Blackmail Case…."a tissue of falsehoods in a letter."

This is a strange tale of a young lad called Noel Bancroft, who at the age of only 17 years, was before the courts on the serious charge of blackmail.

He was born on 13th December 1913, in Keighley, the son of George and Isabella [nee Metcalfe] Bancroft, who were both born in Manchester, where George was a House Decorator, and Isabella a foreman in a Sowing Factory, making waterproof clothing. They moved over to Keighley shortly before Noel's birth in 1913, and were living at 20 Arctic Street, in the Beechcliffe area of the town,at this time.

The Keighley News newspaper of 3rd November 1831 reported 'this sensational story' with the following headlines:

Blackmail case in Keighley….Youth sent to Assizes…A tissue of falsehoods in a letter.
Noel Bancroft, [17] apprentice outfitter of Arctic St, Keighley was committed at Keighley today for trial to the Assizes on a charge of Demanding Money with Menaces.
Superintendent Coates said that between October 19th and 21st, the prisoner uttered a letter demanding £20 with menaces from Walter Burrows [43] Drapers Assistant, of Cark Road Keighley. The letter received by Mr. Burrows on October 21st stated:
'For the past month I have been very interested in your movements with a certain young lady. You have had a very bad habit of meeting in Keighley Cemetery. Your behaviour has not been very nice for a married man and a married woman. I am an eye witness of your activities. On second thoughts, if the sum of £20, or nearest you can get at short notice, is not brought to me by my directions, I will take proceedings and cause a great scandal, for I deal in nothing else'
The letter instructed the complainant to make a parcel of the notes and hand them to a youth, who would meet him at the Yorkshire Penny Bank, Keighley at 1pm on October 21st.
The letter continued:
'If you fail, I will break you and disgrace you. Don’t treat this as an idle boast, or go to the police with a blackmail idea. You will be watched by two men, both out-of-work who will do anything for money. I never ask more than once, as I have a bad temper, and I wan t to go to Liverpool and London on other business'
Superintendent Coates said Mr. Burrows at once communicated with the police, and was asked to keep the appointment. At 12.55 Mr. Burrows went to the appointed place, holding in his hand a small packet. At 1.00 the prisoner rode up on a bike and said to Mr. Burrows “Have you a parcel for me?” When asked his name the prisoner said “ Oh I haven’t time I want to be going”. He then asked for the parcel, which Mr. Burrows handed to him.
As the prisoner was about to ride away a plain clothed policeman went up to him. When cautioned and charged, the prisoner replied “I wrote the letter. I don’t know what made me do it, I am sorry.”
Mr. H Wall, of Turner & Wall,Keighley, on behalf of the prisoner said he wished to express his client’s regret to Mr. Burrows, and to say unreservedly that there was no truth whatsoever in the allegation. It was a tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end.
Mr. Wall regretted that it was not possible to reduce the charge, remarking that the offence was the act of someone not quite responsible. He intimated that that would be the defence at the Assizes.
Mr Wall remarked that it seemed a pity that there was no option but to send the lad for trial, for he felt it was not responsible mentally, for what he had done. He also asked the bench to grant a poor persons' defence certificate, but the Bench said that in view of his plea of guilt, they would not be justified in granting this request, even after Mr Wall said the accused's father had not the means to meet the defence, and the boy himself had lost his job.
The accused was remanded for trial at the next West Riding Assizes, bail being allowed in two sureties of £10.
The case was heard at the Assizes on 28th November 1931, when the Keighley News newspaper, together with the regional ones,  reported the outcome of 'this sensational story'  as follows:

Keighley Blackmail.
Noel Bancroft [17], Drapers Assistant of Arctic St, Keighley, was bound over for three years, after pleading guilty to uttering a letter demanding money with menaces from Walter Burrows on October 21st last at Keighley.
In the accused possession was found a diary that had the same handwriting, as the person who had sent the letter to Mr Burrows
It was stated that the Prosecutor, a married man, received from Bancroft, at his business address, a letter containing allegations which were absolutely without foundation, and demanding £20.
On Bancroft’s behalf ,Mr Wall his solicitor said that he did not propose to put the accused into the witness box or call any witnesses as it was agreed that the contents of the letter were untrue, and stated that he was run over when he was a boy of ten, and had since had a rather sullen nature, and been difficult to get on with. He was in the habit of reading sensational novels, and he  visited cinemas very frequently, despite his father’s best efforts to dissuade him.
When the Judge announced the decision, Bancroft collapsed in the dock and had to be revived before he could be bound over.’

How times have changed!....gone are the days when reading sensational novels, and going to the cinema too frequently, could be given as reasons for a young man turning to blackmail!

Shown below, a peaceful scene of the  Beechcliffe area of Keighley where Noel Bancroft lived, around this time

Beechcliffe in the background

“Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for another.”

Erquingham-Lys Graveyard 

To coincide with the WW1 Centenary and this year's Remembrance Day, here is the sad story of Seth Bancroft who died  in September 1915 at the age of only 21 years, and less than a month after going over to fight in France.

Seth was born in 1894 in the village of Oxenhope, near Keighley in Yorkshire, the son of Jonas and Sarah [nee Sunderland] Bancroft, and was one of a family of nine children, of which four died of infants. His father Jonas, came from a family of quarry owners who ran  Deep House Quarry at nearby Oxenhope, and Jonas himself eventually became a quarry manager after initially working as a carter at his father's business in Oxenhope.
The 1911 census shows the family living at 23 Prince Street, Haworth, where Seth at the age of 17 years was working as ' Jobber Lad - Bobbin Carrier' at a Worsted Manufacturers.

1911 census

No further details of his early life or photographs seem to be available of Seth, but looking at the following Army Index Card, it seems as though he was transported to France on 26th August 1915 in the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, and was serving as a Private in the 10th Battalion in September 1915. He died less than a month later. From details on the index card it appears that he qualified for the 15 Star and also for the British War Medal as well as the Victory Medal.

[The decision of who should get which medals was made separately. Everyone who entered a war theatre got the British War Medal, and everyone in service during the war also got the Victoria Medal. The men who were there before 1st January 1916 got a Star of some kind, the 1914 Star was awarded for service between Aug 5th and Nov 22nd 1914 and the 1914/15 Star from November 23rd 1914 until 31st December 1915. Those who were within range of German artillery in the first period Aug 5th to Nov 22nd 1914 also got the Clasp to the 1914 Star and were known as the 'Old Contemptibles']

Army Index Card

The Duke of Wellington's 10th Battalion was formed in Sept 1914 at Halifax and moved to Frensham, to join the 69th Brigade of the 23rd Division, before  moving on to Aldershot.
In February 1915 it moved to Folkestone and then to Bramshott, and by August 1915 it mobilised for war, and landed at Havre and engaged in various actions on the Western Front including;
Trench familiarisation as part of the 20th (Light) and 27th Divisions and then took control of the front line at Ferme Grande Flamengrie to the Armentieres-Wez Macquart road and by September 1915 it was at the Bois Grenier line.

On the morning of 25th September 1915, young Seth Bancroft was stationed on sentry duty in one of the trenches when a German shell failed to reach its destination, and landed in his trench. Seth was hit in the head, and was taken to the local hospital, but died at 5.00 o'clock that afternoon.

Shown below is the Duke of Wellington's 10th Battalion War Diary for 25th September 1915, which describes that day and lists only one unnamed soldier killed that day, which I an pretty certain was Seth Bancroft. 

10th Battalion War Diary -  25th Sept 1915

" Almost simultaneously, the enemy started and a terrible artillery fired, was kept up for several hours, and did not quieten until about 2pm.
For the most part, the German shells landed behind our firing trench, and in consequence little material damage was done.
The moral effect however was great. Our men were splendid, especially considering it was their first real action.
During the morning we only suffered fourteen casualties, of which only two were serious, one proved fatal. The man dying shortly after being admitted by field ambulance."

Back home in England his widowed father Jonas, received word of his son's death by telegram from the Lieutenant in Command of the Regiment, and a few days later he also received a hand written letter from a Private George Peacock, who was also on sentry duty with Seth at the time of the incident, and who had been left unharmed by the shell damage, so was able to explain to Seth's family exactly what happened.

Seth Bancroft was buried nearby,  in the military section of Erquingham-Lys Graveyard Extension
Plot1, row F, G2

The following two pictures show the graveyard towards the end of WW1 in 1918,with the Church in the background having suffered heavy war damage, and also a modern site plan of the war graves. The earliest Commonwealth burials were made in two places in the churchyard itself, in October 1914-January 1915, but these 27 graves were moved into the extension (Plot II, Row G, and Plot III, Row G) in 1925, the churchyard being closed for burials. The extension was begun in April 1915 and used by units and field ambulances until April 1918. It was continued down to the stream by the Germans (who also used the churchyard) in the summer of 1918, and in September and October 1918, it was used again for some Commonwealth burials.The extension now contains 558 Commonwealth burials of the First World War (eight of them unidentified) and 130 German burials. One unidentified Russian servicemen is also buried in the extension.

Erquingham-Lys Graveyard Plan

Erquingham-Lys Graveyard c 1918

                              “ Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for another”

Seth Bancroft's grave

Bancroft burials at Lister Lane Cemetery, Halifax.

Graveyard with Chapel behind.

Halifax, in West Yorkshire, is a town which had, and still has, a large number of Bancroft families, and many of them, for different reasons in the past, did not worship at the Anglican Churches in the town. Lister Lane Cemetery was not attached to any place of worship, and was said to be "for any denomination or none". Before it opened in 1841, people had to be buried in the town’s Anglican Churchyards or in small nonconformist Chapel Yards.Most of these areas were almost full by the 1830's, and something needed to be done. To alleviate this situation, a group of local businessmen saw an opportunity and set up private company to open a cemetery not connected to any Church or Chapel, and this is how Lister Lane Cemetery started. The business thrived, and here is an early advertisement promoting the cemetery
Cemetery Advertisement
 The cemetery was built over several years on open fields, opposite a large house belonging to a member of the Crossley family, who was a large benefactors  and was part of the family of Carpet Manufacturers in the town, and who is buried in a family vault there. The following map shows the area soon after its opening.

Graveyard plan circa 1840's


Originally known as the Halifax General Cemetery, Lister lane, it covers three acres of land, and has a raised terrace with views across Halifax to Beacon Hill. It is registered on the list of Historic Parks and Gardens, and has some interesting monuments, particularly the gothic spires and obelisks along the main pathway. Most of the brick built vaults are beneath this terraced area, and were constructed with a depth of about 25 feet.

Within the grounds stood a small non-denominational chapel, built in the neo-classical style, which is still there today, although sadly in a pretty poor state. Pictures below show it in its heyday, and how it is today.


The graveyard’s memorials provide an index of the people who shaped the development of Halifax during its period of spectacular growth in the 19th Century, a period which defined the way the town still looks today. Many of the town’s great and good were buried there…… Judges, JP’s, Baronets , MP's , Mayors, Industrialist’s, Waterloo Veterans…. the list goes on!

I was recently sent a full listing of the 53 Bancroft individuals who were buried at Lister Lane Cemetery in Halifax, which makes heartbreaking reading, when you see the ages of some of the individuals buried, and can be viewed by clicking here.

Path over  unmarked graves
The list of Bancroft burials includes some poor people who obviously could not afford a plot of their own, so had to be buried in public graves, and most of these graves go unmarked and are under paths in the cemetery, such as the one shown on this picture, which reputedly has several hundred men, women and children buried beneath it.

  There are also many Bancroft infants listed which makes sad reading when you see their ages listed as young as
'17 hours, 1 hour, 10 minutes' etc.

 The last burial was in 1969, but in reality the majority of the 20,000 burials in total, took place between 1846 and 1918.

 Here are details about a few of the Bancrofts buried here:

John Bancroft [1806-1858] [Grave number 4350]
The first grave is the last resting place of John and Mary Bancroft [nee Lees] and their family. John was the son of Anthony and Hannah [Howarth] and started his working life as a weaver, before becoming the Publican at the Queens Hotel in Gibbet Street, Halifax during the 1840-50’s. The hotel was a large establishment, as can be seen from the photograph below taken not long before it finally closed in 1968. The 1851 census showing John and family living on Gibbet Street in Halifax, without actually mentioning actually the Queens Hotel.
 At the time of his death in 1858, he was listed on the burial records as a stone merchant, but when his youngest son Fred married in 1874, he was shown on the marriage record as a deceased ‘straw merchant’. His three eldest sons, George, William Henry and Frederick went on to set up a large business in the down as Brush Manufacturers, and their story can be read by clicking here.
For some reason the grave and gravestone are positioned the wrong way round to all the other ones in the area…the question is why?....possibly because it is a fairly early grave to the site, first used in 1851, just 10 years after the graveyard opened, so it may have been one of the first to be used in this section.

John b 1806 - 1851 census

The Queens Hotel, Gibbet St, Halifax

James Bancroft [1788 -1862]     [Grave numbers 483 & 571]    Anthony Bancroft [1826-1876]


The above two gravestones are of James & Ann Bancroft[ nee Walker] and their son Anthony and his family, who ran a well known Druggist business in the town. The business was handed down through three generations, and I wrote an interesting article about the whole family, their business, their emigration to the US and their return, which can be read by clicking here.


James Bancroft [1815-1886]     [Grave numbers 1975 & 2479]    Charles Bancroft [1841-1888]


This is the grave of James and Ann Bancroft, who became a sweet manufacturer in the town, having started by making toffee and sweets in the cellar of his house. Census records show him as a ‘Master Confectioner’ living at Gibbit Street in the town at the time of the 1851 census. On his death the business passed on to his son Charles who sounds a bit of a character. Family folklore says he liked to drink and after taking his confectionery products to market by horse and cart, was in the habit of spending his takings on the way home in the pub, and after having had one too many, had to rely on the horse knowing the way home! Charles died at the early age of 47 years, and on his death the sweet business was sold to the Macintosh family who went on to become a major national manufacturer of confectionery. Interestingly the burial record for Charles lists his occupation as ‘Spice Dealer’…’Spice’ being the old fashioned Yorkshire term for sweets. The full story of this family dynasty can be found by clicking here.

James b 1815 - 1881 census

Charles b 1841 - 1881 census

James Bancroft [1830-1900] [Grave number 3722]

Shows the grave of James and Sarah Ann Bancroft, together with 3 of their infant children who died aged 8 months and 2 years. James was described as an ‘Engine Tender’ and later as a ‘Cotton Rover’. He was the son of Elijah and Susannah, and Elijah was buried in this graveyard, but had to be buried in one of the public graves probably as a pauper. Elijah's wife,Susannah, was however given some dignity because she was buried with her son’s family in this grave, rather than in a public pauper's plot.


 Joseph Bancroft [1866-1934]
 [Grave number 3833]
 The newest Bancroft grave on site is that of Joseph and Annie Bancroft, together with their son James, who was the son of the above mentioned James and Sarah Ann. Little is known about him other than the fact that the records show him as a ‘Goods Checker’ on the 1911 census shown below.

Joseph b 1866 - 1911 census

James Bancroft [1814-1888] [Grave number 2326]
And finally the grave of James and Elizabeth Bancroft, which has no stone, but from the records looks as though it tells a sad story because also buried there are James's three daughters who all died in 1869 as young women. First to die was Hannah age 23 yrs in January, then Emma age 21 years in April then finally Sarah Ann age 19 yrs in September. I have not been able to research this further, but these early deaths, so close together most probably were related to some underlying health problem, such as TB [known as consumption] or smallpox which were both prevalent at this time, and both encouraged by poor living conditions. James's wife Elizabeth, who was his second wife, died in 1871. His first wife Ann had died before the 1851 census, leaving him described as a widower with 6 children. James himself died in 1886, at the age of 70 years. The 1861 census below shows the whole family living at 65 Park St Halifax, when James was listed as a 'Dyer of Woolen' from Northowrum.[Northowram]
James b 1814 - 1861 census

In collaboration with Calderdale Council, the ‘Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery’ was formed in 1999.This group of volunteers promote the upkeep and public profile of the site, largely unfunded. New members and supporters are always welcome. For more details about this, please go to the ‘Friends’ website by clicking here.

Michael Bancroft “swapped” a cow... and what happened !

Here’s an interesting little tale from the Leeds Newspaper of 23rd June 1877, entitled ‘Swapped a a Cow, and the Result’ concerning Michael Bancroft, a farmer from the village of Oxenhope near Keighley, and the problems he had with the sale of one of his cows.

Michael Bancroft was born on 6th February 1839 in the Bocking area, which is in the Bingley parish, area although geographically is nearer Keighley. He was the son of Michael and Ann [nee Shackleton], and was one of a family of eight children. His father was a weaver, and later a woolcomber in the area and Michael initially became a house painter, before taking up as a farmer in the 1870’s at a 38 acre farm called ‘Birks’ near the village of Oxenhope.

1881census - Birks Farm

He married Susie Earnshaw [1840-1897] from Oxenhope, and they went on to have at least ten children, several who died in infancy.

Here is the story about the cow incident, taken from the Leeds newspaper:
‘At Keighley Courthouse on Wednesday, the Judge and a jury were engaged for some hours in hearing an action brought by Michael Bancroft against Joseph Wood, to recover a sum of £21, for the alleged detention of a cow. The plaintiff was a farmer at Birks, Oxenhope, and the defendant was also a farmer at Haworth. They had been in the habit of trading with each other for years. And in April last, the plaintiff, who kept milking cows, had a geld which he wished to sell. The defendant called and examined her, and a day or two after the plaintiff examined the cows of the defendant to select one in exchange. A bargain was struck, the plaintiff paid £2-12s-6p, and getting in exchange for his cow one of the defendant’s cows and a calf. The animals were exchanged on the following day [The 19th April]. After the plaintiff’s cow was put in the mistal of the defendant’s, she took ill, and though advised to get a cow doctor to her, he kept her without any attempt to recover her till the 27th April when, [while the plaintiff and his wife were away from home] he sent the cow back, and took away the cow he had given in exchange. The plaintiff, on finding the cow returned, called a local cow doctor, and afterwards a Veterinary Surgeon, who found her suffering from superacute inflammation of the lungs. The cow got gradually worse and died on the 15th May. The defence took the form of a counter claim for damages in consequence of the plaintiff having warranted the cow, and having stated that it was “ all right”. The veterinary surgeon however gave it as his opinion that the cow had, for at least two months been suffering from pulmonary consumption. His Honor asked the jury to consider whether there had been a absolute warranty that the cow was alright, or whether without any warranty, there had been a knowingly false representation on the part of the plaintiff. The jury found for the plaintiff, awarding Bancroft damages of £17-10s, and his Honor expressed concurrence with the verdict.’

Looking at the photograph below, showing the view from Birks Farm, its easy to see how running an isolated small farm on the moors, high up on hills above Oxenhope must have been difficult, particularly in winter, and it looks as though farming did not prove to be a success for Michael and his family because by the time of the1891census Michael, with his wife and remaining six children were now living down in the Lowertown area of Oxenhope, with his occupation listed as a woolcomber.

Michael died on 2nd October 1900, age 61 years, and was buried at Oxenhope Weslyan Burial Ground

view from Birks Farm - 2014

'Pauper' Ann Bancroft's removal from Hipperholme.

The Workhouse Yard

I have come across many poor individual Bancroft families who had fallen on hard time, sometimes of their own making and sometimes not, but here is a rather interesting story about one of them, who should have ended up in the workhouse, but for some reason seems to have managed to evade this fate

The document shown below is an order made in January 1839 by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor for the Hipperholme & Brighouse district, to their opposite authority in the Keighley district seeking to have a young pregnant widow, described as a 'pauper' called Ann Bancroft and her eighteen month old child removed from their place of residence in Hipperholme and transported about 15 miles to Keighley, because the authorities were alleging that  she did not have a legal right of settlement to stay in Hipperholme, after the death of her husband William Bancroft in Elland, Halifax in 1838.

Ann was the daughter of Elijah and Elizabeth Kershaw, and was baptised around March 1812 at St John's Church, Halifax. She married William Bancroft on 13th April 1837 at Elland Parish Church near Halifax, and the Parish’s Register for their marriage listed them ‘both of this parish’, which is a highly important fact in this story.

It would seem that Ann was pregnant at the time of the marriage in 1837, because later that year her son Joseph was born, followed by a daughter Elizabeth, in early 1839, which was after her husband, William’s death, leaving her in a very difficult situation, and needing some financial assistance from the Authorities.

It may seem harsh by today’s standards that an individual who had done nothing wrong, other than having to ask for help from the authorities, could be transported back to their original place of birth because they were a burden on the local authority's purse, but in the 19th century this was quite often the case.
Ann fell foul of the 'Settlement and Removal Act' rules, which allowed the authorities to remove someone from their parish and send them back in the parish from where they came from previously, if they were unable to produce a 'Certificate of Settlement' to prove they had a right to stay in that particular district.
The 'Settlement and Removal Act', follows on from the 'Poor Relief Act' of 1662, the purpose of which was to establish the parish to which a person belonged [i.e. their place of 'settlement'], and hence clarify which parish was responsible for them, should they be in need of poor relief money. It was mandatory for each person to have a parish of settlement and to produce a settlement certificate to prove that they were a legitimate resident of that parish, otherwise they were liable to be moved back to the parish they had lived in previously.
To gain settlement status to a parish, a man had to meet one of the following conditions, and if these conditions were met, his family was also allowed to stay in the event of his death. The conditions were that he had to be either :
· Born in the parish.
· Have married in the parish
· Be hired for a year and a day within the parish
· Rent a property worth £10 per year, or pay the same in rent.
· Receive poor relief in that parish previously.
· Have a seven-year apprenticeship with a settled resident in the parish.

A person had to undergo a settlement examination by the overseers of the parish to obtain legal settlement in a new parish, before they could obtain poor relief, and if they were unsuccessful in obtaining this, the overseers could obtain a removal order to have them transferred back, by force if necessary, to their original parish of settlement. This must have been the situation Ann Bancroft found herself in.

This sad story shows the struggle that some people had surviving during these hard times, and ended up being past from pillar to post, as parish authorities did what ever they could to rid themselves of so called “paupers”, who would be a burden and drain on their local poor relief funds.

 The poor law was gradually altered, following the great reform act of 1834. The main difference was that the relief of the poor was changed from a local responsibility into a group one. Groups of parishes were consolidated into Poor Law Unions so removing the local community responsibility. Out relief was discouraged and the workhouses, which had been in existence for the previous two centuries, became the primary source of relief, and where many poor women with their children were placed.  Throughout the remainder of the 19th century the laws were tightened and modified until the administration was transferred to the Ministry of Health in 1918. It was not until 1930 that the poor laws were finally abolished.

Fortunately however, it would seem that  Ann’s removal did not take place, as the document shown below, dated July 1839, explains. Her husband William had died in 1838, leaving her with one small child and by this time probably nursing another new born child, which would appear to be the reason her removal seems to have been postponed from when it had been made in January 1839.

It would seem that the authorities were unsuccessful in their efforts to remove her from their parish because by the time of the 1841 census, Ann Bancroft is living as a widow, and without an occupation, with her widowed mother's family at Hove Edge near Hipperholme. Her 2 small children are with her, and  youngest child, Elizabeth age 2 years, was listed on the next page of the census.

1841 census - Hove Edge, Hipperholme
 Strangely, her two children were not baptised until they were 3-4 years of age on 26th December 1842 at the church in Lightcliffe, near where the family were living at Hove Edge Hipperholme. The church records show the children's parents as William and Ann, making it look as though William was still alive, even though he died in 1838, and is not shown on either the 1841 or 1851 censuses, where Ann is listed as a widow! She continues to live at Hove Edge, near Hipperholme, and 1861 census shows her still living as a widow with her mother Elizabeth Kershaw, and with the occupation of a 'card setter' and an original place of birth on this occasion listed as as Lindley, a village nearby. It therefore seems that all the attempts to have her removed must have been unsuccessful.

1861 census - Hove Edge, Hipperholme
 Another interesting question arises from the 1861 census.....the listing of Maria Bancroft born circa 1832 and listed as a granddaughter to Ann's mother, who is the head of household. On the previous 1851 census, Maria is listed as a 49 year old daughter to Ann's mother....although it seems clear that the enumerator who write the details down, could not make his mind up due to all the alterations to the record! It looks as though Maria was probably Ann's illegitimate daughter from a relationship before her short lived marriage.
1851 census - Hove Edge, Hipperholme
Ann died in 1869 in the Halifax area at the age of only 58 years.

All this leaves several unanswered questions:
1- Why were the authorities trying to have her relocated to Keighley in the first place? on the various records she is listed as being from at least four different surrounding areas of Lindley, Elland, Lightcliffe and Brighouse, with no record of her, or her husband William ever coming from Keighley in the first place!...maybe she was trying to confuse them as to her origins by giving so many different areas!

2- Why does the children's baptism records list her husband as though he was still alive....did someone else stand in as her 'husband' at the church, to give her a 'respectable' image, or was this just a clerical mistake by the minister? 

If anyone can offer any further information on this story, please let me know.

"Bradford Pals" Commemoration.

Bradford Pals Memorial

As a postscript to the recent article about Fred Bancroft and the 'Bradford Pals', which can be read by clicking here, I was recently invited to the 98th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony of the 'Pals' on 1st July at the Cenotaph in Bradford.

1st July 1916 was the date for the commencement of Battle of the Somme, near Serre in France, which was the worst date in the whole of WW1 for casualties, and the young men from Bradford who fell at the Battle of the Somme were remembered at this city centre memorial service.
Bradford Cenotaph

Soldiers of the Bradford Pals, and other men of the West Yorkshire Regiment killed on the first day of the battle in 1916, were remembered in the poignant annual commemoration.

The Lord Mayor of Bradford, was among dignitaries who turned out to pay respects to those who gave their lives in the battle. He spoke about the parents of soldiers who would have been at home, dreading a knock at the door with a telegram telling them their son had been killed, and said: "I was honoured to take part in the service this morning to recognise the sacrifice made by the Bradford Pals all those years ago, back in 1916, and to honour all of the men and women who have served in the armed forces."

There were also prayers by the Lord Mayor's Chaplain, and reflections by the Dean of Bradford, The Very Reverend Jerry Lepine, as well as contributions from the Bradford World War I Group and The Great War Society.

Also present were men dressed in military uniform of the time.

West Yorkshire Regiments took part in action on 1st July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when 2,000 young men from Bradford left their trenches and by the end of the first hour 1,770 of them had either been killed or injured.

The Battle of the Somme continued until November 18th 1916, on both sides of the River Somme in France.
In total, more than 1,000,000 men were wounded or killed, making this one of history's bloodiest battles.
Bradford Pals Ceremony

Fred Bancroft and the ‘Bradford Pals’ in WW1

Fred Bancroft
With the centenary of the commencement of World War One this year, it seems appropriate to write a piece about one of our local Bancrofts who came up through the Army ranks to become an officer in a Battalion known as the “Bradford Pals”, and was one of the few who seems to have survived, largely unscathed, from the conflicts in North Africa and France.

 It is an often forgotten fact that the majority of soldiers fighting during the early part of WW1 were volunteers, rather than members of the regular army, and a  great deal has been written everywhere about the carnage surrounding the fighting in WW1, particularly with the Battle of the Somme in France, so this article concentrates more on the build up to going to war by the Bradford Pals, rather than going into full details of the battles themselves.

The story starts with local man Fred Bancroft, was born in Keighley in 1885, the son of Jabez and Elizabeth Ann Bancroft [nee Ramsbottom].

After leaving school he became a solicitor’s clerk, with various firms in Leeds, Hull, London and at the outbreak of WW1 was working as a clerk to Alex Neill’s Solicitors in Bradford, was one of the first to join up in 1914, with the 16th West Yorkshire Regiment, known as the 1st Bradford Pals, where he was eventually promoted to the rank of Company Quarter Sergeant.

Much has been written about the flood of volunteers who, in a mood of crusading idealism, answered Field –Marshall Kitchener’s call to arms in 1914. So overwhelming was the response that the regular army, which had been a small establishment of approximately 125,000 men, was completely unable to absorb the numbers of volunteers involved. To resolve this problem and to satisfy the zeal of the would-be volunteers, who felt unable to accept long delays before joining up in the regular army, many towns formed ‘Citizens Army Leagues’. These leagues, after obtaining the approval of the War Office, raised their own battalions and bore the cost of clothing, feeding and training them until such time as the War Office could absorb them into regular formations. A group of leading Bradford businessmen managed to get permission from Field-Marshall Kitchener to form such a league.

Permission having been granted, the Bradford Citizens’ Army League was formed on 20th September 1914. Volunteers rushed to enlist. Men of all ages from mid-tens to mid-forties besieged the recruiting office and within a week 1,000 volunteers had been accepted into the battalion, and was officially known as the '16th Battalion, the Prince of Wales Own West Yorkshire Regiment'. Locally it was known as ‘The Bradford Pals’, and later, when the Citizens’ Army League was able to cope with the organisation of a second battalion, it became the ‘First Bradford Pals’

Rifle Drill in Manningham Park - 1914

For the first three months the battalion made its headquarters in the city’s Manningham Park, where drilling took place with obsolete Long Lee-Enfield rifles, with the men returning home every night to sleep. For this they were paid a weekly allowance of 21 shillings, to cover food and lodgings. The lodgings part of this allowance was 3s/6d and was expected to be paid to the man’s next of kin. Each man was also issued with two blue uniforms made from the best worsted cloth that Bradford’s mills could provide, one of which had silver buttons bearing the city’s coat of arms. The citizens of Bradford bore the whole cost and expenses of the battalion, as was the practice throughout the country with all Citizens’ Army Leagues.

 Pals marching to Camp -1915

On 14th January 1915, the ‘Bradford Pals’ marched to Skipton where they were to be accommodated in a purpose-built camp. Their march began from the city, where they were inspected by the Lord Mayor. The local newspaper, in described the scene said “ they displayed themselves as a body of fit, smart, purposeful manhood”

By February 1915 the League felt sufficiently confident to contemplate a second battalion and in February of that year a ‘Second Bradford Pals’ was formed. This battalion was officially designated the '18th [Service] Battalion, the Prince of Wales Own West Yorkshire Regiment', and joined up with the First Pals in September 1915 for training in Skipton.
Bradford Pals Camp

Initially both the Bradford Pals battalions formed part of the 31st Division, which was made up of various other Pals Battalions from towns in northern England.  The 31st Division was largely comprised of locally raised units from Accrington, Leeds, Bradford, Barnsley and Hull are among the best known of all 1914-raised infantry, and it was a predominantly Northern Division, with most units originating in Lancashire or Yorkshire - hence the use of the red and white roses in the Divisional symbol.
Volunteer's Badge

The Bradford Pals volunteers were issued with this enamel lapel badge when they enlisted, before they were issued with their blue uniform.
On the formation of the 2nd Bradford Pals, which Fred Bancroft seems to have moved on to, where he was promoted to the rank of Regiments’ Quarter-Master Sergeant.
  On 6th December the men left for Liverpool Docks, on a destination kept secret at the time. They set said on a steamship called the ‘Empress of Britain’, accompanied by two Royal Navy destroyers via Gibraltar, then Malta, and still none of the men knew their final destination. Speculation prompted possibly Gallipoli as the destination, where fighting was raging or even India? It was only when on 21st December when they anchored at Port Said, that they realised that Egypt was their final destination. Their job was going to be to be protection the Suez Canal and the caravan routes in the desert from Palestine to Egypt.

Their stay in Egypt remained short however, because the men sailed from Port Said on 29th February 1916, following orders from Field-Marshall Haigh’s plans for a grand offensive by the British on the western front. The 31st Division left Port Said aboard 'HMT Briton' bound for Marseilles in France, a journey which took 5 days. They travelled by train to Pont Remy, a few miles south east of Abbeville and marched to Bertrancourt arriving on 29 March 1916.Their first taste of action was at Serre on the Somme where they suffered heavy casualties as the battle was launched.
The following short 3 minute film, set to music, shows the cruel reality of war during the Battle of the Somme. [to view in full screen, click the icon in the bottom right corner]

On the morning of July 1st 1916, two thousand young men from Bradford left their trenches in Northern France to advance across No Man's Land. It was the first hour of the first day of the Battle of the Somme. The objective of their attack was to take the village of Serre, where they had been told there would be little resistance. Instead they were met by heavy fire from German machine guns. By the end of the first hour of the battle, 1770 men from Bradford had either been killed or injured and no ground had been gained.

Serre Rd British Cemetery
July 1st 1916 is still the most disastrous single day ever experienced by the British army. The full extent of the tragedy was brought home to Bradford in the following days as the lists of casualties, accompanied by passport-style photographs of the dead, appeared in local newspapers. Almost every street in the city had some connection with someone, who had been either injured or killed serving in the Bradford Pals in France, Many of the casualties who fell in July  1916 are buried at the Serre Rd British Cemetery, and of these over half are unidentified.


A Bradford Pal remembered this hell on earth, when he described the opening hours of the Battle of the Somme:
"Half-past seven in the morning on the 1st July 1916, and the whistles were blowing and the shells were coming over, and it was hell upon earth, and everybody dashed out of the trenches and were doing the best they could. It was the machine gun fire that caused all the damage. It wasn't the shell fire. And there were no gaps in the wire emplacements and we had to find the best way we could, you see. There were so many dead lying about and it was almost impossible because the other battalion had come over before us... so many dead lying about scattered all over the place. I was a member of the 18th West Yorkshires, 2nd Bradford Pals, on that particular day, out of the battalion strength of 800 there were only 147 left at the end of that day."

Fred Bancroft was awarded the 1915 star medal with a date that confirmed that he went to Egypt with the Battalion. The 1914–15 Star was a campaign medal of the British Empire, for service in World War I. The 1914–15 Star was approved in 1918, for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of the War between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915.

Towards the end of the war Fred Bancroft, seems to have managed to stay uninjured and returned to the Officers’ Training School in Rhyl, Wales. The Battalion was disbanded in France on the 15th of February 1918.

After the war, the survivors formed the 'Bradford Pals Old Comrades Association' with its headquarters at Claremont, Morley Street, Bradford and the Association was active until March 1979.

After the war Fred Bancroft returned to work in the legal profession, remaining a bachelor with no family of his own. He died on 13th July 1929 at the early age of only 44 years, and was buried in the town’s Utley Cemetery. For some reason he was buried in the family grave of his Aunt and Uncle, Ellen and John Nicholson, probably because his own parents did not have their own plot until later.

I  want to finish this article with a touching poem about the Bradford Pals, written at the time of WW1 by a lady called Hilda Bradley,who lived in the Listerhills district of Bradford.

  Under you our homage we pay, brave lads of our own town
Your memory will never die but will be our world renown
When duty called, you nobly went, just like an Englishman would
Ready to obey a Country’s command, and do just what you could
What a grand body of noble men you were as you marched along
Husbands and brothers, fathers and sons, marched on with a cheering song
How proud you were as you marched away, clad in your suits of blue
And many a humble yearning prayer went up to God for you
Oh, Bradford Pals, you gallantly fought, we only know too well
Our hearts thrill with pride when we think of the day you charged into that gaping hell
Many poor hearts have ached and bled for dear ones we lost in the fray
But noble you taught your enemies all that prepared you for “The Day”
The tiny crosses that make your graves are surmounted by God’s own love
Your lives laid down for us at home, our loss…your gain above
We pray your sacrifice may not be in vain, but through the coming years
A purer England we shall have, built up on our prayers and tears

"And lo, a mighty army came out of the North"
[As a postscript to this article, I was recently invited to the 98th Commemoration Ceremony of the 'Bradford Pals, the details of which can be ready by clicking here]