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Friday, 2 November 2018

My Bearded Great Grandfather James Danson: 52 Ancestors - Wk. 45

"Beards" is the topic of this week's prompt from the year long series  "52 Ancestors".

As far I know, only one of my ancestors wore a beard  - my great grandfather James Danson (1852-1906) of Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire. 


Little knowledge has come down through the family on James Danson,  who died before the birth of my mother and aunt. Anecdotal evidence does not reflect creditably on him - he was by all accounts of his other grandchildren a bit of "a ne-er do wel"l - in contrast to the obvious respect for “Granny” - a view reinforced by the  only photograph I have of James,   sitting merry with a drink  in Poulton stocks.


The  starting point for research into  my great grandfather was the family bible which recorded his marriage in 1877 to 18 year old Maria Rawcliffe and the birth of their  first four sons - Harry, John, Robert and Albert (who died in infancy)  - entries petered out after that. Not recorded were the births of five  more sons William (ny grandfather), Tom, another  Albert, Frank and George, and last child in 1897 an only daughter (Jennie)

It was ironic that Maria,  one of eight sisters,  and James with six sisters (and two brothers) should go on to have nine sons before their only daughter Jennie in 1897.  

The 1881 census saw James,  a joiner,  was  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”.

The census also provided the  information that enabled me to trace  James birth  certificate.  He was born at Trap Farm, Carleton [near Poulton], third son and ninth child of Henry Danson, yeoman. and Elizabeth Calvert.  Henry later became toll collector at the nearby Shard Bridge over the River Wyre in the parish of Singleton. 

Trap Farm, Carleton, photographed  c. 1998.  
The farm is still there, but has since been renovated from  this dilapidated state.  

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. It must have been a crowded household for the large family. 

James died at the age of 53 on 20th September 1906.  An informative  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 seem 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 (under 14 years of age),   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, with only son John away from home and married.  


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 whilst in army training. 

James' wife,  Maria died in 1919, aged 60, having experienced the loss of four of her nine sons - in 1887 baby Albert,  eldest son Harry died  in 1906,  and John and George in the First World War. 

Above  is the uncropped version of the first photograph which was found in the  collection of my great aunt Jennie. Very fortunately she had written names on the reverse.  Poulton-le-Fylde  is a small town east of its more famous neighbour the seaside holiday resort  of Blackpool.  Poulton, though,  has the far longer history, noted for the old church of St. Chad's, referred to  in the Domesay book of 1086.  Poulton market square has a stone slab table for selling wares, and for those who fell foul of the law the old whipping post and stocks. All are still standing to be seen today. 
Adapted from a blog profile first posted  in February 2011.  


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks


  1. Great to have the funeral posting with all the relatives names. Glad to see you found more about your great-grandfather.

  2. Excellent reading. I never tire of reading their stories. Glad you found out more about him.

  3. I love a man with a great beard! Wonderful job digging out the details on your ancestor. :-)

  4. I like the photo. He seems far more human than most in the formally posed pictures I’m more used to seeing.

  5. I was very taken by the photo as well. James definitely appears as hail-fellow-well-met, beard and all!

  6. Thank you all for your comments. I was so pleased to be given the photograph of James by my mother’s cousin who i had not seen since I was a child. I telephoned out of the blue after many years of non contact and the result was a marvelous boost to my family history, There is a lesson there!

  7. Congrats on finding a beard in your family. I enjoyed the post. I particularly liked the way you tracked your research.


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