North and South

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As my mother’s roots were in London, and my father’s forebears were Lancastrians, my family history research involves me in research in the South and in the North of England.

One aspect of my research that fascinates me continually is the comparison between the Northerners and the Southerners on my family tree. I like to engage in comparative studies of some of my ancestors in order to appreciate better what my various forebears had in common, and how they differed. I hope that Lancashire readers may like to share this research experience with me, and read about two of my ancestors, who shared a Christian name and lived at a similar time, but who were separated geographically by about 200 miles, and sociologically by as great a margin.

The subjects of this article are THOMAS CULSHAW and Dr.THOMAS HUNT. I shall begin by giving a brief biography of each of these people. I shall then discuss the points of similarity and difference between them that I have noted. My main source is the 1851 census entries for each of their households, but, as you will see, this has been supplemented by other evidence. Finally, I shall seek to place the contents of this article in some sort of perspective, and to draw what conclusions I can about these people.

My 3 x gt grandfather, THOMAS CULSHAW, was born in Burscough c1788, the son of JOHN CULSHAW and ELLEN (HESKETH). According to his Death Certificate, THOMAS’s father earned his crust as a Carpenter. THOMAS was one of five children, and married MARGERY CHEETHAM at Rainford in 1812. In concert with his father and brother, THOMAS appears to have moved to Farington c1820, and as far as we know he lived there until at least 1851. He and his spouse produced twelve children. He died in 1864, leaving no will.

THOMAS CULSHAW was variously described during his life as a farmer (9 acres), a joiner, and a wheelwright. I surmise from this that he was a wheelwright, having learned carpentry skills from his father. He was probably also a subsistence farmer.

Dr.THOMAS HUNT was the brother of my 4 x gt. Grandmother. He was born c1798 at Watford , Hertfordshire. His parents were Rev. THOMAS HUNT and MARIA (EDWARDS). Rev. HUNT was a Baptist Minister.

Dr.THOMAS HUNT married MARTHA MARY COLAM some time before 1830. I have not traced this marriage, but given the fact that MARTHA’s birth was recorded in Dr.Williams’s non-conformist birth register(1) and the religious persuasion of THOMAS’s father, I believe that this event probably took place outside the Church of England. Dr.THOMAS HUNT and his spouse produced thirteen children. At various times the family lived at Herne Bay ( Kent ), Clapton (Middlesex) and in the parish of St.Giles in the Fields (Middlesex). In 1851 he was at the last of these locations.

Dr HUNT was a surgeon, specialising in the treatment of skin diseases. The records of the Royal College of Surgeons show that he became a Member of that body by examination (MRCS) in 1820, and a Fellow of the college (FRCS) in 1852. At one time he was Medical Officer of Health for St.Giles, Middlesex, and he also lectured and wrote treatises on skin diseases.

When he died in 1879 THOMAS HUNT left a will, and had an obituary in The Times.

The above brief details will, I am sure, have impressed on my reader the fundamental difference between these two men, which may be summed up as ‘social rank’ or ‘class’. THOMAS CULSHAW came from what may be called ‘solid’ North Country stock, and bearing in mind the lack of educational facilities for ordinary people in his time, may be assumed to have had little or no education. In contrast, THOMAS HUNT came from a family that exuded education and wealth. This fact must have underpinned the life styles of these two men, as a look at the relevant entries in the 1851 census enumerator’s books will illustrate (Appendix).

Both these households included people other than the head, his spouse and their children, but the circumstances in which this occurred seem different. THOMAS CULSHAW had his married daughter and her spouse in his household. Of course, we have no way of being sure whether they were staying for one night only or on a permanent basis, but it seems reasonable to suppose that their stay may have been for more than one night. After all, as a recently married couple of modest means they would likely have been in need of accommodation.

The lodger in THOMAS’s household was a four-year old lad, JAMES COTTAM. I do not know anything about him, but assume that he was a friend or relation. It seems likely that THOMAS and MARGERY CULSHAW brought him up, as he was recorded as a “boarder” in their household in 1861, this time living at Walton le Dale(2) .

THOMAS CULSHAW lived on the edge of a small industrial township. Farington had developed into an industrial town in the 1830s and 1840s, with the advent of the North Union Railway and the opening of Bashall & Boardman’s cotton mill(3). He was a skilled working man and can be placed with certainty in the higher levels of the working class. THOMAS HUNT, by comparison, was a professional man who lived and worked in fashionable London . The area in which this THOMAS lived was urban and upper class. Reference to The London Encyclopaedia tells us that Bedford Square was a fashionable area in the mid nineteenth century. Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor, had lived there from 1804 to 1819, and several other well-known people are recorded as having lived there. “Until 1893 the square was closed off by gates, and tradesmen were required to deliver goods in person”(4).

The HUNT household included three servants – a cook, a housemaid and a page. The presence of these people makes plain the prosperity of this family, and the class to which they belonged.

The children of THOMAS HUNT were present in his household. None of his three eldest daughters had occupations recorded against their names, whilst all the children between ages six and fifteen were recorded as being scholars. Although we cannot deduce the fact from this entry, we have other evidence to show that the HUNT youngsters all received a good education. For example, the relevant entries form the 1881 census show that ARTHUR A. HUNT later became an Artist(5), while GEORGE G. HUNT was a Manager in a civil engineering business(6).

I find it interesting to consider the lives of the daughters of our two subjects in relation to marriage. It has been shown that in 1851 the median age of marriage for spinsters was 23 years(7). As three of the daughters of THOMAS CULSHAW married at ages 21, 23 and 24, I think it can be said that they conformed to this pattern. In considering THOMAS HUNT’s daughters, I have been able to trace four of them on the 1881 census, and only one of them had married. That one – LOUISA HUNT – married at age 30.

I am not, at present, able to attribute causes to the tendency to earlier marriage in the household of my working class ancestor, as compared to his better off counterpart. Maybe the fact that Dr THOMAS HUNT was better able to support his family financially than THOMAS CULSHAW was a factor, but I would need to carry out further research involving more households before presenting such a thesis with any confidence. What I can say, however, is that the HUNT household’s pattern of behaviour, as regards female marriage seems atypical of the time.

The last aspect of these households I will consider is lifetime migration. I have often heard it said that people in the nineteenth century lived in a stable society, in which they tended not to move far from their birthplace, but that view has been contested by many modern researchers(8).

If we look at our two household heads in relation to migration, we find that in 1851 neither of them was living in their place of birth. As I mentioned above, THOMAS CULSHAW was born at Burscough, some 10 miles south of Farington. I believe that I have been able to track his lifetime migrations fairly accurately, using Parish Registers of baptisms and censuses, and it seems likely that, apart from one brief period of residence at Lathom (near Burscough), THOMAS’s migration to Farington was completed in one step.

Dr THOMAS HUNT was born at Watford , Hertfordshire, some 15 miles north of his home in 1851. His movement from birthplace to Bedford Square must have been something of an odyssey. As his father was a Baptist minister, we may conclude that when he transferred from one church to another his young son probably went with him. Thus, THOMAS HUNT is likely to have lived for spells during his childhood at Ridgemount and Dunstable (both Bedfordshire), and Tring (Hertfordshire). We also know, from information obtained from the Royal College of Surgeons, the baptism records of the relevant independent chapels, and medical directories, that this THOMAS had periods of residence at Clapton, Middlesex, and Herne Bay , Kent , before settling in the parish of St.Giles in the Fields.

My consideration of migration illustrates what most family historians learn quickly – we need to supplement census information with material from other sources to arrive at a more complete picture of our ancestors. If we relied merely on the information in the 1851 census, one may have thought that the lifetime migration patterns of these two households were similar.

So what picture of my two THOMASs are we left with after all this work or (possibly more importantly) what have we gained from the exercise?

The first thing to say is that there is plenty of scope to widen this analysis. For example, there is much to be learned by considering matters such as religion or regional accent, or by comparing our knowledge of the lives of our forebears with what is known about the population at large. As it is, we have observed the difference in class and wealth, which underpinned the lives of the people in these two households. We have also observed differences in the age of marriage of the daughters of the two THOMASs, and in the lifetime migration pattern of the two household heads. It is my contention that by comparing the two households we have been able to learn more about what was unique or commonplace about each of them. After all, if we are saying that the family of THOMAS CULSHAW was working class, our understanding of what that meant must be enhanced by comparison with a family from a higher class.

Appendix – 1851 Census Entries

HO107/2264, fo. 192 – Farington, Lancs.
(18) Farington Lane Fold (or Bold?)

Name Rel. to Head Marital Status


Occupation Birthplace

Thomas Culshaw Head Mar 64 Farmer (9 acres) & Joiner Burscough
Margery Culshaw Wife Mar 57 Blank Burscough
Benjamin Culshaw Son Unm 23 Sawyer Farington
James Culshaw Son Unm 17 Ag. Labourer Farington
Abel Culshaw Son Unm 14 At Home Farington
Elias (sic) Culshaw Daur Unm 10 Blank Farington
Hugh Taylor Son in law Mar 27 Ag. Labourer Hoole
Ellen Taylor Daur Mar 25 Wife Farington
James Cottam Lodger Unm 4 Scholar Preston

HO107/1509, fo. 79 – St.Giles in the Fields, Middlesex
(96) 26 Bedford Square

Name Rel. to Head Marital Status Age Occupation Birthplace

Thomas Hunt Head Mar 53 Surgeon MRCS Eng LAC Herts Watford
Martha M. Hunt Wife Mar 43 Blank Middx London St.Sepulchres
Louisa Hunt Daur Unm 21 Blank Kent Herne Bay
Matilda Hunt Daur Unm 19 Blank Kent Herne Bay
Esther M. Hunt Daur Unm 17 Blank Kent Herne Bay
John Hunt Son Unm 15 Scholar at home Kent Herne Bay
William Hunt Son Blank 12 Scholar Kent Herne Bay
Arthur A. Ackland Son Blank 9 Scholar at home Kent Herne Bay
Mary E. Hunt Daur Blank 8 Scholar at home Kent Herne Bay
George G. Hunt Son Blank 6 Scholar at home Kent Herne Bay
Emily T Hunt Daur Blank 3 Blank Kent Herne Bay
Caroline Hunt Daur Blank 6mos Blank Middx St.Georges Bloomsbury
Eleanor Tucker Serv Unm 36 Cook Middx Pinner
Emma Ashbee Serv Unm 23 Housemaid Kent Herne Bay
Barron Edw Neale Serv Unm 17 Page Middx Holloway

(1) PRO Source RG4/4662
(2) PRO source RG9/3141
(3) Hunt, 1990, pp 91-94
(4) Weinreb & Hibbert (eds), 1983, p.53
(5) PRO ref RG11/741, f.101
(6) PRO ref RG11/714, f.80
(7) Nissel (1987) p.154
(8) Anderson , M. in Drake (1994) p.68

Anderson ,M What is New about the Modern Family? In Drake,M (ed) (1994) ‘Time, Family and Community, Perspectives on Family and Community History’ (pp 67-90) The Open University in association with Blackwell.

Hunt,D (1990) The History of Leyland and District , Carnegie.

Nissel, M (1987) People Count – A history of the General Register Office , HMSO.

Weinreb,B & Hibbert,C (eds) (1983) The London Encyclopaedia , MacMillan.

Geoff Culshaw

Published in the journal of the Lancashire Family History & Heraldry Society in 1999.

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  • This page was last updated on Saturday July 2nd, 2011.