Chorley Historical and Archaeological Society

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Nov 2014

Thu 27 Nov 2014
Lizzie Jones – ‘Hatched, Matched and Despatched’

It was a pleasure to welcome Lizzie Jones back to Chorley again albeit at a different venue, the Community Centre opposite the railway station. Different again was that Lizzie was not in costume for her performance. She did, however, talk to us about the 16th and 17th centuries, a big interest for her, that mixed social history with her family history.
Lizzie confessed she had found no Normans in her ancestry but did find ancestors with plain surnames like Dawber, Webster and Mason. These names reflected the occupations of those people; Dawber was someone who painted or dawbed, Webster a weaver and Mason, well, they were a stone mason.
Lizzie said she has taken 25 years to complete her family tree, virtually all done without computers, back as far as 1588.
She did, though, take 2 years to decide which of 2 Richard Websters she had found, was her ancestor. But in the end they were found to be the same person. One was found to be, naturally, a weaver. The other was a farmer. People led a subsistence life and farming is dependent on the seasons. Weaving supplied the necessary income that was needed in order to survive.
During the 16th and 17th centuries Lizzie’s ancestors lived in west Lancashire. During those times Lancashire had 50% of England’s Roman Catholics. In turn west Lancashire had 50% of all Roman Catholics in the north. The parish of Wrightington had more Roman Catholics than any other parish in England.
Catholics were under threat in these times and no record was kept of any births and deaths due to no records in the catholic church. Children needed to be christened in the Church of England. Lizzie added that all Catholics fought for the king in the civil war.
Lizzie’s research journey had also taken to the USA, specifically Chesapeake Bay on the east coast. She was in search of an ancestor who was a 28 year old married man with 4 children. He left his wife and family and sailed across the Atlantic to Boston. He went on to establish a catholic community in Maryland. Why did he leave? Lizzie did not know for sure but there were troubles in England for Catholics due to a Jesuit plot to kill the King and the royal family.
It was in 1701 that an ancestor, Richard Webster – a catholic, was married at the Church of England at Standish to Deborah, a 16 year old protestant. The date was May Day – the only summer holiday – and he went on to father 12 children. Deborah died at the age of 34. Richard, a farmer, married again but was branded ‘poor’.
Lizzie said it was all downhill for the family in the industrial revolution. The Jones name is Welsh and she traced that line of family from Caernarfon in the 1860’s. A subsistence life in the countryside was left behind for a hard life down the coal mines around Wigan.
An interesting fact was that average life spans became shorter in the 19th century than for her earlier ancestors. Obviously, life in the countryside, however hard, was better for living a longer life than for a life digging coal.
As always Lizzie illuminated her subject matter and this led to an entertaining and interesting evening. Here’s looking forward to her next visit to the society.

Peter Robinson

Tue 11 Nov 2014
Nigel Hampson - Titanic Talks

Nigel Hampson is the Curator of the Lancashire Titanic Museum which has recently moved into Bygone Times in Eccleston. His talk began with the spine-chilling Titanic steam whistle and he took us through the Titanic story from the laying of its keel at Harland and Wolff’s shipyard in Belfast, its sister ships, and the ill-fated maiden voyage, interspersed with various Lancashire connections to the story.

The White Star Line ordered 3 ships so that it could offer a weekly transatlantic service. These were the first passenger liners to be built that exceeded 40,000 tons. They each cost £1.5m. Although no film survives of the Titanic, there is film of the Olympic, which was launched in 1910. (When CHAS visited Northumberland earlier this year, we stayed in the White Swan in Alnwick, where the breakfast room panelling was taken from the Olympic).

As well as film of the Olympic, Nigel used clips of James Cameron’s film to illustrate his talk. There were many fascinating nuggets of information:-

There were no lids on the watertight compartments.

2200 passengers, but only 1200 lifeboat spaces.

Wallace Hartley and his musicians played “Nearer my God to thee”, but not to the tune now best-known.

38 electrical engineers fought to keep the power on. All perished.

The Titanic fell 2.5 miles to the sea bed.

The Captain of the Carpathia, which rescued the survivors, was Arthur Rostron from Astley Bridge.

The “unknown” ship which appeared but turned away instead of assisting, was a Norwegian vessel.

There were 500 spare seats in the lifeboats which were not used.

All British ships at this time had an inadequate number of lifeboats.
It is a story which continues to enthral. The Lancashire Titanic museum is open Tuesday and Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. Adults £2 Children under 16 £1.