The history of the Besfords

Ann Besford (1825-1896)

Ann Besford was the daughter of Robert Besford (1792-1844) and his wife Mary Besford (née Marshall).

Ann was born at Eshott Heugh, a farm seven miles north of Morpeth, Northumberland. The farm is still there as of 2024 but now encompasses the home of Northumberland Zoo. Ann was baptised on 5th June 1825 at St. Michael and All Angels, the Parish Church of Felton.

By mid-1829 Ann was living at a farm at Fenrother (just over five miles north of Morpeth) with her parents and siblings. We know that she was still living there until at least March 1831, since this is when and where her brother George Besford (1831-1908) was born.

By the time she was eight years old (1833), Ann was living with her parents and family at Espley, where her brother Thomas Besford was born. Espley is about one mile south of Fenrother.

The 1841 Census recorded Ann aged 15 (she was actually 16 but ages were rounded down to the nearest five years in the 1841 Census) and living away from her parents. She was working as a servant at Earsdon West Forest Farm north of Morpeth. Her employers were George Moore, a farmer, and his wife Frances. The Moores had seven children under the age of 12 so Ann was probably working very hard. Ann’s parents, Robert and Mary, were by then living at Cowpen, Blyth, with Ann’s brothers and sisters.

Ann gave birth to a son, Alexander Besford, at Cowpen, Blyth, on 31st October 1842. She would have been 17 years old at the time. No father was named on Alexander’s birth certificate.

Just over four years later Ann had another son, Robert Besford, who was born at Crofton, Cowpen, Blyth, on 23rd November 1846.  Robert sadly only lived for 13 months, dying on 18th December 1847. It seems that Ann’s elder sister Mary (now married and called Mary Ferguson) was supporting Ann, as she was said to have been present at Robert’s death, which she registered.

Ann had a third son who was born at Cowpen Square on 4th November 1848. She named him Robert. He would have more luck than his earlier namesake, surviving to adulthood.

A little over two years later, the 1851 Census recorded Ann living with her brother John Besford (1826-1914) and his wife Margaret Besford (née Patterson) (1827-1914) at Cowpen Square, Blyth.  John and Margaret had just got married on 12th November 1850 but the 1851 Census, taken just four months later, shows them sharing the house with John’s brothers George Besford (1831-1908) (20) and Thomas Besford (17), as well as with his sister Ann and her two sons, Alexander Besford (8) and Robert Besford (2). Ann was now 26 years old and was unmarried. 

Ann had three further sons, all born at Cowpen Square, George (born 28th February 1852), William (born 16th June 1855), and Thomas (born 27th May 1859)

By the time of the 1861 Census Ann was occupying a separate house at Cowpen Square with her five sons, Alexander (19), Robert (12), George (9), William (6) and Thomas (1), Alexander and Robert were both working as coal miners. Ann remained unmarried and I have been unable to find any record of the father of her sons.

The 1871 Census recorded Ann still living at Cowpen Square, now with four of her sons living at home with her – Robert (22), George (19), William (16) and Thomas (11). Robert, George and William were all working as coal miners and Thomas as a labourer.

Ann’s eldest son, Alexander (now 29) had left home but was only living two doors away with his wife Elizabeth and two sons, William Mills Besford (4) and Robert Besford (2). Alexander had married Elizabeth Mills in 1865. 

The 1881 Census gives us the detail that Ann Besford was living at 23 Cowpen Square and her son Alexander two doors away at 21 Cowpen Square, suggesting that they had been living at these addresses since at least 1871. Ann now had just two of her sons still living with her, William (25) and Thomas (21), both of whom were working as coal miners.

By the time of the 1891 Census, Ann Besford (now said to be 67) was living with her son William Besford, a widower, at 35 Cowpen Square. William was 35 years old and working as a Banksman. This job involved loading and unloading the pit cage at the top of the pit shaft.

Ann Besford died at 35 Cowpen Square on 29th December 1896 at the age of 71.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *