Tree of the youngest brother: Anthony Armer & Mary Wright

Anthony was the youngest of my 3x great-grandparents’ children, born in 1837, the year Queen Victoria came to the throne. He is listed in the 1841 and ’51 Censuses with his parents at Hillam, the pig farm west of Cockerham that’s still there today.

In May 1858 he married Mary Wright at St Michael’s, Cockerham, and is listed as a husbandman or small farmer. Anthony has signed the certificate but his new wife, his older brother Richard and the other two witnesses have just left their marks (x).

Anthony 1837 marriage

Here they are in the 1881 Census, but three children – William (born 1859), Jane (1861) and Nancy (1864) – had already left home, and John (1863) had died just 10 days old. The Parish Registers say he was baptised “privately” so his parents must have feared for his survival from birth. I could order the death certificate, but perhaps it’s just one to let be.

William has a separate post because he was publican at the Ship Inn, Pilling, for 36 years.

AA 1881

Anthony and Mary’s family in the 1881 Census: John age 11 was born in 1869 would have been named after John who survived for just 10 days in October 1863

The are also Armers in the next house, and William’s dates make it likely that he’s the son of Anthony’s older sister Margaret who married Richard Clarkson in 1857, 4 years after she gave birth to William (no father named on the birth certificate).

Ten years later Anthony and Mary’s son, William, a general labourer aged 31, is living with them as well as Richard 14 and Alfred 8. Had Alfred been Anthony and Mary’s son as the Census states, Mary would have been 48 when she gave birth. Not impossible, but enough to make me order Alfred’s birth certificate. In fact Alfred was the illegitimate son of Jane Armer, William and Mary’s eldest daughter who was 20 at the time and working as a General servant at Hillam to Adam Kilshaw, who family members claim was Alfred’s father.

Jane Armer went on to marry Adam Kilshaw on 17 June 1886, at St Paul’s Church, Scotforth. Adam was 35 years older than Jane, and died in 1895, aged 69. In 1897, Jane Kilshaw, age 35, widow, married James Holmes of Moss Edge Farm, also 35 and a widower. James’ first wife was Mary Elizabeth Jenkinson, the couple being married at St Luke’s, Winmareigh in 1888. Mary Elizabeth died 20 June 1894 from placenta praevia, which brought on anaemia, pleurisy, vomiting, and eventually heart failure. There is neither a baptism record, nor a burial record for the baby, who it seems was born around 24 days before Mary Elizabeth died. Placenta praevia affects 0.5% of pregnancies even today, and the treatment is delivery by C-section.

AA 1891

The family in the 1891 Census: Anthony and Mary’s eldest son William living back at home, their youngest son Richard, and their illegitimate grandson Alfred, listed as a son


Jane Armer in the 1881 Census working at Hillam, 15 months before the birth of Alfred

Alfred birth 1882

It was exciting for me when one of Alfred’s grandsons – John Armer – got in touch via the blog and confirmed that Alfred was a grandson of Anthony, and is the gentleman pictured pushing the wheelbarrow at the top of this post!

As I mentioned above, Jane Kilshaw (nee Armer) married James Holmes, a farmer at Moss Edge Farm, in 1897.

Holmes Kilshaw

Marriage certificate of James Holmes and Jane Kilshaw (née Armer). James and his father William were the first two of what is now six generations of Holmes farming at Moss Edge

The tree near the foot of this post shows Jane and James’ son (also James Holmes), his five children and nine grandchildren. The family have continued to run the farm, where James’ great grandson now runs the brewing and taproom business Farm Yard Ales!

A couple of months after the Reunion, I met up with James and Jane’s granddaughter Doris, who showed me this lovely photo of her grandparents. James and Jane died in 1942 and 1943, both aged 81. They are buried at St Michael’s, Cockerham.

Holmes photo James and Jane

James and Jane Holmes. Photo courtesy of Doris Robinson

By 1901 Anthony’s family has moved to Haresnape Farm, with only Alfred still living with them, now an agricultural labourer.  Anthony is listed as farmer and an employer, but John Armer corrected my assumption that Anthony owned the farm. Anthony was in fact a tenant, and the farm was part of the Dalton Estate of Thurnham Hall.

AA 1901 census

1901 Census: Anthony and Mary living at Haresnape/Fairsnape Farm with their grandson

A great-great-granddaughter of Anthony’s contacted me via the blog, with a family account written 4th November 1927 reporting Anthony’s eldest son William’s retirement as landlord of the Ship Inn:

Mr Armer is a native of Cockerham and his father Mr Anthony Armer was a freeman of Lancaster, an honour which conveyed with it the privileges of passing all toll gates free, entering any market town in England, and if the freeman lived in Lancaster of receiving an annual pension of £13.

Mr Wm Armer often relates how his father got a start in the stock-rearing business through selling his Parliamentary vote for £11 in the bad old days and purchasing a cow with the money at Heysham Fair. The fourpence he had left over he expended on the purchase of a gaudy piece of neck ware known colloquially as a ‘pound hank’.

So, a real Jack and the Beanstalk story about Anthony that I must look into further! (In the meantime, you can see what I’ve found here.)

Another lady who contacted me through the blog drew my attention to these photos in Lancashire County Council’s Red Rose Collection. They aren’t dated, but the photographer, a Sam Thompson from Lancaster, was active between the 1890s and 1920s, which would fit with Anthony and Mary in later life, as photographed here.

Anthony Armer of Thurnham

Anthony Armer Johns photo

Anthony Armer, photo from his great great grandson, John Armer

Mrs Armer of Thurnham

Mary died in 1910 aged 76 and is buried at St Michael’s, Cockerham, with her husband and their youngest daughter, Mary. The next stone is that of their daughter-in-law Mary Ann who died age 25 from puerperal fever (infection following childbirth) in Ashley, Shropshire (now Staffordshire) where her husband Anthony (junior) was working as an under game keeper (information from Mary’s death certificate). The baby – Edith Mary – survived.

AA Mary headstone copy

The inscriptions read (my notes in blue):

AA double grave text

Anthony lived through the 1911 Census a widow, but with quite a large household. His grandson Alfred married Eliza Clara Williams in 1905. Her family were Cornish miners who came via Wales to Askham-in-Furness to mine iron ore. Eliza Clara is listed in the 1901 Census aged 19 as a General servant (domestic) at Grimsargh Hall in Preston. The couple’s marriage certificate states that she lived at Hest Bank, Bolton le Sands. By the time of the 1911 Census, they had 3 children:

AA 1910

Later children were James, Alfred and John ‘Jack’, all of whom are buried at Christchurch, Glasson Dock. John Armer who recently got in touch gave me dates for the other children (9 in total), one of whom was his father – see the family tree below.

Anthony died in July 1918 from ‘cardiac muscle degeneration’ – heart failure is the lay term. At the time of Anthony’s death, his eldest son, William, had been landlord of the Ship Inn for many years, so Anthony left his savings to his second surviving son Anthony, a gamekeeper at Cartmel:

AA will

The tenancy of Fairsnape Farm went to Alfred Armer, son of Anthony’s eldest daughter. This is from the announcement of Alfred’s son James’ death in the Lancaster Guardian, 9 December 1955:

1955 James Armer death

and sure enough, Alfred Armer is listed as living at Fairsnape Farm at the time of his death in 1968, leaving a total of £11,680.

John Armer kindly sent me some memories from his late father, Alfred’s second youngest son Thomas:

My father was born in the end bedroom at Fairsnape and told me lots of stories about growing up there. It remained thatched until 1938 when it had an additional storey added and an asbestos roof replaced the thatch. They all slept in the loft of the barn while the building work was carried out.

Alfred was raised by his grandparents, but when he married Eliza Clara Williams from Askam in Furness, he moved out to a cottage in the fields behind Fairsnape, called Calic cottage I think or Carrick Fergus is how it appears on some maps. I think Alfred and Eliza’s first three children were born there before they took over the farm. The story was told how when my grandmother went into labour in the cottage, Alfred was sent to Fairsnape in the middle of the night to fetch his grandmother Mary to help with the birth. When she arrived at the cottage with him, she realised she had forgotten her glasses and couldn’t see, so she had to go back to the farm to get them. When she eventually arrived back at the cottage, Alfred had delivered the baby himself(!) Before Alfred took over Fairsnape, he worked for W & J Pye of Thurnham Mill, corn millers.

Fairsnape sepia

Fairsnape Farm prior to 1938 when the thatched roof was removed and an additional storey built. The family slept in the upper loft of the barn while the work was carried out. Photo from John Armer

Fairsnape with car

Fairsnape Farm in the 1950s with the new asbestos roof. Photo from John Armer

Thanks John for bringing the story into the present – and a good reason to keep glasses on a cord round the neck!

Thomas and Dorothy 1958 wedding

The wedding of John’s parents in 1958, left to right: Alfred Armer, Eliza Clara, Elsie ?, Thomas Armer (groom), Dorothy Birtle (bride), Tom Cornick, John William Birtle. Bridesmaids: Wendy and Elaine Jakeman (the groom’s nieces). Photo: John Armer

A little about Anthony’s son John who moved to Rossendale, east Lancashire

Anthony’s son John (born 1869) moved away from the Fylde, unusual for an Armer at that time. One of my grandfather’s brothers was also a John and it seems they had a double baptism. I bet the church in Cockerham was full!

Johns 1869 double baptism

The upper John (born 2 June 1869) is the man I’m tracing in this blog post; the lower John (born 17 May 1869) is my great uncle. Their common ancestors are William Armer (1787–1858) and his wife Ann Huntington. The upper John is their grandson and the lower John is their great grandson. The generations have become out of sync as lower John is descended from William & Ann’s oldest son, while upper John is descended from their youngest son – brothers born 24 years apart, quite literally a generation!

John son of Anthony married Sarah Davis in 1898:

John born 1869 son of AA marriage

I could not find the couple three years after their marriage in the 1901 Census, but they surface in the 1911 Census farming at Dean Lane, Lumb, Rossendale – some 40 miles from Cockerham.

John born 1869 in 1911

John and Sarah Armer and their children Anthony and Mary Elizabeth. Sarah was born in Westbury, Shropshire. I wonder how they came to meet?

John died in 1952 at Rough Hill Farm, Love Clough, Rawtenstall, with Anthony his son present at his death. His wife Sarah (six years older) died in 1939 age 77.

John born 1869 son of AA death

John born 1869 Rawtenstall map

John and Sarah’s children were born in Galgate, Lancaster, but shortly after that they moved to the Rossendale valley, just east of Blackburn

A note on Anthony’s grand-daughter Jane Armer who married Thomas Ronson

Anthony’s fourth son (to survive beyond infancy) was Thomas Armer who in 1902 married Mary Cookson:

Thomas Armer Mary Cookson marriage 1902

A friend put me onto the excellent Jemmy Jenkinson website as her husband’s family the Jenkinsons were also farmers on the Fylde. There, I found out about Thomas and Mary’s children including a wedding photo of their daughter Jane (1920–2002), who in 1939 married Thomas Ronson (1914–2002):

Jane Armer wedding 1930

1939 wedding photo of Thomas Ronson and Jane Armer. The lady seated on the right is one of Jane’s sisters. Source:

The couple had no children and retained their ties with farming:

Following their marriage, Tommy and Jane farmed at Moss Cottage Farm, Out Rawcliffe, which is known locally as ‘the Iron House’.
Tommy later became a Cattle Food Salesman.
In the 1970s Tommy and Jane moved to live on Taylor’s Lane Pilling, taking over the running of Tommy’s parent’s Grocery Shop and Fish and Chip Shop.
On their retirement, they moved to Stakepool Drive, Pilling.

Jane’s older brother William Cookson Armer is also listed in the Jenkinson website as marrying Hannah Elizabeth Bradshaw on 7th August 1932 at St John’s Church, Out Rawcliffe. They lived on Lambs Lane, Pilling. Later they moved to live next to their daughter and her husband on Turkey Street, Out Rawcliffe. This daughter, Olga Armer born 1933, was their only child. William died in 1986, aged 82, and was buried at St John the Baptist, Pilling.

AA updated with Holmes family



Back to Jane’s grandfather Anthony Armer

Fairsnape Farm was demolished in 1995 and a new Fairsnape is there today. Anthony’s great great grandson John sent me this photo from 1930 showing Alfred Armer.

Alfred Armer photo

Fairsnape Farm in 1930 with Alfred Armer. Photo belonging to Alfred’s grandson, John Armer

John told me the farmhouse was built out of salvaged stone from Cockersand Abbey. His cousin found a capital of a column in the stonework when he demolished it. The barn however is original.

Here it is on the 1898 map, marked as Haresnape’s Farm. The name Fairsnape must come from Fair Snape Fell in the Forest of Bowland, a few miles to the east.

AA Haresnape's Farm

We walked to Cockersand Abbey, ruined since 1539. It probably looked much the same in Anthony Armer’s time.

AA Cockersands Abbey

Sambo’s Grave in the top left of the map extract gives a poignant reminder of the times. Sambo was a young slave who died at a near-by inn having recently arrived in Lancaster from the West Indies with his master. He died in 1736 and the grave remained unmarked until 1795, when the Reverend James Watson, headmaster of Lancaster Boys’ Grammar School, raised money for a plaque and composed the epitaph:

Full sixty years the angry winter’s wave
Has thundering dashed this bleak and barren shore
Since Sambo’s head laid in this lonely grave
Lies still and ne’er will hear their turmoil more.

Full many a sandbird chirps upon the sod,
And many a moonlight elfin round him trips
Full many a summer’s sunbeam warms the clod
And many a teeming cloud upon him drips.

But still he sleeps – till the awakening sounds,

Of the Archangel’s trump new life impart,
Then the Great Judge his approbation founds,
Not on man’s colour but his worth of heart.

The grave can still be visited, and, from what I’ve read online, it’s quite a moving experience.

I bought a copy of Ruth Roskell’s book Glimpses of Glasson Dock and Vicinity and met up with her a few months later. Her uncle, Fred Lamb, took lots of photos of the area during the 1930s and ’40s, so the book was a great read. Ruth very kindly gave me two payment notes from Lancaster Rural District Council, made out to Anthony and Richard Armer.

AA payments

It’s only since noticing that Anthony signed his marriage certificate (rather than leaving his mark, like his brother Richard Huntington Armer) that I associated the receipts with these two younger brothers of my 2x great grandfather. Once again, Anthony has signed for the payment, and Richard has left his mark. In 1896, Anthony would have been 59 and it was during that decade he made the change from labourer to tenant farmer. It looks like he was paid for renting out teams of horses. Richard would have been 74, which sounds too old for breaking 12 yards of stones, but even when he was 77 at the time of the 1901 Census he was listed as a general labourer.

Anthony’s great great grandson John has a post-script on Anthony’s literacy. He remembers a story about his grandfather Alfred remarking that he was amazed he had such good eyesight because, as a boy, he used to read the newspaper by oil-lamp light to his grandfather (Anthony). John thinks it likely that although Anthony could sign his name, he couldn’t read. John also recalls his relatives speaking in reverential tones about Anthony Armer, even though their lived hadn’t overlapped. The youngest of the five brothers, yet a real patriarch!

Here’s a photo of Anthony and Mary Armer’s descendants at the Armer Family Reunion 2018 at Cockerham Village Hall. There are a handful of great grandchildren, most are great great and there’s one ggg grandchild!

descendants Anthony


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