The Edmondsons of Briercliffe with Extwistle

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The Early Years, 1644/5 - 1699

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Allen Edmondson (1)

The first Allen Edmondson married and died at Clifton in Habergham Eaves, Burnley, but his baptism is not recorded at St Peters Burnley, presumably predating records.

He married Elizabeth Rakes there in 1678, and as Elizabeth is recorded as being 30 years old at the time of her marriage. Assuming that Allen was roughly the same age and that this was his first marriage, he must have been born about 1644/5. Who his father was, we do not know, nor from where the family came, but at that time there were many Edmondsons living around Barnoldswick and in the wider Yorkshire area, as well as a large family group over towards the West Coast with records at Bolton-Le-Sands. However, regrettably, I have not been able to trace links with either group.

It was the custom in those days for the first born son to be named after his paternal grandfather and the Edmondsons family were no exception. Whilst this system may have gone a long way in identifying a particular family line in those far off days, it becomes quite confusing when researching family history nowadays to be confronted with a repeat of the same christian names in each succeeding generation. However from this we may well conclude that the father of the first Allen - referred to above - may also have been called Allen - but this is merely an assumption and cannot be regarded as fact in the absence of proof. What is certain however is that Allen (1) and his father lived through a time of civil strife and that in June 1644, England was at war and preparations were being made for what turned out to be the Battle of Marston Moor, near York, the protagonists being the Royalists headed by Charles I and Parliament, headed by Oliver Cromwell.

Prince Rupert, the Royal Commander, marched to Blackburn where the Parliamentarians were defeated and hither turned his attentions to York, where another Royalist Commander was being besieged by Cromwell. To accomplish the march to York, it was decided to split the force into two sections, the cavalry went with Prince Rupert via Clitheroe, whilst the rest, under Sir Charles Lucas proceeded by Padiham, Burnley, Briercliffe and Colne, living off the land for food and supplies.

On June 24th, local farmers whilst protecting their property from the Royalist troops, were harassing them as they marched eastwards and near Haggate cross-roads an incident took place in which five men were killed. They were all buried at St Peters, but not all on the same day, so we may presume that they died of wounds inflicted during the skirmish. All were local men and supporters of Parliament and it seems likely that these locals were no match for the Royalist forces.

With the fighting and skirmishing taking place so close to home, it cannot have been a good time to be starting a family dynasty. Nevertheless the name Allen was repeated for the eldest son in every succeeding generation from c1645 onwards, as is borne out by the fact that when in the 18th century, the first born son, christened Allen in 1713 died when only two months of age, the next son born three years later in 1716 was also christened Allen but identified as "the younger" on his baptismal register.

Throughout the twenty one years of their marriage, Allen (1) and Elizabeth produced six children, all of whom were baptised at St Peters. Ann in 1679, Allen in 1680, Margaret in 1682, John in 1684, Susan in 1685 and finally Lidia in 1687. The boy John died some six months following his birth and was buried at St Peters on the 28th December 1684.

Allen (1) and Elizabeth both died in 1699, Allen in September and Elizabeth followed him shortly afterwards in December. The year 1699 is recorded as being the worst famine year ever experienced in the Burnley area, whether through drought or excessive rain is not known, but at a time when most of the population depended on oats as their staple food, crop failure brought about utter devastation. Some 131 people died in Burnley in that year, ie. double the average annual death rate for the 17th century - their diet of oatbread, oatcakes and porridge being seriously depleted. Whilst most families kept a cow for their own use, and peas and beans were also widely cultivated, the failure of the main crops and subsequent rise in prices resulted in a widespread famine and a high death rate.

Although Allen's trade or occupation is not shown in the marriage register, it is thought that he was most probably a cordwainer or shoemaker, for his son Allen (2) most certainly carried on that occupation and the trade continued in the Edmondson family until the mid 19th century.

Allen Edmondson (2) 1680 - 1750

Allen (2) a cordwainer by trade, moved from Clifton into Briercliffe after the death of his parents and it was there in 1708 when he was 28 year old, that he met and married Elizabeth Broughton of Briercliffe. What happened to his siblings following the death of their parents is not known, but the youngest child Lidia would be 21 by that time and presumably able to fend for herself.

Allen (2) and Elizabeth moved to Burnley Lane, Briercliffe, following their wedding at St Peters and there they raised nine children between 1709 and 1726. Elizabeth born in 1709, Agnes in 1710 and Mary in 1712. Then in 1713 came the first son, predictably named Allen, but sadly he died just two months later. Their next child was another boy, born on 1716 and named according to the baptismal register as Allen the younger. Then came Alice, baptised on the 5th October 1718, followed five years later by John, baptised on the 1st November 1723, though sadly he too died in infancy. The following year a second John was baptised at St Peters and finally their last child was born and baptised Henry in 1726.

Their three eldest daughters, Elizabeth, Agnes and Mary, married three brothers named John, James and Henry Taylor all of whom lived in Briercliffe and spent the rest of their lives in the same locality, raising their own families, seemingly unaffected by the numerous changes in national and religious policies, alliances and wars.

Allen (2) died in 1750 aged 70, having lived through the reigns of six monarchs. Charles II, James II, William and Mary, Anne, George I and George II and would be well aware of the Scottish rebellion of 1715, when attempts were made to restore the Stuarts to the English throne, for there was fierce fighting close by at Preston. Allen would be in his mid thirties at that time but there is nothing whatsoever to indicate where his sympathies lay in this conflict.

He was buried at St Peters in March 1750.

Allen Edmondson (3) (Allen the Younger) 1716 - ?

Apart from knowing the circumstances of Allen (3) the Younger's birth, very little else about him has come to light, for there is no trace of his marriage at St Peters Burnley, yet he baptised four sons there, Allen in 1738, James in 1740, Henry in 1742 and John in 1743. We may assume from these facts that he most probably married about 1736/7 when he was 20 years old and that, most likely, he married a girl from out of town, for then, as now, it was the custom for the marriage service to take place in the bride's parish.

We do know that times were hard in Burnley during Allen's (3) lifetime; there were three periods of famine, 1727/8 - 1739/40 and 1756/7 and that in 1756/7 a cold wet spring was followed by crop failures and with the staple foods of wheat and oats being doubled in price, the people were starving. To add to the misery there was an epidemic of typhus and the mortality rate was doubled. Wages lagged so far behind the rise in prices that secret unions of workmen now came out into the open and, at times, the general unrest broke out into open riots.

Allen's youngest son, John, lived for only two years and was buried at St Peters in 1745. We do not know when Allen the Younger died, nor where he is buried and our story continues with his eldest son - Allen (4).

Allen Edmondson (4) 1738 -

Allen (4) was baptised in 1738 and married in 1762, a girl named Ellen Parker from the nearby village of Worsthorne and went on to raise 10 children between 1763 and 1784.

In 1750 following his father's death, William Sagar of Catlow, took over the running of his family estates which had been in their possession since medieval times. He began to keep a record of his expenditure over the years and his diary marks many references to Allen Edmondson, thereby throwing quite a bit of light on Allen's lifestyle. Whilst there were three Allen's living at that time, it seems likely on age grounds that the references are to Allen (4) who would be 29 years of age, when the first reference was made in 1767.

He was most certainly a cordwainer by trade, for there are several references to him being paid for both making and repairing boots and shoes and he was also paid for making his own breeches "for the hunting". They hunted for hares over the rough moorland terrain and "for the hunting" he was paid 24 shillings for 24 days work. His food during the hunt amounted to £1/-/-, paid for by William Sagar and his brother Richard ("half each") - so he obviously had a good appetite. The hunt was carried out on foot using beaters and dogs, but whether Allen was employed as a beater or as a hunter is not stated. One entry reads "hare raised on Marsden Heights - Allen had her" and another entry indicates that the dogs were not too well trained for it is recorded on one day "the dogs ate four". Allen also bought foodstuffs from Mr Sagar, 26 lbs of butter costing 13/- per pot, a piece of pork weighing 82 lbs and a goose at Michaelmas costing 1/9d - and so it goes on. He certainly provided well for his wife and his ten children, born between 1763 and 1784.

Mary born in 1763, Allen born in 1764, John in 1767, William in 1769, James in 1771, Henry in 1774, Ellen known as Nellie in 1778, Christopher in 1781, a second John in 1783 after the death of the first and finally Joseph in 1784.

It is also recorded that Allen undertook several "journeys" on Mr Sagar's behalf to Blackburn for which he was paid 1/- and to Heptonstall for which he received 6d. The purpose of the visits is not recorded but one shilling was the average daily rate of pay so presumably Heptonstall must have taken him but half a day.

Whether he was conducting business on behalf of Mr Sagar or merely visiting Mr Sagar's relatives is not revealed - he may well have been negotiating the purchase of livestock on Mr Sagar's behalf or of hunting dogs, of which Mr Sagar was extremely fond. Allen later purchased 106 lbs of pork for 1/9d which had been salted for they had no other means of preserving food in those days, and 4 strikes of potatoes at 9d per lb, potatoes being quite a luxury in the 18th century.

Mr Sagar also bought goods from Allen - items of cloth and trimmings and some finished shirts, so it seems likely that Allen and Elizabeth added to their income by hand loom weaving. He also traded with Robert Edmondson, to whom he sent his mares for serving as well as purchasing from him cows and steers as well as grain seed. I have not traced Robert as being a direct family member, but it is thought he lived in the Little Marden area, close to where Allen lived and maybe, in a farm owned by Mr Sagar.

So, Allen's family were well nourished, being fed on a good and varied diet and nine of his ten children lived to adulthood. We have seen that Allen was a hard worker and a good provider and it is thought that he may have obtained copyhold on various properties, though the absence of a will when he died means this cannot be proven. By 1750 Briercliffe had become a local centre for hand-loom weaving, the population having risen to some 750. Woollen textiles were rivalling farming as the main occupation of the families of Briercliffe and most of the weavers cottages at Haggate, Lane Bottom and Burnley Lane were built at this time.

Three of Allen's sons, Henry, Christopher and Joseph held many such copyhold properties, which as proven by their wills at death, were passed on to their named beneficiaries, and which they themselves may well have inherited when their father, Allen, died.

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