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Farmer in the Dales

Mary stopped cutting up turnips and placed one hand on the small of her back and gripped her bulging stomach with the other. This was the strongest pain yet and she considered again if she could wait until William returned from the pub before taking to bed and sending him for Mary Smith. When wee William was born a year ago this past June, her labour had set in quickly and there had been little time between the breaking of her waters and his arrival and she didn’t want to be alone with the children when the time came for this babe to be born. She glanced over at nine-year old Ann who was tending to the fire over which hung the large cast iron pot filled with their evening meal of steaming pottage. Seven year old wee Mary was sweeping the plank floor by the door of the cottage and four-year old Martha was sitting on the bed talking softly to her baby brother Willie who was just waking from his afternoon nap. The light in the cottage was starting to fade and as another pain gripped Mary, she quickly decided. “Run to the pub, Ann and fetch yr Da. Tell him there’ll no be time to finish his pint and he should bring Mary Smith back with him and be quick about it!” With a startled look at her mother’s face, Ann dropped the piece of wood she was holding and pulled on her cloak, rushing to the door. “Put some water on to boil, Mary,” she said to her sister, remembering back to when Willie was born, “and get some clean rags from the trunk,” she said over her shoulder as she ran out into the cold winter evening. Not so very long after William arrived back at the cottage accompanied by the publican’s wife Mary, the lusty cry of the newest Bulmer child was heard in the midwinter’s night. Ann, wee Mary and Martha all peered down from their sleeping loft into the fire lit room. Mary smiled wearily at the swaddled baby in her arms and glanced up at her husband William who stood by her bed. “Anoo’r wee farmer we’ve got ourselves, Will. A fine Christmas boy he is. Can we call him Thomas after me da?”The Farmer in the Dales

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Village Church, Danby Wiske

Copyright Tom Courtney and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

And so it was that my fourth great-grandfather, Thomas Bulmer, came into the world in late December of 1782, just as the American War of Independence was coming to an end.  It had been a very expensive war for England to fight and Britain was in debt.  The British Parliament levied a Stamp Duty against parish register entries to help the British Parliament recoup their monetary losses.  Under the provisions of this act, all baptism, marriage and burial entries in each parish register going forward were subject to a tax of threepence and when Thomas was baptized on 27 December 1782 in the Danby Wiske parish church in North Yorkshire, he was the last of the Bulmer children to be baptized prior to the implementation of this very unpopular stamp tax.

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St Mary's Church, Bolton-on-Swale

Andrew Bowden on Flickr CC 2.0

Thomas’ father was William Bulmer, probably born about 1739, the son of a farmer but he seldom spoke about his past.  His mother was Mary Rudd, the daughter of Thomas Rudd and Ann Layfield and she was baptized at St Mary’s parish church in Bolton on Swale on 25 February 1749.  William and Mary were married at St Mary’s church on 6 January 1773 when they were both twenty-three years old.  They began their married on the in Streetlam, in the parish of Danby Wiske where William was determined to expand his farm and leave a lasting legacy for his family. William rented farm land on Outhwaite Moor from Richard Garmison, a gentleman from Durham and in 1774 land tax of £1 6s was levied for the property but with the rising costs of fighting the war in America, by 1781 the taxes had increased dramatically to £1 13s and 10p and like all farmers in the Dales, William worked long hours in a struggle to thrive in the difficult economic times.  He most likely grew wheat or barley which were the main crops of the area and probably kept some cattle, pigs and chickens to help feed his family.

The oldest of the Bulmer family was Thomas’ sister Ann.  She was baptized in Danby Wiske parish church on 23 January 1774 and was named for her maternal grandmother Ann Rudd (nee Layfield).  She was nine years old when Thomas was born.  As the eldest daughter, she would have been of great help to her mother caring for her new brother, her younger siblings and assisting with the household chores.  The second eldest of the family was Mary who was named for both her paternal grandmother and for her mother.  Mary was baptized on 20 February 1776.  When Thomas was born, Mary was seven years and was no doubt starting to help with chores.  Next was four-year old Martha, who was baptized on 9 January 1778 and Thomas’ only brother William, named for his father, was two and had been duly baptized on 17 June 1780.

On the 7 August 1785, when Thomas was three years old, his sister Christiana was born on 7 August 1785.  It had been a hard birth and the baby was weak so Rector Will Cust came to the family home and baptized Christiana the same day, but with Mary’s careful tending the baby survived.  In the same year, the land taxes on the Outhwaite Moor farm were again levied at £1 13s and 10p.

On 11 May 1787, William purchased additional land at Streetlam Castle Farm on the West Moor in Danby Wiske parish from William Wrightson, a gentleman of Morton in county Durham.  The farm had originally consisted of three closes but had recently been divided into seven closes and it consisted of arable meadow and pasture lands of about forty acres and was adjacent to the lane leading from Yafforth to Darlington.

The next year, on 23 March 1788 when Thomas was three years old, his sister Elizabeth was born, giving Thomas and his brother William a total of five sisters.  Elizabeth was baptized a month later on 27 April 1788 after the spring crops had been planted.  With seven children to support, William worked hard to expand his farm and on 27 August 1788, he and Richard Garmonsway of Great Burton entered into an arrangement with William Peacock, the rector of Danby Wiske, to graze cattle on additional property on the Outhwaite Moor.

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Prise du palais des Tuileries - 1793

Jacques Bertaux

Even in the relative quiet of village life in Danby Wiske, the Bulmer family was aware that a revolution had begun in France.  In October of 1789, an angry mob marched on the Palace of Versailles where the royal family lived.  The mob infiltrated the palace and attempted, unsuccessfully, to kill the queen.  For the next decade, France was to undergo a period of political and social turmoil during which the French government, previously an absolute monarchy, would undergo radical changes, eventually becoming a republic.

As the far away French Revolution raged on, Thomas’ brother John was born in February of 1790 when Thomas was eight.  He was named for William’s brother.  That year, the land taxes on Outhwaite Moor Farm which William rented from Richard Garmison had decreased to £1 11s and 6p but William also had to pay land tax on his Streetlam Castle Farm property of £1 and 3p.

On 27 August of 1792, when William was ten, his youngest sister, Jane Bulmer was born.  She was baptized on 28 October 1792.  The Outhwaite Moor farm taxes were again £1 11s and 6p and the Streetlam Castle Farm taxes remained at £1 and 3p.   In the same year, King Louis XVI of France was arrested and the following January 1793, he was executed,  beheaded at the guillotine.  When the shocking story reached the northern village of Danby Wiske, there were endless discussions around the family hearth and in the village inn on how this would affect relations between France and England.  On the first of February their worst fears were realized when France and England declared war, a conflict that would rage on land and sea for the next twenty-three years.

Mary tenderly tucked the blankets around three-year old Jane and wrung out a rag to wipe the sweat that had formed again on her brow.  The child stirred restlessly as her father came into the house, closing the door quickly so as not to let in a draft.  “’ow is she?” he asked, stomping the snow from his boots and shrugging off his greatcoat.  “No be’er,” Mary said with a frown, “and I’m thinkin’ her fever is burnin hotter.  Maybe we’d be’er fetch the doctor.  I think she wants a bleedin’.”  William frowned but then pulled his coat back on.  “I’ll go ‘round and borrow John’s orse.  e’ll carry me faster inta town,” he said as pulled open the door and went back out into the snow. The door opened again and Martha came in, quickly removing her outerwear and rushing to her sister’s bedside.  “I’ll do that mam,” she said as she took the rag from her hand.  “You go put on a cuppa.  You’ve been at it all night.  I won’t be doin’ any good, you gettin sickly too.”  Mary relinquished the rag but only sank into the chair beside the bed and held her head in her hands.  None of the children had ever been so poorly and she was afraid that the doctor would tell them the worst. As the snow outside fell to cover in Williams footprints and the shadows of dusk spread over the moor, they finally heard horses approaching at a gallop and soon after the doctor came in, followed by William carrying his case.  Jane could no longer be roused and was burning even hotter with fever.  The doctor shook his head but opened his case to pull out the jar of leeches as the family gripped each other’s hands and prayed.  By morning, despite the application of leeches to her temples and the letting of blood from her forearms with a scalpel, young Jane was struggling for each breath.  After one last exhalation, there was quiet until Mary cried out and fell to her knees.  Young Mary and Martha both went to comfort their mother and Christiana and Elizabeth hovered beside them, unsure what to do.   William swallowed painfully and motioned to his sons William and Thomas.  He reached into his purse and pulled out a shilling.  “Go ye o’er to the church and tell Will Cust weel be needin’ the bell tolled this sad morn’ and then go ye o’er tell Metcalfe, the carpenter, that weel be a needin’ him to come away here ta make a coffin for your wee sister” he said and the boys hurried off, relieved to have something to occupy them as their father moved over to grasp Mary’s shoulder.The Farmer in the Dales

Sadly, when Thomas was fourteen, his sister Jane died on 3 February 1796 at the young age of three and was buried in the parish cemetery on 5 February 1796.  Although losing Jane at such an early age was no doubt a family tragedy, it was remarkable that the family’s other eight children had grown and thrived in the often harsh and difficult life of the late eighteenth century.

As it is in the way of all families, good times often follow tragedies and the family that buried young Jane in the cold of February, gathered in the fall of the same year when Thomas’ sister, Martha Bulmer married William Pearson on 7 September 1796 in the parish church of Danby Wiske.  Martha was only eighteen but as one of the older girls in the family, she had grown up fast.

A year later, the family gathered again at the parish church in Danby when Thomas’ second oldest sister, Mary Bulmer, not to be outdone by her younger sister, married Matthew Ayers on 21 Oct 1797.  Mary was twenty-one and anxious to get on with her life.  With Martha having married the year before, there were fewer hands at home to do the family chores and even though she was only leaving her father’s farm to move to her husband’s farm, Mary was more than ready to settle down and start her own family.

Even though life went on, Thomas’ mother Mary never fully recovered from the death of her youngest child Jane.  With two of her older daughters married and gone, much of the work in the farmhouse fell to her and she became increasingly tired and worn.  On 11 March 1798, Mary died at the age of forty-nine and was buried in the Danby Wiske parish cemetery two days later on 13 March.  Although it seems that Mary died young by today’s standards, the life expectancy in the later part of the eighteenth century was only about age 40, given the cruel realities of daily living at that time.  Disease, poor nutrition and long working hours took their toll on the population.

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Battle of Trafalgar

Clarkson Frederick Stanfield - Public Domain

A few uneventful years rolled by as the Bulmer family settled into life in the new century.  Ireland and England joined together in the United Kingdom and the Union Jack became the official flag.  The first national census of England was made on the tenth of March in 1801 by the clergy and the overseers of the poor.  Soon after, on 25 March the treaty of Amiens was signed, ending the decades old hostilities between France and the United Kingdom for a brief time.  By May 1803, peace broke down and the fighting between the two nations resumed.  By October of 1804, Spain had also declared war on England.  In 1805 on 21 October, the historic sea Battle of Trafalgar was fought.  The French and Spanish lost twenty-two of their thirty-three ships while the British Royal Navy lost none of their twenty-seven ships of the line, although the great Admiral Lord Nelson died in the battle.  A lasting peace seemed unlikely as England began a blockade of the French coast.

On the second of April in 1807 at the age of twenty-one, Thomas’ sister Christiana Bulmer married James Dixon at the parish church in Danby Wiske with her father William, her younger sister Elizabeth and James’ father Luke acting as witnesses.

Just over three years later, Thomas’ baby sister Elizabeth Bulmer married Luke Harrison on 20 Nov 1810 in the Danby parish church after banns.  Luke was from Hutton Bonville in the parish of Birkby, a scant mile from Danby Wiske. The marriage was witnessed by Thomas and two family friends Hannah Langdale and Christopher Martin.  Luke Harrison was the innkeeper of the Ox Inn, located in Streetlam, just over a mile west of the village of Danby Wiske and Christiana was relieved to be away from the drudgery of farm life and to be starting a more genteel way of living as an inn keeper’s wife.

Having first seen to the marriages of most of his siblings, on 27 May 1811 at the age of twenty-eight, Thomas Bulmer married my fourth great-grandmother Mary Dobby in Mary’s home parish of Catterick.  Mary was the youngest daughter of Robert Dobby and Jane Singleton Dobby and was seventeen years old.

Mary hurried up the hill towards the lone oak tree glancing nervously behind her towards town and her family cottage.  Da was no doubt still out in the fields working and Ma was hopefully occupied with supper preparations and wouldn’t miss her for the next little while.  There was no sign of Thomas yet and as she arrived breathless at the top of the hill, she anxiously scanned the road below hoping for his approach. She checked the hollow of the huge tree but found no new note waiting for her.  He had to still be coming to meet her; she didn’t think she could bear keeping this secret to herself one more day. Thomas would know what to do, she told herself.  He would immediately offer to marry her and they would go and talk to Da this very afternoon.  She could stop waking up in the middle of the night, soaked with sweat and twisted in the bedclothes thinking of the shame that would fall both on her and on her family if Thomas wouldn’t marry her.  Ma would probably send her off to stay with Aunt Isabella and everyone would know.  What kind of a life would she have, dependant on the parish for every morsel of food and scrap of clothing?  “No”, she told herself, “Stop thinking that way.”  Thomas would do the right thing and marry her.  The child was his and he would marry her and they would live together on his father’s farm in Streetlam and the babe would have his name.  There would be more babies and they would grow old together working on the farm.  Mary looked back down at the road and at last she could see Thomas and she felt her heart give a little leap. The Farmer in the Dales

As Mary hoped, Thomas did go to see her father that very afternoon and within a few short weeks, the Bulmer couple started their lives together on the Streetlam farm close to the village of Danby Wiske where their first child, Thomas Bulmer, named for his father, was born on 8 December 1811.  Thomas was no doubt claimed by the couple to be an ‘early’ baby, being born only six and a half months after their marriage but Mary, now a wife and mother, held her head high and hoped everyone would soon forget their hasty marriage.  Thomas was baptized on 11 December at the Danby Wiske parish church.

Beginning in 1813, George Rose’s Act came into effect stating that new separate printed books of standard forms must be used to record information in parishes for baptisms, marriages and burials. On 6 January 1814, Thomas and Mary’s second son, William Henry Bulmer, named for Thomas’ father William, was baptized by the Rector Will Cust in the parish church of Danby Wiske and was the first of the family to be recorded in the new style registers.  At that time, Thomas was noted to be a farmer in the family tradition, living at Fellgill Moor.

Hostilities with France were coming to an end and Napoleon was forced to abdicate as Emperor on 22 June 1815 and a ceasefire was signed on 4 July.  Napoleon surrendered to the British squadron at Rochefort on 15 July and he was exiled to St Helena’s island in the south Atlantic.  In the aftermath of the war, with grain prices having fallen lower than Thomas had ever seen, the first of the Corn Laws was passed, stating that no foreign corn should be allowed into Britain until domestic corn reached a price of 80s per quarter and prices for Thomas’ produce finally began to rise.

On the first of January in 1816, Thomas and Mary’s third child, another son, Robert was baptized by the Rector Will Cust and then finally after three sons, Mary gave birth to a daughter in 1818 and the couple named her Jane, after Mary’s mother Jane and in memory of Thomas’ baby sister.  Jane was baptized in the Danby parish church on 15 August in 1818 by the Rector Will Cust.

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Corn Laws

Michael via Wikimedia Commons

A growing unrest was developing in northern England after the defeat of Napoleon in 1815.  Unemployment rose and the effects of the import tariffs imposed by the Corn Laws were felt and on 16 August 1819, a large crowd of sixty to eighty thousand people gathered in Manchester to demand the reform of Parliament.  The government’s response to this protest was to send the cavalry charging into the crowd, resulting in the death of fifteen people and injuries to four to seven hundred more.

This massacre occurred much closer to home than had the troubles in France and while Thomas and his father William sympathized with the disastrous effects that the rising cost of food was having on the urban working class, they were relieved when their crops began selling for increasingly higher amounts.  More and more of he responsibility of the farm fell on Thomas’ shoulders as his father William chose most days to sit beside the fire chatting with Mary rather than to head out into the fields.  As William turned eighty, he started to give into his aches and pains and began drafting his last will and testament, knowing his time was nearly spent and that he would soon be joining his beloved wife.

On 31 October 1820, Thomas and Mary had another daughter who they baptized Mary after her paternal grandmother, Mary Rudd Bulmer and after her mother and on 23 January 1823, Thomas and Mary baptized their sixth son John, naming him for Thomas’ brother and for William’s late brother.  In the same year, despite the fact that Thomas was virtually running the farm, his father’s name was listed in the Baine’s directory under the trade of “Farmer and Yeomen” for Danby Wiske.  William’s fellow farmers included Richard Crooks, Joseph Ingleden, William Lodge, George Peacock, Henry Pinkner and Edmund Ward.

By Christmas of 1824, Thomas’ father William’s health was failing.  He died in the New Year of 1825 at the age of eighty-six and was laid to rest beside his wife on 12 January in the cemetery at the parish church in Danby Wiske.

Mary watched quietly as Thomas broke the seal on his father’s will and started to read the contents.  “’e’s left us the Streetlam farm, luv”, he said, looking up at his wife.  “An weel he should, yea’ve been runnin’ it all these years!”.  “Weel ya but I ne’r knew fer sure.  ‘e ne’r talt me one way or tha’ t’other.  ‘e wer a wily ol’ codger, then werent e?” he said and began to read again, picking out bits to read out loud.  “William gits ₤80” he continued to read, “an John gits ₤5 and Mary gits ₤40”.  He looked up and reminded his wife “Ye knaa that she got ₤10 from Uncle John, eh?.  Martha gits ₤50 and Christiana gits ₤80 and Lizbet gits ₤60 an there’s ₤60 in trust for Ann’s bairns”  Thomas sighed as he carefully refolded the papers.  “Aw sure do miss the ol’ gadgie.  I canna’ believe he’s really deed an’ goon.”The Farmer in the Dales

The second girl for Thomas and Mary and their seventh child, Christiana Bulmer was baptized on the last day of June 1825, named after her aunt Christiana.  The farmhouse was becoming crowded but as the children grew older, they were able to help with chores and farm work and lighten the load on their parents.

My three times great-grandmother, Ann Bulmer was the middle child for Thomas and Mary and she was baptized on 27 December 1827 in Danby Wiske.  She was named for her aunt, Thomas’ oldest sister.

The couple’s ninth child was also a girl and they named her Elizabeth, again after one of Thomas’ sisters.  She was baptized on 26 February 1830 in the Danby Wiske parish church, the last of the Bulmer children to be baptized there.  The family was on the move.

As what would become a two-year long outbreak of cholera began in October 1831, the family moved to Ellerton upon Swale near Bolton upon Swale, about six and a half miles from Danby on the river Swale.  Thomas wanted to expand his holdings to support his growing family and decided to rent out the Streetlam properties and buy more acreage for his own farm.  Bolton was even a smaller village than Danby Wiske with a population of about one hundred people but with the cholera taking so many in the large cities, Thomas and Mary were happy with the village.

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Parish Church of Saint Mary, Bolton-on -Swale

wfmiller via Geograph

The family’s ninth child was born not long after their move and James Bulmer was the first to be baptized on 27 December in 1832 in the parish church of St Mary the Virgin at Bolton on Swale.  The younger children gaped in wonder at the tablet in the south wall of the church nave which was set in 1743 in memory of Henry Jenkins who died in 1670 and who was said to have been 169 years old at the time of his death.

By the next spring, Thomas, the eldest child, was twenty-one and had his eye on Margaret Clarkson from the nearby village of Catterick.  On 23 April 1833, the couple married and started their married lives near Margaret’s family in Catterick.

In the spring of 1835, Mary became pregnant again but as the summer progressed and she swelled with her pregnancy, it became apparent that she was carrying twins this time around.  Many of the household chores fell to Jane and Mary and even young Christiana as Mary had more and more difficulty moving around in the hot summer months.  At the age of forty-one, Mary had a lot less stamina than in her younger days.

The twin girls, Martha and Ellen Bulmer were born and were baptized on 24 August 1835 in Bolton on Swale.  Sadly the smallest of the twins, Ellen was frail and despite Mary’s best efforts she did not even live out the week and died on 31 August.  Her loss was a crushing blow for Thomas and Mary and they held tight to the tiny Martha and watched as baby Ellen was laid to rest in the St Mary the Virgin parish cemetery.

At the age of forty-four, Mary again became pregnant but this time the pregnancy went easier on her than when she carried the twins.  Eleanor Bulmer was born on 26 September 1837 on a farm near Ellerton upon Swale and baptized in the parish church on 22 October 1837 in Bolton on Swale.  In keeping with the new policy of official birth registration, Mary registered Eleanor’s birth in the final quarter of 1837 in the district of Richmond Yorkshire on 2 October.

On 28 June 1838, Victoria was crowned Queen of the United Kingdom at Westminster Abbey by William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury.  On 10 November that year, Jane Bulmer, aged twenty, married Thomas Phillips at the parish church in Bolton on Swale with Thomas and Mary as witnesses.  Thomas was a farmer and the couple decided to live about nine miles south-east of Bolton on Swale in Romanby.

With fewer children at home to help with the chores and farm work and not so many mouths to feed, Thomas and Mary moved back towards Danby Wiske to a farm called Lazenby.  Now in her forty-sixth year, Mary became pregnant with her fourteenth child.  Struggling with exhaustion for most of her pregnancy, she hoped that this would be her last child. Margaret was baptized on 11 February 1840 at the parish church in Danby Wiske and her birth was registered by Thomas in Northallerton on 5 February.

On 7 June 1841, the first proper census was taken in England.  Thomas and Mary appeared in the census records living at Lazenby in the borough and township of Northallerton with nine of their children:  Robert aged twenty-five, John aged eighteen, Christiana aged sixteen, Ann aged fourteen, Elizabeth aged twelve, James aged ten, Martha aged six, Eleanor aged four and young Margaret aged two.  Also living with the family were two young farm helpers George Tweedy aged fifteen and John Walker aged ten.

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Butcher Shop

via Wikipedia, Public Domain

William Henry Bulmer, Thomas and Mary’s second son was not content with life on the farm and he moved to the town of Bradford where he became a butcher.  At the time of the June 1841 census, he was living in Bradford with farmers William and Martha Jowett.  To help make ends meet, William and Martha took in boarders and besides William Henry, they had two other renters.  William Gorma aged 25 was a basket maker and John Claphim, aged 20 was a butcher like William Henry.

In December of 1845 when he was thirty-one, William Henry married Maria Muhl in Bradford.  Maria was a young woman of twenty-six and was originally from Northwood.

Great advances were being made in medical care during the first half of the nineteenth century and in 1845, the first anesthetic was used in England.  Despite these advances, there was still much mystery about the human condition and when Thomas’ daughter Christiana Ainsley collapsed at the age of twenty-two, there was nothing anyone could do to save her.  She died in Northallerton on 1 October 1847 of apoplexy or brain hemorrhage.  She left her husband Thomas Ainsley a widow at age thirty with three small children.  Young Mary Ann was three, Thomas was two and the baby, Richard Robert was only seven months old and their father had to set aside his own grief to care for his young family.

Times were changing in England and in 1847, the “Ten Hours Act” was passed that shortened the factory work day to ten hours for both women and children.  On hearing of the new law, Mary ruefully shook her head at this reduced day.  The law certainly did not apply to those working on a farm where the day started before the sun was fully in the sky and did not end until it set again in the evening.

In July of 1849, Mary became increasingly worried about their middle daughter Ann who was my third great-grandmother.  Ann became secretive and was often absent from the farm without explanation and the reason for this became apparent as the year neared its close.  Young Ann was pregnant but she refused to name the father.  Mary couldn’t help but remember back to her own first pregnancy and her fears that Thomas would not marry her.  Apparently, whoever the father of Ann’s baby was, he was not the honorable man who her father had been.

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The Outcast

Richard Redgrave 1851 via Wikipedia

Thomas and Mary were devastated by this turn of events and Ann was sent to stay with her older sister Jane Phillips and her husband Thomas in East Cowton a few miles to the east.  On 31 March 1850, Ann gave birth and on 19 April she had him baptized in the parish church of East Cowton where the register stated: “William son of Ann Bulmer of East Cowton, single woman”.  On the second of May she registered the birth and still would not list a father’s name on the birth certificate.  Ann left the baby in the care of friends of her sister Jane named William and Mary Wiseman in the village of East Cowton and went in search of work.  By the following spring, Ann had found a job working as a servant in Hemsworth.  Her employer was John Donaldson, a seventy-six-year-old widower who lived on an annuity.

Meanwhile, Thomas and Mary had moved again to the Thornton Farm House in the small village of Thornton Watlass.  At the time of the 1851 census they were living there with the six of their children that remained at home.  Robert was shown on the census record as thirty-two years old although he was actually thirty-five, Elizabeth was twenty-two, James was eighteen, Martha was sixteen, Eleanor was fourteen and Margaret was just eleven.  Also living with them was their grandson William Bulmer aged twelve who was the middle child of their eldest son Thomas and his wife Margaret.

Shortly after the census taker had visited them, Robert married Hannah Simpson in St Mary’s Church in Thornton Watlass and the marriage was registered in the second quarter of 1851 in Bedale.  At the age of twenty-six, Hannah was the oldest of her brothers and sisters and like Robert, had remained single and stayed at home to help on the family farm long past the age when most of her friends had gotten married.

Not long after the wedding of Robert and Hannah, Robert’s sister Elizabeth cemented the ties between the Bulmer and Simpson families when she married Hannah’s brother Richard Simpson.  Their marriage was registered in the third quarter of 1851 in Bedale, Yorkshire, England.

Isolated as they were in the rural village of Thornton Watlass, the Bulmer family could not help but hear of the huge numbers of deaths, particularly of infants and young children that had been multiplying in recent years in the crowded cities throughout England and were glad to be living in the fresh countryside.  They could not imagine living in the conditions in the cities that the occasional visitor described and were horrified by tales of the ravages of cholera and scarlatina, even in the nearby town of Northallerton.

On Christmas day in 1854, at the age of twenty-seven, Ann Bulmer married Henry Creaser, the twenty-one year old son of John Creaser and Frances Loadman at St Paul’s church in Mannington.  Henry was a blacksmith and the couple lived in Dunnington near Henry’s parents.

After the harvest in 1855, James Bulmer married Ann Mood Alton, the oldest daughter of Thomas and Mary Alton who were innkeepers in Bedale.  After living briefly with his father, James and Ann moved to their own farm in Ilton cum Pott in Durham.

With only three of the Bulmer children left at home, Thomas and Mary were finding the house very quiet and it was with reluctance they saw their third youngest daughter Martha married in 1857 at the age of twenty-one.  Martha married Nathan Richmond, a thirty-three year old widower with an eleven year old son named William on 10 June 1857 in Saint Crux, York.

The following year, Eleanor married William Croft on 16 October 1858 at Dunnington near York, leaving only young Margaret at home with Thomas and Mary.  Eleanor was twenty and William was twenty-one.  William Croft was a relative of the next door neighbour of Eleanor’s sister Ann and she had met him while visiting her sister in Dunnington.

Now quite elderly, Thomas and Mary were enjoying their retirement in what for them seemed the large village of Kirkby Fleetham just northeast of Bedale.  They had heard of a controversial publication called the “Origin of the Species” by Darwin and had to laugh at the ridiculousness of the thought that man was descended from apes.  Even the youngest of children knew from the bible that we are all the children of Adam and Eve.  They marveled at the new daily weather forecasts and thought how much this would have helped them on the farm so long ago, even though the forecasts were seldom quite right.  They heard tell of the war that had started far across the ocean in America where the north was fighting against the south; primarily it seemed, to abolish slavery in the south.  Of course, they agreed that this was a fair and just cause for the north, there having been no slavery in England for many years now.

When the census taker came around the village of Kirkby Fleetham on 7 April 1861, he found Thomas and Mary living quietly.  Thomas was now seventy-nine years old and Mary was sixty-eight.

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St. Mary's, Kirkby Fleetham

Bruffy via Wikimedia Commons

In the spring of 1861, soon after the census was taken, Thomas and Mary received word from their son-in-law William Croft that their daughter Eleanor, having never recovered from the birth of their daughter Mary Elizabeth the year before, had died of anemia after a five-week struggle on 22 June 1861, leaving their new baby without a mother. Thomas and Mary wondered at God’s reasons for taking three of their fourteen children before their time and looked forward to seeing wee Ellen, Christiana and Eleanor again soon in heaven.

Now in his eighties, Thomas decided that it was time to set his affairs in order and on 15 January 1863 he wrote his last will and testament to make sure that Mary would be well looked after and that the property he had acquired would be fairly divided between his children and grandchildren after his death.  After some reflection, he decided to entrust his son Robert with the task of being the executor of the will.

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Will of Thomas Bulmer

His properties in Kirby Fleetham were left to his son James who would manage the properties from his farm in Ilton cum Pott in Durham where he and his wife Ann were raising their family.  The rents from the properties would be paid to Mary for her lifetime and upon her death, James would pay his sisters Jane, Mary Martha, Ann and Margaret their share of the Kirby Fleetham property.  The larger Streetlam properties he would leave to his son Robert who would also pay his siblings William, Jane, Martha, Elizabeth, Mary, Ann and Margaret for their share of the inheritance.

To his son John, who had run off some years ago, William left one hundred pounds, in case he was still living and came forward to claim his inheritance but he was not hopeful and put a ten-year limitation on the payment.  Of his many grandchildren, William was content that most would be well looked after by their parents but he decided to settle a small bequest on those who were currently growing up under difficult circumstances.  His late daughter Christiana’s children Mary Ann, Thomas and Richard Ainsley, his daughter Ann’s illegitimate son William and his late daughter Eleanor’s wee Mary Elizabeth were all given a small inheritance to be paid when they turned twenty-one.

After spending the last few years living with her brother William Henry and his wife Maria in Bradford, the last of the Bulmer children Margaret married her distant cousin William Henry Rudd who was the son of John Rudd in the spring of 1865 in Bradford.

The following winter was a long, cold, dark time for the elderly Bulmer couple and on 27 February 1866 Thomas slipped away at the age of eighty-three.  His death was registered on the same day in the Bedale registration district by his son-in-law Richard Simpson and he was buried on 3 March 1866 in Kirkby Fleetham.

Mary was devastated by the loss of Thomas, her husband of more than fifty-five years and went to live with her son William Henry and his wife Maria in Bradford as she struggled to manage her grief.  Since William and Maria had never had any children, Maria had time to spend looking after her elderly mother in law while William was at work in his butcher shop.  When the census taker came in early April of 1871, he found Mary still with William and Maria quietly living on her inheritance from Thomas.

In late 1875, the Bulmers received another sad and shocking letter.  Martha, who had only been forty years old and passed away suddenly near Christmas in Keighley with her husband Nathan in attendance.

By April of 1881, William Henry had sold his butcher shop and had retired to spend more time with Maria.  Mary felt in the way living with them and despite the fact that she was now eighty-seven, she moved back to her old home in Kirkby Fleetham where she could visit Thomas’ grave every day and quietly go about her last days.

After Christmas, Mary Bulmer died on 28 December 1882 in her birthplace of Catterick of old age.  Her death was registered on the thirtieth of the month by her son Robert and she was buried in the cemetery of St Anne’s Church on New Year’s day in 1883.

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