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The Horridge Family Divided

I am sharing this story with the web site because it is an example of how you can sometimes build up a picture about the life and times of a family unit by using the census reports. It is also quite a sad and tragic tale about how some of the young children within this particular family, were severely affected by the untimely death of a parent.


What was your life like10 years ago or 20 years ago? Did you have the same surname? Did you live in the same house or do the same job?
What will your life be like 10 years from today? Will you still married be to the same person? More to the point, will you still be alive?
An ongoing ten year census search on any individual family unit, will demonstrate that our ancestors endured many of the same personal challenges as we have today. Life changes and as time moves on we change with it.

Using the on-line census data, I have taken 10 year slices from the life of Thomas Horridge.

Thomas Horridge was the son of Ann Mort (born 1802 in Bedford Leigh) and John Horridge (born 1794 in Astley). Thomas was my GG Grandfather and was christened on the 3rd June 1832. In most cases, we work the census reports backwards in time and gradually build up a picture of what went before. In this instance (because I have already collected the census data), I am going to work forwards in time in chronological order of dates and events.

Thomas is just 8 years old and living with his parents in Overall Fould. This was the home of his Grandparents ‘James Mort and Mary Battersby’ and in all probability was a farm in Bedford.

19 year old Thomas was working as moulder at the local foundry. He lived in Mill Street, Bedford, Leigh with his parents and siblings.

29 year old Thomas Horridge had married Theresa Parkinson 7 years earlier on the 2nd January 1854 in Tyldesley Chapel. Theresa had been married before and was a widow. In the 1861 census, he was living with his wife and 2 sons and 2 daughters.

The eldest child ‘Sarah’ was born in 1854 in Oldham (an unusual birth place for the Leigh borne Horridge family). She was 7 years old in this census. Joseph was born in 1856 in Bedford, Leigh. He was 5 years old in this census report. Louisa (my G Grandmother) was born in 1857 in Bedford, Leigh and was just 3 years old in this census. Finally, the youngest child ‘Thomas W Horridge’ was born about 1860 and was therefore about 10 months old at this time.

Something happened prior to 1871 which dramatically changed the lives of this family. 40 year old Thomas Horridge was still employed as an Iron Moulder and was shown as the head of the household. However, he was now living at Tottington Lower End with just two of his son’s. 6 year old David was a new addition to the family who had been born about 1865 between census reports. His eldest son Joseph was now 15 and also living with his father and brother at 16 Back Square Street in Tottington.

The 1871 census raised many questions.

1) Where was Thomas Horridge’s wife Theresa?
2) Why had Thomas Horridge moved from Leigh to Tottington?
3) Where was Thomas Horridge’s three other children?

The answer to the first question didn’t take long to find. Theresa Horridge (nee Parkinson) died in Atherton in 1867 aged just 39. Her youngest son David was only a toddler of 2 at the time. Tragically Thomas’s own mother ‘Ann Horridge’ nee Mort, also died in the same year.

The answer as to why Thomas suddenly moved 20 miles north to an area near Bury is much harder to resolve. For a family that had a long history of ‘staying put’ in the same area, relocation was slightly unusual. There would have been several mills around Tottington and Ramsbottom, so employment could have been a motivation. However Thomas is shown as an iron moulder and not a mill worker. His eldest child was born in Oldham which is not a million miles away from Tottington and it is possible that Theresa may have stayed with relatives for the birth of her first child. I cannot prove anything and it is pure conjuncture, but as a widower with young children, it is possible that Thomas moved to be closer to some of his Mort or Horridge relations for reasons of support. Maybe he had some family connections in this area?

The final question is ‘ what happened to Thomas’s three other children?
The eldest daughter ‘Sarah J’ was 17 years old, and could possibly be married although this was still quite young for marriage. Louisa Horridge’ was just 13 and Thomas W Horridge was only 11.

Thomas Horridge had five children in total. It appears that when his wife died, Thomas took his youngest son ‘David’ and his eldest son ‘Joseph’ and moved out of town. His two daughters and his middle son Thomas were left behind to tend to themselves.

In the 1871 census I found 11 year old Thomas Horridge living as an inmate in Leigh Road workhouse in Atherleigh. Ironically this later became a hospital and was the same place were my Grandmother ‘Florrie’ passed away. I drove past ‘Atherleigh Hospital’ many times as a child living with my Grandmother in Howe Bridge. Even in the 1960’s. the former Workhouse carried with it a huge stigma. It was an undesirable place to be sent. A place usually reserved for the sick, down and out, elderly, mentally ill and those disowned by the own family.

Quote taken from the following web site: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~peter/workhouse/

"People ended-up in the workhouse for a variety of reasons. Usually, it was because they were too poor, old or ill to support themselves. This may have resulted from such things as a lack of work during periods of high unemployment, or someone having no family willing or able to provide care for them when they became elderly or sick. Unmarried pregnant women were often disowned by their families and the workhouse was the only place they could go during and after the birth of their child. Prior to the establishment of public mental asylums in the mid-nineteenth century (and in some cases even after that), the mentally ill and mentally handicapped poor were often consigned to the workhouse. Workhouses, were not prisons, and entry into them was generally a voluntary although often painful decision. It also carried with it a change in legal status - until 1918, receipt of poor relief meant a loss of the right to vote."

Poor Thomas Horridge junior. Within a very short period of his life, his mother died, his Grandmother died in the same year, his father deserted him, he was separated from his brothers and sisters and now had the distressing experience of living in a Workhouse.

I can find no record of what happened to 17 year old Sarah Horridge in 1871. My Great Grandmother Louisa Horridge was 13 in 1871 and was working as a servant at the Shakespeare Inn in Queen’s Street Atherton.

At sometime between the 1871 and 1881 census, Thomas Horridge married again. His second wife was called Mary. She was born about 1835 and she came from Scotland. It is possible that Mary had been married before and her former married name had been Cross. Thomas had two children with his Mary. Albert was born in 1876 and Mary Ellen was born in 1880.Thomas does not appear in the 1881 census. There was a Thomas Horridge that did die in Bury in 1880, but I cannot confirm that it was this Thomas. If it was (and it is highly likely), Thomas would have only been 48 years of age when he passed away.

I found Mary living in Nuttal Lane, Tottington Lower End with her two children Albert and Mary Ellen. Thomas and Theresa’s son David was still living with his step mother although the elder son Joseph had by now moved on elsewhere. Mary had taken in a few boarders to make extra money (not uncommon in those days).

Thomas’s widow ‘Mary’ was now 54 years old and living at 14 Railway Street Walmsley with her two children from Thomas (Mary Ellen and Albert) and with her older daughter ‘Hannah Cross’.

Some six years prior to this, Thomas’s daughter (Louisa the servant girl) had married my Great Grandfather William Lee and had a large family to care for in Howe Bridge.

I have no idea what happened to Thomas (inmate in the workhouse). I did find him in one census report working as a cotton worker and lodging in Kirk Street Leigh. I presume he married and managed to eventually rebuild his life.


I have tried hard not to judge Thomas Horridge too harshly. I have no idea how difficult life must have been in 19th century Lancashire for working class families. The story that has unravelled itself through these 10 years census reports is one of sadness and tragedy. That a father was forced through circumstances to move home and leave three of his young children behind, must have been a heartbreaking decision.

To lose one’s parents at the tragically young ages of 39 and 48 must have brought anguish to the Horridge children. I do know that my Great Grandmother Louisa did have a long and happy life, and we can only hope that Thomas Horridge’s other children also managed to recover from the ordeals they faced so young in their lives.

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