Monday, December 25, 2006

The Wigan/Platt Bridge Belshaws - Note 1

Photo: Church, Platt Bridge

We had a lovely Christmas today.

I suppose its natural at Christmas time to think about family past amd present. So I found myself thinking about the Belshaws in Wigan before grandfather and grandmother emmigrated to New Zealand, thought triggered in part by a comment posted by Doug Belshaw linking back to a story on his blog.

I don't think that Doug will mind if I repeat part of his material in this post.

The Belshaw Name

Belshaw is an unusual surname. Growing up, I knew no other Belshaws outside my immediate family, with only a few listed even in the Sydney telephone directory.

There are more around today, but it is still a rare name. We can see this from the table showing the relative occurrence of the name at the 1881 and 1998 UK censuses.

To my knowledge, Wigan in Lancashire remains the only place in the world where the name is reasonably common.

Belshaw is also very much a working class name.

To quote Doug: "Digging deeper on the Surname Profiler website, for example, shows that I've got one of the lowest-status surnames in the country! 95% of people have 'higher status' surnames than me, and the majority of Belshaws are of the MOSAIC type (a social classification indicator) 'Ex-Industrial legacy'"

The Indicator speaks of these families in this way:

Most people are in older working age groups, often with grown up children, who have been born and bred in the area. Relatively few co-habit, or are divorced, or head single parent families. By contrast these are areas which, on account of long histories of employment in dangerous occupations, have high proportions of people who are in poor health or who are permanently unable to work because of sickness. This poor level of health is reflected in low levels of life expectancy, particularly among males, and a high proportion of the population that are widowed.

Reference Sources

I have a family tree prepared by my father before his death. In trying to check this I found the following sources:

I have only visited Wigan once, and that many years ago, so in addition the above sources I looked at the Wikipedia articles on Wigan, Platt Bridge and Lancashire.

I am also drawing from Wikipedia articles on the British Labor Party.


Doug Belshaw said...

Quote away! :-)

Fascinating to read your part of the jigsaw, Jim. It's spurred me on to start questioning my family a bit more to gain an insight into my part of the family tree.

From what I know so far, my great-grandfather was the manager of a coal mine, and my grandfather was a baker. My Dad's a teacher and so am I. Perhaps there's something in the genes? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I would strongly encourage you to do so, start questioning your family that is. I regret that I did not do more of this before people died. Somehow there seemed to be all the time in the world, and then there was not.

I blog a fair bit on on historical, social and cultural change, trying to understand processes and patterns. It's interesting to put one's own family into this context.

When you get a chance, do a quick family tree with key dates and locations as you know them. Then stand back and look at this against history.

You were born I think around 1980. So, and depending on ages of marriage and births, your great great grandfather may have been born around 1890. The Belshaw industrial linkage, coal in this case, is still there, but now we have a manager, not a miner.

Because of the marriage patterns in my own family as well as the fact that I am a fair bit older than you, my grandfather was born in 1867, my great great probably at the the end of the 18th century while Jane Austen was writing, the French Revolution was not long past, and the Napoleonic wars present.

Yet despite the time differences there are the apparent similarities right down to the similarities today in some of the things we both blog about.

Take my own family progression all those years earlier.

At least great grandfather and grandfather coal miners. Then grandfather also has a shop, a greengrocers. Then he becomes a Primitive Methodist Home Missionary, similar to minister but he could not have the title ebcause he had left school so early and lacked the educational qualifications.

All three of his children initally become teachers, two went on to broader academic careers. Teaching was the standard break-out for working class families. Four of their six children were teachers/academics, one of the other two (me) retained a strong interest in teaching.

Historical events - wars, depressions - probably affected the two families differently.

Depending on his precise age, your great grandfather was probably affected by WW1 (he may have been of military age) and may have been managing the mine in the troubles of the twenties. Again depending on age, the depression must have had an impact on your grandfather. Here I noticed the generational transition from mine manager to baker.

So in all this, do keep collecting information!

Tikno said...

I was impressed with your attention to the family tree. I, a Chinese, gave the attention to the family tree too. In fact, follows the line of family tree until to China.
Greetings to your family.


Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you, Tikno. Aprreciated.

Robert Belshaw said...

Hi Jim - I'm 67 years old - my Great Grandfather Joseph Willaim Belshaw was born in Wigan 1851 - my Grandfather James Belshaw (one of ten sons and 1 daughter ! ) again born in Wigan 1882 - my father Robert Belshaw again born in Wigan 1917 - all Miners - any Link ? - would appreciate any help - thanks Robert(Bob) Belshaw

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Robert. Nice to hear from you. It would be equally nice to find that we have a family connection/relationship. That's possible from the names and dates.

I say nice because when Dad went back to Wigan in the 1930s he met some of the English family. We now have lost all contact.

My papers are all over the place. I will check over the next few days and see if I can find anything that might help.

Unknown said...

Hi, I live in New Zealand, my mother was a Belshaw her father was John Belshaw (my grandfather) he was a miner and married my grandmother Ivy Halliwell, I have no dates they lived in Scholes, Wigan I would love any information on my grandfathers family, please email me at with any information you may have
thank you, Linn Grenfell

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi Linn. My apologies for my slow response. I will email you. Jim