Womersley Family 

Womersley: of Anglo-Saxon origin, from a place recorded in the Domesday Book of 1868 as 'Wilmerslege' [1]


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Part 1: Joseph Womersley (c1783 - 1846)

The earliest known Womersley was Joseph Womersley. He was born c1783 in Yorkshire, England and worked as a weaver, living in Sowerby, just south-west of Halifax.

Halifax enjoyed a thriving manufacturing sector, being located between two major cities, Manchester and Leeds. The late 1700s and early 1800s saw the building of numerous canals throughout Britain which improved the transport of coal, textiles and other products of the burgeoning Industrial Revolution. Prior to this, goods had to be transported by road, a very costly method with tolls at turnpikes adding to costs. Canals now made transporting goods cheaper and more reliable, and available to more people. It also led to the rise of factories and mills, employing hundreds of thousands of people (particularly from rural areas) and changed the nature of work, society and the landscape. The nearby Rivers Aire and Calder had been made navigable in places in the early 1700s and in 1759, construction began on the Calder and Hebble Navigation to link the waterway to Halifax. With the advent of the railway, the use of canals began to decline somewhat after the 1840s, though manufacturing in Halifax still relied on the canals well into the 20th century. [2]

Wool had been synonymous with Halifax since at least the 14th century. The land around Halifax was not overly suitable for food crops and many Flemish cloth workers who sought refuge from persecution settled there, bringing their expertise and trade links. By 1835, there were 141 mills in the Halifax parish which employed about 15% of the estimated Halifax parish population of 110,000 (according to the 1831 census). About 40% were cotton mills, the rest being worsted or woollen, with four silk mills. [3] It is not known what type of weaver Joseph was but his children and descendants mostly worked with worsted or cotton.

It is most likely Joseph married Hannah Swift (c1783 - 1864) 12 February 1804 at St John the Baptist Parish Church, Halifax. Hannah was born c1783 and there is a possibility her parents were John Swift and Mary Noble. Joseph and Hannah lived in Southowram and had six known children: James, John, George, Elizabeth, Mary Ann and Hannah. In the 1840s Joseph and Hannah lived in Siddal Wells and Siddal Hall, to the west of Southowram.

Joseph died of typhus fever 29 November 1846 and was buried 03 December in St John the Baptist Parish Church, Halifax. Hannah continued to live at Siddal Hall for a time then boarded in Skircoat where she was obliged to work as a house servant, despite being almost 80. At that time, there was no pension or provision for old age or infirmity, except the generosity of relatives. Hannah died 28 August 1864 in Bailey Hall Bank, Southowram, aged 82. The cause of death was listed as ‘natural decay’ which likely meant she died of natural causes brought on by old age. A Sarah Womersley informed the authorities of Hannah’s death but it is not known how she might have been related.

James (1805 - ?) was born 25 July 1805 and baptised 27 October the same year at St John the Baptist Parish Church, Halifax. He became a worsted weaver but there is no confirmed record of him after 1851 and it is likely he never married.

John (c1807 - ?) was baptised 07 June 1807 at St John the Baptist Parish Church, Halifax. It is not known what happened to him.

George (c1809 - ?) was baptised 30 April 1809 at St John the Baptist Parish Church, Halifax. It is not known what happened to him.

Elizabeth (c1811 - 1846) was baptised 02 August 1811 at St John the Baptist Parish Church, Halifax. When she was aged about 20, Elizabeth gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Caroline (c1831 - ?). It is not known who the father was and Caroline was baptised 01 January 1832 at St John the Baptist Parish Church. Elizabeth married William Booth (c1812 - 1845), a labourer, 29 September 1834 at St John the Baptist Parish Church. It is not likely William was the father of Caroline as she kept the name ‘Womersley’ in subsequent records. Neither the bride nor groom could sign their name, indicating they probably had had no schooling. They had a son, Thomas, who was baptised 13 March 1836. Sadly he died within a month and was buried 22 April. In the 1841 census, Elizabeth and Caroline were living next to her parents and a Joseph Booth, farmer, was listed at the same address. It is possible Joseph was William’s brother but it is not known where William was at the time of the census. William died in 1845 and was buried 10 December, aged 33. Elizabeth remarried the following year, 14 September 1846, husbandman William Briggs (c1825 -?), fourteen years her junior. Sadly she died three months later and was buried 08 December. William remarried the following year Mary McWhire. Caroline went to live with her grandmother Hannah but there is no confirmed record of her after 1851.

Mary Ann (c1814 - ?) was baptised 13 February 1814 at St John the Baptist Parish Church, Halifax. It is not known what happened to her.

More information about Hannah (c1818 - 1889) appears in Part 2.

Next: Hannah Womersley




[1] www.surnamedb.com/Surname
[2] Pennine Waterways website (www.penninewaterways.co.uk)
[3] 1837 White’s Directory, West Riding (www.ancestry.com)