Alice Barns (1804-1869)

Alice Barns is a bit of an enigma. She is the fourth of nine children born to Edmund and Margaret Barns in 1804, probably in Lower Darwen; I say probably because most sources simply say Over Darwen and the 1861 census says Tockholes (actually, it says Thockles!) But I think it likely they lived there when she was young as three of her siblings were born there.

Alice was baptised at St James, Over Darwen on 15th January 1804. The record simply says, Alice, dau of Edmund and Margaret Barnes of Lower Darwen. Alice's surname in the records varies from Barns to Barnes.

Image from Darwen Days

In 1827 Alice gives birth to Martha and in 1836 James; both are born in Eccleshill and both are probably illegitimate.

In the 1841 census, Alice is 30, a cotton weaver and is living in Ranters Row, Eccleshill, with her parents Edmund Barns, 68 who is also a cotton weaver, her mother, Margaret, 65, her brothers John 25, Edmund 20, both of whom are labourers, and Andrew, 15, who is a bleacher; her children are also there, Martha aged 10 (who is also a cotton weaver), and James who is 6. It seems likely that Martha's real age is 14.

In 1845 when Alice's daughter, Martha, marries Richard Bibby, the marriage certificate has Edmund Barns down as Martha's father. There are only two Edmund's in the 1841 census, Alice's father and brother. So it could be that there was incest in the family but I think it more likely that Edmund's name was put down because there needed to be a father's name and because Edmund, Alice's father, probably acted as a father figure to Martha. It is clear from other documents that Alice never married, so this is a fib, as indeed it is in the 1861 census which says she is a widow.

Here is an old map from 1846 which shows Ranters Row:

In the 1851 census, Alice Barns, age 46 is unmarried and a washerwoman. She is living with her son, James Barns, who is a crealer.

A crealer (creeler) arranges cones or spools on creels for warping; brings filled spools or cones from winding machine; ascertains number of yarn ends to be wound on warp beam; places required number of spools or cones on pegs of creel (rack equipped with several hundred pegs or spindles) and ties tail end of yarn of one cone to lead end of another for continuous winding. A crealer also replaces exhausted cones with full ones and joins ends. They also clean creel and warping machines.

Here is a link to Cotton Mill on Wikipedia which gives an overview of how the cotton mill worked.

And here is a link to an overview and video about children working in Cotton Mills.

According to James' baptism records, he is the illegitimate son of Alice Barns, a weaver who lives at Eccleshill; it is noted he is illegitimate and the reputed father is one Richard Latham. I haven't been able to find out anything about a Richard Latham.

I am telling you this because, in the 1861 census Alice is living with Betsy Ward and her family at 62 High Street in Darwen. The census clearly states that Alice Barnes, who was born in Tockholes, is Betsy's mother, aged 57, is a widow and a house keeper.

Alice dies on 7th October 1869, she was 60 years old and a washer woman. She was living in Bonny Street and the informant was Margaret Barnes who lived in Finch Street and was in attendance at Alice's death. It seems likely that this is her daughter-in-law who was married to her son, James.

This is what happened to her children:

Martha Barnes (1827-1886)

James Barnes (1835-1897)

James marries Margaret Spain, who comes from Tipperary, probably in 1858. Here is a link to a song called Nancy Spain sung by one of my favourite singers, and friend, Dave Molloy.

Their first child, William, was born the following year.

In the 1861 census James, 26, a cotton spinner and his wife Margaret, 27, a cotton winder, are living at 22 High Street, Darwen, with their 1 year old son. As William does not appear in the next census it looks like he died but I cannot find him in the bdms - I can find another William who died young but he was the son of John Barnes and not James.

By 1871 the family have moved to 4 Derwent Street and there are now four children, all born in Darwen: Alice, 9; Elizabeth 7; James 3; and John 1.

Ten years later and they have moved again, now they are living at 19 Haworth Street. The information on this census tells us Margaret was born in Tipperary and their daughter, Alice, was born in Portsmouth, Lancashire. As far as I know there is only one Portsmouth in Lancashire and that is in Todmorden (where I live), this is now part of West Yorkshire but then it was in Lancashire. Alice is 19, Elizabeth is 16 and both are cotton weavers like their father; James is 13 and a creeler like his dad used to be; and John is 11.

I cannot find them in the 1891 census; there is a James Barnes of the right age but he is married to an Ann. I have looked at the records and a Margaret Barnes died in 1883 at the right age so it could be that this is our Margaret and that James remarried; there is a marriage between a James Barnes and Ann Melia in 1884. To confirm all this I would need to acquire the relevant certificates.

It seems likely James died in 1897 aged about 62 - this is the only James Barnes I can find of the right age; but again to confirm this I would need the certificate.

Of James and Margaret's children I have only been able to find out information about one, and that is their son, James. He married an Elizabeth Fish in 1890 and they had a huge family: in the 1911 census they have been married for 21 years having had 11 children all of whom were living. All of those who were above 12 (7) worked in the cotton mill. They had 7 boys and 4 girls. They are living at 75 Lynwood Avenue, a three-bedroomed, end terrace: