The Henry Harold Harrison Family

Henry Harold Harrison’s father

Henry Harrison (1860–1937)

Joseph Harrison
(c. 1835–1908)
Ellen Ball
Edward Harrison
(c. 1855–1894)
Elizabeth Harrison
Maria Ormandy Harrison
(c. 1863–1897)
Jemima Harrison
Ellen Harrison
Alice Harrison
Margaret Harrison
Alice Barton
Henry Harold Harrison
Elizabeth Donahue
(c. 1875–1961)
Margaret Harrison
Nellie Harrison
Joseph Harrison
Gladys Harrison
Annie Harrison
Thomas Harrison
Elizabeth Harrison
Edward Harrison

Photograph Photograph 2


Henry Harrison was born on 27 March 1860 in Blackrod, probably at a place called Blundles Fold. Henry was the son of Joseph Harrison, a labourer at a coal mine, and his wife Ellen Ball. Henry was their third child, having an older brother, Edward, and sister Elizabeth.

The Blackrod area had been a centre for the Harrison family members for some time. Henry’s father, Joseph, was from Adlington, a short distance north of Blackrod. Ellen was from Haigh, just west of Blackrod. Although Blundles Fold no longer exists, Blundell Lane is now a back road through country fields between Haigh and Blackrod. Local residents say that there were several coal pits near Blundell Lane in the 19th century and that the Lane was home to many of the miners.

The 1861 census recorded Henry Harrison living with his parents and two older siblings at Blundles Fold, Blackrod. Shortly thereafter, probably in 1862, the family moved to the Poolstock area of Wigan that would become the family’s neighbourhood for the next 75 years. From 1862 through the 1870s Joseph and Ellen had five more daughters (in addition to any children who may have died in infancy): Maria, Jemima, Ellen, Alice and Margaret. The family were most likely renters as they moved from house to house every few years but always in the Poolstock neighbourhood. For example, at the time of the 1871 census they lived at 6 Byrom Street in Poolstock, Wigan, by which time the family had grown to include seven children. In 1875 they were living at 31 Pool Street, according to the birth certificate of Margaret Harrison. At the time of the 1881 census they were living at 64 Pool Street.

This was a working class family. Joseph, who seemed to be a “jack-of-all-trades”, held various jobs as a labourer, blacksmith, coal miner and “timber sawyer.” Ellen, as was the custom at the time, was a stay-at-home mother looking after eight children. The children went to school in their younger years but generally went to work around the age of 13 or 14. Edward worked as an “engine tenter” and all of Henry’s sisters worked as cotton weavers in the Poolstock textile mills of which there were several. The 1881 census found Henry at age 21 still living with his parents and working as a “stoker,” presumably shovelling coal into a boiler at one of the local mills.

On 27 June 1885 Henry married Alice Barton, a local girl, at St. Thomas’ Church in Wigan. The couple lived in the Poolstock neighbourhood in a house at 20 Walmer Street. On 18 May 1886 Henry Harold Harrison was born, their first and only child. At the time Henry Sr. was working as an “engine minder” according to Harold’s birth certificate.

Sometime between 1886 and 1891 Henry became the proprietor of the Honeysuckle Inn, located at 75 Pool Street in Poolstock on the bank of the Douglas River. Henry certainly knew the inn as he had lived with his parents at 31 Pool Street in 1875 and 64 Pool Street in 1881.

Henry operated the Honeysuckle for about the next dozen years. What we know about that time is somewhat speculative. It is said that he would drink with his customers at breakfast, lunchtime and dinner, sleeping off the alcohol between meals. When he would become too ill from drinking the local doctor “would wean him off the booze with champagne” (I can’t find this cure on the Internet!). It is said that when he was drunk he could become abusive. It is said that he was a frequent gambler and would hold cock fights behind the Honeysuckle. Despite all of this I am sure he was a very nice man!

The 1891 census taken at the Honeysuckle Inn registers Henry, his wife Alice, and son Harold living there along with two of Alice’s sisters, Ellen and Annie Barton. Ellen and Annie may have been employed at the Honeysuckle or may simply have been visiting their sister when the census-taker arrived.

In 1897 Henry’s wife, Alice Barton, died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 33. On 9 January, 1900 Henry remarried at the age of 39. His second wife, Elizabeth Donahue, age 25, resided at 90 Pool Street, just up the road from the Honeysuckle. They were married at St. Thomas’ Church in Wigan.

The 1901 census records Henry and Elizabeth living at the Honeysuckle Inn with son Harold and John, Henry’s cousin, probably the son of Joseph’s brother William. In the same year Henry indentured his son Harold as an apprentice to Robert George Dawson, a local joiner and family friend.

Henry and Elizabeth had about eight children together although we have not been able to trace them all. Their first child, born in 1902, was Margaret Harrison, known to the Toronto branch of the family as “Aunt Maggie.” Nellie Harrison was born in 1904, and Joseph in 1906. Gladys Harrison was born in 1909 and died the same year. Annie was born in 1910. Elizabeth, perhaps the youngest, was born in 1918. We believe their other children were named Thomas and Edward.

Some time between 1902 and 1904 Henry ceased to operate the Honeysuckle Inn. His granddaughter believes he “gambled it away”. The family was still at the Honeysuckle when “Aunt Maggie” was born in 1902. When their next child, Nellie, was born in 1904 the family was living at 90 Pool Street and Henry was back working as a colliery engine winder. When his daughter Gladys was born in 1909 he was living at 30 Tipping Street, Poolstock, an address a block away from the Honeysuckle Inn. Henry’s death certificate records his occupation as a “Stoker (Cotton Mill)”. On Elizabeth Donahue’s death certificate Joseph Harrison recorded his father’s occupation as “General Labourer.”

We don’t know anything about the last 30 years of Henry’s life as he had little or no contact with his son Harold who emigrated to Canada in 1907. He died on 30 October 1937 of “senile decay” at the age of 77, at Billinge Hospital. He was living at 88 Poolstock, a house on the Leeds-Liverpool canal only a few hundred metres from the Honeysuckle Inn. The funeral service and burial were reported in an obituary by the local Wigan Examiner newspaper at the time. Henry is buried in a family plot with his two wives, Alice and Elizabeth, his brother Edward, and several other family members at the Ince.

Research Note

The above biography is based mainly on census records, civil registration certificates, oral history passed down through the family, and the report of Henry’s funeral in the Wigan Examiner, which was in the family’s possession. Another key piece of information that links family members is the common burial plot at the Wigan Cemetery and Crematorium where 13 family members are interred.

The most important research issue is the link between Henry Harrison and his parents, Joseph and Ellen. The key points that, taken together, establish the link between Joseph, Henry and Edward as a virtual certainty are as follows:

Although perhaps possible, it is unlikely in the extreme that two Joseph Harrisons resided in Poolstock in 1881 with sons Edward and Henry born in 1855 and 1860 respectively.

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