Edith May Norris was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, and is part of a strong northern English component to the extended family. To explore this family line takes one over to the area around Huddersfield, to the beating heart of the Yorkshire wollen industry and the industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th century and the rural sheep-rearing and trading economy that existed for centuries before then. This family line takes us back to at least the early 16th century.
A link with drink
Drink was a major part of the Victorian working class life, and the drink trade acquired a major prominence. The Norris branch seem to have a strong link with the hospitality industry generally, and in industrial Yorkshire this would have had a close connection with the hardships of working life. Her mother, Mary Bradley had married Stephen Norris (see Norris paternal line) in 1878 in Stretford, Lancashire, but her family was from the Huddersfield area. Her father, Edward Bradley, born in 1814 in Huddersfield, was by 1853 a “tea dealer and retailer of beer” in Peel St., Barnsley. As publicans, innkeepers and retailers of beer are a theme in this branch of the family, the interested reader can learn a bit more about the drink trade, and its abuse, in the West Riding of Yorkshire in this article but one can see at least levels in the trade, from hotels at top end, through inns, to beer house and beer retail at the lower end, of which Edward would have been a part. It did of course become a target for campaigners, since the Temperance Movement in favour of abstinence from drink was also a major force in the region, increasingly linked to the Liberal Party and opposed by the brewery businesses who were not surprisingly Conservative. However, after the 1830 Beerhouse Act had given a much greater freedom for all sorts of people to set up a business, and perhaps Edward Bradley was part of this trend. Drunkenness was a prevalent characteristic of industrial areas, and Barnsley was a centre for coal mining as well as linen. By near the end of his life, Edward had however perhaps progressed into being a “Brewery Agent”.
Huddersfield and the woollen industry
His wife, Mary Vevers, was also from Huddersfield, her father, Thomas Vevers (1782-1843), being a wool stapler. With Thomas Vevers we get a glimpse into the industrial revolution of this period, of which Yorkshire was a major part.
The West Riding of Yorkshire by the early 19th century became the main centre of the traditional staple industry of English wool. In the Middle Ages it had been England’s main export, a highly prized form of wool, from centres in East Anglia, the Cotswolds and Yorkshire. With the Industrial Revolution, wool manufacture in the West Riding became predominant, since it was able to take advantage of water power from the rivers of the Pennine Hills and later coal from the nearby coal mines. Until then, the traditional format was that raw wool would be collected from the sheep farms of the Pennine Hills by a wool stapler or dealer in wool, such as Thomas, and taken to spinners to spin the thread from which the cloth could be made. Spinning and the later stage, weaving were cottage industries and the buildings of the pre-industrial era often contained a floor where light would be more plentiful for weavers. This process was to be transformed by mechanisation, first of spinning and then weaving with the advent of the power loom, the latter invented by Edmund Cartwright in 1785 and improved and steam-powered by the 1820’s, and it destroyed the old cottage industries.
This was the period in which Thomas was living and working, based in the village of Dalton, then just outside Huddersfield and in the parish of Kirkheaton. He is listed in the “History, Directory & Gazeteer, of the County of York” in 1822. Huddersfield, like other centres such as Bradford, Halifax and Leeds, were rapidly expanding in size and number of factories. Huddersfield was particularly known for worsted cloth used for suits worldwide, and for fancy cloths. Near to Dalton was Bradley Mills, which was apparently a target for Luddites, who were opposed to the mechanisation which was destroying their livelihoods and engaged in machine breaking. Staplers like Thomas were important middlemen who helped stimulate the new industry with an expertise in the trade and finance on which manufacture depended. Many were very wealthy.
Thomas’s grave is to be found in St John’s Church, Kirkheaton, and here is a family tombstone that includes Thomas.
This is what is written:
“Sacred To the memory of Hannah Kilner Vevers who departed this life the14th of March 1827 in the 23rd year of her age……Also Elizabeth Vevers Mother of the aforesaid and wife of Thomas Vevers of Mould Green Dalton whodeparted this life November 20th 1837 in the 58th year of her age Also the above named Thomas Vevers who departed this life on the 19th day of May 1843 aged 65 years Also of Edward Vevers son of the above named Thomas and Elizabeth Vevers who departed this life February 17th 1848aged 35 years”
Thomas married Elizabeth Kilner, and thus married into an old local family, the Kilners, that take us back to the 16th century and is the subject of a separate page about the Kilners.