white rose

1.         Family Stories

The starting point for the searches comes from family knowledge that my great grandparents were Henry Priestley and his wife, Alice, née Crabtree.  The couple originated in West Yorkshire near Mytholmroyd and moved to Colne in about 1901, when their daughter Elsie Jane was about 10.  Henry's father was believed to be called Jonathan Priestley.

Henry was a joiner and builder.  He had a workshop in West Street and a wood-yard near Blücher Street in Colne.  He built the houses in Briarcliffe Avenue, the row of houses at the top of Heifer Lane in Colne, ‘Pendle View’ in Foulridge next to the ‘Hare and Hounds’ and another row between William Street and the former site of Colne Baths.  He also built detached and semi-detached houses of Accrington brick, including some in Blackpool.  Eventually, during the slump his business failed, because of money owed to him.  Henry was sympathetic to poor payers and would allow them to pay for funerals with as little as a shilling a week.  He was a local preacher at the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Colne, which was formerly at the top of Skipton Road.  It is said that his sermons were long and convoluted.  He would walk three miles each way across the fields to Wycollar on Sunday to preach at a small chapel there.  His daughter Ruth recalled that her mother wore a coat only on Sunday when, she went to church.  Presumably the older children did the shopping and many tradesmen would come to the house with a horse and cart.

The family was prosperous for a time, ate well and had good clothes.  When they sat at table, Henry had his own salt and pepper in front of his plate and that set of condiments was never passed round; there was another set for the rest of the family.  He once banished his younger daughters Doris and Ruth from the table for misbehaviour when they were both old enough to be engaged to be married. 

The family had a bathroom, which was not commonplace at that time.  Henry had a pony and trap and kept a donkey as companion for the pony.  The family always had a dog; one was a black and white sheep-dog called Shep, to which Henry was very attached.  When it died he had it skinned and tanned to preserve it.  The skin was kept across the back of the couch.  Another of Henry's dogs was called Prince.  It was stolen by a rag and bone merchant but more than a year later Henry spotted it sitting on the merchant’s cart.  He called the dog and it came, making a big fuss of him.  Henry gave the rag and bone man a piece of his mind!  In later life, Henry lost an eye but the cause of this accident is not known.

With ten children to provide for, the family used to hire a washer woman to come to the house on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help with the laundry.  Those who worked at the mill, including their daughter, Elsie Jane, would start work at 6 a.m.  They came home for half an hour for breakfast.  The sons would help to knead the bread, which was baked twice a week.  Their mother was a confectioner by training and was a prodigious baker of bread, cakes and muffins. 

Children of Henry and Alice Priestley

Mary married Dennis Myers, a mill worker, and they emigrated to Australia to start a farm near Perth.  Their children were Cecil, Nora, Hilda, who died in infancy, and Alice.  Alice married Herbert Proctor and had two sons and a daughter. 

John, worked for his father but joined the army before the Great War as he went to France in August 1914.  John was killed on the Somme on 1 July 1916, aged 22. 

Wilfred married Edith Wood and had a daughter, Dorothy.  He joined the army and he was killed on 28 April 1917, aged 29.

Horace served in the Royal Flying Corps during the Great War.  His children were Harold, Hilda, Marion and Alice.  Of these, Harold had one daughter Joan.  Hilda married Norman ? and had a daughter Norma.  Marion married Fred Carter and they adopted twins.  Alice married Hugh Kay, had three sons, divorced and remarried.

Florence married Joseph Duerden and had two sons, Leslie and Earnest.

Elsie Jane married Thomas Lancaster Cragg in 1915 and their children were Elsie, 1915: Alice, 1917; Ellen, 1925; and Carolyn, 1935.

Eva never married.  Her son Jack Priestley, married Ann and they had four children.

Doris Alice married William Henry Proctor and had one son Harry, who never married.

Ruth married Sidney Walton and had two daughters.  Mavis never married and died in 1978 aged 47.  Marie married Allan Hosker and had a son and a daughter.

2.  The Search for Documentary Evidence on the Priestley family.

2.1       Henry Priestley

The following information is from the Priestley family grave near the top of Colne Cemetery,

Henry Priestley of 3 William Street, Colne, who died 30 March 1929 aged 72.
Alice, his wife, who died on 29 January 1930 aged 74.
Also their two sons
Pte. John Priestley, killed in action in France, 1 July 1916, aged 22
Pte Wilfred Priestley, killed in action in France, 28 April, 1917 aged 29.

This information puts the birth of Henry between 30 March 1856 and 30 March 1857 and the birth of Alice between 29 January 1855 and 29 January 1856.

Their marriage was sought at the General Registry Office (G.R.O.) St Catherine's House, in London, in the period 1874 to 1883.  Only one plausible fit was found.

Certificate of Marriage:  Henry Priestley, aged 24, a joiner, married Alice Crabtree, 25, a confectioner, on 25 August 1880, at Salem Primitive Methodists in Todmorden.  Henry's father is noted as Jonathan Priestley, a dyer of Sunny Brink, Mytholmroyd, Wadsworth.  Alice's father was John Crabtree of Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd, Wadsworth.

The information on occupations, fathers names, the Primitive Methodist connection and the location of Mytholmroyd fit the known facts.  The location of Sunny Brink rang a bell with me; I recall it being mentioned by my grandmother.  The ages indicate that Henry was born between August 1855 and August 1856 while Alice was born between August 1854 and August 1855.  If all the details on the marriage record and the gravestone are correct, (and this is often not the case) Henry was born between March and August in 1856 and Alice between January and August of 1855.

A search at the G.R.O. yielded the following:

Certificate of Birth:  Henry Priestley, born on 30 June 1856 at Roper Green, Ovenden, Halifax, the son of Jonathan Priestley, engaged in the make-up of worsted yarn, and Jane Priestley, formerly Hanson.

This information fits that on his marriage certificate.  The information on Henry's birth allowed a search for the marriage of his parents at the G.R.O.

Certificate of Marriage:  Jonathan Priestley, aged 19, a warehouseman, son of Henry Priestley (occupation and residence illegible) married Jane Hanson, 22, the daughter of Michael Hanson, a spinner, at the Parish Church of Halifax on 14 June 1846.  Both the bride and groom signed with a cross.

This information was cross-checked with that on the parish register on microfilm at Halifax Library and Henry's occupation could not be discerned on that either.  The only other information was that the marriage was after banns, that both parties were from Ovenden and witnesses were John Thomas and Isaac Ingham.  This puts the date of Jonathan's birth as 1826 to 1827, while Jane's is in the region 1823 or 1824.

Census Records.

Census 1881:  Ashtons Terrace, Wadsworth, Yorkshire, (4354 folio 61 page 27)

Henry and Alice were found in the index of the 1881 census for Yorkshire.  There was only one Henry in his 20s married to an Alice and the occupations and location fit too.

Name Status Occupation Born
Henry Priestley head, married, 24 Joiner Ovenden
Alice Priestley wife, married, 25 Baker Wadsworth

An attempt was made to find the couple in the 1891 census, but without success.  Ashtons Terrace was not mentioned in the place name index and a manual search of what were believed to be the relevant districts did not produce a find.  It is possible that Henry and Alice moved to bigger premises as their family grew, before they moved to Colne in the middle of the 1890s. They were found in Colne in 1901.

Census 1901: 3 William Street, Colne, Lancashire

Name Status Occupation Born
Henry Priestley head, married, 44 Carpenter & Joiner, own business Halifax
Alice Priestley wife, married, 45   Mythomroyd
Florence dau, single, 19 Cotton weaver Mythomroyd
Mary dau, single, 17 Cotton weaver Mythomroyd
Horace son, single, 15 Joiner's apprentice Mythomroyd
Wilfred son, 13 Cotton weaver Mythomroyd
Eva dau, 11 (possibly still at school as had to stay until 11 at that time) Mythomroyd
Elsie dau, 9   Mythomroyd
John son, 7   Colne, Lancashire
Alice D (Dorothy) dau, 3   Colne
Ruth dau, 1   Colne

The fact that John was born in Colne but Elsie in Mythomroyd fixes the move to Colne in the period roughly 1892 to 1894. In 1911 the family were at the same address, with the name spelled Priestly but some children had left home.  The children at home were:  Eva, 21, a weaver; Elsie, 19, a weaver; John, 17, apprentice joiner; Doris, 13, weaver; and Ruth 10, a scholar.  The census shows that Alice had nine live births and all the children were still alive.

2.2       Jonathan and Jane Priestley.

Henry's parents, Jonathan and Jane were also sought in the census, initially using the index for all Yorkshire.  There was no Jonathan but a Jonathon, aged 55, fitting the details, with a wife Jane.  The occupation of dyer and the address of Sunny Brink fit with the details on their son Henry's marriage certificate the previous year, 1880.  Using the location of Sunny Brink, the search was extended back to the records of 1851, 1861 and 1871 and these are shown below.

1851 Halifax Census : Film 2301, folio 163, page 23, Roper Green, Ovenden, Ecclesiastical District of Illingworth.

Name Status Occuption Born
Betty Hanson               head, widow, 72    Halifax
Jonathan Priestley son-in-law, m  23  Packer of Worsted yarn Halifax
Jane Priestley dau, m, 27 Employed in cotton factory Halifax
John  grandson, 4   Halifax
Dinah grad dau, 3   Halifax

This is an interesting find as it gives Betty as the name of Jane's mother.  We know from her marriage record that her father was Michael Hanson. 

1861 Halifax Census: Film 3230, E.D. 3, Folio 49, page 31, Wadsworth, Sunny Brink, Bottom Laith

Name Status Occupation Born
Jonathan Priestley head, m, 34 Maker up of yarn Ovenden
Jane   wife, m, 38 Housekeeper Ovenden
John son, 15 Wool Sorter Ovenden
Dinah dau, 13 Cotton Spinner Ovenden
Samuel son, 10 Cotton Spinner Ovenden
Henry son, 4   Ovenden
Emma Jane dau, 2 weeks   Wadsworth


1871 Halifax Census: Film 4323, E. D. 3, Folio 51 Page 21.  Wadsworth in Ecclesiastical District of Mytholmroyd.  No. 121 Sunny Brink

Name Status Occupation Born
Jonn: Priestley head, m, 43 Oil ripener Ovenden
Jane Priestley wife, m, 50 Housewife Ovenden
Saml. Priestley son, unm, 18 Woollen Slubber Ovenden
Henry Priestley son, 14 Machine Tenter Ovenden
Emma Jane dau, 10 Spinner Wadsworth
Rachel Anna dau, 7 Scholar Wadsworth

By this stage John and Dinah, now aged 25 and 23 respectively, are away from home and the family is complete. While the list of names and places of birth matches that for 1861, the ages for John and Jane are at variance with those expected from the 1861 census, given that both censuses were taken in April. This illustrates the hazards of relying on only once census to estimate a person's date of birth. Note too that Rachel Anna is a Scholar; the 1970 Education Act made elementary education compulsory up to the age of 11.

1881 Halifax Census: Film 4342, Folio 58, Page 22, Wadsworth, Sunny Brink

Name Status Occupation Born
Jonathon Priestley head, m, 55 Cotton Dyer Ovenden
Jane Priestley wife, m, 60   Ovenden
Rachel Priestley dau, unm, 17 Cotton Carder Wadsworth
Jonathon Priestley grandson, 3   Wadsworth
Emma J Priestley dau, unm, 20 Woollen Weaver Wadsworth
John A Priestley grandson, 3 months   Wadsworth

The order of the entries for 1881 is reproduced as in the original.  The two grand children may be the children of the eldest son, John, who by 1881 was 25.  The census relates only to occupancy of the property on a single night, so the children may have been visiting for a short period.  However, given that John A Priestley is an infant and the order of the names, it is possible that he is the illegitimate son of Emma Jane.  This situation is frequently encountered in census returns. 

1891 Halifax Census: Film 3543, E. D. 3, Folio 55, page 14, Wadsworth, property 123. Sunny Brink

Name Status Occupation Born
Jonathon Priestley head, m, 63 Fustian Dyer Ovenden
Jane Priestley wife, m, 68   Ovenden
Rachel Priestley dau, unm, 27 Cotton Operative Wadsworth

By the 1891 census only Rachel remains at home with her parents.  From these five census returns we can put together the family of Jonathan and Jane as follows.  The ages are not an exact match on the succeeding records but this is not an uncommon finding.

Name Date of Birth
Jonathan Priestley born between 1825 and 1827 in Ovenden
Jane Priestley born between 1820 and 1823 in Ovenden
John Priestley born between 1845 and 1847 in Ovenden
Dinah born between 1846 and 1848 in Ovenden
Samuel born between 1850 and 1853 in Ovenden
Henry born 30 June 1856 in Ovenden
Emma Jane born in March 1861 in Wadsworth
Rachel Anna born between 1864 and 1865 in Wadsworth.

From the death certificate of for Jane Priestley we know that Rachel Hannah Priestley was still single in 1892 when she would be about 28.  One of the daughters must have married Joseph Siddall, who is shown as the informant and a son-in-law at the death of Jonathan Priestley in 1901.

The family must have moved from Roper Green, Ovenden in the late 1850's.  A search of the 1992 version of the International Genealogical Index, (I.G.I.) for Yorkshire failed to find a Jonathan or Jonathon Priestley born in the period 1822 to 1830.  However, it is known that for England as a whole the I.G.I. is only about 50% complete.  Only one record of a Jane Hanson, daughter of Michael, was found in the Yorkshire I.G.I. and this was for Ovenden.  It is a good fit as the mother's name is Betty as found in the 1851 census record mentioned above.  Further investigation in the 1841 census may find Michael still alive and give some clue to his birth date.

I.G.I. Entry.  Jane Hanson daughter of Michael and Betty, baptised on 18 March 1824 at Ovenden Zion Methodist Chapel.

In the I.G.I. for Yorkshire, no record of a marriage between Michael and Betty was found in the period immediately prior to 1824.  From the 1851 census Betty Hanson was born about 1778/9 in Halifax, so could have been married any time after 1794 when she was 16.  The only marriage of a Michael Hanson to an Elizabeth was found by an Internet search of the I.G.I. as shown below.  The location is interesting, the date would require Elizabeth to be about 20 at the time of her marriage.  The 1851 census shows that Betty was about 45 when Jane was born.  More work is needed to explore the baptism registers of Ovenden Zion Methodist Chapel to see if Michael and Jane had earlier children that lead back towards 1798 as the date of their marriage.

I.GI. Entry. Michael HANSON married Elisabeth SUNDERLAND on 25 Dec 1798 Halifax, Yorkshire, England

There may be other marriage records not yet indexed.  Baptisms of five Michael Hansons are indexed by the I.G.I. in Yorkshire between 1777 and 1807.  The ancient parish of Halifax has within it 18 Anglican churches.  In addition there are many Nonconformist chapels in the area.  Halifax library has microfilm versions of church registers from 56 places of worship, so manual searches of the records are likely to be time consuming.

Deaths of Jonathan and Jane Priestley

My second cousin, Norma, granddaughter of Horace Priestley, has found a grave at St. Michael’s Mytholmroyd (diocese of Wakefield and Deanery of Calderdale) with the following inscription. 

Albert Edward Crabtree - died Dec 8th 1941 age 69 yrs
also Mary Jane Crabtree - wife of above - died July 4th 1952 age 79 yrs
also Jane wife of Jonathan Priestley - died Feb 12th 1892 age 71 yrs
also the above Jonathan Priestley - died June 21st 1901 age 74 yrs
also Harry, husband of Mary Crabtree - died Oct 3rd 1956 age 56 yrs

From this information the following death certicates were found for Jonathan and Jane with a difference of one year in the age of Jane compared to that shown on the gravestone.  The relationship between Priestleys and Crabtrees in this inscription is not yet known.  Albert Edward Crabtree must have been born 1872.  The 1881 census shows two Albert Edward Crabtrees born in 1872, one in Midgley and one in Heptonstall.  By coincidence their fathers were both called Samuel.

Certificate of Death:  Jonathan Priestley, aged 74 years, fustian dyer, died on 21 June 1901 at Westfield Terrace, Mytholmroyd of fibroid degeneration of the heart, anascara, certified by William Thompson, MB.  The informant was Joseph Siddall, son-in-law, present at the death, of Westfield Terrace, Mytholmroyd. The death was registered in the sub-district of Hebden Bridge in the Registration district of Todmorden

Certificate of Death:  Jane Priestley, aged 70, wife of Jonathan Priestley, fustian dyer, died 12 February 1892 at Sunny Brink, Wadsworth, Mytholmroyd of chronic bronchitis, anascara, cardiac failure, certified by John H Thompson, LKQCP. The informant was Rachel Hannah Priestley, daughter, present at the death, of Sunny Brink, Mytholmroyd. The death was registered in the sub-district of Hebden Bridge in the Registration district of Todmorden.

3. John and Wilfred Priestley in The Great War

Information on John and Wilfred Priestley was obtained from several sources.  Using the dates of death on the gravestone in Colne Cemetery, a friend made a check at St Catherine's House in London and found the following entries for soldiers killed in the Great War.

Pte John Priestley 10934 E Lancs. 1916 I 15 252
Pte Wilfred Priestly (sic) 27637 L.N.L.R. 1917 I 22 466

There was no entry for a Wilfred Priestley so it is assumed that there was a spelling mistake.  The details fit, however, with what follows.  The L.N.L.R. was the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.  I have obtained copies of the death certificates but they have little information.

Certificate of Death: Pte. John Priestley, East Lancashire Regiment, 10934, aged 22, born in England, died 1 July 1916, France, killed in action.

Certificate of Death: Pte Wilfred Priestley, 10th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 27637, aged 29, Preston (actually this is where he enlisted), aged 29, presumed date of death 28 April 1917, place of death not stated, missing 28 April 1917.

In Colne Library there is a copy of the book ‘Colne and Nelson Times War Album of 1914 and 1915’  On page 74 there is a picture and a brief account of Pte. John Priestley. 

"Private John Priestley, who is in the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, is the son of Mr. Henry Priestley, joiner, of West Street, Colne.  He had been in the Army two years before the War was declared, and he went to France with the first batch of men in August 1914.  He has been in most of the heavy fighting since then, including the retreat from Mons, and the battles of the Marne and Aisne.  He once had a narrow escape of being captured by the Germans, having to wade through mud and water up to the neck in order to evade capture.  Pte. Priestley has been wounded three times, and has had some very narrow escapes from being killed."

The library also has a copy of ‘Colne and District Roll of Honour and War Record of 1914-1919.’  On page 81 there are pictures of Pte. John Priestley, of the East Lancashire Regiment, from West Street who was killed on 1 July 1916 and Pte. Wilfred Priestley, of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment from West Street, who was killed on 28 April 1917.  Using the information on regiments and dates of death, an enquiry was made at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the following information was obtained.

Pte. John Priestley, 1st Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment, No. 10934
Awards: 14ST. BWM. VIC.
Arrived in France on 22 August 1914
Born Colne, enlisted Burnley, Resided in Colne.
Killed in action, France and Flanders, 01/07/16 (1st day of The Battle of the Somme)
Commemorated at Redan Ridge Cemetery No. 2, Beaumont-Hamel, France, Row C grave 10

Pte. Wilfred Priestley, 10th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, No. 27637
Awards: BWM. VIC
Served overseas after 1 January 1916.
Born Mytholmroyd, Yorks., enlisted Preston, resided in Colne, Lancs.
Killed in action, 28 April 1917.
Commemorated at Arras Memorial, France, Bay 7.

I think that the medals are the 1914 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal but these need to be checked.  Further enquiries about the East Lancashire Regiment and the Loyal North Lancashires have been made with the a commercial search service, ‘Sunset Militaria’.  Wilfred is mentioned in Volume 50 of “Soldiers who died in the Great War” with details as shown above and the extra information that he served in France and Flanders.

The East Lancashire Regiment.

The 1st Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment joined the 11th Brigade of the 4th Division at Colchester on 4 August 1914.  On the 18th August it moved to Harrow and on the 22 August the unit landed in France at Havre from a ship called ‘Braemar Castle’. 

From 25 August to 31 October 1914 the 1st Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment was in the battles of Mons, Le Cateau, Marne, Aisne, Armentieres, and Meteren.  From 25 April to 25 May 1915 it was in the Battles of Ypres, St Julien, Frezenberg Ridge, and Bellewaarde Ridge.  From 1 July 1916 the unit was at the Battle of the Somme, where John Priestley fell on the first day, and subsequently that year at Albert and Transloy Ridges.  The 1st Battalion was involved in many battles during 1917 and 1918. 

The Museum of the East Lancashire Regiment is at the Lancashire and County Regimental Museum in Stanley Street, Preston. 

An enquiry to the War Pensions agency in 1997 showed that at the time of his death, John’s next of kin was described as Mrs. Alice Priestley, (mother) of 3 William Street, Colne.

The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

The 10th (Service) Battalion was formed at Preston and went to the South Downs and Eastbourne attached to the 22nd Division in October 1914.  In April 1915 the unit was attached to the 112th Brigade of the 37th Division at Ludgershall.  It landed in Boulogne on 1 August 1915, moving to the area around Tilques, north west of St Omer.  From 13 to 18 November 1916 the Battalion was at the Battles of the Somme and Ancre.  From 9 April to 12 October 1917 the Battalion was at the Battles of Arras, Scarpe, Monchy, Le Preux, Arleux, Ypres, Pilckem Ridge, Menin Road Ridge, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle, and Passchendaele.  Wilfred fell at Arras on 28 April 1917.  The Battalion was disbanded in France in February 1918.

An enquiry to the War Pensions Agency in 1997 showed that at the time of his death, Wilfred’s next of kin was Mrs. Edith Priestley (widow) of 16 Skelton Street, Colne.

The Loyal North Lancashire Regimental Museum is at Fulwood Barracks in Preston.

Reference Works

History of the East Lancashire Regiment in the Great War, 1914-1918, by Maj. Gen. Sir Lothian Nicholson and Maj. H T McMullen, published by Littlebury Brothers, Liverpool, 1936.  Battlefields of the First World War, Tonie and Valmai Holt, Pavilion Books Ltd. 1993, ISBN 1 85793 064 9.  The First Day of the Somme, by Martin Middlebrook, Purnell Book Service Ltd. Pitman Press Bath, 1971.  The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, by Col. H. C. Wylly, London, Royal United Services Institution, 1933.




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