This family had been a bit of a mystery. I knew that my wife's gg-grandparents, Robert Walker and Mary Howarth, were both originally from Bolton and assumed that that was where they had married before moving to Hyde. Given that this would entail a trip or two to Bolton to do the research, I put it on the back burner until I had more time to do so properly. However, a note on a death certificate pointed me in the direction of what turned out to be not that of one couple looking for a new life elsewhere, but two families who quit Bolton for the cotton mills of Hyde and Newton.

Newton Street, Hyde
Newton Street looking towards Flowery Field Church c 1940

The death certificate mentioned above was that of Robert Walker who died on 26 September 1876 at Grafton Street in Hyde having suffered paralysis for seven years. Unusually, it wasn't his wife who reported his death, but one George Hargreaves, his brother-in-law who was living in nearby Newton Street. Checking the 1871 census, there was a George and Alice Hargreaves living at 27 Newton Street. More to the point, Alice gave Bolton as her place of birth.

The International Genealogical Index is a great resource for finding pre-1837 records, but like other online resources it can be misleading because of the information it doesn't contain. By that I mean you might find a fit for the person you are looking for, but not all parish records have been transcribed so there could be another 'fit' out there somewhere. In other words, you don't know what you don't know. Having the name of a sibling gave me a triangulation point to give me more faith in the results from the IGI.

There were two families with children named Robert and Alice, but the most likely fit was for John and Jane Walker. I checked the census returns for 1851 and 1841 expecting to possibly find them in Bolton. Instead, up they popped in Hyde complete with their children, all bar one born in Bolton and matching the results from the IGI. The only slight reservation was the details in 1851 for their son John whose age was given as 28 when he would have been 30 or 31, but on the whole the weight of evidence is that this is the right family.

This is supported by the research on Mary Howarth's family. (See Howarth home page) I traced her marriage to Robert Walker to Manchester Cathedral in 1847 when they were both living in Ardwick. This was inconclusive as they were both described as being of 'full age' and so could not be correlated with their known ages. There is also the question of why they should marry in Manchester when their families were living in Hyde. All I can say is that I don't know they weren't living in Ardwick at the time, also that Hyde was a relatively new township and the churches there were not well established. Supporting my conclusion is that Robert's brother William also married at the Cathedral two years later giving his correct age and father's name and occupation, as did his sister Sarah in 1842.

Interestingly, when Sarah married she gave her father's occupation as an 'organ builder' when in most other records he worked in the cotton industry as a twister-in. In the 1841 census, John Walker described himself as a joiner so he might well have been involved in organ building before having a career change. That this is the right couple is borne out by the witnesses who were Sarah's brother, Daniel and his future wife, Cecily Oldham.

So assuming that I had guessed correctly, I searched the census for Samuel Howarth and, found a complete family also originally from Bolton and living in Newton close to the Walkers, indeed on consecutive pages of the 1841 census, both at Throstle Bank.

On that basis, here is what I can guess at their stories. There is a marriage between John Walker and Jane Norris in October 1810 at Bolton St Peter. They would have been quite young, but it fits with the birth of their first child, Alice, in 1812/13. From the birth places of their children, John and Jane moved to Hyde in the early 1830s, Ellen having been born in Bolton about 1828, while Jane was born in Hyde about 1833. I haven't been to track down Ellen's baptism to Bolton, so there may have been a stop-off point along the way. I believe that John died intestate on 6 August 1851 as there is a will bequeathing all his money, goods and chattels to Jane at a value of less than £100.

Shaw Heath Workhouse
Shaw Heath Workhouse

Robert and Mary Walker had four children, Samuel, Sarah Jane, Alice and Jesse. Samuel didn't marry, remaining single throughout the censures until he ended up in the Union Workhouse at Shaw Heath, Stockport, in 1911.

Alice married late in life at the age of 40 to John Wilde in 1899 at Holy Trinity, Gee Cross. He was more than ten years her junior and unsurprisingly they remained childless. Her mother, Mary, was living with them at the 1901 census, although she was 'feeble minded' and passed away a few months later.

Sarah Jane married Alfred Wildgoose in 1878 at Hyde St George. Alfred was a member of the Oddfellows Lodge of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows and on his retirement he was presented with a Grandmaster's Jewel. (See North Cheshire Herald and also the Oddfellows magazine)

He and Sarah had three children — Beatrice, Jesse and Clara. Beatrice married William Johnson in 1904 at Hyde St George and the couple had two daughters, Kathleen and Muriel, while Clara married John Kendrick Thompson in 1915. As far as I'm aware, they had one daughter, Clara.

Jesse Wildgoose married Minnie Alsop in 1911 and the couple had two children, Alfred and Susie. Alfred Wildgoose Jnr worked for Hyde Council and was an accomplished organist, playing for many years at St Anne's Church, Denton, as well as other churches in the area. He resigned the church council to become verger at St George's, Hyde. He was also chosen to play the organ at St Barnabus Church, Hattersley when it was officially opened by Princess Margaret in October 1966. (See North Cheshire Herald)

Alfred married Marjorie Barlow and they had one son. Alfred's sister Susie died unmarried in 1963 at the age of 46.
Bordon Barracks
Bordon Barracks in 1915 — © Roll of Honour

Finally, Jesse Walker married Emily Cooke. (See Cooke home page) He worked as a cashier and then for Hyde Corporation rising to become the first Cemetery Registrar when it opened in 1894. In 1915, he was the Master of the Fortitude Lodge of Freemasons in Hyde. He and Emily had three children, although the youngest, Annie, died in infancy. Not much is known about their only son, Robert Harold. He appears to be in the army at the 1911 census as a sapper with the 26th Field Company, Royal Engineers, based at Bordon Barracks in Hampshire. (See Roll of Honour website) He married Harriet Lamb in 1920 presumably after seeing service in WWI as part of the 1st Division, although no record has yet been found.

Jesse and Emily's eldest daughter, Lena, married Edward Molesdale in July 1917. As mentioned elsewhere, both were descendants of Edward Chatterton and there is more information on this on my Chatterton home page.

Robert Walker had nine brothers and sisters and some had interesting stories to tell and they are told here: The Children of John and Jane Walker.

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