Biography

Ellen Ball was born circa 1832 in Haigh, an area about 5 km NE of Wigan. We believe she was born out of wedlock to Elizabeth Ball, the age 17 daughter of Henry Ball and Betty Ormishaw (see research note on Ellen Ball’s parents). She was baptized at All Saints Anglican Church in Wigan on 5 June 1832. It was the custom at the time for children born to single mothers to take the surname of the mother. There is no way to trace who Ellen Ball’s father might have been.

Ellen grew up on her grandfather’s farm, Heywood’s. She was unschooled and in later life signed with her “mark.” She probably helped out in the house and farm from an early age. It was a bustling place with many family members living in two neighbouring houses. In 1837, Ellen’s mother had a second child out of wedlock, Peter Ball (see The Strange Case of Peter and Hannah Ball). In 1844 when Ellen was age 12, Elizabeth gave birth to her brother Henry while still unmarried. In 1846, Ellen’s mother married John Jones, a farm labourer, and moved out of Heywood’s to a neighbouring house called Arrowsmith. Elizabeth, Peter, and Henry stayed with their grandparents.

For some unknown reason, Ellen Ball was not enumerated in the 1841 census. The 1851 census provides our earliest glimpse of Ellen and her family. The census records Ellen Ball, age 18, living with her grandparents, Henry and Betty at Heywood’s Farm in Haigh with her two siblings or half-siblings, and Hannah. Ellen was working as a “house servant.” Whether for her grandparents or another family, it is unknown. Her mother Elizabeth was living next door at Arrowsmith with husband John and their three young children. Also living at Arrowsmith was Elizabeth’s brother, Daniel Ball and his family. A young man named Joseph Harrison, age 16, was living with and apprenticed to Daniel Ball, a shoemaker. Ellen would end up marrying her uncle’s apprentice.

On 25 March 1855, Ellen gave birth out of wedlock to her first son, Edward, and registered her baby with her surname. We have no direct record of who Edward’s father was. Seven months later, on 14 October 1855, Ellen married Joseph Harrison at St. George’s church in Wigan. Thereafter, Edward Ball was consistently known as Edward Harrison, and Joseph is our only and best candidate for Edward’s father.

By the time Elizabeth, their second child, was born in 1858, Joseph and Ellen were living at Blundles Fold in Blackrod, perhaps 1 km east of Heywood’s. Their third son Henry—named after Henry Ball no doubt—was also born at Blundles Fold in 1860.

At the time of the 1861 census, Joseph, Ellen, and their three children were enumerated at Blundles Fold. Ellen’s grandparents, Henry and Betty Ball, were also living at Blundles Fold in the house next door with their widowed son James and three grandchildren.

Circa 1862, the Harrison family moved to the Poolstock area of Wigan that would become the family’s neighbourhood for the next thirty years. Their grandparents then in their 80s, Henry and Betty, remained in Blackrod as did Ellen’s mother, Elizabeth, and her family. From 1862 through the 1870s, Joseph and Ellen had five more daughters. Joseph worked at one or more local coal mines, and Ellen looked after the children. The family were most likely renters, as they moved from house to house every few years, always around the Poolstock neighbourhood.

The eight Harrison children generally stayed home and perhaps had some schooling until age 13, when they started work. Edward worked as an engine tenter and Henry as a stoker. All six girls worked as cotton weavers, almost certainly at one of the large Poolstock textile mills. The children continued to live with Joseph and Ellen until they were married. Although sons Edward and Henry married and moved out while in their 20s, all five daughters remained single and continued to live with their parents until after Ellen’s death. As a result, from the mid-1870s onward,the family was supported by up to six income earners for a period of some twenty years.

The British census taken in 1871, 1881, and 1891 provide snapshots of Joseph and Ellen’s life in Poolstock as their family was growing up. In 1871, they were living at 6 Byrom Street with all of their children, except Margaret who wasn’t born until 1875. In 188,1 they were living at 64 Pool Street across the road from the Honeysuckle Inn, with all their children except Edward who had married a few years before. In 1891, they were living at 54 Poolstock Lane on the Leeds-Liverpool canal, with all of their daughters who ranged from age 16 to 32. Both of their sons were living nearby with their families. By this time, Ellen had seven grandchildren by her son, Edward, and one grandson—Henry Harold Harrison—by her son Henry. Circa 1892, Joseph got a job at the Wigan Waterworks pumping station in Standish and the whole family moved to 8 Swinley Street in the northern part of Wigan.

It was at 8 Swinley Street that Ellen Ball died of emphysema at age 62 in December 1893. Henry Harold was only seven years old when his grandmother died and probably had few memories of her as an adult. Ellen is buried with her husband and two daughters in the churchyard at St. Wilfrid’s church in Standish.


Details and Facts

Residence

30 Mar 1851
Heywood Farm, Arley Lane, Haigh

Per 1851 Census. Ellen was living with her grandparents, Henry & Betty Ball.

Occupation House Servant

30 Mar 1851

Per 1851 Census.

Residence

14 Oct 1855
Scholes

Per Marriage Certificate.

Residence

17 May 1858
Blundles Fold, Blackrod, Lancashire

Per Elizabeth Harrison’s Birth Registration.

Residence

7 Apr 1861
Blundles Fold, Blackrod, Lancashire

Per 1861 Census.

Residence

11 Aug 1865
22 Wood Street (off Chapel Lane), Wigan, Lancashire

Per Jemima Harrison’s Birth Registration.

Residence

2 Sep 1867
6 Byrom Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per Ellen Harrison’s birth registration.

Residence Family home

2 Sep 1867
6 Byrom Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per 1871 Census and Ellen’s Birth Certificate.

Residence

5 Aug 1870
6 Byrom Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per Alice Harrison’s Birth Registration.

Residence

2 Apr 1871
6 Byrom Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per 1871 Census.

Residence

31 Jan 1875
31 Pool Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per Margaret Harrison’s Birth Registration.

Residence

3 Apr 1881
64 Pool Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per 1881 Census.

Residence

5 Apr 1891
54 Poolstock Lane, Worsley Mesnes, Wigan

Per 1891 Census.

Burial

30 Jul 1893
Standish St. Wilfrid's Church Yard

Residence

16 Dec 1893
8 Swinley St, Wigan

Per Death Certificate.


Source Documents