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?...as 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]

William Bancroft...the oldest man in Oxenhope?

This rather grainy picture is of a William Bancroft [1821-1914], a well known resident of the village of Oxenhope near Keighley,showing him in old age.

William lived to the grand old age of 94 years, which must have made him the oldest man in Oxenhope and probably for miles around as well!...and he therefore lived through the reign of six monarchs and must have seen great changes in society during his lifetime.

He was born on the 12th December 1821, the illegitimate son of Mary Bancroft. The Haworth parish records confirm William’s status as illegitimate, because at his baptism at Haworth Parish Church on 19th February 1822, his mother was listed as ‘spinster’ by the hand of Rev'd Patrick Bronte.
 William's Baptism Record from Haworth
  Mary Bancroft went on to marry a John Binns in 1828, a weaver who was 15 years her senior. I have not been able to identify who William's father was, but John Binns census listing of 1841, shows the whole family living at Spring Row, Far Oxenhope with 15 year old William listed as a 'Binns' son along with John & Mary's other three children. This was not an uncommon situation, at the time, when a family were trying to look 'respectable' for the records they gave to the authorities. William did however revert to his 'Bancroft' name by the time he married

1841 census - Spring Row, Oxenhope

 William lived all his life in the Oxenhope area, moving around the village from Lowertown to Marsh Houses to Uppertown, before finally moving to Pear Street.

He married Ellen Emmott in 1854 , and they went on to have six children, four daughters and three sons. Sadly two of the sons died as children, Charles William age 1 year and Isaac age 5 years of age, and their last son John, died at the early age of 21 years. However the four daughters Mary, Grace, Rebecca and Emma all survived to outlive their father. Unusual for the time, William and Ellen were blessed with two of their daughters being twins. Mary and Grace were born in 1855, and because it was such an unusual event for both children to survive in those times, they were noted as "Twins" on the census return for 1881.
 [ Looking at all my records of over three thousand  Bancroft individuals, there were only about 0.5% of twin births where both children reached adulthood, which shows how rare an occurrence this was, hence the reason the the census mentioned it]

1881 census - Marsh Houses, Oxenhope

Williams occupation was initially a worsted weaver, and eventually became a woolcomber….a job which was not without it’s hazards. [you can read my earlier article on a woolcomber's life by clicking here.]

His wife Ellen predeceased him by five years, and was buried at Haworth on 7th May 1909.

William died on the 28th April 1914 at Pear Street, Uppertown Oxenhope, and the local newspaper reported his death as follows:

“ He was greatly attached to the Wesleyan Methodist Church and was a valued member, having had a 70 year unbroken connection with the Wesleyan Class…he was a retired woolcomber. Although he had lived in retirement for many years, he had always extremely hale and active”

James Bancroft - A putative father's disappearance!

I recently came across the above Affiliation Order, dated May 1837, in the local archives concerning an order being taken out by the “Overseers of the Poor” in Keighley to try and recover maintenance money from  James Bancroft, an accused putative father, as support for his alleged illegitimate male child, by a woman called Ann Hey.

The term "Putative Father" was generally used to describe a man, whose legal relationship to a child has not been proved, but who was alleged to be the father of a child, that was born to a woman to whom he was not married at the time of the child's birth.

  The problem of how to support an illegitimate child and it's mother has always been a thorny issue for society since time began, and the  Poor Law of 1576 formed the basis of English Bastardy law. Its purpose was to punish a illegitimate child's mother and putative father, and also to relieve the parish from the cost of supporting the  mother and child. By this act as far back as 1576, it was ordered that illegitimate children should be supported by their putative father, though bastardy orders in the quarter sessions date from before this date. If the child’s father could be found, then he was put under very great pressure to accept responsibility and to maintain the child.
The above order must have been issued with a view to tracking down James Bancroft who had not fulfilled his responsibilities towards an unmarred woman called  Ann Hey, and stated that James Bancroft had previously been served with order to support the child in 1831, to pay the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of Keighley, but had not paid anything.
 “the sum of Three Pounds Four Shillings and Sixpence towards the maintenance of Ann Hey, a single woman, during the time of her month’s laying-in of a male bastard child, born in Keighley, as he was  adjudged to be the putative father”.

And that because he had not paid, it also ordered that he pay a further sum of “one shilling, weekly and every week, for and towards the maintenance of the said bastard child, and that there is now and unpaid upon the said order, the sum of Three Pounds Thirteen Shillings and Sixpence which James Bancroft hath refused or neglected to pay, or obey the said order, and he not having appealed against it. This information therefore craves a warrant to apprehend the said James Bancroft”

So what happened to Ann Hey and her illegitimate child?
Her child was born on 25th March 1831, and baptised at Haworth Church by  the famous Rev’d Patrick Bronte on 24th April 1831. As can be seen from the following parish record, the child was baptised as Jonas Hey, and Ann Hey, this poor unfortunate woman, was marked for evermore  as a  “Spinster” with no mention of any father on the scene.

Jonas Hey's Baptism Record - 24th April 1831

The story takes a sad turn, because when the child was only 8 years old his mother Ann died in November 1839 , aged about 29 years, in the nearby village of Newsholme, in the Keighley Parish area.

Ann Hey's burial record 11th November 1839
 Young Jonas  is then listed in 1841 as living with his Grandmother, Mary Hey, who was a widowed farmer of 67 years living with her son, another Jonas Hey age 20 years. The whole Hey family were living on a farm at a place called 'Dangerous Corner' which is adjacent to where James Bancroft had lived at Cragg Bottom with his family.
By  the time of the next 1851 census, Jonas is living with his Uncle Jonas at nearby New Laithe, both unmarried men listed as worsted weavers. Jonas [junior] is then later shown as living alone at Turnshaw, Oakworth as a woolcomber, and was married to a Martha by the time of the next census in 1871 and, by then, living at Lidget in Oakworth. 

Illegitimacy..the scourge of the working class!
 Illegitimacy has always been around in society albeit sometimes hidden, even within families. I have come across many instances where an unmarried girl, living at home with her parents, has a child which has been listed on census records as her brother or sister, and even registered in that manner in some case. The figure below shows the average illegitimacy ratio for some 98 English parishes, and after 1840 from published official statistics. It is evident that illegitimate births had been on the rise since the middle of the 17th century.

 Before 1540 data is difficult to obtain, and data for the period 1835-1840 is also inaccurate as this was the transitional period from parish registers to civil registration in England. It is possible that in the early 19th century up to 30% of all births were not recorded in parish registers and in some places, especially in larger parishes, non-registration may have been even higher at around some 70%. Indeed my G/G/Grandfather, Timothy Bancroft, was born in 1840, but never  officially registered, even though it was a legal requirement by this time.It seems likely that many of these unregistered births were illegitimate, so the above figures should be treated as an underestimate.

The Bastardy Examination Board
  "Bastardy Examinations", to determine the name of the father, must have been a very traumatic experience for any young woman, as the fear of ending up in the local workhouse was always the ultimate threat from the authorities for any unmarried mother and child . The examination would take place before two Justices who inquired into the circumstances under which the woman about to give birth to an illegitimate child had fallen pregnant. Legally a woman who knew herself to be likely to bear an illegitimate child was obliged to present herself for examination, but in practice this only occasionally happened, and examinations occurred more often after the birth. Bastardy Examinations were particularly keen to discover the identity of the father, in order to force him to provide a bond, known as a "Bastardy Bond",  to indemnify the parish against the costs of maintaining the child. Evidence of paternity claims had to be "corroborated in some material particular"... something that was often impossible to achieve to the disadvantage of the poor woman being brought before the examining committee.

Prior to the 19th century, the Poor Laws stipulated that the putative father was responsible for the maintenance of his illegitimate child. If he failed to support the child, the mother could have him arrested on a justice's warrant and put into a workhouse, or even prison until she agreed to name the child's father. Local authorities issued public funds to maintain the mother and her child until the father could do so. Those public funds were to be reimbursed by the putative father, though this rarely happened because many fled and disappeared without trace. In an attempt to stem the rising costs of poor relief, the local authorities quiet often attempted to reduce their liability for illegitimate children by forcing the fathers to marry the women.

The cost of child-support expenditure could potentially consume a significant proportion of a parish's budget. In Sowerby Bridge, a large township in  nearby Halifax, West Yorkshire, between 25 and 38 per cent of annual expenditure on the poor was dispensed to unmarried mothers between 1818 and 1828. If the parish could enforce and collect maintenance payments, this could moderate the parish's costs of child support. Under the terms of affiliation orders, unmarried mothers in that area typically received between 1s 6d and 2s 6d per week in the early-nineteenth century. It is difficult to provide a contemporary equivalence of value, although it is worth noting that in the late-eighteenth century, a typical male agricultural labourer might have been earning around 10s a week. Unmarried mothers would thus be receiving as much as a quarter of a male labourer's wage. 

 In the 1833 Poor Law Report, the Commission Report on Bastardy, appointed the previous year to investigate the situation, revealed that the Poor Laws encouraged "licentiousness between unmarried couples". More relief was being issued to maintain illegitimate children than to support legitimate children. Not only were the mother and child given relief, but costs were rising because mothers were shipped back to their original parishes to avoid long term responsibility for their illegitimate children. Young men, accused solely on the word of the mother and unable to pay the surety, were, innocent or guilty, forced into early and unsuitable marriages which the commission felt were detrimental to the country.

The Bastardy Examination Board
So who was James Bancroft.... and what happened to him?
James Bancroft was the son of Joseph and Isabella [nee Jowett] and was born on 7th June 1811 in a cottage in the Deanfield area of Keighley Parish called 'Cragg Bottom', which is an area of rough isolated moorland near the village of Stanbury and is the neighboring property to 'Dangerous Corner' where the Hey family lived. The nearest church was however at Haworth which is where he was baptised on 10th August of the same year. Joseph and Isabella had a large family of at least 12 children, so life must have been quite tough for them, particularly as his only means of earning a living was as a hand-loom weaver, with maybe a few acres of rented land to grow crops in order to feed their family. It is therefore not surprising that by the time of the 1841 census, Joseph, who was by then widowed, only had the youngest 5 children still living at home. The other children had all left, including James. Despite extensive searching of all available records, I have not been able to find any record of this James Bancroft after the original affiliation order was made against him in 1831. There are several other James Bancrofts around at this time, but none of them have proved to be the one in this article, so I can only assume that when he was accused by the "Overseers of the Poor" of being the child's father, he did what many men did in those times... run away and either changed his name or emigrated, leaving poor Ann Hey to struggle as an unmarried mother with a child, at a time when society found this a very shameful situation.

I do not know whether the authorities ever caught up and apprehended James Bancroft, but I suspect he got away with it, as he appears to have just vanished into thin air!
 Despite searching records both in the UK and abroad there is no trace of him.

Joseph Bancroft - Highway Robber

Here’s an interesting story from the Leeds Intelligencer Newspaper  of   29th March 1823 about Joseph Bancroft, a 29 year old man who was involved with others in an act of Highway Robbery at Sheffield, and even after pleading guilty, was sentenced to death by hanging!

When one thinks about the offence of Highway Robbery, we usually think about the more glamorous characters such as Dick Turpin, riding his horse, but the Highway Robbery was usually much more down to earth , with a violent nature, and committed by ordinary individuals, on foot at night. Due to the violent aspect to many of these cases, the penalty was usually death by hanging.

After the early 1800's, mounted robbers are recorded only rarely. The last recorded robbery by a mounted highwayman occurred in 1831. The development of the railways is sometimes cited as a factor, but highwaymen were already obsolete before the railway network was built. A very important factor was the expansion of the system of turnpikes, manned and gated toll-roads, which made it all but impossible for a highwayman to escape notice while making his getaway.  Also a greater use of banknotes, more traceable than gold coins,  made life more difficult for robbers. Land Enclosure, and  the decline in undeveloped open fields and increase in private incentives to regulate trespassers, may also have played a role.

The local newspapers reported on several cases before Their Honors Judge Sir John Batley Knight, and Judge Sir George Sowley Holroyd who held court at York Assizes on Saturday 29th March 1823, where sentence of death was passed on several prisoners, including Joseph Bancroft, for Highway Robbery with aggravating features.

The circumstances of the case, as  also reported in the York Herald Newspaper are as follows:

'Joseph Bancroft [29] and Wm. Fletcher [33] were charged with robbing Joseph Eyre on the King’s Highway, in the parish of Sheffield, of his watch and 18s of silver. Bancroft pleaded guilty, but Fletcher not guilty, and placed himself upon his trial. On the 29th November last, the prosecutor, Joseph Eyre, who is a poor man, residing at Attercliffe, was at Sheffield Fair. Between the hours of 12 and 1 at night, he was going home, and when he had got about 100 yards beyond the Twelve O’clock Public House, on the road to Attercliffe, three men came upon him and knocked him down, when the prisoner came up and joined the three. He had seen them all together at Sheffield and also on the road. The prosecutor begged for mercy, telling them that he was only a poor fiddler, and on his screaming out for assistance, had dirt forced into him mouth and eyes. They then broke his fiddle and took from him his watch, and all his money [23s or 24s on silver] He told them that they had ruined him forever. They ran away, leaving Bancroft to stand over him, who soon after joined his companions. Two or three persons were called who saw the prisoners, along with another two , near the place of the robbery, about midnight. The prosecutor, a good natured fellow, on leaving the box said “I hope my Lord; you will be as merciful to them as you can. The jury found the prisoner, Fletcher, guilty.'

The newspaper reported the Judge’s summing up before sentencing as follows:

‘When asked by the Judge, as to why he should not pass the death sentence, several of the prisoners said that it was their first offence, and begged him to show mercy. The learned Judge, in addressing the prisoners said that he  has to pass this awful sentence on so many, and particularly so many young persons, who by the commission of their crimes, had forfeit their lives to the laws of the country. With respect to many of them, he felt a pleasure in saying, that he could, without a dereliction of his duty, recommend them to the mercy of his Majesty. But with regard to others, he was sorry to remark that no hopes of mercy could possibly be held out for them. The full sentence of the law must certainly be put into force for some of them. His Lordship therefore urged them to devote the short time they had left to live, by endeavoring to atone for their offences, and obtain that mercy thereafter, which the safety of society prevented those whose duty it was to administer the justice of the country, from extending to them here.’

At a later court appearance, the presiding Judge Holroyd, reprieved most of the prisoners, including Joseph Bancroft from their death sentence, although it is not clear from the newspaper reports, exactly why, or what other sentence he was given.

If anyone knows anything further about this incident, or about Joseph Bancroft, please let me know by leaving a message in the comments section.

Highway Robbery

George Bancroft - Farming life in the Upper Worth Valley

George Bancroft and friend outside Deanfield Farm

I recently was given details of several interviews given to a local magazine in the 1990's by George Riley Bancroft, which tells of some chilling tales of farming near Haworth in the Upper Worth Valley, where he grew up. He described in fascinating detail the hard winter days when milk froze solid, as well as the tough times that moorland sheep farmers had to endure in his farming lifetime. George is remembered locally as one of the last farmers in the area to retain the traditional dialect, which I have tried to use in this article when quoting him.

George Riley Bancroft was born on 4th March 1911 at Intake Laithe Farm at Oldfield near Oakworth, Keighley, the home of his mother's Riley ancestors. He came from a long line of local farming stock, on both sides of his ancestry. His parents John and Mary [nee Riley], and his paternal grandparents had  farmed at Hoyle Farm near Haworth, and then moved to the nearby farm called 'Sowdens', when George was a young boy. His mother Mary Riley's family had farmed at Intake Laithe, in the nearby hamlet of Oldfield, since the 1780's.

 Sowdens Farm is widely know locally because this was where the Revd. William Grimshaw, Haworth’s other famous incumbent who proceeded Patrick Bronte, once lived and George remembered sleeping in rooms occupied by that famous man, and always used to say “We might be better off today it there were one or two o’t’ same sort abart”. The seventeenth century farmhouse was occupied by Rev'd William Grimshaw from 1742, until his death in 1763, and he used it as the Parsonage for Haworth Parish Church, because neither the Church Trustees nor the Vicar of Bradford had seen fit to provide the incumbent or curate of Haworth with a dwelling house as part of the job. In those days the Haworth incumbents were expected to make his own living arrangements to attend to their duties. It is said that when Rev'd Grimshaw had visitors to stay, the house was so crowded that he would have sleep in the adjoining barn. On his death, his son became the new owner of Sowdens.

Sowdens Farm

Sowdens, in George’s time, was quite a small dairy farm of about 14 acres, devoted to Shorthorn and Ayrshire cattle and it was one of the few diary farms in the area. Farmers at that time just milked a few cows and transported a lot of the milk to the milkmen in Bradford in kits [by rail]. The Bancrofts hand-milked their cows and had a lively trade in Haworth area, selling milk at “ three-hawpence a pint”. The milk was delivered by cans, from which milk was taken using a pint or gill measure. George remembered “You dipped a measure or two out of t’can, and tipped it int’ jug…and that were it!”

George’s family also started breeding sheep during the 1914-18 war, and the family took on a lease from Keighley Corporation to graze their stock on the moors surrounding the 'TopWithens' farmhouse, which was made world famous because of its link to the Bronte Sisters book  'Wuthering Hights'. He remembered it as “Good land, but t' Corporation’s policy were to let it go back …we hadn’t to repair ony walls, it was just land fo' keepin' sheep”. When George’s father took on the lease at first, the agreement was “ Fifty sheep, at a rent the equivalent of £7.50 a year…we may have kept a few more, but restrictions were imposed because just after t' war there 'ad been gross overstocking by some local men”

Top Withens  c1920's
Top Withens plaque
The Bancroft family originally took on leases for all three Withens farms, Top, Middle and Lower, and George remembered that the Middle and Lower Withens were demolished, but Top Withens, which even in those days was a popular tourist site with visitors, was left standing “ for t’ Bronte fans…When I took t' tenancy of it, it were getting middlin’ dilapidated.... well it had got vandals in at it, and you can’t beat them. So I asked 'em what they wanted to do abat it…it was'nt safe, and I didn’t want to be responsible for onyone getting killed. They said they would take that property out of t’agreement, and they’d be responsible for that…but, well it’s more or less tummelled dahn now….and it 'ad bin a grand little place.” He remembers a time 60 years ago, when Top Withens had a peat house, where the stock of winter fuel was kept and also remembers visiting the place lots of times when the last tenant, Ernest Roddy, a tall affable man lived there. Ernest had been gassed during the war, and fresh air was a necessity, so the authorities set him up at Top Withens where he was a poultry farmer, keeping hens. He had previously been a French polisher in Haworth, as well as a postman, and hawker of yeast, and every Tuesday he visited all the outlying farms selling his yeast because home bread-baking was the norm in those days. His yeast was sold for one penny an ounce and George remembered “when he 'ad landed home after tramping miles over t'moorland, he wouldn’t be worth robbin'… He would be there for five or six years and left in 1926. He 'ad a pony and cart to go to and from Stanbury and Haworth, and kept a lot of white leghorn hens, and when he returned to Top Withens, an’ got in sight of it, those hens saw him coming and flew darn to meet him”

When asked if he’d had any bad winters up at Top Withens, he laughed and replied: “ Aye, we had one o' two bad winters…the worst spell o' weather was in't early part of 1947. It began at t’latter end o’ January, but before then it were a reight keen frost for two or three weeks. Soon after Christmas it’d start. It started coming from over yon moortop , and when it does that, it’s north-east , you can expect summat. It niver gave ower till April. An' even in July there were t' remains ow a snow drift up aboon Ponden Kirk. It were sudden...we weren’t expecting it...not so bad. You couldn’t round your sheep up…you couldn’t get theer! There’s been loads a'snow where there’s been more snow than then, but t’north-east wind niver let up. You could see t'snow being blown ower t'fields. Down t’middle of t' field there was very little snow, but under t’walls and main road…well it were hopeless!.”

George was always fond of sheepdogs, and one of his more unusual sheepdog tales was of the time one June day when he decided to clip some sheep up at Top Withens, and went up there by horse and cart, with his dog [Ben] riding along side him. He noticed some sheep had strayed onto Haworth Moor, so spent about an hour rounding them up with Ben. When all the sheep had been clipped, he loaded the wool onto the cart, and Ben jumped on, as they made their way back to the farm at Stanbury. Ben untypically did not jump down from the cart when they got home, but just lay there. George thought “Begger you!”, left him and went in for some tea. Afterwards, the dog was still sat on the cart and George therefore knew “ summat were up…after running on t’ling for an hour, every one of his feet were red raw…chopped i’bits” ['Ling' is the name for the rough heather which grows on the moor]

One day he left a small flock of sheep grazing at Top Withens, and lost them. "Good God where can they have gotten to"…then he saw the kitchen door at a nearby farm was open, and the sheep had gone inside. He therefore marched into the kitchen, round the large kitchen table, rounded them up and out the door with a bright “Mornin” to the speechless farmer’s wife. 

Present-day Top Withens and the moors

George married Hannah Whittaker, daughter of Whitley Whitaker in 1933, and they had four children, two sons and two daughters

George &  Hannah's Wedding Day

He remembered one bad winter at home, when he had four pigs in a “pig-oil” at the bottom of the famyard. He sold them one Friday night, and they were supposed to be going on Monday morning. “ Onnyway, they nivver went. We took a ten gallon can o’milk to t’roadside for t’ milk wagon  on Sunday morning, and we nivver saw that can again for a fortneet. It was just snowed ower and the milk was refrigerated and taken to t’dairy by a neighbour, and was accepted as being in good condition.”

Whilst still on the subject of milk, he recalled the ways they had of keeping milk during bad winters,as the cows still had to be milked, even when the roads were closed,which prevented it being collected….” Milk was stored in all sorts of peggy-tubs, baths and one thing and another….when we were going to put it in cans, you had to break the blooming stuff up wi’ a hammer and shovel it in…the milk were frozen solid!”

 George’s family moved to Deanfield Farm near Stanbury in 1924, and he took over the running of the farm from his father in 1940. Although very isolated, Deanfield had wonderful views over Ponden Reservoir.
He recalled his early days in the valley, when life was much harder, but there was more fellowship in those days with everyone looking out for each other….” Fifty years sin’ we were all strugglin' on together... not thinking abart going on t’world’s end to find some'at better”

For farmers like George, farming for over 60 years in the Upper Worth Valley, with the land very much as it always had been, with  stones just below the surface when ploughing, he knew had its limitations. "When its ploughed time after time, it gradually moves down t’ hill till you’re down to nowt at t’top. During t’ war each farmer had to plough a certain acreage, regardless of need, and a farmer across the valley accordingly did just that. They’d gotten it reet grand, then during t’neet came a thunderstorm and washed all t’top soil down t’ bottom in a heap…it were a reet mess!” 

1- Deanfield    2- Scar Top Chapel     3- Top Withens

When the family move from Sowdens Farm to Deanfield Farm, overlooking Ponden Reservoir, he  remembered being visited by an old man, who had lived there as a boy when the reservoir was being constructed. There had been an encampment of over five hundred navies occupying fields around the farm, likening the area to the Wild-West. A Brewery was constructed in the area, to try and keep the navies from straying too far away, and a single policeman had to be brought in to quell any troubles! The old man remembered collecting handfuls of small grey worms from freshly dug trenches, which the navies ate, still wriggling! [I wrote an article about the construction of Ponden Reservoir previously, which can be read by clicking here.]
View over Ponden Reservoir from Deanfield

George, after a lifetime of toil, eventually decided to take things a bit easier, so reduced Deanfield Farm down from about 50 acres to 20, and he remembered the doctor calling one day in the Spring of 1995….”just a casual visit to see if I was still living, because he hadn’t seen me for a while….I told him I was going to have a sale, but he advised me against selling up altogether as too many of his patients had done that, moved away, and that were the end on ‘em!

The picture to the right shows George and Hannah standing outside Deanfield Farm, one cold winter's day....which is evident from the size of the icicles hanging from the  gutters !

After his wife Hannah died, George made the decision to spend a couple of weeks in a local nursing home, and liked it so much there that he stayed there for the remaining four years of his life. He passed away in April 2000 at the grand old age of 89 years and his funeral was fittingly held at Scar Top Chapel., where he had been a trustee for over 50 years.

Scartop Chapel

His obituary in the Keighley News said:
 “He took away with him a great wealth of local knowledge and intrigue.”

[I am grateful to Adrian & June Bancroft, and also David Riley for the information and photographs they provided to help with this article]