The history of the Besfords

William Besford (1823-1906)

William Besford was born at Dam Dykes farm, near Cramlington, Northumberland. He was baptised on 3rd of August 1823 at St. Nicholas’s Parish Church, Cramlington. William’s parents were Robert Besford (1792-1844) and his wife Mary Besford (née Marshall).

Dam Dykes was so called because it was where a stream was dammed to create the lake at nearby Arcot Hall. Today the farm has been replaced by houses known as Arcot Grange.

By June 1825 William was living with his parents and elder sister Mary at Eshott Heugh, a farm seven miles north of Morpeth. This was where his sister Ann Besford (1825-1896) was born.

The 1841 Census recorded William aged 17 living with his parents and siblings at Cowpen, Blyth. William was working as a coal miner. His father Robert (48) was working as an agricultural labourer, as was William’s elder sister Mary (19). His younger brother John (14) was also working as a coal miner. His younger siblings Jane (11) and Thomas (8) were not working. His sister Ann (15) was living and working away from home as a servant at Earsdon West Forest Farm.

Earsdon West Forest Farm, between Morpeth and Felton, pictured when it was put up for sale in 2023.

In 1845 William married Jane Reavley, the daughter of Thomas Reavley, a coal miner from Cowpen, and his wife Elizabeth Reavley.

I have been unable to find William and Jane on the 1851 Census, but the 1861 Census indicates that they had had the following children:

  • Elizabeth Besford (born in 1846 at Cowpen)
  • Mary Besford (born in 1849 at Cowpen)
  • Frances Besford (born in 1851 at Bedlington)
  • William Thomas Besford (born in 1856 at Bedlington)
  • Margaret A. Besford (born in 1859 at Bedlington).

The 1861 Census recorded William and Jane living at 132 New Colliery Row, Netherton. William (now 37) was working as a coal miner, presumably at Netherton Colliery. William and Jane’s 12 year old daughter Mary was actually recorded four doors away on this census, at her uncle and aunt’s house at 128 New Colliery Row. Her uncle and aunt were William and Mary Ann Dixon, Mary Ann having the maiden name Reavley and hence being Jane’s sister.

Ten years later, in 1871, William and Jane were still living at New Colliery Row, Netherton. William, now 47, was still a coal miner, as was his son William who was now 15. William and Jane’s other children living with them were Mary (22), working as a dressmaker, Margaret A. (12), Isabella (9), and Robert (2).

In 1881 the Census recorded William and Jane at 56 Howard Row, Netherton Colliery. William was shown as aged 58 (still a coal miner) and Jane as 55. Isabella (19) and Robert (12) were still living with them.

By the time of the 1891 Census, William Besford was said to be a retired coal miner aged 67. His wife Jane was 65. They were still living at 56 Howard Row, Netherton Colliery. Their son Robert Besford (now 22) was working as a grocer’s assistant. William and Jane had two of their grandchildren living with them, David F. Besford (8) and William J. Thompson (2).

It seems that by the time of the 1901 Census William Besford (now 77) had taken on a new role, as he was recorded as being a grocer. He and Jane were still living at 56 Howard Row. Their two grandsons, David F. Besford (18) and William J. Thompson were still living with them. David F. Besford was working as a colliery carter. Also living with them were their widowed 52 year old daughter Mary Drysdale (Mary Besford had married Matthew Drysdale in 1874) and their grandson (Mary and Matthew’s son) William Drysdale aged 15.

William Besford died in 1906 aged 83. His widow Jane Besford died in 1910, also aged 83.

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