A member of The Federation of Family History Societies
St James' Church, Haslingden
St John's Church, Bacup
St Mary's, Church Rawtenstall


Rossendale Branch Newsletter February 2007

Programme: 2007

Wednesday 7th February

Research & Enquiries Evening

Wednesday 7th March

Disease and Medicine

in the 18th & 19th Centuries.

Craig Thornber

Wednesday 4th April


then - A Mysterious Bible -

a short talk by Rita Hirst

Wenesday 2nd May

Rediscovered archives of Manchester Cathedral

Chris Hunwick

Did you miss……

our talk, "A Mass Murderer in the family" by Reg Postlethwaite?

Last month Reg, a branch member, told us how he had been tracing his family for more than 40 years. He has written a book about an extraordinary series of events which occurred in the 17th century, near to the little village of Hawkshead.

A man named Thomas Lancaster poisoned 10 people between November 1670 and November 1671. His first two murders took place at nearby Threlkeld, his victims were his step-mother and his aunt. Then he came to Hawkshead were he ingratiated himself into the family of local farmer and Quaker, John Braithwaite He married, John’s eldest daughter Margaret and then proceeded to poison the entire Braithwaite family. This was only a few years after plague had swept the country and it was a while before the ingenuous villagers were able to accept that this charming stranger was guilty of mass murder.

Thomas wa arrested and tried at Lancaster Castle where he confessed to 8 of the murders.. Reg says that the trial transcripts make fascinating reading and he thinks it would make a wonderful TV play. Thomas Lancaster was hanged at High Wray, 8th April 1672. The State claimed all his ill gotten gains.

Details of Reg’s Rossendale Ancestry will be given next month.

Facts from the Federation

This information was recently received from the Federation of Family Hitory Societies (FFHS).

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) intends to close its public search facility, currently located at the Family Records Centre (FRC) in Islington, and instead to make indexes available at The National Archives (TNA) in Kew. The relocation is expected to be complete by April 2008. The services currently provided by ONS in Islington will then cease. (When TNA announced earlier this year that it intended to relocate from the FRC 1st Floor to Kew, ONS said that it would be reviewing the services it offered at the FRC on the Ground Floor.)

The News Release can be read at http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/frc0107.pdf but, as its wording is open to misinterpretation, the FFHS has contacted the Project Manager of the Digitisation of Vital Events (DoVE) team at Southport for clarification.

The heading of the Release states "Births, marriages and deaths records to go on the Internet" and in its main body it states "This will enable researchers to access records yet to be digitised in paper or microfiche format."

What we have been told will be available at Kew are the indexes to Births, Marriages and Deaths, not the records themselves (i.e. full registration details will still only be obtainable by purchasing copy certificates). Furthermore, the DoVE Project will not have been completed at the time the relocation takes place. For those records that have been digitised and re-indexed, the newly produced indexes will be accessible on computer screens at Kew. Where digitisation will not have been completed, it is the existing indexes that will be made accessible.

Petition for early release of censuses

An online petition has been organised to ask the Prime Minister to allow census information to be released after 70 years, instead of 100 years as at present. The website ishttp://petitions.pm.gov.uk/censusinfofreed The organiser Jen Tibbetts says

"This would allow census information from 1911, 1921 and 1931 to be used by the general public researching their family history in the absense (or failing memories) of their elderly relatives. Birth, Marriage and Death information is already available so why is information about where people lived hidden?" –

Deadline to sign up by: 08 March 2007 – Signatures: 16,243 (2nd February 2007).

Rossendale Miscellany

News, Notes and Queries

This has been an extremely busy month, with lots of enquiries regarding placenames, mills, and local trades and occupations.


Gwenne Fabreck emailed from California regarding a photograph of Hurst Lane, Rawtenstall which appeared in Ken Bowden’s book "Rossendale: the second selection" Gwenne found the photograph interesting as her Taylor Family lived at Hurst Farm in the early 1800s. She was particularly intrigued by Ken’s comment "The bocking trade was still being carried out in 1876 by farmers in this area for the Hardman’s of Newhallhey mills." She wonders whether anyone can tell her anything about this trade.

Laund Mill and Holt Mill

Judy Bradwell in New Zealand wonders whether anyone can give her any information on these two mills, where her ancestor Edmund Taylor was worked prior to 1859.

Michell Heyworth also wrote to me about Holt Mill, she says she did venture to Lancashire from Surrey, where they found Holt Mill (at Lenches) together with a few cottages nearby but find it difficult to find any further information.


Michelle told me that her husband’s Heyworth Family seem to have had close links with both Holt Mill and Brex Farm at Tunstead "some locals gave us information on what it was like as far back as they could remember. It gave us an insight as what life must have been like, which was pretty grim. We went to Rossendale library and found in a book some reference to Brex sometimes called Brecks in the 1600's but we didn't have enough time to record what we found. I would be happy to correspond with anyone and help others where I can."

email. coppercuts@hotmail.com

Note. There was an item in our newsletter February 2001 regarding the Heyworth Family and their connections with Brex and Holt Mill. Since then, Michelle and Stuart have changed their email address.

Rossendale Ancestry


My Great Great Uncle Domnick Philbin was born in Kilmactigue on the Sligo/Mayo border in 1843 and arrived in Haslingden between 1846 and 1851, with his father Michael, mother Nancy and brothers James and Patrick. The family had one further child, Ellen born in Haslingden in 1851. Unfortunately James, Ellen and Nancy all died of Consumption between 1858 and 1864.

Domnick married Harriet Kildunn at St Mary's Church in 1865 and the following year joined the police force at Bury. The next year due to his ill-health, he was transferred to Caton, Lancaster. Domnick had two children, Anne born in Haslingden and Ellen born in Caton. He died in July 1871 aged 27, of pneumonia leaving a widow and two children under 5. As Harriet was living in the police house I would presume she returned to her family in Haslingden.

In 1873 Harriet married Patrick Kirby, again at St Mary’s Church. The address on the marriage certificate was given as Tower Hill which is where her elder sister Mary Walsh nee Kildunn was living in 1871. After this date the family seem to disappear. I have a record of a Patrick Kirby in Leeds General Infirmary in 1881 but no sign of his wife or stepchildren. If anyone has any details on the Kirby, Kildunn or Walsh families which may help my search I would be grateful to hear from them.

As a final note, I wrote to the Lancashire FHS magazine to track down the address of the police house in Caton. I received a reply from a lady whose great grandparents lived next door and passed on the above story to show that two unconnected families may add to each others stories, with her family comforting their neighbour, the young widow with two young children in small community in which they lived.

Michael Lynn Member No 8400 email. michael.lynn@virgin.net

Horatio Nelson Ashworth

You would imagine that it would be easy enough to find an ancestor with these forenames but it is never simple dealing with the Ashworths.

Patricia Tipping knew her ancestor only as "Nelson". The 1881 census gave his place of birth as Bacup. It didn’t help that he had moved to Manchester prior to 1841 when the census recorded him as N. Ashworth. 1851 had him indexed as "Nelma". At this time he had a son George aged 16 and a daughter Emma aged 14. They and his wife Mary were all born in Manchester. I found his married daughter in 1881 listed as "Susannah" Emma and an entry on the IGI for Manchester Cathedral said she was baptised 3rd October 1836 daughter of "Horatio Ashworth and Mary Nelson "This was obviously incorrect but it led me to a baptismal entry at Bacup, which gave a baptism on 2nd February 1809 for "Horatio Nelson Ashworth son of William and Alice."

Patricia isn’t able to travel but would be immensely grateful, if anyone could check out this baptism at Rawtenstall library and perhaps find any other children of William and Alice. Her address is 2 Fernhurst Road, Withington, Manchester M20 44N