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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)



EDWARD HARRISON. Calculating from the age at which he died, there are two possible baptisms for Edward Harrison, father of Ann Riley, née Harrison. Both were at Holy Trinity, Skipton. The Skipton baptismal registers for this time are a marvellously rich source of information. [1]

1787  Edward Harrison son of Matthias Harrison of Skipton Butcher son of Edward Harrison late of Do Weaver and Elizabeth d of John Wood of Skipton Labr born Apr 19 bapt Aug 12.

 1788 Edward Harrison 2nd son of Thomas Harrison of Stirton Grazier son of John Harrison late of Manchester Tallow Chandler and Mary d of Anthony Pettyt of Croookrice Farmer born June 21st bapt Aug 29th

The names of our Edward’s children fit best with the family of Thomas Harrison, especially his naming a son Thomas, a very popular name in this branch. It should be noted, however, that the custom of a man naming a son after his father was nowhere near as strongly marked in Yorkshire as it was in, say, Devon. Also, Matthias Harrison had only one son, making comparison difficult. Gillian Waters, who has done extensive research on this family, reaches the same conclusion. She believes that one of these Edwards became a butcher, and is almost certainly Matthias’s son. There is no record of butchers on our own side of the Harrison family.[2]

 We believe Edward to be born in 1788 when his father was a grazier of Stirton. A grazier was a farmer specialising in livestock. Stirton is a rural township in the NW of the parish of Skipton.

Harrisons had farmed land at Stirton and the neighbouring township of Thorlby since the early 1600s. Edward’s father Thomas had been born in Manchester where his grandfather had moved to work as a tallow chandler. Thomas had moved back to the family farm in Thorlby as a young man.

The family address moves between Thorlby and Stirton during Edward’s childhood. The will of Edward’s great-grandfather shows him to have leased more than one farm.

Edward was the seventh of his father’s twelve children from two marriages. Only one of them seems to have died in infancy. His father was evidently a prosperous yeoman farmer, but in such a large family there was little likelihood of Edward taking over a farm.

Edward became a cotton spinner.


The first section of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, between Bingley and Skipton, opened in 1773, shortly before Edward was born. The entire waterway was completed in 1816. It opened up Skipton to the trade of the Industrial Revolution. The canal was busy all through the nineteenth century and carried stone, coal, wool, cotton, limestone, grain, and other goods.

In particular, it served the new cotton mills of Skipton.

In the early 19th century, the only cotton mill in Skipton was High Mill, built in 1785. It stood at the entrance to Skipton Woods. It was a cotton spinning mill powered by water. In 1825 an annexe was added with steam power. High Mill was built by Peter Garforth, John Blackburn and James B. Sidgwick. By all accounts Mr Sidgwick was very much in favour of corporal punishment being applied in his premises whenever necessary.

Edward may have worked in one of the smaller workshops in town, but High Mill was more probably where started his working life.

 Victorian cotton spinners [3]

 Edward was 18 when his mother died, and 20 when he lost his father. His father’s estate was sold. The majority of the proceeds went to Edward’s oldest half-brother Thomas. The residue went into a trust fund to be divided among the remaining 11 siblings when they reached the age of 21. With so many siblings, Edward’s share would have been necessarily small. Thomas Harrison’s estate was valued at £356.

Edward’s father had risen from a tallow chandler’s son in Manchester to a gentleman farmer of some standing. But as a younger son, Edward would have grown up knowing that he had to make his own way.


ELIZABETH BARKER. At first sight there are two possible baptisms for Elizabeth.

1785  Elizth Barker Dr of John Barker of Skipton Blacksmith Son of Thos: Barker of Do Blacksmith and Mary Dr of Abraham Dewhurst late of Morton Banks near Bingley. Born Jan 25  bapt March 20

1787 Elizabeth Barker Dr of Thomas Barker of Skipton Blacksmith Son of Thos: Barker of Do Blacksmith and Ann Dr of Warwick Sagar of Askrig Parish Clerk. Born Oct 27  bapt Nov 25.

Women normally married in their home parish, but the marriage to Edward Harrison is the only one for Elizabeth Barker in Skipton at a suitable date. There is, however, a burial on 7 Apr 1813 for a 28-year-old Elizabeth Barker. No relationship is given, but this fits exactly with Elizabeth, daughter of John Barker, born in 1785. We thus conclude that George’s bride was Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Barker, blacksmith, and Ann Sagar.

The two Elizabeths were cousins.

Elizabeth came from a large family of blacksmiths. Her grandfather and her uncles were smiths.

She was the eldest of eight children, only one of whom died in infancy.


Edward Harrison Cotton Spinner married Elizabeth Barker in Skipton in Craven on 6 April 1812, during the Napoleonic Wars.

Edward signs his name in a neat hand. Elizabeth makes her mark.

Edward was 24. If we are right about Elizabeth, then she was 27.

There were five children from this marriage.

Ann 1813 born 10 April bapt  4 July.
Joseph 1815 born 10 Feb bapt April 16
Thomas 1817 born Mar 19 bapt June 1
Mary 1822 born July 26 bapt  Aug 25
John 1825 born April 22 bapt June 12

In all these entries, Edward is listed as a cotton spinner.

John Harrison aged 2½ was buried on Dec 25 1827.


Ann Harrison married William Riley and moved to Burnley.

Her sister Mary was living with them and working in a cotton mill in the 1841 census.

Thomas became a tailor. [4]


Neither Edward nor Elizabeth has been found in the 1841 census.

There is a burial at Holy Trinity, Skipton, for Elizabeth Harrison aged 44, on July 2 1832

Nearly four years later Edward Harrison of Skipton was buried aged 48 on April 12 1836.

The following year their eldest son Joseph died at 21. He was buried on Jan 18 1837.

Mary, daughter of Edward Harrison, married the steam loom weaver Jesse Brayshaw at Holy Trinity, Skipton, on 18 July 1843. Although he had died, Edward’s occupation is still given as cotton spinner.[5]



[1] BMDs from Findmypast.
[2] Gillian Waters. http://www.bgwaters.co.uk/harrison3.htm
[3] https://www.englishfinecottons.co.uk/content/uploads/2016/05/Textile-Workers-1900-465×299.jpg
[4] Gillian Waters. http://www.bgwaters.co.uk/harrison3.htm
[5] Gillian Waters.





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