One of the most interesting aspects of this trip has been our visits to the places where our ancestors lived. These visits have brought our people to life and put their stories into an historical context. I traced Julian’s branch of his father’s family back to his 4th great-grandfather, Henry, who was born in Grinton, Yorkshire in 1772.
Grinton is a tiny village, located on the River Swale, about 10 km west of Richmond in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In the mid-1800s, less than 2000 people lived in the parish. They farmed and mined for lead ore. Men often did both to make a living.
Henry was baptized at St. Andrew’s church in Grinton on August 17, 1772. Parts of St. Andrews Church date back to the 12th century, but most of what can be seen today was constructed in the 15th century. For many years, St. Andrews was known as the Cathedral of the Dales because it serviced the residents of a large area known as Upper Swaledale. People came from as far as 15 miles away to be baptized, married and buried here.
In 1841, the UK census showed Henry living in Grinton and working as a miner. He was 65 years old at the time. That’s very old for a miner when the average age at the time was 45. His sons, Edward and John, who were in their early 20s, likely also worked at the mine, but no occupations are indicated for them on the census. It could be that the census-taker didn’t think it necessary to note that the whole family worked at the mine.
Julian and I walked up to the site of the Grinton Lead Mine and Smelt Mill along paths that would have been taken by Henry and his sons. This is the countryside they would have seen.
The smelt mill was established in the early 18th century and processed ore obtained from mines at Grinton and the surrounding area. The well-preserved site has a few stone buildings, inside of which are the outlines of two stone hearths. So-called one hearth smelt mills were used to smelt lead until the end of the 19th century. The lead ore was mixed with some kind of fuel (wood, peat or coal) in a low open hearth. Bellows, which were operated by a waterwheel, supplied air to the fire. This process separated the lead ore from the rock. The slag from the first ore hearth still contained some lead, which was extracted by re-smelting the slag at a higher temperature in the second open hearth.
Outside we saw the remains of a 1000 ft long flue, which carried away the smoke and fumes.
Work at the lead mining operation was difficult and dirty. Workers were paid only for the amount of lead that was extracted from the rock they had mined. Often entire families worked together, including the children, either digging the ore out of the ground or in the smelter where the lead was extracted.
When we walked back to the village, we passed the type of terraced cottages that likely housed Henry and his family of six children.
Henry had died by the time the 1851 census was taken. His son John was Julian’s 3rd great-grandfather. John had likely worked at the mine as a child and/or young adult. However, he became a gamekeeper as a young man, and he worked throughout the UK on estates in Wales, Scotland and England.
We happened to be driving by John’s final place of employment in the Lake District when I recognized the name, so we detoured from our intended route. Grizedale Forest Park is now managed by the National Trust, but when John worked there in 1871 it was a 2000 acre estate which had been owned by the Rawlinson family since the early 17th century.
John and his family lived at the nearby village of Satterthwaite.
By the end of the 19th century, Julian’s father’s family had moved to the Manchester/Liverpool area then later to Scotland. Similarly, his mother’s family moved from Yorkshire to Essex after the war. So Julian had no idea that his roots on both sides of his family were in Yorkshire until I researched their history.
You know what they say about a Yorkshire man?
You can tell a Yorkshire man. But you can’t tell him much.