The history of the Besfords

Mary Besford (later Ferguson) (1822-1883)

Mary Besford was baptised at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Horton , Northumberland, on 27th January 1822. Her parents were Robert Besford (1792-1844) and Mary Besford (née Marshall).

Mary was their first child. She was born at Stickley Farm, just to the north-east of Cramlington, where Robert and Mary were living and working at the time. Stickley Farm is still a working farm at the time of writing (2024).

Just over 18 months later Mary was living at Dam Dykes Farm to the south-west of Cramlington, as her brother William Besford (1823-1906) was said to have been born there on his baptismal record of August 1823. Dam Dykes was so-called because of the dykes which were constructed to create the lake at nearby Arcot Hall.

By June 1825 Mary was living with her parents at Eshott Heugh, a farm about seven miles north of Morpeth. We know this from the baptismal record of her sister Ann Besford (1825-1896). Mary was still living there in December 1826, as shown by the baptismal record of her brother John Besford (1826-1914).

The record of the baptism of her sister Jane Besford in June 1829 tells us that Mary (now aged 7) had moved with her parents and siblings to a farm at Fenrother, roughly halfway between Morpeth and Longhorsley. The family were still living there just under two years later when Mary’s brother George Besford (1831-1908) was baptised in March 1831.

Mary’s parents must have moved to a farm at Espley at some point between March 1831 and April 1833. Espley (two miles north-west of Morpeth) was shown as the birthplace of Mary’s brother Thomas Besford (1833-?) on his baptismal record of 21st April 1833. Mary would have been 11 years old at this point.

The Census of 6th June 1841 recorded Mary aged 19 and working as an Agricultural Labourer. She was living with her parents, her four brothers and her sister Jane at South Crofton Village, Cowpen, Blyth. Her brothers William and John were both working as coal miners, but her father Robert was still an agricultural labourer. Mary’s elder sister Ann was working away from the family home as a servant at Earsdon West Forest Farm.

On 30th October 1841 Mary Besford married John Ferguson of Cowpen Quay, Blyth. She was 19 and he was 29.

In December 1847, when her nephew Robert Besford (the son of her sister Ann) died at the age of 13 months, Mary was said to have been present, and it was she who registered his death.

The Census of 1861 recorded that Mary and her husband John Ferguson were living at Whinney Hill Farm Cottage, Bedlington. John was aged 49 and was working as a Colliery Labourer. Mary was 39 years old. The couple by then had two sons, Robert Ferguson (aged 12) and William Ferguson (aged 10).

Ten years on, the 1871 Census recorded John and Mary, now said to be 60 and 49 respectively, at Rutherford’s Buildings, Guide Post, Bedlington. John was still working as a Labourer. Their sons Robert and William were no longer in the household.

Mary was widowed just under one year later when John Ferguson died at the age of 60 during the first quarter of 1872. 

The 1881 Census found Mary Ferguson living on her own at Gibson’s Buildings, Bedlington, and working as a dressmaker.

Mary died in 1883 at the age of 61.

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