Biography

Martha Mason was born on 4 March 1855 at 30 Well Street in Little Bolton, Lancs. She was the second child born to John Mason, a shoemaker from Pincock, and his Irish wife Elizabeth “Betsy” Murphy from Dublin.

Shortly after Martha was born, the family moved to Wigan where her father took up shoemaking in the Hallgate area of the town centre. At the time of the 1861 census, the Mason family was living in Marsden’s Yard, off Hallgate. Martha, age 6, was one of five children.

Like most children of her day, Martha was probably sent out to work circa 1868 at age 13. She was 16, employed as a cotton weaver, at the time of the 1871 census. She could have been working at any one of Wigan’s numerous cotton mills of that era. The Mason family was living in Bond’s Yard, also off Hallgate (this may have been Marsden’s Yard renamed). Two of Martha’s younger siblings, Ellen and Richard, apparently died during the 1860s, because they were no longer part of the family in 1871. Those were the years of the Wigan Cotton Famine and the family may have suffered hardship.

In 1876 at age 21, Martha Mason married Edward Harrison, also known as Edward Ball, at St. James Church in Poolstock. According to her marriage certificate, Martha was living (almost certainly with her parents) in Newtown, an area of Wigan just west of Poolstock, at the time of her marriage. The couple’s witnesses were Martha’s older brother Thomas Mason and Edward’s younger sister Elizabeth Harrison. Martha’s mother, Betsy, died around this time, and the timing of Martha’s marriage may have been connected to Betsy’s death in some way.

Martha gave up her weaving job and stayed home to raise a family while Edward continued to earn a wage maintaining steam engines. Martha gave birth to her first child, Jane Harrison, in September 1878 at the family home at 24 Peet Street in Poolstock. It is unclear why Edward and Martha named their first daughter Jane, as there are no known relatives named “Jane” in either family. Martha’s second daughter, Ellen (named after Edward’s mother), was also born at 24 Peet Street.

Circa 1880, the family moved to 322 Warrington Road in Lower Ince; Martha’s father John, brother William, and sister Elizabeth moved in with them as boarders. Martha’s father continued his trade as a shoemaker from this address. The 1881 census records the extended Harrison–Mason family living at this address with babies Jane and Ellen. Her son Joseph, named after Edward’s father, was likely born at this address in 1881. In 1882, Martha’s first child, Jane, died of meningitis at age 3.Where she was buried remains unknown. Later that year, we believe Martha’s brother William married and moved in with his bride.

Circa 1883, Edward, Martha and family moved back to Poolstock to a house at 22 Peet Street where their son John (named after his grandfather) was born in May. Martha’s father, John Mason, moved with the family as did her sister, Elizabeth. By 1885, the family had moved to 32 Corporation Street, just around the corner from the Honeysuckle Inn. Daughters Elizabeth (named after her late grandma Betsy), Martha, and Alice were born at the Corporation Street home. John Mason died at 32 Corporation Street in April 1887. He was buried at the Wigan Cemetery.

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.

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 October 1894, Martha’s husband Edward died suddenly of rabies. The trauma of losing her husband may have hastened Martha’s own death; she died three weeks later of cancer at age 39. Edward and Martha are both buried at Wigan Cemetery.


Details and Facts

Residence John Mason & Betsy Murphy family home

7 Apr 1861
3 Marsden's Yard, Wigan

Per 1861 Census.

Residence John Mason & Betsy Murphy family home

2 Apr 1871
3 Bond's Yard, Wigan

Residence Edward Harrison & Martha Mason family home

27 Dec 1879
24 Peet Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per Ellen Harrison’s Birth Certificate.

Residence

3 Apr 1881
322 Warrington Road, Spring View, Ince

Per 1881 Census.

Residence Edward Harrison & Martha Mason family home

15 Jan 1882
322 Warrington Lane, Lower Ince

Residence

15 Mar 1885
32 Corporation Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per Elizabeth Harrison’s Birth Registration.

Residence

10 Mar 1886
32 Corporation Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per Martha Harrison’s Birth Registration.

Residence Edward & Martha Harrison family home

15 May 1888
32 Corporation Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per Alice Harrison’s Birth Registration.

Residence

5 Apr 1891
32 Corporation Street, Poolstock, Wigan

Per 1891 Census.

Burial

12 Nov 1894
Wigan Cemetery & Crematorium


Research Notes

Pincock is a village about 15 km north of Wigan.


Source Documents