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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)


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WILLIAM REDFERN. We know from the censuses that William was born c.1801. He gave his place of birth as Alstonefield or Quarnford in Staffordshire. Alstonefield is about 10 miles from Quarnford, but the latter lay then within its civil parish. Quarnford later became a civil parish in its own right, with its population centred on the village of Flash. It stands in the upland Peak District of the Pennines, close to the Three Shires Corner of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire. Flash is the highest village in Britain.

It was an early centre of Wesleyan Methodism, with its chapel built in 1784. The Redferns had a record of religious non-conformity going back centuries.

In the 1700s John Redfern and his wife Sarah were notable Methodists in Flash. They may be William’s grandparents.


HARRIET KIRKHAM was baptised on 4 August 1812 at Meerbrook, about 4 miles S of Flash. She was the second daughter of the unmarried Martha Kirkham. She gave her birthplace as Leek Frith. This is a township in North Staffordhire with the village of Meerbrook at its centre. Her name is spelt Harriot in the register, as was her eldest daughter’s later.

We believe that two years after Harriet was born her mother married Abraham Tunnicliffe of Alstonefield. One child was born to them in Leek, but it seems likely that the Tunnicliffes then moved to Alstonefield. This is probably where Harriet grew up. This would be where she met William Redfern.


William and Harriet married in St Peter’s, Alstonefield, 22 December 1827. Both were “of this parish” and signed with their marks X. Harriet must have been 15.

The chapelry of Quarnford was within the Alstonefield parish. It is probable that couples were required to be married at St Peter’s, though baptisms and burials could take place at St Paul’s, Quarnford.

The witnesses were Thomas Pickford and Samuel Brindley.


They appear to have had at least eleven children baptised at St Paul’s, Quarnford, between 1828 and 1853.

John, September 1828
Harriot, 12 February 1832
William, 30 March 1834
Ann, 28 June 1836. Ann was buried on 19 Nov 1841, aged 5.
Martha, 5 August 1838
Thomas, 21 February 1841. Nancy, 30 April 1843
Joseph, 20 July 1845
James, 23 April 1848
Charles, 9 June 1850
Ruth, 10 April 1853

In most of these baptisms their place of residence is given as Back of Cross and William’s occupation is a labourer. At Ann’s baptism in 1836 they are said to be living at Greens. In 1800-1810 this was a farm of 37 acres occupied by Elias Redfern. It lies just off the foot of the long hill called Back oth Cross leading west out of Flash. It is possible that William and Harriet had a smaller farm there. The apparent change of address may not mean that they had moved house.


At the time of the 1841 census, William was away from home. Harriet, aged 30, is listed as a farmer.

1841 Census. Back oth Cross. Alstonfield, Leek, Staffordshire.

The village of Alstonefield is a good 10 miles from Quarnford, but the latter lay within its civil parish

Harriett Redfern   30      Farmer           Y
John Redfern          12                               Y
Harriett Redfern        10                               Y
William Redfern          8                                Y
Ann Redfern               5                                 Y
Martha Redfern         2                                 Y
Thomas Redfern        0                                 Y
Martha Milward      30      Silk spinner      Y
Isaac Milward            5                                 Y

Agricultural labour was the principal occupation in Quarnford, but there was also a silk industry and two collieries.

The Redferns’ small farm in this bleak upland country was evidently unable to support their family. William had to seek employment elsewhere. He seems to have lived away from home for a good deal of his married life. This did not prevent him from siring 11 children with Harriet.

In 1841 he was 10 miles away in Cheshire, at Higher Bawl Greave in Higher Prestbury, north of Macclesfield. He is an agricultural labourer, aged 40, not born in Cheshire. He was working for the farmer Edward Jodrell, and living with seven younger Jodrells and another agricultural labourer aged 15.

Their daughter Ann died that year.

Quarnford was a township of ‘665 souls and about 2000 acres’ in White’s 1851 Gazeteer.

In the 1851 census, William was again absent from home. This time he was a lodger with the Wheeldon family, also agricultural labourers, at Underhill, Wildboarclough. This village is across the Cheshire border, but only 2 miles from Quarnford.

Harriet, 39, is a housewife, living at Back o’th’ Cross, Quarnford, with nine of her children. Back o’th’ Cross was an area which included three dwellings at this time.

1851 Census. Back o’ th’ Cross, Quarnford
Harriett Redfern   Hd   Wf       39         Employed in family     Staffs   Alstonefield
John        do             S       U         22        Ag. Lab.                        do         do
Harriett   do             D       U         19        Employed in house      do         do
William    do             S       U         17        Ag. Lab.                          do         do
Martha    do            D                   12        Employed in house        do         do
Thomas   do            S                   10        Scholar                            do         do
Nancy      do           D                     7          do                                    do         do
Joseph     do           S                     5          do                                    do         do
James      do           S                     3        At home                           do         do
Charles    do           S                     1          do                                    do         do


Their eldest son John went to live in Wildboarclough, where William had been working in 1851. He married Ruth Chappell there in 1852. In the marriage register the occupation of John and both fathers is given as labourer.

Thomas was buried on 22 Dec 1860, aged 19. He was still living at Back of Cross.

In the 1861 Census William is again living away from home. The family are at Greens, where they were when Ann was born in 1836. This is a farm at the foot of the hill on Back oth Cross.

1861 Census. Quarnford. Greens.
Harriet Redfern  Wife       Mar   49      Farm 4 Acres     Staffs, Leek Frith
Martha Redfern       daur       Un     22      Farm Servant    Staffs, Quarnford
Ruth Redfern           daur        Un     8                                    Staffs, Quarnford
Rubeon Redfern      Grandson         2                                    Staffs, Quarnford
Rupert Redfern       Grandson         2                                    Staffs, Quarnford

We have not yet discovered who were the twins’ parents. It is possible that Martha was their unmarried mother.

This time William is living at Taxal in Derbyshire, 8 miles north of Quarnford. With him is his son Joseph.

1861 Census. 1 Slate Pitts Cottage.
William Redfern    Head    Mar   55      Carter at Barytes Works         Staffs Alstonefield
Joseph Redfern           Son      Un     15        Labourer at Barytes Works   Staffs   Longnor

There are two discrepancies. William’s age should be about 59. His age has been crossed through, and there is a possibility that the true reading was 58. Joseph’s birthplace is given as Longnor, 4 miles from Quarnford, though he was baptised at Quarnford parish church.

Taxal is on the edge of Whaley Bridge, where the Jodrells were major landowners. In 1841 William was working for Edward Jodrell in Higher Prestbury.

A move from agriculture to industry might explain William’s later description as a Railway Driver. This area was scattered with collieries and other mining enterprises. Baryte was crushed and used in a variety of manufactured products. William could have begun by driving horse-drawn wagons and then moved to industrial railway work.

By 1871 William and a younger son James have gained employment on the railway. This time, William is finally living at Back-othe-Cross with Harriet. Only their son James is now living with them.

1871 Census. Back-othe-Cross, Quarnford.

William Redfern    Head Mar   69   Labourer Railway Engine Driver   Staffs, Quarnford
Harriet Redfern     Wife  Mar   59   House Wife                                         Staffs, Quarnford
James Redfern            Son   Unm  22   Labourer Railway Stoker                Staffs, Quarnford

With both William and James the occupation was originally given as Labourer. Their work on the railway has been added later in darker ink. This suggests that they may have alternated between driving locomotives and other less skilled work. This would fit with it being a railway link from a mining enterprise, rather than a mainline service.

The 12-year-old twins Rubeon and Rupert were working on different farms, one as a farm servant, the other as a general servant.


William died 6th September 1877 at 76.

A year later James died on 12 Sept 1878.

In 1881, Harriet, a 69-year-old widow, is living at home with her umarried daughter Ruth, aged 27, who was a seamstress. They were at Cross Side, Quarnford, which is listed immediately after Greens, still in the area known as Back oth Cross. Harriot was farming just two acres of land.

Their son Charles married Elizabeth, who was born in Macclesfield c.1856-9. In 1881 they were living at 17 Blagg Street, Hurdsfield in Cheshire, and Charles was a railway porter.

Elsewhere, the twins Rupert and Ruben were now railway labourers (the word navvy has been added), boarding together in Hemsworth, Yorkshire.

Harriot died on 3 May 1890 at Quarnford, Staffordshire. She was 77.

The family gravestone at Quarnford says:

In memory of Ann daughter of William and Harriet Redfern, Back-o’-th’-Cross, Quarnford,
who died November 16th, 1841, aged 5 years.

Also Thomas their son who died December 17th 1860 aged 20 years.
Also James their son who died September the 12th 1878, aged 25 years.
Also of William Redfern who died Sep. 6th 1877 aged 76 years.
Also of Harriet his beloved wife died May 3rd 1890 in her 79 year.’


In the 1891 census the twins Reuben and Rupert are among many boarders at a house in Beswick, Lancashire. This may explain a discrepancy in the information. They are listed as 32-year-old carters, but their birthplace is given as Buxton, Derbyshire. They are both single.

Also amongst the boarders is Charles Redfern, 38, married and a labourer. This is close enough to be William and Harriet’s youngest son, born 1850. There are also two small boys named Reuben and Rupert, aged 4 and 2, born in Manchester. The relationship between the boarders is not given. They could be Charles’s children, though their names precede his.



[1] https://quarnfordparishcouncil.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/cropped-quarnford.jpg






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