Those of us with the surname ‘Bashforth’ are frequently plagued by people who are incapable of writing down or pronouncing the name, even when we spell it out for them. The two most common errors are ‘Bashford’ (there is such a surname, more numerous than Bashforth) and ‘Bashworth’. The last of these, according to a study I have made of the nineteenth century occurrence of the name, came about as a commonly repeated official spelling mistake. It was, and remains, particularly a problem when crossing the Pennines from Yorkshire into Lancashire.
In the days preceding mass literacy, such errors could be expected, but even then the occurrence of ‘Bashworth’ in the records was sporadic and isolated. Alisa Bastworth was buried at St Mary’s, Barnsley, Yorkshire, on 16 October 1597, while Issabell Basworth married Thomas Waynwryght at the same place on 13 November 1597. Nothing remotely similar appears in the area for almost 200 years when the Bashforth name evolved.
Even the more efficient recording of names in official registers in the nineteenth century produced only fragmentary references. The name first appeared in the records of the General Register Office [GRO] in 1847, with the death of Amy Bashworth in Hull, Yorkshire. The first marriage was of Emily Bashworth in Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire, in 1853. The first birth was of Martha Ann Bashworth, also in Ashton, in 1858. None of these names appeared in the associated Census records for 1841, 1851 or 1861.
Studies of the Census records only confirm the erratic occurrence of the Bashworth name. The first families with the name did not appear until 1861, with references in Ashton, Bradford, Yorkshire, and Alfreton, Derbyshire (the last of these being almost certainly a mistranscription). None of these families re-appeared in 1871. The first and only consistent and repeated occurrence of the name in the Census records did not appear until 1881.
Henry Bashworth from Mansfield in Nottinghamshire and his wife, Annie, from Herefordshire, lived with their daughter Annie (21, born Mansfield), on Salters Brook Road, Tintwistle, on the Cheshire side of the border with Yorkshire and Lancashire. Their son Jonas Bashworth lived with his wife, Mary Travis Bashworth, at New Road, Tintwistle. They were married the previous year. Other than this marriage record, there were no references in the registers for the GRO for previous births for Jonas and Annie, or a marriage for a Henry Bashworth. The family did not appear with the Bashworth name in any of the previous censuses.
These family members appeared consistently in the census up to 1911, alongside other sporadic Bashworth references that can be reasonably proven to be correctly ‘Bashforth’. They remained in Tintwistle before moving to Stalybridge. Jonas’ sister, Annie, moved to Cheltenham to work in her aunt’s eating house. The GRO references continue to be problematic. There were no death references to Henry and Annie after 1901 and no reference to them in the 1911 Census. While the births of Jonas’ children Annie and Wright were recorded in the GRO registers, and then appeared in the census records, there was no GRO reference to the birth of their third child, Mary, born 1885. The deaths of Jonas and of his daughter Annie were both recorded under the Bashworth name. Between 1881 and 1911, some 14 other children were registered born as ‘Bashworth’, of whom six were buried under that name, but the remaining eight did not appear in the appropriate census records.
The Tintwistle family may have come to adopt the spelling as standard, but, even for them, the name origin was clearly a common spelling mistake.