#52ancestors (Wk19): Bald – Crabtree Simpson

It’s all about the name. As soon as I stumbled upon the identity of my 3x great grandfather Crabtree Simpson (1831-1903) of Bradford, West Yorkshire (England), one image immediately locked itself in my head, and has never left. If a film had ever been made of my family’s ancestry, my Dad’s, Dad’s, Dad’s, Dad’s, Dad would have to have been played by Ronald Magill, the actor who played Amos Brearly in the Yorkshire based ITV soap opera, Emmerdale Farm.

Crabtree is a name that evokes such rich imagery. It is of its time – very much Victorian in influence, and the quirky character of Amos, with his long bushy sideburns, and of course his bald head totally fitted the bill. In my mind, if for no one else, that is what Crabtree looked like. ‘Bald’ is the theme for Week 19’s #52Ancestors post.

It immediately felt like the name had an association with him, plus good solid, traditional Yorkshire links in the character. Crabtree was also the surname of a Wrestling dynasty with real Yorkshire heritage too, heralding from Halifax. While Shirley Crabtree was the most famous of three brothers in the wrestling ring under the name ‘Big Daddy’ another brother, Brian Crabtree, made a name for himself as a referee and MC, and over time, I found it difficult not to associate his image with that of my 3x great grandfather too. Brian’s bald image looks out from the cover of the ITV World of Sport Wrestling Calendar 1982. He is wearing a dicky bow and glittery jacket, standing among the celebrity wrestlers of the day!

Amos Brearly and Mr Wilks fall out over sausages in Emmerdale Farm!

These might not be the most solid or rational of grounds of establishing what my ancestor looked like, but as soon as I knew his name, I could ‘see’ our Crabtree – and I knew he would have to be bald too!

Crabtree’s story provides a crucial generational link within my family tree. He was the first Simpson born in my tree after the family moved down from the Yorkshire Moors to the urban metropolis of Bradford. His father John was from Langbar on the Moors, just North West of Ilkley. Crabtree was also the first Simpson born in my tree to have made the switch from originally working in the textile mills to the heavy industry of the ironworks.

Crabtree Simpson was born on 5 April, 1831 in Heaton, a northern district of Bradford, much of which in the 1830s would still have been agricultural in nature – more on that area’s history can be found here. He was baptised in Bradford Cathedral on 22 June, 1831. By the 1841 Census, at the age of just 10 years old, he already had a jobber worsted role at a mill.

Another evocative name was to unite with Crabtree when he married Rachel Gaukrodger (1830-1909) on 10 February, 1850, also at what is now Bradford Cathedral. Rachel and her family are from Halifax.

By the 1851 Census, Crabtree, Rachel and her widowed father Henry Gaukrodger (50), a power loom weaver had set up the family home in the south of the city of Bradford, at an address in Low Hill in the Bowling area. Both Crabtree (21) and Rachel (20) worked in the textile mills – him as a warp dresser and her as a worsted weaver.

The couple had a total of four children: William (born 1853); Maria (born 1859); my 2x great grandfather Isaac (born 1860) and John (born 1867). When looking at records, there was confusion at what looked like additional children towards the end of the century, but looking at birth certificates, it confirms they were taking on additional parenting responsibilities for their grandchildren.

By the 1861 Census, they have moved to an address in Mount Street, Bowling. Crabtree has switched trades, and is now working as an iron puddler at the famous ironworks in that area of the city. Rachel’s widowed father Henry (65) is still living with them. Crabtree and his wife have children William (7), Maria (2) and my 2x great grandfather, Isaac (just a few months old) at the address.

Crabtree’s eldest son William (17) had followed him into the iron trade by the 1871 Census as a forgeman. They were all living at an address in Aeolus Street, just off Bowling Back Lane. Crabtree (40) is still a puddler at the iron works, plus wife Rachel (41) and children Maria (12), Isaac (10) and John (3).

The family have moved again by the time of the 1881 Census, now living at 227 Bowling Back Lane. Crabtree (50) is listed as a forgeman/blacksmith, together with wife Rachel (50), and children Maria (22) a worsted drawer, and John Simpson (13) a worsted spinner. William and Isaac had flown the nest.

Life had become a lot more complicated by the time of the 1891 Census, which required a little unpicking from what was on the paper. The family had again moved, this time to Jewel Street. Crabtree (60) is listed as an iron worker, and is head of the household with his wife Rachel (60). Just when they might have been expected to be settling down to a quiet life, their widowed son, my 2x great grandfather Isaac (30), also an iron worker, had moved back into their home. He brought with him his son Spencer (12) a spinner; his daughter Ann (10) who was at school; his daughter Sarah Elizabeth (8) also at school; his son (my great grandfather) John Willie (7); and Crabtree’s daughter-in-law Everalda (22) a worsted drawer. Her husband was likely Crabtree’s son John, who was away as a soldier.

A final move comes for the 1901 Census when more complication comes – and threads which provide their own material for stories in future weeks. Crabtree (70) and Rachel (70) are living at Long Street, Bowling, Bradford, and have finally retired. Their son John (34) has returned to the scene, and is a private soldier home on furlough – but his wife Everalda is not living at home. Sarah Elizabeth (17) is listed as their daughter, but is actually their grand-daughter – she is Issac’s daughter. She is living there, but her father Isaac is not. Also listed on the entry are a grandson Sam (10 months old) who is Sarah Elizabeth’s son so is actually their great grandson; plus a grand-daughter Emily (8) who is actually Isaac’s daughter by his second wife. I have not been able to confirm where Isaac disappeared to, or where he spent the final decades of his life, and why he left two daughters (and one grandson) with his parents. Did he marry a third time? Maybe Isaac had died? Suffice to say, Crabtree and his wife seem to have taken on a second flush of parenting responsibilities in their twilight years. It must have been exhausting!

You can read further speculation concerning the 1891 and 1901 Census entries, including how Crabtree’s son John’s wife Everalda appears to be living in a Women’s Home and Shelter by 1901 in this previous post from Week 8.

There are stories in future weeks dedicated to Isaac (Week 33); Rachel (Week 41) – and those younger Simpsons in the 1891 Census: great grandaunt Sarah Elizabeth (born 1882); 1x cousin 2x removed Samuel (born 1900) and great grandaunt Emily (born 1894) in Week 49, so there is plenty more to follow.

Crabtree died in late 1903 in Bradford. His wife lived until 1909.

Thank you for bearing with me and for your interest in my #52ancestors posts. If you have any information that sheds any further light on anything I have shared, or if you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch. In the words of that Emmerdale character Amos Brearly to his sidekick, “Nay, nay Mr. Wilks. Thrice nay!”


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