Introduction | Cumberland | Keswick | Workington | Cockermouth | Cockermouth Pt 2

Cockermouth Continued

John Cragg (1796-1849?)

Of Isaac and Ruth's sons only John and Joseph stayed in Cockermouth. Joseph's line is more relevant to the Cragg family in Australia as it was eventually his son Henry who took his family to Australia. However John's own family in Cockermouth is worth looking into, as both families would have prospered side by side in the town.

John was born July 17th, 1795, in Cockermouth, and was Isaac's first son and second child. He was christened on February 28th, 1796 in All Saints Church. On November 12th, 1815 John married Jane Oswald in Brigham Parish (which includes Cockermouth). They were married by banns, and Jane is listed as living in the town of Cockermouth. One difference with this marriage register entry was that John signed the register. This meant he was able to write and most likely read as well.

The marriage register entry also states that John was a 'waller' by trade. This was listed consistently as his trade for his children's baptisms and marriage entries up to 1845. As mentioned earlier, there are miles and miles of dry-stone walls snaking their way across the green fields of the Lake District. John Cragg would have had a hand in building some of these for well over 30 years.

'...these stone fences were constructed by bands of itinerant wallers who camped out on the fellsides for weeks on end, working from sunrise to sunset and coming down to the valley only on Saturdays. Conditions were harsh and wages pitifully low. ...Although the wallers were skilled craftsmen, most of them were illiterate and unable to write their names.'15

Stone walls in the Lake District
Stone walls in the Lake District

Jane gave birth to seven children between 1817 and 1839. In order they were Ruth, Elizabeth, Isaac, John, Jane, Sarah, Solomon and Thomas. Again the tradition of naming children after relatives is evident. Solomon appears in the 1881 census, which will be discussed later.

John's daughter Elizabeth married William Grave on August 19th 1843, and signed with an 'X', and William was recorded as a cordwainer (shoe maker) by trade. Sarah is recorded as dying at 10 years of age and buried at All Saints on March 9th, 1843.

Thomas, the youngest son (a thread maker) enlisted in 15th Foot Regiment's 2nd Battalion on August 4th 1858 as it was being raised in Whitehaven, Cumberland. The 2nd Battalion was posted to Malta for 4 years and 11 months and then Gibraltar for a further 5 years in 1863. During this time the Battalion saw no major action. In Gibraltar (after 2 years and 4 months) Private Thomas Cragg (No. 818) was discharged on February 28th 1866 after being "found unfit for further service" for health reasons and returned to Cumberland county. The 1871 Census locates Thomas (now employed as a coal miner) newly living in the town of Washington, Durham county with his wife Susanah and their baby daughter Mary. He had married Susanah Digney February 15th 1858 at All Saints Church, Cockermouth like many of his family had done.

John's death certificate has not been obtained but the death of a John Cragg was recorded in Cockermouth District in the years 1849 and 1851. So he is likely to be one of these, as his wife Jane is listed as the head of the household and on parish relief in the 1851 census. There is a record of a burial on January 14th, 1849 of a 56 year old John Cragg at All Saints, which is only about four years out on his age.

Joseph Cragg (1803-1878)

Isaac and Ruth's fourth child and second son, Joseph, was born April 4th, 1803 in Cockermouth, and christened May 29th that same year. Not much is known about Joseph until 1823, when he married Hannah Grave on December 1st at All Saints Church. Hannah was recorded as a resident of the township of Cockermouth, and Joseph signed his name on the register. It seems that while the boys of Isaac's family were able to at least write, the girls were often denied equal education, which may be the reason behind Joseph's sister Ruth only signing with an 'X' at her marriage in 1821 to John Birket. This may be understandable, as the Free Grammar School was exclusively a boys school.

Hannah gave birth to seven children between 1825 and 1845. In order they were Isaac, Henry, Joseph, John, William, Robert and Hannah, with William and Robert being twins. Where they were christened marked a change in church attendance. The children were not christened at All Saints as every other Cragg family member since 1794, but at the Independent Chapel which was on Main Street and backed onto High Sand Lane (now Waterloo St.). It is not known why Joseph's family changed churches while the remainder of his larger family appears to have remained at All Saints.

The porch and datestone (1719) of the Independent/Congregational Church
The porch and datestone (1719) of the Independent/Congregational Church

The Independent/Congregational Church in Cockermouth was founded in 1651, and was the first one in Cumberland. Since the church was not of the Church of England the minister was not permitted to hold services in Cockermouth. These had to be held secretly in a private house outside of the town. Finally in 1719 a chapel was built in Main Street and in 1850 the present church was built in front of the chapel. The latter was used as a schoolroom and hall. In 1990 considerable alterations took place which saw the chapel changed into flats for mentally handicapped. The church split into two levels, with the meeting hall above the offices, chapel and kitchen.16 The porch of the 1719 chapel can still be seen today behind the current United Reformed Church, with the 1719 date stone above the entrance way.

The opportunity for leisure time in the Lake Counties was rare compared to today and holidays fewer as well. Sports involving physical strength and skill were popular along with their traditional partner betting. Wrestling, horse racing, hunting with hounds for otter, hare, foulmart and fox seemed to popular along with cockfighting. In a town such as Cockermouth newsrooms and libraries provided more cerebral enlightenment, with occasional theatre being performed by locals or travelling entertainers. Inns and Alehouses figured largely with one inn or alehouse per 106 people in Cockermouth 1829. This accounted for 17.8 percent of businesses in the town. Indoor entertainment included singing, card and dice games, dancing on special occassions.17

The 1841 census found Joseph and his family living on the southern side of Main Street in Cockermouth. All the children are present except Hannah who was to be born four years later. It was not uncommon to encounter large families living in houses though poor health often kept the numbers down. In 1821 Cockermouth had on average 5.3 people living in a house. Often this number would include boarders and other relatives as the average number of people per family was 4.9 and average number of families per house was 1.1.18 In the 1841 Census Joseph's trade is recorded as 'weaver' while his eldest son Isaac is a 'weavers apprentice' at age 16. The second eldest, Henry is recorded as 'employed in a woollen mill' at age 14. As wool was in abundance around Cockermouth, the town became a woollen centre second only in production to Kendal, in Cumberland. Later at the baptism of his son John in 1855 Joseph is referred to as a "thread maker".

Working life in the mills was pitiful as the labourers (sometimes as young as children) worked considerably long hours (12-14 hours a day) in extremely unsafe and unhealthy conditions. A typical Mill in Carlisle in 1826 for example had its workers start at 6 in the morning and leave work at 7:30 in the evening. They would have had one hour for breakfast and one hour for dinner.19 When George III came to the throne woollen manufactories were the chief export of Britain and were to stay that way until about 1810 when Cotton became dominant.20 Because of this, mills were in abundance all over the country, more so in the new industrial towns built up around the factories.

There were two classes of jobs to be filled in woollen cloth manufacture. That of spinner and weaver. Women and children were most usually spinners, while the men took on the more highly regarded role of weaver. Yet by 1830 this had changed, as the spinners were mostly in the factories while weavers generally worked outside. It was not difficult to learn how to use a hand-loom, and so many struggling agricultural labourers were attracted to this new industry. Also being accustomed to low wages they inadvertently undercut the income of traditional hand-loom weavers. To add to the hand weaver's woes the power loom was introduced in the early 1800's, cutting down production time and the need for weavers. Fortunately though the power loom was not as immediately suitable for woollen cloth manufacture as it was for cotton. Riots naturally occurred in the larger towns as starvation was not a palatable option to the life they had enjoyed before. When peace broke out in 1815 the situation of many Cumberland weavers became much worse. In May 1819 there was a strike at Carlisle which spread to Cockermouth. The average wage at this time was said to be only five shillings a week.21 For domestic weavers pride also had as much to do with their struggle. They were not willing to surrender their liberty and enter power-loom factories, to be subject to the iron will of a mill owner and his overseer.22 The newspapers of the time should shed some light on the situation of the people, especially ones such as the Cumberland Pacquet which was first published in Cockermouth in 1774. By the late 1830's McCulloch records that 'A good many particulars ... have changed within the last 30 years. No domestic manufactures are now carried on...', which meant trades such as domestic weaving had finally succumbed to the Mills.23 To provide some sense of what weavers experienced the ballad 'Clothiers Delight' dating from the seventeenth century describes how Clothiers had history of manipulating the poor weavers:

'We'll make the poor weavers work at a low rate; We'll find fault where there's no fault, and so we will bate; If trading grows dead we will presently show it: But if it grows good, they shall never know it: We'll tell them that cloth beyond the sea will not go, We care not whether we keep clothing or no. Chorus - And this is the way for to fill up our purse, Although we do get it with many a curse.'24

It is not known for sure whether the Cragg family members who were hand-loom weavers actually entered the mills. Only when the weavers were facing starvation did they consider sending their children into the mills.25 Joseph's son Henry was sent into a mill for work before the age of 14, but the other sons John and Joseph aged 12 and 10 were not employed in a mill in 1841. This probably meant that the situation for Joseph and his family was not as drastic as for those families in the large industrial towns, such as Carlisle. Though the family would have certainly appreciated the extra income brought home by Henry.

By 1841 the situation for hand loom weavers in and around Carlisle had become indeed desperate. In December of that year the Council of Carlisle sent a petition to the House of Commons stating that there were 'nearly 6000 whose average weekly earnings amounted to no more than 1s/2d, comprising more than one quarter of the whole population of the borough...of these the greatest number were handloom weavers', some 572 families. Further petitions from Cumberland handloom weavers, the mayor of Carlisle and cotton firms were sent to Sir Robert Peel in 1842, 1843 and 1845 protesting about trade restrictions and the corn laws. The hand loom weaver's petition of May 1842 in particular cited a 50% reduction on wages over the previous 3 years resulting in the average weekly earnings of a handloom weaver to be 3s/-. It was also stated that one sixth of Carlisle population was engaged in weaving.26

The 1851 census gives greater insight into the family and its occupations. Joseph and Hannah at 48 years of age were now living in Brewery Lane, with John, Robert and Hannah. Joseph's occupation description is more detailed in this census as he is now referred to being a 'hand loom weaver woollery'. John at 18 was a taylor's apprentice and Robert at 16 a shoemakers apprentice. Both Henry and Joseph had left home and married by this stage, but with Isaac we are unsure as to what his movements were after 1841. Isaac is picked up again in 1881, but this will be discussed later. Unfortunately one of the twins William is recorded as having been buried in Cockermouth May 22nd 1849 aged 11, by Rev. William Earee who worked at All Saints Church as a curate.

What became of Henry will be the subject of the next section. Joseph the younger had gone to Great and Little Clifton about six miles east of Cockermouth to marry Sarah Fleming on 5th May 1850, but brought her back to Cockermouth to settle down in Brewery Lane right next door to his parents or even with his parents. Joseph the younger was listed as a flax thread maker by trade. The thread that he made from the flax plant was used to make cloth. Joseph and Sarah had two children in Cockermouth named Agness and John.

In the 1874 Electoral Register for the Borough of Cockermouth Joseph the elder is mentioned as qualifying to be eligible to vote because he owned his house in Brewery Lane, which explains why his family stayed at this address for over 25 years. It is also possible, but less likely, that he may have rented the house as the 1832 Reform Act gave the franchise to house holders who paid more than 10 in rent per annum. The 1867 Reform Act enfranchised in the boroughs all house holders who paid poor rates and lodgers who paid 10 or more in rent. This later Act may explain Joseph's eligibility to vote. It is interesting to note that in the same electoral register that a Solomon Cragg (which one is a mystery) who is living in Main Street is eligible to vote as well.

In the 1928 letter (written by his grandson John) Joseph is described as having been a Sunday School teacher and Church of England Sunday School Superintendent. Both Joseph the elder and his wife died only 15 days apart in 1878. Joseph passed away on July 2nd and Ruth on the 17th at their Brewery Lane residence. On Joseph's death certificate he was entered as a coal carter by trade. This most likely means he had a horse and cart by which he transported coal. This may have been from the nearby coal fields three miles away to different locations, or from a local depo to places in town that used the coal. The cause of his death was two months of 'acute bronchitis'. While it is known he was born in 1803 his age at death was recorded as 77 years, when he was actually 74 years of age. George Booth who was Hannah the younger's husband and Joseph's father in law, is recorded as being present at Joseph the elder's death. He was there again 15 days later when Hannah the elder passed away from fourteen days of 'phthisis pulmonalis', which was a form of wasting disease that affected the lungs such as tuberculosis. According to the same letter both Joseph and his wife are buried in the Churchyard.

Henry Cragg (1827-1906?)

Henry, Joseph and Hannah's second child and second son was born in early 1827. He was christened April 8th that same year in the Independent Chapel at Cockermouth.

In the 1841 census Henry was only 14 and employed in a woollen mill as mentioned previously. Around 1847 he had married Mary Anne Geddes(or Gaddes). There is a record of a marriage between Mary Ann Guddes and a Henry Cragg at Gretna Green in Scotland. Often the destination of couples who wished to marry without parental consent was Gretna Green, just over the border with Scotland in "debatable land". After 1753, when English law forbad irregular marriages, a number of people who objected to marrying in a church wed in border centres where the couple's own consent to marriage before witnesses was legal under Scottish Law. Gretna is the most famous of these. Marriages were conducted by self appointed ministers at the border Toll booths along the few roads into Scotland. The "priests", as they called themselves, often had other jobs giving rise to the stories of being married over an anvil by the village Blacksmith. It is known that Mary was born in Tyrone, Ireland, and Henry may have married her over there. There was the emigration of one million people from Ireland between 1847-1851 during the Potato Famine. A further one million died of starvation.1 In the midst of all this Joseph and Mary met and married, eventually giving birth to their first son Joseph Henry January 23rd, 1847.

Henry and Mary Anne went on to have a further five children in Cockermouth, the last born in 1858. In order their children were Joseph Henry, William, Martha, John, Alexander and Hannah(or Anna). Unfortunately John died as an infant and was buried at All Saints by Rev. Edward Fawcett on January 7th, 1855.

In the 1851 census they are shown to be living in Castle Street, just around the corner from Joseph and Hannah. Instead of merely listed as 'employed in a woollen mill', Henry was now a 'hand loom weaver/woollery' just as his father was in the same census. In 1858 there were two woollen factories in Cockermouth. One was owned by Joseph Graves, and operated in Waterloo Street and at Fitz Mills. The other, Croft Mills, was situated on the western bank of the Cocker River was owned by J. Pearson.27 Joseph most likely worked in one of these mills. Croft Mills was converted into flats in the 1970's. In 1859 Henry was recorded as an 'engine driver', and if he worked at the Croft Mills he would have spent much of his time in the engine house at the northern end of the Mill. The other possible mill he may have worked in was Graves's Mill, which was built in the 1820's. At one stage it had a water wheel that was powered by a race from the River Derwent. It was demolished in 1981.28

Graves Mill on Waterloo St (High Sand)
Graves Mill on Waterloo St (High Sand)

Between 1851 and 1859 Henry had made a career change from hand loom weaver to engine driver, which is interesting as it hints at the inroads steam driven power looms were making into the woollen industry. The wool weaving industry was very slow to pick up the power loom, as the weaker woollen fibres broke easily on these crude machines. So woollen hand weaving was still preferable long after cotton had gone over to the power-looms.

In the 1851 census Henry's and Mary Anne's sons Joseph Henry and William are living with their parents as expected. Mary Anne's mother Martha Cooper, who may have married a second time, or was using her maiden name was living with them as well and was recorded as a bobbin winder. Mary Anne's 20 year old brother Thomas who was agricultural labourer was also visiting. Agricultural labourers were paid by the day or week and were often provided meals, however they did not tend to live on the farms they worked. Where Thomas worked and where he was visiting from remain a mystery though it is certain he was born in Ireland. It is interesting note that by 1850 the wages of Agricultural Labourers in Cumberland were markedly about the average for the country as a whole, and more than 50 percent above the average for the southern counties.29 He would have been hired at the periodic hiring fairs held at or near Whitsuntide and Martinmas (11 November). Labourers were generally hired for a year or six months at a time. In between the terms of service hired labourers had a week's holiday which they usually spent visiting relatives. Though the 1851 census was taken on Sunday March 30, which does not coincide with a regular week's holiday for farm labourers. The hiring fairs themselves were quaint rituals where:

"... the men and women stand in the market place on the appointed day, the former wearing some token in their coats or hats, a straw an indication that they were unhired. The farmers pass among them, and selecting likely-looking man or woman, the bargaining for wages commence [sic] and on an agreement being come to the bargain is completed by the farmer giving the servant a shilling, known as 'Yearl' or 'Arl', which on being received, is a binding acknowledgment for half a year's service, to the next hiring day, on the terms agreed upon."30

The year 1859 was to be one that meant separation from family, friends, Cockermouth and finally England as Henry took his family on a journey to Sydney, Australia. In John Cragg's 1927 letter to his son John he mentions that when his Uncle Henry came to Australia he left a cat behind in Cockermouth with a grandmother. Another letter refers to the fact that the family were taken to the train station by donkey cart. Thomas (Mary Ann's brother) had already emigrated to Australia in 1854 onboard the Araminta with his wife Mary and baby Mary Jane. His brother John Gaddis (born 1823) also travelled to Australia. Both resided in Sydney and died in Waterloo and Glebe respectively.

Those Who Were Left Behind

What was to become of the Cragg families that stayed in England, while Henry and his family went to seek their fortunes Australia? The 1881 UK census which was published recently is evidence enough of the diaspora of the Cragg family. Only a handful are found to be living in Cumberland (Cumbria) by this time. In the Oxford Guide to Family History, the issue of Cumbrian migration is discussed. The unprecedented population growth in England during the 19th Century was shared by Cumbria. The county also experienced the invasion of immigrants, which in turn placed more pressure on the limited resources and employment opportunities.

'Over 5,000 agricultural labourers and female servants left the Cumbrian countryside during the three decades after 1851, and this outflow was sustained during the remainder of the Victorian and Edwardian period. The younger sons of farmers and rural craftsmen joined the labourers and servants in this mass exit. By 1891 well over 100,000 Cumbrian-born people were living in other parts of England and Wales; they corresponded to almost a third of the total population of Cumbria at that time...'31

Most often the Cumbrian migrants only moved short distances at a time. Usually to the nearest county, settling in an industrial town. The most popular was Liverpool in Lancashire (now in Mersyside County) which had 5,801 Cumbrians. When the 1881 census for Lancashire is published fragments of the Cragg family may be found in this county.

Those who remained in Cumbria(Cumberland) where only a few. Though the numbers may be deceptive, as the Cragg name was lost upon marriage of the female members.

In the 1881 census for Cumberland, Solomon Cragg (the son of John Cragg) is found lodging at 24 Prospect Row, Cleator. The census states that he was 44 years of age, and employed as a factory operator. Residing with him is his daughter Sarah who was also born in Cockermouth, and recorded as a scholar.

In Cockermouth on Waterloo St. (three houses from Askew Court), Sarah Cragg (wife of Isaac Cragg) aged 54 was living, with her son Joseph William Cragg, aged 21. Sarah's occupation was 'hat trimmer', while Joseph William was a carter. Sarah was deemed to be the head of the household and a widow, which meant some tragedy had befallen Isaac.

To help locate the remnants of the Cragg family in England it is useful to conduct a study of UK telephone books. Currently this information resides on British Telecom Phone CDs, which make the search for every Cragg household in England much easier. Below is a list of the top 10 Cragg counties and their current population (as of 1991):

County Cragg Households Population
Lancashire 147 1365100
Cheshire 71 937300
Nottinghamshire 63 980600
Lincolnshire 38 573900
Mersyside 38 1376800
Leicestershire 34 860500
West Midlands 29 2500400
London, Greater 28 6378600
West Yorkshire 25 1984700
Cumbria 22 486900

As can be seen the largest concentration of Cragg families today is in Lancashire, which agrees with the migration patterns of Cumbrian people in the late to middle 1800s. It is quite probable that the majority of the remnants of the Cragg family left behind in England reside in this county.


1. J. P. Kenyon, The Wordsworth Dictionary of British History, 1994, Wordsworth Editions Ltd., Hertfordshire, England.

2. Pigots 1830 Directory.

3. The Works of William Wordsworth, 1994, The Wordsworth Poetry Library, Wordsworth Editions Ltd., Hertfordshire, England.

4. Directory of Cumberland, 1847

5. C.M.L Bouch and G.P. Jones, The Lake Counties, 1500-1800 by, 1961, Manchester University Press.

6. H. E. Winter, Cockermouth (A History and Guide), 1992.

7. W. Parson and W. White, History, Directory and Gazetteer of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. (Leeds 1829).

8. Directory of Cumberland, 1847

9. C.M.L Bouch and G.P. Jones, The Lake Counties, 1500-1800 by, 1961, Manchester University Press.

10. E. Hughes, North County Life in the Eighteenth Century, Vol II. 1965, University of Durham, Great Britian

11. William Dickinson, Cumbriana, 2nd Edition, 1876

12. Hutchinson, History of Cumberland, 1795

13. Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry, Kendal, Cumbria, England.

14. H. E. Winter, Cockermouth (A History and Guide), 1992.

15. William Rollinson, A History of Cumberland and Westmorland, 1978, Phillimore & Co. Ltd., Chichester, Sussex, England.

16. H. E. Winter, Cockermouth (A History and Guide), 1992.

17. C.M.L Bouch and G.P. Jones, The Lake Counties, 1500-1800 by, 1961, Manchester University Press.

18. W. Parson and W. White, History, Directory and Gazetteer of the Counties of Cumberland and Westmorland. (Leeds 1829).

19. E. Hughes, North County Life in the Eighteenth Century, Vol II. 1965, University of Durham, Great Britian

20. Kenneth O. Morgan(Ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History of Britain, 1991, Oxford University Press.

21. E. Hughes, North County Life in the Eighteenth Century, Vol II. 1965, University of Durham, Great Britian

22. J.L. and Barbara Hammond, The Town Labourer 1760-1832 (The New Civilisation), 1917, Longman Group Ltd., London.

23. J. R. McCulloch, Statistical Account of the British Empire (London, 1837) Volume 1.

24. Burnley, History of Wool and Woolcombing, 1889.

25. J.L. and Barbara Hammond, The Town Labourer 1760-1832 (The New Civilisation), 1917, Longman Group Ltd., London.

26. E. Hughes, North County Life in the Eighteenth Century, Vol II. 1965, University of Durham, Great Britian

27. 1858 Post Office Directory Vol. 1

28. J. Bernard Bradbury, Cockermouth and District in Old Photographs, 1994, Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd., Gloucestershire, England.

29. James Caird, English Agriculture in 1850-51, 1852, London as cited in C.M.L Bouch and G.P. Jones, The Lake Counties, 1500-1800 by, 1961, Manchester University Press.

30. F.W. Garnett, Westmorland Agriculture 1800-1900, 1912, Kendal as cited in C.M.L Bouch and G.P. Jones, The Lake Counties, 1500-1800 by, 1961, Manchester University Press.

31. David Hey, The Oxford Guide to Family History, 1993, Oxford University Press.

32. David Hey, The Oxford Guide to Family History, 1993, Oxford University Press.

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