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Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Sepia Saturday: Horses to Horse Power

Each week, Sepia Saturday, provides an opportunity for genealogy bloggers to share their family history through photographs.  

This week's prompt made me immediately turn to my family connections with the Oldham family who were carters and coalmen down three generations - Joseph Prince Oldham (1855-1921), his son John William Oldham (1880-1939) and his granddaughter Elsie Smith, nee Oldham (1906-1989),

I have featured some of their individual photographs before on Sepia Saturday, but here is the opportunity to tell their family story.

The business was founded around 1890, steadily became prosperous and in 1905 moved to near North Station, Blackpool, Lancashire in a house with a large yard, hay loft, tack room. and stabling for around 7 horses.

 A photograph in the family collection.
May Day and the dressing of the horses with brasses was a colourful event 
remembered by the family. 

In the 1901 census Joseph Prince Oldham (below), son of William Oldham and Sarah Prince,  was described as a self-employed carter and coal merchant,  with his 20 year old son John  driver of a coal lorry.  Also in the  household were Joseph's  wife Mary Alice, 3 young daughters, Sarah Alice, Edith and Beatrice, and also mother-in-law Mary Ann Knowles.
Joseph Prince Oldham, with, on the left, his granddaughter Elsie 
who later took over the business. 

 An accident at the coal sidings in the railway station resulted in Joseph being blinded and he died in 1921, with his will, signed with his "mark".

 Son John William Oldham on one of the carriages in the family business.

Shortly before his death Joseph had purchased the first vehicle (below) which was used alongside the horses and carts until the 1930's when two new vehicles were bought.
The first Oldham road vehicle bought in 1921.

In 1921 son John William (below)  took over the business where his workers included his brother-in-law George Butler,   and Arthur Edward Stuart Smith who went on to marry John's daughter Elsie.  

Lorry c. 1936

This vehicle  was requisitioned during the Second World War by Government
for use by  the Fire Service. It was never returned.

John William Oldham married Mary Jane Bailey (my grandfather's cousin)   in 1905 at St. John's Church, Blackpool.  The photograph below shows them standing, with seated John's sister Sarah who went onto marry George Butler (front left) who also worked in the family business.   Look at those hats!!

 The couple  faced tragedy with  when their youngest daughter Hilda  died aged 6 in 1915.  

Family photograph c.1909 with baby Hilda and older daughter Elsie. 

On the death in 1939 of John William Oldham his daughter Elsie (below) took the helm with her husband Arthur Stuart Smith and saw the business through the difficult wartime years, combining it with her own hairdressing concern as "Elise"  run from the family home. 
Elsie Oldham(1906-1989)

The Oldham home in Blackpool, Lancashire, next to the stables, 
with the adverts for Elsie's hairdressing business in the window & on the garden pole, promoting  "Bobbing, Shingling and Marcel Waves". 
The coal merchant business was eventually sold around 1948 to another local firm, thus ending over 50 years of the family concern.   

Elsie's daughter Gloria atop one of the last horses.

With thanks to Elsie's son, Stuart (my third cousin) 
 for these photographs and family history.

 Click HERE to find out how other bloggers have viewed this week's  prompt.


  1. Great post! You were right - your family background really connects with this week's Sepia challenge. How fortunate you had access to all those good pictures!

  2. Wonderful photos Sue. Coincidentally I've been corresponding this week with someone whose family was in the cartage business in Derbyshire, and later taxis, etc.

  3. Oh how I would love to have photos from my ancestors' work. Yours are priceless. They really tell a story. I'm glad the SS prompt inspired you to share the family photos and history.

  4. Interesting post about the family business. I love the lettering on the 1936 lorry.

  5. These are great shots, Sue -- wonderful family history!

  6. A great story. I love the way Elsie glamorized her name a bit for her hair dressing business. You wonder what happened to all the equipment drafted into service during war. You have so much interesting information here.

  7. Your family story wins full marks for matching the theme this weekend. I have had a little experience with coal heated houses in the north of England and seen coke delivery men. Laundry day was a big job for their wives.

  8. A great family history and photographs to match. Those coalmen could obviously scrub up quite well when they needed to!

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  10. I love the way you took the business through the years and have photographs to illustrate it.

  11. Wonderful piece of family history Sue and the photos are so interesting.

  12. Thank you to everyone for taking time to comment. It was a post that was very satisfying to write the Oldham story in this way.


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