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Edward Pickering, my Great Grandfather


My mum’s grandfather Edward Pickering was known to the family as Old Ned. He was born on 31st January 1871 at 6, Henry St., Lancaster. The family story was that he had been born at Lancaster Castle, and that his mother had been head cook there, but the certificate says otherwise. A couple of months afterwards, the family were recorded in the 1871 census at 172, Dalton St, Barrow-in-Furness. The household is a confusing one, with quite a bit of extended family. The relationships are pretty much correct, and Edward’s eldest sister, Alice, appears to have been missed off the sheet. Dalton Street is now Dalton Road, and is the main shopping street in Barrow.

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Edward’s parents, Jacob and Nancy, had married in 1861, when Jacob was 25, but Nancy was only 14. The marriage entry shows her as of “full age”, but by today’s standards…

Edward was not the last of Jacob and Nancy’s children. William followed in 1874, but Jacob died of tuberculosis in April 1875. However, two more children were born to Nancy – John Henry in 1879 and James in 1881. Nancy was described as a rag picker at the 1881 census. Sorting rags for recycling is a job, but only just.

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Things then looked up for the family. Nancy remarried, in 1882, to a clogger called Francis Crewdson. He may have been James’ father, but the birth certificate doesn’t mention him.

At the end of 1890 the family had moved to Widnes at the far south of Lancashire, where there was a huge demand for clogs. The chemical industry was predominant locally, and clogs have excellent qualities of resistance to nasty things. At the census all the family were using the Crewdson surname, and Edward had started work, as a blacksmith’s striker.

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The family had moved back north, to Lancaster, by 1899. That’s when Edward’s brother, John Henry Pickering, married Jane McKnight, using his stepfather’s surname. Edward was a witness, and also signed as a Crewdson.

Francis and Nancy were at 47 Greene Street on census night.

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Edward was lodging down the street at number 31, and working as a fireman at the linoleum works belonging to James Williamson, the 1st Baron Ashton. The linoleum works was Lancaster's biggest employer.

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The story in the family is that Edward had spent time as a stoker on a ship which had been to South Africa during the Boer War, and that he had lost the sight of one eye as a cinder flew out of the boiler he was stoking. I can find nothing to contradict his story. Every mention around this time has him stoking boilers, but records of ships’ crews are difficult to trace unless you have the name of at least one ship.

Edward married Eliza Ann Johnson Donbavand, daughter of James Johnson Donbavand and Sarah Jane Markland, on 25th July 1903 at the Register Office in Lancaster. His brother John returned the favour and he, along with his wife, witnessed the marriage. Edward reverted to his birth name of Pickering, though John and Jane were now Crewdsons. Both he and his bride gave the Crewdsons’ house in Skerton as their address. Edward lied about his age, claiming to be 27 when he was actually 32.

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I don’t know how he met Eliza, because she was a Bolton girl. Maybe she had been on a trip to nearby Morecambe. It seems unlikely that she had been in service; she had still been with her parents when aged 21. However, only a fortnight after the wedding, James Edward, my grandfather, was born in Bolton, and it was in Bolton that the couple settled.

Here they are at the 1911 census. Edward has gained back a couple of those years he lost when he married.

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Edward lived in walking distance of where mum lived. As children do, she asked him what his favourite song was. She remembers that it was “The Volga Boat Song”, then popular on the wireless, and Eliza’s favourite was "When I Grow Too Old To Dream", which was first heard in a 1935 film.

In January 1936, Edward’s son, James Edward Pickering died, of the dreaded tuberculosis. Eliza died in 1937. My mum was left without a father, and her grandfathers became the male characters in her life.

By the start of the Second World War, Edward had retired from his lifetime of hard labouring. He would survive very nearly another ten years, though he suffered more and more from the same type of heart disease which had killed his wife.

In the spring of 1949 he made a trip to the local beauty spot "Sixty Three Steps" beyond Barrow Bridge, wanting to see it again before he died. He must have known his time was near, as he died on 11th June at 45 Bryce St, Bolton, aged 78.

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Sixty Three Steps