Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Margaret Standen: A brief history and comment on the times that she lived in

by John Martin, Martin Family archivist, Tweed Heads (June, 2013)

My paternal great-grandmother was always some of a mystery to me as I knew very little about her partly due to the fact that I did not know  her father’s family were Roman Catholics and somewhat difficult to trace. Her generation were baptised in St John’s Protestant church.    An apocryphal story within our family suggested that she had married a German Bandmaster after her first husband had died; it sounded quite interesting so I was determined to find out the truth in the story. It turned out to be much stranger than I thought so I will attempt to give some details of her life. 
Margaret was born on 20th December 1842, Preston, Lancashire. Her father was James Standen (joiner) who was born in Lancaster on 1st July 1799 and her mother was Ann Cuthbertson born on 8th April 1803, Lancaster, Lancashire. The parents were married on 27 May 1828, St John’s church, Preston. A great source of information about Margaret’s life has been traced through the British Census which started in 1841 and every subsequent ten years to present day i.e. 1841, 1851 1861 etc. in 1841 Margaret was not yet born but her family are given as living in Coffee Gardens which I have been unable to trace at this time. Preston was still undergoing a transformation due to the rise of the cotton mills and weaving-shop houses. Some of the housing areas were redeveloped for industry. The formerly genteel resort of the local gentry was fast disappearing, making way for a densely packed and predominately working class community. Indeed Preston would become the classic mill town of popular folklore. Her father James being a carpenter/ joiner would probably have earned above the local wages paid to millworkers. Margaret’s father’s family originally had been farmers but moved out of the country and into the city attracted by the prospect of better paid jobs in textile production. As the towns sprang up around the factories, living conditions declined. Open sewers and shared toilets meant disease was rife
The 1851 Census shows that Margaret was only eight years old and a scholar but her sister Elizabeth was a gold thread maker. The 1861 Census begins to shed more light on her life as it details that she was eighteen years old and a Cotton weaver. It is interesting to note that three quarters of the weaving trade at that time were less than eighteen years old. Up to 1802 children’s hours were generally unregulated which included children as young as eight  and it has been recorded that children were set to work as soon as they could crawl often at the urging of their parents. In 1819 children less than nine years of age were prohibited from working in the cotton mills. In 1825 things became more civilised and children under 16 years of age only had to work no more than twelve hours a day and nine hours on Saturday (excluding meal times).  In order to get extra money some children worked as cleaners on Sundays from 6am to noon. We can’t start to imagine the horrors of the cotton mills which lead to an excessive mortality rate due to high noise levels, high humidity and dangerous work practices which required them to work in bare feet.
It is not known where Margaret met her future husband William Crook (Printer) but her father and future father in law were joiner/carpenters there might have been a connection there. Margaret and William got married on the 23rd Aug1863 in St John’s church, Preston and Grandmother Emily Crook was born on 2nd October 1863 which bears out the fact that pregnancies were shorter in those days. No scandals in my family –thank you.  William died prior to the 1871 Census and a Death Certificate has been sent for. Margaret after a brief time as a widow and still only 23 years old married Frederick Daubert born in 1840, Hanover, Germany but now a British subject. He turned out to be a Tailor not the Band Master according to family stories. They had five children together with the first three being shown on the 1871 Census. It is assumed that Margaret did not want a child from her first marriage living with her and consequently Emily, my grandmother at the age of seven was sent to live with her Grandmother Dorothy Crook (a Milliner) and lived with her until she got married apart from a brief period of being a school teacher.
By the time that the 1881 Census came around Margaret was once more a Widow living with her children from the second marriage in Elizabeth Street, Preston. I found it interesting to note that although two of her children were listed as Cotton Weavers one of them was aged ten years old and also listed as a scholar.  However, in 1885 Margaret married a Thomas Lawton (Widower) with five children and had two children by him being forty four years old at the birth of the last child. In the 1901 Census she was a Widow once more and children from her third marriage were given but not either of the other two marriages. Currently I am trying to track them down and find out why Margaret’s three husbands died after only a few years of being married. Needless to say my family have their own theories with some of the being on the rude side. I think that it is important that we researchers are also aware of the social conditions that surround our early families which of course have a direct bearing on life span, occupations, etc.