Edmund Hamer (1819-1863)

Edmund was born on 1st January 1819 in Newchurch-in-Rossendale - I'm still trying to find out exactly where. He was the first of six children born to James Hamer (1793-1840) and Rachel Turner (1796-1865).

The parish records state that when Edmund's father, James, died in 1840 he was living at Tunstead Mill which is in Stacksteads and further down the Rossendale valley than Waterfoot, towards Todmorden. I don't have the date for this photograph of Tunstead Mill but it is later than 1840 and is, therefore, much more built up:

Thanks to Pete Fisher

Here is an extract from an ordnance survey map of Rossendale in 1950; you can see the main A681 Bacup Road at the bottom in red going through Waterfoot; the B6238 is Burnley Road East, which leads up to Lumb. If you carry up this road you will come to Water, which is where Edmund's father, James came from; his mother, Rachel, came from Edgeside which is back down the road, towards Stacksteads.

In the 1841 census Edmund is aged 20 and living at Lumb, Newchurch, with his mother Rachel, and his siblings Robert 15, who is a cotton rover like Edmund; Elizabeth 10 who is a cotton drawer and John aged five.

Cotton rovers loaded cotton yarn onto bobbins, giving the yarn a twist, (Roving) after the Carding and Combing processes.

Their father's death must have hit the family badly as the third child, Rachel, who was 12, is living with Mary Turner who is 75 and presumably her grandmother, as well as her aunt, Alice 35 who, like her mother, has independent means of living. Rachel is a piecer, they reconnected the yarns which broke on the spinning mule.

The census is confusing because the next entry says Pinch Clough and appears to have Edmund's youngest brother, James who is 4, living with Henry Clegg, who is 40 and a labourer. Is it possible that Henry is a lodger living in the Hamer household or is he a neighbour that has taken in James for the time being whilst the family are going through hardship? Unfortunatetly, the 1841 census does not give much information. But the houses were back-to-backs, either one or two up/down, which would have been very small for a large family. I have lived in a back- to-back in Todmorden for 24 years, but it is on three levels, plus a cellar, so it is quite a big house. Having said that, I was born in a two up two down in Darwen - my brother and I slept in the back bedroom whilst my mum and grandma slept in the front bedroom. We forget that this is how people used to live.

Wilf Day of Rossendale Family History Society informs me that Pinch Clough is a small cluster of cottages within Lumb village on the east side of the River Whitewell at Lumb corner (across the main road from St Michael's Church). Wilf suggests that Henry Clegg would have been an immediate neighbour of the Hamer family and possibly a close friend with some spare accommodation. He may also have been a blood relative such as a cousin or an in-law.

Here is an Old Postcard of Lumb

Thanks to Pete Fisher

Presumably, as the eldest of the children, a lot of responsibility fell onto Edmund, which is possibly why he didn't get married until he was 29 years of age. On 18th February, 1849, Edmund married Charlotte Ashworth who was 22. They were married at Haslingden Registry Office. The marriage certificate states that Edmund was a cotton rover and his father, James, was a weaver. Charlotte was a cotton warper and her father, George, was a stone mason. They both lived in Scout. Their witnesses were Robert Hamer and Nancy (or Fanny, it is difficult to read the writing) Whittaker.

On 7th November 1849 their son, James Edward was born and baptised on 23rd December at Lumb.

St Michaels, Lumb Thanks to Pete Fisher

St Michaels is now a private home; here is a photo I took in May 2012, some of the gravestones are in a poor state of repair and it is clear the children of the household play in the graveyard as there were two footballs there; I have to say it felt very strange and somehow not right:

But James Edward only lived a few weeks and was buried on 2nd January 1850 at St Nicholas' church in Newchurch.

Thanks to Lancashire On-Line Parish Clerks

Their next child, Robert, was born on 6th November 1850 and christened on 9th March 1851 at St Nicholas'. He was four months old on the 1851 census when Edmund, 32 who was a cotton spinner, and Charlotte, 23, lived in Scout. Fanny Ashworth, aged 16 years who was a cotton piecer, was visiting; perhaps she was Charlotte's sister? Fanny was born in Newton, Cheshire.

Scout Bottom Thanks to Pete Fisher

Robert died when he was six years old in October 1857 and was buried 11th October at St Nicholas'.

Four years earlier, on 19th February 1853, Rachel Ann was born at Greenside, Scout; she was baptised on 22nd May 1853 and her sister, Fanny, was born on 13th April 1855 and baptised at St Nicholas' on 24th June that year.

John Edwin, Edmund and Charlotte's third son and my great grandfather, was born on 16th July 1857, some three months before his older brother, Robert, died. The family were living in Piercy when John Edwin was born. Here is a photograph of John Edwin taken many years later when he was about 50 years old.

George Henry came next, born in 1860, so by the 1861 census there is Edmund, 44, who is now a cotton rover; his wife Charlotte, 33, and their children Rachel Ann, 8, Fanny 6, John Edwin 4 and George Henry 1. All the children are down as being born in the Newchurch area apart from Fanny who is down as being born in Spotland (Rochdale), yet in another census she is down as being born in Bacup. There are also lodgers, Henry Robertshaw, 39 who was a cotton weaver who was unmarried and was born in Heptonstall, Yorkshire; John Pickup, 43 who was also unmarried and was a woollen weaver born at Clough Fold, Lancashire; as well as James Taylor, 27 a sawyer, his wife, Mary Ann, 29 and their daughter Betsey Ann, 1; James and Betsey Ann were born in Newchurch whilst Mary Ann was born in Whitworth. This must have been a bigger house with several rooms to be able to hold two families and two single men.

Tragedy again struck the family two years later, on 28th August 1863, when Edmund, the head of the family, died of pneumonia. He was 45 years old and had become a grocer. They were living at Roebuck, Scout Bottom, which is just below Whitewell Bottom on the above map. The death was registered by Mary Ann Dearden who was present at the death; Mary Ann lived at Slack Bottom, Bacup. This isn't the same Mary Ann Taylor who was lodging with the Hamers in 1861 because in the 1871 census Mary Ann is still called Taylor and living with her husband, James and four children including Betsey Ann now aged 12.

Edmund was buried at St Nicholas' church in Newchurch on 2nd September 1863. Looking back over his life he experienced a lot of tragedy, losing his father when he was 19, then his first two sons in childhood, then himself dying at 45, a year after his youngest son was born.

To continue the family story we must turn to Charlotte Ashworth, Edmund's wife.

I am in contact with Christine, who is a descendent of Edmund's brother, Robert. Christine pointed out the information about houses in Pinch Clough and also noted that many of the children died from cholera epidemics.

Christine also wondered whether Edmund had a weak chest, leading onto the pneumonia, when he was working in the cotton mill. This is possible, but we must also remember that the Lancashire Cotton Famine (1862-1864) hit Rossendale badly as well as other places in Lancashire. During this period, people's diets must have been significantly reduced making them susceptible to different ailments or making them less likely to recover. Given that the cotton mills were shut at this time, it is likely Edmund looked elsewhere to earn money and this could be why he moved into the grocery business. It seems to be quite a leap from working in a cotton mill to becoming a grocer. But it was an important step as my section of the Hamer family went on to continue the grocery trade as well as diversifying into other trades in the years that followed.

It is also worth noting that when they got married, Edmund signed with an 'x' whilst Charlotte signed her name. Like Christine, I wonder whether Charlotte was the 'brains' in the family? Christine also points out that there was a factory act of 1802 but this was not regulated and ignored by mill owners. The labour of children act 1832 said children (9-13) had to have 2 hours education a day and could not work more than 8 hours a day. Robert born 1825 would have been 7 in 1832 but Edmund would have been 13 so missed it. I also think it might be important that the family belonged to the non-conformist church which taught members to read and write.

It is interesting that during the Cotton Famine, many people died, some managed to survive from the soup kitchens and other welfare, whilst others emigrated abroad or moved to other parts of the country, for example some moved to Yorkshire to work in the woollen trade. I talk more about the Cotton Famine in the Ward Section of the website.