The Henry Harold Harrison Family

Henry Harold Harrison’s paternal uncle

Edward Harrison (1855–1894)
aka Edward Ball

Joseph Harrison
(c. 1835–1908)
Ellen Ball
Elizabeth Harrison
Henry Harrison
Maria Ormandy Harrison
(c. 1863–1897)
Jemima Harrison
Ellen Harrison
Alice Harrison
Margaret Harrison
Martha Mason
Jane Harrison
Ellen Harrison
Joseph Harrison
John Harrison
(c. 1883–?)
Elizabeth Harrison
Martha Harrison
Alice Harrison


Edward was born on 21 March 1855 to Ellen Ball (b. 1832), who was an unwed mother at the time. He was probably born at Heywood Farm in Haigh where Ellen was living with her grandparents. Ellen registered her child with her surname, Ball, as was customary for children born out of wedlock at the time. The child’s father was not identified in any baptismal or civil registration document. About seven months later, in October, Ellen Ball married Joseph Harrison (b. 1835), and for the rest of his life Edward went by the name of Edward Harrison.

It is probable, but by no means certain, that Joseph Harrison was Edward’s father. However we may speculate that at the time Edward was born Joseph’s apprenticeship indenture obligation may have prevented him from marrying Ellen.

Joseph and Ellen lived at several diffent addresses while Edward was growing up. They lived at Blundle’s Fold in Blackrod from the late 1850s until the early 1860s (see 1861 census when Edward was six years old). They then moved to Wigan, living initially at 22 Wood Street, then at 6 Byrom Street in Poolstock. Edward’s father worked in coal mines throughout this period and his mother would have stayed home raising the family.

Edward probably joined the workforce in 1868 around the age of 13 as an “Engine Tenter” (taking care of steam engines) and continued in this occupation for the rest of his life, although with different employers. The 1871 census recorded Edward at age 16, living with his parents on Byrom Street and working as an Engine Tenter, probably at one of the local textile mills or coal mines.

On 30 December 1876 Edward married Martha Mason (b. 1855), a local girl, at St. James Anglican church in Poolstock. Martha gave up her weaving job and stayed home to raise a family while Edward continued to earn a wage maintaining steam engines. They lived initially at 24 Peet Street in Poolstock where their first two children were born. Circa 1880 the family moved to 322 Warrington Road in Lower Ince. Warrington Road is a few kilometres from Poolstock and this family move may have been triggered by Edward finding a new job as a “colliery engine tender.” (Steam engines were used in collieries for operating drainage pumps, ventilation fans and lifts.) Martha’s father John, brother William, and sister Elizabeth, moved in with Edward and Martha as “boarders.” Martha’s father John plied his trade as a shoemaker from this home. The 1881 census records the extended Harrison-Mason family living on Warrington Road with babies Jane and Ellen. Son Joseph (named after Edward’s father), was likely born at this address in 1881. In 1882 Edward and Martha’s first child, Jane, died of meningitis at the age of 3 years.

Circa 1883 Edward, Martha, and family moved back to Poolstock, initially to a house at 22 Peet Street (next door to their former residence). Martha’s father and sister, John and Elizabeth Mason, moved with the family from Warrington Road to Poolstock. Martha and Edward’s son John was born at 22 Peet Street in May 1883. By 1885 they had moved to 32 Corporation Street, just around the corner from the Honeysuckle Inn. They were living at that address when Edward’s brother Henry became the proprietor of the Honeysuckle in the late 1880s. Daughters Elizabeth, Martha and Alice were born at the Corporation Street home. The 1891 census provides a snapshot of Edward and Martha living with their six surviving children, ages two to eleven, at 32 Corporation Street. Martha’s sister Elizabeth was living with them and employed as a cotton weaver. Her father had passed away a few years earlier.

Circa 1892 Edward got a job with the Wigan Municipal Water Works operating the pumping station at Boar’s Head. Edward may have been on call 24/7 because the job came with a house located at the Pumping Station. The family moved there. Around this time Martha Mason contracted breast cancer and eventually became an invalid. Her sister Elizabeth stopped working and became the family homemaker, looking after Martha as well as the rest of the family.

In July of 1894 Edward’s life took a tragic turn. One Sunday afternoon he walked from Boar’s Head into Wigan, about 4km away, where, among other things, he visited his brother Henry at the Honeysuckle Inn. While walking back to his home that evening he was followed by a stray dog. When he stopped to pat the animal the dog bit him. Edward’s wound was very slight and soon forgotten. Three months later, in October, he died suddenly of rabies (a disease also known as hydrophobia, or fear of water, because the rabies virus attacks the swallowing muscles) at the age of 39. An inquest was held into Edward’s death, which prompted fear of a rabies outbreak in the town. The events surrounding his death were reported in some detail in the “Wigan Observer,” and provide a rare glimpse into the life and death of a 19th century member of the Harrison clan.

The trauma of losing her husband may have hastened Martha’s own death; she died three weeks later of cancer at the age of 39. The untimely deaths of Edward and Martha left six orphaned children ages five to fourteen. There was an outpouring of sympathy in the community and donations of £50, probably equivalent to somewhat more than Edward’s annual wages, were received to help support the children. The Wigan Water Works gave Edward’s job, and the house that came with it, to his father, Joseph (whom, as luck would have it, was already employed by the Water Works in a job similar to Edward’s). Joseph, who was widowed by then, moved into the house at Boar’s Head his three spinster daughters, Ellen, Alice, and Margaret, and they cared for the children until they were old enough to fend for themselves.

Edward and Martha were the first two ancestors interred at Back to the top