Clara Bancroft....a well travelled lady.


Clara in Nurse uniform










It is something of an unusual occurrence for an unmarried woman to travel abroad alone over 100 years ago, but here is the story of a Clara Bancroft from Haworth who made the journey to America, not once but at least six times between 1899 and 1929, and stayed there for quite long periods, sometimes working as a nurse whilst there.


 Clara was born to James and Maria 5 April 1864, and for some reason was not baptised until 8th April 1882 at Haworth Church, along with most of her siblings on the same day.


1891 census

 She had worked originally as a worsted weaver at least till age 26 (1891 ) as shown on the family census records. Her father, James, was a well-known celebrity in the Haworth area as the leader and cornet player in the Haworth Brass Band, and his story can be read here.


Though not married, Clara gave birth to a daughter Florrie, on 22 May 1896 in Haworth. Clara became a trained nurse and travelled the world leaving Florrie in the care of her parents. 


Though no record has shown her first departure to the United States, we find her living there in 1899 at 12 Grand Street, Utica NY, as her brother John went to join her in April 1899. She was 33 at the time.


In April 1904 a Clara Bancroft was listed in a US directory as an attendant at the Utica, State Hospital.


After a return to England, she again sailed to New York, July of 1907 at age 43. 

Again, she returned to England in August 1910 at age 46, living with her aging parents at 9 Little Street, along with married sister Ada as shown on the 1911 census. Her daughter Florrie was living with her Uncle Manasseh and Aunt Effie, Clara’s sister, as an apprentice in their bakery business at this time.


1911 census

 She returned to New York in May 1911, then back to England December 1913. Her younger brother Gilbert had also been living in the USA as he sailed from Philadelphia, arriving in England in November 1913. One has to wonder if there was a reason both returned at such a close date.


Journey to US 1914

 Clara was back to New York the following year in May 1914, then to England November 1919.


Back to New York May 1920. Her daughter Florrie married in December of 1920, and Clara’s father James, died the following year in 1921. Our next record shows her return to New York in Nov 1923. 


Journey to US 1920


As early as February 1924, she was back to England, perhaps to care for her mother Maria, who passed away that same year in June 1924. Her England address was always 9 Little Street when she returned home during those years.


In November 1929 age 59 after living at the family home, she again travelled to New York.


The 1934 electoral rolls show Clara was living in England again, at 68 West Lane Haworth.


In 1939, age 75 she is shown on the England Wales register as living at 4 Tulip Street with her now widowed and incapacitated sister Ada Haigh whom Clara was caring for.


Sister Ada passed away on 20 Jan 1951 at age 86. A strange coincidence took place when, eight days later, their sister Laura also passed away.


Clara passed away soon after on 28 Feb 1951 and was buried at Haworth graveyard.

Pages from a Bancroft Family Bible.

First page in Family Bible.

 In times gone by it was the tradition of many families to have a bible in the house, and sometimes a very large heavy bible, which the family would read on dark winter nights. These large bibles usually had a section at the front to record family events such as births, marriages and deaths. Indeed I can remember by own Grandparents showing me theirs when I was a child, which unfortunately got lost during their house move….what a treasure we lost that day!

Most of these bibles included very large religious pictures, surrounded with gold leaf, and because of their attractiveness many were torn apart by art dealers and turned into frames pictures to hang on a wall.

Some time ago I was sent the birth, marriages and deaths pages from one Bancroft family bible and here is something of the story about this seemingly ordinary family.

We start with the first page, shown above, with the parents William and Martha Bancroft. As the page shows William was born on 4th December 1830 and married Martha Akroyd born on 25th August 1831. They were married on 25th August 1855 at Bingley Parish Church. Interestingly Martha could not read or write so had to just put her mark on the register, which was a common occurrence at the time as families tended to educate the sons but did not bother too much about getting the daughters to learn to read and write as it was thought unnecessary for running a household and bringing up children.


William & Martha's marriage record


 They started their married life living in a farm cottage next door to William’s parents James and Hannah at Whins Deph farm [later known as Unwins Delph] on the outskirts of Crossroads near Keighley, which is in the Bingley parish area. The farm still being there today albeit now called Pierce Close

location of Whins Delph farm

William and Martha had seven children who were all written in the names section of the book together with many, but not all of the grandchildren who were added later.


Children's record in Family Bible.

Concentrating on one of these children, Sugden Bancroft [1862-1920], who was born on 21st February 1862 and baptised at Haworth.

Sugden's baptism record

His is an interesting story because he married another Bancroft, his first cousin Elizabeth Bancroft [1867-1948]. They were married at Burnley Register Office on 14th May1892. 

Marriages page

Marriage between cousins has never been illegal in Christian culture, although today is not recommended because of genetic complications with children, but in olden times many folk did not socialise much outside their family circles and as some of these families were large it was not that rare for cousins, who did not meet up regularly, to bump into each other at family occasions such as weddings etc and end up getting married to each other. Elizabeth was the daughter of Jonas [1840-1888] and Mary Taylor [1844-1892]…. Jonas being Sugden’s Uncle and was the brother of Sugden’s father William. 


Jonas's census 1881

Jonas had earlier moved over to the Burnley area, which at that time had a booming economy because of cotton manufacture. He was working as a stonemason and had married Mary Taylor at Burnley and together they had fifteen children.

 Before his marriage Sugden moved over to Burnley and became a stonemason, living and probably working with his father-in-law Jonas. The 1891 census shows Jonas and Mary's soon to be son-in-law, Sugden, living with widowed Aunt Mary and her family shortly before his marriage.

Sugden's census 1891

Sugden and Elizabeth continued to live in the Burnley area, where Elizabeth’s family all were, and went on to have five children but unfortunately only two sons survived to adulthood as the 1911 shows. 


Sugden's census 1911

Sugden moved on from being a stonemason in later life and in the 1911 census is listed as a ‘clerk of works [building]’. He continued to live at the same address and died at 37 Clive Street, Burnley on 23rd April 1920 age 58 yrs as shown on the ‘deaths’ page of the bible.

His will, when published shows he left an estate valued £1918-7s-11d, who at the time was a substantial sum of money in those days for a working man, and his estate went to his wife Elizabeth.


Sugden's death in Family Bible.

Finally, here are rather poor grainy pictures of Sugden and Elizabeth with their children Charlie [1894-1967[, Luther [1899-1942] and Doris 1905-1909]