William FORREST was the father of James FORREST (born 1832-36) and was recorded as being a brickmaker on his son's marriage certificate of 1854. That is the only concrete 'fact' that we have about William.
Although he was recorded as being a brickmaker in 1854, it is far from certain that that was his career. In 1851 the tax on bricks was repealed causing a boom in brick-making. It may simply be that William was drawn into brick-making temporarily around the time of his son's wedding in 1854. The vast majority of working class people in Blackburn in the 19th century worked in the cotton weaving industry.
The 1854 marriage record does not state that he was deceased so we might also believe that William was still alive in 1854 (or James thought he was), especially if brick-making had only taken off in 1851. There are no clear candidates for a William FORREST, brickmaker in Blackburn in 1841 or 1851. Further afield there was:
- On 6 April 1834, William (a bricklayer) and Elizabeth FOR(R)EST baptized James in Sandbach, Cheshire. They also baptized Jane in 1831.
- In 1841 a William FORREST, brick maker, aged 40, is living in Bloxwich, Walsall (but not born in Staffordshire) with Maria 37, son William, 19, brick maker, and 8 other children all from Staffordshire (but no James). In 1851, Maria (born in Birmingham) is a widow and is living with 4 of her children. So this brick-making William FORREST was not living in 1854 and didn't have a (legitimate) son James.
- In 1841 a William FORREST, 40-44, journeyman brick layer is living in Marl Field, Astbury, Congleton, Cheshire with Mary 30-34, Mary 15, Elizabeth 14, Jane 11, James 7, Martha LEE and Hannah GAULE. All are from Cheshire except Hannah. Mary is likely a second wife. His son James was likely the James FOREST christened in Sandbach in 1834. In 1851 James, 18, was a silk piecer and living with his aunt Jane POYZER in Congleton and his borth place was given as Congleton. As James was not born in Mellor this William and James can be ruled out.
- In 1851 a William FORRESH (or perhaps FORREST) unmarried 39 - Brick maker - from Winsford, Cheshire is living with other brick makers (from all over the UK and Ireland) at 6 Ormond Street in Liverpool. At least this fits William's profession.
- The other possibility is that William was the William FORREST, flagger and slater, who married Elizabeth BOLTON in 1819, however this family has been thoroughly researched by others and is known not to be correct.
By 1886 there were brick kilns at Brandy House Brow on Grimshaw Park, very close to where the FORREST family lived at that time, through it is thought that these were only built in the last twenty five years of the nineteenth century, when William would have been a relatively old man (if still living.) Mid-nineteenth century brick makers mainly operated from temporary sites, using brick fields where clay was available, and where building projects were underway, so William could have been employed almost anywhere.
William's marriages and children
It is thought that William married Nancy ELLISON in Blackburn in May 1832. The evidence for this is as follows.
There are a number of weddings recorded for a William FORREST between 1811-34 in/around Blackburn, some of which can be discounted:
Margaret BARNES Blackburn 14 Feb 1813 - This William was a weaver, gamekeeper (in 1849) and drawer-in (in 1857.) Moulding FORREST was a son.
- Jennet HOWARTH Blackburn 27 Oct 1818. William was a weaver, bachelor. Jennet was a widow. Witnesses were James BOLTON and Wm MAUDSLEY2.
- Ellen CLAYTON at Blackburn on 31 Dec 1818. William was a weaver, bachelor. Witnesses were Wm HAWORTH and Wm MAUDSLEY1.
Ann INGHAM at St Mary-the-Virgin, Blackburn on 23 Feb 1819. - William was a joiner. Elizabeth BOLTON Blackburn 7 Mar 1819, the first wife of William FORREST, flagger and slater. Died 1829. Mary EDMUNDSON - Blackburn 1823 - William was a widowed weaver.3 This marriage fits perfectly with a Lower Darwen family who baptized John (1824), Joseph (1826) and Ellen (1829) and were all living together in Lower Darwen in 1841. Hannah PEMBERTON - Blackburn 1824 - William was a manufacturer of calicos and cambrics, and can be ignored.
- Mary SHARPLES - Blackburn 3 Jun 1825 - William was a bachelor weaver.4
Ann HEATON- Ribchester July 1828 (5km N of Blackburn) but this William was a baker Isabella MYERSCOUGH Blackburn 16 Feb 1829 - they are living in Preston in 1851, William is labourer in malt kiln born 1803/4 Goosnargh with 5 year old son called James Mary WALMSLEY- Blackburn May 1832 - William was a blacksmith.
- Nancy ELLISON- Blackburn May 1832 - William was a widowed weaver.
Jane LONGWORTH- Blackburn May 1832 but can be ignored
Of these Nancy ELLISON seems most likely to have been James' mother. There are three main reasons to support this.
- Nancy was born in Mellor in 1803 and died there on 23 July 1838 during childbirth aged 36; her death being reported by her father John ELLISON. This places Nancy in Mellor in 1838. James was born in Mellor sometime between 1832 and 1836.
- Her wedding date of 2 Mar 1832 fits with James' birth date range.
- More tenuously, the naming of James' children fit a pattern:
- Firth - named after his maternal grandmother (Harriet FIRTH)
- Robert Archibald - named after his maternal grandfather (Robert ARCHIBALD)
- John - named after his father's maternal grandfather (John ELLISON) and mother's maternal grandfather (John FIRTH)
- Nancy - named after her father's mother (Nancy ELLISON) ?
- James - named after his father (James FORREST)
- William - named after his paternal grandfather (William FORREST)
- Harriet - named after his maternal grandmother (Harriet FIRTH)
If James' mother was Nancy ELLISON, then William had a earlier marriage as Nancy married a widowed William FORREST. Two possible marriage sequences for William from the above marriages were either:
- either Jennet HAWORTH (1818) or Ellen CLAYTON (1818).
- Nancy (1832)
- Mary SHARPLES (1825)
- Nancy (1832)
Of those identified:
- Jennet HAWORTH:
- No Jennet FORRESTS were buried in Blackburn between 1818 and 1832.
- No children were baptized by William and Jennet.
- A Jennet FORREST aged 52 (b.1789) is living alone in Blackburn in 1841. This census record fits with a widow who married in 1818. She is not found in 1851.
- Ellen CLAYTON:
- William and Ellen FORREST baptized Jenny in June 1819 and Ann in October 1820, but no others.
- Several Ellen FORRESTs died including: Ellen, 30, of Lower Darwen, bur 6 Mar 1821. Ellen, 22, of Lower Darwen, bur 15 Jul 1821.
- There is no Ellen FORREST living in Blackburn in 1841 that fits with being first married 1818.
- Mary SHARPLES:
- No children were baptized to a William and Mary after 1825.
- Possible deaths for Mary:
- Mary FORREST buried 21 Nov 1825, aged 25.
- Mary FORREST of Samlesbury, 35, was buried in August 1826.
- Mary FORESTs were buried in Darwen in 1828 and 1829.
But the first wife could have been someone different, for instance:
- Mary UNKNOWN:
- Two baptisms were conducted by William and Mary FORREST:
- Ellen (22 Jul 1821) by William and Mary FORREST of Samlesbury, weaver.
- Ann baptized 18 Sep 1825 in Balderstone by William and Mary FORREST of Mellor, weaver
- The burial of a Mary FORREST of Samlesbury, 35, in August 1826 is a good fit for this family.
The 1841 Wagtail family8
In 1841 a family of four FORRESTs are living at Wagtail, Duke's Brow, all working as cotton weavers, including: William FORREST, 65-69, James FORREST, 35-39, Ann, 15, and James, 9. Neither this 'Wagtail William" nor the older James are good fits for being the children's father(s); no record of a James baptizing a James or an Ann has been found.
Ann and James are, however, good matches for being the daughter of William and Mary UNKNOWN and the son of William and Nancy ELLISON respectively. Indeed, there are no other census records for either Ann or James of the right age in/around Blackburn. The only Ann baptized in/around Blackburn of the right age, is that of William and Mary UNKNOWN as above.
On balance, I believe that Ann and James are William's children. Furthermore, based on evidence presented in the Notes for William's father, 'Unknown FORREST', I believe that the elder William was Serjeant William FORREST, a Chelsea Pensioner of had served in the 2nd Dragoon Guards. If so it's likely that William had a brother called Thomas, as it was Thomas FORREST who reported Serjeant William's death in 1849.
William's potential suicide
It's worth noting that the 1830s were a miserable time for the handloom weavers as more types of cloth were woven by power looms, and this caused a reduction in the handloom price for the same type of cloth; there was also a general downward trend over the decade and in 1837, wages were reduced 25% in a single year. There was widespread distress among the handloom weavers in Blackburn. In the winter of 1841 to 1842 a Committee was formed to administer relief, and their report issued in December 1841 makes gloomy reading. 7,000 people in Blackburn were having to exist off 2s. 8d per week. The section of the Report on Lammack (an area including Duke's Brow) states : "Most of the cottages in this district are handloom weavers. They were, consequently, found generally employed, but receiving very scanty remuneration for their labour, and the scanty pittance exhibiting an almost weekly reduction. The majority of persons visited were found to be hardworking, clean, managing and patient under their many and great privations. Their principal food is oatmeal porridge, with either churned or sweet milk, and potatoes stewed with a little water, salt and an onion or two for dinner". In the 1840s a pernicious system of increasing the length of the piece to be woven was prevalent. At Whalley, in February 1846, a weaver received 9d. for weaving a piece of cloth 42 yards in length.
The suicide of a William FORREST (of the approximate right age to be William) was reported in 1844.
In 1841 a William FORREST, a warper, aged 45-49 is shown in the 1841 census lodging in Birley Lane. Birley Lane no longer exists, but was in the Snig Brook area of Blackburn. This William FORREST was the subject of a newspaper report of a 'Melancholy suicide' in Blackburn in the Westmorland Gazette dated 26 Oct 1844. The report is as follows:
MELANCHOLY SUICIDE - On Monday last the body of William Forrest, a warper well known in Blackburn, was found in one of the reservoirs for supplying that town with water, where it was supposed to have been since the previous Friday. The deceased, who was 49 years of age, was at one time much respected by a large circle of friends and acquaintances. He was for many years a member of the Blackburn Glee Club. He possessed a fine falsetto voice, and was well known for his musical skill and knowledge. He fell, however, into difficulties which he had not strength of mind enough to bear, and he sought relief for his misfortunes in drink. The first step taken, his downward progress was rapid; and he eventually suffered much distress. He had some time previous to the day on which he was missing talked of going into the workhouse; and it was supposed that on Friday he had left his lodging in Snig Brook to make inquiries for that purpose, having said something to that effect. As he did not return his friends became alarmed, inquiries for set on foot, and various places searched, till it was ascertained that his hat had been seen on Monday, on the side of the reservoir. Assistance was obtained, and the water let off, when the body was discovered. The untimely end of the deceased has caused a general feeling of sincere regret amongst all who knew him in his better days; and it affords another melancholy illustration of the certain destruction to which the abuse of intoxicating liquors leads. (Westmorland Gazette 26 Oct 1844)
The Snig Brook, now culverted, runs from the reservoirs in Corporation Park to near Nab Lane, near to where Birley Lane is thought to have been located. The reservoir would be a 15 minute walk from William's lodgings. This William was buried at St John the Evangelist, Blackburn on 24 Oct 1844. The death certificate simply states the cause of death as drowning. It confirms that he was 49 and a warper. The case had been investigated by the coroner.
In terms of dates, location and profession this is a fit with William's profile. In the context of the death of multiple wives, the general economic crisis being endured by handloom weavers, and his extended separation from his children, perhaps due to his alcoholism, it is no wonder that he fallen into a deep depression from which he could see no way out.
If this was William then he would have been born in c.1794-95, and been about 38 years old when his son James was born. He would have been 8 years older than his second wife Nancy ELLISON.
In summary, from the above evidence, the best fit hypothesis is:
- William FORREST, bachelor, weaver from Mellor married Mary UNKNOWN, aged 28, from Samlesbury in c.1819/1820.
- They baptized Ellen5 in Samlesbury on 22 Jul 1821, and Ann6 in Balderston on 18 Sep 1825
- Mary died in 1826, aged 35, and was buried in Samlesbury
- William married Nancy ELLISON in 1832
- James was born aprrox 1833, in Mellor
- Nancy died July 1838 in childbirth, aged 36, in Mellor, her death was reported by her father.
- In 1841:
- Ellen, 15-19 is living in Mellor with another family next door to people (Sarah COWELL, Thomas COUP) who would later give lodgings to William's son James on Ainsworth Street, Blackburn in 1851.
- Ann, 15, and James, 9, are living with William FORREST, 65-69 and James FORREST, 35-39 in Wagtail, Duke's Brow, as cotton weavers. This William is Serjeant William FORREST of the 2nd Dragoon Guards and Chelsea pensioner, but it is not clear what his, and the older James' relationship was with the children Ann and James.
- Serjeant William dies in 1849 in Livesey, reported by Thomas FORREST, who in 1841 was living at High Bencock, a mile from, and in sight of, Wagtail, up on Duke's Brow.
Two alternative endings:
- In 1841 William, 45-49, a warper, was lodging on Birley Lane, Snig Brook, Blackburn, on his own.7 On 21 Oct 1844, William, 49, by then a depressed alcoholic and separated from his family for several years, drowned himself. Speculation: William's children are not told of their father's death, but are instead told that their estranged father had left Blackburn and became a brick maker.
- William becomes a brickmaker and leaves Blackburn sometime before 1841.
If this is the correct narrative then the following questions are outstanding:
- who was William's first wife Mary?
- what happened to Ellen after 1841 ?
- what happened to Ann after 1841 ?
- who were William's parents?
- was William a brickmaker or did he drown?
- what was the relationship between William and the Wagtail-based William and James, and the High Bencock-based Thomas?
Notes about William's parents
See the Notes for William's father given as "Unknown FORREST".
Notes about William's death
Parish burials: None of right age near Blackburn and without father's name (signifying infancy)
GRO death records in Blackburn and/or Preston (the other town close to Mellor) that cannot be matched to discountable parish burials are below. It is unlikely that he died prior to death registrations becoming mandatory.
- William FORREST Q1 1839 Blackburn 21 30 - no parish burial record found, but was son of Doctor Wm FOREST died 27 Mar 1839 (Andrews Newspaper index)
- William FORREST Q4 1844 Blackburn 21 100 Occasional copy: A. Document ordered but GRO replied: "Sometimes we experience difficulties with our records where the quality of the original document is poor and we are unable to reproduce a PDF accordingly. Unfortunately, on this occasion we are unable to issue a PDF reflecting the original document." My belief is that this was the original, pre-inquest certififcate, superseded by the Q2 1845 certificate.
- William FORREST Q2 1845 aged 49 Blackburn 21 16 - Drowned - 49, buried 24 Oct 1844 (the suicide victim)
- William FORERST Q3 1873 aged 74 Blackburn
- William FORREST Q2 1876 aged 82 Preston
- William FORREST Q4 1877 aged 73 Preston
- William FORREST Q2 1883 aged 77 Blackburn
Other records of interest
There is a baptismal record for a James FORREST, who was baptized by Charlotte FORREST at St Mary the Virgin, Blackburn on 30 Dec 1835.
A William FORREST of Eanam plumped for Mr Hornby in the Blackburn election of August 1847.
In 1841 an Edmund EDMUNDSON lodges next door to William FORREST. In 1851 Edmund is 56 from Samlesbury and lives with his daughter Sarah b 1818 in Mellor. Edmund EDMUNDSON was baptized by Thomas and Ellin EDMUNDSON in 1797 in Balderstone. Mary EDMUNDSON may have been a relative or sister in-law (although no workable earlier marriage of a Mr EDMUNDSON and a Mary can be found).
William FORREST, son of Edmund FORREST, a weaver of Mellor, and his wife Mary, was baptized Aug 13 1815 in Balderston Chapel. Is Edmund a brother to William?
Another William, a 'cotton manufacturer' aged 45 in 1841 is probably the William FORREST that is enrolled in the Mellor lodge of the Freemasons on 8 Mar 1819, age 25, also described as a cotton manufacturer. This William's wife was Hannah and had a son called James aged 13 who is likely too old to be the right James and William is unlikely to ever be described as a brickmaker. He also had a daughter Anne, also aged 15-19, who was probably the Nanny FORREST baptized by William and Hannah in 1825. This is the William FORREST who married Hannah PEMBERTON in 1824. He may have been the cotton manufacturer who left an estate of £10,000 in December 1841, so this James FORREST would become very wealthy when very young.
In Preston, a William FORREST had his death sentence for burglary commuted to 18 months hard labour on 4 Apr 1837.
A William FORREST (37) was imprisoned for 6 months in 1842 for larceny with his brother(?) Thomas (30) by the Lancashire County assizes. If they are brothers then it's not clear who their parents were.
In 1809, a Peter FORREST, 37, was convicted of 'killing and slaying' William WHALLEY, at Balderstone. Surprisingly, he was only fined 1s and imprisoned for one month.
There is a 1815 will of a William FORREST, yeoman of Mellor, in the Archdeaconry of Chester Probate Records.
Quarter session 1833 - Recognizance: Thomas FORREST, Weaver of Mellor, to appear as Reputed Father of the Illegitimate Child of Betty PRESTON of Mellor
Sureties: James FORREST of Blackburn, Weaver and William FORREST of Preston, Weaver.