A drunk in the family – Part 2

[Continued from Part 1]. George Bashforth’s son John, who was not at home on census night in 1891, but was definitely one of the sons recalled by ‘JWR’, matched his father with 28 convictions from the early 1880s until 1907. He seems to have been somewhat itinerant in his drunkenness, clocking up offences in Dewsbury as well as Barnsley, and many of these were for begging in the streets, or for being a ‘rogue and vagabond’ – interspersed with several ‘drunk and disorderly’ events. His religious affiliation was even more promiscuous, including Wesleyan, Church of England and (mostly) Roman Catholic. He was about 5ft 3ins with sandy coloured hair and a variety of cuts and scars.

The Barnsley Chronicle, 24 June 1876 reported: ‘ASSAULTING A POLICE OFFICER. John Bashforth was charged with being drunk and assaulting PC Parkinson in Dodworth Road on the 18th inst. The officer went up to defendant and two other men on the road. Defendant was drunk, and when complainant ordered him home defendant struck him over the nose without any provocation. – The Bench committed defendant for one month for the assault on the police, and dismissed the summons for drunkenness.’

Along with his brother Charles, John was not above a bit of petty theft to feed their need for drink. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 3 September 1881 reported: ‘LARCENY BY FINDING AT BARNSLEY: At the Barnsley Police Court yesterday John Bashforth and Charles Bashforth, wheelwrights, were charged with larceny at Barnsley. – Sarah Wait, wife of an engine tenter, of Cape Street, Barnsley, said she went into the town on Saturday night with a silver lever watch in her dress pocket. She returned home, when she missed the watch, and gave information to the police. Prisoners went to Messrs Eaton and Richards, pawnbrokers, Wakefield, to pledge the watch, when they were given into custody. – Prisoners were each committed for fourteen days.’

John Bashforth eventually died in Barnsley Workhouse Infirmary of Bright’s Disease on 11 October 1915[1]. He never married, for which his female contemporaries should be grateful! Charles, meanwhile, gathered a new drinking partner in his younger brother Isaac.

In the Sheffield Independent, 23 August 1887, ‘Isaac Bashforth and Charles Bashforth, wheelwrights, of Barnsley, were charged with being drunk and assaulting Police-sergeant Balls, at Barugh, on Sunday afternoon last. The officer said he was on duty at Barugh when he saw both the defendants drunk and using bad language. He went up to them and ordered them home. Isaac Bashforth struck him on the breast. He was taking him into custody when Charles went up and struck him a violent blow over the eye and knocked him down. When on the ground he was kicked over the leg. – The Bench pointed out that the prisoners were both sons of a tradesman who at one time occupied a position in the town. They advised them to give over drinking. A fine of 5s and costs for each offence was levied. Defendants were also ordered to pay 7s 6d damage done to the officer’s trousers.’

Isaac Bashforth added further exploits after his father’s death. He was described as 5ft 4ins with brown hair and various scars around the face. From the age of 39 to the age of 47 he seems to have achieved eight convictions for being drunk and disorderly, the last recorded being on 22 August 1902, when he compounded the offence by assaulting the constable who tried to arrest him. He claimed to have been married at the 1901 census, to a woman called Emma nineteen years older than himself, but there is no evidence of a legal marriage. This last incident occurred at her funeral and led to reports in several newspapers on 23 August 1902.

The Nottingham Evening Post reported: “Disgraceful Scene at a Funeral: Arising out of a disgraceful scene which occurred at a funeral at the Hoyland Churchyard, a charge of drunkenness and assault was preferred against Isaac Bashforth, wheelwright, of Barnsley, at the West Riding Police Court yesterday. The prosecutor was Police-constable Imms. According to the evidence of the constable and several witnesses, Bashforth appeared at the funeral of the woman, with whom he had cohabited, in a state of intoxication, and created a disturbance when requested to leave the Churchyard by Police-constable Imms, who was sent for. Defendant struck him several times on the chest, and a struggle ensued in which the constable was injured. Defendant was subsequently locked up. – Ernest Angel stated that as the funeral procession proceeded down Church Street, defendant was following using bad language. He bent over the coffin, and otherwise behaved in a most offensive manner. – John Cadman gave corroborative evidence. – Defendant pleaded that he did not know what he was doing. He was too drunk. – The Bench imposed a fine of 5s and costs or 10 days for the drunkenness; and ordered defendant to pay 20s and costs or undergo one month’s imprisonment, for the assault.’ He went to gaol.

Isaac Bashforth died of bronchitis in 1904 aged 48 at 1 Court 3 Sackville Street, Barnsley attended by his married sister, Margaret Alderson[2]. The Alderson family seem to have been the ones to pick up the broken family pieces. Margaret’s brother-in-law Herbert and his wife Lucy, with five children, were accommodating Charles Bashforth in 1911 in the crowded conditions of Court No 2, Wood Street, Barnsley. Charles never married and died in 1920 aged 63[3].

On the gravestone of Elizabeth Bashforth, who died 26 April 1853, the mother of George and grandmother of the other miscreants, there is a long, blank, unused area ready for further inscriptions, not least of whom should have been that of her husband Swithen Bashforth, who died in some discomfort on 26 May 1873 aged 79 of old age, paralysis and diarrhoea at 13 Court 5, Sheffield Road, Barnsley, attended by Elizabeth Burkinshaw[4], his second wife Esther wasting no time in re-marrying. It is a graven silence that shames some disreputable offspring, whose several claims to the trade of wheelwright may have been honoured more in the breach than reality.

[1] Death certificate. The disease is chronic nephritis, kidney failure.

[2] Death certificate

[3] Apr-Jun 1920 Barnsley 9c 289

[4] Death certificate


A drunk in the family – Part 1

You may be excited to find that among your ancestors there is a notorious convict, especially if they were transported to the Colonies. Unfortunately, for most of us, they are usually less ‘romantic’ – petty thieves, vagrants and drunks. The records of the West Riding jail at Wakefield provide an insight into this uneasy corner of the past[1].

There was a well-known and respectable wheelwright business in early nineteenth-century Barnsley, established there by William Bashforth (1767-1824)[2] and continued by his eldest son, Swithen Bashforth (1793-1873). In St Mary’s old churchyard, there is a memorial stone for William and several of his family. It was organised by Swithen, who looked after his mother following William’s death. Swithen also arranged a stone for his first wife, Elizabeth (née Stringer), with space for his own inscription to be added.

The Barnsley Chronicle of Saturday, 21 July 1933, quoted an elderly resident recalling the 1870s[3]: “At the corner of Peel Street and York Street was a wheelwright’s establishment, kept by old Bashforth and his sons.” At various times before that, Swithen Bashforth had his workshop at 28 Peel Street[4]. What ‘JWR’ recalled, however, belonged to Swithen’s son George Bashforth (1820-1892). George and three of the sons referred to became well known for less respectable reasons.

George Bashforth married the widow Catherine Evans (née Shaw) on 25 March 1844 at Silkstone parish church. Catherine already had one son, James, and the couple went on to have ten more children: five daughters and five sons. Not all of the sons chose to follow their father’s trade of wheelwright in Barnsley, though all started their working life with him. George junior (born 1846) and William (born 1852) went to Worsbrough to the wagon works and the collieries.

The three who stayed were John born 1850, Charles born 1857 and Isaac born 1858. All three were unmarried in 1871, when the family lived at 3 Providence Street (on the south side of town off Park Road). By 1881, the family was at the wonderfully named Jumble Lane at No 9 Court and in 1891 they were at 3 Heelis Street, also on the south side. Catherine had died the previous year and John was (characteristically) out somewhere.

George Bashforth established a reputation for becoming drunk and disorderly.  On 2 July 1867, the Sheffield Independent reported Barnsley Court House, where ‘George Bashforth, labourer (sic), was charged with assault upon his wife on the Friday before’. She was knocked down by her husband in a public house where she had gone in search of him. He was committed to prison for seven days.

On 11 November 1871, the Barnsley Chronicle reported the headline His Eleventh Appearance. George Bashforth, a wheelwright, was charged with being drunk and riotous at Barnsley. The Mayor said: ‘Now George here again’. George replied, ‘I am sorry for it, as I have been teetotal since I was here before’, at which the public broke into laughter. Supt. Sykes handed in a list of previous convictions, which showed the defendant had been before the Court on ten previous occasions. The Mayor commented: ‘Drink! Drink! We should have nothing to do if it were not for drink’. The constable said he had found the defendant in Peel Square creating a disturbance and using abusive language. The Mayor asked the defendant if he had anything to say, to which he replied ‘No, I can say nothing, because I don’t know what I was doing.’ He was committed to prison for seven days.

Between 1881 and 1887, George accumulated a further ten convictions for being ‘drunk and riotous’ for which he received sentences of 14 or 28 days’ hard labour at Wakefield Prison. He was in his 60s and, thanks to the prison records, we learn of his grey hair, varicose veins and that his nose was broken and twisted to the right. Generally, he also had various cuts and bruises. It would appear from his declarations that he may have tried turning to Methodism to control his behaviour, but without success. On 9 October 1886, the Barnsley Chronicle reported that George Bashforth one of the eldest offenders in the town was charged with public disorder. PC Gaythorpe found the defendant drunk and riotous in Lindley Fold and was compelled to lock him up. The defendant was drunk every day and was a nuisance to the neighbourhood. He was committed to gaol for a month. It was only a month since he had come out of gaol.

On 25 August 1888, the Barnsley Chronicle used the headline ‘The Deceived Ones’. George Bashforth, 74, wheelwright, who had been convicted about 30 times at Barnsley for drunkenness and assault, was charged having been drunk and riotous at Barnsley on the previous Saturday. Mrs Smith of New Street, wife of a pork butcher, said the defendant without the slightest provocation struck her a violent blow on the face, on Saturday evening. PS McCrone proved that the prisoner was drunk and very violent in his conduct. He struck the last witness and another woman in the face. He also made use of very bad language and used bad language in Park Row. Prisoner said the newspaper told lies about him, he had not been up 40 times. Mr Taylor told him that the offence record was against him and imposed a fine of 5s and costs.

There may have been subsequent occasions of less riotous drunkenness before he died aged 72 of pneumonia at home in 1892, two years after his poor suffering wife, attended by his married daughter Margaret Alderson[5]. Unfortunately, by that time his sons were establishing their own equivalent reputations. [See Part 2]

[1] Accessible on Ancestry. I have also extensively used the British Newspapers on Find My Past.

[2] From whom the writer is descended.

[3] Quoted in Aspects of Barnsley, Volume 3: Chapter 2 ‘Town End in 1870’ by Ian Harley, p.35 (Wharncliffe, Barnsley, 1995).

[4] Barnsley Streets, Volume 2: EG Tasker (Wharncliffe, Barnsley, 2002)

[5] Death certificate