Monday, July 27, 2015

How Mary met William - Mary Lander (1831-1879)

Map showing location of Dorset
It's strange, and sometimes slightly spooky, to discover that you've visited many of the places where your ancestors once lived, without realising it at the time. I've mentioned elsewhere that one of our daughters was baptised in the same church as her paternal great grandfather, though we didn't know that until recently. Now I've discovered that many generations of my mother's family lived in a little village called Langton Matravers, near Corfe Castle in Dorset, which we visted with our children in 1991. Back then I had no idea that this was part of our heritage.

It's hardly surprising that I didn't associate this area with our family history. Langton Matravers, on the Dorset coast near Swanage, is about as far removed from Manchester and Salford as you could imagine, both geographically and socially. But it was here that Mary Lander, the future wife of William Hough (and my maternal great great grandmother) was born.

Coastal walk not far from Langton Matravers
At the time of her birth in about 1831-32 the village was home to only a few hundred people, most of whom, it seems, were related to each other in some way. The local area was famous for its stone quarries and infamous for its smuggling activities. Legend has it that in 1876 the ceiling space of the parish church of St George in Langton Matravers was so laden with contraband goods that the walls began to sag and it had to be demolished and rebuilt.

Mary's father John Lander (1795-1871) was a stonemason, like many of the men in Langton Matravers. Her mother, Elizabeth Cross (1797-1866) was the only daughter of another stonemason, Thomas Cross and his wife Ann (known as Nancy, nee Savage).

Mary was the sixth child born to John and Elizabeth, so far as I can tell, and was baptised at St George's church. One of her older brothers, George (born 1826) seems to have died in infancy but her other brothers John Cross Lander, (1820) Robert (1828) and Joseph (1829) along with her sister Ann (1824) all survived.

Sometime between Mary's birth and the birth of her younger brother James the whole family, including Elizabeth's parents Thomas and Nancy moved to Salford. James was baptised in Christ Church, Salford in 1836. Unfortunately he doesn't seem to have survived infancy, and neither he nor George appear on the 1841 census.

Blackfriars wooden bridge,  Manchester
c 1831-1834 by Agostino Aglio
The bridge connected Manchester to Salford 
Mary's grandmother Nancy died in Salford in 1840 at the age of 72. When she was buried at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Irwell St, her address was recorded as Muslin Street.

The family were still living in Muslin Street, off Hope Lane, at the time of the 1841 census. Mary's grandfather, Thomas Cross, lived with them or next door to them (it's not clear on the census).

What made them decide to make such a life-changing move? Economics is the most likely answer. While Dorset today might seem an ideal place for a quiet holiday, in the 1830's life was hard for most people. In the early 1830's riots broke out across southern England in protest against the use of mechanised farm machinery, which was putting labourers out of a job. While the Lander family were probably not directly affected, they would no doubt have suffered from the general stress and economic hardship.

Manchester Free Trade Hall (now a hotel)
built in 1853-56
Photo by David Dixon, used under a CC license
Meanwhile Manchester and Salford were growing rapidly. Alongside the many brick-built buildings that kept the Hough family occupied, large public buildings with impressive stone facades were being erected all over the city. Stonemasons would have been in great demand. John Lander and Thomas Cross were certainly not the only stonemasons from Dorset who moved to Lancashire.

It's not difficult to imagine how Mary might have met William Hough. Brickmakers and stonemasons must surely have worked alongside each other and got to know each other's families. They were married in Manchester cathedral on Christmas Eve, 1849. According to the marriage record, she was 19 and he was 18 years old. This must have been a rough estimate, since she claimed to be 18 years old at the time of the 1851 census. They remained in Salford for the rest of their lives.