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Thursday, 8 June 2017

My Great Grandfather - A Joiner: Sepia Saturday

A hatted workman with a moustache, posed at a wooden crate, 
 features in this week's prompt photograph. 

It brought to mind the only photograph I have of my great grandfather James Danson, by trade, a  joiner, in Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire.  The image  manages to combine wood, hats and moustaches  to match the prompt.

My great grandfather  James Danson is the bearded figure,   sitting merry in the old wooden stocks at Poulton.  Surrounding  him are a number of onlookers,  sporting moustaches and hats. 


The  starting point for research into  my great grandfather James Danson (1852-1906) was the family bible which recorded his marriage in 1877 to 18 year old Maria Rawcliffe and the birth of his first four sons - entries petered out after that. The births of six more sons (two did not survive infancy) and one daughter were not recorded.

The 1881 Census Return   provided the information  that enabled  me to trace James'  birth certificate.  He was born on 7th August 1852 at Trap Farm, Carleton, Lancashire (below).  He was third son, tenth and youngest child of Henry Danson, yeoman farmer and Elizabeth Calvert. 

Trap Farm, Carleton c. 1998

The 1881 census showed the family living at Pott's Alley, off the Market Square at Poulton-le-Fylde. In the various literature on Poulton, Potts Alley earlier in the century comes in for some condemnation, described as “the town’s slum quarter….contained some of Poulton’s most squalid over crowded properties…..the subject of severe criticism in a public health report of 1852”.

Little knowledge has come down through the family on James Danson who died in 1906 before the birth of my mother and aunt. Anecdotal evidence does not reflect creditably on him - he was by all accounts of his grandchildren a bit of a ne-er do well - in contrast to the obvious respect for “Granny” - a view reinforced by this  photograp. 

Barrett's  1904 General and Commercial Directory  for the Fylde area of Lancashire listed James Danson, joiner of 2 Bull Street, Poulton - a row of terraced houses just off the Market Square, which around the 1960's was demolished to make way for a small shopping centre. 

James died at the age of 53 on 20th September 1906, A report in "The Fleetwood Chronicle and Fylde Advertiser" of 28th September noted: 
"The deceased gentleman who was 53 years old was a native of Poulton. His father was toll collector at Shard Bridge for 14 years.  Mr Danson had been ill for some time but had only recently taken to his bed.  The chief mourners were Mrs Danson (wife), Messrs Robert, John, Tom, Willie Danson (sons) and Mr John Danson (brother from Clitheroe), Miss Cookson (niece),  Mrs Riley, Mrs Roskell and Mrs Geo Riley (sisters-in-law), Mrs Porter, and Mr Threlfall.  There were a number of beautiful wreaths."
There was no reference in the funeral report to James' first born son Harry who died a year later at the age of 30, nor to the younger sons Albert, Frank and George, and  only daughter Jennie, but perhaps as children they did not attend or  did not warrant a mention.

James was buried in Moorland Road Cemetery, Poulton-le-Fylde, leaving his  widow, with a large family all still at home, including 3 children  under 14 years old.

Funeral Card for James Danson

A new headstone for James Danson and family was erected a few years ago by his surviving granddaughter, to replace  the original one which was badly worn away.  The white stone behind remembers James's second son John who died during the First World War. 
Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share 
their family history and memories through photographs

 Click HERE  to see how other bloggers have been inspired. 

Copyright © 2017 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. I'm surprised that anyone would invest in such an elaborate tombstone for a "ne'er do well" so he must have won respect from his family. Your collection of photos and documents for James is really impressive. Love seeing a smiling face!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Wendy. I feel I should add that the inscription on the new gravestone is identical to the original faded crumbling stone, with details on dates etc verified by an earlier record of MI and my own research. It is a tribute, not just to James, but to his wife, Maria, his eldest son who died aged 30 and youngest son killed on the Somme. My mother's cousin, who heard stories of the family from her own father, was keen to make this fitting memorial to her Danson ancestors.

  2. Sad for James' wife that he died so young, leaving her with a large family to care for.

  3. Ten sons and one daughter!! Poor Maria. What a great match for the prompt.

  4. Sounds like James should have been and deserved to be in the stocks officially! Poor Maria, indeed. I hope, at least, James loved his wife in his own best way? Unfortunately there's no way of knowing for sure, but we can hold a good thought. :)

  5. Great genealogical research...including a g-g grandfather with a sense of humor. I am always sorry to hear about widows who had young children still at home. Often the older children helped to raise them, from what I've heard, as well as other family members. Unfortunately most of that information is lost because it wasn't ever recorded anywhere except sometimes a census.

  6. Sorry, missed by giving him an extra g. Great Grandfather, not g-g!

  7. A nice match to the bowler and woodworking! I wonder what particular misdemeanour led to him being put in the stocks. I thought it was a fun picture at first, until I read your comment. He and the other chap don't seem to be too put out, and everyone else appears to be part of the joke. What a shame that it’s the only picture of him you have.

  8. The photo shows much more about James' character than any formal studio photograph. I think researching family history makes us more mindful of the many hardships and trials our ancestors endured.

  9. Nicely researched post! And such a wonderful, jovial photo of James. Sad to read his ancestral home was removed for development -- the same has happened to several of my ancestors' homes, and it's always disappointing not to be able to see where they lived.

  10. Thank you all for your responses to what is one of my favourite family photographs.


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