My Great Great Grandparents.
As I’ve noted before, it is difficult to piece together the everyday lives of people from 150 years ago, using a disjointed set of records that covers just sporadic moments in their lives. And so it is with my Great Great Grandparents – Rickinson Pickhills and Elizabeth Appleyard – though what we do have provides an interesting, insightful, and poignant story. The question that I asked myself as I collated the records and miscellany of their lives is – did Elizabeth realise just what was ahead for her when she married Rickinson?
Rickinson was born around November 8, 1811 at Bradford, in Yorkshire, and Christened on the 8th of November in St Peter’s Cathedral in Bradford, inheriting his mother’s maiden name as a Chritian name – something I am eternally thankful for, as it makes name searches easy!. His parents, Joseph Pickhills & Clara (Clarissa) Rickinson – his mother was previously married to a John Brown, with no issue – and his granmother (Margaret Moorsom) and grandfather (Roger Rickinson) were from well-established, and highly respected families from the Robin Hood’s Bay/Whitby/Fylingdales area of Yorkshire. He had one brother (Seth (1808-1859)), and one sister (Priscilla (1804-1873)). Apart from Rickinson, they were not prolific reproducers, with Seth having only one son, Alfred (who was to become a Johnsonian Baptist Minister – see his story here https://timalderman.com/2012/01/30/the-reverend-alfred-pickles/ – in Rochdale, Lancashire and Towcester in Northumberland), and Priscilla never marrying, but becoming companion and housekeeper to her nephew for many years until he married. Rickinson’s age also varies in some census: in the 1841 he is noted as 27: In the 1851 as 39; 1861 is difficult to read but could be 50.
Elizabeth Appleyard is a harder story to follow, and research is ongoing. We have what we think is her baptism record, on 22 May, 1825 at Farnley-by-Leeds in Yorkshire, with William Appleyard and Sarah named as her parents. However, gauging from census records, we are deducing that she was born around 1822, and baptised much later – a common practise back then. We know she was underage when she married Rickinson. We certainly know her father’s name was William, from her marriage certificate, but on no actual documents is her mother named. At the moment, we are thinking it may possibly be Sarah Lamby, as the dates and places fit. The census records tell us that she was born in Bradford (1851census), though in the 1861 she gives it as Clayton. There appears to be no census records for her under the name Elizabeth Pickhills in the 1871/81/91 census, though we know she used that name up until her death. The 1901 census lists her birth town also as Clayton. As to age, it is noted as 19 in the 1841 census; on the 1851 as 28; 1861 as 37. We know that in the 1841 census (taken on 7 June) the following instruction was given “The census takers were instructed to give the exact ages of children but to round the ages of those older than 15 down to a lower multiple of 5. For example, a 59-year-old person would be listed as 55. Not all census enumerators followed these instructions. Some recorded the exact age; some even rounded the age up to the nearest multiple of 5”, though seeing as Rickinson is stated as 27, it would seem that rounding down wasn’t done on this form.
Rickinson and Elizabeth married on the 29 January, 1840 at St James Church, Halifax.
There are a couple of things of note on the marriage certificate – Rickinson is at full-age, but Elizabeth is a minor; his rank or profession is listed as a “Gentleman” from Halifax, and she is listed as being from Northowram; Joseph Pickhills (Rickinson’s father) is also listed as a “Gentleman”, while William Appleyard is listed as being a “Worsted Stuff Manufacturer”. This was considered a good profession (it is possible that William conducted his business from Old Dolphin), and really seems to indicate a marriage between two reasonably well-off families, though otherwise would seem to be the case. There are three very interesting events that indicate that all may not have been as it seems!
In 1839, their first son, George Rickinson Swan, was born (he emigrated to Australia in the 1858, and died in Bourke, New South wales, on August 13, 1912 from Senile Decay (Dementia or Alzheimer’s), and was buried in Bourke the following day. Unfortunately, all the grave markers in Bourke cemetery were destroyed in a severe bushfire, so their actual burial plots are unknown.. He lived an amazingly interesting life there, and his story is yet to be written). He married Ellen Fanning on February 18, 1862 at Port Eliot in South Australia. He was a steamer captain on the Darling River, resided in Goolwa, South Austealia, and Bourke New South Wales. They had no children.
By the time they married in January 1840, Elizabeth was 2 months pregnant with their second son, William Moorsom (given his second name from his great grandmother, Margaret Moorsom, he joined the Royal Navy at 14, and dird from Cholera in Bengal, India in 1866. His story is here https://timalderman.com/2016/06/26/henry-moorsom-pickhills/). Whether this caused any scandal or not, we will never know. The third interesting event for 1840 was that Rickinson declared insolvency on September 11, 1840. For what reasons, we do not know. It would appear that financial difficulties started early on in their married life.
By the time of the 1841 census, they are listed as living in the district of Fold, and George and Henry are listed with them. Rickinson appears to be given the profession of “agricultural labourer”. Also, note that in this census, the family name is spelt as “Pickles“.
We can see from all the following records that the family moved around – a lot! One assumes it was for work purposes, though it is possible that Rickinson was just an unreliable employee.
Catherine was born on January 13, 1842 in Halifax (she married Jurgen Nickolas Andreas Knoop (1840-1900) on February 16, 1864 in West Derby, Lancashire. They had one daughter, Clara Priscilla Marie (1869-1871). Catherine’s death date is unknown at this time).
Jane was born on January 1, 1844 in Northowram. She died on August 6, 1844 in Northowram from “Disease of the Liver”. Present at her death in Northowram village is John Appleyard. It is still to be ascertained if this is Elizabeth’s brother, or an uncle.
Edward was born on November 1, 1845 in Halifax. He died on April 30, 1846 in Halifax of “Pneumonia, 7 days certified”. Rickinson is listed as an “Attorney’s Clerk”, and was in attendance at the death.
On the evening of November 5, 1846 a James Greenwood broke into the “lonely house in the neighbourhood of Halifax”, belonging to Rickinson & Eluzabeth, in the absence of the family, and stole 2 pistols, 3 dresses, and other property. He was charged, pleaded guilty, and sentenced to 18 months hard labour.
Charles Edward was born in 1847, in Halifax. He died on February 15, 1869 on the Murray River, Victoria, Australia. He was visiting his brothers George Rickinson Swan, and Frederick William, when he fell overboard from the steamer “Moira”, at The Devil’s Elbow on the Murray River, and drowned. He was buried at Lake Victoria, Victoria. I am still attempting to ascertain his actual burial place.
In 1848, Rickinson again declared insolvency in Halifax. The reasons why we will,possibly never know.
Frederick William was born in 1849, in Bradford. He died on April 15, 1850 in Bradford from “Diarrhea 6 Days certified”. Rickinson was in attendance at Bridge St, Bradford, and is an Attorney’s Clerk.
This brings us to the 1851 census, held on March 30, and has been updated to include more information than the 1841. In 1851, they lived at 12 Duckworth Lane, Manningham, Bradford. Rickinson is a Solicitor’s Managing Clerk, having previously been an Articled Clerk (this is noted on the census form). Along with Elizabeth, George (11), Henry Moorsom (10), Catherine (9), and Charles Edward (4) are listed.
Priscilla (named after her aunt) was born on January 4, 1852 at Thornton. She was married twice, to William Wallace Pratt on September 20, 1869 at Liverpool, in Lancashire. They had no children. It is assumed William died around 1872/73, and she them married William Frederick Stafford (1840-) on February 20, 1873 at Kirkdale in Lancashire. They went on to have 8 children, born in Cheshire, Ireland and Scotland. We do not currently have a death date for her, though we assume in Scotland. It is interesting to note that they named their first child – a girl – Clara Priscilla Marie (a family tilt to her Great grandmother, and great grand aunt), which was the same name her sister Catherine had given to her daughter, who only lived for 18-odd months. I wonder if her sister was still alive, and the daughter was named as a tribute to her lost daughter, or as a tribute because her sister had died?
Frederick William (MY GREAT GRANDFATHER) was born on February 28, 1855 in Everton. He was Christened 30 August 1862 at St Nicholas parish, Liverpool, Lancashire. He emigrated to Australia, and arrived in Sydney in 1880. He married Ellen McConnell (1854-1935) in Sydney on February 23, 1866 before moving to Bourke, New South Wales. He was a steamer captain, and they had 3 children – George Rickinson, Elizabeth Barwon (middle name from the Barwon River, which ran near Bourke) and my GRANDFATHER Frederick George (1891-1945) – all born in Boyrke. He died on September 13, 1891 at Newtown (Royal Prince Henry Hospital) from chronic Brights Disease (kidney nephritis) and Ascites (accumulation of liquid in the abdominal cavity), and spent 10 days in hospital. He was buried in Rookwood cemetery (Anglican section) on September 16, 1891. It should be noted that the two brothers wives – Ellen Fanning, and Ellen McConnell brought some Irish blood into the family.
Clara was born on April 4, 1857 in Liscard, Cheshire. She emigrated to Australia with her mother in 1871, and ended up in Goolwa, in South Australia, where her brother George resided, as also was her mother, Elizabeth – more on this further on. They returned to Launceston, had one daughter, Hilda Dulcie Elizabeth (1891-1941), and she died in Launceston on July 7, 1921. The newspapers give her age as 56, though she was, in fact, 64.
Walter was born on May 16, 1859 in Everton, Lancashire. He died on November 6, 1862 in Liverpool, Lancashire from Diptheria. He is buried in Toxteth Park cemetery – possibly with his father.
The 1861 census was held on April 7. They lived in Parkfield Road, Toxteth Park, West Derby, Lancashire. Also present were Elizabeth (37), Catherine (19), Charles (14), Priscilla (9), Frederick William (6), Clara (4), and Walter (1). Rickinson is a Solicitor’s General Clerk; Catherine is a Cigar Maker; Charles, Priscilla, Frederick William are Scholars.
Mary was born on August 16, 1861 in West Derby, Lancashire. She died on February 17, 1863 in Liverpool, Lancashire, from “Dentition Gum Disease Certified”. Henry Moorsom was present at her death. He could possibly have been on shore leave.
Rickinson died on May 12, 1862 at Toxteth Park, Lancashire. His obituary read “On the 12th instant, of disease of the heart at his office, 30 Castle St, aged 41 years, Mr Rickinson Pickhills“. According to his death certificate, his son Charles Edward was present at his death. He was buried at Toxteth Park Cemetery.
There is a possibility that Elizabeth arrived in Australia in 1871, on the “Orient”. There is a record of a KG Pickhills and daughter arriving in Sydney on the 4th January that year. So, time for a “possible scenario”! The newspapers would have printed the passenger list from a hand-written document, so mistakes are inevitable. We know Elizabeth came out here around this time, and with Clara, who would have been 14 at this time, her only surviving child at home, it is more than likely – and with 2 son’s here already – that they emigrated together. There is no independent emigration record for Clara. They would have made their way to Goolwa, where George had a home. We have records – to follow – that definitely place Elizabeth there in 1876. We know that Clara married William Francis Bomford there in 1889 – thus it is possible she met him there, and moved to Launceston after their marriage. The marriage announcement also states that the wedding was held “in the residence of the bride”, so Clara was obviously in Goolwa at that time. At this stage, I am accepting the emigration record on the “Orient” as their arrival here. PS Have just discovered a “Thank You” letter to the Captain of the “Orient”, regarding their appreciation to the ship’s doctor for his kindness and care on what appears to be a rough voyage, and published in December 1870. Two of the signatrees are Clara & Elizabeth Pickhills. My assumption was right.
The second actual record we have of her here is in 1876 – and it’s in the form of a police warrant in Goolwa, South Australia. On June 21, 1876, the following notice appeared in the South Australian Police Gazette “A warrant has been issued at Yankalilla for the apprehension of Elizabeth Pickhills, a widow, and mother of Captain Pickills, of the Goolwa, for larceny of 2lbs. of butter from Messrs. Smith & Swan, sheep farmers, Bullapabaringa. Offender is said to be living at Mr. Luffin’s, Goolwa.” . Why she would feel the need to steal 2lb of butter is anybodies guess, and despite knowing that she is to end up with Alzheimer’s, I feel it is a bit early at this stage for that to be affecting her life or mental condition.
The following then appears in the Police Gazette to say that the original charge had been withdrawn.
We then hear nothing of Elizabeth for quite a few years. I dare say that as time went on, her mental condition would have begun to deteriorate at an ever alarming speed Then, on April 28, 1889 at Goolwa, the following incident occured: A writ appears with the Goolwa police dated 2nd May, 1889 against Elizabeth Pickhills . She appeared before a Justice of the Peace, Thomas Goode, charged with that on the 28th April 1889 she did “unlawfully use abusive words in a certain public place, to wit The Parade in North Goolwa, with intent to invoke a breach of the peace”. She had to pay a fine of £2. This incident received a mention in “A Land Abounding – A History of the Port Elliot and Goolwa Region, South Australia” by Rob Linn, chapter 5. Being a Yorkshire lass, I dare say the language would have been very colourful!
November 1892 finds Elizabeth onboard the “Masilia” emigrating back to England. As with so many aspects of her life, assumptions have to be drawn about the reasons behind her actions. I feel there are two scenario’s that could have prompted her return to England: (A) She just didn’t like it here, being a bit more casual, and not as “modern” as England, with a totally different climate, the tyranny of distance, the remoteness, or (B) her dementia was becoming a problem for her son’s, and they were finding her just too difficult to handle. With Clara in Tasmania, Frederick William and George Rickinson Swan living in Bourke, Goolwa must have become a very lonely place. Anyway, whatever the reason, it was back to England she went, but not to Yorkshire nor Lancashire.
The Masilia arrived in London on November 22, 1892. We hear no more of her until the 1901 census, held on March 31 that year. Elizabeth is living in St Pancras, in a house with 4 other people, and “living on her own means”. Her age is 74. Then in 1902, she appears in the St Pancras Workhouse records “St Pancras Workhouse at 64 Belmont Street, Admitted 9-4-02, discharged 25-2-03”. This would indicate that she had fallen on hard times.
There is no more about her until her death in Tooting Bec Mental Asylum in 1906. It is a bit frightening to contemplate what the path to the asylum could have been. Elizabeth died in the asylum on February 20, 1906. Her official place of death was Wandsworth Common. She died from “Senile Decay”, which can mean dementia, or a progressive, abnormally accelerated deterioration of mental faculties and emotional stability in old age, occurring especially in Alzheimer’s disease. There appears to be no record of her burial.
Ever since I started gathering information on Elizabeth, many years ago, I have had this feeling of great sadness regarding her life. I get the feeling that life with Rickinson may have been one of erratic employment, not to mention his two instances of insolvency, and being dragged from village to town throughout Yorkshire and Lancashire. She was literally an incubator for children…many of whom had very short lives. Of the 12 children she had over a 22-year period, 5 died in infancy. Two daughters married and moved away, 2 son’s and a daughter moved to Australia and married here, one son died when visiting here, and one son died overseas in the naval service. That is a very sad litany, and after Rickinson’s death, life in Lancashire must have felt vety lonely indeed. Even the move to Australia, to be closer to her sons, didn’t work out well, with several public arrests, and life in Goolwa must have ended up feeling as lonely as England. A return to England, and the humbling by life in a workhouse, and the increasingly detrimental affects of Alzheimers, leading to a sad, lonely death in a mental asylum! It just breaks your heart! Yet despite this, her children here went on to live very productive lives, and she would have been proud of them.
Below is a letter concerning senile decay in London.
8 thoughts on “Rickinson & Elizabeth Pickhills: The Original Yorkshire/Lancashire Grey Nomads?”
Hi Tim, I am a descendent of Priscilla Pickhills and William Stafford. Their son, Jurgen Charles Nicholas Stafford was my great grandfather – named after Jurgen Charles Andreas Knoop. Priscilla named most of her kids after her siblings. In fact, two of her daughters moved to Australia and settled in Tasmania with their Aunt Clara.
Priscilla’s sister Clara moved to Australia and married William Francis Bomford in Elizabeth’s home on 13 Nov 1889 in Goolwa, South Australia. Clara later died 7, Jun 1921 in Launceston, Lanarkshire, Tazmania.
Great work you’ve done with the family history.
Hi Andrew. Thanks for contacting me regarding this family research. I am actually a Pickhills (Robert John), and as far as I know, the last to bear that name. I did know about Clara…but not about Priscilla’s daughters moving here to Tasmania. It us possible I have relatives there (indeed, we are related, though through marriage). By any chance would you know Catherine’s (Priscilla’s sister) date and place of death? I am not sure if she died, or her and Jurgen divorced before he remarried. I suspect Jurgen married Elizabeth Lewis…would you know if that is correct? Jurgen Nicolaus Andreas I have no information about, so any gaps you can fill in from your line back to him would be greatly appreciated. There is a family tree on Ancestry – the Pickhills family tree – and it’s huge…over 9,000 names to-date. Also any info on the sisters that moved to Tasmania to be with Clara
Where are you situated, by the way? I also have no details of Priscilla & William’s deaths. The problem for me here in Australia is that there are so many people with the same names that it is difficult to pinpoint the relevant one. Some of the family also ended up in America. I’ll give you my email address, as easier than posting here…email@example.com. I changed my name by deed poll in 1985 after some severe fallings out with family…most of who are now dead.
My error…brains not as fast as it used to be…we are actually cousins…about 4 times removed, I think
Thanks Tim. I’m in the U.S. William Stafford and Priscilla Pickhills son Jurgen Charles Nicholas Stafford who went by Charlie (born in Ayr, Scotland) emigrated to the U.S. arriving at Ellis Island in 1909. He moved to Ohio (to work in the shipyards) along with his wife Mary Carse Smith (born in Leith, UK) – parents from Glasgow. Charlie was my Great Grandfather. I’m 6th generation from Rickinson Pickhills… there are 5 of us that are 6th Generation and there are 2 that are 5th generation blood relatives of Rickinson in the U.S. that we know of.
William and Priscilla’s kids went different directions. One son went to New York City, the daughters either moved to Australia or visited Clara. Priscilla’s daughter Clara P.M. Stafford was staying with Catherine Pickhills in 1881 (along with Jurgen CN Knoop) as it shows on the 1881 census record. I have no record of their travels to Australia, etc. and haven’t researched it at all.
I’ll get more details on the family that traveled to Australia.
Priscilla Stafford (Pickhills) Death 16 Jun 1916 • Glasgow, Scotland
6 Kelvinhaugh Street @ 6:30 AM Vascular Disease of Heart Pleurisy
I have no record of William Stafford’s death
My email/info is available via my profile photo… Thanks, Andrew
Thanks for the bits of information. It has filled in a few gaps. The 1881 census record has Jurgen being born in Germany. Someone else who was researching him had him as being from Denmark, so that was interesting. I have a mountain of information on all the Pickhills family…except for when the two girls married. I haven’t had a lot of luck tracing info on their death dates, or on their husbands. They seemed to marry people who had very common names, including Priscilla’s first husband, William Wallace Pratt. I assume he died. Now, did you know that Catherine & Jurgen also had a daughter called Clara Priscilla Marie? Born 1869 in Liverpool, and died 1871 in Liverpool? I don’t know if Catherine died, or if she & Jurgen divorced, but Jurgen appears to have remarried to an Elizabeth Lewis in 1889 in Toxteth, Liverpool. He had one son that I know of – Jurgen Nicolaus Andreas, born 1890 in Liverpool. The name lives on.
Could you fill in the full names of Priscilla & Williams kids for me, please. I have Clara Priscilla Marie, and Jurgen Charles Nicholas, and James Harry, but others are just initials.
Their aunt Clara in Tasmania married into quite a well-to-do family. She only had one daughter – Hilda Dulcie Elizabeth, 1 July 1891 in Beaconsfield. Her daughter also married – Edwin Alfred Elms – on 11 April 1939 in Launceston, but no children, and she died on October 1 1941 in Launceston at a youngish age.
You mentioned Priscilla naming her kids after siblings…the tradition carried on, with aberrations, down to my father. Frederick William (Priscilla & Catherine’s brother) had three kids – George Rickinson (1988-1912), Elizabeth Barwon (1890-1912), whose middle name came from the Barwon River, a tributary of the Darling River, which ran through their home town of Bourke, and Frederick George (1891-1945), who is my grandfather. He married Ethel Osmond, and they had 4 children – Dulcie, Eileen, Dorothy, and my father Frederick Lindsay. He in turn married Betty Barron (the Cornwall branch of the family) and they had two kids, myself and Kevin. Kevin’s tragic death in 1965 has been covered on the blog.
As you may know, George Rickinson Swan and Frederick William both arrived here in the 1860s, and were both steamer captains on the Darling, Murrumbidgee & Murray Rivers (the Murray was where Charles Edward drowned, after falling overboard from a steamer, while out here visiting his brothers). George Rickinson Swan had an amazing colourful life here, and I have a massive amount of information about him, which I will eventually write up. He was an original pioneer on the Darling River. He is the reason Clara & Elizabeth ended up in Goolwa, South Australia, when they arrived here.
It’s getting late here, so will say goodnight. I am having a longish break from the tree currently, so have cancelled my Subscription with Ancestry, so dan’t currently access a lot of info from there, apart from what is on my tree.
There is only 1 Catherine Knoop death registered in Liverpool between the 1881 census, and Jurgen’s 2nd marriage date in 1890 – it’s in the June quarter of 1889…in West Derby. It has her age as 43. Considering she stated her age as 34 in the 1881 census…it pretty well fits.
1871 census says Jurgen was born in Denmark. Now I’m confused.