Tree of a younger brother: Thomas Armer and Margaret Preston, and his second wife Jane Townley

I’m gradually tracing all the Armer descendants of my 3x great grandparents William Armer (1787–1858) and Ann Huntington into the twentieth century, certainly as far as the Census of 1911. This post really shows the drift of workers from the land to urban occupations as the Industrial Revolution unfolded in north-west England.

Thomas was William and Ann’s fourth son, a younger brother of my great great grandfather John Armer. The Lancashire Parish Registers record Thomas’ birth in 1826:

Thomas 1826

He appears in the the first complete British Census (that of 1841) age 14 and working on John Simpson’s farm at Hillam, a sprawling farm on a mudflat south of the Lune estuary, that was, in most censuses – 1841 included – occupied by two or three families:

Thomas born 1826 in 1861

At the time of the 1851 Census, Thomas was 24 and working as an agricultural labourer, living back with his parents and younger brother Anthony Armer, again at Hillam. The Census recorded the population on the night of 30 March that year, and less than a month later Thomas married Margaret Preston:

Thomas marriage

Nine months later, in January 1852, William, their first child, was born. I bought seven of their eight children’s certificates because the Parish Registers gave Thomas as the couple’s second son, but having the certificate shows he was actually a John. It looks like whoever filled in the Parish Registers recorded the father’s name (Thomas) instead of the child’s name (John).

Thomas 1826 children

Thomas and Margaret’s children’s birth certificates; here their second son is John

Thomas 1826 children in Parish Registers

Thomas and Margaret’s children as listed in the Parish Registers (showing baptism dates); here their second son is Thomas. Note two children named Margaret – the eldest Margaret was buried on July 12th 1864

Margaret died aged just 38 in the December after her daughter Margaret was born. She was buried at St Michael’s, Cockerham, joined in 1906 by Thomas, and in 1912 by his second wife Jane.

Thomas 1826 headstone

I ordered Margaret’s death certificate to find the cause of death. It was pthisis or tuberculosis, as it’s now called. Interestingly, it names their home as Gogger Hall, which is different again to Jogger Hill. The certificate also states that Margaret was 38 when she died, while the headstone gives her age as 36.

Margaret nee Preston 1866 death

Returning to the 1860s, Thomas married Jane Townley in October 1867. They had six children, and used the names Anthony, Thomas and William again for the boys.

Thomas 1926 2nd marriage

Thomas 1826 children of 2nd marriage

Thomas’ children with his second wife, Jane Townley

There was no reason for me to order these children’s birth certificates, as the headstone is evidence that Thomas’ second wife was Jane. The headstone and the birth certificates of the children from his first marriage state that he lived at Jogger Hill. I found the property on Rightmove from when it was sold in 2012 – estate agents can be very useful!

Jogger Hill old photo

Jogger Hill, photo not dated and not very clear. The roof looks thatched. I wonder if the gentlemen are Thomas and one of his sons?

Jogger Hill new photo

The same building as photographed for the 2012 sale. It was demolished shortly after and a new house built on the site. An Armer descendant told me of the house “Sixteen children, and still room for a calf in the corner!”

Jogger Hill is shown on the 1898 map, and on the modern map there’s a single-contour hill there! Apparently ‘jogger’ is from the Norse ‘jaeger’ meaning hunter. Early hunters would pursue their prey into the marsh, where the animals would struggle and become an easy kill.

Jogger Hill

Jogger Hill, where Thomas and his two families lived at the time of the 1881 and 1891 Censuses

Thomas 1826 in 1881 census

1881 Census: Thomas and his second wife Jane living with three of their children and a grand-daughter, Margaret, the illegitimate child of Hannah Armer (Thomas’ daughter by his first wife)

Thomas 1826 in 1891 census

1891 Census: Thomas and Jane with their daughter Isabella and grandson Emmanuel, the illegitimate child of their daughter Mary Jane

I cannot find the family in the 1901 Census, and by 1911, Thomas had died and Jane now widowed was visiting their daughter Isabelle who had married a James Hayes in December 1891. The family lived at 4 Avondale Road, Lancaster.

Thomas 1826 widow Jane in 1911 Census

1911 Census: Jane Armer a widow staying in Lancaster with her daughter’s family

Armer descendants from Thomas’ first marriage (Margaret Preston)

Thomas and Margaret’s first son, William, died age 14 in 1865. His death certificate gives ‘Phthisis 3 months, rheumatic fever 1 month’ as the cause of death. Phthisis is tuberculosis, which also killed Margaret in 1866.

The couple’s second son, John, married Jane Hayes in 1877:

John born 1853 marriage cert

The couple had eight children (stated on the 1911 Census). Three of the children are buried with them, also at St Michael’s, Cockerham:


The two headstones are next to each other, John and Jane plus three children on the right and Margaret, the longest surviving child, on the left. The inscriptions are in black, with birth dates added in blue:


Janet died of rheumatic fever, lasting 10 days, at Wheatsheaf Cottage, Cockerham (shown on the far left edge of the map below).

Shireshead old map

James died aged 50 from influenzal pneumonia at 15 Vine Street, Lancaster. He was a telegraph linesman on the railway.

Annie, Margaret and Jane are listed together in the 1911 Census as Cook, Serving maid and Housemaid to William Briggs, a retired chemist living on The Vale, Lancaster.  Margaret never married as she died Margaret Armer age 78 on the pink granite headstone photographed above.

At the 2018 Reunion I met two grand-daughters of Annie Armer (cook on the Census below). Annie married Frank Chamberlain Powell in 1918, and they had one son, John Armer Powell, who had four daughters. I learnt that Margaret (serving maid below) was a driver during world War I and later drove for Major Briggs whilst he was mayor.

Annie Armer and sisters 1911

Three Armer sisters in service to Alderman Briggs in 1911. Margaret became a driver during World War I and Annie married Frank C Powell in 1918 (all photographed below)

John and Jane Armer crease free

John and Jane Armer (née Hayes), guessing from their ages around 1910. Three of their daughters worked for Alderman Briggs in Lancaster at the time of the 1911 Census. Photo courtesy of Barbara and Stephen Ingham

1919 Aunty Margaret Armer driving Major Briggs car.png

Margaret Armer in 1919 driving Major Briggs car in Lancaster. Photo courtesy of Barbara and Stephen Ingham (Barbara is Margaret’s great niece)

1940 Frank C and Annie Powell

Frank C and Annie Powell in 1940. Photo courtesy of Barbara and Stephen Ingham (the couple are Barbara’s grandparents)

You can see a photo of Mr Briggs and their large house, thanks to Lonsdale District Scouts as Alderman Briggs was one of their District Commissioners as well as Mayor of Lancaster for six consecutive years. A gentleman of this calibre needs quality staff! Indeed, Margaret’s entry in the school leaver’s records for Cockerham School describes her as “very intelligent.”

It was exciting for me to meet two great-grandsons of John and Jane in July 2018! David Armer has done lot of work tracing the family and has this photo of his great-grandfather at his home in Cockerham.

John Armer 1853

John Armer 1853–1936, thought to have been taken at Breck’s Bridge. Photo belonging to David Armer

David also showed me this photo of John and his son Thomas who married Jane Wrathall in 1923 (so the couple standing are David’s grandparents).

John Armer 1853 with Thomas and Jane

John Armer (seated) with his son and daughter-in-law Thomas and Jane Armer (née Wrathall)

David told gave me details of the marriages of two of his great aunts, one of whom was listed in the 1911 Census as Cook to Alderman Briggs and his wife. He also told me that Thomas and Margaret’s daughter Nancy is listed in the 1871 Census as a servant at the Manor Inn at Cockerham.

Manor Inn 1871 top

Manor Inn 1871 bottom

1871 Census with Nancy Armer listed as a domestic servant age 11. (The entry for the Manor Inn straddles 2 pages.)

In 1878 Thomas and Margaret’s eldest daughter Nancy married James Gorst, a farm labourer who lived on Marsh Lane. The family can be traced through the censuses, their step-son Thomas Corless being listed as Thomas Armer by 1891.

Nancy Gorst 1881

1881 Census – the occupation represented as “Ditto” is Iron Works Labourer

Nancy Gorst 1891

1891 at 1 Rothwell’s Yard, Sun Street, Lancaster. Thomas Corless, a step son in 1881, is now Thomas Armer, son

Nancy Gorst 1901

1901 at 2 Ashton Road, Blackpool

Nancy Gorse 1911

By 1911, the family had moved to 70 Victoria Street, Fleetwood, James and his son Jim working as carters. If we are to believe the census, Jim was the only one of the 9 children to be still alive in 1911

David told me that Thomas’ first child with his second wife (Jane Townley) became a steel worker in Widnes; here is the family in the 1901 Census:

Anthony Widnes 1901

Of the two sons, Thomas and Samuel, only Thomas appears in the 1911 Census, having married Alice (Sumner) the previous year:

Thomas Widnes 1911

Thomas Armer and his wife Alice at 40 Reay Street, Widnes, a red-brick terrace still standing today

The couple had three children: Vivian Vowdray (1914–1969), Eric (1917) and Muriel (1920). Muriel married George Bibby in 1947, and Eric married in 1944 or 1950. It would be interesting to connect with descendants of this branch!

It was fascinating to chat with David, and he’s left me some unfinished Armer business:  a Removal Order from 1770 for Anthony, Jane, John and Mary Armer from Skerton to Nether Kellet – presumably because Anthony could not provide for his family in Skerton and had relatives in Nether Kellet. Nether Kellet is the birthplace of our common ancestor 3x great grandfather William Armer, born 1787. So the Removal Order for this family is a tantalising link to William!

Thomas and Margaret’s third son, Anthony, died aged 8 months and was buried in 1856 at Cockerham. Their fourth son, Thomas, died age 4 and was buried in 1861.

Their fifth child – and first daughter – Hannah gave birth to an illegitimate baby girl who was baptised Margaret in October 1879. Margaret is listed on the 1881 Census, living with her grandparents. Hannah was a domestic servant with the Lupton family, farmers at Batty Hill:

Hannah in 1881

Hannah Armer in the 1881 Census, a servant to the Lupton family. Her illegitimate daughter  Margaret is living with Hannah’s parents

By the time of the 1891 Census, Hannah was married to Thomas Emmanuel Heaton, a labourer of Cockerham. Hannah’s daughter from before she was married was living with them as Margaret Heaton, and there are three children with Thomas, who is now a constable with the police. They lived at 22 Church Street, Widnes, about 3 miles from where Hannah’s half-brother Anthony Armer lived in 1901 – Alpha Street.

Hannah 1891 census

Hannah Armer in the 1891 Census, now Hannah Heaton and her first daughter Margaret assimilated into the family

Armer descendants from Thomas’ second marriage (Jane Townley)

Thomas’ first child with Jane is Anthony, born in 1868, just 10 months after their marriage. It’s difficult to trace him as Thomas’ brother Anthony (1837–1910) also had a son named Anthony, born in 1867. Census and marriage searches throw up results for that Anthony, who was his cousin. Nor can I find a death for him.

Thomas and Jane’s second child is Mary Jane, born 1869. She had an illegitimate son Emmanuel who was baptised in December 1888. In 1893 Mary Jane was resident at the County Asylum in Lancaster at the time of her marriage to Henry Pemberton, an attendant there:

Mary Jane born 1869 marriage

I’m not sure why she was in the asylum, but in those days it had a wider spectrum of residents than would a similar establishment today. For instance, another Armer died of TB there in 1894. In the 1911 Census, Henry and Mary Jane are living at Longridge (8km NE of Preston) with two children, Henry working as an insurance agent for the Prudential. A daughter Eva, listed on the 1901 Census, had died in 1905, aged 8.

Mary Jane born 1869 in 1911

I have not managed to locate Mary Jane’s son Emmanuel from before her marriage in any of the censuses, but an Emmanuel Armer was killed in action on July 31st 1917 at Pilckem Ridge at Ypres, a Lance Corporal with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. My later meeting with David Armer confirmed this was correct and he told me that Emmanuel is buried at Potijze Chateau Ground Cemetery, West Vlaanderen, Belgium and is commemorated on Lancaster War Memorial.

I found more about Emmanuel Armer when I visited St James Church in Whitechapel, looking for the headstone of Nellie Armer (née Bleasdale) in another branch of the family. In the baptism registers, I found this entry:

1912 July 14th, Robert Manuel son of Emmanuel and Alice Armer of Horns Lane, Whitechapel, Labourer. [Born] June 8th

This enabled me to find their marriage from 1912, and, from adding the mother’s maiden name of Hollinghurst as a keyword, another child, Alice M Armer born in 1915. David told me that Alice May Armer died aged 2 from measles on 26 December 1917.

Emmanuel and Alice marriage

Returning to Robert Manuel Armer born 1912, he married Winifred Gornall in 1934. I’m told that the couple ran a pie shop on Copy Nook, Blackburn, and that they had seven children.

The next child, Thomas, died age 6 in March 1878. I have ordered his death certificate to ensure this is the correct Thomas. His age should have been 7, but the certificate will give his father’s name. In the meantime here’s the Parish Register entry:

Thomas death age 6 in 1878

The next child, William, died just six days old:

William died 1872 6 days old

Isabella, the couple’s fifth child, married James Hayes in December 1891 (David Armer told me that James was younger brother of Jane Hayes who married John Armer in 1877, so a pair of Armer siblings marrying a pair of Hayes siblings). James worked as a domestic gardener, and the 1901 Census finds them at 78 Westham Street, Lancaster, with three children: Thomas, Jenny and Robert.

Isabel anf James Hayes 1901

By 1901 Jenny and another child whose lifespan had fallen between the two census dates had died. We know this because the 1911 Census states that there are five children still living, but only four are listed.

Isabellas children 1911

Thomas and Jane Armer’s daughter Isabella and son-in-law James Hayes in the 1911 Census. They lived at 4 Avondale Road, Lancaster – a sandstone house that is still there today.  Jane Armer (widowed and living there age 77, bottom row) must have found it quite grand compared to Jogger Hill on the Cockerham marsh!

They lived at 4 Avondale Road, Lancaster (just half a mile from their 1901 home on Westham Street, but a grander house with a small front garden), and their oldest child Thomas was working as an oilcloth warehouseman. This is most likely with the Storey Company, which began trading in 1848, producing table baise – a product in great demand as working-class living standards and aspirations improved. By the end of the century, the company was one of Lancaster’s largest employers. This information came from Lancaster University’s history of the university pages – I guess the Storey family were benefactors.

Thomas and Jane’s last child, Emma, died before her third birthday:

Emma burial 1878

It’s been interesting to chart the changes experienced by these three generations of Armers and I’m very grateful to David Armer for sharing his family knowledge – as well as to William Armer (descendant of Thomas’ younger brother Anthony Armer) for putting the two of us in touch!

Thomas 1826 newest



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