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.
That said, although he was 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 In 1851 the tax on bricks was repealed causing a boom in brick-making.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. The vast majority of working class people in Blackburn in the 19th century worked in the cotton weaving industry.
We might also believe that William was still alive in 1854, especially if brick-making had only taken off in 1851.
There are three major avenues of investigation:
A. William was a brickmaker, not necessarily tied to Blackburn.
B. William was Blackburn based, but not a career brick-maker, although he may have been one at some point.
C. William was the birth father, but was not called FORREST. FORREST was James' mother's surname.
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.
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.
If the brick-making is ignored then on balance of probabilities 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 on IGI:
1. Ann HEATON- Ribchester July 1828 (5km N of Blackburn) but this William was a baker
2. Mary WALMSLEY- Blackburn May 1832 - William was a blacksmith.
3. Nancy ELLISON- Blackburn May 1832 - William was a widowed weaver.
4. Jane LONGWORTH- Blackburn May 1832 but can be ignored. Jane was the second wife of a different William FORREST, a flagger and slater. (Source: Jacqueline Williams)
5. Mary SHARPLES - Blackburn 3 Jun 1825 - William was a bachelor weaver (possibly same William as 3.)
6. Hannah PEMBERTON - Blackburn 1824 - William was a manufacturer of calicos and cambrics, and can be ignored.
7. Mary EDMUNDSON - Blackburn 1823 - William was a widowed weaver (again possibly same William as 3, but not 5.)
8. Ann INGHAM at St Mary-the-Virgin, Blackburn on 23 Feb 1819.
9. Ellen CLAYTON at Blackburn on 31 Dec 1818
10. Margaret BARNES Blackburn 14 Feb 1813 - This William was a weaver, gamekeeper (in 1849) and drawer-in (in 1857.) Moulding FORREST was a son. Can ignore.
11. Elizabeth BOLTON Blackburn 7 Mar 1819, the first wife of William FORREST, flagger and slater
12. Jennet HOWARTH Blackburn 27 Oct 1818
13. 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
14. Ann HEATON Ribchester 15 Jul 1828
15. Mary ESTERBY Preston 8 October 1823
Of these Nancy ELLISON seems most probable, assuming that the brick-maker profession was a temporary or a later development. There are three main reasons to support this.
1. Nancy died on 23 July 1838 during childbirth in Mellor 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.
2. Her wedding date of 2 Mar 1832 fits with James' birth date range.
3. More tenuously, the naming of William's son 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. The possible marriage sequences for William from the above marriages are:
- Ellen CLAYTON (1818)/Ann INGRAM (1819) then Nancy (1832)
- Ellen CLAYTON (1818)/Ann INGHAM (1819) then Mary EDMUNDSON (1823) then Nancy (1832)
- Mary SHARPLES (1825) then Nancy (1832)
But the first wife could have been someone different.
No baptisms of children by a William and Ann FORREST can be found near Blackburn between 1819 and 1832, but an Ann FORREST was baptized in Blackburn by William and Ellen in October 1820. An Ellen FORREST, 30, was buried in Lower Darwen in March 1821, and another aged 22 in July 1821.
Baptisms of children by a William and Mary FORREST near Blackburn between 1823 and 1832 comprise:
- Ellen (22 Jul 1821) by William and Mary FORREST of Samlesbury, weaver. This could be the Ellen in Mellor aged 15-19 in 1841.
- John (1824), Joseph (1826), Ellen (1829) who were the children of the William and Mary living in Lower Darwen in 1841.
- Ann baptized 18 Sep 1825 in Balderstone by William and Mary FORREST of Mellor, weaver
The Mary SHARPLES marriage in Jun 1825 is too late for the Lower Darwen family or for being Ann's mother...unless she was very pregnant. Mary EDMUNDSON's marriage in Feb 1823 fits with either family, but fits better with the Lower Darwen family. Another unknown Mary who was the mother of Ellen and Ann would be a better fit.
Several Mary FORRESTs died in their 20-30s in Blackburn between 1823 and 1832.
- 21 Nov 1825, Blackburn, aged 25. Age fits. Died shortly after baptism of Ann, explaining why no further children.
- 28 Aug 1826, Samlesbury, aged 35. Age fits. Died shortly after baptism of Ann, explaining why no further children. Samlesbury connection to Ellen and Ann.
- 11 May 1828, Blackburn, aged 24. Implied birth date of 1804. Too young for Ellen.
- 22 Sep 1829, Blackburn, aged 23. Implied birth date of 1806. Too young for Ellen.
Nancy FORREST died in Mellor in July 1838 and only one suspected child is known - James, born 1832-1836 - however is quite possible that there were other children as we only know that James was a son of William through his wedding certificate. No parish burials of a child with father William can be found near to Blackburn during the 1820-30s, although father's names are not always recorded.
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.
The possibility of suicide
The suicide of a William FORREST of approximately the right age was reported in 1844.
In 1841 a William FORREST aged 45-49 is shown in the 1841 census lodging in Birley Lane, Blackburn with profession 'warper'. 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 could not be provided by the GRO, but their reasons were unclear.
Also in the 1841 Census, an older William FORREST is living in Wagtail, Blackburn, with a boy called James of the right age to be William's son. Note that this is the only 1841 census record with a James FORREST of the right age.
William Forrest - 65 - Cotton Weaver - Y
James Forrest - 35 - Cotton Weaver - Y
Ann Forrest - 15 - Cotton Weaver - Y
James Forrest - 9 - Cotton Weaver - Y
Wagtail, Dukes Brow SD 669 288
On first glance it would appear that James (aged 9) is the son of James 35-39 who is the son of William, but it could be that James is the son of the elder William or an absent father.
A. Son of James (35-39) - No record of a James baptizing a James has been found
B. Son of elder William (65-69) - If this is the right James then this elder William is unlikely to be a brickmaker 13 years later aged 78-82.
C. Son of absent father - Ideally this would be William, son of the elder William. There are two records of a William FORREST baptizing a William in Blackburn: in 1793 (with Ann) and 1794 (with Betty).
The other child listed in the above 1841 census is Ann aged 15-19. The only Ann FORREST baptized in/around Blackburn that year (with a surviving record) was baptized on 18 Sep 1825 by William and Mary FORREST of Mellor, weaver(s) in St Leonard, Balderstone which is 2 miles NW of Mellor, and who appears in the list of possible children of William FORREST and Mary EDMUNDSON above.
In summary one proposed narrative would be:
- William FORREST marries Mary UNKNOWN (possible from Ludworth, Derbyshire)
- William and Mary baptize Ellen in Samlesbury on 22 Jul 1821
- William and Mary of Mellor, weaver, baptize Ann in Balderstone on 18 Sep 1825
- Mary dies either in Nov 1825 (aged 25) or Aug 1826 (aged 35, Samlesbury)
- William marries Nancy ELLISON in 1832
- James is born 1832-1836
- Nancy ELLISON dies in 1838
- Ann and James are living with family(?) in Wagtail in 1841
- Ellen is living in Mellor next door to James' future landlady in 1841
- William not found in 1841 (unless he is the warper on Birley Lane who commits suicide)
- James living with Mellor family in Blackburn in 1851
- Ellen marries George EXTON and is found as Helen EXTON in 1851.
- Ann and William not found in 1851
- James marries Caroline Elizabeth ARCHIBALD in 1854 stating that William is a brickmaker
A variant of this is that William did live on Birley Lane and died in 1844. James provided incorrect information on his wedding certificate...which might have been what he was told as a 12 year old.
If this is the correct narrative then the following questions are outstanding:
- who was William's first wife Mary?
- where is William in 1841?
- could William be the William FORREST of Birley Lane? was James' marriage certificate falsified to cover up his father's suicide? but wouldn't it have been easier to just say he was dead...? was a 12 year old James told that William had gone to work as a brickmaker in 1844 to hide the tragic truth?
- was William a brickmaker? if so, why is Ann's father a weaver in 1825?
- were Ann and Ellen siblings at all?
- what happened to Ann, aged 15 in 1841? (no obvious deaths or marriages found to date)
- who were William's parents?
Notes about William's birth family
Potential baptismal records:
- William baptized by Henry FORREST and Ann COUNSELL of Mellor on 22 Apr 1792 - this William would be Nancy ELLISON's 2nd cousin once removed and could fit the Wagtail family narrative especially if his daughter was named for his mother. Also after this William's mother Ann's death his father Henry married Ann BARNES who was Ann COUNSELL's cousin and Nancy ELLISON's great aunt. This William would be 48 in 1841, so the correct age to be the William living in Birley Lane, but would be 52 in October 1844 rather than 49 as reported in the newspaper article above.
- William (born 21 Feb 1793) baptized by William and Ann FORREST in Blackburn on 26 Feb 1793 - fits with Wagtail family narrative, but no other baptisms found for this family except possibly a James in Sep 1793 in Balderstone by Ann of Samlesbury.
- William baptized by William and Betty FOREST in Blackburn on 7 Sep 1794 - fits with Wagtail family narrative. Possibly William FORREST and Betty BROWN married on 23 Jul 1793 in Blackburn.
- William (born 7 Sep 1795) baptized by Thomas and Ann FORREST in Samlesbury on 13 Sep 1795. Best fit in terms of age for the William FORREST living in Birley Lane in 1841 and reported suicide.
- William (born 14 Sep 1801) was christened in Samlesbury (3 miles west of Mellor) on 11 Oct 1801 by William and Betty FORREST. They also christened a Samson FORREST (born 26 Jun 1804) on 22 Jul 1804. A William FORREST born 1801 in Mellor is shown in the 1851 and 1861 censuses living in Preston with wife Mary (from Ludworth, Derbyshire). This William may also have been the one residing in the Union Workhouse in Blackburn in 1871. He was listed as a married cotton weaver from Samlesbury born 1801. An 8 year old called Elizabeth FORREST is also in the institution. This William can fit with the above proposed narrative if he remarries Mary of Ludworth after Nancy ELLISON has died.
- William baptized by William & Betty FORREST, also of Samlesbury, baptized a William on 8 Jul 1804 (born 15 May 1804) in Balderstone which is close to Mellor Brook. Were there three different William & Betty FORRESTs ?
- William baptized by John and Ellen FORREST of Blackburn on 25 Nov 1810.
This would make him c.23-27 when James was born. Unfortunately John and Ellen did not baptize any other children.
Notes about William's death
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
William FORREST Q4 1844 Blackburn 21 10 - suicide victim
William FORREST Q2 1845 Blackburn 21 16 - no parish burial record found
William FORERST Q3 1873 aged 74 Blackburn
William FORREST Q2 1883 aged 77 Blackburn
William FORREST Q4 1877 aged 73 Preston
William FORREST Q2 1876 aged 82 Preston
Other, probably irrelevant, records
An Ellen FORREST was living in Mellor in 1841 aged '15' living 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. This is possibly the Ellen FORREST, aged 23, married Seth EXTON in 1849 and they are living in Lostock, Bolton, Lancs in 1851.
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).
On 25 Dec 1839 the Blackburn Standard reported the marriage of Jane FORREST to James WARD, both of Mellor in the Blackburn parish church. Jane could possibly be William's sister.
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.
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.
A Sergeant William FORREST of Blackburn, a weaver by profession, was discharged from the Second Regiment of Dragoon Guards on 25 Jun 1810 after 16 years and 66 days of service in consequence of the regiment being disbanded and him being worn out. He had been enlisted at age 27. He then re-enlisted for another 3 years and 338 days in Regiment of Veterans until 24 Jul 1814 when it was disbanded. His birth date would be Nov-Dec 1767 based on his age of 46 years and 10 month at his final discharge.