Isaac Cragg of this parish, serving man
Marriage No. 50,
Workington is a sea-side industrial town in the county of Cumbria (formerly Cumberland) and is barely a 21 mile journey west from Keswick. It is most well known for its coal field that extends out underneath the sea. This is a remnant and reminder of the exploitation of the Cumbrian coal fields that took place during the 18th and 19th century. This mining in turn led to the thriving port, from which coal was the chief export.1 St. Michaels Church, which over looks the town has stood for over three hundred years. Unfortunately it was guttered in late 1994 by a fire started by vandals. However the stonework is still in place, and the current Rector vows to restore the church to its former glory. The church, previously rebuilt in 1770 was described in 1847:
"It consists of nave, with a low square tower, which formed part of the old fabric, and is lighted by two rows of round headed windows. Over a recess, which contains the altar table, is window of three lights, with the top filled stained glass; on the north side is a painting of Christ taking down from the Cross, and on the South another representing the Ascension. The effigies of a knight and his lady recline on an altar-tomb under the tower, near to which is part of an ancient octagonal stone font…"2
St Michaels is in the Diocese of Chester, Archdeaconary of Richmond, Deanery of Copeland, and the Parish of St. Michaels. It is important to note that its marriage bonds and allegations up till 1854 are held in the next county, Lancashire.
Isaac Cragg must have at some stage come to live in Workington Parish where he met his future wife, though it is not known exactly when. If he was still living with his mother when his half-sister Sarah was born in 1783, he may have arrived in Workington some time after. Unfortunately this cannot presently be verified. As he was employed as a serving man he may have lived at the residence where he worked, or in very modest accommodation nearby. He would have been hired at the periodic hiring fairs held at or near Whitsuntide and Martinmas (11 November). Servants were generally hired for a year at a time. In between the terms of service servants had a week's holiday which they usually spent visiting relatives. From the register entry we also know he was unable to write, as he used a mark of some type to indicate his signature to the marriage. This also reveals that he did not receive an adequate education, which is common for this period, as children were usually sent off to work as young as possible.
The register entry also mentions that they were married by license. In Isaac and Ruth's day the Church of England recognised two formal procedures, one of which had to be followed before marriage took place. The first was a calling of the banns, which was a public declaration of the intention to marry. The second more private method was to obtain a marriage license, that they would in turn present to the priest that was to marry them. In this case it would have been the curate George Addison.3 Not many licenses exist because many priests simply kept them instead of passing them onto the Diocese of Chester's Registry. However the sworn statement (allegation) made by the couple to a diocesan official (so they could be issued a license) still exists in the Lancashire Record Office. This statement held information such as names, ages, marital conditions, residence and occupations of Ruth and Isaac.4 The marriage bond and allegation tells us that Isaac and Ruth were 21 and 26 years of age respectively. Isaac's witness for the bond was a male with the surname McIntosh, a farmer of the parish. If the bond were to be broken Isaac would owe the Lord Bishop of Chester £200. The bond was signed by Isaac with an awkward vertical pen stroke between his christian name and surname. Following the surname is a wax seal. This could be Isaac's personal seal, which served as a signature in those days. Unfortunately it is impossible to make out in the photocopy. The allegation states that Ruth had lived in Winscales in the four weeks leading up to the wedding. Winscales, within the Parish of Workington, is a village three miles south-east of Workington's centre.
Ruth herself was originally from the Parish of Holme Cultram some 15-20 miles north of Workington. Ruth was christened in Holme Cultram May 11th, 1771. Her father was Solomon Osburn and mother Ruth Messenger, whom he had married on October 24th 1763 in Holme Cultram. The Messenger name goes back centuries in Cumberland's history. The main focal point for generations of the Messenger family was the town of Maryport, where they were well established in trade.5 Solomon surprisingly lived to be 102 years old dying in 1839. This fact was recorded in the West Cumberland Times in 1892. When Isaac and Ruth were married, Ruth was already three months pregnant, though this was not such a scandal in those days as 10% of marriages took place after the birth of the first child. Thus the expected baby probably encouraged the couple to get married. Sometime in the next six months between January and June of 1794 the newly-wedded couple moved to the town of Cockermouth. This was to be the home town of the Cragg family for many years to come.
1. John A. Nettleton, Cumbria (Shire County Guide 25), 1989, Shire Publications Ltd.
2. Directory of Cumberland, 1847
3. Cumbria Archive Service, Cumbrian Ancestors (Notes for Genealogical Searchers), 2nd ed., September 1993, Cumbria County Council.
4. Cumbria Archive Service, Cumbrian Ancestors (Notes for Genealogical Searchers), 2nd ed., September 1993, Cumbria County Council.
5. David Hey, The Oxford Guide to Family History, 1993, Oxford University Press.