancy' but this may have been a clerical error or her nickname. 

Elizabeth Winward (1838 - 1839) was born on Christmas Day 1838 but died at 9pm 04 January 1839 of 'debility', the day she was baptised. She was buried two days later at St Peter's Church.

Mary Bunyan (c1816 - ?) was baptised 21 April 1816 at St Peter's Church. She had no education and worked as a weaver. In her late teens she had two illegitimate children, Elizabeth (Betsy) (c1835 - ?) and Thomas (c1837 - 1922). It is not known who the father(s) were. Mary, her younger siblings and her children lived next to her mother and stepfather in Water Street in 1841. Mary married crofter William Shorrock 06 July 1845 at St Peter's church. In 1851 they lived at 25 Water Street, next door to her step-brother John Winward and down the street from their parents and William was now working as a bleacher. They had five children together: Ellen Jane (c1846 - ?), Alice (c1851 - ?), Mary (c1855 - ?), James (c1857 - ?) and William, (c1860 - ?). After 1881, there is no record of the family.

Hannah Bunyan (c1818 - 1881) was baptised 18 October 1818 at St Peter's Church. She had no education and worked as a handloom weaver. She had two illegitimate boys in her mid-20s: Wright (1842 - 1844) Thomas (1844 - ?). She married weaver Thomas Cartwright 26 May 1850 at St Peter's church and their daughter Betsy was born within a few months. Thomas gave his step-son his surname and he seemed to be known as 'Cartwright' thereafter. Betsy and Thomas had two daughters: Betsy (1850 - 1910) and Sarah (c1857 - ?). After lodging with Hannah's mother, the family moved to 107 Spring Gardens, which joined to Howell Croft. It has since been built over to make way for the town hall but in days gone by it was full of terraced housing. The family stayed there for more than three decades which is quite unusual. As people often moved frequently between censuses (in their quest to find cheaper accommodation or because of work), Thomas' work as a handloom weaver, though in decline, was obviously stable enough to allow the family to stay in the same place for so long. The family finances were also added to by taking in lodgers and boarders over many years, one of whom, Irish labourer Thomas Brady, spent over twenty years as their lodger. Hannah died in 1881, aged about 63, and Thomas in 1898, aged about 77.

Selina Bunyan (c1826 - ?) was born c1826. No baptism record has been found for her and after 1841 there is no record of her. 

An unnamed boy, described as the 'son of Alice Bunyan' was buried 8th January 1829 at St Peter's Church, aged 1. He may have been Alice Astley's son.

Sarah Jackson (c1833 - 1905) was born c1833 and no baptism record has been found for her. She had no education and worked as a handloom weaver. She married cotton spinner William Russell and they lived in various addresses near Emmanuel Church, in the south-west of Bolton. Sarah and William had six known children: John (c1861 - ?), Levi (1863 - 1904), Thomas (c1869 - ?), Elizabeth (c1870 - ?), Hannah (c1873 - ?) and Mary (c1878 - ?). William probably died between 1896 and 1900. Sarah died in 1905. [7]

Next: John Winward 




Weaving during the Industrial Revolution website (
Historical prices of goods (
[4] 'The moral and physical condition of the working classes employed in the cotton manufacture in Manchester' by Sir James Philips Kay-Shuttleworth (1832)
[5] 'Report of Factory Commissioners, Parliamentary Papers (1844)' quoted in 'Daily Life in Victorian England' by Sally Mitchell (1996)
[6]; 'Tracing Your Lancashire Ancestors' by Sue Wilkes (2012)
England and Wales Census 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911, parish records, British Newspapers 1710-1953 ( and; cotton industry website (; Bolton history website (; Lancashire Online Parish Clerks (;;  historical currency converter (; Victorian wages and costs from 'Mid-Victorian Britain: 1851-1875' by Geoffrey Best (; 'Wages in the United Kingdom in the Nineteenth Century' by Arthur Bowley (1900); Victorian society website (;; 'A History of Epidemics in Britain Volume II' by Charles Creighton (1891); 'Bolton Street Names' by Sara Vernon (2008); historical photos of Bolton (; US historical currency converter (; Emigrants' Friend Society information from 'The Covenanter: Devoted to the Principles of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Volumes 7-8' by David Smith (1851) (Google eBook); Wikipedia