Great-grandparents: Richard Armer & Jane Clarkson

All four of my grandparents died a long time before I was born, so I had very little information about my maternal great-grandparents Richard Armer and Jane Clarkson. You can imagine how moving it was for me to be able, in 2017, to visit the ruined cottage where they lived and died.

Sometime between the 1871 and 1881 Censuses, Richard and Jane moved from Sea Dyke to Ridge Cottage, Pilling. Their marriage certificate from March 1869 is shown above. Soon after, in May of that year, their first child, John, came along:

John 1869 birth son of Richard

Birth certificate of my great uncle John Armer. He was baptised at St Michael’s Church, Cockerham, in a double ceremony with his cousin, also John Armer!

John was baptised on 27th June 1869 at St Michael’s, Cockerham, in a triple ceremony with his cousin once-removed Mary Jane Armer and another John Armer born that year but a fortnight later on 2nd June. This John was a cousin, son of Anthony Armer and Mary Wright. I like to think of the church packed with Armers in their Sunday best 150 years ago!

My grandfather, Henry, was the sixth of Richard and Jane’s seven children. Richard died in 1916, at Ridge Cottage. Richard’s youngest son, Anthony, was present at his father’s death. Anthony lived at Duck Street, Pilling. Henry (my grandfather) was present at the death of my great-grandmother Jane, still at Ridge Cottage, in 1923. A bleak spot for a 75 year old!

Copies of my great-grandparents’ death certificates are below:


Pilling Ridge is shown on the OS Explorer map, and I wondered if this was the location of Ridge Cottage. I visited on a cold, grey day in February 2017, in the middle of bird culling during the avian flu outbreak. I passed a couple of ruined cottages on a crinckle in the ground hardly worthy of being called a ridge and wondered if these were the place. I continued to Ridge Farm, where the farmer said I couldn’t go any further because of the cull. When I mentioned the Armers were my great-grandparents, he confirmed that the two ruins across the field were those of Ridge Cottage and he mentioned the Till family who were listed alongside the Armers in the 1891 and 1901 Censuses.



Ridge Cottage, Pilling. Home of my great-grandparents Richard and Jane Armer. The cottage was inhabited until 1953 by their son Anthony and his wife Sarah Ann.

At the time of Richard’s death, his youngest son Anthony Armer was living at Duck Street, Pilling. Just west of Duck Street is Carr House, now a studd farm but established in the 12th century to provide food for Cockersand Abbey. The 1891 Census lists my grandfather’s older brothers (William 19 and Richard only 13) as servants to the Bradley family there.


Here is the suite of censuses snap-shotting Richard Armer’s life, 1911 back to 1851. Below is the 1881 Census, with Henry (my grandfather) as Richard and Jane’s youngest child, aged 2. A younger brother, Anthony, was born in 1885, and I was excited to trace Cynthia one of his grand-daughters still living in the area (more later)!


The marriage certificate (image at the top of this post) gives Richard’s father as John Armer, to help go back another generation. The first witness is Henry Armer, Richard’s younger brother born in 1850. Richard and Jane’s birth certificates are here:


Birth certificate of my great grandfather Richard Armer (1845–1916)


Birth certificate of my great grandmother Jane Clarkson (1848–1923)

Neither mothers (Mary née Winchester and Jenny Clarkson) were able to write, so had to leave their mark.

My great-grandfather Richard Armer was born in 1845 in Cockerham, 6 miles south of Lancaster. He was the son of John Armer (1813-1887) and Mary Winchester (1819-1899).

What happened to my grandfather Henry Armer’s brothers and sisters?

For most people, this would be a relatively simple question to answer, as their parents would know about uncles and aunts. But I’m the youngest chid of a youngest-but-one child, which makes the generations more widely spaced. For me then, it’s a case of hunting online, as there are no living relatives to ask!

Descendants of Henry’s older John Armer, born 1869

Richard and Jane’s eldest child, John Armer, started his adult life as a farm servant to the Bradley family at nearby Ridge Farm:

John 1869 in 1991 census

My grandfather’s oldest brother John Armer in the 1891 Census

Two years later, John married Jane Porter, and their children Ellen and Harry came along in 1894 and 1896.

John 1869 marriage 1893

I couldn’t find the family in the 1901 Census, but here they are in 1911, older children Ellen and Harry having left home:

John 1869 in 1911

1911 Census: John Armer’s family living at Sandy Lane Cottage, Out Rawcliffe, near Hambleton

Ellen (16) was a farm servant for the Cowell family at Thistleton, near Poulton-le-Fylde and Harry (14) an ‘under horseman’ for the Jemson family at Hoskinshire Farm, Out Rawcliffe.

Hoskinshire map

Location of John and Jane Armer’s family at the time of the 1911 Census. The family home was at Sandy Lane Cottage, Out Rawcliffe. Harry aged 14 was an ‘under horseman’ at Hoskinshire, and Ellen aged 16 was a farm servant at Thistleton

John and Jane’s death certificates are below:

great uncle John death 1943

great aunt Jane death 1954

Their son Harry married Nellie Bleasdale in 1920, in what looked to me at first to be an advantageous match for a farm labourer:

Harry and Nellie marriage 1920

Harry Armer born 1896 would have been the second oldest of my mother’s many cousins. This is his marriage certificate to Nellie Bleasdale

However, I soon discovered that Major Bleasdale was not an actual major, and that Major was his Christian name! That said, he did have an obituary in the Lancaster Guardian 10 December 1937:

Bleasdale obituary

Funeral notice of Major Bleasdale in the Lancaster guardian 1937. Whitechapel is a hamlet near the village of Inglewhite. My great uncle John Armer married Major Bleasdale’s daughter Nellie in 1920

Sometime between 1871 and 1881, Major Bleasdale’s father Michael left Crow Trees to move to Lane Head Farm (101 acres). Crow Trees was a farm of 15 acres, listed next to Fogg’s Farm on the 1871 Census, but not shown on the 1898 map. The road exiting the map at the top right is Bleasdale Lane, and the hamlet of Bleasdale lies on the south-western slopes of Fair Snape Fell in the Forest of Bowland. The family must be deeply rooted in the area.

Bleasdale Lane End Farm 1898 map

In 1902 an Edward Brewer was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment for stealing rabbits from a neighbouring farm and a ferret bag from Lane Head Farm. The case was reported in the Lancashire Evening Post in February 1902:

Bleasdale rabbit theft Bleasdale rabbit stealing sentence

I expect Nellie’s younger brother, another Major Bleasdale, inherited Lane Head Farm. Harry Armer died in 1977 at Worcester Road in Blackpool, a retired gardener, age 81. He must have married a second time, as the informant on the death certificate is Elsie Ann Armer ‘widow of deceased’. (I don’t put recent certificates on the blog as it impacts on the family’s privacy.)

Seeing a second wife, Elsie Ann, named on Harry’s death certificate made me search for Nellie’s death. My initial thought was that it was from a complication of childbirth, but I cannot find any children born to the couple, even though they married in 1920, and in fact Nellie died in 1928 from ‘Acute lobar pneumonia’:

Nellie 1928

Interesting to find out that Harry was a steam-roller driver. The Parish Registers stated that Nellie was buried at St James’ Church, Whitechapel, so I decided to visit and find the headstone. When visiting cemeteries, you need to remember that you can only get reasonable photos of the inscriptions if the sun is facing the front of the headstones. I had to fit this particular visit in during the morning, and Nellie’s headstone was facing west, which is unusual, so a legible photo of the inscription wasn’t going to happen. But fortunately some kind soul had transcribed and indexed all the headstones in the churchyard – as well as all the burial and baptism records – really helpful for genealogists!

Whitechapel booklets

Nellie’s headstone is front row, right:

Nellie Armer headstone 1928

The inscription reads:

In Loving Memory of
Harry the beloved son of Major and Catherine Bleasdale
who died Mar 11 1902 aged 4 months
also of the above Catherine Bleasdale
who died May 4 1902 aged 28 years
also Major so of the above
who died Apr 25 1905 aged 5 years
also of
Major the beloved son of
Major & Elizabeth Bleasdale
who died Dec 1 1918 aged 5 years
also of
Nellie dau, of the above
Major Bleasdale & beloved wife of
Harry Armer
who died Apr 3 1928
aged 29 years

Sad times but a beautiful church.


St James Church, Whitechapel (9 miles north of Preston). Nellie Armer (née Bleasdale), wife of my mother’s cousin Harry Armer, was buried here in 1928

Harry didn’t marry again until 1957 and his second wife Elsie Ann was from Surrey, so something of a mystery as to how they met. I ordered the certificate and found that they married at the Congregational Church, Farnham. Harry was then aged 61 and living at 4 Highfield Terrace, Freckleton Street, Kirkham, and worked as a boiler engineer. His bride Elsie Ann was a spinster, aged 50, working as a domestic cook and from Wrecclesham, Farnham. She was the daughter of Herbert Mansey (a grocer, by then retired) and lived at The Gables.

Descendants of Richard Armer, born 1877

In the 1891 Census, William and his younger brother Richard were farm servants at Carr House Farm, just a kilometre from Ridge Cottage:

William 1871 in 1891

Two of my grandfather’s older brothers were farm servants at Carr House Farm when the 1891 Census was taken

I cannot find William in the 1901 or 1911 Censuses, neither in Lancashire, nor the whole country, but neither can I find a death record that would fit his birth date.

Richard married Agnes Jenkinson in 1902, and the couple have three children by the time of the 1911 Census:

Richard marriage 1902

My great-uncle Richard’s marriage certificate

Richard 1877 in 1911

1911 Census: Richard Armer, his wife Agnes (nee Jenkinson) and their 3 boys living at 9 Dundee Street, Lancaster

Richard worked as a carter for a corn merchant, and the family lived at Dundee Street, Lancaster – a two-up, two-down stone terrace still standing today.

Dundee Street

9 Dundee Street, Lancaster – home of my great uncle Richard, his wife Agnes and 3 children at the time of the 1911 Census

By pure coincidence, a friend in Belper (Jo) who’s husband is descended from Owd Jemmy Jenkinson of Eagland Hill directed me to their excellent family website. When I searched for Agnes Jenkinson I found some extra information about their lives. They moved from Dundee Street to Railway Street, Pointer – next to the Royal Lancaster Infirmary. The couple had 5 children, and Agnes passed away, aged 83 years, on 26th October 1957.

Descendants of the youngest child, Anthony Armer, born 1885

In summer 2017 I telephoned Ridge Farm as the farmer I’d met in the February mentioned an old lady called Betty that I should speak to. She kindly gave me the number for a Cynthia (née Armer), so I called the number, explaining the rather convoluted story of who I was. Cynthia remembered visiting Ridge Cottage as a child, to see her ‘Granny Ridge’ so I immediately knew we had the same great grandparents!

From the information she gave me about her father, Harry Armer, whose birthday was 17th February, I was able to order his birth certificate from 1919. This named his parents as Anthony and Sarah Ann Armer, née Clarkson, living at Wheel Lane, Pilling. Here are the couple at Westbourne, Smallwood Hey, Pilling in 1911, just 6 weeks after they were married:

Anthony 1885 in 1911

Anthony Armer and his new wife Sarah Ann in the 1911 Census. Anthony is a farm labourer and is a brother-in-law of the head of household Benjamin Butler Dickinson

Anthony is brother-in-law to Benjamin butler Dickinson, which implies one of three things:

  • Anthony’s sister married Benjamin. But Anthony had no sister named Catherine.
  • Sarah Ann was Benjamin’s sister. But her maiden name was Clarkson, not Dickinson.
  • Sarah Ann was sister to Benjamin’s wife Catherine. Possible. Find Catherine’s maiden name; they married in 1901.

The third option is in fact the case! Benjamin Butler Dickinson married Catherine Clarkson in the first quarter of 1901 in the district of Garstang. This isn’t relevant to the Armer family, but it’s always sensible to exhaust every possibility of finding new Armer relations.

It took me a long while to find Anthony and Sarah Ann’s marriage, mainly because Armer was transcribed as Armes!

Anthony & Isabella 1911 marriage

Marriage of my great uncle Anthony to Sarah Ann Clarkson in 1911. The second witness was Sarah Armer, the groom’s older sister

From the information Cynthia gave me about her aunt and uncles, I was able to pinpoint the births of Anthony and Sarah Ann’s three boys and two girls, all born between 1911 and 1922 (see the tree at the bottom of this post).

Anthony and Sarah Ann lived and died at Ridge Cottage, as did Richard Armer and his wife Jane before them. Anthony was a farm labourer and died from an appendix abscess aged just 37. His widow survived him by 30 years, dying at Ridge Cottage in 1953 aged 66. Visiting the ruins of the cottage, it felt like a bleak place to live, but in 2018 I met Anthony and Sarah Ann’s granddaughter June who showed me photos of her grandparents and of Ridge Cottage in its hay-day.

Anthony and Sarah Ann

June’s photos of her grandparents who lived at Ridge Cottage. The couple would have been my great uncle and aunt

Ridge Cott

June and her husband met up with us at the Church of St John the Baptist, Pilling, to see the grave of Anthony and Sarah Ann, and also of Anthony’s parents Richard and Jane – who are also my great-grandparents.

Richard and Jane headstone Pilling

Alan, Anthony and Sarah Ann’s eldest child and who was to become June’s father, married Sarah Annie Mary Johnston (originally from Urswick, Ulverston, across Morecambe Bay), in 1936:

Alan and Sarah Johnston marriage 1936

Marriage of Anthony’s eldest son Alan to Sarah Annie Mary Johnston in 1936. Anthony died aged just 37 from an appendix abscess in 1923

Descendants of my grandfather’s sisters: Mary born 1972 and Sarah born 1875

Mary Armer married a Joseph Ford in 1896 and the couple had three children by the time of the 191 Census, when they were living at 2 Hala Road, Scotforth. Joseph has changed occupations, from fireman to railway engine driver:

Mary 1896 marriage

Ethel Ford 1897

Mary 1872 in 1911

Mary’s younger sister Sarah is listed on the 1911 Census living at Ridge Cottage with her parents Richard and Jane, unmarried age 36:

Richard and Jane Clarkson

A Sarah Armer dying in 1947 is recorded as age 72, which is the correct date to fit Sarah Armer my great-aunt’s birth in 1875. I ordered the certificate to find out more, and it seems that she lived at 24 Church Road, St Ann’s on Sea (now Lytham-St Ann’s) but was visiting 1 Derby Road, Wesham when she died of ‘right hempilegia’ – a stroke in the right hemisphere of the brain. Sarah was a spinster and a cook, and the death was reported by a GW Lum who is described as the occupier of 1 Derby Road. Perhaps Sarah was his cook, and was visiting when she had the stroke?

Sarah_Armer spinster 1947 copy

The tree for this generation is below. It’s been fascinating to find out a little about the brothers and sisters of my grandfather Henry Armer, who died 14 years before I was born.


My great grandfather left his estate to his widow and his youngest son who in 1916 was still living at Ridge Cottage:

Richard 1916 Will

In the handwritten amendment above, I was unable to capture ‘1924’ in the screengrab. Both Richard’s widow Jane and his youngest son Anthony died in 1923, so what remained of the legacy was passed to Richard and Jane’s eldest daughter, Mary:

Richard 1916 will 1924

Wills from 1858–1996 are free to search on the Government’s Find A Will service. You don’t even need to register as a user, although I expect you will need to if you wish to purchase anything more detailed than the snippets above.


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