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Monday, 14 November 2016

A sad story from Victorian Manchester

The General Register Office has just released new indexes to Births and Deaths in England & Wales. These now include ages of death for deaths registered before 1866, and the mother's maiden name for births registered before 1911. So families with children who were born and died between the 10 yearly censuses, can now be updated.
One couple, Alfred and Sarah Jane (nee Worthington) Gidley, married in the rather grand sounding Manchester Cathedral in April 1872, I had assumed were childless. The reality was much sadder. Between 1872 and 1891 Sarah had no fewer than eight children. Only the oldest, Mary Ellen Gidley, made it beyond her first birthday, dying aged 2 in 1875. The subsequent children - Hannah Maria (named after Alfred's mother), Elizabeth Ellen, Alfred Albert, Selina (named after Alfred's sister), Thomas Herbert (after Alfred's father and a brother who had died aged 10), David and James William, were lucky if they survived to six months. It's impossible to say exactly how old they were, as births and deaths were only indexed every quarter. Alfred Gidley himself died in February 1892, aged only 43, and Sarah went on to have a child, William, by another man, the following year. This child, her ninth, also died aged only a few months. Sarah Gidley was not living at home with her husband in 1891 and reappears when she remarries - to William Threlfall in 1900. From then on she can't easily be traced in later censuses, but possibly dies in 1917. There is one mention of her admittance to Withington Workhouse for a few weeks in 1895, but no reason is given.
Ancoats, Manchester
Alfred and Sarah seem to have lived with Alfred's parents for much of their married life. They are certainly all together in Hazel Street, Hulme in 1881 and Alfred is still there, described as married, in 1891. He worked in the transport industry, as his family tended to, on the railways in 1881 and as a lorry man in 1891. From the only photo I have seen of Hazel Street on the internet, it looks no worse than many another row of Victorian terraced houses, but it's possible that poor housing or the poor air quality had something to do with the early deaths of the babies. Certainly in the 1840s Friedrich Engels was scathing in his comments on Manchester's working class housing. See
Walter Gidley, the brother next in age to Alfred, who married Elizabeth Ann Young in 1870, also lost six children (including a set of twins) at very early ages, but the remaining six of their twelve children did survive to adulthood to provide them with grandchildren. Walter was also in the transport industry, working as a carter or drayman, and the family lived in Ardwick.
Their father, Thomas Gidley, was born in the very different surroundings of South Brent in Devon in 1816, but his trade as a woolcomber took him to Bradford, Yorkshire, as a young man. After a few minor brushes with the law he took himself and his family to Manchester, where he was living by 1861, working as a carter.

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