There is no guarantee that all the details outlined below are all absolutely accurate. However, the vast majority of facts are traceable and there is supporting evidence. I hope you enjoy the trip through the family history as much as I have. The research continues!
To start with some context, The Battle of Waterloo was fought in 1815, Queen Victoria was born in 1819 and the Irish famine was in the late 1840’s.
In the late 18th century, workers began to lose the means of survival on the land and started to look for alternative means in the cities. the move towards industrialisation and the process of enclosure that took land away from poor people who had survived on small areas of land fuelled the move from rural to urban population.
There was work in the industrialising towns and cities and a living of sorts to be made. Conditions were extremely difficult and dangerous on many fronts not least health and safety which many wealthy industrialists did not allow to slow production. Child mortality, death of mothers during and as a result of childbirth was scandalous as were the mortality rates caused by dreadful working conditions.
Even then, in the beginning, much of production was achieved in the homes of weavers and other textile workers. The industrial revolution was the catalyst for the change of all that. An example of the effect and fear this engendered was the Luddite rebellions which began in the north midlands and north of England. These ‘followers’ of the mythical ‘Ned Ludd’ rallied together in 1811 in an attempt to stop the industrialisation of the nation because they were afraid of losing their jobs. It was such a serious state of affairs that the government, wishing to protect its sponsors and patrons, introduced the death penalty for those deemed to have damaged machinery.
The scandalous ‘corn laws’ kept the cost of imported food artificially high to protect the wealthy landowners at home. This kept the price of food for workers exorbitantly high, increasing the likelihood of undernourished and vulnerable poor workers.
There were places in Britain where injuries at work were so common and severe that there were queues of ‘hopeful’ workers outside factory gates waiting to substitute those carried from the factories unable to work to complete their shift. On St Peters Field, Manchester in August 1819 a crowd of protesters were charged by a cavalry militia. The protesters wanted reform of parliamentary representation. Dozens were killed and hundreds injured.
George Johnson the First was born 26th October 1823 in Frindsbury in Kent. George’s father was John (b.1801 and his mother Charlotte (b.1802). Frindsbury was close to the naval dockyards at Chatham and was heavily involved in building military ships during a time when Britain built up the strongest navy in the world. HMS Bellerophon which was involved in many high-profile engagements including the Battle of Trafalgar was one of those ships.
Other industries in the region included chalk production and other quarrying activities.
Charles Dickens was beginning to publish his works based on his observations of social deprivations in England and particularly the environs of London. At the same time, the Bronte sisters were producing novels describing the arduous conditions suffered by those populating the West Yorkshire Pennines and moors.
George would grow up and marry a girl, Julia, from Cork, Ireland. They would nurture a large family and eventually make what would in those times be an epic journey to Leeds in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
They would marry in 1850, George is described as a labourer; Julia endorses the certificate with ‘her mark’ an X. They have been impossible to locate during the years after their marriage until 1861.
Eventually, they would have a large family and their children would be named: Charlotte, Jane, Matilda, George (the Second), Samuel, Hester, Steven, Mark, Julia and Alice.
In 1871, the family were in Frindsbury and George was still a labourer.
By 1881, the family were to be found at 3 Richmond Terrace, Leeds. The family had a variety of skills from Iron Moulder to Shoemaker and Tailoring. By now, George II was living independently at 4 Wentworth Street, Leeds with his wife Jane Ann and his daughters Jane and Julia. Jane Ann was born in Stockton, Durham and daughter Jane was born in Middlesbrough. Julia was born in Leeds. They had been married in Durham. In 1884, Michael Marks opened his penny bazaar in Leeds Market; an inauspicious start for Marks and Spencer.
George II was a Mechanic/Driller so had moved into the heavy industry of Leeds.
By the 1891 census, George 1st had died in 1883 and was buried in Becket Street Cemetery, Leeds. Julia l was living with five of her children, a son in law and a grandson at No 1 Richmond Crescent, Leeds.
George the second was living at 32 Ascot Street and Samuel (b 1882) and Charles (b 1889) were additions to the family. George was a horizontal borer.
By 1901, George 2nd was at 72 Ascot Terrace, Leeds. He was still a Mechanic/Iron Borer and an addition to the family was George III (b 1896). Sam, as he is listed in the census, was a Sewing Machine Mechanic. This career would keep him busy until his death in 1952. Eldest daughter, Jane, had moved from the family home and got married.
Jane Ann, wife of George 2nd died in 1909 and is buried in Killingbeck Cemetery, Leeds.
The 1911 Census shows George 2nd living with two of his sons, a niece and two of her children at 57, Ascot Street, Leeds and still with the occupation of Iron Borer.
George II died in 1934 and is buried in Killingbeck cemetery.
Joshua Drake was born in 1784, 5 years before the French revolution. He married Elizabeth Tildsley in 1804 and their children, John and Thomas, were born in 1805 1nd 1808 respectively. As was the tragic trend of the time, Elizabeth died due to childbirth complications along with her baby Sarah in 1812. Joshua remarried, Mercy Atkinson, and their first child, named Mercy after her mother, died as a baby in 1814. Joshua and Mercy did however succeed in rearing 3 further daughters and 3 more sons including Robert who was born in 1827.
Robert was to marry Ellen Thackrah and they had 3 sons including Robert and 4 daughters.
Lepton, near Huddersfield was a rural village in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The industries around Lepton included Weaving, Farming and Mining.
George Senior was born in Lepton in 1823 and married Charlotte Ellam in 1848. They had five children including twins Martha and Charles who were born in 1856. George was a farm labourer in 1861.
In 1891 aged 68, George was working as a gardener and living with Charlotte in Belle Isle Road, Leeds.
Martha by this time had married Robert Drake in 1879 and was living in 10 Milton Street, Holbeck, Leeds with children Amy, John and Mary. Robert was a metal planer.
Sadly, by the next census in 1901, Robert Drake had died (in 1893 aged 34) and Martha remarried to William Newton. Still living with the Newton family were Amy Drake, John Drake and Charlotte Drake.
Amy Drake married Samuel Johnson in April 1904. They were to have seven sons and two daughters. The males were Alfred, Allan, Edward, Thomas, George, Samuel Bernard and their sisters Amy and Vera. The other son was also Samuel Bernard who sadly was born in 1911 and died in 1912. Samuel and Amy were obviously keen to remember their lost child.
Amy died aged only 47 in 1931 and Samuel passed away in 1952. Their legacy includes 22 grandchildren.