James Ward (1847-1920) 'Owd Flower'

James was the seventh of ten children born to James Ward (1806-1858) and Elizabeth Grimshaw (1813-1877). He was born in Darwen in 1847, probably at 27 Bury Fold; I say probably as the 1841 census and the one for 1851 has the family living in Bury Fold but it does not give a number, whereas the census for 1861 gives 27 Bury Fold.

He would have been baptised at Lower Darwen Chapel as some of his other siblings were but the records were not kept during the years covering the births of James and his other siblings born between 1838 and 1852.

Lower Chapel, Darwen, 1709. Image from The Parish of Over Darwen

In 1851 he is living with his parents and siblings, Richard 17, a cotton spinner; Jane 15, a power loom weaver; John 11, a cotton spinner; William 8, Ann 5 and Mary 1; he did have another older sister, Hannah, but she died age 4 years in 1842.

James' father died in 1858 when James junior was 11 years old, by which time he had three younger sisters, Mary, Alice and Elizabeth.

In 1861 he is living at 27 Bury Fold with his mother, Elizabeth, who is 50, and his older siblings, Richard 27, who is a cotton spinner; Jane 25 and Ann 15, both are cotton power loom weavers; John 21 and William 17, both are cotton spinners. James is 15 and is a creeler in a cotton factory. His younger sister Mary is 12 and a cotton weaver assisstant whilst his other younger sister Elizabeth is 8 years old and Alice is 5.

It seems likely that as the Bowling Green Mill was the nearest to Bury Fold (it was opened in 1820), all the family would have worked there. By 1850 there were 11,000 mule spindles and 430 looms. Spinning and weaving ceased in the old mill in about 1875 and the building was later demolished.

Cotton Famine

The American Civil War (1861-1865) resulted in a blockade of the southern ports by the north which eventually meant that the cotton used in the mills in Lancashire became scarce. This led to the Cotton Famine. The following information is taken from

It is interesting to note how, due to the development of the cotton industry, the population of Darwen increased significantly: 1801: 3,587, 1811: 4,411; 1821: 6,711; 1831: 6,972; 1841: 9,348; 1851: 11,702; 1861: 16,492; 1871: 21,278; 1881: 27,589; 1891: 34,192.

In 1829 there was only one cotton mill in Darwen, the Bowling Green. By 1862 there were 33 cotton mills, 2 print works, 8 collieries; 8,078 people were employed in these and other works of the town. (In other words, half of the population; it seems that most of the mills had closed down due to the cotton shortage).

'By the month of July 1862, we are told that "the distress increased like a flood"; and in August, "the flood had become a deluge, at which the stoutest heart might stand appalled." The increase of pauperism was almost incredible. In Preston it was more than 1,000 per cent in excess of ordinary relief. More than 27 per cent of the population were in want of the commonest necessities of life, and, though willing and anxious to work, knew not how to earn a meal. Many of the shopkeepers were reduced to comparative destitution'

'To prevent those who were thus driven to receive relief from the various committees, from sinking into habits which would lead to subsequent pauperism, various schemes were devised for their employment in works of utility, and in education. Thus the men were set to repair the old footpaths in their respective neighbourhoods, or to form new roads; the women and girls were gathered into sewing classes; and many learnt there what they ought to have been taught before, and what was useful to them in after-life, when all such evil times had passed away. Old and young, of both sexes, were gathered into schools, attendance at which, in most cases, was compulsory, or relief would be withheld. In these schools might sometimes be seen youths with their fathers and grandfathers, learning to read and write in the same class. Old persons, in some cases, learnt to read who were ignorant of the alphabet before'

We are told that attendance was mostly during day but that places were also open at night to learn as well as for recreation; in some places lectures and concerts were given. As well as being taught how to sew, many of the women were also taught new ways to cook. The schools lasted two and a half years.

Various committees were set up in different parts of Lancashire to assess the need, encourage donations and establish relief systems. They were able to do this because a national relief scheme was established.

Donations came from around the world: £40k from the colonies; £100k from rest of kingdom;£400k from the County of Lancaster itself. The queen donated £2k, Prince of Wales £1k; £1,100 was received from thousands of working men, readers of a periodical called the British Workman, including even the brigade of shoe-black boys. A New York merchant, George Griswald, sent his ship full of flour and other provisions. The Society of Painters in Water Colours exhibited 318 paintings and raised nearly £2k.

Emigration to America was encouraged to help relieve the situation for some. The collapse of the cotton trade stimulated linen and woollen and worsted trades and thousands migrated to Yorkshire and other localities where these trades flourished. About one fourth of cotton operatives found new homes or occupations for themselves.

Distress in Darwen reached its highest point in the first week of December 1862: the relief totalled £1,974. As well as provisions (people were given tickets to present at shops), there were also tickets for clogs and coal.

The Ward family must have been affected by the famine given they all worked in the cotton mills.

James and Betsy

Six years after the famine had ended, James married Betsy Bibby at Lower Chapel, Over Darwen, on 11th June 1870. James and Betsy were both 23 years old; neither could read or write as they gave their 'mark' (this suggests they were not in receipt of relief or they would have learnt to read and write). James was a cotton spinner and Betsy a cotton piecer. James lived at Sandhill whilst Betsy lived in Bonny Street. James' father, also called James (deceased) was a stone quarrier whilst Betsy's father, Richard (deceased) was a cotton spinner. The witnesses were John Ward, Mary Ward and James Ainsworth.

Sandhill Fold is just off Bolton Road, higher up than Watery Lane. This would make sense because in the census of 1871, James' mother Elizabeth and some of his other siblings are living at 503 Bolton Road.

After the marriage they must have moved to 8 Bonny Street, as this is where they are in the 1871 census. I cannot find Bonny Street on the 1909 map, but the census goes from Star Street to Bonny Street to Redearth Street (areas I played as a child). James is 23 and a cotton spinner, Betsy is 24 and a cotton spinning piecer; they have two children, Richard who is 2 years old and Elizabeth Ann who is nine months old. So Betsy must already have had Richard when they got married.

However, the plot thickens because according to the Parish records, Richard Hy Ward was born on 24th August 1871 to James Ward and Betsy (formerly Bibby) at Rock Terrace and baptised at Darwen Lower Chapel on 11th February 1872.

The Parish records say that Elizabeth Ann was born on 13th June 1870 and baptised on 21st August 1870; she,too, was born at Rock Terrace, also to James Ward and Betsy (formerly Bibby). Elizabeth Ann died the following year.

John William is born in 1871; Elizabeth in 1874; James in 1877; Margaret Ann in 1879.

In 1878 there were riots in Darwen: in response to a 10% pay cut and restricted working hours introduced by mill owners in response to slumps in the cotton trade, mill workers in Darwen began a peaceful strike which became violent after weeks of no action and no resolution led to hunger. The starving mill workers smashed the windows of a pub 'Bird i'th Hand' whose landlord refused to dole out food and drink. The local police intervened and this made the situation worse. The riot then spilled over to Blackburn. For more information see Cotton Town.

By 1881 the family had moved to 25 Barton Street; James and Betsy are both down as being 30 years old; Richard is down as Richard Hy Bibby and is 12 years old; like his step-father, he is a cotton spinner. Elizabeth is at her grandma's, Martha Bibby, 1 Bonny Street, and is down as being 6 years old whilst James and Betsy's three other children are living with their parents: John William is 9; James 4; and Margaret Ann is 2.

Ten years later they have moved to 8 India Street. James is 45 years old, Betsy, 46, Richard Hy 22, and John William, 19; both sons and father are cotton spinners. Elizabeth is 17 and is back at home, she is a cotton weaver. Margaret Ann is 11 and there is now also Joseph aged 9 who was born in 1881. Their son, James, died in 1884 at the tender age of seven. Betsy and James had another son this year and called him James, in 1891 he is 7.

For several years I could not find James and Betsy in the 1901 census until I got a suggestion from Ancestry regarding their grand-daughter, Jane Holden, then I discovered the reason why, the transcriber had them down with the surname Ware. It is actually quite clearly Ward when you look at the original census. So James, age 53, Betsey, 54 and their sons, Joseph aged 19 and James junior aged 17, are living at 85 Redearth Road. This is just higher up on the opposite side of the road to where I was born (number 80!) James senior is a cotton spinner whilst the two sons are cotton weavers. Their grand-daughter, Jane Holden, aged 2 is living with them.

In 1911 James, age 64 years, is living with his daughter Elizabeth Ann, her husband and family, at 20 Hillside Avenue. Here is an old photo of Hillside Avenue:

Image from Darwen Days

James' wife, Betsy Ward, is 64 years old and is living with my grand-parents, Joseph and Bridget at 11 Malta Street, so it is possible they had separated. Ten years later Betsey died aged 75. James had died the year before, in 1920, aged 73 years. Written on the back of his photograph (at the top of this page), which I inherited from my mum, is "Owd Flower".

This is what happened to their children:

Richard Henry Bibby (c.1869-1902) married Betsy Haworth in 1898 and they are living at 26 Sydney Street, Darwen in 1901; Richard is a cotton spinner and Betsy a cotton warper. Richard dies in 1902. The 1911 census has Betsy Bibby who is aged 42 years, as a widow and living with her aunt, Sarah Chadwick aged 54, and her sister, Nancy Chadwick aged 52, both are single; there is another sister who is also a widow, Hannah Knowles aged 60.

John William Ward (1872-1948) marries Margaret Ann Lingard in 1899 and they live at 1 Malta Street in 1901; John is a cotton spinner and they have a son, James who is just 10 days old. By 1911 they had moved to 32 Ratcliffe Street; their son John is ten years old, they have another son, Thomas, who is 8 and Margaret's sister, Emily Lingard is staying there. She is a weaver and is 36 years old.

What I find fascinating is that several years later my aunty May Ward and her husband Jim Turnbull and their family lived at the same address. I spent many happy hours of my childhood at 32 Ratcliffe Street.

John William died on 27th November 1948, he was living at 51 Salisbury Road, Blackpool. He left 789 pounds 3 shillings and 10 pence to his son James who was a paint grinder and Thomas who was a commercial traveller.

Elizabeth Ward (1874-?) Elizabeth married Richard Holden in 1898 and in 1901 they were living at 7 Ashton Street, Darwen, both were cotton weavers. By 1911 they had moved to 20 Hillside Avenue and had three girls, Jane aged 12, Bets, 8 and Ellen who is 1.

I searched for Margaret Ann Ward (1879-1898), assuming she had got married as I couldn't find her in either the census for 1901 or the one for 1911. Unfortunately, I have found a Margaret Ann Ward who died at 18 years of age in Darwen in 1898 which suggests it is our Margaret Ann as she would have been the same age in 1898.

Joseph Ward (1881-1951) Is my grandad and has his own page.

James Ward (1884-1917) I remember when I was younger my grandma told me she once saw an apparition at the bottom of her bed wrapped in bandages and that it was an uncle; the next day they learnt he was missing presumed dead. I have been searching for many years to try and identify this 'uncle'. Through Ancestry another Ward (although not of the same family) contacted me to tell me James had been killed in the First World War, on 11th April probably in the Battle of Arrass. He was a member of the Tenth Battallion, Yorkshire Regiment, number 41841, also known as Alexandra Princess of Wales Own and The Green Howards, and is acknowledged on the war memorial:

Here is an extract from the diaries of WWI Alexandra Princess of Wales Own (Yorkshire) Regiment 10 Battalion 1915 Sep - 1918 Feb:

Apr 10th Battalion at HENIN under orders of 64 Infantry Brigade. About 11 pm we came under orders of the 62 Infantry Brigade (our own) and the Battalion was ordered to attack in conjunction with the 1st Lincoln Regiment on the following day. Objective Hindenburg Line.

Apr 11th At 6 am the Battalion attacked its objective and failed to force an entrance to the enemy line, owing to the thickness of wire which was untouched by our own artillery. Lieuts PRATT and KEMP-WELSH killed. Capt BAILEY Capt SHORT and 2 Lt COLES wounded. About 120 other ranks killed and wounded.

That night the Battalion was relieved by the 13 NF and moved into reserve at BOIRY BECQUERELLER.

James married Elizabeth Taylor in July 1904 at St George's; James lived at 11 Malta Street, Elizabeth at 102 Queen Street. They had two children, Bertha, who only lived for a year, and Eric, born in 1909. James, Elizabeth and Eric were living at 110 Lynwood Avenue in the 1911 census. Both James and Elizabeth are cotton weavers. Elizabeth died in 1937, she was 55 years old. She is buried in Darwen Cemetery and on her grave it says James was missing in action:

James was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.