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Broseley Bridge & coincidental family connections

When I first started researching my family tree back in 2005, I hit a brick wall shortly after finding my GGG Grandmother Ann Mort. I knew her parents were James Mort and Mary Battersby and that she was from a large farming family in Leigh. To try and progress things further, I decided to investigate Annís siblings. Initially I researched her brother William who was born about 1809.

This research brought me into contact with my American cousin Suzie who was also exploring the past of one of her ancestors ĎWilliam Mortí. This turned out NOT to be the same William, however we eventually (thanks to Gillian) did find out we were still related and shared common ancestors from much further back in the Mort lineage. We presumed we were not connected because her William Mort lived far North of Manchester many miles away from my William who lived in a small area near Warrington called Kenyon. We innocently concluded that people in the olden days didnít travel that far! Who is Christopher Columbus anyway? It was only when I spotted in a census report that one of the farm workers at her relatives farm far away in Ainsworth, came from Kenyon. This was too much of a coincidence. There had to be a connection - and indeed there was.

I then looked into the past of my GGG Grans younger brother ĎThomas Mortí born in 1803. Thomas was the first ever stationmaster at Kenyon (near Culcheth) after the opening of the main Liverpool to Manchester Railway line in 1830. He later went on to join the Railway police and eventually became a Railway Pointsman prior to retiring. He must have spent his entire life on the Railways.

Thomas married a lady called Ellen Thomason (1804- 1897) on the 1st January 1824 in Leigh. They went on to produce 11 children between the years of 1825 and 1849. Ellen was 45 when she gave birth to her last child & youngest son James (who like his father became the Railway Station Master).In fact, Thomas Mortís family really must have been the original railway children. Paul became a railway Porter and then a railway Guard. William became a Shunter at the station. John became a railway Brakeman.

Back in the mid 19th century, the railways were an exciting new innovation which (with the likes of Stevensonís Rocket) generated a commercial network bringing wealth into the North West of England. A career on the railways was probably less risky and damaging to oneís health than the alternative Northern occupations of coal miner or cotton weaver.

Thomas & Ellen- where they lived:

In the 1841 census, Thomas Mort & Ellen lived in Kenyon. This is a small area between Lowton and Culcheth which is barely more than fields and a lane.
In the 1851 census, their home is recorded as being Broseley Bridge Rail House.
In the 1861 census, they are recorded as living in Broseley Hall, Kenyon Lane End. This is where local knowledge can make all the difference to genealogical research. I am from this same area and actually the census report should say ĎLane Headí. Lane Head is a real place and can be found on the map as an area near Kenyon Lane. It is mostly farmland and consists of Hayes Farm, Dickinsonís Farm, Johnsonís Farm, Five acres, Birchalls Farm, Diggle Green Farm and of course, Broseley Hall Farm. The Manchester to Liverpool railway cuts though the nearby areas.
In the 1871 census, they lived at Mortís cottage, Broseley Bridge.
In 1881, they were still at Broseley Bridge..not sure where.
By 1891, Ellen had moved to Bolton (7 Hector Street) - presumably to be cared for in her old age by one of her children. She died 30th November 1897 and is buried in Newchurch. Her husband Thomas died 14 years earlier in 1883. I am presuming that Ellen moved away from Broseley Bridge after her beloved husband Thomas passed away. I can only imagine how strange and sad it felt to leave an area where she lived and raised 11 railway children.

Why do I find this story so interesting you may ask?

Broseley Bridge is an area so minuscule that it would not even register as a village or even a hamlet. This quite literally, is just a tiny area consisting of a bridge over a railway line and is now the site of Leigh Golf Club. What makes this so interesting to me is actually some odd coincidence that ties together other members of my ancestral tree to a postage stamp sized area. I can accept many members of my family originating from the same town. Towns are big and contain lots of people! However, to be connected via the same small area and/or to have even lived in the same cottage at some part of its past - does strike me as an odd fluke - unless of course there was another connection that tied these people together.

Whilst researching the life and times of Thomas Mort, I ventured into Leigh library. I was totally lost as to what I was supposed to be doing amongst the reference section (being so new to genealogy), and flicked through some sort of electoral register (to look busy I guess).

An entry in 1893 caught my attention. Peter Battersby lived at Broseley Bridge Cottage. My GGG Grandmother Ann Mort (sister of the Thomas Mort as described above) was the daughter of Mary Battersby. Mary was born in 1774 and lived on a farm (Overall Fold) in Leigh. She died in 1849 just before her 45 year old daughter in law Ellen had her last child James. Was Peter Battersby related to Mary Battersby? Battersby is a common name in Leigh, so maybe he wasnít a direct relation. However, it is possible that when Thomas Mort died in 1883, that Broseley Bridge rail house was either sold or passed into the hands of one of his mothers relatives the Battersbyís and if this was a possibility, could I use this information to find out anything more about my Battersby line?

I was also interested in the fact that Ellen was a Thomason, and this name appears in yet another area of my pedigree. Help - had I been inter-bred? Small areas- low population, there wasnít that big a gene pool to choose from on a Friday night barn dance!

Time moved on.....

Time did indeed move on, and I noted my little finds on an Excel spreadsheet before moving on with my next research project. Then a week or so ago, another coincidence had me searching back for my Broseley Bridge notes.

I had another surname in my family that was now under the microscope - Hurst! My GGG Grandmother ĎAnn Mortí born 1802 married a chap called John Horridge. Johns father was also called John Horridge born 1762 who married a lady called Ellen Hurst born 1764 in.... none other than Leigh (yet again)!

Armed with this knowledge, I went onto the genealogy section of the Mort Family website and entered the surname of Hurst. To my surprise I found several differing Hurstís already registered in the database and I was curious as to my relationship (if any) with these other Hurstís.

Ann Hurst (born 1868) shared a common ancestor with me (Ralph Mort) - so yes, she was a distant relative.

I then looked at Olive Mary Hurst who was born in 1889. If you havenít used it yet, there is a great facility on our website database called Ďrelationshipsí. Simply find the ancestor, click on relationship and enter the name of the person you want to compare them against. As long as the 2 people are linked with 15 generations, you should find something (if they are indeed connected in any way). Olive married John Mort on the 9th September 1915. However prior to this, as a 12 year old child - Olive lived at non other than Broseley Bridge Kenyon in the 1901 census.

I was intrigued! Four surnames in my family tree (the Mortís, the Thomasonís, the Batterbyís and now the Hurstís) all seemed to be inter-twined around this very very small patch of England. Was this a coincidence or did they have a connection?

The IGI informed me that Olive was actually born 24th September 1888 in Pemberton, and was the daughter of a James and Catherine. This was an area 8 miles away, but did have a rail station. Could James Hurst have also been a railway worker who moved to Broseley Bridge with his work?

Were they all related?

I checked out the relationship between Thomas Mort, the former Station Master at Broseley Bridge and the husband of Olive Mary Hurst from Broseley Bridge - Mr John Mort. They were indeed connected, via another Mort and a Battersby. Thomas and my GGG Grandmother Ann, were the children of James Mort and Mary Battersby. However, Thomas and Ann also had a sister called Martha who married a chap called George Whittle. They had a daughter -Elizabeth Ellen Whittle, who married another Mort - Peter Mort. Their son was the John Mort that married Olive Hurst. Complicated? Oh yes - very!

To make it simple (if I can, and it is easier to look at the relationship chart), Olive Hurst married the Great Grandson of James Mort and Mary Batterby, who were the parents of my Ann Mort and her brother Thomas the station master.

This raised another question - was Elizabeth Whittle actually related to her husband Peter Mort? Peter shares the same common ancestors as me (and many others on this site) in that he descends from John Mort 1714 and Ann Lythgoe 1714. I looked at the ancestors of Elizabeth Whittle, and she also shared the same common ancestors as her husband - John Mort and Ann Lythgoe whose son Samuel married Ellen Lythgoe after his first wife Mary Lythgoe died. Couldnít my ancestors vary their names a little?

The good news is that husband and wife were separated by a fair number of generations - they were not first or even second cousins, but Peter descended from Ralph Mort (son of Samuel and Ellen Lythgoe) and his wife Elizabeth descended from John Mort (son of Samuel and Ellen Lythgoe).

Have I untangled the mystery of the Broseley Bridge connections?

Not in a million zillion years!

I have found 2 people via the power of the mighty internet who share with me an entangled mix of Leeís, Thomasonís, Batterbyís, Horridgeís, Mortís, and Hurstís. If we could have one huge database of everyone ever born in Leigh and a radius of 20 miles around this area and were able to do SQL searches on relationships - I am absolutely convinced we would not only share the same ancestors would double up on ancestors throughout the centuries (see above example). Its simple mathematics! I double up in ancestors every time I skip one generation back but in small communities such as these, there werenít the actual number of people alive to make up the number of ancestors I am supposed to have.

Many family tree researchers are only interested in their direct line of inheritance....but....if you Ďthink outside the boxí and explore the family of your direct ancestor - the siblings, the uncles, the cousins, you would probably find yourself tripping up on yet another unexpected ancestor who was tangled up in this web of inter-marriages.

So if anyone ever again with the same surname in their lineage as mine tells me that they canít possibly be related to me because they donít share the same direct ancestor and anyway, their ancestor lived 12 miles away so there canít remotely be any connection, I am going to self implode. We came from 8 tribes out of Africa and we are all darn related - itís just a question of proving the link.

As for Brosely Bridge....

Well the Hall still exists as a working farm, some cottages still exists (maybe with differing names from what they once was) and the Golf course is very nice. Not sure if Mort cottage still exists, possibly not! Maybe the guy doing the census just called it this as he didnít know the real name of the cottage. Lets just make it up as we go along shall we?

Whether or not the people who lived here throughout the generations knew they were related or (like us) co-existed without ever knowing they were related is impossible to determine!

The advantages of still living local are.....

Not the weather thatís for sure. Being able to knock on a door and talk to the people still living there is an interesting experience. See copied emails from present owners at the existing Broseley cottage:-

1) I live at the White House on Broseley Bridge, this was formerly known as the Kenyon Junction Hotel and was built somewhere between 1828 and 1876 as an Inn/Hotel for railway travellers. As far as I know it has never been referred to as the Broseley Bridge House, I will ask my neighbour who knows the local history if he has ever heard of Broseley Bridge house, and will email you if he has any knowledge of this. As the Manchester/Liverpool Railway line was built in 1828 there would not have been a bridge here prior to that data.

2) You may find www.old-maps.co.uk interesting. If you put in the search term Wilton Lane and select number 1 you will get taken to a map of 1849 showing that the house I live in did not exist (that's good for me because I can narrow down the build date a little further somewhere between 1849 and 1876). You will also see Broseley Hall, which is currently owned by Gerald (retired farmer) Landers. The farm is now run by his son John. No mention on the map of Broseley Rail Bridge House though. There does look to be something, building, who knows, just south of the bridge but the current property just south of the bridge was built much later than that map. There were however railway cottages that existed at some time shortly after the completion of the railway. Stories are that Stevenson (he of the rocket fame) had one. They were just a little further north; unfortunately they were destroyed decades ago. Could Mort cottage have been one of those? I will ask my neighbour because he owns the land those cottages were on. As for my deeds I only seem to have details back to c1937 and no mention of Mort or Battersby.

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