William was the first child of my 3x great grandfather’s youngest brother Anthony. Unlike most of the men in his family, William didn’t farm, but became a licensed victualler.
He was baptised 29th May 1859 – a year to the day after his parents’ wedding, also at St Michael’s, Cockerham. I can’t find the family in the 1861 or ’71 Censuses, but this is his marriage certificate from 1891.
Shortly after his marriage, William rose from labourer to publican at the Ship Inn, Pilling. I know this because a grand-daughter of William’s youngest child (James, born 1907) contacted me via the blog comments and sent an article on William’s retirement, dated 4th November 1927. Thank you, Karen, for this colourful piece!
Mr Wm Armer for 36 years licensee of the Ship Inn, Pilling, has just retired and the village will be poorer for the loss of one of its most picturesque personalities. Mr Armer, who is 68 years of age, has longer service at one inn to his credit than any other host in the Garstang area. He is father to 11 children eight boys and three girls. His son William was killed in the war at the age of 19.
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’.
Mr Wm Armer was a noted man with a scythe and used to go a-haymaking in the Ingleton and Clapham district. He still retains the huge scythe he used to wield so well. The blade is 5ft 8 ins long.
Karen also adds that Mary’s ham and egg teas, cooked on the open fire range, were famous throughout the Fylde. William had a small farm where he looked after sick horses, brought from Ireland to Fleetwood for war service. He coaxed many back to fine health.
By the time of the 1901 Census, William and Mary had six children and William’s younger brother Thomas (a gamekeeper) also lived with them at the Ship:
When I visited Pilling in 2017 the Ship Inn was a private house and for sale – I was tempted to register as an interested buyer just to have a look!
I quote the acmelogos family history site for some background:
A George Dickinson built the Ship Inn public house in 1782, he was a local man who became a sea captain sailing ‘The Happy Return’. His death is recorded in the parish register as; “George Dickinson Yeoman Late Captain in the Africa Trade”, this was perhaps a diplomatic was of saying he was a slave trader. He must have prospered, for when he retired from the sea he was able to build the Ship Inn and purchase both land and Hooles Farm. In the Inn yard there is an old cow tail pump with the initials of George Dickinson and Nancy his wife.
The Armers have expanded further in the 1911 Census, with the youngest 7 of their 11 children at home with them. The 1921 Census is not yet released, but the Olde Ship remained a private hotel until at least 1955.
When they retired in 1927, William and Mary moved to a bungalow next to the Manor Inn at Cockerham. They are buried together at St Michael’s there. In 2018 I was excited to meet their grand-daughter and family historian Audrey who showed me some photos of the Ship and her grandparents:
Their son William died in World War I and appears on the war memorial at St John the Baptist Church in Pilling. Karen told me that he was killed while riding a horse that was pulling a gun, and adds: “At the time of his death his mother was working in the garden and a bird dropped dead and fell out of a tree in front of her. At that point she knew he had gone.”
He is commemorated on the memorial at Vis-en-Artois, 5 miles south-east of Arras, but is buried with two of his brothers at Pilling. One brother, Robert, died age 11, and Karen told me this was from TB following a hip injury when he was caught in the wheels of a dray wagon that was delivering beer to the Ship Inn. A third brother, Richard, lived until 1978.
A huge thank you to Karen and Armer family historians in her branch of the tree. Stories like these really bring things to life! It’s interesting to find out about the lives of the women of the family, as these aren’t so accessible through census data.
William and Mary’s daughter May married Thomas Gardner Salthouse, the youngest of 15 children, eight of whom worked in their father’s construction firm, building many houses, churches, chapels and even the open-air baths in Fleetwood. In the 1930s the building firm failed and May began letting rooms in her house on Dronsfield Road. John Broom’s excellent book Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War tells the story of how the family took in evacuees and then soldiers who were manning the anti-aircraft guns poised to protect the Barrow shipyards, just 12 miles away across Morecambe Bay. There are lots of anecdotes, but I particularly like the one about May cooking salmon and chips (the soldiers bought her their salmon rations), her daughter Audrey delivering the cooked meals back to the soldiers in a basket! It reminded me of Mary’s ham and egg teas at the Ship Inn and the Armer hospitality we always received when we visited my four aunts in Poulton.
Descendants of William’s son Thomas
When I shared this post to the Lancaster Past & Present page on Facebook, Claire (another Armer descendant), got in touch! She told me her grandfather was Thomas Armer who married Cicely Lewty. I ordered the marriage certificate so that I could see who Thomas’ father was.
When I saw that Thomas was the son of William Armer, I checked the maths to see if it was Ship Inn William. Thomas was born in August 1905, so by June 1932, he would have been just 3 months short of 27. Another thing that tells me it’s the same family is that James Armer, Thomas’ younger brother, signs as a witness.
Claire told me that the couple started married life at a bungalow called Throstle Nest, near the Manor pub in Cockerham. Later they moved to Sandside Cottage, where her grandma used to sell jugs of tea and home-made scones, apple pies and cakes. Families would come in cars or on pushbikes from as far away as Preston for Cicely’s tea and cakes, and the children would play on the marsh. The outside toilet was even made available for customers! Thanks to Google Streetview, I found a photo of the cottage, showing the marsh behind.
Sandside Cottage is one of the three cottages between Sand Villa and Braides on the 1898 map (the nearest one to Braides):
Descendants of William’s son Richard
I ordered the marriage certificate of Richard Armer and Alice Redman, thinking that Richard was my great uncle, the son of my great grandfather Richard Armer. But the certificate stated that the groom was Richard son of William Armer, retired innkeeper, so this immediately placed him!
Searching The Genealogist for Richard and Alice’s children using Redman (mother’s maiden name) as a Keyword quickly found their three children, all boys.
Here’s the tree for this branch. To put it in context, William Armer is the eldest son of my great-great grandfather John Armer’s youngest brother, Anthony Armer (1837–1918), who sold his vote to buy a cow, was tenant at Haresnape Farm and learnt to sign his name … something of a contrast to his four brothers who were agricultural labourers.