Edward was born on 21 March 1855 to Ellen Ball, 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 baptism or civil registration document. About seven months later in October, Ellen Ball married Joseph Harrison, 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, at the time Edward was born, Joseph’s apprenticeship indenture obligation may have prevented him from marrying Ellen.

Joseph and Ellen lived at several different 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 age 6). 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 age 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 still working as an engine tenter, probably at one of the local textile mills or coal mines.

On 30 December 1876, Edward married Martha Mason, 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 age 3.

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 2 to 11, 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 4 km 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 age 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 age 39. The untimely deaths of Edward and Martha left six orphaned children ages 5 to 14. 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, widowed by then, moved into the house at Boar’s Head with 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 Wigan Cemetery.

Source Documents


  • Burial: Wigan Cemetery & Crematorium;
  • Residence: 6 Byrom Street, Poolstock, Wigan; Parents Home.

    Per Ellen’s Birth Certificate and per 1871 Census.

  • Birth Registration: 1855-03-21, Haigh; Edward was born Edward Ball.

    Edward was born out of wedlock to Ellen Ball. Although he was known as Edward Harrison for his entire life, we cannot be absolutely certain that he was the son of Joseph Harrison.

  • Residence: 1861-04-07, Blundles Fold, Blackrod, Lancashire;

    Per 1861 Census, Edward was 6 years old living with his parents Joseph and Ellen.

  • Residence: 1865-08-11, 22 Wood Street (off Chapel Lane), Wigan, Lancashire; Family Home.

    Per Jemima’s Birth Certificate.

  • Residence: 1871-04-02, 6 Byrom Street, Poolstock, Wigan;

    Per 1871 Census, Edward was age 16, working as an Engine Tenter and living with his parents & siblings.

  • Occupation: 1871-04-02 ; Engine Tenter.

    Per 1871 Census.

  • Residence: 1875-01-31, 31 Pool Street, Poolstock, Wigan; Parents' home.

    Per Margaret’s Birth Certificate.

  • Residence: 1879-12-27, 24 Peet Street, Poolstock, Wigan; Edward Harrison & Martha Mason family home.

    Per Ellen Harrison’s Birth Certificate.

  • Occupation: 1879-12-27, Wigan, Lancashire; Engine Tenter.

    Per Ellen Harrison’s Birth Certificate.

  • Residence: 1881-04-03, 322 Warrington Road, Spring View, Ince;

    Per 1881 Census.

  • Occupation: 1881-04-03 ; Colliery Engine Tender.

    Per 1881 Census.

  • Residence: 1881-06-16, 322 Spring View, Lower Ince; Edward Harrison & Martha Mason family home.

    Per Joseph Harrison’s Birth Certificate.

  • Occupation: 1881-06-16, Lower Ince; Colliery Engine Worker.

    Per Joseph Harrison’s Birth Certificate.

  • Occupation: 1882-01-15, Lower Ince; Colliery Engine Worker.

    Per Jane Harrison’s Death Certificate.

  • Residence: 1882-01-15, 322 Warrington Lane, Lower Ince; Edward Harrison & Martha Mason family home.

    Per Jane Harrison’s Death Certificate.

  • Occupation: 1883-05-13, Wigan, Lancashire; Engine Tender.

    Per John Harrison’s Birth Certificate.

  • Residence: 1883-05-13, 22 Peet Street, Poolstock, Wigan; Edward & Martha family home.

    Per John Harrison’s Birth Certificate.

  • Occupation: 1885-03-15 ; Engine Tender.

    Per Elizabeth Harrison’s Birth Certificate.

  • Residence: 1885-03-15, 32 Corporation Street, Poolstock, Wigan;

    Per Elizabeth Harrison’s Birth Registration.

  • Residence: 1886-03-10, 32 Corporation Street, Poolstock, Wigan;

    Per Martha Harrison’s Birth Registration.

  • Occupation: 1886-03-10 ; Engine Tender.

    Per Martha Harrison’s Birth Registration.

  • Occupation: 1888-05-15, Wigan, Lancashire; Engine Tenter.

    Per Alice Harrison’s Birth Register.

  • Residence: 1888-05-15, 32 Corporation Street, Poolstock, Wigan; Edward & Martha Harrison Family Home.

    Per Alice Harrison’s Birth Register.

  • Residence: 1891-04-05, 32 Corporation Street, Poolstock, Wigan;

    Per 1891 Census.

  • Occupation: 1891-04-05 ; Engine Winder at a Colliery.

    Per 1891 Census.

  • Occupation: 1894-10-18 ; Engineer.

    Per Edward’s Death Certificate.

  • Residence: 1894-10-18, Pumping Station, Boars Head, Standish; Edward & Martha family home.

    Per Edward’s Death Certificate. Boars Head, aka Standish Pumping Station.

  • Occupation: 1894-11-08 ; Engine Teneter (Pumping Station).

    Post-mortem record of Edward’s occupation as recorded on wife Martha’s death certificate.