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Jack Priestley’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)



WILLIAM THOMAS RILEY was born in Skipton in Craven, Yorkshire, and christened there on 11 September 1842, near the start of Queen Victoria’s reign. He was the son of William Riley and Ann Harrison.
   His family moved to Burnley between 1845, when his younger sister was baptised in Skipton, and 1851. In the 1851 census, 8-year-old William is the fifth of six children living with his parents at 102 White Lion Street in Burnley. His father is an overlooker in a cotton mill and William’s two teenage brothers are also working at cotton spinning.

He and his family have not been found in the 1861 census.

William was already a widower when he married Sarah Hargreaves. His first wife was Elizabeth Crossland. She married William Thomas Riley in the second quarter of 1868 in the Burnley district.
Elizabeth appears in the 1861 census living in Habergham Eaves with her parents and six siblings. Her father was a coal miner. Her mother’s name was Martha A. Judging from the children’s birthplaces, the family had lived a peripatetic life, Elizabeth was born in Bellingham, Northumberland.
At the time of the 1861 census she was 13 years old and a Cotton Power Loom Weaver, as were her two elder sisters.
It was a brief and tragic marriage. William and Elizabeth had a daughter. Martha Ann, named after Elizabeth’s mother, who was baptised in Habergham Eaves, Burnley, on 24 March 1871.[1] Elizabeth died in the 1st quarter of 1871, presumably in childbirth, at the age of 22. She was buried in Burnley Cemetery on 16 March in grave 11816. The family were then living at Stoups Lane. [2]
William was left with his infant daughter. They moved to Berwick Street.

1871 Census. 144 Berwick Street, Habergham Eaves
William T Riley  Lodger      Widower     28        Cotton Weaver  Yorks, Skipton
Martha A Riley       Daugh                         1 month                              Lancs, Habergham Eaves

Martha Ann lived only a matter of months. She was buried in Burnley Cemetery on 6 Dec 1871 in grave 11082.


SARAH HARGREAVES was born in Todmorden, Yorkshire, on 28 May 1850. She was the daughter of James Hargreaves, weaver, and Sarah Buck. The family were then living at Gutroyd, Langfield, between Todmorden and Halifax.

Birth in the Sub-district of Todmorden in the Counties of York & Lancaster
Twenty Eighth May 1850 Gutroyd Langfield
James Hargreaves
Sarah Hargreaves, formerly Buck
the mark of Sarah X Hargreaves, Mother, Gutroyd, Langfield
Sixth July 1850
J? M Cockcroft, Deputy Registrar

At the time of her marriage Sarah was 23, living in Barrack Road and working as a winder.


William and Sarah were married by banns at Holy Trinity Church, Habergham Eaves, Burnley, on 4 April 1874. Sarah’s father is recorded as ‘James Hargreaves, Deceased’.

William was 31 at the time of his marriage, and a weaver.

Their children were born in Burnley.

At the 1881 census William is aged 38 and a cotton weaver. Sarah is 30 and a cotton winder. The couple are living with their first three children, Tom, Emma and Annie, at 26 Roebuck Street, Habergham Eaves.

1881 Census  26 Roebuck Street, Habergham Eaves, Burnley, Lancashire
William Riley  Head    M        38        Cotton Weaver             Skipton
Sarah Riley       Wife    M         30        Cotton Winder             Todmorden
Tom Riley            Son                     5        Scholar                          Burnley
Emma Riley        Dau                     3                                               Burnley
Annie Riley     Dau                      1                                               Burnley

There were eight children in all:

Tom, born in Burnley in 1875. Baptised in Habergham Eaves on 5 Mar 1882 on the same day as his younger sister Ada.
Emma, born in Burnley c. 1877-8.
Annie, born 12 September 1879.
Ada, christened 5 Mar 1882 at Habergham Eaves, between Burnley and Padiham.[3]
Ethel, born 1883-4
Edward, born 1886-7.
Harry, born  1888-9. Edith Tootle said that Annie Riley had an illegitimate son called Harry, who was brought up as Annie’s brother and died at the end of the first world war. However, when this Harry Riley was born Annie would only have been 10.
Sarah Ann, born 1891, who died aged 17.

The family were still at the same address in 1891. Sarah’s birthplace is given as Gutter Hole.

1891 census.  26 Roebuck Street, Habergham Eaves, Burnlely
William T Riley      Head M       48       Cotton weaver          Skipton, Yorks
Sarah Riley              Wife    M      40                                          Gutter Hole, Yorks
William Tom                Son      S        15      Cotton weaver          Burnley, Lancs
Emma                         Daur    S        13      Cotton weaver          Burnley, Lancs
Annie                        daur     S        11      Cotton weaver          Burnley, Lancs
Ada                             daur     S          9       Scholar                     Burnley, Lancs
Edward                      son       S          5       Scholar                      Burnley, Lancs
Harry                         son       S          2                                          Burnley, Lancs
Sarah                        daur      S          2 mths                                Burnley, Lancs

Ethel had probably died.


William left the cotton mill for a while. In the 1901 census, he is working as a grocer’s assistant. It may have been an accident or illness which prevented him from continuing work with the weaving machines. All the older children are working as cotton weavers.
The family had moved to St John’s Road.

1901 Census.  22A St John’s Road, Lowerhouse, Burnley.
Wm Thos Riley                      Head      M      58   Grocer’s assistant   Skipton, Yorks
Sarah Riley                             Wife       M      50                                     Todmorden, Yorks
Annie Riley                             daur       S       21   Cotton weaver         Burnley, Lancs
Ada Riley                                daur       S       19   Cotton weaver         Burnley, Lancs
Edward Harrison Riley         son         S       15   Cotton weaver         Burnley, Lancs
Harry Riley                            son          S       12   Cotton weaver         Burnley, Lancs
                                                                                                             Half timer
Sarah Ann Riley                   daur        S        10                                     Burnley, Lancs
Mary Ethel Riley                  daur        S        6                                       Burnley, Lancs

Zion Methodist chapel was on Roebuck Street, where the family were living in 1881. It later moved to become Jubilee Methodist Church, where in 1904 William and Sarah’s daughter Annie married Robert Tootle, whose father was a founding trustee of Jubilee. It is possible that the two families knew each other through this chapel congregation. The church history notes:

Missionaries and Gospel Bands held prayer meetings in cottages and witnessed in the expanding area. A group, called the Ranters, met for worship in a cottage in Thompson Street (Gannow Top area) in 1864. By about 1869 the Zion Primitive Methodist Chapel was opened on Roebuck Street. In 1899 Zion officials and the Superintendent of the Circuit decided that new premises were needed to serve the growing area and so Jubilee

Methodist Church was built. Its first stone was laid during the Jubilee celebrations of Bethel Methodist Church in  902. Jubilee opened on Saturday 10 October 1903.

Sarah and William Riley

In 1904 William was again recorded on his daughter Annie’s wedding certificate as a cotton weaver. The family were still living at 22a St John’s Road, Burnley.

By the time of 1911 census he had retired and was still living at St John’s Road, with Sarah, three of their children and a son-in-law..

William Thomas Riley    Head           68   Marr    Retd Weaver                               Skipton
Sarah Riley                          Wife            60   Marr    Retd Winder                                Todmorden
Harry Riley                             Son             22   Single   Weaver         Cotton    Worker    Burnley
Mary Ethel Riley                   Daughter    16   Single   Weaver         Cotton    Worker    Burnley
Fred Yates                             Relative      30   Marri   Weaver         Cotton    Worker    Burnley
Ada Yates                              Daughter     29   Marr    Weaver         Cotton    Worker    Burnley

The census shows that Sarah had been in her present marriage for 36 years and had 9 children from it born alive, of which 7 were still living. It says that none of those registered suffered from an infirmity.

William died on 24 May 1913 at the age of 70. He did not live to see the effect of the First World War on his family.

Sarah probably lived another three years. The most likely registration of her death is in the first quarter of 1916.[4] She was buried in  Burnley Cemetery on 1 March 1916, aged 65, Grave A4863. She had been living at 7 Hartley Street.

All three of William and Sarah’s sons joined the wartime army. East Lancashire Regiment on-line records show volunteers before 1916. They include:

Riley, Sgt. Thomas, 15666; wounded. 1st July 1916. [20,21C]. He would have been 40 at this time.
Riley, Pte. E., 18067 or 18068 [21E,45] Riley, Pte Ed. [21A]
The youngest, Harry, died in the last year of the war, at the age of 29.
Private H RILEY
2nd Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers
who died on Tuesday, 28th May 1918
Remembered with honour

On 28 March 1910 Ada married Fred Yates. She was a 28-year-old cotton weaver; he was a 29-year-old coalminer. Their son Harry Yates was born in1913. They lived in the family home at 22a St John’s Road, Burnley.

On the outbreak of the First World War, Fred Yates joined the Coldstream Guards. He was wounded, and Harry remembers being taken to see him when he was convalescing in hospital in Worksop. He saw his father only once more.

Fred Yates is said to have run off with one of the nurses. Ada and young Harry were left in poverty, because Ada could not prove whether her husband was dead or alive. Her sisters would sometimes cook extra food to take round to her. When Harry was in his teens and an apprentice painter and decorator, he came home one day to find a strange man sitting in a chair. He was told, ‘It’s your Dad’. Harry had no wish to know him, and walked out.

Harry married Nellie Harker, a primary school teacher. Before their marriage, she was in a shop in Padiham when a man came in and asked about Harry. She was told, ‘That was Fred Yates.’ Harry later learned that he had a sister and three brothers.[5]


[1] IGI
[2] Burials in Burnley Cemetery from Lancashire Online Parish Clerks
[3] IGI
[4] Free BMD
[5] Harry Yates.





Riley Tree