Who made Sally rich? A study in eighteenth century Bradford.

Much of what I think I know about Manningham history is drawn from William Cudworth’s book Manningham, Heaton & Allerton (1896). To some extent I have been able to augment this Bradford historical giant’s account from modern sources of family history information, but on occasion the evidence points in a different direction. Cudworth’s books are wonderful surveys, but he seldom gives detailed sources for his information and consequently some of his conclusions are difficult to check.

In my last blog I included a map of a house called Whetley Hill in the Manningham district of Bradford. Cudworth wrote that it was built, and first occupied, by a man called Thomas Wilkinson. Trying to tease out the history of the house and its occupants has revealed a Bradford whose inhabitants lived under very different skies from those of today. Their concerns, as I shall explain, included issues such as the nature of the Trinity, famine relief in Ireland, and the future of hand wool-combing. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries places like Heaton and Manningham were semi-rural retreats from the bustle of Bradford itself; they were not to remain in this state for much longer.

There is general agreement that there had been members of the Wilkinson family in Manningham since the seventeenth century. Cudworth calls Thomas Wilkinson ‘gentry’. He recorded that he was a man of property and ‘owned nearly all the land about’ Whetley Hill, together with no less than 23 Yorkshire farms. He wrote that Wilkinson died a bachelor before the end of the eighteenth century and left his possessions to his housekeeper who was called Miss Sally Kitching. I was unable to find out any background information to this remarkably generous bequest.

There are two odd things in Cudworth’s description of the beneficiary. Firstly he puts her name in double inverted commas, “Sally Kitching”. Does this suggest that in some way this was not her baptismal name? In fact I now think it more likely that she was, officially, Miss Sarah Kitching but I’ll continue to use the name Sally unless I’m quoting from records. Cudworth’s second oddity is describing her as ‘a maiden lady of means and some repute in Manningham’. What does he mean by ‘repute’ I wonder? Cudworth does not give any indication of Sally’s age but he seems quite positive that she died in 1822. However I could get no confirmation of her death in the Bradford Observer or Leeds Mercury under this name and year nor, some years earlier, any record of Thomas’s demise. However if you accept that Cudworth occasionally makes errors then things are much simpler.

In time I will argue that ‘Thomas’ was in fact a property owner called Joseph Wilkinson. Sally is a common diminutive of Sarah and there is a record that a ‘Sarah Kitching of Manningham’ was buried at Little Horton Lane Chapel (Independent) in 1827. As I will explain, for many years there was definitely a property owning Sarah Kitching living in Manningham, up to the late 1820s in fact. This is quite likely to be the same woman. What did she and the other worshippers at the Little Horton Lane Chapel believe?

At the turn of the nineteenth century there were only six places of worship in Bradford: the Parish church (now the Cathedral); Horton Lane Independent Congregationalist Chapel; The Unitarian Chapel, Chapel Lane; The Octagon Methodist Chapel, Horton Lane; The Baptist Chapel in Westgate and the Quaker Meeting House in Croft Street. The Catholic, Lutheran and Jewish communities, who were to have a large local presence in the later nineteenth century, were probably not yet in sufficient numbers to require accommodation. The non-conformist chapel in Chapel Lane was Bradford’s oldest independent place of worship and had been established soon after the English Civil War. In 1780 it adopted Unitarian theology after which a group of its worshippers left and founded Horton Lane Chapel (Independent). Unitarians saw God as a single entity and disputed the existence of the Holy Trinity, a fundamental feature of more orthodox Christian belief. This new, separated, chapel in Little Horton Lane was no tin tabernacle. It had been built in 1782 and in due course the first three mayors of Bradford, including Titus Salt, were to worship there. It seems an entirely appropriate place for a lady of property to attend.

Cudworth says that on her own death Sally’s property was left to her nephews and nieces, which indicates that she remained unmarried but had at least one sibling. With such large bequests to leave I assumed that there would be probate records, but I can find none. One of her nephews, Cudworth remarks, was called Will Kitching of the Lower Globe and fortunately he was reasonably well recorded. There were two inns in Manningham called the Old or Upper Globe, and the Lower Globe. They were still functioning until quite recently but were burnt out in the riots of 2001 at which time the Upper Globe was derelict. The Lower Globe was once the more significant. It had been present since the eighteenth century at least and was a convenient place for coach horses to catch their breath prior to the long ascent of Whetley Hill. The Lower Globe was also used for inquests and as a place to transact Manningham township business. Will Kitching belonged to this Lower Globe Inn, but he is also described as a butcher.

Essentially Cudworth says that in 1811 Will Kitching was the owner and landlord of the Lower Globe and that his father was John Kitching. He states that this John Kitching erected a barn in 1748. but this may well be incorrect since I’m very doubtful if only two generations could cover so long an interval. This is especially true since Will Kitching died, Cudworth says, in ‘the prime of life’ which I assume means young. We are not told his precise date of death, nor his age. His widow later married a John Jarratt who by that time kept the ‘Lower Globe’ but confusingly is placed in the Old Globe by the Pigot directory of 1834. The marriage at least is a confirmed fact and it does seem likely that the family moved from one Globe to the other. The records of Bradford Parish Church indicate that:

8 Feb 1817 Mrs Kitching married John Jarratt (LM) of Lower Globe, Manningham

The names are not correctly transcribed and are recorded as Mrs Ketchen, widow & John Janett. If this date, and either of Sally Kitching’s death dates, are correct then Will Kitching the butcher must actually have pre-deceased his aunt. Sally clearly must have had other relatives to enrich. Actually it is quite hard to fit these dates together believably. If John Kitching erected a barn in 1748 he must surely have been an adult. Even if he fathered Will in his 30s his son would have been in his 50s by the time of his death. Surely this would not be ‘the prime of life’ which allowed his widow to re-marry, and then have further children? My feeling is that Will is more likely to have been the grandson of the barn builder. According to Cudworth Mrs Kitching (whose first name he does not record but which I believe was Amy) had children from both marriages.

With Will Kitching there were at least two daughters, Judith b.1803, and Mary Kitching (Oct 1812-1884) who married Edward Whitley (1808-1864) of Bingley and whose father was certainly a ‘William Kitching, Manningham, butcher’. Amy also had a son, John or Jack Kitching (b.1806), who Cudworth describes as a ‘wastrel who died unmarried’. He also reproduces a freeholders list of 1839 which certainly confirms that a John Kitching then owned the Lower Globe Inn and an attached wool-combing shop. So, what was wool-combing?

Combing was part of the process of manufacturing worsted yarn. It straightened the fibres and arranged them in parallel; it also separated the short fibres from the long. The shorter, known as noils, are used elsewhere while the longer fibres, in the form of an untwisted assembly or top sliver, are used in the next stage of worsted manufacture. The process of hand-combing involved fixing or ‘lashing’ a quantity of washed and oiled wool on a heated comb of steel teeth fixed to an iron ‘pad’, and then progressively dragging the teeth of a second comb through the fibres. Around 1850 a hand-comber might produce five to six pounds of ‘top’ weekly, thus earning fifteen to nineteen shillings, although trade depression could drastically reduce income. A large worsted spinning company employed hundreds of hand-combers. Nearly seventy-five per cent of the 20,000 English combers worked in the Bradford area. The combing of wool was the final stage in the worsted textile process to be satisfactorily mechanised. Hand-combing was a miserable job, but it was a job.

With Amy’s second husband, John Jarratt, there was also a child, Edward Jarratt. The only plausible baptism is again at Horton Lane Independent Chapel:

1823 Edward, son of John & Amy Jarratt, Old Globe (b.1822).

Fortunately Edward, his parents, and a sister Clarissa, all survived to the 1841 census so their names are certain.

Eventually a man called Thomas Hill Horsfall purchased the house from Sally Kitching’s executors. Cudworth does not give a date for this but it is likely to be between 1827-28. I estimate he lived there until about 1838. He kept packs of hounds and was consequently called ‘Hunting’ Tom Horsfall. His family were well-known textile men, one of whom introduced power looms to Bradford. Eventually he moved to Thirsk after selling his house to John Priestman. Priestman was a Quaker in partnership with a co-religionist, James Ellis. Initially they were millers and maltsters at The Old Soke Mill, Bradford. But malt (germinated barley) was brewed into beer and John Priestman embraced strict temperance. He and his partner switched to being stuff (worsted) weavers and became highly successful. Priestman lived on in the house, dying in 1866. His widow lived there for a few more years but the house was demolished around 1872.

Priestman’s partner James Ellis had retired early in 1849, at the age of 56. He moved to Letterfrack, Connemara an Irish coastal village. His decision was taken in the light of the dreadful potato famine of 1847-48, which must have been the most catastrophic event to affect any portion of the British Isles in the nineteenth century. In the face of government inertia, and despite their small numbers, the Quakers had undertaken major relief programmes. On their arrival in Ireland James and his wife Mary bought land and used their resources to provide employment and training to scores of men and give schooling to their children. They also set up a lime-kiln and a temperance hotel. Their work lasted nine years until James’s health deteriorated but his name is still recalled with affection in the Irish Republic.

Cudworth records that John Kitching a stone-mason of Whetleys, a nearby house, obtained a lease in 1751 from Ann Bolling of Baildon. This sounds like the sort of man who would erect a barn and who was probably Will Kitching’s grandfather. Other records are:

Parish Church: Oct 1773 William s. of John Kitching of Manningham.

I assume that this is our Will. In 1759 a John Kitching and Martin Hodgson (another famous Manningham name) were indicted at Wakefield on account of some offence involving Elizabeth Farrer and her five indigent children. It appears that they removed the family to Bingley where they were a charge on the rates. Then there are three records from Bradford Parish Church.

Baptism: Nov 1743 John Kitching son of John Kitching of Bradford

Burial: Bradford PC 1761 John Kitching of Manningham

Marriage:John Kitching & Judith Westwood June 1768, Man(ingham).

This last record is highly likely to be relevant to our family since the name Judith was re-used in the next generation.

I hoped to get some indication of the degree of Sally’s wealth by using Land Tax Redemption records. This form of government revenue had existed since the end of the seventeenth century. Payment of this tax qualified you to vote in parliamentary elections, if you were a man that was. I won’t pretend that I know how it was all calculated but essentially each year’s assessment lists land-owners and tenants. The records seem partly to confirm Cudworth’s story but not to match the events exactly. It would need a better local historian than me to reach a definitive conclusion.

In 1781 two land owners called Wilkinson are recorded. One is William Wilkinson and one is simply ‘Mr Wilkinson’. The Kitchings are also present: there is a John Kitching, a Sam Kitching and a Mrs Kitching who has a house and six cottages. The next year, 1782, Sarah Kitching has become an owner and occupier in her own right, and a Mary Kitching is a near neighbour as a tenant. There is also a ‘widow Kitching’ who is both a land owner in her own right and the tenant of one Joseph Wilkinson. Samuel Kitching is a tenant and we now have ‘late J Kitching’ who I assume was John.

In the mid-1780s Sarah Kitching and the widow Kitching still own property but at this time Sarah does not own all the land around Whetley Hill, or anything like it. The big land-owners are Sam Lister, Mr Hodgson and, again, one Joseph Wilkinson. The crucial transition occurs in 1797-98. In 1797 Jos. Wilkinson owned five properties, the most valuable taxed at 13/9, and occupied a sixth as a tenant of Mr Rawson (Lord of the Manor of Bradford & Manningham). Sarah Kitching owns only one proprty (tax value 2/3). Things changed dramatically in 1798. In that year’s assessment Miss Kitching retained her old property at the same tax value, but acquired five more with a tenancy, from the Lord of the Manor. The most valuable property is taxed at 13/9. The name Joseph Wilkinson disappears.

It can hardly be doubted that in 1798 Sarah Kitching inherited the property from Joseph Wilkinson, not Thomas. It is no surprise to find that in April 1798 Joseph Wilkinson of Manningham, Gent, was buried at the parish church. Thereafter Miss Kitching pays seven lots of tax and and acquired a tenant Jeremiah Ambler, a famous Bradford textile name. Her name continues to 1829 in land tax redemption, perhaps finally through her executors if we agree that in 1827 she is buried in Little Horton Chapel. If her fortune was indeed made by a generous bequest she seemingly enjoyed it for 30 years. 

I think you can join everything up but individual elements may not be correct. The piece of crucial information that I lack is Sally Kitching’s birth year. The surname is not common but there are Sarah Kitchings in Manningham, Heaton, Wilsden, Eccleshill and Bradford itself. If she inherited as an adult and, then lived for 45 years, a birth year in 1740-1750 seems likely and several babies of this first name could fit. Even then she would be an unusually elderly lady at the time of her death. Was it that that gave her name ‘repute’? The only likely birth in Manningham itself is:

Baptism: Parish Church, Sarah, the daughter of John Kitching of Manningham Christmas Day 1740.

Another Sarah Kitching was born in Manningham in February 1766. No parent’s name is associated with her which I suppose implies illegitimacy. Could our bachelor Wilkinson have had an interest in such a child? Possibly, but then she would have become a land-owner at the age of sixteen and that seems hardly plausible. This is what I think happened:

c1720 John Kitching I born.

c1739-40 John Kitching I marries.

Nov 1740 Sarah Kitching, his daughter, born.

Nov 1743 John Kitching II son of John Kitching I of Bradford born. Sarah Kitching must be John II’s sister if his children are to be her nephews and nieces but John’s place of residence is recorded as Bradford, not Manningham, which causes me some doubt.

1748 John Kitching I erects barn.

1751 John Kitching I, stonemason, gets lease.

1759 John Kitching I indicted at Wakefield.

1761 John Kitching I dies; buried Bradford Parish Church.

June 1768 John Kitching II marries Judith Westwood.

Oct 1773 William s. of John Kitching II of Manningham born.

1782 John Kitching II dies leaving the ‘widow Kitching’.

1798 Joseph Wilkinson dies leaving Sally several properties.

c1800 William Kitching marries Amy.

1803-1806 William & Amy Kitching’s children are born.

c1815 William Kitching dies.

8 Feb 1817 Mrs Kitching re-married to John Jarratt.

1827 Sally Kitching dies leaving bequests to surviving nephews and nieces. Whetley Hill House is sold by her executors. 

Sally Kitching certainly scooped a pot. Whetley Hill House alone would have been a wonderful gift. Why was Joseph Wilkinson so generous? Was he really so totally bereft of relatives with hearts to gladden? There are certainly other people called Wilkinson in contemporary Manningham. Without documentary proof we shall never know for certain but could the bachelor and the spinster have had some unspoken family connection, or had Sally been something quite spectacularly good in the house-keeping line?

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