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”
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